Friday, 28 December 2012

New Year - New Beginning



St Francis used to tell his friars, ‘Let us begin again for up to now we have done little or nothing.’

He had the capacity to leave the past to God’s compassion and to look forward with hope, trusting in grace from the Lord.

Stepping out again in confidence, being willing to begin again, setting goals for the path ahead – this is what renews our energy and gives zest to life!

‘Make New Year's goals. Dig within, and discover what you would like to have happen in your life this year. This helps you do your part. It is an affirmation that you're interested in fully living life in the year to come.
Goals give us direction. They put a powerful force into play on a universal, conscious, and subconscious level. Goals give our life direction.

What would you like to have happen in your life this year? What would you like to do, to accomplish? What good would you like to attract into your life? What particular areas of growth would you like to have happen to you? What blocks, or character defects, would you like to have removed?

What would you like to attain? Little things and big things? Where would you like to go? What would you like to have happen in friendship and love? What would you like to have happen in your family life?

What problems would you like to see solved? What decisions would you like to make? What would you like to happen in your career?

Write it down. Take a piece of paper, a few hours of your time, and write it all down - as an affirmation of you, your life, and your ability to choose. Then let it go. 

The New Year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.’

Friday, 21 December 2012

Christmas: 'And is it true?'

Writing of London in the days before Christmas, John Betjeman's poem Christmas captures the rush and fuss that precedes the celebration. 
But then he asks the core question: Is it true? 
Is it true?
In this Year of Faith that question goes to the heart of our believing.
Is it true that God has come so close to us? Is it true that he now shares our humanity so we can share his divinity? Is it true that foolish love has led God to such astonishing means to reach us?
Is it true?
Wishing you light and joy unbounded as you ponder that question during these days of grace!
Christmas
The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hookers Green...
And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.
And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children's hearts are glad.
And Christmas-morning bells say 'Come!'
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window's hue,
A Baby in an ox's stall ?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me ?

And is it true ? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare -
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.
John Betjeman (1906-84)

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Advent - Mary's Full Yes


The beautiful lines below by Denise Levertov go to the heart of the mystery we celebrate in this season. 

Love - both divine and human - interact, open to one another.

Love - free, full and fruitful!

May Mary lead us so our consent, our yes, comes from an ever-deeper level. 

Then the 'enfleshing' of the Lord can continue even in our humanity.
 
Consent

This was the minute no one speaks of,
when she could still refuse.
A breath unbreathed,
Spirit,
suspended,
waiting.

She did not cry, "I cannot, I am not worthy,"
nor, "I have not the strength."
She did not submit with gritted teeth,
raging, coerced.
Bravest of all humans,
consent illumined her.
The room filled with its light,
the lily glowed in it,
and the iridescent wings.
Consent,
courage unparalleled,
opened her utterly.

                                Denise Levertov

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Advent - Focus on the Essential



Elizabeth cried out: "Why should I be honour with a visit from the mother of my Lord?"

The Advent-Christmas season focuses us on what is at the heart of our faith. 

Jesus is Emmanuel - God with us, God for us.

The community of the Lord's disciples has as its primary role to witness to this God of love who has come in search of us.

So often the Church is seen only in the light of its problems - even by believers. Yes, there are issues and problems galore but all should be viewed in the light of the astonishing goodness that has been made known to us.

If we lose sight of Christ and who he is - what point is there in belonging to the faith community?  

Pope Benedict recalls how, "When I used go to Germany in the 1980s and '90s, I was asked to give interviews and I always knew the questions in advance. They concerned the ordination of women, contraception, abortion and other such constantly recurring problems. 

If we let ourselves be drawn constantly into these discussions, the Church is then identified with certain commandments or prohibitions; we give the impression that we are moralists with a few somewhat antiquated convictions, and not even a hint of the true greatness of the faith appears.

I therefore consider it essential always to highlight the greatness of our faith. God is Love - to the point that he completely humbled himself, assuming a human body and finally, giving himself into our hands as bread. We know that God is not a philosophical hypothesis, he is not something that perhaps exists, but we know him and he knows us.” 

The Pope points out: "Many seek meditation elsewhere because they think that they will not be able to find a spiritual dimension in Christianity. We must show them once again not only that this spiritual dimension exists but that it is the source of all things.”

Christ, Son of God and Mary's child, is our message. 

The Gospel of grace not moralism is our gift to the world.

Sunday, 25 November 2012


Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny, chats with Friar Pat Lynch at the official opening of the Riverbank Centre, Dublin, on 21 November.
 
