Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Lenten Thought

Lent Is Our "Holy Spring"

Even the darkest moments of the liturgy are filled with joy and Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten fast, is a day of happiness, a Christian feast. It cannot be otherwise, as it forms part of the great Easter cycle.

The Paschal Mystery is above all the mystery of life in which the Church, by celebrating the death and resurrection of Christ , enters into the Kingdom of Life which He has established once for all by His definitive victory over sin and death. We must remember the original meaning of Lent, as the ver sacrum, the Church's "holy spring" in which the catechumens were prepared for their baptism, and public penitents were made ready by penance for their restoration to the sacramental life in a communion with the rest of the Church. Lent is then not a season of punishment so much as one of healing. ~Thomas Merton, Seasons of Celebration, 113

Monday, 27 February 2012

Lent Thought:

“May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.

May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.

It is there for each and every one of us.”

― St. Thérèse de Lisieux

Sunday, 26 February 2012

First Sunday of Lent - Bring us back to you.

The passages of scripture we are invited to ponder on this first Sunday of 'Holy Lent' are:-
Reading 1 Gn 9:8-15
God said to Noah and to his sons with him:
"See, I am now establishing my covenant with you
and your descendants after you
and with every living creature that was with you:
all the birds, and the various tame and wild animals
that were with you and came out of the ark.
I will establish my covenant with you,
that never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed
by the waters of a flood;
there shall not be another flood to devastate the earth."
God added:
"This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come,
of the covenant between me and you
and every living creature with you:
I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign
 of the covenant between me and the earth.
When I bring clouds over the earth,
and the bow appears in the clouds,
I will recall the covenant I have made
between me and you and all living beings,
so that the waters shall never again become a flood
to destroy all mortal beings."
 Responsorial Psalm Ps 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9.

 R. (cf. 10) Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant.
Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my saviour.
Remember that your compassion, O LORD,
and your love are from of old.
In your kindness remember me,
because of your goodness, O LORD.
Good and upright is the LORD,
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice,
and he teaches the humble his way.
Reading 2 1 Pt 3:18-22

Christ suffered for sins once,
the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous,
that he might lead you to God.
Put to death in the flesh,
he was brought to life in the Spirit.
In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison,
who had once been disobedient
while God patiently waited in the days of Noah
during the building of the ark,
in which a few persons, eight in all,
were saved through water.
This prefigured baptism, which saves you now.
It is not a removal of dirt from the body
but an appeal to God for a clear conscience,
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
who has gone into heaven
and is at the right hand of God,
with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.
 Gospel Mk 1:12-15

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
and he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.
After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
"This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel."

The themes of the first and second readings for today flow into Mark’s account of Jesus’ baptism at the Jordan, and the Temptation. If Noah’s covenant with God marks the beginning of a new relationship with God, a new era of revelation, then Mark’s account of the Baptism marks a similar division and horizon.  The signs at Jesus baptism are personal, only known and experienced by him.  These markers are important: 1) The opening up of the heavens, 2) the descent of the Spirit upon Jesus, 3) the appearance of a “dove” (a symbol of Israel, and 4) The heavenly voice.  This personal revelation to Jesus is in keeping with Mark’s keeping of “the Secret” of who Jesus really is. 

Mark’s temptation is rather brief, and has a different purpose than that of Matthew or Luke.  In Mark’s temptation, Jesus is the conqueror over the evil spirit of this age, another expression of the rift in time seen in the “opening up of the heavens.”  Mark’s account of the temptation is not so much a reporting of fact but an insight into the mission of Jesus.

Breaking open the Gospel:
1.       How does Mark reach back to the past and forward to the future to speak about Jesus?
2.       In what ways is Peter naïve?
3.       What is meant by the secrecy in Mark?

After breaking open the Word, you might want to pray

This week we pray for a renewal of our lives.
We are beginning to be more attentive and alert.
We are trying new patterns.
The difficulties we encounter keep us humble.

Our desire is clear.
We want the “self-sacrificing love of Christ” -
which brings us mercy and healing - to be “reproduced in our llives.”
In our journey, we seek to savour the meaning of Jesus' self-less love,
that we might reflect that love to others.
At the end of our journey, we will renew our baptismal promises.
Dying with Jesus in baptism, we have a new life in him.
Today, we desire nothing less than God's re-creating us -
breathing new life into us.

Closing Prayer:

Lord God,
you who breathed the spirit of life within me.
Draw out of me the light and life you created.
Help me to find my way back to you.
Help me to use my life to reflect your glory
and to serve others
as your son Jesus did.

