Kate Holmstrom’s Lent reflection
I once (“once” being an understatement) taught a 12 year old boy expert at being a perfect nuisance. During an RE lesson, desperate for some “peace” with the rest of the group, I set him using his considerable skill at copying out in enormous, coloured letters, the words “I am with you until the end of time”. I told him I wanted to display this verse in the passage for the benefit of the younger children. It kept him lovely and quiet for several lessons.
When you think about it, this short little preposition with has huge significance and occurs constantly in the Bible. From the very beginning, “ the Word was with God and the Word was God”. Throughout the Old Testament, God is with his people. And constantly in the New Testament. He is Emmanuel, God-with-us! Jesus just loved to walk, talk and eat with people. At Gethsemane, he wants his friends to be with him – “Watch with me” … On the road to Emmaus, he walks again, unrecognised, with the two downcast disciples, setting their hearts burning within them so that, at the inn, they beg him to stay with them as evening falls.
I don’t know what has become of that naughty young Olivier. I hope that the words he copied out and the children who read them, were influenced. Through RE I was seeking to open their hearts that they, too, might walk
with Jesus. O God, may we receive the glorious message of Good News of the Incarnation and whole Paschal Mystery: “BEHOLD: I AM WITH YOU UNTIL THE END OF TIME !”
Kate Holmstrom’s Lent Pilgrimage, Lap 3
Lap 3 of my long pilgrimage, after a stop to get stouter shoes, a sunhat for sunnier climes and mosquito cream. There are limits to my endurance, devoted pilgrim though I (would like to ) be, and I am heading south. GRADUALLY I will meet up with pilgrims on their way to Compostella, and shall join them.
After Poland and Slovakia I spent wonderful hours in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Cologne Cathedral – built to honour the relics purported to be of “the Three Kings” – was magnificent. Then to Aachen in Germany, not that far from the Belgian border. This was all about Charlemagne, stunning with so much gold and splendour. I suppose I should have prayed about Europe, but didn’t think. Charlemagne would not have forgotten: he is a great figure in the history of our part of the world. So much gold! There is a lot of gold (and gilt) too in the Chateau de Versailles, but that was very much more for the glory of King Louis XIV than about anyone’s holiness.
I loved the votive paintings decorating the walls of the Chapel of Grace in Altotting, Bavaria, on which, over the centuries, grateful people had painted little scenes of the disasters from which Our Lady had saved them, such as falling headfirst off a roof, adding “Maria hat geholfen” (Mary has helped). Maria also helped a monk in danger, who built Mariazell in Austria out of gratitude. Today I have been knocked sideways by the explosion of stupendous baroque in Einsiedeln, Switzerland. More gold. It is all positively shouting out the glory of God. I contemplated it while listening to Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto. More glory …
This powerful Way of the Cross was created by the Faithful Companions of Jesus (FCJ) women religious in Myanmar
We pray in solidarity with our Sisters and Brothers taking part in their daily Nonviolent actions against oppression.
Lent reflection from Paul McGowan
‘Anointed me for my burial’
The story of the Anointing of Jesus, that we hear in the readings this week, was remembered in different ways in the Gospels. Paul McGowan says, ‘It is better to take the Gospels seriously than to ignore them, or to accept that there’s only one way to read them.’
The smell just wouldn’t go. Hung around us. Clothes, hair, skin, nose, throat. Everywhere.
Death. You can’t beat it. Death and the premonition of death. Not to speak of the reality. We know death well in our times.
Taking death away because you love someone. This is unheard of. We all want it, of course. At least, we say we do. But what do we do with it? Does it have a place here? What about the others who lost lovers and friends?
The nard came from travellers. They come out of the desert and pass through. They say little. They want little. And yet they bring us things we could not imagine. And now I’ve got it, what am I going to do with it? Cost me a fortune. I think it was to get rid of that other smell.
It was quite a party! His reputation was well-deserved. Things must have got a bit out of hand, I think. Perhaps it was that something in the air that pushed us all to over-react. When I had finished there was almost as much of it on me as on Jesus. It was all over my hair! What on earth was I thinking? There was a bit of a pause. An awkward moment, you might say. Judas was the only one still sober. The look on his face.
We waved them off, staring into the late afternoon sun. Martha shook her head. Lazarus just sat in his chair, worn out.
The news reached us just after breakfast. ‘Anointed me for my burial’ rang in my head. Now the lingering smell was a thing of dread. An hour later I was at the outskirts of the city, pushing and shoving all the way. I hid my face in my hands more times than I can remember. Every time the smell of death and life mingled.
