Michæl McFarland Campbell

Always telling the story

Another week of more challenges on dialysis

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Just as I thought we were getting over the rollercoaster of the viral load being or not being undetectable and the change in my antiretrovirals to treat the HIV, there was another lurch in my medical treatment.

Last Wednesday, I attended my usual dialysis clinic as normal. Except that nothing was normal. I think we nearly had every nurse present around my bed as we tried to cannulate the fistula. I tried, I failed. The nurse assigned to me for the day tried and failed. The clinical nurse manager for the unit tried — and yes — he failed as well. Another nurse attempted the seemingly impossible and yep, he failed too. The blood was clotting very quickly in the fistula.

Having had about ten different needles in my arm that day, we decided collectively to leave it until my normal dialysis day on Friday and attempt again. The only difference being that I was asked to arrive in time for the morning shift at 8 am rather than my usual time of 1 pm.

And so it was on Friday morning, after a wonderful day out on Thursday with a friend visiting ancient monastic sites around Drogheda, I got up really early, caught the green bus from Monasterevin to Port Laoise, and walked up to the B Braun unit.

Houston we have a problem

I walked in, and my nurse wanted to scan my arm before we tried to needle it. When he did that, it was quite clear that we had a problem. There was very clear stenosis in the fistula. This meant that there would be a complete change of plans. I have to say a big thank you to the teams both in B Braun Midlands Renal Care Centre and the Midlands Regional Hospital at Tullamore as they worked together apparently seamlessly to coordinate my move to Tullamore for the somewhat inevitable procedure.

As soon as I knew I was going to Tullamore, I asked Andrew to come to Port Laoise so that we could arrive together at Tullamore. I had a feeling that I was going to need his support. I was right.

We arrived in Tullamore and were pretty quickly ushered into a treatment room that even I had not been in before. It was still in the dialysis unit but new to me. A nurse rescanned my arm and confirmed the stenosis. I’m not quite sure in what order everything happened, but I know I got food for lunch, Andrew went out for lunch in Tullamore, and a doctor put in a temporary catheter in my chest as the access to ensure that I got dialysis on Friday.

Back in December 2018, when my kidneys failed, I got a permacath put in, I have no recollection of how or where that was done. This time, I was definitely awake throughout the procedure. Liam, the dialysis support bear, was also allowed to be beside me. Feeling his left foot was one of the most comforting things I have experienced in a long time. I know that sounds daft, but that is how it is. Liam comes from Andrew, because Andrew can’t always be with me. But because Liam was, Andrew was there too. Well, in spirit anyway.

After the temporary catheter was put in, I then had four hours of dialysis as normal. It felt very strange to return to having the blood coming out from my right-hand side rather than my left.

Today’s activity

Today, Andrew and our friend Miriam came to visit me. This also meant that I definitely had all the new medication with me. This morning, before they came, I had another shorter dialysis session. Originally planned for two hours, so that I could leave and play for a wedding… (no, that madcap plan was vetoed by the bride)… we actually ended up with me doing two-and-a-half hours. For those who like numbers,


Final results of dialysis session on 2023-09-09.

Today was not the most successful dialysis session, but it was about an hour shorter than is normal. But if we estimate the TeKt/V it probably would have been 1.28 which is just over the target of 1.2.

Next steps…

Tomorrow will be a relatively quiet day, I hope. Andrew won’t be in – trains are too difficult to negotiate from Monasterevin, and I don’t really expect to see any other friends either. From midnight Sunday/Monday, I have to be fasting as I have to go to Tallaght University Hospital (back where my first dialysis was) by ambulance transfer so that the team there can have a go at repairing the borked fistula. There are two possible outcomes: firstly, they repair the fistula and it works, the temporary catheter in my chest can be removed; or secondly, they cannot repair the fistula and the temporary catheter in my chest is removed so that a new permacath is put in. Either way, my consultant here reckons that I will be going home out of hospital on Tuesday.

It has been a rough few weeks. I really wish that everything just went according to my idea of the plan. However, I suspect that God has other ideas, which is why everything has gone the way it has. And at some point, I should be getting new books for my next module with The Open University on Public Health.

