Fast to go slow: how fasting can transform you this Lent

Susy works in the CAFOD Theology team. Although she hasn’t always looked forward to fasting, this year she is going vegan for Lent. Here she tells us how she thinks fasting for Lent can transform her, and her relationships.

Fasting. The word doesn’t fill most people with joy. I know for me there has often been a slight dread about fasting. It is not something to look forward to, is it? Eating less, maybe giving something up that we enjoy. A sacrifice – surely it will be painful?

Follow CAFOD on twitter for tips on how to keep going with your Lenten fast.

I think though, like anything else, how we view fasting, how we approach it, makes an awful lot of difference to the experience. When I was much younger there was a short time in my life when I fasted on bread and water once a week. I would get splitting headaches and I was always very relieved when the day was over. I saw it as perhaps helping in my relationship with God, but I don’t remember making any connections with those who struggle to have bread and water every day.

Having worked at CAFOD for fifteen years now, I see fasting in a different light. I also have a much more positive attitude towards it – it is actually something I can look forward to! Why? For four main reasons. I feel fasting can help transform me in four areas – in my relationship with God, in my relationship with others, with creation and with myself. Here’s how I see it:

Continue reading “Fast to go slow: how fasting can transform you this Lent”

Gospel reflection: Stay awake

Every Friday, we offer you  a reflection on the Sunday gospel. This week’s reflection was written by Rachel McCarthy, who works in CAFOD’s Theology Programme.

Based on the gospel for Sunday 12 November – Matthew 25:1-13 “Stay awake.”

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It’s midnight. The wedding attendants have been waiting for a long time for the bridegroom. At last, he arrives. The five sensible ones are admitted to the feast, but the other five suddenly find they are unprepared. They scrabble around in a panic, and set out to find oil for their lamps.

After some time, the wedding attendants come back, knocking on the door and calling for the bridegroom to let them in. But it is too late. The doors are shut.

Like the five sensible ones who take oil with their lamps, we are called to prepare for the kingdom of heaven and to keep our gaze fixed on Christ. We must be prepared to show our love for Christ through our actions.

Download prayer resources for the World Day of the Poor

Continue reading “Gospel reflection: Stay awake”

Gospel reflection: Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar

Every Friday, we offer you a reflection on the Sunday gospel. This week’s reflection was written by Dr Susy Brouard, who works in CAFOD’s Theology Programme.

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Based on the Gospel for Sunday 22 October – Matthew 22:15-21 “Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar – and to God what belongs to God”

The Religious authorities are determined to undermine Jesus’ authority and once again Jesus manages to undermine their authority instead.

Clearly, the authorities do not stand apart from the Roman occupation, since they readily seem to be able to produce a coin with Caesar’s head on it. It is significant that Jesus is unable to produce a coin himself since he is homeless, dependent on the goodness, generosity and hospitality of others.

Jesus affirms the need to fulfil our civic duties, but even more so – as creatures who are bearers of God’s image – we are called to go beyond the law showing love, mercy and justice to others and to all of creation.  This love is made manifest not in a passive desire to avoid doing wrong, but in an active determination to work for the flourishing of all.

Dear Lord, help us to fulfil our civic duties towards one another and towards the common good. Help us to remember that every person is made in your image, and every part of creation reflects your glory. Inspire us to use our civil rights to advocate for the flourishing of all peoples and all creation. Amen.

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Advent: Hope amidst the gloom

Sue Cooper, a CAFOD supporter from Corpus Christi parish in Wokingham, reflects on what Advent means to her as a time of hope and light amongst the winter gloom and darkness.

Sue Cooper at a CAFOD supporter event in Parliament
Sue Cooper (left) at a CAFOD supporter event in Parliament

How I dislike this time of year. The dark nights and the cold, wet weather force me inside, and living in an area of the South where it rarely snows, there’s not even that brightness to lighten my mood.  The news, too, speaks of horror in Syria and tumult in Iraq as well as an uncertain future for us here. It is miserable, but amidst the gloom there is hope.

The Sunday Mass readings throughout Advent warn us to ready ourselves and our anticipation of future events is filled with light and expectation. We have not been abandoned in the darkness, there is one who is coming to us who brings peace and cares for those on the margins. And in preparation to welcome the one who comes, we must respond to the call of John the Baptist and “repent” and change our ways.  As the weeks unfold the anticipation and the excitement grow: the Word is made flesh, Emmanuel, God with us, is coming!

Follow our Advent calendar of daily reflection and prayer on the readings throughout the season

As we prepare for Christmas, Advent is a time to take stock of what has happened in the past year. As a family, we post up pictures on our website with short captions to share with our extended family and friends what we’ve been up to. It’s a time to consider those who have died during the year, our achievements and perhaps ponder the “might have beens”. Continue reading “Advent: Hope amidst the gloom”

Time for Time Out

Daniel Hale is CAFOD’s Head of Campaigns. In November, CAFOD will be hosting retreats all around the country, giving supporters a chance to reflect on faith and taking action in light of the Year of Mercy.

There are only three more weeks until the end of the Year of Mercy, the holy year called by Pope Francis to reflect on the mercy of God. Of course reflection is good at any time, but why did the Pope ask for this year to be the year?

I think it was a clever way to ask us to take a fresh look at the problems faced by the world and its people. The refugee crisis, to which Pope Francis had tried to draw so much attention was one such issue.

pilgrimage-1
The Lampedusa Cross has been an image of hope during the Year of Mercy

 

Over several years Francis had done a lot to promote the cause of refugees, including visiting Lampedusa, where so many migrants washed up on European shores. But the world was slow to act.

Send refugees a message of hope

Continue reading “Time for Time Out”

Experiences of being a young leader

As a new term begins, CAFOD’s Elouise Hobbs spoke to young leader Jouriz, from Chertsey, about her experiences and advice for those thinking of taking part this September. 

Jouriz at other young leaders at the CAFOD away day in Romero House
Jouriz at other young leaders at the CAFOD away day in Romero House

Over the last academic year CAFOD has worked with 245 young people from across seven dioceses as part of CAFOD’s young leadership programme. These young people spent the year learning about justice issues and developing leadership skills. Collectively they have reached around 65,000 people through their campaigning, speaking at Mass, fundraising, assemblies, blogs and tweets.

In the last academic year, Jouriz took part in the CAFOD young leadership programme; when I met her, she was presenting to lower forms from her school about the impact of CAFOD.

Learn how you can get involved in the young leadership programme

You recently attended the end of year Young Leadership celebration day with CAFOD. Do you have a moment that particularly sticks out for you?

“My favourite moment was actually at the beginning of the day. We had just arrived and as an ice-breaker we had to go round the tables and meet everyone. When we went around the tables with just a 30-second gap. It was so fast. I only had a short time to make a conversation and crack a joke. Even though it was only a short amount of time, it actually allowed me to get to know people really well. It was so much fun travelling up to London and getting to meet all the different people.”

Continue reading “Experiences of being a young leader”

Schools volunteers take our Lampedusa Cross pilgrimage

Susan Kambalu works in our schools team, and recently joined CAFOD schools volunteers reflecting on the refugee crisis with our Lampedusa Cross pilgrimage resource. She describes her thoughts and feelings as she went through the stations.

CAFOD schools volunteers writing messages of hope for refugees
Schools volunteers left messages of hope for refugees

“Look down at what you are wearing. If you have a bag with you, consider what is in it.”

It was a warm day; I wore a dress and cardigan but no jacket, and soft shoes. They would not last long if I had to flee like Amina, a refugee in Darfur; if the weather changed I would have no protection against the elements. I happened to have my passport in my handbag that day, an unusual occurrence for me, but an important document that links me to the country of my birth. I had my house keys: but what use would they be if I could not go home? My wallet had a few coins, a bank card, a passport photo of my husband – the money would not get me far, neither would the contents of my bank account if I could no longer go to work. My mobile phone would provide a link with my family, directions to another destination, photos that would provide me with memories of my life and home – but only until the battery ran out, as I had no charger with me.

What prompted me to reflect on my clothes, my handbag? To wonder how I would get on with only the items I had with me, away from home? I was taking part in our new Lampedusa Cross refugee pilgrimage, an ideal opportunity to reflect on “welcoming the outsider” during this Year of Mercy.

Download CAFOD’s Lampedusa Cross pilgrimage for young people

It has been a privilege to be involved in this term’s training days for our school volunteers. Last week I spent the day with about fifteen volunteers in Portsmouth diocese; last month I spent a day visiting our Birmingham volunteers. Over the past term, 100 schools volunteers have been trained in leading this poignant pilgrimage. They now have the resources to support your local Catholic primary or secondary school in learning more about the current refugee crisis and praying for those looking for a safe place to stay.

Continue reading “Schools volunteers take our Lampedusa Cross pilgrimage”

Where are the Doors of Mercy?

Catherine Gorman from our Theology Programme reflects on the Doors of Mercy, where they can be seen in our world and how we can open them to others.

Refugees being directed at a barrier checkpoint, on their way to cross the Greek-Macedonian border.A couple of weeks’ ago I walked through the Door of Mercy at St George’s Cathedral, Southwark with CAFOD colleagues from all around the country. We were praying for refugees and migrants, forced to leave their homes in search of a better life. And as we heard the stories of our brothers and sisters from around the world, intertwined with Scripture, Catholic Social Teaching and prayers, we were moved – imagining ourselves in their shoes, and recognising the need for God’s mercy in our world.

Download our Year of Mercy refugee pilgrimage resources

As Pope Francis has said: “By crossing the threshold of the Holy Door, we will find the strength to embrace God’s mercy and dedicate ourselves to being merciful with others as the Father has been with us.” (Misericordiae Vultus #14)

As we passed through the door, I had a real sense that I and my colleagues were truly (re)committing ourselves to share God’s mercy with others, a sense that has stayed with me since.

Continue reading “Where are the Doors of Mercy?”

Who do you say I am?

This reflection and prayer, based on the gospel for Sunday 28 June, Matthew 16:13-19, were written by Matthew Sanderson, who is the Executive Assistant to the Director of CAFOD.

“Who do you say I am?”

Matthew Sanderson on a recent trip visiting CAFOD projects in El Salvador
Matthew Sanderson visiting CAFOD projects in El Salvador

What were your first thoughts of God? What did you imagine God to be? For me, God was a figure sat on a cloud with a beard, or someone who wagged his finger from on high. As I have grown up, so too has my answer to the question ‘Who do I say God is?’

For me, God is love. That is who I say God is.

Last week saw the publication of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’. Pope Francis is clear that God made us all out of love and to love.

Reflect on Pope Francis’ encyclical

We are reminded in the encyclical that “the entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us” (Laudato Si’ section #84). I am reminded of this when I see the rolling countryside of the Yorkshire Dales.

What’s more, the special love of the Creator means each human being is “conceived in the heart of God” (#65). As children of God, we have an inherent dignity, not because of anything we have done, but out of God’s love for us.

We can reflect God’s love for us in our daily lives as “we were made for love” (#58). By remaining in God’s love, may we come to know the Lord more and more each day.

Lord, we give thanks for your love and the world around us. We pray that we continually realise that we were made for love. Amen.

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