Saturday, December 31, 2011

Hapy New Year

We wish all our readers many graces and blessings during the coming year. May 2012 -the year of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress - be a year of grace for our Irish Church in particular.

To highlight our preparation for this great event, our sister artists designed our chapel crib in a Eucharistic setting - photo here.

As we assure you of our continued prayer for all your intentions we ask to be remembered in yours. This year, 2012 is the 290th annivarsary of our foundation in Drogheda. As we give thanks for almost three centuries of prayer, we ask you to join us in praying for those young women who are considering vocations to our community and that many more may be inspired to dedicate themselves to our life of prayer and Eucharistic Adoration for the glory of God and for the needs of our Church and world.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Christmas

We wish all our readers the peace and joy which our Saviour brings during the Christmas season and throughout the coming New Year. We remember all of you and your loved ones in our prayers and ask to be remembered in yours.

Christmas Reflection

Below is the text of a Christmas reflection given by one of our sisters.(If you prefer to listen, click the 'play' button in the box below).

“With the Lord there is unfailing love; great is His power to set us free” – Vespers II of Christmas.

The human heart longs for freedom – it is boundless in its aspirations for we were made in the image and likeness of God and are destined to live eternally with Him in love. He has made us for Himself and our hearts are restless until they rest in Him. (cf Confessions of St Augustine). A glance at our newspapers or TV news demonstrates this restlessness – this past year has witnessed the eruption of violence in many parts of our world – all seeking freedom of one sort or another. Left to ourselves, we humans, seek freedom apart from God and in the wrong places. Adam and Eve wanted to be like God – yet through fear, they hid from God.

I have been very struck by the frequency of this theme of ‘freedom’ in our Advent liturgy – where we cry out to the Lord in such phrases as: “come and set us free”; Lord may your Son bring us freedom”; Come Lord, make no delay! Release your people from their bonds”. This theme of freedom resonates with the vision of monastic life as being “free for God alone”. Freedom always implies a ‘freedom from something’ and a ‘freedom for something’. We have a good example in the Book of Exodus: Moses asked Pharaoh to set the people free so that they could go to the desert to worship God. St Paul describes Baptism as dying to sin so that we might live for God. (Rom 6).

Tonight we celebrate the birth of the One who brings us true freedom – the Saviour, Jesus, who will “save his people from their sins” (Mt 1) – the freedom to give oneself away – to surrender in love to Another after the example which He has given us – the radical, reckless kind of giving which we see in the self-emptying of the Eternal Word who lowers Himself to become one of us in order to raise us up to share in the very life of the Trinity.

True freedom is not about ‘doing my own thing’ – on the contrary Jesus, who was the freest person that ever lived on this earth, was always attentive to the Will of His Father – ‘I do always what please Him’. Perhaps freedom has as much to do with the ability to listen and receive as about giving and doing. Because Jesus, and like him Mary, were always open to receive the gift of the Father’s love they also radiated that love to others. Sometimes we can be frantically trying to ‘serve’ God while forgetting the truth that “the most fruitful activity of the human person is to be able to receive God”. Mary was not inert or totally passive when she said her ‘yes’ to the Word taking flesh in her womb - rather “her entire being as a person is offered, given and handed over to the Holy Spirit” (cf Jean Corbon: The Wellspring of Worship)
As we celebrate this great feast of Christmas we pray that we may be among a great multitude of those who lay aside pride and selfishness or whatever blocks us and in stillness and emptiness will open ourselves to receive this wondrous gift – Mary’s Son who alone can set us free and teach us the way of love.

With the Lord there is unfailing love; great is His power to set us free. Stand steadfast! You will see the saving power of God.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Reflection on the 'O Antiphon' - 23rd December

Below is the text of a reflection given by one of our sisters on today's Magnificat Antiphon, which invokes Christ as Emmanuel (God with us).(If you prefer to listen, click the 'play' button in the box below).

O Emmanuel, you are our King and judge
the one whom the peoples await and their Saviour,
O Come and save us, Lord our God.

Emmanuel means 'God with us'. Can we believe that God entered the womb of Mary, took flesh from her and became man? Do we really believe this? What greater thing has ever happened to all of us who believe, that Mary herself believing, received the Word concerning Him faithfully in her heart.

When we to acknowledge Him in faith and obtain forgiveness for our sins, then immediately - just as God the Word and Second Person of the Blessed Trinity entered into the Virgin's womb - even so do we receive the Word in us as a kind of seed.

Be amazed on hearing this wondrous mystery and welcome this Word with assurance and faith. (1)

St. John tells us in his Gospel, "If anyone loves me he will keep my word, and my Father will love him and we will come and make our home in him". (Jn 14)

If we only knew the gift that is being offered to us this Christmas night. We have a mystery in our hearts bigger than ourselves, built as we are like a tabernacle around this most Sacred Presence.(2)

The longer one gazes into this mystery the more one longs to go on gazing in silent wonder. But of course, as St. Thomas told us, there is no adequate picture of God to catch our eyes and hold them spellbound. Yet the little that we can see of the infinite perfection of God is an entrancing picture - a babe nestling in the arms of his virgin mother.

 Is there anything that can open our eyes to the Presence of the Infinite everywhere?
I think perhaps nature speaks volumes - when we look at the austere cleanliness of winter, the sharp tints of divine energy in the eager promise of Spring, "a host of Golden Daffodils dancing in the breeze", how can we doubt. Think of the minute details of natures organisation, they stagger our minds with their multitude and complexity, and so give an insight into the horizons of Divine Wisdom. We can miss little signs like the sparkle in a child's eyes at the thought of the gifts Santa will bring or the freshness of sky and countryside after a Spring Rain.

But we could say so much more and still fall short. Many mysteries remain even greater than these, for we have seen only a few of His works (Eccl 43). And the greatest of all is that God loved this world so much that He sent His only Son to redeem us and He did this with the consent of a young jewish girl. The desired of all nations knocked at your door Mary and you said your Yes. "Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to your word"

Dare we to say our Yes to whatever His will hold for us in the coming year, allowing ourselves to be infinitely loved by our Emmanuel, and experience in the darkness of faith this intimate, personal and tender Love that Jesus has for each one.

Come my love,
my lovely one come.
Show me your face,
let me hear your voice
for your voice is sweet
and your face is beautiful.
(Song of Songs 2)
(1) cf. Simon the New Theologian
(2) cf. Hans Urs Von Balthasar, Prayer

Reflection on the 'O Antiphon' - 22nd December

Below is the text of a reflection given by one of our sisters on yesterday's Magnificat Antiphon, which invokes Christ as King. (If you prefer to listen, click the 'play' button in the box below).

O King, whom all the peoples desire,
you are the cornerstone which makes all one.
O come and save us whom you made from clay.
Maranatha. Come Lord Jesus come.

Whom you made from clay. In Genesis we receive two accounts of the creation of man. "God said, Let us make man in our own image in the likeness of ourselves .God created man in the image of Himself, in the Image of God he created him". And again it is said "God fashioned man of dust from the soil. Then he breathed into his nostrils a breath of life and thus man became a living being". There is therefore inherent in the very fabric of our being God’s stamp, a likeness to Him, and the very breath we draw holds the memory of whence it came and the promise of its ultimate destiny. Some call it ‘Capax Dei’, others the divine spark; a secret knowledge that we are made for more than this world has to offer imprinted in us at the moment of our creation. St Augustine’s way of putting it gives voice to what many do not even realise. ‘You have made us for yourself O God and our hearts are restless until they rest in you’.

