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!


This weekend sees a remarkable day. Two ‘recent’ popes will be canonised by Pope Francis, in St. Peter’s Square, Rome on Sunday – the Feast of the Divine Mercy. Good Pope John 23rd from Bergamo Province in Lombardy, Northern Italy, was Pope from 28 October 1958 to the 3 June 1963. He was from a peasant family of share-croppers, just like the majority, who lived simple lives in the small village of Sotto il Monte; he was the first born son, with 13 other siblings.

John Paul II was from Poland; our Holy Father from 16 October 1978 to 2 April 2005, he was the youngest of three children born, in Wadowice, a southern Polish town near Krakow.

Understandably, there is a sense of growing excitement at the coming celebrations; I was talking to Fr. Cyril two days ago; he is presently studying in Rome, and he told me then, that Rome is filling up with people keen to be present for the canonisation of these two great papal figures.

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Pope John Paul 2                     Pope John 23

 Both of these holy men were Popes in my lifetime. I remember John 23rd very well. When he died, I felt a strange emptiness, as though I had lost a close friend. The BBC even headlined his death, as the main story on the news, and many people who were not Catholics, also mourned his passing. A simple man and ‘man of the people’, he was a winner of hearts and minds. He often used to make jokes and I remember hearing one of them that, quite unusually, still sticks in my mind. When his family came to visit him in the Vatican, they were not from the upper ranks of Italian society, but ordinary folk of Sotto il Monte, and that area. One of them, curious about the Vatican  and the scale of its operation, as a whole, asked his brother how many people worked in the Vatican. John 23rd answered with a slight grin, “about half”!

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 Pope John 23 at the Vatican Council

When a person is canonised, it is an absolute requirement that two miracles should be able to be attributed, directly, to that person. I read, today, that for John 23rd Pope Francis declared him a saint, based on his merits in the opening the Second Vatican Council, on 5 July 2013. He will be canonised alongside John Paul II, this coming Sunday.  John XXIII is today affectionately known as the “Good Pope”, (in Italian, “il Papa buono”). His feast day will not be celebrated on the date of his death, as is usual, but will be on 11 October, the day of the First Session of the Second Vatican Council. He is also commemorated, within the Anglican Communion, with a feast day on 4 June. Pope John 23rd is noted, most of all, for his calling of the Second Vatican Council, which lasted from 1962 to 1965.

Pope John Paul II was Pope for a very long time; on his election, he achieved a little fame, because he was the first non-Italian Pope for centuries; he told the people in St Peter’s Square, on the day he was announced as Pope, that he came from “a faraway country”, echoing the prophet Isaiah 13: 5. He was the first Pope to travel very extensively. I remember him coming to Britain, and I saw him personally, in London, at a meeting of Religious men and women, and in Cardiff, at Ninian Park – the Cardiff City football ground. He made a great impression on me, when he said to the young people, present, that they should remember the Pope and asked them all to be people of prayer. The background to that visit was the conflict over the Falkland Islands, and the Pope made impassioned pleas for peace – peace and no war. War, he said, is a thing of the past. However, Britain and Argentina went to war, and I remember sending a letter to an Argentinian Salesian, a man who later became a bishop, telling him that the Religious in our country, who belonged to the Focolare Movement, wanted to pray with the Religious of Argentina, and assure them that we did not want this war. The Salesian replied, assuring me of the same. It was an emotional moment, for me, when I received that letter. All this was inspired by a similar message, sent by the young people of the Focolare Movement, in both countries.

I was also impressed at how Pope John Paul II gave himself, publicly, to the people, and even lived his dying, in public. I am certain that he had learned the great lesson life – that of living in communion with others – something that reminds me, again, of my friend Manfred Kochinky, a German national, who died last year after an illness. He lived the spirituality of communion, trying to be united with all, so that Jesus was always with him, as is promised in Matthew 18:20. “Where two or more are gathered in my name, there am I among them”. He also shared his illness and his dying, seeing even in his sufferings “diamond” moments, and many were encouraged to face the challenges of their lives by the actions of Manfred.

Pope John Paul II will be remembered for many things, but one that strikes me, was the way he forgave the Turkish man Mehmet Ali Agca, who tried to assassinate him.

His feast day will be held on October 22 each year.

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 Pope John Paul 2 meets and forgives his would be assassin

Fr. Jonathan Cotton OSB

Pope Francis – Effective or Not?

There are different views about Pope Francis. One is that he is a person who has already radically changed the Church. Another is that he has done very little ‘in fact’.

Personally, I agree with those who think that Pope Francis has done a lot to change the Church. A priest friend of mine in Ireland says he feels much ‘freer’, as a priest in a Dublin parish, than he ever did before. Furthermore, he is so popular in discussion; when I went away to an international retreat for men in Religious Life, everyone from many countries in Europe and further afield was talking about him – and most interestedly so.

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However, I have met those who have a certain authority in the Church. There are some who say that what the Pope has done, so far, does not amount to anything practical, and really amounts to nothing at all, but not all in authority would fall into this category – not by any stretch of the imagination.  

It was a surprise therefore to discover in this week’s secular magazine, “The Economist”, an article precisely on this subject. I would like to quote it quite extensively, in this blog: it is written inevitably from a human point of view, not from a divine one. In business terms and is revealing. 

BUSINESS SCHOOLS regularly ‘teach their students about great “turnaround CEOS ” who breathe new life into dying organisations: figures such as IBM’S Lou Gerstner, Fiat’s Sergio Marchionne and Apple’s Steve Jobs. Now Harvard Business School needs to add another case study: Jorge Bergoglio, the man who has rebranded RC Global in barely a year. 

When Pope Francis celebrated his first Easter as CEO just after being appointed, the world’s oldest multinational was in crisis. Pentecostal competitors were stealing market share in the emerging world, including in Latin America, where Francis ran the Argentine office. In its traditional markets, scandals were scaring off customers and demoralising the salesforce. Recruitment was difficult, despite the offer of lifetime employment in a tough economy. The firm’s finances were also a mess. Leaked documents revealed the Vatican bank as a vortex of corruption and incompetence. The board was divided and weak. Francis’s predecessor, Benedict XVI, was the first pope to resign for 600 years, amid dark rumours that the founder and chairman, a rarely seen elderly bearded figure whose portrait adorns the Sistine boardroom, had intervened. 


In just a year, the business has recovered a lot of its self-confidence. The CEO is popular: 85% of American Catholics-a tough audience-approve of him. Footfall in RC Global’s retail outlets is rising again. The salesforce now talks about a “Francis effect”. How has a septuagenarian Argentine succeeded in galvanising one of the world’s stodgiest outfits? Essentially by grasping three management principles. 

The first is a classic lesson in core competences. Francis has refocused his organisation on one mission: helping the poor. One of his first decisions was to forsake the papal apartments in favour of a boarding house which he shares with 50 other priests and sundry visitors. He took the name of a saint who is famous for looking after the poor and animals. He washed and kissed the feet of 12 inmates of a juvenile detention centre. He got rid of the fur trimmed velvet capes that popes have worn since the Renaissance, swapped Benedict’s red shoes for plain black ones and ignored his fully loaded Mercedes in favour of a battered Ford.

This new focus has allowed the company to spend fewer resources on ancillary businesses, such as engaging in doctrinal disputes or staging elaborate ceremonies. The “poor first strategy” is also aimed squarely at emerging markets, where the potential for growth is greatest but competition fiercest. 

Along with the new strategic focus, the pope is employing two management tools to good effect. One is a brand repositioning. He clearly continues to support traditional teaching on abortion and gay marriage, but in a less censorious way than his predecessors (“Who am I to judge?” he asked of homosexuals). The other is a restructuring. He has appointed a group of eight cardinals (“the C8″) to review the church’s organisation and brought in McKinsey and KPMG (“God’s consultants”) to look at the church’s administrative machinery and overhaul the Vatican bank. 

Will it work? Established critics, maintain it is all incense, smoke and mirrors. Others insist that more sweeping change, including a bigger role for women, is needed. The chairman’s attitude is unknown. Some analysts interpret the absence of plagues of boils and frogs as approbation; others point out that He moves in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform. 

Father Jonathan

Golden Jubilee of a Parish Church:

On Friday 4th April 2014, about 450 people gathered to celebrate the exact day 50 years ago that our Church was opened by Archbishop Beck of Liverpool in the presence of a huge number of people. Both events were important milestones in the history of our parish which began in 1845.  

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In 1845, I wonder what those first monks, who came here to live from St. Mary’s, Bamber Bridge, or Brownedge parish, as it is affectionately called, had as their vision, when they founded the new ‘Leyland Mission’. I would suspect it was a practical idea that inspired them. There was a job to be done, a duty to be fulfilled, the conversion of England to the one, true Catholic faith. It is probable that the Leyland people had trudged, bravely, to Brownedge, Euxton or Brindle, in all kinds of weather, for Sunday mass. Now these good people deserved their own place of worship; at first, the Masses were said in the front room of the big red house on Worden Lane, next to the façade of our old Church. This was acquired by a famous Ampleforth monk, Fr. Brewer OSB, who was the Provincial of the Northern Province of the English Benedictines. The first church was later built and opened in 1865, on adjacent land to that house, and the parish was named St. Andrew’s parish. The parish later changed its patronage to St. Mary, because the Anglican Church across the road, also has Saint Andrew as its patron, this from medieval times. The little flock of Catholic farmers and workers were strong and stubborn in their beliefs, as they had endured centuries of persecution. As Frank Harrison says, in his history of St. Mary’s, Leyland, (p. 17): “The feelings of this congregation, the first over 300 years to hear Mass without fear in their own village can only be imagined.” It could have been from a sense of defensive co- existence with the “non-Catholics” that the parish of St. Mary’s Leyland was begun.

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 In 1964, Fr. Edmund FitzSimons, the parish priest with the vision and drive to see through the construction of the new building, presented his own ideas underlying our new Church. They too were practical. He himself made a balsa wood model of his initial idea of the Church: it was octagonal, about the same size as the present church, seating one thousand people and innovative. His ideas were clear: “there are two essentials for a church: that the people can see and they can hear what is going on”.  

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The problem in long, oblong, churches, the norm for cathedrals and large churches, people could hide behind pillars and go to the back where they gravitated by preference. Fr. FitzSimons designed the back seats to be eight rows from the altar, and with unrestricted viewing. He also made a prophetic statement when he said that he hoped posterity would benefit from his first venture into the world of architecture. He also said something else that gives an insight into his mind: “Just because a church is modern, there is no reason why it should not be made as beautiful as possible”. This has certainly happened, for the Church building has been considered the best modern Catholic Church in Britain – the conclusion of the new architecture competition, launched by the National Churches Trust, the Ecclesiastical Architects and Surveyors Association and the Twentieth Century Society. The final prizes were given in November 2013 at Lambeth Palace.  In this competition, our own St. Mary’s was awarded the ‘Silver Medal’.

The reason for building in the early 1960’s was the rapid expansion in the population of Leyland – this in the midst of a Central Lancashire New Town development – and Father may have thought it probable that the Church could end up as a new cathedral, for a newly formed diocese. After all, when the English Congregation of Benedictine monks began again overseas, in the Low Countries, or France, in the early 17th. Century, the dream was that, in an England restored to Catholicism, Benedictines might again take over the cathedrals of England, as in medieval times. Those were heady, optimistic, days for the Catholic Church.

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St Mary’s Leyland today can be truly grateful to God for his care for us as a parish in the past 50 years. His providence is quite exceptional for us. Let us take the economics of the parish: in 2012 we had no money with which to pay for a new heating system. By 2013 December it was installed, working well, and paid for. Since 1979 £1 million pounds has been spent on the parish and the Priory house making improvements, repairs and developments. A debt of £150K, and more, has been wiped out. At the same time, the generosity of parishioners to help the poor and the needy, has grown. Including all charitable giving, from schools and parish – together with one-off giving to good causes – we donated £30K a year, at least; and it’s not as though we have a massively expanding congregation. To know God’s Love for us, personally, as well as a community of faith, is an essential starting point to have faith in God and his Son Jesus Christ.

Question – what is the vision, presented to us, today, for St. Mary’s Leyland parish? An anniversary of the opening of a new Church is a good moment to reflect on it. Parishes are not just convenient groups of people, who happen to be Catholics, living in a certain locality. Rather, a parish is a divinely inspired group of people, who are the body of Christ, in a particular place; it continues to be: ‘the Church living the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters”. (John Paul 11 Christifideles Laici 26). According to Pope Francis, ‘the parish is not an outdated institution; precisely because it possesses great flexibility, it can assume quite different contours depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and the community.” (Evangelli Gaudium 28)

A parish is to be the presence of Christ Jesus in the local place. This implies the parishioners live out the Lord’s commandment, that he calls his own and new: “Love one another as I have loved you”. (John 13: 34). When parishioners truly attempt to do that, then they would, inevitably, find that they would: love the Lord their God with all their heart and with all their soul and with all their strength and with all their mind. (Luke 10: 27). It implies that the aim of parishioners should be warmly to welcome everyone, beginning with their fellow parishioners, and then everyone else; those who may or not be regular worshippers each Sunday at Mass, those who may not be living according to the normal rules of the Church, and those who do not know Jesus Christ and have rejected him. (see, Joy of the Gospel 15). Jesus’ own commandment does not imply that only Catholics, who are in the fullest communion with their church, can make his words their own. “Love one another as I have loved you”, does not put any particular restriction on those who can be included! It is just a very difficult ideal to achieve; eventually, it leads to the presence, locally, of Jesus among his people gathered in his name, (cf Mt 18:20) and that is impossible without divine intervention.

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We hope to contribute up to £10K for the new Church desperately needed in Fr. Celso’s parish in Guinea Bissau, one of the poorest countries in the world.

Our Parish, in the particular context of Leyland St Mary’s, therefore, needs to provide a home that people can feel is theirs; parishioners must be outward-looking, even if only a minority of them form a small group of the population of Leyland; parishioners need to work with the other Christians of all denominations around them; parishioners need to be open to the poor of the area – and the poor outside our area; parishioners need to have an openness to believers of other faiths, and to non-believers who are people of good will.

We may, then, be in peace, leaving to God in his Son, Jesus Christ, who will be constantly alive among the people, if such a vision is accepted and real; we can be sure, he will assist us in the present to remain joyful and dedicated Catholic Christians, despite the ungodly context of England in which we live, and Jesus will lead us into the future to fulfil his plan for Leyland Parish and the Church as a whole.

Father Jonathan


The Gospel stories have many references to “demons”, and Jesus “casting out demons”.  In fact, in Luke’ Gospel, at the end of the story of the temptations of Jesus in the desert, we see the phrase: “And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time”. (Lk 4: 13). It’s as though the whole story of our redemption involves a struggle between light and goodness on the one hand, darkness and evil on the other, culminating in the seeming victory of darkness over light, at the Crucifixion. The prologue of John’s Gospel, however, contains the phrase “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it”. (Jn 1: 5).

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In the time of Jesus, the activity of demons and the Devil was seen as a powerful influence on people’s behaviour and their health. Although it may be rather out of fashion, today, to speak in such terms about the Devil (Satan) and the demons, it seems the forces of evil are still very strong in our world, today, some two millennia later. 

Perhaps, the main effect of the devil is to drive wedges between people, to divide them one from another. This happens in so many different ways and leads to the vice of anger – among many other vices – a feeling in individuals that is widespread and strong.  I remember one day in the 1980′s, Fr. Tony Weber, a very experienced Swiss priest coming to visit me in Bamber Bridge. He had been in charge of forming priests in the charism of communion, and was accustomed to meeting priests from all over the world. He had been in East Germany, which in those days was in the grip of communism, and, despite the obvious dangers, used to hold secret meetings with Catholic priests. Given his presence and my involvement in one of the local prisons, I invited him to come and visit the chaplaincy and the prison. He came gladly, and we visited the prisoners’ quarters; in those days, this was quite possible. The all-male prison officers, in their enclosures on the wings, within the prison, used to decorate the walls with pictures of unclad ladies, something that never happens today, given a high percentage of women prison officers in the service. At this, my friend commented to me: “Under communism, the communist government used to divide people, one from another by spreading fear and mistrust through constant spying; in the Western world, where we have democratic freedom, we divide ourselves, one from another, by pornography”.  

It is not really surprising that the Devil does this. In the letter to the Colossians, we read about Jesus: “All things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col 1: 16-17. The evil one is still rampaging around in our world, today, causing his mischief, as he is: “a murderer and the father of lies”, (John 8; 44), trying to trick us that, in sin, we will find our freedom. To overcome the forces of good which always lead to communion, friendliness, trust and love, the devil will go out of his way to destroy the source of all virtue: Jesus, himself, in our time, who is still alive and with us: the Way, the Truth and the Life: Jesus is Love made present in our midst, for those who have eyes to see.

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 When Jesus spoke those marvellous words: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do”, (Lk 23: 34), he knew that this was the devil’s hour, the opportune time, and right to the end Jesus reacted with mercy, even in his agony, for in God’s mercy, lies the greatest witness to the strength of God. There is no mercy in Satan and his minions. But Jesus is full of mercy and love for each one of us, then on that first Good Friday as he was being nailed to the cross, and again today.  

Let us, therefore, rejoice in the joy of the Gospel, for when we celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the priest forgives us in God’s name with these words: “God the father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his son, has reconciled this world to himself”. The victory is won; light has overcome darkness, and the devil is defeated. Be wary, be wise, and recognise the Devil’s powerful activity in our world today! 

In the first appearance of Satan, in the book of Genesis, we read after Adam and Eve had disobeyed God: “God said to the serpent, ‘Since you have done that, be cursed among all the cattle and the wild beasts! You will crawl on your belly and eat dust all the days of your life.  I will make you enemies, you and the woman, your offspring and her offspring. He will crush your head and you will strike his heel’”, (Gen 3: 14). Mary is our all powerful ally in the fight against evil, division, hatred and lies. She leads us to Jesus where we find harmony, beauty, fullness of joy and a lightness and goodness about life.


Mary stands on the serpent by the saving power of Jesus.

Father Jonathan


“Mother, behold your son … behold your mother……”

Then John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, is speaking: “His eyes are closed; he is still moving, but not much … still trying to breathe.  I can smell his sweat, glanded from his body by pain and terror. Now he has opened his eyes and I can see into their depths – as far as the real agony, the real pain and just how deep it goes.  His body is racked from head to toe with it, shattered by the lash and steel-tipped fronds, by the nails, by the thorns driven into his still-beautiful head – nailed to death on a cross – driven to the very end of human endurance.”

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  The Crucifixion depicted as Stabat Mater, Porto Alegre, Brasil, 19 Century

Why do we humans do such things? Why do we take pleasure in hurting others?   Though not all of us do such things there are millions of people who would never dream of such things, millions who try to love their neighbours – there is still a goodly proportion finding it difficult to love those with whom they live, because of race, colour, creed and for many other reasons, not least of which is the maxim ‘it shall be me rather than you’.  These are questions that have been crossing and re-crossing my mind for days.

And Jesus said: “Love one another, as I have loved you.”

Consider, if you will, the bullying of others – nothing very much in comparison with a Roman crucifixion – but think about the principles that are involved.  Essentially, bullying is all about power, the exercise of power over others, when the strong are ‘taking it out’ on the weak.  Big is best! Small and weak cannot resist – they are powerless against the bully.  It may be just ‘bullying’ but all too often, these days, the young – even children – are driven to self-harm and suicide by such activities – at school and on the ‘infamous’ World Wide Web.

And, was there not an awful lot about Jesus’ suffering and death that was about bullying, about taking pleasure in seeing another human being suffer – in many cases just for the ‘hell’ of it – but always in front of an audience.  Yes, other factors were at work in Jesus’ case, but, what is certain is that he was being made to suffer so that others could see his suffering, take pleasure from it and to serve as a lesson for all who came to watch.  Do not bullies do the same?

As a race – the human race – we may begin by bullying others at school, and in other walks of life, but then, don’t we invariably move on and make use of this sort of ‘education’.  We become adults and then use all the tactics we have learned, so assiduously, by inflicting even worse on our fellow men and women.  We injure, we main, we torture and we kill in order to get our own way.  In some areas, not worth the mention, we commit such acts for pleasure; one has only to think of the sadomasochists.  The danger is that bullying among the young transmits itself to adulthood – to aggressive behaviour – to gangs and their cultures – and to extreme violence among the young and not-so-young.    

But, let us move on a little further.  Take a glance or two at human invention and the myriad ways in which mankind has used his intelligence to invent and manufacture diabolical methods of control, enabling people to take charge, hurt, terrorise, maim, injure and kill those less able than themselves.  Think for a moment about the weaponry that has been invented, from the sword and the spear, to the gun and the rocket – indeed to all the modern weapons of mass destruction.

And Jesus said: “Love one another, as I have loved you.”

Thinking about man against man – and the way in which we treat others, I have to ask the question: “Does this come from all the instincts of the animal kingdom, – the law of the jungle –where ‘lion is king, and everything depends on the survival of the fittest.”  Well, yes, to some extent, but, mostly the ‘law of the jungle’ is about food, about survival – not hurt and pain, caused for the sake of causing it; we human beings seem to have taken such processes to a higher degree, another level altogether – to conflict between men and women, between societies, between nations.

I wonder if it can be that man has learned the law of the jungle, then taken it to the ‘nth’ degree, all because he can – because he is able – and because, it seems, somewhere therein lies a source of pleasure; pleasure arising out of a sense of power over others – power to make him, or her, do what he, or she, would otherwise not do.  Beware the old adage, however, that “… power corrupts, and absolute power, corrupts absolutely”.

And Jesus said: “Love one another, as I have loved you.”

Against all of this Jesus says: “Love one another,” and then just look at what could happen if we did – peace and justice would reign once more – the poor and disadvantaged would be taken care of – poverty and strife would be eradicated – we would be ‘guilty’ only of putting others first and getting rid of the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’. Little do we fully understand what Jesus’ commandment is all about? ‘Love conquers all’ would be the great maxim and selfishness would disappear out of the window.  Oh, if only – if only we could be rid of self, of self-centredness, of ego, what a different world it could, and would be!


The New Creation of Jesus:

Increasingly, I come to realise that the events of life are how God actually shows himself to us. He is teaching us by what actually happens to us, and what happens, includes my relationships, my thoughts, joyful times, sadder times, praying, going to Church, my family, my temperament – in fact, everything. That is where peace and joy come from – from the living God of life – not from the God of theories and ideas, important as those are.

I then found myself thinking, how hard I personally find it to share the “joy of the gospel” with others! I know how much God and the gospel mean to me, but I am incapable of helping others to find God and his love for themselves. I do not seem to have much success in spreading the good news of Jesus. The reason I think is that for me it is impossible but not for God, because it is God alone who can help people to know God. If I did have success in this regard it would probably not do any good, as I would easily become big headed, attributing success to myself when only God can give the gift of faith to a person. I would destroy the very precious gift I was trying to share!

What does God want from me? Not me to work his miracles but to create the possibility that God himself will do so. This means with others belonging to the one body of Christ, which means seeing my neighbours as my allies in this enterprise. For the Body of Christ is Christ himself; together we make up the one person of Christ where God lives among us. This is a hard task! It means truly caring for each other, truly loving each other, and there being no strings attached to my “loving”. How hard that is to do when the other may not have the same ideas, or temperament and might even be somebody who is lazy or has different priorities or may even be actively working in a way that undermines the gospel values. Our Lord in his humanity always chose to live the Word, the Word who is Love,even when his enemies crucified him: “Father, forgive them they know not what they do” (Luke 23: 24).

I do not see God, but I see our neighbour, and if I am pure in heart then I do see God, with my heart and my spirit because I can see God is alive in me, making me patient, docile, merciful, including all the other virtues that do not come to me “naturally”.


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Eleanor Farjean


I get a help each day to try to live better the Word of God for the month: this month the Word I am trying to live along with many others is: “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. (Jn 15:10)” On Tuesday last 11 March I got this short motto to help to live the Word of God; always see each other new. That is do not allow yesterday’s thoughts and feelings infect the new day; when I can see my neighbour in a new way. The song, “Morning has broken expresses the same idea:  

“Morning has broken like the first morning, Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird. Praise for the singing! Praise for the morning! Praise for them, springing fresh from the Word! Sweet the rain’s new fall sunlit from heaven, like the first dewfall on the wet grass …Mine is the sunlight! Mine is the morning born of the one light Eden saw play! Praise with elation, praise ev’ry morning, God’s recreation of the new day”.  

Each day is a new day: and it struck me this old chestnut of a song is a better one than ever I thought. It is so easy to put my neighbour into a category, often negative, and become complacent and let situations take over rather than God the Risen One who makes all things new.  In his newness each day I discovered the author of “Morning is Broken” is Eleanor Farjean (1881-1965) and is clearly somebody thoughtful and great. It is worth looking her up in the internet. 

Father Jonathan