Wednesday 18th May 2022 ’Teacup talk of God’ In his poem -Tired of speaking sweetly - the poet Hafiz has this to say; ‘Love wants to reach out .... and break all our teacup talk of God Hold us upside down and shake all the nonsense out.’ The poet then goes on to say when we hear God is in such a playful mood; ‘Most everyone I know quickly packs their bags and hightails it Out of town.’ (Hafiz https://steemit.com/poetry/@saramiller) The above quote I am sure makes you smile and at the same time recognise the truth of the words spoken by the poet. Is he trying to call us to be more real with ourselves, others and God? To stop clinging to images of our false self an unattainable self? But the big challenge is being real/truthful with self first of all before we reach out to our neighbour. Another short quote helps to guide us in our search for the real self: ‘What you are looking for is what you are LOOKING FROM’ We have this great treasure within ourselves and we search in so many different places and wear a thousand masks. St. Augustine famous quote comes to mind “Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace. Pope Francis reiterated these thoughts recently especially during the canonisations last Sunday of 10 very different saints from all walks of life a layperson, religious sisters and priest. In his homily, he reminds the faithful to recognize how God loves us unconditionally and how the path to holiness is "so simple". But the first step is so important, our awareness of God’s love for us. The Pope said "God has a dream for your life. Welcome that dream, and pursue it with joy." The Holy Father later in his homily encouraged all of us to pursue our own call to holiness, a form of holiness all our own, "not a photocopy of someone else's holiness." When we know ourselves as loved by God and are aware of this great presence within, we will reach out and share this gift with all we meet. We will want to give the fullness of ourselves to God and neighbour. Then we will know our ‘teacup talk of God’ is real and genuine. BACK TO TOP Wednesday 11th May 2022 Tenderness… God of peace and justice, you open our hearts to love and the joy of the Gospel, even in the midst of every hatred and degradation of our brothers and sisters. Make of us your witnesses in today’s world, so that, like Saint Titus Brandsma we may see the tenderness beyond the horrors of inhumanity to your glory that shines through the martyrs of every age. Amen. Reading this special prayer for Titus Brandsma who will be canonised in Rome on Sunday, the word tenderness stood out for me and touched my heart...It reminded me of Pope Francis’ firm belief that our modern world needs a ‘revolution of tenderness’. Doesn’t it seem a contradiction? We normally think of a revolution as something that has massive power and force behind it, and yet tenderness connotes a softness, weakness even, little gestures... I recalled the prophetic words of Pope St. John Paul 11 in his passionate plea for peace in Northern Ireland, during his visit to Ireland in 1979: In the years to come, when the words of hatred and the deeds of violence are forgotten, it is the words of love and the acts of peace and forgiveness which will be remembered. It is these which will inspire the generations to come.... Think of the fields of red poppies that spring up from devastated battlefields or the rare golden flowers that rise from the ashes of intense forest fires...Nature’s ‘silver lining’... Titus stood out for his sense of fraternity, unfailing humanity, and tenderness towards all who surrounded him, especially in the dungeon what was Dachau...Tizia, the nurse who gave him the lethal injection, testified how the compassion and kindness in Titus’ way of looking at her helped her feel the mercy of God and to find herself again. I am convinced that similar stories of human tenderness and heroism will emerge from the unspeakable suffering of the people of Ukraine and other parts of our war-torn world...this irrepressible spirit of tenderness of the human heart will spring up and live on because it is a spark of God’s very own tenderness. May our new Carmelite Saint Titus help us to reflect the mercy and tenderness of God in our daily lives... BACK TO TOP Friday 6th May 2022 Birds of prey and praying birds! There has been some excitement in the community this week due to the sighting of a strange new bird by some of the nuns. After some discussion and consulting of bird-books and photographs, the consensus is that it was a sparrow hawk! This is the first time I have heard of a bird of prey in this part of south-Dublin, but apparently, they are more common than one thinks. So, this morning I set out on a garden walk to try and spot the new arrival for myself. Thirty minutes and thirteen different species of bird later there was still no sign of the elusive newcomer. But just then, the sweet singing of a thrush grabbed my attention. I looked up and saw it perched on the highest point of a scraggy old pine-tree, the top section of which looks like the skeleton trees in the bombed streets of Ukraine that we see on the news lately. As I listened to the thrush, I was reminded of the words that are attributed to St Augustine (though their true origin is debated): “To sing is to pray twice”, and in a split second I made the connection with something I heard many years ago when going on a pilgrimage to Lourdes – the group were advised that some people go there to “pray” and others go to “prey”, so we should be attentive about our belongings. As today is the First Friday of May, and a day when we will receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, my garden-bird walk has prompted me to contemplate if I am a “bird of prey” or a “praying bird” in the lives of those around me. How well do I pray for others, and do I lift them up in an unrestrained song of prayer to God like the thrush singing its heart out? Or do I subtly prey on those I can use for my own advantage or pleasure? It is a deep and personal question, and a difficult one, but it is another tool to help me on the constant journey of self-discovery and growth in truth and justice. With gratitude to the sparrowhawk (I will spot you someday!) and the beautiful song thrush!! Images: pixabay.com BACK TO TOP Thursday 28th April 2022 Rock and Roll We human beings often resist the new. We become comfortable in our habitual patterns and our accustomed weakness and settle to live in the landscape of reluctance with a large boulder at the entrance. All we have is life. Things, cars, houses, jobs, hobbies come and go, turn to dust and disappear. Things do not make life. Maybe we are alive for reasons other than productivity or consumption? Have we pared back God and his grace to fit our small minds? When we have every angle calculated ---- figured out that we know all the possibilities, then nothing new can come along to surprise us! We know we should, and could, make more effort but we feel entombed in longstanding habits of laziness and distraction. Our ready answer can often be ----“I’ve tried, but it didn’t work!” But RESURRECTION tells us it is never too late. The boulder can be rocked and rolled back and we can poke our heads out from the land of reluctance, take off the blindfold and draw in a deep breath of refreshing, reinvigorating RESURRECTON AIR! Each morning we awaken to the light and the invitation to a new day. “Listen. Put on morning. Waken into falling light.” (W.S. Graham) When we begin to awaken to the light of soul, life takes on a new depth. We have courage to explore new parts of life that we have not yet experienced. After all, this is the newest moment of our life –and God is breath-near - it is never too late- Alleluia! BACK TO TOP Friday 22nd April 2022 Resurrection Sunrise pictures like this one always speak to me of resurrection. I imagine the Risen Lord coming across that golden path to greet us and wrap us in his resurrection light. This is a morning picture, but the sun leaves a similar trail when it is setting and the golden path also reminds me of St. Therese writing about a visit to the sea at Trouville when she was about seven years old. She tells us that she was transfixed by the sight of the sea as everything about it spoke to her of God’s majesty, grandeur and power. She goes on to say ‘In the evening at that moment when the sun seems to bathe itself in the immensity of the waves leaving a luminous trail behind I went and sat down on the huge rock with Pauline. Then I recalled the touching story of ‘The Golden Trail’*…I contemplated this luminous trail for a long time. It was to me the image of God’s grace shedding its light across the path the little white-sailed vessel had to travel and I made the resolution never to wander far from the glance of Jesus in order to travel peacefully towards the eternal shore.’ *This story was contained in a collection by Louise Belloc and tells of a little girl who had a dream that she was sailing in a beautiful white- sailed ship along a narrow, golden path. At some point she found herself lost in cold stormy waters, but she remembered that her mother had told her to say the ‘Our Father’ if ever she was in danger and as soon as she said the words ‘deliver us from evil’ the little ship was restored to the golden path. In the story her mother explains that ‘The brilliant golden ray teaches us that the way to heaven is luminous; but it is narrow and easy to lose; outside this path, all is cold, dark, and stormy.’ She goes on to say, ‘The way you found it again shows that only God can keep us safe and praying to him and trusting in his love is the best way to keep us on the narrow path of gold and to arrive at our good and shining home: heaven.’ BACK TO TOP Wednesday 13th April 2022 Father, forgive them for they know not what they do Holy week is upon us, the week of Love, the week of all weeks, when the Son of God laid down His life for love of us. We enter into it this year with an ever-deepening desire for God’s Merciful forgiving love to enter our hearts and our world to heal the wounds of hatred and cruelty that the present war is creating. This Holy week our hearts are still full of our beloved Sr. Kevin whose death occurred recently. She grew up with the memory of her forgiving grandmother who after her husband had been shot dead before her eyes in their home, had gathered her sixteen children around his coffin and asked them to promise that they would never take revenge for the death of their father. That was only months before Sr. Kevin’s own father, one of those sixteen children was gunned down on his way to Mass. Forgiveness was on his lips too as he lay dying. So, the words of Jesus on the cross, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” meant a great deal to our dear Sr. Kevin. The depth of Christ’s love for us in His passion death and resurrection never failed to fill her with thanksgiving and joy. The hymn we sing this week was one of her favourites. My song is Love unknown, My Saviour’s love to me, Love to the loveless shown That they might lovely be. O who am I, that for my sake My Lord should take, Frail flesh and die. Another charismatic hymn that she loved was: 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. Dear Sr. Kevin from your Heavenly home teach us how to bear patiently with wrongs done to us and to see them as opportunities for loving and forgiving as you did. BACK TO TOP Wednesday 6th April 2022 The little boy at the train station The image of father and son says it all Separation, heartbreak, loss and fear, The Father sending his family away To ‘God only knows where’. The Mother now has to be ‘Mother and Father’ to her children. And what lies ahead? What is at stake? When will it all end? No answers - for now Just a powerful last sad gaze of Father and Son And the Mother Says it all. A single photograph can often say more than words can express! (Click here to see photo, we cannot reproduce here for copyright reasons) Recently a photo stopped me in my tracks. It expressed so much pain and angst. It was a Ukrainian man holding his son at the train station. His sad gaze was on a beautiful 2 year old boy. Their eyes were focused on each other father and son. The Father heartbroken and the child confused but still trusting. The mother and her children were heading to some European country to set up a temporary home and wait indefinitely for the call to return home. That is their hope. The father wearing his army uniform prepared to fight for his country. He too was facing an uncertain future and his great hope and wish was to survive. Longing for the day he will gaze once more into the eyes of his son. The dream is that they will be reunited and return to their home in Ukraine. But there will be wounds to heal and probably a new home and house to rebuild. The child innocent and trusting his parents but sensing something is not right. This little boy represents so many children in Ukraine over the past weeks. We know some have even lost their lives in this war. What can we adults do for those most vulnerable in our world that we call our ‘Common Home’? One photo can say so much and the story behind it is repeated in every war torn country from Syria to Tigray to places almost forgotten about by the International media. But after the wars the damage is incalculable and a new spirit is needed to rebuild and restore all that has been damaged on a human as well as material level. We are committed to the Care of our Common Home. Within this care we also need to look at the lethal weapons of mass destruction that exist and are stock piled by countries for no good purpose. It is also an industry. Surely we can come up with something more constructive to give meaningful employment? For the sake of the little boy at the train station and for future generations he represents - can we do better? We pray there will soon be an end to the war in Ukraine and all the other countries afflicted by war and we also pray for families that they will be able to rebuild their lives and make this world a better place for all to live in. BACK TO TOP Wednesday 23rd March 2022 Praying for Ukraine Some homes around our locality are displaying signs or symbols of solidarity with the suffering people of war-torn Ukraine. There are flags coloured by a school children displayed in top windows, or perhaps a vase of sunflowers, the national flower of Ukraine. We know that many generous people are opening their homes to refugees and many others are giving financial or practical donations. Everyone wants to do something. Even nature is showing solidarity these days with the bright blue skies and glorious yellow daffodils everywhere! For us, as Carmelite nuns, our main role of support is our humble and trusting prayers and I have been looking to Mary for help with this. Mary knew the deepest sorrow and now her city – Mariupol – “Mary’s City” – has suffered the most extreme devastation imaginable. The survivors will spend the rest of their lives trying to cope with the trauma they have endured. We believe, we know, that Mary understands. She stands with the people of her city and all the people of Ukraine at this time as she stood bravely at the Cross of her Son. Music always stirs my heart to deeper prayer, and these days I am listening to a 2008 album entitled “Stabat Mater” by Welsh Composer Karl Jenkins. It contains a modern musical arrangement of this ancient hymn about Mary at the foot of the Cross, mixed with various other compositions on the theme of a mother grieving loss. (Coincidentally, the cover of the CD is designed in the Ukrainian colours of blue and yellow!) One piece that particularly moves me is an original “Lament”, and I invite you to visit this link to listen to the piece: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2OxEqha0Oxg The lyrics are as follows: Feeling all the grief and sorrow we live life with sorrow in our hearts and minds, with tears that wait to fall when sorrow in the world is more than we can truly bear. We hear the cries of children, We see death cast shadows on their hearts and minds, as mothers in their grief stand crying, weeping, weeping, crying, crying, weeping, weeping for this world. On our bed of thorns such sorrows must surely end, our tears can wash away the sins of the world, no more crying, weeping, weeping, crying, crying, weeping, weeping in this world, this world. Mary is the Mother of Hope. Even in the midst of her sorrow, she had hope. As we try to unite with her in sorrow and lament for her children, so must we imitate her in hope. As the Lament goes: “The sorrows must surely end”. On Friday next, Pope Francis will consecrate the world, and especially Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Let us unite with this consecration and live in loving hope and trust that Mary our Mother will help us and all the people of Ukraine and Russia to look forward to a brighter future. BACK TO TOP Wednesday 16th March 2022 Illumine Tomorrow, I’m going to be happy; tomorrow, I am going to live. And so, when I get to secondary school, I’m going to live; when I’m in university, I’m going to live. When you get to university, you’ll say, “When I get married, I’m going to live.” After you get married, “Okay, when the children grow up, I’m going to live.” Is it possible, that you are going to die without having lived? Look at your thoughts, and you’ll see how often they are in the past or in the future. In one of his songs, John Lennon has the line: “Life is what happens when you are making other plans.” Could that be the story of our lives? Our lives slip away and we are always on our way to somewhere else! God isn’t tomorrow; God is now. Life isn’t tomorrow; it is now. And so, when you are inhaling, be aware that you are inhaling. And when you are exhaling, be aware that you are exhaling --- and you’ll come into the NOW and it is in the NOW that God is waiting for you. Little by little, one moment of silence at a time, you can come to know yourself and the barriers you put between yourself and God who is waiting to be gracious to you. He waits for us to notice his blessings and for our desire to give thanks for them. Nothing occurs which is outside the scope of God’s concern, which is why St. Paul says that “by turning everything to their good, God cooperates with those who love Him” (Rm 8.28) Can we catch on to this process in which God turns everything to good? Our Carmelite sister, Edith Stein wrote: “Nothing is accidental. My entire life, even in the most minute details, was pre-designed in the plans of divine providence and is, for the all-seeing eye of God, a perfect coherence of meaning.” BACK TO TOP Wednesday 9th March 2022 Titus Brandsma This week we heard the great news that Blessed Titus Brandsma will be canonised at St. Peter’s Rome on Sunday 15th May. Pope Francis made the announcement on March 4th Titus was born Anno Sjoerd Brandsma on February 23rd 1881, in Oegeklooster, Freisland, in northern Holland, where his parents ran a dairy farm. He was one of seven children, six of whom became religious. From the age of 11 young Anno wanted to be a priest and when he was seventeen he began his Carmelite novitiate at Boxmeer. It was there that he was given the religious name Titus, which was in fact his father’s baptismal name. Titus was ordained in 1905 and sent to Rome for further studies. After gaining his Doctorate in Divinity he returned to Holland and taught philosophy in the Catholic University at Nijmegen and in 1932 he was appointed rector there. Titus lectured extensively, especially on Carmelite mysticism, not only in Holland, but all over Europe and in the United States. In preparation for a lecture tour in the U.S. he came to Ireland to improve his English and stayed with his brother friars at Whitefriar Street, Dublin and at Kinsale, Co. Cork. In 1935, the same year that Titus was in Ireland, the Dutch bishops appointed him chaplain and advisor to Catholic journalists. When the Nazis invaded and occupied Holland in 1940 Titus courageously spoke out