God Is

God is.

God is love

God is life

God is growth

God is truth

God is integrity

God is authenticity

God is beauty

God is humility

God is vulnerable.


God is paradox:

God is community

God is solitude

God is grace

God is need

God is here

God is beyond

God is a noun

God is a verb

God is mystery

God is clarity

God is the journey

God is home

God is all-merciful, and at our mercy

God is Love

God is vulnerable

God Is.


Oak tree with birds, detail from frescoes in the subterranean rooms of the ancient Roman Villa of Livia

Our Worth is Inherent

“Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection. Success, popularity, and power can indeed present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection. When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions. The real trap, however, is self-rejection… Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the “Beloved.” Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.”

Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved


We live in a society which tells us that human beings do not have intrinsic worth.

Some people are regarded as of more worth than others, and some people have no perceived worth at all.

Our worth, in this society, is measured by all kinds of gauges, ranging from the vapid to what may appear to have substance. At different times we are judged by our beauty, our wealth, our achievements, our careers or field of endeavour, our intelligence, our usefulness to others, and even our moral qualities as people. Sometimes, when an admired person dies or is killed, people will say, “How terrible to lose him, of all people!” implying, or even adding, “It should have been some useless person instead.”

We are judged, not for who we are, but for what we do.

But the truth is, all people are of equal worth, no matter what. Worth is inherent. A good person is of no greater worth in the eyes of God than a bad one. Our dignity as human beings is inalienable. We cannot lose it—not through injury or illness, not through age or dependance, not through failure or incapacity of whatever kind, and not even through bad actions.

Good actions are, of course, good! But if we feel worthless, or not intrinsically worthy, and act out of a desire to prove to ourselves, or others, that we are somehow useful or worthwhile or worthy of love, that hole in our hearts—that sense of unworthiness, that self-rejection—will only grow larger. In effect, we are trying to fill it with the wrong thing.

The only thing that can fill that hole is our own self-acceptance; our own belief that we are already of worth, and that our worth will be the same no matter what we do. Our value will be no greater in success, no less in failure.

There is a humility in accepting this proposition, because it requires a kind of “downward mobility”—an admission that nothing I can ever do will make me better than anybody else. But believing this also takes more genuine self-esteem than the vast majority of people can probably muster for themselves, because it requires accepting that you are already good enough, no better and no worse than any other human being.

I am loved and accepted—at least by God—just as I am.

Our sense of belonging, of acceptance, of being, as Henri Nouwen puts it, God’s “Beloved”, is where we must start from, where we must continually return.

Then all our actions will have integrity;

then we will work and create and live and even love with joy—

because we will be reaching out into the world from the right inner place.

IMG_4991Watercolour by Henry Thompson

What is Neglected or Forbidden

Tradition means giving a vote to that most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our father.

G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy


All imaginative writing is to some extent the voice of what is neglected or forbidden, hence its connection to the past in the nostalgic vein, and the future in the revolutionary vein.

Ted Hughes, Poetry in the Making


What, of truth and value, may, in our time, be neglected or forbidden?

We often imagine that we are enlightened as never before—but in fact we are unenlightened in ways we cannot possibly imagine.

We are not, by definition, superior to those who came before us.

One day, many things we take for granted now will be almost impossible for those who come after us to understand, or forgive. One of our keenest limitations as human beings is the historical moment in which we are trapped.

We can forgive ourselves for this, but we should not forget it. Equally, we should forgive the people of the past for the blindness that we, in our own way, share.

Let us not condemn the past. Let us appreciate and give thanks for the changes we believe to be good, while remembering the mote in our own eye that we are not even able to see. And let us feel free to treasure the things of value about the past, and reclaim them if possible.

Just as we should feel at liberty to roam our own past, as individuals, and find perspective and consolation in the places from which we set out, so we ought not to confine ourselves as human beings to our own tiny part of history.

We can strive, perhaps, for a kind of truthful nostalgia. Then, with less chauvinism, we can regard our own time both critically and with historical balance.

And only then will we be able to claim our full human inheritance.


70s nostalgia for the 20s, now itself part of our present day nostalgia for the 70s. Magazine advertisement for Guerlain’s perfume Shalimar, c. 1974

The Angel of Happy Meetings

The young man went out and the angel went with him; and the dog came out with him and went along with them.

Tobit 6:1-2


A Prayer to St Raphael, Angel of Happy Meetings

O Raphael, lead us towards those we are waiting for, those who are waiting for us! Raphael, Angel of Happy Meetings, lead us by the hand towards those we are looking for! May all our movements, all their movements, be guided by your Light and transfigured by your Joy.

Angel Guide of Tobias, lay the request we now address to you at the feet of Him on whose unveiled Face you are privileged to gaze. Lonely and tired, crushed by the separations and sorrows of earth, we feel the need of calling to you and of pleading for the protection of your wings, so that we may not be as strangers in the Province of Joy, all ignorant of the concerns of our country.

Remember the weak, you who are strong—you whose home lies beyond the region of thunder, in a land that is always peaceful, always serene, and bright with the resplendent glory of God.


Traditional Catholic



“A Prayer to St Raphael, Angel of Happy Meetings” is said to have been a favourite prayer of both Dorothy Day and Flannery O’Connor (who exchanged some letters but never met in person). The Book of Tobit, to which this prayer refers, though included in the Catholic and Orthodox versions of The Bible, did not make it into the Protestant canon—but it is charming nonetheless (and may be found in the King James Version’s Apocrypha). It concerns a young man named Tobias who sets out on what proves to be a very eventful journey, with an angel and a dog as his companions. He doesn’t know that his apparently human companion is the Angel Raphael, and nobody knows whether the dog is his own, a stray, another disguised angel, or a symbol of some kind. The quiet, faithful dog reminds me of the random, cryptically theological stray dogs of Michael Leunig: “When the heart/ Is cut or cracked or broken…/ Let a stray dog lick it…”

May all our movements, all their movements… How dizzying, how wondrous, is the chain of causation! How do we fathom the complexity of the separate stories that lead, somehow, to that intersection of parallel lines which is a meeting between two people?

Crushed by the separations and sorrows of earth… And how do we heal from the grief of estrangement?

Let us give thanks for the happy meetings in our own lives—our first, apparently chance encounters with friends and guides and mentors, with artistic or literary or musical or vocational collaborators, with husbands or wives or partners—without which our lives would be unimaginably poorer. And let us give thanks for those who introduced us!

Let us pray for healing from those meetings we regard as unhappy, either for us, or for the one we met, or for both—and let us pray that some good might nonetheless come out of them.

Let us look forward to the happy meetings—and meetings-again or reconciliations—yet to come!

And in our goings out and our comings in, may we always be accompanied by an angel… and blessed by a friendly dog!


La Vie en Rose

God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.

1 John 4:16


Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened until you; For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Matthew 7:7-8


Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

Matthew 11:28-9


A new commandment I give unto you: that ye love one another as I have loved you.

John 13:34


Ma vocation enfin je l’ai trouvée, ma vocation c’est l’Amour! (I have found my vocation at last. My vocation is love!)

Thérèse of Lisieux


It’s as simple—and as difficult—as that!

152c5639c44b99d4264ae54957edd14c.1000x750x1Edith Piaf, the great diva of love, had a lifelong devotion to Thérèse of Lisieux—very much the saint of love—who is said to have promised, on her deathbed at the age of 24, that she would let fall a shower of rose petals from heaven after she died. Her imagery was drawn from the Feast of Corpus Christi, her favourite as a child.

St Francis and St Clare Have a Picnic

St Francis, when residing at Assisi, often visited St Clare, to give her holy counsel. And she, having a great desire to eat once with him, often begged him to grant her this request; but the saint would never allow it. His companions, therefore, went to seek him, and thus addressed him: “Father, it seems to us that this severity on thy part in not granting so small a thing to Sister Clare is not according to holy charity, especially if we consider how it was at thy preaching that she abandoned the riches and pomps of this world. Of a truth, if she were to ask of thee even a greater grace than this, thou shouldst grant it.” St Francis answered: “It seems to you, then, that I ought to grant her this request?” His companions made answer: “Yea, father.” St Francis answered: “As you think so, let it be so.”

When the appointed day arrived, St Clare left her convent with great joy, taking with her one of her sisters, and followed by the companions of St Francis. She arrived at St Mary of the Angels, and having devoutly saluted the Virgin Mary, before whose altar her hair had been cut off, and she had received the veil, they conducted her to the convent, and showed her all over it. In the meantime St Francis prepared the meal on the bare ground, as was his custom. The hour of dinner being arrived, St Francis and St Clare sat down together, all the other companions of St Francis seated humbly round them.

But when the first dish was served, St Francis began to speak of God so sweetly, so sublimely, and in a manner so wonderful, that the grace of God visited them abundantly, and all were rapt in Christ.

Whilst they were thus rapt, with eyes and hearts raised to heaven, the people of Assisi and of Bettona, and all the country round about, saw St Mary of the Angels as it were on fire, with the convent and the woods adjoining. It seemed to them as if the church, the convent, and the woods were all enveloped in flames; and the inhabitants of Assisi hastened with great speed to put out the fire.

But, on arriving at the convent, they found no fire; and entering within the gates they saw St Francis, St Clare, with all their companions, sitting round their humble meal, absorbed in contemplation. It was a celestial fire they had seen, an outward sign of the divine flame of love which consumed the souls of those holy brethren and nuns; and they returned home with great consolation in their hearts, and much holy edification. After a long lapse of time, St Francis, St Clare, and their companions came back to themselves; and, being fully restored by the spiritual food, cared not to eat that which had been prepared for them; so that, the holy meal being finished, St Clare returned to San Damiano.

adapted from The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, original manuscript c. 1250, first English translation by Lady Georgina Fullerton, 1864


May we, too, have such picnics!

May we find friends, or even one friend, with whom we can speak from the heart.

May we remember that friends can be found in unexpected places.

May we recognise a friend when we see one.

May we find friendship online, if we choose, but may we not grow too shy to meet our friends IRL!

May we find the courage to be our authentic selves—and the discernment to know when speaking from the heart is wise and safe for us.

And may we not forget to eat lunch!

36176090_2557368460955905_1442045444409524224_nWatercolour by Henry Thompson

in simplicitate cordis: in simplicity of heart

“The great turning point in your life comes not when you realize that you love God but when you realize and fully accept the fact that God loves you.”

Anthony de Mello


I am fundamentally directed towards God.

That means my deepest desire is for God

and to be the person God created me to be.

That’s God’s desire too

and there is never a moment when his love is not at work

drawing me towards him

making me into the person he created me to be

making me more and more capable of accepting and receiving his constant, unconditional love

and drawing everyone around me closer and closer towards him.

God is always already at work

So my part is to allow him

to open and let go

to let go and let God

and I do that by listening to the good voices

not the bad:

the voice of love

the voice of faith

the voice of hope

the voice of joy

and the voice of gratitude.

Because God is never at rest, I can be sure that he is constantly at work in my own life.

In fact, there is not a single thing that happens in my life that he has not either brought about, or is not at work in.

There is no area of my life in which I cannot meet him.

Therefore, dear God, help me to look for you in all things

find you in all things

allow you to find me in all things—

and give me the genius

that recognises you in every encounter.


Come dwell in me

and make me your home.*


*I am indebted to other writers, including Ruth Burrows and Margaret Silf, for some of the phrases used in this prayer, which I say every day.

A Manifesto

I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

John 10:10


The glory of God is the human person fully alive.

St Irenaeus


  1. God wants life for us.
  2. The purpose of our life is to learn how to love.
  3. Where the action in our life is, God is present and active.
  4. God does not send us pain and suffering, but works with us in them for good.
  5. The paradigm of death/resurrection is key to understanding our existence.
  6. God can and should be imaged in countless ways, no image being adequate to the mystery.
  7. God often appears in human form.
  8. We are neither naturally good nor naturally evil, but immensely malleable and ultimately responsible for our own becoming.
  9. God’s will for us is found within our own deepest wanting.
  10. Good people are tempted by what seems morally or spiritually good.

Thomas Hart, Hidden Spring: The Spiritual Dimension of Therapy


“I’m perfectly at ease with whatever comes… I’m looking forward to a new adventure.”

Jimmy Carter

31394571_10215375906812287_6637470974936960851_nRadical tea towels by The Radical Tea Towel Company

Reclaiming Our Past

Recall a time of consolation and go back to it in imagination.

Margaret Silf, “What do do in desolation” from Inner Compass


When we are—as it were—torn up by some new hole of need in our life, remembering and reclaiming our past will help us claim hope and help for the present and the future. The patch comes from old cloth. The present need can be sutured by hope drawn from your past.

Br. Curtis Almquist


But the point is, now, at this moment, or any moment, we’re only cross-sections of our real selves. What we really are is the whole stretch of ourselves, all our time, and when we come to the end of this life, all those selves, all our time, will be us—the real you, the real me. And then perhaps we’ll find ourselves in another time, which is only another kind of dream.

J.B. Priestly, Time and the Conways


Do not fear the beauty of memories!

The past, admittedly, can be a source of immense pain.

And yet, the past is our story, our treasure, our jewell box, our wisdom.

Even if subsequent events—an estrangement, for example, or a death—have made you feel that a particular story had a sad ending, don’t allow the loveliness of a memory to be robbed from you.

No matter what, the past retains its own integrity, and we can draw strength and direction from it, remembering the original dreams with which we embarked on life, and setting our course again, recalling our true north.

We can gather it all

—the beauty and the sadness—

into a circle that will be redeemed by love.



Detail from a magazine advertisement for the perfume, L’Heure Bleu by Guerlain, c. 1974.

Give What You Have

Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee…

Acts 3:6


JEAN (the Juggler):

What a sudden ray of light,

And in my heart what joy.

He is right, the Virgin is not proud.

The shepherd, the juggler, in her eyes, par the King.

Virgin, mother of love, Virgin goodness supreme,

As on the shepherd’s tune smiled the God-Child,

If the juggler dared honor you the same,

Deign to smile from the sill of Heaven.


from Act II of Jules Massenet’s opera Le Jongleur de Notre Dame, lyrics by Maurice Lena, English translation by Jeffrey A. Klingfuss


“Le Jongleur de Notre Dame” is a legend included by Gautier de Coincy (1177–1236), a French abbot, in his collection, Les Miracles de Notre Dame. It is the story of a juggler who becomes a monk. Concerned that he has nothing to lay at the feet of the monastery’s statue of the Virgin Mary, and knowing his talents are viewed with suspicion by his fellow monks, he decides nonetheless to do what he does best for her. So he creeps in to the chapel in the dead of night, and, by moonlight, juggles before the statue to the point of exhaustion. Alas, he is discovered, but—just as the other monks are about to seize him and carry him away for blasphemy—a miracle! The Virgin steps down from her pedestal and wipes his brow with a handkerchief (for juggling is hard work). He dies, and is taken up to heaven, and the monks know they were in the presence of a saint.

De Coincy, a rather fascinating man, had an agenda. His stories champion outcasts and ne’er-do-wells and pursuits which, then and now, may not seem weighty to us. Jugglers still do not get the Nobel Prize. But in De Coincy’s world, as Marina Warner observes, the more raffish a character is, the better Our Lady likes him, or her. “Through her the whole gay crew of wanton, loving, weak humanity finds its way to Paradise…” (from Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary, 1976.) His Christianity was a soft-hearted, humorous, merciful, tolerant faith, and his Mary stood in gentle opposition to the more absolutist kind of morality that we still tend to uphold (and not only in Christian circles).

You may have the kind of talents our society values. But then again, you may not. If your talents are not considered weighty, pursue them nonetheless!

They were given to you by God.

You cannot give what you don’t have. (And Peter had something much better than silver and gold…) So don’t be concerned about the things you can’t give.

Instead, give what you have!


MASSENET: JONGLEUR, 1904. French poster, 1904, for Jules Massenet's opera 'Le Jongleur

The beautiful poster for the 1902 Paris premiere of Massenet’s opera, Le Jongleur de Notre Dame, which was based on the short story by Anatole France, itself based, in turn, on the 13th century legend by Gautier de Coincy.