Sunday, December 25, 2016

Cristus Natus Nobis, Venite Adoremus!

Advent has reached its end! The waiting is over! As we look at the infant in the manger we are not only reflecting on a wonderful moment in history - we are also challenged to find room in our hearts for the birth of Christ. A night of sublime comfort and extraordinary challenge!

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; 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; 

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.
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)

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

A World We All Must Share

 Today is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, Patron of Ecology. The recent commitment by China and the US to sign the Paris agreement on climate change is a positive sign but experts say it is too little too late. Former bishop of Oxford John Pritchard in God Lost and Found suggests that our reluctance to face up to such problems has spiritual consequences: “The danger is that as a global community we may not be prepared to learn the lessons. The stuttering progress made at Kyoto, Bali and Copenhagen [climate conferences] on reducing our consumption of fossil fuels for the sake of the planet suggests that nations are not yet prepared to ease back the throttle.
What is true at a personal level appears to be echoed at the international level. The voice of God is being drowned out by the greed in our hearts and the seductive music of the shopping malls. And underneath all the noise is the sad silent fact that Christian believers also are sometimes losing touch with the sacred centre of their lives, finding that a relationship with a credit card more instantly rewarding than a personal relationship with God.”
The bishop is telling us that while the threat to the environment is a global problem and it can only be put right by individuals embracing value systems that look beyond self and who are willing to accept changes to lifestyle that will make things better. Our insatiable demands for more and more from an exhausted planet that has no more to give must go. “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it”—not ours.                                                   
                                                                                              Gordon Linney
                                                                                                                                        (The Irish Times)

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Becoming Spiritually Fit!

I like 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 skill and the great discipline they exercise in all they do. During the week ends of September for instance, no one could deny the skills and fitness levels of our women and men footballers. Both the women and their male counterparts served up some wonderful games on reaching the final stages of their respective sport. Big match days are an impressive spectacle but there are the unseen hours of practice, training and perfection. Such levels of skill, fitness, athleticism and discipline doesn’t just happen; it requires great self-sacrifice, dedication and the willpower to overcome obstacles along the way. Sport can teach us so much about life.

Hoping for the best or leaving everything to the last minute is bound to let us down at times. Even our spiritual journey can’t be left to chance. Becoming spiritually fit mirrors to a degree the challenge of becoming physically fit. Both take effort. Both processes are demanding. Both are necessary. It’s impossible to get to know God if we’re only asking for miracles. Getting through life needs discipline and in particular doing the small things to the best of our ability. It’s up to us to choose our attitude for any given day. It’s up to us to keep the bigger picture always in focus. A great discipline each day is to do what we can and to leave others to worry about what they should be doing in their own lives.

If you are discerning a vocation to religious life, I encourage you to make sure you are getting spiritually fit with the Presentation Brothers, please get in touch! I’m at

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Olympian offers her medal to God.

A medal-winning athlete at this year’s Rio Olympic Games has gifted her bronze medal to the shrine of St. Mary of Marija Bistrica in her native Croatia in thanks for answered prayers ahead of the games.

Champion high-jumper Blanka Vlasic has revealed that she nearly missed the 2016 games due to complications from surgery to a leg injury and only travelled after she prayed to God for the strength to compete. That trip, like her subsequent qualifying jump, was made through the pain of her injury.

“Not even a book would be enough to explain why this is another miracle of God,” she said of her first successful jump. “All glory to Jesus.”

Having qualified for the final, Vlasic went on to scoop the bronze and immediately decided on her course of action at the Marian shrine.

“All the medals are God’s, but this one is especially his,” she said.

(Irish Catholic, September 22, 2016)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Where Finbarr Taught, Let Munster Learn"

Today, September 25 is the Feast of St. Finbarr or Fionnbharra in Irish, very often abbreviated to Barra is patron Saint of the city and the Diocese of Cork. It is thought he lived in the seventh century; he was Bishop of Cork and Abbot of a monastery he built in the picturesque and beautiful setting of Gougane Barra in West Cork.

