Apostleship of the Sea – Lenten Journey

For this year’s Lenten audio series, we’ve teamed up with Apostleship of the Sea, the bishops’ agency that looks after the practical and pastoral care of seafarers to bring you insightful weekly reflections from port chaplain Father Colum Kelly. Father Colum’s based out of Immingham – a port on the south west bank of the Humber Estuary near Grimsby.

Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent, falls on 1 March. Pancakes will have been digested and various achievable and fanciful promises of abstinence will have been made.

For this year’s Lenten audio series, we’ve teamed up with Apostleship of the Sea, the bishops’ agency that looks after the practical and pastoral care of seafarers to bring you insightful weekly reflections from port chaplain Father Colum Kelly. Father Colum’s based out of Immingham – a port on the south west bank of the Humber Estuary near Grimsby.

As you might expect there’s a maritime theme and we’re pulling anchor and heading out to sea for a Lenten voyage.

Week One

The first week invites us into the wilderness. We read in the Gospel of the anguish of Jesus in the wilderness and all the uncertainties and trials that came his way in that bleak place.

“What do we need to do before setting off on this voyage?” Asks Fr Colum. “Before any ship leaves port there are a lot of checks that need to be carried out to see that our vessel is fit to make the planned voyage and also to make allowances for any unexpected twists along the way. Check cargo. Importance of our being ready and prepared for what we might face. We need to check that we have enough fuel and provisions to last us; but not too much for that will slow us down. We mustn’t carry anything unnecessary…

“…But for now, once we are sure the cargo is sorted, let’s cast off from the shore and voyage together into the vast wilderness of the sea and allow ourselves to be tested, just as Jesus was in his wilderness.

“The ropes are stowed, we have clearance from marine control and the sea will be our common home for the next six weeks.”

Week Two

As we head towards the Second Sunday of Lent, port chaplain Fr Colum Kelly continues to lead ‘Our Lenten Voyage’. We’re currently anchored offshore and our status is ‘At Sea, awaiting orders’.

“I like that phrase,” says Fr Colum. “It sums up how we spend a lot of our time, not just as seafarers but in many aspects of life. In times or worry or doubt or faced with a problem that is way beyond our capabilities, we wait for guidance.

“We wait for someone we trust to steer us in the right direction. And of course the right direction might not always be to our liking but if we trust someone, and if that someone is the voice of God guiding us in prayer then we are more likely to take notice.”

Week Three

For the third week of Lent, we join Fr Colum Kelly out at sea, tired after a particularly difficult night watch. Our reflection focuses on the Gospel of John and the story of Jesus meeting a woman at the well.

Jesus talked to her about her life and of the things God could offer her – even though she had a very poor opinion of herself because of the life she had led.

“The Captain said that in churches all over the world people would be hearing the same reading and in some way, even though we were miles from anywhere, this reading connected us… Some things stuck with me and I’ve been thinking about them.

“The woman at the well was alone. Usually getting the water was a social occasion when the women would meet and spend time chatting and catching up. Children would often accompany them and a vibrant almost family-like atmosphere would fill the air before they made their way home.

“But this woman was not allowed to be a part of the group. I wish we had a name for her but there’s no mention of one so we have to refer to her as ‘the woman at the well’.”


Week Four

We’re at the halfway point in our Lenten journey and we’ve been out at sea with port chaplain Fr Column Kelly for three long weeks.

Things are happening all around us on this busy ship but have we missed the obvious in all the hustle and bustle?

There’s a definite ‘sea blindness’ at times:

“John tells us so many stories of blindness – the disciples on the road to Emmaus who don’t recognise Jesus; Mary Magdalene in the Garden after the resurrection – she thinks Jesus is the gardener.

“At sea our eyes have to be sharp and focused. Our eyes need time to adjust to different light. When I take over a night watch on the bridge I ask the leaving watchman to stay with me for a while, until my eyes can re-focus and adjust to the darkness.

“Perhaps I need to make a resolution in this voyage of Lent. I need to pray that my eyes will not be blinded by prejudice or suspicion. Lent is a process of having our eyes opened to see, hope and love as Jesus does. Lent’s about re-forming our seeing, our hoping and our desiring.

The invitation of Jesus to the man born blind is clear and it’s the same invitation to each of us – Go… wash… see.”

Listen to the fourth maritime-themed podcast in our 2017 Lenten series.



Week Five

Our maritime-themed podcast for the fifth week of Lent sees Apostleship of the Sea port chaplain Fr Colum Kelly considering the gospel story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead – another amazing miracle performed by Jesus.

On board the ship, it’s time for a staff turnaround. Six seafarers are returning to their families while six join the crew for a nine-month posting.

“It’s not always that simple especially for some of my friends who have young children. Nine months is a long time in the life of a child, and they may not even recognise their father on his return. It was like that for my friend Abel. The last time he went home his child thought he was a stranger coming into their home and cried for days.

“Of course it wasn’t long before they got to know each other again but then it was time to return to sea and another nine month slog begins.”

Fr Colum concludes by focusing on the gentleness of the healing words and touch of Jesus in the gospel:

“I know there’s not much of Lent left but I’m going to make another resolution. In our tough and often unbending world our gentleness can be a vivid reminder of the presence of a loving God among us.

“I’m going to try to be a little more gentle, more patient with those around me. Maybe my attempt at gentleness will rub off on others. Wouldn’t that be a fine way to sail towards Easter.”



Week Six

So we arrive at Palm Sunday and the end of Lent is in sight. The end, too, of our maritime-themed podcasts.

For the final time we join Fr Colum Kelly, Apostleship of the Sea port chaplain, on board the vessel we’ve called home for the last six weeks.

Fr Colum is quick to make comparisons between the weary crew’s arrival from a long journey at sea and that of Jesus who enters Jerusalem to be proclaimed the Messiah.

“Above all I think on the loneliness of Jesus in this Holy Week, one day proclaimed Messiah and yet as the week goes on, even his friends begin to desert him. Hearts of love turning into hearts of stone…

“When we enter port tomorrow there won’t be cheering crowds; wouldn’t it be funny if there were, but we are only simple seafarers.

“I wish people would think of us sometime when we bring all the things they have in their homes. Their shops would be empty without us. No, our welcome party will be local customs officials, agents, port health inspectors, cargo supervisors.

“Our Captain will be grumpy for he will spend all of the first day answering the same questions he’s asked wherever we berth. And then there all all the forms and certificates he has to sign and people wanting money from him…

“So as Lent draws to a close I’m reflecting on the lessons I’ve learnt at sea. I need to be more aware of the needs of so many people – and not just the physically broken.

“I’m thinking too of people who carry hurt and rejection because people have told them they are no good or not worthy to have a share in all that Jesus came to offer.”

Fr Colum leaves us with a list of prayer points for Holy Week:

“My prayer this Holy Week will be for all who take up the cross as followers of Christ in service of others. For the courage never to be afraid to speak up for justice. For people who are alone and feel tired and weary from the struggles of life. Our time at sea is over… Welcome home.”

Listen to the final maritime-themed podcast in our 2017 Lenten series.

Official website for Apostleship of the Sea: apostleshipofthesea.org.uk