Author Archives: M J P B McFarland Campbell

the simplicity of a child

The scene that we heard about in the reading earlier has been repeated many times throughout history. There are many instances which can be seen online of children approaching great teachers, some getting through the security, others being pushed away. But in today’s Gospel, the greatest teacher of them all tells his followers that they mustn’t get between the children and him.

Children coming to great teachers and holy men is nothing new, it is a practice from antiquity. In Genesis 48.13-20 we read of Joseph bringing Ephraim and Manasseh to Israel to be blessed.

Jesus didn’t just bless the children. He used them to illustrate his message as he is recorded to have done in many other places in the Gospels of St Luke and St Matthew as well as the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas. Jesus said,

“Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.”

The simplicity of a child. Quite a challenge to those of us who have passed into adulthood, have grown up, and had to leave our childish behaviour and thinking behind to survive in the world in which we live.

As I was reading this passage this morning, re-reading it, time and again, to see what I should say tonight, I realised something quite special. When a person becomes a member of the Church, when a person accepts Jesus as the Lord and Saviour of mankind, that person becomes a child of God. We are all children. Thinking in another way, Jesus lived on earth as a man around two-thousand years ago. By anyone’s reckoning those of us living today are like children compared to Him.

So what do we do now? What is this passage saying to us gathered here today in our time and place?

To me, it is a reinforcement of the central message of Jesus – a message of a God of Love. A God who does not push people away, but welcomes them in and blesses them. As members of the Church, it is our duty to share this Love to all that we meet.


John XXIII, Bishop of Rome 1958–1963.

Tomorrow, many people will be walking in the Belfast Pride Parade as it winds its way around the city centre and back to Custom House Square for a huge party. Some of us from Faith and Pride will be standing as a witness of God’s Love for all of his children just outside the gates of St George’s in High Street, just as we did at last year’s parade. Everyone on that parade and everyone in the whole world is worthy of our respect and our love, for as Blessed John XXIII – whose imminent canonisation was announced today – said,

“We were all made in God’s image, and thus, we are all Godly alike.”

Surely we must all work within the Church to ensure that all are welcomed, not pushed away. We’re all children, and like little children we will be welcomed, and blessed by Jesus, when we approach Him now, and when we reach the end of our life, we can safely ask Him,

“Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.”

This is the text of the meditation given at 15 minutes with Christ on Friday 5 July 2013.

Following Christ means transferring our security


Each morning gives us an opportunity to renew our hope in Christ.

In the reading (Luke 9.51–62) earlier this evening, Jesus is travelling to 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. This evening I am focussing on just one of them.*

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

This is what was meant when Jesus answered and said,

Are you ready to rough it? We’re not staying in the best inns, you know.”

Christ is trustworthy, but He is not predictable. When we follow Him, we have to agree to go one step at a time – He refuses to give us a full-life outline in advance. When we follow Him, we have to stop pretending that we can keep our lives under control by our own efforts. Accepting Christ’s friendship, we agree to follow Him, to put our lives under His leadership.

We are on an unpredictable adventure. We do not know where God will lead us, nor what He may ask us to do. When we join Christ’s army, we have to hand him a blank cheque.

We all want to make this transfer of security from self to God. Many of us are here because we know that we know God. By depending more fully on Him, our lives will be brought the meaning and fruitfulness that we all long for.

But how do we do that? How do we become more faithful followers of our Lord, more hope-filled disciples, more stable Christians? This transfer of security from ourselves to God is a virtue – the virtue of hope. Like all Christian values, it was planted in our souls like a seed when we placed our trust in God. It’s already there, we have to help it to grow, which we can do by exercising it.

One of the mot effective ways to exercise this virtue is by practising a long-standing tradition of beginning each day with a prayer – often called a morning offering.

This is a prayer we say before the day begins – perhaps immediately on getting out of bed, or perhaps after our shower and before we head to breakfast.

It’s a short prayer, putting everything in perspective: thanking God for the gift of another day; asking God for guidance and protection; renewing our promise to accept and do whatever He asks of us as we continue on the adventure of following His unpredictable path.

This is the text of the meditation given at 15 minutes with Christ on Sunday 30 June 2013.

* The other two are: 1. Following Christ means persevering through difficulties; 2. Following Christ means actively taking risk.

 One example is: “Lord, you have brought me to the beginning of this day. By your power, keep me on the road to salvation ; do not let me fall into any sin today, but grant that all I say, all I think, all I do may glorify you. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.” (

Life in man is the glory of God; the life of man is the vision of God

From the treatise Against Heresies by Saint Irenaeus, bishop

The glory of God gives life; those who see God receive life. For this reason God, who cannot be grasped, comprehended or seen, allows himself to be seen, comprehended and grasped by men, that he may give life to those who see and receive him. It is impossible to live without life, and the actualization of life comes from participation in God, while participation in God is to see God and enjoy his goodness.

Men will therefore see God if they are to live; through the vision of God they will become immortal and attain to God himself. As I have said, this was shown in symbols by the prophets: God will be seen by men who bear his Spirit and are always waiting for his coming. As Moses said in the Book of Deuteronomy: On that day we shall see, for God will speak to man, and man will live.

God is the source of all activity throughout creation. He cannot be seen or described in his own nature and in all his greatness by any of his creatures. Yet he is certainly not unknown. Through his Word the whole creation learns that there is one God the Father, who holds all things together and gives them their being. As it is written in the Gospel: No man has ever seen God, except the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father; he has revealed him.

From the beginning the Son is the one who teaches us about the Father; he is with the Father from the beginning. He was to reveal to the human race visions of prophecy, the diversity of spiritual gifts, his own ways of ministry, the glorification of the Father, all in due order and harmony, at the appointed time and for our instruction. Where there is order, there is also harmony; where there is harmony, there is also correct timing; where there is correct timing, there is also advantage.

The Word became the steward of the Father’s grace for the advantage of men, for whose benefit he made such wonderful arrangements. He revealed God to men and presented men to God. He safeguarded the invisibility of the Father to prevent man from treating God with contempt and to set before him a constant goal toward which to make progress. On the other hand, he revealed God to men and made him visible in many ways to prevent man from being totally separated from God and so cease to be. Life in man is the glory of God; the life of man is the vision of God. If the revelation of God through creation gives life to all who live upon the earth, much more does the manifestation of the Father through the Word give life to those who see God.

This is the text of the meditation given at 15 minutes with Christ on Friday 28 June 2013.

@So_MeNI – Are you in? New Resource from Equality Commission.

We’ve been working with Roisin Lavery of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland on the new LGB web resource So Me. So Me stands for Sexual Orientation. More Equality.

In the Commission’s most recent ‘Do You Mean Me?’ survey, 53% of LGB people were likely to consider they had been subject to some form of unfair treatment, up from 34% in the last survey in 2008.

The new website is

“for LGB people in Northern Ireland – ´So Me´ (  It’s a hub for information and contacts, but also a new way for people to report anonymously, to share their experiences without having to give their names, and to access information, advice and support in a personalized, safe environment. So Me is linked to social media that are easily accessible to anyone.” — Michael Wardlow, Chief Commissioner.

If you believe you have been treated unfairly, you don’t need to put up and shut up,  ‘So Me’ is a new and additional way to access advice and information that could really help you deal with a situation in which you’re experiencing unfair treatment.

I’m proud to answer the question asked at the end of the video of “Are you in?”

Yes. I’m in

So Me NI


P.S. Watch out for Andrew!

The noble task of man, to pray and to love

John Mary Vianney was the son of a peasant farmer, and a slow and unpromising candidate for the priesthood: he was eventually ordained on account of his devoutness rather than any achievement or promise.

In 1818 he was sent to be the parish priest of Ars-en-Dombes, an isolated village some distance from Lyon, and remained there for the rest of his life because his parishioners would not let him leave. He was a noted preacher, and a celebrated confessor: such was his fame, and his reputation for insight into his penitents’ souls and their futures, that he had to spend up to eighteen hours a day in the confessional, so great was the demand. The tens of thousands of people who came to visit this obscure parish priest turned Ars into a place of pilgrimage.

The French State recognised his eminence by awarding him the medal of the Légion d’Honneur in 1848, and he sold it and gave the money to the poor.

The noble task of man, to pray and to love

Consider, children, a Christian’s treasure is not on earth, it is in heaven. Well then, our thoughts should turn to where our treasure is.
Man has a noble task: that of prayer and love. To pray and to love, that is the happiness of man on earth.
Prayer is nothing else than union with God. When the heart is pure and united with God it is consoled and filled with sweetness; it is dazzled by a marvellous light. In this intimate union God and the soul are like two pieces of wax moulded into one; they cannot any more be separated. It is a very wonderful thing, this union of God with his insignificant creature, a happiness passing all understanding.
We had deserved to be left incapable of praying; but God in his goodness has permitted us to speak to him. Our prayer is an incense that is delightful to God.
My children, your hearts are small, but prayer enlarges them and renders them capable of loving God. Prayer is a foretaste of heaven, an overflowing of heaven. It never leaves us without sweetness; it is like honey, it descends into the soul and sweetens everything. In a prayer well made, troubles vanish like snow under the rays of the sun.
Prayer makes time seem to pass quickly, and so pleasantly that one fails to notice how long it is. When I was parish priest of Bresse, once almost all my colleagues were ill, and as I made long journeys I used to pray to God, and, I assure you, the time did not seem long to me. There are those who lose themselves in prayer, like a fish in water, because they are absorbed in God. There is no division in their hearts. How I love those noble souls! Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Colette saw our Lord and spoke to him as we speak to one another.
As for ourselves, how often do we come to church without thinking what we are going to do or for what we are going to ask.
And yet, when we go to call upon someone, we have no difficulty in remembering why it was we came. Some appear as if they were about to say to God: ‘I am just going to say a couple of words, so I can get away quickly.’ I often think that when we come to adore our Lord we should get all we ask if we asked for it with a lively faith and a pure heart.

—from  A Catechism on Prayer,
by St John Mary Vianney, Curé d’Ars
inThe Divine Office.

This is the text of the meditation given at 15 minutes with Christ on Saturday 4 August 2012.

We must be content to go on like pilgrims.

Venerable Fulton J. Sheen touched the lives of millions worldwide with his warmth, wisdom and humour. A master communicator, he had the great gift of preaching and teaching the Gospel in a way easy to understand. He is mostly remembered for having been one of the first great television evangelists. However, he also wrote many books on the spiritual life as well. His thoughts on prayer continue to be as relevant today for all Christians not just the Catholic priests to whom he was writing when he wrote his The Priest Is Not His Own1. We should remember that all Christians are members of the Royal Priesthood: in that sense Venerable Fulton J. Sheen addresses us as well today in his Aids to the Breviary2

Read the office of the day in the presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, a practice for which a plenary indulgence is granted. Furthermore, since the breviary is the Body of Christ praying, it is read with more faith when closely united with the Head, Who “lives on still to make intercession on our behalf’ (Heb 7.25).

Advert to the fact that most of the psalms confront us with two figures: one is the Sufferer; the other is the King. It helps us to interpret the suffering psalms as the Church, and the kingly psalms as Christ. That long Psalm 118 [RSV 119] would thus become the Church pleading its love for Christ, the New Law. And when we come across “cursing psalms’, it may be well to remind ourselves that, of all bad men, religious bad men are the worst and that the Judge takes sin seriously

Often appeal to the Holy Spirit during the recitation. As a mother first prays for her child even before he can know what she is doing, then teaches him to pray so that later she may pray with him, so does the Spirit pray in the breviary first in us and then through us.

Go on praying in the power of the Holy Spirit; to maintain yourselves in the love of God, and wait for the mercy of Our Lord Jesus Christ, with eternal life for your goal. Jude 20–21.

Offer certain hours of the office for specific intentions. How seldom is a priest not asked to pray for someone: a boy taking an examination, a mother before childbirth, a father going on a trip, or a young couple about to be married? The breviary, the Church’s prayer, gathers up all these intentions of the parish, the diocese, the nation and the world. It helps to offer a particular psalm for a predetermined person.

The breviary can never be properly read while the priest is listening to the radio or watching television or has one ear and half his mind concentrated on a baseball game. Magna abusio est habere os in brevario, cor in foro, oculus in televisifico.

No need for Me to prove thee a guilty man, thy words prove it, thine own lips arraign thee. Job 15.6

This people does Me honor with its lips, but its heart is far from Me. Matthew 15.8

Moments of mental soaring may occasionally accompany the recital of the breviary, but in general the vision of the Mount of the Transfiguration is followed by the descent to the plain. Moments of exaltation are few and far between. We must be content to go on like pilgrims, usually on foot, sometimes with broken boots.

The breviary is, however, not only a yoke and a burden; it is also a duty—a duty of love. The two aspects seem almost contradictory, but the test of love is self-sacrifice, not emotion. Besides, the duty itself is a good. When we lose faith, we lose a sense of duty. How this duty is performed will depend upon the level of behavior. If a priest is egotistic, the breviary will be said out of duty alone; if he is conscious that it is the prayer of the Church, the duty will have love in it; if he is a priest victim, love will fan duty into an ardor that feels no obligation. Jacob had to toil seven years for Rachel, yet “they seemed to him only a few days, because of the greatness of his love” (Gen. 29.20).

This is the text of the meditation given at 15 minutes with Christ on Wednesday 1 August 2012.

  1. Sheen, Fulton J., 1963, The Priest Is Not His Own, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2005. ISBN 1-58617-044-9.
  2. Op. cit., pp. 146–147.

Spiritual Space for LGBT Christians in Belfast

15 minutes with Christ – every day from 6pm, at St George’s Church, Belfast.

When I was confirmed by Bishop Poyntz back in December 1991, we were instructed that we ought to pray daily. Taking a few minutes to be with God is important to allow us to listen to Him and to praise, thank, and worship Him as well.

On Sunday 29 July 2012, there will begin a week-long series of short services in St George’s Parish Church, Belfast that will be just 15 minutes in length. They begin each evening at six o’clock and are planned to take place in the choir. Over the course of the week, we will hear readings from the Lectionary, as well as thoughts from a range of speakers from across the four main churches.

The series is being organised and run by Faith and Pride to provide Christian spirituality to the many LGBT Christians and supporters who will be enjoying the Belfast Pride Festival. We look forward to welcoming you there as we experience the hospitality of Fr Brian Stewart and the Parish of St George.

Hope to see you there.

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