Carol Service 2016

Then why should weon earth be so sad,
Since our Redeemer made us glad:
Then why should we on earth be so sad,
Since our Redeemer made us glad:
When from our sin He set us free,
All for to gain our liberty.

When sin departs before his grace,
Then life and health come in its place;
When sin departs before his grace,
Then life and health come in its place;
Angels and men with joy may sing,
All for to see the newborn King.

All out of darkness we have light
Which made the angels sing this night;
All out of darkness we have light
Which made the angels sing this night:
“Glory to God and peace to men,
Now and for evermore. Amen.

Reader - Sr Ruth

All out of darkness we have light.  When the world turns round, the sun disappears; but the sun is still there. (slight pause)  When the whole of creation seems to turn its back, the love of God is still shining.

Wait till all the lights are turned off.
Background music -
Sister Lourdes comes forward and lights the first candle on the wreath.
Father will be so kind as to come to the other side of the grille and take the lit candle which Sister Lourdes now offers him, so that he can read the prayer. the Holy Water is at the foot of the wreath stand.


Let us pray.
Lord of all goodness,
bless and hallow with your presence
the darkness and division which surrounds us.
Be with us, to deliver us from our fear and from all evil.
Light up in us the splendour of your truth and
the fire of your love.
Bless this evergreen wreath+
let your Spirit help us to hear you more clearly
love you more dearly,
and follow you more nearly
You who live and reign for ever

Father returns to his place in the chapel.  Sister Lourdes goes to her stall.

Sr E and Sr Am turn on their headlamps and clump up the left aisle.  They are struggling to carry a light sledgehammer between them.  Theystand in front of the wall, which they do not appear to have noticed.

E: Heavy init. (they look at Hammer)

Am:Yer know, on the poster there was a picture of some nun twirling it about like a helicopter.

E: I saw the poster.  If yer look at her expression you’d think she’d made a habit of it!

They put the hammer down with laboured effort - ad lib (‘Mind me toe, Bill I’m attached to it.’  ‘There ought to be a union law against it!’  Whatever) They now perceive the Wall.

Am: Wozzat?

E: Its a wall, init?

Am:(scratching helmet)  Take a lotta work to get that down!

E:  (aside) I can feel a tea break coming on.

Am:  I mean, they didn’t put that up in five minutes!

E:  We didn’t ought to rush ourselves.  Huuuuge, init!

Am: They were playing their trump card when they put this up.

E: We’re going to need a big ladder

Am: Nah.  We’ll just bash in the bottom brick then we won’t ave to carry it so far.

E: Okay! (They hoist the hammer up between them with tottering difficulty)  Together:

Both: Ready…. steady…. g…

Sr Ruth: STOP!!!!!!!!!!!!!

With maddening slowness the two put their hammer down (Careful!  Slow and sure. Don’t rush yourself)

Sr Ruth (carries on over their backchat)  If you knock this wall down what will you get.?

E: A very big bonus

Am: A lot of rubble

Sr Ruth Precisely.  Thank you gentlemen.  You may retire.

(They take their hats off and bow to the Blessed Sacrament in passing.  Walk on tiptoe.  Get changed and back as fast as you can.  As they depart, Dear Mother, Sr Juliana and Sr Pia get behind the wallin readiness)

Sr Ruth: And what shall we do with a lot of rubble?  Leave it in a heap so that we can build it into other, even shabbier walls? (Pause a little) What is this wall made of?

Pope Francis said “This is, piecemeal, the Third World War; it is already happening.”

“When I speak of war I speak of wars over interests, money, resources – not religion. All religions want peace, To be clear, when I speak about war, I speak about real war. Not a war of religion. There is a war of interests. There is a war for money. There is a war for natural resources. There is a war for domination of peoples.”
“Let us not be afraid to say this truth: the world is at war, because it has lost peace.“
“This world reeling from injustice, lack of love, and corruption.”

Think about this:  none of us wants war - and what can we do about it?(slight pause)

(This exchange needs to go briskly.  Do not look at the wall to see what is happening or wait for the bricks to turn round.  

Sr Beatrix follows the ‘word bricks’ as they are turned round with the torch spotlight. At the end of this section)

Sr Amata: We really can do something about it

Sr Elizabeth: And it will work.

Sr Amata: First you need a Vision. (Vision brick turns)

Sr Elizabeth: By which Sister does not mean a direct revelation from our Lady, but a clear idea of where we are going.

Sr Amata It is insecurity which creates the fear that holds up walls.

Sr Elizabeth:  We can build a civilisation of love, respecting the dignity of each person.

Sr Amata Next we need a Plan (Plan brick turns)

Sr ElizabethDon’t keep looking at what has gone wrong.

Sr Amata: We are not going to lose anything.  Lord, teach us to see the people aroundus, teach us to walk round the world smiling - we won’t get mugged or arrested.

Sr Elizabeth:  Learn to say Amen Alleluia! (The team begin taking out the ‘Door’ section very quietly and quickly) Which translated from the Hebrew means: Yes! Praise God!

Sr Amata:  Then we need Courage to persevere (Courage brick turns)

Sr Elizabeth:  Peace takes more Courage than war.

Sr Amata:  Now we have Hope (Hope brick turns)

Sr Elizabeth:  - not just hope, Certainty (Certainty brick turns)

Sr Amata; And finally Patience (Patience brick turns)

Sr Elizabeth: Patience with failures: above all with our own failures.

Sr Amata:  Where there is no love, put love. And keep on putting it

Sr Elizabeth: A truly suffering love is irresistible.

Sr Beatrix turns spot torch on to ‘Doorway’. Sr Bakhita begins Musical introduction. Sr Amata and Sr Elizabeth sit. Sr Anežka comes up the left side also behind the wall and takes her place in the ‘doorway’ ready to start singing.

Song A Saviour is born, we join in the refrain

Pause for Sister to return to her place with gentle reprise of music. She turns the big sanctuary spotlight on and the light increases.  But the reader starts the moment the music ends, briskly. Mother and Team now get the wall down and turn it into a bridge at helter-skelter speed!

Sr Ruth: There have been 325 wars since 1946, 49 of them are going on, now, as we sit here.

Sr Elizabeth: In this last year War has made forty two thousand five hundred people homeless every day.

Sr Amata:  Many of them might like to come here.

Sr Ruth: Strangely, nobody appears to be clamouring to go to Russia or China.

Sr Elizabeth: How can we stop war?  

Sr Amata By helping the victims create a secure form of government,

Sr Ruth By helping them to form leaders who behave with integrity.

Sr Elizabeth:  By dismantling the walls of our own inner being and making God our security.

Sr Amata: War is like Alcoholism

Sr Ruth: You drink to escape.

Sr Elizabeth: But you end up in an even bigger mess

Sr Amata And it involves lots more people.

Sr Elizabeth: If you go and join Alcoholics Anonymous you will find it, too, has a Plan,

Sr Ruth: whose first precept is to acknowledge that there is Someone bigger than us out there.

Sr Elizabeth: Let us take hands and do that now.

(Under the above, the Team have been setting up the bridge.  If they finish too soon they can move small boxes and titivate their handiwork.  If they are not finished we carry on regardless. Mother leads over the bridge holding hands with the builders. The rest of the moveable members of the community (excepting Sr Amata who stays where she is, and Sr Seraphina who goes to her organ) make haste to hitch on at the end (left side). They do not take their copies up. dear Mother leads them towards the grille and reaches through to the people, who join hands with her and with each other.

Sister Bakhita and Sr Anežka are by the organ. After Sr Elizabeth’s closing words they sing Nothing is impossible, solo. at the second go we all join in. Then we hold our hands in front of usor out in praise - as we feel comfortable)

Sr Amata: We lift our hands to the Lord. We have admitted we are powerless over war - that our lives have become unmanageable. And we have come to believe that a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.

R Nothing is impossible Nothing is impossible Nothing is impossible to you Lord Jesus

Nothing is impossible Nothing is impossible Nothing is impossible to you.

Lord, we ask you now to stop the unIslamic State in its course of war.
R Nothing is

We ask you to release all held captive by the terrorists of Nigeria.
R Nothing is

We ask you to rescue those who are persecuted and imprisoned for their religion, especially Asia Bibi.
R Nothing is

We ask you to protect the Ukraine and disarm Russian hostility.
R Nothing is

We ask you to unite all Christians in one body of love and service
R Nothing is

We pray in silence now, laying all our fears before the Lord


Dear Mother:  Let us pray to our Father in heaven… (or whatever)
Our Father *
who art in Heaven,
Hallowed be thy name;
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us;
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.

(Note. should there be a considerable non-Catholic presence who carry on with ‘thine be the kingdom…’ please join in courteously)

Let us pray.
Prince of Peace
Your self-giving love has given us a Vision on which we can act.
In your Word, you have offered us a Plan.
You are the source of all grace and Courage,
make us rejoice in Hope,
be Patient in tribulation,
and constant in prayer.
You, who live and reign forever

All: Amen Alleluia

Sr Elizabeth: Can you say that a bit louder?
Thank you!

Sr Seraphina starts the Medley. The community go off randomly singing as they go

Christmas Carol Medley
Stone upon stone, our words and actions,
are building up a bridge and tearing down walls.
We choose to build a manger for the Lord.

In the bleak mid-winter,
Frosty winds made moan
Earth stood hard as iron,
water like a stone;
snow had fallen, snow on snow,
in the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Stone upon stone, our words and actions,
are building up a bridge and tearing down walls.
We choose to build a manger for the Lord.

O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see the lie!
above thy deep and dreamless sleep
the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
the everlasting light;
the hopes and fears of all the years
are met in thee tonight

Stone upon stone, our words and actions,
are building up a bridge and tearing down walls.
We choose to build a manger for the Lord.

it came upon the midnight clear,
that glorious song of old,
from angels bending near the earth,
to touch their harps of gold;
"peace on earth, goodwill to men,
from heav’n’s all gracious king!"
The world in solemn stillness lay
to hear the angels sing.

Stone upon stone, our words and actions,
are building up a bridge and tearing down walls.
We choose to build a manger for the Lord.

O come, all ye faithful,
joyful and triumphant,
o come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold Him,
born the king of angels;
O come let us adore him,
o come let us adore him,
o come let us adore him,
Christ the Lord!

Stone upon stone, our words and actions,
are building up a bridge and tearing down walls.
We choose to build a manger for the Lord.

On Christmas night all Christians sing.
To hear the news the angels bring;
On Christmas night all Christians sing,
to hear the news the angels bring;
News of great joy, news of great mirth,
news of our merciful Kings birth.

Gloria in excelsis Deo.
Gloria in excelsis Deo.

The first Nowell the angel did say
was to certain poor shepherds
in fields as they lay:
In fields where they lay
keeping their sheep,
on a cold winter's night
that was so deep.
Nowell nowell nowell, nowell
born is the King of Israel.

Gloria in excelsis Deo.
Gloria in excelsis Deo.

While shepherds watch’d their flocks by night,
all seated on the ground,
the angel of the Lord came down,
and glory shone around.
"Fear not" said he; for mighty dread
had seized their troubled mind;
"Glad tidings of great joy I bring
to you and all mankind.”

Gloria in excelsis Deo.
Gloria in excelsis Deo.

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
the Little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head;
the stars in the bright sky
look down where he lay,
the Little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

Stone upon stone, our words and actions,
are building up a bridge and tearing down walls.
We choose to build a manger for the Lord.

Once in royal David's city
stood a lowly cattle shed
where a mother laid her baby,
in a manger for his bed.
Mary was that Mother mild
Jesus Christ her little child.

Stone upon stone, our words and actions,
are building up a bridge and tearing down walls.
We choose to build a manger for the Lord.

Infant holy, infant lowly,
for his bed a cattle stall
Oxen lowing, little knowing
Christ the babe is Lord of all
swifts are winging, angels singing,
Nowells ringing, tidings bringing
Christ the babe is Lord of all.
Christ the babe is Lord of all.

Stone upon stone, our words and actions,
are building up a bridge and tearing down walls.
We choose to build a manger for the Lord.

God rest you merry gentlemen,
let nothing you dismay,
Remember Christ our Saviour
was born on Christmas Day.
To save us all from satan's power
when we were gone astray;
O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy.
O tidings of comfort and joy.

Stone upon stone, our words and actions,
are building up a bridge and tearing down walls.
We choose to build a manger for the Lord.

What shall we give to the child in the manger?
What shall we give him that he will enjoy?
Milk and wild honey for this little stranger.
Food to give strength to a new little boy.

Stone upon stone, our words and actions,
are building up a bridge and tearing down walls.
We choose to build a manger for the Lord.

We wish you a Merry Christmas
we wish you a Merry Christmas
we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Good tidings we bring to you and your kin.
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.




Tidings of Tŷ Mam Duw 2016

To all our friends, far and near, old and new, loving greetings from your Poor Clare family at Hawarden. As St Paul and St Jude wrote to the early Christians; We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you continually in our prayers that mercy and peace and love may be yours in full measure.
This is especially the case in what has been a momentous year for the Church and the world as a whole, whose hopes and joys, sorrows and distress we are asked to bear in our hearts and hold before the Lord day by day. When looking back over the past year there are two images that spring to mind. The first one is of earthquakes, the physical variety in so many countries, as well as those in the political and moral sphere, which have opened up cracks and chasms in what had appeared solid ground, causing widespread distress and uncertainty. And in the present situation the words of Psalm 46 become vitally relevant in the lives of believers.
God is for us a refuge and strength, a helper close at hand, in time of distress:
so we shall not fear though the earth should rock,
though the mountains fall into the depths of the sea,
even though its waters rage and foam,
even though the mountains be shaken by its waves.
The Lord of hosts is with us: the God of Jacob is our stronghold.
The second more positive image, is that of bridge building - a task for all people of good will, whatever their faith, nationality, colour or creed. One of the traditional titles of the Pope is Pontifex Maximus. Taken literally it means the chief builder of bridges, and in this sense Pope Francis has been doing his utmost to live it out to the full. As he himself has said.
Peace builds bridges, whereas hatred is the builder of walls. You must decide: in life, either I will make bridges or I will make walls… It is my duty to build bridges and to help all men and women, in any way possible, to do the same.

    Our Advent carol service was on the theme ‘No room in the inn’ and linked to the innumerable refugees fleeing desperate situations, who are faced with closed doors and hearts wherever they turn. It was illustrated with slides,  the final one being of the Christchild in the manger, after which we sang an extensive medley of carols played by Sr Seraphina with a refrain she had composed, Open wide the doors for Christ the Lord.    

    The next notable event here at Tŷ Mam Duw since the writing last November of our 2015 Tidings was when two friends who had visited Cracow brought us a large painting of the well-known Divine Mercy image. Dear Mother told us that when they had unrolled the picture in the parlour, she had had a light-filled experience of the presence of the Lord, and joyfully accepted it on behalf of us all.  They returned with it duly framed to hang on our sanctuary wall, and we all held votive candles and sang Now we sing a welcome to our King to welcome it into our house. The timing of its coming on 7th December was most propitious, being the eve of the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
    The following evening we had our own TMD version of the solemn ceremonies at St Peter’s for the opening of the Holy Door for the Jubilee Year of Mercy, and so processed from the refectory to the antechoir with the scriptural readings and psalms suggested for such a liturgy. The choir door had been decorated with greenery and the few flowers still in the garden, and after we had officially entered we had a short period of adoration of the Living Presence of the Lord in theBlessed Sacrament and later gathered in the cloister to watch a video of the Mass in St Peter’s Square. It was wonderful experience, as we prepared to celebrate the coming of Christ into our world so much in need of mercy and saving love. We were very touched to see Pope Benedict there, looking frail but serene, and the next to go through the door a short pause after Pope Francis, to be followed by the thousands of others present. We were moved to read that apart from opening the Holy Doors in the great basilicas of Rome, Pope Francis also went without all his papal entourage and opened a holy door in a homeless men’s hostel in Rome. He made the door to their dining- room into a holy door and had Marco Ivan Rupnik, a Jesuit, who is one of the great modern mosaic artists decorate the wall it is in.

Our Advent sharings within the community took varied forms, including a series on art, music and architecture, dealing with the baroque, classical, and impressionist periods. Sr Amata treated us to a slide presentation on the calling to the consecrated life compiled of texts from Papa Bene. Sr Lourdes and Sr Elizabeth also shared reflections on Newman with Advent themes based on his writings.
PIC The children from Ewloe Primary School came to sing carols to us one morning, and laterDear Mother and helpers decorated the tree in the sanctuary, this year using some new stars made of wooden beads on an embroidery base.
Fr Roy came to celebrate a Christmas Vigil Mass at 6.30pm. His eyes filled up when we rang the choir bell at the singing of the Gloria and Dear Mother brought the Bambino up to the sanctuary and laid it in the manger by the altar. After the Mass we kept watch for several hours round the choir manger bringing our own offerings, musical or artistic, and incorporating the traditional Matinsreadings ending with a Te Deum interspersed with carols.
PIC Marianne had given us a large quantity of lovely wool for Christmas, and this together with wool and material from another much-appreciated regular benefactor, set us all going on new ventures in the creative line during the blessedly peaceful days of Christmastide after an event-filled 2015.
Holy Innocents was as usual a time for celebrations in the novitiate, duly prepared by Sr Elizabeth and Sr Anežka. They had a distinctively Czech flavour (especially as far as dinner was concerned!) after the visit from Sr Klara earlier in the year. The entertainment provided included folk-tales, a smattering of the history of the Czech Republic and its language, and a popular game of tossing a shoe backwards over one’s shoulder, the winner being assured of good fortune in the coming year! This was followed by Czech carols and reflections about the making of the novitiate crib. We later enjoyed a delightful film sent by Sr Klara’s community, based on the story of Cinderella.
Our dear Sister Pia had to go to hospital after Christmas for an operation, but returned in time for the New Year, all the better for it, as did a couple of other Sisters, who were also in hospital short term more recently.

We saw the New Year in by going in procession from the community room to our choir ‘Holy Door’ singing the hymn for the Year of Mercy and placing ourselves under the protection of Mary as we entered both it and the New Year.  We then sang the Mercy Chaplet, which was combined with New Testament readings and ended with the litany for all those caught up in the many distressing situations in our world today.
On 2nd January we heard of the death that morning of our dear Canon Quigley who had served as our chaplain from 1996 to 2013. His supportive presence through the years had been much appreciated, as well as his openness and flexibility to some of our TMD paraliturgy on special occasions. When in his eighties he once memorably declared that he was quite happy for us to dance the offertory procession as long as we didn't expect him to join in! May he rest in peace.
Other Christmastide entertainments included one by Sr Elizabeth and Sr Juliana. They teamed up to read us a number of hilarious poems, by, amongst others Joyce Grenfell an account of a nursery school teacher much overtaxed by the antics of her charges. They had us rolling in the aisles overcome with laughter.
On the artistic side, our TMD ‘Br. Pacifico’ showed us how to go about making colourful geometrical and circular designs on a computer by means of a graphics program, forming new ones out of letters of the alphabet in whatever colour combinations we chose. Sr Juliana had made several 3-D dodecahedrons from them and other geometical figures, some with a score of sides, and also the rest of us how to do them.
At Christmas, the kindness of a benefactor enabled Dear Mother to obtain for each of us a small mobile trolley, on which we could put our collation or our work when we gathered in the cloister to watch a video or for general recreation. One competition entailed decorating one’s trolley in the form of a wheeled object. Entries ranged from Ezekiel’s vision of strange, winged, wheeled creatures and the flaming wheels above which the Lord was enthroned, to the fiery chariot which carried Elijah up to the heaven, to the Southdown bus, the Mercy bus, and on the most mundane level, Henry the Hoover.
After Christmastide had run its course, Dear Mother and several of us rolled up our sleeves and repainted the refectory. Dear Mother had managed to get some inexpensive plain tables to replace the old ones, now much worn and somewhat warped after decades of regular scrubbing and woodworms! These we moved to various other useful places and even managed to manoeuvre three of the 8-ft tables through a window as the quickest path to their destination!
At the end of January we were able to see some coverage of the International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu, a great joy to us all and especially to our two Sisters from the Philippines. The sheer joy and exuberance of those taking part, together with the colourful costumes and singing and dancing was very impressive. More than a million people took part in a procession with the Blessed Sacrament, and there were a number of thought-provoking and moving talks, as well as testimonies from Catholics in different walks of life about the centrality of the Eucharist in their lives. We saw a wonderful video of a talk by Cardinal Tagle on the dialogue of cultures, especially with that of the digital culture of today’s world. It was altogether inspiring and challenging as well as being very funny and informative.

We were also deeply touched by an interview with Fr Cyril Axelrod from South Africa, who radiated joy in his service of the Lord despite his handicaps. He is of Jewish descent, has been totally deaf from birth and now is blind as well, communicating by hand gestures with his co-workers. We later managed to get a copy of his autobiography, And the journey begins, which we read in the refectory, one of various memorable books we have read together this year. Our dinnertime reading has also included Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia, the document drawing on the discussions of the synods of 2014 and 2015 on marriage and the family. Its fourth chapter, reflections on St Paul’s words on love in 1 Corinthians 13, is a masterpiece, as challenging as it is inspiring, and relevant to human relationships of all kinds, including those within a religious family such as ours. This year for our evening reading we have also enjoyed Michael O’Brien’s Voyage to Alpha Centauri, Richard Adam’s Watership Down and Ellis Peter’s The Leper of Saint Giles
Lent arrived extra early this year, and we spent Ash Wednesday with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament all day, such as we have been having on most Saturdays since then. It has been very much appreciated as an opportunity to spend extra time quietly with Our Lord.
February also brought the first of three craft days we have held this year, as last year’s one proved so popular, with several of our Sisters teaching crochet, knitting, beadwork or card-making to those who came. We fed them sandwiches and coffee or tea to keep their strength up! It was altogether much appreciated, a very happy atmosphere, PIC and we got the impression that many come as much for the peaceful socialising as the sheer enjoyment of learning how to make things. Our most recent craft day in September focussed on making cards and small Christmas pressies such as crochet angels.
We had a short-term water crisis that month - a major water main at Ewloe burst, and we had to severely restrict our use of water for 36 hours so as not to empty our tank entirely. It brought home to us the desperate situation of those throughout the world who, whether through war, drought, or sheer poverty lack any proper water supply, much less that of safe drinking water.
We have continued to have a number of varied groups of people here for a few hours or days of prayer and reflection. In FebruaryFr Paul Shaw brought a dozen students from Chester University, where he is chaplain, for an hour of praise and worship with Exposition on the theme of mercy. They were all in their final year of studies and were needing to make decisions about the course of their lives after university. We also welcomed some young people preparing for confirmation. PIC A group of those from our diocese, who were toattend World Youth Day in Cracow in July also came, together with Fr Luigi, the Vocation Father who would be accompanying them. As a community we had helped sponsor several of them, knowing what a wonderful faith-enriching experience it could be for them. Our own Sr Anežka had been among the millions of young people from all over the world gathered round Pope Benedict at WYD in Sydney in 2008 and it had been a major watershed in her own spiritual journey, which eventually led her to Tŷ Mam Duw. In September several of the young people returned to tell us enthusiastically of their own life-changing experiences at Cracow. They also brought us tangible souvenirs in the form of prayerbooks, guidebooks, and scarves, colourful caps, prayer beads and raincoats!
Our own Lenten retreat was based on an excellent video series entitled The Big Picture. It was made by Catholic Faith Exploration and the Bible Society and its theme was God’s plan of salvation history as revealed in the Bible and His plan too for each of our own lives. We watch two 15 minute videoclips a day, and the rest of our time, apart from the Divine Office, was free for prayer and reflection, with a simple take-away dinner and pick-up collation to save the cooks and washers-up among us. We found it such a help and inspiration for prayer and reflection that we later saw the videos again, and most Sisters could be seen clutching their copies of the accompanying handbook cum personal spiritual diary and reflections in ensuing weeks. We highly recommend the series for general use, as well as the latest series which became available recently.
Unfortunately by the time Holy Week came most of us had lost our voices because of a nasty cold that was doing the rounds, and we had to adapt some of the liturgy accordingly. On Good Friday morning we celebrated a Gospel Way of the Passion, which comprised hymns, the psalms and readings from Matins, the reading of the Passion account with individual Sisters offering reflections, prayers or intentions based on a particular passage, and ended with the singing of the Lamentations of Jeremiah by two pairs of Sisters in turn.
At least our vocal cords were back in action in time to sing a heartfelt Alleluia for the Lord’s resurrection! The paschal candle this year had been decorated by Sr Pia with the logo of the Year of Mercy designed by Rubnik, which shows Christ as the Good Shepherd saving and carrying home with great compassion a straying member of His flock.  The figure of Christ in the Paschal tableau was also based on the logo, this time expressed in 3 dimensional form, and the figure of Our Lady was based on the second logo by Father Rupnik, that of Our Lady as the Mother of Mercy. The left side of the tableau showed Moses leading the Israelites through the Red Sea to the Promised Land, the archetype of the salvation and redemption brought by our crucified and risen Lord.

In the morning we had our own Dawn Vigil to complement the one of last night, with groups or individual Sisters contributing songs, dramatised reflections, or computer presentations on the various traditional works of spiritual and corporal mercy, relating them to the series of readings given in the missal for the Easter Vigil. The most dramatic and moving one was on human trafficking today, with a rap song pleading for help for the estimated 27 million people forced to labour in conditions of slavery, or sold into the sex trade.

In March Sr Ruth, who writes up our daily doings for the annals, set out on a mammoth task - the scanning on to the computer of most of the slides and photos taken of our Hawarden TMD community since its first beginnings in 1928. Though the quality can now be enhanced if necessary, most of the earlier photos have not been labelled or arranged in any chronological order. It has therefore at times been impossible to tell when a specific photo was taken or who is in it. So she is trying to make sure all pictures of the present generation will be duly classified for the sake of those still to come! So far her activities have resulted in several slide presentations for the community on its first origins, including some input on our motherhouse at Notting Hill, which three of us now at TMD remember from our novitiate days. She read us a delightful quote from an article by Revd. William Pepperell, an Anglican clergyman, written in 1872 about the Notting Hill convent.
On ringing at the low door, which is darkened from its depth in the wall, the blind of a small grated window is withdrawn, and a pair of lustrous dark eyes peered through. Anon the door is softly opened; and in answer to a deferential inquiry as to whether it might be practicable for an outsider to come and look within, the gentle portress - then acting as such in her turn - promptly and with a cheerful air gave permission to enter and see the chapel. This nun carried herself so pleasantly, and answered our queries so readily and agreeably, as almost to remove the impression so common on these occasions, of secret restraint.
    Times have certainly changed in the past 130 years, and we certainly hope that all people of goodwill feel that they can knock at our front door PIC without qualms as to what sort of welcome they will receive inside!
    In May our Flores de Maio celebration every evening in honour of Our Lady, one to which all are welcome, took many forms. However they each included the taking up by individual Sisters of letters to form the words Ave Maria, with flowers (provided from our garden) being collected in a vase from each of those present and placed before the statue or picture of her which formed the focal point that day. In one exceptionally creative celebration, masterminded by Sr Bakhita, the focal point was a Tŷ Mam Duw version of the famous Stoss altar in St Mary’s Basilica in Cracow, Poland, its many panels depicting scenes in the life of Our Lord and His Blessed Mother. She had borrowed a cloister cupboard and utterly transformed it with coloured posters made from photographs of the actual altar. Sr Lourdes, who often plays a genuine guitar at Mass, stood on a stool blowing a cardboard trumpet (with sound effects offstage) thus starring as the trumpeter who each day heralds the opening of the inner panels of the altar. Sr Elizabeth and Sr Juliana sang a well-known Polish song in honour of Our Lady (translated into English), and Sr Bakhita led us through the WYD song Blessed are the merciful with sign language gestures.
On the Feast of the Sacred Heart in early June our parish church at Hawarden kept its Golden Jubilee with a special Mass celebrated by the Bishop and a number of the local clergy. Sr Beatrix and Sr Elizabeth went along to represent us. Towards the end of the month the Brexit referendum campaign reached a strident crescendo, with pamphlets and leaflets coming our way, containing information (and disinformation, as it is now politely called!) on both sides of the issue. We were somewhat relieved that, as we all had postal votes, we had been able to think things over and vote tranquilly a fortnight before! On 23 June we had our own community elections. They proceeded quietly and harmoniously, with our dear Mother Damian being returned for another term in office as Abbess. The contrast with the political meltdown and divisiveness that ensued in the aftermath of the referendum could not have been greater. We have taken the situation very much to heart, praying that Theresa May and her government will be able to restore trust and harmony in the wider society as the promised negotiations at last get under way. We remember too the other nations, especially Ireland which, as far as trade with Britain and its own prospects for peace are concerned, may also be gravely affected by the referendum’s outcome.
One piece of good news in June was that our Sr Anežka from New Zealand had at last been granted British citizenship, as was Sr Lourdes from the Philippines the following month. At the end of July we were able to watch extensive coverage of Pope Francis’ visit to Cracow for World Youth Day. We managed to spot a Welsh flag once in the general shots, and followed the progress of the young people we knew there through videoclips on the diocesan website. We saw Pope Francis, live, at the Prayer Vigil with young people, with some of them giving powerful witness in word, dance and mime to God’s mercy in the world and in their lives. As usual the service ended with Adoration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, during which the quality of the intense prayer of those present was palpable. With all the divisions and violence in our world, it was a real inspiration to see hundreds of thousands of young people, waving the flags of 140 countries, camping out peacefully together on what had been designated the Field of Mercy. Please God they will have been inspired by Pope Francis’ words on that occasion: You are an opportunity for the future.  Have the courage to teach us, have the courage to show us that it is easier to build bridges than walls!  We need to learn this.  Together we ask that you challenge us to take the path of fraternity.  May you point the finger at us, if we choose the path of walls, the path of enmity, the path of war.  To build bridges… Do you know the first bridge that has to be built?  It is a bridge that we can build here and now – by reaching out and taking each other’s hand.  
There may have been rain aplenty in Poland, but we certainly could not complain about being summerless this year. Eppy and Lilly, our two cavapoos had their coats cut short to prevent them from becoming very hot dogs in the sweltering weather. They are no longer the pacifist dogs we wrote of last year, which would tolerate even a rabbit at close quarters. They are now extreme activists where squirrels are concerned, and the moment they think they spot one at the far end of the garden, take off in that direction at a pace that leaves us openmouthed! Fortunately the squirrels are adept at taking to the nearest treetop! The dogs now tend to sit at the basePIC hoping that their quarry will soon be silly enough to return by the same way, but by then it has generally leaped and swung to trees farther off.
    In August with it being the eighth centenary of the granting of the ‘great pardon’ of Assisi, we made a point of making the Feast of the Portiuncula an extra special occasion. Fr Paul Shaw of Chester came to hear confessions and then celebrated the Portiuncula Mass for which we had erected a tall arch of pine and laurel over the altar and brightened the sanctuary with several lovely flower arrangements. As he had been to Assisi with his parish on pilgrimage two years ago he was able to preach with great enthusiasm about the little Portiuncula chapel sheltering in the great basilica of St Mary Major, like a baby in its mother’s womb, overarched and protected by God’s love and mercy.

    In October we had a similar thanksgiving Mass, this time to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the opening of our new chapel and the establishment here of the Schoenstatt shrine to Our Lady. Bishop Peter was the main celebrant, assisted by Fr Andrew Pastore and Canon Lordan. Before the Mass Sr Juliana projected a screen saver on the wall by the crucifix showing pictures on the theme of our own shrine, photos of its firstbeginnings and the arrival of the tabernacle and the shrine picture. As a preamble to the Mass Fr Andrew spoke of the Schoenstatt Movement and his fond memories of his teenage years when his family lived at Hawarden and had close connections with our community. Bishop Peter spoke of Our Lady and quoted Pope Francis’ words on her from Misericordiae Vultus. At the end of the Mass he blessed a tapestry our beloved Mother Francesca, Sr Juliana and helpers had made for the front hall on the Canticle of the Creatures. The frame was made by the local college as part of their carpentering experience.  A generous friend had come during Mass and left loaves of bread for us in the front hall beneath the tapestry, so our provisions also received their fair share of holy water!

    After considerable difficulties with our website last year, our Webmistresses spent long months totally revamping it under a new format to make it morevisual, easily accessible, with lost of new features. By September they were able to show us all something of the finished result, which was much appreciated.

The next week we had workmen here for three days revamping the garden, tidying old and disorderly trees. They spent three days trimming the pines along the back avenue and round the cemetery, as well as cutting up and removing the rest of the large pine which came down several years ago in the copse. Sr Anežka and helpers in their turn did a great job trimming back rockery bushes, planting gladioli and dahlias in an area outside the novitiate, and moving several tons of bonfire ash to incorporate in a new large bed which will be planted out with blackcurrants in the spring. Our friend Tony has won our wholehearted admiration for his feats of dexterity and sheer gymnastics while cutting of a hedge of trees some thirty foot high at a time when he was beset with major health issues.

    By mid-September preparations were well under way for our dear Sr Anežka’s solemn profession. Sr Agatha had devised a countdown calendar, making a weaving-sticks figure of the Good Shepherd, complete with a woven fence and a flock of small wooly sheep. Each day Sr Anežka was presented with a new one to be added to the fold representing one of her family or friends, whom she holds in her heart. With it she also received the picture of a sheep with an appropriate quote written on the back, to stick on the cloister wall. Once Sister had retired to the relative seclusion of her week-long retreat prior to the profession, the preparations escalated as there was no longer any fear of her seeing the surprises in store before the great day!

    PIC But October 1st dawned at long last. Fr Aidan, a friend of her family, who had   helped her on her spiritual journey, had come over from NZ to officiate at the Mass.  Fr Luigi and Fr Roberto, two of the Vocation Fathers from Holywell, who have served our community so lovingly and faithfully since Canon’s retirement, were the concelebrants. Her parents and her aunt had also come from Down Under to be present and her father brought her up to the prie-dieu in the sanctuary at the beginning of Mass. Two of the young people from World Youth Day acted as ‘bridesmaids’, draping a thin white veil over her and scattering her with flower petals as she prostrated full-length before the altar while we sang the Litany of Saints.Fr Aidan, who has known Sister since her childhood spoke of his emotion in seeing her grow up into a lovely young woman ready to dedicate herself completely to God’s service. He said that the most important quality needed for a contemplative vocation is an ability to love, and to continue to grow in love for God and for His people for the whole of one’s life. A friend kindly filmed the actual profession ceremony for us and when edited it will be accessible from our website as a You-tube.

    Celebrations within the community, for the most part on Franciscan themes, continued for the next week.  The Feast of St Francis appropriately saw us setting out on a ‘virtual-reality’ pilgrimage Tŷ Mam Duw style to Assisi and other Franciscan shrines via Poligny in France, the monastery founded by Our Holy Mother St Colette in the 15th century, and which houses her relics. It was advertised on the cloister noticeboard as a Mystery Tour in the Company of Lady Poverty - Not for the Fainthearted! Posters were put up in the cloister to designate the various holy places wevisited for prayer and devotion. There were slide presentations not just on Assisi, but on Greccio, La Verna and other places also associated with Francis, accompanied by an amusing and enlightening commentary on them. At Poligny (in the chapter room) we had coffee and cake and then sang the chaplet of St Colette. Midday prayer of the Office of the Passion was recited on the way to the refectory, where the tables had been set out to resemble seats in a coach with a narrow aisle in between. We were issued with disposable plates and cups, with Dear Mother swaying gently and expertly from side to side to represent the ‘bus’ in motion as she served us soup, mashed potatoes, baked beans and tuna. Sr Juliana taught us a pilgrimage dance to our song Follow me, when we reached ‘San Damiano’.  Our return journey to Hawarden was crisis-ridden due to major technical hitches just after we left ‘La Verna’ but in due course the organisers got their act together after filling in the gaps with some pictures of a place nearby called Bibbiena.  We were issued with individual passports, into which we could stick pictures of the places we visited, and an entire set of these stamps at the end of the day entitled the bearer to a reward for the successful completion of the pilgrimage!
    Sr Anežka’s family had been very generous in giving us a large quantity of colourful card and other creative materials. PIcThis was a real boon as our Autumn Fair was drawing near, and enabled us to spend a happy day together making cards for it. In the evening our new community Sister treated us to a special thanksgiving presentation she had compiled, recalling and thanking God for all the people and events that had helped her to grow to know His love and His calling her to share totally in His love and life as a Poor Clare.
    Our Fair went very smoothly and happily, with as much enthusiasm for the food we had made as for our handiwork! And now of course we are preparing for our Advent Carol service at the end of this month and the close of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. During Advent we will be altering our horarium slightly, and reciting Morning Prayer after Mass rather than before, hoping that some of those who come to our chapel would like to share with us in the great round of the Prayer of the Church, which is an extension of the praise offered to our Lord.
    And, as always, we want to thank each and every one of you for your support , and loving concern for us in so many ways - through your own prayers for us, for gifts in kind, groceries and Harvest Festival produce.  We thank you for allowing us to share something of your joys and sorrows and to hold them before God, and for the encouraging letters and e-mails telling us of His goodness and prayers answered, often in unexpected ways. And we would especially ask you to pray that we may fulfil our contemplative vocation, as Pope Francis has urged us to in his document this year on the contemplative life: Be beacons to those near to you and, above all, to those far away. Be torches to guide men and women along their journey through the dark night of time. Be sentinels of the morning, heralding the dawn. By your transfigured life, and with simple words pondered in silence, show us the One Who is the way, and the truth and the life, the Lord Who alone brings us fulfilment and bestows life in abundance. Cry out to us, as Andrew did to Simon: “We have found the Lord”. Like Mary Magdalene on Easter morning, announce to us: “I have seen the Lord!” (Jn 20:18).

With loving prayers for every grace and blessing, especially that the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, day by day in the coming year.
From your little sisters at Tŷ Mam Duw.

Poor Clare Colettine Community
Upper Aston Hall Lane, Hawarden CH5 3EN
North Wales G.B.
Tel [++44] [0]1244 531029



The Interview: Mel Gibson

Chrissy Iley

Ty Mam Duw takes no responsibility for Mr Gibson's language. We did not offer to pray for him (though we do) nor did we send him a rosary. Chrissy is an old friend of the community and it was to her that we gave the hand carved rosary - a smaller version of the rosary the sisters wear on their cords. 

Nonetheless, we sympathise with and appreciate Chrissy's gesture and we thank her for the very kind compliment paid to our forgiving family at the end.

May the Lord bless you.

November 6 2016, 12:01am, The Sunday Times

“Every parent screws up. Hopefully I’ve screwed up less than most” — Mel Gibson: Hollywood legend, soon-to-be father of nine


I first met Mel Gibson 16 years ago at a party on the Sony lot for the movie The Patriot. He came up behind me, grabbed me, turned me upside down and carried me around the room. I was hysterical with a mixture of shock, fear and laughter. Meeting Mel was like being on a scary fairground ride — but this was just one of his party tricks. He crackled with charisma. This was Mel the maverick: wild, funny, unpredictable, once voted the sexiest man alive.


Not much appears to have changed in him since then, but of course everything has. At 60, he is still wild in his heart, but he’s had to rein it in because of the periods when he was completely out of control. He is also about to become a father again — for the ninth time. This is a rare one-on-one interview for Mel. While there will be no hoisting me around the room today, he at last feels ready to sit down and talk about himself, his meltdown and what might just be his resurrection.


He arrives flustered at his office in West Hollywood, announcing that he needs a coffee and some food. It’s lunchtime, he explains, and he hasn’t eaten anything since last night’s veal chop and spinach. He’s wearing dark jeans, a navy pullover and a giant beard grown for an upcoming movie, The Professor and the Madman, with Sean Penn. “Sean and I are going to look like ZZ Top,” he says. He likes to twiddle this beard quite a bit. He combs it and strokes it unconsciously. I wonder if it’s nervousness or a new habit. His eyes stare out, not so much at me as all around. Darting, distracted eyes.


Everyone has an opinion about Gibson, especially after his much reported anti-semitic drunken rant on the Pacific Coast Highway when he was stopped for driving under the influence of alcohol in 2006, in which he raged, “F****** Jews … The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.” Then, in 2010, there were leaked recordings of searing rows between the actor and his (now ex-) girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva, a Russian-born model and musician, and the mother of his eighth child, Lucia, now 7, in which he roared racist, misogynistic abuse at Oksana and said she deserved a “bat to the side of the head”. The following year Gibson pleaded no contest to a charge of misdemeanour battery, after Grigorieva accused him of punching her at his Malibu home. He admitted he slapped her, but denied that a punch was thrown. He avoided jail, but was put on three years’ probation and a year-long domestic abuse counselling programme, which he completed.

“His rock”: Gibson with Robyn Moore, the mother of seven of his children. They were married for 28 years — during which time, she has said, he was never abusive

How could he come back from all of this — ever? Of course, he said sorry for his drunken rants — he believes he was going through what he calls the “andropause”, the male menopause, and has commented, “You get barking mad in your fifties” — but it was going to take more than a namby-pamby apology to achieve redemption. He worked on himself. He had to get the booze issue under control. He did a 12-step programme with all its moral inventory. “I’ve had to do that stuff, otherwise you don’t survive,” he has said. “They call it the spiritual path for the psychopath. They say there’s only three options: you go insane, you die or you quit.”


Both the drink-driving and misdemeanour battery convictions have since been expunged from his record by the California courts — a process open to anyone who successfully completes probation following a misdemeanour under state law. But Hollywood is slow to forgive, and his directing genius remained quiet for a decade. Nevertheless, a gang of Hollywood A-listers stood by him. Jodie Foster cast him in her 2011 movie The Beaver in a show of friendship and support. Gary Oldman showed his love in a Playboy interview in 2014 (“He got drunk and said a few things,” Oldman said, “but we’ve all said those things. We’re all f****** hypocrites”), and in 2011 Robert Downey Jr, when presenting Gibson with an award, asked the audience “to join me in forgiving my friend his trespasses and offering him the same clean slate that you have me …”


The only real redemption in Hollywood, however, is making a great movie. His new film, Hacksaw Ridge, might just be that movie. The Oscar buzz has begun.


Born in upstate New York, Gibson moved to Australia with his family when he was 12. He grew up in Sydney and had a Catholic education. It is tempting to think that his anti-semitic outburst was somehow linked to his Catholicism, but I believe it was simply born of rage and alcohol and being in a very bad place. His marriage of three decades had broken up, he didn’t know how to process pain.


Gibson made his first real impact as an actor in Mad Max (1979), an Australian thriller set in a grim future. After that, Gallipoli (1981), Peter Weir’s unflinching Australian First World War drama, turned him into a star worldwide. For many, Gibson will always be Braveheart (1995), the roaring, blue-faced hero of the 13th-century Scottish epic in which Gibson the movie star and Gibson the film-maker collaborated in a perfect reel. The film won him Oscars for best director and best picture. The last film he directed was Apocalypto (2006), about the decline and savagery of the Mayan kingdom. It was received well, but Hacksaw, which was released last week in the US, is being spectacularly embraced.


Hacksaw is the story of Desmond Doss, the first conscientious objector to win the Congressional Medal of Honor for valour in the Second World War. Doss was a Seventh Day Adventist whose religious beliefs meant he couldn’t carry a gun, but as a medic he could save lives — while constantly endangering his own.


This kind of shining bravery is just what Gibson loves. The film is powerful, spectacular, emotional, gripping. I sat through it hardly able to breathe. It’s not just me. At the Venice Film Festival, where it debuted, it received a 10-minute ovation.

“Nine minutes 52 seconds,” Gibson says. How did that make him feel? Happy? Relieved? Back? “Absolutely. It’s like being a chef. If people eat it and go, ‘Yum, yum,’ it’s gratifying. If you’re a storyteller, it tells you that somewhere in your quiver you’ve got a bunch of bolts that are aimed true. It’s affirmation for the work you do and that your storytelling ideas correspond with humanity at large.”


Is he admitting it was hard for him to be a Hollywood outcast and that he feels accepted again?


“Well, it’s not like I stopped working,” he says.


It’s true, there have been movies — notably The Beaver, in which he played a man having a breakdown, who is only able to speak through his beaver glove puppet. It struck a chord with me because it seemed to echo Gibson himself, in pain and unable to speak except through rage. And earlier this year there was Blood Father, in which he played — equally fittingly — a reformed alcoholic attempting to be a better man.


“There have been many projects … but this is my first as a director for 10 years.”


If it was painful not to be directing, he’s not admitting it. He points out that it’s not unusual for directors to take decade-long breaks between films. “I am discerning and I’m not sure that I want to reach into my own pocket any more because it can pay huge dividends or you can get totally killed.”


By this he means he doesn’t want to risk financing his own movie, despite one of his largely self-funded projects, The Passion of the Christ (2004), being the most successful independent film of all time.


“Yes, so that was an excellent bet,” he says.


Passion is a very Catholic film. It polarised audiences — evangelicals adored it; some critics abhorred its bloodlust, others called it anti-semitic. I have read that there’s going to be a sequel. “Not a sequel, but a continuation,” says Gibson. “There’s resurrection, there’s stuff before, stuff after, stuff in other realms, but it’s a very big subject, deep and profound, so it will require a good deal of thought. It has to be enlightening and work on a lot of different levels that all have to dovetail, so it will be tricky.”


Blood features heavily in his films, and Hacksaw Ridge is no exception. “Yes,” he says enthusiastically. “I really like blood.” I’m not sure if he sees it as the symbolic blood of Christ or just the most vivid metaphor for sacrifice, but he makes the best cinematic use of it.


The ultimate battle scene of Hacksaw is in Okinawa, where Doss pulls men from carnage — it’s Gibson at his best. Blood, gore, salvation. “Okinawa was the worst place in the Pacific — 350,000 dead in a 10-week period,” he says. “There were rivers of blood. I didn’t go too far, believe me … The hard combat and the violent aspects are not gratuitous. They are justified in the context of the story and it is emotionally engaging. It’s not just a bucket of blood being thrown down. It has a point. One of the points being the understanding of the kind of sacrifice someone makes in the conditions that they are operating under. You hear the expression war is hell. I wanted to show you just a little peek of hell.”


There’s a guy in it who gets his legs blown off, played by a soldier who lost his limbs in Afghanistan. He had to re-enact losing his own legs. Was that not traumatic for him? “Yes, it was. He approached the scene with trepidation, but he’s a courageous guy and he found it cathartic.” Gibson cast him personally and they talked a lot about post-traumatic stress disorder and what it was like to relive the moment that ripped his life apart.


His stories are often about survival, sacrifice and redemption. “Yes, sure. These are all primals. I think if you stick with themes that show us who we are and find situations that accentuate who we could be or shouldn’t be, those are the interesting stories.”


Gibson never met Doss, who died aged 87 in 2006. He was first handed his life story 10 years ago. Is he happy he made Hacksaw now rather than earlier? He nods enthusiastically, saying they wouldn’t have had the film’s leading actor, the 33-year-old Andrew Garfield (Boy A and The Amazing Spider-Man), a decade ago. Garfield’s portrayal of Doss is remarkable. So weedy, yet brave. Handsome but awkward. “He’s got a very soulful quality. He wasn’t like some muscle guy. He’s just a guy. Good-looking, but not like a pretty boy, and that’s who Desmond was. An ordinary guy.”


Hacksaw was shot in Australia, so that, too, has a feeling of renaissance for Gibson. It was also a family affair. His sixth child, Milo, 26, has a part in it. “I’m not helping him. He’s doing all right on his own. I have another son who worked on the film as a Steadicam operator.” Was it good to work with family? “Yes.” There’s a twiddle of the beard. “Yes, it was good.”


    Turning 60 comes with various aches and pains, waking at 5am and crawling across the floor to the bathroom


Of Gibson’s eight children, seven were with his ex-wife, Robyn Moore. They got together in 1977, when he was virtually unknown and she was a dental nurse. They married in June 1980, and were still together when I first met him; he described her as his rock, more organised than him, a nurturing figure. His drinking led to problems in the marriage; the 2006 drink-driving charge appears to have been the final straw for Robyn. They separated that year, and finally divorced in 2009. Word is he was devastated when Robyn left him, but even when they were at their happiest, he found it difficult to talk about love. Way too girly for him.


Gibson is a guy’s guy. He doesn’t like talking about soft stuff. He doesn’t care about sagging skin and wrinkles. He doesn’t care about cosmetic surgery. But he’s happy to discuss his children, raving about their talents. He says: “I have a little one [Lucia] and several big ones … and grandkids.” He talks about his son Louie, 28, also a film director, with excitement: Louie recently got married and has just made a movie called Happy Hunting. Gibson raves about it. He’s a proud dad and thinks of himself as a good, hands-on father, but knows he’s far from perfect.


“As a parent, everybody screws up. There’s no such thing as a perfect parent and it’s so easy to mess up. But hopefully I’ve screwed up less than most,” he says.


In September it was announced that he is expecting another child, with his girlfriend of two years, Rosalind Ross, a 26-year-old former equestrian vaulting champion, now a screenwriter. While much has been made of their 34-year age difference, the relationship seems both steady and steadying. How does he feel about having a ninth child? “Delighted. Things are really good and the last two years have been some of the best.”


He says that turning 60 comes with various aches and pains, waking at 5am and crawling across the floor to the bathroom. But it also comes with a profound mellowing — even contentment. He’s glad to be over his challenging early fifties and he has said that around 58 or 59 you get an inkling that this is the “third act”. He acknowledges that act three has been a long one for his 98-year-old father, Hutton. “I don’t know if I want a long third act, but I’d like a full one. I enjoy working. I really love it. I hope my mind stays attuned.”


Eventually someone brings him a croissant. He tears into it like a caveman into an animal. “I need carbs. Every now and again you have to snort some pasta.”


Bits of croissant flake into the bushy beard, which he strokes proudly. He rummages in his bag and gets out a picture of the man he’s going to play in The Professor and the Madman. The beard is even longer. A rabbinical Santa Claus? “Kind of, but he was very scholarly and a Scot and he was the editor of the Oxford English Dictionary. The movie is not dry at all. It’s incredible.” Soon, he’s off to Ireland to shoot it.


Sean Penn plays the Madman, but it could have easily been the other way round. “It could,” says Gibson. “We gravitated to those roles. Sean can be just as crazy as me. My theory about great actors — and Sean is a great actor — they have to be a little bit kooky, and he is.”


Hard to say who is king of kooky, but Gibson has certainly reigned supreme as the practical joker. He once surprised his friend Julia Roberts with a gift of a dead rat. “I love her and I love to hear her scream. I put a Norwegian freeze-dried rat that comes from a store in New York City in a parcel and when she unwrapped it she screamed.” We might forgive him that, but does he worry that there are people out there who will never forgive him for that dark decade? “Really? Are there? I’m not aware of it.” I suppose he feels he’s done the work on himself and apologised, so hopes it’s all going to end there — or at least end in an Oscar nomination.


On a previous occasion, Gibson had given me a gift — a Catholic talisman to protect me from my fear of flying. This time, I give him something in return — handcarved rosary beads with a Celtic cross and a star of David, made for him by an enclosed order of Welsh nuns I once interviewed, the Poor Clare Colettine Community in Flintshire. The nuns, some of whom had converted from Judaism and some of whom had worked with alcoholics and drug addicts, gave it to me to pass on to him, because they’re all about forgiveness and they didn’t believe he was truly anti-semitic.


He looks mystified, bewildered, but he likes the idea of these nuns. He’s relaxed now, laughing — I think the croissant might have kicked in — so I ask him whether he might be more in touch with his feminine side, now that he has something worn only by nuns.


“Oh sure, yes. I remember I was in a film years ago where I was getting in touch with my female side … The dialogue went like this, ‘Last night I cried in bed.’ ‘Were you with a woman?’ ‘No, that’s why I was crying.’ That was the B-grade dialogue from Lethal Weapon 1!” Oh, I was expecting him to quote a line from What Women Want (2000), for which he had to wax his legs. “I feel we should do another movie, What Women Don’t Want.”


There’s the old Mel Gibson: happy in his own skin, laughing. A man’s man, a storyteller. He reckons he’s done his penance, and he’s ready for his resurrection.


Hacksaw Ridge is out in the UK in January


Chrissy Iley


Tidings of Tŷ Mam Duw 2015

 For better, for worse, (and mainly for better!) 2015 was a memorable year for us all as a community. It was one in which we needed to give plenty of scope to the Holy Spirit to lead us forward in our response to the challenges of today’s turbulent world. There was also of course Pope Francis’ call to us and to Christians everywhere to live out more deeply our commitment to gospel values,  trusting in the love and mercy of God. It was a year too in which we had to count on the Holy Spirit to bring new order and beauty out of apparent chaos, by brooding over our own tohu and bohu and that of the fragmented confused world of our times. Against all odds we were able to discern him at work here and there, drawing forth new life as when he first brought creation to birthby hovering over the face of the dark primeval waters (Gen 1:2).    
    The Year of Consecrated Life began at the end of November, and we anticipated its opening with a celebration here at Tŷ Mam Duw. It started with Exposition and songs of praise and worship at 9 a.m., during which Dear Mother gave some very lovely reflections on the religious life. She had written some guideline notes beforehand and at the last minute couldn’t find them, so simply had to rely on the Holy Spirit, who did her proud, as she spoke of our life as a form of Eucharist, with us holding the Lord in our hands and giving Him to others. Bishop Peter was present from the outset, as were a number of religious, including the Brigittine Sisters from Holywell. After Exposition we had Morning Prayer, with hymns, psalms and readings both from scripture and from the words of Pope Francis. Bishop Peter presided at the Mass which followed,  with Fr Roy, our parish priest, as a very able MC, Fr Tom SJ, an old friend of the community and our confessor for many years, representing the Jesuits, a couple of priests from Nigeria, and Fr Kefa and another priest friend from Kenya.

    Our Advent carol service a fortnight later was very well attended, its themebeing that of joy in the Lord, in responding to His gift of life and love these days, whatever our specific vocation. It dealt especially with the dramatic and distressing events of the previous months in the Middle East and looked back to St Francis’ meeting with the Sultan of Egypt in 1219,  and their mutual respect and friendship. The Sultan gave Francis a pass which enabled him to visit the holy places freely, including Bethlehem, and led him on his return to recreate the nativity scene in the famous crib at Greccio. Sr Seraphina had made a large brown-paper cave in several sections and these were brought in during the narration. Francis’ original live ox and ass were represented by more staid Poor Clare versions formed from two clothes-horses that had been given in recently to which Sister Anežka had attached papier-mâché heads and impressive tails! The service ended with Sr Seraphina playing a medley of carols all expressive of joy in the Lord. As someone in the congregation remarked afterwards, everyone’s favourite carol got included!

