Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Halloween – All Hallows

Halloween – All Hallows

Regaled in fancy costumes, two of the Guesthouse helpers went off this evening to the Childrens’ Halloween Party at Immaculate Heart Parish, Balornock. They were to put in a surprise appearance for the celebration.

The Celts, Scots & Irish, are credited with inventing Halloween. They hollowed out turnips to make lamps, and the ancestors thus processed to light the way of the spirits back to where they came from. Celtic Christianity has carried on the tradition with the spirituality and sense of the presence of God and Mary and all the saints hovering and helping in human life.

The Halloween the Scots and Irish brought to America has been returned from across the Atlantic in the multiplied commercialism of the annual celebration.

The parallel boom in Celtic spirituality serves somewhat to give us a better perspective.

“Will only a few be saved?” in the Gospel reading this morning is the kind of question that theologians love.

As always, prayer is a step ahead of theology. The opening prayer could not have been better on target with the answer;
“praised be to you, God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
There is no power of good which does not come from your covenant
and no promise to hope in that your love has not offered”.

To give the theologians their due, Hans Urs von Balthasar, regarded by Paul VI as one of the greatest theologian of our time, wrote a book called “Dare we hope that all will be saved?” His answer was a resounding, not only dare we hope, but we are obliged to hope, that all will be saved. St. Augustine seems to have got himself on to a sidetrack stating he knew there were people in hell.

Von Balthasar is clear on the fact that if we say we know there are people in hell, we are saying more than we know, or if we say we know there is no one in hell, that also is more than we know. His conclusion comes out of his weighty considerations, “We don’t know, but we hope”.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

St Aloysius Pupils Orchestra Rehearsal

St Aloysius Pupils Orchestra Rehearsal

October 29-30. Visit by members of St. Aloysius College pupils, orchestra.

Most of those attending Mass this morning were the pupils from the orchestra group of St. Aloysius College. So I decided to use the Memorial of St Alphonsus Rodriguez, Jesuit Laybrother.

Another Alphonsus (Ligouri) was doctor of the Church, another, Alonso Rodriguez (also Jesuit), wrote volumes on the ascetical life. Alphonsus the Jesuit Laybrother was noted for his great humility.

Today’s Gospel words, ‘The kingdom is like a mustard seed planted in the ground’, leads to the thought that to genuinely know our own selves we need to be humble.

Oracle of Delphi is often credited with the secret, “Know thyself”. Basic to St Augustine, St. Bernard and Fathers of the Church, a young priest gave this quotation his own spin, “Was it Socrates or his first cousin once removed who said that each of us would do well to know ourselves?”

“The story is told of the woman tourist in Germany. The guide took a group through Beethoven's house. He showed them the piano on which the genius had composed his Moonlight Sonata. A woman in the group immediately sat down and played some bars from the sonata. The guide told the group that Paderewski had recently been shown the piano. The woman gushed, "And I wager he sat down and played just as I did." Archly the guide said, "No, Madam, he said he was not worthy to touch those keys."

Budding musicians take note.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Royal Mail Christmas Stamps

Royal Mail Christmas Stamps
- issue 6 November 2007

The Royal Mail has published a booklet on the coming Christmas Stamps. The good news is the return of the sacred art in the Christmas Mail. Last year’s images were of snowmen Santa Clauses and reindeer.

Congratulations to the Royal Mail for putting Christ back into Christmas.

After much effort I failed obtain the advertised productions Online. In the end this was only possible by Ordering by phone.

The Royal Mail provides its own commentary on the new stamps as follows.

“This year’s Christmas stamps mark a return to a religious theme with traditional Italianate representations of angels created by Italian illustrator Marco Ventura who works on gesso coated paper. The two Madonna stamps were produced in reaction to a popular demand for stamps bearing an overtly Christian image and will be reissued in future years.

The two Madonna & Child stamps feature two classic paintings of the image. 2nd class - William Dyce, c. 1827. In pearly light, the sweet faced young Madonna cradling her child before a limpid landscape, clearly shows the influence of Renaissance art, particularly of the young Raphael. Dyce led the way and in turn became a supporter of the radical group of young English painters, the Pre-Raphaelites. 1st Class - The Madonna of Humility, Lippo di Dalmasio, c. 1390-1400. Extensive damage and centuries of repairs have dimmed but not eclipsed the grace of The Madonna, crowned with 12 stars, against a disc of golden light, recalling Saint John’s vision of the Woman of the Apocalypse, “clothed with the sun”, in the Book of Revelation”.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Pray for Hamish

Abbot Raymond asks for prayers for Hamish

Dear Associate,

I wish to share with you a very personal letter which I am sending off to a close relative of mine who has just been diagnosed as having a terminal illness.

Mon. 28th Oct.

Dear Hamish,

It was good to hear you on the phone the other day in spite of the bad news. I hope you don’t mind if I take the opportunity to write some words of encouragement.

There is a verse of the Psalms which is very appropriate for you at this time. If you can read it with faith as being truly God’s word, with all the power and meaning that that implies, then I am sure you will find great comfort and support in it. The verse is:“Be strong! Let your heart take courage, and hope in the Lord”

When God says: “Be strong!” His word creates the power it is asking you to stir up in yourself.

When he says: “Let your heart take courage”, He himself plants that courage in your heart. You only have to open it to him.

When he says: “..and hope in the Lord.” He isn’t asking you to hope that he will heal you or will do this, or that for you. He just means you simply to hope in himself, without any conditions. And he assures us that “Your hopes will not be disappointed”.

Your strength and courage come from him in just the same way as they come from your family, from Nadia and the kids.

So dear Hamish, I pray that you will enter fully into the mystery of God’s powerful word.

With love and blessings and prayers.


“Be strong! Let your heart take courage, and hope in the Lord”

Our Lady of Vallarpadom
Miraculous Shrine,Kerala, India

Catholic Students Union, Edinburgh University Chaplaincy.

Catholic Students Union, Edinburgh University Chaplaincy.
The Dominicans have had the care of the Chaplaincy at St. Albert's since 1931.
Fr. Tim Calvert OP and Br. John Martin McGowan OP joined some 20 CSU members for a weekend Retreat.
At the concluding Mass they were present at the Abbey Church for the Community Concelebrated Mass.

Afterwards the group foregathered at the foot of the Cross in front of the Church for a photo call with Abbot Raymond.

Saturday, 27 October 2007



Abbot Raymond Jaconelli was interviewed by SCOTTISH CATHOLIC OBSERVER’S columnist MARY McGINTY as part of a series on the Religious Life.

Friday October 19 2007


- now, first of all, whenever you begin to undertake and good work, beg God with moist earnest prayer to bring it to completion.

A LIFE OF simple prayer and work. That is how the abbot of Nunraw describes the calling to the monastic life. "The main work of the monk is prayer; he doesn't have any external apostolate such as parish work", says Dom Raymond Jaconelli. "It focuses on the prayer life of the Church and of the monk as an individual.

"Prayer is a living, growing relationship with God and is a rich, rewarding experience always opening into new horizons," Dom Jaconelli goes on. "People who don't pray haven't a clue what they are missing. The psalms cover the gamut of human need -of longing and aspiration - and in that way we pray for the needs of the world."

In the heart of the Lammermuir Hills, Nunraw Abbey is a few miles from Haddington, near Edinburgh, but it is far from the cynicism and the material constraints of secular life. Life in Nunraw is unfettered and unencumbered by the false promises of materialism.

Although Christ did not instigate religious orders it was just a matter of time before God's will led to the formation of monastic life. By the 3rd century monks were emerging in Egypt and Syria, with Basil among the monastic 'greats' giving the life the first of its rules in the 4th century.

The Cistercian order was founded in the early 12th century in France, coming to Scotland in 1136 and establishing an abbey at Melrose. The current Nunraw abbey was established in 1946 and its buildings constructed in 1952-69 with the help of many volunteers. Where once it was home to 60 monks, today there are just 15. They live by the Rule of St Benedict with the customs of the Cistercian order.

School groups are regularly welcomed to Nunraw. A student recently asked: "When you have lived your monastic life, what do you have to show for it? Dom Jaconelli replied: "The world is full of achievers in business, politics, and in professional lives but that does not make them great in God's eyes. A lot can be hard-hearted, proud, arrogant, and greedy. It is not what you become in life -as society understands it- but what you achieve in God's eyes."

It is the withdrawal from the outside world that allows the monks to be at its service. In times of disaster while the strick­en await aid the prayers of the monks are with them. "The help that can reach [people] is often limited by funds available, by political barriers, and by transport," the abbot explained. "But the people's need is immediate and only prayer can answer that. It is instant and it goes to the heart of where it is needed. It is a help that is not available through material resources.

"So in that way," he stated, "we see ourselves as living and praying for the world."

An austere life it may be but it is fulfilling. Possessed of a warm and cheerful nature, Dom Jaconelli clearly finds great satisfaction in it. He is full of humour, recalling anecdotes as he talks. His vocation at the age of 18 was an obvious one, which he readily embraced, wanting God to be the main focus of his life. He remembers fondly the life he enjoyed when he joined the monastery. In a large community the heavy fieldwork was shared and provided a rhythm to their lives.

Today the work of the farm is carried out by machinery-with the monks spending hours driving a tractor.

Farming methods," said the abbot, "have been the biggest change in Cistercian life."

The monk does not join to become a priest; rather he is answering the call to monastic life. In time the abbot may call him to the priesthood, seen as enrichment. Fr Jaconelli said that because it came through the abbot he was surer of his priestly voca­tion than if he had looked for it himself.

The 3.15am rise to begin the day's prayer is compensated for by going to bed early. "With the best will in the world once the working day has begun the cattle have to be fed and the dinner has to be cooked," said Fr Jaconelli. "Praying through the night is a long tradition of monastic life-it is one time you are going nowhere and you have nothing to do; you are free for the Lord."

The Benedictine rule of silence applies in its various forms throughout the day. Since the mechanisation of the farm the monks no longer use sign language during periods of complete silence. With the men operating machinery and requiring permission to speak, sign language was no longer appropriate.

Following the rule of St Benedict, hospitality is the apostolate of the Cistercians. As Benedict states in his rule: "Let all guests be received like Christ Himself, for He will say: I was a stranger and you took me in."

A guesthouse is not an extra in the life of a monastery but an integral part of it. For those who stay at Nunraw guesthouse, it may be a short experience but one that leaves a lasting mark. Couples arrive regularly with their children who, in their turn, bring their families.

Atlas Martyrs.

In 1996 the Cistercians suffered a devastating blow when seven monks were taken hostage in Algeria and killed two months later. In the same year a community in Zaire was forced to flee its monastery. Throughout the world in almost 100 com­munities of monks and over 60 of nuns, the order is called to the Cistercian life.

Whether or not they are in perilous situa­tions or in the 'martyrdom of the humdrum,' the Cistercians are witness to the mystery that God is love.

Permission of Ian Dunn, Editor, SCO

Wednesday, 24 October 2007


The Abbot receives a lot of mail from varied sources. On his desk he found a Newsletter from an unknown shrine in France. It was from the "The World Centre of Prayer for the Souls of Purgatory", Our Lady of Montligeon. It was a reminder of the approaching Month of the Holy Souls.

Abbot Raymond, Tuesday Chapter evening Talk

Some people find the doctrine of Purgatory hard to understand, however, when properly understood there is nothing more obvious than the need for a "Purgatory".

When we die, we may be very sorry for our past sins, in which case they will certainly be forgiven.

But the problem is, not the sins that have to be forgiven, but the origin and source of those sins.

If our sins were merely a baggage that we had to dump in order to enter heaven, that would be no problem. But our sins of pride came from a spirit that was proud, and that spirit has to be humbled, and that will be painful.

Our unkindness and the pain we have caused others came from an unkind and uncharitable spirit and that spirit has to be broken, and that will be painful.

Our selfish behaviour came from a spirit that was inward looking and selfish and that selfishness has to be split open and that will be painful.

So when we come before God it is not so much a question of merely being forgiven but of being purified and changed.

It is not because we have sinned that we cannot enter Heaven but because, and in so far as, we are yet sinners that we need to be purified to enter there.

That is Purgatory.

God bless

Fr Raymond

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Will God not answer them?

Abbot Raymond, Sunday morning Chapter Talk

Will he not answer them? Will he delay?

Will he not answer them? Will he delay? These are the key phrases in today’s gospel teaching on prayer.

As so often, the Jerusalem Bible text differs from the great majority of other English translations, and, in this case, it differs also from the Latin. Six other translations, and the Latin, and therefore very likely the Greek, have the sense:

“Will God not answer them? Will he delay? No, indeed! He will certainly answer them! He will not delay!”

The J.B. on the other hand says not “He will not delay” but almost the opposite: “Even if he delays”. That is the more rational approach, because our experience tells us that he does seem to delay – and that delay can be for a very long time.

But I think that, though this is a rational interpretation, it is far from a theological one; as so often, Jesus is proposing one of his many hard, hard, sayings. The very point Jesus is proposing to our faith is that not only will God answer but that his answers are always speedy, dare we even say: instant. God doesn’t say: “Well, just give me a bit of time. Let me think about it first before I make finally make up my mind”.

The rational approach sees no visible tangible answer and therefore presumes that there has been no answer. But the theological and spiritual approach, the approach of faith, presumes a mystery here; it lives by mystery; it breathes mystery. It always presumes on the invisible realities of our relationship with God. It trusts in the inner, hidden answer, which never fails. It trusts in the answer of grace, an answer infinitely more real and powerful and fruitful than the answer that is tangible and passing.

Is that not why Jesus concludes this teaching with the sigh: “Can the Son of Man find any faith on this earth?

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Saint Luke, Evangelist. Feast 18 October

Saint Luke, Evangelist. Feast 18 October 2007

Criticism or Appreciation.

St. Luke is a writer’s writer, at least that is what I have come to think since doing the community Chronicle. Luke observed with an interest and love all the lives he came to know as physician, historian, author, painter and friend.
The noted archaeologist, Sir William Ramsey was greatly influenced by the famous liberal German historical schools in the mid-nineteenth century. Known for its scholarship, this school taught that the New Testament was not a historical document.
The canny Scot, Ramsey, investigated biblical claims the New Testament and specifically the Gospel of Luke. Then something amazing happened to him. He changed his conclusions completely. He wrote, "Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy, he is possessed of the true historic sense . . . in short, this author should be placed along with the greatest of historians".
It can take long years of study and fail to take the New Testament writers at their word.
Another name for ‘criticism’ is ‘appreciation’. There is negative criticism and there is positive criticism, appreciation. It may be that this appreciation, and intimacy with the taxt is particularly with among Church Fathers and Biblical Scholars who were familiar with the actual place, Palestine.
There are at least three ‘stand alone’, specialist, Catholic Biblical Universities, the Biblicum in Rome, the Pontifical Institute of the Jesuits in Jerusalem, and the Ecole Biblique of the Dominicans in Jerusalem. If it were not for the political situation in Israel, the Ecole Bibliqque would be the leading Catholic Biblical University. Among leading exegetes of the New Testament two Domincans stand out among those who had this special love of St. Luke, uniting academic dedication with affectionate regard for the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. Pere Louis Lagrange (1855-1938), founder of the Ecole Biblique, whose Cause for Beatification is going forward, is the author of a Commentary to St. Luke.
During my short months in the Holy Land, 2003-04, Pere Emile Boismard (1916-2004) was dying. One of the monks at Latroun Abbey made his doctoral thesis under Pere Boismard, whose magisterial work is in several volumes. Life in the Holy Land at the Dominican community of St. Stephen seems to have given these friars a sense of closeness and affection with their subject. The biographical note on Emile Boismard by Jerome Murphy-O’Connor is to be found on the Ecole Biblique Website. "It took five long years (1978-83) for Boismard and Lamouille to solve the textual problem of Acts. The fruit of their labours appeared in 1985 under a title which reflected the focus of their research, Le texte occidental des Actes des Apôtres. Reconstitution et réhabilitation. This massive two-volume work was remarkable in many respects, not least because the camera-ready copy was prepared by Boismard himself. He was the first member of the faculty, after Marcel Sigrist, to recognize the value of the computer and to exploit its potentialities".
I used to think that St. Luke’s ‘Chronicle’ of the ACTS of the Apostles, as a travelogue, that it was too simple. Having passed the Oxford and Cambridge Leaving Certificate, on that year’s choice of Scripture text, I had the great illusion that I had ‘done the Acts’.
Knowing a little better, I can now appreciate just how St. Luke, in his Gospel and in Acts,

is a master of the BLOG & COMMENT technique. From the start of his Gospel, his narrative promptly turns for comment on the Incarnation by no one less than the Mother of Jesus. His collectiion of COMMENT, on the Prodigal, the Good Samaritan, the Shrewd Steward are hotspots in the story. I wonder if he later found the two friends who met the Risen Lord at Emaus to record their every word.
Affection for the writings of Saint Luke surfaced in a special way in the spirit of the writer of the Reading of the Night Office this morning". Robert the Deacon wrote, "The whole burden of St. Luke’s teaching seems to be nothing other than a medicine for ailing souls". St. Luke addressed the Acts of the Apostles to Theophilus, the beloved of God. And that is a very apt way to speak of "us as well, whoever you may be, for if you love God the Gospel is written for you. And if it is written for you then accept the most precious pearl, a gift of the evangelist, THIS PLEDGE OF A FRIEND".
More than the plaudits of St. Luke’s teaching as a ‘masterpiece of sound and reliable historical accuracy, itself a a literary masterpiece of the highest order‘, Robert the Deacon’s descriptions of it as ‘Pledge of a friend’, just about sums up the impression one gets of Luke in all his guises as raconteur and ready friend.
"It seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that yu may know the truth. . ." (Luke 1:3-4).

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Christmas PAST 2002

2002 for the Record.
Christmas PAST

An old copy of an article on Nunraw's Christmas five years ago was handed in for our archives. The East Lothian Courier (www), December 20,2002

Meat on the menu and ‘Harry Potter’ for entertainment the monks of Nunraw prepare for Christmas

The festival of Christmas is upon us once again, but as we run around the crowded streets, desperately trying to buy multi-pack gift sets and enough food to last a lifetime, there is generally a nagging feeling that there is something perhaps forgotten.

So often the very reason for Christmas - a celebration of the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ is lost among the mountains of wrapping paper and glittering decorations, But there will be many who take time to reflect that Christmas means much more than trinkets and baubles. And none more so than the monks at the Sancta Maria Abbey, Nunraw, near Garvald.

Yet, although Christmas is naturally a special time of year for them, it changes remarkably little with regard to their routine of daily life. The community of Cistercian (Trappist) monks was established in 1946 and between 1952-69 they constructed the Abbey itself, with the help of volunteers from the village. An impressive yet simple structure, the building was designed by architect Peter Whiston RSA, who drew inspiration from many of the beautifully kept ruins of Cistercian monasteries which dot the British countryside.

"'When I first arrived here 50 years ago there was little more than. a hole in the ground," said Abbot Donald McGlynn. "I am actually reminded of it when I see the site of the Scottish Parliament. Whenever anyone comes to visit me in Edinburgh I take them to see it, telling them all about our history and how this is a symbol of our new democracy - but it's just a great big hole in the ground!"


The foundation stone of the Abbey was laid in 1954 by Archbishop Gray and over the following years it was shaped into the simple retreat it is today. The main part of the building, the cloisters, are a convenient quadrangle of passages- surrounding a garden, the cloister garth which connect the living. studying and worshipping areas. The chief purpose of the design is to join the monastery as a whole to the church, the 'heart of the community, but over the years they have come to be respected as places of silence for reflection and prayer.

The library is another important aspect in the life of the abbey. A monk, almost from his first days in the monastery, is put "in touch with the Bible, liturgical books. monastic writings. theology and philosophy, and the library has accumulated an astonishing range of literature.

The monks always welcome new people into their order, but anyone thinking of joining should perhaps be told a little of what their lives entail. The Abbot is the leader and the teacher of the community. His burden is to lead his brethren in living out as fully as possible the ideal of the Christian community.

The chief ·activity of the monastic day is the celebration of Mass and its extension, the Divine Office. Cistercians have always treasured the hours before dawn for communal and private prayer, and the community rises 15 minutes before starting Vigils in the Church at 3.30am. After Vigils there is a half-hour's private prayer, leading into the community Mass which starts at 4.40am. After breakfast there is another interval for private prayer or study closing with the dawn office of Lauds.

Working day

At the end of Lauds comes the start of the ‘working day’, which entails the normal house-keeping chores - the running of the farm, the guesthouse and the shop by which the community earns its keep. The rest of the Divine Office accompanies these labours - three prayer sessions ending with the Compline which begins the Great Silence, strictly kept until Lauds the following day. The monks do not take a vow of silence but during the day they are well minded by the advice of St Benedict: 'The wise man is known by the fewness of his words'. Then at 8pm they are off to bed.

Reporter Gareth Edwards left the festive rush and push behind to take stock and contemplate the true meaning of Christmas in the company of the monks at the Sancta Maria Abbey. Here he describes how they plan to spend Christmas with Fr. Randolph in charge of cooking lunch, and the possibility of a special treat, a video movie, to roung off the working day

With so much to occupy them during every day of the year it is small wonder that little changes at Christmas.

"Our days are all so special anyway that to add anything more to them would be almost impossible," said Fr McGlynn. "Over Christmas we might start the day a little later than normal. On Christmas Eve we hold a midnight Mass, and a few of us usually attend the celebrations in the Village Kirk. There is normally a nativity service with the children of the village, and after that we have a procession through the village led by a brass band."


