Crowdfunding for Priests/Seminarians and Pope Benedict’s 90th Birthday vestments – Very Exciting!!

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A representation of the back piece of the chasuble including the embroidery and Papal shield at the base.

Di Clara’s main aim is to help restore beauty to the liturgy. It also enables me to provide for my family at the same time. I absolutely love my job! It is such an honour to know that the sacred garments I am making will be used during Mass. I love getting to know and working with priests and seminarians, and also with their families and sponsors/benefactors.

My latest project is something very exciting. I have decided to launch Crowdfunding through Di Clara to help Seminarians, Priests and Parishes fundraise for their chosen vestments. So many people come to me wanting to bring beauty back to the liturgy through beautiful vestments, altar frontals etc. but are unable to commit to a large one off payment. So I decided to offer a solution to this problem by opening up the cost to those who are financially blessed and wish support them.

If you are interested in starting your own Di Clara Crowdfunding campaign just contact me at crowdfunding@diclara.co.uk and I will be able to set up your very own page that you can share on social media.

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A graphic of the embroidery design I created from the statue of Our Lady of Altötting.

The first project to be launched using Di Clara Crowdfunding will be a very special 5 piece set of Roman vestments to be made for  Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in celebration of his 90th Birthday in April 2017. It will be a Roman 5 piece set including Chasuble, Stole, Maniple, Chalice Veil and Burse.

I have taken the design from the statue of Our Lady of Altötting – a personal favourite of Pope Benedict. His Papal coat of arms will sit at the base of the Chasuble. The design will be hand embellished with semi-precious stones including fresh water pearls and garnet. I will also be adding some raised gold work where appropriate. This really is going to be a one-off amazing project.

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Our Lady of Altötting.

And YOU can be part of this! Depending on the amount you wish to donate, your name and thank you message to the Holy Father will be embroidered into the lining of the chasuble, forever being encapsulated into his 90th Birthday celebrations.

Please come and be part of this historic celebration HERE and help us thank this great man for all he has done for God’s Holy Catholic Church!

Clare x

www.diclara.co.uk

Open letter from a “rigid” Hebrew Catholic to Pope Francis.

 

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Dear Holy Father,

There has been a lot of talk lately about Catholics who are “too rigid”.  Those who attend the Latin Mass have been derided for placing love of tradition over love of each other.  Those who follow the traditional teaching of the Church on the reception of Holy Communion have been similarly disparaged.  I can relate to this accusation. I love the Tridentine Mass. I go at almost every opportunity. I, too, struggle with the idea that someone who is objectively living in a mortally sinful relationship should ever receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ.

I can also relate to this accusation for another reason.  I am a Hebrew Catholic. That is, I am also Jewish. And as a Jew, I of course have something to say 😉

If ever one group were derided by the Church at large for legalism, it would have to be us.  Stemming from the accusations against the Pharisees in the New Testament, you have to admit, we Jews have faced all sorts of these accusations.  Indeed, are we not the ones who pass by the man on the road, leaving a Samaritan to care for him? Are we not the ones who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel, modern day Pharisees? As a Jew in the Church then, surely it is not surprising that I find myself in this “rigid” category?

The truth is that Jews are often misunderstood in their love of the Law.  So, too, are more traditional Catholics.  Being scrupulous is the plague of anyone trying to be holy, that is true, but attention to detail in keeping the Law, a desire to do what is right, is not the same as scruples, even if they might sometimes creep in.

In Judaism, when someone becomes Torah observant, we say that they are becoming “religious”. There is great rejoicing over this, not because it means people are finally “doing what they are told” and “obeying the Law”, but because they are entering into a deeper relationship with HaShem, or, as you might know him, the Lord.  Becoming religious in Judaism is a romantic experience: you fall madly in love with G-d and you want to do anything to please him.  You become aware of how small you are and how great he is, and how wonderful it is that he has chosen you.

Another way to look at it would be to say that you become more perfectly God’s child. Contrary to popular thought, the idea of G-d being Father did not begin with the earthly Jesus.  True, in knowing the Son we came to know and distinguish the Father of the Trinity properly speaking, but in terms of a paternal relationship, we have had that in Judaism as far back as Moses, if not beyond:

“Is not he your father, who created you, who made you and established you?” (Deu 32:6 NRSV) and everyone knows that “As a father has compassion for his children, so the LORD has compassion for those who fear him.” (Psa 103:13 NRSV).

