Holy Mile

Pilgrims leaving the slipper chapel

As part of the Walsingham Youth Pilgrimage we all walked the Holy Mile from the slipper chapel to the Anglican Shrine. We were all given rosaries, I had my own and the idea was to pray the mysteries as we walked.

As soon as we started off walking it began to rain but we carried on. I led a full rosary of the luminous mysteries and it was surprisingly tiring. As I walked barefoot dodging the larger stones on the road, I was concentrating on how many Hail Mary’s I’d said, and having my voice loud enough to lead a large group who were also walking around me.

The rain became heavier and the tarmac spikier and once we entered the Main Street through the village the tarmac smoothed out.

There was a sense of relief, but also a feeling of immense joy walking barefoot on the waterlogged ground.

Entering the village

I looked up at the bunting that was hanging between the buildings and felt my voice become louder reciting the rosary. Here we were walking the Holy Streets of Walsingham proclaiming the heavenly words that the Angel spoke to Mary. It was beautiful and my eyes prickled with grateful tears of joy and love for this most wonderful place.

We entered the Shrine for Benediction outdoors. The rain was really coming down now, and the bells sang with joy as the blessed sacrament was processed onto the altar. What else was there to do but kneel on the soggy grass as the rain continued to fall.

Candle cups

We lit our candles and knelt in the presence of the Lord, rain continued streaming down over our faces and hands and feet, like a fresh spring of water that brought joy and refreshment.

Benediction in the rain

The rain extinguished the flames in our candle cup lights, but soon we found another flame to ignite it again. Through rain soaked eyes the blessed sacrament glowed in the fading light of the day. Minutes turned into hours as time lost all meaning in the symphony of the rain dropped orchestra.

Love rained down

Soon the bells rang again and the time of adoration finished, and just as quickly so did the rain.

Did we experience the Holy Waters of Walsingham sprinkling on us from above, instead from the well?

Did Our Lady of Walsingham stand next to Our Lord and watch, as trembling hands clutched onto candle light, as tired knees and feet bowed down in awe?

Oh blessed pilgrims we were, that on such a sweet night we were washed in Holy love.

Ask and it will be given to you

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Asking for help isn’t always easy. 

How many times have people said to us, if you need anything just ask, I’m just a phone call away, call round and we can talk, how many times have we just nodded in acknowledgment but not really taken it seriously? 

I know I have done this myself, and I’ve sat at home thinking should I take up that offer of help or will I be intruding and making myself vulnerable in the process.

Recently my personal situation has made me realise that asking for help and actually being able to accept it has been difficult, but in doing so I have experienced such amazing Grace from wonderful friends and colleagues. 

There is a fear in asking, it means stepping into that moment where we ask, and wait for a no, like the man who needs to borrow those three loaves waits for a no, and he gets one, but he is persistent, and that is the glory of the beautiful Grace of God.

In the Gospel today we hear Jesus telling us to be persistent, persistent in asking Him for help, asking the Father for His love, and asking the Holy Spirit for guidance. 

But it’s hard to persist, whether it’s the culture today or how we’ve been brought up, we’ve been taught not to nag, not to burden others, not to ask. But here Jesus cuts through all that social etiquette, he acknowledges that the man who wants to borrow the three loaves will receive them not because of friendship alone but because he is persistent. 

This parable is so relatable, I can imagine myself saying the same things if a friend came to my door and I was in my nightie, the kids were in bed, and I’d locked up the house. But I’d help because I would know it must be urgent for such a disruption. 

The disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray, he gives them the words to use but shows them to be persistent, to not give up, Jesus says “at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.” And here we glimpse the key to personal prayer, to not give up, to be persistent in our prayers but in our prayer life too. 

This parable prophetically speaks into our attitude towards prayer, Jesus knows that we are fallen and fragile, even his own disciples fall into the temptation of sleep because they are overwhelmed with grief whilst Jesus was praying in the garden of Gethsemane, he calls them to wake up and pray, a message for us all for prayerful persistence when faced with personal suffering, grief, and the enormity of the evil that goes on in the world.

There is a stark reality of Jesus’ command to us to stay persistent to prayer in our daily lives, even when we are tucked up in bed and then realise we’ve not said compline, or reflected on our sins, or given thanks for the day. 

Do we roll over in bed thinking we can catch up tomorrow or do we feel the need to be persistent in our prayer life. 

Jesus says, commands us to Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. It’s certainly worth getting up out of bed to finish the day in prayer, to be persistent and to modal a holy persistence where our relationship with our Lord matches His persistence to keep forgiving and redeeming us daily.

We can see this pattern of Holy persistence present In the genesis reading, where we hear Abraham being persistent also with God, asking Him questions regarding God’s decision towards Sodom, Abraham asks and asks and asks, to point of where if this was a human conversation between you and I, I’m sure you would have said enough! Shut up! But not our God, he listens with patience that is immeasurable, responds in ways we couldn’t fathom, shines His grace on us unconditionally.

There is something here in this teaching that calls us to put away our pride and feelings of shame when we ask for help. Gods love blows through the boundaries set up by pride and shame, He shows us how to love like Him, freely, simply, letting our hearts be formed by His Sacred heart. My favourite model of beautiful simple love is where on the cross Jesus gives His blessed mother Mary and John to each other, as Mother and Son, united in pure holy love, breaking through the boundaries of human ideals and expectations. This is what Jesus calls us to do as we ask, to break through our rigid humanity to sit with Him regardless of what we think we should be doing.

Sometimes It is hard to do to open our hearts fully in prayer but Jesus addresses this and gives us words to help us persist, because sometimes when we pray we don’t have the words, we cannot format a sentence that articulate what we actually need. 

This is where prayers such as the Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary, the Jesus prayer hold us is prayerful holy persistence. The safety blanket of repetitive words that hold us close to the Lord, that allow our hearts to communicate, the inner groans of need that cry from within, that our humanity fights to hold inside to preserve ourselves.

My prayer for you all this week is to be persistent, hold this teaching of Holy Persistence turning to the Lord again and again and again, to challenge ourselves to pray even when we feel that we would rather be doing some other task. 

Let us be patient in times of trouble and never cease praying, giving thanks to our Lord with our whole heart, ask and it will be given to you, for the Lord has overridden the law and cancelled every record of the debt that we had to pay, he has done away with it by nailing it to the cross, be persistent in the never ending, beautiful, merciful, unconditional love of our Lord, because he is persistent with us.

Amen 

I must turn aside and look at this great sight

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Father, may these spoken words be faithful to the written word and lead us to the living word, Jesus Christ our Lord.

This year in my back garden we have blessed by an abundant pilgrimage of gorgeous butterflies. They are not there all the time but when the sun is out suddenly they appear swooping and darting above my head. 

Their beautiful flame red wings flash in the sunlight, they manoeuvre through the air effortlessly and sometimes are joined by a partner. 

They twist and twirl in a seemingly endless dance spiralling higher and higher. It is fascinating to watch, their darting display is irresistible I have to stop whatever I am doing and just sit and admire them. 

Moses in the Old Testament reading today has a similar experience. He is minding the flock of his father in law, he has wandered through the wilderness and suddenly he sees the bright red flames of a bush that is on fire but it is not being consumed by it. 

What a sight to behold, imagine standing there watching the flickers of flames seemingly using up the kindling of the bush but nothing happening to it.

Moses turns aside, stops what he is doing and invests his attention to this miraculous event. God notices that Moses has stopped what he is doing and has gazed all his attention on what God is doing, and God calls him.

This is a brilliant model for us to see how God does things and inspires us to pay our full attention to what He is doing. 

How often do we hear stories of people’s lives being transformed by God but we turn a blind eye, perhaps become cynical, perhaps even disbelieve that God would do such a thing?

How often do we sit in the pews and hear the word of God, how often do we see the Eucharist, yet we do nothing, we say nothing, the altar is aflame with the passion and love of our God and we sit there unimpressed, we have not turned aside to witness the glory of our God right here in front of us.

Yet here in this story we see Moses stopping what he is doing and he watches and he listens.

God then tells Moses to take off his sandals because where he is is Holy. 

We can learn from this command too, we can take off the things that make us feel comfortable when we worship because wherever God is present and doing things, that place is Holy.

How might we take off our sandals when we are in the presence of our God?

Can we dare to worship with more passion, can we approach the altar with joy and thanksgiving, can we say that something has touched us, or God has spoken to us. 

Taking off the worries and things that can hinder our ability to proclaim the beauty and amazing things of the Lord is difficult. But God says to Moses take off your sandals, because where you stand is Holy, it is Holy because God is there, it is Holy because God is doing something, and we are to turn aside, to look afresh on the all consuming fire that is our God.

The thing I love about the burning bush, is that it is not consumed, and this is another lesson for us, when we feel that everything around us is pressing in, when things are tough, when life is difficult, we are not consumed by it because the God who sustains holds us through it all. We are not burnt up, we are still under pressure, but we are held in such incomprehensible Grace that we can see the light that the darkness cannot overcome.

At the end of this, Moses is sent by God to do His work, Moses is afraid, he knows his weaknesses, he doesn’t believe in himself, but God does, God says I will be with you. I will be with you. I will be with you when it is tough, when you are feeling overwhelmed, but God is also with us when we fail to notice what he is doing. He is patient, and all we need to know is that somewhere God is doing something that we cannot see, we need to be attentive, to keep our eyes open, to listen intently to Him, because in that seemingly non eventful moment, like the butterflies that twist and dance in the sun, there waiting for us is something to catch our eye and draw us into whatever God is doing. 

He is waiting for you, waiting for you to take notice, waiting for you to turn aside, and gaze on the flames that dance by his command.

This week, try and take notice of what God is doing, perhaps it won’t be as spectacular as the burning bush, but whatever it is, God is waiting for us to take notice, to listen deeply, to pay attention, to gaze on His Glory and His grace, Moses said Here I am, let that be our prayer to God this week, Here I am.

Amen 

 

 

Little girl, get up!

There’s something deep inside that has haemorrhaged for twelve years.

Myself being consumed without my consent.

Consuming me every day,
no one could help me,
I tried a few times to cry out for help,
but it wasn’t the right time.

It was just costly.

Then I saw you and I believed that if I could just touch your hem,
if I could just feel your love then I knew that I could be healed.

And I was.

And it stopped.

And then I stopped.

And now I felt death.

I lay there watching the world go by and you took my hand and all you said to me was “little girl, get up!”

And slowly I did, part by part I began to move and soon I realised I was now more alive than I’d ever been before.

You healed me.
You released me from my prison.
You transformed my heart.
You made me worth something.
You showed me love, proper love, not consumerist love, just pure transcendent unconditional love.

Now:

I pray when I want
I sing when I want
I dance when I want

And it’s all for you,
My Lord and my God.

And I’m so thankful,
I have no adequate words to speak.

All I have is the smile on my face, the sparkle in my eyes and a new heart that you put in me.

With a Holy Kiss you brought me back to life, you raised me from the dead, you breathed your spirit into me.

And I will serve you with every breath in my lungs and every beat in my heart.

You saved me.

Little girl, get up.

Tremble

You say not to be afraid,
yet I tremble at everything,
the world seems a new place,
light and dark,
day and night as one,
it is hard to see the blue sky,
with patches of deepest space,
but then there are the stars,
some shine day and night,
they are not afraid of this new world,
where blue is bluer than ever,
and black is darker than death.

I cradled a coffee in this new world,
everything felt different,
I could have more than one cup,
if I wanted,
I could stay until the chairs were lifted,
if I wanted,
and the floors swept clean,
if I wanted,
or I could leave like I’d never been.

You say not to be afraid,
yet I tremble at everything,
the sounds my house makes at night,
the doorbell,
the floorboards,
and as I wait to listen more,
my heart stands still,
a little too long,
and my bed feels,
a little too long,
and the days,
a little too long.

You say not to be afraid,
yet I tremble with you,
because it is you that spoke,
that breathed,
this new world,
you split the rock,
encased around my heart,
and now it pours out,
freely,
but so new,
so delicate,
like fresh butterfly wings,
and I tremble,
a little too long,
but I can fly,
if I wanted.

You say,
do not be afraid,
and when I look up,
hold me close,
a little too long.
because all I see is you,
and I tremble,
because my life and my heart is anew.

And what of love?

And what of love?

That drives down relentlessly
pounding
like rain on window pane
singing a strong yet delicate symphony
of newness, freshness,
yet builds to overwhelming flow
like waves
which lap the shore
crescendos into more,

water pours from split rock
in the desert places,

and what of love in these spaces?

Clouds broken,
you are my beloved,

words spoken,
you are precious,

hope awoken,
you are beautiful.

And what of love?

Nothing but gift,
rained relentlessly,
bestowed from above.

Ascension

As I walked with prayerful purpose,
two butterflies twirled,
caught in a dizzying dance
so close
yet not touching
on and on they span.

I stopped and watched
mesmerised by their symmetry,
and I reached out to become part of them
close they came to me.

Soon they spiralled above my chest
and I felt my heart flutter by,
it lifted up
and joined the butterflies.

Coaxed out of heaviness
leaving all and raising up into the sky,
I reached out to see if I could touch my heart,
on and on they span,
over hedgerows
and endless green,
such beauty in their dance
peaceful weightlessness
a release of yearning
for a chance
of freedom
on swift wings
who knew a heart could do such things?

Thank you Sister and Brother butterfly
for your prayerful purpose,
that lifted me
ascending
ascended
beautifully free.

.