30 Jan 2011

February 1st - Feast of St Bridget - Muire na nGael - Secondary Patron of Ireland

February 1st is in Ireland the feast day of a beloved saint, Bridget of Kildare and is viewed as the start of Spring and the beginning of the new agricultural year. St Bridget's day honours our second national patron saint after St Patrick and gives her due honour.

Tradition holds she lived 452AD-524AD as is know in tradition and affection of the Irish as Mary of the Gael. She is said to be the patroness of babies; blacksmiths; boatmen; cattle; chicken farmers; children whose parents are not married; children whose mothers are mistreated by the children's fathers; Clan Douglas; dairymaids; dairy workers; fugitives; infants; Ireland; Leinster, mariners; midwives; milk maids; nuns; poets; poor; poultry farmers; poultry raisers; printing presses; sailors; scholars; travellers; watermen

Pious tradition holds she took her vows from Saint Mel of Ardagh (nephew of St Patrick), who also granted her abbatial powers. She followed Saint Mel into the Kingdom of Teathbha, which is made up of sections of modern Meath, Westmeath and Longford. This occurred about 468. Brigid is known for being the only “female bishop” of the early church. It is said that upon receiving her vows Saint Mel was inspired by God to make her a bishop. Brigid's small oratory at Cill-Dara (Kildare) became a center of religion and learning, and developed into a cathedral city. She founded two monastic institutions, one for men, and the other for women, and appointed Saint Conleth as spiritual pastor of them. It has been frequently stated that she gave canonical jurisdiction to Saint Conleth, Bishop of Kildare, but, as Archbishop Healy points out, she simply "selected the person to whom the Church gave this jurisdiction", and her biographer tells us distinctly that she chose Saint Conleth "to govern the church along with herself". Thus, for centuries, Kildare was ruled by a double line of abbot-bishops and of abbesses, the Abbess of Kildare being regarded as superior general of the monasteries in Ireland. Brigid also founded a school of art, including metal work and illumination, over which Conleth presided. The Kildare scriptorium produced the Book of Kildare, which elicited high praise from Giraldus Cambrensis, but which has disappeared since the Reformation. According to Giraldus, nothing that he had ever seen was at all comparable to the book, every page of which was gorgeously illuminated, and he concludes by saying that the interlaced work and the harmony of the colours left the impression that "all this is the work of angelic, and not human skill". Brigid is at times known as "the Patroness of Ireland" and "Queen of the South: the Mary of the Gael" by a writer in the "Leabhar Breac". Brigid died leaving a cathedral city and school that became famous all over Europe. In addition, Brigid is highly venerated by many Eastern Orthodox Christians as one of the great Western saints before the schism between the Eastern and Western Churches. Her feast day, as in the West, is February 1, although churches following the Julian calendar (as in many Orthodox countries) celebrate her feast on February 14, the corresponding date on the Julian calendar. Her body was found with those of Saints Patrick and Columba, in a triple vault in Down-Patrick, in 1185, as Giraldus Cambrensis informs us: they were all three translated to the cathedral of the same city; but their monument was destroyed in the reign of King Henry VIII.

The blog Under the Oak has a great devotion to St Bridget and has some further posts about:

St Brigid (452-524) Mary of the Gael

This article first appeared in The Messenger (February 2002), a publication of the Irish Jesuits.

Brigid of Kildare is a patroness of those who have a care for the earth, for justice and equality, for peace and she is a model for a contemplative life.
Brigidine sister Rita Minehan profiles her here.

A great resurgence of interest in all aspects of our Celtic heritage is leading many individuals and groups to rediscover – and draw inspiration from – the lives of the early Irish saints. St Brigid, the patroness of Ireland, is emerging as one whose life has relevance and inspiration for us as we try to face the issues that confront our country and our world at this time. When we look at the life of Brigid and at some of these issues we can see more clearly why she continues to be relevant to us today.

Carer of the earth

The feast of St Brigid on the first of February is a celebration of the wonderful springing back of the earth from its winter sleep. It is the season when we celebrate new beginnings and new life on earth. The sod is turned. The day lengthens. Seeds are sown and sails are hoisted.

Many of the stories about Brigid tell of her milking the cows, churning the milk, making up the firkins of butter, shepherding her flocks of sheep, helping with the harvest and even brewing the ale!

Brigid, in keeping with her Celtic traditions, was wonderfully attuned to the seasons and cycles of nature. She valued the elements of nature: earth, air, fire and water.