Tradition holds that Finbarr was one of a community of monks who had a monastic settlement near the place where the river Lee rises in Gougane Barra. St. Finbarr’s oratory was built in the early 1900s on a small island on a lake at Gougane on what has long been a place of pilgrimage.

Clearly Finbarr knew that God was very much present in this sacred place, particularly in the beauty of nature that is evident here all year around. Against a backdrop of rugged hills, lakes, rivers and streams, Finbarr found great peace. The Feast of St. Finbarr today reminds us how important it is to appreciate nature and the beauty of creation.

Whenever I visit this holy place, the lines from psalm 19 comes to mind. “The heavens tell of your glory, O God, and the firmament proclaims your handiwork. Day unto day pours forth the story and night unto night reveals its knowledge”.

St. Finbarr is said to have made the journey to the mouth of the Lee where it meets the sea and established a monastic school around which grew what developed into the city of Cork. An annual pilgrimage day at Gougane is held on the last Sunday of September.

Many people have taken the name Finbarr and there are many name places especially in Cork associated with the Saint’s name. The Church of Ireland Cathedral takes its name from Finbarr and the motto of University College, Cork is, “Where Finbarr Taught, Let Munster Learn” are just but a few.

Today is a day of pilgrimage and prayer in Gougane.  We ask the blessings of St. Finbarr on ourselves, our city, our families, our schools, our communities, and those who need a special prayer today. May St. Finbarr continue to guide and direct us each day!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Miracles do Happen

The most incredible thing about miracles is that they happen’ G.K.Chesterton.

I often think about the meaning of miracles. They make me think about how God works in our lives. It seems like in the Old Testament and during Jesus’ time on earth, there was a lot of very obvious, direct divine intervention. Why don’t we see those kinds of miracles happening today?

I used to confine miracles to holy places only, like Lourdes, Knock and Medjugorje. Even in these places miracles seem to be infrequent and rare. But are they? It all depends on what a miracle might mean. If we’re expecting something spectacular and almost impossible then we are going to be disappointed. But if we understand a miracle as God’s intervention, no matter how small, then miracles are plentiful and are to be found everywhere despite an onslaught of negative news all around us. But we can miss it all through apathy, worry, stress, busy lifestyles and other distractions. These miracles are all around us, plentiful, endless and there to be enjoyed and celebrated.

It may be a baby’s chuckle, a child’s laugh, a mother’s love, birds in flight, a blade of grass, a beautiful flower, birth of a baby! Let these miracles do their work. Let these dime-a-dozen miracles free us from our prisons of incredulity.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Music Ministry Together

Director of Vocations Ireland, Margaret Cartwright and myself represented Vocations Ireland together with members of different Religious Congregations at Music Ministry Together summer school in Cistercian College, Roscrea, Co Offaly.

Vocations Ireland is an association of Vocation Directors of Catholic Religious Congregations in Ireland. We work to present religious life, apostolic, missionary and contemplative, as a life choice which is one way of following Christ and bringing deeper meaning and purpose to life. For further information, email; I lead morning prayer one of the days and gave an input on Vocations on the varied ministries of different congregations.

Music Ministry Together (MMT) is a summer school for young people and adult leaders with a love for liturgical music and imbued with a desire to serve as ministers in their parishes, schools and communities. The theme of this year’s summer school was, “Make Your Home in Me.” (John 15:4). During the five-day summer school the participants took part in various sessions teaching and learning church music together, as well as participating in various forms of liturgy. There were opportunities for sharing the Eucharist, morning and evening prayer and taking part in Catechesis, along with organised activities and entertainment. 

The MMT summer school 2017 takes place during the first week of August in Cistercian College, Roscrea. It’s a great way of spending a few days of your holidays; I highly recommend it. Email; or see their website for more information.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Faith of our Olympians

Despite having her Olympic hopes dashed, Irish boxer Katie Taylor proved this week that her faith in God is unshakable. One of Ireland’s most prominent hopefuls – she was a surprise casualty after her defeat to Finland’s Mira Potkonen.

But, even obvious heartbreak in Rio di Janeiro couldn’t dampen Katie’s devout Christian faith. "Sometimes the plans you have in your heart aren’t God’s plans” an emotional Katie said in the aftermath of the bout, trying to come to terms of her shock defeat.

God is so great, it’s still a privilege and an honour to be here,” she said, going on to say: I just have to thank everyone for their support and prayers – I’m so humbled by that.”

Reflecting on the outcome she was in a philosophical mood. It’s been a very tough year. I’ve suffered a lot of losses this year, and it’s very, very hard to take – the Olympics is a dream for me.
I came in here prepared very well. I gave it my best shot; it just didn’t happen,” she said. Katie is one of a growing number of Olympians who have been vocal about their strong religious faith during the Rio Olympics.

Jamaica’s Usain Bolt, a practising Catholic who wears his faith on his sleeve, became the first athlete to win three Olympic 100m titles by picking up gold at the games. Usain embraced the Miraculous Medal he wears around his neck as he powered to victory.

U.S. athlete Simone Biles, who keeps her Rosary beads in her bag at all competitions has won the women’s all-round Olympic gold medal for Gymnastics.The 19-year-old gymnast revealed that she carried a white rosary in her gym bag. “My mum, Nellie, got me a rosary at church...I don’t use it to pray before a competition. I’ll pray normally to myself, but it’s there just in case.”
(Irish Catholic - Thursday, August 18)

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Life after the Leaving!

The Leaving Cert results were issued during the week. The newspapers were full of the tremendous achievements of those who received a string of A1s. Congratulations on such wonderful achievements! But let’s keep a perspective on things and not forget those who just did OK and are in the majority.

The results came out during the Olympic Games in Rio and I think the games in a way reflect the consolation and desolation felt by some students – the Usain Bolts, Michael Phelps, Annalise Murphys, the O’Donovan brothers and others but what about the many who crashed out in the first round or limped home mid-field?

The focus this week should really be on the students who felt the sting of disappointment when they received their results – and I imagine they were many.

I want to say to you, things will be better and brighter; that life is more than the Leaving Cert. Flashes of brilliance will come but not in the places you expect them. Life is far more various than we can ever imagine.

Jesus said that there are two roads we can follow. The first is wide and easy to travel. It is downhill most of the way. It is the way of comfort and ease, pleasure and self-seeking. Many are fooled and travel down this road. But in the long run it leads them nowhere. They die in the desert. The second road is narrow and difficult. It s uphill a lot of the way. It is the way of struggle and sacrifice. Few take this road, but they are the lucky ones. This road leads to the Promised Land.

I hope and pray that you will all find joy, hope and fulfilment in whatever road God shows you in your life.    

Friday, August 5, 2016

Building Bigger Barns

There is a lot of pressure these days to upgrade. Phone companies offer special incentives if we upgrade to the latest smart phone, while car-dealers are constantly trying to convince us to trade in our older car for a brand new model!

And it wasn’t long ago that all the talk was about buying a starter home or getting on the property ladder. The idea is that we can always go bigger and do better for ourselves. If we think about it, most of us will admit we have more than we need to get by but there is still a drive to acquire more “stuff”.

The rich young man in Lk18:18-23 was busying himself with upgrading. Faced with a lack of sufficient space to store all his crops and goods, he decided to build bigger barns. Satisfied, he then sat back to enjoy the finer things of life, to “eat, drink and have a good time”.

But Jesus offers a gentle reminder that, really, these are not the things that matter. After all, we can’t take any of these treasures with us. Our farmer friend had forgotten to focus on the more important things in life – he had stored up riches on earth instead of focusing on making himself “rich in the sight of God!.

What treasures are important to me in my life?


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

That All may be One : Living in Radical Amazement.

There is no shortage of wonderful books on the marvels of God’s creation, but Judy Cannato blends the story of the universe into a very informative, reflective, refreshing and challenging read. I quote briefly below from chapter 12 of her book Radical Amazement.

The new universe story invites us to expand our hearts to include all creation. Indeed, connectedness is fundamental to our reality. No matter what sphere of life we observe, from the physical to the spiritual, we are connected to others. We cannot separate from this truth, no matter how hard we may want to try. Albert Einstein called the notion of separation an “optical delusion”, yet for several centuries we have lived deluded, and at a great price. So Many of the social and ecological problems that confront us today stem from our delusion that we are separate from, better or more significant than, other members of creation – from other groups of people we encounter to the air we breathe. Our lack of openness to all may very well mean our demise.

If we are to expand our hearts to include all creation, we need to embrace our capacity for communion. Relationship is something that all life requires, even organic life. Our vitality depends upon the connections we establish and the communion we share. Of course we are made for agency, of course we are asked to develop our gifts and use then well. But our gifts, as life-giving as their expression can be for us, are foremost for others. This means we must reject a perception of separateness and exclusivity that keep others at bay. And it means we reject any temptation that keeps us from self-communion, from tending to the Holy that dwells within. What nourishes any of us, more that bread itself, is a relationship in which we discover simultaneously who we are as we discover who the other is. Communion that honours the other, that reverences the Holy One in the other and in the self-this is what we embrace. Connectedness is primary. Communion is essential.

(Judy Cannato)

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Youth 2000 Summer Festival Retreat

Following on from my visit to Youth 2000 retreat in Killarney in April, I looked forward to the Summer Festival at Cistercian College, Roscrea which took place last week end. I joined the Presentation Brothers’ Youth Ministry Team: Silvia and John together with Brothers Stan, Douglas, Theiva and Barry.

In excess of 1,000 young adults gathered to celebrate and deepen their faith in a safe and supportive environment. One youthful adult attending for the first time said to me he thought it would be all old people in attendance but he was shocked to see so many young people and that was very reassuring. It was he said like being part of one big family, the family of God where he felt a sense of belonging, united around Christ through adoration and the Eucharist.

The theme of the festival was, “Receive my mercy...inherit my kingdom”. Thursday was Gathering Day, Friday was Mercy Day, Saturday was Mary’s Day and Sunday was Mission Day. It was great to catch up again with friends and make more new friends in Roscrea.

It was a festival full of variety. It included adoration, inspiring talks, music, prayer, drama, share groups, testimonies, workshops, reconciliation and healing service and Mass. It was a packed programme but there was also time for chatting, relaxing, field games and generally chilling out. I experienced a lovely sense of joy and camaraderie throughout the four days. It was a gathering of friends that cut across, age, ethnicity, background, culture and personality.

A number of excellent workshops were offered on Friday and Saturday afternoon. I would have loved to sample all the workshops but four was as many as one could attend over the two afternoons. There was a workshop on ‘Dodgy Stuff’ (New Age Movements) and the cost of discipleship. Other workshops included exploring love and relationships, faith in media (spirit radio), pro-life, lectio divina, discovering your vocation, pure in heart, a tour of the Monastery and others.

There were faith groups with display stands in the assembly hall offering information to interested seekers. Personnel were present at display stands to distribute literature or answer questions was Vocations Ireland, Shalom T.V. Legion of Mary, NET Ministries, Pro Life, Newman College (Derry), Cana, Mary’s Meals and many others.         

For many people to whom I spoke, the healing service was a lovely experience for them followed by reconciliation. Bishop Phonsie Cullinane, Waterford and Lismore Diocese led the Mass on Friday while Archbishop Charles Brown, Papal Nuncio was the main celebrant at the Saturday Mass. Both encouraged the youth to be strong in standing up for their faith and to use the festival to overcome any fear they may encounter beyond the festival. A number of those who attended will represent Youth 2000 at World Youth Day in Poland at the of the month.

I acknowledge the weeks of preparation and hard work by Lana Wilson, National Director and her team of dedicated volunteers at national level. Well done to all concerned! Youth 2000 continues to grow in strength throughout Ireland. In the words of Lana, it is about, ‘Youth leading youth to the heart of the Church’and I know many are looking forward to the next Youth 2000 event.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Movies with Meaning: “The Bucket List”

Recently, I saw a good film, “The Bucket List” in the company of young adults. Two old codgers Edward (Jack Nicholson) and Carter (Morgan Freeman) end up in hospital because of a terminal illness. They share the same hospital room together and they become good friends. After making a “bucket list” (list of things to do before they ‘kick the bucket’), they set out together on a worldwide adventure, completing the items on the list—and adding more—as they go along.

There are many engaging twists and relevant messages in the film. At one point Edward arranges a prostitute for Carter, who refuses and in the process finds a renewed love for his wife. Edward also shares personal experiences from his own life: He’s been married three times, and has a daughter, from whom he’s estranged. Carter understands that Edward longs for his family, and arranges a meeting at his daughter’s home. Edward was furious, and responded by saying that he doesn’t need anybody. When Carter passes away, a letter he left moves Edward to reconcile with his daughter, giving him an opportunity to be with the cutest girl in the world—his granddaughter.

During one of their journeys, Carter asks Edward some questions about life. Have you found joy in your life?” “Has your life brought joy to others?” Edward says he envies people who have faith but he never could get his head around it. Faith doesn’t make sense to him. Does it make sense for you? In the end of their lives, they realise what is really important. Why do we never know what we have got until it’s gone? This film reminds us to cherish our lives at every moment and treasure our families and friends. I often wondered if I had six months to live, what would be my response?

I recall a line from the film: Upon death, God asks a question: “Were you ever happy?” The answer determines whether or not you’ll be allowed into heaven. This makes an important point: The purpose of life is happiness, even to the last moments. It doesn’t matter how much money you make; what matters is whether or not you’re happy in the process of making it. At the end of the day, the goal of making money should be to increase your own happiness, not accumulating wealth just for the sake of becoming wealthy.

Having watched the film a lively discussion ensued. It is a film that raised many questions for me. It is well worth watching especially for anyone discerning their future direction in life. We can also call the ‘bucket list’ a ‘list of dreams’. ‘Bucket list’ emphasizes passing away, while ‘list of dreams’ sounds more life-centered. We should make a list of dreams—at the very least this will give us goals to strive towards in our youth, giving us fuller and happier lives. So, what’s first on your list?

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Rise From Your Knees

Following the pilgrimage to Lough Derg last year with Andrew O ‘Connell, John Quinn, evangelisation officer extended the invitation again this year to the Presentation Family. I was apprehensive doing the journey again twelve months to the day since my previous visit to this sacred place. I remembered sleep deprivation and hunger, not to mention sore feet and sore knees! But I blocked all that from my mind as our Presentation Family of nineteen souls made the short journey from the mainland north of the town of Pettigo across to Station Island.

It was a privilege to be part of a lovely, supportive group of people; we became companions on a journey 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 realised we were in the same boat. While I found it very 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.

Doing something with others brings us closer together and creates a bond of support. Pope Francis in a text said that the Christian Life is never falling down but always getting up again. Thanks to the hand of God which catches us again. Maybe this has been the experience of this group of pilgrims who over the three days bonded with each other supporting one another when the time of need arose...helping each other as we journeyed together.

We live in an age where ultimate challenges are becoming more a way of life for many, we see people accomplishing amazing, daring and physically challenging things. Pushing the boundaries of our physical and mental strength and rising to the challenge is part of an inner search to take ourselves to a deeper place

The three day challenge this group of passionate pilgrims set themselves was not too dissimilar and it was, as one pilgrim put it, “harder to put into words why I am doing it than it was to have done it!” Another said, “It was just something I wanted to do” and another again said, “I keep hearing the call to return.”

While I was one of a group, I was also one of 120 other pilgrims that came on to the island for the week end. There was a great variety of ages too from young adults 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 Fr. 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.

It is an experience of real humility where the material world takes a back seat. It is an opportunity to reflect more deeply on life and come close to God.

World Youth Day comes to Cork

Are you aware this year Pope Francis has invited young people of the world to meet him in Krakow, Poland, in July for the 14th World Youth Day? However, we know that many young people are not able to attend this gathering so the Diocese of Cork & Ross together with Vocations Ireland is hosting a Vigil & Mass to coincide with the Vigil in Krakow for our young people at home. It will take place on Saturday 30th from 8pm to midnight.

