In the news this week: Loneliness

A second meta-analysis took in 70 studies, representing 3.4 million people from the US, Europe, Asia, and Australia. It found that the effect of isolation, loneliness, and living alone had an effect on the risk of dying younger equal to that of obesity.

Here’s a link to the article quoted above, ‘People in rich countries are dying of loneliness‘, from the website Quartz. This is just one of many articles citing the research. We spend so much time considering obesity… Interesting to have a further dimension of our social dis-ease for pondering. Fr. Adrian van Kaam, founder of ‘formation science’ and author on formative spirituality, would call this one of the signs of ‘the abandoned souls of the West’.

This reminded us of an interesting book we picked up over a decade back: Shades of Loneliness: Pathologies of a Technological Society by Richard Stivers. It’s fascinating. True Christians have a lot to offer the world on community and love.

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A rich week… Friday: St. Clare

Republished from Malcolm Guite+’s blog, where you can hear him read the sonnet:

AUGUST 9, 2017 · 4:48 PM

St. Clare: a Sonnet

20170809-131648.jpgSanta Chiara, lovely claritas

August the 11th is the day the church remembers with thanksgiving the life and witness of St. Clare. She was the friend and companion of Francis, and founder of the Poor Clares. Her love for Christ, her share in the vision of St. Francis and her extraordinary gifts a soul-guide, friend, and leader made her a shining light and a clear mirror of Christ for thousands in her lifetime and still a light and inspiration to Christians from many denominations today.

Clare wrote:

Place your mind before the mirror of eternity!
Place your soul in the brilliance of glory!
Place your heart in the figure of the divine substance!
And transform your entire being into the image
of the Godhead Itself through contemplation.
So that you too may feel what His friends feel
as they taste the hidden sweetness
that God Himself has reserved from the beginning
for those who love Him”

So here is my sonnet in her honour reflecting on how the meaning of her name, ‘light and clarity’, was also the meaning of her life. This sonnet is taken from The Singing Bowl my most recent volume of poems, which is published by Canterbury Press and available through Amazon etc.


Santa Chiara, lovely claritas

Whose soul in stillness holds love’s pure reflection,

Shining through you as Holy Caritas,

Lucid and lucent, bringing to perfection

The girl whom Love has called to call us all

Back into truth, simplicity and grace.

Your love for Francis, radiant through the veil,

Reveals in both of you your saviour’s face.

Christ holds the mirror of your given life

Up to the world he gives himself to save,

A sacrament to keep your city safe,

A window into his eternal love.

Unveiled in heaven, dancing in the light,

Pray for this pilgrim soul in his dark night.

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Today… Edith Stein, Sr. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Today is the Catholic Feast Day of Edith Stein, a Jewish woman and atheist, who eventually turned to Christ, in awe of what he had accomplished through his suffering on the cross. She died in Auschwitz in 1942. Her life story is quite compelling, and Magnificat published today an article from the Vatican News Services in 1998:



Photo from an article
by Robert Cheeks in
The Imaginative Conservative
16 November ’14

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Yesterday… St. Dominic

Dominican Coat of Arms
Photo by Gabriel Gillen+
St. Vincent Ferrer Church

Yesterday was the Feast Day for St. Dominic, 8 August. Magnificat included a meditation by Fr. Vladimir Koudelka on St. Dominic’s postures of prayer — this one on the second posture, prostratio:



We talked briefly as a Parish Council last Saturday about training in prayer. In many ways, we do that every week in worship (the whole Eucharistic portion is a prayer, along with the Psalm, The Prayers of the People, and the hymns: as St. Augustine is supposed to have said, ‘He who sings prays twice’) and daily when we have times of devotion. But above is some specific and excellent advice on praying. For all nine ways or postures of prayer, see the ‘Fish Eaters’ site. (The Koudelka+ meditations are from the Dominicana journal in 2013.).

For more information on St. Dominic’s life, see James Kiefer’s hagiography ['writing about the lives of saints'] site.

St. Dominic’s Tomb
Basilica di San Domenico
Bologna, Italy

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Beautiful Hymn: ‘Sometimes a light surprises!’

By poet William Cowper, from ~1779:

Sometimes a light surprises the Christian while he sings;
It is the Lord, who rises with healing in His wings:
When comforts are declining, He grants the soul again
A season of clear shining, to cheer it after rain.

