Sisters’ Reflections Blog
Each week one of our Sisters contributes a reflection on a topical subject, or a theme in the Liturgy.
© 2023 Carmelite Monastery of St Joseph, Kilmacud, Co. Dublin, A94 YY 33, Ireland Registered Charity in Ireland    CHY 6210 Hosted by Blacknight Made with Xara
Wednesday 1st February 2023 Come to Him February is upon us with all its signs of Spring to cheer our hearts: snowdrops daffodils, birdsong, to name but a few. St. Brigid, Secondary Patroness of Ireland, heralds it in. An ancient writing about her says: “Everything that Brigid would ask of the Lord was granted her at once. For this was her desire: to satisfy the poor, to rid of every hardship, to spare every miserable one. She was simple before God; she was compassionate to the suffering, she was splendid in good works.” Only yesterday a mother told me that she had gone to the Shrine of St. Brigid in Faughert for a healing blessing for herself and her sick son. So, Brigid’s influence lives on. Who does not look forward to the healing feast of Our Lady of Lourdes on February 11th? There is no end to the queue of people at this time in need of healing: children, teenagers, parents young and old, all wanting to drink from the spring of Christ’s healing waters. Then comes St. Valentine’s Day on February 14th to warm the hearts of all who love or want to be loved. Our beloved Sr. Kevin who died a year ago at the age of almost 99 used to busy herself writing little love notes. She would often include a little poem or verse she had read that appealed to her. Here is one of the very last she wrote in our Monastery: Come to Him Never think that no one cares. There is always One who shares, All your troubles, all your cares, Come to him. What if others seem unkind, what if no one seems to mind. Help in Him you’ll always find. Come to Him. Does your heart sink like a stone? Into troubled waters thrown. Struggle not to rise alone. Come to Him. Always He is waiting there. Longing all your loads to share, When things seem too heard to bear, Come to Him. There is One who understands, all your eager heart demands, Come and place it in His Hands. Come to Him. Let it be an early Valentine tweet of Love from Heaven for you and me and everyone, as we live through this healing month of February. Image of St Brigid's Well (Tobar Bride), Co. Kildare: Taken from Wikimedia, Attributed to: Eflmd, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons BACK TO TOP Thursday 26th January 2023 Journey’s End or Beginning? ‘What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning.’ TS Elliot Over the past few weeks two rowing boats from Ireland called Brugha and Crean joined 43 other boats to be part of the Atlantic challenge. There were 5 men in the Brugha and 4 in the Crean. They were going to row 3,000 miles.They were facing high temperatures, high winds with waves reaching 30 feet and the possibility of meeting ‘curious’ sharks and flying fish. We heard about their intense preparations and training. It took two years. They had goals they wished to reach one of these was to win the race. But they were aware that there was more to the experience than winning the race. They knew that teamwork was essential. If they didn’t row in harmony they would make it harder for each other. They set another set of goals for themselves; that they were leaving as friends and they were committed to growing in their friendship or at least remaining friends. That they would not wish the time away but enjoy the experience and reflect on the deeper values in life. Another very important goal for them was to raise funds for the LauraLynn Foundation (Ireland’s Children’s Hospice)and the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institute). These were loft ambitions. They were on an adventure of a lifetime! In Kilmacud Monastery we became a small part of the team. No! We didn’t take to the high seas! We remained at home and supported the lads and their families with our prayers. As they journeyed on the high seas we were aware they too were also taking time each day to pray and reflect on their experience. They worked together to build relationships, deal with practical problems and share honestly if they have a problem with each other. In monastic life it is a given, ‘don’t let the sun set on your anger’, we deal as best you can with issues both practical and personal. The rowers arrived safely at their destination singing their hearts out just after midnight 15th January. It will take time for the rowers to unpack the experience and the life lessons learnt. They came 5th in the race and first in their class, breaking the record on time for a 5 man boat. The song they were singing was ‘The Wild Rover’ with words that include ‘I never will play the wild rover no more’. I am not convinced about that! Whatever they do they will carry this life experience and use it to build healthy relationships and community wherever they are. They raised funds beyond their expectations for the LauraLynn Foundation and the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institute) and were deeply grateful to all who donated so generously. Well done rowers - Diarmuid, Géaroid,Tom,Shane, Derek in the boat called Brugha and Dan, Frankie, Jim, and Eugene in the boat called Crean. Keep the spirit of adventure alive in all you do! ‘The end is where we start from’. (TS Eliot) BACK TO TOP Wednesday 18th January 2023 Letters from Home... Faithfully they came, every week, my dear Mother’s letters, and up at the right hand corner the simple heart-warming address, Home, the Kitchen… She gave me the news of all the family in her own lovely home-spun way, mingling a mother’s tenderness with her solid advice and wisdom that sprang naturally from the bedrock of her deep faith. How they fed my soul and filled my heart, and how I miss them now that she has gone to God. Letter-writing is such a fast disappearing art in today’s digital world of texting, soundbites, twitter etc...Maybe we Carmelites are among the few who still engage in this art as we exercise our Apostolate of the Pen in response to the many who turn to us in their anguish and heartache with sick family members, wayward children, financial challenges etc. We hope we can bring some solace to lighten their burdens. Yes, a letter in your hand is worth a hundred on the laptop or computer; it can be held and treasured, read and re-read again and again... And the Good News is that we still get letters from home, every day, to assure us that we are loved and remembered. The Word of God in Scripture has been beautifully described as ‘our Heavenly Father writing to His children’... our letters from HOME, if you like! These come to us in our daily Liturgies or in our private or shared ‘sacred reading’, Lectio Divina. They are new-born for us every day...an inexhaustible fountain from which we can drink, yet never empty. Our Carmelite Rule urges us to be like Mary, ‘pondering the Lord’s law day and night’. The Word becomes the lens through which we look out on life and on our beautiful yet struggling world. This week we begin the great Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity and it is heartening to know that one of the principle uniting treasures between the different Traditions is the Word of God. It is a living power among us as we each try to respond to the desire of the heart of Jesus That they may be one. How appropriate that some years ago, Pope Francis created the 3rd Sunday of the Year, which falls within the Unity Octave, the Sunday of the Word of God, highlighting its ecumenical centrality. Next time you read the sacred Word, remember that it is your Love letter from HOME...speaking to you personally and giving you guidelines for that day... BACK TO TOP Friday 13th January 2023 Sisters It was my sister’s birthday this week, an occasion that made me reminisce about our childhood together. From an early age our mother always taught us to value each other, because she never had a sister growing up, and always wished she had. Like all siblings, we had our squabbles, but most of the time we were good friends. I have so many memories of games and adventures together as children and trips out to concerts as teenagers. Our lives have taken different paths. I am a Carmelite nun here, and she is living in England with a husband and three children. Now I am surrounded by Sisters of a different kind, both in my community and in other religious communities that I have contact with. These new Sisters are of all ages and nationalities, and I value them all, each and every one of them. The gifts of each Sister are unique and the richness of having so many Sisters is a great blessing for me. Yet, there is nobody quite like my very first sister. As American novelist George R.R. Martin said: “You may be as different as the sun and the moon, but the same blood flows through both your hearts. You need her, as she needs you.” It is true! I need my sister to be straight-up and honest with me at times when my Sisters in community are too polite or gracious to do it! And I need my sister’s empathy and understanding at times when even those I live with do not fully understand a struggle I am going through. My sister’s birth, all those years ago, was a day of great blessing for me. Yes, Mum, I am so grateful to have a sister. Thank you, God, for my sister. BACK TO TOP Wednesday 4th January 2023 Across the Miles A few months ago, Sr. Emmanuel returned to her community in Vietnam after spending three years in our community here in Kilmacud . During that time she had an opportunity to study aspects of our Carmelite Charism and also perfect her English, with the added flavour of a slightly Dublin 4 accent!! Some of our sisters accompanied her to Dublin Airport to say a final goodbye. These days about 45,000 people per day are passing through the Airport. Many are accompanied by parents and grandparents who have come to say goodbye as loved ones return to jobs, study, etc., after celebrating Christmas with family and friends in Ireland. At the airport we can see love manifest in human form. Everyone wants to say goodbye, and to say it well in gesture and word. Sometimes, no more than a whisper in the ear and that last touch of the hand at the departure gate. Lips moving so clearly that one can spell the words: “Don’t forget the rashers and the Tayto! Say hello to everyone.” To breathe in a deep gulp of love for a second and --- then to hold it for another year. Oh, there is time for one last, enormous hug; that extra hug that a child can carry with them across the miles over the seas. And teary-eyed parents and grandparents loudly whispering: “May the Lord bless you and keep you. And until we meet again, may God hold you safely in the palm of His hand. And don’t forget to give a taste of God’s love to anyone who may need it. WE LOVVVVVE YOU!!” May each one of us always treasure the love of our family and friends. BACK TO TOP Thursday 29th December 2022 The Mystery of Christmas Those of us living in the west are fortunate that the celebration of Christmas falls in the darkest week of the year. In this time of physical darkness Christ’s birth brings light into our lives in a very vivid and evocative way. The reality of the darkness highlights the coming of Christ as the light of the world. He came to enlighten our lives with love, joy and peace. Even many people without faith prepare for this mid-winter festival and become touched by the spirit of joy and kindness that surround it. Yet for some the reality of peace may seem unattainable. In these days when there is so much suffering in the world, from war, famine and a series of pandemics, how can we understand the message of peace? Edith Stein reflected on this in a lecture entitled ‘The Mystery of Christmas’ which she gave in January 1931. She points out that on the very day after the celebration of the birth of the Christ Child we celebrate