31 Oct 2018

November 1st - All Saints of God - Pray for us!

"The glorious company of the apostles praises you, the noble fellowship of the prophets praises you, the white robed army of martyrs praises you, all the saints together sing your glory, O Holy Trinity, One God"  
- Magnificat Antiphon I Vespers

On November 1st the Church celebrates all the saints: canonized or beatified, and the multitude of those who are in heaven enjoying the beatific vision that are only known to God. During the early centuries the Saints venerated by the Church were all martyrs. Later on the Popes set November 1 as the day for commemorating all the Saints. We all have this "universal call to holiness." What must we to do in order to join the company of the saints in heaven? We "must follow in His footsteps and conform [our]selves to His image seeking the will of the Father in all things. [We] must devote [our]selves with all [our] being to the glory of God and the service of [our] neighbor. In this way, the holiness of the People of God will grow into an abundant harvest of good, as is admirably shown by the life of so many saints in Church history" (Lumen Gentium, 40).

Mass readings for today HERE.

Pope Benedict XVI reflecting on the feast day (01 Nov 2011):

"The Solemnity of All Saints is a good occasion to raise our eyes from temporal matters, which are marked by time, to the dimension of God, the dimension of eternity and sanctity",...... "Today's liturgy reminds us that sanctity is the primary vocation of all the baptised. In fact Christ, Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit is alone holy, loved the Church as His bride and gave Himself for her so as to sanctify her. For this reason, all members of the People of God are called to become saints. ... We are, then, invited to look to the Church not only in her temporal and human guise, which is tainted by fragility, but as Christ wished her to be: a 'communion of saints'. ... Today we venerate this innumerable community of All Saints who, by their different lives, show us the different ways to sanctity, sharing the single common denominator of following Christ and conforming themselves to Him, which is the final goal of our human existence".

H/t Blue Eyed Ennis for image

All Saints’ Day is a time to rejoice in all who through the ages have faithfully served the Lord. The day reminds us that we are part of one continuing, living communion of saints. It is a time to claim our kinship with the “glorious company of apostles … the noble fellowship of prophets … the white-robed army of martyrs” (Te Deum). It is a time to express our gratitude for all who in ages of darkness kept the faith, for those who have take the gospel to the ends of the earth, for prophetic voices who have called the church to be faithful in life and service, for all who have witnessed to God’s justice and peace in every nation. 

To rejoice with all the faithful of every generation expands our awareness of a great company of witnesses above and around us like a cloud (Hebrews 12:1). It lifts us out of a preoccupation with our own immediate situation and the discouragements of the present. In the knowledge that others have persevered, we are encouraged to endure against all odds (Hebrews 12:1-2). Reminded that God was with the faithful of the past, we are reassured that God is with us today, moving us and all creation toward God’s end in time. 
- Presbyterian Companion to the Book of Common Worship

A Sonnet for All Saints Day

Though Satan breaks our dark glass into shards
Each shard still shines with Christ’s reflected light,
It glances from the eyes, kindles the words
Of all his unknown saints. The dark is bright
With quiet lives and steady lights undimmed,
The witness of the ones we shunned and shamed.
Plain in our sight and far beyond our seeing
He weaves them with us in the web of being
They stand beside us even as we grieve,
The lone and left behind whom no one claimed,
Unnumbered multitudes, he lifts above
The shadow of the gibbet and the grave,
To triumph where all saints are known and named;
The gathered glories of His wounded love.


Asia Bibi declared innocent, death sentence overturned after nearly nine years of trial

29 Oct 2018

28th October 2018 - Margie Kennedy: From Nurse to Lay Minister

Sincere apologies to our blog audience this weekend. Due to unforeseen circumstances we were unable to publish the blog as usual on Sunday, but it was worth the wait! On this week's programme Margie Kennedy, a lay missionary with the Redemptorists, shares some of her life story, in particular how God led her from nursing to lay ministry. Margie reflects on her life and outlines certain moments when her faith grew and was nurtured through the movement of God and the witness of others. We also have our usual reflection on the Sunday Gospel, saints for the week, liturgical odds and ends and notices.

You can listen to the podcast of this weeks programme HERE.
Margie Kennedy: From Nurse to Lay Minister
After over 20 years nursing Margie Kennedy changed track completely. After taking early retirement she entered 3rd level to complete a four year degree course in Theology and Philosophy and studied for a further year to gain a Masters degree in Applied Theology. Margie is now working part-time with the Redemptorists helping with parish missions and also works two days a week as a Catechist working closely with an inner city school in Dublin.

Margie's story encourages us to look back on our own lives and see how God was working and leading us. Perhaps we could ask ourselves the question of when our faith in Jesus Christ was ignited? When were our hearts set on fire for love of God? Margie highlights the importance of witness in living the faith, telling people about the love of God. Our mission as members of a family of faith is sharing that faith with others. Faith is passed on from our hearts, not from our heads. As Blessed John Newman said: "Heart speaks to heart."

How do we cultivate belief? We practice, practice, practice! We celebrate our faith through Mass and the sacraments, through reading Scripture, prayer and devotions, by taking responsibility for our own education in the faith. As Margie says, "Faith in Jesus Christ compels us to make choices. We are either for Him or against Him." Margie encourages us to never give up hope - keep witnessing to God as we are meant to and He will work on people's hearts. 

You can listen to Margie's interview excerpted from this weeks programme HERE.

Gospel - Mark 10:46-52

As Jesus left Jericho with his disciples and a large crowd, Bartimaeus (that is, the son of Timaeus), a blind beggar, was sitting at the side of the road. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout and to say, ‘Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me.’ And many of them scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he only shouted all the louder, ‘Son of David, have pity on me.’ Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him here.’ So they called the blind man. ‘Courage,’ they said ‘get up; he is calling you.’ So throwing off his cloak, he jumped up and went to Jesus. Then Jesus spoke, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ ‘Rabbuni,’ the blind man said to him ‘Master, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has saved you.’ And immediately his sight returned and he followed him along the road.

Reflections on this weeks Sunday gospel:

Word on Fire
Sunday Reflections
Centre for Liturgy
English Dominicans

Liturgical odds & ends

Liturgy of the Hours - Psalter week 2

Saints of the Week

October 29th - St. Colman Mac Duagh
October 30th - Blessed Terence Albert O'Brien
October 31st - Blessed Dominic Collins
November 1st - Solemnity of All Saints
November 2nd - All Souls
November 3rd - St Malachy (Maol M’Aedhóg Ua Morgair)

Norms for Indulgences at the Commemoration of All Souls (November 2nd) 
  1. From 12 o’clock noon on 1st November until midnight on 2nd November, all who have confessed, received Holy Communion, and prayed for the Pope’s intentions (one Our Father and Hail Mary, or any other prayer of one’s choice) can gain one plenary indulgence by visiting a church or oratory, and there reciting one Our Father and the Apostle’s Creed.  This indulgence is applicable only to the souls of the departed.  Confession may be made at any time within the week preceding or the week following 1st November.  Holy Communion may be received on any day from 1st to 8th November.
  2. The faithful who visit a cemetery and pray for the dead may gain a plenary indulgence applicable only to the Holy Souls on the usual conditions once per day from 1st to 8th November.  The conditions mentioned above apply also for this.

23 Oct 2018

World Meeting of Families 2018 - Access videos and texts


"As one of the fruits of this celebration of family life, may you go back to your homes and become a source of encouragement to others, to share with them Jesus’ “words of eternal life”. For your families are both a privileged place for, and an important means of, spreading those words as “Good News” for everyone (...)"
Pope Francis, WMOF2018 Final Mass in Phoenix Park

World Meeting of Families 2018 - The Events
  • National Opening Ceremony celebrated simultaneously across all 26 dioceses.
  • Welcoming Team for over 11,000 international visiting pilgrims and families in the Airport over eight days.
  • Host a Family volunteers welcoming over 1,100 people into their homes.
  • Pastoral Congress Programme in the RDS for three days.
  • Two-day Peace Conference.
  • Symposium in the RDS – Voices of Impact: Women Leaders Shaping Global Change
  • The arrival of Pope Francis at Dublin Airport on Saturday 25th August
  • Áras an Uachtaráin Welcome Ceremony on Saturday 25th August
  • Meeting in Dublin Castle with State Authorities.
  • Meeting in the Pro-Cathedral with couples who are preparing for or who have recently celebrated the Sacrament of Marriage.
  • Visit to the Capuchin Day Centre for Homeless People.
  • People greet Pope Francis as he travels in Popemobile through the streets of Dublin.
  • Festival of Families in Croke Park.
  • Angelus in Knock Shrine.
  • Papal Mass in Phoenix Park
  • Meeting with Irish Bishops
  • Departure from Dublin Airport
  • And many other smaller gatherings and meetings.
World Meeting of Families 2018 in Numbers
Over 7,000 volunteers worked across the events. Over 11,000 pilgrims from 114countries travelled to Dublin staying in a variety of hotels and B&Bs. 1,177 of the visiting pilgrims were hosted free in Irish homes for a week. In the RDS we had over 200speakers from all five main continents of the world at the International Pastoral Congress, 91 lay women and 65 lay men; the largest group were married couples. There was a Teen Space and Children’s Space attended by over 1,500 children each day. WMOF2018 had the first dedicated Safeguarding Panel Session, the first-ever Women in Leadership Symposium, the first ever Tech Panel Session and the first 2 day Peace Conferenceincluded in the programme. The exhibition space had over 250 exhibitors to include the first-ever Tech Zone.

Over 1,200 international press and media registered to attend, and an overall attendance in excess of 499,000 people attended the various events. RTE had an average of 535,000 viewers for the Papal Mass coverage from start to finish, and more than 1.8 million (excluding Northern Ireland) tuned in over the weekend. This TV footage was also shared internationally to over 75 broadcasters worldwide with a reach of millions more viewers, sharing the beautiful images of the Pope’s visit to Ireland.

The WMOF2018 website had 4,376,297 pages viewed. 1,149,200 words were translated by our volunteers (into 5 languages). 2,709,300 prayer cards, icon cards and info sheets were distributed to parishes in Ireland over the 18 months before August 2018. The WMOF2018 Icon of the Holy Family travelled 45,000 miles in Ireland and 60,000petitions were sent back to the WMOF2018 office. Our Facebook page posts in the last two months reached 3,820,409 people, and our twitter account had 4,282,726 impressions in 6 months. Our August newsletter was sent to 34,987. From 21st to 25th August 4,713people used the event app
Photo Credit: Maxwell Photography for WMOF2018
Read all Pope Francis' Texts and Homilies Here!
You can now read all the texts and homilies from Pope Francis' Apostolic visit to Ireland on the Occasion of the IX World Meeting of Families.

Check our website for all texts in EnglishSpanishFrench and Italian.

Videos of Pope Francis’ Engagements on his Visit to Ireland 
Many of the meetings and events that His Holiness participated in were recorded. These were shared on live television and can now also be viewed through our website. Watch them here
 Photo Credit: Pat McKeon 
Access Pastoral Congress Texts and Videos Now
Over 37,000 people of all ages attended the Pastoral Congress of WMOF2018, including families, teens, children, religious, people active in their faith lives, as well as those interested in marriage and family. Three days, from Wednesday 22 - Friday 24 August were packed with talks, workshops, discussions, presentations, liturgies and entertainments. Some of the panels and talks were live-streamed and many are now available to view on our website. Watch the discussions you are interested in, those you might have missed on the day, or those you’d like to re-visit, at your leisure, from your own home. Videos available here.
The WMF2018 Blogs - painting a picture, sharing the stories & capturing the atmosphere
Did you get a chance to read the WMOF2018 Event Blogs yet? We had a team of 10 volunteer bloggers and a volunteer photographer at our events, capturing some of the best moments, telling the smaller or personal stories, giving a flavour of what was happening at the venues. They truly brought the events to life for our readers, including those who couldn't come and followed us online. Immerse yourself in some reading and bring some memories to life!

The blogs provide a prism through which to remember the ninth World Meeting of Families in Ireland in 2018. They describe the anticipation and excitement of the lead-up, preparations and opening ceremonies, the different events and activities of the Pastoral Congress (including talks and workshops, exhibitions, prayer spaces and more), the arrival of Pope Francis to Ireland and the warm welcome he received during his various engagements, the build-up to and performances at the Festival of Families and a selection of individual experiences of and reflections on the Papal Mass in the Phoenix Park.

Our blogs are a wonderful part of the legacy of WMOF2018 and will breathe fresh life into the event for years to come. Read them here.
Liturgical Items and Memorabilia from the Papal Mass in the Phoenix Park are now available for parishes to purchase, as well as a number of WMOF2018 merchandising items and publications. Please note that there is limited availability of stock. Last orders by the 22nd of October.
Visit our website for more information.
A Big Cheer for our Volunteers
Over 7,000 people volunteered for World Meeting of Families 2018 across the events. They assisted with Hospitality and Information services, Logistics and Transportation, Marketing, Translation and Communications, Medical services and Pastoral and Liturgical support, hosting visiting pilgrims, among many, many more roles.

Our green and blue army of volunteers were a happy and helpful presence at all the WMOF2018 events. They assisted with queries, helped people with directions, provided support to those who might need it and offered a plentiful supply of good humour, enthusiasm and fun. We could not have undertaken an event of such scale and magnitude without the commitment and good will of those who gave their time and skills to make World Meeting of Families 2018 such a wonderful, joyous occasion.

A very, very big thank you to our volunteers, wonderful ambassadors for our event and for our country – we couldn’t have done it without you!

Read our blog in appreciation of the WMOF2018 volunteers here.
Some of the Staff Team - Photo Credit: WMOF2018 
Thank you to the WMOF2018 Team!
What does it take to organise the single largest event in Ireland in 2018? What, that is, aside from the support from the Vatican, the thousands of volunteers across the country, the local teams in each diocese, religious orders, suppliers and commercial partners, State authorities, the enthusiasm of dioceses around the world and the input of speakers from a range of academic and practical disciplines?

Today we thank the WMOF2018 Staff team, who managed with the support of everyone a record-breaking World Meeting of Families with the highest number of people registered for the Pastoral Congress, the highest number of international pilgrims present and the highest number of children and young people attending! Meet the team here

21 Oct 2018

21st October 2018 - World Mission Sunday - Rosary: Mysteries of Light for Mission and Evangelisation

As today is World Mission Sunday and October is the month of the Rosary, on this weeks programme we are joined by Mary Keating and Ellen Mockler to pray the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary for evangelisation and for all those involved in missionary roles. While it is important to pray for priests, religious and lay missionaries, it is worth remembering what Bishop Robert Barron said recently at Adoremus in Liverpool: "You don't have to fly over oceans to get to mission territory do you today? You walk outside the door of any church in the Western world you're in Mission country."

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

World Mission Sunday 2018
In this week's programme we bring together two great themes of the liturgical calendar in October: World Mission Sunday, which is celebrated today throughout the world, and October as the month of the Rosary. Through our baptism we are all called to be missionaries and at the end of every Mass we are sent as missionaries testifying and witnessing to the love and mercy that we have received from God. As Pope Francis says in his message for World Mission Sunday:

"Every man and woman is a mission; that is the reason for our life on this earth. To be attracted and to be sent are two movements that our hearts, especially when we are young, feel as interior forces of love; they hold out promise for our future and they give direction to our lives... The fact that we are not in this world by our own choice makes us sense that there is an initiative that precedes us and makes us exist. Each one of us is called to reflect on this fact: 'I am a mission on this Earth; that is the reason why I am here in this world' (Evangelii Gaudium, 273)."

Rosary: Mysteries of Light for Mission and Evangelisation
Our mission on earth is to bear witness to love. There is so much hatred, apathy, disenfranchisement and loneliness in the world that what we need most of all is love, mercy and compassion. We need to be apostles of love and the only way we can truly do that is by allowing ourselves to be loved by the God who is love, incarnating that in our hearts and bringing it to others.  

As missionaries of love we are also missionaries of light, bringing the light of Christ to the hearts of others. As we reflect this week on the Mysteries of Light, we meditate on excerpts from Rosarium Virginis Mariae where we contemplate those moments in the life of Christ where it was clearly shown that He is the “light of the world” (Jn 8:12). In contemplating the beauty of the face of Christ with Mary through Scriptural passages we experience the depths of His love (cf. RVM, paragraph 1).

You can listen to the podcast of the Mysteries of Light for Mission and Evangelisation HERE.

Mission Month Resources
Irish Catholic: Man on a Mission

Gospel - Mark 10:35-45

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached Jesus. ‘Master,’ they said to him ‘we want you to do us a favour.’ He said to them, ‘What is it you want me to do for you?’ They said to him, ‘Allow us to sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory.’ ‘You do not know what you are asking’ Jesus said to them. ‘Can you drink the cup that I must drink, or be baptised with the baptism with which I must be baptised?’ They replied, ‘We can.’ Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I must drink you shall drink, and with the baptism with which I must be baptised you shall be baptised, but as for seats at my right hand or my left, these are not mine to grant; they belong to those to whom they have been allotted.’

When the other ten heard this they began to feel indignant with James and John, so Jesus called them to him and said to them, ‘You know that among the pagans their so-called rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all. For the Son of Man himself did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’

Reflections on this weeks Sunday gospel:

Word on Fire
Sunday Reflections
Centre for Liturgy
English Dominicans

Liturgical odds & ends

Liturgy of the Hours - Psalter week 1

Saints of the Week

October 22nd - St. John Paul II
October 23rd - St. John of Capistrano
October 24th - St. Anthony Mary Claret
October 25th - Blessed Thaddeus McCarthy
October 26th - St. Peter of Alcantara
October 27th - St. Odhran/Otteran

16 Oct 2018

WoF - Synod of Bishops - Youth Interviews

The Word on Fire team are in Rome with Bishop Robert Barron during the Synod of Bishops in Rome. They asked young people to identify the best and worst things ever done by the church. It's sobering watching and like many online commentators let's really hope the church leadership see and hear this.

It echos some of the points which Bishop Barron made in his Synod intervention: 

15 Oct 2018

Saint Oscar Romero- Love must win out!

Cross post from Pilgrims Progress - Sr Louise O'Rourke:

Photo credit:Vatican website

I have to confess that I was like a little child waiting for Christmas this morning as I waited for the Mass of Canonisation on Vatican Television. A series of circumstances meant that last night we still  had no EWTN or other holy channels and no Internet (thanks to a national outage with EIR!) and it seemed that we wouldn’t be able to follow the great event either on TV or Internet. Lo and behold the Internet returned and we were able to watch the Mass live from Vatican City presided over by Pope Francis.

Today our Pope declared as saints in the Church six new models for us to follow. All very diverse, young and old, men and women, priests, religious, laity- each one of them followed Jesus totally. They are: Pope Paul VI, Oscar Romero, Francesco Spinelli, Vincenzo Romano, Maria Catherine Kasper, Nazaria Ignazia of Saint Teresa of Jesus, and Nuncio Sulprizio.

For nearly 20 years one of them in particular has been a strong presence in my life- Oscar Arnulfo Romero, Saint Oscar, as of today. I know I have blogged about this before so apologies if some of this is repetition. I also had the opportunity to do an interview with Sacred Space 102 FM in Limerick in occasion of the canonisation of Oscar Romero....thanks guys for the invite! It was a privilege! If you’re interested you can find the link here.

Fr. Romero was assassinated on the 24th of March 1980 and I claim this date as being special to my life story because it was the month and the year that I was to grace the world. However God had another plan and myself being a little precocious, I arrived a little earlier on January 24th. However that little connection was a discovery I made only a few years ago!

My personal admiration for Romero goes back to a discernment weekend which was held in our community in Dublin back in 1997. I remember it vividly because that weekend we watched the movie ‘Romero’. The story of this heroic pastor was life changing for me. At a certain point of his journey, Romero is shown literally at a crossroads. We see him fall to his knees and he utters a simple prayer: “I can’t, You must, I’m Yours, lead me!” It was the prayer from a heart that didn’t know what to do in the face of such injustice, death and despair. He was the pastor and the sheep continued to be slaughtered and torn from his grasp. I found myself in tears because I realised that that simple prayer echoed the sentiments of my own heart. I had been rebelling against the Lord for such a long time in responding to the call to religious life and I was tired. Romero’s prayer had become my prayer. If I was to embark upon the journey of trying consecrated life, it had to be upon fully surrendering to the guidance of the Shepherd. This simple prayer has been my lifeline on many occasions, a call back to reality and to see that I need to be guided and that I can’t do this on my own. It is a prayer which I whisper often each day when words fail me in prayer or don’t seem to carry me as they usually do. There is a short song: “Trust, surrender, believe, receive”  that in the same way says those precious words which came from the lips of Archbishop Romero.

However to follow Jesus is not easy. Let's not fool ourselves. The Pope reminded us today of this in the homily
"Jesus is radical. He gives all and he asks all: he gives a love that is total and asks for an undivided heart. Even today he gives himself to us as the living bread; can we give him crumbs in exchange? We cannot respond to him, who made himself our servant even going to the cross for us, only by observing some of the commandments. We cannot give him, who offers us eternal life, some odd moment of time. Jesus is not content with a “percentage of love”: we cannot love him twenty or fifty or sixty percent. It is either all or nothing."

Indeed for Romero it was 'all or nothing'!  On the 24th of March 1980, evil men in El Salvador tried to silence the voice of a prophet. Archbishop Romero gave his life, in the words of Pope John Paul II, “for the church and the people of his beloved country” of El Salvador. His death from an assassin’s bullet crowned a life of service as priest and bishop.  His great motto was ‘Love must win out’. Today, by canonising him, the Church once more declares that witness for Christ cannot be silenced by evil. During his three years as Archbishop of San Salvador, he became known across the world as a fearless defender of the poor and suffering. Oscar Romero’s humility is the fruitful ground of his confidence. He was a man with trust, an unlimited trust in Jesus Christ. We see in him a man who had fixed his eyes on Jesus and thus can walk safely amidst the pain and suffering of his people. This was the life of Oscar Romero. Throughout history, the voice of the prophet is one of the vehicles through which God speaks to the community and to the world and the Lord spoke powerfully through Romero, too powerfully for the government and the military who didn't like the message he was preaching to stop the oppression of the poor, the country people, the marginalized. And for this Romero paid with his life.

In the Mass today, Pope Francis used the chalice of Pope Paul VI as well as his crozier, symbol of him being a Shepherd. The Pope also carried out a very poignant gesture by wearing the bloodstained cincture of Archbishop Romero around his waist, the one he was wearing when he was shot while celebrating Mass on the 24th of March 1980. II can only imagine how the Pope felt thinking that his brother priest, a fellow Latin American had paid the ultimate price, love to the end. The Church and our society live in challenging times where every value we stand for is undermined. We may not be called to martyrdom like Romero was, but there is a witness to which we are called every single day, as Christians, as Catholics, as committed priests, religious and laity. As Pope Paul VI who was canonised today said: “Holiness is within everyone’s reach”. We can take heart from this quote from Romero:

 “A church that does not provoke any crisis, preach a gospel that does not unsettle, proclaim a word of God that does not get under anyone's skin or a word of God that does not touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed: what kind of gospel is that?”

 And another:
 “Beautiful is the moment in which we understand that we are no more than an instrument of God; we live only as long as God wants us to live; we can only do as much as God makes us able to do; we are only as intelligent as God would have us be. ”
And lastly…“Let us not forget: we are a pilgrim church, subject to misunderstanding, to persecution, but a church that walks serene, because it bears the force of love.” 

May we too 'bear the force of love' and walk serenely, wherever the Lord calls us to walk!

And now I'm off to watch the movie 'Romero' again...for the 18th time (I think!).

New icon of Bl Columba Marmion

On Sunday 30th September Holy Cross Church, Dundrum opened its doors to a large gathering celebrating the Blessing of Mihai Cucu’s Icon of Blessed Columba Marmion by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. Archbishop Martin was joined by Vice Postulator of the cause of Blessed Dom Marmion, Dom Columba McCann OSB Glenstal Abbey, who outlined Dom Marmion’s life and offered an interpretation of the Icon.

Fr. Joseph Marmion served as curate in Holy Cross in 1881 for a year and was then a Professor of Philosophy in Clonliffe College before joining the Benedictine Order in Belgium in 1886, and in accordance with the practice of that order, he adopted the name Columba after Columba of Iona.

Homily on Blessed Columba Marmion
in Holy Cross Church, Dundrum
by Dom Columba McCann    – 30th September 2018

Your Grace, dear brothers and sisters.  Everything I was hoping to say this evening about Blessed Columba Marmion, is already shown beautifully in the icon here.

If you look at the bottom of the picture you see words from Saint Paul:  for me, to live is Christ. Blessed Columba would have found a similar message in the Rule of Saint Benedict which he lived as a monk: prefer nothing whatsoever to Christ.  St Benedict wanted his monks to find Christ everywhere:  in prayer, in celebrating the liturgy together, in the Abbot, in meditation on scripture, in the guests who come looking for a place to stay, and especially in those who are sick or poor.  Putting Christ before all else.

You’ll see in the middle of the left hand side of the icon a picture of the Abbey of Maredsous, where Blessed Columba was abbot in first decades of the twentieth century. Talks he gave were put together into books by his listeners.  The titles of these books tells you everything:  Christ the Life of the Soul, Christ the Ideal of the Priest, Christ the Ideal of the Monk, Christ in His Mysteries.  For me to live is Christ.  Prefer nothing whatsoever to Christ.

You might be tempted to think that such a demanding idea as ‘prefer nothing whatsoever to Christ’ is fine for monks but not for everybody else.   The problem is that St Benedict was quoting a bishop, who was speaking to everyone.  St Cyprian, an early bishop of North Africa was the one who said we must prefer nothing whatsoever to Christ, and he also gave the reason why:  because Christ has preferred nothing whatsoever to us.  That’s where the church on the bottom right hand side of the icon comes in:  Holy Cross, Dundrum.  Christ gave everything for us on the cross, and asks that all of us, in every parish, prefer nothing to him.

I’m no expert in the world of business, but I can imagine that whenever a merger between two companies is being proposed, people have a long hard look at what they are taking on.  If my truck rental company is going to merge with your van rental company then I will look very closely at what your company has to offer:  what strengths, assets and opportunities will it bring, because they could be mine; also, what are it’s weaknesses, liabilities and risks because they will be mine too.  If you look at the church further up on the right hand side, you will see a place where a kind of merger took place:  St Paul’s Arran Quay, where Joseph Marmion was baptised.  In your own mind you could add in a picture of the church where you were baptised.

In our baptism a merger took place between each of us and Jesus Christ.  And we got a great bargain!  All his assets are now ours:  each of us is Son or Daughter of God in the same way that he is Son of God.  That’s his gift to us.  What about the weaknesses and liabilities?  All our weaknesses, difficulties, failures and mistakes are his, and share in the redeeming power of his total weakness on the cross.  We have merged with him.  All that is his has become ours, and all that is ours has become his.   This is the heart of the spiritual teaching of Blessed Columba, it comes straight from the Bible, and has a depth so great that it is hard to fathom. The magnificent baptismal font here in Holy Cross Church, Dundrum, speaks volumes about all of this.  Every time you enter the church you can dip your hand back into the wonderful moment when you were made one with Christ.

Up on the top of the right-hand corner you see three angels, a traditional way to represent the Holy Trinity gathered, as it were, around a table.  Because of the merger that has taken place, we have a place there, at the table of the Holy Trinity, so to speak.  Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury once said that when we pray we take the place of Christ.  We stand in his shoes.  Our life is through him, with him, in him.  All that is his is ours, and all that is ours is his.

There may be times when our own lives seem on the verge of collapse, or we may be fooled into thinking our Church is about to collapse.  That’s when Blessed Columba would have us look at the bigger picture:  we have merged with Christ, with his death and resurrection.  We are given his strength and he carries our weaknesses.

Blessed Columba used to receive dozens of letters asking for spiritual advice.  Again and again he used to tell people to lean on Christ.  He was very fond of those words of Jesus, ‘I am the vine and you are the branches… apart from me you can do nothing.’  He used to stress those words, pointing out that Jesus didn’t say, ‘apart from me you won’t achieve much’.  He said, ‘apart from me you can do nothing’.  So Blessed Columba would have us lean on Christ.

How did Blessed Columba lean on Christ?   It is clear from his writings and from his diaries, that much of his personal inspiration came from daily meditation on the readings and prayers of the liturgy.   There he found a deep and refreshing source of encouragement and life that he passed on to others.  He knew the letters of St Paul off by heart!

He prayed the rosary daily.  He said that if we really want to be formed in the identity of Christ then we must live in the same way:  with God as our Father and Mary as our Mother.  He also did the stations of the Cross every day.  He found that meditating on the sufferings of Jesus gave him great inner strength in his own difficulties.

But he never imposed strict formulas or rules as to how each person was to arrange their spiritual practices from day to day.  He wanted people to see the big picture:  we have been grafted into Christ, we are part of him, we are merged with him, we are in the life of the Trinity in the same way that a child is adopted into a family.

For me to live is Christ.  Prefer nothing whatsoever to him.  Lean on him.  Turn to God as your Father and to Mary as your Mother.  Nourish your mind, heart and spirit on the scriptures and discover there and in the prayers of the liturgy a source of life and strength that goes far beyond the ups and downs of our daily struggle.  Keep your eye on the big picture, and you yourself will become an icon of Christ.