Radio 4 Prayer for the Day
The Prayer for the Day on BBC Radio 4 from 31 October will be offered by the Jesuit Chaplain at Manchester Universities Catholic Chaplaincy. Fr Tim Byron SJ will be using the opportunity to reflect on various events and anniversaries over the next seven days and suggesting prayerful ways of relating to them. Each day we will create an image to aid people to pray with us. We will post them here as each programme is aired. Prayer for the Day is produced by the Religion and Ethics Department of the BBC in Media City, Salford and is broadcast daily (except Sunday) on BBC Radio 4 at 5.43am. Fr Tim will be presenting a spiritual comment and prayer to start the day from Saturday 31 October until Friday 6 November 2015. Listen here >>
Friday 6 November
Good Morning – there is a web site called Twiplomacy… which measures the impact that world leaders have on Twitter. Although Barack Obama has the most followers - Pope Francis is retweeted the most often and thus is deemed the worlds most influential leader on Twitter. In an age of hashtag diplomacy the ability to communicate directly without having to go through the filters of journalists and editors and the spin of advisors is refreshing. However still a picture has a bigger impact than 140 characters. The selfie standing proud above the hashtag. But is amazing how many of us no longer are present to events as they unfold in front of our eyes. With more and more sophisticated recording equipment just one click away, we so often record for prosperity what is in front of us, experiencing life through a smart phone lense.
But there is something about the selfie culture that can leave a bad taste in the mouth. Maybe it is because social media has produced an age of exhibitionism according to the digital dystopian Andrew Keen. What explains the popularity of the Pope’s tweets….. is it because his words are calculated to inspire hope or solidarity. In the age of the celebrity ‘humblebrag’, Francis’s sincere humility is a refreshing change. Whilst the humblebrag, an ostensibly modest or self-deprecating statement whose actual purpose is to draw attention to something of which one is proud, leaves us empty - Francis’ simple – faith filled words are always aimed beyond himself. May my words be used carefully today, whether in real life or virtual, and may them bring with them blessings. Amen.
Thursday 5 November
Good Morning – Remember Remember - the 5th of November, Gunpowder Treason and Plot. As we wake up this morning, we maybe thinking of attending the local celebrations of Bonfire Night or perhaps we are even helping to organise it. Last year it was estimated one in three of us attended a private or public party, with fireworks or a bonfire. Thankfully we are no longer burning effigies on most fires. We live in different times, and people of Faith in these islands live in peace now. But it is foolish to be complacent and important to remember the lessons of history. Peace is a precious gift, something that we never take for granted.
This summer I had a remarkable experience in Belfast of participating in a cross-community week of guided prayer – Catholics and Protestants. It was a great step of faith that a protestant church – lead by a visionary Pastor allowed four of us Jesuit priests, to lead it. In the silence of a week of guided prayer we
all encountered God – and it was a privilege to hear about these encounters, and to see how creative and gentle God acted in so different lives. Healing took place where it was needed, even at levels that we weren’t conscious of – as well as being challenged at times to let go of old certainties. But when we grow in faith, hope and love we know we are moving closer to God. The closer we are to the divine, the less we are worried about the things that divide us. So tonight as we gaze into the dance of flames – we remember the mystery of God, who is closer to us than our own heart beat and let us give thanks for the precious gift of peace. Amen
Wednesday 4 November
Good Morning – Today in the Caribbean island of Dominica, it is a national holiday, ‘Community Service Day’ ….. the Caribbean may seem a long way from the creeping cold of winter in Britain but it warms the heart to think that on this day, the population of 70 thousand people are focusing on serving the rest of the community. In the US they have a similar day but call it ‘Make a difference day’ and people are awarded for the most creative or transformative ways in which they can make a difference in their community . Last year a 16 year old boy started a charity that matched the right size of shoes with young homeless people in America – he won recognition on Make a difference Day .
This is a fundamental tension for all religions – our desire for the sacred and the eternal, our longing for heaven and our duty to make heaven and earth. To wait and pray or to act now and change the world. We need to live in that tension – there are dangers at either extreme – an empty activism or a resigned passivism…… as St Ignatius of Loyola is once reputed to have said – Act as if everything depended on you; Pray as if everything depended on God. But deep down – the desire to serve seems to be a well trodden path to happiness or even to receiving the gift of joy. So this morning as I gear up for another day – let that desire to serve grow in my heart – to change the world around me for the better, even in the smallest ways, and take away the temptation to grasp, to blame, to act in ways that makes me blind to others need. Amen
Tuesday 3 November
Good Morning - Today - 42 years ago - Nasa launched the Mariner 10 space mission to Mercury. If you are a space enthusiast, like I am, you may know that this was the first spacecraft to make use of a gravitational slingshot manoeuvre, using Venus to bend its flight path and bring to the level of Mercury's orbit. It has always struck me as very wise, that so much effort could be taken out of a journey like that by using what was already there – gravity. The other big challenge was to protect the space ship from the heat of the Sun as it was passing so close. A special sunshade and thermal blankets were built into the design to protect it.
We live in a great age of exploration, whether it be outer space or some of the deep hidden trenches in the oceans, there is still a lot we have to learn. What new lessons will the day ahead hold? That incessant curiosity that makes us human was a sign of the divine for Pope Benedict. The fact that we could discover so much about the world and our universe was a sign of intelligibility ….
One of the simplest ways of praying, in our busy lives, is to ask myself at the end of the day – what three discoveries I am most grateful? Maybe even to write them down in a bedside notebook. Practicing the habit of gratitude makes the heart unfold like a flower…. And when our hearts and minds are open we discover more. So we pray today to recover that curiosity we had as children, that we may be delighted by unexpected discoveries today – and that this discovery and the sense of wonder it invokes in us may lead us closer to you. Amen
Monday 2 November
Good Morning – yes it is morning - even though the sun won’t rise in the UK for another hour. As the winter draws in, many of us are now waking up before the sunrise, but spare a thought for those in Iceland who will be lucky to get 5 hours of sunlight at the moment. As the nights get longer, the trees shed their leaves, many things begin hibernating. At my home north of Liverpool it is a sight to behold the flocks of geese passing overhead – fleeing the northern winter. For those of us who can’t afford the time or the money to flee our winter, it is not surprising that our minds turn to remembering, especially remembering those who have left us. Today is all Souls Day – traditionally the church remembers the faithful departed – those who are not yet Saints but whose souls are being purified before they attain the Beatific Vision.
As the nights draw in – our minds are drawn naturally to remembering those who have gone before us. Those thoughts can be seasoned with sadness and regret, but we can also be inspired by the memories of those who have gone before us. What we see know, and what we take for granted is because we stand on the shoulders of giants….. a sense of gratitude to those who have gone before us, whose achievements and inventions we take for granted now, as we listen to the radio, or drive to work, or turn the kettle on….. As the darkness of winter grows around us, and we enter the season of remembering, we pray for the freedom to remember with gratitude, and for the patience to wait for the slow touch of healing. Amen.
Saturday 31 October
Good Morning – or maybe today I should say Trick or Treat? The rise in popularity of Halloween or All Hallows Evening in recent years has been remarkable. The most important feasts in the Church’s history were often marked by three days of prayer – a triduum. So the feast of all Saints (or all Hallows Day) on November the first was preceded by a vigil, an evening of prayer –– and succeeded on November the Second by All Souls day. Hence on all Hallows evening Many people believed that on the night before all Saints – many souls would be released from purgatory to get to heaven or maybe the other place – they would light lanterns so they could find their way. Some migrating souls would use the last opportunity visit their families on the way to heaven or the other place - so it became the custom in some places to wear a mask or a disguise so these souls couldn’t recognise you.
Like Christmas and Easter, what was once a Christian Celebration has for many people become something else. We shouldn’t be surprised, as Christianity built on what had gone before, now Consumerism builds on Christianity. Whilst avoiding a puritanical response - it is worth observing that with the Americanisation of Halloween something dark seems to have creeped in – with torture costumes, or a glamorisation of horror. Let us remember those saints that have gone before us and rejoice in the light and the love that they shared…… We ask for the grace to fix our hearts and minds on all that is good and brings light, increase our love for you, our faith in your plan for us and our hope that we will see those we love and miss again, in a better place. Amen.