Mar 2, 2015

From Bishop Tobin of Providence RI – A Call to Month of Prayer and Sacrifice for Persecuted Christians Around the World

In a letter issued this morning by Bishop Thomas Tobin of the diocese of Providence in the USA:

March 2, 2015
Monday of the Second Week of Lent
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
“As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. . . . If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it.” (Cf: I Cor 12: 12-26)
These words of St. Paul come quickly to mind these days as we witness the unimaginable suffering that our fellow Christians are enduring around the world – in Iraq and Syria, and in Egypt, Libya, Nigeria, North Korea and many other places as well. Every day, it seems, we hear new reports about Christians having their churches, schools and religious artifacts destroyed; we hear about the personal attacks – Christians being kidnapped, raped, tortured, crucified and beheaded, precisely and solely because of their faith in Jesus Christ.
These reports lead us to wonder how one human being could inflict such suffering and pain on another. We are tempted to give into anger, discouragement, fear and revenge. But while we rightly long for justice upon those who perpetrate these atrocities, our Christian Faith also calls us to hope, charity and prayer for those who suffer. As St. Paul teaches, “If one part of the body suffers, all the parts of the body suffer with it.”
With the hope of promoting our awareness of the suffering of our fellow Christians around the world, and to express our spiritual solidarity with them, I am writing to invite all the members of the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Providence to undertake a Month of Prayer and Sacrifice for Persecuted Christians. This month coincides approximately with the remainder of the Lenten Season when we prepare to share in the Lord’s suffering and death. We should understand that the Passion of Christ, the Suffering Servant of God, is being lived-out today in the cruel suffering visited upon our brothers and sisters.
I invite all the members of the Church to undertake some personal acts of prayer, sacrifice or charity for our suffering brothers and sisters. Perhaps you could dedicate the Lenten practices you have already begun to this specific intention. Perhaps you could undertake additional prayer, sacrifice or good works for this intention.

The Province of Joy series - Lenten Reflections 2015 - The Other Mary Remembers: Meditating on Mary Magdalen and the Impact Jesus had on her Life

The evenings are the best time for me - this is when I sit and remember,
those treasured moments that formed such a part of my life
that made me the woman I am now.

They dance and flicker in my mind,
just like the oil lamps that bless my evenings with warmth and light
a gentle and kindly light that plays upon the stone walls,
sometimes gold, sometimes ruby, making friends with the darkness
and fill the air with the fragrance of a sweet oil, heavy with memories.

This home, this dwelling, so loved by him,
blessed and warmed with his presence,
a place where he found friends, kindness, care, and a tenderness
that touched his heart and stung his eyes with tears.

His love is for every woman,
for every man, for all living beings,
children, animals, beasts and birds,
freely given, poured out, filled to overflowing,
a love that pierces the heart with delight,
and leaves a wound
that only love can heal,
and wound again and heal.

Gently waiting in the shadows,
another memory requests an audience,
and asks to be invited and held for a moment.

A dusty place, a dry and barren earth
where stones abound.
And dark figures and pointed limbs quietly steal away,
while a figure stoops and writes upon the earth,
and as the tiny dust clouds settle they dance and catch the sun.

And as the tears flow, a heart is cleansed and flooded with new life,
and the gaze is so tender and filled with compassion,
a compassion so deep that it wounds once more
and heals and wounds and heals.

At times, I love to run my fingers through my hair
those tresses that he loved and touched and stroked,
and it was all so natural and right,
yes, he gave me dignity, and he needed me, he needs me.

The alabaster vase is placed gently in the little nook,
a remnant of the linen cloth carefully folded,
one a sign of his life, the other a gesture of my love
a love that was too deep to be poured out,
a love that was too tender to bear, and still it wounds and heals and wounds.

They still come to my home, this dwelling that he loved,
and this is my delight,  they too love him,
they want to hold the vase, to touch the cloth, to treasure the memory.

“What was it like?” they asked, “do you remember how you felt?”
“What did he say to you?”

And time and time again, as I share this blessed story,
I taste once more the tears,
the pain, the delight, the love, the pleasure that was mine
that flooded my heart at the sound of my name,
and knew at that moment that I had found him
whom my soul had been seeking,
that he had found me.
And when I stop and listen, I still hear his voice,
a voice as gentle as the breeze,
a breath of stillness,
so softly, gently, as he says

“Come with me, my love,
for winter is passed,
the rain is over and gone,
the flowers appear on the earth,
the time of singing has come”.

Kathryn Williams pddm

- A reflection by Sr Kathryn on Mary Magdalene

Mar 1, 2015

Understanding Limerick - Niamh Hourigan - Preparing for Synod 2016

A Series of Public Lectures open to all to help us come to a deeper understanding of our Faith and the context in which the Limerick Diocesan Synod takes place.

Limerick is a unique place. It is a city with tremendous strengths which has also experienced considerable challenges in recent years. It's warm, active communities as well as vibrant sporting and cultural life operate within a context of inequality which has persisted despite economic growth and development. In this presentation, sociologist Niamh Hourigan, editor of the collection Understanding Limerick maps the city's most complex and unique qualities. Niamh will explore how Limerick's past shapes its contemporary reality and highlights the significant role of the city's diverse local communities have played in dealing with the range of challenges faced by its citizens. This talk aims to provide some important local contextualization for the forthcoming Synod in the Diocese of Limerick.

Date: Wednesday 11th March 2015

Time: 7.30 p.m.

Venue: Strand Hotel, Ennis Road (Harris Suite)

iCatholic - How and why should the Church be involved in public debates?

1st March 2015 - Reflection on Reconciliation - 2nd Sunday of Lent (Year B)

This weeks programme is a little busy with John joined in studio by Lorraine Buckley giving a reflection on the sacrament of reconciliation. Sally Penngelly and Christina Dundon from St Senan's PPC tell us about the upcoming parish mission in Shanagolden-Foynes-Robertstown. We have our regular reflection on the Sunday gospel as well as some other liturgical odds and ends.

You can listen to the podcast of this weeks full programme HERE.

Shanagolden-Foynes-Robertstown Parish Mission 

The parish of St Senan are holding a parish mission from March 8th to 13th 2015. The mission begins on the feast day of St Senan on the 8th of March. It is being facilitated by  Fr Derek Messcil and Fr John Hanna from the Redemptorists in Limerick. The theme of the mission is "A New Beginning" which links to the Limerick Diocesan Synod and of course to Lent with the general call to renewal at this time of the year.

Daily Mass Timetable 
Robertstown - 7am
Foynes - 9.30pm
Shanagolden - 10.30pm

Evening Sessions - Foynes - 7.30pm

Sunday 8th - Community Night followed by a cup of tea and a chat
Monday 9th - Hope & Healing
Tuesday 10th - Family Night

Evening Sessions - Shanagolden - 7.30pm

Wednesday 11th - Prayer and the Word of God; all night Adoration Vigil from 9pm to 6.45am
Thursday 12th - Reconciliation
Friday 13th - Remembering Our Dead followed by a cup of tea and a chat

Interfaith Gathering - community centre in Foynes Monday 9th March 2.30pm

Senior Citizens Gathering - Foynes - Tuesday at 2.30pm in the community centre
Senior Citizens Gathering - Shanagolden - Thursday at 2.30pm in Dane St Centre

You can listen to the details of the mission excerpted from the main programme HERE.

Reflection on Reconciliation - "Every saint has a past; every saint has a future"

Lorraine leads us in a reflection on the sacrament of reconciliation this week reminding us how the sacrament of reconciliation is an opportunity for us to experience the love of God. It is an opportunity for us to acknowledge the times when we have turned away from God's gratuitous love and enables to say sorry and to be embraced in the ocean of that love that seeks to hold us.

You can listen to the reflection on the sacrament excerpted from the main programme HERE.

Previous programmes with reflections on the sacrament of reconciliation HERE and HERE.

American resource page on reconciliation.

Gospel - Mark 9:2-10

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean

Reflections on this weeks gospel:

English Dominicans

Word on Fire
Sunday Reflections
Centre for Liturgy

Liturgical Odds and Ends

Liturgy of the Hour - psalter week 2; 2nd week of Lent

Pope Francis Intentions for March 2015

Join us in prayer for the intentions entrusted to us by Pope Francis. For March 2015, we join the Holy Father in praying for:

  • Scientists. That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person.
  • Contribution of Women. That the unique contribution of women to the life of the Church may be recognized always.
Daily Offering Prayer
God, our Father, I offer You my day. I offer You my prayers, thoughts, words, actions, joys, and sufferings in union with the Heart of Jesus, who continues to offer Himself in the Eucharist for the salvation of the world. May the Holy Spirit, Who guided Jesus, be my guide and my strength today so that I may witness to your love. With Mary, the mother of our Lord and the Church, I pray for all Apostles of Prayer and for the prayer intentions proposed by the Holy Father this month. Amen.

Traditional Daily Offering of the Apostleship of Prayer

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart: the salvation of souls, reparation for sin, and the reunion of all Christians. I offer them for the intentions of our bishops and of all Apostles of Prayer, and in particular for those recommended by our Holy Father this month. The Apostles of Prayer offer themselves to God each day for the good of the world, the Church, one another, and the Holy Father’s intentions.

iCatholic - What is the future of religious life in Ireland?