In holy contemplation we sweetly then pursue
The theme of God’s salvation, and find it ever new.
Set free from present sorrow, we cheerfully can say,
Let the unknown tomorrow bring with it what it may.

It can bring with it nothing but He will bear us through;
Who gives the lilies clothing will clothe His people, too;
Beneath the spreading heavens, no creature but is fed;
And He Who feeds the ravens will give His children bread.

Though vine nor fig tree neither their wonted fruit should bear,
Though all the field should wither, nor flocks nor herds be there;
Yet God the same abiding, His praise shall tune my voice,
For while in Him confiding, I cannot but rejoice.

Even seems to add gently to our contemplation of the Transfiguration, which we celebrate this Sunday, 6 August, while also harking back to our Advent study of Habakkuk. For a further meditation on the hymn and Cowper’s life, see ‘Sometimes a Light Surprises: The Treasured Gift of a Troubled Soul’ by Paxson Jeancake (there’s a name!) from The Gospel Coalition website from 26 October 2011. It’s #667 in our hymn book.

Posted in Hymns, Transfiguration, William Cowper | Comments Off

Requiescat in Pace: Irina Ratushinskaya, 1954-2017

20170803-000018.jpgPhoto from an obituary in The Guardian, 9 July 2017

…the poem to which I refer most often when I am writing or speaking about the global persecution of Christians is one that Ratushinskaya wrote the day after she was freed from labor camp. It is a poem I use to inspire myself and others to pray for those who are persecuted for their faith. The poet’s early release came as part of the negotiations for the summit between Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev in Reykjavik, on October 9, 1986. The next day she wrote this:

Believe me, it was often thus:
In solitary cells, on winter nights
A sudden sense of joy and warmth
And a resounding note of love.
And then, unsleeping, I would know
A-huddle by an icy wall:
Someone is thinking of me now,
Petitioning the Lord for me.
My dear ones, thank you all
Who did not falter, who believed in us!
In the most fearful prison hour
We probably would not have passed
Through everything – from end to end,
Our heads held high, unbowed –
Without your valiant hearts
to light our path.
‘Believe me’
Irina Ratushinskaya
(Kiev, 10 Oct. 1986)

–an excerpt from Faith O’Donnell’s obituary for the lovely and courageous Ukrainian poet and Soviet dissident Irina Ratushinskaya, who died on 5 July 2017 at age 63 at ‘Irina Ratushinskaya: Poet of the Valiant Heart’, Juicy Ecumenism, 11 July 2017

What an impression Ratushinskaya’s beautiful and harrowing Grey Is the Colour of Hope about her seven years in a forced labor camp made on a young reference librarian at the University of Georgia in the late ’80s.

T/Y to Laurie+ for this tip.

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CT Article with an Intriguing Title: ‘Why Evangelism Requires Both Logic and Loveliness’

Holly Ordway, author of Not God’s Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms, a book worth reading (not least of which because Ordway is also a fencer and ponders what that means for her unfolding faith), writes in Christianity Today (24 July ’17) about why loveliness and beauty need to be part of sharing our faith in an excerpt from her new book Apologetics and the Christian Imagination: An Integrated Approach to Defending the Faith.

Architecture, art, music, and literature invite but do not impose. The skeptic is enabled to take a step inside, literally or figuratively, and to be involved in some way with this beauty. It may speak to the longings of his heart, or it may unsettle him and provoke him to questioning and wondering. If we have been able to offer real beauty, the one thing that we can say is that he will not leave the church, or close the book, entirely unchanged.

Of course, we must bear in mind that our Christian faith can never be reduced to a single knockout argument that will be convincing for all who hear it, or a single work of art that will be transformative for all who see it—nor should we wish for such a thing, for it would be tantamount to saying that we don’t need the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who brings conviction. We plant and water; God gives the growth.

Worth reading!

Posted in Apologetics and Evangelism, Architecture, Beauty, Formation, Holy Longing, Imagination, The Inklings | Comments Off

World’s Greatest Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen on Our Website!

Wow, what hype! But it’s the beloved PBGV Max, being naturally ‘on trend’ with a polling site canine pic from last week’s [rather disastrous] UK election! He stands alongside one half of his world’s greatest ownership duo and St. Barnabas friend, The Very Reverend Bob Key, now part of the Archbishops’ Evangelism Task Group. Presumably the photographer is the other half of this dynamic duo, Daphne Key, also a great friend of St. Barnabas. In times like these, we need more of this kind of diversion!

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