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..

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Songs of Praise

In our history as Irish people, we have always loved to sing and make music. The Irish are renowned as perhaps the best musicians in the world. No need to mention U2/The Chieftans/One Direction/Westlife/Clannad/Hozier and of course Riverdance to name a few... 

Most young people love X-Factor and The Voice of Ireland. Each May-time we hope Ireland will win the Eurovision Song Contest like we did many times before. But these days in scripture we learn about some songs of praise…

Towards the end of Advent and now during this season of Christmas we hear three great songs being sung. The first is the song of Mary, the Magnificat in praise of God who has done great things for her.

The second song is the song of Zechariah who blesses God because something good is about to happen as his son, John the Baptist is to be the one to prepare the way for Jesus the Son of God.
The third song is sung by old Simeon in today’s gospel for the Feast of the Holy Family. He thanks God for the great gift of seeing the Christ-Child before he dies. Something wonderful is about to happen for the people and is still happening today in our time.

What song can we sing today for Jesus?

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Monday, 1 December 2014

The Driving Force

I sometimes look back to that September 1987 when I joined the Capuchins. Like most young people I loved music then and to this day, I associate some songs with the time I joined the order.  “Where the Streets have No Name,” by U2 would be one for example. Other artists charting that year would have been MAARS, George Michael and Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Mel and Kim, and even actor Bruce Willis had a hit.  I’ve just done a Google search and I note that in the UK, Rick Astley was No.1 in the U.K. charts with “Never gonna give you up” in the week I joined the Order. Around the same time in the U.S. Michael Jackson had released his single “I just can’t stop loving you.”

Now, as a 45 year old, it is almost impossible to get into the head of that 18 year old Bryan Shortall. I hear the ads on the radio, “Dear 30-year-old me…” And I wonder what I’d say to that lad if I could go back and talk to him.  But he wasn’t for talking to. He was full of it, and full of the habit, and full of the sandals, and the friary, and the sense of community even though he didn’t really know what it meant.  

He was sacred and emotional the day he joined. He missed his family, and his friends, and his girlfriends, and his breakdancing, and his dee-jaying. He didn’t miss school though, that was one good thing. He hadn’t a clue. He was going from sharing a room with his two brothers in suburban Dublin, with posters of the Beastie Boys on the wall, to sharing a religious house in the country with other men and pictures of the Pope and the General Minister of the Order.  The question he and the others who joined got asked a lot was “Have you settled in?” He used to hate being asked that question. What does ‘settled in’ feel like? And what’s the time line for settling in? He brought a selection of his LP records and it didn’t feel the same playing them in the sitting room of the Friary. The older lads didn’t wear white socks and they liked Dylan, and Jim Croce, and Neil Young, One of them couldn’t even say L.L. Cool J’s name properly.  Things were never going to be the same. Not bad though, just different.

Over the years, I went back to the books but it wasn’t like school. This time I had a choice in what I learned and I enjoyed this. I began to grow up and learn what it is to be in religious life and I began to learn about the vows I had taken temporarily and would one day take for life. I learned more and more about St. Francis of Assisi and his influence on the world of his time and how his powerful message is still relevant in our world today. So relevant that our present Pope has taken his name.

Most importantly, I found myself growing in my relationship with Jesus Christ. Not in an over-the-top holy-joe way. There were never apparitions or claps of thunder and even though I kind of knew that this vocation was from Jesus Christ at the beginning, it is only as I go on I know it is. I know it deep down – it’s the driving force. Like a couple who fall in love, it’s a vocation. They work on their relationship; they have their highs, and lows, and their joys and sorrows. For a religious, it’s a similar dynamic, but perhaps our way of life is little understood in today’s world I would argue.

How does our society make sense of the vocation to religious life today? What makes one thousand women and men religious, including myself, gather with the Archbishop of Dublin at a ceremony to begin the Year of Consecrated Life?  What language is there to explain why I still want to be a religious? I believe it is in me, and I can’t walk away. At the beginning and over the years, there weren’t any guns put to my head and I wasn’t forced to join. And I’m not being forced to stay. As the friars used to say to us, the friary is not a prison. The only reason why I’m still here is that I can’t go. I’m trying to find English language to explain it and I struggle, It’s like I had no choice and I still have no choice.
And how do we as religious put language on why we still want to be in this religious life? Or quite frankly how do we make the religious life attractive to people who may be discerning a way of life? I look around at meetings with other religious, and especially where there are younger religious and I don’t need to be convinced they believe, I can see it in their eyes, and the eyes are the mirror of the soul. St. Francis of Assisi once said, “Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words.” With God’s help, during this Year of Consecrated Life, we religious will help people to know who we are and witness to Jesus Christ by our example primarily.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Mass of Remembrance for the Road Safety Authority.

