Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Prayer diary Tuesday 30 April 2013

Jesus said: ' I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.' 
John 14. 30,31

Christ showed us what it is to live in perfect obedience to the Father. Weak and poor though our efforts may be, we must strive daily to live in perfect obedience to God's will. Christ died that we might know how we must live – we must not reject the example of holy living he gives us.

mother forces teenage daughter to become pregnant

Sometimes I read stories in the paper that make me think I must be suffering from some kind of April Fool's Day deja vu. A mother in England forced her teenage daughter to become pregnant. By artificial insemination. Using donor sperm purchased on the internet. What kind of a dystopian fantasist would one have to be to make a story like that up? Yet it isn't something that someone made up - it's a true story.  That dystopian fantasy is the world we live in.

A disgusting story made possible by a disgusting trade.  A trade which we, in our liberal, modern culture allow. Well done us.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Irish Supreme Court upholds ban on assisted suicide

Marie Fleming has lost her Supreme Court appeal against a High Court decision which held that the prohibition in law in the Republic of Ireland against assisted suicide was justified. As I said at the time of the High Court decision: 

 'It might seem hard that someone in Ms Fleming's situation, who truly wishes to die, is prevented from having help in doing so. But there is no way allow her that help that would not create the real circumstances, as demonstrated by what has happened elsewhere, where the vulnerable would be pressured into being 'assisted' into their graves prematurely. Therefore 'assisted suicide' must remain a criminal offense.' 
(read the full post here)

I thank God that the courts have affirmed that human life is sacrosanct in this country up to the moment of natural death. Please pray for Marie Fleming in her suffering. 

Prayer diary Monday 29 April 2013

Jesus said: 'They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father.' 
John 14.21

We cannot claim to love Christ and reject his teaching. To reject his commandments is to reject him – and his Father in heaven.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Christ's love & the salvation of souls

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

In the our Gospel reading today Jesus says to his disciples 'A new commandment I give to you that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another.' I tend to think that the jaws of all those present must have dropped at that moment. Picture the scene: the disciples are in the room with Jesus, eating the Passover meal; Jesus has just washed his disciples feet, a fairly extraordinary thing for a Teacher to do for his followers; and then he predicts that one of his close followers is going to betray him, a fairly ominous statement given that Jesus had already previously spoken of his suffering and death, and the fact that they all knew that the religious authorities were looking for a way to arrest him. And then he gives them a new commandment. Think about who it was previously who had given commandments – God, and God alone. And Jesus doesn't say 'God has told me to give you a new commandment', he says 'I give you a new commandment.' He is speaking using his own authority … and he is using it to do something only God has the authority to do.

Now what does Jesus mean when he tells us to love one another as he has loved us … rather when he commands us to do so, with his divine authority? First let us think back to a couple of weeks ago when I pointed out that in Greek there are several words that we translate as love, with each referring to a different kind of loving relationship. The word Jesus uses hear is agape, which means an all encompassing, self-sacrificing, and completely voluntary kind of love; the love that God has for his children; and the love that God's children must have for him. It is this kind of love that Jesus commands us to have for one another. 

And next let us consider what it is that the love we have for each other must be like the love he has for us. This means we must look at what Christ's love for us was ordered toward. It was the kind of love that allowed us to die for us. It was also the kind of love that was never afraid to challenge us. Think of how Jesus behaved: he taught people and challenged them to change how they lived in compliance with that teaching. And he wasn't afraid to tell them that behaviour that wasn't in compliance with that teaching was sinful. 

And he wasn't afraid to tell people to turn away from those sins. Why? Because he wanted them to have eternal life. And those who didn't listen to him, who rejected him either in word or deed, would not inherit eternal life. The love that Christ command us to have for others was ordered towards the salvation of souls. It wasn't ordered towards making them feel good about their choices or not making them feel uncomfortable with how they were living or taking some sort of laid back approach along the lines of what's sinful for one person may not be sinful for another, so let's all hug, and I'm sure God will understand if you reject the teaching that the Word made flesh came to earth to bring you!

This is what Jesus was saying to his disciples just hours before he was arrested, tortured, and crucified; and he did so in order to save us from our sins. He was commanding us to love others in such a way that it helps make it a real possibility that they might one day go to heaven. Not being Christ we do not have the authority to change his teaching, to water it down in order to make it easier for those who find it difficult. That is not what Christ did when people grumbled to his face and said it was too hard. He let them walk away. Christ's love is tough love. It needs to be because he wants us to go to heaven. 

The implications for those of us who follow Christ are stark and stern: in order to obey Christ's commandment, which we must do, we must proclaim Christ's message to all; having no authority, either in word or example from Christ, to soften that message so that it will fit in better with the values of the world, we must proclaim his message in all it's fullness; this means not being afraid call sin what Christ and his gospel and his Church calls sin. To do otherwise is put in danger the souls of those we are told to love; to do otherwise is to put our own souls at risk for failing to obey the commandment of Christ to love others as he has loved. Something that I pray all here, and all God's Church, will never be tempted to do. Amen.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

prayer diary, Saturday 27th April 2013

Jesus said: 'I am the Way, the Truth, & the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.' 
John 14. 6

Again our Saviour reminds us that it is only through him that we may enter into eternal life. All are sinners who need to be saved. Those who reject Christ, no matter how 'good' they seem in the eyes of the world, reject also the salvation that he offers.