We met at daybreak, as arranged. When I was at the last bend in the road I looked back towards the city. The flask was still in my hand. I had had no use for it. So now what is it for? I cannot bear to use it and I cannot bear not to use it. What will I smell when I open it?
Lent reflection from Paul McGowan
The woman with the alabaster jar (Mark 14:3-9)
I suppose I have had what they call ‘a good life’. Depends how you see it. I told my son I was going to stay with our friends for a few days. It’s true, we do know people there, but this time there’ll be no visit.
Here’s the house. Full of men, of course. Always men. Some of them were fishermen, I had heard, from Galilee. You can tell by their accents anyway. No hiding that. I checked again. The flask was still there. And the other things, and the money.
A week ago, they had caused a great commotion in the streets. People were shouting that the Messiah had come. There would be signs, we have been told. The signs were there, some said. Therefore, it was true. As I like to say, it depends how you see it.
The bottle was warm in my hand. Smooth as silk, but tiny. Not many can afford it, so I knew it wouldn’t be missed straight away. Strictly speaking, I’ve stolen it from my son, since his father left everything to him. But like I say….
Going out at all hours; business meetings, he says. I don’t think so. Not normal business anyway. People coming to the house. I recognised some of them. Members of the Council. I was in the kitchen, but I overheard them. Stupid old woman. She won’t understand, even if she hears everything.
Too late to turn back now. Don’t lose your nerve. Go in. Push your way through before they notice. Take out the bottle and do it! There was a brief silence.
I had the chance to tell him, but I couldn’t. What difference would it have made? They would never have believed me. They never believe what women say. He was doomed already. A marked man. The plans were in place, and my son was in the thick of them.
I slipped out while they were still shouting. I could hear them half-way down the street. I’m glad I did it, for what it’s worth, though it was a feeble effort, compared to what awaited him.
That is why I cannot go back. I cannot go back, but now I need somewhere else to go, somewhere they won’t look for me, somewhere I’ve never been before.
Lent reflection from Paul McGowan
The man with the pitcher of water (Mark 14, 12-16)
He’s spent a lot of time here, over the years. He comes and goes, like me. I have work here from time to time, when it’s busy, as it is now. Never heard anyone like him. No particular training. Some of the official teachers are a bit jealous.
He’s always here for Passover. Been coming since he was a kid. I’ve seen him sometimes with a group from his village. Last couple of years he’s been on his own. This year he’s brought ‘disciples’, would you believe. Which is why he needs a bigger room.
And now he’s gone and organised a procession into the city, as if he owned the place. He’s got a nerve, I’ll give him that. The rulers don’t like things getting out of hand when there are so many visitors in the city. I’m not sure if Jesus gets it. Up north they don’t see much of the authorities. Down here, we’ve got the priests, for one thing. And the Romans. They own the place, not us, not any more. Oh, they let us ‘practice our religion’ as long as it doesn’t make any difference to anything. Some of us think that’s not enough, and it’s not what the holy books say, and our leaders have sold out.
But the tribes have gone, gone for good. Scattered. The only time they come home is for these festivals and nobody can understand what anybody else is saying.
Some of us stay. We pray together and help the needy. We use the room in my boss’s house for meetings. Jesus knows how to plan ahead. Just as well, or he wouldn’t have got the room for tonight. All the inns are full, for sure.
Our Scriptures tell us we will have peace when there is justice. We have a saying about the widow, the stranger and the orphan. Neglect them, and you’re on the road to ruin. So, just do what you can for those around you and keep your head down. That’s all you can do.
Lent reflection from Monica O’brien
A few days ago, masked and socially distanced, I was standing in the supermarket behind a woman whose food items had been checked through the till. She was paying with a voucher and there was about £5 left on the voucher. The cashier offered to wait so that she could go back and use the £5. However, she said, “I have all I need. Send it back so they can help someone else.” She knew how much was enough? I ask myself, “Do I?”
What better time to reflect on this and like questions than in the season of Lent? Each of our personal journeys is joined with the mystery of God’s unconditional love. We hear reconciliation expressed in Hebrew Scripture as Micah describes our right relationship with God and neighbour. In the Apostle Paul’s letter, we hear that it was God who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the work of handing on this reconciliation. In the Gospel we hear how forgiveness leading to reconciliation was central to Jesus teaching. Thus, as people striving to follow Christ, we seek to be agents of justice and nonviolence, ready to forgive as we are forgiven, aiming to listen with an open mind and to direct anger toward injustice not individuals.
Pope Francis, in his recently published book, ‘Let us Dream: The Path to a Better Future’, proclaims once more that God still has a dream for today’s world; that God looks on our world and dreams. The reign of God happens where there is peace and justice, inclusion, seeking of the common good, respect for the dignity of each person, care of the earth. As we journey through this ‘extraordinary’ Lent towards the celebration of Christs’ resurrection, may we keep in mind God’s Dream, pray that God’s Reign will come and collaborate in any way we can.
May we open our hearts to the HOPE that is sure, because we know in whom we have placed our trust; ‘the God who holds all thing together’. (Hebrews 1:3a)
Lent reflection from Peter Hickey
‘If a grain of wheat falls on the ground and dies, it yields a rich harvest’– JOHN 12 20-33
I moved house recently which looking back on it probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do during a national lockdown! I think there is always something rather poignant about moving to a new home and starting a new chapter – The empty space you leave behind, the new unfamiliar surroundings which hold so much potential.
The move proved to be a massive challenge both logistically and emotionally. I had could not believe how much “Stuff” I had accumulated in my last place. After a chaotic afternoon of packing, chucking out and transporting – it was done! There was a huge sense of accomplishment when it was all finished. The possibility of a new start was such a welcome interruption to the monotony of lockdown.
In these weeks of Lent, I have been going on some fantastic walks along the Grand Union Canal. My working from home has become enlivened by a change of scenery every evening when I go exploring. The new plants and flowers shooting up everywhere on my daily walks have made it easy to appreciate the metaphor of Jesus – if a grain of wheat falls on the ground and dies, it yields a rich harvest. I have seen so many reminders of this pattern of loss and renewal. Of sowing and reaping.
I am also reminded at Lent of that call to repentance that Jesus invites us to. A true conversion of our own hearts but also of our society and our church. Pax Christi gathers every year outside the MOD in London at the start of Lent and publicly repents. They repent on behalf of a country which has put its faith in nuclear weapons. I am always grateful for the Pax Christi family and the witness of peace they offer to our world.
One of my favourite prayers this Lent has been the prayer of Saint Francis:
‘It is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life’– Prayer of Saint Francis
Lent reflection from Kate Holmstrom
An Armchair Pilgrimage
My Lent contribution for Peace is a highly enjoyable long “pilgrimage” I’m making day by day, for Peace, from my armchair. I have a wonderful book with photos and writing about European pilgrimage sites. In imagination, I have plodded over the wet causeway to Holy Island, appreciated the ecumenism of Walsingham, marvelled beneath the exquisite vaulting of Ely, felt that I am one of the “motley crew” on the way to Canterbury (cf Chaucer) and realised that Canterbury is a murder site (Thomas a Becket). St Therese has inspired me at Lisieux, beautiful Chartres has filled me with memories and all day, I kept singing (in my head) the “Je vous salue Marie de Chartres”. Notre Dame du Puy (in Auvergne) is high on a rock. Going to God/ striving for peace requires effort. . …Jesus went UP to Jerusalem. An arduous climb! I spent 24 hours in Lourdes, praying for peace and about sickness (Covid). Now the book takes me along further paths. This is a good venture.
After England and France, my armchair pilgrimage for peace took me to Scandinavia. Unknown territory! I reached Denmark in a Viking longboat, seasick and trembling at the ferocity of the pagan Vkings, and had to sing bravely “She who would valiant be ‘gainst all disaster … Let her in constancy follow the Master.” He did not let me down but took me to sanctuaries in Denmark, Norway and Sweden (St Canute’s Cathedral, Mon, Nidaros (at Trondheim and Ringebu), teaching me that the Vikings are OK now because in the 9th Century St Ansgar arrived and converted them to Christianity.
Now (March 15) I have joined the fervent pilgrims thronging to Czestochova where Our Lady is permanently ready to pray for peace, so I joined her. Tomorrow my feet and sturdy pilgrim’s staff will lead me to Lichen and Sastin Straze, also in Poland. May the Poles forgive me my neglect of special kinds of accents proper to their difficult language, let alone the pronunciation …
To be continued ….
