Eamonn Holmes hears from people whose faith has been tested. With hymns from St Thomas' Church in Belfast, L'Angelus and the choristers of St Peter's Cathedral.
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Hello there, and welcome to Songs of Praise, which today
comes from my home city of Belfast.
Later we'll be going to the Parish of St Thomas
in the south of the city.
Thomas, the Apostle who gives his name to the church,
is better known as Doubting Thomas,
but Thomas turned from doubt to belief,
and that's the theme of this programme.
Coming up, music from L'Angelus,
and Schola Cantorum.
The nun who has never doubted God.
And some wonderful hymns accompanied by the New Irish Orchestra.
That stained glass window shows Thomas the Apostle,
who didn't believe Jesus had risen from the dead.
He was only convinced when confronted by the evidence
of the crucifixion and as a result, he became a man of great faith.
Well, our first hymn proclaims great faith with the words
"No more we doubt thee".
It's a rousing tune from George Frideric Handel
and a favourite on Songs Of Praise, Thine Be The Glory.
When things are going well, it's easy to have faith,
but when we have to face painful moments,
like the death of an only son, it can be a very different story.
David Lyle is the chief executive of an award-winning advertising agency, and here's his story.
Matthew was a lovely, witty lad,
and I'm not just saying that myself because I was his father.
The letters we received about him
after his death were heart-breaking because they were
unanimous in painting this picture
of a joyful, friendly, affable,
kind, generous person, but yet he was a tormented soul.
Drugs and addiction cursed his life and brought him to terrible places.
It's a normal reaction for anyone
faced with the terrible tragedy
of losing your only son to ask the question, "Why?"
Why us? Why me?
But we came through that,
and indeed my wife was very clear in her thinking that God is sovereign.
We were given new strength
to come through that terrible period in our lives.
Faith held us through it and brought us through it
and through all the doubts and the problems that you face
with this, and the crushingness that you go through.
And the times when you feel utterly broken.
And it was faith,
it was the love of Christ that brought us through it.
I think it's very important in terms of
dealing with the death of your only son
that you actually celebrate the good memories you have,
and I found that this is an important part of faith,
and Biblical faith,
that we are to approach everything with thanksgiving.
I give thanks for Matthew's life.
My wife Helen and myself started the website for Matthew
because he had such important things to say about drugs and addiction.
And his own words about how addiction had captured his life,
and enslaved him and destroyed his life.
His own words are so powerful. This reality
needed to be brought out to people,
in the hope that even one life might be saved
from this misery that drug-taking brings.
And not long after the website was up and running,
David faced another crisis of conviction.
Helen was diagnosed with terminal cancer
and I think that was another shocking blow for us as a family.
It just came in a flash, and she was gone.
And so then we had the same fundamental issue to deal with.
Why us? Why Helen?
When you're not expecting it, a sudden memory will trigger,
you know, a deep sense of loss and brokenness.
The way to deal with it is to celebrate the good memories,
the positive memories, happy times together,
and that's how to deal with it, in thanksgiving.
In life, we are always dealing with the certainty of the unexpected.
That is the biggest single reality
that everybody watching this programme faces,
and I think that faith in the love of Christ,
faith in the risen Christ,
is an important way of dealing with the certainty of the unexpected.
This monastery is home to an enclosed order of nuns.
It was founded by St Clare, and the nuns observe a strict routine
that has remained relatively unchanged in over 800 years.
Dedicating their lives to prayer, each Poor Clares sister
takes a vow of poverty, chastity, obedience and enclosure.
And for Sister Paschal,
this convent and these grounds have been her life for nearly 60 years.
Sister Paschal, lovely to see you.
-Are you keeping well?
My faith today is as strong as ever it was...
..since the first moment I experienced God's call to me.
I am the youngest of a family of eight.
I enjoyed life, and I was working very happily.
I loved social life, travelling,
but I realised that there was more to life.
I began to say,
"I wonder, would God mean me to have an avocation to religious life?"
I felt so strongly that this was a call from God,
and I never doubted my vocation.
Even though the order of Poor Clare nuns follows a daily routine
of prayer and worship, their enclosure doesn't stop them
feeling in touch with life beyond the convent walls.
It's not an introverted style of life at all.
When we hand ourselves over to God, he guides us, and praying constantly,
we're not preoccupied with our own interests, our own fulfilment.
We bring in the world.
People come up with worries and troubles and anxieties
and very often, they're just wanting to pour out
and unload their worries to someone they know can bring it in prayer.
We bring them before God and ask, "Lord, be with them.
"You're the only one who can solve their problems."
Very, very often they go away relieved. Not released, but relieved.
Our benefactors are very, very dedicated to us.
They would bring us the necessities on account of our vow of poverty.
We call it the privilege of poverty.
We're very particular about the use of everything.
We're never in want at all.
Our Filipina sisters in particular,
they have a great programme of exercising.
We have a large garden,
beautiful pathways around and just ideal for cycling.
I would in the past have cycled the whole circle
of the monastery garden maybe three or four times.
I feel free, and all the sisters, living among ourselves
and sharing with each other when we come to meetings. It is tremendous.
The Lord is leading me, as he has led me all these years.
I don't feel that I have doubts at all. I must follow this way of life.
