Archive for May, 2014

Jesus says something extraordinary when he uses his famous phrase “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14: 6). Each noun is special and yet he refers these great words to himself. He is a human being, who trudged around the Holy Land in his time, getting weary, eating, sleeping and sharing all the bodily functions that we share. He felt as we feel; in fact when I feel afraid it is also Jesus who feels afraid; when I feel sick it is Jesus who feels sick; when I feel content and happy after a good meal, or sleepy, or in a mood, or angry, or upset, it is Jesus who feels all these things, and it is Jesus who feels these things in others. He enjoyed the company of friends, of men and of women, of children and grannies and granddads. He told jokes, and laughed and cried, and when these things happen to me they happen to Jesus.

Then one day he passed from this world to the next, not just in an ordinary way, but in a way deliberately chosen to bring the fullness of life to each human being. He, risen from the dead, continues to live on in each one of us; more fully if I am baptised and, if I am not baptised but follow my conscience, striving to follow the light that comes to me, then he too will be there with me. The light that comes always contains the relationships I have with my fellows, those near and those far away; if I follow the light, then I can realise that these companions are always to be treated as I would wish others to treat myself. There is the basic, common fundamental light. This does not mean that all of us will have a fulfilled, pain free, happy life, but let us hope that as many as possible will find, somehow, the sense and meaning of what might feel and almost “be” a meaningless existence.

As I was writing this blog a priest friend of mine told me about Nancy. He has met Nancy, and her family. It might be good to pray for her and her family, especially if you take time to read about her. A few lines below you will find a reference to her blog. It is worth opening up for inspiration, and to help us to be grateful to God, for the many good things we enjoy and take for granted. She is only strong enough to write anything on her blog from time to time because of her constant pain.

Jesus’ saying: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”, throws light on to these three nouns in regards the journey that each one of us makes over the years we live. Jesus is the Word of God who became flesh; he is the Word of God through whom all things were made, especially the highest point of material creation, the human being.

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Nancy who suffers from EDS (see reference to her blog below)

(This is the only picture available of Nancy. It takes her so long to make herself  up because of the pain she suffers she has no other photos of herself.)  

In regards to the “Life”, yes Jesus is the Life. How is that possible and what does it mean? There are as many meanings as there are people for Life is only truly understood by us, the human beings of this world who can reflect on it, and see a meaning. Human beings have the most varied lives externally. To take only one factor: health. Some seem to sail through life in good health for most of it, and then perhaps in old age fragility sets in. Others suffer bad health, chronic bad health, like Nancy’s who is a chronic EDS sufferer. (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome leads Nancy to be in constant pain.)

To learn more about Nancy go to

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On Nancy’s latest blog April 2014 

For sure each one of us is meant to live life to the full and have as enriching a life as possible. Each of us follows their own way, unique to that particular person, there is no standard “Way” that is the one to follow. There are as many “Ways” as there are human beings. Jesus relates to each of us – each human being who has ever lived, each one who is living and each one who will live.

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On Nancy’s blog March 2014

In regards to the “Truth”, the fact is that Jesus tells us the “Truth” is himself. It is not then that “Truth” can vary, yet each person lives “Truth” in relation to the person of Jesus. As Jesus is both God and Man, and God is “Love” there must be a link between “Truth” and “Love”. It is no use saying the “Truth” without “Love”. It is no longer true. So for instance when a parent speaks to his or her child as it asks interminable questions the answer may not be the whole “Truth” but said in love it is. “Why does my pet hamster have to die” may be answered in a hundred different ways, and in love and kindness to the child the parent is saying the truth. So “Truth” is never just an abstract, but exists in relation to the person of Jesus who is alive and within each one; and Jesus loves each one, immensely, even you, even me.

Pope Francis spoke almost one year ago when answering questions on the eve of Pentecost 2013 to members of modern movements, associations and groups of the Church.  A young person asked:

“What do you consider Holy Father, the most important target on which all of us must set our sights if we are to be able to carry out the task to which we are called?” 

“I shall answer with just three words: Jesus, Prayer and witness.”  

The first: Jesus. What is the most important thing? Jesus. If we forge ahead with our own arrangements, with other things, with beautiful things but without Jesus we make no headway, it does not work. Jesus is more important. What is important is our encounter with Jesus, our encounter with him, and this is what gives you faith because he is the one who gives it to you! 

For the full text go to:


Father Jonathan

The true heart of the Christian life lies not so much in talking, but in action. How I live – the example I give – is much more important than what I say.

If I am not at peace, deeply within myself, my actions will never be more important than my words; once at peace within, I may not mind too much what others say, or do, even if I prefer not to say, or do, some of the things that they may practise. What they say, or do, does affect me, but, usually, it is best not to judge others, or say anything against them, in criticism of their talking or their actions. Overall, it is often wiser to stay silent, using the silence that comes from strength and from knowing how to speak in the right way, at the right time. Criticism that is constructive can be helpful, certainly, if it is given out of love, like a loving parent guiding a young child in the ways of good behaviour, or a good teacher, encouraging and guiding a pupil.

I could not have that spirit of silent love, unless I knew, for certain, that God loves me very much. I have to be very certain of the presence of Love, which is light, in my heart, when I see, all around me, people speaking with gay abandon, and in ways that go against God and his Love – something that seems to happen so often. People have opinions; they make judgements and act in ways that are far from the Gospel values. I cannot blame these people, nor do I judge them, because I am all too aware, that I have done exactly the same as they do – maybe worse; even now it may be probable that I continue sometimes in that vein. It is all so easy for me to come up with a harsh judgement of others, rather than with mercy. Not to judge is something to be lovingly acquired, and leads to self-discipline and control, which allows me, (on my good days), not to react, as I see something more positive in that person, the presence of God, in them, or, at least, the potential presence of God.

When I reflect about how to gain – how to come by – this inner peace, for myself, or for others, I realise it is, probably, the result – the consequence – of, or from, some event that has wrought changes in that person; I would suggest that such changes have led to a deeper understanding about the way to follow God’s loving will.

In my case, I waited a long time before gaining this knowledge. I was 29 years old, and already ordained a priest, when it occurred. This is not, in any way, to blame my parents, with whom, basically, I shared my life until eighteen years of age. They gave me a very good example of Christian living and, through them, I was very deeply rooted in my Christian Catholic life. However, it is probable that I was, even then, too self-centred to see the reflection of God in them, and I did not have the grace to see beyond their limitations. All human beings suffer from limitations and faults.

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(1) The Cotton Family in 1937  (2) Fr. Jonathan and siblings. He is the youngest one.

Between the ages of 18 to 29, I led the life of young monk, in our monastery at Ampleforth, and that period was one of many ‘ups’ and ‘downs’. Strange to tell, even in the monastery, I did not discover the foundation-stone of Christian living. In fact, I needed a new gift from God, to realise – to begin to understand – that God, himself, had a huge and intense love for me.

Tertullian, an early Christian writer, commented in the year 200 AD, in his “Apology”, on how pagan, non-Christians, noted the example given by true disciples: “Look,” they (the pagans) say, “how they love one another” (for they themselves hate one another); “and how they are ready to die for each other” (for they themselves are readier to kill each other). As John 13: 35 puts it: By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

As I write this, it is the feast day of Saint Pachomius, (292 – 348 AD), and he was a pagan of good will, who was converted to God by the love of Christians …. through events …. as they occurred. It was this same love, seen in practice, that wrought changes in me, and it happened in July 1972, at Middleton, when I went to the Mariapolis. At this “Work of Mary”, I saw ordinary men and women who had not enjoyed my long monastic Christian training; however, they shared a secret among themselves – a simple secret – that God had chosen them, that God truly loved them and, consequently, they loved each other – and all with whom they came into contact. Actually, they did nothing much that could be called special or extra-ordinary, but among them, there was a sure peace and love. They had that strength, within, from God, that enabled them to listen, to empathise and to be loving towards others. In 1972, I had some difficult challenges to face, challenges that made me doubt the monastic calling, already begun. After my experience at the Mariapolis, those doubts disappeared and, from then on, despite facing many other challenges, that go on to this day, I have never doubted my monastic vocation. Indeed, in the process, it has been much strengthened.

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Mariapolis 2014 in Mid Wales

Fortunately, there is a description of Saint Pachomius’ conversion, taken from his biography written by a fellow monk-companion, soon after his death in 348 AD. It illustrates, in a different context, what happened to me in 1972 – just one thousand, seven hundred years later.

Pachomus was born in Upper Thebais about the year 292, of idolatrous parents, and was educated in their blind superstition, and in the study of the Egyptian sciences. From his infancy, he was meek and modest, and had an aversion to the profane ceremonies used by the infidels in the worship of their idols. Being about twenty years of age, he was pressed into the emperor’s troops, probably the tyrant Maximinus, who was master of Egypt from the year 310; and in 312 made great levies to carry on a war against Licinius and Constantine. He was, with several other recruits, put on board a vessel that was sent down the river. They arrived in the evening at Thebes, or Diospolis, the capital of Thebais, a city in which dwelt many Christians. Those true disciples of Christ sought every opportunity of relieving and comforting all that were in distress, and were moved with compassion towards the recruits, who were kept close confined, and very ill-treated. The Christians of this city showed them the same tenderness as if they had been their own children; took all possible care of them, and supplied them liberally with money and necessaries.

Such an uncommon example of disinterested virtue made a great impression on the mind of Pachomius. He inquired who their pious benefactors were, and when he heard that they believed in Jesus Christ the only Son of God, and that in the hope of a reward in the world to come, they laboured continually to do good to all mankind, he found kindled in his heart a great love of so holy a law, and an ardent desire of serving the God whom these good men adored.

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(1) Desert around St Pachomius’ Monastery  (2) St Pachomius’ Monastery today.

Pachomius was later baptised, became a monk of renown, and was the first to encourage a common life for monks who, before him, had been hermits. From this conversion came the great monastic tradition; in some senses, this is the ‘mother’ of all today’s Religious Life. What a tremendous good that loving Christian activity, in Thebais all those years ago, did for the whole of humanity! So it could be today.

Father Jonathan

If any reader should be interested, there is a ‘YouTube’ video about the Mariapolis that can be downloaded and seen at This year the Mariapolis takes place from August 11 to 16 at Strathallan School, Forgandenny, Perth, Scotland.

At around Christmas last, I happened to come across a children’s fantasy in the television schedules.  The film, “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe”, was, of course, no ‘first-timer’ to the children’s programmes; I’m sure it has been shown many times.  I decided for the first time, ever, to watch the film, hoping all the time that my own children would never get to know what this rather long-in-the-tooth parent had been doing in his ‘spare time’.  Now long out of their childhood, they  might just begin to wonder whether I was going into mine – my second, that is!

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Many years ago, at home with the family, I remember that the children had been fascinated by the series, “The Chronicles of Narnia”, by C. S. Lewis, (1898 – 1963), though at that time, they really did not hold much interest for me, and I never got round to investigating them further, then, or in the pursuing years. Much later, I did come to learn that there were far deeper meanings to the characters and the fantasies, drawn so magnificently and so clearly by this ‘Oxbridge’ novelist, poet, literary critic, essayist, and academic.  For the purposes of this short blog, let us here concentrate simply on his works for children – though, as we shall see shortly – he had important messages for right-thinking adults.

Having watched the film at Christmas – and with great interest, I may add – this new departure, for me, faded from my mind, only to be re-drawn just three weeks ago at Easter Time.  Of course, this second ‘pointer’ to Aslan, Narnia and all that happened to the Children through the Wardrobe, all came about because of the great feast of the Resurrection, we Christians celebrate on Easter Day; many may then be prompted to ask about the link between these two quite different worlds.  The answer, I trust, should become apparent in a moment or two.

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For C S Lewis, Narnia is the parallel world, ruled for a hundred years by the evil witch, Jadis.  Under her tyranny, the seasons have become perpetual winter, but with no Christmases.  Many of Aslan’s friends and allies have been petrified – turned into stone – and, everywhere, the rallying cry is evil, rather than good. Quite by chance (and the fairy-tale path through an old wardrobe) four ‘normal’ children Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, find themselves in freezing Narnia, and it’s then that their adventures begin.   Mr Beaver tells the children that Aslan is on the move again, at the same time explaining that Aslan is the true King of Narnia, and that the children are to be welcomed as the true children of Adam and Eve – the chosen ones to end the rule of the White Witch (Jadis).

The children begin to explore and, as they do, the endless winter begins to thaw and Father Christmas appears once again, and hands out presents to the children.  But all is still not right in Narnia. By means of trickery, and all over a bar of magical Turkish Delight, Edmund is unfortunately persuaded to betray his siblings, for which Jadis demands his life as forfeit. In the attempt to rescue Edmund, Peter slays Wolf, Jadis’ Chief of the Secret Police, and for this Aslan confers on Peter a knighthood.  Secretly, Aslan offers to give up his own life for that of Edmund and Jadis accepts.  Aslan is led to the Stone Table and the children, with the Beavers and other animals watch from afar.  Jadis and her followers secure Aslan on the Table; he is then shaven and Jadis kills Aslan with her knife.

Her greatest enemy is now dead, and Jadis leaves with her army to prepare for war against the Narnians, convinced that she will win. Lucy, Susan, and a number of mice remove the bonds from Aslan’s body, but, as the Stone Table breaks, they find him alive and well, once again, thanks to a Deeper Magic from before the Dawn of Time. We are told, then, that the Witch came to Narnia only at the Dawn of Time, and had not known anything about the previous epoch.  Aslan explains that this Deeper Magic can be invoked, but only when an innocent willingly offers his life in place of a traitor’s, causing death itself to be reversed until the victim is reborn.

Aslan goes to the Witch’s palace and, with his breath, brings the statues of her petrified enemies back to life. He leads them all to aid Peter, Edmund, and the Narnian army, who are fighting the Witch’s army. At the conclusion of the battle, Aslan leaps upon the Witch and kills her.

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Clive Staples Lewis (known to friends, most of his life, as Jack) was brought up in Northern Ireland as an Irish Protestant.  However, at the age of 15 he renounced all such ties and pronounced himself an atheist; his wry comment at this time, was to the effect that he felt: “very angry with God for not existing.” From then on, for most of his life, he seems to have had an on / off, love / hate relationship with religion, and connected subjects, but slowly, and with gradual steps, he came to once again accept Christianity as his true calling.  In this he was helped by his timeless friend J. R. R. Tolkien and the writings of G. K. Chesterton, though throughout he described himself in the process as a “prodigal, dragged, kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape.” He described his re-conversion to Christianity in his own book, “Surprised by Joy”:

“You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.”

But, we must now re-trace our steps and do as promised – to try and find the links that connect Aslan, Narnia, with those parallels in Christianity, otherwise one of the main tenets of the blog would have been allowed to escape.  Aslan, of course, has his counterpart in Jesus, Our Lord and Saviour, who gave his life sacrificed on a cross, to save us, later to give us his greatest miracle of all – his Resurrection – and the greatest proof of his Divinity.  Throughout the books of the series, Aslan also has God-like powers, in that he created Narnia with a song; there is a reference to the Emperor-Over-The-Sea, from which we must infer God the Father, and the reference in “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”, can only mean heaven.  Elsewhere, there are oblique references to a new Narnia and a new Earth (Book of Revelation), references to Jesus as the “Lion of the Tribe of Judah” (Rev 5:5), and as “The Lamb of God” (when first appearing at the end of “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”.


And so, I now ask myself some pertinent questions.  Was my childish excursion into fairy tales a totally wasted exercise?  As to Aslan, Mr Beaver and other animals, and the White Witch, do they have anything to tell us? And what does Narnia have to say about good versus evil – an enmity that seems to pervade everything, always and everywhere?  Was this an excursion into second childhood, with no wages at the end? Not a bit of it!

I enjoyed the film about Aslan and Narnia, and learned quite a lot about C S Lewis, his ideology and ingenious way of bringing home to children some of the truths most of us would wish to live by.  The film, (and the books of the series), are all fantasy – parallel existences in a series of parallel worlds – but they amount to far more than just fairy tales.  Certainly, even today, they are very relevant to today’s world (in which we all live), as conveying some stricter senses of morality; good versus evil was just as much alive, then in Narnia, as in our own world.

Overall, I was left with the distinct feeling that what I had been reading, what I had been seeing on the television, was as much about the author and the struggles he had had, ego versus ego, in endeavouring to come to terms with the existence of God, and with the many different beliefs held in Christianity’s widest senses.  After trial and error, he had arrived at his own form of reconciliation.  For me, this was what I called ample reward.


