Saturday 30 April 2011

Scenes from the Provincial Chapter

Fr Wilfrid McGreal, O.Carm. presides at the First Eucharist of the Chapter

The Prior Provincial & The Prior General

Fr Kevin Melody & Fr Fernando Milan

Fr Wilfrid addresses the Chapter

Fr Quinn Connors, O.Carm., addresses the Chapter

Br Tiago leading the Karaoke, Br Torsten listens!

Fr Richard Copsey of the East Finchley community celebrates 40 years of Priesthood
Ad multos annos!

Thursday 28 April 2011

Easter Joy

Provincial Chapter

Prior General opens the Chapter
On Tuesday 26th April the second part of the Chapter of the British Province of Carmelites began. The Chapter is a meeting of the friars of the Province. For some years now the British Province Chapter has also included those working with the friars in collaborative ministry, as well as representatives of various different branches of the Carmelite Family. The meeting, which takes place every three years, is being held at "The Friars", the Carmelite Priory at Aylesford in Kent founded in 1242.

The first part of the Provincial  Chapter, known as the Electoral Assembly, took place at Aylesford in February. Fr. Wilfrid McGreal was re-elected as Prior Provincial (senior brother).

The Prior General of the Carmelite Order, Most Rev. Fr. Fernando Millán Romeral,  presides at the second part of the Chapter, and meetings are being facilitated by American Carmelite friar Fr. Quinn Connors, O.Carm.

The Provincial Chapter will conclude on Friday. In the coming days the friars will discuss matters of common interest, and receive reports from various officials of the Province.

Approximately thirty friars and those in collaborative ministry with them gathered in the Conference Centre for Evening Prayer which took as its theme the title of the Chapter: “Listening to God, listening to one another, listening to our world”.

The Chapter Secretary, Fr. James Moran, O.Carm., then welcomed the participants, especially those who had come from abroad, including the Prior General, Fr. John Keating (General Councillor for Europe), and Fr. Quinn Connors (Facilitator). The Chapter Officials were then confirmed in office.

The Prior General then gave a talk designed to put the Chapter of the British Province into its wider international context within the Order and to inform and inspire subsequent discussions. The talk was first given at the Council of Provinces in 2009, and the Prior General stressed that not every point made is pertinent to every part of the Order. In the talk the Prior General stressed several areas of Carmelite life today – concerns, hopes and challenges – that he feels need reflection by the whole Carmelite Family.

The first issue raised by Fr. Fernando was that of formation, which must be a priority for Carmelites even when faced with the sometimes urgent demands of pastoral apostolates. The General Council believes strongly that common novitiates between Provinces are the best way for introducing young men to the friar way of life. The Prior General praised the richness of the current Ratio document which sets out the principles for formation, but said that it needs slight revision every 10-15 years and therefore it must be looked at afresh. He lamented that the culture of ongoing formation has declined within the Order and the wider Church, but is essential if friars and other Carmelites are to be aware of cultural, sociological and political movements within the world that we are called to serve.

Secondly the Prior General addressed the issue of vocations to religious life, which are in major decline in most parts of Europe but inceasing in other parts of the Order giving a stable figure of roughly 2,000 Carmelite friars of the Ancient Observance across the world. The Prior General encouraged Chapter delegates to live with faith and hope rather than stress and anxiety about numbers, and even to find joy in the present situation because God may have plans we do not perceive or understand, and perhaps is calling us to have smaller communities to meet the needs of the Church in our day.

The third issue addressed by the Prior General is the relationship between the friars and the cloistered nuns of the Ancient Observance (of which there are none in Britain, though close relations exist with many Discalced Carmelite monasteries). Fr. Fernando spoke of the nuns as a blessing for the Order, but said that in some parts of the world there is a lack of attentiveness to our sisters; not that friars need to dominate or patronise the nuns but rather there should be a familial and friendly relationship between companions on life’s journey.

The international government of the Order was the fourth issue addressed by the Prior General. He said that it is hard to recruit people to serve the Order at an international level, for example in Rome at the Curia, Saint Albert’s International Centre (CISA), and in academic studies. However, Fr. Fernando praised the generosity of the British Province in its willingness to provide men for service to the Order internationally.

The fifth issue highlighted by the Prior General was that of the missions. Within the last fifteen years the friars have spread to countries they probably never expected to enter, such as Cameroon, Vietnam, Mozambique, Trinidad and Kenya. Now the Order must consolidate its missions, build study houses, and so on. Fr. Fernando said that the Order has a right and duty to dream and to create new missions, such as in Tanzania, Papua New Guinea and Cuba. Comparing the situation to the Roman Emperors Trajan (who said the Empire must grow or die) and Hadrian (who said it must not grow without consolidation), Fr. Fernando said that a careful balance must be struck between expansion and consolidation.

