1 Radio Alba Magazine: week one Lent 2015 7 pm
Welcome to a selection of articles from recent editions of Open House,
a magazine of comment and debate on faith issues in Scotland.
This week we’d like to offer you a short reflection on Lent , share a book review,
and take you on a walk along Scotland’s beautiful coastline. But first, we’d like to start
by remembering a great Scottish scholar and historian who was born a hundred years ago.
Dr John Durkan : Centenary
Dr John Durkan was remembered at a lecture at GlasgowUniversity given by Professor Sir Tom Devine. He recalled that John’s upbringing in Shettleston was so poor that in 1925, aged 11, he couldn’t proceed to secondary school. Yet by the time he reached St Mungo’s Academy he had had a poem published in the Glasgow Herald. Only with the help of a Carnegie grant was he able to go to University where he qualified as a teacher.
He spent all his spare time researching the sparse records of pre-Reformation Scotland. During school holidays this took him to libraries all over Europe. In Scotland he was a driving force in setting up the Scottish Catholic Historical Association. Its journal, The Innes Review, is still the main source for Scottish Catholic history. He earned his PhD in 1959 with a study of Scottish Universities in the Middle Ages and was honoured by the Church of Scotland’s New College on his 80th birthday. His magnum opus, on pre-Reformation Scottish schoolmasters, was published posthumously.
Professor Devine underlined the significance of Dr Durkan’s work. He was a master of the Scottish Renaissance, developing new perspectives that challenged old assumptions. One of the great mysteries of Scottish history had been sources for the Scottish Enlightenment of the 18th century. Previously this had been attributed to the 1707 Union since it was thought that Scotland had been a place of ignorance and faction. John Durkan’s work suggested that the seeds were Scottish and were fertilised by a European wide academic discourse. All the leaders of the Scottish Reform movement were ordained ministers of the church who were familiar with Europe.
John Durkan was a child of his time who benefitted from the support of a perceptive parish priest. He returned this by encouraging younger priests to study. He was active in promoting lay participation in the church as envisaged by the Second Vatican Council. At his death he still regarded that as very much a work in progress.
A Lent reflection from Carmelite priest Joe Chalmers
Lent is the preparation for Easter and is inspired by the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert before he began his public ministry and the 40 years the chosen people spent wandering in the desert before they were ready to enter into the Promised Land. Easter is the most important of the celebrations in the Christian calendar although in the minds of many people, the most important feast is probably Christmas. The liturgical celebrations of the Easter Triduum, the three days which begin on Holy Thursday, do not seem to have the same attraction as the ‘midnight’ Christmas Mass, at whatever time that is celebrated.
Before we get to the Triduum, we have to get through the long days of Lent when we are exhorted to give alms, fast and pray. This is not a competition but an attempt to respond to God more sincerely. In the Gospel reading for Ash Wednesday from Matthew (6, 1-6. 16-18), Jesus reminds us that the traditional Lenten activities do not benefit us before God if they are done to attract the attention of others. We are reminded in the first reading from the Prophet Joel: ‘Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God’ (Jl. 2, 13). He assures us that we will find a welcome because God is gracious and merciful. In the second reading, we are exhorted to ‘be reconciled to God’ (2 Cor. 5, 20).
The point is made in several ways that Lent is about our relationship with God but that this relationship must have an impact on our external activities. Saying more prayers or getting up extra early to go to Mass before work is wonderful but if we remain angry people around whom others have to tiptoe, perhaps God would prefer us to work on our human relationships. Fasting can be very beneficial but if it is done to shed those extra pounds put on over the Christmas splurge, it is not necessarily a religious act. Depriving ourselves of some food so that others might have sufficient nourishment is a fast which I believe is pleasing to God. Giving a beggar ten pence might salve my conscience but I can hardly count it as my good deed for Lent. Spending a bit of time to talk with and listen to an individual in need and buying the individual a meal or, even better, making a substantial contribution to a charity involved in caring for those in need, are all ways of almsgiving which might be considered.
Giving spare change to a worthy cause might make us feel good but perhaps more is required to change the reasons why there is a need in the first place. Thinking this way can give us problems of course. Remember the saying of Helder Camara, ‘When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist’. Living our Christian vocation practically might attract criticism. Jesus did not back away from his mission even when it became obvious that it would lead him to the cross. He invited his followers to follow him, taking up their cross on the way. Remember too that the desolation of the cross was not the end. The darkness of Good Friday gave way to the dawn of Easter Sunday.
Have a good Lent.
Florence Boyle reviews They that wait on the Lord, written by Neal Carlin, published by Columba Press in 2014
I spent some time last year at Fr Neal Carlin’s retreat centre in the IrishRepublic, a few miles from Derry, a hotspot during the Troubles. The area is now quiet, and a short walk from the retreat centre, down a country lane, is White Oaks, the centre for drugs and alcohol rehabilitation which Fr Carlin built to provide a safe haven for those who need to repair and rebuild their lives.
During my stay at St Anthony’s I heard, first-hand, some of the stories documented in Neil’s autobiography They that wait on the Lord, which marks the 50th anniversary of his ordination. Neal Carlin is a think out loud man, expressive and entertaining. This is a book to dip into. In amongst the story of his life are poetic reflections based on images from nature which reveal another side to the activist priest.
Ordained in 1964, Fr Carlin and his generation of priests witnessed a revolution in the Catholic Church. The old practices have been swept away. The deference of the laity has all but gone. Much of the book documents Neal’s struggle with Church authority, driven by his understanding of what God expected from him. His early service in Scotland is remembered fondly but he realised he was meant for something more. The single mindedness with which he pursued what he believed to be his mission led to isolation and a period of exile which he turned to positive action by constructing St Anthony’s. During that period, Neal ministered to Catholic prisoners in the Maze, during the hunger strikes. These chapters are hard to read, young men bound by a common purpose set on a course of action which brought them into conflict with their families and the Church.
Neal saw a future in Northern Ireland built on cross community co-operation. He pays tribute to the legions of ‘ordinary ‘people who built peace by praying and working together.
Tim Rhead, a pastoral assistant in the Episcopal Church, takes a walk on the Ayrshire coast.
We leave the small village of Maidens on the Ayrshire coast with its wide open views from the wooded hills to the small harbour and the rocky coast. Waders are feeding on the mud-flats; redshanks, oystercatchers, curlews and ringed plovers; gannets from nearby Ailsa Craig are flying past. Soon we arrive at the wooded grounds of Culzean castle, which is owned by the National Trust for Scotland, and make our way along the Long Avenue, which is part of the old turnpike road from Girvan to Ayr. We pass the Swan Pond and head for the ornamental gardens in front of the imposing castle, which was mostly built in the late 18th century.
Now we descend steep steps to the beach where we visit the old Gas House, which is a museum describing the early days of the gas industry when many small towns and some country houses had their own gas works, powered by coal. The manager lived in a cottage adjacent to the works and seemed to be on duty day and night seven days a week! We continue along the Ayrshire Coastal path which takes us across an interesting stretch of beach. Trees are growing almost down to the shore but in places there are steep cliffs with layers of old red sandstone. On the beach there are conglomerate rocks, which look like pebbles embedded in cement, and we even find a lava bomb, which must have been discharged millions of years ago from an old volcano.
The path zig-zags upwards to the top of the escarpment, then takes us along a series of field boundaries to an old coastguard look-out tower, dating from the Second World War. From here, we can just make out the hills of Arran, almost hidden by the mist. This was a cold place to spend hours gazing out to sea, observing the busy shipping lanes in the Firth of Clyde. We descend an old smugglers’ path to the village of Dunure. The ruins of the magnificent castle, which was the seat of the Kennedy family, dominate the harbour and old village. Many dramatic events occurred here, including the capture by King Haco of Norway before the battle of Largs in 1263, and the roasting on a spit of the Commendator of nearby Crossraguel Abbey in 1570 to force him to sign over the title deeds of the estate.
We hope you have enjoyed listening to a little bit of Open House. If you would like to subscribe to the magazine, go to our website at openhousescotland.co.uk.
2 Stations of the Cross
To access the script please click on the file below:
Compline, Night Prayer, is led by Joe Docherty and can be heard
on radioalba.org christian at 8.50.
To access the script please click on the file below: