Pages

Monday, 12 September 2016

When the people are ready, the master appears..

On returning to the Philippines after 10 years in England; after a particularly exasperating day dealing with corrupt bureaucrats who applied glacial efficiency with anyone who would not pay a bribe, I lost my temper. It was clear that nothing had changed, just new paint on the walls and softer chairs for the clerks (our overlords) in the government office. I concluded that what was needed was not a reformist government but rather, Zorro!  Or someone very much like him, who could cut through red-tape and carve his initials on the backsides of every corrupt official and thief in the land.

A few years and plenty of episodes later we turned to prayer, for several months before our last elections we prayed each morning for change and a good president. It was clear to us that the ‘establishment’ candidates had nothing what-so-ever to offer the country. A mixture of millionaires and billionaires, political or business dynasties who only serve their own self-interest and those of their kind, entirely disconnected from the woes and realities of the majority of people who live day to day.

President Duterte was a last minute entry. He could see not only what the problems affecting the people are, but what needs to be done in order to succeed in tackling them, where others have lacked any real resolve.

Everyone knows what and who the problems are, it’s the first time anyone has tried to change it. It put to my mind Chicago in the 30’s, the gangsters ruling the town and the untouchables beginning to make inroads. Criminals with billions to lose will resist change; they have bought politicians, media, judges, police as well as using lethal force. A collision of values will produce casualties on both sides of the divide. He will go after the corrupt politicians & businessmen, government officials, insurgent groups, those who exploit workers and the drugs distribution networks, no criminal is safe .... .should they be?

Many of the elite in the church oppose him too, as his manner is less cordial than they are used to and he was quick to challenge them to reform their hypocrisy too, offering to provide a list of clerics with mistresses and offspring; even in the church the problems are already known but unwilling to change.

He seems to have had a rather unfair press so far in my opinion, I think he is the best chance the country has had in living memory and as he never sought power but rather took up the gauntlet because he knew he must, not because he wanted to. That is a mark of authentic leadership. I think history will view Duterte as a man who walked with destiny and gave his country the opportunity to change. 

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

ANBA KARRAS THE ANCHORITE ......(FROM THE TRANSCRIPTS OF ST. MARY MONASTERY (BARAMOS))