Sr Phylis Moynihan rsm and Fr Ciaran Dougherty OP discuss the Year of Consecrated Life and their work for vocations.

28th February - Sede Vacante - Two years later

February 28th 2013 the world saw a modern papal first with the abdication of Pope Benedict XVI from the See of St Peter. 

Over at Whispers in the Loggia, Roco takes us through that day 
Indeed, as head-spinners go, nothing in the current context – arguably nothing we've seen, ever – can compete with those 17 days in February 2013 between Benedict XVI's announcement of his resignation on the 11th and his departure from the Vatican at dusk on the 28th. Even if the modern information cycle holds its choicest rewards for the bright, shiny thing of the day – however fleeting it is – this moment deserved and still deserves more enduring attention than it got... and not just because, at some point in time, the reigning pontiff has quietly signaled his determination to follow suit and concretize the renunciation of the papacy in life as a matter of course. 
Ergo, let's go back to the scenes of that unbelievable night: first, B16's emotional, masterfully choreographed farewell from the Apostolic Palace and the chopper out...
Check out the videos and Rocco's commentary HERE including that hair raising scene of the dis-engagement of the Swiss guards at 8pm when the sede vacante came into force.

AFP - Two years on: forgotten pope sees out days in the shadows
CNA - The Pope who became a pilgrim: Benedict's resignation remembered
NCR - Pope Benedict XVI's resignation: a retrospective

Feb 25, 2015

The Province of Joy - Lenten reflections 2015 - "The Snail" by Matisse

"The Snail" - Matisse - 1953 - Tate Gallery London UK
Contributor: Bishop Brendan Leahy

A painting entitled “The Snail” by the French artist, Henri Matisse, hangs in the Tate Modern Art museum in London. Its large size of three metres square and its dramatic colours really struck me when I first saw it hanging there during a visit some years ago.

In a sense, the painting is simple. Using the seven primary colours Matisse has arranged the painting around geometric blocks on a white background. These blocks form a loose spiral suggesting the shape of a snail’s shell.

The painting is famous for many reasons. It has been described as a kind of drawing with scissors. It seems that when he painted this painting, Matisse was unwell and possibly dying. Though confined to bed he provided instructions to his assistants. He got them to cut or tear shapes from paper that had been painted with one of the primary colours. Then, under his precise instructions, these pieces of paper were placed on the white background and pasted down by an assistant. The overall effect was that the blocks of colour appear to float, as though always in motion. It was a painting that suggested a movement, an unfolding.

The artistic guide who was leading the group I was part of on a tour of the gallery pointed out to us that Matisse had also instructed that a piece of black be placed within the arrangement. By the canons of art, this shouldn’t work (black shouldn’t be included in the middle of primary colours) and yet, somehow, it seems to work in this case. Perhaps, suggested the guide, the sick and dying Matisse wanted to convey something about mortality, time passing and the “black” (of illness and of death) fitting in?

Lent is a time when we concentrate on our spiritual journey. We need this time every year to reflect on our lives because the life of each of us is passing. Evening comes quickly. I think Matisse’s painting expresses the fact that so many aspects of life are constantly in movement – family and friends, goals and deadlines, dreams and hopes.

Yes, there are many dimensions to our life, but perhaps what the painting also wants to say to us is that as time passes, let’s face up to the “negative” that we often feel tempted to deny or simply lament – our limits and failures, our sins and suffering. As we look at the black in Matisse’s painting and see that it somehow “fits in”, perhaps we can hear again the invitation to “take up our Cross”.

The Cross is unique for each of us. Suffering grazes everyone in life in a different way. For those with Christian faith, what matters is that we name the suffering and recognise that we can transform it by uniting our suffering to that of Jesus Christ in his dying and resurrection. As St. Paul so often repeated, our suffering, if lived in Christ, can be a source of life for others. Lent can be a time for discovering more profoundly, how the “black” can fit in. “It is when I am weak I am strong”.

The Province of Joy - Lenten Reflections 2015

Regular readers to the blog will know that from time to time we post series of reflections generally focused around the seasons of Advent and Lent. In Advent 2014 we published sixteen different reflections for the first two weeks before switching our focus to the O Antiphons.

For Lent this year we have asked contributors to reflect and dialogue with their favourite piece of art and how it speaks to us about faith and the meaning of our lives. Like a form of lectio divina we have asked them to share with us their thoughts and feelings evoked by these doorways into "the provinces of joy".