Below is the text of my Homily at the Mass of Remembrance for the Road Safety Authority, St. Teresa's Church, Clarendon St, Dublin 2. Sunday, November 16th, 2014.

For all, grief at the loss of someone we love, especially those who have died tragically is dreadfully painful, and only those who have felt it can properly understand this. For Christians, our grief is equally painful but it is not a hopeless grief because we will meet our loved ones again. We will all be together again.

It is fitting that we remember our loved ones in this month of November, the month of the souls. Yet the truth is, for those we’ve loved and lost, we never forget them. They are always with us. From the moment we wake up and begin the day, sometimes by the skin of our teeth, until we lie down and when we are asleep and when we can’t sleep, they are with us in our thoughts and prayers.

And they think of us too, they remember us in the presence of God. The first reading today tells us that the souls of the virtuous are in the hands of God. And the hands of God are a very safe place to be and surely we can be confident that they are in good hands.

The second reading is all about hope. St. Paul was reminding the people of Thessalonica that we’re different to those who don’t believe. Our faith, which was given to us by our parents and grandparents, brings the dead to life in Jesus Christ, by the power of His resurrection. The challenge therefore according to St. Paul, is to encourage one another. And I give thanks to God for the Road Safety Authority and to those who have organised this Mass. These are tangible ways of solidarity, support and encouragement, and this lights up the darkness.  
There is a thin skin between our world here and the next world. And there is a constant movement of prayers going between earth and heaven. We connect with our loved ones in Jesus Christ because He is the way. They connect with us, and they know we are with them too. Whenever we become quiet, light a candle, or say a prayer, we connect. And in modern language, this connection is always strong, and the signal never drops. It’s a kind of a celestial broadband that is always on and is always free.

In speaking about our faith in life after death, Pope Francis tells us that Jesus affirms that our pilgrimage, our journey, goes from death towards a fuller life. So, the Holy Father points out that death is in a sense behind us, not in front of us. In front of us is the God of the living, the definitive defeat of sin and death, the start of a new time of joy and endless light. But already on this earth – in prayers, in Sacraments, in the Mass – we encounter Jesus and his love, and so we can get a small taste of the risen life.

I was chaplain in a school in west Dublin after my ordination in 1997. In my second year there, we lost a lovely girl, a sixth-year pupil, following a road traffic accident. Two of her siblings were also pupils and the whole school was shocked and numb with grief. During the subsequent days, I witnessed such love and solidarity that I will never forget how the whole community came out to pray for the family left behind. One of the things I began to do then after Communion at every Mass was to pray the prayer to the Guardian Angel. This was reinforced when I later worked in the Chaplaincy Department of Beaumont Hospital in Dublin. There I saw the great care and skills of the emergency services, the nursing staff, the surgeons and medics, and the care staff, and other professionals. For me, the prayer to the Guardian Angel is just a small way of praying for safety on the roads and of supporting the great work of the Road Safety Authority. It is also to pray for all those who are left behind following the death or serious injury of someone involved in a road traffic accident.

 O Angel of God, my guardian dear,

To whom God’s love, commits me here,

Ever this day, be at my side,

To light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.


Sunday, 2 November 2014

All Souls...

The Church's Feast Days of All Saints and All Souls are a nice entry point to the month of November, the month of the Souls. While November is a dark month in the northern hemisphere, there are reasons for hope and optimism. We are people of the resurrection and we continue to remember those who have died and gone before us. Gone before us, because one day it will be our turn, and in that moment they will assist us with their prayers.

The reason why we Christians have a lively devotion to the Souls is because it was instilled in us from the time we were children. The belief in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ was handed on to us by many of those very people we pray for today - parents, grandparents, siblings, spouses, friends.

All year around people come to our Friary Office to have prayers and Masses offered for the souls of loved ones. In Ireland, we always had a great respect for the dead and the souls of the faithful departed. Again, it was instilled in us by our people and its part of our story. 

Humanly speaking, our death is a scary prospect and we don't like to think about it. It is a consolation that we know because of the promises of Jesus Christ that "I am going now to prepare a place for you and after I have prepared you a place, I will return to take you with me..." (John 14:3)

I believe that the distance between this world and the next world is a short one. The next world exists in the now. The souls of our loved ones are there now and there is two way traffic between both places - the souls pray and we pray. Jesus Christ is the bridge between this world and the next and in Him we can connect to them. In Him the souls of our loved ones can pray too.

This faith in the power of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, lightens the darkness of November and helps us to focus that death is the vehicle by which we all travel the short distance to the presence of Jesus Christ who lives in the here and now.
'May their sous, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God. Rest in Peace. Amen. '

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Blessed Pope Paul VI

Pope Paul VI who was Pope from 1963 to 1978 was beatified this morning by Pope Francis in Rome. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was in attendance for the ceremony which was held at the end of the extraordinary Synod on the Family.

