Sisters’ Reflections Blog
Each week one of our Sisters contributes a reflection on a topical subject, or a theme in the Liturgy.
© 2022 Carmelite Monastery of St Joseph, Kilmacud, Co. Dublin, A94 YY 33, Ireland Registered Charity in Ireland    CHY 6210 Hosted by Blacknight Made with Xara
Thursday 24th November 2022 Flickering Ingredients Rabbi Hugo Gryn used to tell of his experience in Auschwitz as a boy. Food supplies were meager, and inmates took great care to preserve every scrap that came their way. When the Festival of Hanukkah arrived- (a celebration known as “The Festival of Lights” which celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after the victory of Judas Maccabeus over a Seleucid King who had tried to outlaw Judaism.)- Hugo’s father took a lump of margarine and, to the horror of the young Hugo, used it as fuel for the light to be lit at the festival. When the young Hugo asked his father why he had wasted the very precious food, his father replied, “We know that it is possible to live for three weeks without food, but without HOPE it is impossible to live properly for three minutes.” Soon we will begin the beautiful season of Advent and here at the monastery we have the custom of lighting the candles on the Advent Wreath each evening in our chapel as part of our journey through Advent to our great feast of Light - the birth of the Light of the World - Jesus Christ at Christmas. I love the flickering light of the candles and how it can lead the eye to discover something new in a familiar space. It never shows the same space twice because the flickering light has no mind for repetition. It can fill the space with a crazy geometry of shadows and can also bring soothing and hope to weary hearts. Almost without sensing it the mind is gradually relieved of its inner turmoil and light flickers somewhere near the heart to enkindle hope. In the very beautiful and very popular Advent hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” we sing ---“O come, great daystar, radiant bright, And heal us with your glorious light.” This captures an age-old desire for light and hope to dispel the gloomy clouds of night. Our Carmelite contemplative communities of women are scattered throughout the world and each small community attempt to create zones of LIGHT and HOPE in our world today. The challenge for all of us today is to trust, that in the beautiful and maddening complexity of our world, life has a meaning beyond the daily struggle and that we are free to embrace or reject that meaning. As we approach Christmas, the name of Christ leaps forth from tongues, flashing signs and songs – “Happy Christ --- mas!” And this is the One we speak of as Light and Hope. BACK TO TOP Wednesday 16th November 2022 Alfred Batzdorf I heard recently that Alfred Batzdorf died on April 2nd 2022, at Santa Rosa, California, aged 100. Alfred was the husband of Edith Stein’s niece Susanne, now 101. Together they have done great work to promote holocaust awareness. In November 1988, the Batzdorffs’ began speaking publicly to churches, community groups and schools about their flight from Nazi Germany. Alfred, known as Al was born in February 1922 in Breslau, Germany. In 1994 he gave an oral history interview for the holocaust Memorial Project. He told of his experience on Kristallnacht November 9th-10th 1938, that terrible Night of Broken Glass, when synagogues and Jewish businesses were destroyed and over 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps. Al’s father who was a surgeon had already registered for emigration and was in Berlin that night. On the morning of 10th the storm troopers entered the Batzdorff’s apartment intending to arrest him but when they found he was away they took Alfred instead. His mother objected that he was only sixteen but they ignored her. Al felt numb, but went with them calmly, deciding that he would see it through whatever it meant. He was he was put in a room with thousands of men. When it started to get dark the men were made to march to the railway station where they were put on a train for Buchenwald Concentration Camp for forced labour. When about a third of the men had left an announcement was made telling those over 70, and disabled war veterans to stay behind. In the confusion Al hid among them and by the time the authorities found him the train had gone. When it got dark the next evening they let the old men go. One of the Nazis said to Al, ‘Get out with them but be sure you get out of town because they will look for you’. For safety Al went to live with his grandmother in Berlin, she was very active in the Jewish women’s movement and was involved in arranging the first kindertransport to England in 1938; she managed to add Al’s name to the group passport. On arriving in England Al worked in a garage and then as a waiter in Dorset. He was very concerned that his escape would put his parents in danger and went to great lengths to arrange sponsors for them and his brother so they could receive English transient visas for use until their American quota numbers became available. It was a great relief to Al that he was able to do this as very few of the children who went to England on the kindertransport ever saw their parents again. Once the family was reunited, they were able to emigrate to the United States in 1940. Al met up with Susanne Biberstein, daughter of Edith Stein’s sister Erna, who he had known in Breslau and the couple were married in New York in March 1944. Later in 1944 Al was required to do national service in the navy, and he was proud to be part of the war effort even though it meant he had to be away while Susanne was expecting their first child. He and Susanne remained committed to their Jewish faith all their lives and continued as leaders in the Beth Ami Synagogue Congregation into their 90s. As well as being a faithful Jew Al was a patriotic American and requested in his will to have Naval Military Honours at his funeral. After the Last Post had been played two military service members took the flag from his coffin folded it and gave it to Susanne. At this time of Remembrance we give thanks for the lives of all who have died and pray that they are enjoying the blessings of peace and joy in the light of eternal life. BACK TO TOP Thursday 10th November 2022 Do you remember the call? There’s a song I love written by an Ursuline nun in Cleveland called ‘In the name of Love’ which goes like this: Do you remember the Call? When did you hear your name out loud? Can you remember the word that you heard when the story began in you? Listen remember, catch glimpses of springtime And roots sinking deep in the heart of our God and you were carried. Green and stretching to life in the name of Love. The call to love – we can all relate to it. It’s the vocation of every human person on the face of the earth. God is love and we were made for love and to give love. Do you remember the Call? Thats the oft repeated line of the song and it awakens in me a delight as I remember the call of God in my own life and in the lives of the other sisters I live with. Here is how one of them who in now in heaven describes her call: “I’m so glad for you that you have fallen in love with God. So said a friend when she heard my news: at 47 I was entering an enclosed Carmelite Monastery less than 3 miles from my office. Other friends saw my radiance. It was the happiest time in my life. Looking back 16 years I would now say ‘ it was a second spring’. I liked my job in a research institute very much – the work, the people, the place, and its permanency – wild horses wouldn’t have spirited me away from it. And yet, I exchanged it and my happy leisure life of week-ends in the country and holidays abroad for an island of prayer where God’s praises are sung 7 times a day,7 days in the week and where T.V. radio and newspapers rarely impinge. Silence is in the air – how else can the praises of God become the centre of our days? How else can the cries of the poor and afflicted be heard and answered?” Dear reader of this blog – do you remember the call of love in your own life? Can you hear the voice of God’s love sounding in your ear? I have loved you with an everlasting love and I am constant in my affection for you - Jeremiah 31:3 BACK TO TOP Wednesday 2nd November 2022 Revolution of Tenderness The photo shows two inexperienced sisters with a very trusting little visitor to our monastery. This little boy trusts us while at the same time he keeps a watchful eye on the faces of his loving parents. What joy he brings to his family and to all of us. Your heart can’t but melt when you see him. Looking at this photo made me more aware of our responsibility to make our world a better place for him and the next generation. Sadly, at the moment we are failing in many areas. All around the world we are conscious of so much human suffering. But one person who is calling us to look at our lives and make a difference is Pope Francis. He is the person who speaks often and calls us to a Revolutions of Tenderness. Yes, a Revolution of Tenderness! When I first read these words I wondered what the Pope could possibly be referring to. When I think of revolution I think of some violent events in history like the French Revolution. When I looked up the meaning of Revolution, just to be sure, the search came up with ‘a forcible overthrow of a government or social order, in favour of a new system’. And then I checked out tenderness – ‘gentleness and kindness’. These are two powerful and very contradictory images. Another powerful image the Pope Francis uses is ‘Unjust Mercy’. This is what he had to say at a conference whose audience consisted of founders of some of the world’s biggest tech companies, as well as politicians, artists, entertainers, venture capitalists and leaders of major cultural institutions and foundations. Pope Francis addressing those gathered said:"tenderness is not weakness; it is fortitude. It is the path of solidarity, the path of humility. Please, allow me to say it loud and clear: The more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly. If you don't, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other.” Pope Francis called those present to a "Revolution of Tenderness. “How wonderful it would be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation would come along with more equality and social inclusion? How wonderful it would be, while we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of our sisters and brothers orbiting around us? How wonderful it would be if solidarity — this beautiful and, at times, inconvenient word — were not simply reduced to social work and became, instead, the default attitude in political, economic and scientific choices, as well as in the relationships among individuals, peoples and countries.” (https://www.ted.com/talks/his_holiness_pope_francis) Earlier this year Pope Francis also called Grandparents and the Elderly (including himself) to be part of the Revolution of Tenderness: ‘Old age is no time to give up and lower the sails, but a season of enduring fruitfulness: a new mission awaits us and bids us look to the future. He invited them to join ‘the revolution of tenderness, a spiritual and non-violent revolution in which I encourage you, dear grandparents and elderly persons, to take an active role.’ We are all called to this non violent Revolution of Tenderness. I feel, looking at the photo of our little visitor and his devoted parents, the need to do my part, however small, for the Revolution of Tenderness. Wherever we are or whatever we do we can make the world a better place for the next generation to live in. BACK TO TOP Thursday 27th October 2022 Small is Beautiful… Have you marvelled at the vast expanse of ocean or the teeming forests of our beautiful planet home... Have you stood in breathless wonder before a stunning sunset or sunrise and were lost for words before the powerful thunder of the Niagara Falls...? But have you equally and even been more taken out of yourself by the miracle of your firstborn baby...as you counted ten tiny toes and fingers and kissed the perfection of every little toenail, nose and ears... Small is beautiful.... God thinks so too. He always looks for the little ones to let his Glory shine through their poverty and humility...Isn’t that what he did for Mary, whose name means, Beloved by Yahweh... and it was mostly to child seers that Mary has appeared on earth. ‘Little Therese’ too could rejoice that ’God willed to let his Mercy shine out in me’... Small is beautiful in God’s eyes. During the prolonged Covid lockdown what we missed most were the little things of life; the daily expressions of love and care that we had taken for granted...the embrace of a loved one, a shared meal, a walk together, an intimate word of encouragement or appreciation, the look of joy and wonder in the shining eyes of grandchildren, above all the privilege of accompanying a loved one on their sacred journey Home; to hold their hand, whisper a loving goodbye in their ear, sooth their forehead....small is so beautiful... Let us not forget... let us cherish on the double the daily gifts of blessings that come our way. Let us live in love, offer little words of appreciation and gratitude, encouragement and forgiveness... spend our time generously... Let us take time to smell the flowers, to laugh and pray...There are Exhibitions of Miniatures that are drawing thousands of marvelling viewers...but right before our eyes and spread all around us are God’s lavish display of miniatures in Creation...the exquisite markings on a tiny ladybird or shell, the unbelievable ‘intelligence’ of a small bee, the delicate filigree of a dew-strung web, glinting in the morning sun... a glorious painted autumn leaf as it gets its last fling... Be like my little niece who came running excitedly to her Mum to tell her she had just discovered the ‘teeny weeny little yellow dots’ in the heart of the London Pride flowers in the garden...Have YOU seen them???? Yes, small is beautiful, most beautiful.... Praise God! BACK TO TOP Friday 21st October 2022 Autumn Retreat “O God, be gracious and bless us And let your face shed its light upon us” We are beginning our annual Community Retreat at a time of year when nature also slows down! There are rapid and remarkable changes happening all around us, and we can learn much from creation during this retreat time. Here are some of my thoughts: As the leaves on the trees display a variety of colours, may we too realise the beauty and variety that is hidden “under the ordinary colour” of all the persons around us, and may we appreciate each one as he/she changes and develops. “With fairness you rule the peoples You guide the nations on earth”. The leaves are falling too. May we let go of old ways that are no longer helpful, and with trust and faith let God work in our lives until the time of new shoots and growth. "So will your ways be known upon earth And all nations learn your saving help." It is the season of harvest; apples and blackberries are abundant! May we give thanks for all God’s gifts. “The earth has yielded its fruit for God, our God, has blessed us”. The weather is wet, cold and dark, but need not make us gloomy. St Teresa compared rainfall to an outpouring of grace from God in her prayer. May we learn from the delicate balance of nature to have greater balance in our own lives. May we care for our world and especially those affected badly by climate change caused by humanity. “May God still give us his blessing Till the ends of the earth revere him”. Please unite with us in prayer during our retreat time and know that you are held in our prayer too. Note: All psalm quotations above are from Psalm 66/67: “Harvest Song”. BACK TO TOP Thursday 13th October 2022 Checkmate Recently two of my community were discussing the game of chess and it reminded me of a story told about the Archbishop of Prague. When Cardinal Archbishop of Prague Dominik Duka OP. was Provincial of the Dominicans in Czechoslovakia in the time of the Soviet Communism, he shared a prison cell with Vaclav Havel, playwright and future President of the Republic. The celebration of the Eucharist was strictly forbidden, so the two prisoners would apparently play chess. The queen’s crown contained a tiny amount of wine and the kings crown a fragment of bread. Unbeknown to their guards they celebrated the Eucharist, quietly whispering “Holy, Holy, Holy” and praised the King of Heaven and Earth as chess players. In dark times such as our own it is hard to praise, but all the more important that we do so. On October 15th we celebrate the feast day of our great Carmelite---- Saint Teresa of Avila and she is the patron saint of CHESS PLAYERS! Teresa became familiar with the language and rules of chess from watching her father and brothers play chess. One of her favourite words was Checkmate – a word which comes from a Persian phrase which means “the King is helpless.” Teresa advised her nuns to “play chess” in prayer in order to “checkmate the Lord.” Her point was that a person who wished to play chess must dedicate themselves to its study and become proficient at it. Teresa used the analogy of the struggle in chess to explain to her nuns the type of dedication necessary to live a life that seeks to confirm the primacy of God and of his grace in relation to human effort. Teresa felt compelled to write about her own experience of prayer. She wanted to help people to have a better understanding of what prayer is and to encourage all to be open to recognise what is the demand of Love in any situation. Teresa liked to describe prayer as “frequent friendly conversation with Him who, we know loves us” and it is a description that I find very helpful. Another wonderful piece of wisdom attributed to Teresa is: “Let nothing trouble you, Let nothing scare you All is fleeting. God alone is unchanging. Patience obtains all. Whoever possesses God, Wants nothing, God alone suffices.” BACK TO TOP Tuesday 11th October 2022 Edith Stein As most of us have recently attended a course on St. Edith Stein, a reflection on her seems appropriate. Edith was born into a Jewish family in Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland) in 1891. She was the youngest of eleven children of whom seven reached adulthood. Edith’s father died shortly before her second birthday and her mother, a strong and determined woman, took over his lumber business very successfully. She was a very faithful Jew, who attended synagogue on the Sabbath and the Holy Days; but although they observed Jewish customs in the home the family were rather casual about it and no pressure was put on the children. They kept a kosher kitchen, but not very strictly. When Edith was in her teens she gave up praying completely, but she never stopped searching for the truth. She was an exceptional student, together with her sister Erna, she was one of the first women in Germany to attend university and she studied psychology before moving on to philosophy falling under the spell of Edmund Husserl the father of phenomenology. Edith wrote her thesis on ‘The Problem of Empathy’, and received the highest marks. Edith’s contact with Christians she respected led her to consider Christianity seriously. There was no doubt many incidents opened her mind to conversion but three stand out. A fellow philosopher Adolph Reinach was killed at the front in Belgium in 1917 and his wife Anna asked Edith to help her with his papers. The couple had converted to Lutheranism and Anna’s positive attitude and total belief in the power of Christ’s cross and resurrection had an enormous impact on Edith. On another occasion she was in the Catholic Cathedral in Frankfurt when a market woman went in to pray. This also impressed Edith who had not previously been aware that people go to church to pray, other than to take part in a formal act of worship. After these experiences Edith was considering becoming a Christian but it was not clear to her if she should become a Catholic or a Lutheran. The third and most striking experience Edith had was the one which led to her conversion to Catholicism. One evening in the summer of 1921 when staying with friends she began to read the ‘Life of St. Teresa of Avila’, Teresa’s autobiography, Edith was so impressed by this book she could not put it down until she had finished it and immediately knew she had found ‘The Truth’. God was calling her to become a Catholic and a Carmelite. She became a Catholic on New Year’s Day 1922, but she did not enter Carmel until 1933. She was such an accomplished lecturer it was thought that she could give more to the Church as a lay woman, though precisely because she was a woman she was unable to get a professorship in a German university in spite of being better qualified than the men. She taught in a Dominican school and lived there, following much the same lifestyle as the sisters. Later she taught in Munster but after Hitler came to power she was no longer allowed to teach anywhere, this time the professorship was denied her because she was a Jew. In spite of the oppression, Edith’s Jewishness was important to her she was proud that she shared the same blood as Our Lord, Our Lady and the apostles. At last she was free to enter the Carmel at Cologne, but even there she was under threat as a Jew and feared if she stayed she would put the whole community in danger, so she transferred to the Carmel in Echt, Holland at the end of 1938. After Hitler invaded Holland she was again in danger and following a letter of the Dutch bishops condemning Nazi oppression, all Catholic religious of Jewish origin were deported. Edith and her sister Rosa, who had also become a Catholic and was working as an extern helper at Echt, were gassed on August 9th 1942 immediately on arrival at Auschwitz. Edith’s sister Frieda, her brother Paul and his wife Trude all died in Theresienstadt, and her niece Eva was gassed in Auschwitz, she was the only one of that generation. The rest of Edith’s family, none of whom had converted, escaped to various countries, and built new lives for themselves. There is a lot more to say about Edith’s life and writings, this is just a brief overview. BACK TO TOP Wednesday 28th September 2022 My Vocation is Love Young St. Therese had a passion to return love for love. I wanted to love, to love Jesus with a passion giving him a thousand proofs of my love. Searching the scriptures both the old and the new Testaments she found her Little Way. Charity gave me the key to my vocation (1Cor. 13) ….. my Vocation is Love. We are coming up to her feast day on Oct. 1st. Her boundless trust in God’s Merciful love for her and for each one of us never ceases to draw me. She knew her own weakness and fragility but she knew too God’s irresistible love for the little and poor ones. Like Our Lady she let the Almighty work marvels in her and for her. It is recorded that during World War 1 many of the soldiers fighting in the trenches experienced Therese’s help and her consoling presence. When the war was over many of them made their way to the Lisieux Carmel to lay messages of thanks on her grave. Right now, we need her help to bring God’s love into the terrible war in Ukraine. But Therese would be calling on us as well – you, me, everyone and reminding us that our vocation too is Love. What is to stop us, you and me from bringing God’s merciful love to our wounded world when God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit? God lives in us – He is shining out of your eyes and mine. Many people call to our Monastery for prayers, some burdened by heavy crosses. I notice that when I tell them the love of God is shining out of their eyes I see a look of amazement coming over them as if the reality of God’s love is dawning on them for the first time. Could it be true that God is dwelling in me? That His very own love is my heart and that He is calling me to spread that love? Close to her death young Therese said – “I will spend my heaven doing good on earth”. She’s looking out for you and me to apply God’s very own love to the wounds of our world. Let’s get going! BACK TO TOP Wednesday 21st September 2022 An Unexpected Visitor - Mr Heron On a wet Monday afternoon we had an unexpected surprise visitor to our monastery pond - a large grey heron! He stood so still and we too stood still. Just watching! Then one of the sisters very quietly went for the camera and was lucky to get a photo before this great bird spread his wings and flew off. He won’t return because we have no fish in our pond. Isn’t it amazing how we can be surprised with delight by such encounters? It lifted our hearts on a wet dreary Monday. Our visitor reminded us of nature and our world as we continue to celebrate the Season of Creation (1st September to Feast of St Francis 4th October) which is now an annual Christian event. It is a time to pray for the care of our common home and reflect on our actions personally and as a community. The theme for this year is ‘listen to our Common home’. The cry of the earth also echoes the cry of the poor. Because we can see very clearly the care of the earth or lack of it affects all our lives but especially the poor. As we read about the adverse effects of climate change we can feel overpowered. When this happens I remember the title of the book by of E F Schumacher ‘Small is Beautiful’. The full title of Schumacher’s book is Small is Beautiful, a study of economics as if people matter. As if people matter - so the small acts of care for the earth mount up and if each person committed to a small act each day we could make effective changes. Today while standing in amazement at our unexpected guest I was alerted to how God’s speaks through nature in so many ways. During the day I noticed that I was more aware of the little things happening around me. In the garden the signs of autumn were all around with the leaves falling and those beautiful shiny chestnuts on the ground. I had a renewed sense of the beautiful world God created as our common home. Thank you Mr Heron for the wakeup call! Martin Luther wrote, “God has written the Gospel not only in books, but also in trees and other creatures”. BACK TO TOP Friday 16th September 2022 Mary the Sunflower… This year we’ve had many sunflowers throughout our garden; wherever I looked, whatever corner I turned, there was another majestic golden head rising to greet me and fill my heart with something of the sunshine it had imbibed...and how grateful we are for the long sunny summer we’ve been blessed with this year.... Somehow the sunflowers were there, everywhere...a real presence... I was reminded of the beautiful phrase in our Carmelite Constitutions describing the important role of Mary in our lives... It says: ‘Mary’s presence among her daughters and sisters pervades the entire Carmelite vocation. It imparts a special Marian tone to their contemplation, sisterhood’ etc... Her presence PERVADES... Doesn’t that give a real sense of her closeness to us, her inspiration and protection? Yes, the history of Carmel overflows with the presence of the Virgin Mary. I’d like to share with you the beautiful reflection on Mary by our recently canonised Carmelite Saint, Titus Brandsma, whom he likens... to the sunflower! Devotion to Mary is one of the most delightful flowers in Carmel’s garden. I should like to call it a sunflower. This flower rises high above all the other flowers. Borne aloft on a tall stem, rich in green leaves, the flower is raised yet higher from the green foliage. It is characteristic of this flower to turn itself towards the sun and moreover it is an image of the sun. It is a simple flower: it can grow in all gardens and it is an ornament to all. It is tall and firm and has deep roots like a tree. In the same way, no devotion is firmer than that of virtues, with which the devotion to Mary is surrounded. The flower itself represents the soul created after God’s image in order to absorb the sunlight of God’s bounty. Two suns shining into each other, one radiant with an unfathomable light, the other absorbing that light, basking in that light and glowing like the sun, but so enraptured by the beams of the SUN which shines on it, that it cannot turn itself away from Him, but can only live for Him and through Him. Such a flower is Mary. Like her, so may we, flowers from her seed, raise our flower buds to the Sun who infused Himself into her and will transmit to us also the beams of His light and warmth... And I love to think of Mary gently dispensing the light in case it would be too much for us... ‘Through her we may see him Made sweeter, not made dim, And her hand leaves his light Sifted to suit our sight’. G. M. Hopkins BACK TO TOP Wednesday 31st August 2022 Spiritual Foragers We are, by nature foragers. We are all on a quest for something. For what am I seeking, and who am I as a result of the search? I found this little piece helpful in working towards an answer. “You are not what you do, although you do a lot. You are not what you have collected in terms of friendships and connections, although you might have many. You are not the popularity that you have received. You are not the success of your work. You are not what people say about you, whether they speak well or whether they speak poorly about you. All these things that keep you quite busy, quite occupied, and often quite preoccupied, are not telling the truth about who you are. I am here to remind you that you are the Beloved Daughters and Sons of God, and that God says to you, “I have called you from all eternity and you are engraved from all eternity into the palms of my hands. You are mine. You belong to me, and I love you with and everlasting love. “ ( Henri Nouwen) Whatever is happening, whatever stage in which we find ourselves is the stuff of God. And the more we have of it, the more we have God in the now. Jesus was a person who lived in the NOW. Once, he intended to walk through a village, but sees Zacchaeus up a tree and says, “Zacchaeus, come down, for I must stay with you now.” He grabs the moment. God continually invites us to forage for God right where we are! BACK TO TOP Wednesday 17th August 2022 Trust – the way the bees suck for nectar These warm days it is fascinating to watch the bees on the lavender! Any amount of them busily going from stem to stem sucking for nectar, filling their pollen pockets! I love the contented hum of them too! St. Therese loved the Scriptures. The Word of God was her master key for opening the way into the Heavenly Father’s heart. It is said of her that she read the scriptures like the bees suck for nectar. The Scriptures inspired trust in her. She broke through the barrier of fear which separated the people of her time from God. I ponder to myself what Word of God could we suck on now, like the bees on the lavender stems, that would help us grow in trust? The word that Jesus so often spoke was “Do not be afraid.” He devoted himself to inspiring trust in people. It seems it went to his heart to see us so crippled by fears and worries. He wanted us to know at a deep level how God cares for us. Sure, if He minds the tiny sparrows won’t He take care of you too who are so much more precious to Him. Little Therese got that message loud and clear. So how can we get close to this God who tells us so often “do not be afraid?” The bees stay with the sweetness of the nectar! Can we stop and experience God as Love? Nothing comes from Him except Love. My well-being is everything to him. He never takes away his love from me. Most stunning of all – He loves me unconditionally just as I am. I don’t have to earn or win his Love. He only wants me to learn to love. To respond to his Love, to love other people, to love myself in the right way, to spread love so that our world becomes a more caring and humane place. Therese who searched the scriptures to discover her Little Way wanted to run around the world telling how God loves us. Could the bees on the lavender help us to stay with the wonder of being loved by God? BACK TO TOP Wednesday 10th August 2022 Take time to dream… Take time to dream - it is hitching your wagon to a star (old English saying) In our time hitching our hopes and dreams to a star calls us to live our lives mindful of the care we give to others and the care that we show for our common home, our beautiful planet. We have all seen the most amazing photographs of our planet taken from space but closer to earth we can see the beauty of our creation on a daily basis in our gardens and forests, in fact everywhere. One of the greatest challenges in our time is the damage done to our world by the abuse of the earth and its resources and as a result the environmental changes affecting so many countries with climate change, famine and poverty. There are many voices calling us to change our attitude to the earth. One powerful voice is Pope Francis in his document Laudato Si – care for our common home. It is said that if a butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazonian rain forest, it can change the weather half a world away. One woman who dedicated her life to caring for people and the earth in the Amazon region said: ‘We need to be poor with the poor and re-appropriate a kind and tender relationship with Mother Earth. Then we will know how to act’. These are the words of Dorothy Stang, a missionary sister, a woman who gave her life for the poor and for environmental issues. She was murdered for her beliefs and actions. Dohorty was well known throughout the Amazon region for her work with the poor and landless people and for her efforts to preserve the rain forests. She said to all who would listen to her "we must make great efforts to save our planet. Mother Earth is not able to provide anymore. Her water and air are poisoned and her soil is dying of exaggerated use of chemicals, all in the name of profit. Pray for all of us and for a world where all can live -- plants, animals and humans -- in peace and harmony." We can be part of this great work, in our daily life, by believing that the little we do, like the butterfly, has its effect in our world. Dorothy Stang had the courage to take time ‘to dream and hitch her wagon to the stars’ and hope for a better world. So what can we do? For us we can make decisions and take time to look at our lives. Each day we can cultivate a spirit of care for the earth by committing to the 6 R’s - Rethink, Recycle, Reuse, Reduce, Repair and Refuse. We can take time to dream and pray for this great recovery and healing of our common home. BACK TO TOP Wednesday 3rd August 2022 Always be thankful… The great work of the contemplative is thanksgiving wrote Thomas Merton....Our life in Carmel is centred around our daily Eucharist, THE great prayer of Thanksgiving... Every day we hear the words: “ Father, ...we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks...” Flowing from the Eucharist we gather 7 times every day to recite the Liturgy of the Hours or Prayer of the Church. The Psalms abound in thanksgiving: ‘Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for his love has no end’ Ps 136 I give you thanks for your faithfulness and love which excel all we ever knew of you.Ps.138. ‘I thank you for the wonder of my being, for the wonder of all your creation...’Ps. 139 Jesus too teaches us this beautiful attitude of thanksgiving when he pours out his gratitude to Abba when his disciples returned rejoicing after a fruitful mission: ‘It was then that, filled with joy by the Holy Spirit, he said, “I bless you Father, Lord of heaven and of earth for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children” ‘Lk.10.2. Again, at the tomb of Lazarus, even before he raises Lazarus he exclaims; ‘Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer. I knew indeed that you always hear me...’Jn. 11.42. We sense the disappointment in Jesus’ human heart when only one of the cured lepers, a stranger, returned to give thanks... ‘The other nine, where are they?’ Lk.17.18 St. Paul too encourages us: ‘Always be thankful...With gratitude in your hearts sing psalms and hymns and sacred songs to God...giving thanks to God the Father... Col.3.15-16 PLEASE, THANK YOU and SORRY are the three words that Pope Francis would write on the door of every family home, as they are the key to living well and in peace, both inside and outside the home. They are simple words, much easier to say than to put into practice...but what a lovely habit to develop until it will come spontaneously to us.. There is so much to give thanks for every day. Every breath we draw is a gift of God’s love, every moment of existence is a grace. St. Therese said Tout est Grace. Even the disappointments, struggles and suffering can carry a blessing. A word or gesture of thanks can light up a hurting or lonely heart... A thankful heart is a happy and contented heart... BACK TO TOP
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St. Joseph’s Carmel
© 2022 Carmelite Monastery of St Joseph, Kilmacud, Co. Dublin, A94 YY 33, Ireland Registered Charity in Ireland    CHY 6210 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.
Thursday 24th November 2022 Flickering Ingredients Rabbi Hugo Gryn used to tell of his experience in Auschwitz as a boy. Food supplies were meager, and inmates took great care to preserve every scrap that came their way. When the Festival of Hanukkah arrived- (a celebration known as “The Festival of Lights” which celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after the victory of Judas Maccabeus over a Seleucid King who had tried to outlaw Judaism.)- Hugo’s father took a lump of margarine and, to the horror of the young Hugo, used it as fuel for the light to be lit at the festival. When the young Hugo asked his father why he had wasted the very precious food, his father replied, “We know that it is possible to live for three weeks without food, but without HOPE it is impossible to live properly for three minutes.” Soon we will begin the beautiful season of Advent and here at the monastery we have the custom of lighting the candles on the Advent Wreath each evening in our chapel as part of our journey through Advent to our great feast of Light - the birth of the Light of the World - Jesus Christ at Christmas. I love the flickering light of the candles and how it can lead the eye to discover something new in a familiar space. It never shows the same space twice because the flickering light has no mind for repetition. It can fill the space with a crazy geometry of shadows and can also bring soothing and hope to weary hearts. Almost without sensing it the mind is gradually relieved of its inner turmoil and light flickers somewhere near the heart to enkindle hope. In the very beautiful and very popular Advent hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” we sing - --“O come, great daystar, radiant bright, And heal us with your glorious light.” This captures an age-old desire for light and hope to dispel the gloomy clouds of night. Our Carmelite contemplative communities of women are scattered throughout the world and each small community attempt to create zones of LIGHT and HOPE in our world today. The challenge for all of us today is to trust, that in the beautiful and maddening complexity of our world, life has a meaning beyond the daily struggle and that we are free to embrace or reject that meaning. As we approach Christmas, the name of Christ leaps forth from tongues, flashing signs and songs – “Happy Christ --- mas!” And this is the One we speak of as Light and Hope. BACK TO TOP Wednesday 16th November 2022 Alfred Batzdorf I heard recently that Alfred Batzdorf died on April 2nd 2022, at Santa Rosa, California, aged 100. Alfred was the husband of Edith Stein’s niece Susanne, now 101. Together they have done great work to promote holocaust awareness. In November 1988, the Batzdorffs’ began speaking publicly to churches, community groups and schools about their flight from Nazi Germany. Alfred, known as Al was born in February 1922 in Breslau, Germany. In 1994 he gave an oral history interview for the holocaust Memorial Project. He told of his experience on Kristallnacht November 9th-10th 1938, that terrible Night of Broken Glass, when synagogues and Jewish businesses were destroyed and over 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps. Al’s father who was a surgeon had already registered for emigration and was in Berlin that night. On the morning of 10th the storm troopers entered the Batzdorff’s apartment intending to arrest him but when they found he was away they took Alfred instead. His mother objected that he was only sixteen but they ignored her. Al felt numb, but went with them calmly, deciding that he would see it through whatever it meant. He was he was put in a room with thousands of men. When it started to get dark the men were made to march to the railway station where they were put on a train for Buchenwald Concentration Camp for forced labour. When about a third of the men had left an announcement was made telling those over 70, and disabled war veterans to stay behind. In the confusion Al hid among them and by the time the authorities found him the train had gone. When it got dark the next evening they let the old men go. One of the Nazis said to Al, ‘Get out with them but be sure you get out of town because they will look for you’. For safety Al went to live with his grandmother in Berlin, she was very active in the Jewish women’s movement and was involved in arranging the first kindertransport to England in 1938; she managed to add Al’s name to the group passport. On arriving in England Al worked in a garage and then as a waiter in Dorset. He was very concerned that his escape would put his parents in danger and went to great lengths to arrange sponsors for them and his brother so they could receive English transient visas for use until their American quota numbers became available. It was a great relief to Al that he was able to do this as very few of the children who went to England on the kindertransport ever saw their parents again. Once the family was reunited, they were able to emigrate to the United States in 1940. Al met up with Susanne Biberstein, daughter of Edith Stein’s sister Erna, who he had known in Breslau and the couple were married in New York in March 1944. Later in 1944 Al was required to do national service in the navy, and he was proud to be part of the war effort even though it meant he had to be away while Susanne was expecting their first child. He and Susanne remained committed to their Jewish faith all their lives and continued as leaders in the Beth Ami Synagogue Congregation into their 90s. As well as being a faithful Jew Al was a patriotic American and requested in his will to have Naval Military Honours at his funeral. After the Last Post had been played two military service members took the flag from his coffin folded it and gave it to Susanne. At this time of Remembrance we give thanks for the lives of all who have died and pray that they are enjoying the blessings of peace and joy in the light of eternal life. BACK TO TOP Thursday 10th November 2022 Do you remember the call? There’s a song I love written by an Ursuline nun in Cleveland called ‘In the name of Love’ which goes like this: Do you remember the Call? When did you hear your name out loud? Can you remember the word that you heard when the story began in you? Listen remember, catch glimpses of springtime And roots sinking deep in the heart of our God and you were carried. Green and stretching to life in the name of Love. The call to love – we can all relate to it. It’s the vocation of every human person on the face of the earth. God is love and we were made for love and to give love. Do you remember the Call? Thats the oft repeated line of the song and it awakens in me a delight as I remember the call of God in my own life and in the lives of the other sisters I live with. Here is how one of them who in now in heaven describes her call: “I’m so glad for you that you have fallen in love with God. So said a friend when she heard my news: at 47 I was entering an enclosed Carmelite Monastery less than 3 miles from my office. Other friends saw my radiance. It was the happiest time in my life. Looking back 16 years I would now say ‘ it was a second spring’. I liked my job in a research institute very much – the work, the people, the place, and its permanency – wild horses wouldn’t have spirited me away from it. And yet, I exchanged it and my happy leisure life of week-ends in the country and holidays abroad for an island of prayer where God’s praises are sung 7 times a day,7 days in the week and where T.V. radio and newspapers rarely impinge. Silence is in the air – how else can the praises of God become the centre of our days? How else can the cries of the poor and afflicted be heard and answered?” Dear reader of this blog – do you remember the call of love in your own life? Can you hear the voice of God’s love sounding in your ear? I have loved you with an everlasting love and I am constant in my affection for you - Jeremiah 31:3 BACK TO TOP Wednesday 2nd November 2022 Revolution of Tenderness The photo shows two inexperienced sisters with a very trusting little visitor to our monastery. This little boy trusts us while at the same time he keeps a watchful eye on the faces of his loving parents. What joy he brings to his family and to all of us. Your heart can’t but melt when you see him. Looking at this photo made me more aware of our responsibility to make our world a better place for him and the next generation. Sadly, at the moment we are failing in many areas. All around the world we are conscious of so much human suffering. But one person who is calling us to look at our lives and make a difference is Pope Francis. He is the person who speaks often and calls us to a Revolutions of Tenderness. Yes, a Revolution of Tenderness! When I first read these words I wondered what the Pope could possibly be referring to. When I think of revolution I think of some violent events in history like the French Revolution. When I looked up the meaning of Revolution, just to be sure, the search came up with ‘a forcible overthrow of a government or social order, in favour of a new system’. And then I checked out tenderness – ‘gentleness and kindness’. These are two powerful and very contradictory images. Another powerful image the Pope Francis uses is ‘Unjust Mercy’. This is what he had to say at a conference whose audience consisted of founders of some of the world’s biggest tech companies, as well as politicians, artists, entertainers, venture capitalists and leaders of major cultural institutions and foundations. Pope Francis addressing those gathered said:"tenderness is not weakness; it is fortitude. It is the path of solidarity, the path of humility. Please, allow me to say it loud and clear: The more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly. If you don't, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other.” Pope Francis called those present to a "Revolution of Tenderness. “How wonderful it would be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation would come along with more equality and social inclusion? How wonderful it would be, while we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of our sisters and brothers orbiting around us? How wonderful it would be if solidarity — this beautiful and, at times, inconvenient word — were not simply reduced to social work and became, instead, the default attitude in political, economic and scientific choices, as well as in the relationships among individuals, peoples and countries.” (https://www.ted.com/talks/his_holiness_pope_francis) Earlier this year Pope Francis also called Grandparents and the Elderly (including himself) to be part of the Revolution of Tenderness: ‘Old age is no time to give up and lower the sails, but a season of enduring fruitfulness: a new mission awaits us and bids us look to the future. He invited them to join ‘the revolution of tenderness, a spiritual and non-violent revolution in which I encourage you, dear grandparents and elderly persons, to take an active role.’ We are all called to this non violent Revolution of Tenderness. I feel, looking at the photo of our little visitor and his devoted parents, the need to do my part, however small, for the Revolution of Tenderness. Wherever we are or whatever we do we can make the world a better place for the next generation to live in. BACK TO TOP Thursday 27th October 2022 Small is Beautiful… Have you marvelled at the vast expanse of ocean or the teeming forests of our beautiful planet home... Have you stood in breathless wonder before a stunning sunset or sunrise and were lost for words before the powerful thunder of the Niagara Falls...? But have you equally and even been more taken out of yourself by the miracle of your firstborn baby...as you counted ten tiny toes and fingers and kissed the perfection of every little toenail, nose and ears... Small is beautiful.... God thinks so too. He always looks for the little ones to let his Glory shine through their poverty and humility...Isn’t that what he did for Mary, whose name means, Beloved by Yahweh... and it was mostly to child seers that Mary has appeared on earth. ‘Little Therese’ too could rejoice that ’God willed to let his Mercy shine out in me’... Small is beautiful in God’s eyes. During the prolonged Covid lockdown what we missed most were the little things of life; the daily expressions of love and care that we had taken for granted...the embrace of a loved one, a shared meal, a walk together, an intimate word of encouragement or appreciation, the look of joy and wonder in the shining eyes of grandchildren, above all the privilege of accompanying a loved one on their sacred journey Home; to hold their hand, whisper a loving goodbye in their ear, sooth their forehead....small is so beautiful... Let us not forget... let us cherish on the double the daily gifts of blessings that come our way. Let us live in love, offer little words of appreciation and gratitude, encouragement and forgiveness... spend our time generously... Let us take time to smell the flowers, to laugh and pray...There are Exhibitions of Miniatures that are drawing thousands of marvelling viewers...but right before our eyes and spread all around us are God’s lavish display of miniatures in Creation...the exquisite markings on a tiny ladybird or shell, the unbelievable ‘intelligence’ of a small bee, the delicate filigree of a dew-strung web, glinting in the morning sun... a glorious painted autumn leaf as it gets its last fling... Be like my little niece who came running excitedly to her Mum to tell her she had just discovered the ‘teeny weeny little yellow dots’ in the heart of the London Pride flowers in the garden...Have YOU seen them???? Yes, small is beautiful, most beautiful.... Praise God! BACK TO TOP Friday 21st October 2022 Autumn Retreat “O God, be gracious and bless us And let your face shed its light upon us” We are beginning our annual Community Retreat at a time of year when nature also slows down! There are rapid and remarkable changes happening all around us, and we can learn much from creation during this retreat time. Here are some of my thoughts: As the leaves on the trees display a variety of colours, may we too realise the beauty and variety that is hidden “under the ordinary colour” of all the persons around us, and may we appreciate each one as he/she changes and develops. “With fairness you rule the peoples You guide the nations on earth”. The leaves are falling too. May we let go of old ways that are no longer helpful, and with trust and faith let God work in our lives until the time of new shoots and growth. "So will your ways be known upon earth And all nations learn your saving help." It is the season of harvest; apples and blackberries are abundant! May we give thanks for all God’s gifts. “The earth has yielded its fruit for God, our God, has blessed us”. The weather is wet, cold and dark, but need not make us gloomy. St Teresa compared rainfall to an outpouring of grace from God in her prayer. May we learn from the delicate balance of nature to have greater balance in our own lives. May we care for our world and especially those affected badly by climate change caused by humanity. “May God still give us his blessing Till the ends of the earth revere him”. Please unite with us in prayer during our retreat time and know that you are held in our prayer too. Note: All psalm quotations above are from Psalm 66/67: “Harvest Song”. BACK TO TOP Thursday 13th October 2022 Checkmate Recently two of my community were discussing the game of chess and it reminded me of a story told about the Archbishop of Prague. When Cardinal Archbishop of Prague Dominik Duka OP. was Provincial of the Dominicans in Czechoslovakia in the time of the Soviet Communism, he shared a prison cell with Vaclav Havel, playwright and future President of the Republic. The celebration of the Eucharist was strictly forbidden, so the two prisoners would apparently play chess. The queen’s crown contained a tiny amount of wine and the kings crown a fragment of bread. Unbeknown to their guards they celebrated the Eucharist, quietly whispering “Holy, Holy, Holy” and praised the King of Heaven and Earth as chess players. In dark times such as our own it is hard to praise, but all the more important that we do so. On October 15th we celebrate the feast day of our great Carmelite---- Saint Teresa of Avila and she is the patron saint of CHESS PLAYERS! Teresa became familiar with the language and rules of chess from watching her father and brothers play chess. One of her favourite words was Checkmate – a word which comes from a Persian phrase which means “the King is helpless.” Teresa advised her nuns to “play chess” in prayer in order to “checkmate the Lord.” Her point was that a person who wished to play chess must dedicate themselves to its study and become proficient at it. Teresa used the analogy of the struggle in chess to explain to her nuns the type of dedication necessary to live a life that seeks to confirm the primacy of God and of his grace in relation to human effort. Teresa felt compelled to write about her own experience of prayer. She wanted to help people to have a better understanding of what prayer is and to encourage all to be open to recognise what is the demand of Love in any situation. Teresa liked to describe prayer as “frequent friendly conversation with Him who, we know loves us” and it is a description that I find very helpful. Another wonderful piece of wisdom attributed to Teresa is: “Let nothing trouble you, Let nothing scare you All is fleeting. God alone is unchanging. Patience obtains all. Whoever possesses God, Wants nothing, God alone suffices.” BACK TO TOP Tuesday 11th October 2022 Edith Stein As most of us have recently attended a course on St. Edith Stein, a reflection on her seems appropriate. Edith was born into a Jewish family in Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland) in 1891. She was the youngest of eleven children of whom seven reached adulthood. Edith’s father died shortly before her second birthday and her mother, a strong and determined woman, took over his lumber business very successfully. She was a very faithful Jew, who attended synagogue on the Sabbath and the Holy Days; but although they observed Jewish customs in the home the family were rather casual about it and no pressure was put on the children. They kept a kosher kitchen, but not very strictly. When Edith was in her teens she gave up praying completely, but she never stopped searching for the truth. She was an exceptional student, together with her sister Erna, she was one of the first women in Germany to attend university and she studied psychology before moving on to philosophy falling under the spell of Edmund Husserl the father of phenomenology. Edith wrote her thesis on ‘The Problem of Empathy’, and received the highest marks. Edith’s contact with Christians she respected led her to consider Christianity seriously. There was no doubt many incidents opened her mind to conversion but three stand out. A fellow philosopher Adolph Reinach was killed at the front in Belgium in 1917 and his wife Anna asked Edith to help her with his papers. The couple had converted to Lutheranism and Anna’s positive attitude and total belief in the power of Christ’s cross and resurrection had an enormous impact on Edith. On another occasion she was in the Catholic Cathedral in Frankfurt when a market woman went in to pray. This also impressed Edith who had not previously been aware that people go to church to pray, other than to take part in a formal act of worship. After these experiences Edith was considering becoming a Christian but it was not clear to her if she should become a Catholic or a Lutheran. The third and most striking experience Edith had was the one which led to her conversion to Catholicism. One evening in the summer of 1921 when staying with friends she began to read the ‘Life of St. Teresa of Avila’, Teresa’s autobiography, Edith was so impressed by this book she could not put it down until she had finished it and immediately knew she had found ‘The Truth’. God was calling her to become a Catholic and a Carmelite. She became a Catholic on New Year’s Day 1922, but she did not enter Carmel until 1933. She was such an accomplished lecturer it was thought that she could give more to the Church as a lay woman, though precisely because she was a woman she was unable to get a professorship in a German university in spite of being better qualified than the men. She taught in a Dominican school and lived there, following much the same lifestyle as the sisters. Later she taught in Munster but after Hitler came to power she was no longer allowed to teach anywhere, this time the professorship was denied her because she was a Jew. In spite of the oppression, Edith’s Jewishness was important to her she was proud that she shared the same blood as Our Lord, Our Lady and the apostles. At last she was free to enter the Carmel at Cologne, but even there she was under threat as a Jew and feared if she stayed she would put the whole community in danger, so she transferred to the Carmel in Echt, Holland at the end of 1938. After Hitler invaded Holland she was again in danger and following a letter of the Dutch bishops condemning Nazi oppression, all Catholic religious of Jewish origin were deported. Edith and her sister Rosa, who had also become a Catholic and was working as an extern helper at Echt, were gassed on August 9th 1942 immediately on arrival at Auschwitz. Edith’s sister Frieda, her brother Paul and his wife Trude all died in Theresienstadt, and her niece Eva was gassed in Auschwitz, she was the only one of that generation. The rest of Edith’s family, none of whom had converted, escaped to various countries, and built new lives for themselves. There is a lot more to say about Edith’s life and writings, this is just a brief overview. BACK TO TOP Wednesday 28th September 2022 My Vocation is Love Young St. Therese had a passion to return love for love. I wanted to love, to love Jesus with a passion giving him a thousand proofs of my love. Searching the scriptures both the old and the new Testaments she found her Little Way. Charity gave me the key to my vocation (1Cor. 13) ….. my Vocation is Love. We are coming up to her feast day on Oct. 1st. Her boundless trust in God’s Merciful love for her and for each one of us never ceases to draw me. She knew her own weakness and fragility but she knew too God’s irresistible love for the little and poor ones. Like Our Lady she let the Almighty work marvels in her and for her. It is recorded that during World War 1 many of the soldiers fighting in the trenches experienced Therese’s help and her consoling presence. When the war was over many of them made their way to the Lisieux Carmel to lay messages of thanks on her grave. Right now, we need her help to bring God’s love into the terrible war in Ukraine. But Therese would be calling on us as well – you, me, everyone and reminding us that our vocation too is Love. What is to stop us, you and me from bringing God’s merciful love to our wounded world when God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit? God lives in us – He is shining out of your eyes and mine. Many people call to our Monastery for prayers, some burdened by heavy crosses. I notice that when I tell them the love of God is shining out of their eyes I see a look of amazement coming over them as if the reality of God’s love is dawning on them for the first time. Could it be true that God is dwelling in me? That His very own love is my heart and that He is calling me to spread that love? Close to her death young Therese said – “I will spend my heaven doing good on earth”. She’s looking out for you and me to apply God’s very own love to the wounds of our world. Let’s get going! BACK TO TOP Wednesday 21st September 2022 An Unexpected Visitor - Mr Heron On a wet Monday afternoon we had an unexpected surprise visitor to our monastery pond - a large grey heron! He stood so still and we too stood still. Just watching! Then one of the sisters very quietly went for the camera and was lucky to get a photo before this great bird spread his wings and flew off. He won’t return because we have no fish in our pond. Isn’t it amazing how we can be surprised with delight by such encounters? It lifted our hearts on a wet dreary Monday. Our visitor reminded us of nature and our world as we continue to celebrate the Season of Creation (1st September to Feast of St Francis 4th October) which is now an annual Christian event. It is a time to pray for the care of our common home and reflect on our actions personally and as a community. The theme for this year is ‘listen to our Common home’. The cry of the earth also echoes the cry of the poor. Because we can see very clearly the care of the earth or lack of it affects all our lives but especially the poor. As we read about the adverse effects of climate change we can feel overpowered. When this happens I remember the title of the book by of E F Schumacher ‘Small is Beautiful’. The full title of Schumacher’s book is Small is Beautiful, a study of economics as if people matter. As if people matter - so the small acts of care for the earth mount up and if each person committed to a small act each day we could make effective changes. Today while standing in amazement at our unexpected guest I was alerted to how God’s speaks through nature in so many ways. During the day I noticed that I was more aware of the little things happening around me. In the garden the signs of autumn were all around with the leaves falling and those beautiful shiny chestnuts on the ground. I had a renewed sense of the beautiful world God created as our common home. Thank you Mr Heron for the wakeup call! Martin Luther wrote, “God has written the Gospel not only in books, but also in trees and other creatures”. BACK TO TOP Friday 16th September 2022 Mary the Sunflower… This year we’ve had many sunflowers throughout our garden; wherever I looked, whatever corner I turned, there was another majestic golden head rising to greet me and fill my heart with something of the sunshine it had imbibed...and how grateful we are for the long sunny summer we’ve been blessed with this year.... Somehow the sunflowers were there, everywhere...a real presence... I was reminded of the beautiful phrase in our Carmelite Constitutions describing the important role of Mary in our lives... It says: ‘Mary’s presence among her daughters and sisters pervades the entire Carmelite vocation. It imparts a special Marian tone to their contemplation, sisterhood’ etc... Her presence PERVADES... Doesn’t that give a real sense of her closeness to us, her inspiration and protection? Yes, the history of Carmel overflows with the presence of the Virgin Mary. I’d like to share with you the beautiful reflection on Mary by our recently canonised Carmelite Saint, Titus Brandsma, whom he likens... to the sunflower! Devotion to Mary is one of the most delightful flowers in Carmel’s garden. I should like to call it a sunflower. This flower rises high above all the other flowers. Borne aloft on a tall stem, rich in green leaves, the flower is raised yet higher from the green foliage. It is characteristic of this flower to turn itself towards the sun and moreover it is an image of the sun. It is a simple flower: it can grow in all gardens and it is an ornament to all. It is tall and firm and has deep roots like a tree. In the same way, no devotion is firmer than that of virtues, with which the devotion to Mary is surrounded. The flower itself represents the soul created after God’s image in order to absorb the sunlight of God’s bounty. Two suns shining into each other, one radiant with an unfathomable light, the other absorbing that light, basking in that light and glowing like the sun, but so enraptured by the beams of the SUN which shines on it, that it cannot turn itself away from Him, but can only live for Him and through Him. Such a flower is Mary. Like her, so may we, flowers from her seed, raise our flower buds to the Sun who infused Himself into her and will transmit to us also the beams of His light and warmth... And I love to think of Mary gently dispensing the light in case it would be too much for us... ‘Through her we may see him Made sweeter, not made dim, And her hand leaves his light Sifted to suit our sight’. G. M. Hopkins BACK TO TOP Wednesday 31st August 2022 Spiritual Foragers We are, by nature foragers. We are all on a quest for something. For what am I seeking, and who am I as a result of the search? I found this little piece helpful in working towards an answer. “You are not what you do, although you do a lot. You are not what you have collected in terms of friendships and connections, although you might have many. You are not the popularity that you have received. You are not the success of your work. You are not what people say about you, whether they speak well or whether they speak poorly about you. All these things that keep you quite busy, quite occupied, and often quite preoccupied, are not telling the truth about who you are. I am here to remind you that you are the Beloved Daughters and Sons of God, and that God says to you, “I have called you from all eternity and you are engraved from all eternity into the palms of my hands. You are mine. You belong to me, and I love you with and everlasting love. “ ( Henri Nouwen) Whatever is happening, whatever stage in which we find ourselves is the stuff of God. And the more we have of it, the more we have God in the now. Jesus was a person who lived in the NOW. Once, he intended to walk through a village, but sees Zacchaeus up a tree and says, “Zacchaeus, come down, for I must stay with you now.” He grabs the moment. God continually invites us to forage for God right where we are! BACK TO TOP Wednesday 17th August 2022 Trust – the way the bees suck for nectar These warm days it is fascinating to watch the bees on the lavender! Any amount of them busily going from stem to stem sucking for nectar, filling their pollen pockets! I love the contented hum of them too! St. Therese loved the Scriptures. The Word of God was her master key for opening the way into the Heavenly Father’s heart. It is said of her that she read the scriptures like the bees suck for nectar. The Scriptures inspired trust in her. She broke through the barrier of fear which separated the people of her time from God. I ponder to myself what Word of God could we suck on now, like the bees on the lavender stems, that would help us grow in trust? The word that Jesus so often spoke was “Do not be afraid.” He devoted himself to inspiring trust in people. It seems it went to his heart to see us so crippled by fears and worries. He wanted us to know at a deep level how God cares for us. Sure, if He minds the tiny sparrows won’t He take care of you too who are so much more precious to Him. Little Therese got that message loud and clear. So how can we get close to this God who tells us so often “do not be afraid?” The bees stay with the sweetness of the nectar! Can we stop and experience God as Love? Nothing comes from Him except Love. My well-being is everything to him. He never takes away his love from me. Most stunning of all – He loves me unconditionally just as I am. I don’t have to earn or win his Love. He only wants me to learn to love. To respond to his Love, to love other people, to love myself in the right way, to spread love so that our world becomes a more caring and humane place. Therese who searched the scriptures to discover her Little Way wanted to run around the world telling how God loves us. Could the bees on the lavender help us to stay with the wonder of being loved by God? BACK TO TOP Wednesday 10th August 2022 Take time to dream… Take time to dream - it is hitching your wagon to a star (old English saying) In our time hitching our hopes and dreams to a star calls us to live our lives mindful of the care we give to others and the care that we show for our common home, our beautiful planet. We have all seen the most amazing photographs of our planet taken from space but closer to earth we can see the beauty of our creation on a daily basis in our gardens and forests, in fact everywhere. One of the greatest challenges in our time is the damage done to our world by the abuse of the earth and its resources and as a result the environmental changes affecting so many countries with climate change, famine and poverty. There are many voices calling us to change our attitude to the earth. One powerful voice is Pope Francis in his document Laudato Si – care for our common home. It is said that if a butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazonian rain forest, it can change the weather half a world away. One woman who dedicated her life to caring for people and the earth in the Amazon region said: ‘We need to be poor with the poor and re-appropriate a kind and tender relationship with Mother Earth. Then we will know how to act’. These are the words of Dorothy Stang, a missionary sister, a woman who gave her life for the poor and for environmental issues. She was murdered for her beliefs and actions. Dohorty was well known throughout the Amazon region for her work with the poor and landless people and for her efforts to preserve the rain forests. She said to all who would listen to her "we must make great efforts to save our planet. Mother Earth is not able to provide anymore. Her water and air are poisoned and her soil is dying of exaggerated use of chemicals, all in the name of profit. Pray for all of us and for a world where all can live -- plants, animals and humans -- in peace and harmony." We can be part of this great work, in our daily life, by believing that the little we do, like the butterfly, has its effect in our world. Dorothy Stang had the courage to take time ‘to dream and hitch her wagon to the stars’ and hope for a better world. So what can we do? For us we can make decisions and take time to look at our lives. Each day we can cultivate a spirit of care for the earth by committing to the 6 R’s - Rethink, Recycle, Reuse, Reduce, Repair and Refuse. We can take time to dream and pray for this great recovery and healing of our common home. BACK TO TOP Wednesday 3rd August 2022 Always be thankful… The great work of the contemplative is thanksgiving wrote Thomas Merton....Our life in Carmel is centred around our daily Eucharist, THE great prayer of Thanksgiving... Every day we hear the words: “ Father, ...we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks...” Flowing from the Eucharist we gather 7 times every day to recite the Liturgy of the Hours or Prayer of the Church. The Psalms abound in thanksgiving: ‘Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for his love has no end’ Ps 136 I give you thanks for your faithfulness and love which excel all we ever knew of you.Ps.138. ‘I thank you for the wonder of my being, for the wonder of all your creation...’Ps. 139 Jesus too teaches us this beautiful attitude of thanksgiving when he pours out his gratitude to Abba when his disciples returned rejoicing after a fruitful mission: ‘It was then that, filled with joy by the Holy Spirit, he said, “I bless you Father, Lord of heaven and of earth for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children” ‘Lk.10.2. Again, at the tomb of Lazarus, even before he raises Lazarus he exclaims; ‘Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer. I knew indeed that you always hear me...’Jn. 11.42. We sense the disappointment in Jesus’ human heart when only one of the cured lepers, a stranger, returned to give thanks... ‘The other nine, where are they?’ Lk.17.18 St. Paul too encourages us: ‘Always be thankful...With gratitude in your hearts sing psalms and hymns and sacred songs to God...giving thanks to God the Father... Col.3.15-16 PLEASE, THANK YOU and SORRY are the three words that Pope Francis would write on the door of every family home, as they are the key to living well and in peace, both inside and outside the home. They are simple words, much easier to say than to put into practice...but what a lovely habit to develop until it will come spontaneously to us.. There is so much to give thanks for every day. Every breath we draw is a gift of God’s love, every moment of existence is a grace. St. Therese said Tout est Grace. Even the disappointments, struggles and suffering can carry a blessing. A word or gesture of thanks can light up a hurting or lonely heart... A thankful heart is a happy and contented heart... BACK TO TOP
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St. Joseph’s Carmel