Light the fire

Today, we are becoming more aware of the fragility of our planet. Lands are becoming barren, skies fouled, waters poisoned. Many individuals and groups concerned about the environment draw inspiration from the reverence and respect which Brigid had for the land. She is often referred to as the Saint of Agriculture.

In a new hymn, composed by Fr Liam Lawton, Brigid is invoked ‘to heal our wounds and green our earth again.’

‘A Life of Brigid’ (Vita Brigitae), composed by Cogitosus about 650 AD, places great emphasis on Brigid’s faith, her healing powers, her hospitality, her generosity, her great skill with animals, and her compassion for the poor and the oppressed. Twenty three of the thirty two chapters tell of her extraordinary concern for the poor. One of the Brigidine legends illustrates this very effectively.

Woman of compassion

One day when Brigid was on a long journey she stopped to rest by the wayside. A rich lady heard about this and brought her a beautiful basket of choice apples. No sooner had she received them than a group of very poor people came by and begged her for food. Without a moment’s hesitation, Brigid gave them the choice apples. The rich lady was utterly disgusted and she complained to Brigid, ‘I brought those apples for you, not for them.’ Brigid’s reply was: ‘What is mine is theirs.’

This Brigidine legend poses a challenge to all of us in terms of our world today, where forty-five thousand people die from hunger and hunger-related diseases every day and where twenty percent of the population own and consume about eighty percent of the earth’s resources.

The poverty gap continues to widen both within and between countries, as the rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer. This legend challenges us to work for a more equitable distribution of the world’s resources.

Model of equality

It is generally accepted that Brigid established her abbey and church in Kildare around 480 AD, on the site now occupied by St Brigid’s Cathedral. Brigid held a unique position in the Irish Church and society of her day. As Abbess, she presided over the local Church of Kildare and was leader of a double monastery for men and women.

Tradition suggests that she invited Conleth, a hermit from Old Connell near Newbridge, to assist her in Kildare. Cogitosus tells us that ‘they governed their Church by means of a mutually happy alliance.’

What emerges from many of these stories and legends about Brigid is the portrait of a strong and gentle woman, a powerful leader, a good organiser, a skilful healer and a wise spiritual guide. Brigid has become – for men as well as women – a potent symbol of Christian womanhood, showing us in so many different ways the feminine face of God.

Woman of peace

There was no lack of domestic strife in the Ireland of Brigid’s day, where feuds between clans were commonplace. She is often depicted as a peacemaker who intervened in disputes between rival factions and brought healing and reconciliation. Folklorists tell us that in some parts of Ireland a St Brigid’s cross was often used as a token of goodwill between neighbours, indicating a desire for peace and friendship after a local quarrel.

One of the best-known stories associated with St Brigid is that of her giving away her father’s precious sword to a poor man so that he could barter it for food to feed his family. Thus, a sword, a weapon of war, was transformed into a life-giving instrument. This story offers an important lesson for our world today where every minute thirteen million pounds is being spent on weapons of war. One wonders what links Brigid would make today between the massive expenditure on arms and the welfare of the poor people of the world?

Woman of contemplation

Brigid emerges as a woman of action in the stories, legends and poems about her. If one, however, were to seek the source from which she drew her strength and energy, one could probably find the answer in this story.

One day, Saint Brendan the Navigator stood on a cliff top and watched two whales engaging in fierce combat. Suddenly, the smaller whale, in a human voice, cried out for help not to Brendan but to Brigid, who was not even present. The cry was answered immediately, and the combat ceased. Brendan was puzzled as to why he had been ignored. ‘Do you always think about God?’ asked Brigid, when the two met. ‘Yes,’ replied Brendan, ‘except at times when my boat is caught in a storm at sea and I have to concentrate on keeping it afloat.’ ‘That’s the explanation,’ Brigid answered. ‘From the moment I first knew God I have never let him out of my mind, and I never shall.’

An old Irish poem, written in the seventh century, speaks of her contemplation of the Trinity:

Deeper than the seas,
Greater than words can express,
Three persons in one only God;
Overflowing with wonder.’

Woman of inspiration

Even today, poets, writers and artists still find inspiration in the symbols, customs and folklore surrounding Brigid. One writer recently referred to her as ‘the woman who, above all others, embodies the spirit of pre-Christian and Christian Ireland’. In a beautiful leadlight window in Kildare College Chapel, Holden Hill, South Australia (see image below) the artist depicts Brigid dancing the dance of the new life of creation, carrying the Spirit of Jesus into the twenty-first century. Many of the values associated with Brigid are captured in this delightful poem:

Lady, from winters dark,
Star of Imbolc, rise!
Dance around our threshold,
Scattering warm laughter,
Seeds of hospitality,
Tolerance, forgiveness!
Return again to the folk;
You the spring we yearn for!