May the Lord bless us,
protect us from all evil
and bring us to everlasting life.

Friday, 24 February 2012

The power of words

Beyond Giving Up Chocolate: Going Deeper in Lent

From the time we were children, our first question for Lent was often, “What are you giving up for Lent?”  Giving something up for these 40 days is a custom that, when we were younger, helped us enter into the season with a sense of purpose and a greater awareness.

As adults, we might want to consider looking at Lent in a deeper way.  We are probably much more settled into our behaviour’s and patterns of life and sometimes giving up something is where we begin -- and end -- our reflections on Lent.  It can be tempting to say “I am giving up chocolate” or beer or even all sweets and all alcohol. But without more reflection, it can become simply a way I show God how much willpower I have.  It is more about me than any conversation with God.

Lent isn’t simply about us “giving up” something.  The real grace is when we recognize that Lent is a season in which God wants to give us something.  God wants to help us transform our lives and make us free-er as people, not just free-er with God, but in the way we live our lives and love our families.

In some ways it is easy to simply choose something to give up and then we can dismiss Lent.  “I am giving up TV for Lent.”  “I am giving up movies...  Snacks...  Soda pop.”   We give it up and exercise our willpower for 40 days to prove to ourselves and to God that we can do it. And at the end of Lent we can return to what we gave up. 

We might reflect and ask the deeper question: What is God inviting me to change this Lent? How do I know what God might be stirring in me? I begin my listening to the movements in my heart. Where am I feeling uncomfortable with the choices I am making? With the things I have done? With the habitual ways I respond? The Lord will be speaking to me in those small nagging moments of discomfort in my heart.

It might be that we know deep down that we drink too much and that giving up alcohol would make us less irritable each night.  Then giving up alcohol would be the right thing. Asking what we would like to change about ourselves this Lent requires a little reflection.  What pattern of behavior in my life needs changing?  What do I need more of in my life?  Patience? Unselfishness?  More loving behavior toward my spouse or children?

But each of us can think of something that gets in the way of our being loving and self-sacrificing.  Too often the ordinary conflicts, divisions and difficulties in our family life result from simple selfishness on my part.  I choose to fight.  I choose to defend my opinion.  I choose to use things I know about my partner, my children, my parents against them. I choose to hurt them.

The results of that behavior are never good and always divisive.  We can imagine a Lenten practice in which each of us would tell members of our family – those whom we have most offended in these ways, that we are sorry and ask them to help us to work with us to bring more unity and peace to our family life.

We can ask: What would it cost me to change this behavior?  What would it mean if I didn’t walk around my family acting crabby all the time?  What if I decided to be much more loving and patient with my spouse this Lent?  What if I did decide to “give up” something really destructive in my life, like alcohol, pornography or on-line friendships.  As I reflect, I might realize that changing a particular way I live is coming to me as a call from God and I don't have to do it alone. And the God who is moving my heart to reflect on these changes, will remain faithful and help me to stay open to the grace God offers me for change.

I need help.  It may be something that I don’t want to change or acknowledge.  I don’t think I can change it.  But that’s where talking to God can make the difference.  I am not doing this alone; I am doing it with God. 

When I look at challenges with my spouse, I might discover that one of the barriers to communication in my marriage is that I interrupt and disagree.  In some place in my head I know that is an annoying habit, but I am not free enough to simply listen without objecting. Maybe I am unable to receive what my spouse says without coming to the conclusion that my spouse is wrong.  What if sharing a different point of view was not about winning an argument but to advancing communication between us?.

In asking God for help, we might ponder one of the many healing gospels, like Mark 2: 1-12.  In this story, a group of friends carried a mat with a paralyzed man to Jesus, who was teaching inside a house.  So many people crowded around the outside of the house that the friends were unable to get the mat inside.  So they went up to the roof and moved aside the tiles and lowered the mat with their friend from the roof to Jesus was below.  The words to this gospel say that the friends on the roof had “broken through” the tiles to lower their friend into the house for healing.  Their breakthrough led directly to the healing. 

Where do we need a breakthrough? What is the barrier that keeps us from asking for healing?  In our own lives, we need to break through our denials, defensiveness and our unwillingness to look at ourselves. Discovering what the barrier is in my life is critical.  If we don’t know what the barrier is, these weeks of Lent are a great time to reflect upon it.  When we identify the barrier, we have made the breakthrough. That's when Jesus can heal us of it. 

Why is this a good Lenten penance?  Because it gets my attention where I live every day.  It allows God’s grace into my soul and into the place where my real life exists.  That's where Jesus stands with me every day, waiting for me to be lowered from the roof so he can touch me and heal me.

Source: Creighton University Online Ministry

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Lent Day 2

There are so many lessons for our journey in this prayer.
It starts with God's inspiration.
We are reminded of the breath of life that God breathed at the beginning of creation
and the driving wind of the Holy Spirit's coming at Pentecost.
The grace for all we are about to do comes from God.

Today we pray to be open to it.
Today we also acknowledge that for us to what we need to do these six weeks,
we need God's continuing help.

Each day, with every prayer, every sacrifice, every act of generosity
we will need help which can only come from God.
And, finally, we need God's guidance to persevere to the end.
There will be tough choices, not only between good and evil,
but choices about what is the greater good.

We may even be called to do something quite heroic and self-sacrificing.
A wonderful prayer.  Easy to remember, even memorize.
It is possible to say it every day.


Let everything I do this day and in this season of Lent
come from you, be inspired by you.

I long to be closer to you.
Help me to remember that nothing is important in my life
unless it glorifies you in some way.

It's so easy to get caught up in the day to day of my life and keep saying,
"Tomorrow, I will spend more time in prayer,"
but now my longing meets your love and I want to do it now. 
Help me to rely on you for help.

The prayer asks you that I reach perfection.
Please, Lord, remind me that "perfection"
isn't the crazy, "successful" way I try to live my life,
but a perfection of my most authentic, real self.

My "perfection" might be holding my many flaws in my open hands,
asking you to help me accept them.

Heal me, Lord, and help me to find you in the darkness of my life. 
Let me reach out in this darkness and feel your hand and love there to guide me.

Source: Creighton University Online Ministries

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Ash Wednesday ~ Lent Begins

"Insanity is defined as 
  doing the same thing over, and over again, 
  expecting different results."

This saying, commonly used in 12 Step programs, reveals a real wisdom.  It can be a good beginning reflection as we examine the choices we will make in the days ahead.  It is very simple.  Our Lord is calling us to a "change of heart."  And, we know from experience, that nothing will change, unless we change our patterns.  To expect different results is insanity.

So, what needs changing?
We start to come to know that by asking for help.  "Lord, help me to know what needs changing."  It is often said, "Be careful about what you ask for."  This is one of those requests that God must surely want to answer.

Then, we have to listen.  With a little bit of reflection, most of us will just begin to "name" things that make up our ordinary habits and ways of being who we are, that we aren't very proud of.  Things we do and things we never get around to doing.  We can "feel" the call to change our attitudes, our self-absorption, or our way of interacting with others.  Perhaps a spouse, a loved one, a friend, a family member, a co-worker has told me something about myself that gets in the way of communication, that makes relating to them difficult.  Maybe I don't take God very seriously.  I go to Church on Sunday, and contribute my share, but I don't really take time to deal with my relationship with God.  Perhaps I've let my mind and fantasy get cluttered with escapist litter.  I might begin to name a number of self-indulgent habits.  I may realize I rarely, if ever, hear the cry of the poor, and can't remember when I've answered that cry.  It could be that dishonesty on all kinds of levels has become a way of life.  One of the roadblocks in my relationship with God and others may be deep wounds or resentments from the past, things I continue to hold against others or myself. 

You are always merciful! Please wipe away my sins. 
Wash me clean from all of my sin and guilt.  - Psalm 51
Beginning New Patterns during Lent.

Something all of us can do is commit ourselves to being more reflective during Lent.  It just means that I'm going to make a point of being more observant, more aware of what I'm experiencing - paying more attention to what is "automatic" behavior.  And, I then start paying attention to my desires.  We have all kinds of desires.  During Lent, I can reflect upon the desires I currently have and which of them need to be purified, which may need to be abandoned, and which are wonderful desires that are there, but I haven't acted upon them.  Naming our deepest desires will guide the choices we make to establish new patterns for Lent.


Lent is the time to start new patterns of prayer.  Perhaps I haven't been praying at all.  This is a great time to choose to begin.  It is important to begin realistically.  I can start by simply pausing when I get up and taking a slow, deep breath, and recalling what I have to do this day, and asking for grace to do it as a child of God.  I may want to go to bed a half an hour earlier, and get up a half an hour earlier and give myself some time alone to read the readings for the day, the Daily Reflection, or the PRAYING LENT page for the day.  I may choose to go to Mass each day during Lent.  I may choose to get to church on Sunday, just 15 minutes earlier, so I can reflect a bit.  Lent may be a time I would want to choose to start to journal the day to day reflections that are coming, the desires I'm naming and asking for, the graces I am being given.


