Monthly Archives: January 2014

We start the story of David in his unequal fight with the Philistine. I suppose all this gives us courage that whatever obstacle we encounter we can overcome it.

Saul not unnaturally is jealous of David. It’s a good opportunity to reflect on the nature of jealousy. It’s so much easier to sympathise with the failure or bad luck of others than with their success. I suppose it’s part of our human nature.

How do we overcome it? The priest at mass today had some ideas. Look at the cross or think that all this success pales into insignificance at the final count, or count our blessings. Frankly, I do not know the answer. Perhaps it’s an interesting spiritual exercise, to force oneself to rejoice in someone who is younger, better-looking, more powerful, or richer than oneself, whatever one’s jealous of.

I find quite a good way is to think well of so and so who has a big job that I would like to have, but I have my children and that is much more precious.

Saul is in David’s power, yet he refuses to strike. He merely cuts off the border of the king’s coat. Can we always too be content with just the border of the cloak?

But Saul falls anyway in honest battle and David can make his lament over him in honest grief. Why do we murmur in our jealous minds against others when their doom and ours is already encompassed.

5-11 January


I was thinking again of Jean Vanier. Follow your star is a good motto for Epiphany. Conformity to conscience his motto.


Jean Vanier again. If I was to hold a meeting on some political issue, half a dozen would turn up. The room was packed for Jean with two hundred people there. Yet he has no “policies” or prescriptions or advice: he just tells his life story. Basically he just lives with people who nobody else wants to live with. They are often difficult, angry, selfish, or worse. One of his housemates spat his soup over a visiting policeman. Yet year after year Jean persists. A living saint.


Russian Christmas

I didn’t pick up a lot of the sermon in Russian even with a quietly mumbled translation but there was something about the Nativity being the new light.

In the Western Catholic readings for the 7th of January, the Marriage at Cana is the subject for discussion. So here the first of the signs take place on the same day as the Eastern Orthodox Christmas.


It was announced in Mass that Paul Goggins had died. He was only 60, and suffered a stroke out running. It makes you think. Why do we worry so much about the future? Be happy, and live for the day.


I did a reading at the Epiphany carol service for the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. I didn’t know what I was reading til I turned up. T.S. Eliot’s The Journey of the Magi. Rather alarming especially as in the poem the journey is rather depressing. Not here the cosy Christmas card picture of three kings on camels.

… and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.

Some of it didn’t make much sense. What does this mean?

And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all the way for
Birth or Death?

Anyway the service was grand and beautiful.


I am back in Lincolnshire, the day before speaking on rural affairs.

I was looking for a bit of poetry about the countryside. I didn’t use this quote from John Clare. It arrived too late on a broken blackberry. Perhaps I should have done.

For Nature is love, and finds haunts for true love,
Where nothing can hear or intrude;
It hides from the eagle and joins with the dove,
In beautiful green solitude.

In our church I looked up Psalm 9:

Confiteor Tibi

I will give thanks unto thee, O Lord, with my whole heart.


I looked up Psalm 11 in the Anglican Prayer Book:

Ut quid domine

Why standeth thou so far, O Lord, and hidest thy face in the needful time of trouble.

The Changing of the Year


The Feast of the Holy Family

It was nice to persuade my children to go to mass today and hear the readings about the Holy Family. People can complain if they want that the readings are gooey or old-fashioned but they are beautiful and loving and right too.


I was trying to think of a more personal prayer. I thought of this.

May my thoughts be beside you, God Creator, whoever you are, wherever you are, however you are. Who are you? Who am I? You are all that creates and is created. You are all of humanity and all of every life in the universe. You are not just in Heaven. You are here in this room, beside me. You walk in the fields. You are sky and forest and sea: unchanged, mover yet unmoved.


I was late for Mass because they put the time forward but to arrive in time for communion is something. I saw unexpectedly that there was a midnight mass at 11:30. I should have gone. I went instead to the fireworks on the river. A mistake. There is something depressing about tens of thousands of people seeing thousands of pounds of fireworks go up in smoke in ten minutes. A sort of fatuous municipal bread and circuses. But they are beautiful.

WEDNESDAY – New Year’s Day

Mass at the Carmelites was cancelled so I missed it. I listened as always to the New Year’s Day concert from Vienna: it’s not the same in London as it is looking at the winter sun in Lincolnshire. So I rely on my notes for the previous year and Psalm 66 still resonates.


Feast of Sts Basil and Gregory

I was listening to the sermon about how these gentlemen fought the Arian heresy. I suspect I have been prone to Arianism. Perhaps I still am. I am attracted to a vague Godness in the universe. I wonder how a man who walked in Palestine could have made all this. But curiously as I listened to the sermon about how we should reject this very unworldliness and accept God’s willingness to share this world with us I saw the logic of Christ’s divinity too.


A watery day. We went to the film ‘All is Lost’ with Robert Redford.

No word is spoken for one hundred and eighty minutes. An epic of survival as everything goes wrong. What I like about the film is that Redford is old, the yacht is old. He lives for the present and never til the end despairs and is given survival from death in the end.


We went to the Pearl exhibition in the V&A. Pearls are mass produced by the hundreds of thousands now but up to the 1910s were only caught naturally in the sea. A pearl diver had to open on average 2,000 oysters for every pearl he found.

And on they fished, on they were brought up, they prayed.

We went to a talk by Jean Vanier, founder of l’Arche communities for the disabled. He is 85 now, still a truly inspiring teacher. He tells the tale of Pauline, multiply disabled, and Eric, blind and deaf. Their anger comes from not having been loved and having been humiliated. Anger comes from humiliation, in being disregarded. He was asked, Jean, if he meets politicians. No, he doesn’t debate he says, he just listens. He says we must put conformity to conscience above all things. Go where your conscience decrees: him to join the navy as a youth and then out of no resources to create the first l’Arche house.