Friday, July 31, 2015

A Visit to Glenstal Abbey!

I visited the monks of Glenstal Abbey in Co. Limerick for a weekend recently. It is home to a community of Benedictine Monks. The beautiful ground, ancient woodland trails and lakes create an atmosphere of peace and quiet inviting one to sit, pray and ponder. I joined the community for daily Mass, as well as morning, evening and night prayer. I discovered how relevant body gestures are to prayer. The monks are at ease with such gestures. Their desire is to worship and praise God. They pray with their bodies as they stand, bow and sit, chanting the psalms. They also believe that bodily work with the intention of serving God is prayer.

We bless our bodies with the sign of the cross. We receive the host in our hands at communion. We go on pilgrimage which is a bodily prayer and forgo bodily comforts. It makes sense that we pray with our bodies because it is as human persons that we meet God. The psalmist puts it well in psalm 103: “Let all my being bless his holy name.”
My concentration of mind may lapse during my time of prayer but my body is still there!
One of the great gifts of religious brotherhood is the time and space it affords to developing good prayer habits and meaningful practices.

If you are interested in life as a Presentation Brother, please send an e-mail to     

Friday, July 10, 2015

Ordinary Time!

Next Sunday, July 12th, is the fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time in the Church’s liturgical year. Did you ever stop to wonder why it is called 'Ordinary Time'?

The English expression ‘Ordinary Time’ is based on the the Latin term tempus per annum meaning, literally, time through the year. 

In the Roman rite, Ordinary Time comprises two periods: one, beginning on the day after the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (the end of the Christmas season) and ending on the day before Ash Wednesday, and the other beginning after Pentecost (the end of the Easter season) and continuing until the Saturday before the First Sunday of Advent.

During Ordinary Time, the liturgical colour is green – appropriate because it is the most ordinary colour in our natural environment. So your local priest is wearing green for a reason!

Ordinary Time celebrates the mystery of Christ in all its aspects. During it we remember and celebrate the life of Jesus that was ordinary, much like our own lives!

Religious life is sometimes called a 'life less ordinary'. It's different. It's different because we immerse ourselves in the mission of Jesus Christ. 

If you would like to follow Christ as a Presentation Brother e-mail me at

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Get spiritually fit...

I love to watch and follow sport. I played a lot of  sport over the years but I find myself more of an armchair follower these days. Knowing what it takes, I admire the men and women who give us so much enjoyment through their commitment and skills. Last Sunday, for instance, no one could deny the skill of the footballers of Cork and Kerry during the Munster Football Final.

Big match day is an impressive spectacle but there are also the unseen hours of practice, training and perfection. 

If you are discerning a vocation to religious life I encourage you to  make sure you are getting spiritually fit as you try to live the Christian life.
St Paul says:
“Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. (1Cor. 9:24) 

Becoming spiritually fit mirrors to a degree the challenge of becoming physically fit. Both take effort. Both processes are demanding. Both are necessary.

If you'd like to try to become spiritually fit with the Presentation Brothers, please get in touch! I'm at  

Friday, July 3, 2015

After Lough Derg...

On this day last week I began my pilgrimage to Lough Derg. In all honesty, I was apprehensive on arrival. It was twelve years since my previous visit to this sacred place. I remembered sleep deprivation and hunger, not to mention sore feet! But I blocked all that from my mind as our Presentation Family made the short journey from the mainland north of the town of Pettigo across to Station Island.  

It was privileged to be part of a lovely group of people; we became companions to one another, looking out for each other, ready to offer a word of encouragement and show a smile when needed. A great camaraderie developed between everyone in our group. I suppose we all were in the same boat. While I found it challenging at times, other pilgrims pulled me through. Everyone was so friendly and it was nice to hear their stories, where they came from and why they came. Una was a pilgrim for the 29th time. “I say every year this will be my last, she said, but something keeps me coming back”.

While I was a member of the Presentation Family, I was also one of 135 other pilgrims that came on to the island for the week end. There was a great variety of ages too from those in their teens to those in their eighties. As a participant on the pilgrimage, I found there is an equality about it–there are no three-star or five-star pilgrims; just barefoot people on a journey together. 

I made a brief visit to the island’s small museum. There was a medieval map of Europe and it displayed Lough Derg as the only Irish site identified. It was a place of retreat for those from across the known world through the centuries. Writers such as Heaney, Kavanagh and Alice Taylor among others tried to capture the magic of the island. 

On our return back to the mainland, tired and hungry, I forgot the hardships and enjoyed a sense of fulfilment and achievement on completing a challenging pilgrimage. There was one last rendition of Hail Glorious Saint Patrick led by Owen Mc Eneaney, Prior, before we left the island. We were reluctant to break up such was the friendship that brought us together during the three days. There was an opportunity for some last minute photos and say our ‘good-byes’. A question asked, would this be an annual event? The response was a unanimous ‘yes’ and...invite a friend.

I hope you get an opportunity to experience a pilgrimage this summer. They really are a great opportunity to reflect more deeply on life and on God. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Back from Lough Derg...

Back on the mainland at the end of our three day pilgrimage

I made the long journey with the Presentation Family, most of them young people, to Lough Derg at the weekend. They came from Cork, Limerick, Kerry, Dublin, Sligo, Donegal and Tyrone.  Lough Derg is the sacred Sanctuary of St Patrick in Co. Donegal, a place where he often spent time in the fifth century.  It’s a special place, rich in prayer and faith which has been calling pilgrims for over a thousand years as it once called St. Patrick himself.
This traditional three-day pilgrimage is famous throughout the world for its penitential nature. Pilgrims spend their time on the island barefoot and stay awake in vigil all night on the day of arrival. They also fast from food each day (except for the Lough Derg ‘meal’ of toast (without butter), bread, and tea/coffee (without milk). Lough Derg soup was available throughout which consisted of hot water, salt and pepper. 
The pilgrimage was demanding but very rewarding. I experienced great solitude, a wonderful peace and I gave thanks for the strength to undertake the pilgrimage and for the many blessings of my journey as a Presentation Brother. The pilgrimage helped me step back from my life, take stock and look again at the direction my life is taking. It was also a time to come closer to God through prayer and reflection. The feeling of inner peace I experienced, no words can explain. 

I was so glad I came to this serene and sacred island, made holy by the prayers of millions of pilgrims over the centuries and continues to provide a safe haven for rest, reflection and renewal to all who wish to in the words of Mark 6:31 “Come away to a quiet place and rest a while”. 

P.S. Further reflections will follow in the days ahead!