The wealth of touch in faith

In the second of his articles on life and faith as a deafblind priest, Cyril Axelrod explains how he

Many years before I became totally blind, I used to love going for a long walk in the countryside and watching the wonders of nature – evergreen plants and trees, the wild world full of different colours, the placid lake with ducks swimming on it, the birds flying in the blue sky and so forth. I could not hear the sounds or songs, but I experienced that my sight was God's touch which vibrated throughout my body and spirit.

After becoming totally blind a few years ago, it was an explicit change of my experience in God's touch. Naturally, blindness can be an experience of abandonment or loneliness. But, in fact, the power of God never left me. It transmitted into a different way of seeing God through my senses of smell and touch.

A great amazement came to me when I went for a walk in a lovely garden with many different types of blooming flowers and fresh herbs. The fragrances filled my lungs with a sense of God's power of love. The different shapes of the flower petals and leaves gave me the mystery of God's touch.

At times, the blindness is my lifetime struggle and it leads me to feel down. But through my faith I pursue to walk in the garden as it is always uplifting for me because God never abandons us in times when life is changing, like when I lost my sight or hearing.

Sometimes when I cannot go out on account of the weather, I spend time inside holding the holy host – the Body of Christ. I place my hands on it and it signifies my touch on God within my darkness. It is like a stone turning over, turning my inner conflict to inner peace though faith. This gives my imagination an idea of how Jesus touched deafness and blindness. The wealth of touch stays in a human life no matter what comes into our lives. Faith always has an importance to a human being because it knots the bond of trust and faithfulness between God and us.

Faith cannot be seen with a human eye or heard with a human ear, it is simply the wealth of touch of God without expressing a single word but connecting with Him with a meaningful spirit.

Cyril Axelrod is a Redemptorist priest who was born deaf and was diagnosed with progressive blindness in his forties. He was one of the first deaf persons in the world to train to become a Catholic priest. He has travelled the world empowering deaf people and speaks many languages using sign. He also spent extensive time working deaf people in apartheid in South Africa. He currently lives in London and helps the deaf population in the Camden Town area.
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Theresa May raises UK terrorist threat level to "critical"

A further attack may be "imminent" and armed soldiers will be deployed on the streets. 

After last night's horrific attack in Manchester, Theresa May has announced that the terrorist threat level has been increased from "severe" to "critical" - meaning a further attack may be imminent. The Prime Minister, following the advice of the independent Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, said in a statement from No.10 Downing Street: "The work undertaken throughout the day has revealed that it is a possibility we cannot ignore that there is a wider group of individuals linked to this attack."

The new threat level, the highest available and last imposed in 2007, means that up to 5,000 soldiers will be deployed on the streets to replace armed police, guarding sensitive points such as parliament and railway stations. The intelligence services are likely to have been troubled by the relative sophistication of the Manchester Arens attack, a nail bomb, which murdered 22 people and injured 59 others.

May added: "This morning I said that the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, the independent organisation responsible for setting the threat level on the basis of the intelligence available, was keeping the threat level under constant review. It has now concluded, on the basis of today’s investigations, that the threat level should be increased for the time being from severe to critical. This means that their assessment is not only that an attack remains highly likely, but that a further attack may be imminent.”

Operation Temperer - allowing military personnel to take to the streets - had been enforced, May announced. “This means that armed police officers responsible for duties such as guarding key sites will be replaced by members of the armed forces, which will allow the police to significantly increase the number of armed officers on patrol in key locations. You might also see military personnel deployed at certain events such as concerts and sports matches, helping the police to keep the public safe.” 

The terrorist threat level was last raised to "critical" in June 2007 following the attempted bombing of a Tiger Tiger night club in London and the Glasgow airport attack. It was also increased after the failed 2006 Heathrow bomb plot. On both occasions, the "critical" status remained in place for less than a week. 

May will chair another meeting of the government's emergency Cobra committee at 9:30am tomorrow. The Conservatives and Labour have suspended all national and local election campaigning until further notice.

In her concluding remarks, the Prime Minister emphasised: "I do not want the public to feel unduly alarmed." She continued: "We have faced a serious terror threat in our country for many years and the operational response I have just outlined is a proportionate and sensible response to the threat that our security experts judge we face. I ask everybody to be vigilant and to co-operate with and support the police as they go about their important work.

"I want to end by repeating the important message I gave in my statement earlier today. We will take every measure available to us and provide every additional resource we can to the police and the security services as they work to protect the public.

"And while we mourn the victims of last night’s appalling attack, we stand defiant. The spirit of Manchester and the spirit of Britain is far mightier than the sick plots of depraved terrorists, that is why the terrorists will never win and we will prevail." 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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