The 2nd Sunday of Easter was quite an eventful day. In the long past, and in comparison with Easter Day, it was always referred to as Low Sunday; nowadays, with our more recent recognition of St. Faustina, and her diary-cum-writings on the subject of the Divine Mercy, it is often referred to as the Divine Mercy Sunday, or the Second Sunday of Easter. But, this is not all, for those who recall Father Jonathan’s blog of last week, will realise at once, that two very great and holy men, in the identities of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, were canonised by Pope Francis, that same day.

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Popes John Paul II and John XXIII

At this point, I can hear you say, “Well, that’s enough for anybody!”  But, no, it is not – for – on this quite momentous day, one must remember what the Gospel is about.  The Gospel of St. John, (20:19-31) tells of Jesus’ visit to the disciples, one week after his Resurrection.  He showed them his hands and his side – but Thomas, one of the Twelve, was not there, and we have his quite remarkable statement that he will not believe, unless he is able to see, and put his fingers into the holes made by the nails, and put his hand into his side.  We recall then that eight days later Jesus appears again to them and he then called Thomas’ ‘bluff’, showing Thomas his hands and side, and admonishing him to “Doubt no longer, but believe”.  Thomas, full of remorse – I think – then utters the immortal words, “My Lord and My God.”

Referring to the events described, St. John concludes this Gospel with the words:

“These (events) are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.”

On Sunday at Holy Mass, I was ‘struck’ not so much by the main import of the events described (though of course they are very important events for us all) but more so by the all-embracing promise contained in the final paragraph.  It has just two important precepts – belief – and that promise of life.

These two precepts repeat themselves again, and again in my mind as I re-live every important aspect of last Sunday.  Belief and promise is there in the life of St. Faustina.  Her message is one that comes directly from Jesus himself, and is recorded in her diary, thus:

“[Let] the greatest sinners place their trust in My mercy. They have the right before others to trust in the abyss of My mercy. My daughter, write about My mercy towards tormented souls. Souls that make an appeal to My mercy delight Me. To such souls I grant even more graces than they ask. I cannot punish even the greatest sinner if he makes an appeal to My compassion, but on the contrary, I justify him in My unfathomable and inscrutable mercy. Write: before I come as a just Judge, I first open wide the door of My mercy. He who refuses to pass through the door of My mercy must pass through the door of My justice.

 ”From all My wounds, like from streams, mercy flows for souls, but the wound in My Heart is the fountain of unfathomable mercy. From this fountain spring all graces for souls. The flames of compassion burn Me. I desire greatly to pour them out upon souls. Speak to the whole world about My mercy.”

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St. Faustina and the Image of Jesus of the Divine Mercy

St. Faustina believed – believed passionately, in all that occurred between herself and her Lord – and so we now have all the great blessings that come to us through the Celebrations of the Divine Mercy.  We also know that because she believed in all that Jesus said to her, she followed Jesus to the perfect end and was canonised by Pope John Paul II in April 2000, thereby “receiving life through his name.”

“These (events) are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.”

‘History repeats itself’ is a common enough expression, and one I think that can often be demonstrated as very near to the actual truth.  Here in our simple blog, I use the expression to link in the two saints created last Sunday.  Without going into their lives – something not necessary here – it should suffice to say that both were recognised by the faithful, and beyond, by the rest of the thinking world, as holy men; they followed their beliefs in Jesus, Lord, and God, and tried to lead the Church, and right-living people, always towards the good and away from anything tainted with evil, away from war and dispute, from all attacks on the innocent populations of the world, away from injustice, from all actions that result in poverty and starvation, actions that often result in genocide and racial abuse.  Above all, they tried to bring about love and respect among all, men, women and children, of whatever race or creed – love and respect that results in ‘putting the good of others first’ instead of today’s almost universal and hateful maxim: “So and so to you, Jack, I’m ok.”

Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II are now declared saints of the Church, and thus we recognise their holiness and their work in this life.  They now occupy their special places in heaven, and all this, because they believed in Jesus, his message, that he was the Christ, the Son of God, both have life through his name.  What more can one say, except that …….. that ‘Low Sunday’, that Second Sunday of Easter, that Divine Mercy Sunday …….. was quite some very special day!