A Reflection on the Coronation of King Charles III by Pippa Bonner

Our country has a new King! He became King when his mother died last year. At Growing Old Grace-fully we cebrated his mother’s 70th Jubilee in 2022 with several tea parties. One of GOG’s aims is to celebrate older age. In honouring Queen Elizabeth ‘s Jubilee we celebrated her faith and duty during a long reign at several Jubilee gatherings. We were invited to reflect on our own lives, celebrate them and the value of experience and older age in society. 

King Charles is publicly crowned and anointed as monarch on May 6th. He has become King at the age of 74. This is an age when most retire rather than take on a new, public demanding role. However this is a role he has been aware of and preparing for all his life. All lives have their ups and downs which are highlighted in an era of 24 hour media coverage. As an older person slightly younger than King Charles, I have always been interested in his life including the highs and lows. Many of us of a similar age will compare and contrast some of those highs and lows in our own lives. 

My own view is that he is a sensitive, caring man whose beliefs have come into their own and are now shared by many of us. When he started to talk about the environment and climate change a lot of years ago many dismissed his views. Now we are experiencing the effects of climate change. Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter “Laudato Si” (2020) about the effects of climate change, our need to care for people, our environment and common home has been much read and discussed in Catholic and other circles. It will continue to be an important theme of our lives with ongoing concern and action.  

When Prince Charles indicated many years ago that as future King he would not only be regarded as Head of the Church of England, but, because he recognised many people in the UK practice other Faiths and none, as future King he would represent them too. Many were also disapproving of this view. We live in a multi-cultural, multi-faith society and many of us now recognise that many leaders need to (and indeed should) acknowledge and value this diversity.  

He founded the Princes’ Trust to support young people to start businesses and projects who otherwise might be excluded. Inclusion seems an important aim for all of us in the future.  

King Charles has persisted with his views. What I regard as perhaps prophetic and far seeing ideas, are now accepted as mainstream by many of us in 2023. 

King Charles is now an older man. Let us celebrate his ideas, wisdom, and experience and wish him and Queen Camilla and their family well, and pray for them in the next part of their lives. Let us also celebrate, as older people, that we too have worthwhile ideas, wisdom and experience and pray for ourselves and our families and friends in the next part of our lives too.

A Prayer for King Charles III

Heavenly Father,

We pray to you with grateful hearts on this special day as we witness the coronation of King Charles. We ask that you bless him with your wisdom, your grace and your strength as he takes on the weighty responsibility of leading this nation.

May he always seek your guidance and direction in all of his decisions, and may he be a just and fair ruler who cares deeply for the well-being of his people. Grant him the courage to stand firm in his convictions.

We pray that you surround King Charles with wise and faithful advisors who will help him govern with wisdom and secernment. May his reign be marked by peace, prosperity and justice for all people, regardless of their background or station in life.

We also ask that you protect him and his family from harm and danger, and that you would. Bless them with good health. May they always look to you for comfort and strength in times of trial, and may they be a shining example of your love and care to all who know them.


A reflection for Advent by Pippa Bonner

This year the season of Advent is as long as it possibly can be with the first Sunday of Advent starting on November 27th. Now in the second week of Advent, we continue to prepare for the appearance of Jesus as a tiny baby born in very challenging circumstances. His mother gave birth away from her home town, far from her home and familiar surroundings. Some of her family may have still felt ambivalent about the nature of Mary’s pregnancy. Has Joseph begun to understand it? The Messiah is born in very humble circumstances, soon to become a Refugee.

This year we remember all those born and living in challenging circumstances, born in areas of conflict, like the Holy Land today. This year war is raging in Ukraine, and conflicts around the world are shown daily on our televisions. We remember all who are refugees who are escaping conflict and persecution.

We pray that the hope and joy of Christmas will also be experienced in these difficult times.

Advent is a time of acknowledging paradox. A time of hope and celebration amidst personal and world difficulty, bereavement, illness and loss.

At Growing Old Grace-fully we celebrate the role, gifts and experience of older people. Joseph is traditionally described as an older man. Mary and Jesus must have benefited from his life experience. The Shepherds and Magi may have been mixed age groups: older Shepherds guiding and overseeing the younger ones. It is likely the Magi had a lifetime of study and experience. We know that the Holy Family travelled to Jerusalem to present Jesus in the Temple. They were met by the elderly Simeon and Anna who had been awaiting the Messiah. Let us celebrate them all!

