Monday, January 23, 2012

Fifteenth Candle

White Chocolate Madonna at the Chocolate Museum, Bruges
We visited many museums in Bruges yesterday and today. I have gathered all the material needed for my presentation and now we are wrapping up our trip. We visited the Chocolate museum where the history of chocolate is told in images and samples.

We visited a lamp museum where the whole history of light was told. So many candle opportunities I was just beside myself trying to photgraph them. And today at the Diamond museum more light and brilliance! Now we hear that the Northern Lights will be visible tonight and for the rest of the week! We are just finding light everywhere!

We also toured the Hospital museum and tomorrow we'll visit the sound museum and the Beguinage. So many wonders! This is the last of your candles. Sent with prayers for good humor and good cheer for all of you.

Fourteenth Candle

At the Basilica of the Holy Blood we prayed and lit candles for our Sisters who suffer from blood illness and beginning stages of Leukemia and asked Christ's blessing on those who are working towards a cure for Leukemia and Cancer.  We prayed for all who are undergoing treatments for cancer and those who minister to them.

Thirteenth Candle

Here at another shrine dedicated to Our Lady we lit another candle where so many have left messages of thanks to Our Lady for prayers answered. Here we gave thanks for the opportunity to make this pilgrimage through the generosity of the Mariological Society and our Congregation.   Hundreds of messages of thanks carved in stone adorn the walls around this statue.  

Twelfth Candle

In the Church of Our Lady in Bruges we found this rustic image carved inside the trunk of a tree. I lit a candle here for our Marywood project and the protection of the redwood forest given into our care. I asked for Our Lady's blessing of all our land and buildings especially protection from fire. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Eleventh Candle

Bruges is a beautiful small city with many exhibits open even in Winter.  Our first visit was to the Church of Our Lady where Michelangelo's Madonna is.  Here we lit a candle and toured the Church which contains the crypts of the last king and queen of the Hapsburg dynasty.

There are many Dominican saints including a painting of St. Dominic having a vision of the Christ child that I have not ever seen before. It is unmistakably our Saint Dominic with Gospel in one hand and lily in the other, star on his head and torch bearing dog running along at his side.

This was the first of five candles lit today. Here I prayed for the Dominican family throughout the world and left a prayer intention in the box asking for prayers for vocations to Dominican sisters throughout the world and the preaching mission.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Tenth Candle

We are in the airport waiting for the flight to Brussels.  Yesterday we toured the the theater district and Soho.  Saturday evening is a busy evening everywhere! 

We saw the musical Ghost which surpassed our expectations. We both loved the movie and couldn't imagine how it would come off as a musical. But it was even better than the movie. The woman who played the part Whoopie Goldberg played in the movie out-whoopied Whoopie ... if you can imagine that!. The acting, singing, dancing and magic were all brilliant and the audience gave a long standing ovation.  

Sam's final line to Molly, "All the love you have inside you is what you take with you" (to heaven) closes the show with a fine warm feeling and hope.  This is my prayer then for each of you.  I pray that your store of love increase daily until all that is inside you is love. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Ninth Candle

As you can tell, we are not in synch with our itinerary.  It became evident early on that the shrines I would have liked to visit were not easily accessible by rail and public transportation so we have made do with opportunities to pray where we could find them along the way.  This ninth candle is not a candle lit so much as illumination found in the collection of illuminated manuscripts now on display in a special exhibit at the British Library.  In addition to these beautiful Psalters and Gospels and the Lindisfarne Gospels, the Gospel of St. Cuthbert from the 3rd century and ancient Judaic, Islamic, Hindi, Buddhist and Sikh Scriptural texts, we saw ancient regal maps, laws, letters and first editions of works by Darwin and Shakespeare.  

After dinner we toured the British Museum which stays open until 10:30 pm on the weekends.  Here we saw the Rosetta Stone, the Elgin Marbles, entire sections of the Parthenon and Assyrian temples.  The ninth candle is a page from the illuminated story of Creation depicting God holding dividers as he measures the earth and the heavens.  With this image of the Divine Architect we prayed for our Bold Awakening and Care of Creation committees and for all of us as we seek to re-imagine our living spaces, the future of our community and our relationship with all of creation.  May the Divine Architect bless this great work we undertake together so that it will truly be for the glory of God and not a labor indulged in vain.  May the Divine Architect help us not to be too short-sighted or too self-absorbed.       

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Eighth Candle

We took the rail all the way down the length of the country from Carlisle to Canterbury.  The rain is hot on our heels. So far we have been very fortunate with mild temps and no rain.  We are heading to Canterbury to get out of the way of a storm coming across from Ireland.

We saw beautiful green hills and more sheep than I've ever seen in my life.  We arrived just in time for Evensong at Canterbury Cathedral. It is Christian Unity week and there are prayers for the Pope and people of all denominations.  We visited the crypt of Saint Thomas a Becket and the site of his martyrdom  where I lit the eighth
candle for you. Here we prayed for our family members, sisters and friends who have died recently, and those who mourn them.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Seventh Candle

Today after visiting the bones of my ancestors at St. Cuthbert's in Carlisle we toured along Hadrian's wall to Newcastle and down to Durham where we visited the Cathedral and Castle there. Durham Cathedral was built in 1083 and is the first to employ the ribbed archways that became so characteristic in the Gothic era.  It is the final resting place of St. Cuthbert and the Venerable Bede.

For the seventh candle we prayed in the Lady Chapel where a modern statue depicting a rough hewn Mary transfixed at the annunciation stands in front of the tomb of the Venerable Bede.  Here I prayed for all historians and scholars of the Word that Our Lady of the Annunciation will send many graces and the Spirit will sustain the energies needed to persevere in study.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sixth Candle

We took the rail up through the lakes district to Carlisle on the border with Scotland. This is the home of the Royal Border Regiment but much is closed down in the winter. Carlisle Castle is an impressive fort on the west end of Hadrian's Wall.  The Cathedral was built in 1122 and has many memorials to fallen soldiers through the years of dispute at this boundary established by the Romans.  

The museum features archeological finds from Roman encampments and later times.  This city seems to have always had a military character.

My explorations on found that my ancestors on both mother and father's side are from this part of the world. In the 17th century there are records of my forefathers who were buried in St. Cuthbert's here in Carlisle.   We are visiting the cemetery there today to see if we can find the old bones.

It began to rain for the first time today and we ducked into a theater.  

Lo and behold "The Iron Lady" was just starting, so we took in the film.  If you haven't seen it, you will be surprised by the format which travels back and forth in time from when Margaret Thatcher was in her later years suffering from dementia and her life as Prime Minister.  The acting is super, and the film raises some interesting questions about the strains of a political life and its effects on the psyche.

I lit a candle for you in Carlisle Cathedral where I found this beautiful unnamed image of Mother and Son.  I love the way she is lifting him up to the light.  There was no place to light a candle, but I said a prayer for all of you who lift up others through your teaching, your ministry, your inspiration and your support in so many ways.  May God bless you with strength and reward you with love. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Fifth Candle

Today we arrived at last at Stone where we were met at the rail station by Sister Pauline, the major superior of the Dominican Sisters of Stone. Over a cup of tea and some Belgian biscuits we had a nice little chat about our congregations and our own spiritual journeys. Sister Pauline gave me a copy of their recently (2011) published congregational history titled "A Peculiar Kind of Mission." I promised to send her our own when it comes out in print.

Sister Cecily gave us a tour of the archives and copies of photos and documents related to my study.  We discussed the connection between our congregation and theirs and searched for record of visits mentioned in Mother Pia's diary in their annals.  Unfortunately nothing is recorded about those visits.  Sister Cecily showed us a treasure chest of first editions and scrap books belonging to Francis Raphael Drane.  I took photos to share when I get home.

Sister Mary Henry took us an extensive tour of inside and out upstairs and down and told us the stories of the people and places who are precious to them.  I was able to videotape some of this and took photos of the shrine of Our Lady of Stone and the resting places of Mother Margaret, Francis Raphael Drane, and Bishop Ullathorne.

I lit your fifth candle and we prayed with the image of Our Lady Refuge of Sinners that is believed to be the first one used in public processions of Our Lady in England after the Act of Emancipation of Catholics in 1829.   We prayed for all members of the Dominican Order, particularly those on mission in areas where life is hard and religious are persecuted because of their faith. We prayed for perseverance in the face of difficult decisions and economic hardship and for Our Lady to protect all who preach the Gospel with Love and Truth. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Fourth Candle

Yesterday in Stratford upon Avon we stayed in a hotel built in the 16th century and visited Shakespeare's birthplace, his daughter Susanna's home and the home he lived in after he was married. Today we visited Anne Hathaway's cottage and the farm where his mother's family lived.  Here we get a real sense of Shakespeare as a family man despite his being, as the locals say with a twinkle, "rather naughty.".

We had afternoon tea with delicious salmon and cucumber sandwiches, profiteroles and frangipane.  These scones (see attached) will have to suffice as our
fourth candle as no Blessed Mother shrines were to be found.

We saw the play "Written on the Heart" about the translation of the Holy Bible into English and the controversies that raised. It reminded us of the challenges we have with the new Roman Missal.

Peace to you and all your families this fine Sunday afternoon.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Third Candle

Today we toured Stonehenge, Old Sarum and St. Thomas's Church, dedicated to the memory of Thomas a Becket.  The bus took us through the broad plains of Wiltshire where we saw pheasant, geese, sheep, pigs, bulls, deer, ravens, falcons and partridge all feeding quietly on the vast green landscape.  Here and there were burial mounds and long barrows and other ancient sites still a mystery to archeologists.

No matter how many times you've seen it in pictures when you see Stonehenge in reality the effect is humbling.  To me this ancient structure and Windsor castle seemed to be variations on the same theme. Both are massive round structures overlooking the countryside below surrounded by a protective moat and shrouded in mystery.  In the photos this similarity may not be so striking as it is when you see them back to back as we did.

In the photos I hope you can make out the interesting solar phenomenon I caught with the camera making it appear like candle in the great outdoors.  I took time to pray here for our striving to live in more harmonious atunement with the rest of the cosmos. Stonehenge was built at a time when science and religion were not divided. Rather both were expressions of the human search for understanding.  I hope we can continue to regain a better sense of that unified wisdom through our common study of the new cosmology.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Second Candle

The highlight of today's spiritual journey was the visit to Salisbury Cathedral.  We traveled by BritRail across the countryside and checked into our rooms at Sarum College, an ecumenical theological college housed inside "The Close" ...the area around the Cathedral enclosed by a great stone wall.  The more prominent part of the college was built in 1677 by Sir Christopher Wren. However, the site at 19 The Close as place of theological education dates back to the 1220's when the Cathedral itself was built.  And we think we have historic building renovation challenges! 

The theme of renovation challenges reemerged throughout the day.  We toured the tower, at 404 feet, the largest spire in England, a miraculous construction added a century later that bowed out the large four pillars in the central cross section above the quire.  From the Inside the tower, we were led up 332 very narrow steep stairs to inspect the way the builders used the native english oak, chilmark stone and purbeck marble, to accomplish the architectural feat of successfully mounting a tower weighing 6,500 tons on the immense columns below.  Our guide pointed out centuries of renovation that have helped to maintain this tower that continues to sway up to 8 inches back and forth in the wind and despite settling into a 27 inch westerly lean has survived fire and storm for 8 centuries. 

At the top of the spire there is an ancient clock mechanism that controls the bells that toll out the quarter hours and hour.  Above the clock, we were led outside the spire to a balcony that is home to some nesting falcons and enjoyed a stunning view of the city of Salisbury and the countryside around.  I will be sending video of this part of the tour later. 

Later inside the Cathedral we visited the tombs where Edward Seymour and Lady Catherine Grey, sister to Lady Jane Grey, are buried as well as numerous Bishops and local notables.  To the left of the main altar is a medieval Madonna made of the same oak as the Cathedral that dates back to the time of the original construction.  Here I lit the second candle for you.  My prayer here was for the Bold Awakening construction and the challenges we face in renovating our own historic buildings ...  which now seem far less daunting in comparison.  I asked the Blessed Mother's protection of all architects, engineers, builders and craftsmen as well as those who help maintain historic structures built in honor of and service of her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Concluding our tour we visited the Chapter House, so called because here each day a Chapter of the Bible was read aloud in prayer prior to the meeting of the governors who convened as equals in the site of God to decide on matters for the common good.  The governing body of the Cathedral came to be called the Chapter as a result.  Our own Dominican governance descends from this concept.   The Chapter House at the Salisbury Cathedral holds the finest of four surviving leafs of the Magna Carta, the great English document that lay out the rights and freedoms of ordinary people, upon which our own democratic principles were founded.   Photographs of this fragile ancient document were not allowed. 

We are a little off our itinerary due to rail delays and subsequent rerouting of our adventure itself!  Tomorrow we will visit Windsor Castle.  We've been advised by the locals to take in Bath which they claim is not to be missed if we've come so close.    For now, after carrying our luggage across the countryside and climbing the 332 steps, a bath is indeed what we most desire!

Monday, January 9, 2012

First Candle

This is a series of postings from our pilgrimage to England and Belgium where I am researching Dominican devotion to Mary in the late 19th century and its influence on Marian devotion in the United States and Canada.  I will present my findings at the annual meeting of the Mariological Society of America at Mount Angel in May.  Along the way I am stopping to pray at historic sites where I find shrines dedicated to the Blessed Mother.

We are being flexible with our plans given the fullness of our agenda and the idiosyncracies of winter transportation. Today we completed our touring and visiting in London. After a tour of the city from the upper deck of a double-decker bus, we paid a visit to St. Margaret's Church and toured Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London and the Sherlock Holmes Museum.

Seeing shrines to Our Lady in London is made especially difficult by the rampant secularization of British culture and the  ever hovering black shadow of the Reformation.  Even chapels dedicated to Our Lady lack a  quiet place to light a candle and pray.  Sadly signs point to where and how prayers once were said more often than where one might pray.


The highlight of the visit to London for me was arriving at the tomb of St. Edward the Confessor, who commissioned the building of the Abbey and seems to have been a good and holy man, just in time to join a small group of pilgrims invited to pray in the shrine where his tomb and that of his wife lie.  This shrine is the oldest and most fragile part of the Abbey and is off limits to tourists.  An Anglican priest led us in a centuries old litany of prayer for Christian unity and the protection of the Christian leaders of all nations, most especially her majesty the Queen.

This pause for prayer seemed especially meaningful as the tomb where Queen Elizabeth I and her sister Queen Mary are buried side by side was just across the aisle. In front of their elaborate sarcophagi was a vault marker enjoining travelers to remember those who suffered and died for the sake of their conscience and love of Christ under the division caused by the Reformation of the Church in England.

I took time to remember too our political rivalries at home in the US and how that division damages our vitality as a nation.  I prayed for the primary in my home state of New Hampshire and for a worthy opponent to emerge so that fruitful debate of the issues needing discussion can take place and move us closer to real freedom and democracy.

Later I prayed at the tombs of Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey in the royal chapel of St. Paul ad Vincula in the Tower of London.

I lit a candle for you at the chapel of St. John the Baptist in the Abbey where I found a beautiful alabaster image of Our Lady.   This translucent Madonna was carved by an unnamed English nun in 1973 and placed in a niche where the outline of an ancient image can still be seen behind her.  

Before this image of the New Mary in the Old Mary's arms I prayed for the Blessed Mother's special protection over the Order and our Congregation to be vouchsafed and passed on to the next generation. I prayed for God to bless my research in his Mother's honor and to bless each of you as you stand behind one another and inspire each other to good works of praise.