Tuesday 31 May 2011

Feast of the Visitation

LUKE 1:39-56
During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. For He has looked upon His handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is His name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear Him. He has shown might with His arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry He has filled with good things; the rich He has sent away empty. He has helped Israel His servant, remembering His mercy, according to His promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.


Today we celebrate the feast of the Visitation. The visit to Elizabeth by Mary is not just a link between relatives but two people graced by God in different ways and both bringing God’s promises to fulfillment. Elizabeth is bringing forth John the Baptist, the herald of Christ, and Mary will give birth to Jesus, the Saviour of the world.

It fills me with wonder that Mary’s first instinct is to service. After hearing the news of Elizabeth’s conception she travels to be with her. It is a moment of recognition. The child in Elizabeth’s womb is filled with joy to be in the presence of the Saviour. Elizabeth herself is enthused as she greets her kinswoman. The Incarnate Word is present and already that presence is renewing the world

There is another level to this. Elisabeth ministers to Mary. She knows that God has done this marvelous thing, but others must have been mistrusting. Elizabeth gives Mary a haven, a secure home for a short while.

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Prayer - The why, the doing and the possibilities

The Shrine Chapels as seen from the Rosary Way
Prayer – the why, the doing and the possibilities

Fr Damian Cassidy, O.Carm.

Prayer for many people is a stumbling block in life. We pray when we gather as a community for the Eucharist, for popular communal prayers such as the rosary. But when it comes to our personal experiences of prayer we are often dissatisfied or too busy. We fill silences with words and are often lost is the realm of ‘listen Lord your servant is speaking!’ I say we, but I guess it would be more honest to say ‘I’. I have problems with prayer. I know the theory, I have been formed in an ancient spiritual tradition and, thankfully, I have had deep experiences of God’s presence and comfort in times of prayer. But these are the heights, but what of the routine? How can prayer become real and life changing for each of us? A more important question – What of the times in my prayer life when it seems that God does not hear or is apparently disinterested in my plight?  As I reflect on my own prayer life, I hope that you will find some echoes with your own experiences.
1.   Why pray.
If we want to know why we must pray, the simple answer is the example of Jesus and the radical and passionate relationship he enjoys with his Father. It shapes every action and word that Jesus does or utters. In the Gospels we see how Jesus prays before major decisions, defining acts, and his ultimate sacrifice. These include calling disciples, healing the sick, raising the dead, proclaiming the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God and his death on the cross. Jesus depends totally on the love of his Father and he lives in the tension of this love and the world in which he lives. The ‘why’ of prayer is the response we make to the love that God lavishes upon us. As Christians, our relationship with God is the defining relationship of our lives, the relationship that makes all others possible and whole.
Why do I pray? Because I need to. If we wish to fully realise our humanity we have to allow God to be fruitful in our lives. This can only happen by being open to God’s gifts, to God’s invitation and to the opportunities that we are invited into.
2.   Patterns of prayer.
The disciples witness the way Jesus prays. It is new to them, unrecognisable from what they know. They are used to the prayer of the synagogue and temple, the psalms and blessings that have shaped their days from their youth. The way Jesus prays is radical. They want to share in this, so they ask, ‘Lord teach us to pray.’
He was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples."
He said to them, "When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test."
Luke 11:1-4.

2.1        Prayer as intimacy
The relationship that Jesus embraces with his Father, 'Abba', is one of intense intimacy and passion. When asked by the disciples how to pray, Jesus begins radically - call God your Father. Jesus invites his followers into a personal relationship with the source of life. This is the lived experience of Jesus' prayer. He is in continuous dialogue with his Father. Jesus seeks out those moments of communion, he prays before every decisive action or word. The time he spends in Gethsemane continues the ongoing dialogue between Father and Son.
So prayer is relationship. Like all relationships it needs nurturing, time, space and openness. Often we think that prayer is about words, but the communication of relationship is more often beyond words and more about presence. Being in the same space as the one we love, simply enjoying that silent and profound communication that exists between lovers.
2.2        Prayer - the praise of God.
Jesus calls us to praise of God. ‘may your name be Holy.’ Our response to God’s love calls us to an appreciation of who God is in our lives. When we are in the presence of those we love we are often joyful in their presence, bubbling over with enthusiasm. Praise is also thoughtful. Adoration is praise. Consciously being present to God in silence is praise and often communicates far more than words.
2.3        Prayer – building blocks of the Kingdom
Prayer is also about commitment. In prayer we commit ourselves to God’s will, knowing that God’s desire for us is our good and the realisation of our full potential. Prayer also equalises us in a world that is far from fair. We pray for the justice that God’s Kingdom brings. In this Kingdom all hungers are satisfied, all have their daily bread, all are free to be who they are called to be. Prayer is the acknowledgement that I have something to do in bringing this desire of God into being.
2.4        Prayer - learning to live with one another.
For me Jesus highlights basic and deep human needs in his prayer. We pray for our daily bread. That we might receive daily, what we need to live. I think that this is a beautiful insight into our world. The word satisfaction comes from the Latin ‘satis’ meaning ‘enough’. If our hungers are satisfied we have enough. If I take more, then my brother or sister will be left hungry, unsatisfied. In praying for my daily bread, I pray that all hungers may be satisfied, we pray that all have enough to flourish. We pray as stewards of creation, of all that God has given us.
Then the difficult part. We pray that we might learn forgiveness, and be forgiving, so that we might know forgiveness. This is the line I find hard to utter. It is easy for me to ask God for forgiveness. But Jesus tells us to forgive as we would like to be forgiven. Hoe we forgive, the quality of our mercy, is how we will be forgiven. Mercy is to be something we live if our relationship with God is to be authentic.
Jesus reminds us that temptation is always near. He warns us to pray that we might not give in to temptation but to live as children of God.
Amen. So let it be!
Pitfalls, heartbreak and stumbling.
So that’s the theory, but what of the experience? Joseph Chalmers, the former Prior General of the Carmelite Order reflects that the problem of prayer is often shaped by our own expectations. In a real way we limit God by thinking small.
“Friendship can never be forced. We have the awesome power of putting limits on God. When we think of God we should think BIG. God wants to do so much more for us than we could ever ask for or even imagine. So how can we respond to this invitation? We can learn from the way we relate to people. There are people we meet only rarely and never think much about them. We can hardly call them friends. Then there are people with whom we are quite friendly but who do not really impinge on our lives. Then there are others who really know us and love and accept us for what we are. These are our friends. How do we relate to them? Do we always batter their eardrums with words or are we also prepared to listen to them? We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen twice as much as we speak.”
Another pitfall in our prayer is our sense of unworthiness. The ‘why would God want to listen to me anyway?’ attitude to life. Again we limit God with this attitude. That ‘we’ is creeping in again. I mean ‘I’. If we accept that we are invited into relationship with God, why do we not believe that he wants to hear us, be with us, love us! It is almost as if I believe in God, but I don’t think God believes in me. The head tells us that this is rubbish, but it is a lie we often believe.
The great saints – the spiritual greats of our Church have often struggled with prayer. Prayer for many of us begins with great clarity and joy. God is near and his presence is felt, then comes that long period of aridity and apparent absence. It is as if God is disinterested. I find comfort in these saints. Their names tumble from our lips, Teresa of Avila, Therese of the Child Jesus, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, but there was for them great times of doubt that God heard their prayer. The thing that made them saints is that they never stopped praying! Prayer was relentless, tenacious and above all, heart breakingly honest.
“God, please forgive me, when I try to raise my thoughs to heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul. I am told God loves me, and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the call of the Sacred Heart?                                                                  Mother Teresa
Why I pray.
As a priest I am called to prayer. To pray for the world, especially the community that I serve, and to lead others in prayer is at the heart of my vocation. In spite of this, I pray not out of obligation but out of necessity. I know the person that I am when I don’t pray and that person is unfulfilled, without focus and selfish. Prayer is at the heart of who I am, because my relationship with God shapes my appreciation of all my other relationships. I need to find the time in each day, beyond what is expected of me, to be in God’s presence in a conscious and tangible way. My way of prayer is personal, as indeed it should be. Space and environment are important. I need to find a space apart from distraction, where I am comfortable and able to be still. The rest is simply wasting time with the God who loves me, finding a language to express what is happening, how I am responding, how I am living the Gospel. They need to be my words. As a husband or a wife has to use their own words to communicate their feelings to one another, borrowed words are only sufficient for a while. Then I have to develop my own thoughts and words The struggle continues, but I believe it will be fruitful in God’s good time.

May ~ Month of Mary 5

Acclamations in honour of the Mother of Christ

Mary the Dawn – Christ the Perfect Day;
Mary the Gate – Christ the Heavenly Way!
Mary the Root – Christ the Mystic Vine;
Mary the Grape – Christ the Sacred Wine!
Mary the Stem – Christ the Rose, blood-red;
Mary the Wheat – Christ the Living Bread!
Mary the Fount – Christ the Cleansing Flood;
Mary the Cup – Christ the Saving Blood!
Mary the Temple – Christ the Temple’s Lord;
Mary the Shrine – Christ the God adored!
Mary the Beacon – Christ the heaven’s Rest;
Mary the Mirror – Christ the Vision Blest!
Mary the Mother – Christ the Mother’s Son;
By all things bless’d while endless ages run!

