Online Event – Spirituality in Later Life

Growing Old Grace-fully is hosting six online sessions in 2024.

The first is Spirituality in Later Life: Praying Beyond Words, on Tuesday 14th May, 7:00-8:00pm with Fr Donal Lucey and Paula Shanks. 

The session, with reflections and music, is being led by Father Donal Lucey and Paula Shanks. Fr. Donal is a retired Catholic priest of the Leeds Diocese, he was latterly parish priest in Garforth and in Harrogate and is the Chaplain to Faith and Light. Paula has a background in teaching and is trained in Ignatian spiritual accompaniment.

The session will start at 7pm and finish at 8pm.

To reserve your place, please book a free ticket on Eventbrite here.  

Please do also share this with anyone you think may be interested in this session and the work of Growing Old Grace-fully. 

The next two online sessions will be on these dates:

Wednesday 12th June – 2:30-3:30pm
Thursday 18th July – 7:00-8:00pm

Best wishes,
Carol Burns
On behalf of the Trustees of Growing Old Grace-fully

Easter Prayers

Resurrection Light

Risen Christ, when darkness overwhelms us
may your dawn beckon.

When fear paralyses us 
may your touch release us.

When grief torments us 
may your peace enfold us.

When memories haunt us 
may your presence heal us.

When justice fails us 
may your anger ignite us.

When apathy stagnates us 
may your challenge renew us.

When courage leaves us 
may your spirit inspire us.

When despair grips us 
may your hope restore us. 

And when death threatens us 
may your resurrection light lead us.

Amen.

Annabel Shilson-Thomas/CAFOD

You Are the Resurrection

How wonderful, Lord Jesus, you came back
You suffered death but conquered it
You laid in the tomb but on the third day
You rose again
O joyful day, Lord Jesus, when you returned
You are the resurrection, our hope and our life
O glorious and victorious Redeemer

Help us not to be afraid of death
For we must pass through it to see you face to face
And on the last day we will rise again
For you said so
Let us rejoice and praise you
Our Blessed and triumphant Lord
On this happy, joyful feast.

Amen.

Diana Ng-Sutherland/CAFOD

Prayers for Lent 2024

Lent is the time when we engage in a period of reflection, repentance, and spiritual renewal in preparation for Easter.

Central to this observance is prayer, which serve as a means of deepening one’s connection with God, seeking forgiveness for shortcomings, and strengthening faith.

Through prayer, we seek to emulate Christ’s forty days of fasting and prayer in the desert, drawing closer to God and embracing a spirit of self-discipline and humility. Lenten prayers are an integral part of the Catholic journey during this sacred season, guiding us toward spiritual growth, transformation, and a deeper understanding of God’s love and mercy.

In this particular Lent, we share the anguish of Jesus in the desert as we view the state of the current world today, its conflicts, anger and hatred, all the antithesis of the message of Christ. We unite our challenges, our ailments and our sufferings with the torment of Jesus over the state of the Earth to help us prepare for Holy Week, the chance of forgiveness, redemption and renewal for us and humanity.

Here are three prayers for Lent. See also our Lent resources page for further reflection and prayers.

The desert waits (an invitation to Lent)

The desert waits,
ready for those who come,
who come obedient to the Spirit’s leading;
or who are driven,
because they will not come the other way.

The desert always waits,
ready to let us know who we are-
the place of self-discovery.

And whilst we fear and rightly,
the loneliness and emptiness and harshness,
we forget the angels,
whom we cannot see because of our blindness,
but who come when God decides.
that we need their help;
when we are ready
for what they can give us

Amen.

Ruth Burgess from ‘Eggs and Ashes’ (1990)

The Beatitudes (inspired by Matthew 5:3-12)

Blessed are the poor…
not the penniless
but those whose heart is free.

Blessed are those who mourn…
not those who whimper
but those who raise their voices.

