Tired of all the bad news

While we can't deny the difficulites for so many people at home and overseas, it's important to take account of the positives, and to spread the Good News. I don't know who said this but; "No-one ever injured their eyesight by looking on the bright side." Blessings..

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Seven Church Pilgrim Walk revisited.

On Sunday, December 30th, 2012, the Feast of the Holy Family we welcomed to both St. Mary of the Angels, Capuchin Friary, Church St, and St. Michan's Parish Church, Halston St, a group of pilgrims making the 'Seven Church Pilgrim Walk' following the huge success of it during the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in June. Many pilgrims were unable to be in Ireland in the summer so they organised to make the pilgrim walk around the seven churches today. The Friary Church and the Parish Church were named by the IEC Committee as two of the seven.

The group in Halston St.

Our Parish Secretary, Paddy Pender and author of the Book "St. Michan's Parish, A Labour of Love throughout the Centuries" speaks about the History of St. Michan's Parish.

The group included former President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, Mary Kennedy of RTE, Fr. Dermod McCarthy of RTE Religious Programming, and Msgr. Eoin Thynne, Head Chaplain to the Defence Forces.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Christmas Dinner at the Capuchin Day Centre

Today saw the annual Christmas Dinner at the Capuchin Day Centre, Dublin 7.
Ann (Chef) and staff dish up traditional turkey and ham with all the trimmings or cous-cous and Stuffed tomatoes as a vegetatian option.

Sitting down to dinner and listening to the entertainment.

I'm getting advice about real beard growing!

Queueing outside. There are 3 or 4 sittings between 1.00 p.m. and 4.00 p.m.

Theresa Dolan, Br. Kevin, and myself...

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Christmas Novena Prayer

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment In which the Son of God was born Of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires, [here mention your request] through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of His blessed Mother. Amen.

Beginning on the feast of St. Andrew, Apostle, November 30, the following beautiful prayer is traditionally recited until Christmas. This is a very meditative prayer that helps us increase our awareness of the real focus of Christmas.

I remember one of our great Capuchin friars; Fr. Senan Dooley (died December 8th, 2000) reciting as one of the devotional prayers after communion at Mass from Christmas day onwards through Christmastide.   

"All the feasts of the Church are beautiful. Easter, yes, is glorification but Christmas has a tenderness, a child-like sweetness that completely captivates my heart." St. Padre Pio

Taken at the Padre Pio Pilgrimage to Knock, Co. Mayo in 1998
Included in the photo; Back; L-R Msgr. Grealy PP, A Religious Sister, Fr. Senan, Myself,
Front; Fr. Anthony, Abp. Storero; Papal Nuncio, Fr. Alessio, Eileen Maguire.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Dublin Gospel Choir in Church St

The Dublin Gospel Choir Mass and Concert in Preparation for Christmas 2012
St. Mary of the Angels Capuchin Friary, Church St, Dublin 7

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

"Vigil for Life"

Some Capuchins joined with thousands of people; women and men, religious and clergy, from all over Ireland and beyond to maintain a candlelight 'Vigil for Life' last evening, December 4th, just outside Dáil Eireann (the Irish Parliament) to ask the Government not to legislate for abortion and to protect mothers and their unborn babies.

This is a critical issue for most people and emotions are high on both sides of the debate. I believe it is unhelpful when zealous opinions on both sides (Pro-Life and Pro-Choice) try to shout each other down. There is need for respectful debate in this issue.

I feel last evening sent a positive signal to our Irish Govermnent that we believe it is imperative that when they do come to legislate it should be done carefully and with a view to making every provision to protect the lives of mothers and unborn babies.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Stay Awake!

