Thursday, 30 August 2007

Beheading of St. John the Baptist – August xxix

Beheading of St. John the Baptist – August xxix
At the mid-morning tea break conversation turned to Salome in the account John the Baptist. The question was whether the dancing step-daughter of Herod Antipas was names in the Gospel. The organist remembered the catchy Antiphon of the old Horas Diurnas (Daily Hours). It was mood of the music was quite surprising, a sprightly melody of the dance, “My Lord, give me on a dish the head of John the Baptist” – a strange gaiety expressing the macabre.Salome’s name does not appear.
Her historical place is clear in non-biblical texts and is stamped on a coin struck by Herod. The fact that her name appears in the title of so many works of art, music and drama is the ironic aspect of how she introduces so many to the drama of the martyrdom of John the Baptist. The name Salome, as such, has been kept with similar non-Scriptural figures, like the name of Dismas, the good thief, the names of the Magi.How is it, I wonder, we seem to be familiar with the actual name of Salome? She is well known from the Gospels as the wife of Zebedee, mother of James and John, (Mark 15;40). The Liturgy does not mention the name Salome but seemed to be associated with it in the tuneful music the Organist was humming.

Monday, 27 August 2007

St Benedict 8th Instrument ‘Courtesy’?

Commentary on Rule of Benedict
8th Instrument of Good Works

The Abbot spoke of the 8th Instrument of Good Works, ‘To honour all men’, in our evening Chapter on the Rule. Rudeness or harshness are the last aspects to characterise the monk. It applies to the community; it applies to the whole cross section of Guests. One aspect of ‘Honouring all men’ was movingly expressed by Hilaire Belloc on Courtesy.


Of Courtesy, it is much less
Than Courage of Heart or Holiness,
Yet in my Walks it seems to me
That the Grace of God is in Courtesy.

On Monks I did in Storrington fall,
They took me straight into their Hall;
I saw Three Pictures on a wall,
And Courtesy was in them all.

The first the Annunciation;
The second the Visitation;
The third the Consolation,
Of God that was Our Lady's Son.

The first was of St. Gabriel;
On Wings a-flame from Heaven he fell;

And as he went upon one knee
He shone with Heavenly Courtesy.

Our Lady out of Nazareth rode -
It was Her month of heavy load;
Yet was her face both great and kind,
For Courtesy was in Her Mind.

The third it was our Little Lord,
Whom all the Kings in arms adored;
He was so small you could not see
His large intent of Courtesy.

Our Lord, that was Our Lady's Son,
Go bless you, People, one by one;
My Rhyme is written, my work is done.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Abbot's Chapter Talk

Abbot Raymond's Sunday talk to the community this morning focused on
"SERVICE" as a key word in St. Benedict. 'We are, therefore, about to found a school of the Lord's service,
a school of the Lord's service, (Prologue)


It is God, of course, whom we serve as our one and only True Master. It is true that we also serve each other, but that service is ultimately rendered to the God who made us to love and serve, not only himself, but also each other. All honest service then is rendered ultimately to God. Jesus has this idea very much in mind when he says that we can have only one ultimate master: “Call no one on earth your master” he says. You have only one Master, the Christ.
This saying: “You have only one Master, the Christ.” is so typical of Jesus’ teaching. He uses absolute uncompromising statements which seem to be so rigid and uncompromising. “Call no one on earth your Master; your Father, your Teacher”. But to stick to the title we are considering at the moment – Master; surely we do indeed have many other Masters in life. From the day we are born we have those in authority over us till the day we die; from our parents to our teachers to our Civil Authorities, all of whom Scripture obliges us to obey, again the puzzle is resolved if we realize that all legitimate authority comes ultimately from God and when it steps out of the line of his justice and truth, then it is no longer legitimate, no matter how powerful it may be.

So it is not the legitimate service of any master that Jesus is warning us against when he says “Call no one on earth your Master”, but the yielding to the illegitimate use of authority. What could the practical implications of this prohibition be? When do we come up against Masters who lead us away from God by their commands? Certainly the Civil Authorities do at times enact legislation that is against the law of God and so lead souls astray. But there are also other sources of influence in our lives, sources which demand our obedience in their own way; influences which try to master us in their own way. And these forces are very powerful indeed and we can allow ourselves to be mastered by them. We have to be in a constant state of rebellion against them. There are, for instance, all the forces of the world in general and of society around us demanding that we conform to them. “You must do this”, they say or “You must do that, if you are to really get a life.” “You must get a hold of this; you must get a hold of that if you are to find satisfaction in life. You must go here, you must go there, or you are missing out on life”.
Then, lastly, there is a force much more powerful to master us than all these things; a force all the more powerful because much more insidious; a force that disguises itself as not being our master at all, but as being our very best and most intimate friend; a force that even claims to be at our service rather than to be our master although, in reality, it is the greatest of all tyrants. This most dangerous and powerful of all masters is nothing else than our own self –will. The man who can master that is a free man indeed.

Parish Picnic

Parish Picnic

Dear Fr Peter,
Thank God it kept dry for the Livingston Parish Picnic at Nunraw.
The people were wonderful.
One got the sense of a real family of the community of St. Peter's
May the Lord continue to bless you and all in the Parish.
Herewith ATTACHED are some pictures of the day.
It was a joy to meet Edward & Terry Egan. How amazing to discover that Ed. lost the use of his speech and Terry lost her sight, and how happily they complement each other's (dis) abilities.

Friday, 24 August 2007

Gala Rome Trip Youth Group

Youth Group Gala Rome Trip.

Preparatory Retreat Nunraw 18 Aug 2007

In the Scottish Borders three Parishes, Melrose, Selkirk & Galashiels have one priest, Fr. John Creanor as PP. The Youth Group from the Holy Trio of Parishes is planning to make the journey to Rome.
I explained to the young folk from Melrose and its environs that when the foundation of Nunraw was begun in 1946 there was talk of adopting the name “New Melrose”. Some new monasteries choose an ancient Cistercian monastery for their title. In fact the young community at Nunraw preferred to begin a new name. Their choice received further affirmation when the history of Nunraw was discovered already had Cistercian roots. As a Grange of the Cistercian convent of Haddington it was known as Nunraw, the NUN’s Row (of buildings).
After their trip to the Holy City they will return and hopefully return to Nunraw for a de-briefing Retreat of all their experiences in Rome.

Feast 24th August Saint Bartholomew

Newman on St Bartolomew’s Vocation
of “quietness without, guilelessness within”,
“not give up our usual manner of life, in order to serve God”

To Mark St Bartholomew’s Day, we had a rather unusual reflection in the Night Office.

It was a gem of insight of John Henry Newman. With so little in the Gospel, there is minimum scope for exegesis but what Newman does beautifully is to catch a glimpse of the character of Bartholomew, and then to draw us into deep waters of quietness and guilelessness.

The passage echoed for me someone’s life long raport to Newman’s teaching. This convert friend was impelled to write a few words in response to a rather crude comment by a Nun saying that Newman was no longer useful.

She wrote, “I don't think it's true that "Newman can only be a partial guide for someone living in the nineteen eighties" In 1952 I was 24 and the wife of Naval Chaplain. . . . .
I spent a long time reading Wilfrid Ward's Life of Newman, Faber, and then anything and everything I could find on Newman. It seemed as though he were speaking directly to me, understanding my situation, and most of all understanding my LOVE for the Anglican Church as no Catholic I met could understand it. In the end, my love for my own Church was to be the greatest barrier to my conversion. . . .
It is now the nineteen eighties, much is changed, but I find more relevance in Newman's writings today than I did even then. He made it abundantly clear that the path to Rome and its onward journey was no easy matter. Nor is it”.

From a sermon by John Henry Newman (Parochial and Plain Sermons, volume 2, pp. 335-337)

When Philip told him that he had found the long-expected Messiah of whom Moses wrote, Nathanael (that is, Bartholomew) at first doubted. He was well read in the scriptures, and knew the Christ was to be born in Bethlehem; whereas Jesus dwelt at Nazareth, which Nathanael supposed in consequence to be the place of his birth, - and he knew of no particular promises attached to that city, which was a place of evil report, and he thought no good could come out of it. Philip told him to come and see; and he went to see, as a humble single-minded man, sincerely desirous to get at the truth. In consequence, he was vouchsafed an interview with our Saviour, and was converted.
Now from what occurred in this interview, we gain some insight into St. Bartholomew's character. Our Lord said of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! and it appears, moreover, as if, before Philip called him to come to Christ, he was engaged in meditation or prayer, in the privacy which a fig-tree's shade afforded him. And this, it seems, was the life of one who was destined to act the busy part of an apostle; quietness without, guilelessness within. This was the tranquil preparation for great dangers and sufferings! We see who make the most heroic Christians, and are the most honoured by Christ!
An even, unvaried life is the lot of most men, in spite of occasional troubles or other accidents; and we are apt to despise it, and to get tired of it, and to long to see the world or, at all events, we think such a life affords no great opportunity for religious obedience. To rise up, and go through the same duties, and then to rest again, day after day, to pass week after week, beginning with God's service on Sunday, and then to our worldly tasks, so to continue till year follows year, and we gradually get old - an unvaried life like this is apt to seem unprofitable to us when we dwell upon the thought of it.
Many indeed there are, who do not think at all; but live in their round of employments, without care about God and religion, driven on by the natural course of things in a dull irrational way like the beasts that perish.
But when a man begins to feel he has a soul, and a work to do, and a reward to be gained, greater or less, according as he improves the talents committed to him, then he is naturally tempted to be anxious from his very wish to be saved, and he says, "What must I do to please God?" And sometimes he is led to think he ought to be useful on a large scale, and goes out of his line of life, that he may be doing something worth doing, as he considers it.
Here we have the history of St. Bartholomew and the other apostles to recall us to ourselves, and to assure us that we need not give up our usual manner of life, in order to serve God; that the most humble and quietest station is acceptable to him, if improved duly - nay, affords means for maturing the highest Christian character, even that of an apostle Bartholomew read the scriptures and prayed to God; and thus was trained at length to give up his life for Christ, when he demanded it.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

St Rita in the Moors

St Rita in the Moors
What has Saint Rita of Cascia to do with a Shooting Lodge in the moors above Nunraw?


Icon of Our Lady of the Atlas 7

Among the variegated monastic and other wayfarers of the Guesthouse, one, Sr. Peter.
painted the ICON of Our Lady of the Atlas 7 on the occasion of our 50th Anniversary of Nunraw.
Now she has been requested to send some copies of the small Prayer Card to France.
I have been able to send some out of the precious few remaining reproductions for devotees of the Seven Monks martyred in Algeria, but I pointed out that the English version is not going to be so useful to French speakers. Perhaps someone will DO a translation. See
copy of the Icon and the Text.

On 21st May 1996 seven monks of the Cistercian-Trappist monastery of Our Lady of Atlas in Algeria died by assassination at the hands of terrorists - FR. CHRISTIAN de Cherge, BR. Luc Dochier, FR. CRRISTOPRE Lebreton, BR. MICREL Fleury, FR. BRUNO Lemarchand, FR. CELESTIN Ringeard, BR. PAUL Favre-Miville. Icon of Sancta Maria Memory of 7 Monks of Atlas by Sr. Peter, Holy Cross Abbey, Whitland

Seven candles denote the seven monks who died. At Profession they placed their 'vows' on the altar. We have not been asked to shed our blood- they did so. "SANCTA MARIA­MATER DEI".- how often did the monks pray, "Holy Mary, Mother of God" - pray for us now and at the hour of our death". Our Lady's outer garment is painted brown, which denotes the earth - everyday ordinary things. Within it is yellow (as in the halo) since "she is all glorious within". Three, stars, - On her head and shoulders denote that she was a virgin before, during and after the birth of her Child. Her inner vestment is red, denoting royalty, power and humanity which she gives to her Son, so His cloak is red. His inner vestment is white & yellow denoting holiness and divinity. On his right shoulder band the sun is depicted, not with the rays shining down to the world, but back to the one who made it, acknowledging the true light of the world. In His right hand He holds the closed scroll reminding us that the whole mystery is not yet revealed. His right hand points towards Mary. It is a "blessing hand"-blessing will come through the three fingers extended to remind us of the Trinity.
1996 Sancta Maria Abbey, Nunraw, Scotland, EH41 4LW

Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Abbot Raymond’s Chapter Talk

evening of the Feast of the Queenship of Mary 22nd Aug 2007

As Cistercians we end the day by Singing the "Salve Regina" which opens with the words: "Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy".

The titles "Queen" and "Mother" are closely associated together. They are, in Mary's case, mutually complementary and inseparably bound together. Yet each term has its own particular meaning. Each term reveals its own particular aspect of the mystery of Mary's place and role in the life of the Church; in the life of each one of her children.

If we consider the term "Mother" first; the title Jesus explicitly gave to her while hanging on the Cross, then we realise the maternal love Mary has for each and every one of us. A love that is, like any Mother's, constantly solicitous for our needs. But what can Mary's Queenship add to that, we might ask? It seems almost to distance her from us, whereas her Motherood brings her closer to us.

We can understand what her Queenship adds to her Motherhood if we consider any earthly Mother who is devoted to her children and would do anything she could to nourish them in their hunger, help them in their needs, and save them from all harm. But, being only a poor destitute widow she can do absolutely nothing for them but love them. On the other hand, if she is a Queen Mother then she has all the power and wealth and authority at her disposal to do anything that needs to be done for them. So it is with Mary. She has not only a great love for us, she also has the power and authority to help us in all our needs.

But why speak of Mary's Queenship and power when surely Mary's Maternal love for us would suffice to make her intercede for us and move God to grant us all we need? What is the extra advantage of having the power to help us as well as having the love to intercede for us? Surely there is no need for that! Surely God, after all, is a jealous God! Surely, if he is always willing to grant her petitions on our behalf, then there is no need for speaking of her "power" to help us? Intercession is one thing, but power is another. Does God really share his power with her?

Yes, God is indeed a jealous God. But there are two kinds of jealousy. There is the kind of jealousy that will not share his power with anyone. That is the jealously of the gardener who keeps the secret of his giant vegetables, or the tradesman who keeps secret of his handiwork so that no one else can do as well. But the jealousy of God is altogether different. He shares his power lavishly with his creatures and only asks that we acknowledge him as the source of all that we are and have. He empowers us, not to create out of nothing, but to take the basic stuff of this world and, as it were, "Create" all sorts of wonderful things with it; from the most privitive of human tools to the space ships and computers of our own age. He even shares, through the gift of human parenthood, in the creation of new souls to love and serve him for ever.

So, if God so shares his power with us while we are on earth, and still offending him, how much more will he share his power with us in heaven. And if we have any reservations about this sharing of power let us recall with awe and fear how Jesus once said to his Apostles "Satan has demanded power to sift you as wheat".

What then will be the degree and efficacy of the power he shares with her whom he has appointed Queen of Heaven and Earth.

Laying Foundation Stone 53rd Anniversary.
The Liturgical Calendar has moved the furniture around a bit since 1954. On the 24th August 1954 it was the Feast of the Most Pure Heart of Mary.
On that day the Laying of the Foundation Stone of the new Abbey was laid by Archbishop (later Cardinal) Gordon J Gray. The full Pontifical Cermonial was carried out under a scant covering of tarpaulin, the only shelter in the pouring rain. The scene was watched by 15,000 pilgrims, (it was also the Marian Year Celebration).

The picture is of Br. Ninian in a characteristic stance at the stone(face) laying the foundations. In other ceremonial pictures he is seen as a more uncharasteristic Acolyte as mitre-bearer to the Archbishop. Busy on the same wall are Br. Paul and Br. Peter. (See Memorials

The black and white snap of Br Ninian is one in a collection of photos recently given to us by Fr. Bernard Finan SDS. Fr. Finan was a student who came with the Merton Miners (Co Durham) who came each year, like so many other volunteers, to the Workers Camp helping to build the Abbey.

At the Mass this morning Abbot Raymond spoke of the so clear, so brief, and so all embracing invocvation of Mary, "Hail holy Queen , Mother of Mercy , our sweetness and our hope . . .", as we sing every evening , Salve Regina, at Compline, 'the monks's Night Prayer'.

Monday, 20 August 2007

Bernard "Like a towering cedar"

Like a Towering Cedar. Solemnity of Saint Bernard 20 August 2007.

With reference to my earlier grouse about the style of St. Bernard compared to Thomas Merton I have two amendments.

1. In a Comment, the Answer was kindly sent by Liam, “No Man is an Islan, closing chapter ‘Silence’, §16-17.

2. In the Introduction to the Mass this morning I actually felt closer to St. Bernard when suggesting in our Penitential Rite that we should give comfort to the Saint in his greatest disappointment/failure of the 2nd Crusade.

At First Vespers we sang the Antiphon, “Like a towering cedar he ascended to glory”, followed by the Chapter, “Well loved by God, well loved by man, a blessing rests on his memory. The Lord gave him glory given saints.”

Looking out from the Guesthouse there is a magnificent Cedar of Lebanon. The words and music of the Antiphon and the view of that tree lent grandeur to the feast of St. Bernard.

I cannot help feeling that, “The fire of his eloquence has been quenched in the written words that survive”. If these words, from Steven Runciman’s, “Crusades” ring true for me, it is also true what the same writer expresses regarding the charismatic presence of Bernard when his personal words roused minds and hearts of individuals or assemblies of councils or crusades.

My problem is to catch that spirit so smothered in words of rhetoric. In the midst of his 3 Volume History of the Crusades, Runciman seems to have acquired the insight of the particular character of this ‘chimera of his age’.

“King Louis wrote to the Pope to tell him of his own desire to lead a Crusade; and he sent for the one man in France whose authority was greater than his own, Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux. Saint Bernard was now at the height of his reputation. It is difficult now to look back across the centuries and appreciate the tremendous impact of his personality on all who knew him. The fire of his eloquence has been quenched in the written words that survive. As a theologian and a controversialist he now appears rigid and a little crude and unkind.

But from the day in 1115 when. at the age of twenty-five. he was appointed Abbot of Clairvaux, till his death nearly forty years later he was the dominant influence in the religious and political life of western Europe. It was he who gave the Cistercian Order its impetus ; it was he who. almost single-handed. had rescued the Papacy from the slough of the schism of Anacletus. The fervour and sincerity of his preaching combined with his courage. his vigour and the blamelessness of his life to bring victory to any cause that he supported, save only against the embittered Cathar heretics of Languedoc. He had long been interested in the fate of eastern Christendom and had himself in 112.8 helped in drawing up the rule for the Order of the Temple. When the Pope and the King begged for his help in preaching the Crusade. he eagerly complied!

The assembly met at Vezelay on 31 March 1146. The news that Saint Bernard was going to preach brought visitors from all over France. As at Clermont, half a century before, the crowd was too great to be fitted into the Cathedral. Saint Bernard spoke from a platform erected in a field outside the little town. His words have not been handed down. We only know that he read out the papal Bull asking for a holy expedition and promising absolution to an that took part in it. and that he then made use of his incomparable rhetoric to show the urgency of the papal demand. Very soon his audience was under his spell. Men began to cry for Crosses - 'Crosses, give us Crosses’.-. It was not long before all the stuff that had been prepared to sew into Crosses was exhausted; and Saint Bernard flung off his own outer garments to be cut up.

At sunset he and his helpers were still stitching as more and more of the faithful pledged themselves to go on the Crusade. King Louis was the first to take the Cross; and his- vassals forgot their earlier coolness in their eagerness to follow him.

Sir Steven Runciman, History of Crusades, 2. Kingdom of Jerusalem, pp.252-253

“Like a towering cedar he ascended to glory”. It is fine to sing in celebration of Bernard but he himself would appreciate the comfort of the Penitential Rite of the Mass as I suggested that we could comfort him in the great sorrow he had for the 2nd Crusade. We can comfort him with the thought that the 2nd Crusade was a movement, a mass movement on a European scale waiting for a voice, Kind Louis Vassals were against the Crusade, the Pope was reluctant, Peter Abelard was against it, the Abbot of Cluny did not favour it, Against all the odds the voice of Bernard ignited something of which he could not foresee the consequences. We can comfort him in the fact that when God calls someone to a task it does not necessarily that he is called to success. Bernard did what was God’s will for him. Bernard was later burdened by the results that may have hastened his death, August 20, 1153. Like the Prophets he was not called necessarily to success but to follow the divine designs. We are not called to success as of right but to do God’s will.

In his heart Bernard was set on other realms. (Ironically, while he urged on his own Knights Templar and Crusaders,he was violently opposed to any of his monks setting off for the Holy Land).

If one could reduce the outpourings in his writing in the Canticle of Canticles to a word, his greatest aim was to love love itself.

(Canticle Serm 83, 2-6. “Why should love itself not be loved?”)

Friday, 17 August 2007


Mass: Monthly Commemoration of the Dead
On the day after the Solemnity of the Assumption we had our Monthly commemoration of the dead. Some thoughts were prompted by Fr. Thomas’s striking introduction to the Mass. It was brief and comprehensive.
“Introduction: This morning's Community Mass and today's Office is Sacrifice and Prayer for the recently dead of our Order, and our relatives and friends who have died. Their need of healing and of being purified in order to see God we call purgatory, a time when our intercession for them in faith and love can release the mercy of God towards them”.
Earlier we heard the 2nd Nocturne Reading of Thomas Merton. Anything he writes is so beautifully readable – the words flow smoothly and naturally. With all due respect to St Bernard, I am never that much at ease with the translations of the Mellifluous Doctor. (St. Bernard’s Solemnity is coming up in a few days and we may be given new lights on him by the Brother who will have the Chapter Sermon).
In the following passage, the words of Fr. Louis would put anyone at ease with the Catholic sense of prayer for the souls in purgatory.
Reading from Thomas Merton
Fr. Louis Speaks to us about Silence, Poverty and Death

IF, at the moment of our death, death comes to us as an unwelcome stranger, it will be because Christ also has always been to us an unwelcome stranger. For when death comes, Christ comes also, bringing us the everlasting life which He has bought for us by His own death. Those who love true life, 'therefore, fre­quently think about their death. Their life is full of a silence that is an anticipated victory over death. Silence, indeed, makes death our servant and even our friend. Thoughts and prayers that grow up out of the silent thought of death are like trees growing where there is water. They are strong thoughts that overcome the fear of misfortune because they have overcome passion and desire. They turn the face of our soul, in constant desire,' toward the face of Christ.A whole lifetime of silence is ordered to a final utterance; by this I do not mean that we must all contrive to die with pious speeches on our lips. It is not necessary that our last words should have some special or dramatic sig­nificance worthy of being written down. Every good faith, every death that hands us over from the uncertainties of this world to the unfailing peace and silence of the love of Christ, is itself an utterance and a conclusion. It says, either in words or without them, that it is good for life to come to its appointed end, for the body to return to dust and for the spirit to ascend to the Father, through the mercy of Our Lord Jesus Christ.A silent death may speak with more eloquent peace than a death punctuated by vivid expressions. A lonely death, a tragic death, may yet have more to say of the peace and mercy of Christ than many another comfortable death.For the eloquence of death is the eloquence of human poverty coming face to face with the riches of divine mercy. The more we are aware that our poverty is supremely great, the greater will be the meaning of our death: and the greater its poverty. For the saints are those who wanted to be poorest t in life, and who, above all else, exulted in the supreme poverty of death,

I wonder where I can find the source reference for this passage from Merton’s books?

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Chapter Sermon 12 Aug 07

Abbot Raymond
Sunday 12 August 07. Sermon in Chapter (Summary).
The Faith that moves mountains!

Jesus told us that if we have faith as small even as a mustard seed we can move mountains.
Was he really serious when he said that, or was he just using an exaggeration to make a point, like he did when he said it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven?
Notice that Jesus didn’t say that if we had faith even as small as a mustard seed we would be able to heal the sick, or even raise the dead. If he had said that the main thrust of his lesson would have been lost because many great saints have healed the sick and even raised the dead, but that was because they had great faith. No, I don’t think Jesus is talking about that kind of faith here. He is talking about what can be done even by the smallest degree of faith.
Then why does he use such an exaggerated example as moving a mountain? Since the dawn of Revelation no one, not even the greatest of saints have ever done such an extraordinary thing as move a mountain. Even Jesus himself never moved a mountain, although he certainly could have. Yet here is Jesus saying that any one of us who has the slightest degree of faith can move a mountain.
The reason Jesus uses this apparent exaggeration is because it is a hidden symbol of a truth which is so great that, far from being an exaggeration, it is in fact a gross understatement. The "mountain" the "Great Mountain" which the faith of any of us can move is of course the mountain which is "God Himself". We need only turn the gaze of our faith to look upon God and he says "Lo! before you call upon me here I am!". He jumps to it, as it were. God can in no way escape from the gaze of our faith or from the grasp or pull of its hands. In giving us the supernatural powers of Faith and Love and Hope, God has given us real powers over himself that he has no defence against.
As soon as our Faith calls out "Lord" it pulls him down from heaven to our side. It forces him to stand before our gaze, it pulls him into our hearts.
This is what faith, in the most essential sense of the word is. It is not the essential business of faith, as such, to heal the sick or to raise the dead or to work any kind of miracles in this world. The essential nature of faith is to enable us to communicate directly with the very essence of God; to look on him; to touch him; to push him; to pull him; to move him around; to bring him into our lives, into our very hearts.
God bless
Fr Raymond.

Concelebrated Mass.
The Community was joined by Fr. Bernard Finan, SDS (Salvatorian), celebrating the 40th anniversary of his Priestly Ordination.
It was 50 years that Bernard came to Nunraw and worked with the voluntary workers known as the Merton Miners, (Co. Durham), helping to build the new abbey.
His reminiscences and photos of the Workers Camp and of the construction of a new monastery bring back memories of the great voluntary workers who came year after year, and of Fr. Alphonsus and the young Fr. Raymond who acted as Chaplains.

Guest House Tea Room.
The parish of St. Ninian's was well represented by 40 people on their annual visit. St. Ninian & Triduana, Edinburgh, is one of the old parishs (1906,1932) on the east side of Edinburgh..

The new-look tea room came into its own. With the woman's touch, Irene had painted borders and hung curtains. Everything was laid on by the steering group. The party moved to the Abbey for Vespers and Benediction. They were blessed by the good weather.

Friday, 10 August 2007


Nunraw Abbey
John R. Clark – Funeral Mass 9th August 2007.

He was 78. Dying from cancer, he was nursed in his last weeks at Belhaven Cottage Hospital, Dunbar.
John came to live near Nunraw, at Whittingehame, some 30 years ago.
He was a great friend and helper to the community. He took his turn in the roster of readers at the community Sunday Mass. His clear and vibrant voice showed his experience as a speaker, and as dramatics tutor at school.
He was an excellent teacher in the well known Prep. School, the ‘Dragon School’ and later moved to Winchester public school.
His standards for the liturgy were high, and he appreciated the Latin Gregorian chant at Pluscarden Abbey.
He was an enthusiastic gardener and dedicated many of his visits to Pluscarden to designing the garden. The photograph shows how brilliantly he transformed the foreground of the Guesthouse. His gardening successor, Br. Daniel said that John’s design was practical and easy on maintenance.
He is buried in the cemetery of Stenton village near Nunraw.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Edith Stein Carmelite

Edith Stein St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. 9th August

Today we celebrate one of the Patrons of Europe.Charles would like me to find the appropriate Readings for the Mass. There are a number of children attending but during these days the Old Testament Reading from Numbers has some fierce narratives about the Chosen People being penalised by forty years in the desert because the underestimated God. They were frightened off by the reports of their own spies. Caleb is names as one of the spies. Is he not the character introduced by Cecil B deMille in the Ten Commandments played by Edward G Robinson. As the agitator for the Making of the Golden Calf Robinson made the greatest villain in the film.Another question from these OT Readings mentions Moses wife as the Cushite woman. Was her father, Jehro Moses' son in law, not a Midianite?
World English Bible: Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married; for he had married a Cushite woman.
WES: 12:1 Miriam - Miriam seems to be first named, because she was the first mover of the sedition; wherefore she is more eminently punished. The Ethiopian - Either, Zipporah, who is here called an Ethiopian, in the Hebrew a Cushite, because she was a Midianite: the word Cush being generally used in scripture, not for Ethiopia properly so called below Egypt, but for Arabia. If she be meant, probably they did not quarrel with him for marrying her, because that was done long since, but for being swayed by her and her relations, by whom they might think he was
persuaded to chose seventy rulers, by which co - partnership in government they thought their authority and reputation diminished. And because they durst not accuse God, they charge Moses, his instrument, as the manner of men is. Or, some other woman, whom he married either whilst Zipporah lived, or rather because she was now dead, though that, as many other things, be not recorded. For, as the quarrel seems to be about his marrying a stranger, it is probable it was a fresh occasion about which they contended. And it was lawful for him as well as any other to marry an Ethiopian or Arabian woman, provided she were, a sincere proselyte.

Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)
Martyr & Co-Patroness of Europe.
August 9: Celebrated as a Feast with Proper Texts.

Edith Stein was born to a Jewish family at Breslau on October 12, 1891. Through her passionate study of philosophy she searched after truth and found it in reading the autobiography of St Teresa of Jesus. In 1922 she was baptised a Catholic and in 1933 she entered the Carmel of Cologne where she took the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. She was gassed and cremated at Auschwitz on August 9, 1942, during the Nazi persecution and died a martyr for the Christian faith after having offered her holocaust for the people of Israel. A woman of singular intelligence and learning, she left behind a body of writing notable for its doctrinal richness and profound spirituality. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II at Cologne on May 1, 1987, and canonized at Rome twelve years later.

St. Edith Stein
The special readings (below) place St. Teresa
Benedicta in the wonderful associations with Jewish heroin Esther,
and the relations of Jews and Samaritans in the story of the Woman at the Well.

When I think that my mother was born in the same decade of Edith Stein, 1891, I can only begin to realize the enormity of the events of the 2nd World War to which a happy five-year boy old was oblivious.
Two women of the same time but in very different parts had their lives wrenched apart by that cataclysm of human lives. The story of Edith Stein is also the story of the Holocaust in Nazi Europe. The story of my mother is the story of the upheaval of countless persons and families. From her Jewish background Edith Stein found her path through the intellectual currents of Poland and Germany until she found faith in the Catholic Church and her vocation in he Carmelite Order.
What could my mother and her seven small children have in common with this woman, convert Jew, philosopher, contemplative nun, victim of the Holocaust? It has taken these 73 years for me to understand and appreciate in some way the lasting scar on Europe.
All unaware of joining the millions of people who suffered displacement 1939-1946 our family was evacuated from Glasgow to a Catholic town-land in County
Donegal. There we remained for the duration of the War. As children we had little or no knowledge of the war or of the world in general. Father was far away at work in the war effort. But for the mother of seven young children it certainly was evacuation and displacement, and the disruption of everything she might have anticipated as wife and mother.

For St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein, to be declared Patroness of Europe places each us in our own niche of that terrible time. By time and reflection we grow in the dimension of a Europe seen with the eyes of faith.

The Seven Brothers killed in our monastery of Atlas, Algeria, ( ), used to hear the Superior, Fr. Christian, speak of the Martyrdom of the Humdrum, the routine life of the monks. It is a very valid kind of martyrdom, whether of the religious life or of the wife and mother. For some it applies to both forms of martyrdom. It applied to the monks beheaded in Algeria. It applied to Sr. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) in her Carmelite monastery, in Auschwitz concentration camp.
The rounding up of Jews and Religious in Belgium and Holland destined for the gas chambers was in retaliation to the Catholic Bishops’ protests against the Nazi regime.

The secret of Martyrs and Saints is their total loving and praising God to their heart’s content.
That phrase, ‘doing something to one’s heart content’ is not heard so often in our society, but it speaks of an inner joy in loving God.

The Löb family
The war years 1940-1945 also affected the monastery of Tilburg, Holland. Besides the 'usual inconveniences', three
brothers from the community as well as three sisters from Koningsoord, all members of the same family, were picked up by the Nazi's on August 2, 1942, because they were Jewish, and were transported via Westerbork to Auschwitz. (See Link for the tragic story in the Tilburg Website).

We are not bystanders viewing the Martyrs & Saints. It is misleading to see in the Canonized Saints only the political profile of counter witness to the world, as if that were the only criterion of holiness. Pope Leo had it right when he saw the “fire within the fire’ in the great love for Jesus in the hearts of the faithful.. While St. Laurence, for example, was enveloped in the flames, the fire of love of the faithful soul envelopes that blaze by the greater fire of divine love. Standing apart from the physical or mental torture of the body, the secret of inner love for Jesus keeps the saint, canonized hero or simple baptized faithful, free and at one with the love of God – “loving God to the hearts content”.

Lord, God of our fathers,you brought Saint Teresa Benedictato the fullness of the science of the crossat the hour of her martyrdom.Fill us with that same knowledge;and, through her intercession,allow us always to seek after you, the supreme truth,and to remain faithful until death to the covenant of loveratified in the blood of your Sonfor the salvation of all men and women.We ask this through Christ, our Lord.

Scripture Reading: Book of Esther
Esther 4C:12-16, 23, 25 (or 4:3-5, 12, 14);
Est 4:3 And in every province, no sooner had the royal command and edict arrived, than among the Jews there was great mourning, fasting, weeping and wailing, and many lay on sackcloth and ashes.Est 4:4 When Queen Esther's maids and officers came and told her, she was overcome with grief. She sent clothes for Mordecai to put on instead of his sackcloth, but he refused them.Est 4:5 Esther then summoned Hathach, an officer whom the king had appointed to wait on her, and ordered him to go to Mordecai and enquire what the matter was and why he was acting in this way.Est 4:12 These words of Esther were reported to Mordecai,Est 4:14 No; if you persist in remaining silent at such a time, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another quarter, but both you and your father's whole family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to the throne for just such a time as this.'
Gospel - John 4:19-24.
Joh 4:19 'I see you are a prophet, sir,' said the woman.Joh 4:20 'Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, though you say that Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.'Joh 4:21 Jesus said: Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.Joh 4:22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know; for salvation comes from the Jews.Joh 4:23 But the hour is coming -- indeed is already here -- when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth: that is the kind of worshipper the Father seeks.Joh 4:24 God is spirit, and those who worship must worship in spirit and truth.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

There were Two Brothers Sunday Homily

Guesthouse Chapel Homily 18th Sun 2007

“There were Two Brothers” are words that sound like the stuff for a good novel.

“Tell my brother to give me a share of our inheritance”, Lk. 12:13. All through the Scriptures there is the motife two brothers; Cain and Abel – from Genesis to Geoffrey Archer, Isaac and Ishmael still playing out the story of the Israelis and Palestinians, Peter and Andrew, James and John. My big brother is here at present from the monastery in Bamenda. There is a distance of 1,500 miles separating us so we are able to keep the peace of brothers.
Compared to the case of the two brothers, which Jesus dismisses curtly,(“Man, who appointed me to judge . . .”), St. Luke gives us the great parable of another two brothers, that is in the story of the Prodigal Son. That younger son asked his father to give him his inheritance now and he goes off to squander everything.
Most people agree that the centre of the story was not the Prodigal Son but the Prodigal Father, the father prodigal in generosity to the wastrel son, prodigal in the mercy of welcoming him back home.
Others think the story should be called the ‘Parable of the Two Sons’, because the camera is just as much on the older son. In fact St. Luke forms the trilogy of three parables, the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, the Lost Son. In Luke 15:11 Jesus said, “A man had two sons . . .”
In his latest book, “Jesus of Nazareth”, Benedict XVI has a key section on the ‘Christ in the Parable of the Two Sons’. This is a runaway best seller of a book. Reviews everywhere refer to it as the best book of Joseph Ratzinger. (Strangely the NYT Reviews fails to list I). The Personal Secretary of the Pope said in a notable interview, “Benedict XVI is not only brilliant but he is easily understood by all”. Someone else said, “John Paul II opened the hearts of people – Benedict XVI fills them”.
May the words of the great new book, ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ fill our hearts.
But where does that bring us to regarding the text of today’s homily, (“Tell my brother to give me a share of our inheritance”)?
On this occasion Jesus is not getting drawn into of trivial pursuits of the Rabbis. The Torah has laid down that the double portion of the inheritance went to the older brother. Jesus simply bye passes this conundrum and goes on to teach about something that bites much closer to the knuckle – avarice and greed. I have come across some heavy weight commentaries on just how awful the sin of avarice is and just how misplaced it is. Like the man with his bigger harvest barns there is the millionaire not happy with the profit of one million impelled to make 10 million. What is it for? What is it all about? What are you adding to yourself? You are adding zeros. What is the difference between one million and 10 million? Just another zero! What a way to treat yourself – so much work for zero.
Qoholeth (Ecclesiastes) in the First Reading proclaims, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity”. The very word vanity refers to the illusion of riches. TV is the greatest projector of illusion of illusions. Avarice or greed extends everywhere, whether it is riches or power or other forms avarice. A survey was made about whether regarded themselves as beautiful. Nine out of ten women felt they were unattractive. It used to be that the things young women wanted were a car or a luxury cruise. Now the highest demand in the market is for cosmetic surgery. So worse than avarice is the loss of appreciation of the beauty of the way God made them.
But I like to think of Jesus telling these parables with a human understanding. Jesus sees the tycoon of success, the politician of power, the wonder woman of appearance, is as singles minded as he or she is short-sighted, “Fool. This night your soul is required of you”. St. Paul’s tells us in the NT Reading, “Because we have been raised with Christ we have to seek the things that are above”.
Note that Jesus speaks of a MAN going to build his bigger barns. He was asked about the inheritance of the two brothers but he only speaks of a MAN set on his storage. He does not use the word ‘father’ for the owner. He is a MAN who is all for himself, has all for himself. There is no reference to his family or anyone other than himself.
In complete contrast is Jesus’ description of the inheritance that highlights the relations of the father and the two sons. Evidently the prodigal son was not attached to the father’s wealth, the father is free of possessiveness and thinks not only of the younger son but also of the elder brother – “your are with me always and all I have is yours.”

Like Benedict XVI’s exposition of the ‘Parable of the Two Sons’, the incomparable painting of Rembrandt is another powerful evocation of the relationships in this parable. It is a theme which inspired Henri Nouwen’s to write his moving book “The Return of the Prodigal Son”.

A closing reflection takes us to Jesus own relation to His Father. His parables are but faint image of His relationship with the Father. Jesus had a mighty work to do, nothing less than the work of saving us by His death. That was a work much mightier than the construction of a large harvest barn or the world’s great projects.
Jesus does not even think in these terms – His only term is “doing the Fathers will”.
If we can discover that great secret of His in our own lives we can begin to know the love that is totally the love of the Father, the love of doing His will.

August - Month of the Immaculate heart of Mary.

August - Month of the Immaculate heart of Mary.

On the 15th of August we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption – the Patronal Feast of Nunraw. Also in August the dedication of the foundation stone of the Abbey is dated the Immaculate Heart of Mary 22nd August 1954. This is now replaced by the memorial, the Queenship of Mary.

Curé d’Ars, St. John Vianney, 4 August. “It is always springtime in the heart that loves God”. Here is a good thought for sundown bound elderly monks. One thing about the parish priest of Ars is that retirement never entered his mind. We have a plethora of August feasts: six martyrs — two who are named in Canon I of the Mass and two who were martyred during World War II; seven founders of religious congregations, as well as three popes and two kings; the apostle, St. Bartholomew; the great Doctor of the Church, St. Augustine and St. Monica, his mother; the humble patron saint of parish priests, St. John Vianney, and the patron of deacons, St. Lawrence, who joked with his executioners while being roasted alive. It is never too late to begin — as the life of the reformed sinner, St. Augustine teaches us — nor too difficult to begin again, as demonstrated by the conversion of the martyr, St. Teresa Benedicta (Edith Stein). We present-day members of the Mystical Body are certain of the reward to which we are called, for Christ’s Transfigured body (August 6) is a preview of that glory. Moreover, in the Assumption of his Mother (August 15), Our Lord has demonstrated his fidelity to his promise. Her privilege is "the highest fruit of the Redemption" and "our consoling assurance of the coming of our final hope — the glorification which is Christ’s" (Enchiridion on Indulgences). The Blessed Virgin Mary is the most perfect example of Christian perseverance, but she is also our advocate in heaven where she is crowned Queen of Heaven and Earth (August 22). Mary is the "Mother of Perpetual Help", the patroness of the Congregation founded by St. Alphonsus Ligouri (August 1). "No one who has fled to her protection is left unaided" is the claim of the Memorare of St. Bernard (August 20). Heretics have returned to the faith by the prayers of her Rosary, first preached by St. Dominic (August 8) in the twelfth Century, and hearts have been converted by the graces received while wearing her Miraculous Medal, promoted by St. Maximillian Kolbe (August 14) and adopted as the "badge" for the Pious Union he founded. Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope! (See Catholic Culture Website - Overview of each Month).

Economy of Saints
Some Liturgists tend to be bleak regarding the Memorials of the Saints. Monks tend to be purists of the ‘uncluttered’ monastic liturgy. Appreciation of the Saints’ Memorials is more to the fore at the Chapel of the Guesthouse. Charles, the lay-voice, will not let us forget the Saints. At times the life of the Saint of the Day gives added significance of the regular readings from Scripture, as I found in the case of St. Peter Julian Eymard, 2nd August the Founder of the Blessed Sacrament Fathers. The words of Exodus 40:21 ". . . the glory of the Lord filled the temple" seem to resonate with Peter Julian on the Real Presence.

Motu Proprio - Reflection on the Communio of the Sundays and Great feasts’

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Motu Proprio - Reflection on the Communio of the Sundays and Great feasts’

The Apostolic Letter of Benedict XVI, Summorum Ponticum, regarding the celebration of the usus antiquior of the Mass has prompted a Centre Court style of battle of Rites.
A small window on to a wider view was flagged up for me by reference to a Booklet published by St. Meinards, Ind., 1943. ‘Fruitful Days. Reflection on the Communio of the Sundays and Great feasts’, edited from the works of Dom Guéranger. This reminder of the boundless mine of Liturgical lore in such resources as the Volumes of ‘The Liturgical’ makes one cringe at the exclusiveness, selectiveness, and general restrictiveness of confining the understanding of Liturgy to one or other narrow path.

The news of a new Abbess at Stanbrook Abbey is a stimulating reminder of the enthusiasm and achievements of the time and place of a not so old liturgical renewal. A renewal prepared not to be tied to the confines of an un-Catholic outlook view of the Church.

It is not that so long ago, c.1830, since the Liturgical Movement carried in its flow the work of translation, Dom Laurence Shepherd, and the labour of publishing at Stanbrook Abbey that produced the mammoth output of Dom Prosper Guéranger in ‘The Liturgical Year’.

Benedict XVI is not one to banish any part of the treasured wealth of the traditions of the liturgy, even if it means extending our appreciation into those traditions.

“Every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old." Pope Benedict is a student of St. Augustine. He wrote his doctoral thesis on St. Augustine and just as Pope John Paul II draws on St. Thomas Aquinas, Pope Benedict draws on St. Augustine”.

Maybe it is not possible to get excited by the “Communio of the Sundays and Great Feasts” but even an occasional immersion in the liturgical deeps of a Prosper Guéranger may freshen up the spirit of celebration that goes back to Exodus 40, rejoicing from the Ark of the Covenant in the Desert to the Eucharistic Sacrifice offered in all its glory.

Lectio Divina and Liturgia Divina needs both legs to tread the walk the monastic life.

Mystery Cross

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

1. Mystery Cross.
This evening1st August a very large carved wood Crucifix was hung in the apex of our Refectory at Nunraw.

We are wondering where this un-mounted corpus, a fine carving, came from. Was it left at the proverbial doorstep anonymously? For some years it has been moved from room to room. Kieran, one of the aspirants, constructed the untreated wooden cross. He and Br. Charles, Novice, placed it high in the pine panelling above the Reader’s Desk. At last it has found a suitable place in full view during the meals.
Kieran is skilled in woodwork, Br. Charles is a metal worker and made the special nails.

. . . The Abbot remarked, "We don't know the talents we have in community". Fr. H. recalled the words of Fr. Felim preaching in the Guesthouse, "I don't have any talents, so I don't have to show any of them". A Guest replied, "But, Father, you have one talent. You make people love you". And Fr. John said, "Then that will make him feel proud!"

2. The Liturgy of July featured some favourite Saints.
Saint Peter Chrysologus (Greek for golden word) (406450) was the Archbishop of Ravenna from 433 to his death.

He is quoted as saying: “If you do not close your ears to others, you open God’s ears to yourself”. English translation of Chrysologus’ rhetoric? Is this not a roundabout way of saying, “If you listen to others, God listens to you”.

3. And St. Alphonsus Liguori. He made a vow; we are told, never to waste a moment. He lived to be 90. That makes a fair tally of moments not wasted.

4. A very special interview.
In an Interview from “Inside the Vatican”, 31 July 2007, the Pope’s Secretary said, “
Someone very familiar with the goings-on in Rome said during the Bavaria trip last fall, "John Paul II opened the hearts of the people. Benedict XVI fills them." There is a lot of truth in that. The Pope reaches the hearts of the people, he speaks to them, but he doesn't speak of himself, he speaks of Jesus Christ, of God, and that in a descriptive, understandable and convincing manner. That is what people are looking for. Benedict XVI gives them spiritual nourishment.

Stanbrook Abbey Election

Abbess elect Andrea Savage, OSB, Stanbrook Abbey
One of the Stanbrook Oblates passed on to me the Notice of the Election of the new Abbess.
Our prayers and congratulations go to Sr. Andrea and the Community.
The election of Dame Andrea Savage, OSB, is another case continuing in a Great Tradition of Abbesses from Scotland.
There was Dame Laurentia McLachlan, Abbess 1931-53, was from Lanarkshire. Dame Joanna Jamieson, recently Abbess Emeritus, is from Glasgow.
Dame Andrea belongs to a Glasgow family. One of her brothers is a monk at Pluscarden Abbey in Elgin in Scotland, whilst another brother is a secular priest.
There is a long-standing family association with the Benedictines.

Ad multos annos!