The evening will include music, inspiring talks, prayer, food, confession, adoration, discussion groups and live links to Krakow throughout the evening. The event will conclude with concelebrated mass at 11.00pm which is open to all who would like to join us. This event will take place in Saint Columba’s Church and Parish Centre in Douglas.

We encourage you to invite young people whom you know are in your parish. A personal invitation is often the most effective way of encouraging one another to attend such a gathering.

It is open to young adults 18 – 40 and young people 16 – 18 accompanied by parish group leaders. A contribution of 10 euros per participant is asked and registration is essential – details and registration forms available from the Pastoral Development Office telephone 0214537601.

We are conscious that the event is coming in the middle of the summer holidays but we hope you will support it and encourage young people to attend.

Monday, June 13, 2016

A Pilgrimage with a Difference!

I enjoyed a few days with my confreres recently on a pilgrimage on the Wild Atlantic Way. We joined the West Cork part of the Wild Atlantic Way in the town of Clonakilty, the gateway to West Cork. As we took the journey South West from Clonakilty, a different landscape opened up before us where the ‘wild’ aspect of this route started to take shape and a more rugged and scenic coastline came into view. 

One of our first stops was in the picturesque coastal village of Timoleague. Br. Martin, our guide for the three days, outlined the story of the abbey founded by the Franciscan Monks in the thirteenth century. It was built upon the former site of a monastic settlement by St. Molaga in the sixth century. Timoleague was the home of Saint Molaga, (Tigh Molaga, House of Molaga) who is said to have introduced bees to Ireland. It was then onwards to the beautiful town of Rosscarbery with its beautiful view by the sea was to be our base.  

Br. John led us each morning with the active Chinese practice of Tai Chi followed with some personal   reflective time on Warren beach. After a light breakfast, we headed for the beautiful fishing village of Baltimore which opens up a gateway to Carbery’s Hundred Isles in Roaring Water Bay. On a glorious sunny morning we climbed Beacon Head and witnessed some stunning scenery. I recalled the words of Peter to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here…!” In the afternoon we took a boat trip around Roaring Water Bay to view whales, dolphins and seals; we weren’t disappointed. We saw magnificent Minke whales rising to the surface for air as they followed the fish; porpoises, seals, oyster catchers and diving gannets were among other species of wild life to be seen. On our return we took a detour to the friendly fishing village of Union Hall for a lovely evening meal. You guessed it, it was beautiful, tasty, fresh fish of the day all round.   

The following morning, our journey took us to the town of Skibbereen. We visited the very popular Heritage Centre with its interactive tribute to the thousands lost in this area to the Great Famine. I tried to connect in spirit the famine with the plight of the refugees today. A unique attraction, located outside Skibereen, is that of Lough Hyne – Europe’s first marine nature reserve and a place of great natural beauty. It is home to a diverse range of plants and marine life. Combined with the wooded walk to the summit of Knockomagh hill with its panoramic views over the lake, a trip to Lough Hyne is a must for visitors to the area. Before we departed this peaceful place, we visited one of three holy wells in the area, ‘Tobarin na Sul’, an early Christian holy well associated with healing of the eyes. We read the story of Bartimaeus, the blind man in the Gospel of Mark and I prayed, “Lord that I may see a new…!”  

On the afternoon, we headed off on a three-hour country walk in Castlefreke. We followed the path through mature woods, amazing biodiversity and viewed Ireland’s reputedly tallest memorial cross. On the way we took time to visit Rathbarry Castle, a Medieval Church and returned to Long Strand which was our starting point. This walk had everything on a beautiful afternoon. “Did not our hearts burn within us as he walked with us along the Way”? 

I remembered how Jesus too walked a lot in his life. The four Gospels are peppered with accounts of him walking into the countryside, walking by the Sea of Galilee, walking in the Temple, and even walking on water…walking gives you time to see things more clearly. Because he was moving slowly, things and places came into focus for him. Sometimes he had a destination, sometimes he did not. For many who followed him, he was the destination. So I need to take time to see, to listen and to reflect – go slow and that’s what I tried to do for these few days.  

Click to listen to Aoife Scott’s rendition of All Along the Wild Atlantic Way: