31 May 2011

May 31st - Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

"Mary set out at that time and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’
And Mary said:
‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
and my spirit exults in God my saviour;
because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid.
Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed,
for the Almighty has done great things for me.
Holy is his name,
and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him.
He has shown the power of his arm,
he has routed the proud of heart.
He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away.
He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy
– according to the promise he made to our ancestors –
of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’
Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home." (Lk 1:39-56)

The feast of the Visitation recalls to us the following great truths and events: The visit of the Blessed Virgin Mary to her cousin Elizabeth shortly after the Annunciation; the cleansing of John the Baptist from original sin in the womb of his mother at the words of Our Lady's greeting; Elizabeth's proclaiming of Mary—under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost—as Mother of God and "blessed among women"; Mary's singing of the sublime hymn, Magnificat ("My soul doth magnify the Lord") which has become a part of the daily official prayer of the Church.

The Mass of today salutes her who in her womb bore the King of heaven and earth, the Creator of the world, the Son of the Eternal Father, the Sun of Justice. It narrates the cleansing of John from original sin in his mother's womb. Hearing herself addressed by the most lofty title of "Mother of the Lord" and realizing what grace her visit had conferred on John, Mary broke out in that sublime canticle of praise proclaiming prophetically that henceforth she would be venerated down through the centuries:
"My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. Because he that is mighty, hath done great things to me, and holy is His name" (Lk. 1:46).
Digitalnun has a short reflection on the feast we celebrate today:

"When Paul VI moved the feast of the Visitation to 31 May, he ensured that May, ‘Mary’s month’, would finally have a feast of Our Lady, and what a beautiful feast it is!

There is something very moving about Mary’s making the difficult journey to visit her kinswoman when she was herself pregnant. Equally moving is Elizabeth’s amazed and humble greeting, ‘Why should the mother of my Lord come to me?’ We tend to think of the Visitation as the feast of the Magnificat, that glorious canticle of praise that fell from Mary’s lips, but perhaps for us it is Elizabeth’s question that matters. Why should the saints, chief of whom is Mary, bother themselves with us?

The Visitation is yet another reminder of the strength of the communion of saints, of the bonds of prayer and mutual concern that bind us together. The communion of saints is a reality here and now as well as hereafter. When times are hard, there is a tendency to put ourselves first, arguing that we cannot afford to be generous to others.......Today we have the example of Mary and Elizabeth to encourage us: we can and must help others and in so doing we may help more than we know. We must be saints for others."

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

A roundup of some online articles that caught our eye during the last while:

30 May 2011

7 New Deacons for the Irish Church

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin has strongly affirmed the Church’s commitment to priestly celibacy during the ordination of seven new deacons for the Irish Church in St Patrick’s College Maynooth on Sunday. In his homily, the Primate of Ireland told the seven ordinands that celibacy was “not just renunciation of something; it is a positive attitude of commitment.” Speaking to the seven, six of whom are destined for the diocesan priesthood and one of whom is a Redemptorist, Archbishop Martin said their ministry as deacons was “never just a job”; rather it was a calling of their entire person. The seven deacons include Derek Ryan from Enfield, Co Meath, who last weekend made his Perpetual Profession as a Redemptorist. He is due to be ordained to the priesthood on 4 December 2011. The other deacons are James Cullen from Ferns, Co Wexford; Kevin Heery from Meath; Eugene O'Boyle from Tuam, Co Galway; Thomas McHugh from Armagh; Sean Maguire in Kilmore, Co Cavan and Paul Ludden from Dublin. Warning the new deacons that their ministry in Ireland in the years to come would not be easy, Archbishop Martin underlined that they were embarking on their ministry “at a truly crucial moment in the life of the Irish Church”.

Full text of Archbishop Martins homily:


We gather to call to the order of deacons these 7 young men from various dioceses in Ireland and from the Irish Redemptorist Province. We pray that the Holy Spirit will be with them with his strength and comfort; that he will accompany them in their witness and service as deacons on their path to priestly ordination.

We join in the joy of their families and friends and their dioceses of origin; we join in the joy of the communities from which they have received their faith as well as of those who here in Maynooth and in the Redemptorist province who have been their guides in the years of the formation.


We have listened to the Gospel reading which is taken from the farewell address of Jesus. There is an air of mystery in the words of Jesus. He is with his disciples and he is seen by all. In a short time, however, things would change. He tells them that he will go away. However he will not leave his disciples orphans. The world, he tells us, will no longer see him, but he will be present with his believers. Indeed there is a sense in which the Gospel is telling us that Jesus will be with his disciples in a special way precisely in those moments in which the world no longer sees him.

Right throughout history, the disciples of Jesus have been called to live their discipleship in a variety of situations and cultures. These range from moments where the Christian message has really impacted on society and culture, to other moments marked more by indifference and cries that faith and the values that it espouses are irrelevant, to moments of outright persecution and hostility.

