The Last Supper by Andrew White, detail

It is Holy Week – the week in which we re-live in our prayers the journey Jesus made from Jerusalem to his crucifixion on Calvary and his resurrection.

We have produced eight conversations for Holy week to take you back to those tense and frightening days in Jerusalem and place you alongside the apostles as they try to make sense of the political and mystical forces at work in what is happening to them, to Jesus their Lord, and to the people of God.

Listen to the other episodes >>

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the Roman province of Judaea was under the authority of the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate, who reported to the Governor of Syria and the Emperor Tiberius in Rome.  The Jews were a reluctant subject people, but generally peace was maintained.  In Jerusalem itself the politically astute Romans allowed considerable authority to the High Priest in maintaining the sanctuary, taking responsibility for law and order, and running the affairs of the holy city.  However, it was they who appointed the High Priest and they expected full co-operation from him and his inner circle.   The Passover festival was always a volatile time as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims flocked to Jerusalem to offer sacrifice at the Temple and celebrate the festival of liberation from Egypt.  The city was over-crowded and emotions ran high.  Pilate himself made sure he was present in the city with an enhanced military presence ready to intervene in case of any flare-ups and to remove insurgents from the streets.

Jesus and his friends entered the city as pilgrims on the first day of the week.  We call this day Palm Sunday because as he entered the people of Jerusalem flocked to him and laid palms on the ground before him, acclaiming him as their king. This was a clear political challenge to the powers that be.
 

A pure heart quote from the psalms
An audio retreat, living the Magnificat

This is the seventh reflection commemorating the two hundredth anniversary of the Restoration of the Society of Jesus. A reflection on the life of Gerard Manley Hopkins.

The monks of the Abbey of Keur Moussa sing: O all you works of the Lord, O bless the Lord, To him be highest glory and praise for ever. Wherever it is I am right now, what works of the Lord can I see? Perhaps the sky, the clouds? Perhaps hills or fields, or a horse or a dog, or a tree? Perhaps it’s just the inside of a bus that I can see? Perhaps another human being. Can I imagine all these things, the works of the Lord, praising God, their creator, now? And can I do the same myself?

Gerard Manley Hopkins was born in 1844 was an English poet and convert from Anglicanism. He developed a love of the arts as a young boy, and continued to write and paint all of his life. When he chose to become a Catholic and then enter the Jesuits he destroyed most of his early poetic works, and for his early years as a Jesuit he stopped writing. Following encouragement from one of his Superiors, Hopkins began to write once more and he developed a poetic technique which he described as ‘sprung rhythm’ which he used to particularly good effect to describe nature. His use of language was innovative, employing ancient as well as dialect words, and even inventing new words. He ministered quietly in various schools and parishes in Britain before being sent as Professor of Greek and Hebrew at the newly-established Catholic University in Dublin. Few of Hopkins contemporaries appreciated his poetic gifts and it was only after his death in 1889 when his friend, Robert Bridges, the Poet Laureate, published a volume of Hopkins work that his genius began to be recognised. He has a plaque in Poets Corner in Westminster Abbey.

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

The poem, ‘God’s Grandeur’ echoes the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius, especially the Contemplation for Attaining Love’, an ecstatic celebration of God’s dynamic presence and action in the cosmos. Can you think of a time when you have felt especially close to God in a natural setting?

‘Generations have trod, have trod, have trod’. Hopkins’s lines imply a common anxiety among Victorian believers, that the modern age of scientific and industrial progress- ‘our smudge and smell’- has distanced us from a direct communion with nature- ‘nor can foot feel, being shod’- and therefore we are further from God. Does this ring true for you? Are there ways in which your busy life has made you less aware, less sensitive to the ‘dearest freshness’ in things?
The poem presents us with a beautifully maternal image of the Holy Spirit, ‘brooding’ with ‘warm breast and bright wings’. What kind of image does this conjure up for you? Does this feminine image help you to grasp the intimacy of God’s love for you?

Notice the use of the word ‘charged’ in the first line. The first meaning that presents itself is that of energy and dynamism, like a charge of electricity. But charged can also mean ‘entrusted’, ‘given a mission’. The task of the created world, the reason for its existence, is to bear witness to God’s glory and grandeur. Does this idea attract me? What about me, am I too ‘charged’ with the task of giving God glory? As you listen again, think about the word ‘charged’ in the first line: ‘the world is charged with the grander of God’.

Speak to God now, about what arises from your time of reflection and the emotions this poem has evoked in you. It may be that you feel regret for a lack of awareness, that, like many people, you have not ‘recked his rod’, that is, you been slow to acknowledge God’s majesty. Or perhaps you feel a renewed sense of energy and mission, of being ‘charged’ with carrying out a great endeavor. As you express these feelings to God, can you also ask him to deepen your sense of wonder and delight at his presence.

Introduction to the Examen

The EXAMEN is a way to look back over your day to say thank you for the things which have gone well and sorry for the things which have not. By doing it each day, you will become more aware of what God is doing in your life. People who use this prayer often find that their lives just get better.
First start by finding stillness. Allow yourself to relax and just do the minimum it takes to be here. Shut your eyes if it helps. Gently listen to all the sounds around you. Try to capture each one.
Now, what was the best thing which happened today? It might be something small, it might be something big. Remember that moment in your day, see it again, touch it, hear it, smell it or taste it all over again… and whatever that moment was, just thank God for it.
Let that feeling of thankfulness spread to the whole of your day. Ask for a gentle light so you can see what God has been doing in your life.
Now replay everything that happened today in your mind, just as though you are watching a movie. Start from the moment you woke up… what you did with your day… how you spent your free time… the people you were with… what amazed you or what disappointed you…
Where you feel thankful, give thanks to God who gave you that moment…
Where you did not live up to everything you could be, say sorry to God…
Now you have replayed the day in your mind, let those feelings of gratitude and sorrow sink deeper. Speak to God about your day, in the same way you speak to one of your friends.
And finally, what is the one thing which you need to ask from God to strengthen you for tomorrow? Ask him for it now.

Image of Jesus walking on water by Maria O'Laughlin
St Ignatius wooden painted statue

St Ignatius of Loyola founded the Society of Jesus - the Jesuits - in 1540. Today there are over 18,000 priests and brothers present in more than 100 countries.

One of the 18,000 just so happens to be our current Holy Father, Pope Francis. His heart for social justice, deep prayer and inspirational teaching in some ways makes him a typical Jesuit.

So who can tell us more about St Ignatius and his teaching? How can we learn from Ignatian Spirituality to deepen our own prayer by having that personal encounter with God - that face-to-face conversation?

We visited Campion Hall in Oxford to speak to Dr Rob Marsh SJ.

Stephen B Whatley's the Sacred Heart of Jesus - part image

This novena is for the nine days leading to the Feast of the Sacred Heart, which falls this year on 12th June. You may pray the novena privately, in your family, in a parish group or with your neighbours or friends. If you are praying it with others, a different person may lead the novena each day, or you may share the various sections among those taking part.

Don't rush. Read the Scripture passage (on the image) and the meditation slowly, pausing when something strikes you. A short prayer follows, which takes up the theme of the day, and you end with the Novena Prayer.

Find out more about the modern devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus which was promoted by St Margaret Mary Alacoque with the help of the Jesuit priest St Claude de la Colombiere SJ >>

So, what does this feast mean to us today? We are made for love. How we all long to love and to be loved. Of course statues and pictures of the Sacred Heart will be very poor images of God’s love. What could show it? Fr Simon Bishop SJ reflects: "When I was a young boy, I remember going into my parents’ bedroom where, together, we would say night prayer. Above their bed was this lovely little statue of a rather fat-bellied man, with rosy cheeks and the biggest of smiles. His arms were held open wide and underneath were the words; “I love you this much!” Again, it was only a faint image of the love I received from my parents and an even fainter image of the love we receive from God, but it gave me an image. It was, of course, an image of the Cross."

Every time we celebrate the Eucharist we enter the greatest love story ever lived. At its heart we hear Jesus’ extraordinary words of love; “This is my Body given up for you … This is my Blood poured out for you.” This is no mere picture of love, this is love in action. The Lord gives Himself, pours out Himself, in love for us. How He longs to love us and to be loved by us. How He longs to fulfill our longings. How He longs for us to reveal His love to those searching for His love. So, let us allow the Lord to love us in the Holy Eucharist, at Mass; in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, spending time with him, quietly, simply, every day, if possible, so that He, in turn, can fill those we meet with His love. Perhaps we don’t have rosy cheeks, perhaps we aren’t (too!) over-weight, but with a smile and with our hearts open wide, let all who meet us see the Lord saying to them: “I love you this much”!