Saturday, 7 October 2017

Novena for the Fallen Through ~ our third prayer for the people of Grenfell

Here is the third of our Novenas for the Fallen Through, which for this month are devoted to Brigid and to seeking justice and healing for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire. If you would like to read more about this work please have a look here.

Today’s prayer weaves gratitude, blessing, and protection for the Emergency Services, particularly firefighters, but also ambulance drivers, police, nurses, and doctors, who came to the aid of the people of Grenfell. I know that many of us will have seen heartbreaking images of firefighters exhausted and weeping, later returning to the sight of the fire to applause and hugs from the local community. It is so easy to have an ‘us and them’ mentality in our world but one thing that the Grenfell fire did do is break down those barriers and, of course, also revealed where ‘us and them’ remains horribly relevant in our society.

Brigid, who has so many aspects, is fierce in protection of her people, just as the Emergency Services are, although of course they need protection too. There are many stories of her protective nature. In the early days of her convent it was believed that St Brigid and her nuns were watched over by the Goddess herself. One day some cattle rustlers came to the convent in the middle of the night, thinking that stealing cows from a group of women would be easy work. The Goddess, sensing that the cows had gone, caused the waters of a nearby stream to rise, frightening the cattle who refused to cross. The men, realising that they would have to encourage the cows across the stream by leading them, took off their clothes and tied them in bundles to the cows’ horns. At that moment the cows turned and ran back to the convent! Shortly afterwards the men appeared at the gate of the convent full of repentance and pleading for the return of their clothes.

One of Brigid’s many names, which I have included in our prayers, is ‘Brigid of the Mantles’. In this aspect she is protector of the land. In the legend of her cloak, or mantle, St Brigid is said to have found the perfect place for her convent at Kildare in Ireland where a holy oak grew. She asked the king to give her the land to build on and he refused. She prayed to God for help, returned to the king, and asked him whether she might be given just the land that her mantle could cover. Finding this amusing, the king agreed and so Brigid’s four companions each took a corner and, walking north, south, east, and west, continued until it covered exactly the land that Brigid had asked for. Seeing this miracle, the king fell to his knees and is said to have converted to Christianity on the spot. Her cloth was also used for healing; strips of fabric, representing her mantle, being left out each Imbolc (the day of her festival on February 1st) to be blessed by the goddess-saint and used throughout the year for their healing properties. The threads in her cloth can also be seen as the strands that connect all creation in a web. To be ‘wrapped in Brigid’s mantle’ is life itself and a blessing indeed.

Her sacred rowan tree, with its abundance of red berries, is also a tree of protection. It is one of the most holy trees in the Scottish folk tradition and its use was forbidden except for sacred purposes. Rowan twigs were traditionally placed above doorways, and also barns, to protect those who lived there from misfortune.

Returning to firefighters, I remember when one of my neighbours locked herself out of the basement flat in our house, having turned the oven on. After a while there was much smoke, the lights went out, and she became especially distressed as her baby rabbit was loose in the room. We called the fire services and they came almost immediately. I was in awe of how quickly they reacted to the circumstances, seemingly without a pause. We were upset, over-excited, and generally annoying I’m sure, but they were kind, professional, and reassuring in every way. They made sure that we were safe, they made sure that the fire (which had really just been smoke) was safe, and they made sure to find my neighbour’s rabbit. I was already in awe of the work they do but experiencing that at close quarters reinforced that a thousand times. The energy that came from them was staggering. I know that on the night of the Grenfell fire many, whether they survived or not, would have felt that reassuring presence, even in the midst of such terrible circumstances and I am glad for that. We should have nothing but gratitude for what they do.

Before we begin today's prayer I will share this deeply moving poem written by a firefighter in the aftermath of the Grenfell fire. Please do listen. It deserves to be heard by us all.

Novena for the Fallen Through ~

Justice, healing, and wholeness for the people of Grenfell, and for us all.

This prayer begins with fire.

Blessed Brigid,
Holy Woman,
Saint and Goddess,
Mother of Fire.

Brigid of the mantles,
Brigid of the peat heap,
Brigid of the twining hair,
Mary of the Gaels.

We ask for blessings to be poured upon
our Emergency services;
our ambulance drivers, our police,
our doctors, our nurses,
but especially, our firefighters,
who run into the heat of fire
with hardly a thought for themselves,
not knowing what they might find or see.

We ask that you watch over their work,
protect them in body, mind, heart, and spirit,
wrap your strong mantle around them,
as they walk through fire for us all.

Blessed Brigid,
Holy Woman,
Saint and Goddess,
Mother of Fire.

Brigid of the mantles,
Brigid of the peat heap,
Brigid of the twining hair,
Mary of the Gaels.

May all who risk their lives for our safety
be blessed by the spirit of the rowan trees
that grow so abundantly in our towns and cities,
sharing the autumn fire of their berries with us all.

May each and every berry that ripens offer up a prayer
of protection for those who answered the call
to the Grenfell fire.

May each leaf that falls from their branches in autumn
take with it a memory, of sights seen, of sounds heard,
of regrets for what was done, or not done,
memories that none should be asked to hold.

