I should have pointed out that a couple of weeks ago I was featured on the website of the British Province of Carmelites. You can read it here, along with a horrible photo of me after I'd received the Brown Scapular.
The story rather ominously concludes with the line,
We hope to follow Roy's progress in the year ahead through news items on this website, particularly his reflection on the Carmelites who lived and died in Dachau.So I really ought to start talking about Carmelites.
I got to know the Carmelites, a Roman Catholic Order of Friars, Nuns and Lay people, while at University in York. In many ways I am the person I am today thanks to their time, patience and presence, and they continue to challenge the way I live and think with their simple message of silence and contemplative living. They were quite struck by my placement at Dachau, not least because some of their brothers were interred here during the worst periods. Dachau was the central camp for geistlichen, religious prisoners who had opposed the Nazi regime in their respective countries. Among them were two Carmelites, Hilarius Januszewski and Titus Brandsma, who would later be beatified by the Catholic Church. Many of the brothers knew personally of Br. Raphael Tijhuis, who lived at their international college in Rome for over thirty years and who was haunted by his Dachau nightmare for the rest of his life.
The Carmelites are indeed still here. The Discalced Carmelite community of the Karmel Kloster Heilig Blut (of the Holy Blood) was established in 1964/65 and continue to pray for reconciliation through a life of prayer and solitude. I popped in for Non, a prayer of the Hours at 3pm, the other day and had a chat with the sister running the shop, in which you can buy rosaries and books looking at Dachau from a spiritual perspective. She seemed very pleased with the Carmelite connection!
Afterwards, I bought a new set of rosary beads. In the rush to pack I forgot to bring my York ones, which were on the altar at my reception into the Church two and a half years ago. I have been touched by Br Raphael's memoirs, in which he talks often of how he missed his rosary beads and risked a severe beating to pray the rosary while working on the Plantation opposite the camp.
It makes me wonder if I should try praying it more often while I'm here. Perhaps it would be appropriate to exercise that right denied to so many.