Tidings of Tŷ Mam Duw 2014
After a real “Indian summer”, a great joy and blessing this year which helped to make up for thelong weeks of grey skies and rain which held sway for the earlier part of 2014, it is time once again to take stock of our life together as a community. It is good to look back with gratitude for God’s guidance and goodness in the past twelve months, and to share something of it with all of you, who form part of our ‘extended family’ and have a special place in our hearts and prayers.
In November 2013, once we had restored order after the weeks of creative confusion leading up to our annual Autumn Fair, we settled down to make the most of the final weeks of the Year of Faith. On Friday mornings we gathered to get on with knitting and savour a series of talks, prepared by Sr Juliana with the help of our Beloved Mother Francesca, on the Councils of the Church, especially Vatican II. These were so much appreciated that she later gave several others covering the ground till the present day, showing how the Church has continued to grow gradually into the gospel based teachings of the Council under the direction of Blessed Paul VI, St John Paul the Great, Pope Benedict XVI, and now Pope Francis.
Our Advent Carol service at the end of the month was a great success. Though the theme was shepherds and not sheep, a large floppy wooly lamb with a charmingly foolish expression and a tremulous bleat was a star of the action. We had thought of including some excerpts from St Augustine’s rousing and lengthy sermon 1650 years ago on unworthy shepherds, but eventually decided on some shorter pertinent quotes from Pope Francis instead! Several Sisters sang Palestrina’s setting of the lovely Advent responsory I looked from afar, and everyone enjoyed singing along with us in the 15-minute medley of carols played by Sr Seraphina which concluded the service, so many telling us how pleased they were that we happened to include theirfavourite carol!
Our Tŷ Mam Duw Advent began with a reflection by Dear Mother on the theme of motherhood, echoing the ideas of Pope Francis in his talk to the Poor Clares at Assisi, and encouraged us to grow along those lines as a spiritual preparation for Christmas. Our material preparations this year included knitting mittens, bonnets or other items for babies, which resulted in a goodly supply by Christmas, when they were gathered up and given to a good cause.
December also brought the much loved feast days of Advent saints each with their traditional homely celebrations. On that of Saint Barbara, Dear Mother and Sr Elizabeth acted out an amusing sketch of two parish ladies in 4th century Nicomedia busy crocheting her shroud for her funeral the next day: Cast on 7000 chain, then do three double crochet into each stitch of the first row! while reminiscing about her conversion to Christianity and martyrdom at the hands of her enraged father. A few days later the feast of Saint Lucybrought with it our now traditional celebration in song of the contest between darkness and light. Sr Lourdes with a St Lucy crown of candlesrepresentedLight, and Sr Juliana in a dark robe with silver stars represented Night. The contest ends with a truce, with both light and darkness having a vital part to play in the changing seasons and the springtime growth of new life after the cold and dark of winter.
Sr Seraphina, who has music in her fingertips, had composed a new Mass for Christmas night - its Gloria would have been worthy of the angel host which appeared to the shepherds that first Christmas! Our Vigilservice comprised psalms, canticles of Vespers and a great many carols, ancient and modern. After an early ‘Midnight Mass’ celebrated by Canon we had our own time before the manger in choir to bring symbolic gifts, specificprayers, sing carols or read poems, praying for the needs of the Church and the world, and all who had asked to be remembered before the Holy Child on Christmas night.
At dinnertime on Christmas day we enjoyed opening the little presents we had made each other, and there were cries of delight when we unwrapped the warm wooly kerchiefs Marianne had made for each of us. We later wore them for Vespers so she could admire her handiwork in all its glory from her place in the extern chapel.
On the feast of Holy Innocents we were all invited to the novitiate for the day and spent a happy companionable time getting on with knitting and listening to an audiotape of A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh stories, ones many of us knew from childhood and which have never lost their magic. Sr Elizabeth and Sr Anežka provided refreshments at regular intervals, and Vespers comprised joyful Christmas carols and hymns and readings from Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. The novitiate crib presented characters from the stories looking in at the crib from outside, with Piglet already there offering his very small self to the Lord.
A cloister crib made by Sr Yolanda featured the Bambino among an array of lights set out to form a rough map of our diocesan deanery, with the roads connecting the various parishes. Later she showed us pictures in the parlour of the churches associated with the patron saints of the various deaneries, among whom St Tudno and St Gorman (who may also have been the one venerated as St Germanus) were little known to us.
We were fortunate in being able to have a full three weeks of Christmastide. Our home-made entertainment included a puppet play, its supple wool figures formed by joining strips of French knitting. It starred a mermaid who longed to be a sunflower, and for years searched the sea bed with her friend the octopus for the magic golden pearl she needed to effect the transformation. The octopus eventually gave his life for her, expending the last of his energy to propel her into the air above to reach land and achieve her wish.. Sr Agatha was in charge of all the behind scenes effects, which ranged from operating sounds of the sea, a hair dryer to make the puppets sway in its blast, and blowing shining bubbles across the stage by means of a wire loop.
A further instalment of Sr Pia’s recreation on St Charles Borromeo was also much appreciated. It covered the time from when he was made a Cardinal Deacon at the age of 21 by his Medici uncle, Pope Pius IV. As his secretary he was one of the prime movers behind the scenes in getting the Council of Trent under way again, after a lapse of 14 years, and bringing it to a successful conclusion. He initiated much-needed reforms in the curia and in the Church at large, despite the opposition of many bishops and cardinals who found the changes too challenging for their personal comfort. (There is nothing new under the sun!)
Another recreation, this time by Sr Elizabeth and Sr Juliana, featured famous (and some infamous) kings, queens and leaders in history as it was or might have been with a bit of imagination. Saintly royalty were represented by St Louis IX of France, and St Anežka (Agnes) of Prague. Less saintly ones were Emperor Frederick II, and King Henry VIII. The latter soliloquised about the hardness of his life with all the difficulties his series of wives caused him! Sr Amata played five of them, coming on in a slightly different costume to blow the audience a kiss, and depart, with the King voicing a scripturally based opinion on each in turn! Hannibal, as one of the greatest leaders of pre–Christian times came on to tell of his campaigns against the Romans and of the elephants which he took as part of his army across the Pyrenees. Genghis Khan had a meeting with the Pope, and Queen Elizabeth after inviting Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh to tea, later found herself faced by St Edmund Campion, suggesting her soul might be all the better for going to confession! Queen Victoria and Albert starred in the last scene, happily planning a camping holiday in the Highlands in a desire to experience the simple life. But after discussing the logistics of providing tents, refreshments and suitable entertainment for all their guests and staff, decided to settle for Balmoral Castle as usual.
Our Christmas celebrations were followed by one of special joy for us all, the solemn profession of Sr Lourdes, one of our Sisters from the Philippines. Her brother, Mgr Sosing, who has been in pastoral ministry in New York for some years, came over from the States to concelebrate the Mass. He had not seen her for eight years, and was delighted to see her happiness and know she had put down her roots for life in our community. Fr Gareth was the chief celebrant at the profession Mass and gave the homily. About 50 people from various nearby parishes came along with other friends of the community to share our joy. Later several of our Sisters treated us to a very lovely presentation in music, song, and mime on St Clare’s calling and her vocation. Afterwards we gathered in the community room while Sr Bride opened her various presents, and later enjoyed a collation of Chinese food provided by kind benefactors with ample and delicious portions delivered piping hot to the door. A real treat!
The last of our Christmas recreations also took place belatedly that week. It comprised a day in Aotearoa (New Zealand) organised by Sr Anežka. who comes from Christchurch. She and Dear Mother had erected a small New Zealand crib in the cloister, with figures in Maori costume and a marae as background. We were introduced to a few Maori phrases, after which we enjoyed NZ fare for dinner, though our Welsh climate did not allow a proper outdoors hangi. In the afternoon Sr Anežka furnished us with much interesting input on NZ, its history, geography and Maori culture. Our Vespers that day included the national anthem God defend New Zealand (written by a Catholic) and the Hail Mary sung in Maori. We took down our cribs rather belatedly the next day and found ourselves back in “ordinary time”, itself as welcome and spiritually nourishing as bread and cheese after a prolonged time of richer fare! At the end of January our beloved Mother Francesca was poorly with a high temperature, so had to spend some days in hospital, returning all the better for her time there. She had nothing but praise for the exemplary care and courtesy of the doctors and nurses.
