Saturday, 21 September 2013

The Pope's Interview

There is a story told of the future Good Pope John when he was Cardinal Archbishop of Venice. Dining with some of his senior clergy in his residence he listened as his Vicar General spoke harshly of a particular priest who was drinking too much and causing scandal.

The future Pope took his empty wine glass and asked, "Monsignor, to whom does this glass belong?" "It is yours, Your Eminence," was the reply.

The Cardinal let the glass fall to the ground. Then, indicating the broken glass, he asked, "And now to whom does it belong?" The answer, "It is still yours." The Cardinal replied, "And so it is with the brother you speak of - he is still my brother!"

Those who deserve love least need love most.

Mercy is the most beautiful face of God. There is more mercy in the Lord than sin in us. We will always underestimate His goodness.

If we as Church forget these basic truths, fail to open ourselves to that mercy and mirror that mercy we are all lost.

As Francis puts it: "The thing the Church most needs today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful. It needs nearness, proximity."

There has been a huge international response to Pope Francis' interview with its tone of compassion and graciousness. And some in the Church are trying to "explain away" some of his statements. And, as expected, some sectors of the media are reading into his words what is not there. But overall there is a sense of breathing in lung-fulls of fresh air; the response has a tone of hope and freedom and blessing.

Why? Because we are all hearing once again with simplicity and clarity the Gospel of Grace. This is the Word of love that draws and attracts us even with all our sin and brokenness, and then refreshed in mercy we are able to accept the redeeming grace that heals and puts us on a new path. He loves us first always and frees us to love in return.

In one of his homilies - commenting on the phrase, "Jesus was teaching in the temple each day" - Gregory the Great said that the Lord continues to teach daily in the temple that is His Body, the Church, if only we have ears to hear.

Through His servant Francis the Lord is definitely teaching us at this time. We are being taught that the Church is to be a place of welcome, mercy and healing. It is as if the Lord repeats to all of us what he once said to those who complained about Him eating with sinners: "Go and learn the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy not sacrifice."

May we learn their meaning at depth!

Our fundamental vocation is to rejoice in the Gospel of Grace - to be a people who continue to experience the tender mercy of God, and celebrate, proclaim and live in that mercy.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

'The Secret of our Joy'

David and Hugh
Just back from a wonderful celebration of the Solemn Profession of our brother David Collins in Adam and Eve’s Church, Dublin. Our Provincial Minister, Hugh McKenna, received David’s vows on behalf of the Order.

He told David: ‘Our world needs to see people of joy and faith and hope and love.’
And he reminded him of the words the Pope spoke to a gathering of young religious in Rome this summer for the Year of Faith, an event David attended. 
Pope Francis said: ‘In calling us God says to us: “You are important to me, I love you, I count on you.” Jesus says this to each one of us! Joy is born from here, the joy of the moment in which Jesus looked at me.'
'To understand and to feel this is the secret of our joy. Don’t be afraid to show the joy of having answered the Lord’s call, of the choice to love and witness His Gospel in the service of the Church. And joy, real joy, is contagious; it infects … it makes us go forward.’
Hugh continued: ‘David, like our Father Francis before you when he discovered his Gospel calling, you too have been able to say: “This is what I want, this is what I seek, this is what I desire with all my heart.” And I pray that God’s call may always fill your heart with joy as you continue your journey of faith.’

Saturday, 7 September 2013

The Cry for Peace!

A Prayer for Peace in Syria:

O Prince of Peace, we come before you sinful and sorrowful.
We know that we are all guilty of hatred and contempt,
and yet we ask for your mercy and forgiveness.

In Syria, millions of our brothers and sisters are suffering greatly.
And it seems that their suffering may be increased by people
who themselves wish to bring peace to this land.

We know that it is you who turn our hearts to peace,
and so we ask you to turn your eyes to Syria,
so near the towns and villages where you grew up and ministered,
to look upon that Holy Land, and bring an end to violence.

Help us do all that we can, physically, morally, legally,
to support dialogue, foster reconciliation and promote justice. 
End the terrible violence directed against so many Syrians
from so many places, and turn their hearts to
forgiveness, compassion and love.

Open our own hearts to the needs of the millions of refugees. 
Help us to see that they are our brothers and sisters in crisis,
for you were a refugee yourself once,
along with Mary and Joseph.

Most of all, let us not bring more violence and suffering
upon a people who have already suffered immensely. 

Bring them peace, O Prince of Peace.

(Photo: Raghad Al-Hussein, a 30-year-old Syrian refugee, holds her newborn child inside their makeshift shelter in the village of Jeb Jennine, in Lebanon.  CNS Photo: Paul Jeffrey.)

Monday, 2 September 2013

Monuments of Mercy

All smiles: Vincent and David after their profession.
I was in our friary in Ennis on Saturday as we celebrated the First Profession of our two brothers - Vincent Finnegan and David Connolly. Having completed their novitiate year they took this major step on the path of their Franciscan formation. 

This coming Sunday the friars gathered again, this time in Dublin. We have the joy of celebrating the Solemn Profession of David Collins. David will make a final, life-long commitment to live out his Christian discipleship as a Friar Minor within the Irish Province.

Witnessing the profession of a brother is a particular grace. The actual profession of vows, made 'into the hands' of our Provincial Minister, is a very radical statement. Listening to it the friar cannot but challenged.

On Saturday I realised that I need, even more than ever, to lean on, indeed to fall back on the grace of God. Any fidelity to this life flows from the action of the Spirit.

As St Francis unceasingly experienced and taught - All is Grace!

The words of Theodore Jennings are striking: 'If grace is to be real, then it must have real effects. And these effects must be palpable, visible. When the divine enters the world, it produces changes everyone can see, not invisible craters, but manifest "monuments of mercy".'

May the lives of our young brothers and all our lives be monuments of mercy!