There are different ways of serving, but the same Lord is served … All of you are Christ’s body, and each one is a part of it. Romans 12: 5, 27
Ultari, a friend of Brigid, is said to have fed with his own hands every child in Erin who had no support, and he provided particular care for the children whose mothers had died of the plague.
King Oswald used to pray with his hands open, easier to receive good things from God. He would then raise his hands to bless people with good things, and his prayers were put into practice.
For evil to triumph it is only necessary for good people to do nothing.
Christ has no body on earth but yours
No hands but yours
No feet but yours
Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion is to look out for the world
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless us now
Teresa of Avila
Forgive us for the good we ought to have done which we have left undone
And for the things we have left undone which we ought to have done
Book of Common Prayer (adapted)
With these hands I bless the lonely,the forgotten
and the lost;
With these hands I shield your messengers
from attacks within, without;
With these hands I dispel darkness and rebuke
the evil forces;
With these hands I pray your victory for those who fight for right.
Pouring Oil On Troubled Waters
The wind died down and there was a great calm. Mark 4: 39
We know nothing of Aidan’s childhood, but we may assume that his faith was built up with stories of fellow Irish people who had wrought great things by prayer. One of these was Mac Nissi of Connor, who passed into heaven on 3 September about 510. As a result of his intercessions a woman who had been infertile for fifteen years was able to give birth to a child. Aidan certainly learned to have faith for all sorts of situations.
A delegation from Lindisfarne had to travel far south by boat, and bring back Princess Eanflaed who was to become Queen to Northumbria’s King. Its leader, Utta, begged Aidan to pray for their safe keeping during this hazardous and significant journey. As he was praying for them God revealed things to Aidan. He gave them a jar of blessed oil to take with them, and told them that they would encounter storms, but that the winds would drop as soon as they poured the oil on the troubled waters.
The crew forgot about this. A storm did blow up, so fierce that the boat began to sink and they thought they would perish. Only then did someone remember Aidan’s words and the oil. They poured the oil over the surrounding waves, and the wind immediately receded.
This is an example of prophetic prayer, whereby a person foresees trouble for others, and is guided by God to give them direction. It is also the origin of the well-known phrase ‘pouring oil on troubled waters’. Why not pray for people you know who seem about to be engulfed in a sea of troubles? You never know, God may give you a word to pass on to them that proves to be as calming as Aidan’s oil.
Protecting Father, stalwart Steersman, guiding Spirit
I pray for friends in a sea of troubles
I pray for households in a sea of troubles
I pray for work places in a sea of troubles
I pray for communities in a sea of troubles.
May your inspiration flow to them
and come to them like oil on troubled waters.
Live What You Say
Jesus said: “How terrible for you teachers of God’s Law! You put loads on people’s backs which are hard to carry, but you yourselves will not stretch out a finger to help them carry those loads”. Luke 11: 46
Aidan’s way of life was in great contrast to the slothfulness of later times, so much so that all who travelled with him, monks or others, were required to use the time to study the Scriptures and memorise the psalms. This was the daily task of Aidan and his disciples wherever they went. If, as occasionally happened, he had to dine with the king, he attended with one or two of his team and after eating lightly they would leave the table in order to read the Bible or pray.
Inspired by his example, many men and women undertook to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays until evening, except for the periods of celebration after Easter and Pentecost.
If wealthy people did wrong Aidan did not keep silence out of fear or favour, but would sternly correct them. He never gave money to influential people, only the hospitality of his table. He used money rich people gave him to buy the freedom of people who had been unjustly sold as slaves. Many of these later became disciples; after training and instructing them he ordained them.
Based on Bede
Celtic monks lived in conspicuous poverty; Roman monks lived well.
Celtic monks were unworldly; Roman monks were worldly.
Celtic bishops practised humility; Roman bishops paraded pomp.
Celtic bishops were shepherds of their flocks; Roman bishops were monarchs of their Dioceses.
Celtic clergymen said ‘Do as I do’ and hoped to be followed; Roman clergyman said ‘Do as I say’ and expected to be obeyed.
Father,whose gentle apostle Aidan
befriended everyone he met
with Jesus Christ
give me his humble, Spirit-filled zeal
that I may inspire others to learn your ways
and to pass on the torch of faith.
My teaching will fall like gentle rain on tender grass. Deuteronomy 32: 2
Gentleness has soothing qualities such as politeness, kindness and courtesy; yet it is also a firestorm of indignation, kindled by the wrongs and sufferings of others. In no one does this quality shine forth more clearly than in Aidan.
