A Psalm for those journeying together with dementia – by Hannah Stone, poet-theologian to the Leeds Church Institute

As we continue to celebrate the successful launch of the transformative book “Journeying Together” by Deacon Joseph Cortis and Pia Matthews, we’d like to highlight a special piece that was shared during the launch event in June – “A Psalm for Those Journeying Together with Dementia”. Penned with profound empathy and insight, this poem delicately captures the profound experiences of caregivers navigating the path of dementia. It is a poetic journey of love, resilience, and unwavering strength. Intricately tied to the narratives explored in “Journeying Together”, this Psalm elevates the book’s essential message of shared struggle and enduring spirit. Witness its heartfelt recitation in our attached video link, or delve into the text for a quiet, personal reflection below.

Lord, you have searched for me and know me as I am.  
If I feel lost, you can find me, still.  
You understand the thoughts of my heart  
even when words escape from me. 
You perceive the way I have in mind  
when my friends cannot see the road ahead.  
You pick up the fragments of my desires,  
provide loving hands to weave these threads  
into garments to protect me.  
Even if I forget to praise you, your faithfulness  
feeds me; you remember my history, 
and share all my discoveries.

Lord, you search with us, and know how we long  
to make smooth the path for our companions, 
sweeping away the obstacles that trip them up. 
When we are bruised and feel broken,  
you soothe us with your wounded hands; 
when our heads ache and spin,  
you lift from them your crown of thorns.  
When loneliness closes us in, 
your presence opens new doors. When we stumble, 
you are there to steady our steps.  
The knowledge of you shines on our high spirits,  
and brightens our lowest moments.  

Lord, you will always know your sheep and search for them, 
the ram, the yearling, the ewe, and lead us  
to the fold, safe from the wolves of the world. 
You will place your laughter in our mouths,  
even as our eyes shed your tears.  
You nourish us at your table, 
and refresh our thirsty souls with grace. 
We are yoked with you in a trinity of care –  
needed, given, received. 
All the day long, you walk with us,  
and when the night closes in, and darkness falls  
there you are, beside us, our place of rest. 

Hannah Stone, poet-theologian to Leeds Church Institute , June 2023 

A Reflection and Prayer for Pentecost: By Carol Burns

pentecost

Pentecost is a remarkable occasion that holds profound meaning for believers around the world. It encompasses a multitude of themes – a time of renewal, new beginnings, and the courage bestowed upon the first Christian community. In the book of Acts, we witness how Pentecost invigorated the apostles, inspiring them to continue the important work of Jesus.

Described vividly in Acts, the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles in the form of flames of fire and a powerful wind. To better grasp the significance of this divine event, individuals living with dementia were asked to describe the characteristics of wind and fire. Their responses were remarkably insightful:

Uncontrollable. Powerful. Sometimes strong, sometimes gentle. Necessary for life. Always moving things. Always changing.

These descriptions strikingly align with the essence of the Holy Spirit, revealing its dynamic and transformative nature.

However, this year, my thoughts were drawn to the words of Peter as he addressed the crowds, referencing the words of the Prophet Joel (Acts 2:17):

“In the last days,” God says, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young will see visions. Your elders will dream dreams.”

These prophetic words echo the profound truth that the outpouring of God’s Spirit during Pentecost is a resounding declaration that God does not abandon individuals in their old age or forsake them when they are frail and weak. On the contrary, God’s Spirit is poured out on all, irrespective of age or station in life.

This revelation presents a compelling challenge to all of us. It reminds us that we are one community, where young and old can collaborate and contribute in their unique ways. Each generation possesses invaluable insights and gifts that, when shared, foster unity, understanding, and progress.

Let us embrace the teachings of Pentecost, recognising that we are all interconnected in God’s divine plan. As we come together, drawing from the wisdom of the older generation and the vision of the young, we can forge a path towards renewal, revitalisation, and a future brimming with hope.

May Pentecost serve as a constant reminder that we are bound together by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Together, we can create a harmonious symphony, where every voice is heard, valued, and celebrated, leading us towards a world where love, compassion, and understanding prevail.

Carol Burns
Chair, Growing Old Grace-fully

A Prayer at Pentecost

Come Holy Spirit, 
enter our silences.

Come Holy Spirit,
into the depths of our longing.

Come Holy Spirit,
our friend and our lover.

Come Holy Spirit, 
unmask our pretending

Come Holy Spirit, 
sustain our weakness. 

Come Holy Spirit, 
redeem our creation. 

Enter our trusting, 
enter our fearing, 
enter our letting go, 
enter our holding back. 

Flood our barren spaces, 
make fertile our deserts within. 
Break us and heal us, 
liberator of our desires .

Come Holy Spirit. 
Embrace us and free us. 

Amen 

(Neil Thew 1990 from “Bread of Tomorrow”, edited by Janet Morley)

Book Launch: ‘Journeying Together’ by Deacon Joseph Cortis and Pia Matthews

Please join us as we celebrate the launch of a remarkable book “Journeying Together” that sheds light on the experiences of caregivers for individuals with dementia. Written by Growing Old Grace-fully trustee Deacon Joe Cortis, in collaboration with Pia Matthews, this poignant work gives voice to those who tirelessly care for their loved ones. The book will be officially launched in Leeds on Tuesday, June 27th, at 1:30 pm. To download the poster with further details please click the link below.

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.

Amen

Jorneying Together: A book for those caring for people with dementia by Deacon Joseph Cortis and Pia Matthews

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.

Resources for Lent 2023 featuring the Pope’s Lenten message and Cafod

The Pope’s Message for Lent 2023

“Our Lenten Journey is ‘Synodal'” Click the link to the Pope’s Message For Lent 2023.

Cafod Lenten Resources

Cafod has published a wealth of resources for Lent including reflections on the stations of the cross and many other prayers and resources.

Lenten Webinars

The Tablet is hosting a series of webinars on the three pillars of Lent; fasting, prayer and almsgiving. To register for attendance, click the link below.

The song of Hosea: ‘Come back to me with all your heart’ – a reflection from Margaret Siberry from the Leeds Justice & Peace Commission

Reconciliation Statue; Coventry Cathedral

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

Overwhelmed by divine grace or overcome by busyness? – A reflection from  Rev. Dr. Joseph D Cortis

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.         

 Rev. Dr. Joseph D Cortis                  

Pray with us: Prayers from various authors and a reading from Joan Chittister

God of Hope

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.

Rachel McCarthy/CAFOD

Adventus

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.   

Amen. 

Ged Johnson/CAFOD

Litany of Advent litany: Lord, we look to you of Nazareth

Compassionate God,

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.

Annabel Shilson-Thomas/CAFOD

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.

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