Thursday 30 June 2011

An experience with young teenagers

Sister Timothy Marie, O.C.D.
Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles
The following story is true. It happened to me. I will never, ever forget it.
"Suffer little children to come unto me" by Juan Urruchi
I had been a Carmelite Sister for many years when this story occurred. It changed my life forever, and I came away from the experience with an explosion of faith bursting within my soul. To cut to the quick and bring forth the significance of the experience right away, let me just say that two other teachers and myself found ourselves teaching an eighth grade class with a special problem, or should I say burden? Whatever you want to call it, these students carried an unseen burden that permeated them and their classroom as well. It was some kind of oppressive sadness. Honestly, it’s true. The atmosphere was palpably, distressingly – there’s no other way to describe it – sad. You could cut the atmo­sphere with a knife. We asked each other what hap­pened to bring about this deep sadness.
The students were so young – only in eighth grade. What could have caused it? The only thing we were able to discover was that they had some tough years to­gether as a class, and quarrels and factions that started out in the younger grades snowballed as the years went by. You mean that children can have that much sad­ness? So young? Yes, that’s exactly what I mean.
So, what did we do? We three teachers prayed briefly one late March afternoon, asking the Holy Spirit for direction and guidance. These young teenagers would graduate from eighth grade in just a few months and it seemed such a shame to have them go forth from our school carrying that big load. By the way, we never spoke to them about what we noticed, thinking that some things are better left unsaid.
Enter the Holy Spirit.
Shortly after our prayer for guidance, one of us received an idea, taking form slowly at first and then turning into the concept of having a customized retreat of sorts for the members of this class. The principal agreed we could hold it on the school premises, because we did not have a budget for an off-campus retreat.
This is where I need to tell you about the rocks.
There were some rocks of various sizes left at a con­struction site near the school. I went one afternoon and loaded several into the back of our van. The first day of our on-campus retreat, the class walked into our parish multi-purpose room to begin the retreat. Beautiful praise music was playing in the background as they en­tered. Before them, in the center of the room was a pile of rocks – yes, the same rocks from the construction site. Those rocks are essential to the story.
Well, we sat down in a circle with the rocks in the middle. Now, I’m not one for gimmicks. I’ve been through the sixties and the seventies and I’ve seen more gimmicks used in retreats than I care to remember. They are just plain goofy. The rocks were definitely not a gimmick. They were the concretization of the heavi­ness, the symbol of the “burden” that each one of these dear children seemed to be carrying. So, that’s what we told them. We asked them to see if they could find a rock that would match the heaviness of any burden they carried within their hearts. It was amazing. They took it so seriously. As the students’ names were called, they all chose their rock and put it in their backpacks. They continued carrying their “burdens” for three consecutive days. This had an unforeseen, electrifying effect throughout all grade levels.
There were so many other components of the retreat, the “Sorry’s” whereby every single member of the class was urged to write their “Sorry’s” to anyone in the class they had slighted, made fun of, or hurt during their years together as a class. Paper bags were taped to the sides of the desks and, yes, they kept filling up just like on Valentine’s Day; the excerpts from films which had forgiveness themes which we watched and discussed; the art class where each one received a template of a human person – with a large heart in the center – to be transformed into his or her image, and added to the others on the bulletin board, all holding hands.
It was an amazing thing to see how often the students’ eyes turned toward that bulletin board to watch their figures during the day.
One girl colored on top of her heart so it couldn’t be seen.
Another student broke her heart in two.
We teachers said nothing. We prayed and watched.
Now, back to the rocks. Ten copies of the class list were made. Every hour or hour and a half during the school day, which continued with its regular lessons, a bell was rung. The box was brought out containing a complete list of class names cut up, with each name folded in half. The first student came up and took a name. Let’s say he picked Mary’s name. He would walk over to her and say, “Mary, may I help you carry your burden? Then Mary, after giving him her rock, would pick a name from the box and go to that person and ask to carry that student’s burden. This went on until there were no more names.
Wonder of wonders, we heard a knock on the classroom door and a child from a younger class gave me a note. It was from the Art and Science teacher. It read, “I would like to be a part of this retreat, too. Can I get a rock, too? I also have a big burden on my heart right now.” For some reason, this was a turning point for the class. They insisted on getting a rock and a back pack and presenting it to this Carmelite Sister who had requested it. Well, that did it. The teachers got rocks also. All our names were put in the box. We carried students’ burdens and they carried ours.
One student’s comment impressed me. “Hey, why is Susan’s [*] rock so big? Look at it. It hardly fits in her backpack. She has everything! What kind of burden could she possibly have?” After that comment, the class became noticeably reflective and ,thereafter, when someone picked Susan’s name and asked to carry her burden, that student was noticeably subdued, thinking, ruminating on that huge rock from the girl “who had everything.”
We had chosen Holy Week for our on-campus retreat. Our Easter vacation would begin on Holy Thursday at 12:30 p.m. We decided to end the retreat before then. How? We ended with the Sacrament of Reconciliation, followed the next day by a profound moment in the convent chapel when each student laid their burden at the foot of a large cross in the sanctuary. We invited students who wanted, to kneel on a predieu, alone in the center aisle, and we prayed for each one who chose to kneel there for a few moments.
That’s when it happened.
If you would ask me, “What happened?” I couldn’t say it in words. All I could do would be to say that something sweet and profound, an anointing, descended upon our chapel.
As the concluding Mass of our retreat began, the op­pressive sadness just lifted. Poof! Gone.
After Mass, with my own eyes, I saw these beautiful children of God, run, skip, and yes, dance out of the chapel and into our school playground. But, where are they going, I asked myself, as they entered the school building?
A few moments later, they emerged from the music room – they had borrowed some of the musical instru­ments from the teacher. There they were with tam­bourines and maracas, triangles and bongos. One had an auto harp. Another played a xylophone – and we teachers?
We watched as these precious children of God formed a conga line of sorts, right there in the school playground. We had no camera. No need, really, for a camera as the moment was embedded indelibly into our souls.
The same God Who healed with a word, a touch, a thought, the same God Who raised from the dead, gave speech and hearing and restored healthy limbs, the same God who set prisoners free, in one sovereign almighty act, restored the joy and innocence of child­hood to these children.
We teachers just stood there and wept, transfixed in the moment, eyes glued to our students, listening to the happy laughter and the unrehearsed music coming from their souls through those school instruments. We simply soaked in the moment in silence.
This, then, is the story of the miracle I witnessed.
Before the miracle, I believed. Now I know. God can and He will, and He does hear our prayers.
This article appeared in the Spirit of Carmel magazine, Spring 2011 issue.