We remember all older people, locally and around the world. Some who are among family and friends, and others who are alone, those fearing food and heating prices, and all who are juggling the blessings and difficulties of older age. Many of us are dealing with the push and pull of life: happy and sad memories of experience and life itself. And if we believe we no longer have a place or sense of agency in life these words of Pope Francis might be encouraging:

“Of one thing I am certain – every human being reveals something of God …a spark of divine light shines from each one of us…every human being has been taken up into the heart of God, conferring on them an infinite divinity.”

The coming of Christ is the joyful, welcoming of the Messiah. And we also know that the incarnate Christ dies and is resurrected for us. My eight year old granddaughter has expressed this paradox (unprompted by me), in her home made Christmas card to me this year. Inside a cheery, snowy, animal card she has drawn a crucified Christ with the heading ” Jesus dies for our sins. ” Behind the cross is Father Christmas and his reindeer and sleigh, and happy Christmas wishes and love from her to me. She has captured the joy and sadness we experience during this season of the Church year.

However, Advent culminates with Christmas. We live with the hope and happiness of Christmas. May you all feel the hope and blessings of Christmas!

Here is part of Joyce Rupp’s “A Christmas Blessing.”

May you give and receive love generously. May this love echo in your heart like the joy of church bells on a clear December day….

May the hope of this sacred season settle in your soul. May it be a foundation of courage for you when times of distress occupy your inner land….

May you daily open the gift of your life and be grateful for the hidden treasures it contains…

May you keep your eye on the Star within you and trust this Luminescent Presence to guide and direct you each day….

May you go often to the Bethlehem of your heart and visit the One who offers you peace. May you bring this peace into our world.”

May you all feel the hope and happiness of Christmas and a blessed New Year!

Pippa Bonner

Where are older people in the Christmas story?

4 advent candles

Recently Fr Diarmuid O’ Murchu spoke to many of us from around the country about imagining the Church of the future. One of the major themes he developed was that wise Elders (older people) are key, alongside younger people, to empower the Church of the future.We older people have a place in the Church. Our discernment, experience and gifts are still important to help build up our church communities. Sometimes we feel invisible and the stories of our lives unnoticed and unimportant.
This Christmas piece is offered as encouragement to think about the Christmas story again, believing that older people might be part of the story too! This exploratory way of looking at Scripture is encouraged by the Jesuit spiritual tradition as it can help us to imagine ourselves in the Gospel story and reflect on what we individually see, hear and think about.
We know that not everything that happened in the Gospels can possibly be included. The narratives were written by at least four people who heard accounts from numerous others, some of whom were eye witnesses and others who were not. The oral tradition of passing on events was very strong at the time.So: here are a few thoughts! If this does not help you to reflect on the Nativity narrative that is fine.You may have other ideas and that is one of the joys of being human – that we are all different.
We understand that Elizabeth, Mary’s relative and her husband Zachariah were older people when Elizabeth became pregnant. And I find the Visitation: this powerful encounter between two pregnant women wondering about the future, and their encouragement of each other is a beautiful early part of the story of the Birth of Jesus.
We know that Mary and Joseph were required to journey to Bethlehem for a compulsory census. The paintings of their journey traditionally depict them travelling alone. But isn’t it more likely that a journey on foot or by cart and donkey taking at least four days would have been done in a group, and probably an extended family group? Joseph at some point decided not to abandon the unexpectedly pregnant Mary. We do not know exactly when he fully reconciled with the situation, and decided to accept her and the baby. It is my hope that though family members might have been suspicious about this pregnancy, seeing them as a loving and patient couple on this arduous journey, they too saw the deep faith both had in God and each other. The accommodation available in Bethlehem was not ideal but I hope that some of the older women in the extended family would have supported Mary at the birth of Jesus and that family members would have helped Mary and Joseph then and subsequently. And what about Mary’s parents Anne and Joachim later in Nazareth?
And what of the shepherds? They were traditionally regarded as marginal members of society and the Angels appeared to them first! There would have likely been older shepherds training the younger ones among the group who went to see Jesus! I like to think that those locally in Bethlehem respected them more after that!
We know that the Magi were a different strata of society. They were wise, knowledgeable and wealthy, and likely to be older members of society as they had the knowledge and confidence to undertake a difficult, arduous journey and take gifts to Jesus. Again, they are traditionally depicted as three men, but there may have been younger disciples, and perhaps some women, alongside their servants in their travelling group. They were from other countries and beliefs, (and in a different way outsiders), but the Nativity story is one of the coming together of different, unexpected, diverse groups to witness Christ’s birth.
We understand Jesus was presented in the Temple forty days after birth. Simeon and Anna are both older people waiting for the Messiah. They pick out Jesus, Mary and Joseph from what was likely a queue amidst a lot of other busy, noisy Temple activities. Simeon’s words of recognition and blessing and Anna’s prophecy and thanks are a powerful and prophetic part of the Nativity narrative from older people.
The timings of the arrival of the Magi, the subsequent flight of the Holy Family to escape the massacre of baby boys, and then their return to Nazareth are unclear. But there are a lot of the parts of the story that we do not know about! But it seems to me there will have been many people who formed part of that story to support the Family in those early years that we do not know about, and it is very likely some of those were older people – like us….