Friday, April 26, 2013

fishing for flowers

Bridges of stone   
   and moss
We sit
   with lines and poles
We do not need
   bait or hooks
We do not come
   to murder fish
We are
   fishing for flowers

Others stare
Others laugh
We do not care
We do not kill
      are fishing
                        for flowers

Another from my 'legacy' collection. Even though it was in those papers, and so must have been typed up in the 90's, I remember writing this in the summer of 1985 while hitch-hiking from Paris to Marseilles with my then fiancé-now wife. We were sitting on a bridge, having a particularly long wait for a lift; under the bridge, instead of water, was thick grass with loads of flowers on the banks. And I wasn't even a vegetarian then!

Prayer Diary, Friday 26th April 2013 (Day of Discipline & self-Denial)

Jesus said: 'In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.' 
John 14.2

These words, so often heard at funerals, remind us of what we have to hope for in Christ. How foolish it is to deny others the chance of heaven because we are afraid to proclaim this Good News to them; and how foolish to deny that chance to ourselves because we are afraid either to proclaim his word or to conform ourselves to it.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

hunting lentils in the rain

The hunt was exhaustive
but finally I had the vegetable
at bay. With great joy
I slaughtered the carrot.

There's no sport in cabbages.
They just sit there, green,
awaiting their fate. A golf club
could do a thousand in a morning.

Now the lentil is a cunning bean.
Small and flat, it disguises itself
as a patch of gravel
and lies in wait for you.
It has all the advantages
as long as it doesn't rain,
swelling it to mush.
The wise vegetable hunter
always hunts lentils in the rain.

(one of my 'legacy' of poems, written 26 Jan 1995)

Prayer diary, Thursday April 25th 2013 (Feast of St Mark the Evangelist)

Jesus said: 'And you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.' 
Mark 12. 13

The Way of the Lord is a challenge to the world. And the world will hate those who refuse its message over Christ's. But we must endure. Not to do so is to give up the rewards of eternal life for the fleeting and empty pleasures of this life.

O almighty God, 
who hast instructed thy holy Church 
with the heavenly doctrine of thy evangelist Saint Mark; 
Give us grace, that, being not like children 
carried away with every blast of vain doctrine, 
we may be established in the truth of thy holy Gospel; 
through  Jesus Christ our Lord.

Collect for the feast of St Mark, Book of Common Prayer

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A legacy of my own

My mother-in-law hasn't left much of what might be called an estate. She lived in rented accommodation on a pension; so there's some clothes (the most of which will be given to charity), and other personal items such as photos and papers. There's a few other bits and pieces, but not a lot; she wasn't big for hanging onto things. Among what she'd kept my wife found a thin sheaf of type-written pages.

'Are these are yours?' said my wife, handing them to me. They turned out to be some poems of mine from around 20 years ago. I was in the army at the time and living overseas. I must have sent them home for the family to read. Touching to think that of the few things that Sarah hung onto, these were among them.

In fact, I was very glad to have them. I'd written them on an old 'Starwriter' - which I still have, not being as good at getting rid of old junk as Sarah ... but it's not compatible either with the European power supply or modern computers, so I wasn't sure I'd ever be able to access what's on it again. So getting these poems back, which I'm not sure I have copies of of, was a real thrill ... particularly as some of them I rather like.

I'll share some selections from my 'legacy' as the spirit moves me over the next few weeks!

prayer diary Wednesday 24 April 2013

Jesus said: 'I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects me and does not receive my words has that which judges him: the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.' 
John 12. 48

We judge ourselves by rejecting Christ; for to reject him is to reject God. And there are many who reject him by refusing to receive his words even as they claim to be followers of his. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

St Augustine: Christian burial

from the City of God 1.13
Nevertheless the bodies of the dead are not on this account to be despised and left unburied; least of all the bodies of the righteous and faithful, which have been used by the Holy Spirit as His organs and instruments for all good works. For if the dress of a father, or his ring, or anything he wore, be precious to his children, in proportion to the love they bore him, with how much more reason ought we to care for the bodies of those we love, which they wore far more closely and intimately than any clothing! For the body is not an extraneous ornament or aid, but a part of man's very nature. And therefore to the righteous of ancient times the last offices were piously rendered, and sepulchres provided for them, and obsequies celebrated; and they themselves, while yet alive, gave commandment to their sons about the burial, and, on occasion, even about the removal of their bodies to some favorite place. And Tobit, according to the angel's testimony, is commended, and is said to have pleased God by burying the dead. (Tobit 12:12). Our Lord Himself, too, though He was to rise again the third day, applauds, and commends to our applause, the good work of the religious woman who poured precious ointment over His limbs, and did it against His burial (Matthew 26:10-13). And the Gospel speaks with commendation of those who were careful to take down His body from the cross, and wrap it lovingly in costly cerements, and see to its burial (John 19:38). These instances certainly do not prove that corpses have any feeling; but they show that God's providence extends even to the bodies of the dead, and that such pious offices are pleasing to Him, as cherishing faith in the resurrection. 

prayer diary, Tuesday 23 April 2013

Jesus said: 'My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they know me. And I shall give them eternal life and they shall not perish.' 
John 10. 27, 28

Eternal life does not flow automatically from claiming to be a follower of Christ. You must 'hear' his 'voice' and listen to his teaching and live your life according to it, despite the difficulties, despite the ways in which it may make you seem 'out of step' with the world we live in.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Prayer diary Monday 22nd April 2013

Jesus said: 'I am the door. If anyone enters by me he will be saved.' John 10.9

Jesus is the Way, the Truth, & the Life; It is only through following him, the Word made flesh, & by conforming ourselves to that Word, that we may enter into eternal life.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sarah: a eulogy

The eulogy I delivered yesterday in St Catherine's Church, Conna, after the Requiem Mass of my mother-in-law. 

