Lent 2013

Hope to place a few thoughts and images here for the Lenten travels …..

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Ash Wednesday
Thursday February 14th
Friday February 15th
Saturday February 16th
Sunday February 17th
Monday February 18th
Tuesday February 19th
Wednesday February 20th
Thursday February 21st
Friday February 22nd
Saturday February 23rd
Sunday February 24th
Monday February 25th
Tuesday February 26th
Wednesday February 27th
Thursday February 28th
Friday March 1st
Saturday March 2nd
Sunday March 3rd
Monday March 4th
Tuesday March 5th
Wednesday March 6th
Thursday March 7th
Friday March 8th
Saturday March 9th
Sunday March 10th
Monday March 11th
Tuesday March 12th
Wednesday March 13th
Thursday March 14th
Friday March 15th
Saturday March 16th
Sunday March 17th
Monday March 18th
Tuesday March 19th
Wednesday March 20th
Thursday March 21st
Friday March 22nd
Saturday March 23rd
Sunday March 24th
Monday March 25th
Tuesday March 26th
Wednesday March 27th
Thursday March 28th

Ash Wednesday

ASH WEDNESDAY

Waiting to be blessed ... waiting to be used .... WAITING

Waiting to be blessed … waiting to be used …. WAITING

It’s begun!  A little dish containing the remembrance of Palm Sunday’s greenery sits quietly in a just opened church.  Shortly people will gather.  They’ll fill the seats – starting at the back – and wait, just like the little dish.  “God forgave my sins in Jesus’ name, I’ve been born again in Jesus’ name and in Jesus’ name I’ve come to you to share his love as he told me to.  He said; ‘Freely, freely, you have received …….’ “

The music settles alongside silence.  The Trinity is called upon.  Mass begins.  Scripture is read – a theme of repentance and renewal and a call to a non-gloomy fast.  A few words shared and focus is on the little dish of remembrance.  Holy Water is sprinkled and the seats empty themselves as people come forward to be reminded of their dustiness.  Clean foreheads, dirtied and marked with THE sign.  Seats retaken but no denying a journey has begun.

Eucharist celebrated, BREAD OF LIFE shared – a blessing and dismissal.  “Go in peace”.  “Thanks be to God”.

You can’t help but think that God is thankful too.  Thankful that His Son’s memory and mission lives.

It is begun or maybe it continues!

Thursday February 14th

Thursday February 14th

"Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows, lies the seed ...."

“Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows, lies the seed ….”

Okay, the song is about a rose but the idea is the same!  I was at a funeral earlier today and the priest spoke about calling to the wakehouse last night and noticing the daffodils poking their way through the ground.  He said this is a reminder of the promise of Spring and the ongoing mystery of life.  By coincidence I received this photo from a friend around the same time.  It’s the first crocuses in the family’s garden.  Yes, life goes on – even when we don’t know what’s happening beneath the surface and beyond our line of vision.  This is our hope, our strength and our call to faith.

Somebody asked me yesterday what I thought was going through Jesus’ mind as he headed towards Jerusalem.  It’s not something I had thought about, I suppose, in much depth.  Like everyone I heard some of the words he had to speak along the way – those Gospel recordings – and sensed something of his anxiety.  I suppose he was like many facing an uncertain future.  He wondered what would be made of the past.  What would be made of his past?  Would people remember?

I feel certain he was looking for the green shoots we hear so much of now.  Little glimpses of hope along the way – glimmers of light – something to reassure him that his words hadn’t fallen, in their totality, at the edge of the path or among thistles.  He needed to see the occasional burst of a plant or a flower reaching for the sun.

Yes, I think he was looking for green shoots.  Chances are he still is.

Friday February 15th

Friday February 15th

Come in, rest a while .....

Come in, rest a while …..

This is the Sanctuary in St Joseph’s Church, Urlaur (Parish of Kilmovee).  St Joseph’s is the newest church in Achonry Diocese – blessed and opened, by Bishop James Fergus, in 1969.  There’s a great story to go with this church so might share a bit of it here …

In the early 1960’s there was no church in Urlaur.  There had been an Abbey that ceased being used in the late 1800’s.  People from Urlaur went to Mass in nearby Kilmovee, Glann, Kilkelly and some (I’m told) even went to the neighbouring parish of Tooreen!!  There was a priest in the parish at the time who didn’t altogether like the idea of people leaving the parish for Mass so he started to celebrate Mass in the local primary school.  He also, in fairness, was deeply aware of the role of the Abbey in Urlaur and felt the Faith of the people would be enriched through the presence of a church in the locality. This idea caught on and, from it, people looked at the possibility of building a new church for the Urlaur area of our parish.  This was a massive undertaking since the population was relatively small but the project commenced.

Locals got behind it with full enthusiasm and many fundraising ideas were put to work.  These included door to door collections locally and in neigbouring towns.  People worked very hard to make the dream of a church come through.

Move the story about three thousand miles.  Many years earlier a young fifteen year old girl left Urlaur and went to the United States.  Later she entered an order of enclosed Sisters in New Jersey.  She received word from home that a new church was going to be built.  She was happy about this and decided to share the news with, wait for it the “New York Times”.  Her letter wound its way to the desk of Nat Goldstein.  As the name suggests he was not a native of East Mayo!!  He was a Jew but was nonetheless impressed by the letter received and asked two journalists to go and visit the sister.

They reported back to him the outcome of their visit and said it was quite an experience.  They spoke through a little meshed opening to Sister Mary of The Blessed Trinity (formerly Margaret Cafferkey from Aughadeffin) who shared with them her lifelong dream that there be a church in which her neighbours and family could pray.  Towards the end of the interview, Sister Mary told the reporters she had been quite nervous about meeting them since she had been fifty-five years in the convent and they were her first visitors in fifty years!!

Goldstein impressed by the report and still conscious of Margaret’s letter and, in particular, one line which said her people wanted to build a “place of worship” took up the cause.  Through the New York Times more than $10,000.00 was collected (this was about £6000 of the £16,000.00 it took to build the church).  All from one letter from a sister in an enclosed order.  (Ironically some feel that enclosed orders don’t influence life beyond their walls ……. )  Goldstein later said that he liked the line about the “place of worship” and felt the world would be a better place if it had more “places of worship”.  He said her letter was “full of faith and deserved more than a little notice”.He together with his wife attended the opening of Urlaur Church on Ascension Thursday, May 15th 1969.  So too the Commissioner of the New York Police Department (Howard Leary), his wife and two other visitors from New York – Irving Taubkin of the New York Times and his wife).  The “place of worship” in a small part of East Mayo captured the imaginations of many.

Today that church is open.  Its invitation to worship is as real and intense as it was on that Ascension Day in 1969.  Its call is as sure.  Chances are there’s a church open near enough to wherever you are right now … a quick visit might be no bad thing ….

Saturday February 16th

Saturday February 16th

The Lighthouse - Howth Head

The Lighthouse – Howth Head

I took this picture last year.  I was in Howth, sharing a few thoughts during an Advent Retreat in Stella Maris.

The image and role of the Light House centres on the guidance of ones at sea.  Its light speaks of shore and docking and is an invitation to continue the journey.  Not maybe used as much now, in its day, this light was a comfort to the traveller and a sure sign that the right route was being followed.  It was a sign of journey’s end, destination reached and sure footing once again.  Quite often it spoke to those caught in storms and battling with heavy seas and was the sole source of guidance and reassurance.

Standing on the vantage point of rock and height it spoke to all who cared to see and its message was constant.  “COME HOME SAFELY”.

We need such reminders and maybe today we take a moment to say thanks, even in the quietness of prayer, to all who are “lighthouse” for us – those who reassure us a welcome awaits, the right road is being travelled and that, even in uncertainty, there is refuge.

Might be no harm either to reflect on those for whom we are lighthouse – those depending on us for guidance, reassurance, presence – LIGHT and love.

Sunday February 17th

Sunday February 17th

"Come adore this wondrous presence ..."

“Come adore this wondrous presence …”

This weekend we had speakers at our Parish Masses.  They were speaking on the theme of Eucharistic Adoration and encouraging the prayer form among our parishioners.  There’s no denying they were convinced themselves and their message came from that place of conviction and peace that is born of belief and voices itself in enthusiasm.

The call was for one hour a week from the hours given us.  It seems not a huge ask and yet it can be so difficult to commit.  Difficulty in itself might not be a good reason not to become involved.  Maybe it’s in dealing with and coming to terms with perceived difficulties that peace and conviction are found.

Two episodes of Coronation Street!  The evening news – an episode of Dallas or Housewives Choice – two viewings or so of Friends, Emmerdale, Neihbours …. an evening meal …..

Could there be room somewhere in the week for swapping some of the above?

