Monday, May 18, 2020

We are so greatly loved - Fr Gonville ffrench-Beytagh

St Vedast Foster Lane, London (just near St Paul's Cathedral), as seen from Paternoster Row

If anybody's life demonstrates the power of the Lord's resurrection in the ebb and flow of our faltering discipleship, it is Father Gonville ffrench-Beytagh (1912-1991), the anti-apartheid Dean of Johannesburg, who endured a forty day trial and imprisonment.

On his release he came to England where he lived the rest of his life 'in exile', as he saw it. He became well-known for his ministry of spiritual direction which he carried out from St Vedast's Church near St Paul's Cathedral, London. He published numerous books, including Encountering Darkness, an account of his imprisonment, Facing DepressionEncountering LightTree of Glory, and A Glimpse of Glory.

Go HERE to Canon Patrick Comerford's blog for the story of Father ffrench-Beytagh's life.  

Here are some extracts from Fr ffrench-Beytagh's teaching:

"What distinguishes a Christian from anybody else is not that he goes to church, or that he is good, or that he has been baptised, but that he knows that he, John Smith, is loved and valued at a depth beyond any human imagining and that he desires to respond to that love. He may feel almost filled with hate and lust and envy, but he knows he is loved - the whole of him, not just the 'good' bits - and so he can begin to open himself to God and his fellowmen and allow the power of divine love to flood through him."
From Encountering Light

"Think of yourself for a moment. There is no one on this earth who is like you. This may be just as well, but it is true. You may have an identical twin who was removed at birth for all you know, but there is not, and cannot ever have been, nor will there ever be, a person who is exactly like you. Even if someone has exactly the same genes and chromosomes, the environment in which he (or she) grew up will have been different and so he will have become a different person. It is not possible for someone else to have the same loves and hates and lusts and fears and anxieties and hopes and desires as you yourself have.

"You are unique, you are yourself and there has never been, or can be, someone who is just like you, or who fills your place in the world. And if religion is, as it claims to be, a personal relationship with God, your relationship with God will be something unique to yourself and him. You can listen to preachers preaching, you can read about religion — and probably ought to do so because we can learn from each other's experience — but in the last resort your religion and your prayer is something of your own self.

"Finally, at the end of your life, you will stand before the judgement seat by yourself. You are responsible for yourself. Many people have contributed towards your goodness and badness. Many of them may well be blamed and have some responsibility for what is in you, but in the last resort, you are you and no one can take your place."
From Encountering Light

"Consider this world in the present day - the fear, the starvation, the many kinds of distress and our terrifying weakness. Some of the trouble exists because Christians are too damned lazy to pray - I mean that literally. Jesus loves the whole world and our concern should reach out towards the evil and horror of the whole world."
From A Glimpse of Glory

“Behind the horror of the cross shines the tremendous, transcendent beauty of the God who is present even in the horror.” 
From Tree of Glory 

"[The Church must face things like apartheid] if our faith is to have any reality in world aftairs, and is not itself to be a kind of apartheid . . . a shutting off from the real issues of the twentieth century in a cosy game of liturgical reform where the crucifixion is forgotten and love involves no cost and no sacrifice." 
Quoted by William Barclay in 'The Expository Times'

“The pattern of prayer is a looking towards God, a listening for him, a leaning towards him, and a longing for him, until there comes the experience of love.”
From A Glimpse of Glory


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