Tag Archives: monastery

15 May: Saint Carthage (c555-637)

st Carthage

Saint Carthage, whose day it is today, is also known as Mochuda. He was a humble swineherd from what is now County Kerry and after joining a monastery he was ordained a priest. His life is marked by a series of phases where he established churches and places of worship and pilgrimage only to be turned out after making successes of his endeavours. His demise each time was due to the jealousy of others. But he picked himself up, moved on and succeeded again someplace else and in doing so left a trail of churches and holy places. How often does God use the negativity of others to bring into fruition His plans for us.

As a Tertiary Franciscan I have been enamoured of the stories of the early Franciscan friars whose lives are detailed in the book called, Il Fioretti, or the Little Flowers of St. Francis. Often they were despised and accused of many things but Francis taught them that from such condemnation is perfect joy. Our natural instincts when we are criticised or gossiped about is to react and feel negativity in return. Yet by changing our reactive attitude and transforming it into a force for good we can transcend and so continue with greater energy our journey in Christ. After all, Jesus was the most perfect Son of God and did he escape jealousy and envy? Not a bit. In fact His essential truth and reality in Almighty God polarised, very quickly, all those he came into contact with.

So along with Mochuda and with Christ, let us take heart and be encouraged by any darkness of spirit from others and rejoice, for it is by these things we are marked as servants of God. And we may, just by our attitude, allow others who fear to become a little more positive themselves.

CW.

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25 November: Inter-Galactic Discoveries: XVIII The Galloping Dik-Dik

dik-dik

 

‘T’ and the Chihuahuas continued to listen raptly to bits and pieces of the story of the Lady Domneva and her dik-dik and, in doing so, were transported back to the vanished world of the wild and woolly seventh century.

It seemed that every monastic foundation required a kind of demesne, or endowment; enough land to ensure peace and quiet and also to raise some hard cash for bee’s wax candles, mason’s wages for the carving, and subsequent maintenance, of gargoyles and stone arabesques, lentils for the nun’s soup, ducks for their eggs and down to stuff the duvets in the guest quarters (the nuns themselves, having taken a vow of poverty, did not use duvets), some cattle for Feast days (as well as a sip of wine) and parchment, and, of course, lots and lots of sheep for lamb chops, mutton stew and wool to make their distinctive black habits (not to mention a large quantity of the rare and expensive beetle carapace used to make the dye). Well, let it simply be said that running a large monastic foundation could be expensive. Land was also needed for orchards of apples, pears, and apricots, wild flowers, and the oddly placed fisherman’s cot. In fact, back in the seventh century, as feudalism came into its first virile wind, well, land meant just about everything.

The Kentish king, encamped with his vast court on the site of the future monastery, was both vexed and perplexed. Since the king was new at founding monasteries, he wasn’t quite sure how much land might be required and the Lady Domneva was also of little help since she had only been a nun for a very short time. It was then that one of the scullery people, noticing the frisk of the Lady’s dik-dik on a particularly cold day, came up with an idea that delighted everyone.

‘Why not leave it up to God?’ the young maid said, rather enigmatically. And when all agreed that that must be a fine idea…another question immediately sprang forward – ‘but how?’ It was then that a wizened hermit emerged from a nearby wood and, approaching the diminutive dik-dik, began to stroke the lovely creature while spoon feeding it some black currant jam. In tones of deepest respect, he asked a beaming Lady Domneva if the tiny deer-like creature had a name. ‘Indeed, he does,’ she cooed, ‘Boanerges.’ And at the sound of his name the tiny dik-dik licked a spot of jam from his nose and rolled a triple somersault on the emerald lawn to everyone’s delight. ‘Surely,’ the hermit intoned, ‘God can speak through a Son of Thunder?’ And, so, it came to be.

+++

The little dik-dik ran and ran…and ran. Throughout the Isle of Thanet from dawn until dusk. The brisk, late-November chill served as both motivation…and inspiration…as the near-magical creature raced the howling east wind. By royal decree, everywhere it traversed would become the endowment of the monastery and, some say, that if it hadn’t been for the watery barrier of the mighty Wansum, well, the dik-dik might have galloped all the way to Scotland.

TJH

 

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12 September: Saint Eanswythe of Folkestone.

eanswythe

In the ‘Dark Ages’ there seems to have been a high degree of enlightenment among the noble women of England and Wales. Think of Hilda or Winifride. Not such dark times at all.

There are people ready to cast our own time as a new dark age. But once again, I suggest, not so very dark.

Think of today’s Saint Eanswythe: like her niece Mildred of Minster, a Kentish maid. Eanswythe  died around 640, just 43 years after Pope Gregory sent Augustine to convert the people of Kent. She was not the first teenager to feel that marriage was not all a girl could aspire to. The cloistered life appealed: prayer, community and scholarship. Her father took some persuading, but with his help she founded the earliest sisters’ monastery  in England, overlooking the sea at Folkestone. She was a brave pioneer.

No sign of her original church remains, but Eanswythe’s relics were successfully hidden at the Reformation and can now be visited at the Church that bears her name.

And today’s young people? Here is part of a reflection from Ignatius who was at the World Youth Day in Krakow:

The entire World Youth Day was one big Holy Communion, in which I found Jesus over and over and over again. We were all there together, being made one, by the one body, the one love, of our one Lord.

Catholicity

mercy.carving. (328x640)Now, the real challenge begins: to take God’s mercy home with us and out to the world…

And here’s Christina:

I have always wanted the truth.

Being raised Catholic, I was poorly educated in the Faith.  Probably because, being in a wheelchair, people assumed that I was “closer to God” and, therefore, going straight to Heaven after death.  But, that bias is ignorant of the fullness of reality – and I want the fullness of reality. I want the fullness of truth.

And there is many another to give us hope. God be with them. And may he help Team Agnellus to proclaim the Truth in all our posts.

MMB

 

 

 

 

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September 3: Algeria VII: Testament of Dom Christian

This is a long post, but I could not see how to shorten the Last Testament of Christian de Cherge, the martyred Prior of Notre Dame d’Atlas. Every word counts. Islam is not islamism. Muslims are God’s children, our sisters and brothers.

2005-04-10 16.23.30

Window at Llanthony, Brecon, Wales. 

When an “A-Dieu” takes on a face.

If it should happen one day—and it could be today—

that I become a victim of the terrorism which now seems ready to engulf

all the foreigners living in Algeria,

I would like my community, my Church, my family,

to remember that my life was given to God and to this country.

I ask them to accept that the Sole Master of all life

was not a stranger to this brutal departure.

I ask them to pray for me—

for how could I be found worthy of such an offering?

I ask them to be able to link this death with the many other deaths which were just as violent, but forgotten through indifference and anonymity.

My life has no more value than any other.

Nor any less value.

In any case it has not the innocence of childhood.

I have lived long enough to know that I am an accomplice in the evil

which seems, alas, to prevail in the world,

even in that which would strike me blindly.

I should like, when the time comes, to have the moment of lucidity

which would allow me to beg forgiveness of God

and of my fellow human beings,

and at the same time to forgive with all my heart the one who would strike me down.

I could not desire such a death.

It seems to me important to state this.

I do not see, in fact, how I could rejoice

if the people I love were to be accused indiscriminately of my murder.

To owe it to an Algerian, whoever he may be,

would be too high a price to pay for what will, perhaps, be called, the “grace of martyrdom,”

especially if he says he is acting in fidelity to what he believes to be Islam.

I am aware of the scorn which can be heaped on Algerians indiscriminately.

I am also aware of the caricatures of Islam which a certain islamism encourages.

It is too easy to salve one’s conscience

by identifying this religious way with the fundamentalist ideologies of the extremists.

For me, Algeria and Islam are something different: they are a body and a soul.

I have proclaimed this often enough, I believe, in the sure knowledge of what I have received from it,

finding there so often that true strand of the Gospel,

learnt at my mother’s knee, my very first Church,

already in Algeria itself, in the respect of believing Muslims.

My death, clearly, will appear to justify

those who hastily judged me naive, or idealistic:

“Let him tell us now what he thinks of it!”

But these people must realise that my avid curiosity will then be satisfied.