Good afternoon,

There is a certain irony in my standing here to speak Sarah's eulogy today. I was never that keen on eulogies at funerals; and Sarah wasn't that keen on having one at hers! I always worry that there's a danger of sentimentalising the deceased, of creating a word picture of a truly wonderful person, but one whom no one in the congregation really recognises because all their faults and failings that helped make them who they were have been left out. And Sarah's attitude was that if people wanted to say nice things about her, she wanted them to say them to her face while she was alive! But we are where we are, and I think Sarah's great sense of fun would have enjoyed the idea of an unwilling eulogist speaking about an unwilling recipient!

You'll forgive me, I'm sure, if I omit the standard opening for a eulogy of a potted biography. There really isn't any need: Sarah pretty much told her life story to everyone she met … generally more than once! For those who somehow missed out, and are keen to find out, there will be time for questions over the tea and sandwiches in the hall later … to which, I might add, you are all invited.

So what do I think should be said about Sarah?

She adored her husband Philip, without ever being under any illusions that he hadn't, like all men, feet of clay. She was devastated when he died, leaving her a young widow with two young children. But even as she mourned, she carried on.

She loved her two children, Ruth and Ivan, even if she occasionally fell out with them. Those times of falling out were probably the only thing that she would really regret about her life. And she was always proud of what they achieved in their lives – prouder than they were themselves sometimes.

She was besotted with her grandchildren, even if she didn't see them as often as she would have liked to. The Saturday afternoon before she died - & she died in the early hours of the following Monday - was her 69th birthday. Ruth and I were lucky enough to be able to bring our four boys to see her that day. It was the last day that she was a little responsive, able to open her eyes and look at people for a moment, and murmur a few words. We all stood round the bed in Marymount with Sean and sang her 'Happy Birthday' and told her we had brought her the best birthday present we could think of: a visit from her grandchildren. She nodded and smiled without opening her eyes. It was the last time she smiled.

She was a loving daughter. Her mother suffered from periodic bouts of mental illness from when Sarah was quite a young woman. And Sarah looked after her, sometimes even having to go off to England to rescue her. She looked after her at home as long as she could, and then placed her in nursing care when that was required, paying for it herself in the days before 'Fair deal.'

She was a good friend. Everywhere she went she made friends easily. People loved her openness and sense of humour: during the glamorous times of the Arcadia Ballroom and the hard work of the Green-acres, caravan park in Fountainstown; during the relaxing times at the Rochestown Park Leisure Centre and the quiets days in Conna, Sarah found friends everywhere. 

One who went through it all with her was Rena, her friend almost from the day she first came to Ireland nearly 50 years ago and right up to her last moments in Marymount. Thank you, Rena, for being there for her always, especially at the end. It meant so much to her and us. And thank you also, Stephen and Mary for being there for both her and Sean, through those long difficult months when she was in hospital; and for being there for Sean when she was gone. We know Sarah would thank you herself if she could for helping him through it.

Because she was mad about Sean. Sometimes she was simply mad at him; but mostly she was mad about him. Their relationship had its difficult moments, but it endured nearly 30 years. It cost Sarah other friendships, as many simply couldn't see what she saw in Sean. To be truthful, I sometimes wondered myself: as anyone who knows Sean knows, he isn't always the easiest person. But Sarah's attitude was that those who couldn't respect her choice, simply wanted her to live in the past, and to deny her a future. And friends who couldn't respect the choices she made weren't really friends at all. She chose Sean and those who couldn't live with that were part of her past not her future.

She always said he was her rock and she was proved right over the years. Because when Sarah was ill, he looked after her. And over the last number of years, Sarah was ill a lot. First she had mobility problems, needing to have both hips done, and then when those were cleared up she had eye problems. And then she was diagnosed with cancer. And through it all, Sean was there looking after her, doing things for her it would have taken a team of nurses to do. The care he lavished on her was truly amazing; and it shows that what Sarah saw in him was truly worth seeing.

But her life with Sean wasn't all about illness. It was during her time with him that her creative side blossomed. Her mother had taught her to sew when she was young, making all her own clothes, and those skills came back later: she began knitting and making patchwork bags, quilts, and other items; supposedly to sell, but really she made them just because she loved making them. And she loved gardening too, not in a fancy 'roses and orchids' way, but just for the love of seeing things grow. And she never lost her love of a good chat, with a cup of tea, always punctuated with bursts of her infectious laughter.

I could say more; I could, as St John says at the end of his Gospel, keep going until I had filled more volumes than the world could hold. But there is no need to pile up words upon words today. We all have our own volume marked 'Sarah' in our mental library. It was her own special gift to each of us here and we can go to it and open it as often as we like. And so, on behalf of her family and all here, I end by saying: 'Sarah, thank you for all that you gave each of us over the years. May you rest in peace.'

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Prayer diary, Saturday 20th April 2013

Many said 'this is a hard saying; who can understand it?' Then Jesus said to the twelve: 'Do you also want to go away?' Peter answered him 'Lord, to whom should we go? You have the words of eternal life.' 
John 6. 60-68

Much of what Jesus says, and teaches through his Church, is hard. But the answer is not to walk away or to demand that the teaching be changed. Rather we must change ourselves and live as Christ calls us to. How can we do otherwise? His are the words of eternal life.

something that made me smile

Today is going to be a hard day. It's my mother-in-law's Requiem Mass at noon & I'm delivering the eulogy. I needed something to make me smile. This clip did the trick. I hope it does the same for you.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Prayers please: So much illness ...

