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Posts Tagged ‘Notting Hill Carmel’

I was at Blackfriars in Cambridge for Mass last week, which is the novice house for the Dominican Friars of England and Scotland. It was a joy to meet the four new novices over coffee afterwards, just a couple of weeks after they had arrived and exchanged their everyday clothes for the Dominican habit.

And a few days before I happened to be visiting the Carmelite sisters in the monastery at Notting Hill, London. Three women have begun their postulancy here over the last few months, with another due to join them this autumn.

So that’s eight new religious vocations this year in just two random houses! Something is certainly stirring in vocational terms in this country at the moment.

Something is speaking to people: about the value of religious life, the beauty of the evangelical vows (of poverty, consecrated celibacy, and obedience), the importance of prayer and community, the urgency of mission (whether the mission of apostolic work or of monastic prayer), and the adventure of giving your life without reservation to Christ in these particular ways.

Religious life, of course, is not the only way of giving your life to Christ; but to those who are called it becomes a way of living their faith and embracing the radicalism of the Gospel that seems to make sense of everything they have believed and desired before.

If you want to learn a bit more about the Dominicans or Carmelites, I’ve copied a few paragraphs below.

First of all, take a look at this video from the English Dominicans:

This is from the Irish Dominican website:

Dominican friars are engaged in an incredible spiritual adventure: living from the passion for the salvation of souls which, eight centuries ago, set fire to the heart of St Dominic and to the hearts of his first companions. This haste to announce the Gospel in truth produces three characteristics in a Dominican friar.

Men of the Word

A primordial taste for the Word of God marks Dominican friars. The Word demands to be meditated ceaselessly and lived without compromise. Never satisfied, the brothers take every opportunity to promote and engage in the study of the Word of God.

Compassion

Concern for the poorest found in the compassion of St Dominic and of his brothers a never ending response. No element of human existence is foreign to Dominicans. Mercy is the path, the tone and the mystery of the friar preacher. When making his commitment to live as a Dominican friar, a brother’s reply to the question “What do you seek?” is “God’s mercy and yours”.

Proclamation of Christ’s Good News in poverty

The original preaching of St Dominic while in contact with Catharism impressed upon the friars that the proclamation of the Gospel could be done only through authentically evangelical means (see the Gospel according to Mark, chapter six, beginning at verse seven). Joining others and understanding them imposes a lifestyle like that of the apostle: a life that is lived in common and one that is itinerant.

In practice, such a lifestyle is lived as a “religious life” with its own essential characteristics: the four elements particular to the friars preachers.

Conventual Life

Animated by the rule of St Augustine, the friars live together the same call coming from the one person who calls: Christ. Living as brothers, they strive to love each other, to forgive each other and to live the Gospel in community before living it outside the community.

To pass on to others what we have contemplated

Preaching finds its vitality in a life of prayer which is both personal and in common. Preaching, when at its best, is a truly contemplative act. The brothers are called to be simultaneously contemplative and fundamentally missionary.

The vows

Poverty, obedience and chastity make us men who try to consecrate ourselves for the adventure of the Kingdom of God.

Study

All our personal, community, intellectual and spiritual energy makes us useful for the souls of others, whether they be near to us or far away: useful by our word and by our example

We are consecrated for the proclamation of the Word of God, proclamation which is done using all the means available to us: preaching, confession, teaching, publishing, spiritual accompaniment, humble presence… Preaching animates what we do or what we live, to the point that our communities (“priories” or “convents”) have been called the “holy preaching”.

And this is from the Notting Hill Carmel website:

The mission of the Carmelite is to enter, by the total gift of herself, into the saving mission of Christ, who gave himself for us that we might come to a fuller life in God, and who said: Love one another as I have loved you.

The Carmelite is one with all people, everywhere, those who believe, those who search and those who do not know that they are searching, and she identifies with all that is great and worthy of humanity’s endeavour. Yet she is called to a way of life that is in many ways counter-cultural: to live quietly, against the background noise of the city; to live simply and sparingly in an increasingly wasteful age; to live hidden and unnoticed in a competitive society; above all, to live lovingly and generously in an aggressive and violent world.

In her contemplative prayer, the Carmelite carries the needs and hopes of every person before God, lifting the face of humanity to the Father and opening her heart to be a channel of his outpouring love for all.

Carmelite spirituality is profoundly contemplative, born in the hermit tradition and nurtured by the two famous Spanish mystics, St. Teresa of Jesus and St. John of the Cross. It is rooted in the word of God, having had its beginnings in the land of the bible. The earliest Rule instructs us: “In all you do, have the Lord’s word for accompaniment”. The biblical figures of Mary and Elijah are our first inspiration. The prophetic message of Elijah encourages us to proclaim in our own times: “He is alive! The Lord God in whose presence I stand”; and Mary teaches us how to make ourselves fully available to God.

The Church’s liturgy creates the framework of our lives. Seven times a day we come together to pray the psalms, hear the word of God and intercede for the manifold needs of the world, especially for those intentions that have been entrusted to our prayer.

Prayer is Carmel’s particular form of service to the church. We spend an hour each morning and each evening in silent prayer. These times of special openness to God nourish an entire life of prayer that tends towards God in everything.

The measure of silence and solitude necessary for a sustained life of prayer is balanced by the demands of building real community, so that this biblical, contemplative, ecclesial, Marian spirituality becomes also a spirituality of communion.

For the followers of the great Carmelite teachers, the essence of prayer is relationship. This means intimate, personal relationship with God, honest relationship with oneself, and an inclusive, all-embracing relationship with the whole community and the whole wide world.

These are just two examples of religious life in this country. Let’s hope that these houses, and many others, can continue to grow and flourish.

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[UPDATED VERSION BELOW WITH FULLER LIST OF UK SCREENINGS – posted at 6 April 2010]

In a previous post I wrote about the film No Greater Love, a documentary about the Carmelite sisters in Notting Hill. Here are the details about its cinematic release next month. Do go and see it if you get the chance. See this note from the producer:

I am writing to tell you about a film I have produced called No Greater Love. After 10 years of correspondence, Michael Whyte was given unrestricted access to the closed Carmelite Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity in London’s Notting Hill. The film gives a unique insight into a world of prayer and contemplation away from the materialism of contemporary society and explores what it means to live a life of faith. Critics have said about the film: “Courageous, compelling, and deeply moving” (**** Empire). And  “This is a beautiful, informative and inspiring study of a way of life defiantly at odds with the glitzy priorities and frenetic pace of the outside world.” Edinburgh Film Festival

No Greater Love
will be released in cinemas in the UK and Ireland on April 9th 2010 and will be available on DVD in the summer.  Many of the screenings will be followed by a Q & A with the Director Michael Whyte. There follows a list of screening dates and venues (unfortunately screening times are not confirmed until 4 or 5 days before),  which are also available on our website: http://www.nogreaterlove.co.uk  For further information please phone Soda Pictures Tel: 020 7377 1407.

London Screening Times and Information
There will be a screening at the Renoir Cinema, The Brunswick, London, WC1N 1AW, on Monday 12th April at 6.05pm followed by a Q & A with the Director Michael Whyte. You can book tickets via the Renoir’s website: http://www.curzoncinemas.com/box_office/book_tickets/dlydkq
or by phoning: 0871 703 3991  

No Greater Love  will also screen from 9th April for a week of matinées, time to be confirmed, at the Gate Cinema, Notting Hill Gate, London. There will be a Q & A with the director on 10th April.   To book tickets or for further information regarding screening times please phone the Gate Cinema 0871 704 2058

Other London Screenings:
9th April + Q & A at Lexi Cinema, Kensal Rise, London tel: 0871 7042069
13th April plus Q & A’s at Rich Mix Cinema, Bethnal Green, London E.1. Tel:  020 7613 7498
And Genesis Cinema, Mile End Road, London E1 tel: 020 7780 2000
16th April + Q & A at HMV Curzon, Wimbledon, London
16th May + Q & A Riverside Studios, Hammersmith, London,

Other screenings in the UK:
9th April & 7th May at the Cameo, Edinburgh tel: 0871 704 2052
14th April + Q & A at the Nottingham Broadway Tel: 0115 952 6611
19th April + Q & A at the Bristol Watershed Tel: 0117 927 5100
21st April + Q & A at the Cornerhouse, Manchester Tel: 0161 200 1500
23rd April at the Filmhouse Edinburgh tel: 0131 228 2688
26th April at the Glasgow Film Theatre, Tel: 0141 332 6535
30th April at the Little Theatre, Bath, Tel: 01225466 822
30th April at the Phoenix Leicester Tel: 0116 2422800
1st May at the Belmont, Aberdeen Tel: 01224 643 498
16th May at the Queens Film Theatre, Belfast, Tel: 028 9024 4857
16th May + Q & A at Norwich Cinema City tel: 0871 704 2053
18th May at Stamford Arts Centre Tel: 01780 753 458
23rd May at Exeter Picturehouse Tel: 01392 285 960
24th May at Dukes Lancaster Tel: 01524 598 501
25th May + Q & A at Chapter Cardiff Tel: 029 2031 1050
26th May + Q & A at Oxford Phoenix Tel 0871 704 2062

Thank you for your support and help. Kind regards, Janine Marmot
Hot Property Films Ltd
http://www.nogreaterlove.co.uk  

No Greater Love wins Audience Award for Best Feature Film at Berlin Britspotting Film Festival,

No Greater Love has screened at the following Festivals:

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Not many people would know that there is an enclosed monastery of contemplative nuns in a fashionable district of west London. Michael Whyte has just finished a documentary film about life in Notting Hill Carmel and, remarkably, it is getting a national cinematic release in April. You can visit the monastery site here; and the site of the film here (with some beautiful images, and an online trailer).

After ten years of correspondence, Michael Whyte was given unprecedented access to the monastery of the Most Holy Trinity, in London’s Notting Hill. The monastery, which was founded in 1878, is home to the Discalced Order of Carmelite Nuns. The nuns lead a cloistered life dedicated to prayer and contemplation, rarely leaving the monastery except to visit a doctor or dentist. Silence is maintained throughout the day with the exception of two periods of recreation.

No Greater Love gives a unique insight into this closed world where the modern world’s materialism is rejected; they have no television, radio or newspapers. The film interweaves a year in the life of the monastery with the daily rhythms of Divine Office and work. Centred in Holy Week, it follows a year in which a novice is professed and one of the senior nuns dies. Though mainly an observational film there are several interviews, which offer insights into their life, faith, moments of doubt and their belief in the power of prayer in the heart of the community.

I was lucky enough to go to a screening this week. I’ve known the community for a few years because they have links with the seminary where I work. A key part of the Carmelite vocation is to pray for priests, and the sisters at Notting Hill pray each day for the priests and seminarians of Westminster Diocese. We visit them once a year in small groups, and chat in the ‘parlour’. So it was a real eye-opener to see what goes on ‘behind-the-scenes’ after all this time.

St Therese in  Notting Hill Carmel by Catholic Church (England and Wales).

Some of the sisters (at the visit of the relics in October)

I was struck, perhaps inevitably, by the silence; but also by the noises that emerge from this silence. One of the sisters explained that they don’t feel disconnected from the city, because they are there to pray for the city, and to live at its heart. And you could see and hear these very connections in the background: the sound of a siren, of a train pulling out of Paddington Station; the sight of a police helicopter flying over, seen above the arms of a wooden crucifix in the garden.

Some of the sisters talked about their vocations, and about the struggles of prayer. It was very real. Moments of joy; moments of darkness and boredom — sometimes lasting for years. You had a sense, throughout the film, that they knew who they were and what they were doing. Simple things: cooking, cleaning, gardening, caring for the sick, swapping news and stories (in the time of recreation each evening), kneeling in the chapel. Simple things that add up to a huge commitment of life.

One sister took evident delight in taking a chainsaw to an overgrown tree; and the director seemed to take an equal delight in cutting abruptly to this scene from the silence of the Chapel.

The final shot was breathtaking. Only at the very end, after following the sisters within the confines of the monastery walls for what amounted to a year, did the director use an aerial shot and pan back from the monastery to the surrounding streets and housing estates — and to the whole of west London. You realised that this monastery, so hidden away and unacknowledged, is truly part of the beating heart of London.

I’ll post again when I hear details about when and where the film is showing.

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