Lent reflection from Joan Sharples
No one can face life in isolation… We need a community that supports and helps us, in which we can help one another to keep looking ahead. How important it is to dream together… By ourselves, we risk seeing mirages, things that are not there. Dreams, on the other hand, are built together”. Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti #8
I’ve been looking again at this extract from Fratelli Tutti that Pax Christi used in the Advent Service in December. It proved worth revisiting. As winter drags on and restrictions show no let up, isolation seems very real and with it a longing for community.
Where do you find community?
What supports you?
Whom can you share your dreams with?
Building community, through its zoom calls and mailings, its social media and its study courses is part of Pax Christi’s vision, encouraging members to share their gifts and dream together of a world which reflects God’s peace and love.
Lent reflection from Anne Peacey
As with most special occasions over the past 12 months Ash Wednesday 2021 was always going to be very different.
Unable to be part of the annual Ash Wednesday service outside the Ministry of Defence, experiencing the solidarity of common purpose and the power of a combination of reflective and silent witness together with symbolic action. This year no walk to the Crypt at St. Martin in the Fields to sit with special people over a warming drink and then journey home with time to reflect on things that are important.
How to re-create that special time?
Images of previous years set the scene in preparation for a virtual sharing. The Lampedusa Cross seemed an appropriate symbol for the day – a powerful image, rough around the edges, stripped bare, battered and bruised by the elements, just like each one of us really, our vulnerability exposed for all the world to see, yet put together with love as a sign of hope for our troubled world. My prayer stone found near the beautiful Church by the beach at Aberdaron where the sound of the waves mingles with the words of the poet priest R S Thomas, could not be left out. It seemed right that the seeds and water were placed on dishes, gifts from my granddaughter, linking well with my prayer for all children suffering because of conflict. The candle added as a sign of the spirit of hope to which we all cling. Very easily assembled, very different but equally meaningful.
Lent reflection from Paul McGowan
No fool like an old fool. What does he think he’s doing, taking another wife at his age? It’ll never work. I could tell what they were thinking. All the usual jibes. ‘Do not let my enemies gloat over me’, says the Psalm*. I was frightened. Everybody said I was a good man, a pillar of the synagogue. What a scandal there was in the making!
‘Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame’, it says. I still ask myself, is this really the one we are waiting for? Anyway, I will probably be gone by the time it – whatever it is – happens. But I have had such joy in his company. I know that much for certain! All those trips up to Jerusalem. What conversations we have had! How much I have learned by trying to answer his questions. All that time spent together. All those hours working in the yard and on site….
‘Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions’. Well, if you want my opinion, those of us who are old have the most to repent for. Our compromises, our cowardice, our so-called wisdom. We have failed, for sure.
‘All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love’. What about the paths you never knew existed? Like those paths across the desert with Mary and the baby, dodging Herod’s men, lying low, taking shelter where we could. Even the foxes have holes and the birds have nests, we used to say, but not us! It was a kind of joke. Well, in the end we survived. There was plenty of work for builders, if you were prepared to travel. A lot of it thanks to Herod’s court. Imagine – working for the Herods, and they never knew! Should we have taken the jobs? Tainted money. But I tell myself it has made a legacy for the children, so they can ‘possess the land’, if you like.
And so, we go to Jerusalem when we can, and always for Passover. Some of the children don’t bother, but Jesus loves it. He could leave the village and go down there for good, if he wanted. Plenty of work there for a clever man who can do something with wood and nails.
I don’t like to think about it. ‘Relieve the troubles of my heart, Lord’.
*All references are to Psalm 25
Lent reflection from Fausta Valentine
The Biblical Queen of Sheba brings to my mind Camels carrying riches of gold, precious stones, spices and all things valuable to Solomon the King of Israel.
What has happened to this rich land of Sheba which is today Yemen.
The United Nations calls the humanitarian crisis in Yemen “the worst in the world.” Today the conflict has displaced more than one million people and given rise to cholera outbreaks, medicine shortages, and threats of famine.
I hold Yemen in my thought and prayer during Lent.
Nicodemus (Fourth Sunday) – reflection from Paul McGowan
Nicodemus appears three times in John’s Gospel, in chapters 3, 7 and 19. Each time he appears, it is to stick his neck out. First, after the furore over the ‘cleansing of the Temple’; second, after another furore during which the authorities order the arrest of Jesus; third, after the main body of disciples have fled, in fear of their lives leaving Jesus in the hands of the authorities. He is a man of principle who goes where his principles lead him.
