Journeying Together is a book co-written by Deacon Joseph Cortis, who is a trustee of Growing Old Grace-fully and Pia Matthews from St Mary’s University, that offers practical information and hints on how to accompany someone with dementia. This book is an indispensable resource for those caring for a loved one with dementia, offering insightful and valuable guidance based on the authors and contributors’ personal experiences.
Journeying Together provides an important resource for those who may feel overwhelmed or uncertain about how to support their loved ones.
This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to learn how to provide effective and compassionate care for those living with dementia, and it offers a vital message of solidarity and support for all those on this challenging journey.
This book serves also as a resource for professional carers, clergy, religious and social action groups such as SVP conferences, parish councils, lay faithful fulfilling a ministry in their parish.
The book is available for purchase at Redemptorist Publications for £11.95, and can also be purchased from St Paul’s bookshop at Hinsley Hall. To purchase your copy online: Click here.
Last week I met a dear friend for lunch. She is in her late eighties and lately she has struggled with health issues, including a few falls, the latest causing a broken wrist – a particular handicap for her as she is a writer. She repeatedly tells us that growing old is no fun, yet she is full of life, a tonic when you meet her. She is an attentive observer of the human condition, has a feisty spirit and wry sense of humour. She is also a woman of deep faith and, like the prophets, has the confidence to rail against God. The conversation began like this,
‘I am really angry with Jesus and I’m going to tell him so! We are always being told that that God became human in Jesus so that God could experience all that we humans experience. Well Jesus didn’t experience old age did he! How could he know what all this feels like when he died in his early thirties!’
The mini-rant over, we enjoyed wide-ranging and stimulating conversation, as always, but the encounter challenged me to reflect more deeply on how we reconcile within ourselves failing health, loss of loved ones, our own failures and fears and ultimately our own mortality. I think Lent offers us an invitation to go to ‘the place of the soul‘, as Celtic writers often put it, that place of within us where, at a gut level we know what is true and real and of God, that place within us where transformation can happen – if we are open to it.
How do we understand the invocation, ‘Repent and believe in the Gospel’ on Ash Wednesday? Could ‘repent’ this year, be an invitation to think differently, reset our inner compass, and perhaps commit to a few simple daily practices that might help bring about a ‘metanoia’ – that radical change of heart to which we are all called and for which we often long.
Our fundamental ‘sin’ – the failure to trust God’s unfailing and eternal love for us?
To begin with could we re-examine our image of God? Do we really believe that we are made in God’s image and are called to grow in likeness of God? Do we really trust that we are loved unconditionally and forever? Even with all our faults and failings, our sins and transgressions, our destructive patterns of behaviour, God only ever looks on us with love and compassion and only ever desires that we feel this love – deeply. Consider the image of the forgiving father Jesus gives us in the gospel, the father who is constantly on the look-out for the return of his prodigal son, whose love pours out in lavish celebration when the errant son finally arrives home. No judgement. No blame. No recrimination. Only open arms and rejoicing.
‘Come back to me, with all your heart, don’t let fear keep us apart’, wrote Dominican priest and musician Gregory Norbert, taking to heart the message of the prophet Hosea. The hymn chorus;
‘Long have I waited for Your coming home to me And living deeply our new lives’,
offers an opportunity for much reflection. Perhaps we have an image of God that needs to be redeemed? Can we repent of any notion of a God who is ever watchful, ready to judge and condemn and instead trust in the God of compassion and forgiveness revealed by Jesus?
The ultimate witness to God’s unconditional love is, of course, the cross. God became human in Jesus to show the extent of God’s love for us. The inevitable outcome of Jesus proclaiming and living God’s kingdom of love, justice and peace, without compromise or collusion with the ‘powers and principalities’ of his time, was death on the cross, the ultimate sacrifice of love, which, in time and even in our day other saints prophets have courageously followed. Can we use this Lent to turn around our thinking and perhaps consider sin more as of not trusting in that love for which Jesus gave his life? What are the fears that ‘keep us apart’ from ‘living more deeply’ in that love?
One simple practice could be to ask ourselves, ‘How can I love more deeply, trust more readily today? Can I affirm and bless another person today? Is there someone I need to forgive and am I ready?
The Cross of Light – ‘What we don’t transform we transmit’ – Richard Rohr
‘Two universal paths of transformation have been available to every human being God has created: great love and great suffering.’
A more difficult challenge is to reflect on how we deal with our pain and loss, which is at the heart of the Christian story, says spiritual teacher Fr Richard Rohr. If we don’t let our pain be transformed within us, we will inevitably transmit it, he claims. Our parish has as a motif, ‘the Cross of Light’.
It symbolises that on Good Friday, at the point when Jesus trusted completely in his Father and gave up his life, the cross is shattered, death is overcome and the light of resurrection breaks through. Rohr is convinced that the only way we, too, can let go is if we trust that we are held safely and can fall back into the arms of one who loves us extravagantly, as Jesus did. Jesus offers us a way of enabling our pain to breakthrough, a pattern for our daily living. Rather than simply a case of ‘offering it up’, his total surrender breaks through, identifies and is in solidarity with the pain of others, the pain of the world. It is a radically different focus.
Let us pray, this Lent, that we can find that trust, the letting go, knowing we are always held. My dear luncheon friend seems able to live this way, which makes her a blessing for those around her.
May we give thanks for such people in our lives. May we, too, have the courage to understand what it takes to see with the lens of love.
Let us search with our whole soul for that which gives light and hope, healing and compassion.
May we always continue to believe in Spring, especially in the midst of our inevitable Winters.
Margaret Siberry Leeds Justice and Peace Commission
Lent is a time of prayer, alms giving and fasting and in doing this it also gives us the opportunity to take stock. Life has a funny way of teaching us what truly matters at the end of the day. As time goes by, I grow in deeper awareness that each and every day is a gift. Alas, we often take our life and all those who journey with us for granted but once something barges in and thwarts what we consider normality, somehow the mists that surround our consciousness from appreciating each moment begin to lift and then we start to see life in all its stark beauty; beauty so fragile, so precious and so unique. Rather than heading to the depressing news headlines every single day reminding us of our world’s brokenness, of humanity’s greed and of the hold money has on many to the detriment of many others, let us opt to have our own daily positive headlines by outlining wonderful events which occur throughout our humdrum mundane days brimming with little divine tokens of goodness strewn along our life’s path which require our attentiveness to perceive them.
Gratitude is indeed a wonderful approach to our existence here on earth. We are here but once and hence it is indeed worth it to truly savour and enjoy the journey despite the hurdles, the heartaches, the betrayals, the hard work, the difficulties, the doubts, the lack of acknowledgement and the fears which will undoubtedly hamper us as we trudge along.
With gratitude we can choose to see beyond these apparent stumbling blocks on our way and rather decide to see them as opportunities to help us grow through what we go through making us more resilient and strong.
That is the secret before then allowing us to move forward, never getting stuck in a ‘what if?’ or ‘why me?’ attitude as that would drug us into a slippery slope leading to the treacherous vicious vortex of self-pity and self-doubt which suck the beauty out of life.
Life is God’s gift to us. What we make out of it, is our gift back to Him. Hence what sort of gift are we giving back to our Creator God who has loved us into being right from the moment of our conception, continues to love us as we gradually become what He dreams that we grow into and will forever love us beyond our last breath? The choice is in our hands and in the attitude we choose to live our life by – are we overcome by busyness or are we overwhelmed by the divine grace that surrounds us if we have eyes to see it daily? Opt wisely so that when the time comes for us to leave this earth, we would have truly lived life and not merely fleeting existed.
God of hope, we cling to you, for your renew the face of the earth.
Through the gift of your Son, our Lord Jesus, we follow you on the path of dawn.
Enlightened by your love and wisdom, help us to lead each other and all creatures back to your open arms. Amen.
With expectant waiting we anticipate your coming. Come close to us, Lord, come very close.
Come, Alpha and Omega, who is from before the ages. Come, Son of Joseph and Son of Mary, who went down to Nazareth to be obedient to them.
Come, Morning Star, who named the stars. Come, carpenter from Nazareth, who knows the smell of planed wood.
Come, Beloved Son of God, who knows the heart of God. Come, Son of Man, who knows the hearts of God’s people.
Come, Lord of Life and Prince of Peace. Come, Dayspring and Rising Sun. Come, Wonderful Counsellor. Come Emmanuel, God with us; God very close to us.
Litany of Advent litany: Lord, we look to you of Nazareth
As we look to you for judgement, hold out your hand of compassion that we may be chastened by your show of mercy and reach out to others in reconciliation.
Lord, we look to you in whom we hope
As we contemplate our end, make us mindful of your promise of a new beginning that we may share your promise of life and bring hope to those who sit in darkness.
Lord, we look to you in whom we hope
As we remember Elizabeth in her barrenness, fill us with longing for the birth of a new creation that we too may be surprised with joy and labour with those who seek to make all things new.
Lord, we look to you in whom we hope
As John leapt in his mother’s womb, help us so to recognise Christ in friend and stranger that we may respond in love and learn to serve our neighbour with generosity not judgement.
Lord, we look to you in whom we hope
As Mary and Elizabeth sought each other, grant us the wisdom to recognise our needs that we too may seek each other in solidarity and offer strength to the powerless.
