Thursday, February 28, 2013

Organ Concert, Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, Limerick

Ireland Latin Mass

The below email just 'fell' into my inbox & I thought it no harm to give it a little 'oxygen' and spread the word by re-printing it. 

If you'd like to find out more about the work of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest
 in Ireland, you can check out their website here.

First organ concert at Sacred Heart Church in Limerick this Sunday On Sunday evening, March 3 rd at 7 PM an organ concert will be given in Sacred Heart Church, the Crescent, to honour the initial repairs on this historic instrument, celebrated as one of Limerick’s finest musical treasures since its installation in 1924. The concert will be given by Abbé Matthew Walter, a seminarian of the Catholic religious community, the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, which purchased the former Jesuit Church in August of 2012. 

This young community, whose seminary and Motherhouse are in Florence, Italy, has undertaken the vast project of restoring Sacred Heart Church, which fell into disrepair due to neglect after its sale six years ago. While they have many urgent restoration needs such as the heating system and roof, the repair of the organ is emblematic of their ultimate goal: to honour God by offering Him fitting worship, especially through the dignity and beauty of the Mass. Founded in 1990 the Institute of Christ the King places special emphasis on the importance of beauty as a means of drawing souls to God, as well as the unity of the Catholic Faith with genuine Christian culture. Already having earned the reputation in the United States for promoting the arts, the Institute hopes that Sacred Heart Church may serve as a point of reference for the cultural life of Limerick. 

The former Jesuit Church long held a prestigious role for its music program ever since the dedication in 1869. In 1870 a new organ from the company Walker and Sons was installed, labelled “first class” by the local press. Accounts of the dedication ceremonies for the altars in 1876 reveal that the music was of a rare splendour for Ireland at that time, including the Credo from Haydn’s Imperial Mass and the Sanctus and Benedictus from Gounod’s recently composed Messe Solenelle. Rivalling the repertoire of the great basilicas of Europe, the Jesuit Church in Limerick boasted an extremely high musical quality, admired by local music lovers as well as devout church goers for over a century. In 1919 the Caecilian Musical Society was founded, performing operettas and concerts which raised funds for the new organ installed by Telford organ builders of Dublin in 1924. 

This magnificent instrument contains some 31 stops, or sets of pipes, ranging from the softest and most delicate flute stops to the brilliant trumpet, easily heard from outside the church. Maintained for decades, the organ received less and less attention nearing the church’s sale in the decade preceding. When the Institute of Christ the King purchased the church a working pipe organ seemed simply a distant hope, unrealizable in the face of so many expenses. The mechanism of the Telford organ though was so well constructed that it was able to be made playable again with minor repairs thanks to Padraig O’Donovan, a young organ builder from Cork. While the size of the instrument inhibits the entire organ to be fixed in time for the concert on March 3rd, sufficient portions of it will allow visitors to hear once again its majestic and sonorous tones echoing through the church, distinguished for its acoustical excellence. 

The concert will demonstrate the rich tonal colours of the Telford organ, highlighted by organ pieces in different musical styles and periods. The recitalist, Abbé Matthew Walter, 31, from Rochester, New York, worked as a professional musician before joining the Institute of Christ the King. As one of the 80 seminarians of the Institute, he has been assigned this year to Ireland to help with the work here, especially in regards to the music of the community. 

Immediately before the concert, the organ will be blessed by Monsignor Gilles Wach, the founder and Prior General of the Institute who will be visiting that weekend from Italy. Sacred Heart Church, which serves at present as the chapel for the community, may still be in need of much repair, but its marble walls will soon resound with the unexpected resurrection of the pipe organ, to brilliantly accompany the solemn ceremonies and graceful melodies of Gregorian Chant sung daily by the community, and herald the dawn of second era for this beloved building. 

Admission is free but donations will be gratefully accepted for the restoration expenses of the organ and the church. 

Yours in Christ 
Canon Wulfran Lebocq 
Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest 
Sacred Heart Church  
'Fac cor nostrum secundum cor tuum'

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The (illusion) of privacy curtain

'Let me just pull the curtain and give you some privacy,' the nurse said to the elderly man on the trolley next to my dad in the A&E (ER). The privacy was fairly minimal. For the next hour or so various medical folk rotated in and out, asking him questions about his medical history. On the other side of the curtain, it was like listening to one of those confessional phone-in radio programmes. Except he hadn't phoned in & chosen to reveal intimate details of his life to complete strangers. Sitting quietly a few feet away, holding my dad's hand, I couldn't avoid hearing every word. By the time the fifth doctor or so came along, I could have answered all the questions for him. 

an update on my parents: my dad was admitted after about 14 hours in A&E for tests to determine why he was coughing up blood; my mother is sitting up and awake as a result of the IV fluids, but seems very confused, & unsure of who people are; my mum-in-law's condition seems to be progressing very rapidly. Thank you for your prayers. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

update on prayer request

To update all those who have offered prayers and encouragement at this time, either through the combox or on facebook:

*my mother-in-law is home and in good spirits; she seems brighter and more 'with it' than she has in a long while;

* my mother has been moved to a private room in the hospital and is being seen by the palliative care team; she remains comfortable & stable; 48 hours has passed and she has not yet lapsed into the predicted coma ... but then, she was never much for co-operating for the predictions of physicians! But she is not eating and getting her fluids by IV, so it still remains only a matter of time (most likely ... one always needs a caveat with my mother!);

*as I was getting ready to drive to Cork this morning, I had a phone-call from my brother to say that my father was on the way to the hospital; he coughed up some blood & it needs to be investigated; so a day trying to get him admitted through A&E (the ER) awaits.

Thank you for all your prayers ... if I might ask that they continue? God bless.

Monday, February 25, 2013

fighting heresy in Philippi

Note: this is the sermon I din't preach yesterday, as I was sitting in the hospital with my mother.

May my words be in the name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Brothers and sisters in Christ: There's is quite a powerful verse in our Epistle today: Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. In this penitential season of Lent, where fasting is one of the traditional spiritual disciplines, it would be tempting to thing that verse has to do with people who can't control their eating, who are obsessed with food to the point where 'their god is the belly' … which would make the passage tailor-made for Lent …

However, context is everything … and if we read the rest of the chapter of which our reading this morning is but a short part, then we discover that St Paul is talking about a different topic completely … in this part of his letter to the Church of Philippi, St Paul is in fact railing against a faction of the early Church called the Juadaisers … these were the group who believed that if one wished to be a Christian, one was obliged to essentially become a Jew first … that meant if you were a man you had to submit to circumcision … and it also meant living according to the very strict Jewish dietary laws … and this is why St Paul uses the phrase 'their god is the belly' … because of this group's attempts to force people to the false teaching that Christians must live according to the Jewish law …
Now if you get a chance to read this chapter of St Paul's letter later on today, you'll see that St Paul is getting really angry about this … in fact he calls the members of this factions 'dogs', one of the worst insults you could throw at a Jew … he calls them mutilators … he calls them 'evil workers' … and you might wonder why it is that he is getting so worked up about this issue … who cares what people eat? Or if they add on a few extra religious practices? Isn't the important thing to believe in Christ? Why not let people go about things their own way? 

Well, again, context is everything. St Paul is writing this letter from prison, which means that it is probably during the time of his house arrest in Rome, which makes the date of this letter around AD 62 give or take a year or so. That means he is writing more than ten years after the Council of Jerusalem, which we read about in 15 of the Acts of Apostles, which took place around AD 49. And it was at that Council that St Paul argued strongly against just these practices that the Judaisers are trying to introduced in Philippi … that Christians had to live according to Jewish laws. And the Council, led by the Spirit, realised the truth of what St Paul had to say and declare that no one wishing to become a Christian must first have to live as a Jew … one of the first examples in Scripture of what we might call Canon Law!

Paul isn't just being picky … he is arguing for the orthodox faith as it had been revealed to the Church; he is arguing against heresy and for the authority of the Church and the Apostles to decide matters of doctrine. The Judaisers want to distort the Gospel message … and St Paul says 'no' to that in no uncertain terms … and the early Church heard his 'no' and guided by the Holy Spirit recognised that St Paul was inspired by that same Holy Spirit in his writings and included this letter in our canon of Sacred Scripture. And Scripture is, of course, the way that God speaks to each and every generation in which his Church finds itself …

So what is that passage saying to us today? It tells us that today, as always, we must not let the Gospel message be distorted by false teachers. And there are false teachers today … to give but one example … it has always been accepted that it isn't easy to live the Way that Christ calls us to … that we were weak and would often fail … and we recognised those failures as sin and asked God for forgiveness and the grace to do better … but they never tried to say that because the teaching was hard it must be wrong … and yet today we are bombarded by just that message … think of what we refer to as the seven deadly sins: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. You could pick just about anyone of those out of the mix and find that it is essentially celebrated in the modern culture, rather than condemned … why? Because the teaching is too hard … people can't live up to it … so what's the answer? That what was once called sin should be called good by those who practice it … and that we should all accept it as good … and if it is not to be called good, then at the very least it is not to be condemned by anyone ... and most especially not by the Church ... after all: it is too hard ... so why make people feel bad about themselves?

People said that to Jesus too … in Chapter 6 of St John's Gospel his disciples grumble that his teaching is too hard … they can't understand it and they begin to walk away … but he doesn't call them back and say he'll make it easier … he lets them go … in fact he looks at those who remain and ask them if they want to leave him also … and St Peter says: 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of Eternal Life.' 

And that's it really … you can accept the Gospel or you can walk away, but you can't change it. Jesus gave his Good News to his Apostles and they have passed it on to us through the Church that Christ himself founded – the One, Holy, Catholic, & Apostolic Church. And that Church continues to pass on that Hard Teaching … and continues to help people to live it … and help them pick themselves up and keep trying when they fail …

And for us, in this Holy and Penitential season of Lent, we have the opportunity to spiritually strengthen ourselves, so that we might deny ourselves, take up our Cross, & follow Christ, conforming ourselves to his teaching, no matter how hard we find them at times … the spiritual disciplines we take on at this time open our hearts to the Grace that God provides that we may walk the narrow path that leads to Eternal Life … and so during this time of Lent, my brothers and sisters, I pray that your disciplines will open your hearts to that Grace … as I hope that you will also pray for me in the name of the Father, the Son, & the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

your prayers please

If I may, I would ask for your prayers at this time for my mother, Mary, & my mother-in-law, Sarah. 

My mother, who has been seriously unwell for many years, was taken into hospital last night by ambulance. She is now stable, but they think she has perhaps a day or two left. She has defied medical opinion as to how long she might last many times before, but this time her kidneys have almost entirely shut down & it appears that this may truly be her final illness.

My mother-in-law also has been seriously unwell. Some months back she was diagnosed with cancer. The initial prognosis was a short number of years. That has proved to be wildly optimistic; they now believe it is will be a few weeks at best. 

