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Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

It’s a Tuesday morning.  School run done and car parked, I hurry up the path to my house.  Key in the door whilst shoving with one foot only to be met by a happy Honey Basset blocking my way in.   Whilst fussing her I’m hit by the lovely smell of fabric softener; clothes drying in the house, too cold outside today for anything to dry on the line.  I walk to the radio left on in the kitchen for the aforementioned Basset, and hit the Off button.  Silence! 

Coat off.  Washing-up away.  Load of washing in and set to wash, all in the space of about five minutes.  I have to be careful not to get engrossed in domestics or, before I know it, they’ve become a procrastination, a means of prevarication, a distraction.  I’ve been doing domestics since 5.45am this morning so everything else can and should wait because I need to pray. 

Matches in hand I head for the lounge to light my prayer candle which sits in my plain but beautiful St Beuno’s candle holder on my altar; I only have to look at it to be instantly transported back to that beautiful place.  I grab this month’s Magnificat and begin.  I stand in front of my altar to pray Morning [Lauds] prayer.  Evening prayer [Vespers] can happen anywhere, in my bedroom, in the car outside school, wherever the opportunity presents itself.  I pray Compline [Night prayer] in bed usually, if I can stay awake.  I am lucky that I have the time to devote to this practice at the moment.  Not working might mean less money but it has the huge benefit of being able to spend more time with God.  After praying I make myself a latte and settle down with this year’s edition of Sacred Space to study today’s gospel.  It’s a time to reflect, to talk to God and just be.  Listening.  Waiting.  [eta Sacred Space for 2019 is out now ~ click the link in the side bar >>>]

Now, in an ideal world every day would be just like today.  However, some days life takes over and prayers are missed or don’t happen at all and that’s just the way it is.  But ideally I like to be able to spend time in prayer every, single day.  Even if it’s just once for a few moments. 

Pray, I hear you ask?  Why would you do that?  It’s not Sunday, you’re not at Mass so why?  And this is a really valid and sensible question and one I’ve asked myself a lot over the last few years.  Why do I feel the need to pray daily?  Have I always done so and does it do any good?

First I feel the need to explain that I am driven to pray every day, it’s a need, a desire, almost a necessity.  If I don’t do it I miss it, something just doesn’t feel right, I feel empty and a bit lost.  As I said before, prayer doesn’t or can’t happen every day, some days I’m just either too busy [not always procrastinating with domestics but running errands etc] or quite simply too lazy.  I don’t give myself a hard time if I don’t get round to it because that’s pretty pointless.  However, I have the intention to pray every day; morning, evening and night with Mass thrown in if I get there.  It’s an act of fidelity.  The definition of fidelity is:- ‘faithfulness to a person, cause or belief, demonstrated by continuing loyalty and support.’  Prayer is me being faithful to God.  As I said somewhere else, it’s a bit like being married.  You are faithful to your husband or wife because you love them and you [want to] show that love through acts of fidelity which can be anything from a hug, a loving word, a gift, washing the dishes…anything done in love for another.  So, back to the question why do I pray?  Because I can’t not, it’s that simple.

Have I always done so?  No, absolutely not.  Certainly not in those early days but in the last few years it’s become a habit that I can’t break.  It ebbs and flows according to employment and commitments but it never completely stops.  It really is a way of life now and is vital to maintaining my faith and my relationship with God.  As my faith has grown and matured, so has my prayer life.

What isn’t always obvious to those ‘looking in’ is that this relationship is a two-way thing.  I am faithful to God and He is faithful to me.  “For the son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matt 20:28 NIV  I’m not sure what I feel about Christ serving me [that was actually a question in last Sunday’s gospel study] and I suspect that’s a post for another day, but in any event this is relationship of equals.  I can sense that all of the time.  I show up and God is always there, never late, never awol, constant and reliable.  He comforts, strengthens and guides me.

Does prayer do any good?  Hmm well that’s tricky and I can only answer for myself and from my own experience.  Firstly, it doesn’t do any harm that’s for sure and it can be very cathartic.  I try to keep a journal of personal intentions and people/situations that I pray for and I can honestly say that I often go back and find that 90% of them will have been answered.  I also find that during unstructured prayer or silent contemplation I often receive the answer to a problem or have a sense of peace about an important decision or difficult situation.  It’s nothing tangible but it’s undeniable and it’s happened too many times to be a fluke.

