Image: Britain in 21st Century


This week in our blog, Sr Margaret Rose Bradley shares a reflection she has written on the reality of life in Britain today for those struggling to afford the basics.

The children are hungry and cold;
there's no money left on the fuel card.
To eat, their mother has to go to the food bank;
she seldom eats much, saving it for the children.
Her husband is on a Zero Hours Contract,
but has no work most weeks;
no work means no pay; no pay means no money.
He doesn't qualify for Employment Allowance
because he is employed; on paper.
The snow comes that morning and the children
stay away from school;
they really like school but their wellingtons
are too small for their feet now,
there's no money to buy new ones.
In the hallowed halls of Westminster,
in those historic corridors where the
great and the powerful walked,
there's a trail of those going to have their afternoon tea,
subsidised afternoon tea
for why should MPs pay full price?
After all, they're ruining the country,
Oh, sorry, running the country;
running it into the ground, I think;
running away from the real needs of the poor,
the homeless, the hungry, the old and the sick.
Food banks don't serve afternoon tea;
Food banks feed those who are hungry;
Homeless making shelters of cardboard
to sleep in?
They don't need to do that you know,
it's all done to get notice.
After another day spent arguing about Brexit
MPs make their way home in their chauffeur-driven cars,
some of them to their second home.
No need for them to call at a food bank on the way home;
no need to worry about a fuel card,
their homes are well-heated to keep out the cold;
no need to worry about where the next meal's coming from;
No one worries about that these days,
especially if you live in 21st Century Britain,
trying  to exist on Universal Credit.

Margaret Rose Bradley

Image: Prophets and Radicals


In this week's blog, Ross Ahlfeld reflects on some of the issues of our time and warns against a passive acceptance of injustice.

Glaswegians of a certain vintage may recall a well-dressed gent who used to stand at the bottom of Buchanan Street, being ignored by all the shoppers he was calling to repent, while wearing a huge sandwich board which read ‘The End Is Nigh!’ in reference to his expected Biblical Apocalypse described in the Book of Revelation.

These days, you don’t see such evangelicals around the city centre, which is ironic considering these billboard-wearing Christians were correct: the end is indeed ‘nigh’. Especially according to a report by the National Centre for Climate Restoration think-tank in Australia which suggests a high likelihood of human civilization coming to an end starting in 2050. 

Depressingly, and much like Glasgow shoppers ignoring street preachers, most of us, including our governments, don’t seem bothered by the terrifying flood of pessimistic (and scientific) predictions of climate catastrophe. Subsequently, Extinction Rebellion has been forced to come into existence and take direct action.

Similarly, a recent UN study blaming austerity for increasing poverty levels seems to have barely registered. The report states that a fifth of the UK population, 14 million people, live in poverty, and 1.5 million experience destitution.

Yet, not only has this shocking report been ignored, it has also been denied by Chancellor Philip Hammond who simply rejected the claim that vast numbers of Britons are living in poverty.

For me, the two worst aspects of this are to be found in our passive acceptance of austerity and food banks as the new norm; and the advent of post-truth politics which allows the likes of Philip Hammond to dismiss obscene levels of poverty as ‘fake news’.

Don’t get me wrong, food banks are needed but they are no substitute for a decent welfare state. We are duty-bound as Catholics to engage in action against the root causes of poverty. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said -

“We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice; we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.” 

In modern parlance we might say that our Christian charity is incomplete without a pursuit of justice and for us in 21st century Scotland, this pursuit of justice must include the restoration of a fair national living wage.

Bonhoeffer knew exactly what the ‘Banality of Evil’ looked like; he’d seen how easily we Christians could be scandalised through our submission to tyranny.

Therefore, in this post-truth age, it is vitally important for us not succumb to a passive acceptance of injustice. Rather, we Christians must discern everything together, pray and defer to Church teachings.

In doing so, we may well be out of step with wider society. Anyone familiar with the pro-life movement will recognise that sense of being at odds with the prevailing culture of the age.

In his book The Audacity of Hope, even Barack Obama ponders the idea that those holding the reasonable centre ground are rarely vindicated by history. Rather, Obama suggests that it is often the radicals who over time, are proved correct, slavery being a case in point.

Perhaps elderly Glaswegians wearing sandwich boards are prophets too.

Image: The challenge of an Urgent Ecological Conversion


Sr MaryIsabel Kilpatrick, a former National Secretary of Justice & Peace Scotland, reflects on the challenge of Laudato si: Care for our common home.

I recently participated in a sabbatical programme run by the Dominican Sisters in their Ecology Centre in Wicklow.  The programme focused on the implications for our faith and spirituality of the new universe story. There is so much more that science can tell us about our origins and development as humans and about our common home - but have our faith and spirituality kept up?

For me, it was an eye opening and inspiring experience.

I realised that my knowledge and understanding of such developments had not really moved beyond my early educational options. I had heard of Darwin and the origin of species but never really worked out the implications and perhaps just suspended judgement on how it might conflict with the seven days of creation story.

So what a wonderful revelation to begin to contemplate our 13.8-billion-year history, from the great ¨flaring forth¨ to the moment when the astronauts looked at the earth rise and saw how beautiful it is.

How amazing to realise that we are all stardust and made of the same stuff - carbon, nitrogen and all that was present at that moment of creation.

How amazing that our planet situated itself at exactly the life-permitting orbit that’s neither too near the sun to burn up, nor too far to be too cold.

And how amazing, too, the process of development of tiny organisms and the journey that takes them to the incredible variety and complexity of creatures and species with whom we share this planet.

How amazing that we share something like 45% of the genes of a fruit fly, are one third primrose, and of course, 98 % chimpanzee.

 And so it is a great challenge to take on board the urgency of the ecological conversion called for in Pope Francis´s document on Care for our Common Home, Laudato si.

Such phrases as these need time for contemplation:

¨The Spirit of God has filled the universe with possibilities and therefore from the very heart of things something new can always emerge.¨ LS80

¨Each of the various creatures, willed in its own being, reflects in its own way a ray of God’s infinite wisdom and goodness¨. LS69

The most challenging revelation for me is to try to understand the meaning of Incarnation as part of this whole process: the meaning of God’s presence since the beginning, and of Jesus as a part of our evolving world; of beginning to see that our salvation is inextricably linked to the saving of our planet.

The question now of course is: do we care enough about the future?

Does the way our faith has developed or the way we have been taught have anything to do with attitudes that may have led us to separate earth and spirit?
What if there is no separation, and the end of the planet is the end of us all?

The challenge for Justice and Peace and for all of us is to join with those working to prevent the destruction of the planet.  Can we recover a sense of the sacredness of all things and get in touch with the Spirit that renews and enables something new to emerge, finding the energy to make the changes that are necessary?

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