Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Feast of the Holy Family

Sunday within Octave of Christmas
Mass Readings - Cycle A
1st Reading - Eccles 3:2-6;12-14
2nd Reading - Col 3:12-21
Gospel Mt 2:13-15;19-23

"Let the message of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you".

Who better than Mary and Joseph, who made a home for the Incarnate Word, can teach us to welcome Jesus into our hearts and homes?
Mary and Joseph belonged heart and mind to those who waited expectantly to welcome the Messiah, belonged to the holy remnant foretold by the prophets.
"I will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humble and lowly, who shall take refuge in the name of the Lord: the remnant of Israel.
They shall do no wrong, and speak no lies, nor shall there be found in their mouths a deceitful tongue.
On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem : Fear not, O Sion, be not discouraged! The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty Saviour; He will rejoice over you with gladness and renew you in his love. He will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals.

Mary and Joseph were imbued with this generous spirit, totally open to the work of God on the nothingness of their being totally trusting and surrendered to God's plan.

'Get up and take the Child and his Mother... So Joseph got up'. Twice, we are given these words in the short passage from the Gospel.

Who can doubt that Jesus mirrored the virtues taught at home - He went down to Nazareth and lived under their authority. Jesus increased in wisdom, in stature and in favour with God and men.

The reading from Ecclesiaticus also describes the obedient caring and loving son giving of his all to help his parents but notice God is already at work with his loving mercy. "Whoever respects his father is atoning for his sins' and again, "kindness to a father shall not be forgotten but will serve as reparation for your sins".

The readings of the Mass are a real antidote to the two seerious problems of our day - the disrespect for life - for each and every living person, the breaking up of family life, and secondly, the sad plight of so, so many refugees all over the world. But let us not lose hope as we ponder like Mary on the Word of God and bring these intentions before the throne of God. Every time we make an effort to reach God, in whatever way, there is an immediate energy on the part of God that rushes our way. (quoted from the 'Gifts of the desert').
"You are God's chosen race, his saints, he loves you. Always be thankful".

Everyone can be born again, the world can be renewed. It is possible to build a future of justice and peace starting today. As long as one is filled with hope that God, through us, is working to shape a new creation. (Christmas letter of the Master of the Dominican Order - Fr Bruno Cadore)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Christmas Reflection

A short reflection given by one of our sisters for the First Vespers of Christmas.

We have just sung the antiphon: “The Word of God born of the Father before time began, humbled himself today for us and became man”. Again at 2nd Vespers we will sing: “The Word was God in the beginning and before all time, today he is born for us, the Saviour of the world”.

I would like to focus on the word ‘today’ which occurs so often in our Christmas liturgy. In our celebration of this wonderful feast of Christmas God’s eternal unchanging day breaks into our temporal day and we are caught up in the mystery of God.

The Father eternally begets the Son in an act of total self-emptying love while the Son eternally receives His entire being in an act of total self-surrendering love, totally pouring himself out in response to the total love of the Father. This eternal generation takes place in the bond of loving union who is Himself the Person of the Holy Spirit. This is the mystery, which breaks into our world of time in the human birth of the Word of God. The kenosis, the self-emptying that takes place in the Incarnation of the Word, which will eventually lead to Calvary, mirrors the eternal self-emptying love at the heart of the Trinity.

Eckhart reminds us that Christ’s birth in Bethlehem is of no avail if he is not born in us today – so we can say ‘today Christ is born in me as my Saviour’. All He needs is a welcoming, open heart like Mary’s and an empty space which does not need to be perfect – just as the inn in Bethlehem was not the perfect place for the birth of the Son of God. To quote Gregory Nazianzen: “Christ takes each of us – takes me - whole and entire within Himself, with all my misery in order to destroy in Himself all trace of sin, like fire that dissolves in itself the wax,” thus transforming me into himself, bringing me into his own relationship with the Father in the bosom of the Trinity. Just as there is one God in three Persons, so in Christ, we are all members one of another; there is and we are called to become a single Man in a multitude of persons.

All this takes place in silence – as 15th century author puts it:
Thou shalt know Him when He comes -
Not by any din of drums; Nor the vantage of his airs; Nor by anything He wears
Neither by His crown; Nor His gown
For His presence known shall be by the holy harmony that His coming makes in thee

Yes His presence – His birth - within us creates harmony with our God, with ourselves, with our sisters and brothers and with the whole of creation. Is this not the angels’ message when they sang: “Glory to God in highest heaven and peace on earth to those who enjoy His favour”.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The 'O' Antiphons: 23rd December

O Emmanuel – You are our King and Judge,
the one whom the peoples await and their Saviour.
Come and save us Lord Jesus, Come.

The time of waiting is coming to an end. Soon the mystery of the Incarnation will be re-enacted once more in our liturgical celebrations and especially in our hearts. What have we to offer the Christ Child this year? Maybe not much, and yet the whole raison d’être for his coming hinges round the question – why is the Father about to send his own Beloved Son to take on our humanness, our earthiness, our poverty?
God sends his Son for one reason only: because he loves us – in fact he is madly in love with us.

Will we ever fathom this reality? He comes in silence, in lowliness, in poverty to knock at our door and asks us to give him a lodging for the night – for every night.
All he asks of us is an empty space where he can rest and find us waiting and watching for him.
Wouldn’t you think that we should come to God laden with the gold of good deeds? No – definitely no – the gift I must give my God is my brokenness. The thing God is waiting for me to offer him is the point where I am characteristically weak. This is the place, the stable where Jesus knocks with his baby hands and pleads with me -- may I come in? Give me lodgings in your inn.

For the past few weeks the cry Maranatha - Come Lord Jesus has been our spoken and unspoken prayer. But there is another side to this longing desire. While looking for a quotation in my bible I chanced to open Chapter 2 in the Song of Songs, where the Bridegroom speaks to his Bride: “Come my lovely one, come.”
It came home to me very forcibly - not only am I pleading with Jesus to come but far more earnestly is he saying to me:
“Come then my love, my lovely one come,
Show me your face,
Let me hear your voice”

Two hearts were meeting and held momentarily in stillness.

How well Blessed Teresa understood the need Jesus has for our love, when she wrote:
“We need to know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for us.”

And so, when he comes may he find us watching in prayer, our hearts filled with wonder and praise as we look at Mary who bore Jesus in her womb with a love beyond all telling.

My God, what a mystery,
Maranatha - Come Lord Jesus come
Delay no longer.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The 'O' Antiphons: 22nd December

Today we have the sixth 'O' Antiphon bringing us nearer to our wonderful celebration.
O King whom all the peoples desire,
you are the cornerstone which makes all one.
O come and save man whom you made from clay.

Jesus is our King, our hearts are waiting for the joy and peace that he brings to each one of us so to pitch his royal tent within us. Are we ready to be part of the building of which Christ is the corner stone? Are we ready to be made one and alive, for Christ is the living stone on which we build our lives. St Paul writes to the Ephesians: In union with him you too are being built together with all the others into a place where God lives through the Spirit.

We pray "O come" and indeed our King comes to save us who he made from clay. Such is the clay that we have to become in God's hands, clay that is made firm by faith and moulded by God's holy Word. It is only through the events of life that we can progress through the firing kiln of God's creative love and it is only through his Spirit that we become the refined vessels of his living joyful love to be given, poured out and filled again, to be, as St Paul told the Corinthians, as clay pots holding God's spiritual treasure.

It is at this holy time that we come to realize more deeply the wonder of how God the Son took to himself our human clay, and as he lay as a little child in his mother's arms, he showed us just how beautiful our human clay can become.

O come our King, who is all we desire, fill us with yourself, so that we may become your royal, clay vessels to be used for your praise and glory.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The 'O' Antiphons: 21st December

“ O Rising Sun, you are the splendour of eternal light and the sun of justice. O come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.”

In this “O” Antiphon the three metaphors- the rising Sun, splendour of the eternal light and sun of justice – all symbolise Christ, the Son of God, the promised Messiah whose birth as our Saviour we will celebrate in four days time.

Jesus calls Himself the ‘Light of the World’ in St. John’s Gospel( 9:5) and St. John, in the Prologue says that He is the “ true light who enlightens all men” and “ a light that shines in the dark, a light that darkness could not overpower”.(1:5)

This assurance gives us courage to turn to Christ in our own various darknesses which may be a darkness of : prejudice; lack of compassion; judging and condemning others; resentment; anger; envy; selfishness or the darkness which blinds us to the awareness of our own sins, shortcomings and failures. We acknowledge that we are in great need of light and healing from Christ, the source of light and the singing of this antiphon in a few minutes time will give us the opportunity to turn to Him in earnest prayer asking Him to shed His light on us and on all humanity so that the darkness of sin may be dispelled from our hearts and we may be healed and renewed by His love.

We can call upon the Saints and Blesseds to intercede for us for they mirrored this light of Christ in their own lives, radiated it and reflected it to others. I am thinking especially of Mother Teresa of Calcutta – now Blessed Teresa – whom Jesus asked to be His light to the poorest of the poor.
“Come, be My light”, he said to her. She did become His light and radiated His light and love to others, especially to the poor. Paradoxically while she radiated Christ’s light and love to others she herself experienced a painful spiritual darkness in her inmost being. St. John of the Cross, in explaining this dark night of the soul using the metaphor of the sun, says –“the more one looks at the brilliant sun the more the sun darkens the faculty of sight, deprives it and overwhelms it in its weakness” Similarly, Mother Teresa’s interior darkness was not due to the absence of God but rather to the intense proximate presence of God in her soul, God, whose brightest light is total darkness to us in this life.

In one of her letters to Father van der Peet, she wrote:
“God is in love with us and keeps giving Himself to the world – through you – through me..
May you continue to be the sunshine of His love to your people and thus make your life
something truly beautiful for God.”

This prayer can be directed to each one of us too.

May Mother Teresa, intercede for us now as we call upon the Lord to enlighten us, for she said and promised “If I ever become a saint, I will surely be one of ‘darkness’. I will continually be absent from Heaven, to light the light of those in darkness on earth.”

O Rising Sun, you are the splendour of eternal light and the sun of justice. O come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The 'O' Antiphons: 20th December

O Key of David and sceptre of Israel
what you open no one can close again;
what you close no one can open.
O come to lead the captive from prison;
free those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Todays "O Antiphon" is almost directly taken from various parts of scripture (cf Rev 3:7ff; Lk 1:79a). In this "O Antiphon" we have reference again to King David. Our Lord is addressed as "Key of David and sceptre of Israel", which are symbols of royal power and authority. We read in St Matthews Gospel Mt 16:13ff, in that well known passage at Caesarea Philippi, where in answer to Jesus' question "who do you say I am?" Simon Peter spoke up, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God". Jesus replied, "Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: you are Peter and on this rock i will build my Church and the gates of the underworld will never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven."

So Jesus has conferred his power and authority to his Church in the person of Peter and his successors. The Church is all about forgiving sin - salvation. It is through the Church at our Baptism that we gain entrance into the kingdom of heaven. At our Baptism we are freed from Original Sin and all personal sins. We become members of Christ's Body and through his Holy Spirit dwelling in us we can address God as our Father. What a wonderful gift Baptism is!

We receive the theological virtues of faith, hope and love; as well as the gifts of the Holy Spirit - but our faith, hope and love need to be nurtured by prayer and the Sacraments. "By her relationship with Christ", to quote from 'The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church' of Vatican II, "the Church is a kind of sacrament or sing of intimate union with God and of the unity of all mankind". What a gift the Church is and how we should love her! Henri de Lubac, speaking on his death bed about the two great loves of his life, Christ and the Church, said "For what would I ever know of him without her". Recently the Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, speaking at the 6th los Angeles Catholic Prayer Breakfast, said "the largest Christian demomination in our country today are former Catholics. We are living in an era whare people want to have Christ without his Church". Perhaps the same could be said of Europe?

In "The Prayer for the Church in Ireland" Pope Benedict opened with the words "God of our fathers, renew us in the faith which is our life and salvation". Our own St Catherine of Siena constantly prayed for and spoke of "the light of holy faith". So in today's "O Antiphon" we beseech Our Lord - the Key of David - to open our hearts and minds to the light of holy faith; to lead the captive from prison - the prison of unbelief, of sin, of shame; and to quote the Intercession at Evening Prayer "You are Life and the enemy of death - rescue us and all the faithful departed from eternal darkness. AMEN"

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The 'O' Antiphons: 19th December

O Radix Jesse

O stock of Jesse, you stand as a signal for the nations;
kings fall silent before you whom the people acclaim.
O come to deliver us, and do not delay.

Today we address our awaited Saviour with the title ‘stock of Jesse’ – as Isaias foretold:
“A root shall grow from the stock of Jesse,
and a branch shall spring from his roots
and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him”.

Jesse was the father of King David from whose royal line the future Messiah would be born. When we read the genealogy of Jesus most of the characters mentioned were not very praise worthy according to human standards. Yet God’s infinite, all powerful wisdom, compassion and merciful love were at work throughout salvation history not allowing human failure, sin, malice nor indifference to interfere or thwart His divine plan. The promised Messiah will indeed come from David’s line – but in a manner which will leave us in no doubt that it is wholly God’s work. Joseph, the just man, comes from David’s line but he remains the silent spectator of God’s marvellous power. Mary’s role too is passive – receiving, cherishing, pondering the Word which is made flesh in her womb, through the power of the Holy Spirit, without any human intervention.

The Child, the fruit of her womb, will be a sign to the nations – a ‘sign of contradiction’ as Simeon prophesied. Kings fall silent before Him – they remain powerless. At his Passion, the intention of his enemies was to “destroy the tree in its strength” (Jer 11:19). What they, in fact, accomplished was to raise aloft the ‘Tree of Life’ whose leaves will have power to heal the nations (cf Rev 22:1) – the unique sign of God’s power at work in human weakness and fulfilling Jesus own prediction:

“when I am lifted up from the earth
I will draw all things to myself”

God’s power is always at work in human weakness. As we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Saviour, let us take heart and remain steadfast in our faith and trust in the power of God who today is at work in the apparent catastrophes and contradictions of human life, bringing to fulfilment His divine, all-wise plan.

O stock of Jesse, you stand as a signal for the nations;
kings fall silent before you whom the people acclaim.
O come to deliver us, and do not delay.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The 'O' Antiphons: 18th December

‘O Adonai, Ruler of the house of Israel, who gave the Law to Moses on Sinai,
come to save us with out-stretched arm, Alleluia’

This is a prayer made from a truly humble and trusting heart, that knows its need of our heavenly Father to save us.

The theme of God’s outstretched arm to help his people is found frequently in Scripture and must surely touch us deeply. For example Psalm 97 – ‘His right hand and his holy arm have brought salvation’.

There is something comforting in arms outstretched towards us, we feel needed and loved and this gives us an inner security.
In daily life, we often see a loving mother or father stretch out their arms to save their child from some danger or simply to swoop the child up to give a hug.

When we return from a journey after a long absence, what a joy it is to be welcomed home by a loved one running to meet us with outstretched arms. It cannot be less so with our heavenly Father, he is always, and everywhere stretching out his arms to welcome us and to save us. We have only to reflect on the parable of the Prodigal son in St. Luke’s Gospel (Chapter 15). Who could fail to be deeply touched as in our mind’s eye we watch that loving father run with outstretched arms to welcome and embrace his wayward son. The Gospels are full of occasions where Jesus stretches out his arms, his hands, to bring life, healing and salvation by his divine touch.

During this Advent Season, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, we are surely filled anew with wonder at the depths of love that led our heavenly father with those same outstretched arms to send his only begotten Son as our Redeemer – that Son who some 30 years later, stretched out his arms on the Cross in an immense act of love and died for our salvation.

Such unconditional love means God is summoning us forth with the loudest of calls, stirring up our hidden being, pleading with us to return love for love – ‘I have loved you’ he tells us ‘with an everlasting love, therefore I have drawn you to myself’. How right it is then that each evening before we sleep, the Church invites us, in her night prayer of Compline, to place ourselves trustfully in the outstretched arms and hands of our Father as we pray: ‘Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit’.

O Ruler of the house of Israel, come and save us with outstretched arm.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The 'O' Antiphons: 17th December

“O Sapientia” – 17th December

Advent, as we all know, is a time of longing, expecting – waiting and hoping that Jesus will come anew to each of us.

Yesterday we began our 9-day Novena for the great feast of Christmas, and today and for the next six days we accentuate that longing and find its expression most beautifully in the great Vesper antiphons for the Magnificat, called the “O” antiphons, because they all begin with ‘O’. These antiphons will be used each evening before and after the Magnificat, and as the Gospel Acclamation at Mass, daily, for the next 7 days.

The initials of each antiphon in Latin, in reverse order are:

E = Emmanuel

R = Rex (King)
O = Oriens (Rising Sun)
C = Clavis (Key of David)
R = Radix (Root of Jesse)
A = Adonai (Leader of Israel)
S = Sapientia (Wisdom)
They create the acrostic : EROCRAS – the translation of which is : ‘Tomorrow I shall be there’ – and this is seen as the answer of Christ to the intensity of the longing prayer, and the yearning of the one praying the antiphons during the seven days.