the Feast of St. Stephen, the first Christian Martyr and then two days later, the Feast of The Holy Innocents, murdered so brutally on the orders of a jealous and fearful king. Edith goes on to say, ‘What is the meaning of this message? Where now are the jubilant sounds of the heavenly choir? Where the peaceful bliss of Holy Night? Where is the peace on earth? Peace to those of good will; but not all are of goodwill. Therefore the Son of the Eternal Father must leave the splendour of heaven because the mystery of evil has wrapped the earth in dark night. Darkness covered the earth and he came as light to illumine the darkness, but the darkness did not comprehend him. To those who received him he brought light and peace; peace with the Father in heaven, peace with everyone who like them are children of light and children of the heavenly Father, a deep interior peace of the heart; but no peace with the children of darkness. To them the Prince of peace brings no peace but the sword…This is the one hard and serious fact which we may not allow to be obscured by the visible attraction of the Child in the manger. The mystery of the Incarnation and the mystery of evil belong together…The child in the manger extends his little hands, and his smile seems to be saying what would come forth later from the lips of the man: ‘Come to me all you who are weary and heavy burdened’; and the poor shepherds out on the hills of Bethlehem, who heard the good news of the angel, follow his call and make their way with the simple answer, ‘Let us go to Bethlehem’. Also upon the kings from the orient lands, who followed the wondrous star with such simplicity, there dropped from the Infant hands the dew of grace and ‘they rejoiced with great joy’. These hands give and request at the same time: you wise men, lay down your wisdom and become like children; you kings give up your crowns and your treasures and bow down meekly before the King of Kings; do not hesitate to take up the burdens, sorrows and weariness which his service demands. You children who as yet cannot give of your own free will, of you these little hands will request your gentle life before it has even begun; it can serve no better purpose than sacrifice in praise of the Lord.’ We can never plumb the depths of the Mystery of Christmas but we know with Isaiah that: ‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Upon those who dwelt in the land of shadow a light has shone.’ BACK TO TOP Thursday 22nd December 2022 Emmanuel Naming a new- born baby is such a special thing. Don’t we all wait with a certain excitement for the name a couple will choose for their child. Jesus brought His own name with Him. The angel announced it to Mary. It means God Saves. Jesus will be the one to deliver humanity from all evil, violence and injustice. He will bring in the Reign of God’s mercy and compassion and forgiveness. But there is another astounding name that Jesus has, and it is Emmanuel, a name that means God- is- with- us. That is the message of Christmas. God has come to us as a child. He has not come to impose himself on humanity. He comes with the tenderness of a little child. He is very near to you and me right here in the middle of our lives if we can open ourselves up to the mystery. God can be born in us. We need not feel alone ever again. He is with us, in us, upholding us in our joys and struggles. Thats why the angels sang at the birth of Jesus - that is the reason for all the excitement of Christmas. But isn’t it true. We must sit quietly with ourselves and let the mystery dawn on us. Hear the voice of Love sounding within ourselves. We must let the wonder of God-with-us sweep us off our feet, reduce us to wonder and awe and thanksgiving. Then we will truly rejoice. How the early Christians loved the name of Jesus… They knew He was God- with-them. They lived and died with His name on their lips. The young Carmelite in this photo is called Emmanuel. She is our dear Vietnamese sister who lived with us in Kilmacud Carmel for 3 years. See her now in her Carmel of Hue in Vietnam holding out the Infant Lord to us and reminding us of St. Therese’s words: I could never be afraid of a God who made Himself so small for love of me… I love Him…. He is all love and mercy. Happy Christmas dear reader. Rejoice! God -is- with-you! BACK TO TOP Thursday 15th December 2022 Unpacking the crib As I watch Sister Mary Brigeen unpacking the crib it brings back memories of previous Christmases. I am reminded of people I have shared this special season with. But going further back I reflect on the Christmas story and the events which led to this great God Intervention in time. I think of that young woman Mary who said ‘yes’ to an invitation to be the Mother of God while not fully understanding the mystery of the journey God was inviting her to take (Luke 1.26 -38). The statue Sister is unpacking reminds me not of a lifeless statue but of that real person who was Mary, a living flesh and blood woman. She lived in a very oppressive country. When only weeks away from giving birth she had to go on a long journey to fulfil her and Joseph’s civil duties. It would take about a week to travel over that rough terrain. She did not travel by helicopter or in a first class carriage in an express train but probably went on foot. It was all very real and very uncomfortable. I am reading a book that has greatly helped me in this reflection to consider Mary’s reality. It is a book by Dr Ruth Patterson. Ruth captures what Mary, the young woman, might have been like. She describes the statue she saw while on pilgrimage in the Holy Land. ’Here is a young girl hair loose, striding forward as if to meet the future and all that it may hold, her face eager and alight, embodying the ‘yes’ that is given after the questions, the wonder and awe, the struggle. She steps ‘into an unknown future, leaving herself open to being impregnated by a love that changes and continues to transform the world.’ In Ruth’s understanding of Mary we see another human person who faced pain, suffering, struggle and mystery. Looking again at our crib statue I see how all of this and how Mary can identify with our world. She is there for us and with us. We are not alone. I conclude this reflection with a poem. I write during the days while the snow is falling and there is a heavy snow fog which makes travelling very difficult or almost impossible. But there are always some guiding lights to help us take the next step on the journey as reflected in the following poem. Advent by Joyce Rupp It is time for the pilgrim in me to travel in the dark, To learn to read the stars That shine in my soul. I will walk deeper Into the dark of my night. I will wait for the stars, Trust their guidance, And let their light be enough for me. https://whatwasithinking.blog/2020 BACK TO TOP Thursday 8th December 2022 Does it ring a bell? Recently many of us were awakened by the sound of our chapel bell ringing out loud and clear into the silence of the calm night. With deliberate confident strokes it spelt out the Angelus pattern: 3 strokes by 3 and then the long uninterrupted 9 strokes, as it always does, but... this was Midnight! This had never happened before... What could be wrong??? What must the neighbours think of us disturbing them at this hour of night??? Relieved that the striking had stopped we returned to bed , but I was sleepily beginning to wonder...What was the meaning? Who could have rung the bell? For me it had special significance because this Advent I‘ve been struck as never before how this prayer of the Angelus draws us into the whole mystery of the Incarnation...of God becoming Man, which is what Christmas is all about... And the Word was made flesh...and dwelt among us As we pray the Angelus together in community three times every day, I want to stay with those words and let the wonder of them take hold of me...Yes, Jesus the Son of the Father, truly became Emmanuel, God-with-us... and He is still Emmanuel, God with us in the here and now of our lost, anguished, violent, upside-down yet beautiful world... Doesn’t that mind-boggling reality call for the ringing of bells to let the world know this Good News? It wouldn’t be the first time that someone rang her Monastery bell to alert everyone and call them to ’wake up’ to the astounding fact that ‘Love is not loved’ (St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, Carmelite mystic of 16th century!) I will never forget the emotion that welled up in my heart when I heard church bells ringing in the distance for the first time after the deadening silence of the long Covid lockdown. Back again too are joyous wedding bells and the slow grave toll of funeral bells... But Christmas is above all the season of bells.. .Every child knows the sheer magic of ‘Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells’ and the tinkling of sleigh bells. Bells feature big in Christmas decorations, cards, stamps etc... Each evening at 6 p. m. RTE TV and Radio mark a respectful pause for the Angelus...fittingly before the daily news. How appropriate, because this is the greatest Good News there is, and it’s a new reality every day: the Word is made flesh and dwells among us, Emmanuel... But to get back to our mysterious nocturnal Angelus bells...we never discovered the cause. Could it have been the Angels reminding us of the greatest news ever told? In the coming days when you hear the Angelus bell, I hope something of the wonder of the real meaning of Christmas will fill your heart with Joy and peace... When I apologised to our neighbours for the intrusion, they kindly made light of it saying they thought it must have been to mark ‘a special feast day’ How right they were! BACK TO TOP Saturday 3rd December 2022 Voice in the Wilderness Once Advent comes, our annual Christmas mailing rolls into action! One of our Sisters has been doing trojan work for the past couple of weeks packing envelopes, and distributing them around to other Sisters in the Community who like to add a final personal word to the recipients. There are many people who hear from us by mail only once a year, and we like to bring them a message of hope and peace during this special season. Our world often seems like a “wilderness” as regards God’s presence. One has only to switch on any news bulletin to hear reports of wars, sickness, violence and natural disasters. It can sap the energy and lower the spirits of even a most positive person. Avoiding the public news is not the solution, however, as even in our personal lives and those close to us, we see struggle and suffering. What is the answer to this? Advent gives us a hint with its focus on St John the Baptist, and he is the one we try to imitate in these weeks before Christmas. John was a “voice in the wilderness”. He was the one who “prepared the way” for the coming of Jesus, the Saviour. John heard the message of God and passed it on – he allowed his voice to be heard, even in the wilderness of his region, and people came to listen to him. These people were those who were open to his message of hope for the future. In our lives as Carmelites, we try to be “little prophets” in the wilderness of today’s world. So, in our Christmas letters and cards to our friends, we try to be a “voice in the wilderness” of our crazy world, a voice that brings hope to people. We try to convey a message that helps people to look for the coming of Jesus as the only One who can bring peace and healing and comfort to the stricken people in our world today. I will hear what the Lord God has to say, a voice that speaks of peace, peace for his people and his friends and those who turn to him in their hearts. His help is near for those who fear him and his glory will dwell in our land. (Psalm 84/85) BACK TO TOP
These reflections are also posted on our new BLOG page. Click here…
St. Joseph’s Carmel
© 2023 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.
Wednesday 1st February 2023 Come to Him February is upon us with all its signs of Spring to cheer our hearts: snowdrops daffodils, birdsong, to name but a few. St. Brigid, Secondary Patroness of Ireland, heralds it in. An ancient writing about her says: “Everything that Brigid would ask of the Lord was granted her at once. For this was her desire: to satisfy the poor, to rid of every hardship, to spare every miserable one. She was simple before God; she was compassionate to the suffering, she was splendid in good works.” Only yesterday a mother told me that she had gone to the Shrine of St. Brigid in Faughert for a healing blessing for herself and her sick son. So, Brigid’s influence lives on. Who does not look forward to the healing feast of Our Lady of Lourdes on February 11th? There is no end to the queue of people at this time in need of healing: children, teenagers, parents young and old, all wanting to drink from the spring of Christ’s healing waters. Then comes St. Valentine’s Day on February 14th to warm the hearts of all who love or want to be loved. Our beloved Sr. Kevin who died a year ago at the age of almost 99 used to busy herself writing little love notes. She would often include a little poem or verse she had read that appealed to her. Here is one of the very last she wrote in our Monastery: Come to Him Never think that no one cares. There is always One who shares, All your troubles, all your cares, Come to him. What if others seem unkind, what if no one seems to mind. Help in Him you’ll always find. Come to Him. Does your heart sink like a stone? Into troubled waters thrown. Struggle not to rise alone. Come to Him. Always He is waiting there. Longing all your loads to share, When things seem too heard to bear, Come to Him. There is One who understands, all your eager heart demands, Come and place it in His Hands. Come to Him. Let it be an early Valentine tweet of Love from Heaven for you and me and everyone, as we live through this healing month of February. Image of St Brigid's Well (Tobar Bride), Co. Kildare: Taken from Wikimedia, Attributed to: Eflmd, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons BACK TO TOP Thursday 26th January 2023 Journey’s End or Beginning? ‘What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning.’ TS Elliot Over the past few weeks two rowing boats from Ireland called Brugha and Crean joined 43 other boats to be part of the Atlantic challenge. There were 5 men in the Brugha and 4 in the Crean. They were going to row 3,000 miles.They were facing high temperatures, high winds with waves reaching 30 feet and the possibility of meeting ‘curious’ sharks and flying fish. We heard about their intense preparations and training. It took two years. They had goals they wished to reach one of these was to win the race. But they were aware that there was more to the experience than winning the race. They knew that teamwork was essential. If they didn’t row in harmony they would make it harder for each other. They set another set of goals for themselves; that they were leaving as friends and they were committed to growing in their friendship or at least remaining friends. That they would not wish the time away but enjoy the experience and reflect on the deeper values in life. Another very important goal for them was to raise funds for the LauraLynn Foundation (Ireland’s Children’s Hospice)and the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institute). These were loft ambitions. They were on an adventure of a lifetime! In Kilmacud Monastery we became a small part of the team. No! We didn’t take to the high seas! We remained at home and supported the lads and their families with our prayers. As they journeyed on the high seas we were aware they too were also taking time each day to pray and reflect on their experience. They worked together to build relationships, deal with practical problems and share honestly if they have a problem with each other. In monastic life it is a given, ‘don’t let the sun set on your anger’, we deal as best you can with issues both practical and personal. The rowers arrived safely at their destination singing their hearts out just after midnight 15th January. It will take time for the rowers to unpack the experience and the life lessons learnt. They came 5th in the race and first in their class, breaking the record on time for a 5 man boat. The song they were singing was ‘The Wild Rover’ with words that include ‘I never will play the wild rover no more’. I am not convinced about that! Whatever they do they will carry this life experience and use it to build healthy relationships and community wherever they are. They raised funds beyond their expectations for the LauraLynn Foundation and the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institute) and were deeply grateful to all who donated so generously. Well done rowers - Diarmuid, Géaroid,Tom,Shane, Derek in the boat called Brugha and Dan, Frankie, Jim, and Eugene in the boat called Crean. Keep the spirit of adventure alive in all you do! ‘The end is where we start from’. (TS Eliot) BACK TO TOP Wednesday 18th January 2023 Letters from Home... Faithfully they came, every week, my dear Mother’s letters, and up at the right hand corner the simple heart-warming address, Home, the Kitchen… She gave me the news of all the family in her own lovely home-spun way, mingling a mother’s tenderness with her solid advice and wisdom that sprang naturally from the bedrock of her deep faith. How they fed my soul and filled my heart, and how I miss them now that she has gone to God. Letter-writing is such a fast disappearing art in today’s digital world of texting, soundbites, twitter etc...Maybe we Carmelites are among the few who still engage in this art as we exercise our Apostolate of the Pen in response to the many who turn to us in their anguish and heartache with sick family members, wayward children, financial challenges etc. We hope we can bring some solace to lighten their burdens. Yes, a letter in your hand is worth a hundred on the laptop or computer; it can be held and treasured, read and re-read again and again... And the Good News is that we still get letters from home, every day, to assure us that we are loved and remembered. The Word of God in Scripture has been beautifully described as ‘our Heavenly Father writing to His children’... our letters from HOME, if you like! These come to us in our daily Liturgies or in our private or shared ‘sacred reading’, Lectio Divina. They are new-born for us every day...an inexhaustible fountain from which we can drink, yet never empty. Our Carmelite Rule urges us to be like Mary, ‘pondering the Lord’s law day and night’. The Word becomes the lens through which we look out on life and on our beautiful yet struggling world. This week we begin the great Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity and it is heartening to know that one of the principle uniting treasures between the different Traditions is the Word of God. It is a living power among us as we each try to respond to the desire of the heart of Jesus That they may be one. How appropriate that some years ago, Pope Francis created the 3rd Sunday of the Year, which falls within the Unity Octave, the Sunday of the Word of God, highlighting its ecumenical centrality. Next time you read the sacred Word, remember that it is your Love letter from HOME...speaking to you personally and giving you guidelines for that day... BACK TO TOP Friday 13th January 2023 Sisters It was my sister’s birthday this week, an occasion that made me reminisce about our childhood together. From an early age our mother always taught us to value each other, because she never had a sister growing up, and always wished she had. Like all siblings, we had our squabbles, but most of the time we were good friends. I have so many memories of games and adventures together as children and trips out to concerts as teenagers. Our lives have taken different paths. I am a Carmelite nun here, and she is living in England with a husband and three children. Now I am surrounded by Sisters of a different kind, both in my community and in other religious communities that I have contact with. These new Sisters are of all ages and nationalities, and I value them all, each and every one of them. The gifts of each Sister are unique and the richness of having so many Sisters is a great blessing for me. Yet, there is nobody quite like my very first sister. As American novelist George R.R. Martin said: “You may be as different as the sun and the moon, but the same blood flows through both your hearts. You need her, as she needs you.” It is true! I need my sister to be straight-up and honest with me at times when my Sisters in community are too polite or gracious to do it! And I need my sister’s empathy and understanding at times when even those I live with do not fully understand a struggle I am going through. My sister’s birth, all those years ago, was a day of great blessing for me. Yes, Mum, I am so grateful to have a sister. Thank you, God, for my sister. BACK TO TOP Wednesday 4th January 2023 Across the Miles A few months ago, Sr. Emmanuel returned to her community in Vietnam after spending three years in our community here in Kilmacud . During that time she had an opportunity to study aspects of our Carmelite Charism and also perfect her English, with the added flavour of a slightly Dublin 4 accent!! Some of our sisters accompanied her to Dublin Airport to say a final goodbye. These days about 45,000 people per day are passing through the Airport. Many are accompanied by parents and grandparents who have come to say goodbye as loved ones return to jobs, study, etc., after celebrating Christmas with family and friends in Ireland. At the airport we can see love manifest in human form. Everyone wants to say goodbye, and to say it well in gesture and word. Sometimes, no more than a whisper in the ear and that last touch of the hand at the departure gate. Lips moving so clearly that one can spell the words: “Don’t forget the rashers and the Tayto! Say hello to everyone.” To breathe in a deep gulp of love for a second and --- then to hold it for another year. Oh, there is time for one last, enormous hug; that extra hug that a child can carry with them across the miles over the seas. And teary-eyed parents and grandparents loudly whispering: “May the Lord bless you and keep you. And until we meet again, may God hold you safely in the palm of His hand. And don’t forget to give a taste of God’s love to anyone who may need it. WE LOVVVVVE YOU!!” May each one of us always treasure the love of our family and friends. BACK TO TOP Thursday 29th December 2022 The Mystery of Christmas Those of us living in the west are fortunate that the celebration of Christmas falls in the darkest week of the year. In this time of physical darkness Christ’s birth brings light into our lives in a very vivid and evocative way. The reality of the darkness highlights the coming of Christ as the light of the world. He came to enlighten our lives with love, joy and peace. Even many people without faith prepare for this mid-winter festival and become touched by the spirit of joy and kindness that surround it. Yet for some the reality of peace may seem unattainable. In these days when there is so much suffering in the world, from war, famine and a series of pandemics, how can we understand the message of peace? Edith Stein reflected on this in a lecture entitled ‘The Mystery of Christmas’ which she gave in January 1931. She points out that on the very day after the celebration of the birth of the Christ Child we celebrate the Feast of St. Stephen, the first Christian Martyr and then two days later, the Feast of The Holy Innocents, murdered so brutally on the orders of a jealous and fearful king. Edith goes on to say, ‘What is the meaning of this message? Where now are the jubilant sounds of the heavenly choir? Where the peaceful bliss of Holy Night? Where is the peace on earth? Peace to those of good will; but not all are of goodwill. Therefore the Son of the Eternal Father must leave the splendour of heaven because the mystery of evil has wrapped the earth in dark night. Darkness covered the earth and he came as light to illumine the darkness, but the darkness did not comprehend him. To those who received him he brought light and peace; peace with the Father in heaven, peace with everyone who like them are children of light and children of the heavenly Father, a deep interior peace of the heart; but no peace with the children of darkness. To them the Prince of peace brings no peace but the sword…This is the one hard and serious fact which we may not allow to be obscured by the visible attraction of the Child in the manger. The mystery of the Incarnation and the mystery of evil belong together…The child in the manger extends his little hands, and his smile seems to be saying what would come forth later from the lips of the man: ‘Come to me all you who are weary and heavy burdened’; and the poor shepherds out on the hills of Bethlehem, who heard the good news of the angel, follow his call and make their way with the simple answer, ‘Let us go to Bethlehem’. Also upon the kings from the orient lands, who followed the wondrous star with such simplicity, there dropped from the Infant hands the dew of grace and ‘they rejoiced with great joy’. These hands give and request at the same time: you wise men, lay down your wisdom and become like children; you kings give up your crowns and your treasures and bow down meekly before the King of Kings; do not hesitate to take up the burdens, sorrows and weariness which his service demands. You children who as yet cannot give of your own free will, of you these little hands will request your gentle life before it has even begun; it can serve no better purpose than sacrifice in praise of the Lord.’ We can never plumb the depths of the Mystery of Christmas but we know with Isaiah that: ‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Upon those who dwelt in the land of shadow a light has shone.’ BACK TO TOP Thursday 22nd December 2022 Emmanuel Naming a new- born baby is such a special thing. Don’t we all wait with a certain excitement for the name a couple will choose for their child. Jesus brought His own name with Him. The angel announced it to Mary. It means God Saves. Jesus will be the one to deliver humanity from all evil, violence and injustice. He will bring in the Reign of God’s mercy and compassion and forgiveness. But there is another astounding name that Jesus has, and it is Emmanuel, a name that means God- is- with- us. That is the message of Christmas. God has come to us as a child. He has not come to impose himself on humanity. He comes with the tenderness of a little child. He is very near to you and me right here in the middle of our lives if we can open ourselves up to the mystery. God can be born in us. We need not feel alone ever again. He is with us, in us, upholding us in our joys and struggles. Thats why the angels sang at the birth of Jesus - that is the reason for all the excitement of Christmas. But isn’t it true. We must sit quietly with ourselves and let the mystery dawn on us. Hear the voice of Love sounding within ourselves. We must let the wonder of God-with-us sweep us off our feet, reduce us to wonder and awe and thanksgiving. Then we will truly rejoice. How the early Christians loved the name of Jesus… They knew He was God- with-them. They lived and died with His name on their lips. The young Carmelite in this photo is called Emmanuel. She is our dear Vietnamese sister who lived with us in Kilmacud Carmel for 3 years. See her now in her Carmel of Hue in Vietnam holding out the Infant Lord to us and reminding us of St. Therese’s words: I could never be afraid of a God who made Himself so small for love of me… I love Him…. He is all love and mercy. Happy Christmas dear reader. Rejoice! God -is- with-you! BACK TO TOP Thursday 15th December 2022 Unpacking the crib As I watch Sister Mary Brigeen unpacking the crib it brings back memories of previous Christmases. I am reminded of people I have shared this special season with. But going further back I reflect on the Christmas story and the events which led to this great God Intervention in time. I think of that young woman Mary who said ‘yes’ to an invitation to be the Mother of God while not fully understanding the mystery of the journey God was inviting her to take (Luke 1.26 -38). The statue Sister is unpacking reminds me not of a lifeless statue but of that real person who was Mary, a living flesh and blood woman. She lived in a very oppressive country. When only weeks away from giving birth she had to go on a long journey to fulfil her and Joseph’s civil duties. It would take about a week to travel over that rough terrain. She did not travel by helicopter or in a first class carriage in an express train but probably went on foot. It was all very real and very uncomfortable. I am reading a book that has greatly helped me in this reflection to consider Mary’s reality. It is a book by Dr Ruth Patterson. Ruth captures what Mary, the young woman, might have been like. She describes the statue she saw while on pilgrimage in the Holy Land. ’Here is a young girl hair loose, striding forward as if to meet the future and all that it may hold, her face eager and alight, embodying the ‘yes’ that is given after the questions, the wonder and awe, the struggle. She steps ‘into an unknown future, leaving herself open to being impregnated by a love that changes and continues to transform the world.’ In Ruth’s understanding of Mary we see another human person who faced pain, suffering, struggle and mystery. Looking again at our crib statue I see how all of this and how Mary can identify with our world. She is there for us and with us. We are not alone. I conclude this reflection with a poem. I write during the days while the snow is falling and there is a heavy snow fog which makes travelling very difficult or almost impossible. But there are always some guiding lights to help us take the next step on the journey as reflected in the following poem. Advent by Joyce Rupp It is time for the pilgrim in me to travel in the dark, To learn to read the stars That shine in my soul. I will walk deeper Into the dark of my night. I will wait for the stars, Trust their guidance, And let their light be enough for me. https://whatwasithinking.blog/2020 BACK TO TOP Thursday 8th December 2022 Does it ring a bell? Recently many of us were awakened by the sound of our chapel bell ringing out loud and clear into the silence of the calm night. With deliberate confident strokes it spelt out the Angelus pattern: 3 strokes by 3 and then the long uninterrupted 9 strokes, as it always does, but... this was Midnight! This had never happened before... What could be wrong??? What must the neighbours think of us disturbing them at this hour of night??? Relieved that the striking had stopped we returned to bed , but I was sleepily beginning to wonder...What was the meaning? Who could have rung the bell? For me it had special significance because this Advent I‘ve been struck as never before how this prayer of the Angelus draws us into the whole mystery of the Incarnation...of God becoming Man, which is what Christmas is all about... And the Word was made flesh...and dwelt among us As we pray the Angelus together in community three times every day, I want to stay with those words and let the wonder of them take hold of me...Yes, Jesus the Son of the Father, truly became Emmanuel, God-with-us... and He is still Emmanuel, God with us in the here and now of our lost, anguished, violent, upside-down yet beautiful world... Doesn’t that mind-boggling reality call for the ringing of bells to let the world know this Good News? It wouldn’t be the first time that someone rang her Monastery bell to alert everyone and call them to ’wake up’ to the astounding fact that ‘Love is not loved’ (St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, Carmelite mystic of 16th century!) I will never forget the emotion that welled up in my heart when I heard church bells ringing in the distance for the first time after the deadening silence of the long Covid lockdown. Back again too are joyous wedding bells and the slow grave toll of funeral bells... But Christmas is above all the season of bells.. .Every child knows the sheer magic of ‘Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells’ and the tinkling of sleigh bells. Bells feature big in Christmas decorations, cards, stamps etc... Each evening at 6 p. m. RTE TV and Radio mark a respectful pause for the Angelus...fittingly before the daily news. How appropriate, because this is the greatest Good News there is, and it’s a new reality every day: the Word is made flesh and dwells among us, Emmanuel... But to get back to our mysterious nocturnal Angelus bells...we never discovered the cause. Could it have been the Angels reminding us of the greatest news ever told? In the coming days when you hear the Angelus bell, I hope something of the wonder of the real meaning of Christmas will fill your heart with Joy and peace... When I apologised to our neighbours for the intrusion, they kindly made light of it saying they thought it must have been to mark ‘a special feast day’ How right they were! BACK TO TOP Saturday 3rd December 2022 Voice in the Wilderness Once Advent comes, our annual Christmas mailing rolls into action! One of our Sisters has been doing trojan work for the past couple of weeks packing envelopes, and distributing them around to other Sisters in the Community who like to add a final personal word to the recipients. There are many people who hear from us by mail only once a year, and we like to bring them a message of hope and peace during this special season. Our world often seems like a “wilderness” as regards God’s presence. One has only to switch on any news bulletin to hear reports of wars, sickness, violence and natural disasters. It can sap the energy and lower the spirits of even a most positive person. Avoiding the public news is not the solution, however, as even in our personal lives and those close to us, we see struggle and suffering. What is the answer to this? Advent gives us a hint with its focus on St John the Baptist, and he is the one we try to imitate in these weeks before Christmas. John was a “voice in the wilderness”. He was the one who “prepared the way” for the coming of Jesus, the Saviour. John heard the message of God and passed it on – he allowed his voice to be heard, even in the wilderness of his region, and people came to listen to him. These people were those who were open to his message of hope for the future. In our lives as Carmelites, we try to be “little prophets” in the wilderness of today’s world. So, in our Christmas letters and cards to our friends, we try to be a “voice in the wilderness” of our crazy world, a voice that brings hope to people. We try to convey a message that helps people to look for the coming of Jesus as the only One who can bring peace and healing and comfort to the stricken people in our world today. I will hear what the Lord God has to say, a voice that speaks of peace, peace for his people and his friends and those who turn to him in their hearts. His help is near for those who fear him and his glory will dwell in our land. (Psalm 84/85) BACK TO TOP
These reflections are also posted on our new BLOG page. Click here…
St. Joseph’s Carmel