Statistics

I love statistics. Like work, I can sit and look at them for hours. I am not clever enough to know how some are calculated, but I do tend to challenge a few (usually the financial ones) and, even more, the conclusions drawn from them. This morning, for example, I was thrilled to read that the number of murders, manslaughters and cases of infanticide in the U.K. fell in 2019 to 650, the lowest level for five years. For a population assessed to be 66.87 million, that may look impressive. But part of me wants to say, add in the number of abortions or people taking their own lives, and the figure rockets up; drill into the number of deaths by sex and age and the terrible toll wreaked on young men in particular becomes clear. There is still a lot of explaining to do before the statistics become helpful in terms of planning or working out how to reduce the number of deaths. It is so easy to forget that behind every statistic is a human face, a suffering face, and just look at the numbers.

Another statistic that took my eye this morning relates to the measles epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo: 310,000 are apparently infected, and 6,000 are said to have died already. Given the difficulty of obtaining accurate figures from the Congo, one wonders whether the actual number of people involved is much higher. The solutions being proposed look inadequate and probably are inadequate, but only when the numbers reach a certain level will there be pressure to act — or so it seems.

What started me on this trail of thought was re-reading a comment I had made nearly seven years ago on an article written by a priest in a well-regarded Catholic journal (I was renewing my credentials with a commenting platform and my comment popped up before me). The article had contained unflattering observations on ‘the traditional orders’ and proposed some radical solutions based almost entirely on numbers. I had taken issue with this, little realising that some of the observations I was making in jest would reappear in Cor Orans as completely serious. Looking back, one of the things I noticed was that no-one appeared to have engaged with what I myself had written about the future of monastic life for women. Instead, many had used the opportunity to say what they thought about the habit, the liturgy and so on. There was no reason anyone should engage with me, of course, but in nearly two hundred comments, I had hoped someone other than myself might have been interested in the future of monastic life for women. Apparently not. The argument went down a different line from the one I had expected and ended up in a morass of contradictory figures and opinions, plus some fascinating insights into what really interests some American Catholics.

One should not conclude too much from that, but it illustrates a problem many of us have with statistics. First, we tend to believe them, if they fit our narrative. Second, we then use them rather crudely, citing them as ‘scientific proof’ of whatever it is we want to argue. (I am not referring to professional statisticians, who will be horrified by the suggestion that they could ever misuse their skill in such a way. I am referring to us amateurs.) Recently, I smiled over a friend’s evident sense of grievance at the amount of money the UK had contributed to the EU budget over the years of our membership. He correctly gave the figure in terms of umpteen millions. Re-worked as a contribution per capita per annum, it came to a pitifully small sum. Both figures were correct, but could be used in different ways to argue a case according to the individual’s preference.

Is there such a thing as a Christian approach to statistics? I don’t think so. But there is a Christian approach to truthfulness and fairness. A frequent theme in the Rule of St Benedict is his concern for fairness. From everyone being treated compassionately, according to need rather than status, to the constant exhortation to avoid favouritism in the monastery, Benedict wants everyone to know that there are no second-rank individuals in community. Nothing will be used to ‘do them down’. I wonder if there is something there for us all to ponder about the assumptions we make and the way in which we try to justify them, using, of course, irreproachably objective things like statistics.

Over to you.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

On Starting Afresh

Bro Duncan PBGV sending a message from Beyond

My first blog post of 2020 is not being written under the happiest of circumstances. The situation in the Middle East has brought home to everyone how fragile is the peace between nations, how easily the conventions by which we live can be overturned, and what a terrible price could be exacted for our folly. Yet still we persist. There is an obstinacy about human nature that, for good or ill, seems to determine the course we follow. I have therefore done what any sensible person would do and consulted my canine friends about how to proceed. Bro Dyfrig BFdeB was too busy napping to give a coherent reply, but Bro Duncan PBGV responded from Beyond in his usual good-tempered way. (I think they follow a different horarium up there.)

The trouble with you Human Beans is that you complicate everything. You spend far too much time giving everyone the benefit of your opinion instead of just getting on with the business of living. You waste so much energy saying Mr Trump was right, or Mr Trump was wrong, or the Ayatollah is doing this, that or the other, that you fail to see what is right under your noses. Yes, the world could go up in smoke tomorrow (then you’d all be with me in Beyond, which would be nice) but the chances are that you’ve got some more living to do down below and you need to make what you do worthwhile. You may not be able to do very much, but you can still make life pleasanter for those around you.

