Nov 28, 2014

Limerick Diocesan Pastoral Centre celebrates 20 years

You can follow the celebrations and take a trip down memory lane on the Limerick Diocesan Facebook page where the folks at the LDPC have been busy posting photos. Head on over and see if you can spot anyone you know!

Celebrations tonight (28th November) at St Michaels at 7.30pm

The 14 Papal phrases that triggered applause in the European Parliament

Pope Francis heads to Turkey

Haighia Sophia in Istanbul
(Vatican Radio) What is the main significance and chief highlights of Pope Francis’s three day pastoral visit to Turkey this week? And what message is he likely to bring to the Christian and Muslim communities during his time in Ankara and Istanbul? These were some of the questions Susy Hodges put to Vatican Radio’s correspondent Philippa Hitchen who is travelling with the Pope during his trip.

Listen to the full interview with Philippa Hitchen just before her departure for Turkey

Catholic-Orthodox relations and dialogue with the Muslim world are the two main issues under the spotlight as Pope Francis travels to the Turkish capital of Ankara on Friday for his 6th international journey. The Pope will then spend Saturday and Sunday in Istanbul where he was invited by the Orthodox leader, Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew 1st  to celebrate the feast of St Andrew on November 30th.

Just six months ago, the two leaders met in Jerusalem and signed a joint declaration marking half a century since the lifting of mutual excommunications and the beginning of a new era of improved relations between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. So what are the expectations ahead of this latest encounter in the Patriarch’s headquarters at the Phanar in Istanbul? And how can the tiny Christian minority in Turkey help to promote better relations with the wider Muslim world?

To find answers to those questions, Philippa Hitchen spoke with Dominican Father Claudio Monge, director of a Centre for Cultural and Interreligious Dialogue in Istanbul and you can listen to the interview HERE.


Crux - Orthodox leader to Turkey: Re-open our seminary
Al Jazeera coverage
The Irish Times
NPR - In A Land Of Few Christians, Pope Will Reach Out To Muslims In Turkey
Catholic Herald - Pope Francis’s visit to Turkey puts spotlight on besieged Christians

Nov 27, 2014

Maynooth Seminarians interviewed on RTE's Sean O'Rourke programme

Interview with  Sean Jones, Vincent Stapleton, Leo Creelman on RTE's Sean O'Rourke radio programme this morning about life as a seminarian and studying for priesthood.
You can access the interview on the RTE podcast page HERE.

Nov 26, 2014

Advent is here.......(well almost!)

Sunday is New Years Day! 

Well it is in the liturgical calendar as it is the first Sunday of Advent so from sundown on Saturday evening we enter into the new liturgical year and enter into the season of preparation for the Adventus of the Lord.

St Bernard often highlighted what he described as the "three advents" of Christ.  He named as first that advent which has already happened in historical time and space and which we now commemorate each Christmas, the one in which Christ entered the world through the womb of Mary to "seek and to save that which was lost".  The third is the parousia, the advent in which Christ will come to judge the living and the dead, and to take us to himself.  Then Bernard explained the second, or middle, advent as the "time of visitation" by which Christ is now present and active in each of our lives.  Daily he is at work in us through grace to transform us into his image and likeness and to bring us salvation and healing from the sin, difficulties, sicknesses, and human frailties of our everyday lives. 

Something light to get you thinking of the season we are about to celebrate; have you thought about how you are going to mark Advent this year? Are you going to give time to PREPARE for Christmas and not just in the secular, materialistic way?

Nov 25, 2014

Pope urges a “lonely” “self-absorbed” Europe to recover its soul

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis called on a “haggard” and “lonely” Europe to recover its role as a world protagonist, its identity as a defender of the transcendent dignity of man, the poor, the migrant, the persecuted, the old and the young, to recover its soul: Christianity.
In a lengthy address– the first of two on his one day visit to the heart of Europe – he told members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg that a two-thousand-year-old history links Europe and Christianity, “not free of conflicts or errors, but driven by the desire to work for the good of all”. This “is our present and our future. It is our identity”, he said

The Pope also urged Europe’s 500 million citizens to see the Union’s problems – economic stagnation, unemployment, immigration, rising poverty levels and a growing polarization - as a “force for unity” to overcome fears and mutual mistrust.

“Dignity” he said was the pivotal concept in the process of rebuilding which followed the Second World War and led to the European project. Today it remains central to the commitment of the European Union. But Pope Francis warned, often the concept of human rights is misunderstood and misused.

He pointed to tendency to uphold the rights of the individual, “without regard for the fact that each human being is part of a social context wherein his or her rights and duties are bound up with those of others and with the common good of society itself”.

Transcendent human dignity – the Pope continued - means regarding human beings not as absolutes, but as beings in relation. He spoke of a Europe rampant with the disease of loneliness a direct result of the trend towards individualism. He said the economic crisis has worsened this pervasive loneliness and nourished a growing mistrust in people towards institutions considered aloof and bureaucratic.

The Pope spoke of the unsustainable opulence of selfish lifestyles amid indifference to the poorest of the poor, where technical and economic questions dominate political debate, to the detriment of genuine concern for human beings.

This – the Pope noted –reduces human life to being a “cog in a machine” which, if no longer useful, can be “discarded with few qualms, as in the case of the terminally ill, the elderly who are abandoned and uncared for, and children who are killed in the womb”. This – Pope Francis said quoting Benedict XVI - is the great mistake made “when technology is allowed to take over”; the result is a confusion between ends and means”.

The future of Europe – added Pope Francis - depends on the recovery of the vital connection between openness to God and the practical and concrete ability to confront situations and problems.

The Pope said Christianity is not a threat to secular Europe but rather an enrichment. He said religions can help Europe counter “many forms of extremism” spreading today that are often “a result of the great vacuum of ideals which we are currently witnessing in the West”.

Here he decried the “shameful and complicit silence” of many while religious minorities are being “evicted from their homes and native lands, sold as slaves, killed, beheaded, crucified or burned alive”.

Pope Francis went on to observe that the motto of the European Union is United in Diversity, but unity, does not mean uniformity. Keeping democracy alive in Europe means avoiding the many globalizing tendencies to dilute reality.

Keeping democracies alive is a challenge in the present historic moment, he continued, but it must not be allowed to collapse under the pressure of multinational interests which are not universal. It means nurturing the gifts of each man and woman; investing in families, the fundamental cell and most precious element of any society; in educational institutes; in young people today who are asking for a suitable and complete education to help them to look to the future with hope instead of disenchantment.

In areas such as the ecology Europe has always been in the vanguard, the Pope said, while noting that today “millions of people around the world are dying of hunger while tons of food are discarded each day from our tables”.

He also spoke of the need to promote policies that create employment, but above all “restore dignity to labour by ensuring proper working conditions” while avoiding the exploitation of workers and ensuring “their ability to create a family and educate their children”.

On the issue of migration Pope Francis called for a united response decrying the lack of a coordinated EU wide effort to adopt policies that assist migrants in their countries of origin and that promote a just and realistic integration: “We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery!” he decried to lengthy applause.

Pope Francis concluded: “The time has come for us to abandon the idea of a Europe which is fearful and self-absorbed, in order to revive and encourage a Europe of leadership, a repository of science, art, music, human values and faith as well. A Europe which contemplates the heavens and pursues lofty ideals. A Europe which cares for, defends and protects man, every man and woman. A Europe which bestrides the earth surely and securely, a precious point of reference for all humanity!

 Full text of Pope Francis address to the European Parliament:

Nov 22, 2014

23rd November 2014 - Year for Consecrated Life - Solemnity of Christ the Universal King

On this weeks programme John and Shane are joined by Friend of  the Blog, Sr Louise O'Rourke PDDM who shares with us her thoughts on reflections on consecrated life and the Year for Consecrated Life which Pope Francis has called. We have our regular reflection on the Sunday gospel as well as some notices and other liturgical odds and ends.

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

Year for Consecrated Life

On this weeks programme we are joined by Sr Louise O'Rourke PDDM to reflect on consecrated life and the Year for Consecrated Life. The special year dedicated to consecrated life was announced by Pope Francis and is similar to previous themed years announced by popes such as Year of the Priest (2009-2010) or Year of St. Paul. (2008-2009).

The year also marks the 50th anniversary of "Perfectae Caritatis," a decree on religious life, and "Lumen Gentium," the Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. The purpose of the yearlong celebration, according to a Vatican statement, is to "make a grateful remembrance of the recent past" while embracing "the future with hope."

On the programme we discuss what is consecrated life and what does it mean in modern Ireland especially given that there are fewer religious and so many people's knowledge is limited to stereotypes in film and media such as Sister Act and the Sound of Music.

We reflect on the way that the journey to religious life is a call and response between the individual and God - a different - not better - way to live out their baptismal call in a covenanted way. The person is set aside (not apart) by and for the Lord to be a hidden leaven in the world. Religious can serve in both apostolic works including health care, schools and campaigning for social justice or in contemplation where their work is praying for the needs of the world.

The Year for Consecrated Life is a chance for religious to tell their story, to share their joy and inviting people to discover whether serving as a religious is the way to finding the best person that they are called to be.

You can listen to Sr Louise's interview on YCL excerpted from the main programme HERE.

LORD of the Harvest,

BLESS young people with the gift of courage to respond to your call.
Open their hearts to great ideals, to great things.
INSPIRE all of your disciples to mutual love and giving—
for vocations blossom in the
good soil of faithful people.

INSTILL those in religious life, parish
ministries, and families with the confidence
and grace to invite others to embrace
the bold a
nd noble path of a life
consecrated to you.
UNITE us to Jesus through prayer and sacrament,
so that we may cooperate
with you in building your reign of mercy
and truth, of justice and peace. Amen.
— Pope Francis

Resources for Year for Consecrated Life:

VISION Vocation Network in the USA has a very comprehensive set of resources for use during the YCL available HERE including homily resources, notices for parish bulletins, posters, banners etc etc

Rejoice! - A letter to consecrated men and women
Sixteen Questions about Church Vocations

Vocations Ireland - website and Facebook page

Explore Away

Year of Consecrated Life Facebook page (administered by Image Sisters USA)


Rise of the Roses has blossomed from friendships formed through the Michaela Foundation. Through volunteering at the Michaela Girls Summer Camps we have discovered a tremendous thirst for God amongst the young girls of Ireland. There is an eagerness to know God and a huge amount of energy and joy that is palpable when young people embrace their faith. Our desire to spread the joy of our faith has led us to some very special ladies – the Poor Clares at Faughart, Co.Louth. They asked us to help them with a special project of their own. They were inspired by Pope Francis’ call for Religious Congregations to ‘wake up the world’ and they asked us to help them come up with a way to promote and celebrate the upcoming ‘Year for Consecrated Life ‘ (Nov 2014-Nov 2015). Together, through the intercession of St Brigid, St Clare, St Therese & St John Bosco, and the inspiration of the late Michaela McAreavey, the Holy Spirit has helped us devise. Check out their website and Facebook page to find out more.

Gospel - Matthew 25: 31- 46 - Solemnity of Christ the King

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe was instituted by Pope Pius XI in the Encyclical Quas Primas in 1925.  This solemnity is always celebrated on the last Sunday of the Church's liturgical year.  It is fitting to reflect on the Kingship of Jesus at this time of the year.  Every time we pray the Our Father or the Creed, we are praying for the fulfilment of the Kingdom of God.  If we truly believe that Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords, then we will reflect this in our lives. Perhaps during this coming week and as we move into the new season of Advent we can reflect on the following questions:

(1) Who is the king of my heart and mind and life?  Do submit every part of my day and life to Jesus Christ?  Do I live as if Jesus is the Universal King or do I prefer to keep some parts of my life under my own control and dominion? 

(2) Do I work for the Kingdom of God or the kingdom of man?  Do I pour my energies into working for peace, love, justice, unity and harmony or do I spend most of my energies in the pursuit of status, power, wealth?

This Sundays Gospel begins with Jesus saying to his disciples ... "‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels, then he will take his seat on his throne of glory. .."

Who is this glorious King?

What is Jesus Christ the King of?

What is this Kingdom of God that we proclaim we are co-creating with Jesus in the Holy Spirit?

Lets consider what such a Kingdom might look like:

- A kingdom where Jesus values rule

- A world where Jesus vision inspires and informs

- A community of communities who love Jesus and want to live their lives according to his teachings ....

Do you want to be a citizen of that Kingdom?

If so this is what is asked for ... that the hungry are fed, the thirsty given to drink, the stranger made welcome, the naked clothed, the imprisoned visited .... that Jesus Christ's vision is at the centre of all we say and all we do. In this way Jesus is King. King of our hearts - the servant King.

What can you do this week that will make the Kingdom a reality?

Reflections on this weeks gospel:

Word on Fire
Sunday Reflections
English Dominicans
Centre for Liturgy

And as we say goodbye shortly to the Alleluia for the season of Advent, we take this opportunity to play one of the Sacred Space team's favourite hymns: the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah, directed here by Andre Rieu:

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
The kingdom of this world
is become the Kingdom of the Lord,
and of His Christ, and of His Christ;
and He shall reign for ever and ever,
for ever and ever, for ever and ever.
King of kings, and Lord of lords,
and Lord, of lords,
and He shall reign forever and ever!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Liturgical Odds and Ends

Liturgy of the Hours - Psalter week 2; 34th week in ordinary time

Saints of the Week

November 24th - St Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions (Vietnam martyrs)
November 25th - St Catherine of Alexandria also St Colman
November 26th - Blessed Hugh Taylor
November 27th - St Fergal
November 28th - Saint Catherine Laboure - Seer of the Miraculous Medal
November 29th - Blessed Denis of the Nativity

Synod 2016 - Bishop Brendan Leahy address to inaugural meeting of Synod Delegates

First Meeting of Synod Delegates

November 15th, 2014, Mary Immaculate College

Speaking Notes of Bishop Brendan Leahy
This is a great moment. Just a few weeks after convoking the Diocesan Synod, the first in the Diocese in around 70 years, here we are already, several hundred of us, Synod delegates ready to set out on the journey! My first word is “thanks” – thanks for the interest, the time, the commitment, above all, for the choice you’ve made to be part of this journey. Maybe there was a little cajoling involved in persuading you but you still made the choice and we are all grateful for your presence here. Each one of you here is a gift for each other.

As you may know, though I am from Dublin, my parents were from Kerry and we would often travel from Dublin to West Kerry – a more than six hour journey in those days. The preparation for the journey was always both exciting and hard work! Cases, bags, pots and pans had to be packed into the car. And it couldn’t be a question of just throwing everything in. My father would have to carefully arrange things so that everything did actually did fit in. We’d be in and out of our house, up and down stairs, carrying those bags and going back to fetch those items we’d forgotten. The preparation would take time!  There was a little drudgery attached. But it was all part of the excitement! And it was worth it to get us to Kerry!

Thankfully, there are no bags and cases to be dragged around here today. But in a sense, this day marks the beginning of our preparation for the collective journey called a Synod. I’m sure there will be many moments of joy as well as challenges ahead of us! But it’s wonderful to see over 300 present here from all corners of the Diocese, representing parishes and other groups, lining ourselves up, as it were, for action, looking forward to our Diocesan Synod in April 2016.

What we are about – a Diocesan Synod – is new to us all. We are going to have to learn by doing. If it depended all on ourselves, then we would rightly be worried! Can any of us really say that we feel fully competent for what lies ahead of us? If there is anyone here wondering if they are really up to it, I would say – relax, you’re in good company! We all feel a little like that! What matters is to remember that we must work as if it depended on us but knowing that it really depends on God. The Holy Spirit will come to our aid. Indeed, I like to think it will be the Holy Spirit who will be the pilot, the guide, for our journey.

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of going with a Limerick Diocesan pilgrimage group to Rome. Our pilgrimage was in honour of Saint John Paul II. It was a wonderful in so many ways. It was a chance to recall, as Bishop Donal Murray did for us during a Mass at the altar of the saint, some of the things Pope John Paul said to us in 1979 when he visited Limerick. For instance, in Greenpark Racecourse, the Polish Pope said, “lay people today are called to a strong Christian commitment, to permeate society with the leaven of the Gospel, for Ireland is at a point of decision in her history”.  

The highpoint, however of our pilgrimage was the encounter with Pope Francis. St. Peter’s Square was full with 70.000 pilgrims but the Irish group was fortunate enough to be seated right in front of Pope Francis. The Pope singled out our group for mention in his greetings to the English-speaking pilgrims. I was particularly pleased to be able to greet him personally afterwards and present to him both the history book of the Diocese of Limerick and my pastoral letter convoking the Synod. He looked at both with great interest and asked us to pray for him. It wasn’t something planned but I was really happy that I was able to present him with the pastoral letter and so tell him about the Synod. It was an important symbolic moment, reminding me, and all of us here today, that we are a portion of the universal Church of Christ and that we are in communion with the successor of Peter.

In his catechesis that day, Francis spoke about the Church as the Body of Christ. He reminded us of the great gift of Baptism that makes us members of the Church. As he put it, “baptism constitutes a true rebirth, which regenerates us in Christ, renders us a part of Him, and unites us intimately among ourselves, as limbs of the same body, of which He is the Head” (cf. Rm 12:5; 1 Cor 12:12-13).

He also referred to chapter 37 of the Book of Ezekiel that he recommended we read. In that chapter the prophet describes a vision that is unusual but the prophet wants us to be encouraged by it. At the time of the prophet Ezekiel, the people of Israel were going through a devastating time. They had been exiled away from the Holy Land to Babylon and were losing hope. In the account of the vision, God shows the prophet a valley full of bones, separated from each other and dry. It is a desolate scene. In the vision God asks the prophet to invoke the Spirit upon them. At that point, the bones move, they begin to come together. First nerves and then flesh grew on them and in this way they form a complete body, full of life (cf. Ez 37:1-14). The Pope commented, “See, this is the Church! This is the Church, she is a masterpiece, the masterpiece of the Spirit who instills in each one the new life of the Risen Christ and places us, beside one another, each at the service and support of the other, thereby making of all of us one single body, edified in communion and in love.”

At this point I’d like to read the text itself of the prophet Ezekiel chapter 27. It’s what Pope Francis asked us to do:

The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all round them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, ‘Mortal, can these bones live?’ I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know.’ Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.’ So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.’ I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. Then he said to me, ‘Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.” Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.’

Yes, the Spirit breathes life into us. I’ve always liked a sentence the late Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras used to quote:

Without the Spirit, God is far away, Christ remains in the past, the Gospel is a dead letter, the Church is a simple organisation, authority a domination, mission a propaganda, worship mere evocation, and Christian action a slave morality.  But in the Spirit… the Risen Christ is present, the Gospel is the power of life, the Church signifies Trinitarian communion, authority is a liberating service, mission is a Pentecost, the liturgy is memorial and anticipation, human activity is deified”.[1]

We need the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to guide us. How can we have this wisdom? I would like to suggest four keys for opening the doors of our hearts and minds to the Spirit.

Firstly, we must ask for the gift. That might seem obvious but we can so easily take it for granted. I invite you to invoke the Spirit often along this journey: “Come, Holy Spirit, help me how to listen to this person or group”; “Come, Holy Spirit, give me wisdom in what I have to say”; “Come, Holy Spirit, help me understand what is the right thing to do”.

Secondly, to have wisdom, it is important to love. And to love with the art of loving that we find in the Gospel. In other words, take the initiative, be the first to love, don’t wait to be loved. St. Paul tells us that while we were still sinners God loved us and now we too are to go out of ourselves to love others. And to do so with the universal love that Jesus had – to love everyone – those from my parish but also from other parishes; those from my group but also from other groups. Why not take as a goal today to really get to know people here that you haven’t ever met before.

Thirdly, the Holy Spirit will be particularly active among us if we have Jesus among us. In the account of the disciples on the road to Emmaus we read that there hearts were “burning” within them as Jesus walked among them along the road. The Risen Jesus is always with us. He promised to be with us until the end of time. But how we sense his presence and let him be active among us with his liberating Spirit depends on how much we love one another. He promised us, “where two or three are gathered in my name – and that is, in love for one another – I am there among them” (Mt 18:20). The First Christians really took mutual love, love for one another, to heart. In the First Letter of St. Peter we read: “above all, maintain constant love for one another” (1 Peter 4:7). And that means listening and learning from one another, giving and sharing our views, helping and receiving help from one another. And this includes listening and learning from the wisdom in the teaching of the Church throughout the centuries.

Finally, there is an important way to have the Spirit alive in our hearts and in our mind – it is love of the Crucified Christ when we encounter difficulties, misunderstandings or discouragement. Those moments inevitably come in life, including during a Synod. When they do, it is important to go deep into our hearts and call him, the Crucified Christ, by name: “this difficulty is you”; “I want to love you in this disappointment or setback”; “I offer you this misunderstanding”. Let’s remember that as he was dying on the Cross, Jesus breathed forth his Spirit. United to him in any big or small challenge we might face, we too can breathe forth the Spirit around us.

With these few words, I wish you a good Synod day. A Synod is an event of the Church. I believe there is a grace attached to it. It is a work of God. Let’s do the work of God together and let’s do it well.

[1] Olivier Clément, Dialogues avec le Patriarche Athénagoras (Paris: Fayard, 1969), p. 496, quoting Metropolitan Ignatios of Latakia, the Greek Metropolitan Ignatois of Latakia, speaking at the WCC, Uppsala, 1968.

Synod 2016 - Limerick's Synod Delegates gather for their first meeting 15th November 2014

2016 Limerick Diocesan Synod can turn challenges ahead into opportunities – inaugural gathering of delegates hears

The Limerick Diocesan Synod and the 18month build-up to it can lead to re-founding of the diocese, a leading US based professor of theology has informed the first gathering in preparation for the spring 2016 event.

Some 350 delegates drawn from all areas of Catholic faith in Limerick who have stepped forward for selection for the Synod attended the first event in preparation for the Synod itself at Mary Immaculate College on Saturday.

The Synod – the first in Ireland in 50 years and first in the diocese in 70 years - will be preceded by an 18th month period of reflection and listening that commenced on Saturday and will be officially launched at a special Mass on Sunday, December 7th in St. John’s Cathedral.

The delegates that came together for Saturday’s gathering and will remain on the synod journey right through to the synod itself in 2016 are drawn from 60 parishes and 25 other groups, range in age from those in their late teens to people in their ‘80s and are drawn from all sectors of society from politicians to doctors, people drawn from various ethnic backgrounds right through to the unemployed and students.
Titled ‘Together in Mission’, the inaugural event heard from key-note speaker Fr Paul Philibert - a Dominican friar and expert in pastoral theology from the US who has written extensively on church, spirituality, and liturgy - that a synod is essential if we are to take on board the type of change we now need.

“The synod will help us to name the unusable past and to aim for the necessary future” he said.
“In his pastoral letter of convocation, Bishop Brendan clearly indicated that the synod will have some mighty challenges ahead of it. He referred to the ecclesial trauma caused by the revelation of horrible deeds done to children. Those stories and those wounds will need to be named, and assurances of clear changes of policy will need to be credible and fully understood.

“Moreover, the practice of the faith has declined, and the majority of our young adults have not settled down into the church as a spiritual home. In a broader sense, not just Roman Catholics, but the Irish people as a whole find it harder to see the link between faith and culture. There is, as Pope Francis keeps reminding us, a profound need for re-evangelization.”

Fr Philibert said that there will have to be some ‘emptying out’ and the biggest aspect of this will be in recalibrating our understanding of what the church is and what our role within it must be.

He said that exaggerated ideas of the priest’s role was not good for the ordained nor for the laity who, under such circumstances, could hardly imagine their Christian lives as apostolic.

“During the last fifty years, a downturn in vocations, often flawed catechesis (or worse, no catechesis), the onslaught of pathological media, and generations attuned to vacuous overstimulation have created a populace addicted to excitation and starved for religious formation. Today, ironically, we have vast resources for communication unimaginable to our great-grandparents, on the one hand, and the effective loss of the deep practical meaning of the Christian life, on the other.

“What on earth might be done about such a predicament? Hold a synod,” he continued.

He said that we must let go of calculating Christian life in terms of Masses, rosaries, and novenas alone. “These were the lifeblood of Catholics in the hard times, and they are due all proper respect. But we must let go of thinking of the saving sacrifice of the Mass as something done for us but without us.”

With regard to what the Synod will mean for delegates and the wider diocese, he said, “We can say that it will pose a series of questions that will shape not only the ministry of the diocese, but the life and witness of its people. Do you want to be clients of an ecclesiastical franchise? Do you want to be observers of sacred, sacramental rites performed for your inspiration and spiritual comfort? Do you want to continue to be part-time Christians who visit churches but live in a lusty world? Or, by contrast, do you want to be an active member of a mutually-ministering community that has the world and its culture in view?

“The synod could be an invitation to enter a new age of hope, of discovery, a new age of joy and investment, leading to new challenges but also to deeper peace.”

Other talks were given to delegates on the specially designed Synod logo and the Synod Web-site, while there were a number of workshops, including on ‘The Irish Catholic Catechism for Adults as a resource for creating encounters with Christ’, ‘Catholic Education and the Synod’, ‘The Synod and parish life: Exploring how the synod journey will connect with the life of parish and parishioners’, ‘Synodality and Vatican II’, ‘The Synod as a Pilgrimage in Faith’, and ‘Reading the Signs of the Times’.

Reflecting on Saturday’s first gathering of Synod delegates, Bishop Brendan Leahy said, “This was the first coming together for the delegates and there was definitely a real sense of energy and enthusiasm about the role of the diocese going forward and how we can look at the obvious challenges we face not as hurdles but platforms for positive change.”

Said Fr. Éamonn Fitzgibbon, Episcopal Vicar, as Director of the Synod Fr Eamon Fitzgibbon, “We have had a really engaging and energizing start for the Synod process. Fr. Philibert delivered a captivating address and there was much more food for thought in the various workshops. Ultimately, there is huge goodwill for the Diocese and an appetite for the positive change that we are going to effect. We are now all eagerly looking forward to the Synod launch on December 7th.”

For full details on the synod, go to its website

Bishop Kieran O'Reilly of Killaloe appointed as new Archbishop of Cashel & Emly

The Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly is the metropolitan diocese (head of the ecclesiastical province) for the diocese of Limerick and readers may remember that Archbishop Dermot Clifford was the principal consecrator at the ordination Mass for Bishop Brendan Leahy in April 2013.

We congratulate Bishop Kieran O'Reilly SMA on his appointment as the new archbishop and wish Archbishop Emeritus Clifford the very best for his retirement after 30 years as bishop. 

As a new archbishop we note that there will at least one Irish archbishop to have the pallium bestowed by Pope Francis on feast of St Peter & Paul in June 2015. As one of the four Irish archbishops Bishop Kieran will be one of the trustees of the Pontifical College in Maynooth, one of the trustees for the Irish College in Rome, trustee of Mary Immaculate College in Limerick and St Patrick's College in Thurles. Traditionally the archbishop of Cashel & Emly is also one of the patrons of the GAA following on from Archbishop Thomas Croke who helped in the establishment of the GAA.
Information from Irish Bishops Conference below:
Pope Francis and Archbishop Dermot Clifford
His Holiness Pope Francis has accepted the resignation, on the ground of age, of Archbishop Dermot Clifford as Archbishop of Cashel & Emly, and has appointed Bishop Kieran O’Reilly SMA as Archbishop of Cashel & Emly. This announcement was made today in the Vatican at 12.00pm local time (11.00am Irish time). Please see below an overview of the life and ministry of Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly.
Life and Ministry

Bishop Kieran O'Reilly SMA
On 16 May 2010 Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI announced Father Kieran O’Reilly SMA as Bishop of Killaloe to succeed Bishop William Walsh who had retired on completing his seventy-fifth year in accordance with canon 401.1 of the Code of Canon Law. 

Bishop O’Reilly was born in Cork on 8 August 1952 to Seán and Theresa O’Reilly. Educated at Scoil Chríost Rí and Coláiste Chríost Rí, he entered the Society of African Missions in Wilton, Cork in 1970. Bishop O’Reilly was ordained for the Society on 17 June 1978. He served in Liberia for two years in the Archdiocese of Monrovia before studying for a licentiate in Sacred Scripture at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. From 1984 to 1989 he lectured in Scripture at the Major Seminary of Saints Peter and Paul, in Ibadan, Nigeria. From 1989 – 2010 he served on the Irish and International Councils of the Society of African Missions. 

In May 2010 he was appointed by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI as Bishop of Killaloe.
At the time of the announcement of his appointment as the next Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly, to succeed Archbishop Dermot Clifford, Bishop Kieran was serving as Bishop of the Diocese of Killaloe. He also serves as the Episcopal Secretary to the Irish Episcopal Conference.

Report from Vatican Radio HERE.

You can find the various statements being made on the Facebook page of the Irish Episcopal Conference.

The Hills are alive with the sound of music - Feast of St Cecilia

Crosspost from Pilgrim Progress:

Icon of St. Cecilia
Happy feastday to all musicans and lovers of music!

Today the Church marks the feast of St. Cecilia, a saint whom I often invoke! The most interesting thing about this saint is that even though she is the patroness of music, surprising as it is, she was neither a singer nor a musician. What rendered her deserving of this title is the fact that her life was a continuous song to God. Tradition has it that even whilst the musicians played at her own wedding she sang in her heart to God only. When the Academy of Music was founded at Rome (1584) she was made patroness of the institute and her veneration as patroness of church music in general became still more universal.

It is fitting to apply the words which we find in the today’s Office of the Reading for her: “ You ask, what is singing in jubilation? It means to realize that words are not enough to express what we are singing in our hearts.”(St. Augustine). Every couple have ‘their song’, the song which reminds of the first time they met, of their wedding, or other significant moments. We ask ourselves: “What is our song with God who is our Lover?” Our prayer is our song. Music is a means of liturgical expression as old as liturgy itself. Cultures use the language of music to express universal emotions and ideas; our Church uses music as the universal language of the soul calling out to God in praise, gratitude, glory, intercession and petition! In prayer we begin a kind of ascent, an upward movement toward God and at the same time we experience a descent of God who adapts Himself to our limitations to hear us and speak to us, to meet us and save us. The Psalms immediately offers us aids for this prayerful meeting. Thus, it is necessary to constantly discover and live the beauty of prayer and of the liturgy. One must pray to God not only with theologically precise formulas, but also in a beautiful and dignified way.

Animating the celebration of Vespers
Personally I often feel that music is the umbilical chord which connects me a little more securely to the Lord and allows me to enter into deep communion with Him. And here I can fully consent to St. Augustine’s phrase: 'the one who sings prays twice'. Music has always been woven through the story of my own life and even in my vocational choice. My discernment journey with the community I am now in began when Sr. Anne, one of our sisters, invited me to join the choir in the Parish when I was 12 years old! The seed was sown! My father was a musician in the Army Band and I thank God that that gift to appreciate music was passed onto me. I love singing and though there is huge room for improvement, I thank God that I can use my gifts to animate liturgy and play the guitar and psalterium. I belong to a Congregation which communicates Jesus to the world through beauty and artistic expression, often using music and song. Each day our daily life finds its rhythm in the Psalms of Morning and Evening Prayer of the Church, also allowing us to find harmony and synchrony with each other.

Yes, music helps us bond with each other. A person may invite us to listen to a song which says something to them and this allows us a glimpse into how they are feeling, how the words of the song, the melody, the rhythm resonates with them at that time. Musically, what we sing and what we listen to and how we sing reveals much of who we are, and entering into another's song and music making provides a gateway into their world, which might be much different from our own. Something is shared in singing that goes beyond the words alone.A song can unite two people in joy and in sorrow. Yesterday we celebrated the Presentation of Mary and my mind and heart is still thinking about Mary as our Mother, as Mother of God, as Bearer of the Christ Child. The babe presented in the Temple by Joachim and Anna is the woman who will spontaneously sing in prayer with the Magnificat when she goes to Elizabeth. Two people united in song! In fact, when we open the Gospel of Luke, we notice it is filled with music, especially the first two chapters. There we find five hymns: the hymn of Elizabeth (Luke 1: 42-45); the hymn of Mary, or the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55); the hymn of Zechariah (Luke 1:68-79); the hymn of the angels,(Luke 2:14); and the hymn of Simeon in Luke 2:29-32, all which have found their way into modern liturgy be it in the Divine Office or in the Mass.

So going back to Mary, we read:
“Mary set out at that time and went as quickly as she could into the hill country to a town in Judah. She went into Zechariah's house and greeted Elizabeth.
Now it happened that as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour”

When this happened, Mary also began to sing in the Spirit, exalting and worshiping God. It is this song that is recorded as the Magnificat. Mary's song is the great New Testament canticle of liberation, praising God who not only promised to dwell with those who suffer, but more importantly has been faithful to his sustaining promises. Mary's vocation is our vocation. Mary teaches us courage and solidarity in all our difficulties. “With God all things are possible”. Mary lifts up the small horizon of our sighted vision to the abundant insight of her Son.

Advent is just around the corner and for us, Mary is the ‘Advent woman’. The spiritual secret of her ‘waiting’, of her ‘advent’ can be understood in the light of the words of St. Ephrem: “Mary is the zither of the Holy Spirit”. Indeed she was an instrument in God’s hands and she allowed Him to play the melody of the Incarnation upon her life. When she heard Elizabeth’s greeting, she was filled with the Holy Spirit and Scripture came pouring out of her heart. In turn it allows Elizabeth to compose her own hymn of joy: "of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb." (Lk 1, 42). What a joy! The conclusion of the Magnificat is like a musical coda declaring God's covenant, mercy and faithfulness throughout history. Though Israel would encounter crisis moments within their wanderings, God would comfort them with the promise of a Messiah. And we wait! We search for the words to pray and yet we are told:“Do not search for words, as if you could find a lyric which would give God pleasure. Sing to him “with songs of joy”. This is singing well to God, just singing with songs of joy. But how is this done? You must first understand that words cannot express the things that are sung by the heart.” (Office of Readings, Feast of St. Cecilia).

Once more our mind returns to remember our Lady. There is a beautiful reading in the Office of Readings for the 20th of December which reads: “Answer, O Mary, answer the angel speedily; rather through the angel, answer your Lord. Speak the word, and receive the Word, offer what is yours, and conceive what is of God” (St. Bernard). It is the suspense of the spectator left with their breath held as they await that final note of the Symphony. We too await the birth of the Word made flesh.

Whether you love to actually sing or not, perhaps you have felt a time when the love or wonder or joy of God transported you to such depths or such heights that you were beyond words and where you just held your breath and basked in the perfection of the music. This is Incarnation. This is the song of the heart sung back to you by the Divine Lover. Today, may you seek out and find the song of your heart and have the courage to sing it out!

Nov 21, 2014

All baptized people can be saints - Pope Francis - General Audience


“Every state of life leads to holiness, always”, but only if we are open to the grace of God’s gift, said Pope Francis Wednesday, speaking of the universal call to holiness of all baptized at his general audience.

In his catechesis at the General Audience, the Pope we must remember that holiness is a gift from God - it is not something we can achieve on our own.

Holiness, he continued “is not the prerogative of only a few: holiness is a gift that is offered to all, without exception, so that it constitutes the distinctive character of every Christian.”

“We are all called to be saints,” he said. But holiness is not “granted only to those who have the opportunity to break away from the ordinary tasks, to devote themselves to prayer.” Rather, everyone is called to holiness in their own state of life. “Indeed,” he said, “it is by living with love and offering Christian witness in our daily tasks that we are called to become saints… Always and everywhere you can become a saint, that is, by being receptive to the grace that is working in us and leads us to holiness.”

Continue reading full text of General Audience HERE.