Prayer is not so much about what we do for God, but what God does for us and in us. Advent and Christmas time is all about God coming into the human story. God's initiative. The best way to celebrate Advent is in a prayerful way. When Luke in the gospel of the first Sunday of Advent says 'Stay awake, praying at all times..' he means tune into the fact that God is coming to you and me.
(Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36)

It is hard to do this in our time as there are so many messages battling for our attention. Christmas comes earlier and earlier every year so its like Advent hardly gets a look in. However, we are still encouraged to make prayerful preparation in Advent.
In his book "The Good News of Luke's Year" Fr. Silvester O'Flynn writes:

"We wait for the Lord if we live with attentive minds and prayerful hearts. Prayerfulness is the art of seeing and hearing the constant signs and sounds of God's love in our lives. Those who mastered this sensitivity were saints. In the words of T.S. Eliot;
'But to apprehend  the point of intersection
of the timeless with time, is an occupation for the saint.' (The Dry Salvages)

The best way to stay awake is to be awake to the needs of others, especially those who for whatever reason are fearful of Christmas time. Just today, I met two men (30's) who are not looking forward to Christmas as they both find themselves homeless and are away from their families.  "Christmas will just be another day for me." one said. "I wish it was all over to tell you the truth." said the other. I also think of people who dread Christmas as perhaps this will be the first Christmas that a loved one won't be sitting around the table or the fireside in the family home.

During Advent let us pray....

Sunday, 11 November 2012

The widow's mite.

Remember when you went out to dinner for the first time? Or sat at the table with the soup spoon, dessert spoon, dessert fork, starter knife and fork, and the main course knife and fork, the different glasses etc, and look and wonder where to begin? And you’d look to someone else for help, and they’d say something like “Start from the outside and work in.” Having done weddings, I see the etiquette come into play, the suits, the dresses, the hats, and the speeches. I see the nerves of the best man as the moment approaches when he has to call the guests to order to begin the formalities.  We all look to others for guidance when we are somewhere for the first time.

Jesus and the disciples were in Jerusalem and were in the Temple precincts and being from the countryside the disciples were nervous and shy about what to do, and how to conduct themselves there. They sat down opposite the temple treasury and were people watching. Maybe they were hoping to get some indication about how to walk, or bow, or pray in the Temple.  In the precincts of this great House of God built by King David, every step was a prayer and even every breath.
Jesus saw the deference that was being paid to the scribes “who like to walk about in long robes, to be greeted obsequiously in the market squares, to take the front seats in synagogues and the places of honour at banquets...” He was warning the disciples not to become like them.  Beware.

The treasury was a bit like an upside-down trumpet. And it made a noise when money was put into it. These were the days before paper-money and credit cards so the more money that went in, the bigger the boom it made, and the more attention it attracted. And those in charge would smile approvingly when someone would make a large donation. And so would everyone within earshot. What a great feeling to have the adulation of many within the Temple courtyard and indeed those in authority. 

Jesus noticed that a poor widow woman had come along and had made her small donation to the treasury. It barely made a sound as she put it in. No eyebrows were raised here, this woman was invisible. Those in the city were too busy tipping a cap or turning and bowing to some priest with a prayer shawl, for the city was full of holy people. The poor widow just made her offering, and scurried on by. But Jesus saw what she did and he drew the attention of his disciples to her offering. “I tell you solemnly, this poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury.”She may have given small money but she gave such great love. No one saw her and what she did, no one noticed. She was used to that. But Jesus Christ saw her heart and told his disciples that this is contribution that God the Father wants.

Each of us are called to place an offering into the treasury and like the person who goes away into their private space and prays to their father in secret, God sees all that is done in secret and will reward those who give from their open and generous hearts.

Friday, 26 October 2012

"Go, your faith has saved you."

They reached Jericho; and as he left Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus -- that is, the son of Timaeus -- a blind beggar, was sitting at the side of the road.
47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout and cry out, 'Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me.'
48 And many of them scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he only shouted all the louder, 'Son of David, have pity on me.'
49 Jesus stopped and said, 'Call him here.' So they called the blind man over. 'Courage,' they said, 'get up; he is calling you.'
50 So throwing off his cloak, he jumped up and went to Jesus.
51 Then Jesus spoke, 'What do you want me to do for you?' The blind man said to him, 'Rabbuni, let me see again.'
52 Jesus said to him, 'Go; your faith has saved you.' And at once his sight returned and he followed him along the road.

This is a wonderful account from Mark's gospel of the cry of Bartimaeus for healing. Picture the scene; Jesus is on his way from Jericho with his disciples and a large crowd who are following him. He is renowned for his powerful deeds, his words of life that lift people up, and his willingness to forgive sinners. So it stands to reason that people are curious about him and it is natural that those in need will ask him for healing.

Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) a blind beggar is further up the road and he asks what all the excitement and noise is about. He relys on the goodness of people for his survival and because he is blind people give him small money and food out of their charity. He is a pitiful case and someone must have sinned in his background for him to be blind. This was the thinking at the time. Crowds are pressing around Jesus as he makes his way along the road. Many people follow along hoping to see  miracle or hear something that will set them on fire. Bartimaeus has heard about Jesus before. He may have no sight but he is all ears and he would have paid attention to the news about Jesus. He heard with the eyes of faith. So with all his might he caused a fuss; he began to shout; "Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me." And the more he was told to quieten down, the more he shouted. He KNEW Jesus could heal him.  Jesus stopped and said "Call him here."

Imagine the picure; He gets up and throws off his cloak and goes over to Jesus. His cloak represents the old Bartimaeus, he won't need this anymore. Jesus asks him a powerful question; "What do you want me to do for you?" This question may also be for the benefit of the many standing around. "Rabbuni - Master, let me see again." And seeing here means more than a restoration of physical sight. Maybe I with my 20/20 vision have missed things? Or turned my face away from Jesus in his moments of need?

Straight away, Jesus says "Go, your faith has saved you." It was through other eyes his blindness was healed; his eyes may have been injured, sore and unable to see, but his heart and his faith was strong. And this once poor blind beggar also witnessed to the power of God in Jesus Christ. And what also can a witness do then? After his sight returned "...he followed him along the road." He became a disciple, a witness for you and me to help with whatever blinds us from the clearer picture of Christ in the world and in those most in need.


Capuchin Franciscan Vocations Ireland: Where am I?

Capuchin Franciscan Vocations Ireland: Where am I?: This is the first question our new vocations brochure asks, which we are delighted to launch today!!  Where am I? has been the starting poi...

Monday, 8 October 2012

Friday, 5 October 2012

Simple Minds - Sanctify Yourself (live)

Another great band to perform live are Simple Minds. This one from the 'Night at the Proms' Rotterdam, The Netherlands in 2008

U2 - Bad Live Aid 1985

This is a classic from Live Aid. July 13th 1985 at Wembley Stadium, London. U2 and Queen were probably the two bands that stole the show that day.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

St. Francis of Assisi

Francis of Assisi- the Early Years.

Francis of Assisi was born in 1182 to Pietro, a wealthy cloth merchant, and to Pica, a lady descended from the nobles of Provence in France.  As a young man, he was no different from his many friends in that he loved to dance, sing and go to parties.  He loved the limelight and he was dubbed the ‘king of feasts’ by his friends as he was renowned for throwing the best parties.

Quest for Knighthood.

He dreamed of becoming a knight.  Like the other young men of Assisi, he wanted to excel in the war that was waging between Assisi and the neighbouring town of Perugia.  Because he was the son of Pietro di Bernadone, his father dressed him in the best armour money can buy, but he had no skills as a fighter!  The young knights of Assisi marched out of the town to war and soon Francis was captured and imprisoned by the enemy for a lengthy period of time.  It was while Francis was in prison that he was to realise that God wanted him to do an altogether different kind of fighting.  God was asking him to understand that the time was coming for him to serve the real master.

Encounter with the Leper.

He escaped and found his way home where he was quite ill for a long time.  His mother and father couldn’t understand what had come over him.  He was loosing interest in his old lifestyle and spending a lot of time alone and visiting some of the old churches in the valley outside Assisi.  It was while he was thinking about his future that one day he encountered a leper.  Lepers were outcast in the society of the time as they had a highly contagious and incurable disease.  Francis became sick to the pit of his stomach at the sight of the leper and wanted to run fast in the opposite direction.  Suddenly, he was off his horse, and he put some money into the leper’s hand.  He then took the lepers diseased hand and kissed it.  He couldn’t believe he had done this but felt so good in himself for having done it.

Francis; Go repair my Church.

It was while he was kneeling in prayer before a cross in the little church of San Damiano that he thought he saw the lips moving and the image of Jesus speaking to him.  He heard an inner voice saying “Francis, go repair my church, which, as you can see is falling completely into ruin.”  Was he hallucinating?  Could this feeling be a mistake.  But there was no mistake, he heard the inner voice speak again, “Francis, go repair my church, which, as you can see, is falling completely into ruin.”  In the days that followed, he told his father that he no longer had any interest in knighthood, or following in his footsteps as a businessman.  His father was very upset that Francis was going to follow a different path and not the ones that he had mapped out for his son.  He asked the local bishop, Guido, to speak to Francis and Francis told the Bishop that he was no longer calling Pietro Di Bernadone his father, but he was now saying “Our Father in Heaven.”

