Reflection for the Seventh Sunday after Trinity – Sea Sunday.

‘Jesus….rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!”’From Mark 4: 35-end.

”We come to God not by navigation but by love.” St Augustine.

Today is Sea Sunday, a time to remember those who patrol or work the seas on our behalf. This is a particularly dangerous time for all seafarers while they battle ongoing crises such as those of piracy in the Suez Canal and warfare between Russia and Ukraine as well as the storms and tsunamis that are regularly faced. That’s in addition to being away from families and home for long periods of time, the exhausting work, boredom or health issues that can sometimes result and the poor conditions or abandonment that can arise if their companies fail. With rising costs of fuel, vessels and goods, that can increasingly be the case and the emotional cost of the items for sale in supermarkets, shops and online is often considerably more than the price paid at the checkout. 

The notion of a voyage is sometimes used for the Christian journey through life, even if the location is completely landlocked, evoking Noah and his family who clambered aboard the Ark to find safe passage through the waters of flood and chaos. So, if there are times when it seems as if we’re navigating stormy waters, have lost our course or long for safe harbour, we shouldn’t be too surprised! As in the Gospel today, the hymn Guide me, O thou great Jehovah also speaks of dying as a voyage we will all eventually have to undertake with the elements as well as our lives subject to his guidance: ‘When I tread the verge of Jordan, bid my anxious fears subside. Death of death and hell’s destruction land me safe on Canaan’s side.’

Reflecting this, infants are baptised here with a scallop shell, valued by pilgrims travelling to the Shrine of St James at Compostela when found on the shores of Spain and used for food as well as a primitive filter to trap grit in the drinking water being scooped up from streams along the way. It became the sign of a pilgrim and many of those who come to this place of pilgrimage take a scallop shell away with them as a reminder of coming here.

Today, it takes more than the rills of a scallop shell to deal with the dirt and pollution in our seas, rivers and oceans. These are being affected by global warming and carbon dioxide which causes coral bleaching whilst sewage, over-fishing, chemicals and plastic take their toll too. The huge cruise liners that are so popular also have their effect, all of which can cause sea levels to rise in places where livelihoods, welfare and creatures as well as humans are affected in ways of which we’re often heedless.

So, St Augustine’s words are particularly relevant as we today consider how love of God, neighbour and self can make a difference where navigation is not the only consideration. As we ponder the options before us, purchasing power amongst them, take heart: aware of the crisis in the Suez Canal, China is already sending festive goods to these shores so that you will still be able to buy a robotic reindeer or elf in good time for Christmas should you need one! 

With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Priest Guardian. 

Reflection for the Sixth Sunday after Trinity and the General Election. 

‘They took offence at him. Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honour, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.”…. He could do no deed of power there…. And he was amazed at their unbelief.’ From Mark 6:1-13.

“I have heard your anger and disappointment…. I am sorry.” Rishi Sunak apologising in his resignation speech as Prime Minister, although many others were also involved.

“I should think so. We’ve been telling him long enough!” Unnamed voter on TV. 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus has come to his hometown with his disciples and astounds those who hear him teach in the synagogue there. They question his wisdom and deeds saying, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?” His brothers (possibly cousins) James, Joses, Judas and Simon are mentioned, as well as his unnamed sisters, and disbelief renders Jesus powerless as his identity and authority are questioned by those who simply see him as a local lad getting a bit above himself. Who does he think he is?

Jesus does not respond to the offence they in turn created for him at a time when he might have anticipated or welcomed support from those amongst whom he grew up. Instead, he calls his disciples and sends them out two by two – Jesus looks for another way to honour God’s call and his followers undertake this willingly and successfully. Despite the resentment of the locals, the word is proclaimed and the time there now becomes productive with many people being healed as Jesus shares his mission with those who are willing to work with him. Perhaps, at those times when we are unrecognised or blocked in what it’s hoped can be fulfilled, other ways can also be found to achieve or share this? 

During the recent electioneering, much was shared by leaders, candidates and campaign workers as leaflets were produced, debates held, journeys undertaken and doors knocked. This highlighted issues as well as policies and it was clear from the start that some of this was falling on deaf ears or being avoided rather than addressed. As Jesus experienced, many of those questioning what was unfolding preferred not to face the challenge and change being brought to them. Many chose not to listen to him or engage with it all as was the case for some in this election with the national turn out being the lowest since 1945. At times, anger, contempt and animosity were foremost, with all the party leaders experiencing the varying reactions of the electorate whose votes they were trying to secure and there being much negative comment. As the BBC’s commentator Chris Mason said, “There’s a lot of volatility about!” 

Eventually, the will of those who voted in all four home nations was clear and the way ahead obvious with Rishi Sunak accepting his party’s fate from a disbelieving electorate and conceding the election before the required number of seats had actually been reached. Many famous – or infamous?! – faces of all political persuasions were unseated as the former Foreign Secretary James Cleverly observed that, “Democracy is both a beautiful but also a brutal thing.” However, the change of Government was finally conducted with dignity and goodwill as failure was accepted, responsibility taken and both former as well as incoming Prime Minister acknowledged merits in the other. 

What now lies ahead will be no easy task as pledges made and challenges undertaken will be held to account with media coverage a huge factor internationally as well as locally, Poland’s TVP describing Keir Starmer as “a bit bland, even boring”. Will he be, or is that what is needed after so many years of turbulence? Can another way be found, as Jesus discovered and the electorate has now chosen, or will it be more of the same due to the huge issues that cannot easily or quickly be fixed or overcome? As in Jesus’ day, time will later show what is really unfolding throughout these events and we, too, will have our part to play in them or to help share, oppose or smooth the path of those trying to make a difference – or not, as we choose. 

With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Guardian. 

Reflection for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity and the storms of life.

“Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” Jesus, in Mark 4:35-41.

‘Now many years later, I have an idea that God would have said, “Take two”.’ Cardinal Hume, writing in ‘Basil in Blunderland’ of growing up with the idea of God as a teacher or policeman who would know and punish him for taking an apple without permission. 

Today’s Gospel centres on the calming of a storm, when Jesus commands it to cease and, to the astonishment of the disciples, it does. After an exhausting time, when Jesus has been teaching the large crowds and his disciples all day, he suggests to his followers that they should cross to the other side of the lake. Mark states that the crowds are left behind but other boats are with them despite the storm that then springs up and swamps the boat. Jesus, tired out, is fast asleep but is awoken by his panicking disciples who accuse him of not caring for their welfare – despite his nurturing of them throughout the day! Immediately, Jesus orders the wind and waves to be still – and they become not just peaceful but dead calm. His followers are astounded and marvel at his authority as he asks them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”

When Jesus asks them why they are afraid, it’s not clear whether he’s questioning their fear of the storm or its response to his command. Many of the disciples were also fishermen and would have been used to the sudden storms that can blow up there – they could perhaps have done more to help themselves and also honour Jesus’ need for rest. However, the disciples are having to learn that Jesus is much more than they realise and that in itself scares them – “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” they ask.

That same question is one that we must answer for ourselves as we, like those first disciples, respond to the presence of Jesus in our lives too. That cry of fear to Jesus – “Do you not care?” – from his frightened followers as the storm arises is echoed in so many situations today where anguished and petrified people long for God to act but he appears to be unresponsive. Often God is thought to be silent, sleeping as Jesus does in the stern where normally the person steering would be so active. Sometimes, too, there is more we could do to help ourselves or respond to what is needed. However, Jesus does take the action his disciples crave although it leaves them with so many questions about him. We may have many questions of him ourselves and our world, too.

Perhaps, like Basil Hume, we have to realise that God is so much more than the images we may have formed of him and that, as we face the storms in our own lives, we have the choice of developing faith in the loving purposes of a sometimes silent God or fear of the stormy situations being faced. Key to this is the need to ask afresh, of Jesus and ourselves, “Who is this?”

With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Priest Guardian. 

Reflection for the Third Sunday after Trinity and Father’s Day.  

”The Kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground….and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how.” Jesus, in Mark 4:26-34.

“Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.” Gary Snyder.

This valley is one of the most beautiful in Wales, a sacred site from pagan times and well before the arrival of Christianity. Not only is it significant because of St Melangell and the church that sprang up here but the foothills of the Berwyn Mountains have a rugged beauty that, with the waterfall, river and plentiful rainfall, creates lush hillsides which pilgrims and visitors here particularly enjoy. It’s been noticeable this week that the wooded hillside by the Centre, which was harvested last year, can produce a sense of shock and devastation for some of those who see it for the first time and compare it to what was. However, there are also visitors who find its bare slopes a salutary reminder that this is a place of work and production as well as beauty and peace – the replanting of saplings has begun and, in about forty years, it should look much better than it does now. These things take time!

It was the same when St Mark’s Gospel was written around AD 70, not long after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans. That lead to a sense of devastation and Mark placed emphasis on being alert for the coming of the Kingdom of God at a time when it was not expected in the midst of the chaos being faced. The Gospel set for today echoes this, with its emphasis on sowing seed which sprouts and grows itself in the earth where it’s scattered. Jesus uses the example of the tiny mustard seed, which grows into a much larger plant and can even give shelter to birds in its branches. That is the hope here, where the tiny saplings being planted on the hill speak simply of future hope amidst current dismay without many words being needed. 

The example Jesus uses of sowing mustard seed would be a familiar, everyday activity with which his hearers could easily identify in so rural a situation. By likening this to the Kingdom of God, Jesus indicates that God is also at work in the tiny things of life where small gestures and actions may eventually make a great difference. It’s a reminder, this Father’s Day, that small acts of kindness, encouragement and support can sow seeds for the future that may blossom even though we may not be aware of them when they happen and it may take time. That can have unexpected consequences too, it being said that Jeremiah Colman made his fortune and established the family business partly from the amount of mustard people took to use on their food but then left on their plate as it was so hot. Perhaps, when life is heated or chaotic for us today, the unanticipated arrival of the Kingdom of God which Mark emphasised is closer to hand than we think? 

With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Priest Guardian.

A reflection for the Second Sunday after Trinity and D-Day.

“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.” Jesus, in Mark 3:24. 

“Teamwork wins wars. I mean teamwork among nations, services and men. All the way down the line from the GI and the Tommy to us brass hats.” Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe.

The D-Day coverage this week was very moving, with the dwindling number of veterans gathering for probably the last time to share their stories and memories. The accounts of what was organised and experienced were remarkable and Eisenhower’s comments about teamwork were validated by events as well as the individual actions of so many which also made a difference. There has been some negativity over the UK’s Prime Minister leaving earlier than most to record a TV interview, for which he has apologised, but one centenarian even marked the occasion by getting married to his sweetheart aged 96! That remarkable generation and all they did has been heard and honoured, for which thanks are given as the challenges to democracy and peace are faced today. 

It was clear in the coverage that little things made a huge difference. Maureen Sweeney was a young woman who was appointed as a Post Office assistant in Blacksod in Western Ireland but she had no idea that weather reporting was part of her duties. She adapted well to this and sent back vital details that delayed the invasion by a day – but what if she hadn’t agreed to it or had not been so diligent, hers being the only forecast accurately reporting the probable improvement in the weather that led to the delay until 6th June? What if de Valera, the Irish Taoiseach – caught between IRA republicans favouring the Nazi cause and those supporting British politicians – had decided not to allow the sharing of this information with the UK as he did? What if James Stag, the weather forecaster advising the Allied commanders, had dismissed Maureen’s notes as a mistake? All these things were to have profound consequences. 

Maureen had no idea at the time of the significance of her reports – but they mattered hugely because the Germans did not have access to information from the Atlantic and thought the bad weather would continue. What if the same had applied to the Allies and they had gone ahead during the storm? Rommel believed his weather reports, accurate for the smaller area to which they were confined, and went back to Germany for his wife’s birthday. He was not present when D-Day began – what if he had been? Due to the forecasts, German commanders had been called to a planning meeting – all their regiments were without them. What if they had been there? It was also significant that Hitler took a nap and, his aides not liking to wake him up, let him sleep on – as a result, Panzer divisions, crack troops with tanks, were not quickly mobilised. What if he’d been awoken and they had been ordered in? 

On a wider basis, the individual actions and sabotage of the French resistance affected German communications, just as the recruitment of double spies and false information created confusion regarding where the invasion would actually happen. The forward planning creating pipelines under the sea for fuel and Mulberry harbours for supplies, as well as some troops landing with heavy packs, weapons and even bicycles to carry, showed the huge scale of detail and expectation for which all gave some and some gave all, D-Day being just the start of the Battle of Normandy which killed and wounded so many. As one veteran remarked, some of those who lived with the terrible cost and dreadful memories of this found it created, ”A cloak of sorrow that has never really gone away.” Another commented that, “It was history. We didn’t realise it – we were living history.” 

In our generation, we are also living history, some of which may bring sorrow as well as hope. As we reflect on the cost of the freedom won for us, what are the apparently little things being faced in our lives that, given to God, could make a huge difference? 

A D-Day prayer: God our refuge and strength, as we remember those who faced danger and death in Normandy eighty years ago, grant us courage to pursue what is right, the will to work with others and the strength to overcome tyranny and oppression. This we pray through Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Priest Guardian.

Reflection for the Fifth Sunday after Trinity and Euro 2024.

“Do not fear, only believe.” Jesus, in Mark 5:21-43.

‘Woe de Cologne.’ Newspaper comment on England’s poor match play in Euro 2024.

Today’s Gospel involves the healing of a woman and a girl in  different yet similar circumstances. The first is the young daughter of Jairus, one of the synagogue leaders who comes to Jesus in desperation even though he may be criticised for it. He humbles himself by kneeling at Jesus’s feet and begging him to lay hands on her as he fears she will die and, without a word, Jesus simply does as he asks. 

As they go to his house with a large crowd pressing in on him, the second woman comes up behind Jesus. She has been bleeding for twelve years with a condition that would be curable today but she had seen many doctors, spent a great deal of money in doing so and was getting worse rather than better. The woman approaches Jesus, perhaps from desperation like Jairus, and simply touches his cloak in the belief that he can heal her. After so many years of failure, pain and ostracisation, this is a courageous and hopeful gesture on her part and, immediately aware of the power that had gone from him, Jesus stops and asks who touched him. As the woman is aware of bodily changes in her due to the contact with his clothing, so is Jesus. His disciples laugh at him as many people are crowding in on him but the woman fearfully owns up to what she has done – a brave thing to do, given the sensitive nature of her problem which would have made her unclean in the religious laws in those days. Having been shunned for many years, to find herself the focus of attention must have been daunting but, when she tells him the truth, Jesus says that her faith has made her well and that she can go in peace now that she is healed.

Jairus must have been in agony of mind while this was going on with his much-loved daughter being so poorly and the delay this causes does indeed mean that Jesus arrives too late – Jairus’ daughter has died. However, Jesus tells Jairus not to fear, just believe – how hard that is to do in desperate circumstances, but it was that belief that lead Jairus to Jesus in the first place. He tells the family that she is just sleeping and then sends them all outside despite the ensuing commotion and wailing. Only Peter, James and John are with him and, with the child’s parents also present, he takes the girl’s hand and orders her to get up. She does so, to the amazement of those present, and Jesus tells them to give her something to eat before he goes on his way, caring about her practical physical welfare too.

Despite the fears of them both, God’s love is sufficient for both the woman and Jairus to find the healing they seek although this may have been the last resort for them. Their hopes are realised and, in their fulfilment lies our hope too. Key to both was faith in Jesus and trust that he would respond. That is so in our day, too – in what do we need not to fear, just believe? And does that apply even to the English football team after the ‘Woe de Cologne’?!

With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Priest Guardian.

Reflection for the First Sunday after Trinity

“Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill?” 

Jesus, in today’s Gospel Mark 2:23-3:6.

‘Nobody is above the law’ – slogan on a banner regarding Donald Trump’s conviction.

Today’s Gospel contains two controversial incidents from Jesus’ early ministry. The first occurs in a cornfield as he and the disciples are making their way through it and they pluck some of the grain to eat. The Pharisees accuse them of acting unlawfully on the Sabbath, the day of rest for Jews, but Jesus reminds them of David and his men who ate the bread reserved for priests when they were hungry fugitives. By breaking the rules, Jesus suggests that the Sabbath was made for humankind and not that humans must observe its customary laws when in need. David was fed, just as the man with the withered hand was also healed, on the Sabbath. Restoring the man to fullness of life angers the Pharisees so much that Mark states that they began to conspire with the Herodians to destroy Jesus – and this is only chapter three!

