18 Dec 2018

Pope blessed statues of baby Jesus brought to St. Peter's square to prepare for Christmas

Living Stones: The Abbey of Saint Sixtus of Westvleteren

Abortion Referral – An Affront to Conscience

The Irish Catholic bishops have issued a statement saying that abortion cannot be supported. The statement came at the conclusion of their Winter General Meeting which took place in Maynooth on Tuesday 4 and Wednesday 5 December.

Reflecting on the current Dáil debate on the abortion bill bishops said, “We are dismayed that, for the most part, the voices of those who voted against abortion in May’s referendum have been ignored. Even what many people would have deemed to have be very reasonable legislative amendments seeking to provide women with information and to prohibit abortion on the grounds of sex, race or disability, have been rejected.

“As we stated after our Autumn Meeting, Irish society must have respect for the right of conscientious objection for all healthcare professionals and pharmacists. They cannot be forced either to participate in abortion or to refer patients to others for abortion.”

The bishops went on to say, “Every one of us has a right to life. It is not given to us by the Constitution of Ireland or by any law. We have it ‘as of right’, whether we are wealthy or poor, healthy or sick. All human beings have it. The direct and intentional taking of human life at any stage is gravely wrong and can never be justified.

“Women’s lives, and the lives of their unborn children, are precious, valued and always deserving of protection. Any law which suggests otherwise would have no moral force. In good conscience it cannot be supported and would have to be resisted.

“We offer our prayerful solidarity with everyone dedicated to the sanctity and protection of human life at all stages. We ask everyone of goodwill – whether at home, in parish, in school or at work – to continue to choose and to celebrate the preciousness of life.”

Dr Jim Carr and Dr Anthony Reilly discuss their concerns about how conscience rights for medics will be upheld in Ireland after abortion is introduced.

Dr Kirsten Fuller speaking at ‘Freedom of Conscience’ Rally outside Dáil Éireann (17/10/2018) as abortion legislation being debated.

To advent each other

Advent, the season of light, is an invitation to advent each other,To bring the light of Christ into our own lives and into the lives of othersWe can do this in simple ways:Through the ways in which we welcome each otherAnd through the ways we recognise the pearl in every human heart.
There is a pearl in every season, a pearl in every heart.Advent God bring this pearl to birth in us as we journey to Bethlehem.Advent is a time to take God into all the areas of our livesTo rejoice in our own goodness and to sing the Advent mantra of gratitude.
Advent is the season that offers us the opportunity to let go;without letting go of hope. Allowing the Prince of Peace 'space' to be born again in each of usThen in our hearts we can bless the wounded places in our world,consecrate the fragile events of our society
And nourish the hearts of the 'unloved and unwanted' at the altar of daily life.Let us go to our inner 'inn', the 'manger' of our hearts where we are wounded. Let us invite our Advent God to take the sacred threads of our brokenness And weave them into a tapestry of love and compassion. Then in the Bethlehem of our hearts we will become a 'gift' to be given.

(Author unknown)

O Antiphons - 2018 - December 18th - O Adonai

O Adonai - Robyn Sand Anderson
Duke College Chapel

O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammæ rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

O Adonai, and Ruler of the house of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the burning bush, and gave him the Law on Sinai, come to redeem us with outstretched arm

"Adonai" is Hebrew for "my Lord", and was substituted by devout Jews for the name "Yahweh", out of reverence. With this second antiphon we progress from creation to the familiar story of God manifesting himself by name to Moses and giving his law to Israel as their way of life. 

We are also reminded of the Israelite's' deliverance from bondage under pharaoh - a foreshadowing of our own redemption from sin. The image of God's arm outstretched in power to save his chosen people also brings to mind the later scene of Jesus with his arms outstretched for us on the cross.


Suppose that Moses rose before first light
And saw the unexpected glow,
the incandescence, where on other mornings
Only darkness waited .

Mountains, desert, storm clouds in the background;
night, reluctant to depart;
and there, alive and dangerous with holiness,
a bush on fire,
growing its ruby flames like leaves,
bearing an awesome seed,
a saving Name.
too holy to be spoken.


Who are we to name Your Name, recite Your covenant,
proclaim Your boundless love for us?
Your Name, when we attempt to speak it, turns to fire in our mouths,
so we contain it in a title:  LORD!  ADONAI!
and take the fire inside to purify our hearts.
When you entrust us with your Name
you draw us near until,
in the flames that cauterize our dry assumptions
You reveal Your Name enfleshed:


The burning bush will bear its fruit
wherever seekers  wake to the illumined night,
and, stumbling barefoot toward the Holy One,
reach toward the fire
and call upon the Name. 
     —Sr. Kate

- Reflection from Franciscan Poor Clares website


Reflections from prior years on the O Antiphons

    17 Dec 2018

    O Antiphons - 2018 - December 17th - O Sapientia (O Holy Wisdom)

    O Sapientia, quæ ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiæ

    O Wisdom, you came forth from the mouth of the Most High and, reaching from beginning to end, you ordered all things mightily and sweetly.  Come, and teach us the way of prudence. 

    “O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.” 

    Isaiah had prophesied, “The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.” (11:2-3), and “Wonderful is His counsel and great is His wisdom.” (28:29). 

    Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia or Sapientia) is here personified, present with God at the beginning of creation.  Traditionally depecited as a woman in iconography and art; Wisdom is seen as a prefigurement of Jesus, the eternal Word of God, the "logos" John described in the opening of his gospel.

    Wisdom is the foundation of fear of the Lord, of holiness, or right living: it is wisdom whom we bid to come and teach us prudence.  

    The cry "Come" will be repeated again and again, insistent and hope-filled.

    If you would like to read or do lectio on scripture for the day:
    Some reflections/links from previous years 

    16 Dec 2018

    Advent - The O Antiphons 2018

    As the day darken towards December 17th, the liturgical calendar moves into the final octave before Christmas. Beginning with the 17th of December, the liturgical tradition marks each day until Christmas Eve with an ancient and mysterious text, one of the so-called O-Antiphons. 

    In the seven or eight days before Christmas Eve, at an appropriate church service (usually vespers, or evening prayer), the Great Advent Antiphons are traditionally said to introduce the saying (or singing) of the Magnificat. These prayers are variously known as the Great Advent Antiphons, the Great Os, the O Antiphons and the Solemn Antiphons.

    In the English-speaking world, the hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” has popularized these O-Antiphons far beyond the confines of the church’s liturgy although being liturgically correct, the song is sung backwards in relation to the order of the O Antiphons. The O Antiphons are set to the tune of an ancient French processional hymn and liturgically speaking we should only sing this song between 17th and 23rd December, but it is a firm favourite of many people!

    The O-Antiphons are a collage of Old Testament types of Christ. Their predominant theme is messianic, stressing the hope of the Saviour's coming. Jesus is invoked by various titles, mainly taken from the prophet Isaiah. The sequence progresses historically, from the beginning, before creation, to the very gates of Bethlehem. Each daily antiphon takes a different image from the Hebrew Scriptures — Wisdom, Lord of Israel, Root of Jesse, Key of David, Dawn, King of Nations, Emmanuel — to plead for the coming of Christ. For the seven days before Christmas, we recall in these prayers a quality of Christ that must be realized before the presence of Christ can consume the world. They are named “O” after their introductory exclamation of longing. The O-Antiphons give voice to the deepest longing of Advent, the coming of the Redeemer. Together, these antiphons move toward Christ’s birth, celebrated the day after the last of them has been chanted.

    As we head into the last 8 days before Christmas, why not make a few minutes of sacred space in your day to round out your preparations for the Holy and Festive Season of Christmas. The presents, decorations and parties are important to re-connect with family and friends, but lets not forget why we celebrate the holy-day.......

    Further reading and reflection on the Great O's:

    Advent Music - Lo, He comes with Clouds Descending

    15 Dec 2018

    16th December 2018 - Introducing Pastoral Units & Team Ministry - Interview with Bishop Brendan Leahy

    On this weeks programme the SS102fm team are on the road where we travelled to the new Diocesan Office in St Munchin's College to interview Bishop Brendan Leahy. Bishop Leahy discusses the new pastoral units and changes it will mean in parishes, the issue of vocations and seminarian formation, and lay led liturgies and explaining why the diocesan policy is not to distribute Holy Communion at them. In addition we have our regular reflection on the Sunday Gospel as well as saints of the week and other liturgical odds & ends.

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

    Interview with Bishop Brendan Leahy

    Bishop Brendan Leahy joins us on the programme this week to discuss various issues and changes which have arisen with the main change being the introduction of a Team Ministry approach to deal with the falling number of priests which was confirmed for the Diocese of Limerick. In addition to the introduction of the pastoral units he reflects on the  need for vocations and possible changes needed to seminary formation; we discuss the introduction of the lay led liturgies in parishes and how in Limerick diocese the policy is not to distribute Holy Communion at week day liturgies; and briefly discuss his inclusion in a list as possible successor to Archbishop Diarmuid Martin.