You can be kind, considerate and selfless. Rather like a dog, now I come to think about it. You can live in the moment, not in the past or the future. You can be grateful for everything, even the tiniest, silliest little thing — and it doesn’t have to be food. You can be ready for any adventure, no matter how much your old bones creak or the warm fireside lures you. Above all, you can learn to forgive. I don’t remember holding a grudge against anyone, ever (not even when BigSis forgot my Dentastick) and I know it made me a happy boy. Happiness is much under-rated by Human Beans. You think you will find it in having all the things you want. One day you will understand that that it is being with the Person you want that really counts. God is waiting for you Beyond. There’s no rush. He will call you when he’s ready. In the meantime, learn to be a good boy (or girl) like me and live in the sunshine of God’s love (like my successor, The Ginger Fiend).

That’s not quite vintage Bro Duncan, but it makes sense to me. The New Year may be looking a little ragged, but we start every day afresh, with new opportunities and new challenges. The love of God is the constant in our lives. As 2020 unfolds, we may need to remind ourselves of that more often. I have no doubt we will need to share it more often.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

The Antidote to Hate Crimes

The stabbing of five people at an orthodox Jewish rabbi’s home in New York state during Hanukkah celebrations on Saturday added one more dreadful statistic to the wave of hate crimes associated with the resurgence of antiSemitism in the West. Then came news of a gun attack in a Texas church during service-time on Sunday. No doubt we shall be told in due course who the attackers were and what their motivation was thought to be. We in the U.K. will probably allow ourselves to wonder whether the frequency of mass shootings in the U.S.A. (see https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-50936575) has created a culture of indifference towards such violence, but we have nothing to be proud of when we consider the rise in knife crime in our own city streets. The fact is that the expression of hatred is becoming harder and harder to contain or neutralise. The kind of anger and abuse we find in social media easily translates into violent action, only we tend not to see or want to acknowledge the way in which it can affect both ourselves and others. There are no boundaries, it seems — except for some fashionable hate crimes which seem to draw a disproportionate amount of attention because endorsed by the celebrities of our day.

I was struck by the response of Mayor de Blasio to what happened in Monsey: he promised more security in Jewish areas, by which I presume he means more armed guards, and a programme of education in schools. As Rabbi Sacks sadly remarked, in a tweet published yesterday,

Antisemitism has returned within living memory of the Holocaust, and after more than half a century of programs of legislation, and education designed to ensure that it could never happen again.

Legislation and education don’t appear to have changed things, and while there are those who will say it was because a churchgoer had a gun on him that the attack in Texas was no worse than it was, some of us still find the thought of taking weapons into a place of worship highly questionable. Two thousand years since the birth of the Prince of Peace and we still have not learned that violence too often begets violence!

As 2019 races towards its close, we are faced with an ever starker choice. Do we want to be people of violence or of peace? Are we going to pass the poison on, or are we going to say, ‘No. I refuse to be part of that violence’? If our answer is ‘no’ we must be prepared for huge sacrifices. It will mean being extremely careful about how we speak or act, not in the sense of being cowardly but in the sense of being mindful how our words and deeds increase or decrease the stock of tension in the world. It may be ‘fun’ to denigrate others with our witty put-downs; it may be a relief to our feelings to disparage those with whom we disagree; it may even be a source of inner congratulation to have pointed out the wrongness of a policy or an individual’s behaviour, but we do need to think about possible consequences. It is no good lighting a touch-paper and then lamenting the fact that the building burned down. The only real antidote to hate-crimes comes from those who are not prepared to hate. Which will we choose?

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Holy Innocents 2019

This morning I re-read some of my earlier posts about this feast. That for 2017 was hard-hitting in its statistics and left me with a feeling of despondency. Things are no better now than when I wrote. In fact, they have got worse. There are more children said to be living in poverty in the U.K., for example, than there were three years ago. World-wide, there are more children being aborted, exploited, trafficked or exiled than ever before. Yet the Church continues to assert the importance of this feast. Is it merely a reminder that the defenceless will suffer because of those who think they don’t matter? A kind of liturgical corrective to the sentimentality of the secular celebrations of Christmas to which we are exposed? Or is it something more, something that goes deeper, into the heart of the mystery of the Incarnation?