Today the church celebrates World Mission Sunday. It is fitting that Pope Paul (named after St.Paul who travelled all over Europe to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ) is beatified on this day as he was the first Pope to travel overseas and the first Pope to travel by aeroplane. 

Among the countries Pope Paul visited was The Holy Land, The United Nations in New York, Uganda, and the Philippeans... In all this, he took the papacy to the people in a new way. It also paved the way for further Apostolic journeys by John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and lately Francis. 

Blessed Paul VI - Pray for Us.


Saturday, 4 October 2014

St. Francis of Assisi

Saint Francis' Prayer Before the Crucifix

Most High, glorious God,
enlighten the darkness of my heart and give me
true faith, certain hope, and perfect charity,
sense and knowledge, Lord, that I may carry out
Your holy and true command. Amen.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

The Triumph of the Cross

There were raised eyebrows when Jesus tells Nicodemus in John's Gospel that the Son of Man is destined to suffer, and to die on the cross. What he was saying didn't make sense to the disciples and to Nicodemus. They all felt that the promised Messiah should fit into their category - that of saviour who would be powerful and influential in the eyes of the world. God's ways are not our ways. 

The language Jesus speaks is at variance with the language the world speaks. Pilate couldn't understand why Jesus seems to be indifferent to whether he could save him or condemn him. "Don't you know that I have the power to set you free or to crucify you?" "You would have now power over me if it had not been given you from above." This attitude of Jesus rattles Pilate. Jesus is on a mission and is unconcerned about himself. He wants only what the Father wants. He is interested in God's will and nothing more. 

The shadow of the cross is something that many people live with today. Parents of sick children, people coping with the loss of a loved one. Those who are living with a new reality following a health scare, and families making a decision to leave home to find work elsewhere. The homeless and those who are marginalised. Innocent people living in the crossfire of warring factions in places crippled by war and injustice. The cross of Jesus Christ is there to show all who struggle that their sufferings are not ignored and that God sees this clearly. And he sends generous people to help make a difference. At fist glance the cross of Jesus is a symbol of pain and shame. But look deeper and the cross is the theatre of redemption. 

Sunday, 24 August 2014


The Ice bucket Challenge that has been crossing the world via social media is a great idea. It is done to raise awareness and funds for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) as it's known in the United States) and Motor Neuron Disease (MND) over this side of the Atlantic. In the last two or three weeks I've seen well known people from the world of sport, film, music, media, politics, etc. all rowing in for this great cause. And the rest of the world have joined in too nominating friends, work-colleagues, team mates and family via Facebook and Twitter among others.

One of our famous Capuchin Friars, Fr. Aengus Fegan was diagnosed with MND in 1995 and he lived with it until his death in 2002. He never let it get him down and he was someone who despite the great difficulties that it brought him, he kept on smiling and singing. Aengus was an art teacher in our school in Cork; St. Francis College, Rochestown and I remember him saying "The hand that once taught Leaving Cert art can now no longer hold a pen."

As the disease progressed and limited his mobility his motto became; "Sing while there's a voice left, and walk while the legs last." He was a lover of St. Francis of Assisi and he liked to pray the Canticle of Brother Sun a lot as he was a man who loved the great outdoors and to be among nature. He was a hiker, a sailor and a mountaineer. He penned a verse in tribute to MND and along with Brother Sun, and Sister Moon, Brother Fire and Sister Water, Aengus sang in praise of Sister Gravity.

Fr. Aengus Fegan ofm.cap.

The Ice Bucket Challenge is generating great enthusiasm, good will, and awareness of ALS / MND and in a world where we're hearing so much bad news, it is a candle lighting up the darkness....

That's me doing my #IceBucketChallenge last evening courtesy of my brother Kevin and niece, Louise.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

The Alligator King...

The first reading for today's Mass from the book of Kings tells us of the Lord appearing to Solomon in a dream saying; "Ask what you would like me to give you."
Solomon wasn't interested in power, money or riches but he asked for a discerning heart.
Many kids of my generation (1970's) learned our ABC's and counting not just in school, but from Sesame Street.  For me today, It was a fun programme which had at its core the task of passing on values, learning, and cooperation in a fun way.
The Alligator King from Sesame Street reminds me of aspects of the First Reading in that six of the seven sons are all intent on pleasing the father - but in order to win the crown. The seventh son merely wants to help his father up when he is down...
One two three four five six seven!
Said the Alligator King to his seven sons,
"I'm feelin' mighty down.
Whichever of you can cheer me up
Will get to wear my crown."
His first son brought seven oyster pearls
From the bottom of the China Sea.
The second gave him seven statues of girls
With clocks where their stomachs should be.
The third son gave him seven rubies
From the sheikdom Down There Beneath.
The King thought the rubies were cherries,
And he broke off seven of his teeth.
The fourth son tried to cheer him up
With seven lemon drops.
The King said, "I'm sorry son,
Since that ruby episode, I just haven't got the chops."
The fifth son brought the King perfume
In seven fancy silver jars;
The King took a whiff, and he broke out in spots
'Cause it smelled like cheap cigars.
The sixth son gave him seven diamond rings
To wear upon his toes.
The King snagged his foot on the royal red rug
And crumpled up his nose.
The seventh son of the Alligator King
Was a thoughtful little whelp.
He said, "Daddy, appears to me
That you could use a little help."
Said the Alligator King to his seventh son,
"My son, you win the crown.
You didn't bring me diamonds or rubies, but
You helped me up when I was down.
Take the crown; it's yours, my son.
I hope you don't mind the dents.
I got it on sale at a discount store-
Cost me all of seven cents!"

Read more: Sesame Street - The Alligator King Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Sunday, 20 July 2014

"We came in peace for all mankind."

Forty-Five years ago, Neil Armstrong and Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin landed the Lunar Module; Eagle, on the moon, on July 20th, 1969. Michael Collins remained in lunar orbit in the Command Module. It had been the culmination of a nearly a decade of scientific research, hard work, and collaboration that ended in Commander Armstrong being the first human being to step onto the moon early in the morning of July 21st 1969. It was one of those moments when the whole world was watching the pictures being beamed back to earth.  People remember where they were when the 'Men from Planet Earth first walked on the moon.' (I didn't come along till October 1969!)
45 years later, we see horrific violence and innocent people, and especially children, being killed and injured daily on our T.V. screens. We have seen a Boeing 777 Jetliner, on a scheduled flight, hit by a Surface to Air Missile  with all 298 on board killed. May God comfort the families of those innocent victims of violence and I pray that the truth will come out about how the airliner was attacked.
While all this is taking place, we salute the great work of so many people trying to help sides to come together around the table to bring about an end to violence. We salute the scientists and the researchers who daily attempt to broaden our horizons and those who use their talents to try to make the world a better place.
I pray today that soon the day will come when technology will only be used to build up, and not to break down. That scientific research will ever only save life and preserve life rather than take life. May we build bridges that unite and not divide. I pray that God will bless the work of peace making with justice for all, and especially for the poor and the innocent.

Friday, 27 June 2014


I overheard two people the other day and one of them described someone who came up asking for directions as “Some randomer.” There’s a relatively new word to describe someone as a stranger – or someone we don’t know. And while I’m at it as they say, there are quite a few new words and expressions used more and more today. For example there’s ‘Totes’ and ‘Totes amaze’ and ‘Totes amaze balls.’ Epic is another well used word.  And then there’s the word ‘What eves’ (whatever that means (!) If you want to hear a fun and interesting take on all these new expressions go to the Drivetime Radio programme on the RTE Radio Player and Author, Joseph O’Connor speaks of these in his Radio Diary from Wednesday of this week.

We must therefore all be a ‘randomer’ to someone. I walk around and people pass me by day in and day out and most of them don’t know me from Adam. To the masses I must be just some randomer passing by and is gone. Unless you’re a rock star or a Hollywood actor or the Pope, could you just be some randomer? “Who was he, oh I don’t know, just some randomer.” It’s a cold expression I believe.
I may be some randomer to many out there and vice versa but the randomer has a mother and a father, is a son or a daughter, and perhaps a brother or a sister. She or he is part of a family and perhaps she or he is loved by someone or loves someone. I am conscious that our human love is not perfect but that someone is perhaps loved dearly by another.

I was a Hospital Chaplain for three years and everyday, people I never met before came in to the hospital either as admissions for procedures or serious surgery or in an emergency. One could call them randomers, but to someone they were special and at times prayers were said but hopes were high for a good recovery. The professionalism of the nursing, medical, surgical, and care staff was heroic in the treatment and care of the patients. No matter who came through the doors, especially in critical incidents, there was always a commitment to give the very best care to the patient.
To Jesus Christ we are no ‘randomer.’ Jesus knows the very hairs on our head. The Holy Father, Pope Francis in his homily during Mass yesterday said that Jesus is primarily a Pastor to us. That means he shepherds us and takes care of us. Today in his homily at Mass for the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the pope described God as someone who seeks us out. “God is always there in front of us…When we arrive, He’s there. When we look for Him, He has already been looking for us…”

This is the description of a personal God who wants us to be part of his family, who wants to live in our hearts. He is interested in our hopes and dreams and our fears. He loves us, and he loves those we love. And like the lost son and the (Prodigal) Father, He keeps looking out for us and runs towards us when we begin to return.

“See, I have carved you in the palm of my hand.” (Isaiah 49:16)

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Renew the face of the Earth...

On this day, 17 years ago, June 8th, 1997, I was ordained to the priesthood in St. Kevin's Church, Kilnamanagh, Dublin the parish where I grew up in and the parish where, ten years before I left to join the Capuchin Order.

I am looking back today in particular because today is Pentecost Sunday, the birthday of the Church. Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles to fortify them to do his work on earth. From the upper room where the door was closed, they were filled with the seven gifts of the Spirit which enabled them to un-lock the door and go out into the whole world fearlessly.

Fear is a terrible chain around people. It kills our joy and robs us of our ability to smile and laugh and share with others. It keeps us locked in the room where people find it hard to reach out to us. Several times in the gospels, when Jesus came into the presence of his disciples and others he said "Peace be with you." and "Do not be afraid." When the Angel Gabriel came to tell Mary that she was going to the Mother of Jesus, he said; "Do not be afraid, you have won God's favour..." In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was initially terrified of what he was facing. He prayed "Let this cup pass.." Sweat fell from him like "great drops of blood..." Yet when he said, "Not my will, but yours be done..." His fear disappeared and it had become mission. Pontius Pilate could not understand why Jesus wouldn't answer the charges put before him. "Do you realise I have the power to release you or to put you to death?" "You would have no power over me unless it was given to you from above." Pilate was the one who became afraid.

For those of us in ministry; whether it's lay ministry, ordained ministry or religious life, the Holy Spirit is the one who takes our fear away and replaces it with action. We have been given this gift by virtue of our Baptism and then Holy Spirit came down upon us again the day we were Confirmed.

The Holy Spirit calls us to collaborate in this ministry to the whole Church and the great example of this is the miraculous catch of fish. Jesus shows the disciples where the fish are and they put their faith in him. And when they take the lead from Jesus they net such a huge catch that they need to signal to their partners in the other boats to help haul the nets in. (Luke 5:1 -11)

I am so grateful to God for that day in 1997 when I became a priest. I thank him too for that day in 1994 when I took my final vows in the Capuchin Order. Last year I celebrated 25 years since I was received into the Order as a novice. It has been a time of many blessings and some of those blessings became blessings because they first started out as challenges.

Come Holy Spirit - Renew the face of the Earth....

Monday, 2 June 2014

Come Holy Spirit - Jacques Bertier

Come Holy Spirit, from Heaven shine forth, with your glorious light.
Come Father of the poor, come generous Spirit, come light of our hearts.

Come from the four winds, O Spirit, Come breath of God.
Disperse the shadows over us, renew and strengthen your people.

Father of the poor, come to our poverty, shower upon us the seven gifts of your grace,
be the light of our lives. O come

You are our only comforter, peace of the soul, in the heat you shade us,
in our labour you refresh us, and in trouble you are our strength.

Kindle in our hearts the flame of your love that in the darkness of the world it may glow and reach all forever.

Taizé - Veni Sancte Spiritus

Monday, 26 May 2014

Pope and Patriarch

Pope Paul VI with Patriarch Athenagoras I

Pope John Paul II with Patriarch Bartholomew I

Pope Benedict XVI with Patriarch Bartholomew

Pope Francis with Patriarch Bartholomew
We pray that soon the Church will again 'breathe with both lungs' ; East and West....

Friday, 25 April 2014

Rome - for the Canonisations of John XXIII and John Paul II

Last year I celebrated 25 years as a Capuchin and when it was announced that both Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II were to be canonized as saints, I asked my Provincial Minister could I come to Rome. So I find myself here in Roma in the last days of April ahead of a memorable weekend in which we are being advised that 500 thousand will gather in St.Peter's Square in Sunday, April 27th. I was over at the Basilica of St.John Lateran (the Cathedral church of the Bishop of Rome - Pope Francis) and they are rigging up a stage there. At this moment, I'm wondering will it be tricky to get to St.Peter's Square on Sunday? I have great memories of the Canonization in St.Padre Pio (by Pope John Paul in June 2002) and there were throngs of people. Of course I had a ticket then. Up to now I have no ticket. Anyone buying or selling tickets?

I have a great love for John XXIII. He died in 1963, six years before I was born. My parents remember his election in 1958 and my grandparents loved his smile and his sanctity was obvious. I was almost 10 when Pope John Paul II came to Ireland and I saw him with my own eyes in the Phoenix Park on Sept 29th 1979 at the Papal Mass with my mam and my brother, Kevin. We all saw him later on that same evening in the Pope Mobile going down Thomas Street in the heart of Dublin. We were all horrified and numb when he was shot within inches of his life in May 1981.

These two popes have helped us to aspire to sanctity. They have shown us that although we are all sinners, we are called to be saints. It is only right that they themselves are canonized. As Pope, John XXIII called an Ecomenical Council (Vatican II - 1962 to 1965) to remind the Church that we are all a pilgrim people of God on our way to the Kingdom of God. The Holy Spirit is the force that guides and sanctifies the Church. Pope John Paul II reminded us all of the universal call to holiness. He beatified and canonized more saints that his predecessors. Sanctity is a call for all of us, not just for medieval monks and martyrs. It is for all; in factories, in fields, in schools, in kitchens, in prisons, in churches, in hospital beds. Pope John Paul also reminded us of the dignity of human life from conception to natural death. He called for a Gospel of Life and he even witnessed to this when he himself was sick and powerless. And even when he had no physical voice left. 

Pope Francis will canonize these two saints of our time on Sunday (and I believe that Pope Emertius Benedict will attend the ceremony) I am hoping and praying that I will find a small corner of St.Peter's square stand in. I go to Assisi tomorrow morning to visit St.Francis, my Patron as a Capuchin and I will ask him to help! I will remember you all in prayer at the tomb of St Francis and then at the tombs of Pius X, John XXIII and John Paul II. "Do not be afraid." 

Friday, 18 April 2014

Isaiah 53: 3 - 5

He was despised, the lowest of men, a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering, one from whom, as it were, we averted our gaze, despised, for whom we had no regard.

Yet ours were the sufferings he was bearing, ours the sorrows he was carrying, while we thought of him as someone being punished and struck with affliction by God;

Whereas he was being wounded for our rebellions, crushed because of our guilt; the punishment reconciling us fell on him, and we have been healed by his bruises.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

The Fourth Sunday of Lent.

Jesus is more than willing to heal us of our fears, our prejudices, and our illnesses and it doesn't matter what day it is or what time it is. In today's gospel we see him healing a man blind from birth. He makes a paste with spittle and dust and covers the eyes of the man and tells him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam. He washes and his sight is restored.

There are people who witness this event and he is quickly identified as the one who begs for alms. The Pharisees are more interested in disputing the healing, the good intention, and the witness. They are far more interested in saying that Jesus broke the Sabbath law and also arrogantly dismissing the poor blind man as a sinner through and through. The twisted thinking of the time was that he was blind because either he sinned or someone in his family tree sinned.

In last week's gospel Jesus goes to the periphery. There he calls a Samaritan Woman to faith. He was sitting down by Jacob's well in the Samaritan town of Sycar in the heat of the day and he noticed her coming to draw water. This was curious because most of the hustle and bustle of drawing water happens in the cool of the morning and there people would exchange the morning's news. At mid-day the woman comes the well alone and it becomes apparent that there is a reason for this which Jesus sees. Yet he calls her to faith in him and in turn she goes to the townspeople to bring them to Jesus. This 'sinner' becomes an evangelist.

The blind man too is a witness to Jesus Christ. This 'sinner from the day he was born' is called to witness to the fact that Jesus is the Son of Man. And as he looks at Jesus he professes his faith; "Lord, I believe."

Jesus crosses the border for you and me each day and calls us - sinners - to repentance and then to witness to him. It doesn't matter what day or time it is, he doesn't operate in chronological order, but in Kairos; God's time. Now.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

The First Sunday of Lent

Jesus is tempted in the Desert. (Matt 4:1-11)

The desert is seen as a place of foreboding. It is a place of danger and where one can find it difficult to live and survive. In the desert we can be attacked by hunger, thirst, heat, cold, and wild animals. We can also get lost in the desert. 

There is also the desert within where we can be faced with our own personal difficulties and of course our own sins. These can be unpleasant and facing them can challenge us and take us out of our comfort zone. 

Jesus goes into the desert after he is baptized as a preparation for his public ministry. He is fortified by the Holy Spirit. He fasts and prays while he is there and in a physically weakened state he is tempted by the devil. 

In Matthew's Gospel we see Jesus tempted in three ways; the first is to trust no longer in God's providence... "Tell these stones to turn to bread." The second temptation about putting God to the test. "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.." The third temptation is to compromise the unique place of God in our worship. "I will give you all of these, if you fall at my feet and worship me." 

While Jesus is physically weak and tired, he is morally and spiritually strong. When we go into the desert, when we give up something or take on some self-sacrifice for Lent, we become morally and spiritually strong. 

Monday, 17 February 2014

Some reflections on the Popes of the last 100 years.