Sacred rowan, mountain ash, growing in the most
inhospitable places where little soil holds your roots,
let us find ways to grow strong and abundant
in generosity and fierce spirit even from
circumstances that seen so devoid of life, 
where we feel that we cannot thrive.
Let life grow from death, as your seasons teach us.

Blessed Brigid,
Holy Woman,
Saint and Goddess,
Mother of Fire.

Brigid of the mantles,
Brigid of the peat heap,
Brigid of the twining hair,
Mary of the Gaels.

We ask that those in power cease
their relentless attacks upon those
who selflessly risk their lives on our behalf,
that they should be rewarded,
not only with our endless gratitude
but with the money they need to feed themselves and their families
without worry or stress or attack on their integrity or worth,
remembering that many decisions made
lead us to feel that there is money to burn.
Let the wealth that we have instead be used in ways
that are fair, generous, and good.

Blessed Brigid,
Holy Woman,
Saint and Goddess,
Mother of Fire.

Brigid of the mantles,
Brigid of the peat heap,
Brigid of the twining hair,
Mary of the Gaels.

We thank our firefighters, and others,
who went to what they believed was an ordinary fire
in the Grenfell Tower, and who walked into a nightmare,
but who stayed and fought for lives to be saved,
comforted the survivors, and those who would not survive.
Let the words of reassurance offered to those
who they already knew would not be saved,
words that must have broken the hearts of those who uttered them,
ring through the corridors of Westminster and open the hearts
of all whose hearts are closed to the consequences
of their decisions.

We ask this in memory of Mohammed Neda, Ali Yawar Jafari,
Karen Bernard, Lucas James, Rania Ibrahim and her daughters,
Fathia and Hania, Stefan Anthony Mills, Ligaya Moore.

We ask this in memory of Zainab Dean and her son, Jeremiah,
Khadija Saye and her mother, Mary Mendy, Gary Maunders,
Mohammad Alhajali, Hesham Rahman, Tony Disson, Sheila Smith.

We ask this in memory of Mariem Elgwahry and her mother, Suhar,
Jessica Urbano Ramirez, Deborah Lamprell, Steve Power,
Dennis Murphy, Amal Ahmedin and Amaya Tuccu, Isaac Paulos.

We ask this in memory of Marco Gottardi, and Gloria Trevisan,
Mohammed Nurdu, Fouzia el-Wahabi, her husband, Abdul Aziz,
Nur Huda and Mehdi, Yasin.

We ask this in memory of Nadia Loureda, Maria Del Pilar Burton,
Berkti Haftom and her son, Biruk, Nura Jamal, her husband, Hashim,
their children, Yahya, Firdaws, Yaqub, Kamru Miah.

We ask this in memory of Fatima Afrasehabi, her sister, Sakina,
Nadia Choucair, her husband, Baseem Choukair,
their children, Mierna, Fatima, Zainab,
their grandmother, Sirria, Raymond Bernard.

We ask this in memory of Majorie Vital and her son, Ernie,
Joseph Daniels, Logan Gomes, Khadija Khalloufi, Abdeslam Sebbar,
Fathia Ahmed and her son, Abufars Ibrahim. Of Omar Belkadi,
Farah Hamdan, Malak, Leena, and Tamzin who lived.
Of Mohamednur Tuccu, Husna and Rebaya Begum,
Mohammed Hanif, Mohammed Hamid, Vincent Chiejina, Hamid Kani,
a ‘woman’ unnamed, all the unnamed, the disappeared.

Blessed Brigid,
Holy Woman,
Saint and Goddess,
Mother of Fire.

Brigid of the mantles,
Brigid of the peat heap,
Brigid of the twining hair,
Mary of the Gaels.

We ask that all; dead or living,
homeless or hurting, numb or weeping,
whether once living in the Grenfell Tower,
or responding to the call for help,
whether implicated in creating the conditions
in which people would die,
or working for justice,
be wrapped in your mantle
where healing can take place in hearts,
in community, in fire station and hospital,
in Government, amongst us all,
knowing that there is no them and us,
there is only us making sense of what makes no sense.

Brigid of the Mantle, encompass us,
Lady of the Lambs, protect us,
Keeper of the Hearth, kindle us.
Beneath your mantle, gather us,
And restore us to memory.
Mothers of our mother, Foremothers strong.
Guide our hands in yours,
Remind us how to kindle the hearth.
To keep it bright, to preserve the flame.
Your hands upon ours, Our hands within yours,
To kindle the light, Both day and night.
The Mantle of Brigid about us,
The Memory of Brigid within us,
The Protection of Brigid keeping us
From harm, from ignorance, from heartlessness.
This day and night,
From dawn till dark, From dark till dawn. (1)

And let all members of our Emergency Services be wrapped
in your protection, and our thanks, always.

This prayer ends with fire. Let it be the fire of gratitude.

For this we pray.

Aho mitake oyasin, amen, blessed be. Inshallah.

Credir: EPA

References, with thanks ~

1) Traditional Celtic Christian prayer to St Brigid from

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