Sunday, 27 November 2011

1st Sunday of Advent

As we begin Advent, we light one candle in the midst of all the darkness in our lives and in the world. It symbolizes our longing, our desire, our hope. Three “advents” or “comings” shape our desire. We want to be renewed in a sense that Jesus came to save us from our sin and death. We want to experience his coming to us now, in our everyday lives, to help us live our lives with meaning and purpose. And we want to prepare for his coming to meet us at the end of our lives on this earth.

So, we begin with our longing, our desire and our hope.

When we wake up, each day this week, we could light that candle, just by taking a few moments to focus. We could pause for a minute at the side of our bed, or while putting on our slippers or our robe, and light an inner candle. Who among us doesn't have time to pause for a moment? We could each find our own way to pray something like this:

“Lord, the light I choose to let into my life today is based on my trust in you. It is a weak flame, but I so much desire that it dispel a bit more darkness today. Today, I just want to taste the longing I have for you as I go to the meeting this morning, carry out the responsibilities of my work, face the frustration of some difficult relationships. Let this candle be my reminder today of my hope in your coming.”

Each morning this week, that momentary prayer might get more specific, as it prepares us for the day we will face. And as we head to work, walk to a meeting, rush through lunch, take care of errands, meet with people, pick up the phone to return some calls, answer e-mail, return home to prepare a meal, listen to the ups and downs of our loved ones' day, we can take brief moments to relate our desire for the three comings of the Lord to our life.

If our family has an Advent wreath, or even if it doesn't, we could pray together before our evening meal. As we light the first candle on the wreath, or as we simply pause to pray together our normal grace. Then, as we begin to eat, we can invite each other, including the children, to say something about what it means today to light this first candle.

Perhaps we could ask a different question each night, or ask about examples from the day. How am I getting in touch with the longing within me? How did I prepare today? What does it mean to prepare to celebrate his coming 2,000 years ago? How can we prepare to experience his coming into our lives this year? What does it mean for us now, with our world involved in so much conflict? How are we being invited to trust more deeply? How much more do we long for his coming to us, in the midst of the darkness in our world? In what ways can we renew our lives so we might be prepared to greet him when he comes again? Our evening meal could be transformed this week, if we could shape some kind of conversation together that lights a candle of anticipation in our lives. Don't worry if everyone isn't “good at” this kind of conversation at first. We can model it, based on our momentary pauses throughout each day, in which we are discovering deeper and deeper desires, in the midst of our everyday lives.

And every night this week, we can pause briefly, perhaps as we undress or sit for a minute at the edge of the bed. We can be aware of how that one, small candle's worth of desire brought light into this day. And we can give thanks. Going to bed each night this week with some gratitude is part of the preparation for growing anticipation and desire.

Come, Lord Jesus! Come and visit your people.
We await your coming. Come, O Lord.

Source: Creighton University Online  Ministries

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Bishop John Jkes, OFM Conv. An Obituary

The Right Reverend John Jukes OFM Conv, titular bishop of Strathearn and emeritus auxiliary bishop in Southwark, died peacefully at his home in Huntly, Scotland on the morning of Monday 21st November 2011 aged 88 years.

His body will be brought to St George's Cathedral, Southwark, Lambeth Road, SE1 7HY on Sunday, 4 December 2011 at 5.45pm with Mass at 6pm, and his funeral will take place at the Cathedral on Tuesday, 6 December 2011 at 12noon.

Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus John Jukes of Southwark will be particularly remembered as someone who sought to bring the insights of Catholic social teaching to business and industry. He was also a devoted pastor, moving to Scotland after his retirement to become a parish priest once again.

The eldest of three children, he was born in Eltham, south-east London, on 7 August, 1923, and was educated at St Joseph's Academy, Blackheath. His father worked for a paint company owned by his family. His mother was a convert from the Church of England.

In 1940 he joined the civil service, during which time he was a representative to the Inland Revenue Staff Federation National Conference. He left the civil service, intending to study agriculture at university.

But while working as a student on Romney Marsh for a year, he decided to become a Franciscan. It was the preaching and hospitality of the friars he met in Rye, East Sussex, that seems to have inspired him.

He entered the Order of Friars Minor Conventual in 1946. After completing postulancy and novitiate in Liverpool, he was sent to Rome. He studied philosophy at the Gregorian University and obtained his licentiate in theology at the Pontifical Faculty of St Bonaventure.