Originally posted at https://hivblogger.com/2023/09/09/another-week-of-more-challenges-on-dialysis/

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

September 9th, 2023 at 7:30 pm

Posted in Health

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Registering to vote is now much easier in Ireland

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Historically, registering to vote in Ireland involved a trip to the local Garda station to get a paper form stamped. Fortunately, those days are gone, and it is much simpler now. You can register to vote, online, at any time.

Simply go to www.checktheregister.ie and complete your details to be added to the electoral register. You can check the registration and update your details if you are already registered. If you are a first-time registrant, then you complete that form instead.

The details you’ll need to provide are:

  • your PPS number
  • your date of birth
  • your Eircode

These details are needed for your local authority to confirm your details. And that is it! You’ll be ready to vote, should an election or a referendum be called!

Three reasons why your vote is important

  1. It gives you a say on important issues that affect you — from roads and recycling, to education and climate change, to housing and employment.
  2. It gives you the choice to vote for your local and national representatives, if you don’t vote, other people get to choose who represents you.
  3. Elections can be called at short notice — if you don’t register 15 days or more before an election or referendum, you may not be able to vote. It is as simple past that.

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

December 15th, 2022 at 5:33 pm


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Are you a multipotentialite? It certainly seems to me that I am. What is a multipotentialite? Well, it is someone with many interests and creative pursuits, rather than focusing only on a particular subject or hobby. I learned this new word while completing the The Open University‘s 5-hour short course on the value and benefits of Multidisciplinary Learning. As a student on the Open Degree pathway, I found this really helpful as a way to describe the degree course that I am following.

Multidisciplinary students bring many transferable skills to the workplace because of their study, including critical thinking, self-management, adaptability, analysis and problem solving, application of information technology, flexibility, and synthesis of ideas.

Anyone interested in studying this course, can find out more at https://www.open.edu/openlearn/education-development/multidisciplinary-study-the-value-and-benefits/content-section-0?active-tab=description-tab

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

November 19th, 2022 at 8:16 pm

Veracity, non-malificence, benficence, confidentiality, and fairness: five words to live and work by

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Throughout my career, I have worked hard to ensure that everything that I do is to the best of my ability and shows my professionalism. Paramount to ensuring this is learning new skills, exploring new ways of working, and revising ongoing skills and tools to complete my work.

This morning, I’ve been looking at professional ethics, particularly concerning my work as a communications professional.

As Richard Bailey, says

Ethics is allied to professionalism. So if you profess to act ethically, then as a very first step you should be able to demonstrate your commitment to professional standards.

Richard Bailey, PR Academy, Briefing: Professional Ethics, 2022-04-04, https://pracademy.co.uk/insights/briefing-professional-ethics/ accessed 2022-01-03

My first step is to have signed up to professional standards. I have signed up to the Code of Conduct of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, of which I am a Member and Accredited PR Practitioner, also to the Institute of Internal Communication’s Code of Conduct as a Certified Member. I have membership in several professional bodies, and I work hard to ensure that all of my work meets their professional standards.

I can recall a few times when I have been asked in employment to do something which I found ethically questionable. Each time, I explained to my manager why I could not do what I was being asked to do. On more than one occasion, there was a look of incomprehension that I refused to do what was wanted. But, having heard that it was about professional ethics, and after I had explained why I could not do what it was, it was decided that it was not a good move.

Within the Public Relations industry, Patricia Parsons states that there are five pillars:

  1. Veracity (telling the truth)
  2. Non-malificence (doing no harm)
  3. Beneficence (doing good)
  4. Confidentiality (respecting privacy)
  5. Fairness (being fair and responsible)

They are very good pillars for any role, and they equally work within the Internal Communication sphere of communications. I shall continue to endeavour to hold myself to these qualities in my work. I urge others to do likewise.

