Sunday 28 August 2011

In the pilgrims rucksacks

Tucked away at the bottom of the pilgrims' rucksacks, pulled there by gravity, is a small box - which at first looks like a box of tablets or some other medicine (deliberately so as it will turn out).  
The label reads "nadie tiene Amor + grande" which roughly translates as "no one has greater love". At the bottom of the box in an official looking typeface is the Spanish phrase for 'no prescription required'. When you open the box, similar to packets of tablets, you first discover a sheet of paper - which appears to have been folded by a black belt expert in origami. Near the top of this detailed sheet of instructions is the Spanish phrase "Lea to do este prospect detenidamente abtes empezar a usar El crucifijo" - 'read this leaflet carefully before using the crucifix'. This last phrase a large clue to what is at the centre of the box, a wearable crucifix with a neck cord The name of this 'medicine' is taken from Jesus' words "no greater love has a man than to lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). I am unsure if there is a full English translation of the 'medical' instructions found in the box ... but they are in small print and give the impression of being quite detailed.

This gift from the Spanish organisers of the World Youth Day to the pilgrims is a wonderful visual reminder that God's love, particularly made manifest through the Passion of his Son on the Cross, is a most powerful medicine. It may not have a precisely definable list of the exact effects on an individual, but it has no long term negative side effect and has been in use since the beginning of time. It is something we should hope to carry with us wherever we go, to be taken regularly and shared freely.
Let's hope that many of the pilgrims will discover the little box in their bag, wear the crucifix with joy, not just this week, but always. And always to let it show through their words and actions.
Source: Southwark WYD Blog

Carmelite Newspaper

During the World Youth Day, the Carmelite friars in Britain sponsored the publication of a newspaper for WYD pilgrims. You can see it, and some wonderful pictorial memories of World Youth Day by following the link,

Letter of the Prior General to young People ~ Madrid 2011

Look, contemplate ..... love

Dear Young People from Carmelite groups who have come from all parts of the world to take part in this 2011 World Youth Day, you are all very welcome to this gathering of young Carmelites, in Madrid, the city where I was born. I hope that it will be for all of you a time of reflection, enrichment, a deepening of your faith and an opportunity to experience the universality of the Carmelite family.

Spain is the land of saints. Carmel in Spain down through the years, among many leading figures, gave us the sublime examples and teaching of St. Teresa of Jesus and St. John of the Cross. We would like to draw on this latter figure, to offer a brief message that may help us in our reflection throughout this Carmelite day.

 1. Look. The saint from Fontiveros (great poet and mystic) often used the word, “look”. Sometimes, it was only an expression, “Look”, or “Pay attention”. (A 9; 41; 54); sometimes, pointed to the curiosity of the one who goes around looking at the speck in the other person’s eye (1 N 2, 3), taking a poor view of the defects of the neighbour; but, above all, and most often he was talking about God’s way of looking. God looks at us with tenderness and mercy. “When you looked at me, your  eyes imprinted your grace in me”. (cf. CB 32), and that is how God clothes the whole of creation in beauty: “and having looked at them, with his image alone, clothed them in beauty” (cf. CB 5). The poetry of John of the Cross is an invitation to us to let God look at us. In the same way, Teresa of Jesus, reminds us, “look, he is looking at you”. (Life 13, 22). We should not be afraid of his gaze. God is not a detective who goes around looking for a culprit. God does not threaten or constrict our freedom. “When Gods looks, He loves and grants favours.” (CB 19, 6) – the saint says, in words that are sublime. The first thing that God did is that he looked at us. When he looks he loves very much. This way of loving much the saint will tell us, “is much more than simply loving, it is like loving  twice over”. (CB 32, 5).

