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Trip to celebrate the Presentation of the baby Jesus at the temple, written by Br Raphael

It was a cold Friday morning as we headed up to Norwich for the Religious Day of the Diocese of East Anglia. We travelled in a small yet cute car, with Fr Bruno being the driver, alongside Brs Ulises, Stefan, Bede and myself. The size of the car gave an opportunity to those who sat at the back to be closely united in our brotherhood.

It was fitting that the Friars Preachers should also participate in the Religious event that took place at the Cathedral church of the Preacher who prepared a way for the Lord’s coming, St. John the Baptist. At our arrival, we met a lovely lady named Clare, who’s very fond of the Dominicans, a huge football fan and a close friend of Fr Philip Mulryne OP – the ex-professional footballer, who is now a Dominican Friar in the Irish Province. Being an Arsenal fan myself, I learned, after a while, that Clare was a Tottenham fan. Now, Arsenal and Tottenham fans are not the best of friends, but, fortunately, that was not the case in our situation, thanks to my Dominican habit I suppose!

The solemn Mass was celebrated by Bishop Alan Hopes, of East Anglia, alongside numerous religious priests. All of us religious brothers and sisters who had gathered there proceeded into the Mass with lit candles. Now I love candles and to see them lit at a religious setting; they always make me think of the words of our Lord, ‘I am the light of the world’ (Jn 8:12). And of course, it was the feast of Jesus being the light of the nations (Is 49:6). One thing that struck me during the Bishop’s sermon was, addressing the religious brethren saying, ‘you are the hope of the world. In a world that is subjected to sex, wealth and obedience to worldliness, you become the light in it through your vows of chastity, poverty and obedience to God’.

Our Lord indeed said, ‘You are the light of world’ (Mt 5:14) and those whom the Lord chooses to follow Him in a more intimate and deeper way will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life (Jn 8:12). Of them St. Paul says: ‘In a crooked and perverse generation, you shine like stars in the world.’ (Phil 2:15). To see so many of them, celebrate the Holy Sacrifice together and to share a meal with them, was a real joy.

I sat for lunch with Sr Michaela of the Sisters of Divine Charity. She was very excited to find my name to be Raphael because hers being Michael, and mine being Raphael, there was another sister whose name was Gabriella. She said that was the first time where all three Biblical Archangels had united for these yearly Religious Days. With Bishop Alan, all of us enjoyed a very delicious lunch.

After lunch, us novices together with the novice master, Fr Bruno, went out to Norwich town for a mini exploration. First, we went to the old Dominican Priory which now functions as a student hall. It was sad that the priory and the church did not belong to the Dominicans anymore, but hopefully the Lord will restore it back to us in future with an increase of Dominican vocations. We then visited the shrine of Julian of Norwich and spent some time in her cell where she received all her mystical experiences with our loving Lord. She had said, ‘God loved us before he made us; and his love has never diminished and never shall’, which made me think of the word of the Lord: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love.’ (Jer 31:3)

It was a beautiful day where us religious presented ourselves before the presence of the Lord God, together with the presentation of His Son Jesus Christ to the temple. And in one voice, we all sang together: ‘Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine, secundum verbum tuum in pace’ (Lk 2:29-32)

Benedictus Deus!