We received these two items of bad news within a few hours of each other. As you can imagine it has been a tough weekend. So if you would, please keep both of them in your prayers; and also, all my family at this time. Thank you and God bless. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

three things I found encouraging this week

Sometimes life in ministry can be tough ... but every so often a little something happens that gives me a 'lift', that encourages me. I was blessed with three such little lifts this week:

1.  Emerging from behind the (illusion of) privacy curtain at someone's hospital bed late at night, I found a nurse standing nearby. She looked at me in my cassock & clerical collar and smiled. 
'It's good to see a priest looking like that, looking like a ....' she paused, considering.
'A priest?' I suggested.
'That's right. Looking like a priest. It sends out the right message ...'

2. I was visiting a parishioner 'up the mountains.' One of his neighbours was there when I arrived, a very devout Catholic. In the middle of our fairly mundane conversation the neighbour stood up, bowed his head, and humbly asked I give him a blessing ... 

3. I was contacted by a young woman looking to be baptised. When I asked her what had led her to that decision, she said she had heard me preaching at a baptism recently & what she had heard had decided her that it was something that she needed to do (well they did tell us in the seminary that baptisms are great pastoral opportunities!). The next day she began her baptismal preparations ...

Friday, February 22, 2013

Oh yes it is paedophilia

guitar hero by shokunin - Separated entry of my collection-set of silhouettes. Check my other clip art.

An article in the Huffington post asserts there is a difference between a rock star having sex with a teen-age girl and a paedophile. A clue as to where the author is coming from with her article may be in the title which is Predatory teen-age girls. In the article she states:

Back in the day teenage groupie sex was epidemic. It was the fuel that drove rock and roll. It is not in the same category as the Belgian paedophile rings or the systemic abuse of children by Catholic priests. It just isn't.

So it is OK for a group of grown men, using the power and influence of their position in society, to use an endless series of impressionable underage girls for their casual sexual gratification as long as they are rock stars or their hangers-on? That it is not paedophilia even if it falls within the legal definition of paedophilia? Why? Because she says 'it just isn't'! Well, there's logic that just can't be argued with!

All those guys caught up in the emerging entertainment industry scandals in the wake of the Jimmy 'Jim'll fix it' Saville shockers should try telling that to the judge: I'm sure he will be impressed ... 

prayer diary Friday 22 Feb

Day of Discipline & self-Denial

Jesus said: 'Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God's wrath.' John 3. 36

Reflection: Pray that this Lent will be for you a time of every increasing obedience to the Son … not from a fear of wrath, but out of love for the Son.

saint of the day: St Peter, pray for us
(today's feast day is actually that of the Chair of St Peter)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

moving in together leads to moving on

I came across an interesting article talking about how cohabitation can ultimately damage a relationship in the New York Times (here). Given that the 'Grey Lady' is not exactly a bastion of conservatism, it is hardly to be imagined that they are 'over egging the pudding' in what they have to say.

A couple of questions came to mind after reading the article. The first is, if it is known that cohabitation has a strong potential to damage the long-term future of a relationship, why do we hear so little on this topic? It seems as if every time I walk past a magazine rack in a supermarket, the covers of those aimed at women are plastered with blurbs high-lighting all the wonderful relationship advice that is to found within the covers. Yet I don't recall ever seeing one that said something like: if he's a keeper, don't move in!  Or are there a slew of articles on this that I simply missed? 

The second is that the author has in her final paragraph the phrase: I am not for or against living together. That sounds like code for: this is not a moral issue for me. The author, it seems, is worried that her message would be tainted or undermined in some way, if those reading it thought she had a moral view on cohabiting. Ironic, really. A few years back, it was for moral reasons that most didn't cohabit. Then folk began to think that these morals were just stuffy old nonsense; there was no 'real world' reasons not to do it. And now the evidence begins to emerge that actually there are 'real world' reasons not to do it ... at least if you're hoping to avoid emotional harm or achieve a lasting relationship. But the stuffy old morals that were right all along? Don't mention those: we wouldn't want to put people off stopping doing what was bad for them by thinking that it was a moral issue ... 

prayer diary Thursday 21 Feb

(Day of Discipline & self-Denial)

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but may have eternal life. 

John 3.16

Reflection: Believing in Christ means conforming your life to his commands. Fast and pray this Lent that you may do so and have the eternal life he offers.

saint of the day: St Peter Damian, pray for us

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

a legacy of souls

The ever instructive Let Nothing You Dismay provided a link to a biographical article on Fr Charles Lowder as part of a recent post. I had, of course, read about Fr Lowder before, but this article provided far more detail. In brief, he was a Church of England priest, who was inspired by John Henry Newman and the Tractarian movement, and dedicated his life to working amongst the poorest of the poor in one of the worst areas of London. He began by reading Morning Prayer alone in deserted and decrepit churches; by the time of his death, decades later, he had won over thousands to Christ and his funeral was attended by an uncountable throng of weeping mourners. 

After I read it, I was a bit sad, thinking that in the years after his death, especially of late, the practice of the faith has gone in such a decline and that his legacy has faded away. But of course that is wrong. His legacy is all the souls he won for Christ during his life, souls who are (partly) as a result of his efforts joined with the Communion of Saints in heaven. That is a legacy that can never fade. Fr Lowder's legacy is truly eternal.

And he leaves behind another legacy: that of the example of his life. From that example we see that his kind of  energy, dedication, enthusiasm, & spirit can have amazing results. We must pray that God's Church in this generation will be blessed with more priests like Fr Lowder. And pray also that we may encourage the priests she already has to be more like him ... and of course support them in their efforts when they try to follow in his footsteps.


prayer diary Wednesday 20 Feb

(Day of Discipline & self-Denial)

'What is born of the flesh is flesh, & of the Spirit is spirit.' 
John 3.6

Reflection Lent is a time to concentrate on spiritual disciplines; disciplines that will help us worry less about the transitory things of the flesh, and strengthen our spirits to endure for eternal life

Saint of the day: St Wulfric, pray for us

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

the hairy truth


The above gave me a chuckle when I came across it the other day, so I thought I'd share it (especially as the poster requested that folk do just that!). But, it sparked a memory, & it occurred to me that I had read another post a few months back about beards - to whit, that studies showed that people were inclined to trust men with beards more ('On the trustworthiness of Beardshere).

Great news for chaps like me who have worn a beard for years. Not so great for those who can't grow one or can't stand the itch (or whose wives can't stand the scratch!) ... 

Prayer diary, Tuesday 19 Feb

Day of Discipline & self-Denial 

'Zeal for your house will consume him.' 
John 2.17

Reflection: The disciples remembered these words from the psalms as Jesus drove the money-changers from the Temple. Do we follow our Lord's example in honouring God's house? Does our behaviour in Church reflect the fact that we are in a sacred place?

Saint of the day: St. Boniface of Lausanne, pray for us

Monday, February 18, 2013

'offer it up'

All through my childhood, when I was confronted with unpleasant situations, my mother advised me to 'offer it up.' Crying after a scraped knee? Offer it up. Hands sore after a few licks of the ruler in school for missing a spelling? Offer it up. Enduring sheer terror and panic about an up-coming important exam for which no amount of study seemed to make the facts and figures stick? Offer it up.

Of course, she never actually explained what she meant by 'offer it up' ... and I never asked; or it I did, I don't remember her answer. I had some vague notion of it having something to do with a bit of suffering being good for you ... with maybe a dash of paying off the 'balance' somewhat in relation to sin ... suffer a bit now & maybe suffer a bit less in the next, maybe? 

So for those of you who have ever wondered what people actually mean when they say 'offer it up' (& there is a fair amount of theological nuance in the idea of offering up your sufferings), the above video has an answer. Of course, whether you like the answer or not is beyond the remit of either the presenters in the video or your humble blogger!

prayer diary Monday 18 Feb

(Day of Discipline & self-Denial)

'Do whatever he tells you.' 
John 2.5

Reflection: These words of the Mother of our Lord, spoken at Cana, have a particular resonance during Lent, a time when we reflect on the many ways we fail our Saviour & ask ourselves 'Do I do what he has told me to do?'

saint of the day: St. Colman of Lindisfarne

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Intercessions of this Sunday: Lent I

let us pray:
Heavenly Father, 
you promised through your Son 
to hear the prayers of those 
who ask in faith:
In this penitential season of Lent, 
we ask that our time of discipline & self-denial 
may be an example to others 
and inspire them to take up their Cross 
and follow your Son as part of his Church. 
Lord in your mercy: hear our prayer 
In this penitential season of Lent, 
as we deny ourselves some of the good things 
you have blessed us with,
keep in our hearts those 
who do not have even the basic necessities of life,
that we may share with them from the abundance 
you have given to us 
Lord in your mercy: hear our prayer 
In this penitential season of Lent, 
help us to be joyful 
during this time of spiritual renewal 
that the communities in which we spend our lives 
may share in the joy you give us through your Son. 
Lord in your mercy: hear our prayer 
In this penitential season of Lent 
we give thanks for all those 
who have answered your call 
and will shepherd your children on their Lenten journeys; 
we pray for Michael, our Bishop; 
all clergy, readers, and others in ministry, 
whatever form it takes; 
and we pray that this time will guide us 
towards ever greater unity 
with our brothers and sisters in Christ 
from whom we are separated 
by the scandal of schism. 
Lord in your mercy: hear our prayer 

In this penitential season of Lent, 
we thank you for those 
who have laid down the cross of this life 
and have entered into their eternal reward in the next; 
we pray for those who mourn, 
those who are unwell, 
those who face their final illness, 
and those who care for them; 
we pray for those parts of the world 
that are denied the peace you desire for them; 
& we remember those who struggle in their relationships, 
with others or with you. 
Lord in your mercy: hear our prayer 
And in this penitential season of Lent 
we ask that you hear also 
the the prayers of our own hearts, 
for ourselves 
and for those we know 
to be in need of our prayers 
(pause for silent prayer) Lord in your mercy: hear our prayer 

Merciful Father
accept these our prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

St Fintan, pray for us

who told us about the 40 days in the wilderness?

May my words be in the name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

Brothers and sisters in Christ: we are presented today in our Gospel reading with a very well known passage of scripture, the Temptation of Christ in the wilderness. It is a particularly relevant passage at this time, the first Sunday of this holy and penitential season of Lent, because, of course, our forty days of discipline and self-denial is modeled on the 40 days that our Lord spent fasting and praying in the desert.

It might be said that there is something of a mystery about this passage of scripture … we find it in three of the Gospels, that of Matthew, Mark, & Luke, the ones we call the Synoptic Gospels … and the mystery to which I refer is what might the source of this episode in the life of Christ be? In almost all other cases we can presume that the source are Jesus' disciples or others who present when the incident recounted took place; but to whom may we look to for as the source for this passage of scripture?

Well, if we consider for a moment what the passage tells us: we know that during those 40 days there were present Jesus, 
the angels who attended him, and the devil. In theory any of those three might be the source. Satan, I think, is to be rejected out of hand; he would never have made it known to anyone of his attempt and failure to tempt Christ. The angels are a possibility, as we have recounted in scripture many encounters between angels and human beings; however, I would consider their being the source unlikely, as in all other cases of their passing on information to people it is always mentioned that they are the source of this information. Which leaves our final and most likely source: Christ himself.

Now, it is easy to imagine Christ recounting this story to his disciples during the years they spent together; perhaps as they traveled along the duty roads of the Holy Land as they walked from town to town; or around the fire one night in the house in Capernaum; or maybe even during one of the many voyages by boat they took together crossing from one side to the other of the Sea of Galilee. There was no doubt a lot of time for conversation during these intimate and relatively private times. The actual setting is of less importance than the fact that he told them. And that leaves us with the question as to why he told them.

I think we must presume both from the fact not only that he shared with them this story but also the fact that three of the evangelists included it in their Gospels that this was something that Jesus thought important for his disciples to know … indeed, something vitally important for them to know. So what is at the heart of this episode? What might we see as being it's core message?

Our task here might be seen as being a little difficult, given that all three accounts have some variation … St Mark gives a very bare bones account with very little detail; St Luke and St Matthew put some flesh on it, detailing what the temptations consisted of, but with subtle differences and in a different order; and St Luke, alone of the three, ends the episode with the enigmatic and somewhat chilling: 'when the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.'

However, I think we could agree that St Mark's very succinct account contains all the details that the three versions we are given have in common. As it is only two verses long, I will quote it in full:

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

This gives us 40 days, alone, driven by the Spirit … a time of intense prayer and fasting in the wilderness … enduring and overcoming temptations in the process … ending with being affirmed in his calling by being attended by angels, the holy messengers of God.

So why might Jesus have thought it so important for his disciples to know that he had had this experience? Well, one reason is probably that he thought his disciples should know that he needed that time of prayer and fasting in order to prepare himself for what was to come … and that if he, Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, fully man and fully divine, indeed the only perfect human being that has ever lived, 
needed it … then how much more might his disciples, weak and imperfect as they were, also need to strengthen themselves spiritually from time to time with periods of intense prayer and fasting?

Of course we, his followers, are not preparing ourselves for what Jesus was preparing himself for: his years of ministry which would end with his death on the cross; but we are all called to something with distinct parallels … spending all our days in this life answering the individual call that God has for each one of us, attempting to lead a life that not only daily brings us closer and closer to him, but also helps to advance the mission his Son left his Church, of making disciples of all people; of carrying our own cross daily in the hope that our journey through this life will take us through the gates of death to eternal life with the Father in heaven. And if Christ, the perfect man, needed a time of prayer and self-denial in order to prepare himself for what this life held for him; how much more do we, who will not only face temptations like he did, but unlike him will often yield to them and sin?

Jesus told his disciples about his time in the wilderness, I think, as yet another gift to them .. so that they would learn from his example and do likewise … and from it gain the grace and strength to travel through this life to eternal life … a grace & strength, my brothers and sisters, I pray you will receive as you make your pilgrim journey through this Lent; a grace & strength that I ask you will pray that I also receive; in the name of the Father, the Son, & the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sermon 17 Feb 2013 (1st Sunday of Lent) 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The cry of an aborted child

The following poem is re-posted by permission from Linen on the Hedgerow. It was written by the site owner's (Richard Collins) late brother. He wrote it in response a newspaper article, dated 22nd May 1969, which carried the story of an aborted baby crying out on its way to the incinerator. The poem was found among his papers after his death. 

I found the poem a very difficult one to read ... which is the reaction the poet was hoping for, I imagine. His brother would like the poem to get the widest possible dissemination in the hopes it might dissuade those involved in offering abortions from continuing what they do. So please share this with others in any way that you can. And if you'd like to copy it on to your own blog (with a link to its site of origin on Linen on the Hedgerow) I'm sure Richard would be only too pleased to accommodate you. If this poem was to save only one life it would be a marvelous legacy for his brother to have left behind.

The cry of an aborted child

Hear me O God. Hear.
From the depths of my condemned cell I cry.
None will hear me but You because You see,
I have no vote.
I did not murder nor did I steal or wound.
Yet I am held here helpless before the sterile steel.
Or the poisoned needle.
A death too brutal for murderers is a death
reserved for me.
No comforting breast nor loving Mother's arms await me.
My body will be given to be burned.
What have I done? I have not earned
this sordid unlamented end.
In sin was I conceived. Unwanted I die
before I shall be born.
O when the metal enters my brain,
when I shall kick my last convulsive agony,
take me, take me to Your arms.
None will console me, none cherish me.
None hear my last suffocated
shriek from the traitorous womb.
Save You, save only You.
O love me God.

John Francis Collins RIP

the light of the world ...

For thou wilt light my candle;
the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness
Psalm 18.28 (KJV)

That verse kind of caught my eye, and my heart, earlier when I was reading from the Psalter. I thought I'd share it.

prayers: now that's more like it!

I was visiting a man in hospital recently. It was hard to talk with the distraction of a competing conversation coming from a soap opera on  the flat screen TVs attached to the walls on the ward... a soap, I might add, that the patients were resolutely trying to ignore in favour of a little after lunch snooze.

After struggling for a few minutes we lapsed in silence ... a silence that wasn't really a silence, of course. There was a passionate row coming from the box on the wall: the woman was yelling at the man that if he'd loved her he never would have let her have an affair ... the husband was yelling back that he'd let her because he loved her and hoped she'd see that from his behaviour.

There is only so much of that one can take. My limit is somewhat less that 30 seconds. I leaned forward and said to the man I was visiting:
'How would you feel if we said a few prayers?'
He smiled.
'I think that would be more like it!'

prayer diary Saturday 16 Feb

Jesus said: 'You will see greater things than these!' 
John 1. 50

Reflection: Those who followed Jesus did indeed see great things. What they saw you may also see through the study of scripture. Open your eyes and hearts to Christ as he reveals himself to you through his Holy Word.

Saint of the day: St Onesimus, pray for us

Friday, February 15, 2013

Not to modernize the Church, but to Christify the world

Fr Robert Barron has a lot of clips on his youtube page dealing with various aspects of faith in the modern world. This one on The Legacy of Pope Benedict XVI was pointed out to me by a blogger friend, the Irish Papist, in the course of a combox chat here

In the combox he gave a quote from the clip about Pope Benedict's  understanding that the purpose of Vatican 2 was not to modernize the Church but to Christify the modern world. I find that a very haunting phrase. There has been a huge emphasis in recent times on modernizing the Church; has there been anything like the same emphasis on Christifying the world? Keeping the Church endlessly relevant is, of course, of huge importance if we are to Christify the world ... but have we gotten the balance right? Have our attempts at modernizing always kept Christ at the centre? Have we sometimes lost sight of  the absolute necessity of conforming our lives and the world to Christ? Or do we sometimes stray dangerously close to trying to conform Christ's Church to the world?

Prayer diary, Friday 15 Feb

Jesus said: 'What are you looking for?' 
John 1. 38

Reflection: Can you answer that question for your self? Those who follow Jesus pursue things that last beyond this life. Is that what you seek?

Saint of the day: St. Walfrid, pray for us

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Prayer diary: St Valentine's day 2013

'Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the World' John 1. 29

Reflection: John the Baptist was the first to understand the implications of what it meant for the Word to become flesh: our redemption at the cost of his suffering and death. Not only was the word made flesh at the incarnation, love was made flesh also.

Saint of the day: Saint Valentine, pray for us.

Will a new Pope bring major changes?

Since the Pope announced his resignation there has been a litany of calls that his successor should remake the Catholic Church in various ways. 
My own thought on that is that it's not going to happen.

My reasoning is as follows ... contrary to what some may think, the pope does not govern according to his own personal whim. His charge is to guide the barque of St Peter in accordance with the doctrines of the church as passed down through the centuries. This makes radical changes unlikely, to say the least. 

When the conclave has done its work there will be a new pope, not a new Catholic Church.

(a link to my letter in today's Irish Times on this here)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Why Ashes?

May my words be in the name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

Brothers and sisters in Christ: I don't intend to speak for very long this evening … Ash Wednesday is penitential enough without my forcing you to endure a long sermon. And I'm sure that by this late hour the sack-cloth shirts you are all wearing discretely out of sight under your clothing are beginning to scratch and itch and you can't wait to get home and take them off …

But joking aside … in our Gospel reading today, Christ speaks to his disciples about the times when they will fast … and our reading from Joel also speaks of fasting … fasting is of course one of the ancient ways of doing penance, of showing God we are sorry for doing wrong, and attempting to do better & draw closer to him, both through prayer and also by the disciplining of our bodies …

And from ancient times there were other penitential practices that were associated with fasting; one was the wearing of sack-cloth (also known as hair shirts) … hence my teasing remark at the start; and the other was the use of ashes … it is a practice we see many places in the Bible: most famously in Job, but also in other books such as Jonah, Numbers, Jeremiah & Daniel, in the Old Testament … and we find it also in the New Testament, from the lips of our Lord and Saviour himself in the Gospels of St Luke and St Matthew when Jesus speaks of repenting in sack-cloth and ashes …

So what was the point of ashes? Symbolically, ashes represent our own mortality. You will remember the words of the funeral service: earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust … words reminiscent of God's in Genesis when he tells our first parents that dust they are and to dust they shall return … but for Christians those words take on added meaning, having as we do the hope of Eternal Life in Christ Jesus … That is the reason for the traditional words used for the imposition of ashes are: the first part being 'Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return' from Genesis; and the second part 'Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel' from St Mark's Gospel. These verses of scripture sum up very well why it is that we prepare ourselves for Easter by journeying first through this penitential season of Lent … so that we might draw closer to God through the spiritual disciplines we take on and thereby achieve Christ's promise of eternal life for ourselves. Ashes remind us that we are creatures of dust who need God's free grace not only to put the breathe of life into us, but who need that grace even more to give us the spark of eternal life.

Lent of course begins with Ash Wednesday … and the reason we call it Ash Wednesday is because it is the day when Christians marked themselves with ashes as a way of not only proclaiming to the world that not only were they Christians but also sending out a visible signal that they intended to hold Lent as a holy and penitential season … I was asked during the week why I intended to offer ashes at our parish services today. My only response to that question is that today is Ash Wednesday - why call it Ash Wednesday if ashes are not at least offered? 

I know that in Ireland there is something of a perception that ashes are something only done by Catholics … that impression probably comes from the fact that the vast majority of Christians in this country are Catholic. But in fact, outside Ireland the use of ashes on this day is widely accepted amongst the other mainstream Christian churches: Anglicans, Baptists, Methodists, & Lutherans … not to mention Orthodox Churches … which clearly demonstrates that the practice is not now, nor never has been, reserved to the Catholic Church … it is part of the universal Church … a practice that dates back to those happy days of the undivided Church … 

My own experience in the Church of Ireland is that ashes have been offered on this day in all of the parishes I have been involved with. Not everybody takes them, of course, and that is fine; but I have noticed over the years that more do; and I think that is because many are coming to understand this practice as a part of our common Christian heritage that they wish to recover or re-claim, recognising it as an ancient Church tradition of great value … I spoke of that value earlier: it's symbolic value as an ancient sign of penance linking Old Testament Times with New Testament and the early Church with the Church of today … it's value as a way of reminding oneself physically that Lent has begun & we are called to observe it as a penitential season … and it's value of proclaiming to the world the fact that we are Christians and we are not afraid to show our commitment to it in a very public way.

And so I offer Ashes today because it is one of the ancient traditions of our Church and I feel that I am obliged to do so … while also stating clearly that no one is obliged to accept them … because whether you mark yourself with ashes or not, you have marked this Holy day by gathering here to celebrate this Eucharist in symbol of the fact that you intend to hold this season of Lent as holy … and that intent is more important than whether you receive ashes this night or not … and it is for that intention to observe this Lent as true disciples of Christ – people who will deny themselves, take up their Cross, and follow him – that I pray for you, my brothers and sisters, as I hope you will pray for me: in the name of the Father, the Son, & the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sermon Ash Wednesday 2013 (evening) 

why fast? a reflection for Ash Wednesday

May my words be in the name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

I don't intend to speak for very long this morning … Ash Wednesday is penitential enough without my forcing you to endure a long sermon. But there were a couple of points from our readings this morning that I wanted to draw to your attention …

The first is that our Lord and Saviour in our Gospel reading says to his disciples: 'When you fast.' Note the wording very carefully. He does not say 'if you fast,' he says 'when you fast.' Jesus presumes that fasting will be part of the lives of those who follow him. An answer as to why he might presume that is to be found in our reading from Joel, where you will no doubt have noticed that the prophet calls upon the people to fast as a way of doing penance for their failure to live according to God's Holy laws. It was an ancient tradition of the people of Israel to fast as part of their spiritual disciplines … a tradition that was in turn recommended to his followers by Jesus … and that tradition was passed on by his followers to each generation that came after … and so our tradition of fasting goes back probably at least 3000 years … tracing its long history from Old Testament Times through New Testament Times and then down through the long centuries of the history of our Church …

But why fasting, you may ask? It may be an ancient tradition, but why do it? Well, look at what is happening in Joel this morning; the people have fallen away … and the Lord God himself tells his people that fasting will help them return to him. Given that we also live in an age where many of God's people have most certainly fallen away from him, we probably should require no further recommendation for fasting than what we have thus far: God the Father orders it as a means of returning to him, of getting closer to him; and God the Son expects it of his followers. But given the age we live in, when people are far less inclined to do things simply on the basis of authority – an inclination, I should add, that I do not entirely approve of, given that the same people who haughtily decline to accept any spiritual authority are the same ones who will happily accept the pseudo-scientific authority of a shampoo ad – but given as I said people want to know why they should do things, there is I suppose good reason to explain why fasting helps us to become closer to God. 

And the explanation runs something like this: we are as human beings, a combination of body and spirit. Now think about how you feel after a big meal: bloated, sleepy, disinclined to make any great efforts. All your energy is being used up to digest your food. Now consider this: how many times have you filled yourself up with a meal of many courses and then thought to yourself: now would be the perfect time to get down on my knees and settle in to a long session of prayer. I would imagine the answer for all here is never. Hardly surprising. Think about what you know of the great saints throughout history … can you think of any who were known to gorge themselves endlessly on food? No; in fact, quite the opposite … the great saints were ascetics, much given to fasting … given in fact to reducing their intake of food to the bare minimum needed to keep body and soul together … and the reason for that is because fasting thins not only the body … it thins the 'space' that separates body and soul … it allows one to achieve greater and greater spiritual depths … fasting, as the Lord God said in Joel brings us closer to him … which is why Jesus expects it of his followers … because he wants us to draw closer and closer to him …

And Lent is the time of our Church year when we try to draw closer to God … and so the Church down through the years has followed the tradition of the Old Testament and the expectations of our Saviour as given to us in the New Testament in calling on God's people to fast at this time … and so I remind you that this season of Lent has been a penitential season from the earliest days of the Church … and we are called to keep it as such … not by making the same heroic efforts as some of the saints through history … but by doing something to remind ourselves daily that it is during this season that we are called to attempt to draw closer to God … a calling we hear in scripture in the prophets … and from our saviour … a calling I pray you will listen to: in the name of the Father, the Son, & the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Prayer diary Wednesday 13 Feb: Ash Wednesday)

Jesus said: 'Whenever you pray ... whenever you fast … whenever you give alms.' 
Matthew 6.1-16 

Reflection Jesus speaking to his disciples made it clear that he expected them to pray, to fast, to give alms. We also are his disciples; during this penitential season of Lent we must make extra efforts to follow his commands in this regard.

Saint of the day: St Catherine de Ricci, pray for us

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Good News: I wasn't hacked!

No news is good news they say! In this case, it was very much a non-event ... but for a while google-chrome was blocking access to the blog, saying:

Danger: Malware Ahead! Google Chrome has blocked access to this page on Content from, a known malware distributor, has been inserted into this web page. Visiting this page now is very likely to infect your computer with malware. Malware is malicious software that causes things like identity theft, financial loss and permanent file deletion.

Scary stuff! I had visions of no one ever being able to access my blog again! But I ran it through the online checker to see if any malware was on my site & it said there wasn't. After a lot of head-scratching, I decided to see if I could find anything online about this they were saying was the malware distributor. Of course, as soon as I did that, I realised it was the Archdiocese of Washington site, where the most excellent Monsignor Charles Pope blogs. I had a link to his site on my blog roll. So, sadly, I removed the link & that resolved the problem & the blog seems to be running fine now. 

Here's hoping that the Monsignor gets his site sorted soon (if any of you have anyway of contacting him & letting him know, great; I can't as I'm finding that his site is blocked as a source of malware! But, then, I guess, as popular as his site is that he is inundated with people letting him know). Maybe say a prayer for him ... St. Francis de Sales is the patron saint of journalists, which is the closest I can come to finding one for bloggers, so perhaps you might request his intercessions on this?

prayer diary Tuesday 12 Feb

'one stands among you whom you do not know' 
John 1. 26

Reflection: These words of John the Baptist reminds of our need to know Jesus more and more; Lent is almost upon us – what better time to work to know Jesus?

Saint of the Day: St Alexander of Alexandria

Monday, February 11, 2013


I just watched what the makers are calling the last episode of Lewis. As Lewis was a follow on from Morse, I wonder if they have considered doing a follow on to Lewis called Hathaway? After all Lewis was Morse's sergeant, and Hathaway was Lewis', so it sort of makes sense. And Hathaway is an interesting character: an intellectual, former seminarian, with an interest in classical music, fairly ascetic, with a tendency to agonize over the 'job' ... if I might make a suggestion to those who decide these things? How about having Hathaway return to religious life, say a monastery, & be constantly called upon to solve mysteries? It's a formula that's worked before ... and as a follow up to Morse/Lewis there'd be a ready built audience!

Is religion irrelevant? Not if today's headlines are anything to go by!

Interesting isn't it? The main-stream media spends so much time trying to persuade the world about how irrelevant religion is in our brave, new, modern world ... and then the Pope resigns and they go into a feeding frenzy, with nearly every other topic pushed to the side ...

As I said, interesting.

Imagine if Christians did this 2: school principal apologises

File:Torah and jad.jpg
The principal of the Great Neck high school that threw a bit of a hissy-fit when his students took him at his word when he said they could do what they liked during their free time because they were choosing to learn about their Jewish faith by visiting a nearby temple has apologised ... saying that his actions to try and stop kids going were an 'unintended infringement on students’ rights.' He apologised to those who were 'affronted' by his letter ... which means that people were both affronted by his actions & were not shy about letting him know! It would make you wonder who was more affronted & thereby forced the climb-down: the students ... or the parents who received his letter outlining what he had been up to in his attempts to stop the kids studying their faith.

Prayer diary Monday 11th Feb

And the Word was made flesh and lived among us 
John 1.14 

Reflection: As we draw near to Lent, consider not only that Jesus suffered and died for us, but that first God took flesh and entered into this life with us.

Saint of the day: Saint Gobnait, pray for us

Pope abdicates

I will admit that I was surprised to hear that Pope Benedict was abdicating ... surprised, but not amazed. There have been some hints of this in the air lately. For example, one of the blogs on canon law I follow discussed the mechanism for just such an event only a few weeks ago. Obviously, people were wondering if he would resign. And a follow up post made the point that it was essentially impossible to remove a pope from office should he become incapacitated. It would seem that Pope Benedict, well aware this is the case, & worried about his own increasingly frailty, has decided to do the 'decent thing' and resign rather than risk falling ill and leaving the Catholic Church with a leadership vacuum.

I wish him well retirement. My only hope is that he won't be a thorn in the side of his successor (Dr Ed Peters has good resources on the election process here) ... somehow, I don't think he will be though!

The text of his announcement is below:

Dear Brothers, I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.

For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act,
with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.
Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

today's intercessions: the Transfiguration of our Lord

let us pray: 
Heavenly Father, 
you promised through your Son 
to hear the prayers of those who ask in faith: 

Through his Transfiguration 
your Son reminded us of his divine glory; 
guide your Church to bring all people to know him, 
love him, and worship at his feet. 
Lord in your mercy: hear our prayer

At his Transfiguration 
your voice told us to listen to him; 
help us to listen to his words 
that tell us to love all your children 
so that we may not neglect 
any of those in the world who are in need 
Lord in your mercy: hear our prayer

Before his Transfiguration 
your Son told his followers to deny themselves; 
help us to focus less on ourselves 
and more on others 
so that we might transform our communities 
into places that shine with your peace and love. 
Lord in your mercy: hear our prayer

At his Transfiguration 
your Son revealed his glory to the world; 
we thank you for all who work tirelessly 
to make that glory known to others. 
We pray for our Bishop Michael; 
all clergy, readers, and others in ministry, 
whatever form it takes; 
and help all your children to work together 
for your greater glory in the world 
Lord in your mercy:  hear our prayer

We thank you for those 
who have journeyed before us 
to enter into the divine & eternal glory with you, 
your Son, & all the angels and saints in heaven; 
we pray for those who mourn; 
those who are unwell or dying 
and those who care for them; 
those places in the world that know trouble of any kind; 
& we remember those who struggle in their relationships, 
with others or with you. Lord in your mercy: hear our prayer  

And we ask that you hear also 
the the prayers of our own hearts, 
for ourselves 
and for those we know to be in need of our prayers (pause for silent prayer) Lord in your mercy: hear our prayer

Merciful Father, 
accept these our prayers 
for the sake of your Son, 
our Saviour, Jesus Christ.