Archive for March, 2012

The Fear of the Lord:

In the 1950′s, circumstances took our family to live in a lovely Dorset village called Chideock, situated on the coast road from Bridport to Lyme Regis. Very unusually for the West Country, there is a small Catholic Church in that village, where my brother and I used to serve Mass.

Chideock Catholic Church

I remember one day, cycling as we did from Church to home, possibly a 2 miles journey, and feeling very afraid of God. I had said something silly, about one of the cloths the priest uses at Mass. Knowing that God sees everything, and watches my every move, even my thoughts, and having little idea of God, save as a vengeful God, I was sure that God was very angry with me, and I cried in terror, cycling all the way home.

Cycling in Dorset

In those days, many people would be at Church on Sundays. All over England it was the same, and there would be families with 2, 3 or 4 children, who would sit in the same pews, each Sunday, at Mass. I am pretty sure, that most fairly straight-forward and simple people felt, that if they did not attend Mass on Sundays, God would be angry with them, and they were afraid to go to hell, in a state of mortal sin; that was the common, widely-held idea.

Later on, when I became a monk and a priest, in 1961, I thought to myself that I would love to make a mark, for good in this world, especially to help people know, and love God, within the Church. However, I had little idea of my own limitations, weaknesses and, perhaps, age-related priggishness; yet, although that idea has never gone away, it has always proved too difficult a task. 

One train of thought, however, remained ‘nagging me’ after the Vatican Council – an exciting time to be alive in the 1960′s – that a kind of ‘terror’ of the Lord was what had kept many people quite closely linked to the Church; from that epoch onwards – and I suspect there was a link with the Vatican Council – that ‘terror’ has quickly diminished, until today, 50 years later, it has all but disappeared. Still, in the Scriptures we find, insistently, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom”. What does this excerpt mean? And, if people were not to have this ‘terror’, what might replace it? Surely, something was needed to give people inner motivation to link themselves to God, within the institution of the Church, and that ‘something’ needs to be both simple and effective. What could that ‘something’ be? The answer has always eluded me, at least within the kind of culture in which we live. The Church with its rules and its liturgy, in today’s world, seems largely irrelevant to the majority, and especially the young, as those ‘faithful’ people that do still come to Mass, are, generally, of an older generation. On reflection, there seems little chance of my early dream as a young monk, helping many to know, and love, God in the Church, coming to fruition.

My own personal faith in God, and the Church, has grown stronger over the years. I have found the presence of Jesus, within me, and within the community, when ‘two or more are united’ in the name of Jesus. In that presence, there is the full meaning of life, because Jesus is Love, and He said of Himself, without boasting, that He ‘… is the Way, the Truth and the Life’. If a person finds Him, nothing else is needed. That presence of Jesus is not to be taken lightly; it cannot be assumed to be there, just because we come together in liturgy, for a prayer meeting, or for some other ‘churchy’ event. For example, a person may be present who is ‘seething with anger’, against you, and the problem may be still unresolved. Jesus may not be present, even when a group of priests, or religious men or women, are in the same room. His presence does require a proper, conscious relationship, in God, among all present.

St. Hilary of Poitiers 

With all this in mind, what a joy it was, for me, recently, to read at the Office of Readings, from St. Hilary of Poitiers, about the true meaning of ‘fear of the Lord’! Here it is pointed out that we have to ‘learn how to fear the Lord’. Success takes time and effort, and is very much linked with learning the true meaning of ‘Love’. It needs also a living and enlightening experience. ‘Fear of the Lord’ is quite different to ‘terror of the Lord’, or any other kind of terror. Possibly, what I had experienced 60 years ago, in Dorset, was nothing to do with genuine ‘fear of the Lord’, and, precisely, because of that, it must be rejected; many of our contemporaries, today, seem to have rejected ‘terror of the Lord’, but have not found the beginning of ‘Wisdom, genuine fear of the Lord’. I fear therefore they may have not entered into any real relationship with God at all.

Below is what St. Hilary of Poitiers (300-360 AD) wrote:

The meaning of “the fear of the Lord”:

“Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways. Notice that when Scripture speaks of the fear of the Lord it does not leave the phrase in isolation, as if it were a complete summary of faith. No, many things are added to it, or are presupposed by it. From these we may learn its meaning and excellence. In the book of Proverbs, Solomon tells us: If you cry out for wisdom and raise your voice for understanding, if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord. We see here the difficult journey we must undertake before we can arrive at the fear of the Lord.

