Sisters’ Reflections Blog
Each week one of our Sisters contributes a reflection on a topical subject, or a theme in the Liturgy.
© 2024 Carmelite Monastery of St Joseph, Kilmacud, Co. Dublin, A94 YY 33, Ireland Registered Charity in Ireland    CHY 6210   CRA No. 20010720 Hosted by Blacknight Made with Xara
Thursday 29th February 2024 Leaping! It’s a leap year, so a perfect time for a reflection on “leaping” in the Bible! Wherever this word occurs in Scripture, it is in the context of a joyful encounter with God. King David was so overcome with joy when the Ark was ceremoniously brought into the city, that he leapt and danced unselfconsciously (2 Sam 6:16). To see a King leaping is one thing, but in a poetic way the psalms even speak of mountains, hills and nations leaping: He makes Lebanon leap like a calf… Ps 29:6 Mountains leapt like rams, hills like lambs… Ps 114:4 And then there is a gentler description of an interior movement: “my heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him” Ps 28:7 Leaping for joy is the reaction of all creation when the Almighty God comes close, and even God does some leaping too! The Beloved in the Song of Songs is described as coming to find his lover (the human soul) “leaping across the mountains, bounding over the hills” (Songs 2:8). What a wonderful joyful image of the Lord who seeks us out so lovingly. The most beautiful incident of leaping in Scripture is undoubtedly the reaction of the unborn St John the Baptist in the womb of his mother Elizabeth. The arrival to their home of pregnant Mary carrying Jesus the Saviour in her womb prompted this unprecedented and wonderful response! Even the unborn child could experience great joy at encounter with God. “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” Luke 1:41. Jesus went on to heal many people during his ministry, and surely many of them fulfilled the earlier prophecy of Isaiah: “Then will the lame leap like a deer…” (Is 35:6) This prophecy continued to be fulfilled even after Jesus returned to heaven, through miracles carried out by his Apostles. There is a wonderful story we hear during the days after Easter of a cripple from birth who is cured by Peter and John, and “he went into the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God” (Acts 3:8). Perhaps these examples of joyful leaping in Scripture might inspire you to do some of your own this February 29th. Think of it as an “extra day” this year, a space for something new or different. You don’t have to physically leap, you can “leap” in your heart. But if you can safely do some leaping or trampolining, then why not? King David wasn't ashamed to leap! My 4-year-old niece does a lot of jumping when she is happy. It is therapeutic just to watch her! Let’s make this Leap Day a day of joyful thanks to God for something in our life, a day to do something special for someone. Let’s make it a memorable Leap Day. You won’t get a chance again for four more years! BACK TO TOP Friday 23rd February 2024 Friendship with God For many people Lent is a time to give up things, perhaps things that could be harmful to us if taken in excess, like smoking, drinking alcohol or overeating. Forgoing such things can be a good discipline and improve our health, but the real purpose of giving things up in Lent is to unite with Jesus 40 days of fasting in the desert. Some saints and spiritual writers see a more basic call to give up all that is not necessary to make room for God to enter and fill us with his Loving merciful presence. Among our Carmelite writers we see it especially in St. John of the Cross, but even further back we find similar ideas expressed by Johann Tauler (1300-1365). He was a Dominican priest and theologian and was a follower of Meister Eckhart, but he holds his own place as one of the Rhineland Mystics, who stressed friendship with God. He wrote: It is certain that if God is to be born in the soul it must turn back to eternity. It must turn in towards itself with all its might, must recall itself, and concentrate all its faculties within itself, the lower as well as the highest. All its dissipated powers must be gathered up into one, because unity is strength. Next the soul must go out. It must travel away from itself, above itself... There must be nothing left in us, but a pure intention towards God; No desire to be or become or obtain anything for ourselves. We must exist only to make a place for him, the highest innermost place where he may do his work; there we are no longer putting ourselves in the way, He can be born in us. If you would prepare an empty place in the depths of the soul, there can be no doubt that God must fill it at once... Then he will be born in us and be our very own. The wording may sound a little strange to modern ears, but it has a beauty and depth of its own. Photo details: Statue of Johann Tauler in a niche on the south facade of the 'new' St. Peter's protestant church in Strasbourg. The statue was destroyed in the French Revolution but was reconstructed in 1898. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:St-Pierre-le-Jeune_protestant-Tauler_(2).jpg Desert photo: Source unknown BACK TO TOP Wednesday 14th February 2024 Come as you are It is Ash Wednesday and we are all happily walking around signed with the sign of the Cross on our foreheads. The birds are singing outside and spring is in the air. So is God’s tender Mercy - reaching out to us as this season of grace begins. The words of a song are singing in my heart – Come back to me with all your heart. Don’t let fear keep us apart. Long have I waited for your coming home to me. And living deeply our new life. Yes, our Loving Abba Father is searching for each of us and especially his lost and troubled children. He loved the world so much that He gave His only Son… That’s why Jesus came - to reveal the Father’s tenderness for each one of us. The favourite hymn of our old Sr. Kevin now in Heaven was “Come as you are”. Come as you are that’s how I want you Come as you are, feel quite at home. Close to my heart, loved and forgiven, Come as you are, why stand alone. Come as you are, That’s how I love you, come as you are, Trust me again. Nothing can change, the love that I bear you. All will be well, just come as you are. The great sacrament of God’s healing love and forgiveness is there for us all. Pope Francis has said “Jesus in the confessional is not a dry cleaner. Confession is an encounter with this Jesus who waits for us , who waits for us just as we are. There was a woman called Jane who prayed in our chapel for years. She loved the Lord and His Word in the Scriptures very much . I asked her one Ash Wednesday what she was going to do for Lent. She said she was going to be joyful and spread God’s love. A good resolution for us all maybe in our present suffering world. Let us pray for each other in this season of grace and mercy. BACK TO TOP Thursday 8th February 2024 Journeying in Dignity: Listen, Dream, Act Today we celebrate the World Day of Prayer for This is the theme of the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking. This day is held on February 8, a date established by Pope Francis on the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita. Each year approximately 2.5 million people are victims of trafficking and modern day slavery. For the traffickers it has become one of the most lucrative illegal activities in the world. Bakhita was born in Darfur Sudan in 1868. She had a happy carefree childhood until it was stolen from her by slave traders. Bakhita was nine years old when she was kidnapped. She was so traumatized by the experience that she forgot, not only her name but her family name also. Literally everything was taken from her. The traders gave her the name Bakhita which means ‘Fortunate’. Before her fortune changed she was passed from one set of traffickers to another. To them she was a commodity not a person. She was branded and tortured by her capturers. But her ‘fortune’ did change when she was sold to an Italian family in Khartoum Sudan . Even though life was better for her with this new family she was still their slave. The family moved to Italy and she asked to go with them. They agreed. While in Italy, she became a babysitter to the family of Augusto Michieli, and she accompanied him to Venice’s Institute of the Catechumens, run by the Canossian Sisters. While in Venice, Josephine felt drawn to the Catholic Church. It was here that she learned about God. Josephine told the sisters that she had always known about God, who created all things, and wanted to learn more about him. When the Michieli family decided to return to Sudan, they wished to take Josephine back with them, but she refused to go. The Canossian sisters and the patriarch of Venice intervened on her behalf to allow her to remain with the Sisters. The judge concluded that since slavery was illegal in Italy, she had actually been free since 1885. To ask for her freedom must had demanded great courage on her part at that time. She legally obtained her freedom and became an Italian citizen. She was baptized and chose the name Josephine. Later she joined the Canossian sisters. She dedicated her live to the care of the poor. At her canonization in 2000, Pope John Paul II said, “In St. Josephine Bakhita we find a shining advocate of genuine emancipation. The history of her life inspires not passive acceptance but the firm resolve to work effectively to free girls and women from oppression and violence, and to return them to their dignity in the full exercise of their rights.” It is an amazing story of resilience, hope and grace on the part of this young woman. And it is no wonder she was chosen to highlight the International Day of Trafficking. If you want to learn more about the situation in Ireland and become aware of how you can do your part to help, the following website is helpful: www.aptireland.org St. Josephine we continue to ask you to intercede for all those people who are enslaved by traffickers today in Ireland and the World. Prayer St. Josephine Bakhita, you were sold into slavery as a child and endured untold hardship and suffering. Once liberated from your physical enslavement, you found true redemption in your encounter with Christ and his Church. St. Bakhita, assist all those who are trapped in a state of slavery; intercede with God on their behalf so that they will be released from their chains of captivity. Those whom man enslaves, let God set free. Provide comfort to survivors of slavery and let them look to you as an example of hope and faith. Help all survivors find healing from their wounds. We ask for your prayers and intercessions for those enslaved among us. Amen. (published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, a prayer to St. Josephine Bakhita) Image taken from: https://ssjphila.org/saint-josephine-bakhita/ BACK TO TOP Friday 2nd February 2024 Pilgrims on the Journey Today we celebrate the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life...a day to give thanks for our own calling...to marvel at the gift...and to celebrate the call of those who share our lives in community. To enter Carmel is to fall into a fortune! It is to inherit the vast riches of our Carmelite Tradition. It is to be welcomed into the heart of a warm loving family in whom that rich Tradition takes flesh. We share the same ‘spiritual DNA’ and recognise it in each other. The Holy Spirit creates out of a very mixed bag of individuals of all ages and backgrounds, talents and temperaments, a communion of hearts and minds, a warm family spirit where all strive to be friends, where all love, cherish and help each other....for life! The shared goal and mutual support along the hardships of the road bond us together. I think Teresa would have loved Richard Gillard’s The Servant Song. It captures the spirit she wished to see in her small Carmelite communities: We are pilgrims on a journey, we are trav’llers on the road... We are here to help each other, walk the mile and bear the load. I often think the song was made for us...it captures the joys and sorrows of community life. I will hold the Christ-light for you in the night-time of your fear; I will hold my hand out to you, speak the peace you long to hear. I will weep when you are weeping. When you laugh I’ll laugh with you. I will share your joy and sorrow ‘til we’ve seen this journey through. Whatever the day has brought, joys or sorrows, there comes a healing peace and togetherness at Night Prayer; the labours of the day are over, tomorrow’s troubles and challenges can wait ’til morning, now there comes rest and sleep for the weary pilgrims of love. A deep sense of gratitude sweeps over me as I look at each of my sisters in all their vulnerability and hidden heroic efforts...the sheer beauty of human life, the privilege of walking the road, rubbing the shoulders of these saints-in-the making. Yes, it is good to be here... BACK TO TOP Wednesday 31st January 2024 Storms and Springtime At this time of year, the weather here in Ireland vacillates between cold winter storms and warm bright days with a taste of springtime. This can happen even within the same day! In the midst of particularly bad storms, like we had recently with Storm Isha, and especially for those whose homes or property was damaged, it is hard to imagine the good and pleasant days of late spring and summer. Similarly, on a lovely warm spring afternoon like we had here in Dublin a few days ago, with temperatures hitting record highs for January, it is hard to remember that only a few days previously the top came off our old monkey puzzle tree trunk in Storm Isha! This reminds me of the verse from the Book of Ecclesiasticus (Sirach): “At a time of prosperity, adversity is forgotten, and at a time of adversity, prosperity is not remembered” (Sir 11:25). Isn’t human life just like this? We have storms and sunshine at different times during our lives. Hopefully nobody has a lifetime full of only storms! During difficult times of suffering, illness and loss, we forget about positive things that have happened in our lives, or we find it hard to recognise positive things around us. The storms seem to be eternal. But they will pass. The Meterological experts give names to bad storms in order to make it easier to communicate about them and somehow help people to get through them with minimal impact. Perhaps at times it would help to do the same with our life storms in order to help us to see past them to a future springtime when the flowers will blossom again in our lives? If you are in a storm right now, know that we are praying for you here at Kilmacud and take heart from the words of Scripture and the words of our saints: See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. (Song of Songs 2:11-12) We easily forget that nothing lasts forever. No pain or pleasure is eternal. As St Teresa wisely prayed, God alone is unchanging. Let nothing disturb you, nothing frighten you, All things are passing, God is unchanging. Patience gains all; nothing is lacking to those who have God: God alone is sufficient St Teresa de Jesus (of Avila) Fun Fact: Between 1864 and 1922, only 4 people were born in Ireland with the surname “Storm”, but 250 people were born in the same period with the surname “Spring”. The name “Storm” as a given first-name was first recorded in the USA in 1946, and in recent years it has become more popular as a first name for both boys and girls. The first name “Spring”, used only for girls is slightly more popular. BACK TO TOP Wednesday 17th January 2024 The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity We have come a long way since the Octave of Christian Unity was first introduced in 1908. Father Paul Wattson who was born in Maryland, U.S.A. in 1863 was the one who suggested this title, which remained in force until 1963 when it was officially changed to the ‘Week of Prayer for Christian unity’. Fr. Paul was ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1886. In 1898, in collaboration with an Episcopal sister, Lurana White, he helped to found the Society of the Atonement, known as the Graymoor Franciscans. From the beginning they were committed to promoting Christian unity. Although they were established as an Anglican order, they became Roman Catholic in 1909. The Octave is kept every year, beginning on January 18th and closing on January 25, the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, though Christians in the Southern Hemisphere, more often keep it between the Feast of the Ascension and Pentecost. In January 1964 Pope St. Paul VI and Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople met, and embraced, in Jerusalem and in 1965 they lifted the mutual excommunications their churches had imposed in 1054. Pope Francis marked the anniversary of this momentous reconciliation after his Angelus address on January 6th this year (2024) when he told the crowd in St. Peter's Square that the two leaders had ‘broken down a wall of incommunicability that had kept Catholics and Orthodox apart for centuries’. He went on to say ‘Let us learn from the embrace of those two great men of the church on the path to Christian unity: praying together, walking together and working together.’ Some of the highlights in Vatican ecumenical relations over the past year include: Pope Francis' ecumenical peace pilgrimage to South Sudan on February 3rd 2023, with Anglican Archbishop Welby and the Rev. Iain Greenshields, moderator of the Church of Scotland; The Vatican visit of Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria, Egypt; and Pope Francis' announcement that he added the 21 Coptic martyrs murdered by Islamic State terrorists in 2015 to the Roman Martyrology, the list of saints' feast days; and finally, the ecumenical prayer vigil that preceded the opening of the Synod of Bishops on synodality. We give thanks that in recent years participation in ecumenical dialogue and shared worship, has changed the outlook of many people towards other churches. Clergy fraternals, ecumenical prayer groups, Lent courses and study groups have become so usual that it can become easy to forget that we are still on a journey towards full unity, but it is something we should always bear in mind. Each year Christians in different countries choose a theme and prepare the prayers and reflections for the ‘Week of Prayer for Cristian Unity’. This year they have been prepared by an ecumenical group of Christians in Burkina Faso and they focus on the theme, "You shall love the Lord your God … and your neighbour as yourself". There has been a serious security crisis in Burkina Faso since 2016 and Christians have been targeted in jihadist terrorist attacks, forcing hundreds of churches to close. Yet, the situation has prompted Christian communities not only to pray for peace, but to work together to care for people displaced by the fighting and to promote Christian-Muslim dialogue. BACK TO TOP Wednesday 10th January 2024 The Wonder of a Call Yes the call of God is a wonderous thing. There is no explanation for it other than the love which God bears for the person He calls. This marvellous love is absolutely free, personal and unique. These days in the gospel we hear Jesus saying to his disciples “ follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” St. John of the Cross loved to say, “ if a person is seeking God, the Beloved is seeking that person much more”. Yes it is God who calls, sends, and who enables the person to bear fruit for the Kingdom. You did not choose me, no I chose you and commissioned you to go out and bear fruit, fruit that will last. These early days of the span New Year 2024 we are rejoicing that Shauna has entered our Kilmacud Carmel in response to the call of God. In the words of St. Teresa, she is venturing her life in order to love Jesus and to make Him loved: to be “love in the heart of the Church”. St. Teresa liked to tell each new person entering that she is a foundation stone for those will come after her and that the Order of the Virgin, Our Lady of Mount Carmel begins again with her. That inspires and puts courage into the person entering. I remember a little girl of five asking me if I started as a little small nun first and then grew into a big one! Her second question followed “was your mother an old nun down in the Convent?” I can still see her little intent face trying to figure it out. She listened with great attention as I explained that I was just like her, a little girl at home with a mammy and daddy and sisters and a brother and went to school like her. That I learnt about God how He loved all his children and wanted them to be happy and good. The wish grew in me to know and love God more. It was when I was 19 that I said yes to the call of God. We thank all who have prayed for the gift of new vocations to our Carmel. Please continue to pray for Shauna and for us too that we will be the good soil in which her vocation can grow. BACK TO TOP Monday 1st January 2024 For all that has been… “For all that has been, Thank you. For all that is to come, Yes!” (Dag Hammarskjold) The above quote by Dag Hammarskjold never loses its power. It is also very apt at the beginning of a NEW YEAR. Dag Hammarskjold was a man who was an inspiration to our world and whose influence continues through his writings. He was Secretary General of the United Nations and worked tirelessly for PEACE. He was also a spiritual man and all he did was guided by his inner compass. He encouraged prayer and silent meditation while faithfully carrying out his duties. He endeavoured to work for peace in conflicted areas of the world. Pope Francis in his Christmas message to the world (Urbi et Orbi)speaks out strongly as he prays and pleads for PEACE. He has this to say ‘if we say “yes” to the Prince of Peace, then, that means saying “no” to war; to every war and to do so with courage, “no” to the very mindset of war, an aimless voyage, a defeat without victors, an inexcusable folly.’ And he continues ‘to say “no” to war means saying “no” to weaponry. The human heart is weak and impulsive; if we find instruments of death in our hands, sooner or later we will use them. And how can we even speak of peace, when arms production, sales and trade are on the rise?’ Peace is the fruit of relationships that recognize and welcome others in their inalienable dignity and right to life. As we begin a new year we renew our desire to pray and work for peace. Peace with ourselves, peace in our hearts and peace in our world. A Blessed New Year to you and your families from the Sisters at St. Joseph’s Monastery Kilmacud A Prayer for the Year By Pope Francis All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures. You embrace with your tenderness all that exists. Pour out upon us the power of your love, that we may protect life and beauty. Fill us with peace, that we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one. O God of the poor, help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this Earth, so precious in your eyes. Bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world and not prey on it, that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction. Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain at the expense of the poor and the Earth. Teach us to discover the worth of each thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation, to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature as we journey towards your infinite light. We thank you for being with us each day. Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle for justice, love and peace. Amen. BACK TO TOP Saturday 30th December 2023 Amazed "Only wonder knows...” (St. Gregory of Nyssa) Naples is well known for its crib-statues. Among the others there is one particularly interesting. It is called ‘Enchanted Shepherd’, or ‘Amazed’. It represents an empty-handed child with open arms, while its countenance radiates wonder. It recalls a legend: One day the little statues started scolding ‘Amazed’ because he was not bringing any gift to Baby Jesus. “Shame on you”, they said, “are you going to visit Jesus without offering him anything?” Amazed would not answer a word. He was totally captured by little Jesus. The rebukes grew louder and louder. At that point Mary took his defence. “Amazed is not empty-handed. Don’t you see, he is giving Jesus his wonder, his amazement? God’s love, incarnate in the tiny little child, enchants him”. When all understood, Mary concluded: “the world will be marvellous when people will be capable of wonder, like ‘Amazed’. Do you realise? For the love of us, God became man, so that we may become divine.” Pope Francis obviously knows this wonder as he asks the question: “Why does the Christmas Nativity scene rouse such wonder and move us so deeply”? “Because”, he says, “it shows God’s tender love; the creator of the universe lowers himself to take up our littleness”. St. Therese too was caught up in this wonder: “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”. Before these days of Christmastide slip by, may our hearts too be captured by that wonder as we gaze in amazement at our God who has become a tiny infant of love and mercy, for you, for me... BACK TO TOP Saturday 23rd December 2023 Waiting Do you like waiting? I am guessing that most of us do not! Whether it is waiting for a bus that is late, or waiting in the supermarket queue, it is usually difficult for us humans to wait. We constantly plan and anticipate the future and so the uncertainty of having to wait makes us uncomfortable. The rock band Queen have a song with the lyrics: “I want it all, and I want it now!” This epitomises our modern culture! We want an instant reply to our text messages, or when we ring a doorbell, we expect it to be answered immediately. We really do not like having to wait! In my life, I have learned some good lessons about the importance of waiting. Once I was in an international group who were participating in the Mass with Pope John Paul II in Toronto, Canada. Each of us would have a particular role in the liturgy, and the leaders would not tell us what our role was until the day before, so for a week of events we had to wait and wonder. They reminded us constantly: “participate, don’t anticipate”. It was a good lesson that I never forgot. We can participate in the present moment and live life much more fully than if we constantly anticipate the future. I had an elderly grandaunt who was severely disabled. When I called to visit her and rang the doorbell, it took a long time for her to struggle out of her chair, take her walking aid and slowly move step by step to the front door. For security she often had double locks on the door, and I had to wait patiently there until she got the door opened and welcomed me inside. She told me that often many people went away before she could get to answer the door and she always thanked me for waiting. Some waiting is joyful, like waiting for the birth of a much-wanted child or waiting for the return home of a loved one. When we find ourselves in joyful waiting, why not just savour the experience of the joy instead of wanting the outcome immediately? Other times, our waiting is anxious and stressful, such as waiting for news of a medical test or prognosis on the illness of a loved one. In these times, we need the support of others in our waiting. This is why I chose the image of four Sisters with candles to accompany this reflection. In dark times of waiting, like the faithful Jewish people who waited centuries of oppression and suffering for the coming of the Messiah, our strength will be found in the community of support around us. St Paul wrote to the Romans: “…hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (Rom 8:24-25). Patience is one of the key virtues of a Christian, and it is a beautiful virtue. Isn’t it true that we cannot learn patience unless we are in situations where we need to be patient? So in our waiting, instead of feeling frustration perhaps we can see it as a learning experience to better ourselves? Mary teaches us to be patient during these Advent days. We cannot hurry God’s plan. Let us make good use of these last days of waiting for the birth of Jesus. Whatever type of waiting we experience – whether it is joyful or anxious – let us remember that the One who is born on Christmas night is called Emmanuel – “God-with-us” – and he is with us at every moment of whatever the future holds! BACK TO TOP Thursday 14th December 2023 John and Teresa This week we celebrate the Feast of St. John of the Cross. Among other things he was a great friend and helper of St. Teresa of Avila. John first met Teresa at Medina del Campo shortly after she had made the foundation of St. Joseph’s, her first Discalced Carmelite Monastery. She was in Medina del Campo trying to negotiate the foundation of another monastery for the discalced nuns but she had also obtained permission make two foundations for discalced friars. John was a newly ordained Carmelite and he had gone to Medina to celebrate his first Mass, but he was unsettled and thinking of transferring to the Carthusian Order so that he could have more solitude and silence. Teresa was fifty-two and John was twenty-five when they first met, but they recognised an affinity between them and John shared his longing for a more contemplative life with her. Teresa assured him that if he would join her reform he would be able to have more solitude and silence without leaving Carmel. Soon afterwards Teresa was given a small farmhouse at Duruelo which she planned to use for the first friars. She was rather distressed at the bad state of it but John went there to work on it so that it could be lived in. Fr. Antonio soon joined him there and the first Discalced Carmelite Friars were founded. Some years later Teresa was made to take on the role of prioress at the Monastery of the Incarnation in Avila. This was where she had lived before beginning her reform, and the nuns did not want her because they were afraid she would want to make them part of her reform movement. Teresa did not want to impose her reform on the community, but she did want to correct abuses and restore community life. To do this she needed help and support and she could think of no better person to give it than John of the Cross. Very soon John and another friar moved into one of the houses used for workmen in the grounds of the monastery. Teresa had such a high regard for John that she told the nuns she was giving them a saint for their confessor. Under John’s guidance they deepened their spiritual lives as he spent many hours talking them and encouraging them. He listened to them intently and became aware of their various needs. John showed exceptional care for the sick sisters and sent special dishes he was given to the infirmary for whoever was in greatest need of cheer and nourishment. Without becoming Discalced Carmelites the nuns at the Incarnation became a transformed community. While he was at Avila John’s own prayer deepened and he became intensely aware of God’s continual presence in the beauty of the countryside as well as in his own soul. He began to write a little poetry and to carve simple crucifixes. Always patient and understanding with people John was a great favourite both with the nuns and with the townspeople. He got to know the children of workmen;they were poor, just like he had been as a child. As well as teaching them catechism he taught then the basics of reading and writing, knowing that this would help them in later life. BACK TO TOP Thursday 7th December 2023 God’s dream for us On this mountain the Lord of Hosts will prepare for all peoples a banquet of rich food. On this mountain the Lord will remove the mourning veil covering all peoples. He will destroy death forever. The Lord will wipe away the tears from every cheek: He will take away His people’s shame everywhere on earth. That day it will be said: see this is our God in whom we hoped for salvation. Isaiah 25. In this passage don’t we catch a glimpse of God’s dream for the world. He dreams that we will be His family on earth, caring for each other, sharing with each other, weeping for each other. Jesus came to show us what this family of God would look like - where no one would go hungry or thirsty or naked or sick or be in prison with no one to visit them. Jesus is Emmanuel – God with us and He will never leave us. Not only is He with us but He is in each of us so His kingdom of love and goodness can grow through you and me and everyone. When we do good, His love is shining out of your eyes and mine. Advent is a great time to let the dream of God warm our hearts and fill us with hope even in the midst of our war-torn world where men, women and children suffer so grievously. Let us listen to St. Paul who encourages us not be overcome by evil but to overcome evil with good. God’s love and goodness in the heart of His children is unstoppable though it never hits the headlines. So let us cry out this Advent - O Emmanuel stay with us forever. Live and love through us and let God’s dream for his family be fulfilled. 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 6210CRA No. 20010720 Hosted by Blacknight Made with Xara Sisters’ Reflections Blog
Each week one of our Sisters contributes a reflection on a topical subject, or a theme in the Liturgy.
Thursday 29th February 2024 Leaping! It’s a leap year, so a perfect time for a reflection on “leaping” in the Bible! Wherever this word occurs in Scripture, it is in the context of a joyful encounter with God. King David was so overcome with joy when the Ark was ceremoniously brought into the city, that he leapt and danced unselfconsciously (2 Sam 6:16). To see a King leaping is one thing, but in a poetic way the psalms even speak of mountains, hills and nations leaping: He makes Lebanon leap like a calf… Ps 29:6 Mountains leapt like rams, hills like lambs… Ps 114:4 And then there is a gentler description of an interior movement: “my heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him” Ps 28:7 Leaping for joy is the reaction of all creation when the Almighty God comes close, and even God does some leaping too! The Beloved in the Song of Songs is described as coming to find his lover (the human soul) “leaping across the mountains, bounding over the hills” (Songs 2:8). What a wonderful joyful image of the Lord who seeks us out so lovingly. The most beautiful incident of leaping in Scripture is undoubtedly the reaction of the unborn St John the Baptist in the womb of his mother Elizabeth. The arrival to their home of pregnant Mary carrying Jesus the Saviour in her womb prompted this unprecedented and wonderful response! Even the unborn child could experience great joy at encounter with God. “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” Luke 1:41. Jesus went on to heal many people during his ministry, and surely many of them fulfilled the earlier prophecy of Isaiah: “Then will the lame leap like a deer…” (Is 35:6) This prophecy continued to be fulfilled even after Jesus returned to heaven, through miracles carried out by his Apostles. There is a wonderful story we hear during the days after Easter of a cripple from birth who is cured by Peter and John, and “he went into the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God” (Acts 3:8). Perhaps these examples of joyful leaping in Scripture might inspire you to do some of your own this February 29th. Think of it as an “extra day” this year, a space for something new or different. You don’t have to physically leap, you can “leap” in your heart. But if you can safely do some leaping or trampolining, then why not? King David wasn't ashamed to leap! My 4-year-old niece does a lot of jumping when she is happy. It is therapeutic just to watch her! Let’s make this Leap Day a day of joyful thanks to God for something in our life, a day to do something special for someone. Let’s make it a memorable Leap Day. You won’t get a chance again for four more years! BACK TO TOP Friday 23rd February 2024 Friendship with God For many people Lent is a time to give up things, perhaps things that could be harmful to us if taken in excess, like smoking, drinking alcohol or overeating. Forgoing such things can be a good discipline and improve our health, but the real purpose of giving things up in Lent is to unite with Jesus 40 days of fasting in the desert. Some saints and spiritual writers see a more basic call to give up all that is not necessary to make room for God to enter and fill us with his Loving merciful presence. Among our Carmelite writers we see it especially in St. John of the Cross, but even further back we find similar ideas expressed by Johann Tauler (1300-1365). He was a Dominican priest and theologian and was a follower of Meister Eckhart, but he holds his own place as one of the Rhineland Mystics, who stressed friendship with God. He wrote: It is certain that if God is to be born in the soul it must turn back to eternity. It must turn in towards itself with all its might, must recall itself, and concentrate all its faculties within itself, the lower as well as the highest. All its dissipated powers must be gathered up into one, because unity is strength. Next the soul must go out. It must travel away from itself, above itself... There must be nothing left in us, but a pure intention towards God; No desire to be or become or obtain anything for ourselves. We must exist only to make a place for him, the highest innermost place where he may do his work; there we are no longer putting ourselves in the way, He can be born in us. If you would prepare an empty place in the depths of the soul, there can be no doubt that God must fill it at once... Then he will be born in us and be our very own. The wording may sound a little strange to modern ears, but it has a beauty and depth of its own. Photo details: Statue of Johann Tauler in a niche on the south facade of the 'new' St. Peter's protestant church in Strasbourg. The statue was destroyed in the French Revolution but was reconstructed in 1898. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:St-Pierre-le- Jeune_protestant-Tauler_(2).jpg Desert photo: Source unknown BACK TO TOP Wednesday 14th February 2024 Come as you are It is Ash Wednesday and we are all happily walking around signed with the sign of the Cross on our foreheads. The birds are singing outside and spring is in the air. So is God’s tender Mercy - reaching out to us as this season of grace begins. The words of a song are singing in my heart – Come back to me with all your heart. Don’t let fear keep us apart. Long have I waited for your coming home to me. And living deeply our new life. Yes, our Loving Abba Father is searching for each of us and especially his lost and troubled children. He loved the world so much that He gave His only Son… That’s why Jesus came - to reveal the Father’s tenderness for each one of us. The favourite hymn of our old Sr. Kevin now in Heaven was “Come as you are”. Come as you are that’s how I want you Come as you are, feel quite at home. Close to my heart, loved and forgiven, Come as you are, why stand alone. Come as you are, That’s how I love you, come as you are, Trust me again. Nothing can change, the love that I bear you. All will be well, just come as you are. The great sacrament of God’s healing love and forgiveness is there for us all. Pope Francis has said “Jesus in the confessional is not a dry cleaner. Confession is an encounter with this Jesus who waits for us , who waits for us just as we are. There was a woman called Jane who prayed in our chapel for years. She loved the Lord and His Word in the Scriptures very much . I asked her one Ash Wednesday what she was going to do for Lent. She said she was going to be joyful and spread God’s love. A good resolution for us all maybe in our present suffering world. Let us pray for each other in this season of grace and mercy. BACK TO TOP Thursday 8th February 2024 Journeying in Dignity: Listen, Dream, Act Today we celebrate the World Day of Prayer for This is the theme of the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking. This day is held on February 8, a date established by Pope Francis on the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita. Each year approximately 2.5 million people are victims of trafficking and modern day slavery. For the traffickers it has become one of the most lucrative illegal activities in the world. Bakhita was born in Darfur Sudan in 1868. She had a happy carefree childhood until it was stolen from her by slave traders. Bakhita was nine years old when she was kidnapped. She was so traumatized by the experience that she forgot, not only her name but her family name also. Literally everything was taken from her. The traders gave her the name Bakhita which means ‘Fortunate’. Before her fortune changed she was passed from one set of traffickers to another. To them she was a commodity not a person. She was branded and tortured by her capturers. But her ‘fortune’ did change when she was sold to an Italian family in Khartoum Sudan . Even though life was better for her with this new family she was still their slave. The family moved to Italy and she asked to go with them. They agreed. While in Italy, she became a babysitter to the family of Augusto Michieli, and she accompanied him to Venice’s Institute of the Catechumens, run by the Canossian Sisters. While in Venice, Josephine felt drawn to the Catholic Church. It was here that she learned about God. Josephine told the sisters that she had always known about God, who created all things, and wanted to learn more about him. When the Michieli family decided to return to Sudan, they wished to take Josephine back with them, but she refused to go. The Canossian sisters and the patriarch of Venice intervened on her behalf to allow her to remain with the Sisters. The judge concluded that since slavery was illegal in Italy, she had actually been free since 1885. To ask for her freedom must had demanded great courage on her part at that time. She legally obtained her freedom and became an Italian citizen. She was baptized and chose the name Josephine. Later she joined the Canossian sisters. She dedicated her live to the care of the poor. At her canonization in 2000, Pope John Paul II said, “In St. Josephine Bakhita we find a shining advocate of genuine emancipation. The history of her life inspires not passive acceptance but the firm resolve to work effectively to free girls and women from oppression and violence, and to return them to their dignity in the full exercise of their rights.” It is an amazing story of resilience, hope and grace on the part of this young woman. And it is no wonder she was chosen to highlight the International Day of Trafficking. If you want to learn more about the situation in Ireland and become aware of how you can do your part to help, the following website is helpful: www.aptireland.org St. Josephine we continue to ask you to intercede for all those people who are enslaved by traffickers today in Ireland and the World. Prayer St. Josephine Bakhita, you were sold into slavery as a child and endured untold hardship and suffering. Once liberated from your physical enslavement, you found true redemption in your encounter with Christ and his Church. St. Bakhita, assist all those who are trapped in a state of slavery; intercede with God on their behalf so that they will be released from their chains of captivity. Those whom man enslaves, let God set free. Provide comfort to survivors of slavery and let them look to you as an example of hope and faith. Help all survivors find healing from their wounds. We ask for your prayers and intercessions for those enslaved among us. Amen. (published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, a prayer to St. Josephine Bakhita) Image taken from: https://ssjphila.org/saint-josephine-bakhita/ BACK TO TOP Friday 2nd February 2024 Pilgrims on the Journey Today we celebrate the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life...a day to give thanks for our own calling...to marvel at the gift...and to celebrate the call of those who share our lives in community. To enter Carmel is to fall into a fortune! It is to inherit the vast riches of our Carmelite Tradition. It is to be welcomed into the heart of a warm loving family in whom that rich Tradition takes flesh. We share the same ‘spiritual DNA’ and recognise it in each other. The Holy Spirit creates out of a very mixed bag of individuals of all ages and backgrounds, talents and temperaments, a communion of hearts and minds, a warm family spirit where all strive to be friends, where all love, cherish and help each other....for life! The shared goal and mutual support along the hardships of the road bond us together. I think Teresa would have loved Richard Gillard’s The Servant Song. It captures the spirit she wished to see in her small Carmelite communities: We are pilgrims on a journey, we are trav’llers on the road... We are here to help each other, walk the mile and bear the load. I often think the song was made for us...it captures the joys and sorrows of community life. I will hold the Christ-light for you in the night-time of your fear; I will hold my hand out to you, speak the peace you long to hear. I will weep when you are weeping. When you laugh I’ll laugh with you. I will share your joy and sorrow ‘til we’ve seen this journey through. Whatever the day has brought, joys or sorrows, there comes a healing peace and togetherness at Night Prayer; the labours of the day are over, tomorrow’s troubles and challenges can wait ’til morning, now there comes rest and sleep for the weary pilgrims of love. A deep sense of gratitude sweeps over me as I look at each of my sisters in all their vulnerability and hidden heroic efforts...the sheer beauty of human life, the privilege of walking the road, rubbing the shoulders of these saints-in-the making. Yes, it is good to be here... BACK TO TOP Wednesday 31st January 2024 Storms and Springtime At this time of year, the weather here in Ireland vacillates between cold winter storms and warm bright days with a taste of springtime. This can happen even within the same day! In the midst of particularly bad storms, like we had recently with Storm Isha, and especially for those whose homes or property was damaged, it is hard to imagine the good and pleasant days of late spring and summer. Similarly, on a lovely warm spring afternoon like we had here in Dublin a few days ago, with temperatures hitting record highs for January, it is hard to remember that only a few days previously the top came off our old monkey puzzle tree trunk in Storm Isha! This reminds me of the verse from the Book of Ecclesiasticus (Sirach): “At a time of prosperity, adversity is forgotten, and at a time of adversity, prosperity is not remembered” (Sir 11:25). Isn’t human life just like this? We have storms and sunshine at different times during our lives. Hopefully nobody has a lifetime full of only storms! During difficult times of suffering, illness and loss, we forget about positive things that have happened in our lives, or we find it hard to recognise positive things around us. The storms seem to be eternal. But they will pass. The Meterological experts give names to bad storms in order to make it easier to communicate about them and somehow help people to get through them with minimal impact. Perhaps at times it would help to do the same with our life storms in order to help us to see past them to a future springtime when the flowers will blossom again in our lives? If you are in a storm right now, know that we are praying for you here at Kilmacud and take heart from the words of Scripture and the words of our saints: See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. (Song of Songs 2:11-12) We easily forget that nothing lasts forever. No pain or pleasure is eternal. As St Teresa wisely prayed, God alone is unchanging. Let nothing disturb you, nothing frighten you, All things are passing, God is unchanging. Patience gains all; nothing is lacking to those who have God: God alone is sufficient St Teresa de Jesus (of Avila) Fun Fact: Between 1864 and 1922, only 4 people were born in Ireland with the surname “Storm”, but 250 people were born in the same period with the surname “Spring”. The name “Storm” as a given first-name was first recorded in the USA in 1946, and in recent years it has become more popular as a first name for both boys and girls. The first name “Spring”, used only for girls is slightly more popular. BACK TO TOP Wednesday 17th January 2024 The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity We have come a long way since the Octave of Christian Unity was first introduced in 1908. Father Paul Wattson who was born in Maryland, U.S.A. in 1863 was the one who suggested this title, which remained in force until 1963 when it was officially changed to the ‘Week of Prayer for Christian unity’. Fr. Paul was ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1886. In 1898, in collaboration with an Episcopal sister, Lurana White, he helped to found the Society of the Atonement, known as the Graymoor Franciscans. From the beginning they were committed to promoting Christian unity. Although they were established as an Anglican order, they became Roman Catholic in 1909. The Octave is kept every year, beginning on January 18th and closing on January 25, the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, though Christians in the Southern Hemisphere, more often keep it between the Feast of the Ascension and Pentecost. In January 1964 Pope St. Paul VI and Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople met, and embraced, in Jerusalem and in 1965 they lifted the mutual excommunications their churches had imposed in 1054. Pope Francis marked the anniversary of this momentous reconciliation after his Angelus address on January 6th this year (2024) when he told the crowd in St. Peter's Square that the two leaders had ‘broken down a wall of incommunicability that had kept Catholics and Orthodox apart for centuries’. He went on to say ‘Let us learn from the embrace of those two great men of the church on the path to Christian unity: praying together, walking together and working together.’ Some of the highlights in Vatican ecumenical relations over the past year include: Pope Francis' ecumenical peace pilgrimage to South Sudan on February 3rd 2023, with Anglican Archbishop Welby and the Rev. Iain Greenshields, moderator of the Church of Scotland; The Vatican visit of Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria, Egypt; and Pope Francis' announcement that he added the 21 Coptic martyrs murdered by Islamic State terrorists in 2015 to the Roman Martyrology, the list of saints' feast days; and finally, the ecumenical prayer vigil that preceded the opening of the Synod of Bishops on synodality. We give thanks that in recent years participation in ecumenical dialogue and shared worship, has changed the outlook of many people towards other churches. Clergy fraternals, ecumenical prayer groups, Lent courses and study groups have become so usual that it can become easy to forget that we are still on a journey towards full unity, but it is something we should always bear in mind. Each year Christians in different countries choose a theme and prepare the prayers and reflections for the ‘Week of Prayer for Cristian Unity’. This year they have been prepared by an ecumenical group of Christians in Burkina Faso and they focus on the theme, "You shall love the Lord your God … and your neighbour as yourself". There has been a serious security crisis in Burkina Faso since 2016 and Christians have been targeted in jihadist terrorist attacks, forcing hundreds of churches to close. Yet, the situation has prompted Christian communities not only to pray for peace, but to work together to care for people displaced by the fighting and to promote Christian-Muslim dialogue. BACK TO TOP Wednesday 10th January 2024 The Wonder of a Call Yes the call of God is a wonderous thing. There is no explanation for it other than the love which God bears for the person He calls. This marvellous love is absolutely free, personal and unique. These days in the gospel we hear Jesus saying to his disciples “ follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” St. John of the Cross loved to say, “ if a person is seeking God, the Beloved is seeking that person much more”. Yes it is God who calls, sends, and who enables the person to bear fruit for the Kingdom. You did not choose me, no I chose you and commissioned you to go out and bear fruit, fruit that will last. These early days of the span New Year 2024 we are rejoicing that Shauna has entered our Kilmacud Carmel in response to the call of God. In the words of St. Teresa, she is venturing her life in order to love Jesus and to make Him loved: to be “love in the heart of the Church”. St. Teresa liked to tell each new person entering that she is a foundation stone for those will come after her and that the Order of the Virgin, Our Lady of Mount Carmel begins again with her. That inspires and puts courage into the person entering. I remember a little girl of five asking me if I started as a little small nun first and then grew into a big one! Her second question followed “was your mother an old nun down in the Convent?” I can still see her little intent face trying to figure it out. She listened with great attention as I explained that I was just like her, a little girl at home with a mammy and daddy and sisters and a brother and went to school like her. That I learnt about God how He loved all his children and wanted them to be happy and good. The wish grew in me to know and love God more. It was when I was 19 that I said yes to the call of God. We thank all who have prayed for the gift of new vocations to our Carmel. Please continue to pray for Shauna and for us too that we will be the good soil in which her vocation can grow. BACK TO TOP Monday 1st January 2024 For all that has been… “For all that has been, Thank you. For all that is to come, Yes!” (Dag Hammarskjold) The above quote by Dag Hammarskjold never loses its power. It is also very apt at the beginning of a NEW YEAR. Dag Hammarskjold was a man who was an inspiration to our world and whose influence continues through his writings. He was Secretary General of the United Nations and worked tirelessly for PEACE. He was also a spiritual man and all he did was guided by his inner compass. He encouraged prayer and silent meditation while faithfully carrying out his duties. He endeavoured to work for peace in conflicted areas of the world. Pope Francis in his Christmas message to the world (Urbi et Orbi)speaks out strongly as he prays and pleads for PEACE. He has this to say ‘if we say “yes” to the Prince of Peace, then, that means saying “no” to war; to every war and to do so with courage, “no” to the very mindset of war, an aimless voyage, a defeat without victors, an inexcusable folly.’ And he continues ‘to say “no” to war means saying “no” to weaponry. The human heart is weak and impulsive; if we find instruments of death in our hands, sooner or later we will use them. And how can we even speak of peace, when arms production, sales and trade are on the rise?’ Peace is the fruit of relationships that recognize and welcome others in their inalienable dignity and right to life. As we begin a new year we renew our desire to pray and work for peace. Peace with ourselves, peace in our hearts and peace in our world. A Blessed New Year to you and your families from the Sisters at St. Joseph’s Monastery Kilmacud A Prayer for the Year By Pope Francis All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures. You embrace with your tenderness all that exists. Pour out upon us the power of your love, that we may protect life and beauty. Fill us with peace, that we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one. O God of the poor, help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this Earth, so precious in your eyes. Bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world and not prey on it, that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction. Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain at the expense of the poor and the Earth. Teach us to discover the worth of each thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation, to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature as we journey towards your infinite light. We thank you for being with us each day. Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle for justice, love and peace. Amen. BACK TO TOP Saturday 30th December 2023 Amazed "Only wonder knows...” (St. Gregory of Nyssa) Naples is well known for its crib- statues. Among the others there is one particularly interesting. It is called ‘Enchanted Shepherd’, or ‘Amazed’. It represents an empty-handed child with open arms, while its countenance radiates wonder. It recalls a legend: One day the little statues started scolding ‘Amazed’ because he was not bringing any gift to Baby Jesus. “Shame on you”, they said, “are you going to visit Jesus without offering him anything?” Amazed would not answer a word. He was totally captured by little Jesus. The rebukes grew louder and louder. At that point Mary took his defence. “Amazed is not empty-handed. Don’t you see, he is giving Jesus his wonder, his amazement? God’s love, incarnate in the tiny little child, enchants him”. When all understood, Mary concluded: “the world will be marvellous when people will be capable of wonder, like ‘Amazed’. Do you realise? For the love of us, God became man, so that we may become divine.” Pope Francis obviously knows this wonder as he asks the question: “Why does the Christmas Nativity scene rouse such wonder and move us so deeply”? “Because”, he says, “it shows God’s tender love; the creator of the universe lowers himself to take up our littleness”. St. Therese too was caught up in this wonder: “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”. Before these days of Christmastide slip by, may our hearts too be captured by that wonder as we gaze in amazement at our God who has become a tiny infant of love and mercy, for you, for me... BACK TO TOP Saturday 23rd December 2023 Waiting Do you like waiting? I am guessing that most of us do not! Whether it is waiting for a bus that is late, or waiting in the supermarket queue, it is usually difficult for us humans to wait. We constantly plan and anticipate the future and so the uncertainty of having to wait makes us uncomfortable. The rock band Queen have a song with the lyrics: “I want it all, and I want it now!” This epitomises our modern culture! We want an instant reply to our text messages, or when we ring a doorbell, we expect it to be answered immediately. We really do not like having to wait! In my life, I have learned some good lessons about the importance of waiting. Once I was in an international group who were participating in the Mass with Pope John Paul II in Toronto, Canada. Each of us would have a particular role in the liturgy, and the leaders would not tell us what our role was until the day before, so for a week of events we had to wait and wonder. They reminded us constantly: “participate, don’t anticipate”. It was a good lesson that I never forgot. We can participate in the present moment and live life much more fully than if we constantly anticipate the future. I had an elderly grandaunt who was severely disabled. When I called to visit her and rang the doorbell, it took a long time for her to struggle out of her chair, take her walking aid and slowly move step by step to the front door. For security she often had double locks on the door, and I had to wait patiently there until she got the door opened and welcomed me inside. She told me that often many people went away before she could get to answer the door and she always thanked me for waiting. Some waiting is joyful, like waiting for the birth of a much- wanted child or waiting for the return home of a loved one. When we find ourselves in joyful waiting, why not just savour the experience of the joy instead of wanting the outcome immediately? Other times, our waiting is anxious and stressful, such as waiting for news of a medical test or prognosis on the illness of a loved one. In these times, we need the support of others in our waiting. This is why I chose the image of four Sisters with candles to accompany this reflection. In dark times of waiting, like the faithful Jewish people who waited centuries of oppression and suffering for the coming of the Messiah, our strength will be found in the community of support around us. St Paul wrote to the Romans: “…hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (Rom 8:24-25). Patience is one of the key virtues of a Christian, and it is a beautiful virtue. Isn’t it true that we cannot learn patience unless we are in situations where we need to be patient? So in our waiting, instead of feeling frustration perhaps we can see it as a learning experience to better ourselves? Mary teaches us to be patient during these Advent days. We cannot hurry God’s plan. Let us make good use of these last days of waiting for the birth of Jesus. Whatever type of waiting we experience – whether it is joyful or anxious – let us remember that the One who is born on Christmas night is called Emmanuel – “God-with-us” – and he is with us at every moment of whatever the future holds! BACK TO TOP Thursday 14th December 2023 John and Teresa This week we celebrate the Feast of St. John of the Cross. Among other things he was a great friend and helper of St. Teresa of Avila. John first met Teresa at Medina del Campo shortly after she had made the foundation of St. Joseph’s, her first Discalced Carmelite Monastery. She was in Medina del Campo trying to negotiate the foundation of another monastery for the discalced nuns but she had also obtained permission make two foundations for discalced friars. John was a newly ordained Carmelite and he had gone to Medina to celebrate his first Mass, but he was unsettled and thinking of transferring to the Carthusian Order so that he could have more solitude and silence. Teresa was fifty-two and John was twenty-five when they first met, but they recognised an affinity between them and John shared his longing for a more contemplative life with her. Teresa assured him that if he would join her reform he would be able to have more solitude and silence without leaving Carmel. Soon afterwards Teresa was given a small farmhouse at Duruelo which she planned to use for the first friars. She was rather distressed at the bad state of it but John went there to work on it so that it could be lived in. Fr. Antonio soon joined him there and the first Discalced Carmelite Friars were founded. Some years later Teresa was made to take on the role of prioress at the Monastery of the Incarnation in Avila. This was where she had lived before beginning her reform, and the nuns did not want her because they were afraid she would want to make them part of her reform movement. Teresa did not want to impose her reform on the community, but she did want to correct abuses and restore community life. To do this she needed help and support and she could think of no better person to give it than John of the Cross. Very soon John and another friar moved into one of the houses used for workmen in the grounds of the monastery. Teresa had such a high regard for John that she told the nuns she was giving them a saint for their confessor. Under John’s guidance they deepened their spiritual lives as he spent many hours talking them and encouraging them. He listened to them intently and became aware of their various needs. John showed exceptional care for the sick sisters and sent special dishes he was given to the infirmary for whoever was in greatest need of cheer and nourishment. Without becoming Discalced Carmelites the nuns at the Incarnation became a transformed community. While he was at Avila John’s own prayer deepened and he became intensely aware of God’s continual presence in the beauty of the countryside as well as in his own soul. He began to write a little poetry and to carve simple crucifixes. Always patient and understanding with people John was a great favourite both with the nuns and with the townspeople. He got to know the children of workmen;they were poor, just like he had been as a child. As well as teaching them catechism he taught then the basics of reading and writing, knowing that this would help them in later life. BACK TO TOP Thursday 7th December 2023 God’s dream for us On this mountain the Lord of Hosts will prepare for all peoples a banquet of rich food. On this mountain the Lord will remove the mourning veil covering all peoples. He will destroy death forever. The Lord will wipe away the tears from every cheek: He will take away His people’s shame everywhere on earth. That day it will be said: see this is our God in whom we hoped for salvation. Isaiah 25. In this passage don’t we catch a glimpse of God’s dream for the world. He dreams that we will be His family on earth, caring for each other, sharing with each other, weeping for each other. Jesus came to show us what this family of God would look like - where no one would go hungry or thirsty or naked or sick or be in prison with no one to visit them. Jesus is Emmanuel – God with us and He will never leave us. Not only is He with us but He is in each of us so His kingdom of love and goodness can grow through you and me and everyone. When we do good, His love is shining out of your eyes and mine. Advent is a great time to let the dream of God warm our hearts and fill us with hope even in the midst of our war-torn world where men, women and children suffer so grievously. Let us listen to St. Paul who encourages us not be overcome by evil but to overcome evil with good. God’s love and goodness in the heart of His children is unstoppable though it never hits the headlines. So let us cry out this Advent - O Emmanuel stay with us forever. Live and love through us and let God’s dream for his family be fulfilled. BACK TO TOP
These reflections are also posted on our new BLOG page. Click here…
St. Joseph’s Carmel