Tuesday, February 19, 2013

1st Sunday of Lent - Another Reflection

Having set for myself a headline for Lent “It is your face, O Lord, that I seek, hide not your face” – it is encouraging to find that Jesus in today’s gospel gives me inspiring texts to guide me on my way.

His responses to the devil can become ours. Indeed each of these quotes are taken from the book of Deuteronomy, that story of the people of Israel’s forty years wanderings through the desert to the promised land – a blue print of our struggles too on our journey home to our Father’s house.

‘Man does not live on bread alone’ – Though immersed in, and in need of many material and tangible things to sustain us in life, yet our faith tells us that this is not our real life, no, our real life is the faith we have in the Son of God who loved us and gave himself for us.

’but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ First and foremost, the Word, with a capital ‘W’’, Jesus Christ, was breathed forth by the Father, to become man eventually, to suffer and die and be our Saviour. It is only through, with and in Him that we can return to the Father. Because of our love and faith in Jesus, the words of Scripture, ‘the revealed love letter’, as it has been described, came to enlighten and lead us home. ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve Him alone.’

“Exalt the Lord in your praises as high as you may – still he surpasses you. Exert all your strength when you exalt Him, do not grow tired, you will never come to an end.

We could say much more and still fall short, to put it concisely - He is all.

Is not this the worship and service that shapes our lives. Our inward eye is fixed steadfastly on Him. It is indeed your face. O Lord, that I seek.

In response to the devil’s third temptation Jesus replies ‘you shall not tempt the Lord, your God.’ In the context of Deuteronomy, Jesus’ response is reminding us to do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord that it may go well with us.’ So let us earnestly pray ‘It is your face, O Lord, that I seek, hide not your face.’

Sunday, February 17, 2013

First Sunday of Lent - Reflection on Deuteronomy

In today’s First reading at Mass, taken from the Book of Deuteronomy, we are presented with the prayer of the Jewish man to God on presenting to Him the first-fruits of all the Lord had given to him. In a few short - actually long! – sentences, he summarises all the Lord has done for him since the call of Abraham, through the formation and election of Israel; her persecution at the hands of the Egyptians; to her deliverance and after wandering in the desert, at last, entering into and taking possession of the land given to her by God. (That was a fairly good imitation of the long sentences!!)

And this is the First Sunday of Lent; that time of year again – already – when we know we would like to make a concerted effort to be cleansed of everything that separates us from God; prevents us from living as He invites us to, in Jesus. And with all our good intentions, for most of us, we’ll have fallen by the end of the first week, if we haven’t fallen already.

What can we do that would seem worthwhile and a real expression to God of our love for Him and our gratitude for His mercy and unfailing nearness: for the wonder of His love?

In this prayer, I would dare to suggest, is a very profitable and healthy undertaking; one that may not seem to be much – but in this age of dismissal of God as a necessary ‘element’ of our lives – maybe after all, it would be well worth considering. An act of faith in this Year of Faith.

Two Big Words!

Acknowledgement and Thanksgiving

‘He brought us here and gave us this land,
a land where milk and honey flow.
Here then, do I bring the first-fruits of the soil
that you, Lord, have given me.’

Lent is a place of grace, as we know – a place, now, where you can most intensely know, accept and believe the truth about God: that He has made you for Himself, and wants you to begin even now to live in communion with Him, so that you may be prepared for the wonder and light and joy of eternity in Him, when He calls you home: so great is His love for you.

This Lent is a place where milk and honey flow: the milk and honey of the love of the Lord … for you. And if you try to imagine how strong and ‘overpowering’ that love is – only think of Jesus: in the garden; being whipped and scourged and spat upon; hanging and gasping for breath; pouring out His life’s blood – His love for you gave Him physical pain beyond anything we could ever imagine. And the amazing thing – this is milk and honey to Him. You are worth every second of what He went through for you – you. This Lent, it would be good, would it not, to let yourself believe that and to accept the gift .. and to be grateful.

The pilgrim in Deuteronomy mentions the return he offers to God: the first-fruits – what seems to me to be the best of himself. When I look to the Lord and believe that where I am now, wherever I am – this physical place, maybe emotional place – is where I have been brought: God has brought me here.

Do I have the courage to acknowledge that as a gift of love from Him? Dare I say ‘thank you?’ Can I find the goodness in this place where I am; look hard for it if it is not plainly seen?

God has brought me here – it seems that what then I must do is to give Him the best of myself, here, where I am; and not save the best of me for somewhere else, that may not even yet exist. Do I have the courage to love God here and now? And if it seems to be beyond my strength – can I ask for the grace from Him to be able to love Him? He is infinitely patient; He is there in the struggle; He is the Only One who truly knows. Can you let Him in?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Dominican Family Vocations Day - Update

The Dominican Family Vocations Day will take place in just two weeks. There has already been a great deal of interest in this informative event (which takes place on Saturday, March 2nd) and, since places are limited, I would ask young women interested in attending to contact me at maireadop@eircom.net as soon as possible.

To view/download poster in .pdf format, click here.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Homily preached at Sr M Cathy's Profession

We are happy to share with our reader the homily which Fr John Harris OP preached at Sr Mary Cathy's Profession on the 2nd of February:

Today’s feast begins with a young married couple bringing their newly born baby to the Temple.  Today’s celebration of Sr Mary Cathy’s profession began in the very same way, when her parents, Imelda and John, carried her to a church to be baptised.  On that day a sword began to pierce her heart. In mystical theology the image of a sword is often used as a way of describing how the love of God penetrates deeply into our hearts and lives and transfixes us with the living presence of the divine love. This life of grace which begins at the very moment of our baptism continues to pierce us all our lives through until in the end, the words spoken by Simeon become words spoken of us: “our secret thoughts are laid bare”.

That sword of divine love began its journey to the centre of Cathy’s soul on the day of her baptism, it continued in her reception of the sacraments of Holy Communion and Confirmation and Cathy herself would say it made little if any progress in her life. But once the sword begins its journey, to use another image taken from the words of Jesus himself speaking of the seed that is planted: night and day while we sleep, when we are awake the seed is sprouting and growing, how, we do not know”. The love continues to bring life in its own mysterious way. This is the true story of grace in every Christian soul. How that sword of divine love continues to wound and in its wounding brings healing and new life.

The sword made a deep cut into the soul of Cathy when she became involved in the Legion of Mary. In a most amazing way through the members of Mary’s Blessed Legion Christ’s love was revealed to her. By their love and concern for her she came to believe in the deeper love that Jesus had for her. In so many ordinary ways, of welcome and friendship, of encouragement and support Cathy began to feel the piercing love which Christ has for her.

During this time she came to know us Dominicans in Dominick St. She often recalls how at the end of the annual novena to St. Martin de Porres, the preacher that year, Fr. Bede McGregor, didn’t allow her to slip out of the Church, but insisted that she shake his hand  and tell him her name. A blessed moment: for he too knew all her friends in the Legion. In that simple moment of encounter Cathy realised that she was someone with a name, a story, and friends, someone she could be happy and proud to be. In that simple encounter the sword went deeper. In that ordinary moment Christ spoke to her of his personal love.

The Legion allowed Cathy not only to experience that love for herself but gave her the wonderful opportunity of herself becoming an evangeliser (a carrier of the sword) by helping others to come to know that love for themselves.

The sword continued its journey, at times painful and challenging, she developed her prayer life through adoration and her connection with the Carmelites in Roebuck. And all the time the secret thoughts of her heart were beginning to be voiced by her, as she endeavoured to speak in her own direct and “no-nonsense” way of her spiritual life.

I remember one afternoon in the parlour in Dominick St. when she spoke to me of her love of Eucharistic Adoration the idea entered my head, “should I mention Siena to her”. I was extremely nervous but speak the word I did. She said she would love to visit and I contacted Sr. Breda (novice mistress). Driving her up here on a Friday afternoon a few weeks later, she kept telling me how nervous she was and I couldn’t tell her I was even more nervous. What if she didn’t like it, if the nuns didn’t think she was suitable? Thus began her journey here in Siena. A journey that is given its deepest meaning by today’s feast.

Today’s feast is about a redeeming and a presenting, a releasing and a binding: indeed a dying to be born. When Mary and Joseph went to the Temple it was to buy-back as it were their first born from God, but in their presenting him to God they are teaching us a fundamental Christian truth; it is only by giving that we receive, by saying yes to God that we learn true freedom. So many of us believe it is by freeing ourselves from God that we become free, that was the mistake made by Adam and Eve at the very beginning of the story of humanity, but the Good News tells us the complete opposite. As Pope Benedict spoke to us at the very beginning of his pontificate: “Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, and something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? … No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation”.

By handing ourselves to God we discover who we truly are. In this true friendship we meet ourselves. To quote our Beloved St. Catherine of Siena, “the souls can only know herself when she sees herself in God”. Some might say that Cathy by locking herself up here in Siena is burying herself away from life and freedom, but the opposite is the truth. It is here in the cloister that Cathy is learning true freedom, a life totally focused on God, the truest living out of human freedom. Here Cathy is opening herself up to the full wound of the sword of divine love; here there is nowhere to hide from that wounding - A piercing that is at once painful and life giving, healing and refreshing: A dying to come to life.

Today as she makes her simple profession she is laying bare the secret thoughts of her heart before us all. She is saying in the midst of Holy Church that she is discovering God’s love for her and her only response is to love him fully. Here in prayer and adoration her heart is opening up to be wounded by love, but not just for herself but for all of us as well and indeed for the whole Church. For her evangelising, learned in the Legion of Mary is continuing. By making profession in the Church we are all being built up by her offering, for love is the one thing that builds the Church, and causes her to be renewed. 

So we pray this day that the journey begun on the day Imelda and John presented Cathy to be baptised will continue now in this holy place of Siena Monastery; that the sword of divine love will continue to wound her bringing her deep joy and happiness. And as she lives out her life in secret the whole body of the Church will be build up in faith, hope and love; so that all the nations may see the light that enlightens, the love that gives life and the peace that gives hope, Christ Jesus our Lord. To whom be honour and glory for ever and ever.  Amen

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Sr Mary Cathy's Profession - 2nd February

After a week of wind, rain and hail stones the sun shone brightly on Saturday morning  and continued to shine all day - symbol of the light and joy we celebrated on this feast of the Presentation of the Lord as Sr Mary Cathy made her Profession - an appropriate way to mark this day dedicated to Consecrated Life.

Fr Gerard Dunne OP, vicar of the Master of the Order for our  monastery, presided and was joined by our brothers from the local community and several others including Fr Gregory Carroll, Provincial and Fr Eamonn McCarthy from Cloyne diocese - a friend of Sr Cathy.
In addition to Sr M Cathy's family we were very happy to welcome Sr Marie Redmond OP, novice mistress and her two novices, from the Cabra Congregation of Dominican Sisters and all our student brothers from St Saviour's Priory, Dublin.  Fr John Harris preached the homily - which we hope to share with you later.  We were joined in the chapel by a large number of Lay Dominicans and local friends.

The following photos will convey to you something of the joy which we all experienced.

Sr Mary Cathy makes prostration and asks for God's mercy and that of the community

The prioress questions Sr Mary Cathy before making her profession

Sr Mary Cathy makes her profession in the hands of the prioress as is customary in our Order:
I, Sr Mary Cathy Howard, make profession, and promise obedience to God and to Blessed Mary and to Blessed Dominic and to the Master of the Order of Friars Preachers, Bro Bruno Cadore, and to you Sister Mary Breda Carroll, Prioress of this Monastery of St Catherine of Siena, Drogheda and to your successors, according to the Rule of the Blessed Augustine and the Constitutions of the Nuns of the Order of Preachers, that I will be obedient to you and to your successors for three years.

The scapular is blessed

Sr Mary Cathy receives the veil:  "receive this sacred veil, by which you will be recognised as a house of prayer to your Lord, and a temple of intercession for all people."

After the ceremony Sr Mary Cathy with Fr Gerard Dunne OP, vicar of the Master of the Order for our monastery.

With Fr Gregory Carroll OP, Provincial

With Fr John Harris OP who preached the homily

With her Dad
With her Mam
With members of her family
With her friends from the Legion of Mary

With Sr Mairead, novice mistress and Sr M Breda, Prioress

Dominican Sisters and students and our friend Jim Walsh who played the organ

With Srs M Kathleen and Clare Marie of our community

Monday, February 4, 2013

Dominican Family Vocations Day 2013

Young women interested in attending this informative event (Saturday, March 2nd) are very welcome to contact me at maireadop@eircom.net as soon as possible.
Participants will have an opportunity to hear vocation stories from a member of each of the four branches - a friar, lay Dominican, apostolic sister and contemplative nun.

As prayer is central to this day, we will pray Lauds/Morning Prayer together shortly after arriving and we will have the celebration of the Eucharist before we leave.

To view/download poster in .pdf format, click here.