“Dear young friendsdo not let them exploit your youth to promote a shallow life that confuses beauty with appearances. Realise that there is beauty in the labourer who returns home grimy & unkempt, but with the joy of having earned food for his family. There is extraordinary beauty in the fellowship of a family at table, generously sharing what food it has. There is beauty in the wife, slightly dishevelled & no longer young, who continues to care for her sick husband despite her own failing health. Long after the springtime of their courtship has passed, there is beauty in the fidelity of those couples who still love one another in the autumn of life, those elderly people who still hold hands as they walk. There is also a beauty unrelated to appearances or fashionable dress, in all those men & women who pursue their personal vocation with love, in selfless service of community or nation, in the hard work of building a happy family, in the selfless & demanding effort to advance social harmony. To find, to disclose & to highlight this beauty, which is like that of Christ on the cross, is to lay the foundations of genuine social solidarity & the culture of encounter. Along with the stratagems of a false cult of youth & appearances, we are also witnessing attempts to promote a spirituality without God, an affectivity without community or concern for those who suffer, a fear of the poor, viewed as dangerous, & a variety of claims to offer a future paradise that nonetheless seems increasingly distant. I do not want to offer you any such thing, & with great love I urge you not to let yourselves be taken in by this ideology. It will not make you any younger, but enslave you instead. I propose another way, one born of freedom, enthusiasm, creativity & new horizons, while at the same time cultivating the roots that nourish & sustain us. In this regard I would note that “many Synod Fathers coming from non-Western contexts pointed out that in their countries globalization is bringing with it forms of cultural & religious roots. The Church needs to make a commitment to accompany these young people, so that in the process they do not lose sight of the most precious features of their identity. Today, in fact, we see a tendency to “homogenise” young people, blurring what is distinctive about their origins & backgrounds, & turning them into a new line of malleable goods. This produces a cultural devastation that is just as serious as the disappearance of species of animals & plants. For this reason, in addressing young indigenous people gathered in Panama, I encouraged them to “care for your roots, because from the roots comes the strength that is going to make you grow, flourish & bear fruit.” (“Christus Vivit” by Pope Francis)
Last Thursday Clare Jennings was moved by ambulance from Carmel Cottage to the Sisters of Nazareth in Hammersmith London, where she will receive the specialist care she needs. She has contributed enormously to the practical life & spirituality of our Parish, & indeed the Abbey & College, over many years, & she will be a profound loss. I explained to her what an inspiration she has been to so many of us, particularly since her illness, which she has faced with courage, determination & cheerfulness, all grounded on her deep faith & love of Our Lord. Although she has lost the power of speech, she has communicated so well with her eyes & facial expressions, & taught many of us that real communication is encountered with the eyes & the heart as well as with the ears. She has gone south very much “on loan” & she will remain a valued & beloved member of our Parish family. Through Jenifer, she relays her deep gratitude for all the cards & assurances of prayers she has received. We gave her a carved statue of Our Lady, standing prayerfully & with her left hand open to possibility & invitation, for me epitomising Clare’s courageous “yes” to facing her illness with faith & trust. It is Clare’s left hand that has thankfully retained movement. If we doubted that last Thursday was a moment of grace, who could have anticipated, even a few weeks ago, that her condition would necessitate the need of specialist care, that the Sisters of Nazareth could provide for the need, that a bed would come available at short notice, & that the move south should come on the feast of St Dominic. Please keep Clare & Jenifer, her loyal & generous carers who have nursed her here, & the staff & Sisters at Nazareth House in your prayers. With my love & prayers, Fr Bede.