Following ordination in 1952, at St Anthony of Padua, Mossley Hill, Liverpool, he was appointed rector of St Bonaventure's seminary and novitiate in Beaumaris, Anglesey.

In 1959 he was made parish priest of St Clare's, Manchester, and the following year became secretary and vice-provincial of the province. He was sent to London in 1964 to take charge of St Patrick's, Waterloo.

He moved to Canterbury in 1969, initially staying with the ordinands at St Augustine's Anglican College. He was one of the founders of the Franciscan International Study Centre, which opened in the city in 1973, and was appointed its vice-principal. He also taught Canon Law, using his parish experiences to bring life to what can be a dry subject, and fundamental theology.

Along with other Franciscans, university staff and local Catholics he was involved in a forum for Catholic thought. He also helped lead parish missions in Kent. He once quipped that the first task was to convert the parish priest.

An important part of these missions involved visiting Catholics at home. When Bishop John knocked on the door of one house, the woman immediately led him down to the cellar - she thought he was calling to read the electricity meter.

In the 1970s, at St John's Seminary, Wonersh, he ran courses for priests and laity in evidence taking at matrimonial tribunals. To speed up matrimonial cases, he went to Rome to negotiate the setting up of an appeal court for the province.

In 1973 he was made vicar episcopal for religious in Southwark diocese. Six years later he was elected minister provincial of the English province of the Friars Minor.

But within months Pope John Paul II appointed him Auxiliary Bishop of Southwark and Titular Bishop of Strathearn. He was ordained in St George's Cathedral, Southwark by Archbishop Michael Bowen on 30 January 1980, and given pastoral responsibility for Kent.

His specific responsibilities included chairing the Kent Southwark Diocese Schools Commission and co-ordinating the work of the vicars for religious. He was also appointed episcopal chairman of the Southwark Metropolitan Appeals Tribunal.

He served for 20 years as chairman of the bishops' committee for the world of work. He was passionate in his belief that Catholic social teaching had a valuable contribution to make to the understanding of work in society. This was the idea behind the booklet A Spirituality of Work, which the committee published in 2001 and he wrote the foreword to.

He was one of the main organisers of a conference, held in Liverpool in 1991, to mark the centenary of Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo XIII's encyclical on the Industrial Revolution and the dignity of work.

Each year at the TUC Congress, Bishop John celebrated Mass for delegates. In his sermon at St Mary Magdalene's Priory, Brighton, in 1999 he urged Catholics to put gospel values into practice by becoming active members of trade unions. And he urged the TUC to promote ethical values to counter some of the negative effects of globalisation.

Such efforts, he said, will result in setting up barriers to the many ills which are already to be seen as flowing from globalisation; unfair competition; loss of job security; degradation of human individuals or groups forced to work in inhuman conditions.

At a TUC rally in Hyde Park, he once shared a platform with National Union of Mineworkers' president Arthur Scargill. He also attended the clergy section of the Amicus annual conference. At a local level, he represented Southwark diocese on the South London Industrial Mission.

He represented the Bishops' Conference on the Council on Christian Approaches to Defence and Disarmament and was also a member of the joint bio-ethics committee which served the Bishops' Conferences of England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

From 1993 to 1999 he served as the chairman of governors of St Mary's College, Strawberry Hill, and he later received an honorary doctorate from the University of Surrey.

When his mother became ill, she went to live with him at his house - The Hermitage, in West Malling, Kent. The house was piled high with books. Bishop John wore his trademark woolly hat both indoors and outdoors. Although a follower of St Francis, he had little time for the rabbits that invaded his garden.

When Bishop John retired in 1998, he had no intention of returning to parish life. He wrote in Briefing, "My original idea on retirement was to settle into a nice little house in the country. From there I planned a peaceful life with time for prayer, ready to help out with Sunday Mass if anyone was stuck."

However, in 2002, when Bishop Mario Conti of Aberdeen asked him to become parish priest of Huntley, Banff and Portsoy, he accepted. He took on responsibility for around 300 Catholics, scattered across 200 square miles, who had been without a resident priest for six years.

That same year, fellow bishops and over 70 priests joined him at Aylesford Priory in Kent to celebrate his golden jubilee of the priesthood. Three years later, to celebrate his 25 years as a bishop, he went to Rome, with Bishop Howard Tripp, with who had been ordained Bishop. They were present at Pope John Paul II's last audience.