What a lovely image to carry with us into the future!

Reflection for St Bridget's Day

The following reflection is from the Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin.

Legend holds that Brigid made her first cross from rushes she picked from the floor as she visited a pagan chieftain who was dying. While sitting by his bed she began to weave the rushes into the shape of a cross and tell the stories of her Christian faith. The cross became a symbol of peace and protection, protection of animals and protection from fire and disease and a blessing for home and hearth. Crosses were exchanged too in times of clan feuds as a sign of reconciliation. From that time Irish people have never ceased to weave these crosses. These rushes represent our hopes, our dreams, our gifts and our efforts in working towards a more caring society.

Look. She is gathering the dreams to weave something new. She gathers our rushes of sorrow and gladness, of happiness and pain, tears and laughter, kindness and caring, of voluntary groups and organisations, of families, relations and friends, of schools and hospitals, of work and sport and recreation, and all the little words and deeds offered in hope, in faith and in love. She is weaving them all with loving hands into a new form, a richer and more beautiful creation.

God, too weaves patiently and persistently with the rushes of our lives. He invites us to keep offering him the shreds of our suffering and the stuff of our dreams and to take our place beside him to weave the shape of new creation.

To welcome the new with faith and courage.
To cherish all that has gone before,
To become an example of justice and peace,
Weaver God, accept, please do,
the offering of ourselves, our separate strands,
to be woven in and out, over, under and through.
Grant us eyes to see the whole, of which we are a part,
to see the tapestry you weave,
calling us beyond our aloneness and security,
to be surprised by miracles.
Oh, if we could but perceive
out of parts we weave a whole.
Rise with the road on your journey,
May Brigid bless you, possess you, caress you,
with her ever faithful love.
Rise with the road on your journey,
May Brigid hold you, enfold you, console you,
with her ever faithful love.

Further information about the celebrations of Féile Bhríde in the Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin can be found here.

29 Jan 2011

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time - January 28th 2011

On this weeks show we meet Fr Michael Liston who we hope is going to be a regular contributor to the show. Fr Michael takes us through a poetical reflection on parts of west Limerick and the need to have hope especially at this time. We have our regular reflection on the Sunday Gospel as well as our Saints for the week, some reflective music, our prayer space in the day and some chat.

Gospel - Matthew 5:1-12

This weeks gospel is a very familiar gospel - the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount with the preaching of the Beatitudes or as it was once described Christians political manifesto.

If ever a gospel needed to be used in lectio, this weeks gospel would be one because it is such a gospel that we think we are familiar with. But each time we read it, it hits us again just how strange is this message being preached where those who are being called Blessed are those whom society still today considers as the misfits or the out siders with the corresponding question as to why Jesus is highlighting them to us.

The need to reflect on what it means to be "Poor in spirit" or "meek", "merciful" and the corresponding rewards which are promised to us should cause us to stop in amazement upon hearing the Word proclaimed to ask ourselves what on earth it could mean.

Further reflections available here, here and here.

Saints of the Week

We have a busy week ahead with some heavy hitting saints and feasts in the liturgical calander.

January 31st - St John Bosco – Priest – Founder of the Salesians
February 1st St Bridget – Abbess – Secondary Patron of Ireland - (452-524) Mary of the Gael
February 2nd - Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (World Day for Consecrated Life) 

February 3rd - St Blaise – Bishop (Blessing of Throats)
Febuary 4th - St Andrew Corsini (Carmelite Bishop) - First Friday
February 5th - St Agatha – Virgin martyr

As always, thanks for listening

John, Lorraine, Shane, Michael K, Fr Michael

Limerick Diocesan Pastoral Centre Weekly Update Email

Each week, Noirin Lynch who has mades regular contributions to Sacred Space in her role as Pastoral Coordinator at Limierck Diocesan Pastoral Centre sends out a resource email highlighting up coming events at the LDPC as well as around Limerick Diocese as well as providing some resources for those involved in parish pastoral councils.

If you would like Noirin to add you to her distribution list, drop her an email to NLynch@ldpc.ie

This weeks email has the following reminders, suggestions and resources available:

"In this week’s email you’ll hear about training available, a new talks series and we’ll focus on resources for the end of January and for February - we hope this information is of help to you in your parish planning.

