Wednesday 10th August 2022 Take time to dream… Take time to dream - it is hitching your wagon to a star (old English saying) In our time hitching our hopes and dreams to a star calls us to live our lives mindful of the care we give to others and the care that we show for our common home, our beautiful planet. We have all seen the most amazing photographs of our planet taken from space but closer to earth we can see the beauty of our creation on a daily basis in our gardens and forests, in fact everywhere. One of the greatest challenges in our time is the damage done to our world by the abuse of the earth and its resources and as a result the environmental changes affecting so many countries with climate change, famine and poverty. There are many voices calling us to change our attitude to the earth. One powerful voice is Pope Francis in his document Laudato Si – care for our common home. It is said that if a butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazonian rain forest, it can change the weather half a world away. One woman who dedicated her life to caring for people and the earth in the Amazon region said: ‘We need to be poor with the poor and re-appropriate a kind and tender relationship with Mother Earth. Then we will know how to act’. These are the words of Dorothy Stang, a missionary sister, a woman who gave her life for the poor and for environmental issues. She was murdered for her beliefs and actions. Dohorty was well known throughout the Amazon region for her work with the poor and landless people and for her efforts to preserve the rain forests. She said to all who would listen to her "we must make great efforts to save our planet. Mother Earth is not able to provide anymore. Her water and air are poisoned and her soil is dying of exaggerated use of chemicals, all in the name of profit. Pray for all of us and for a world where all can live -- plants, animals and humans -- in peace and harmony." We can be part of this great work, in our daily life, by believing that the little we do, like the butterfly, has its effect in our world. Dorothy Stang had the courage to take time ‘to dream and hitch her wagon to the stars’ and hope for a better world. So what can we do? For us we can make decisions and take time to look at our lives. Each day we can cultivate a spirit of care for the earth by committing to the 6 R’s - Rethink, Recycle, Reuse, Reduce, Repair and Refuse. We can take time to dream and pray for this great recovery and healing of our common home. BACK TO TOP Wednesday 3rd August 2022 Always be thankful… The great work of the contemplative is thanksgiving wrote Thomas Merton....Our life in Carmel is centred around our daily Eucharist, THE great prayer of Thanksgiving... Every day we hear the words: “ Father, ...we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks...” Flowing from the Eucharist we gather 7 times every day to recite the Liturgy of the Hours or Prayer of the Church. The Psalms abound in thanksgiving: ‘Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for his love has no end’ Ps 136 I give you thanks for your faithfulness and love which excel all we ever knew of you.Ps.138. ‘I thank you for the wonder of my being, for the wonder of all your creation...’Ps. 139 Jesus too teaches us this beautiful attitude of thanksgiving when he pours out his gratitude to Abba when his disciples returned rejoicing after a fruitful mission: ‘It was then that, filled with joy by the Holy Spirit, he said, “I bless you Father, Lord of heaven and of earth for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children” ‘Lk.10.2. Again, at the tomb of Lazarus, even before he raises Lazarus he exclaims; ‘Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer. I knew indeed that you always hear me...’Jn. 11.42. We sense the disappointment in Jesus’ human heart when only one of the cured lepers, a stranger, returned to give thanks... ‘The other nine, where are they?’ Lk.17.18 St. Paul too encourages us: ‘Always be thankful...With gratitude in your hearts sing psalms and hymns and sacred songs to God...giving thanks to God the Father... Col.3.15-16 PLEASE, THANK YOU and SORRY are the three words that Pope Francis would write on the door of every family home, as they are the key to living well and in peace, both inside and outside the home. They are simple words, much easier to say than to put into practice...but what a lovely habit to develop until it will come spontaneously to us.. There is so much to give thanks for every day. Every breath we draw is a gift of God’s love, every moment of existence is a grace. St. Therese said Tout est Grace. Even the disappointments, struggles and suffering can carry a blessing. A word or gesture of thanks can light up a hurting or lonely heart... A thankful heart is a happy and contented heart... BACK TO TOP Thursday 28th July 2022 The Communion of Saints On this day exactly 20 years ago, St Pope John Paul II said the closing Mass “World Youth Day” week in Toronto, Canada, and gathered with him on the stage in front of a huge crowd of people were a group of youth, representing their countries, from all corners of the world. They were known as the “International Liturgy Group” and in the days and weeks that followed, these young people on returning home, shared their experiences of a wonderful week living as a “communion of saints”. Today I wish to share extracts from a reflection written shortly after that special week by a young American woman, Elise. Her words are just as relevant today as they were 20 years ago: ********************** Sermon by Elise Ainsworth, Illinois, USA July 2002 How do you picture the communion of Saints? Does it mean anything to you? Is it something you can feel? Can you taste it? Smell it? Hear it? What is it that makes it real in your life? Until this past summer I had a vague notion of the universality of our Church, of the community that we call the Communion of Saints. But the experience that began for me on July 20, 2002, has forever altered my perception of the Communion of Saints. I was privileged to represent the United States of America at World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada as part of the first ever International Liturgy Group. The Liturgy Group was made up of two delegates from each country present at World Youth Day and for a little over a week this summer we became aware of what it means to live in the