Prayer before an Image of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

O God, you have given us Mary as our Mother
and through the Order of Carmel

we learn to call her sister.
May we imitate her goodness and faith,
and be ever joyful in the wonderful things
you have done for us.
May Mary watch over and protect us
on our pilgrim way to your holy mountain,
Christ the Lord.
We make our prayer through the same Christ,
our Lord. Amen.
(Terenure College, Dublin, Ireland)

Monday 23 May 2011

May ~ Month of Mary 4

Mother of the Redeemer,
with great joy we call you blessed.
In order to carry out
his providential plan of salvation,
God the Father chose you
before the creation of the world.
You believed in his love
and obeyed his word.
The Son of God desired you for his Mother
when he became man to save the human race.
You received him
with ready obedience and undivided heart.
The Holy Spirit loved you
as his mystical spouse,
and he filled you with singular gifts.
You allowed yourself to be led
by his hidden and powerful action.

Marian Year Prayer of Pope John Paul II

Saturday 21 May 2011

Daily Prayer ~ Fifth Week of Easter

We can hold the words of Jesus in our hearts all week. As we do, we will discover their attractiveness and invitation. We will also encounter resistance in ourselves and in others.
It takes practice to stay focused in the background of our daily life. We all have years of habit to overcome. However, we can practice letting this consoling message of Jesus find a place in our conscious awareness at various points in our day, whether it is in the shower, while getting dressed, or simply whenever we are on our way from one place to another. Sometimes it will take a conscious effort to let these thoughts replace the thoughts that are there already. In the background of our day is where our worries reside. It's where we carry anxiety and stress. Sometimes it is where we carry on imaginary conversations with others or “replay” past conversations. Often a song or piece of music just replays over and over.
This is a great week to get in touch with our deepening desires and to let my conversations with Jesus grow in friendship. The easiest way to do this is to simply say simple ordinary things -- the very way I would say them to a close friend. Some examples might offer words that will inspire our own conversation with the Lord who loves us.
“Jesus, every time I hear you say I don't have to let my heart be troubled, I pause. I sense you are pointing to the 'troubles' I'm working through today. You're asking me to let go of them, aren't you? I'd like to, Jesus, but some of this is big stuff. It scares me. I know some of what I need to do, but I put it off. I know what I'm avoiding. It helps to focus on your love for me this week. I guess what I really need to ask you for today is that you let me trust you more completely. It is really nice these days to feel that you are so close to me, and that I'm not alone today.”
“I haven't been very connected to you, Jesus. This conversation is difficult because it reminds me the embarrassing stuff I keep doing - even though right now, I'm ashamed to talk about it in your presence. Please forgive me. Some of this I want to bring to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, so that I can be re-connected with you again. I need a 'turning point,' Jesus. Thank you for being there.”
“Good night, Jesus. Thank you for today. Let me put everything aside tonight. I know you will be with me all day tomorrow.”
Source: Daily Reflection Calender

Fr Tony Pelan ~ Requiem Mass Homily

Easter is a time of hope as Christ breaks the power of death and opens the way of life for us. We have the hope that we will be transformed and share in Christ’s risen glory. That is a different vision to Professor Hawkins who the other day likened us to computers that cease to function and that’s it. We are more than machines, because we are made for love, and Christ’s commandment is that we love one another and that God loves us as friends and has chosen us to be in that loving relationship. Elsewhere the Gospel tells us that to believe in Jesus means we have begun eternal life.

This belief and a commitment to loving friendship were at the heart of Tony’s life. He grew up in West Belfast, part of a loving family during the War and its aftermath. These were hard times but Tony’s home was a place of faith and the local Catholic Church was a beacon of hope. Tony left school at 14 and began working life, but again the Church was a key element as he joined the choir, then the Legion of Mary and finally the Third Order of Carmel. All of this gave him friends and awakened in him a desire to serve God as a priest. A chance meeting with Fr. Eltin Griffin, a Carmelite friar, brought Tony to the Carmelites. After novitiate in Aylesford and studies in Ireland, Tony was ordained. He was not a natural student but he was tenacious in applying himself.

Tony’s life after ordination saw him ministering in various Carmelite communities in Britain. I remember him when he was in Aberystwyth and among his responsibilities was university chaplain. I gave a retreat to the students one winter’s weekend and it was obvious that the students loved and respected Tony. What I also remember was his enthusiasm. Tony went on to work in our parish in Walworth but perhaps he is best remembered for his time in Faversham. Here his energy and enthusiasm was freely given to young and old. He organized parish pilgrimages and enabled young people to go to Toronto for World Youth Day. He enjoyed company and is emembered for his laughter as he shared a drink. All this time he was supported by his family, and he in turn was a caring brother and uncle. I must not forget Tony’s reputation at golf, a game he loved, a game he excelled at.

What I also remember about Tony was the sustenance he drew from his involvement with charismatic renewal. The prayer and praise resonated with his outgoing friendly temperament and was to prove bedrock in difficult times. Aberdeen was a difficult time – not easy when your church is burnt down – but that set back was not a road block because, helped by friends, Tony took on a new ministry as chaplain to Maidstone Prison. Here again that gift of friendship helped him minister to inmates and staff.

