Month: February 2023

Desert Tale

Desert dunes sand in milky way stars night sky

Today, on the first Sunday of Lent, we have been thinking of when the Holy Spirit sent Jesus into the Desert. He was alone with His Father for 40 days and 40 nights. During this time he fasted and spent time in conversation (prayer) and silence with His Father.
His faith and resolve was also tested and he endured Three Temptations by Satan who offered him ways to become a dominant power in the world but enslaved to Satan. Temptations which were resisted and dismissed by Jesus

In Lent we are encouraged to spend time in prayer and stillness with God. Through this our hearts are made more pure, our faith more resistant to temption and our love for God more rich. The richness of such love is refined in the way we behave towards others.

So here’s a Desert Tale to help us to think a little more about this.

In his book, Letters from the Desert, The Little Brother of Jesus, Carlo Carretto tells of a journey in the Sahara that he made soon after becoming a monk.
He arrived at a place just as the sun was setting and the temperature plummeted.
It is a fact that the Sahara is known as a ‘cold country where it is very hot in the sun’ and because of this he carried two blankets.

He arrived at a village where he noticed an old man shivering with cold.
Carlo thought that he should give the old man one of his blankets but he thought of the night ahead and the cold that was descending. He knew that he really ought to have given the old man a blanket but when he drove off in his jeep the blankets were still with him.
Eventually he made camp under a great rock that would give him shelter from the wind.
He wrapped himself in both his blankets and eventually he fell asleep.

And he had a dream. He dreamt that he was lying under the very rock he had camped under. In the dream the rock moved and a great boulder fell on top of him. It did not kill him but he was no longer able to move his body.
He opened his eyes  and saw the old man shivering before him. Now, he didn’t hesitate, The blanket was no longer any use to him so he tried to stretch out his hand to offer the blanket but the stone made even the smallest movement impossible. The blanket mocked him and reminded him of his lack of charity.

He wondered how long he might have to remain under the rock and God then spoke to his heart: 
” Until you are capable of an act of perfect love.”

Heavenly Father,
your Son battled with the powers of darkness,
and grew closer to you in the desert:
help us to use these days to grow in wisdom and prayer
that we may witness to your saving love
in Jesus Christ our Lord.

God, please protect peace…

Source: UNICEF/UN0770704/Filippov

In every war, it is the children who suffer. Fathers, brothers and uncles are sent out to risk their lives; families are destroyed; mothers huddle with their children in air-raid shelters waiting for the worst. Death, destruction and displacement …and now poverty, stalk the children of Ukraine. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has filed this report…….

“Children in Ukraine have experienced a year of horror,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. “Millions of children are going to sleep cold and scared and waking up hoping for an end to this brutal war. Children have been killed and injured, and many have lost parents and siblings, their homes, schools and playgrounds. No child should ever have to bear that kind of suffering.”

This is a summary of what was said by UNICEF Spokesperson James Elder – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today’s press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva

LVIV, 21 February 2023 – “The past year has been one of violence, fear and loss for the children of Ukraine. There is not a single aspect of children’s lives that the war has not impacted, with children killed, injured, forced from their homes, and missing out on critical education. Amid the death and displacement, the stress and fatigue, Ukrainian families now face a worsening fiscal crisis. The loss of income, and the energy and socio-economic crises triggered by the war are devastating families. UNICEF analysis suggests the percentage of children living in poverty has almost doubled to more than 80 per cent. This is in the space of one year.

Thousands of children fleeing conflict across the country are also missing vital vaccines to protect them from disease. This is in no small part due to the more than 800 health facilities that have reportedly been destroyed or damaged by shelling and airstrikes. In response, UNICEF has provided healthcare services to five million children and women.
As we seek to alleviate just another form of stress on Ukrainian families –increasing poverty – UNICEF has provided multi-purpose cash assistance to almost a quarter of a million households in Ukraine.

“We have provided learning supplies to more than one million children in Ukraine, and access to safe water for more than 5.5 million people but as we approach the one year mark, Ukrainian children have become aware that the world is unstable, unpredictable, and can be a terrible place. Such a loss of a basic sense of safety has a catastrophic effect on their learning and emotional and social development. Their invisible wounds that must be healed through sustained efforts to prioritise children’s mental health needs. As part of that response, UNICEF has provided mental health and psychosocial support to 4.6 million children and caregivers.
Of course what Ukrainians need most of all is an end to hostilities. But as children experience every day, that is not their reality.

“I arrived in Ukraine almost a year ago to the day, here in Lviv. This morning I went to the hospital where innumerous times I have met the achingly brave medical staff, who act as both surgeons and counsellors. Surgeons for children with horrendous wounds of war – in a war where shelling from heavy artillery and missile and air strikes have consistently struck where children should be safe – and counsellors to those broken parents who, despite everyone’s efforts, leave hospital without their children.
An hour ago I sat with yet another bright, articulate, brave Ukrainian child. This time a teenage boy – his body is tormented by shrapnel wounds, the result of an artillery attack as he sought to get water for his family near Bakhmut.
He is in immense pain, but focused on the unknown whereabout of his two sisters. Down the corridor was a two year old girl – also from Bahkmut– paralyzed after another artillery attack.

The year of imposed suffering on Ukraine’s children appears to have no end in sight.”

[] If you would like to support UNICEF, please go to their website.[]

Photo: The Guardian newspaper

A prayer for Ukraine and her little ones
by Sally Foster-Fulton, Head of Nations and Church Relations of CHRISTIAN AID

God, please protect peace

Borders, barricades, bewilderment…
When the bargaining begins,
God please protect peace.

Sanctions, security measured in minutes and it’s scary…
When safety scatters,
God please protect peace.

War dresses up in peace-keeper’s clothes,
Troops amass, the ground trembles and so do people…
When the future feels fragile,
God please protect peace.

The littlest, the least likely to have a say,
Those whose lives are sanctioned and bargained over –
Violence always finds them first.
And the ‘oh-so-important’ political manoeuvres mean nothing to them.
They just want to live.
When the winners want to wipe them out of the way,
God please protect peace.

We will not turn away. We will stand together –
God give us the strength to protect peace.


Only what is most important

A candle for Ukraine, lit in the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in London on Friday February 24th.

Take Only What Is Most Important

Take only what is most important. Take the letters.
Take only what you can carry.
Take the icons and the embroidery, take the silver,
Take the wooden crucifix and the golden replicas.

Take some bread, the vegetables from the garden, then leave.
We will never return again.
We will never see our city again.
Take the letters, all of them, every last piece of bad news.

We will never see our corner store again.
We will never drink from that dry well again.
We will never see familiar faces again.
We are refugees. We’ll run all night.

We will run past fields of sunflowers.
We will run from dogs, rest with cows.
We’ll scoop up water with our bare hands,
sit waiting in camps, annoying the dragons of war.

You will not return and friends will never come back.
There will be no smoky kitchens, no usual jobs,
There will be no dreamy lights in sleepy towns,
no green valleys, no suburban wastelands.

The sun will be a smudge on the window of a cheap train,
rushing past cholera pits covered with lime.
There will be blood on women’s heels,
tired guards on borderlands covered with snow,

a postman with empty bags shot down,
a priest with a hapless smile hung by his ribs,
the quiet of a cemetery, the noise of a command post,
and unedited lists of the dead,

so long that there won’t be enough time
to check them for your own name.

Serhiy Zhadan

Translated from the Ukrainian by Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps

This poem by Serhiy Zhadan, an internationally acclaimed poet and novelist, from Ukraine,
was read by actress, Dame Helen Mirren, at a Vigil in London. She ended her recitation with tears in her eyes and calling for ‘Freedom ‘ for Ukraine. The poem was written in 2015. It details the turmoil of war and the plight of refugees. Zhadan makes a reference to sunflowers, the national symbol of the Ukraine.
Totally relevant to what has been the experience of so many in the present war in the Ukraine, it speaks powerfully about what being driven from ones homeland means. Maybe it will also move the hearts who have a negative view of what receiving refugees is really about.

for I was hugry and you did not feed me, thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink……

for love of Ukraine and Ukrainians

Durham Cathedral floodlit in Ukraine’s colours, joins many churches, cathedrals, public buildings in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, February 24th, 2023

Many churches are holding prayer vigils on the anniversary of the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine  with contributions from Ukrainian refugees, choirs and other members of the community.

The services are being arranged as the Government announced a national moment of silence at 11am today in solidarity with Ukraine.

In rural as well as urban areas, parishes where families are hosting Ukrainian refugees will open their doors for prayer, reflection and music to mark the anniversary.

A prayer for Ukrainian Refugees in our countries.

Dear Lord, you blessed us with new life
by crossing the borders of heaven and moving into our neighbourhood.

Your parents fled with you from violence,
carrying you in their arms in hope-filled fear.
We still our hearts:
help us know you are with us, making your home in us,

being yourself, in the presence of us being fully ourselves.
We act for justice and mercy:
help us see in those we host, and those who welcome us,
your image, valuable beyond words,
and your blessing that will bring new life.