(i) Up coming Events in the Pastoral Centre: Rainbows, Faith formation, A new Spring talks series, and training for pastoral chairpersons. 
(ii) Other events of interest Doras Luimni are running intercultural awareness training in February (details below). This free course is of benefit to all who deal with migrants regularly.
(iii) Pastoral Resources
The last week of January and the first weeks of February are rich times for us – saints abound and spring beckons! Catholic Schools week ties in with the feast of St John Bosco, founder of the Salesians who have been a great blessing for us in Limerick. St Brigid, and St Blaise offer tradition, story and depth to our Spring rituals. The Feast of the Presentation beckons us out of Christmas childhood and into a re-consecration of our lives to God. The snowdrops are peeping out – God is at work in our midst!
(iv) Good News stories
25 people from 7 parishes gathered during the week in Limerick city and Newcastle west to consider liturgy resources for Lent 2011. Thanks to all who travelled, encouraged and came up with great ideas for us as we plan ahead. One strong theme for our Lenten desert garden was the knots we have been tied up in – personal, economic, as church, family and state - and how Lent is a time for recognising this knotted-ness in ourselves, time for unravelling what is restricting us, a time for asking God to set us free of all that which binds us up in dark knots of fear, hurt or judgement. The Sunday Gospels for this Lent have much hope to offer into this struggle.

26 Jan 2011

Pope Benedict XVI - Joan of Arc: Bringing the light of the Gospel into history

We are going to start a new feature here on Sacred Space where we will bring you some points from the weekly general audience of the Holy Father which is held on a Wednesday. Pope Benedict XVI has been doing a series of talks on women down through the history of the church who have been held up as examples of christian virtue for followers to imitate. This weeks address is about St Joan of Arc. As time goes on we will go back and dig out some of the other talks for you as well. They provide an interesting insight to the role of women in the church.

VATICAN CITY, 26 JAN 2011 (VIS) - During this morning's general audience, celebrated in the Paul VI Hall in the presence of 3,000 people, Holy Father dedicated his catechesis to St. Joan of Arc (1412-1431), whom he described as "one of the 'strong women' who, at the end of the Middle Ages, fearlessly brought the splendid light of the Gospel into the complex events of history".

The life of Joan of Arc, who was born into a prosperous peasant family, took place in the context of the conflict between France and England known as the Hundred Years War. At the age of thirteen, "through the 'voice' of St. Michael the Archangel, Joan felt herself called by the Lord to intensify her Christian life and to act personally to free her people".

She made a vow of virginity and redoubled her prayers, participating in sacramental life with renewed energy. "This young French peasant girl's compassion and commitment in the face of her people's suffering were made even more intense through her mystical relationship with God. One of the most original aspects of her sanctity was this bond between mystical experience and political mission". said Benedict XVI.

Joan's activities began in early 1429 when, overcoming all obstacles, she managed to meet with the French Dauphin, the future King Charles VII. He had her examined by theologians of the University of Poitiers who "delivered a positive judgment, they discovered nothing bad in her, and found her to be a good Christian".

On 22 March of that year Joan dictated a letter to the King of England and his men, who were laying siege to the city of Orleans. "Hers was a proposal of authentic and just peace between two Christian peoples, in the light of the names of Jesus and Mary", said the Holy Father. But the offer was rejected and Joan had to fight for the liberation of the city. Another culminating moment of her endeavours came on 17 July 1429 when King Charles was crowned in Reims.

Joan's passion began on 23 May 1430 when she fell into the hands of her enemies at Compiegne and was taken to the city of Rouen. There a long and dramatic trial was held which concluded with her being condemned to death on 30 May 1431.

The trial was presided by two ecclesiastical judges, Bishop Pierre Cauchon and the inquisitor Jean le Maistre, but in fact it was conducted by a group of theologians from the University of Paris. These "French ecclesiastics, having made political choices opposed to those of Joan, were predisposed to hold negative views of her person and mission. The trial was a dark page in the history of sanctity, but also a shining page in the mystery of the Church which is, ... 'at the same time holy and always in need of being purified'".

"Unlike the saintly theologians who illuminated the University of Paris, such as St. Bonaventure, St. Thomas Aquinas and Blessed Duns Scotus, ... the judges were theologians who lacked the charity and humility to see the work of God in this young girl. Jesus' words come to mind, according to which the mysteries of God are revealed to those who have the hearts of children, but hidden from the wise and intelligent. Thus Joan's judges were radically incapable of understanding her, of seeing the beauty of her soul", the Pope said.