I’m thinking about it …………

Monday February 18th

Monday February 18th

Two roads …. at least!

The reading at today’s Mass gives that account of the final judgement and the separation of sheep from goats (horses from cattle!!!) depending on how life was lived.  It seems to be a fairly clear divide – those who tended to the needs of the poor, visited the sick and imprisoned, put clothes on the backs of those found to be naked, offered drink or food to the thirsty and the hungry are invited to share the fullness of The Kingdom.  Those choosing to do none of the above have made their own choice and are dismissed.

Is it a simplistic account?  Maybe so.  Jesus, as ever anxious to make a memorable point, brings it to a level we can understand.  In life we have choices – paths – and the direction taken is very much in our hands.  Some choices lead us to the good, others to the bad.  Some lead to our helping other people while the opposite choice may well hinder and hurt people.

Today is another day of choices!

Tuesday February 19th

Tuesday February 19th

"Give us this day our daily bread ...."

“Give us this day our daily bread ….”

I don’t know who this girl is.  She did not know I took this photo and I can only hope she doesn’t mind.  It was on the Mountain Top in Medjugorje and was taken because it spoke to me of Prayer and Faith and of one who knew where she was and who she was – a journeying Soul.

People, having reached the summit reacted in different ways – some just relieved to have been able to make the climb and sit for a while.  Others wrote messages on the prayer wall.  Some, maybe like me, took a few photos (I did say a prayer too!!) but this girl, whoever she is, caught my attention.  She could easily have been the only person on that mountain top.  Totally focused on prayer you can only imagine the depth of Soul Searching that is going on.  She may be praying for someone who is sick or for clarity around a relationship or, possibly, discerning a vocation.  Maybe she’s just there to say thanks.  Only she and God knows the encounter taking place but an encounter there most surely is.  As I watched, and it was only a few seconds, I envied her a little – that closeness she felt with God at that moment.  I hope her prayers were answered.

I remembered this photo at morning Mass when I read the Gospel about the Lord teaching the disciples to pray.  “Pray like this”, he told them and gave them the words we call “The Lord’s Prayer” or “Our Father”.  It really is an amazing prayer that seeks, like all prayer, to unite Heaven and earth.

One of my favourite lines in the Our Father is “give us this day our daily bread”.  It seems so focused on the needs of a given day with no particular mention of or worry about yesterday or tomorrow.  Just enough needed to get through the given day – enough peace, love, forgiveness, faith, food, hope, laughter, friendship, understanding, strength – “bread” – to last the day.  Tomorrow, please God, we can ask again.

The Lord is saying that we don’t need tonnes of words.  We need faith for the day.

I’m reminded of the old story of a man who used come into a busy city church each day around lunchtime.  He would quickly sit in the back seat, say something very quietly and leave.  A priest, who had noticed, his daily pattern once asked him what happened during his brief visit.  “Ah, I know that God is busy”, he said, “so I don’t wear him out with all my stories and long prayers.  I just look at him and say ‘Jesus, it’s Jim’ – I leave it at that”.

Sometime later the priest noticed the man was not coming to church and, on making enquiries, discovered he was in hospital.  He went to see him.  The priest asked how he was and the man said he felt it was nearing the end.  “Have you many visitors?” the priest asked.  “No”, he replied “but Jesus pops in every day at lunchtime”.  “What does he say?” the priest asked. “Does he tell you that you’re going to be all right?”.  “No”, replied the old man, “he just sits there for a second and says ‘Jim, it’s Jesus’!”

Wednesday February 20th

Wednesday February 20th

H

Pope Benedict XVI (waving to me in the crowd!!!)

I took this photograph just less than a year ago.  It was at the end of the Papal Audience in St Peter’s Square.  I like to think he was looking at just my camera when I took the photo and, once included a caption with it “Is that Vincent over there??”  Needless to say, he wasn’t and needless to say thousands of other cameras captured this moment too but only mine from where I was standing.  Only mine with the click of the shutter on my camera.  Only mine at the exact second I captured the image.  So, is this a personal photo?  Is it my photo?  Yes!

Maybe we need to think that way about God too.  Millions looking to Him, calling on His name and needing His help.  You and I, just individuals in the crowd and yet we’re called to believe it’s personal.  Looking to the crowd he sees us – not as a throng – as individuals wishing to capture a moment, create a memory – something for the journey.

I sometimes think of the woman healed of her illness, having touched just the hem of his garment in a crowded field.  “Who touched me?” he asked.  The disciples tried to tell him that it was impossible to say who had touched him since the crowd was vast.  Undeterred, he looked and his gaze met with the eyes of a woman who knew she had been healed.  It was personal and real even in a crowded gathering.  I imagine that woman afterwards, walking though an empty field to the exact spot of her healing moment.  I believe she could take a friend and say “that’s exactly where he stood – this is where I was.  I will never forget it”.

It’s a personal thing – this Faith of ours – even when celebrated in communion.

Thursday February 21st

Thursday February 21st

Journeying together ......

Journeying together ……

Later today I’m going to a meeting in Charlestown.  It’s a small group that is looking at evangelisation and current trends in our church.  I’m supposed to have a book read in advance of the meeting.  I think the inclusion of “supposed” gives the game away!  Alas, apart from a quick glance, the book is as I received it.  I spoke to another priest who is to attend the meeting and he spent much of yesterday reading his copy.  He told me it’s very good and that I should read it.  I will, please God, in time for the next meeting but then I’ll quite literally be many pages behind.

Speaking with my friend yesterday he said that there is a lot of analysis in the book and quite a number of charts giving details of various surveys on faith carried out in the United States.  Many of them speak to a truth we already know – people are leaving the church in considerable numbers.  Apart from the statistics and analysis, my friend told me, the author’s primary premise lies in her belief that people are lacking a “personal relationship” with Jesus.  They don’t know him as friend – companion – sharer of their story.  In the past, the author points out, people were carried along by the “other” doing church things, not necessarily out of personal conviction and that being “carried along” kept our churches filled.  Gradually as the others moved away, those left found they had nothing or nobody to carry them any more   They realised they did not have a personal relationship with Jesus.  Maybe they didn’t even realise it since, to realise it, there would need to be some awareness of the need for such a relationship.

That seems to be the thrust of the meeting I’m going to – to get some thought going on the need for a personal relationship and that it is from that starting point alone, work can begin on rebuilding “Church” and encouraging participation.

I feel a little unprepared for this – not just because I haven’t read the book but, more importantly, because I need to develop that relationship in my own life.

The couple above, pictured cutting a cake on their wedding day, look the picture of contentment.  They are as they look, thank God but I’m sure they know all too well the need to focus on relationship, time together, shared ideas, shared dreams and acceptance of one another’s ways.  That’s the foundation of their married life – personal relationship –

So too in our attempts to know, love and allow ourselves be loved by Jesus.

Friday February 22nd

Friday February 22nd

Golden moments ....

Golden moments ….

There’s something about being in the right place at the right time.  This photo, in my opinion, bears testimony to that reality!!  It was just one of those moments when Heaven and Earth seemed to connect and I was glad to be able to catch hold of it – even for a second.

I spoke with someone yesterday and she told me that when she was a little girl she used to sit on a hill in one of the fields near her home.  There was a gate leading into the field.  She’d look at the gate for a while and then imagine Jesus crossing the gate to spend some time with her.  She said she’d close her eyes and imagine how happy he was to see her there, knowing that she wanted to meet him.  This image has remained with her throughout her life and, only recently, she took her own daughter to show her the spot – the little “hill of meeting”.

Heaven meets earth in different ways and at different times.  Where is that meeting place for you?

Saturday February 23rd

Saturday February 23rd

"A daisy a day ...."

“A daisy a day ….”

I sometimes use a verse or two of a song at Mass.  I think I started doing this at Wedding Masses many years ago now and the first song I used was a song called “A Daisy A Day”.  I thought it was an old man, reflecting on his marriage and the commitment he gave his wife to give her a “daisy a day” and to “love you until, the rivers run still and the four winds we know blow away”.

A simple song with a profound message.  To me, at least, it was saying do what you’re able to do each day.  Don’t make promises you’ll not be able to keep.  Leave the dozen roses to someone else – chances are you’ll not be able to get them every day.  Don’t say you’ll do something that later you might not be able to do.  Keep it simple but simply DO IT!

I still believe that’s the message of the song but what I had originally missed was that it was not the old man’s reflection but rather the observations of a man who knew this couple when he was a boy “As a kid they would take me for candy and we’d love to go tripping along.  We’d hold hands as we walked to the corner and the old man would sing her his song ….”

So it’s about more than a husband’s commitment to his wife and the daily fulfilling of a promise.  It’s about being an example – no, even more than that, it’s about being a GOOD example to others.