Bishop John was one of the contributors to the 1993 book 'God and the Market Place: Essays on the Morality of Wealth Creation'. He also wrote a number of articles for the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland.

Long distance walking and mountain climbing were two of his passions. He was particularly fond of Skye, where he would camp out in the church's sacristy and cook lobster.

In 2005 he made the headlines in Scotland when he ordained to the diaconate a former priest of the Scottish Episcopal Church, who went on to become the country's first married Catholic priest.

In recent years, as his physical health declined, he retired again, this time from parish ministry; although he kept very much up-to-date with the life of Catholic Church in Great Britain, particularly continuing to have a keen interest in the Church's role in promoting social justice. In August 2010 he wrote an article looking back gratefully on 87 years of celibacy, which was published online by a national newspaper.

He died on the morning OF 21 November 2011, aged 88 years, in the 65th year of religious life, the 59th year of his priesthood, having been a Bishop for 31 years.

May he rest in peace.

Will 2015 be declared a Year of Prayer?

The diocese of Avila in Spain has begun collecting signatures for a petition declaring 2015, the 500th anniversary of St Teresa of Jesus’ birth, as a ‘Year of Prayer’.

St Teresa was a “master of prayer” who “left the testimony of her personal experience of prayer in her wrtings,” said campaign organisers.

Local Church leaders expressed hopes that Pope Benedict will declare 2015 as a Year of Prayer and make St Teresa the patroness for the celebration.

The campaign is being organised by the Order of Discalced Carmelites, with the support of Bishop Jesus Garcia Burilo of Avila, who has written to all the priests of the diocese inviting them to participate.

Signatures are being collected in parishes, religious communities and the diocesan chancery.

They will be sent along with a special letter to the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcsio Bertone, SDB.

“In time St Teresa became a master of prayer, not only for her spiritual sons and daughters, but for the entire Church,” organisers said.

Source: Clerical Whispers

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

This Weekend ~ The Friars Christmas Fayre

The annual Friars' Christmas Fayre will take place on the weekend of Saturday 26th - Sunday 27th November 2011, 10am-4.30pm. There will be seasonal entertainment for all the family, with craft and gift stalls in the beautiful surroundings of The Friars.
  • Meet Bjorn the 'Polar Bear'
  • Get a gift from Santa
  • Make a Christmas gift

Entry costs
£3 adults
£1 children

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Bishop John Jukes, ofm.conv., dies aged 88

Please pray for the repose of the soul of

Bishop John Jukes OFM Conv
who died on 21st November 2011
His body will be received
at St George's Cathedral, Southwark,
on Sunday, 4th December, at 5:45 pm
followed by the parish Mass at 6:00 pm
Franciscan Vespers
at St George's Cathedral
on Monday, 5th December, at 7:00 pm
His Requiem Mass will be held
at St George's Cathedral
on Tuesday, 6th December, at 12 noon
May he rest in peace

Bishop Jukes was an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Southwark and Area Bishop for Kent from 1980 - 1998

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Solemnity of Christ the King

Behold, the Christ

Just a little, of It was easy to see You

in holy faces, holy places,

God made flesh in a mother’s voice

or in the gentle hands of a nurse,

or the smile of a grandfather

or the laughter of small children.

Every presence of love and beauty

proclaimed your advent.

I needed eyes sharpened by suffering

before I was able to see You

in the pain of human poverty.

The man who stared at a prison ceiling,

the alcoholic mother, the hungry child,

the old woman who died alone in her flat,

the young victims who grew up

to become abusers themselves,

the people who were in despair

at their inability to make changes,

when I could look at them

through the experience

of my own crucifixions,

I realised they all looked back at me

with your eyes.

It took much longer to see You

in places of affluence and power,

in parliament or at the stock exchange,

at the helm of a luxury yacht

or residing in a summer palace

surrounded by material wealth.

But now I discover that in these places

You have the same eyes as the poor,

the disabled, the imprisoned,

the same eyes as the grandfather,

the children, the hospital nurse,

the same eyes that I see

each morning in the mirror.

And I begin to understand a little,

Just a little,  of the truth

of who You are.

