25 Feb 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Province of Joy - Lenten Reflections 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Little way of Fasting – by Fr. Aidan Kieran

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

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

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

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

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

Community of Our Lady of Walsingham - Upcoming Events

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


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

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

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

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

Bartholomew I’s Lenten message

From Asianews.it:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

22 Feb 2015

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

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

Lent: a little background to the season

The History of Lent - podcast

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

Aggie Catholics annual Lenten mega-post

Living Lent like Cinderella!

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

Memento Mori

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

Will the real Pope Francis please stand up?

Devout Catholic and chocolate pioneer who created Nutella dies

3 Ways to Embrace Your Need for Solitude and Quiet Time

50 Shades of what’s wrong with our world!

IEC2016 - Cebu Philippines - IEC2016 Facebook page

'Vatican Weekend’ for February 22, 2015

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

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

The People of the Cross

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

The people of the cross.

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

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

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

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

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

The people of the cross.

How true. How sickeningly, gruesomely, true.

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

The people of the cross.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



That’s the message of today. Turn around.

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

To forgive, and in forgiving, find forgiveness.

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

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

But this is what they have died for.

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

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

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

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


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

From America Magazine - Kaya Oakes

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

21 Feb 2015

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

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

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

News Round up

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

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

Gospel - Mark 1: 12-15

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

Word on Fire
Sunday Reflections
Centre for Liturgy 
English Dominicans

Liturgical odds and ends

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

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

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

18 Feb 2015

Miserere (Allegri)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pope Francis' homily for Ash Wednesday

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Original text: Italian]

[Translation by ZENIT]

10 tips for living a holy Lent- in the words of Pope Francis

1. Get rid of the lazy addiction to evil -“[Lent] is a ‘powerful’ season, a turning point that can foster change and conversion in each of us. We all need to improve, to change for the better. Lent helps us and thus we leave behind old habits and the lazy addiction to the evil that deceives and ensnares us.” – General Audience, March 5, 2014
 2.  Do something that costs us-“Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.” – Lenten Message, 2014
 3.  Don’t remain indifferent-“Indifference to our neighbour and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience. God is not indifferent to our world; he so loves it that he gave his Son for our salvation.” –Lenten Message, 2015
 4.  Pray: Make our hearts like yours!-“During this Lent, then, brothers and sisters, let us all ask the Lord: Make our hearts like yours (Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus). In this way we will receive a heart which is firm and merciful, attentive and generous, a heart which is not closed, indifferent or prey to the globalization of indifference.” – Lenten Message, 2015
 5.  Take part in the sacraments-“Lent is a favourable time for letting Christ serve us so that we in turn may become more like him. This happens whenever we hear the word of God and receive the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. There we become what we receive: the Body of Christ.” – Lenten Message, 2015
 6.  Prayer-“In the face of so many wounds that hurt us and could harden our hearts, we are called to dive into the sea of prayer, which is the sea of God’s boundless love, to taste his tenderness. Lent is a time of prayer, of more intense prayer, more prolonged, more assiduous, more able to take on the needs of the brethren; intercessory prayer, to intercede before God for the many situations of poverty and suffering.” – Homily, March 5, 2014
7.  Fasting-We must be careful not to practice a formal fast, or one which in truth ‘satisfies’ us because it makes us feel good about ourselves. Fasting makes sense if it questions our security, and if it also leads to some benefit for others, if it helps us to cultivate the style of the Good Samaritan, who bends down to his brother in need and takes care of him.” – Homily, March 5, 2014
 8.  Almsgiving-“Today gratuitousness is often not part of daily life where everything is bought and sold. Everything is calculated and measured. Almsgiving helps us to experience giving freely, which leads to freedom from the obsession of possessing, from the fear of losing what we have, from the sadness of one who does not wish to share his wealth with others.” – Homily, March 5, 2014
 9.  Help the Poor-“In the poor and outcast we see Christ’s face; by loving and helping the poor, we love and serve Christ. Our efforts are also directed to ending violations of human dignity, discrimination and abuse in the world, for these are so often the cause of destitution. When power, luxury and money become idols, they take priority over the need for a fair distribution of wealth. Our consciences thus need to be converted to justice, equality, simplicity and sharing.” – Lenten Message, 2014
10.  Evangelize-“The Lord asks us to be joyous heralds of this message of mercy and hope! It is thrilling to experience the joy of spreading this good news, sharing the treasure entrusted to us, consoling broken hearts and offering hope to our brothers and sisters experiencing darkness.” – Lenten Message, 2014.
 It might be hard to be able to take huge steps forward in all of these areas. Instead, pick a couple that stand out to you and try to find practical ways to grow in your love of God and your love of your neighbour. A blessed Lent to you all!