against the persecution of the Jews and encouraged Catholic newspapers to refuse to publish Nazi propaganda. The Nazis named him a ‘dangerous little friar’. It was his active opposition to the Nazi ideology and his Christian stance for freedom of the press and the dignity of all people regardless of race or religion, which led to his arrest on January 19th 1942. He was taken to the prison at Scheveningen, and from there to the concentration camp at Amersfoot, back to Scheveningen for questioning and finally to the Concentration Camp at Dachau where he was killed by lethal injection on July 26th 1942. He told the nurse who gave him the injection that he would pray for her and gave her a rosary. His prayers were answered when she later became a Catholic and gave important testimony in his beatification process. She testified ‘I was brought back to the right way through the intercession of Fr. Titus. Personally I consider him a martyr because National Socialism was a kind of anti-Christ’. Titus was beatified by Pope John Paul II on November 3rd 1985 since when the feast of Blessed Titus Brandsma O. Carm. Priest and Martyr, has been kept on July 27th each year. In his deep suffering Titus never failed to pray for his persecutors. He wrote ‘God bless the Netherlands! God bless Germany! May God grant these two peoples to return to the path of peace and freedom, and to recognise his Glory for the good of these two nations that are so close. As war continues to rage in our own time we might do well to pray that same prayer for the Ukraine and Russia and to ask Titus to add his plea to ours. BACK TO TOP Wednesday 2nd March 2022 “Behold your Mother ” A great blessing came our way at the height of the pandemic. We were asked if the pilgrim statue of our Lady of Fatima could rest with us privately until such time as it was safe for Her to continue to travel round the dioceses of Ireland when the restrictions had eased. Needless to say, we joyfully welcomed this gift of God. We enthroned her in the novitiate room upstairs. We did not put on her crown while she is with us as St. Therese said, “Mary is more Mother than Queen.” It is hard to put into words that look of loving concern and compassion that is on the face of the Virgin of Fatima…. It is as if She is gathering the pain and distress of the people of the whole world into her loving embrace and bringing them to her Son Jesus for us. From the cross at the height of His agony didn’t He give Her to us as our Mother – “Behold your Mother.” We pray in the Hail Holy Queen: “Turn then O Most Gracious Advocate your eyes of Mercy towards us.” At this moment in time as I write, when the whole world is trembling for the capital of Ukraine surrounded by the Russian troops, our eyes are turned towards the Lord and His Mother ‘til they show us his Mercy. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Mt. 5) – that can be our mission this Lent - prayer and fasting for the people of the Ukraine who are suffering so grievously. We ask you too dear readers to pray for our two Carmelite communities of nuns in Kiev and Kharkiv and our friars in Berdichey who are standing by the people of Ukraine in their hour of greatest need and helping them with the support of the Order from all over the world. We leave all to you O Sweet Mother as God left all to you in Jesus. BACK TO TOP Wednesday 23rd February 2022 “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken. ” The above quote took me by surprise – it is so simple and true. Think about it! What a relief for all of us to accept who we are, warts and all. We have been created with this spark of uniqueness which adds variety to the world and is unrepeatable not only that, but we have something different and special to contribute to our world. Our uniqueness with our particular gift has been written about in so many ways down through the ages but it is a piece of wisdom we all, if we’re honest, struggle with. St. Paul teaches this truth to encourage us to live and work together in harmony accepting each other which helps us to grow in love of God and neighbour. ‘Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.’ 1 Corinthians 12:4 BACK TO TOP Thursday 17th February 2022 “I love you…” It’s Valentine’s week; the week of love, the week of the heart... The week when starry-eyed young lovers pledge themselves to each other in engagement... It’s the occasion for those who are experiencing the testing of their love through the challenges of life, to renew their love to each other. It’s the time for those who have grown old in love to rededicate themselves to their ageing spouse, now enfeebled and broken with sickness, their love now stripped of all glamour, yet love at white-heat...more radiant and beautiful than ever... Towards the end of his long life, St. John the Evangelist, ‘the disciple Jesus loved’, used to urge the early Christians, “Little children, love one another”. He repeated this again and again, so much so that his hearers asked him for something more, something new, but he persisted, “Little children, love one another.” This was the sum total of his message...He who had the privilege of leaning on Jesus’ heart. Our dear almost 99 year old sister in the Nursing Home reminds me of John. When we ask her for a little message to bring home to the Community, she invariably replies with her toothless smile... “I love you”. That’s it! Yet isn’t that enough? It says everything. It’s the one word that warms the cockles of our hearts like no other; the reassurance our hearts hunger to hear. If we are lucky this little sister will spontaneously break her long silences and treat us personally to this same benediction... “I love you”. It makes our day and resonates in our hearts for hours. I am reminded of a very precious experience I had with my dearly loved Father who had only months to live. I had been privileged to go home to spend some days with him. I was resting on a little camp bed in the same room with him, keeping vigil. He had fallen asleep, and then, as was his pattern, he wakened startled and frightened. I went over to calm him and when he saw who I was, he said my name softly and added, “I love you”, and then after a slight pause he slowly continued with touching emphasis... “...with...all... my...heart.” His words are engraved in my heart for life...I hear them again and again in all their tenderness and power. What a precious gift and blessing from my dear dying Dad. Little did he know that he was echoing our heavenly Father who through the prophet Hosea pledged his love...”I will love them with all my heart..” (14: 5). And wasn’t Abba true to his word, when he sent us Jesus, his love made flesh.... Therese, Jesus’s little Valentine, knew that language. With her dying breath she exclaimed “My God, I Love you.” May we too learn this beautiful language of the heart... BACK TO TOP Wednesday 9th February 2022 Piloting my day There’s a keen interest in aviation on both sides of my family, and it seems to have rubbed off on me! I am fascinated by planes and how they work. So, lately I have created a little analogy for myself between my life in the monastery and the pilot of an airplane flight. It’s an amusing and helpful way for me to approach the daily routine. An essential part of our day as Carmelite nuns is one hour of private prayer every morning, and another hour in the late afternoon. In the morning it is a space for my pre-flight checks. What will be my route and direction today? How much weight am I carrying? Do I have enough fuel for the journey or will I need to stop and re-fuel during the day? What weather am I expecting today? Will there be storms that I have to navigate around, or will there be a head-wind causing me extra strain? All these questions are things that I can discuss with God in my morning hour and so prepare myself for “take-off” which is the Mass or Communion Service which follows our morning prayer. During the day, when I am cruising along, I may run on “autopilot” much of the time, but this is no harm once I remember to check my fuel levels (energy) regularly, and also keep in contact with Air Traffic Control (ATC), or for me that can be understood as my “Almighty Tender Comfortor”. Yes, God is the one who is always keeping an eye on me, and will try to communicate with me if I go off-track or encounter some unusual turbulence. Of course, I need to be prepared for emergencies or unplanned changes of course that can occur at any time. At these times, I turn off the “autopilot” and begin manual and mindful control in order to adapt and cope with the sudden challenges. Most of all, at these times, it is important to remain calm and focused. As evening comes, my quiet hour is a time to prepare for landing. Pilots use the expression “glide slope” to describe the gradual decrease in altitude. It is not safe to come down too quickly. It is the same for me, I need a “stabilised approach” to the end of the day, so that I can touch-down and come to rest after my long day’s journey. BACK TO TOP Thursday 3rd February 2022 Everything “We must bring him everything! Your dreams, your successes, your rejoicing. And if you have little to rejoice over, Bring him that little. And if your life seems only like a heap of fragments, Bring him the fragments. And if you have only empty hands, Bring him your empty hands. Shattered hopes are his material; In his hands all are made good.” ( Meister Eckhart) Yes, as I sit by the window I sense in the renewal of brighter sunlight that I am free to begin again ------ and spring will soon arrive to renew hope! BACK TO TOP Thursday 27th January 2022 Fr Paul Wattson As we have recently been celebrating the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, I thought it would be appropriate say a few words about Fr. Paul Wattson (1863-1940) who introduced the ‘Octave of Christian Unity’ in 1908 at Graymoor, 50 miles north of New York City, where he had co-founded a community, known as the Graymoor Friars of the Atonement. Father Paul was born on January 