The Prior General then turned to the question of Carmelite identity. Since Carmel has no founding figure and no single apostolate of service, the charism is flexible and open. This can cause tension and uncertainty, but this can be positive. Fr. Fernando spoke of some tension between younger friars and those of the ‘post Vatican-II generation’. Some younger friars say the Order is too committed to apostolates in parishes and elsewhere, and want to focus on community life rather than living as secular clergy. Older friars are committed to the service of the Church in pastoral roles. Both groups are right and there must be a culture of listening to one another. The Prior General stressed that Carmelite friars are indeed friars, not diocesan priests or monks. As such Carmelite friars must find a balanced contemplative life in the midst of the people.

Finally the Prior General spoke of the need that Carmelites have for self-esteem as members of Carmel. We cannot just compare ourselves to other orders, but must find pride in our own communities and tradition. Other orders may seem to us bigger, richer, and better organised but we must declare that “Carmel is my family and I am proud of it”. He spoke of his tremendous pride in the Order, having travelled to communities around the world which serve God’s people with generous love. Fr. Fernando spoke of being contemplative as finding the presence of God – the Word made flesh – in the small, the humble, the frail. He said that if ‘the Word became flesh’ then we need to accept that the ‘flesh’ of human life is the way to God, otherwise our ‘other worldly spiritualism’ is not Christian spirituality, which seeks for God’s presence in the most ordinary and everyday situations.

Finally, the Prior General encouraged the Provincial Chapter to be open to ‘the God of surprises’, and invoked God’s blessing on the forthcoming deliberations.

Source: British Province of Carmelites Website

Wednesday 27 April 2011

Provincial Chapter

Last night, the Carmelite friars of this province together with representatives of the wider Carmelite family, began the second part of the XVth provincial chapter of the British province. The Prior General, The Most Rev. Fr Fernando Millan Romeral, O.Carm., spoke to the Chapter about the challenges and possibilities that face the Order over the coming years.

Today the Chapter will begin to look at the work of our local communities and how we are facing our own particular local challenges and preparing for the next three years. Today those elected to lead the province over the next three years will be confirmed in office.

Please pray for us.

Rejoice! A Paraphrase of  St. John Chrysostom's Pascal Homily

Lovers of God, rejoice!
in this festival of radiance;
Christ is risen from the dead!
All you wise and grateful servants, rejoice! 
Enter into the joy of the Lord.
You who have labored long in fasting,
come  now, collect your reward.
You who have toiled from first hour,
come and receive your due.
You who have come after third hour,
with thanksgiving join the feast.
If you have come after sixth hour, have no doubt;
nothing is lost.
Any delayed until ninth hour,
fearlessly rush in.
Those of you just arriving at the eleventh,
don't worry that you are late;
you are right on time.
For our Lord is gracious,
receiving the last and the first.
To one he gives; to another he bestows.
Rest now, you who have come at the eleventh hour;
rest now, you who have come from the first.
To the last he gives great mercy;
to the first his tender care.
He accepts your work,
warmly welcoming your intentions.
He lavishes your acts with praise.
All of you enter, first and last,
come into the joy.
Rich and poor rejoice together!
The monk and the messy, celebrate the day!
You who have fasted, and you who ate your fill,
feast now! The table is heavy with food.
Devour the fatted calf.
No one goes hungry today.
Drink deeply of the cup of faith;
all of you drink up!
Let no one lament his poverty;
the kingdom universal is revealed.
Do not mourn if you have fallen,
even if you've fallen again and again.
Rejoice in mercy and pardon,
forgiveness has burst from the grave.
Let no one fear death;
the Savior's death has set us free.
He who has died annihilated death.
He was hell on hell, outraging it
when it tasted his sweet flesh.
It was as Isaiah said,
"You, O hell, have been troubled by encountering him below."
Hell was outraged because it was abolished!
He bound hell in chains.
It stole a body and stumbled upon God.
What it snatched from the earth was heaven.
Hell took what it could see, and was defeated by mystery.
O death, where is your sting?
Hell, where is your victory?
Christ is risen; hell defeated!
Christ is risen, demons fallen!
Christ is risen, angels sing!
Christ is risen!
Life reigns.
Christ is risen; the dead rise from their graves.
Not one dead remains.
Christ is risen; first fruit of those who sleep.
Christ is risen!
To him be glory, honor and power,
now and forever.

Tuesday 26 April 2011

Christ is Risen! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Raise me up! Renew my life!
Father of life, I see the light again!
I was in darkness and had lost hope
but Jesus Christ, your son,
has won out over death - for me.
I celebrate today, your love, the life you give me.
I feel your presence as you breathe on my mind
and open my heart.
So many times in my life my eyes are closed
but today I see the risen Lord
in the breaking of the bread.
Thank you for this morning of hope,
thank you for such incredible love.

Wednesday 20 April 2011

Holy Week - Wednesday

Before the Sacred Triduum, two thoughts on prayer.

Thomas Merton, O.C.S.O.: Give it time
If we really want prayer, we'll have to give it time. We must slow down to a human tempo and we'll begin to have time to listen. And as soon as we listen to what's going on, things will begin to take shape by themselves.
This is what the Zen people do. They give a great deal of time to doing whatever they need to do. That's what we have to learn when it comes to prayer. We have to give it time . . . The best way to pray is: Stop. Let prayer pray within you, whether you know it or not. (Seeds, edited by Robert Inchausti, Shambala) Merton (1915 - 1968) was a Trappist monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky. He was a peace and civil rights activist, spiritual writer, and one of the most influential contemplatives of the 20th century.

