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Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Happy and Holy New Year

Incline unto my aid, O God;
O Lord, make haste to help me.
Deus, in adjutorium meum intende;
Domine, ad adjuvandum me festina.
(Ps. 69:2)

Monday, December 26, 2011

The 2011 Christmas Day Blessing Urbi et Orbi of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Rome and throughout the world!

Christ is born for us!
Glory to God in the highest
and peace on earth to the men and women whom he loves.
May all people hear an echo of the message of Bethlehem
which the Catholic Church repeats in every continent,
beyond the confines of every nation, language and culture.
The Son of the Virgin Mary is born for everyone;
he is the Saviour of all.

This is how Christ is invoked in an ancient liturgical antiphon:
“O Emmanuel, our king and lawgiver,
hope and salvation of the peoples:
come to save us, O Lord our God”.
Veni ad salvandum nos! Come to save us!
This is the cry raised by men and women in every age,
who sense that by themselves they cannot prevail
over difficulties and dangers.
They need to put their hands in a greater and stronger hand,
a hand which reaches out to them from on high.
Dear brothers and sisters, this hand is Christ,
born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary.
He is the hand that God extends to humanity,
to draw us out of the mire of sin and to set us firmly on rock,
the secure rock of his Truth and his Love (cf. Ps 40:2).

This is the meaning of the Child’s name, the name which, by God’s will, Mary and Joseph gave him: he is named Jesus, which means “Saviour” (cf. Mt 1:21; Lk 1:31). He was sent by God the Father to save us above all from the evil deeply rooted in man and in history: the evil of separation from God, the prideful presumption of being self-sufficient, of trying to compete with God and to take his place, to decide what is good and evil, to be the master of life and death (cf. Gen 3:1-7). This is the great evil, the great sin, from which we human beings cannot save ourselves unless we rely on God’s help, unless we cry out to him: “Veni ad salvandum nos! – Come to save us!”

The very fact that we cry to heaven in this way already sets us aright; it makes us true to ourselves: we are in fact those who cried out to God and were saved (cf. Esth [LXX] 10:3ff.). God is the Saviour; we are those who are in peril. He is the physician; we are the infirm. To realize this is the first step towards salvation, towards emerging from the maze in which we have been locked by our pride. To lift our eyes to heaven, to stretch out our hands and call for help is our means of escape, provided that there is Someone who hears us and can come to our assistance.

Jesus Christ is the proof that God has heard our cry. And not only this! God’s love for us is so strong that he cannot remain aloof; he comes out of himself to enter into our midst and to share fully in our human condition (cf. Ex 3:7-12). The answer to our cry which God gave in Jesus infinitely transcends our expectations, achieving a solidarity which cannot be human alone, but divine. Only the God who is love, and the love which is God, could choose to save us in this way, which is certainly the lengthiest way, yet the way which respects the truth about him and about us: the way of reconciliation, dialogue and cooperation.

Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the world, on this Christmas 2011, let us then turn to the Child of Bethlehem, to the Son of the Virgin Mary, and say: “Come to save us!” Let us repeat these words in spiritual union with the many people who experience particularly difficult situations; let us speak out for those who have no voice.

Together let us ask God’s help for the peoples of the Horn of Africa, who suffer from hunger and food shortages, aggravated at times by a persistent state of insecurity. May the international community not fail to offer assistance to the many displaced persons coming from that region and whose dignity has been sorely tried.

May the Lord grant comfort to the peoples of South-East Asia, particularly Thailand and the Philippines, who are still enduring grave hardships as a result of the recent floods.

May the Lord come to the aid of our world torn by so many conflicts which even today stain the earth with blood. May the Prince of Peace grant peace and stability to that Land where he chose to come into the world, and encourage the resumption of dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. May he bring an end to the violence in Syria, where so much blood has already been shed. May he foster full reconciliation and stability in Iraq and Afghanistan. May he grant renewed vigour to all elements of society in the countries of North Africa and the Middle East as they strive to advance the common good.

May the birth of the Saviour support the prospects of dialogue and cooperation in Myanmar, in the pursuit of shared solutions. May the Nativity of the Redeemer ensure political stability to the countries of the Great Lakes Region of Africa, and assist the people of South Sudan in their commitment to safeguarding the rights of all citizens.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, let us turn our gaze anew to the grotto of Bethlehem. The Child whom we contemplate is our salvation! He has brought to the world a universal message of reconciliation and peace. Let us open our hearts to him; let us receive him into our lives. Once more let us say to him, with joy and confidence: “Veni ad salvandum nos!”

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas in a Storm

We have been graced this year with a great storm over Christmas. While the wind raged outside, we were treated to a wonderful candlelight Midnight Mass.

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
in the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain;
heaven and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
the Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
but his mother only, in her maiden bliss,
worshiped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
yet what I can I give him: give my heart.

After Mass was over each of us venerated the baby Jesus.

We wish you all a very happy and holy Christmas!

The Royal Christmas Broadcast of Her Majesty the Queen.

Lord, save our Queen Elizabeth,
and graciously hear us in the day when we call upon Thee.

Let us pray.

Almighty God, we pray that Thy servant our Queen Elizabeth,
who by Thy mercy has undertaken the government of this realm,
may receive increase of all the virtues;
so fittingly adorned,
may she be enabled to avoid all foul temptations,
(overcome her enemies),
and with her prince consort and the Royal family,
may she at the last be welcomed by Thee,
who art the way, the truth, and the life.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.



Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Victoria Who Overcame the World

Reverend Mother Maria Angela Borsa, Prioress of the Venerable Monastery of the Most Holy Annunciation and Incarnation in Genoa, Italy, before the relics of the Holy Foundress, Bl. Maria Vittoria (behind the Infant Jesus).
Below: A clearer view of the sacred incorrupt relics.

During the 1990s our Congregation made a home in the former monastery of the Celestial Annunciades in Joinville, France (below). The holy order, founded by Blessed Maria Vittoria de Fornari Strata, seemed to have more or less dwindled and we were privileged to glean, from local memories and some remaining artefacts, a little of the history of the beautiful order which had once found a home within the same walls.

Each day we devote a few moments to preparing the image of the saint for the next day for our top right sidebar. Having found that 15 December is the anniversary of Blessed Maria Vittoria’s death, and making the association with our former home, we went searching for a suitable image. What a surprise to find that the monastery where her relics repose is alive and well and very much inclined towards the traditional religious life. The photographs are simply beautiful so we decided to share them with our readers.

The Altar of Blessed Maria Vittoria during the traditional First Holy Mass offered there in 2009
by the newly ordained Rev. Fr Francesco Ramella .

The Celestial Annunciades are religious order for women founded by Bl. Maria Vittoria Fornari (1562 - 1617) at Genoa. The death of her husband, Angelo Strata, left her the care of six children, and it was only after they had entered the religious life that she was free to carry out her life work, for which she had been preparing by retirement and the practice of austere virtue. Her lack of temporal means for some time caused her director and the Archbishop of Genoa to withhold their consent, which, however, was finally obtained (1602), and a convent was erected at the expense of one of her companions. Pope Clement VIII approved them in 1604, placing the Order under the Rule of St Augustine. In the same year ten members were received, each adding the name Maria Annunziata to her baptismal or religious name, and they made their solemn vows on 7 September, 1605. The Order spread through France, Germany, and Denmark.

Above: A novice preparing embroidery for the support of the monastery.
Below: The altar of Our Lady of Protection, a devotion particular to the order.

The title of our post, Victoria Who Overcame the World, is a play on the words of Holy Scripture, often seen in pictures of the Blessed: "For whatsoever is born of God, overcometh the world: and this is the victory which overcometh the world, our faith." [1 John 5,4] It is uplifting to see her spiritual daughters continuing to overcome the spirit of the world, the flesh and the devil.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A pastoral letter unlike any I have read before.

Today we read the Pastoral Letter of Bishop Hugh, O.S.B.
It was a delight!
I invite you to read it too!

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We live in a noisy world. Our towns and cities are full of noise. There is noise in the skies and on the roads. There is noise in our homes, and even in our churches. And most of all there is noise in our minds and hearts.

The Danish philosopher Kierkegaard once wrote: ‘The present state of the world and the whole of life is diseased. If I were a doctor and I were asked for my advice, I should reply: “Create silence! Bring people to silence!” The Word of God cannot be heard in the noisy world of today. And even if it were trumpeted forth with all the panoply of noise so that it could be heard in the midst of all the other noise, then it would no longer be the Word of God. Therefore, create silence!’

‘Create silence!’ There’s a challenge here. Surely speaking is a good and healthy thing? Yes indeed. Surely there are bad kinds of silence? Yes again. But still Kierkegaard is on to something.

There is a simple truth at stake. There can be no real relationship with God, there can be no real meeting with God, without silence. Silence prepares for that meeting and silence follows it. An early Christian wrote, ‘To someone who has experienced Christ himself, silence is more precious than anything else.’ For us God has the first word, and our silence opens our hearts to hear him. Only then will our own words really be words, echoes of God’s, and not just more litter on the rubbish dump of noise.

‘How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given.’ So the carol goes. For all the noise, rush and rowdiness of contemporary Christmasses, we all know there is a link between Advent and silence, Christmas and silence. Our cribs are silent places. Who can imagine Mary as a noisy person? In the Gospels, St Joseph never says a word; he simply obeys the words brought him by angels. And when John the Baptist later comes out with words of fire, it is after years of silence in the desert. Add to this the silence of our long northern nights, and the silence that follows the snow. Isn’t all this asking us to still ourselves?

A passage from the Old Testament Book of Wisdom describes the night of Israel’s Exodus from Egypt as a night full of silence. It is used by the liturgy of the night of Jesus’ birth:
‘When a deep silence covered all things and night was in the middle of its course, your all-powerful Word, O Lord, leapt from heaven’s royal throne’ (Wis 18:14-15).
‘Holy night, silent night!’ So we sing. The outward silence of Christmas night invites us to make silence within us. Then the Word can leap into us as well, as a wise man wrote: ‘If deep silence has a hold on what is inside us, then into us too the all-powerful Word will slip quietly from the Father’s throne.’
This is the Word who proceeds from the silence of the Father. He became an infant, and ‘infant’ means literally ‘one who doesn’t speak.’ The child Jesus would have cried - for air and drink and food - but he didn’t speak. ‘Let him who has ears to hear, hear what this loving and mysterious silence of the eternal Word says to us.’ We need to listen to this quietness of Jesus, and allow it to make its home in our minds and hearts.

‘Create silence!’ How much we need this! The world needs places, oases, sanctuaries, of silence.
And here comes a difficult question: what has happened to silence in our churches? Many people ask this. When the late Canon Duncan Stone, as a young priest in the 1940s, visited a parish in the Highlands, he was struck to often find thirty or forty people kneeling there in silent prayer. Now often there is talking up to the very beginning of Mass, and it starts again immediately afterwards. But what is a church for, and why do we go there? We go to meet the Lord and the Lord comes to meet us. ‘The Lord is in his holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before him!’ said the prophet Habakkuk. Surely the silent sacramental presence of the Lord in the tabernacle should lead us to silence? We need to focus ourselves and put aside distractions before the Mass begins. We want to prepare to hear the word of the Lord in the readings and homily. Surely we need a quiet mind to connect to the great Eucharistic Prayer? And when we receive Holy Communion, surely we want to listen to what the Lord God has to say, ‘the voice that speaks of peace’? Being together in this way can make us one – the Body of Christ - quite as effectively as words.
A wise elderly priest of the diocese said recently, ‘Two people talking stop forty people praying.’
‘Create silence!’ I don’t want to be misunderstood. We all understand about babies. Nor are we meant to come and go from church as cold isolated individuals, uninterested in one another. We want our parishes to be warm and welcoming places. We want to meet and greet and speak with one another. There are arrangements to be made, items of news to be shared, messages to be passed. A good word is above the best gift, says the Bible. But it is a question of where and when. Better in the porch than at the back of the church. Better after the Mass in a hall or a room. There is a time and place for speaking and a time and place for silence. In the church itself, so far as possible, silence should prevail. It should be the norm before and after Mass, and at other times as well. When there is a real need to say something, let it be done as quietly as can be. At the very least, such silence is a courtesy towards those who want to pray. It signals our reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. It respects the longing of the Holy Spirit to prepare us to celebrate the sacred mysteries. And then the Mass, with its words and music and movement and its own moments of silence, will become more real. It will unite us at a deeper level, and those who visit our churches will sense the Holy One amongst us.

‘Create silence!’ It is an imperative. May the Word coming forth from silence find our silence waiting for him like a crib! ‘The devil’, said St Ambrose, ‘loves noise; Christ looks for silence.’

Yours sincerely in Him,

+ Hugh, O. S. B.
Bishop of Aberdeen

7 December 2011.

We'll weather the weather whatever the weather, whether we like it or not!

The trusty Stronsay Pier Weather Vane.

Beaufort Wind Scale
in MPH Description - Visible Condition

0 Calm smoke rises vertically.
1 - 4 Light air direction of wind shown by smoke but not by wind vanes.
4 - 7 Light breeze wind felt on face; leaves rustle; ordinary wind vane moves.
8 - 12 Gentle breeze leaves and small twigs in constant motion.
13 - 18 Moderate breeze raises dust and loose paper.
19 - 24 Fresh breeze small trees in leaf begin to sway.
25 - 31 Strong breeze large branches in motion; telephone wires whistle.
32 - 38 Moderate gale whole trees in motion; inconvenience in walking against wind.
39 - 46 Fresh gale breaks twigs off trees; generally impedes progress.
47 - 54 Strong gale slight structural damage occurs; chimney pots and slates removed.
55 - 63 Whole gale trees uprooted; considerable structural damage occurs.
64 - 72 Storm very rarely experienced; accompanied by widespread damage.
73+ Hurricane devastation occurs.

For this week we are expecting:
Monday 9.00 a.m. Whole Gale (62mph).
Tuesday 00.00 midnight Hurricane (81 mph) reducing by midday to Whole Gale (55 mph).
Wednesday 12.00 Fresh Gale (45 mph).
Thursday 18.00 Strong Gale (53 mph) 18.00 Storm (72 mph).

We'll check
the trusty Stronsay Pier weather vane
for wind direction.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Of Storm and Scoulters.

The Storm of the Immaculate Conception.

Last night winds were recorded in Orkney at 138.5 m.p.h.
Here is a brief clip taken from St. Magnus' kitchen
at the head of the Steamer Pier, Stronsay.

This morning the storm continued with lower wind speed.

Br Nicodemus Mary checked the monastery boat.

The boat "Charnetsky" was fine.

View of Scoulters.
The South End of Stronsay had been without electricity all night.
We visited Brian and Margaret who live at Scoulters ...
to "talk about the weather"
which is always of interest in Orkney!

Valery, Margaret and Brian with Hector
Margaret informed us that there is an actual weather forecast
especially for Papa Stronsay!
That is exciting news for us!
The link is here!


What is Scoulters?
- for Brian

Scoulters -
Christian house, Catholic home.
Sturdy castle struck in stone.

Exile lodgings, tent surpassed,
Shelter built to face the blast.

Armoured fortress, love's rampart.
Bone the body flesh the heart.

Christ enthroned, His Dominion.
She His handmaid, He His liegeman.
Domus Dei et porta caeli.

Long may He reign there!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Saturday, December 03, 2011

News from Sister Maria Onufria, OSBM - Vespers Street, Lviv, Ukraine.

Blessed Nicholas Charnetsky
Bishop and Martyr

In 1957 having served eleven years
in the Soviet GULAG system

Blessed Nicholas Charnetsky,
in danger of death,
was returned to Lviv

to avoid his dying in the GULAG
and the consequent criticism
that would come from his death there.

He found a room in the home of a Greek Catholic married priest.
He ordained priests there in secret for three years
before his holy death on
2 April 1959.

We were blessed by heaven to buy that house.
It serves as a convent for

a small group of Greek Catholic nuns.

Last Summer the roof was repaired
and additional accommodation was made in the attic.

Sister Onufria, the superior of the convent
was closely involved with the work.

Sister Maria Onufria helping at the concrete mixer.

The city government approved the additional height to the building
to gain on accommodation.

For some weeks the roof was plastic.
The goal was to have tiles on before the winter.
This has been achieved.

Before the tiles the roof was tin.
During the course of the years
the old roof was full of rust and holes.

Now with tiles on the house,
we will hear no more about
Sister Onufria standing up on the steep roof
with tins of green paint and her paint brush in hand!

It is a great improvement.
Congratulations Sisters!

View across the neighbour's property to the convent.
Its address is:
7 Vechirnia,
which translates as:
7 Vespers Street.

Blessed Nicholas Charnetsky,
pray for them!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Magnificent Storm

Sunday 27th November the occasion of a magnificent storm, with the wind turbines on mainland Orkney reportedly recording gusts of up to 130mph!

These photos as well as the video at the bottom of the post were taken looking down the main street of Whitehall village, Stronsay, with the harbour on the right.

Note the seaweed in the road, as well as in the video below, which was taken just outside our chapel.

The Lamps thereof are Fire and Flame.

from the
Silver Jubilee of
Religious Profession

Sister Maria Auxiliadora
da Divina Providência, O.SS.R.
Redemptoristine Nuns
in the
Apostolic Administration
St. Jean Marie Vianney
Campos, Brazil.

Sister at the Choir enclosure.

She renews her religious vows before
The Apostolic Admistrator,
His Lordship Bishop Rifan.

She receives afresh the Religious Profession ring.

Put me as a seal upon thy heart..
for love is strong as death, jealousy as hard as hell,
the lamps thereof are fire and flames ...

She receives the silver jubilee crown of roses.

The lamps thereof are fire and flame...

Many waters cannot quench charity,
neither can the floods drown it:
if a man should give all the substance of his house for love,
he shall despise it as nothing.
(Canticles 6:8)

Sister received the Papal Blessing.

Ad multos annos Sister!
Pray for us.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Erecting the Stations in our Old Mass Chapel, Stronsay

Yesterday during the storm
we erected the
Stations of the Cross
in Our Lady's Chapel

Br. Nicodemus Mary
measuring the cord out for hanging each Station.

They are beautiful old Stations.
The last three, closest to the altar,
are markedly darker than the others
reflecting sorrow and the darkness that covered the earth.

Br. Magdala Maria and Br Yousef Marie
erecting the Tenth Station to its place.

Domum tuam decet sanctitudo Domine in longitudine dierum.
Holiness becometh thy house, O Lord, unto length of days.
Psalms 92:5

Domine dilexi decorem domus tuae et locum habitationis gloriae tuae.
I have loved, O Lord, the beauty of thy house;
and the place where thy glory dwelleth.
Psalms 25:8

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Papa Stronsay Calendar 2012

Our calendar for 2012 is now available from the Papa Stronsay Shop.
Please click here to order.

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