We must begin by crying out for wisdom. We must hand over to our intellect the duty of making every decision. We must look for wisdom and search for it. Then we must understand the fear of the Lord.

“Fear” is not to be taken in the sense that common usage gives it. Fear in this ordinary sense is the trepidation our weak humanity feels when it is afraid of suffering something it does not want to happen. We are afraid, or are made afraid, because of a guilty conscience, the rights of someone more powerful and an attack from one who is stronger, sickness, encountering a wild beast, suffering evil in any form. This kind of fear is not taught: it happens because we are weak. We do not have to learn what we should fear: objects of fear bring their own terror with them.

But of the fear of the Lord this is what is written: Come, my children, listen to me, I shall teach you the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord has then to be learned because it can be taught. It does not lie in terror, but in something that can be taught. It does not arise from the fearfulness of our nature; it has to be acquired by obedience to the commandments, by holiness of life and by knowledge of the truth.

For us the fear of God consists wholly in love, and perfect love of God brings our fear of him to its perfection. Our love for God is entrusted with its own responsibility: to observe his counsels, to obey his laws, to trust his promises. Let us hear what Scripture says: And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you except to fear the Lord your God and walk in all his ways and love him and keep his commandments, with your whole heart and your whole soul, so that it may be well for you?

The ways of the Lord are many, though he is himself the way. When he speaks of himself he calls himself the way and shows us the reason why he called himself the way: No one can come to the Father except through me.

We must ask for these many ways, to find the one that is good. That is, we shall find the one way of eternal life through the guidance of many teachers. These ways are found in the law, in the prophets, in the gospels, in the writings of the apostles, in the different good works by which we fulfill the commandments. Blessed are those who walk these ways in the fear of the Lord.” 

I would have the boldness to add to St. Hilary’s list – though to be fair he does write, ‘the ways of the Lord are many’ – that we need to discover, pray for, and earnestly desire, within the Community of the Church, the Love that is the Lord, and that will satisfy us. The Second Vatican Council, this year, is celebrating its Golden Jubilee of inauguration, in 1962. The teaching of that Council of the Church is directed to, “living the Gospel”, “living in communion with God and others”, “and moving in the direction of Hope and not Fear”. Another way of putting it, would be a discovery of a real, “Family to which we all belong – in God – in the Church”. Having such an experience will give the inner motivation to you and me, to rejoice in the relationship with God so that we will experience, and to find that for which we are searching. Also, to have the ‘right’ ‘fear of the Lord’, expressed in awe and wonder, at the majesty of God. In the end, my longing as a young monk was rather misplaced. The young Brother Jonathan thought he could help people to know, and love God, in the Church. The one that does such things is God, himself, and no other; in peace and tranquility, you and I can leave it to Him.

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My Name Is Joseph:

“My name is Joseph. I am a carpenter by trade, and I live with my family in the small village of Nazareth, a village of just a few hundred people. We are simple folk here, workers for the most, with not much money, and life is hard. It has been that way for all of my life.

I am now getting on in years and I look back on a long and very eventful life. In fact, not many would be able to recount the experiences I have been fortunate to have, and none would be able to say that they had been partly responsible for the care and upbringing of a lad – carpenter like me and one of God’s own. He will do great things, though I doubt I’ll be around to see them.

I was brought up to be a carpenter, to work with wood all my life and to cut and fashion with plane and saw, the wooden implements, furniture and buildings you see around, everywhere. It has been hard work, but I have been proud to work with wood, one of God’s own living materials, created by his own hand centuries and centuries ago. It is rewarding work, to be able to take a piece of rough-hewn timber and then to cut and shape, to joint and carve into the finished article; I liken it to God’s own handiwork.

Joseph the Carpenter with Jesus (Georges de la Tour)

Apart from this, my interests are few and quite simple. I am a Jew, and go to the Synagogue on the Sabbath. I follow God’s law as best I can, being a God-fearing man, and a man who loves God with my whole life. I get on with my friends and neighbours – trying to help where I can. The main part of my life has to do with my family. As I said before, my life has not been easy. I have had my share of troubles – but they have also been the source of some of my greatest joys in life. And this is where my story gets interesting.

Many years ago, I was engaged to a young Jewish girl called Mary. We were intending to get married, and then the first of my calamities hit me. I found out that she was expecting a baby and this ‘knocked me for six’. I didn’t know what to do; I was very angry, because I knew the baby wasn’t mine – and I had never thought that Mary was ‘that’ kind of girl. Anyway, the only way out of this, for me, was to ‘divorce’ her – to finish the relationship and leave Mary to it. The trouble with this was that, should people find out, and find out they must, then Mary’s life would be in danger. The people don’t take kindly to adultery, and the usual fate of a woman found in Mary’s condition, is to stone her to death. I did not want that to happen, for Mary was, in my view, a ‘good’ girl, and not given to ‘flirting’ around with the young men.

