29 Aug 2018

General Audience after Ireland trip: The pope on World Meeting of Families and Sexual Abuse - Rome Reports

Vatican News - Pope Francis: Families an eloquent sign of God’s dream - At his General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis looks back on his visit to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families.

Best images from Pope Francis' trip to Ireland - Rome Reports

Upcoming Schedule on SS102fm and a mea culpa from your blog editor

Your humble blog editor has to issue a mea culpa for the delays on posting this weeks programme blog post (with its corresponding confusion on our podcast listing) and also the general lack of blog activity over the last few days. However, it is rather difficult to blog from 30,000 feet as your editor was in transit back to the Emerald Isle from far away places.

However, my sojourn here is only a temporary visitation as I will be heading off for a four week break and my colleague Lorraine will taking the reins of this enterprise until the end of September! 

As it happens, a lot of the SS102fm team will be away at various stages over the next few weeks but we wanted to give you an indication of the up coming programmes and how SS102fm is going to deal with the WMoF2018 and the visit of Pope Francis to Ireland.

  • 2nd September - Humane Vitae@50
  • 9th September - Reflecting with the Examen Prayer
  • 16th September - SS102fm catches up with the Emmanuel Community in Ireland
  • 23 September - WMoF (No 1) - Various talks, reflections and witness testimonies from WMoF2018
  • 30th September - WMoF (No 2) - The Pilgrims experience of WMoF2018 - volunteers and pilgrims share their experiences of WMoF2018
  • 7th October - WMoF (No 3) - The Papal WMoF2018: SS102fm reviews and reflects on what Pope Francis said during WMoF2018
  • 14th October - Mission Sunday and the Canonisation of Pope Paul VI and Bishop Oscar Romero.
Over the next couple of weeks we are going to go through the online coverage of WMoF2018 and bring to you various highlights from the event and Pope Francis visit to Ireland.

Thanks for staying with us as we come up towards our 10th anniversary and we appreciate all our listeners and readers.

SS102fm Team

26th August 2018 - WMoF2018 in Ireland

On this weeks programme SS102fm can't really compete with the Main Event in Ireland this weekend but we are conscious of all our listeners and readers!

So we have our usual visit to the saints of the week, a short reflection on this weeks Sunday gospel.

Given the weekend that was in it, we also had a WMoF2018 link. As part of the preparation for the World Meeting of Families 2018 and the visit of Pope Francis to Ireland, a 6-part television series has been commissioned by the World Meeting of Families to help explore the document written by Pope Francis on love in the family.

‘A Journey through Amoris Laetitia’ features a wide variety of well-known commentators, as well as families from all walks of life and from all over the world.  Contributors include President of Caritas Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, speaker and author Jeff Cavins, Bishop Robert Barron, John and Clare Gabrowski (Pontifical Council for the Family) and Primate of all Ireland Archbishop Eamon Martin.

Through the six episodes, presented by Wendy Grace, we reflect on what Amoris Laetitia has to say to families as they experience the ups and downs of family life and how Pope Francis addresses key themes like imperfection, mercy and wider society while also offering an uplifting vision for the family.

You  can find out more about A Journey through Amoris Laetitia tv series you can find out about it HERE.

You can listen to the full programme podcast HERE.

You can listen to A Journey through Amoris Laetitia excerpted HERE

Gospel - John 6: 60 - 69

Many of Jesus' disciples who were listening said,
"This saying is hard; who can accept it?"
Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this,
he said to them, "Does this shock you?
What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending
to where he was before?
It is the spirit that gives life,
while the flesh is of no avail.
The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.
But there are some of you who do not believe."
Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe
and the one who would betray him.
And he said,
"For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me
unless it is granted him by my Father."
As a result of this,
many of his disciples returned to their former way of life
and no longer accompanied him.
Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?"
Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."
Reflections on this weeks gospel:

Word on Fire
Centre for Liturgy
Sunday Reflections 
English Dominicans

Liturgical odds & ends

Liturgy of the Hours: Psalter week 1

Saints of the week

27th August - St Monica
28th August - St Augustine of Hippo
29th August - The Passion of St John the Baptist
30th August - St Fiacre
31st August - St Aidan of Lindisfarne
1st September - St Giles

22 Aug 2018

Can't get to Dublin for the WMoF2018 Congress?

Many of us can't get to the pastoral congress which is the main focus of the WMoF2018 being hosted in Dublin's RDS from 22nd - 24th August but there are some options online for you to participate!

WMoF2018 are delighted to announce the release of the #WMOF2018 APP! Navigate & access the Programme schedule, Pilgrim Guide, Pilgrim Walk, News & Blog section, Videos & Social Media, among other features directly from your phone or iPad. Available on Apple Store & Android Play Store.