 Richard Rohr, O.F.M.: Being prayer

Prayer is one of those words that needs revisioning. We tend to think of it as something we do, but it is much more something we are. When we live in union we are a prayer, and everything we do becomes conscious, willing, and free...
We still sin, but our sins do not destroy us or allow us to destroy others. So holiness is not a moral issue nearly as much as it is an ontological issue. Not doing but being. To pray is to live consciously inside of God. That's all. Sanctity does not mean being pious or perfect, but doing for God’s sake what you used to do for your own sake. That makes all the difference. It is the still point of the turning world and creates a different kind of human being whose center is outside of himself or herself. These are the only people who are really free because they are free from themselves.
When we stop confusing holiness with morality and recognize that it has to do with transformed identity and a new center point, we will have gone a long way toward understanding what is happening in prayer and what the true goal of spirituality actually is. Morality—and transformed and mature responses—will then follow as certainly as night from day. (Radical Grace, July-September 2002) Rohr is a Franciscan priest and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

My Saviour, do you invite me to share
in the glory of the resurrection?
Please stay with me
as I struggle to see
how accepting the crosses of my life
will free me from the power
of the one who wants only
to destroy my love and trust in you.
Help me to be humble and accepting
like your son, Jesus.
I want to turn to you
with the same trust he had in your love.
Save me, Lord. Only you can save me.

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Holy Week - Tuesday

Phyllis Tickle: Spiritual season

The 40 penitential weekdays and six Sundays that follow Mardi Gras and precede Easter are the days of greatest calm in the church's year. Since by long centuries of custom the date of Easter is annually determined from the first Sunday after the full moon on or after March 21, the intertwining of physical and spiritual seasons is virtually inevitable. The resulting union of deep winter and holy preparation makes reflection, even penitence, a natural activity. . . .
Lenzin our German ancestors used to call this season, and since then we have called it "Lent." It is a time when Christians decorate stone churches with the sea's color and wrap their priests in the mollusk's purple. It was once a time when all things passed through the natural depression of seclusion, short food supplies, and inactivity, a time when body and land both rested. It is still, in the country, a final sanity before the absurd wastefulness of spring.
It is Lent once again, and for one more snow I can luxuriate in the isolation of the cold, attend laconically to who I am, what I value, and why I'm here. Religion has always kept earth time. Liturgy only gives sanction to what the heart already knows. (Wisdom in the Waiting: Spring's Sacred Days, Loyola Press) Tickle is contributing editor in religion for Publishers Weekly and the author of more than two dozen books. She lives in the rural community of Millington, Tennessee.

God of such unwavering love,
how do I "celebrate"
the passion and death of Jesus?
I often want to look the other way
and not watch,
not stay with Jesus in his suffering.
Give me the strength
to see his love with honesty and compassion
and to feel deeply
your own forgiveness and mercy for me.
Help me to understand
how to "celebrate" this week.
I want be able to bring
my weaknesses and imperfections with me
as I journey with Jesus this week,
so aware of his love.

Monday 18 April 2011

Holy Week ~ Monday

Archbishop Oscar Romero: Admit guilt
Easter is a shout of victory! No one can extinguish that life that Christ resurrected. Not even death and hatred against him and against his church will be able to overcome it. He is the victor! Just as he will flourish in an Easter of unending resurrection, so it is necessary to also accompany him in Lent, in a Holy Week that is cross, sacrifice, martyrdom . . . Happy are those who do not become offended by their cross!
Lent, then, is a call to celebrate our redemption in that difficult complex of cross and victory. Our people are very qualified . . . to preach to us of the cross; but all who have Christian faith and hope know that behind this Calvary of El Salvador is our Easter, our resurrection, and this is the hope of the Christian people.
How easy it is to denounce structural injustice, institutionalized violence, social sin! And it is true, this sin is everywhere, but where are the roots of this social sin? In the heart of every human being. Present-day society is a sort of anonymous world in which no one is willing to admit guilt and everyone is responsible. We are all sinners, and we have all contributed to this massive crime and violence in our country. Salvation begins with the human person, with human dignity, with saving every person from sin. And in Lent this is God's call: Be converted! (From "A Pastor's Last Homily" in Sojourners magazine, May 1980, quoted in Oscar Romero: Reflections on His Life and Writings by Marie Dennis, Renny Golden, and Scott Wright, Orbis Books)
Romero (1917 - 80), archbishop of San Salvador, was martyred for his defence of the poor and the powerless.

Holy Week ~ Monday

God of love,
My prayer is simple:
Your son, Jesus, suffered and died for me.
I know only
that I cannot have real strength
unless I rely on you.
I cannot feel protected
from my many weaknesses
until I turn to you
for forgiveness and your unalterable love.
Help me to share this
strength, protection and love with others.