So, who can pray?  Well anyone obviously.  Those of faith or of no faith.  There are no qualifications required.  Anyone can talk to God, anywhere, at anytime about anything.  It really is that simple.  You don’t need all the structure and books that I use.  I use those things to keep me focussed and accountable but I also have unstructured times when it’s just me and God.  Prayer is not a ‘one size fits all’ thing.  It’s unique to each person to pray as they feel.  Sometimes, it’s just a word thrown heavenwards.  An arrow prayer launched towards God in a moment of desperation or difficulty.  It’s quite simply a conversation with God where you get to say what you want or just sit and listen with the ear of your heart.  

God bless. . .

Sharon xx

You might also like this previous post = “What is prayer?”

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As promised I thought I’d share something of my time at St Beuno’s, a Jesuit Spirituality Centre in North Wales.  I went there at the end of June this year and, although it’s been on my Bucket List for a few years, I can’t actually remember what finally prompted me to book an individually guided [silent] retreat.  One minute I was just browsing their website and the next the retreat was booked and paid for and the train tickets purchased with only two weeks to wait!  I’m not usually known for that level of spontaneity, but sometimes the stars just align and you have to go with it.  As the previous posts explain I was in the middle of a bit of a crisis of denomination which I’d been unable to resolve on my own. I knew about St Beuno’s from a three part, BBC documentary I’d watched back in 2010, “The Big Silence”.  It was later released on DVD but I’ve checked and it seems to be ‘currently unavailable’ so I’m sorry, but I can’t link it for you.  I bought it a few years ago because I enjoyed the documentary so much, certainly worth buying if you ever see a copy.

I didn’t have a set agenda for the retreat other than to just go and be open to whatever came my way.  I was in such a mess spiritually that I just hoped for a bit of clarity and direction really.  I’ve also found, having been on a few retreats before, that if you go with a ‘shopping list’ of things you want to achieve they rarely happen.  We make plans and God laughs, as the saying goes.

I caught the midday train out of MK with a view to arriving in Rhyll just after 3pm.  I’d booked my taxi in advance and, like a star, he was there waiting for me at the station.  I finally walked through the huge front door of St B’s at 3.45pm.  Super friendly welcome and my room was just gorgeous, I’d splashed out on an ensuite room as I was only there for the weekend and it was so worth it; absolutely immaculate too.  I was up on the Priest’s Gallery and the view was outstanding.  I was left to unpack with the promise of coffee downstairs.  I found my itinerary on the desk in my room; I was all set.

There were a few of us there just for the weekend [other longer retreats were happening at the same time] and we were each allotted a Spiritual Guide.  Mine was Helen and she was so calm and wise.  God chose well!  I worried that entering into the Silence would be difficult and I knew I didn’t have long to adjust, but not at all, I literally ‘RAN’ into that silence and embraced it immediately.  Obviously much needed!  It’s made much easier by the gentle ethos of the place and the fact that everyone around you is also being silent.  I quickly settled into the daily rhythm.  The gardens and breath-taking scenery are also very conducive to contemplation and self-discovery.  It’s not boring, oppressive or stifling as some might think, more welcoming and comforting.  I had a sense of anticipation….because there in the silence….sooner or later….you find….God!

We met with our guides at least once everyday at a set time, I met with Helen twice on the last day.  You’re advised to enter into prayer three or more times a day.  There is Eucharist everyday in the main chapel and a smaller chapel for your use with various other rooms set aside for prayer or reflection.  The gardens are stunning and perfect for prayer and reflection.  Lots of beautiful walks due to the location.  A large library for your use.  A fully stocked art room is available for those who enjoy being creative as part of their expression of faith.  The food was yummy and plenty of it with drinks available all day.  I was blown away quite frankly and I’d return in a heartbeat, in fact I plan to do so as soon as I can.

Being a Jesuit Centre you are introduced to a lot of Ignatian spiritual exercises to help you pray, meditate, centre and focus.  I also used art, scripture and poetry to help me while I was there.  I’d never used images before and it was quite a revelation and very productive, I’d always actively shied away from using art but I’ve no idea why because it was amazing!  I’ve continued using religious pictures since I’ve been home with equal sucess.  I have an affinity with Ignatian spirituality and have become a bit of a closet Jesuit over the last few years.  It’s a charism that fits well into daily life and can be lived out very successfully in both a secular or monastic setting.  THIS book by Fr James Martin, SJ was what started my Jesuit journey, but there is a plethora of information and resources online should you be interested.  Fr Martin has also written many other amazing and eminently readable titles which I can’t recommend highly enough.  

So, the end of the retreat came all too soon and Helen and I felt a weekend just wasn’t long enough.  However, as I mentioned before, she promised to put me in touch with a Sister local to me, which you may have read about in the previous posts, and that meeting proved to be a complete blessing.  Usually when I leave a retreat I find it really difficult to readjust back in to regular life, particularly the noise lol.  However, this time I very much brought the peace and stillness with me and I avoided the usual post-retreat hangover as I pretty much floated my way through the next few weeks.  With Helen’s guidance, I had achieved so much in such a short time and was very much back ontrack spiritually speaking; things have gone from strength to strength since.  God’s hand was all over the preparations and the success of that weekend. The ressurection of this blog is also a testimony to that as I feel I actually have something I want to share and write about again.

If you ever get the chance to go on a retreat, be that religious or otherwise, then I’d strongly suggest you do it.  Some places offer Quiet Days which are equally valuable and don’t involve quite such a commitment of time or money.  Our lives are so busy and noisy that time alone in silence and stillness can be hugely beneficial to both your spirit and your mental health.

Every blessing. . . .

Sharon xx

[click on an individual photograph at the top of the post to see it enlarged]

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So, following on from yesterday’s post about church and possible reasons why people do or don’t attend, I thought today I’d write a little about my relationship with ‘church’ and how that has changed over the years.  Yesterday’s post might make some people wonder why I go to Mass [church] at all if I rarely find or ‘hear’ God there so I thought an explanation was in order.

Naively I always thought that people of faith just went to church and that was that.  Easy!  They might attend a church they always went to with their family or they might find a new one if they moved, but either way it seemed pretty clear and straightforward.  Hmmm lol the reality turned out to be a little more tricky than that.  To recap I received my Calling in June of 2006.  I didn’t live in MK then, I lived out near Banbury, in a little village called Sulgrave.  For three years after my calling I remained purposely non-denominational.  Partly because I was unsure what the next step was and partly because, in the May of 2007, I moved to MK.  Once here I tried lots of churches and denominations on for size.  I’d mostly worshipped in Anglican ‘pointy spire’ churches as a teen and in my twenties, which encouraged me to give that a go here.  I also tried the Quakers, the charismatic evangelical Happy Clappys and the Baptists.  All were lovely, all were welcoming but none felt like Home.  

2008 found me still without a spiritual home but there had been some defininte and persistent nudgings from God towards catholicism which horrified my mother who was a lapsed, pre-Vatican II, cradle Catholic.  Taught by nuns and raised in “fear for her immortal soul with the distinct possibility of burning for all eternity in the fiery pit”.  You can see her point but I felt things had possibly moved on by 2008 surely?  They had indeed, I found an amazing Priest in Fr J, told him I was a divorcee and he told me, “God meets you where you’re at” and before I knew it I was attending Mass every Sunday and yes, finally I felt I’d found my spiritual home.  During the Easter Mass of 2009 I was received into the Catholic church, it was beyond wonderful!!  My mother didn’t attend. 

All sorted you’d think wouldn’t you?  Well things change, priests you didn’t realise you relied on so much move to another parish.  You listen to dogmatic people and read dogmatic literature which tells you that divorced catholics aren’t allowed to take Holy Communion.  You doubt yourself and before you know it you’re not enjoying Mass anymore.  You stand there feeling a fake and a fraud.  You try a new parish and all seems fine but eventually Mr Nagging Doubt comes back and starts pecking away at you again.  Let me be clear, no one in my parish ever said anything negative or unkind to me, it was all about my own self-doubt and feeling like I should ‘come clean’ which is ridiculous given that I’d ‘come clean’ at that very first meeting with Fr J.  Admitedly there were some priests that I felt wouldn’t have given me the time of day but, for the most part, all the clergy were lovely and supportive.  What I didn’t realise was that this was between me and God, not me and the Church. 

Fast forward to 2017 and the death of my mother in the July followed by the life-threatening complications after my surgery at the end of October, and suddenly there were more emotions flying around than I could deal with.  I certainly wasn’t up for the weekly self-imposed emotional torture of Mass.  So I stopped going and the certainty about my choice of denomination plummeted.  Not so much a crisis of faith, more a crisis of denomination.  If anything, my faith and relationship with God improved rapidly and drasticly once church was removed from the picture.  That was when I realised that church, instead of enabling and facilitating my relationship with God, was actually hindering it massively but I didn’t understand why and was still too all over the place emotionally to even begin to work it out.

