Sunday, January 7, 2018

Solemnity of Mary Mother of God - 1st January 2018



The great feast of Mary Mother of God, the world day of peace, the first day of a New Year, New year resolutions, all these came together for me this morning when Father began his homily with this Scripture verse—Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. I have no idea what he had to say after that. For these words reached me with great force and an immediate question. What things, events, situations, do I treasure and ponder in my heart and why do I do it? As I was quietly working in the kitchen I continued to reflect on this Word:  “Where your treasure is there also will your heart be.” What my heart has been most focused on during this past year will reveal to me what my treasure really is. What do my inner dialogues reveal? When I ponder the daily happenings in my life is it to bring to bear the Word of God on these events, so that God’s  plan for my life may come to full fruition, as I gradually allow his light and truth to shine in my darkness.? Is my focus on listening to the voice of the Lord and as a result of that entering into His Peace. Do I treasure all the happenings of the day, both positive and negative because I know that each of them is a gift through which God is speaking to me if I have ears to hear? Do I believe that God is bringing about His plan both for my salvation and the salvation of the world as I willing assent and respond to His revelation to me moment by moment? I f I did how I would hug to myself each happening, each encounter, excited by the prospect of learning something new about God, about myself, about the needs of others. I would be like a child on Christmas morning tearing apart the wrapping to discover the enclosed gift.

 Or do I  in fact ruminate deeply on hurts, on negative experiences, pondering over grievances, blaming others, judging others, protecting myself from others. Are these the things I treasure and ponder in my heart? Thoughts that serve to reinstate me as the one in the right, thoughts that diminish others? And yet even these inner monologues are stepping stones to grace if I can but listen to them in truth and invite Jesus the light of the world to bring to light what darkness is hiding.

Mary listened no matter who or what God chose to speak to her through and because of her inner disposition “Be it done to me according to your Word" she heard His voice; through the angel Gabriel, through her cousin Elizabeth, the inn keeper, the shepherds, the wise men, Herod, Simeon and Anna, Jesus in the temple, the wedding feast of Cana, when Jesus left to begin his ministry, when she was told he was mad, when he was persecuted and murdered and in all the events in between. No matter what came her way, her response was to take it and ponder it in her heart. And because of that she was there at the foot of the Cross, sharing with her whole heart in His Passion and she was witness too to his Resurrection, and now reigns with Him to “mother each new grace which does now reach our race”. To paraphrase Gerard Manley Hopkins, may she who holds high motherhood, towards all our ghostly good continue her work as this new Year begins so that our hearts may become new Bethlehems, where she shall yet conceive Him and He be born there , evening, noon and morn.

                   

Christmas reflection

It is customary that the prioress gives short reflection at First Vespers of Christmas - we share the following with our readers:
  
The theme of my reflection, on this Christmas Eve night, is ‘ Peace’. The Order has just established the month of December as the month designated for all its members to pray for world peace and each year the whole Order will focus on praying for peace in a particular area of the world. This year the focus is on Colombia, South America, -that the peace agreement signed in 2016 will become a reality there. Conscious also of the lack of inner peace in ourselves at times  and in people in general, I was led to ponder the title given to Jesus before his birth, that of Prince of Peace,  in the book of the prophet Isaiah, which will be read tonight at Mass:

            For there is a child born for us,
            a son given to us
            and dominion is laid on his shoulders;
            and this is the name they give him:
            Wonder – Counsellor, Mighty –God,
            Eternal- Father, Prince-of –Peace.
            Wide is his dominion
            In a peace that has no end.( Is. 9: 5-6 )

We long so much for this peace that ‘has no end’. We long for it for ourselves, our families, our communities, our friends and for the world at large. We want Isaiah’s prophecy, which says;
            For all the footgear of battle,
            every cloak rolled in blood,
            is burnt,
            and consumed by fire

- we want that to be realised now, without further delay. The Gospel tonight further reinforces this message of peace when it says:

            And  suddenly with the angel there was a great throng of the heavenly host,
            praising God and singing:

 ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace to
                        men who enjoy his favour’

This theme of peace abounds everywhere in the Christmas Liturgy tonight and tomorrow. In the entrance antiphon, Jesus is personified as peace itself as it says:

            ‘ True peace has come down to us  from heaven’


On the very first weekday of Advent, and on all Mondays in Advent, I was very struck by the post communion prayer, again referring to peace; it says:

“Come, O Lord, visit us in peace, that we may rejoice before you with a blameless heart.”