Food: is it Important in our Memories of Family and Parish?

On my way back from a recent Growing Old Gracefully related meeting I serendipitously listened to a Radio 4 Food programme called: “What’s so Special about the Food our Grandmothers Cook?” It recounted some of the tasty and not so tasty meals grandchildren had experienced from grandmothers. The programme reflected the diversity of food: Italian grandmothers cooking fresh pasta every day and a Colombian elder talking about a traditional soup learned from another older woman many years ago. These were both traditional recipes that these women were passing on to others.

It got me thinking: What are our traditional recipes? And do those of us grandparents pass on recipes to future generations? In my family it is more likely grandfathers passing on recipes as my children (now adult) remember the food their grandfather cooked when we went to stay. He was the main cook and his roasts, lasagne, shepherd’s pie and trifles were enjoyed by all of us!

We are a multicultural society and many of us now eat a range of international foods. In our family we may eat a traditional “roast and two veg.” and apple crumble. We also love curry, tandoori, jerk chicken, pasta and pizza. Some of the family are vegan. I was born in Scotland and the next generation of my own family are of Indian, African, Colombian, as well as English and Scottish origin and those cuisines are now part of our family tradition. One of my daughter’s in law wouldn’t forgive me if I didn’t mention her Cornish background. My Yorkshire son–in-law’s signature dish is a seafood paella. He and my sons and daughter are all good cooks.

This programme was about the nurturing influence of grandmothers through their cooking. I only had one grandparent living when I was born and when I was a child she was a widow living with an aunt. Meals were very formal and as young children when we went to stay, (we lived in Scotland and she was in Kent), we were discouraged by my great great aunt from talking at meals unless spoken to. I slept in a little bed in Granny’s room and my favourite time was during her late night cup of tea I would wake up and be offered a biscuit and travel sweet from a tin. Luxury! And this was my talking time with Granny. So it was not her cooking I recalled, ( which apparently was limited, as is mine) but those sweets, and the other treats like going daily to a cafe for lemonade and a cake. With my own limited culinary talent it is more likely the trips out to eat that my grandchildren may remember: pizza and icecreams! It became a tradition while our cheap, local, much loved French Bistro was open that we took our sons,daughters and grandchildren out for supper on Christmas Eve. And in January I take them to the local pantomime with bags of sweets and ice creams.This has become part of our tradition.

I know of one grandmother who has extended family round once a week for an evening meal. I am full of admiration. Her husband with dementia is now in a care home and she goes every evening to feed him his evening meal. Food has always played an important social part in their lives.

Food in parishes is important. The Eucharist is the centre of Catholic life. Food in the parish hall is another important way parishioners meet each other and preserve and build on parish relationships. In our parish tea and coffee after Sunday Mass is attended by 30 or 40 parishioners regularly. It is (hopefully) a welcoming place for new parishioners and a social occasion for all ages keeping in touch with each other in the parish, particularly important as we no longer have our own parish priest and share with a larger neighbouring parish. Our parish hold an annual Seder (Passover) Meal. Every year large numbers of people from our and other churches meet to celebrate the Passover Meal, eating the traditional foods and drink of our Jewish sisters and brothers after we listen to the Readings they use about the Passover from the Old Teastament. At Pentecost we have a tradition of sharing food after Mass: traditional recipes from the countries from which our diverse congregation originally come. We have Indian samosas and sweets, Sri Lankan fishcakes, Portuguese soup, French quiche, Italian and Polish cake, English scones and many other dishes: a wonderful communal way to celebrate our diversity at Pentecost.

So, food is important in families and parishes: culinary traditions whether they are home cooked, trips to cafes and restaurants, or family trips to pantomimes or other foody treats. Parish meals and weekly cups of tea and biscuits in the parish hall are also key in forming and nourishing the life of parish communities.

I enjoyed the Radio 4 programme but I have to confess I didn’t hear it all…I was too busy reminiscing on what was special about the food experiences in my own family and parish. What are your family and food traditions?

Seeking is Seeing

I have recently discovered this Prayer, from an anonymous source, which I find very reassuring. I hope you find it helpful too:
 Seeking God is as good as seeing God.picture of Julian of Norwich

Who, but a saint,

Would know so clearly

That the journey is the reality,

The steps are sight,

The effort is reward,

The seeing is the searching,

The dream is the reality?

Seeking God is seeing God.

 Julian of Norwich

Review of ‘Talkin Bout my Generation’

On a wet Thursday May lunchtime Rachel Walker, GOG’s recently retired Worker, and I went to see a play that was part of Leeds International Festival, featuring a GOG Trustee, Ann West. It was a powerful play called “Talkin’ Bout My Generation.” The ages of the Cast ranged from 62 to 89. They had reflected on their lives – so far- and had written down their memories and thoughts which were developed into a script. The Group was founded and directed by Teresa Brayshaw of Leeds Beckett University. The play is also part of a research project.( An article about the play featured recently in the “I” Newspaper and was reviewed very favourably.)

Rachel and I found ourselves sitting in a pew at Mill Hill Chapel in the centre of Leeds laughing, crying, doing arm exercises and hearing about some of the statistics, experiences and hopes of older people.You will find useful statistics in a section of our GOG Parish Pack, and we always learn more don’t we….? We were challenged about some of the stereotypes of us older people, and I left at the end feeling uplifted and energised.

actors in a playI found the performance really powerful. It was skilfully put together: a melding of serious material and fun. It was moving, informative and funny. There was a really appropriate and good use of the church space and it enhanced the performance being told about a William Morris window. a beautiful Italian mosaic (go and see them!), and that a previous minister Joseph Priestley had been the discoverer of oxygen and soda water and had developed his ideas in this very space! The soda water was given to his friend James Cook the explorer to sustain his crew during their next long sea voyage. I had lived in Birstall, Priestley’s place of birth, so I knew about him but not his connection to the church or soda water!

I realised the cast were sometimes saying words written by themselves or one of their colleagues. Which? The question enhanced the performance and diversified the cast as it didn’t matter who had experienced or thought some of the material. Sometimes I knew they were speaking about their own experience, and sometimes I wasn’t sure, which added interest. During a Brexit discussion: were the Remainers having to advocate Brexit and vice versa? Some read their scripts. Some didn’t.Were references to memory being described by those whose memories were failing or not?

I loved the change of tempo when we were invited to do exercises by Ann who in early retirement had run exercise classes for older people. I found one actor’s recalling the passionate kiss of young love with his wife to be and then falling in love with her anew when she was struggling with cancer that proved fatal, very moving. And then he was searching for his words and another actor intervened to help him out. Was that part of the script or not? And when giving the Notices towards the end of the Play the Minister of Mill Hill Chapel spoke about what we would hear. But, hang on, I had already heard it earlier in the play… Was that a ruse? Deja vue? Or had I imagined it? Was it to help us with a summary? Or was it to give something of the experience of confusion memory loss can bring…

I loved being offered a Toast of wine or the aforesaid mentioned soda water! I loved how the actors were being themselves: the animal loving woman who stroked the stone dog lovingly as she walked past the steps to the pulpit; the organ and piano music played exuberantly by a cast member; the academic describing the church; joining in the exercises and singing a rousing song we had been taught at the end of the performance. Finally, we were given a sprig of Rosemary for remembrance.

I am an older person, working with older people and I learned lots and was hugely entertained.Thank you to the cast of Cinage Theatre company and Leeds Beckett University.