Yesterday morning was a busy one, and after lunch I was looking forward to relaxing in my shed with a pipe and the chance to finish a novel. But once my pipe was lit I had a change of heart: reading wasn’t right. I played some music and instead sat and mulled. It’s a favourite occupation of mine. It’s definitely not thinking, rather it’s allowing my mind to wander freely wherever it will, a sort of intuitive wandering. Sometimes nothing very much happens, often seemingly nothing at all. But yesterday to my surprise, I found myself mulling about my funeral service. I feel in good health, there’s no sense of urgency, but family members have been encouraging me for some time, to write something down as a guide for when it’s necessary. I’ve put it off, had no idea what to write, but yesterday unexpectedly, and quite out of the blue it became clear to me and a first draft was on the page in no time at all. I have no rational explanation for why it happened thus. The moment just seemed right, and the ideas flowed freely.Continue reading
I’m going to wander well outside my areas of competence here, armed only with my curiosity and intuition. I’m going to do so because there are several areas of enquiry that have been engaging me, some of them for some time, and I’m beginning to wonder whether they might be connected.
Astrophysicists suggest that around 5% of the universe’s mass is made up of ‘baryonic matter’, matter we can touch with our hands & witness with our eyes & instruments; a little over 68% is presumed to be made of ‘dark energy’ an enigmatic force that seems to be accelerating the ongoing expansion of the cosmos; the remaining 27% is thought to be made up of ‘dark matter’, the particles of which wholly refuse to interact with baryonic matter, so we have no means of detecting it save through its perceived gravitational influence. It emits no light or energy, but is fundamental to everything in the universe, anchoring all structures together. Without it galaxies, planets, our earth and us humans would not exist, yet we know nothing about it. The particles thought most likely to be the constituent of dark matter traverse our livers, skulls and guts in their trillions each second. Its thought that they were created in sufficiently vast quantities in the seconds after the birth of the universe to account for the missing mass. Scientists reckon that to prove and decipher the existence of dark matter, would require us to acquire a whole new way of knowing everything.Continue reading
After writing about finding the gift in Covid19, I unexpectedly found myself sensing that perhaps I should go on and share the opening section of my current pattern of ‘prayer in the morning’? But I felt reluctant to do so. It’s personal and I’m not sure if it’s appropriate to share something quite so personal. Its what has emerged for me having decided 18 months ago to explore my priestly ministry outside the constraints of the institutional church, and wanting to anchor that exploration in my own pattern of prayer in the morning. In doing so I’ve brought together resources that have spoken to me over the years. So it is very personal. I make no apology for that, but it does mean that it might not mean very much to anybody but me. I am certainly not offering it with the assumption that it’s something that others would feel comfortable using. On the other hand, I’ve learnt to trust these unexpected ideas that come to me, and so after a bit of mulling I’ve chosen to trust this latest one. I do so in the spirit of wanting to encourage others to explore what might be helpful for them their prayer in the morning, rather than assuming that there’s an ‘off the shelf option’ that will be a good fit. There might be, but there might not. If not, then maybe you, like me, already have much of what you need already: the wisdom and resources acquired so far on your journey. It’s a matter of putting them together into some sort of shape, and then using and refining it as you go. Trust that a pattern will emerge that will nourish and challenge you.Continue reading
With churches closed ‘Lockdown’ provides us with an opportunity to explore new spiritual resources. Church services online are a resource for some, but apart from that we’re on our own, left to our own devices. Some may choose to do nothing, others reach out for a pre-packaged pattern from the internet. My instinct is that we already possess the God-given resources we need and that deepening our trust in them is an excellent place to start.
I’ve personally learnt to relish the chance to trust a rhythm that comes naturally from within rather than one imposed from outside. Mostly its not a matter of learning new tricks, but rather of recognising the value of things that I already do, and nourishing and deepening them.Continue reading
Questions in a time of crisis
The current Lockdown presents everybody with a massive change of life style, the like of which most of us have never experienced before. Some of us are facing death, our own or that of others, more sharply than before. Some of us are having our working lives turned upside down. Some of us are finding ourselves living solitary lives. For most people this is a time of challenge and change. Inevitably it prods us into asking questions like: ‘What’s important to me in life? ‘What makes life worth living? How do I want to live my life?’ In order to stimulate your thinking on these questions I share with you two pieces of wisdom from my collection, that prod and challenge me.Continue reading
If the women and men of prayer across all the world faiths experience the same Ultimate Reality when they pray, then they all encounter what Christians call God. When a mixed group of Christians, for whom working together would seem like a miracle, instead share their experience of God they find themselves deeply united. How do I reflect on these truths?
In 2001 I wrote a Report for The Spiritual Counsel Trust on the state of spiritual direction in the UK. I wrote that. “In the course of my work, I listen to many people and try to help them discern the promptings of the Spirit of the risen Lord in their lives. Each person’s story is different, and yet I find that some themes occur frequently. When I talk with others engaged in this ministry I find that they are hearing the same themes. It seems to me to be incumbent upon me to say “I feel that the Spirit is saying these things to the churches and perhaps to society: spiritual direction leads into prophecy.” All of the themes I named then remain current. They were:Continue reading
Last summer my friend Paul told me about The Snowmass Agreement, which I hadn’t heard of. I checked it out on-line and found that this is what it is:
“In 1984 Father Thomas Keating invited a small group of contemplatives from eight different religious traditions—Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Islamic, Native American, Russian Orthodox, Protestant, and Roman Catholic—to gather at St. Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado, to engage in what he called “a big experiment.”Continue reading
This morning, during my time of prayer, I was listening to my friend Paul reading chapters 18 and 19 of John’s Gospel. Listening to the story being read is a different experience from reading it, and thoughts occurred to me that were new to me. I heard that after Jesus’ death Joseph of Arimathea and a secret disciple of Jesus, asked Pilate for permission to remove Jesus’ body and was obviously given permission to do so, for he with Nicodemus, a Pharisee who had visited Jesus by night earlier in John’s story, took Jesus’ body and laid it in a new tomb at considerable cost and no doubt some risk to themselves.Continue reading
Sister Wendy Beckett was a Roman Catholic contemplative who knew a great deal about art. You may have seen her on tv talking about it, or you may have read one of her many books on the subject. She also wrote about prayer, and there is a quotation that I attribute to her that has stayed with me. “If God is love, and prayer is important, then it cant in principle be difficult.” Certainly she was convinced that “prayer is simple.”Continue reading
Some time ago I was sitting talking with a friend in my shed. I don’t recall the context, but I do remember very clearly something that he said. I have no memory of what prompted it. He said “ Sadness has been my constant companion throughout my life.” It took me quite by surprise, and I have never forgotten it.Continue reading