Among the lessons that Aidan gave the clergy about their life-style, none was more salutary than his own example of fasting and self-discipline. His teaching won the hearts of everyone because he taught what he and his followers lived out. He neither sought nor cared for the possessions of this world, and he loved to give away to the poor the gifts he received from the rich.
In those days poor people would travel by foot, and the influential by horse. Aidan, however, insisted on travelling by foot in country as well as town, unless some urgent necessity forced him to do otherwise. So wherever he walked he was able to catch sight of people, rich or poor, and talk to them straight away. If they were not Christians he would invite them to accept the mystery of the Faith; if they already believed he would strengthen their faith and encourage them by his words and example in the practice of Christian giving and words of mercy.
I have described … his love of peace and charity, temperance and humility; his soul which triumphed over anger and greed, and at the same time despised pride and vainglory … and his tenderness in comforting the weak, in relieving and protecting the poor.
May the raindrops fall lightly on your brow
May the soft winds freshen your spirit
May the sunshine brighten your heart
May the burdens of the day rest lightly upon you
And may God enfold you in love
An old Irish prayer
Here Am I, Send Me
I heard the voice of the Lord say ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I, send me’. Isaiah 6: 8
When the Christian King Oswald came to Northumbria’s throne he asked the leaders of the Iona Community, where he had been brought up in the Faith, to send a mission team to his kingdom, so that the English people might be taught the blessings of the Faith and receive the sacraments. The first team leader to come was Corman, a man of stern temperament. He stayed for some time, but the people were unwilling to listen to him, and he returned to Iona.
At a post mortem meeting of the Iona community Corman laid the blame on the Northumbrian people who, he said, were stubborn and uncivilised. The leaders discussed this matter for a long time, for they were keen to evangelise new peoples.
Then Aidan, who was present, said directly to Corman: ‘It seems to me, brother, that you have been unduly severe with your ignorant hearers. You should have followed the guidance of the apostle Paul and offered them the milk of simpler teaching until, as they gradually grew strong in God’s Word, they were able to take in a fuller statement of doctrine and carry out the higher commands.’ As Aidan spoke, everyone turned and looked at him, and they carefully considered his words. The meeting finally resolved that Aidan should be made a bishop and sent to lead a second mission, because he had shown the gift of discretion, which is the mother of all virtues.
So they consecrated him and sent him to preach. Time was to prove that Aidan was not only endowed with discretion and good sense, but with the other Christian virtues also. Above all he was a willing missionary.
Here am I Lord
I have heard you calling in the night
I will go Lord
Where you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart
Dan Schutte S.J.
Happy Beyond Measure
Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires; God will satisfy them fully! Matthew 5: 6
Ninian was happy beyond measure, and the glory of our land. He respected all people and was secure in his holiness. He used to go to a cave to study and meditate on heavenly wisdom; he could understand books in different languages, and he was a powerful teacher and preacher. By his eloquence the hearts of the faithful grew strong as he spoke of the true joys of eternal life.
Ninian offered to all ethnic groups the consolations of life and generously invited them to share food. He gave beautiful clothes to those who had none. He visited people in prison. He personally took food and drink to those who were hungry and thirsty during times of famine. He was like a father to the orphan and a protective judge to the widow. He exercised an authority to be feared by wrongdoers but he was loved by all who did good.
Ninian was a humble and wise man and he closed his journey in joy.
Today, many people walk from Whithorn to Ninian’s cave. There, innumerable prayers of today’s pilgrims are scratched on the rocks.
Lord, give us happiness, true happiness
The happiness of knowing we are called by you
The happiness of knowing we are cleansed people
The happiness of knowing we are Christ’s instruments
The happiness of knowing we are set free from addiction to created things
The happiness of cherishing others and being cherished by them
The happiness of being on a journey towards joy overflowing.
Believe And See
Jesus said: “Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do also”. John 14: 12
Many leading people sent their sons to be educated at Ninian’s Centre at the place now known as Whithorn. It was a Centre that educated them for a whole life, and everything was used to help build character, as the following story illustrates.
One youth committed such a serious offence that the ‘last resort’ discipline of the cane was to be used. To escape this he ran away, taking with him the pastoral staff that Ninian used. He stumbled upon a curragh by the shore, not realising that it was not properly covered with waterproof leather, and he was carried out to sea. The boat began to leak, and the young man was in terror of his life.
However, our extremity is God’s opportunity: he admitted and confessed before God his wrongful rebellion and truly repented of it. Then he started to talk to Ninian, as if he were present. He asked Ninian to save him. The young man took Ninian’s staff and stuck it in the largest leaking hole, and the boat stayed afloat. An easterly wind arose, and took the boat back to the shore.
A crowd of people had gathered. The young man, now filled with faith and with a desire to witness to Christ, told them what had happened, and planted Ninian’s staff in the ground, as a sign that a miracle-working God will come to the aid of all who truly believe. It was said that the staff took root and sprouted into a tree that became a constant reminder of God’s answer to prayer.
Lord, I have rebelled, forgive my proud heart.
Lord, I reach out to you, I believe for whatever you want to do today.
Dealing With A Situation
Then Peter said, ‘Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit….? You have not lied to human beings, but to God.’ Acts 5: 3,4.
Ninian was refreshing ever increasing numbers of believers with Christ’s teachings, but there were pitfalls to overcome within the church. Once he was in a crowded church when a lone mother with emotional and guilt problems was bringing her newborn baby to be baptised by one of Ninian’s ministers. She loudly accused him of being the father. Ninian knew this priest was a holy man, but he needed to clear this matter up in the minds of everybody in a way which had the stamp of Christ’s authority.
He was given a bold inspiration and called for silence. ‘I believe this man is innocent, but now I ask you my child’ (he pointed to the baby) ‘to point out to us who is the man who committed this sin and who is your father. I command you to do this in the name of the Thunderer.’
To the amazement of everyone this day-old child pointed its finger at a man in the congregation, and started to make sounds, breaking the laws of nature, so that everyone understood it was saying: “That man is my father and the priest is innocent.” The people were convinced this came from God, and they moved into a time of praise.
Pray for ministers who are under attack from people who are challenged by their holy lives or their teachings. Are there situations over which we need to take authority in the name of the Lord? Remember, God can show us what to do in any situation.
In Ninian there was nothing of fear, all was love.
Forgive us for the places in our lives where fear has driven out love.
In Ninian truth and holiness shone out.
Forgive us for the places in our lives which are false or frozen.
Help us to take authority in your name over every confused or unsavoury situation.
The Blind Can See
A blind man named Bartimaeus shouted : ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy upon me!’. Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ … The blind man said ‘Rabbi, I want to see.’ ‘Go,’ said Jesus, ‘your faith has healed you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. Mark 10: 46, 47, 52
There was a local king named Tudvael under whom Ninian cared for his flock, who was as cruel as he was ungodly. One day he expelled Ninian, who was a threat, from his territories. At once God’s judgement came upon him in the form of sudden blindness.
The king repented and sent his servant to Ninian to ask him to suggest some penances. The servant flung himself at Ninian’s feet with loud lamentations and begged: “Dispel the black night, you who are the glory and chief part of our fame. The offence is great, but one that is open to pardon.”
Ninian told him to tell the king his sins were forgiven, `and he sent the king gifts to express his friendship. Later he himself arrived to lay healing hands upon the king’s face. Tudvael’s eyesight was restored, he gave praise to God, and from that time onwards he supported Ninian’s ministry.
Lord of my heart
give me vision to inspire me
that, working or resting,
I may always think of you.
Lord of my heart
give me light to guide me
that, at home or abroad
I may always walk in your way.
Lord of my heart
give me wisdom to direct me
that, thinking or acting,
I may always discern right from wrong.
Heart of my own heart
whatever befall me
rule over my thoughts and feelings
my words and actions.
Shining Like A Star
Those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars for ever. Daniel 12: 3
God omnipotent, who had scattered shining lights upon the world, gave many bright stars to his people in Britain. Brilliant among these was Ninian. He was outstanding in strength derived from heaven, in miracles, eloquence and reliance on the gift of God. People came together in vast crowds and opened their hearts to believe in Christ and to follow his teachings.
On his way back to his native Galloway in 398, after training and ordination in Rome, Ninian stayed at the “fellowship of service” established by St. Martin of Tours, and this became his abiding inspiration.
He became a revered teacher and won multitudes of Picts to Christ. They worshipped graven images in the shadow of death until he converted them through his holy living. They all vied with each other to be bathed in the baptismal water and to be cleansed from the stain of their sin in the everlasting fountain.
Ninian established many new churches and monasteries, and instructed these ‘kingdoms at the ends of the earth’ with his teaching.
After a time he left the Pictish nations and came to his own people, the Britons. To them he was a good shepherd, tending his sheepfold with mind and hand, eager to protect from the enemy the flocks entrusted to his care. He built “the Shining House”, with its foundation of burnt bricks and lofty walls, in the midst of which he sparkled and shone forth like a star. This is the house which many are eager to visit, for many who have long been afflicted with disease hurry there, eager to accept the ready gifts of health-giving healing.
I pray for modern Ninians who will establish
communities of light in slum places;
sanctuaries of prayer in unvisited places;
links of faith and love with the continent, our spiritual home.
And, Lord, begin with me.