In February our annual “St Colette Mass” was well attended and we praised God for all the blessings obtained over the past year through her intercession. In October we were very touched to hear of the surprise discovery in the Vatican archives of what appears to be an eye-witness account written in 31 A.D. of Jesus performing a miracle, near the site of present-day Nablus - scientific tests have confirmed that the parchment on which it is written dates from that period. The writer, Velleius, a famous Roman historian who was travelling in the area, obviously considered Jesus to be simply a great healer. He states that he visited the house of Elisheba, who had just given birth to a stillborn child. He picked up the child, uttered a prayer to the heavens (presumably in Aramaic as the writer did not understand it). The baby came back to life almost immediately, crying and squirming like a healthy newborn. A complete and official translation of the document should soon be available online in various languages. So we are delighted to think that this saving power of the Lord also continues to be effective in our own day through the intercession of our dearSt Colette .
Early this year we had been struck by the fact that 90% of the prayer intentions that come our way via e-mail are fromoutside Britain. So we thought it would be a good idea for more local people around here and in the diocese as a whole to know that we are here for them, to share their joys and sorrows and hold them before the Lord. Over the past months with due permission from our Bishop, Dear Mother and two Sisters have been visiting a number of parishes which accepted an offer from us to come and speak to the people there. The headmistress of St Mary’s Primary School at Newtown heard them speak and asked them to visit her pupils there, most of whom had never seen nuns, much less ones in traditional habits. Our Sisters made a large wooden silhouette which they clothed with Poor Clare garments to show the children what we wore. They also had made a very large book, telling in simple form the stories of Saints Francis, Clare and Colette. They read it to the pupils with due expression, turning the pages so all could see the delightful pictures. It was a great success and later the school brought a coachload of youngsters here. They had a couple of talks and more input, the various parts of our chapel were explained, and we had a small stand in the middle of the public chapel for Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament with them. From a place on the sanctuary behind the choir grille we were able to join them in their singing and prayers - and afterwards gave them a small bag of sweets each to sustain them on their hour-longtrip back home.
During Lent we ourselves spent a few days in retreat with Mgr John Armitage, who is much involved with the Youth 2000 movement. He gave us several amusing and challenging informal talks each day, and included included excerpts from a wide range of sources, from St Augustine to T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats!
A few weeks later Fr Jude Winkler OFMCap, who was over here from the States, came and gave us some stimulating talks on the Gospels. He emphasised the reality of the Incarnation and its application to our own lives, in which the most everyday happenings and activities can be a foretaste and preview of heaven. He also mentioned several theories propounded by scholars about the authorship of the Gospels. It seems that the Gospel of Matthew, which is so rich in references to the Hebrew scriptures may have been written by a Pharisee who had become a Christian, while some even think that Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead, may have had a hand in the actual writing of the gospel ascribed to St John. This in no way changes the authenticity of the Gospels themselves, but may make for interesting surprises when we eventually reach the pearly gates and discover the truth of the matter!
Holy Week brought lovely spring weather, and though the daffodils were past their best the bluebells were coming into flower. At Tenebrae on Good Friday morning the entire book of Lamentations was sung turn and turn about by two pairs of Sisters to the very moving traditional chant. Sr Ruth managed to print out a life-size poster of the front view of the Holy Shroud of Turin, and this was hung on the sanctuary wall beside a large cross, formed by tying together two branches of a tree from our garden. On Easter night, after the long and lovely Vigil service, we sang yet more Alleluias as the sun was getting up, and made a beeline for a festive breakfast of coloured hardboiled eggs, Easter loaves and shared joy and laughter. Sr Beatrix had lovingly made us new choir habits from material given us some time back. The Lord obviously blessed the work of her hands as she managed to clothe us all in our new taupe-coloured garments with only half a yard or so of material over! These were handed out so we could all appear at Holy Mass at 8.15 in our Poor Clare equivalent of Easter glory for the blessing of the new holy water for the feast and the renewal of our baptismal vows.
On Divine Mercy Sunday we watched the Vatican telecast of the canonisation Mass of St John XXIII and St John Paul the Great, glad that our beloved Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, was also able to be present as his friend of so many years was raised to the altar.
May too was a month of celebration for our community with the Golden Jubilee of our dear Sr Beatrix. By way of a countdown calendar, Sr Pia had made a large replica outline of the San Damiano crucifix, and each day Sr Beatrix was given a jigsaw piece of the actual picture to fill in, together with a quote about the holy cross to place beside it, while the number denoting the remaining days decreased. The Jubilee Mass was celebrated by Bishop Peter assisted by Canon Quigley and Fr Roy, the Vocations Father who is now parish priest here at Hawarden. (It was to be Canon’s last major liturgical celebration with our community. He had been our chaplain since 1995, serving the Lord and our Poor Clare family with great love and devotion through all the changing scenes of life, and retired at the end of May when he reached his 90th birthday.) For the Jubilee Mass Sr Lourdes had made a very lovely candle, which Sr Beatrix lit when she renewed her vows, as a sign of her first consecration to the Lord at baptism, in which the seed was sown which would eventually flower in her Poor Clare vocation. Bishop Peter preached on the text: I am the vine and you are the branches and spoke of the fruitfulness of Sister’s life through her remaining close to Christ through all the ups and downs of her journey along the Gospel way of life in union with Him.
The next morning we gathered in the ‘Jubilee area’ of the cloister where the presents brought by our visitors were unwrapped and admired, among them a profusion of rosebushes and other plants. These brought great joy to our Sister, who as sacristan delights in arranging fresh flowers in choir and in our small shrine chapel. We then brought our own gifts in turn - among them three new stunningly beautiful vestments, red, purple and green, worked in different mediums. There were also some knitted articles for herselfor to give to friends, as well as a variety of artistic plaques, hangdowns etc. Morning Prayer during the Jubilee week comprised a praise session with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. This was accompanied by reflections based on words from one of the songs, interwoven with verses from holy scripture and the writings of St Clare. Sr Anežka had fretted out a beautiful cross-shaped stand with a leafy design and a niche in the centre to hold the monstrance.
Another Jubilee event within the community was a two-part presentation by Sr Ruth and Sr Amata entitled The Four Seasons. It comprised pictures of British plants and wildlife throughout the year, projected cinema-style on to the wall and accompanied by music and poems chosen to fit the various themes. As Sr Beatrix’s mystery is “of the Holy Cross”, this became the focus of a day of activities masterminded by Sr Pia. They included a series of slides depicting St Helena, whom some writers consider to have been British, her son the Emperor Constantine, and her finding of the relics of the Holy Cross. We all took part in a complex ‘word-search’ puzzle to discover words associated with the account of Constantine’s life, and this was followed by an ingenious “on-the-spot” treasure hunt. (A series of pockets suspended from a cupboard, each one inscribed with the name of a room in the monastery, contained the clues we were seeking,. This prevented the more fleet-of-foot from having an unfair advantage in rushing upstairs and downstairs as on previous occasions to reach their final goal and well-earned reward!
The next day we had a slide presentation on St Laurence of Brindisi, 1559 - 1619, a Capuchin friar whose life had many different aspects. A friend of popes and kings, he still begged his bread from door to door and had time for the concerns and humdrum worries of the ordinary man in the street. He was a powerful preacher and left many great writings. Like St Paul he was involved in great activity and was able to preach in the day to day lingo of his hearers, although he also knew vast sections of the Hebrew and Greek scriptures by heart. He was canonised in 1881 and in 1958 declared to be a Doctor of the Church. The Jubilee concluded with a thanksgiving Vespers organised by Sr Beatrix, during which she reflected on incidents and items which had helped her on her journey into God - a Bible given to her by her grandmother, a picture of Our Lady which she had had since childhood, and so on. Afterwards, in gratitude for all we had done to make the week so memorable, she presented each of us with a new pink striped serving apron for the refectory - something we in turn much appreciated.
However not all events this year have been of a celebratory nature. In April Dollie, our small elderly schnauzer became very ill, and sadly we had to have her put down. She was one of the nicest dogs we have ever had, full of bounce and enthusiasm for everything; her eyes would light up when anyone came in sight and she would bound towards them as if, at least for the moment, they were the most important person in the world. When a Sister appeared with her dinner she would stand on her back legs and dance around pawing the air with delight - though she then went and bolted her food at such a rate that she could hardly have tasted it! Millie, our pint-sized dachshund, naturally enough mourned her companion of the past twelve years. A few months later we acquired two 8-week old cavapoo puppies, a cross between a Cavalier spaniel, a breed popular with Charles II of England, and a poodle, a breed which is thought to have originated in Germany. Though sisters from the same litter the puppies are quite different. Eppie is black with a white ring round her tail, and Lily is fawn-coloured. They are growing quickly, full of frolics, and gradually learning not to bounce their fellow-citizens at Tŷ Mam Duw (though of course they are welcome to expend their energies on any potential burglars!) They are already bigger than Millie, who finds them a bit too much of a good thing, especially when they try pulling her long ears to encourage her to come and play.
June saw a new venture on our part - three days of craft workshops in which five of our Sisters demonstrated various skills to those who came - ordinary knitting and crochet, Tunisian crochet, French (tubular) knitting and beadwork - and furnished the learners with the materials and encouragement to try their own hand at the craft. On the first day fifty children aged about ten came from local schools. The Sisters concerned were surprised to discover that some of them, though keen to learn knitting or crochet, had as yet little concept of how to go about it. The children much appreciated what they were taught, one young lad declaring that he had learned it was well worth sticking at a task even if it was difficult to do at first, and some took their enterprises home to complete them. Adults predominated in the next days, ranging from beginner-learners to those who wanted refresher courses in making knitted buttonholes. There was a very happy feeling about the craft days, and a number of people who would not normally darken the door of a monastery felt free to talk to the Sisters about God and the deeper realities of life. The craft days were such a success that we are planning to hold further ones in 2015.
Since Canon Quigley’s retirement we have had the blessing of experiencing in a new way the catholicity of the Church. Fr Roy and Fr Anil, two Indian priests from the Vocation Fathers at Holywell, have joined forces with Fr Kefa, a Kenyan priest in nearby Saltney, and Fr Paul Shaw from Chester (just over the border from wild Wales), taking it in turns to celebrate our daily conventual Mass. We much appreciate their kindness in taking us on, and their enthusiasm for the Lord as expressed in their diverse personalities.
We have also had several friends come and talk to us in the parlour about their respective ministries in the service of God’s people. In May, Ann Gannon gave a lively and memorable talk about her work for Fair Trade, the movement which enables producers and workers in Third World countries to receive a better deal for their products. This results in improved working conditions and the opportunity for the whole community to benefit from access to water, education or health treatment as the specific situation requires. In July another friend, Eric Browning came with his wife Joy, to tell us something of their work for the Society for the Distribution of Hebrew Scriptures. Their mission consists in offering bilingual copies of the Tanakh (OT) to people of Jewish descent in gratitude for the scriptures the Jews preserved faithfully through centuries of tribulations and have handed on to us Christians as an invaluable spiritual heritage. They also showed us a short film taken of their stall at the Jerusalem Book Fair last year. Their new Hebrew/Yiddish Tanakh evoked especial interest there, anda number of people also accepted the bilingual New Testaments they also had on offer. It was a heartwarming experience to meet them with their obvious love and commitment to the welfare of the Jewish people, our older brothers and sisters in Abraham, our father in faith.
On the Feast of the Assumption, a propitiousdate for those who love Our Lady, Sr Anežka went to Liverpool to take the Life in the UK general knowledge test which would enable her to apply to become a resident in this country. The test covers a wide range of subjects, including architecture, films, literature and sport, items not necessarily of prime importance in the day-to-day life of a cloistered religious! She came home jubilant athaving surmounted such a necessary hurdle. That evening we also had a presentation in choir on the theme of the Assumption, for which Sr Juliana chose the pictures and Sr Amata spent many hours compiling the text from a wide range of the writings of our dear Pope Emeritus.
In June we had rejoiced to see some live footage of the visit of Pope Francis to the Holy Land, and were especially moved by his visit to the Western Wall with his Jewish and Muslim friends - a sign that respect between the three great monotheistic religions is possible on the basis of our common humanity. In August we also saw something of his visit to Korea and the beatification of the martyrs who gave their lives for Christ in the springtime of the Church in that land. On his flight back to Rome he spoke of his deep concern for all God’s suffering children, especially the millions of refugees in the Middle East and those brutally killed by what what our moderate Muslim brothers and sisters rightly term the Un-Islamic State. We ourselves are united with him in holding them inconstant remembrance before the Lord, praying that He will give them heroic fortitude in their great trials - and that the help they desperately need will reach them and enable them to win through to a newer and better future. Our hearts go out especially to those many parents whose children have been killed for refusing to reject their faith in Christ. Inasmuch as The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church we can expect a hundredfold harvest of faith in the years to come because of the self-sacrifice of these young people. As St Edith Stein, who died in Auschwitz once wrote: The world is in flames; the fire can spread even to our house, but above all the flames the Cross stands on high, and it cannot be burnt. The Cross is the way that leads from earth to heaven. Those who embrace it with faith, love and hope are taken up, right into the heart of the Trinity.
On 8 September, Our Lady’s Birthday and the 84th anniversary of the day our founding community came to Hawarden, we launched The Companions of St Clare and St Colette. This came after many requests from people wanting to be more prayerfully united with our community. Each Companion receives a silicon wristband and a booklet with guidelines on daily prayer and meditations. That same month we ourselves benefited greatly from a series of weekly sharings illustrated with slides on the theme of Franciscan spirituality. They are based on a book The Yearning of God which several Sisters are at present translating from German, and we look forward to further instalments.
September also brought the historic referendum on the possible independence of Scotland, the outcome of which we had entrusted to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the weeks leading up to it. Marianne and several of our friends checked the incoming results at regular intervals during the night, but we ourselves merely got up as usual for the Night Office at 11 pm, and only learned the end result in the morning. We met later in the day for a communal knitting session during which we enjoyed an excellent resumé by Sr Juliana of the complicated history of Scotland. Then we sang Scotland the Brave and drank the country’s health in coffee (not whisky!) supplemented with Scottish shortbread for the occasion.
And so as summer turned to autumn we busied ourselves with outdoors work, setting the garden and greenhouse to rights in good time for winter. Our friend Tony has continued to be a great help to us this year, clearing the debris brought down by the storms, trimming tallhedges so not a leaf is out of place, and doing many other such tasks. At present he is erecting a new wooden trellis round our small orchard, a sight to gladden our eyes.
With October being the month of the Rosary, our Sisters in the infirmary began a new mission at the beginning of the month. It consisted in praying the rosary each morning for special needs and intentions, and also encouraging others to unite their own praying of the rosary with theirs. Now November is here and Advent once again just round the corner. This year it ushers in not just a new liturgical cycle but also The Year of Consecrated Life called for by Pope Francis. He invites all Christians to renew their lives in accordance with the Gospel by reaffirming the saving encounter with Jesus which transforms our lives. And he also asks us as religious to follow the Lord in a prophetic way, to be men and women able to wake the world up by our day-to-day faithfulness to our specific calling. Like Pope Francis, and all who have experienced the touch of God in our lives, our joy lies in the fact that we are sinners who have experienced His mercy. And like him we want to grow in the desire to share it with others, especially those on the fringes of society who feel abandoned by their fellow human beings and by the Church. St Clare sees our vocation to be a support of the weak members of Christ’s ineffable Body. So one of our main concerns this past year has been to take to heart Pope Francis’ pastoral outreach to the marginalised and poor, a keynote of the 2014 Synod on the Family. We continue to pray that the ongoing discussions over the coming months will bear much good fruit during its 2015 session.
And once again we end our annual Tidingswith heartfelt gratitude for all who have supported us materially and spiritually in so many ways large and small over the past year. We feel blessed to have been able to sharesomething of your joys and sorrows, hopes and fears, which are now embedded in our daily round of prayer to the Lord, who is closer to His children than any of us can ever fathom and knows our inmost hearts.
And in these uncertain days we once again find comfort in the words which George VI famously quoted in his 1939 Christmas broadcast, and which remain as true for us today: I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’ And he replied: ‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better thanlight and safer than a knownway.
With loving prayers for every grace and blessing now and in the coming year,
your little sisters at Tŷ Mam Duw.
Thursday, 23 January 2014
Sr Maria Lourdes of Christ the King - Solemn Profession
Sr Maria Lourdes of Christ the King at the beginning of the procession to the sanctuary.
By her isMother Damian (unseen), Mgsr Sosing, our sister's brother who came over from New York for the occasion is smiling at her, following behind are Father Gareth Jones and Canon Quigley. The nervous cross bearer is Sr Seraphina!
Sr Lourdes (in tears by now) professes her final and solemn vows
Sister has just received the crown of thorns and is coming down from the sanctuary to the choir for the Kiss of Peace
At the shutter
Sister Lourdes and Dear Mother at the sanctuary shutter greeting friends in the Dining Room
Our Rite of Solemn Profession
Your little sisters, the Poor Clare Colettines of Ty Mam Duw welcome you to this joyful celebration of the Solemn and Perpetual profession of Sister Maria Lourdes of Christ the King.
This is a big event and as you follow through the service, a lot will be happening! The making of a Solemn Profession of the Gospel way of life is not a sacrament, like marriage or the priesthood, that is, it is not a sign that points to a greater reality in heaven - it is reality; and it is forever. Though we may change and fail, God does not; his faithfulness has no end; that is what we celebrate together today.
The Sister who is to make her Solemn and Perpetual Profession of Vows takes her place behind the cross-bearer and before the clergy in the entrance procession. Sheis escorted by her brother Mgr Sosing through the public chapel to the Choir grille of the sanctuary. She is then seated in a place on the sanctuary from which she is visible to those beyond the grille.
After the homily, Mother Abbess comes forward. The Sister, who is to profess her vows, publicly witnesses to her free choice to do so.
The Rite of Solemn Profession
Lord, you have called me by my name.
Behold, I come to do your holywill.
Dear daughter, what do you desire?
One thing I have asked of the Lord, this I seek,
to dwell in the house of the Lord, all the days of my life.
Have you pondered well and really understood
what you wish to commit yourself to do?
I have, with the grace of God.
Have you the courage to trust in God completely, that he will provide for all your needs, especially that he will give you the grace to live out faithfully what you desire to promise to him?
I have, with the grace of God.
You have put your hand to the plough
and from this day forward there can be no looking back.
Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests
but the Son of Man, your Spouse, had nowhere to lay His head.
Are you prepared to follow Him completely until the end?
I am, with the grace of God.
What you hold now, may you hold forever.
What you promise now, may you never abandon,
but with swift pace, light step and unswerving feet
go forward, securely, joyfully, swiftly and prudently
on the path of happiness,
so that you may offer your vows to the Most High
in that perfection to which the Spirit of the Lord has called you.
May God who has begun this good work in you
bring it to fulfilment before the day of Christ Jesus.
Dear friends in Christ,
let us now pray to the Father of all good gifts,
uniting ourselves with the prayer of all the saints
that His handmaid who seeks to serve Him with the whole desire of her heart
may be strengthened in His service
and that He may bestow on her those gifts for which she longs.
Let us kneel.
The Sister who makes her profession of Solemn Vows prostrates before the altar, while the chantresses sing the Litany of the Franciscan Saints, which is to include her own patron. The congregation join in the responses.
Our Sister now prostrates before the altar. Because this gift of love reaches beyond time and space, we ask our family in heaven to join their prayers to ours as we sing the responses to the Litany of the saints.
Cantors: Lord have mercy. R: LORD HAVE MERCY.
Christ have mercy. R: CHRIST HAVE MERCY.
Lord have mercy. R: LORD HAVE MERCY.
God our Father in heaven. R: HAVE MERCY ON US.
God the Son, Redeemer of the World. R:
God the Holy Spirit. R:
Holy Trinity, one God. R:
Mary Immaculate, Our Lady of Lourdes. PRAY FOR US
Our Holy Father St FrancisR:
Our Holy Mother St ClareR:
Our Holy Mother St ColetteR:
All you first companions of Blessed Francis and Blessed Clare R: SPEAK TO GOD FOR US.
St Berard and CompanionsR: TEACH US TO WITNESS TO CHRIST.
St Daniel and CompanionsR:
St Nicholas Tavelic and CompanionsR:
St Nicholas Pick and CompanionsR:
St John Jones and CompanionsR:
St Peter Baptist and CompanionsR:
Bd Josephine LerouxR:
Bd Maria Isabel of Madrid and CompanionsR:
Bd Asuncion of MadridR:
Bd Vincenta, Joaquina, Felicidad and Josefa of ValenciaR:
Bd Milagros of ValenciaR:
Bd Isabel of CastellonR:
Bd Maria of OstravereR:
All you Brothers and Sisters who laid down your life for ChristR:
St Anthony of PaduaR: TEACH US TO FOLLOW THE LORD.
St John of CapistranoR:
St Benedict of San FratelloR:
St Paschal BaylonR:
St Laurence of BrindisiR:
St Conrad of ParzamR:
St Leopold MandicR:
St Pio of PietrelcinaR:
Bd Agnellus of PisaR:
Bd John Duns ScotusR:
All you shepherds who feed Christ’s flockR:
St Agnes of AssisiR: TEACH US TO LOVE THE LORD JESUS.
St Agnes of PragueR:
St Catherine of BolognaR:
St Eustochia EsmeraldaR:
St Jeanne de ValoisR:
St Veronica GuilianiR:
St Baptista VaranoR:
St Alphonsa of the Immaculate ConceptionR:
Bd Helena EnselminiR:
Bd Antonia of FlorenceR:
Bd Louise of SavoyR:
Ven. Ortolana and BeatrixR:
Ven. Mary Francis of the Five woundsR:
St Elizabeth of HungaryR: PRAY FOR US.
St Ferdinand of CastileR:
St Rose of ViterboR:
St Margaret of CortonaR:
St Jean Marie VianneyR:
St Eleazer and DelphinaR:
Bd Pope John the GoodR:
All you Brothers and Sisters of the Third Order of our Father FrancisR:
All you who heard the word of God and did itR:
Lord be merciful. R: LORD SAVE YOUR PEOPLE.
From all evilR:
From all sinR:
From everlasting deathR:
By your coming as manR:
By your death and rising to new lifeR:
By your gift of the Holy SpiritR:
Christ hear us, Christ hear us.
Lord Jesus hear our prayer
R: LORD JESUS HEAR OUR PRAYER
At the end of the litany the Celebrant alone rises and says, with hands joined:
Almighty, eternal, just and merciful God,
Give to our Sister the grace
to do for your sake what she knows you want
and to always want what pleases you,
so that, purified and enlightened and set on fire
with the love of the Holy Spirit
she may follow, until death,
in the footsteps of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
and by your grace alone may come to you Most High,
who live and reign and are glorified
in perfect Trinity and undivided unity,
God for ever and ever.
Let us stand.
The Sister rises and returns to her place. Mother Abbess is now joined by her Vicaress.
Firstas a Poor Clare she will formally renounce the right to own property thus freeing herself to give her trust completely to God as she professes the the three vows of the Gospel and the fourth vow of enclosure special to our Form of Life
In preparation for the vows which you are about to pronounce,
I invite you now to renounce all moral and actual right to own anything under heaven,
in the covenant with Lady Poverty
granted to our Holy Mother Clare by Pope Innocent III.
Since I desire to belong wholly to the Lord,
I now renounce, once and for all,
the power of owning anything under heaven,
that I may in every way
cling to the footprints of Him
who became for us the Way, the Truth and the Life,
He whose left hand is under my head
to support the weakness of my flesh,
who feeds the birds of heaven,
and clothes the lilies of the fields,
will feed and clothe me, and provide all my needs
until that day when His right hand embraces me
and I behold Him in heaven.
Be faithful unto death, most dear one,
to what you are about to promise
and you will be crowned by Christ with the wreath of eternal life.
Our labour here below is short, the glory is infinite.
The Sisters kneel and the Celebrant and congregation remain standing.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I, little Sister N of N.
wish to follow the life and poverty of our most high Lord Jesus Christ,
and to persevere to the end.
And I vow to God, before the Blessed Virgin Mary,
and I promise you, dear Mother,
to observe for the whole time of my life
the holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by living in obedience, without property and in chastity,
in the form of life which the blessed Francis gave to our Blessed Mother Clare
and Pope Innocent IV confirmed,
And I vow to observe enclosure,
after the example of our Holy Mother Colette.
I receive these vows on behalf of the Church and the Order.
What you have vowed to God render to Him faithfully
and he shall reward you.
Look up to heaven, dear one, which beckons us on,
and take up your cross and follow Christ
who walks ahead of us.
For whatever tribulations we may have here
we shall enter through Him into His glory.
The Vow Card and the Renunciation of Property is then signed by the Sister and her signature is attested to, both on the Vow Card and in the Book of Professions by the Abbess, Vicaress, Novice Mistress and the Celebrant, while the choir sing:
Solemn Blessingand Consecration of the Professed
Creator of the world and Father of mankind,
we honour you with praise and thanksgiving,
for you chose a people from the stock of Abraham
and consecrated them to yourself,
calling them by your Name.
While they wandered in the wilderness
your word gave them comfort
and your right hand protection.
When they were poor and despised
you united them to yourself in a covenant of love.
When they strayed from your friendship
your mercy led them back to the right way.
When they sought you,
your Fatherly care looked after them
until they came to dwell in a land of freedom.
But above all, we thank you, Father,
for revealing the knowledge of truth
through your son Jesus Christ, our brother.
When He took his place at your right hand,
He sent his Holy Spirit to call countless disciples
to follow the evangelical counsels
and consecrate their lives
to the glory of your name and the salvation of humankind.
Today it is right
that your House should echo with a new song of thanksgiving
for this Sister of ours
who has listened to your voice
and made herself over to your holy service.
Lord, send the gift of the Holy Spirit upon your handmaid
who has left all things for your sake.
Father, may her life reveaI the face of Christ, your son,
so that all who see her may come to know
that He is always present in your Church.
We pray that in freedom of heart
she may free from care the hearts of others;
in helping the afflicted,
may she bring comfort to Christ
suffering in His sisters and brothers;
may she look upon this world and see it ruled by His wisdom.
May the gift she makes of herself
hasten the coming of His kingdom,
and make her one at last with your saints in heaven.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
The Insignia of Profession
The Bride now receives her ring. Unlike those joined in an earthly marriage, our sister will wear her ring on her right hand. This symbolizes that God’s love is always the first love, the love that comes before all other. AsSt Paul says, marriage is a profound mystery but it is a symbol that refers to Christ’s love for the Church (Ephesians 5:32).
Sister willnow exchange her crown of flowers for the thorns that her Lord received. The Son of God carried his wounds to his Father’s throne in heaven where they shine more brightly in his risen joy than any earthly diamonds. The same is true, in a more humble measure, for us. The free acceptance of death and suffering will be our glory in eternity.
The Blessing of the ring
Lord of eternal faithfulness
bless this ring +
the symbol of your covenant
with your sister and bride, N of N.
As a circle has no beginning or end,
so too, your love is endless and complete.
Fashioned in silver,
it is a sign of the poverty you have chosen for your bride.
May she wear it in trust until the day she is united to you in heaven.
As she places the ring on the Sister's finger Mother Abbess says:
I espouse you to Jesus Christ
the Son of the most high Father
who will protect you.
Receive the ring of faith,
the seal of the Holy Spirit,
that you may be called the spouse of Christ.
Love Him totally who gave Himself totally for your love.
The Choir sing
And we have left all things
and chosen poverty
and taken Jesus for our King
for whom we wear a ring.
The Crown of Thorns
Receive, dearest sister,
the crown which your spouse, the only begotten Son of God, offers you,
that you may deserve to share in His passion on earth
and in His glory in heaven.
As the crown of thorns is placed on the sisters head the choir sing: CS 14
If you suffer with Him you shall reign with Him
If you weep with Him you shall rejoice with Him,
if you die with Him on the cross of tribulation
you shall possess a home in heaven
amid the splendour of the saints,
and your name shall be called glorious.
Mother Abbess now leads Sister to the Celebrant and people then to the community so that they may exchange the Sign of Peace.
The celebrant stands and addressing the Abbess says:
take this spouse of Jesus Christ
under your care and direction,
and consider in what manner you may keep her dedicated
and present her spotless to God,
knowing that you must render an account
before the tribunal of her spouse, the future Judge.
The rite fittingly concludes with the Prayers of the Faithful which invoke the Spirit on the Church and commend the newly professed and her community to the care of the Lord.
In Baptism we were made part of Christ’s body, the Church. We pray for the Church that she may be ever renewed in Christ’s grace through that exchange of love in religious vows which draws us all closer to the Lord.
We pray for the first universal father of the Church to take the name of our father St Francis. may we be, and become more deeply, a church of the poor and for the poor.
R Kyrie, Kyrie eleison
Our father St Francis in his song for Clare called us to come together from all parts of the earth, may our unity as a family here at Ty Mam Duw heal the divisions of our world.
We pray for all those who have accompanied our little sister, supporting her with love and prayer on her pilgrimage to this day.
We pray for all our dear ones who now live in the Lord’s presence in light and peace, especially our little sister’s parents José and Lourdes. With them may we feel the joy of heaven today.
We pray for our sister’s family and friends in the Philippines and elsewhere and are not able to be with us today and we thank tGod for the happy arrival of sister’s eldest brother Mgr Sosing.
We place under the mantle of our Mother St Colette all those who want to live the life of the Gospel. Call many others to join us in praising the Lord, for his goodness has no end.
Father in heaven,
may all your children
do as you Son pleases and wills
in the joy of the Holy Spirit
You who live and reign forever.
During the Offertory Song, the newly professed Sister and her Novitiate companion may bring the gifts for the eucharistic sacrifice to the altar.
When the prayer after communion has been said Mother Abbess comes forward and presents the Sister with a candle.
Receive this lighted candle,
may you be a lofty candlestick of holiness in the house of the Lord
all the days of you life,
and may we, together, one family in love,
reflect the fire of love that Christ came to enkindle on earth.
The Celebrant blesses the newly professed.
May the Father almighty make you firm in faith,
innocent in the midst of evil,
and wise in the pursuit of goodness.
May the Lord Jesus, whom you follow,
enable you to live out the mystery
of His death and resurrection in your own life.
May the fire of the Holy Spirit
cleanse your hearts from all sin
and set them on fire with His love.
The celebrant then blesses the community and the congregation
May almighty God, the Father, and the Son + and the Holy Spirit
bless all of you who have taken part in this celebration.
If you would like to stay for lunch there is a buffet in the dining room which opens off the door at the top right of the extern chapel.
Thank you for joining us today
Tidings of Ty Mam Duw 2013
The autumn leaves are falling, the holly trees are red with berries and the squirrels are busy collecting acorns from the oak tree in our garden. So it is time to look back once again over the past twelve months and try to capture in words some of the main happenings here at Ty Mam Duw. If the American poet, e. e. cummings could writei thank You God for most this amazing day, we could certainly thank Him (with a few more capitals!) for this most amazing year. As our dear Papa Francisco has said, Anyone who is a man or a woman of hope – the great hope which faith gives us – knows that even in the midst of difficulties God acts and he surprises us. And for us, and for millions throughout the world, believers and unbelievers alike (including the former Cardinal Bergoglio), perhaps the greatest surprise was the election of Pope Francis himself! As he was to say later: God always surprises us .... But he asks us to let ourselves be surprised by his love, to accept his surprises. Let us trust God!
This Tidings starts last November, shortly after we compiled the 2012 edition. Tony Ellis, a friend of the community, came and showed us videos and slides of the work of International China Concern, an organisation whichdoes wonderful work there in caring for disabled children and was originally founded in 1994 by a visitor from Britain,. They now run three orphanages in China, staffed jointly by voluntary workers from overseas and members of the local community, who servetheir charges with great love and dedication in rather spartan conditions, depending as they do on well-wishers.for their material and spiritual support.
Several days of heavy rain here the following week led tothe usual flooding in our cloister garden - if not as romantic as a canal in Venice, it at least resembled apaddy field! Life seemed to be tending towards what St Francis would have welcomed as ‘perfectjoy’ one night, when our main boiler went on strike leaving us without heating or hot water. But like St Francis we continued to rejoice in the Lord, singing Matins at 10 pm, an hour earlier than usual, before the house got too cold! Mercifully the expert came the next morning and restored all to rights, for which we thanked God, also remembering before Him those who were so much worse off than us with the cold and the wet.
Our carol service to usher in Advent in the special “Year of Faith” was on that theme. There were a goodly number of people present, including some new faces - and some unexpected friends from past years. It featured a light-hearted and enlightening conversation between Grandma (based on the figure invented by the cartoonist Giles, with her familiar crushed hat and grim expression), Mrs Pringle, the grouchy fictional charlady from Miss Read’s Village School series, and an attendant angel, who kindly set right their well-meant but woolly ideas on what faith really is... The Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple, the final feast of the Christmas cycle, was then acted out, and included reflections on the faith shown by Our Lady and St Joseph, Simeon and Anna.
For our own Advent practice this year we were each given a white cloth and a candle, symbols of our baptism, when our journey of faith began, and invited to contribute by prayer and acts of charity to the ‘treasury of faith’, which was represented by a basket in which we might place small green branches, later used to decorate the crib.
A joyful celebration of faith for us as a community was the first profession of our dear Sr Anezka. Her cousin, Fr Michael, celebrated the semiprivate Mass assisted by Canon Quigley. An added joy was that her parents from Australia were able to be present. Despite us all having first-class colds,we managed to sing well enough, and Sister pronounced her vows clearly while tying the symbolic four knots in her new cord. Fr Michael recalled thechildhood years he had shared with our Sister, long before she became a Catholic and he had realised his own call to the priesthood. He spoke of how we are called to the religious life, not because of our own goodness but simply because God is good and has known and loved us from all eternity, and can do great things with those who know their need of Him and trust in His strength to support them.
In the evening our Sr Bride, still wearing her crown of flowers, opened a wide assortment of presents made for the occasion, and seemed quite overwhelmed with it all. As her full religious name is Sr Maria Anezka of the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple, there followed a humorous play with silhouette paper puppets, loosely based on the gospel account but also starring several fictitious characters who put in guest appearances.
This year our choir crib was erected in its full-scale in all its glory , with a grand total of about 40 scenes from salvation historyAmong them was a new one of Jonah happily ensconced in his whale, and a model of the Basilica of St John Lateran, regarded as the Mother Church of Christendom. As usual, we went round the monastery on Christmas Eve, singing carols and blessing all our cribs. Especially noteworthy this year was one by Sr Pia and Sr Elizabeth on the theme of faith, which featured a background outline of St Peters and symbols representing every article in the Apostles’ Creed.. These included a font flanked by figures of Saint Francis and Saint Clare, a sign of our own Franciscan vocation being rooted in baptism, through which we become children of God and are called to live out the gospel way of life.
Canon celebrated our Christmas Vigil Mass which was followed by a very peaceful ‘Shepherds’ Mass’ as we ourselves term it, during which we have Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and bring offerings of prayer, music and other gifts to the Christchild in the manger in front of the altar.
The theme of the refectory crib, ingeniously devised by Sr Agatha and Sr Seraphina was Christmas at the ICC Orphanage, with a background pagoda on the wall made of bamboo sticks and red paper serviettes folded origami-style to form the roof tiles. The statue of Our Lady seen as the Mother of the Orphanage was clothed in a gold oriental-style mantle. Her Child, a knitted figure, was cradled on the back of a swan, swimming in a river of blue material filled with origami fish and crossed by a very convincing curved bridge made of brown paper. Wall posters proclaimed in Chinese the Prologue to St John’s Gospel and the prophecy from Isaiah 7:14, “the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel”.
China also featured in January when we spent a day there TMD-style by courtesy of Sr Yolanda and helpers. It began with Sr Amata conducting us in 15 minutes of Tai-Chi exercises, followed by a welcome bowl of noodles and green teaWe were then treated to a very elementary lesson in Chinese pronunciation, learning a little about the language and given the transliteration of the Chinese for “Our Father, who art in heaven by way of practice, though none of us was proficient enough to graduate beyond the opening phrase! We had Chinese recipes at dinner, and in the afternoon met for a home-devised game on a board decorated with Chinese dragons. This was followed by a quick run-through of Chinese history from the first dynasties till the early 20h century, together with a home-made song on the same theme.
On the Feast of the Holy Innocents we spent a most enjoyable day in thenovitiate. It was masterminded by Sr Anezka and Sr Elizabeth and highlighted activities appropriate to the “Year of Faith”. Among them was a treasure hunt with a series of clues based on quotes from Scripture and the Catechism. John the Baptist living off locusts and wild honey led us to thestoreroom shelf that houses jam, and Ezekiel’s sprinkle with water to the holy water stoup in the sacristy.
We began the Year of Our Lord 2013 as usual in the best possible way with a Vigil, and then midnight Mass celebrated by our friend, Fr Paul Shaw. The Vigil comprised excerpts from Pope Benedict’s message for World Peace Day, as well as some from Bl. John XXIII’s encyclical, Pacem in Terris, which came out 50 years ago. Little did we guess at the turn of the year what surprises God had up His sleeve for us!
During the Christmas ‘coffee days’ we also enjoyed a series of videoclips obtainedfrom the internet by one of the more computer-wise among us, with Dear Mother, Sr Pia and helpers providing delicious baking to accompany the showing. Among the wide variety of subjects wereChristkindle fairs in Germany, and Christmas celebrations in other countries.
One of our Christmastide recreations, written by Sr Pia, took the form of a This is Your Life production on Celestial TV to welcome Our Lady’s arrival in heaven after her assumption. The presenter introduced her parents, from her parents Joachim and Anne, to playmates of her youth, old friends from back on earth, and others like St Mary Magdalen, whom she befriended in the years of Christ’s ministry on earth. Video-links with earth were provided so that the apostles Peter and Andrew could be interviewed, along with Saint Luke, all of whom were still busy spreading the good news down below in this world. The denouement lay in the final speech when the presenter crowned Our Lady as Queen of Heaven, and on removing his cloak was revealed as her Divine Son welcoming her into His heavenly Kingdom.
Another recreation by Sr Elizabeth and Sr Juliana was 100% ridiculous rather than sublime. Entitled McBother, A Tragical Comedy it told of McBother of Loch Bess, a Laird of the Upper Highlands living with his Lady in the crumbling castle of Glamissette. Their son Osrick was fascinated by Bessie the monster of the Loch, whom no one living had seen. However much he was urged, he refused to marry his second cousin Anemone - a match by which he would acquire palaces in Londinium, Dundee and North Manchester, all well fortified with drawbridges and central heating, thus enabling his parents to live in relative luxury. Meanwhile Anemone and Prince Pamlet of Pamlet Castle had fallen in love, and by the end of the play were free to be married. The Loch Bess monsteress had put her head in the window and enticed Osrick away, and his parents had decidedto retire from their chilly castle to a cottage in the Shetlands. So like all Shakespeare’s comedies it ended with a marriage and was not as tragical as the playbill had led us to believe!
Sr Juliana, who is a born storyteller had entertained us one afternoon with a charming tale about the Magi, and seven elephants from Africa, India and China, who came together to journey to Bethlehem.. This short story was later surpassed in every way by Philia. This she read to us during dinner, beginning in Lent and ending in August! Set in the 4th century, it was originally envisaged as a framework in which to insert the Lenten catechesis of St Cyril of Jerusalem. However it grew in the telling into an imaginative thriller, still with the saintly Bishop’s Lenten talks as a connecting link but also full of fascinating detail about the problems and conflicts in the Church of his days.
After Christmastide, it was back again to Ordinary Time. Though, with a God of surprises, one cannot count on it being so! In February we had our annual Mass in honour of Saint Colette, invoking her intercession especially for couples wishing to be blessed with children, and for expectant mothers, that their unborn children would arrive safely in due course. As so many have contacted us, especially by e-mail, asking prayers for these intentions, we have extended the blessing with her relic to every Saturday at 12.30 pm for any who wish to join us in the singing and recital of the Saint Colette chaplet at that time. We also pray then for any special intentions people wish us to entrust to her loving intercession.
To add to our Lenten observance this year Dear Mother suggested that we should support in a special way with our prayers all those who felt isolated and alone. In practical terms this included our meeting each day for 15 minutes for silent reflection while doing crochet or knitting, and ending by reciting a decade of the rosary together on some beautiful wooden rosaries an American benefactor had made for us.
Dear Mother celebrated her feastday, always a happy community occasion, on 11th February,. After a joyful sung Masswe had a festive breakfast with coffee and toast, and this was followed by her feastday song and an opportunity for her to admire all the gifts we had made. These Sr Beatrix and Sr Seraphina had arranged in a colourful display, and many of them ultimately went to fill the shelves in our small craft-shop. We then dispersed to our various activities only to be summoned by Dear Mother’s urgent ringing of the cloister bell to tell us that news had just come through that our beloved Pope Benedict was resigning. The news came as a shock, and though we all felt to some extent orphaned, the general reaction was one of admiration for his humility and courage in choosing to take such a step after due prayer and consultation. Our second shock that day was a genuine bereavement - we learned of the unexpected death the day before of our friend Brother John Parker, who for anumber of years had been coming to show us slides of Rome and the catacombs and similar related subjects. In fact he had only written to us a few weeks before to arrange a further retreat in the near future. May he rest in peace
On the Feast of Saint David we watchedthe immensely moving coverage of Pope Benedict leaving the Vatican by helicopter to the sound of all the Vatican’s church bells, and of his flight to Castel Gandolfo, where he appeared on the balcony to give his final blessing as Pope to all the people gathered there. Though he looked frail, hecarried himself with his usual quiet serenity through all the long farewells, and spoke simply and extemporaneously, telling the people that he was now simply one of them, a pilgrim on the last lap to eternity.
In March we hada day of Guided Prayer focussing on the writings of Bl. John Duns Scotus. Sr Juliana had designed three banners for it, one of Our Lord, one of Mary Immaculate, and one of Duns Scotus. Fr Paul Shaw came from Chester to celebrate Mass and preached with his customary enthusiasm. A few days later he was back to give us a series of talks about Vatican II, and spoke of his own experience of those days fifty years ago, quoting Wordsworth’s words (though in a very different context from their original one!) Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive! The talks were followed each day by a Holy Hour and then Mass, and our thoughts and prayers were very much with the momentous events taking place in the Church in our own days and among the Cardinals then gathered in Rome. We all signed up for the Youth 2000 initiative inviting people to ‘adopt a Cardinal’, each receiving the name, picture and details of a specific Cardinal to adopt spiritually, praying especially for his guidance in the imminent conclave. We learned later that several million people had backed the initiative, so each Cardinal must have had several hundred thousand people supporting him in prayer - which perhaps goes a long way to accounting for the shortness of the conclave and its unexpected outcome. And of course, first and foremost among those praying for it would have been our own Pope Emeritus.
Shortly after Fr Paul had celebrated Mass on the third day of his talks, as we were heading for the refectory, our dear Marianne rang through excitedly with the news that the new Pope had been elected. Like millions of others all over the world, we eagerly awaited the first appearance of the new Pope. Apparently our Pope Emeritus in Castel Gandolfo was equally glued to the screen and had turned off his phone to forestall interruptions. So at first he was less than happy when the Vatican security rang through insistently at such an important moment to tell him to answer his phone, only to discover that the new Pope was on the other end of the line wanting to speak to him before making his first public appearance - as we now know well, it was one of those typical impromptu gestures of love and concern so characteristic of our new Holy Father, ones which have captivated the hearts of so many, young and old, in all walks of life.
On the day of his inauguration, we had a special Morning Prayer for him with Exposition. It included hymns which expressed Papa Francisco’s love for the poor Christ, and prayers for his new ministry as head of the Church. Also included was a prayer to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, a devotion which he encountered during a stay in Bavaria and has popularised in Argentina, one which invokes her intercession in freeing us from the bonds of temptation and sin, despair and fear, and all the confusion that besets us in our lives. Later we watched a video of thevery moving inaugural Mass in St Peter’s Square.
But it was not only Church events that had a major impact on our lives this year. There were also the freaks of weather. The weeks of unrelenting rain earlier in the year, which had caused widespread flooding in parts of Britain had left our ground soft and squelchy, so when the January snow came, and later heavy falls in March (on what should have been the second day of spring!) we like many others had more damage to contend with. than we first supposed. About a foot of snow fell on the worst day, breaking branches from a number of big trees, uprooting smaller ones in the enclosure garden and a large cypress in front of the monastery. This our good friend Tony valiantly cut up for us, savingsomefor us to use in our woodwork department. When a thaw set in, the weight of frozen snow falling off our steep choir roof collapsed the perspex roof of the small verandah outside the infirmary, and that of the shelter outside the dog kennel, leaving our two small mischief-makers trapped inside. It took 40 minutes to dig them out, and even Millie, who is known for her habitual reluctance to leave her nice warm basket on cold days, seemed genuinely glad to be rescued. The following weeks of frost and ice resulted in a dazzling array of icicles, some about three ft long, hanging from many of our gutters!
On Palm Sunday the snow prevented Canon from coming to celebrate Mass, so we had our own Service of the Word.. By Holy Saturday, all the snow that had fallen off the choir roof had piled up in a frozen mountain outside the antechoir, and it took Sr Ruth several hours to clear an area in which to have our holy fire which begins the Easter Vigil. Though smaller than usual it still blazed cheerfully against its snowy background for the lighting of the large paschal candle, decorated this year by Sr Lourdes, who had incorporated the Year of Faith logo in her design. Even in wintry Wales we were the Easter people, and Alleluia was our song!
Easter week activities included a day spent in Argentina, devised by Sr Anezka. It began with our being required to dress a gingerbread doll or two in Argentinian-style, cutting out their clothing from sheets of coloured marzipan, after which Sr Juliana’s pair werejudged to be the best-dressed, and we were allowed to eat our creations. Then followed input on the history and geography of Argentina, together with a potted biography of its most illustrious citizen these days, our dear Papa Francisco. Later we were treated to a barbecue dinner. Vespers included a sharingon St Cajetan, a saint held in great esteem in Argentina as one who intercedes for the poor, whether they are seeking bread or work, or simply hungering for justice and peace.
In April and May much of the garden was declared out-of-bounds because of the danger from high branches broken by the snow and still hanging loose: so we turned our attention to indoors activities. Chief among these was the removal from the chapter room, which serves as our library, of the seven thousand or so books there, so we could repaint it. The volumes were then sorted, checked against their index cards, and recatalogued under a new system, this time with colour-coded spine labels for the various sections to make them easier to find. We managed to find good homes for a number of double copies, leaving us with some shelf space for any new arrivals.
During May we had our now traditional Flores de Maio devotions daily, this year in choirso that friends and visitors could also be present. A good deal of creative ingenuity went into choosing a different picture or statue of Our Lady each day, placing it in a colourful setting of drapes and flowers, and choosing appropriate hymns, readings and prayers for the celebration in herhonour. We also celebrated October with daily Marian devotions in our shrine chapel, this time just for Marianne and ourselves as space there is limited. Sr Seraphina selected and played the hymns for these, and Sr Agatha led the reflections on the various mysteries of the rosary, and they furnished a welcome period of peaceful reflection in the busy weeks leading up to our Autumn Fair.