Lord, we look to you in whom we hope
As Mary proclaimed the salvation of the Lord, give us courage to stand alongside the downtrodden that we may sing of their hopes and join hands to realise their dreams.
Lord, we look to you in whom we hope and whom we long to see.
Litany of Mary of Nazareth
Glory to you, God of our Creator … Breath into us new life, new meaning. Glory to you, God our Savior … Lead us in the way of peace and justice. Glory to you, God, healing Spirit … Transform us to empower others.
Mary, wellspring of peace ………. Be our guide, Model of strength Model of gentleness Model of trust Model of courage Model of patience Model of risk Model of openness Model of perseverance
Mother of the liberator ………. Pray for us. Mother of the homeless Mother of the dying Mother of the nonviolent Widowed mother Unwed mother Mother of political prisoner Mother of the condemned Mother of an executed criminal
Oppressed woman ………. Lead us to life. Liberator of the oppressed Marginalized woman Comforter of the afflicted Cause of our joy Sign of contradiction Breaker of bondage Political refugee Seeker of sanctuary First disciple Sharer in Christ’s ministry Participant in Christ’s passion Seeker of God’s will Witness to Christ’s resurrection
Woman of mercy ………. Empower us. Woman of faith Woman of contemplation Woman of vision Woman of wisdom and understanding Woman of grace and truth Woman, pregnant with hope Woman, centered in God
Mary, Queen of Peace, we entrust our lives to you. Shelter us from war, hatred and oppression. Teach us to live in peace, to educate ourselves for peace. Inspire us to act justly, to revere all God has made. Root peace firmly in our hearts and in our world. Amen.
From: The Fire of Peace: A Prayer Book Compiled and edited by Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB Pax Christi USA
Reading: God’s Call to Mary by Joan Chittister
To entitle the call of God to Mary the ‘annunciation’ is, at best, misleading. Somehow or another,‘annunciation’ just doesn’t say it. ‘Cataclysm’, perhaps. ‘Prophecy,’ maybe. But ‘Annunciation. Never. This, after all was no routine summons. This was an earth shattering, life-changing, revolutionary call. This was what happens when life is completely turned around, when the house burns down or the job disappears, or the stock market crashes. This was the kind of moment that called for that same kind of strength and faith and character. And Mary, the woman, though ‘deeply disturbed’ had more than enough of it all. She felt the truth of who she was within her. More than that, she felt the truth of who God is. Mary knew that God’s favour was indeed with her and that was enough to lead her on. It doesn’t hurt to remember, at times in which extraordinary witness, extraordinary faith, extraordinary commitment are required of us, that God’s favour is there with us too, to sustain the stress of bringing justice and love to birth and turning the world around – when neither the neighbourhood nor the nation want that to happen.
Prayer is a special activity we can do with the children in our lives, deepening our relationship with them, and their connection with God.
Prayer is a conversation with God. It need not be formal and there are no rules, so whether the child you would like to pray with is used to praying or not, there are many ideas that can make it an enjoyable activity that brings peace to both you and the little one you are praying with.
Some tips for praying with children
Teaching children they can pray whenever they like and wherever they like is a gift they will carry with them through life. By encouraging them to talk to God whenever they feel and want to, they are encouraged to connect with their feelings and emotions and develop a sense of safety in the continual love of Christ.
More formal prayer settings also have a role in a child’s journey through life, and there’s no better time than Advent to embrace the magic and miracle of Christ’s birth.
Here are some tips you might want to consider when praying with Children this Advent:
Set up a simple crib scene and light a candle to signify your prayer. Children find the story of the Nativity compelling, so in your own words try to tell them the story and what it means to you. Perhaps ask questions such as “how do you think Mary and Joseph felt when they couldn’t find anywhere to stay?” to encourage empathy with the story.
Try to encourage the child to imagine Jesus beside them as their closest friend; someone they can say anything to and with whom they can confide any worries.
Encourage the child to embrace gratitude by asking them to list the things they are grateful for in life and acknowledge that others may not be so fortunate.
Introduce them to the simple concept of abandonment by encouraging them to ask for God’s help and Grace in their daily lives.
A simple prayer for Advent
Here’s a simple prayer appropriate for children, that you might want to use this Advent:
My little Lord Jesus, I love You and thank You for this Advent season. Please help me to understand all that You have done for me. Your loving mother held You in her heart and brought You into this world. Help me to do the same.
My loving Jesus, I choose You, this Advent, as my King and my God. Draw me close to You and help me to see my sins so that I can change the things that You want me to change.
Mother Mary, pray for me this Advent so that I may do all that God wants me to do. You said “Yes” to all that God asked of you. Please pray for me that I may do the same.
Come, Lord Jesus, Come, Lord Jesus, Come, Lord Jesus, come! I love You, Jesus.