Merchants Quay Ireland's (MQI) new centre for homeless and drugs services provides nearly 7,000 hot meals a week, along with a warm welcome, counselling, medical and dental services and a needle exchange programme. 

Clients comment: “I was abused. A lot of my childhood was snatched away from me. If MQI wasn’t there, I would have killed myself through overdose” (Niall).

“If I need to get a phone or need a letter, MQI helps me with that" (Miora). 

“The staff at MQI give you their ear, they are thoughtful. They remember your name. Fairly simple stuff, but it was big to me at the time” (Brendan). 

"My teeth were gone. Every simple little thing, now I have my health, I am able to walk around” (Martin).

Minister Provincial, Hugh McKenna, invokes the blessing.
On Saturday 24 November, the blessing of Riverbank  was celebrated with Dublin Orchestral Players giving a concert in Adam and Eve's Church, Merchants' Quay, Dublin.
May the Centre be a place of warm Franciscan welcome and healing grace for all who enter its doors!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Hearts Wide Open to Beauty!



 
As our brothers and sisters in the United States celebrate Thanksgiving - a prayer of joyful gratitude for the blessings and beauty of the world around us.
O God, we thank you for this earth, our home;
For the wide sky and the blessed sun,
For the salt sea and the running water,
For the everlasting hills
And the never-resting winds,
For trees and the common
grass underfoot.

We thank you for our senses
By which we hear the
songs of birds,
And see the splendor of
the summer fields,
And taste of the autumn fruits,
And rejoice in the feel of the snow,
And smell the breath of the spring.

Grant us a heart wide open to all this beauty;
And save our souls from being so blind
That we pass unseeing
When even the common thornbush
Is aflame with your glory,
O God our creator,
Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

                           Walter Rauschenbusch

 Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Growing in Faith



I have a have personal responsibility for my own journey of faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of a “faith that seeks understanding. It is intrinsic to faith that a believer desires to know the One in whom he has put his faith, and to understand better what the Lord has revealed. A more penetrating knowledge will in turn call forth a greater faith, increasingly set afire by love.”

 We are warned that while faith is “an entirely free gift that God gives to a person, we can lose this priceless gift. To live, grow and persevere in the faith to the end we must nourish it, and beg God to increase our faith.” 

Jesus calls us to love God “with our whole mind.”  An Irish Cistercian nun writes: “For me the surest path to contemplation does not involve emptying my mind but rather filling my mind with the marvels that God has done for us in Jesus. Reflection on the mystery of Christ is for me the surest path to praise, thanksgiving and contemplation. Using my mind, not suppressing it, leads to prayer and union with God.” 

Many of us discover as we get older that the certain understandings that guided our youth are insufficient to light the next stage of our life. Many would like their faith to be deeper, better informed, richer. They realise it needs to grow more mature or to be purified of alien elements so that they can live it more faithfully and help steady their uncertain steps.
 
St Paul tells the Christians in Corinth: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in faith. Test yourselves.” But then he adds, “Do you not realise that Jesus Christ is in you?” (2 Corithians13:4). Our faith can only become what it is meant to be when we realise how magnificently Christ is in us, unceasingly inviting us to respond to the grace of the Spirit

Then during this Year of Faith we can be gifted with a faith that is living, lived and life-giving.


Thursday, 1 November 2012

Disciples and Apprentices





The New Testament word mathetes is usually translated “disciple”. At that time, however, it could also mean an “apprentice”. This humbler term reminds us that we are always apprenticed to the “Master” – “You have only one master, the Christ” (Matthew 23:10). 

The Gospels refer to the Lord’s public ministry as “teaching” some 150 times. He still remains our supreme Teacher who enlightens our minds and instructs us. 

St Augustine said to his people in one of his sermons: “Christ lives in the heart of each one of us, and He is our best teacher. I, the preacher, am pouring out a torrent of words in your ear. My words are meaningless unless He who dwells within you reveals their sense to you. Your true teacher will always be the teacher within. It is He who enables you to understand, in the depths of your being, the truth of what is said to you.” 

The Lord’s outreach and in-breaking into our lives is unrelenting, if we but realised it. Pope Benedict speaks in one of his encyclicals of “the life-less reduction of religion to duty without joy or energy.” He contrasts that with the awareness that “we stand before the astonishing experience of Gift”. 

This Gift is the gratuitous outpouring of divine love that is the source of our creation and redemption, a gift we glimpse when mind and heart are touched by Christ’s light. 

During this Year of Faith may our minds and hearts indeed be touched by that transforming light.

"Speak, Lord, your servant is listening!"

Thursday, 18 October 2012

NEW BOOK ON FRANCISCAN SPIRITUALITY!



A NEW BOOK ON FRANCISCAN SPIRITUALITY
Glimpses of the Franciscan Way
By Mark Davis and Francis Cotter, OFM,
with photos by Ged Barrow.

“This wonderful book touches the soul. These pages give a glimpse of
the divine beauty that so captivated the hearts of Francis and Clare.”
Sr Colette, Abbess, Poor Clare Monastery, Galway City.

“Sometimes the text is fine, sometimes the pictures are lovely,
but here they are both brilliant! Here you may use
your mind, your eyes, your heart, and your imagination
to be led into a better, bigger and so much needed world.”
Richard Rohr, OFM,
Center for Action and Contemplation, Albuquerque.

Hardcover, 83 pagesSPECIAL OFFER in our Irish friaries, only €12.
 Available at Franciscan friaries in Ireland
and from
Assisi Bookshop,
Franciscan Friary,
Merchants’ Quay, Dublin 8.
 Phone: 01.6771128
Or contact fjcofm@yahoo.com
 Also available in VERITAS bookshops throughout Ireland.


Thursday, 11 October 2012

The Year of Faith




 The Year of Faith has begun.

As with Pope Benedict, John Paul II spoke often of the necessity of an ongoing journey of faith: “It is true that being a Christian means saying ‘yes’ to Jesus Christ, but let us remember that this ‘yes’ has two levels: It consists in surrendering to the Word of God and relying on it in the initial act of faith. But it also means, at a later stage, endeavouring to know better and better the profound meaning of the faith received.” 

He emphasised that this access to deeper faith is a right. “Every baptised person, precisely by reason of being baptised, has the right to receive from the Church instruction and education enabling him or her to enter on a truly Christian life." 

Few would doubt that this catechesis (Greek for teaching), this adult faith formation is a deperate need.

Thomas H. Groome, in his book Will There be Faith?, writes of a teaching dynamic that leads people from life to Faith to life. It is an approach to adult catechesis that goes far beyond merely passively receiving information. He speaks of a way that can inform, form, and transform. 

Inform – educate people to know, understand and embrace with personal conviction Christianity’s core beliefs and values. 

Form – deepen people’s sense of Catholic identity through active engagement in and experience of a Christian community of prayer and service.

Transform – open people to a life-long journey to conversion toward holiness and fullness of life for themselves and “for the life of the world” (John 6:51). 

It is a call to a faith that entails knowledge, relationship and commitment. Groome writes of the faith being embodied in a discipleship of “the head, the heart and the hands”.

In this time of grace may we be open to a deepening of the gift of faith, a faith that embraces all of life.


Tuesday, 2 October 2012

A Franciscan Blessing


I do not know the origin of this 'Franciscan' blessing but, as we celebrate the feast of St Francis, it is a good counterbalance to the cosy 'Francis of the birdbath' spirituality! 
At the heart of Francis' Gospel vision is delight in the Lord.
However Francis understood most clearly that if our joy in the Lord is to be authentic it must lead to compassion that flowers into action.
May this uncomfortable invocation open us to a more profound Gospel life.
May God bless you with discomfort,
At easy answers, half-truths,
And superficial relationships
So that you may live
Deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger
At injustice, oppression,
And exploitation of people,
So that you may work for
Justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears,
To shed for those who suffer pain,
Rejection, hunger and war,
So that you may reach out your hand
To comfort them and
To turn their pain to joy
And may God bless you
With enough foolishness
To believe that you can
Make a difference in the world,
So that you can do
What others claim cannot be done
To bring justice and kindness
To all our children and the poor.
Amen

Saturday, 29 September 2012

A Prayer for Syria

Jesus wept.
Precious God, what makes you weep?
What are the things in this world that break your heart?
Glorious God we pray for the nation of Syria.
We ask for your mercy.
We pray for children who have lost parents and parents, children.
The voiceless, who sleep to the rhythm of their tears.
For all those who are chained by fear,
O God please bring peace.
Lord, we pray that you may raise up peacemakers
and those with generous loving hearts.
We ask that you may give discernment and courage to politicians
both national and international and others with influence,
that a road of peace may be found.
May justice flow and bring healing to this land.
For the honour of your name, Amen
 
(from Franciscans International, 
witnessing to the Franciscan message at the United Nations.)
 
 

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Jubilee of Grace


This morning, the feast of Our Lady's Nativity, we had a joyful celebration as two of the friars here celebrated their Diamond Jubilee of Profession as Franciscans. Sixty years!

