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.     






Sunday, February 26, 2017

Divine Mercy Conference 2017


                         With Ms. Margaret Cartwright, Director of Vocations Ireland

I spent much of the weekend at the Divine Mercy Conference at the RDS in Dublin. It was a lovely week end and it was an opportunity to meet with friends and listen to peoples’ stories over a coffee.

The Divine Mercy Conference drew thousands of people who gathered to listen to testimonies and talks, and attend Mass and a healing service. There was a great spirit of prayer throughout the weekend. The Chaplet of Divine Mercy and the Rosary were prayed with great devotion. I wasn't the only Presentation Brother to attend-Brother Andrew from our community in Dublin was there as well as Brother Kevin from the Integration & Support Unit in Waterford.

The Presentation Brothers had a stand promoting their work in youth ministry and vocations. Our thanks to John Quinn, our evangelisation officer who erected our stand and made sure there was a good supply of literature available. It was great to meet people at different stages of their journey. Some did think about religious life at some stage, others were thinking about religious life for the first time and were wondering, "where do I start?" Others seemed to have discerned that religious life was for them and were now discerning what congregation's story was drawing them most. 

The Divine Mercy motto is "Jesus, I trust in you". I was thinking of this a lot over the weekend. It has an obvious resonance for those discerning a religious vocation. We can always trust that the path which the Lord has prepared for us is the right one. We just need the guidance and the courage to follow it. 

If you think the Lord is calling you to this way of life, then I’d love to hear from you. If ever you want to talk about the vocation of a religious brother, feel free to shoot me an email at vocation@presentationbrothers.org

Sunday, February 19, 2017

A President Acknowledges



I worked and lived as a Presentation Brother, in West Africa. I realise what a boost a recent address by our President Michael D. Higgins was to missionaries working with the poor and disadvantaged.

He acknowledged the work of Irish Missionaries during his recent visit to Peru, Colombia and Cuba. He praised and affirmed the endeavours of missionaries working in challenging situations. He told them, they present ‘values of Ireland at their very best’, through the ‘joy, practical help and hope’ that they bring to disadvantaged communities in Latin America.

The President expressed his delight that he was ‘very privileged’ and ‘so pleased’ that they were able to gather to meet him at short notice. ‘It so very important for you to know that as President of Ireland, it makes my heart lift to know there are people who are working to create hope where it doesn’t exist and where hope does, that spark is there, to make sure it is a bright flame that keeps people going.’ he commented.

‘You bring so much joy but practical help, and you bring hope, and you indicate what I think are the values of Ireland at their very best.’

President Higgins said he is ‘moved’ whenever he hears Pope Francis speaking out against ‘those models that are failing not just the poor but failing humanity’ and ‘to think that you are on the ground doing all these things and putting them into practice’.

Let’s continue to remember our Priests, Brothers, Sisters and Lay Missionaries everywhere at this time.



Sunday, February 12, 2017

Happy St. Valentine's Day!


Tuesday, February 14th, is of course St Valentine's Day, a day when we talk about love more than usual. A lot of the discussion you hear today will be light-hearted and fun.

But who was St Valentine? There are some conflicting accounts but we know he existed and his remains have been identified in the catacombs of Rome. This feast day has been celebrated for 15 centuries!

Three things you need to know:
1. He was a Catholic priest
2. He was arrested for tending to the needs of the persecuted Christians of Rome. 
3. He was executed for refusing to renounce the Catholic faith during the persecution of Roman Emperor Claudius.

For men and women discerning a vocation, then there is an obvious resonance here.

For a start St Valentine answered the call to serve by embracing a religious vocation. Secondly, he served those in need and risked his own life to do so. Finally, he refused to deny his faith and has since been remembered as an icon of love. 

It's ironic that at a time when celibacy and chaste love are dismissed, the day on which the world celebrates love is in fact a day in honour of a priest who died for his faith!

(Take time to read this beautiful reflection below)

Fall in Love
Attributed to Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ (1907–1991)

Nothing is more practical than
finding God, than
falling in Love
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.