Yet Jesus tells us that he will be present with those who believe in him, in every culture, in every human context. He will be present in the individual life of every believer and of the community of believers in days of joy and in days of darkness, in days of intense communion and in days when our minds and our lives drift away into the distractions and the misrepresentations of life.

26 May 2011

29th May 2011 - Exploring the Mass (Part 1)

On this weeks show we were joined by Noirin Lynch from Limerick Diocesan Pastoral Centre who led us through the first part of a two part reflection on the Mass looking at the Introductory rites and the Liturgy of the Word. We also had our regular prayer space and a quick dash through the saints of the week.

Podcast of the programme is available HERE.

Saints of the Week

May 30th - St Joan of Arc
May 31st - The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
June 1st - St Justin (Martyr)
June 2nd - Ascension Thursday or Ss Macellinus and Peter
June 3rd - St Kevin (in Ireland) and St Charles Lwanga and Companions (Ugandan Martyrs) It is also the First Friday.
June 4th - St Cornelius McConchailleach

Exploring the Mass (Part 1)

Have you ever found yourself standing up for the Gospel and realising that you didn’t hear a word of the first readings? Ever sat down in church to realise that you can’t relax and pray today? The truth is that very few people arrive at Mass fully prepared to participate, so we need a time to become present to each other, and to the mystery of the Eucharist which we are about to celebrate together.
Mass has 2 essential parts – the Liturgy of the Word, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. But because we are human, we need time around those to prepare and pray – or we might miss the grace on offer!! So: Who is gathered? Why are we here? What needs to happen so we can really be present here & now?
Recognise that we are welcome as full members of this community

As we enter the church, we bless ourselves in holy water from the font to remind ourselves of our welcome at Baptism. Teaching a child to bless themselves like this is a great gift. Welcome is experienced in the friendly faces, the warmth of the church, the helpful hints (leaflets, usher etc). When we know we are welcome, it’s easier to know we belong!

We begin our liturgy with the sign of the Cross – the same sign that marked us at Baptism. The Amen we say here and throughout the Mass is significant as it calls us to respond, to choose to participate, to full membership. At this point the role of the celebrant is to gather the congregation into a people united in the presence of God.

Recognise ourselves & that we need to prepare our hearts

The Penitential Rite has four possible options: each week the celebrant chooses the one most appropriate for this Sunday. The focus is not on our sinfulness but on our need of God and Gods great mercy.

“The first form, ‘I confess’, acknowledges our sinfulness and asks the support of the prayers of the whole congregation which has gathered to celebrate the Eucharist and of the Blessed Virgin and all the saints. ... That confession is made entrusting oneself to Almighty God in the context of the prayer of the whole Church, on earth and in heaven. The second form reflects the long tradition of repentant prayer found in the penitential psalms. We express our sorrow and our hope in God’s mercy in words that have been used by God’s People for millennia, in words inspired by God himself. …The third form offers a variety of triple invocations leading to the prayer, Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy – the traditional Kyrie Eleison. It is important to note that this form is not a confession of sins, “Lord for the times when we failed to…” It is a litany of praise. The praise is offered to Jesus Christ, to whom the Kyrie is addressed. … The Rite of Blessing and Sprinkling with Holy Water may take the place of the penitential rite, on Sundays, especially Sundays in the Easter Season because of its emphasis on Easter and on Baptism. It thanks God for saving us from sin through the waters of Baptism.”

Recognise God who is with us & give praise

“The Gloria is one of the Church’s most ancient hymns and it is sung or said during the introductory rites of more solemn Masses.”

Its long history (from scripture – Bethlehem – through centuries of prayer) means it should be sung where possible and not replaced by similar words. We should all stand as it is a song of praise! 


21 May 2011

May 22nd 2011 - 5th Sunday after Easter and Our Lady of Walsingham

On this weeks show we have our regular prayer space, a quick run down on the celestial guides for the following the week, a reflection on this weeks Sunday gospel and at the end of the programme we have an interview exploring the Shrine of Our Lady of Walshingham

Saints of the Week

May 23rd - The Martyrs of Cappadocia
May 24th - St David of Scotland
May 25th - St Gregory VII (Pope) and St Mary Magdalen of Pazzi and St Bede the Venerable
May 26th - St Philip Neri
May 27th - St Augustine of Canterbury
May 28th - St Germanus of Paris

Gospel - John 14:1-12

We continue this week through the Easter season with another reading of the Sunday gospel taken from the Gospel of St John. John's gospel can be off putting in the way it is written if we dont take time to slowly read and reflect with it. In some ways it is almost an ideal gospel to reflect on with lectio as you have to slowly make your way through the text and literally "chew" on the images and messages that John is trying to get across in what is sometimes very poetic language.

This weeks gospel is a case in point where almost every line would cause you to pause and just sit with it rather than trying to digest the whole excerpt that is presented for the Sunday liturgy.

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still and trust in me" - in the world we are living in today where we have a serious need for inspiration for the troubles that beset us the message from John's gospel this week is inspiring and hope filled. Jesus is calling us not to be depressed, to trust in God and to have hope even in the darkest moments of our lives. A hard call for christians to trust in the love and mercy of God.

Other reflections on this weeks gospel are availabe from Word on Fire, English Dominicans, Jesuits of Mt St Joseph Bangalore, India.

Shrine of Our Lady of Walshingham

John has an interview that he conducted with the director of the shrine of Our Lady of Walshingham once know as the Nazareth of England.

The Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham was established in 1061 when, according to the text of the Pynson Ballad (c 1485), Richeldis de Faverches prayed that she might undertake some special work in honour of Our Lady. In answer to her prayer, the Virgin Mary led her in spirit to Nazareth, showed her the house where the Annunciation occurred, and asked her to build a replica in Walsingham to serve as a perpetual memorial of the Annunciation.

This Holy House was built and a religious community took charge of the foundation. Although we have very little historical material from this period, we know that with papal approval the Augustinian Canons built a Priory (c 1150). Walsingham became one of the greatest Shrines in Medieval Christendom.

In 1538, the Reformation caused the Priory property to be handed over to the King’s Commissioners and the famous statue of Our Lady of Walsingham was taken to London and burnt. Nothing remains today of the original shrine, but its site is marked on the lawn in “The Abbey Grounds” in the village. After the destruction of the Shrine, Walsingham ceased to be a place of pilgrimage. Devotion was necessarily in secret until after Catholic Emancipation (1829) when public expressions of faith were allowed.

In 1896 Charlotte Pearson Boyd purchased the 14th century Slipper Chapel, the last of the wayside chapels en-route to Walsingham, and restored it for Catholic use. In 1897 by rescript of Pope Leo XIII, the sanctuary of Our Lady of Walsingham was restored with the building of a Holy House as the Lady Chapel of the Catholic Church of the Annunciation, King’s Lynn. The Guild of Our Lady of Ransom, brought the first public pilgrimage to Walsingham on 20th August 1897. Visits to the Slipper Chapel became more frequent, and as the years passed devotion and the number of pilgrimages increased.

On 19th August 1934, Cardinal Bourne and Bishop Lawrence Youens led the Bishops of England and Wales, together with 10,000 pilgrims to the Slipper Chapel. At this pilgrimage, the Slipper Chapel was declared to be the National Shrine of Our Lady for Roman Catholics in England.

Walsingham was a restricted zone and closed to visitors, but many service men and women showed interest in the Shrine. On May 17th 1945, the American Forces organised the first Mass in the Priory grounds since the Reformation.

The Shrine now attracts some 100,000 pilgrims during the pilgrimage season with about 30 Major Pilgrimages from Catholic, Diocesan or Ethnic groups and Catholic Societies or Associations as well as many parish groups.

"There are many rooms in my Father’s house; if there were not, I should have told you. I am going now to prepare a place for you, and after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return to take you with me" It is a line that gives us great hope and that there isnt one way for us to get to heaven, each of us is called to live out our own lives in our own way but in communion with the way God is calling us to live to the fullness of live. We can't all be Mother Teresa's of Calcutta or St Francis of Assisi but we are called to live out our lives to the best of our ability. 

It is also gives us hope when we are dealing with grief which we need to think about when we loose a loved one, the image almost that our journey or life task is done and then Jesus comes back and says "come, lets go to my Father's house to your own room and rest for ever".

19 May 2011

Upcoming Shows - The Mass

On our show on May 29th and June 5th we are going to have a discussion/reflection about the Mass and the parts of the Mass when Noirin Lynch from Limerick Diocesan Pastoral Centre is going to be on with John, Lorraine and Shane.

If you have any questions about the Mass or were curious about something, drop us a line and we will endevour to find and answer and discuss it on air.

Just a note to our blog readers, it wont be a discussion about the new translation of the Missal which we are planning to cover on the show later in the year as we come closer to the implementation date in November.

18 May 2011

Our Lady of the Americas - Our Lady of Guadalupe

It’s the busiest site of Catholic pilgrimage in the world.  Joanna Moorhead visited the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, to find out the remarkable story behind it.
One chilly morning in December 1531, a middle-aged farmworker set off across a hillside on his way to serve at Mass in a nearby village.

But what happened when he reached the top of the hill changed his life, and that place, forever...and this month, almost 500 years later, an astonishing six million people are expected to gather there to remember the man and what happened to him – and to revere the precious memento of the events that he witnessed.

What happened on that hill all those years ago was the apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe.  The man to whom she appeared, Juan Diego, is now St Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, canonised by
John Paul II in 2002.  And the place where the apparitions took place, and which is today the busiest site of Catholic pilgrimage anywhere in the world, lies in the north of one of the world’s biggest conurbations, Mexico City.

The Shrine is the busiest site of Catholic pilgrimage anywhere in the worldTo reach the most famous shrine in Latin America, I took the metro from central Mexico City.  In Juan Diego’s day the place where the Virgin appeared was a rural idyll outside the town itself – today, in this vast metropolis of 21 million people, it’s been swallowed up into the hectic sprawl of concrete buildings, traffic-choked roads, and market stalls.  As befits its vastness and significance, the shrine even has its own tube stop – La Villa Basilica on Line 6.  

Continue reading here.

16 May 2011

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

A quick round up of some interesting articles we came across online:
  • Lonely? - When the universe forces you to be alone, take it as an opportunity to engage (sad, alienating) loneliness and turn it into (powerful, transformative) solitude.
  • David Weiss writes about rediscovering his faith amidst the ravages of mental illness - God of the Schizophrenic
  • Dorothy Day is oftentimes remembered for saying, among so many other things, that she did not want to be called a saint. Fair enough, but the problem with that request is that sanctity and holiness of life are not things a person gets to decide for him or herself. Day’s life, her writings, her direct and prophetic example stand out to so many - Dorothy Day and the Challenges of a Prophet.
  • Ever wonder about the Blessing of Gossip?
  • Stephen Hawking: Heaven is a myth
  • What happens when loyalty to family conflicts with loyalty to God?
  •  Archbishop Dolan makes the point that marriage is the core of civilization.
  • Fr Laurence Freeman OSB asks what is the price of a smile?
  • Bishop Conley of Devner Colorado has an interesting talk on the new missal.
  • Blessed John Paul II credited Our Lady of Fatima with sparing his life. In one of three later pilgrimages, he left in Fatima what his successor called "the 'bullet' of our anxieties and sufferings." - A Bullet in Our Lady's Crown.
  • Catholics who grew up straddling the cusp of the conciliar divide may have a vague memory of the phrase “offer it up.” The Anchoress reflects.
  • Subways are mysterious; they shouldn't work, but they do. And sometimes their mysteries become enhanced by grace. Deacon Greg reflects on Underground Prayer.
  • The search for God is a very intimate enterprise. It is at the core of every longing in the human heart. It is the search for ultimate love, for total belonging, for the meaningful life. - Rule of St Benedict for God Seekers.
  • Carmel Pilcher makes the point that the New Missal can heal the church.
  • Fundamental rights or fundamental confusion - Voicing an opinion at a human rights forum can be a scary business.
  • A 'surfing Madonna' appears in San Diego.
  • Max Lindenman makes the point that when examining your conscience prior to confession, try to work in a punch line - The Confessor who laughs.
  • The West remains so out of touch with its own mystical tradition that many Westerners seeking mysticism still feel they have to go East to find it. While this can work for many brave and generous individuals, it cannot work for the entire culture. Carl Jung warned us that "we westerners cannot be pirates thieving wisdom from foreign shores that it has taken them centuries to develop as if our own culture was an error - Becoming Christian mystics again.
  • All cities are noisy, but Rome is one of the noisiest. In Rome one learns quickly to block the sound of late night public debate, and the buzzing of the appropriately named Vespas that fly down the streets well into the wee small hours. Otherwise, one does not sleep until 2 a.m. or later, when—for about four hours—Rome observes a grudging silence. Elizabeth Scalia finds "the Silence of the Romans".
  • From the Monastery of Bose, a reflection on the gratuitousness of monasticism.

15 May 2011

15th May 2011 - 4th Sunday after Easter - Good Shepherd Sunday - Vocation Sunday

On this weeks show, we had our regular prayer space, our weekly reflection on the Sunday gospel, a quick run down through this up coming weeks Celestial Guides and a series of interviews with people who went through the RCIA programme and were received into full communion with the Church at Easter.

Of course if you missed the programme on air this morning, it is now available as a podcast on our Podcast Page

Gospel - John 10:1-10

This Sunday's gospel is one of the discourses from the gospel of John and is called the Good Shepherd discourse which is one of the reasons why today is celebrated as Vocation Sunday.

In Limerick we will be celebrating in the summer with the ordination of Ger Fitzgerald from Castleconnell but it highlights the the need for priests and religious in the church. All of us have a vocation to live out as baptised christians but as a Eucharistic community where the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith and we need to pray and encourage vocations to the priesthood.

The pastoral ideal of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is a very appealing image but one which may be harder to grasp and understand in our very urbanised world. It is a comforting and one of the most ancient images of Jesus from the time of the Christians praying in the catacombs of Rome. At the sametime, the idea of being a "sheep" may not appeal to us as being an image of mindless group think just blindly following along behind.

As Michael de Vertuil reminds us, "Shepherd is one of the biblical titles for a leader, a memory of the days when the Jews were sheep rearing nomads. The passage therefore invites us to celebrate people who have "shepherded" us by touching our lives, some through direct contact, others from reading about them or hearing their stories. We remember, too, great world leaders, in modern times or in the past, and recognise that they were the presence of Jesus in the world, "shepherding" the human family. The passage can also be an examination of conscience on how we are fulfilling our vocation as parent, teacher, guide, friend, leader in the church community".