In early 2018 I went back to a few of the denominations I’d tried before.  I also went to Mass very occasionally, but never in my own parish, only where no one would know me.  Nothing felt right anymore and I was very lost at this point and quite sad that I’d got it so wrong.  In early June ’18 I found myself on the St Beuno’s website looking at retreats, I still can’t remember what prompted me to do that. [my photo’ at the head of the page is one I took of St Beuno’s at sunset]  It was one of those moments when everything aligns; I had the money, despite it being close to the retreat there was still a space, it fitted with Simon’s schedule, I bought the very last train ticket for that day…it just all fell into place effortlessly.  Clearly meant to be. 

That weekend was truly fantastic and marked a huge turning point. I would do it an injustice to try and talk about that here so I’ll save it for another post but suffice to say I had an amazing Spiritual Guide in Helen and I left there feeling back on-track and with a promise to be put in touch with a Sr who lived locally to me here in MK so I could talk further about my issues with attending Mass.

True to her word I had an email from, and consequently a meeting with, the aforemetioned Sr M who was just lovely.  Such a down to earth, compassionate lady with a super twinkly smile.  Very intouch with real life and she put me straight very quickly.  What the Catholic Church teaches and what happens in reality and practise are not always the same thing.  Reading a lot of dogmatic literature can be damaging.  My relationship is with God first and foremost and the church second.  The church teachings and the recent papal apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia clearly state that it’s down to your personal conscience regarding receiving Holy Communion at any time.  In my heart I think I knew all this but it was so good to hear someone actually say the words.  I felt lighter suddenly.  We also discussed the possiblity of Mass and, at her suggestion, I would try a different parish still close to me but not with people that knew me, a fresh start.  It also offered weekday Mass which was super handy for me as Sundays are often homework heavy and, if Si is on-shift, that just leaves me to help Ethan if he needs some support.  I do like a plan!!

This feels like the perfect place to leave part one.  I will carry on tomorrow. 

 

Sharon xx

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I have just rewritten my Faith page.  I read it today for the first time in months [possibly years] and realised that it was convoluted and out of date so now there is a new version if anyone is interested.   Either click the pink link here or the ‘My Faith’ tab at the top of the page.

Love to all who visit here.

Sharon xx

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Today’s title is actually ‘stolen’ from a lovely book by Joyce Rupp that takes you on a daily journey of spiritual growth.  I’ve had this book since the week of guided prayer that I enjoyed in June of last year.  My Prayer Guide, Margaret, suggested it to me as a means of something to continue with after our time together had come to an end.  Over a period of six weeks Joyce uses the image of a cup in its various guises to teach us something about our spiritual selves and our walk with God.  The open cup, the broken cup. . .  you get the meaning.  I bought the 1997 version of the book second hand because I loved the cover and the woodcut prints, but it’s available in a lovely new version too and I’ll put the links to that at the bottom of this post.  I didn’t actually use it last year but I picked it up a week or so ago and it’s been part of my morning ever since.

Part of the joy of this book is that you have to choose a mug or a cup to travel with you, I have a thing about mugs 😀 .  I chose the cup that I use the most, my ‘Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte’ mug. wuthering_heights_mug_new2_grande It’s not the prettiest but it is my favourite and it’s the one that’s with me most often when I’m praying and spending time with God.  I was sitting this morning with my chosen cup [full of lovely frothy coffee I might add] after my prayer time and reflecting on today’s entry which is about what the cup can teach us.  In the past I have often felt that ‘life’ got in the way of my relationship with God.  That having to leave for work or do the school-run were distractions that, quite frankly, irritated me because they disturbed my link to the divine.  As I looked at my cup I realised that although it has sides that contain and hold my spirit safely, it is also portable, allowing me to transport it with me into my daily life.  Influencing what I do, how I think, how I react.  Touching all those who enter my life, however briefly.  Faith does not have to be reserved for those quiet and often brief moments alone in prayer, at church or in the car.  Faith is ‘portable’, a 24/7 gift that is infinite and omnipresent so it doesn’t suddenly stop when we leave the house or speak to someone.  I know now that I was wrong to feel so frustrated by the interruptions of ‘life’ coming between me and God, because my life IS my relationship with God and it’s meant to be shared.