I think we can only understand this feast by looking at Christ’s birth, an event that is located in place and time, within the specifics of a particular family. One consequence of this is to change our notion of what matters and our responsibility for others. Christ’s coming into the world means we can no longer plead indifference about the importance of individuals, even those we have never met. Everyone matters. There isn’t a single human being God has not looked at with love, so who are we to argue or act otherwise? The massacre of those young Jewish boys two thousand years ago is an event in time, with its own particularities, but it is also an event that transcends time because it is for ever present in the mind and heart of God. As such, it is both a comfort and a challenge. A comfort, because it assures us that God’s love never ends; a challenge, because it demands a response from us. While there is any child who goes to bed hungry, thirsty, or exploited, any child who is not allowed to be born or live with dignity, we have failed to meet that challenge. We have failed to recognize Christ when we saw him.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

St John the Divine

I once tried to sum up why I love this feast:

Of all the Christmas feasts which follow thick and fast after the Nativity of Our Lord, I think I like St John’s best. He is the most poetic of the evangelists: a man who had learned ‘how to bear the beames of love’ and who reflects the beautiful light of the Word made flesh, as stars reflect the light of the sun. But there is more to John than beauty. There is grace and truth, again reflecting the grace and truth of the Word, and there is strength.

Truth needs strength otherwise it easily becomes something less — mere criticism, perhaps, or the kind of grumbling that achieves nothing except to make both grumbler and audience weary. St John is the most mystical of the evangelists not because he wrote beautifully, or because he reflected the grace and truth of the Word made flesh, but because he he was strong — strong in faith and love. It enabled him to see what others could only guess at, gave him the courage to explore what others might shy away from, kept him at the foot of the cross when he was tempted to run away. He was a true contemplative.

Whether we think of John as the young Galilean fisherman, the old man in Ephesus, the mystic on Patmos or simply ‘the author of the Fourth Gospel’ matters not a whit. John understood the nature of mystery. In secular parlance, mystery tends to mean no more than something we can’t fully grasp, a puzzle of little consequence; but to the Christian, mystery goes far beyond that. It is a secret we can know only because God has revealed it to us — a wonder and a joy, as in the holy Eucharist. John’s writings are full of mystery in this sense and take us very close to the mystery of God’s being. In his gospel, as in his letters, he expresses this through images of light and love, word and silence, hinting at what can be known only through faith. In our own lives, too, there must be something of the same light and love, word and silence, the same quest for God through prayer and sacrifice and fidelity to the covenant God has made with us.

All this — our understanding of the mystery and our eagerness to pursue it — comes to us as sheer gift, a gift given by our incorporation into Christ at baptism. It is the source of our strength, of the grace and truth by which we live, and it is our ultimate destiny, for one day we shall see Him as He really is. (1 John 3.2) That is a promise that goes far beyond anything we can think or dream of, but one we too often ignore. May the prayers of St John help us recognize it and respond wholeheartedly today.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

St Stephen, Courtesy and Techie Stuff

In previous years I see I have written about St Stephen in terms of faith, forgiveness, martyrdom and zeal. If interested, you can find the links by using the search box in the right-hand sidebar. This morning, however, it is the courtesy of St Stephen that strikes me, and that chimes in with a theme I have begun to develop about our use of technology and the internet.

‘Courtesy’ literally means having manners fit for a royal court. Anyone reading the account of Stephen given in Acts 6 and 7 will note that he was ‘full of faith,’ ‘filled with grace and power,’ ‘filled with the Holy Spirit,’ and that his dying words were ‘do not hold this sin against them.’ The account in Acts is not so much a paeon of praise for Stephen as a programme of action for us to follow. His refusal to speak angrily or disdainfully to the Sanhedrin was rooted in the transformation grace had wrought in his life. He was a man of faith because he prayed and allowed God to act in and through him. Somehow, I do not think that he would have had much truck with the concept of ‘righteous anger’. It was for God, and God alone, to decide who should be punished for wrong-doing, and Stephen himself preferred to follow Jesus in asking for forgiveness not condemnation. His manners were, so to say, fit for the royal court of heaven.

