I'm traveling from Cork to Dublin today to attend the "Unite for Life" event outside our national parliament, Dáil Éireann. It's a pro-life vigil which aims to send a clear and positive message about safeguarding the lives of mothers and babies in pregnancies.
The Dáil is about to begin a debate on abortion legislation so tonight's event is very important.
In recent decades religious congregations have been to the forefront of advocating for social justice and for human rights. The right to life is the most fundamental human right of all.
I'm glad to be able to be part of this and am looking forward to joining other Presentation Brothers at the vigil.
November 21st, the feast of the
Presentation of Our Lady - the feast day of the Presentation Brothers and
Presentation Sisters. It is an occasion each year when we celebrate our call
and mission as religious men and women in the Presentation Congregations. The feast recalls a Jewish
custom whereby young Jewish men and women went to the Temple of Jerusalem to
dedicate their lives to God.
In this feast we remember that Mary PRESENTS her life to God. Mary in turn PRESENTS Jesus
to the world. This is the ideal of the Presentation Brothers and Sisters - to do their best to present Jesys Christ in the world today by the example of our lives.
Christmas ads have already appeared on our
televisions. They remind us of a time of year that is fast approaching. Part of
Christmas is the giving of gifts. The challenge for those of us as Presentation religious is to present our lives as a gift to others. Each one of us is
blessed with many gifts, we may not think so but we are a gift to others.
“Never doubt the power of a small group of
committed people to change the world for, indeed, it’s the only thing that ever
has.” –Margaret Meade
Today is a day of celebration in Presentation schools and communities all around the world All associated with the Presentation Family,
friends, staffs, parents and young people are invited to join with the
Presentation Brothers in celebrating this great feast.
For those of you discerning your vocation in life - know that you on this special Feast dedicated to Mary our Mother, know that you are held in our thoughts and
The Year of Faith which we
have just begun is not a programme of activities. It is a deeper project than
that. It is an invitation to deepen our frienship with Christ. This idea of
friendship with Christ is a recurring theme of the pontificate of Benedict XVI. Jesus Christ is not just a
figure of history, somebody who came and went. Because he conquered death by
rising to new life he is with us now and for always. If He has simply died like
other great men of the past, history might tell us something about him. But
that would not help us to really know Him. As St. Augustine says, we come to
know a person only through friendship and friendship is possible only with
someone who lives. Friendship with Christ, sharing his life and sharing our
life with him, is the heart of our Christian faith. Jesus Christ
is a bit like a programme for life. He tells us ‘I have come so that they may
have life and have it to the full’ (Jn. 10:10). Jesus Christ is a person and
invites us to meet him as a friend. Many Young people today
hear his voice. I have seen them in their thousands at World Youth Days and
other youth gatherings. I have seen their enthusiasm and joy. I have
experienced it in Africa and now at home in Ireland. You may think Christ would
ask too much from you. But a friend who really cares for you is there to help
with forgiveness, support and advice, and Jesus Christ is our greatest friend. This year, the Year of
Faith, offers us a unique opportunity to make the necessary adjustments in our
lives to develop more deeply our friendship with Christ.
The Year of Faith begins today, Thursday October 11th 2012.
The logo of the Year of Faith (above) is striking. The Church is
depicted as a boat traveling on the sea. For those of us who live in the
"Western World", the last few years have been particularly stormy. The
sail of the boat is based around the cross. That's a reminder to all of
us that no matter how choppy the waters are, we are traveling in
Christ's boat - he is with us. The sails of the boat are composed of the
familiar IHS. These are the first three letters of Jesus' name in
Greek (iota (I), eta (H), sigma (S or Σ).
Let's all make a real effort this year to renew and to deepen our faith. You're going to hear a lot about this Year of Faith on this blog in the coming weeks and months - the Presentation Brothers are getting behind it in a big way. I'll be telling you more about what we're doing later.
If you've been thinking about a religious vocation, now's a good time to go deeper and discern what the Lord is calling you to do.
Left to right: Br Barry (our novice master in Killarney), Br Theiva, Br Raj and Br Martin (our Congregation Leader) pictured after the ceremony of reception on the grounds of our novitiate in Kerry.
We had a great celebration at our novitiate in Killarney in County Kerry this week. Two young men, Raj and Theiva who are both from Sri Lanka, took the next step of their vocation journey with the Presentation Brothers.
Raj and Theiva have been doing their postulancy programme over the last few months in Killarney. Postulancy is the first stage of formation and it is a period of about one year in which the man interested in this way of life (known as a "postulant") gets to know religious life a bit better. It also gives the Brothers a chance to get to know the postulant and to judge if he has what it takes to cope with the challenged ahead.
Raj and Theiva both sought to proceed to the next step which is novitiate. This will be a two year programme of prayer and study. It's akin to going out to the desert - away from noise and distraction - and engaging in the serious business of discerning what the Lord is calling one to.
At the end of that step comes First Profession of Vows. You might recall that Callistus and Augustine from Ghana made their First Professions recently in Killarney.
Working with men at this stage of their vocation journey is exciting and enjoyable! For the men who come to us, it's a wonderful experience of self-discovery and of coming to know God more deeply.
I highly recommend it! If it is of interest to you, please let me know! Contact vocation@PresentationBrothers.org
The annual Ploughing Championship takes place in Co. Wexford this week. Vocations Ireland will be among the many groups with a stand in the exhibition arena.
Christ actually uses the image of the plough (Lk. 9:62) to make a powerful point about being a disciple.
"No one who sets a hand to the plough and looks to what was left
behind is fit for the kingdom of God."
Jesus is inviting those who wish to follow him to live lives of radical commitment, not concerned with worldy and material posessions - "the things of the world."
He also cautions against looking back. That is certainly of limited use. I often meet men who are discerning their vocation who wonder if they are too old or if they are already too advanced in their chosen career or profession to even consider religious life.
Looking back is of limited value for the Christian mission. It’s better to look at where I’m going in my life at this time.
Look at what's happening in your life right now. The Lord invites us to continual conversion and, conscious of His great love and mercy, to move forward in hope.
The Brothers prepare for Mass in Killarney. On the left is Brother Barry Noel, the Novice Master in Killarney. On the right is Brother Martin Kenneally, our Congregation Leader. In the centre are the two men who were the centre of attention today - Brother Callistus and Brother Augustine.
There was much celebration in the town of Killarney today as we witnessed the First Profession of vows of two young Presentation Brothers.
Brother Callistus and Brother Augustine are both from Ghana and have spent the past six months of their formation at our Novitiate in Killarney in County Kerry.
You can read all about the event over at www.PresentationBrothers.org
I was delighted to see that pupils from the local Presentation Monastery Primary School were present for the special occasion.
The commitment demonstrated by Brother Callistus and Brother Augustine is an example to other young people.
We also celebrated more vocations in Ghana! Brothers Vincent and Vitalis have now also made their First Profession of Vows.
May the Lord bless and guide them in the years ahead!
Brother Vincent and Vitalis - two new Presentation Brothers!
In addition to being the Vocations Director for the Presentation Brothers in Ireland and Britain I'm also a member of the Leadership Team of our Congregation.
The Presentation Brothers live and work in nine countries around the world so this job also involves some travel. I'm currently heading off to visit the Presentation Brothers in North America. We recently opened a second community in Toronto city and a new community in San Antonio, Texas.
The new community in Toronto will serve as a place of Province administration for North America but it will also be a community of welcome for men discerning a religious vocation.
Brother Andrew Saul, from Guyana, made his first profession as a Presentation Brother in 2011. He is a member of that community and is studying in Toronto. Brother Francis Schafer, a native of Ohio, works in Bereavement Ministry and is responsible for the administration of the Province. Brother Denis Claivaz is from Montreal and is the Vocation Director. He has special responsibility for human rights and advocacy with the U.N. in Geneva.
The other new community recently opened in San Antonio is home to three Brothers whose ministries are with the poor. They collaborate in mission with the Presentation Sisters.
Brother Raphael Mario Toodle is from the United States, Francis Sebo hails from Liberia and James Needham is Irish. James works in immigration, advocating for the rights of emigrants while Raphael teaches English to emigrant Mexican people. Brother Francis Sebo works with the homeless.
Congratulations to all our Olympians who represented us in London - you did us proud! Something that impacted on me was their faith in God and the significance of family in their lives. Their faith was at one with their daily activities and that faith was with them throughout the Olympics.
During the events they always acknowledged a greater presence in their lives. Katie Taylor, thanked “everyone for their prayers” and declared, she is “nothing without God.” What role models our athletes are for us!
Our students are now receiving their Leaving Certificate results. We wish all of them well. We rejoice with those who are happy with their results and we share in the disappointment of those who have not performed as they had hoped.
Like our Olympians be inspired by the power of God. God has a place in the Divine Plan for everyone.
I pray that all of our students may be inspired by the Holy Spirit, and find their own unique path, their vocation, in life.
I think it would be a good idea to mark the opening of the Games by praying for peace in the world. In particular we pray for the innocent victims of the violence in Syria. I also want to remember those parts of Nigeria which remain troubled by strife.
In the words of Pope Benedict XVI:
“I pray that, in the spirit of the Olympic Truce, the good generated by this international sporting event may bear fruit, promoting peace and reconciliation throughout the world."
After the hugely successful Invocation 2012 discernment festival in Birmingham I took a few days holidays in England. Now I'm back at my desk and, in addition to being refreshed from the experience of a good rest, I'm also enthused by the memory of the great energy and commitment I witnessed at Oscott College, the home of Invocation.
Hundreds of people gathered at the seminary for a weekend of prayer, reflection, catechesis, workshops and an opportunity to chat with a priest or religious. The goal of Invocation is to provide young people who are discerning a religious vocation with a supportive environment. Many of the people at the event tell us that they find it hard to discuss their experience with family and friends. At Invocation they are surrounded by people who are also discerning and who have the same questions, fears and dreams.
You can take a look at some photos from the event on the official website of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. You can also keep in touch with the organisers by Liking the Invocation page on Facebook (Invocation Festival) and following it on Twitter (@Invocation2012).
A scene from Benediction at the end of the Eucharistic Procession at Invocation
One of the most exciting developments on the vocations scene in recent years has been the emergence of the Invocation discernment festival, held each summer at Oscott seminary in Birmingham.
I'll be there this year along with dozens of young men and women who are seriously discerning their vocation in life. I'm looking forward to experiencing the atmosphere of prayer and reflection that characterises events of this nature.
The role of the religious who will be there is to provide advice, encouragement and support to the young people we meet.
If you're in the region why not consider registering to attend...
I'm heading to Dublin tomorrow (Saturday) to be at the Opening Ceremony of the Eucharistic Congress. There will be several Presentation Brothers in attendance during the week. We'll be wearing our white polo shirts with our logo on the front.
We will have a stand in the Exhibition Arena (stand 15). If you're passing by feel free to say hello!
Let's keep the success of the Eucharistic Congress in our prayers.
The Leaving Certificate and Junior Certificate State exams begin today. St Joseph of Cupertino is a favourite saint of students at this time. Here's a prayer that I hope may help:
O great St. Joseph of Cupertino, who by your prayers obtained the grace from God to be asked in your examination the only question which you knew, grant me success like you in this exam for which I am now preparing. In return, I promise to make you known and to cause you to be invoked. O great St. Joseph of Cupertino, grant me my request. Amen
Here's a prayer for the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The person discerning their vocation needs them all!
All powerful God, Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ,
By water and the Holy Spirit you freed me from sin and gave me new life,
Send me your Holy Spirit to be my helper and guide.
Give me the spirist of wisdom and understanding,
The spirit of right judgement and courage,
The spirit of knowledge and reverence,
The spirit of wonder and awe in your presence.
Fill me with the spirit of wonder and awe in your presence.
"There are imbalances that frequently lead to conflicts; dialogue between generations is hard and differences sometimes prevail; we witness daily events where people appear to be growing more aggressive and belligerent; understanding one another takes too much effort and people prefer to remain inside their own sphere, cultivating their own interests. In this situation, can we really discover and experience the unity we so need?
On Pentecost, where there was division and incomprehension, unity and understanding were born."
One of the more beautiful and enduring stories of St. Luke’s Gospel is found in Chapter 24. Two disciples were on their way to Emmaus, walking and talking, when a stranger caught up with them. They were down-hearted and the stranger appeared nosy. Without an introduction he asked them what they were talking about. It was a strange conversation starter! But given how distracted they were by how bad things were for them, they didn't seem to mind and launched into their tale of woe.
Their dreams had been shattered.‘Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free,' they said. This was a noble hope indeed. It was the hope of the Jewish people. But their hope had died when Jesus was crucified. Now they were left without hope. However, the risen Jesus is the one who has come to walk alongside them. The same Christ who walked the Emmaus road with the two disciples is walking with us today. He is walking with those who are puzzled and confused about their future.
This reassuring story has a message of hope for each one of us today. It challenges us to see that even at times of despair and confusion Jesus Christ is with us. This gives us courage to return to the ‘Jerusalems’ of our time, and be called anew to mission. Nothing will ever be the same again once I move into a deep acceptance of the truth of the Emmaus experience…
Sunday’s liturgy is about vocation. Each of us has a unique personal vocation: an invitation from God to be someone, to do something, for others with my life. Am I truly listening and willing to respond generously to the Lord…? This is beautifully expressed in Cardinal Newman’s prayer:
“God has created me to do him some definite service.
He has committed some work to me
which he has not committed to another.
I have a mission. I am a link in a chain.
He has not created me for naught.
I shall do his work…therefore I shall trust him.
Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away.
If I am in sickness, my sickness will serve him.
If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve him.
He does nothing in vain. He knows what he is about.
Friends, this is a great little prayer for those who are discerning...
Dearest Jesus, teach me to be generous; teach me to love and serve you as you deserve; to give and not to count the cost; to fight and not to heed the wounds; to toil and not to seek for rest; to labour and to look for no reward, save that of knowing that I do your holy will. - St Ignatius.
Happy St Patrick's Day everyone!! 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.
"And our hearts shall yet burn wheresoever we roam, for God and St Patrick and our native home."
Brother Kevin meets Queen Elizabeth II at the Guinness Storehouse last year
Brother Kevin Crowley, of the Capuchin Francicans, has been named the winner of the "Local Heroes Award 2o12"!
Brother Kevin is a well-known and highly regarded religious brother who had devoted his life to the service of the poor in inner city Dublin. He is the director of the Capuchin Day Care Centre for the homeless in Bowe St. The Presentation Brothers have traditionally had strong bonds with the Capuchin Franciscans over the years.
I'm spending a lot of time these days promoting our 'Time Out' vocations weekend on Saturday 31st March/Sunday 1st April. This effectively means calling into churches and pinning our poster to noticeboards, or indeed, anywhere that I see a noticeboard!
It also involves inviting men who have been in touch with me over the last few months to consider coming to Dublin for the event.
If you've been thinking about religious life why not come along? Just drop me a line at vocation@PresentationBrothers.org and I'll be happy to answer any questions you have about it all.
After almost four years of preparations it's hard to believe that there are now only 100 days to go before the 50th International Eucharistic Congress opens in Dublin.
The Presentation Brothers will have a stand in the exhibition hall. Brothers and members of the Presentation Family have already signed up to be volunteers for the weeklong event.
I strongly encourage anyone who is interested in attending to start planning now. This will be a wonderful event in the life of the Church. For those who are discerning a religious vocation, I imagine the event will be very encouraging.
A great friend of the Presentation Brothers, Sr Anne O'Leary in San Antonio, sent me Ten Tips for Making Lent More Meaningful recently. She received them from Fr Rudy at St Mary's University in the city. Here they are:
1. Slow Down - Set aside 10 minutes a day for silent prayer or meditation. It will revitalize your body and your spirit. You can do this privately, or with a small group of friends to support you.
2. Read a good book - You could choose the life of a saint, a spiritual how-to, an inspirational book that offers you spiritual challenge, insight and hope. Try the Bible.
3. Be kind - Go out of your way to do something nice for someone else every day. Random acts of kindness can have a lot of positive effects.
4. Get involved - Attend a Lenten lecture or spiritual program. The Catholic Intellectual Tradition Series Lecture coming up in March or any of the University Ministry Programs on Campus await your presence!
5. Volunteer at your parish or place of worship - Whether it's the parish fish fry, cleaning the church or helping with the food drive, it will give you a chance to help others.
6. Reach out - Invite an inactive Christian friend to come with you to receive ashes on Ash Wednesday or to support you in any of these suggested considerations for Lent.
