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