...A talk given by Fr. Kevin Alban, carrying the title of 'Mary our Sister' intrigued me so much that I just had to get along to my first ever Carmelite Spirituality meeting to hear what this was all about. As I’ve written in a previous edition, the talk was well worth- while making the effort to attend, rather than heading home straight after 10.15 Mass; after a nice hot cuppa, straight into the meeting at 11.30.
Now and then there is a different face, but generally there is just a small number who regularly attend. Fr. Johan Bergstrom-Allen is co-convenor who invites the excellent speakers to give extremely interesting talks. The talk/discussion /question time is followed by a faith lunch. Usually only a small spread but with not so many in attendance we don't need too much. Ham in breadcakes for the plainer palate and for those who enjoy a spicier taste there is one lady who always brings along some lovely samosas – my favourites! At our last meeting there was even a birthday cake! When lunch is over, should some be able to stay for a short while longer, there may be the opportunity to ponder a reading which might be relevant to the talk or of the current week's Gospel, sharing our thoughts and impressions of how the reading or short phrase or even a single word speaks to us - Lectio Divina.
Since my first meeting which was, I think, last October, there have been a number of subsequent meetings on various topics. You may remember I wrote in the Christmas edition about Sheila Grimwood's talk on Carmelite St. Teresa of Avila’s life and her teachings on prayer. Sheila is a member of the Carmelite pastoral team at Aylesford. Her extensive post graduate research into St. Teresa formed the basis of her talk.
Next we had a very different presentation. Some members of the local organisation Emmaus Charity for the Homeless came along to tell us of the kind of work they do.
Emmaus was founded in 1949 in Paris by Abbe Pierre a priest, MP and former member of the French Resistance. Emmaus is a secular non religious charity open to anyone regardless of their beliefs. Apparently the name, chosen by Fr. Abbe Pierre, symbolises hope. Those who sleep rough, living on the streets, find themselves entering the Emmaus communities. How it works is that if a homeless person wishes to join a community, they must be prepared to sign off their unemployment benefit and to work full time for the community. There can be various reasons why they are in need of somewhere to stay, but whatever the reason, they are welcome to stay as long or as short as they need to. The aim of each community is to be a home, not an institution, so there are few rules, but each companion must consider the needs of others. In return for their work each companion receives accommodation, food and clothing and a weekly allowance. Through meaningful work and the support of the community, companions are encouraged to make a new start in life, regaining their self respect and dignity.
Although the idea of Emmaus spread quickly around the world, it didn't arrive in Leeds until 1992; the first community in England was set up in Cambridge. Check out www.youtube.com/Emmausleeds
to see the set up in the Leeds Emmaus Community.
More recently, Dr Ann Marie Mealey, Senior Lecturer in Theology and Religious Studies at Leeds Trinity University, was invited to give a talk. Her talk focussed on the Second Vatican Council telling us what it was all about and why it still matters today. I wouldn't even attempt to get anywhere near trying to offer an explanation of any great depth but at the time Pope Paul VI issued an encyclical letter called 'Gaudium et Spes'; this, I believe presents an account of VAT II which summarises pretty well its intentions and in a language of the laity.
As I write this we look forward to the visit of Chris Maunder from York St. John University on the 10th February. Chris will be talking about Mary and Mariology at Vatican II. Throughout this year of faith we will be reflecting on the legacy of Vatican II for the Church and the Carmelite Family.
So there we are, that's my explanation of what you might expect if you were to make the effort to come along sometime. Coming along just for a taste doesn't mean you are committed but you would be assured at the very least of a warm welcome, a cuppa and some lunch – perhaps even a samosa or a delicious slice of birthday cake!