Friday, December 26, 2014

We are on "Christmas with Miriam"

Miriam with the Community
We were on the Radio yesterday morning. It was an hour long show and Miriam interviewed five of us - we talked about our vocation as Dominican Nuns, our own personal vocation stories and, of course, Christmas. There is also some music, and you can hear us singing parts of the Divine Office.

Click the link below to listen in RTEPlayer.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Reflection

We wish all our readers a peaceful and joyful Christmas as we remember all your intentions in prayer.

The theme of light plays a prominent part in the Advent and Christmas liturgies. This theme of light is woven into the pages of both the Old and New Testaments – from the first chapter of Genesis where God said ‘Let there be light’ to the last chapter of the Apocalypse where the glory of God is the radiant light which illumines the New Jerusalem.

We have come forth from God and we return to Him who is the Light.  When calling us into being God seems to have built into each human heart a ‘homing instinct’; a nostalgia for Himself – a yearning which draws us.  We even see this attraction to the light in nature – tiny shoots will push their way through all kinds of rubble and even solid tarmac, attracted by the light.  Plants will turn towards the light and some flowers will open to light but remain closed in darkness. 

 In the Old Testament light is very often associated with God’s glory, His Presence, His face.  There is a yearning to see God’s face: “let me see your face” - “when can I enter and see the face of God” - “let your face shine on us and we will be safe.”  We get the image of a luminous face – a glorious face which lights up everything – the Light of life.

Moses was told that he cannot see God’s face for no human being can see Him and survive.  However, tonight we celebrate the breaking into our time of God’s light – the revelation of God’s Face in the form of a helpless baby who will grow and develop according to the laws of nature and will manifest the Face of God’s love to all who are open and ready to recognise and receive Him.  Tonight is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” The Word, who was in the world that had come into being through him, although the world did not recognise him, now enters this world in a new way.  Yet he comes in such a gentle and ordinary fashion that He is recognisable only to the eyes of faith - not all are open to receive the light but prefer the darkness.  St John tells us:

“He came to his own
and his own people did not accept him.
but to those who did accept  him
he gave power to become children of God.”  (Jn 1: 11 - 12).

We celebrate tonight the great mystery of the Word taking flesh and living among us – apart from his transfiguration, He will remain hidden in an ordinary Man and will identify himself with every man and woman – “whatever you do, or not do, to the least of these brothers and sisters of mine you do, or not do to me.”  As he was dependent on Mary and Joseph when he first came – so now he makes himself dependent on us, his disciples - frail human beings that we are – to be His Presence in our world.  He needs our hearts to radiate his light and love, first of all to those with whom we live and then to all with whom we come in contact – what a great mystery and one of which we all too often are unaware.  As St Paul describes it well when he says “all of us with unveiled faces, like mirrors reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the image that we reflect in brighter and brighter glory. (2Cor 3:18).

And so as we once again celebrate the birth of our Saviour at Bethlehem we ask Mary to help us believe as she did – may she teach us to recognise the radiant Face of her Son hidden in the ordinary and in every person we meet. 

“It is Your Face O Lord that we seek - Let your face, shine on us and we shall be safe." 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

O Antiphons - 23rd December 2014

A reflection given by one of our sisters on today's Magnificat Antiphon, which addresses Christ as Emmanuel - God with us. (To listen, click the 'play' button in the box below).

For an alternative audio player click here.

 O Emmanuel

  Today we have come to the 7th and final ‘O’ Antiphon – the climax of them all.

“O Emmanuel, King and Lawgiver, desire of the nations; Saviour of all peoples: 
come and set us free, Lord our God.” 


“O Emmanuel, You are our King and Judge; the One whom the peoples await and their Saviour.   
O come, save us, Lord, our God,”

In it, the Messiah is addressed in person and is asked to remain with us as Emmanuel.

This – the last – is appointed for the day before Christmas Eve, when we are about to celebrate the coming of God to earth in human flesh.

Since this is the last and climax of the antiphons, “O Emmanuel” repeats phrases and ideas which have occurred previously, in particular ‘King’ and ‘Lawgiver’.  These two words are significant as they indicate the great difference between us and God; the vast gap between Creator and creature; Ruler and ruled.  ‘Lawgiver’ occurs in the other antiphon with a Hebrew title, “O Adonai”, which means Lord and is also a reverent way of indicating, without uttering, the Divine Name.

The word ‘Emmanuel’ occurs only three times in the Bible: in Is 7:14; 8:8; and Mt 1:23, but the idea it expresses is found in practically every book.  “The Lord is with you” … “The Lord will be with you” … The basic meaning of ‘God with us’ is that God acts on our behalf.  In Jdg, “The Lord is with you, mighty man of valour … I will be with you and you will smite the Midianites as one” (6:12, 16).

The initials of each antiphon in the Latin – in reverse – create the words ‘ERO CRAS’ meaning ‘To-morrow I shall be there’ – which is seen as the answer of Christ to the petitions in the other six antiphons.

“You are the one whom the people await.”  Our time of waiting is nearly over – as Kipling said long ago, ‘waiting and not being tired of waiting.”  For 4,000 years the Jewish people waited and waited and longed for a Saviour to come and free them form slavery and to save them.  And the angel said, “You shall call Him Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.”

Emmanuel, God with us in the fully human Person of Jesus Christ, born on this earth of Mary in a certain place, at a certain time.  It beggars belief that God should empty Himself of His Godhead and become one of us, a tiny baby, lying in a manger.  “What a wonderful exchange.”  ‘What great nation is there, that has its gods so near, as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call Him?” (Dt 4:7).  It is for us that Christ is born – we will hear at Midnight Mass, the prophecy of Isaiah: ‘A child is born for us, a Son given to us.’ (First Reading)

The ideas in the now famous Christmas Carol, “Oh! Holy Night”, written 1847 by Placide Cappeau, have always appealed to me –

‘The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger,

In all our trials, born to be our friend.

He knows our need, He guardeth us from danger …’

St Matthew quotes the ‘Emmanuel’ text (cf1:23) in the first chapter of ‘his’ gospel and he concludes with the promise of Christ on appearing to His disciples after His resurrection, ‘Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age’ (28:20).  He is with us every day in the Holy Eucharist; He is with us deep in our hearts; He is with us, gathered together in His Name.  What gratitude can we show?

Again, from ‘Oh! Holy Night’ –

‘Fall on your knees …

‘Behold your King, before Him lowly bend,

Behold your King, before Him lowly bend.’

O Come, Emmanuel

Monday, December 22, 2014

O Antiphons - 22nd December 2014

A reflection given by one of our sisters on today's Magnificat Antiphon, which addresses Christ as King. (If you prefer to listen, click the 'play' button in the box below).

For an alternative audio player click here.
“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.”
In this sixth ‘O’ Antiphon the Incarnate Word is given the title of ‘King’, a title which appears very much in the psalms – for example psalm five:
‘To my words give ear O Lord,
give heed to my groaning.
Attend to the sound of my cries,
my King and my God.”
And our entrance Antiphon at Mass this morning from psalm 23 read:
“O gates lift high your heads; grow higher, ancient doors.
Let him enter, the King of glory.”
Although he was the King desired by all the people of the Old Testament, and  those of the New Testament, we too have within us this same desire, this need, this longing to meet  God, to see Him face to face:
 “ It is your face O Lord that I seek, hide not your face” ( Psalm 26)
St. Irenaeus’ famous saying :
“ The glory of God is man fully alive and the glory of man is the vision of God “ – the second part of this sentence – the glory of man is the vision of God - is usually neglected and certainly has not been given worthy attention for we long and thirst for the vision of God. Perhaps it is only poetry, the poetry of the psalms that can express this desire adequately:
“ O God you are my God, for you I long.
For you my soul is thirsting.
my body pines for you,
 like a dry weary land without water.” ( Psalm 62)
Ronald Rolheiser in his book; “The Restless Heart” states that our nature is such that we have within ourselves an unquenchable thirst for God. The human heart, regardless of its time and place in history, regardless of the success or failures it meets, or of the amount of human affection or rejection it experiences, still yearns and pines always to see the face of God, for God has made us in such a way that there is within each of us a certain space, call it an emptiness, a capacity which only God Himself can fill. Sadly, some people, not realising this, try to fill this painful emptiness by using drugs, alcohol,  power, money etc.
But it is as  St. Augustine says: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”- till they rest in God.
All of us are here because we have come to realise that only God can fill our emptiness and so we come into His Presence here, worshipping Him in private prayer, Adoration and in the public prayer of the church,- the celebration of the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours.
Our monastic vocation is a continual search for  God but just when we think we have found him he eludes us, as in the Song of Songs, and we must continue to seek him in a different way. It is t the love of God that compels us to seek deeper and deeper union with Him and with one another as we pray that all humankind, every person on earth, will be touched by the healing love of Christ and be saved. So, we too, all of us can claim to be part of all the people, referred to in today’s ‘O’ Antiphon, who desire the coming of our King, who is also our Saviour and Healer – come and save us whom you made from clay.
The second theme I see in this Antiphon concerns  ecumenism as the second line reads:
“ you are the cornerstone which makes all one”
It brought to my mind Jesus’ prayer for unity in Chapter 17 of John’s Gospel: Verse 21 reads:
          “ May they all be one. Father may they be one in us,
as you are in me and I am in  you”
Just recently I finished reading a book entitled: “Blessed Gabriella of Unity. She was a Trappistine nun, born in Sardinia in 1914, who entered the Monastery of Grottaferrata, Italy, in 1935, when she was 21 years old. Following a lecture on ecumenism by AbbĂ© Paul Couturier, a French Ecumenist, her monastery began to support the week of Prayer for Christian Unity and put its spiritual weight behind the ecumenical movement. Soon after this, Sister Gabriella confided to her superiors that she wanted to offer her life for the unity of the Church as she had come to understand the need for prayers and spiritual sacrifices for the unity of Christians. She was given permission by her superiors. Early in 1938 she was diagnosed with tuberculosis and died about a year later on April 23rd 1939, at the age of 25.
Pope St. John Paul II canonized her on the 25th January 1983, at the end of Church Unity Week- and fittingly so-  and made the following reference to her in his encyclical letter, Ut Unum Sint,( That they be one),  on commitment to ecumenism, under the heading of : The Primacy of Prayer:
“ Sr. Maria Gabriella, called by her vocation to be apart from the world, devoted her life to meditation and prayer centered on Chapter17 of St. John’s Gospel, and offered her life for Christian Unity. This is truly the cornerstone of all prayer: the total and unconditional offering of one’s life to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit.”
Pope John Paul II goes on to say that: “ A change of heart and holiness of life, along with public and private prayer for the unity of Christians, should be regarded as the soul of the whole ecumenical movement, and can rightly be called ‘spiritual ecumenism’.
This touches deeply on our own lives as contemplatives and on those who join us so regularly and faithfully for public prayer in the Eucharist and Liturgy of the Hours and also for private prayer and Adoration of the Exposed Blessed Sacrament – as prayer is considered the soul of the Ecumenical Movement and a very good example of this is our Benedictine Brothers in Rostrevor – living a deep contemplative life.
Jesus is truly the cornerstone  which makes all one for we  address all our prayer to the Father,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             through through Our Lord Jesus Christ, his Son, in the unity of the Holy  Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

O Antiphon - 21st December

A reflection given by one of our sisters on today's Magnificat Antiphon, which addresses Christ as the Rising Sun. (If you prefer to listen, click the 'play' button in the box below).

For an alternative audio player click here.

“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 contemplate Jesus as the Rising Sun, the eternal light that enlightens us. This is something of a preview; an expression of the divine glory and beauty of the one who is to come, a glimpse of truths that are expanded upon and expressed more deeply and richly in the Mass readings for Christmas Day, particularly in the powerful imagery of the Prologue to John’s Gospel .
Is 52:7 “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of one who brings good news.”
Jn 1 “the light of men, a light that shines in the dark … the true light that enlightens all men … we saw his glory”
This light, beauty and glory is not that of a impersonal, distant, ‘divine absolute’ but of a loving and caring Lord who comes to help and enlighten us, to bring us to share in his life “God is light” (1Jn 1:5).

Christ comes to enlighten us. This is why prayer and contemplation are so important for study and preaching, hence a motto of our Order is: “to contemplate and give others the fruits of our contemplation.” Christ, who is our light, enlightens our minds and guides us to a correct understanding of the truths of the faith; as he said to Peter “flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Mt 16:17). This understanding comes when we “walk in the light” (1Jn 1:7) and that is not always easy:
(Jn 3:19) And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
But we need not despair. As this Antiphon makes clear, I don’t need to laboriously climb to the light of God’s presence by my own efforts – the Son comes and brings his healing and cleansing light into the dark places and sinful deeds of my life. All that I need to do is to welcome Him and be willing to live in the light of his presence. Of course, this influx of light can be painful (think of the pain in you eyes when you go suddenly from a dark room into bright sunlight), nor do we like seeing our selfishness and sinfulness, and so we often prefer to hide from the light (from God’s loving approach) and continue as we are.  

I pray that in this last few days before Christmas may we each have the courage to welcome Christ’s light into our lives, to see ourselves as he sees us and be willing to make whatever changes he is asking of us.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

O Antiphon – 20th December 2014

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

For an alternative audio player click here.

O Key of David.

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.

                                                                                                                Translation from the Breviary.

Reflecting on this fourth ‘O Antiphon’ in the light of the Gospel of today from St. Luke, Chapter one, our hearts  are drawn to concentrate on the Presence of God in our lives, Emmanuel – God is with us.  Earlier on in this first chapter, we are told –the angel Gabriel appeared to Zachary in the Temple and introduced himself in these words:   ‘my name is Gabriel and I stand in the presence of God’no wonder the angel Gabriel needed to re-assure Zachary ‘do not be afraid’!  When Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, appeared to Mary six months later, St. Luke emphasises into her presence the angel came. Bending low in reverence before her, the angel announced the news of the Incarnation  - Jesus our Saviour, the Key of David, was to be born of her. This most precious scene which St. Luke writes of has been exquisitely portrayed by our well loved brother, Blessed Fra Angelico, O.P. and is worthy of a life-long depth of prayerful contemplation - the angel Gabriel who stands in the presence of God, now bending low in the presence of Mary, as he brings her the news of the Incarnation.

As we pray in our O Antiphon – ‘O Key of David, come and close the path to misery’, or as another translation expresses it, ‘come and lead the captive free from prison, free those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death’ – we reflect that a key both opens and closes a locked door – what is it that keeps our hearts and lives imprisoned and locked up – what door needs to be unlocked to free us to live peacefully and trustfully in the Presence of God in the midst of all the daily upsets that can occur, and all the noise and turmoil of today’s world?  Very often, it is FEAR in one of its many forms, that keeps our hearts and indeed, our whole being tightly locked up – it can be some form of insecurity and a lack of confidence in ourselves, some deep hurt from the past that we hold on to that imprisons us, or some deep inner pain from a past experience such as bullying by another, it can be envy or selfishness, or pride, the list is endless

In praying this Antiphon with total trust, we are calling on Christ, the Key of David, to help us become preoccupied with him and thus win the victory over whatever it is that imprisons us and keeps us tightly locked up, because as the Prophet told us long ago:– ‘the Virgin is with Child and he will be called Emmanuel – a name which means God is with us’!

‘O Key of David we thank you for the wonder of our being and the miracle of your presence in us  (cf.Ps.137), unlock the door that keeps us bound – make safe the way that leads on high and close the path to misery, open wide our heavenly home’  Amen.

Friday, December 19, 2014

O Antiphons - 19th December 2014

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

The shrub that was damaged
“O Root of Jesse, who stands as a sign among the peoples, before whom kings shall shut their mouths, to whom the nations shall make supplication, come to deliver us and delay not”
When reflecting on this evening’s ‘O Antiphon’ the image which came to mind was a shrub in our garden which was completely burned up in the severe frost and snow four years ago – nothing was left but dry wood. However, Jos, our wise gardener decided not to dig it up – he just cut it back to ground level, leaving the root intact. Ever since, it has fascinated me to watch it grow and come back to life again. Several months passed before tiny shoots began to sprout – for over a year I wondered if it would just remain a stump with a few twigs on it – but NO! now four years later it is a large healthy shrub adorning the garden and gaining height and width with each passing year.

Our antiphon addresses the ‘Root of Jesse’ which stands as a sign for the nations. Jesse, as we know, was the father of King David from whose line the Messiah, Jesus our Saviour, sprang. David desired to build a house for his Lord but he was reminded that it was God who would build him a house – the True Temple, the Body of Christ and by extension the Church – where God dwells with us and in us and we live in Him. But before that could happen David’s descendents throughout history would be repeatedly cut down to the roots so that true integrity and righteousness would blossom forth. No matter how low the people fell God always held out hope that a ‘shoot would spring from the stock of Jesse and on him would rest the Spirit of the Lord.

After the Exile they were once again reminded:
“the Root of Jesse, standing as a signal for the peoples, will be sought out by the nations and its home will be glorious” (Is 11:10).

Jesus springs from the Root of Jesse and exclaims: “I am the vine, you are the branches” (Jn 15:1). – another image of life being sustained by the sap from the root - to the extent that we are attached to Him, the true Vine, we bear fruit. However, as we all know from experience, in the life of the Church and of each individual person the Divine Vinedresser needs to prune us and often cut us down to the very ground – not to destroy us but so that new shoots can spring forth; for the Divine Sap which we received at Baptism continues to flow through us and therefore we need never lose hope when the fruit is slow to appear – as was the case with the shrub in the garden.

Again it took centuries of pruning and caring before the Messiah sprang from the Root of Jesse. As God waited a thousand years from David to find a heart as open, humble and empty as Mary who said “I am the handmaid of the Lord”, so He can wait a life time for us to truly open our hearts to welcome him in such a way that we can be wholly His. Therefore we must never lose hope for ourselves or others and must always strive to inspire that hope in those who have lost all hope in God and in themselves.

As we prepare for the coming of our Saviour this Christmas we cry out to Him with the whole Church:
“O Root of Jesse, who stands as a sign among the peoples, before whom kings shall shut their mouths, to whom the nations shall make supplication, come to deliver us and delay not”

Thursday, December 18, 2014

O Antiphons - 18th December 2014

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

In early December 2006, in the United States, one family got lost and were stranded in the snow in a remote mountain area. The father and the mother of the family tried to do everything to survive and protect their 3 year old and 7 months daughters for a week without food and under extremely cold conditions. They even burnt their tyres to send the signal and warm them up, and had to honk the horn at night to chase off the black bears. After 7 days, the father finally decided to leave the car in order to find help for the family. Two days later, the mother and 2 children were found by a helicopter and rescued, but the father was found dead. However, this tragic story didn’t end there. When the recue team traced his footsteps while they were searching for him, they found out the heroic effort of this father who tried to get help for his family. He walked about 26 km in total, during 2 or 3 days in the rough, slippery, rugged, and steep mountain ravine, and dense forest areas. Even, the rescuers were amazed by how far he walked in the treacherous wilderness and under the severely difficult circumstances, and broke down in tears. He had not eaten properly for 7 days even before his departure, and it was very cold, and he was not equipped to walk the mountain areas, he was wearing his tennis shoes. They also found out that he even swam to get to the other side of the ravine at one point. They described his trek as a “superhuman” effort to save his family. I guess that his love for his family made it possible for him to go that far. Luckily, because of the last ping of the cell phone, the rescuers were able to narrow down the location of the car. But, I remember one report saying that the pilot of the helicopter found the human footsteps in the remote snowy area and he followed them back to the car and found the family. It was the father’s footsteps who had walked a long way which guided the helicopter to the rest of the family in the car. This poignant story has been imprinted in my memory and heart since then because it made me reflect on many aspects of human life. It reminds me of how far love can make a person go much further, beyond our imagination, and especially the story reminds me of how far our God has been walking to reach us through salvation history. This human father’s effort to save his family made me have a glimpse of our God’s sublime love for us and His unceasing effort to save us. Incarnation – how far our God has walked… The Creator is willing to be bound by time and space and human condition, in order to save the creatures! Today’s O Antiphon manifests that our God fulfils His promise completely through the Word made flesh.
“O Adoni 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. Come, and redeem us with outstretched arms. Maranatha Come, Lord Jesus come.”
Moses went up Mount Sinai to meet God, but God comes down to us now. And God completes his name, too, as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said in one of his book,
“The God, who is, is the saving God, now present. The revelation of God’s name, which begins in the burning bush, comes to completion in Jesus.”
God spoke in the burning bush, but now he shows His face through His Son. Even the laws are complete. The new law is visibly shown by the Incarnate Word, and is carved on our heart, not on stone. What is our new commandment? It is no longer that we love our neighbour as ourselves, but we have to love each other as Jesus has loved us. What a challenging and noble commandment we have to fulfil! Finally, Jesus redeems us with His stretched arms on the Cross. His power is in His mercy and goodness. Although the theologians have talked and debated about the reasons and motives of the Incarnation, nobody knows why he chose this way in order to save us. Only God knows. However, I am sure of this. In order to save us, He chose the surest way to respect our free will and share his divine life on earth. He chose the best way to be with us in the mist of our darkness and suffering and to make an assurance of his presence for us. The following Korean poem shares this thought in a certain degree.

The following Korean poem by Lee, shares this thought on a human’s fundamental longing in the middle of suffering, in a certain degree, even though it was not written in a religious context.   
“To someone who is exposed to rain, a person who can walk with him is needed more than an umbrella. To someone who is crying, a heart upon which one can lean and cry is needed more than a handkerchief.  I realized this after I have met you."    
We know that Jesus is that person. He is coming. We are going to hear his heart beat while we lean upon his heart. But, at least now, let us give him our humble, joyful and welcoming hearts. Let Our Blessed Mother lay Baby Jesus in our hearts as his cradle, giving him a place to rest after a long walk down to us since He will continue to walk with us in a long journey to the end. As psalmists say:
“Blessed are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance” ,
We too say in profoundly joyful praise,
“O Lord, our feast with you began, and we too walk towards the light of your face.”

The "O" Antiphons - 17th December 2014

O Sapientia

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

This evening we sing at Vespers the first of the seven ‘O’ Antiphons – “O Wisdom!”  With these antiphons we reach the climax of the Advent Liturgy.  To quote from the ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church’ (CCC): “When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for in sharing in the long preparation for the Saviour’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for His second coming.” (CCC 524)

Our first “O” antiphon translates from the Latin:

‘O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,

reaching from end to end, mightily and sweetly ordering all things:

Come and teach us the way of prudence.’

In this antiphon we call on Eternal Wisdom, which is personified in the Logos, the eternal Word of the Father, through Whom the world was made and in the fullness of time took flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, by the power of the Holy Spirit. “Reaching from end to end of the universe, mightily and sweetly ordering all things.”  Here we see the Wisdom of God in His providential care of our world.  God cares for all from the least things to the greatest.  I’m sure each of us here can see the hand of Divine Providence in their lives, as it says in the Book of Deuteronomy, “The LORD carried you as a man carries his child, all along the road you travelled” (Dt 1:31b).  Often it is in the small events of daily living that we see and are touched by the loving hand of Providence – some matter inadvertently overlooked is providentially taken care of; or maybe a couple of events coincide and it is too late to intervene, then unexpectedly one of the parties cancels the appointment or another is delayed in traffic or the like, so all can be easily taken care of.  This reminds us of what Jesus Himself says in the Gospel: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny and not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing it.  As for you, the hairs of your head are all numbered.  So do not be afraid: you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows” (cf. Mt 10:29-31).  The marvellous doctrine of Divine Providence gives us the greatest confidence in our heavenly Father’s care of us.  But what shall we say of the great evil and violence that has existed in the world since the first parents?  … and which we have been witnessing in recent months?  Today’s news brings another horrific story of suffering of the innocent in the violence and massacres in Pakistan.  To try to say something, to quote St Augustine,

“For the Almighty God, who, ... has supreme power over all things, being Himself supremely good, would never permit the existence of anything evil among His works, if He were not so omnipotent and good that He can bring good even out of evil.”[2]

The death and Resurrection of Jesus has demonstrated powerfully the victory of God over evil – the greatest and worst – so we can trust God, Who ‘… in everything .. works for good for those who love him …” (Rom 8:28).

It is in Jesus the Babe of Bethlehem that we see God’s surpassing Wisdom and Providence.  He is eternal Wisdom come among us as one of us to redeem and save us.  So in our antiphon we cry out, “Come and teach us the way of prudence.”  Some of us might consider that a very prosaic request to make of Eternal Wisdom.  The virtue of prudence sometimes has negative overtones in peoples’ minds.  The Catechism seems to have anticipated that for it says, “Prudence is not to be confused with timidity or fear, nor with duplicity of dissimulation” (CCC 1806).  It says, ‘Prudence disposes the practical reason to discern in every circumstance our true good and to choose the right means of achieving it” (CCC 1835).  I think it could be summed up in the Prayer after Communion that occurs frequently during Advent, which prays that, “we judge wisely the things of earth and love the things of heaven.”

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Launch of the Year for Consecrated Life


 Our parish priest and a large crowd of local religious and laity joined us this evening for an Hour's prayer before sung Vespers - we are happy to share with our readers the opening reflection.

As we gather on this first Sunday of Advent and begin this special Year for Consecrated Life, let us pause for a moment to become aware of the One in Whose Presence we are – the One who has called us by name and Who continues to call day by day.   Let us remember that we are united with a countless number of brothers and sisters throughout the Church in every part of the world who are also reflecting on and celebrating the same realities as we are – we remember those women and men who live the consecrated life in its various forms and in different cultures.  We remember in particular those who are being persecuted for their faith and who cannot celebrate in public – those who are feeling forgotten and losing hope.

In his letter for this Year of Consecrated Life, published yesterday, Pope Francis set before us three aims:

1.     look to the past with gratitude

2.     live the present with passion

3.     embrace the future with hope

First and foremost, consecrated life is God’s gift to His Church for which we must give thanks.  St John Paul II described consecrated life as a “radical gift of self for love of the Lord Jesus and of the whole human family.” (cf VC 3).  But our gift of ourselves is only a response to the gift of the One who has first loved us, the light of whose face has shone on us and chose us to be His instruments. It is a great mystery that our infinite God should look upon His weak human creatures and invite us to be part of His plan for the salvation of the world – not because we are better than others – in fact God seems to delight in choosing the weakest and frailest, so that we are left in do doubt that it is all His work - His gift.  While we are only the clay in the hand of the Divine Potter, yet He has chosen to need our hearts - my heart and yours - to do His praying and His loving.  In His plan He uses A to bring about His purpose for B.  During this time together this evening let us give thanks for this gift of Consecrated Life in the Church down through the centuries – remembering all those who have gone before us – many of whom lived and worked in difficult circumstances – our own founders and foundresses and a countless host of men and women who remained faithful and have passed on the gift to us.

As I was preparing this reflection a verse of psalm 43 jumped out of the page – I quote:

          No sword of their own won the land
          No arm of their own brought them victory.
          It was your right hand, your arm
And the light of your face, for You loved them.  

No doubt it was the ‘light of His face’ and the experience of His love which attracted our forbearers and gave them the strength to spend themselves totally for the Lord and his people, especially for the most vulnerable.  Let us believe that the light of that same Face is shining on us to enable us to “live the present with passion.”  

I quote Pope Francis’ letter:

“The apostolic effectiveness of consecrated life does not depend on the efficiency of its methods but rather on the eloquence of our lives, lives which radiate the joy and beauty of living the Gospel and following Christ to the full.”  But for this to become a reality, Jesus must be our first love, as we promised when we made our profession.  “Only if He is, will we be empowered to love, in truth and mercy, every person who crosses our path…. We are called to know and show that God is able to fill our hearts to the brim with happiness. The consecrated life will not flourish as a result of brilliant vocation programs, but because the young people we meet, find us attractive, because they see us as men and women who are happy!” 

This year is a time for us to tune into our own vocation story - to experience again that  irresistible attraction, that persistent whisper, that divine spark which burned in our hearts and urged us on to say our ‘yes’.  It is a time to ask forgiveness for our infidelity and allow ourselves to be bathed in the light of His Face – that merciful Face which heals and renews us.  To quote St Paul may all of us, with unveiled faces, like mirrors reflecting the glory of the Lord, be transformed into the image that we reflect, in brighter and brighter glory through the working of the Lord who is the Spirit.” (cf 2Cor 3:18).

As we look to the future with confidence let us take heart from the Mass Readings which the Church provides us today the first Sunday of Advent Yr B, reminding us that God is the great Potter – we are only the clay but He can work wonders with us if only we let go and leave ourselves in His Hand.  With Isaiah and the Psalmist we ask that He would come and be with us, let His face shine on us – while trusting in Paul’s promise that we will not be without any of the gifts of the Spirit while we are waiting for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. (cf 1Cor) 

Therefore we turn to you, Jesus, here present on the altar and ask you to let your Face shine on us that we may be transformed into true images of Yourself, so that with you we may “wake up the world” and set it on fire with your love.  May this year be one of deep conversion and renewal for all of us and may we so live the Gospel values that others will be drawn to leave all to follow you.  

We thank you for the friendship and support of so many lay people, family, friends and benefactors – may they always know the joy and peace of your Presence in their lives and we pray for your special protection for them and their families. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Year for Consecrated Life

Pope Francis has announced that the coming year will be dedicated to Consecrated Life - beginning on the 30th November 2014 (First Sunday of Advent) and continuing until the 2nd February 2015.  This year will be an opportunity to gratefully remember the contribution of Consecrated Life down through the centuries and provide us with hope as we look to the future.  It will be a time of conversion and renewal for those of us who are living the consecrated life as well as an opportunity to proclaim the beauty and joy of belonging totally to the Lord and His Church.  We pray that many young women and men may feel the irresistible attraction of the Lord and have the courage to say 'yes' to His invitation to follow Him.

To mark the launch of this Year of Consecrated Life many local religious as well as laity will join our community for a special Hour of Eucharistic Adoration followed by sung Vespers on Sunday 30th November - First Sunday of Advent at 5.30 p.m. 

We ask to be excused for our silence over recent months - we have had quite a lot of illness in our community with the result that we did not reach on attending to this blog.  Now with Advent approaching we hope to do our best to keep up to date.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Solemnity of Christ the King

A Letter to His Majesty the King of Heaven and earth

"I shall keep my sheep in view"   Ezekiel

My Lord God, this week as I pondered over your Word from this week's Mass readings, I often wondered why you care for us as you do.

In fact I used to wonder why my father - a very sensible man - ever bothered to rear sheep at all,  troublesome creatures that they are - headstrong and so stupid they would break your heart.

And yet My Lord, YOU keep us in view and we indeed  did break your heart, piercing it through with a lance until blood and water poured out, and I know You would do it again for even one of your children in trouble.

You are truly our Shepherd King; deeper than all else is your Fatherly care for each one individually. I can't even imagine how you do keep each one of us, your so wayward children, within the beam of those gentle and merciful eyes of yours, and yet ‘twas yourself who told us that the very hairs of our head are numbered---not by angels but by yourself - and that we matter more to you than many sparrows.

Long ago, you spoke to us through your prophet telling us "I myself will show my sheep where to rest, I shall bring back the stray, bandage the wounded and make the weak strong” and allow me to remind you that there are many  many of your children suffering for the sake of your Name these times.

And Your Majesty, if I may make so bold as to ask You one more question, why, oh why, why do you really love and care for us so much ?

Perhaps the poet Francis Thompson caught a glimpse of this mystery when he wrote his beautiful poem "The Hound of Heaven.” I quote,

"Alack, thou knowest not how little worthy of any love thou art!

Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee save Me, save only Me.

All which I took from thee I did but take, not for thy harms, but just that thou might'st seek it in my arms.

all which thy child's mistake fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home,

Rise clasp my hand and come.

Halts by me that footfall, Is my gloom, after all, shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?

Ah fondest, blindest, weakest, I am He whom thou seekest!   

Oh my Lord you are truly our 'beautiful beautiful beautiful God breathing your love - in the hearts of us all.   cf Patrick Kavanagh.                  


Friday, October 24, 2014

Discernment Retreat Day for Young Women - 1st November

Dear Friends,
The time is passing very busily, so though we are not doing too well at keeping up-to-date with saying 'hello', we are still here and remembering everyone - all of our friends in our prayers. You are not forgotten and certainly not alone!

We have another day planned with our Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal for the 1st of November, as we did way back in March - for any young women who might be interested in learning a little more about who we and they (the CFRs) are. We answer all kinds of questions, and you get to spend time in prayer and adoration with Jesus; the day being the Feast of All Saints, will begin with Holy Mass - celebrated by one of our brothers - Fr Ronan Cusack, an excellent and fearless preacher - full of the joy of the Truth - a true and faithful Dominican.

Do come get in touch if you think it might be a day for you (email:; tell people you know who might find it helpful; we look forward to seeing everyone who comes; if the last day is anything to go by, it will be one to remember and be grateful for - full of grace!


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Vocation Discernment Weekend - 17th October 2014

If you are between the ages of 20 and 40, are discerning the Lord's call in your life and would like to know more about our Dominican contemplative way of life you will be welcome. During the weekend there will be the opportunity to share in our sung liturgy and Eucharistic Adoration; time for prayer and reflection.
You will also have the chance to meet with young members of our community, who, after a process of discernment, have committed themselves to this way of life and hear their stories.
In the event that the above dates are not convenient and you would like to avail of such an opportunity it is always possible to arrange for a visit or stay in our guest room or retreat house.

For further information, please get in touch with Sr Niamh op at the addresses given above.

Please feel free to download and share this poster - click here.