Blessed are the meek…
not the soft
but those who are patient and tolerant.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice…
not those who whine
but those who struggle.

Blessed are the merciful…
not those who forget
but those who forgive.

Blessed are the pure in heart….
not those who act like angels
but those whose life is transparent.

Blessed are the peacemakers
not those who shun conflict
but those who face it squarely.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for justice…
Not because they suffer
But because they love.

Amen.

P. Jacob in ‘Bread for Tomorrow’.

Cafod Lent Prayer 2024

Loving God,
when our boat is rocked
on the sea of life,
by poverty, illness or disaster,
you quiet the waves,
calm the storm,
and lead us safely to shore.

When we work hard,
for our daily bread,
but at the end of the day go hungry,
you walk alongside us,
calling, “cast out your nets”,
knowing there is enough for all.

When we are lost,
and uncertain of how
to make a change in our world,
your words ring out:
“Come, follow me”,
guiding us to new life with you.

Lead us then, Lord, to play our part
in calming the storm
and sharing your gifts with each other,
so that all people throughout the world
may look to the future with hope.

Amen.

Catherine Gorman/CAFOD

Lent Resources 2024

Pope Francis Lent message 2024

In his message for Lent 2024, Pope Francis invites the faithful to “pause” for prayer and to assist our brothers and sisters in need, in order to change our own lives and the lives of our communities.

Cafod Lent resources 2024

CAFOD have a range of Lent resources including prayers, reflections and an interactive calendar.  Sign up to the calendar and receive daily Lent emails of prayer, reflection and practical actions, offering an opportunity to pause, reflect and pray as we prepare for Easter.

Independent Catholic News resources

Independent Catholic News have published a series of resources for Lent 2024, from books, to apps, online series, email reflections and activities to choose from – listed in alphabetical order.

Happy Christmas from Growing Old Grace-fully

Our advent journey’s end – and a new beginning

As we reach the end of Advent, we celebrate the joyous feast of Christmas.

It is a moment when we contemplate the mystery of the Incarnation, the divine becoming human, and the immense love of God manifest in the humblest of forms. In the midst of the festive decorations and the warmth of our gatherings, let us take a moment to turn our hearts toward prayer, seeking to deepen our understanding of the profound significance of this holy season.

As we pray during this Christmas season, let us ponder the miracle of the Nativity, where heaven touched earth in the form of a tiny child born in a humble manger. Christmas is a celebration of hope, peace, and love, encapsulated in the gift of God’s Son to humanity.

At this challenging time in human history and facing the challenges of our own lives, we celebrate that the darkness is pierced with the greatest light to shine for all humanity. The words of the angel to the shepherds echo through time, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10).

In our prayers, let us express gratitude for the light that Jesus brought into the world—a light that dispels darkness and offers us the path to eternal life. May we find inspiration in the Holy Family, reflecting on the obedience of Mary, the courage of Joseph, and the vulnerability of the newborn King. As we exchange Christmas greetings, perhaps give and receive gifts and share meals with loved ones, let our prayers extend to those who are lonely, marginalised, or suffering, echoing the compassionate spirit of Christ.

This Christmas, may our hearts be filled with the true meaning of the season, and may our prayers unite us in a sense of shared joy and purpose. Let us open our hearts to receive the abundant blessings that flow from the manger in Bethlehem, embracing the transformative power of God’s love and mercy. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, we offer these prayers, entrusting ourselves to the grace of the Christ Child born on this holy night.

Growing Old Grace-fully, Christmas 2023

Here are three Christmas prayers:

God of Joy

Remind me to rejoice 
Wrapped up in my Christmas gifts 
Tied down in my debts 
I have forgotten   

God of peace, 
Remind me of your calm 
In my anxiety 
And in my haste 
I have forgotten   

God of all 
Remind me 
Of the true light of Christmas 
Of your gift shared

In my own wants 
And in my own needs 
I have forgotten 
Wrapped up  in my little world 
Remind me of your world 
God of joy, remind me 
To rejoice 

Amen.

Linda Jones/CAFOD

Unadorned King

In the star we see the cross;
Its points, the thorns,
The azure ring, his robe.
The light which shines on all
The arms which embrace all. 

And this despite their mockery,
Mock majesty, pageant pantomime and pomp.
All human conceptions of kingship
Border on the Vaudeville
Verge on the burlesque. 

Kings in a stable out of proportion
Distorted, like the body on the cross.
Our attempt to nail down
Divinity Racked and disjointed,
Still suffering our mock homage. 

Cast crowns, cast lots, cast off your
Tawdry kind of kingship –
So much dressing up –
Christ rides triumphant over cast-down cloaks
Every inch a king with none of the apparel. 

His crown, the star
The cross, his throne where he
Invests the cosmos with his gift of Love, unadorned.

Amen.

Sr Laurentia Johns OSB, Stanbrook Abbey

The Hope of Christmas

The hope of Christmas
God, our dayspring and our dawn,
We turn to you when we fear the dark
And all around us weep.
We pray you greet us with your shining light
That we may spread your warm embrace
And kindle the hope of Christmas
In all whose lives remain in shadow.
Come and be our strength
O Lord, our hope and our salvation.

Amen.

Annabel Shilson-Thomas/CAFOD

Prayers for Advent 2023

Journeying with Hope – Advent prayers

Advent, a season of anticipation and preparation, invites us to pause, reflect, and open our hearts to the profound mystery of Christ’s coming at Christmas.

In this special time, we find solace in the promise of hope, the light that pierces through the darkness, illuminating our path towards spiritual renewal and transformation.

At this difficult and distressing time in history, with so much conflict, we pray with the hope of Christ for peace and for justice as we reflect on the true message of Jesus’ birth in an dirty, drafty stable, far from home and material comforts.

As we are surrounded by commercial messages and the fake Christmas of the commercial world, we instead recall and reflect on the difficult, stressful and exhausting journey made by Mary and Joseph as we prepare for true Christmas.

As another year draws to an end, we also reflect on our own lives, our successes and failures, joys and sorrows, challenges and blessings and unite them all with this journey towards the first Christmas, towards hope, joy and the light of Christ.

Here are three Advent prayers to use during December as we prepare, reflect and above all, hope.

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

Advent litany: Lord, we look to you

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

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

A message from the Board – December 2023

Dear Friends,

I am writing as we begin the next four weeks of Advent preparing for the gift of God’s son to the world, to announce that our our period of waiting for a new worker for Growing Old Grace-fully is over!

I am very pleased with funding support from the Diocese, the Day for Life fund of the Bishop’s Conference and Holy Child Sisters, we have engaged a freelance worker to support our work.

Welcome to Greg Mulholland who will be working with us part-time for the next year.

Greg is an experienced communications professional and will build on the excellent work of our previous freelance workers, in taking forward the work of Growing Old Grace-fully and delivering our vision and mission.

We have a clear brief to organise Zoom meetings to support parishes to be more Later Life friendly, as well as working with two parishes more intensely to support them in their work with older people. This is of course on top of our communications to our subscribers and supporters.

Greg says, “I’m delighted to be working with Growing Old Grace-fully, to deliver its important vision and mission in our Diocese and I look forward to working with the Board, volunteers and parishes to help older people across the Catholic Diocese of Leeds experience spiritual, emotional and physical wellbeing in positive and inclusive parish communities”.

We are looking for parishes to work with us on this in the next year. Do please contact us at growing.old.gracefully@dioceseofleeds.org.uk if your parish is interested in taking part in this.

This December mailing includes an Advent reflection from a member of our board of trustees, Pippa Bonner and some suggestions for prayers which you may want to use yourself or share with other parishioners

With blessings for Advent,

Best wishes,

Carol Burns and trustees of Growing Old Gracefully

Advent: A Time of Challenge and Hope – A Reflection from Pippa Bonner

When I was a child I was on the verge of tears when I sang the words of the carol “In the Bleak Midwinter” written by Christina G Rossetti (1830-1864.) (1) 

“In the bleak midwinter 
frosty wind made moan, 
earth stood hard as iron, 
water like a stone;” 

 It sounded bleak, hard and cold. I lived in Scotland where I could understand that ”snow had fallen, snow on snow”…. I realised that a Bethlehem birth might be cold and hard, but perhaps little snow. I knew the point was that the Son of God was born in very humble, challenging, drafty circumstances away from family and community. As I grew older, I appreciated more the challenge that Mary and Joseph faced travelling for some uncomfortable days in late pregnancy, on the orders of an occupying regime to register their names. It may be on that journey Mary did not have the understanding and support of some of her extended family. They found it difficult to find accommodation as many others had also travelled to register. The unexpected, miraculous pregnancy perhaps was not accepted by some in the couple’s families. Joseph likely saved Mary’s life from stoning, a punishment for supposed infidelity and pregnancy outside of a betrothal or marriage. Her reputation, and his, may have taken longer to be restored. 

 We know too that they became refugees when Jesus was still very young. It must have been traumatic in a regional massacre to hide their child and make a perilous journey to Egypt.  

As I write, Palestinian refugees are making a treacherous journey amidst bombs and gunfire: women, some pregnant, men, many older people, children, newborn babies are riding on carts and are walking to South Gaza adjoining the Egyptian border. Many Jews support the Palestinians but the fighting between Israeli soldiers and Hamas has brought death, injury, homelessness and fear. The modern refugees are taking a dangerous journey. Did Mary and Joseph find food, water and shelter along the way? Did they have to hide? How long did they have to stay before travelling back to their homeland to Nazareth? Were they welcomed or not when they got to Egypt? Many modern-day refugees encounter danger, hostility, rejection, and a great sense of trauma and loss about what they have left behind. 

The amazing belief we have in preparing for Advent is the Incarnation, the birth of the Messiah, the great hope enfleshed… 

Advent is a time of preparation and above all a time of hope! As an older woman, every year I appreciate more that Advent is a time of hope. Amidst war in the Middle East and Ukraine and around the world the Saviour, a Sign of Hope and Peace is born. 

Christina Rossetti’s poem finishes: 

” What can I give him, 
poor as I am? 
If I were a shepherd 
I would bring a lamb; 
if I were a wise man 
I would do my part; 
yet what can I give him – 
give my heart.” 

As an older woman this last verse still moves me. Whatever our situation: enough money to pay our bills or not; working or retired; living with others or alone; bereaved; with plans for a way forward or not; security, directly affected by war, trauma, grief or poverty or watching it on T.V., we all have ups and downs. During Advent we bring to God ourselves, our spiritual gifts, our time, our life experience… and our hearts. Christmas brings hope. There are hymns, prayers, online Advent Resources from the Jesuits, Franciscans and others, parish and diocesan events and numerous ways in which we can prepare for Christ’s birth, whether individually or communally.  

Christ brings Challenge AND Hope.  

May you have a Blessed Advent and a Happy, Blessed Christmas! 

Pippa Bonner, December 2023

(1) In the Bleak Midwinter by Christina Rossetti.  

(Published by many including Decani Music, Suffolk 1999. No copyright holder given. Laudate Hymnal number 144.) 

A Prayer for Peace in Ukraine: Господи помилуй, Lord have Mercy

When we are lost for words, prayers and laments like this one by Rev Jon Swales can help us express our heart’s desire to our Almighty God.

Father of Creation,
God of Peace,

The world has changed,
And so have our hearts,
As we face disappointment, 
disorientation and distress
Not knowing what will happen next.

Lord have mercy,

Christ have mercy.

Putin and the Masters of War
Have opened the door to the beasts of war,
And it may overwhelm us.
Who is like the beast?
Who can fight against it?

Yet our grief, anxiety and fear
is nothing compared to that faced
by ordinary people living in Ukraine.

So we pray for,
The brave and the scared,
The soldier and civilian,
The elderly and the newborn,

Lord have mercy,

Christ have mercy. 

And so we pray for,
Those who have decided to fight,
Those who have decided to flee,
Those who resist but choose not to kill.

Lord have mercy.

Christ have mercy.

And so we pray for 
Those who this day will be wounded,
Those who this day will die,
Those who this day will mourn. 

Lord have mercy,

Christ have mercy

Father of Compassion,
God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

We look to you,
In a world at war,
For hope, healing and help,
For grace, goodness and guidance,
For the cessation of war and the flourishing of peace.

Lord have mercy,

Christ have mercy. 

Father of Peace,
God of Hope, 

After crucifixion,
Your Son was laid silent in the grave,
And then you spoke and he was raised to life.

Violence does not win,
It will not have the last word,
Death does not win,
It will not have the last word.

In the reconciliation of all things,
War will be no more.
In the reconciliation of all things,
All tears will be wiped away.
In the reconciliation of all things,
There will be a tree for the healing of the nations. 

Lord have mercy,

Christ have mercy.

Hospody pomyluy, Господи помилуй

Christ have mercy. 

Amen

To listen to this prayer being read by Rev Jon Swales, please click on the link below:

Lament and Hope: Prayers for Peace and Justice: A Prayer for Peace in Ukraine

You can find more laments, prayers and poems on the same podcast site, some are about the climate change disaster, some were in response to Covid, and there are more about the Ukraine as well.

Rev Jon Swales is Lighthouse Mission Priest (C of E) at Lighthouse West Yorkshire, which is is a fresh expression of church and registered Leeds-based charity which reaches out to those who are battered and bruised by the storms of life.

‘Healer of all Hurts, how long?’ – A Lament by Jon Swales

Father God,
Healer of All Hurts.

We come to you in our hour of need saying.

How Long? O Lord.
How Long?

We find our ourselves caught up in the storm of Covid.
We feel stranded and alone,
Cut off from those we love.

How Long? O Lord.
How Long.

We face shipwreck and catastrophe,
Battered and bruised by the storm of this pandemic.

Our nation is in peril,
Our NHS is stretched,
Our Souls feel anxious and afraid.

How Long? O Lord.
How Long?

Healer of all hurts,
We come to you in our hour of need pleading.

That you would still the wind and waves,


And act,
And move,
And comfort,
And heal,
And embrace us in your healing hands.

Covenant God,
Father of Lights,
We bring before your tender love.

Those who are sick,
Lord have mercy, Christ Have mercy.

Front Line workers for protection and resilience,
Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.

For energy and patience for those homeschooling,
Lord have mercy, Christ Have mercy.

For the vulnerable and those shielding,
Lord have mercy, Christ Have mercy.

For ourselves in our boredom, frustration and anxiety.
Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.

Father God,
Healer of All Hurts.
We come to you in our hour of need praising you,
That you do not leave us,
or forsake us.
You have shown your love to us in Jesus.

Covenant God,
Father of Lights,
We come to you in our hour of need praising you,
That there is not a hurt you will not heal.
Nor a tear you will not wipe away.
You have shown your love to us in Jesus.

We praise you that in Jesus is a balm to soothe our souls.
We praise you that in Jesus there is always hope.
We praise that in Jesus all will be well.

Until that day,
We Weep and Pray.

How Long? O Lord,
How Long?

Written by Rev Jon Swales, January 2021

Jon is Lighthouse Mission Priest (C of E) at Lighthouse West Yorkshire, which is is a fresh expression of church and registered Leeds-based charity which reaches out to those who are battered and bruised by the storms of life.

Find out more on their website.