      Writing of the Profession we make to God, the General Constitutions of our Order (article 5) emphasise the totally of the self-giving and its deep connection with the fundamental grace of Baptism. “In a more complete fulfilment of their baptismal consecration and in answer to the divine call, the friars give themselves totally to God, their supreme love. Through profession of obedience, poverty and chastity, which they are to live in the spirit of St Francis, they contract a covenant with God and life becomes, as it were, for their whole existence, a sacrifice offered to God in charity.’

Reading that understanding of our religious profession, we friars surely realise yet again that there is no way that we can even begin to desire, let alone carry out, what we have promised to the Lord without the action and strength of God in our lives. 

The God who calls is the One who alone can give the grace to respond. 
The God who is faithful is the One who alone can restore what is broken by our sin and frailty.
The God who journeys with us is the One who alone can guide, support and protect us till the end. 

Our Franciscan path, as all the Christian journey, is sustained absolutely by the sheer goodness and compassion of the Lord. The grace of the Spirit is at the origin of our vocation and is its daily strength. 

Anyone celebrating their jubilee knows that it is above all a jubilee of grace.

So this morning in the Eucharist, as we thanked God for our brothers who 60 years ago consecrated their lives to the Lord as friars minor,  we above all celebrated the gracious goodness at work in their lives. And we entrusted them and ourselves once again to tender prayers of Our Lady and the loving fidelity of our God.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Living with Contradictions

Today is the feast of St Augustine - who often gets a poor press these days.  But he was a man whose life's journey forced him to look at the contractions within himself, and to finally live in peace with the profound paradox that is every human person. 
God has endless patience for the confused messiness that makes up our lives - but we have to learn, often the hard way, that compassion for self and others is the core of the Gospel and the path to serenity.
Richard Rohr, OFM, offers a reflection for this feast day that speaks to this spiritual dynamic.
"Jesus is giving us a win-win worldview (which is why it is called Good News!), but what the ego invariably does with the Gospel is make it into a win-lose game. That’s the only way the dualistic mind can think. You’re either in or you’re out. It defines itself largely by what it is not. The mystical or non-dual mind is alone capable of win-win.
Yet we don’t know how to include, how to forgive, how to pour mercy and compassion and patience upon events as God apparently does. Augustine of Hippo, a man filled with contradictions, was a master at holding those contradictions within himself and before God. He describes the power and simultaneously the deep powerlessness of true God experience. 
Faith absolutely knows and yet it does not know at all—and is content with this! Thus true believers are very humble and yet quietly confident in the same moment."

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

A Family Gathering


Last Sunday over 200 hundred members of the Franciscan Family in Ireland gathered in the ancient (founded 1268) and beautiful friary at Multyfarnham, Co Westmeath. Friars of all sorts, Poor Clares, Franciscan Sisters and Secular Franciscans came together to celebrate the life and charism of  St Clare as the Year of St Clare draws to a close.

On the night of Palm Sunday in 1212 a young, courageous woman left her parents' home in Assisi and walked through woods to reach the little chapel of Our Lady of the Angels where Francis and his brothers awaited her. There she consecrated her life totally to God in her desire to follow Christ poor and crucified. Her act of faith and love was the seed that flowered, by God's Spirit, into the Poor Clare Order.

On Sunday it was a joy to celebrate this Gospel woman. We were refreshed and encouraged in our own personal vocations as we shared her story and vision.

But what stands out for me was the deep sense of happiness in our being together. The chat and laughter, the sharing of stories and food, our very ease together - all spoke of family. 

Family implies belonging, acceptance, common roots, and shared identity. 

There is but one Gospel, one Spirit who calls all, one faith we cling to - this is true for the whole community of believers. But within that wide community there are families formed by a particular charism, a specific perspective on the mystery of Christ, a common story and spirit.

Francis exhorts us: "Where ever they meet let them show that they are members of one family" 

On Sunday I experienced anew the gift of belonging to the Franciscan Family.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

History keeps us humble!