    During Advent our prayer specifically focussed on the building up of our diocese of Wrexham, with each of us drawing by lot specific parishes to remember in our hearts before the Lord.

The feasts of St Barbara, St Nicholas, the Immaculate Conception and Saint Lucy were each commemorated with their traditional celebrations, and we were also treated to a thought-provoking reflection on the Annunciation, compiled by Sr Amata from the writings of Papa Emeritus, duly illustrated with appropriate slides. In February she also furnished one of a similar format on the Immaculate Conceptionfor Dear Mother’s feastday, that of Our Lady of Lourdes.

    On Christmas Eve we processed round the house singing carols and blessing the very varied cribs which had materialised in the previous two days of happy creative activity. They seemed to be exceptionally lovely and varied, the prize for ingenuity going to the rather unconventional one in the novitiate, in which more-than-life-size photos of Eppie and Lily (our cavapoo puppies) wearing cardboard donkey ears and ox’s horns stood in as the animals at the original crib. This year our choir crib was completely different with hand-carved wax figures; the manger scene gently lit by a spectrum of pastel colours from a GU light. Sr Seraphina and Sr Agatha had made a crib in the cloister, sculpted from brown paper with figures made of pastel-coloured tissues bunched together, and more serving as flowers to decorate a series of arches along the side leading to the refectory - together with a map of the Philippines in much happy anticipation of Pope Francis’ visit there the next month. Sr Amata and Sr Ruth made a 3-D one in the refectory this year, with the Holy Family in a refugee camp like those sheltering the thousands who have fled ISIS. They had rescued several sheets of ancient corrugated iron from the garden and a length of tarpaulin from the vegetable patch to make the shelter with a rather wobbly old wooden ladder as its uncertain backbone. Sr Pia and Sr Lourdes had made one in Ephesus on the theme of Christ coming to save us from the ills of our days - from terrorism and plague, to famine and natural disasters. They used the large carved jointed figures made by Sr Pia over the past few years, with Francis and Clare at the manger along with the Magi. The crib in Mt Tabor was a small but very lovely revolving one with the different episodes of the nativity story depicted in fimo figures set against a background of small colourful circles embroidered by our Beloved Mother Francesca.

    Our own vigil round the manger after the Christmas Eve Mass included a wide variety of instrumentals on flute, recorder, guitar, keyboard etc, plus a couple of carols of African origin. One highlight was when our Sr Lourdes and Sr Seraphina, both from the Philippines, teamed up to sing several Christmas songs in Tagalog, accompanying themselves with maracas.

    We had several inches of snow on Boxing Day, a source of much excitement to our puppies, as in their short lives they had never before seen such a strange white marvel falling straight from heaven. It gave us an added cause for gratitude to our dear Marianne for the new set of wooly kerchiefs she had made us for Christmas. (Sr Beatrix and Sr Anežka thoughtfully tried making weatherproof coats for the dogs, but they obviously decided the ones God had given them at birth were perfectly adequate and looked with disdain on our offerings!)

    One highlight of the Christmas season was the reading by Charles Dickens and his wife (Sr Juliana and Sr Elizabeth) of the famous writer’s most seasonal book, A Christmas Carol. Refreshments were served and we were able to spend several peaceful hours getting on with knitting or crochet. With their reading of the full text of the original story it came across very powerfully, much more so than when rendered, however enjoyably, simply as a video or musical.

    We spent another enjoyable evening playing tippit, which aroused much hilarity as teams tried to guess which of the three members of the opposing team was holding the hidden coin. Afterwards we fell to reminiscing about simple games we had learned in our childhood, and found that though 12,000 miles from here at that time, our Sisters from NZ had also learned some of the ball games and skipping rhymes traditional in these parts.

    With it being the 100th year since the founding of the Schoenstatt Movement, we had been one with them in spirit in their centenary gathering in Rome and their meeting with Pope Francis. Sadly for us, two of our good friends in the Movement have since died. Fr Franz Brügger one of the Schoenstatt priests who had known the founder, Fr Kentenich personally, died suddenly in January of a heart attack. He had been instrumental in 1983 in obtaining the picture of Our Mother Thrice Admirable for our shrine, and had come to bless it at the opening in 1986. We had our own memorial service for him on the day of his funeral, though as the choir windows were being replaced that day we could not do so in choir. We sang several hymns we had written on Schoenstatt themes, and Sr Juliana spoke of the first meeting with Fr Brügger in 1982 and his relationship with our community through the years. She then read us some reflections on the psalms from notes she had taken at retreats he had given us, and played a videoclip of him reading the prayer of consecration in the shrine chapel. Another good friend, Frau Klothilde Hoch, of the Schoenstatt Women’s Institute, died in June. Through her we received the gift of our choir tabernacle in 1985 and she too had been present at the inauguration of our Schoenstatt shrine in 1986. May they, together with our other friends who have died this year, now find joy in the fulness of God’s life and love.

    We also had the joy in January of following the Vatican coverage of the main events of Pope Francis’ visit to Sri Lanka and the Philippines. For us his most moving Mass was the one at Tacloban, the part of the country devastated by Cyclone Yolanda 14 months ago. Many of the thousands of people there had lost everything in the disaster, and were obviously greatly heartened to have Pope Francis with them, though there were high winds and rain as a tropical storm bore down on them, and he and all the clergy round the altar had to wear raincoats over their vestments and hold on to anything that might blow away! We also saw his meeting with young people at the University, very moving in his ability to empathise with their joys and sorrows and to speak to the hearts of all people.
Later in the year we also followed his visit to Latin America, the most poignant event being a visit to the Palmosolo rehabilitation centre, an enormous prison compound which houses about 5000 prisoners together with members of their families, some of whom have been awaiting trial for years in squalid living conditions with inadequate food. And we saw too his address to Congress during his visit to the States in September, which was interrupted by 17 standing ovations. We also read his latest encyclical Laudato Si!  in the refectory during dinner, as well as Austen Ivereigh’s The Great Reformer, an excellent biography, much appreciated for its insights into his earlier life, which helped to shape him as the charismatic leader he is for God’s pilgrim people today.

    Once back in ‘Ordinary Time’ after Christmastide, we made several major changes in our daily horarium. These included having Exposition and reciting the Mercy chaplet when we get up at 10.45 pm for Matins. Afterwards we now recite alitany composed with special reference to the many crises and the deprivation and violence experienced in so many parts of the world. Copies are available on request for those who would like to be united with us in prayer for these intentions. In recent months we have of course been enfolding in prayer the millions of refugees, especially those who have lost their lives fleeing horrendous situations in the Middle East and who are now holed up in ‘The Jungle’ at Calais. In September during an Angelus address Pope Francis had asked all convents, parishes etc to take in a refugee family, and we have taken his plea to heart in the hope of becoming part of such a venture. Wrexham University has been collecting things to take to the refugee camp in Calais, and we were glad to contribute various useful items for such a good cause.

    In April we were able to spend some days in retreat with extra time for quiet prayer and reflection, each day watching one of a series of videos of a retreat given some years ago by Fr Raniero Cantalamessa OFMCap on the Epistle to the Romans.

    Our very miniature dachshund, Millie, whose touching self-importance amusingly made up for her lack of size, died suddenly in February at the age of 13. She and all our earlier dogs used to pursue anything with feathers or four legs that came in reach, but the cavapoos are more tolerant, even of cats! They have been known to sun themselves peacefully with a rabbit nibbling clover just a few feet away. We don’t mind the rabbits too much as long as they don’t find their way to the vegetable garden, which is separated from the main one by a wall and a wooden gate. Balls have no attraction for our dogs, but they delight in picking up feathers or small sticks to play with. One sunny day they were spotted each in the shade of a bushclutching an old toothbrush per head, and we thought they would have made a charming ad. for Colgates!

    This year a pair of herring gulls, who stridently announced their presence loud and clear for many months, sounding at times remarkably like an alarm signal, nested on the small platform atop our choir roof which supports the cross. They raised at least one youngster who turned the duet into a less-than-musical trio!

    In March our friend Tony demolished the old dog run and kennel which had suffered damage in the heavy snow a couple of years ago, using the rubble to make a small patio where we could all sit together outside in sunny weather. And as the fine spring days continued Sr Lourdes worked valiantly on an old flowerbed outside Ephesus, digging everything up and replanting it with colourful polyanthus. She and Sr Anežka also worked hard to restore some order in the herb garden and Tony crowned their efforts by landscaping the plot to give a central island of herbs. He also constructed a stone retaining wall round the entire bed, expertly forming it from large broken stones he had dug up and carefully fitted together.

    We did comparatively little in the garden this year, as we needed all hands on deck for major indoors activities. So we simply covered the vegetable patch with black plastic to deter the weeds which otherwise, like the farmer’s crop in the Gospel parable, would grow by night and by day, whether we are awake or asleep! However in summer we all ventured out together to pick our blackcurrants and gooseberries. They furnished a more satisfying crop than expected, as we had had no time to put up the netting cage as usual and we had expected the birds to have stripped them all.

    During Lent Sr Pia and helpers spent several busy weeks making new editions of the books containing our own music and liturgy, and we were delighted to have them in time for Holy Week. We also had time to continue our various knitting and crochet enterprises while we were read short stories by Gertrude von le Fort which our Beloved Mother had translated. Though diverse in their settings these shared a common theme, very fitting for the season - that of a person’s difficult journey from sin and guilt to repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation.

    We celebrated our Paschal Triduum liturgy in a somewhat different form this year, both to enable the infirmary Sisters to be present as much as possible, and because a nasty flu-type cold had been doing the rounds and sapped our voices and energy. Fr Luigi from the Vocation Fathers celebrated the Good Friday service for the first time since his ordination last year. There was not a trace of a liturgical hiccup, often a common occurrence when a service does not follow the customaryformat for Holy Mass.

    The Easter Vigil went smoothly - it is many years since we have been able to light the holy fire under such perfect conditions! After catching up with some sleep we rose again at 4.30 am for a paraliturgical Dawn Vigil which incorporated presentations by different Sisters on various scripture readings. Sr Yolanda’s slide presentation on the Exodus, included pictures from filmsportraying the Israelites’ journey through the Red Sea on dry ground with walls of water to the right and the left. She also showed photos of modern personalities who, looking to God, had sought to liberate their people from injustice or had themselves experienced the saving power of the Lord. Among them were Gandhi, Archbishop Romero, and Immaculée Ilibaziga, whose faith brought her through the Rwandan holocaust and enabled her to bring God’s forgiveness to those who had killed her beloved family.

    Sr Elizabeth and Sr Juliana acted out a lighthearted skit on the tale of Jonah, mentioned in the New Testament by Jesus as foreshadowing His own ministry, death and resurrection. Sr Juliana starred as an earnest and studious St Augustine sitting at his desk carefully explaining that the story was simply a parable, a “shadow of a shadow” and that Jonah never actually existed. Meanwhile behind him Sr Elizabeth made her entrances and exits as Jonah fleeing from the Lord, returned home by the obliging sea monster, and setting out again only to find to his great chagrin that the sinful Ninevites all repented were spared the spectacular fire and brimstone ending he had eagerly anticipated for them.

    As we all have postal votes, and the General Election in May was such a critical one, we watched the coverage of a two-hour debate between the leaders of the main political parties on various issues. W also invited our local candidates to come individually to visit us, to tell us of their respective party policies and to answer questions. Not all responded to our invitation, but it was an interesting and enlightening experience,  not only for us but for those who came and for whom nuns were obviously an unknown quantity! One of the candidates wrote later to say it was the high point of his campaign - his mother had told him that we would not be a walkover and we weren’t, but he did appreciate our genuine interest in the various issues raised. And we appreciated the genuine desire to serve the wider community, which was evident in those we met.

    We ourselves continue to reach out in our own way to the local community and those further afield. In February about 60 people,among them about a dozen small children, came for the annual St Colette Mass celebrated by Fr Kefa to be blessed with a relic of her veil. In March Fr Paul Shaw from Chester, whose faithful coming once a week to celebrate our conventual Mass is much appreciated, brought a group of university students for an hour of Exposition with praise and worship.

    In July we were invited to provide some spiritual input at a weekend retreat at Pantasaph Friary for families, so Dear Mother went with two companions each day. The rest of us helped with making items for use as visual aids, these ranging from a 150 cm printout of the San Damiano crucifix, to a couple of homemade white birds. These were destined to nest in the branches of the tree that grew from the mustard seed of the gospel parable Dear Mother had been asked to speak on for forty minutes, and which the sisters acted out. They were very touched by the general appreciation of their contribution, which also included the rosary (with an expressive sign-language version of the Hail Mary), and praise and worship before the Blessed Sacrament.

    We also provided prayer support for evangelisation ventures in Liverpool and London, by holding a service within our community to coincide with the public ones. For the ‘Nightfever’ enterprise in London we were each assigned the name of a well-known London tube station with the name of the parish nearest to it. We were given pictures of the church and information about the various activities which served as its outreach to what Pope Francis would term those on the peripheries of society - Immigrants, refugees, the homeless, the sick and hungry, those suffering from loneliness etc. We lit a votive light for each intention and bluetacked the pictures of the churches to a large wooden cross with which we processed around the cloister while carrying votive lights. In union with Proclaim 2015! in Birmingham, we had Exposition and brought before the Lord symbols or offerings reflecting the meeting’s themes. One Sister brought a small withered snowdrop bulb as a symbol of new hope, trusting it will yet flower again amidst the snow and ice in our wood next winter. Another Sister had made a large papal paper chain from recycled yellow and white paper. We joined our respective strips with links she had provided on which were quoted words of Pope Francis on unity in diversity, communion, communication and community.

    May to August were months of breathtaking upheaval for us all, the biggest since the building of our present monastery in 1960! (From 1930 our Sisters had lived in a rather run-down small manor house on this site). The main object was to move the infirmary to a more spacious part of the monastery - and so a goodly number of downstairs rooms got caught up in a TMD version of ‘musical chairs’. Eventually the novitiate moved to the former infirmary, the community room moved to the former novitiate, several workrooms moved elsewhere entirely, and even our small storeroom was converted into a painting cum vestment-making department. This naturally involved structural alterations to a number of ground-floor rooms, so we had sets of workmen coming and going, and had to move the entire contents of all the rooms involved, lock, stock and barrel into the cloister till all was accomplished! Memorable feats included four of us moving two large old cupboards (about 8 ft high), the length of the cloister, through the kitchen, outside, then in through the novitiate and ultimately up 25 steps only a hairsbreadth wider to a spare cell in the novitiate dormitory - where they now house the wool and material from the cloister cupboard. Another evening all of us who were up to it spent a couple of hours wielding hoes and utility knives to prise up some old underfloor felt which had been well and truly stuck down to the concrete beneath it. When the man came to lay lino in the morning he was full of praise for the work we had done, which saved him a couple of hours, a real boon as he was obviously feeling hard-pressed by the volume of work on hand.

    In the midst of these weeks of chaos we were joined by Sr Klara, a Poor Clare from a community in the Czech Republic. She came to spend a couple of months to enlarge her experience of our form of life. We were a bit nervous lest she find life here traumatic, as the photos of her own monastery showed it to be a model of tidiness and order. However Sr Klara proved to be a great sport, and quickly adapted to the less-than-normal surroundings, as stalwart as any of us when it came to rolling up one’s sleeves and moving impossibly heavy objects to the glory of God. We were only sorry she wasn’t able to stay long enough to see us get back entirely to ‘normal’, and were delighted to hear recently that she has now been received by our Sisters in Prague to make her final profession in January.

    Another welcome visitor was Mother Lilly from Nottingham, who came to spend some days with us and brush up her English prior to an exam in June. We were delighted to hear later that she had passed.

    But not all happenings this year have had positive results! In June Sr Elizabeth tripped on a stone in the garden andcracked a bone in her right wrist, which disqualified her from the furniture-moving brigade for some weeks. And our dear Marianne had a dramatic accident really when a glass-panelled kitchen cupboard fell from the wall and gashed her head. Mercifully the copious splinters of glass missed her, though the kitchen was left a shambles. Dear Mother took her to A and E where they literally glued her together, and she returned home to a good night’s sleep, waking without so much as a headache. The kitchen required rather more than glue to restore it!

    In August we celebrated our beloved Mother Francesca’s 80th birthday. Sr Juliana had been inspired by a series of original colourful patterns produced by our ‘Brother Pacifico’ on a computer graphics program to write a lengthy meditation poem entitled Circles. It dealt with time and eternity, creation, good and evil, the witness of the martyrs through the ages down to our own day, and the ultimate vision of Christ in glory. Various Sisters were assigned stanzas of it to illustrate with slides, music, dancing, mime etc, and we produced it in choir with some of the original designs projected on the sanctuary wall as a backdrop.

    A fortnight later was our Dear Mother’s profession anniversary. Sr Pia had written a delightful song for the occasionabout all the mayhem of the past three months which Dear Mother had masterminded so capably and brought to a happy conclusion. Dear Mother then admired all the items we had made for her to add to our small craft-shop. These ranged from an almost life-size clown made by Sr Beatrix, to snoods, shawls, woodwork, rosaries, and plaques with small polymer clay figures against a tapestry background.

    Much of September was spent preparing for further community celebrations, this time for Sr Juliana’s Ruby Jubilee in October. But one unexpected piece of good news from the outside world was the radical rejection by the House of Commons of the proposed Assisted Dying Bill, despite all the news media propaganda to persuade the general public that it would be a good thing. We ourselves had written to our local MP expressing our opposition to such legislation, and although he was absent for the actual vote he had the grace to answer our letters. courteously.

    The Ruby Jubilee entailed a week of festivities within the community, and was a time of great grace and blessing for us all. Sr Anežka had composed a very lovely song on Our Lord being comforted by an angel during His agony in the garden - Sr Juliana’s full name is Sr Maria Juliana of Gethsemane - and we sang it at Mass and several other times that week. Sr Elizabeth and Sr Anežka had decorated an area in the cloister separated off by new sliding doors on the theme of the Canticle of the Creatures. There they had arranged an impressive and varied colourful selection of items completed for the coming Fair. Sr Juliana had already admired the first large consignment, (some of which she had herself helped to make!) the week before. Generally we make presents for a Jubilarian to give to her family and those who have supported and encouraged her down the years in her vocation. However as Sister has no near relatives still living, she had asked us all to work with a will to make items we could sell to raise money for a purpose dear to her heart (and those of us all) - that of sponsoring a young person who would love to go to World Youth Day in Cracow in 2016, but could not otherwise afford it.

    Sr Amata and Sr Ruth had decorated the refectory with posters large and small of paintings by Marc Chagall, one of Sister’s favourite artists. These ranged from his series on the Song of Songs, to White Crucifixion, a painting alsodear to the heart of Pope Francis.
    We were invited the next day to an art and culture display in the infirmary. Beloved Mother had done a lovely series of watercolours on the Canticle of the Creatures, and there were other pictures on diverse themes. Sr Agatha also introduced us to the work of Stix, a well-known graffiti artist in London, whose large-scale paintings on walls in often derelict areas we found very impressive.

    The infirmary Sisters also treated us to a special Vespers on the Mysteries of consolation,  with paintings by Sr Agatha expressing each of the mysteries, meditations translated from German by Beloved Mother and Sr Seraphina playing the music for the hymns.

    Another day brought us two slide presentations on the life and work of Marc Chagall with Sr Ruth and Sr Yolanda recording the soundtrack, juggling audio-clips to go with appropriate slides. Our dinner included several traditional Jewish recipes lovingly executed by Dear Mother and Sr Yolanda and in the evening we had a special Vespers. This included meditations on some of Chagall’s pictures, and Psalm 8 and the Magnificat in Yiddish as well as English in thanksgiving for all God’s blessings. The evening finished with our watching a video of the well-known musical, Fiddler on the Roof, the title of which was derived from a familiar theme in Chagall’s paintings.

    Other events included an entertaining run-through by Sr Elizabeth of the history of the Tudor monarchs. It was staged by small paper puppets, all beautifully drawn, with Sr Lourdes manipulating them behind the scenes and Sr Amata and Sr Pia providing the voice-over. Then there was a Vespers sharing by Sr Amata and Sr Seraphina. The former furnished excerpts from Pope Benedict’s words on themes dear also to the heart of Pope Francis. Sr Seraphina played the music and she and Sr Amata danced a dramatic praise song by Helen Shapiro which brought a round of applause from the rest of the community.

    Another event was a Maronite Rite Vespers in choir, remembering especially the Eastern-Rite Christians who are suffering so much at the present time. We also enjoyed a festive collation prepared by Sr Pia, who also acted as compère for the entertainment, which consisted of traditional music-hall songs. Some Welsh dancers also appeared, as well as Fred Astaire from ‘over the pond’, who together with Ginger Roger’s daughter regaled us with his tap-dancing.

    The following week Bishop Peter came to concelebrate the actual Jubilee Mass with three other priest friends of the community. It was an exceptionally joyful occasion, especially as among those present was an old friend whom Sister had not seen for 43 years. The generosity of those who came that day, together with the proceeds of our Autumn Fair two days later meant that Sister’s dream was more than fulfilled and we were able to sponsor two young people to go to WYD. People drew tickets by lot for the privilege of nominating them. One will be from the Wrexham Cathedral parish and the other from Llay.

    And as always, we cannot end this year’s Tidings without a heartfelt God reward you to all who have been so generous this year in supporting us and making our life possible, whether through your own prayer support or donations or gifts in kind. We ourselves are always heartened by the appreciation you express of our specific role in the Church, and by your sharing with us your joys and sorrows, hopes and fears, for us to bring them before the Lord in our daily round of prayer and praise.

    We rejoice in the awareness that 2015, despite being a year of so much suffering and turmoil worldwide, is drawing to a close on a positive note with the opening on 8th December of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. This promises to be a source of new life and deeper trust in God, not only for us here at Tŷ Mam Duw, but for everyone in the world for whom, as Pope Francis writes in his Bull of Indiction for the Holy Year,  Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy… We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace. Our salvation depends on it. Mercy: the word reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.

And we unite with Pope Francis in his earnest prayer and wishes for all people, and especially for yourselves and all those you hold dear:

We will entrust the life of the Church, all humanity, and the entire cosmos to the Lordship of Christ, asking him to pour out his mercy upon us like the morning dew, so that everyone may work together to build a brighter future. How much I desire that the year to come will be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God! May the balm of mercy reach everyone, both believers and those far away, as a sign that the Kingdom of God is already present in our midst!

With loving prayers for every grace and blessing, day by day in the coming year,
from your little sisters at Tŷ Mam Duw.

Jubilee 2015

Jubilee ˈdʒuːbɪliː (Hebrew yovel יובל): to blow a ram’s horn, to sound the trumpet. A year of emancipation and restoration. A special anniversary of an event, usually 25 or 50 years.

Ruby Jubilee: a celebration held to mark a 40th or (less commonly) 80th anniversary.  

Biblical:  The number 40 is mentioned 146 times in Scripture.  It symbolizes a period of testing, trial or probation. Israel was in the wilderness forty years. During Moses' life he lived forty years in Egypt and forty years in the desert before God selected him to lead his people out of slavery. Moses was also on Mount Sinai for 40 days and nights, on two separate occasions (Exodus 24:18, 34:1 - 28), receiving God's laws. He also sent spies, for forty days, to investigate the land God promised the Israelites as an inheritance (Numbers 13:25, 14:34). The prophet Jonah warned Nineveh for forty days, the prophet Ezekiel lay on His right side for 40 days (Ezekiel 4:6) uncomfortable! Elijah went 40 days without food or water at Mount Horeb.
The Lord was tempted 40 days and nights he fasted just before his ministry began. He appeared to his disciples and others for 40 days after his resurrection from the dead.  Forty years after the crucifixion in 30 A.D., the Romans destroyed the Jerusalem.

Cultural: A child is 40 weeks in the womb, in several cultures 40 years stands for a generation of humanity, in mathmatics it is a semi-perfect number (ie. 1, 4, 5, 10 + 20) - don’t ask me, I left school at 4!

Poor Clare usage: lots of people don’t make it to the Biblical number of 50 - so, okay, 40 is a very Biblical number (see above) and those who entered early are still young enough to enjoy it. The Lord likes us to celebrate.  St Paul said, “the Kingdom of God … is justice peace and joy in the Holy Spirit…”

8 May 2014, the feastday of Julian of Norwich, our Sister Juliana was sitting with Mother Francesca and Mother Damian.  They were discussing future events and Mother Damian asked our Sister if she would like a new sewing machine or a new computer (Sister shepherds the website so has to be regularly updated) for her Ruby Jubilee in the following year. Sister said no; that she wanted no personal presents and that the money that would normally be spent on her and the proceeds from selling the presents that the sisters made for her should go to sending a young pilgrim to World Youth Day.  Mother Damian was a trifle staggered and asked our sister if she was sure.  She said she was.

The idea grew legs and took off at a gallop: Mother Damian decided that not only the Jubilee gifts,  but the proceeds of the 2015 Autumn Fair would also go to this.  Perhaps we could send two people!

Sister Juliana offered to do the catering for the Jubilee as well as the eats for the Autumn Fair and we planned to have the jubilee mass in the morning of Saturday, October 10 and the Sale of Work in the afternoon, our Sister’s actual profession anniversary being the following day, the eleventh.  The Saturday however was not convenient to the bishop, so we accepted the following Thursday.  We apologise to our friends whose work did not enable them to attend a weekday venue.

25 September 2015: To make life easier for those who had to prepare and package the gifts for sale, we first had a ‘Pre-Jubilee’ at which Sister got the ‘smaller ‘ of her gifts, which includes more than twenty stuffed animals and assorted knitted things.  She was fairly stunned!

27 September to 3 October
Sister Juliana spent her time of retreat in preparation for the celebrations making a set of concelebrant’s vestments, reading Raniero Cantalamessa’s commentary on the Romans, ‘Life in the Lordship of Christ’, memorising sections of Julian of Norwich and generally having a peaceful and enjoyable time.

4 October: Feast of our holy father Saint FrancisAfter Mass we assembled in the Jubilee area (the new Hobbiton in the cloister, demarcated by folding doors that have been installed there). Sr Elizabeth and Sr Anežka had decorated it on the theme of the Canticle of the Creatures and arranged an impressive and varied colourful selection of the major things made in aid of World Youth Day. We sang a song Sr Anežka had written on Christ in Gethsemane, with the refrain ‘Nothing is impossible…’

Sr Amata and Sr Ruth had decorated the refectory with posters large and small of paintings by Marc Chagall from his series on the Song of Songs, as well as his White Crucifixion, a painting also very dear to Pope Francis.  In the evening wesang the mercy chaplet (the version by ‘Remnant’ and watched the film Grace Cards.

5 October: Mother Francesca, Sr Agatha and Sr Seraphina invited us this afternoon to an art and culture display in the infirmary. Beloved Mother had done a moving series of watercolours on the Canticle of the Creatures, and there were other pictures on diverse themes. Sr Agatha also introduced us to the work of Stix, a well-known graffiti artist in London and gave us a lecture on art which convulsed the more serious members of the audience with laughter to the point of tears.

This was followed by the Mysteries of Consolation in choir, with (serious) paintings by Sr Agatha expressing each of the mysteries, and meditations by Beloved Mother. Sr Seraphina played the background music.  We went on to see the classic 1950s film of Don Camillo

6 October: Supported by Sr Yolanda Bakhita, Sr Ruth surpassed herself with two powerpoint presentations on Chagall and village life in the Pale of Dispensation in nineteenth century Russia. Dinner included several traditional Jewish recipes and in the evening, Vespers, included meditations on some of his pictures, and the Magnificat in Yiddish as well as English in thanksgiving for all God’s blessings. The evening finished with our watching a video of the well-known musical, Fiddler on the Roof, the title of which was derived from one of Chagall’s paintings.

7 October: Sr Elizabeth, assisted Sr Lourdes and Sr Amata, gave us an hilarious run-through she had written of the history of the Tudors, with small hand drawn paper puppets. Later we had a further sharing, this time with slides of her drawings on the life of St Thomas More; perhaps a little more authentic than the much-reviewed BBC series.

8 October: Vespers this evening was directed by Sr Amata and Sr Seraphina. Sr Amata had edited meditations by Pope Benedict for which Sr Seraphina improvised background music.  It culminated in an amazing dance sequence which the community gave a standing ovation!

9 October This evening, Vespers in choir was in the Maronite Rite, remembering especially our Christian brothers and sisters in the middle east in their suffering. Afterwards we gathered in Mount Tabor, where we were treated to a finale collation and an Edwardian Music Hall produced by dear Mother and Sr Pia complete with period recitations and songs, Welsh folk dancers and a soft-shoe-shuffle by Sr Amata and another of her pupils!This was only a temporary grand finale, while we broke off to prepare for the Jubilee and sale of work.  Both of which required the presence of Sr Juliana, Sr Ruth, Sr Amata and Sr Yolanda Bakhita in the kitchen and everyone else in the Hall and extern spaces needed for the event

10 October    To lift up our hearts for the now persevering push, we ended the day in Hobbiton reciting a form of Maronite rosary, with the Our Father and Hail Mary in both English and Syriac-Aramaic and with meditations on 12 mysteries using small icons based on a manuscript by the monk Rabbula from 6th century Northern Syria.

10—14 October If you had to do a CV for our sister, indications like musician, artist, writer and so forth would possibly come first; but it shall always be remembered of her that she was a very good cook and not only can she do great Poor Clare things with community leftovers, she has from the start catered for retreat groups and apart from little calamities like only cooking their stewing steak for ten minutes and frying their pancakes in mixed olive oil and parafin, (she has long been forgiven) her five days in the kitchen were memorable!

15 October: Bishop Peter Brignall came to celebrate the jubilee Mass and Father Matus (Manchester Oratory), Father Paul Shaw and Father Bernard Lordon were there to share our joy, may they all be blest!  We were only sorry that Father Roy Maria of Jesus (Vocationist Fathers) was not able to be with us.

The jubilee cake made interiorly by Sr Pia and decorated elegantly by Sr Bakhita was laid out in time for the ceremony, the flowers in choir were arranged by Sr Beatrix and Sr Lourdes and the little Olive tree, a gift of Marianne; plants and pots for the cloister garden were the only gifts that got past sister’s well-known principles as they were for the community and not her, personally.

At the reception afterwards, the guests got their first choice of the really amazing things the sisters had made and were invited to put their ticket into the hat for World Youth Day.  From the invitation and the various articles in the media, our guests knew that they were invited to nominate a pilgrim for Krakow, but were only asked to put their own names on the slip, so they could invitee their nominee personally.  The lady whose name was drawn, by Bishop Peter, was from a local Parish and we contacted her by phone.  She was very excited and set off to sound out her proposed pilgrim.

Sr Juliana and Lynn

Sr Juliana and Lynn

16 October Whilst the clearing up of the jubilee and display of the rest of the Sale of Work proceeded hectically, Sr Juliana went to the parlour to see her only personal guest, Lynn.  She and our sister went to the same infant school, the same primary school where Lynn subsequently taught till her retirement, the same grim Secondary Modern and the same amiable Grammar School Sixth Form.  They have the same first and middle names.  They had corresponded, but not seen each other for 43 years!

17 October Sale of Work.  Very successful!  Father Roy, the parish priest of Hawarden, entertained the visitors (they entertained him too!) and drew the second name which also went to a Welsh parish.  Subsequent days saw some incredibly generous money gifts which enabled us to nominate a third pilgrim.  This time we did the draw from the names received before the events.  So far only our Merseyside representative andthe father and grandfather of the Pilgrim know - and all we are prepared to reveal is that his name begins with B and he comes from Liverpool

18 October - The community, now fairly exhausted ate magnificent leftovers.

Subsequently the entire community did a lot of clearing up, Sr Ruth and Sr Bakhita gave us an afternoon of stories left over from their Chagall day.  The community did some more clearing up.  Sr Elizabeth and Sr Juliana finished reading Regina Doman’s ‘Alex O’Donnel and the 40 Cyberthieves’ the community did some more clearing up - and then it even did some more clearing up…

26 October Sr Juliana offered her community thanksgiving: a presentation on the Revelations of Divine Love by the better-known Julian.  She spoke for an hour and a quarter without notes and nobody appeared to fall asleep.  She followed this with high tea helped, by Mother Damian and Sr Yolanda Bakhita, and a thank-you present.  She is now writing notelets to all the kind people who made these wonderful events possible.  Again, thank you so much!

May God bless and reward you all!