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

November 3rd, 2022 at 10:41 am

Blogs and podcasts round-up September 2022

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One of my roles is to copy edit the ISTC’s monthly newsletter, InfoPlus. Since April, I have also been compiling the monthly blog and podcast round-up. Here’s the info for September 2022:

The CherryLeaf Podcast looks at `the value of retrospectives at the end of a documentation project, and how you can run one.’


Elizbeth O’Quinn gives a guide to strong policy writing. `Policy writing can sometimes feel unnecessary, outlining specific rules and requirements that seem intuitive.


Enter the cheetah.

When it comes to competitive advantage, few animals can match the cheetah. Faced with a prey that can run at up to 100kph, the cheetah has developed characteristics that enable it to survive by catching that prey.

John Mark Williams, CEO of The Institute of Leadership & Management shares his interpretation of agile leadership, and how we can use real-life examples from the wild to develop our own agility skills for the modern world.


Take a look in your kitchen. Go on. I guarantee you’ll find copy, and that you’ll see that copy pretty much every day.

For me, it’s the packet of tea bags which I go to every couple of hours. And it’s the bottle of laundry liquid that I pass as I walk in and out of the kitchen.

So writes Megan Douglas about the subtle power of packaging copy on the Pro Copywriters blog.


Our personal health and wellbeing, and that of our friends, family and communities, are important to all of us. However, it’s not always in our control. On The RSA blog, Ella Firebrace and Riley Thorold explain how we might look to our futures and shape, what it means to lead healthier and happier lives, through participatory practices that involve citizens and NHS staff. 


Nick Fewings asks: ‘Are organisations to blame for poor leadership and dysfunctional teams’ over on the Association for Project Management blog. 

Regularly, I hear of new leaders being promoted into a role due to their technical expertise and not their leadership capabilities. A two-week handover of their old job, followed by a two-week induction into their new leadership role, and hey presto, they’re good to go! It happened to me over 30 years ago and I still have sleepless nights thinking about the damage I did to my team, due to my ineptitude at leading them.


If you want to subscribe to InfoPlus, and read other information about technical writing from the ISTC, you can subscribe at https://istc.org.uk/homepage/publications-and-resources/infoplus-newsletter/

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

September 1st, 2022 at 4:30 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Christ is interested in our hearts every day of our life

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A reflection on the readings for the Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C), Isaiah 66:18–21; Psalm 117: 1, 2; Hebrews 12:5–7, 11–13; and St Luke 13:22–30

young man with a hat reading a book
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Many Jews at the time of Jesus thought that salvation was based on external factors, like race and ritual. Many Jews, in fact, believed that only Jews could actually live in communion with God. The non-Jewish peoples, so they thought, were destined to be second-class citizens in the Kingdom of God. Others believed that you not only needed to be of the Jewish race to win God’s favour, but you also had to follow even the most minute details of the Law of Moses, as well as the many ritual practices that had grown up around that Law.

Jesus takes the opportunity of the question about whether or not many people will be saved, to correct those wrong ideas. He explains that in God’s Kingdom there will be people from all four corners of the earth—just as Isaiah had prophesied, and as we read in the First Reading. So race had nothing to do with it. He also explains that many who `ate and drank’ with the Lord—in other words, many who followed all the many external rituals that governed Jewish eating and drinking at the time—will be excluded from God’s Kingdom. So exterior rituals aren’t the ticket either.

But if race and ritual are not the keys to salvation, what is?

It’s the heart.

Salvation does not depend primarily on external appearances, but on friendship with Christ, and that is rooted in our hearts. The people in His parable who were excluded from the heavenly banquet complained that the Lord had actually taught in their streets. But the Lord answers them, `I do not know where you are from.’ In other words, they are strangers to Him. Maybe they did let Him into their streets, but they never let Him into their hearts.

Heart to heart

a statue of the sacred heart of jesus
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St Margaret Mary Alacoque was a French nun who lived in the 1600s. She was privileged by God with a series of visions in which Jesus appeared to her and revealed His Sacred Heart. He explained to her that his love for sinners was so great that whenever they ignored it or didn’t accept it, he felt as much pain as if someone were driving a thorn into his physical heart.

The Sacred Heart devotion that we see around us, and have heard about, traces its beginnings to those apparitions.

During one of them, St Mary asked our Lord a curious question. She asked Him to tell her who among his followers in the world at that moment was giving His heart the greatest joy. His answer was even more curious than the question. He did not mention any of the famous preachers, or bishops, or even the pope. He did not mention any of the great intellectuals, or aristocrats, or missionaries. He did not even mention someone who was later canonised. No, He told her that the person giving His heart the most joy was a little-known novice instructor in a small convent in the European countryside—someone who was instructing novices how to become good followers of Christ.

What matters to Christ is not drama and fireworks and great achievements; what matters to Christ is the humility and love that are in our hearts.

St Teresa of Calcutta once said, `If you try, you will find it impossible to do one great thing. You can only do many small things with great love.’

Following Christ is a matter of the heart: His heart reaching out to ours and hoping for a warm welcome.

Judging right

judge signing on the papers
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Understanding that Christ looks first of all at our hearts can help us follow one of the most difficult commands that Jesus gave us.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus commanded His disciples: `Do not judge, and you will not be judged.’

It is not for us to pass judgment on our neighbours, because we cannot see into their hearts.

Only God can see the human heart through and through. Only God knows all of the experiences that have gone into the formation of someone’s personality. Only God knows all the hidden motives, the real reasons, and the mixed intentions behind human behaviour. Psychologists and sociologists have been trying to catalogue those things for the last hundred years, and they have only drawn one firm conclusion: the human heart is an unfathomable mystery.

Every one of us wants to be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. He wants the same thing—that is why he created us. To follow Christ faithfully means to walk in his footsteps. And even to the very end of His life, Jesus refused to pass judgment on sinners. He warned, he instructed, he encouraged, and he exhorted, but even when His hypocritical, self-centred, arrogant enemies nailed Him to a Cross—even then, He prayed. `Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.’ How much more should we, who cannot see those depths, do the same!

This week, when we say the Lord’s Prayer, we will promise to forgive our neighbours just as we want God to forgive us. When we do that, let us really mean it.

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

August 21st, 2022 at 8:30 am

Posted in Sunday Relections

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Let’s be warriors of the truth

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Some thoughts on the readings for the Eucharist on the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time in Year C. The readings are: Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23; Psalm 90:3-6, 12-13, 14, 1; Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11; and St Luke 12:13-21.

Faith in Christ has consequences

string light under clear sky
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I regularly hear from friends who are not Christian that they think Christianity is nothing but an empty list of dos and don’ts. They seem to believe these lists come from an irrational thirst for power and domination and that the standards we seek to uphold limit personal freedom. Christians know this to be untrue. 

St Paul explains the real reason behind the moral teaching of Christianity in the Second Reading at the Eucharist today. Because Christians have come to know and believe in Christ, they strive to live according to a demanding moral standard. Having experienced His love, power, goodness, and grace, we want to emulate Him. 

By knowing Him, we know what the universe looks like. Without Him, without Christ, human life is meaningless. It is like chasing after the wind, “vanity of vanities”, as we read in the First Reading today. Without Christ, everything we do here on earth would end when we die. There would be no lasting value. It would be like the mark your toe leaves in the water when you dip it in the sea at the beach. 

Jesus came to earth. He suffered and died for our sins. He rose from the dead. And He ascended back into heaven to give us a chance at a lasting value. Our lives are now plugged into eternity through faith in Christ, “hidden with God”, as St Paul puts it. 

Everything we do is linked to salvation history. Before Christ, we were shipwrecked on a desert island with no escape, dying. Life was vanity. But Christ came to rescue us. As long as we cling to the wood of His Cross, we can rest assured that He will bring us home to his glorious, everlasting Kingdom. That is why we should strive to avoid anything that would separate us from Christ. We should avoid anything that could break our friendship with Him by violating His command to love God and love our neighbour. I hope that the Anglican bishops meeting at the Lambeth Conference remember these two commandments of the Lord. Love God. Love your neighbour. 