In our age as in every age our hearts get set on lesser things. We think the restless ache at the core of our being will be satisfied by wealth, by power, by pleasure, by learning; but no particular good even the most noble, lofty or idealistic can perfectly satisfy us. Only in the vision of God can our longings be stilled. And so deep within each person expressed in our relentless pursuit of happiness is a longing for Him whom all peoples desire - Jesus who will reveal to us what or Who it is we are really seeking. He is the cornerstone come to reveal the Father’s love, and come to make possible our return to the Father. In Him we see our God made visible. In Him the loving kindness of our God has appeared and no one can come to the Father except through Him. Jesus died to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad, to share with us all his unique relationship with the Father

We have been privileged to know this and have been entrusted, as Paul was, with the task of fully proclaiming this message, which is the secret kept hidden through all the ages from all humankind, but which he has now revealed to his people. It was God’s purpose to reveal it to us and to show the rich glory of this mystery to pagans. The secret is this Christ is in us which means that we will share the glory of God (Col).

So as we look into our own hearts this Christmas and at our broken, wounded, sinful Church and world let us not see a hopeless situation but rather redemption waiting to happen and let us enter into Christ’s own desire to come to save his people. Let us, as I read so beautifully recently, hold the mission of Jesus, the Christfication of the whole universe as an uncompromised priority. Now is our time of grace.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Reflection on the 'O Antiphon' - 21st December

Below is the text of a reflection given by one of our sisters on yesterday's Magnificat Antiphon, which invokes Christ as the Rising Sun. (If you prefer to listen, click the 'play' button in the box below).

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.

By living in Ireland I have learned to see the Sun, even if it is raining. Our whole business in this life is to restore to health the eye of the heart whereby God can be seen.

Each of the antiphons contains the words "O" and "COME", expressive of longing, pleading, heart-felt desire. In them we beg God to BE with us and SAVE us.

The longing for God expressed in the antiphons is the pale human shadow of God’s longing for us. They are based on words in the Bible which promise exactly that, or even state that God has already COME and delivered us.

The petition ‘’Come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death’’ echoes the Christmas reading ’’they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shone’’ ‘’The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light’’(Is 9:2)

‘’God is light’’(1Jn 1:5). And every light we know, whether a candle, or sun will eventually burn itself out in self giving. Light from light (cf. Jn 1 ) ‘’God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son,so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life’’ (Jn 3:16)

Today's antiphon brings out a special aspect of the light of Christ by its use of the word Oriens / rising Sun / day-spring / dawn. It is new light, light after darkness, light which has conquered darkness.

Jesus is the dawn which we long for above all things. He is the new light that fills us with hope, putting to flight the darkness of despair, bringing us to communion with God. It is important to look at the context in which Jesus calls himself "the Light of the world" in John’s Gospel (Jn 8:1-12). "Early in the morning Jesus arrived again in the temple area…Then scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle…Jesus straightened up and said to her, 'Woman,where are they? Has no one condemned you?'. She replied 'No one, sir.' Then Jesus said 'Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more'." Jesus spoke to them again, saying "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life". This happens in the early morning. There is still darkness, the darkness of judgment and injustice. Jesus comes into this darkened world as LIGHT. His mercy enlightens the darkness.

Dwelling in the light of Christ, we are transformed by that light, so that we become what our baptism declared us to be, the children of light. By baptism we become the light within the LIGHT, who is Christ, just as Christ is "Light from Light". Once a rabbi asked his students, "How can you tell day from night?" The first student answered "When you look at a person walking in the distance and can tell whether it’s a man or a woman, it’s day". The second student answered, "When you look at a tree and can tell whether the fruit on it is an orange or a grapefruit, it’s day". The third student answered, "When you look at a string of thread held at arm’s length and can tell what colour it is, it’s day". Then the students asked the rabbi the same question. He answered, "When you look at a man or woman and recognise that person as a brother or sister, it’s day. But if you look at a man or a woman, and do not recognise them as a brother or sister, it’s night, no matter what time it is."

Love brings light and it is in God’s light we see light. Come JESUS, Come and in the midst of our darkness show us the Fathers Love.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Reflection on the 'O Antiphon' - 20th December

Below is the text of a reflection given by one of our sisters on today's Magnificat Antiphon, which invokes Christ as the Key of David.(If you prefer to listen, click the 'play' button in the box below).

O come now key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home,
make safe the way that leads on high
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice, Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to you O Israel.

Reflecting on this Antiphon alongside today’s Gospel, (Lk.1:26-38), we have highlighted for us the Presence of God in our lives.

A few verses before today’s Gospel passage, the Archangel Gabriel, tells Zachary: “my name is Gabriel and my place is in God’s Presence. What a truly stupendous statement! Further on in the same Gospel passage, we are told of this same Archangel when he visits Mary with the tidings of the Incarnation….’into her presence the angel came’. (R.Knox translation)

Surely we are left in breathless awe, as we picture this great Archangel whose place is in the Presence of God Himself, bowing low in the presence of this humble Virgin, who never-the-less, was a creature like ourselves, as he awaited her consent to become the mother of God’s Son – the Key of David.

A key we know, both locks and unlocks - and today, we are called to pray to Christ, the Key of David, to unlock, to open wide our heavenly home and to make safe the way that leads on high, where our destiny too, is to dwell in God’s Presence for all eternity.

In the meantime, so long as our pilgrimage on earth lasts, we are so utterly privileged to have the Real Presence of Christ, the Key of David, continually with us in the Holy Eucharist. Christ dwells too in all our hearts, where in a spirit of Faith, we must endeavour to be constantly pre-occupied with him. May Mary help us to give him our loving attention in all the ups and downs of daily life, as she gave Him hers those precious nine months when she carried his sacred Presence in her womb.

Yes, as Isaiah foretold so long ago – ‘the Virgin is with Child and He will be called Emmanuel – a name which means – ‘God is with us’! Yes, he really is. Let us then rejoice in the Presence of the Lord in the land of the living, then one day as the Psalmist tells us, we too, in the presence of the angels, will bless our loving God for all eternity. cf Ps.137(138)

O Key of David, we thank you for the wonder of our being and the miracle of your Presence in us.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Reflection on the 'O Antiphon' - 19th December

Below is the text of a reflection given by one of our sisters on today's Magnificat Antiphon, which invokes Christ as the Root of Jesse.(If you prefer to listen, click the 'play' button in the box below)

O Root of Jesse, you stand as a sign for the nations;
Kings fall silent before you whom the peoples acclaim.
O come to deliver us, and do not delay.

The Holy Spirit speaking through the prophet Isaiah over 700 years before Christ said "a shoot springs from the stump of Jesse, a scion thrusts from his roots, on him the spirit of the Lord rests". Jesse was the father of King David. Isaiah must have seen in a vision a sapling springing from the apparently dead stump of Jesse. He lived about 300 years after David and the Davidic dynasty did not appear very hopeful. So it is on a future king that Isaiah sees the Spirit of the Lord come down.

This future King, whom we know to be the Lord Jesus, Son of David, is to be "a sign for the nations" but "a sign of contradiction" as Simeon prophesied about the child Jesus, which is borne out in Isaiah Chapter 53, "Like a sapling he grew up in front of us, like a root in arid ground ... a thing despised and rejected by men" - as indeed he was in his Passion. In the life of Jesus the ordinary people acclaimed him. He healed and fed multitudes but the "Kings", the authorities did not acclaim him - they were "silent before him" as the antiphon says, not acknowledging him even despising him.

In our own day his Church has come under censure and is suffering. But the Holy Spirit is at work in the Church and in the world. To give one example - he is bringing the leaders of Religions together to unite against the secularising forces at work in Europe today. Recently the British Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, spoke at the Gregorian University in Rome calling for Jews and Christians to unite to save the soul of Europe. He said "the political leaders of Europe are coming together to try to save the Euro, the religious leaders must do so for Europe's soul". Let us implore the Holy Spirit that this may come about as we cry out to the Root of Jesse, Jesus Son of David, "O come and deliver us and do not delay".

