Thought for the Week – Beauty

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Beauty is a complex issue –  a huge variety of things are described as beautiful – music, sporting moments, paintings, dancing ….Most people identify beauty with  art.

There are strong claims made for beauty: “Dostoyevsky claimed that,  ‘only beauty will save the world.’  John Keats wrote, “Beauty is truth and truth beauty….That’s all we know and all we need to know.”

John O’Donohue in our own day claimed that, “the contemporary crises of our world can be reduced to a crisis about the nature of beauty”.  He goes on to suggest that the strongest condemnation of modern industrial life is its ugliness rather than its often cruel and crude materialism.

In our complex, rushed world it is easy to miss out on beauty  (even in church) – a world in which efficiency is often valued ahead of beauty. Pope Benedict at his inauguration, called for a greater sense of beauty in liturgy, “if the church is to continue to transform and to humanise the world, how can she dispense with beauty in her liturgies, that beauty which is so closely linked with love and with the radiance of the Resurrection?”

Pope Francis in Laudato Si, claims there is a beauty enfolded in our world, a divine presence in every presence. The Pope is telling us about a new way of looking, a new way of seeing, a new way of being that can see the divine message in everything, see the seeds of beauty scattered everywhere.

He wants us to recapture our sense of beauty – and view our planet the first sacrament of God’s beauty.

Beauty beckons to us and nourishes our spirit – it can take us past the ordinary to the mystical away from the expedient to the endlessly true…it is beauty that can sustain us in the midst of sorrow. Blaise Pascal suggested that in difficult times, you should always carry something beautiful in your heart. Could we add, even in your purse or pocket.  Perhaps it is true, that beauty will save us in the end..


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Thought for the Week – No Ordinary Moments

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Someone told me about a disciple of a Taoist master. The disciple said of the master: “He does not speak; it is enough to watch him sweep.”
The way this master conducted himself in his daily tasks was itself a lesson. The way we conduct ourselves can also be a lesson. Be present to each task – treating every moment as special -then there are no ‘ordinary moments’. Giving advice to oneself or to another is rarely works. W.B. Yeats put this way….
Only that which does not teach
which does not cry out
which does not persuade
which does not condescend
which does not explain
is irresistible. 
Let ones life be a form of instruction without being conscious of the fact. The Italians have a great word: sprezzatura, the apparent effortlessness of an artist in full control of his or her work.
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Thought for the Week – A Christian cannot be a Christian alone

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Bishop Kallistos claims that a Christian cannot be a Christian alone, for to be a person is by definition to be internally related to other persons as the persons of the Trinity are internally related to each other…
Community life often brings a painful revelation of our limitations weaknesses and darkness; the unexpected discovery of the monsters within us is hard to accept – the temptation is to try and destroy them or hide them pretend they don’t exist or to flee the community life and relationships with others or to find that the monsters are theirs  not ours.
As Vanier puts it, “while we are alone we could believe we loved everyone. Now that we are with others, we realise how incapable of loving, how much we deny life to others.”
Today spiritual practice is often done alone – it has become a private affair taking place behind closed doors in the privacy of our homes or bedrooms or our minds, shut off from the community or other people. Tension between individual prayer and community prayer reflects the tension between the  unfolding of a personal call within the life of the community or outside it.  There is a danger that private spirituality can isolate us from others and the wider community. Spiritual growth is growth in the sense of the other – growth outwards – you can always test the effectiveness of your spiritual practice against this criteria.
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Thought for the Week – Cloud Appreciation Society

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There is a Cloud Appreciation Society! They promote the beauty of clouds. They want to balance the the negative associations clouds attract  – someone who is depressed is under a cloud – we speak of a cloud on the horizon if if bad news is in the offing.  We criticise people who live with their head in the clouds rather than with their feet on the ground.
Like most things that are over familiar, we don’t notice them unless that annoy us or obstruct the sun or dump lots of rain on us l
But if you think back to your childhood, when you allowed yourself the time to day dream – most of us were fond of clouds and found shapes in the clouds – two cats doing the salsa….giants fighting.
Engaging in this aimless activity, watching the clouds move gracefully across the sky, helps me to slow down, even calms my agitated body. And I don’t have to rush across the world to find exotic clouds. All I need to do is step outside my home or office and pay attention to what is above – feel the connection to the world around me – experience our beautiful world directly rather than on a screen.
Murroe Website EditorThought for the Week – Cloud Appreciation Society
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Thought for the Week – The centre of life

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We are all looking for something more, especially at this time of they year – more money, more success, more happiness…we often take this urge literally and try to satisfy it with more stuff or even another spiritual theory.
I am by nature a spiritual forager or some might say a spiritual junkie – a soul tourist – attracted to explore the inner life but not wanting to be challenged by it – wanting to avoid the discomfort – constantly looking for something new, switching from one theory to another – constantly seeking but never finding.
It is easy to be seduced by the latest product in the supermarket of spiritual exercises and there is a huge range to choose from and they tend to be linear 7/8/9 step programs each with its own methodology.  Many of these programs are externalist and keep us outside oneself – lost in the wilderness of mechanical, spiritual programs. They can become ends in themselves – and separate me from myself – substituting another activity for the one thing necessary – love!
Perhaps we need to settle and stop wandering from church to church from guru to guru, from theory to theory – searching for a formula outside myself to fill up what is missing inside myself.
The truth is I don’t need to go anywhere to find the God that waits within. I  need to pursue the centre of life which is behind every system – I am the distance between God and me.  We must seek God in the right places – within the sanctuary of the centred self.
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Thought for the Week – The Epiphany

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“The Epiphany is the second great Christmas feast and in its origins it is older than its Christmas Day cousin. The Epiphany, is the feast of the manifestation of the lord to the nations; at the Baptism in the Jordan, the wedding at Cana and the adoration of the Magi. Putting it very simply, today is the feast of everyone who has set out in search of the Redeemer. It is our feast! That is what makes it so important and why this simple story of the Magi resonates so readily with each of us.

The journey we travel to God is very often a journey we travel in spite of ourselves and others. Not only do we encounter various difficulties; the Herod’s who try and trick us, the clouds that obscure our clear vision of the star, the human cruelty which leads so often to the slaughter of the innocents, the slow progress we make on our lumbering camels through the desert of our everyday lives; but we can also provide obstacles for ourselves and even within our very selves. We can be so stubborn and so full of self will.

Led by the star, the Magi fought their way through deserts and over mountains, successfully negotiated their way through indifference and politics until they found this child and could worship him as their Redeemer. This should read as an account of my life story.

By the guiding light of a star we journey through life. Don’t take your eyes off that guiding light. There are one hundred thousand million stars in the Milky Way alone, but only one of them leads us to where we want to go. This is by far the brightest star in the night sky, all I have to do is keep my eyes fixed on it.

When I reach that destination I need that keen vision even more. I have to see in that broken down old stable, the revelation of the Mystery. This is where I’m meant to be. The stable may not look like much, but for me it is more precious than the Taj Mahal! Within lies all my heart desires and so much more.

Then we come to the gifts; gold representing his kingship, frankincense a symbol of his priestly role, and myrrh a prefiguring of his death. They also represent my own life offering. The gold of whatever good I have done, the frankincense of my worship and the myrrh of my own suffering in life. Offering these gifts the Magi bow down and worship. If I am lucky enough to have met the Lord in my life then I know exactly what that feels like and what it means. To have found Him for whom I have been searching; Him for whom my heart longs. The brightest star in the sky may have led me to this spot, but nothing can compare to the brightness that warms within me when I feel that finally, I have come home.”

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Thought for the Week – Wonder

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“We are perishing for want of wonder not for want of wonders.”  G.K. Chesterton….

If I had one wish this New Year it would be for a renewal of a sense of wonder. It is one of the powerful forces we are born with and one of our most useful and underused skills. It  can make each moment new.

A lot of things in daily life would change their hue if we rediscovered the gift of wonder. It is one of the purest forms of joy and it is something we can practice and do almost anywhere – travelling, reading, meeting people or wherever I feel my heart beat or the sun set or the sun rise.

Like any skill, I can lose it – lose the sense of wonder as I move out of childhood or through over familiarity. Hegel, the philosopher, once said that, ‘the familiar precisely because it is familiar is not known”.  So true. John O’Donohue puts it even stronger -“familiarity is one of the most subtle and pervasive forms of human alienation.”

To wonder is enriching in itself but it also can be the moment which births new possibilities into my life.

The next time you go for a walk – try to find something to wonder at….the sound of a bird, the colour or shape of a leaf, the beauty of a cloud.

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Thought for the Week- Can we open our hearts to the stranger ?

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If Christmas has some meaning left, it must be about welcoming the stranger…..the ‘other’.  Hospitality is at the heart of the Christian message – hospitality – not so much about throwing lavish parties but about creating ‘space’ for the other – making sure that the our inn is not so full of stuff that there is simply no room left for the stranger or closed with its doors locked against the stranger who poses a threat to our neatly ordered.
The beauty of the open heart, with room to spare,  is not easy to achieve in a culture which tells us to close ourselves off from the dangerous world around us – where we are taught to protect ourselves and our assets from dilution by the other and focus on ourselves.
And social media, Facebook etc are ensuring that we surround ourselves with like minded people, people whose opinions and prejudices are just like mine – and we end up with ‘my group’ which can lead to hardened borders, divisive elections and divided societies.


We pay our bills, our taxes and in return we get a room in the inn where we can do whatever we like as long as we don’t disturb the people to left or right and keep the stranger out.  “We and they” become the hallmarks of our age – an age awash in refugees and climate immigrants.
Can we do things differently this Christmas, this New Year?  Can we bring ourselves to have less of the ‘I’ and more of the ‘we’.  Can we open our hearts to the stranger in whom the Word lives and who is calling to our boundaried selves to open and widen. Can we create a space within the murky reality of our own confused lives for another human being who is different, alien or challenging for us. For it is the stranger who disarms our perceptions and penetrates our stereotypes about the world who makes the supernatural natural
The disciples on the Road to Emmaus found Jesus by befriending the stranger on the road, by opening their hearts  and minds to the outsider.
This Christmas let us pray for a change of heart in our world – so that we can dissolve the  hardened forms of separateness and restore our ancient circles of connection – connection with nature, with our neighbour and with the sacred. Make sure there is room in the Inn.
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Thought for the Week – The Quiet Stable

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We are familiar with the story – Mary, heavily pregnant, travelling with Joseph from Nazareth to their home town of Bethlehem, to fill out that census form. They arrived late and all the B and B’s and hotel rooms were full – so she gave birth in a dark, silent stable with the animals.   But despite these less than ideal surroundings,  God came anyway.  When our inn is full of stuff – or even closed – God comes to us anyway – born into our life, into our heart moment by moment, breath by breath in every little thing that happens to us. Every now and then we need to step outside our busy, noisy inn and find our way back to the small, dark, quiet stable. We need to be simple and patient with what is unfolding in our hearts as God is born in us.

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Thought for the Week – Social Connectedness

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The U.S. Surgeon General is on a mission to deliver happiness, peace and love – in his position as Surgeon General he is emphasizing happiness as one of the ways to prevent disease and live a long healthy life.
He argues that happiness is a not an emotion or an inherited disposition but a perspective, something we can actively cultivate using four approaches; gratitude exercises, meditation, physical activity and social connectedness.
Research shows that these four approaches do increase a sense of peace and well-being. Part of these results may be due to the fact that we can do these exercises ourselves and don’t need any outside agency to help us achieve the goal.
Social connectedness may be the greatest challenge in our individualistic world. A lot of people no longer feel connected to their community. This is the time of year when we can may be work on this approach to happiness both for oneself and for the ‘other’.
Murroe Website EditorThought for the Week – Social Connectedness
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