Despite being in two minds, however, there was no way that I could marry her, and take her into my home, and that’s the way it was until, one night I had a dream, and in this dream, God’s messenger told me that May was pregnant because she was expecting God’s son, and he would be great. God had asked Mary about this, and she had agreed. Well to put it mildly, I was shattered when I heard this. Nothing like this had ever happened before, and it gave a whole new slant to the story, and now, I was determined to do the right thing, for Mary and her child. The least I could do was to take her into my home, as my spouse, and to protect her, and the child she was expecting.

Now you might think that, with this decision, my troubles might be over, but you would be wrong. At that time, Israel was occupied by the Roman authorities, and apart from having to obey our own Jewish laws, we also had to abide by what the Romans laid down. Mary was well on in her pregnancy, when we had to leave home and travel to Bethlehem, in order to be registered – a kind of census. We joined a caravan travelling in that direction – it took us some days – and the going was hard, especially for Mary, but worse was to come. When we got to the city, the place was full to the brim with people, all on the same errand. Could we find somewhere to stay? No way! Mary was going into labour, and the only place to ‘camp’ was in a farm outhouse. It was there that she gave birth to her son, and we called him Jesus, because that is what the angel said we should do. From the very first, you could see this child was going to be ‘special’, as some shepherds from the nearby fields came to visit him, and the night was filled with stars, and angels and things. Awesome! Then three kings came to bring him presents. I can honestly say I have never seen anything like this in my life. But, it filled me with great adoration and wonder.

Then, no sooner had we returned to Nazareth, than we had to leave again, and this time, in one mad rush. Again God sent a messenger and warned us that Jesus’ life was in danger from King Herod’s soldiers, as they had been sent to kill the child. It seems Herod was a very jealous king and did not like the idea of another ‘king’ in his territory, and so, with donkey and all we could put together in a hurry, we left and made the difficult journey into Egypt. ‘T was a good job we did, for the soldiers came and murdered all the young baby boys – talk about ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth’! Eventually, when God said it was safe to go back home, we returned to Nazareth, Mary and Jesus and I, and we lived the life of a small, simple family.

The Holy Family (Sir John Everett Millais)

Jesus helped me with the carpentry, and I taught him to use the tools of the trade. He was a good lad – and I was proud of him – even though I always knew there was something very different about him. That was proved when we took him to the Temple. He was around 12 years old then, and, surprise, surprise, once inside the Temple, Jesus set about lecturing the elders on all aspects of the Law. It was then that Mary, and I, really came to realise, that here was a young man who would not be a carpenter all his life. He had other more important things on his mind.

And so, this is me now, getting old and knowing that it will not be long before I have to leave Mary and Jesus. As I said before, I have had my share of worries, and life has not been easy. However, I have tried my best to love God and carry out his wishes – certainly so far as Mary and Jesus have been concerned. They have returned my love a hundredfold, and all the work and care I have put into looking after my family, has been well worthwhile. I know, in my heart, that this is not the end of the story. It is most likely that I shall not be alive to see things develop; the life I have known with just the three of us will not go on much longer. I know that God has plans for Jesus, and when those plans materialise, he will leave home, and his trade behind, to take on much more important work – and God only knows where that will end. For my own part, all I can say is thank you to God, to Mary and Jesus. It has been a pleasure to be part of your lives, and to look after you as best I can. I hope you will think well of me, and the part I have tried to play, in looking after you both. I have faith that God will look, with favour, on my life’s work when I die, and so I have no fears in that direction. God be with you, always.”

From authority, not much is known for certain concerning St. Joseph, whose feast day is celebrated, annually by the western Christian Churches, on 19th March (this last Monday). He is regarded as one of the greatest saints of the Church, understandably, since a great part of his life was so closely woven with the lives of Jesus and Mary.

In the Epistles of St. Paul, amongst the earliest of Christian writings, St. Joseph is not mentioned and the earliest of the Gospels, that of St. Mark, gives him no part to play. In the gospels of St. Luke and St. Matthew, we have records concerning the lineage of St. Joseph – traceable back to King David – and we also have narratives concerning the infancy of Jesus, though the two accounts differ in the detail. From Matthew, we have the massacre of the innocents and the flight into Egypt. After the death of King Herod, we know from the same source that the Holy Family moved back to Nazareth. The only later reference we have to St. Joseph – though not by name – is concerned with the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, when he was then 12 years old. There is a reference to this in St. Luke’s Gospel, when Jesus speaks to ‘both his parents’. Moving on from this point, and because it is thought that Joseph was considerably older than Mary, most authorities appear to assume that he was already deceased before Jesus’ public ministry began.

Records of devotions to St. Joseph go back to at least AD 800, and there are references to him as the ‘Guardian of the Lord’ in the 9th Century. Devotions continued to grow in popularity through to the 14th Century. In the 13th Century, St. Thomas Aquinas stressed the importance of St. Joseph as husband of Mary (and guardian of Jesus), given that the Jews would have put Mary to death had she not been married and of his household, and whilst growing up, it was necessary for Jesus to have the care and protection of a ‘foster’ father.

Devotions to St. Joseph were developed further during the 15th Century by the actions of St. Bernadine and others. Later, in 1870, Pope Pius IX proclaimed St. Joseph patron of the Universal Church, especially in the fight against Communism, but St. Joseph is also venerated by those praying for a happy death, by fathers everywhere, by travellers, by immigrants, craftsmen, and workers in general. The lists of his patronages go on and on. In 1889, Pope Leo XIII urged Catholics to pray to St. Joseph as patron of the Church and the challenges it was then facing. Much more recently, Pope John Paul II issued an Encyclical, “Redemptoris Custos” (Guardian of the Redeemer), in which he presented St. Joseph’s most important role in the whole plan of redemption. A great saint, indeed!

St. Joseph, pray for us now and always.


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The Home of Peter and Jesus:

This short blog continues a story that began last week. It is well worth reading last week’s episode first, if you have not already done so, and then continuing with this one. Remember you are in the company of some Christians of the very first epoch of Christianity, the first Christians who were, in that sense, our Mother Church, the Mother of all Churches, the Church of the first disciples in the Holy Land……. Father Jonathan.

– Tell us some more about Him,

they started saying after the silence had enchanted them.

 – I have spoken about him many times to you.

 – Tell us again about Him….

 “Simon was the one who first spoke to me about Him. He came into the house like a strong gust of wind, all agitated. He shouted, and then he whispered, whispered and then shouted. “He’s here, it’s Him, He has actually come; the Messiah, so long awaited, He has come; I myself have met Him”. He kissed my daughter and gave me a big hug.

“Is he the anointed one of the Lord?” I asked, after he had calmed down a bit.

 “Yes, He is, He truly is!”

“John the Baptist, the anointed one?”

“No, no, no, not John.”

I was surprised. For days we had been anxiously awaiting Simon to come home. Together with others from Capernaum and the area around he had gone down the length of the Jordan where John was baptizing, attracted by his growing fame. People said he was the Messiah.

“No, he is not the Messiah,” Simon repeated. “He said that, more than once, to the Scribes sent from Jerusalem. ‘I am not the Messiah, nor the Prophet, nor Elijah…’” We were among the first that felt ‘let down’. But we decided to stay there, because we had the feeling something ‘new’, in the air, was about to happen. Something ‘big’ did happen. One day, the Baptist pointed out a young man, one among many others who was there to be baptised. “Look, there is the one we are waiting for”, he said. “He will free us from all our sins.”

Jesus is Baptised by John in the River Jordan 

Andrew, Simon’s brother, was there at that moment, and also heard. He ran, as fast as he could to his brother, full of emotion, and together, they went to meet the one for whom we were waiting. It was Jesus, a Galilean like us, from Nazareth.

“The Messiah, from Nazareth?” I said, smiling at Simon. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

“That’s precisely what we said, but you will have to go and see him.”

Simon could not say any more. His eyes were shining, his mouth was open but no words appeared.

“You will have to go and see him,” he kept repeating, as if in a daze.

Then at last he added: “He told me that I am a rock!”

I already knew that he was a rock. When the sea took away my husband, I and my little girl were lost. But the Lord has pity on widows and orphans, and his pity had a name: ‘Simon’. When he took my daughter, as his wife, he also took me into his home, and he quickly became our rock, the rock of his house, where we are now gathered – the house of Peter.

We heard nothing about the ‘Prophet from Nazareth’ for days and days. Simon was so restless. At table, he used to say from time to time: “You should go and see him,” and his gaze was lost in the distance, and he didn’t eat. He had been with Him only a few hours, and he was completely captivated.