Joan died at the stake on 30 May 1431, holding a crucifix in her hands and invoking the name of Jesus. Twenty-five years later a trial of nullification, instituted by Pope Callixtus III, "concluded with a solemn sentence nullifying the condemnation and ... highlighting Joan of Arc's innocence and perfect faithfulness to the Church. Much later, in 1920, she was canonised by Pope Benedict XV".

"The Name of Jesus invoked by this saint in the last instants of her earthly life was as the continual breath of her soul, ... the centre of her entire life", the Holy Father explained. "This saint understood that Love embraces all things of God and man, of heaven and earth, of the Church and the world. ... Liberating her people was an act of human justice, which Joan performed in charity, for love of Jesus, hers is a beautiful example of sanctity for lay people involved in political life, especially in the most difficult situations".

"Joan saw in Jesus all the reality of the Church, the 'Church triumphant' in heaven and the 'Church militant' on earth. In her own words, 'Our Lord and the Church are one'. This affirmation ... takes on a truly heroic aspect in the context of the trial, in the face of her judges, men of the Church who persecuted and condemned her".

"With her shining witness St. Joan of Arc invites us to the highest degree of Christian life, making prayer the motif of our days, having complete trust in achieving the will of God whatever it may be, living in charity without favouritisms or limitations, and finding in the Love of Jesus, as she did, a profound love for His Church".

22 Jan 2011

January 23rd 2011 - 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

This weeks show has a prayer pause moment, our usual reflection on the gospel for the Sunday, a quick review of EWTN and this weeks Irish Catholic as well as Saints of the Week.

Gospel Mt 4:12-23

The gospel this Sunday marks the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus to the "lost sheep of the House of Israel" after the preparation by his herald, John the Baptist and Matthew seeks to remind his readers that Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophet vision that "the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned".

Jesus calls to the Chosen People for the need to "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand". This was a call made by Jesus 2,000 years ago and it is the call that he still makes to us again and again in our own time. The need to repent or in the original greek "metanoia" can also be understood as changing one's mind, ones outlook; in a sense the embracing of thoughts beyond their present limitations or thought patterns or actions in our lives. It is a term which seeks to denote the meaning of repentance by replacing its negative connotation with a positive one, focusing on challanging us to becoming and moving toward a better way of living in communion with God and our neighbours rather than an excessive focus on the inferior way of life being departed from. A call which is very timely for us in Ireland both within the Church and civil society where as a community we have a deep and intrinsic need to repent in the best sense of the word and turn away from the ways we as a society have lived and acted and allowed especially over the years of the Celtic Tiger.

The gospel also recounts the call of the disciples to leave all to follow the Lord, again a call which is being made to all of the followers of Christ today, the need to leave immediately the things and ways in our lives which inhibit our following completely the teaching of the Divine Master. Of course it is also a reminder of the need for men and women to more explicitly follow the Divine Master by undertaking a journey in the religious and vowed life.

As we listen and reflect on this weeks gospel perhaps we should think about times or ways where we can accept the call of the Lord to metanoia or change of heart and go follow him directly. At the same time it is a reminder for us as a community to pray and encourage those who are considering the call to the priesthood and religious life. Those that are called to serve the Lord and the Chuch in the religious life are like the apostles called from out of the community to serve the Lord - they don't grow under bushes or behind trees, they are members of our families and communities who work more directly in the vineyard of the Lord. Have you prayered and actively encouraged vocations in your family and community this weekend?
Further reflections here, here and here

Saints of the Week

24th January - St Francis de Sales
25th January - Conversion of St Paul - (Acts 22:3-16 or Acts 9:1-22)
26th January - Ss Timothy and Titus
27th January - St Angela Merici
28th January - St Thomas Acquinas
29th January - St Valerius of Trier

Thanks for listening

John, Lorraine, Michael, Colin and Shane

21 Jan 2011

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2011

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is an international Christian ecumenical observance kept annually between 18 January and 25 January. It is actually an octave, that is, an observance lasting eight days and is celebrated and prayed by all the major Christian denominations. The theme and message of the 2011 celebration is set out below:
"They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
(Acts 2:42-47 - NRSV)

The church in Jerusalem, yesterday, today, tomorrow

Two thousand years ago, the first disciples of Christ gathered in Jerusalem experienced the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and were joined together in unity as the body of Christ. In that event, Christians of every time and place see their origin as a community of the faithful, called together to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. Although that earliest Jerusalem church experienced difficulties, both externally and internally, its members persevered in faithfulness and fellowship, in breaking bread and prayers.

It is not difficult to see how the situation of the first Christians in the Holy City mirrors that of the church in Jerusalem today. The current community experiences many of the joys and sorrows of the early church; its injustice and inequality, and its divisions, but also its faithful perseverance, and recognition of a wider unity among Christians.

The churches in Jerusalem today offer us a vision of what it means to strive for unity, even amid great problems. They show us that the call to unity can be more than mere words, and indeed that it can point us toward a future where we anticipate and help build the heavenly Jerusalem.

Realism is required to make reality of such a vision. The responsibility for our divisions lies with us; they are the results of our own actions. We need to change our prayer, asking God to change us so that we may actively work for unity. We are ready enough to pray for unity, but that can become a substitute for action to bring it about. Is it possible that we ourselves are blocking the Holy Spirit because we are the obstacles to unity; that our own hubris prevents unity?

The call for unity this year comes to churches all over the world from Jerusalem, the mother church. Mindful of its own divisions and its own need to do more for the unity of the Body of Christ, the churches in Jerusalem calls all Christians to rediscover the values that bound together the early Christian community in Jerusalem, when they devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. This is the challenge before us. The Christians of Jerusalem call upon their brothers and sisters to make this week of prayer an occasion for a renewed commitment to work for a genuine ecumenism, grounded in the experience of the early Church.

Four elements of unity

The 2011 prayers for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity have been prepared by Christians in Jerusalem, who chose as a theme Acts 2:42, ‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.’ This theme is a call back to the origins of the first church in Jerusalem; it is a call for inspiration and renewal, a return to the essentials of the faith; it is a call to remember the time when the church was still one. Within this theme four elements are presented which were marks of the early Christian community, and which are essential to the life of the Christian Community wherever it exists. Firstly, the Word was passed on by the apostles. Secondly, fellowship (koinonia) was an important mark of the early believers whenever they met together. A third mark of the early Church was the celebration of the Eucharist (the ‘breaking of the bread’), remembering the New Covenant which Jesus has enacted in his suffering, death and resurrection. The fourth aspect is the offering of constant prayer. These four elements are the pillars of the life of the church, and of its unity.

The Christian Community in the Holy Land wishes to give prominence to these basic essentials as it raises its prayers to God for the unity and vitality of the church throughout the world. The Christians of Jerusalem invite their sisters and brothers around the world to join them in prayer as they struggle for justice, peace and prosperity for all people of the land.

The themes of the eight days

There is a journey of faith that can be discerned in the themes of the eight days. From its first beginnings in the upper room, the early Christian community experiences the outpouring of the Holy 5 Spirit, enabling it to grow in faith and unity, in prayer and in action, so that it truly becomes a community of the Resurrection, united with Christ in his victory over all that divides us from each other and from him. The church in Jerusalem then itself becomes a beacon of hope, a foretaste of the heavenly Jerusalem, called to reconcile not just our churches but all peoples. This journey is guided by the Holy Spirit, who brings the early Christians to the knowledge of the truth about Jesus Christ, and who fills the early Church with signs and wonders, to the amazement of many. As they continue their journey, the Christians of Jerusalem gather with devotion to listen to the Word of God set forth in the apostles’ teaching, and come together in fellowship to celebrate their faith in sacrament and prayer. Filled with the power and hope of the Resurrection, the community celebrates its certain victory over sin and death, so that it has the courage and vision to be itself a tool of reconciliation, inspiring and challenging all people to overcome the divisions and injustice that oppress them.

  • Day 1 sets forth the background to the mother church of Jerusalem, making clear its continuity with the church throughout the world today. It reminds us of the courage of the early church as it boldly witnessed to the truth, just as we today need to work for justice in Jerusalem, and in the rest of the world.
  • Day 2 recalls that the first community united at Pentecost contained within itself many diverse origins, just as the church in Jerusalem today represents a rich diversity of Christian traditions. Our challenge today is to achieve greater visible unity in ways that embrace our differences and traditions.  
  • Day 3 looks at the first essential element of unity; the Word of God delivered through the teaching of the apostles. The church in Jerusalem reminds us that, whatever our divisions, these teachings urge us to devote ourselves in love to each other, and in faithfulness to the one body which is the church.
  • Day 4 emphasises Sharing as the second expression of unity. Just as the early Christians held all things in common, the Church in Jerusalem calls upon all brothers and sisters in the church to share goods and burdens with glad and generous hearts, so that nobody stays in need.
  • Day 5 expresses the third element of unity; the Breaking of the Bread, which joins us in hope. Our unity goes beyond Holy Communion; it must include a right attitude towards ethical living, the human person and the whole community. The Jerusalem church urges Christians to unite in “the breaking of bread” today, because a divided church cannot speak out with authority on issues of Justice and Peace.
  • Day 6 presents the fourth mark of unity; with the church in Jerusalem, we draw strength from spending time in prayer. Specifically, the Lord’s Prayer calls all of us in Jerusalem and throughout the world, the weak and the mighty, to work together for justice, peace and unity that God’s Kingdom may come.
  • Day 7 takes us beyond the four elements of unity, as the Jerusalem church joyfully proclaims the Resurrection even while it bears the pain of the Cross. The Resurrection of Jesus is for Christians in Jerusalem today hope and strength that enables them to remain constant in their witness, working for freedom and peace in the City of Peace.
  • Day 8 concludes the journey with a call from the Jerusalem churches to the wider service of reconciliation. Even if Christians achieve unity among themselves, their work is not done, for they need to reconcile themselves with others. In the Jerusalem context this means Palestinian and Israeli; in other communities, Christians are challenged to seek justice and reconciliation in their own context.
The theme of each day has therefore been chosen not only to recall for us of the history of the early church, but also to bring to mind the experiences of Christians in Jerusalem today, and to invite us all to reflect upon how we may bring that experience into the lives of our local Christian communities. During this journey of eight days, the Christians of Jerusalem invite us to proclaim and bear witness that Unity - in its fullest sense of faithfulness to the Apostles’ teachings and fellowship, to the 6 breaking of bread, and the prayers - will enable us together to overcome evil, not just in Jerusalem, but throughout the world.

Further resouces and information are available from:
  1. World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
  2. Churches together in Britain and Ireland
  3. Website of the Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin

Jan 21st - Feast of St Agnes

15 Jan 2011

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

Our weekly round up of items from across the blogosphere in the last few days!
First off of course is the news that Pope Benedict is to raise John Paul II to the honour of the alters and beatify him on May 1st 2011. One hostelry of my acquaintance in Rome was booked out in half an hour of the news being released!
A quick summary of the records of John Paul II from RomeReports

Continuing with the annual important speeches and talks that the Pope gives at this time of the year on January 10th we had the annual address of the Pope to the diplomats who are accredited to the Holy See (the Vatican City State does not accredit ambassadors despite the incorrect usage of terminology by the media). The annual address is like a "State of the World" address seen from the vantage point of the Chair of St Peter and this year it was a very precise address setting out the concerns of the Holy See about the safety of our fellow Christians of all denominations around the world both in countries such as Pakistan (which was directly named) where you can be put to death for converting to Christianity to Europe and the western world where despite the claims to free speech and openness and tolerance there is an increasing effort to drive the role of religion from the public square. Pope Benedict reminded his listeners that "Christians are original and authentic citizens” in the Middle East, Benedict said, quoting the concluding message from the recent Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, who should “enjoy all the rights of freedom of conscience, freedom of worship and freedom of education, teaching and the use of the mass media.”

The full text of the address can be read here. Some reaction and analysis to the Pope's address can be read at NCR, Inside Catholic. Sandro Magister has the text of the speech but also links to other important addresses of the Pope which can you some context to the whole debate.

Although there was various reactions to the Pope's support for Copts in Egypt after the attack on them while praying in church - some disapproving Muslims and some showing that we can't tar all followers of the Prophet with the same brush.

Of course during the week, we had some more movements on the creation of the Anglican Ordinature which is to provide a structure of Anglicans who wish to enter into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church and still maintain some of their Anglican traditions and patrimony. Some of the best coverage is from the Catholic Herald in the UK which has a whole page dedicated to it on their website. Take a visit over and have a look, an interesting piece to look at is the statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the establishment of the Ordinature which is dedicated under the patronage of Our Lady of Walsingham.

There was an interesting talk from Pope Benedict on how purgatory is a process, not a place.

The last week has been Vocations Awareness week in the USA where there is a strong effort on promoting vocations to the priesthood and religious life. The Anchoress has a list of uplifting and encouraging stories about people who have followed the call, inspiring and hope giving especially for us in Ireland. Also a reminder that all Christians are called to take part in helping to grow vocations to the priesthood - when was the last time you prayed for vocations personally or encouraged someone you know to consider a call?

This week saw the beginning of the Visitation in the archdiocese of Armagh with public meetings with Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor - coverage here, here and here.

Ever wonder what the Church thinks of meditation and yoga and other practises from Eastern Religions?
"In 1989 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith delivered a Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation. In Section V of that document, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) wrote: "Just as ‘the Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in [the great religions]' neither should these ways be rejected out of hand simply because they are not Christian. On the contrary, one can take from them what is useful so long as the Christian conception of prayer, its logic and requirements are never obscured."
Over at Patheos they are beginning a series of reflections starting with "Pose by Pose: Amen and Om" by Mary DeTurris Poust.

Across Europe there is an increasing level of people choosing de-baptism, but can you really become de-baptised? Pat Gohn reflects on the meaning of baptism

The blog called The New Liturgical Movement has an interesting article focusing on a reflection from Dom Columba Marmion OSBInterior and Exterior Dimensions of Divine Worship; a topic which is going to come more and more to the fore as we move towards Advent 2011 and the introduction of a new missal in English speaking countries to replace the one we currently use to say Mass with.

What a blind monk sees - a reflection to cause you to pause.

A couple of interesting articles and reflections which you might like to ponder and read over:
"Does the fact that we can no longer see the stars have anything to do with our loss of wonder? These things, the stars, and all creation – they are more splendid, perfect, beautiful and lasting than anything man can create or even conceive. It seems like when we were more aware of milky ways and horizons, it was easier to believe.........We have obliterated the stars with our artificial light – but perhaps we’ve blinded ourselves, too. Without the wonder, the greatness of the galaxies in our sight, we’ve lost the ability to believe in, or expect, miracles."

Continue reading here.

"Back in the 1970s, when there was a lot of liturgical innovation going on, Dorothy Day invited a young priest to celebrate mass at the Catholic Worker. He decided to do something that he thought was relevant and hip. He asked Dorothy if she had a coffee cup he could borrow. She found one in the kitchen and brought it to him. And, he took that cup and used it as the chalice to celebrate mass. When it was over, Dorothy picked up the cup, found a small gardening tool, and went to the backyard. She knelt down, dug a hole, kissed the coffee cup, and buried it in the earth. With that simple gesture, Dorothy Day showed that she understood something that so many of us today don’t: she knew that Christ was truly present in something as ordinary as a ceramic cup. And that it could never be just a coffee cup again".

Continue reading here.

12 Jan 2011

St Ita - Virgin, co-patron of Diocese of Limerick - Jan 15th

Ever living God,

We rejoice in the life of Saint Ita of Killeedy.
We give you thanks for her powerful intercession and we implore her continual protection. Inspire us by her example to live with joy our calling in life, give us perseverance to serve you all our days;
We make this prayer through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, world without end. Amen

Following on from last weekends show where Michael talked to us about St Ita who is patroness of Limerick Diocese. She of course shares the patronage of the diocese with St Munchin whose feast day was January 3rd and once again we encourage you to invoke the intercession of our two diocesan patrons for the selection and consecration of a new bishop of the diocese of Limerick.

We have had a few queries looking for the readings for the feast of St Ita on January 15th. It is celebrated as a feast day in the diocese and the readings of the day are taken from the Common of Virgins: 
Note that in the general liturgical calander, St Ita's feast day has the rank of optional memorial and so alternatively the Mass celebrated on 15th Jan 2010 may be that of the Saturday of the First Week in Ordinary Time:
Also, check out the blog 4dLord from the parish of Our Lady of Lourdes in Limerick city which has prayer service for the feast of St Ita  .

Another suggestion for a service is from the Russian Orthodox community which we came across here.

Two suggested readings from the Office of Readings for the Feast of St Ita

9th Century poem attributed to St Ita

Saint Ita sees Christ come to her in a vision as a baby to be nursed:

It is Little Jesus
who is nursed by me in my little hermitage:
though it be a cleric with treasures,
all is a lie save little Jesus.

The nursing I do in my house
is not the nursing of a base clown:
Jesus with the men of Heaven
under my heart every single night.

Young little Jesus, my eternal good!
to heed him is a cause of forgiveness,
the king who controls all things,
not to beseech Him will cause repentance.

It is Jesus, noble, angelic,
not an unlearned cleric,
who is fostered by me in my little hermitage,
Jesus the son of the Hebrew woman.

Sons of princes, sons of kings,
though they should come into my country,
I should not expect profit from them;
more likely, I think, from Jesukin.

Sing ye a chorus, O maidens,
to Him who has a right to your little tribute,
who sits in his place above,
though little Jesus is at my breast.

SOURCE: The Martyrology of Oengus. translated by Whitley Stokes. London, 1905.

The second is an account from the life (vita) of St Ita which is the suggested second reading from the Office of Readings for the day (Double click on the picture to enlarge).