Of the 17 monks at the Abbey, those who do not attend the village celebrations are understandably, sleeping. On Christmas morning, after their usual morning prayers and worship, it is the job of Father Hugh Randolph to prepare the Christmas lunch, while the other monks attend to the daily tasks. Father Randolph is also the head tailor, making all the traditional robes for the monks, which remind them of their consecration to God and help them to maintain a close community spirit.

And he has no problem about being stuck in the kitchen, as it is sure to be one of the warmer places in the monastery.

"It is quite cold in parts of the monastery." he said. "The church is very warm, as is the library, because we can only afford to heat certain parts of the building.- When we built the place 50 years ago we had oil burning heaters installed as that was the cheapest way of heating it at the time. Of course because of the Gulf War, and other things; gas is a lot cheaper, but· we cannot really get it out here.”

The Library-at Nunraw Abbey is one of the most important parts of the building, with monks such as Father Hugh Randolph able to access a wide range of literature on theology, monastic writings and philosophy.

Although the monks maintain a large herd of cattle, providing a substantial source of income when the beasts are sold to market, beef rarely features in their diet.

"It is quite a treat as we are normally vegetarian and it is only on very special days that we eat meat," said Abbot McGlynn. "The cows are raised and cared for from birth to slaughter and we pass them on to the butchers for money. It is a natural organic beef as there are no chemicals or pesticides used. We do not eat them ourselves however, and ill fact a lot of the food we eat at Christmas is given to us as a gift, or purchased from a wholesale grocers."


The vegetarian diet, maintained throughout the year except on special community occasions or for any sick members of the order, is part of the teachings of the Cistercian monks and is rooted in their history.

Monks first emerged as a special type of Christian in Egypt and Syria towards the end of the third century. One stream of monasticism later flowed into the Celtic tradition and is associated chiefly with such famous monks as Brendan, Columbanus and Columba of Iona.

Another flowed into Italy and it was here that St Benedict wrote his Rule for Monks which in time supplanted all other rules in the West. St Benedict saw monks’ daily-life as a prudent balance between prayer, work and prayerful reading, with the community to be a school of charity.

In 1908 a group of Benedictine 'reformers' founded the monastery of Citeaux. After a difficult beginning the austere life of Citeaux flourished, particularly after the entry of St Bernard in 1113. He became the most celebrated monk of the 12th century and his many writings have an enduring value.

The golden period of the first centuries suffered decline as wars, the Black Death, the reformation and the French Revolution all took their toll. The monastery of La Trappe, however, maintained the strict observance and eventually gave rise to the Trappist Congregations, which in 1892 were united in the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, or Trappists.

The Cisterclans first came to Scotland in 1136, founding an abbey at Melrose. They subsequently set up another ten abbeys and nine convents of nuns, the largest of which was at Haddington. In 1560 the monastic life in Scotland was suppressed. It was re-established in Ireland at Mount Melleray in 1832. From there Roscrea Abbey was founded in 1878 and it, in its turn, sent a colony of monks to found Nunraw in 1946.

The guest lodge run by the monks is also part of the Benedictine tradition. St Benedict said: "Let all guests be received like Christ himself, for He will say: 'I was a stranger and you took me in”. Over Christmas it is generally very quiet. with most people spending time with their families, The busiest part of the season at the Lodge is the annual party held for residents of·the village.

"The whole of the village helps organise the party and come along to enjoy themselves," said Father Randolph. "It started off as something for the OAPs. who still get in free. Everyone else is asked for just a small amount and we had a lot of youngsters and a."lot of new faces to the village this year. It is a very good community effort and it helps us keep up a good relationship with the village."

In contrast to Christmas, however, New Year is one of the busiest times of the year for the Lodge, with more than 40 people staying there and many more asking for rooms. The Millennium New Year was booked out almost a year in advance, although whether that had anything to do with end-of-the-world paranoia is not known.

Quiet carols

"People come here at New Year to find a bit of peace and quiet, to get away from it all," said Fr McGlynn. "The city offers the biggest party in Europe, I think and it is such a binge of excess. What we offer is, in effect the complete opposite, with some quiet carol singing at a midnight Mass. I think more and more people are looking for an alternative to partying at New Year and certainly we are always busy."

The -amazing views offered from the hillside Abbey certainly provide peace and tranquillity in abundance, and the annual fireworks display in Edinburgh can be seen if it is a clear night.

Father Raymond Jaconelli admires the nativity scene at the entrance to the guest lodge at the Sancta Abbey, Nunraw. While the lodge is normally quiet during Christmas it is full almost every New Year, as an alternative to the endless parties.

Whine the monks have given up: most of the needless trappings of everyday modern life, they are not completely isolated from life. They have a website,, through which they receive queries about their life from around the world. There have even been requests for a webcam allowing people to join in their services, although Fr McGlynn thinks this might be a step too far,

This year, after saying a prayer of thanks for the bountiful feast prepared by Father Randolph, the monks will have free time to do what they wish. Father McGlynn is thinking about a video.

"We might watch a movie in the evening this year, but we are so far behind in these things”, he said. “I was going through the airport recently and they had all these videos and DVDs. I saw two, 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone' and 'The Lord of the Rings", so I bought them and we might watch one. It will certainly make a nice change. I heard about all these people who denounced both of the films for promoting black magi, but I think myths and legends have an important place in society, so I don't have a problem with them”.

Even Abbot Donald McGlynn leader of the community of Cistercian monks at the Sancta Maria Abbey Nunraw, has to get his hands dirty helping out with the variety of jobs which fill up their daily lives including looking after the farm.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Retreat Sunday 14 Oct 2007

Retreat Sunday 14 Oct 2007
On the second Sunday of the month we observe a Day of Retreat.
This includes Exposition and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the afternoon.

A quiet walk along the barley stubble beside the enclosure tree shelter belt and against the Lammermuir background conveys the completion of the harvest season.
Thanksgiving in the Liturgy and in the Sunday Mass Homilies focussed on the Leper who came back to give thanks.
With the Samaritan we celebrated the Eucharist in gratitude for all the gifts of God.
"Father, all powerful and living God, we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks through Jesus Christ our Lord"

Abbot Raymond - Morning Chapter Talk


ST Paul tells us to “Remember the Good News” that he brought to us. This, ‘Remembering’ of the Good News is a very apt phrase to use to describe a good Christian Soul. It was used of Mary herself – “She kept all these things and pondered them in her heart."

But just what is this “Good News” that we are to remember? What is it that we are to ponder in our hearts? St Paul goes on to tell us it is “Jesus Christ, risen from the dead and sprung from the race of David”. It is all the mysteries of the birth and life, passion and death of our Saviour. These are things that should never be far from our minds and hearts. Otherwise we can be compared to the nine ungrateful lepers who never returned to give thanks. “Where are they – the other nine?” Jesus asked. Unless we keep these things regularly in our hearts we grow cold in our appreciation of them and in our gratitude for them.

The mysteries of the birth, life and death of Christ are to our souls like the air and the sunshine and the rain are to our bodies. Our soul lives and breathes in their atmosphere; It is warmed by their sunlight, it is nourished by the moisture of their rain.

For the monk it is principally by living the daily liturgical life of the Church through the Divine Office and the Mass that he is kept in constant touch with the mysteries of Christ. Their memory is always fresh to him. The lay-person is, in his own measure, kept in memory of these same mysteries by his Sunday Mass and by such devotions as the Rosary.

In such ways, the true Christian, whether priest, religious or lay, always has something of the joy of Christmas in his life; he always has something of the triumph of Easter; he always has something of sorrow and courage of Christ’s Passion to see him through life. Let us always then “Remember the Good News”. Let us always keep it and ponder it in our hearts like our Blessed Lady herself.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Footprints of the Northern Saints

Footprints of the Northern Saints

En route to the North we made the short diversion to visit Holy Island, Lindisfarne.
Returning by the Great North Road, the A1, after our visit to from Mt. St. Bernard Abbey, we paid our respects to St. Aidan and St. Cuthbert the great Saints of Holy Island, Lindisfarne.

It was a first time experience for our Brothers from Africa, Dom Charles and Br. Celestine whose has experience has been of the Young Churches. For them it was as much a time-voyage as of visiting a holy place. The dates alone impressed them; Cuthbert was born in North Northumbria in about the year 635 - the same year in which Aidan founded the monastery on Lindisfarne.

The doors were open to the Catholic Church of St. Aidan. To the rear the SVDP Summer Camp for the children was closed for the winter. That gave no warning as to the large numbers on the island, a crowded car park before walking to the village, buses and cars for the disabled nearer the centre.

Coming to the Priory, the famous statue of St. Aidan looking out to sea. He carries the torch of faith.

English Heritage has care of Lindisfarne Priory. Entrance begins with the Museum presentation of the detailed history. Its bookshop is well stocked. I had been searching for Bede’s life of St. Cuthbert. On the shelves I found a Penguin Classic, “The Age of Bede”, and only on a closer look I found it contained the Life of Cuthbert.

The island is extremely well provided with other heritage and religious centres. Admission to the ruins is for a fee but access to the Church Yard and the Anglican Church is free. The Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin is reputed to stand on the site of the original monastery founded by Aidan.
I was attracted by the reredos
behind the altar showing Icons of the ‘northern saints’, Aidan, Cuthbert, Oswald, Columcille, Wilfred, . . . eight of them I think although I could not get close enough to see the names, nor could I get a postcard of that attractive reredos. Can anyone give me the 3 missing names?

The thought reminded me of the book, “Footprints of the Northern Saints”, by Basil Hume, and I was fortunate enough to get a copy of that book at the Lindisfarne Electronic Bookshop. Cardinal Hume was the anchor man in the Channel 4 series entitled “Return of the Saints”.

This was at the Lindisfarne Heritage Centre which also has 4 interactive exhibits the main one being the Lindisfarne Gospels in electronic interactive turning-pages form.

This was the eve of St. Francis of Assisi so there was morning healing service. In the evening there was to be Vespers of the Transitus. As the lady in charge of the United Reformed Church, the St Cuthbert's Centre said, “We are awash with prayer”.

In more ways than one Holy Island, Melrose and Nunraw are linked. Historically Aidan and Cuthbert stared their training in Melrose, centuries later to become a Cistercian monastery. The distances separating the three location is roughly the same thus forming a equilateral triangle.

The associations are many in this summary.

Born in 635, Cuthbert’s life as a shepherd in the hills around Melrose was uneventful until the age of 16. Bede in his Life And Miracles of St Cuthbert, Bishop of Lindisfarne describes an amazing vision that came to him while he was out with his sheep:

“On a sudden he saw a long stream of light break through the darkness of the night, and in the midst of it a compaAlign Centreny of the heavenly host descended to the earth, and having received among them a spirit of surpassing brightness, returned without delay to their heavenly home.”

Holy Island, is a tidal island off the north-east coast of England, which is connected to the mainland of Northumberland by a causeway and is cut off twice a day by tides — something well described by Sir Walter Scott:

For with the flow and ebb, its style
Varies from continent to isle;
Dry shood o'er sands, twice every day,
The pilgrims to the shrine find way;
Twice every day the waves efface
Of staves and sandelled feet the trace.

EDIT Posrscipt 19 Jan 2008.
In the post of 4 Oct 2007 I asked, i
f anyone could give me the 3 missing names in the Reredos Panel of St. Mary the Virgin. Holy Island?
Happily, Sr. M.C., has been so good to supply the information and the picture. She writes,
"I noticed that you were asking if anyone could give you the names of the Saints depicted on the reredos in the church of Si Mary the Virgin, and I also noted that you were unable to get a postcard. Please find enclosed a copy of a photograph of the reredos, plus a diagram to identify the Saints thereon, and I hope this will be of help.
As I am under the patronage of Si Cuthbert and have made many visits to the island, and indeed go every year for a retreat, I could not let your plea for help go unanswered."
Thank you, Sister. for your help and for the photograph which I am pleased to add.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Visiting Mount Saint Bernard Abbey

Visiting Mount Saint Bernard Abbey.
28 Sept – 3 Oct 2007

We were most grateful for the kind hospitality extended to us by Abbot Joseph and the community.

Fr. Nivard, Br. Celestine and myself as driver, did the round trip, 600 miles, to Mt St Bernard Abbey, Leicester.
On the return journey the Abbot-elect of Bamenda, Dom Charles, accompanied us for his first visit to Nunraw. En route to the North we made the short diversion to
visit Holy Island, Lindisfarne.

Fr. Nivard, at present at Nunraw, was making his ‘ad limina’, as it were, visit to his Mother House. He entered MSB in 1952 and in 1964 was sent on the Foundation in Bamenda, Cameroon, where he made his Stability.

Br. Celestine, from Nigeria, is a member of the community at Nunraw. He has commenced the Distance Learning Course on Theology at the Maryvale Institute, Birmingham. He attended a weekend session at the Institute and then came to join us at Mt St Bernard to meet his compatriot Br. Laurence, recently Ordained Deacon, who also did the Maryvale Course of Theology.

So I also had the blessing of a relaxed four days the Abbey.
A Break - Luxury of Lectio
In the extensive Library I found the Lectio Divina just right for the occasion. Following on the recently published, “Mother Teresa – Come Be My Light”, the
seven-page review in Time Magazine and the article of Fr. Cantalamessa of the Papal Household, entitled, “The Atheism of Mother Teresa”, I had time for a follow up and dipped into Urs vonBalthaser on the inner darkness of the saints and the mystery of the Cross. Mother Teresa did not have vonBalthaser’s mastery of the words to express the “dark night” and the cry of her heart, “Come be my light”. Writing of that burning point of the place where God and humans meet and cross he speaks of the experience of the soul, “It is always the point of being in fundamental agreement with the embodiment of all God's will and therefore a place of death (of the death of Jesus naturally: 2 Cor 4:10), whether this death
is now expressed as "dark night" (John of the Cross),
as "dying to be able not to die" (Teres a of Avila) ,
as readiness to let oneself be shared in any way (the Little Flower),
as love without reason (Eckhart), or in various other ways.
Certainly an elementary love of neighbour will always grow from this attitude, but
the important thing is that it does not set the standards for itself, that the fruitfulness of the life given to God for the world and for humanity is, in the end, controlled by God alone”. (The vonBalthaser Reader, p. 165).

Heraldry at Mt. St. Bernard

Someone with an interest in heraldry asked me for Cistercian Heraldic Coats of Arms. To photograph the various shields at the abbey is to discover the history of Mt. St. Bernard.

In the central boss of the Church are the three heraldic shields marking the dedication. For me it would have been difficult to get a good picture. Fortunately Br. Martin had a brilliant picture of the boss of the three heraldic shields which is at the meeting point of the arches above the hanging tabernacle, above high altar; quite a unique feature. This seems to be the only decoration inside the simple pure Cistercian lines of the Church, i.e., apart from the lovely Rose Window of Mary in the Lady Transept. The Missa de Beata, Mass of Our Lady, is celebrated every day in the Lady Transept in the uninterrupted tradition of the Brothers.

I joke with our Church of Scotland friends that Cistercian architecture follows the Presbyterian style in stark austerity. In the typical C of S Church of the Canongate in Edinburgh there are no stained glass windows. The only exception was a Crucifixion scene by Scottish artist Douglas Strachan which was donated it to Nunraw by Rev Selby-Wright who had it in the Canongate Manse.

The Boss above the altar contains the three Coats of Arms, that of Pius XI, the reigning Pope at the completion of the Church, the Shield of Citeaux, and that of Mt. St. Bernard/Abbot Malachy.

In the shop I discovered the stained glass window of the Mt. St. Bernard Abbey Coat of Arms and Motto, Fides et Constans, and over the entrance, the window with the Coat of Arms of Abbot Malachy Brasil. After retiring in 1959 Dom Malachy came to Nunraw and is buried in the cemetery of the present Guesthouse, (see his Obituary at Nunraw website).

