Monday, November 28, 2016

It's Advent!

Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent which is a reminder to gather fir branches, holly and ivy for the Advent wreath.

Advent wreaths are usually the first Christmas decorations to go up, followed by the Christmas tree.


People have already started to wish one another “Happy Christmas”. But it’s not Christmas yet. The season of Advent has just begun – a time of waiting and preparation in joyful hope and expectation.

Take a look at this 2 minute clip which explains what Advent is all about...


Sunday, November 27, 2016

To West Africa and Back

                                     (Thaddeus Jude, Ronald Anthony & John Mary) 

I have returned from a visit to our Brothers in West Africa. I joined them for their three-day Province Chapter Assembly in Sunyani, a two hour drive from the second largest city Kumasi in Ghana. The purpose of the gathering was to prepare for the forth coming Chapter in Rome in April, 2017. There were discussions on matters of relevance to the Province and reports were made on the developments during the past six years. Delegates were also elected to represent the Province at the Congregation Chapter in April. I took time to visit our student community in Sunyani where three Brothers are studying at the Catholic University.

Following the meeting, I travelled a day-long journey to the Upper East Region where the Presentation Brothers have established a number of other communities, our newest at Logre, close to the Sahara desert. I met with friends and visited some of our ministries in the area. It was great to witness the wonderful work and progress being made by the Brothers since my departure in 2011.

I visited an impressive completed and furnished Educational Outreach Centre (EOC) building which includes a resource library, computer room with laptops and multi-purpose hall. The EOC project exhibits a high level of innovation in its aim to benefit not just the Presentation schools at Logre but also the students, teachers and parents from other participating local schools and communities in the area.

While there, I also celebrated the Feast of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple on November 21st in our community in Navrongo. The wider Presentation Family joined us for the occasion and three young men began their journey with the Brothers in a meaningful ritual on this special day, all adding to the significance of a wonderful day for the Province and the Congregation. Preparations were also in hand for the Final Profession of Br. Franklin Bilipe on December 10th.


Prior to my arrival in the North were students from Presentation College, Bray. They undertook a ten-day immersion trip to Ghana during their mid-term break. The students spoke passionately of their visit and it was clear that the experience had a massive effect on all of them. The students have captured their memories on our gallery page; presentationbrothers.org/Gallery Page. It was a very inspirational, encouraging and life-giving visit.  

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

In November we Remember!

We celebrate the feast of All Saints on November 1st which reminds us that October 31 truly is All Hallows Eve. It is the beginning of the last month in the Church’s Year so we call on all the saints of all time to intercede for us before the Lord. We have many saints in the Church calendar. The Church devotes the month of November to prayer for our loved ones beginning with All Souls Day on November 2nd. Often overshadowed by the two days preceding it, Halloween (Oct. 31st) & All Saints Day (Nov 1st), All Souls Day is a solemn celebration commemorating all of those who have gone before us! Indeed, the Church encourages us during the month of November to take time to pause, remember and pray for all our loved ones.   

But the month is not limited to the many saints whose names are in the calendar and are celebrated at an appropriate date with a feast day and memory. It includes all the faithful departed who have gone before us and are now in the presence of the Lord. The vast majority of these are not canonised but are known to those with whom they lived and loved. We all know many good people whose lives were exemplary and a testament to all those around them. During the month of November, we have all of these in mind as we remember with confidence our saints.

Many people pay a visit to a cemetery with a flower or a night light. ‘It is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be freed to eternal life. In prayer we are in God’s presence and we believe we are in some way in communion with our loved ones. 

We may wish of course to avoid talking about death, we don’t like being reminded of our mortality. Woody Allen famously quipped, “I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” It strikes a chord because that is how many of us deal with death. We joke about it while keeping our real thoughts and fears to ourselves.

Some of our deceased relatives we got to say goodbye to, while others left us before any goodbyes could be exchanged. By remembering our deceased in prayer or by visiting their resting place is an attempt at saying we haven’t forgotten them and that they will always be a special part of our lives.  

It’s a custom too in Ireland to abstain from alcohol and or cigarettes during the month of November. Fasting and sacrifice help us to focus our mind on prayer. ‘I’ve given up alcohol. And, yes, it’s tough!’ As we spend the month recalling the example of people of faith who went before us, spare a thought for your future too. Would life as a religious help you to be the saint that you are called to be?

May all our loved ones who have died, rest in peace!






Saturday, October 29, 2016

Happy Halloween


We are about to move from the month of October to November and there is a sense of time slipping by very quickly. A reminder of that is in the shops and at the entrance to our houses. They are awash with ghoulish and macabre Halloween outfits and accessories.  Grinning skulls, skeleton costumes and fake tombstones can be purchased. Witches’ broomsticks and wizards’ wands are accompanied by various images and symbols marked with an RIP.  It’s all very different from the simple Halloween apples and nuts festivities of my childhood. Rightly so, time moves on and social habits change. 

The word Halloween has been corrupted with time. It's full title is ALL HALLOWS EVE, which means 'the evening before All Saints'. 'Hallow' is another word for holy or saint. We meet it in the common version of the Our Father. 

Halloween has its origins in Celtic times associated with the ancient Gaelic festival of 'Samhain', which was a celebration of the end of the harvest season and take stock of supplies and prepare for the winter. It was at this time of the year a celebration of the transition from light to darkness was ritualised. Our Celtic ancestors also believed that the boundary between our world and that of the dead was very thin; they believed the spirits of the dead returned. The veil between this world and the next was at its weakest, demons crossed over from the beyond and extracted their revenge on those they felt scorned by, carrying you or yours back to hell with them. People wore masks and costumes to mimic or appease the spirits. I wonder if the death-themes in our Halloween celebrations are an attempt to recapture the spirit of the Feast of All Souls, on November 2, when Christians remember and pray for their deceased relatives!

We may think Halloween is silly nonsense driven by commercialism and a waste of money. In recent times, it is very much a children's feast with their custom of dressing up in various scary costumes and visiting the houses in the neighbourhood. At the door they shout 'Trick or Treat' - implying that they would play some trick on the people if they did not receive some treat from them. Children love it and always will. Halloween has a lot to offer. It can put us in touch with the mystery of life and that some things in life are often clouded in darkness. It puts us in touch with the struggle between light and darkness and the struggle between good and evil. Halloween may have pagan origins but it embraces the Christian message too. It’s a simple Halloween message that God calms, encourages and reassures us, especially when we struggle with darkness, evil, mystery and the unknown. Enjoy a happy and safe Halloween break!       


Monday, October 24, 2016

October, Month of Mission.



Each year the focus is put on mission during the month of October. In the past when we thought of mission we thought of the thousands of heroic Irish women and men who went all over the world giving of their time to work with people in spreading the Gospel. There are almost 1,200 Irish missionaries serving throughout the world. During the month of October, we celebrate the work of our missionaries, remembering them in our prayers and asking God's blessing on the good work that they do.


However we have a wider sense of mission today. Pope Francis gives us the theme for mission month, and for World Mission Sunday on 23 October, when he says, ‘Every Christian is a missionary’. Today every country is mission territory, every Christian, each one of us is called to witness to the joy of the Gospel in our families, in the factories and on the farm, in offices and schools and in the places where we socialise. Being a missionary in this sense can be as simple as an encouraging word, a smile, reaching out to a neighbour in need, being with people who grieve, encouraging or being patient with the young or the old. That is how the Gospel is spread. And for most of us that ‘home mission’ is the difficult challenge we face everyday.

If you would like to be a missionary or wish to find out more about the Presentation Brothers, don't hesitate to email me;vocation@presentationbrothers.org. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Careers Fair!

I had two wonderful days at the Vocations Ireland stand in Rochestown Park Hotel recently. Vocations Ireland was one of many stands at the Institute of Guidance Counsellors Careers Fair in Cork. Vocations Ireland offer an information service to young adults who may be exploring the different religious congregations, priesthood, single life or married life. Vocations Ireland also offers programmes throughout the year such as Samuel groups and ExploreAway. I invite you to visit our website; www. vocationsireland.com
There was a constant footfall to the Vocations Ireland stand throughout the two days. Young people collected literature and engaged with us expressing their concerns about matters relating to them in their lives. Many of their questions were about the life of a Brother, Sister or Priest. Some said they had thought about being a brother, sister or priest or would consider the possibility among their career options in the future. They were articulate and not shy in expressing their views, they challenged us and some had very simple advice for anyone considering a call to religious life. “If you’re strong with your faith, go for it.”
The young people were respectful, very inquisitive and they were very aware of the need of an increase in vocations at this time seeing what is happening in their own schools and parishes. They are a credit to their parents, teachers and schools. It was a very positive, interesting and informative experience.
During the two-day career fair, 5,500 pupils throughout the county and further attended. 



Thursday, October 6, 2016

An Autumn Psalm


O sacred season of autumn, be my teacher, for I wish to learn the virtue of contentment.

As I gaze upon your full-coloured beauty, I sense all about you an at-homeness with your amber riches.

You are the season of retirement, of full barns and harvested fields.

The cycle of growth has ceased, and the busy work of giving life is now completed.

I sense in you no regrets: you’ve lived a full life.

I live in a society that is ever-restless, always eager for more mountains to climb, seeking happiness through more and more possessions.

As a child of my culture, I am seldom truly at peace with what I have.

Teach me to take stock of what I have given and received; may I know that it’s enough, that my striving can cease in the abundance of God’s grace.

May I know that like you I am rich beyond measure.

As you, O Autumn, take pleasure in your great bounty, let me also take delight in the abundance of the simple things of life, which are the true source of joy.


With the golden glow of peaceful contentment may I truly appreciate this autumn day.

                                                                                                                              (E. Hays)