St. Bimoa was saying , "I'll let you know my brethren what happened one day. I heard a voice calling me three times, "Bimoa, Bimoa, Bimoa." I paid attention. That voice was a heavenly one, because that voice wasn’t familiar to me. No one called my name several times. I raised my eyes up to heaven and said, "Speak out Lord, because your servant is listening."
The voice told me, "Get up Bimoa and hurry to the wilderness where you will meet Anba Karras, so that you may take his blessing because he is precious to me more than anyone, and my peace be with you." So I got up and left my church and walked alone into the wilderness with great gladness. I didn't know the way, but I knew for sure that God, who ordered me would lead me.
Three days passed while I was walked on my way alone. On the fourth day I reached one of the caves, the door was closed with a big stone. I walked toward the doorway, and I knocked on the door according to the monks custom and said, "Aghabi (love). Bless me my holy father."
Right then I heard a voice saying to me, "It is good to be here today Bimoa, Priest of the church of Gabal Cheheat. The one who was worthy to shroud the blessed St. Hilliaria, the daughter of the great King Zenon."
Then he opened the door for me and I entered. We greeted each other with a holy kiss and then we sat talking together about God's glories and greatness. I asked him, "My blessed father, is there any other saint who resembles you in this mountain?"
He looked at my face and sighed, then he said to me," My beloved father there is in the inner wilderness a blessed Saint that the world isn’t worthy of one of his footsteps. And he is… Anba Karras. "
Right then I got up and asked him, "So who are you?" He answered me, "My name is Simaan ElKallaa. For sixty years, and up until today I haven't seen a human face. I eat on every Saturday one piece of bread which I find out on the stone, the one in which you saw outside the cave."
After taking his blessing, I walked into the wilderness for three more days. All the while praying and praising until I reached another cave. I knocked on the door and said, "Your blessings on me blessed father."
He answered me, " It is good that you came to us oh you Saint of God, Anba Bimoa. The one who was worthy to shroud the holy body of St. Hillaria the daughter of King Zenon. Enter with peace." I entered and we sat talking, I asked him, "I understood that there was another saintly blessed father who is like you." He paused and sighed saying,
"Woe to me, I'll let you know my father that in this wilderness there is a great saint whose prayer can even stop the heavenly anger. Truly he is a partner of the angels."
I asked him, "What is your name holy father?" He answered, "Abbamoud ElKallaa, and I have been in this wilderness for 99 years. I live off of those palm trees, the kind that have dates, and I thank the Lord Jesus."
After he blessed me and I left with joy and peace. I walked for a while, and then I could not walk because I could not see my way. After a while I opened my eyes and found myself walking in front of a cave inside a rock on the mountain. I walked toward the door and I knocked and said, "Aghabi."
Right then a voice from inside spoke to me saying, "It is good that you came today Anba Bimoa God’s saint, the one who was worthy to shroud the holy body of St. Hillaria the daughter of the great King Zenon. "
I entered the cave and stood staring at him for a long time, because he was venerable and full of awe. He was a very luminous person, and God’s grace was on his face. He was full of light and of average height. He had a long beard with only a few black hairs in it and he was wearing a simple tunic. He was thin, had a soft voice and was holding a walking stick in his hand.
He said to me: "You came to me today and brought death with you, and I have been waiting for you for a long time my beloved one." Then I asked him, "What is your name blessed father?"
He answered saying, "My name is Karras."
I asked him, "For how long have you been in this wilderness? " He answered, "For 57 years I haven't seen a human face, and I have been waiting for you anxiously and happily. "
I stayed with him for a day at the end of which Anba Karras became sick with a high fever. He cried and sighed and said to me, "..and what I was afraid of all my life came to me. Oh Lord, how can I escape from your face and how can I hide? Truly how fearful is that hour. Let it be according to your mercy oh my Lord and not according to my sins."
When the sun rose on the next day Anba Karras was lying down and could not move. And behold a great light, greater than the sunlight was coming through the door. Then entered a very radiant person wearing white clothes as bright as the sun and in his right hand was a luminous cross. I was sitting at Anba Karras' feet and I was afraid and surprised. But this luminous person stepped forward toward Anba Karras and put the cross on his face. He spoke with him a lot and then gave him peace and left. I stepped toward our father Anba Karras to inquire about that person, who had all that glory. He answered with all gladness , "This is our Lord and Master Jesus Christ and this is his custom with me. He comes every day and blesses me, talks to me and then he leaves."
I asked him, "Oh my blessed father I desire to be blessed by His glory."
He answered me and said, "Before you leave this place you will see the Lord Jesus in His glory and He will bless you and talk with you also."
When we reached the seventh day of the month of Abeeb I found Anba Karras raising his eyes which were full of tears up to heaven. He sighed deeply and said to me, "There is a great pillar that fell in Upper Egypt and the earth lost a blessed Saint. The world was not worthy of one of his footsteps. He is Saint Anba Shenouda the Archimandrite. I saw his soul going up to heaven surrounded by angels’ hymns and I heard crying and mourning rising from all of Upper Egypt's earth. The monks gathered around his holy body taking a blessing from him and his body was luminous."
When I heard that, I memorized the date and kept it in mind, it was on the 7th of Abeeb that Anba Shenouda passed away. On the next day, 8th of Abeeb, Anba Karras' illness worsened and in the middle of the day a great light appeared that filled the cave. The Saviour of the world entered preceded by the Archangels Michael and Gabriel, and many angels with six wings, accompanied by the voices of prayer and hymns here and there, and with the smell of incense. I was sitting at Anba Karras' feet while our Lord Jesus Christ in all his glory was sitting at the head of St. Anba Karras, who held our Saviors right hand. He asked him for me, "My Lord and my God bless him because he came from very far cities and a long distance for this day."
The Lord looked at me and said, "May my peace be with you Bimoa, what you saw and heard you will write and preach. But you my beloved Karras every human that knows your life story and mentions your name on earth, will have my peace and I will count him with the Martyrs and the Saints. Every person that presents wine, corban, incense, oil or candles in your memory, I will reward him twofold in the kingdom of heaven. Any one who feeds the hungry or gives drink to the thirsty, or clothes to the naked or welcomes a stranger in your name’s sake, I will reward him double in my kingdom. And who writes your holy biography I will write his name in the Book of Life. Anyone who shows mercy in your memory day I will give him what the eye has never seen and what the ear has never heard and what the heart never felt. Now my beloved Karras I want you to ask me for something that I can do for you before your departure."
Anba Karras asked him, " My Lord I have been praying the psalms day and night and I wished to see David the prophet while I am still in the flesh. "
In the blink of an eye David came holding his harp in his hand and he was singing the psalm,
"This is the day the Lord has made let us rejoice and be glad.." pslam117 v.24
Anba Karras said, "I want to hear the ten cords together with the tune and melody." David moved his harp and sang,
"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." pslam116 v.15
While David was singing his psalms with his beautiful voice, and while the Saint was very pleased, his soul departed from his blessed body to the bosom of our Good Saviour who took it and presented it to the Archangel Michael.
Then, I Bimoa kissed the flesh of St. Anba Karras and buried him. The Glorious Lord pointed to me to leave the cave, which I did. Then Lord Jesus Christ surrounded by His angels left in front of the spirit, among songs and hymns. We left the body in the cave, and then the Glorious Lord put His hand on the cave and it became as if it had never had a door that could be opened. All of them raised up to heaven in happiness. I stayed standing alone in that place until that beautiful view vanished from my sight, then I closed my eyes to contemplate the bright light and the beautiful view. When I opened my eyes I found myself in front of the cave of Anba Abbamoud ElKallaa. I stayed three days and then I left him and I went to Anba Samaan ElKallaa. I stayed with him three days and then I left and returned to Shaheet Mountain where my church is. There I met all the brethren and told them the life story of St. Anba Karras the Great Anchorite, and his sayings about Anba Shenouda, the Archimandrite’s, departure.
After five days we got a message from Upper Egypt saying that St. Anba Shenouda the Archimandrite passed away on the same day that Anba Karras had seen.
May the blessings of St. Mary the Mother of Light and St. Anba Shenouda the Archimandrite and Anba Karras the Anchorite be with us all.
Glory be to God for ever and ever....
AMEN.