Check out the social media accounts of WMoF2018 especially their Twitter feed, their Facebook page, and of course the official website.

One thing which had slipped by us on SS102fm is the fact that some of the sessions and discussions at the congress are actually going to be livestreamed HERE!

For coverage of the event which isn't directly linked to the WMOF2018 organisers check out Crux's coverage  or S+L which seems to be more balanced and knowledgeable as the Irish mainstream media maintains its usual negativity about anything related to Catholicism and the church.

Hash tags on Twitter to pay attention to:



Keep an eye on the Twitter feeds of @IrishCathNews; @CatholicBishops; @DublinDiocese; and @Crux.

REPOST - "The Future of the Irish parish: Lessons from around the world" (28th & 29th August 2018) - IIPS -MIC St Patrick's Campus, Thurles

The Irish Institute for Pastoral Studies at Mary Immaculate College is a new part of MIC which is based on the campus of St Patrick's College in Thurles. It is intended that Thurles will serve as a centre for theological, pastoral and spiritual renewal in the entire region.

Fr Eamonn Fitzgibbon joined the SS102fm team on our weekly programme on 29th July 2018 to introduce the IIPS-MIC to WL102fm listeners and also to promote an upcoming exciting conference to be held at IIPS-MIC in August immediately after the WMoF2018 in Dublin.

The conference has as its theme "The Future of the Irish parish: Lessons from around the world" which brings together sharing's and experiences from all corners of the globe about the changing nature and meaning of parish life both within the church but also as an external manifestation of identity.

Parish life in Ireland both urban and rural has been under going massive change over the last number of years but is still a key part of Irish self identity and understanding. It is not for nothing that often the first question an Irish person asks another is not who are you, but rather where are you from?

With the forth coming decline in the number of priests in active ministry, the challenge has been for the Irish church to get to grips with how we understand and celebrate parishes as vibrant, living expressions of lived communities of faith with a model which is no longer so centred on the role and identity of the parish priest. 

The aim of the conference is to look to examples of this from around the world and to remind ourselves of the words of Pope Francis that "the parish is not an out-dated institution" (E.G.28, Pope Francis).

Speakers and topics at the conference are:
  • Lessons from New Zealand, Launch Out: Lay Pastoral Leadership Roles, (Cardinal John Dew, Archdiocese of Wellington, New Zealand)
  • Lessons from South Africa, The Parish as a Community of Communities (Bishop Michael Wüstenberg, Bishop Emeritus, Aliwal, South Africa)
  • Lessons from Liverpool,  The Experience of Widnes as a Witness to Team Ministry (Rev. Matthew Nunes Episcopal Vicar for Formation, Archdiocese of Liverpool)
  • Lessons from Canada,  Rites and Responsibilities: The Role of the Clergy and the Laity in the Catholic Church, (Dr Margaret Lavin, Professor Emeritus at Regis College, Toronto)
  • Applying the Learnings, Facilitated by Martin Kennedy and Dr Jessie Rogers.
You can visit the website of the Irish Institute for Pastoral Studies HERE.

Register for the conference 28th and 29th August HERE which also includes the full schedule and back ground information on each of the presenters and facilitators.

You can listen to Fr Eamonn Fitzgibbons interview excerpted from the main programme on 29th July 2018 podcast HERE.

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

Exclusive Photos: Walking the “Dublin Camino” for the World Meeting of Families 
A Capital Camino
Papal visit: Ireland's Catholic Church in graphs
Pope Francis and the Church in Ireland
Countdown to Dublin: Pilgrimage to Ireland - Salt and Light Media
Pope can ‘hold a mirror’ to ask deeper questions 
Public to have chance to greet Pope in Dublin city centre
Why Does the Pope’s Arrival Provoke Such Bitterness?


’This morning at Mass, I witnessed something I have never seen…’ 
Pope Francis’s Failed Abuse Letter 
We can only move forward when we name the evil of clericalism
The End of the Imperial Episcopate
Would a female priesthood disrupt sex abuse?

It Had Been A Good Day 

The spirituality of rest

Riding the Wave of God’s Surprises

Christianity Is Not A Cure For Suicide 

I Was Wholly Unprepared

Ecumenical Patriarch: we desire ‘with all our heart’ the restoration of Ukrainian Orthodox unity 

Syria - The monastery of St. Tekla in Maalula reopens

Australia Senate Defeats Bill Legalizing Assisted Suicide

Finding silence and learning to listen amidst the noise of modern life

21 Aug 2018

Pope Francis sends video message to Ireland ahead of his visit

Pope Francis sent a video message to the families meeting in Ireland. He says that the World Meeting of families is a celebration of the beauty of God’s plan for the family.

In the video message sent ahead of his visit, Pope Francis hopes that this occasion will be a source of renewed encouragement for families from all over the world, especially those families who will be there in Dublin.

WMoF2018 begins today

An Opening Ceremony for World Meeting of Families 2018 is taking place simultaneously across all 26 Dioceses of Ireland on the evening of Tuesday 21 August, with the lead ceremony taking place in Dublin. 

The Opening Liturgy will be a full celebration of Evening Prayer. Entitled ‘Le chéile le Críost’ (Together with Christ), it will gather the Church as the family of families, and set us on the path of celebration for the entire World Meeting of Families that will culminate with the closing Papal Mass on Sunday 26th August. It is taking place in every diocese in the country.

We will begin remembering that we walk in the footsteps of the saints and those who have handed on the faith to us. We welcome Christ our unfailing light, we sing and pray hymns, psalms and canticles, burn incense and pray for the entire human family before our God and Father. 


You can watch at St John's Cathedral HERE.


Official Prayer of WMoF2018

God, our Father,
We are brothers and sisters in Jesus your Son,
One family, in the Spirit of your love.

Bless us with the joy of love.

Make us patient and kind,
gentle and generous,
welcoming to those in need.
Help us to live your forgiveness and peace.

Protect all families with your loving care,
Especially those for whom we now pray:

[We pause and remember family members and others by name].

Increase our faith,
Strengthen our hope,
Keep us safe in your love,
Make us always grateful for the gift of life that we share.

This we ask, through Christ our Lord,


Mary, mother and guide, pray for us.
Saint Joseph, father and protector, pray for us.
Saints Joachim and Anne, pray for us.
Saints Louis and Zélie Martin, pray for us.

Hannon raises Liam to lift the weight of 45 years off a county's shoulders - Billy Keane, Irish Independent


If God ever made anything better than the hurling, he kept it for himself. Limerick take Liam at last after another epic poem of a match. Limerick at long last.

It was a day when thousands watched the silver screen in the open air cinema that was the Gaelic Grounds. This was a thriller.

The Children of The Sorrows rejoiced and paid homage to every clash of every ash, to every thundering Treaty thud, to every wristy flick of every Limerick stick, to every puck and every point, to every block and every stop and every treasury of every one of their three golden goals.

This is our game from time immemorial. This year's hurling championship is probably the most memorable in a long time and the last 20 minutes of this one was the most exciting game ever played.

Out there on Limerick's home pitch, Joe Canning's late goal was greeted with a sound no louder than a nun's sigh in the cloisters of a silent order. You could see the look of abject terror in Limerick eyes. Was it to be the same old sad story, all over again?

But then Graeme Mulcahy scored what turned out to be the winning point. The wait is over, Limerick is whole again, reborn and renewed.

Limerick did it for Joan Ryan and the many like her. Joan was dressed in a lovely green knitted cardigan. She is every bit the lady with the smile and the heart of a young girl. Joan never missed the pilgrimage to an All-Ireland with her husband Patrick. He's a Treaty Sarsfield's man. Patrick isn't well but Joan came to the Gaelic Grounds for her man and for her county. She gives a great hug.

Anne Reilly kept her Limerick name for the day. Her three kids were green from top to bottom.

There was a lovely moment when Anne's husband put his arm around her just after the national anthem. As a Mayo man knows the pain only too well and so it was he minded Anne.

Their little boy slept through it all. The cheering for Mulcahy's goal could have raised the dead and those that were there began to believe they would get to see Limerick win a Liam before they died. And maybe the little dreaming boy was dreaming of Limerick winning an All-Ireland at last. Dreams really do come true.

There was a treaty broken in Limerick in 1691 and a giant stone bears testimony to the treachery. These loyal Limerick supporters were glued to the giant screen and glued together by an unbreakable bond. They kept their word. Today in Croke Park as well. And the team kept their side of the treaty of communion.

So many stories of the long wait. Before the movie of The All-Ireland final we met John Leahy who taught hurling in Causeway Comprehensive. John was drenched in Croke Park back in'73 when Limerick last lifted Liam, and he too was ticketless. "All I ever wanted for the last 45 years was for Limerick to win an All-Ireland. And failing that, Tipp to be beaten."

Hurling lifts us and tells us we are indeed a people who can be rightly proud of who we are.

The heroes of Galway and Limerick emptied out every drop of passions pledge in our holy place, where sacrifices are made out of limb and sinew, muscle and bone, for home and fatherland.

