Sisters’ Reflections Blog
Each week one of our Sisters contributes a reflection on a topical subject, or a theme in the Liturgy.
© 2024 Carmelite Monastery of St Joseph, Kilmacud, Co. Dublin, A94 YY 33, Ireland Registered Charity in Ireland    CHY 6210   CRA No. 20010720 Hosted by Blacknight Made with Xara
Wednesday 8th May 2024 What’s your weather like? The weather has been very changeable here in Ireland since the beginning of May, and before that, April and March were colder and wetter than usual. It has really affected farmers and other outdoor workers a lot. Here at the monastery, we have been praying for better conditions to allow them to keep their important livelihood going. Reflecting on the recent weather has brought to my mind some Golden Oldie hit songs centred on the theme of weather. Do you remember Fred Astaire in the 1935 film Top Hat singing: “Isn’t this a lovely day?” (song written by Irving Berlin). He didn’t care about the rain, once he was with the woman he loved: The weather is frightening the thunder and lightning Seem to be having their way But as far as I'm concerned, it's a lovely day… Let the rain pitter patter but it really doesn't matter If the skies, skies are gray long as I can be with you, it's a lovely day In contrast, the sunshine could not lift the spirits of Buddy Holly in 1958 when he sang it was “Raining in my heart”: The sun is out, the sky is blue There's not a cloud, to spoil the view But it's raining, raining in my heart Isn’t it true, that the outside weather doesn’t always reflect our inner mood? Some days ago, I had the experience of a person assuming I was in good spirits, when in fact inside my heart I was feeling rather cloudy and grey. We never know what anyone is going through, what issues and struggles they are privately battling inside, whilst putting on a brave and positive front. Similarly, there may be people who seem to be gloomy and sad, whilst inside they have a deep inner peace. We never know, until we can ask the other: what is your weather like today? BACK TO TOP Wednesday 1st May 2024 St Joseph the Worker Today is the feast of St. Joseph the worker. A feast introduced in 1955 by Pope Pius X11 to counteract Labour day which had socialist and communist overtones. It was to highlight the sanctifying notion of work. No better man than St. Joseph to do this – he who worked in the home of Nazareth in the company of Jesus and Mary. See this beautiful statue of St. Joseph which came to us from the Delgany Carmel and notice the white lily in his hand. It was skilfully crafted on to his staff by one of the Vietnamese sisters who lived with us for some time. In their country they appeal to St. Joseph in their every need and they urged us to pray to him for the gift of new vocations. They even translated the prayer they say into English for us! Now we say it after Mass for some years and with good results! Our great St. Teresa had enormous devotion to St. Joseph and named many of her monasteries after him. Let her words about him sink into your heart! I took for my Advocate and Lord the glorious St. Joseph and earnestly recommended myself to him. I don’t recall up to this day ever having petitioned him for anything that he failed to grant. It is an amazing thing the great many favours God has granted me through the mediation of this blessed saint, the dangers I was freed from both of body and soul. For with other saints the Lord has given them grace to be of help in one need, whereas with this glorious saint I have experience that he helps in all our needs and that the Lord wants us to understand that just as he was subject to St. Joseph on earth, so in heaven God does whatever he commands. St. Joseph , the just and silent man of the Gospels who took care of Jesus and Mary – let him take care of each of us too and all we love in our every need. BACK TO TOP Monday 22nd April 2024 What people say or think about me is none of my business? What a very interesting comment? But it is worth reflecting on. When I first read it I was taken aback and then I wondered what if it is true? What if I did not concern myself with what people think about me? We all like to be liked. We like to create a good impression. And, of course In daily life it is important that we portray a good image of ourselves and not be disagreeable. You will have your own reaction to the above quote but I think it is also empowering. When I thought about it I realized I should leave the other person their freedom to form their own opinions. I need to be free to live from my own inner truth and convictions. We are on a journey and with the help of God we all try to work on improving ourselves. And we ask God where we need to improve. While reflecting on the above I was reminded of St Thérèse. St Thérèse in her book, the Story of a Soul talks about an occasion when a sister came into a room where the community were gathered and asked for help. Thérèse aware that another sister might like to do the good deed was slow to respond. One sister commented that Sr. Thérèse was too lazy to offer. But Thérèse had a different motivation and intention. This may seem a very small act but Thérèse was mature enough to know her own intention and motivation. She showed great inner strength. I think Thérèse lived the above quote with freedom and love. What people think or say about me is none of my business. BACK TO TOP Friday 12th April 2024 Real-life Resurrection It’s not easy for us to grasp the reality of Christ’s Resurrection. None of us has ever witnessed a dead person come to life again. We must