Let us look at the titles the Pope has for a moment. He is Bishop of Rome and Vicar of Jesus Christ; Successor of St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles; Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church; Patriarch of the West; Servant of the Servants of God; Primate of Italy; Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province; Sovereign of Vatican city State. Our Present Pope, Francis is the 266th successor of St. Peter.

Pope St. Pius X (1903-1914)
I have a personal devotion to this pope. From a very poor family, he was a diocesan priest and parish priest (pastor) before being made a bishop of Mantua and then Cardinal Patriarch of Venice. Being called to the episcopacy was something he never wanted and tried hard to resist being made bishop. As pope, he wanted to 'restore all things in Christ.' He made reforms to church music and the Gregorian chant. Out of his devotion to the Eucharist, he encouraged people to receive Holy Communion frequently and children to receive Holy Communion at an early age. He worked hard at the end of his life to call for a meeting of minds and hearts to avert the Great War.

Pope Benedict XV (1914-1922)
He deliberately took the name Benedict as a call to peace. He continued to work hard to call for peace in Europe and although this largely fell on deaf ears he worked on humanitarian efforts to bring relief to the suffering. He promulgated the 1917 Code of Canon Law.

Pope Pius XI (1922-1939)
He wrote the encyclical ‘Quadragesimo Anno’ on the 40th anniversary of the ground-breaking social Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII called ‘Rerum Novarum’ Pope Pius stated that social and economic policies are important to the Church from a moral point of view. More and more he encouraged lay participation in the church and founded the Catholic Action movement. He died some months before the beginning of the Second World War.

Pope Pius XII (1939-1958)
Before he became pope, Pius XII worked in the Vatican’s Dept. of Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs and then became Apostolic Nuncio to all of the German Empire. He was Cardinal Secretary of State to Pope Pius XI. He was elected pope quickly after one ballot and took the name Pius. Pius XII’s pontificate spanned the years of World War II and the years following when Europe was divided between east and west. In 1937 he published the encyclical ‘Mit brennender Sorge’ written not in Latin but in German. It condemned the paganism of the National Socialism ideology.

Blessed Pope John XXIII (1958-1963)
A well-loved and human pope, John changed the style of the papacy with his informality and sense of humour. He announced (to the shock of many in his inner-circle) a Synod for Rome and an Ecumenical Council of the whole Church. This was to be known as the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) He also wrote a heartfelt and powerful encyclical called Pacem in Terris. This was as a response to the fear of Atomic War between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R in 1962. For the first time, an encyclical was addressed not just to the Cardinals, Patriarchs, Archbishops, Bishops etc. But to; “All men of good will.” Blessed Pope John XXIII will be canonised a Saint on April 27th this year.

Pope Paul VI (1963-1978)
Pope Paul VI, like Pius XII rose through the ranks of the Vatican Diplomatic Service. Shortly after his election, he worked to complete Vatican II. He was the first Pope to travel abroad and travel in an aeroplane. He met with and prayed with Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I in Jerusalem in 1964 and this led to the lifting by both Churches of their mutual excommunications and the ending of the Great Schism between East and West. He became the first pope to travel, very briefly, to address the United Nations General Assembly in New York where he made the plea; “War never again.” Interestingly, Peter Hebbelthwaite wrote in his biography of Paul VI that the moment he died in August 1978, the “Polish alarm-clock went off!” (He had a polish alarm-clock beside his bed from his days in the Diplomatic Service)

Pope John Paul I (August 1978-September 1978)
His papacy had lasted only a month when he was found dead. He will be remembered as having a beaming smile and being known as the ‘smiling pope.’

Blessed Pope John Paul II (1978-2005)
He was the first non-Italian pope in over 400 years and the first Slav. His was one of the longest papacies in history and he made a huge contribution to the church, to the world and to the fall of the Berlin Wall for example. He travelled the world to 129 different countries and was seen in person by millions of people. Pope John Paul suffered an assassination attempt in 1981 and was very badly injured but recovered and in 1983 he visited his attacker, Turkish gunman, Mahmet Ali Agca, in prison. As the years went on, we saw this pope who was an accomplished skier, kyaker, and mountaineer grow old and frail before our eyes. Eventually he even lost his ability to speak. He died on April 2nd 2005 and will be canonized a saint in April this year along with Blessed John XXIII. For me, Pope John Paul taught us all that we are called not just to be ‘good Christians’ we are called to be Saints.

Pope Benedict XVI (2005-2013)
Pope Benedict, a Bavarian, was the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith during most of the papacy of Pope John Paul. As pope, his first papal encyclical was on love, entitled ‘Deus Caritas Est’ which surprised many people who perhaps stereotyped him from his time as the Vatican’s guardian of doctrine.  He surprised us even more this time last year when he became the first pope in 600 years to resign the papacy. He lives in the Vatican as ‘Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.’

Pope Francis (2013 –
The first pope from the ‘New World’ and a Jesuit, he took the name Francis and this would be the first pointer to his simple and humble style of papacy. He chose not to move into the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican preferring instead to live at the Casa Sancta Marta – the Vatican Guest House.  Many would agree that this papacy too will surprise us.

The Shoes of Peter
On reflecting on the popes, while they all brought different styles to their papacies, I believe they never lost sight of their ultimate focus for the Church, and this was to preach Jesus Christ.  They were men of holiness and intense prayer who led by example and, especially as world travel became more and more easy, like Paul the Apostle, they left the Vatican and came to meet the people where they were at. A case in point is Pope John Paul II who circumnavigated the globe something like 30 times or more than one million, two hundred thousand kilometres (750 thousand miles)

Any rock star would love to have the access to the masses that a pope has. Pope John Paul II regularly offered Mass in the presence of millions of people and for example, in Manila in the Philippines before some 4 million people in 1995. While there will be some media coverage of a new religious leader in some other Churches or Faith group, there is nothing like the wall-to-wall coverage of a papal funeral or a papal conclave and election. This was evidenced by the blanket coverage of the funeral of Pope John Paul II and the Election of Pope Benedict XVI in 2005. Similar scenes greeted the resignation of Pope Benedict and the Election of Pope Francis last year. News organisations and satellite vans decamp to Rome to make sure they don’t miss the breaking news and the Sistine Chapel ‘chimney watch.’
Pope Francis is about to celebrate a year as Pope and what a year it has been for the Church. He has made the cover of Time magazine and has been made their 2013 Person of the Year.  While Rolling Stone magazine has stars like Bono, Eminem, Justin Bieber, Miley, David Bowie, and Rihanna on their covers, Pope Francis has also made the cover of the magazine too. More important than the coverage and the media profile, fundamentally, Pope Francis is a man of God whose priority is to lead us all to Jesus Christ. As they say; watch this space.


Saturday, 25 January 2014

Conversion.... Rebuilding

Today, January 25th is the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle. When I was saying Mass this morning and listening to the Liturgy of the word, I was reminded of how before his conversion, Saul was completely bent on destroying this new Christian Community. Saul featured heavily in the stoning of Stephen, the first martyr of the Church. His zeal to tear the church down was so powerful that in a sense, Jesus wanted to use him to be a champion for the church. So Jesus turned Paul's hatred for the Church into a passionate love for the Christian community. 

Later in the year, we see Paul sharing a feast day with Peter. Peter was known as the Rock. But it didn't begin like that. Peter was human, hot-headed, vulnerable, skeptical, and sometimes scared. But when Jesus called him 'Rock' -that is what he was to become. Full of the Holy Spirit, both men would become master-builders of the new Church alongside others after the challenge of Jesus Christ to go and teach all nations (Matt 28) 

Jesus Christ calls us today just like he called Peter and Paul. He is conscious of our sinfulness and our vulnerabilities yet he still calls so as to be part of  his continuing building programme. In Jesus, Simon became Peter, the Rock, and Saul became Paul.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Speak, Lord, your servant is listening...

1 Samuel 3:1-10 and Mark 1:29-39
You could argue saying like Samuel “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening” is taking a risk. The Holy Father, Pope Francis has said to young people, “Ask Jesus what he wants and be brave.” And there is a leap of faith required in opening our hearts and our wills to Jesus Christ. Because sometimes he might just ask us to be brave and to do something that might sting.

In my life, I seldom say “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” I’m more inclined to say “Listen, Lord, your servant is speaking.” I ask God, I tell God, but I don’t get out of the way and let God. To write the Lord a blank cheque can be a big risk humanly speaking yet this is what I need to do.

There are so many noises competing for our attention that the voice of the Lord can have a problem trying to be heard. Our world can drown out the still small voice and we can be distracted all day and all night. Distraction is safer than paying attention to the voice inside where God lives. The voice inside can be painful, it can be real, and it can be honest. Yet, the antidote to all the world’s ills is the voice of the Lord. After all, he says “Come to me, all you who labour and are heavily-burdened, and I will give you rest…” (Matt 11:28)

Jesus comes with his word, to up-build, to forgive, and to heal. In Mark’s Gospel today during Mass we see him going to the house of Simon Peter. His mother in law is in bed with a fever and “they” tell him. Jesus goes to her and lays his hands on her and she immediately waits on them, the perfect sign that she is restored to health. (Interesting that Simon Peter never says a word to Jesus about the mother-in-law’s illness – they do!)

So it is in surrendering to the voice of Jesus Christ that we will be healed. The trip to the doctor or the dentist might be daunting, and sometimes we’d prefer not to know but it is meant to help and to heal.