Lent Message 2015 - Bishop Brendan Leahy

At this time of year, we ask each other: “what are you giving up for Lent?” Replies vary with people mentioning drink or chocolates etc. A little penance is never a bad thing.  But there’s another aspect to Lent – we need to ask ourselves: “what am I doing for Lent?” in the sense of taking some step in my personal life that will lead me to a deeper relationship with God and with others around me.

I’ve been struck by Pope Francis’ message for Lent. He reminds us that God is  interested in each of us. God’s love does not allow him to be indifferent to what happens to us. But it’s easy for us to slip into an indifference at several levels – about God, about others, about ourselves. Pope Francis speaks about “a globalization of indifference” in our world today. It is “a problem which we, as Christians, need to confront.”

Lent is the annual season for us to check out those areas of my personal or social life about which I/we have become indifferent. As Francis puts it, “Indifference to our neighbour and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience.” Pope Francis himself is such a prophet calling us to wake up from indifference this Lent.

Take charities, for instance. There has been so much controversy about how some charities are run that, without realising it, we might all have become a little more indifferent to charities. Why not consider giving more to charities this Lent? The Catholic Church’s agency, Trócaire, is well worth supporting but there are many others too. The important thing is not to be indifferent to the needs expressed through those charities.

Indifference doesn’t just apply to charities. We can get so used to hearing about the problems in the Middle East that we switch off in an indifference to the issue of peace and the plight of Christians in that part of the world.

When ethical debates begin around us, there’s a temptation to become indifferent to searching for what is true and right. We need to actively inform ourselves about what the Church teaches about such issues.
Because of the failures within the Church, we can, understandably perhaps, become indifferent to the Catholic Church, its teaching and sacraments. And yet, the Church itself has so much to offer us. This Lent why not let ourselves be moved more by the love of Christ reaching us through the life of the Church.
Issues relating to abuse of drink and drugs have become so prevalent that we shut out the issues and ignore them. And yet we know the havoc they wreak in society. None of us can afford to say I can do nothing to help.
I am asking myself this Lent about my indifference to the plight of migrants and asylum seekers resident in our diocese. They are Christ knocking at the door of our hearts, waiting to be welcomed above all as human beings worthy of dignity and respect.
There are also very personal forms of indifference that can affect any of us - perhaps a family row or a stand-off with a person in work or a hurt I received in some organisation that caused me to distance myself from others. Sometimes, these situations can go on for so long that we grow indifferent to them. It’s easy to say “why bother trying to do something to remedy the tension?” But when I find myself thinking that, it’s a sign that the dust of indifference has settled in my heart.

So, this Lent, as well as asking “what are you giving up for Lent?”, let’s ask ourselves: in what way have I become indifferent and withdrawn into myself? In what way have I or my family, my parish or organisation become self-sufficient and forgetful of others? And decide to actively do something to wake myself up out of indifference.

Quoting Pope Benedict, Pope Francis speaks about Lent as a time for engaging in formation of the heart: “Anyone who wishes to be merciful must have a strong and steadfast heart, closed to the tempter but open to God. A heart that lets itself be pierced by the Spirit so as to bring love along the roads that lead to our brothers and sisters. And, ultimately, a poor heart, one which realizes its own poverty and gives itself freely for others.”

The season of Lent will occur twice during our preparations for the Diocesan Synod. Since conversion – personal, ministerial and ecclesial – is at the heart of the Synod, these occasions for renewal are particularly important. Entrusting the weeks ahead to Mary our mother, let’s ask for a special grace of deep conversion as we begin Lent.

+ Brendan Leahy

And so let us begin............

Begin again to the summoning birds
to the sight of the light at the window,
begin to the roar of morning traffic
all along Pembroke Road.
Every beginning is a promise
born in light and dying in dark
determination and exaltation of springtime
flowering the way to work.
Begin to the pageant of queuing girls
the arrogant loneliness of swans in the canal
bridges linking the past and future
old friends passing though with us still.
Begin to the loneliness that cannot end
since it perhaps is what makes us begin,
begin to wonder at unknown faces
at crying birds in the sudden rain
at branches stark in the willing sunlight
at seagulls foraging for bread
at couples sharing a sunny secret
alone together while making good.
Though we live in a world that dreams of ending
that always seems about to give in
something that will not acknowledge conclusion
insists that we forever begin.

- Brendan Kennelly
For those that pray the breviary "Morning and Evening prayer (lauds and vespers) for Ash Wednesday form a kind of synopsis of what Lent is about and what to remember as we progress through these 40 days of penance before Easter. To begin with, there are two options for the psalter of Ash Wednesday: Wednesday week IV or Friday Week III." Over at Coffee and Canticles Daria Sockey reflects how Friday Week III reflects on the penitential aspects of Lent which is well worth reading and reflecting on. 
For those of us however who choose Wednesday Week IV, it seemed to be appropriate as we reflect on how the season of penance, fasting and alms giving can be a "joyous season" with the psalmist praying "Awake my soul, awake lyre and harp, I will awake the dawn". Both sets of psalms echo the themes of Lent, a call to return to God but that returning to God should be an encounter of joy, a re-embracing of a friend which culminates in the "party" of Easter Sunday.
As you begin your Lent today, may it provide a time of encounter between you and God, where you can find that "province of joy" to rest in the Lord.
Now quit your care
and anxious fear and worry;
For schemes are vain
and fretting brings no gain;
Lent calls to prayer, ...
to trust and dedication;
God brings new beauty nigh.
Reply, reply, reply with love to Love most high.
To bow the head
in sackcloth and in ashes,
Or rend the soul---
such grief is not Lent's goal;
But to be led
to where God's glory flashes,
His beauty to come near.
Make clear, make clear,
make clear where truth and light appear.
For is not this
the Fast that I have chosen?
(The prophet spoke)
to shatter ev'ry yoke,
of wickedness
the grievous bands to loosen,
oppression put to flight?
To fight, to fight, to fight till ev'ry wrong's set right?
For righteousness
and peace will show their faces
To those who feed
The hungry in their need,
and wrongs redress,
who build the old waste-places,
and in the darkness shine.
Divine, divine, divine it is when all combine!
Then shall your light
break forth as doth the morning;
Your health shall spring,
the friends you make shall bring
God's glory bright,
you way through life adorning,
and love shall be the prize.
Arise, arise, arise! and make a paradise!
- Percy Dearmer

17 Feb 2015

Reading the bible during Lent at Glenstal

Lent Resources 2

We have been updating the list of links to Lenten Resources on the left hand side sidebar for your use over the period of Lent.

We also want to link to Aggie Catholic mega Lent post - it is an annual linkfest from the good folks over at the Aggie Catholic blog and is an astounding list of resources and ideas for Lent. Check it out.

Ash Wednesday and Lent in 2 minutes - Busted Halo

Holy Martyrs of Egypt, pray for us and for your ISIS killers

“The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard,” said Pope [Francis] . It makes no difference whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Protestants. They are Christians! Their blood is one and the same. Their blood confesses Christ.''
 As the world struggles to once more comprehend the savagery being inflicted on people through out the Middle East by people with a very warped understanding of the Islamic faith, Pope Francis reminds us all once more of the ecumenism of blood. No matter what our denomination those who die in odium fidei are witnesses for Christ - martyrs in the oldest understanding of the term.
Over at Patheos, Elizabeth Scalia names the martyrs who have been killed in the most recent tragedy. The naming and recollection of our martyrs goes right back to the beginning of the church with the account of the martyrdom of St Stephen in the Acts of the Apostles. The recollection of names ensures their memory and that their sacrifice and witness is not forgotten.  
Let us ask these new martyrs for their prayers:
+Holy Martyr Milad Makeen Zaky, pray for us, and for the whole world,
+Holy Martyr Abanub Ayad Atiya, pray for your ISIS murderers,
+Holy Martyr Maged Solaimain Shehata, pray for their salvation,
+Holy Martyr Yusuf Shukry Yunan, pray for the release of their all their captives,
+Holy Martyr Kirollos Shokry Fawzy, pray for all in the path of ISIS,
+Holy Martyr Bishoy Astafanus Kamel, pray
for the displaced, for those made refugees by ISIS,
+Holy Martyr Somaily Astafanus Kamel, pray for the protection of our Holy Lands and our history,
+Holy Martyr Malak Ibrahim Sinweet, pray for those who act now in resistance against ISIS,
+Holy Martyr Tawadros Yusuf Tawadros, pray for those in immediate danger from forces of evil,
+Holy Martyr Girgis Milad Sinweet, pray for those infected with the virus of hatred and extremism,
+Holy Martyr Mina Fayez Aziz, pray for families being challenged, throughtout the world, by ISIS,
+Holy Martyr Hany Abdelmesih Salib, pray aid workers may draw together, unmolested, to give assistance,
+Holy Martyr Bishoy Adel Khalaf, pray for
the targeted clergy and religious of the Near East churches,
+Holy Martyr Samuel Alham Wilson, pray for all people of good will, in every religion, every nation,
+Holy Martyr Whose name we do not know — you “Worker from Awr village” — pray for those in leadership, whose names we know all too well, that their motives may be purified of political intrigue, and for their salvation,
+Holy Martyr Ezat Bishri Naseef, pray for Jews, throughout the world, chosen of God and so despised,
+Holy Martyr Loqa Nagaty, pray for the “two lungs” of Christianity, East and West, to breath together,
+Holy Martyr Gaber Munir Adly, pray for the illumination of that which is All-Good,
+Holy Martyr Esam Badir Samir, pray that in beholding it, we will wish to serve it,
+Holy Martyr Malak Farag Abram, pray for the generation in power, that their egos may be put aside and their hearts might be opened to the Way, the Truth and the Life,
+Holy Martyr Sameh Salah Faruq, pray for the generations to come.
O New Martyrs, through a malevolent force as old as Eden you now number among the ancient holy ones; keep us particularly in your prayers, as once again we are focused on the mysterious lands where humanity first came into being, and into knowing, and where all will finally be revealed. Pray that we may put aside all that is irrelevant to the moment and, looking forever to the East, prepare our spirits for the engagements into which we may be called, whether we live amid these places of ancient roads and portals, or in the most modern of dwellings. 
Mary, the God-bearer, pray for us,
Saint Michael the Archangel, pray for us,
Saint John the Forerunner, pray for us,
All Holy Men and Women, pray for us.
Amen, Amen.

But it is not just these 21, we should remember all those both Christian and non-Christian who have died in this conflict.

ICN - Pope offers Mass for martyred Coptic Christians, condemns arms trade
Vatican Radio - Pope at Santa Marta: Slain because they were Christian
Vatican Radio - Egypt mourns Coptic Christians beheaded in Libya
Vatican Radio - Bishop Martinelli vows to stay in Libya with his flock
The Catholic Herald - After beheading Coptic Christians, Islamists say they will ‘conquer Rome’ next
The Daily Telegraph - The Middle East is red with the blood of Christians
Washington Post - Pope Francis denounces ISIS beheadings: ‘Their blood confesses Christ’
Aleteia - "Their Blood Cries Out To The Lord," Says Pope Francis of Beheaded Copts
The Independent - Egypt's Coptic Christians: Who are they – and why have then been targeted by Isis in beheading video?