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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year — Saving a Seal

Life on a small island can often be very interesting.  For example: Who expects that stepping outside their front door, they would find a seal sitting on their doorstep?  Well here on Papa Stronsay, that's exactly what happened.  Leaving my cell in the middle of the morning, I was confronted with a fairly large adolescent seal on the pathway which forms the small street between our monastic cells, called the Via Paparum!

The question was how to move it?  Seals can be quite aggressive when cornered and have the nickname "sea dogs".  This one was not interested in going back to its home, and we certainly couldn't have it staying too long in the Monastery!

With some of the brethren, a plan was formulated.

We put a blanket over the seal — which as you can see, it was not keen on — to stop it from being able to bite us.  It had a mouth full of very small, very sharp teeth.

Then, we took an old canvas mail sack which was cut down one side, and placed it over the seal, with its snout into the undamaged corner of the sack.

With some difficulty, the seal was put onto a sheep hurdle and transported back to the sea.

It was a great adventure!  For a light-hearted look at our experience, do watch the video below:

We wish you all a happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christmas on Papa Stronsay

My just one is near at hand, my saviour is gone forth, and my arms shall judge the people: the islands shall look for me, and shall patiently wait for my arm. Isaiah 51:5

Awaiting the coming of our Saviour on the Holy Island of Papa Stronsay, Br Felix prepares the refectory in memory of the stable of Bethlehem.  Every year on Christmas Eve we spread straw on the floor to remind us of Christ's humble birth-place.


At 11pm we sing carols by candle-light for an hour before Mass.
Sing ye to the Lord a new song, his praise is from the ends of the earth: you that go down to the sea, and all that are therein: ye islands, and ye inhabitants of them. Isaiah 42:10

Before Mass begins, Fr Magdala Maria places the figure of the Divine Infant into the crib.

At the Holy Mass of Christmas night, Our Lord Jesus Christ descends once more to the earth at the call of the priest.


We wish a happy and blessed Christmas to you all!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Born a King on "Caterbury's" Plain

All enjoyed the Carols by candlelight followed by Midnight Mass.
Over eighty people were able to participate in this glorious occasion.
The altar was beautifully prepared through the day
under the capable direction of Br Nicodemus.
Many thanks to all who gave of their time to clean the chapel,
polish the brass, prepare the flowers, and prepare the chapel,
as well as all the other jobs that were done in preparation for Christmas.
It was a memorable occasion.

Carols by candlelight began at 11 p.m.

Several Carols were sung in polyphony by our small choir

Joseph Fairbrother, Chevalier of the Knights was MC for the Mass

The altar was gloriously prepared for Midnight Mass

After Bells were rung during the Gloria
the Chapel lights were used for the rest of the Mass

Fr Jean-Marie and Fr Celestine sang the Gregorian Chant
and Cecile Evans kindly accompanied the Carols and common of the Mass

During the Canon of the Mass

Aiden Evans was torch-bearer, with John Fairbrother as Acolyte 1

Isaac Skilling was Acolyte 2 and Benedict Lim as torch-bearer

Adoration of the Infant King by the servers. . .

. . . and then by the faithful

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Way of Bethlehem

The Way of Bethlehem is an Advent devotion which was composed, practised and promoted by Our Holy Father St Alphonsus.

During the novena of Christmas, 12 shrines are erected around the monastery, church or home, representing the mysteries of our Saviour's childhood.  At each station a short hymn is sung, there is a brief meditation and prayers before processing to the next Station.

Here are some photos of the Way of Bethlehem at our Monastery in Christchurch, New Zealand this year.

 All, children and adults alike, gather around the stational shrine to pray and meditate on the infancy of Our Lord.

The 10th Station: Jesus is freed from the swaddling-bands. 

 The 6th Station: Jesus is adored by the Magi.

 The 8th Station: Jesus flies into Egypt.

 The 10th Station: Jesus begins to walk, here represented by a pair of babies booties, kindly supplied by one of the families of the Chaplaincy.

The Way of Bethlehem is a wonderful means of preparing for Our Lord's coming at Christmas.  It can be found in full in our Christmas Hymn Book

Monday, December 21, 2015

Rorate Mass

 The Rorate Mass, is an Advent tradition.  It is the Mass of "Our Lady on Saturday" for Advent, and is celebrated by candle-light.  We have blogged about it before here.

We celebrated a lovely sung Rorate Mass on Papa Stronsay this year.  Here are some photos:

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Advent Bells

If Advent, or the month before Christmas, is a season of fasting, so, after a kind, is it of gladness too.  Alleluia, that word of ghostly joy, is sung forth at Mass; at Matins, the invitatory chanted contains this exhortation:
Regem venturum Dominum, venite adoremus
The Lord, the King who is about to come, come let us adore.

In past centuries, as now, high personages, especially the sovereign, on nearing the town to be honoured by their presence, were greeted with a festive peal from the church bells. Knowing that after a spiritual way, the King of kings is then about to come in the flesh to see and save sinners, our fathers thought it well to do out of reverence from Him not less than they did towards the princes of this world.  Hence, upon most evenings for those four weeks, this land used to be all astir, not with sad, but joyful sounds; and the bells in every church steeple swung forth their peals of gladsomeness for hours through the damp cold darkness of the night, with the tidings that the celebration of Christ's first visit to us in the flesh was drawing near.  In many a place throughout our land, the Advent bells are yet rung, but the meaning of the custom is forgotten. — cf. Daniel Rock, DD, The Church of Our Fathers, Vol III, p. 293-294.

Following in the tradition of our fathers, on Papa Stronsay the Advent bells ring forth for half an hour every night of the novena of Christmas, joyfully proclaiming the imminent arrival of our King amongst us!

"The bells...swung forth their peals of gladsomeness...through the damp cold darkness of the night, with the tidings that the celebration of Christ's first visit to us in the flesh was drawing near."
Br Felix and Br Edmund ringing the Advent bells.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Perpetual Profession of Br Alfonso Maria

Today, the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Br Alfonso Maria pronounced the three vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience perpetually, joining to them the fourth vow and oath of Perseverance in the Congregation until death.  Please join us in thanking God for the great grace he has given to Br. Alfonso, and for the great gift which Brother has made of himself to God.  May he have a grace filled life on earth, and a crown in the life hereafter!

 Br. Alfonso lies prostrate during the chanting of the Veni Creator Spiritus.

Br  Alfonso pronounces his vows before the Most Blessed Sacrament exposed.  Here, with his hand placed upon the Holy Gospel, he makes his Vow and Oath of Perseverance until death in the Congregation.

Deo Gratias et Mariæ

Thursday, December 03, 2015

The 2016 Papa Stronsay Calendar!

I'm pleased to let you know that our 2016 Papa Stronsay Calendar has shipped out and there are more available!  Watch the video below to see everything you could be getting with a Papa Stronsay Calendar!


You can order the calendar from our website here.

You can even conveniently order your calendars right here on this very page:
Last year there were some who questioned our inclusion of the Zodiac signs in our Calendar.  If you are also interested, you can read our responses in a series of posts on our blog.  They appear in reverse order here:

Remember that if you have a Subscription to our Catholic newspaper, you will already be receiving one copy of the calendar.

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