Sunday 17 April 2011


Holy Week 

This is Holy Week - that special and solemn moment which defines and dramatizes what it means to be Christian. It marks the great festival celebration of the central mysteries of our faith. We tend to look upon this week as a re-enactment of the final events in the human life and journey of Jesus Christ. We move from His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, through the Last Supper, the betrayal the agony in the garden, the trial, the way of the cross, the crucifixion, to His burial and resurrection.
But our Holy Week is so much more. Christian communities across the world gather to proclaim their faith in the saving mystery of Christ's death and resurrection. They listen to the Word and celebrate ancient rituals in order to be renewed in their commitment to live and die as faithful disciples of Jesus. They pass slowly through the solemn days of this Holy Week praying to be cleansed, healed and transformed by the spirit of the Risen Christ.
We used to call the first day of Holy Week "Palm Sunday"; now it is better named Passion Sunday. The very first Reading, immediately preceding the Entrance Procession recalls the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. The crowds, and His close followers, all felt that something extraordinary was about to happen. His miracles and His message had a tremendous impact on so many. Now, here in the center of power, He was acclaimed as king and Messiah.
Then, quite suddenly, the mood of the Liturgy shifts to the Passion. The "power people" did not acclaim Him. They had mistrusted Him for a long time, and realized that the time had come to get rid of Him. Conveniently Judas, one of His own, was willing to set up His capture, in the safety and solitude of the Garden of Olives.
So, on Thursday night, the trap is sprung. He is arrested and put through a rigged trial, then handed over to the Romans for the death of crucifixion.
Friday morning, the residents of Jerusalem woke to the word of His arrest and condemnation. Many of them who had welcomed Him on Sunday with the palm branches of victory and cries of "Hosanna" now gather to see Him paraded before them by Pilate, bloodied, bruised and naked, apparently a total failure.
It was so easy then to reject Him, to disown Him, to cry out: "Crucify Him!" For so many, who wanted merely to ride on the wave of His popularity, the tide was turned. The triumph of the preceding Sunday had vanished, and they wanted no part of Him. And so, in a way, they condemned themselves to a death far worse than what awaited Him.

Holy Week and the Sacred Triduum present each of us with the opportunity to re-examine our faith commitment to Jesus, and the Church. This holy time allows us to ask ourselves some pretty important questions:
  • Do we see our association with Jesus and the Catholic Church as triumph or failure?
  • Do we embrace the Gospel totally?
  • Are we willing to share in the "apparent defeat" of Jesus represented by His Cross, by the inevitable pain and suffering of our lives, so that we can share in the total victory of His resurrection?
  • Does our faith and trust persist even in the darkest moments?
Jesus certainly understands our natural aversion to losing, to defeat of any sort. He begs us always to look beyond the surface of things, to see with the eyes of faith, and in that vision to see all that we do in the light of His Easter victory.
There will always be moments of loss, of pain, of apparent death. But He invites us to be strong and courageous, assuring us that in the power of Easter and resurrection, there is no failure, only victory.
There is an added meaning to our celebration of Passion Sunday, Holy Week and Easter. Each year the Church invites us to bring the heart-aches of our lives, our own personal broken dreams and moments of sorrow and pain to the Risen Christ. We relive the final days of the Savior in order to reinforce our conviction that resurrection always follows death, that victory always crowns our failures.
As we walk with Jesus through the incidents of Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, we recoil again at the ugliness and horror of his rejection, betrayal, condemnation, passion and crucifixion. We study His courage, His struggle to bend His will to the Father's. We understand His agonizing sense of abandonment. We feel His hurt at the treachery of His friends, and ultimately His trusting embrace of the Cross - and the shameful death it promised - knowing that the love and power of His Father would sustain Him and carry Him through to the triumph of Resurrection and New Life.

We all need the experience of Passion Sunday, Holy Week, The Triduum and Easter to renew our faith and our hope, to reassure us that the love and power of our Father will not allow evil, sin and death to destroy us. We must not give in to despair; we cannot give up. The Risen Christ is our hope, and the guarantee of our ultimate victory.
In many ways, the world is waiting and watching. The Christian way of life, from the first Easter Sunday until today, continues to offer renewed vision and hope to the human family. Those who do not share this faith know what it claims and what it promises. They hear the Gospel of peace, of social justice, of reconciliation, of compassion. They know that these values could and should dramatically change the quality of human life all over the globe. But then they look around - and see so much hate and poverty and crime and suffering.... and they wonder....
We can make the power of the Resurrection real. But we can only do this if we draw near to Jesus in a special way during this sacred time. We have to make time for prayer, for Liturgy, for the sacramental encounters that will allow these timeless mysteries to touch us, heal us, and renew us. These are days when the entire Community is called to be present - when we should make every effort to put other things aside to share in the Liturgical celebrations of these events.
The experience of our Holy Week should be profound for each of us individually and for our community. We want, especially during these sacred days, to pour ourselves out, to be humble, obedient servants of God, so that we, like Jesus, will exalted, lifted up, and deserve the name "faithful Christian."
It is Christ our Saviour who enables us to do this. So we join Him in mind and spirit on Passion Sunday, enter Jerusalem with Him, proclaiming Jesus Christ Is Lord!
We will come to be with Him on Holy Thursday, learn again the meaning of Christian service through His washing of His disciples feet, recognize Him in the breaking of the Bread, and proclaim: Jesus Christ Is Lord!
We will come to be with Him on Good Friday, watch with Him in the Garden, share His pain and shame on Calvary, watch Him die - and proclaim: Jesus Christ Is Lord!
And we will come to be with Him at the Easter Vigil or on Easter Sunday, see again the mystery of the Resurrection with the eyes of faith, and rise ourselves with Him to new holiness of life and love as we proclaim Jesus Christ Is Lord!

Saturday 16 April 2011

Singing God's Praise

Lent Day Thirty Four

St. Thérèse of Lisieux: The vocation of love

Yes, my beloved, this is how my life will be consumed. I have no other means of proving my love for you other than that of strewing flowers, that is, not allowing one little sacrifice to escape, not one look, one work, profiting by all the smallest things and doing them through love.
I desire to suffer for love and even to rejoice through love; and in this way I shall strew flowers before your throne. I shall not come upon one without unpetalling it for you.
While I am strewing my flowers, I shall sing, for could one cry while doing such a joyous action? I shall sing even when I must gather my flowers in the midst of thorns, and my song will be all the more melodious in proportion to the length and sharpness of the thorns. (from Story of a Soul, cited in St. Thérèse of Lisieux: Essential Writings, Orbis)
St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873 - 1897) was a French Carmelite nun whose autobiography described the spiritual path she called "the Little Way." She has been declared a Doctor of the Church.

The Fifth Week of Lent ~ Saturday

Loving God,
Your eternal watchfulness keeps me safe from harm.
I am filled with a great happiness
when I feel your endless love for me.
Thank you for your care for me, one of your children.
I ask you to protect from harm
those who will soon be your children,
joined in the joy of your church.
Please continue to pour out your blessings
on all of us who have been given
the lifegiving waters of baptism

Friday 15 April 2011

A musical interlude


Lent Day Thirty Three

Ronald Rolheiser, O.M.I.: Mourning our losses
Perhaps the greatest spiritual and psychological challenge for us once we reach mid-life is to mourn our deaths and losses. Unless we mourn properly our hurts, our losses, life's unfairness, our shattered dreams, our radical inconsummation, and the life that we once had but that has now passed us by, we will live either in an unhealthy fantasy or an ever-intensifying bitterness.
Spiritually we see an illustration of this in the story of the older brother of the prodigal son. His bitterness and unwillingness to take part in the celebration of his brother's return points to what he is still clinging to—life's unfairness, his own hurt, and his own unfulfilled fantasies. He is living in his father's house, but he is no longer receiving the spirit of that house. Consequently he is bitter, feels cheated, and lives joylessly. . . .
Thus we have a choice: We can spend the rest of our lives angry, trying to protect ourselves against something that has already happened to us, death and unfairness, or we can grieve our losses, abuses, and deaths and, through that, eventually attain the joy and delights that are in fact possible for us.
The choice is really a paschal one. We face many deaths within our lives, and the choice is ours as to whether those deaths will be terminal (snuffing out life and spirit) or whether they will be paschal (opening us to new life and new spirit). Grieving is the key to the latter. Good grieving, however, consists not just in letting the old go but also in letting it bless us. (The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality, Doubleday) Rolheiser is a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate and writes a regular newspaper column on spirituality. He lives in Canada.

The Fifth Week of Lent ~ Friday

Most forgiving Lord,
again and again you welcome me back into your loving arms.
Grant me freedom from the heavy burdens of sin
that weigh me down
and keep me so far from you.

Sunday 3 April 2011

Blog Break

Back on the 15th April

Lent Day Twenty Three - ThIrty Three

Our resident blogger will be away for the next 10 days. Normal service will resume on the 15th April. These are the reflections and prayers for the following days. Happy Lent!

Lent Day 23

Mohandas Gandhi: Fasting and the voice of God

Fasting for the sake of unfoldment of the spirit is a discipline I hold to be absolutely necessary at some stage or other in the evolution of an individual. Crucifixion of the flesh is a meaningless term unless one goes voluntarily through the pangs of hunger. For one thing, identification with the starving poor is a meaningless term without the experience behind it....
Fasting should be inspired by perfect truth and perfect nonviolence. The call for it should come from within, and it should be imitative. It should never be undertaken for a selfish purpose but for the benefit of others only. A fast is out of the question in a case where there is hatred for anybody.
But what is the inner voice? Is everybody capable of hearing it? These are big questions. The inner voice is there in every one of us, but one whose ears are not open for it cannot hear it, just as a deaf person is unable to hear the sweetest of songs. Self-restraint is essential in order to make our ears fit to hear the voice of God. (Mohandas Gandhi: Essential Writings, Orbis) Gandhi (1869-1948), a Hindu, popularized the use of religious nonviolence for political change as a leader for Indian independence.

The Fourth Week of Lent ~ Monday
God who created me,
You offer me new life through your Son
and through the gift of your sacraments.
While I see new life all around me,
I don't always recognize the new life you offer me.
Help me to grow this Lent in an awareness
of the gifts you place in my life
and in a greater appreciation for your care.
Give me the courage to ask for help.

Lent Day 24

Edwina Gateley: Contemplative prayer

When I was a small girl, I was fascinated by all things religious and holy. God, obviously, fitted squarely into that category. God lived (so they told me) in our huge, greystone cathedral, and there, indeed, he was to be found--hiding in a gold box surrounded by flowers, candles, and velvet curtains. I spent hours in the silence and the darkness of the huge cathedral--often all alone--just sitting, breathing, awed by a deep, intuitive awareness that I sat with God.
Little did I know, at such a tender age, that I was engaged in contemplative prayer. I was simply absorbed by a sense of divine presence. It has never really gone away. As I grew older, however, life became busy and demanding. I went to college, then to Africa as a lay missionary teacher, and later founded the Volunteer Missionary Movement. I didn't really have the time to sit in dark and holy places, wide-eyed by mystery. I was very busy about the business of saving the world.
But I didn't save the world. That has already been done. I am in a sense--like everyone else--trying to save myself, to become fully myself for God. My journey is coming full circle. Older, wiser, and deeper than in those earlier years when I sat in the cathedral, I now sit again, not in my cathedral but in myself. I "sit" wherever I find myself, for my cathedral is within me.
I know now that no matter how far we travel, how much we accomplish, how deeply we suffer, or how joyfully we dance, God is always with us in all of those things for the whole of our life's journey. That dark, silent, and mysterious place stays with us, housing the holy. Like the Lenten experience, there are no extra props. There is just the darkness and the emptiness and, at the very heart of all that the divine presence, the Holy One whom we seek, breathing, hidden within us, eternally loving and waiting.
Gateley is the founder of the Volunteer Missionary Movement.

The Fourth Week of Lent ~ Tuesday

Joyful praise in Lent?
I'm not sure I always feel that.
I ask you to help me prepare to understand
and embrace the paschal mystery in my life.
I don't always see the beauty and mystery
of this season
and often I run from the pain.
Help me to see how your saving grace
and your loving touch in my life
can fill me with joyful praise of the salvation
you have sent to me.

Lent Day 25

Fyodor M. Dostoevsky: Choose to love

Christ said, "Go and give all you have to the poor and become the servant of all," for if you do that, you'll become a thousand times richer because your happiness won't be made just of good food, rich clothes, satisfied vanity, and appeased envy. Instead it will be built on love, love multiplied by love without end. And then you will gain not just riches, but the whole world!
Today we amass material things without ever satisfying our greed, and then we madly squander all we have amassed. But a day will come when there will be no orphans, no beggars; everyone will be as one of my own family, everyone will be my brother or sister, and that is when I will have gained everything and everyone!
Will we choose to love, or not? (The Adolescent, W.W. Norton)

The Fourth Week of Lent ~ Wednesday

Loving and merciful God,
I am so aware of my sins and weaknesses.
But as painfully aware of my faults as I am,
Let me also remember your tender love,
your gentle and limitless forgiveness.
I come before you filled with pain and guilt
but look into your eyes and see the forgiving love
I so long for in my life.
Help me to forgive the same way.
Teach me to love as you love.

Lent Day 26

Joan Chittister, O.S.B.: A growing season

Lent is not an event. It is not something that happens to us. It is at most a microcosm of what turns out to be a lifelong journey to the centre of the self.
The purpose of Lent is to confront us with ourselves in a way that's conscious and purposeful, that enables us to deal with the rest of life well. It is not a "penitential season." It is a growing season. It requires us to determine what is worth dying for in our own lives and what it may be necessary for us to become if we really want to live. (National Catholic Reporter, Feb. 23, 2001) Chittister is an Erie Benedictine sister, author, and lecturer.

The Fourth Week of Lent ~ Thursday

Merciful Father/ Loving Mother,
I know that the tiny sacrifices I make this Lent
can never serve as a real penance in my life.
But help me to make my whole life
one of following your Son.
I am filled with your love.
Let your love shine out from within me
and guide my life in this sacred journey
toward the Easter joy you offer me.