Our faith in Christ has consequences for our life. If we let it, it gives us a friendship that will last into eternity. 

Oil and water, darkness and light, the Penitential Rite

light trails on highway at night
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Soldiers who jump out of aeroplanes wear a parachute because if they do not, the laws of physics will cause them some damage. They do not argue with it. They adjust their behaviour to deal with it. 

Our lives should be similar. If we want to stay spiritually healthy, we must adjust our behaviour according to the moral law God built into the universe. We have to follow the commandments and the example of Christ. Selfishness and sin go against that moral law. They separate us from a healthy relationship with Christ. Oil and water do not mix, no matter how hard we try. Darkness and light do not mix, no matter how hard we try. Friendship with Christ—and the happiness that comes with it—cannot grow if sin is poisoning the soil of our souls. We have to repent. We have to use a parachute. 

That is one reason why every Eucharist begins with a penitential rite. After the greeting, we call to mind our sins, ask God for His forgiveness, and implore His mercy. This is our parachute. This is when we turn away from everything in our lives that damages our friendship with Christ. 

Only then can our minds be open to hear God’s word in the readings and the homily and to receive His strength in Holy Communion. 

Our faith in Christ has consequences for our life. 

Being warriors of the Truth

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When St Paul makes his list of sins that put our friendship with Christ in danger, he focuses on one in particular: self-centeredness. He is saying that we need to pay special attention to it. He writes: “Stop lying to one another, since you have taken off the old self with all its practices.” We are reminded that lying, deceiving, and manipulating the truth are sins. They unravel God’s plan for human society and endanger our friendship with Christ. 

God, the author of all truth, has given us the capacity to know and communicate the truth to build healthy relationships. When we abuse this gift, obscuring the truth for our own selfish reasons, we make ourselves enemies of God and friends of the Devil, whom Jesus called “the father of lies”. 

And at times, every one of us does it. We have learned our communication skills partly from a media culture. A culture full of expert spin doctors who do not hesitate to put a questionable spin on what they say or don’t say to further their agenda. Advertisers do it, reporters do it, screenwriters do it, and sometimes, we do it. We spin the reports we make at work or school, the explanations we give to our spouses, and the permissions we seek from our parents or superiors. 

So much spin is going around that many people have become permanently dizzy. They have concluded that truth doesn’t even exist. 

Jesus does not want us to go through life being dizzy. He wants us to see clearly so we can love deeply and truly. 

Today, let us renew our friendship with Christ. With the strength he gives us in Holy Communion, let us confidently embrace the consequences of that friendship once again. Let us not be mercenaries of spin but warriors of the Truth. 

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

July 31st, 2022 at 9:15 am

Posted in Sunday Relections

Celebrating the most important day of our lives

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Reflection on the Readings for the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Genesis 18:20–32; Psalm 138: 1-3, 6–8; Colossians 2:12–14; and St Luke 11:1–13.

The primacy of grace and the power of Baptism

Photo by Dayvison de Oliveira Silva: https://www.pexels.com/photo/priest-wiping-baby-head-during-baptism-ceremony-6263087/

The two most important days of our lives are days that most of us do not remember. The second most important day is the day that we were born. Of that day, we remember nothing. We may have heard stories about it from our parents or grandparents, but each of us remembers nothing. The first most important day is the day that we were baptized. Most of us have no recollection of that day either.

Yes, I did get those days round the right way. Our baptism is more important than our birth. The natural life that we received at birth was destined to peter out in a few years, because our human nature was mortally wounded by original sin. Like a fan after you unplug it from the socket, it was just spinning by momemtum. It was unplugged from the source of life, God.

When we were baptised, we were plugged back in. We were filled with supernatural life. God adopted us forever as members of his family. This is why baptism is praised so highly by St Paul in the Second Reading. By baptism, he writes to the Colossians, we were buried with Christ who died for our sins, and we were raised with Him who rose to give us eternal life (cf Colossians 2:12). Baptism is the beginning of our eternal life.

The most amazing thing about it is that we didn’t do anything at all. The most important event in our lives is not something that we did. It is not a personal achievement. Rather, it is something that God did for us: it was God touching our souls with the grace of Christ.

As St Paul writes, we were dead. We were sinners. We were completely helpless, unable to plug ourselves back into friendship with God. God, however, came to our rescue. Wholly on his own initiative, working through the love of our parents or our friends, and through the ministry of the Church, He brought us back to life in Christ.

The fountains of Rome

Photo by Jennifer: https://www.pexels.com/photo/the-famous-trevi-fountain-in-rome-italy-at-nighttime-5383170/

The greatness of an individual Christian does not come from his or her own natural talents and achievements. No, it comes from the much higher life of friendship with God that Christ won for us and that God freely gives us at baptism — the life of grace.

When I visited Rome, I saw many architectural wonders, but one of the most memorable was the fountains of the city. In the seventeenth century, the Church commissioned Gianlorenzo Bernini and his disciples to design a series of monumental fountains to decorate the most important plazas of the city. These fountains, like the Four Rivers in Piazza Navona, the Triton fountain in Piazza Barberini, and, of course, the Trevi fountain, turn the ordinary and abundant elements of water and stone into something of supreme artistic beauty. The fountains do not sit immobile and static in their piazzas. No, they erupt in dynamism and spectacle.

The Trevi fountain is huge, but it remains hidden until you are immediately in front of it. It completely took me by surprise. It overwhelms you when you turn the corner of a narrow street.

The Four Rivers fountain amazes by the sudden appearance of a large granite obelisk that seems to hover weightlessly above the basin of churning water.

These fountains were not designed for tourists. They were designed to enhance the experience of Christian pilgrims who came to Rome to renew their faith. Their amazing transformation of simple stone and water into magnificent and awe-inspiring masterpieces encourages Christians to trust in the power of the grace of God. That is the grace that transforms our fallen, limited human nature into something divine, making us into children of God, and citizens of heaven.

Each of us, as Christians, is meant to be for the world what Bernini’s fountains are for the city of Rome.

Celebrating our baptismal day

The Parish Church of St Patrick, Kilconriola (Ballymena) where I was baptized. Photo: Michæl McFarland Campbell

I am sure that most of us celebrate our birthdays. I know that I do. I know that it is good that we do. Life is a precious gift. A gift that none can give to themselves. It is right to thank God for that gift. It is right to celebrate and appreciate it. It is right to remember that we owe our lives to others — God first, and our parents second.

But just as we celebrate our birthdays, do we celebrate the anniversaries of our baptisms?

I know that I do, but I suspect that many do not. Surely we should all celebrate this as the most important day of our lives? Perhaps we should have baptism parties just as we have birthday parties? The eternal life we received from God on that day is worth much more than the natural life that we received from our parents. It was just as much a gift as our natural life.

Certainly, we did nothing to earn such a great favour from God. Surely that is all the more reason to thank Him for it, to celebrate the day we received it?

In the world of self-help, we can fall into the heresy of activism, thinking that we can make ourselves perfect by our own power. We can’t. We all need the grace of God. He is always willing to supply it. We, unfortunately, are not always willing to take it in. Perhaps, if we start celebrating our baptisms with more energy, the supply lines will be widened.

Today, as Christ comes to us in Holy Communion to strengthen that supernatural life that we received in baptism, I’ll thank Him for all His gifts, more especially that of grace, the gift which alone gives real hope to life.

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

July 24th, 2022 at 5:37 pm

Posted in Sunday Relections

Christian success comes from the Grace of God

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Reflection for the Solemnity of SS Peter & Paul, 29 June 2022. Readings: Acts 12:1–11; Psalm 34:2-9; 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17–18; St Matthew 16:13–19.

Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels
Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

Christ chose St Peter as “the rock” upon which He would build His Church. But this is the same Peter who denied our Lord three times the night Jesus was arrested. He denied Him before the rooster crowed when being questioned by a servant girl—hardly the dependability you expect from a rock. It is said that St Peter wept for this sin at least once every day for the rest of his life, until there were two pale tracks down the skin of his face.

