Mount Saint Bernards Abbey (in the heart of Charnwood Forest)
During September, I was fortunate enough to go on retreat two days to Mount St. Bernard’s’ Abbey, in Coalville, Leicestershire. It is only a short distance from the MI Motorway, but you would never know it, for the silence (apart from the sound of birds singing, and the bells ringing for the times of prayer etc) is wonderful. I have been going there for the past sixteen or seventeen years, usually twice a year, but sometimes only once.
For those of you who know it, you will not need me to tell you how wonderful it is, but for those of you who may not, I have taken a few photos for you. The monks are of the Cistercian order, so although not Carmelite (as I am), they are a contemplative order too, and their whole day is structured by prayer and praise. The atmosphere is one of indescribable peace, calm, serenity, and there is such genuine warmth and hospitality it is truly another ‘world’. You are left to decide if you want to participate in their timetable or not. The choice is yours and there is no pressure either way. Visitors come from all over the world, quite literally, and I have many friends now in every corner of the globe, as well as closer to home. There is room for social time and so too for private time, and it is so easy to have the solitude we often need when on retreat, to enable us to reflect. Over the years many people there have helped me, without them even realising, just by talking together, for as you know it is good to be with other people and to get to know them a little.
There are some priests who make themselves available for private talks, confession or counselling, but for the most part, unless their duties are in some way dealing with or providing for, the Visitors, most of the community are enclosed and we only ever see them at daily Mass.
We can hear them throughout the day as they sing or chant their prayers, it is incredible to hear and my favourite place is Our Lady’s chapel, at the side of their choir stalls during these times. Their chanting is famous, and many have bought recordings of it, it never leaves you, once heard. The Monastery now has a guest room with facilities for the disabled, or wheelchair bound, and I was able to use this myself on this last visit, it really was a great help and made a very big difference for me. Most female visitors stay in the lodge in the grounds of the monastery, as the main guesthouse is for men (or sometimes married couples).
I could go on and on, but I have said enough, except that whilst there you were all in my heart and thoughts and so too my prayers. As there is a great devotion to, and love of, Our Blessed Lady, each day holds time for communal Rosary with us all participating too, and you were all held in that. The grotto is idyllic, and you were there with me, often.
How to make a good cup of coffee
Handy hints for housewives was not exactly the intention of the recent Justice and Peace Day held at St. Bernard’s School in Rotherham on October 13th. The theme of the day was to encourage thought and debate about the realities of world trade and how our methods of shopping can help the producers of the foods we use everyday. Try this test. Look at what you eat at any meal and consider where all the ingredients have come from. You will be astonished at the sheer range of countries from which we import foodstuffs. So what has this got to do with justice? Fr. Tom Cullinan, a Benedictine from Liverpool challenged the ways in which we decide what to buy and clearly demonstrated that each person has the power to shop ethically and to ensure that Christian beliefs are exercised in every purchase we make. Do you realise that what we spend on ice-cream alone in the U.K would pay for clean water for the entire world? That must challenge the mindset that “nothing’s better than more, more, more.” A speaker from Cafod explained what great advances had been made in recent years in developing fair trade. Many of you will remember Kieran and Mary Connolly who ran a Traidcraft stall for several years in the parish. They were part of a network of committed people who put their faith into practice in everyday life. This commitment has enabled people acros the world to have the chance to earn a fair wage for the work they do; to be able to look after their families themselves; to afford health care and education; to retain their dignity as human beings made in the image of God. By how you shop and what you buy you can ensure that more poor people throughout the world can be helped to become free from the slavery that the big world trading organisations impose so as to earn greater profits for those who are already wealthy. One immediate action you could take would be to sign the “LOADED” card for the Cafod campaign to ensure fairness in world trade. You don’t need to post it. I will collect all the signed cards and send them together in one envelope. We know how much we benefit from sharing our time and talents with each other – the new spirit in our parish is evidence of this. Let’s all look outwards to the wider world to share the hope that God’s justice and peace will be spread by our efforts, inspired by the Holy Spirit.