Sunday, 30 December 2007


From Abbot Raymond
Dear Associates.

I am off to Africa on 1st Jan. to inspect our Monastery of Our Lady of the Angels in Nigeria.
I will be away for two weeks.
Please pray that it may be a safe and spiritually profitable trip.

Meanwhile here are some thoughts on today's feast of THE HOLY FAMILY.

When the Son of God entered this world there was a great flurry of activity in heaven and on earth. Angelic messengers were sent scurrying here and there: to Mary, to Joseph, to the Shepherds, to the Magi, and Hosts of Angels sang in the sky. The infancy stories are a patchwork of beautiful and intriguing and very memorable events. But then, apart from the loss and finding in the temple when Jesus was twelve years old, there is complete silence for another thirty years. We know that Jesus began his public ministry only when he was about thirty years of age.

What then are we to make of those thirty long silent years. By any standards thirty years is a long time in anyone’s life. They must have some import, some deep meaning for us. When we think about it, it is not so hard to understand, and it is very comforting to the very least of us. Jesus came to show us what life is all about and how to live it. So he is surely saying to us by his hidden life that the meaning and purpose of life is not to be found in doing great things. It is to be found in the simple round of ordinary everyday life. It is to be found in the way we cope with our daily duties, no matter how small and unimportant they seem to be . It is to be found in our daily dealings with those around us. It is to be found in the beauty and harmony of our relationships with those who share our lives. Love is its own standard of greatness. It is not measured by external accomplishments, no matter how great.

Let us examine ourselves then regarding our attitude to life. Are we content with our little lot, do we find peace and personal fulfilment in it? Or do we hanker for bigger and better things. If so we are surely missing out on life. Just as the greatest things in life are free. So, the littlest things in life are the most satisfying and fulfilling , when properly understood, in the light of the thirty years of hidden life of Christ.


Friday, 28 December 2007

Two Christmases – Response.

The Two Christmases – Response.

Our friend David has kindly agreed to let me include his response to Abbot Raymond’s Christmas Day Mass Homily.

The picture, a family heirloom of the Abbot, most aptly illustrates the theme, “the Angel left her”.


Letter from David:

Dear Fr. Raymond,

I found your homily on Christmas day, which you have copied here in part, most moving. I have long meditated on the annunciation. If I say the odd decade of the rosary, this is the one I tend to favour. The conception of Jesus is the most powerful of all mysteries. How can we comprehend it? Yet we are an intimate part of this mystery…. The most intimate part. Mary, our mother, was, in one sense, “but” an instrument of God’s love for us all. We look to her as our mother, and yet she is “only” our mother because God the Father loves us all as his children. He created the whole world and mankind, not “just” Mary. He made us in his own image and likeness! We tend to think of her as special and the rest of humanity as “nothing”. This is wrong. Mary is special, but so are all of us. She is special precisely because and only because we are all special.

We all yearn for love, perhaps (probably) selfishly. Yet here we have the proof that God loves each one of us in the same way, yet infinitely, that we all yearn to love, and be loved. In her “fiat”, Mary showed her love not only of God but of all mankind, selflessly. She knew what her assent to the Divine will meant. She was steeped in the scriptures. We tend not to understand just how much this understanding of scriptures shaped her whole realisation of who she was. It was the basis of her totally sublime love of God. We must not forget that Adam was immaculately conceived in the same way as Mary was. Mary still had free will, as Adam did. But Mary chose not to eat the forbidden fruit. Instead, she handed herself over totally to the will of god. At every moment in Mary’s life she chose the best path. This was not just a “spur of the moment” thing at the time of annunciation, as our lives tend to be. There was not a single moment where she faltered. How wonderful is this?

It was because she understood and loved so completely and so steadfastly that she could become the mother of Jesus and be the guiding hand in her son’s upbringing. Where we try imperfectly to assent to that love in faith, after her loving assent to the will of God, she “knew” because she had conceived of the Holy Spirit and not of man. But this conviction only followed the conception, the “proof”. And she rushed off to Elizabeth to have this proof confirmed.

Mary’s total conviction must have been an influence in the childhood upbringing of Jesus. He knew who he was because Mary knew who he was. How could she not, from the earliest age, have told him of this mystery and talked to him about what it meant and what it would mean to him and to her. Joseph was also convinced of who this child was, or he would have divorced Mary. We know this from the Gospels. This conviction of Mary’s is more than faith. It is an incredible mystery. How could Jesus, the man, remain steadfast in this conviction? Think of his temptations. The devil, who is far from stupid, thought he could shake his belief in himself or he would not have bothered tempting him. His mother is the root of his faith in himself. We might tend to think that such an idea is heresy, since he is Divine. But he could not rely on his divinity. He is equally human and thinks and works as we do. His mother and Joseph are the ones that cement his conviction of who he is. His own life of prayer and self-denial confirms this conviction and brings his divinity to bear on that conviction. As a man he has to believe in himself until the moment of his death. It is both at the last supper, where he asserts his faith, and definitively in his resurrection that he confirms this faith in himself.

For me, the most telling moment is when he cries out on the cross “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”. At that point he is truly human. He is dying as a man for all men. This is what he believed. Thus he came into the world. And thus, as a babe, in the arms of his mother, he learned who he was. Blasphemy again, but there is a very real sense in which Jesus is no more divine than we are. He is left hanging on the cross shouting at his Father for having abandoned him, only his faith left. He did not have Mary’s conviction at that point, only his own powerful faith, nurtured by Mary, in his father and in his own mission. There is great comfort in this thought. We must believe in our own mission and in our own resurrection, as Jesus did.

You said in your homily that “the angel left her” before the moment of her conception. What a moment that was. Mary alone in the Divine presence. The point you were making, I felt, that genuinely brought tears to my eyes, was that we can all share this moment. At any time in our lives we can share it, whenever and wherever we want. We only have to say with Mary the prayer “fiat”. That “fiat” brings Jesus into our soul and heart just as it brought Jesus into the womb of Mary. Thus, we can share in her conviction that her son is the son of God, and the belief that our lives and our death can bring Jesus into the world and our own poor souls to heaven. This experience, this “fiat” can lead to more than faith, it can lead to sharing in the conviction of Mary, just as Jesus did.

God bless, and thank you.


Christmas blessings to all our associates


Fr Raymond and the Community

Tuesday, 25 December 2007


Abbot Raymond at Christmas Day Mass


If we think of Christmas as the celebration of the Incarnation; the celebration of the Word of God becoming Flesh, then it is right and fitting that the event should be celebrated publicly by the whole world. It should be proclaimed aloud on the housetops for everyone to hear; for everyone to learn about and rejoice in.

But it is also right and fitting that there should be another celebration; a secret and hidden one. One that would acknowledge quietly the ineffable wonder of this Great Mystery; a wonder too great for words; a wonder to great f or any kind of adequate celebration; too great even for God’s angels to appreciate. And in fact there is such a celebration. And this celebration is found not only in the liturgy of the Church but in the liturgy of the living events of salvation history and even in the liturgy of heaven itself.

This other and hidden celebration of the Incarnation is what I would like to call, the “Other Christmas.” Note that I don’t call it the “Second Christmas” because, in fact, it was the first of the two. It was, in fact, that most precious moment when the Most Blessed Virgin Mother conceived the Word of God in her sacred womb. This moment was the very highest point in human history. No matter what happened after that, nothing could ever equal the sublimity of it. It was the very moment when Heaven touched the earth; when the Creator bestowed his most loving kiss upon us his creatures. So let’s compare these two very different celebrations of the Incarnation.

At the first, the annunciation, it was most intimate and private and secret. Not only was no one else in the world present, but not even the angel Gabriel was present for this most sacred of moments. We read that the angel Gabriel announced: “Behold you will conceive and bear a Son” and then to assure the frightened little Maid he says: “For nothing will be impossible to God” then comes that most significant phrase, “and the angel left her”. Yes not even the greatest of the angels was worthy to be present at the moment of that conception. It was the most intimate and sacred, one to one event of all human history. How fittingly it is said then that “The angel left her”.

The second celebration, the Bethlehem Scene, is open to all the world and to heaven itself. There are myriads of angels in the skies above singing “glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to men of goodwill” and the representatives of all peoples, the shepherds, the magi, are there. Then the whole of Christian society down the centuries openly proclaims and exults and rejoices in Mary’s bringing forth of the Divine Babe.

This is all most fitting, of course, but, as we join with the whole world and with the angels of heaven themselves in the joy of our public celebrations on this Christmas of the year 2007 let us remember also that most silent and intimate moment of the incarnation when only two were there: God and Mary. And let us beg her that she may share something of the sublimity of that moment with us her children.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Mary and Joseph

Mary and Joseph...
Some thoughts on Joseph's role in the Christmas Saga.

A Blessed Christmas
Fr Raymond

Joseph’s role in the Christmas Saga is much more than providing a smokescreen for the virgin birth. His presence on the scene certainly meant that, to all intents and purposes he was the father of the child and so there was no scandal and Mary didn’t have to run the gauntlet of shame as an unmarried mother. To the shepherds, to the Magi, to all the neighbouring countryside she was a married woman and there was nothing scandalous about her childbearing. However, I would like to think that there is a much deeper significance to Joseph’s role in the story than that.
This significance is hinted at in that primordial word of God spoken about the human race when he first created it: “It is not good for Man to be alone” This saying is equally valid in the form “It is not good for Woman to be alone”.
From this dawn of the creation of our race, at every great juncture in the history of salvation, man and woman have appeared side by side.
We read from the very first “So God created Mankind in his own image, male and female he created them”. Then when they fell, it was together they fell, both equally implicated in their fall. Then at the flood it was not just Noah who was saved, but Noah and his wife. And so on down the centuries of the Patriarchs; the stories are not about the Patriarchs themselves but about the Patriarchs and their wives; not about Abraham and Isaac and Jacob but about Abraham and Sara, about Isaac and Rebecca, about Jacob and Rachel. And how very significant the role of each of the Matriarchs is in salvation history! This pattern arches over and undergirds the whole of salvation history right down to the coming of the Angel Gabriel to announce the conception of the Saviour. The Angel Gabriel is sent, not “to a Virgin whose name was Mary” but “to a virgin betrothed to a man”. Moreover we are even told the man’s name, Joseph, before we are told that the Virgin’s name was Mary. As much as to say that it is more important for us to realise her bond with Joseph than to know her personal name. It is as the representative of the whole human race that she stands before Gabriel. It is not to her as the solitary Virgin Mary that he is sent, but to her as the primordial “Woman” of prophecy.
Then when the Christ, the New Adam, does arrive, and when he finally sets about the work of our redemption, Mary, the New Eve, is always at his side. She is there not only during the scenes of the infancy, but right to the last, to the top of Calvary’s hill . She stands at the foot of the Cross. Here again we restore the original form of our opening quotation: “It is not good for man…..” not even this man, or rather, especially for this man, and especially at this climactic point in mankind’s history, “it is not good for this man to be alone.” “….at the foot of the cross stood Mary his Mother”.
And after Our Lord's glorious Ascension into Heaven, he, the New Adam, reached back down to earth and caught his Mother, the New Eve, by the hand and lifted her bodily into the "New Paradise".
It is not good for Man, or Woman, to be alone.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Striking Gold in Ambrose

Striking Gold on a Vanishing Reading from Ambrose of Milan.
The ‘pale moon was rising’ on the 20th December when I took this snap of the Child Jesus head high over Mary in the Hew Lorimer sculpture of Our Lady of the Isles. The figure in the picture was the preliminary "maquet" made by the artist for the granite statue on South Uist.
In this model the Child Jesus places his left hand on top Mary’s head with great assurance, and looks out to the world with his right hand in the sign of blessing. One could accompany a video of the subject with the Great O Antiphons expressing the titles of the Saviour in the last seven days preparing for Christmas. O come, O come, Emmanuel, (John M Neal).
In that context the Reading at the Night Office was ringing bells for me this morning, 21st December. It so happens that this wonderful Reading does not appear in the more recent Edition of Word in Season. Not to worry, the same Reading is part of the ‘Breviary’ for today. (Note: ‘Word in Season’ 1981 Edition. New edition 2001).
During Advent we think of the two persons most directly involved in the history of our salvation: Saint John the Baptist and our Lady. Ambrose shows how God prepared each of them for their vocation, and then applies Elizabeth's words to each individual believer. The commentary from which this passage is taken is made up of homilies given between 377 and 389.

Saint Ambrose writes:

When announcing the mystery to the Virgin Mary, the angel helped her to believe by giving her a precedent. He told her of the motherhood of a woman who was old and barren, for this demonstrated God's power to do whatever he wills. At this news Mary set out for the hill country, not because she doubted the angel's word, felt uncertain of the message, or questioned the precedent, but because of her own eager desire.
She was anxious to be of service and joy impelled her to make haste. Filled with God, where could she hasten but to the heights? The Holy Spirit does not proceed by slow, laborious efforts. Quickly, too, the blessings of her coming and of the Lord's presence were revealed: As soon as Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting the child leapt in her womb and she was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Notice the choice of words and the meaning of each one. Elizabeth was the first to hear Mary's voice, but John was the first to be aware of grace. She heard with the ears of the body; he leapt for joy because of the mystery. She was aware of Mary's presence, he of the Lord's. The woman perceived the presence of a woman, the child that of a child. The women spoke of God's grace while the children gave effect to it within them, revealing to their mothers the mystery of love, and by a double miracle the mothers prophesied under the inspiration of their sons.
The child leapt in the womb; the mother was filled with the Holy Spirit. The mother was not filled before her son, but once he had been filled with the Holy Spirit, he filled his mother too. John leapt for joy and so did the spirit of Mary. When John leapt Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, but we do not learn that Mary was then filled with the Holy Spirit, only that her spirit rejoiced.
Her son, who is beyond our understanding, was active in his mother in a way beyond our understanding. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit after conceiving a son; Mary was filled before. You are blessed, said Elizabeth; because you have believed. You too are blessed because you have heard and believed.
The soul of every believer conceives and brings forth the Word of God and recognizes his works. Let Mary's soul be in each of you to glorify the Lord. Let her spirit be in each of you to rejoice in the Lord. Christ has only one mother in the flesh, but we all bring forth Christ by faith. Every soul free from the contamination of sin and inviolate in its purity can receive the Word of God. The soul that attains this goal glorifies the Lord just as Mary's soul did, while her spirit rejoiced in God her Saviour. The Lord is glorified, as we read also in another text, Glorify the Lord with me, not because the human voice can add anything to the Lord, but because the Lord grows and is glorified within us. Since Christ is the image of God, the soul that does what is right and holy makes brighter that image of God in whose likeness it was made, and in so doing is exalted by a certain participation in its grandeur.

From a commentary on Saint Luke's gospel by Saint Ambrose (Ub. 2, 19.22-23.26-27;CCL 14, 39-42)

Monday, 17 December 2007

Knights Templar

Knights Templar. Christmas Carol Service.
On Saturday 15th December the Knights mustered, with their families, to the Abbey Guesthouse Chapel for a Carol Service.
Expectations were heightened by some delay in the arrival of the good Knight who produced the Carol booklet. A large seven branch candelabra MINORA seemed an apt focal form of illumination in the Chapel. The organist had brought his own keyboard and set the atmosphere under the painted ceiling of the shields of the Holy Roman Empire. The singing ushered in a procession of the Knights in their Red & White regalia.
Without too much organizing the five carols gave the framework in which the members contributed Reading Intercessions etc.
There was a short Christmas meditation.
'A light that shines in the dark."
“ ‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse ... " So begins "The Night before Christmas", the story of a visit by St Nicholas on Christmas Eve. The author, Clement C. Moore, wrote it for his children nearly two hundred years ago.
In Beverley Minster, in York England, there is a misericord that has an image of mice dancing while a cat plays a fiddle. Centuries ago people danced to carols and so perhaps this is what the mice are doing. They and the cat are full of joy and (unusually for cats and mice) they are friends. It brings to mind the prophecy of I~ that the "wolf will live with the lamb" for, through God's gift, humanity w redeemed and creation restored to its original innocence. This is aja great that it should make us dance
. (from The Living Word).
The illustration is of the seal of the Grand Priory of South East Scotland and the Nunraw shield. Note the symbol of the Lamb bearing the Templar (Cistercian) flag, halved in black and white.


Sunday, 16 December 2007

Peace 'abounds even more'

Some thoughts on the coming Prince of Peace.
Fr Raymond

“Peace! Peace!” – but there is no peace!
The Christian proclamation about the coming of the Messiah says that: “The wolf will live with the lamb”; “The calf and the lion cub feed together”; “Justice and peace will flourish.” Are Christians so blind to the reality of things? Is our never ending chronicle of war and violence; of hunger and homelessness what we call the peace of the Messianic Age? We know the Bible is true in speaking of the peace and justice of the Messianic age. Yet we know the newspapers are also true in portraying the woes and afflictions of society. How can we reconcile these two “Truths”?

The answer perhaps is this: We are living in two different, coexistent, worlds at once. The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Satan. The Kingdom of Satan gets much more publicity, but the Kingdom of God is very much more alive and active. Great works of evil are taking place around us daily, but there are also great works of goodness, compassion and service, taking place around us. Consider the countless humanitarian organisations of all kinds focussing around the globe wherever there is misfortune or sickness or any kind of need.

Yes, evil abounds but the Scriptures assure us that: “Grace abounds even more.” There a great flood of love and peace at work in the minds and hearts of men. Let us not be deceived by the smog of evil. The Kingdom of God is truly among us.

Lilies for the Immaculate Conception 8th December 2007.
Our thanks to the kind donor.


Saturday, 15 December 2007

St Lucy

St. Lucy, Nunraw, Lucia di Lammermoor.

The feast of St. Lucy. December 13, has something of a resonance at Nunraw which, in the guise of the RAVENSWOOD of Walter Scott’s novel, the Bride of Lammermoor, is also celebrated in Donizetti opera, Lucia di Lammermoor.
St. Lucy is one the most popular names for centuries.

We thank God for the gifts of light and of eyesight dramatized in every aspect of the story of the martyrdom of Lucy and the traditions associated with her name. She is the patron of all those who suffer eye ailments and blindness.

Drama, music, art and poetry have recounted the moving experience suffered not only by Lucy but by those denied eyesight at birth, impaired by disease or by violence. One can easily add the feminist aspect to Lucy’s death. The martyrdom she suffered for her faith had the hallmark of male domination in the vengeance of the thwarted suitor for her marriage.

The poet John Donne was still following the old calendar when he wrote, A Nocturnal upon Saint Lucy's Day. It is interesting to note that Donne wrote his will on St Lucy's Day (December 13th) 1630. His poem 'A Nocturnal upon S. Lucy's Day, being the shortest day' concerns his despair at the death of a loved one. Donne expresses a feeling of utter negation and hopelessness, saying that "I am every dead of absence, darkness, death". In that melancholy state it seems he chose to write his will on the date he had described as "Both the year's, and the day's deep midnight."

On St Lucy’s Day it is interesting to recall the Fr. Michael Sherry’s account of the Walter Scott connection. Sir Walter Scott. “It has been said that Nunraw has a strong claim to be recognised as the "Ravenswood" of Sir Walter Scott's "Bride of Lammermoor." (Trans. E L. Antiq. Vol. 1, Part V). This tradition led Lily Pons, world-famous for her interpretation of the part in Donizetti's opera, "Lucia di Lammermoor," to visit the original "Ravenswood" in June, 1948. She was much surprised to find it occupied by monks. It is known that Sir Walter Scott stayed in Gifford, while doing some of his writing, and took long walks in the vicinity of Garvald. Certainly there are points in the description of "Ravenswood" castle as "in a gorge of a pass or mountain glen ascending from the fertile plains of East Lothian" (Chap. II) and his mention of the ancient proprietors as inter-married with the Douglasses and Hays, which support the claim. Further, Scott's reference to the rumour of Lucy Ashton's marriage as the most talked of matter "betwixt Lammer Law and Traprain" certainly shows that the locality was providing him with a backdrop to his story. In his introduction, Sir Walter admits that his story of the reluctant "Bride" is founded on several versions of the marriage on 24th August, 1669. of Janet Dalrymple, daughter of the first Lord Stair, to David Dunbar of Baldoon, near Wigtown, followed by the death of the unhappy girl three weeks later The historian will hasten to point out that all this took place in Galloway nearly a century before the Dalrymple family's short ownership of Nunraw”. (Nunraw Past and Present, 1950, see Nunraw Website).

Later study of the background is to be found in Wikipedia, “Synopsis -
The plot of Sir Walter Scott's original novel is based on an actual incident in the history of the Stair family. Events take place in the Lammermuirs area of Lowland Scotland, in 1669. It may be noted that while the libretto retains much of Scott's basic intrigue, it also contains very substantial changes in terms of characters and events.
The story concerns a feud between two families, the Ashtons and the Ravenswoods. When the opera begins, the Ashtons are in the ascendancy and have taken possession of Ravenswood Castle, the ancestral home of their rivals. Edgardo (Sir Edgar), Master of Ravenswood and last surviving member of his family, has been forced to live in a lonely tower by the sea, known as the Wolf's Crag. The Ashtons, despite their success, are threatened by changing political and religious forces. Enrico (Lord Henry Ashton) hopes to gain the protection of the important Arturo (Lord Arthur Bucklaw) to whom he intends to marry his sister Lucia (Lucy)".

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Immaculate Conception 2007 Morning Chapter

Immaculate Conception 2007 Morning Chapter
Image of Mary - Donald Nicholl

Fr. Mark had an interesting introduction to his Sermon for the Feast today. His reference to Donald Nicholl brought back welcome memories of a remarkable character whose spiritual outlook impressed us so deeply.

Donald’s Holy Land experience gave him new insight into his understanding of Mary.

Fr. Mark wrote:
Many people have a completely unreal image of Mary. It’s as if she never got her hands dirty, never made mistakes, never experienced doubt or fear, never had to struggle against evil. Because of this we find it hard to see how she could serve as a model for us. Donald Nicholl who has been described as “one of the most influential of modern Christian thinkers” would have included himself in this category until something happened to him.

