Since the Second Vatican Council's Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, many prayer groups have sprung up, groups of varying descriptions; all to find a deeper understanding of life, a deeper knowledge of God, In a somewhat Godless world, people are now once again looking for Him and one way in which they endeavour to find Him are in these groups. Some groups meet in homes, others in church halls to discuss and pray. One such group of lay people is the "Centre of Our Lady of Mount Carmel" in Bristol.
Their meeting place is not a home nor a hall but the church, for it is their aim to give greater honour to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and this is promoted through what they call Rosary Circles, This is the recitation of the Rosary in front of the Blessed Sacrament. This Centre started in 1969, and in 1971 the Bishop of Clifton gave his blessing and approval to the Centre and its aims. At the time of writing there arc forty five such Rosary Circles, most are five nights a week when the laity themselves go to their parish churches and recite the Rosary.
In many parishes this may be two or three times a week. The number of people who attend varies according to the area. in some Rosary Circles there are anything from fifteen to twenty per night, in others seven or eight. Most of these Rosary Circles are now in their second and third year. Every two months
Newsletters are sent to all Rosary Circles to maintain a link. Also every two months, meetings are held at St. Mary-on-the-Quay, Bristol for all those within travelling distance.
At these meetings a priest is guest speaker and afterwards there is an open discussion. Always the aim is to maintain a higher spiritual level. The Centre is open to all age groups, all classes, all races. No discrimination is made whatsoever, for they see that all are seeking Christ and what better way than through His Mother.
How many have been brought closer to Christ through His Mother? To name one outstanding Saint, Bernadette Soubirous. It was St. Bernadette who said that "we should be like a child with its mother, this is how we should always be with our Lady." When Bernadette was dying she said "Let 1 by Cross be not only before my eyes, and on my breast, but living in me."
In all the great Marian shrines, i.e. The Chapel of the Apparitions, Paris, Fatima and Lourdes, we find that they are first and foremost Eucharistic. as though Mary is saying "There He is." At Lourdes Our Lady did not say there would be miracles. She asked that "Pilgrims come hither" For what? To pray, to do penance, to honour Her Son.
Miracles there have been, but this was not the main aim of Our Lady's appearance at Lourdes. Her aim was to bring us all closer to Christ: This is the same at Fatima ana wherever Our Lady has appeared. This is the aim of the Centre of Mount Carmel. Every church could be a shrine. for we have Christ there truly present, and therefore the Rosary groups wish to do what Our Lady requested at Lourdes and Fatima.
Every four months the Centre holds All Night Vigils at St. Maryon-the-Quay, Bristol. There is Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament throughout the Vigil and a programme of Readings, Rosary, Homilies and times for Private Meditations. At 5 a.m. the Vigil's climax is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. During the six All Night Vigils held to date, 2,800 people have attended, and the Centre attributes this to the intercession of Our Lady. In October a Conference is to be held at the Victoria Rooms, Bristol. entitled "Our Lady and the Holy Eucharist," Theuest Mervyn
Alexander, will be Bishop Alexander, Auxiliary of Clifton and Fr. Francis Ripley. The chairman will be Fr, V. Norbury, Si. The Centre hopes that as many people as possible will come to this Conference which will be on Saturday October 13 from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Admission is free, for once again the Centre makes it clear that it is not out to raise money, only to raise prayer. The Conference will end with concelebrated Mass at Clifton Cathedral.