Maybe too, this Lent, it’s about renewing the daily commitment and doing what we’re able to do – make promises we can keep.

Here’s the song ….

Sunday February 24th

Sunday February 24th

Some of the former residents of the Magdalene Laundries with family and friends

Some of the former residents of the Magdalene Laundries with family and friends

This week we had the Public Apology, on behalf of the Irish Nation, to the “Magdalene Women”.  The Taoiseach, clearly emotional and impassioned, spoke to the hearts of those who carried a heavy weight for far too long.

Most of us will never know the full telling of their story.  It’s clear though, that a common burden was borne by them all and a weight, most certainly not of their own making, had to be carried.  It was an emotional as well as physical weight that dug deeply into their hearts and consciousness and, most   likely, impacted heavily on every detail of their lives and  relationships.   We wish and pray them peace for the  remainder of their days.

They appeared “transfigured” on the grounds of Dáil Éireann following the speech.  It was as if new life had been poured over them and it shone from their smiles, even mixed with tears, and their words that spoke of being believed.  There was a recognition of a hidden life and what was real was brought to the surface.

Mount Tabor may have been something like that.  The hidden revealed and recognised – life never the same again.

Monday February 25th

Monday February 25th

The Dogwood

The Dogwood

THE LEGEND OF THE DOGWOOD

(My aunt, Mary Margaret, who lives in Richmond, Virginia, once told me the story of the Dogwood – the official State Flower of Virginia.  Partly because I haven’t anything else to say today and because I want to keep a thought going for each day and also because it’s a good story, I thought I’d include it here today.)

At the time of the crucifixion, the dogwood had reached the size of the mighty oak tree. So strong and firm was the wood that it was chosen as the timber for Jesus’ cross.

To be used for such a cruel purpose greatly distressed the dogwood. While nailed upon it, Jesus sensed this, and in his compassion said. “Because of your pity for my suffering, never again shall the dogwood tree grow large enough to be used for a cross. Henceforth, it shall be slender, bent, and twisted, and its blossoms shall be in the form of a cross–two long and two short petals.

“In the centre of the outer edge of each petal will be the print of nails. In the centre of the flower, stained with blood, will be a crown of thorns so that all who see it will remember.”

Tuesday February 26th

Tuesday February 26th

Urlaur Abbey - Pattern Day 2012

Urlaur Abbey – Pattern Day 2012

Each year on August 4th there’s a Pattern held in Urlaur Abbey.  The date, originally the Feast Day of St Dominic, recalls the life of the Saint in whose name monks lived, prayed, worked and died on the shores of Urlaur Lake.  It’s quite a day and a lovely tradition.

We celebrate Mass in the Abbey and hear again something of that sound of prayer bouncing on and from the lake’s surface.  We remember the past, rejoice in the now and pray for what is to come.  There’s a real sense of homecoming.  I remember meeting a young man there about two years ago.  He told me he lives in Dublin but that he would never miss the Pattern.  The first job he had was in a record shop in Dublin and, as a teenager, he asked his boss for the day off.  When the boss asked what it was he needed to do, the reply was direct “I want to go to the Pattern in Urlaur”.  I’m sure his boss had no idea what he meant but the lad knew and he was there.

It’s good to have a focal point in a community.  A place that gathers us and a name in which to gather.

Maybe that’s today’s thought – one of gratitude for the place that makes us welcome.

Wednesday February 27th

Wednesday February 27th

Photo of Pope Benedict XVI before the Altar for Morning Mass in Kilmovee

Photo of Pope Benedict XVI before the Altar for Morning Mass in Kilmovee

We had Mass in Kilmovee this morning.  It was at 7.30am as we’re having early Masses on Wednesdays during Lent.  This is our third week and the numbers have remained consistently high for daily Mass attendance.  In fact they were even higher this morning and, I was especially pleased to see some of our younger parishioners – even some from primary school – joining us for Mass.

I had suggested offering Mass today for the intentions of Pope Benedict XVI on the eve of his resigning the Papacy.  The picture above was placed before the Altar on a white cloth and was surrounded by some candles.  It was, I hope, an attempt to create some atmosphere around and awareness of the step being taken by the Holy Father. It was also an invitation to pray for Benedict XVI as he steps into retirement that he may enjoy the journey ahead and draw some deep peace and joy from memories of his ministry and devotion.

There is text for Mass for The Pope in the Roman Missal and I used these prayers.  I had wondered about readings but opted to use the readings of the day.  How appropriate they were.  The first spoke of Jeremiah’s ministry and the resentment he felt from some corners and people’s decision to try to catch him out in something he’d say that would ultimately force his hand.  Jeremiah, aware of this, reminds the Lord that he has prayed for these people through the years and that his prayers are still with them.  It struck me that Benedict knew something of the highs and lows of popular opinion and must have, at times, felt saddened that his words seemed to be misunderstood or his position misrepresented.  All the while, I think it’s fair to say, he felt God’s call and tried to respond to it.  It’s certain he prayed for the world and its people.

The psalm had a line “You are my God” and this too seems apt for the day and our time.  Even in confusion, hurt or anger, we do well to remember that he is “OUR” God.

The Gospel spoke of Jesus, en route to Jerusalem, taking the apostles one side to let them know there were rough times ahead.  Betrayals, crucifixion, burial but also a rising from the dead.  How difficult it was for them to take all this in.  I think our church knows something of this darkness and uncertainty and seeks to rise at this time and into the future from the ashes of hurt, the shame of her sins and to, once again, know resurrection – life in full.

Lastly we had the mother of two of the disciples came forward to ask Jesus to give her sons places of importance in his “Kingdom”.  I was reminded of the two German brothers who became priests and wondered how their mother felt.  Did she ever ask that power would be given them?  Did she know that one of them would, one day, become Pope?  Most likely not.  Journeys take strange turns and, at this time, as we seek a new Pope the words of Jesus seem so on the mark.  The one who leads must truly be a servant.  There’s a call for prayer for guidance now that the one chosen has not chosen this way for himself.  He should, of course, be open to it but not seeking it.  That’s the leader we need.  That’s the one we pray for.

“Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful …..”

Thursday February 28th

Thursday February 28th

Let sleeping dogs lie

Let sleeping dogs lie

This is a photo of Alpha – my dog and “good friend”!  I’m not sure about him being my best friend but we get on fairly well most of the time.  The little caption isn’t really as much to do with the photograph as maybe a bit of advice for the day – sometimes we might do well to let sleeping dogs lie.  Digging up, rooting out, dwelling on bad memories or feelings may serve only to hurt us and others in the long run.  The sleeping dog has his place.

A second thought around dogs …. It’s not original but heard a man speak once about the Religious Examiner visiting a school.  The teacher relied heavily on three girls in the class to answer any questions of a religious nature and knew that any of them would be well able to meet, head on, any issues the priest might care to surface.  She wasn’t ready for the priest’s selection though and he turned to a young lad in the class called Tony and asked him to stand up.  The teacher feared the worst and remembered Tony, on another occasion, finding “four” Gods in the Trinity.  Just as the priest began to speak, Tony made reference to the dog he could see on the front seat of the priest’s car.  The story goes that the priest left aside his text book, looked at Tony and asked “Did Jesus have a dog Tony”.  “No”, came the reply “because if he had it would have been with him on Calvary”.

We’re told the boy went home with the prize for the best answer.  The three girls went home feeling there was “no justice in religion”.

Tony was on the button – the “friend” in the dog would have brought him to Calvary.

The thought for today – how far will we travel for our friends?

Friday March 1st

Friday March 1st

Dreamer and Dream Makers

Dreamer and Dream Makers

I’ve almost missed March 1st.  It’s quite late now so I’m throwing a quick thought out there ……

This is a photo of a photo that hangs on my kitchen wall.  I think it was one of my cousins that took it during my Ordination in Gurteen.  It’s just one of those moments that a camera captured.  No posing or awareness of the picture being taken.  They’re my favourite type of picture.  Someone once said that you should take more pictures of people than places.  I sort of like that idea.  People make places.

This photo takes me back more than a quarter of a century.  I had a dream of being a priest and hoped I’d be a good one.  The dream remains and with it, at times, a realisation that I could and should have been better and done better.  That said, the dream continues.

Beside me, Bill and Mary.  No, beside Bill and Mary is me.  They were the ones who gave me life and shaped me.  I know they were proud that day and happy that I was where I wanted to be.  They were good to me.  I do miss them so much.

Today’s first reading at Mass is the story of Joseph and the love his father had for him.  He was the son of Abraham’s “old age” and special to him.  He even had a coat made for him – long sleeves and, some say, very colourful.  He was the youngest (me too!) and there seemed to be quite a connection there.  Joseph’s brothers called him “The man of dreams” and wondered what would become of him.  In the story there’s a bit of jealousy but it works out well in the end.  Better, than any of them could have imagined.

So the reading makes me think of my family and calls me to be thankful for them – for the memory of Mary and Bill and the presence of my brothers and their families.

Maybe that’s not a bad way for you, dear reader, to end the day as well.  Remember your people, remember their dreams and remember your own.

Goodnight!

And here’s the song about the “man of dreams”

Saturday March 2nd

Saturday March 2nd

I think he's gone!

I think the fellow with the camera is gone!

This is a photo from last year.  There’s a man who keeps horses on the field beside my house.  This foal was born last year.  It was lovely to see new life, find its feet and draw strength from its mother.

Today I baptized two children, Áine Marie in one ceremony and Conor James in another.  Two different churches, different people but a shared purpose and journey – sharing something believed and hoped – with a new generation.

I found myself, at the second baptism (Conor James) going back to a reading I like to use at baptisms.  That lovely piece from Micah.  He asked God what had he to do to keep God on his side.  Like many, Micah, lived under the shadow of superstition and felt that God had to be continually appeased or He’d send all sorts of disaster your way.  He wondered if he’d need to give half his property, his first born son or much of his possessions to keep God “sweet”.  The answer was brief and focused,  God asked three things of Micah

  1. Act justly
  2. Love tenderly
  3. Walk humbly with your God

The same is asked of us this Lenten Day.

Sunday March 3rd

Sunday March 3rd

"Just one more year,,,,,"

“Just one more year,,,,,”

It’s not a photo I’ve taken.  Just did a google search for “barren fig tree” and this is one of the images that was presented.  The photo and the thought (very quick and short – late night now!!) that goes with it comes form this Sunday’s Gospel passage where the land owner orders the uprooting and destroying of a fig tree that has failed to produce any crop for three years.  “Why should it take up ground?” he asked.  His worker pleased for one more year.  He told the landowner that he’d tend to the tree with extra care and attention and that it just might produce something in the next twelve months.  He added, by way of conceding, that should this not be the case then the tree could be uprooted and destroyed.

It’s essentially a story about second chances.  We do well to reflect on the many times in life when we were afforded the “second chance”.  Maybe it was in a relationship or at work – in school or at home, in our youth or old age – the where or why is unimportant, we dwell on the fact that a second chance was offered to us.  Imagine again the way we felt when that second chance was offered.  The sense of relief, disbelief at our good fortune and the gratitude towards the one or ones who had given us such a gift.  Along with this remembering and imagining we centre our thoughts on that gratitude.

And, the sting …. the question for all of us today – “Who is depending on me (us) for a second chance?”

Will it be withheld or given?

The same is asked of us this Lenten Day.

Monday March 4th

Monday March 4th

Spanish Point, Co. Clare

Spanish Point, Co. Clare

I was in Co Clare on Sunday last.  I had been asked to say a few words to two groups of Ministers of The Word in two parish clusters in Killaoe Diocese.  The first gathering was in Lissycasey and the second in Spanish Point.  I have to say I enjoyed it a lot.  It was great to see people in both places who are dedicated to proclaiming God’s word in their local parishes.  Certainly it’s a very important ministry.

The word of God is so necessary in our lives and can speak to us in a variety of ways.  Someone talked about the “fragmentation” of the word, in other words that something you hear today might not seem to mean much but can come back to you at a later time when it means everything.

Is there a piece of Scripture you like?  Some lines somewhere that help you understand things a little better?

Maybe repeat them to yourself today ……

Tuesday March 5th

Tuesday March 5th

Sometimes we need reminders!!

Sometimes we need reminders!!

Yesterday I taped this piece of paper to the Altar in Kilmovee!  It’s not that I’ve forgotten our bishop’s name but that we’re not supposed to mention Benedict in the place where you pray for the pope!!  So, I thought this in my line of vision might be a help:)

There’s a point in here somewhere about maybe the things we shouldn’t say.  “You’ve put on weight”!  “God, you’ve aged a lot”!  Or indeed any comment about people that might be hurtful or harmful.  I met someone recently and, in the course of the conversation, she mentioned that she’s been married for a long number of years.  I was about to ask “and have you any family?” and decided against.  Why would I ask?  It struck me that she mightn’t have and that there might be a sadness around that.  I really don’t know but I think it was better that I didn’t ask.

There are all sorts of situations where silence might be the better option.  Sometimes we speak too quickly and without reflection.

My father used love to quote an old man who lived beside them at home – “My God Almighty, Sherlock”, he’d say “it’s all right in talking but it’s no harm to say nothing”!!

Do we need reminders at times, that say to us “don’t bother saying that?”

Wednesday March 6th

Wednesday March 6th

"Rainbows, promises and difference made ...."

“Rainbows, promises and difference made ….”

Rainbows catch my eye!  I’m not unique in that of course since they seem to be put there to attract our attention and point our thoughts in another direction.  Some of them are spectacular.  This is a photo I took when I was in Ballaghaderreen a few years ago. Though it’s not the most definable of rainbows, I like to think it suggests a desire for the sharing of colours from the Cathedral out into the neighbours’ fields and, more importantly, lives.

That seems to be what the rainbow does – it reflects the sun’s light even when the sun isn’t clearly visible or totally clouded.  It says, in that action, that light will follow uncertainty, dryness follow the rains, heat follow the cold and hope follow despair.

So maybe today’s thought is around looking for the rainbow.

I might re-visit a song here that I’ve put on the blog before.  It’s around that theme of rainbows and signs of goodness.  It’s about imitating the goodness shown …..

Thursday March 7th

Thursday March 7th

LOrd, teach us to pray ....

Lord, teach us to pray ….

Saying the Our Father again today at Mass I was reminded of the importance of that line that just sits there towards the middle of the prayer – “Give us this day our daily bread”.  I like that line a lot since it seems to say, we should seek enough just to get us through the day and tomorrow we can ask again, if need be.

What “bread”?  I think it’s whatever is needed for the day; Faith, Hope, Love, food, money, forgiveness, patience, strength – whatever it takes.  It’s not a bad principle to take guidance from.  Of course, like many principles, not always easily done but certainly a practical approach.

So, what’s the “bread” needed by you, by me?  Can we name it and pray for it?  Not for a month, a year or forever – just for the day.  If we make it to another day, we can ask again.

That’s what Jesus told us to do.

Friday March 8th

Friday March 8th

GOING FORWARD

Only a track left behind ....

Only a track left behind ….

This is a photo I took last year when crossing from New York to New Jersey on the Ferry.  It’s a short journey by boat that would take considerably longer by road and is, in reality, a very pleasant journey.  As you head out it’s possible to look back and see the Manhattan skyline which is very impressive.  Hard to imagine how many people, their lives and stories, are to be found in all those buildings but that’s not why I put this photo here …..

A few years ago, a priest friend in New Orleans wrote to tell me he was celebrating the 35th Anniversary of his 35th Birthday!  It was a clever way of saying he was turning 7o,  Today, March 8th, I celebrated the 25th Anniversary of my 25th Birthday.  You get the idea 🙂

Someone said to me earlier “you’ll have this on your blog” and I said I didn’t think I would and yet here I am doing just that.  Was my friend right?  Clearly.  Was I wrong? Possibly.  At the time I didn’t think I’d mention it so the fact that I am reflects more on the day just ending that a pre-planned intention!

I replied earlier to a text someone sent me, I said there was no “backsapce” in today’s journey and that I have to move on.  The texter replied saying that’s why we only have eyes in the front of our heads.  The only way to look is forward.  Something in it for sure …..

I hate that expression, so much in use now – so overused now – “going forward”.  I really amn’t that clear what it means and yet it crops up everywhere, even at the most innocent and harmless meetings.  Someone will feel the need to say “well going forward …..” and there follows, quite often, very little.

Yes, we need to “go forward” and there’s little to be served in dwelling on the past, for it has its share of success and failure, ups and downs, joys and sorrows but at the end of the day, it’s past.  We cannot step in those waters again.  We can learn from them, make amends for mistakes made but we cannot walk in them, ever again.

The tracks on the water in the photo above speak of a journey being made.  Where there’s movement there’s a track.  That’s the way it has to be.

So maybe on this 25th anniversary of a 25th birthday, there’s need in my life to reflect on “going forward” and to focus a bit less on journey travelled.  Well that’s not altogether right, we need to remember but also need to know there’s no backspace.  Eyes in the front not back of our heads ….

Want to reflect a bit too?

Saturday March 9th

Saturday March 9th

Darkness to light ...

Darkness to light …

This is a photo from an early morning walk last year.  It took place in the Forest Park Boyle.  It was in aid of Pieta House, care for people with suicidal tendencies and of their families.  The aim was to begin the walk in the dark and walk into the light of a new day.  A powerfully striking image, for sure, and a worthwhile walk.  Many people turned up to take part in it.  Full credit to all involved.

