Friday, 17 August 2012

Preparing for Vows 1

The British Province of Carmelites are looking forward to the Solemn Profession of vows of their brother Ged Walsh. Over the coming weeks Br Ged will share his thoughts as he prepares for this decisive moment in his life.


My name is Brother Gerard Walsh; I am a Carmelite friar in first vows, living in our community in York, England.  I am currently working in chaplaincy, dividing my time between the University of York and the York Hospital.  Earlier this year I applied and was accepted for Solemn Profession of Vows, which will take place at The Friars, Aylesford in October.  Here I will publically profess the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience to God within the Order of Carmelites for life.  Over the next weeks I will blog how my preparation is progressing both practically and spiritually.

With the end of the academic year and my family holiday enjoyed, I have been able to devote more time to preparing for the big day in October, on the practical level I have invites to do and a booklet to prepare as well as hymns to choose.  I suppose the more important of the preparation occurs more interiorly and to help facilitate this, a candidate for Solemn Profession is required to undertake 30 days retreat, in order to have the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of what God is asking of you. 

The retreat can be undertaken in a variety of ways, some complete the retreat in one go, as one of our Spanish brothers has recently done in Aylesford.  I have chosen to divide my time up, and have just returned from two weeks at Mount Saint Bernard Abbey, a Cistercian monastery in Leicestershire.  I wanted to follow closely the timetable of the monks which is built around the Divine Office of the Church, beginning at 3.30am with the office of Vigils and ending at 7.30pm with the office of Compline.  The early start was not a big problem but trying to stay awake between the Vigils and Morning Prayer at 7am did take a lot of hard work, and I admit I did doze occasionally during this time.

During the day I would meet with one of the monks were I would have the chance to discuss any issues which had occurred either during prayer or whilst I was walking in the countryside around the abbey.  I was able to journal it down which helped aid the discussion.  The monk would also give me a topic/area to reflect and pray with, these varied from looking at the vows to the idea of commitment and more importantly what and who I am committing to.  The monastic atmosphere and especially the silence greatly contributed to me undertaking these tasks in a quiet and reflective way.

The retreat has been immensely beneficial and has left me with much to ponder over the next months leading to this important day in my life as a religious.  Next week I will take part on the Provincial pilgrimage to the Marian shrine of Lourdes, France were I will help in the care of the assisted pilgrims, this will also be a time of prayer and reflection where I can place all my intentions, especially the forthcoming profession into the hands of May, the Mother of God at the shrine were she appeared to St. Bernadette some 150 years ago.

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