16, 1863 in Millington, Maryland, U.S.A. His father, Joseph Wattson was an Episcopal (Anglican) priest. Fr. Paul was baptised Lewis Thomas but later took Paul as his religious name. He followed in his father’s footsteps and was ordained in the American Episcopalian Church in 1886. Twelve years later together with an Episcopalian sister, Lurana White, he founded the Society of the Atonement, for a community of friars and a community of sisters. In the beginning they were Anglican Franciscans, but as both Fr. Paul and Sr. Lurana were Anglo-Catholics who desired unity with Rome, they faced considerable opposition. In October 1909, Father Paul, Sister Lurana, and a few others who had joined them were received into the Roman Catholic Church by Monsignor Joseph Conroy of Ogdensburg, New York. This was the first time a complete Anglican religious community had been received into the Roman Catholic Church. The two communities of Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Atonement remained at Graymoor. The Church Unity Octave first celebrated at Graymoor in 1908, now known as the ‘Week of Prayer for Christian Unity’ has become an annual worldwide event among Christians of all denominations, held every January, and appropriately ending on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. Pope John XXIII wanted the Catholic Church to be involved in the ecumenical movement and he set up The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in 1960. In 1966, the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches and the Vatican Secretariat/Council for Promoting Christian Unity began collaborating on a common international text for use worldwide during this week. Some Catholics were still hesitant about becoming involved but in 1993 the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity explicitly encouraged participation. Fr. Paul of Graymoor, pioneer of Christian Unity, is now known as Servant of God. Cardinal Timothy Dolan introduced his cause for canonization in the Archdiocese of New York in 2015. By July 2019 Rome had examined all the documents and closed the diocesan phase of the process. Fr. Paul’s cause is currently being considered in Rome where a summary will be prepared of his life and virtues. To learn more about Fr. Paul visit http://fatherpaulofgraymoor.org/ BACK TO TOP Wednesday 19th January 2022 Do not be afraid (Matthew 17:8) These words are so often repeated by Jesus in the Gospels. Do not be afraid, trust, let not your hearts be troubled. You could say our present world in this time of pandemic is riddled with fear and insecurity. The disciples who walked with Jesus were no strangers to fear either. When they saw Him transfigured on the mountain, his face shining like the sun, and heard the Father’s voice saying “this in my Son , the beloved, listen to Him” they fell to the ground overcome by fear. It is the voice of Jesus telling them “get up, do not be afraid” that enables them to overcome their terror. Yes, that is what would heal us too of our fear and create trust in us if we could listen to the voice of Jesus and let it reach down into the roots of our being. We have a new young Spanish Fr. General in our Carmelite family – a man of deep trust in the power of God. He shared with us in his Christmas letter what his first experience of being General was like. How initially he felt so small before the enormity of the task in front of him but how this gave way, little by little to a confidence that allows itself to be led and taught. The words Our Lord spoke to St. Teresa when she too felt overpowered by the task ahead, came to his aid: “Do what lies in your power, surrender yourself to me.” He goes on to tell us then that “the impossible is the privileged terrain” for the experience of God” – that the best of our history took place in impossible circumstances! What seems impossible for us is possible for God if only we would ask for His help and not give up. If only we could trust in his voice which says to us, “It is I do not be afraid”. He tells us then that Mary’s Magnificat is our school of life for the present time. It is the song that reveals God’s truth in darkest times. “In the heart of Mary, poor and humble is heard the victory of God, His salvation in the midst of all the catastrophes and injustices.” So, the heart of a young woman from Nazareth changes the history of humanity through her trust in God’s promises. God can heal and renew our present world too, sick in body and soul as it is, through our little lives, if we but call on Him and trust in Him as Mary did. Dear Reader, let us get up and not be afraid to walk together, with Mary’s bold yes in our hearts and her song of God’s victory on our lips. My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. My Spirit sings to God my saving God. Click here to see us singing the Magnificat: https://youtu.be/hzVN93AAalM BACK TO TOP Wednesday 12th January 2022 Kitchen Memories and the New Year "The past is behind, learn from it. The future is ahead, prepare for it. The present is here, live it." - Thomas S. Monson. As we begin our journey in a New Year it is helpful to recall the past. We may ask - why? One response might be to live the present with gratitude and to look forward with hope. Who we are and what has shaped our lives, the whole mix, can teach us what we might do differently in the future. So what has all that got to do with kitchens and the Aga cooker in our monastery kitchen? Recently when my two three-year-old grandnieces visited the monastery their first question for me was ‘where is your kitchen?’ What was going through their minds? Perhaps the kitchen, for them and for all of us, is so central to the life of any family - a place where a lot happens. It brought to mind my own memories of growing up on a farm, where the kitchen was the hub of family life. All of these memories took on a new life during the past year when I was reconnected, you might say, with the Aga cooker. I haven’t seen one since my youth. The kitchen was the warmest room in the house, thanks to the Aga, so it was where we gathered at certain times during the day. The busy work of preparing family meals, times for tea breaks where news of the day was shared, all took place in the kitchen. On a farm it sometimes happened that a sick lamb was brought into the kitchen. A blessed candle lit. The lamb was put beside the cooker to get some heat and gently given a few spoons of warm milk and whisky to see if it could revive. Often within no time the lamb was up and running around and ready to return to the barn. There is a much quoted saying of St. Teresa of Avila, ‘God’s [presence] is found among the pots and pans’. And we are also reminded of St Martha and the scripture passage where Jesus said to her ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her (Luke 41-42)’. Martha obviously enjoyed preparing meals and welcoming people - especially Jesus - but she allowed her inner peace to be disturbed. The gentle reminder of Jesus, I am sure, helped her refocus on what was needed. With these memories generated by my grandnieces and the Aga cooker, I am reminded of the past. While I enjoy recalling these moments as I begin a New Year, I am reminded that we are nurtured by these memories which have helped shape who we are today. The journey continues with renewed trust, hope and excitement because we know from experience we are guided on our way by God’s Spirit. We need times of companionship and times of solitude to reflect on God’s Presence in our daily lives. Sometimes the kitchen is the place where we begin to find this spiritual food. "The future depends on what we do in the present." - Mahatma Gandhi. BACK TO TOP Thursday 6th January 2022 All eyes on Jesus It’s Epiphany and soon our cribs will be packed away for another year, but once again I want to kneel and ponder the powerful lesson that touches my heart every year; this year again... Looking into the crib, I’m always struck by how the eyes of all the figures, Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds, the 3 Wise Men and even the animals are all focussed on the little Baby at the centre. All are drawn as by a magnet to gaze on Him and in so doing they are drawn closer to each other. Isn’t there a beautiful harmony, communion and peace emanating from the crib... because all are united in their gaze on Jesus? What a lesson that is for us all... I’m reminded of St. Teresa’s advice to us in her Way of Perfection, her prayer manuel for her Sisters...”I don’t’ ask you to say anything, just to look at him... He never takes his eyes off you.” What a heartening truth! Yes, prayer is as easy as a gaze; an answering gaze to His look of Love... Remember the little old peasant who told the Cure d’ Ars the secret of his prayer? “He looks at me and I looks at Him.” How beautifully simple and yet how profound... St. Therese knew that secret too “ For me, prayer is an aspiration of the heart, it is a simple glance directed to heaven, it is a cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trial as well as joy...” With daring trust she could ask, ”If through weakness I sometimes fall, may your divine glance cleanse my soul immediately, consuming all my imperfections like the fire that transforms everything in itself.” In a letter she advised her sister Celine, and advises us too... “Look Jesus in the eyes and see there how he loves you...” Therese no doubt was greatly influenced by her great mentor St. John of the Cross who wrote in his celebrated Spiritual Canticle: Pouring out a thousand graces, He passed these groves in haste; And having looked at them, With His image alone, Clothed them in beauty... (Stanza 5) When You looked at me, Your eyes imprinted Your grace in me...(Stanza 23) May He clothe you too in beauty and grace as you gaze on Him, like all the figures in the crib, opening your heart to His gaze of Love... BACK TO TOP
Sisters’ Reflections Blog
Each week one of our Sisters contributes a reflection on a topical subject, or a theme in the Liturgy.
© 2022 Carmelite Monastery of St Joseph, Kilmacud, Co. Dublin, A94 YY 33, Ireland Registered Charity in Ireland    CHY 6210 Hosted by Blacknight Made with Xara
St. Joseph’s Carmel
© 2022 Carmelite Monastery of St Joseph, Kilmacud, Co. Dublin, A94 YY 33, Ireland Registered Charity in Ireland    CHY 6210 Hosted by Blacknight Made with Xara Sisters’ Reflections Blog
Each week one of our Sisters contributes a reflection on a topical subject, or a theme in the Liturgy.
Wednesday 18th May 2022 ’Teacup talk of God’ In his poem -Tired of speaking sweetly - the poet Hafiz has this to say; ‘Love wants to reach out .... and break all our teacup talk of God Hold us upside down and shake all the nonsense out.’ The poet then goes on to say when we hear God is in such a playful mood; ‘Most everyone I know quickly packs their bags and hightails it Out of town.’ (Hafiz https://steemit.com/poetry/@saramiller) The above quote I am sure makes you smile and at the same time recognise the truth of the words spoken by the poet. Is he trying to call us to be more real with ourselves, others and God? To stop clinging to images of our false self an unattainable self? But the big challenge is being real/truthful with self first of all before we reach out to our neighbour. Another short quote helps to guide us in our search for the real self: ‘What you are looking for is what you are LOOKING FROM’ We have this great treasure within ourselves and we search in so many different places and wear a thousand masks. St. Augustine famous quote comes to mind “Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace. Pope Francis reiterated these thoughts recently especially during the canonisations last Sunday of 10 very different saints from all walks of life a layperson, religious sisters and priest. In his homily, he reminds the faithful to recognize how God loves us unconditionally and how the path to holiness is "so simple". But the first step is so important, our awareness of God’s love for us. The Pope said "God has a dream for your life. Welcome that dream, and pursue it with joy." The Holy Father later in his homily encouraged all of us to pursue our own call to holiness, a form of holiness all our own, "not a photocopy of someone else's holiness." When we know ourselves as loved by God and are aware of this great presence within, we will reach out and share this gift with all we meet. We will want to give the fullness of ourselves to God and neighbour. Then we will know our ‘teacup talk of God’ is real and genuine. BACK TO TOP Wednesday 11th May 2022 Tenderness… God of peace and justice, you open our hearts to love and the joy of the Gospel, even in the midst of every hatred and degradation of our brothers and sisters. Make of us your witnesses in today’s world, so that, like Saint Titus Brandsma we may see the tenderness beyond the horrors of inhumanity to your glory that shines through the martyrs of every age. Amen. Reading this special prayer for Titus Brandsma who will be canonised in Rome on Sunday, the word tenderness stood out for me and touched my heart...It reminded me of Pope Francis’ firm belief that our modern world needs a ‘revolution of tenderness’. Doesn’t it seem a contradiction? We normally think of a revolution as something that has massive power and force behind it, and yet tenderness connotes a softness, weakness even, little gestures... I recalled the prophetic words of Pope St. John Paul 11 in his passionate plea for peace in Northern Ireland, during his visit to Ireland in 1979: In the years to come, when the words of hatred and the deeds of violence are forgotten, it is the words of love and the acts of peace and forgiveness which will be remembered. It is these which will inspire the generations to come.... Think of the fields of red poppies that spring up from devastated battlefields or the rare golden flowers that rise from the ashes of intense forest fires...Nature’s ‘silver lining’... Titus stood out for his sense of fraternity, unfailing humanity, and tenderness towards all who surrounded him, especially in the dungeon what was Dachau...Tizia, the nurse who gave him the lethal injection, testified how the compassion and kindness in Titus’ way of looking at her helped her feel the mercy of God and to find herself again. I am convinced that similar stories of human tenderness and heroism will emerge from the unspeakable suffering of the people of Ukraine and other parts of our war-torn world...this irrepressible spirit of tenderness of the human heart will spring up and live on because it is a spark of God’s very own tenderness. May our new Carmelite Saint Titus help us to reflect the mercy and tenderness of God in our daily lives... BACK TO TOP Friday 6th May 2022 Birds of prey and praying birds! There has been some excitement in the community this week due to the sighting of a strange new bird by some of the nuns. After some discussion and consulting of bird-books and photographs, the consensus is that it was a sparrow hawk! This is the first time I have heard of a bird of prey in this part of south-Dublin, but apparently, they are more common than one thinks. So, this morning I set out on a garden walk to try and spot the new arrival for myself. Thirty minutes and thirteen different species of bird later there was still no sign of the elusive newcomer. But just then, the sweet singing of a thrush grabbed my attention. I looked up and saw it perched on the highest point of a scraggy old pine-tree, the top section of which looks like the skeleton trees in the bombed streets of Ukraine that we see on the news lately. As I listened to the thrush, I was reminded of the words that are attributed to St Augustine (though their true origin is debated): “To sing is to pray twice”, and in a split second I made the connection with something I heard many years ago when going on a pilgrimage to Lourdes – the group were advised that some people go there to “pray” and others go to “prey”, so we should be attentive about our belongings. As today is the First Friday of May, and a day when we will receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, my garden-bird walk has prompted me to contemplate if I am a “bird of prey” or a “praying bird” in the lives of those around me. How well do I pray for others, and do I lift them up in an unrestrained song of prayer to God like the thrush singing its heart out? Or do I subtly prey on those I can use for my own advantage or pleasure? It is a deep and personal question, and a difficult one, but it is another tool to help me on the constant journey of self- discovery and growth in truth and justice. With gratitude to the sparrowhawk (I will spot you someday!) and the beautiful song thrush!! Images: pixabay.com BACK TO TOP Thursday 28th April 2022 Rock and Roll We human beings often resist the new. We become comfortable in our habitual patterns and our accustomed weakness and settle to live in the landscape of reluctance with a large boulder at the entrance. All we have is life. Things, cars, houses, jobs, hobbies come and go, turn to dust and disappear. Things do not make life. Maybe we are alive for reasons other than productivity or consumption? Have we pared back God and his grace to fit our small minds? When we have every angle calculated ---- figured out that we know all the possibilities, then nothing new can come along to surprise us! We know we should, and could, make more effort but we feel entombed in longstanding habits of laziness and distraction. Our ready answer can often be ----“I’ve tried, but it didn’t work!” But RESURRECTION tells us it is never too late. The boulder can be rocked and rolled back and we can poke our heads out from the land of reluctance, take off the blindfold and draw in a deep breath of refreshing, reinvigorating RESURRECTON AIR! Each morning we awaken to the light and the invitation to a new day. “Listen. Put on morning. Waken into falling light.” (W.S. Graham) When we begin to awaken to the light of soul, life takes on a new depth. We have courage to explore new parts of life that we have not yet experienced. After all, this is the newest moment of our life –and God is breath-near - it is never too late- Alleluia! BACK TO TOP Friday 22nd April 2022 Resurrection Sunrise pictures like this one always speak to me of resurrection. I imagine the Risen Lord coming across that golden path to greet us and wrap us in his resurrection light. This is a morning picture, but the sun leaves a similar trail when it is setting and the golden path also reminds me of St. Therese writing about a visit to the sea at Trouville when she was about seven years old. She tells us that she was transfixed by the sight of the sea as everything about it spoke to her of God’s majesty, grandeur and power. She goes on to say ‘In the evening at that moment when the sun seems to bathe itself in the immensity of the waves leaving a luminous trail behind I went and sat down on the huge rock with Pauline. Then I recalled the touching story of ‘The Golden Trail’*…I contemplated this luminous trail for a long time. It was to me the image of God’s grace shedding its light across the path the little white-sailed vessel had to travel and I made the resolution never to wander far from the glance of Jesus in order to travel peacefully towards the eternal shore.’ *This story was contained in a collection by Louise Belloc and tells of a little girl who had a dream that she was sailing in a beautiful white-sailed ship along a narrow, golden path. At some point she found herself lost in cold stormy waters, but she remembered that her mother had told her to say the ‘Our Father’ if ever she was in danger and as soon as she said the words ‘deliver us from evil’ the little ship was restored to the golden path. In the story her mother explains that ‘The brilliant golden ray teaches us that the way to heaven is luminous; but it is narrow and easy to lose; outside this path, all is cold, dark, and stormy.’ She goes on to say, ‘The way you found it again shows that only God can keep us safe and praying to him and trusting in his love is the best way to keep us on the narrow path of gold and to arrive at our good and shining home: heaven.’ BACK TO TOP Wednesday 13th April 2022 Father, forgive them for they know not what they do Holy week is upon us, the week of Love, the week of all weeks, when the Son of God laid down His life for love of us. We enter into it this year with an ever-deepening desire for God’s Merciful forgiving love to enter our hearts and our world to heal the wounds of hatred and cruelty that the present war is creating. This Holy week our hearts are still full of our beloved Sr. Kevin whose death occurred recently. She grew up with the memory of her forgiving grandmother who after her husband had been shot dead before her eyes in their home, had gathered her sixteen children around his coffin and asked them to promise that they would never take revenge for the death of their father. That was only months before Sr. Kevin’s own father, one of those sixteen children was gunned down on his way to Mass. Forgiveness was on his lips too as he lay dying. So, the words of Jesus on the cross, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” meant a great deal to our dear Sr. Kevin. The depth of Christ’s love for us in His passion death and resurrection never failed to fill her with thanksgiving and joy. The hymn we sing this week was one of her favourites. My song is Love unknown, My Saviour’s love to me, Love to the loveless shown That they might lovely be. O who am I, that for my sake My Lord should take, Frail flesh and die. Another charismatic hymn that she loved was: 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. Dear Sr. Kevin from your Heavenly home teach us how to bear patiently with wrongs done to us and to see them as opportunities for loving and forgiving as you did. BACK TO TOP Wednesday 6th April 2022 The little boy at the train station The image of father and son says it all Separation, heartbreak, loss and fear, The Father sending his family away To ‘God only knows where’. The Mother now has to be ‘Mother and Father’ to her children. And what lies ahead? What is at stake? When will it all end? No answers - for now Just a powerful last sad gaze of Father and Son And the Mother Says it all. A single photograph can often say more than words can express! (Click here to see photo, we cannot reproduce here for copyright reasons) Recently a photo stopped me in my tracks. It expressed so much pain and angst. It was a Ukrainian man holding his son at the train station. His sad gaze was on a beautiful 2 year old boy. Their eyes were focused on each other father and son. The Father heartbroken and the child confused but still trusting. The mother and her children were heading to some European country to set up a temporary home and wait indefinitely for the call to return home. That is their hope. The father wearing his army uniform prepared to fight for his country. He too was facing an uncertain future and his great hope and wish was to survive. Longing for the day he will gaze once more into the eyes of his son. The dream is that they will be reunited and return to their home in Ukraine. But there will be wounds to heal and probably a new home and house to rebuild. The child innocent and trusting his parents but sensing something is not right. This little boy represents so many children in Ukraine over the past weeks. We know some have even lost their lives in this war. What can we adults do for those most vulnerable in our world that we call our ‘Common Home’? One photo can say so much and the story behind it is repeated in every war torn country from Syria to Tigray to places almost forgotten about by the International media. But after the wars the damage is incalculable and a new spirit is needed to rebuild and restore all that has been damaged on a human as well as material level. We are committed to the Care of our Common Home. Within this care we also need to look at the lethal weapons of mass destruction that exist and are stock piled by countries for no good purpose. It is also an industry. Surely we can come up with something more constructive to give meaningful employment? For the sake of the little boy at the train station and for future generations he represents - can we do better? We pray there will soon be an end to the war in Ukraine and all the other countries afflicted by war and we also pray for families that they will be able to rebuild their lives and make this world a better place for all to live in. BACK TO TOP Wednesday 23rd March 2022 Praying for Ukraine Some homes around our locality are displaying signs or symbols of solidarity with the suffering people of war-torn Ukraine. There are flags coloured by a school children displayed in top windows, or perhaps a vase of sunflowers, the national flower of Ukraine. We know that many generous people are opening their homes to refugees and many others are giving financial or practical donations. Everyone wants to do something. Even nature is showing solidarity these days with the bright blue skies and glorious yellow daffodils everywhere! For us, as Carmelite nuns, our main role of support is our humble and trusting prayers and I have been looking to Mary for help with this. Mary knew the deepest sorrow and now her city – Mariupol – “Mary’s City” – has suffered the most extreme devastation imaginable. The survivors will spend the rest of their lives trying to cope with the trauma they have endured. We believe, we know, that Mary understands. She stands with the people of her city and all the people of Ukraine at this time as she stood bravely at the Cross of her Son. Music always stirs my heart to deeper prayer, and these days I am listening to a 2008 album entitled “Stabat Mater” by Welsh Composer Karl Jenkins. It contains a modern musical arrangement of this ancient hymn about Mary at the foot of the Cross, mixed with various other compositions on the theme of a mother grieving loss. (Coincidentally, the cover of the CD is designed in the Ukrainian colours of blue and yellow!) One piece that particularly moves me is an original “Lament”, and I invite you to visit this link to listen to the piece: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2OxEqha0Oxg The lyrics are as follows: Feeling all the grief and sorrow we live life with sorrow in our hearts and minds, with tears that wait to fall when sorrow in the world is more than we can truly bear. We hear the cries of children, We see death cast shadows on their hearts and minds, as mothers in their grief stand crying, weeping, weeping, crying, crying, weeping, weeping for this world. On our bed of thorns such sorrows must surely end, our tears can wash away the sins of the world, no more crying, weeping, weeping, crying, crying, weeping, weeping in this world, this world. Mary is the Mother of Hope. Even in the midst of her sorrow, she had hope. As we try to unite with her in sorrow and lament for her children, so must we imitate her in hope. As the Lament goes: “The sorrows must surely end”. On Friday next, Pope Francis will consecrate the world, and especially Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Let us unite with this consecration and live in loving hope and trust that Mary our Mother will help us and all the people of Ukraine and Russia to look forward to a brighter future. BACK TO TOP Wednesday 16th March 2022 Illumine Tomorrow, I’m going to be happy; tomorrow, I am going to live. And so, when I get to secondary school, I’m going to live; when I’m in university, I’m going to live. When you get to university, you’ll say, “When I get married, I’m going to live.” After you get married, “Okay, when the children grow up, I’m going to live.” Is it possible, that you are going to die without having lived? Look at your thoughts, and you’ll see how often they are in the past or in the future. In one of his songs, John Lennon has the line: “Life is what happens when you are making other plans.” Could that be the story of our lives? Our lives slip away and we are always on our way to somewhere else! God isn’t tomorrow; God is now. Life isn’t tomorrow; it is now. And so, when you are inhaling, be aware that you are inhaling. And when you are exhaling, be aware that you are exhaling --- and you’ll come into the NOW and it is in the NOW that God is waiting for you. Little by little, one moment of silence at a time, you can come to know yourself and the barriers you put between yourself and God who is waiting to be gracious to you. He waits for us to notice his blessings and for our desire to give thanks for them. Nothing occurs which is outside the scope of God’s concern, which is why St. Paul says that “by turning everything to their good, God cooperates with those who love Him” (Rm 8.28) Can we catch on to this process in which God turns everything to good? Our Carmelite sister, Edith Stein wrote: “Nothing is accidental. My entire life, even in the most minute details, was pre-designed in the plans of divine providence and is, for the all-seeing eye of God, a perfect coherence of meaning.” BACK TO TOP Wednesday 9th March 2022 Titus Brandsma This week we heard the great news that Blessed Titus Brandsma will be canonised at St. Peter’s Rome on Sunday 15th May. Pope Francis made the announcement on March 4th Titus was born Anno Sjoerd Brandsma on February 23rd 1881, in Oegeklooster, Freisland, in northern Holland, where his parents ran a dairy farm. He was one of seven children, six of whom became religious. From the age of 11 young Anno wanted to be a priest and when he was seventeen he began his Carmelite novitiate at Boxmeer. It was there that he was given the religious name Titus, which was in fact his father’s baptismal name. Titus was ordained in 1905 and sent to Rome for further studies. After gaining his Doctorate in Divinity he returned to Holland and taught philosophy in the Catholic University at Nijmegen and in 1932 he was appointed rector there. Titus lectured extensively, especially on Carmelite mysticism, not only in Holland, but all over Europe and in the United States. In preparation for a lecture tour in the U.S. he came to Ireland to improve his English and stayed with his brother friars at Whitefriar Street, Dublin and at Kinsale, Co. Cork. In 1935, the same year that Titus was in Ireland, the Dutch bishops appointed him chaplain and advisor to Catholic journalists. When the Nazis invaded and occupied Holland in 1940 Titus courageously spoke out against the persecution of the Jews and encouraged Catholic newspapers to refuse to publish Nazi propaganda. The Nazis named him a ‘dangerous little friar’. It was his active opposition to the Nazi ideology and his Christian stance for freedom of the press and the dignity of all people regardless of race or religion, which led to his arrest on January 19th 1942. He was taken to the prison at Scheveningen, and from there to the concentration camp at Amersfoot, back to Scheveningen for questioning and finally to the Concentration Camp at Dachau where he was killed by lethal injection on July 26th 1942. He told the nurse who gave him the injection that he would pray for her and gave her a rosary. His prayers were answered when she later became a Catholic and gave important testimony in his beatification process. She testified ‘I was brought back to the right way through the intercession of Fr. Titus. Personally I consider him a martyr because National Socialism was a kind of anti- Christ’. Titus was beatified by Pope John Paul II on November 3rd 1985 since when the feast of Blessed Titus Brandsma O. Carm. Priest and Martyr, has been kept on July 27th each year. In his deep suffering Titus never failed to pray for his persecutors. He wrote ‘God bless the Netherlands! God bless Germany! May God grant these two peoples to return to the path of peace and freedom, and to recognise his Glory for the good of these two nations that are so close. As war continues to rage in our own time we might do well to pray that same prayer for the Ukraine and Russia and to ask Titus to add his plea to ours. BACK TO TOP Wednesday 2nd March 2022 “Behold your Mother ” A great blessing came our way at the height of the pandemic. We were asked if the pilgrim statue of our Lady of Fatima could rest with us privately until such time as it was safe for Her to continue to travel round the dioceses of Ireland when the restrictions had eased. Needless to say, we joyfully welcomed this gift of God. We enthroned her in the novitiate room upstairs. We did not put on her crown while she is with us as St. Therese said, “Mary is more Mother than Queen.” It is hard to put into words that look of loving concern and compassion that is on the face of the Virgin of Fatima…. It is as if She is gathering the pain and distress of the people of the whole world into her loving embrace and bringing them to her Son Jesus for us. From the cross at the height of His agony didn’t He give Her to us as our Mother – “Behold your Mother.” We pray in the Hail Holy Queen: “Turn then O Most Gracious Advocate your eyes of Mercy towards us.” At this moment in time as I write, when the whole world is trembling for the capital of Ukraine surrounded by the Russian troops, our eyes are turned towards the Lord and His Mother ‘til they show us his Mercy. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Mt. 5) – that can be our mission this Lent - prayer and fasting for the people of the Ukraine who are suffering so grievously. We ask you too dear readers to pray for our two Carmelite communities of nuns in Kiev and Kharkiv and our friars in Berdichey who are standing by the people of Ukraine in their hour of greatest need and helping them with the support of the Order from all over the world. We leave all to you O Sweet Mother as God left all to you in Jesus. BACK TO TOP Wednesday 23rd February 2022 “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken. ” The above quote took me by surprise – it is so simple and true. Think about it! What a relief for all of us to accept who we are, warts and all. We have been created with this spark of uniqueness which adds variety to the world and is unrepeatable not only that, but we have something different and special to contribute to our world. Our uniqueness with our particular gift has been written about in so many ways down through the ages but it is a piece of wisdom we all, if we’re honest, struggle with. St. Paul teaches this truth to encourage us to live and work together in harmony accepting each other which helps us to grow in love of God and neighbour. ‘Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.’ 1 Corinthians 12:4 BACK TO TOP Thursday 17th February 2022 “I love you…” It’s Valentine’s week; the week of love, the week of the heart... The week when starry-eyed young lovers pledge themselves to each other in engagement... It’s the occasion for those who are experiencing the testing of their love through the challenges of life, to renew their love to each other. It’s the time for those who have grown old in love to rededicate themselves to their ageing spouse, now enfeebled and broken with sickness, their love now stripped of all glamour, yet love at white-heat...more radiant and beautiful than ever... Towards the end of his long life, St. John the Evangelist, ‘the disciple Jesus loved’, used to urge the early Christians, “Little children, love one another”. He repeated this again and again, so much so that his hearers asked him for something more, something new, but he persisted, “Little children, love one another.” This was the sum total of his message...He who had the privilege of leaning on Jesus’ heart. Our dear almost 99 year old sister in the Nursing Home reminds me of John. When we ask her for a little message to bring home to the Community, she invariably replies with her toothless smile... “I love you”. That’s it! Yet isn’t that enough? It says everything. It’s the one word that warms the cockles of our hearts like no other; the reassurance our hearts hunger to hear. If we are lucky this little sister will spontaneously break her long silences and treat us personally to this same benediction... “I love you”. It makes our day and resonates in our hearts for hours. I am reminded of a very precious experience I had with my dearly loved Father who had only months to live. I had been privileged to go home to spend some days with him. I was resting on a little camp bed in the same room with him, keeping vigil. He had fallen asleep, and then, as was his pattern, he wakened startled and frightened. I went over to calm him and when he saw who I was, he said my name softly and added, “I love you”, and then after a slight pause he slowly continued with touching emphasis... “...with...all... my...heart.” His words are engraved in my heart for life...I hear them again and again in all their tenderness and power. What a precious gift and blessing from my dear dying Dad. Little did he know that he was echoing our heavenly Father who through the prophet Hosea pledged his love...”I will love them with all my heart..” (14: 5). And wasn’t Abba true to his word, when he sent us Jesus, his love made flesh.... Therese, Jesus’s little Valentine, knew that language. With her dying breath she exclaimed “My God, I Love you.” May we too learn this beautiful language of the heart... BACK TO TOP Wednesday 9th February 2022 Piloting my day There’s a keen interest in aviation on both sides of my family, and it seems to have rubbed off on me! I am fascinated by planes and how they work. So, lately I have created a little analogy for myself between my life in the monastery and the pilot of an airplane flight. It’s an amusing and helpful way for me to approach the daily routine. An essential part of our day as Carmelite nuns is one hour of private prayer every morning, and another hour in the late afternoon. In the morning it is a space for my pre-flight checks. What will be my route and direction today? How much weight am I carrying? Do I have enough fuel for the journey or will I need to stop and re-fuel during the day? What weather am I expecting today? Will there be storms that I have to navigate around, or will there be a head-wind causing me extra strain? All these questions are things that I can discuss with God in my morning hour and so prepare myself for “take-off” which is the Mass or Communion Service which follows our morning prayer. During the day, when I am cruising along, I may run on “autopilot” much of the time, but this is no harm once I remember to check my fuel levels (energy) regularly, and also keep in contact with Air Traffic Control (ATC), or for me that can be understood as my “Almighty Tender Comfortor”. Yes, God is the one who is always keeping an eye on me, and will try to communicate with me if I go off- track or encounter some unusual turbulence. Of course, I need to be prepared for emergencies or unplanned changes of course that can occur at any time. At these times, I turn off the “autopilot” and begin manual and mindful control in order to adapt and cope with the sudden challenges. Most of all, at these times, it is important to remain calm and focused. As evening comes, my quiet hour is a time to prepare for landing. Pilots use the expression “glide slope” to describe the gradual decrease in altitude. It is not safe to come down too quickly. It is the same for me, I need a “stabilised approach” to the end of the day, so that I can touch-down and come to rest after my long day’s journey. BACK TO TOP Thursday 3rd February 2022 Everything “We must bring him everything! Your dreams, your successes, your rejoicing. And if you have little to rejoice over, Bring him that little. And if your life seems only like a heap of fragments, Bring him the fragments. And if you have only empty hands, Bring him your empty hands. Shattered hopes are his material; In his hands all are made good.” ( Meister Eckhart) Yes, as I sit by the window I sense in the renewal of brighter sunlight that I am free to begin again ------ and spring will soon arrive to renew hope! BACK TO TOP Thursday 27th January 2022 Fr Paul Wattson As we have recently been celebrating the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, I thought it would be appropriate say a few words about Fr. Paul Wattson (1863-1940) who introduced the ‘Octave of Christian Unity’ in 1908 at Graymoor, 50 miles north of New York City, where he had co-founded a community, known as the Graymoor Friars of the Atonement. Father Paul was born on January 16, 1863 in Millington, Maryland, U.S.A. His father, Joseph Wattson was an Episcopal (Anglican) priest. Fr. Paul was baptised Lewis Thomas but later took Paul as his religious name. He followed in his father’s footsteps and was ordained in the American Episcopalian Church in 1886. Twelve years later together with an Episcopalian sister, Lurana White, he founded the Society of the Atonement, for a community of friars and a community of sisters. In the beginning they were Anglican Franciscans, but as both Fr. Paul and Sr. Lurana were Anglo-Catholics who desired unity with Rome, they faced considerable opposition. In October 1909, Father Paul, Sister Lurana, and a few others who had joined them were received into the Roman Catholic Church by Monsignor Joseph Conroy of Ogdensburg, New York. This was the first time a complete Anglican religious community had been received into the Roman Catholic Church. The two communities of Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Atonement remained at Graymoor. The Church Unity Octave first celebrated at Graymoor in 1908, now known as the ‘Week of Prayer for Christian Unity’ has become an annual worldwide event among Christians of all denominations, held every January, and appropriately ending on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. Pope John XXIII wanted the Catholic Church to be involved in the ecumenical movement and he set up The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in 1960. In 1966, the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches and the Vatican Secretariat/Council for Promoting Christian Unity began collaborating on a common international text for use worldwide during this week. Some Catholics were still hesitant about becoming involved but in 1993 the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity explicitly encouraged participation. Fr. Paul of Graymoor, pioneer of Christian Unity, is now known as Servant of God. Cardinal Timothy Dolan introduced his cause for canonization in the Archdiocese of New York in 2015. By July 2019 Rome had examined all the documents and closed the diocesan phase of the process. Fr. Paul’s cause is currently being considered in Rome where a summary will be prepared of his life and virtues. To learn more about Fr. Paul visit http://fatherpaulofgraymoor.org/ BACK TO TOP Wednesday 19th January 2022 Do not be afraid (Matthew 17:8) These words are so often repeated by Jesus in the Gospels. Do not be afraid, trust, let not your hearts be troubled. You could say our present world in this time of pandemic is riddled with fear and insecurity. The disciples who walked with Jesus were no strangers to fear either. When they saw Him transfigured on the mountain, his face shining like the sun, and heard the Father’s voice saying “this in my Son , the beloved, listen to Him” they fell to the ground overcome by fear. It is the voice of Jesus telling them “get up, do not be afraid” that enables them to overcome their terror. Yes, that is what would heal us too of our fear and create trust in us if we could listen to the voice of Jesus and let it reach down into the roots of our being. We have a new young Spanish Fr. General in our Carmelite family – a man of deep trust in the power of God. He shared with us in his Christmas letter what his first experience of being General was like. How initially he felt so small before the enormity of the task in front of him but how this gave way, little by little to a confidence that allows itself to be led and taught. The words Our Lord spoke to St. Teresa when she too felt overpowered by the task ahead, came to his aid: “Do what lies in your power, surrender yourself to me.” He goes on to tell us then that “the impossible is the privileged terrain” for the experience of God” – that the best of our history took place in impossible circumstances! What seems impossible for us is possible for God if only we would ask for His help and not give up. If only we could trust in his voice which says to us, “It is I do not be afraid”. He tells us then that Mary’s Magnificat is our school of life for the present time. It is the song that reveals God’s truth in darkest times. “In the heart of Mary, poor and humble is heard the victory of God, His salvation in the midst of all the catastrophes and injustices.” So, the heart of a young woman from Nazareth changes the history of humanity through her trust in God’s promises. God can heal and renew our present world too, sick in body and soul as it is, through our little lives, if we but call on Him and trust in Him as Mary did. Dear Reader, let us get up and not be afraid to walk together, with Mary’s bold yes in our hearts and her song of God’s victory on our lips. My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. My Spirit sings to God my saving God. Click here to see us singing the Magnificat: https://youtu.be/hzVN93AAalM BACK TO TOP Wednesday 12th January 2022 Kitchen Memories and the New Year "The past is behind, learn from it. The future is ahead, prepare for it. The present is here, live it." - Thomas S. Monson. As we begin our journey in a New Year it is helpful to recall the past. We may ask - why? One response might be to live the present with gratitude and to look forward with hope. Who we are and what has shaped our lives, the whole mix, can teach us what we might do differently in the future. So what has all that got to do with kitchens and the Aga cooker in our monastery kitchen? Recently when my two three-year-old grandnieces visited the monastery their first question for me was ‘where is your kitchen?’ What was going through their minds? Perhaps the kitchen, for them and for all of us, is so central to the life of any family - a place where a lot happens. It brought to mind my own memories of growing up on a farm, where the kitchen was the hub of family life. All of these memories took on a new life during the past year when I was reconnected, you might say, with the Aga cooker. I haven’t seen one since my youth. The kitchen was the warmest room in the house, thanks to the Aga, so it was where we gathered at certain times during the day. The busy work of preparing family meals, times for tea breaks where news of the day was shared, all took place in the kitchen. On a farm it sometimes happened that a sick lamb was brought into the kitchen. A blessed candle lit. The lamb was put beside the cooker to get some heat and gently given a few spoons of warm milk and whisky to see if it could revive. Often within no time the lamb was up and running around and ready to return to the barn. There is a much quoted saying of St. Teresa of Avila, ‘God’s [presence] is found among the pots and pans’. And we are also reminded of St Martha and the scripture passage where Jesus said to her ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her (Luke 41-42)’. Martha obviously enjoyed preparing meals and welcoming people - especially Jesus - but she allowed her inner peace to be disturbed. The gentle reminder of Jesus, I am sure, helped her refocus on what was needed. With these memories generated by my grandnieces and the Aga cooker, I am reminded of the past. While I enjoy recalling these moments as I begin a New Year, I am reminded that we are nurtured by these memories which have helped shape who we are today. The journey continues with renewed trust, hope and excitement because we know from experience we are guided on our way by God’s Spirit. We need times of companionship and times of solitude to reflect on God’s Presence in our daily lives. Sometimes the kitchen is the place where we begin to find this spiritual food. "The future depends on what we do in the present." - Mahatma Gandhi. BACK TO TOP Thursday 6th January 2022 All eyes on Jesus It’s Epiphany and soon our cribs will be packed away for another year, but once again I want to kneel and ponder the powerful lesson that touches my heart every year; this year again... Looking into the crib, I’m always struck by how the eyes of all the figures, Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds, the 3 Wise Men and even the animals are all focussed on the little Baby at the centre. All are drawn as by a magnet to gaze on Him and in so doing they are drawn closer to each other. Isn’t there a beautiful harmony, communion and peace emanating from the crib... because all are united in their gaze on Jesus? What a lesson that is for us all... I’m reminded of St. Teresa’s advice to us in her Way of Perfection, her prayer manuel for her Sisters...”I don’t’ ask you to say anything, just to look at him... He never takes his eyes off you.” What a heartening truth! Yes, prayer is as easy as a gaze; an answering gaze to His look of Love... Remember the little old peasant who told the Cure d’ Ars the secret of his prayer? “He looks at me and I looks at Him.” How beautifully simple and yet how profound... St. Therese knew that secret too “ For me, prayer is an aspiration of the heart, it is a simple glance directed to heaven, it is a cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trial as well as joy...” With daring trust she could ask, ”If through weakness I sometimes fall, may your divine glance cleanse my soul immediately, consuming all my imperfections like the fire that transforms everything in itself.” In a letter she advised her sister Celine, and advises us too... “Look Jesus in the eyes and see there how he loves you...” Therese no doubt was greatly influenced by her great mentor St. John of the Cross who wrote in his celebrated Spiritual Canticle: Pouring out a thousand graces, He passed these groves in haste; And having looked at them, With His image alone, Clothed them in beauty... (Stanza 5) When You looked at me, Your eyes imprinted Your grace in me...(Stanza 23) May He clothe you too in beauty and grace as you gaze on Him, like all the figures in the crib, opening your heart to His gaze of Love... BACK TO TOP
St. Joseph’s Carmel