Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Advent Week 3 - O Wisdom

O Sapientia

These are the last days of the Advent season, the days of the “O” antiphons and this evening we will be calling upon the LORD who is Wisdom – to come and to teach us the way of truth.

          “O Wisdom, you come forth from the mouth of the Most High.
          You fill the universe and hold all things together in a strong yet gentle manner.
          O come, to teach us the way of truth.”

We know that on the day of our Confirmation, we were blessed with the gift of wisdom when we received the fullness of the Holy Spirit.  So it may be truly said, that the way of wisdom – the desire for wisdom – is nothing other than a desire for God.  So, in these days of anticipation of the LORD – God Himself, becoming even one of us – it is fitting to remember that wisdom is very closely related also to wonder.

When Christmas is held to be a season of wonder and amazement at the incredible humility of God; when we enter into the mystery with hearts open to receiving and believing in all that the LORD has in His Heart for us – then also, our eyes, too, being to see everything more clearly: we begin to see the truth and through the wisdom implanted in us – we can discern the meaning of all life: the truth about our own lives; and to value absolutely everything as a most precious and divine gift.  It is possible at last, to hear the Word of the LORD and to know that His word to us and for us, is a word of unimaginable, wonderful and amazing love.

How does one respond to such love?  We could not even hope to merit such a tremendous gift, and yet it is ours unconditionally.  So how can we, so to say, express our appreciation to the LORD for all He has invited us to receive? 
If we are moved to respond authentically to such a great love, the words of St Paul in today’s second reading at Mass – taken from his First Letter to the Thessalonians – seem to capture the essence of how to live this life wisely:

          “Be happy at all times; pray constantly; and for all things give thanks to God. …
          …  Never try to suppress the Spirit or treat the gift of prophecy with contempt;
          think before you do anything – hold on to what is good
          and avoid every form of evil … … …”

The wonderful thing about the gift of faith seems to me to be that through it, we awaken in ourselves – or we are more disposed to desire to live our lives authentically, and according to the truth.

What better gift, then, could we ask of the LORD, than the gift of wisdom … for ourselves and for those for whom we care? 

We pray for the Church and all her members: on his birthday, we pray especially for Pope Francis, that he may be guided in all things by the Spirit of Wisdom, the Spirit of Truth, and that – together with him, we too may grow in our love for wisdom and truth.

Advent Week 2

During Advent the Church brings us back in time to the centuries before the coming of Christ – the readings allow us to identify with the sentiments, longings and hopes of the people of the Old Testament who awaited the Messiah.  We see how God was at work in their lives, leading them to the truth about their relationship with Him and each other.  Last Sunday the Prophet Isaiah presented us with the image of God as Father and the Potter who formed His people.  In today’s first reading God is the Shepherd who gently leads His flock, feeding them and gathering the lambs in His arms, holding them against His breast.

This morning’s Gospel invites us to prepare a way for the Lord in the wilderness of our lives – or perhaps better to allow God to prepare a way in our hearts for His coming.  We may ask ourselves for whom or what are we preparing; who or what are we expecting? – as always the readings and prayers of the liturgy are our best teachers – during Advent these focus on what God would like to find when He comes – two phrases from the prayer for Monday week 1 stood out for me – it prayed that when the Lord knocks he “may find us watchful in prayer and exultant in his praise” – I take it to mean not so much that we must multiply our prayers but that we be alert to His Presence with us moment by moment and respond with alacrity and joy to whatever He may ask – as Mary responded with her fiat and Magnificat.

Advent reminds us that we are on a journey and that the Lord will come to each of us personally at our journey’s end.  We have come from the hand of God – he loved us and called us into being – each one is personally known and loved and we journey through life until the moment when He calls us back to Himself.  Advent strengthens our hope that He will come - and invites us to be ready and on the watch.  If we learn to recognise His coming at each moment then when He finally comes for us we will recognise Him and surrender to His embrace.

The Entrance antiphon of this morning’s Mass expresses it very beautifully – which we will sing again after Vespers at Reposition of the Blessed Sacrament:
“People of Sion the Lord will come to save all nations and your heart will exult to hear his majestic voice, the people of God will sing songs of joy like songs in the night.  They will have gladness of heart.....  On every high mountain streams will flow and there will be joy  for you are loved by the Lord.”

Sunday, December 10, 2017


For the past five years Sr Niamh and Sr M Teresa have participated in the distance learning programme from Maryvale University, Birmingham.  They have been studying theology very diligently while participating fully in our daily contemplative life.  So our whole community rejoiced with them when they recently graduated with first class honours in Bachelor of Divinity.  Here they are shown with their certificates which they received in the post as they did not go to Maryvale for the Graduation Ceremony on the 21st November -   Instead we  had our own community celebration!
Dobby one of our cats looks on approvingly from the roof top while the photo was being taken!

Study is an essential element in the life of Dominican Nuns - Our Constitutions encourage "a methodical study of sacred truth, according to the capacity of the individual, as a fruitful preparation for lectio divina and an aid to human maturity" - study also "nourishes contemplation" and helps us live our life with a more "enlightened fidelity".

Being able to participate in a distance learning course is a greatly appreciated by us contemplatives who observe the law of enclosure. The sisters have found this study very beneficial. Maryvale also offer short courses for those who find 5 years too intimidating. www.maryvale.ac.uk
Distance learning Theology courses are also on offer from our Irish Dominicans www.prioryinstitute.com.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Advent and Praying for Peace

As we sit here in this warm comfortable Chapel, feeling safe and secure as we pray, people elsewhere are dying, people are being persecuted, and people are being displaced. We could go on and on. Life is very different for so many. Acutely aware of the need for peace, Fr Bruno, the Master of our Order and the Commission for Justice and Peace have proposed that we make the season of Advent, as we await the coming of the Prince of Peace, a period of intense prayer for peace in our war torn world and of solidarity with our Dominican brothers and sisters involved in preaching in situations of injustice. This Advent our focus is on Columbia where there are Dominicans working to support the implementation of the Peace accord that was signed in 2016.

We know that peace can come about, that agreements can work. We have seen it happen in Northern Ireland and in our lifetime we have seen the fall of the Iron Curtain. Persistent prayer works. The holy rosary is a mighty weapon against the forces of evil.

But a hymn I learnt as a child in school echoes in my heart, challenging me. It goes ‘let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me’. We have to be instruments of the peace we want to see reigning in our world. In the light of this morning’s Gospel Chapter 11 of St. Luke’s gospel struck me with great force. Whatever house you enter first say peace be to this house. And if a person of peace is there, your peace shall rest upon him, but if not, it shall return to you. Somehow we have to prove the earnestness of our prayer for world peace by our willing to work for peace wherever we find ourselves- in our families, our community, our workplace, our neighbourhood. We have to come to each encounter with peace in our hearts and a desire to share that peace with the other person. But if we meet with hostility, coldness, indifference or any other negative response we have to allow our peace return to us. We are not to allow ourselves to be robbed of our peace. No one can do that to us. It is our choice, MY choice. If I allow myself to be disturbed, what will happen, the next person will come along, perhaps someone in great need of a smile, a kind word, a gesture of peace and I will miss that opportunity to serve Jesus in a troubled person. Jesus has come unexpectedly and I don’t see him because I am in a stupor, preoccupied, wallowing in my self-righteousness, being a victim soul.

Before turning off the light these nights I am reading a collection of memories that the Scripture Scholar Megan McKenna had of her grandmother. By happy coincidence or providence I came to a chapter headed Cuba 1960 last night. Megan at the age of fifteen had her secure, safe, sheltered life life turned on its head by the Cuban Missile crisis. It was her first encounter with the horrors of war. The dawning reality in her peaceful childhood of evil, of death, intended, immanent, planned and executed, of war intruding into her life, as she puts it, and it left her paralysed with fear. She couldn’t eat or sleep. She lay on her bed in despair until her Nana came to her. Her Nana’s wisdom is as pertinent now as it was 57 yrs ago and I found it worth taking to heart a salutary reminder that if I am not part of the solution then I am part of the problem.

She told her was that if she believed in God she had no right to despair. God made us all. And we are all of us without exception made in his image and likeness. God didn’t make us to give up on anyone  He made or on any situation. She reminded this  fifteen year old that she couldn’t blame anyone  for what others do, without taking a long hard look at herself first and realising that what was wrong with the world was wrong with her too. We are all human beings and anything any one else can do no matter how terrible , we are given the circumstances just as capable of doing. But it is also true that we are also capable of doing all the good that is being done in the world. If God hasn’t given up on me then I cannot give up on the world. I look to myself, to his mercy to me, and hope is restored. There can be peace on earth. Conversion happens.