Ahead of Palm Sunday Archbishop Leo Cushey appeared on BBC Radio Scotland this morning (Friday 31 March) to give his Thought for the Day. Listen below or on our YouTube Channel.
I’m sure, like me, you occasionally hear folk say, “Now that is what gets me out of bed in the morning!”
But when the clocks go back or go forward, like they did last weekend, it makes me wonder: which do you prefer, the clocks going back or going forward?
Personally, I’ve recently noticed a thing: I think I like both of them…!
After the autumn equinox, when it’s getting definitely darker, an extra hour in bed is no bad thing to have, and when it’s dark, because we’re made the way we’re made, we are naturally inclined to rest. I sometimes wonder if our ancestors used to like to hibernate a bit….
But now, as the days get longer, there’s more light – and to state the obvious, the light wakens us up.
Because we’ve been built the way we’re built over many millennia, deep down somewhere, we kinda like that. So, that means getting out of bed when it’s light is a lot easier than when it’s dark – as anyone starting a nightshift will tell you. A
nd it’s funny how, if it’s light and you have a day off, it’s a lot easier to make a move early in the morning. Now, that’s something to get you out bed in the morning.
We also use light and dark in our language and in our culture in a moral way too.
This Sunday is Palm Sunday.
Christians at this time of the year ponder the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and his death on the Cross. Light and darkness are important motifs in the way the story is told among us.
We are confident that the death of Jesus took place in the spring and around this actual time of year, but there is also a providential element that as Jesus gives us the light of life, it happens as nature wakes up, and as we find ourselves springing just a little more willingly from our slumbers.
As the daffs emerge, the trees bud, and the bunnies abound, I hope the light of life and the longer days bring a renewed spring to your step too.
Archbishop Cushley gave the Thought for the Day on BBC Radio Scotland ths morning (Wednesday 21 December). Listen to it below or on YouTube. Transcript below video.
The very earliest archaeological evidence – from perhaps as long ago as 11,000 years – tells us that human beings noticed what happens today a very long time ago.
That is because today is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year.
Several thousand years later, Roman Christians noticed it too.
They knew there was no exact date known for the birth of Jesus, but they couldn’t think of a better time of the year than now to remember his birth. And Christmas caught on…
At this time of the year, it has been getting darker and darker, and no one really likes that.
We’re creatures of warmth and light and we respond naturally to both.
The Greek storyteller Aesop tells the story of the sun and the wind arguing over who could make a man take his coat off. The wind tried first: he blew and blew, and instead of the man taking his coat off, he just wrapped it around himself more and more. The sun then shone upon him…and the man willingly took off the coat.
At Christmas, we celebrate how Jesus is the Light - and the loving warmth - of God, a light that cannot be overcome.
But there is little doubt that 2022 has not been a very happy one for the world’s peoples.
Brexit and Covid and inflation all loom over us. Above all, continental Europe, accustomed to 70 years of peace, has seen war break out.
We have a lot to concern us, and a lot of grown-up thinking and acting now before us.
Our ancient ancestors noticed that today is the darkest day of the year.
But they also noticed that it preceded a gradual change back towards the light and the warmth that we all need, that we all enjoy.
Christians take this dark before the dawn – this happy moment - and call it Christmas, because we see the birth of Jesus as a turning point, towards the good, towards God, towards the warmth and the light of God.
Things can and do change for the better. I hope they will for us all.
A merry Christmas when it comes!"
Holy Mass with Archbishop Cushley will be broadcast on national TV this Sunday.
You can watch it on The Service on the BBC Scotland channel, at 12 noon. It's a multi-faith programme covering different religious services each week.
BBC Scotland commissioned a second series in response to high levels of audience appreciation and as part of its ongoing response to COVID-19 restrictions.
Holy Mass will be broadcast on the BBC Scotland channel at 12 noon this Sunday. pic.twitter.com/g909bKdZFX
— Archbishop Leo Cushley (@leocushley) September 2, 2020
Gareth Hydes, commissioning editor at BBC Scotland, said: “We know our audiences appreciated this series during the early months of lockdown and we hope they will continue to do so as restrictions start to ease.
"We are committed to representing all faiths as part of our public service offer and connecting those who cannot visit their place of worship during these challenging times.”
The first series of The Service saw Mass broadcast from St Augustine's in Coatbridge, back in June.
Matt Meade, the Archdiocese's Director of Communications, said: "Having another Mass on national television is great news for Catholics who have responded enthusiatically to recent BBC programmes such as Priest School and My First Communion."
Holy Mass with Archbishop Cushley, this Sunday 12 noon on the BBC Scotland channel. Available after on the iPlayer.
People across Scotland have inundated the BBC with positive feedback about Priest School - leading the channel to extend the programme's availability on iPlayer.
The documentary, which follows the lives of seminarians at the Pontifical Scots College in Rome, drew a TV audience of 80,000 people. That was an eight per cent share on BBC Scotland on Sunday night – the highest audience for any digital channel in Scotland.
To put that in context, when BBC Scotland's flagship drama River City had its first airing on the BBC Scotland digital channel, it got a maximum of 30,000 viewers, which was considered a good showing.
A spokesperson for the Scottish Catholic Media Office said: "This is an incredible result for early figures.
"I'm told BBC Scotland has been inundated with positive feedback and the programme will be on the iPlayer for 11 months rather than the usual 30 days from now."
He added: "Priest School will pick up more figures and statistics on the BBC iPlayer, so please encourage people to watch it again on catch up via the BBC iplayer which will improve the viewing record further.
There is growing support for Sunday Mass to be broadcast live on BBC Scotland during the Coronavirus lockdown. If you back this please contact the BBC directly. Email email@example.com.
Archbishop Leo Cushley gave an Easter message of hope when he appeared on BBC1 Scotland's Reflections at the Quay on Sunday. He was joined by the Right Rev Colin Sinclair, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
You can watch the full programme here.
Archbishop Cushley also appeared on 'Sunday Morning' on BBC Radio Scotland at 10am. You can listen to the programme here.
Fr Jamie McMorrin, assistant priest at St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh, highlighted the impact of the coronavirus in Rome on Thought for The Day on BBC Radio Scotland this morning.
Last week, the Pontifical Scots College in Rome, where young men from this country are trained for the Catholic priesthood, closed its doors for only the third time in its four hundred and twenty year history. Napoleon’s invasion at the end of the eighteenth century and the Nazi occupation of Rome during the second World War both prompted the students to seek refuge elsewhere.
The latest invasion force, of course, isn’t from a foreign army, but the Corona virus. It’s borne, not by heavy cavalry charges and aerial bombardment, but by sneezing, coughing and even by the innocent – and so typically Italian – peck on the cheek greeting.
On this feast day of St John Ogilvie, Fr Jamie McMorrin, of St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh, sends prayers to our friends in Italy in his Thought For The Day slot. (@BBCRadioScot) pic.twitter.com/zMj8MhTb1c
— Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh (@archedinburgh) March 10, 2020
The Scottish students heading for the airports over the weekend are, of course, the least of those affected: the whole country has gone into lockdown, with all but essential travel suspended and schools, gyms, museums and nightclubs all closed. Throughout the country, all church services have been suspended until the 3 April and Pope Francis – himself seen looking a bit under the weather last week – has cancelled all public events and will communicate via video link from within the walls of the Apostolic Palace.
All of this quite apart from the death-toll already, not to mention the millions whose livelihoods depend on the tourist industry. When I was a student there, I occasionally used to grumble about having to elbow my way through crowds of selfie-stick wielding, ice-cream eating tourists on my way to university: those crowds are nowhere to be seen on Rome’s deserted streets right now.
I’ll be glad to welcome our students home and I’m glad that they’re safe. But I’ll be sparing a thought and a prayer for the wonderful people of Italy who are left behind, and all of the government officials and medical professionals – both here in Scotland and across the world – who are facing difficult decisions in the coming weeks, and who are doing everything they can to keep people safe.