Donald Nicholl, as most of us at Nunraw will remember, used to come to visit the McNeil family at Nunraw Barns in the early years of the community. Later I was fortunate to have attended one of the Novice Directors’ Meetings in Hexham where he was the main speaker. He remembered his visits here and spoke kindly of Nunraw. Other activities show the direction of interests. In addition to his academic pursuits Donald Nicholl taught church history to the Poor Clares in Aptos, California and to novices in the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa's order, in London. More informally he conducted a class in the "Penny University" at the Caffe Pergolesi in Santa Cruz, reading through Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov. Alongside his wife Dorothy Nicholl, he was active in the co-workers of Mother Teresa.

As a lecturer, Donald spent most of his life in universities. From 1981 to 1985 he was Rector of the Ecumenical Institute at Tantur, near Jerusalem. The experience of being in the Holy Land served as an eye-opener to him in many ways, but one in particular. It changed his image of Mary forever.

In his book, The Testing of Hearts, he tells us that prior to going to the Holy Land his image of Mary was derived from famous paintings, poetry and music. His saw her as some ‘dreamy, ethereal young lady, untouched by human toil’. But after meeting the peasant women of Galilee he formed a very different understanding of Mary. He wrote:

Knowing that here I am simply echoing the feelings expressed by Mary, the mother of Jesus, in her prophetic Magnificat, I am led to tell you that what my sojourn in this land has changed as much as anything else is my image of Mary. In previous years, that could hardly have been any other than what I have received through Piero della Francesca's paintings or Gerard Manley Hopkins' poems or Gounod's music - the image of some dreamy, ethereal young lady, untouched by everyday toil.

But since that time I have met the peasant women of Galilee. So now the image that comes spontaneously to my mind is of a woman with strong hands, sinewy through much work; and of a face whose skin is rough from exposure to the sun and the wind; of feet that are broad-spread through climbing the hills around Nazareth barefoot; but above all, of eyes that are steady and a mouth that is firm through enduring the sorrows of the refugee, the poor and the oppressed, (p.226).

1985 Eve of Departure from Tantur


Immaculate Conception - an image

From a Friend.

Subject: The Immaculate Conception - an image

You know that I have written before of the special place in my life that is held by Our Lady.
In 1986, on Edith's way home from town, she passed a run down "antique" shop sign advertising merchandise in a cellar of a house near the bus station. Curiosity succeeding, she went down the stairs to the room which looked to be a store room. Navigating her way between the objects, she saw on the floor, upside down, beneath a bench, a curious oval frame with a bowed glass front, within which amongst the cobwebs she thought she could make out the figure of Our Lady. "It is reserved", was the cold answer (no doubt to give the owner chance to think of a price she could exact from a well-dressed lady). Edith called again, and again, and adding the persuasion of her wish to buy it as a gift for her husband, obtained it (for £25, which was a lot of money).
I very gingerly opened the frame and cleaned the statuette, brushed down the velvet backing, black-ink dyed the frame, and restored it. You can imagine my excitement as the inscription within the scroll around the base revealed, "Souvenir du Decembre 1854". The plaster statuette, measuring eight inches in height, is marked/signed "Mattei". I just want to share this with you on the Feast Day of The Immaculate Conception (photograph attached). The second photograph shows where it hangs in my room, in my prayer corner (the photograph also shows the Chalice of Nunraw wood that Br Patrick turned exquisitely for me).
This feast is truly Our Lady's Day.
Yours . . . William


Saturday, 8 December 2007

Feast of the Immaculate Conception BVM

Some thoughts on Mary's Immaculate Conception.
I hope she doesn't mind me comparing her to a fashion model.
But the beauty and attractiveness of Mary as a model is her littleness and closeness to us.
God bless,
Fr Raymond

Feast of the Immaculate Conception BVM
Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception is, one of her great privileges of grace. But these great privileges are not meant to separate her from us. They are as much ours as hers in that they are meant to inspire and entice us upwards and onwards to take hold of them, each of us in his own measure.

In this, God is like a great fashion designer, Armani, for instance, designing a beautiful wedding dress for a bride. And here we must remember that God calls each soul his Bride. And what young bride wouldn’t be drawn to a wedding dress designed by Armani? If only she could afford it!

Yes, Mary’s Immaculate Designer Wedding Dress is a priceless Armani indeed, fashioned in the heavenly Milan emporium. Whereas our garments of grace are of the heavenly Marks and Spencers variety, off the peg, as it were. But just like every good and successful designer God takes his original masterpiece of design and makes copies of it for the general market. They are not quite, of course, of such exquisite material or finish, but nevertheless they are the genuine God-Armani article and each one is cut to measure and, what is best, each one is priced at only what the wearer can afford.

In other words, when we consider Mary’s Immaculate soul we can be sure in faith that one day, if we are faithful, we too, no matter how sinful our past, can stand before God as a ravishing bride without spot or stain or wrinkle; utterly beautiful and pleasing and desirable to him who has called us all his brides.


Mary, Star of Hope

Immaculate Conception 2007
What better reflection for 8th Dec than the Conclusion to the Encyclical of Benedict xvi - SPE SALVI - SAVED BY HOPE, - ON CHRISTIAN HOPE?

During the week I was told of a ‘born-again-Christian’, who had been a Catholic. He said he had no time for Mary, that Scripture had nothing on any special role for her.

The two extremes seem to be either that the is no basis in Scripture for Mary or, on the other hand, to regard Mary as some kind of totem figure. In between these two poles, Catholic teaching and the Fathers of the Church unfold the whole wealth of Mary’s special place in the Church.

In the conclusion to his new Encyclical Benedict XVI gives us a beautiful summary of the manifold references to Mary in the Bible, from Genesis, "Mother of the living", to the Annunciation, “Hail Mary full of grace”, to the Passion, “Behold your mother”. In line with the Fathers of the Church, Pope Benedict shows his deep grasp of the Bible and great love of the Scriptures. This passage on ‘Mary, Star of Hope’ is a moving example of that spirit.

SPE SALVI § 49-50

Mary, Star of Hope

49. With a hymn composed in the eighth or ninth century, thus for over a thousand years, the Church has greeted Mary, the Mother of God, as "Star of the Sea": Ave maris stella. Human life is a journey. Towards what destination? How do we find the way? Life is like a voyage on the sea of history, often dark and stormy, a voyage in which we watch for the stars that indicate the route. The true stars of our life are the people who have lived good lives. They are lights of hope. Certainly, Jesus Christ is the true light, the sun that has risen above all the shadows of history. But to reach him we also need lights close by-people who shine with his light and so guide us along our way. Who more than Mary could be a star of hope for us? With her "yes" she opened the door of our world to God himself; she became the living Ark of the Covenant, in whom God took flesh, became one of us, and pitched his tent among us (cf. Jn 1:14).

50. So we cry to her: Holy Mary, you belonged to the humble and great souls of Israel who, like Simeon, were "looking for the consolation of Israel" (Lk 2:25) and hoping, like Anna, "for the redemption of Jerusalem" (Lk 2:38). Your life was thoroughly imbued with the sacred scriptures of Israel which spoke of hope, of the promise made to Abraham and his descendants (cf. Lk 1:55). In this way we can appreciate the holy fear that overcame you when the angel of the Lord appeared to you and told you that you would give birth to the One who was the hope of Israel, the One awaited by the world. Through you, through your "yes", the hope of the ages became reality, entering this world and its history. You bowed low before the greatness of this task and gave your consent: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word" (Lk 1:38). When you hastened with holy joy across the mountains of Judea to see your cousin Elizabeth, you became the image of the Church to come, which carries the hope of the world in her womb across the mountains of history. But alongside the joy which, with your Magnificat, you proclaimed in word and song for all the centuries to hear, you also knew the dark sayings of the prophets about the suffering of the servant of God in this world. Shining over his birth in the stable at Bethlehem, there were angels in splendour who brought the good news to the shepherds, but at the same time the lowliness of God in this world was all too palpable.

The old man Simeon spoke to you of the sword which would pierce your soul (cf. Lk 2:35), of the sign of contradiction that your Son would be in this world. Then, when Jesus began his public ministry, you had to step aside, so that a new family could grow, the family which it was his mission to establish and which would be made up of those who heard his word and kept it (cf. Lk 11:27f). Notwithstanding the great joy that marked the beginning of Jesus's ministry, in the synagogue of Nazareth you must already have experienced the truth of the saying about the "sign of contradiction" (cf. Lk 4:28ff). In this way you saw the growing power of hostility and rejection which built up around Jesus until the hour of the Cross, when you had to look upon the Saviour of the world, the heir of David, the Son of God dying like a failure, exposed to mockery, between criminals. Then you received the word of Jesus: "Woman, behold, your Son!" (Jn 19:26). From the Cross you received a new mission. From the Cross you became a mother in a new way: the mother of all those who believe in your Son Jesus and wish to follow him. The sword of sorrow pierced your heart. Did hope die? Did the world remain definitively without light, and life without purpose? At that moment, deep down, you probably listened again to the word spoken by the angel in answer to your fear at the time of the Annunciation: "Do not be afraid, Mary!" (Lk 1:30). How many times had the Lord, your Son, said the same thing to his disciples: do not be afraid! In your heart, you heard this word again during the night of Golgotha. Before the hour of his betrayal he had said to his disciples: "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (Jn 16:33). "Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid" (Jn 14:27). "Do not be afraid, Mary!" In that hour at Nazareth the angel had also said to you: "Of his kingdom there will be no end" (Lk 1:33). Could it have ended before it began? No, at the foot of the Cross, on the strength of Jesus's own word, you became the mother of believers. In this faith, which even in the darkness of Holy Saturday bore the certitude of hope, you made your way towards Easter morning. The joy of the Resurrection touched your heart and united you in a new way to the disciples, destined to become the family of Jesus through faith. In this way you were in the midst of the community of believers, who in the days following the Ascension prayed with one voice for the gift of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14) and then received that gift on the day of Pentecost. The "Kingdom" of Jesus was not as might have been imagined. It began in that hour, and of this "Kingdom" there will be no end. Thus you remain in the midst of the disciples as their Mother, as the Mother of hope. Holy Mary, Mother of God, our Mother, teach us to believe, to hope, to love with you. Show us the way to his Kingdom! Star of the Sea, shine upon us and guide us on our way!

30 November, the Feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle,
in the year 2007, the third of my Pontificate.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

A short monastic story

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A short monastic story.

A certain young man of 20yrs entered a monastery and took the name of Br. Peaceful.
He lived in the monastery for 70yrs without ever quarrelling with anyone.
On his 90th birthday the Abbot gathered all the brothers together to congratulating him for living so peaceably among them for all these years. Suddenly an angel appeared among them with a great shining white Silver Medal and hung it around Br Peaceful's neck.
That night Br Peaceful died. R.I.P. Later, as all brothers were gathered round his grave for his burial, the same angel appeared with a bucket full of brilliant shining Gold Medals and gave one to each of the brothers in recognition of their heroic virtue in having manged to put up with Br Peaceful for all those ninety years!

If their is peace in our home we should tend to think of it as being due as much to the patience of others with us as to our patience with them!

God bless.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

ADVENT 2007-08

Abbot Raymond - Morning Chapter

ADVENT 2007-08

For the Gospel of the very first Sunday of Advent we might expect the Church to choose a passage that turns our minds directly to the proximity of her annual celebration of the birth of Christ. But we won’t find anything of that in today’s Gospel. Instead She chooses a Gospel that turns our minds to the consideration of the proximity of our personal death. The implication being made is surely that it is precisely, at the moment of our own personal death that we will first personally encounter the Christ face to face, and no matter how young we may be, that encounter is, for each of us, relatively proximate. “Stay awake!” says Jesus, “Stand ready! Because….” No matter who we may be or what the times and seasons for any one of us…”The Son of Man is coming at an hour we do not expect”.
Perhaps we could do well this Advent to make this theme the background to our preparation for Christmas. We could make it a preparation for; a looking forward to; that definitive moment of our own personal lives when we will come face to face with the living Christ; or rather, that definitive moment when He comes to us.
This will be the moment when we come face to face with Jesus:
not as the sacramental Jesus of the Eucharist,
nor as the liturgically new-born Jesus of the Christmas season,
nor as the Jesus whom we encounter in our prayer life;
but as the Risen and Living Christ of Glory. The Christ in all the splendour of his Godhead and of his glorified humanity.
This is surely the message of today’s Gospel: that our death will not be a lonely journey into the next world. Jesus himself has described it for us very differently. He describes it, not as a going out of ourselves from this world to him in the next, but rather as an advent, a coming of Himself to us in this world to take us by the hand and lead us into the next. “I am going away to prepare a place for you” he says “….and I will come back to take you to be with me where I am.” And in case we should think of this final personal advent with fear, Jesus himself is careful to take away any sense of awe and fear we might have. This he does by portraying it for us in that homely post-resurrection scene where he stands on the shore of eternity, as it were, and invites the Apostles to “come and have breakfast”.
Now is the time then to prepare ourselves to welcome this inevitable and utterly personal Advent of the Lord to us with a Faith and a Love that cry out “Come then, Lord Jesus, Come.”