The first place they lead him is to Jesus himself. He comes, famously, ‘by night’. This is sometimes interpreted to mean ‘in secret’, for fear of his colleagues in the religious establishment. Nothing of the sort is mentioned in the Gospel. It might just as plausibly be read as an indication of his personal turmoil, brought on by the behaviour of Jesus in the Temple courtyard earlier in the day. He comes at an unusual time, perhaps unable to sleep. He comes to Jesus with respect and with respectful questions.
In chapter seven, he finds himself out on a limb defending Jesus in the face of the enraged Council and demanding that they follow their own rules of legal procedure. He asks for Jesus to be heard by the highest authorities, but they will have none of it and the meeting breaks up in confusion.
Finally, he appears among the small group of followers who ask Pilate for permission to bury Jesus according to the Jewish rites. Nowhere does it say that he was a disciple (unlike his companion, Joseph of Arimathaea). He was a man who struggled to hang on to the truth, and to find new meanings, in the events and personalities of his time.
A reflection from Sr Daphne
Because of my arthritic hip I haven’t even managed to do my usual walk to see the daffodils in our local park but I have been managing a walk round the local streets and have been very cheered by all the flowers, mostly daffodils but also crocus and some early flowering trees in the front gardens and even more the flowers in people’s gardens in the close in which I live. I am really grateful and happy for these, not necessarily lovely gardens of people celebrating Lent. And when I go to the supermarket, which is another walk through local streets, I am really happy because there are many plants and cut flowers, but most miraculous of all the attendant at the supermarket door came running after me on two separate days with a free bunch of daffodils on one day and Christmas Roses on the other.
A reflection from Henrietta Cullinan
Affirmation of life
Psalm 91 ‘It is he who will free me from the snare of the fowler and from the evil word.’
This verse appears in a short responsory some might read at Morning Prayer during Lent. I try to unpick why it catches my attention, although the more I think of it, the more ideas occur to me. I wonder too why the writers of the breviary chose this verse, but that’s for another time.
It’s an image of activity: the hunter or fowler, probably dogs, the chance that the bird will escape fly high enough to escape. Implied in the snare is the image of a bird or a wild animal, an ‘affirmation of life’. 
When I was growing up, my grandparents lived opposite a copse used by the local shoot. When we went for walks we found hidden the pens where they reared the baby pheasants. This is also where sometimes we would find traps, traps of different sizes, put there to catch the animals that might prey on the precious baby pheasants, reared especially for the expensive shoot.
When grown, the pheasants themselves, bright glossy feathers, not very good at flying, are forced by the beaters and their dogs to fly into the range of the ‘guns’ standing out in the ploughed field with yet more dogs. Another trap.
Those thoughts that wake me up at night, those mean words people say about me could be something very dangerous. Someone will label me too old, not good enough, no use, not clever enough, not worthy enough. One day we’ll be vulnerable even if not now; we’ll be lead where we’d rather not go.
In a flash we realise we are – embarrassingly soft, as Nina Simone sings – and as vulnerable as the baby pheasants and just as useless at flying.
To understand a body in the world, a soft vulnerable body in a violent world that is brutal to so many, what an irony! There is power in being able to think this, and understand this, I can see my own and others dependency – on humans and nonhumans on the earth, on nature. To find food, energy, security I’m dependent on certain organisations I’d rather not be like banks, energy companies and supermarkets.
Yet daringly I think that perhaps I don’t have to. I dare to have a choice, (Nuclear weapons for my security – what kind of security is that?) I don’t have to be led somewhere where I’d rather not go. I have the chance to fly out over the tree tops!
 Judith Butler, The Force of Nonviolence, 2020
Katja – North Wales
My first Ash Wednesday with CCND and Pax Christi. In lockdown, at home and yet walking along the stations in London. A walk of Christian Witness and Resistance, alongside people and organisations who have done this for many years.
Offering up my presence, prayers and petitions, with hope given to us
through our faith, that whatever little we have to offer, will make a
difference in this world and the Kingdom to come. Katja (North Wales)
A Lent reflection from Anne Dodd in Abingdon:
Our kitchen window sill this morning. The as-yet – apparently- empty flower pot is where I have planted the sunflower seeds that were sent in advance to those taking part in the online Pax Christi Ash Wednesday liturgy. The symbolic action of planting the seeds was a very meaningful ending to the service. I will follow their progress on the window sill carefully until I can plant them out in the garden.
