CALLIGRAPHIC ARTIST Stephen Raw is undoubtedly one of my favourite people. Visitors to his Exhibition at Bramhall Parish Centre today spoke one after another of his smile and his warmth, and of Margaret’s welcoming and supportive hospitality. Stephen’s a man with poetry in his soul and a big, generous and inclusive imagination. And that’s probably what I love about him. Poetry, inclusivity and imagination.


Poets gift humankind with precise, ordered expression, an offering that means something important to them – and that is gift indeed. But there’s also subtext in the gift, an invitation in the poet’s offering, a calling to the imaginations of each and every individual reader to do his or her own interpretation – like the biblical invitation; like the very parables of the Christ. Poetry. From the Greek Poetes – “to make, create, compose …”


Heightened awareness of colours, blended, crafted, melded, become, by way of Stephen’s creative contemplation and patient turn of hand, the universe upon which the gifts of the poets are inscribed. And if poetry calls us etymologically to the root of her subjects, so Stephen’s care-full placing and calligraphy and colouring take us, by means of a grace beyond our telling, to the root of all things – to the depths of imagination. So some of the happy conversations I’ve delighted in today have been hugely energising! I’ve discovered once again that I’m not alone in my being fired and coloured with the passionate conviction that worthwhile THEOLOGY absolutely needs the art and grace of ETYMOLOGY. Our approach to God, to the universe, to our world, to our relationships, to our Scriptures, to the daily craft of our lives, requires IMAGINATION.


one of the collaborations between Stephen Raw with Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy

Bishop John Taylor’s “Kingdom Come” echoed in my mind throughout the day. Though we may not understand what he meant by it, the bishop wrote, we know what the Gospel of Jesus Christ was:

The time has come; the Kingdom of God is almost here; turn your minds round and believe the good news

Here, Bishop Taylor goes on, is the keynote of the faith of Jesus of Nazareth. Here is the word which, on his lips, moved people with such extraordinary power. If we could resuscitate that declaration so that it conveyed in the terms and in the experience of our world the essence of what it meant to his, might it not stir the pulse and quicken the imagination of a new generation in our own day and restore a clarity of purpose to the churches? Yes, yes, yes! Jesus’ very own poetry invited the people he addressed then, and every generation since, to use their imaginations! (And the Aramaic he spoke, rather gloriously, lends itself to layer upon layer upon layer of interpretation, development and re-membering). Jesus was – and is – anything but a literalist / fundamentalist.

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Tell me the truth about Love – WH Auden | The entrance at Bramhall Parish Centre

And I’ve been thinking today of my friend Fr Roger Clarke who introduced me to the works of the late poet Sally Purcell – because throughout today (and many another) I’ve “heard” the epigraph to her Collected Poems. It speaks to me of the Grace – and of the Art of God

Y sobre todo tendras / los regalos de mi pecho, / las finezas de mi amor, la verdad de mi deseo …

a translation of which is

And above all you have / gifts from my breast, / the subtleties of my love, the truth of my desire


Thank God The Divine Artist Who, in company with co-creators, invites us all to employ the grace of imagination!



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veritas | art/simonicus



THE DANCE: please click collage or here to go to my art blog and view in Lightbox


click on individual images to enlarge | slides here

I FIRST SPENT a lot of time in company with Josefina de Vasconcellos‘ Jesus 35 years ago as I was in the early stages of preparing for the priesthood. He gazes out across green fields towards Lakeland Fells and Ullswater, one of the most beautiful lakes in England’s glorious Lake District. He’s still the Jesus I know best, the one who gazes with compassion upon a Creation He’s willing to give absolutely everything to, a giving, a compassion and a perpetual gazing that encompasses every child, woman and man upon earth. This Jesus doesn’t belong to Christians. This Jesus belongs to everyone and everyone belongs to Him. This Jesus is an image of the God who is high above, beyond and deep, within and beneath every single one of the world’s religious traditions. This Jesus says to all humankind “Today you will be with me in Paradise”. This Jesus inspired Teresa of Avila’s

Christ has no body now on earth but ours;
no feet with which to run to proclaim good news;
no hands with which to reach out
to touch, to heal and to bless;
no ears with which to hear the cries of the poor;
no eyes with which to look out with compassion
upon this world, but ours.

Bodies, hands, feet, eyes and ears – to carry the watchful souls that are to stay close to their Source and eventually be at One. Compassion. The work of the anointed – of every shade and hue, of every nationality and tradition. The work of Christ now.


click on images below to enlarge | slides here


This statue was carved out of a log of holly by Alfons Lug, a Munich wood-carver, who, with some 400 other German Prisoners of War was quartered at Greystoke Castle from the Autumn of 1945 to April 1946.

His only tools were a pocket-knife and a small chisel, but he was repatriated shortly before the work was finished. It was completed by Fritz Hofmann, a joiner from Thuringia. The colouring was done by Hans Viesel, a master painter from Baden.

July 1946

This text is inscribed in calligraphy at Greystoke Parish Church


FR RICHARD ROHR is one of the great inspirations of my life and I’m grateful to my friend Ivon Prefontaine for reminding me recently of Richard’s Daily Meditations.

In a series of Meditations on his “lineage”, whilst planning the opening of a new Living School for Action and Contemplation Fr Richard’s meditation on Sunday read

Orthopraxy in much of Buddhism and Hinduism

Orthopraxy is usually distinguished from orthodoxy. Orthodoxy refers to doctrinal correctness, whereas orthopraxy refers to right practice. What we see in many of the Eastern religions is not an emphasis upon verbal orthodoxy, but instead upon practices and lifestyles that, if you do them (not think about them, but do them), end up changing your consciousness.

This was summed up in the Eighth Core Principle of the Center for Action and Contemplation: We don’t think ourselves into a new way of living; we live ourselves into a new way of thinking. I hope that can be a central building block of the Living School.

And – joyfully – today I’ve been chestily croaking ALLELUIA! upon reading today’s thoughts about the witness of art

Unique witness of mythology, poetry, and art

My earliest recordings often included mythological stories, poetry, or art to make the point. Many people are more right-brained learners than left-brained. When you bring in a story, or a poem, or refer to a piece of art, you can see people’s interest triple: “Wow, I’m with you!” Whereas, if you stay on the verbal level all the time, their eyes glaze over, they lose interest, they lose fascination and identification with the message.

I don’t think Western preachers and teachers have really understood the importance of art in general. Until people can “catch” the message with an inner image, it usually does not go deep. We’ve also been afraid of myths that weren’t Christian. In fact, we were afraid of the very word “myth.” We thought it meant something that wasn’t true when, in fact, it’s something that’s always true—if it’s a true myth. This will be a very important substratum of the Living School curriculum.

One of the things I most love and admire about Richard Rohr is his generosity of heart, mind, soul and body. He’s open to seeing the Divine all around us, open to contemplation and to receiving the Wisdom from traditions other – though as he shows us, not always so very “other” – from his own. I love that Fr Richard balances the importance of both orthodoxy and orthopraxy; that he both thinks deeply and feels profoundly. That, it seems to me, is what the call of Jesus Christ – and of other great spiritual masters and teachers – is really all about. As Richard has it, “living ourselves into a new way of thinking”. That’s something all of us can do, all of the time, with or without particular religious frameworks – though many, in the living, will thrive in the kind of religious environment that seeks – as the word religion intends (from Latin religare – “to reconnect, to bind together”) – to bind up the whole.

My friend Mimi is a generous contemplative – Between Night And Day; as is the marvellous Rebecca Koo – Heads or Tails; and Bill Wooten’s – The Present Moment brings a wonderful word from Thomas Merton – and a stunning photo; Francesca Zelnick is as special as her Today’s Special; David Herbert is one of my diocesan friends and I love his latest post (and we share affection for Parker Palmer); and Rachael Elizabeth’s been having a good time doing Christology and incense-sampling ( ! ) in Durham; James Fielden – always showing us “The Way Home” – meditates exquisitely upon Time; Ginny at “Chasing the Perfect Moment” writes about Re-creation; Ria Gandhi has been wondering about who and what’s Beautiful and has flagged up one answer here; Jenni has been Watching the Symphony here.

What are we looking at in all these human “works of art”. What do I see as I reflect upon the colours, upon the wide spectrum that arches over the whole of my life?

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus

Holy, Holy, Holy

Multi-coloured and blessed sanctity – God’s art: whether we’re always aware of it – or not …


Swimming in the Mystery of God – please click photos to enlarge

TODAY WE CELEBRATED our Church’s Dedication Sunday. Wonderfully talented people have decorated the parish church on this day for 102 years – with flowers hand-picked from their own gardens. This year, having hosted Angels in 2010 and Windsails in 2011 (see Lumière below) our Lantern Tower is graced by the gently swimming presence of some of the most magnificent fish I’ve ever seen.

“We swim in the Mystery of God as fish swim in the sea”, said theologian Karl Rahner SJ – in an attempt to communicate the profound faith statement that human beings need no more consider themselves separate from God than we could consider ourselves separate from the air that we breathe. We’re all in this together: God, and everything created by God.

I often share Rahner’s little tale of the elderly, statesmanlike fish gliding past two tiddlers one morning. “Morning boys!” he greeted them. “How’s the water?” The tiddlers ignored him and – flicking their little tails – swam on. A little time later one looked at the other and asked “what’s water?”

Oliver John joined in the swimming with smiling enthusiasm as he was baptised this morning beneath and surrounded by the meanderings of many colourful creatures. And all present dedicated themselves anew to the works of Love in the coming year.

Meanwhile, General Synod prepares for major debate upon the morrow in York. Bishop Nick Baines of Bradford writes of Frustration and Joy here – pointing us (for which, hearty thanks) to an audio link to Archbishop Rowan’s fabulous sermon at the Synod Eucharist this morning. How glad I am, for him, that the good Archbishop will swim ere long in the quieter waters of Cambridge. How certain I am, however, that we’ll miss his gentle touch more than any of us have been able hitherto to imagine.

Still, he encourages us to swim on …