Canning kept his head and scored seemingly at will, while all around were hitting wides. Aidan Harte from Gort kept on giving. James Skehill threw himself in front of a flying sliotar. He took a bullet for Galway. The Tribesmen died like All-Ireland champions should. Like men.

There was a sense of a wild and untamed Ireland and even pagan Ireland in those last few minutes.

Yes there are referees and don'ts but hurling is about dos and derring -dos. For no other game can set us free from the conventions of conformity.

Last week I met a young Kerry mother who was charged €50 to bring her 7-month-old baby in to the Galway game in Croke Park. I have involuntarily touched bellies with men with fat bellies on the way to my seat. These men and women with big handbags are a far greater risk to health and safety than a small baby. The good news was a Galway supporter gave the mother his own ticket for the baby.

This was a tax on motherhood but today was the greatest free show in Limerick since The Pope came here, back in 1979. Limerick City Council and Limerick GAA paid for all. They could easily have charged €20 a head but they didn't. There are some who never broke the treaty with their own people.

Limerick may not have corporate boxes or fancy restaurants or duck a la feckin orange ,but it has a heart and today thousands of hearts pounded as one.

In 1973 a young Limerick team won the All-Ireland and as Eamonn Grimes lifted up the cup on a rainy September day, hardly anyone present could possibly have imagined twoscore and four years would scroll by without a Limerick win.

There are new heroes now but the heroes of '73 will never be forgotten either. Nickie Quaid's Dad rests happy in heaven tonight. His boy is the Stephen Cluxton of hurling. It was a day for old ghosts and new heroes.

Declan Hannon from sweet Adare, led from the front. Declan raised the Liam MacCarthy Cup over his head, and in so doing he lifted the weight of 45 years off a county's shoulders.

Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis to the People of God

“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it” (1 Cor 12:26). These words of Saint Paul forcefully echo in my heart as I acknowledge once more the suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons. Crimes that inflict deep wounds of pain and powerlessness, primarily among the victims, but also in their family members and in the larger community of believers and nonbelievers alike. Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient. Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated. The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.

If one member suffers…
In recent days, a report was made public which detailed the experiences of at least a thousand survivors, victims of sexual abuse, the abuse of power and of conscience at the hands of priests over a period of approximately seventy years. Even though it can be said that most of these cases belong to the past, nonetheless as time goes on we have come to know the pain of many of the victims. We have realized that these wounds never disappear and that they require us forcefully to condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this culture of death; these wounds never go away. The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced. But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence it, or sought even to resolve it by decisions that increased its gravity by falling into complicity. The Lord heard that cry and once again showed us on which side he stands. Mary’s song is not mistaken and continues quietly to echo throughout history. For the Lord remembers the promise he made to our fathers: “he has scattered the proud in their conceit; he has cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty” (Lk 1:51-53). We feel shame when we realize that our style of life has denied, and continues to deny, the words we recite.

18 Aug 2018

19th August 2018 - 1978: The Year of the three Popes

On this weeks programme John, Shane and Lorraine take a look back into the history books to mark the 40th anniversary of the Year of Three  Popes. We have our regular notices, reflection on Sunday gospel as well as our usual visit to this weeks saints of the week.

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

1978 - The Year of the Three Popes

This year is the 40th anniversary of the Year of the Three Popes which occurred in 1978. The three popes involved were:
  • Paul VI, who was elected on 21 June 1963 and died on 6 August 1978. 
  • John Paul I, who was elected on 26 August 1978 and died thirty-three days later on 28 September 1978.
  • John Paul II, who was elected on 16 October 1978 and held the position until his death 26 years, 5 months, and 18 days later on 2 April 2005.
So on this weeks programme we discuss that eventful year and the impact it had on Church and world history with the end of the Italian stranglehold on the papacy and a shift to engagement with the world following the implementation of the Second Vatican Council.

BBC - 1978: Year of the three popes
‘Year of Three Popes’: Paul VI’s Death 40 Years Ago Heralded Whirlwind in Church

You can listen to the discussion about 1978 excerpted from the main programme podcast HERE.

Gospel - John 6:51-58

Jesus said to the crowds:
"I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my flesh for the life of the world."
The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying,
"How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"
Jesus said to them,
"Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.
For my flesh is true food,
and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me
and I have life because of the Father,
so also the one who feeds on me
will have life because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven.
Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died,
whoever eats this bread will live forever."
Reflections on this weeks gospel:

Word on Fire
English Dominicans
Centre for Liturgy
Sunday Reflections

Liturgical odds & ends

Liturgy of the Hours - Psalter week 4

Saints of the Week

August 20th - St Bernard of Clairvaux
August 21st -  St Pius X
August 22nd - Queenship of Mary
August 23rd - St Eoghan
August 24th - St Bartholomew
August 25th - St Louis of France

17 Aug 2018

Church at crossroads as Pope arrives says Bishop Leahy

Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy has said that visit of Pope Francis to Ireland is a crossroads moment for the Church in Ireland to acknowledge our past, good and bad.

In a pivotal moment in what he described as his own personal pilgrimage in preparation for the World Meeting of Families and visit of Pope Francis, Bishop Leahy said it is good for us to recall with a grateful heart just how much the Church contributed to Irish society.  But to acknowledge with gratitude the good can never eclipse recognition of sin, criminality and evil, he said.

We need, he said, to prepare for the Pope’s coming with a desire to want to “repair” the Church first of all by seeking forgiveness for the sins of the past.  As well as needing to pray for those who have been wounded we need to keep listening and to learn from them how to clarify and repair our church.

Bishop Leahy delivered his Feast of the Assumption of Mary homily at the Mass Rock in Killeedy, Co. Limerick, following Mass earlier at Ashford Church.  He chose the location as a symbolic gesture to bring, as is needed he said, the Catholic Church out into the open and to acknowledge the inspiration of not just Mary herself but also Limerick’s own St. Ita, after whom the parish of Killeedy is named.

“Without gratitude we grow cynical. We can and should be proud of the living commitment in faith and hope of those of previous generations. We can draw inspiration from it and express our thanks to them,” he said.

“But, then, we need to acknowledge the dark aspects of our Church’s history that have come to light especially in recent decades – a clericalism that ended up confusing power and ministry, the sexual abuse of minors by clergy and religious that did untold life-long damage to victims, the violent and repressive treatment by church representatives of young people sent to the State’s reformatory institutions, the dark experience of vulnerable women in places meant to be residences of refuge.  Sadly, as has been highlighted, cover-up, wilful or otherwise, and mismanagement compounded the damage, adding to our shame.

“We know that not every bishop or priest or sister or brother or lay person engaged in church circles was bad. And we know that not everyone was good. Those of us of a certain age, however, know many, many who were very kind, caring and helpful.  But to acknowledge with gratitude the good can never eclipse recognition of sin, criminality and evil. In some way, everyone in the church bears the shame of these darks aspects of our history. Few of us can throw stones as if we ourselves were not somehow associated.”

Bishop Leahy’s homily was built around three pillars for preparing for the Pope’s arrival, the first was the need to acknowledge the good and bad of the past, with the second that we need to be proactive in repairing the Church. It really is better, he said, to light a candle than curse the darkness.

“The Church isn’t just the Pope or bishops or priests or nuns. The Church is a people, it’s you and me who continue, despite (or, indeed, in and through) all our limits, to be Jesus Christ in this world. What’s most important in the Church is love. And this is why the family is so important. It’s the place where we first learn the ways of love. True, there’s no such thing as a perfect family. Each family is on a journey but it is the special place of love given, love received, love shared and experienced.”

The third element, he continued, was to look to the future with hope. “Catholics can be downbeat today because it is painful to acknowledge in our family story that we have wounded people. It isn’t easy, not least for those who are proud of their Church and the good work that it does and they do in it, to hear our own Catholic identity pilloried daily in one way or another.

“The group think that says to be Catholic is out of date seems sometimes overwhelming. But let’s remember, if Jesus had spent his time worrying about what people were saying about him or seeing how the numbers following him were declining - and the numbers following Jesus declined dramatically in his life time - he would have achieved little. Instead, he kept going forward in hope. Likewise, for us. We need to move forward, attentive to what the Spirit is saying to us,” he said.

Bishop Leahy said that it would be a shame to lose the memory of our Christian heritage.  “The Church of tomorrow will be very different,” he continued.  “To be Catholic isn’t simply about Mass on Sunday or certain moral rules or pious practices. Unfortunately, too often, and perhaps we ourselves are partly to blame, our Catholic faith has been reduced to this caricature.  Catholic faith is something much more alive and dynamic……

“It can seem at times in Ireland that religion has to be relegated to the private domain alone.  I acknowledge a Catholicism that spoke to a previous era might seem too confining to people today. There is a desire to break out, open new horizons, be in dialogue with world horizons, go beyond frontiers. But this is the very change the Catholic Church itself knows it needs.

“But in searching for the new, let’s be careful not to discard too easily what is valuable and noble and deep in our Irish Christian heritage. To throw away what seems no longer fit for purpose shouldn’t mean we end up eclipsing the huge resources of insight and wisdom, intellectual research and enlightenment within the Christian parameters that speak of human fulfilment and freedom.”

Addressing young people, he said: “There are many, many very fine young people today, with great values of respect and toleration and inclusiveness. Their difficulty with finding a connection with the Church isn’t their fault. We need young people to help Church-attending members to find the way forward on how to reconnect youth cultures and Church.  Might this visit of Pope Francis be a moment when young people might look again at what the Church really has to offer? We need you because you are part of our access to what God is saying to the Church today. We need you to help us find the ways towards the future that God has marked out for us all.”

Concluding, he added: “We’re here in a region associated with St. Ita, the great woman saint who built the Church community in her day. And today, Feast of the Assumption, we think of Mary, the mother of Jesus, our mother. She did the most important thing in history – she brought Jesus into the world and so transformed it. Now it’s our turn to do our part. Pope Francis’ visit is like an appointment with history for us. Let’s not miss it.”

Bishop Leahy’s full homily:

Limerick Diocese’s Preparation for Pope Francis

We are now beginning the Countdown to the World meeting of Families and the arrival of Pope Francis to our shores, the 266th Pope in history and only the second ever to visit Ireland. While the Pope is certainly a world celebrity and hugely popular for Catholics he is an instrument in the hands of God. Of course, he is a human being like all of us, a “sinner” as he defines himself, and yet he is a special person linked particularly to the Holy Spirit. As Catherine of Siena, one of the great women saints of the Church put it, the Pope is the gentle Christ on earth.

Our Lady of Knock - Queen of Ireland

Our Lady of Knock , Queen of Ireland, you gave hope to your people in a time of distress and comforted them in sorrow. You have inspired countless pilgrims to pray with confidence to your divine Son, remembering His promise, “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find”. Help me to remember that we are all pilgrims on the road to Heaven. Fill me with love and concern for my brothers and sisters in Christ, especially those who live with me. Comfort me when I am sick, lonely or depressed. Teach me how to take part ever more reverently in the Holy Mass. Give me a greater love of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Pray for me now and at the end of my death. Amen.

Follow the Lamb

Right at the end of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, one of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia stories, there’s an extraordinary passage, rich in spiritual insight. Having sailed further than anyone before, the characters in the story have reached the edge of the world, and are on the border with ‘Aslan’s Country’ (an allegory of heaven). There, in this strange, liminal space, they meet a little lamb on a beach, a lamb ‘so white they could hardly look at it’. The lamb addresses the children ‘in its sweet milky voice’, and while Edmund and Lucy dialogue with him, a transformation takes place: ‘As [the Lamb] spoke, his snowy white flushed into tawny gold and his size changed and he was Aslan himself, towering above them and scattering light from his mane’. Aslan the Lion, who of course represents Jesus Christ, had been showing himself to the children in the form of a Lamb.

If you’re familiar with the Book of Revelation, this Narnian scene might ring a few bells. In Chapter 5 of that book, John is shown a scroll sealed with seven seals which no-one can open. John weeps because the scroll cannot be opened, but is then told: ‘Weep not; behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals’. But when John looks up to see this great Lion, he sees instead ‘a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain’. The Lion of Judah is none other than the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.

This scene from Revelation is essential to understanding the nature of Jesus Christ and his saving work, represented so clearly for us in the apparition at Knock. John is expecting to see a great strong beast who will tear the seals from the scroll, but is shown instead a slain little lamb, the very epitome of weakness, who is nevertheless ‘worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals’.

This gets to the heart of Christ’s saving work. Jesus Christ was true God, he created the entire universe, and holds it all in being, yet he came among us as a defenceless child, as a simple carpenter’s son, as one who weeps, is hungry, is rejected, and finally as one who suffers and dies on the Cross. At any point in his earthly life, he could have shown his omnipotence and vanquished all his assailants, but he deliberately chooses not to: the great Lion of the tribe of Judah shows himself as a slain Lamb.

And yet, in this deliberately chosen weakness lies the invincible strength of Christ’s work for our salvation. It is by means of his suffering and death that he saves us from our sins. The slain Lamb rises, victorious over death, scattering light on those who approach him, opening up the way to salvation. The Lamb of God is not a frolicking pet; He is powerful enough to ‘take away the sins of the world’. He is, as we love to sing in Knock, the Lamb who conquers.

What does all this mean for us? If the Lamb who appeared in Knock all those years ago is also the Lion of Judah, if his meek sweetness is allied to iron strength, how should we seek to follow him? How should we imitate his curious mix of weakness and strength?

There are many in the contemporary world, and especially in contemporary Ireland, who relish the idea of a weak Church. Some point to a time in the past when the Church had too much worldly power, and propose that the time is ripe for humility on the part of the Church. Others go further and suggest that the Church should have little to no role in official Ireland: no schools, no universities, no hospitals, no influence in public life. Christianity is thereby nicely neutered, and becomes so meek and mild as to be easily ignored. Strangely, this attitude is not just prevalent among those outside the fold, but also among many followers of Christ who are, perhaps, keen to avoid conflict.

There are others, far less numerous, who hope the Church will return to worldly power. Especially in the face of the rise of Islam, one hears murmurings of ‘new crusades’ and ‘muscular Christianity’. Strongman politicians in both east and west make gushing promises about the return of the Church to the corridors of power. What the Church needs, according to this approach, is more money, more buildings, greater manpower, and a new boldness.

Each of these approaches falls short of what it means to follow the Lamb-who-is-Lion, and each is boringly predictable. One is all Lamb and no Lion, the other is all Lion and no Lamb. To follow Christ authentically means being willing to be weak even when strength is an option, and being willing to be strong even when weakness is attractive. Christ is not ‘tame’, he is not domesticated or predictable, he does not fit into our worldly or political categories, and neither should his followers.

In our own times, perhaps the greatest example of such a follower was St Teresa of Calcutta, who visited this shrine in 1993. Think of how she deliberately chose weakness by responding to her ‘call within a call’: God’s invitation to leave the solid structures of the Loreto Sisters and serve the poorest of the poor by living among them. Here is the lamb who was slain. And yet, what a lion she was when she received her Nobel Peace Prize, shocking her bien pensant audience with her ringing denunciation of the violence of abortion.

Following the Lamb, in other words, being a Christian, is not something we can plan ahead of time. We can’t always know in advance when to be defiant in the face of injustice, and when to suffer it meekly, when to denounce wrongdoing, and when to tolerate it, when to preach the Gospel with words, and when to demonstrate it in silent actions. As followers of the Lamb-who-is-Lion we are called, not to predictable security, but to adventure. This adventure can be unsettling, but He is with us.

Together with all the living creatures and elders and angels of the Book of Revelation, let’s take this day in Knock as an opportunity to kneel before the Lamb and to say: ‘Lord, I let go of my own plans and projects, of my limited ideas and tame dreams. I let go of all these things and I choose to follow You, the Lamb who was slain, the Lion of Judah’.

Fr. Conor B. McDonough. O.P.

15 Aug 2018

Bishop says church needs to recognise ‘dark aspects’ of its history

From The Irish Times

The visit of Pope Francis to Ireland is a pivotal moment for the church to acknowledge its past, good and bad, the Catholic Bishop of Limerick has said.

In a key homily delivered ahead of the second ever papal visit to Ireland, Bishop Brendan Leahy said, in some way, everyone in the church bears the shame of the dark aspects of its history.

Speaking at Mass Rock in Killeedy, Co Limerick, Bishop Leahy listed out the litany of grave issues that have damned the Catholic Church in Ireland over recent decades. He said, that as has been highlighted, cover up, wilful or otherwise, and mismanagement, had compounded the damage adding to the shame.

During what he described as his own personal pilgrimage to the World Meeting of Families and visit of Pope Francis, the Bishop of Limerick said it was good to recall how much the Church contributed to Irish society. But to acknowledge with gratitude the good can never eclipse recognition of sin, criminality and evil, he added.

“We need to acknowledge the dark aspects of our Church’s history that have come to light especially in recent decades - a clericalism that ended up confusing power and ministry, the sexual abuse of minors by clergy and religious that did untold life-long damage to victims, the violent and repressive treatment by church representatives of young people sent to the State’s reformatory institutions, the dark experience of vulnerable women in places meant to be residences of refuge.

“Sadly, as has been highlighted, cover-up, wilful or otherwise, and mismanagement compounded the damage, adding to our shame.”

Bishop Leahy delivered his Feast of the Assumption of Mary homily on Wednesday morning at Mass Rock in Kileedy following earlier mass at Ashford Church. He chose the location as a symbolic gesture to bring, as is needed he said, the Catholic Church out into the open and to acknowledge the inspiration of not just Mary herself but also Limerick’s own St Ita, after whom the parish of Killeedy is named.

We need, he said, to prepare for the Pope’s coming with a desire to want to “repair” the Church first of all by seeking forgiveness for the sins of the past.

“We know that not every bishop or priest or sister or brother or lay person engaged in church circles was bad. And we know that not everyone was good. Those of us of a certain age, however, know many, many who were very kind, caring and helpful.

“But to acknowledge with gratitude the good can never eclipse recognition of sin, criminality and evil. In some way, everyone in the church bears the shame of these darks aspects of our history. Few of us can throw stones as if we ourselves were not somehow associated,” he continued.

Bishop Leahy said even though the Catholic Church in Ireland now has a range of services in place and very active training programmes in safeguarding, it needs to know how to stay with an awareness of the pervasiveness of abuse and those dark parts of our human nature that tend to exploit weakness and vulnerability.

“As well as needing to pray for those who have been wounded we need to keep listening and to learn from them how to clarify and repair our church,” he added.

Bishop Leahy said the church of tomorrow will be very different, and appealed directly to young people to find a way forward to reconnect youth cultures and church.

“Might this visit of Pope Francis be a moment when young people might look again at what the Church really has to offer? We need you because you are part of our access to what God is saying to the Church today. We need you to help us find the ways towards the future that God has marked out for us all.”

14 Aug 2018

15th August 2018 - Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give You thanks,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God,
through Christ our Lord.
For today the Virgin Mother of God
was assumed into heaven
as the beginning and image
of Your Church’s coming to perfection
and a sign of sure hope and comfort to Your pilgrim people;
rightly You would not allow her
to see the corruption of the tomb
since from her own body she marvellously brought forth
Your incarnate Son, the Author of all life. 
(The 1973 version of the Preface for the Mass of the Solemnity)

The 15th August in the Latin/western tradition is the celebration of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. While having different theological foci on the celebration, it is a common liturgical date of celebration for both Catholics and Orthodox Christians.

The dogma was officially declared by Pope Pius XII in 1950 in the apostolic constitution  Munificentissimus Deus. The apostolic constitution traces out the ancient understanding of the dogma going back through the centuries and emphasises that its official declaration by Pope Pius XII was seen as only the official confirmation of a belief long held in the Tradition of the church rather than as something new. Rather than something imposed by Pius XII, consultation was made with the bishops and on May 1, 1946, a letter "Deiparae Virginis Mariae," was issued which asked, "Do you, venerable brethren, in your outstanding wisdom and prudence, judge that the bodily Assumption of the Blessed Virgin can be proposed and defined as a dogma of faith? Do you, with your clergy and people, desire it?" with a response very much in the affirmative.

So, Pius XII declared that:

"Hence the revered Mother of God, from all eternity joined in a hidden way with Jesus Christ in one and the same decree of predestination,(47) immaculate in her conception, a most perfect virgin in her divine motherhood, the noble associate of the divine Redeemer who has won a complete triumph over sin and its consequences, finally obtained, as the supreme culmination of her privileges, that she should be preserved free from the corruption of the tomb and that, like her own Son, having overcome death, she might be taken up body and soul to the glory of heaven where, as Queen, she sits in splendour at the right hand of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages.......after we have poured forth prayers of supplication again and again to God, and have invoked the light of the Spirit of Truth, for the glory of Almighty God who has lavished his special affection upon the Virgin Mary, for the honour of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages and the Victor over sin and death, for the increase of the glory of that same august Mother, and for the joy and exultation of the entire Church; by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory......
 The following reading on the Assumption (known by eastern Christians as the Dormition) of Mary is taken from the first homily of St. John Damascene on the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
“But even though, according to nature, your most holy and happy soul is separated from your most blessed and stainless body and the body as usual is delivered to the tomb, it will not remain in the power of death and is not subject to decay. For just as her virginity remained inviolate while giving birth, when she departed her body was preserved from destruction and only taken to a better and more divine tabernacle, which is not subject to any death . . . Hence I will call her holy passing not death, but falling asleep or departure, or better still, arrival. . . .

"Your stainless and wholly immaculate body has not been left on earth; the Queen, the Mistress, the Mother of God who has truly given birth to God has been translated to the royal palaces of heaven. .

 "Angels and archangels have borne you upwards, the impure spirits of the air have trembled at your ascension. The air is purified, the ether sanctified by your passing through them. . . the powers meet you with sacred hymns and much solemnity, saying something like this: Who is she that comes forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, elect like the sun? [cf. Cant 6:9] How you have blossomed forth, how sweet you have become! You are the flower of the field, a lily among the thorns [Cant 2.1] . . . Not like Elijah have you entered heaven, not like Paul have you been rapt to the third heaven; no, you have penetrated even to the royal throne of your Son himself . . . a blessing for the world, a sanctification of the universe, refreshment for those who are tired, comfort for the sorrowing, healing for the sick, a port for those in danger, pardon for sinners, soothing balm for the oppressed, quick help for all who pray to you. . .

“Good Mistress, graciously look down on us; direct and guide our destinies wheresoever you will. Pacify the storm of our wicked passions, guide us into the quiet port of the divine will and grant us the blessedness to come.”

  • While no longer being updated, one blog which we often recommend for reflections is Blue Eyed Ennis; check out these posts here, here and here (the last one is an interesting reflection on Struggling with the Assumption).