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Let us go back to those passages above. Firstly, the accusation of scruples to the Pharisees is actually part of an inner Jewish debate. Look at Tractate Shabbat in the Talmud, and you can see it continued on for centuries.

Holy Father, the first important thing to note is that Christ is not correcting the Jewish Law itself. Rather, he is pointing out that at the heart of Judaism is God’s mercy by which He draws us to Him (a subject you have been focusing on intensely this past year within the church). That it is the Spirit of the Law that really matters because the Law is a tutor, and if you build the fence around the Torah too high, you will not be able to see the commandment, and the purpose of it, itself:

They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.” (Mat 23:4 NRSV).

In Judaism, this principle is still practiced: when one becomes religious, one keeps the basics of the Torah first and builds up until one is fully observant.  What matters is that you are trying, and you are on the road to holiness.

Finally, on the Good Samaritan, I say this: the priest and the Levite are travelling towards Jericho, not the Temple. Contact with blood is a matter of ritual not moral impurity, and the only need they would have had to worry about contact with it would have been if they were travelling towards the Temple: there is no problem in getting a bit bloody in Judaism. Just make sure you wash in a Mikhveh so you are clean to worship.

In fact, even if they had been travelling towards the Temple, they should still have stopped because the Law tells us to “love our neighbours as ourselves” (Lev. 19:18). Yep, that didn’t originate with Jesus, either! (Except as the Eternal Word, of course!)

You can break any law in the Torah to save a life.  The problem was not that they would have been breaking the Law had they stopped, but that they broke it by not stopping.

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Once we understand that the Law itself is not the issue, we see that at the same time as making sure you can still see over the fence, Jesus doesn’t mean you disobey the Law. Of those same Pharisees, he says, “do what they tell you” (Matt 23:3), after all. Indeed, you don’t want the devil jumping over and destroying the garden of your soul, and “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat 5:20 NRSV). And anyone who truly loves God surely desires the latter with all their heart.

Holy Father, faithfulness, strict adherence, is not something contrary to the Gospel spirit.  It is an outpouring of a desire to be with God, just as “becoming religious” is in Judaism. Moreover, it is how we should be. The possibility of over-caution in keeping the Law, and warning against it, is not the same as saying the Law is at fault and can, or should, be broken or changed.  Of course, as Catholics, we believe that the Law is fulfilled in Christ.  I am not saying don’t have your bacon sandwich on Sunday morning! However, let us never forget that it is fulfilled, and so in its new state, we must continue to keep it with all our hearts.

Time will tell what the Church will make of Amoris Laetitia.  Until then, we pray and trust in God.  But please let us end this nonsense over faithfulness to Tradition and Church teaching is blind “rigidity”. It isn’t.  In the same way Jews are blamed for being rigid, but are, in fact simply doing everything to please God for the love of Him, so, too are those of us Catholics who are standing firm on Church teaching, and entering more deeply into the faith through an immensely enriching liturgy.

Yours sincerely,

A Hebrew Catholic.

New Di Clara Kids Vestment Sets.

Introducing the cutest way possible to foster vocations!

Gothic style Chasuble, Stole and Chalice Veil.

Made with REAL vestment orphrey bands, a real Di Clara label and exquisite embroidery, this childs vestment set is the closest thing your son will get to a real set of vestments before he becomes a real priest!

Children learn through play, and this is the perfect way for parents or First Holy Communion catechists to foster vocations and teach children about the different liturgical colours, different parts of the Mass and what happens on the altar.

I have a limited number of these before Christmas – I only have 1 set left of the Red and the Purple right now, so please buy now if you are interested to avoid disappointment. And please share with anyone who you think might be interested!

Thanks x

Dear LGBT Community, Come to Jesus and know how much you are loved.

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Orlando 2016

Dear LGBT community,

Come to Jesus and know how much you are loved. Every Christian is a sinner. The Church is just made up of a whole bunch of sinners in need of a saviour. So if you are a sinner too, you are gonna fit in just fine! Jesus doesn’t like people who point fingers at other people’s sin. When he saved a young woman from being stoned to death he looked at the crowed of accusers around her and told them:

“When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”” – (John 8:7)

Let me tell you about God…

God loves His children UNCONDITIONALLY. He loves you and me so much that He sent His only son Jesus to die on a cross to pay the price for our sins. He did this because He wants you and me to be with Him for all eternity after we die. He created you unique, special, beautiful, one of a kind.

“Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” – (Luke 12:7)

For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you God, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” – (Psalm 139)

Come and find out more about this love.

We are all sinners. Jesus wants to forgive us and set us free. He wants us to see ourselves through His eyes, so we can realise how much we are loved. Not once we decide to leave our old lives behind and follow Him, but RIGHT NOW. He loves you RIGHT NOW.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – (Romans 5:8)

Come to Jesus. Come and find out about how much He loves you. Come and find out about His mercy and forgiveness.

The terror attack in Orlando was a hate crime. It was carried out by a man who had learned to hate himself. He believed his religion hated him because he too was experiencing same-sex attraction.

If only he could have known the truth about how much he was loved by Jesus – even in the depths of his hate and despair, he was still loved. He didn’t know how much He was loved.

It is too late now. I commit him, and all those who were killed in the club that night to the mercy of God. They all now stand face to face with their creator. One day, we all will stand face to face with our creator.

You are angry, of course. But please don’t let that anger grow into hate. Instead come and learn about Love as you have never known it before.

God has a plan for your life. He wants you back. Turn to Jesus now and begin the most incredible relationship of your life.

Jesus, I don’t know who you are. Everything I’ve been taught about you doesn’t seem to make sense anymore. How can you love me when I am a sinner? How can you do that? I have turned my back on God many times  in my life Jesus. I want to come to you. Help me come to you and give my heart to you. I want to know who I am through your eyes. I want to know about Your love, Your mercy, Your forgiveness. I want to know how much you love me.

For all those affected by same-sex attraction please visit https://couragerc.org/

 

Christianity is the answer.

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I was watching my 2 year old playing along side a little muslim boy in the soft play center today and for some reason I started thinking “Those two will never be able to marry”. A strange thought considering they are both babies – but I’m right aren’t I? For them to be able to marry, one of them would have to convert to the others religion – or they would both have to renounce their religions. Whichever way it would cause enormous upset to both families. However at this toddler age, they can play together just fine. I smile at his headscarf wearing mother, and she smiles back. But we both know the score.

My 6 year old came home from school recently and told me confused that a muslim child had told her that “Jesus is a slave.” I had to compose myself before answering her. I quietly asked her “Who do we say that Jesus is?” she answered “The Son of God!”  I told her “That’s right!” .  And at 6 years old, that is enough – enough for today at least. There have been other questions about why so-and-so is not baptised and I tell her “Because their parents don’t understand why it is important. But hopefully they will realise for themselves when they are older.” And in the back of my mind I have to take control of the unpleasant thought: ‘I wish so-and-so was not in my daughter’s class.’

That, of course, is not a very inclusive or politically correct thought to have. What we have all be told by the powers that be is that multiculturalism is a good thing. Diversity is a good thing. And if you say otherwise it means that you are a racist and a bigot and you are basically Hitler – or at least that is what the militant lefties tell you. They probably learned that from this book when they were kids 😉 :

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But i’m afraid that is just not true. I’m not a racist or a bigot. What I am is a realist. It is obvious to me that two cultures of completely opposing beliefs are never going to fully integrate. We can live alongside each other with tolerance and respect, but we are never going to fully integrate. What multiculturalism has done is to set up a community of tension. It also serves to destroy national identity, because to be proud of your country and of your country’s faith heritage would be (according to the secularists) terribly offensive to those of other races or faiths.

Baloney.