A Lent reflection from Anne O’Connor
NEW BEGINNINGS – A JOURNEY FROM LENT TO EASTER
For the past few years I’ve produced a Lent reflection leaflet continuing a format started by Bryan Halson during our time together on the former Shrewsbury Diocesan Justice and Peace Commission. This year Lent takes on a new meaning for me following the death from natural causes of my beloved elder daughter Annie in June 2020. For Advent 2020 I put together a series of weekly reflections based on her writings as a scripture scholar, teacher and evangelist.
For Lent this year I am sharing some more of her material as we journey through Lent towards Easter.
I’ve been looking at C S Lewis’ classic The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe whilst helping home-school our 9 year-old granddaughter during the latest lockdown. It seems apposite in the current situation to identify with a bleak land where it is ‘always winter but never Christmas.’ At present it feels as though we are existing in a continual season of Lent, an enforced time of fasting and abstinence from so many of the ordinary pleasures we take for granted: visiting family and
friends or new places, going to a film or out for a meal, enjoying a day out to the coast or the countryside. We wait, sometimes with impatience, for the time to move forward to Easter and the joy of the Resurrection. We are locked in a period of stasis, of stagnation. There is frustration and fear. Will our lives ever be the same again? But we can choose to embrace this enforced isolation as an opportunity to quieten ourselves, to truly listen to God and discern a new way
forward. We can use this time wisely to consider changes to our lifestyle that will help conserve the fast-diminishing natural resources of our planet, to live more simply and to work for the good of all. This is an opportunity to focus on what really matters and to journey in faith and hope.
NOTE: The scripture verses used are selected from each day’s readings, the reflections are taken from Annie’s writings
A Lent reflection from Patricia Pulham
I have always felt that ash can be seen not only the result of destruction and death but can also be a valuable and fertile material for growth. Just think of the slopes of volcanos where people grow crops for the population around, so it was so very suitable that our Ash Wednesday Witness this year reflected both these elements. From the sadness and death that had been caused by the Corona virus came the opportunity to mark Ash Wednesday in a no less meaningful way.
Following the usual Liturgy, we made a virtual pilgrimage round the Ministry of Defence, aided by pictures of last year’s Witness. Participants had gathered material to use at home so that we could all feel we were taking part, not just observers.
We used soil to mark ourselves with the Sign of the Cross, and this was blessed, together with water. We had each written the name of victims of the nuclear weapons programme to remember and pray for, and by dipping our finger in the water and soil, could write the word “Repent” for the sin of our nation’s nuclear policy.
The final act of our Liturgy was the planting of the seeds we had been sent, in the blessed soil, sprinkling them with the water. When they bloom later in the summer, they will remind us to rejoice in the beauty of the Creation, and to thank our Saviour for all we have experienced reflecting His love.
We couldn’t have believed that this year’s Ash Wednesday Witness could so reflect our usual commemoration outside the Ministry of Defence in London. However, by using similar materials and following the familiar Liturgy, we felt we were there again. The images of this centre of nuclear weapons policy and the opportunity both to mark ourselves with “the dust of the earth” and to look forward to the Resurrection by planting seeds to symbolise new life was a moving and fitting start to the season of Lent. We are so grateful to all those who made it possible.
A Lent reflection from Joan Sharples
‘I can help spread the message of nonviolence by …’ was the starter we were given for a Pax Christi nonviolence zoom marking the Days of Nonviolence last September. Completing the sentence was a challenge – what with the quiet home-based lives we were leading. And then my daughter’s words came into my head, ‘Oh mum, you’re always so negative’. Negative and cynical speech can do violence, at personal and even at national and international level.
My efforts to curb my negativity weren’t likely to have much effect on international relations, but in the last few months, I have spent less time moaning to friends and family about the minor – very minor, for me – privations of lockdown. I have been stretched in others ways. Trying to recognise the positive in the people and situations I encounter, means I can’t fall back into my default ‘I can’t do that’ when asked to do something out of my comfort zone.
Eschewing my regular crime fiction diet, I’ve included reading that will ‘grow’ my practice of nonviolence. Advancing Nonviolence and Just Peace in the Church and the World, Pope Francis’ Fratelli Tutti, David Olusoga’s Black and British haveall expanded my horizons – and in positive and challenging ways.
I suppose it’s all about giving the Life-Giving God space in the depths of my prayer: waiting on God, the Source of life, of nonviolence – and getting on with my everyday life – whilst ever being alert to what might be. ‘Do what you are doing’ as Dorothy Day once advised.
So, how will you respond? ‘I can help spread the message of nonviolence by …’
Alistair McIntosh and Matt Carmichael Spiritual Activism page 24
Watch our Ash Wednesday Witness below: