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 Wednesday 29th December 2021 Hold my hand, Lord Usually at this time every year some Sisters like to take out the little card designed by our late Sr Mary John which depicts a lantern beside the popular verse “Gate of the Year” by Haskins. This year it has made me reflect more than usual on the idea of holding hands with God. What an incredible image it is when we stop to think about it!! St Teresa had many visions of Christ, but I am intrigued that her very first vision was of His hands only… she writes: “One day, while I was in prayer, the Lord desired to show me only His hands which were so very beautiful that I would be unable to exaggerate the beauty” (Life 28:1). What would it have been like for the many sick people that were touched and cured by these very same beautiful hands?! How I wish this again for each person still suffering from COVID and all those with cancer and other serious illnesses. In the Gospel we hear about St Peter when he tried to walk on the water and got afraid and sank? Again, it was those beautiful hands of Christ that reached out to hold him! I wish this for everyone across our world tonight who feels they are sinking or drowning in life, for whatever reason. May the hands of Christ hold them safe and securely. As we end what has been a very difficult year for the whole world, let us draw courage from this image that was given to humanity many years ago by the prophet Isaiah when he wrote: “I am holding you by your right hand—I, the Lord your God—and I say to you, Don’t be afraid; I am here to help you”(Is 41:13). Sometimes the hand of God for us may be that of a strong parent giving us courage and reassurance. For me, sometimes God’s hand is that of a child pulling me to join in a new and exciting adventure! Yet other times, God’s hand is that of a close friend or a lover, full of tenderness and understanding. Let us go forward into a New Year with faith and confidence that our Saviour and Lord is right beside us at every moment, only a hand’s grasp away!! Image: freeimages.com BACK TO TOP Wednesday 22nd December 2021 Anchored It is not easy to be rooted, secure in who we are, and able to give our best. Too many things seem to conspire against us and what’s best in us gets buried, waiting for a better day! The “stuff” of each day can pull us down as we try to deal with it – the endless demands of practical life. Unless we are anchored in something beyond the here and now, there is a strong possibility that we will drown in the present moment. Perhaps we can find a kind of prayer to help us cope with a world that gets caught up in the Christmas frenzy? One way the Gospels describe how Jesus prayed was, “He turned his eyes towards heaven!” And our Carmelite sister, St. Therese of Lisieux reminds us that “for me prayer is a simple look towards heaven.” Each one of us needs to find our way of doing this if we are to cope with all that threatens to drown us. We do not need to ask permission from the authorities. ----- Slip away, raise your eyes and follow your breath to the place that calms your heart. We will always be unanchored, adrift, until we, like Jesus and Therese regularly “turn our eyes towards heaven” and find some calm for our frenzied hearts. Oh, on our list of priorities for Christmas ----- is God in the “deal with that later” section or??? Peace be with you! BACK TO TOP Wednesday 15th December 2021 St John of the Cross This week on December 14th we celebrate the Feast Day of St. John of the Cross (1542-1591). John is sometimes presented as a rather severe remote person, certainly he was not an extrovert, but he reached out to others with a gentle compassion. Like all of us he was formed by the experiences of his early life. John was born into a society of stark contrasts where some lived in great wealth and luxury and others in appalling poverty; many lived in fear of starvation and of the recurring epidemics of the plague which swept through the Spain at this time. You will notice some resonances with our own times. When John was still very young his father died, he had two brothers and the family was left in extreme poverty, but their mother Catalina worked hard at her trade of weaving and managed to keep them together, though sadly John’s brother Luis died about 2 years after their father. Catalina was a wonderful example to her sons, in spite of their poverty she always tried to share the little she had with any who had even less. Although John experienced so much hardship in his early life he learnt the value of love over material possessions. He had great love for his mother from whom he learnt the values of generosity and gratitude and called his brother Francisco his greatest treasure. As John’s prayer deepened he became intensely aware of God’s continual presence in the beauty of the countryside as well as in his own soul. It was then that he began to write poetry and to carve simple crucifixes. He is recognised today as one of the greatest Spanish poets. Although we cannot appreciate his poetic writing fully in translation, the following seasonal extract from Romance 8 illustrates his thought. The Incarnation (Continued) Then He called The archangel Gabriel And sent him to The Virgin Mary, At whose consent The mystery was wrought, In whom the Trinity Clothed the Word with flesh. And though Three work this, It is wrought in the one: And the Word lived incarnate In the womb of Mary. And He who had only a Father Now had a mother too, But she was not like others Who conceive by man. From her own flesh He received his flesh, So he is called Son of God and of man. Image: The road from Peñuela to Ubeda along which John made his last journey BACK TO TOP Wednesday 8th December 2021 Peace I bequeath to you Glory to God in the highest Heaven the angels sang on the night Christ, the Son of God was born and peace to all of good-will. This Advent maybe we need to hear those angels to sing again over our storm- tossed world? Yes, we do need a gift from God in the midst of wars, hurricanes, floods, to mention but a few and this global pandemic which is causing such huge disruption and bringing grief and suffering to millions throughout the world. People write to us Carmelites in their sorrows and losses as well as in their joys and breakthroughs. I often notice how after the death of a loved one they go back over what their loved ones said before they departed – like the young widow who said of her husband “he told me he loved me with his last breath.” It makes me return to the last night of Jesus on this earth before his dreadful passion, how He was thinking of us… He who had come down from Heaven to show us by His caring, loving, healing actions how much God loves each of us. Now far from the songs of angels, He faces scorn and rejection and horrendous cruelty. His sensitive being shudders. Yet His thoughts are on us……. you and me all of us. I will not leave you orphans; I will come back to you. If anyone loves me, he will keep my words and my Father will love him and we shall come to him and make and make our home with him. Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you.” – John 14. So, we do have a place to fly to in the storms that afflict us when the whole world seems in turmoil. That innermost core of our being where Christ dwells and where no fear or dread can reach. He is waiting to enfold us in His peace. Dear reader, let us claim our inheritance this Advent and Christmas. God’s priceless gift that cannot be bought on earth because it is a peace the world cannot give. We each hold out to you this small light of peace. Let us use our inheritance to spread good-will and healing that others too may be enfolded in His peace. For the mountains may depart, the hills be shaken, But my love for you will never leave you and my Covenant of Peace with you will never be broken. Isaiah 54. BACK TO TOP Wednesday 1st December 2021 Autumn This Autumn has been particularly beautiful and gradual. It took time for the trees to lose their leaves. The colours on the trees turned very slowly to all shades of green, red and gold. The changes remind us of our journey through life with its many shades revealing their own personal message. As you reflect on your own journey the following poem may help. Autumn The leaves fall, fall as from far, Like distant gardens withered in the heavens; They fall with slow and lingering descent. And in the nights the heavy Earth, too, falls From out the stars into the Solitude. Thus all doth fall. This hand of mine must fall And lo! the other one:—it is the law. But there is One who holds this falling Infinitely softly in His Hands. Rainer Maria Rilke - 1875-1926 This poem is in the public domain. From Poems (Tobias A. Wright, 1918), translated by Jessie Lamont. To see a video made by a Sister of leaves falling click here. BACK TO TOP Wednesday 24th November 2021 Vietnamese Today, November 24th, is the feast of the Martyrs of Vietnam, and we are united in a special way with all the people of that great country, and especially those suffering with COVID-19 at this time. We pray for the intercession of the martyrs for all the Vietnamese people throughout the world, and we remember again our Sr Marie Paul who is still in her hotel quarantine, spending her time in prayer and rest as she adjusts from the jet-lag! We asked her to write a message for her friends in Ireland, and here are her words: "Sister Fionnuala asked me to share some of my feelings while living in St. Joseph's Carmelite Monastery of Kilmacud- Dublin, Ireland before returning to Vietnam. It is very sad and difficult to share, difficult to say goodbye. My emotions are mixed with joy and sadness, worry, suspense and hope... Four years was a good length of time that allowed me to experience the love and affection of the Sisters and everyone who has been there for me. The country and people in Ireland are friendly and polite. I thank God for sending me to Ireland for a while, so that I could learn and improve myself. Thank you to the Holy Sisters for accepting me and patiently guiding me whenever I needed help. The sisters are shining examples that I will follow... Now I am quarantined at a hotel, but my mind is still on the Carmel Saint Joseph's of Kilmacud. The images of the Sisters, the teachers and the people I know in Ireland are still in my mind. I will forever remember and will never forget you in my prayers. Ireland is a wonderful country... I love you." Now let us pray together to the Martyrs of Vietnam today: O Vietnamese Martyrs, with the Grace of God, you had victoriously implanted the mustard seed of Faith that grew into the Church of Vietnam. Your courageous sacrifice had reserved your Heavenly rest. United with you, we offer our gratitudes and thanks to God and the Holy Mother, for all of your martyrdom and your lives that we now celebrate. We beseech you, as your descendants, to follow your Faith in humility, charity and love. When we are in despair and danger, please aid and console us in fulfilling the Father's Will and carry our crosses to Eternal Glory. Amen. Kính lạy các Thánh Tử Đạo Việt Nam, xưa đã biết dùng ơn Chúa mà lướt thắng mọi khó khăn khổ cực, để gieo rắc hạt giống Phúc Âm, và xây dựng Hội Thánh Chúa trên đất nước Việt Nam. Các Thánh đã can đảm tuyên xưng Đức Tin, đến hy sinh mạng sống, vì lòng yêu mến Chúa, và phần rỗi các linh hồn, nên đáng được hưởng hạnh phúc trên trời. Chúng con xin hiệp ý cùng các Thánh mà tạ ơn Thiên Chúa và Mẹ Maria, Nữ Vương các Thánh Tử Đạo, đã ban cho các Thánh được hồng phúc như vậy. Chúng con hoan hỉ ca tụng các Thánh, là những hoa trái đầu mùa cao quý của Hội Thánh Việt Nam. Xin các Thánh cầu bầu cho chúng con, là con cháu, biết noi gương mà sống đạo Phúc Âm, thi hành bác ái, trung thành với Hội Thánh và yêu mến quê hương. Và khi chúng con gặp khó khăn nguy hiểm, xin các Thánh nâng đỡ ủi an, để chúng đủ sức vâng theo ý Chúa, cộng tác vào mầu nhiệm Thập Giá cứu độ của Chúa Giêsu, tiếp tục con đường các Thánh đã đi, hầu đạt tới hạnh phúc muôn đời. Amen. Image: from Vietnamese Martyrs Church, Phoenix, Arizona BACK TO TOP Thursday 11th November 2021 The Power of One One Tree can start a forest - one Bird can herald spring. One Smile begin a friendship –one Handclasp lift a soul. One Star can guide a ship at sea – one Flower can wake a dream. One Vote can change a nation – one Candle wipe out darkness. One Step must start a journey – one Word can start a prayer. One Hope can raise our spirits – one Touch can show you care. One Voice can speak with wisdom – one Heart can know what is true. One Life can make a difference You see, it’s up to You. Perhaps half of our great plans, the dreams we dream for our world, and even for ourselves, are dreams God allows us to dream in order that, on the way there, we may accomplish, almost without realizing it, the crucial thing God intends us to do. Yes, Ordinary people achieve extraordinary things when they act unselfishly towards each other. Our Carmelite, St. John of the Cross pinpoints our earthly mission: “And where there is no love, put love and you will find love.” Image: skynews.com BACK TO TOP Friday 5th November 2021 Tear through the veil of this sweet encounter As we come to November our thoughts turn naturally to those who have passed through the thin veil between this world and the next. Many of our saints have longed for the moment when they would see God face to face. Three weeks before she died, St. Therese, taking up the words of St. John of the Cross in his ‘Living Flame of Love, said, ‘O yes I desire heaven! Tear through the veil of this sweet encounter, O my God!’ Three months previously she had written to one of her spiritual brothers, the young Maurice Belliere, ‘Brother I shall go soon and offer your love to all your friends in heaven…I would like to tell you many things that I understand now that I am at the door of eternity; but I am not dying, I am entering into Life, and all that I cannot say to you here below, I will make you understand from the heights of heaven ...’ St. Elizabeth if the Trinity also expressed her delight at her approaching death. Her last words were. ‘I am going to Life, to Love, to Light…’ While we can’t deny that for many people fear evoked by the prospect of death and the sorrow and pain involved in physical parting can be both distressing and frightening; for those who have faith there is always a ‘bright side’ too, as the brightness of God’s glory shines through in many ways. On several occasions I have experienced a wonderful peace when sitting with a dying person and I have sometimes seen their amazed and delighted gaze at ‘someone’ I was unable to see. Was it their guardian angel, Our Lord, Our Lady, a favourite saint or a family member? I don’t know, but clearly their presence brought great joy to the dying one and enabled them to let go of their tenuous link with life on earth. We are told that St. Therese had this experience too, her sister Celine wrote that after saying her last words, ‘My God I love You’, Therese raised herself up as though called by some mysterious voice, opened her eyes and fixed a radiant gaze on a spot a little above the statue of Our Lady of the Smile. Therese remained in this position for about the time it would take to recite the creed. At first, her expression had an air of confident assurance and joyful expectancy, then it changed to profound astonishment and overflowing gratitude. Immediately after this loving gaze Therese sank back on her pillow, closed her eyes and died. BACK TO TOP Wednesday 27th October 2021 How does it feel to be 90? Terrific! It gives me more quality time to spend with the Lord. Guaranteed however, old age is not for cissies! Hearing and eye-sight diminish and demand more than a little patience. St. Teresa consoles us with a beautiful truth: “Whoever lives in the presence of so good a friend and excellent teacher as is Jesus Christ, can put up with all things.” Memories of family and youth surface - like arriving in Cobh, Co. Cork on the S.S. Washington liner 75 years ago… Living in Grandfather’s thatched cottage and later working with Father in his Dublin butcher’s shop. Soon followed the Lord’s gentle call to Carmel. “Holy people” considered me too young and the Carmelite Order too austere but the family were always supportive. I celebrated my 17th. Birthday here in Kilmacud Carmel 73 years ago. Here I am – “still around” and fit as a fiddle at 90, overflowing with gratitude and more and more thanksgiving to God. In later years “a call within a call” came to me and I was able to help a little in the re-founding of Carmelite Life in Lithuania. I was able to witness a “new spring-time of Carmel emerging after more than 200 years of extinction by the Russian Czar. I continue to keep in contact with the beautiful Lithuanian people and sisters. People tell me I don’t look my age – what is the secret they ask? I say: Moderation. Yes, moderation in all things but much more than that. A loving relationship with God in prayer. Accepting the little sacrifices that everyday brings in various ways. Sisterly love in a wonderful Community. Needless to say, detachment, urgency, and determination help in responding to the great gratuitous “call to follow Christ.” Dear reader, ponder the wise words of St. Teresa. Let nothing disturb you: Let nothing dismay you: All things pass: God never changes. Patience attains All that it strives for. He who has God Finds he lacks nothing: God alone suffices. BACK TO TOP Friday 13th October 2021 Autumn Psalm of Contentment O sacred season of Autumn, be my teacher, for I wish to learn the virtue of contentment. As I gaze upon your full-coloured beauty, I sense all about you an at-homeness with your amber riches. You are the season of retirement of full barns and harvested fields. The cycle of growth has ceased, and the busy work of giving life is now completed. I sense in you no regrets: You have lived a full life. I live in a society that is ever-restless, always eager for more mountains to climb, seeking happiness through more and more possessions. As a child of my culture, I am seldom truly at peace with what I have. Teach me to take stock of what I have given and received; may I know that it's enough, that my striving can cease in the abundance of God's grace. May I know the contentment that allows the totality of my energies to come to full flower. May I know that like you I am rich beyond measure. As you, O Autumn, take pleasure in your great bounty, let me also take delight in the abundance of the simple things of life which are the true source of joy. With the golden glow of peaceful contentment may I truly appreciate this autumn day. from Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim by Edward Hays BACK TO TOP Friday 8th October 2021 The Rosary of Life Yesterday was the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. This traditional devotion which has existed since the twelfth century is popular all over the world, and like many Irish people, I have memories of the “family rosary” being recited at home each evening when I was a child. Of course, Mary the Mother of Jesus, never prayed the rosary in the way that we do now. However, she is our example of a “Living Rosary”, as expressed so beautifully by Pope John Paul II in his 2002 Apostolic Letter “Rosarium Virginis Mariae”: The memories of Jesus, impressed upon her heart, were always with her, leading her to reflect on the various moments of her life at her Son's side. In a way those memories were to be the “rosary” which she recited uninterruptedly throughout her earthly life. Reflecting on this passage gives me great encouragement in my own prayer life, as I often find it difficult to concentrate during my formal recitation of the rosary. Like Mary, all of us who strive to live close to Jesus will have a collection of memories and many “ups and downs” in life’s journey. Throughout an average day, I find myself pondering so many things that can become my personal “Mysteries of the Rosary of Life” if I ponder them alongside Jesus. Sometimes I might ponder “distressing mysteries” and ask God where he is in these situations. Other times I might be absorbed in “excited mysteries” as I think about an upcoming event, and I can share this excitement with the Lord. What if all the routine tasks of every day (getting dressed, eating breakfast, washing, etc….) are like the Hail Marys of my Rosary of Life, and as I go through each one of them, I ponder the mysteries of my life with Jesus, and remember His presence with me through them all?? Yes, then I will feel that my whole life is becoming a Rosary with Jesus and Mary. BACK TO TOP