In all these quotes humanity and God are linked together because peace is a gift bestowed on us by God  the Father, through and in his son Jesus Christ

The truth of Isaiah’s words come to mind:

     You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
     Trust in the Lord for ever for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. ( Is.26)

             
This is really  to say that our peace, our inner peace is dependent on our relationship of trust in God. It is the fruit of a personal relationship with  Jesus. We are not alone. God, gentle and humble, is with us, watching over us and guiding us. Jean Vanier teaches us in his book, Finding Peace, when he says : “ As we learn to  relax and trust in love we become free of the walls and barriers that imprison us in fear, prejudice, hostility and guilt. We are filled with a new joy, a new life, the very life of love.

Sometimes when I feel my own inner  peace is disturbed I remind the Lord of his promise in St. John’s Gospel, when he says:

            Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you.
            A peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you.


In speaking about peace St. Thomas quotes St. Augustine in defining peace as the tranquillity of order. Peace consists in the calm and union of our desires and is twofold in that there is perfect peace and imperfect peace.

Perfect peace, he says, consists in the perfect enjoyment of God which causes all our desires and tendencies to be united and at rest in one. This perfect peace is only possible in Heaven.

Imperfect peace, on the other hand, is the peace  which we can have in this world. It is imperfect because, even though the soul’s principal movement is to rest in God, there still remain certain obstacles, both within and without, which disturb our soul’s peace. St. Thomas goes on to say that peace is the effect of charity since charity means that we love God with our whole heart by referring everything to him, all our desires become focused on loving God in Himself and we know that love is always a unifying force.

I have come to understand that ‘the peace which God gives is not a freedom from the storms and conflicts of life, but a mysterious strength and comfort amid the storms; not the removal of pain, but the bestowal of a precious gift. The gift is God himself, the comforter, the one who stands alongside us.

Also peace is not just the work of governments or armies or diplomats but the task of each one of us. We can all become makers of peace. Peace  must begin with myself, within my own heart and from there radiate outwards. This is in fact possible because tonight we celebrate what God, in his infinite love for us, has done by sending Jesus, the Prince of Peace, to dwell among us and in our hearts, as the teacher and source of peace.

 The kingdom of God is within us but there, it has to grow and spread. In that process we may experience the apocalyptic chaos and disruption and the Messianic peace and harmony – and everything in between! Our lion may have to learn to  lie down with our lamb! And then after coping with my own lion what about coping with the lions in everyone else around me!?

 The following medieval verses recognised this inner world and the transformation Christ’s coming brings:

            You shall know him when he comes
            Not by any din of drums,
            Not by anything he wears,
            Nor by the vantage of his airs;
                        Not by his gown,
                        Nor by his crown,
            But his coming known shall be
            By the holy harmony
            That his presence makes in thee.

May all of us experience this holy harmony, this peace, fruit of the Holy Spirit, and true effect of charity, gift of God to be received by faith, as we celebrate  with thanksgiving the great mystery of Christ’s incarnation, of his coming among us and within us, as the Prince of  Peace. Amen


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Advent Week 3 - O Wisdom

O Sapientia

These are the last days of the Advent season, the days of the “O” antiphons and this evening we will be calling upon the LORD who is Wisdom – to come and to teach us the way of truth.

          “O Wisdom, you come forth from the mouth of the Most High.
          You fill the universe and hold all things together in a strong yet gentle manner.
          O come, to teach us the way of truth.”

We know that on the day of our Confirmation, we were blessed with the gift of wisdom when we received the fullness of the Holy Spirit.  So it may be truly said, that the way of wisdom – the desire for wisdom – is nothing other than a desire for God.  So, in these days of anticipation of the LORD – God Himself, becoming even one of us – it is fitting to remember that wisdom is very closely related also to wonder.

When Christmas is held to be a season of wonder and amazement at the incredible humility of God; when we enter into the mystery with hearts open to receiving and believing in all that the LORD has in His Heart for us – then also, our eyes, too, being to see everything more clearly: we begin to see the truth and through the wisdom implanted in us – we can discern the meaning of all life: the truth about our own lives; and to value absolutely everything as a most precious and divine gift.  It is possible at last, to hear the Word of the LORD and to know that His word to us and for us, is a word of unimaginable, wonderful and amazing love.

How does one respond to such love?  We could not even hope to merit such a tremendous gift, and yet it is ours unconditionally.  So how can we, so to say, express our appreciation to the LORD for all He has invited us to receive? 
If we are moved to respond authentically to such a great love, the words of St Paul in today’s second reading at Mass – taken from his First Letter to the Thessalonians – seem to capture the essence of how to live this life wisely:

          “Be happy at all times; pray constantly; and for all things give thanks to God. …
          …  Never try to suppress the Spirit or treat the gift of prophecy with contempt;
          think before you do anything – hold on to what is good
          and avoid every form of evil … … …”

The wonderful thing about the gift of faith seems to me to be that through it, we awaken in ourselves – or we are more disposed to desire to live our lives authentically, and according to the truth.

What better gift, then, could we ask of the LORD, than the gift of wisdom … for ourselves and for those for whom we care? 

We pray for the Church and all her members: on his birthday, we pray especially for Pope Francis, that he may be guided in all things by the Spirit of Wisdom, the Spirit of Truth, and that – together with him, we too may grow in our love for wisdom and truth.




Advent Week 2




During Advent the Church brings us back in time to the centuries before the coming of Christ – the readings allow us to identify with the sentiments, longings and hopes of the people of the Old Testament who awaited the Messiah.  We see how God was at work in their lives, leading them to the truth about their relationship with Him and each other.  Last Sunday the Prophet Isaiah presented us with the image of God as Father and the Potter who formed His people.  In today’s first reading God is the Shepherd who gently leads His flock, feeding them and gathering the lambs in His arms, holding them against His breast.

This morning’s Gospel invites us to prepare a way for the Lord in the wilderness of our lives – or perhaps better to allow God to prepare a way in our hearts for His coming.  We may ask ourselves for whom or what are we preparing; who or what are we expecting? – as always the readings and prayers of the liturgy are our best teachers – during Advent these focus on what God would like to find when He comes – two phrases from the prayer for Monday week 1 stood out for me – it prayed that when the Lord knocks he “may find us watchful in prayer and exultant in his praise” – I take it to mean not so much that we must multiply our prayers but that we be alert to His Presence with us moment by moment and respond with alacrity and joy to whatever He may ask – as Mary responded with her fiat and Magnificat.

Advent reminds us that we are on a journey and that the Lord will come to each of us personally at our journey’s end.  We have come from the hand of God – he loved us and called us into being – each one is personally known and loved and we journey through life until the moment when He calls us back to Himself.  Advent strengthens our hope that He will come - and invites us to be ready and on the watch.  If we learn to recognise His coming at each moment then when He finally comes for us we will recognise Him and surrender to His embrace.

The Entrance antiphon of this morning’s Mass expresses it very beautifully – which we will sing again after Vespers at Reposition of the Blessed Sacrament:
“People of Sion the Lord will come to save all nations and your heart will exult to hear his majestic voice, the people of God will sing songs of joy like songs in the night.  They will have gladness of heart.....  On every high mountain streams will flow and there will be joy  for you are loved by the Lord.”


Sunday, December 10, 2017

Graduation


For the past five years Sr Niamh and Sr M Teresa have participated in the distance learning programme from Maryvale University, Birmingham.  They have been studying theology very diligently while participating fully in our daily contemplative life.  So our whole community rejoiced with them when they recently graduated with first class honours in Bachelor of Divinity.  Here they are shown with their certificates which they received in the post as they did not go to Maryvale for the Graduation Ceremony on the 21st November -   Instead we  had our own community celebration!
Dobby one of our cats looks on approvingly from the roof top while the photo was being taken!

Study is an essential element in the life of Dominican Nuns - Our Constitutions encourage "a methodical study of sacred truth, according to the capacity of the individual, as a fruitful preparation for lectio divina and an aid to human maturity" - study also "nourishes contemplation" and helps us live our life with a more "enlightened fidelity".

Being able to participate in a distance learning course is a greatly appreciated by us contemplatives who observe the law of enclosure. The sisters have found this study very beneficial. Maryvale also offer short courses for those who find 5 years too intimidating. www.maryvale.ac.uk
Distance learning Theology courses are also on offer from our Irish Dominicans www.prioryinstitute.com.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Advent and Praying for Peace



As we sit here in this warm comfortable Chapel, feeling safe and secure as we pray, people elsewhere are dying, people are being persecuted, and people are being displaced. We could go on and on. Life is very different for so many. Acutely aware of the need for peace, Fr Bruno, the Master of our Order and the Commission for Justice and Peace have proposed that we make the season of Advent, as we await the coming of the Prince of Peace, a period of intense prayer for peace in our war torn world and of solidarity with our Dominican brothers and sisters involved in preaching in situations of injustice. This Advent our focus is on Columbia where there are Dominicans working to support the implementation of the Peace accord that was signed in 2016.

We know that peace can come about, that agreements can work. We have seen it happen in Northern Ireland and in our lifetime we have seen the fall of the Iron Curtain. Persistent prayer works. The holy rosary is a mighty weapon against the forces of evil.

But a hymn I learnt as a child in school echoes in my heart, challenging me. It goes ‘let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me’. We have to be instruments of the peace we want to see reigning in our world. In the light of this morning’s Gospel Chapter 11 of St. Luke’s gospel struck me with great force. Whatever house you enter first say peace be to this house. And if a person of peace is there, your peace shall rest upon him, but if not, it shall return to you. Somehow we have to prove the earnestness of our prayer for world peace by our willing to work for peace wherever we find ourselves- in our families, our community, our workplace, our neighbourhood. We have to come to each encounter with peace in our hearts and a desire to share that peace with the other person. But if we meet with hostility, coldness, indifference or any other negative response we have to allow our peace return to us. We are not to allow ourselves to be robbed of our peace. No one can do that to us. It is our choice, MY choice. If I allow myself to be disturbed, what will happen, the next person will come along, perhaps someone in great need of a smile, a kind word, a gesture of peace and I will miss that opportunity to serve Jesus in a troubled person. Jesus has come unexpectedly and I don’t see him because I am in a stupor, preoccupied, wallowing in my self-righteousness, being a victim soul.

Before turning off the light these nights I am reading a collection of memories that the Scripture Scholar Megan McKenna had of her grandmother. By happy coincidence or providence I came to a chapter headed Cuba 1960 last night. Megan at the age of fifteen had her secure, safe, sheltered life life turned on its head by the Cuban Missile crisis. It was her first encounter with the horrors of war. The dawning reality in her peaceful childhood of evil, of death, intended, immanent, planned and executed, of war intruding into her life, as she puts it, and it left her paralysed with fear. She couldn’t eat or sleep. She lay on her bed in despair until her Nana came to her. Her Nana’s wisdom is as pertinent now as it was 57 yrs ago and I found it worth taking to heart a salutary reminder that if I am not part of the solution then I am part of the problem.

She told her was that if she believed in God she had no right to despair. God made us all. And we are all of us without exception made in his image and likeness. God didn’t make us to give up on anyone  He made or on any situation. She reminded this  fifteen year old that she couldn’t blame anyone  for what others do, without taking a long hard look at herself first and realising that what was wrong with the world was wrong with her too. We are all human beings and anything any one else can do no matter how terrible , we are given the circumstances just as capable of doing. But it is also true that we are also capable of doing all the good that is being done in the world. If God hasn’t given up on me then I cannot give up on the world. I look to myself, to his mercy to me, and hope is restored. There can be peace on earth. Conversion happens.


Saturday, November 25, 2017

Rosary on the Coast for Life and Faith

Our Monastery will be joining with the Rosary on the Coast for Life and Faith, Ireland tomorrow (Sunday 26th) at 2.30p.m. (although we aren't actually on the coast). 
Check out their website for details of other locations www.coastalrosaryireland.ie