Christ chose St Paul to be the Church’s first and greatest missionary. Yet, St Paul started out as the leader of a violent persecution to crush the infant Church just after Christ’s Ascension. Christ chose him to announce the Gospel all over the ancient world, planting Christian communities in dozens of cities for almost thirty years. Paul was not chosen for his great public speaking or charismatic leadership. The Bible tells us that his critics despised him because “His letters are brawny and potent, but in person he’s a weakling and mumbles when he talks.” (2 Corinthians 10:10 (The Message)

How did these two men, so flawed, so human, become the two unshakeable pillars of the Church? What transformed them into saints, martyrs, and makers of history?

Put simply, it is the Grace of God. The same grace that has kept the Church growing for twenty centuries: the same grace we all received at baptism. On today’s Solemnity of SS Peter and Paul, God wants to remind us that our success and fulfilment as Christians depend more on His Grace than on our efforts.

What a relief that is!

The paintbrush and the gardener

water falling from glass ceiling
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One modern spiritual writer has expressed this truth by using the image of a painter. If you see a beautiful painting, you praise the painter for his genius and skill. Never would you praise the paintbrush. The paintbrush was just an instrument of the artist’s genius. Our lives are meant to be God’s masterpieces, but He is the great artist; we are like paintbrushes in His hands. We are unique paintbrushes, able to choose to jump out of the artist’s hands or move in a direction contrary to His will. We do that by giving in to selfishness and sin. Nevertheless, all the saints agree, they are but paintbrushes in the hands of the greatest artist in the world.

St Theresa of Avila expressed this truth using the image of a garden. She said the soul is like a garden, the plants in the garden are all the virtues: humility, patience, faith, hope, courage, and so on. All of these plants were planted by God Himself. Our job is to water them with prayer, to fertilise them with self-sacrifice. Watering and fertilising plants would have no effect, however, unless God Himself gave life to the seeds that He had planted there.

Making better use of confession

a priest listening to the person confessing
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Admitting our need for God, and for the Grace of God is part of the virtue of humility. Humility is hard for every one of us, especially when we live in a culture that promotes self-sufficiency.

We’re surrounded by voices promising us success and peace of mind through new consumer products or new self-help techniques. Underlying all of this self-help-centred popular culture is that true success in life can be achieved solely by our own efforts. Of course, none of us really believes that. We know that only Christ can give our lives meaning. Although we have to do our part to follow Christ, His Grace is the real force behind fulfilment. As we live in this modern, self-help culture, it affects us, just as polluted water affects all who drink it.

God has given us a perfect antidote to the self-help-mentality pollution: the sacrament of confession.

Confession is a supply depot for God’s Grace. It never runs out, and it’s free. When we prepare for confession, the Holy Spirit helps us to see our sins, our failures, our weaknesses, so that we never forget our need for God. By going to confession, we give the virtue of humility an incredible workout. Most importantly, through sacramental absolution, we receive not only forgiveness, but also renewed strength to overcome our selfishness and live more Christ-like lives.

Saints Peter and Paul knew that without the Grace of God, they could do nothing. For that reason, God was able to work wonders in them and through them.

Going regularly to confession, every two weeks, or every month, is a wise and easy way to follow in their footsteps. I, like everyone else, should really get back to it.

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

June 29th, 2022 at 8:00 am

Posted in Sunday Relections

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Security: placing it in God not ourselves

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Some thoughts for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C), Sunday 26 June 2022.

Following Christ means transferring our security

In today’s Gospel we read that Our Lord Jesus Christ is travelling to the city of Jerusalem for the last time. Along the way, He meets three men who have heard His call in their hearts. These encounters teach us three tough lessons about what it means to follow Christ. However, I’m only going to concentrate on one of them.

To follow Christ, we have to transfer our sense of security. We have to relocate it from ourselves to God. We have to unlearn our lifelong lesson of relying on ourselves for success and happiness. We have to learn to rely wholly upon God, plugging all our efforts in life into His Grace.