We will be honest and declare that we are plagiarizing the idea from the wonderful national treasure that is the National Gallery of Ireland. Currently they have an exhibition called "Lines of Vision" where Irish writers find inspiration in the wonderful collection in the gallery. This exhibition coincides with the launch of the publication Lines of Vision: Irish Writers on Art, a beautifully illustrated anthology of new poems, essays and stories by 56 Irish writers, inspired by the Gallery’s collection. The contributors have selected pictures from the collection as setting-off points to explore ideas about art, love, loss, family, dreams, memory, places, and privacy. Both the artworks and the literary responses to them are wonderfully diverse in subject-matter and tone.

When we set the challenge to our contributors we said that the art pieces didn't have to be strictly religious in tone, but given that we are entering into Lent challenge was for a reflection/piece of creative writing based on their favourite piece of art with a Lenten slant (where possible). 
The title of the series is taken from a letter written on July 14th 1964 by Flannery O'Connor the American writer and the quote is taken froma book of the same name by Angela Alaimo O'Donnell - "The Province of Joy: Praying with Flannery O'Connor".

The quote is taken from a letter O'Connor sent to her friend Jane McKane. Angela O'Donnell makes the point that
"in the face of loneliness, isolation, daily physical pain and limitation, and the psychological burden of living with a fatal disease, [O'Connor's] daily prayer to St Raphael is a daily passage to the "province of joy". O'Connor knew that the "true country", the proper destination, orientation, and disposition of a believing Christian, is joy............." 
Lent is often seen as a joyless season, but the reminder to us when we reflect on beauty and art is that it is a time set aside (a kairos moment) for us to turn again to the Lord towards the place of joy which is resting in the embrace of the One Who Embraces All.
Prayer to St Raphael
O Raphael, lead us toward those we are waiting for, those who are waiting for us: Raphael, Angel of happy meeting, lead us by the hand toward those we are looking for. May all our movements be guided by your Light and transfigured with your joy.

Angel, guide of Tobias, lay the request we now address to you at the feet of Him on whose unveiled Face you are privileged to gaze. Lonely and tired, crushed by the separations and sorrows of life, we feel the need of calling you and of pleading for the protection of your wings, so that we may not be as strangers in the province of joy, all ignorant of the concerns of our country. Remember the weak, you who are strong, you whose home lies beyond the region of thunder, in a land that is always peaceful, always serene and bright with the resplendent glory of God.

The Little way of Fasting – by Fr. Aidan Kieran

I’ve generally always dreaded the idea of fasting during Lent. It always seemed to me like a test of endurance, and I never thought I had all that much endurance. Typically I would decide to, say, give up biscuits for the whole of Lent. It would last about ten days, I would have a biscuit and Lent would be over for me. And no matter what people would say about ‘beginning again’ it would never feel the same once failure had set in.

Now, I have learned a new approach to fasting, and it has become a much more appealing prospect. St Therese of Lisieux teaches us that the “Little things done out of love are those that charm the Heart of Christ… On the contrary, the most brilliant deeds, when done without love, are but nothingness.” These words made me realise that the way I had been approaching the Lenten fast in the past was wrong.

Lent is not a test of endurance. It is not even a test of discipline (even though we gain discipline as a by-product). Lent is a little test of LOVE. It is the quality the Lord is interested in – not quantity. I can describe this new approach to fasting – the little way of fasting – with an example. Here is a fast I recently undertook: At breakfast time I didn’t have my normal cup of tea. I had a cup of hot water instead. It’s not much of a sacrifice is it? But this is the important part: fasting must always be accompanied by prayer. You may remember from the Gospels that on one occasion Jesus told the disciples that a particular evil spirit could only be driven out by prayer AND fasting. The two must be always occur together. So while I was having my cup of water, I prayed. I spoke to the Lord Jesus and told him that I was denying myself this 1 cup of tea as an act of love for him. I was doing this so that I might grow in my love for Him. I prayed for others. I asked Him to grant my intentions, but above all I asked him to help me grow in faith and love of Him. It didn’t matter that it was only a small sacrifice. That’s not what matters to the Lord. What matters is that the sacrifice is accompanied by prayer and offered with a sincere and open loving heart. Fasting must always be accompanied by prayer, and must be done as an act of love for the Lord.

Perhaps you would prefer to go through Our Lady. While fasting, we can also pray through the intercession of Mary, our blessed Mother. I can tell her I am offering my fast as an act of love for her, and ask her to bring me closer to her son Jesus. We give Mary the title ‘mediatrix of all graces’ so we can of course pray through her intercession. With this approach, fasting has become a wonderfully joyful act. Rather than a miserable endurance test, it becomes a joyful act of offering a sacrifice for the good of others the good of the Church and above all the good of my own soul. I can have a smile on my face, knowing that the small sacrifice I have made has had a powerful effect in the spiritual life. Since I started this little way of fasting, I have prayed better and I feel I have drawn closer to Christ.

It’s just 1 cup of tea. A little thing, done with great love.

Community of Our Lady of Walsingham - Upcoming Events

The Community of Our Lady of Walsingham are a new religious community set in in the UK in 2004. They are a young growing community and you can find out more about their story and their hopes for the future at their website HERE.
As we have some followers in the UK the community recently asked us if we would tell people about some of their up coming events.


In this year for consecrated life we invite young men aged 18-40 to dream big and consider a life on the spiritual vanguard. 'Come and See' the Community of Our Lady of Walsingham, based in the Diocese of Brentwood, a new religious community founded in 2004. As the male branch begins to take shape you are invited to consider if its spirituality speaks to you.

Dates; 20th-22nd March.
Venue:Abbotswick House of Prayer near Brentwood in Essex.
For further details visit or call Jim on 01277 373848.

Thurs 2nd - Sun 5th April.
Young adults are invited to join the community of Our Lady of Walsingham as they celebrate the Easter Triduum. Sharing their life and with teaching on lectio divina as a way of praying with the Word of God, make this Easter one to remember.

For further details visit the events page of or call Sr Theresa: 01277 373848.

Bartholomew I’s Lenten message


Today Lent begins according to Orthodox tradition, a period when, according to the mind of the great Fathers of the universal Church, man is called to ponder his future and reconfirm the eschatological sense of his life.

The fasting that begins today and ends on the day of Our Lord's Resurection, does not mean a rejection of material life, but the submission of material needs in the process that leads the human existence to participate in the holiness of the Lord, as the message that the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew addressed the faithful suggests.

"This season - says Bartholomew - commences as a salvific preparation for the "great and most sacred Pascha of Christ." We are referring to Holy and Great Lent, which we must live "by offering prayer and seeking forgiveness," in order truly to taste Pascha "with all the saints," by becoming "saints," by confessing before God and people that we are "clay vessels" that are shattered on a daily basis by the evil one, always "falling and rising." That is to say, we must admit our human imperfection and failure, as well as our insignificance before God, by repenting and repeating day-in and day-out, at all times and in all places - even as we are made "holy" through baptism - that "one is holy, one is Lord, Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father".

"Our Creator wants us to be in communion with Him - continues Bartholomew - in order to taste His grace, which is to participate in His sanctity. Communion with God is a life of repentance and holiness; whereas estrangement from God, or sin, is identified by the Church Fathers with "evil of the heart." Sin is not natural, but derives from evil choice".

Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch adds," is a quality that belongs to the Lord as "the one, who offers and is offered, who receives and is distributed." The celebrant of the Sacrament of the Divine Eucharist".

"Our Church which aspires exclusively and solely to our salvation, "rightfully proclaimed" one season as a period of special prayer and supplication in order to calm the passions of our soul and body ".

"Lent is a period of preparation and repentance as the voice of our conscience, which is internal and inexpressible, our personal judgment. When it finds us doing wrong, it protests vehemently inasmuch as "nothing in the world is more violent than our conscience".

"Thus - continues Bartholomew - each of us must be at peace with our conscience in order that "we may offer a mystical sacrifice in the fire of our conscience," surrendering our passions and offering them as an oblation of love toward our fellow human beings, just as the Lord gave Himself up "for the life and salvation of the world." Only then will forgiveness rise from the tomb for us as well; and only then shall we live in mutual respect and love, far from the horrific crimes that we witness plaguing the entire world today".

Finally, the Ecumenical Patriarch concludes his message with an appeal as the spiritual father of all our Orthodox faithful throughout the world, "Let us rather walk with God's grace in order to cleanse our conscience "with the good option" of repentance in the conviction that heaven and earth, as well as all "things visible and invisible" will ultimately emanate the light of our Lord's resurrection".

Feb 22, 2015

Some web browsing.............

Some bits and pieces around the web which caught our attention and we thought we would share.

Lent: a little background to the season

The History of Lent - podcast

Pope Francis’ Guide to Lent: What You Should Give Up This Year
Confessions of a Lenten slacker

Aggie Catholics annual Lenten mega-post

Living Lent like Cinderella!

Want to 'take up,' rather than 'give up' something for Lent? Try the Acts of Mercy.

Memento Mori

The Brentwood Stations of the Cross 1: religion and art in dialogue
The Brentwood Stations of the Cross 2: what the fifteen artists actually did

Will the real Pope Francis please stand up?

Devout Catholic and chocolate pioneer who created Nutella dies

3 Ways to Embrace Your Need for Solitude and Quiet Time

50 Shades of what’s wrong with our world!

IEC2016 - Cebu Philippines - IEC2016 Facebook page

'Vatican Weekend’ for February 22, 2015

(Vatican Radio) 'Vatican Weekend’ for February 22, 2015 features a reflection on the Sunday Gospel for our series,‘There’s More in the Sunday Gospel than Meets the Eye’ presented by Jill Bevilacqua, and ‘Joan Knows...’ in which EWTN's bureau chief here in Rome, Joan Lewis takes a look at the past week’s events in the Vatican.

A programme presented and produced by Veronica Scarisbrick can be listened to HERE.

The People of the Cross

The icon here depicts the Coptic martyrs of Libya and was created by Egyptian American artist Tony Rezk. It appears on the website for the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Los Angeles. 
A sermon preached on Ash Wednesday at Caravita, Rome 
by the Revd Marcus Walker, Associate Director of the Anglican Centre, Rome

The people of the cross.

Twenty-one young men, kneeling in the sand, facing the Mediterranean Sea.

Twenty-one young men, wearing orange jump-suits, each with a black-clad butcher behind him.

Twenty-one young men, all about to have their heads sawn off.

And, superimposed over this footage – professionally produced, it seems – are the words “The people of the cross – the followers of the hostile Egyptian church.”

I have not seen this footage. Those who have, talk of the terrible moment when all twenty-one start to be killed, simultaneously. There are hideous screams. This is not a clean death. This is not a quick death. But rising over the screams of pain are the cries of “Ya rabbi Yasou”, “My Lord Jesus.”

The people of the cross.

How true. How sickeningly, gruesomely, true.

Meant as an insult, like the inscription above the cross of Christ, it revealed a truth well beyond the meaning, and the understanding, of the murderers.

The people of the cross.

Not for them a cross of ash on their forehead, but the Way of the Cross itself.

Not for them the solemn reminder that they are dust and to dust they shall return; that reminder was dealt to them by a sword on a beach.

The reality of death; the reality of the cross: that is what today is about.

Remember O Adam, dust you were and to dust you shall return.

Those words will be used on us as we go up to be marked with our ashen cross. As we get marked as People of the Cross. As we thank God that we live this side of the Mediterranean Sea, where the greatest threat we face, today, is that someone might tell us later that we have a mark on our forehead.

We stand here today, possibly hungry after a bit of a fast, or gearing ourselves up for forty days without chocolates or cigarettes or being rude to the mother-in-law. Or maybe we’ve decided to “take something up” for Lent, being nice or going to the gym.

And we call this a season of fasting, and mark ourselves with an ashen cross, and remember that we are but dust, and… go on with our lives almost unchanged from last week.

We are people of the cross, but the cross is a more distant cross for us.

And yet, however weakly, we are indeed people of the cross.

But the cross, of course, is not just a symbol of death, but also the tree of life. When we’re marked with the sign of death and the dust of the grave, we are also being marked with the cross of the resurrection and the cross of our transformation.

This is the remarkable thing about today, and, indeed, the remarkable thing about our faith. We stand, on Ash Wednesday, at the foot of the grave, peering in and seeing our mortality, but from the very dust of that grave we have inscribed on our heads the hope of our immortality.

And the irony is, on this day of fasting and ashing, our readings very clearly flash up the warning signs that this is not enough. Not by any stretch. Rend your hearts and not your garments. Don’t prance about with ash on your heads looking miserable because you’re hungry.



That’s the message of today. Turn around.

Because the message of the cross, which seems foolishness to the Jihadists, is not one of death but one of transformed life. To turn, and be turned, slowly into the person God has called us to be; to turn and be turned, slowly, into the nature of God himself – into the nature of Love.

To forgive, and in forgiving, find forgiveness.

Because that is what we are, my friends: forgiving, forgiven, sinners.
And that is where the pain comes for us: to know the times we have wounded others, and to forgive, from the bottom of our hearts, the wounds we have received.
To turn ourselves to face Christ and to turn our hearts to forgive each other. This is the martyr’s crown that we seek to win, as Saint Augustine said to his flock when they expressed disappointment that the age of martyrdom was over. “Your feast day is not indeed in the calendar, but your crown is ready waiting for you”.

This might seem a little weak in the face of the real crowns won by real martyrs in Nigeria and Iraq and Libya and Syria and all across the world.

But this is what they have died for.

When those men cried our “Ya rabbi Yasou”, they were calling to the God of Love; the god of Forgiveness. Calling out because their journey of forgiving and being forgiven, of turning back to their Lord, was transcended by their terrible but heroic end.

Those men on that beach in Libya were not there for war or to convert others, but for jobs. Ordinary economic migrants hoping for a slightly better life, sending money back to their families at home. On that beach, however, they revealed themselves to be extraordinary for not being willing to renounce the God whom they love.

We are asked to open our hearts and let them be torn, but so often that is the harder task.

As we approach the ash today, let us lay in the grave our anger and resentments and feuds and jealousies, and raise from the grave a transformed nature: forgiven, forgiving, and facing Christ.


The Monk and Me: New habits of friendship - America Magazine

From America Magazine - Kaya Oakes

I met the monk, before he was a monk, on Facebook. The message icon flickered to life when an actor we both know made the connection: two writers, two creative people, two weirdoes, two Catholics. Perhaps we’d like to get acquainted? The monk back then had a different name; let’s call him Anthony, the desert father, the first monk. I went into the café where he worked, a busy spot near the school where I teach, and introduced myself. We were both members of the vanishing demographic of 30- and 40-somethings in our respective parishes, both taller than average, both of us crazy for Baroque music and difficult books, both of us, back then, just finding our way into a life of faith. I had returned from a 20-year lapse; he’d just been baptized. We were, back then, new arrivals to this messy thing called religion.
Anthony’s parish was shrinking; even at the Easter Vigil its pews were half full. But he had wandered in during his search for a church, at a time when he could barely articulate the thing that was pulling him into religion, which hadn’t been a particularly pressing issue during his childhood and had played almost no part in his adult life up until then. A charismatic pastor and a small but fiercely loyal congregation made it easy to go, week after week, to ask questions and have them answered, to begin the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, to be the single person baptized at the Easter Vigil. As an actor, he was used to having lights on his face; his parish rents a humming spotlight at Easter and shines it onto the baptismal pool. One new Catholic is wrapped in a white garment, and the entire church applauds him.

Feb 21, 2015

22nd February 2015 - News from around the world - 1st Sunday of Lent (Year B)

On this weeks programme John and Shane do a news round up from around the world. We have our regular reflection on the Sunday gospel as well as some liturgical odds and ends including some local notices.

You can listen to the podcast of this weeks programme HERE.

News Round up

On this weeks programme John and Shane do a round up of news from different places around the world including:

  • Martyrdom of 21 Coptic Christians at the hands of ISIL in Libya
Coptic Church Recognizes Martyrdom of 21 Coptic Christians
  • Consistory in Rome
  • Pope Francis calls children "a gift from God"
  • The interaction of Lent and the Chinese New Year
  • Beatification of Oscar Romero
  • Pope Francis to visit Sarajevo in 6th June and the USA in the Autumn
  • Catholic Bishop defies beheading threat to stay in Libya
  • Three year-old Brazilian boy with cancer "celebrates Mass"

Gospel - Mark 1: 12-15

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness and he remained there for forty days, and was tempted by Satan. He was with the wild beasts, and the angels looked after him. 
After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee. There he proclaimed the Good News from God. ‘The time has come’ he said ‘and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News.’
Reflections on this weeks gospel:

Word on Fire
Sunday Reflections
Centre for Liturgy 
English Dominicans

Liturgical odds and ends

Liturgy of the Hours - psalter week 1, first week of Lent

Saints of the Week (commemoration of Saints only during Lent)

February 23rd - St Polycarp
February 24th - Blessed Josefa Naval Girbes
February 25th - Pope Saint Felix III
February 26th - Saint Paula of Saint Joseph of Calasanz
February 27th - St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows
February 28th - St Oswald

Feb 18, 2015

Miserere (Allegri)

Big H/T to Phil over at Ennis Blue for this find on Youtube. It is a favourite of SS102fm blog.

This is the full version of the magnificent “Miserere mei, Deus” translated as “Have mercy on me, O God”, is based on Psalm 51, composed by Allegri and here performed by the Choir of New College, Oxford.
Full background history and translation HERE.
Miserere mei, Deus: secundum magnam misericordiam tuam  
Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum, dele iniquitatem meam.

Amplius lava me ab iniquitate mea: et a peccato meo munda me.

Quoniam iniquitatem meam ego cognosco: et peccatum meum contra me est semper.

Tibi soli peccavi, et malum coram te feci: ut justificeris in sermonibus tuis, et vincas cum judicaris.

Ecce enim in iniquitatibus conceptus sum: et in peccatis concepit me mater mea...................

Have mercy upon me, O God, after Thy great goodness

According to the multitude of Thy mercies do away mine offences.

Wash me throughly from my wickedness: and cleanse me from my sin.

For I acknowledge my faults: and my sin is ever before me.

Against Thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that Thou mightest be justified in Thy saying, and clear when Thou art judged.

Behold, I was shapen in wickedness: and in sin hath my mother conceived me......

Pope Francis' homily for Ash Wednesday

This afternoon –Ash Wednesday, day of the beginning of Lent – an assembly of prayer took place in the form of the Roman “Stations,” presided over by Pope Francis. At 4:30 pm, in the church of Saint Anselm all”Aventino, a moment of prayer was held followed by a penitential procession to the Basilica of Saint Sabina. Taking part in the procession were Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, Benedictine monks of Saint Anselm, Dominican Fathers of Saint Sabina and some faithful. At the end of the procession, Pope Francis presided over the celebration of the Eucharist in the Basilica of Saint Sabina, with the rite of the blessing and imposition of ashes.

The following is a translation of the homily that the Pope delivered after the proclamation of the Holy Gospel by Zenit.

* * *

We begin today, as People of God, our Lenten journey, a time in which we seek to unite ourselves more closely to the Lord Jesus Christ, to share the mystery of His Passion and His Resurrection.

The Ash Wednesday liturgy proposes to us first of all the passage of the prophet Joel, sent by God to call the people to penance and conversion, because of a calamity (an invasion of grasshoppers) that was devastating Judea. Only the Lord can save us from a scourge; therefore, it is necessary to beg him with prayers and fasting, confessing our sin.

The prophet insists on interior conversion: “Return to me with all your heart” (2:12). To return to the Lord “with all your heart” means to undertake the journey of a conversion that is not superficial and transitory, but a spiritual itinerary that concerns the most intimate place of our person. The heart, in fact, is the seat of our sentiments, the center in which our choices and our attitudes mature.
That “return to me with all your heart” does not involve individuals only, but is extended to the whole community; it is a convocation addressed to all: “gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber” (verse 16).

The prophet pauses in particular on the prayer of priests, noting that it is accompanied by tears. At the beginning of this Lent, it will do us good to ask for the gift of tears, so as to render our prayer and our journey of conversion ever more genuine and free of hypocrisy.

This, in fact, is the message of today’s Gospel. In the passage of Matthew, Jesus rereads the three works of mercy foreseen in the Mosaic Law: almsgiving, prayer and fasting. In the course of time, these prescriptions were impaired by the rust of exterior formalism, or were really changed into a sign of social superiority. Jesus puts in evidence a common temptation in these three works, which can be summarized, in fact, as hypocrisy (he names it a good three times): “Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them .... When you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do .... When you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray ... at the street corners, that they may be seen by men .... And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites” (Matthew 6:

When we do something good, almost instinctively a desire is born in us to be esteemed and admired for that good action, to get some satisfaction. Jesus invites us to do these good works without any ostentation, and to trust only in the Father’s reward "who sees in secret” (Matthew 6:4.6.18).

Dear brothers and sisters, the Lord never tires of having mercy on us and he wants to offers us once again his forgiveness, inviting us to turn to Him with a new heart, purified of evil, to take part in his joy. How are we to receive this invitation? Saint Paul suggests this to us in today’s Second Reading: “We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). This effort of conversion is not only a human work. Reconciliation between us and God is possible thanks to the mercy of the Father who, out of love for us, did not hesitate to sacrifice his Only-begotten Son. In fact, Christ, who was just and without sin, was made sin for us (v. 21) when on the cross he was burdened with our sins, and in this way rescued and justified us before God. “In him” we can become just, in Him we can change, if we receive God’s grace and do not let the “favorable moment” pass in vain (6:2).

With this awareness, we begin our Lenten itinerary confident and joyful. May Mary Immaculate support our spiritual battle against sin, accompany us in this favorable moment, so that we can come to sing together the exultance of the victory in the Easter of Resurrection.

Shortly we will carry out the gesture of the imposition of ashes on the head. The celebrant pronounces these words: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return” (Cf. Genesis 3:19), or he repeats Jesus’ exhortation: “repent and believe in the Gospel” (Cf. Mark 1:15). Both formulas constitute a call to the truth of human existence: we are limited creatures, sinners always in need of penance and conversion. How important it is to listen and to accept such a call in this our time! Therefore, the invitation to conversion is a spur to return, as the son did in the parable, to the arms of God, tender and merciful Father, to trust in Him and to entrust oneself to Him.

[Original text: Italian]

[Translation by ZENIT]