I don’t know how many Italians tune in to Good Morning Scotland, but if they’re listening: coraggio, cari amici! Your friends in Scotland are praying for you.
Archbishop Leo Cushley spoke this morning on BBC Radio Scotland to give his Thought for the Day, discussing the importance of feeling peace in our heart and safety in our places of worship.
"You know, we’re a security conscious lot. Most of us lock up our homes and vehicles and use passwords to protect our phones and computers. We want to feel safe. We want to feel secure.
"However, the latest terror incident in London on Sunday highlighted again that few places are ever completely safe.Not even our places of worship.
"The Scottish Government recently announced funding to protect such places. The scheme makes half-a-million pounds available to churches, temples and mosques to install security measures to protect them against hate crime.
— Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh (@archedinburgh) February 5, 2020
"It’s a move meant to reassure us that no-one should fear violence, and that’s surely to be commended. But security gates and CCTV, while practically important, will never be 100 per cent effective.
"That got me thinking about what creates the conditions to make us feel secure. So, where’s your safe place?
"Well, families and close relationships ought to be places where we feel secure and loved.
"Our communities are also places where we should feel secure if we know neighbours are looking out for us. Feeling connected, cared for and comforted gives us a certain peace of mind.
"When the disciples were feeling vulnerable, Jesus told them to trust God, saying: ‘Let not your heart be troubled’. He knew that the heart is our safe place and that it must be protected above all things.
"Why? Because when your heart is troubled, it robs you of all your peace (if you’ve been broken-hearted, you’ll know what I mean). But when our heart is safe and serene, well, that’s a different story. It lifts our whole being.
"Knowing this, gives us the empathy required to help others with spiritual and practical support. And when our heart is in the right place, we all benefit and our communities become safer places for everyone.
"I hope all places of worship will be treated as sanctuaries of prayer and safety; and I hope your heart and your home are a haven of peace today."
Broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland, on Thursday 05 January.
Fr Jamie McMorrin, of St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh, spoke this morning on BBC Radio Scotland to give his Thought for the Day, discussing an exciting new project that aims to improve dialogue between religion and science.
"When I was a student in Rome, I was once given a tour of the Vatican Observatory at Castel Gandolfo. A friend of mine, who is both a priest and an astrophysicist, showed me the telescopes, with the Latin enscription around their roof: 'Venite Adoremus Deum Creatorem': 'Come, let us worship God the Creator.'
"The work of the observatory stands in a long tradition of dialogue between science and religion, combining a spirit of enquiry into the workings of the natural world with a sincere faith in God. My friend, and many other scientists with him, believe in a God who, in the words of Stephen Hawking, is responsible for "breathing fire into their equations and making a universe for them to describe."
— Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh (@archedinburgh) January 21, 2020
"My own scientific education, I'm afraid, ended - and not especially gloriously - with Standard Grade chemistry. Although I've tried to make up for it since, when it comes to the finer details of scientific discovery, I confess to feeling slightly out of my depth.
"Thankfully, my counterparts in the Church of England will, in future, be somewhat better equipped than me to engage with some of the most important debates of our time here in the United Kingdom.
"Thanks to a grant from the Templeton Fund, the universities of Durham and York have recently launched a multi-million pound project called 'Equipping Christian Leadership in an Age of Science'.
"Grants will be given to theological colleges and to individual trainee priests interested in science. The aim is to fund research into everything from dinosaurs to DNA, and help religious leaders to better understand the world of science - and vice versa!
"St John Paul II, the Pope who led the Catholic Church into the third millenium, said that "faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth."
"Hopefully, this project will go some way towards promoting a vision of human progress among both scientists and people of faith. It could be a positive way to cultivate a deeper appreciation for the beautiful complexity of our world and the human spirit which strives to understand its deepest truths."
Fr Jamie McMorrin is assistant priest at St Mary's Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh.