in soul pursuit

in soul pursuit

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Pastoral Letter in a Time of Brexit

Dear Friends

In response to some of the troubling conversations I have had this week please see below a Pastoral Letter.

Much love


A Pastoral Letter to a Friend in a Time of ‘Brexit’


‘In this you rejoice, even though now for a little while you have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials, so that the genuineness of your faith – being more precious than gold which, though perishable, is refined through fire – may be found to result in the praise and glory and honour of the revelation of Jesus Christ.’ I Peter 1: 6-7


My dear friend,

You wrote this morning about how frightened you feel about what is happening in our continent at this time. First of all, let me reassure you that you are not alone. Like all people of heart and sensitivity you are distressed to see unscrupulous people exploiting human weaknesses, that we all have, for personal gain. In this, we are all suffering humanity and prey to the same dark forces of the unconscious. Within our own minds lie the racists, torturers and murderers of the short twentieth century – this much we should have all learnt by now. First and foremost, in reaction to recent events we are all called to repentance. We must all examine our consciences very carefully and acknowledge the part that we have played in contributing to the madness presently engulfing our countries.

Secondly, you are right – this is a time of trial. As St Peter reminds us, our faith must be tested. For years now we Christians have bemoaned the ebbing tide of faith on this continent. Well, God may have answered our prayers – but not quite in the way we were expecting. He is, after all, ‘the God of surprises’ and, well, he has surprised us again! In the coming days, weeks and months we shall all be tested at the deepest possible levels: mind, body, heart and, above all, spirit. As the Apostle warns us, this will be a refining and purifying fire and much will have to be burnt away. Sadly we are living at a time of appalling spiritual ignorance. The result of years of hollowing away of our collective spiritual literacy means that we are ill-equipped to survive the trial we are being summoned to. We believe there are only two things that, ultimately, can help us (as the church has always taught): the overwhelming love of Christ and the support of each other (the church on earth). Please be assured of my deepest prayers and support at this time and I ask for yours, dear friend, too. Together we shall support each other. We are being called to account – perhaps sooner than we might have expected. God help us all.

Finally, and probably least importantly, you enquire about the political situation. Tempting though it is to indulge in party politics I shall refrain from doing so. The facts are these: for the first time in our life-times our British parliamentary democracy is being tested in a way it has not been before. I have great faith in the wisdom, common-sense and good humour of my fellow countrymen and women and I feel confident that we shall find a way forward through this madness. However, we must also prepare for the worst. The poison of nationalism and racism has been injected into the veins of the Body Politic at a time of heightened terrorist activity. It is a dangerous drug and history teaches that once a people has tasted its artificial sweetness it becomes dependent upon it. Racism, and its concomitant dehumanising violence, must be resisted  at every level – otherwise we stare into the abyss.

In summary, then, dark forces are at work dear friend, however, when was that not the case! As Christians we live in the pale light of the Easter Dawn. In such light even the cruelty and barbarity of the cross is transfigured. What is for sure is that we all have a choice. We can run away or ignore it – yet how far, ultimately, will that get us? St Peter, fleeing persecution, encountered the Risen Lord walking determinedly back towards those very same horrors. ‘Quo Vadis Domine?’, he famously asked, ‘Where are you going to Lord?’ Now we must each ask our Lord the same question all over again. As the prophet says:


‘And this is the writing that was inscribed: Mene, Mene, Tekel and Parsin.

This is the interpretation of the matter:

MENE – God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end.

TEKEL – You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting.

PARSIN – Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.’

(Daniel 5: 25-31)


Our kingdom is divided. May God give us all strength to come through this time of trial.


Yours in solidarity with our fellow suffering humanity.



Saturday, 25 June 2016

Brexit - a Europe of the Spirit

A Europe of the Spirit


On hearing the Brexit news last week the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales prayed the prayer of the late Cardinal Martini invoking the call for a ‘Europe of the Spirit’ – the Europe of saints and philosophers, artists and reformers. How fragile and vulnerable that spirit seems today. We have witnessed a volte face in the past few days. One correspondent noted that ‘nothing has changed’. She was right, nothing has changed. Yet, as Wittgenstein once said, ‘nothing has changed – yet everything has changed’. The facts have not changed. The fact of widespread, crippling and endemic unemployment has not changed. The fact of the greatest refugee crisis facing Europe since 1945 has not changed. The fact of brutalised people wanting to slaughter innocent citizens has not changed. The facts have not changed. What has changed is our attitude. We have let the genie out of the bottle, and history teaches that once this is done it is harder to squeeze it back in. We have released the toxic dialectic of race into our discourse. The electorate has proposed a racial solution to the facts. We shall resolve these problems through racial lenses – an English solution for an English people. We shall pull up our drawbridge and deal with these problems on our own terms. So be it. However for Christians this is troubling. First and foremost, our Christian response should be, not what we can grab from the EU, but what can we give to the EU. The UK is amongst one of the richest nations on earth, we must be prepared to shoulder our burden for the common good.
Amongst our European saints and philosophers is one who witnessed at first hand the last time these ‘solutions’ were tried out on European soil. Edith Stein (St Teresa Benedicta a Cruce) was a Jewess, atheist, German, Catholic and Carmelite nun. For her, labels are meaningless. Yet during the gravest crisis that Europe faced in the 1930s she recognised that at the heart of human existence was our intimate, fragile and mysterious relationship with the Divine. She also recognised that once that secret relationship was distorted and maimed by unscrupulous voices nothing can stop humans from entering the abyss. Now more than ever do we need her intercession. I have been praying to her constantly since last week. Not to protect us from our outside forces but to protect us from ourselves. We must heed the call to repentance. We must ask ourselves what part our own prejudice and ignorance is playing in the events that are unfolding with terrifying rapidity around us. How have we allowed our own racist fears to creep into our interpretation of the facts? How have we brutalised ourselves from the cries of our fellow human beings drowning and weeping on the shores of Europe? How have we ignored the gentle promptings of the Holy Spirit in our dealings with our fellow human beings? Like Edith, we all must now face these difficult questions today, at this hour, if greater catastrophes are to be averted...


As Matthew Parris has detailed in the Times last Saturday, this is not a fait accompli. What we have now is a constitutional mess. Two forms of democracy have clashed and the one that has worked more or less successfully for around 500 years (representational democracy) has been trumped by the third experiment  in direct democracy for the whole country in the history of the United Kingdom. The displeasure (and in some cases nausea) of our elected representatives to enact a vaguely kneejerk direct mandate is apparent – as Parris with his inside knowledge of parliament and the Tory party makes clear. It is clear that we must have another general election to secure this new mandate and this will happen within the next 12 months. This is the only way a Brexit mandate could be secured and enacted. The 60 million dollar question is – will the British electorate support such a mandate? This election will be a Brexit Election, it will be the only issue on the table. It is highly likely that such a mandate can be rejected – especially as seems now likely that we have entered into six months of unremitting economic and political chaos. So, now, for all who value freedom and the Europe of the Spirit (especially the young) the way forward is clear. We must prepare ourselves mentally, spiritually and physically for the struggle of the election to come. This will be the only issue we can fight and we must support all candidates who oppose the Brexit. At the same we must be extremely vigilant about our thoughts, actions and reactions.

Edith Stein, St Teresa Benedicta a Cruce, Pray for the United Kingdom, Pray for Europe, Pray for All Suffering Humanity. Amen.