There is much sadness in life and many people find it too much to bear.  Quite often some have chosen to step away from it through death by suicide.  It’s such a tragic decision that leaves much brokenness behind.  Frequently we see at first hand or read of the devastation caused.

You’d hope, pray, wish that people would find some other outlet for their worry.  Another place to go, a thought or fear to share, so that the decision taken would not be so irreversible and final.

Light into dark.  We’ll have something of that in a few weeks time during our Easter Vigil.  The night giving way to day, darkness to light, emptiness to completion and despair to hope.  It’s more than just a liturgical moment or gathering, it’s a model of the road we’re called to travel.

A prayer then, alongside this day’s thought, for all who might be immersed in darkness – that they may wait, postpone any decision making and look for the breaking of a new day.

I might include here a few words I had posted towards the end of last year.  I think they have their place in what I’m trying to say today ….

__________________________________

A few years ago the mother of a young man who journeyed this way spoke to me about her worries.  She was heartbroken for the loss of her son, the taking away of a brother for the rest of her family and the emptiness she felt.  She was, alongside all this, deeply worried for others – for his friends and feared the impact his death might have on them.  She asked me to speak to his friends, to try to reassure them and to let them know how much they meant.  I knew what she was saying but was less sure what I should or could say.

In the end, I decided to take the words away from me and put them on another’s lips.  Who though could speak from any level of knowledge?  I thought of the Guardian Angel and borrowed his presence to try to speak.

I might share again the words spoken that night.  I’ll change the name of the young man – we’ll call him Kevin.  In remembering him alongside our young priest friend and all who have died in similar circumstances, the hope is that they have found lasting peace and the banishment of clouds  ……..

Dear Friends of Kevin,

My name is Solas. I know you don’t know me though I have often been in your midst. I have, for close on a quarter of a century, been Kevin’s Guardian Angel. Like you, I felt such sadness as the weekend brought its story and the news to your ears that he had died. I talked to God and told him I felt I had failed. He asked me to watch out for Kevin and, while it wasn’t always the easiest of jobs, like a lot of you I enjoyed his company. Though I am supposed to know things, there were times I left the house with him and hadn’t a clue where we were going or what the night would bring. In fairness, I think there were two of us in it! I enjoyed his company though, and while it might seem he passed little heed of me, deep down he knew I was there. He knew God was there. God told me the other night that I hadn’t let him down. He said and I remember his words so clearly; “Solas, you were the last to say goodbye and the first to say hello”. God too wished that Kevin had made different choices and especially this, his last and irreversible, choice.

You see what Kevin knew was the love of his family, his friends and his desire for peace. He knew the future was taking shape and that the past, whatever he might have thought of it, helped shape that future. He came from a bright and caring family and he inherited more than his father’s height and his mother’s kindness.

What Kevin did not see, though in all honesty I tried to tell him, was the tears in your eyes. I whispered and shouted at him but somehow he could not hear me. If he did, he certainly gave no impression of having heard me. I know enough about him to know that he’d not have put anyone through the grief and sadness around us this evening. God said to me, the other night, that he still cannot understand how slow people are to realise how much they mean. Regardless of what happens in life, regardless of the successes or mistakes, we matter to so many people. If only we could fully take that in. I’ve been there myself, even as an Angel, that feeling that nobody would really notice if I faded out but then thankfully something always reminds me that were I not around the world would be minus something special – something holy – someone needed.

I suppose that’s why I am writing these few lines, to thank you all for noticing and to say I am sorry for your tears. God wants me to say to all Kevin’s friends, look around you tonight. Look at the tears on your own cheeks, feel the sadness in your own hearts and look at the faces of Kevin’s family. Your lives are so, so precious. So many people need you and depend on you. Don’t ever think your life doesn’t matter or that you’d not be missed. My friend Kevin must not have seen this the other night. He knew it absolutely but, the other night, he didn’t see it. It’s so important that you all see it here this evening. We should not be here. Kevin should not be here. I still had miles to travel with him.

Your Angels want to travel with you.

Sunday March 10th

Sunday March 10th

Missed this one … might get back to it …

Monday March 11th

Monday March 11th

Looks calm ….

They talk about being as “graceful as a swan” and I suppose this picture, taken last year, gives some indication why.  I took the photo outside a hotel where a wedding reception was taking place.  Everything was movement and noise – flip-flops had even been provided for dancing so that heels could be ditched.  Nothing was left to chance.  As I walked out they were singing and dancing to “All the single ladies”!!  I decided I needed a little air and walked outside.  That’s where I met the swan:)  I watched it go past, with apparently not a care in the world, just drifting along on the water’s surface.  No heed taken when I put camera to eye to take photo.  Hardly even noticed it was happening!  It looked as if they were one, water and swan, and meant to be together on an endless trouble free journey.  All seemed to be in its place – it’s rightful place.

Yet beneath the surface, even in maintaining a steady pace, we’re told the swan’s webbed feet move at quite a pace to ensure the journey continues.   The more speed on the surface the greater the activity below.

Life it seems can be like that.  We sometimes look at people and maybe even envy how relaxed they seem and how effortlessly they achieve their goals.  All appears to be in its place and that place speaks of calm and relaxation.  Yet beneath the surface much can be happening  much going on to ensure the journey continues.  I suppose some of those reality TV Shows (much and all as I detest them!!) give an idea of that.  The calm relaxation of an exclusive restaurant with it’s pre-booked table by the window overlooking the water is enhanced by the smooth and measured movements of waiters, waitresses, managers and all that goes towards giving that sense of being in good hands.  All the while, if reality TV is to be believed, the kitchen is pulsating with flame-grilled pans, roaring chefs, stressed waiters, spoiled and re-visited ingredients and …… so, so much more.

Yes the Swan’s webbed feet are everywhere, pounding frantically to maintain and image of composure and progress.

Maybe we spare a thought for those we might feel have it sorted and who have landed on their feet.  Much may very well be going on beneath the surface and just out of our line of vision ….

Tuesday March 12th

Tuesday March 12th

Sanctuary Stained Glass Window, St Joseph's Church, Cloonloo

Sanctuary Stained Glass Window, St Joseph’s Church, Cloonloo

As a boy, I looked at this window every Sunday – more often even, everytime I went into the church at home.  It’s a captivating image of the crucifixion of Jesus.  How closely did I look at it?  I really can’t answer that but I was always aware of it.  I’m sure when I was very young, it was the colours that drew me.  It certainly lit up on a good day and cast a glow around the Altar in Cloonloo.  Did I give much thought to what was going on?  Again, I can’t answer for sure but quite likely not.

From the back of the church, or even half way down the church, it’s just another window depicting a scene from the gospel story …

The view from the pew ....

The view from the pew ….

and I suppose that’s the vantage point most of us take.  A bit removed from the scene as if it’s someone else’s story.  When you draw closer though it becomes more real, more personal as the strain on the faces of those involved becomes more evident

"this is my son .... "

“this is my son …. “

and you see the sadness in the eyes of those who knew him, walked and talked with him – those who witnessed at first hand the power of his miracles, the healing touch of his words and his call to a better place ….

"here we stand with John the teacher ..."

“here we stand with John the teacher …”

it’s hard to remain at a remove.  The stained glass window in Cloonloo can’t be changed to another channel.  It has one story to tell and that’s the story of a dark moment in the life of our church – a moment of uncertainty for many and of determined cruelty.  We cannot reach for a remote control and change the view, the window says “stay with this for a while”.  It calls us to move up the church a little, to look at the faces

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me ....."

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

to sense again the moment and, like the centurion (who does not feature) to come to a realisation that this was a “good man” – a “son of God” and to go home beating our breasts.  To go home, changed.

It’s a lovely window and still draws me in.  Do I know everything it has to say?  Have I allowed myself be changed by it?  Am I more comfortable a bit down the church?  Will I allow it speak to me?  Can it transform me?

Now, there are a few questions …….

Wednesday March 13th

Tuesday March 13th

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

I was at a meeting of the priests of our cluster of parishes today.  We were just finishing when the news came through that “white smoke” had risen from the chimney on St Peter’s Square.  The new pope should be on the balcony in about forty-five minutes.  Those of us who could wait on sat and watched the television.  It was pleasant and, in a way I hadn’t expected, sort of exciting as we wondered who it might be.  Some of us knew more papal history than others (than me!!) and the conversation was good.  Then the announcment;

“Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum:
Habemus Papam;
Eminentissimum ac reverendissimum Dominum,
Dominum [Jorge] Sanctæ Romanæ Ecclesiæ Cardinalem [Bergoglio],
Qui sibi nomen imposuit [Francis].”

The text as translated to English is below:

“I announce to you a great joy:
We have a Pope!
The most eminent and most reverend Lord,
Lord [Jorge] Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church [Bergoglio],
Who takes for himself the name of [Francis].

We had no idea who he was but one remembered that he was in the running when Benedict was chosen.  We waited on to see him.  I thought he looked so lost when he walked out on the balcony.  He was like one in a daze and seemed overwhelmed.  Why wouldn’t he be?  It’s a daunting task.  The bits said about him, point us in a good direction I think and I’m going to call it a day now, happy enough that a good man has been found – one who seems to know and love people and be aware of their situations and stories.  I’m hopeful too that he will do okay by us all.

One thing for sure, it’s quite likely I’ll sleep better tonight than Francis!!  We wish him more peaceful nights in time to come.

Goodnight!

Thursday March 14th

Thursday March 14th

Another to be re-visited!! Sorry ):

Friday March 15th

Friday March 15th

I thought that between now and Good Friday I might try to do a daily reflection on the Stations of The Cross.  I recently helped with Confessions in St Nathy’s College, Ballaghaderreen and sat in the College Oratory.  I spent much time there, as a student, wondering about the path my life might take and feeling more rooted in my decision to be a priest.  I liked the Stations and decided to take photos of them before leaving the Oratory recently so that I might use them for this part of our Lenten Journey.  You see I do sort of have a plan!!

______________________________________________

First Station: Jesus is condemned to death ...

First Station: Jesus is condemned to death …

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.  Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Everything in Pilate wanted to let Jesus go free.  “I find no case against him” – “If he were not a criminal we’d not be handing him over to you”.  “I will let him go but have him punished first”  “If you let him go, you are no friend of Caesar’s”  “Here is your king”  “We have no King …..”  “Shall I release for you the King of the Jews?” “Not this man Barrabbas”  “I wash my hands of this man’s blood”  “Let his blood be on us and our children”  There was no winning over of this crowd and it was somewhere in the crowd that Pilate lost his nerve.  The deed was done – an innocent man condemned.  Pilate asked for a bowl and a towel and washed his hands of the decision but he had to live with its reality.  The mob ruled the day.

The “mob” is dangerous.  Many good people get condemned in its glare and many “pilates” allow the wrong decision to be made.  There are people we don’t talk to and who don’t talk to us.  Why?  Is it that they’ve done anything to us or vice versa?  Many times it’s neither.  We get caught up in someone else’s row and their hostility becomes ours.

There are many ways of condemning someone to death and few of them involve coffins or graveyards.  The death of isolation is a slow death and many are condemned to it by an unjust and uncertain judge – that judge can all too easily be me!  I find myself passing sentence on someone because of who he is or isn’t. what he does or doesn’t do, where he lives, the colour of skin, religious views and no more than Pilate, deep down I know this should not be happening.  People that we’ve convinced ourselves are right (who most likely are wrong) sway our views and weaken our nerve.  We pass sentence.

There’s something in this Station, calling us to get a backbone of our own and to make decisions about people and situations that are based on fact and personal reflection rather than the road of careless and bloodthirsty crowd.

“I find no case against him”.  He or she has done nothing to me to make me ignore or mistreat in any way.  Then why does it happen.

At this First Station Lord, deliver us from the mob ……

Oh that today we would listen to his voice.  Let us harden not our hearts.

Saturday March 16th

Saturday March 16th

Second Station -Jesus is made carry his cross

Second Station -Jesus is made carry his cross

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.  Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

It’s a station about awareness.  I heard a woman speak once about her young son who lives with Autism.  She said she went to a local supermarket to do her shopping and as she was leaving the shop her son held onto the door of the shop and would not let go.  He began to scream and lash out.  She tried to get him to leave but to no avail.  He screamed and drew massive attention to them both.  As she tried to hold on to his hand the bags of groceries she was carrying fell from her hands and their contents poured out across the pavement.  All the while the child held the door, refused to budge and shouted.  She tried to gather the bits and pieces and put them into the bag, whose handles had broken.  As all this went on, people walked past her on the street – all but one – a man who walked up to her as she was bent over gathering her shopping with one hand and trying to keep hold of her child with the other.  He looked down at her and said “You’d want to put some manners on that child”.  He walked on and she said she collapsed on the street and cried.

The Cross comes in many shapes and forms and is always uninvited and unwelcome.  People try to meet it in different ways.  This woman, burdened beneath the weight of a cross not of her own making, needed support rather than criticism, a lift up rather than a put down and compassion rather than condemnation.

As we see the cross placed on Jesus’ shoulders, maybe we could let our gaze and empathy wander to the shop door and to a young mother dealing with a very difficult situation.

Oh, that today we would listen to his voice, let us harden not our hearts.

Sunday March 17th

Sunday March 17th

Third Station - Jesus falls the first time

Third Station – Jesus falls the first time

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.  Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Was it a pebble or a rock? Was it a push or a slap?  Was it verbal abuse or fatigue?  Was it ….. We’ll never know what led to the first fall but we can be certain it wasn’t easy.  Even burdened beneath the weight of the cross, there is a pride that keeps us going – a sort of determination not to lose face.  We’ve all done it, a stumble and then a quick look to see if anyone noticed and, depending on whether it was noticed or not, embarrassment or relief.  We might be able to pull off the stumble, maybe even to put it down to error but there’s no denying the fall.

There’s something very sad about seeing someone who has fallen on the ground – fallen on hard times, fallen behind. There’s a genuine wish, especially if they’re known to us and loved by us, that the fall hadn’t taken place.  It’s uncomfortable to watch someone on the ground.  It’s a degrading place to be and, quite often in movies and plays, the man on the ground is to be pitied since he’s at the receiving end of brutality.

Such is the case in this third station.  Jesus’ fall has come.  He doesn’t call it his “first fall” since the hope is that it might be the only one.  As we will see later on, this hope was not realised.  Jesus came to pick up the fallen so maybe it’s not without significance that he is presented here as a man, mouth under, face down on the ground.  It’s a moment of choice. Stay there or get up.  We know the choice he made.  It would not have been unreasonable were he to say, “No, I can’t go any further.  What you’ve to do, do here ….” but no, he found his feet again and continued the journey.

This seems to be a station for the fallen one – for all of us who have been caught off guard and who have lost our footing.  Don’t lose hope, feel the ground beneath you not so much as threat or enemy as launching pad to make  a fresh start.

Let’s get up ….. the ground isn’t the best place for us.

Oh, that today we would listen to his voice, let us harden not our hearts.

Monday March 18th

Monday March 18th

Fourth Station - Jesus meets his mother

Fourth Station – Jesus meets his mother

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.  Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

“Though your message was unspoken, still the truth in silence lies …..” this is one of my favourite lines from Dana’s hymn “Our Lady of Knock”.  It brings us back to that gable wall on an August evening in 1879 and to a people gathered in wonder and fear.  A vision before them and much pain and confusion behind and all around them in the wake of famine days and forced, uncertain, emigration.  No words exchanged.  No words spoken by Mary to these people you’d imagine were in need of a word.  She didn’t tell them that they were disappointing her son.  She didn’t call them to one kind of devotion or another.  She didn’t demand response in promises of any kind.  Knock and its story, remind us though that she was “THERE” – for the people present that evening she was “HERE”.

I often think of that when looking at this fourth station.  There’s no mention of any dialogue.  You can almost imagine their eyes meeting across a largely hostile and curious crowd.  Once those eyes met and locked in on each other, there was reassurance.  “You are still my son” …..  “it matters not what they think of you or what they think you’ve done or anything else …. you are still my son”.  Presence and reassurance – maybe that’s as good as it gets.

What did she receive in return from his gaze?  A loving acknowledgement that out of all that’s going on around here, out of all this thunderous crowd, “I see you.  I need you.  I love you”.  The fourth commandment comes to mind “Honour your father and your mother”.  No accident that it comes right after the call to keep Holy the Sabbath Day.  This relationship between parent and child must also remain holy and be forever reverenced.

This Station then speaks to all that is good in that bond between parent and child, in this case, mother and son and calls us to be there/here for each other in moments of crisis and uncertainty.  It also calls us to prayer for families that have been broken or compromised in any way due to a breakdown in communication and relationship.

Oh, that today we would listen to his voice, let us harden not our hearts.

Tuesday March 19th

Tuesday March 19th

Fifth Station - Simon helps Jesus carry his cross

Fifth Station – Simon helps Jesus carry his cross

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.  Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

I remember a man coming to me very early one morning.  He was looking for some food and possibly a few euro as he faced the day.  I asked where he’d stayed the night before and he told me, without any hesitation, that he had slept under a lorry that was parked for the night down the street.

Tonight, in many of our larger cities, people will wrap themselves in sleeping bags, boxes, rolled up papers, old blankets and anything they can find to help keep out the cold.  They’ll settle down for the night in the doorway of a shop, down a side street or under a bridge.  Wherever a spot is available that promises the possibility of a night’s sleep, it will be utilised.  This is an image, as my opening line of this paragraph suggests, linked with larger cities and a significant amount of homelessness.  My early morning encounter is not from such a setting.  It is rural.  It is happening all around us.  People are struggling.

I have an image at this station, not of the ones huddling down for the night, but of people gathering in twos, threes and more to make soup and sandwiches, to gather sleeping bags and warm clothes and to prepare for the nightly “soup run”.  I’ve never done this – never really even considered doing this – but very many do.  They know where to go.  They know what to say.  They do what needs doing.

There are many such groups but one is called the Simon Community.  I believe, though I may be wrong, that their name comes from this Station;  Simon helping Jesus to carry his cross.  The first Simon was an unwilling volunteer.  He was dragged from his vantage point on the side of the road and placed centre stage.  His reluctance didn’t hold him back though.  We can only begin to imagine the difference it made to Jesus when some of the weight was, quite literally, taken from his shoulder and shared.  Simon, on that day, made a huge contribution and I suspect that afterwards his reluctance would have given way to joy that he had been able to help a man, trapped in a place and time not of his own making.  I’d imagine he’d have been pleased to be able to say he had done something to help.

This station calls us to spare a thought for kindly people and to share their load in whatever way we can – maybe we could volunteer to travel with them sometime or  to offer a few euro from time to time. http://www.simon.ie/

Oh, that today we would listen to his voice, let us harden not our hearts.

Wednesday March 20th

Wednesday March 20th

Sixth Station - Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

Sixth Station – Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.  Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

She’s some woman!  Veronica, the woman with the towel – one who saw something that needed to be done and just did it.  There’s a tee-shirt that appears from time to time with the slogan “JUST DO IT” … she could have worn that tee-shirt for sure.

Like Simon at the fifth station, Veronica helps Jesus and the help was crucial.  It meant more than just sharing a weight, or wiping a face – it meant that there was an understanding of his message.  “Do unto others as you would want done to you …”  “Insofar as you offer cup of cold water to one of these brothers or sisters, you did it for me …”  Yes, the help was much more than just a physical presence, it spoke to something much deeper – an awareness that what is wrong must be challenged by what is right.  Evil must not be allowed triumph since, as it has truly been said, “all that’s needed for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing ….”

Veronica’s help differed from Simon’s insofar as it was freely and courageously given.  She stepped, uninvited, from the crowd to do the right thing and, in so doing, gave a powerful witness.  Some say the track of his face was left on the towel she used.  I think it matters little whether that’s true or not since the mark of his “presence” was truly with her before and even more so after the moment on Calvary’s road.

Yes, she’s some woman and she calls all of us to have a heart for those less fortunate and to have courage beyond our size or ability – We may well be the needed ones in a given situation.  Are we ready to step from the crowd?  Are willing to make a difference?

Oh, that today we would listen to his voice, let us harden not our hearts.

Thursday March 21st

Thursday March 21st

Seventh Station - Jesus falls the second time

Seventh Station – Jesus falls the second time

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.  Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

In many ways, the second fall is more difficult and painful than the first since the first fall was an unknown and took the faller by surprise.  The second fall is a reminder – a hard reminder – of where we’ve been before.  It’s especially difficult when we think we’ve managed to come to terms with and leave behind that sense of having fallen.  The fall alas is never too far away.

Jesus, on the ground again, reminds us that to fall is sometimes unavoidable but the challenge – the Gospel call – is to rise again and press onward in the belief that a journey has to be made and a destination has to be reached.  We cannot stay down but must repeatedly find our feet and our determination to move away from the fall.

It’s worth noting that Jesus still has the support of Simon, the remembrance of Veronica’s kindness and the image of his mother in the crowd to give him strength.  When we fall, our ability to rise will be rooted in the goodness shown us along the way.  For this reason it is very important to note and remember acts of kindness shown us in life.  These truly are our source of strength and make the getting up, even from a second fall, that bit more manageable.

Oh, that today we would listen to his voice, let us harden not our hearts.

Friday March 22nd

Friday March 22nd

Eighth Station - Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem

Eighth Station – Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.  Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Was it the sound of their weeping that caught his eye?  Doubtful.  He knew they were there for they always were – the women – following, supporting, listening, responding, encouraging and loving.  He numbered many of them among his friends and, following the resurrection. they were among the first to whom he appeared.

One of the criticisms leveled against our church is its apparent lack of placement of women in key roles of the church.  Indeed, in the past few weeks with the resignation of Pope Benedict and the election of Pope Francis, this was once again very much in the spotlight.  No women were seen on the balcony when Francis was announced.  This is a fact and maybe one we do well not to ignore.  On St Peter’s Square there were countless women.  Some of them, like those found in this Station, crying – though tears of happiness as Francis found his voice and wished them and all of us a “Good Evening”.  They are always there in terms of church and, many of them, are the backbone of parish life and church groups and leaders of prayer …. there place is so central.

Is this a station about “women’s rights” or the ordination of women?  I don’t think so.  It is a station that speaks to all of us about the centrality of women in our lives and church.  It’s not a station about control or equality – at least I don’t think it is – but it is one about recognition and acknowledgment.  It is one about listening and responding and it is one about shared space and vision.  It is about Christ turning his gaze in the direction of a group of women who understood what was going on and wanted to show support.

The women in this station draw close to the suffering Christ.  They teach us how to respond to cruelty and wrongdoing in the only way that is appropriate and natural – in tears.  We MUST be moved to tears when we see suffering.  We must also recognise the place – the entitlement of these women’s offspring to have their place – not just on the side of the road of “The Way of The Cross” but on the balcony … and ordination is not the essential ingredient – that central ingredient is their presence.  That’s what Jesus noticed as he neared Calvary – not that they were or were not Ministers of Religion but that they were “there” and that they cared ….

Oh, that today we would listen to his voice, let us harden not our hearts.

Saturday March 23rd

Saturday March 23rd

Ninth Station - Jesus falls the third time

Ninth Station – Jesus falls the third time

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.  Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

I mentioned before a priest called Fr Leo Morahan – I heard him speak one time about an elderly woman who used visit the church beside the school when he was a child.  The children would go in to watch her as she prayed the Stations of The Cross.  She’d not know they were watching since she was immersed in the journey she was making.  She’d have no text book with her or no particular formula.  She’d just walk from station to station, spend a while at one, a longer time at another – maybe say something, maybe not.  He said that quite often at the ninth station she might say something like “you’re down again” …. simple but true.

“You’re down again”.  That’s the truth of it.  This station shows us the Lord stretched again beneath the burden of the Cross.  Despite Simon’s help, the weight of the cross and tiredness of limbs lays him low.

This image of Jesus, though not easy to look at, speaks to the vulnerability in all of us.  How quickly we can be laid low!  How easily we can be broken!  How ultimately fragile we all are.

“Fragile” – yeah maybe that’s the word.  When something “fragile” is sent in the mail or by courier it usually has attached the simple but vital message “handle with care”.

Maybe this station is calling us to “handle with care” the humanity that is around us – the family, friends and neighbours around us.  To do anything else could all too easily lead to their fall.  To be handled any other way, likewise, to ours.

Oh, that today we would listen to his voice, let us harden not our hearts.

Sunday March 24th

Sunday March 24th

Tenth Staton - Jesus is stripped of his garments

Tenth Staton – Jesus is stripped of his garments

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.  Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

In many ways this is the cruellest of the stations – cruel in that it is so unnecessary.  Who could possibly have wanted the garments he was wearing – bloodstained, sweat soaked, torn and destroyed?  What was to be gained in taking them?  The one who won the casting of lots for the seamless garment – what did he do with it?  Quite likely it never made it beyond Calvary.  That’s what so cruel about it – that it was beyond, way beyond what was needed.  It was violation at its worst.

To take away what’s left to a person is wrong.  Quite often the one thing we have in life that is unique to us is our name and ideally we can place the word “good” before that – our “good name”.  There are times it may well be all that we have left.  Yet, at times, it is taken too.  Taken with vengeance and determination so that, like Jesus on the Cross, we are left emotionally naked with nothing to cover our shame, disappointment or brokenness.

What is it that drives people to the point of wanting to do this to another?  Hate, you’d imagine, has to be at the core of such a choice.

Is it possible we need to feel the draft of nakedness ourselves and the vulnerability of losing what’s left to us before we can truly reflect on the need to leave others their dignity.

That “Golden Rule” pops up again, “treat others as you would wish them to treat you” ….  It’s likely there’d be a lot less ripping, a lot less tearing, a lot less cutting if we allowed that sink in a bit more.

Oh, that today we would listen to his voice, let us harden not our hearts.

Monday March 25th

Monday March 25th

Eleventh Station - Jesus is nailed to the cross

Eleventh Station – Jesus is nailed to the cross

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.  Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

There are a few thoughts that come to mind when looking at this station – many thoughts indeed – but two that seem to re-emerge.  One is of people living with disability, old age or infirmity.  Their hands and feet quite literally tied and unable to move due to one condition or other.  Jesus’ hands used to healing are rendered powerless beneath the enforced control of the nails.  Likewise his legs and feet that walked to so many places and into the lives of so many people – from the young newlyweds in Cana to the bedroom of the a young child lying in but to be drawn from the arms of death.  Hands that blessed, cured, nourished – feet that walked for many – rendered powerless.  This station, I sometimes think, speaks to those who feel so restrained.  Jesus seeks to focus them and all of us on what is central “Father, into your hands I commend my Spirit”.  It’s as if he’s saying the body is a passing thing and that, in the passing, many changes take place but that the Spirit is the central.  It is on the Spirit we must focus and IN the Spirit we must seek to come before God.

A second thought from this station focuses on what leads to cruelty between people.  How could any man, even a solider obeying orders, use hammer and nails to inflict pain on another?  The hammer and nails, in the right hands of a well-intentioned man or woman are tools of mending and creating.  The tools of the trade and the trade is honourable.  In the wrong hands, they are weapons – used to instill fear and to exert control.  The hammer and nails, in and by themselves, can harm nobody.  It’s when they’re put in the wrong hands the story of cruelty emerges.

As we look then at this station, we might do well to give a bit of thought to the potential for use or misuse of tools, even of weapons.  Maybe too, we could make a firm resolve for peace.  It’s also an invitation to pray for peace and the ending of cruelty in its many forms.

Oh, that today we would listen to his voice, let us harden not our hearts.


Tuesday March 26th

Tuesday March 26th

Twelfth Station - Jesus dies on the cross

Twelfth Station – Jesus dies on the cross

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.  Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

“How did it happen?”  “Had he been sick for long?”  “Did he say anything to you?” – these questions are fairly typical and often asked following someone’s death.  It’s not so much about nosiness as trying to fit the pieces together so that there’s a completeness around the story of someone’s life and death.  When a person dies alone or in strange circumstances there can remain a lot of unanswered questions.  These questions can weigh heavily on the minds and hearts of those left behind.  The “if onlys” can take hold and the grieving process is delayed or suspended in the absence of answers.

Jesus’ death is very public.  Its details are recorded and have been re-told for over two thousand years.  The story-tellers have changed but, in the main, the account of the death of Jesus has gone unaltered.  It includes a prayer of forgiveness for those involved in the execution, a conversation with a repentant thief, the entrusting of his mother to the care of his beloved disciple, a heart-rending cry to God “Why have you deserted me?”, a call for a thirst to be quenched and finally an acknowledgement “it is accomplished”.  Following that, a lowering of the head and yielding of the spirit.

These details are important and call us to a relationship with the Lord, even at the moment of his death.  There’s a unity here that speaks to the hearts of all who have grieved the loss of a loved one.  Somebody once said that the only way to never cry at a funeral is to never love anyone.  Thankfully there are very few of us who can say we’ve never loved ANYONE so it’s fair to say, we’ve done our share of crying at funerals.

Is there a tear in our eye as we think about this station?  Chances are there should be.

Oh, that today we would listen to his voice, let us harden not our hearts.

Wednesday March 27th

Wednesday March 27th

thirteenth

Thirteenth Station – Jesus is taken down from the cross

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.  Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

I can still see her.  She’d been in the hospice for some time, off and on, but her final weeks were spent there – in a borrowed room.  Her family tried so hard to make it their home and to make home of it for her.  Familiar bits and pieces, photos of happier days, some of the food she liked – those everyday things that make something of life for us as we journey along. She knew, it seemed to all, more than she pretended and she moved along this uninvited path, surrounded by those who loved her most, knew her best and wanted – more than anything – to see her beat the odds, defy the diagnosis and enjoy what was her real home for many more years. “Ah, hello”, became her greeting of choice when anyone would walk into her room.  There was a real effort in her intonation.  She wanted to sound bright and in tune so that the tone would be set for all who came to see her.  It was a wish, on her part, that despite all that was happening within and around her, people would be drawn into what was bright and in tune.

The last time we met was almost in total silence.  I thought she was asleep or maybe even more deeply at rest in her own self and decided that I should celebrate with her, in quietness, the Sacrament of The Sick.  I prayed  the words, so low that there wasn’t even a whisper and when I reached to put the Oil on her forehead, she turned her two hands over – inviting the Oils to be placed on her palms. She knew what was happening and responded with open hands.  When I finished, she looked up and said “you’re so good”.  It was the most amazing “Amen” I’ve ever heard.  Without formalising it, she said her “AMEN” – her so be it, in a way that was deeply spiritual and wholly appropriate.  Her “amen” was gratitude and acceptance.

Hours, rather than days later, there followed her final Amen.  I wasn’t there but those who mattered most to her were.  I often think of the slowness of the moment, the reality dawning that her time had come and then there followed the disconnection of medical companionship for the journey – monitors perhaps – since they were no longer needed.  Drawing near to her, was family and beyond them friends and neighbours, all working together to remove her from the cross – to take her, not so much down, as home and to want to walk that road with her.  I hear again Jesus’ words at the eleventh station; “it is accomplished”, head bowed, spirit given – all that was left was for the right thing to be done by and for her.

I sometimes think that the Irish are especially gifted in the way they tend to one another at times like this.  Other people’s houses, kitchens and lives are invaded by a wave of practical kindness that helps take people from the Cross.  I’d hate to think we’d ever lose that.  No financial bailouts, no economic downturns or negative equity, should ever stop us wanting to reach to the one on the cross and those standing at its foot, so that we can help – that we can carry – that we can give rest to the ones gone and loving support to those left behind.

You’d almost think Joseph of Arimathea must have Irish relations ….. even if he hadn’t, he did the right thing.

Oh, that today we would listen to his voice, let us harden not our hearts.

Thursday March 28th

Thursday March 28th

Fourteenth Station - Jesus is laid in the tomb

Fourteenth Station – Jesus is laid in the tomb

 

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.  Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

They wondered, as they walked, who would roll the stone away?  He’d been lying there into the third day.  They knew they’d come back to do what time denied them on Friday – anoint and reverence the body.  It was the decent thing to do and you’d expect nothing else from decent people.  The big stone though, that would be a problem.  It seemed so final when it was rolled back over the opening of Joseph of Arimathea’s grave.  It did more than seal the opening, shut out the light and enclose the body of Jesus.  It seemed to say “day is done” and the end has come.  There was sadness beyond measure as the stone sealed the opening and his fate.  He was gone.

There was unfinished business though and they weren’t prepared to leave it unfinished.  The stone though was a problem  “Who would roll it away?”  “How could it be rolled away?”  A real dilemma and a practical problem.

The stone, it seems to me, represents grief.  Grief, that block to peace – that which needs to be recognised and respected in order to meet it in some way that might lead to a better place.  It may well seem too much for us and completely overwhelming.  Chances are we might think the light will never shine again and that there is only darkness to follow.  Bright days, happy days can become a faded memory in the face of grief.  Questions asked, answers not found, loneliness, anger, disappointment – hurt are all to be found in the shadow of grief. Talk about days gone, memories shared have to suffice in the absence of the one gone.  It’s an awful place to be.  All the “sorry for your troubles” have been spoken, the prayers have been said, the grave has its day.  Grief, that huge stone, is a cruel divide.  The women wondered who’ d roll it away?

This station is for all going through grief.  Jesus sleeps in death for all those who have died.  His death is the gateway to new hope – new life and renewed hope.  He is saying “I’ve been through this and it is not the end.”  Life, as we’re told in one of the Prefaces for the Dead, is “changed not ended”.  It does not seek to make little of the sadness felt or the loneliness being realised but still calls people to have faith and hope.  Words spoken by Jesus should come to the surface “I am the resurrection and the life ….”, “The one who believes in me never dies ….”  “I’m going now to prepare a place for you …..”  “This day, you will be with me in paradise …” “The child is not dead, but asleep ….”  These and other words like them seek to reassure us that the grave is not the end.

The stone, so talked about and worried about as the women walked towards the tomb was, in fact, rolled away.  This “grief” cannot be allowed close out the light, the hope forever.  One day, like the stone, it will be rolled away.  Maybe it won’t happen in a single move but, bit by bit – chip by chip – the rolling takes place and the light returns.

We pray then for all going through grief -that they will one day round the corner and see the stone moved.  On  that day the light will return – this must remain our hope ……..

Oh, that today we would listen to his voice, let us harden not our hearts.

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