This secular apologetic, pathetic attitude, along with the encouraged steady loss of morality and the wanton destruction of everything Christian has been the fertile ground in which the seeds of radical Islam has been firmly planted. And they have surely and steadily grown – and continue to do so. No government has effectively tackled the root cause of the problem. No government has had the balls to do so, because to do so would be to admit that all their efforts at multiculturalism and integration over the last 20 or so years has been at best a catastrophic failure, and at worst a co-ordinated and planned attack on Christian Europe and the UK. The problem is Islam. And still, still no-one in power is brave enough to stand up and say so. Mr. Cameron, Ms. Merkel, Mr Hollande, Mr Obama? Anyone? No.

Ask any vaguely educated Muslim and they will be able to tell you that the big issue within Islam is that there is no central teaching. In very much the same way that Protestantism works, each Imam is able to interpret the Qu’ran as he sees fit. And any man can set himself up as an Imam. This leaves the door wide open for misinterpretation of scripture. In Protestantism the end result of this is groups like Westbro Baptist Church. In Islam you get ISIS.

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Al-Azhar University

And though President Obama and other Western leaders have persistently attempted to divorce the ISIS from the religion of Islam, some influential members of the Muslim community apparently disagree. A report from 2014 notes that Egypt’s oldest Islamic university, Al-Azhar University, refuses to declare ISIS heretical to Islam.

The Al-Monitor’s Ahmed Fouad details the “honorable” Al-Azhar university’s official declarations concerning ISIS, which it refuses to condemn as apostate, or heretical to the teachings of Islam.

Back in Dec of 2014, the university issued a statement refusing to declare ISIS apostates. “No believer can be declared an apostate, regardless of his sins,” read the university’s statement, which was issued shortly after some interpreted an influential Nigerian Muslim authority as having pronounced the group heretical, which the university strongly denied.

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Now let me just make myself perfectly clear on something. I do not have issue with muslim people as such – but with their creed. It is what is written in the Qu’ran that I have the major problem with. People are made by God, for God, and people can change. Ideology cannot change, and what is written in the book can’t change. The fact that several verses in the Quran tell muslims to go kill their enemies does not sit well with me. In Christianity we are told to find ways to love our enemies – not kill them.

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Islam is the problem. Each muslim sect of course claims to be the correct one with the correct interpretation. And in some ways I actually find sympathy with those who are taking the radical path. After all – I am called to be a radical Christian. I understand this desire to give ones all to their faith. I also understand the desire to adhere to what is orthodox. It seems to me that the islamic radicals are simply adhering more closely to what it actually says in the Qu’ran, than the moderate muslims who are more ‘flexible’ in implementing their religious zeal. But is this radicalisation doing more harm to Islam than good?

Angry Muslim Protestors

Islam will reportedly become the world’s largest religion 55 years from now based on recent projections, but could the barbarous practices of the ISIS actually undermine the growth of the world’s Muslim population?

According to a recent Pew Research Center study, Christianity and Islam will be near parity by 2050, with Christians expected to comprise 31.4 percent of the planet’s population against 29.7 percent who follow Islam. The study said Islam will grow more than twice as fast as any other major religion over the next half century because muslims generally have a higher fertility rate than the contraceptive loving Europeans.

However, Muslims frightened by the inhumane acts by the ISIS are now questioning their faith, and presumably considering to leave it. This is backed by testimonies from missionaries working in the Islamic world who noted the large scale of Muslims who have converted to Christianity in the last 14 years since the devastating Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the US. The number of converts in the recent period, they said, is greater than during the entire 14 centuries of Islamic history.

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Brother Rachid

“Many Muslims are saying, ‘If ISIS is Islam, I’m leaving.’ Some are becoming atheists,” said Brother Rachid, who hosts a Christian program reaching Muslims called “Daring Questions” in Arabic language. “There is a huge wave of atheism in the Arab world right now and many are turning to Jesus Christ. Islam was never faced with this crisis before…Islam is going to collapse,” added Brother Rachid, whose father is a Moroccan imam who lived as a secret Christian convert for 15 years.

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Pastor Fouad Rasho

This is also the case in Angered Alliance Church in Sweden. Pastor Fouad Rasho, who has  in the last few years baptized more than a hundred former Muslims, maintained that ISIS causes many Muslims to come to Jesus. But most converts keep their shift in religion a secret, fearing for their lives and for being an outcast. Imram (not his real name), a British college student from a Pakistani immigrant family, said leaving Islam is tough:

“If someone leaves Islam and becomes an apostate, he is thrown out of his family; his family will be the first ones to abandon him,” he said. “(But) Every week I meet one or more persons who come to me and want to know more about Christianity and the Bible because they are very angry about being a Muslim. They don’t want to continue to be Muslim….His friends will reject him and he will be killed or he will be persecuted. A lot of my friends said, ‘This is the last time I’m talking to you because you disrespected the prophet Mohammed, you disrespected Islam.'”

 

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The liberation of women?

When Nassim Ben Iman came with his parents to Germany as immigrants from a Muslim nation, he remembers thinking that if Germany is a Christian nation, then Christianity is a dead, sinful religion. “So nakedness on the television is because of the Christian religion. Living together not married is because of the Christian religion.” Nassim recalled thinking. Of course what Nassim was witnessing was not the fault of Christianity, but the wanton destruction of Christian values and morality in general that europe has experienced over the last century. Thankfully Nassim discovered the truth and  has since converted to Christianity. “When the people understand who Jesus is, they will love Him and follow Him more and more. And when the Muslims understand more and more what Mohammed is, what the Koran is, what the history is, then they will go farther and farther away from Islam,”

Surely Europe, with is 80 million muslim migrant influx should be promoting Christianity to those arriving on its shores? But sadly the European militant secularists have seen to it that almost every last shred of Christian heritage has being destroyed, or at least suppressed from the national identity of Europeans. Because of this spiritual and moral void, politically correct Europe has become the perfect fertile ground in which the shoots of radical Islam can flourish. I really truly can understand why young European Muslims feel trapped between secularist atheism and radical Islam. But some are finding hope in Christianity.

Let us not be afraid to confront the twin demons of radical Islam and radical secularism, and offer the solution of Christianity to the poor lost souls who are victims of both.

 

Sources:

http://www.dailywire.com/news/2161/islams-oldest-university-says-isis-are-not-james-barrett

http://www.breakingchristiannews.com/articles/display_art.html?ID=16080

When God heaps crap on your life.

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Some smiting taking place here.

Well, as you know I am trying to give up worrying for lent. I have discovered so far that beauty has an important role to play in this as it reminds us that God is bigger than us and that He is good.

The next thing I am beginning to realise is how little time I spend praising God. Beauty inspires us to praise Him. But praising Him when we are going through a trial or period of suffering is not so straight forward. After all – why would I want to praise a God who is allowing me to suffer? Sometimes I think my bad attitude lends itself much more naturally to just lamenting about the fact that I generally feel so smited. I’d much rather just attend my own pity party.

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This sort of question about suffering cuts through to the real depths of our faith. I suppose the first answer here is to recognise that God allowed his Son to suffer. Does that make God a bad God? No, because through the suffering of His son is revealed our redemption, and God’s incredible love for us sinners.  Suffering, in accordance with God’s plan, achieves stuff.

Does it?

Yes. But we often can’t always see how or what it is achieving until we have come the other side of it. Then we can look back and realise how much we have grown.

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But it’s not easy, is it?

No. It’s not.

In my own experience  over the last two years I feel like I have been completely stripped back down to the bone in every area of my being: mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. God has then taken my bones and ground them down into dust – just to make sure He is getting His point across properly 😉

But  perhaps He is right? (Of course He’s right – He’s God!) But seriously, there must be a plan in all this right? That is what separates those with faith from those with no faith. I couldn’t imagine facing lifes trials with no faith in God’s plan because then the suffering would just be meaningless. In that frame of mind there is the opportunity to find utter despair. But with faith there is always hope – and openmindedness.

I had a rather good plan for my life. It involved us having lots of cash and a nice big house and a nice big car and me not having to work. And we were doing that. But it seemed that for all our hard work and planning, God had a different plan.

It seems that God thought it was much more important for my husband to have the opportunity to spend much more time with the children, to reassess where his life was taking him, and also to test our marriage and our faith in Him. I guess we were lacking in several areas right?!

Well, I was. I have never taken responsibility for myself as an adult. I absolutely made an Idol of my husband who has basically looked after me like a Dad for the last 17 years. That has to change right? God wants to be in first place in my life. And He wants me to live according to His will. It seems that for all my good intentions I was still living according to my will.

I guess my lack of praise to God only illuminates the self centred nature of my heart. My bad. I didn’t realise quite how little room I has given Him. I claim to love Him, yet when it comes to the crunch I am not happy to do His will. I guess sometimes God has to strip us back down to our bear selves and then crush our bones to be able to revive and rebuild them in His image. If I would just co-operate… the whole procedure would be a lot less painful for the both of us!

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This is me.

Psalm 51 says it well:

“…Indeed you love truth in the heart; then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom. Purify me, then I shall be clean; O wash me, I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear rejoicing and gladness, that the bones you have crushed may revive. From my sins turn away your face and blot out all my guilt. A pure heart create for me, O God, put a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, nor deprive me of your holy spirit. Give me again the joy of your help; with a spirit of fervor sustain me, that I may teach transgressors your ways and sinners may return to you. O rescue me, God, my helper, and my tongue shall ring out your goodness….” – Psalm 51

There is also my favorite Gospel, Luke 13:6-9, The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree:

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

In a nutshell, this Gospel tells us that if you are not producing enough good fruit, then God will heap a load of crap onto your life and agitate you until you do.

And on that note… enjoy your day 🙂

Hestemøj

 

Gunman attacks Priest, and then asks for Confession.

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I was shocked to hear the recent story of Fr John Hamlet. Fr Hamlet had been called out on an emergency hospital visit late at night on Ash Wednesday, but due to his car being currently in an unusable state he instead decided to catch a cab.

He managed to give the hospital patient the last rites and then after a short while started to make his way back home – this time on foot. He knew it was not advisable to be walking alone in that part of town late at night, but he did not have enough money to pay a second extortionate cab fare that evening – even though it was freezing cold.

As he turned into an alleyway that would shortcut 10 mins off his walk home, he suddenly realised he was being followed. He quickened his pace but soon realised that the end of the alleyway had been  blocked off by two dumpster bins. Before he knew it, Fr Hamlet was pushed into a doorway and a young man was holding a gun to his head.

“Give me your wallet” The young man shouted into his face. Terrified, Fr Hamlet agreed, and then indicated to the young man that he needed to unzip his coat to get his wallet from the inside pocket.

As he unzipped his coat the young man noticed his priestly collar and suddenly dropped the gun. “Oh I’m so sorry Father! I had no idea you were a priest – If I had known I never would have tried to rob you. I’m a terrible Catholic…” And the young man dropped to his knees and began to cry uncontrollably.

“That’s ok my son” said Fr Hamlet as he tried to console the young man. He asked the young man if he would like confession and the young gunman agreed. Feeling incredibly moved by the situation Fr Hamlet tried to make the young man feel better. “You know what – I don’t even have any money left in my wallet, but why don’t you take this packet of cigarettes instead? I know I could sure do with a smoke after tonight!”

“That is very kind of you Father” said the young man picking up his gun and placing it back in his trousers “But I’ve given up smoking for Lent!”

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Beautiful Lent.

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‘Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge’ – Monet.

How’s your Lent going?

Are you finding it easy? Then perhaps do a little something extra.

Are you struggling? Then perhaps ease off a bit and try something a little easier.

You see, it is not how much we are fasting, but with how much love we do it that charms the heart of Christ (St Therese of Lisieux). Sometimes the smallest things require the biggest effort. God sees all of this. It’s not an endurance test 🙂

I have been giving up my first cup of tea in the morning, and also trying my best to find a way of giving up worrying. My worry habit exposes my lack of trust in God and my reliance on myself. This is something that needs to be addressed, but it really is easier said than done. However, I have found one little thing that really has seemed to make a difference.

I was at my Mum’s house on Ash Wednesday and she handed me a CD. “You should listen to this – it’s really good!” (You know you are approaching middle age when your Mum recommends you music – and it IS actually really good!) It was a CD from Medjugorije made by the young men and women of the Cenacolo Community. It was basically a praise and worship CD – but she was right, it was REALLY good!

I found that listening to people who had allowed Christ to be in complete control of their lives, who were worshiping Him with such enthusiasm and openness really lifted my mood. The whole thing was just so good, so beautiful, that it seemed to remind me that there were things bigger than me and my problems.

I had the same experience today in the car when I accidently turned on Radio 3. They were playing Vaughan Williams and I don’t know what it was, but the sheer beauty of the music seemed to have the most profound calming effect on me. It was just so beautiful. I swear the medical profession should start using beauty as a treatment for all sorts of ailments. Yeah – beauty therapy! I guess that would make composers like Vaughan Williams and artists like Monet beauty therapists!!

I think beauty is extremely important during difficult times in our lives. Real beauty is an intensely spiritual thing that simply cannot be rationally explained. Beauty – I believe – is a purely human experience. I don’t think animals are touched in the same way by a piece of music or a beautiful sunset. I believe real beauty speaks directly to our immortal souls. It is God giving us a foretaste of the life to come. And that is perhaps what I find so calming about it – to know that this life’s problems are only temporary, and they will not exist in heaven.

I suppose you could look at beauty as being an incredible act of mercy – giving us hope and inspiring patience, forbearance and also creativity within us. It reminds us that God is bigger than us, and that He is good.

I found that my response to this beauty was not just awe and wonder, but incredible gratitude. And I feel that is a most appropriate feeling to dwell upon as we go further into Lent and head towards Holy Week.

Let Prayer be your Refuge this Christmas.

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For all you Americans… This is a Christmas pudding. We Brits like to pour brandy all over it and set it on fire when we bring it to the table. It’s awesome! (you wouldn’t understand 😉 )

Depending on your situation, Christmas can be completely overwhelming in different ways.

As a mother of 3 young kids it can get pretty hectic. In years passed I have literally been exhausted to the point of tears – which was a stupid position to let myself get into. It would take one wrong look from my husband and we would end up having a blazing row. I’ll never forget the time about 7 or 8 years ago he ended up calling me a b**ch at 11.30pm on Christmas Eve! I refused to open my presents for 3 DAYS!!! Lol! Thank God those days are over! We survived it, and came through, and the marriage carried on. Anyway it couldn’t have been that bad because I fell pregnant 4 weeks later with our 2nd!

Now we do less, have less, expect less, and Christmas tends to be a much happier time for everyone.

All I’m saying is that Christmas tends to amplify everything – including marriage issues. So just be aware of this and try to give each other a break. Don’t allow Satan to use this time to steal your joy, or use you to steal others joy.

Louis and Zelie Martin pray for us.

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This is a Yule Log. It is totally pagan but it has chocolate and cream so I allow it in our house!

And what about relatives? Find them difficult?! Yes. Everyone does. And the worst thing about it is that your job as a Christian is to try to share the Good news of our savior’s birth with a bunch of lousy atheists who insist on staying in your house, eating your food and telling your children that Christmas is all about the birth of Santa!

I guess the only thing I can say here is to pray to God for patience and charity! Remember that God made them, and wants them to come into a relationship with Him, and He may well be using you as the link to accomplish that. Try to understand that you have no idea what the Holy Spirit might doing within them right now, and that your prayers for them all this year will sure to be making a difference – you have been praying for them all year, right? Now is a good time to start 😉

But what if you don’t have a family? or you can’t be with your family? The other thing that people often find overwhelming at Christmas is loneliness.

Having never been alone at Christmas I can’t really comment on this other to say that I do know what it is to be in a room full of people, and be the loneliest person on the earth. Loneliness doesn’t just strike those who are physically alone. It can strike anyone at anytime of their lives, in any given situation.

What I used to detest here is when I used to pretend. On the outside everything was just fine and dandy, but on the inside I would be lost in the dark, drowning in a sea of lonliness. Those dark days are thankfully over, and it is only now when I look back that I see that that loneliness was from God. He was allowing me to enter deeply into the emptiness  of a society without Him, to see that what was being offered to me by the world would never, ever satisfy me. He was teaching me that I needed Him more than I needed air. Through the agony of my secret silent internal isolation He was preparing me for a relationship with Him.

That loneliness, that longing, was soon to start dissolving with that peace that only He can give. The peace of knowing where you belong, of being truly loved and valued. It is the same peace of a sleeping babe in the arms of its mother.

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This is a pantomime dame. It is the only time of year when parents pay to let their children be entertained by a old man in a dress pretending to be a woman (unless you subscribe to SKY TV and watch “I am Cait” – which I know none of you do of course. Apparently it’s hilarious (the pantomime I mean).

What ever you situation this year let prayer be your refuge. Allow God to use your situation to draw you deeper into relationship with Him. An hours meditation on Luke’s Gospel, 5 mins when you get the luxury of escaping the kids to go to the bathroom! Or just a simple glance up to God – a surge of your heart towards your infinitely powerful creator who comes to you today as a tiny helpless baby born to a teenage girl in a stable.

Mary has known chaos at Christmas entering Bethlehem on a flipping donkey for goodness sake!!! She has know longing and loneliness. She had a complicated marriage situation! Her husband was not the father of her Child. She had relatives some of whom no doubt did not understand her faith. But she also had Jesus.

As she held Him for the first time, as she look into the face of God, and kissed that little sweet face, everything else must have just melted away leaving her with the awe and wonder and glory of a newborn baby, and above all, Love.

I hope you have a wonderful, peaceful Christmas this year. Know that I will be remembering you all in my prayers – especially all you priests, giving everything and working so hard! Try not to get overwhelmed, and I look forward to hearing how Christ has made Himself known to you all this Christmas 2015. xx

“The air feels soft – like Christmas.”

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It was August 2015 a few days before the start of my husbands Lightning Process treatment for CFS that I knew something special was about to happen. Lying in bed in the dark and the silence, I could feel that feeling.

Sometimes it feels like the room is filled with angels, sometimes it feels like I am totally present – in front of a mirror of truth, and can see myself for who I really am. Quite often my heart just burns heavily inside my chest, a bit like when you are the early stages of being in love. Sometimes it is Jesus, sometimes it is Mother Mary, sometimes it is Teresa or Therese or Joseph. It is difficult to describe.

I know that not everyone feels this type of thing but for me it is a normal day to day thing. This doesn’t mean I am holier than other people – of course not, far from it! This is just the way that God has always made Himself known to me – ever since I was 4 years old.

So you can imagine my surprise when my  husband rolled over and said to me “Can you feel that? The air feels soft – like Christmas.”

“Yes” I said, “you know I can, But YOU can feel it too?!” 

The air was soft. It was the softness of a mother’s caress that seemed to say “It’s all finished now. Enough suffering, you are going to get well now.” She was  letting us know that she had not just seen our suffering, but she had been standing at the foot of our cross, every day since the beginning.

It happened a second night, and then a third. And it was then that I began to expect a miracle.

Nick’s recovery happened on the second day of the treatment. It was like flicking a switch. In the morning he was sick, in the evening he was well. He actually felt so ill that morning that he called to say that he wasn’t going to make it in. But they convinced him to go in for 10 mins or so 😉

And I knew that this was our last ditch attempt at getting him well before we would have to make some serious life decisions about selling the house and changing the kids schools. It was also pretty much the last strand of hope for keeping the marriage together. I’ve never really spoken of this before, but the effects of long term illness on a marriage with 2 young kids and a newborn baby, and the vulnerable state that puts you in is not to be underestimated. Without the intercession of St Joseph – protector of families, I don’t know what would have become of us.

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But none of that mattered anymore. Nick had gone in on that Tuesday morning as sick as i’ve ever seen him, and when he came out he was well. He has been well ever since. It happened on Tuesday 11th August – the feast of St Clare!

And for those of you who don’t know already he will be going back to work for the first time in 2 years in the new year 🙂 He went for one interview last week and they offered him the job on the spot!

This indescribably difficult period of our lives is now truly coming to an end.  Nick will be stepping back into the usual father/husband role, and I will GET MY HOUSE TO MYSELF once again for the first time in 2 years!!! (I will miss him desperately of course… 😉 )

The baby is 2 now and is going to start a few hours at nursery, and I will get a little more time to sew vestments. Things are really looking up for us now. Praise God! Praise the name of Jesus forever! And God bless His beautiful mother Mary who loves all her children, and stands at the foot of all of our crosses and suffers with us.