Lent is a great time to change our eating patterns.  This is not about "losing weight" or "getting in shape," though for most of us, paying attention to what we eat, will make a difference in our overall health.  This is about being more alert.  Anyone who has tried to diet knows that something changes in us when we try to avoid eating.  The monks in the desert, centuries ago, discovered that fasting - simply not eating - caused a tremendous boost to their consciousness.  Not only did their bodies go on "alert," but their whole person seemed to be in a more heightened state of attention.  The whole purpose of fasting was to aid prayer - to make it easier to listen to God more openly, especially in times of need.

Among Catholics, only Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are named as days of fast we all do together.  (And that fast is simply to eat only one full meal in the day, with the other two meals combined, not equal to the one.)  On the Wednesdays and Fridays of Lent, we may want to try to fast more intentionally.  Of course, always conscious of our health and individual nutrition needs, we may want to try to eat very little, except some juices, or perhaps a small amount of beans and rice.  We will experience how powerfully open and alert we feel and how much easier it is to pray and to name deeper desires.  Not only will I feel less sluggish and tired, I will feel simply freer and more energized.

The other powerful advantage of fasting is that it can be a very simple gesture that places me in greater solidarity with the poor of the earth, who often have very little more than a little rice and beans each day.  Powerful things happen in me, when I think about those people in the world who have so much less than I do.  And, it's a great cure for self-pity.

Practicing Generosity

Almsgiving has always been an important part of Lent.  Lent begins with the powerful Isaiah 58, on the Friday and Saturday after Ash Wednesday.  It is important to give ourselves the experience of fasting from being un-generous.  Generosity is not simply giving my excess clothes to a place where poor people might purchase them.  It's not even writing a "generous" check at the time a collection is taken up for a cause that benefits the poor.  These are wonderful practices.  Generosity is an attitude.  It is a sense that no matter how much I have, all that I have is gift, and given to me to be shared.  It means that sharing with others in need is one of my personal priorities.  That is quite different from assessing all of my needs first, and then giving away what is left over.  A spirit of self-less giving means that one of my needs is to share what I have with others.  Lent is a wonderful time to practice self-less giving, because it takes practice.  This kind of self-sacrificing generosity is a religious experience.  It places us in solidarity with the poor who share with each other, without having any excess.  It also joins us with Jesus, who gave himself completely, for us.  Establishing new patterns of giving will give real life and joy to Lent.

Practicing Penance

When I sprain my ankle, part of the healing process will involve physical therapy.  It's tender, and perhaps it is swollen.   It may be important to put ice on it first, to reduce the inflammation.  I may want to wrap it an elevate it and stay off of it.  Then I will need to start moving it and then walking on it, and eventually, as the injury is healed, I'll want to start exercising it, so that it will be stronger than it was before, so that I won't as easily injure it again.

Penance is a remedy, a medicine, a spiritual therapy for the healing I desire.  The Lord always forgives us.  We are forgiven without condition.  But complete healing takes time.  With serious sin or with bad habits we've invested years in forming, we need to develop a therapeutic care plan to let the healing happen.  To say "I'm sorry" or to simply make a "resolution" to change a long established pattern, will have the same bad result as wishing a sprained ankle would heal, while still walking on it.

Lent is a wonderful time to name what sinful, unhealthy, self-centered patterns need changing and to act against them by coming up with a strategy.   For example, if the Lord is shining a light into the darkness of a bad pattern in my life, I can choose to "stop doing it."  But, I have to work on a "change of heart" and to look concretely at what circumstances, attitudes, and other behaviors contribute to the pattern.  If I'm self-indulgent with food, sex, attention-seeking behaviors and don't ask "what's missing for me, that I need to fill it with this?" then simply choosing to stop the pattern won't last long.  Lasting healing needs the practice of penance.

Putting It All Together - Alone and With Others

In the end, the prayer of St. Augustine places us in the right spirit for Lent:

    O Lord, our Lord, you have created us for yourself
    and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.
Lent is indeed how God draws us home, as individuals.  But, it is also a very communal journey.  We never journey alone, no matter how "lonely" we may feel.  We are always journeying together.  If we can experience our journey in communion with others, it makes it so much clearer that we are on a journey together.  When I can share my experience with even one other close friend, or with my regular worshiping community, I can enjoy and share the support and environment that allows grace to flourish.

Let us pray for each other on this journey, especially those who need and desire a change of heart on this pilgrimage to Easter joy.

Source: Creighton university Online Ministries

Sunday, 5 February 2012

February Snow at Aylesford

A gentle flurry of snow descended on The Friars on Saturday evening... and then early in the morning the community awoke to the beautiful sight of a ten inch blanket of snow all over the priory.

Brother Paul was spotted at 7.00 am clearing a pathway from the car park to the shrine for our regular Mass attendees.  Unfortunately, none seemed to want to risk the roads to join us for the 8.00 am Mass, which gave Fr. Michael a wonderful opportunity to preside at Mass in the Carmelite Saints chapel with the Carmelite Community.  A determined congregation of thirty braved the elements to be here in time for the 10.15 am Mass at which Fr. David presided.

The Carmelite Community hopes that you are safe, warm and perhaps even praying a little on this snowy Sunday wherever you are.  We will be praying again for all of our friends at 4.30 pm when we gather for our solemn Evening Prayer in the warmth of the Cloister Chapel.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Blog Gap

Our blog editor will be away until 23rd Fenruary. normal service will resume in time for Lent.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Joy in Religious life

For a fun opportunity to experience the World Day of Prayer for Religious Life, follow the link

Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

Icon of The Presentation of Christ written by the hand of Athanasios Clark

This feast, celebrated on February 2, is known  The Presentation of the Lord.  About 450 AD in Jerusalem, people began the custom of holding lighted candles during the Divine Liturgy of this feast day. Therefore, some churches in the West refer to this holy day as Candlemas.
Biblical Story
The story of the Presentation is told in Luke 2:22-29. Mary and Joseph were faithful Jews and observed their religious customs. An important custom was for the couple to take their first-born son to the Temple. The baby was taken to the Temple forty days after his birth and was dedicated to God. In addition, if the parents were wealthy, they were to bring a lamb and a young pigeon or a turtle dove to be offered as a sacrifice at the Temple. The custom provided that if the parents were poor, they were to offer two pigeons or two turtle doves for the sacrifice. Mary and joseph were not wealthy.
When Jesus was forty days old, Mary and Joseph took Him to the Temple in Jerusalem. They were not wealthy, so they took two turtle doves with them to offer as a sacrifice at the Temple. As they arrived at the Temple, Mary and Joseph were met by a very old man named Simeon. He was a holy man and was noted as a very intelligent scholar. Simeon spent much time studying about the prophets of Israel. It was during his studies that he learned of the coming of the Messiah. The Jewish people were waiting for the Messiah to come and deliver Israel from their conquerors. From that time on, Simeon spent his time praying for the Messiah to come. He spent many years in prayer. Finally, while Simeon was praying he heard the voice of God. God promised Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah.
 Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God. When Simeon saw Jesus, he took the baby in his arms and blessed the Lord and said:
"Lord, now let Your servant go in peace according to Your promise, because my eyes have seen Your salvation which you have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory to your people Israel."
 Also, in the Temple was Anna the Prophetess. She had been a widow for many years. Anna was about eighty-four years old and spent her time in the Temple worshiping, fasting, and praying. When she saw the Christ Child she praised God and spoke of him to all who were awaiting the Messiah.
After Jesus was presented in the Temple, the family returned to Galilee to the town of Nazareth. The Bible tells us that Jesus grew and became strong, and was filled with wisdom.
Today is also the world day of prayer for the consecrated life. Please keep those who have chosen to follow Christ and to serve the Church in the profession of the Evangelical Counsels of Poverty. Obedience and Chastity in your thoughts and prayers today. Please pray for an increase in vocations toour way of life.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

First few minutes of heaven

I was shocked, confused, bewildered as I entered Heaven's door,
Not by the beauty of it all, nor the lights or its decor.
But it was the folks in Heaven who made me sputter and gasp--
The thieves, the liars, the sinners, the alcoholics and the trash.

There stood the kid from seventh grade who swiped my lunch money twice.
Next to him was my old neighbor who never said anything nice.
Herb, who I always thought was rotting away in hell,
Was sitting pretty on cloud nine, looking incredibly well.

I nudged Jesus, 'What's the deal? I would love to hear your take.
How'd all these sinners get up here? God must've made a mistake.
'And why's everyone so quiet, so somber - give me a clue.'
'Hush, child,' He said, 'they're all in shock. No one thought they'd be seeing you.'

Poem By Rod Hemphill that goes along well with the latest drawing from nakedpastor, David Hayward.

An encouraging word

“Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don't know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!”

Anne Frank