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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Scotland's vast deficit remains an obstacle to independence

Though the country's financial position has improved, independence would still risk severe austerity. 

For the SNP, the annual Scottish public spending figures bring good and bad news. The good news, such as it is, is that Scotland's deficit fell by £1.3bn in 2016/17. The bad news is that it remains £13.3bn or 8.3 per cent of GDP – three times the UK figure of 2.4 per cent (£46.2bn) and vastly higher than the white paper's worst case scenario of £5.5bn. 

These figures, it's important to note, include Scotland's geographic share of North Sea oil and gas revenue. The "oil bonus" that the SNP once boasted of has withered since the collapse in commodity prices. Though revenue rose from £56m the previous year to £208m, this remains a fraction of the £8bn recorded in 2011/12. Total public sector revenue was £312 per person below the UK average, while expenditure was £1,437 higher. Though the SNP is playing down the figures as "a snapshot", the white paper unambiguously stated: "GERS [Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland] is the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances". 

As before, Nicola Sturgeon has warned of the threat posed by Brexit to the Scottish economy. But the country's black hole means the risks of independence remain immense. As a new state, Scotland would be forced to pay a premium on its debt, resulting in an even greater fiscal gap. Were it to use the pound without permission, with no independent central bank and no lender of last resort, borrowing costs would rise still further. To offset a Greek-style crisis, Scotland would be forced to impose dramatic austerity. 

Sturgeon is undoubtedly right to warn of the risks of Brexit (particularly of the "hard" variety). But for a large number of Scots, this is merely cause to avoid the added turmoil of independence. Though eventual EU membership would benefit Scotland, its UK trade is worth four times as much as that with Europe. 

Of course, for a true nationalist, economics is irrelevant. Independence is a good in itself and sovereignty always trumps prosperity (a point on which Scottish nationalists align with English Brexiteers). But if Scotland is to ever depart the UK, the SNP will need to win over pragmatists, too. In that quest, Scotland's deficit remains a vast obstacle. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.