Monday, 6 June 2016

God is faithful



A lady sat at the back of a church weeping; not entirely sure if she was praying, grieving, or worrying. The day before her husband had thrown himself off a bridge over a river and had died from his injuries.


She had prayed for him their whole married life. He was a mean drunk, a womaniser, gambler, but somehow she still loved him, saw the good in him and had kept up her prayers for him for decades, despite seeing no sign or apparent change in him. Now it seemed too late, had her prayers been in vain ?

Even though it was still early morning, the church started to fill up and a long line of penitents formed a queue along the aisle outside the confessional box.

A few moments later the PP came out of the confessional and walked down the isle towards her, stopping at her row. He sat down next to her. (She had never met him before). After a few seconds he said “He turned to God in his heart, just before his face hit the water, your prayer was answered” 

He walked back up the aisle to continue his daily 18 hour stint in the confessional. (He was the Cure of Ars).

Her sorrow turned to joy, God had saved her husband after all. God’s mercy had pursued him to the very end. 

There is no such thing as a lost cause this side of death.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Extract from a Letter from Fr Gerard Wilberforce, a priest from Plymouth Diocese.


I am writing as the great great grandson of William Wilberforce, who campaigned vigorously for the ending of the transatlantic slave trade in 1807, which ultimately paved the way for the abolition of slavery itself throughout the entire British Empire in 1833.
.
I am often asked what would be the campaigns Wilberforce would be fighting if he were alive in 21st century Britain. I believe that there would be a number of different issues - among them human trafficking and the scourge of drugs. But almost certainly at the top of the list, would be the issue of abortion.
.
There are great similarities between the status of the foetus and the status of African slaves two centuries ago.
.
Slaves were considered a commodity to do with whatever the vested interests of the day decided. Today, in our desire to play God in our embryology experimentation, with all its' unfulfilled promises of miracle cures, and our decision to abort unwanted children, we are no better that those slave traders who put their interests and world view higher than they placed the sanctity and value of human life.
.
Most people at the time didn't believe the evil of slavery could ever be defeated, as so much of the economy at the time was dependent on the trade. It's easy for us to think that is the case today with abortion, but I believe William Wilberforce would not take such a view.Whilst our hearts go out to those who have chosen abortion, there should now be much greater emphasis on the alternatives that exist.
.
Many of us would like to see far more support those who have made such a significant and difficult decision - but whilst we recognise the trauma many women have gone through, we also have a duty to 'Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves' (Proverbs 31).The Psalmist says 'My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.'
.
With abortions in the UK reaching 600 a day, it seems to me that the 'secret place', is one of the most dangerous places to be in modern day Britain. As with my great ancestor, the battle took many years, even decades. But now, with the passage of time we look back in horror at how we devalued human life. I truly believe we will look back in years to come, repent and ask forgiveness for what we let happen to the unborn child. There is something deeply depressing about a society in which abortion is so easy, yet alternatives such as adoption are made to appear so difficult.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Where are all the men ?



Recently I visited a church while the Stations of the Cross was under way and, I observed that there was quite an imbalance in the ratio of women to men, about 7:1 in fact. I began noticing this imbalance (a quick head count) at other times too; the closest call was in a prayer meeting I attend where it was 3:1 in favour of the ladies.

In another town, at a funeral, it seemed that most of the men were outside in the car park having a smoke and chewing the fat while their wives were inside.

I wonder what the reason is; some say that women are more spiritual than men, that we are more earthy, others that the church has been ‘feminised’ over the centuries and men find little to identify with anymore.

I don’t think that the first reason carries much weight, as in Jesus’s day men flocked to him, every hillside and valley were packed with men listening for hours or days on end. They even climbed trees and opened up roofs to get closer and have their needs met.

I don’t think men have changed, and Jesus hasn’t changed either so maybe we lost sight of who he is and our need for him. Maybe those who say that the lion of Judah has had his claws manicured, his teeth filled down and his mane given a blue rinse have a point.

What image comes to mind when we think of our Saviour ? Is he a wild, potent stallion galloping across a plain; or a compliant young gelding being led around an enclosure; do we think of him as being like Ghandi with a beard and a full head of hair or as someone who manufactures his own weapons and unleashes his fury on the temple shopkeepers; a man’s man with rough splintered hands who knew (however unlikely the candidate) who would win the football league last year ?


Or maybe what has men huddled in the car park or running at the fence is to do with the perception of what a Christian man ought to be. Is the objective to become a ‘good boy’ or even worse, a nice guy; or rather should we be extremely dangerous, fighters for justice and truth in the service of the most courageous of warriors and the noblest of Kings.

Monday, 18 April 2016

House of Joy


I have always admired the work of Mother Teresa and the missionaries of charity in reaching out to abandoned children and elderly and my wife and I visited one of their houses in Manila just before we got married; at that time just to drop off a few supplies of baby milk and medicines. It was almost 20 years later before we visited again but this time I came to appreciate it in an entirely different way.

As we entered I noticed an array of coffins lined-up against the wall outside the carpenters shed, and during the Mass there was an occupied one in the chapel too. But as the day unfolded and we met with many of the residents it became apparent that it was by no means a gloomy place.

We visited two teenage girls (Hazel and Barbie) both bedridden with badly deformed limbs and unable to speak; but when my wife started to sing to them their faces lit up with beautiful smiles. It was as if light beamed out of them. A pure light, emanating from pure souls as they delighted in the hymns being sung. It was like the two of them were lamps placed at the foot of God’s throne, burning brightly as they lay there interceding, through the sufferings of their short lives, for us sinners.

Next we met an old lady, Antonia; an 83 year old with a skeletal appearance, almost weightless. She was full of joy also and loved to talk and pray with us. Such a strong spirit and another beautiful (toothless) smile. Like all the residents she has nothing and no one in the world and spends her time in prayer and preparation to meet her God and be reunited with her husband and son who had gone on ahead of her.

Through the love of the missionary sisters the tragic circumstances of the lives of the residents meet the majesty of God and although time is short I believe that each one receives what they need before they die.

For visitors too the place is a great blessing. It gives you a more realistic perspective of your own troubles and a clearer understanding of what is really important in life.


Friday, 1 April 2016

On a wing and a prayer


A teacher tells how a salesman called to her school. When he produced his pen, she noticed that a Rosary beads had got caught onto the pens clip and came out as well. “you must be a Catholic” she remarked. “Not really” he said “but a lot of us owe our lives to Our Lady, and I promised her I would always keep my Rosary with me and say it everyday.

The story that unfolded ran: it was September 1940 when we joined the air force. At Halifax we were given an intensive training course because we were needed overseas. We were grouped into squadrons each of which consisted of 6 to 10 planes and each was trained to manoeuvre as a unit. About 30-50 men made up a squadron. They told us that we were going overseas and would be in action right away. We would be on nightly missions over enemy territory.

We eagerly awaited our new squadron leader. As an officer he would, we believed, go straight to the officers quarters. However, this one, Stan Fulton, in full uniform, headed for our bunk house, where he settled in with the rest of us, saying “ There’s a free bunk and I am tired ! I’ll meet each of you tomorrow”.

With that, he threw his bag on an upper bunk. Our squadron leader, an officer, sleeping here with us ! We liked him at once and our admiration grew each day. That first night he knelt on the floor and prayed his Rosary in silence. Astounded we were struck dumb. When he finished he looked at us his friendly smile and said “I hope you guys don’t find a fellow saying some prayers because where we are going we’re going to need them”.

Next day at manoeuvre practice, we found that Fulton was not just our military leader, but our friend. He was one of us. He never tried to intimidate with his rank. Next night, he repeated his prayer session. Although our group had been together for 6 months, I had never seen anyone kneel in prayer, and had no idea that any of our group was Catholic.

The third night 3 of our companions joined Fulton in praying the Rosary. The rest of us did not understand, but we kept a respectful silence. We weren’t slow however on the pick-up. Soon we were all answering the Hail Mary’s and Our Father’s. So, we ended each day in prayer.

Soon enough we were to begin a series of night raids from England over Germany. The evening before, Fulton gave each one of us a Rosary “we shall be in some tight situations, but if you agree to keep the rosary with you and to pray it, I promise you that Our Lady will bring you all back safe”.

“Sure thing” we replied, little thinking we would be in action for 4 years, often in dreadful danger. At such times, Fulton’s voice would ring through each plane “Hail Mary…” and we would devoutly respond ! We must have said hundreds of Rosaries in the skies.
Ours, was the only squadron that did not lose a plane or a single life. We said nothing, but we treasured our secret weapon and knew Our Lady had saved us all