This is what I shall be able to do, if God wills—

immerse my gaze in that of the Father,

and contemplate with him his children of Islam just as he sees them,

all shining with the glory of Christ,

the fruit of His Passion, and filled with the Gift of the Spirit,

whose secret joy will always be to establish communion

and to refashion the likeness, playfully delighting in the differences.

For this life lost, totally mine and totally theirs,

I thank God who seems to have willed it entirely

for the sake of that joy in everything and in spite of everything.

In this thank you, which sums up my whole life to this moment,

I certainly include you, friends of yesterday and today,

and you, my friends of this place,

along with my mother and father, my sisters and brothers and their families,

the hundredfold granted as was promised!

And also you, the friend of my final moment, who would not be aware of what you were doing.

Yes, I also say this Thank You and this A-Dieu to you, in whom I see the face of God.

And may we find each other, happy good thieves, in Paradise, if it pleases God, the Father of us both. Amen. (In sha ‘Allah).

Algiers, December 1, 1993—Tibhirine, January 1, 1994.

Christian.

Testament of Dom Christian

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30 August: Algeria III: Muslim martyrs for their Christian brothers.

 

The great doors to the ancient Abbey of St Maurice in Switzerland, celebrating its 1500th year in 2015, bear the names of Christian martyrs. There are the Apostles; there are the Africans of the Theban Legion, led by Maurice himself, martyred on this spot. Becket and Boniface represent England.

door st Maurice

From Saint Maurice’s home continent of Africa, among the martyrs of Algeria, next to the name of Bishop Pierre Claverie we read that of Mohamed Bouchikhi, his driver, assassinated with him. After them come the monks (moines) of Notre Dame d’Atlas at Tibhirine. Christian de Chergé, martyred Prior of the monastery, told how his friend, an Algerian policeman also named Mohamed, had been killed after intervening to protect him from aggressors in the street.

These two Mohameds gave their lives for their Christian friends – as de Chergé said, the greatest token of love a man could give. They accepted the gift of quiet presence and service offered by the Church in post-Colonial Algeria. Countless other Muslims continue to do so and to make Christians welcome in their communities.

MMB.

Monastery of Notre Dame d’Atlas, Tibhirine: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Monastere_de_tibhirine.jpg by Gamecult

 

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31 July: The Psalms as personal prayer: I

Psalms

What is it like to use the psalms for prayer every day and many times a day?  By God’s grace, my experience of praying the psalms daily now stretches over nearly four decades.  I shall try to say a little about what I have learned during this time.

For me, the psalms are one of the chief means by which I’m able to fulfil the call I received from God so many years ago.  How is this so?

Some personal background seems necessary here:  I was a “cradle Catholic”, who was taught her faith and who received the Sacraments in the way that was customary at the time.  I went to Mass and said my prayers, but without much grasp of what was behind all this.  And had any choice been available to me, I am sure I’d have chosen to leave the Church sometime in my teens.

It came, then, as a huge re-ordering of my existence when, in early adulthood, some seeds of belief that had been dormant in me began to put forth shoots.  Circumstances at that time conspired to give me a desire to explore my faith – and I did.  This exploration marked the beginning of my serious practice of Catholicism.  I received the gift of faith in God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit; also the gift of faith in the Church as bearer of truth for humanity.  And people!  People were very much part of this conversion – humanity loomed large.  I developed a hunger to be present to suffering humanity in a deeper way than was possible to me within the constraints of what was then a career in classical ballet.  How could I bring Christ to birth in the world?  I had received the grace of conversion, and I longed to be instrumental in that grace reaching others.  I wanted to be everywhere and present to everyone, on the deepest possible level.

I began to look at religious orders.  I gradually realised that it was through prayer that my intense desire to be everywhere and present to everyone could be fulfilled.  This faith in the power of prayer was another great gift from this period in my life.  Eventually, monastic life, with its strong emphasis on the apostolate of prayer, seemed the way forward for me.

Now, having been a nun for close to forty years, how have my aspirations to be present to suffering humanity panned out?  There are many aspects to a monastic vocation, but I’ve found that it is chiefly within the Opus Dei – the Divine Office – that I find that I can be everywhere and with everyone.  That is because of the prayer book that’s used – which is the Psalter.

SJC

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July 17: Interruption, Saint John Cassian

John_Cassian

Sister Joanna has shared these reflections on Saint John Cassian, whose thought continues to influence the Church to this day. A good read for the start of the summer holidays here in England. It’s also a good time to listen to him because his feast falls at the end of this week, July 23rd.

WT

Unknownhttp://www.pravicon.com

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July 13: Saint Mildred

St_Mildred,_Preston_next_Wingham,_Kent_-_Window_-_geograph.org.uk_-_325439

Saint Mildred from a window at Preston-next-Wingham, Kent.  John Salmon

Happy Feast to our friends at Minster Abbey! Today is Saint Mildred’s day. She was one of those exemplary Saxon and Welsh princesses who wanted a life of prayer, scholarship and service rather than diplomatic marriage. She was not the founder  of  Minster Abbey, her mother was, but Mildred joined the community and eventually became Abbess. She is still held in affection locally, as evidenced by this window from Preston, some six miles distant.

From all at Agnellus Mirror and the Franciscan International Study Centre, to all at Minster: 

Happy Saint Mildred’s Day!

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Interruption: from the Rule of Saint Benedict

image by Fra Angelico

Today is the Feast of Saint Benedict, patron of Europe and one of the founders of Western Monasticism.

Here is an extract from his rule. Let my introduction be very short, for I do not claim to be inspired by divine grace, and Happy Feast to our Benedictine friends at Minster Abbey, Sisters Johanna and Mary Stephen!

Chapter 20: On Reverence in Prayer

When we wish to suggest our wants to persons of high station, 

we do not presume to do so
except with humility and reverence.
How much the more, then,
are complete humility and pure devotion necessary
in supplication of the Lord who is God of the universe!
And let us be assured
that it is not in saying a great deal that we shall be heard (Matthew 6:7),
but in purity of heart and in tears of compunction.
Our prayer, therefore, ought to be short and pure,
unless it happens to be prolonged
by an inspiration of divine grace.
In community, however, let prayer be very short,
and when the Superior gives the signal let all rise together.

Rule of St Benedict Ch XX

 

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May 3: The nail that pierced has become the key to unlock the door: I.

Xtlily

 

The nail that pierced has become the key to unlock the door: I.

St. Bernard

This beautiful sentence from St. Bernard has been a source of hope for me for many years.  I first encountered it during a period of intense suffering.  A sympathetic friend sent me a card, bought at a monastery gift shop, on which these words were carefully hand-scribed by a monastic calligrapher.  Clearly, an unknown monk or nun also treasured these words.

Where does the quotation come from, and what was St. Bernard talking about?  In answering these questions, I’ve discovered that there are levels of meaning to be found here that perhaps go beyond what St. Bernard may have originally intended.  But, no matter.  I doubt St. Bernard would object to our ruminating over his phrase, or seeing it as plant that produces many flowers.

mercylogoThis phrase occurs in one of St. Bernard’s homilies on the Song of Songs.  In this homily, he is talking about God’s mercy.  There is a story about St. Bernard that illustrates just how important the theme of mercy is for him, and how deeply personal its resonances.  The story has it that, apparently, the Lord once appeared to him and said, “Bernard, you have not yet given me everything.”  Dismayed, Bernard is said to have replied, “But Lord, what more can I give you?  I have given you all my possessions, and all my money.  I have given up all thought of worldly honour and success.  I have given up family life; I have given all my friends to you.  I have renounced marriage in order to belong to you alone.  I have given you everything.  What more can I possibly give?”  “Bernard,” replied the Lord gently, “you have not given me your sins.”

For St. Bernard, the Lord’s mercy is there ahead of us, so to speak.  The Lord is not merely willing to be merciful when we are ready to come to him in penitence.  He actively invites us to unburden ourselves to him, before we are ready.  He does not want us to give him only the more presentable parts of ourselves – the good bits.  He wants us to give the other side of ourselves to him, too – the shadows, the deceits, the conceits, the sins.

What does all this have to do with our quotation?  For the moment, we are locating these words in the context of mercy – a mercy that wants to lavish its love upon us – no matter who we are or what we have done.

SJC.

Godshill, Isle of WIght.

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