Thursday, 30 June 2011

Justice in a Time of Cutbacks.

The Greeks are very angry! As I write there are riots on the streets of Athens, violence and tear gas.  The people protest as the government bringing in even more severe austerity measures.

We Irish are very tame in comparison even if this country is in a similar situation. Many more harsh cut backs are coming down the line.

The heaviest burdens are being imposed on the weakest among us. As always the powerful, the wealthy are able to protect themselves and their interests only too well.

I am not advocating riots on the streets. But I have been disappointed by the silence of our Church leaders in all of this. Surely in this situation there is something to say from the Gospel perspective.  Communion with Christ and his Holy Spirit helps us view the world in the light of the Gospel. That perspective presses us to accomplish God’s will, to work for the truth and justice of his Kingdom.

This was something Archbishop Romero, the martyred archbishop of San Salvador, admitted he had to learn. In one of his sermons he said: 'I am a shepherd who, with his people, have begun to learn a beautiful and difficult truth: our Christian faith requires that we submerge ourselves in the world.'

We pray to see the world with God’s eyes, and then in communion with God’s Spirit we are emboldened and motivated to act. There is a need for a clear Christian voice that calls for justice and fairness in a time of cutbacks.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

The Eucharist as Poultice

Some years ago I came across a quote from a medieval English writing, The Epistle of Privy Counsel. The faith-filled message has stayed with me.

It speaks with beautiful simplicity of our encounter with God as healing and life-giving. The image of the poultice is used.  A  poultice is a home-made remedy that is laid on a festering wound to draw out the poison.

'Take good and gracious God, just as he is,
and without further ado
lay him on your sick self  just as you are,
for all the world as if he were a poultice.
For touching God is eternal health.
You are touching his very being,
his own dear self, no more, no less.'

Particularly, when sharing in the Eucharist, I recall this image if I am aware of being burdened in some way. 

Just before receiving we pray: 'Only say the word and I shall be healed.' We are invited in simple trust  to bring ourselves with all our needs to the Lord, to 'lay him' on our wounded selves, and allow him to draw from our hearts and minds and bodies all that is not life-giving, all that is not of him.

The feast of Corpus Christi celebrates with joy the gift of healing and fresh hope given us in the Eucharist.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Goodness and Greatness

Continuing my ponderings on the vast mystery of God as Trinity.... This prayer, composed by the American friar, Richard Rohr, speaks to my heart.

God for us, we call You Father
God alongside us, we call You Jesus,
God within us, we call You Holy Spirit.

You are the Eternal Mystery
That enables, enfolds, and enlivens all things,
even us,
and even me.

Every name falls short of your
Goodness and Greatness

We can only see who You are in what is.
We ask for such perfect seeing.

As it was in the beginning, is now,
and ever shall be.


Saturday, 18 June 2011

Trinity Sunday

The spirituality of  St Francis is deeply Trinitarian. His writings reveal a profound awareness of even now being immersed, sharing in the Communion that is God.

The grace of his baptism had come alive in Francis in his experience.  The same awakening of the gift  is offered to each of us.

So tomorrow's feast of the Holy Trinity is not meant as a theology lesson. It stirs up in us not only a spirit of awe and adoration before the Most High, but also confidence, assurance and joy in the God who has lifted us up into his own intimate fellowship.

The Spirit of God penetrates our most intimate personal depths. From there we can cry out in love and trust: 'Abba, dear Father.'  The Spirit places us within the very rhythm of the divine life, allowing us participate personally in the love that exist between the Father and the Son.

That is why love and prayer are going on in us, at the deepest level where our spirit has been touched and enlivened by the Holy Spirit. Our prayer can seem to us such a poor thing,  so distracted, so ‘unsuccessful’. But we do not see the reality. Our prayer is one with the communion of love between Jesus and the Father, this communion which is the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit becomes the soul of our soul, the most secret part of our being, from which rises unceasingly to God a movement of prayer.

I can see why Francis and the other saints keep reminding us: be careful that your understanding of the gift is not too small, your vision too limited, your hope too paltry.

The deepest things we need are not elsewhere. We  are in God; we live in God; we journey to God in God.


Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Trinity: God is not lonely!

We could never have known – God had to reveal it.

The Creator is not some lonely deity living in eternal isolation but Father, Son and Spirit - a communion of boundless joy, a fountain of light and life and love that is the source of all that is. This coming Sunday is Trinity Sunday when the liturgy especially rejoices in the God who has been revealed to us. 

And the delight is we do not just look in wonder at this mystery of God from the outside. No, God holds nothing back from us. God’s humble, vast goodness invites us in. Through the giving of the Beloved Son to the world, God’s willing abasement elevates humanity.  A saint said: 'His richness wears the face of my poverty that I may be enriched by his divinity.'

St John writes:  'To all who believe in him, he gave power to become children of God.' This power is God’s own Spirit. We are brought into this love relationship that exists within God from all eternity. We are embraced and caught up into God, children in the one beloved Child.  We are loved by the Father with the selfsame love with which he has loved and loves Christ before time began, with the same torrent of self-giving goodness and delight. The Spirit is nothing less than the love between the Father and the Son, their communion. 

The Holy Spirit carries us into the heart of God. By the Spirit we so share God’s life that our very 'I' can become part of the 'I' of God. We are not displaced by some vague, oppressive spirit but recreated from within by the Holy Spirit. What Paul claims is true for all of us who share in the Spirit of the Lord: 'It is not I who live but Christ lives in me.'

I know it takes a lifetime to even begin to understand and live this reality.

But how wonderful to know in faith the gift given.

How precious to catch glimpses of the divine splendour.

How sweet to taste God's joy within.


Sunday, 12 June 2011

A Continual Pentecost

At the heart of the Rule and Life Franciscan friars profess is the statement by St Francis: “Let them desire above all else to have the Spirit of the Lord and His holy activity within them.” Francis goes to the very heart of the Gospel for if we do not understand the role of the Holy Spirit we just do not understand the Christian life.

Jesus did not come simply to teach us a new way of living. He came to give us new life by the gift of  indwelling Spirit. The outpouring of the Spirit is the summit of Christ’s mission, the greatest fruit of his Cross and the source of our transformation. By the gift of the Spirit the healing mercy and liberating power of Jesus Crucified and Risen are made present, real and available to us. The Holy Spirit carries us into the very heart of God.

Pope Paul VI once asked the question: “What is the greatest need of the Church?” And he answered: “The Church first and greatest need is to live Pentecost. The Spirit is the Church’s mystery and life. It is he who animates and sanctifies the Church. The Spirit is her divine breath, the wind in her sails,  the inner font of her light and strength. The Holy Spirit is her source of charism and song, her peace and joy. The Church needs her perennial Pentecost. She needs fire in her heart, words on her lips, and prophecy in her outlook. If we really love the Church the main thing we must do is to foster in her a new outpouring of the Divine Spirit.”

Our greatest need as a Christian people, especially in this time of purification, is a continual Pentecost,  an interior Pentecost. We need to live Pentecost.

The Fire still falls.
The Breath of God is still given.
The Living Water is still poured out.

Come Fire of God.
Come Breath of God. 
Come Spirit of God.

Monday, 6 June 2011

West Cork Beauty

Sheep's Head Peninsula

Over the weekend I was down in our friary in Cork city to visit a sick relative. I got the chance to head to West Cork on Sunday. I spend the day on Sheep's Head Peninsula, and was able to do some walking in this wonderful part of the country - wild, unspoilt, and peaceful.

I was very aware as I walked on hills overlooking Bantry Bay that I was blessed. It was such a gift to be there. Not only because I could enjoy the beauty around me, but also because I was aware, in faith,  that all I saw was but mirroring the goodness and splendour of its Creator.

The Franciscan tradition speaks of the Book of Creation.  Creation is an open book that reveals God's beauty, power and majesty. In theological terms: God is immanent in his creation. All creation is charged with his glory.

Pope John Paul said: 'For those who have attentive ears and unveiled eyes, creation is like a first revelation, which has its own eloquent language. It is almost like another sacred book whose letters are represented by the multitude of creatures present in the universe.'

In the light of faith this world takes on an even more awesome aspect.

'Earth's crammed with heaven
and every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round and plunk blackberries.'
                        (Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

Friday, 3 June 2011

New Shoots in Multyfarnham

President McAleese and Fr Caoimhin at Multyfarnham
 Two weeks ago President McAleese opened the LARCC Centre at the Franciscan Abbey Multyfarnham, Co Westmeath.  Those involved with the Lakelands Area Retreat and Cancer Centre (LARCC) were delighted to relocated to the Abbey and make use of a large section of the old building that once was a boarding school, and later an agricultural college for a period.

The centre will be used to provide support and holistic help for people living with cancer. They and family members can participate in courses, obtain information and experience complementary therapies. Unique to LARCC is its residential Take a Break Week. The five days take the clients on a personal journey of relaxation, reflection and recovery guided by skilled therapists, nurses and counsellors. 

The friars have been in 'Multy' a long, long time - since 1268 in fact. Today four friars form the community, and still serve the local people in a variety of ways. The ancient church has been beautifully restored and the grounds are a peaceful haven.

Down through the centuries the Abbey has witnessed much, including during the times of Persecuti0n, the marytrdom of friars and the sacking and burning of the church three times.

It is wonderful to see another dimension of its long story emerging, something that would not have been thought of in the past - Franciscans sharing their space with others in the grace-filled work of support and healing.

Like an age-0ld oak, Multy is putting out a fresh green shoot!