In the end, we heard that He had decided to go and visit the villages around here, saying that He had important news to share, and that you needed an open heart, to understand His words.

The next thing: that Sabbath in my house. What a Sabbath that was for Capernaum! In the morning, there was a meeting in the Synagogue with our people, the exorcism, my healing. The afternoon … goodness it was quiet, and such a full afternoon, around the table, listening to His wise words. I listened to Him, like you now are listening to me. He spoke like nobody else has ever spoken. His talking enveloped me, went right inside me, and had the strength and warmth of His hand. Then, in the evening, so many people invaded the house. Everyone wanted to touch Him, speak to Him, and hear His voice. The miracle that happened to me, happened to many others.

Jesus Heals

It got late, like this evening. Silence descended and sleep came over everyone after being intoxicated by that ‘light’. Only I managed to stay awake. How could I have slept when new life was beating in my veins?

It was still dark when I heard Him get up and make for the door.

“Master”, I said, “can I do anything for you?”

“I am going to my Father,” He quietly replied.

On the sea shore He was lost in a heaven of prayer.

As dawn came, He set out again, taking Simon and Andrew with Him. Already, this was his home, and he used to come back here, and go off from here. Until he went away on his last journey, and Simon and my daughter went with Him. But, this is still his home. He is here with us, for ever. This is Peter’s home, and the home of Jesus.”

– Tell us some more about Him,

they started saying after the silence had enchanted them.

– I have spoken about him many times to you.

– Tell us again about Him….

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Tell Us About Him:

 “As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.” (Mark 1, 29-31)

Artist’s reconstruction of Capernaum Jesus’ base

Imagine yourself in the first Christian community, a close community of friends and family and among them were some who had known Jesus very well, and some were still alive who had been with him as he worked his miracles. Jesus had died, risen and gone from them some 20 or 30 years before. This is the setting for the story that follows. It was written by a friend of mine who is a biblical scholar, and he writes in his native Italian. I have translated it into colloquial English.

–Tell us about Him

–I have already told you many times.

–Tell us again about Him.

Reconstruction of Peter’s House

As on every Sabbath, as evening was falling, they gathered in her house. The old servant had welcomed them at the door, with his usual cordial and friendly greeting: “Shalom my brother; Shalom my sister” and with a huge smile for the little ones. She appeared, when everyone was already seated to eat, with an enormous pan of vegetables and fish. The bread was already on the table, and she served everyone with a great smile on her lips, that smoothed the ancient lines on her face. She served everyone, and looked like a queen. 

They had listened to the reading of their fathers; they had recalled the sayings of the Master, they had praised and thanked God, and broken bread as so many times before. He had done all this with them, and now, in the darkness of night, they had left the table to gather round the fire. The little ones were already asleep and the others were begging her: 

–Tell us about Him

–I have already told you many times.

–Tell us again about Him. 

She was egged on by their insistence. Her reluctance was easily overcome each time. She was never too tired to tell them her story, and they were never tired of listening to her over and over again. 

It was a Sabbath, like today, when He came into my bedroom. The fever had been raging for days. Lying on the bed, I felt my strength leaving me. I was worn to a ‘frazzle’. The burning heat had made my lips red hot, and I was covered in sweat. My daughter never left my side, day or night, mothering me; she was like my mother, and I her daughter. But she seemed more and more distant; I hardly noticed her as my eyes were fading under the shadow of death. 

“I am poured out like water” – I said to myself, as I went further away from all around me – “and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my throat is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws. ….but you, O Lord, do not be far away! O, my help, come quickly to my aid!” 

When life was already slipping away He came into my room. I did not see Him as I no longer opened my eyes. I didn’t hear Him either. I was slipping away towards Sheol without the strength to resist. 

A hand prevented the last step. He took me by the hand. His hand was strong and delicate – a decisive hold. He comforted me; he drew me to Himself. 

It was a sweet awakening, like after a deep, contented sleep without any nightmares. I realised I was sitting on the bed, my daughter at my side and there, too, was Simon, Andrew, our faithful servant, and Him. I had never seen Him before this moment, and it was as though I saw the others for the first time. I had been dead, and now I was alive. Everything around me was new, and I felt a different person. 

He still was holding my hand tightly. From hand to hand, life was passing. I was alive, with a life I had not lived before. 

The words of our King David came to my mind.  “… were holding me by my right hand. You will guide me by your counsel and so you will lead me to glory”. I spoke them looking at Him in that shadowy room, now fresh and familiar. I was looking at Him, but I felt everything was in His hand – in my hand. 