use our imaginations in order to try and understand what it was like for his family and friends to see him fully alive again in person and sharing meals and conversations with them. Yet, sometimes in life we catch a glimpse of the real miracle and wonder of Resurrection. These are times of grace, and I would like to share my personal experience of Resurrection these past few weeks. For 23 years I have ministered to people in prison through correspondence and offering them a loyal friendship. Exactly one month ago, one of my friends learned that a judge had granted his release. He has been decades in prison and has worked hard to improve himself in that time. Now he is a new man with a future ahead of him as he rejoins society. He has paid the price and done his time and now it is time for him to live a new life of Resurrection! When I head the news of his release, I understood what it was like for Martha and Mary and their friends outside the tomb at Bethany when Jesus called: “Lazarus, come out” and then “Unbind him, let him go free”. It is an amazing feeling of new hope, new life, joy and celebration! My friend may experience challenges and prejudice as an “ex-prisoner” but my dream and hope for him is that enough Christian people will hear those words of Jesus and unbind him from the past and let him be truly free, truly Resurrected. This is what we are called to do as Easter people, to support and encourage each other to change and grow into the fullness of life. We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song! (St John Paul II, paraphrasing St Augustine). Image: pixabay.com BACK TO TOP Sunday 24th March 2024 The Great Week of Love Yes, Holy Week and the Easter Triduum is a journey into the heart of God’s forgiveness and compassion – the greatest Love Story ever told. God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him may not be lost but may have eternal life. (Jn. 3) Pope Francis in his wonderful letter Misericordiae Vultus says. “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s Mercy.” Then he makes up a new word “mercifying.” God’s gaze has mercified us he tells us, blessing us with kindness, empathy, mercy and love. Isn’t it wonderful that through the loving gaze of Jesus God has revealed to you and to me that we are his loving children. Pope Francis says, “God is always first, first to wait for us, first to love us, first to help us.” Let us hold that wonderful news in our hearts this Holy Week .Through God’s gentleness and compassion, we have been mercified. We in turn can be merciful to each other. We can change the way we receive people into our lives and share with them. We can build a new world. Fr. Kieran O’ Mahony has pointers for Prayer in his book on Holy Week Hearers of the Word. He says: “the injustice and brutality of the Passion of Jesus makes it a difficult story to read as good news. Yet in the midst of that cruelty, the courageous , faithful and self -sacrificing love that Jesus shows for us shines through. Human love can also be painful. When have you experienced the courage, fidelity and self -sacrifice of others in their love for you? When have you shown that kind of love to others as a parent, a spouse or a friend or in some other relationship? We read the Passion story in the light of the Resurrection. What seemed a humiliating and shameful failure for Jesus was not the end of the story. Perhaps with hindsight you can look back at something that seemed like a tragedy at the time but where out of that tragedy new life and new possibilities followed for you?” So, this Holy Week, let us cry out in gladness “Blessings on Him who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest Heavens.” BACK TO TOP Thursday 29th February 2024 Leaping! It’s a leap year, so a perfect time for a reflection on “leaping” in the Bible! Wherever this word occurs in Scripture, it is in the context of a joyful encounter with God. King David was so overcome with joy when the Ark was ceremoniously brought into the city, that he leapt and danced unselfconsciously (2 Sam 6:16). To see a King leaping is one thing, but in a poetic way the psalms even speak of mountains, hills and nations leaping: He makes Lebanon leap like a calf… Ps 29:6 Mountains leapt like rams, hills like lambs… Ps 114:4 And then there is a gentler description of an interior movement: “my heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him” Ps 28:7 Leaping for joy is the reaction of all creation when the Almighty God comes close, and even God does some leaping too! The Beloved in the Song of Songs is described as coming to find his lover (the human soul) “leaping across the mountains, bounding over the hills” (Songs 2:8). What a wonderful joyful image of the Lord who seeks us out so lovingly. The most beautiful incident of leaping in Scripture is undoubtedly the reaction of the unborn St John the Baptist in the womb of his mother Elizabeth. The arrival to their home of pregnant Mary carrying Jesus the Saviour in her womb prompted this unprecedented and wonderful response! Even the unborn child could experience great joy at encounter with God. “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” Luke 1:41. Jesus went on to heal many people during his ministry, and surely many of them fulfilled the earlier prophecy of Isaiah: “Then will the lame leap like a deer…” (Is 35:6) This prophecy continued to be fulfilled even after Jesus returned to heaven, through miracles carried out by his Apostles. There is a wonderful story we hear during the days after Easter of a cripple from birth who is cured by Peter and John, and “he went into the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God” (Acts 3:8). Perhaps these examples of joyful leaping in Scripture might inspire you to do some of your own this February 29th. Think of it as an “extra day” this year, a space for something new or different. You don’t have to physically leap, you can “leap” in your heart. But if you can safely do some leaping or trampolining, then why not? King David wasn't ashamed to leap! My 4-year-old niece does a lot of jumping when she is happy. It is therapeutic just to watch her! Let’s make this Leap Day a day of joyful thanks to God for something in our life, a day to do something special for someone. Let’s make it a memorable Leap Day. You won’t get a chance again for four more years! BACK TO TOP Friday 23rd February 2024 Friendship with God For many people Lent is a time to give up things, perhaps things that could be harmful to us if taken in excess, like smoking, drinking alcohol or overeating. Forgoing such things can be a good discipline and improve our health, but the real purpose of giving things up in Lent is to unite with Jesus 40 days of fasting in the desert. Some saints and spiritual writers see a more basic call to give up all that is not necessary to make room for God to enter and fill us with his Loving merciful presence. Among our Carmelite writers we see it especially in St. John of the Cross, but even further back we find similar ideas expressed by Johann Tauler (1300-1365). He was a Dominican priest and theologian and was a follower of Meister Eckhart, but he holds his own place as one of the Rhineland Mystics, who stressed friendship with God. He wrote: It is certain that if God is to be born in the soul it must turn back to eternity. It must turn in towards itself with all its might, must recall itself, and concentrate all its faculties within itself, the lower as well as the highest. All its dissipated powers must be gathered up into one, because unity is strength. Next the soul must go out. It must travel away from itself, above itself... There must be nothing left in us, but a pure intention towards God; No desire to be or become or obtain anything for ourselves. We must exist only to make a place for him, the highest innermost place where he may do his work; there we are no longer putting ourselves in the way, He can be born in us. If you would prepare an empty place in the depths of the soul, there can be no doubt that God must fill it at once... Then he will be born in us and be our very own. The wording may sound a little strange to modern ears, but it has a beauty and depth of its own. Photo details: Statue of Johann Tauler in a niche on the south facade of the 'new' St. Peter's protestant church in Strasbourg. The statue was destroyed in the French Revolution but was reconstructed in 1898. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:St-Pierre-le-Jeune_protestant-Tauler_(2).jpg Desert photo: Source unknown BACK TO TOP Wednesday 14th February 2024 Come as you are It is Ash Wednesday and we are all happily walking around signed with the sign of the Cross on our foreheads. The birds are singing outside and spring is in the air. So is God’s tender Mercy - reaching out to us as this season of grace begins. The words of a song are singing in my heart – Come back to me with all your heart. Don’t let fear keep us apart. Long have I waited for your coming home to me. And living deeply our new life. Yes, our Loving Abba Father is searching for each of us and especially his lost and troubled children. He loved the world so much that He gave His only Son… That’s why Jesus came - to reveal the Father’s tenderness for each one of us. The favourite hymn of our old Sr. Kevin now in Heaven was “Come as you are”. Come as you are that’s how I want you Come as you are, feel quite at home. Close to my heart, loved and forgiven, Come as you are, why stand alone. Come as you are, That’s how I love you, come as you are, Trust me again. Nothing can change, the love that I bear you. All will be well, just come as you are. The great sacrament of God’s healing love and forgiveness is there for us all. Pope Francis has said “Jesus in the confessional is not a dry cleaner. Confession is an encounter with this Jesus who waits for us , who waits for us just as we are. There was a woman called Jane who prayed in our chapel for years. She loved the Lord and His Word in the Scriptures very much . I asked her one Ash Wednesday what she was going to do for Lent. She said she was going to be joyful and spread God’s love. A good resolution for us all maybe in our present suffering world. Let us pray for each other in this season of grace and mercy. BACK TO TOP Thursday 8th February 2024 Journeying in Dignity: Listen, Dream, Act Today we celebrate the World Day of Prayer for This is the theme of the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking. This day is held on February 8, a date established by Pope Francis on the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita. Each year approximately 2.5 million people are victims of trafficking and modern day slavery. For the traffickers it has become one of the most lucrative illegal activities in the world. Bakhita was born in Darfur Sudan in 1868. She had a happy carefree childhood until it was stolen from her by slave traders. Bakhita was nine years old when she was kidnapped. She was so traumatized by the experience that she forgot, not only her name but her family name also. Literally everything was taken from her. The traders gave her the name Bakhita which means ‘Fortunate’. Before her fortune changed she was passed from one set of traffickers to another. To them she was a commodity not a person. She was branded and tortured by her capturers. But her ‘fortune’ did change when she was sold to an Italian family in Khartoum Sudan . Even though life was better for her with this new family she was still their slave. The family moved to Italy and she asked to go with them. They agreed. While in Italy, she became a babysitter to the family of Augusto Michieli, and she accompanied him to Venice’s Institute of the Catechumens, run by the Canossian Sisters. While in Venice, Josephine felt drawn to the Catholic Church. It was here that she learned about God. Josephine told the sisters that she had always known about God, who created all things, and wanted to learn more about him. When the Michieli family decided to return to Sudan, they wished to take Josephine back with them, but she refused to go. The Canossian sisters and the patriarch of Venice intervened on her behalf to allow her to remain with the Sisters. The judge concluded that since slavery was illegal in Italy, she had actually been free since 1885. To ask for her freedom must had demanded great courage on her part at that time. She legally obtained her freedom and became an Italian citizen. She was baptized and chose the name Josephine. Later she joined the Canossian sisters. She dedicated her live to the care of the poor. At her canonization in 2000, Pope John Paul II said, “In St. Josephine Bakhita we find a shining advocate of genuine emancipation. The history of her life inspires not passive acceptance but the firm resolve to work effectively to free girls and women from oppression and violence, and to return them to their dignity in the full exercise of their rights.” It is an amazing story of resilience, hope and grace on the part of this young woman. And it is no wonder she was chosen to highlight the International Day of Trafficking. If you want to learn more about the situation in Ireland and become aware of how you can do your part to help, the following website is helpful: www.aptireland.org St. Josephine we continue to ask you to intercede for all those people who are enslaved by traffickers today in Ireland and the World. Prayer St. Josephine Bakhita, you were sold into slavery as a child and endured untold hardship and suffering. Once liberated from your physical enslavement, you found true redemption in your encounter with Christ and his Church. St. Bakhita, assist all those who are trapped in a state of slavery; intercede with God on their behalf so that they will be released from their chains of captivity. Those whom man enslaves, let God set free. Provide comfort to survivors of slavery and let them look to you as an example of hope and faith. Help all survivors find healing from their wounds. We ask for your prayers and intercessions for those enslaved among us. Amen. (published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, a prayer to St. Josephine Bakhita) Image taken from: https://ssjphila.org/saint-josephine-bakhita/ BACK TO TOP Friday 2nd February 2024 Pilgrims on the Journey Today we celebrate the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life...a day to give thanks for our own calling...to marvel at the gift...and to celebrate the call of those who share our lives in community. To enter Carmel is to fall into a fortune! It is to inherit the vast riches of our Carmelite Tradition. It is to be welcomed into the heart of a warm loving family in whom that rich Tradition takes flesh. We share the same ‘spiritual DNA’ and recognise it in each other. The Holy Spirit creates out of a very mixed bag of individuals of all ages and backgrounds, talents and temperaments, a communion of hearts and minds, a warm family spirit where all strive to be friends, where all love, cherish and help each other....for life! The shared goal and mutual support along the hardships of the road bond us together. I think Teresa would have loved Richard Gillard’s The Servant Song. It captures the spirit she wished to see in her small Carmelite communities: We are pilgrims on a journey, we are trav’llers on the road... We are here to help each other, walk the mile and bear the load. I often think the song was made for us...it captures the joys and sorrows of community life. I will hold the Christ-light for you in the night-time of your fear; I will hold my hand out to you, speak the peace you long to hear. I will weep when you are weeping. When you laugh I’ll laugh with you. I will share your joy and sorrow ‘til we’ve seen this journey through. Whatever the day has brought, joys or sorrows, there comes a healing peace and togetherness at Night Prayer; the labours of the day are over, tomorrow’s troubles and challenges can wait ’til morning, now there comes rest and sleep for the weary pilgrims of love. A deep sense of gratitude sweeps over me as I look at each of my sisters in all their vulnerability and hidden heroic efforts...the sheer beauty of human life, the privilege of walking the road, rubbing the shoulders of these saints-in-the making. Yes, it is good to be here... BACK TO TOP
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St. Joseph’s Carmel
© 2023 Carmelite Monastery of St Joseph, Kilmacud, Co. Dublin, A94 YY 33, Ireland Registered Charity in Ireland    CHY 6210CRA No. 20010720 Hosted by Blacknight Made with Xara Sisters’ Reflections Blog
Each week one of our Sisters contributes a reflection on a topical subject, or a theme in the Liturgy.
Wednesday 8th May 2024 What’s your weather like? The weather has been very changeable here in Ireland since the beginning of May, and before that, April and March were colder and wetter than usual. It has really affected farmers and other outdoor workers a lot. Here at the monastery, we have been praying for better conditions to allow them to keep their important livelihood going. Reflecting on the recent weather has brought to my mind some Golden Oldie hit songs centred on the theme of weather. Do you remember Fred Astaire in the 1935 film Top Hat singing: “Isn’t this a lovely day?” (song written by Irving Berlin). He didn’t care about the rain, once he was with the woman he loved: The weather is frightening the thunder and lightning Seem to be having their way But as far as I'm concerned, it's a lovely day… Let the rain pitter patter but it really doesn't matter If the skies, skies are gray long as I can be with you, it's a lovely day In contrast, the sunshine could not lift the spirits of Buddy Holly in 1958 when he sang it was “Raining in my heart”: The sun is out, the sky is blue There's not a cloud, to spoil the view But it's raining, raining in my heart Isn’t it true, that the outside weather doesn’t always reflect our inner mood? Some days ago, I had the experience of a person assuming I was in good spirits, when in fact inside my heart I was feeling rather cloudy and grey. We never know what anyone is going through, what issues and struggles they are privately battling inside, whilst putting on a brave and positive front. Similarly, there may be people who seem to be gloomy and sad, whilst inside they have a deep inner peace. We never know, until we can ask the other: what is your weather like today? BACK TO TOP Wednesday 1st May 2024 St Joseph the Worker Today is the feast of St. Joseph the worker. A feast introduced in 1955 by Pope Pius X11 to counteract Labour day which had socialist and communist overtones. It was to highlight the sanctifying notion of work. No better man than St. Joseph to do this – he who worked in the home of Nazareth in the company of Jesus and Mary. See this beautiful statue of St. Joseph which came to us from the Delgany Carmel and notice the white lily in his hand. It was skilfully crafted on to his staff by one of the Vietnamese sisters who lived with us for some time. In their country they appeal to St. Joseph in their every need and they urged us to pray to him for the gift of new vocations. They even translated the prayer they say into English for us! Now we say it after Mass for some years and with good results! Our great St. Teresa had enormous devotion to St. Joseph and named many of her monasteries after him. Let her words about him sink into your heart! I took for my Advocate and Lord the glorious St. Joseph and earnestly recommended myself to him. I don’t recall up to this day ever having petitioned him for anything that he failed to grant. It is an amazing thing the great many favours God has granted me through the mediation of this blessed saint, the dangers I was freed from both of body and soul. For with other saints the Lord has given them grace to be of help in one need, whereas with this glorious saint I have experience that he helps in all our needs and that the Lord wants us to understand that just as he was subject to St. Joseph on earth, so in heaven God does whatever he commands. St. Joseph , the just and silent man of the Gospels who took care of Jesus and Mary – let him take care of each of us too and all we love in our every need. BACK TO TOP Monday 22nd April 2024 What people say or think about me is none of my business? What a very interesting comment? But it is worth reflecting on. When I first read it I was taken aback and then I wondered what if it is true? What if I did not concern myself with what people think about me? We all like to be liked. We like to create a good impression. And, of course In daily life it is important that we portray a good image of ourselves and not be disagreeable. You will have your own reaction to the above quote but I think it is also empowering. When I thought about it I realized I should leave the other person their freedom to form their own opinions. I need to be free to live from my own inner truth and convictions. We are on a journey and with the help of God we all try to work on improving ourselves. And we ask God where we need to improve. While reflecting on the above I was reminded of St Thérèse. St Thérèse in her book, the Story of a Soul talks about an occasion when a sister came into a room where the community were gathered and asked for help. Thérèse aware that another sister might like to do the good deed was slow to respond. One sister commented that Sr. Thérèse was too lazy to offer. But Thérèse had a different motivation and intention. This may seem a very small act but Thérèse was mature enough to know her own intention and motivation. She showed great inner strength. I think Thérèse lived the above quote with freedom and love. What people think or say about me is none of my business. BACK TO TOP Friday 12th April 2024 Real-life Resurrection It’s not easy for us to grasp the reality of Christ’s Resurrection. None of us has ever witnessed a dead person come to life again. We must use our imaginations in order to try and understand what it was like for his family and friends to see him fully alive again in person and sharing meals and conversations with them. Yet, sometimes in life we catch a glimpse of the real miracle and wonder of Resurrection. These are times of grace, and I would like to share my personal experience of Resurrection these past few weeks. For 23 years I have ministered to people in prison through correspondence and offering them a loyal friendship. Exactly one month ago, one of my friends learned that a judge had granted his release. He has been decades in prison and has worked hard to improve himself in that time. Now he is a new man with a future ahead of him as he rejoins society. He has paid the price and done his time and now it is time for him to live a new life of Resurrection! When I head the news of his release, I understood what it was like for Martha and Mary and their friends outside the tomb at Bethany when Jesus called: “Lazarus, come out” and then “Unbind him, let him go free”. It is an amazing feeling of new hope, new life, joy and celebration! My friend may experience challenges and prejudice as an “ex- prisoner” but my dream and hope for him is that enough Christian people will hear those words of Jesus and unbind him from the past and let him be truly free, truly Resurrected. This is what we are called to do as Easter people, to support and encourage each other to change and grow into the fullness of life. We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song! (St John Paul II, paraphrasing St Augustine). Image: pixabay.com BACK TO TOP Sunday 24th March 2024 The Great Week of Love Yes, Holy Week and the Easter Triduum is a journey into the heart of God’s forgiveness and compassion – the greatest Love Story ever told. God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him may not be lost but may have eternal life. (Jn. 3) Pope Francis in his wonderful letter Misericordiae Vultus says. “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s Mercy.” Then he makes up a new word “mercifying.” God’s gaze has mercified us he tells us, blessing us with kindness, empathy, mercy and love. Isn’t it wonderful that through the loving gaze of Jesus God has revealed to you and to me that we are his loving children. Pope Francis says, “God is always first, first to wait for us, first to love us, first to help us.” Let us hold that wonderful news in our hearts this Holy Week .Through God’s gentleness and compassion, we have been mercified. We in turn can be merciful to each other. We can change the way we receive people into our lives and share with them. We can build a new world. Fr. Kieran O’ Mahony has pointers for Prayer in his book on Holy Week Hearers of the Word. He says: “the injustice and brutality of the Passion of Jesus makes it a difficult story to read as good news. Yet in the midst of that cruelty, the courageous , faithful and self - sacrificing love that Jesus shows for us shines through. Human love can also be painful. When have you experienced the courage, fidelity and self -sacrifice of others in their love for you? When have you shown that kind of love to others as a parent, a spouse or a friend or in some other relationship? We read the Passion story in the light of the Resurrection. What seemed a humiliating and shameful failure for Jesus was not the end of the story. Perhaps with hindsight you can look back at something that seemed like a tragedy at the time but where out of that tragedy new life and new possibilities followed for you?” So, this Holy Week, let us cry out in gladness “Blessings on Him who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest Heavens.” BACK TO TOP Thursday 29th February 2024 Leaping! It’s a leap year, so a perfect time for a reflection on “leaping” in the Bible! Wherever this word occurs in Scripture, it is in the context of a joyful encounter with God. King David was so overcome with joy when the Ark was ceremoniously brought into the city, that he leapt and danced unselfconsciously (2 Sam 6:16). To see a King leaping is one thing, but in a poetic way the psalms even speak of mountains, hills and nations leaping: He makes Lebanon leap like a calf… Ps 29:6 Mountains leapt like rams, hills like lambs… Ps 114:4 And then there is a gentler description of an interior movement: “my heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him” Ps 28:7 Leaping for joy is the reaction of all creation when the Almighty God comes close, and even God does some leaping too! The Beloved in the Song of Songs is described as coming to find his lover (the human soul) “leaping across the mountains, bounding over the hills” (Songs 2:8). What a wonderful joyful image of the Lord who seeks us out so lovingly. The most beautiful incident of leaping in Scripture is undoubtedly the reaction of the unborn St John the Baptist in the womb of his mother Elizabeth. The arrival to their home of pregnant Mary carrying Jesus the Saviour in her womb prompted this unprecedented and wonderful response! Even the unborn child could experience great joy at encounter with God. “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” Luke 1:41. Jesus went on to heal many people during his ministry, and surely many of them fulfilled the earlier prophecy of Isaiah: “Then will the lame leap like a deer…” (Is 35:6) This prophecy continued to be fulfilled even after Jesus returned to heaven, through miracles carried out by his Apostles. There is a wonderful story we hear during the days after Easter of a cripple from birth who