Sister Margaret Corbett RIP

This is the text of the tribute to Sister Margaret given at her funeral on 29th January 2016 by Sister Joan.

Sister MargaretMargaret was born in Ireland in1930 and left her home town in Gort, County Galway 20 years later in order to follow her desire to become a Religious Sister. This desire became a reality when she made her First Profession in 1952 with The Sisters of St Gildas in France. On her return to England she studied for a teaching diploma and taught for several years in our schools in Somerset and London.

In the early 60,s Margaret embraced Vatican 2 wholeheartedly. She heard the cry of the poor and that famous quote from Gaudiem et Spes.

“The joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well. Nothing that is genuinely human fails to find an echo in their hearts.”

From then on Margaret’s, spirituality was being fully human and being involved in humanity and finding God there.

So she asked to leave teaching in our private schools and studied to become a social worker and when qualified she worked first in Birmingham and later joined the Crusade of Rescue in the Westminster Diocese. This entailed a great deal of travelling all over London and the Home Counties helping young pregnant women who were alone and facing difficult decisions. This work also involved working with young couples wanting to adopt children.

On retirement Margaret became more actively involved in the parish as a member of the parish and the deanery team. She worked on the RCIA programme. She had groups of young mothers, who having dropped off their children to school met together to share the Scriptures in view of helping their children grow in faith. Margaret enjoyed going into the Infant school to read with the young children. She was also very committed in the Justice and Peace Movement and represented the congregation at diocesan level. One of her great joys was the Padre-Pio group which she continued to organize until quite recently.

Remember this was her retirement but she still had so much energy to give, so she enrolled in a course to qualify for massage with the principal intention of ministering to people who did not have the means to avail of this service. So she went along to Crisis at Christmas for some years where she washed and massaged the feet of many homeless people. Margaret was unstoppable.

Of course we must not forget her great love of animals, cats, dogs, you name them ,she loved them, and could often be seen walking the dogs of our neighbours. She knew them all by name.

During her long life Margaret had such a good influence on so many people and I am sure that many of you here today will have your own memories of her and your own reasons for gratitude. She had so many gifts and was always so willing to share them.

I would like to end with a quote from Matthew 25 v 34 -36 because these words were the reality of Margaret’s daily living.
“I was hungry and you fed me. Thirsty and you gave me a drink.
I was a stranger and you received me in your home.
Naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you took care of me.”

Jesus has truly said to her
“Come Margaret, welcome home my good and faithful friend”

The Holy Door

holy_doorThe beginning of the Jubilee Year is always solemnly marked by the opening of a Holy Door by the Pope in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. However, for this Jubilee of Mercy Pope Francis also wanted a Door of Mercy in each diocese so that everyone throughout the world may be able to celebrate the Jubilee.

In the Diocese of Westminster there will be a Holy Door at the cathedral and there are also Holy Doors at: Brook Green; the Italian Church, Clerkenwell; Enfield; Haverstock Hill; Hounslow; Kingsland; Lincoln’s Inn Fields; Marylebone; Soho Square; Stanmore; Waltham Cross; Our Lady’s, Welwyn Garden City; Our Lady of Willesden. Continue reading The Holy Door

Pope Francis’ Prayer for our earth

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.

Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.

Reading the Gospel of Luke in the ‘Year of Mercy’ 2015/2016

On December 8 2015, Pope Francis opened the ‘Year of Mercy’. During this time, the mass readings have mostly been taken from the Gospel of St Luke, which fits very well with the Pope’s theme. Although God’s mercy is stressed throughout the Bible, it has a special emphasis in the third gospel. In the first chapter, Luke presents two ‘songs’, the first of Mary (‘The Magnificat’) in which she is aware of the blessing of God to her personally, but also ‘his mercy from generation after generation’. In the song of Zachary (‘The Benedictus’), he also recalls the past where ‘God showed mercy to our ancestors’ and looks forward to the ‘tender mercy of our God who from on high will bring the rising Sun [Jesus] to visit us….’ Continue reading Reading the Gospel of Luke in the ‘Year of Mercy’ 2015/2016

Seeds Concert – photo album

Here are a selection of photos from the recent charity concert in aid of Seeds

A total of £570.16 was raised towards Seeds, our new parish provision for learning disabled adults so a huge thank you to everyone who contributed. We were very grateful to violinists Duo Klier and their pupils of St.Gilda’s School, St Gilda’s school choir and director, Tom Fowkes, and everyone who made the evening such a success. Sue Hessel, Mary Halliday and Kayte Brimacombe

Photos copyright Kayte Brimacombe.

Click on the thumbnail to see the full-size image

King of the Jews

crucifixionBlood flows like a river from your side,
Your human body was always too weak.
Yet the pain that it’s causing is agonizingly real,
Another wave every time that you speak.

Yet you do nothing.

Thorns pierce through the skin on your head,
All you hear is their mockery and threats.
Your eyelids are drooping, your head hung low,
Yet still you have no regrets.

So you do nothing.

Your arms are now aching, worse than before,
And your vision is blurred by your tears.
But you know that this suffering will come to an end,
So you cast away your worries and fears.

And you do nothing.

Below you they’re hooked by the numbers on a dice,
Gambling away your pride.
You’re left on top of a hill – entertainment for all,
And there’s nowhere to run to and hide.

Still you do nothing.

The seconds become minutes, which drag into hours,
And you long for an end to your pain.
But there’s no one to help you, no one at all,
So in the open you must remain.

You do nothing.

Your name is Jesus, King ofthe Jews,
Saviour of those who failed to save you.
And so you die, on a cross made of hate,
To be with God and unlock heaven’s gates.

By Mia Griso Dryer (12)
April 2015

Scripture Reflections – Reading John

John is the only Gospel that does not have a year of its own; selections are heard in all three years, but especially in Year B. Mark is the shortest of the four, leaving more Sundays to be filled out. As Mark is now thought to be the first written, John is the last, and is a result of a long reflection on the events of Christ’s life and his teaching. There is evidence in the work suggesting it has been edited over a period of time, perhaps more than once. The characteristic style of the Gospel is found throughout and some speak of a ‘Johannine school’ or community sharing the ideas of the first writer. (The three Letters of John in the New Testament are in a different style, but have a similar vocabulary with the Gospel.)

Nicholas King comments: ‘As soon as you open John’s Gospel you are aware that you are breathing a different air from that which you encountered in Matthew, Mark and Luke…. My sense of it is that it is a journey into the mystery of who Jesus is, inviting us ever deeper, as the story unfolds.’ John repays careful study and prayerful reflection. ‘The reader will do well to remember that this is a very rich Gospel, whose meaning emerges slowly, over a lifetime of reading.’ Since we have short selections from the Gospel, I would urge you to find some time, maybe as part of Lent, to spend with this writer.

It is the one of the four that best shows Jesus as the Son of God existing from eternity – this is stressed in the opening words. Jesus shows a majesty in this Gospel with less emphasis on his humanity – in contrast with Mark who does not hesitate to show human limitations of Jesus during his ministry. The author always has the resurrected Christ in mind, and projects this back into the life of Jesus.

There is no clear agreement among scholars as to who ‘John’ was and where the Gospel was written. The early Church writers thought he was John the son of Zebedee, but there are reasons this seems unlikely. As it happens, that John is never named in the Gospel, although ‘sons of Zebedee’ are mentioned in the last chapter, which looks like an addition. A ‘John the Elder’ was also known in the early Church but we know little about him either.

One aspect of the Gospel is that it includes the reflections of the Evangelist, but since the Greek manuscripts do not have punctuation marks, it is sometimes a guess when the words of Jesus blend into that of the author. It is written with a limited vocabulary but in very good Greek. Certain words/ideas have prominence, such as light and darkness, life/eternal life. John speaks much of ‘Signs’ – and sees the miracles of Jesus as having significance for telling who he is. Jesus saying ‘I am’ is an expression rare in the other Gospels, but often appears in John, sometimes symbolically, (I am the Good Shepherd, I am the Bread of Life) but also as an absolute: ‘Before Abraham came to exist, I AM’. This picks the meaning of God’s special name in the Old Testament – ‘I am who I am’.

John makes much use of irony, often something will be said which is shown to have a deeper meaning. Misunderstanding is used frequently as a way of opening out Jesus’ teaching. In dialogues, the person will take the ‘ordinary’ meaning of a word (as Nicodemus on ‘being reborn’) and Jesus will then draw out the deeper meaning (as not from the mother’s womb but ‘born from above’).

Characters are well drawn, and John excels in dramatic scenes. Many of these are long, which makes them harder to use in a liturgical setting. Characters may have both a historic identity as well carry symbolic meanings. One of these is ‘the Mother of Jesus’ – who is never given the name Mary, but appears in two sections related to the ‘hour’ of Jesus’ glory. One character has caused much puzzlement: ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’. Various identities have been suggested, the earliest being John son of Zebedee, and more recent suggestions include a woman, Mary Magdalene. The ‘Beloved Disciple’ is the one who has the clearest vision about Jesus in the Gospel, and this shows the possiblity he/she represents the ‘ideal disciple’ and could be entirely symbolic. This disciple helps the reader penetrate more deeply into the meaning of Jesus’ identity and ministry.

Women have important roles in John, in addition to his Mother and Mary Magdalene, there is the unnamed Samaritan woman who carries on a theological discourse with Jesus at Jacob’s well (Chapter 4) and the two sisters of Lazarus, Martha also being led in dialogue to understand Jesus’ power (Chapter 11).

In John, Jesus speaks often in long ‘discourses’ explaining aspects of his life and the meaning of it. (The Bread of Life in Chapter 6 is one example.) There are two chapters at the Last Supper which give what might be called Jesus’ ‘last will and testament’. Because of the length and the complexity of these discourses, like the dramatic scenes they do not fit easily into the usual space of the liturgical gospels. An exception is the Passion and last days of Jesus life. John’s account is given ‘pride of place’ on Good Friday, and his resurrection stories feature in the readings of Easter time.

One problem in John is the use of the term ‘the Jews’ for Jesus’ opponents, where the other three gospels have the historical accuracy of ‘scribes, Pharisees and high priest.’ John treating ‘the Jews’ as separate from Jesus and his disciples has come into the gospel from the later time when the Christians had separated from the synagogue and when there was opposition felt on both sides. Of course Jesus and his disciples were ethnically Jews as much as the temple authorities. Biblical scholars emphasise that John’s term does not justify any prejudice against the Jews of our time – something all the more important at the present with so much violence in many places against people of differing religions.

Because of the complexity of John, commentaries can be very helpful, but the longer ones require some dedicated study. I will be using especially in my notes, what has been called the ‘gold standard’ commentary, two volumes of Raymond E. Brown. Recently I found Written That You May Believe by Sandra M. Schneiders, with whom I had the privilege of studying when I did my MA in the Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley, California. This book has the added advantage of giving a good introduction to feminist biblical insights. There are a variety of other commentaries of differing lengths. For a simple guide to John, I would recommend The New Testament Freshly Translated by Nicholas King, quoted above. He gives short but useful notes to each section.

The great focus in John is on the union that disciples have with Jesus, and as well, the Father and the Spirit. This is much clearer in this Gospel than in the other three. It appears in various ways, from the opening of ‘dwelt among us’ and especially in the ‘last discourse’ which John sets the night before Jesus’ death. This has made it an important message for all Christians and one to read on our own in all the liturgical Years – A, B and C. May you find it rewarding!

Joan Griffith, 2015