Psalms for the Road – Joy Cowley

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Meet the Novices IV - Br Kurt Mizzi

Br Kurt Mizzi
Hello Everyone! My name is Kurt Mizzi, from Malta. I have joined the Carmelite pre-novitiate in September 2009 within the Maltese Carmelite Province. I started taking active interest in the Carmelites in 2007 when I went for the first vocational live-in.

The Carmelites in Malta have seven priories and the ministry is diversified; though we have four parishes we also have the Carmelite Insitute Malta, a House for Retreats, a Sanctuary dedicated to Our Lady of Mt Carmel and a Secondary School (St. Elias’ College).

The ability of being involved in a whole variety of ministries and yet to conserve in the centre of one’s own heart the central dynamic of the Carmelite Charism: that of seeking without rest God’s Face before whose presence we ask to live and receiving the gift of being full of passionate zeal for him whilst striving to offer him a pure heart and stout conscience thereby living in Allegiance to Jesus Christ.

During my journey, which today has brought me here, I came to cherish various moments, moments which express both my own personal journey inward but also journeying with other brothers and sister along the Carmelite way, a community based on reconciliation, compassion and the willingness to create a space for God. I choose just two of these moments to share with you. The first was in September 2008 when we had a simple and a solemn profession in our Province. An orthodox monk once said When out of a gift (God’s gift of Life to us), we make a gift (religious consecration), then it is Heaven. The other moment was in November 2010 when the eldest friar in our Province went to meet the Risen Lord. The last days of his life (a life which he spent in service of God and his people especially through the ministry of reconciliation) he spent in awaiting Him who shows us the way to the Father.

God shows the way forward and He himself becomes the guide and he also reveals his love through people we meet. In Carmelites God has shown me that God makes a path of holiness out of our brokenness (St Therese, to mention just an example) that the life of prayer is a life of a demanding encounter in Love (John of the Cross and Teresa) and that we can serve the poor and the cause of Justice with a contemplative heart (Angelo Paoli and Titus Brandsma).  What is God telling you through the Carmelites you may know?

A view of yourself

Who Are You?

Precious Child, don’t ever say that you are nobody.

You are not no body.  You are not even some body.

You are a special, one-time, never-to-be-repeated

act of God’s creation.  You are unique.

Listen!  Ever since the beginning of the universe,

when God spoke the Word that created matter,

ever since the emergence of life on this planet,

there has never been another being made

exactly like you.  Not only that.

There will never be another like you, again. 

Not ever!  Think about that for a moment.

Consider your giftedness, unlike any other.

Reflect on the position that only you can fill.

Doesn’t that say something to your heart?

Joy Cowley

Monday, 14 November 2011

Feast of All Carmelite Saints.

Night Prayers of Carmel
Dear Mother of Carmel, we ask you to commend to your divine Son all the cares and anxieties of those who have asked our prayers. Succour and restore the suffering in body and mind, pity those who are tried by ill health and disease, give them light in darkness and, in your great compassion for the afflicted and unhappy, lead them close to the strength of Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord.
We commend to your safe keeping our parents, relatives, and friends and all who have done good to us for the sake of your holy name. Guard them from temptation and surprise and keep them from evil and misfortune.
At your feet may we learn the true spirit of Carmel. May our hearts burn with the zeal of St. Elias; we implore the childlike trust in you of St. Simon Stock; we would crave the undaunted desires of St. Teresa, the mystic love born of suffering of St. John of the Cross and St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi, the courage and shining purity of St. Albert and St. Andrew. In simplicity with St. Thérèse may our souls grow in trust and deepen in love.
We ask you for vocations: lead other sons and daughters into your land of Carmel. Be our right hand in our weakness: give us greater trust in your promise of blessing and protection: ever renew in us the true spirit of our vocation: desert not your own; give us courage to build anew; quicken our desire to grow and increase and grant us good success.
Let us give God thanks for all his gracious gifts. Blessed be the Most Holy Trinity. May holy Mary and all the angels and saints of God be praised now and for evermore.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Lest we forget ...

This song by Ian Campbell situates remembrance in the context of one life. A man looking across the decades of his life and how war has affected both him and his family. This song alwayd moves me.

At the turning of the century I was a boy of five
My father went to fight the Boers and never came back alive
My mother left to bring us up no charity would seek
So she washed and scrubbed and brought us up on 7/6 a week

When I was twelve I left the school and went to find a job
With growin' kids my ma was glad of the extra couple of bob
I know that better schooling would have stood me in good stead
But you can't afford refinements when you're struggling for your bread

And when the Great War came along I didn't hesitate
I took the royal shilling and went off to do my bit
I fought in mud and tears and blood three years or thereabout
Then I copped some gas in Flanders and was invalided out

And when the war was over and we'd finished with the guns
I got back into civvies and I thought the fighting done
I'd won the right to live in peace but I didn't have no luck
For soon I found I had to fight for the right to go to work

In 'twenty-six the General Strike found me out on the street
For I'd a wife and kids by then and their needs I couldn't meet
But a brave new world was coming and the brotherhood of man
But when the strike was over we were back where we began

I struggled through the 'Thirties out of work now and again
I saw the Black Shirts marching and the things the did in Spain
But I raised my children decent and I taught them wrong from right
Then Hitler was the lad that came and showed them how to fight

My daughter was a land girl, she got married tae a Yank
They gave my son a gong for stopping one of Rommel's tanks
He was wounded just before the end and convalesced in Rome
Married an Eyetye nurse and never bothered to come home

My daughter writes me once a month a cheerful little note
About their colour telly and the other things they've got
She has a son, a likely lad, he's nearly twenty-one
Now she says they've called him up to fight in Vietnam

We're living on the Pension now and it doesn't go too far
Not much to show for a life that seems like one long bloody war
When you think of all the wasted lives it makes you want to cry
I don't know how to change things but by Christ we'll have tae try

Ian Campbell

Friday, 11 November 2011

Meet the Novice III ~ Br Severin Tyburski

Br Severin Tyburski
My name is Severin Lukas Tyburski and I was born on the 29th January 1989 in Kędzierzyn-Koźle, Poland. When I was 10 months old my family emigrated to a small village called Weidenberg, near Bayreuth, Germany. Bayreuth is known for its classical music, most notably through Richard Wagner. When I was 16 years old and having completed middle school in Weidenberg, I decided to leave my home village in order to attend the Theresianum Grammar School in Bamberg - which is maintained by the Carmelites - and complete my Abitur (German School Leavers Qualification). Between 2005 and 2010 I visited the Theresianum and the attached boarding school in Bamberg. After my Abitur I wanted to study Theology in my home diocese of Regensburg, however in the course of my time in Bamberg my passion and enthusiasm for the Carmelites had grown. In fact the last German novice, Br. Torsten Rolfes O.Carm, also completed his Abitur at the Theresianum.
On the 15th October 2010 I began my postulancy period at the Carmelite Priory in Mainz, which also happens to be the Student House for the Upper and Lower German Provinces. In this way I was able to lead an active live as part of the Carmelite community and could put myself into the daily rhythm of a Carmelite. In Mainz I was allowed to take on a social work project in the city. Groceries which had passed their sell by date and could no longer be sold in supermarkets were collected together and distributed to those who needed them. As well as this I was also responsible for taking care of the Priory Garden.
I have been in Aylesford since the 10th September 2011 in order to form my novitiate with three other novices from other parts of Europe. Now I can discuss and share my thoughts with them – but I can also simply enjoy the company of likeminded brothers!


Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Meet the novices II - Br Jacek Bargielski

My name is Jacek and I come from the region surrounding Tricity, Poland. “Lord, you enticed me, and I have let myself be enticed” (Jr 20,7) - these words can fully summarize the story of my vocation. I`ve experienced a lot in my life; I had good studies, a good job and great relationships. Our Father in heaven started calling me determinedly six years ago. Mary, the mother of his Son was deeply involved. He wanted to have me very close to Him; he wanted a more intimate relationship with me. He was showing me how strong His love is for me, how precious I am for Him. I am still discovering it every day and I am still more and more amazed by it. He exceeded every limit I made for him in my mind, every expectation. He started becoming more and more important in my life and everything else started losing its value in my eyes. Then he started saying that he wanted me only for Himself, that he wanted me to become a religious and pointed many times to the Carmelites. He was still saying that Carmel is the place which he has prepared for me, where his will related to me, his dreams for me, will be fulfilled, where my way to Him lies. How? Through all “communication channels” God most often uses in our lives:

1.   through parts of scripture that affect me deeply,

2.  through his visible mediators, representatives of his Church, people who choose to follow him, people I met in the path of life,

3.  through many external situations in my life, even sickness,

4.  and especially during prayer in front of his Son in the Eucharistic form, through answers he was giving on all my questions, fears and doubts, through longings he put in my heart and mind (Jr 29,12-13; Ps 91,15).

I cannot deny that it is very difficult to describe my discernment of the Divine will for my life, my vocation and the way forward in my dialogue with God during my prayer and my life, especially in such a short article. It is personal, not the same for any two people. There were many moments when I had doubts, many moments of struggle. I asked him so many times to confirm once again his call and in these moments he was very patient giving confirmations again and again just as he did for Gideon (Jg 6,36-40) because he “knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust” (Ps 103,14). At the beginning I wasn’t happy with what he was asking of me as it meant many sacrifices. So many times I resisted it but he persisted strongly, did not want to give up on me and had an answer or solution to every one of my arguments, questions, doubts and every one of my fears. He knew how to be convincing, how to captivate me, charm me. So I came here, to Carmel, to him. I am here because that’s how I recognize His will at this moment of my life but I still have to discern it. This process is permanent in which I ask him for his spirit (Phil 2,13), to enlighten my mind. Now I climb the narrow path (Mt 7,14) with my brothers to the summit of Mount Carmel. The strength to do so we gain from God, from the Eucharist (J 6,53-58). I am sure of the truth of Jesus words: “You did not choose me, I chose you” (J 15,16).

Sunday, 6 November 2011

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Some thoughts and questions

In these final weeks of the Church year we are faced with some important lessons. The readings in these final weeks come in the form of ‘eschatological literature’. Eschatology has to do with the end times, the very end times, the end of the world. We know that this will happen, we just don’t want to be around when it does! Another word that is used in this area of theology is ‘paranetic’. Paranetic means being prepared for the unexpected. We do not know what is around the corner. We do not know what a new day will bring, so we must be as prepared as possible for all eventualities.  Within the tension that this discussion brings is hope. The hope that God cares for and cherishes his people.

If we reduce these ideas to their most basic form we would be left with a simple statement like. ‘Live today a if it were your last.” We are called as Christian people to live our lives with intensity and deliberation.

In our first reading (Book of Wisdom, Chapter 6, Verses 12-16) we hear of Wisdom as a person. Lady Wisdom is seeking out those who desire her. These questions might help us open up these readings to our own experience and hungers.

1. In this reading people are looking for Wisdom at the same time that Wisdom is searching for them. What does your “wanting wisdom” do for your “receiving wisdom”? Explain the following line from the reading: “…whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed, for he shall find her sitting by his gate.”

2. Consider and discuss the following statement by theologian and liturgical writer, Aelred Rosser: “Wisdom is that elusive attribute that enables us to see beyond the surface of things into their depths, to see as God sees, and therefore to see God.”

What I find interesting in this passage is that the wise week wisdom, and wisdom seeks the wise. Wisdom is not something , but someone with whom we enter into a relationship.

In our second reading  from the First Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians, Chapter 4, Verses 13-18  Paul is caught up in this end time theme. His expectation is drenched with the hope and promise that Jesus has made to us. We were created for life – eternal life. But, are we ready for this? Are we living with that expectation.

1. Would you live differently if you thought the “end time” was right around the corner as the Thessalonians did? What would change?

2. Those who are alive will be caught up together with Christ and with those who have died. Does the fact that we are going to be “caught up” as a people or as a community in Christ have any implications for you now?

Finally our Gospel, Matthew, Chapter 25, Verses 1-13. This is the story of the bridesmaids. The weeding feast was one of the most important events in the life of a community. It was a real gathering of the community. It was a time of being together, of being one with each other. It was also full of ritual and convention. The bride had chosen ten young, unmarried women to be her bridesmaids. In the story, the bride awaits the arrival of her bridegroom in her home. Her friends, acting as bridesmaids are to meet the bridegroom when he comes with his friends to collect his bride and take her to his home. This is a moment of festival and celebration. The groom comes in the night and his path is lit by those carrying lamps. All have lamps and oil, but some have underestimated the time of waiting and expectation. When the groom finally appears the lamps have burnt dry and they have no light. The wisdom of the five wise bridesmaids consisted in doing what was expected of them, in being prepared for the arrival of the groom. It was practical wisdom. Maybe these questions can help us mine the depths of this passage for ourselves.

1. Jesus’ parable is about being watchful and well prepared. How can you do this yourself? Is the “Be watchful” assignment just for people over a certain age, or people who have gotten bad news from their doctors?

2. When you watch for God in your life do you sometimes “doze off”? What kinds of things cause you to to lose interest or stop “watching”? What exactly are you watching for? How does this reading relate to the First Reading about Wisdom?

All this reflection about wisdom can be seen in one simple story. A holy old monk was sweeping up the fallen leaves in the monastery garden when a visitor asked him: ‘What would you do, brother, if you knew you were going to die in twn minutes.’ The old monk replied: ‘I’d carry on sweeping.’ He was ready.

[i] From Centre for Sunday Liturgy Website:
[ii] ibid
[iii] Ibid

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Meet the Novices 1 - Br Roy Scivyer

Br. Roy Scivyer
In September we welcomed four new novices to the community at Aylesford. The novitiate is like a year long retreat and introduces and immerses the novice in the life of a Carmelite friar. Their time is full. The year has prayer and community life at its heart. This week we begin to introduce the novices to you. We begin with Br Roy Scivyer. Br Roy writes of his own journey into Carmel.

If it is right to call my path to Carmel a ‘journey’, then it was one made by following the breadcrumbs scattered by those who have gone before me, both literally and metaphorically. I first encountered a Carmelite over beer and pizza at the University of York Catholic Chaplaincy, which is maintained by a small community of friars. They were down to earth, friendly folk, nothing like I expected them to be.

I remember arriving at University that autumn in the heady days of the late ‘noughties’, when iPods were merely pocket sized and programmes were still viewed on television. I was exhilarated to be alone for the first time, yet I also bore within me a lot of questions about who I am and what I believe in. The Carmelites offered me a space in which to share these feelings as well as the friendliness of a cup of tea or a simple meal. Although they were not perfect, they seemed to radiate a sense of love for all they encountered, even if it was not always apparent.

As time went on, so I grew as a Catholic Christian. Alongside the Carmelites I felt very much at home, a tremendous sense of belonging that I had never felt before. I ate with them in what I now call Eucharistic moments of brotherhood and unity, and enjoyed their company greatly (I should add I still do!). I began to look at those questions I brought with me with Carmelite eyes, and began to find the traces of answers. Here were ordinary men doing extraordinary things.

The decision I took to enter the Carmelite novitiate has become harder with time. After I graduated from University I worked in Germany for a year and discovered a world of possibilities and freedoms that I knew I would be sacrificing if I entered Carmel. There was a point when I decided to leave the Carmelites as a memory, a relationship at University that had run its course. Yet I could not escape the fact that, at the end of the day, the longing I had in my heart could be for God and could be satiated by the Carmelite way of life, and that the only way to find out if this was true was to accept their invitation to come and see.

St. John of the Cross often used the metaphor of a wounded lover to describe his relationship with God, and saw the path to healing as a lifelong journey towards God. I have been told time and time again that we do not become Carmelites, but are Carmelites and that through God we shall be transformed into that which we are called to be. I arrive here ragged and torn between two worlds, though with the desire to find out not merely if God wants me here, but if this is really who I am called to be and whether I can grow here. 

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

All Souls.

Today the Church teaches us some important lessons about life. On this day we are taught that it is a good and holy thing to remember the dead - those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith. On this day we are taught that memory is an important aspect of our faith. We remember those loved ones who have died, we speak of them with affection and tell the stories that surround them. We remember what their life meant and means to us. Finally we are taught that death is the gateway to something so awesome and beautiful, that many of us are not ready to gaze on, or feel the gaze of, absolute love. Purgatory removes those things that eclipse this beauty and enable us to be fully alive in God's presence.

On this day, we remember those who are being made ready to see this beauty and feel this love. When we remember them, the apparent distance between us diminishes. St. Augustine puts it beautifully, 'when we remember we make presnet the past.' For many this day is tinged with sadness. For me, it is a day that is full of hope. We live in the promise of eternal life. Today reminds us that the bonds and kinship that we hold dear in life, have a life beyond death. A life more alive than we can ever imagine.

Merciful Father,
hear our prayer and console us.
As we renew our faith in Your Son,
whom You raised from the dead,
strengthen our hope that all our departed brothers and sisters
will share in His resurrection,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen