2004 October Newsletter
TIDINGS of TY MAM DUW 2004
Loving greetings to all our friends, near and far as 2004 enters on its last lap. The popping of fireworks in the evenings heralds the approach of Bonfire Night. It seems almost no time since last year, when we spent 5th November working together in an upstairs art-room collating our annual ‘Tidings’ and getting it to the post. In the evening we also had collation there. Since our row of sycamore trees was cut down, we have had a superb view from its windows, and so had a ‘grandstand’ panorama of all the fireworks within eight miles or so as the crow flies, in the direction of the Cheshire hills.
Later that month most of us were laid low by the nastiest bout of ‘flu in years, but regained our feet and voices in time for the Advent carol service. Its theme was the peace that the world so desperately needs, and which can only be realised when first we give glory to God and found our lives on the precepts of the gospel of Christ. There was a Gloria Samba danced by seven ‘angel’ Sisters on slightly raised platforms, accompanied with shifting golden lights. Our Schola also sang a ‘Gloria’ composed by Nick Baty, a friend of ours, whose music is not only very lovely but immensely singable. In the summer we had the joy of meeting his newly formed choir from the Everton parish of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception and St Anthony. They came one afternoon to sing for us and with us, as we shared a music and liturgy workshop.
During Advent Sr Juliana and Sr Yolanda took us under their wings for a day, sharing some fascinating insights into the Book of Leviticus. We began by playing a board game they had devised. Each player in turn had to answer an either/or question about one of the complex ceremonial or ritual precepts in the book of Leviticus. Most of those who gave correct answers did so by a combination of good guessing and common sense, not through profound in-depth reading of what was, until the sisters tackled it, possibly the least enthralling book of the Bible! On giving the right answer we were able to move from outside the Israelite camp to within its limits, and then into the tabernacle, with at its centre the Holy of Holies and the Ark of the Covenant overshadowed by the gilded cherubim.
So when a new scene was added to our already extensive choir crib, it was only fitting that it should show the Levites carrying the ark of the covenant during the desert wanderings of the Israelites . The pillar of fire and cloud was shownglowing above the ark, with Moses and the people accompanied by Miriam and Aaron singing God’s praises - and by a small ‘scapegoat’.
In December we learned that Jiranat, whom we have been sponsoring for the past couple of years at the Pattaya Orphanage in Thailand had been adopted by a couple in Germany. So now we have Darunee, aged 4, instead. Her nickname is Praew. She is very bright, likes to talk a lot and to sing and dance around. In August 2003 she moved into the pre-school children’s group, and is a clever girl, able to learn new things quickly. After the first two days of the computer class for the children of her age group, she could familiarise herself with it without a problem. (Some of us would be grateful for her aptitude in that line!)
This year we were given an early Christmas present in the form of more sets of beautiful Christmas lights, so every crib and part of the cloister and main rooms was bright with them
The refectory crib, made by our three herbalists, Sr Agatha, Sr Damian and June, echoed Christ’s presence which manifests the Father’s healing and saving love for us in every age. The central crib comprised small traditional figures, with Our Lady standing in the doorway of a small tabernacle holding the Christchild. Posters round the walls with pictures of herbs and precious stones reflected the theme of healing. We had also been given a large home-made Noah’s ark complete with animals just a week before Christmas. This served as a setting for the carol, ‘There comes a ship a-sailing’ with the baby Jesus suspended from the cloister ceiling above its top deck in a hammock! The crib in ‘Ephesus’, where we generally gather for recreation, had a lovingly stitched tapestry of the stable and figures, made by Sr Modwena and Sr Pia and mounted against a dark blue background.
Dear Mother and Sr Joanna, who both delight in baking when they get a chance to get together in the kitchen, amassed a thick forest of home-grown greenery in a deep recess in the cloister with a small home-baked nativity scene nestling in its shade. Sr Elizabeth and Sr Coletta had made the rest of the cloister bright with large floor-to-ceiling paintings, with in between them the words of St Clare pointing to Christ as our way to the Father. Ercel and Sr Yolanda had given the noviciate crib a celestial setting, with a large star and an expanse of fleecy clouds on which the manger was snugly perched and surrounded by a host of angels praising the Infant King.
Our Christmas Vigil was composed of nine readings, each further enhanced by song, a musical interlude, or a danced expression of its theme. Sr Coletta and Sr Joanna performed a very lovely Filipino pandanggo dance which included very graceful flowing arm gestures while holding a coloured votive light in each hand. Sr Juliana, Sr Yolanda and Ercel later executed a ‘Mirror’ dance, comprising slow movements holding multifaceted shining spheres which, with a lamp concealed below, reflected a myriad tiny lights moving here and there on the walls and the ceiling in intricate patterns.
So much else has happened this year that we have no room to describe our varied Christmas recreations here except for the grand two-hour finale. It was entitled ‘Faith and Reason’, after a Church document written by Pope John Paul upon which it was loosely based. It began with Sr Elizabeth and Sr Juliana being transported into the world of the philosophers, under the guidance of Sr Amata as the Delphic Sibyl. Dear Mother starred as Aristotle, and later as Galileo Galilei, who rightly regarded faith and reason as necessarily complementary as they flow from the same divine source. St Augustine turned up in the 4th century with St Ambrose. The latter willingly granted the request by Aristotle and Socrates, (who had already been on stage for seven hundred years) for posthumous baptism.
Then there appeared the ‘angelic doctor’, great St Thomas Aquinas whose brilliant mind had tussled with the arguments for and against specific answers to so many basic and less basic questions. The amusing (and genuine) example given from his ‘Summa Theolgica’ was whether it was according to the natural law or against it that a man should have several wives. (In the end he decided against it, which was probably just as well!) In the final scene Dear Mother appeared as Pope John Paul II himself, presenting Galileo’s daughter Sister Celeste, a Poor Clare, with the medal which he had had struck in his to commemorate the 5th centenary of the Pontifical Acadamy of Sciences, and giving us all his blessing. As was only right he was accompanied by Our Blessed Lady, the Seat of Wisdom, in whose life faith and reason were perfectly harmonised.
We saw Lent in on Ash Wednesday with a prayer day and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Later that week we had a couple of inches of snow, the most that was to come our way all winter, and just enough for the noviciate Sisters to make a mini-snowman. It drew squeals of delight from Ercel, who had never seen the like before, and was fascinated.
In February we had our special annual mass in honour of St Colette, at which all those present had the opportunity to be blessed with her relic. The celebration drew the best attendance yet, and it was a joy to have several new mothers present with the babies born safely last year through her intercession.
Not all the constructive happenings within the monastery during Lent were of a spiritual nature. We had workmen here doing major repairs to the roof, much needed after fifty years. Their ability to walk unconcernedly along the ridge pole of our high roofs was admirable, but is not a feat even the most adventurous of us had any urge to emulate!
The Paschal tableau this year had a relative simplicity,and relied basically on the contrast of light and darkness. The backdrop was a black material hangdown, with holes slashed in it by a talented artist to let the light-coloured sanctuary wall show through. An old projector on the floor directed a coloured beam of light upwards, the colours changing according to the mood of the liturgy of the day. A silver birch branch, its leaves coming into bud formed a delicate curving tree, combining the concept of the cross with that of the tree of life. A broken glass panel, which had fragmented into an intricate honeycomb pattern and reflected in its shimmering facets the light from a burning candle, was also incorporated. It served as a symbol of our brokenness and that of fallen creation, which when brought to God and offered in worship can furnish an unexpected element of beauty. The tableau also incorporated a pond with flowing water, its rippling and splashing providing a constant background, which wove in and out of our psalmody, from the sorrowful psalms of Good Friday to the overwhelming joy of the Easter ‘Alleluia’.
This year the Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday took a very contemporary form. During the singing Sisters brought up to the sanctuary emblems of Christ’s passion - the veil of Veronica, imprinted with the face of the suffering Saviour, the three nails and crown of thorns, the spear which pierced His side, and finally the shroud in which He was wrapped.
The Easter Vigil, the greatest night in the Church’s year, was exceptionally beautiful. Several Sisters danced the creation account from the first chapter of Genesis with grace and humour and evident enjoyment. One dramatic sequence introduced the reading of the gospel of the Resurrection. A spotlight was focussed on the tomb in the paschal tableau, Then as Sr Coletta played a rippling accompaniment on the zither, the figure of the Lord rose from the tomb in Easter glory, and the lighting from the hidden projector changed from subdued magenta and green to sunshine yellow and gold.
Eastertide also brought us another cause for joy, with our community elections, in which our dear Mother Francesca was elected for another term of office, with Sr Damian as Vicaress.
May was for us all an especially memorable month. It began with the celebration of our dear Sr Beatrix’s Ruby Jubilee, an outstandingly joyful occasion on a glorious spring day. The chapel was bright with a profusion of lovely colourful flowers brought by friends, and others adorned the cloister and refectory. Fr Paschal OFMCap preached a splendid sermon at the Jubilee Mass on the religious life as a personal commitment in response to God’s love. He spoke of Sister’s perseverance in faithful loving dedication as a real witness to a world where few relationships seem to be enduring. Four Sisters, holding flowers and 40 burning votive lights, formed a semicircle by Sister as she renewed her vows in Dear Mother’s hands. Sister Beatrix had been a Brown Owl in earlier years, so we were all initiated as Brownies during one of the days in the week of community celebrations that followed. We were presented with yellow sashes to wear over our habits and spent the rest of the day in a host of varied activities. Among these was learning how to make a primitive compass by magnetising a sewing needle. When inserted in a piece of cork and set adrift in a bowl of water, our needles all pointed obediently to magnetic north! Another set task was to make a small garden in a wheelbarrow, and we were also free to select tasks to win further badges. These included a Culture badge, earned by learning to say ‘Welcome’ in 5 languages, or identifying flags from various countries. You could also gain a badge by giving a minute-long talk on specific subjects ranging from ‘constellations’, to a dissertation on the hippopotamus. There was a chance to learn a conjuring trick from instructions thoughtfully provided, or we could produce a specimen of local wildlife in a jar (safely secured at the top!) and give a talk on it. Despite rain which set in later in the day, we managed to have a barbecue in the evening, with sausages and beefburgers (of the vegetarian variety!) and the singing of folk songs. It was altogether a wonderfully happy celebration.
Later that week we presented a meditation in drama form for our Sister Jubilarian. It encompassed the whole sweep of salvation history, from the creation of the world to the heavenly Jerusalem of the Book of Revelation. The characters and episodes highlighted were those depicted in the banner on the back wall of our sanctuary. In the play St John the Evangelist interpreted the meaning of the scenes on the icon-style crucifix, a Ty Mam Duw version of one at San Damiano, for the Centurion who had been present at the crucifixion, and had pierced Christ’s side with his lance. Though originally he was an ‘outsider’ to God’s saving plan, in this way John drew him to profess his faith in Christ as the Son of God, and to ask for baptism at the hands of St Peter (who used the water flowing in our small Eastertide tableau still in the sanctuary). It was a very lovely and moving presentation - none of those who took part in it had seen it in its entirety before the performance, as we had each practised only the parts in which we were involved!
The next May event was just two days later- a private community celebration during which Ercel received the Poor Clare habit. Our bride looked exquisitely lovely in a fitted crinoline-type bridal dress which had been given in after a recent wedding. Marianne and a dear friend of ours from America led the bride through the public chapel to the sanctuary, with three Sisters as an angel escort strewing flowers. They presented her to Dear Mother at the choir grille, and she made her petition in the words of the psalmist; “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”. The celebration was coloured by the ancient tradition that the Mother of God was brought to the Temple in Jerusalem as a child. It reflected on the dwelling-place of God in the history of our saving - first in the tabernacle during the Israelites’ years of wandering in the Sinai desert, His later presence in the Temple in Jerusalem, and finally incarnate in the womb of Mary as Emmanuel , ‘God-with-us’ . Two of the angels unfolded a white flowing muslin baldachin above the tabernacle in choir, to symbolise the tent which housed the ark of the covenant in days of old. and Sr Bride was seated in its shelter by the tabernacle The angels danced a ‘Sanctus’ to recall the song of ‘Holy, holy, holy’ which was sung by the cherubim in Isaiah’s vision,and the gospel of the Annunciation was followed by Sr Bride’s own Fiat: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord” . She was then led by the angels to the back of our choir where with all her Ty Mam Duw Sisters standing round, she was divested of her bridal dress, and received the habit and the white veil of a novice. On returning to the sanctuary she was entrusted with the breviary and commissioned to recite it daily on behalf of all God’s people, and was given her new name as a religious Sister - Sr Maria Seraphina of Our Heavenly Father . We all felt, knowing our Sister’s love for the angels, that they would feature somewhere in her name !)
A few weeks later Sarah, a young woman whom Dear Mother had been instructing in the faith, was baptised in our chapel. Canon Quigley officiated at the very lovely ceremony, with Marianne as her godmother. As the main theme was ‘water’, several Sisters in blue and silver gowns over their habits danced the hovering of the Spirit of God over the face of the deep at the beginning of creation. We had recently been given two pois, like those used in Maori dances in New Zealand. With long streamers attached to their ends and swung rhythmically in different patterns, they gave a very lovely effect of waves and flowing water. After her baptism Sarah was presented with a candle, symbolising the flame of faith, and Canon then went on to confirm her. Holy mass then continued as usual. During it she had the great joy of receiving the Body and Blood of Our Lord for the first time,, bringing back to each of us happy memories of such grace-filled occasions in our own lives.
The crowning event of July was our dear Sr Amata’s Silver Jubilee. Sr Coletta and Sr Elizabeth had arranged a very lovely service the morning before in thanksgiving for Sr Amata’s life and vocation. They had decorated an upstairs room for it with flowers and candles and a table by way of an altar. The service included songs, scripture readings, and a light-hearted somewhat embellished version of Sr Amata’s life - from when she danced in her cradle as a baby, till she ended up dancing for the Lord in our Ty Mam Duw liturgy! She herself gave a moving testimony on her search for God. She spoke feelingly of her rediscovery of Him in the Catholic Church in all the nearness of His love, after some years spent looking elsewhere for Him in various forms of alternative spirituality. The special mass the next day was celebrated by Fr Francis Maple OFMCap, and Canon Quigley, a dear friend since his coming to Hawarden nine years ago as parish priest. A number of Sister’s family as well as many friends were able to be present to share her joy, and her brother Francis, who is a De La Salle Brother, read one of the lessons.
Sr Pia had compiled a Jubilee play, called ‘Come into my garden’, which, appropriately enough, we acted outdoors. Its theme duly linked the garden of Eden, which saw the fall of the human race, with that of Gethsemane and the garden tomb, the scenes of Christ’s saving suffering and death. Then came the meeting of the Risen Lord with Mary Magdalen, who mistook Him for the gardener, and with His resurrection the restoration to all God’s people of the hope of His eternal Paradise. It then focussed on Clare’s forty years of gospel living as the little plant of Saint Francis within the enclosure of San Damiano. The play ended with her passing over with joy and trust at the end of her earthly life into God’s celestial garden.
Another special treat was a visit (Ty Mam Duw style) to the Philippines, lovingly prepared by Sr Seraphina and supporting cast. We entered the country (in the cloister) through a decorative arch made of bamboo (from our garden). They had prepared a special Filipino dinner, which we enjoyed outdoors in the cloister courtyard, bright with bunting (first used at the Coronation in 1953!) With the sunshine and the riot of coloured flowers in the garden beds and many hanging baskets round the walls, we could well imagine we were in the tropics - though our small pond, despite its graceful pink water-lilies in bloom, was not quite the sparkling seas of the Pacific
After dinner we returned to the cloister, where Dear Mother and Sr Amata were seated in state in a life-size nipa hut to watch a demonstration of the traditional Tinikling dance. This involves dancing nimbly and gracefully in and out of two long bamboo poles held horizontally at ankle level by two assistants and clapped together rhythmically. We were entertained with Filipino stories and games and the celebration concluded with an informal Vespers. A happy ending to a very lovely day.
By the end of the Jubilee week it was high time to pick our soft fruit, ripening fast in the hot weather. The 300 blackcurrants planted last year did very well, and the heartening scent of boiling jam wafted round the cloister. After the extra liturgical activities earlier in the year, we kept the feast of Our Holy Mother St Clare simply and peacefully, with Exposition and hymns and reflections on her love for the cross of Our dear Lord. A friend had given us small chunky crosses, easy to hold in the hand by way of silent prayer, especially when life is difficult. These were duly blessed and distributed during the service. Our Dear Mother’s profession day was also kept simply this year. For the occasion we had had the large wall-hanging in our sanctuary, showing our TMD San Damiano cross, cut to the actual shape of the crucifix. Now mounted on wood with a dark outline edging, it looks even more impressive on the wall behind the altar - a real work of art. That evening we were treated to a video of the opening of the Olympic Games in Athens - a tremendously creative event, giving some Sisters ideas for future celebrations here (on a much more modest scale!) The march past of the competing teams, from over 200 countries was for us a real sign of hope in a world torn by strife and fear of terrorism.
The unusual weather, with bright hot days alternating with grey overcast ones and torrential downpours, had caused many of our runner French beans to rot at the roots and wither. We were pleasantly surprised to find we still had a reasonable harvest when the time came and not the total disaster we had feared. We are grateful to all our friends who have brought us gifts in kind during the year, as well as fruit and vegetables from local harvest festivals. Food is not only necessary to support our individual lives day to day, but our shared meals are a very real means of building up community. Sr Juliana and Sr Joanna, who both have the charism of fashioning a first-class midday meal from whatever happens to come our way, also deserve due credit for the books they read to us during meals. In one year they get through an impressive range. This includes spiritual books, early annals of our community, books on history or travel, and lives of men and women saints. In many cases, we look forward to the reading even more than a welcome cup of tea and bread and cheese at the end of a long day!
Unfortunately the vagaries of the weather upset our bees, and we collected relatively little honey from our hives. Most of those in one hive swarmed when we weren’t looking, and the ones remaining were unable to defend their honey against marauding wasps. In the end we amalgamated two hives, but it took their occupants some time to settle down together. The bees were behindhand this year in capping the honey in their combs, so we weren’t able to collect any till late August. Our new herbal patch near the hives has been named Graceland (though not in memory of Mr Presley!), and now is also home to a small shrine to Our Lady. Under her protection the colt’s-foot, lemon thyme, chamomile and echinea planted there in the spring are now flourishing - a sight which gladdens the eyes of us all with its promise of future herbal remedies both for ourselves and for our shop. (Two of our Sisters this year completed a correspondence course on many aspects of this fascinating and wide-ranging subject and received high marks for their final papers).
In early September we recorded a CD in honour of St Pio of Pietrelcina - something we had dreamed of doing for the past year, during which the musicians among us had composed music and songs based on his life and writings. One of the greatest saints of the 20th century, he was canonised a couple of years ago, and is still generally known to those who look to him for inspiration and guidance as ‘Padre Pio’. For fifty years, he bore the sacred stigmata, the marks of Christ’s wounds in his own body, as St Francis had done before him. We were delighted with the resulting CD, possibly the best of all our recordings, and are deeply grateful to our dear friend Fr Paschal, who recorded the spoken passages from St Pio’s writings for our tape.
The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross seemed an appropriate occasion to watch a video we had been given of Mel Gibson’s film ‘The Passion’, the controversial and exceptionally graphic film on the final hours of Our Lord’s earthly life. It is in many ways a cinematic version of the traditional Stations of the Cross, and ends with a short sequence showing the Risen Lord stepping out from His tomb. We felt it was not a film to discuss and argue about, but to ponder. So after watching it we all spent some time together in choir in quiet reflection. It was a time to reflect on Christ’s saving love for every human being down through the ages, for all who, like each of us, have contributed to His sufferings through our own sinfulness. As Julian of Norwich so beautifully expressed it, “Then said Jesus, our good Lord: ‘It is a joy, a bliss and an endless liking that ever I suffered passion for thee. And if I could suffer more, I would suffer more.”
The following week we had a grace-filled time in retreat, during which we watched a series of EWTN videos featuring Jeff Cavins and Scott Hahn. Both active for years as Protestant ministers, they had been led to the Catholic Church through their deep study of Scripture and through reading the works of the early Church Fathers. Their talks guided us through a chronological ‘timeline’ in scripture, going into some of the key points and developing vital themes and concepts in the unfolding of salvation history. There was a strong emphasis throughout on the fulfilment of God’s covenant with Israel in the new covenant inaugurated by Christ himself at the Last Supper. We were delighted to recognise, in one of the film clip interludes, a large and distinctive banner we had made for a local group some years ago, being carried in procession at Lourdes.
The shelves in our craft shop had become depleted after a succession of day retreat groups. So we spent much of the next few weeks working together on pottery, embroidery, painting, and jam-making for our Autumn Fair in late October. Even the sun managed to shine on the actual day, and it was a happy occasion all round. Our dear Sr Modwena, who had been recalled to the Wrexham Maelor for a further operation after one earlier this year, managed to return home to us in time for the Fair and is now healing well and in good spirits.
And now, as November comes in sight and 2004 draws to an end, we would like to thank each and every one of you, far or near, who have supported us with your own prayers and kindness in so many ways. We are grateful and touched by all of you who have affirmed our Poor Clare way of life by entrusting your joys and sorrows, hopes and fears to us, to hold before the Lord day and night in our prayer. You can be sure you are enfolded in our hearts this Christmastide, and we will be continuing to remember you in His presence in the new year ahead. Our wish for you is that of our dear Mother Saint Colette:
May the Father in his mercy,
and the Son by his Passion
and the Holy Spirit, the fountain of peace and consolation,
come down upon you and remain with you always.
With loving prayers,
from your Poor Clare Sisters at Ty Mam Duw
2004 1st August, Catholic Pictorial
A short life with the Pic
In its next edition, the Pic becomes a monthly. It seems an opportunity to celebrate all that it has done weekly!
The Pic has been the capital on the pillar of the diocese. It is hard to believe now, that the Pic was not even invited to the opening of the Cathedral of Christ the King.
That, in the words of Tim Rice, was a “way, way back, many centuries ago, not long after the bible began.” In those days the founder-editor, Norman Cresswell did not even sport a patriarchal beard, but was a lean and clean-shaven giant.
I once said to a colleague on the Pic, [we are colleagues by phone alone!] “I can’t imagine Norman ever losing his temper.”
“My God, Sister, he generally comes into the office roaring like a tiger and scattering his subordinates before him.”
“Oh,” I answered weakly. “But he is always very kind to nuns, orphans, old ladies and stray dogs. He has a heart of gold.”
He had. The original Magda column - for many years collected by the editor’s mother - drew attention to those in need. If no charitable person came forth to help, Norman often dug into his own pocket.
Mona ‘me darlin’, a wonderful Catholic old lady, once told us of him turning up on Christmas Eve with two bags of groceries and a bottle of whisky “for your chest, my dear”.
We acquired the Pic, or the Pic acquired us, when we were begging for funds to rebuild our church. Mr Cresswell suggested we write an article. He liked it, and more followed. The first was “The latest on Jonah”, in which the prophet, having been swallowed by a Polaris submarine, was set down at Birkenhead, and proceeded into Liverpool preaching penance!
Mr Creswell retired. He was not good at lesiure. And after a most unsuccessful year of striving to be a retired gentleman, he took our scribes, cartoonists and prayers with him when he was invited to revive the Catholic Times.
We still kept faith with the Pic, and when Mr Mahon became editor, produced the occasional series of articles in return for advertising for the key public events in the community year.
Like Mr Cresswell, Mr Mahon was unfailingly kind to nuns and we would like to pay tribute to his deep commitments to charity and his involvement in lay evangelisation and retreat work.
We, of course as an enclosed community of contemplative women, make our contribution from behind the grille, here in Wales. Though we have seen the inside of the Cathedral for the Northern Festival Mass on the eighth centenary of St Clare, we never got as far as Mann Island, the impenetrable and presumably sea-girt fortress off Pierhead, from which the Pic is produced.
We pray for all Pic readers and for all those who have and who will work for the Pic. May she never lose her enthusiasm for the Lord and her care for his people!
2003 November Newsletter
TIDINGS of TY MAM DUW 2003
Once again the year, which began as a blank book of 365 pages, is coming to its final chapter, its history traced by the finger of God, with designs in light or darkness, according to the world’s and our own response to His loving plan. So ‘Tidings’ time is here, a welcome occasion to send our loving greetings to our friends far and wide, to all the members of our ‘extended family’ who have shared their joys and sorrows with us in the last twelve months and supported us in so many ways.
By right our annual account needs to begin in November 2002, shortly after the last ‘Tidings’ went to press. In that month we were visited by a couple working in Central Asia, who spoke very movingly of the Christian witness they and their family are trying to share with the people among whom they are living, not an easy commitment at a time of world tension with war clouds looming over Iraq.
Our Advent Carol service was as always well attended. The Annunciation was acted out, with Sr Yolanda taking the part of the Angel Gabriel. She had impressive floor-to-ceiling wings of white muslin sweeping upwards. Several strands of small white fairy lights had been attached to her pinions, and she had to move slowly and gracefully so as not to become embroiled with the electric flexes or tangle the overhead linen threads suspending the wings. The effect was extremely lovely. A number of the scripture passages were illustrated by slides of delicately tinted paintings by Sr Elizabeth on the birth of Our Lord and the coming of the shepherds and wise men to adore him. The Magnificat was danced as were several of the songs. The whole service was much appreciated, especially by several people who told us that they had not heard the Nativity story since they were children.
At the beginning of Advent, we each draw at random the name of another Sister to be our ‘star partner’ for the season. The idea is that we pray each day especially for her, try to give her an extra helping hand where possible, and perhaps decorate her cell door or workplace with pictures or Advent quotations - all without revealing who we are! We also make a small present for our ‘star partner’ and leave it by her refectory place on Christmas Day. Much fun ensues in unwrapping the gifts at dinner and trying to discover the identity of the giver! Advent also brings with it the feast of St Barbara on 4 December, on which day we are given our ‘Barbara branches’ - twigs cut from trees such as forsythia, chestnut and willow, which with the addition of a little warm water each day, can be coaxed into leaf and sometimes into flower by Christmas, at a time when the outdoors world is bleak and bare.
We had a wide variety of Advent sharings and reflections, as part of our own spiritual preparation for Christmas. One enriching event was a Vespers sharing, incorporating psalms of thanksgiving sung at the dedication of Solomon’s Temple, and prepared by Sr Juliana and Sr Elizabeth. They had put their heads together, and found all the information they could on the subject by reading the scriptural accounts of its building, and commentaries on the relevant passages. The result was a very impressive scale model, with a lift-off roof, which showed the Holy of Holies and the ark of the covenant within it. They had fired the great laver, and its twelve bronze oxen, from clay and gilded it. (The original is said to have held 10,000 gallons of water for the priests’ ritual ablutions). They also slotted in scale models of the great standing pillars by the Temple doors, as well as the three storeys of rooms for the priests, which were built on the supporting buttresses. The resulting impressive structure had pride of place on display in the cloister for the rest of Advent.
Then there was the usual teeming artistic chaos in the making of cribs, which fill the house with extra light and colour during Christmastide Sr Damian and Sr Agatha had created a ‘herbal crib’, forming figures from strips of colourful wool with the help of weaving sticks. In their enthusiasm they had lugged indoors a number of cross-sections of a large silver birch that had been felled recently, and these provided a natural setting. One of the branches was made into a tree by the crib and adorned with stars and lights (and herbal tea-bags!).
The refectory crib, made by Sr Beatrix and Sr Pia was ingeniously created using dried flowers and leaves as the main medium. These had been assembled to form a collage of the nativity, which covered one entire end wall. The figures of a three-dimensional crib scene were also adorned with dried flowers, and the Christ child was shown lying in the heart of a rose, a traditional symbol of Our Lady.
A crib in the cloister courtyard comprised large home-made pottery figures. Old CD-Roms, which had been given in, hung from the clematis trellis, flashing multicoloured lights in all directions as they swung in the wind and caught the sunlight. Dear Mother and Sr Joanna had also constructed a large ‘children’s crib’ in the cloister, with the Child Jesus happily adrift in a boat in a paddle-pool filled with genuine water and surrounded by bright lights and colourful toys.
Another cloister crib, made by two of our Tolkien fans included several hobbits in its nativity scene and more than a score of angels. We had all enjoyed the video of the first part of the film, and though it was not till September that we were able to see ‘The Two Towers’, it was well worth waiting for! Sr Ruth, who is from New Zealand, and hails it as “God’s own country” is especially delighted that it should have been chosen as the setting for ‘Middle Earth’. You would almost think she was personally responsible for the beauty of the scenery! The crib had a poster with a quote from Henry Vaughan, “I saw Eternity the other night as a great ring of pure and endless light” and featured Christ as the Light of the World, and the Lord of the greatest Ring of them all.
Our Christmas Vigil was on the theme of the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. The Visitation was mimed in Oriental fashion to a background of Eastern music, and during the account of the Nativity Dear Mother came forward with the Bambino and placed him in the manger in front of the altar. There was a sung version of the Litany of Loreto, and indeed the rosary prayers were largely sung to tunes we had written over the years. Then followed the midnight mass celebrated by Fr Peter Fleetwood. At the end of the mass he gave a rosary, blessed by Pope John Paul and received from him the week before at a private audience, to the only one among us who has a December birthday. She was thrilled at such an unexpected and timely gift!
Christmas ‘coffee days’
Recreational activities during our three weeks of Christmas took many forms - from working together on several large and very lovely jigsaws given by friends, to listening to audiocassettes of Anthony Trollope’s ‘Barchester’ books and watching a DVD of Bach’s ‘Brandenburg Concerto, which showed pictures of the Emperor Friedrich’s 18th century palace of ‘Sans Souci’ built to rival Versailles. We were also invited to take part in two quizzes, one based on Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ and the other on general Catholic knowledge - both with prizes for all entrants.
Early January brought us a fascinating two days under the direction of Sr Juliana and Sr Yolanda in visiting the land of Canaan in the time of Joshua. They really brought the book of Joshua - one of the less read parts of holy scripture - vividly alive for us. Talks by our two honorary ‘scripture professors’ unravelled some of the complex questions surrounding the date in which the Israelites’ invasion of the land promised to them by God actually took place. They also furnished additional background on the Egyptian society in which Joshua would have grown up in the days before the Exodus, and on the life of the people during their 40 years of wandering in the desert after the dramatic experience of the Lord at Mount Sinai, where Moses received the Law which was to shape their future as
God’s covenant people.
We learned several songs taken from texts of the book of Joshua, and a line-dance with flags to the words of ‘A hand on the banner of the Lord.’ Dinner was such as befitted the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey, and refreshments of figs and dates and raisin cakes were handed round at regular intervals in the course of the day. We spent several hours on a fascinating board game devised by our Sisters. They had made exquisite little pottery figures of Israelites, which we moved along a series of squares, landing on texts recalling specific incidents in the Israelite conquest of Canaan, which brought either blessings or curses. Each of us had a small map of Canaan, with places marked with dots, on which from time to time we were required to fill in place names for areas allotted to particular tribes, cities of refuge, or towns involved in the warfare - their names were readily available from a large map our Sisters had drawn for the purpose. By the time the day was over we all had the position of Ai and Gibeon - and of course Jericho, where the walls came tumbling down - inscribed on our hearts. Some questions involved drawing lots in the form of coloured marbles denoting ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ - on the Urim or Thummin principle - from an embroidered cloth bag. At the end of the game, on the second day, when we all reached the finishing post, the Sister with the most blessings left, after balancing blessings against curses, was declared the winner .
On the second evening we had a special Vespers to commemorate our activities. It began with a small brazier burning on the steps of the antechoir, into which we were required to cast our curses, together with a pinch of incense, and so relieve ourselves of any such spiritual encumbrances before entering the Promised Land. This was situated in the choir, where the map was laid on the floor, with a length of blue muslin denoting the River Jordan, over which we crossed. We each lit votive lights from a large candle which Sr Damian had carried at the head of our procession into choir, and these lights were placed in a heart-shape around the map of the Promised Land. We then each read one of the prayers or promises of God to the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as recorded in the Book of Genesis, which would have formed part of the Israelites’ pre-Exodus spiritual heritage. The map was then placed on the altar, and we had a time of quiet prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, praying above all that a new way might be opened for peace in the Holy Land. The sequence “A hand upon the banner of the Lord”, was danced with flags of the seven colours of the rainbow, which were then left at the foot of the altar, and the service concluded with the traditional Levitical blessing from Numbers 6:6. This was one which St Francis especially loved, and wrote out for Brother Leo when he was in deep distress.
On the feast of the Epiphany, we each dressed as characters from the Nativity account in the gospel and processed to the choir singing carols, blessing each of the main rooms of the monastery as we went, and taking with us all the cards and letters we had received at Christmas to lay at the manger. In the evening we went carol-singing, with the frost crunching underfoot, and the stars brilliant in a clear sky overhead.
We also spent a memorable ‘herbal day’ under the auspices of Sr Damian and Sr Agatha, our chief herbalists. They shared with us some of the insights and knowledge of herbal medicine and the medicinal qualities of various common plants, which they had gained during the past months of making herbal remedies. Later they treated us to an hilarious entertainment in the infirmary on the theme of two herbalist ‘quacks’ with glib tongues, out to make a fortune the quick way through the ‘gift of the gab’ and imaginative ‘treatments’ of doubtful value. In the evening we celebrated an informal ‘herbal Vespers’ in Ephesus, at the conclusion of which each of us was given a small bottle of ‘Our Lady’s Blessed Oil’ . This had been made by our Sisters from the basketful of home-grown herbs blessed during holy mass on the feast of the Assumption last August.
Our Christmastide grand finale was a party featuring a roll-call of saints A-Z - eccentric or imaginary, mythical and mystical. From St Augustine, followed by his faithful friend Alypius, taking down every pearl of wisdom from his mouth, to St Jerome, fulminating in a way utterly non-politically correct about the evil of women, and eventually exiting meekly to put out the cat at St Paula’s orders. There was also St Francis Borgia, who did much to redeem the bad name of the rest of his family, and St Teresa of Avila dancing with her castanets at recreation to amuse her Sisters. As well as St ‘I’ - the average person still on the slow upwards path to sanctity, and St Dyfrig, paddling out to Bardsey Island in a coracle, only to find a number of other Celtic saints waiting there in the hope of eventually being buried there with him. It was altogether a thoroughly enjoyable end to a very lovely Christmas.
In early spring our little wood was a place filled with gentle beauty with its carpet of snowdrops, and some weeks later the daffodils were fully in flower, and the bees could be seen leaving their hives in great numbers, and coming home with full pollen-bags. Our new dogs learned the hard way that it is most unwise to poke one’s nose into the entrance of a beehive! They tend to get excitable at the sight of anyone showing their hair or not wearing a habit, and later in the year took some time to get used to the newcomers in our midst. These they eventually accepted, though perhaps with a twinge of disappointment that our new Sisters were not burglars as they first supposed! Millie has lengthened into her full size as a dachshund, and Dollie has grown upwards, very leggy and bouncy, full of high spirits, with a lovable disposition. Very much like ‘Tigger’ in ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’, she tends to rush around in the garden in a dozen directions at once, investigating every molehill, elusive squirrel-scent, and anything that moves. We can well believe the scientist, specialising in tools of surveillance against terrorism, who admitted that his crew had not yet come up with anything half as effective as a dog’s nose! (A trained dog can reliably detect the slightest trace of a specific chemical - sometimes from a distance of many feet - even if the scent is masked by other pungent odours). Millie tends to proceed at a more leisurely pace, though she can achieve an impressive speed on her short legs in pursuit of a squirrel. But what she really likes is extra fuss. She is generally only too glad on occasions to be given a ride in the capacious pocket of Sr Coletta’s garden apron, from which vantage point she is mistress of all she surveys!
Our last ‘festal fling’ before Lent was a day spent with ‘The Lord of the Rings”. A friend in New Zealand had sent us an enthralling book about the making of the film. We felt that it was very much like the creative chaos of our crib-making, but on a much vaster scale - with people being challenged to make unusual objects out of the most unlikely materials! Sr Joanna gave us a fascinating and enjoyable epidiascope presentation, based on the pictures and text of the book. She had also cooked food for dinner, worthy of Bilbo’s party, comprising “Rosie Cotton’s jam-tarts’ and ‘Farmer Maggot’s mushrooms’ etc. which we enjoyed as we watched “The Fellowship of the Ring” again, this time even more aware of the immense creativity and enthusiasm that had gone into the making of it.
In February we had spent a prayer morning with Exposition, in solidarity with the various rallies in many places throughout the world protesting at the possibility of war on Iraq, a morally questionable undertaking, involving a country in which half the population is under 15. Once war had broken out, we had the Veneration of the Cross every day for all caught up in it, and continue to add an extra prayer for those who have died through violence to our daily Office for the Dead.
In late March we heard of the death at the age of 92 of our old friend Archbishop Bruno Heim, the former papal Pro-Nuncio in Britain. For some years in his younger days he had been a secretary to the future Pope John XXIII. He had been instrumental in bringing about the renewal of Poor Clare life in our community in 1982. Another loss to God’s people on earth was the death in September of Fr Raymond Brennan, who had founded the Pattaya Orphanage in Thailand. We still receive regular updates on Wasan and Jiranat, the two children there whom we are sponsoring.
In preparation for Holy Week we had a special Passiontide Vespers arranged by Sr Juliana and Sr Yolanda in front of the big crucifix in the cloister. It centred round Christ’s crown of thorns, and began with a sung ‘Kyrie’ followed by a number of scriptural references to thorns, beginning with the passage in Genesis where they are seen as resulting from the Fall and man’s first sin of disobedience to God’s loving will. Later we each in turn adored our crucified Lord. Taking a flower and placing it within a crown of thorns, such as we each receive at our solemn profession, we asked that through our love we may plant flowers among the thorns of the world.
On Sunday, Monday and Wednesday of Holy Week, we followed an EWTN video of the very moving Way of the Cross enacted by young people in the streets of Toronto last year as part of World Youth Day. The setting of the paschal tableau this year was by the waters of Babylon, so linking it with the tragic drama unfolding these days in Iraq with the new Gulf War and its aftermath. Sr Juliana had curved the edges of two large sheets of lead and filled them with water to make pools, representing the Tigris and Euphrates, the two great rivers of Mesopotamia (which means “the land between the rivers”). We later discovered that the greenery in it, collected from our pond in the little wood, contained 3 tadpoles! Fortunately they did not change into frogs during their days indoors in our choir! The cross was formed from a sturdy curved branch of a cypress from our garden. At its foot lay a large crimson rose, made of material and lit from within, symbolising the blood of those caught up in the suffering and conflict, and also the redeeming love of Christ.
With the weather being so fine, we were able to make the Way of the Cross outdoors on Good Friday morning. Individual Sisters shared reflections on each of the events which comprised Our Lord’s path of suffering love carrying his cross to Calvary. We prayed that our own lesser sufferings, and those of the whole world, united with his, would also become in God’s plan, channels of redeeming love.
At the end of the day, when we commemorate the laying of Christ in his tomb, the crimson rose became the sepulchre for the chrysalis-like wrapped and shrouded figure of Our Lord.
Butterflies were definitely in this year as a symbol of the resurrection! There were a number on the large Easter candle, the lighting of which begins the long Vigil service, and later, to set the stage for the gospel of the resurrection, a large painted butterfly emerged from the chrysalis-like shroud in the sepulchre and flew heavenward, while several fluttered slowly down from the oratory at the back of our choir, picked out in the darkness by shimmering torches.
The story of the passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea in their escape from slavery in Egypt, was brought to life, with clever use of both slides and an ancient film strip projector, which gave the appearance of the movement of the fleeing people between gigantic poised waves. The reading from Isaiah Ch. 42 “Come to the waters, all who are thirsty” was sung by Sr Lucia to a very lovely Greek tune, and expressed by Sr Amata in dance.
After the vigil we remained in choir with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament till 3.15 am when we gathered for Easter breakfast in Ephesus, beginning by cracking dyed hard-boiled eggs one against the other, in a sort of paschal version of conkers, a custom in the Orthodox Church.
Our TMD garden
In April we had had a row of trees felled on a strip of land belonging to our property just beyond the enclosure wall. We have now had it properly fenced in, and are planning to plant gorse and suchlike to deter such of the local youth who used to climb the trees and perch on the enclosure wall at that point. We now have a wonderful view over the valley sloping down to Hawarden village with Chester and its environs in the distance.
Throughout May we were busy on and off in the garden, weather permitting, erecting our big netting cage over the entire vegetable patch to deter the ever voracious pigeons. We seem to spend more time and energy putting up overhead wires for support and stitching together the lengths of plastic netting, than in digging over the ground and sowing or planting out seedlings! However it is well worth the effort when harvest time comes, to know that much of it has not gone to feed the birds of the air!
And 2003 will be remembered as the year when we had a real summer, even by the most exacting standards! One day in the August heatwave, this area was recorded with the highest temperature in what was then a very hot Britain! We even thoughtfully made the dogs a paddling pool out of a large plastic tray to keep them from getting too hot in their long black coats! They have had to be confined to their spacious run on days when there have been workmen here, and yelps of frustration have generally heralded the appearance of a nonchalant neighbourhood cat nearby. One day we even spotted a wild rabbit which had discovered a loophole in our enclosure fence, and literally found itself in clover! Eventually we stopped the gap before it invited the rest of its tribe to found a Ty Mam Duw warren!
“Songs of Praise”
At the end of March we were visited by a BBC television crew, taking some shots of the community and the monastery for a programme in the ‘Songs of Praise’ series. They were so charmed by the daffodils in the garden, that they used them (minus nuns!) as a background for the opening sequence of another ‘Songs of Praise’ shown on Mother’s Day! The programme made here was shown in early June. We were inundated with e-mails the next day from friends and well-wishers, all very appreciative of it, and similar letters continued to arrive by ‘snail-mail’ during the following week. It is a joy to know it has touched so many hearts and given people renewed hope and faith in God’s loving care for us all, despite the muddle the human race continues to make of the world He has given us.
Ven. Margaret Sinclair
In mid-June we again had a TV crew with us, this time from Edinburgh, to make a film for the ‘Eikon’ series about Margaret Sinclair (Ven. Sr Mary Francis of the Five Wounds), who entered the Poor Clare monastery at Notting Hill as an extern in the 1920’s, and died of TB when still a young professed Sister. There is a long-standing tradition of devotion to her, especially in Scotland, where she won the hearts of all who knew her in life by the love of God she radiated as an ordinary working girl despite the hardship of her surroundings, and the hope she brought to others in similar situations. At the time of his visit to Scotland in 1982 Pope John Paul II spoke warmly of her and of his hopes that she would eventually be recognised as a saint of our days. In October one of Cardinal O’Brien’s first public engagements was presiding at the ceremony to mark the transfer of her mortal remains to St Patrick’s Church, where she so often worshipped as a girl. A great-nephew of Margaret Sinclair wrote to us, saying how much he had appreciated the ‘Eikon’ production. It had included a brief recorded memory of her by Sr Pacifica, an old Sister of ours who died a few years ago, and had been her contemporary in the noviciate. (In fact she had received the Poor Clare habit at the same ceremony at which Sr Mary Francis made her first vows.) The programme also showed shots of our Poor Clare life today. We were amused at a couple that had been reproduced in sepia and the film speeded up, to make it look like an old film set in the times of Sr Mary Francis!
Fruit for the future
In July we spent a strenuous but highly satisfying two days hard at it digging up 200 old blackcurrant bushes, which had developed surprisingly tough and tenacious roots in the last 15 years . We stripped such fruit as they had still managed to produce, and together with the first fruit on several hundred new bushes planted elsewhere in the garden, we were able to make a reasonable quantity of delicious jam. Next year the newer ones should be well established and we hope for a good crop.
A new look to our sanctuary
Shortly before she went into retreat for her solemn profession early in August, Sr Yolanda together with Sr Juliana completed a large hangdown in silk painting for the sanctuary, based on the San Damiano crucifix. It has now replaced the tapestry one, made for the blessing of our new chapel in 1986, but which had become affected by candle smoke and suchlike and faded somewhat over the years. The new design shows Sts Francis, Clare and Colette, embracing the feet of the crucified and risen Lord, with a group of Poor Clares gazing upwards in the small bottom panel. As in the tapestry version, the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove enfolds the figure of Christ in its flame-tinted pinions. The shrines of the Portiuncula, Schoenstatt and our own house of Ty Mam Duw are depicted on the side of the cross, next to Mary and John, and the hand of the Father reaching down in welcome to the ascending Christ is given greater emphasis.
Sr Yolanda’s solemn profession
Our ‘Sr Bride’ as she was known in the weeks leading up to her final vows, had a rather penitential retreat, as she was laid low by a virus for much of the week, and in no condition to sit out peacefully in the garden, and fulfil the other plans she had made for that time. Not that there was much sunshine. The skies turned grey, and the rains came down. However, by the end of the week Sr Yolanda was on her feet again and all set for her great day, which dawned with resplendent sunshine. Her former parish priest, Fr Francis Press was the chief celebrant at the mass. He preached a very lovely sermon on the theme of hands raised in prayer, and used in service, and on the words ‘Behold, hold, enfold’ which express the riches of St Clare’s spirituality. Sister then prostrated before the altar, in a gesture of self-offering, while we sang a shortened form of the Franciscan Litany of the Saints She then made her vows in Dear Mother’s hands, receiving the ring of espousal to Christ. Afterwards the crown of flowers she had been wearing was exchanged for a crown of entwined thorns, still studded with a few flowers in token of the resurrection blessings yet to come from her Lord after sharing in His sufferings. Then several Sisters expressed in dance the song, “I will never be the same again” in celebration of her definitive commitment to the gospel form of life as envisaged by Saints Francis and Clare.
Our celebrations within the community continued for a few days. We gathered one morning for coffee with our new Bride while she opened the various little presents we had made her. We were delighted to find there were also surprise presents for us in the form of small home-made hardback copies of the collected writings of St Clare, charmingly illustrated by Sr Elizabeth with pastel cartoons.
In harvest time we rejoiced in the gathering in of our French beans, brassica and mammoth onions, all of which help us provide for the groups that come for day retreats. We are also very grateful to the local churches and schools which brought us varied produce from their own Harvest Festivals.
Our beekeepers accomplished the tricky task of moving our three hives to a new site on the former blackcurrant patch. In the past 10 years the trees where they used to be had grown so much that they no longer got much sunshine. As a rule, hives can only be moved three feet or three miles - anything in between tends to confuse the bees. Though a number of bees flew back to their old site, they had basically returned to their respective communities by the next evening. Rainy weather which had set in also discouraged them from venturing outdoors as much as usual. We are hoping next year to establish a camomile lawn around the beehives, as well as lavender plants. Our herbalists were delighted this year in managing to distil some rose oil for use in various herbal preparations, and also produced some rose honey, which proved as delicious as its name suggests.
In late September we had the joyful privilege of hosting a family celebration for the golden jubilee of ordination of Archbishop Ward. About 60 people were present, mostly his relatives and close friends. He himself was the main celebrant, with Bishop Roche, the new auxiliary in Leeds, and several priests of our Wrexham diocese concelebrating. Later we had a special Vespers for the occasion in honour of Our Lady, Queen of the Seraphic Order. It was composed of appropriate psalms and readings and a mimed sequence ending with a tableau of Our Lady crushing the serpent’s head beneath her foot and surrounded by angels holding votive lights.
Our dear Marianne had the joy that week of a pilgrimage with a friend to Rome, Loreto, San Giovanni Rotondo and Assisi. Assisi was the highlight. Although the Holy Father was not well and the general audience they had been going to attend was cancelled, they were fortunate to be within a few feet of him at Castel Gandolfo, when he was being helped into a car to return to Rome. We were glad to learn from Zenit, the Vatican web-site, that reports of our dear Holy Father’s imminent demise were grossly exaggerated, and by means of EWTN were able to share in the joy of his silver Papal jubilee and the beatification of his dear friend, Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
It must be admitted that modern technology can be a source of great blessings, as we have experienced through the e-mail, which every day brings us prayer intentions from people throughout the world in great need of healing for themselves and those they love. Our number of ‘Clare-sharers’ (people who wish to share in some way in their own homes in our daily round of prayer and praise, and who receive regular news of our community) continues to grow. Through the internet we are also able to gather news of the Church, and of events throughout the world which call for prayer.
And now, as 2003 comes to an end, with all its darkness and light, we once again would like to say a heartfelt ‘God reward you’ to all who have helped us so much in the past year - by bringing us jam-jars, spare wool or material, old candles, wood offcuts and other articles for recycling, as well as jumble to sell - and to those who helped to make our Autumn Fair such a success. As well as to the many round the world who have kept us in their prayers, or had holy mass offered for our community. You will be pleased to hear that our three newcomers are settling in well. They are all blessed with a bump of humour, which goes a long way in adapting to our Poor Clare life at Ty Mam Duw! And now they are looking forward to their first Christmas as members of our family.
And you can be sure that we are enfolding you all in our hearts, particularly those for whom it will be the first Christmas since the loss of a loved one. May the Lord be with each and every one of you at this turning of the year to strengthen, guide and uphold you, and may you be with him, day by day, now and in the coming year.
With loving prayers,
your Poor Clare Sisters at Ty Mam Duw
People sometimes ask: what can I do to help you sisters? Well - there is something and anyone can do it - share with others about our way of life!
In a world of darkness, we try to live the mystery of light.
In a world of suspicion we try to witness to our trust in God by a life of poverty, obedience, and enclosure.
And in a culture of death, we want to be a culture of life.
If people want to know more, you can always recommend them to our website:
and if you would like to share in our life by praying for the needs of the world we also have a bi-monthly online newsletter called Clareshare which passes on special prayer intentions and some news of our community
THE SOLEMN PROFESSION
of Sr Marie Yolanda of the Transfiguration
In praise and thanksgiving we welcome you all to this celebration. May it be an experience of the Lord's nearness and of his gift of love and joy to each one of us.
We welcome those of you who have known Sr Yolanda, but who have not before visited Ty Mam Duw, may you carry away with you a happy awareness of lives lived alongside your own, in praise of God and intercession for the world
We welcome those of you who, though you share our gladness on this day, may not fully share our faith - in the words of St Clare, may the Son of God become your way.
At The beginning of the service Sr Yolanda leaves the Portiuncula shrine chapel of Our Lady and is led by her brother-in-law, Roy, to the Sanctuary gates.
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.
Sister prostrates before the altar while we pray the Litany of the Franciscan Saints.
......Our Holy Mother St. Clare Pray for us.
Our Holy Mother St. Colette Pray for us.....
Blessed Yolanda Pray for us.....
...grant to your handmaid
the high poverty and humility
of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and His most Holy Mother.
Christ hear us,
Lord Jesus hear our prayer.
You can see who is the proud mother! Sister Yolanda professes her vows, her hands between Dear Mother's hands. Sr Damian (our Vicaress) is to the right.
I, little Sister Marie Yolanda of the Transfiguration
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,
after the example of our Holy Mother Colette.
And I vow to observe enclosure.
Mother: 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.
Sister receives the ring of Solemn Profession.
...Lord of eternal faithfulness
bless this ring
the symbol of your covenant
with your sister and bride, Marie Yolanda.
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.
Mother: as she places the ring on sister's finger.
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.
Sister receives the Crown of Thorns symbolic of Christ's suffering and resurrection.
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.
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.
We share our joy in a danced song of meditation.
I will never be the same again,
I can never return, I've closed the door.
I will walk the path, I'll run the race,
and I will never be the same again.
Fall like fire, soak like rain,
flow like mighty waters again and again.
Sweep away the darkness,
burn away the chaff,
and let a flame burn to glorify Your name.
There are higher heights,
there are deeper seas,
whatever You need to do, Lord - do in me.
The glory of God fills my life
and I will never be the same again...
At the end of Mass, just before the final blessing Sister Yolanda receives her profession candle. The Celebrant is Father Francis Press Sister's former parish priest in North London.
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.
2003 11 July, BBC Online Margaret Sinclair & Jimmy Saville
(Direct link to)
Sadly, this was a long time ago. May the Lord have mercy
© 2010, 2014 TMD Contact us
2003 15 June- 27 July, Catholic Pictorial, Peace on earth
Peace on earth 1
Whose peace are you looking for?
In the pilgrimage church of Our Lady of Aberteifi at Cardigan, is a cross that Canon Cunnane rescued from oblivion. It is inscribed with the words Rex, Dux, Lux and Pax, all meeting on the X! Christ is our king, our leader, our light - and our peace. Well, it must be obvious, in the light of recent military events, that we are not our own peace!
Pious people living in non-militarised zones, used to say that peace was not merely the absence of war.
This was naive of us. Now we would be glad just to have the absence of war.
In Iraq the ‘Allies’ have, without international sanction, occupied a country whose people over the past ten years have been reduced to near starvation, in order to prevent them from using deadly weapons of mass destruction that they no longer appear to have, and to free them from an oppressive dictator, by providing something they regard as even less acceptable.
There is a magnificent prolife advertisment with the caption Abortion hurts mothers and it kills babies. The same is true of war. Except in this. War hurts everybody and it kills some bodies. Our armed forces, to their untold fear, pain, death and incomprehension, have been caused by what Tolstoy would call “the sum of our political will”, to engage in activities which in the end, will hurt them - and us - the most. But before we indignantly leap on the streets with our banner saying ‘Peace’, or ‘It wasn’t me wot did it, Sir’, pause for thought.
Do we mean peace? Do we have peace? Can we give peace?
Martin Luther King wrote a guide for those civil rights workers who planned to protest against American injustice:
I HEREBY PLEDGE MYSELF - MY PERSON AND BODY - TO THE NONVIOLENT MOVEMENT. THEREFORE I WILL KEEP THE FOLLOWING TEN COMMANDMENTS
1. MEDITATE daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.
2. REMEMBER always that the nonviolent movement in Birmingham seeks justice and reconciliation - not victory.
3. WALK and TALK in the manner of love, for God is love.
4. PRAY daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free.
5. SACRIFICE personal wishes in order that all men might he free.
6. OBSERVE with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.
7. SEEK to perform regular service for others and for the world.
8. REFRAIN from the violence of fist, tongue, or heart.
9. STRIVE to be in good spiritual and bodily health.
10. FOLLOW the directions of the movement and of the captain on a demonstration.
I sign this pledge, having seriously considered what I do and with the determination and will to persevere................
On our own, we have no peace to give. That is, incidentally, why peace protests back in the sixties, held under the aegis of the old Communist party came such a frequent cropper: they could not cope with police provocation and the infiltration of counter-activists. They had no peace to give because peace is Christ, who made peace by his blood on the Cross, who made out of two people, one body; through whom, in the Holy Spirit, we all have our way to come to the Father.
Peace on earth 2
Patient for peace
Coulport on Loch Long is one of several depots at which Britain stores her supply of Weapons of Mass Destruction; specifically, Trident warheads. Joan and Joy are both old age pensioners; they were part of a small peace vigil outside the MOD’s hardware there. They knelt in the gateway to pray - thus placing themselves outside the law. On Ash Wednesday they were fined £250 each. Joy said she was happy to be in court on a day dedicated to repentance; they both remembered the atom bomb falling on Hiroshima and the UN resolution that atomic weapons should not be used again. That was fifty years ago.
Listening to this read in the refectory (an item from the commendable Independent Catholic News Online) moved us almost to tears.
Sr Laetitia and Sr Electra, before they heard the still small voice of calm marched out and sat-in with most things that were going. I asked Sr Electra to share some of her experiences.
“In the nineteen seventies I was a teenager, not a Catholic, not even a Christian, demonstrating with those who demonstrated against Vietnam, the Nuclear Arms Race and South Africa; especially, South Africa.
“Of course, in the Seventies our British economy was still heavily tied up with that of South Africa of which, like Iraq, we had been a past administrator. Gold mines were still our god, and we needed SA’s vast, black slave labour force to maintain our financial stability. It was only when the gold finally began to run out that Britain became a governmental supporter of democracy in South Africa.
I had, with thousands of others, come up to London to march upon the South African Embassy, with the amiable intention of serenading the Ambassador with “We shall not be moved!”
I fell in with an American widow of a Vietnam serviceman and a veteran of many marches. She gave me a vivid description of life on the streets with the American police. I felt secure in the knowledge that “that sort of thing” didn’t happen here.
About five hundred yards ahead of us there was something which seemed like a contrary ripple in the order of the marchers; nothing more. My new-found friend grabbed my wrist and dived off the route into a side street, turned into a large store and headed for the stairs. We looked down on the road we had been walking on seven minutes before. People were screaming and shouting, and the police were charging our former companions with batons. Tear gas was hurled across the rapidly cleared space.
“I don’t understand,” I said. “What happened?”
“Maybe I’m wrong,” said my kindly American. “But back home we have extreme nationalist groups; the pro-war, anti-race lobby, sort of.”
I agreed Britain also had extreme nationalist groups.
“Somebody,” she said, “Tips them off. It may be a counter demonstration that is allowed to meet yours head on, or it may be a bit more subtle. They march with you a bit behind the front rank. When the march is about fifteen feet from a crossroads, either side of which the police just happen to be waiting, someone starts heaving bricks through windows or laying into his neighbour. The people behind don’t know what is happening. They try to get out of the way. There is a rush. And - not everyone on a peace march is trained to Gandhian passive resistance. People who are hit frequently start hitting back. And they almost always start shouting. The news headlines the following day read “Police step in to quell Peace March riot”. Nobody asks how the riot started or why people who favour peace should suddenly and inexplicably start fighting themselves. There are infinite variants on this theme, of course. But it kinda describes what you and I have just been in.”
I agreed it did.
“And, like I said, don’t you have extreme Nationalist groups here, too?”
I agreed we had.”
Peace on Earth 3
Anger management course
Sister Athene is a devout contemplative nun who spends seven hours per day doing strictly prayerful things. Since the War Against Terrorism burst on our world she has tried to do overtime - night and morning. This might be more praiseworthy if the cost were not so high. On Monday she collided with Sister Madonna about the hymn numbers, on Tuesday she harassed Sister Cosima about the garden, on Wednesday she spoke unreasonably on the subject of efficiency to Sister Laetitia, on Thursday she wound herself into a wrathful fit over the washing-up because she wanted extra time to pray for peace. On Friday we sent her to bed. Our life then resumed its vivid, dynamic but peaceful ambience. The red on the rainbow toned down a bit.
The lesson: it is no good canvassing for peace, demonstrating for peace, or above all, praying for peace if you are not living for peace!!!
How to be peaceful
Count to one hundred and/or go for a walk before you reply to an irritating dig.
Don’t say everything you think: it may be true, but is it helpful?
Try to smooth others’ paths. Don’t leave moral, emotional or physical rocks in their way for them to fall over.
Keep smiling. The upward turn of the lips sends extra blood to the brain. It does wonders.
Change the internal subject: go and absorb yourself with something you really like for ten minutes and you will find the brooded-upon-agitation gets into proportion.
Maybe you won’t murder your neighbour, after all!
Here is a serious plan.
These are the famous Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. We have put anger in italics where the original read alcohol:
1. We admitted we were powerless over anger - that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly ask him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all the persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood him, praying only for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry it out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message as people converted to peace, and to practise these principles in all our affairs.
Try it. If you want peace, make peace.
Peace on Earth 4
Not an advertisement feature
“Pure heaven in the Bahamas from just £899 [each], Paradise on earth, Thailand, from £550,” Sister Jerome read out from the holiday ads in some serious and suitably catholic publication [National Geographic, I think].
“Cheap, at the price,” murmured Sister Isabelle. “I mean, it is costing us not less than everything.”
“What does it really cost; the holiday, that is?” I asked.
“Purgatory, I should imagine,” murmured Sister Isabelle.
I became somewhat obsessed with finding adverts that sold you peace. I found a peace-giving Ford car; total tranquility joss sticks, Peace Rose Shower Gel, the right beer and the right undertaker.
The one I really admired was Lipton’s Mint Flavoured Tchae discovered by the Emperor Shen Nung in BC 2737, which promotes those relaxing, stress-free moments. It really did something for me - the promise, not the tea.
I consulted the Catechism - see article . I read Cardinal Ratzinger’s views. There is to be a revised, short version of the Catechism. The section on Just Wars is to be reviewed. The Cardinal said [Zenit News Website, May] that it is hard to imagine any modern war with its far reaching powers of destruction as having the capacity to be just. The interviewer braced himself and asked the Cardinal outright if the occupation of Iraq fulfilled the requirements for a just war. The Cardinal said plainly, No it did not.
Some of our family say the rosary each evening, for peace. I asked them what made peace? Sister Cosima said, simply, Living it.
A word in time
So I dug myself into the beginning [and end] of all things; the Word. Before reading the Word of the Lord in the Gospels, I went to the Book of Deuteronomy:
I set before you today, life and death; good and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I give you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his words, his laws and his precepts, then you will live. You will multiply. The Lord will bless you and you will enter and take possession of the land of peace. But if you let your heart be turned away and close your ears and make yourself idols of prosperity and ease and evasion, you will die. You will have no lasting home in peace. As heaven and earth are my witnesses.
Peace be with you.
This is the angels’ greeting when they bring the Word of God to Zachariah, to Mary; to the shepherds. It is the greeting of the Lord Jesus who has walked out of the tomb of death. Peace I leave you, my peace I give you. My Peace - the peace - and glory - to be found in the immobility of nails on a cross. This is not what the world offers you. Do not let your hearts be disturbed [Jn.14:27-28]. Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, I am sending you. This is my gift to you. Receive the Holy Spirit [Jn.20:21-22]. You are ambassadors of Christ [2Cor.5:20]. The Holy Spirit will give you the answers [Jn.14:26].
Peace on earth 5
Instrument of peace
Poggio Bustone - to Anglo-Saxon ears it sounds like the name of a circus clown - is a village high up in the Rieti district of Italy. Around 1218 Francis of Assisi went there looking for the last sort of peace: a sense that one has been forgiven. Sitting outside the wattle fronted caves where the Brothers lived, and listening to the bells ringing from the village, way below, Francis let God suck the poison out of his swollen and painful memories.
The light, the high clean air, the sound of water from the spring that is now the well of the Friary and the last resonance of the bells were all at once swept up into an angel proclaiming peace. Francis put his head on a rock and fell into a dead and dreamless sleep. When he woke up he was full of new energy. The wounds from the serpent that bites had gone. He went down into the valley to share the good news with the rest of us.
You may not quite find this version of the story in the early Franciscan sources. But you can take our word for it. It is authentic!
Another thing you won’t find in the early Franciscan sources is the famous prayer of Saint Francis: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. It first made its appearance on the back of the jubilee card of an American priest, in the early twentieth century. Part of it mirrors a prayer of one of Francis’ companions, Brother Giles. The rest - like our reading of the scenario at Poggio Bustone - is a matter of private revelation! Private, it may have been, but - indisputably - it is a revelation.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is discord, unity;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is error, truth;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is sadness, joy;
where there is darkness, light.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning, that we are pardoned.
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
An instrument of peace is like an instrument of war. It is a thing used to an end. One human being selects a gun and shoots another human being. The gun is the instrument.
But God selects a human to be the instrument. He selects you. You are the weapon he uses.
A weapon of destruction is projected by an explosion. You are projected by an implosion. Weapons of peace are not blown to bits. Their already fragmented pieces are put together - by forgiveness.
Peace at a stroke
Here is something you can do that is an absolutely concrete act of anti-violence. Examine the brokenness, pain and poison in your life. Then take it to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and ask for forgiveness. When you have received the sacrament, ask, as Francis did, to feel that healing aid. After reciting the Peace Prayer as your penance, go down the mountain and share that peace with the people in the plain. You cannot give a peace you don’t possess. But if you have peace the opportunity to give it away will be offered you. Guaranteed! [That’s another private revelation.]
Peace on earth 6
A place for peace
We were sitting round chatting as a family and Sr. Kunigunda was describing the atmosphere of a launderette. Before they became slightly post-state-of-the-art, launderettes promoted a certain sort of community. Marriages are not made in heaven but they were quite often arranged in launderettes. Washing is nearly a mystical experience. Even in the Book of Revelation the saints wear spotless white.
“Have a shower, dear, and put on some clean clothes,” was the nearest my earthly mother got to spiritual advice. But come to think of it, my heavenly Mother, the Church, offers me the gift of Baptism, a white robe and a new name.
The Church is the name for the space under the thundering waterfall of life and grace which comes through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
Church and churches
Saint Francis of Assisi loved things. He loved the sun and moon, wind and water, brothers and sisters - and sacred places.
He loved all these things with a new and tremendous thrill because he was never able to take them for granted. He literally was not able to say, “Oh, sure, another sunrise.” He found each breath of air a mystery, and each human a part of the revelation of God. This is a real way to live peace: start valuing what you have.
In Francis’ life a very special part was played by places. Uniquely, his life found its pattern at the place of the Portiuncula. Portiuncula means little portion. It was the nickname of a small half ruined chapel on the plain below Assisi, dedicated to Our Lady of the Angels. Francis rented it from the Benedictines of Mount Subasio for an annual basket of freshwater fish. This custom continues to the present day, though now the Portiuncula stands dwarfed and painted, inside an enormous Baroque basilica.
Francis and his brothers repaired the church and lived round its wattle huts. Saint Mary’s was the first Franciscan community.
We are people who have been exiled from paradise. If you want to go to the ultimate reduction, there are only two things on earth: houses and gardens. All ‘gardens’, all outdoor spaces, conspire ceaselessly to show us that time is constantly moving on in the perpetual grip of the fertility of death. Houses are always an attempt to defy time and create stability. “I just want to shut the door on the whole thing....” Houses imitate eternity, on the shores of which, time’s endless rush and futility end. This is a shadow of the final truth. In the Book of Revelation Saint John sees the New Jerusalem as a walled city which is the ultimate form of house.
Francis felt “here and in all the churches of the world” that the Portiuncula belonged to this final order of heavenly mansion. He persuaded a bemused Pope to sanction his view by giving to the Portiuncula the gift of the freedom of heaven, which was subsequently extended to all Franciscan Churches on the 1st and 2nd of August.
What is it?
The gift Francis wanted everyone to receive in his church, under the waterfall from heaven, was newness. He wanted to take everybody to heaven, washed clean in white clothes. In his time the only way to acquire this spiritual grace was by going on crusade to Jerusalem, at the risk of your life, in order to reclaim that place on earth which seemed nearest to heaven.
But Francis got the Pope to extend that gift to his own little place!
Today, the Portiuncula Pardon or Indulgence for the remission of the temporal punishment due to sin is available in any Franciscan Church on the 1st and 2nd of August. Our celebration for this year with be at 6.30 pm on Friday August 1st. The Sacrament of reconciliation will be available from 5.30 pm onwards. Ty Mam Duw is in Hawarden, North Wales, see map:
If you are bringing a coach please phone in advance to facilitate parking.
Looking forward to seeing you! (heaven via Hawarden!)
© 2010, 2014 TMD Contact us
2003 18 March, In reply to Amir Taheri
The Peace Movement
a reply to Amir Taheri
The Peace Movement was founded by the Man, who said, those who live by the sword die by the sword. He was so convinced of it that he went to his death without even raising a popular demonstration against the death penalty.
God is one - as all Christians believe. They also believe that the Man of whose coming it was prophesied even the animals would stop tearing each other apart, was the Second Person of The Blessed Trinity.
So convinced of this were the first Christians, that thousands of them left the armies of Rome, on receiving baptism. Hundreds of thousands of them refused to fight, even for their own lives, when exhibited for punishment in the circus. There is even an account of a whole legion who, having become Christian, refused to fight. They were decimated [every tenth man executed]: they refused to fight - they were decimated a second time - they refused. In the end they were all executed.
Christianity did not of course remain a peace movement. Like the followers of Islam, Christians do no read the Book. The theories of Christianity and Islam are peace keeping, but unfortunately, it is the practise of these religions which makes the big impression.
BS (Before Stalin)
Enter Francis of Assisi in 1182. He was such an outstanding peacenik that when his clothes caught fire, he would not let others put the flames out. He began a lay movement which, in the end, broke the back of the European Feudal military system. The Franciscan Tertiaries, and there were thousands of them, could no longer take the military oath to their overlords. They could not be used in an army. They might, of course, volunteer for the crusades, but in this again, Francis was ahead of them. He had gone unarmed to the east, had fearlessly made friends with the great al Melek al Kamal, and wandered unharmed through the Moslem camp.
There is one thing about the crusades which both sides seem to have lost sight. In this game Islam won - one thousand to nil.
The Christian peace movement, which in every age has had its adherents, does seem to have preceded not only Mr. Stalin, but even Professor Marx; a remarkably lapsed Jew whose most valuable insight - that a man’s liberation is in his own hands - is soundly based on the Pentateuch.
Conscientious objection to military service during the first world war, was instantly understood by the War Office, as a Christian gesture, regardless of religious affiliation. New Zealanders brought their peaceniks with them, and on the approach lines to the trenches, they erected crosses on which the objectors were strung up, with a guard of soldiers at their feet; no doubt, to discourage any weakness in the troops going to the front. One of these victims of crucifixion was the father of the poet James Baxter.
Pax Christi, the international Christian peace movement, saw the light of day in 1945, when an obscure French school teacher, Marthe Dortel-Claudet, began a campaign of prayer for reconciliation between France and Germany. Its first president, the elderly Bishop Théas of Montauban, had prayed daily for peace for the people of Germany, as he was held in prison for protesting against the persecution of the Jews. One feels that Stalin cannot in any way, have helped him.
Were you there?
Mr. Taheri is in error when he asserts that the annexation of Chechenya, Azerbaijan, Kurdistan, portions of Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, amongst others, went unnoticed and were not marked by public protest and prayer.
He is remarkably unaware of the large public demonstrations objecting to the occupation of Warsaw. And the writer of this article herself, as a child, attended one of the many huge public demos against the occupation of Prague.
It is most true to say that the Christian Peace Movement lined up outside the American Embassies to protest the Vietnam War, but they also lined up outside the Chinese embassies to protest China’s internal wars, and especially, the seizure of Tibet. Mr. Taheri will find it genuinely instructive to research what Iran and America had to say at the UN about the seizure of this independent and unwarlike nation, which, though it is the size of Kuwait, has no oil.
Peace protesters not only worked, marched and held prayer vigils outside Iraqi Embassies all over Europe [and no doubt in America - but I am restricting myself to facts of which I am certain], for the Kurdish people - and for the terrorised Shiite population. Earlier, they had prayed outside the Iranian Embassy for the release of Moslem political prisoners held by the Shah, and for the dissidents imprisoned by the Ayatollah Kohmeni. Not only were they not much assisted by communists - they were hardly even supported by Moslems.
The “evil empire” of Communism is not entirely extinct. But the mass peace movement which caused thousands of East Germans to first cross the frontiers by way of neighbouring countries, and then to begin demolishing the walls, saw birth in the Lutheran and Catholic churches [the latter, almost completely underground] in the Communist east.
Mr. Taheri has also failed to note the peace rallies against South Africa, a nation at war with itself; protests which spanned over forty years. It seems most unreasonable to suggest that the US was responsible for the tragedies of that divided land, yet hundreds of thousands filled the streets to protest against the use of violence, and no modern South African would deny the affect world protest has on the final abrogation of white racism.
It is true of course, that despite the non-involvement of America, some of these protesters were communist. There were communists in the African National Congress. But when it was suggested to Dr. Albert Lutuli that Congress should separate itself from its Communist members he replied, “How can I hope to help my Communist brother if I do not speak to him?”
Faith of our Fathers
This year we celebrate the fortieth anniversary of Pacem in Terris, the encyclical of Blessed John XXIII, which encouraged Catholics to commit themselves to the Peace Movement. Blessed John is generally subtitled The Good Pope, but he must have been a Bad Pope for, when at his request Mr. Stalin rounded up the remaining prisoners of war from their fifteen years in forced labour camps and sent them home, John sent Stalin a holy medal!
Few who were present at the UN when Paul VI gave his address, can forget the frail, undersized figure in white exclaiming simply, in French, “No more war. No more war. No more War!”
This year’s message for peace, sent as it is annually, on the 1st January, by John Paul II, commemorated the forty years since Pacem in Terris. He publicly thanked all those organisations and individuals who had worked for peace.
Inspired by the conviction that every human being is equal in dignity, and that society therefore had to adapt its form to that conviction, human rights movements soon arose and gave concrete political expression to one of the great dynamics of contemporary history: the quest for freedom as an indispensable component of work for peace. Emerging in virtually every part of the world, these movements were instrumental in replacing dictatorial forms of government with more democratic and participatory ones. They demonstrated in practice that peace and progress could only be achieved by respecting the universal moral law written on the human heart.
The fifth of March is not merely memorable for being Mr. Stalin’s expiry date, but also for being the feast of a humble eighteenth century Franciscan, St. John Joseph, who raised his hand against no one but himself. It is also the heavenly birthday of the first martyr to die under the Emperor Diocletian; St. Hadrian was so peaceable that not only would he not fight the lions, the lions would not fight him. He died in Palastine.
Mr. Taheri is a widely respected journalist.
Speaking of Iranians, the Greek historian Herodotus, [a product of an enemy nation], said an Iranian would scorn [knowingly] to lie, even to save himself. This is offered in sincere trust that Mr. Taheri is a true Iranian.
2002 November, BBC Online, Rock around the Convent
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