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St Dunstan’s

Monks Risborough, Buckinghamshire, England

St Dunstan's


Thought for the week from Canon Rob, 24th January. “Look at the bees!”

Today, 24th January, the Church throughout much of the world remembers Francis de Sales who was born in 1567 and who died on this day in 1623. He trained as a lawyer in Paris before becoming a priest and in 1599 he was appointed Bishop of Geneva where – having gone through the Reformation which spread throughout Europe including Britain – Roman Catholics were allowed to worship once again.  But it is as a writer that Bishop Francis is probably best remembered and his book, “Introduction to the Devout Life” is still available today.  It may seem a bit old fashioned in today’s world and certainly some of his writings are what we might call “flowery.”  Some might even think they can be rather patronising and will therefore be quite sceptical. However much of what he has written, including his prayers, can be very helpful to us, not least as we continue to struggle with the pandemic.

During this period of lock-down much is made of “well-being” and rightly so.  Amidst all the bad news each week there seems to spring up yet another person who appears on-line, if not on the television, showing us how to enjoy physical exercise each day.  Such exercise, even walking for half an hour each day, not only benefits us physically, but also helps our mental well-being.

We hear worrying reports about children who are going hungry every day in our own country. In a recent newspaper article about the work which Marcus Rashford is doing to relieve child poverty, these words were reported,

The issue of child food poverty has seen a dramatic increase due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the problem is only expected to get worse, with over nine in ten (94 per cent) charity professionals anticipating that the demand for food provisions to feed hungry children, will continue to rise in 2021.”

We are rightly very concerned about our physical and mental well-being and we should do all we can to keep ourselves mentally and physically fit.  However, it is also true that we should take care of the spiritual side of our lives – especially if we understand that we are all made of body, mind and spirit (or soul). Very little is made of this in the news.  Of course we can find worship and services online and on radio and television and many will find these very helpful, but our spiritual well-being has been largely forgotten or set-aside as a fringe event which few will be interested in. If I am right perhaps Frances de Sales can help us to appreciate this part of our lives a little more.

Whilst some people are content with doing little, many of us are busy by nature.  Even, and perhaps especially, during lock-down, we need to be doing something to stop us from getting bored.  It may be reading, knitting, baking, painting, cycling, wood-carving, making jig-saw puzzles, listening to music:  a whole range of things to pass the time because even watching the television can get boring after a while!

But Frances de Sales might want to add relaxing, meditating, contemplating, whatever you want to call it, all in an attempt to “let ourselves go” and try and remember that God is with us even, and especially, when we might feel very much alone.  In his book he asks his readers to “Look at the bees: they suck [the nectar]… and convert it into honey because it is their nature.” Clearly contemplating bees who, as a community, work together for the good of all, is something he must have done often because he saw it as an analogy of our spiritual life for he continues, “In the same way, true devotion is a spiritual sugar which…..counteracts the sadness of one who lives alone…..its gift is an equanimity and balance which refreshes the soul.” All right the language might be a bit flowery for our liking in our 21st century scientific age, but hasn’t he got a point?  I sometimes wonder if we are a bit afraid of simply sitting and relaxing trying to remember that God is with us because we are a bit scared of what we might find. If so, let Frances de Sales have the last word.  “...devotion...harms no-one; on the contrary, it brings a person to wholeness.” Isn’t that we all want for ourselves?   

God Bless you and those you love.

Churches Together in Risborough.

Everyone is welcome to join in the Service for the Week of Prayer

for Christian Unity this Sunday afternoon (24th) beginning at 3.00pm.

Hosted by Keith Edwards, from Princes Risborough Methodist Churches

the Service will be via Zoom and the link is: