Advent retreat

The community will be having their Advent retreat starting on Tues this week, for 3 days!

Yes, I know it’s not Advent quite yet, till next weekend but we have to have it a bit earlier than usual and it will help us to prepare better for this lovely season of Christmas to celebrate Christ’s birth………..

something to think about……….

The simple beauty of place

Chris McDonnell   CT November 18th 2016


There is an inspiring article in this month’s edition of the Irish Dominican Journal, ‘Spirituality’, written by Daniel O’Leary, entitled ‘Ministry of Beauty’. In it he reflects on the beauty of God that we experience in ourselves, in others and in the world in which we live.


It set me thinking of places and situations where I might have experienced the beauty he talks of, where, through circumstance, something remained that has not been lost.


Many years ago, when on holiday with my family in Northumbria, I remember walking the beach from the small harbour town of Seahouses as far as Bamburgh Castle on the north-east coast. It was low tide and the expanse of sand was vast. In a couple of hours I passed only one person, then at some distance, too far apart to even be able to exchange greeting. But the pleasure and peace of that walk remains, a truly beautiful place.


In contrast to that open beach, the banks of the River Dee on the Wirral were a place for an evening walk, when as darkness fell, I would occasionally light a small fire from drift wood gathered in a rough circle of stones and sit watching the flickering orange flames dancing in the night.


Nearly twenty years ago, my daughter lived for a while in Canada, in the city of Toronto. During our stay with her I visited a city centre church and there, high in the wall was a small alcove, home for a candle-lit icon. It was so restful and simple a place where attention was held and reflection accommodated.


Three small examples of the beauty of place where something memorable happened, where something was shared and a still point in a turning world found. Ask any couple and they will tell you of a place made beautiful in the expression of their growing love.


Is this what we find when we share the Eucharist week by week in our own very familiar place, our parish church? do we open the door and feel welcomed by a cared-for building whose very walls have been witness over many years to a place of prayer, in times of great joy and also of deep sorrow? Whether it is a large cathedral or a small village church, both can offer that moment of beauty which we recognise as we go inside. The beauty of the interior of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King in Liverpool is truly exceptional, not only for the open expanse of the circular design round the high altar but also for the quiet dignity of the side chapels that surround it. I kept a small print of the background wall design in yellow and white from the Blessed Sacrament chapel in Liverpool above my office desk in school for many years.


There is something about scale that is also very important, our human place in context, a design for occupancy. There is a strong case to be made for the art of creating a space of prayer to be offered to both seminarians and serving priests as an important part of their mission. We neglect the sensitivity of design at our cost. I would suggest that poor art implies poor theology. It was ignored when the New Translation was imposed on us, five years ago this coming Advent, and we live with the consequences. When words and surroundings are incompatible with our intentions then the unease of distraction and the subtleties of prayer are disrupted.


But take this idea away from the public space of a church and ask a similar question about a small room at home which has been chosen as a place of prayer. I wrote this short piece a few days ago.


A space within


Before you can settle

in the quietness of a room

you must learn

how to close the door.


The simplicity of the space within

should not be disturbed

by the hurried movement of the door

through which you entered.


Go gently

into the peace you sought

by first opening the door

             and there rest awhile.


Our actions in such a space should help, not hinder, our reason for being there. A place not cluttered unnecessarily with distractions but an environment that is one of encouragement for the task.


We all have moments and places that we recognise for their simplicity and beauty, places of calm where we can bring our troubled selves before the Lord and recognise his beauty expressed in our very being and in all about us.

Such places require our nurture and respect for they help make us what we are.





Spiritual journey………


The Community will be in retreat staring this weekend for 8 days, in which we are looking forward to the spiritual nourishment that the retreat giver will provide. During the course of this week also, it will be the anniversary of the Dedication of our Abbey Church on Thurs (1st Sept) and that will be a lovely day. The retreat will end on the Sunday (4th Sept) and we will renew our Vows during mass that day!

Please keep us in your prayers, THANK YOU!


Let us break bread together ………..

Breaking of bread

Breaking of bread

Let us break bread together
By Chris McDonnell

Before it was decided that Sundays were better than Thursdays for the celebration of the Ascension and Corpus Christi, the Thursday after Trinity Sunday would have been the feast of Corpus Christi. And no matter the change to English, the title for this feast in Latin has somehow stuck, maybe because it is shorter that its replacement. But this year we have been told it will be celebrated on May 29th so we had better get use to it.

For those of you old enough to remember, the words “Let us break bread together…” come from a popular hymn of the 60s that is rarely heard these days.

In those few words there is a great deal of theology. First of all, we are enjoined to do something ‘let us’, an activity is envisaged that is to be done together. And what is to be done? We are asked to ‘break’ something. Now the word break is usually associated with damage, accidental or otherwise. But it can also signify distribution, a sharing of goods between friends. In the case of this hymn, we are told that we should ‘break bread together’

The sharing of bread is a custom that goes beyond our western world view in so many ways. One description for parents who earn money to feed their families is that they are the ‘bread winners’, those who ‘put bread on the table’. The family table is where, through our sharing, we gain nourishment, food for good health and an occasion of sociability.

With the erratic nature of meals times, resulting from the many and varied activities involving both parents and children, the sharing of a whole family meal is becoming a rare event. So is the conversation that goes with it, the chance to explore stories in the safety of a home, to build and understand relationships as they affect different ages.
A great loss cannot be replaced by a quick burger at the local takeaway.

Bread is a substantial basic food, coming in many textures, shapes and tastes. A loaf can of course, and usually is, cut, sliced and eaten. But occasionally, hands stretch across the table to break a piece of bread from a rough loaf, to eat as it is or to dip into soup. And others round the table do the same, each pulling away a portion of a shared loaf.

When all are finished, the bread board carries the remains of the meal, the crumbs from the loaf that we have broken together.

We are told that the bread on the table at the Passover meal shared by Jesus and his friends was broken, blessed with the words ‘This is my body’ and then shared round the table, each one present taking their portion. How much they understood at the time, we cannot tell. But it must have been enough for the men arriving in Emmaus to recognise the Lord ‘in the breaking of bread’.

In our celebration of the Eucharist we have lost this activity of sharing. The bread that is broken is now a clinical wafer that although it has convenience, has lost the elemental action that is clear in the breaking of bread. ‘The piece I that eat has been taken from the morsel that you have just taken, it is one shared loaf’.

The smaller the number at the celebration the easier it would be to enact the original table of the Lord, using not thin wafers but a loaf of bread that emphasises a sharing. Our understanding of the broken bread of the Christ and the shedding of his blood offered to us in a communal cup would undoubtedly bring home to us the true significance of the sacramental presence.

We could of course approach this part way, by only consecrating the larger altar breads that are usually the reserve of the priest. Occasionally when we receive the Eucharist, we find that placed in our outstretched hand is a quadrant piece from the priest’s host. A shared gift. But supposing it was always like that, suppose we always received a broken fragment and others receiving with us also took such a fragment that might make us reflect on the action in which we are sharing.

There is an oft-quoted statement ‘Food for the journey, not a present for being good’. Hands opened for a gift, stretch across the table, ingrained, worn by work, hardened by the graft of years, an act of sharing, one with another.

As we celebrate this weekend the transferred feast from Thursday to Sunday, let us break bread together as the Lord asked us to, and share with each other.


something to share with you………

I thought that I would just share with you a short reading that we had this morning for midday prayer……..

From The Ascetical Treatises of Issac of Nineveh:
‘When the Spirit dwells within a person, from the moment that person has become prayer, the Spirit never leaves them. For the Spirit himself never ceases to pray within us. Whether we are asleep or awake, from then on prayer never departs from our soul. Whether we are eating or drinking or sleeping or whatever else we may be doing, even if we are in the deepest of sleeps, the incense of prayer is rinsing without effort in our heart. Prayer never again deserts us. In every moment of our life, even when it appears to have ceased, prayer is secretly at work within us continuously.
One of the Fathers, the bearers of Christ, teaches that prayer is the silence of the pure in heart; for their very thoughts are the movements of God. The movements of the heart and the intellect that have been purified become voices full of sweetness with which such people never cease to sing in secret to the hidden God.

short video

Here is a link to a short video which some of you may be interested in, especially if you are discerning. It is a companion to a book called ‘Prefer nothing to Christ’ published by the CTS for the EBC ……

The film is available here ; on that same Vimeo channel you will also find the film’s three sections and introduction presented as individual clips here