May also saw us preparing for our dear Sr Agatha’s Ruby Jubilee at the end of the month. Sr Beatrix and Sr Seraphina arranged a countdown novena for her in the refectory. They set up a new small shrine to Our Lady there each day on the wall or windowsills, the figuresranging from Our Lady of Africa, to Our Lady of China, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Guadelupe etc. Each day the latest shrine was unveiled, we sang a hymn or psalm, and Sr Agatha placed a rose at it and lit a votive light, while we prayed for her and her intentions. Sr Agatha’s Jubilee Mass was celebrated by Canon Quigley as a Poor Clare family affair, with only Marianne and a few others present. Canon spoke simply from his heart about Sr Agatha's long years of living out her Poor Clare vocation with joy and simplicity. Four Sisters carrying ten small lighted candles each, stood near Sister Agatha as she renewed her holy vows in Dear Mother’s hands and received a crown of ruby-coloured flowers, (also containinga few decorative butterflies!)
At dinnertime the full glory of the refectory decorations was revealed. Sr Seraphina had based them on the theme of the Symphony of Creation magnifying the Lord, and had moulded about forty angels from white tissue paper for a collage on the wall, showing them encircling the throne of God with their praise. There were several beautifully painted floor to ceiling hangdowns in pastel colours decorated with fish, birds, water, sky and other facets of creation, and below them an altar set up as for holy Mass, the principal means of drawing the whole world into the living praise of God.
The next day the ‘Jubilee room’ in which all the presents we had made her were displayed, was opened in the cloister with the singing of the delightful song written for the occasion by our Beloved Mother Francesca. She was Sr Agatha’s novice mistress when she entered in 1970, accompanying and nurturing her vocation since then. Sr Amata and Sr Yolanda had fashioned a very lovely background setting of drapes, with home-made flowers in pastel colours and matching posters featuring quotes from a number of our Sister’s favourite pinups - Saint Pio, Saint Kateri, Blessed John XXIII, Blessed John Paul the Great, Saints Francis, Clare and Colette, as well as John Bradburne and Bishop Fulton Sheen. In the evening we enjoyed a presentation celebrating the sea in all its aspects, a theme dear to Sr Agatha’s heart, asshe grew up in Brighton.. The showing was in three parts, and pictures ranged from sea and surf, to shores and cliffs, icebergs, seabirds, boats, whales, sharks and coral reef life, ships throughout the ages, and famous ships in British history. The whole event took about two and a half hours in all, with our evening collation provided in the intermissions, the final section comprising a Vespers in honour of Our Lady, Star of the Sea. A CD of sounds of the sea from various places round Britain, served as a background soundtrack and was enhanced by poems about seagulls, sharks, jellyfish, flying fish, etc, read by Sr Ruth and Sr Amata.
On the following day we went on pilgrimage to Syria where Sr Yolanda, dressed for the part, told us of the appearances of Our Lady in Soufanieh in the 1980sand of her urgent appeal for believers to be united in love - a heart-rending plea in view of the tragic situation there in these days. We then had a special Vespersin honour of the Mother of God. It comprised prayers based on the Rule of the Mother of God, written by St Seraphim of Sarov, together with excerpts from the Athakist hymn, and the prayers and messages of Soufanieh. We each venerated a copy of the small icon of Our Lady from which healing oil had flowed in profusion at the time of her appearances, lighting candles and placing flowers before it while praying for a host of intentions.
The next day was observed as a Butterfly Day, as butterflies are also known to rejoice Sr Agatha’s heart. The extreme winter had led naturalists to predict a dearth of butterflies this summer, but they were happy to be proved wrong when an unprecedented number were reported to gladden us all - though the clouds of cabbage whites hovering near our vegetable patch were rather less welcomethan the peacock or tortoiseshell variety! We were treated to a talk on the life cycle of the butterfly, of which there are an estimated 28,000 species, each developing from egg to caterpillar, then forming a chrysalis and finally emerging as the adult imago. Apparently the bitter struggle needed for the adult to emerge from the tiny hole in its chrysalis is an essential part of its development, and so an allegory for us all in times of tribulation. The compression forces fluid from the insect’s body into the veins of its wings, unfolding them till they are large enough for the butterfly to soar to the skies .If it had not undergone the ordeal it would have remained for ever earthbound. By way of entertainment we also enjoyed a puppet play in the novitiate, starring Brother Pio, a Franciscan, who to his dismay encountered a charming caterpillar named Kate in his garden nestling in a pea pod having consumed the peas. They eventually became friends and later she came to visit him in his cell fluttering around in her final form as abeautiful blue Italian butterfly.
Other Jubilee week activities included a two-part episcope presentation by Sr Elizabeth of her Duffer’s Guide to Paradise, based on the last ten cantos of Dante’s Il Paradiso and beautifully illustrated. Together with her ‘Duffer’s’ version of Il Purgatorio, it was the culmination of about sixyears’ work on and off and a real joy and inspiration to us all. Another event was a day spent on pilgrimage TMD-style to 21 shrines of Our Lady throughout the world, under the auspices of Sr Pia and Sr Anezka. It included not only a talk on the origin of each of these shrines but a board game, for which they had moulded little Poor Clare nuns as playing-pieces, each aiming to visit six of the shrines.. Various squares of different colours entailed our answering questions on Scripture, Our Lady, or the Church. In the end we all safely attained our required goals and duly won a small packet of sweets.
June saw our triennial community elections, which resulted in no major changes of office. It also saw our greenhouse transformed into a “bean house”, with the seeds sown there belatedly in a multitude of pots, as the forecast at the time was for further weeks of rain. The severe cold in March probably killed off most of the mushroom spores, as there were few edible ones in our garden this year - thoughan enchantingly colourful ring of red toadstools sprang up under the silver birches. Toads were not in evidence, but we had frogs aplenty in the dog run, evicting a score and more over the course of several weeks.
In Auugust Dear Mother accepted an invitation to be present at the Youth 2000 gathering at Walsingham this year, attended by a thousand or so young people, and to bear witness to our particular form of gospel life. And in September, like so many Catholics and people of all faiths throughout the world , we responded to the Holy Father’s appeal for a day of prayer and fasting for the people of Syria and all caught up in the spiralling violence in the Middle East. We were spiritually united with him in thefour-hour Prayer Vigil in St Peter’s Square, attended at short notice by a hundred thousand people. It included the recitation of the rosary, Exposition and sung Matins, and Pope Francis gave a simple but forceful homiliy calling for peace and reconciliation and saying that “we have perfected our weapons of war but our consciences are asleep.” Later that month our new Bishop, Bishop Peter Brignall, came to celebrate Mass here, and expressed his pleasure at meeting us as a community. He had just returned from Rome where he had met not only Pope Francis, but also several new Bishops appointed to Syria and Lebanon. For him it was a very moving experience, knowing that they would be going back to bear witness to Christ and to lead the Church there in such dangerous situations.
How wonderful too it was for our Sisters in Assisi and for all Poor Clares when Pope Francis visited them there in October, praying before the original San Damiano cross that now hangs in their chapel, and speaking to them, and so to us all, about our vocation, telling us that: Because the Word became flesh, God became flesh for us, and this gives you a great, human, beautiful and mature holiness, the holiness of a mother. And this is what the Church wants you to be: mothers... To give life. When you pray for others, you have a maternal role towards them.
Autumn also brought us harvest-time, and the welcome gift of fruit, vegetables and groceries from local harvest festivals, a great help to us and much appreciated. Our Autumn Fair was well attended, with the knitted items, ranging from crochet blankets lovingly made by our dear Marianne, to dolls, scarves, shawls and bed jackets made by the rest of us, in great demand. We are very grateful to all of you, our friends, for your generous support in so many ways. As to the supposed ban on recycled jam jars, which we mentioned in our 2012 Tidings, we have discovered that we were misinformedand that it does not actually extend to us as we had originally thought, but to larger commercial enterprises. So if you have any old jam jars we can certainly put them to good use.
Andonce again, in all the uncertainties and darkness of our world today we set our sights on the coming of the Lord into our lives in a special way this Christmas. In all we do you can be sure that we will be enfolding you and your loved ones, and your joys and sorrows in our hearts before Him. We commit ourselves once again to living the Gospel more deeply in response to the encouraging words of Pope Francis, praying that they may become a reality in our lives and yours, and indeed in those of all God’s children “Put on Christ!” in your life, and you will find a friend in whom you can always trust; “put on Christ” and you will see the wings of hope spreading and letting you journey with joy towards the future.
With loving prayers for every grace and blessing - as God pleases, as God wills - in the coming year,
your little Sisters at Ty Mam Duw