Ten Thousand Hits! Thankyou!

Saturday 25 June 2011

The Church is young!

Over the coming week, the community is hosting some events for young people. Tomorrow the local diocese is having its annual youth event ending with Mass and a procession of the Blessed Sacrament in honour of the feast of Corpus Christi. On Monday we begin a series of days for school students in year 9 from across the South East of England.

On Friday the 1st July we welcome the Brightlights Festival for the first time. Brightlights is the UK's oldest running Catholic Music festival. There will be live bands, inspiring speakers, including Archbishop Elais Chacour of Nazareth, Fr Christopher Jamison OSB of BBC'c 'The Monastery' and Magnus MacFarlane Barrow OBE, founder and CEO of Mary's Meals - a charity that feeds over 500 000 of the world's poorest children every day.

Come along and be inspired - please pray for the young people who will gather here over the coming week and those who will minister to them.

Monday 20 June 2011

Summer Fayre

Br Tiago welcoming the multitude, amongst whom
were some people from his homeland of Portugal

Our friends from St John Ambulance

Fr Michael and friends

Fr Damian, Br Neil & Br Paul cooking up a stormat the BBQ

No one could argue that the meat for the BBQ wasn't fresh!

The  band played on ...
A huge thank you to all who supported the Summer Fayre and the huge army of staff and volunteers who made it happen.

All photo's by Fr Brendan Grady, O.Carm.

Friday 17 June 2011

Sunday 19th June - SUMMER FAYRE

We look forward to seeing you!

Father's Day

Chris Cassidy, Fr Damian's Dad

This Sunday we hold our Summer Fayre and everyone (including the Blogger) will be very busy around the place.Sunday is also Father's Day. A day when we take some time to appreciate those who 'father' us in so many life giving and creative ways. So it seems appropriate to prepare to ponder fatherhood and its many gifts. I have recently come across the writings of the New Zealand author, Joy Crowley. Here is Joy's wonderful tribute to Dads.

Dads. Joy Cowley
We thank God for Dads,
for their loving,
for their gentleness,
for the way they unwrap the world
as a gift for their children,
for their understanding
of jokes and laughter
and quarrels and tears,
for their fatherly example
and for the times
they also need to be Mums.

We thank God for Dads
who can be as young
as their little ones,
who can listen,
who can ask questions,
who can talk about feelings
who can claim failure
as well as success
on the path of celebration,
who can show their children
how to find the goodness of God
in themselves and in others.

We thank God for Dads
whose sons grow up knowing
that being a father
is one of the two best ideas
God ever invented.

May God bless all those who father us.

Wednesday 15 June 2011

Funeral homily for Fr David Waite, O.Carm.

Fr Wilfrid McGreal
Prior Provincial
Homily given at the Requiem Mass for Fr David Waite, O.Carm., by the Prior Provincial. Fr Wilfrid McGreal, O.Carm.

"When John of the Cross was dying he asked the brethren to read The Song of Songs to
him, that powerful poem that celebrates love. The images are of the joy of human loving
and the writer is celebrating the goodness of committed love. Jesus’ command is to love one another; if we do that, then as friends to each other we can find we are close to God. Human unselfish love tells us something of how God  is in love with us. That relationship is startling, and to come to it John of the Cross tells us that we have to let go of lesser Gods, or Gods we have imagined. This journey into the light of love is not easy, and it can often seem to be unchartered and dark.

I believe that in the last months of his life David discovered that he was loved and
loveable, and he was able to taste in the here and now something of the closeness to God
that is our calling. David was a gifted man. Before becoming a friar he had, after graduating and postgraduate studies, become an economist at the Bank of England. However, at university he felt drawn to priesthood and his chaplain discerned that religious life would be the way forward. David became a Carmelite, making his profession in 1977 at Aylesford.
As a friar he studied in Rome and Dublin, and also qualified as a teacher. For a number
of years David was involved at Whitefriars and then St. Edward’s School, Cheltenham,
eventually becoming school chaplain. He gained valuable pastoral experience in

During this time David ministered with great gentleness, but over the years and perhaps to a greater degree he could feel that what he was doing was beyond him, or he felt isolated. His unease surfaced during his time in Aberystwyth and would continue in the years ahead. David didn’t realize that people valued him for his gentleness, care and deep interest that he could show, perhaps because he felt needs he could sense where others were hurting.

In recent years David was able to serve the community at Aylesford and the Order at
large. He took on the daunting task of preparing the yearly Carmelite Bibliography. This
work was demanding, painstaking, but an invaluable tool for anyone involved in
Carmelite Studies. Then just a year ago the Prior General asked him to be the Order’s Archivist and David agreed. Sadly, as we know, no sooner had David come to Rome last year then illness struck. Along with the illness David experienced a profound change in his being.
He became conscious of how much his brethren cared for him, and he realized that he
was a worthwhile person. Thanks to Maidstone hospital, Trish our nurse, and the
Aylesford Community, David was able to have a good quality of life. Each day he saw
as a gift and so many experiences were to be savoured. His creative side, music
photography, all flourished along with a great sense of peace. He felt happiest in chapel,
at meals and in the community room. He felt ready to respond to whatever God’s love
and will had in store for him. He knew he was dying, but everyday was a day of his life.
The end came quickly, but he left this life praying with Brother Neil and Trish by his

David had found his God, and found he was loveable and was free to love. His
transformation began before he left us, but he has left a precious memory and a reminder
that our human loving is the gateway to the source of that love, Our Saviour."

Pope: Evangelisation is the task of all Catholics

On Monday evening, Pope Benedict XVI inaugurated an ecclesial congress in the Roman basilica of St John Lateran. The three day congress has as its theme: "The joy of engendering the faith in the Church of Rome".

Commenting on the title,  the Pope said: "the faith cannot endure by itself in the world, it is not automatically transmitted to men's hearts but always has to be announced. And the announcement of the faith, in order to be effective, must come from a heart that believes, that hopes, that loves, a heart that adores Christ and believes in the power of the Holy Spirit. ... The response of faith arises when, by God's grace, man discovers that believing means finding true life, the 'full life'".

The Holy Father highlighted the fact that "the Church, each one of us, must bring the world the good news that Jesus is Lord, the One in Whom God's closeness and love for each man and woman became flesh. This announcement must resound anew in regions of ancient Christian tradition". The Pope then recalled his words at World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne, Germany: "The happiness you seek, the happiness you have the right to enjoy, has a name and a face: Jesus of Nazareth, concealed in the Eucharist.

"If mankind forgets God, this is also because Jesus is often reduced to the status of a wise man, and His divinity is diminished if not denied outright. This way of thinking makes it impossible to comprehend the radical novelty of Christianity, because if Jesus is not the only Son of the Father, then God did not enter into the history of mankind. The truth is that the incarnation is at the very heart of the Gospel. May we, then, show increasing commitment to renewing evangelisation, which is a task not just for the few but for all the members of the Church".

"Should we too not share the beauty and reason of the faith, and carry the light of God to the men and women of our time with courage, conviction and joy?" Pope Benedict asked. "Many are the people who have not yet met the Lord; they must be given our special pastoral attention. ... Today this is more urgent than ever and requires us to commit ourselves trustingly, upheld by the certainty that the grace of God always works on the heart of man".

The Pope went on to explain that the messengers of the good news of the Gospel are the baptised, especially parents "whose job it is to seek Baptism for their children. ... Children need God from an early age. They have the capacity to perceive His greatness; they know how to appreciate the value of prayer and ritual, and to discern the difference between good and evil. Thus they must be guided in the faith from earliest infancy".

As for subsequent stages of the journey of faith, the Holy Father recalled how "the Christian community has always accompanied the formation of children and young people, helping them not only to understand the truths of faith with the intellect, but also to live the experience of prayer, charity and fraternity. The word of faith risks being muted if it does not find a community that puts it into practice, giving it life and making it
attractive", he said.

Benedict XVI also spoke of "adolescents who begin the journey of Christian initiation", whom he encouraged "to follow this path, which leads to discovery of the Gospel not as a utopia but as a way to live life to the full". He also invited them to rediscover the Sacrament of Confirmation, "that the gift of the Holy Spirit may confirm the joy of having been generated as children of God".

"In order for this to be effective and fruitful, it is important that knowledge of Jesus grow and extend beyond the celebration of the Sacraments. This is the task of catechesis. ... Catechesis is ecclesial activity and therefore catechists must teach and bear witness to the faith of the Church, and not some interpretation of their own. This is why the Catechism of the Catholic Church was written".

The Pope concluded by emphasising the need "for education in silence and interior life. I trust that the paths of Christian initiation followed in the parishes of Rome may educate people in prayer, that prayer may permeate our lives and help us discover the Truth that dwells in our heart. Faithfulness to the faith of the Church must be accompanied by a 'catechetical creativity' which takes account of the context, culture and the age of the people for whom it is intended. The heritage of history and art conserved in Rome is another way to bring people to the faith, I invite everyone to emphasise, in their catechesis, this 'way of beauty' which leads to the One Who, according to St Augustine, is Beauty ever old and ever new".

Monday 13 June 2011

Thought for the Week

"I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun."
Thomas Merton

Saturday 11 June 2011

A prayer for all seasons

A Prayer For All Seasons

The Observer, Dunkirk, NY, 05/26/11

by Daniel O’Rourke

Years back someone e-mailed me “The Best Prayer I Have Heard in a Long Time.” The author was unknown. I adopt and adapt it here.  It makes bushels of sense to me. Here’s my enhanced version.

 O God, help us to remember that that woman who cut us off in traffic last night was a single mother who worked nine hours yesterday and was rushing home to cook dinner, do the laundry, help with homework, and spend a few precious minutes with her children.

Help us remember that the pierced, tattooed, preoccupied young man at the check-our counter, who can't make change correctly, was a 19-year-old college student worried over final exams and his fear of not having student loans next semester.

Remind us that the old couple moving so slowly through the store aisles and annoying us because they are slowing down our own shopping are taking pleasure in being together.  Last week she got a biopsy report.  She has an inoperable cancer and this will be the last year she’ll be around to shop with her husband.

Remind us, O God, that the disheveled and dirty man, begging for money outside the market (whom we really think should get a job!) is a homeless veteran and mentally ill.  He is a tortured human being enslaved to addictions that we can only imagine in our worst nightmares.

As we move away from the supermarket, O God, help us to be patient with others no matter how outlandish their views. Help us to see the nugget of truth in their positions. Help us to look for it and affirm it. Help us as the old song teaches, “to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.” Help us always to be positive and optimistic.

Help us to be patient and to take the long view. We may not see the results of our efforts, but others will. That’s the way You have ordained it.  "The seed," says the Zen master, "never sees the flower.” Or as Jesus said, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit”  (John 12: 24). Teach us the wisdom in that.

And closer to home, O God, help all us old-timers -- many grandparents have mentioned this to me – to forgive our children for visiting and calling home infrequently.  Help us to remember that they have their own lives, busy with their jobs and grandchildren’s music, ballet and swimming lessons, little leagues, horseback riding and soccer camps.  Help us to understand.

Help us to make our own the powerful prayer attributed to Francis of Assisi. “Let us not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love.”  Especially, O God, help us to love.

Remind us each day that of all the gifts You give us, the greatest gift is the ability to love. And it’s not enough to give that love merely to those we hold dear. Open our hearts not only to those bound to us by blood and friendship, but to all humanity – to all Your struggling people. Help us to be patient and compassionate. Let us be slow to judge and quick to forgive.

With apologies to our non-Christian readers, allow me to end with another word from Jesus, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you” (Luke 6: 37-38).

Amen, Lord, amen. Alleluia!

Retired from the administration at State University of New York at Fredonia, Daniel O’Rourke lives in Cassadaga, New York.  His column appears in the Observer, Dunkirk, NY on the second and fourth Thursday each month.   A grandfather, Dan is a married Catholic priest.  His new book, “The Living Spirit” is a collection of previous columns.  To read about “The Living Spirit” or send comments on this column visit his website

Veni Sancte Spiritus

Preparing for Pentecost

The readings for the feast of Pentecost  present two different perspectives on the Spirit event.  They aren’t meant to be reconciled, but rather offer different theological insights about how the early Christian community experienced this life-changing gift of the Spirit to the early church. 
For Luke, the Spirit’s arrival is exuberant.  The Spirit seems to explode out all over the place with the tongues of fire and the sound of a strong driving wind.  Pentecost celebrates the special permanent union between God and the church and it is not reserved to only a special few.  The Spirit comes to rest “on each of them” - all were gathered and each receives the gift – leaders and ordinary folks as well. This is a new kind of community, showing new life and a new kind unity shared with one another.  Even the crowd outside gets special favours as “each one heard” the disciples speaking  to them “in his/her own language.” 
But the Spirit doesn’t always work with such spectacular special effects.  In fact, we don’t often, if ever, get such displays.  Some never see such signs that clearly indicate the creative force of God at work.  Maybe that’s why we have John’s account of the giving of the Spirit.
There is definitely a quieter tone in John’s account of the gathering of the disciples.  They are afraid as they think about the hostile world outside their little group and the absence of their usual supportive Jesus.  But suddenly is among them and breathes on them and wishes them his peace.  And this reassurance of peace toward them must have been consoling.  If he could forgive and forget their transgressions and betrayals, then this Spirit of his that they are receiving will enable them to do the same for others.
This Spirit, whether in Luke’s interpretation or John’s touches a common theme. The Spirit is here and now, urging us to work at community building, peace and justice, love and reconciliation; helping us overcome destructive addictions, opening our eyes to God, so present in the world around us - in others, nature and in the wonders of our own beings. 
The first Pentecost brought excitement, passion, and courage to the Christian community. It completed their sense of identity and clarified their mission. Most importantly, it filled them with power, assured them of the strength they would need to witness to the Gospel, to overcome the spirit of the world, to drive away the darkness of sin and evil.

But the passionate enthusiasm brought about by the Spirit did not remove human frailty or weakness. Discerning where the Spirit leads us has always been a difficult task - from our Church's earliest beginnings right up to the present time - especially for a pilgrim people in a pilgrim Church.   

The Spirit we celebrate today is the Spirit of the risen Christ, for whom closed doors are not an impassable barrier; nor are they part of a fortress to keep us in.  The Christian community has always been seen as the Spirit-guided bearer of the Word of Salvation. We must know that for us as a people of faith, Easter/Pentecost is now.  It is the continuing invitation from our God to an ongoing, ever new encounter with Him and with others.
Above all, we must not fear the movements of the Spirit, but embrace them with trust, with generosity and with courage. It is only by becoming fully a part of the Easter/Pentecost miracle that we will overcome our own personal weaknesses and become instruments of the Spirit, to continue to create a new church and a new world of unity and peace, happiness and holiness.

Come Holy Spirit
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

Wednesday 8 June 2011

Funeral Arrangements for Fr David Waite

Fr David's body will be received in the Relic Chapel
on Sunday, 12th June at 6:00 pm
His Requiem Mass will be in the Relic Chapel
on Monday, 13th June at 11:30 am
followed by burial in the Carmelite Cemetery

Tuesday 7 June 2011

Prior Provincial remembers Fr David Waite

Fr Wilfrid McGreal writes in tribute to Fr David.

David Waite was born at Caterham in Surry in 1946. The family moved to Fetcham near Leatherhead and it was to be the family home. David had a younger brother Michael. David went to the Catholic primary school at Leatherhead and his secondary education was with the Jesuits at Wimbledon. He enjoyed his time there and is remembered by his contemporaries.

After a short spell in the Civil Service David went to Lancaster University gaining an MA in economics. He went on to work in the Bank of England for five years.

Going on a vocations course at Allington Castle led David to join the Carmelites and he was professed as a friar at Aylesford Priory in 1977.

After studies in Rome, and gaining a Postgraduate Certificate in Education, David taught at Whitefriars Cheltenham (now St Edwards School).
David completed his theological studies in Dublin and ministered as a deacon at English Martyrs, Walworth.

After his priestly ordination in 1990 David went on to teach and act as Chaplain at St. Edwards.

David was back on the parish team at Walworth for three years before being appointed Parish Priest at Aberystwyth.

David left Aberystwyth and spent some time in Rome as librarian at Sant'Alberto (Saint Albert's College) and also became involved in the painstaking task of preparing the annual Carmelite Bibliography for the Order's academic journal Carmelus. While enjoying the work David found living in Rome somewhat lonely and he came back to Britain.

Over the years David helped as community bursar and oversaw the wellbeing of the libraries at Aylesford and East Finchley. He also agreed to take on again the preparation of the Carmelite Bibliography. Over this period he continued to help in the ministry of welcome at Aylesford.

In 2010 the Prior General asked David to become the Order's Archivist.  David agreed, and technically remained a member of the Curia community until his death. However, no sooner had he arrived in Rome than illness struck. He was given great loving care by the brethren but despite his illness he asked to return to Britain. In the midst of atrocious weather he came back safely and was given excellent care at Maidstone Hospital. David was able to come back to Aylesford where he felt at home and at peace.

From that time to his death today, David was able to live his Carmelite life in a spirit of peace and joy.

He managed to finish off work on the Carmelite Bibliography and he was able to join the community for prayer and its daily life.

The Oncology Department at Maidstone Hospital gave him great support and Trish Golledge the Province Nurse was a great help to him.

What was significant in this time was David's concern for others. He came to the last part of his journey open to God’s will and conscious that he was loved by the community.

David died in the early hours of June 6th, and his last words were to offer his death as a reparation for peace.

Monday 6 June 2011

Fr David Waite, O.Carm. RIP

Of your goodness, please remeber in your prayers, Fr David Waite, O.Carm., a friar of this community, who died this morning. May he rest in peace.

David was born in Caterham, Surrey, in 1946. In 1976 he joined the Carmelites, leaving behind a career at the Bank of England.

After completing his noviciate he made first profession at Aylesford Priory and then went to Rome to begin studies in preparation for priesthood which he completed in Rome and Dublin.

David made his Solemn Profession at Whitefriars School, Cheltenham, in 1983 and was ordained Priest at English Martyrs, Walworth, in 1990.

During his ministry David served in  a variety of our communities in the Province and also spent time at the service of the Order in Rome taking on the care of the prestigious Carmelite Central Library and, at the same time, the editorship of Carmelus, the Order’s academic journal.

In recent years David had combined an ongoing commitment to the Order’s cultural life in Rome with pastoral ministry at Aylesford Priory in Kent.

Diagnosed with cancer late in 2010 David’s last months were characterised by a great sense of peacefulness and warmth of welcome for all those he met.

David died peacefully at Aylesford Priory, supported by the prayers of the community. Details of his funeral, will be posted shortly.

Throughout his religious life David was a man rooted in prayer and a deep love for God’s Word.

you are the glory of those who serve you.
Look lovingly on our departed brother David.
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

Thursday 2 June 2011

A family wedding

This weekend one of our friars will be celebrating with his family the wedding of his nephew. Marriage is an awesome vocation and the public profession of mutual love and a desire to be united until death is a moment to pause and thank God for love. Marriage is an icon for us of God's love. The love that God has for us cannot be diminished, it cannot end, it is unconditional and boundless. Let us pray for all married couples and all those preparing for this sacrament over the coming months.

A Wedding Homily
As I gaze around I see many familiar faces, and I must say that you have all scrubbed up very well. The hat shops of Grenoble, Evian and the UK have obviously done a roaring trade. One of the benefits of being a friar is that I don’t have to worry about what to wear, as the attire is pretty much standard issue. But the very fact that we have dressed up in our finery tells us that what will take place today is of great importance, so for a few moments I will be serious, for what we witness, and the sacrament that Louis and Ann celebrate here today is of great importance and significance to us all.

If I were to ask each one of you ‘Why are you here?’ I am sure that I will hear some humorous answers. Maybe you wanted to see what James would look like in a suit, or just how beautiful Shirley would be in her dress. It could be the promise of a free meal. Maybe you are all waiting for the best man’s long anticipated speech; I know that James is particularly looking forward to that nougat of entertainment. But if we were to allow ourselves an honest answer the simple response would be love. We are here because love has called each one of us here. Each one of us in this room has a connection with James and Shirley that responds to the love that they proclaim today. In some way we have been touched by James and Shirley and our presence here today is to affirm them in their love for one another. We are also to learn something more of God as we glimpse him in the love that is proclaimed today. We are not merely spectators here, but participants in this great day for the Church and for society as a whole. We have a role to play, and that is in our prayer and support of James and Shirley. For those of you who are married use this liturgy as an opportunity to renew your own commitment to your spouse. For those of us who are unmarried let us pray in this celebration that we will always be open to the invitation to love and be loved.

Marriage is a vocation, a call within the Church. And like all calls it gives a new dimension to what seems ordinary and transforms the ordinary into something precious and unique. God has called James and Shirley to life through the love shared by their respective parents and families. He has called them to life in the love they have found in one another. He has called us to life by our witnessing this sacrament and our involvement in their lives  The Love that they proclaim is a message of hope for the whole church.

John in his Gospel gives us an insight into love that is rooted in God. It echo’s the theme of the wonderful poetry of the Song of Songs. Love, authentic love has to be shared. It cannot be silent or constrained. Love yearns to speak, and as Love is spoken its word resounds and fills empty spaces. Love is about life, the fullness of life, human beings fully alive. Love gives glory to God. This is why our presence here in this place is necessary; we are to hear what love has to say. We are called here to be attentive to our longings and to place them in the embrace of God. We are commanded to love so that we may truly reflect the loving community that is God. Love rooted in God is always fruitful. It generates life and hope. The sacrament that James and Shirley celebrate here today invites us into the embrace of God. James and Shirley today become a tangible sign of the Love that God has for each and every one of us.

Sometimes I feel that we have lost much of our understanding about love because we have become over familiar with the word. See you later love, love you, Ta love. We say I love chips and I love people with the same word and often the same enthusiasm. Our sense of language has become impoverished because of the way our language has developed. Society seems to be looking for the fleeting experience of love but without the responsibility of relationship. People see commitment as something that is negative rather than a choice for life. Today we gaze at love and see in it something of great beauty, a pearl of great price. Something for which we would give away all that we own. The following words from Captain Correlli’s mandolin capture something of this experience

“Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because that is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion … that is just being “in love”, which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Your mother and I had it, we had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossoms had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two."

I have known James all his life. I am his uncle and we share much. The family say we share the same sense of humour and fun. I know that Shirley has brought him tremendous joy and there is a unity in his life now. They are people of integrity and their journey to this day has been considered and prayerful, and a great example to those who know them. Today, they are our teachers. What is the lesson - First love is gift. It is the acceptance of another and the acceptance of ourselves. I guess that it is much easier to live who we are when someone loves us without preconditions. Yes, love will change us, but this can never be the basis on which love is shared. Love is about give and take, with more giving than taking. Secondly, love is an encounter with God. There is a beautiful line in the musical ‘Les Miserables’, when the principle character, Jean Valjean, is looking back over his life and not liking what he sees, then in a moment of grace he joyously proclaims that ‘to love another person is to see the face of God.’ And in singing this line he realises how blessed his life has been. I find that awesome. At the heart of our understanding of marriage is this sense of encountering God. In this sacrament God is communicated through the love that James and Shirley have for one another. For each other they will be the face of God. And for the Church they will be a sign of the enduring love that God has for his people.

So James and Shirley thank you. Today you have reminded us of the awesome love that God calls us to participate in and receive. Be assured of our prayer on this first day of your new life together. Never forget the graces that God bestows on each of you today, and draw strength from these. Never forget the love that surrounds you today. You belong to a community of people that we call Church, and we rejoice and thank God for what the Lord has called you to.

A Prayer in Thanksgiving for Marriage

Dear God, we give you thanks for creating each of us and for bring us together in love. We ask you to bless us with health, happiness and a long life together. We ask you to be with us during all the times of our marriage, both the good and the bad. Help us always to listen to each other with respect and tenderness. May we always know the joy and the love we feel today. Amen

Wednesday 1 June 2011

Thought for the day

                        Souls are like wax waiting for seal.
The wax that has melted in God’s will
can easily receive the stamp of its identity,
the truth of what it was meant to be.
But the wax that is hard and dry and brittle
and without love
will not take the seal:
for the seal, descending upon it,
grinds it to a powder.
Therefore if you spend your life
trying to escape from the heat of the fire
that is meant to soften and prepare you to become your true self
and if you try to keep your substance from melting in the fire -
as if your true identity were to be hard wax –
the seal will fall upon you at last and crush you.
You will not be able to take your own true name and countenance,
and you will be destroyed by the event that was meant to be your fulfilment.
Thomas Merton