7. Pray - Especially for people you don't like and for people who don't like you.
8. Tune out - Turn off the television and spend quality time talking with faculty, staff, family members or friends.
9. Clean out closets - Donate gently used items to the St. Vincent de Paul Society at Holy Rosary Parish or any other faith based organization that you know is effective in their outreach to the poor.
10. Donate - Pick one reputable agency. Decide how you can help by sending money, clothing or supplies. You might also consider donating your time.
Many of you already know that the Eucharistic Congress will take place in Ireland in June. Pilgrims will be coming from all over the world for this historic occasion in Dublin.
For one week, 10th-17th June, thousands of pilgrims will attend Masses, talks and different events at the RDS venue. On the final day some 80,000 will gather in Croke Park for the StatioOrbis Mass.
To find out more about the Congress sign up for the Congress email newsletter and, if you are on Facebook, like the Congress page. There's some great material going up on it. You can also follow the Congress on Twitter.
I think it would be a good idea to spend some time this Lent reflecting on the mystery and challenge of the Eucharist. Why not find a good book on the Eucharist? Why not spend more time at prayer before the Blessed Sacrament? Why not attend Mass more regularly?
Even if you don't plan to come to Dublin for the Congress, why not join the spiritual preparations!
It's a chance for us to go in to the desert in some shape or form.
The advice that I give to anyone discerning a vocation is to make the most of the time between now and Easter to discern more actively your vocation in life. Pray a little bit more. Read sacred scripture more deeply. Attend Mass more often. Make an effort to find out God's will for your life.
As always, if you want to talk to someone about your vocation just drop me a line at vocation@PresentationBrothers.org
Today, 14th February, is of course St Valentine's Day.
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 feastday 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 anyone who is 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!
Hello everyone, As you know Brother Ray who was the original "Blogging Brother" has been working as chaplain at Presentation College Bray for the last few months. I’ve now moved into the role of vocations director for the Presentation Brothers in Ireland and England so that means that I will be the new “Blogging Brother”! I’ll try to post regularly, I promise! My hope is that the blog will give folk an idea of what the life and vocation of a religious brother involves. I'll also try to post some discernment advice and tips. Naturally, anyone who wants to get in touch with me can reach me at vocation@PresentationBrothers.org
Here’s some information about me to kick-off: I was born in the parish of Allihies on the Beara peninsula in the county of Cork and in the diocese of Kerry. I went to primary school there before attending secondary school with the Presentation Brothers in Cork city. I did my degree in Arts (history and Irish) in University College Cork and then went on to study spirituality in Dublin. I always had an interest in working with young people and from an early age I felt a call to religious life. The Presentation Brothers whom I had met in school really inspired me and I felt that I had a vocation to religious brotherhood. I’ve worked in several ministries since I made my final profession. Here are some of the highlights: • The Give a Year to God programme in Cork city – a programme where men interested in discerning their vocation came to live for a year with the Brothers. • Serving as a teacher and principal at Presentation College Bray and Presentation Brothers College, Cork. • Working for twelve years in Ghana, including six years as the Province Leader for the West Africa Province. In addition to working now as vocations director, I’m also a member of the Congregation Leadership Team (CLT). The team consists of five brothers, elected at our chapter in 2011, who have responsibility for steering our congregation for the next six years. It’s not all work - I love to relax by hill walking and listening to classical music. And I’m an Arsenal fan too. I really enjoy being a Presentation Brother. It is a rich and a rewarding life. Yes, it has its challenges too – but that’s true of every way of life. I hope and pray that God will gift me with many more years of life as a Presentation Brother!
Here's a nice little cartoon illustrating today's very-vocation-relevant gospel.
Notice that Samuel was being called but did not know who it was that was calling him. That's a very common experience for men and women wondering if they are being called to religious life.
When people ask to meet me for a chat I often notice that they are often feeling confused. Here are two sound pieces of advice if you recognise yourself in this description: (i) pray about what you are experiencing and (ii) talk to Eli!
I'm Eli for the Presentation Brothers - an older character with a bit of experience in this line! Feel free to shoot me an email at vocation@PresentationBrothers.org if you have any questions or want to meet for a coffee. That's what I'm here for! "Here I am Lord, I come to do your will"