Each day we live stream our Conventual Mass [10.30am Sundays and 8.45am weekdays] and Home Prayers at 10am each weekday morning, and the Rosary at 4.30pm. It is accessible on ampleforth.org.uk/abbey/service-times
I led home prayers on Wednesday 8 April 2020 & on Thursday 23 April 2020 & on Thursday 4 May 2020 & on Thursday 21 May 2020 & on Thursday 4 June 2020 & on Thursday 18 June & on Thursday 16 July & on Thursday 30 July and my reflections are below;
[introduction] ..this is spy Wednesday.. where gospel of today recalls story of Judas betraying Jesus, with interestingly, one of the deepest expressions of family life and belonging.. a kiss.. not a nod or a pointed finger but a kiss..
..some years ago Mother Teresa by then a frail and elderly Missionary Sister of Charity won the Nobel Prize for Peace.. at award ceremony in front of all World leaders, she was asked if she could give then a piece of wise advice in the world quest for peace.. ..she thought for moment, smiled and said “go home and love your family” ..essence of love within family is forgiveness; forgiveness sought and forgiveness offered ..remember a remorseful Judas sought forgiveness from those representing Judaism and got short shrift “what is that to us?.. that is your concern” no mercy no pardon.. hours later his beloved Master prayed on Cross “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”.. “they” includes Judas, and you and I too we are so like Judas, yet thankfully different in one crucial aspect; when we remorsefully return, courageously humbly in search of mercy from the author of forgiveness, he runs down the road to meet us.. and with a kiss.. ..this a week made holy as we meet Christ in those we love most and so often hurt most.. ..our family..
[end after the blessing] _____________________________________________________________________________ “stay at home, in the days of the holy weeks to come, and love your family” .. feast of St George Patron of England soldier martyr.. traditional depiction on horseback slaying forces of evil personified in dragon: full suit of armour and visor, cumbersome yet life protecting; it shines and it shields allowing him to do what he does best.. fight.. and as a soldier of Christ, fight because he loves, his Master and those he fights to protect.. even to death; martyrdom, in footsteps of Christ himself.. I would like to thread this to fight against coronavirus, and opening of the latest Nightingale Hospital in our own Harrogate this week; a conference centre where thousands came to confer, now a place where thousands of lives will be fought for.. and an artist Tom Croft, well used to painting portraits of the famous, had just completed portrait of an A&E nurse in full PPE; identical to St George; on her visor advert for its manufacturer; “Guardian” and next to it on visor, a circle and in it a cross.. her face mask and blue overall betray only one feature of her.. all you can see of her is all her patient, her loved one she is to fight for, the means by which she her patient and colleagues see Christ in person, is.. her eyes.. a look to me which searches reassures understands and gives everything in the quest for healing.. because she loves.. a love which says it all in title of book of spirituality; “costing not less than everything”..
.. and it took me back to gospels, to our own guardian himself, as rich young man had asked him in his dis-ease “Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” and Jesus went through spiritual check list with him, much as an A&E nurse does as she starts a new 12hr shift.. rich young man doing really well; 19 questions asked, and one to go.. he thinks he will be awarded place in heaven.. until final question in critical self care “there is one thing you lack, go, sell all your own, then come follow me”.. frightens most of us to death.. however, one crucial sentence just before question which transforms moment and his everlasting future .. and.. ours.. “Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him” ..a look, a steady look of love, like that of our A&E nurse in York DH or Nightingale Harrogate.. the eyes, the look of Christ, that loves the critically ill to life.. ..life with applause of a Thursday evg outside our homes, and in an A&E unit as recovered patient is wheeled out, a battle won.. or life and a battle seemingly lost, but with the look of love and compassion of Christ himself, as he welcomes his beloved home into paradise, with the cross of the Resurrection, a welcome home from the guardian himself..
..never underestimate the power to love and to heal you hold, on loan from Jesus himself, in your own steady eye contact in your own family this morning..
“..together we will get through.. bringing us close..”
..feast today of one of our local monastic saints, St John of Beverley.. a Yorkshireman.. monk then Bishop, Archbishop & finally for last 4yrs of his life, founder of a monastery in Beverley.. his spiritual credentials deepen & warm to the heart of any Yorkshireman.. firstly a monk of Whitby under Abbess Hilda, she then the most important leader of the Church in Northern England & a woman.. as Bishop of Hexham, he ordained the young Bede, first deacon then priest, went on to become Archbishop of York & then returned to cloister in Beverley to die..
..a reading from revelations of one of his great friends, Julian of Norwich, continues to give me great encouragement in my monastic & parish life.. a short extract from her, & do listen please very carefully to the surprise moment.. In one of Gods revelations of divine love to Julian she says; “God mentioned that, in his young & tender years, he [ John ] was a very dear servant of God, loving & fearing God very greatly. Yet God allowed him to fall, though in his mercy he kept him from perishing, & from losing ground. Afterwards, God raised him to much greater grace, & because of the humility & contrition of his life, in heaven God has given him many joys, greater even that those he would have had had he never fallen.”
..it means that when you & I get it wrong, often & badly wrong, in family, in monastic community or parish, when we realise it & remorsefully make for home into the kitchen or cloister, to face the truth in front of those we have hurt most, we receive grace, loving grace & compassion, more than ever could be estimated or believed.. a greater love & a deeper relationship than we would have had had we never sinned.. ..try to get your mind round that, & it is mission impossible..put your heart into it & it’s the best of good news you could ever hope to hear & to believe in.. & remember, you heard it first of a Yorkshireman from a Yorkshireman .. ..can the day & your faith get any better ?..
Monk of Whitby, who had father & mother in Christ, that man & woman of God, St Aidan & St Hilda, you became Bishop & Archbishop, you ordained the Venerable Bede; St John, good shepherd of the spiritual sheep, beseech the Lord to have mercy on our souls. Amen. [7 May 2020] _____________________________________________________________________________ Welcome to Home Prayers this morning on the feast of the Ascension.. 40 days since Our Lord emerged from the tomb, 40 days of appearing to his followers so intent on prolonging their lockdown & its safety in Upper Room..& now at last seeing tasting touching their conviction, he leaves for home, Heaven; handing on the baton to you for your leg of the relay of evangelisation.. our “at home” camino..
“when they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated”.. a wonderful day to celebrate the place of both the witness who saw & understood, & crucially the place of the hesitant among us.. if those of you who are spiritually fit & able get to the gate of heaven before the rest of us, Our Lord is going to ask you “where is Bede & the rest of the hesitant?” as Pope Francis said to youth of the Church “when you arrive where we have not yet reached, have the patience to wait for us” thanks be to God for the hesitant.
“go therefore, make disciples of all nations”.. our faith thankfully often betrays an alternativism; seeing feeling tasting facets of life differently, with a divine perspective… take the R number.. to keep the virus under control the R number has to be kept below 1 ..meaning the spread of infection is contained.. 0.6 0.8 is fine.. if it gets above 1 to 2.5 the alarm bells begin to sound because infection rate doubles trebles.. the one person who had the disease last week has infected eight more & they in turn have infected another eight each, so the infection from the one carrier two weeks ago now infects 64 who in turn in another two weeks becomes 4096.. ..now if we take the gospel imperative to “go out to all nations” the alternativism in spirituality is that, if our spiritual infection rate of goodness & grace is alive & active, & our R number reaches 2.5 & then we can, each of us, bring the good news of our faith to 4096 prospective believers.. the hesitant, the disillusioned, the seeker.. all within two weeks.. through the gift of all gifts Our Lord has left us to grow on & live out.. belief .. “whoever believes in me, will perform the same works as I do myself.. he [you ] will perform even greater works”..& all through your choice not to spiritually self distance, infecting evangelising no one, but to spiritually join together.. as they say when speaking of closeness between two people “it is as if they are joined at the hip”.. rephrase it from this morning please.. “it is as if they are joined in the heart” enjoy your day..& your camino.. [21 May 2020 ; the Ascension] _____________________________________________________________________________ ..a new feast of the Church today ; introduced in 2018 ; Our Lord Jesus Christ; Eternal High Priest. It comes the Thursday after Pentecost & the coming of the Holy Spirit, as if lest we forget the ongoing place & ministry of the Risen & Ascended Christ.
Our Lord Jesus Christ; Eternal High Priest.. an exalted title for Jesus in an exalted place. Another title of Jesus, much closer to home for us in our Home Prayers this morning, is “the Good Shepherd” with his gentle humility, personified in Pope Benedict’s reflection on Our Lords three fold question to Peter, & to us now “Simon, do you love me?”.. it hurts to think Our Lord remains unconvinced, hence the repeats.. however, listen to Pope Benedict..
In Greek, the word “fileo” means the love of friendship, tender but not all-encompassing; instead, the word “agapao” means love without reserve, total & unconditional. Jesus asks Peter the first time; “Simon, do you love me? “ [agapas-me] John 21;15 with this total & unconditional love?
Prior to the experience of betrayal, the Apostle certainly would have said “I love you [agapo-se] unconditionally” now that he has known the bitter sadness of infidelity, the drama of his own weakness, he says with humility; “Lord, you know that I love you [filo-se]” that is “I love you with my poor human love”
Christ insists “Simon, do you love me with this total love that I want?” & Peter repeats the response of his humble human love.. “Kyrie, filo-se “.. ”Lord, I love you as I am able to love you”
The third time Jesus only says to Simon; “Fileis-me”.. ”do you love me?”
Simon understands that his poor love is enough for Jesus, it is the only one of which he is capable. Nonetheless, he is grieved that the Lord spoke to him in this way. He thus replies, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you [filo-se]“
This is to say that Jesus put himself on the level of Peter, rather than Peter on Jesus’ level! It is exactly this divine conformity that gives hope to the disciple, who experienced the pain of infidelity. From here is born the trust that makes him able to follow Christ to the end; “this he said to show by what death he was to glorify God. After this he said to him “follow me” [John 21;19]
From the naïve enthusiasm of initial acceptance, passing through the sorrowful experience of denial & the weeping of conversion, Peter succeeded in entrusting himself to that Jesus who adapted himself to his poor capacity to love; & in this way, he shows us the way, notwithstanding all our weaknesses. We know that Jesus adapts himself to this weakness of ours.
[from “The Apostles “Pope Benedict XV1; 2008]
..in summary it means, in terms of our loving relationship with Jesus, he sets the bar at a level he knows we can, at our personal best, achieve.. it isn’t softly effortless but, with his grace, it is consistently possible.. will you go for a pb today & each day?..& enjoy it.. [4 June 2020] ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ a fine wake-up call for priests in this morning’s gospel “do not babble..” keep the homily brief, keep this short reflection short ! ..at Mass on Monday, we had a fine homily from Fr Henry in which he reminded some, & told to others for the first time, that in the Old Testament, relationship was eye for eye, tooth for tooth.. a parity of esteem in complaint & retribution.. only with the coming of Christ came the spirituality of forgiveness.. where the generosity of divine mercy is overwhelming.. a phrase in this morning’s gospel always takes my breath away.. “..forgive us our debts as we have forgiven those who are in debt to us” forgive me in the same measure as I have [ I have already] forgiven my neighbour.. the neighbour I find most difficult when lockdown aggravates that feisty relationship.. if I grit my teeth & find strength, if not good grace, to forgive 50% of the hurt, I can only expect the same measure from Our Lord.. he is undoubtedly merciful but he is also realistic.. a parity of forgiveness.. an inspiration for me in an example of forgiveness is Rev Julie Nicholson.. Vicar in Bristol; husband & three teenage children.. she lost one of her daughters Jenny in July 7 bombings in London in 2005.. it is a deeply moving story from moment she was relaxing on holiday in Lake District with her own parents husband & other children, when the breaking news on BBC showed atrocity unfolding; Jenny would be travelling to work, Julie rang her mobile no reply, rang her office, she hadn’t yet arrived.. her story is a gospel in itself, & on my Home Prayers, which I lead fortnightly on Thursdays, I would like to share with you some of the passages of her emerging gospel; believe me you won’t be disappointed.. after the funeral, she went back to Bristol to work again as a parish priest.. she struck a rock.. each time she celebrated Mass she spoke the foundational essence of every living & broken relationship.. of love mercy & forgiveness..& she felt she had to resign her ministry.. “integrity is very important to me” she said “I didn’t feel I could celebrate the Eucharist, centred around peace, reconciliation & forgiveness as it is, when I feel so far from these things myself.” She couldn’t forgive Saddiq the suicide bomber from Bradford, a Yorkshireman.. “forgive us our debts as we have forgiven those who are in debt to us” As far as I know she is still out of ministry albeit working with young people in Bristol ..the phrase which gives me heart & time in my struggle to forgive, particularly to forgive the unforgivable, is when she said “I can’t forgive Saddiq..for the time being” She isn’t saying never, she is saying perhaps in time & with divine grace, perhaps.. ..& that is good enough for me in my struggle, & I pray it will be enough for Julie & me when we meet our loving merciful forgiving..& patient.. Lord.. Our Lord Our Father.. [18 June 2020] ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ As our Primary Schools finish their academic year tomorrow & begin their summer holidays after an extraordinary few weeks of home-schooling for some & class bubbles for others, I want to share a story of one of my many visits to St Benedict’s Primary School in Ampleforth Village where I am Chaplain. It was last November fittingly around the Feast of All Saints when Mrs Coe invited me into her class to listen to some work Yr5&6 had been doing..& like in Jesus in the gospels, I took nothing with me, no bread no haversack no sandals no prayer book to read a prayer from..I just went in as “me” a bit like it will be when we go to Heaven & Jesus gives us a hug some cake & a smile that says “I can’t love you one jot more if I tried”..Mrs Coe’s class had recently been putting together some questions ready to interview each other for becoming a follower of Jesus..in pairs they had compiled whole range of questions which they then put to two others being interviewed for becoming a follower of Jesus..their questions were fantastic & they fitted so so well for the feast of All Saints as followers of Jesus..& now 9 months on, we are, each of them & each of us, more proficient at being saints-in-the-making..post Covid.. ..& then having been inspired by their answers from the heart, they asked to interview me
..Daisy & Ellie interviewed me for maybe 20mins..in front of the class & Mrs Coe & Mrs Lally..wonderfully challenging questions which really made me think.. “what makes you a good person? What makes you a prime candidate? Do you pray everyday? If you saw a person on the floor crying what would you do? do you believe that you will be loyal enough? what sacrifices will you make for this job? are you really ready? what makes you a nice & caring person? do you put all the others in front of you? how many of your sins has God forgiven? do you believe you are loyal? will you help us to grow in faith, & build up the body of Jesus Christ ?
wow! I was well & truly examined, harder than 20mins with the Abbot..& they told me at the end I had got the job! ..such a joyful hour in “a School of the Lords Service” where young followers of Jesus are being encouraged inspired to become real followers of Jesus..saints-in-the-making.. we are deeply blessed to have such an outstanding School..of boys girls moles foxes & horses..I hope you like them have read the book “the boy the mole the fox & the horse” by Charlie Makesy..& I think the mole, for whom the answer to all his problems is cake, deserves to have the last word on the day before we say farewell to all our Yr 6 saints-in-the-making..“I think everyone is just trying to get home “ said the mole..home to heaven.. [16 July 2020] _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ “when it is full, the fishermen haul it ashore; then, sitting down, they collect the good ones in a basket, & throw away those that are no use..” this mornings gospel.. ..some years ago, our fishing stocks were almost exhausted, we had fished the seas dry.. & then came a new concept of protecting nature & environment.. & a common fisheries policy a bit like health & safety legislation nowadays brought huge criticism an outcry against it.. bureaucracy gone mad.. more wasted pay on civil servants to police it.. the policy was simple; it introduced larger mesh fishing nets so the net only caught the large healthy fish & the younger thinner smaller ones slipped out of the net to grow larger or to recover from their illness or injury.. ..stocks recovered & now rich & plentiful again.. ..for us too a spiritual policy of protecting the young thin smaller, the ill & the diseased, so that we can nurse them back to health feed them properly..
..a theology of care nurturing & healing emerges from this mornings first reading.. “when ever the vessel he was making came out wrong, as it happens with clay handled by potters, he would start afresh & work it into another vessel” ..clear common sense, wise practice from a skilled experienced potter.. however listen to this.. potter takes clay moistens it, “throws” it on his potters wheel & slowly carefully caringly & lovingly shapes clay into the pot he has imagined it to be.. shaped smoothed loved into life.. from his mind his prayer his hands & his heart.. he puts it pot into kiln to fire it.. at just right moment takes it out, to look at it proudly well satisfied.. until, on closer inspection, he sees tiny hairline crack in it.. what does he do? “he would start afresh & work it into another vessel” says gospel; smash pot, crush it & begin again.. our divine potter loved it into life & isn’t for smashing it.. he fills tiny crack with wax, he glazes pot, puts it into kiln again & it comes out as an imperfect or as a second.. to be sold at half price because of its flaw.. what do you think?.. ..like worst behaved pupil in classroom, the villain is specially loved by his teacher.. in Italian two words “sine-cere” mean “without wax” ..& Our Lord loves sincerely his hair line fractured pot which lovingly often does a better job at life in faith & in love than the so called perfect pot..