Dear, oh dear: so many seem to be ill. On several of the blogs I follow, the blogger is either ill themselves, or has a family member that is seriously ill, & is requesting the assistance of prayers. If you  would like to assist them with your intercessions, your can find them as follows:
Father Z of WDTPRS;
New Catholic at Rorate Caeli;
Shane at Lux Occulta.

The latter two are asking for prayers for their sick mothers, something dear to my heart. On that subject, tomorrow is my mother-in-law Sarah's requiem Mass; and on Monday we bury both her ashes and those of my mother, Mary. Of your charity if you would also keep both of them, and those who loved them, in your prayers. 

Prayer diary, Friday 19th April 2013

'I say to you: unless eat the flesh of the Son of Man, & drink his blood, you have no life in you.' 
John 6. 53

It is only in Christ's Church may we receive the Blessed Sacrament that is the Body & Blood of our Lord that brings life. How therefore can there be those who claim salvation by his power, yet come to his Church seldom, and receive the precious gift of his body and blood infrequently or never?

Arm yourself

Sometimes technology is sooo frustrating! I wanted to embed a youtube video here, but the one I want simply refuses to appear ... malevolent influences or sheer lack of know-how: you decide! So I embedded a different one, just for the image (unrelated to the post, but worth watching!); and the video itself can be found here and the text of it here (for those who prefer to skim through rather than listen). The bit I wanted to draw to your attention was Fr Barron's recommendation that people of faith should read the great apologists of the faith so that they too might be able to defend the faith when challenged. He suggests writers such as  G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, Ronald Knox, Fulton Sheen. 

Arm yourself, folks. We are the Church militant, not the Church doormat. None of the arguments you'll meet out there are new ... read up on how our brothers and sisters in Christ of the earlier generations dealt with them. And then instead of being left floundering when confronted with them, you can gently deal with anyone getting in your face thinking they have just reinvented the wheel and feeling so clever about it!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

the rector sleeps ...

On the one hand, I am grateful for the warmth of an Aga* in a farmhouse kitchen on a miserably wet and cold afternoon. On the other, when the warmth causes the visiting rector to become drowsy and fall asleep in the middle of a pastoral visit, I would like to kick them ... and probably would if they weren't made of solid iron and blazing hot ...

*A solid fuel cooker common in Ireland

Prayer diary, Thursday 18th April 2013

'This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which which came down from heaven.' 
John 6. 50,51

Again and again Christ tells us that we must eat of his flesh; yet it is not to be done lightly. For as St Paul tells us, to do so unworthily is bring judgement against oneself.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Please pray for this priest

Fr Michael Kayal was taken prisoner by a small group of extremists in his native Syria on February 9th of this year. This young priest was ordained on October 2nd, 2011.  At this time no one knows where he is or what is happening to him. 

Please pray for Fr Kayal. Pray that he is still alive and that he will be released soon. If you have a blog, or are linked into the social media network in some way, do what you can to make what has happened to him more widely known. Christians are the most persecuted group in the world today. Because that doesn't fall into line with the Western mainstream media's portrayal of the Church as being an oppressor, little is published in the West about what our brothers and sisters throughout the world are suffering. Let's try to change that. Let's try to let the world know about Fr Michael Kayal.

Prayer diary, Wednesday 17th April 2013

'This is the will of him who sent me: that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up on the last day.' 
John 6. 39

It is the will of the Father that all should believe in the Son and have eternal life; & part of his will in achieving that was that we should be nourished by the body and blood of his Son, the bread come down from heaven.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

a 'happy anniversary' chuckle

Today is our 26th wedding anniversary (& before you ask, we had a lovely day!). So, as you can imagine, the following letter I received in the post today gave me a bit of a chuckle:

Perhaps you could keep your nose out of women's vaginas from now on and stop interfering in the abortion debate. I'm damn sure if you were married and had a 12 year old daughter who was raped and impregnated that you would correctly be marching her off to England to have a termination. You are such misogynist hypocrites, frustrated, mostly old, dysfunctional men.
Yours, John

This wasn't an anonymous letter either. My correspondent proudly included his full name and address along with his gentle words of advice. Charming, wouldn't you agree? 

To provide some background: what's prompted this missive is the few letters I've had in the Irish Times expressing my views in relation to the abortion debate. My correspondent made the mistake of launching an ad hominem attack on the basis of a false premise, that I was a Roman Catholic priest (forgetting, as most do in Ireland, that there are many others who use the title 'Father' - Eastern Catholics, Orthodox, & some Anglicans, to name just some). Then of course he simply piles on the abuse (with the usual sentimentalist's 'hard case' of a raped and pregnant young daughter) without making any argument. 

All chuckling aside, there is a serious side to this letter. My correspondent sadly believes that his scribblings passes for reasoned debate. It's hardly surprising, when in the public square abuse, sneering, name-calling, and labeling has replaced logic and reason in argument. Not to mention having no respect whatsoever for any and all who disagrees with your views. Don't agree with abortion? Why don't you keep your nose out of women's vaginas you misogynistic old hypocrite. Who can argue when faced with such devastating  wit and logic? 

Still, I suppose if my letters to the editor trouble him so much he must be worried that they'll have an effect. So, glass half-full and all that, perhaps I should take his letter as a compliment? In which case, I feel encouraged to continue with my 'interfering.' Thanks John!

Prayer diary, Tuesday 16th April 2013

Jesus said: 'I am the bread of life. He who comes to me shall never hunger; and he who believes in me shall never thirst.' 
John 6. 35

Christ give us his body and blood; it is real food and real drink; and it strengthens us so that we may attain the reward Christ promised – life eternal.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The ministry of motherhood

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

In the Gospel reading chosen for today by Frances' children, Jesus tells his disciples that in his Father's house are many mansions and that he goes to prepare a place there for them. It is passage of scripture commonly heard at funerals and with good reason: at times like these we need the comfort and assurance that there is a life beyond this one; and that part of that life is the hope we have of eternal life with our Creator in heaven.

It is not for us to know, of course, who does or does not attain to that reward. But we can look for signs from a person's life, indicators which may tell us whether a person has been a good and faithful servant, worthy to enter into the happiness of their master. And it is quite clear that Frances was certainly a good and faithful servant. If you were to talk with her family about her faith, you would hear them speak of a woman to whom her faith and her church were central parts of her life. Not just by way of being part of the vestry, or cleaning, or spending hours in the kitchen preparing for bake sales, important as they are; but by her quiet Sunday by Sunday faith, attending services and never missing a Sunday when she was in her health and strength. 'Sunday is Sunday,' she told her children. And on Sunday you went to church and that was it – no excuses! Later, when she couldn't get out as much herself, she remained interested in the life of the parish, of course, and she remained faithful in her worship by way of home communions. She preferred the forms of the services from the old Prayer Book, particularly when her eyesight wasn't as good and she began to find it harder to read the services, because she all but knew the older versions off by heart, and could say the responses from memory.

But her faith was not something that was simply turned in on itself, concerned solely with herself. Just as there are many mansions in God's house, there are many ministries within his Church; and that of the faithful, Christian mother is far from being the least of them. Frances saw it as her duty as a Christian mother to raise her children in the faith, and to encourage them to persevere in it. She did this as a young mother by not only sending them to the parish school and to Sunday school, but by insisting that they attend Sunday services. Sunday is Sunday, and that's all there is to it was not only something she lived as part of her own life, but that she shared with those in her care. And later, when it was their decision, not hers, that didn't stop her from asking them if they had been to Church that Sunday. And of course, she extended her ministry down to the next generation, constantly inquiring if her beloved grandson had been to church on Sunday. Indeed, as her son was telling me she didn't limit her ministry of encouragement to her close family: she would regularly inquire of those who came in to assist him care for him at home if it was Sunday, and if it was had they been to Church!

It might seem like a very slight ministry, that of simply asking and encouraging others to go to Church of a Sunday … but I suspect that if there were more people like Frances in the world who were not afraid or embarrassed quietly to remind their sons or daughters, their grandchildren, friends, neighbours, or acquaintances of their Christian duty to faithfully worship, Sunday by Sunday, who remembered that the love we have for the people in our lives is not limited to caring about them in this life, but extends to being concerned about their hope of life in the next; and were willing to lead by example when it comes to that duty, then the world would be a very different place.

After Jesus told his disciples that he was going to prepare a place for them with the Father, Thomas, brave Thomas, asked him how they could know the way to the place that he was going. And Jesus replied that he was the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Through the quiet faith that Frances lived and shared with others all her life she showed that she did indeed know that Christ was the Way, the Truth, and the Life; and we can therefore have full confidence in our hope that she is with him this day in his Father's house of many mansions. Amen.

Prayer diary, Monday 15th April 2013

Jesus said: 'Do not labour for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to everlasting life.' 
John 6. 27

In the Eucharist, Christ gives us himself, the Bread which has come down from heaven. Without it, there is no life in us; with us, we have life in abundance, unto everlasting life.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

do you love me?

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

You've probably all seen a film where a young woman and a young man who are getting romantically attached are out on a date; the evening is coming to a close; perhaps they have had an intimate meal in a restaurant, with candles on the table and sweet violins playing softly in the back-ground; he walks her home; the stars are shining in the sky; the moon is full; they are holding hands; they come to her door; he turns to kiss her; but before he can she says: 'do you love me?' And the young man hesitates; gulps; and mumbles something like: 'Gosh … ah … well, you know, I like you … I really do. I'm terribly fond of you. I am. Honestly'

We have a scene something like that in our Gospel reading today. The disciples are at something of a loose end. Jesus is back from the dead. But they're not sure what that means for them. So Peter says: I'm going fishing. And his pals say they're going too. So out in the boat they go; back to their old life. They're out there all night. And they catch nothing. And then in the cold light of dawn there's someone on the beach. He tells them to cast the net over the other side. And suddenly it's full. The boys know who it is of course: the Lord. Peter impulsively flings himself into the water and swims to shore, while the other follow behind in the boat, dragging the net behind them. Jesus has food ready: bread and fish, just like when he fed the 5000; and he blesses the bread and breaks it, just as before. They all know who he is, of course, even if they're afraid to say it.

And then, Jesus asks Peter does he love him. And Peter replies back that he does love him. And they do this three times. And the three times reminds us of the three times that Peter denied Jesus during his Passion. But there is a lot more going on here than just that, part of which we miss because we are reading it in translation. English has only one word for love; but Greek, the language in which the New Testament is written, has, believe it or not, four! Agape, philia, eros, and struge. Sturge can be translated as affection and refers to what we might call familial love, for example the love a parent has for a child; eros means romantic love or being in love; philia is the love we experience in friendship, or brotherly love of a deep and true kind. And then there is agape: this kind of love is different to the other three; it is unconditional and voluntary, self-sacrificing, and divine … the love that God has for us and the kind of love that we should have for God. When St John tells us in Chapter three of his Gospel that 'God so loved the world that he sent his only Son' the word used is agape; and when Jesus tells his disciples that they must love God with all their heart & soul & mind and love their neighbour as themselves he uses the word agape. There is, of course, a bit more to it all than the short version I'm giving you & if you'd like to know more of the nuance of it all, CS Lewis has a short book called the 'Four Loves' on the subject.

But I think I've given you enough to understand a bit more about the little exchange between our Lord and St Peter. Because the first time Jesus asks him does he love him, he uses the word 'agape.' But when Peter replies that he loves him he uses the word 'philia.' Jesus has asked him does he love him with an all consuming, self-sacrificing love, and Peter has said in reply that he loves him as a dear friend or brother; that he is 'fond' of him. And when Jesus asks him a second time, he again uses the word agape; and Peter again replies using philia

But the third time, Jesus changes from using agape to using philia … and Peter is grieved … not that Jesus asked him a third time did he love him; but that the third time he uses the word philia instead of agape … Peter knows he should love Jesus with the love that the divine is entitled too, but he does not; and Jesus' has underlined that with his third asking. But note Peter's answer; you know all things. Peter, knowing that he did not yet love Jesus as he should, did not dare to answer falsely and claim a greater love than he did have. And Jesus provides a kind of comfort then; because knowing all things, and knowing that Peter will grow to have the right kind of love for him, agape-love, and that he will prove it by his martyrdom, speaks prophetically of Peter's death … and then says to the man who denied him thrice, and thrice admitted that he did not love his Lord and Saviour as he aught, 'Follow me.'

A different response to that of the girl in the films, who usually follows her boyfriend’s failure to declare undying love with tears or a smack across the face or an angry slam of the door in his face. Jesus continues to hold the door open; even while he gently reminds us, as he did Peter, that we do not love his as we aught, he also gently continues to call us to follow him, so that the day may come when we give him the love that he deserves. In his grace, he helps us; so that when the day comes for us to meet with him face to face, we may truly tell him that we love him with every fibre of our being; and he may gently tell us: I know all things; and I know that you love me. Amen.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

why is the media silent about Gosnell?

File:Kermit Gosnell mug.jpg
Interesting that the media seems to be keeping so very quiet about the trial Dr Kermit Gosnell. Gosnell is possibly one of the worst mass murderers of the modern era. He is charged with the first degree murder of seven children, accused of killing them by cutting their spinal cords with a scissors.* It is believed he killed hundreds more over the years; the numbers will never be known as he destroyed his records. They died in Gosnell's 'clinic,' which FBI and health inspectors described as blood-stained and stinking of urine, with cat feces on the floor, filled with out of date, rusty, unsterilised equipment.

I'd expect a media fire-storm about a case like this. Instead, a Google search certainly doesn't show much evidence of interest by the main-stream media. T
he reporters, it seems, are staying away in droves. Why so silent? Is it because the victims were survivors of failed abortions? Does that go against the modern narrative that abortion is the safe, sterile disposal of a few clumps of cells? Gosnell's alleged victims were living, living, breathing, crying babies, silenced because they were inconvenient to those around them. They deserve better than further silence now.

Pray for Gosnell. Pray for his victims. And perhaps also contact your local media outlets and demand to know why they are keeping silent about this trial. 

*he is also charged with one count of third degree murder of one adult, a woman who died after attending his 'clinic.'

Prayer diary, Saturday 13 April 2013

The sea arose because a great wind was blowing … they saw Jesus walking on the sea … and they were afraid. But he said to them: 'It is I; do not be afraid.' Then they willingly received him into the boat. 
John 6. 18-20

Difficulties arise; indeed, there are times when the cause seems to be the challenges of accepting Christ as master of your life. But trust in him; he is with you. And there is no need to be afraid.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Prayer diary, Friday 12 April 2013

Jesus said: 'Gather up the fragments that remain so that nothing is lost.' 
John 6. 12

In the feeding of the 5000 Christ prefigures his giving of himself to us in the Eucharist. His words remind us the reverence with which we must approach this sacrament.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Prayer diary, Thursday 11 April 2013

He who believes in the Son has everlasting life.' 
John 3. 36

Belief must be shown by the way in which we faithfully follow the teachings of Christ. To claim belief while continuing in a life of sin is hollow indeed.

haiku: yesterday's coffin

The small bruise
on my shoulder
from yesterday's coffin

~Fr Levi

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Prayer diary, Wednesday 10 April 2013

'For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.' 
John 3. 17

Christ came to save; but by our free will will we can reject the salvation he offers and thus condemn ourselves.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Prayer diary, Tuesday 9 April 2013

'Even so must the Son of Man be lifted up that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.' 
John 3. 15

Jesus, son of God, son of Mary, willingly gave his life on a cross for us. Our response must be to follow him in this life so that we may stand before him in the next and be granted the reward he promises.

Monday, April 8, 2013

death notice, Sarah Prendergast

The death has occurred of Sarah Dawn Prendergast (nee Davies) of Conna, Co Cork

Prendergast (Derby, Fountainstown, & Conna); on April 8th 2013 after a brave struggle in the excellent care of Marymount Hospice; predeceased by her beloved husband, the late Phillip. A caring and loving mother to her daughter Ruth & son Ivan. Sadly missed by her life-long partner Sean Meehan, her son-in-law the Rev Patrick Burke and daughter-in-law Ann; her grandsons Isaac, Jeremiah, Jacob, Malachi, Dathai, & Donnchadh; granddaughter Aine-Marie; and her wide circle of family & friends. Prayers at 11 am Wednesday April 10th in the Mortuary of Marymount Hospice; followed by cremation in Island Crematorium at 2pm. Requiem Mass in St Catherine's, Conna, on Saturday, April 20th at noon. Family flowers only; donations in lieu to the Irish Cancer Society. May she rest in peace to rise in glory.

Prayer diary, Monday 8 April 2013

The Annunciation (transferred)
'Behold the maidservant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.' 

Luke 1.38

Reflection: The obedience of the BVM is an example to us all; we also must conform ourselves to God's will, uncaring of the personal cost to us in this life.

Sarah Dawn Prendergast, RIP

To pay the debt of our sinful state, a nature that was incapable of suffering was joined to one that could suffer. 
Saint Leo the Great, pope, on the Incarnation

My mother-in-law, Sarah, passed away peacefully this morning just before five. Strange days for my family to lose both her and my mother so close together. Tough on my four boys to lose both their grandmothers over the course of their Easter holidays. 

Oddly, both died exactly two weeks apart, on a Monday morning. They each died in Marymount Hospice. My mother, Mary, was in room 7, Sarah was in room 8, the room next door. My mother died on 25 March, the feast of the Annunciation; but because of Holy Week and the Octave of Easter, the feast was transferred to today. So both, in a sense, died on the feast of the Annunciation. 

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Sarah, and my mother Mary, & all in my family who have suffered from this sad double bereavement. 

'For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all .... He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity ...'
Titus 2: 11, 14

Sunday, April 7, 2013

the confession of St Thomas

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

Fascinating & important things happen in our Gospel today: Jesus appears to the gathered disciples, his first group post-resurrection appearance; he 'breathes' his Holy Spirit on them, empowering them to continue his mission on earth as leaders of his Church; as a mark of their authority, he tells them that if they forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained … giving them not only them as apostles, and effectively now bishops, the authority to pronounce authoritatively on matters of faith and morals, but also the priestly authority to pronounce absolution of sins to members of the faithful who confess and repent of their sins. 

But someone is missing when he appears: Thomas. And Thomas does not accept their testimony as to what has happened. He claims he not only needs to see for himself, but to actually touch, to put his finger into the nail prints, and his hand into Christ's wounded side before he believes. And so, a week later – just as today is a week after Easter Sunday – Christ appears to them again. This time, Jesus reminds the apostles of the importance of trusting in the testimony of faithful witnesses when it comes to the resurrection … and indeed, in the importance of having faith. Thomas, of course, believes this time. He does not need to touch. He sees. He believes. He worships the risen Christ, using those words that have echoed down the ages: My Lord and my God.

Generations of Christians have tended to sum up St Thomas on the basis of this episode with the title 'Doubting Thomas.' But I do not think it was the intention of the Evangelist that we should see Thomas through the lens of that less than complementary phrase. In St John's Gospel, there are three Apostles who are given roles of greater prominence than the others (discounting, of course, Judas, the betrayer): the first is Peter, with his triple denial & triple instruction to feed the sheep; the second is the 'beloved disciple,' likely St John himself, who reclines in our Lord's bosom at the Last Supper, and stands at the foot of the cross with Our Lady during the crucifixion; and finally there is St Thomas. It is Thomas, when the others fear to accompany Jesus to the tomb of Lazarus for fear of his enemies, who says: 'Let us also go, that we may die with him'; showing how brave and loyal he is. It is Thomas, when the Lord says that he is going to prepare a place for us in heaven, who says: 'Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?' Thomas isn't afraid to ask questions. And his question prompts the response from Jesus: 'I am the way, the truth, & the life.' And when the Evangelist is listing the disciples who are present at the final resurrection scene of the fourth gospel he puts Thomas second, placing only St Peter before him.

We can easily overlook the significant emphasis which St John lays on St Thomas' role in his Gospel by thinking of the two words 'Doubting Thomas.' Which is why it is important for us to remember that this title is not a scriptural one; the witness of scripture is that he was a questioning man who was brave and loyal. The evangelist John, one of his brother Apostles, considered him worthy of being singled out from the others, and of placing him high on the list, right up there with St Peter, the leader of the group. 

Why? Because even though he did doubt the word of the others who had seen Jesus … others whom, it must be remembered, had also doubted the word of the women when they told them that they had seen the Risen Lord … when he did see him, he makes one of the most important leaps of faith recorded in scripture: he says 'My Lord and my God.' It is Thomas who makes the link with the Resurrection of Christ and his Divinity. As I have pointed out previously, the fourth Gospel does not have a version of St Peter's confession of Jesus as the Christ. But what it does have is St Thomas' confession of Jesus as his Lord and his God. It is Thomas who first understands that the Risen Christ is God himself … because only God himself could, of his own power, rise again from the dead. Perhaps ironically the one who is best known for his doubting of the witness of others is in fact one of our own greatest witnesses to the faith, by his recognition and confession of Jesus as God, the word truly made flesh.

And our own response must be no different. As we see Christ risen through the eyes of our own faith, and come face to face with him as he makes himself known to us in the breaking of the bread, so we also must, like Thomas, declare him to be our Lord and our God; and then like Thomas go on to declare this life-giving truth to the world, whatever the cost. Amen.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

a boy, a razor, & a dad ...

I taught my eldest son how to shave yesterday. A proud moment. Yes, I know there may be a certain irony in a guy with a big beard teaching some to shave, but I wasn't always hairy faced! Ask my drill sergeant if you don't believe me ...

His mother had bought him a five-bladed, brand name razor and a can of equally fancy shaving gel ... I would have gone with with ordinary soap, a brush, & the cheapest plastic handled razor the shop had, but I guess that's the difference between moms and dads! 

Anyway you work with what you've got. I had him fill the sink with hot water, splash his face well, rub the gel between his wet palms into a good lather, cover his face, shave with the grain only in smooth even strokes, rinsing out the razor well every few times, and then rinse his face off well in cold water. The result was he looked even more baby faced than ever, despite declining to shave off his peach-fuzz 'tache, & only slightly thicker side-burns! 

A precious moment ... good to have in these difficult days.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Swings and roundabouts

Today, all going according to plan, my father is being discharged from hospital back to the nursing home, having responded well to his treatment for pneumonia. Also today my mother-in-law leaves hospital for the hospice. Tomorrow is her 69th birthday. We'll all travel down in the morning, so her grandsons can say their farewells (even though she probably won't know they are there). In the evening we'll all come home again. The next day, Sunday, in the afternoon, my wife will travel down again, the intention being that she will stay with her mum for as long as she has left. 

What more is there to be said? Thank you for your continuing prayers.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

St. Gregory: the priestly order

I say it with tears, I declare it with groans, that, when the priestly order has fallen inwardly, neither will it be able to stand outwardly for long.
Pope St. Gregory the Dialogist

I came across this quote on Good Guys Wear Black & thought it worth sharing. Wise words ... with implications for actions. For priests, it means persevering in prayer, study and holiness of life; for others, it means supporting their priests with their words, prayers, and actions, encouraging them in their calling. Neither should either forget the strengthening that comes from fasting and the sacraments.  

We are in this together ... 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Thomas a Kempis: The Value of Adversity

Some words I find strength in this day ...

1. It is good for us to have trials and troubles at times, for they often remind us that we are on probation and ought not to hope in any worldly thing. It is good for us sometimes to suffer contradiction, to be misjudged by men even though we do well and mean well. These things help us to be humble and shield us from vainglory. When to all outward appearances men give us no credit, when they do not think well of us, then we are more inclined to seek God Who sees our hearts. 

2. Therefore, a man ought to root himself so firmly in God that he will not need the consolations of men. When a man of good will is afflicted, tempted, and tormented by evil thoughts, he realizes clearly that his greatest need is God, without Whom he can do no good. Saddened by his miseries and sufferings, he laments and prays. He wearies of living longer and wishes for death that he might be dissolved and be with Christ. Then he understands fully that perfect security and complete peace cannot be found on earth.

1.12 The Imitation of Christ

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

some good news (for a change!)

Lest anyone think my life is all doom and gloom at the moment ...

1. The amount of people who showed up for the prayers & rosary at the mortuary, the removal, the requiem Mass, and the prayers at the crematorium for my mom was touching and uplifting (as was the fact that I was the one who led the prayers at both the mortuary and crematorium) and it was great to talk to people and hear their stories.

2. My boys all suffer from eczema, particularly the younger two. This makes them itchy & uncomfortable, especially at night, which means they get up multiple times looking to have cream applied ... or snuggle in with us for comfort & then proceed to kick the living daylights out of us as they scratch their way through what remains of the night. As a result, my wife & I haven't had an unbroken night's sleep in years. Just before all this 'kicked off' with the senior generation, we took them to a new specialist, who started them on a new course of treatment, which seems to be working (we took them to the doctor on the Wednesday; the 'tumult' began on the Friday). The boys are sleeping at night. Which means we are too. Not sure we could have coped with all that's been going on if we had to deal with the usual sleep deprivation as well. Thank God for this.

3. Our poor goldfish took a turn for the worse a couple of weeks back. Fin rot for all three & swim bladder disease for one. We were too focused on our own problems to pick it up early ... & it's not like goldfish can complain. When we did notice, we treated for fin rot straight away. One was too advanced to recover, but the other two pulled through. We thought for sure that the one with swim bladder wasn't going to make it ... he was hanging about at the bottom of the tank on his side for over a week. Then suddenly, he was back to normal. We were really pleased ... I won him at a fun fair four years ago & he has beautiful feathery fins and tail.

So ... not all bad news. But please continue to keep us in your prayers ... 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Theocracy time?

I will confess that I am not in a great humour today. My mother died last week. My mother-in-law isn't doing so well. Her kidney function seems to be shutting down & if it is, then she only has a few days left. This morning I got a phone call from my brother that my dad has gone back into hospital with suspected pneumonia. That is worrying, as that's what often carries off those with advanced Alzheimer's. Ten minutes after the phone call my wife slipped as she was walking downstairs carrying some laundry. She slid most of the way down on her back. She wasn't badly injured, but she did have to go back to bed for most of the day and get some TLC. I've spent the day trying to stop the boys from killing each other & clear up their rooms while trying to do some work of my own - even though it's a bank holiday & I'm supposed to be off. I have so much to catch up on after being away most of last week I don't have any other choice.

So as I said, I'm not in the best of humours. Which is why when I watch a video clip by some jerk calling religion a disease my sense of charity is less than it normally is. The gob-smacking arrogance it takes to trample & spit on the beliefs of the vast majority of people on the planet, both today & down through history, makes my blood boil. Today, the guy is lucky that Christians don't do jihad, 'cause by golly this is the day that I'd declare one on him if it was an option! No foolin', despite the date!

Pray for me folks. I'm feeling mighty cranky. And my family. They, after all, have to live with me. Thank God I have this blog to vent on! (And if you would, pray for the repose of the soul of my mother, and for my father & mother-in-law in their illness).
(thanks to For the Fainthearted for the link.)