I have found  that knowing a bit of Church history helps to give me perspective and keep me humble!
History shows us that as a community of faith, the Church, we often need to relearn or rediscover some truth that got forgotten or was denied because it was too uncomfortable, inconvenient or clashed too strongly with the prevailing culture.
Richard Rohr, OFM, writes of one such area of the Gospel that was ignored and got explained away for centuries
'I’m told that the word “nonviolence” did not exist (at least in the English and German languages) until the 1950s. There’s a reason for that: the notion didn’t exist in our consciousness. We didn’t create a word for it because we didn’t get it yet! When Gandhi came along, he pointed out that every religion in the world knows that Jesus of Nazareth taught and lived nonviolence except one religion - Christianity. In very short order, after Gandhi, this became obvious to many wise people throughout the world.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was the one who most influenced western culture regarding nonviolence. That’s why I speak of it as a recovery of nonviolence. We had it, but we couldn’t hear it, especially after Christianity became the imperial religion. When you’re imperial, you can’t hear any talk of nonviolence. You have to be violent to be an empire. So after 313 AD, we pretty much lost the nonviolent teaching of Jesus and it was not recovered until the twentieth century. It’s sort of unbelievable, but in between, nonviolence was almost universally forgotten, denied, or ignored as Christianity needed to justify its own violence.'
In fact, God did raise up prophets within the Church over the centuries who lived and proclaimed the Gospel of non-violence, foremost among them was St Francis. But the Church, at all levels, did not listen. 
Francis was honoured as a great saint, but his commitment to actually live the Sermon on the Mount was considered unrealistic and undoable - which of course it is - without deep conversion of heart and mind and the grace of Christ's Spirit to empower us.
This is but one area of Christian discipleship that has to 'rediscovered' and accepted generally within the Church. 
It is humbling to recognise that the tendency to water down the Gospel is so constant in the life of the Church, and, if we are honest, in our own Christian living.
May the Lord give us ears to hear and hearts to respond to his full Word!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

People of the Way


I always find that Jim Wallis, the American Christian and social activist, has something worthwhile to share. For many years he has been able to combine a deep personal commitment to the Lord within community, along with dedicated work for the transformation of the society in the light of Christ's teaching.

We can be 'tempted' as the Lord's disciples to focus on merely the private and the devotional or to get caught up in 'churchy' matters such as liturgical niceties.

In his book, Call to Conversion, he speaks both of the practical and communal nature of our Christian discipleship.

'The early Christians were known for the way they lived, not only for what they believed. For them, the two were completely intertwined. The earliest title given to them reflected the importance of their kingdom lifestyle. They were not called the people of "the experience" or the people of "right doctrine" or even the people of "the church." Rather, they were the people of "the Way." It is equally significant that the Christians were known as "the people" of the Way. More than just individuals who had been converted, they were now a people, a new community of faith, which had embarked together on a new way of life. To follow Jesus meant to share Jesus' life and to share it with others.'

This approach resonates with the Franciscan perspective: the most frequent verb in Francis' writings is 'to do'. Obviously Francis was not advocating senseless activism. But there is the realisation that we truly believe, not what we say we believe, but what we seek to put into practise in daily living with the help of God's grace.


Thursday, 21 June 2012

The Church: Called to Mediate Grace




 Ours is a searching God. St Catherine of Siena spoke of God being pazzo d’amore and ebro d’amore – crazed with love for us, drunk with love for us. She was right. How far has the Lord’s foolish love compelled Him to come in search of us. And at what a cost to Himself does He carry us home.

Look at the Gospels. The worse a person felt about himself or herself, the more likely they saw Jesus as a refuge. In His loving companionship lost souls knew themselves to be more than they had dared to imagine. Jesus brought these people, trapped in their tortured lives, a message of hope – anyone, anyone at any moment can start a new future by the sheer goodness of God.  

In God’s grace we grow to love ourselves as He wants – all of ourselves, even the parts we wish were not there, the parts of us we wish God hadn’t made, the parts of us we lament.

“Zacchaeus, come down, I am staying with you today!”

The Church exists to mediate that free, transforming love we call grace. The Church’s primary role is to share the Gospel of God’s grace – that unrestricted gracious love that, when it is accepted with joy, lifts up and changes lives. Such grace comes from beyond, as a gift not an achievement.

Gordon MacDonald wrote: “The world can do almost anything as well or better than the Church. You need not be a Christian to build houses, feed the hungry, or care for the sick. There is only one thing the world cannot do. It cannot offer grace.”

Philip Yancey, reflecting on his own spiritual journey, said: “I rejected the Church for a time because I found so little grace there. I returned because I found grace nowhere else.”


Francis lived in a time when the Church was shaken by scandals and tensions - far worst than in our own time. However, he was clear that his calling meant remaining firmly within the family of the Church, staying open and available to God's graious action himself, and working to make the Church more clearly, more effectively a sacred space where the grace of God's goodness can be experienced by a seeking world. 


It is a faith persepective that enables us to stand steadfast.