In the 21st century, our lives are full. We rush from one place to another, cramming as much as we can into our day. Many families are unable to spend quality time together – and often the time that they do spend with one another is limited by the brimming schedule of both parents and children.
In a life shaped by modern values and filled with busyness, where does God fit in? Whom do we worship?
In modern cities and towns, pews in the churches are empty. Church buildings are renovated and used for different purposes – some are even refurbished as homes. God is no longer is part of a person’s life and daily routine. The Lord’s prayer no longer begins the school day, and saying daily prayers is a habit few follow.
Who has replaced God? Knowledge and understanding how the world works. The belief in self and the confidence that a person can control much of their own life. The words ‘spiritualism’ and ‘mindfulness’ are bandied about. A person no longer prays to God, but meditates to calm the spirit. A person no longer believes in God, but is spiritual.
As humanity moves towards worshipping the self, it loses the sense of community and faith that once held it together. Will there be a time when men and women will come to realise that focusing on the self is not gratifying? Will they once again learn to have faith in a Being greater than themselves? Will they once again worship God?
Do you believe there will be a renaissance of worship?
Say the word relic and the first thought that comes to my mind is religion. Through the decades, objects have been venerated by people because of who they belonged to or what they represent. Each time I have been to Mauritius, I have visited a place where a shrine has been erected in memory of a Catholic priest, Jacques-Désiré Laval.
Visitors remember the good works he did for the poor and disenfranchised during a time when not much was done to help this group of people. Modern visitors, however, are not only those from the poorest of society. Instead people from all walks of life come to this place to light a candle and say a prayer.
Each time I leave the shrine, a sense of peace surrounds me and I can understand why believers visit the vault built in memory of this man and what he did.
(For a previous post on this man, you may visit here.)
This book, A Story of God and of All of Us, was written by Roma Downey and Mark Burnett. I am almost tempted, however, to say “rewritten” as the original story was recorded by the many authors of The Holy Bible. The novel is based on the scripts written by the authors, in collaboration with theologians and biblical experts, for the TV miniseries called The Bible.
The novel follows the stories found in The Bible faithfully – both in events and characterisations. The major events are described from the Old Testament through to the New: from the story of Abraham, to Moses, to King David, to Samson, to the birth and crucifixion of Jesus, to the story of the first Apostles.
I enjoyed reading this book even though I had read and heard these Bible stories many times. The stories are written in modern English with narrative that is easily understood by the reader. The novel reads like any other you may pick up. The story flows easily from one event to the next; capturing and holding your attention. A copy of this book is certainly a keeper; a book that can be read easily to refresh one’s memory of the Bible stories. I know that I will encourage my children to read it as it will help them to know and recognise the order of events in a book that forms an integral part of our Christian beliefs.
I wish now to watch the miniseries – it looks to be as good as the novel:
Have you read this novel, or seen the TV miniseries? What was your response?
Words often heard when sitting on a hard wooden bench on a Sunday morning. The words imply a strong community. One in which all members are loved for who they are: followers of Christ. I can imagine the early missionaries saying these words to their converts – and saying them with sincerity. I can imagine the small groups of early Christians gaining comfort from one another especially during their persecution while under the Roman Empire.
But now, when I hear these words, I am surrounded by strangers – many of whom I do not see every week. The words are said by a man who has not made any connection with the people who come, week after week, to hear what he has to say about the Word of God. Yes, the modern church-goer and Christian believer is beloved: beloved by God. But beloved by the other members of the Christian community? This is not what I sense when I attend mass at a large parish church in the city. I have felt beloved by my fellow community members when attending a small parish church – but not when I do so at a large one. Instead, when the priest walks out the front doors of the church at the end of mass, believers stream out after him and then go their own way.
Modern life and the rush to get to where we are going seems to have taken away an important aspect of the way in which we view our fellow believers. I pray for a time when we can once again look at other Christians and called them “beloved” with sincerity in our hearts.
Do you feel “beloved” in your Christian community?
On the grounds of the parish church in Sainte-Croix in Mauritius, one finds the the shrine that has been erected to honour Jacques-Désiré Laval, a Catholic priest and missionary born in France on 18 September 1803.
When Laval arrived in Mauritius as a missionary, he found that the large population of creole people (80 000) had been neglected. After learning the language spoken by these black people (a pidjin French), he worked to improve their lot. He set up groups within the creole community to help him teach catechism, baptise and give communion. He delegated authority to these leaders to build chapels, and to look after the sick and poorest within their community. For the creole in Mauritius, Father Laval was a Godsend. His example, however, is recognised not only by the poorest people in Mauritius; but also by those of every class. He gave himself selflessly to his mission, working continuously for the poor and disenfranchised.
Everyday people of all faiths visit the vault of Père Laval. They see before them the stone sarcophagus that contains his remains. Candles are lit; and people pray for the sick. On the anniversary of his death, 9 September, people from all over Mauritius (as well as people from places as far as South Africa, Britain and France), visit for a pilgrimage to participate in the festival and procession that takes place.
The sarcophagus of the priest is now enclosed in glass. Before it was enclosed, visitors used to touch the stone coffin in the hopes that touching it would heal the sick one they were praying for. Now visitors touch the glass as they say their prayers. Votive candles are also lit.
These votive candles are the physical illumination of the prayers that have been said in the crypt: prayers that are said before the memory of a man who was a shining example to those that saw him living; and to those who learn about his life and actions in our present day. Père Laval was a man who forged his way down a new path, showing others what could be done for the poor and sick. He was a man who gave hope and empowerment to a group of disenfranchised people on the island of Mauritius.
Who are other illuminating examples in our society?
(This post was inspired by the weekly photo challenge issued by the folks at WordPress.com. This week’s prompt is Illumination)
This child’s prayer is simple; and yet the words express so much. This prayer is one of gratitude for the things, as adults, that we often forget to be thankful for.
Personally I am thankful that my husband and I have the means, not only to feed and clothe our family, but also to pay the rent that ensures we have a roof over our heads. It is so easy to fall into the trap of believing that we do this ourselves: we are the ones working and earning the money, therefore we are the ones providing. Instead we should be grateful that we have the work to earn the money – work which, in our economic climate, may suddenly be taken away from us.
I am grateful, too, for my health; and the fact that I am still able to walk, to do the physical things I need to do each day with ease. I am thankful as well for the physical health of my family. My heart goes out to those who struggle each day to do the basic things we take for granted: bathe, prepare ourselves a meal, walk quickly to the corner store . And when I see a child unable to run and play in the park with other children, I know that I am doubly blessed to have children that do not spend their days with doctors and caregivers who help them to move around.
And yes, I am grateful that I am able to share. Not only material things but also my experience, my talent and my time. I give thanks that I am one of those people who are able to give of themselves. In this way, it is easier for me to reach a state of happiness: for in giving of myself to others, I know that I am following one of the tenants that I believe in. It is in helping others, and in sharing with them, that I find satisfaction and fulfilment.
What thoughts does this child’s prayer bring to your mind?
“I want people to fill their minds with passages of Scripture while they are well and strong, that they may have sure help in the day of need. I want them to be diligent in studying their Bibles, and becoming familiar with their contents, in order that the grand old Book may stand by them and talk with them when all earthly friends fail. From the bottom of my heart, I pity that person who never reads their Bible. I wonder how they expect to draw their consolation in their time of need.” ~ J.C. Ryle
Reading God’s Word
Ryle suggests that when we are strong spiritually, we should read God’s Word. While reading we not only become familiar with what is expected of us as God’s children, but we come to realise as well what strategies were used by those depicted in the Bible to resist temptation; or what they did to overcome the obstacles they experienced while trying to live a godly life. In reading what others experience, we can come to know the rewards of our Faith; and to celebrate the strength of God’s Spirit in those who believe in Him.
For it is in knowing these stories, and in knowing the strategies that others have successfully used to overcome personal obstacles, that we can overcome the obstacles in our own lives. When we are tempted, we can know that we are not the only Christians who have experienced this. We can know too that God’s Spirit is within us and that He can give us the strength to remain true to our Faith and belief. Reading the Scriptures during times of spiritual strength not only gives us the time to learn of these stories, but also allows us to learn of pages that we can turn to for comfort in our time of need. The more we know the content of our Bible, the more we know which part to turn to when we need to read words of comfort and guidance.
I would like to compare our spiritual health to our physical health. We are told that in order to maintain healthy bodies, we need to eat the right foods and exercise. We cannot expect to experience physical well-being if we sit on the couch all day (or at our desks at work) eating fast foods and processed foods. We have come to understand that feeding our bodies with fresh fruit and vegetables is one way to achieve optimum health; and that moving our bodies is an important factor in physical health.
In order to maintain our spiritual health, we need to feed our spiritual souls. One way in which to do this is to read the Bible. Reading passages in the Scriptures is one way in which to feed our Faith, our belief in God. We read of the miracles He has performed, and the ways in which He affected the lives of people who have lived in the past. Reading God’s Word guides us on how to increase our spiritual strength and faith. In addition, the more we know what exactly our faith is made up of, the more firmly we are to believe in it.
Reading the Sciptures need not be done in isolation. Guidance from Bible study groups, led by someone who has a vast knowledge of the Bible, can be helpful to help increase our knowledge and understanding of the printed pages. Discussion with others can also help to cement our understanding of certain passages as we grapple with issues of modern living.
Just as we work on our physical health, let us work on our spiritual well-being.