The sun is shining brightly; the daffodils and crocuses are in full bloom; the ducks and the geese are looking at each other in a funny way. Spring is in the air! But for how long? The snow is moving inexorably down from the north of Scotland. Will it reach the drought-stricken south-east of England? I will keep you posted.
The novices, Brs. Jacek, Severin and Kurt, are putting the benches back in their accustomed places in the piazza at the moment because Easter marks the beginning of the pilgrimage season here at Aylesford. During the winter they are stacked up and covered to preserve them from the frost. However, winter was very mild and so perhaps there will be more damage over the next few days than there would have been over the whole of the winter!
Last week the novices were doing a course in Ireland as part of their preparation for making first vows. Here the Provincials of the North European provinces gathered for a meeting. The Prior General of the Carmelite Order lives in Rome. He is Fr. Fernando and he hails from Spain. The Prior General is elected for a six year term and this may be extended for another term. Then the Order is divided, usually geographically, into Provinces. Aylesford is part of the British Province. The leader of each Province is called the Prior Provincial, who is elected for a three year term, which can be repeated. Our Provincial is Wilfrid McGreal who lives in Faversham, where we have a parish and the shrine of St. Jude. The Provincials of an area get together from time to time to discuss issues of common interest and to help each other in their planning for the future.
This week of course is Holy Week. Fr. Damian is setting off with Fr. Desiderio on the journey to Dalmally, near Oban in Scotland. They are going to celebrate the holy days with a large group of young people. They have taken their wellies, hats, gloves and a shovel to get them out of trouble on the journey north! Some of the community will go to the Chrism Mass at St. George’s Cathedral, Southwark, on Wednesday. On Holy Thursday, the retreat begins. Br. Paul and Sheila Grimwood will lead the retreatants to enter more deeply into the mystery of Easter. Fr. Brendan will lead the celebration of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at 8.00 p.m. This will be followed by “Watching until Midnight”, which is the traditional quiet adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. Mass will be in the Relic Chapel and the watch will be at the altar of repose in the Choir Chapel. This will end at midnight with Night Prayer.
Fr. David will lead the Good Friday Solemn Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion and Fr. Joseph will be the principal celebrant for the Easter Vigil. The fire at the beginning of the procession always creates one problem or another. There are stories of priests setting fire to their vestments or fire engines being called. Let’s hope that everything passes off peacefully! If we are covered in deep snow, we might be glad of a fire to warm us up! On Easter Sunday we have the usual masses and perhaps we might even have a wee glass of wine at lunch.
Wherever you are, all of us at Aylesford want to take this opportunity to wish you a very happy and holy Easter.