Wednesday 29th September 2021

No bad way There is no bad way to pray and there is no one starting point for prayer. There is one non- negotiable rule: You must be present for prayer and be present regularly. Everything else respects your unique circumstances. Let your own experience be your guide, and trust in God’s providence – the text you most need to read will FIND you. Some years ago, a text found me and I would like to share a little of it with you. “Prayer had already begun in me – the place where God dwelt in me was also the place of prayer. Long before I was aware of it or before I took an interest in it, this prayer was going on ceaselessly within me. In effect, it was not I who gave myself to prayer, but the Holy Spirit who never ceases to pray in me as St. Paul says in Rm (8.26). It is important to insist on this. Right from the beginning, prayer has already begun before we do anything—it comes before any of our efforts or techniques. From the moment when I received the life of God in baptism, prayer had been poured into my heart along with the Holy Spirit who was then given to me (Rm.5.5.). My efforts consist in letting the prayer flow out and spill over into my consciousness” (A. Louf, A Cistercian Alternative). We all struggle with prayer and at times we feel we are catching nothing but our own emptiness. The above text is one that has encouraged my heart with love, and it reminds me that I am prayed in much more than I pray. I do need to listen in order to hear the Spirit saying: “I love you.” Nothing will heal us more and our capacity to love depends upon it. And it can help us to become more docile to the surprises that shift our lives in new directions! It seems to me that the author of the above passage wrote with a pen dipped in the inkwell of grace and I hope the text may be a source of encouragement for you on your pilgrim journey. The full quote from Romans reads: “The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.”(Rm8.26) BACK TO TOP

Wednesday 22nd September 2021

Autumn I was thinking about the changing seasons recently and what a good teacher God is in giving us the cycle of nature as a pattern for our lives. This reminded me of a hymn we used to sing long ago. God is working his purpose out as year succeeds to year; God is working his purpose out, and the time is drawing near; nearer and nearer draws the time the time that shall surely be, when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea. The closing lines of each verse are taken from the prophet Habakkuk 2:14 ‘For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. We get many glimpses of God’s glory in his creation. Every season has its unique beauty and message. The sounds and smells of autumn evoke both completion and new life. The harvest is gathered in and the new school year has just begun. Rustling leaves underfoot announce the end of summer and herald the start of a cooler more subdued season. Keats called it the 'Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness'. The vivid flowers of the long warm days of summer have all disappeared, but autumn has a brightness of its own as the low shining sun illumines the orange yellow and brown leaves still holding on to the trees, as well as the remaining green ones. Autumn is about letting go, a lesson the trees teach us when they shed their leaves. As we let go of superfluous things, whether they be clutter or the burdens of unhelpful attitudes and thoughts, we make more room for God’s glory to shine in our lives. The days become shorter and the nights become longer until we arrive at the autumn equinox towards the end of September, when darkness and light are perfectly balanced. Autumn teaches us to strive for that place of balance and to harmonise with the quietening of nature. It encourages us to enter into joyful appreciation of the work of God in creation and in our own lives; and in this place of thanksgiving we are invited to pause and enter into peaceful silence where God’s Spirit waits for us and rejuvenates us for new beginnings. BACK TO TOP

Wednesday 15th September 2021

Hope does not deceive us Why? Because the Scriptures say, “ God’s Love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit”. So, hope is not a human resource that we muster up in ourselves. No, it is a God given gift poured into our hearts. The very spirit of Jesus given to us to instil courage and trust in times of difficulty and crisis. It must be the virtue we most need to put into practise at the present time faced with the turmoil of our world and the ever increasing sea of suffering opening up before our eyes. Without this virtue of Hope we could easily slide into despair. But if we rely on this new principle of life, the very spirit of Christ poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit that is buried in the depths of each one of us, we can peer through the shambles of our present world and see the the new thing God is doing, the seeds of a new way opening up before us. We see Pope Francis doing just this in his new book: “Let us dream”. “I’m thinking of great rivers that gently swell, so gradually that you hardly notice them, but then the moment comes and they burst their banks and overflow. In our society, God’s Mercy breaks out at such “overflow moments”: bursting out, breaking the traditional confines that have kept so many people from what they deserve, shaking up our roles and our thinking. I see an overflow of Mercy spilling out in our midst. Hearts have been tested. The crisis has called forth in some a new courage and compassion. Some have been sifted and have responded with the desire to reimagine our world; others have come to the aid of those in need in concrete ways that can transform our neighbour’s suffering.” Let’s allow God’s word to Isaiah to speak to us - “Come let us talk this over. Let us dare to dream.” Pope Francis has a message for us Contemplatives too during this time of crisis. “Be torches to guide men and women along their journey through the dark night of time. Be sentinels of the morning, heralding the dawn. Show us the One who is the Way, and the Truth and the Life, the Lord Who alone brings fulfilment and bestows life in abundance.” Young St. Therese carried the torch of Hope for her time. She broke through the barrier of fear which separated people from God. She uncovered for them and for us the infinite tenderness pent-up in the heart of our Father/Mother God that is revealed to us in Jesus. Her message spread like a forest fire. She alerts us all that our loving tender God suffers with us. He is down here in the midst of the crisis with us. You too, dear reader, be a torch of Hope. Join forces with us to herald the dawn! Let us dream together. BACK TO TOP

Friday 10th September 2021

No one is too small to make a difference (Greta Thunberg) Upholding the world in Prayer These days of the “Season of Creation” we uphold our world in prayer. We are reminded, of its beauty and vulnerability, in the following reflection by the astronaut Russell Sweickart. “The astronaut looks back and sees the Earth not as something big but small. And now the contrast between Earth- that bright blue-and- white Christmas tree ornament and that black sky, that infinite universe, really come through. Earth becomes so small and so frail, and such a precious little spot in the universe, and you realize that on that small spot, that little blue – and white thing, is everything that means anything to you; all of history, music, poetry, art, games, war and death, birth and love, tears and joy, all of it is on that little spot out there you can cover with your thumb. You’re going 25,000 mph, ripping through a vacuum, and there’s not a sound. There’s a silence, the depth of which you’ve experiencing before and why. Have you been separated out by God to have some special experience that other people cannot have? NO. It is not for yourself. You have to bring it back, somehow – a rather special responsibility. It tells you something about your relationship with this life. When you come back, there’s a difference – so precious – in the relationship between you and that planet and all its forms of life, because you’ve had that kind of experience”. As we reflect and remember the beauty of creation let us also pray that we will act responsibly by caring for the earth in the way we live our lives. Remembering the passion of Greta Thunberg when she said ‘no one is too small to make a difference’ by our daily efforts we can make a difference. 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 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 Wednesday 29th December 2021 Hold my hand, Lord Usually at this time every year some Sisters like to take out the little card designed by our late Sr Mary John which depicts a lantern beside the popular verse “Gate of the Year” by Haskins. This year it has made me reflect more than usual on the idea of holding hands with God. What an incredible image it is when we stop to think about it!! St Teresa had many visions of Christ, but I am intrigued that her very first vision was of His hands only… she writes: “One day, while I was in prayer, the Lord desired to show me only His hands which were so very beautiful that I would be unable to exaggerate the beauty” (Life 28:1). What would it have been like for the many sick people that were touched and cured by these very same beautiful hands?! How I wish this again for each person still suffering from COVID and all those with cancer and other serious illnesses. In the Gospel we hear about St Peter when he tried to walk on the water and got afraid and sank? Again, it was those beautiful hands of Christ that reached out to hold him! I wish this for everyone across our world tonight who feels they are sinking or drowning in life, for whatever reason. May the hands of Christ hold them safe and securely. As we end what has been a very difficult year for the whole world, let us draw courage from this image that was given to humanity many years ago by the prophet Isaiah when he wrote: “I am holding you by your right hand—I, the Lord your God—and I say to you, Don’t be afraid; I am here to help you”(Is 41:13). Sometimes the hand of God for us may be that of a strong parent giving us courage and reassurance. For me, sometimes God’s hand is that of a child pulling me to join in a new and exciting adventure! Yet other times, God’s hand is that of a close friend or a lover, full of tenderness and understanding. Let us go forward into a New Year with faith and confidence that our Saviour and Lord is right beside us at every moment, only a hand’s grasp away!! Image: freeimages.com BACK TO TOP Wednesday 22nd December 2021 Anchored It is not easy to be rooted, secure in who we are, and able to give our best. Too many things seem to conspire against us and what’s best in us gets buried, waiting for a better day! The “stuff” of each day can pull us down as we try to deal with it – the endless demands of practical life. Unless we are anchored in something beyond the here and now, there is a strong possibility that we will drown in the present moment. Perhaps we can find a kind of prayer to help us cope with a world that gets caught up in the Christmas frenzy? One way the Gospels describe how Jesus prayed was, “He turned his eyes towards heaven!” And our Carmelite sister, St. Therese of Lisieux reminds us that “for me prayer is a simple look towards heaven.” Each one of us needs to find our way of doing this if we are to cope with all that threatens to drown us. We do not need to ask permission from the authorities. ----- Slip away, raise your eyes and follow your breath to the place that calms your heart. We will always be unanchored, adrift, until we, like Jesus and Therese regularly “turn our eyes towards heaven” and find some calm for our frenzied hearts. Oh, on our list of priorities for Christmas ----- is God in the “deal with that later” section or??? Peace be with you! BACK TO TOP Wednesday 15th December 2021 St John of the Cross This week on December 14th we celebrate the Feast Day of St. John of the Cross (1542-1591). John is sometimes presented as a rather severe remote person, certainly he was not an extrovert, but he reached out to others with a gentle compassion. Like all of us he was formed by the experiences of his early life. John was born into a society of stark contrasts where some lived in great wealth and luxury and others in appalling poverty; many lived in fear of starvation and of the recurring epidemics of the plague which swept through the Spain at this time. You will notice some resonances with our own times. When John was still very young his father died, he had two brothers and the family was left in extreme poverty, but their mother Catalina worked hard at her trade of weaving and managed to keep them together, though sadly John’s brother Luis died about 2 years after their father. Catalina was a wonderful example to her sons, in spite of their poverty she always tried to share the little she had with any who had even less. Although John experienced so much hardship in his early life he learnt the value of love over material possessions. He had great love for his mother from whom he learnt the values of generosity and gratitude and called his brother Francisco his greatest treasure. As John’s prayer deepened he became intensely aware of God’s continual presence in the beauty of the countryside as well as in his own soul. It was then that he began to write poetry and to carve simple crucifixes. He is recognised today as one of the greatest Spanish poets. Although we cannot appreciate his poetic writing fully in translation, the following seasonal extract from Romance 8 illustrates his thought. The Incarnation (Continued) Then He called The archangel Gabriel And sent him to The Virgin Mary, At whose consent The mystery was wrought, In whom the Trinity Clothed the Word with flesh. And though Three work this, It is wrought in the one: And the Word lived incarnate In the womb of Mary. And He who had only a Father Now had a mother too, But she was not like others Who conceive by man. From her own flesh He received his flesh, So he is called Son of God and of man. Image: The road from Peñuela to Ubeda along which John made his last journey BACK TO TOP Wednesday 8th December 2021 Peace I bequeath to you Glory to God in the highest Heaven the angels sang on the night Christ, the Son of God was born and peace to all of good-will. This Advent maybe we need to hear those angels to sing again over our storm- tossed world? Yes, we do need a gift from God in the midst of wars, hurricanes, floods, to mention but a few and this global pandemic which is causing such huge disruption and bringing grief and suffering to millions throughout the world. People write to us Carmelites in their sorrows and losses as well as in their joys and breakthroughs. I often notice how after the death of a loved one they go back over what their loved ones said before they departed – like the young widow who said of her husband “he told me he loved me with his last breath.” It makes me return to the last night of Jesus on this earth before his dreadful passion, how He was thinking of us… He who had come down from Heaven to show us by His caring, loving, healing actions how much God loves each of us. Now far from the songs of angels, He faces scorn and rejection and horrendous cruelty. His sensitive being shudders. Yet His thoughts are on us……. you and me all of us. I will not leave you orphans; I will come back to you. If anyone loves me, he will keep my words and my Father will love him and we shall come to him and make and make our home with him. Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you.” – John 14. So, we do have a place to fly to in the storms that afflict us when the whole world seems in turmoil. That innermost core of our being where Christ dwells and where no fear or dread can reach. He is waiting to enfold us in His peace. Dear reader, let us claim our inheritance this Advent and Christmas. God’s priceless gift that cannot be bought on earth because it is a peace the world cannot give. We each hold out to you this small light of peace. Let us use our inheritance to spread good-will and healing that others too may be enfolded in His peace. For the mountains may depart, the hills be shaken, But my love for you will never leave you and my Covenant of Peace with you will never be broken. Isaiah 54. BACK TO TOP Wednesday 1st December 2021 Autumn This Autumn has been particularly beautiful and gradual. It took time for the trees to lose their leaves. The colours on the trees turned very slowly to all shades of green, red and gold. The changes remind us of our journey through life with its many shades revealing their own personal message. As you reflect on your own journey the following poem may help. Autumn The leaves fall, fall as from far, Like distant gardens withered in the heavens; They fall with slow and lingering descent. And in the nights the heavy Earth, too, falls From out the stars into the Solitude. Thus all doth fall. This hand of mine must fall And lo! the other one:—it is the law. But there is One who holds this falling Infinitely softly in His Hands. Rainer Maria Rilke - 1875-1926 This poem is in the public domain. From Poems (Tobias A. Wright, 1918), translated by Jessie Lamont. To see a video made by a Sister of leaves falling click here. BACK TO TOP Wednesday 24th November 2021 Vietnamese Today, November 24th, is the feast of the Martyrs of Vietnam, and we are united in a special way with all the people of that great country, and especially those suffering with COVID-19 at this time. We pray for the intercession of the martyrs for all the Vietnamese people throughout the world, and we remember again our Sr Marie Paul who is still in her hotel quarantine, spending her time in prayer and rest as she adjusts from the jet-lag! We asked her to write a message for her friends in Ireland, and here are her words: "Sister Fionnuala asked me to share some of my feelings while living in St. Joseph's Carmelite Monastery of Kilmacud- Dublin, Ireland before returning to Vietnam. It is very sad and difficult to share, difficult to say goodbye. My emotions are mixed with joy and sadness, worry, suspense and hope... Four years was a good length of time that allowed me to experience the love and affection of the Sisters and everyone who has been there for me. The country and people in Ireland are friendly and polite. I thank God for sending me to Ireland for a while, so that I could learn and improve myself. Thank you to the Holy Sisters for accepting me and patiently guiding me whenever I needed help. The sisters are shining examples that I will follow... Now I am quarantined at a hotel, but my mind is still on the Carmel Saint Joseph's of Kilmacud. The images of the Sisters, the teachers and the people I know in Ireland are still in my mind. I will forever remember and will never forget you in my prayers. Ireland is a wonderful country... I love you." Now let us pray together to the Martyrs of Vietnam today: O Vietnamese Martyrs, with the Grace of God, you had victoriously implanted the mustard seed of Faith that grew into the Church of Vietnam. Your courageous sacrifice had reserved your Heavenly rest. United with you, we offer our gratitudes and thanks to God and the Holy Mother, for all of your martyrdom and your lives that we now celebrate. We beseech you, as your descendants, to follow your Faith in humility, charity and love. When we are in despair and danger, please aid and console us in fulfilling the Father's Will and carry our crosses to Eternal Glory. Amen. Kính lạy các Thánh Tử Đạo Việt Nam, xưa đã biết dùng ơn Chúa mà lướt thắng mọi khó khăn khổ cực, để gieo rắc hạt giống Phúc Âm, và xây dựng Hội Thánh Chúa trên đất nước Việt Nam. Các Thánh đã can đảm tuyên xưng Đức Tin, đến hy sinh mạng sống, vì lòng yêu mến Chúa, và phần rỗi các linh hồn, nên đáng được hưởng hạnh phúc trên trời. Chúng con xin hiệp ý cùng các Thánh mà tạ ơn Thiên Chúa và Mẹ Maria, Nữ Vương các Thánh Tử Đạo, đã ban cho các Thánh được hồng phúc như vậy. Chúng con hoan hỉ ca tụng các Thánh, là những hoa trái đầu mùa cao quý của Hội Thánh Việt Nam. Xin các Thánh cầu bầu cho chúng con, là con cháu, biết noi gương mà sống đạo Phúc Âm, thi hành bác ái, trung thành với Hội Thánh và yêu mến quê hương. Và khi chúng con gặp khó khăn nguy hiểm, xin các Thánh nâng đỡ ủi an, để chúng đủ sức vâng theo ý Chúa, cộng tác vào mầu nhiệm Thập Giá cứu độ của Chúa Giêsu, tiếp tục con đường các Thánh đã đi, hầu đạt tới hạnh phúc muôn đời. Amen. Image: from Vietnamese Martyrs Church, Phoenix, Arizona BACK TO TOP Thursday 11th November 2021 The Power of One One Tree can start a forest - one Bird can herald spring. One Smile begin a friendship –one Handclasp lift a soul. One Star can guide a ship at sea – one Flower can wake a dream. One Vote can change a nation – one Candle wipe out darkness. One Step must start a journey – one Word can start a prayer. One Hope can raise our spirits – one Touch can show you care. One Voice can speak with wisdom – one Heart can know what is true. One Life can make a difference You see, it’s up to You. Perhaps half of our great plans, the dreams we dream for our world, and even for ourselves, are dreams God allows us to dream in order that, on the way there, we may accomplish, almost without realizing it, the crucial thing God intends us to do. Yes, Ordinary people achieve extraordinary things when they act unselfishly towards each other. Our Carmelite, St. John of the Cross pinpoints our earthly mission: “And where there is no love, put love and you will find love.” Image: skynews.com BACK TO TOP Friday 5th November 2021 Tear through the veil of this sweet encounter As we come to November our thoughts turn naturally to those who have passed through the thin veil between this world and the next. Many of our saints have longed for the moment when they would see God face to face. Three weeks before she died, St. Therese, taking up the words of St. John of the Cross in his ‘Living Flame of Love, said, ‘O yes I desire heaven! Tear through the veil of this sweet encounter, O my God!’ Three months previously she had written to one of her spiritual brothers, the young Maurice Belliere, ‘Brother I shall go soon and offer your love to all your friends in heaven…I would like to tell you many things that I understand now that I am at the door of eternity; but I am not dying, I am entering into Life, and all that I cannot say to you here below, I will make you understand from the heights of heaven ...’ St. Elizabeth if the Trinity also expressed her delight at her approaching death. Her last words were. ‘I am going to Life, to Love, to Light…’ While we can’t deny that for many people fear evoked by the prospect of death and the sorrow and pain involved in physical parting can be both distressing and frightening; for those who have faith there is always a ‘bright side’ too, as the brightness of God’s glory shines through in many ways. On several occasions I have experienced a wonderful peace when sitting with a dying person and I have sometimes seen their amazed and delighted gaze at ‘someone’ I was unable to see. Was it their guardian angel, Our Lord, Our Lady, a favourite saint or a family member? I don’t know, but clearly their presence brought great joy to the dying one and enabled them to let go of their tenuous link with life on earth. We are told that St. Therese had this experience too, her sister Celine wrote that after saying her last words, ‘My God I love You’, Therese raised herself up as though called by some mysterious voice, opened her eyes and fixed a radiant gaze on a spot a little above the statue of Our Lady of the Smile. Therese remained in this position for about the time it would take to recite the creed. At first, her expression had an air of confident assurance and joyful expectancy, then it changed to profound astonishment and overflowing gratitude. Immediately after this loving gaze Therese sank back on her pillow, closed her eyes and died. BACK TO TOP Wednesday 27th October 2021 How does it feel to be 90? Terrific! It gives me more quality time to spend with the Lord. Guaranteed however, old age is not for cissies! Hearing and eye-sight diminish and demand more than a little patience. St. Teresa consoles us with a beautiful truth: “Whoever lives in the presence of so good a friend and excellent teacher as is Jesus Christ, can put up with all things.” Memories of family and youth surface - like arriving in Cobh, Co. Cork on the S.S. Washington liner 75 years ago… Living in Grandfather’s thatched cottage and later working with Father in his Dublin butcher’s shop. Soon followed the Lord’s gentle call to Carmel. “Holy people” considered me too young and the Carmelite Order too austere but the family were always supportive. I celebrated my 17th. Birthday here in Kilmacud Carmel 73 years ago. Here I am – “still around” and fit as a fiddle at 90, overflowing with gratitude and more and more thanksgiving to God. In later years “a call within a call” came to me and I was able to help a little in the re- founding of Carmelite Life in Lithuania. I was able to witness a “new spring-time of Carmel emerging after more than 200 years of extinction by the Russian Czar. I continue to keep in contact with the beautiful Lithuanian people and sisters. People tell me I don’t look my age – what is the secret they ask? I say: Moderation. Yes, moderation in all things but much more than that. A loving relationship with God in prayer. Accepting the little sacrifices that everyday brings in various ways. Sisterly love in a wonderful Community. Needless to say, detachment, urgency, and determination help in responding to the great gratuitous “call to follow Christ.” Dear reader, ponder the wise words of St. Teresa. Let nothing disturb you: Let nothing dismay you: All things pass: God never changes. Patience attains All that it strives for. He who has God Finds he lacks nothing: God alone suffices. BACK TO TOP Friday 13th October 2021 Autumn Psalm of Contentment O sacred season of Autumn, be my teacher, for I wish to learn the virtue of contentment. As I gaze upon your full-coloured beauty, I sense all about you an at-homeness with your amber riches. You are the season of retirement of full barns and harvested fields. The cycle of growth has ceased, and the busy work of giving life is now completed. I sense in you no regrets: You have lived a full life. I live in a society that is ever-restless, always eager for more mountains to climb, seeking happiness through more and more possessions. As a child of my culture, I am seldom truly at peace with what I have. Teach me to take stock of what I have given and received; may I know that it's enough, that my striving can cease in the abundance of God's grace. May I know the contentment that allows the totality of my energies to come to full flower. May I know that like you I am rich beyond measure. As you, O Autumn, take pleasure in your great bounty, let me also take delight in the abundance of the simple things of life which are the true source of joy. With the golden glow of peaceful contentment may I truly appreciate this autumn day. from Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim by Edward Hays BACK TO TOP Friday 8th October 2021 The Rosary of Life Yesterday was the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. This traditional devotion which has existed since the twelfth century is popular all over the world, and like many Irish people, I have memories of the “family rosary” being recited at home each evening when I was a child. Of course, Mary the Mother of Jesus, never prayed the rosary in the way that we do now. However, she is our example of a “Living Rosary”, as expressed so beautifully by Pope John Paul II in his 2002 Apostolic Letter “Rosarium Virginis Mariae”: The memories of Jesus, impressed upon her heart, were always with her, leading her to reflect on the various moments of her life at her Son's side. In a way those memories were to be the “rosary” which she recited uninterruptedly throughout her earthly life. Reflecting on this passage gives me great encouragement in my own prayer life, as I often find it difficult to concentrate during my formal recitation of the rosary. Like Mary, all of us who strive to live close to Jesus will have a collection of memories and many “ups and downs” in life’s journey. Throughout an average day, I find myself pondering so many things that can become my personal “Mysteries of the Rosary of Life” if I ponder them alongside Jesus. Sometimes I might ponder “distressing mysteries” and ask God where he is in these situations. Other times I might be absorbed in “excited mysteries” as I think about an upcoming event, and I can share this excitement with the Lord. What if all the routine tasks of every day (getting dressed, eating breakfast, washing, etc….) are like the Hail Marys of my Rosary of Life, and as I go through each one of them, I ponder the mysteries of my life with Jesus, and remember His presence with me through them all?? Yes, then I will feel that my whole life is becoming a Rosary with Jesus and Mary. BACK TO TOP

Wednesday 29th September 2021

No bad way There is no bad way to pray and there is no one starting point for prayer. There is one non- negotiable rule: You must be present for prayer and be present regularly. Everything else respects your unique circumstances. Let your own experience be your guide, and trust in God’s providence – the text you most need to read will FIND you. Some years ago, a text found me and I would like to share a little of it with you. “Prayer had already begun in me – the place where God dwelt in me was also the place of prayer. Long before I was aware of it or before I took an interest in it, this prayer was going on ceaselessly within me. In effect, it was not I who gave myself to prayer, but the Holy Spirit who never ceases to pray in me as St. Paul says in Rm (8.26). It is important to insist on this. Right from the beginning, prayer has already begun before we do anything—it comes before any of our efforts or techniques. From the moment when I received the life of God in baptism, prayer had been poured into my heart along with the Holy Spirit who was then given to me (Rm.5.5.). My efforts consist in letting the prayer flow out and spill over into my consciousness” (A. Louf, A Cistercian Alternative). We all struggle with prayer and at times we feel we are catching nothing but our own emptiness. The above text is one that has encouraged my heart with love, and it reminds me that I am prayed in much more than I pray. I do need to listen in order to hear the Spirit saying: “I love you.” Nothing will heal us more and our capacity to love depends upon it. And it can help us to become more docile to the surprises that shift our lives in new directions! It seems to me that the author of the above passage wrote with a pen dipped in the inkwell of grace and I hope the text may be a source of encouragement for you on your pilgrim journey. The full quote from Romans reads: “The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.”(Rm8.26) BACK TO TOP

Wednesday 22nd September 2021

Autumn I was thinking about the changing seasons recently and what a good teacher God is in giving us the cycle of nature as a pattern for our lives. This reminded me of a hymn we used to sing long ago. God is working his purpose out as year succeeds to year; God is working his purpose out, and the time is drawing near; nearer and nearer draws the time the time that shall surely be, when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea. The closing lines of each verse are taken from the prophet Habakkuk 2:14 ‘For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. We get many glimpses of God’s glory in his creation. Every season has its unique beauty and message. The sounds and smells of autumn evoke both completion and new life. The harvest is gathered in and the new school year has just begun. Rustling leaves underfoot announce the end of summer and herald the start of a cooler more subdued season. Keats called it the 'Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness'. The vivid flowers of the long warm days of summer have all disappeared, but autumn has a brightness of its own as the low shining sun illumines the orange yellow and brown leaves still holding on to the trees, as well as the remaining green ones. Autumn is about letting go, a lesson the trees teach us when they shed their leaves. As we let go of superfluous things, whether they be clutter or the burdens of unhelpful attitudes and thoughts, we make more room for God’s glory to shine in our lives. The days become shorter and the nights become longer until we arrive at the autumn equinox towards the end of September, when darkness and light are perfectly balanced. Autumn teaches us to strive for that place of balance and to harmonise with the quietening of nature. It encourages us to enter into joyful appreciation of the work of God in creation and in our own lives; and in this place of thanksgiving we are invited to pause and enter into peaceful silence where God’s Spirit waits for us and rejuvenates us for new beginnings. BACK TO TOP

Wednesday 15th September 2021

Hope does not deceive us Why? Because the Scriptures say, “ God’s Love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit”. So, hope is not a human resource that we muster up in ourselves. No, it is a God given gift poured into our hearts. The very spirit of Jesus given to us to instil courage and trust in times of difficulty and crisis. It must be the virtue we most need to put into practise at the present time faced with the turmoil of our world and the ever increasing sea of suffering opening up before our eyes. Without this virtue of Hope we could easily slide into despair. But if we rely on this new principle of life, the very spirit of Christ poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit that is buried in the depths of each one of us, we can peer through the shambles of our present world and see the the new thing God is doing, the seeds of a new way opening up before us. We see Pope Francis doing just this in his new book: “Let us dream”. “I’m thinking of great rivers that gently swell, so gradually that you hardly notice them, but then the moment comes and they burst their banks and overflow. In our society, God’s Mercy breaks out at such “overflow moments”: bursting out, breaking the traditional confines that have kept so many people from what they deserve, shaking up our roles and our thinking. I see an overflow of Mercy spilling out in our midst. Hearts have been tested. The crisis has called forth in some a new courage and compassion. Some have been sifted and have responded with the desire to reimagine our world; others have come to the aid of those in need in concrete ways that can transform our neighbour’s suffering.” Let’s allow God’s word to Isaiah to speak to us - “Come let us talk this over. Let us dare to dream.” Pope Francis has a message for us Contemplatives too during this time of crisis. “Be torches to guide men and women along their journey through the dark night of time. Be sentinels of the morning, heralding the dawn. Show us the One who is the Way, and the Truth and the Life, the Lord Who alone brings fulfilment and bestows life in abundance.” Young St. Therese carried the torch of Hope for her time. She broke through the barrier of fear which separated people from God. She uncovered for them and for us the infinite tenderness pent-up in the heart of our Father/Mother God that is revealed to us in Jesus. Her message spread like a forest fire. She alerts us all that our loving tender God suffers with us. He is down here in the midst of the crisis with us. You too, dear reader, be a torch of Hope. Join forces with us to herald the dawn! Let us dream together. BACK TO TOP

Friday 10th September 2021

No one is too small to make a difference (Greta Thunberg) Upholding the world in Prayer These days of the “Season of Creation” we uphold our world in prayer. We are reminded, of its beauty and vulnerability, in the following reflection by the astronaut Russell Sweickart. “The astronaut looks back and sees the Earth not as something big but small. And now the contrast between Earth- that bright blue-and-white Christmas tree ornament and that black sky, that infinite universe, really come through. Earth becomes so small and so frail, and such a precious little spot in the universe, and you realize that on that small spot, that little blue – and white thing, is everything that means anything to you; all of history, music, poetry, art, games, war and death, birth and love, tears and joy, all of it is on that little spot out there you can cover with your thumb. You’re going 25,000 mph, ripping through a vacuum, and there’s not a sound. There’s a silence, the depth of which you’ve experiencing before and why. Have you been separated out by God to have some special experience that other people cannot have? NO. It is not for yourself. You have to bring it back, somehow – a rather special responsibility. It tells you something about your relationship with this life. When you come back, there’s a difference – so precious – in the relationship between you and that planet and all its forms of life, because you’ve had that kind of experience”. As we reflect and remember the beauty of creation let us also pray that we will act responsibly by caring for the earth in the way we live our lives. Remembering the passion of Greta Thunberg when she said ‘no one is too small to make a difference’ by our daily efforts we can make a difference. BACK TO TOP
St. Joseph’s Carmel