How does that link up with our use of technology and the internet? In the first place, I think it is a powerful reminder of the need for consistency. We cannot be Christians in church and howling demons on the internet. The judgements we make and the language we use should reflect the same standards. Whether we are online or off, thoughtfulness and the sort of self-control we associate with kind and considerate behaviour are essential. That means, of course, that we need to make some preparation beforehand. We need to pray, and we need to inform ourselves. Just as Stephen’s faith was rooted in prayer and reading of the scriptures, so must ours be. (I would add that, for Catholics, regular reception of the sacraments is also essential and it certainly wouldn’t hurt to keep our reading up, either. If we can’t manage theological texts, there is always the Catechism of the Catholic Church to check that the Church does actually teach what we think she does.) It all looks pretty basic, put like that, but we have only to glance at Twitter or Facebook or the comment section of most online media to see how ugly and brutal or even plain vulgar much of our public discourse has become.

Does this matter? I think it does, and in some later posts I hope to argue why I believe we are at a critical point in our use of technology and the internet. For years the Churches (plural) were a little suspicious of the new-fangled world of the internet and only used technology in ways that were perceived to be immediately beneficial (think CCTV, sound systems, etc). The situation now is quite different. Sometimes it can seem as though everyone is online and technology has become a substitute for genuine human interaction. That isn’t true, but the development of A.I. (artificial intelligence), the growing inequalities of the world in which we live, which include inequalities of access to the internet, for example, and, in the West, the increasing prominence of the laity in online engagement, mean that many of the old certainties are crumbling. Certainly, as regards religion, the old hierarchies are no longer as dominant as they once were. There is hope as well as danger in this, but it would be a sad mistake to stumble into a situation that effectively denies the Holy Spirit’s role in the Church. No doubt most would protest that it is not so, but many of us are given to wanting the Church to be what we want her to be, rather than what she is in herself — and we are vocal, and not always very courteous, in expressing our views.

Judging by his words and actions, that was not St Stephen’s attitude. He was happy to be a member of the Church. Yes, happy! He was her devoted servant because he was the servant of Christ. He did not see individuals as abstractions. When he gazed at the faces of the Sanhedrin, he saw them as they were, not as ogres or bullies but as men who were mistaken, perhaps, but basically people as intent on dong right as he was; and like his Master, he was filled with love for them. What Acts only hints at, his regular round of service as a deacon, must have taken up most of his time and exercised all those qualities of mind and heart we see at his end. It is tempting to forget the ordinariness of Stephen’s life as a whole because of the Caravaggio-style spotlight on his martyrdom, but doing that is to see only half the man and little of the saint. One of the lessons to be learned from Stephen is his utter selflessness, his desire to be conformed to Christ, and his graciousness in the face of adversity and opposition. It is a lesson I pray we may all take to heart — especially online.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Christmas Day 2019

Our Lady of Consolation
Our Lady of Consolation, icon since c. 1450 at Cambrai, Flanders

This icon of Our Lady of Consolation reminds us that Christmas is never without its sorrows. The tear on Mary’s cheek recalls that poignant medieval lyric in which Christ’s death is lamented in deeply personal terms. Our salvation did not come cheap:

Lovely ter of lovely eye,
Why dost thou me so wo?
Sorful ter of sorful eye,
Thou brekst myn herte a-two.

We rejoice in the most perfect of all gifts, the gift of our Saviour Jesus Christ, but we also acknowledge the grief and sadness of the world in which we live. We may be mourning the loss of someone we love or grieving the violence that has killed so many in Burkina Faso and Syria, or there may be some more private sorrow that weighs us down. But still we rejoice. The bitter irony of the birth of the Prince of Peace coinciding with a fresh outbreak of war is not lost on us, nor is the seeming inability of our leaders to work together to end poverty and homelessness and all the evils we regard as insupportable. But still we rejoice. We rejoice because we must. Destruction, negativity, hopelessness is not the whole story and never can be. With the coming of Christ into the world, God has bound himself to us in a way that can never be broken. He has become what we are — for ever and ever. If we let that truth sink in, we can indeed find cause for joy.

On behalf of the community, may I wish you all the blessings of Christmas and the assurance of our prayers. Thank you for your engagement and support during the past year.

If you are struggling with serious illness, you may find something useful in this earlier post about celebrating Christmas with cancer: https://is.gd/BCZDup There are also several posts about the Nativity which can be found using the search box in the right-hand sidebar.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Living on the Edge of Eternity

One of the more useful consequences of having an incurable or terminal illness is the way it tends to change one’s perspectives. So many of the things we tend to worry about or waste our energies on become unimportant or, at any rate, secondary. Family, friends, community, and for the religiously-minded, God’s judgement — these are what we really value and sometimes fret about in the small hours. With energy at a premium, there is none to spare for self-indulgent moaning about what others are doing or not doing. Every moment is precious because we are living on the edge of eternity.

Advent is like that, too. We are given these few short weeks to prepare for the greatest of all gifts, the coming of our Saviour, and it is easy to become complicated and anxious about them because we have a lot to do and secular society doesn’t understand why our focus is elsewhere. We have to make a conscious effort to remember that we are living on the edge of eternity: the Lord will come, and he will save us.

St Bernard famously distinguished between the three comings of Christ: in the flesh at Bethlehem, two thousand years ago; in power and glory at the end of time; and here and now, when we keep his word in our heart. However busy you must be today, take courage from what St Bernard says about this coming and the promise it contains:

Keep God’s word in this way. Let it enter into your very being, let it take possession of your desires and your whole way of life. Feed on goodness, and your soul will delight in its richness. Remember to eat your bread, or your heart will wither away. Fill your soul with richness and strength.

Because this coming lies between the other two, it is like a road on which we travel from the first coming to the last. In the first, Christ was our redemption; in the last, he will appear as our life; in this middle coming, he is our rest and consolation.

If you keep the word of God in this way, it will also keep you. The Son with the Father will come to you. The great Prophet who will build the new Jerusalem will come, the one who makes all things new. This coming will fulfil what is written: As we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, we shall also bear the likeness of the heavenly man. Just as Adam’s sin spread through all mankind and took hold of all, so Christ, who created and redeemed all, will glorify all, once he takes possession of all.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

A Reed Shaken by the Wind?

Today’s gospel reading (Matthew 11. 2–11) is a stark contrast to the lyricism of the Mass’s first reading (Isaiah 35. 1–6, 10) and the explosion of colour and sound accompanying our celebration of Gaudete Sunday. John the Baptist is in prison, soon to be executed at the whim of a tyrant. He has heard about Jesus, but isn’t sure he is the One he, and all Israel, is longing for; so he sends some of his followers to question him. Jesus sends back an answer linking himself to Isaiah’s prophesy, then goes on to discuss John in terms some of us may find surprising.

We tend to think of John the Baptist as a ‘wild man,’ living on the edge of the desert, austere to the point of emaciation. He is obsessed with the coming of the Messaiah — joyful, fierce, capable of spell-binding utterance and blistering honesty, a man of contradictions. Herod didn’t know what to make of John yet liked to listen to him. The scribes and pharisees whom John called a ‘brood of vipers’ were also keen to hear him speak. Clearly, there was something irresistibly attractive about him — a strength, a clarity of purpose, on which others could rely, however uncomfortable it might prove at times. Yet Jesus’ first words about John are enigmatic. ‘What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed shaken by the wind?’ The words are so unexpected that the irony is not immediately apparent. A reed looks fragile as it trembles in the wind, but who would have thought of John as fragile? Then there is that allusion to the garment of camel-hair and the contrast with the fine clothes worn in a palace. Finally, Jesus gets to the point: John is a prophet and, as such, a strong man, dressed in the garments of salvation, a challenge to our way of thinking and acting, just as Jesus himself is a challenge to us. 

Why did Jesus play with his audience in that way? A scripture scholar would probably wish to explain literary forms and semitic usages, but I think a much simpler explanation may suffice. Jesus wants his hearers to think. What was it about John that drew them to him? What was it about John that Jesus wanted his own disciples to emulate?

Let’s go back, for a moment, to the reed image. Reeds are found in marshy areas, in marginal lands. They have hollow stems, making them good conductors of sounds or liquids, and they can be used to manufacture almost anything from a basket to a roof. They are, in fact, immensely tough, amazing for all their seeming ordinariness. Without trying to stretch the analogy too far, we can say that John, too, was tough, living on the margins of society and with so little self-importance that he desired to grow less that Christ might grow greater, a human example of the amazing-in-ordinary. He was shaped by the Word of God to be his instrument. He proclaimed the demands of righteousness to all who would listen, showing no fear. He gave a baptism of repentance to those prepared to humble themselves, and baptized Jesus himself at the beginning of his public ministry. He did all this without fuss or fanfare, content to let Christ be all in all, ultimately laying down his life for him.

In a moment of exquisite tenderness, Jesus recognizes John’s stature and allows us to see how much he loved him. John was both forerunner and follower, the greatest among those yet born of women, a witness to truth and justice. We know that but don’t often think about the love Jesus had for John, nor do we frequently reflect on the dynamic between them. Perhaps we should do so more often, because if we could understand the relationship between them, we should understand better what it means to be a disciple and how to prepare for the coming of Christ. For many, John remains a little distant, a little severe, but if we think about the role he played in Jesus’ life, I think he becomes the warm and attractive figure he undoubtedly was, the ‘one joy man’ beloved of monks and nuns. The respect Jesus and John had for each other is telling. John, we could say, was necessary to Jesus in the accomplishment of his mission. That is a huge claim, and must be followed by an equally huge question. Are we also necessary? We might usefully ponder that as we enter the third week of Advent.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

On a Dark Night

I come from a monastic community that has always been extremely reticent about prayer and spiritual experience. D. Catherine Gascoigne, the first abbess of Cambrai, said all she wanted to say about prayer in half a dozen sentences; her contemporary, D. Gertrude More, was the exception that proves the rule — she had more of the prolixity of Fr Augustine Baker, her teacher. It remains a community joke that no one should ever write her spiritual autobiography. How fortunate we are that St John of the Cross was untroubled by such restraints, though I dare to say that I think many misunderstand him or read him superficially. His teaching on prayer is wise, deep and immensely challenging. Even after a lifetime of trying to pray, I am not sure that I quite ‘get’ him. I can revel in the beauty of his poetry, shudder at the way he was treated by his confrères, delight in his courage and the anecdotes we have about him, understand some of what he is saying, but there remains a distance, a degree of unknowing, which not only proves I was right to become a Benedictine rather than a Carmelite, but also that there are many ways of praying which, despite having much in common, also have their differences. We have to find the one that suits us, that is intended for us, and it can be a long and hard task to discover what it is.

The hardness of the task must not put us off, however. A few years ago I tried to express what I mean by that, and what I wrote then strikes me as still being valid. The darkness of Advent is a preparation for the coming of Light, just as the darkness of prayer is a preparation for the coming of the Giver of prayer, God himself; and the gifts that God gives are never intended for ourselves alone. They are to be shared:

Many years ago, before I became a nun, I went to Toledo and walked up to the town from the railway station. It was a summer’s evening and the scene that unfolded was, quite literally, picturesque. Some muleteers were driving their beasts across the bridge at the foot of the cliff, red tassels swinging as they lurched on their way. Higher up, where the mountain swifts were circling, one could see those famous lines of St John of the Cross, carved into the honeyed stone: En una noche oscura . . . . It was another of those paradoxes in which Catholicism in Spain seems to delight: the fleeting intimacy of a moment of prayer emblazoned on a rock-face for all the world to see.

I think today’s readings about the prophet Elijah and his New Testament counterpart, John the Baptist, and the feast of the Carmelite, John of the Cross, we celebrate today express another paradox. All three were inflamed with an ardent love of God, at once enormously attractive yet profoundly disturbing to those whose love is less certain. All three were men of deep and powerful silence whose words, when uttered, seared the soul. All three were men of mystery, most at home in the solitude of the desert, whose public lives were anything but obscure. In themselves they personify both the interiority of prayer and the exteriority of action. The source was, of course, one and the same: that passionate, intimate relationship each had with God.

During these days of Advent, Elijah, John the Baptist and John of the Cross remind us what it means to be consumed with love of God. It must blaze out from us, shine, like ‘the shining from shook foil’ as Hopkins would say, become a fire that never goes out. And it must do so, that others may take fire, too.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail