Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Christmas to all our readers

We wish all our readers of this blog the peace and joy of Christmas

Christmas reflection

“God sent His Son born of a woman to enable us to be adopted as sons” – can we ever grasp the depth of this mystery which we celebrate tonight? Eternity will not be long enough to plumb its depths.

I would like to reflect a little on Mary’s role in this mystery of the Incarnation of the Eternal Word of God.  “She is the one who opened her heart to faith and her bosom to her Maker” as we read in St Bernard during the week.  She put her young life at the disposal of her Creator – and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  But Mary’s role did not end there – she continued to ponder the Word in her heart and accompanied her Son to the foot of the Cross where she received another mission from His dying lips: “Mother, behold your son!” Yes Mary is to continue to bring forth Christ in all those entrusted to her until the end of time.

St Paul wrote to the Galatians: “My children, I am going through the pain of giving birth to you all over again, until Christ is formed in you – how I wish I could be there with you at this moment and find the right way of talking to you.” (Gal 4:19).  How these words can be applied to Mary – our gentle mother who longs to see Christ coming to birth in each of her children.  But like her Son she will not force herself on us – she waits patiently for our free response.  She knows from her own experience how powerful a free response to God’s invitation is. 

We may ask ourselves what this invitation may be?  At the foot of the Cross Mary heard those other words: “I thirst.”  Jesus thirsts for our love; He thirsts to be born again in each of our hearts and lives this Christmas. He thirsts that we can hear His word of love in the silence of our hearts; that we recognise Him in whatever guise He presents Himself at each moment of the day.  He thirsts that we believe in His love for each of us just as we are, even when we feel unworthy.  A few years before her death Mother Teresa of Calcutta wrote to her sisters and perhaps her words can speak to us again tonight: “Because Mary was there on Calvary she knows how real, how deep is Jesus’ longing for each of us.  Ask her to teach you …  her role is to bring us face to face with the love in the Heart of Jesus Crucified.  Hear her pleading: ‘Listen to Jesus’ thirst’ - let it be for each of us a Word of Life.” In our second reading tonight St Paul tells us that Christ “sacrificed himself for us in order to set us free and purify a people who would be his very own and have no ambition except to do good.” (Titus 2:14).  Yes Jesus thirsts for us to be his very own, He thirsts for our love, He thirsts that we believe in His personal love for each of us.

As the Word was formed in Mary’s womb through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are now invited to rest in her womb and by the power of the Holy Spirit be transformed there ever more perfectly into the image of Christ.  By remaining close to Mary we allow her to accomplish her mission in us by allowing her to form us into other Christs, into great saints, as sons in the Son, beloved of the Father.



O Emmanuel – God is with us - 23rd December 2013


An extract from the writings of Benedict XVI.

‘At the heart of this mystery is the paradox that the glorious God decided to manifest Himself in the helplessness of a child who is overlooked by adult society and comes to the world in a stable.

The powerlessness of a child has become the proper expression of God’s all subduing power, for the only force He employs is the silent force of truth and love.  It was in the defenceless weakness of a child that God wanted us to have our first encounter with saving mercy.  How comforting it is to see the peaceful tranquillity of God and thus to experience the security emanating from a power that in the end will be stronger than any other force and will outlast the loud triumphal cries of the world’.

Our mother, Mary, in her generous and humble response to God’s invitation to participate in this  mystery of the Incarnation teaches us ‘that only with Christ has authentic joy made its appearance and the only thing of ultimate importance in our lives is to learn to see and know Christ, the God of grace, the light and joy of the world’.

In Him do our hearts find joy

We trust in His Holy Name – God is with us.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

O Rex Gentium - 22nd December 2013

O King whom all the people desire,
You are the cornerstone
which makes all one:
O come,
and save us whom you made from clay.
How do you approach a King?
In our way of thinking, kings inspire awe and wonder, surrounded as they are by wealth; lacking nothing; held to be gracious when they condescend to smile at us or speak to us; so far out of reach and outside our reality as to be unapproachable, untouchable, altogether alien from the little moments that fill our days and shape our lives.  Kings have need of nothing because they have more than one ... or two … or three of everything: cars, planes, palaces, lands. …
Today, as we draw nearer to that day of Incarnation, without which there could never have been a Resurrection – we are reminded that Jesus is our King, our Desire, our Cornerstone, our Unity – making out of such an array of diversity, one-ness; and we call on Him who formed us from the dust of the earth, to save us.
How do you approach a King?
Who can tell me how to draw near to my King: He whom I desire?
Who can reassure me that my littleness and worthlessness: all my sins and failings – all those moments that cast shadow rather than radiate light – who will convince me that these are not obstacles which make my desire unattainable?
He will.
In the people He sets before us – Zechariah, Elizabeth, John the Baptist, Joseph and Mary – He shows me that poverty and littleness are in fact helps, because if I know I have and am nothing, I can see more clearly.  He is my cornerstone, the foundation of my life – He is a king, yet what a King!  Without wealth or possessions, and welcomed into the world with only pure love, I learn that I need not approach Him ... He it is who does the approaching … not I.
Zechariah, Elizabeth, John the Baptist, Joseph, Mary … they did not worry about how to approach their King:  He came to them and they had only to overcome their fear, doubt and even unbelief … and make Him welcome … and so they did.
May the Lord our King grant us just such a grace
        to recognise that our desire is for One whose desire is for us;
may we be unafraid, full of faith and trust
that we may accept Him, love Him, let Him in –
and thus shall we be made whole, one and saved.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

O Rising Sun - 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 today's antiphon we greet Christ as the "Rising Sun" and "sun of justice"; the one who comes to guide and enlighten us. This links in with Malachi's prophecy "for you who fear my name the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings" (Mal 4:2). This message that Christ is the one who enlightens and heals us is particularly important in the darkness of the world today - a world of seemingly unending violence and war, a world where many people can see no way out of financial problems, sickness or addictions.
In response to this Jesus himself gives us a message of hope: "I have come as light into the world that whoever believes in me will not remain in darkness" (Jn 12:46). It is not that Jesus promises to get rid of all the difficulties and hardships, but he is with us to give us the light and strength we need to walk through them and not stumble or have our way blocked in darkness.

Friday, December 20, 2013

O Key of David - 20th December


O Key of David and sceptre of Israel, what you open no one else 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.

Today we address our awaited Messiah as ‘Key of David’ and our antiphon paints a graphic picture of Him as a leader who unlocks prisons and leads the captives to freedom.  Our first thoughts may turn to all those who are in prisons throughout our world; those who are slaves to addictions and violence; to those areas where there is war and unjust governments – the list is endless.

While keeping all these in mind I was drawn to reflect on the meaning of true freedom and what it means for each of us in our daily lives.  Freedom is a theme which is dear to human beings from the beginning and which we find woven into the pages of both Old and New Testaments. Israel was formed as a people when Moses led a group of nomadic slaves through the desert towards the promised land of freedom – a symbol of our Baptism where Jesus our true leader leads us from the darkness of sin to the liberty of the children of God as St Paul reminds us: “He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his Beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Col 1:13–14).   

Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all in search of liberation, always in search of inner balance and unity.  Unfortunately we seek it in the wrong places and our modern world would have us believe that it means being able to do what we want irrespective of the consequences for others.  We forget that Jesus has already freed us from sin and has set us on the road to true freedom.  As He tells us:

"If you make my word your home
you will indeed by my disciples;
you will come to know the truth
and the truth will set you free.” (Jn 8:31)

Mary is the one par excellence who made His word her home and in this morning’s Gospel we see her freely placing her young life in the hands of her God to do with as He pleased not knowing that it would lead her to the foot of the Cross and beyond. What an example of faith and courage!  Jesus leads us too on a journey of faith which begins with our Baptism and continues until He calls us to Himself.  It is a journey leading us from the prison of our own selfishness to the freedom of loving as He loves – to the point of laying aside all personal preferences so as to bring life to others that they too may experience the freedom of love.  Faith awakens our freedom from within – because God does not force our wills – rather He stands at the door of our hearts and knocks, waiting for our response.  He is always inviting us beyond our present horizons of selfishness and promising us a “land flowing with milk and honey” which is nothing less than Himself for He can only give Himself. We only become free when we do good because we love the good.

Jesus brings us to freedom through the forgiveness of sins in the sacrament of reconciliation – he unbinds us and lets us go free as when he raised Lazarus from the dead.  Yet He freely allowed himself to be bound in swaddling clothes in the manger and wrapped in the shroud in the tomb.  He is not God from afar but chose to be one of us so much so that our wounds are forever engraved on His hands and he invites us to ‘go and do likewise’ (cf Lk 10:37).

The road to true freedom is long and hard and is never complete till we meet our Saviour face to face but our faith assures us that Jesus walks with us and is Himself the key which unlocks the hidden wisdom of our God who is always at work in the great and small events of our lives leading us from the slavery of sin and selfishness to the true liberty of the sons of God. 
O Key of David and sceptre of Israel, what you open no one else 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.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

19th December - O Root of Jesse

O Radix Jesse, O Root of Jesse.

‘There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse’.

On the 17th we heard  'O Wisdom ,you came forth from the mouth of the Most High’. That we can all readily believe, that is right and fitting. But that this Word of God should take flesh in Mary, should actually be of our stock, be of the stock of Jesse that is what the Church calls on us to reflect about today. Yes, Eternal Wisdom proceeds from the mouth of the Most High, but he proceeds also from the bodies of several generations of human beings. He becomes like us in every way except He is without sin. And lest we be tempted to forget that, even on Christmas Night His ancestry is recalled. Many find the solemn singing of the Genealogy tedious and boring but it contains a message of great hope for us, great reassurance, great comfort. Jesus is not afraid or ashamed of his past. No one need be omitted from it ,even those men and women whose lives were somewhat unsavoury if not down right evil, they all went into the forming of his flesh and because of that it is possible for them to partake in His Divinity. In His body He was put to death and through that body He opens up the way to life for us. If He was prepared to come into a world like that , then we can be confident that He is prepared to come to our world, our hearts, with all their accumulated weight of sin. We can be confident that He will come to us as we are, with all our history. Everything that has gone into making us who we are at this moment, everything that contributes to our realization that we are in need of a Saviour is a cause of rejoicing and we can unashamedly recount it because it highlights the graciousness of God in coming to deliver his people.

We worry and fret about our world which seems to be fast moving towards its own destruction but perhaps we need to be people of hope, people who look with different eyes, people who dwell with God’s Word and look at things with God’s eyes. Perhaps more than ever before our world is actually ready for the Saviour, precisely because it is in most need of Him. There is an extraordinary restlessness in our world, nothing satisfies. The more people have the more they realise that this is not what they are looking for. Their hearts ache for they know not what. But we know, we know that their restless longings are genuine, their sense of in completeness is real and that it is only God who will make them whole. So instead of being despondent as we look around us, let us get excited about the opportunity that is ours.. Wherever any individual is at, at this moment, that is the manger in which Jesus wishes to be born, that is the manger in which it is possible for Jesus to be born.

If our lives are hidden with Christ in God ,if we are rooted in Him, then we will produce new growth, we will blossom and others will be attracted by our beauty. It is in and through us that Jesus now enters our world. It is our acceptance of our world as it is, our ability to see that it is not beyond Redemption, that will make redemption possible. Let us enter into the heart of Jesus that through us Jesus may enter into the heart of our world.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

O Adonai - 18th December 2013

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. 

“The mystery of the Incarnation and the sheer wonder of the Christian proclamation of truth is that Christ shares His experience with each one of us. And he actively invites each one of us to enter into His own experience of the Father..  He invites us not just to make some sort of intellectual assent. he invites us to share, to share with his experience in all its fullness, to share and to be carried away by the infinite thrust of his energy, as He knows the Father and loves the Father, and as He, in his turn, is known and loved infinitely.

And this is what we are all called to” – (The Way of Unknowing by  John Main)  

We are invited  to enter the eternal moment of God’s self-communication in Jesus.

“O Adonai” is the Hebrew word for “Lord”.  God has a personal name in the Bible, but it was considered too holy for normal use, so when the Reader at public worship in the Synagogue found the holy name in the text, he read the word ‘Adonai’ or ‘Lord’ instead.

God’s appearance to Moses in the burning bush is associated with the sacred name indicated by  “Adonai” and God’s self description as “I AM WHO I AM”.  The names “Lord” and “I am” indicate that God is both known to us and is  beyond our knowledge.  He gives us his name,  yet this name directs our attention to God as he is in himself, rather than any ideas we may have of him.

The burning bush is an appropriate symbol of the God who goes before us to lead us, but is beyond our grasp and not in our power.  When he heard God speak from the bush, “Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God” (Ex.36).  The last antiphon “O Emmanuel”, speaks of God who is intimate and close to us, but the full glory of this fact is missed if we forget the immense distance between sinful man and God most holy, which only God himself can bridge.

In making man in his image and likeness, God “crowned him with glory and honour”, but by sinning, man fell short of the glory of God.  From that time on, God was to manifest his holiness by revealing and giving his name, in order to restore man to the image of his Creator. (CCC 2809)

From the Covenant of Sinai onwards, this people is “his own”  and  a “holy”  consecrated nation, because the name of God dwells in it.

The law which was given on Sinai is not on its own, but is part of the revelation of God’s love, his Will for us his children, as forgiven sinners in communion with him.  Before God gave his people the ten commandments, he freed them from their chains.  God’s Grace comes before our obedience and makes obedience a matter for joyful gratitude.

Finally, in Jesus the name of God is revealed and given to us, in the flesh, as Saviour, revealed by what he is, by his word and by his sacrifice.  This is the heart of his priestly prayer: “Holy Father, for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth”. (Jn.17:11,19)  Because he sanctifies his own name, Jesus reveals to us the name of the Father ‘I have made your name known to them and will continue to make it known’ (1 Jn.17.6)    At the end of Christ’s Passover, the Father gives him the name that is above all names: Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”. (Phil. 2.9-11)  (CCC 2812).

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

O Antiphons - Advent 2013

From the 17th to the 23rd December each evening at Vespers we sing the great 'O Antiphons' before and after the Magnificat.  We would like to share with readers of this blog the various reflections on these antiphons prepared by sisters:

17th December            O Sapientia   -  O Wisdom

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti,
attingens a fine usque ad finem fortiter,
suaviterque disponens Omnia:
veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

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 prudence.

The liturgical texts from today invite me to thank God for His wonderful deeds, for the creation of the world and for the whole history of redemption, which is penetrated with His Wisdom.

St Matthew in the Gospel shows us a long and complicated genealogy with many people, men and women.  Each name hides a life story.  At the conclusion of it is the birth of Jesus.

I sometimes ask, like St John the Baptist, when I am surrounded be shadow and darkness; unanswered questions; by situations without solutions:

Does God know about me?

Are you the Messiah?

Are you the One who is to come or are we to expect someone else?  (Mt 11:3)

I cannot see the miracles that are happening.  But Jesus tells me: ‘The blind see again and the lame walk …’ It is the time of salvation.

The Church teaches:  God guides the world and my life in a mysterious way.  He guides everything along paths that only He knows, leading it to its perfection.  At no point in time does something that He has created fall out of His hands.

God influences both the great events of history and also the little events of our personal life, without reducing our freedom and making us mere marionettes in His eternal plans.  ‘In God we live and move and have our being’ (Acts 17:28).  God is in everything we meet, in all the changes in our life, even in the painful events and the seemingly meaningless coincidences.  God wants to write straight even with the crooked lines of our life.  What He takes away from us and what He gives us; the ways in which He strengthens us and the ways in which He tests us – all these are arrangements and signs of His will.

St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (1891 – 1942) Edith Stein said:

            “What did not lie in my plan lay in God’s plan.  And the more often something like this
            happens to me, the livelier becomes the conviction of my faith that – from God’s
            perspective – nothing is accidental.”

I entrust all of us, and myself, into the hands of Divine Providence and pray for prudence to recognise what is right in every moment of daily life so that Jesus may be born!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Third Sunday of Advent - Gaudate Sunday – 2013

The day when we celebrate the birth of Jesus over two thousand years ago, is drawing very close. The Church’s Advent Liturgy is unbelievably rich in helping us to reflect and pray on this unfathomable mystery of God’s stupendous gift to us of His only begotten Son.

In today’s Gospel from St. Matthew, we read: ‘John the Baptist in his prison heard what Jesus was doing’. St. Matthew says ‘his prison’ not just ‘prison’.  This leads us to reflect on how all of us can be in some kind of prison at one time or another in our lives – the prison of fear, of insecurity, selfishness, depression, pride, prejudice, illness, unbelief, poor self image – the list is endless.  Whatever it may be, we too, like John the Baptist, can hear in the Gospels, what Jesus said and did, and of course, we hear him in the teaching of the Church.

A few weeks ago Pope Francis in his Angelus message to thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square said: ‘I would like all of you to consider a medicine,” at this point he raised a little box for the crowds to see.  The Pope continued: ‘It is a special medicine to make the fruit of the Year of Faith more concrete’-  and I’m sure we could add to the Pope’s words of encouragement -, to make our whole life more fruitful  when we are healed of what it is that imprisons us -

 ‘Take it!’ said the Pope,  It’s a Rosary which one can pray also the chaplet of Divine Mercy, spiritual help for our souls and for spreading love, forgiveness and brotherhood everywhere’.  ‘Don’t forget to take it,’ he repeated, ‘because it does good.  It does good for the heart, for the soul, for all of life’.  And earlier on, the Pope had emphasised the need for faith and trust in God in the face of life’s difficulties –‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened’ Jesus invites us in the Gospel.

In all life’s difficulties, we can be certain that Pope Francis would have great compassion and a desire for the healing of all who suffer from interior imprisonment of whatever kind, when handing out his special medicine.  The little box also contained a leaflet  with all the necessary explanations and prayers on it -  and a final assurance (as we find in many medicines) ‘this medicine has never been known to cause any harm!’

Our Advent journey, and indeed the spiritual journey of our whole life, is not any isolated selfish seeking of personal holiness – quite the contrary.  Into this journey, fortified by our spiritual medicine, we bring the whole of humanity, pleading for their salvation, the whole purpose for which God sent His Son into the world (the purpose too of course, for which St. Dominic  was inspired to found his Order).

May our prayer during the remainder of this Advent be one, especially, of listening and of fostering a spirit of awareness of the Presence of God in our lives; and of living, with the help of his ever present Grace, the sacrament of the present moment , in our daily lives.  Let us

remember that the healing of the Sacrament of Penance and the food of Jesus Himself in the Holy Eucharist and in his Word, will be for us all, a vital help in our many sufferings and weaknesses – it is at times hard to believe, but God really and truly does  thirst for  our love – ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have called you, for you are mine’ we read in holy Scripture,  What joy, what peace, what healing this brings us.

Let us then, once again, invite him to come to us and to all peoples – ‘Come, Lord Jesus, do not delay’.

Don’t forget to take the medicine’ Pope Francis repeated to the crowds ‘ because it does good!’

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Second Sunday of Advent Year A


While reflecting on this Sunday’s Readings I was attracted towards the First Reading from Isaiah- towards the peace and harmony portrayed and established between animals, nature and in this instance little children –to quote some lines;

The wolf lives with the lamb
…with a little boy to lead them.
The cow and the bear make friends.
The infant plays over the cobra’s hole;
into the viper’s lair
the young child puts his hand.

And then the following beautiful words bring us consolation and hope in the midst of our war torn, violent and suffering world:

They do no hurt, no harm,
on all my holy mountain,
for the country is filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters swell the sea. 

If only this were the present reality! Yet, Advent is the season of hope and we are called to keep this hope alive. These beautiful words of Isaiah paint a panorama of the harmony that reigned at the dawn of creation, only to be broken by sin and  they also describe the messianic peace that will come about with the coming of the Messiah- of Jesus, our Saviour. John the Baptist asks us to prepare his way by seeking a change of heart – by repentance.

What struck me especially in this passage from the Old Testament were the three references to children – the little boy, the infant and the young child- children not adults were part of these scenes of peace and harmony. In connecting this  to the repentance and  change of heart recommended in the Gospel I was reminded of Jesus’ saying in Matthew 18:3 “ Unless you turn ( or have a change of heart) and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”. Or the passage in Luke ( 9:46-48)when an argument started between the disciples about which of them was the greatest and Jesus taking a little child, setting him by his side and saying anyone who welcomes this little child in my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me, welcomes the one who sent me. For the least among you all is the one who is the greatest.

What is this saying to me, to us? What can I learn from this?  What are some of the attributes of little children that Jesus had in mind? Would it be perhaps that little children are free because they are not locked in an ivory tower of worldly wisdom? They are free because they are open to receive. Karl Rahner notes that to think in terms of spiritual childhood, as Therese of Lisieux did when she proposed her Little Way, suggests openness – an openness to becoming true disciples of Jesus Christ.

Little children show they are free also by the way they live in the present moment, open to all and everyone around them: without trepidation in regard to the binding forces of the past or in a restricting fear of the future. I noticed that that passage is written in the present tense, even though it can also be interpreted for past and future events. Are we not all called to live in the present moment with full awareness of God’s presence both within and around us.

We could all gain so much if only we followed the way of childlike simplicity advocated by Jesus, the way of humility and trust that He himself modelled – daring to become the one the Lord calls each one of us to be; a vulnerable little child, one who both dares to show love and to allow one’s self to be loved, as only a little child knows how.

Then with all our defences down we can be sure of God’s favour, as in the words of this Sunday’s  psalm;

He, (God) shall save the poor when they cry
and the needy who are helpless.
He will have pity on the weak
and save the lives of the poor.

Lord, teach us all the way of spiritual childhood in simplicity, trust and humility of heart. When we are tempted to want to be in control teach us to realise that we are truly being held by you and cared for, by you. May we always find our true security in you.




Saturday, December 7, 2013

Visit of the Master of the Order

On Thursday morning, 5th December, we had a most delightful visit from the Master of the Order, Frere Bruno Cadore OP  - he was accompanied by Fr Dominic Izzo OP and Fr Gerard Dunne, the vicar of the Master for our Monastery.  Fr Bruno and Fr Dominic are on visitation of the Irish Dominican Province at present.

For two hours he answered our questions and provided us with first hand news of the Dominican Order around the world.
Before leaving us we prayed together and Fr Bruno gave us his blessing

Our friends Michael and Bernadette (Lay Dominicans) and Mary helped at the reception and at the Eucharistic Adoration so that our community could be undisturbed during the visit - they were happy to have a photo taken with the Master.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Dominican Calendar for 2014 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 2014 - which is available in our Monastery and at Dominican priories throughout Ireland.

In January 2011 a prayer initiative was launched to encourage prayer for Dominican vocations to all branches of the Order. The focus of this prayer initiative is an icon of Saint Dominic (show above on the front cover of the Calendar) which has been specially commissioned for this purpose. The launch took place in the monastery of the Dominican Nuns, Drogheda and since then this icon has journeyed to various Dominican centres throughout Ireland - each centre takes responsibility for intensive prayer for a period of 4 to 6 weeks. It is hoped that the image of the founder of the Dominican Order will draw people to reflect on his life and legacy and in turn, through his intercession, draw more men and women to follow the Lord in the Dominican way.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

First Sunday of Advent - 2013

Readings: Isaiah 2:1-5
                 Romans: 13:11-14

The Mass readings for this first Sunday of Advent provide us with a wake-up call: St Paul tells us “you must wake up now” and in the Gospel Jesus tells us to “stay awake!” while the Prophet Isaias invites us to “walk in the light of the Lord.”  So as we begin a new Church year we are invited to come into the light – to remove the blinds from the windows of our hearts and to let the light shine in – remembering that the true Light is Jesus Himself.  He is the True Light shining on us and who desires to penetrate and posses our inmost being.  

The struggle between light and darkness is a perennial one - it is the struggle in which we are all engaged – the struggle to keep our hearts free and not to allow ourselves to be enslaved by false attractions – the struggle to keep our hearts free for God alone.  It is the struggle about which Paul speaks in the letter to the Romans: “no drunken orgies, no promiscuity or licentiousness and no wrangling or jealousy.” And he advises us: “Let your armour be the Lord Jesus Christ; forget about satisfying your bodies with all their cravings.”   Today there is a lot of darkness in the world around us - at times it would seem that the powers of darkness are let loose but we know that the light will eventually triumph.   More than ever before it is necessary for us to “give up all the things we prefer to do under cover of the dark and arm ourselves and appear in the light.” We must let nothing enslave us or captivate our hearts or impede God’s light and love from shining through our lives to a needy world.  We all know how easily we can be enslaved by trifles – holding on to mere nothings.

We remember how Augustine’s life was transformed while reading this passage from the letter to the Romans: After years of struggle and resistance, in one instant he was free to break loose of his past and come into the light – or rather to allow the light to penetrate and show up the darkness.  All his fears fade away and now he is free to let the light shine in – reminding us of what Paul wrote to the Ephesians: for once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; ..Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them…..when anything is exposed by the light it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.  Therefore it is said,

“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead,

and Christ shall give you light.”

Just as in the case of Augustine, all our yesterdays lead us to the NOW of today and NOW is always new and different and must mean letting go of whatever hinders us from surrendering to the God who is lovingly awaiting our response.  Can we use these days of Advent to relax in the light of His presence and ask Him to draw back the blinds of our hearts and open our eyes and ears to His love streaming into our hearts?  The following quote from Jean Corbon’s book Path to Freedom seems apt:

“Our ultimate liberation is to open ourselves to a new presence, and the peak of our activity is to relax in the gratuitousness of receiving.  The more He frees us the more He gives Himself.  His gift is a presence of light.  Our task is to open the blinds of our prison and let in the rays of His light.”

May this light stream into our hearts this Advent enlightening “the eyes of our hearts, that we may know what is the hope to which He has called us”  and appreciate more deeply what He has already accomplished in us through Baptism – the sacrament of enlightenment - so that a ceaseless hymn of thanksgiving will spring forth from our hearts to “declare the wonderful deeds of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvellous light.”

I finish with this beautiful prayer of St Columbanus:

“Would that my lamp might ever burn by night in the temple of my Lord, that to all entering the house of my God it might give light. …Lord, grant me that love which knows no fall, so that my lamp may feel the kindling touch and know no quenching, may burn for me and for others may give light.  Do you, Christ, deign to kindle our lamps, that they may shine continually in your temple and receive perpetual light from you the light perpetual, so that our darkness may be enlightened and the world’s darkness may be driven from us.”


Sunday, November 17, 2013

33rd Sunday - Year C

The beauty of nature – especially the trees – has been quite stunning this autumn – perhaps it is the result of the beautiful summer and autumn weather we have had.  Walking around the garden these past weeks I have watched the leaves change to various hues of green, gold, brown, yellow and red.  As I watched their beauty increase day by day I was drawn to reflect on the example of the tree.  At the very moment when its beauty seemed to be at its zenith, and one would wish it to remain so for ever, I noticed that the leaves gradually began to fall to the ground.

The trees did not resist but allowed their beautiful garments of leaves to fall one by one to the ground – to wither and die in the soil which in turn will nourish the new growth which will blossom in Spring.  If we look closer we will notice that this new life is already in a tiny bud – hidden and well wrapped which pushes the leaves off the branch.  The tree seems totally detached and is prepared to stand in its nakedness to face the cold frost and snow, the wind and rain of winter confident that this new life will spring forth in all its beauty with the warm rays of Spring sunshine.  And so the cycle repeats itself.

Can I learn something from the example of the tree by being prepared to let go of all that I cherish and that I cling to whether it be real or illusory and be willing to expose my naked being to the “Sun of Righteousness” who shines lovingly on me with “healing in its rays?”  Just as the sap hidden and at work in the tree brings about this rhythm of growth and transformation – of dying and rising again – so the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, living in us since our Baptism is always at work within us – even in the midst of all kinds of difficulties, of war and natural disaster, hatred and deception as described in this morning’s Gospel. 

This pattern of new birth, growth to full flowering and decay is renewed year after year in nature, and in the process the tree grows in strength and beauty.  Does something analogous to this happen in our spiritual lives if we allow ourselves to be disturbed and guided by God’s Holy Spirit in our day to day lives, confident that we are in His hands and that “not a hair of our head will be lost” as He promised us in this morning’s Gospel.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Rosary - our Dominican heritage

As October draws to a close it seems fitting to call to mind once again the powerful gift entrusted to us in the Holy Rosary, this extraordinary Gospel prayer in which is so beautifully intertwined our Contemplative gaze on God and our Apostolic outreach to the world and its needs.

One of the most appealing aspects of the Rosary is its versatility. It is truly a prayer for all seasons of life, all stages of growth, all moods and humours.

Through it we can be brought into wrapt attention, lost in God, as the rhythmic cadence of the repetitive Hail Mary stills our bodies, quietens our minds and brings us into the depths of our own being where God simply is and we are simply present with Him.

There are other times when the mysteries themselves hold our attention, coming alive for us. These are times of great reflective fruitfulness when new insights into God and his ways light up our path and renew our enthusiasm for God and the things of God, making it possible for the Word to become flesh in us.

Then there are the days when we feel lost and lonely, anguished and confused and the Rosary becomes our lifeline. We don’t know how to pray .We are too agitated and distressed to quieten down but by picking up the beads and just vocally repeating the prayers we are expressing with our bodies our desire to be one with Jesus in His Sufferings. At these times we are perhaps most truly Mary’s children, sick wounded hurting, fearful for ourselves or for others, but holding on to mammy’s hand and leaving it to her to explain to Jesus the Divine Physician  of our bodies minds and spirits what ails us and what grace we need from each mystery. In each hail Mary we pray ‘pray for us sinners’ but at times like this Mary not only intercedes for us but we leave her to pray for us, do our praying for us. I learnt to pray like this when I was very ill and was too weak to concentrate. Like all loving mothers except much more so, Mary knows us better than we know ourselves and if we just somehow remain there, she will untangle all the knots and the very chains that bind us will be the same ones that draw us with her into Heaven.

At all times the Rosary can be a powerful prayer of intercession but especially in times of suffering and neediness it can move us out of our preoccupation with our selves. We may begin off focusing on the mysteries longing for them to bring us relief but gradually something inside us changes. As we unite our suffering with those of Jesus He gives us his awareness of the needs of all for whom He suffered. He expands our hearts to care for others, to desire their salvation, to want relief for them in their pain, to want them to know as we ourselves know the compassion and comfort of our loving Saviour. In our anguish we can look around us and ask that by his wounds someone else in anguish may have the peace our hearts long for. Our pain becomes a gift when it opens us to the pain of others. It becomes something to be grateful for, something we can even choose to accept if our suffering united to those of Jesus can be of help to someone else. This is the transforming power of the Rosary, this is the mysteries being active in us.

When we have been hurt or when we have hurt others lingering with the sorrowful mysteries can bring healing and penitence. They can teach us how to love, how to forgive, how to understand.

There are times when we are aware of receiving great grace and insight as we pray our Rosary but there are too the long days of simply being faithful to our recitation, allowing the mysteries to unconsciously create the atmosphere in which we live, the very familiarity of the prayer almost imperceptibly making God present, as it were. I always think of my grand parents in this context. At night they would sit together watching TV and as bedtime approached they would turn off the TV and take out their beads. Still sitting together on the sofa they would begin their prayer. By that simply act of taking up the beads, an act as routine as brushing their teeth, a ritual done daily without fail, they changed a place of recreation into a place of deep prayer. To be with them at that time was to be in the presence of God.

As the years begin to creep up on us and old age manifests itself in numerous little ways, making us a little fearful if not of death then perhaps at least of the process of dying, the Glorious mysteries may become specially precious. It is good to reflect on the home coming that awaits us. It helps to look forward in certain hope to the joys of the Resurrection. The Glorious Mysteries remind us that our life is the story of our return to the Father’s house. Jesus has gone before us to prepare a place for us and at the right time He will come to take us to Himself. The assurance that Jesus is coming closer, reaching out to draw us into his embrace where we will be with Him forever provides comfort and brings peace.

Queen of the most Holy Rosary, in life and in death, show unto us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus



Wednesday, October 2, 2013

In Praise of the Riches of Autumn

The world is charged with the glory of God – so wrote the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins – glory to Him for all the beauty of creation.

For simple things that we take so much for granted – water supply and food and air, for lions and tigers and grass-hoppers alike – spiders and peacocks and swallows “on the run”.

For giving us food from the soil, brown bread from an ear of corn and wine from the vine to keep us cheerful.

Now in these autumn days we thank you Father for the berries in black-berry bushes and fruits and hazel-nuts – for the beauty of autumn colours with their variety of hues of soft browns and golden yellow orange tints – bright reds to catch the little birds eye.  Praise to you too for those glorious sunrises and sunsets that artists and poets never tire of proclaiming by word or brush.

The eye marvels at all the richness, our minds are stilled and amazed as after the summer heat falls the reviving dew.  Eccl.43

“Harvester God, as the Autumn suns ripen the grain – Ripen our souls too.
As the brown leaves fall and the sheaves of corn are stored away,
help us to leave behind the cares of Summer
and go forward with deepening compassion and trust” – Sr.Marie O.S.U.

“The heavens and the earth are indeed telling of the glory of God,

and all creation is singing for joy - -

Come, come dance through the leaves that scatter our paths

and sing, sing to the glory of God”.

cf. Canticle of the Sun’’ Marty Haugen

Monday, September 16, 2013

Congratulations to our Dominican Brothers

Our congratulations, prayers and best wishes to the two men who were accepted into the Order on Saturday (September 14th is the feast of the Triumph of the Cross and is also the feast day of the Irish Dominican Province). Also to the four Brothers who made First Profession yesterday and the eight Brothers who renewed their vows on Friday. May God continue to bless you all in your formation as Friars Preachers.

(Images from www.irishdominicanvocations.blogspot.ie ; see that site for more images and details from the ceremonies)

Br Greg Daly and Br Neil Fox were clothed in the habit of the Dominican Order and began their novitiate in Cork

Br Matthew Farrell, Br Philip Mulryne, Br Jesse Maingot and Br Michael (Ronan) O Dubhghaill making First Profession in Saint Mary's Dominican priory church in Pope's Quay, Cork.
The eight brothers who renewed their vows on Friday, pictured with the student master:
Front row (left to right): Fr Terence Crotty (student master), Br Conor McDonough, Br Eoin Casey, Fr Gregory Carroll (provincial) Br Daragh McNally, Br David McGovern.
Back row (left to right): Br Patrick Desmond, Br Damian Polly, Br Ronan Connolly, Br Kevin O' Reilly
The Irish Dominican friars now have 19 in formation at various stages. Please pray for them and those considering joining the Order and the friars who assist them.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross - 14th September

At Vespers this evening we will sing: “This is Love’s great deed that death should die, when life itself was slain up the tree.”  Here we are faced with a paradox – a paradox which human nature has always found difficult to grasp – and which is even more difficult nowadays.  At Lauds we sang: “The holy Cross shines in splendour”; “The holy Cross shines upon us, in the Cross is victory, in the Cross is power.  By the Cross every sin is overcome.”  We may ask ourselves if we experience some of this victory and power in our daily lives. And if not why not?

The following passage from St Andrew of Crete which we read at Office of Readings is particularly beautiful:
We are celebrating the feast of the Cross, whereby darkness was dispelled and the light restored. We are celebrating the feast of the Cross and with the Crucified One we are raised up, leaving behind us the earth and sin so that we may possess what is above. How great the Cross! What blessings it holds! He who possesses it possesses a treasure.  More noble, more precious than anything on earth, in fact and in name, it is indeed a treasure, for in it and through it and for it all the riches of our salvation were stored away and restored to us.

The folly of the Cross is truly a great mystery!  At the very moment when Jesus is most helpless and vulnerable, nailed to the Cross immobile a great hollow space is dug out, as it were, in His heart for us; he reaches out to embrace sinful humanity, He speaks out both His and our ‘yes’ to the Father
as He commends His Spirit into the hands of the Father (Lk 23:46) He donates Him to us (Jn 19:30)
and from His fullness we have all received. 

The Cross has always been central to Dominican spirituality – we are all familiar with Fra Angelico’s beautiful frescos of Dominic at the foot of the Cross.  At the foot of the Cross Dominic learned from the ‘Book of Love’ the immense love of our Saviour which led Him to the Cross.  Contemplating the suffering, forsaken Jesus, Dominic’s compassionate heart was torn apart with compassion, firstly, for Jesus whose love was being rejected by the very ones for whom he died.  Paul Murray speaks of an ‘apostolic wound’ – ‘a contemplative wound’ which Dominic received - no doubt the fruit of his ‘special’ prayer when, as a Canon at Osma, he asked God “to grant him true charity, which would be effective in caring for and winning the salvation of all;  giving himself up entirely for the salvation of others. We can say that our Order was born at the foot of the Cross and it is there that each of us must draw our inspiration and zeal.  This too is the source from which renewal will spring. 

In his correspondence with Blessed Diana, Blessed Jordan exhorts her always to have before her eyes “the book of life, the book of the Lord’s perfect law which brings life back to souls”.  And he continues:
this law is charity: you see it when you gaze on your Saviour Jesus stretched out on the Cross, as though a parchment, his wounds the writing, his blood the illuminations. Where, I ask you, my beloved, could the lesson of love be learnt as it is learnt here?

And according to St Catherine of Siena, Dominic wanted his children to
stand at the table of the Cross – to seek only the glory and praise of God and the salvation of souls
As we take our place with Dominic and Mary at the foot of the Cross we begin to understand the meaning of our vocation.

The Cross and Veritas

There is a very close link between the Cross and Veritas (Truth) - the motto of our Order.  “The Cross verifies the truth about God and the truth about humankind”.

The truth about God: When we look at the Cross we are left in no doubt of God’s infinite love –This is how God loves.

The truth about humans:  the Cross reveals the dignity of every person – how precious we are in God’s sight that He should die for us!

But the Cross does not rob us of joy – the contrary is true as we sing in the liturgy: “through the Cross joy has come into the whole world” and with it freedom.  Jesus has taken the burden of our sin on Himself and has already achieved our eternal salvation.  Our task lies not in anxious striving to achieve our own perfection but in opening ourselves to receive the gift. “At the very moment when he identifies with our sin, ‘abandoned’ by the Father, Jesus ‘abandons’ himself into the hands of the Father”. We in our turn can abandon ourselves and those we carry in our hearts to the loving mercy of our God in the sure hope that “all will be well”.