He began to repair the little church of San Damiano and to beg for money to buy oil to keep a lamp burning there.  He also repaired some of the other ruined churches around the area.  He dressed himself in a rough tunic with a long hood and tied a rope around his waist, rather than wear a belt which only the rich wore.  He was beginning to see his purpose in life and other young men from the town started to become curious about what he was doing.  They could see how happy and free he was and they wanted to join him in his new building programme.

Pope Innocent III.

Francis and his new followers lived in San Damiano and they became known as the ‘little brothers’ or the friars minor.  Francis drew up guidelines or a ‘rule of life’ for the friars to live by and he went to see the pope at the time, Pope Innocent III.  At first, the pope thought they were fanatics and he had no time for radicals or fanatics.  After a while, the pope saw something different in Francis and his brothers and realised that this little movement was God’s will.  He approved their rule of life and sent Francis and his brothers back to Assisi to grow and spread their way of life around Italy and beyond.

Rebuilding the Church into the Future.          

As the brothers came to Francis and as the order of lesser brothers grew and spread around Europe, Francis accepted Ciara di Offreducio (St. Clare of Assisi) into the order and she and her first followers moved into San Damiano where they became known as the ‘Poor Ladies’ or the ‘Poor Clares’, and to this day they live in enclosure and prayer.  Francis also accepted lay women and men into the Franciscan family and are today known as the Secular Franciscan Order.  It is clear that at first, Francis set out to repair the little ruined churches around Assisi, but as time went on, he found out that his work of rebuilding was to repair the church of God not with bricks and mortar, but with people.

In 1224, two years before his death he was in prayer on Mount La Verna where he received the stigmata, the bleeding wounds of Jesus on his hands, feet and side.  This is seen and symbolising his commitment to the sufferings of Jesus on the cross.  Francis of Assisi died early on October 4th 1226 and he was canonised a saint by Pope Honorius III in 1228.  He is the Patron Saint of Italy and of Ecologists.


Tuesday, 11 September 2012

September 11th

Thoughts and prayers today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Remembering all who died, and all who are left to mourn. Praying too for all victims of sensless violence and those who daily suffer especially those who suffer in silence. I am reminded of the words of Jesus Christ from John's Gospel; 'This is my commandment, love one another, as I have loved you. No one can have greater love than they lay down their lives for their friends.  (John 15: 12-13)

Fr. Mychal Judge, an American of Irish ancestry was a Franciscan priest who lived the rule of St. Francis of Assisi and daily tried to see an image of God in all created things. It was in this spirit that he put others first in life instead of himself and faced danger as Chaplain to the FDNY. He died on September 11th 2001 ministering to those killed and injured at the World Trade Centre towers. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

'Lord, take me where
you want me to go;
Let me meet who
you want me to meet;
Tell me what
you want me to say, and
Keep me out of your way.

Mychal Judge, O.F.M.

(Chaplain, New York Fire Department Copyright ©2001 Holy Name Province)



Sunday, 9 September 2012

A quiet Sunday afternoon - Scenes from our Capuchin Friary

The friary garden
Our friary chapel where we pray the Liturgy of the Hours
Our Refectory - Dining room
The Library

Saturday, 8 September 2012

A Plug for Vocations

In 1528, Br. Matthew of Bascia had a dream to reform the Franciscan Order with a view to trying to re-discover the original vision of St. Francis of Assisi.

He found himself and a few Franciscan followers trying to live the gospel again in great simplicity and poverty.  When the friars were seen on the streets in their habits with long hoods, and wearing long beards, the people called them ‘Scappuccini’ or hermits.  Eventually, the name was refined to Cappuccini and the name became synonymous with the Capuchin Friars.  Soon, this new Franciscan reform spread throughout the world and the friars came to Ireland in the seventeenth century.
One of the more famous Irish Capuchins was Fr. Theobald Mathew (1790-1856). He ministered at a time of great deprivation in Ireland and introduced a campaign of Temperance in the mid 1800’s.  Between 1838 and 1843, Fr. Mathew criss-crossed Ireland and enrolled 6 million members in his Temperance Association.  He was hailed in the U.S.A. in 1849 by the Mayor of New York and by the U.S. Senate in Washington D.C.   His statue stands at the top of St. Patrick’s Street in Cork and near the top of O’Connell Street in Dublin as a tribute by the people of Ireland to his Temperance Association which is still in existence today. 
After Fr. Mathew’s death in 1856, Ireland was in the throes of the Great Famine and during those years there was a mass exodus of Irish people to Great Britain, Australia, and the U.S.A.  Tragically, the population was cut in half during that time and the Capuchin Province of Ireland was suppressed and then re-established in 1885 by Fr. Seraphin Van Damme of Bruges.  The Order established a Secondary School for Boys hoping to join the Order at Rochestown in Cork.  Soon the ‘Seraphic Seminary’ was going from strength to strength and many boys joined the order from the School.
Today, in Ireland, we are to be found in Donegal, Dublin, Carlow, Kilkenny, and Cork. We work in a variety of ministries; schools, hospitals, industrial chaplaincies, sea- farers, third-level, homeless, parish, justice and peace.
We are all part of the Family of God and God calls us to do something great for him in life.  It may be to marriage and family life, it may be to serve him as a single person.  However, some are called to serve God and his people in Religious life.  This is not something we hear about every day and particularly in our world of today which hits us with so many other messages competing for our attention. 
If you are someone who has been wondering what it might be like to join the Capuchin Order, you may have heard of us or seen us dressed in brown habits and sandals.  A vocation to religious life begins in normal ways.  It is an attraction or a curiosity to find out more about the priesthood or religious life.  There are no apparitions or claps of thunder.  There are ways in which you can find out more about this.  You can contact us at any of our friaries.  There is a Vocations Director attached to every friary and he can be contacted there. You can also gain the support of family and close friends, and though this may be daunting at first, it is important to feel supported as you discern what it is God is asking of you. As a first step, pray to be shown you what it is God wants you to do.  Also; have a look at our blog or website for more information about what it is we do.
If you feel that you may be more than curious about our Capuchin Franciscan way of life, as a brother or as a priest, and you would like to have a chat about this you are welcome to contact;
Br. Terence Harrington, ofm.cap. Vocations Director
Ph: 086 323 0638
International Ph: +353 86 323 0638

P.S. See the website/blog for the next Vocations Discernment Weekends in Dublin...

Ave Maria (There Is A Heart) - Liam Lawton

A lovely song written and composed by Liam Lawton. Appropriate today September 8th the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady...

Monday, 3 September 2012

Capuchin Franciscan Vocations Ireland: Keep up to date....

News from our Capuchin General Chapter being held these days in Rome:
Capuchin Franciscan Vocations Ireland: Keep up to date....: ..... with the latest from the Capuchin General Chapter by  clicking here!!                                                          ...

Capuchin Franciscan Vocations Ireland: This is your invitation to.....

Capuchin Franciscan Vocations Ireland: This is your invitation to.....: Capuchin Franciscan Vocation Weekends 2012 Experience life as a Capuchin Franciscan Friar! September 21 st – 23 rd , October...

Monday, 27 August 2012

Sunday, 19 August 2012

It makes you think...

From NASA's 'Curiosity' Mars Probe...Earth is the one on the Bottom. It takes nine months to fly from Earth to Mars. Puts things into perspective....

Earthrise. That's us from Apollo 16 orbiting the Moon in the early 1970's.

Become what you receive

He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him. As I, who am sent by the living Father, myself draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will draw life from me.
Cf. John 6: 51-58

"Ordinary food is digested and changed into us...absorbed into fat, muscle, bone, hair etc.. With the Eucharist, it is we who are changed into what we receive. We become more Christlike in our thinking, values, attitudes, moral strength and apostolic zeal. We draw life and spiritual energy from Christ just as the hungry body is restored by food. "

(From Fr. Silvester O'Flynn ofm cap. in Sunday Seeds. 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

I like the above image, We are strengthened every day by eating nourinshing food, this helps us to grow and to stay healthy. We know this also because medical and dietary experts encourage us to eat well. This fuels our physical and spiritual health - our holistic wellbeing. Eating junk foods regularly will have the opposite effect and this is well known. We become what we eat as it were in one way or the other.

Jesus encourages us to receive him, to eat his flesh and drink his blood as a way of being spiritually healthy. This action, lived in the now, has a direct effect on how we take care of ourselves, each other, and the world around us. It also fuels us for our life with Him beginning today and for the eternal life to come after we die.  When we receive the body and blood of Christ at Mass, we are being strengthened on the inside for our day to day lives. I see this especially when I bring Holy Communion to the sick in their homes in the parish, especially on the First Friday. It becomes a focal point for them and a source of strength for them. They may be weak or have limited mobility on the outside, but they are strong within. They become what we receive.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven

The Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven is celebrated to honour Mary as someone who in a complete and selfless way co-operated in God becoming human in Jesus Christ. I remember Archbishop Fulton Sheen speaking on Our Blessed Lady and he used a lovely image; if we could have pre-existed our mothers and were given a part in her creation, wouldn’t we make her the most beautiful, the most special of all women? Jesus pre-existed his mother and he made her immaculate.
And by and large we all have wonderful mothers. Whether our mam’s are on earth or in heaven, they are still our mothers and we love them.  Listen to the requests in the newspapers, on social networking sites, or on radio stations each mother’s day or at their birthdays and you’ll see something like; “To the Best mother in the world...”

The first reading at today’s Mass from the book of the Apocalypse (Rev. 11:19, 12:1-6. 10) talks about the battle between good and evil and how the woman (Mary) is a key player in the story of how evil (the dragon) is defeated. Looking at the Gospel (1:39-56) we see Mary in her Magnificat seeking no praise or notoriety in this at all on hearing Elizabeth bless her. She is conscious that because of what God has done for her in choosing her to be the mother of the Son of the Most High, she says “Holy is his name.” Couple that with the vanity of the Dragon in Revelation and we see how vain evil can be. It seeks to stay hidden in lies yet it wants to be on prime time television, it loves to grace the pages of the news media, and it wants to be famous. Mary prefers to be like all mothers in putting their family first, the needs of the children first, and their own will in the back burner. I met a woman today who reminded me of how her mother went without dinner in order to give the food to the children. And that’s not the first time I heard that. We all have our own personal memories of selfless mothers, selfless parents.

We pray for all mothers on this Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

"Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee."

John 6: 24-35  

When the people saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into those boats and crossed to Capernaum to look for Jesus.
When they found him on the other side, they said to him, 'Rabbi, when did you come here?'
Jesus answered: In all truth I tell you, you are looking for me not because you have seen the signs but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat.
Do not work for food that goes bad, but work for food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of man will give you, for on him the Father, God himself, has set his seal.
Then they said to him, 'What must we do if we are to carry out God's work?'
Jesus gave them this answer, 'This is carrying out God's work: you must believe in the one he has sent.'
So they said, 'What sign will you yourself do, the sight of which will make us believe in you? What work will you do?
Our fathers ate manna in the desert; as scripture says: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'
Jesus answered them: In all truth I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, it is my Father who gives you the bread from heaven, the true bread;
for the bread of God is the bread which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.
 'Sir,' they said, 'give us that bread always.'
Jesus answered them: I am the bread of life. No one who comes to me will ever hunger; no one who believes in me will ever thirst.
In the Liturgy of the word for today’s Mass, we see human hunger for food and then the human hunger for something deeper. We need nourishing food and the strength that it gives for our lives. We’re being asked more and more are we getting our ‘five-a-day’? and there is concern out there that as a society we are getting more over weight because of the higher calorie content food and lack of exercise.  I remember Morgan Spurlock’s 2004 movie ‘Supersize Me’ where he did an experiment for 30 days eating only McDonald’s food. Needless to say, he put on weight, and dangerously increased his cholesterol and blood pressure. He also found he was tired and listless as the month went on and unhappy on the inside.  The idea here is that fast food is okay in moderation and as a treat once in a while.

We eat and this satisfies our hunger. A balanced diet and exercise keeps us healthy. But we need to keep it up. The people in the first reading cried out for God to satisfy their hunger. He gave them Manna in the desert and yes, it satisfied their hunger. But they cried out for something deeper. In the Gospel, Jesus feeds the people with loaves of bread and fish. He shows leadership and generosity and the people share their resources too. He now calls on the people to work for food that endures to eternal life; food that will satisfy the hungry heart. How do they do that? They must believe in the one God has sent. They must believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. The crowds at Capernaum were challenged to move beyond the physical hungers of everyday to the deeper desires of the human spirit. “Sir, give us that bread always...” Jesus replied; “I am the Bread of Life....those who come to me will never be hungry again.” I am; God’s self-revelation to Moses.

Today, there is so much hunger inside people. And this hunger is filled with not just junk food at times but with dangerous behaviour. I was at the Gaelic Football match yesterday between Dublin and Laois. I went with my brother, brother-in-law, and nephew. After the game we went for a beer in a place not too far from the stadium. I went to the rest room at one stage and when I had finished and washed my hands, I saw two men leave the one cubicle. My jaw dropped! I looked at the wash room attendant as if to shrug my shoulders, what’s going on? He pointed to his nose. I got the picture. They had been taking cocaine. This is a symptom of our world today and sadly it's a world can never satisfy a yearning for happiness. All this will do is make people sick or kill. I’ve seen the tragic results of cocaine misuse up close when I worked as a hospital chaplain from 2007-2010. 

“We are made for you O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you. “
St. Augustine.

Monday, 30 July 2012

St. Leopold Mandic, Capuchin, Small in stature but a spiritual giant

Saint Leopold Bogdan Mandić was born on May 12, 1866 in Castelnuovo di Cattaro (today Herceg Novi) Small in stature and delicate in his early life, (1.35m tall) he developed tremendous spiritual strength as he grew older.
Although he wanted to be a missionary in Eastern Europe, he spent almost all of his adult life in Italy, and lived in Padua from 1906 until the end of his life. He spent one year in an Italian prison during World War I, since he did not want to renounce his Croatian nationality. He dreamed unceasingly about reuniting the Catholic and Orthodox churches and going to the Orient. He became known as Apostle of Confession and Apostle of Unity.

Bogdan Mandić was the twelfth child of Dragica Zarević and Petar Antun Mandić, owner of an Adriatic fishing fleet; they came from the village of Zakučac (hinterland of the city of Omiš, 28 km from Split) As a child, he struggled with his health, and had a speech impediment. In November 1882 when he was 16, Bogdan went to Udine to enter the novitiate of the Venetian Capuchins. Two years later he was sent to the friary at Bassano del Grappa where he was given the name Brother Leopold. He made his first profession of vows a year later, and in 1888 he made his final profession of vows. On September 20, 1890, Leopold was ordained to the priesthood at Venice at the age of 24.

He was a small man but was a spiritual giant who spent most of his priestly life hearing confessions for up to 18 hours a day. He believed that as long as someone crossed the threshold of the confessional he had to do his "utmost" for them to be reconciled to God. He was a kind and compassionate confessor who, ahead of his time, didn't believe people needed to be judged or frightened with threats of condemnation.

As a result of the bombing during World War II, the church and part of the friary where Leopold lived was demolished, but Leopold's cell and confessional were left unharmed. Leopold had predicted this before his death, saying, "The church and the friary will be hit by the bombs, but not this little cell. Here God exercised so much mercy for people, it must remain as a monument to God's goodness."

Leopold suffered from cancer of the oesophagus which would ultimately lead to his death at age 76. On July 30, 1942, while preparing for the liturgy, he collapsed on the floor. He was then brought to his cell, where he was given the sacrament of the sick. Friars that had gathered at his bed began singing the Salve Regina and witnessed Leopold draw his last breath as they sang "O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary."

 Leopold was beatified by Pope Paul VI on May 2, 1976. He was canonized by John Paul II during the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on October 16, 1983. Leopold is a saint of our time and is hailed as the "Apostle of Unity".

Some sayings of St. Leopold:

"Some say that I am too good. But if you come and kneel before me, isn't this a sufficient proof that you want to have God's pardon? God's mercy is beyond all expectation."

"Be at peace; place everything on my shoulders. I will take care of it." He once explained, "I give my penitents only small penances because I do the rest myself."

"A priest must die from apostolic hard work; there is no other death worthy of a priest."

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Death - The gateway to a better place

Death is a formidable foe until we learn to make it a friend. Death is to be feared if we do not learn to welcome it. Death is the ultimate absurdity if we do not see it as fulfilment. Death haunts us when viewed as a journey into nothingness rather than a pilgrimage to a place where true happiness is to be found. The human mind cannot understand death. We face it with fear and uncertainty, revulsion even; or we turn away from the thought for us is too hard to bear. But faith gives answers when reason fails. The strong instinct to live points to immortality. Faith admits us into death's secrets. Death is not the end of the road, but a gateway to a better place. It is in this place that our noblest aspirations will be realised. It is here that we will understand how our experiences of goodness, love, beauty and joy are realities which exist perfectly in God. It is in heaven that we shall rest in him and our hearts will be restless until they rest in God.

*A reflection by Cardinal Basil Hume OSB, Archbishop of Westminster, following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in August 1997.  Cardinal Hume died in June 1999

A ship sails, and I watch till she fades
I am standing on the sea shore. A ship sails and spreads her
white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the ocean.
She is an object of beauty and I stand watching her till at
last she fades on the horizon, and someone at my side says:
‘She is gone.’ Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all;
she is just as large in the masts, hull a spars as she was
when I saw her, and just as able to bear her load of living
freight to its destination.

The diminished size and total loss of sight is in me, not her;
and just at the moment when someone at my side says;
‘She’s gone’ there are others who are watching her coming
and other voices take up a gland shout,
‘There she comes’, and that is dying.

-Bishop Brent

“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”

-Elisabeth Kubler Ross

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

'You sent my Nanny up to heaven!'

Talk about ‘out of the mouth of babes.’ I was over with some parishioners who had been recently bereaved and we were to plan the funeral liturgy. Naturally there was sadness in the household as they were coming to terms with their big loss.  The house was full with relations and neighbours calling in to sympathise, indeed there was a large group of people gathered inside and outside the house. There was a Burco boiler filled to the brim to make pots of tea and coffee and plates of sandwiches that friends and neighbours brought to cater for the visitors. I am continually amazed by the goodness and generosity of our people to others in times of sadness. Despite the sadness, there was also laughter, tears, and stories as they all shared their own memories with each other. The best therapy in the world is to give time to hear and share each other’s pain and struggles at a time of tragedy. This occasion was particularly poignant as the one who died was barely in middle age and the body was laid out in the living room of the family home.

There were some small children there who brought a degree of distraction to the situation and their innocence helped the older ones to cope here and there. One of the young lads maybe about 5 years old looked at me before the prayers and pointed to the coffin and said; “Is that yours?” In other words; did I own the coffin? I didn’t know what to say. What does one say? But another child, again about 4 or 5 years old and sporting a pair of glasses, quite like a junior Harry Potter was running in an out and came over and said; “You sent my Nanny up to heaven.”All the theology and the M.A. stuff I’ve done couldn’t prepare me for what came out of that child’s mouth. I was speechless. The only reply I could manage was; “That’s a lovely thing to say, thank you.”  And it was a lovely thing to say. I have known this particular family and indeed their neighbours for the last few years in the Parish and I have been with them for baptisms and funerals. One of the grown-ups would have told the child that I offered the funeral Mass for his grandmother and the language they used was something like ‘that priest sent your Nanny up to heaven.’ And the little boy remembered.

Priests are honoured to stand at the baptismal font to welcome a new member of our Christian family. In Ireland it is still mostly infant baptisms. We are there to solemnise a Marriage between a man and a woman and we stand at the foot of the altar to welcome a coffin and sprinkle it with holy water. These are three big occasions in the life of a family, intimate and emotional occasions which people will always remember and we are the privileged ones to be allowed inside.  To be seen as someone whose prayers and Masses helps to bring another close to God or to send someone ‘up to heaven’ is something I feel will take a lifetime for me to understand.  To be ‘In Persona Christi’ as a priest is awesome. Perhaps this child was spot on. And there’s no doubt that I was reminded of the responsibilities that goes hand in hand with it too.

Jesus exclaimed, 'I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to little children.  Matthew 11:25