30 Apr 2016

Alleluia, Alleluia, Christ is Risen, Alleluia Alleluia - Easter Sunday again as the Orthodox Communities mark the Great Pascha


 Let everyone share this feast of faith; let everyone enjoy the riches of goodness. Let none lament their poverty; for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let none mourn their sins; for forgiveness has dawned from the grave. Let none fear death; for the Savior's death has set us free

- St John Chrysostom

This weekend our sister churches in the Orthodox and Coptic traditions celebrate their Easter ceremonies this weekend with the marking of Pascha when "entire congregations previously waiting in darkness and filled with anticipation will light up, their faces shining with joy and hope. Together they will all chant in numerous languages, depending on geography and culture, the triumphant hymn familiar to young and old: "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling death by death, and granting life to those in the tombs."

Patriarch Bartholomew

Read the reflection of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, Archbishop of Constantinople and New Rome and spiritual leader for the world's 300 million Orthodox Christians on this great Christian festival HERE.

Patriarch Kirill

You can read the Paschal Message of His Holiness, Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and all the Rus, Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church HERE

25 Apr 2016

Some web browsing....

On Benedict XVI anniversary, why he’ll go down as ‘Great Reformer’

Benedict XVI: A “Great Reformer”? Yes, and a Stabilizer, Too - For almost 40 years, Benedict XVI has been the ballast in the Barque of Peter

The Diagnosis and the Cure: Benedict XVI and the Dictatorship of Relativism. This future Doctor of the Church saw what ails us and articulated the only thing that can make us better.

Francis kisses Fr. Ernest Simoni’s hand - At this morning’s audience, the Albanian priest who spent 28 years in prison gave Francis a copy of a book in which he talks about his life story

Blind woman says disability reveals myths underlying abortion

No one should use the name of God to try to justify violence – Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

Dorothy Day would be ideal American saint for Pope Francis

Friends of Dorothy Day Commend Important Step To Sainthood

Metropolitan Hilarion compares Europe with the atheistic Soviet Union

Is Dorothy Day Suitable for Canonization?

WoF- Porn and the Curse of Total Sexual Freedom

Pope Warns Against Admitting Rigid, Fundamentalist Young Men into Seminary

How My Wife’s Alzheimer’s Tested My Virtue - With the terrible disease comes a relentless assault on not only patience but kindness, goodness, faith and joy

Pope Francis Surprises Thousands of Teens in St. Peter’s Square by Hearing Confession - We imagine the intro: “Hi, I’m Francis. My friends used to call me Jorge; did you know this is his feast day? Let’s slay some dragons — tell me your confession ...”

Was Shakespeare actually a secret Catholic?


24 Apr 2016

24th April 2016 - Pure in Heart - 5th Sunday in Easter

On this weeks programme John is joined by Fr John Mockler and the team from Pure in Heart who explain who they are and how they share their message of Chastity and Purity. We have our regular reflection on this weeks gospel and other liturgical odds and ends.

You can listen to the full programme podcast HERE

Pure in Heart

On this weeks programme we are joined by the mission team from Pure in Heart - Caitriona Heffernan, Ailish Butler and Alison Holland - and Fr John Mockler from Newcastle West parish. The mission team introduce the work that Pure in Heart does in promoting an alternative life style choice to young people.

Pure In Heart is an international Catholic Movement of young adults who through prayer and friendship, strive to learn, live and share the truth, beauty and meaning of human sexuality.
They offer an engaging and balanced presentation to adolescents that promotes a healthy attitude towards love and relationships with their primary aim being to encourage young people to become the best version of themselves by promoting their selfworth, a positive self-image, and provide the necessary skills to build lasting relationships.

You can find out more about Pure in Heart at their website HERE including videos of interviews from EWTN.

Pure in Heart Facebook page HERE.

You can listen to the interview with Pure in Heart excerpted from the main programme podcast HERE.

Gospel - John 13: 31-35

When he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’

Reflections on this weeks gospel:
Liturgical odds & ends

Liturgy of the Hours: psalter week 1

Saints of the Week
April 25th - St Mark (Evangelist)
April 26th - Our Lady of Good Counsel -special feast associated with the Augustinians in Limerick City as the icon of Our Lady under this title is in their church on O'Connell St.  
April 27th - St Asicus
April 28th - St Peter Chanel also St Louis Marie Gringnion de Montefort
April 29th - St Catherine of Siena
April 30th - St Pius V

Death of Fr Paul J Philibert OP

Fr Eamonn Fitzgibbon (Synod Director), Fr Paul Philibert OP, Bishop Brendán Leahy
Inaugural Gathering of Synod Delegates, 15th November 2014
Mary Immaculate College, Limerick
It is with dead sadness that the Limerick Diocesan community has received the news of the death of Fr Paul J Philibert OP of the Dominican Province of St Martin De Porres in the USA. Fr Paul will be familiar to the delegates of Synod 2016 as the man who provided the main theological input into our inaugural gathering of delegates at Mary I college in November 2015.

You can re-read his wonderful and challenging  talk at the gathering on the Synod website/archive here.

May he rest in peace.

20 Apr 2016

Pause a moment with Matt Maher......

Hit the pause button on your busy (and possibly stressful) day and press play to listen "Abide With Me" on ‪#‎WorshipWednesday‬.

Let a moment of reflection and worship reset your heart and mind for the rest of the week.

Limerick Diocesan Synod 2016 - 'The Synod Script' now available online

'The Synod Script' newspaper/supplement was such a big hit last weekend that we ran out of paper copies.

So a copy of it is now on-line on the diocesan website.

Just click on the link and you can read the full paper on your computer.

The Synod Script with full details of voting on all proposals, pictures and reports.

18 Apr 2016

In memory of Sr Clare (No 2) - Updated

From Catholicnews.ie:

The following statement of clarification has been received from the Servant Sister of the Home of the Mother in order to clarify media reporting on the deaths of some of the members of their community. They have now confirmed that Sister Clare Crockett from Derry was one of the members of the community who was killed and that another Irish sister – Sister Therésè Ryan was rescued. We carry their statement here in full:

The Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother have three communities in Ecuador: one in Guayaquil and two in the Province of Manabí (one in Chone and another in Playa Prieta). The latter has suffered the most losses in the earthquake. Our Sisters ran a school there, “Colegio Sagrada Familia”, which offers a human and religious education to over 400 children from the area. The Sisters’ residence was located on the third floor of one of the school buildings. At the moment of the earthquake – 18:58 (Ecuadorian time) – the four professed Sisters of the community were inside the building. The four Sisters are: Sr. Estela Morales (age 40, from Spain), Sr. Therese Ryan (age 36, from Ireland), Sr. Merly Alcybar (age 34, from Ecuador), and Sr. Clare Crockett (age 33, from Northern Ireland).

Along with the Sisters, inside the building as well, were seven young postulants, all of them natives of Ecuador: Jazmina, Mayra, Maria Augusta, Valeria, Catalina, Guadalupe, and Mercedes. In addition to their work in the school, the Sisters also carry out significant humanitarian relief work in the area, especially in response to the state of emergency caused by the intense flooding that devastated the area in the days leading up to the earthquake. The flooding left countless families stranded, without homes. A friend of the community had recently written to us, just days before, commenting his admiration for the Sisters: “The Sisters are smiling as always, but you can tell they’re exhausted from all the work.” There were no students in the school at the time.

The first news that reached us in Spain – at 3:10 AM Spanish time on Sunday, April 17, 2016, just an hour after the earthquake – was that all the Sisters and postulants in Playa Prieta were under the rubble. All of our communities – in Spain, Italy, and the United States – were immediately informed. From that moment, all of the Sisters began praying an unending Rosary in front of the Blessed Sacrament, hour after hour.

Shortly afterwards, news arrived that Sr. Therésè had been rescued, with a fractured ankle and several bruises. The improvised rescue team composed of local neighbors, heard the voice of Sr. Estela, Superior of the community, and was able to reach her. They found she had a broken foot, a black eye, and was covered with bruises. As soon as she felt the impact of the earthquake, Sr. Estela went running into the chapel to rescue the Blessed Sacrament. As soon as she had the Lord in her hands, everything around her collapsed and fell down to the ground floor. Her first thought had been to save the Lord before saving her own life, and the Lord rescued her in turn – there is no doubt about it.

Both Sisters were immobilized before being taken to a nearby house to await a medical visit.
The volunteers also heard the voices of Sr. Merly, Guadalupe, and Mercedes. It was not easy reaching them. They encouraged one another, praying and singing songs to the Lord, especially when they felt they were being suffocated by the lack of oxygen. Sr. Merly suffered a severe concussion when an entire wall collapsed on her head. Guadalupe and Mercedes suffered minor bruising.
Rescue efforts continued all during the night, however there were only a few men with inadequate instruments. The Sisters of the community in Guayaquil had also been affected by the earthquake, however to a much lesser degree (the only damage suffered was a cracked wall in the residence for university students). These Sisters organized a rescue team with men from our movement “Lay Members of the Home of the Mother”, who generously gave of their time and effort, placing their own lives at risk (the area has suffered countless aftershocks, some of high intensity). This new rescue team made a four-hour car ride in the middle of the night, in order to reach Playa Prieta. What they found was a devastating sight. Other groups of lay men and women also arrived from Guayaquil and Chone, to come to the Sisters assistance in Playa Prieta.

The Sisters who arrived from Guayaquil started off by attending to the wounded Sisters and postulants. The nearest hospital, in Portoviejo (the largest city in the area), had collapsed. Archbishop Voltolini welcomed the wounded Sisters and Postulants in the Diocese buildings, along with other priests and families that had lost everything. Considering the situation in Manabí, the Sisters from the community of Guayaquil decided to transfer the wounded Sisters to Guayaquil, in order to offer them proper medical attention. With the help of the improvised rescue team, they made an “ambulance”, placing couches in the back of a pickup truck. This was the transportation used to take Sr. Estela, Sr. Therésè, and Sr. Merly, along with Mercedes and Guadalupe. They were accompanied by two Sisters from the community in Guayaquil and around two o’clock in the afternoon (Ecuadorian time), on Sunday, April 17, they were hospitalized. Just hours later, they were all released from the hospital and taken to our house in Guayaquil.

In the meantime, in Playa Prieta, the other two Sisters from the community in Guayaquil were able to obtain better equipment, as well as assistance from the Ecuadorian Armed Forces. The hours passed and worries increased as no voices of Sisters were heard from underneath the rubble. There was particular concern when a fairly intense aftershock toppled what was left standing of the building.
Sr. Clare and five postulants were still under the rubble. The postulants’ families were able to arrive on the scene. At 7:50 (Spanish time), the first feared news arrived. The lifeless body of Jazmina had been uncovered. At the time, our community in Spain was praying Vespers. Upon receiving the news, many Sisters could not keep back the tears. When they were able to return to their prayers, it was God’s Word that shed light on this moment of suffering. We had not planned on praying that Psalm, but the Lord in His infinite tender love had prepared it for us. It was Psalm 111, from the Second Vespers for Good Shepherd Sunday: “He has no fear of evil news; with a firm heart he trusts in the Lord. With a steadfast heart he will not fear.” Hours later, around 1 AM on Monday, April 18, the rescue team was able to locate the lifeless bodies of Sr. Clare, Mayra, Maria Augusta, Valeria, and Catalina.

As Sisters who sincerely love each other in the Lord, we mourn the loss of our Sisters. However, our faith assures us that “death is not the end of the path.” Sister Clare had spent nearly 15 years of her life in consecration to the Lord. She was a generous Sister with a special gift for reaching out to children and young people. The postulants had entered the Order just a year ago and were generously preparing themselves to become Servant Sisters. And the Lord found them all prepared. As soon as we received the first telephone call, we asked Our Blessed Mother to protect them all under her mantle. We are certain that she has done so. And now our gaze is fixed on Heaven, where we hope that the merciful Lord has received them.

We would like to take advantage of this opportunity to thank all of those who have reached out to us in this difficult moment, especially those who have helped us from Ecuador. We also thank all of those who have showed us their support from all over the world. We ask for prayers for our Sisters and their families. We do not want to enclose our hearts in our own suffering, but to embrace the pain of the entire Ecuadorian people. We ask the Lord to help them not to be scandalized by their affliction; we ask Him not to allow them to depart from His side. May these moments inspire them to abandon themselves into His hands more than ever, trusting in His love for them.

Pray for us, that we may be who the Lord wants us to be, and fully live out our vocations as “Spouses of the Crucified Lord.”

