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

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.

Monday, February 6, 2017

A Culture of Encounter

On Saturday, together with other members of our Vocations Strategy Team, I spent a very informative day in the company of Michael Kelly, editor of the Irish Catholic.  He introduced us to the many ways we can embrace the culture of encounter in today’s world.

He referred to Pope Francis and how he uses social media to spread the Joy of the Gospel.  Pope Francis received Mark Zuckerberg, Chairman and CEO of Facebook, at the Vatican.  They spoke on how best to use communications technology to alleviate poverty, encourage a culture of encounter and a message of hope, especially to the most disadvantaged in our world.

He highlighted the significance of the global media and how it is influencing our lives today.  Among some of the most influential social media outlets are Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter.  He also gave us important tips for interviews with the media and how to write a press release.  There was also an opportunity to walk the talk and do some real interviews.

There are so many learnings that I take from the day.  Almost 80% of the stories in our newspapers are generated by media releases.  Beyonce "broke the internet" through Instagram with her record number of tweets - just because she is expecting twins.  Another popular person of Twitter is Katy Perry with in excess of 95 million followers.  Hot on her heels is Justin Bieber with over 91 million followers.  The Barcelona footballer, Ronaldo, has over 50 million followers, while Pope Francis claims 35 million followers.

Today, we are asked to follow so many people, but Jesus is the one who asks us to follow him so that we might build a true culture of encounter in our lives.