Communion of Saints. Together, we ate and laughed and prayed and played and suffered and waited and talked and drank and cried and sang and waited and travelled and rejoiced and walked and translated each other for each other and waited and waited And The world became a little smaller. Of course, we had responsibilities, we had to do interviews with the media and learn the motions to the theme songs, and we each had a job to do at the several papal gatherings, We carried flags, read in many languages, and some of us had contact with the Holy Father; we were the representative young people on stage from every corner of the globe. We were a wonderful symbol of the church in the world. And our understanding began to change. We came to a new image of the Holy Family, a greatly expanded and extended Holy Family; We were to each other the brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers and children we had left at home. We cared for one another in the best way we knew how, we were Christ to each other. When I could not find the voice to sing my national anthem through my tears they sang for me, when Joanne from Curacao had to go to the hospital two of us went with her. We held each other in our nervousness, in our sadness, and in our joy. Together with the Holy Father we shared a vision from the stage of the youth of the world in a crowd so large we could not count from every race, nation, people, and tongue. In the way of the cross we took turns bearing the cross together and carried palm branches in our hands while we processed from station to station. At night we walked the streets of Toronto singing, evangelizing at the top of our lungs. We are One Body, One Body in Christ and we do not stand alone! The world news has new meaning for me, I am reminded of the communion of saints when, I hear the voices of my friends and loved ones in those of foreign correspondents I am delighted to hear familiar accents but disheartened when I hear of suffering and terror. When we are all family there is no excuse for war. I pray for all of them, and I know they are praying for me. Germany, Argentina, Poland, Ireland, Cuba, Mozambique, Thailand, Norway, the Philippines, Canada, France, Ukraine, Scotland, El Salvador, Angola, Macedonia, Today this is where our family lives. We take inspiration from the Saints who have gone before us and we make our best attempt to be examples for those who are yet to come. If being catholic means being universal then all are on our side, all are our family and all of us need to treat them that way *********** As I travel back twenty years in my memories, the people I met there, many of whom I am still in contact with, are in my heart and in my prayers. We have all moved on in life, formed new families, developed careers, grown in our respective vocations. But somehow, from our shared experience that one precious week, we have a unity that will endure forever. Thank you, each and every one of the International Liturgy Group from Toronto. I will never forget you all. May St John Paul II intercede for us all from heaven as we try to keep on being “light of the world and salt of the earth!”. BACK TO TOP Wednesday 20th July 2022 Love does that All day long a little burro (donkey) labours, sometimes with heavy loads on her back and sometimes just with worries about things that bother only burros. And worries, as we know, can be more exhausting than physical labour. Once in a while a kind nun comes to her stable and brings a pear, but more than that, She looks into the burro’s eyes and touches her ears and for a few seconds the burro is free and even seems to laugh, because love does that. Love frees. (Meister Eckhart) Sometimes I meet people who are totally hooked on a certain image of God and that is where they stay. It might be a negative image of a judge who is watching them. God isn’t like that at all. We read in Scripture that “God is Love” (1Jn. 16.) and Love invites and enables us to live in the freedom of God’s children. Yes, Love does that! BACK TO TOP Wednesday 13th July 2022 St Teresa of the Andes This week (July 13) we celebrate the Feast day of St. Teresa of the Andes. She is the youngest Carmelite nun to be canonized and the first Chilean saint but she seems to be less known than most of our saints. We had great celebrations for the various centenaries of St Teresa (of Avila), St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, but other than her own Carmel in Chile, few people seemed to notice the centenary of the death of St. Teresa of the Andes in 2020, perhaps Covid was partly to blame. Teresa was a young Chilean Carmelite, canonized by Pope John Paul in 1993. She died of typhus on April 12, 1920 at the age of nineteen years and nine months. Although she was so young she had no fear of death, she had written previously ‘to die is to be eternally immersed in Love’. She was known as Juanita to her family and friends. Like many young people today Juinita had a lot of interests and a large number of friends. She enjoyed playing tennis and croquet and often went swimming but above all she loved horse riding which she learnt from her grandfather when she was very young. She also loved music and singing. She played the guitar, piano and harmonium and she was a good dancer. When she was in her early teens Juanita read the lives of St. Therese and St Elizabeth of the Trinity and gradually became convinced that God was calling her to Carmel. She wrote to her younger sister, Rebecca, telling her that she had been ‘captured in the nets of the Divine Fisherman’. Only three weeks after she left school Juanita applied to enter Carmel. In his homily for her canonization Pope John Paul said, “In a secularised society which turns its back on God, this Chilean Carmelite whom, to my great joy, I present as a model of the perennial youth of the Gospel, gives the shining witness of a life which proclaims to the men and women of our day that it is in loving, adoring and serving God that the human person finds greatness and joy, freedom and fulfilment. The life of Blessed Teresa cries out continually from within her cloister: ‘God alone suffices’. BACK TO TOP Wednesday 6th July 2022 Do not worry “Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away.” Matthew 24:35 The first Christians set enormous store on the words of Jesus. They had seen for themselves how a word of Jesus could change their lives – free them of illnesses, bring them peace, release them from sin. After the death and resurrection of Jesus they experienced His word resurrecting them from within and filling them with courage to fearlessly proclaim the Gospel. They copped on better than we do maybe, that being a Christian meant putting Jesus’ words into practise. This morning in my cell I am mulling over the words Jesus spoke about worrying. God knows that at this present time in our world there are plenty of good reasons for worrying! “ Therefore, I tell you do not worry about your life – what you will eat or what you will drink. Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they are? And can any of you for all his worrying add a single cubit to your span of life. Matthew 6. The Provident care of our Heavenly Father for each of us – can we enter within ourselves and let the wonder of it seep down into the core of our tattered lives. R.S. Thomas, the Welsh poet shows us the way. Listen! A message from God delivered by a bird at my window, offering friendship. Listen , such language! Who said God was without speech? Every word An injection to make me smile. Meet me , it says tomorrow here At the same time And you will remember How wonderful Today was! So do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Look at the birds, Jesus says to you and to me today. Are you not worth much more than they are? BACK TO TOP Thursday 30th June 2022 Mercy enters in with ‘Sleeves rolled up’ Pope Francis is a person who is very aware of his own inner frailty and he reminds us often that he is the wounded shepherd. We have seen of late that he is physically frail as well. So when he speaks about receiving Mercy and showing Mercy he is speaking from experience. He could say with St Paul that he knows God’s ‘grace is sufficient for (him) you, for God’s power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.’ 2 Corinthians 12:9. This week we celebrate the feasts of Saints Peter and Paul who like Pope Francis learnt what it was like to be weak and to experience their weaknesses. We have already heard this in the quotation above from St. Paul. St. Peter, the future leader/shepherd of the Church, also experienced his weakness when he said to Jesus ‘I will never deny you’ (Matthew 26: 35) but later he did. And when he realized what he had done he wept; his sorrow was heartbreaking and genuine. We all make mistakes and sin. Welcome to the human race! But we have a choice: we can either beat ourselves up or forgive ourselves and ask forgiveness from God and those we have offended. Recently I was very taken by what the priest said at Mass. Others too were struck by it. He said ‘do yourself no harm’. He was quoting from Acts of Apostles 16:22-35, the story where Paul and his companions were in prison and the gaoler thought they had escaped. The gaoler was about to commit suicide and Paul shouted ‘do yourself no harm, we are all here’. Reflecting on this passage we were asked ‘do I harm myself? Do I beat myself up when I fail? Do I accept that I have strengths and weaknesses? Do I realize that there are people who are there to support me as Paul said – ‘we are all here’ to help you? Do I allow myself to experience God’s Mercy within, with ‘sleeves rolled up’ (Wounded Shepherd Austen Ivereigh)? Then do I share this Mercy with others? BACK TO TOP Friday 17th June 2022 How is your heart? June is the month of traditional devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and now it is only one week to that beautiful feast day. Today I noticed a reference to “heart” in the Gospel reading: “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” Mt 6:20 When I think about all the people, places and things that I love, I realise that I have much treasure in life to be grateful for. Then I began reflecting on the love in the Sacred Heart of Jesus and particularly His great love for humanity, and I realised that this means we are His Treasure! What a beautiful and comforting thought, that I am part of God’s Treasure!! We hear it said that the Scriptures are God’s love letters to us. I wish I could remember that more often!! In our chaotic and unpredictable world, however, our hearts are not always at peace. We all know that our hearts can be filled with a mixture of different emotions from day to day, or even from hour to hour. We find inside ourselves grief, anger, hope, joy, bitterness, and sadness. St Teresa said that the practice of frequent prayer brings about an “enlarging” of the heart, and indeed, in my own imperfect way, I am experiencing that more and more too as I live the life of a Carmelite. I find myself sharing in the joys and sorrows, hopes and fears of many people that call to us or ask for our prayers. This can be a challenge at times, but it is also a great grace to share in so many human experiences. This week I came across a very helpful quotation from St Francis de Sales that reassures me when I consider the complex mix of feelings in my own heart. He said: “We must try to keep our hearts steadily, unshakably equal during great inequality of events. Even though everything may turn and change around us, we must try to remain unchanging and ever looking, striving, and aspiring toward God.” So, as we prepare for the feast of the Sacred Heart, ask yourself this question: “how is my heart today?” Then, know that in whatever condition it is, Jesus is there waiting for you to accept the abundance of His great and unconditional love and mercy. Image: pixabay.com BACK TO TOP Thursday 9th June 2022 A Bond of Attraction A question I am often asked is, “what do contemplatives do all day?” This is a brief overview. Viewed from the outside, one might see only a group of women doing the same thing every day(24/7) in a confined space. Sometimes people often tend to write off the contemplative life as a domain of self-protected cosiness and uncritical belief --- when in truth the contemplative life is a response to a compelling call to journey to vulnerability and openness. From the beginning, women and men have been called to a dialogue of love with the Creator. The journey undertaken by contemplatives is a God-quest journey to the sanctuary in the soul where love dwells. Centuries ago, some women and men intent on living life beyond the obvious developed a life designed to bring life to life. These wisdom figures reaffirmed for every generation the balance which becoming whole requires. Some of the tools of contemplatives are silence, solitude and prayerful reading of God’s word. In the silence and solitude the contemplative learns to hear the cry of sisters and brothers who are victims of the throw-away culture, the mysteries of human frailty, smallness, darkness and the indestructibility of love. Reading God’s word helps to cultivate a discerning heart, to build communion, and to see all people, the Earth and all its creatures through the lens of love. In a world dominated by the mind-set of power, wealth and consumerism the contemplative knows the value of material things yet these do not steal their heart or cloud their understanding. On this journey there are times of huge aridity, sheer emotional endurance and a sense of the loss of God that is like the emptiness experienced by atheism. Also along the journey ones comes to the realization that there is within you a sanctuary of deep love, trust and belonging. It would be false to restrict the domain of the contemplative exclusively to those who live in cloister. To a greater or lesser degree every human heart is contemplative. Next time you become aware of a beautiful sunset/sunrise or the exquisite smell the roses --- you are being contemplative, to a certain extent-- and “Bidden or not bidden, God is present.” (Carl Jung) Image: pixabay.com BACK TO TOP Thursday 2nd June 2022 The Sixteen Carmelite Martyrs of Compiègne On May 27th 1906 Pope Pius X beatified the Compiègne Martyrs and early this year Pope Francis granted the opening of their Process of Canonization ‘by equivalence’ that is to say without the necessity of proving a miracle. He was responding to a request made by the French bishops and the Discalced Carmelite Order. The Compiègne Martyrs were sixteen French Carmelite nuns; they were very ordinary women from every sphere of life, which is illustrated by their father’s occupations. The prioress’s father worked in the Paris Observatory, another nun’s father was an advisor to the king, and others were craftsmen, tradesmen and labourers. Like most other religious in France at the time of the Revolution these sixteen nuns were forced to leave their monastery in 1792. They were banned from living as a community, but they managed to get accommodation in private houses very near to each other and lived in four small groups. Within two months of the expulsion from their monastery their prioress, Sr. Teresa of St. Augustine, suggested that they make a daily offering of their lives for the Church and their country. They had been doing this for almost two years when they were arrested. Soon afterwards they were sentenced to death for practicing their faith, as during the Revolution all Christian worship was banned. On July 17th 1874 they were taken from the Conciergerie prison in Paris in open carts to the guillotine. The journey took just over an hour and during this time the nuns’ faces expressed total serenity, some witnesses even said radiance; they were singing and praying as they travelled along the roads of Paris all the way to the guillotine. Although religious dress was banned, by God’ providence the mayor in Compiènge had allowed the nuns to wash their secular clothes, so when they were ordered to leave for Paris they were wearing their Carmelite habits and over their habits, the nuns wore their white choir mantles, which added to the impressive sight of a community of nuns being taken together to their death. Individual nuns had been executed before but this was the only time a whole community was condemned. At the guillotine the sisters renewed their vows and their act of offering for peace in their country and in the Church and the release of prisoners; then each sister asked her prioress for ‘Permission to die’ before kissing a tiny statue of Our Lady holding the Child Jesus. There was complete silence as they were executed, none of the usual jeers were heard and there were none of the customary drum rolls. Just ten days later the reign of terror ended and many people believed that this was brought about by the sacrifice of the nuns. They were buried in the Picpus Cemetery with 1,290 other victims of the guillotine. There is a memorial plaque at the site on which all the names of the nuns are listed. Window image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Our_Lady_of_Mount_Carmel_Church,_Quidenham,_Norfolk_-_Windows_- _geograph.org.uk_-_1084822.jpg BACK TO TOP Wednesday 25th May 2022 From Darkness to Light “I am the Light of the world Anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark but he/she will have the light of life.” – Jn. 8 How comforting it is in the light of the Ukrainian war and the sufferings of those brave people to think of Jesus as the Light of the World. He is God’s love and tenderness made visible. Think of Him while on earth, His words and deeds brought healing and wholeness, beauty, and peace. The blind saw, the deaf heard again, the crippled walked. He had an illuminating effect on all He met. So, to be children of light and not of darkness our lives too must be full of goodness, love, mercy, and justice. God’s Living Word must be “a lamp for my steps and a light for my path.” Ps.119. The early Christians waiting to be thrown to the lions chanted, “The Lord is my light and my help, whom shall I fear. The Lord is the stronghold of my life before whom shall I shrink.” Ps. 27 The secret of their confidence lay in the enabling power of God’s Word. Our newest Carmelite saint, Titus Brandsma knew it too. Killed by lethal injection in the concentration camp of Dachau in 1942 for speaking out against the Nazi ideology he said, “Do not yield to hatred. We are here in a dark tunnel but we have to go on. At the end an eternal light is shining for us.” So, God is calling us from the darkness of evil into His own wonderful Light. The love we have for each other is the judge of whether we are children of light or of darkness. At the present time Christ, the Light of the World is shining ever more brightly in the hearts of people even in the midst of wars and afflictions of all kinds. Deeds of goodness, mercy, compassion, justice, and peace are springing up. You O Lord are my lamp, My God who lightens my darkness. Ps. 18. Image: https://www.neverthirsty.org/bible-studies/life-of-christ-ministry-judea/i-am-the-light-of-the-world/ BACK TO TOP 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
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 10th August 2022 Take time to dream… Take time to dream - it is hitching your wagon to a star (old English saying) In our time hitching our hopes and dreams to a star calls us to live our lives mindful of the care we give to others and the care that we show for our common home, our beautiful planet. We have all seen the most amazing photographs of our planet taken from space but closer to earth we can see the beauty of our creation on a daily basis in our gardens and forests, in fact everywhere. One of the greatest challenges in our time is the damage done to our world by the abuse of the earth and its resources and as a result the environmental changes affecting so many countries with climate change, famine and poverty. There are many voices calling us to change our attitude to the earth. One powerful voice is Pope Francis in his document Laudato Si – care for our common home. It is said that if a butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazonian rain forest, it can change the weather half a world away. One woman who dedicated her life to caring for people and the earth in the Amazon region said: ‘We need to be poor with the poor and re-appropriate a kind and tender relationship with Mother Earth. Then we will know how to act’. These are the words of Dorothy Stang, a missionary sister, a woman who gave her life for the poor and for environmental issues. She was murdered for her beliefs and actions. Dohorty was well known throughout the Amazon region for her work with the poor and landless people and for her efforts to preserve the rain forests. She said to all who would listen to her "we must make great efforts to save our planet. Mother Earth is not able to provide anymore. Her water and air are poisoned and her soil is dying of exaggerated use of chemicals, all in the name of profit. Pray for all of us and for a world where all can live -- plants, animals and humans -- in peace and harmony." We can be part of this great work, in our daily life, by believing that the little we do, like the butterfly, has its effect in our world. Dorothy Stang had the courage to take time ‘to dream and hitch her wagon to the stars’ and hope for a better world. So what can we do? For us we can make decisions and take time to look at our lives. Each day we can cultivate a spirit of care for the earth by committing to the 6 R’s - Rethink, Recycle, Reuse, Reduce, Repair and Refuse. We can take time to dream and pray for this great recovery and healing of our common home. BACK TO TOP Wednesday 3rd August 2022 Always be thankful… The great work of the contemplative is thanksgiving wrote Thomas Merton....Our life in Carmel is centred around our daily Eucharist, THE great prayer of Thanksgiving... Every day we hear the words: “ Father, ...we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks...” Flowing from the Eucharist we gather 7 times every day to recite the Liturgy of the Hours or Prayer of the Church. The Psalms abound in thanksgiving: ‘Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for his love has no end’ Ps 136 I give you thanks for your faithfulness and love which excel all we ever knew of you.Ps.138. ‘I thank you for the wonder of my being, for the wonder of all your creation...’Ps. 139 Jesus too teaches us this beautiful attitude of thanksgiving when he pours out his gratitude to Abba when his disciples returned rejoicing after a fruitful mission: ‘It was then that, filled with joy by the Holy Spirit, he said, “I bless you Father, Lord of heaven and of earth for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children” ‘Lk.10.2. Again, at the tomb of Lazarus, even before he raises Lazarus he exclaims; ‘Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer. I knew indeed that you always hear me...’Jn. 11.42. We sense the disappointment in Jesus’ human heart when only one of the cured lepers, a stranger, returned to give thanks... ‘The other nine, where are they?’ Lk.17.18 St. Paul too encourages us: ‘Always be thankful...With gratitude in your hearts sing psalms and hymns and sacred songs to God...giving thanks to God the Father... Col.3.15-16 PLEASE, THANK YOU and SORRY are the three words that Pope Francis would write on the door of every family home, as they are the key to living well and in peace, both inside and outside the home. They are simple words, much easier to say than to put into practice...but what a lovely habit to develop until it will come spontaneously to us.. There is so much to give thanks for every day. Every breath we draw is a gift of God’s love, every moment of existence is a grace. St. Therese said Tout est Grace. Even the disappointments, struggles and suffering can carry a blessing. A word or gesture of thanks can light up a hurting or lonely heart... A thankful heart is a happy and contented heart... BACK TO TOP Thursday 28th July 2022 The Communion of Saints On this day exactly 20 years ago, St Pope John Paul II said the closing Mass “World Youth Day” week in Toronto, Canada, and gathered with him on the stage in front of a huge crowd of people were a group of youth, representing their countries, from all corners of the world. They were known as the “International Liturgy Group” and in the days and weeks that followed, these young people on returning home, shared their experiences of a wonderful week living as a “communion of saints”. Today I wish to share extracts from a reflection written shortly after that special week by a young American woman, Elise. Her words are just as relevant today as they were 20 years ago: ********************** Sermon by Elise Ainsworth, Illinois, USA July 2002 How do you picture the communion of Saints? Does it mean anything to you? Is it something you can feel? Can you taste it? Smell it? Hear it? What is it that makes it real in your life? Until this past summer I had a vague notion of the universality of our Church, of the community that we call the Communion of Saints. But the experience that began for me on July 20, 2002, has forever altered my perception of the Communion of Saints. I was privileged to represent the United States of America at World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada as part of the first ever International Liturgy Group. The Liturgy Group was made up of two delegates from each country present at World Youth Day and for a little over a week this summer we became aware of what it means to live in the Communion of Saints. Together, we ate and laughed and prayed and played and suffered and waited and talked and drank and cried and sang and waited and travelled and rejoiced and walked and translated each other for each other and waited and waited And The world became a little smaller. Of course, we had responsibilities, we had to do interviews with the media and learn the motions to the theme songs, and we each had a job to do at the several papal gatherings, We carried flags, read in many languages, and some of us had contact with the Holy Father; we were the representative young people on stage from every corner of the globe. We were a wonderful symbol of the church in the world. And our understanding began to change. We came to a new image of the Holy Family, a greatly expanded and extended Holy Family; We were to each other the brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers and children we had left at home. We cared for one another in the best way we knew how, we were Christ to each other. When I could not find the voice to sing my national anthem through my tears they sang for me, when Joanne from Curacao had to go to the hospital two of us went with her. We held each other in our nervousness, in our sadness, and in our joy. Together with the Holy Father we shared a vision from the stage of the youth of the world in a crowd so large we could not count from every race, nation, people, and tongue. In the way of the cross we took turns bearing the cross together and carried palm branches in our hands while we processed from station to station. At night we walked the streets of Toronto singing, evangelizing at the top of our lungs. We are One Body, One Body in Christ and we do not stand alone! The world news has new meaning for me, I am reminded of the communion of saints when, I hear the voices of my friends and loved ones in those of foreign correspondents I am delighted to hear familiar accents but disheartened when I hear of suffering and terror. When we are all family there is no excuse for war. I pray for all of them, and I know they are praying for me. Germany, Argentina, Poland, Ireland, Cuba, Mozambique, Thailand, Norway, the Philippines, Canada, France, Ukraine, Scotland, El Salvador, Angola, Macedonia, Today this is where our family lives. We take inspiration from the Saints who have gone before us and we make our best attempt to be examples for those who are yet to come. If being catholic means being universal then all are on our side, all are our family and all of us need to treat them that way *********** As I travel back twenty years in my memories, the people I met there, many of whom I am still in contact with, are in my heart and in my prayers. We have all moved on in life, formed new families, developed careers, grown in our respective vocations. But somehow, from our shared experience that one precious week, we have a unity that will endure forever. Thank you, each and every one of the International Liturgy Group from Toronto. I will never forget you all. May St John Paul II intercede for us all from heaven as we try to keep on being “light of the world and salt of the earth!”. BACK TO TOP Wednesday 20th July 2022 Love does that All day long a little burro (donkey) labours, sometimes with heavy loads on her back and sometimes just with worries about things that bother only burros. And worries, as we know, can be more exhausting than physical labour. Once in a while a kind nun comes to her stable and brings a pear, but more than that, She looks into the burro’s eyes and touches her ears and for a few seconds the burro is free and even seems to laugh, because love does that. Love frees. (Meister Eckhart) Sometimes I meet people who are totally hooked on a certain image of God and that is where they stay. It might be a negative image of a judge who is watching them. God isn’t like that at all. We read in Scripture that “God is Love” (1Jn. 16.) and Love invites and enables us to live in the freedom of God’s children. Yes, Love does that! BACK TO TOP Wednesday 13th July 2022 St Teresa of the Andes This week (July 13) we celebrate the Feast day of St. Teresa of the Andes. She is the youngest Carmelite nun to be canonized and the first Chilean saint but she seems to be less known than most of our saints. We had great celebrations for the various centenaries of St Teresa (of Avila), St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, but other than her own Carmel in Chile, few people seemed to notice the centenary of the death of St. Teresa of the Andes in 2020, perhaps Covid was partly to blame. Teresa was a young Chilean Carmelite, canonized by Pope John Paul in 1993. She died of typhus on April 12, 1920 at the age of nineteen years and nine months. Although she was so young she had no fear of death, she had written previously ‘to die is to be eternally immersed in Love’. She was known as Juanita to her family and friends. Like many young people today Juinita had a lot of interests and a large number of friends. She enjoyed playing tennis and croquet and often went swimming but above all she loved horse riding which she learnt from her grandfather when she was very young. She also loved music and singing. She played the guitar, piano and harmonium and she was a good dancer. When she was in her early teens Juanita read the lives of St. Therese and St Elizabeth of the Trinity and gradually became convinced that God was calling her to Carmel. She wrote to her younger sister, Rebecca, telling her that she had been ‘captured in the nets of the Divine Fisherman’. Only three weeks after she left school Juanita applied to enter Carmel. In his homily for her canonization Pope John Paul said, “In a secularised society which turns its back on God, this Chilean Carmelite whom, to my great joy, I present as a model of the perennial youth of the Gospel, gives the shining witness of a life which proclaims to the men and women of our day that it is in loving, adoring and serving God that the human person finds greatness and joy, freedom and fulfilment. The life of Blessed Teresa cries out continually from within her cloister: ‘God alone suffices’. BACK TO TOP Wednesday 6th July 2022 Do not worry “Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away.” Matthew 24:35 The first Christians set enormous store on the words of Jesus. They had seen for themselves how a word of Jesus could change their lives – free them of illnesses, bring them peace, release them from sin. After the death and resurrection of Jesus they experienced His word resurrecting them from within and filling them with courage to fearlessly proclaim the Gospel. They copped on better than we do maybe, that being a Christian meant putting Jesus’ words into practise. This morning in my cell I am mulling over the words Jesus spoke about worrying. God knows that at this present time in our world there are plenty of good reasons for worrying! “ Therefore, I tell you do not worry about your life – what you will eat or what you will drink. Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they are? And can any of you for all his worrying add a single cubit to your span of life. Matthew 6. The Provident care of our Heavenly Father for each of us – can we enter within ourselves and let the wonder of it seep down into the core of our tattered lives. R.S. Thomas, the Welsh poet shows us the way. Listen! A message from God delivered by a bird at my window, offering friendship. Listen , such language! Who said God was without speech? Every word An injection to make me smile. Meet me , it says tomorrow here At the same time And you will remember How wonderful Today was! So do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Look at the birds, Jesus says to you and to me today. Are you not worth much more than they are? BACK TO TOP Thursday 30th June 2022 Mercy enters in with ‘Sleeves rolled up’ Pope Francis is a person who is very aware of his own inner frailty and he reminds us often that he is the wounded shepherd. We have seen of late that he is physically frail as well. So when he speaks about receiving Mercy and showing Mercy he is speaking from experience. He could say with St Paul that he knows God’s ‘grace is sufficient for (him) you, for God’s power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.’ 2 Corinthians 12:9. This week we celebrate the feasts of Saints Peter and Paul who like Pope Francis learnt what it was like to be weak and to experience their weaknesses. We have already heard this in the quotation above from St. Paul. St. Peter, the future leader/shepherd of the Church, also experienced his weakness when he said to Jesus ‘I will never deny you’ (Matthew 26: 35) but later he did. And when he realized what he had done he wept; his sorrow was heartbreaking and genuine. We all make mistakes and sin. Welcome to the human race! But we have a choice: we can either beat ourselves up or forgive ourselves and ask forgiveness from God and those we have offended. Recently I was very taken by what the priest said at Mass. Others too were struck by it. He said ‘do yourself no harm’. He was quoting from Acts of Apostles 16:22-35, the story where Paul and his companions were in prison and the gaoler thought they had escaped. The gaoler was about to commit suicide and Paul shouted ‘do yourself no harm, we are all here’. Reflecting on this passage we were asked ‘do I harm myself? Do I beat myself up when I fail? Do I accept that I have strengths and weaknesses? Do I realize that there are people who are there to support me as Paul said – ‘we are all here’ to help you? Do I allow myself to experience God’s Mercy within, with ‘sleeves rolled up’ (Wounded Shepherd Austen Ivereigh)? Then do I share this Mercy with others? BACK TO TOP Friday 17th June 2022 How is your heart? June is the month of traditional devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and now it is only one week to that beautiful feast day. Today I noticed a reference to “heart” in the Gospel reading: “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” Mt 6:20 When I think about all the people, places and things that I love, I realise that I have much treasure in life to be grateful for. Then I began reflecting on the love in the Sacred Heart of Jesus and particularly His great love for humanity, and I realised that this means we are His Treasure! What a beautiful and comforting thought, that I am part of God’s Treasure!! We hear it said that the Scriptures are God’s love letters to us. I wish I could remember that more often!! In our chaotic and unpredictable world, however, our hearts are not always at peace. We all know that our hearts can be filled with a mixture of different emotions from day to day, or even from hour to hour. We find inside ourselves grief, anger, hope, joy, bitterness, and sadness. St Teresa said that the practice of frequent prayer brings about an “enlarging” of the heart, and indeed, in my own imperfect way, I am experiencing that more and more too as I live the life of a Carmelite. I find myself sharing in the joys and sorrows, hopes and fears of many people that call to us or ask for our prayers. This can be a challenge at times, but it is also a great grace to share in so many human experiences. This week I came across a very helpful quotation from St Francis de Sales that reassures me when I consider the complex mix of feelings in my own heart. He said: “We must try to keep our hearts steadily, unshakably equal during great inequality of events. Even though everything may turn and change around us, we must try to remain unchanging and ever looking, striving, and aspiring toward God.” So, as we prepare for the feast of the Sacred Heart, ask yourself this question: “how is my heart today?” Then, know that in whatever condition it is, Jesus is there waiting for you to accept the abundance of His great and unconditional love and mercy. Image: pixabay.com BACK TO TOP Thursday 9th June 2022 A Bond of Attraction A question I am often asked is, “what do contemplatives do all day?” This is a brief overview. Viewed from the outside, one might see only a group of women doing the same thing every day(24/7) in a confined space. Sometimes people often tend to write off the contemplative life as a domain of self- protected cosiness and uncritical belief --- when in truth the contemplative life is a response to a compelling call to journey to vulnerability and openness. From the beginning, women and men have been called to a dialogue of love with the Creator. The journey undertaken by contemplatives is a God-quest journey to the sanctuary in the soul where love dwells. Centuries ago, some women and men intent on living life beyond the obvious developed a life designed to bring life to life. These wisdom figures reaffirmed for every generation the balance which becoming whole requires. Some of the tools of contemplatives are silence, solitude and prayerful reading of God’s word. In the silence and solitude the contemplative learns to hear the cry of sisters and brothers who are victims of the throw-away culture, the mysteries of human frailty, smallness, darkness and the indestructibility of love. Reading God’s word helps to cultivate a discerning heart, to build communion, and to see all people, the Earth and all its creatures through the lens of love. In a world dominated by the mind-set of power, wealth and consumerism the contemplative knows the value of material things yet these do not steal their heart or cloud their understanding. On this journey there are times of huge aridity, sheer emotional endurance and a sense of the loss of God that is like the emptiness experienced by atheism. Also along the journey ones comes to the realization that there is within you a sanctuary of deep love, trust and belonging. It would be false to restrict the domain of the contemplative exclusively to those who live in cloister. To a greater or lesser degree every human heart is contemplative. Next time you become aware of a beautiful sunset/sunrise or the exquisite smell the roses --- you are being contemplative, to a certain extent-- and “Bidden or not bidden, God is present.” (Carl Jung) Image: pixabay.com BACK TO TOP Thursday 2nd June 2022 The Sixteen Carmelite Martyrs of Compiègne On May 27th 1906 Pope Pius X beatified the Compiègne Martyrs and early this year Pope Francis granted the opening of their Process of Canonization ‘by equivalence’ that is to say without the necessity of proving a miracle. He was responding to a request made by the French bishops and the Discalced Carmelite Order. The Compiègne Martyrs were sixteen French Carmelite nuns; they were very ordinary women from every sphere of life, which is illustrated by their father’s occupations. The prioress’s father worked in the Paris Observatory, another nun’s father was an advisor to the king, and others were craftsmen, tradesmen and labourers. Like most other religious in France at the time of the Revolution these sixteen nuns were forced to leave their monastery in 1792. They were banned from living as a community, but they managed to get accommodation in private houses very near to each other and lived in four small groups. Within two months of the expulsion from their monastery their prioress, Sr. Teresa of St. Augustine, suggested that they make a daily offering of their lives for the Church and their country. They had been doing this for almost two years when they were arrested. Soon afterwards they were sentenced to death for practicing their faith, as during the Revolution all Christian worship was banned. On July 17th 1874 they were taken from the Conciergerie prison in Paris in open carts to the guillotine. The journey took just over an hour and during this time the nuns’ faces expressed total serenity, some witnesses even said radiance; they were singing and praying as they travelled along the roads of Paris all the way to the guillotine. Although religious dress was banned, by God’ providence the mayor in Compiènge had allowed the nuns to wash their secular clothes, so when they were ordered to leave for Paris they were wearing their Carmelite habits and over their habits, the nuns wore their white choir mantles, which added to the impressive sight of a community of nuns being taken together to their death. Individual nuns had been executed before but this was the only time a whole community was condemned. At the guillotine the sisters renewed their vows and their act of offering for peace in their country and in the Church and the release of prisoners; then each sister asked her prioress for ‘Permission to die’ before kissing a tiny statue of Our Lady holding the Child Jesus. There was complete silence as they were executed, none of the usual jeers were heard and there were none of the customary drum rolls. Just ten days later the reign of terror ended and many people believed that this was brought about by the sacrifice of the nuns. They were buried in the Picpus Cemetery with 1,290 other victims of the guillotine. There is a memorial plaque at the site on which all the names of the nuns are listed. Window image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Our_Lady_of_Mount_Carmel_Church,_Quidenham,_Norfolk_-_Windows_-_geograph.org.uk_- _1084822.jpg BACK TO TOP Wednesday 25th May 2022 From Darkness to Light “I am the Light of the world Anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark but he/she will have the light of life.” – Jn. 8 How comforting it is in the light of the Ukrainian war and the sufferings of those brave people to think of Jesus as the Light of the World. He is God’s love and tenderness made visible. Think of Him while on earth, His words and deeds brought healing and wholeness, beauty, and peace. The blind saw, the deaf heard again, the crippled walked. He had an illuminating effect on all He met. So, to be children of light and not of darkness our lives too must be full of goodness, love, mercy, and justice. God’s Living Word must be “a lamp for my steps and a light for my path.” Ps.119. The early Christians waiting to be thrown to the lions chanted, “The Lord is my light and my help, whom shall I fear. The Lord is the stronghold of my life before whom shall I shrink.” Ps. 27 The secret of their confidence lay in the enabling power of God’s Word. Our newest Carmelite saint, Titus Brandsma knew it too. Killed by lethal injection in the concentration camp of Dachau in 1942 for speaking out against the Nazi ideology he said, “Do not yield to hatred. We are here in a dark tunnel but we have to go on. At the end an eternal light is shining for us.” So, God is calling us from the darkness of evil into His own wonderful Light. The love we have for each other is the judge of whether we are children of light or of darkness. At the present time Christ, the Light of the World is shining ever more brightly in the hearts of people even in the midst of wars and afflictions of all kinds. Deeds of goodness, mercy, compassion, justice, and peace are springing up. You O Lord are my lamp, My God who lightens my darkness. Ps. 18. Image: https://www.neverthirsty.org/bible-studies/life-of-christ-ministry-judea/i-am-the-light-of-the-world/ BACK TO TOP 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
St. Joseph’s Carmel