“You led your people from Egypt in the strength of your arm”, I murmured to him. I now knew what that strong right hand was, that freed our fathers. It was the same that held me tight, and was saving me from death. I was in the valley of the shadow of death, and His hand had seized me, and brought me back to life. 

He went through the same journey later – for all of you – for each one of us. In Jerusalem, outside the walls of the City, on a hill, the abyss of death was opened; he descended into hell and in the strength of His arm, and with the firm hold of His hand, He grasped each man and woman that lay in death’s dungeon. With the Risen Lord we are all risen. 

But I did not know all about that, as yet. Then, I felt only a sense of new blood, pumping in my veins and a breath of new life in my nostrils. I felt…alive, alive, alive! 

I found myself on my feet, and He still held my hand. 

When He let go, I was already alive, very much alive. 

I felt like a young girl again, in the house of my father, the strength of being a young wife, and organising the home of my husband. And I began, quickly, to prepare lunch for Him and the others in the house. The house, that had gone to sleep with me, woke up again. 

Joanna lapsed into an absorbed silence, with her palms before her – and lifted a bit, as though she was again touching the hand of the Master. 

Tell us some more about Him, 

they started saying after the silence had enchanted them. 

I have spoken about him many times to you.

Tell us again about Him…. 

Maybe, if I have time to translate the next section, of this beautiful story!

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The Feast of St. David:

Yesterday, March 1st, was the feast of St. David, Patron Saint of Wales, and I have been reflecting on the Welsh heritage of saints. There is an Island off the ‘top’ peninsular in Wales – the LLyn, or the LLeyn Peninsular – called Bardsey Island, reputed to be where 20,000 saints are buried. They are, in a sense, sons and daughters of St. David.

Map of Medieval Wales

A few years ago, with a friend of mine, Malcolm Pyman, we stayed at the Presbytery in Colwyn Bay, at that time in the care of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. There was no resident priest, and we were welcome to stay there. It was a week that brings back memories of Malcolm, who sadly died about two years ago, at a relatively young age.

Malcolm Pyman (third on the left) at the meal during the

Regeneration of the Parish Week, September 2004

We were good friends, and had similar interests; my main memory is of our visit to Bardsey Island, the Island of 20,000 saints and scholars. We then discovered that there is a medieval pilgrimage route, from the top of the peninsular to Bardsey Island, and this had several regular stopping points, all marked by a Church. The first was that of St. Beuno; the last was the monastery on the mainland, overlooking the Island, with the short span of sea between the two – a span of fast, furious and dark sea-currents. Many a pilgrim has been drowned in those dangerous straits, and, to this day, it is not advisable for the inexperienced to take a boat between the mainland and the Island.

 Pilgrim route down the Llyn Peninsular

Pilgrims who made that Pilgrimage twice, in medieval times, were told it was equivalent to a Pilgrimage to Rome! Maybe it was because of the dangers crossing those straits, that made it so meritorious, in doing the pilgrimage twice.

Older type of boat for crossing to the Island of Bardsea

Our boat was not much bigger than the one above, though ours had a motor, and we made a long detour, away from the straits, to the natural harbour on the East of the Island; we also got wet getting aboard, as it was necessary to wade out to the boat.

Bardsey Island with the mainland behind

In the picture, there is a view of the monastery, snuggling under the lee of the hill to the North of the picture. It is clear where the ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey are from the next picture.

 Top of the Island is the burial place near St. Mary’s Abbey of 20,000 saints.

It is Lent, and the desire to grow in love for God, and neighbour, should be uppermost in our hearts and minds. Lent is like a pilgrimage. Life needs stopping places, where one can re-charge the batteries. There are dangers on life’s journey, too, and we need perseverance in the face of adversity; we also need to ‘run away’ from evil, just as that small ferry ‘fled far’ from the dangerous currents of the straits.

 Bardsea Island from the mainland on a dark day

As in England, so in Wales, and it has come to my attention just how much the Christians – at least in North Wales – are struggling, as faith wanes, churches close and the Christian people are, once again, ‘on the back foot’. In Wales, there is a different feel to life, when compared with England: the culture, the language, the singing, the outlook on things is ‘something else’; it has its own perfection and beauty – a beauty that I, as an outsider, can look on, admire and appreciate. It will be interesting to discover how there will be growth, and development once again, of all that is Christian, in Wales. St. David, and all those medieval saints and scholars, will be mightily pleased when a true, and beautiful Christian spirit, flourishes once again Wales.

The Welsh Flag

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