70th Anniversary Declaration of the Dogma The Assumption of Our Lady into heaven
CROESO I MEIRIONNYDD
Croeso and welcome to the latest edition of Catholic Reflections. Here in Wales we have just begun a National Corona Virus Lock-down which means that for the time being we regrettably unable to attend Mass and devotions in our churches.
All our community activities have had to be transferred online where possible. Through the use of ZOOM for our Mass, our parish digital publications and social media.
This month's Catholic Reflections remembers the 70th anniversary of the Dogma - The Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven. November is also the month of Remembrance and there is a poignant story of someone's experiences at the Menin Gate in 1940. There is a posthumous discovery via Elected Silence by Thomas Merton of the charismatic founder of the Madonna House movement - Catherine Doherty which makes for very interesting reading.
We are keeping everyone in our prayers and thank you for your continued support and words of encouragement for the Reflections.
Gras ein Harglwydd Iesu fyddo gyda chwi! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
The Parish of Saint David and Saint Mair is part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wrexham.
The Parish provides a Christian outreach to local residents and holiday visitors in Tywyn and Machynlleth. It is a focal point for Catholics to meet in fellowship and worship. It has a ministry to support the Faithful through the celebration of the Mass and the Sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church.
Hoffwn roicroeso cynnes i chi o ran cymuned ein plwyf yma ar lannau gwych Bae Ceredigion.
Mae plwyf Dewi Sant gyda Santes Fair, sy’n rhan o esgobaeth gatholig Wrecsam, yn estyn dwylo i ymwelwyr a’r rhai sy’n byw yn Nhywyn a Machynlleth; a ganddo weinidogaeth i gynnal y ffyddloniaid trwy weinyddu’r Offeren a sagrafennau eraill yr Eglwys Gatholig. Hefyd, mae ei ddwy eglwys yn gweithredu fel ganolfannau y mae catholigion yn cymdeithasu ac addoli ynddynt.
Saint David Catholic Church, Corbett Avenue, Tywyn, Gwynedd, LL36 0AH
Saint Mair Catholic Church, Maengwyn Street, Machynlleth, Powys, SY20 8EF
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Parish of Tywyn and Machynlleth Registered as a Charity in England and Wales No 700426 Diocese of Wrexham
Mount Grace Priory Yorkshire
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Liturgical Snippets 
The Fifth Silence though brief is observed as we remember the faithful departed at the Memento of the Dead during the Eucharistic Prayer. We believe in the Communion of Saints. The Church Triumphant in heaven intercedes for us. We, the Church Militant on earth, pray for the Church Suffering, the souls in Purgatory, who cannot pray for themselves. Released from Purgatory, they in turn, when they behold God face to face in heaven, will pray for us. At every mass like a good Mother, the Church remembers her deceased children.
Lest we for forget, She dedicates a full day once a year to this end: ALL SOULS DAY (November 2). It is a salutary practice to pray for the dear departed whom we still hold in love
Monsignor Alex Rebello
All Saints Day
Sunday 1st November
We remember 70th anniversary the dogma of the assumption
MILLIONS WITNESS HISTORIC CEREMONY
While close on a million people gathered in St Peter's Square on Wednesday morning 1st November and witnessed the historic ceremony, millions of others throughout the world heard over the radio His Holiness the Pope proclaim the Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven as an Article of Faith.
In doing so, the Holy Father made explicit a truth which has been believed by the faithful down through the centuries.
Nearly a million people from all over the world, packed into the square of St Peter's on Wednesday morning, roared a welcome to His Holiness the Pope as he was carried shoulder-high to an open-air throne to proclaim the Dogma of the Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven.
Swaying on the sedia gestatoria above a white, scarlet and golden procession of Cardinals, archbishops, priests, monks and Vatican Guards, the Pope leaned from side to side to bless the dense mass of people stretching out of sight along every approach to the great church. He looked calm and serene.
A sea of handkerchiefs, banners and flags waved a joyous reply as the crowds shouted, "Viva il Papa" in Italian, and the same in a dozen other languages.
A gold and white Papal throne had been erected at the top of the wide flight of steps leading from the great square into the Basilica itself, and it was from there that the historic proclamation was made.
Flanked on either side of the throne and along the facade of the Basilica were the Cardinals, archbishops, bishops and abbots from all over Christendom.
Grouped in front were the thousands of clergy who had taken part in the procession, and then, filling the great square, Catholics from all walks of life and from all over the globe.
On Monday 30th October, the Cardinals, archbishops and bishops solemnly approved the Pope's decision to proclaim the dogma when they met in consistory -- the greatest assembly of prelates in the history of the Church. They joined the Holy Father in prayer that Our Lady would defend the Church against "the oppression of iniquitous persecutions".
Some 36 Cardinals, more than a third of the Church's 1,776 bishops, about 5000 priests and nuns, and a million faithful, attended the ceremony.
Cardinal archbishop of Westminster Bernard Griffin was present with all the members of the Hierarchy of England and Wales.
Taken from the front page of
The Catholic Times Friday, November 3rd, 1950
The assumption of Our Lady into Heaven
A homily by
Monsignor Alex Rebello
My dear Brothers and Sisters,
In the Church’s Calendar there are three solemn feasts in honour of Mary, our Blessed Mother: the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, which we celebrate on 1st January; the Solemnity of her Immaculate Conception which we commemorate on 8th December; and the Solemnity of her Glorious Assumption which we observe today. All these three feasts are inter-related. The Immaculate Conception of Mary marks the first moment of her life in the womb of St. Anne; the Assumption signals her transition into heaven. These two privileges of being conceived immaculate without original sin “our tainted nature’s solitary boast purer than foam in Central Ocean tossed” and the honour of being gloriously taken body and soul into heaven “when the course of her earthly life was finished”, were conferred on her because God had chosen Mary to be the Mother of His Son, the Living Tabernacle, the House of Gold that enshrined Jesus, the Son of God. While the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception focuses on her soul, the Assumption of Mary draws our attention to the dignity and destination of her Body.
“We pronounce, declare and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory” (Munificentissimus Deus). With these words, Pope Pius XII proclaimed this truth on 1st November, 1950.
What then is the message for us as we celebrate this Solemnity? Today’s celebration teaches us first and foremost the dignity and destiny of our human body. Our body is sacred because it not only encloses our soul, but even more, it enshrines God. We are all fashioned in the image and likeness of God. God dwells within us; we are His temples. This is why we need always to regard, respect and reverence our body and the body of others. Mother Church demonstrates this at the funeral service when She incenses the body of the deceased, with the very incense with which She pays honour to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament at benediction. To use the body to pander to and exploit it, for mere hedonism, is to abuse it.
Jesus by his death and resurrection has obtained for us victory over death. “The Assumption of Mary is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians. In giving birth you kept your virginity; in your Dormition (sleep), you did not leave the world, O Mother of God, but were joined to the Source of Life. You conceived the living God and, by your prayers, will deliver souls from death.” (CCC 966). What Mary experienced, we too will. Therefore, her glorious assumption must not be regarded as an exception to the rule, but rather as anticipation of what will happen to us too. We believe in the resurrection of the body. We too will rise from the dead.
The Assumption of Mary body and soul into heaven teaches us that heaven is our final destination and home. We do not have here a lasting city. We are all passengers in the transit lounge of this world. We meet. In the short time that we are in transit, we get to know one another. Then the “boarding announcements” are made and we depart, never again to meet in this transit lounge on earth! But we will all meet again in heaven! When I pray the fourth glorious mystery in the rosary – the Assumption of Mary into heaven – I tell her: “Dear Mother, let me be just a page boy holding your trail in heaven!” Every mother would want her children to be near her. Mother Mary awaits us her children in heaven. To her we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears, as we say together:
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
[St. Tudwal Church, Barmouth – Msgr. Alex Rebello (690 Words)]
Rev. 11:19.12:1-6.10; Ps. 44; 1 Cor. 15:20-26; Lk. 1:39-56
With thanks to Monsignor Alex Rebello
Durham World Heritage Site - Shrine of St Cuthbert
Our Lady of the Pillar
According to ancient local tradition, on 2 January AD 40, the Virgin Mary appeared to St James the Great on the bank of the Ebro River at Caesaraugusta, while he was preaching the Gospel in Spain. She appeared upon a pillar, Nuestra Señora del Pilar, and that pillar is conserved and venerated within the present Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, in Zaragoza, Spain. Following that apparition, St. James returned to Judea, where he was beheaded by King Herod Agrippa in AD 44.  
Larry Peterson- published on 10/12/17 | Aleteia
Was the 1st apparition of the Blessed Mother an act of bilocation?
Only a few years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, in the year 40, the very first Marian apparition took place. The Blessed Virgin appeared to one of the apostles, St. James the Great, brother of St. John, in Spain. This apparition is known as Our Lady of the Pillar.
During the very early days of Christianity, James had travelled to the pagan lands of the Roman province of Hispania, today known as Spain. His evangelization efforts encountered great difficulty and it is said that the apostle had fallen into despondency.
One night, James was praying by the banks of the Ebro River near the city that is today known as Zaragoza. Suddenly a great light engulfed him. James knelt, staring into the light, and what he saw was beyond description. In the light was the Virgin Mary, surrounded by thousands of angels. She told James that he should persevere, assuring him that ultimately his work for Jesus would have great results and many would turn to the Faith. She asked that a church be built on the place where she appeared and left behind a pillar of jasper to mark the spot where she had been. The Virgin Mary also left a small statue of herself holding the infant Jesus in her arms. The statue was sitting atop the jasper pillar.
Since the Blessed Virgin was still alive and living in Jerusalem — this was prior to her assumption into heaven — her appearance is considered an act of bilocation.
James immediately gathered some of his new followers and began work on a chapel on the designated site. The chapel is the first church ever dedicated to Mary and today, after many renovations, is known as the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar. It is located in the exact place Our Lady appeared some 2,000 years ago.
James participated in the dedication of the small church and returned to Jerusalem.
Ironically, he was the first apostle to die for the faith. In the year 44, Herod Agrippa had James beheaded. The disciples of James took his body back to Spain for final burial. at Compostalla. The statue and pillar left by Our Lady were taken under the protection of the people of Zaragoza.
The many miracles surrounding the relic can attest to its heavenly origin. In 1936, during the Spanish Civil War, the left-leaning Republicans bombed the shrine, but the bombs that hit the church never exploded. No one is allowed to touch the statue except for the four priests assigned to its care and new-born infants, who can be lifted up to touch the image of their heavenly Mom.
Popes from the earliest times have attested to the authenticity of Our lady’s appearance at the shrine. Pope Calixtus III in 1456 encouraged people to make pilgrimages to Our Lady of the Pillar The miracle of the shrine’s foundation was even acknowledged.
The most prominent miracle occurred in the 17th century. A beggar named Miguel Pellicer from the town of Calanda could not work due to having an amputated leg. He was constantly praying at the shrine for the Blessed Mother’s help and his leg was restored.
Over the centuries many controversial stories arose concerning the authenticity of this shrine. Pope Innocent III, answering an appeal from Spain, had 12 cardinals investigate all the data available. On August 7, 1723, the Sacred Congregation of Rites affirmed the original. In 1730, Pope Clement XII allowed the feast of Our Lady of Pillar to be celebrated throughout the Spanish empire. Eventually she was declared Patroness of the Hispanic World. Our Lady of the Pillar’s feast day is October 12.
One final thought. As a young seminarian, St. Josemaria Escriva, made daily visits to the shrine of Our Lady of the Pillar. He always prayed for guidance and eventually founded Opus Dei. The members honor her feast day each year.
Our Lady of the Pillar,
please pray for us.
Our Lady of the Pillar at Zaragoza
The irony of War
Shell damage to the Menin Gate 1940
Catherine de Hueck Doherty
The Baroness and the Gospel
TO READ ABOUT HER LIFE , WRITINGS AND SPIRITUALITY CLICK HERE
When Catherine de Hueck first arrived in New York City, she recalled, “the actual sight was simply overwhelming.” Then, she writes, she “did the strangest thing.” Standing outside Grand Central Station, she “looked at the immensity of New York, and said out loud, ‘You do not frighten me … I’ll conquer you.'”
A nearby policeman said: “Atta girl!”
An impoverished Russian aristocrat, Catherine took a variety of jobs: laundress, waitress, cashier at Macy’s, personal trainer. It was a lonely time: “There is no greater loneliness than being in a crowd of people you don’t know.” At one restaurant, she soon discovered she was expected to provide additional services to male customers. She changed her uniform, threw it at her boss, and said: “I am not porno material!”
Born Ekaterina Fyodorovna Kolyschkine in 1896, Catherine grew up in the aristocratic privilege of Czarist Russia, traveling throughout Europe with her parents. At 15, she was married to her cousin, Baron Boris de Hueck, an arranged marriage. During World War I, they both served in the army, he an officer and she a nurse. She was decorated for bravery under fire.
As Russia collapsed, the couple returned to St. Petersburg, where they found “nothing to eat.” Forced to rummage through garbage cans, they were attacked as “aristocrats.” They escaped from Russia, hiding along the way in pig sties. Westerners, Catherine insisted, couldn’t understand real starvation, “never having really experienced [food’s] complete absence.”
"She had no fancy tricks, nothing for the gallery. And yet as soon as I came in the door, the impression she was making .... pervaded the place with such power that it nearly knocked me backwards. She had a strong voice, and strong convictions, and strong things to say, and she was saying them in the simplest, most unvarnished, bluntest possible kind of talk, and with such uncompromising directness that it stunned".
Thomas Merton, the Cistercian writer, quotes taken from 'Elected Silence'
Finding refuge in England, Catherine was received into the Catholic Church. Raised Orthodox, she had been taught by Catholic nuns at an early age. From there, she and Boris made their way to Canada, where the two would eventually divorce. In New York, she sought work, not a cause. A lecture bureau asked her to speak on pre-revolutionary Russia for a handsome salary, which she agreed to do.
Then, all of a sudden, she gave it up to go live with the poor in the middle of the Great Depression:
During those days I was in the throes of hearing the Lord say, “Sell what you possess … come follow me,” and I was running away from him. One night, while dancing with this man, I heard laughter, a very gentle and kind laughter. I heard what I thought was the voice of God laughing and saying: “You can’t escape me, Catherine, you can’t.” I pleaded a headache and went home. Some new phase of my life was about to begin.
She began her new work in Canada and then came back to New York. Two things shocked her: the extent of white racism, and the living conditions in Harlem. At Columbia University, she asked a professor why African-Americans weren’t discussed. He responded: “Oh, we don’t study the Negro. We study American history.” The United States, she wrote, “had this marvelous Constitution, but it doesn’t apply to Negroes.”
In Harlem, she found “a no-man’s land of fear and doubt.” Where was God in it all? she asked. In 1938, Catherine founded Friendship House, an interracial apostolate dedicated to fighting segregation. Like her friend Dorothy Day, the “B.” (the Baroness), as they called her, attracted idealistic young people nationwide. One volunteer recalled:
White people, black people—talking, laughing, friendly, sipping coffee. How simple the solution all seemed then: the sooner we of different races learned to work together, to pray together, to eat, to study, to laugh together, the sooner we’d be on the way to interracial justice.
Advocating civil rights in America, she discovered, could be as deadly as revolutionary Russia. She was spit at and called a “n*gger lover.” At a Catholic women’s group, she was berated for eating “with dirty n*ggers.” When a woman told her, “You smell of the Negro,” Catherine lost her temper: “And you stink of hell!” Once at a lecture in Savannah, she was nearly beaten to death by a group of white Catholic women.
“You have to preach the Gospel, without compromise, or shut up,” Catherine said. “One or the other. I tried to preach it without compromise.” She always ended her lectures the same way:
Sooner or later, all of us are going to die. We will appear before God for judgment. The Lord will look at us and say, “I was naked and you didn’t clothe me. I was hungry and you didn’t give me anything to eat. I was thirsty and you didn’t give me a drink. I was sick and you didn’t nurse me. I was in prison and you didn’t come to visit me.” And we shall say, “Lord, when did I not do these things?” I would stop here, pause, and in a very loud voice say, “When I was a Negro and you were a white American Catholic.”That’s when the rotten eggs and tomatoes would start to fly!
“When I was a Negro and you were a white American Catholic.”That’s when the rotten eggs and tomatoes would start to fly!
One of Catherine’s key supporters was New York’s Cardinal Patrick J. Hayes, who was “always worried” about her. After she organized a study group at Friendship House, the local pastor visited her:
“Listen to me, you Russian nitwit. What are you trying to do? Make them think they are loved just because they have become Catholics? You are giving them the raw Gospel and it isn’t getting you anywhere. Stop it!” I said, “Father, would you like to come with me to see the Cardinal? If he orders me to stop, I will stop.” “Oh, hell,” he said. On the way out he slammed the door and smashed the glass in the window.”
Catherine would eventually marry Edward J “Eddie” Doherty, with whom she co-founded the Madonna House Apostolate, and move back to Canada, where she continued to be involved in apostolic work, including — again like Dorothy Day — the founding of a newspaper, Restoration, which continues to publish.
Wherever she worked, Baroness Catherine de Hueck Doherty sought to actualize the Gospel message in the present moment. As the Servant of God once told a Fordham University Jesuit: “I have never read anywhere in the gospel where Christ says to wait twenty years before living the gospel. The Good News is for now.”
With thanks to Aleteia
The article was written by Patrick MacNamara PhD. He is an author of Catholic history in the New York area, and has written three books on the subject. He also maintain a blog on Catholic history, "McNamara's Blog," at Patheos.com.
"New York Catholics: Faith, Attitude & the Works" (2014) Orbis BooksOct 2014
A series of biographical profiles of Catholic New Yorkers, from colonial times to the present.
Robin Hood's Bay
Perched above the 17th century fishing village of Robin Hood’s Bay, Madonna House in North Yorkshire, England offers an immersion in a living faith community. Gospel values are rooted in this soil, trod by Celtic and Anglo-Saxon saints. With all of Madonna House, we share the life of Nazareth, learning to be at home with Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
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It was liberating and human to ask questions and not to know the answers … to be a subject rather than an object of God
A struggle with silence
THE FIRST TIME I ever met a practising Catholic was six years ago when I visited Bakonybél Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in Hungary, as a volunteer on a farming project. I was with my girlfriend, who had grown up as an Evangelical Christian; I had had no religious upbringing whatsoever. Despite the fact that I wasn’t baptised, I felt embarrassed to be living with a community of monks. Yet this introduction to the monastic life – with its emphasis on praying rather than proselytising – probably made a convert of me. The wordiness of Christianity had put me off, but the stillness drew me in. After my visit to Bakonybél, I was baptised and confirmed into the Catholic Church. I was 21. My friends and family often describe me as a “hippie” and were confused about this unlikely turn of events. Yet, despite my difficulties with some of the positions the Church takes up, I knew – from the experience of being part of the endless rhythm of prayer – that there was something more important at the heart of it.
In my early years as a Catholic, I was very interested in becoming a monk. Of course, this was a step that friends and family would never have even begun to understand. Yet I never quite crossed the threshold back inside a monastery. I thought I would give it time, and wait for God to guide me. It seems to have been such a more straightforward choice for others. Thérèse of Lisieux entered the Carmelites when she was fifteen years and three months old. Instead I dithered – I worked as a support worker, wrote, lived in a Catholic Worker community, and became a post-graduate student at St Benet’s Hall, Oxford. But all the time I was convinced that I wanted to become some manner of Benedictine.
I visited Caldey Abbey, the Cistercian abbey in Pembrokeshire, for a week. I was enamoured of the beauty and richness of life there, but I just did not feel a “pull” to throwing in my lot in with them. Similarly, my time at St Benet’s left me unmoved. While I liked the monks, I was appalled by the pageantry, the endless wining and dining, and what seemed to me – and I recognise now the fault may have been with my raw and immature understanding of the term – the relative lack of what we might badly define as “spirituality”.
I BECAME MORE and more intrigued by the Carthusians, a religious order dedicated to solitude, simplicity and silent contemplation, to clear away all the clutter in order better to hear the transcendent Word of God. This might, I thought, be a better fit for a nature loving “hippie” devoted to Christian worship. I am also a committed vegan and I didn’t want to be forced to eat fancy cheese. There is just one Carthusian monastery in the UK, St Hugh’s Charterhouse at Parkminster, founded in 1873 by French Carthusians fleeing political turmoil. The Monastery is built in the the French Gothic style and strikes a discordant note in the Sussex countryside.
Its cloister is more than a kilometer long, and one of the largest in the word; some of the monks use bicycles to move around it. The Carthusians, I read, are the "real deal". They agreed to accept me for a month-long-vocational retreat.
IN A CHARTERHOUSE, there is no opportunity to focus on anything but God. The Carthusians have no schools, no university colleges, no cellars devoted to the making of craft beer.
When a self-confessed “nature-loving hippie” felt drawn to a life of solitude and prayer, he decided to test his vocation in the UK’s only Carthusian monastery, in Parkminster, Sussex / By SAM HICKFORD
An aerial view of St Hugh's Charterhouse at Parkminster
I came to appreciate its merit. When a lay brother walked up to the lectern and recited the Song of Songs in the dead of night – “your plants are an orchard of pomegranates with choice fruits” – every word sank in. I realised how passively I usually read. I reflected how little of the Bible I had actually read – really read – in any detail. The lives of the monks are dictated by the ebb and flow of the office. They shuffle between their cells and the church three times a day – for Mass in the morning, Vespers in the evening, and the night office – in the lightless passages of the monastery. The minor offices (Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Compline) are said by the monks in their cells in solitude. The liturgy of the hours becomes as natural to the monks as breathing. Every night I would have two dreams, and my dreams became much more vivid, in counterpoint to the near-silence which comprised every day. The days were mostly spent in the cell to which I had been allocated. The monk’s cell is enormous. There are no pictures on the walls, a workbench, and a stone floor. My cell had its own huge overgrown garden of nettles, bindweed and a huge yew tree. Upstairs there is a prayer space, and a wooden floored room with a bed, a stove, a table for study, a small eating area where a monk eats by himself three times a day, and a bookshelf. Since the monastery was renovated some years ago, each monk has a toilet, shower and basin. Previously, the monks had needed to carry water inside.
WHEN I WASN’T in my cell, I worked in the monastery’s orchards or the library. Working outside the cell is a privilege entrusted to lay brothers, which I was discerning might be my vocation: the “cloister-monks” are trainee priests and spend all day alone in their cell. I began to feel less lonely in my cell than around the other monks: in my mind, I would often have passionate exchanges and debates as I mused over very basic things I had never given much thought to before. What is happiness? What is life? I realised I had never formed my own comprehensive answers to these questions, and that I had been distracted from doing so my whole life. I never felt bored. This was probably compounded by the monastery’s austerity: there were only cold showers and on Fridays we only ate bread and water. Food was delivered to us in our cells through a hatch in the door. The hatch probably confused me most, but I got used to these customs after a couple of weeks, and began to enjoy the benefits of eating on my own: I could read totally undisturbed, for example.
Material comforts barely exist, and even sleep is sharply curtailed. The military punctuality of the Charterhouse became drilled in to me. I would have half an hour in my cell before I had to head to the chapel, where the night office (Matins and Lauds) would take place in total darkness. The offices are sung in ancient Gregorian chant. Sometimes I could smell whorls of incense in the blackened vault, or hear screeches of wind. Silence reigned – inquisitive, persistent – as the brothers took their place in the choir at half-past midnight every night.
This office would last for three hours, and I would walk back to my cell practically as a zombie, falling asleep immediately. The fact that the monks get up at midnight every day, and go to church to pray until 3.30 a.m. is one example of how diametrically opposed life in Parkminster is to life outside of it, where a good night’s sleep is seen as a basic necessity. The Carthusians reject this logic and continue to pray during the night, one of the earliest customs of Eastern monasticism.
Once a week the monks go on a walk, during which they are permitted to speak. Work outside my cell created opportunities to talk to other monks. One told me this was the most “perfect peace” I will ever experience. Another told me he no longer “worries about everything”, and that he no longer misses his family and friends. The monks do not use phones or have access to the internet. They see their family once a year. Despite the peace that monks often spoke of, I also saw what seemed to me signs of pain in their faces, as they struggled with the psychological and physical demands of extreme austerity and solitude.
IT IS A BEAUTIFUL life, and there is a happiness here that very few of us living outside will experience. But I found I missed “the world”, and I came to think that much of what it promises is not merely fleeting or transitory. Charity and friendship, the joys and tumults of family life, the challenges and satisfactions of work, are places of pleasure and growth, and not simply sources of temptation or sin. But I was deeply moved by the retreat in ways I have never been before, and certain images will never leave my mind. The Carthusians are buried in an unmarked graveyard, without names, extremely close to each other. One of the lay brothers told me that, during one particular burial, parts of another corpse had been dug up by accident. I was moved by how perfectly at peace with life and death the monks had become – so much so that they don’t mind accidentally digging up their own dead.
I found the asceticism of the monks deeply inspirational. Hair-shirts are worn by the cloister-monks in order to cause them physical discomfort. In the Middle Ages, this might not have been quite so shocking; in a culture in which we compete for higher and higher status and wealth, it is a bold act of defiance. The lives of the Carthusian monks are a powerful statement that the spiritual life is still as crucial as it has always been. We need more silence, and the retreat gave me a large helping at a time when I was particularly hungry for it. Ivan Illych wrote that “Silence, according to Western and Eastern traditions alike, is necessary for the emergence of persons.” For Illych, silence is a “commons”, a source of authentic communion and something that should be available to all. In these noisy, frenzied times, prolonged silence is the most valuable secular therapy there is. Yet silence is also terrifying.
I realise now how long I spent waging a war with silence – spending a huge portion of my time in the Charterhouse reading, writing and working in order to somehow defeat it. I became almost overwhelmed during my time there by the thought that everything I know and love will die. I’m not sure how I got through this crisis, but I came to actually enjoy the process: it was liberating and human to ask questions and not to know the answers, and to be a subject rather than an object of God. More than anything, I realised how deeply enjoyable and satisfying it is just to listen.
I loved my time in the Charterhouse. Worldly attachments seem far too real to me to forsake in the blink of eye, at least for now. But I know if I were to become a monk – or, rather, if God were to lead me to become a monk – it would be as a Carthusian.
Sam Hickford is a freelance writer.
First appeared in THE TABLET on the 10th August 2019.
We are grateful to the publishers for allowing us to reprint the article.
Corona virus Prayer
God our Father. You are the giver of life. Have mercy on us. Bless the efforts of all those who are fighting this disease. Protect us from Corona Virus and keep us and all those dear to our hearts, safe and secure in the shelter of your love. Through Christ our Lord Amen
Monsignor Alex Rebello
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It had rained right through the night. This morning, the Tiber looked so full as it hurriedly flowed past as though wanting to give more generously and quickly what it had received all night long.
The more we receive, the more must we give. God's gifts to us are not meant to be hoarded but shared. The best way to appreciate a gift is to share it. When we share God's gifts to us with others, not only the gifts but we ourselves become a blessing!
Through Nature God teaches us the same lesson: to live is to give; to give is to live. Trees offer their shade for others; flowers bloom and spray their fragrance for others; birds sing for others; the wind blows for others; the sun shines, the moon glows and stars twinkle for others; rivers flow for others.
Alas! We have become so impervious to these truths. We want to grab. We fail to realise that only the hand that is open in giving can be open also to receive; only the heart that is generous in sharing God's blessings can in turn be empty enough to receive more.
The more empty we are, the more God fills us. And the more God fills us, the more we must give to and share with others.
I walked along the Tiber but could not keep pace with its rapid flow. It seemed to be in a mighty hurry to give and to share!
by Monsignor Alex Rebello
St Tudwal Catholic Church Barmouth
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Corbett Avenue Tywyn LL36 0AH
Parishes of Saint David and Saint Mair
Father Nicholas Enzama
Introduction to Francisco de Osuna
'The Spiritual Alphabet'