Saturday, 28 June 2014

Missionary Disciples

The Irish Franciscans are gathered for their Provincial Chapter - held every three years - from Sunday 29 June to Friday 4 July. The meeting takes place in the Franciscan College, Gormanston, Co Westmeath.

During the week some 90 friars, including two friars from our Custody in Zimbabwe, will pray, reflect, discuss and make important decisions. With both Irish society and the Church going through a time of major transition we Friars Minor need to make sure that our life and mission are responding to 'the signs of the times' - our times.

The theme for the Chapter is taken from Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel: 'Missionary disciples, witnesses who never cease to be disciples!'

We are honoured that our Minister General, Michael Perry OFM, will be with us to lead us in a 'spiritual day' on Monday. However St Francis teaches us that the Holy Spirit is the true Minister General of our Order. If we are not being open and docile to His inspirations and guidance little else matters!

We ask you to pray with us that the Spirit of the Lord may be with us with divine grace, light and courage.

May our deliberations be guided by His wisdom. May whatever decisions we reach help us live more faithfully the Gospel life we have promised, and may they bring glory to God and serve His people.

Please keep us in your prayers!

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Enjoy the Lenten Feast

It is several years since I came across the list below on Fasting/Feasting, describing a different type of fasting during Lent.  It still makes a great deal of sense to me.

What we feed in ourselves grows strong, for better or worse. We can be unaware of the powerful impact our habitual way of thinking has on ourselves and others.

Authentic religion brings about inner transformation. We can focus on the inessentials, the externals while the Lord looks to the heart.

In the Franciscan story we read that Gordan of Giano was a novice at the Pentecost Chapter held in the woods below Assisi in 1221. Several thousand friars had come together. Gordan tells us that Francis went among them collecting all their instruments of penance, hair shirts, corded ropes, whatever.

He did this for two reasons.  Firstly, he did not want his brothers in their fervour  to overdo their bodily penances. But especially Francis realised that physical self-denial can simply inflate one's spiritual pride.  It is a danger warned of by Christ in his parable: "The Pharisee lifted his eyes to heaven and prayed: I thank you Lord that I am not like the rest of men. I fast twice a week..."

It is easier to give up chocolate than unkind words.

It is easier to increase our devotions than our spirit of gratitude.

It is easier to abstain from food than from bitterness.

So this list is not simply a Lenten exercise but a programme for life, for daily living in grace and generosity. It goes straight to the core of the Gospel: the renewal of our hearts and minds.

FAST from judging others;                     FEAST on the Christ within them.

FAST from emphasis on differences;   FEAST on the unity of life.

FAST from apparent darkness;             FEAST on the reality of light.

FAST from thoughts of illness;              FEAST on the healing power of God.

FAST from words that pollute;              FEAST on phrases that purify.

FAST from discontent;                            FEAST on gratitude.

FAST from anger;                                     FEAST on patience.

FAST from pessimism;                            FEAST on optimism.

FAST from worry;                                     FEAST on trust in God.

FAST from complaining;                         FEAST on appreciation.

FAST from negatives;                               FEAST on affirmatives.

FAST from unrelenting pressures;        FEAST on unceasing prayer.

FAST from hostility;                                 FEAST on non-resistance.

FAST from bitterness;                              FEAST on forgiveness.

FAST from self-centredness;                  FEAST on compassion for others.

FAST from personal anxiety;                  FEAST on eternal Truth.

FAST from discouragement;                   FEAST on hope.

FAST from facts that depress;                FEAST on verities that uplift.

FAST from lethargy;                                 FEAST on enthusiasm.

FAST from suspicion;                               FEAST on truth.

FAST from thoughts that weaken;         FEAST on promises that inspire.

FAST from shadows of sorrow;              FEAST on the sunlight of serenity.

FAST from idle gossip;                             FEAST on purposeful silence.

FAST from problems that overwhelm;  FEAST on prayer that under girds.


The Psalmist prayed: "My soul shall be filled as with a banquet" (Ps 63:6).  We can choose with what we will nourish our souls. My prayer for us all during this season of grace is that we will feast richly on all that will make our lives flourish in Christ-like serenity and goodness. 

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Bono on Grace!


I recently came across Bono's reflections on grace - well worth a read....

“It’s a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the Universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma…

You see, at the centre of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you; an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics – in physical laws – every action is met by an equal or opposite one.  Its clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe.  I’m absolutely sure of it.

And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “As you reap, so will you sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.

That’s between me and God. But I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I’d be in deep shit. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.

The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That’s the point. It should keep us humbled….its not our own good works that get through the gates of heaven…

If only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed.  All I do is get up on the Cross of the Ego; the bad hangover, the bad review. When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my shit and everybody else’s. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man?  And was He who He said He was, or was he just a religious nut?  And there it is, and that’s the question.  And no one can talk you into it or out of it.”

All text taken from Chapter 11 of Bono on Bono: conversations with Michka Assayas, 2005 (Hodder).