Blessings to one and all.

Sharon xx

Links as promised . . . I am not sponsored by any of the products linked below.

The Cup of Our Life, 2012 ed ~ Amazon.com

The Cup of Our Life, 2012 ed ~ Barnes & Noble

The Cup of Our Life, 2012 ed ~ Amazon.co.uk

The Cup of Our Life, 2012 ed ~ Eden.co.uk

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It has been a long time.  Life has moved on.  I have moved on.  A few times I nearly deleted this blog, but then. . . . I just couldn’t quite bring myself to.   I am back at work, albeit it very part-time.  I provide lunch-time cover at a school for children with severe physical and learning disabilities.  It’s rewarding and humbling.  You think you’re having a bad day and then you realise that your worst day is a hundred times better than their best day.

Ethan is half-way through his second term at our local Catholic Senior School.  For the most part he’s enjoying it and has [according to his tutor] transitioned really well but the step-up in homework quantity, compared to Primary School, has taken some getting used to.  I’m sure he’s not alone in that challenge.

Si has also got himself a new job.  His night shift at a local distribution warehouse has been cast aside for the dizzy heights as an IT Consultant, a job he did for fourteen years back in the days before he worked in education.  The hours are so much better and so is the money.  The whole nights thing is not conducive to family life or having any quality time together.  Made worse to be honest by a truly ridiculous off-duty rota that included far too many single nights off.  Anyone who’s worked nights will appreciate that a single night off is about as much use as a chocolate fireguard……!!!

My crochet continues on at a steady pace.  I’m not churning out a project a week, or even a month, but I enjoy what I do and I’ve got three projects that are all going to be finished within the next few weeks.  A shawl, a pair of socks and a blanket.  I’ll post photo’s of the finished articles when I get there.  I have however, finished Ethan’s Cosy Crofter Blanket and the photo’s of that are at the head of this post.  The perfect finishing touch to his new bedroom.

There is big news on the Faith Front and this has been one of those subjects that I’ve spent a while deciding whether or not to write about/share.  The thing that finally swung it was that I myself would have liked to have a found an article like this when I was trying to discern my religious path.  Interestingly this is not something I’ve shared much in real life apart from a strictly need-to-know basis.  It feels a little boastful and overly pious to make this public but hopefully it will help someone else.  So . . . . . .

At the latter end of 2008 [before I became Catholic] I found the wonderful community of Turvey Abbey where, for many years, I walked the path towards becoming a Benedictine Oblate.  A time of formation ensued towards taking the vows of Stability, Conversion and Obedience.   For all sorts of reasons I never took that final step to oblation.  All I can say is that it never felt quite right.  I love Turvey and the community and I still love going there, in fact it’s probably one of my favourite places on this Earth to worship, but I felt that God was calling me elsewhere.  However, it’s taken me a very long time to discern where that might be.

Somehow I felt that God was asking me to make private vows….promises just between Him and me, not attached to a charism or a community, just a way of aligning myself more closely with Jesus and hopefully bringing some of His love to all the people in my life.  Easy you’d think huh?  Hmmm well in reality, not easy at all.  Firstly, it took me a while to find out anything about private vows [we’re not talking consecrated vows of chastity, poverty and obedience here] and secondly what would that/they even look like?   With the blessing of the Turvey Nuns I gave up the Oblate path and decided to focus completely on Private Vows, asking God to guide me.  I devoted the whole of Lent 2016 to this cause not really expecting much to happen in what is after all just a few short weeks.  A good starting point seemed to be working out exactly what the vows would be.  Clearly I’m a wife and mother so chastity or the eremetic life were out of the question.  These would have to be vows that challenged me yes, but that would also fit around my family.  I also felt that they would have to benefit everyone [without exception] who touched my life.  These are not vows to benefit me, they’re for the benefit of my community, they’re to bring the face and love of Christ to all.  So, with much trepidation and the loving support of Sr Yvonne who is the Vicar for Religious and the Pastoral Administrator of my parish, I moved forward in faith and prayer.  Over the coming days words soon made themselves clear….Obedience, Simplicity…and ???  That last one was illusive to say the least.  One day I was dusting upstairs with the TV on in my bedroom and I suddenly heard the word, ‘Caring’ and I knew instantly that was the last one.  I’ve no idea if it was from the TV or God but there it was, loud and clear.  So I had them all ~ Simplicity, Obedience and Caring.  I wrote posts on Simplicity and Caring when I was discerning last year so you can read a little of the thought process behind them if you’re interested. 

I have not yet made these vows but, as we approach Lent 2017, I know that the time is right to move forward with this and I will be sure to share how and when that happens.  The one thing I do know is that it will be very private and simple.  If you pray keep me in your prayers, if you don’t, think of me kindly as I make this amazing journey into the arms of God.

God bless.

Sharon xx

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Sparrow's Fart

Sparrow’s Fart

I’m just back from the school run and sat here with my cup of frothy coffee.  The rain is battering the windows and the horses in the paddock opposite look mighty unimpressed, although some of them are wearing some rather fetching overcoats.  I’ve been up since sparrow’s fart [5.30am] because, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, today is D Day regarding secondary school place offers here in the UK.  Now, I knew that the offer would probably ping into Si’s email just after midnight and yes, I was originally going wait up and read it.  However, as the fated hour drew round I realised that A) Si was at work as he works nights only in his new job so I was alone to face any potential disappointment, and B) If the offer was not what we’d hoped then I’d probably be awake for the rest of the night worrying.  So, I decided to NOT open the email and go to sleep.  Which surprisingly I managed to do.  Whoever said Essex girls don’t have self control??  Ha!

So, there I was at 6.20am with the farting sparrows; the tablet fired up; a cuppa in the pot and suicidal cats wondering where their food was; waiting for Si to come in from work.  [Honey, our Basset wasn’t ‘up’, she really doesn’t do mornings lol] He was equally as amazed as you guys that I’d not opened the email lol.  The good news is that we got our first choice of secondary school for Ethan!!  **does victory dance around the lounge**  However, we also know how lucky we are and our thoughts and prayers go out to those who will undoubtedly not have got their first choice and quite possibly  not even got a school that was on their list of choices, this does and has happened.  Ethan’s off to the only catholic secondary school in MK.  I think relief was actually our overriding emotion to be honest.

Enough basking in glory then and onto to something else ~ clarification.  Hmmm I was thinking last night, during my long wait until midnight, that although I did historically have regular followers on my blog who ‘knew’ me well, there might be new readers [due to the change in focus to crochet etc] who don’t know anything about me at all.  The bit I’m thinking of here is faith…. I don’t want people to think I’m all pious, that Catholicism is the only way forward and that I’m bigoted or dogmatic about my choice of religion.  I just want to put this out there and make it crystal clear that yes, I’m catholic [converted in 2009], Ethan is being raised a catholic and we love our faith.  My husband however is not religious and no, that does not cause us any problems.  Most of my friends are not religious and among the few who are some are Muslim, some are Hindu, some are Christian [and of many denominations] and some are just spiritual.  I celebrate and appreciate all religions and faiths, I don’t choose friends on the basis of their faith or beliefs.  I am not judgmental and have a past that is cringe-worthy at best [sounds of skeletons rattling in the cupboard] and I spent many years not being of any given religion, and in fact was Buddhist during the years leading up to my conversion to Christianity in 2006.  I don’t tend to talk about my faith anywhere except here and sometimes at church.  If anyone asks me about it I’m absolutely happy to share but it won’t be me who raises the subject first.  This blog started back in the day as a means to record my faith walk and it [the blog] has changed focus and direction many times along the way.  I no longer feel the need to record that journey in quite so much detail but it is nice to have somewhere to write about the ups and downs that come with being a woman of faith.  To be honest, it’s really hard to find anyone to talk to properly about religious issues because it is such a taboo and inflammatory subject so this blog can be a good outlet for that occasionally.

Okay, I just wanted to put that out there before people think, “Ay we’ve got a right one ‘ere.” and never darken my blogstep again. . .

Right, I’m going to wake-up Si who is off tonight and we’re going out for brunch…have a lovely day all…stay warm and dry XXX

 

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Freedom QuoteThere was a discussion on the dreaded Facebook yesterday about banning the wearing of the burka [not sure if the niqab comes under that ban as well] in the UK.  As many of you will know it has been banned in France already.  Now, I have to say at this point that I totally understand the security based reasons behind this school of thought.  However, looking at the bigger picture from a different angle, I am worried that we are picking away at our freedom of choice that we are so famous for as a nation. If we start dictating what people can wear then where will it end? 

Historically, I can remember a nurse and a British Airway’s clerk both of whom were banned from wearing a christian cross at work.  I wear my crucifix all the time, in fact I rarely take it off.  Although wearing a cross or similar is not a security issue, I can see similarities here, and feel an equal amount of injustice at both situations.  Again, removing our freedom of choice, and this is supposed to be a christian country first and foremost!!

I know that for those muslim women who choose to wear the burka for the right reasons [i.e. based in faith as an informed choice, not through fear or oppression] being told they can’t wear it in public would cause, at the very least, feelings of distress, anxiety and frustration.  They would feel they are compromising their beliefs.  Interestingly, part of the discussion produced the comment that ‘they should go to a country that shares their religious views’.  Fair point, but that could be tricky if they’re white british.  White british muslim converts are often the most devout and passionate about their faith, which has lead to some of them choosing to take the veil.  These women belong in the UK regardless of their religion, their lives and families are here.  We have a huge, and still growing, muslim convert community here in MK and I think that’s something to celebrate.

So, going back to my initial fears, how free to choose are we really?  I’m starting to wonder in this rapidly developing ‘Nanny State’.  I used to celebrate and feel lucky at being British and living here.  At times now I feel suffocated by, and disappointed at the country I live in and some of the people I have to share it with.  I am obviously aware of the terrible extremist based crimes taking place, but in my opinion they have nothing to do with real faith or religion.  God/Allah pbuh, does not sanction genocide or terrorism, so no religious label or scripture will ever make that right, no matter how hard they try to justify their crimes under that banner.

I found these quotes last night and they really made me think:~

      “Not enough people know or understand just how little freedom we have left.”  Korban Blake

      “As free as you allow others to be, such freedom you create for yourself.”  Bryant McGill

Finally, I found this in an article in The Guardian by Andrew Brown and I wonder if maybe he’s right:~

      “The burka debate is not so much about religious obligation, as about the public rejection of the surrounding society, and society’s tolerance for that.”

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the clashToday’s gospel during Mass was John 6:60~69 and Fr James used verse 67 as the focus for his homily ~ Then Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘What about you, do you want to go away too?’ …..

Fr James was reminded by this Gospel reading of an ecumenical retreat he did on the Isle of Iona in Scotland, and specifically to the standard ‘ice breaker’ that the group took part in during the first session.  Each person had to liken their feelings at the start of the retreat to a song title of their choice.  Apparently one of the other participants there, a Methodist Deacon called Ruth, gave her title very honestly as ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?’ [by the punk rock group The Clash].  Whilst recalling that moment today Fr James wondered if those were the thoughts going through the disciples’ minds when Jesus asked them if they wanted to go away too?  Should we stay with Christ or should we go our own way now?

As I sat there pondering on this it came to me that God always gives us a choice whether to follow Him or not ~ it’s never an assumption or an ultimatum, always a choice.   I was drawn back to the time of my calling when I spent quite a few days wondering whether to take up the ‘offer’ or just politely ignore it, and whether in fact I’ve ever considered changing my mind since that day over three years ago…….?

I always start the holidays full of good intentions regarding my religious practise.  With so many adults here in the house to amuse Ethan I should, in theory, have alot more free time to pray, study The Rule of Benedict, go to weekday Mass, visit Turvey and generally step-up my game.  In reality the complete opposite is true, it’s chaos in all honesty.  More people mean more mess, more meals to cook, more clothes worn so more washing, Ethan going hyper with all the extra stimulation…..you get the idea I’m sure.  Also though this means that there is even less quiet time or ‘me’ space so in the end I actually spend less time with God.  The first week I struggle along getting frustrated and then by week two I’ve all but given up even trying to find time even to pray my offices.  I stop the whole charade of good intentions and promise myself I’ll resume normal viewing again when everyone goes back to work and school in September.   So by now, which is about the end of week four, I am down to the bare minimum with a snatched prayer when I think of it, Mass on Sunday and very little else.

This means that in effect, because of this temporary change in circumstances, I emotionally move away from Christ during these religiously lean, long summer holidays.  This year I have noticed a definite change in myself as a direct result of less time spent with God.  My attitude is pretty poor, my patience is at an all time low, my compassionate nature seems to have taken a holiday and I’m not at all keen on the person I’ve become. 

So, back to the question that Jesus asked his disciples, ‘What about you, do you want to go away too?’ and whether or not I’ve ever considered ‘going’ and not walking with Christ anymore?  Well yes, of course I have considered not practising religion anymore.  If I’m honest there are times when I just plain can’t be bothered with it such as when I’m poorly or exhausted, times of major doubt and times like now during the holidays when it’s logistically nigh on impossible to find time, space and opportunity to just be.  But then you look at the bigger picture, when I have intentionally ‘gone now’ and, like during these holidays, I am left craving God time and I realise that life without God is as the next line of the song says...“If I go there will be trouble, an if I stay it will be double”……To stay with God is not always a walk in the park but to go is to be in a place void of any meaning, of any love, where I morph into Mrs Snippy~Pants within days and the God shaped hole in my heart starts to bleed with nothing to fill it ~ trouble indeed!!

I have also realised though that not practising my faith does not mean that I’ve stopped believing in God.  I look back to my pre~conversion years and know that I’ve always believed in God.  Even if I gave up practising Catholiscism/Christianity tomorrow I know that I would always be aware of God’s existence.  He’s there within me, like a permanent marker indelibly printed on my soul.  It’s very difficult to stop believing in something you can tangibly sense is there.  Life is much easier when I walk in the shadow of God’s wings  for sure; and it’s true to say that I do occasionally move away from God.  He however, never leaves my side…….

The last word must be Simon Peter’s reply to Jesus… 68Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”  John 6:68~69 NIV

Pax

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CtCI was at the checkout in Asda the day before Ethan’s baptism buying all the food for the celebration party.  The lady serving me was a beautiful black woman.  She could tell by my purchases that we were having a party of some sort so I told her what the celebration was for.  There ensued a lovely discussion on the joy of baptism per se and our faith.  At the end of the conversation we realised that she was Anglican and I was Catholic.  However, that really didn’t seem to matter ~ same God, different building we said, smiling.  For a while there we’d had a beautiful bond and despite the difference in our denominations we were singing from the same page in every way. It was a memorable moment for both of us I think and we hugged as we parted probably never to meet again ~ except in Christ!!!

I have often wondered and been asked if I think Catholicism is the only denomination ~ the right way, the path to eternal life.  I’d have to say no, I don’t think that, but it is the right way for me.  I love the Catholic faith, it fits me well and is the best way for me to express my love for God and He knew that which is why He called me to convert.  I will always defend my right to practise Catholicism and am fully prepared to defend and protect both my church and my choice.  However do I think everyone should be a Catholic?  No, I do not, unless they want to.  I am not arrogant enough to think that I’ve successfully manged to choose the only way to heaven!  Would I like everyone to find salvation in Christ?  Oh, yes, yes, I would, with all my heart. 

I think, as I’ve blogged before, that 43 years of  having very little faith whilst living a very tough life and then 2 years of trying various denominations on for size [and finding God in all of them] have left me very accepting and ecumenical.  That’s alot of experience to just cast off and ignore.  I suspect this is why Turvey is such a good fit for me.  No matter what Christian denomination you are there is a place for you at Turvey.  That warms my heart beyond measure.  I would probably encourage people to be Benedictine before I encouraged them to be Catholic as the more I learn about the Benedictine way the more it enhances and encourages me.  The Rule of St. Benedict helps me to be the best person I can be in Christ and consequently in life.  Like the Catholic faith, being Benedictine fits me like a pair of good shoes, although I’m at the very start of that journey and a long way from living The Rule as I should but, as with all long journeys you need a pair of good shoes.

I expect that are many who will want to shoot me down in flames for these rather broad and relaxed views but I know that there’s a God shaped hole in all of us just waiting to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  I can see that longing, that lack of fulfillment in alot of the people I meet.  Whatever Christian denomination it takes to fill that hole and bring out the love of the Holy Spirit in each person is all that matters from where I’m sitting. 

I don’t feel that God loves me any more or less now I’m a Catholic.  He called me as a non denominational person and that is all I need to know.   I thank God for meeting that lady at the checkout out in Asda.  She showed me the very best face of Christianity long before we even gave a thought to what building we worshipped in.  I’m so glad that it was one of the last things we said to each other rather than one of the first.  The first thing we knew about each other was that we both loved Christ and for those few minutes we loved each other in Christ.  Thanks be to God!!

[The picture above is of Christ the Cornerstone church in the city centre of Milton Keynes where I live.  It is apparently the first purpose built, ecumenical church in the UK and for me it is the best visual illustration of what this post is all about.  All denominations meeting under one roof to love and serve the Lord.  Amazing!!]

 

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