It was an invitation, and you can't put aside an invitation.
The day I left home to enter the Poor Clares, I remember my mother just
saying, "Now, if you change your mind about it, you can always come home.
"The door is always open for you."
But I have never looked back since.
This is my family now, this is my home.
I have received more than I ever gave up.
# Verum corpus
# De Maria virgine
# In cruce
# Pro homine
# Cujus tus
# Fluxit aqua
# Et sanguine
# Esto nobis
# In mortis
# In mortis
# In mortis
# Examine. #
The choristers of Schola Cantorum
in the impressive setting of St Peter's Cathedral.
On an equally grand scale and designed to impress,
St Thomas' is one of the finest examples of high Victorian gothic ecclesiastical architecture.
There are many fine stained-glass windows throughout the church,
illustrating scenes from the life of Christ and biblical passages.
Life is often unfair, there's no two ways about it,
and we can all suffer some cruel blows.
Remembering a happy time or place has traditionally been used
to good effect by those who find themselves in a painful place.
Well, Dr Susan Phoenix uses her own experience of life
to help others through their difficult times.
I was born in England
over 60 years ago now, and I suppose in those days
we all thought of ourselves in England
as little Christian children -
be kind to our fellow man. And that was my life.
But I always felt I should be doing something for somebody.
I always knew I wanted to be a nurse.
I became a member of the Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps.
I was a dedicated career girl. But then I met an Irish man.
Ian was probably more committed to a faith than I was,
because he felt he was working for peace in Northern Ireland,
even though he was a policeman in those days.
We had friends of Catholics and Protestants and we all lived and worked and had fun together.
But any time things went right, he used to say,
"I think we should go to church and say thank you."
And that is a beautiful ethos. Because we do forget to say thank you to whoever or whatever.
I talk now about the God of your heart,
and to me it doesn't matter which god you worship - Buddhist, Catholic, Protestant, whatever.
I think it's very important we remember to say thank you for the good things. And he did.
This is Inside Ulster.
25 senior Northern Ireland security officials
died in the Scottish helicopter crash.
The day my husband was killed on the Mull of Kintyre,
on that day, I had waved him off with great love.
I can see his face now, I can see his back walking away from me
as he got into the Chinook.
I knew I was surrounded by love then, and so did he.
His 50th birthday had been the year before and he had said,
"Well, boys, if I die tomorrow, I've had a great life.
"I've known great excitement, great love and I have had a good life. What more could you want?"
At the time when Ian died, of course I probably had doubts.
It was traumatic.
Within six more months, my mother and my father all died.
So within six months, I'd lost all of my roots.
I had my children, but I had to start and look at my life,
and finding out who I was was very, very...
What's the word? Traumatic, difficult.
But I did it in the best way I possibly could.
I wrote his life story, and that absorbed me.
It was a bit like completing his final task.
It was really very dynamic, and thrusting forward.
And then I went down the tubes on year three.
And many bereaved people now tell me that year three is the year
people just go, "Well, they're not coming back, are they? What happened?"
So there was a difficult year.
And I now help other people through that.
I think by studying psychology it gave me
a much more analytical brain, which helped me
when I started to analyse cures around the world
for depression after bereavement.
And that was something I have dedicated 17 years to,
to look across the world at different philosophies.
Using our intuition, trusting ourselves, is OK,
and it doesn't matter which religion you are,
to have that spiritual emphasis
is very important to any religion or no religion.
You have a responsibility to do something with this life.
These bells have been ringing at St Thomas' for 140 years.
The Angelus is the name of a prayer.
It is usually accompanied by the ringing of a bell,
a call to prayer and to spread goodwill.
And like prayer, music has always been a unifying force.
It brings families together,
just like these brothers and sisters from Louisiana - L'Angelus.
# This day God gives me
# Strength of high heaven
# Sun and moon shining Flame in my heart
# Flashing of lightning
# Wind in its swiftness
# Deeps of the ocean
# Firmness of earth
# This day God sends me
# Strength as my guardian
# Might to uphold me
# Wisdom as guide
# Your eyes are watchful
# Your ears are listening
# Your lips are speaking
# Friend at my side
# God's way is my way
# God's shield is round me
# God's host defends me
# Saving from ill
# Angels of heaven
# Joy from me always
# All that would harm me
# Stand by me still
# Rising, I thank thee
# Mighty and strong
# King of creation
# Giver of rest
# Firmly confessing
# God in three persons
# Oneness of Godhead
# Trinity blessed
# Firmly confessing
# God in three persons
# Oneness of Godhead
# Trinity blessed. #
May Christ, amid your doubts, strengthen your faith.
May he assuage your fears.
May he bring you to that divine day when you behold his face.
And may the blessing of God Almighty, the father,
the son and the Holy Spirit,
rest upon you and upon your families and your friends
and remain with you now and forever more.
And that's almost it from Belfast.
It seems to me the people we've met today -
David, Sister Paschal and Susan -
share an acceptance,
that they've placed their trust in a higher power.
And that's the hardest prayer. Not MY will, but THY will be done.
Until the next time, bye-bye.
Next week, for Advent Sunday,
Diane-Louise Jordan introduces festive hymns
that herald the Christmas season...
..and unravels the mystery
of how the birth of Jesus was predicted centuries before.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
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