This week has focussed on American law with the conclusion of the first trial of former President Donald Trump who has been found guilty of all thirty-four charges of falsifying business records to conceal payments to the adult actress Stormy Daniels. He has become the first President to face possible imprisonment as a result yet, despite this and trials for further felonies in the pipeline, Trump stood outside the court afterwards and declared, ”I am very innocent.” Having condemned the trial, the judge, the jury and his political opponents, he has announced his decision to appeal and to conduct his presidential campaign for the next election from a prison cell if necessary. In the run-up to November’s vote, Trump has already polarised the electorate and created huge divisions in the American judicial system – and this was only May 30th!

All this is in the context of the General Election and the political machinations in the UK where, if both are elected, a former Director of Public Prosecutions who is now Leader of the Labour Party might be expected to liaise with a convicted felon if they become Prime Minister and the next President. These are complex matters and they may not come to pass – but if they do and this is the will of the people, what will be the consequences for the law and democracy if that happens? 

This week marked the thirtieth anniversary of my priesting, although I was a deacon for four years beforehand. As one of the first women to be ordained in the Church of England, I well remember the consequences and controversies of this huge change which divided the institution itself and created legal as well as religious issues which are still not fully resolved. The turmoil all this created was complex and not least was the irony of women who discerned a call to priesthood before it was legally possible and those who opposed this change to the point of leaving the Anglican church over it.

It was a difficult and challenging time for all involved, heralding other legal changes which are still ongoing as the Church responds to the demands made of it in our day. 

As Jesus responded then to the demands made of him and his followers, he urged them to consider whether they should do good or harm on the Sabbath and whether they should save life or kill. As the struggle for rest, justice and the interpretation of the law continues in our day with the constant intensity of media scrutiny and the demands of busy-ness as well as business, perhaps his question could be broadened. How, in our differing yet challenging situations, can life be spiritually enhanced rather than deadened on a daily basis and not just the Sabbath?

With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Guardian.

Reflection for Trinity Sunday and the feast day of St Melangell.

‘And just as he was coming out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” ‘ The baptism of Jesus, from Mark 1:9-12. 

This image of the Trinity in the baptism of Jesus reminds us of the importance of family relationships for our own development and growth as Jesus is baptised by his second cousin, John the Baptist. The voice of God in heaven is heard, just as the God the Holy Spirit is depicted as a dove, that symbol of peace and hope. The God of relational love informs our relationships, too, just as relationships were key to St Melangell, whose feast day was celebrated here today with an exhibition of images of her. 

What was Melangell like? Her appearance has been subject to a great deal of speculation and there are many images of her. One icon shows her arriving in the valley dressed in fine clothes, looking a rather frail figure with blond hair and blue eyes. Another depicts her more robustly with sturdy forearms developed through manual labour, the long, dark hair and eyes of a Celt and clad in a sensible brown woollen tunic. A further image shows Melangell hiding from the Prince, whilst wearing a velvet dress which highlights her figure and makes her look like a sexy Maid Marian. 

One painting shows her in a cream dress with plaited ginger hair, whilst another depicts a rather severe haircut and dark clothing. A felted picture indicates two hares with her and there are many other images of her as a goddess, an earth mother and a feminist. One drawing denotes Melangell as part of creation in the form of a tree, the spirals of which are similar to those in a beautiful embroidered textile of the saint worked by Catherine Millar and designed by her son Timothy – some of these images will shortly be available to see on

A lino cut of Saved, a Modern Melangell, depicts the saint wearing a necklace and cardigan as she comforts the frightened hare. Perhaps the most thought-provoking is a sculpture of Melangell by Fr Rory Geoghegan with her hair blowing in the wind and the hare hiding under her cloak. She carries her staff of office but has no facial features other than a vague outline – there are no defined eyes, lips or nose. In that sense, she is Everywoman, representing and challenging all of us – as she cared for the creatures round her, so could we; as she avoided conflict with Brochwel and they brought out the best in each other, that’s a challenge facing us, too; and as she and the sisters who joined her gave hospitality and care to the pilgrims coming here, so we can help to look after one another. 

Melangell led a life of great contrast, being born into influence as the daughter of an Irish King or Chieftain, then spending at least a decade in prayerful solitude in the valley, before meeting Prince Brochwel, establishing the church here and finally living for thirty years or more in community with the other iwomen who came to join her here as word spread of what had happened. Hers was a life of great contrast and change, just as are those of so many in the changing circumstances of our day. Of course, there are those who say that she never existed and that she is simply a myth, but it doesn’t seem to me that a church would be dedicated and a shrine built for someone who never existed or that land where she and the sisters may have provided rest, food and care for those who needed it would still be called the sanctuary land to this day. The tradition of healing, sanctuary and hospitality that she and the unnamed women with her established is still very much evident here today and we celebrate it, with so much more, this Trinity Sunday as we honour those who have established and entrusted this place and tradition to our generation. Melangell, Brochwel and the community here answered God’s call, just as we in our day face the continuing challenge to do so in the circumstances in which we live. She is very much a saint for our times as well as hers and as we in relationship with God and each other consider Melangell’s example this Trinity Sunday, thanks be to God for this woman of faith, courage and relational character whose legacy still inspires so much today.

With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Priest Guardian.

Reflection for Pentecost and the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Monte Cassino. 

”Mortal, can these bones live?“ Ezekiel 37:3.

 ”Stink of death was everywhere. And there, down below, was that beautiful valley full of red poppies…. Here an atmosphere of death and destruction and there, beauty, peace and quiet. I thought: how can these two worlds coexist side by side? But that’s how it was.” Veteran of the Battle of Monte Cassino. 

Today is Pentecost, originally a harvest festival on the fiftieth day after Passover. It also became linked with Moses being given the Law on Mount Sinai when, ‘There were sounds and lightnings…and God descended upon it in fire.’ Exodus 19:16,18. The people ‘saw the voices’ of God, which the rabbis interpreted as being in 70 different languages so that all nations could understand what was being said. Exodus 20:18. This was also linked with the skeletons in Ezekiel’s vision being restored to new life and the coming of the Holy Spirit to those gathered in the upper room with the sound of a rushing, mighty wind, tongues of flame and the ability to speak in other languages as they were filled with the Spirit. Acts 2:1-4. 

Those first followers of Jesus had been through three years of ministry with him, his arrest, crucifixion, death, resurrection and ascension. What a range of emotions they must have experienced as they now awaited the coming of the Holy Spirit, the power that enabled them to realise that this was not an ending as Jesus left them but a new beginning as they spoke of the Good News which lead to the development of the worldwide Christian church. From bewilderment, death and anguish had come life and hope. Alleluia!

This is also the 80th anniversary of the ending of the Battle of Monte Cassino after four months of fighting. Atop the rocky hill above the town of Cassino near Rome was the abbey, the first house of the Benedictine Order established by Benedict himself in the sixth century and for which he developed his Rule which is still in use today. The abbey had been the subject of many attacks over the years and was no longer functioning as a monastery but monks were still there, looking after its many treasures. At the time of the battle, the abbey was wrongly thought to be occupied by German troops and was left in ruins by the Allied attacks although the oldest part containing the tomb of Benedict was spared. Nearly a quarter of a million troops from six continents fought over the abbey, although the monks were able to flee to Rome and preserve many of the treasures. However, civilians sheltering within the abbey were killed, as were about 55,000 Allied soldiers and 20,000 German troops. Around 312,000 Allied and 434,000 German casualties also resulted, leading many to believe that, when victory was claimed at such cost over what was now ruined, it was a pyrrhic victory in what was called ‘The Hardest Fought Battle’ of the Second World War. 

A pyrrhic victory is named after King Pyrrhus whose triumph over the Romans in 279 BC killed so many of his troops that he had to end his campaign. However, despite the bloodshed and destruction at Monte Cassino, a new abbey and community was rebuilt after the war, fulfilling its motto Succisa Virescit  – Cut down, it grows anew. It lives on, functioning on a different basis and now also associated with the battle. 

The first disciples discovered that new life grew from death and destruction, of which Pentecost is a celebration, and the same was true at Monte Cassino and elsewhere. But, with so much death and destruction ongoing in our world today, coexisting with beauty, peace and quiet, we also have difficult choices to make as we face the same question as Ezekiel: “Mortal, can these bones live?” Perhaps the best way of honouring both Pentecost and those who laid down their lives for our freedom is to ensure that, with the power of the Holy Spirit given to us at baptism, we do live – and not just exist.

With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Priest Guardian