Saturday, April 8, 2017

Be Patient!


I find the readings at Mass during this Easter season joyful and life-giving. Aside from the beautiful Gospel readings on Sundays there are other very interesting passages. They are very relevant to those of us who live in the Western World where the Church faces many pressures.

The Acts of the Apostles reminds us that times were difficult also for the first Christians. The early Church faced challenges from within and without. Challenges from within were of hypocrisy (Acts 5: 1–3); murmuring (Acts 6 – 1) and doctrinal questions (Acts 15: 1). The major external challenge was one of persecution (Acts: 4: 1-3; 5: 17–18). The challenges that face us as we follow Christ are both internal and external. Persecution of Christian minorities is all too common today. The threat to Christians and Christian places of worship is now a worldwide phenomenon.

In reflecting on the readings of these weeks I also think of the question, “Who will roll away the stone?” posed by the women on their way to the tomb. I find an answer from St. Paul when he reflects on the struggle that is part of human life in Romans 7, telling us, “It is the Lord!”

The stone is rolled away and we are opened up to new possibilities, new life and seeing things radically differently. This is accomplished by God. Our task is to allow it to be done.

The strange thing is that on entering the tomb the women learn that Jesus is risen, but at this stage they don’t see or experience the risen Lord. They must wait awhile. For each of us Jesus may be risen but we may have to wait awhile before we come to experience this as a lived reality.

Patience is an important virtue for all of us but especially for men and women who are discerning religious life. Maybe, when discerning our future, we too must be patient until we see and experience where the risen Lord may be leading us.

Perhaps, as we approach the Church’s Holy Week when Our Lord himself was crucified, we, his followers shouldn’t expect to be treated otherwise. With hope, we await the Resurrection.

P.S. I will be in Rome for our Chapter Assembly ‘til the end of April. The blogging brother will return in early May. A Blessed Easter to all my followers! For further updates on our assembly cf. www.presentationbrothers.org/utube channel link.



Friday, March 31, 2017

Living forward – understanding afterwards


Not a day goes by without our being confronted with the reality of death. We receive phone calls informing us of the death of friends, relatives and colleagues. We reach out to neighbours who have lost a loved one through illness, suicide or accident. Our T.V news networks show us graphic pictures of terrorist atrocities that claim scores of lives. In the face of all that, this story assures us that God’s love, reflected in so many ways by prophets, saints and ordinary, decent human beings, is stronger than death. The clear message is that God favours not death but resurrection.

Coming as it does on the Sunday before Holy Week, the gospel story of the raising of Lazarus from the grave is effectively a preview of the resurrection of Jesus. I often wondered, did Jesus know of events in advance? Was it all kind of “mapped-out?” I don’t think so. He felt deeply the pain of people and he took part fully – he was not like an actor passively going through the motions.
Did Jesus know as he stood (4 days late) before the tomb of Lazarus – “that will be me not long from now? A stone, even a few guards and precious few to mourn.” Did he know how things would turn out?

I always like the child’s statement in class who said that this is a story of Jesus bringing us back to life no matter how “stinky” we become. I agree. It would be nice if we realised that there is life before death as well as after. I do not believe that we have to wait until our physical death to experience resurrection on some level. If you like, our entire life is a series of deaths and resurrections.

What Jesus is asking us to do in this story is to look at living and dying in a completely new way. We have to look at it not just in reference to the last day, but in relation to the present, to the deaths we experience in our daily lives, when we lose people close to us, when our close relationships fall apart, when family members just don’t come home, when others laugh at us, when we fail to live up to our own values and expectations, when our human frailty gets the better of us.

Belief in Jesus and his message strengthens us to see all those kinds of “deaths” in a new way. That kind of trust and belief in Jesus helps us to see that resurrection is already here. So, instead of complaining, instead of lapsing into grief, depression and despair, I am encouraged by Jesus to trust the power of God’s love at work in me and see God’s love and unfailing source of renewal and life. The words that Jesus addresses to Lazarus: “Unbind him, let him go free” are meant to resound beyond today’s reading into my life. Jesus invites me out of the graves in which I can so easily bury myself; out of the graves of anger, self-pity, bitterness, desire to get even, or anything else that binds me from experiencing the richness of God’s life and love.

As a consequence to that, as a disciple of Jesus, I am urged to free other people from their graves of embarrassment, shame, fear, addiction, or whatever is keeping them bound up without freedom, life or hope.


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Every Day is Mother’s Day

                                                   
Who was there when you were born – to wrap you up and keep you warm,
To stroke your cheek and change your nappy – to bring you home and make you happy?
Who was there to wipe your nose – to sing you songs and tickle your toes,
To make you polish your shoes – to wipe your tears or mend a fuse?
Who was there to open the door to tidy your room and wash the floor?
Who was there to comb your hair and mend your clothes and give you a chair?
Who was there to open the door to welcome you home from school at four?
Who was there to share your joys, who was there to mend your toys?
Who was there to make you warm when you were caught in a terrible storm?
Who pushed the swing – who loaned you a penny when you had none?
Who sang you to sleep, who played hide and seek?
Who taught you to talk and helped you to walk?
Who came to your aid in the midst of a crises?
Who saw you grow, offered advice or sat by the fire when you went out at night
Who saw you get married and leave home for good – to make a new start like everyone should?
Who saw your first-born and felt terribly happy! To know they would have the pleasure of changing a nappy.
God gave us a mother right down through the ages – so she deserves mention in life’s book of pages.
(Bridget Kerrigan; Isle of Man)



Sunday, March 19, 2017

Daffodil Day


Daffodils are blooming in parks and in the country side as winter gives way to spring. They symbolise renewal and new life, promise and hope which makes them significant in Lent, and approaching Easter. As a child I loved their scent, maybe because of their calming effect on me.

We have come to associate daffodils with the Irish Cancer Society. Daffodil Day takes place on Friday, March 24th. Various events take place nationally throughout the month of March. It is the biggest fundraising event for the Irish Cancer Society. Thousands of volunteers sell daffodil pins and flowers on the streets, in businesses, homes and shopping centres to raise money for the Irish Cancer Society.

Cancer affects us in so many different ways. As a child growing up in rural Ireland, I recall people referring to it as the “The Dreaded C” or the “Big C”. It was an illness of which little was known with no immediate known cure. We often hear of sad stories but we are aware too of stories with happy endings.

This Daffodil Day concept originated in Canada six decades ago. Representing the first flower of Spring, it is used for its bright, life-giving qualities and it is seen as a symbol of hope. The Irish Cancer Society was founded in Ireland by Professor Austin Darragh. He was inspired to start the Society in 1963 after being shocked by a statistic that 100 people in Ireland died each year from curable skin treatment.

Our fundraising efforts help cancer patients at every stage of their journey. Patients are given information and support from the Society’s Nurses on line or in one of the Society’s Centres throughout the country, to being driven to and from chemotherapy treatment by the Society’s Volunteer Drivers, to receiving emotional support through their professional counselling service. Fundraising for the Society makes sure cancer patients can access these services free of charge when they need it most.

It is the Society’s Night Nursing service which is synonymous with Daffodil Day and which supports patients at the end of their cancer journey. The Night Nursing Service operates every night of the year, providing palliative care to cancer patients so they can stay in the comfort of their own home. The Society’s Night Nurses give end of life care, offering support, advice and reassurance to their patients.

So when you buy a daffodil, support Daffodil Day or participate in an event organised in your local area, know that you are supporting a great cause, helping patients and families affected by cancer. We pray for all affected by cancer, we pray for doctors, nurses and carers who are bearers of God’s healing to all who are affected by cancer!   


Monday, March 13, 2017

St. Patrick


St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is one of Christianity’s better known saints. He was born in Britain towards the end of the fourth century. Tradition says he was captured and taken to Ireland where he worked as a slave. Lonely and afraid, he turned to his faith for solace, becoming a devout Christian.

He eventually escaped to Britain and studied for the priesthood and later became a bishop. He returned to Ireland, preached the Gospel and converted many.

For people discerning a call to religious life there are similarities with St. Patrick.

• Prayer was important to him.
• He faced challenges in his life and moments of decision.
• Ultimately he chose to devote his life to others and to the service of the Gospel mission.

St. Patrick’s Day also reminds us of the strong missionary tradition of the Irish Church and the missionary dimension of the Christian vocation. We remember our Irish missionaries throughout the world and also the Irish people who have had to leave home to work.
Today, indeed, is a day of celebration and thanksgiving. Life can be tough at the best of times and we need to relax and enjoy ourselves on this day. St. Patrick lived through difficult times too but at all times he simply put his trust in God. For some that may be a step too far but to give it an honest effort puts us in a very good place.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone! 

"And our hearts shall yet burn where so ever we roam, for God and St Patrick and our native home."


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Lenten Reflection.


Then Jesus was led by the Spirit out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  He fasted for forty days and forty nights, after which he was very hungry…                                                                      Matthew 4, 1-11


Back in the late 1840s, a Quaker Elder wrote the words of Simple Gifts, a hymn which picks up the true themes of Lent  -  to unclutter our lives by living with simplicity, and to turn our minds and hearts away from whatever lessens us and to point them towards the things of God:

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed;
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.
                                                                                     Joseph Brackett, 1848

Aaron Copland echoed Brackett’s tune in his orchestral ballet piece, Appalachian Spring.  In much more recent times, Frank Andersen msc has picked up the same themes in his beautifully haunting Ash Wednesday antiphon based on the call of the prophet, Joel:

Let your hearts be broken, not your garments torn; turn to the Lord, turn to the Lord, again.                                   Frank Andersen msc, Rising Moon, Ash Wednesday


Monday, February 27, 2017

The Season of Lent


Lent begins on March 1st. Part of a regular medical check-up is to have tests taken of your pulse, blood pressure, a heart check and perhaps a blood test. With the beginning of Lent, there is the invitation for a spiritual check-up – one that lasts for forty days!

Just as many of us do not like visiting doctors, many of us may not like the season of Lent. Perhaps it is for the same reason. Are there issues I may not wish to face up to? Perhaps we are not as well as we would like to be; perhaps changes in life-style will be called for, when we want to continue as we are. Nevertheless, in both cases, we know it is for our benefit and we are being irresponsible if we avoid looking after body, mind and spirit. I don’t know about you, but the above certainly applies to me!

Lent can perhaps be seen as a check-up on how well we have been transformed into the mind, heart and vision of God. St. Paul puts it like this: do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

Our Lenten ritual was a practice that evolved over the first few centuries of Christianity. The word itself comes from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘lencten’ meaning Springtide, the season of growth and rebirth. The notion of Springtide, a time of rebirth invites us to reflect on Lent in the light of new knowledge and understanding that has come to us courtesy of the last few centuries.

Let us use the time of Lent to examine our minds and hearts and to commit ourselves to transformation and renewal so that we truly can “discern the will of God - what is good and acceptable and perfect”. 
Focus on gratitude, be positive, think kindly thoughts, trust Divine Providence, be hopeful, be forgiving, return good for evil, be positive, be more patient, enjoy the beauty around you and turn to virtue.