September 29, 2009



The Rule of St Benedict

September 26, 2009

Rule of St Benedict


Chapter 22 of the Rule of St Benedict says the following:

“They shall sleep separately in separate beds. They shall receive positions for their beds, after the manner of their characters, according to the dispensation of their abbot. If it can be done, they shall all sleep in one place. If, however, their number do not permit it, they shall rest, by tens or twenties, with elders who will concern themselves about them. A candle shall always be burning in that same cell until early in the morning. They shall sleep clothed, and girt with belts or with ropes; and they shall not have their knives at their sides while they sleep, lest perchance in a dream they should wound the sleepers. And let the monks be always on the alert; and, when the signal is given, rising without delay, let them hasten to mutually prepare themselves for the service of God with all gravity and modesty, however. The younger brothers shall not have beds by themselves, but interspersed among those of the elder ones. And when they rise for the service of God, they shall exhort each other mutually with moderation on account of the excuses that those who are sleepy are inclined to make.”

Now of course this is an interesting chapter but I have never found it particularly significant (sorry … but I am being honest!). But you know today, Trish Panton, the International Director of WCCM Benedictine Oblates helped me to see this is a totally new light. She picked up on St Benedict talking about monks not taking their knives to bed. I had always thought this was an entirely practical measure. But Trish challenged us to leave our knives at the side of the bed too! If we are sincere about following the Rule of St Benedict then we do should put aside and seek forgiveness for damage we caused during the day. If we do not we may well damage our own souls and bodies with knives of our own making.



I’m a Soul Man (de Anima II)

September 13, 2009


I’m a soul man. It’s true! I am. But yes you guessed it … not that sort of soul man (don’t cue the music). I was walking through Twickenham the other day and a bus zoomed passed by me. Ironically on the side of the bus was a sign asking “Does God exist?” The proximity of bus could have easily led to me giving an answer a little sooner than I intended to.

I have spent a few years now talking in philosophy and theology classes about the existence of God. We look at all the standard philosophical arguments from St Anselm of Canterbury, through to Descartes and up to the present day with Swinburne. They are of course well constructed arguments. But heavens they leave me unsatisfied, logically complete but spiritually hungry. Increasingly I also feel that talking about the existence of God is not a good starting point.

John Main says the following, “most of us have to take a preliminary step before we can begin to appreciate the full wonder and glorious mystery of this fundamental relationship [ie with God]. Most of us have to get into touch with ourselves first, to get into full relationship with ourselves before we can turn openly to our relationship with God. Putting this another way, we can say that we have first to find, expand and experience our own capacity for peace, for serenity, and for harmony before we can begin to appreciate our God and Creator who is the author of all harmony and serenity.” (Word Into Silence, 206,2). 

I believe there is an urgent need to talk about the soul. A much more interesting debate would be to start with the existence of the soul, where it comes from and where it is going. I repeatedly say to my classes that it is the vision of what it means to be human that needs to be clarified in all our debates. Whatever we watch, read or study always contains an anthropology. Sadly often only a materialistic vision of life is offered. If one brings up God it can lead to alienation especially when speaking to people who do not have a spiritual vision of life. However if you start to speak of a “divine spark” or “divine seed” within the human person often people will respond warmly to this. If we can prove the existence of this, if we can allow people to experience the soul within themselves the door is wide open not just to talk about God but to know him.

September 13, 2009


Fides et Ratio

September 12, 2009

gpii_indexIt is “the duty of Christians now to draw from the rich heritage of the East the elements compatible with their faith in order to enrich Christian thought. The Church of the future will judge herself enriched by all that comes from today’s engagement with Eastern cultures and will find in this inheritance fresh cues for fruitful dialogue with the cultures which will emerge as humanity moves into the future.” 
John Paul II in his Encyclical on Faith and Reason.

September 12, 2009

sereia do mar xilo

A Hora, London 2009.

September 9, 2009

TRIPTYCHfrontfor web

Triptych of Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed 
3 panels 26.25″ x 72″ each in hand cut wood mosaic & oil paint, 1999 – 2001 

Christina Varga

The Lotus and the Cross

September 9, 2009

CLF-buddha&jesusI have mentioned my affection for Prinknash Abbey before. I have just discovered a fascinating article by their former Abbot, Father Aldhelm Cameron-Brown. Father Aldhelm is a very special man and his article The Lotus and the Cross shows the spiritual depth of the man.

“In the field of interfaith dialogue, Roman Catholics and Buddhists seem to get on very well together – I speak of Roman Catholics because I do not know enough about other Churches. If we get on well together, it may be partly because we on the Christian side do not have to ask ourselves, ‘Is the God they worship the God I worship?’ Buddhists do not see the Lord Buddha as God. It is true, he seems to have acquired some aspects of divinity; but then, so has Mary, the Mother of Jesus. She shares in some way in the divine nature, as will we all in the life to come. I must add, though, that when we had lunch with the Tai Situ at Sherab Ling, in the foothills of the Himalayas, a most beautiful site, I spoke about Buddhists and God and he replied, ‘It is too simple to say that Buddhists do not believe in God. What is God? It is a word of three letters. But what is behind that word?’”

The greatness of God

September 6, 2009




When St Therese of Lisieux was looking back over her life she told how it was her father’s custom, when she was quite a small child, to take her out before she went to bed to show her the stars. He told her the names of the planets, how they were grouped and how far they were believed to be, and how everything in the sky was the work of God’s hands. Reflecting in later life on these occasions she judges that they marked her for the beginning of her prayer life. She was not conscious of setting her mind to pray, and there was no set form to her prayer, but in retrospect she thinks that the majesty of God so impressed itself upon her little-girl mind as to evoke a response which must have been prayer. Awe and wonder. The greatness of God. No preoccupations with the worthless self, no particular awareness that prayer is going on.” Dom Hubert van Zeller, The Monastic Way, 2006: 145.

DOWNSIDE ABBEY_smDom Hubert van Zeller (1905–1984) was born in Egypt and entered Downside Abbey at the age of nineteen. He briefly left Downside to try his vocation with the Carthusians. A talented sculptor as well as a writer, his artworks adorn churches in Britain (many works can be seen at Downside abbey) and the United States. He was a friend of the great Catholic writers Msgr. Ronald Knox and Evelyn Waugh, and is the author of Holiness: A Guide for Beginners, Holiness for Housewives, and Spirit of Penance, Path to God.  


Clone of StThereseLittle2

Illustration by A Hora, London, 2009.