Monday, 25 January 2010

Christmas at Monte Bre Convent, Canterbury

On Christmas Eve, we went to Midnight Mass at the Franciscan Study Centre. It began with a candle-lit carol service at which Sr. Rose read a Christmas poem. Br. Philippe Yates, the presider, preached about how Jesus was the only answer to the problems facing humanity, not any political leader or system. After Mass there was mulled wine and mince pies for all in the Common Room. Next morning, after Morning Prayer, Adoration and breakfast together, we attended the Christmas Day Mass at the Study Centre, celebrated by Br. Philippe. We brought Willie with us, who enjoyed being there and meeting his old friends such as Br. Brendan OFM. Christmas lunch was a joint effort with everyone preparing a part of the menu. The starter was special secret recipe soup prepared by Sr. Elizabeth, which was very popular with all. The traditional main course also went down very well. When it came to dessert, the Christmas pudding was set alight and burned with festive cheer as planned. Clare's trifle did not go according to plan because the jelly had not set. With this bottom layer stubbornly remaining liquid for hours at room temperature and even fridge temperature, it became clear that the only way to add on the custard and cream layers was to freeze the jelly, forcing it to solidify. In order to then avoid structural collapse of the dessert, Clare took the unorthodox step of serving the entire trifle frozen. This novel dish was greeted with mixed reactions, though it remained an artistic triumph.
Above: frozen trifle - Note its perfect structural integrity.
Willie joined us for lunch and opened his gifts from the Sisters, including a Chelsea FC hat and mug but was especially delighted to receive a tool kit, something he said he had always wanted.

Willie showing a hammer from his new tool kit.
A Christmas gift for the Community was an air hockey table, which we tried out by having a ferocious tournament during our Sunday evening recreation.

On New Year's Day, The Solemnity of Mary Mother of God, Mary deWolf, SFO, (FISC staff and friend of the Community) joined us for lunch. The 'big freeze' that came over Britain in the days that followed forced the cancellation of several meetings and travel plans for the Community.
Below:  shovelling snow

Clare sweeping snow
It was a time to shovel paths through the snow on our driveway and then stay in and keep warm.
A Happy and Blessed New Year and new decade to everyone!

Advent Retreat in Littlehampton

From 12th-15th December, Srs. Rose and Clare went to St. Joseph's to attend a three-day preached Advent retreat given by Br. Seamus Mulholland OFM.
Br. Seamus pointed out that Advent was a good time to step out of our own plan and reflect on God's plan for our salvation throughout human history. Starting with Eden, Br. Seamus described how human plans and actions had repeatedly got in the way of God's plans. Therefore, God had to keep adjusting His plans and starting again. From Abraham onwards, God was determined to see through His plan of a covenant with a chosen people which would be completed when God became one of them in Jesus. The genealogies in the Gospels show how Jesus was fully part of this chequered human history and family. Br. Seamus used the image of God's salvation plan as a thread which God was trying to pull through the eye of a needle but with a frayed end, standing for the human stubbornness that frustrates God's actions. In the history of the chosen people, God's plan followed a tortuous route, even through 40 years of wondering in the desert, due to their frequent rebellions. With the birth of Jesus, the thread was finally inserted through the needle. At His Passion, Death and Resurrection it would be pulled through and tied off so it could never be undone and union with God would always be available to humankind. This led us to draw strength in our own lives from the thought that God never gives up on us and, in the end, will find ways to fulfil His vision for our lives, even though we frequently mess up His plans.
After the retreat, Srs. Clare and Rose stayed on in St. Joseph's for a week, helping prepare for various pre-Christmas functions and photocopying the histories of our deceased Sisters for Monte Bre. They returned safely (thank God) to Canterbury on the 19th, even as snow and freezing conditions were beginning to cause travel disruption throughout Britain.