O Radix Jesse

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Reflection on the 'O Antiphon' - 18th December

Below is the text of a reflection give by one of our sisters on today's Magnificat Antiphon, which speaks of Christ appearing to Moses in the burning bush. (If you prefer to listen, click the 'play' button in the box below)

O Adonai and leader of Israel, you appeared to Moses in a burning bush and you gave him the Law on Sinai. O come and save us with your mighty power.

Today’s ‘O Antiphon’ refers to God’s coming to His people while they were living in slavery in Egypt. He reveals Himself as the ‘Holy One’, the ‘Transcendent One’ as He calls out to Moses: “Come no nearer. Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Yet He is not aloof from His people’s plight. He says: “I have seen the misery of my people. I have heard their cries for help – I have come down to rescue them and bring them to a land rich and broad, a country flowing with milk and honey.” (cf Ex 3:1-6)

It is this same God who approaches Mary through the Angel and asks her consent to be the mother of the “child who will be holy” (Lk1:36) and who “will save His people from their sins” (Mt 1:21). It is the same Holy One who is with us on our altar, under the signs of bread and wine – and the One whom we meet in the least of our sisters and brothers!

As I reflected on this antiphon, it was the image of fire and the burning bush which held my attention. Fire cannot be hidden, cannot be contained – otherwise it is extinguished. It gives light and warmth. Fire draws and consumes everything within its reach – it knows no boundaries but transforms into fire everything with which it comes in contact. It is never satisfied, for the more it consumes, the fiercer are the flames and the greater its capacity to consume more. Think of the forest fires which become uncontrollable in dry weather!

This image of fire is a very good image of our God – no wonder our innate selfishness fills us with fear of saying ‘yes’ to Him – fear that if we give Him an inch He may take a mile! “Our God is a consuming fire” (Heb 12:29) – even if at times we experience this fire as darkness - while He is always drawing us into His love, so too our selfishness is being consumed in the fire of that love. Yet His message is always one of liberation – not just for ourselves but for all His people. The more we surrender to His plan for us, the more we experience true freedom.

Just as He needed Moses and Mary, so today He stands at the door of our hearts inviting us to His co-workers. Will we respond as Mary did with: “behold here I am; let it be done unto me”? Will we allow Him to possess us in such a way that we might radiate His living, loving presence in our troubled and darkened world? St Catherine said: “if you are what you are meant to be, you would set fire to the whole of Europe”.

O Adonai and leader of Israel, you appeared to Moses in a burning bush and you gave him the Law on Sinai. O come and save us with your mighty power.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Reflection on the 'O' Antiphon - 17th December

Below is the text of a reflection give by one of our sisters on today's Magnificat Antiphon, which invokes Christ as Wisdom. (If you prefer to listen, click the 'play' button in the box below)

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.

In the Magnificat Antiphon today we begin the first of the great “O Antiphons” rejoicing in our expectation of the Saviour’s coming and asking him to come to us under the particular manifestation of each Old Testament title. In this first Antiphon we address Christ as Wisdom and ask him to “teach us the way of truth”.

In praying and reflecting on this text, I have been particularly struck by the fact that, as St Paul says, Christ is “our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1Cor 1:30). Is my search for wisdom and knowledge done as a search for Christ, done in his company, or is it a search for my wisdom, my knowledge, for my own satisfaction? As I prepare to welcome Christ this Christmas, do I welcome him as Wisdom - am I willing to let him teach me?

Christian wisdom is not simply having great knowledge but having great knowledge in Christ; so that Christ, who is Wisdom, “lives in me” (Gal 2:20) and my life involves seeing, understanding and reacting to the world around me in union with Him and as he shows us in his life and teaching. Study etc. can give me a great knowledge of Christ but unless I am living in his presence and actively seeking his guidance that knowledge will not be fruitful; it will not be wisdom. As we read in James’ Letter, “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity.” (Jas 3:17)

I also think that this wisdom Christ brings is “secret and hidden” (1Cor 2:7). In fact, it is so secret and hidden that we will often not be aware that we are receiving it; it may only be seen in the fruit it bears in our lives. For as we grow in wisdom we become more and more conformed to Christ, who is Wisdom.

And so I pray that this Christmas our minds and lives will be open to welcome Christ, the Wisdom who comes forth from the mouth of the Most High.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Third Sunday of Advent

‘Rejoice in the Lord always….the Lord is near’. Phil 4:4-5.
St. Paul may well have been referring to the end times when he uttered these joyful words in today’s liturgy, but they also have a deeper meaning as we read in today’s Gospel, when St. John the Baptist says to the Priests and Levites who were sent by the Jews to question him, …’there is one standing in your midst of whom you know nothing’ Jn1:27. ***

Numerous times in the Gospels, we are confronted in the sacred texts with the Presence of Jesus passing unrecognised – surely our Lord intends us to penetrate something of the depth of this mystery – his unrecognisable Presence in our midst!

With the exception of the loss and finding of Jesus in the Temple at the age of 12 years, the Gospels give us no further details of Jesus’ life until he begins his public ministry. But we are given to understand that his life in the intervening years was a very ordinary one, so much so that when Jesus began his teaching in the synagogue at Nazareth, the people were astonished and said: ‘what is this wisdom that has been granted him and these miracles worked through him, this is the carpenter surely, the son of Mary, are not his brothers and sisters here with us?’ and they would not accept him. (Mk.6 3-4). In other words they thought they knew him well, they could not perceive anything to indicate his Divinity in their midst.

Similarly when we reflect on Jesus’ words concerning the last judgement, Mt.25 – the just ask ‘when did we see you hungry or thirsty, sick or in prison…and minister to you?’ and the unjust in their turn will ask the same questions, ‘when did we see you and not minister to you’? Jesus then gives his profound and beautiful teaching: ‘Amen, I say to you, as long as you did it to one of the least of mine, you did it to me’- and to the unjust ‘as long as you did not do it to one of these who are mine, you did not do it to me’. Here indeed is the precious jewel we must never let go of – the astonishing thing here for us to reflect on is that neither the just nor the unjust realised that they were, or were not, serving the Lord in others.

In the Old Testament too, we read of many occasions in which God brings his people to an awareness of his Presence in their midst. The Prophet, Jeremiah, cries out ‘Lord, you are in our midst…do not desert us Lord, our God’ Jer 14.9. In the Book of Genesis C.28;17, God tells the Patriarch, Jacob in a dream. ‘be sure I am with you, I will keep you safe wherever you go’. When Jacob awakes from his beautiful experience of God, he has become so aware of God’s Presence that he cries out in sheer joy – ‘truly God is in this place and I did not know it’! This was centuries before John the Baptist’s same proclamation to the Priests and Levites! And Isaiah C.45 tells us – ‘Truly God of Israel, the Saviour, you are a God who lies hidden.’.

Surely, these sacred texts and so many others in both the Old and New Testaments are a strong reminder to us that our Lord does indeed dwell in our midst and in all those who touch our lives, near and far away. Today’s Liturgy invites us, indeed, prompts us strongly, to prayerfully ponder and strengthen our faith in this great mystery, and to frequently ask ourselves ‘how many times do we let golden opportunities pass us bye, of living as fully as possible in this Divine loving Presence in and around us, and in all peoples, however unrecognisable? This precious jewel highlights for us the sacredness of every single person – no wonder St. Paul cried out – ‘Rejoice in the Lord always …. the Lord is near’.
‘I am with you always, yes, even to the end of the world’.

***Ronald.Knox translation

Sunday, December 4, 2011

2nd Sunday of Advent

HOPE is the message I garnered from today's Mass Readings.
"Console my people, console them says the Lord." This is a challenging invitation from the Lord to us all who are trying to be faithful to him in these critical times. He is placing his trust in us to reach out in whatever way we can to His people who are being starved of him.

Advent is above all a season of HOPE:
Long the ages rolled and slowly to the coming of the Word
Fervent longings grew more fervent , undismayed by hopes deferred
Weaker spirits sighed and whispered, could the Lord of all forget?
While the prophets scanned the portents and in patience said: Not yet.

Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the Kingdom of Heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength but on the help of the grace of the Spirit. It responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has place in every human heart; it takes up the hopes that inspire our activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of Heaven. (Catechism)

So what is the Lord asking of each one of us?
Can we by our Eucharistic Adoration and intercession stir up the hearts of our people to turn back to the Lord. Jesus is present on our altar longing to gather us and those for whom we pray into the peace, joy and blessedness of his Divine Heart; longing to set us on fire with the infinite fire of his love so that you and I can be a channel of his intimate and gracious friendship to those who have grown cold towards him. By imitating him, the Good Shepherd "feeding his flock, gathering lambs in his arms, holding them against his breast and leading to their rest the mother ewes", we are instilling hope by our works of mercy. Through us the Lord is carrying out his promise, is being patient with all, wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to change his ways. (2Pet 3:9)

Pope Benedict tells us hope, in a Christian sense, is always hope for others as well as for myself. It is an active hope in the sense that we keep the world open to God. He recalls a book of prayers that the late Cardinal Van Thuan wrote while a prisoner for 13 years, in a situation of seemingly utter hopelessness. The fact that the Cardinal could listen and speak to God became for him an increasing power of hope and enabled him after his release to become for people all over the world a Witness to Hope, by his writings. (Spe Salvi)

Monday, November 28, 2011


They shall see the Lord face to face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. It will never be night again and they will not need lamplight or sunlight, because the Lord God will be shining on them. They will reign for ever and ever. (Rev 22:4-5)

Just over a week ago on the beautiful feast of Christ the King the Lord called our dear Sr Rosaleen to her eternal home, while the community were praying the Office of night prayer around her bedside. As the above scripture passage was being read her breathing began to fail and ever so gently she breathed her last as we sang the response:
“Into your hands I commend my spirit. You have redeemed us Lord God of truth.”

We continued with the canticle of Simeon:
At last, all powerful Master
You give leave to your servant
to go in peace, according to your promise.
For my eyes have seen your salvation
which you have prepared for all nations,
the light to enlighten the Gentiles
and give glory to Israel your people.

No doubt her passing made a deep impression on us and brought home to each of us the mysterious presence and closeness of the Lord in our lives. Sr Rosaleen at 97 had a long wait before seeing the Lord’s face. We pray that now she is basking in the sunlight of His Presence and interceding for all of us.

As we begin the season of Advent we too are waiting with longing for the coming of the Lord:

O that you would teat the heavens open and come down!(Is 63)

The emphasis in the readings for this first Sunday of Advent is on Jesus’ second coming at the end of time – as we come nearer to Christmas we remember his coming in the flesh over 2,000 years ago. But as we try to be faithful disciples of Jesus it is even more important for us to recognise his coming at every moment in every person we meet, in every circumstance in which we find ourselves. In the Gospel Jesus invites us to "stay awake" and "be on the watch".

Let us live this Advent in preparation for our celebration of Christmas in the sure knowledge that we are always in His Presence – held by His right hand as with the psalmist we pray:
God of Hosts bring us back
Let your face shine on us and we shall be saved (Ps 79)

Then we shall be ready, as our dear Sr Rosaleen was, to go forth to meet the Lord when He eventually calls us to our eternal home, to be with him and our loved ones for ever.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Dominican Calendar for 2012 Published

As we celebrate the 50th International Eucharistic Congress, 10th - 17th June 2012, the vocation promoters of the Domincan Family, Ireland, have prepared this calendar for 2012 on the theme of the Eucharist to promote a greater awareness the coming International Eucharistic Congress and of the Dominican charism. The calendar is available in our Monastery and from Dominican priories throughout Ireland.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Master of the Order speaks on Dominican Life and Vocation

The Master of the Order, Bro Bruno Cadore OP, spent a week in South Africa visiting all the Dominican brethren and nuns, and spoke on Radio Veritas to Bro Emil Blaser OP about his life, vocation and the Order. This interview with Bro Emil was broadcast on Sunday 14 August at 18h00 on Radio Veritas. (For more information click here). We include the Interview below.

Belated Congratulations

Our congratulations to our Dominican Brethren on the Ordination of three brothers to the priesthood in September - Fr. Maurice Colgan OP, Fr Brian Doyle OP, and Fr. Denis Murphy OP. Our apologies for the delay in posting - due mainly to time given to the preparation of our 2012 Dominican Calendar. Last week we had the great pleasure of welcoming one of the new priests, Fr Maurice Colgan OP, who came to celebrate the Eucharist for us and meet the community afterwards in the parlour. A very nice video of Fr Maurice's Ordination has been produced by Dominicans Interactive (see below).

Monday, September 19, 2011

25th Sunday of Ordinary Time

What, for me, is the parable of the Vineyard labourers saying?
Firstly, it is a parable about the Kingdom of Heaven. It is telling us the kind of God our God is - the God revealed by our Lord Jesus Christ. The Father in the person of his Son Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is a God who seeks us his fallen human creatures from dawn to dusk i.e. from the dawn of creation to the end of time. His one desire is to reunite the whole human race to Himself in Christ. It is through the Church in the Sacrament of Baptism that we enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

In the parable we see those called at daybread and right through the day to the 11th hour. At the close of the parable we see how the words of the 1st Reading at Mass are borne out - that God's ways are not our ways. We see the utter generosity and love of God in His payment of the workers - the last comers receiving one denarius like those called at daybreak and receiving it first! The first comers who had borne the heat of the day compared their lot with those who had come at the 11th hour and became very dissatisfied to the point of almost scorning the denarius on which they had agreed. Some of us might have a sneaking sympathy for them!

Where did they, and if so ourselves, go wrong? They were working out of strict duty, obligation and rights - love was lacking. They had not come to know, in the biblical sense, their Master, so did not love Him or His ways. Our brother, St Albert the Great, speaks of the denarius of Eternal Life, which is sheer gift. Listen to St Paul to the Ephesians (2:8) "It is by grace that you have been saved through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift of God; not by anything you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit".

St Paul's response to God's grace was total. As he tells us in the 2nd reading for this Mass, "life to me, of course, is Christ but then death would bring me something more" - eternal life with Christ. He was torn between "wanting to be gone and be with Christ" and staying behind to spread the Gospel "which is a more urgent need for your sake". We too are called to "long to be with Christ" but we have to realise the great opportunity our time on earth gives us to bring others to Christ and to Eternal Life by the grace of God. We must remember especially in prayer the labourers who were called at "daybreak", that is the Chosen People,the Jews, that the Lord will hasten the day when they will be grafted on again to the True Vine, Jesus Christ.

I will leave the final word to St Paul again, "glory be to Him whose power working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine; glory be to Him from generation to generation in the Church and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen."

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Feast of St Augustine - 28th August

“You have seduced me, Lord, and I have let myself be seduced;
you have overpowered me: you were the stronger.”
(Jer 20:7)

These words from the prophet Jeremiah which we heard this morning at Mass prompted me to reflect on St Augustine whose feast day is to-day but was not celebrated.

Both Jeremiah and Augustine wrote what are known as their ‘confessions’ – accounts which describe their inner struggles and suffering, their loneliness and yearning for God. Their anger, complaints and disappointments betray the heart of a lover. Here I will focus on Augustine.

In his Confessions Augustine gives us a very moving account of his search for God or perhaps more correctly God’s search for him! - which reaches a climax when he exclaims “too late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient and so new, too late have I loved you.” (10:27)

From his earliest years Augustine had a very sensitive heart, with a great capacity for love but yet was prevented from recognising and accepting God as his true and ultimate joy because as he explains - although “he loved the happy life” and sought after truth he “feared to find it in God’s abode and so fled from it even as he sought it.” (cf 6:11). As Francis Thompson puts it “he feared lest having Him he must have naught beside.” (The Hound of Heaven).

God is a jealous lover and He is not satisfied till we surrender our inmost heart to Him. He is also a patient lover who knows how to wait while at the same time being a persistent lover who does not give up on us! Augustine describes the many ways in which God was secretly at work trying to detach his heart from earthly attractions. He says “Little by little I was drawing closer to you although I did not know it”. During this time Augustine experienced God’s action as a “piercing of the very nerve within the wound of his soul, so that he might leave all things and be converted to God” (cf 6:6).

The turning point came when as he tells us “he entered into his inmost being with God as his helper.” (7:10). We have the key to Augustine’s spirituality when he says “I sought for a way of gaining strength sufficient for me to have joy in You but did not find it until I embraced the Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus.” (7:18). God’s search for humankind finds its ultimate expression in the humble self-emptying love of Jesus through whom we find our way back to the Father. Our love is but a response to God’s infinite love for us. Once we truly experience His love in the self-emptying of Jesus we are freed to let go of our attachments to sin and creatures and surrender ourselves in humility and obedience to Him who first loved us.

However although the “way of the Saviour had become pleasing” to Augustine he “was still bound by his love of women”. He wanted so much to surrender, yet he feared to let go. (cf 8: 11) until Continence says to him “Why do you stand on yourself and thus stand not at all? Cast yourself on Him. Have no fear. He will not draw back and let you fall. Cast yourself trustfully on him and He will receive you and He will heal you.” Thus he describes his conversion in terms of humility, letting go of his dependence on self and his attachments to creatures and surrendering himself totally to God’s mercy “bending his neck to the mild yoke and his shoulders to the light burden” of Jesus Christ (cf 9:1) and in that moment he exclaims “How sweet did it suddenly become ….things I once feared to lose it was now a joy to put away ….in their stead You entered in sweeter than any pleasure.”

We could imagine that all Augustine’s struggles ended here but in the next chapter he describes his continuing struggles with sin and selfishness - but his hope in the Saviour never wavers. In the face of his “many and great infirmities he will not despair because the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (10:43). He is content to be “but a little one but his Father lives forever and his Protector is sufficient for him.” (10:14). Here we have a picture of Augustine as humble and little in the hands of God his Father – secure in His love, detached from creatures and trusting utterly in the Father’s providence. Yet he is not aloof from his brothers and sisters, his fellow citizens and pilgrims; rather in God’s providence he wishes to be of service to them and share with them the love and mercy he has experienced in his own life (10:4).

Augustine could well identify with Jeremiah:
“You have seduced me, Lord, and I have let myself be seduced;
you have overpowered me: you were the stronger.”
(Jer 20:7)

May he intercede on our behalf that we may be truly converted to the Lord and server our sisters and brothers.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

21st Sunday - Cycle A

In today’s Gospel Mt 16:13 – 20, we hear one of the most important questions asked by Jesus: “Who do people say the Son of Man is? And we know the answer: “Some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets” but Jesus turns to Peter and asks him “But you, who do you say I am? We see the same direct, personal questions asked by Jesus on other occasions: “Do you also want to go away? Do you love Me more than these other do? You follow Me”. Peter’s response to Jesus is brief – only 10 words – “You are the Christ the Son of the Living God”. Peter acknowledges Jesus both as Christ / Messiah and Son of the living God – i.e. the God who is life, give and sustains life here and promises eternal life hereafter.
Then Jesus makes a triple response to Simon Peter - each response being itself a triple statement. The responses are respectively a beatitude, a conferring of a title and a granting of authority.
a) Blessed are you Simon, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you but my Father in heaven.
b) Then the title “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”
c) The authority – “I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven – whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Peter’s response comprised only 10 words and words are very easy to say but Peter had to live out that great profession of faith in Jesus. In the title Jesus gave him ‘you are Rock’ and “on you, the Rock I will build my Church.”

The Gospels are realistic in their memory of Peter. As well as being the one who confesses who Jesus is, he is also the one who denies Jesus 3 times. He is not only the one who expresses faith in Jesus – he also falters in his faith. He has to be helped by Jesus in all that he does but the Gospels clearly indicate that Peter is Jesus’ choice to lead the community in the future. He is the one who will return and strengthen his brothers. In giving authority to the man who denied him, Jesus wanted to show that He was establishing His Church not on human strength, but on His own love and faithfulness. The Church’s true foundation is Christ Himself. But Jesus saw Peter’s great qualities – his heart full of love, which in the end would lead him to die a martyr.

Jesus is asking you and me today the same question: “Who do you say I am?” What will our answer be?
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta used to say
To me Jesus is my GOD
Jesus is my SPOUSE – Jesus is my LIFE
Jesus is my only LOVE – Jesus is my ALL in ALL
Jesus is my EVERYTHING

We all have to bear witness to Christ and help others to recognise Him and come to Him. We need above all to live with Him and stay with Him and this is what we call Prayer. As Pope Benedict bade farewell to the youth in Madrid today he asked them (and we can take these words to ourselves)

to preach Christ, to be rooted and built on Him. Respond with joy to Him and His call; fix your eyes on Him - He is the Wisdom of God. You have met Christ here. Very often you will be swimming against the tide, but through your faith and your personal relationship with Christ and your love for Him you can witness to Him.

Let us Pray:
Lord our God
all truth is from You
and You alone bring oneness of heart.
give Your people the joy
of hearing Your word in every sound
and of longing for Your presence more than for life itself
May all the attractions of a changing world
serve only to bring us
the peace of yor kingdom which this world does not give.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Novena to St Dominic - Day 9

While reading the Libellus - on the beginnings of the Order - during the past week my attention was drawn to Bl Jordan’s description of our holy Father, Dominic, as someone who “accepted the Lord’s commands so warmly” and whose “will welcomed the voice of his Lover with such loyalty and pleasure”, that he was able “ penetrate the mysteries of difficult theological questions with the humble understanding of his heart.”

“Dominic welcomed the voice of his Lover”

We live in a world where it is becoming increasingly more difficult to discern the voice of our Lover – the voice of the one who has brought us into existence and who loved us so much that He died for us on the Cross. In the 13th century, as in our own 21st century, there were many false prophets proclaiming a message contrary to the Christian viewpoint and many people were confused and led astray. However, Dominic was able to discern and welcome the voice of his Lover – first of all at Osma where was “adept at keeping God’s word – his memory being a kind of ‘barn’ for God while his external behaviour and actions broadcast publicly the treasure that lay hidden in his holy breast.” Later he would hear the voice of the Lover in very different circumstances - as he argued with the innkeeper in Languedoc and as he travelled the roads of Europe.

The readings for this 19th Sunday (Cycle A) provide us with other examples of people who listened and discerned the voice of the Lover calling them to do a seemingly impossible task. Elijah, while fleeing for his life encounters his Lover in the gentle breeze – this must have taken a great leap of faith for him when we remember that traditionally God manifested Himself in the fire and thunder and lightening on Sinai during the Exodus. Yet Elijah was able to break with the past and recognise God revealing Himself now in the gentle breeze.

In the Gospel Peter is asked to step out of the boat and walk on the stormy sea in response to Jesus’ invitation: “Come”. While Peter keeps his eyes fixed on Jesus he succeeds but once he focuses on the storm he begins to sink.

As we celebrate this feast of our holy father Dominic we pray that we too may welcome the voice of our Lover with the same loyalty and pleasure as he did and so be enabled to penetrate the great mystery of our faith with the humble understanding of our heart. In the midst of the storm may we always hear His voice saying “It is I! Do not be afraid! Come!” Like Mary may we treasure the Word in our heart and respond with our ‘yes’ – “let it be done unto me according to your Word”

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Novena to St Dominic - Day 8

Continuing our reflection on St Dominic in preparation for his feast, here is an extract from "The Genius of St Dominic" by Marie Humbert Vicaire OP.

The Liberty of the 'Poor Man'
The Bull of Recommendation of the Order to the bishops of December 8, 1219, which already contained the essential terms of the Bull to the brethern of December 12, added a precision. It said that the Preachers 'reject the burden of worldly riches so as to be able to run more freely (expeditius) in the field of this world'. Some months later the text in the Bologna Constitutions that is expressly attributed to Dominic would use the same word. If those who are deputed to study and preaching are set free from every temporal charge, it is 'so that they can better fulfil their spiritual mission in a greater liberty (expeditius).' The image behind the word is that of the expeditus, the light infantryman, more rapid and more efficacious than the one weighed down by a heavy equipment. From then on the image became current.

Mendicany was a source first of all of mobility. Like the beggar, the Preacher was not tied down to any place or domain on which he depended for his living. He lived on his poverty just as much on his travels as when at home. It also meant a greater facility for getting occasions to preach. The first type of papal Bull of Recommendation that Dominic obtained for his Order already made it clear that 'they preach the Word of the Lord faithfully and gratis', 'presenting themselves in the title of poverty'. The same disinterestedness would facilitate their installation in the towns, for if a church were assigned to them they would take it without the tithes and revenues which would go to the diocese or to other patrons.

Mendicany also meant a greater interior liberty through the extinction of carnal appetites, attachments and vanities by which men are enchained. Here it is relevant to recall those adjectives: sobrius, parcus sibi, and the epithets: vilis, mediocris, humilis, which signified Dominic's poverty and the simplicity of his life-style which he inculated in his brethren, but without any kind of narrowness. Is there anything more free and liberal than his attitude during a hot spring evening at San Sisto when he passed around a goblet of wine amongst his brethren, and then amongst the sisters at the other side of the grill: 'Drink to your heart's content, my daughters'...

Such a liberty, so close to charity, could not but lead to joy which all the witnesses of his life were at one in observing in St Dominic. Here it would be necessary to write a long chapter on the radiant joy which was characteristic not only of Dominic but of the mendicant religious in general. Whilst the byzantine saint, whose model had come down and was still largely the fashion in the West in the eleventh and twelfth centuries was ascetic, lean and severe, and with the eyes of a visionary, the saint of the mendicants, whatever may have been his private austerity, presented men with a face that was open, sympathetic and radiant with joy. In Dominic this joy was born especially from the awareness of his weakness which turned him towards God; knowing that he was unarmed in the midst of dangers and threats, experiencing a real penury as regards food and comfort, suffering but independent, he abandoned himself more completely to providence and fled to her more willingly by means of prayer; the culmination of his joy was in being able to share in the redemptive poverty and suffering of Christ.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Novena to St Dominic - Day 7

Dominic, Man of Prayer, and Man of the Gospel: Preacher of Grace and Truth.

Blessed Raymond tells us in the Life of Catherine “St.Catherine saw the Co-Eternal Son proceeding from the mouth of The Eternal Father and while she was contemplating Him, she saw the Blessed Patriarch, St. Dominic come forth from the breast of the Father all resplendent with brightness. My Son by nature, who is the Eternal Word proceeding from my mouth, preached publicly to the world, whatever I charged him to say. My adopted son Dominic also preached to the world the truth of my Words”. He is still preaching in his successors today 800 years later.

The radiance from Dominic’s demeanor and life wholly rooted in Christ captured those who met him, even the most bigoted of Albigensian heretics. His mission was to bring the light of God to the whole world by word and example. His first band of followers saw in Dominic a man specially chosen by God. Blessed Jordan of Saxony spoke of Dominic as a person of exceptional integrity of character, with extraordinary energy of divine zeal. Contemplative at heart, Dominic spoke of God or about God and told his companions to do the same in humility and poverty. He befriended so many along the high ways and bye ways, in the inns and taverns; he just overflowed with inspiring words of God or about God. Blessed Jordan spoke of Dominic’s great charity, mercy and compassion, for the poor, the lowly and marginalized. Everybody was enfolded in the wide embrace of charity.

The Eternal Father revealed to Catherine of Siena “Your Father was a light that I gave to the world by means of Mary, and he does not wish his sons to apply themselves to anything but remaining at the table of the cross to seek with the light of Science the Glory and praise of my Name alone, and the salvation of souls”. To contemplate and share the fruits of contemplation is at the heart of the vocation of every Dominican.

At the Friar’s General Chapter in Rome 1983, Pope John Paul II said “You Dominicans have the mission of proclaiming that our God is alive, that he is the God of life and that in Him exists the root of dignity and the hope of all who are called to life.”

In 2006, the former Master General, Bro.Carlos Aspiroz o.p. Marked the 8th. Centenary of the founding of the first Monastery of Nuns at Prouille, the cradle of the Order, which all the Contemplatives of the cloistered life marked with celebrations in their own locations, inviting our Dominican Friars, Dominican Sisters and Dominican laity, family and friends to share in the liturgies etc. “Let us walk faithful to the love we had at first” words of Bro. Carlos Aspioz o.p. to all The Dominican Family,by way of renewal during the novena of years till 2016 the 8th.centenary of the institution of the Order of Friars Preachers, receiving it’s confirmation from Pope Honorius III in 1216. Bro. Bruno Cadore, elected as new Master General of the Order September 2010, said “My first dream is that each of our communities be a sign of faith, joy, and freedom for the people, and of the truth of The Word of God, of a God who comes to us and who wants to dialogue with us.”

Pope Benedict XVI invited Dominican delegates among others to the world Synod of Bishops on The Word of God In The Life and Mission of The Church. This gave fresh renewal and zeal to the followers of St. Dominic to be men of the Gospel in word and deed in the mission of the church. Pope Benedict at the closing of that Synod in 2008 said, “Let us walk Together guided by the Word of God”. We the nuns seek, ponder and call upon our Lord Jesus in our vocation as contemplatives in our life of prayer, Lectio Divina and Liturgical prayer so that the word proceeding from the mouth of God may not return to him empty, but may accomplish those things for which it was sent, thus supporting the Friar Preachers in their mission of preaching the Word of God in the life and mission of the church. The spirit of Dominic lives on.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Novena to St Dominic - Day 6

On this 6th day of our Novena in preparation for St. Dominic’s Feast day, a few thoughts on his spirit of ZEAL in dedicating himself totally to the salvation of souls through the spreading of the Good News of God’s Word are surely vital.

Our Lord’s own words in John Ch.2 “Zeal for your house devours me” can also apply so aptly to our father, Dominic.
In his Divine Comedy, Dante describes St. Dominic as a ‘friend fast-knit to Christ’ - how very true, for Dominic was indeed one with Christ in his intense life of prayer, in his thirst for the salvation of souls and in his love for the poor, the sick, the troubled.
We read in the Book of Numbers Ch.25, “the Lord said to Moses: ‘Phinehas, the priest, has turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, my people, because he was the only one among them to have the same zeal as I have…’”. How appropriately these words too, can also be applied to St. Dominic.

It was his zeal that led St. Dominic to spend his nights and much of his day in prayer, pleading for the salvation of souls even to the point of offering himself to be cut in pieces to be placed at the gates of hell. How he longed and longed to bring Christ’s Compassion to the suffering people of his time, and the light of God’s truth to those led astray by heresy.

And so it was that in his zeal, he founded his Order specifically for the salvation of souls. It is no wonder that he is addressed in one of the hymns as ‘a burning ardent lover’.

Each member of the Dominican Family is called to imitate this same zeal for the salvation of souls – those of us in the cloistered life, are called ‘to devote ourselves without hindrance to praying and pleading with God for the salvation of all peoples’ - called to be devoured by the same zeal as Dominic, and by frequent contact with the furnace of love as he was, we too are set on fire with ardour for the spreading of God’s Kingdom on earth and the salvation of souls.

Novena to St Dominic - Day 5

One of the things that strikes me about Dominic is his openness to God’s will and his willingness to take the step he sees in faith without a clear vision of where it will finally lead. As Augusta Drane says in her account of his life:

“His call was not sudden, or miraculous, or even extraordinary; it was that which is the likeliest to come to people like ourselves; particular impressions of mind were given just at the time when circumstances combined together gradually to develop the way in which those impressions could be carried out. He was always being led forward, not knowing there whither he went. As sub-prior of Osma he probably saw nothing before him but the ordinary community life of the cathedral chapter. Then came the journey to Denmark, on a mission whose ostensible object was a failure, but whose real end in the design of God was accomplished when it brought him into the presence of the heresy which it was his destiny to destroy. Yet though we have reason to believe that from the time of his first collision with the Albigenses a very clear and distinct idea was formed in his mind of some future apostolate of preaching, it is evident that he had no equally clear and determinate view in what direction he was to work; … He was on the road back to his old home, preparing to take up again the old duties and the old life which had been interrupted by two years, rich with new thoughts and hopes now, it seemed, to be forever abandoned; and then when he had made what was probably a painful sacrifice of great desires, those mysterious orderings of Providence, which we call chance and coincidence, had prepared for him, under the walls of Montpellier, a combination of events which was to make all clear.” And mark the beginning of his preaching mission.

This, I think, is reflected in our Lord’s teaching "Well done, good and trustworthy servant; you have shown you are trustworthy in small things; I will trust you with greater; (Mt 25:21) As we proceed step by step doing (and seeking) God’s will, we are drawn more fully into His plan. While this is particularly important in discerning a Vocation it is necessary at all times and for everyone. In this dark time in Ireland we do well to remember that the first 10 years of Dominic’s preaching mission were marked by little or no progress or success. He committed himself to living what he recognised as God’s will and waited further guidance. It is that faithfulness to God’s will that counts and bears fruit in ways we might never even see: “one sows, another reaps” (Jn 4:37)

Novena to St Dominic - Day 4

From "On the Beginnings of the Order of Preachers" by Jordan of Saxony OP:

Far more impressive and splendid than all his miracles, though, wre the exceptional intergity of his character and the extraordinary energy of divine zeal which carried him along; these proved beyond all doubt that he was a vessel of honour and grace, adorned with every kind of "precious stone". Hi mind was always steady and calm, except when he was stirred by a feeling of compassion and mercy; and, since a happy heart makes for a cheerful face, the tranquil composure of the inner man was revealed outwardly by the kindliness and cheerfulness of his expression. He never allowed himself to become angry. In every reasonable purpose his mind conceived, in accordance with God's will, he maintained such constancy that he hardly ever, if ever, consented to change any plan which he had formulated with due deliberation. And though, as has been said, he face was always radiant with a cheerfulness which revealed the good conscience he bore within him, "the light of his face never fell to the ground". By his cheerfulness he easily won the love of everybody. Without difficulty he found his way into people's hearts as soon as they saw him.

Wherever he went, whether he was on the road with his companions or in some house, with his host and the rest of the household, or among important people and rulers and prelates, he always overflowed with inspiring words. He had an abundant supply of edifying stories, with which he directed people's minds to the love of Christ and contempt for the world. Everywhere, in word and in deed, he showed himself to be a man of the gospel. ...

It was his very frequent habit to spend the whole night in church, so that he hardly ever seemed to have any fixed bed of his own to sleep in. He used to pray and keep vigil at night to the very limit of what he could force his body to endure. When at last weariness overtook him and his spirit succumbed, so that he had to sleep for a while, he rested briefly before the altar or absolutely anywhere, sometimes even leaning his head against a stone, like the patriarch Jacob. But then he would soon be awake again, rallying his spirit to resume his fervent prayer.

Everybody was enfolded in the wide embrace of his charity, and since he loved everyone, everyone loved him. He made it his business to rejoice with those who were rejoicing and to weep with those who wept. He was full of affection and gave himself utterly to caring for his neighbours and to showing sympathy for the unfortunate.

Another thing which made him so attractive to everybody was his straightforwardness; there was never a hint of guile or duplicity in anything he said of did.

Novena to St Dominic - Day 3

Dominic and Prayer
The Nine Ways of Prayer of St Dominic was written by an anonymous author, probably at Bologna, sometime between 1260 and 1288. The source of his information was Sr Cecilia of the Monastery of St Agnes at Bologna (who had been received to the habit by St Dominic) and others who had been in contact with the Holy Founder. This venerable document testifies to the eminent holiness of the Saint, showing something of his intimate life and intense love of God.

The Fourth Way of Prayer
St Dominic would remain before the altar or in the chapter room with his gaze fixed on the Crucified One, looking upon Him with perfect attention. He genuflected frequently, again and again. He would continue sometimes from after Compline until midnight, now rising, now kneeling again, like the Apostle St James, or the leper of the gospel who said on bended knee: "Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean" (Mt 8:2). He was like St Stephen who knelt and called out with a loud cry: "Lord, do not lay this sin against them" (Acts 7:60).

Thus there was formed in our holy father, St Dominic, a great confidence in God's mercy towards himself, all sinners, and for the perseverance of the younger brethren whom he sent forth to preach to souls. Sometimes he could not restrain his voice, and the friars would hear him murmuring: "Unto thee will I cry, O Lord: O my God, be not thou silent to me: lest if thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit" (Ps27:1)and comparable phrases from the Sacred Scripture.

At other times, however, he spoke within himself and his voice could not be heard. He would remain in genuflection for a long while, rapt in spirit; on occasion, while in this position, it appeared from his face that his mind had penetrated heaven and soon he reflected an intense joy as he wiped away the flowing tears. He was in a stage of longing and anticipation like a thirsty man who has reached a spring, and like a traveler who is at last approaching his homeland.Then he would become more absorbed and ardent as he moved in an agile manner but with great grace, now rising, now genuflecting. He was so accustomed to bend his knees to God in this way that when he traveled, in the inns after a weary journey, or along the wayside while his companions rested or slept, he would return to these genuflections, his own intimate and personal form of worship. This way of prayer he taught his brethren more by example than by words.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Novena to St. Dominic - Day 2

Reflecting on the life, character and example of St. Dominic during this Novena and simultaneously aware of the Mass Readings this morning focusing so strongly on the Eucharist, I was struck again, as I have been before, on how deeply St. Dominic seemed to have understood the extraordinary mystery of the Eucharist. We know this from several witnesses who gave testimonies at the process of canonization-for example:

Brother Bonvisus said: “Sometimes I served his Mass. I would then watch his expression, and I used to see so many tears running down his face that the drops ran in a stream.”

Brother Stephen testified “ that very frequently he saw him celebrate Mass, and noticed that his eyes and cheeks were wet with tears during the Canon. It was quite easy for those present to perceive this devotion from his great fervour during Mass and the way that he said the Pater Noster . He never remembers having seen him say Mass with dry eyes.”

Brother Paul of Venice said that “ if Dominic could find a suitable church, he wanted to celebrate a High Mass every day.”

We know that in the 12th & 13th Centuries it was both unusual and exceptional for priests to celebrate Mass daily and yet we know that Dominic did. The historian, William Hinnebusch, says of Dominic in reference to his love of the Eucharist:

“ Endowed with a charm and compassion that drew both men and women
into the orbit of his love, his dominant trait was a priestliness that was
marked by a profound love of Christ and the Eucharistic Mystery.”

It seems to me that St. Dominic was graced with an understanding of the deepest reality of this Mystery, having put into practice the words of the first reading from Isaiah this morning calling us ‘ to come to the Lord, to listen to Him, and so receive life for our souls ‘ – spiritual nourishment- which is given above all in the Eucharist and prefigured in the Gospel today when Jesus feeds the multitudes after taking, blessing, breaking and giving the loaves and fish- the exact verbs- to take, to bless, to break and to give - used at the consecration during Mass when Jesus gives his own body and blood for our salvation and for our continuous spiritual nourishment on our earthly journey.

Later in the 13th Century St. Thomas elaborates on this spiritual nourishment given in the Eucharist, articulating what St. Dominic truly realised and what we also are in need of being reminded of, so that we can enter more deeply into this extraordinary Mystery and not take it for granted. St. Thomas says :

“ This sacrament, the Eucharist, does for the life of the spirit all that material food does for the life of the body, by sustaining, building up, restoring and contenting.”

“ What material food produces in our bodily life, Holy Communion wonderfully achieves in our spiritual life, by preserving, increasing and renewing the life of grace in us, received at Baptism. The growth in Christian life needs the nourishment of Eucharistic Communion, the bread for our pilgrimage until the moment of death, when it will be given to us as viaticum.”
( CCC 1392)

In his encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Blessed John Paul II said that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian Life and from it the Church draws her very life- because, he says:

“ The most holy Eucharist contains the Church’s entire spiritual wealth: Christ himself, our living bread. Through his own flesh, now made living and life-giving by the Holy Spirit, he offers life to us.” ( No 1)

Through the intercession of St. Dominic may we all be granted a greater appreciation, reverence and love for Christ in the Eucharist, becoming more and more receptive to this inflow of divine love and life, so that in the words of the Father to Catherine in the Dialogue “we may not slacken our pace because of weakness, nor forget the blessing of the blood poured forth for us with such burning love, but may be constantly strengthened and filled with pleasure as we walk.” ( Dialogue 78)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Novena to St Dominic, Day One

In reflecting on St Dominic, as we approach his Feast Day on the 8th August, I was impressed by something Simon Tugwell, O.P. wrote in his introduction to Bl Jordan of Saxony's "Libellus". He wrote,

In the 'Libellus', Jordan shows us how the Order of Preachers arose, not simply as the brainchild of one man, Dominic, but as a providential response to the needs of the time ... If it was, in fact, Dominic who actually brought the Order to birth, he did not create it out of nothing. The church was ready and waiting for it, and there were people waiting to join it even before it existed. ...
"The relationship between Dominic and his Order cannot be understood simply in terms of some uniquely inventive capacity in Dominic himself. Essentially he is the father of the Order because he gave it its job to do, and because he supports it with his prayers. ...
The true 'Life of Dominic' was not to be found in the past, it was to be found in the present, in the continuing preaching of his followers. As St Catherine saw so clearly, Dominic lives on in the work of his Order. ..."

"... a providential response to the needs of the time ..."

"... the church was ready and waiting ..."

"... the life of Dominic [is] to be found in the present ..."

I wondered what job Dominic would give us to do today, when our church has such great needs now, and is ready and waiting ... for us?

Nothing new.
"Everybody was enfolded in the wide embrace of his charity, and since he loved everyone, everyone loved him." At a time, now, during these days, when it is so much more easy to criticise and condemn and cut ourselves off from people who committed unspeakable, unforgiveable acts and destroyed the lives of the innocent - Dominic prays for us, pleads before the Father for us who seek to continue to do the job he gave his Order to do: that we be love now.

Love to those who suffer
and love to those who cause so much suffering.

That we come to God at the foot of the Cross, look up, and see that healing comes only through love and mercy ... divine love ... supernatural mercy.
Remember that we have committed ourselves to Jesus, our brother and our God.
Trust, when we pray as Dominic prayed - 'Lord, what will become of sinners?', that the Lord has already won for them the answer.

We are all a part of one another and so we need to be love; love every part of ourselves. The church is waiting for us and there are people waiting for us to be what Dominic was, in imitation of the Lord whom he so passionately loved - that they may find their way home.

Novena in preparation for the Feast of St Dominic

Today the 30th of July we begin the Novena of prayer in preparation for the feast of St Dominic which we will celebrate on the 8th of August.
In our community each evening before Vespers there is a short reflection Prepared by one of the sisters which is followed by the singing of what we Dominicans call the 'O Spem'- a kind of national anthem for the Order. Here is an English translation:
O wonderful Hope which you gave to those who wept for you at the hour of your death, promising that after your decease you would be helpful to your brethren.

Fulfil Father what you have said and help us by your prayers.

You shone on the bodies of the sick by so many miracles, bring us the help of Christ to heal our sick souls.

Fulfil Father what you have said and help us by your prayers.

V.Blessed Father Dominic pray for us
R That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Throughout the week we will publish the various reflections here:

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Learning the Art of Flower arrangement

On Monday and Tuesday of this week our kind friend Mrs Eileen Davey from Belfast gave us some wonderful classes in the art of flower arranging at which most of our community participated - the photos which follow are self-explanatory!

In the Lord's providence some of our kind friends and benefactors provided us with some beautiful gifts of flowers just in time for these classes - we are most grateful for their constant support and generosity.

A big 'thank-you' to Eileen for the joy of these days! and we have also learned a lot!

Friday, July 22, 2011

St Mary Magdalene - 22nd July

Today is the feast-day of St Mary Magdalene, Apostle to the Apostles, and Patroness of the Order of Preachers. We're lucky to have her! As I think about her now, you know, she's quite an inspiration, a good teacher.

In the Gospel according to John, we read:

"Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not know the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb, ..."

(John 20:8-11)

Just these few verses got me thinking - about how the disciples left and she stayed. They went home, but she had no home to go to.
JESUS was her home - that's why.
The disciples had left everything to follow JESUS, but I suppose here you could say that as yet JESUS didn't wholly possess them - they had left everything, but as yet they hadn't given Him their very selves, they didn't realise that they couldn't do without Him. So they went home ... sad? yes; ...lost? yes, probably; ...confused? surely; ...disappointed? I think definitely so. They didn't have JESUS any longer, He was gone. Where were they to go? What to do now? They had homes, they could pick up their lives again, the lives - the everything - they had left and try to keep going ... that would fill the void that JESUS had left in them.

But when JESUS reached out to Mary that first time, and saved her - she had been about as far away from Him as it is possible to be - had given up even on herself. It was a miracle, a wondrous miracle that He would even look at her, not to mind want her. But she saw that He did, and when she saw Him, she saw that He was everything and that now, knowing Him, her life would be nothing ... she would be nothing ... without Him, apart from Him.

He was her home.

He is our home.

He is my home. The ground beneath my feet.

Thank God for St Mary Magdalene, may she pray for us that we may find our way home.