United to the Cross in this Easter Season,
May the Lord and Our Mother in Heaven bless all of you.
Sister Beatriz Liaño, SHM
Director of the Press Office
E.U.K. Mamie Foundation

In memory of Sr Clare

Sr Clare Crockett from Derry is among those killed in the earthquake in Ecuador . Let us pray for all who have died, those injured, bereaved and made homeless - in Ecuador and Japan.
"I thank God for the patience that He has had with me, and still has!!!! I do not ask Him why He has chosen me, I just accept it. I depend totally on Him and Our Blessed Mother and I ask them to give me the grace to be whatever they want me to be" (From Sr Clare's diary).

Requiescat in Pace

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam

From EWTN:

Sister Clare was a young nun who was the voice of "Lucy" in the children's series "Hi Lucy" that aired on EWTN for many years.

On Saturday, April 16, Sister Clare and five postulants -- Jazmina, Mayra, María Augusta, Valeria, and Catalina -- from the Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother in Ecuador -- were killed in an earthquake.

Below is Sister Clare's wonderful vocation story as well as a link to a news story on the tragedy. We ask you to join us in prayer for all who lost their lives, for their families, and for their religious communities. http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/…/northern-irish-nun-kill…/…

Testimony of Sr. Clare Crockett
Religious Name: Sister Clare Maria of the Trinity and the Heart of Mary
Date of Entrance into the Servant Sisters: August 11, 2001
Age at Entrance: 18 years old
City and Country of Origin: Derry, Northern Ireland
Date of Perpetual Vows: September 8, 2010
Current Community: Playa Prieta (Ecuador)

I grew up in a Catholic family. I’m from a small part of the world called Derry, which is in the North of Ireland. A place where, when I was growing up, “Catholic” and “Protestant” were political terms. Just because you grew up in a Catholic family, it did not necessarily mean that you attended Mass or had any formation about the Catholic faith, no. The Catholics who wanted a united Ireland killed the Protestants, and the Protestants who didn’t want a united Ireland killed the Catholics. That was what being Catholic meant to me. God played no part in my life. In a society where hatred prevailed, there was no room for God.

Ever since I was little, I always wanted to be an actress. When I was around fifteen, I joined an acting agency and had a manager. I was a presenter for some television programs, I wrote plays, did a lot of stage acting, won awards and when I was eighteen I had a small part in a movie.

I liked to party a lot. My weekends, since I was sixteen/seventeen, consisted in getting drunk with my friends. I wasted all my money on alcohol and cigarettes. One day one of my friends called me. “Clare”, she said, “do you want to go on a free trip to Spain?” Free trip to Spain, I thought, ten days of partying in sunny Spain – of course I wanted to go! She told me that all the people who were going were going to meet together the next week. The next week came, and I went to the house where we were going to meet. I walked into a room and it was filled with people around the age of forty and fifty and they all had Rosary beads in their hands. “Are you all going on the trip to Spain?” I asked them, almost afraid that they were going to say what they all responded enthusiastically three seconds later “ Yes...we’re going on the pilgrimage”. Yes my dear friends, we were going on a pilgrimage for 10 DAYS! I tried to get out of it, but my name was already on the ticket, so I had to go. I now see that it was Our Lady’s way of bringing me back Home, back to Her and Her Son.

The pilgrimage was during Holy Week in a 16th Century Monastery, not quite what I had imagined when I thought about going to Spain. The Holy Week Encounter that we attended was with a group called the Home of the Mother and I was not a very happy camper. Nevertheless, it was on that pilgrimage that Our Lord gave me the grace to see how He had died for me on the Cross. After I had received that grace, I knew that I had to change. I asked myself: “If He has done this for me what am I doing for Him?”

It’s so easy, when you’re on a retreat or when you “feel” the love of God, to say to Him: “I’ll do whatever You want me to do,” but when you “come down from the mountain” it’s not that easy. The sisters had invited me to go with them and other girls on a pilgrimage to Italy. I went and despite the very superficial attitude that I had during the pilgrimage, Our Lord spoke very clearly to me. He wanted me to live like the sisters in poverty, chastity, and obedience. I automatically told Him that that was impossible for me. I said: “I can’t be a nun! I can’t leave drinking, cigarettes, partying, my career, and my family.” If Jesus asks us to do something He also gives us the strength and the grace to do it, there is no doubt about that. Without His help I would not have been able to do what I had to do to respond to His call and follow Him.

After I knew what He was calling me to do, the Lord gave me another big grace when I was filming a movie in England. I saw that even though it seemed that I had everything, in reality I had nothing. I felt a great emptiness as I sat on top on my bed in the hotel room. All that I had ever wanted I seemed to be achieving and I wasn’t happy. I knew that I would only be truly happy by doing what God wanted of me. Our Lord showed me that my wild lifestyle deeply hurt His Sacred Heart. I knew that I had to leave everything and follow Him. I knew with great clarity that He was asking me to trust in Him, to put my life in His Hands and to have faith.

I am now very happily consecrated in the Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother. It never ceases to amaze me how Our Lord works in the souls, how He can totally transform one’s life and capture one’s heart. I thank God for the patience that He has had with me, and still has!!!! I do not ask Him why He has chosen me, I just accept it. I depend totally on Him and Our Blessed Mother and I ask them to give me the grace to be whatever they want me to be.

16 Apr 2016

17th April 2016 - Vocation Sunday - UPDATED

On this weeks programme John and Shane are joined by Fr Leslie McNamara to reflect on Vocation Sunday. We have our regular reflection on the Sunday gospel as well as some other liturgical odds and ends.

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

Vocation Sunday

On this weeks programme we are joined by Fr Leslie McNamara, the Diocesan Director for Vocations for Limerick Diocese.

Fr Leslie reflects on vocation and especially the vocation to the diocesan priesthood. He shares the process of discernment and training that candidates and seminarians undergo.

You can listen to the interview with Fr Leslie excerpted from the main programme HERE.

You can find out more about vocations on the Limerick diocesan website here.
Back in March 2015 we had an interview with Br Conor McDonagh OP about his vocation journey. This week on iCatholic there is an interview with him. You might keep Conor and his confreres in your prayers as he is due to be ordained priest this summer:

Gospel - John

Shepherd of my soul

Jesus said: ‘The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me."

This week as a diocese, we have been listening for Gods voice. One of the beautiful aspects of our Synod process was having Jessie Rogers continually draw us back from debate into discernment, from chat into silence. Before we spoke in our small groups, there was always a moments pause. From this still place we could enter into the conversation.

In our own lives we can be so busy. We squeeze God into the noise and debate of everyday life, and wonder why its hard to hear Gods will in our lives. Jessie reminded us this weekend, that in order to hear, one must listen! In order to know Gods voice, one needs to become quiet and listen.

So this weekend we pray for a listening ear, so that we can sing this hymn from our heart:
Shepherd of my soul I give you full control,
Wherever You may lead I will follow.
I have made the choice to listen for Your voice,
Wherever You may lead I will go.

Be it in a quiet pasture or by a gentle stream,
The Shepherd of my soul is by my side.
Should I face a mighty mountain or a valley dark and deep,
The Shepherd of my soul will be my guide.

Other reflections on this weeks gospel:

Word on Fire
Sunday Reflections
Centre for Liturgy
English Dominicans
Liturgical odds & ends

Liturgy of the Hours - psalter week 4

Saints of the Week
April 18th - Saint Laserian of Leighlin
April 19th - Saint Gerold of Saxony
April 20th - Blessed Maurice Mackenraghty
April 21st - St Anselm
April 22nd - Blessed Francis of Fabriano
April 23rd - Saint George

Pope Francis visit to Lesbos to highlight the plight of Syrian Refugees

Crux - Pope visits Greece to put faces, names on refugee crisis
Crux - Pope Francis brings twelve refugees to Rome on papal plane

Vatican Radio:
Pope makes emotional visit to refugees at Moria camp
Pope has lunch with refugees at Moria camp on Lesbos
Pope's powerful example of solidarity speaks to an indifferent world
Pope Francis, Patr. Bartholomew, ABP Ieronymos sign joint declaration in Lesbos

Full Text of Pope Francis' in-flight interview from Lesbos to Rome
In Greece, Pope Francis tells migrants 'you are not alone'
‘It makes you weep,’ pope says of refugees’ stories

NYT - Pope Francis Takes 12 Refugees Back to Vatican After Trip to Greece

15 Apr 2016

Some web browsing......

The Fruitful Witness of the Family of Pope Benedict XVI


Pope Francis to visit the Greek island of Lesbos
Pope Francis in Lesbos: island’s only Catholic parish priest ahead of visit
Pope Prays at Santa Maria Maggiore Before Departing for Lesbos - Francis Travels to Rome’s Marian Basilica to Pray for Mary’s Protection for His Visit to Greek Island to Meet With Refugees
Could Pope Francis' visit to Greece be a game-changer for refugees?
Pope Francis aims to cash in political muscle with stop in Greece

Persecution of Christians can have a polite disguise, Pope Francis warns
'We too are living in a time of martyrdom', Pope tells Scottish seminarians

Bono goes to Washington, gets tough on refugee crisis

Trócaire nominated to share $1m human rights prize
Just war theory should be abandoned, says conference hosted by Vatican
Vatican conference urges end to doctrine of ‘just wars’

The retrograde intransigence of conservative Catholics

Limerick synod presents ‘mandate’ for lay-led Church

Rumors of God’s Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

RGC3: What is a Man? Redefining Male Success

For Catholic astronauts, flying to space doesn’t mean giving up the faith

Can an Outsider Ever Truly Become Amish? One of the rarest religious experiences you can have in America is to join the Plain.

Sanders fracas offers a needed reminder that ‘the Vatican’ is a myth
Pontifical Academy appraises Centesimus annus
Bernie Sanders - The Urgency of a Moral Economy: Reflections on the 25th Anniversary of Centesimus Annus
Prepared Statement by Bernie Sanders for Vatican Conference is an Accurate Reading of CST
In Vatican speech, Sanders plays to the house

Limerick Diocesan Synod 2016 – A personal reflection

After what has been both a very quick but also a very long eighteen months the event which was Limerick’s Diocesan Synod has come and gone. But what has the process of synod meant?

As delegates we have walked the camino together answering the invitation from Bishop Brendán in his pastoral letter Together in Mission: A Time to begin again. With laughter, tears, moments of frustration and prayer we have worked our way through twenty three different events with many hours of efforts and prayers! Reflecting on the process of synod and what it has meant for us over the last year and a half will take time, discerning exactly what it has meant for each of us personally. As our unofficial Synod spiritual director Jessie Rogers has reminded us throughout the journey, becoming a synodal church is a prayerful process and we need to take time and space to be able to formulate where God is leading us. It has been a novel experience for Irish Catholics but something which  but over the last few days since that final dismissal at St John’s cathedral a couple of images and thoughts have been swirling around and which I thought to share.

Rublev’s Icon of the Trinity – Synod as an invitation to a dialogue of the community in communion

Back in October 2014, we had one of our first sessions or gathering of synod delegates at the Raddisson Hotel where we were introduced to the concept of being Hunter Gatherers of Hope and Opportunity as we set out on the Listening Process as part of Synod. It seems a long time since Chris Schoch lead us through the steps in opening up the synod to the wider diocesan community and showing us how to facilitate that listening process. It was a nerve wracking moment as we realised just exactly what would be involved – actually having to ask people deep questions about their faith!

At that event we are were asked to bring along some item which spoke to us about what synod meant to us and to share it with other delegates - my item was a copy of Rublev’s 15th century icon of the Trinity. This particular icon is one of my favourite icons along with the Madonna & Child from the Basilica of St Bartholomew in Rome. It is one icon which I can spend time with and each time notice something new or see something in a different way.
“Called by its traditional Eastern name it is known as “The Hospitality of Abraham.” It depicts the three angels who visited Abraham near the great trees of Mamre (Gen 18: 1-15), but has long come to be seen as an icon of the Trinity; although it must be said that it is far from clear that that the intention of the “writer” was to identify each of the three figures as a particular member of the Trinity. Tradition does however suggest that the central, and thus pivotal figure in the icon, is Jesus Christ incarnate.””[1] But in the context of Synod it was also reflective about being Eucharistic.

"The table or altar lies at the centre of the icon. It is at once the place of Abraham's hospitality to the angels, and God's place of hospitality to us". That ambiguity lies at the heart of communion, at the heart of worship, at the heart of Synod! “As soon as we open a sacred place for God to enter, for God to be welcomed and adored, it becomes his place. It is we who are welcomed, it is we who must 'take off our shoes' because of the holiness of the ground”[2].
As the blogger Paul Fromant[3] makes the point “one of the first features to draw your attention in Rublev’s icon is its inherent invitation – an empty seat at the table beckons you. But, “how”? How is it possible for us to enter into this relational mystery – to sit, as it were, at the table? How do we move from talking about God (as Trinity) to a way of relating too and being in relationship with this tri-personal God?”  And it was that idea of being invited into a sacred sharing which was one of the first things that struck me about Synod.
Each Synod encounter was to become a Sacrament of Encounter where we were ministering to each other. It sounds very theological and pie in the sky but easier said than done! Irish people tend to be forthright and when it comes to things we are passionate about like our faith and our church we don’t tend to hold back! We challenged and consoled each other throughout the various sharing’s and open forums, moments of drama and reflection but overall with patience and forbearance without any hasty reactions to see where the process would lead and ultimately to come back to being a praying community in communion with each other (more or less!).
It was very much something that Fr Paul Philibert picked up in his address in November 2015. Being on pilgrimage together brought us into contact with people who we might not readily journey with if we had a choice. It is a reminder that in synod “We journey together toward this dynamic sign from different starting points. We come with distinct roles, different talents, varied preoccupations, and diverse experiences. But we meet as peers: all of us baptized into Christ, anointed by the Spirit, and called to the work of building up the church”. And we needed to be realistic about what that meant for us as delegates in the work we were undertaking and the humility and patience we needed with our fellow pilgrims on the way recognising our mutual giftedness in the journey. It is also a reminder that baptism is the qualification for participating in synod, not whether one is ordained or not or has theology qualifications to your name.
Synod Candle – A light in the darkness? Passing on the Light of Faith
On the evening of 3rd April, Bishop Brendan Leahy officially opened the Limerick Diocesan Synod 2016 at a joy filled Mass in St John’s Cathedral. The first synod in Ireland in around 50 years and the first in Limerick in 80 years it was – as Bishop Brendan reminded us – providential that our synod would be opening on Divine Mercy Sunday in the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy and that the following day (4th April) the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help would be processed through the streets of Limerick.
One of the more moving parts of the liturgy for me was the lighting of the Synod candle. To be honest I don’t know why but for some reason it touched me deeply. Coming a week after the Easter Vigil I hadn’t expected it to raise so many emotions and thoughts to mind but the very act of lighting the Synod Candle from the Paschal candle seemed to bring our work over the last eighteen months into focus and to say, after all our journeying together, the initial phase of this part of the synod camino seemed to have the beginning of the end in sight.

The lighting of a candle can seem a very simple thing. In our modern world we seemed to have rediscovered the humble candle. But that simple act of lighting the candle brought to mind a kaleidoscope of personal memory and thoughts:

·         The primary one was of images of standing as godfather for my nephew at the same font which I was baptised and that line from the rite of baptism where the priest said to us “Receive the light of Christ. Parents and Godparents, this light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly. This child of yours has been enlightened by Christ. He is to walk always as a child of the light. May he keep the flame of faith alive in his heart. When the Lord comes, may he go out to meet him with all the saints in the heavenly kingdom.” It was a reminder why I had started out on this camino, to ensure that in our diocese of Limerick we kept that light alive and burning to hand on as we had received it.

·         Roaring bonfires at Easter vigils in many different places with Muintearas Iosa,  with the singing of seven to eight different Alleluia’s to truly celebrate Easter and mark our Easter joy which was very much my experience of an Eaglais Oige in Limerick. A reminder that I wanted other young people to have that experience of joy and sharing which has so shaped my understanding of faith and church.

·         A church yard in Khartoum, Sudan which shares a compound with the local mosque. The Paschal fire burning brightly beside a shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes to which the local Muslim women in particular visit daily. The fuel in the fire from trees surrounding the local mosque donated to the church for our festival in a sign of neighbourliness – a reminder of those for whom public profession of faith is an illegal act but that amidst the conflict community still matters no matter what. A reminder that we are part of the catholic or universal church and that this building up of the church in Limerick would be as much for my friends and former neighbours in Sudan and Uganda.

·         Finally a reminder of Paschal candles standing at the head of two coffins. In the eighteen months of this camino, I had lost two companions on the way, my grandmother and a good family friend and fellow delegate Fr Jim Noonan. One of the last things I did for my grandmother before she was taken to hospital for the last time was to give her a copy of the Synod prayer card. Fr Jim had been a fellow delegate and the debrief and discussion of all events synod related was as much part of the camino process as the preparatory commission meetings on the first Thursday of every month.

So many people have said to me lately that the world is a scary place. There seems to be an enveloping darkness around us, a miasma of despair and fatalism. Coming after the celebration of Easter we should be rejoicing and reminding ourselves that we are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song!

As the synod candle was lit it was a reminder from St John that “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5) Or as Isaiah reminds us, The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” (Isaiah 9:2).  

St. John of the Cross’s poem, “On a Dark Night,” captures the invisible force of the darkness leading us to the illuminating joy of God the lover:

Oh, night that guided me,
Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,
Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover,
Lover transformed in the Beloved!
God is always calling us to the light, transforming what feels like bleak emptiness into a joy-filled abiding with God, a divine light that the darkness cannot overcome.
The psalmist reminds us that Easter means we should be people of hope, people of encouragement and that synod reminds us of that responsibility, to be messengers of hope!

“Awake my soul, awake lyre and harp, I will awake the dawn” (Psalm 57)
Or again in Psalm 41

“Why are you cast down my soul, why groan within me? Hope in God; I will praise him still, my saviour and my God”

Icon of the Transfiguration – Synod as a Mount Tabor moment

The Transfiguration is one of my favourite events in the Gospels. It speaks to me in so many ways and I have been able to reflect on it on many occasions. And for the participants of Synod, it was like a Tabor moment where we went aside with the Lord and some companions on the way. Mary Immaculate may not have been a mountain but we have walked far to get to the actual event of Synod itself. While we were there I think it would be fair to say we had a theophany or manifestation of the Lord. Not in clouds and voices from the heavens, but in the gathering of people in community and communion with one another (“Where two or three are gathered in my name……), gathered in prayer and openness to see what way the Spirit would blow and at the end echoing the words of St Peter “it was good for us to be here”.

We had our Moses figures representing the freedom of the law and doctrine as set out by previous generations, freedom in the sense of exploring the outer peripheries but in communion with those who had explored before. We had our Elijah figures representing the prophetic and the need to go to the margins, to remind us of the calls of social justice and the need to be respond to the ecological crisis which is engulfing the planet.

And while there in communion and fellowship there were moments when we could have been St Peter and the other disciples. Moments when you didn’t want to have to face back out into the hostile world. When it was pleasant to be with people of similar mind who didn’t regard you as a lunatic fringe because you regard faith as being an important and integral part of what it means to be human.

But the important part of the story of Mount Tabor is not just the event of the Transfiguration which strengthened the apostles for what was to come; but rather the important thing is to come down from the mountain and how hard that will be and what it means after coming down.

As Bishop Brendán reminded us “If the synod were to be no more than an event of a few days, it would probably be a waste of time. The risk being that it will only produce a report to gather dust on the shelf. The Synod will have to mark a real step forward, indicating a realistic pathway of genuine renewal for all of us who feel faith is important. For the Synod to be successful it will need to touch each one of us personally. It will have to be underwritten by a “soul” dimension”.

Back in November 2014 Fr Paul Philibert set out the challenge of Synod and its impact as us - what would it all mean? “When all is said and done and the Acts of the Synod are published what will it mean for Limerick that we have held a synod? What will it mean for the mission of the diocese of Limerick and its self-understanding of itself?” Fr Philibert posed the challenge to us in terms of the call by Pope Paul VI for the church to rediscover that it is called to be evangelisers in the world ‘The task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the church.’ The church ‘exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace’ to the world. Paul VI also insisted: ‘The church is an evangelizer, but she begins by being evangelized herself.… She has a constant need of being evangelized, if she wishes to retain freshness, vigor and strength in order to proclaim the gospel.’

Fr Paul reminded us, “You are being invited to move beyond lethargy, beyond apathy; to let go of anger and frustration; to risk going beyond pain and fear. You are being asked to become less self-centred, self-concerned, and see yourselves and everything else in a new way…....The synod could be an invitation to enter a new age of hope and discovery, a new age of joy and investment, leading to new challenges but also to deeper peace. It is a chance for a spiritual freedom that will allow you to rediscover the call of your Lord and Saviour and to respond from the depths of your heart with generosity and creativity………….I asked, “What will the synod mean for you?” The answer of course will be different in each case. But for everyone it will mean taking responsibility for the gifts that we have been given and bringing them to life. It will mean becoming Christian in the world for the sake of the world. It will mean learning how to become a sacrament of divine love.”

As Bishop Ken Kieran reminded us in St Johns, Synod is over, it is an end of the beginning, now truly the work begins.

Synod is over, let the work commence!