This is what Our Lord Jesus Christ means when He says that,

Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.

St Luke 9:58 RSVCE

Christ is trustworthy, but He is not predictable. When we follow Him, we have to agree to go one step and one day at a time. He refuses to give us a full route map in advance. When we follow Him, we have to stop pretending that we can keep our lives under control all by our own efforts. In accepting the friendship of Christ, we agree to follow Him, to put our lives under His leadership.

We know by looking around us that foxes and birds have the security of their instincts and natural habitats. Christians, however, are on an unpredictable adventure. We simply do not know where God will lead us. We do not know what He may ask us to do. When we join Christ’s army, we have to hand him a blank cheque.

Elisha’s example

The prophet Elisha gives us an eloquent example of this transferal of security in the First Reading. When Elijah comes and calls him to become his successor as Israel’s prophet, Elisha goes back home to tie up loose ends. And he really ties them up. Elisha was a farmer, where his whole livelihood, his whole way of life, was linked to the farm. This was how he made his way in the world. Up until the time of his calling, this was the source of his security.

But, when God makes His will known, Elisha doesn’t hesitate to break completely with that former way of life. He doesn’t just leave the farm behind. He actually slaughters the most important farm animals and burns his most precious tools. In so doing, he offered them to the Lord as a sign that from now on he will depend on God for his livelihood and his happiness.

Not everyone is called to serve God in this way, not everyone is called to consecrate themselves completely to the Church. But all Christians are called to make a spiritual offering to God of our oxen and our ploughs, of those things, talents, or activities that we tend to depend on instead of depending on God.

God can only fill our lives with the meaning and fruitfulness we long for if we put Him first, trusting that He will lead us better than we can lead ourselves.

Resurrecting the Morning Offering

Each one of us wants to make this transfer of security from self to God. That is why we are at Mass. We know that we need God. We know that only by depending more fully on Him will our lives take on the meaning and fruitfulness for which we all long.

But how do we do it? How can we become more faithful followers of Our Blessed Lord, more hope-filled disciples, more stable and authentic Christians? This transfer of security from self to God is a virtue. It is the virtue of hope. Like all Christian virtues, this one was planted in our souls like a seed when we were baptised. It is already there. We just have to help it grow. We do this by exercising it.

One of the most effective ways to exercise this virtues is by practising the long-standing tradition of beginning the day with what is called a prayer of “morning offering”. Like all exercises, physical, mental, or spiritual, it is better if it is done regularly. Daily, if possible.

This is a prayer that we say before the day begins — maybe right when we get out of bed, maybe after showering, before we go to breakfast. It’s a short prayer, but everything is put in perspective:

Thanking God for the gift of another day;

Asking God for guidance and protection;

Renewing our commitment to accept and do whatever He asks of us as we continue on the adventure of following His unpredictable path.

This week, let’s resurrect this wise tradition, so we can all exercise more energetically this great virtue of hope, a virtue that foxes and birds don’t need, but that is absolutely essential for us.

Today, Jesus will come to us once again to assure us of His all-powerful Love. When He does, let us assure Him of our trust. Nothing will please Him more.

Sample morning offerings

A modern version

O eternal and ever-blessed Trinity, Father Son, and Holy Spirit, with all the angels and saints, I adore you. From the bottom fo my heart I thank you for all the favours and benefits you have bestowed upon me, but especially for having preserved me during the night, and for giving me this day to serve you. I wish to live only for you, for greater honour and glory, and for the salvation of souls. O good God, preserve me this day from all sin and all occasion of sin.

O loving God, I begin this work day by offering everything I am and do to you. Help me accomplish all the day’s necessary tasks, to be wise in making decisions and earnest in completing my work. Let nothing distress or overwhelm me. Help me to depend on you for the energy, wisdom, and courage I need to do an honest day’s work. And then help me to let go of any concerns and anxieties. Amen.

A traditional version

O Jesus through the most pure Heart of Mary, I offer You all my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day, for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins, and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father the Pope. Amen.

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

June 26th, 2022 at 7:30 am

Posted in Sunday Relections