2. Contemplate. If union, in its deepest meaning, is “God’s looking at the human person”, contemplation has to be “the human person’s looking at God”, and at all the works of his hands.  God’s loving gaze transforms our eyes to allow them to contemplate the mystery of God and the mystery of humanity. God’s gaze has left the world  filled with signs of his beauty and loveliness. We need, perhaps today more than ever, poets, mystics and contemplatives, people capable of seeing the little signs of the presence of God in our lives. To be contemplative (I have said it many times) does not mean gazing emptily up at the sky, but rather the ability to look around us and see the signs, often very weak, little and fragile. These signs sometimes are ambiguous and have many dimensions, and they ask of us to have an attitude of serious discernment and humility in order to be able to perceive these signs in with all that is beautiful and radical in them. The world, and life and history then will be converted into something that speaks about God, a symphony that tells of his loving presence in our lives. God removes the short-sightedness from our eyes and will not allow our looking to be caught and stuck in the mediocre, the immediate, the vulgar … In order for that to happen (and the saint is very radical on this point) we need to purify our gaze, get rid of our small-mindedness and self-centredness. God’s gaze “purifies, graces, enriches and enlightens the soul.” (CB 32, 1). Christian contemplation is not an aesthetic and evasive attitude, or a narcissistic exercise of self-indulgence and perfectionism, but rather a loving contemplation that leads us to a feeling of being close to the men and women of our time. .....

3. Love. God looks at me, I look at God. God loves me, I love God. This interplay of looking is the way lovers like to pass the time, and what flows between them is love with a capital L, and not selfishness. Centrifugal Love, expansive Love, that gets us up and doing, to serve others, and lets us overcome all barriers in reaching out to our neighbour. Love is never idle, it is in continuous movement. (Ll 1, 8)  “Love has eyes”, Hugo de S. Víctor said, but, “it also has hands and feet.”  Hard-working Love, that is balm for all the people who are worn out and overburdened. (cf. Mt 11, 28), for the poor, for people who suffer the desert of loneliness, of love lost. Our world is peppered with wounds that come from forgetting God, from our sinfulness, from violence and selfishness. That is why the poet and mystic appears also as a prophet with a word to denounce evil and with a heart to stand close to the victims of all that, “going further, deep into the thicket” (CB 36). Contemplation (if it is really Christian contemplation and not some kind of pseudo-spiritual escapism) makes us more human, more people of solidarity, more sensitive to the dark nights and the drama of our world. Contemplation thus becomes a form of conversion and kind of sending and mission. Lighten the burden others have to bear, heal wounds, open doors and windows to let hope come in, dry tears, caress a humanity that is suffering… and help the men and women of our time to become full human persons, more free, more just and more content… with a consciousness of being children of the God who gave us this wonderful world.  That is why I ask you, young Carmelites, to take up this fascinating challenge.

 May you find all the inspiration that you need in the saints of Carmel, in its spirituality and charism. May Mary, our Mother and Sister, the Star of the Sea, be your constant guide in this adventure.

Fernando Millán Romeral, O.Carm.
Prior General

Thursday 25 August 2011

World Youth Day Memories

World Youth Day ~ Madrid 2011.

On the 14th of August 9 Carmelite pilgrims joined the Southwark Youth Service for World Youth Day. We joined 1.7 million young people from across the globe for a week of festival, community, worship and recollection. The city of Madrid became a city of youth. We stayed with the Cabrini sisters in their school in the north of the city. After a welcome meal the whole group began the task of becoming a community.

Cabrini School

Monday morning began with Mass with Archbishop Peter Smith, who stayed with his diocesan group for the whole pilgrimage. Then in the Madrid heat we set out to orient ourselves with the Metro and to find some key places in the city. One of the amazing phenomena of the World Youth Days is when pilgrims recognise each other as pilgrims. Conversations are initiated – where are you from? What is your name? What do you do? Why did you come? What have you enjoyed so far? Songs are shared (loudly) on the Metro and on the streets. Smiles light up faces as familiar tunes are shared. Prayer begins, organically, summoned from that moment, and there is a deep sense of silence and wonder that stills those who are present.

Southwark youth Services Group
 On Wednesday the Carmelite group braved the metro to the other side of the city for a day with our Prior General and members of the Carmelite family world wide. Friars, nuns, sisters and young people gathered around three words – Look, Contemplate, Love. Fr Fernando led us in a reflection on these words coming from John of the Cross. We then gathered in language groups of twenty people to discuss these words and situate them in our own reality. I was leading a discussion group with people from Malta, Ireland, Spain, Italy, USA, Canada and the UK. I was reminded of similar conversations with the YCW around the maxim See, judge and act. The afternoon was filled with different creative presentations on the work of Carmel throughout the world. In the evening we went back to the Cabrini school for a reconciliation service.

Fr Damian, Br Neil & Br Paul

Carmelite Day

Fr Fernando & Fr Raul

Carmelite Sisters

Southwark priests and Fr Damian

Break time

I cannot identify one moment in the week that stands out for me, there are many. Simple acts of kindness and concern, making sure that no-one is alone (unless they want to be.) The awesome silence as 1.7 million people adore the Eucharist in silence. The music, the smiles, the words of encouragement as you walk along in the heat, the silence in the chapel as people prepare to encounter Christ in the sacraments, the moments of communion over a drink or a meal.

We are home now and blessed with memories. Rio in 2 years – we will have to see.

Photo's: Br Neil Scott & Fr Philip Glandfield

Thursday 11 August 2011

A Province on Pilgrimage

Over the next coule of weeks the British Province hits the road and goes on pilgrimage. A small group from the province will journey to Madrid to attend the World Youth Day. Another group will go to Lourdes to be part ofthe annual Catholic Association pilgrimage. Mant hundreds will be at Aylesford this Sunday for our annual Pilgrimage of the Sick.

In preparation for the last World Youth Day in Sydney, Fr Damian wrote the following article.

I often wonder if we consider human experiences and needs as expressions of our need for God. Hungers need to be satisfied and thirsts need to be quenched. Restlessness, dissatisfaction and itchy feet often invite us to pursue new paths and new ways. In this time and with this group of people, we have been called to be pilgrims. We are on a different road with new people and we need to reflect on this so that we might grow in this journey. The author of Psalm 62 conveys the depth of longing for God that is at the heart of pilgrimage.

O God, you are my God, for you I long for you my soul is thirsting.
My body pines for you like a dry weary land without water.
So I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and your glory.
Psalm 62.
For centuries men and women have journeyed to distant places known for their holiness, so that they might become closer to God. The condition of a pilgrim was very popular in medieval times. The reasons for undertaking the pilgrimage varied from person to person. For some it was a penitential exercise; absolution from their sin would only happen at the journeys end. Other pilgrimages were undertaken in thanksgiving for a favour obtained or to seek healing from disease. Often the reason for the pilgrimage was just to be in a place associated with Jesus, or where some of the great saints of the Church had ministered. The physical closeness of these icons of holiness nourished the faith of the pilgrim. But being a pilgrim is more than just setting out to reach a significant destination, To be a pilgrim is also an attitude that requires a certain state of mind and heart. For the Christian, a pilgrimage is an intense lived experience of baptism. The pilgrim's journey is a symbol of the desire to follow Christ, to walk the way of holiness. I think that there are four pillars to pilgrimage
  • Community
  • Prayer
  • Service
  • Thirst for God
A pilgrimage is an intense living out of the journey we undertake towards intimacy with God, and paradoxically this intimacy has its genesis in community. The pilgrim soon learns the benefit of sharing the journey with others and in this need community is brought to life. A moment of profound encounter with Christ is often realised in the word, embrace or concern of a fellow pilgrim. We could say that growth cannot be achieved in isolation, but in dialogue and relationship.
We are all people of worth. John of the Cross and Teresa of Jesus learned to revel in the fact that God delighted in them, that they were people of immense worth and dignity; simply that they were precious to God. Community or - to put it more generally - Church is a celebration not just of the reality of my own worth but of the worth of the whole of creation. The language of this celebration is prayer, and the action or liturgia of this celebration is service.
Pilgrims today are not so different from the pilgrims of yesteryear. Our ways of travel may be more sophisticated, making the modern pilgrimage easier, but the lessons to be learnt by the pilgrim remain the same. A pilgrimage is not just the action of an individual, but of the Church. The pilgrim seldom undertakes the journey alone, but journeys with others.
The pilgrim has a ministry to others on the way: a ministry of attentiveness to fellow pilgrims, a ministry of prayer for the needs of all. Above all, the pilgrim is called to share the gift of who they are, seeking authentic relationship with Christ and one another. The pilgrim also seeks solitude for those moments of prayer that nourish faith, that affirm and challenge, that quench the thirst we have for Christ but leave us wanting a more intense experience of encounter with him. A pilgrimage is an expression of the joy that comes from knowing Christ, and of the hope that we have in our future with him.
Some attitudes for pilgrimage
  • Be aware of others
  • Be joyful
  • Share laughter and smile
  • Tell your story
  • Listen to others
  • At times, be still.
  • Pray
  • Encourage

To be a pilgrim is to proclaim Christ in our midst. The destination of our pilgrimage is immaterial, for if we desire to follow Christ, Christ is our destination. Let this time awaken within us the desire to be a pilgrim people, journeying together, sharing talents and needs, as we seek the Christ in our midst, he who is the beginning of our journey and its end.

Pilgrims Prayer. (David Baldwin)

Dear Lord – as I start my journey today: open my eyes to your Face in others, keep them open to your glorious creation. Open my ears to your Word; keep them open so that I may hear what you say. Open my mind to every encounter; keep it open to what You are teaching me. Open my heart to your love, keep it open to love others. Give me the courage to see myself as you see me , and to tell you the story of my life that I  have never been able to tell anyone before. As I follow the footsteps and the signposts of my pilgrimage, illuminate more clearly  the path away from sin, to union with you. Allow me a glimmer of paradise through order, peace, contemplation and love. Bestow the wisdom for me to relegate self, and the generosity to promote others; my desire is “Your will’ and not ‘my will.’ My daily burden and pain I endure for you. Grant that I may reach my destination this day; grant safe arrival every day. Grant full revelation of the mystery as I reach my destination at the end of my pilgrimage. In your great kindness grant all this to my fellow pilgrims. In your great mercy hear my prayer.

Archbishop Nichols on the Riots

Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster has described the violent rioting over the last few days as “shocking” and called for a common effort to “bring out the best in our society and not the worst”.
“The criminal violence and theft that have been witnessed are to be condemned,” the archbishop said yesterday. “They are a callous disregard for the common good of our society and show how easily basic principles of respect and honesty are cast aside.
“I ask that Catholics pray especially for those directly affected by the violence, for those facing danger on the streets, for those whose livelihood has been ruined, for those whose lives are marked by fear, for those whose parents are worried about the behaviour of their youngsters and for those who, at this time, are being tempted into the ways of violence and theft.”
The archbishop continued: “In the face of these difficulties, a forthright common effort is needed to ensure that these times bring out the best in our society and not the worst. I am sure that, as Catholic citizens, we shall play our part with clear principles for living, both as individuals and as a society, with honesty, compassion and prayer.”
He concluded: “May God grant us courage and determination to shape our lives with dignity, self-respect and care for the common good.”
On Tuesday, the riots spread to Liverpool, where hundreds of youths torched cars and launched bottles, stones and fireworks at police.
Auxiliary Bishop Tom Williams said there was a danger the violence could leave “a lasting scar” on the city.
He said: “It goes without saying that we do not condone mindless violence and destruction of property. There is a danger that the events of recent hours will leave a lasting scar on our community and our city. We therefore pray that there will be a speedy return to peace.”
Meanwhile, two Catholic Sisters who live and work in Tottenham described the riot there which sparked the disturbances across Britain as “devastating” and “selfish”.
Sister Sylvia of the Sisters of Marie Auxiliatrice, which works with young and under-privileged people, said: “It was quite devastating. The people of Tottenham, everything had come together, they were doing everything they could to build up the area. It’s a pity that all this has happened.”
Sister Margarita said: “What has been done has deprived local people of their jobs. It’s selfish to go out breaking up everything because they’re angry.”
The church of St Francis de Sales is on Tottenham High Road, very near to the original riot. Fr Francesco Discboli, who is looking after the parish while the priest is away, said: “All the noise woke me up. When I saw the helicopters and the smoke I realised what was going on.”

Source: Catholic Herald

Wednesday 10 August 2011

WYD Preparation 3 days to go!

The days are swiftly passing as the Carmelite pilgrims prepare to begin our World Youth Day pilgrimage. We will gather on Saturday evening in our Walworth community to form as a group and to get to know each other better. Sunday morning we will celebrate Mass with the parish community and then head of to the airport for our flight. By Sunday evening we shall be claiming our floor space (literally) in the Cabrini school that is providing us with accomodation.

Yesterday Fr Damian collected the 'T' shirts that the British Carmelite pilgrims will wear for the Carmelite family day on the 17th August. The biblical verse 1Kings 18:15 is the statement of the prophet Elijah -  'God lives in whose presence I stand.'

The scallop shell is the symbol of the pilgrim in Spain. The Carmelite shield is at its centre.

Vigil of Hope in London

As violent rioting continues throughout London, Christian leaders and politicians held a vigil of hope last night in response to the carnage.

In several areas of the city flames are ripping through shops and cars, as hundreds of hooded looters take to the streets intent on causing damage.

Despite the horrors, faith leaders and politicians united in an effort to bring peace to the capital.

Held at The High Cross in Tottenham, the peace vigil was organised by the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church, as well as Pentecostal and independent churches.

Tottenham MP David Lammy and leader of Haringey Council, Claire Kober, also attended the event, which included collective prayers for the community and addresses from faith leaders.

The Bishop of Edmonton, local bishop for the Diocese of London, the Rt Rev Peter Wheatley said: “These events cannot be allowed to define the Tottenham we know and love. Many of us have worked in this community for many years and we know the loving, generous and openhearted people with whom we share our daily lives are not the rioters who have destroyed so much. What has happened will not conquer the hope which is set before us. We will continue to share that hope with our neighbours and friends as we move to rebuild in Tottenham.”

Church of England parishes in Tottenham are providing practical help for members of the community.

St Mary the Virgin Church, on Landsdowne Road, is at the heart of where much of the trouble has been. Leaders are providing support for those whose homes and businesses have
been affected, including distributing meals and providing hot water and phone charging facilities to those who were left without electricity.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to all those affected, including those who have been made homeless and local business owners whose livelihoods have been threatened,” the bishop added.

“Together, our churches already run a multitude of activities supporting all members of the community, irrespective of their faith, and these efforts will be continued and where possible extended.”
Source:Clerical Whispers

Tuesday 9 August 2011

St Edith Stein, Carmelite & Patron of Europe

St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) (1891-1942):

Edith Stein was a Jewish philospher, a disciple of Husserl, who converted to Catholicism. She entered the Carmelite community and died at Auschwitz in 1942. Canonised by Pope John Paul II, she is also honoured as patron of Europe. 
'I picked a book at random and took out a large volume. It bore the title The Life of St. Teresa of Avila. I began to read, was at once captivated, and did not stop till I had reached the end. As I closed the book - it was already dawn - I said, "This is the truth".'

The following day, the reader went to the local church and asked to be baptised. The elderly priest asked her, 'How long have you been taking instruction?' 'Please, Father,' she replied, 'test my knowledge.' And he did, extensively. At the end, the priest was astonished by her accurate answers and, on New Year's Day 1922, Edith Stein was baptised into the Catholic faith. She chose Teresa as her baptismal name, and later that day she received the Eucharist for the first time.
A difficult path.
By the age of twenty-one, Edith was a self-confessed atheist. To placate her mother, she continued to attend the synagogue, but she felt nothing there. In the meantime, she had excelled at her studies, and in 1916, after completing her doctoral thesis in philosophy, she became assistant to the great professor of phenomenology, Edmund Husserl.

Jolt to the system

It was while she was with Husserl that Edith received the first jolt to her convinced atheism. A friend of hers, Adolf Reinach, a fellow philosopher at Göttingen, had died, and his widow had requested Edith to sort out his papers. Edith got a profound shock when she discovered how this Christian woman accepted the cross of Adolf's death.
Breaking the news

It was at Göttingen also that she came into contact with Hedwig Conrad-Martius and his wife. It was in their house, one night when they had gone out to a function, that Edith picked up the volume of St. Teresa's life and began to read. Hedwig later stood for her at her baptism.

Shortly after this event, Edith knew she could not keep her secret from her mother, and told her, 'Mother, I am a Catholic'. Auguste wept, and Edith with her. Later, a friend wrote about Auguste at this time, 'As a God-fearing woman, she sensed without realizing it the holiness radiating from her daughter and, though her suffering was excruciating, she clearly recognised her helplessness before the mystery of grace'.

A silent corner

Edith spent the next few years at the Dominican convent in Speyer. There she taught German in exchange for a room and the meagre convent food. 'She quickly won the hearts of her pupils,' a sister wrote about her. 'In humility and simplicity almost unheard and unnoticed, she went quietly about her duties, always serenely friendly and accessible to anyone who wanted her help.' 

The world outside also wanted Edith. Her scholarship had not gone unnoticed, and so she went out regularly to give lectures to an appreciative public.

Lectures, publications and other work continued to multiply but, in the midst of it all, a life of deep prayer was growing. 'There is no sense in rebelling against it,' she wrote. 'It is merely necessary that one should, in fact, have a silent corner in which to converse with God, as if nothing else existed, every day.'

A new life

By late 1932, the situation was becoming more and more difficult in Germany, especially for Jews. In January 1933, Hitler came to power and set up the Third Reich. The Nazis began to pass laws which were designed to marginalise non-Aryans from public life. On 23 February 1933, Edith gave her last lecture.

As one door closed, another seemed inexorably to open. The desire for religious life, which she had felt for years, now began to flourish. In May 1933, she visited the Carmel in Cologne, and on 14 October, the eve of the feast of St. Teresa, her baptismal patron, she entered the convent.

The famous philosopher and lecturer now became the novice. Her tastes had always been simple, but now her little cell, no more than ten feet square, contained nothing but a straw mattress, a water jug, a few unframed pictures of Carmelite saints, and a plain wooden cross on the wall. Such was the decor of a Carmelite cell. Here was the battleground where daily the nun struggled against her own self-interest until her nature was wedded to grace.

On 15 April 1934, Edith was clothed in the habit, and took the name she herself had suggested, Sr. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. The following year, on Easter Sunday, she made her profession. 'How do you feel?' someone asked. 'Like the bride of the Lamb!' was her reply.
Time running out 
If 1935 brought much joy, the following year brought sorrow. Initially, her mother had not returned Edith's weekly letters. In time, however, Edith learned that Auguste had begun to visit a local Carmel secretly, and soon she began to write to her daughter. There was not a lot of time, however, for Auguste died later that year, but Edith was so glad that mother and daughter had become reconciled before the end came.

As the Nazis gained a stranglehold on the life of the nation, the situation in Germany continued to deteriorate. A decision was made that Edith and Rosa, her sister who had followed her into the Church and Carmel, should leave Cologne and move to Echt in Holland. 

Holland too was in the grip of the Nazis, however, and many Jews were being deported to the Nazi concentration camps in Poland and to certain death.

In July 1942, the Dutch bishops issued a letter condemning the treatment of the Jews. They urged the faithful to examine their consciences, and to pray for divine help. The German authorities were displeased at the bishops' audacity, and on 2 August all non-Aryan people were arrested. It was a reprisal for the letter, the German commissar said.


That very afternoon, two SS officers arrived at the convent, and Edith was arrested, together with Rosa. From Echt, she was brought to Auschwitz extermination camp, in Poland. She never returned, for her life, and Rosa's, ended there on 9 August 1942, just a few days after their arrest.

Even in those terrible final days, however, she had work to do. A Jewish businessman who knew her in the camp wrote later, 'Sr. Benedicta at once took charge of the poor little ones, washed and combed them, and saw to it that they got food and attention'. 

Another fellow prisoner said, 'She was thinking of the sorrow she foresaw: not her own sorrow - for that she was far too calm - but the sorrow that awaited others. Her whole appearance suggested only one thought to me: a pietà without Christ'.

Today, Auschwitz stands pristine in its condition, preserved as a museum by the Polish nation, as if frozen in time from the moment the Nazi guards left it. It is a painful reminder to the world of the evil power of racism. Like the millions of others, no stone marks Edith's grave.

In 1998 Pope John Paul canonised her as a saint, with a feast on the ninth of this month. On that occasion, the Pope said, 'The modern world boasts of the enticing door which says everything is permitted. It ignores the narrow gate of discernment and renunciation.

'I am speaking to you, young Christians. Your life is not an endless series of open doors! Listen to your heart! Do not stay on the surface, but go to the heart of things! And when the time is right, have the courage to decide! The Lord is waiting for you to put your freedom in his good hands.'

Edith would surely have added: 'This is the truth'!
Source: Clerical Whispers

Saturday 6 August 2011

The Transfiguration of the Lord.

Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ
This feast began to be celebrated in and around Jerusalem in the fourth and fifth centuries. The day seems to have been chosen in order to be exactly forty days before 14th September, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross Day, because of a tradition that the Transfiguration took place forty days before the crucifixion.

A major feast at Constantinople

The feast probably reached Constantinople during the time of the great hymn-writer Andrew of Crete (c. 660-740), who was a monk at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre from 675 until 685, when he moved to serve at the Great Church of Sancta Sophia, Constantinople. Later he became Archbishop of Gortyna in Crete. It was a major feast, which developed a magnificent series of hymns and readings.

Spain, Cluny and Rome

The feast appeared in the West, first in Spain in the eleventh century, then at Cluny, when Peter the Venerable was abbot (1122-56). Its introduction to Rome is associated with the Christian defeat of the Turks at Belgrade on 22 July 1456. The news reached Rome on 6th August, so Pope Callixtus III (Alfons de Borja 1455-8), a Valencian sensitive to the memory of Moorish domination in Spain, decreed it as a feast for the Roman Church beginning on 6th August 1457.

Gospels' account

All three synoptic Gospels – Mark, Matthew, and Luke – give us an account of the Transfiguration of Jesus on top of Mount Tabor (Mark 9:1-8, Matthew 17:1-6, Luke 9:28-36). After Peter’s confession of faith in Jesus as the Messiah, the One sent by God to redeem mankind, and Jesus prediction of His own passion and death, Jesus, together with three of His disciples – Peter, James, the son of Zebedee, and John – went up the mountain.

Moses and Elijah

Matthew says Jesus "was transfigured before them. His face shone as the sun: his garments became white as snow". Two other figures appeared with Him: Moses and Elijah. Christ thus stood between the two prominent figures in the Old Testament. Then, a voice was heard from above saying, "This is My Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him."


Jesus ordered the three not to tell others what they had seen until he had risen on the third day. Even if they did not fully comprehend what had happened on Mount Tabor, for the apostles Peter, James, and John, it was a glimpse of the glories of heaven and of sharing in the resurrection of Christ promised to all who believe in Jesus as the One promised by God. That event served as an inspiration for them to persevere and be steadfast in their faith in Jesus who would suffer and die but would be resurrected after three days.

Symbol and hope of glory

Jesus's transfiguration is the symbol and hope of our glory in heaven. For us celebrating the Feast of the Lord’s Transfiguration today - we hope it will give us some foretaste of our own Easter. For a world that remembers the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki and the destruction of 166,000 people, we hope and pray for the voluntary abolition of all nuclear weapons.
Source: Clerical Whispers

Thursday 4 August 2011

St John VianneyCuré of Ars is the  

'If there were three like him on this earth, my Kingdom would be destroyed.' 

The author of these words is supposed to have been Satan but as he is not likely to disclose how he could be defeated, then the story could be regarded as apocryphal.

Nevertheless there is an undoubted truth behind it. Writers on Our Lady would often say that the reason Satan hates Mary is that he cannot stand her humility. 

He could attack the miracle workers and the great preachers among the saints and perhaps find an Achilles heel in their pride, but the nothingness of Mary -and the saint we recall this month - were a total affront to the fallen angel of light.

John Marie Vianney was born near Lyons on 8 May 1786 to Marie and Matthieu. It was just three years away from the seismic event of the French Revolution which was to change the face of Europe and the Church for decades. 

Indeed, his own village was initially saddled with a 'constitutional priest' and so his parents and others had to assist in secret any fugitive priest who might come their way.

From an early age a vocation was discerned, and when the cure at Ecully opened a school for ecclesiastical studies, John was sent. Studies and John were never great friends: his early years of education had been spent more in the fields minding sheep.

Despite this difficulty, seminary proper had still to wait, for one of Napoleon's many wars intervened and John Marie was conscripted to fight against Spain. 

However, on the morning of departure, John went off to the church to pray and when he returned, found that the platoon had gone off without him. 

Thankfully the recuiting officer believed his story and sent him after the troops. 

But John never saw any action and after fourteen months, was able to resume his path to the priesthood.

John struggled with Latin and philosophy, but on 13 August 1815 he was finally ordained priest by the Bishop of Grenoble. 

His first curacy was as assistant to M. Ballet in Ecully who had recognized his vocation and who urged him to persevere despite the difficulties.

Within three years he was made parish priest of Ars - a village of just 230 people - and it is with that small village that he became known throughout all of France. 

He visited every house and made himself known to his new parishioners. He immediately tried to restore a sense of Sunday in his flock, not just in getting them to attend Mass but also to refrain from unnecessary work.

There were other battles he fought which might strike some today as outmoded or even impossible to contemplate: he waged war on blasphemy and profanity, citing from the pulpit the words and phrases which offended God. He was also set against dancing and saw it as an occasion of sin.

Modesty in clothing was another of his battles. 'If a pastor remains silent when he sees God insulted and souls going astray, woe to him! If he does not want to be damned, and if there is some disorder in his parish, he must trample upon human respect and the fear of being despised or hated.'

This responsibility brought him great anguish but as a rule he preferred to show the attractive side of virtue rather than the ugliness of vice. 

When he spoke on the tenderness of God who had been offended, he often moved the hardest of hearts to change their ways.

He had not long been in Ars when people began coming to him from other parishes and finally from every corner of the country. 

During the last ten years of his life he would spend up to eighteen hours a day in the confessional. 

His advice was sought by everyone, from bishops and priests to people in all sorts of difficulty. 

He loved especially those who were sick.

Despite the 'success' which John enjoyed in Ars he longed for peace and quiet.

He left the village on three occasions and it needed the diplomacy of the bishop to make him return in 1843.

His instructions in the confessional were often very simple and in language that people could recognize, with images drawn from everyday life. 

Towards the end those who heard him preach admitted that they could hardly decipher a word, so inaudible was his speech.

Yet they knew that God loved them because they saw this in his eyes. 

They knew too, that his own life was a constant mortification from his early youth.

He scarcely ate enough to live on. 

For years his practice had been to boil a pot of potatoes at the start of the week and for the rest of the week he would simply eat one or two of the cold potatoes which remained! 

In the year 1858-9 almost 100,000 people came to Ars but by now, the curé was an old man close to death.

The strain was becoming too much and on 29 July he retired to bed for the last time.

John Marie died in 1859 and within a short time was proclaimed Venerable by Pope Pius IX (3 October 1874). 

In 1905 he was enrolled among the Blessed of the Church.

Pope Pius XI canonized him in 1925. 

His feast is observed on 4 August.

Wednesday 3 August 2011

WYD Praying towards Pilgrimage

The Pilgrim’s Vision
Harold W. Button

The Living see beyond themselves and their own desires.
The Living see the basic needs and hopes of others as the same as their own.
The Living know that even ‘dead people walking’ can turn away from Death toward Life.
The Living recognise and practise a community of Life.
The Living know good and evil tendencies are in every human being.
The Living practice repentance and forgiveness.
The Living are peacemakers.
The Living seek justice for all.
The Living are informed by history.
The Living see beyond their generation into the future.
The Living seek the same opportunity for others that they seek for themselves
The Living respect, conserve and share the resources of the Earth.
The Living serve the spirit of love.
The Living would rather build than destroy.
The Living seek truth instead of lies and illusions.
The Living choose trust over suspicion.
The Living celebrate life:
In the smile of a child,
in the touch of hands,
in the sharing of food and drink,
in the healing of the sick,
in the unique quality of each individual person,
in shared laughter,
in shared work,
in the beauty and sternness of nature,
in song, dance and story