Laudato Si’ group meeting

Columba Timmins from Sheffield joins as a special guest

Cheltenham Laudato Si’ Circle continues its regular meetings online. Between 8 and 9pm on Wednesday 29th, Columba Timmins from Sheffield joins as a special guest: she is one of the environment leads appointed by the Bishop for her Hallam Diocese. To access the meeting via zoom, the link is: Meeting ID 860 0643 5477, Passcode 518210. All welcome. For further details, ring 01242 244182 or email

St Alban, Martyr (20th June)

II Kings 17.5-8,13-15,18; Psalm 59; Matthew 7.1-5

St Alban (his birthdate is unknown, and his death date is disputed, between 209-305) is the first recorded martyr on British soil. He lived in the town known in Roman times as Verulamium (today it is the city of St Albans) but his socioeconomic status is unknown. He gave shelter to a priest (traditionally known as Amphibalus, from the Latin word meaning ‘cloak’) who was fleeing persecution. He was so impressed with the priest’s faith and piety that he became a Christian himself, and when soldiers came to his door searching for the priest Alban put on the priest’s cloak and presented himself as the priest they were pursuing. The ruse was discovered, and Alban was himself taken before the authorities, the judge who heard the case outraged that he would protect such a perfidious person. Alban was commanded to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods, and when he refused, asserting that ‘I worship and adore the true and living God who created all things’, he was condemned to death.

He was led out to be executed. They reached the River Ver where Alban, desiring that martyrdom should come quickly, prayed and the river dried up, allowing Alban and his captors to cross on dry land. One astonished executioner threw down his sword and professed his desire to be martyred along with Alban. At the summit of a hill Alban was thirsty and prayed for a drink; there a well sprung up miraculously. Alban was beheaded and a variety of miracles were attested at the place; a cult of the martyr grew up (perhaps as early as the early 4th Century) and spread to Europe, in the Rhine and Rhone valleys, the French Alps, Switzerland and Italy.

Friday of week 11 in Ordinary Time

A story of Kings and Princes and a wicked step mother figures...

2 Kings 11:1-4,9-18,20; Psalm 131(132):11-14,17-18; Matthew 6:19-23

1 Kings 21:1 to 2 Kings 11:20

Each day this week the book of Kings has been used for the first reading. Rather than reflect on this daily, it is wiser to read the whole section again in one sitting, and consider it as one historical narrative. Like Chronicles, the book of Kings is an historical record, more so than the proverbs, psalms and prophets which have more to do with developing our relationship with our God. Nevertheless the historical books are not there simply to give a verifiable history of the early development of Israel's faith with God, but as has been said elsewhere, "Those who do not learn the lessons of History are condemned to repeat it" (widely reported to have been first said by the American philosopher George Santayana.)

What might we learn?

Ahab covets Naboth's vineyard and Jezebel has him killed: a story of desire to have what belongs to others, leading to murder of the other. We can probably readily think of very recent invasions of other people's territory (Russia - Ukraine) which is driven by the desire to own what others have. How could this have been prevented? A more open and sharing relationship between Europe and Russia perhaps?

The punishment of Ahab and Jezebel foretold: When confronted by what they had done, Ahab shows repentance and begs for forgiveness. Most modern politicians do stick to their earlier public statements and policies - it is rare to see repentance when things have gone badly and repentance when it comes is often seen as humiliation (and our tendency is to mock those who repent). Can we remember the 'humour' surrounding Nick Clegg for his 'Im sorry' speech? Or the mis-trust around Tony Blair who was never forgiven for mis-leading the house of commons over weapons of mass destruction? Or the present turmoil in the conservative party? Perhaps we as a people need to show genuine forgiveness when public figures are in the wrong - then they might be more willing to repent earlier and sort out problems faster?

Elijah is taken up to heaven: This section of Kings is rich in typology - writings that reflect other events in our journey with God. The red sea is parted, so is the river Jordan, Elijah ascends, so does Jesus, and so on. These details fasten the old testament to the new, like staples holding two different materials firmly together, and we are assured of the significance of the rest of the material through these more obvious links.

The spirit of Elijah fills Elisha:  The principal of handing on the gifts, powers and meaning from King to King is expounded here - the same leads to ou understanding of the 'Apostolic succession' - that our Kingship (we are baptised Priest, Prophet and King) is handed down to each of us directly from the Apostles - and to them from Christ himself.

Saved from the massacre, the true king is anointed by the high priest: A nation split into the 'ruling class' and the ordinary people - eventually leads to rebellion, and the people re-instate the kingly line (having symbolically taken up the arms of King David that were in the museum part of the temple). We often see a political leadership that looses the common touch and takes the country away from what people really desire. Within the people, the truth lies and always will re-emerge to establish a just and equitable leadership.


Thursday of week 11

How to pray

Ecclesiasticus 48:1-15; Psalm 96(97):1-7; Matthew 6:7-15

As Matthew structured his recording of Jesus' preaching, the collection being called 'The Sermon on the Mount', right in the middle, the most important place, we find Jesus teaching us how to pray. The Our Father is more of a how to pray lesson, than a what to pray lesson - but as a handy prayer to say it is beyond comparison. It is one of the prayers that all Christians, and most people in our country, will be able to say from memory, so it has strong powers of unification.

Here is one of many ways too use the Our Father - to guide is towards understanding how the prayer teaches how to pray.

Or you might simply want to listen to the Our Father prayed for you.

Or a one hour study...

Wednesday of week 11

Your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you

2 Kings 2:1,6-14; Psalm 30(31):20,21,24; Matthew 6:1-6,16-18

Matthew uses a polished structure here, with three memorable and easily digested points linked together with the memorable and repeated phrase 'I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward'. We all know, from sermons given at the start of or during Lent, that we need to exercise Prayer, Fasting and Alms-giving. This is the source of that structure.

  • Prayer - everything we do should be wrapped in prayer. Pray before undertaking something, seeking and expecting guidance to choose wisely and prepare well. And pray after in thanks-giving.
  • Fasting - do not take for yourself what you do not need. It won't do you any good, possessions become a burden, wealth can bring guilt, too much food can lead to health issues.
  • Give Alms - and don't just give alms, as how you do this is important. Even your own left hand should not know what your right is giving away!

It really is not necessary for others to know what you have done - God will know. And God will reward you in the kingdom to come.

Tuesday of week 11

Pray for those who persecute you

1 Kings 21:17-29; Psalm 50:3-6,11,16; Matthew 5:43-48

Hot on the heels, as it were, of yesterdays' message, another hard saying of Jesus comes our way. "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you", rather than the old testament way of "love your neighbour and hate your enemy". Perhaps Our Lord is expanding upon his response to the question of the Scribe who asked Jesus:  "Lord. who is my neighbour?" (Luke 10: 25-37). Now the scribe would probably have understood neighbour to mean all fellow Israelites, and specifically not those of other race or religion (Leviticus 19:18). Jesus responds with the Parable of the good Samaritan - which to the ears of his time would have sounded outrageous - that a foreigner could be a better neighbour than a Rabbi!

There is an important point to note - that Jesus says "you have learnt to love your neighbour and hate your enemy". But there is no line of scripture anywhere that tells us to do that. The Leviticus instruction was to love your neighbours and could be - was indeed - interpreted to mean that therefore those who are not your neighbour are to receive the opposite of love, which is hate.

But although that was clearly what Jesus said,  His  message is to contradict it. In today's encounter we clearly see that we must love our enemies - including those persecuting us. The language of comparison and conflict has been used to guide us to the real truth of how we must live our lives.

Today, let us pray that those engaging in conflicts, will Love their enemies. Through a real Love of our opponents will come the strength to deal with them justly and fairly, sparring life and injury whenever that is possible, even if the participation in that fight is justified (as discussed yesterday).

Every blow must become a blow for peace.


St Anthony of Padua

Monday of Week 11 in Ordinary Time

Psalter Week 3

1 Kings 21:1-16; Psalm 5:2-3,5-7; Matthew 5:38-42

One of the most frequently mis-used quotes in the Bible is in today's reading from Kings - 'Eye for Eye, Tooth for Tooth'. The popular idea seems to be that one should be allowed to  extract just revenge for wrong done. Much mischief is made of this - but Jesus was not encouraging this behaviour. The original actual meaning of the eye for eye rule was to limit revenge to no more than the damage caused to the plaintiff. Exodus 21, Leviticus 24 and Deuteronomy 19 all discuss this revenge.

Jesus goes way further - Jesus says 'offer the wicked no resistance'. This is a very challenging command. What should we do for example, if an aggressor storms into our country with overpowering military might and tries to take over? The natural human response is of course to fight back, to defend. Under old testament law then, we would be justified in fighting back with the same - but no more - military force as used against us. Jesus is challenging us with a very different approach - offer no resistance to the wicked. There is a very real need to discuss this in the context of the current situation in Ukraine. Finding the right answer is so difficult as we are equally justified in defending the weak against oppression.

St Thomas Aquinas, established int he 13th Centruy, three conditions for a Catholic to engage in war in a just way:

  • It must be waged by lawful public authority in defense of the common good;
  • It must be waged for a just cause;
  • It must be waged with the right intention — not vengefully nor to inflict harm.

We must neither be 'hawkish' to use the language of today, nor should we be pacifist as many Quakers are. If all thee of these conditions are met then not only is it just to fight - it is required. Always - one should battle for peace and always, question what we do against these three conditions.

Let us today pray to St Anthony, who forgave sinners and welcomed them back into his life (see the link above) to guide us when we think of Ukraine - and all other convicts big and small.


Saint Barnabas the Apostle

Acts 11.21-26; 13.1-3; Psalm 97; Matthew 5.33-37

Barnabas’ name means ‘son of consolation’ or ‘son of encouragement,’ the ‘son of’ construction an idiom meaning ‘full of.’ He was a Cypriot Jew and a Levite [Acts 4.36], that is, a descendant of the family who had particular rights and duties in the Temple. (They were assistants to the priests, something like choirmen and servers.) St Luke, the author of the Acts of the Apostles, has no hesitation in titling him an apostle [14.14], though he was not one of the Twelve.

Barnabas introduced the newly-converted Saul (Paul) to the Twelve, and together they were sent to Antioch [13.3], the first of Paul’s missionary journeys, beginning from Barnabas’ native Cyprus. [13.4] After establishing the church at Antioch they attended the Council of Jerusalem (around the year 50) and argued for the legitimacy of the mission to the Gentiles. [15.12] After a quarrel between Barnabas and Paul, however, they separated and Barnabas returned to preach in Cyprus. [15.39] Barnabas is celebrated as the founder of the Cypriot Orthodox Church, and tradition holds that he was martyred at Salamis, Cyprus.