The ‘O’ antiphons are thought to have been composed in the 8th Century by some anonymous cantor, and they achieved great popularity in the Middle Ages. Great solemnity attended their intonation in the monasteries. They were sung in the solemn tone of the great feasts, the great bell of the abbey was tolled and beginning with the abbot, they were intoned by the chief holders of the monastery.

The antiphons are mosaics of Scripture texts, expressing a longing for salvation and liberation; they express the theology of Advent and are the season’s brightest jewels. It is said our recently beatified Cardinal John Newman prayed one of these antiphons on his visits to the Blessed Sacrament.

In a few moments we will sing the first ‘O’ antiphon in Latin – O Sapientia so I will give one English translation of it:

O Wisdom
You come forth form 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.

It’s an antiphon full of Biblical references. The Wisdom books of the Old Testament contain many passages in praise of wisdom. We read of Wisdom as proceeding from God, as being begotten by Him, as the breath of His power. Wisdom is the beloved daughter who at the beginning of creation stood before God assisting in the creation of the visible universe. From the concept of wisdom there later developed the doctrine of the Logos - the Word in St John’s Gospel:

All things were made by Him
And without Him was made nothing that was made.

As St Paul says, ‘Christ is the wisdom of God’ – He is our wisdom.

So the first ‘O’ antiphon cries out to Jesus, God’s Wisdom incarnate and the Eternal Word of God, who upholds and governs all creation and orders all things powerfully yet gently (sweetly) to

come and teach us Truth
(or prudence as the Latin has).

Yes, Christ is always faithful – ‘ERO CRAS’ – ‘Tomorrow I shall be there’.Will I be there to meet Him?

Will you take the time to meet Him?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Salve Regina Procession

It is the custom in the Dominican Order (as in many other religious orders) to sing the "Salve Regina" (the "Hail Holy Queen") every day after Compline (Night Prayer). Here is a short video of our Salve Regina Procession.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Third Sunday of Advent

Today’s Gospel from St. Matthew Chapter 11: v 2-11 begins with the words: ‘John in his prison had heard what Christ was doing… John in his prison … the word ‘his’ strikes me very forcefully – John the Baptist who for his great courage in telling no less a person than the King of his sin, was imprisoned and eventually beheaded.

Through the centuries thousands of people, men, women and children have suffered and continue to suffer in our day, the most horrendous imprisonment, torture and often, death, for their faithfulness to God’s law.

But there are many kinds of imprisonment, and indeed we can all at one time or another in our lives, be in some kind of prison. The prison of fear, insecurity, selfishness, depression, pride or prejudice, illness of mind, spirit or body, unbelief – the list is endless.

John had heard in his prison all that Christ was doing, the Gospel tells us.

In my life, in all our lives, we have read and heard through the Scriptures, what Christ did on earth concerning every form of suffering of his people – it is important to remember that this is not only in the past, two thousand years ago, but in the present, and this will be so until the end of time.

If we take time to reflect on and to listen to the gentle inner voice of Jesus, we will hear and perceive all he has done and is doing in our own lives, and in the lives of those who touch our lives. His Word is ‘alive and active’ and always will be. How often do we hear those blessed words: ‘O that today you would listen to his voice…’(Ps.94). ‘Come to me all you who labour and are overburdened and you will find rest for your souls (Mt.11: 28-30).

Advent is a time of quiet prayer, a time for awaiting Christ’s coming, a time for drawing closer to God- when we do this, love grows in our hearts, we will then feel the need to share this love with others, especially those near and dear to us whom we perceive to be in some kind of inner imprisonment. To love someone is to bid him or her to grow, to meet them at the level where they withdrew into themselves because they thought they were alone and no one cared, people have to feel they are loved very deeply before they can begin to emerge from their inner prison, let us gently bring them to Jesus, the greatest Lover - all He wants in order to free us from whatever imprisons us is that we do not loose our faith and confidence in Him.
Then truly, we can pray in the words of St. Paul to the Phil.4: 4-5, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always again I say rejoice, the Lord is close at hand.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Second Sunday of Advent

Mass Readings Year A
1st Reading: Isaias 11:1-10
2nd Reading: Romans 15: 4-9
Gospel: Matthew 3:1-12

In our Gospel today St John the Baptist calls on us to:
“prepare a way for the Lord –
make his paths straight!”

In our second Reading St Paul encourages us not to lose hope but to keep on trying – reminding us that “people in the past who did not give up hope were helped by God”. And Paul prays: “may He who helps us when we refuse to give up, help you all to be tolerant with each other, following the example of Christ Jesus, so that united in mind and voice you may give glory to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”. Paul seems to imply that in our efforts to be tolerant with each other we can expect to fail often but we must not lose hope – trusting that “God will help us if we refuse to give up”. This seems to be a good Advent programme for a monastic community like ours. During this season we pay very careful attention to preparing the liturgy and indeed the Advent chants are beautiful but to ensure that our daily celebration of the liturgy truly gives glory to God we also need to be attentive to our relationships with our sisters in community. Paul continues “it can only be to God’s glory for you to treat each other in the same friendly way as Christ treated you”.

Pope Paul VI described fraternal charity as “an active hope for what others can become through my co-operation” – a very high ideal it is true but the One whom we await during the Advent season will “baptise with the Holy Spirit and fire”. It is the same Spirit whom Isaias prophesied would rest on the future Messiah (as described in our first reading)
“The spirit of wisdom and insight
a spirit of counsel and power
a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord”

So that:
“He does not judge by appearances
gives no verdict on hearsay
but judges the wretched with integrity.”

In his days peace will reign on earth – Isaias describes the tolerance of the animals as diverse as a cow, an ox, lamb, panther, wolf, lion, viper and little child all at play!
“They do no hurt or harm
on all my holy mountain
for the country is filled with the knowledge of the Lord”

And so we pray in the words of the hymn we used at Office of Readings today:
“Make straight our way O Lamb of God
that we in joy may live on earth
reflecting your incarnate love.”

Sunday, November 28, 2010

1st Sunday of Advent

Today’s Mass readings invite us to ‘wake up’ from our slumber, to ‘stay awake’ and ‘to walk in the light of the Lord’.
During Advent we are preparing for the threefold coming of the Lord
As we remember His first coming at Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago, we are invited to prepare for His final coming in glory at the end of time and we celebrate His coming in grace at every moment but especially at Christmas.

The main focus of attention on this first Sunday of Advent is His final coming in glory. Regarding when this final coming will take place nobody knows the day or hour but Jesus invites us to be ready – to be prepared! More important for each of us is the moment of our death when the Lord will come to take us to himself – many who celebrated last Advent are no longer with us and there are others for whom this will be their last Advent.

The Church begins each liturgical year with this time of preparation reminding us that the Lord has already come but that He is also coming. At a time like this we tend to make good resolutions regarding what we will do or not do – however we have learned from our experience over the years that often our efforts come to naught and we get discouraged. Is this because the focus of our attention is on our efforts and on what we are doing instead of focusing on who we are and what the Lord is doing and wants to do in our lives? On Christmas night we will hear Pope St Leo telling us “O Christian recognise your dignity!”

In a conference shortly before his death earlier this year Andre Louf reminded us that the Holy Spirit dwells in the heart of every baptised person – always interceding for us – therefore we can say that if we are in a state of grace we are in a state of prayer! Whether we are conscious of it or not the Spirit is always praying within us ‘Abba, Father’ and we know that His prayer is always heard. Prayer in this sense does not depend so much on our efforts - or perhaps our effort lies in letting go of our anxieties, and feverish activity in order to tune in to the Spirit’s prayer.

It is the same Spirit who calls out ‘Come Lord Jesus, come soon’. So instead of focusing too much on our own efforts, this time of Advent invites us to be still and empty while with Mary we make our hearts ready for His coming as we say with her at every moment and in every circumstance: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to your Word.”

Sunday, November 21, 2010

"Watching Jesus"

Reflection 1
Curious that the celebration of Jesus Christ as Universal King should call us to remember Him hanging crucified on the cross.

Kings are powerful, mighty, commanding respect and admiration. They are men who hold their peoples together, in unity – men by whom nations are identified and in whom their subjects take pride. Kings fight for the safety of their people, to protect and defend them against all manner of enemies.

We can watch Jesus in one of two ways, there as He hangs on the cross. We can see a weak, bloody man, running out of breath; not able any longer to hold His head up; not able to see clearly through the blood flowing from the wounds the thorns have made; a coward, who won’t answer the words of abuse and mockery being shouted at Him; He doesn’t even seem to pay any heed to the bare handful of His friends who have remained to see Him so humiliated.

King indeed! What kind of king is this, who would let such lies be tossed about, without even trying to defend Himself?

But His Father – what does He see?

Could it be … LOVE? How can we learn love, from One who is barely alive – how can He be teaching us and showing us the way … from the cross?!

Let us stand there, watching Jesus.

Jesus – in the midst of all the evil to which He is subjected …

… absorbs every ounce of it, silently He takes it to Himself and watch …

Watch how He doesn’t pass it on.

Listen to the lies and the abusive words ringing in His ears – and watch how when they are absorbs into Him, they die … not leaving even an echo behind. … And the criminal, who says to Him, ‘save yourself and us as well’.

But watch Jesus – and see a King indeed –

Who indeed is fighting. He is standing firm and unafraid, not nourishing and giving life to the evil, but soaking up every last drop of it, even as His blood is being poured out. He is fighting against the evil which every one of us can be tempted to give in to, and watching Jesus – we learn what we must do when we think we are overcome. We can be people who refuse to give in to the malice and hatred we encounter; we can be people who will not give up hope, who will not let go of the joy of our faith in Jesus,Who has so mightily, so majestically, so powerfully saved us.

We can fight back, by loving – loving those who do not love us in return or as they should; loving those whose pain or anger or suffering has led them to turn away from Christ’s Body – by absorbing their pain, their hurt, their anger, their suffering, bearing it within ourselves and giving it to the Lord, confident that His words to the thief are true for us too … “I promise you … you will be with me in Paradise”.

Let us prove ourselves to be truly His, by watching Jesus, seeing Him silently fighting and winning, as He gives up His life for us – shamelessly and confidently holding fast to the joy that is ours in our faith in Him.

Let not His head be hanging sorrowfully because we are losing hope in His power to heal and renew us, because we who believe in Him are ashamed of our King.

Reflection 2

Jesus said, “I came not to do my own will but the will of Him who sent me.”

Mary said, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord be it done to me according to your Word”

Our parents, grandparents and all our Irish loved ones in the faith, in one way or another made the sentiments of the great Irish hymn their own:

Christ the King and Lord of all,
Find me ready at thy call,
Christ receive my service whole,
Mind and body, heart and soul.

All of them surrendered themselves to the will of God. Today The Church in her Sacred Liturgy invites us to enter into the Mystery of Christ the King and to renew our desire and willingness to allow Him to have full reign over our lives- mind and body, heart and soul.

The Gospel given to us for today’s Feast could have been subtitled ‘A Treatise on Conversion’ or perhaps in more modern parlance ‘A how to Gospel’. How to be converted in three easy steps.

Step one: Look at Jesus. In Him we see what conversion looks like. I ask myself, do I remotely resemble Him? As he hangs on the Cross stripped of all human glory, a man despised and rejected, he retains a quiet dignity. Totally free, He meets brutal jeers and belittlements with serenity. He feels no need to defend himself or point out the error of their ways to others, no need to prove Himself or show His power. There is in Him no anxiety because he is being misjudged, no sense of threat. What is his secret? How is it possible for Him to respond with love to some much hatred and meanness?
Jesus knows Himself to be the Beloved of the Father. He knows Himself to be doing the Father’s will. Nothing else has any power over Him. The Father’s will alone consumes Him.

Step two: Look at the crowd, the leaders, the soldiers, and the criminal. In them we see the obstacles we place in the way of conversion. Right now Jesus is as present with us as He was to them on Calvary. He is loving us just as He was loving them. What prevented them and what prevent us from experiencing that love? It would seem to be hardness of heart, anger, bitterness, resentment, calumny, false judgement, a need to blame others for the way we are instead of taking responsibility for our own sins and weakness. Jesus love sometimes doesn’t reach us simply because we haven’t come home to ourselves. Jesus is loving us just as we are but if we are ‘lost in sins own blindness’, hitting out at others and failing to see ourselves, unable to acknowledge or accept the truth of ourselves we are not present to receive that love. But the wonder is that this very place can also be a place of redemption. This place of death can become the place of Resurrection . Because of Jesus there lies the opportunity of grace within every sin. Any sin once acknowledged is a spring board to union with Jesus. It becomes the place of a loving encounter with Jesus. And that brings us to step three.

Step three: In the good thief we see what needs to happen if we are to be converted. Both thieves are guilty, both have committed crimes but the good thief acknowledges his sin, owns it, takes personal responsibility for it and in that moment, which too is a moment of grace, the scales drop from his eyes and he is able to see Jesus and an encounter can take place. The encounter Jesus has lived and died for. Jesus the friend of sinners befriends him and assures him of a place with him always not because he is good but simply because he repented and turned to Jesus.

The late Abbot Kevin O’Farrell of Tarrawarra insists that to accept the gifts God continually offers there must be a corresponding letting go, and that without that letting go there can be no growth, no conversion. This will apply all our lives and the last thing we will be asked to let go of will be life itself. Without death there will be no Resurrection. It would seem that in this Gospel the required disposition is a letting go of all pretences, all self justification, a movement out of denial and projection into acceptance of our reality as sinners. This will be an on going process all our lives. As we are more and more transformed into Jesus He will continue to reveal to us that we are sinners in need of his mercy. So perhaps he is encouraging us not to be downhearted when we see new unredeemed areas in ourselves. Every moment of repentance is an opportunity to receive Jesus’ love anew until he has complete possession of us and truly reigns as sovereign Lord in our hearts
To Mary and with Mary we pray. Loose the bonds that bind us lost in sins own blindness that with eyes now opened God’s own love may guide us.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dominican Calendar for 2011 Published

As part of the ongoing effort of the vocations promoters of the Dominican Family in Ireland (friars, sisters, contemplative nuns and lay) to promote a greater awareness of the Dominican charism, we have published a Dominican Family Calendar for 2011 - which will be available in our Dominican priories throughout Ireland.

There are many Dominican Symbols: the habit, the shield, the dog at Dominic’s feet with the torch in its mouth. However, there is only one distinctive mark, a sort of genetic code, for the members of the Order, for the Dominican Family. It is preaching for the salvation of humanity, the ministry of the Word, the mission of evangelisation. The General Chapter, celebrated in Rome wished to remind the whole Dominican Family, Nuns, Friars, Apostolic Sisters and the Lay Dominicans, of this sign of our identity as we approach the Jubilee of 2016. The nuns who dedicate themselves preferentially to prayer participate in the preaching ministry by listening to the Word, celebrating it and proclaiming the Gospel through the example of their lives. Similarly, co-operator brothers join in the preaching ministry through the faithful living out of their profession in the Order.
(Prologue: Acts of the General Chapter, Rome, 2010)

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Sun of Righteousness

"For you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will shine out with healing in its rays." Malachi 3.20

Blessed John H. Newman has a word to say to us on this last line of to-days first reading.

If Christ is our sole hope, and Christ is given us by the Spirit, and the Spirit be an inward presence, our sole hope is in an inward change. As a light placed in a room pours out its rays on all sides, so the presence of the Holy Spirit imbues is with life,strength, holiness, love, acceptableness, righteousness.....That divine influence, which has the fullness of Christs grace to purify us, has also the power of Christs blood to justify. Let us never lose sight of this great and simple view.....Christ himself vouchsafes to repeat in each of us in figure and mystery all that he did and suffered in the flesh.He is formed in us, born in us, suffers in us, rises again in us.....and this divine presence constitutes the title of each one of us to heaven........
Are you living in the conviction of Gods presence ?
Do you believe, and act on the belief, that his light penetrates and shines through your heart, as the sun beams through a room ? You know how things look when the suns beams are on it...Let us then beg him to teach us the mystery of his presence in us, that, by acknowledging it,we may possess it fruitfully.....In all circumstances of joy or sorrow, hope or fear, let us aim at having him in our inmost heart; let us have no secret apart from him. Let us acknowledge him as enthroned within us at the very springs of thought and affection. Let us submit ourselves to his guidance and sovereign direction; let us come to him that he may forgive us cleanse us guide us and save us.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Stay at a Sinner's House

CCC 1127: “… As fire transforms into itself everything it touches, so the
Holy Spirit transforms into the divine life whatever is subjected to its power.”

2 Thess 1:11-12
“We pray continually that God will make you worthy of his call, and by his power fulfil all your desires for goodness and complete all that you have been doing through faith; because in this way the name of our Lord Jesus Christ will be glorified in you and you in him, by the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

We are tempted at every moment to do without God, as though it were a sign of weakness that we should be creatures who have need of others and of God to be happy, and to come to be the fullness of what we have been given life to grow to be.
In all our wandering, in all our encounters with others, in all that we achieve and acquire however, there is always something lacking – a little emptiness, a little loneliness, a little missing.
But we are ones who were, and who constantly strive to be – open to the touch of God. All of us who were baptised into the divine life of the Blessed Trinity, have been given this grace, if we would but receive it, welcome it joyfully. When I realise that only God can fill the emptiness, that not the deepest most intimate human love can understand – when this I see, then He will come – He does come – in fact, He is there already.

We are all of us like Zacchaeus – ‘too short’ in our own sight, yet … wanting to come out of ourselves, to reach beyond ourselves, to grow out of what we are at the moment .. into that person that we could be, if only Someone would reach into us and draw us out. Because, on my own, I will never be more or better or more complete that the one I am now, and I am sadly lacking.

But the grace of God in me, His gift of faith and of hope, He has kept alive and active, and by it I have been kept open to Him, and so I ‘know’ Him. He, Jesus, is all I need, the answer to all the loneliness, the emptiness. He speaks and shows me what Way I am to walk, what I can do with His help, who I am in the sight of God – how, in the life of the Blessed Trinity I am caught up in and surrounded on every side by Infinite Love.

The Lord is my light and my help, my strength and my song: His power will fulfil in me all my desires for goodness, complete all I strive to do through faith: His grace.

And if I lay my life, all my desires and loves at His feet – with all that I am – He will be glorified in me and I in Him.
And after all, Lord, if there was only one thing that I could ask of You – it would be that one thing. Take my life, and me with it: all my love that is Yours, all my desires that are all for You – “stay at a sinner’s house” and let Your Name be glorified in me and I in You.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Little (Late) News

I know we're a bit late telling you this, but our Dominican Brothers recently became something of a 'news item'. A journalist from one of our national radio shows went along on the Dominican Pilgimmage to Knock a few weeks ago. She was very impressed with the Dominicans. I attach a link to the relevant segment of the show, for anyone interested. Click Here. (It's only eleven minutes). You might enjoy it!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Something Precious

“You have been trusted
to look after something precious,
guard it
with the help of the Holy Spirit
who lives in us.”

How many things have been entrusted to us to look after, and is not every one of them ‘something precious’?

More than any other ‘something’, nothing can compare with the gift of God – and of faith in Him, that God Himself has given us. It is amazing to know that God – Who is infinitely beyond our reach and understanding – could have desired to become small and ‘contain-able’, so that we might have the ability to contain Him. It’s amazing to know that His desire in our regard is that we might know Him, seek Him and be in Him – that we might share in His Divine Life. And that is His will – He wants us, His creatures, to know Him … and we do. He has revealed Himself to us, has made Himself approachable, so much so that we can even call Him ‘Father’ – for so He is.

And, knowing what we are capable of – our wilfulness and our sinfulness – still, He has given Himself to us: has trusted us with the gift of His very self, and if we turn to the Holy Spirit who lives in us – His own spirit – we can guard and protect, nourish this gift, this precious gift we have been given.

We have been baptised into Christ’s body – the Church – in which God wholly abides. Another precious something with which we have been entrusted, that we might look after it.

This contemplative life, it seems to me, is a place where we should be most mindful of this precious gift. The Church in her history, has come near sometimes to disappearing, even dying; but miraculously has always recovered. In the middle ages, the dark ages, it was the monasteries, where the ‘re-birth’ began and overflowed into the world, renewing confidence and inspiring a return to fidelity to Christ and the gift of Himself He gave us – the gift of the Holy Spirit.

It seems to me that more than anything, we need always to be vigilant, to be discerning, so that this gift – this something precious – we have been entrusted to look after, may ever be the gift that Jesus gave us – and not stained by new ways of thinking or behaving or believing. When people are lost, we need to be a place where they meet Jesus, and are found.

Listen to His word; cherish every word He spoke, for He spoke only and always Himself. Love His word and live by it – by Him – and no other.

“In him is life, and the life is the light of men.
The light shines in the darkness
and the darkness has not overcome it.”

The darkness cannot overcome it.

“Lord, increase our faith.”

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Icons - A Path to Contemplation

Last week our monasterary hosted a one day gathering of monastic women. Some of our sisters presented reflections based on the theme "Icons - a Path to Contemplation". Below is the text of one of the reflections. (The other three reflections have been posted on the reflections section of our website - Click here to view them)

It is not by accident that we have chosen the Icon of the Transfiguration, written by Theophan the Greek, for our sharing at this gathering. All ancient tradition saw in the Prayer of Jesus on the mountain, depicted in this Icon, the blue print for contemplative life. In the exhortation Vita Consecrata, Pope John Paul II invites us, consecrated religious, to contemplate the transfigured face of Jesus.

In The Eastern theological tradition, man is seen to be on a mystical journey that leads to “Theosis” or deification. Icons represent this union between God and man. The Icon is a manifestation of the presence of God. It draws and brings us into this Presence so that we can experience God in our soul. In this way we become a living icon of God.

For Byzantine theology, the Transfiguration as a “Teofania”, theophany, is on the one hand, a key to the understanding of the Divinity of Christ, and on the other, it is a very concrete model for the spiritual transformation of man.
The Transfiguration has taken a central place in the mystical theology of Byzantine’s monastic world. Whatever method of meditation the monks used, its purpose was always to lead to enlightenment, that is, prayerful immersion in the rays of Divine energy.

An orthodox monk and iconographer, Grigorij Krug, says that
“the disciples did not immediately witness the Transfiguration of Jesus, when they first met him, but only after a long hard climb to the top of Mount Tabor, that is, only through the great effort of climbing to the top of SILENCE.”

Or ,as we would say, entering into the depths of silence.

In Vita Consecrata we read :
We must confess that we all have need of this silence, filled with the presence of him who is adored : in theology, so as to exploit fully its own sapiential and spiritual soul; in prayer, so that we may never forget that seeing God means coming down the mountain with a face so radiant that we are obliged to cover it with a veil (Ex 34.33); in commitment, so that we will refuse to be locked in a struggle without love and forgiveness. All, believers and non-believers alike, need to learn a silence that allows the other to speak when and how he wishes, and allows us to understand his words”

And John Main tells us:
"All of us have to learn…….that we do not have to create silence. The silence is there within us. What we have to do is to enter it, to become silent, to become silence.”

Silence, as Meister Eckhart tells us, is a privileged entry into the realm of God… There is a huge silence inside each of us that beckons us into itself… For silence is a language that is infinitely deeper, more far reaching, more understanding, more compassionate and more eternal than any other language… There is nothing in the whole world that resembles God as much as silence”

Whereas St. Benedict, who has set the tone for the spirituality of the West, calls us, first of all, to listen, the Byzantine Fathers focus on gazing. This is especially evident in the liturgical life of the Eastern Church as the 2nd Ecumenical council in 787 makes clear, when it says :
“What is communicated through the Word is revealed silently through the Image.”

In Byzantine Liturgy therefore, Word and Icon complement each other. Incompetent listening makes us spiritually blind.
“The eye with which I see God, is exactly the same eye with which God sees me. My eye and God’s eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowledge, and one love” (Meister Eckhart, sermon 16).

And thus, we can make bold to say, echoing the first letter of St. John :
“This is contemplation- this is contemplative love- not so much that we contemplate God, but that God has first contemplated us, and that now in us, in some sense, and even through us, as part of the mystery of his Risen Life in the Church, he contemplates the world” (Paul Murray op)

While the world is an icon of God, created and held in existence by Him, man, created in the “likeness of God” is, in a unique way, God’s Icon. So each of us is an icon of God. It is impossible to look at God, without seeing our brothers and sisters as He sees them. If we don’t look at God, then we see only ourselves, and we judge others only by our own eyes.

On the question of how to pray before an Icon or with an Icon, I want to coin a phrase from John Main. He says :
“We must learn to BE and then we will learn to DO.”

If we do this, the icon will begin to speak to us in the unique way God has chosen to love each of us individually.

In the Icon the three rays coming from the transfigured Lord, strike the apostles in three different ways. This is how the Icon writer expresses his understanding of the Divinity. Each person is loved by God in a uniquely personal way. We all receive and accept the rays of God’s love but those rays penetrate each one individually and differently from anyone else.

Trans – Formation

At the core of the Gospel is the invitation to be changed, made into a new person, and it is the experience of that transformation which gives the writings of the new testament their power. This is how John Main talks about it, in “Word into Silence”. He has just quoted a favourite passage from Romans 12.2 :

“Adapt yourselves no longer to the pattern of this present world but let your minds be remade and your whole nature thus transformed”

He then goes on to say,
“This is the essential Christian experience of being born again in the Holy Spirit. Being born again happens as we realize the power of the living Spirit of God within us. We all know that we have to change, because we cannot grow without changing and we cannot be really alive in any meaningful or certainly any enjoyable way unless we are growing. To grow, means to go forward into the unknown and obviously, therefore, to leave the past behind.

We need to reflect on the words of Jesus “Leave self behind” (Mk 8.34) to understand what we are created for. We fear letting go of the past, we resist living fully in the present, and so we find it difficult to pray. But in the teaching of Jesus we lose self, only in order to find self, and by losing self, we are transformed. What we are changed into is not, as we fear, something other than what we are. We fear that if we lose self, we will become someone else, someone different. But this fear is totally cast out of our hearts, when we open ourselves to the love of God, that has flooded us, through the Spirit of Christ who dwells in our hearts. It is then, that we experience ourselves being changed, simply into who we really are. We become, through God’s transforming love, truly ourselves for the first time. This is our transfiguration. In the heart of our humanity which we fear to lose, we find the humanity of Jesus, transformed by his utter openness to God.

In the Transfiguration, Jesus is not becoming somebody new, but he is revealing to us who He always is, and he is telling us something about our deepest selves. Our real lives are hidden with Christ in God.

This gradual work of transformation takes place in the ordinariness of our lives. As we journey through life we encounter many problems- problems from the past, problems of integration, adaptation, problems about facing the future. So many things worry us. It seems to us that, in order to solve the problems arising within us in the process of transformation, we have to find solutions outside of ourselves. We think we need to acquire information, increase our knowledge, discover new techniques. The teaching of the Gospel, however, is that our problems are solved, and there is no need for us to multiply ways of dealing with them. What we need to do, is to learn to be poor and to accept our poverty. Poverty confronts our resistance to change more effectively than any mere “solution”

Jesus’ kenosis to the point of becoming “nothingness” out of love, is the climax of God’s self-revelation – it is the icon of the Eternal Love, which is at the heart of the Trinity. This is what we, in our turn, are called to become – “nothingness” out of love for our brothers and sisters, as we share in the self emptying of Jesus, that we may be one with him in his Resurrection.

To him, whose power at work in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine, to Him, be Glory forever and ever. Amen

Monday, September 6, 2010

New Master of the Dominican Order

Sunday, 5th September, the General Chapter of the Order of Preachers, founded by Saint Dominic, elected Bro. Bruno Cadoré as new Master of the Order. Elected for a nine year term of office, he succeeds Bro. Carlos Azpiroz Costa, an Argentinean, who was Master of the Order from 2001 to 2010, and before him Bro. Timothy Radcliffe, a friar from England, well known all over the world for his publications and preaching. The last Frenchman to occupy this post was Bro Vincent de Couesnongle, Master of the Order from 1974 to 1983.

Meeting in Rome since the first of September, the General Chapter of the Order is made up of 127 delegates from all the continents. Prior Provincials are members of the Chapter and also the Delegates elected by the friars themselves according to the democratic tradition of the Dominican Order. The General Chapter, which is the sovereign governing body, shall be working for the next two weeks to give the Order some important guidelines which the newly elected Master is expected to put into practice during his term of office.

Aged 56, Bro. Bruno Cadoré was up till now the Provincial for the Dominicans of the Province of France. He served in this office for the past eight years, after having been in charge of the formation of the young friars, especially in Lille. He was a medical doctor when he started his novitiate, and he worked for two years in Haiti before starting his Dominican studies. He is a Doctor in theology and he taught biomedical ethics at the Catholic University of Lille where he was director of the centre for Medical Ethics until he was elected Prior Provincial in 2002. From January 2008 onwards he is a member of the National Aids Council.

During his term of office, the Province of France welcomed many young friars. Bruno Cadoré has also helped develop the Dominican way of life in many countries, from Scandinavia to the Congo passing through Cairo and Iraq which he visited many times.

We pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit on all the deliberations of the Chapter and on Fr Bruno as he begins his task as Master of the Order. Fr Bruno spent three weeks with us in our guest room some years ago! so his election comes as a great joy for all of us.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Some Scenes from the Solemn Profession

Below is a short video from the Solemn Profession in May. We hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

‘Ah! … My Little Finger!’

THE NARROW DOOR .............

Luke 13: 22 - 30

Today’s Gospel reading from St Luke is ‘worrying’, to put it mildly – at least the thought that there are many who try to enter by the narrow door but will not succeed, isn’t what would be inclined to inspire hope, is it? … As I say, a bit worrying!

In thinking about it, though, and in trying to see behind the words, it has occurred to me that the challenge should be seen rather as an invitation – and then the hope has free reign and we can be confident, but not presumptive, in God’s mercy and His love for us, and as St Paul writes – that God wants all men to be saved. (1Tim 2:5)

So briefly – hopefully! – I was reflecting on the words of the Lord, when he says ‘I do not know where you come from’ and wondering how it might be that He would be able to say instead, ‘I know you, I know where you come from’ What can I do to make Him recognise me? More, that is, than merely claiming to have eaten and drank with him and have been on the streets where he taught?

It seems to me that it’s basically about attachment and detachment. I can say ‘I know Jesus’, and ‘I’ve heard of Him’, ‘a great man, worked miracles, saved people, forgave their sins, was crucified’ … and more – but none of that means a whole lot if I don’t commit myself to Him, attach myself to Him. And that’s not easy, because as soon as I acknowledge that He is God, it means I have to begin to really listen to Him and try to live as He invites us to. I can sit at His table, and everything He says can wash over me: in one ear, out the other – and if that’s the way I live, then He will be justified in saying ‘I do not know where you come from’.

But if I sit there – if you sit there – and let His words sink in, let them transform you and become your whole way of living in the world – then what will happen? He will recognise you, you will have become like Him; He will look at you and see reflected in you … Himself! Isn’t that amazing? I think it’s astonishingly amazing! And then He will say to me and to you ‘I do know you, I do know where you come from’. We will be acknowledging that we are children of God, that this is what we want to be, and God Who is our Father will draw us to Himself and keep us close to Him, will Himself keep close to us, in all our need of Him and in all our joy. We will be truly members of His body, … even His little finger!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Feast of St Dominic - 8th August

“Dominic prayed, prayed without ceasing, prayed by day and by night”

This beautiful antiphon, which we sang at morning prayer on this joyful feast of our holy father and founder, gives us a beautiful portrait of Dominic. Before all else he was a man of the Gospel and a man of prayer.

The following is a quotation taken from brievary for the Office of Readings for today's feast.

Everywhere, in word and in deed, Dominic showed himself to be a herald of the Gospel. By day no one was more affable, more friendly than he with his brothers and companions, no one more fervent than he in vigils and prayer at night. His conversation was always either with God or about God; rarely did he speak on other matters, and this practice he commended to his disciples.

Dominic’s frequent and special prayer for himself was to beg from God true and efficacious charity for the salvation of all people, for he was convinced that just as our Saviour, the Lord Jesus, gave Himself totally for our salvation, only when he, Dominic, had devoted himself to the winning of souls would he be truly a member of Christ

May St Dominic intercede for all of us today and always.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Transfiguration of the Lord

Gospel: Luke 9:28-36

Today's feast fills us with hope as we contemplate the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain in the presence of the three apostles, Peter, John and James. Luke tells us that as Jesus prayed "the aspect of his face was changed and his clothing became brilliant as lightning." We may well ask if this was a regular occurrence during prayer time for Jesus? and on this occasion he let his disciples in on his secret? Perhaps this is the only time it happened! We know from Peter's comment that it was a wonderful experience for them! "Master it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah". Peter would have liked Jesus to stay on the mountain and forget all that talk about suffering and dying and suggesting that those who follow should take up their cross daily (Lk 9:23-26)!! He had no desire to come down the mountain again and face reality!

Can we all identify with Peter in some way or other? We are all happy to be in the Lord's presence while we are experiencing good feelings of joy and peace and so escape the harsh realities surrounding us. Not so for Jesus. This experience was meant to strenghten him and his disciples to face the harsh reality ahead with courage and love in obedience to the Father's will.

Jesus was always tuned into his Father's will - "His food was to do the Will of his Father". The Father in turn bears witness to his Son - a voice comes from the cloud: "This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to him" - Yes listen to him as he speaks to you about the Cross and suffering! and the need to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily!

All Christian prayer is prayer in Christ - through Baptism we are in Christ and share his relationship with his Father. When we pray in Him we too are transfigured (though it is hidden from our eyes) and the Father speaks to each of us as He addressed His Beloved Son: "You are my beloved son (or daughter)". True prayer is never escape from real life - rather it inserts us more deeply into the human situation and like Jesus, gives us the love, the strength and the courage work for the greater glory of God and to make this world a better place for our brothers and sisters while we wait in joyful hope for day when we shall behold the glorious face of our God.

O souls crated for these grandeurs and called thereto! What are you doing? Wherein do you occupy yourselves? O wretched blindness of the sons of Adam, who are blind to so great a light and deaf to so clear a voice.
(St John of the Cross: Spiritual Canticle)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Pope Benedict's Homily During Recent Visit to Dominican Cloister

"You Were Consecrated to Jesus, to Belong to Him Exclusively"

The following is the homily of Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to the Dominican cloistered nuns of Santa Maria del Rosario in Rome's Monte Mario district. He lightlights the values and importance of our contemplative life. (

Dear Sisters,

I address to each one of you the words of Psalm 124 (125), which we just prayed: "Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts!" (v. 4). I greet you above all with this wish: the goodness of the Lord be upon you. In particular, I greet your Mother Prioress and thank her from my heart for the kind expressions she addressed to me in the name of the community. With great joy I accepted the invitation to visit this convent, to be able to pause with you at the feet of the image of St. Sixtus' acheropita Virgin, now protector of the Roman convents of St. Mary in Tempulo and of St. Sixtus.

Together we have prayed the midday prayer, a small part of this Liturgical Prayer that, as cloistered, marks the rhythm of your days and makes you interpreters of the Church-Bride which unites her, in a special way, with her Lord. With this choral prayer, which finds its culmination in the daily participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, your consecration to the Lord in silence and seclusion becomes fecund and full of fruits, not only for the path of sanctification and purification, but also for the apostolate of intercession that you carry out for the whole Church, so that it can appear pure and holy in the presence of the Lord. You, who know well the efficacy of prayer, experience every day the many graces of holiness it can obtain in the Church.

Dear Sisters, the community you make up is a place where you can dwell in the Lord; it is for you the New Jerusalem, to which the tribes of the Lord go up to praise the name of the Lord (cf. Psalm121:4). Be grateful to Divine Providence for the sublime and gratuitous gift of the monastic vocation, to which the Lord has called you without any merit of yours. With Isaiah, you can affirm "the Lord formed me from the womb" (Isaiah 49:5). Even before you were born, the Lord had kept your heart for himself to be able to fill it with his love. Through the sacrament of baptism you received Divine grace in yourselves, immersed in his Death and Resurrection, you were consecrated to Jesus, to belong to him exclusively. The way of contemplative life, which you received from St. Dominic in the form of cloister, places you, as living and vital members, in the heart of the Lord's Mystical Body, which is the Church; and as the heart makes the blood circulate and maintains the whole body alive, so your hidden existence with Christ, interlaced with work and prayer, contributes to sustain the Church, instrument of salvation for every man whom the Lord redeemed with his blood.

It is this inexhaustible source that you approach with prayer, presenting in the presence of the Most High the spiritual and material needs of so many brothers in difficulty, the strayed life of all those who separate themselves from the Lord. How can one not be moved by compassion for those who seem to wander aimlessly? How can one not wish that in their life they will encounter Jesus, the only one who gives meaning to existence? The holy desire that the Kingdom of God be established in the heart of every man, is identified with prayer itself, as St. Augustine teaches us: because of this, as fire that burns and is never extinguished, the heart remains alert, it never ceases to desire and it always raises a hymn of praise to God.

Recognize because of this, Dear Sisters, that in everything you do, beyond the personal moments of prayer, your heart continues to be led by the desire to love God. With the Bishop of Hippo, acknowledge that the Lord has put his love in your hearts, desire that dilates the heart, until it makes it capable of receiving God himself (cf. In. O. Ev. tr. 40, 10). This is the horizon of the earthly pilgrimage! This is your goal! This is why you have chosen to live in obscurity and in the renunciation of earthly goods: to desire above all that good which has no equal, that precious pearl that merits the renunciation of any other good to enter into its possession.

May you be able to pronounce every day your "yes" to God's designs, with the same humility with which the Holy Virgin said her "yes." May she, who in silence received the Word of God, guide you in your daily virginal consecration, so that you will be able to experience in obscurity the profound intimacy she lived with Jesus. Invoking her maternal protection, together with that of St. Dominic, St. Catherine of Siena and of the many men and women saints of the Dominican Order, I impart to you all a special Apostolic blessing, which I willingly extend to the persons who entrust themselves to your prayers.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Our Preaching Story - Nuns of the Order of Preachers

The following is a presentation by one of our sisters at a recent Dominican Family Day

Our preaching story both differs from, and incorporates the preaching stories of the other branches of the Order. “As the friars, sisters and laity are called to preach the name of our Lord Jesus Christ throughout the world; the nuns are to seek, ponder and call upon Jesus in solitude so that the word – (the saving- word, the grace-filled word) proceeding from the mouth of God (and preached by you our brothers and sisters)may not return to him empty, but may accomplish those things for which it was sent.” (Is 55:10)

Our Constitutions tell us that St. Dominic in founding the Nuns wanted us “to be free for God alone” and he associated us with his “holy preaching” specifically through our prayer and penance. They also tell us that we are ‘commissioned by God primarily for prayer'. The Constitutions of the Friars, LCO 142, states that “St. Dominic intended the nuns of the Order to dedicate themselves wholly, in the contemplative religious life, to that communion with God, which nourishes the apostolic life of the brothers and of the other branches of the Dominican Family, the nuns providing a witness of prayer, silence and penance.” Three weeks ago on the 31st May 2010, Sr. Niamh made solemn profession and I would like to quote a little part of this ceremony as it is very beautiful and emphasises our place in the preaching mission of the Order:

By this solemn profession you have given yourself to God and to His will: God Himself, therefore, has consecrated you to Himself through the ministry of the Church, to be associated, through a life of prayer and penance, with the ‘holy preaching’ of St. Dominic, so that you may be His own heritage and that He may be your heritage forever.

And the prayer with the blessing of the veil reads;

Lord, bless this veil which Sr. Niamh Muireann wears for love of you and your blessed Mother Mary, ever Virgin, as a sign of her consecration to you. Through your help and protection may she always preserve the purity of heart it mystically signifies. In wearing it may she be recognised as a house of prayer and a temple of intercession for all people. Clothe with your grace her entire being, so that she may love you with all her heart. May she always live in this love and be introduced one day to the joy of your kingdom, through Christ our Lord.

‘A house of prayer and a temple of intercession for all people.’ Prayer really is our life and is always intimately and essentially connected with love - God’s love for us and our response in love - however fragile that response may be. “In the midst of the Church our growth in love, is mysteriously fruitful for the whole people of God,” - which means that our vocation in not for ourselves alone but transcends the limits of the monastery and is of benefit to the Order, the Church and the whole world.

Due to limited time I will focus only on personal prayer.

Prayer is a gift of God that we receive. It is fundamentally not what we do but what God does in us, how God loves us, addresses us, looks at us, enlightens us, forgives us, heals us, purifies us and eventually transforms us – if we let Him! We are on the receiving end. In prayer God gives us Himself in love and God’s love is total and unconditional:

‘I have loved you with an everlasting love and so I am constant in my affection for you’(Jer 31:3)

‘You are precious in my eyes and I love you’ ( Is. 43:4)

Words cannot express the Reality of God or the lived experience of praying - of communing with God in the silence of our hearts. God will always remain the great Mystery, Awesome, Transcendent, and Incomprehensible – beyond words, ideas and images. Yet, thankfully we have Jesus, the revelation of the Father and through baptism it is in him that we ‘live and move and have our being’(Acts 17:28). Union with God is not something we have to acquire; God is already the ground of our being. ‘God is your being and what you are you are in God’ – as the author of the Book of Privy Counselling assures us. It is more a question of realising this in our lives and living out of the truth of this realisation.

For many years now I have been very taken with, and influenced by Ruth Burrow’s understanding of prayer and the mystical life. (she is a contemplative Carmelite nun and writer) In her book, Essence of Prayer, she says:

‘The mystical life is the human person becoming more and more receptive to the inflowing of divine love, which as it enters, of necessity, purifies and transforms.’
– but the mystical life is not basically other than the Christian life, says our own Fr. Marie-Dominque Chenu OP.

In prayer, this emphasis on our participation through ‘ receiving’ leads to my own conviction that it is at the time of personal prayer when, as the psalmist instructs, we must try to:
‘ Be still and know that I am God’

when our bodies become still and our minds become silent, through whatever means is helpful to us, -that God can achieve in us the greatest purification and transformation that is so necessary through the inflowing of divine love – as I quoted earlier ’the human person becoming more and more receptive to the inflowing of divine love which, as it enters, of necessity purifies and transforms’. In allowing ourselves just to ‘be’ there for God, - not doing anything, not ‘saying’ prayers or making petitions (good as this is but not at this particular time) – just being silently aware of God’s presence and allowing Him to heal us and love us - receiving this love passively and surrendering our whole being to this powerful, silent, hidden, secret action of God - this type of prayer, I firmly believe, is of vital importance in all our lives. Fidelity to it and persevering in it is, as contemplatives, our greatest contribution to the preaching mission of the Order, the Church and the world.

True prayer means wanting God not self. Our own documents on the Contemplative Life affirms this when it says:
“withdrawal from the world for the sake of leading a more intense life of prayer in solitude is nothing other than a very particular way of living and expressing the paschal mystery of Christ, which is death ordained towards resurrection”(Venite Seorsum 1)

The more we pray, the more time and commitment we give to being with God, the more we are purified within and this inevitably is painful. Direct contact with divine love is deeply disturbing. The love of God, all self-giving, confronts our terrified self-protecting, would-be self-reliant, autonomous self and this produces deep pain. Accepting and surrendering to this pain, this process of purification, by staying with God in prayer, is a tremendous challenge and a great grace. It would be all too easy to avoid this painful encounter by distracting ourselves by doing things, becoming involved in projects that are good in themselves, multiplying contacts, etc but to do that in our life, to avoid this stark encounter with God during this particular time of prayer, would be a form of escape, - that is how I see it.

Meister Eckhart encourages us :
‘Do not waver from your emptiness’

Yes, prayer requires great poverty of spirit. It is helpful to remember that prayer takes place at the deepest level of our person and escapes direct knowledge and indeed is beyond our understanding; therefore we can make no judgement about it. Where it takes place, in our deepest self is God’s holy domain and we have to trust it utterly to Him. This is one of the principal ways in which we surrender control.

We must be ready to believe that ‘nothingness’ is the presence of divine Reality; emptiness is a holy void that Divine Love is filling. We must give up wanting assurances either from within or without. The inflowing of God into our secret depths of its very nature must remain secret as John of the Cross tirelessly insists: ‘…. it happens secretly in darkness, hidden from the faculties….so hidden that the soul cannot speak of it.’ But its effect on our life as a whole will be marked – chiefly by growth in love and selflessness.

On this subject of love Fr Anselm Moynihan OP has written;

‘The contemplative life is truly par excellence the vocation of love, that which gives the highest expression to our love for God and at the same time provides the greatest stimulus to the increase of that love. That is why it is so vital to the Church, for it nourishes the very heart of the Church, the life-spring of all its work of bearing witness to God’s glory and the saving of souls.’

In nourishing the heart of the Church it nourishes the preaching heart of the Order and indeed the heart of the world. In Pope Benedict’s Pastoral letter to the Catholics of Ireland (no. 14) he asks that monasteries organise periods of Eucharistic Adoration so that:
“through intense prayer before the Real Presence of the Lord, you can make reparation for the sins of abuse that have done so much harm, at the same time imploring the grace of renewed strength and a deeper sense of mission on the part of all bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful. I am confident that this programme will lead to a rebirth of the Church in Ireland in the fullness of God’s own truth, for it is the truth that sets us free.”

In response to this request by Pope Benedict, we have one hour each Friday, 4:45pm – 5:45pm of silent Eucharistic Adoration for this intention, when all the community are present and as many of the faithful as possible. The invitation is open to all.

I would just like to finish with a quote from letter IV of Blessed Jordan to Blessed Diana, which helps to explain how our preaching stories complement one another: Jordan writes to Diana:

“What you achieve in your stillness, I achieve by moving from place to place: all this we do for love of Him. He is our sole end.”

Indeed no matter what branch of the Order we belong to, we, like St. Dominic, whose deepest source of inspiration was his love of Jesus Christ, do all for love of Him. Love of Jesus is the source and goal of our lives.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Monastery Open Days

We plan to hold a few open days during the coming months. Please click on the Poster below view a larger version.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Rosary and Dominican Nuns

The following is a short reflection on my vocation as a contemplative Dominican nun, in the light of the five joyful mysteries of the Rosary - text of a presentation given recently to a group of young people .

The Annunciation

St Thomas Aquinas likes to maintain that Jesus was the first Dominican, and I’m not saying that he was wrong! But we know that St Dominic established the nuns before his brother preachers, and in the first joyful mystery, we see Mary, called by God, invited to be His mother, to be the one through whom He would come into the world, and give Himself - entirely - to us and for us. You see, Mary … before Jesus!

I was thinking about this over the past while, and I think it is true to say that joining the Legion of Mary was the first thing I did for myself, as being something I really wanted to do. We were at Mass one Sunday, and a Legionary had got up to speak a bit about their mission, to encourage us to think about joining them. I had wanted to do something more for God than just go to Mass on Sundays, and this seemed to be a way that I could make some kind of return to Him for all He had done for me. It was a pretty amazing foundation – being among people for whom God is supremely important. The Lord had blessed me with a strong sense of Himself, I would even say a desire for Him, and this was how I thought I could express that, live it out. In the Legion, I could at last let Him in more, show Him how much He mattered to me. And it was a place where I could learn to love Mary – freely and deeply.

My first contact with the Dominicans came through the Legion – and they seemed to be able to reach or touch me deepest need for God – to awaken a string desire for Him that only He could satisfy. My ‘Annunciation’ came at a ‘Credo’ weekend, hosted by the Dominicans, during a lecture on the ‘Four Last Things’ (!) And so, I eventually arrived here, in Siena: full of wonder, amazement, joy – that God wanted only me, but all of me, for Himself. Mary, before she set out, said ‘yes’ to God’s will and I’m sure she must have spent some amount of deep, deep time in prayer with the Lord, utterly humbled and grateful for such a tremendous gift.

The Visitation

But she set out – as quickly as she could – to visit Elizabeth – to share her joy – to share God: because no matter how full of grace she was – no one can contain God. None of us; I think if we tried we’d explode – even Mary, whose capacity for Him was far beyond ours. And in the monastery, this is our second joyful mystery too. Initially, the coming is a personal response to God for us ourselves; but, like Mary, we can’t be touched by His love and not want to give it away- to the whole world. We are invited to love like God – to give ourselves away, and more, to give God away – to others and for others. And even though it leaves you empty – there’s tremendous richness in the emptiness, great joy – a gift that God in His love helps you to accept. (But you have to learn how to accept it!)

The Nativity

And the Word was made flesh … I think this mystery is too great, you could spend a lifetime trying to come to appreciate the wonder that God came to live and move among us, out of sheer love.
He Whom Mary had been promised, was now, after so long waiting to meet Him, was in her arms – He Whom she had been able to shelter and protect, was now born. All that time of waiting was her time with Him, but now she must begin to give Him away, because we are in such desperate need of Him.

The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple

I think Mary, in this mystery, is amazingly courageous, a great teacher and example. Watch her, carrying her Life in her arms, and returning it to God. Her love for this Baby must have been so all-consuming; all her hope, her love, her life, was bound to this Baby, and what did she do? … Gave Him away – gave Him back to God.
This too is our life in the monastery, always to acknowledge the greatness of God – to take all that He has given us – our whole lives- everyone we have been given to love: family, friends, people we’ve been asked to pray for – every day, to come to God and to entrust them all to Him, in thanksgiving and in love. To be that empty – to give Him our very breath – this is our life. The most amazing gift He has given me, is that sharing a little in His vision – that I can see that I have nothing if I don’t have God first; but if I give the Lord everything: all my desire, all my love, all my hope - if I let Him take everything I am, so that I am left empty – then I can be stretched and He makes room in me for more … of Himself. And I have discovered powerfully that He is doing that all the time.

Mary finds Jesus in the Temple

What can I say? The Eucharist is the heart and centre of our whole life – and however empty we are, how ever long the emptiness lasts – the Lord never fails to find us. There are, of course, times when we’re hanging on by the skin of our teeth – but He never lets us go. And I am blessed, because I know, that when I am lost, I am lost in God. I may not always be able to see Him, but I can hang on because He is nearer to me – deeper in me - than I am to myself.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.