The idea of Jesus being the "gate" coming from the fact that the shepherds were the literal gates to the sheep folds and were the protectors of the sheep. The image of the gate is not as well known as that of the shepherd and is more difficult to enter into, but if we make the effort it can be very touching. Leaders who are like a gate are the opposite of possessive; they are content to be the humble instruments through which others can "go freely in and out", making their own way to "life to the full". A wonderful picture indeed of great parents, teachers, community leaders and friends.

But are we opening the closed the gates our hearts to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd, to be willing to trust in the way that he is leading us.

Other reflections available from Word on Fire, Deacon Greg, Msgr Charles Pope, English Dominicans

Saints of the Week

May 16th - St Brendan the Navigator (Patron of the diocese of Kerry and Clonfert) and St Simon Stock (Carmelite)
May 17th - St Paschal Baylon
May 18th - Pope St John I (Martyr)
May 19th - St Peter Celestine (first and only Pope to resign)
May 20th - St Bernadine of Siena
May 21st - St Christopher Magallanes and Companions (Martyrs)

RCIA - The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults

We have an interview with John Casey, RCIA Catechist from Enfield parish in Westminister Diocese in the UK who tells us about the RCIA programme and how it is conducted from September through to Pentecost and then John does some interviews with candidates who completed the RCIA at Easter.

The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) is a formal program of catechetical instruction, ascetically practice (prayer and spirituality), and liturgies whereby adults — called catechumens — are formally admitted into the Church and receive the Sacraments of Initiation — Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist. During the course of the RCIA program, the individual follows a spiritual journey of "steps' accomplished through defined periods punctuated with formal rites. The first period is the Precatechumenate, when candidates inquire about the faith and receive evangelization. Hopefully, the person comes to that initial conversion and step of faith, aided by the grace of God. This period ends with the Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens when the candidates publicly declare their intention to enter the Church.

This Rite of Acceptance then begins the Period of the Catechumenate, during which the catechumens receive catechetical, ascetical and liturgical training. catechetical instruction is of the utmost importance; "This catechesis leads the catechumens not only to an appropriate acquaintance with dogmas and precepts but also to a profound sense of the mystery of salvation in which they desire to participate" (RCIA, No. 75). During this time, the catechumens should undergo a conversion of mind and action, becoming acquainted with the teachings of the faith and acquiring a spirit of charity. The sponsors and parish community assist the catechumens by their example and support. At Sunday Mass, the catechumens receive special exorcisms, blessings and anointings following the homily; however, after the Liturgy of the Word, they leave the Church. The Catechumenate may extend over a prolonged period of time, even years if necessary.

The Rite of Election closes the Period of the Catechumenate. This rite normally coincides with the first Sunday of Lent. At this rite, upon the testimony of sponsors and catechists and the catechumens' affirmation of their intention to join the Church, the Church makes its "election" of these catechumens to receive the Sacraments of Initiation. In the presence of the bishop (or his delegate), they inscribe their names in the Book of the Elect at the cathedral as a pledge of fidelity. Now the catechumens are called "the elect' or "the illuminandi" ("those who will be enlightened"). They now begin a Period of Purification and Enlightenment — the final, intense preparation for the reception of the Sacraments of Initiation. On the next five Sundays of Lent, three scrutinies (rites for self-searching and repentance) and the presentations of the Creed and Lord's Prayer take place. This period concludes with the celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil.

After the Easter Vigil, the newly baptized and confirmed members of the Church (technically called neophytes) enter the Period of Postbaptismal Catechesis or Mystagogy. The neophytes grow in their understanding of the mysteries of the faith and strengthen their bonding with the rest of the faithful. They should enter more fully into the life and unity of the Church. This period normally ends around Pentecost.
The special characteristic of good shepherds is brought out in the passage in the relationship of trust between them and the sheep. They are trusting and in turn they inspire trust in those whom they lead. This wonderful quality - so rare in our experience - is expressed in a series of images, each of which can touch us deeply. The shepherds "enter the sheepfold through the gate", they are not devious; they "call the sheep by name" - no haranguing; they "go ahead of the sheep" - no looking back to see if they are being followed. The sheep "know the voice" of the shepherd; their relationship is almost instinctive, of the heart.

Wasted life? A reflection on religious profession

“Wasted love?” Journey towards Perpetual Profession
“Mary brought in a pound of very costly ointment, pure nard, and with it anointed the feet of Jesus, the house was filled with the scent of the ointment” (John 12: 3)

The excitement within begins to build for myself, my religious sisters, family and friends as we draw nearer to the 19th of June 2011. On that day in my home parish of St. Peter and Paul’s Church in Athlone, I will profess my ‘yes’ forever as a religious sister! On my vocational journey, it closes one chapter which began back in 1998 when I came for a live-in discernment in the community in Dublin whilst it opens another of a love which has been maturing, tried and tested and which peaks in Perpetual Profession and then continues to mature on life’s journey!

The particular Gospel passage which has accompanied me during this past year of preparation for this solemn moment and which also will be used for the liturgy of the rite of Profession is a passage from John’s Gospel where a woman anoints the feet of Jesus with precious ointment (John 12:1-8). The story of Jesus’ feet anointed with tears and perfume by a sinful woman is a love story, pure and simple. Not some cheap romance or TV soap love but one of complete and oblivious donation! When I look at my life at this moment and see this biblical woman’s gesture, I feel Jesus is saying to me: “Louise, are you ready to do the same? To be this self-emptying gift of prayer and joyful love, unafraid of stares or criticism from an often incomprehensive society? Are you willing to be balm for the brokenness and hurt of today’s humanity?” With his grace, I can answer with a heart-filled: “Yes!” With a public consecration, a sign of commitment to the whole Church, I will profess vows of chastity, poverty and obedience in community forever. I show my readiness to consecrate everything I am and have to God because He first consecrated me, firstly through the gift of baptism and then by bringing it to maturation in the call to religious life as a Disciple of the Divine Master. It is a call not to hold back what I can be and give but to continuously offer acts of selflessness in justice, creativity and compassion for my brothers and sisters.

For those around her, the gesture by the woman in the Gospel was a ‘waste’! The same echo often resounds when it comes to religious life: Is it not just a waste of a life? For me, it’s not! It is a life joyfully spent not on myself, but for others, a life dedicated out of love alone. For some, our prayer is a waste, for others going to Mass is foolishness, but for the ones who truly love Jesus it’s giving Him everything because He deserves it. Love knows no bounds.

My journey so far has brought me immense happiness and satisfaction alongside times of sadness and challenges. It has allowed me to live in four different countries in various communities with different apostolic services, live with sisters from all over the world, solidify bonds of communion and friendship through a common mission and spirituality at the service of the Eucharist, the Priesthood and the Liturgy. In accordance with our specific charism, in daily adoration before the Blessed Sacrament to represent the needs of the Church and humanity and pray in reparation for the sins committed by the media, this is also where I find my strength and in turn the mission I carry out assumes its meaning. I discerned that the best way for me to live out my vocation to love is by this life of continual prayer and union with God as a Disciple of the Divine Master. Having met the sisters, I was struck by their authenticity which was reflected in the deep joy and peace they exteriorly radiated with a mission which is shaped by prayer and liturgy, community, ministry and hospitality especially to priests. This was the magnet which attracted me to become part of this reality when I found it vibrantly resonating within my own heart as a teenager.

It’s not always easy to embrace the challenges which religious consecration presents but during these years I have come to understand that whilst it is possible to give without loving, I cannot love without giving. Drawing strength from a genuine relationship with Jesus nourished and reinforced with prayer, when my mind is still and alone with the beating of my heart. I can find a quiet assurance, an inner peace, in the core of my being that can face the doubts, the loneliness or the anxiety. It is there that He meets me where I am and as I am, making this concrete existence the place where He lives and dwells.

Coming into religious life was an act of faith and love, both on my part and God’s part. To be a religious, today more than ever, is a risk, a huge leap of faith and love but it is a risk worth taking but it also of love-given and received! People often ask me: “Are you sure?” One hundred percent surety doesn’t enter into the equation here but what I am sure of is that God has a unique plan for me. He is with me and He will not leave me. Without a deep sense of being held in this extravagant love, it would be hard to trust, face various decisions or let go of my safety nets which I had woven in order to keep God’s plans out and mine in! I am sure that, like the woman in the Gospel, that only when we stop measuring our relationship and response to God’s call in negative quantitative value, in what has to be ‘given up, that we truly start living qualitatively and receive the immensity of grace which He wants to pour onto our vulnerable love.

Sr. Mary Louise O’ Rourke, Disciples of the Divine Master (PDDM)

14 May 2011

Vocation Sunday

Pope Paul VI instituted the World Day of Prayer for Vocations (the 4th Sunday of Easter) on the 11th April 1964 by saying;

“O Jesus, divine Shepherd of the spirit, you have called the Apostles in order to make them fishermen of men, you still attract to you burning spirits and generous young people, in order to render them your followers and ministers to us” (Pope Paul VI launching the 1st Word Day of Prayer for Vocations)

In the 43 years since, successive pontiffs have called on the Church to focus and pray for vocations. In order to help you prepare for this day, the following resources are offered

The Dominican Nuns of Summit New Jersey in the USA have a short reflection about the day:

"The theme of the Fourth Sunday of Easter is that of Christ, the Good Shepherd, who gives His life for His sheep, who is Himself the Door to the sheepfold. Although most people today have no experience of sheep or shepherds the image continues to resonate in their hearts no less now than in the first century of Christianity. The image of Christ as the Good Shepherd is one of the oldest in iconography and can be found in the catacombs of St. Priscilla in Rome. ..........It's appropriate that Good Shepherd Sunday is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations! The Good Shepherd delights in calling and inviting us to share with Him in His work of redemption begun on the Cross. It is an invitation of love and is one He invites all of us to be a part of.
Perhaps not all are called to be consecrated to Him in the beautiful vocation of the priesthood or religious life but ALL of us can PRAY for vocations and ENCOURAGE young men and women to respond with a whole-hearted YES! to His invitation! So often a young person begins to think about a religious vocation or the priesthood because of a simple remark, "Hey, you'd make a good priest or nun. Ever think about it?"

Most of all Our Lord has asked us: "Pray the Lord of the Harvest to send labors into His harvest!""

Msgr Charles Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington has an insightful piece on the power of personal witness in the priestly proclamation.

The Irish Conference of Diocesan Vocations Directors website has various resources, reflections and videos about Vocation Sunday.

Other reflections and links including a short video available from the website of the Irish Bishops Episcopal Conference.


Lord Jesus,
you said to your disciples:
“The harvest indeed is great
but the labourers are few.”
We ask that we may know
and follow the vocation
to which you have called us.
We pray for those called to serve:
those whom you have called,
those you are calling now,
and those you will call in the future.
May they be open and responsive
to the call of serving your people.

Vocation Sunday - Message of Pope Benedict XVI


Theme: "Proposing Vocations in the Local Church"

Dear Brothers and Sisters!
The 48th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, to be celebrated on 15 May 2011, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, invites us to reflect on the theme: "Proposing Vocations in the Local Church". Seventy years ago, Venerable Pius XII established the Pontifical Work of Priestly Vocations. Similar bodies, led by priests and members of the lay faithful, were subsequently established by Bishops in many dioceses as a response to the call of the Good Shepherd who, "when he saw the crowds, had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd", and went on to say: "The harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few. Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest!" (Mt 9:36-38).

The work of carefully encouraging and supporting vocations finds a radiant source of inspiration in those places in the Gospel where Jesus calls his disciples to follow him and trains them with love and care. We should pay close attention to the way that Jesus called his closest associates to proclaim the Kingdom of God (cf. Lk 10:9). In the first place, it is clear that the first thing he did was to pray for them: before calling them, Jesus spent the night alone in prayer, listening to the will of the Father (cf. Lk 6:12) in a spirit of interior detachment from mundane concerns. It is Jesus' intimate conversation with the Father which results in the calling of his disciples. Vocations to the ministerial priesthood and to the consecrated life are first and foremost the fruit of constant contact with the living God and insistent prayer lifted up to the "Lord of the harvest", whether in parish communities, in Christian families or in groups specifically devoted to prayer for vocations.

At the beginning of his public life, the Lord called some fishermen on the shore of the Sea of Galilee: "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men" (Mt 4:19). He revealed his messianic mission to them by the many "signs" which showed his love for humanity and the gift of the Father's mercy. Through his words and his way of life he prepared them to carry on his saving work. Finally, knowing "that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father" (Jn 13:1), he entrusted to them the memorial of his death and resurrection, and before ascending into heaven he sent them out to the whole world with the command: "Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations" (Mt 28:19).

It is a challenging and uplifting invitation that Jesus addresses to those to whom he says: "Follow me!". He invites them to become his friends, to listen attentively to his word and to live with him. He teaches them complete commitment to God and to the extension of his kingdom in accordance with the law of the Gospel: "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit " (Jn 12:24). He invites them to leave behind their own narrow agenda and their notions of self-fulfilment in order to immerse themselves in another will, the will of God, and to be guided by it. He gives them an experience of fraternity, one born of that total openness to God (cf. Mt 12:49-50) which becomes the hallmark of the community of Jesus: "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (Jn 13:35).

8 May 2011

Easter Celebrations in Taize and Moscow - An Irish perspective

From the Taize website:

More than 9000 young adults from throughout Europe and some from other continents are together in Taizé for the Easter celebrations (5000 at Easter, 4000 the following week). With a few brothers, Brother Alois, the prior of Taizé, left the hill to celebrate Easter in Russia. With 240 young adults from 26 countries, they made a pilgrimage to Moscow to take part in the celebrations of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The young pilgrims were welcomed in six Orthodox parishes in Moscow. Beginning on Holy Thursday, they took part in the liturgical celebrations. On Good Friday, they traveled to Butovo, in the south of Moscow, where 20,000 people were shot during the Great Terror of Stalin in 1935-36. Many bishops, priests, religious and lay people died there. On Saturday, they took part in the Easter night celebration in each of the six parishes.The pilgrimage ended on Sunday with the solemn Easter vespers, led by Patriarch Kirill I in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.

Links between Taizé and Russia go back over many years. Already in the 1960s, Russian Orthodox Church leaders were able to visit the community. During the 1970s and 80s, Brother Roger and other brothers were invited to visit Russia. In 1988, the community sent a million Russian New Testaments to Moscow, St Petersburg, Kiev and Minsk. When, at the start of the 1990s, the borders opened, Russians came in large numbers to take part in the youth meetings in Taizé as well as the European meetings at the end of each year. In June 2006, Brother Alois visited Patriarch Alexis II and attended his funeral in December 2008 as well as the enthronement of Patriarch Kirill I in January 2009. For years now, the Patriarch of Moscow has been sending greetings to the participants in the yearly European meetings.

Majella Moloney from Limerick shares her thoughts on her pilgrimage to Russia:

Spring was creeping through the air as I arrived in Moscow. I was greeted by the cheerful sight of freshly painted railings in green and yellow, replacing the ice that had recently fallen to the ground. I was committed to following the traditional Easter ceremonies in the Russian Orthodox Church from Good Friday through to Easter Sunday, along with two hundred other young pilgrims from all over Europe who had come to discover more about this ancient faith and the country of its birth.

On Holy Thursday morning we participated in a three hour service in our host parish to commemorate the Last Supper. The washing of the feet only takes place in the evening service in the Orthodox cathedral and is carried out by the Russian Patriarch. Instead, in the evening service in our host parish of the Metropolitan Hilarian, the twelve gospels associated with the passion were read. The incense whirled around the church and I watched the women and children dressed in their long skirts and bright headscarves come forward to light candles and whisper a prayer in front of their favourite icon. As I stood, I found myself being drawn into the rhythm of the service, bowing and crossing myself in response to each prayer of invocation and responding along with the choir to the beautiful chant ‘SviatyBozhe- Holy God, have mercy on us’.

On Good Friday we journeyed as a group to Butovo shooting range on the outskirts of Moscow. It was here that over 20,000 Muscovites died during Stalin’s reign of terror,and here lie the innocent and theguilty, all judged to have been enemies of the Soviet regime. A simple explanation was offered by our guide that ‘inhumanity exists when people don’t believe in God’. It is appropriate that on this place which is referred to as the Russian Golgotha; the suffering of the Russian people have been transformed by their experience of the cross and from this place of witness rise signs of the resurrection of belief in Russia. It is a sign of deep hope for all of us all. Have a look at
this short video about the visit of the Taize pilgrims.

On Holy Saturday I attended the First Resurrection service commemorating Christ’s descent into Hell. In the afternoon I participated in a pilgrimage to four historic churches in the centre of Moscow. It is the Orthodox tradition to visit special churches and to venerate the Shroud of Christ which is laid out since the burial service of the Shroud on Good Friday. We had attended this service and Evening Vespers in the Church of the New Martyrs in Butovo. At each church, people had gathered to have their Easter eggs and cake blessed by the priest, who walked up and down the outdoor tables dispensing blessings with his palm branch dipped in Holy Water! Some of these eggs were duck eggs and some were brightly coloured painted-eggs to break the Great Lenten Fast, but there were no chocolate eggs in sight!!!!! (Luckily my German friends had brought enough chocolate for a traditional Easter hunt on Easter Sunday!)

The Easter Vigil was scheduled to begin at 23:00 and last into the morning. However, we departed after two hours, as we were invited to Easter dinner with the parents of my hosts. The traditional Easter greeting is KhristosVoskrese! Christ is Risen! And to kiss on the cheeks three times. It was possible to watch the rest of the Easter vigil with the Patriarch live on the television and this gave us a view into the Sanctuary which had been closed to us until now. This cathedral was rebuilt 10 years ago after the original building was blown up by the Ruling Party and a swimming pool built in its place.I discovered that my host and his family had visited Ireland, and his interest in an ecumenical pilgrimage came about through his involvement in the FocolareCatholic movement!

On Easter Sunday we attended mass in the Church of Saint Louis des Francais de Moscou where we were greeted with the now familiar – Christ is Risen! The readings and sermon were in Russian and the rest of the Mass was in Latin which was easy to follow. In the afternoon we visited the city centre, Red Square, Moscow State University and a newly restored lodge of the former Tzar.

The meeting closed following vespers with the Patriarch and an address by Br. Alois, the Prior of the Taize community to the young people who had gathered together. He spoke about his recent meeting with Pope Benedict and his surprise and delight at this initiative. He emphasised the historic nature of this pilgrimage – young Christians of different denominations gathering together with the young people of the Orthodox parishes to celebrate Easter on a rare occasion when it falls on the same date in the East and the West.

His last words were to invite us to share what we had found out with other young people and to listen for echoes from this pilgrimage, as he was sure there would be many!

From the Taize website:

Holy Week in Taize - "By his resurrection Christ brings us together"
Pilgrimage to Moscow - 23rd April
Pilgrimage to Moscow - 24th April
Message of Br Alois to Metropolitan Hilarion.
Message of Bishop Hilarion