The shop at MSB is very busy, except on Sundays when it is closed. There is a large book selection, including the complete stock of Cistercian Publications. I missed the opportunity to check for newer volumes for Nunraw. Fr. Mark explained that there are plans for an extension of the shop space by utilizing the present structure to form a split-level upper floor, suggesting the mezzanine coffee bar popular in some bookshops. Br. Gabriel is one of the oldest monks and still serves at the shop till.

Browsing the shelves, I asked for a favourite holy card from the MSB printed cards. There was consternation. Everyone was sure it was available but where to find it was the question. Fr. Bede, now Abbot in Calvaire, Canada, did the printing for a number of years. Now it was Br. Thomas who knew where to put his hand on the text of Cardinal Newman and kindly gave me a fistful of them,

God has created me to do him some definite service; He has committed some work to me

which He has not committed to another. I have my mission - I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.

A number of heraldic Coats of Arms are on display in Guesthouse refectory. All are related to the main Cistercian lineage. In the mantle piece of the front lounge there is another series of the shields of the main patrons of the abbey. In the centre of the Chapter House, doubling as Library, there is a small heraldic shield of Abbot Bartholomew. The octagonal Chapter House was erected in his time. He was one of four brothers in the community and was Abbot 1862-90. During his time the noted heraldic artist, Br. Anselm Baker was well known. It would have been interesting to see some of his work in the archives. Unfortunately the archivist was unwell during our visit. Most directly in view, however, are the 20 Coats of Arms on the lead rain water-heads along the outside eves of the Church. These 20 Cistercian Abbeys of England include some of the most important foundations of the Order in medieval England.

Autumn in Charnwood Forest

On a beautiful autumn day the view of the Abbey from the orchard and vegetable garden spoke of peace and timelessness. The trees were laden with large rosy apples. On the ground nearby were the remaining rows of large onions.

Access to the farm was obstructed by newly laid areas of concrete. Once inside, evidence of intensive dairying and all that goes with it filled every nook and cranny. Some of the younger monks are fully occupied on the farm. Plentiful calves and filled straw barns and silage clamps are ready for the winter.

Fr. Nivard was contemporary with a number of the senior monks. In his time he learned the art of pottery making. Together we met up with Fr. Luke in the book bindery. Fr. Luke, now in his 80s, was the founding Superior of Bamenda before coming back to the Mother House. The oldest monk is a Scot, Fr. Peter. He also served some years in Bamenda and trained five of the young Cameroonians for the priesthood.

Monos Workshop - making coracles

My visit to Mt. St. Bernard Abbey happened to coincide with the interesting Workshop on Coracle Making. This is a project of “Monos; A Centre for the study of monastic culture and spirituality”.

On the grassy court between the west door of the Church and the Guesthouse a canopy, opening to the windows of the reception lounge, had been erected. The participants constructing several coracles were busy at it when I met the co-ordinator, Anthony Grimley, whose Website, Monos, gives some idea of the inspiration of this lay organization that is concerned with the current engagement between monastic culture and spirituality and contemporary society.

A series of such Workshops has already taken place, (Desert Spirituality & Basket Making, Celtic Spirituality & Celtic Cross Making, Landscape of the Heart – Monastic Spirituality and the Human Condition), and will be followed by forthcoming Workshops on, e.g., Spirituality of Work, Icons of a New/Secular Monasticism. (For details Google MONOS).

WORKSHOP at MSB – September 28th-30th 2007. Coracle Making - Pilgrimage, as a Metaphor for Christian Living at Mount Saint Bernard Abbey, Leicester. Includes building your own full size Coracle. Cost: £190 (full board including coracle material).

A Coracle is a form of ancient boat that has been used by a variety of cultures over centuries for fishing and transportation. During the early medieval period Irish monks used a form of coracle, or its Irish equivalent curragh, to travel on the ocean in search of a ‘desert place' or ‘hermitage' in which to commune with God. Some of the monks found their way onto the continent and established monastic houses of prayer, focusing their attention on God whilst serving the local population.

‘Dear God be good to me the sea is so wide and my boat so small'. (Breton fisherman prayer).

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Feast of St Francis

Visitors from Bamenda.
Fr. Nivard, Abbot Raymond, Dom Charles, Abbot Elect of Bamenda.
Fr. Nivard has been 43 years in the monastery of Bamenda, Cameroon. At present he is working on the liturgical books for the communities of Nunraw, Bamenda and Nsugbe.
Dom Charles has been five years in Rome acting as a member of the Councillors of the Abbot General. He will receive the Abbatial Blessing in Bamenda on the 12th December.

Fwd from Abbot Raymond:
A Snippet for the feast of St Francis and his "Lady Poverty"


One of the laws of Physics which, like the law of Gravity itself, holds the world together, is the law which states that: To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

For example the harder you strike the table with your fist, the harder the table strikes your fist.

We might apply this analogy to Poverty on this feast of St Francis:

The Word of God struck the world, impinged on the world, with a great blow of Poverty, emptying himself of his glory and taking on himself the form of a servant.

The effect of that almighty blow on the human race is incalculable in the way it has shaped and formed our relationship with him.

Just imagine what a different idea we would have of Jesus if he had come as one born in a gilded palace with vast legions of servants to wait on his every need and unlimited riches at his disposal and the power of great armies at his command!

But no! It is his littleness and poverty that give us such intimate access to him and mould and shape our relationship with him.

So, just as this great force of his coming in poverty and littleness to us has such an effect on us, we can dare to hope that approaching him likewise in a spirit of littleness and poverty will have, in some way, an “equal and opposite effect” on him, drawing him irresistibly to us.