Lent 2016: Transforming lives

Rachel McCarthy works in the Theology Programme at CAFOD. She reflects on the Gospel story of the transfiguration and how our global neighbours living in poverty are transforming their lives.

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In the transfiguration Jesus appears transformed on the mountains before his disciples

 “As Jesus was praying, the aspect of his face was changed and his clothing became sparkling white” (Luke 9:29).

This Sunday, we will hear again the amazing story of Jesus’ transfiguration, when the Lord appears transformed by radiant light on the mountain before his disciples. It may be a story you are very familiar with, but it is worth reflecting on this divine transformation today.

Watch our video inspired by the transfiguration

Transforming light

Father Paul Ngole works for our partner Caritas Moroto in Uganda. He reflects on how Jesus leads the disciples up the mountain to a place of peace, prayer and serenity. In the same way, the Lord intends us all to experience the love and joy of God.

The theme of transformation is, of course, central to our Lenten practice. As we journey through these 40 days and nights, renewing our baptismal promises and deepening our faith, we prepare our hearts and minds to celebrate Easter, when the Risen Christ will set us free. Continue reading “Lent 2016: Transforming lives”

Contemplating the river of mercy

Rachel McCarthy works in the CAFOD Theology Programme. She reflects on the journey of Lent in this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.  

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“The great river of mercy wells up and overflows unceasingly” Misericordiae Vultus #25

As we celebrate the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, we are called to reflect on God’s overflowing love for us all. In the pastoral letter Misericordiae Vultus, Pope Francis invites us to contemplate God’s mercy as “a spring that will never run dry, no matter how many people draw from it” #25. Lent offers an opportunity to draw from the wellsprings, to feel the refreshing waters pour over us, and to share this source of life and love with our neighbours.

The Year of Mercy is not something to be rushed into. For me, throwing ourselves into a sort of hurried anxiety to appear merciful to others would be missing the point. The holy year is, similarly to the season of Lent, more of a journey on which the Lord accompanies us.

To truly understand what it means to be merciful, we must first reflect on the mercy we have received from God. I recall a few times in my life when I have been touched by God’s mercy. One which stands out was when I was sitting on the ground, reflecting through imaginative contemplation on the story of a woman who was a sinner (Luke 7:36-50). The woman bends down to Jesus, her tears falling upon his feet and she wipes them away with her hair. Listening to the words of the Gospel with the summer’s breeze flowing through my hair, I felt the same feeling I do every year on kissing the Cross on Good Friday: an outpouring of love for God.

Follow our Lent calendar

It is worth meditating on the words of the Gospel to understand the mystery of mercy. While they are at table together, Jesus says to Simon, “I tell you that her sins, many as they are, have been forgiven her, because she has shown such great love. It is someone who is forgiven little who shows little love” (Luke 7:47). Continue reading “Contemplating the river of mercy”

Love and mercy: learning God’s tenderness towards creation

The Year of Mercy is an opportunity to celebrate God’s love and to bring mercy to others. Celia Deane-Drummond, a member of the CAFOD Theological reference group, reflects on God’s mercy towards creation and what this teaches us today.

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Mercy is like “a quiet breath of hope”

Most of us have had times in our lives when we have known what it means to receive mercy from others. Perhaps through the caring we received after an injury or illness, either physical or mental; perhaps through knowing we have done something wrong and feeling dependent on someone else’s forgiveness; perhaps just sheer material need that depends on another’s act of generosity. Mercy is what we need when we are vulnerable and in need of love, healing and forgiveness. It accompanies those good actions like a quiet breath of hope.

Find out more about the Year of Mercy

Mercy and Laudato Si’

The only time that Pope Francis explicitly mentions mercy in Laudato Si’ is in a paragraph on God’s love for creation where he cites Pope Benedict XVI’s Catechesis, written ten years earlier in 2005. For love has a way of binding up all other attitudes towards the created world, and without which mercy becomes impossible. So, in the same paragraph, Pope Francis refers back to the work of the early Church father, Basil the Great, as well as the well-known medieval poet, Dante, in order to support his claim.  It is worth meditating on this passage a little more in order to unpack what mercy might mean in relation to the created world:

“Even the fleeting life of the least of beings is the object of his love, and in its few seconds of existence, God enfolds it with his affection. Saint Basil the Great described the Creator as “goodness without measure”, while Dante Alighieri spoke of “the love which moves the sun and the stars”. Consequently, we can ascend from created things “to the greatness of God and to his loving mercy”(§77).
Continue reading “Love and mercy: learning God’s tenderness towards creation”

World Day for Migrants and Refugees

This blog is written by Linda Jones, Head of the CAFOD Theology Programme. Linda shares her thoughts on the World Day for Migrants and Refugees in this Year of Mercy.

Aza and her young son
Aza and her son

‘Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.’ (Luke 6:36).

“They (refugees) are men and women like us… seeking a better life, starving, persecuted, wounded, exploited, victims of war” Pope Francis.

Last year the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) recorded that more than one million migrants and refugees had crossed the Mediterranean Sea, seeking sanctuary in Europe. Sadly, the UN Refugee agency (UNCHR) say that over 3,700 other children, women and men did not survive the perilous journey by sea, and drowned on their journey to safety.

Find out more about our response to the refugee crisis

Aza fled Syria with her infant son because of the war. She said, “They told us that there would be 35 people in our boat but when we arrived there were more than 200. We were in the sea and the engine stopped. The first thing we did was call the coastguard but they didn’t come.

Continue reading “World Day for Migrants and Refugees”

Year of Mercy, Doors of Mercy

On International Migrants Day, CAFOD’s Susy Brouard reflects on the Jubilee of Mercy and compassion for refugees.

Susy Brouard from CAFOD’s Theology Programme reflects on the new Doors of Mercy which are being opened around the world, and the ones which already exist…..

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Parishioners hold a silent vigil in solidarity with refugees

Last week Pope Francis launched the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy by pushing open the normally bricked-up bronze doors of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. This was the very first Door of Mercy to be opened this Jubilee year, which began 8 December. The Holy Father asked Catholics that as they walk through it, they should take on the role of the Good Samaritan.

Throughout England and Wales, dioceses, schools and parishes have taken up the Pope’s initiative in diverse ways – my personal favourite is the Jubilee of Mercy double-decker bus which will tour parts of Greater Manchester and Lancaster come February next year. Inside, priests will be available for confession, a blessing or simply a chat.

Opening new Doors of Mercy is a fantastic idea which will open up spaces where people can find healing and reconciliation. However, last week, in conversation with a Religious sister who works with vulnerable women, she raised the fact that there already are, within and outside the Catholic Church, Doors of Mercy, which people walk through daily and find places of healing and sanctuary. How true, I thought!

Download our Jubilee of Mercy reflection

Opening Doors of Mercy

As a CAFOD member of staff I began to reflect on where the Doors of Mercy are in our work. I thought immediately of the work that our sister agencies in the Caritas network are doing with refugees. Surely any entrance to a building which provides a safe refuge for those who have nothing is a Door of Mercy? Surely any entrance to a building which provides sanitation facilities, psychosocial support and above all, a warm and genuine welcome, is a Door of Mercy? These Doors, as well as the new ones, need to be highlighted and celebrated.

Continue reading “Year of Mercy, Doors of Mercy”

Synod on the Family: Listening to our sisters living in poverty

Rachel McCarthy is the Theology Programme Communications Coordinator at CAFOD. Rachel coordinates prayer and reflection material such as the Harvest Fast Day prayer.

Last week, I was invited to attend the launch of the book, Catholic women speak: Bringing our gifts to the table, in Rome ahead of the Synod on the Family.

The Catholic women speak network brings together 44 Catholic writers and theologians from across the world. They aim to offer a unique contribution to the discussions around the Synod, by sharing stories of women, especially those who are living in poverty.

Listening to our sisters living in poverty

It was inspiring to listen to many stories of marginalised women. Severine Deneuline, Professor in International Development at the University of Bath said, “Pope Francis talks about being a poor Church for the poor, and we remember that many of the world’s poorest people are women.” Continue reading “Synod on the Family: Listening to our sisters living in poverty”

Laudato Si’: a personal reflection

Kathy McVay is a CAFOD supporter from Sacred Heart parish, Bristol. Kathy reflects on her experience of reading Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’.

A song of praise

Laudato Si’ is a paean to God’s creation: humankind, other forms of life on earth, the earth itself, our whole planet. And it is a plea to all people to stop destroying it.

Like the majority of scientists (Pope Francis has a background in chemistry), the Holy Father fears that we are destroying our planet, chiefly by creating climate change. He believes that it is a very real threat to poorer countries who are trying to develop, and also to our children and grandchildren.

This interconnectedness between humankind and the elements is a theme that runs throughout the encyclical.

Pray for our earth

The climate is a common good 

Chapter one is partly a factual account of what is happening to the earth; pollution and climate change, waste and the throwaway culture, the issue of water, the loss of biodiversity. He links these issues with a decline in the quality of human life, the breakdown of society, and global inequality. Continue reading “Laudato Si’: a personal reflection”

Laudato Si’: catholic with a small ‘c’

This blog is written by Father Augusto Zampini-Davies, Theological Adviser to CAFOD. He reflects on how Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’, is a truly universal message.

Father Augusto Zampini-Davies
Father Augusto Zampini-Davies reflects on how Laudato Si’ is universal and all-embracing

Pope Francis’ new encyclical letter, Laudato Si’ (Praised be), is a truly inspiring and catholic document. It is catholic, with a small ‘c’, in the sense that it is universal and all-embracing.

First, it is catholic because it tackles a global problem, one which affects every single inhabitant of the planet: climate change. Due to the harm we have inflicted on our ‘sister-mother’ earth by the “irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her,” she is crying out for help. But this cry echoes the cry of poor communities and of the earth. The present economic consumerist culture not only damages the earth, but also affects the quality of life of the most vulnerable communities.

Many of our sisters and brothers live in rural areas, as witnessed by CAFOD partners overseas, and they often cannot cultivate their land and need to migrate. Others cannot drink water or breathe fresh air due to the contamination and pollution produced by industrial activity. Many in huge cities live in unhealthy conditions, “while contact with nature is limited, except for areas reserved for a privileged few.” The Pope’s appeal, therefore, is to face these injustices in common, as a human family who dialogues and cares for her common home.

Download our Laudato Si’ reflection

Continue reading “Laudato Si’: catholic with a small ‘c’”

Laudato Si’: generating enough energy to empower the world!

Susy Brouard is CAFOD’s Theological Advisor. Susy has twelve years experience of facilitating workshops on Catholic Social Teaching. But never has she come across a text which has produced so much energy from her participants. She explains why.

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Parishioners in Birmingham sing, inspired by Laudato Si’

To be perfectly honest with you, Pope Francis’ latest encyclical, Laudato Si’, is a facilitator’s dream.

I say this as someone who has, during the last week, facilitated three different workshops on the encyclical. Each workshop – the first with CAFOD volunteers in Birmingham, the second at the CAFOD headquarters with staff, and the third with members of an Anglican Church in central London – filled the participants with energy and joy. In fact, the Birmingham volunteers took Pope Francis’ words of ’sing as you go’ to heart and ended their day of reflection by singing and dancing a conga in the garden!

So what is it about this encyclical that produces so much energy?  This encyclical is unique because it is addressed to every citizen of the earth. Since he wants to communicate with everybody, Pope Francis writes with great clarity and directness. He tells it as it is – the good, the bad and the ugly. It is like looking in a mirror and we realise what madness it is that as humans we are systematically destroying “our common home”.

Liberating effect

While this may be seen as depressing, it is also liberating. We are confronted with what we have done and we can decide whether to continue as we are, or make changes to the way we live and consume. In the workshops, we spent time reflecting on the symptoms of overdevelopment which Pope Francis describes in the first chapter of his encyclical; climate change, mining, water pollution and global inequality, amongst others. From our reading, we came up with key elements that we thought were essential for progress; elements such as education, love, justice, understanding, mindfulness, sacrifice and, of course, God!

Join us in prayer

Continue reading “Laudato Si’: generating enough energy to empower the world!”

Laudato Si’: Caring for the garden of creation

This blog is written by Bernard Shaw from East Anglia diocese. He has been involved with livesimply since 2009, and more recently has been part of a small CAFOD group sharing insights on Catholic Social Teaching and the encyclical. Bernard explains how he is inspired by Laudato Si’.

Bernard with friends from East Anglia at the Speak Up For The Love Of... lobby
Bernard with friends from East Anglia diocese at the Speak Up For The Love Of… lobby

A rich tradition of caring for creation

When explaining his choice of name back in 2013, Pope Francis spoke of St Francis of Assisi as the man of poverty, peace and care for creation, a significant step “in this moment when our relationship with creation is not so good”. This left me with an expectation of development of his predecessors’ teachings in this area and now we have his most comprehensive document yet in Laudato Si’. In it, he calls for global dialogue across disciplines, including a religious contribution, to address humanity’s propensity to pollute and leave so many people living in desperate poverty. Too often economic and political decisions lack the long term vision to recognise environmental impacts. Pope Francis also corrects the notion that biblical texts justify our absolute domination over other creatures, explaining our “duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations”#67.  He outlines the Gospel of Creation and invites everyone to experience an ‘ecological conversion’.

“Creation is a magnificent book in which God speaks to us”

Bernard's parish garden provides flowers throughout the year
Bernard’s parish garden provides flowers throughout the year

One way of protecting the earth, at a personal level, is to use gardens, for those privileged to have them, in a way that encourages wildlife and minimises use of water. Back in 2011, one of our parish flower arrangers here in Cambridge had the idea of using the presbytery garden, consisting of an uneven lawn and neglected borders, for growing flowers for church decoration. It took much communal effort to rid the borders of bindweed and old tree roots.

Now the garden provides flowers for much of the year, replacing financial expenditure with human effort. Slightly encouraged by the CAFOD call to Dig Deep, an area of lawn has since been transformed into a vegetable bed, with lifting of the first potatoes eagerly anticipated.

Follow our tips for low carbon lifestyles Continue reading “Laudato Si’: Caring for the garden of creation”