I know that when the men there heard of his death they wept. Tony’s last journey was short and to begin with not easy. He was lovingly cared for by his Carmelite brothers and Trish the community nurse; and his family held him in prayer. What I saw over the last while was a longing to let go and be with his Saviour. He felt loved by his friend Jesus Christ and was ready when the Lord willed to be in full communion with the Father.

Tony’s faith, his warmth, and his friendship with so many speak of a life lived to the full, so humanly, but also allowing God’s grace to have freedom to transform and fulfil.

Fr Wilfrid McGreal, O.Carm. Prior Provincial

Friday 20 May 2011

From the Rule for a new Brother

The Cloister - Aylesford Priory
I have been looking through some old notes and resources for a retreat with our novices and I came across this awesome piece of prose from another community - The Blessed Sacrament Fathers. A beautiful lesson in love ...

"Following Jesus does not mean slavishly copying his life. It means making his choice of life your own, starting from your own potential and in the place where you find yourself. It means living for the values for which Jesus lived and died. It means following the path he took, and seeing things as he saw them. If there is anything in which this life, this way, can be expressed, in which God has revealed himself most clearly, it is the reality of love. You are someone only in as far as you love, and only what has turned to love in your life will be preserved.
What love is you can learn from Jesus.
He is the one who has loved most. He will teach you to put the centre of yourself outside. For no man has greater love than he who lays down his life for his friends. He will also teach you to be unlimited space for others, invitation and openness: ‘Come to me all you who are weary and overburdened and I will give you rest.’
So be converted to love every day. Change all your energies, all your potential, into selfless gifts for the other person. Then you yourself will be changed from within, and through you God’s Kingdom will break into the world."

Wednesday 18 May 2011

Laid to rest

Today we laid to rest our Carmelite brother and friend Hugh Anthony Pelan, O.Carm. The Relic Chapel was full of those who wished to express gratitude to God for the life and ministry of Fr Tony. He was laid to rest in the Priory Cemetery. May he rest in peace.

Funeral Ikos was written in 1981 when Tavener was 37. It is a serene setting of words which are probably unfamiliar to most of us and which a simple statement of the reward in Paradise for the Righteous Ones. The words come from the Orthodox Rite of Funerals for priests.  The music shows the influence of Stravinsky, who used a similar homophonic style for some of this religious settings, but Tavener's music is, in this piece, much simpler harmonically. Indeed much of it is in unison allowing the full impact of the words to shine through. Nevertheless there is no doubt that the sensitive musicality, in which the sounds are almost just an accompaniment to the words, can only have been achieved by an extraordinary sensitive composer of deep religious conviction
Funeral Ikos (1981)
Why these bitter words of the dying,
O brethren, which they utter
as they go hence?

I am parted from my brethren.
All my friends do I abandon,
and go hence.

But whither I go, that understand I not,
neither what shall become of me yonder;
only God who hath summoned me knoweth.

But make commemoration of me with the song:

But whither now go the souls?
How dwell they now together there?
This mystery have I desired to learn,
but none can impart aright.

Do they call to mind their own people,
as we do them?
Or have they forgotten all those
who mourn them and make the song:

We go forth on the path eternal,
and as condemned, with downcast faces,
present ouselves before the only God eternal.
Where then is comeliness?
Where then is wealth?
Where then is the glory of this world?
There shall none of these things aid us,
but only to say oft the psalm:

If thou hast shown mercy
unto man, o man,
that same mercy
shall be shown thee there;
and if on an orphan
thou hast shown compassion,
that same shall there
deliver thee from want.
If in this life
the naked thou hast clothed,
the same shall give thee
shelter there,
and sing the psalm:

Youth and the beauty of the body
fade at the hour of death,
and the tongue then burneth fiercely,
and the parched throat is inflamed.

The beauty of the eyes is quenched then,
the comeliness of the face all altered,
the shapeliness of the neck destroyed;
And the other parts have become numb,
nor often say:

With ecstasy are we inflamed
if we but hear
that there is light eternal yonder;
That there is Paradise, wherein
every soul of Righteous Ones rejoiceth.
Let us all, also, enter into Christ,
that all we may cry aloud thus unto God:

Tuesday 17 May 2011

May - Month of Mary 3

My soul sings in gratitude.
I'm dancing in the mystery of God.
The light of the Holy One is within me
and I am blessed, so truly blessed.

This goes deeper than human thinking.
I am filled with awe
at Love whose only condition
is to be received.

The gift is not for the proud,
for they have no room for it.
The strong and self-sufficient ones
don't have this awareness.

But those who know their emptiness
can rejoice in Love's fullness.

It's the Love that we are made for,
the reason for our being.

It fills our inmost heart space
and brings to birth in us, the Holy One.

--Joy Cowley, Auckland, New Zealand

Monday 16 May 2011

Prior Provincial pays tribute to Fr Tony Pelan, O.Carm.

Following the death of Fr. Anthony (Tony) Pelan, the Prior Provincial of the British Province of Carmelites, Fr. Wilfrid McGreal, has written a tribute noting his contribution to the Order's life in various communities over 50 years.

Fr. Anthony Pelan died peacefully at Burrswood Christian Hospital near Tunbridge Wells early on 11th May.

Fr. Anthony was born in 1940 in West Belfast. He was one of five boys and he grew up in a community where the Catholic faith was central to people’s lives. As a teenager he was involved in church life and his decision to join the Carmelite Order was the result of meeting a Carmelite friar, Fr. Eltin Griffin. Fr. Eltin was giving a parish mission and Anthony was able to discuss his hopes with Fr. Eltin.

After some time at St. Mary’s College, Aberystwyth, (a late vocations college), Anthony began his novitiate at Aylesford Priory in 1961. He went on to study in Ireland and was ordained in 1967 at Aylesford.

Over the years Fr. Anthony exercised ministry in various communities of the British Province of Carmelites. He ministered in Aberystwyth and was a popular chaplain with the university students. He is well remembered in Faversham where he was parish priest for many years. He had a friendly approach which was appreciated. Fr. Anthony was drawn to the charismatic movement and was involved in prayer and praise groups. Latterly he was chaplain to Maidstone Prison. Here he won the respect of staff and inmates and was always ready to walk the wings.

Fr. Anthony was always cheerful and energetic. He loved a game of golf and was no mean player. He was also blessed with many loyal friends who valued his presence.

Fr. Anthony began to feel unwell after Christmas but his final illness was short. He was given great care by Maidstone Hospital, Trish Golledge the Province Nurse, and the Carmelite Community at Aylesford and beyond supported him with care and prayers. He appreciated the Christian atmosphere at Burrswood and he felt ready to allow the Lord to call him.

The Carmelite Order grieves at losing a brother and extends its love and prayers to Fr. Anthony’s family who were such an important part of his life.

May he rest in peace.

The reception of Fr. Anthony's remains will take place at Aylesford Priory at 6pm on Tuesday 17th May, and his Funeral Mass and Committal will take place there at 11.30am on Wednesday 18th May.

Feast of St Simon Stock

St Simon Stock - The Prior's Hall,
Aylesford Priory

Simon the Englishman, was elected as one of the first Prior Generals of the Order and served during the difficult days of transition between hermits and friars. He died whilst on visitation of our friary at Bordeaux in the mid‑thirteenth century. He has been venerated in the Carmelite Order for his personal holiness and his devotion to Our Lady. A liturgical celebration in his honour was observed locally in the fifteenth century, and later extended to the whole Order. Shortly after the return of the friars to Aylesford a major relic of St Simon was retuned to England by the Archbishop of Bordeaux.

Father, you called St Simon Stock to serve you
in the brotherhood of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Through his prayers
help us like him to live in your presence
and to work for the salvation of the human family.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

There will be a Mass at 12 noon today to celebrate the feast, and a Pilgrimage Mass at 2,30pm on Saturday 21st May.

Flos Carmeli (Flower of Carmel)
13th-century hymn to Our Lady attributed to the Carmelite St. Simon Stock
Flower of Carmel, tall vine, blossom-laden;
splendour of heaven, child-bearing, yet maiden;
none equals thee.
Mother so tender, whom no man didst know,
on Carmel's children thy favours bestow;
Star of the Sea!
Strong stem of Jesse, who bore one bright flower,
be ever near us, and guard us each hour,
who serve thee here.
Purest of lilies, that flowers among thorns,
bring help to true hearts that in weakness turn
and trust in thee.
Strongest of armour, we trust in thy might,
under thy mantle, hard pressed in the fight,
we call to thee.
Our way, uncertain, surrounded by foes,
unfailing counsel you offer to those
who turn to thee.
O gentle Mother, who in Carmel reigns,
share with your servants that gladness you gained,
and now enjoy.
Hail, gate of heaven, with glory now crowned,
bring us to safety, where thy Son is found,
true joy to see.

V. Holy Mary, Mother of Christ, hear the cry of your servants.
R. And bring down heavenly aid in answer to our prayer.
Let us pray:
By a special privilege, Lord, you have adorned the Carmelite Order with the name of your Mother, the most glorious Virgin Mary. Grant as we faithfully remember this honour, that in these days we may receive her protection and in the days to come we may be brought to everlasting happiness. This we ask of you who are living and reigning for ever. Amen.
The Sacpular Apparition - Carmelite Saints Chapel
Aylesford Priory

Thursday 12 May 2011

The Way

This file is on general release in the UK from tomorrow. Unfortunately I have to go to France to lead a retreat tomorrow, so I will just have to wait until next week. Meanwhile, a review, from our friends at ICN

The Way: a review by: Jo Siedlecka

Every year, one or two films stand out for their sheer beauty, the quality of the script and acting and the profound story they tell. For me last year, it was 'Of Gods and Men' (before that - maybe Little Miss Sunshine.) This year undoubtedly, it's The Way - written, produced and directed by Emilio Estevez and starring his father Martin Sheen - which opens across the UK on Friday.
This latter-day Canterbury Tales tells the story of Tom, a buttoned-up American widower who travels to France after his son Daniel has been killed in a storm on the Camino to Compostella.  Frozen with grief Tom decides to make the pilgrimage himself in Daniel’s memory and grudgingly falls in with a disparate group of people along the way, that he would never have met at his golf club in California. The script and casting are superb here. None of these people are what you would expect. There is the grass smoking Joost (Yorick van Wageningen) a endearing Dutchman who wants to lose a bit of weight; Sarah (Deborah Unger) a Canadian girl with attitude and Jack (James Nesbitt) a totally manic writer from Belfast - as well as a wonderful collection of real-life pilgrims  - the devout ones, the party animals, mountain bikers and artists. These footsore folk find a bed each night in some welcoming hostels, some grim ones and some that are downright surreal. 

The path through the Spanish countryside is depicted in breathtaking long shots and the villages and towns along the way look stunning. A wonderful soundtrack includes Alanis Morrisette, Coldplay and James Taylor. All the actors turn in superb performances - with Sheen particularly good - very understated and intense.

They are some hilarious moments,  and touching ones,  as he glimpses Daniel on the road.   The film is being promoted for its religious theme - and on one level that is correct.  It is set on one of the oldest Christian pilgrim routes in the world and there is much incidental Christian iconography en route - crucifixes and statues of Our Lady.  But don't expect much conventional piety or spoken prayer.  The film is Christian at a much more profound level and will be appeal to people with no religious faith at all I am sure. It is a beautiful study of a father-son relationship – and a life-affirming reflection on tolerance and hope.

Speaking about the film earlier this year, Martin said: “The experience along the Camino is so universal .. and can change lives and relationships. Despite all their problems, it’s about how people discover they are loved and began to love each other. That’s the whole point of community.

“I always think of Teilhard de Chardin, when he wrote:  'When we discover that we are loved we discover fire for the second time.  Its with that fire that we warm and enlighten each other.'"

Source: ICN

Wednesday 11 May 2011

Funeral Arrangements for Fr Tony Pelan, O.Carm.

Fr Tony's remains will be received at Aylesford Priory on Tuesday 17th May at 6pm. The Requiem Mass will be at 11.30am on Wednesday 18th May, followed by burial.

Father Tony Pelan, R.I.P.

Of your goodness, please pray for the repose of the soul of Fr. Anthony Pelan, O.Carm., a friar of this community, who died this morning.

you are the glory of those who serve you.
Look lovingly on our departed brother Tony.
the waters of baptism and the bonds of Carmel unite us with him
in following Christ and his Mother.
In your mercy grant him everlasting sight of you, his creator and Redeemer.

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for him.

Monday 9 May 2011

May - Month of Mary 2

Acclamations in honour of the Mother of Christ

Mary the Dawn – Christ the Perfect Day;
Mary the Gate – Christ the Heavenly Way!
Mary the Root – Christ the Mystic Vine;
Mary the Grape – Christ the Sacred Wine!
Mary the Stem – Christ the Rose, blood-red;
Mary the Wheat – Christ the Living Bread!
Mary the Fount – Christ the Cleansing Flood;
Mary the Cup – Christ the Saving Blood!
Mary the Temple – Christ the Temple’s Lord;
Mary the Shrine – Christ the God adored!
Mary the Beacon – Christ the heaven’s Rest;
Mary the Mirror – Christ the Vision Blest!
Mary the Mother – Christ the Mother’s Son;
By all things bless’d while endless ages run!

Saturday 7 May 2011

Praying the Third Week of Easter

This can be a very good week to grow in a sense of and practice with the notion of being a “contemplative in the midst of action.” We have practically a whole week of gospels about Jesus' gift of himself to us as the “Bread of Life.” This gives us the opportunity to let that mystery be in the background of our consciousness every day this week, as we go about our everyday tasks. What makes it “contemplative” is that we will be asking for graces each morning, and we will let our desires and our activity interact.
We can begin reflecting upon how often we “work for food that perishes.” The pay-off, the success, the accomplishment, the reward we receive for what we do is often quite passing and unsatisfying. It would be important to be able to sense anything that appears to be food that doesn't last and name it as such this week. The real food, the life-giving nourishment that our Lord offers us is himself.
If we can't celebrate the Eucharist daily this week, we can make what we used to call a “spiritual communion” simply by opening our hearts and desiring to receive our Lord, so that he remain in us and we remain in him. We can practice consciously choosing union with Jesus, our Risen Lord and only Savior, and experiencing how that would affect the choices we need to make throughout our day. If we begin each day, asking for the grace of this union, and renew the desire at brief moments we have at various times in the day, our focus and attention begins to change. We will experience a peace and a gifted lack of hunger and thirst for so many of the things that draw us away from him, from loving, from mercy, from consciousness on those in need.
If the background focus of each day this week is to desire to be fed by a closeness with my Lord, it doesn't matter how busy I am, or how many conflicts I have to face, or what suffering I or my loved ones must endure. His flesh and blood are real food and drink because they are the real sacrifice that takes away the power of sin and death itself. United with his surrender to the Father, we set free from whatever can take away the life he gained for us. For this gift, for this faith, we can give thanks for every night, as we review our union with our Lord each night
Source: Daily Reflection Calender

May - Month of Mary 1


Glory to you, God our Creator ...
Breathe into us new life, new meaning.
Glory to you, God our Saviour ...
Lead us in the way of peace and justice.
Glory to you, healing Spirit ...
Transform us to empower others.
Mary, wellspring of peace ...
Be our guide.
Model of strength
Model of gentleness
Model of trust
Model of courage
Model of patience
Model of risk
Model of openness
Model of perseverance
Mother of the liberator ...
Pray for us.
Mother of the homeless
Mother of the dying
Mother of the nonviolent
Mother of widowed mothers
Mother of unwed mothers
Mother of a political prisoner
Mother of the condemned
Mother of the executed criminal
Oppressed woman ...
Lead us to life.
Liberator of the oppressed
Marginalized woman
Comforter of the afflicted
Cause of our joy
Sign of contradiction
Breaker of bondage
Political refugee
Seeker of sanctuary
First disciple
Sharer in Christ's passion
Seeker of God's will
Witness to Christ's resurrection
Woman of mercy ...
Empower us.
Woman of faith
Woman of contemplation
Woman of vision
Woman of wisdom and understanding
Woman of grace and truth
Woman, pregnant with hope
Woman, centered in God
Closing prayer
Mary, Queen of Peace, we entrust our lives to you. Shelter us from war, hatred and oppression. Teach us to live in peace, to educate ourselves for peace. Inspire us to act justly, to revere all God has made. Root peace firmly in our hearts and in our world. Amen.

A busy weekend!

Greetings from Aylesford. Palm Sunday heralded the beginning of the Pilgrimage season and since then we have been welcoming visitors and pilgrims who have been seduced out of their homes by the spring sunshine. Last Monday we welcomed the Guild of St Stephen for their annual pilgrimage for Altar Servers. This weekend is particularly busy. The guesthouse is full of delegates for the Third Order of Carmelites National Gathering. Fr Joseph and Fr Wilfrid will be with them over the weekend. Ever busy, Fr Joseph is also co-directing a retreat day with his friend Mrs Elizabeth Smith on Centring Prayer.

This evening at 5,30pm, Bishop John Hine, our local bishop and great friend of the community will ordain as deacons 7 members of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. An ordination liturgy is always beautiful and thought provoking, se please pray for them as they begin their ministry in the Catholic Church.

AT 10pm, Fr Damian will preside at the Mass that will begin the first of this years All Night Vigils. The Vigil lasts from 10pm- 5am. This being Eastertide and the month of Mary, Fr Damian has chosen as a theme for the vigil 'Experiencing Easter with the Mother of Jesus.'

Please keep the ministry and work of Aylesford in your prayers. God Bless!

Friday 6 May 2011

Pax Christi USA on the death of Osama bin Laden

The killing of Osama bin Laden is an occasion for deep reflection. It must become a turning point in our nation’s nearly decade-long wars in response to the tragedy of 9/11.  As people of faith, and as Catholics who, only days ago, celebrated Christ’s victory over condemnation, torture and death, we pause in this moment in a posture of prayer and repentance. As Christians we are troubled by the displays of celebration and call upon all people of good will to pause and reflect rather than rejoice and exalt. We pray for the victims of that terrible day in September: for their families and loved ones, whose lives were changed forever; we pray for the first responders whose sacrifice and heroism inspired a shocked and grieving nation and who laid down their lives in an effort to save others; and for the countless volunteers who spent weeks amidst the rubble, dust and death at Ground Zero and who continue to suffer serious health effects today. However, we also mourn our nation’s misguided response to the events of 9/11, the carnage and mayhem unleashed, the distortion of our deepest values, the abandonment of our highest principles and ultimate subversion of our national character. And so our prayers extend beyond those victims of September 11th and focus also on the hundreds of thousands of innocent lives lost inAfghanistan,Iraq,Pakistan and across the globe as a direct result of our response.
The spiral of violence of which Pax Christi warned in September 2001 has sadly remained unbroken. The killing of bin Laden becomes one more waypoint in a quest for vengeance that will, as all acts of violence do, lead to ever more violence and death. The cycle must be broken. To do so will take much courage and sustained effort. Our prayers for the victims, both of bin Laden’s violence and our militarized response, must give way to true repentance—a turning away from violence as a path to national redemption.  The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminds us, “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it… Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate… Returning violence for violence multiples violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
For nearly a decade our national narrative has been driven by the Global War on Terror unleashed by the events initiated by bin Laden. In a tragic historical confluence, the violence visited upon us that day was perfectly mirrored by the Bush Administration’s response to it. Today, any reflection on the U.S.’s War on Terror cannot escape the historical judgment that mass arrests and indefinite detention, torture, rendition, indiscriminant bombing, hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, tens of thousands of U.S. casualties and domestic political demonization and polarization have perversely actualized bin Laden’s highest and most evil aspirations. Sadly, the Obama Administration’s continuation of so many of the Bush-era policies has forestalled any such deep reexamination of our nation’s response to 9/11. For all this we also mourn. But our mourning will be hollow if not coupled with a deep repentance. The time has come to turn the page on this narrative and begin a new story. The time has come to bring our wars to an end. The time has come to write a new narrative, one based on hope and love and not on fear and vengeance. The time has come to bring peace.
Pax Christi USA remains committed to ending the war in Afghanistan and bringing home all our troops. Let the passing of bin Laden usher in a new moment of clarity and wisdom that the events of the last decade have so obscured. Like nearly every other al-Qaeda leader captured or killed since 9/11, bin Laden was ultimately done in—not by the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and not the 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan—but by the painstaking and meticulous application of the tools of criminal investigation. As Pax Christi stated ten years ago, the events of 9/11 were a crime against humanity—not an act of war. And so today we also mourn the loss of opportunity that was squandered in the wake of 9/11 that could have pursued the 9/11 criminals without casting the whole world into tumult and war, without unleashing the racism and xenophobia that continue to tear apart communities across the U.S. today.
The costs of our war-based narrative continue to climb even as we mark the demise of the man whose unspeakable violence prompted that response. More than $2 trillion has been spent in pursuit of that war narrative over the past decade. Many new millionaires have been made through the tripling of defense spending since the “war” began and the huge profits it has generated for some. In the meantime, poverty rates have climbed to a record-setting 14.3 percent of Americans in 2009, with one in four black and Latino families living below the poverty line and America’s child poverty rate—one in five kids—now the second worst among rich nations, behind Mexico. We have the world’s most expensive health care system, and yet in 2009 infant mortality in the U.S. was higher than in 29 other countries and the worst among rich nations. The time has come to take decisive steps away from the permanent war economy that has siphoned off so much of our nation’s resources. Such spending over the past decade is what Vatican II succinctly decried as “a genuine theft from the poor.”
Bin Laden may be dead. Bush, Rove, Cheney and Rumsfeld may be gone. But the perfect storm created by their combined hatred, fear and reliance on mass violence continues to exact a deadly toll today. The UN reports that 2011 has been the deadliest year yet for civilians in Afghanistan. This legacy of death cannot be undone by a single execution of one individual in an isolated compound in Pakistan.
As followers of the nonviolent Jesus, we are called to a different journey. Our struggle is to be worthy of the label “Christian” and as such compels us to reject violence and hatred, to eschew celebrations of violent “victories” and to deepen our commitment to “love our enemies” and build a world based on solidarity and the common good. In their statement on the death of Osama bin Laden, the Vatican reaffirms this call: “In the face of a man’s death, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibilities of each person before God and before men, and hopes and works so that every event may be the occasion for the further growth of peace and not of hatred.”
That peace will best be served by ending the decade-old war inAfghanistanand bringing allU.S.troops and private military contractors home. To this end, Pax Christi USA joins its voice with those in the U.S. Senate calling on President Obama to set a concrete withdrawal date for allU.S.forces to leaveAfghanistan. As Pax Christi USA Bishop President Gabino Zavala stated in September 2010: “I say again, the war must be brought to an end, and just as in Iraq, a timetable and date certain must be established for our withdrawal.” This must be our resolve. In contrast to the violent legacy of bin Laden’s life, let this become the concrete outcome of his death.

Thursday 5 May 2011

St Angelus, Priest & Martyr

Today, the Carmelite family celebrates and remembers one of its own. Angelus was one of the first friars to come to Sicily from Mount Carmel. According to trustworthy sources he was killed by unbelievers in Licata during the first half of the thirteenth century. Acclaimed as a martyr his body was placed in a church built on the site of his death. It was only in 1632 that his relics were transferred to the Carmelite Church. Veneration of St. Angelus spread throughout the Carmelite Order as well as among the populace. He has been named patron of many places in Sicily where the people still honour him and invoke his intercession in their needs.

God our Father,
strength of the faithful and crown of martyrs,
by your grace St. Angelus was called from Carmel
to triumph victorious over the torments of martyrdom.
By his prayers grant us
that faithfully following his example,
we may bear witness to your presence and goodness until death.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Scripture Readings
Romans 5:1-5; Gospel - Matthew 28:16-20.