    From 2nd December 2018 teams of clergy will minister in each unit but existing parish identity will be preserved.

    The new units will involve a number of parishes operating together, with two or three priests ministering together as a team to the pastoral needs of these parishes. Each of the priests will be a “co-Parish Priest” and will move around the pastoral Unit, resulting in different priests saying masses in parishes week on week.

    There will be one pastoral council per pastoral unit made up of members of each of the parishes of the unit. Each parish then will have its own smaller working group.

    Bishop Leahy commented that “The main goal in establishing pastoral units and team ministry is greater co-operation between parishes. The hope is that there will be a greater critical mass of energy, competencies and lay volunteers at the service of a number of parishes. As the Irish saying puts it, Ní neart go cur le chéile - our strength lies in unity,” in the pastoral letter.

    “But our new arrangements are not just about responding to the decline in the number of priests. For the past fifty years, the Catholic Church throughout the world recognises we need to work more in a team spirit. It is something Pope Francis underlines when he speaks of 'synodality'. We journey to God together. We need to promote arrangements that encourage greater co-operation and exchange between parishes.

    You can listen to the interview with Bishop Brendan excerpted from the main programme podcast HERE.

    Gospel - Luke 3:10-18

    The crowds asked John the Baptist,“What should we do?”He said to them in reply,“Whoever has two cloaksshould share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.”Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him,“Teacher, what should we do?”He answered them, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”Soldiers also asked him,“And what is it that we should do?”He told them,“Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.”
    Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ.John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water,but one mightier than I is coming.I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floorand to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people.
    Reflections on this weeks Gospel:

    Word on Fire
    Sunday Reflection
    Centre for Liturgy
    English Dominicans

    Liturgical odds & ends

    Liturgy of the Hours - Psalter week 3

    Saints of the Week

    December 17th - St Lazurus of Bethany
    December 18th - St Flannan
    December 19th - Bl William of Fenoli
    December 20th - St Fachanan
    December 21st - St Peter Canisius
    December 22nd - St Abban of New Ross

    Advent Music - Prepare ye the way

    11 Dec 2018

    Advent at the Abbey 2018 - "Tuning into real time" - Reflections available online

    The Advent at the Abbey series continues during this Advent every Sunday evening at 4.30pm. 

    The first two Sundays are now available to listen to online:

    1. Watch and Pray - Reset your clock - Reflection by Fr Luke McNamara
    2. John the Baptist - A Prophet for our time - Reflection by Dr Jessie Rogers on the role and place of the joyful prophet John the Baptist.

    Beatifications in Algeria on Dec 8th including the Monks of Tibhirine

    Background to the 19 martyrs here - Algeria prepares for beatification of 19 martyrs

    The Pope Video - Pope's Prayer Intention for December 2018

    Advent Music - O Comfort my people

    8 Dec 2018

    December 9th 2018 - Exploring Lectio Divina with Fr Frank Duhig

    On this weeks programme we are joined by Fr Frank Duhig to discuss and reflect on lectio divina. Fr Frank takes us through what it means, how to do it and what it can mean for our daily spiritual lives. We have our regular reflection on the Sunday gospel led by Fr Frank as well as other liturgical odds & ends and notices.

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

    Lectio Divina

    Lectio Divina", a Latin term, means "sacred reading" and describes a way of reading the Scriptures whereby we gradually let go of our own agenda and open ourselves to what God wants to say to us. 

    Regular listeners to the programme will know that most of the presenters and panelists that participate in the show participate in lectio divina and many are members of the group of people who gather each Monday night in the Parish Centre in Newcastle West Co Limerick from 8.15pm to 9.15pm to participate in "lectio divina" where together we break open the Word and explore its meaning for our daily lives in this hectic and fast paced world of ours.

    Fr Frank Duhig shares with is his thoughts on the practise of lectio divina and explains how the group lectio works each week in Newcastle West.

    Fr Franks reflection is excerpted from the main programme podcast HERE.

    Gospel - Luke 3:1-6

    In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,
    when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea,
    and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee,
    and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region
    of Ituraea and Trachonitis,
    and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene,
    during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas,
    the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.
    John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan,
    proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,
    as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:
    A voice of one crying out in the desert:
    “Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make straight his paths.
    Every valley shall be filled
    and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
    The winding roads shall be made straight,
    and the rough ways made smooth,
    and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

    Reflections on this weeks gospel:

    Word on Fire
    Centre for Liturgy
    English Dominicans
    Sunday Reflections

    Liturgical odds & ends

    Liturgy of the Hours - Psalter week 2; 2nd week of Advent

    Saints of the Week

    December 10th - Bl Brian Lacy
    December 11th - St Damasus I
    December 12th - Our Lady of Guadalupe
    December 13th - St Lucy
    December 14th - St John of the Cross
    December 15th - St Silvia of Constantinople

    December 8th - Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

    December 8th is the feast day of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary which is observed as a Solemnity and a holy day of obligation in Ireland. 

    The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is the doctrine that the Virgin Mary was conceived without original sin, that twist in our nature that makes our will tend not to follow what it knows to be right. It was this grace that enabled Mary to give a true and considered “Yes” to the request, conveyed by the Angel Gabriel, that she should consent to be the mother of the incarnate God.

    The doctrine was almost universally believed over the centuries but was only formally defined as a doctrine of the Church by Pope Pius IX in 1854. Because it is so old, it is one of the Marian doctrines that Islam shares with the Catholic Church, though of course the theological details are very different.

    The core of the definition was solemnly set out in 1854 and was expressed in this way in the papal Constitution Inneffabilis Deus:
    “We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.”
    When Our Lady appeared at Lourdes to Bernadette Soubirous four years later and Bernadette asked her, "Would you kindly tell me who you are?", she replied: "I am the Immaculate Conception".


    CNA - On feast of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis points to Mary’s trust in God

    On the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis encouraged Catholics to imitate Mary’s deep trust and openness to God when faced with serious problems.

    “Today we look at the beauty of Our Lady, who was born and lived without sin, always docile and transparent with God. This does not mean that life was easy for her. Living with God does not magically solve problems,” Francis told pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square Dec. 8.

    Pope Francis highlighted Mary’s radical trust at the moment of the Annunciation found in her response to the angel, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

    “Why not start your days like this? It would be nice to say every morning: ‘Here I am, Lord, today your will be done in me,” Pope Francis said, noting that the Angelus prayer provides an opportunity to repeat Mary’s words.

    After the Annunciation, the angel departed and Mary’s “problems began immediately,” he said.

    Mary knew that “she would become the Mother of God, but the angel had not explained it to others,” Francis explained. “Think of her irregular situation according to the law, the torment of St. Joseph, the skipped life plans, what the people would say …”

    “The angel leaves the Virgin alone in a difficult situation … And she trusts,” he said. “We ask the Immaculate to have the grace to live like this.”

    The pope expressed joy at the beatification of the Bishop Peter Claverie and 18 martyred companions, who were proclaimed blessed in Algeria on the feast day.

    “Their courageous testimony is a source of hope for the Algerian Catholic community and a seed of dialogue for the whole of society,” Francis said.

    Pope Francis later prayed in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, venerating the Byzantine icon, “Salus Populi Romani,” inside.

    The Holy Father then offered a bouquet of flowers at the foot of the Column of the Immaculate Conception in the piazza below Rome’s Spanish Steps.

    Standing beneath the nineteenth-century Marian monument, Pope Francis entrusted all priests, religious, and Catholic families to the care of the Immaculate Mother.

    “O Mother of Jesus, one last thing I ask you, in this time of Advent, thinking of the days when you and Joseph were anxious about the imminent birth of your child, worried because there was a census and you had to leave your country, Nazareth, and go to Bethlehem,” Pope Francis prayed.

    “You know what it means to bring life into your lap and feel indifference, rejection, and sometimes contempt. This is why I ask you to stay close to the families that are living today in Rome, in Italy, in the whole world live in similar situations, so that they are not abandoned.”

    The lighting of the tree and the manger inaugurate Christmas in the Vatican - Rome Reports

    Advent Music - O Come O Come Emmanuel

    7 Dec 2018

    Dec 7th - St Ambrose of Milan (Repost)

    Contemplating the wounds of Christ, by which we have been saved, St. Ambrose said, "I can revel in none of my deeds, I have nothing to boast about; therefore, I will glory in Christ. I will not glory because I am just, but I will glory because I have been redeemed. I will not glory because I am exempt from sins, but I will glory because my sins have been forgiven. I will not glory because I have been a help nor because someone has helped me, but because Christ is my advocate with the Father, and Christ's blood was poured out on me. My sin has become for me the price of the Redemption through which Christ came to me. For my sake, Christ tasted death. Sin is more profitable than innocence. Innocence had made me arrogant, sin made me humble."

    From CatholicCulture:

    Around the year 333 Ambrose was born at Trier, the child of a noble Roman family. After his father's death he went to Rome, and was soon appointed consul with residence at Milan. While attempting to settle a dispute between the Arians and Catholics over the choice of a bishop, he himself was chosen, although only a catechumen at the time. He was ordained a priest and consecrated a bishop on Dec. 7. Thereupon he devoted himself wholeheartedly to the study of theology, and gave his possessions to the poor. He was an illustrious preacher, and through his sermons brought Augustine to the faith and baptized him. He wrote much on the Scriptures and Fathers, preached a homily every Sunday, resisted the interference of the secular powers with the rights of the Church and opposed the heretics. He composed many hymns, promoted sacred chant, and took a great interest in the Liturgy.

    Candid and fearless no matter how strong the opposition, Ambrose was directed to confront Maximus, the murderer of the Emperor Gratian. When Maximus refused to do penance, Ambrose excommunicated him. Later he denied Emperor Theodosius entrance into church for his massacre of the inhabitants of Thessalonica. It was on this occasion that allusion was made to [King] David as a murderer and adulterer, and Ambrose retorted: "You have followed him in sin, now follow him in repentance." Humbly, Theodosius accepted the penance imposed.

    We often meet this saint in the Divine Office as a teacher and as an inspired composer of hyms (fourteen of the hymns attributed to him are definitely authentic, true pearls of religious poetry). His writings are vibrant with ancient Christian liturgical spirit, for his life was wholly rooted in mystery and sacrament. He is one of the four great Latin Doctors of the Church and called the Pastoral Doctor. He placed the church first with each member as his highest priority. Service to each member and defending that honor was his daily and continual aim throughout his lifetime.
    "The Divine Scripture is a sea, containing in it deep meanings, and an abyss of prophetic mysteries; and into this sea enter many rivers. There are Sweet and transparent streams, cool fountains too there are, springing up into life eternal, and pleasant words as an honey-comb. Agreeable sentences too there are, refreshing the minds of the hearers, if I may say so, with spiritual drink, and soothing them with, the sweetness of their moral precepts. Various then are the streams of the sacred Scriptures. There is in them a first draught for you, a second, and a last". (Letter 2.3: To Constantius, A Newly Appointed Bishop)
    Ambrose is also called the "Patron of the Veneration of Mary". He firmly maintained that population increases in direct proportion to the esteem virginity is held. He laid the foundation for Marian thinking in the West. As the first Doctor of the Church, Saint Ambrose made it patently clear and claimed, from the very outset, that Mary had life-long virginity. The Council of Milan and the church made it official in the year 340 by the doctrine: Mary, Ever Virgin. Ambrose understood Mary as a symbol for the church and Augustine reiterated this idea. Both were instrumental in initiating Marian thinking in the Western Church. We find in the writings of Ambrose the first important Marian doctrine within Western Christianity. Ambrose is the first Christian author to call Mary the type and image of the church. She is the type of the church because she was a virgin, immaculate and married. He was one of the strongest opponents of Arianism in the West. His homilies and other writings on faith, the Holy Spirit, the Incarnation, the sacraments and other subjects were pastoral and practical.
    "Ambrose exemplifies for us the truly catholic character of Christianity. He is a man steeped in the learning, law and culture of the ancients and of his contemporaries. Yet, in the midst of active involvement in this world, this thought runs through Ambrose’s life and preaching: The hidden meaning of the Scriptures calls our spirit to rise to another world."

    Relics of St Ambrose in Milan Cathedral
    Patron: bee keepers; bees; candlemakers; chandlers; domestic animals; learning; Milan, Italy; schoolchildren; students; wax melters; wax refiners.

    Symbols: Scourge; beehive; tower; dove; cope and mitre; human bones; scroll with staff of music; pen book and pen; cross; chalice; bull; knotted scourge; two scourges; goose; writing tablet and stylus; heart surmounted with flame; scroll with quotation from writings.

    Often Portrayed As: Bishop holding a church in his hand; beehive; man arguing with a pagan; with Saint Gregory the Great, Saint Jerome and Saint Augustine of Hippo.

    Various quotes from St Ambrose HERE.

    Read more about him HERE.

    Advent Music - Hills of the North Rejoice