is cured by Peter and John, and “he went into the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God” (Acts 3:8). Perhaps these examples of joyful leaping in Scripture might inspire you to do some of your own this February 29th. Think of it as an “extra day” this year, a space for something new or different. You don’t have to physically leap, you can “leap” in your heart. But if you can safely do some leaping or trampolining, then why not? King David wasn't ashamed to leap! My 4-year-old niece does a lot of jumping when she is happy. It is therapeutic just to watch her! Let’s make this Leap Day a day of joyful thanks to God for something in our life, a day to do something special for someone. Let’s make it a memorable Leap Day. You won’t get a chance again for four more years! BACK TO TOP Friday 23rd February 2024 Friendship with God For many people Lent is a time to give up things, perhaps things that could be harmful to us if taken in excess, like smoking, drinking alcohol or overeating. Forgoing such things can be a good discipline and improve our health, but the real purpose of giving things up in Lent is to unite with Jesus 40 days of fasting in the desert. Some saints and spiritual writers see a more basic call to give up all that is not necessary to make room for God to enter and fill us with his Loving merciful presence. Among our Carmelite writers we see it especially in St. John of the Cross, but even further back we find similar ideas expressed by Johann Tauler (1300-1365). He was a Dominican priest and theologian and was a follower of Meister Eckhart, but he holds his own place as one of the Rhineland Mystics, who stressed friendship with God. He wrote: It is certain that if God is to be born in the soul it must turn back to eternity. It must turn in towards itself with all its might, must recall itself, and concentrate all its faculties within itself, the lower as well as the highest. All its dissipated powers must be gathered up into one, because unity is strength. Next the soul must go out. It must travel away from itself, above itself... There must be nothing left in us, but a pure intention towards God; No desire to be or become or obtain anything for ourselves. We must exist only to make a place for him, the highest innermost place where he may do his work; there we are no longer putting ourselves in the way, He can be born in us. If you would prepare an empty place in the depths of the soul, there can be no doubt that God must fill it at once... Then he will be born in us and be our very own. The wording may sound a little strange to modern ears, but it has a beauty and depth of its own. Photo details: Statue of Johann Tauler in a niche on the south facade of the 'new' St. Peter's protestant church in Strasbourg. The statue was destroyed in the French Revolution but was reconstructed in 1898. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:St-Pierre-le- Jeune_protestant-Tauler_(2).jpg Desert photo: Source unknown BACK TO TOP Wednesday 14th February 2024 Come as you are It is Ash Wednesday and we are all happily walking around signed with the sign of the Cross on our foreheads. The birds are singing outside and spring is in the air. So is God’s tender Mercy - reaching out to us as this season of grace begins. The words of a song are singing in my heart – Come back to me with all your heart. Don’t let fear keep us apart. Long have I waited for your coming home to me. And living deeply our new life. Yes, our Loving Abba Father is searching for each of us and especially his lost and troubled children. He loved the world so much that He gave His only Son… That’s why Jesus came - to reveal the Father’s tenderness for each one of us. The favourite hymn of our old Sr. Kevin now in Heaven was “Come as you are”. Come as you are that’s how I want you Come as you are, feel quite at home. Close to my heart, loved and forgiven, Come as you are, why stand alone. Come as you are, That’s how I love you, come as you are, Trust me again. Nothing can change, the love that I bear you. All will be well, just come as you are. The great sacrament of God’s healing love and forgiveness is there for us all. Pope Francis has said “Jesus in the confessional is not a dry cleaner. Confession is an encounter with this Jesus who waits for us , who waits for us just as we are. There was a woman called Jane who prayed in our chapel for years. She loved the Lord and His Word in the Scriptures very much . I asked her one Ash Wednesday what she was going to do for Lent. She said she was going to be joyful and spread God’s love. A good resolution for us all maybe in our present suffering world. Let us pray for each other in this season of grace and mercy. BACK TO TOP Thursday 8th February 2024 Journeying in Dignity: Listen, Dream, Act Today we celebrate the World Day of Prayer for This is the theme of the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking. This day is held on February 8, a date established by Pope Francis on the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita. Each year approximately 2.5 million people are victims of trafficking and modern day slavery. For the traffickers it has become one of the most lucrative illegal activities in the world. Bakhita was born in Darfur Sudan in 1868. She had a happy carefree childhood until it was stolen from her by slave traders. Bakhita was nine years old when she was kidnapped. She was so traumatized by the experience that she forgot, not only her name but her family name also. Literally everything was taken from her. The traders gave her the name Bakhita which means ‘Fortunate’. Before her fortune changed she was passed from one set of traffickers to another. To them she was a commodity not a person. She was branded and tortured by her capturers. But her ‘fortune’ did change when she was sold to an Italian family in Khartoum Sudan . Even though life was better for her with this new family she was still their slave. The family moved to Italy and she asked to go with them. They agreed. While in Italy, she became a babysitter to the family of Augusto Michieli, and she accompanied him to Venice’s Institute of the Catechumens, run by the Canossian Sisters. While in Venice, Josephine felt drawn to the Catholic Church. It was here that she learned about God. Josephine told the sisters that she had always known about God, who created all things, and wanted to learn more about him. When the Michieli family decided to return to Sudan, they wished to take Josephine back with them, but she refused to go. The Canossian sisters and the patriarch of Venice intervened on her behalf to allow her to remain with the Sisters. The judge concluded that since slavery was illegal in Italy, she had actually been free since 1885. To ask for her freedom must had demanded great courage on her part at that time. She legally obtained her freedom and became an Italian citizen. She was baptized and chose the name Josephine. Later she joined the Canossian sisters. She dedicated her live to the care of the poor. At her canonization in 2000, Pope John Paul II said, “In St. Josephine Bakhita we find a shining advocate of genuine emancipation. The history of her life inspires not passive acceptance but the firm resolve to work effectively to free girls and women from oppression and violence, and to return them to their dignity in the full exercise of their rights.” It is an amazing story of resilience, hope and grace on the part of this young woman. And it is no wonder she was chosen to highlight the International Day of Trafficking. If you want to learn more about the situation in Ireland and become aware of how you can do your part to help, the following website is helpful: www.aptireland.org St. Josephine we continue to ask you to intercede for all those people who are enslaved by traffickers today in Ireland and the World. Prayer St. Josephine Bakhita, you were sold into slavery as a child and endured untold hardship and suffering. Once liberated from your physical enslavement, you found true redemption in your encounter with Christ and his Church. St. Bakhita, assist all those who are trapped in a state of slavery; intercede with God on their behalf so that they will be released from their chains of captivity. Those whom man enslaves, let God set free. Provide comfort to survivors of slavery and let them look to you as an example of hope and faith. Help all survivors find healing from their wounds. We ask for your prayers and intercessions for those enslaved among us. Amen. (published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, a prayer to St. Josephine Bakhita) Image taken from: https://ssjphila.org/saint-josephine-bakhita/ BACK TO TOP Friday 2nd February 2024 Pilgrims on the Journey Today we celebrate the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life...a day to give thanks for our own calling...to marvel at the gift...and to celebrate the call of those who share our lives in community. To enter Carmel is to fall into a fortune! It is to inherit the vast riches of our Carmelite Tradition. It is to be welcomed into the heart of a warm loving family in whom that rich Tradition takes flesh. We share the same ‘spiritual DNA’ and recognise it in each other. The Holy Spirit creates out of a very mixed bag of individuals of all ages and backgrounds, talents and temperaments, a communion of hearts and minds, a warm family spirit where all strive to be friends, where all love, cherish and help each other....for life! The shared goal and mutual support along the hardships of the road bond us together. I think Teresa would have loved Richard Gillard’s The Servant Song. It captures the spirit she wished to see in her small Carmelite communities: We are pilgrims on a journey, we are trav’llers on the road... We are here to help each other, walk the mile and bear the load. I often think the song was made for us...it captures the joys and sorrows of community life. I will hold the Christ-light for you in the night-time of your fear; I will hold my hand out to you, speak the peace you long to hear. I will weep when you are weeping. When you laugh I’ll laugh with you. I will share your joy and sorrow ‘til we’ve seen this journey through. Whatever the day has brought, joys or sorrows, there comes a healing peace and togetherness at Night Prayer; the labours of the day are over, tomorrow’s troubles and challenges can wait ’til morning, now there comes rest and sleep for the weary pilgrims of love. A deep sense of gratitude sweeps over me as I look at each of my sisters in all their vulnerability and hidden heroic efforts...the sheer beauty of human life, the privilege of walking the road, rubbing the shoulders of these saints-in-the making. Yes, it is good to be here... BACK TO TOP
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St. Joseph’s Carmel