Lent Day 27

 M. Basil Pennington, O.C.S.O.: A clash of wills

How often have we prayed: "Our Father, who art in heaven . . . thy will be done. . . . " We have watched the ultimate expression of our Lord's own struggle as he sweat blood in Gethsemane's garden and in his anguish cried out: "Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me, but not my will but yours be done."
We know the anguish ourselves, in varying degrees: the sudden death of a loved one, a crippling accident, an unplanned pregnancy. It is not what we want. We have heard—and struggle to believe—that for those who love God all things work together unto good. But deep down in us something cries: "No! It is not what I want. My will be done." We usually do not have the audacity to say it right out to the Lord. But we sure do not like what he seems to be saying or doing or allowing to be done. And we do not want to say: "Thy will be done."
If only we could realize how much we are loved. Then we could fairly easily believe that for those who love God all things work together unto good. If only we had the humility to realize that the all-knowing Father of infinite love does always know what is best for us. God does not want bad things to happen, but God has given us freedom. God respects the freedom he has given us. Thus God does allow bad things to happen to good people. At the same time God knows that the power of divine love is far greater than any evil. The all-encompassing compassion of divine mercy is infinitely greater than any sin.
At times we do really need to crawl to Gethsemane, to see, to hear, to enter into and let the Lord enter into our own struggle: "If possible, let this pass, but not my will but yours be done." Yes, many times in our life we glibly pray: "Thy will be done" But that deep transformation of our all-too-human spirit needs those moments or hours or days of anguish before our original-sin "My will be done" is replaced with the communion of self-giving love that is expressed so succinctly: "Thy will be done."
Pennington is a Trappist monk and a writer and lecturer on prayer. A former abbot, he now resides at St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts.

The Fourth Week of Lent ~ Friday

Loving God of forgiveness,
I come before you humbled and sad
in the face of my own repeated failings.
I hold out my hands as a petitioner would,
asking for mercy.
It is then that I feel you reach out and take my hand
in your loving grasp.
Thank you for the love you pour out on me
so lavishly.
Help me to follow more closely
in the path you have set for me,
the path of your Son.

Lent Day 28

 Meister Eckhart: True conversion

Many people think that to show their sorrow for sin they must do extraordinary things such as fasting, walking barefoot, and the like. The best penitence, however, is to turn away completely from all that is not God and not divine, whether it be in yourself or some other person, place, or thing.
True repentance is approaching God in love and squarely facing up to what you have done. Choose your own way of doing this, and discover that the more you do it, the more real your repentance will become.
True conversion is like our Lord's Passion. The more you imitate it, the more your sins will fall away. (Adapted by Richard Chilson, C.S.P. in That You May Have Life: Let the Mystics Be Your Guide for Lent, Ave Maria Press) Eckhart (1260 - 1328) was a German Dominican and one of the great Christian mystics.

The Fourth Week of Lent ~ Saturday

what you ask of my life seems so right.
It is how I want to live,
following your Son, Jesus, so closely.
And yet I fail so often to stay on that path.
I cannot do it alone, loving Lord.
I need your help and guidance.
I need to remember your love for me
and I want to remember
how very much I need you in my life.


The sisters of Lazarus sent word to Jesus, saying,
“Master, the one you love is ill.”
When Jesus heard this he said,
“This illness is not to end in death,
but is for the glory of God,
that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
So when he heard that he was ill,
he remained for two days in the place where he was.
Then after this he said to his disciples,
+Let us go back to Judea.”
When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus
had already been in the tomb for four days.
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went to meet him;
but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you.”
Jesus said to her,
“Your brother will rise.”
Martha said,
“I know he will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world.”
He became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said,
“Where have you laid him?”
They said to him, “Sir, come and see.”
And Jesus wept.
So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.”
But some of them said,
“Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man
have done something so that this man would not have died?”
So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb.
It was a cave, and a stone lay across it.
Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”
Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him,
“Lord, by now there will be a stench;
he has been dead for four days.”
Jesus said to her,
“Did I not tell you that if you believe
you will see the glory of God?”
So they took away the stone.
And Jesus raised his eyes and said,
“Father, I thank you for hearing me.
I know that you always hear me;
but because of the crowd here I have said this,
that they may believe that you sent me.”
And when he had said this,
He cried out in a loud voice,
“Lazarus, come out!”
The dead man came out,
tied hand and foot with burial bands,
and his face was wrapped in a cloth.
So Jesus said to them,
“Untie him and let him go.”
Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary
and seen what he had done began to believe in him

John 11

The Fifth Week of Lent ~ Sunday

My loving Lord,
it's so hard to love the world sometimes
and to love it the way Jesus did seems impossible.
Help me to be inspired by his love and
guided by his example.
Most of all, I want to accept that I can't do it alone,
and that trying is an arrogance of self-centeredness.
I need you, dear God, to give me support in this journey.
Show me how to unlock my heart
so that I am less selfish.
Let me be less fearful of the pain and darkness
that will be transformed by you into Easter joy.

Lent Day 29

Cardinal Joseph Bernardin: The value of suffering

It is a normal, instinctive response to run from suffering. We try to avoid it for ourselves, and we make every effort to protect our loved ones from it. Suffering is perceived as a dire threat to our life and happiness.
Our dread of suffering is so strong that we not only seek to shelter ourselves from it, but sometimes we shun others who suffer, even our friends and family, in our effort to escape its pleading voices.
Those who have been divorced sometimes report that their friends and family no longer invite them to parties. At times, those who have been fired or laid off tell us that when they encounter their former colleagues, they are met with embarrassed silence.
Cancer patients and others who suffer with serious illness notice that their former friends have difficulty looking at them, eye to eye. We don't know what to say. The pitch and volume of suffering reduces us to silence.
Jesus tells us, however, that in that silence life begins! "Whoever would preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it" (Mark 8:35) . . . .
For every follower of Christ there comes a choice, when the path veers off toward the cross. The wisdom of the world raises an alarm: Turn back, beware, ahead lies our destruction! But in our hearts a softer, firmer voice invites us, "Come, follow me, and I will show you that path of life." (From a Sept. 15, 1991 homily quoted in The Journey to Peace, Doubleday)
Bernardin (1928 - 96) was the archbishop of Chicago from 1982 until his death from cancer. He wrote about his illness in The Gift of Peace (Loyola Press).

The Fifth Week of Lent ~ Monday

God of love,
I know that you are the source of all
that is good and graced in my life.
Help me to move from the life of sin
to which I so often cling,
into the new life of grace you offer me.
You know what I need to prepare for your kingdom.
Bless me with those gifts.

Lent Day 30

St. Francis of Assisi: Peace prayerLord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love.

Where there is injury, pardon.

Where there is doubt, faith.

Where there is despair, hope.

Where there is sadness, joy.

Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled,
as to console;

To be understood, as to understand;

To be loved, as to love;

For it is in giving that we receive,

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.

It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Although the authorship of this prayer, first printed in the early 20th century, remains unclear, it has traditionally been attributed to St. Francis of Assisi (1181/82 - 1226), the founder of the Franciscans.

The Fifth Week of Lent ~ Tuesday

Loving God,
You have heard my complaints, my impatience.
Sometimes I become frightened
when I move away from you.
Guide my heart back to you.
Help me to think beyond my own wants
and to desire only to do you will.
Thank you for the many blessings in my life
and for the ways I feel your presence.

Lent Day 31

Megan McKenna: The fast I want

This is the fast that I want—a fast from violence, to do no harm, have no tolerance for war, and to resist by living with passionate devotion to the Word made flesh in all peoples' flesh. I want you to fast from all that causes disrespect, disregard, dissension and despair, arrogance, derision, scorn, and a feeling of self-righteousness. We are to remember that the word enemy is just another name for what we once were with God, but we now have been embraced in Jesus' Passion, death, and Resurrection. The death of Jesus is the ultimate and extreme expression of the peace of passion spent totally.
This is the foundation of other practices. This is the peace of Christ, pax Christi. Begin by "denying your very self" (Mark 8) so you won't deny Christ's peace or do harm or violence to anyone; instead, bow before others, bow down to your knees and serve and give your life as a ransom for many.
This is what it means to be kin to Jesus, to be a disciple. We vow to live under no sign of power but the sign of the cross. So we vow—to practice forgiveness, amnesty, reconciliation, mercy, love of our enemies, to love one another as we have been loved by God in Jesus, to live "at-one-ment," to live free from fear and hate, and to do no violence and to harm no one or the earth.
This Lent we are summoned to "lower our standards," which originally meant to "put down our arms." The cards that image the peaceable kingdom of Christmas must become reality in Lent—where the lion and the wolf lie down with the lamb and the child sits by the adder's lair (Isa. 11:6-9), the sign of the peace of God among us.
Some practical suggestions: 1) Pray for those you still name-call enemies; 2) Pray for those who insist on using war to react to problems around the world or to deal with their sense of fear and anger in retaliation to others' actions; 3) Join Pax Christi USA, the Catholic Church's international peace movement; 4) Practice regard for strangers, foreigners, immigrants, and others in our society; and 5) Sign yourself with the sign of the cross and reflect upon that power of the peace of Christ.
Let us walk in this way, the way of the cross, the way of peace and nonviolence. And then comes Easter: "Under cherry trees there are no strangers" (Kobayashi Issa), and under the cross there are no enemies, all are found to be the friends of God. We pray to live "in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."
McKenna is a writer, storyteller, preacher, and ambassador of peace for Pax Christi USA.

The Fifth Week of Lent ~ Wednesday
Loving Creator,
I know in your great love for me,
you see the deep sorrow in my heart.
Hear my prayers which are offered
with such trust in you.
Be with me in both mind and heart
as I renew my life in your spirit.

Lent Day 32

St. Vincent de Paul: God's mercy
Always turn your eyes from the study of your own sin to the contemplation of God's mercy. Devote much more thought to the grandeur of his love for you than to your unworthiness toward him, to his strength than to your weakness. When you have done this, surrender yourself into God's arms in the hope that he will make you what he requires you to be and that he will bless all you do. (quoted from The Saints' Guide to Learning to Pray by Louise Perrotta, Charis Press)
St. Vincent de Paul (1580 - 1660) was the founder of the Vincentians and cofounder of the Daughters of Charity. He is the patron saint of all charitable societies and works.

The Fifth Week of Lent ~ Thursday
all I want is to be faithful to you in my life,
but so often I fail.
Free me from my many sins
and guide me to the life I will share with you.
I wait for your promise to be fulfilled
with great hope in my heart
and your praise on my lips.