Monday, August 27, 2018

Does God expect more from your life? (Vocation Discernment)

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Sunday, August 5, 2018

Novena to St Dominic - Day 7: St Dominic, a man of encouragement

On this 7th day of our Novena in honour of St. Dominic, I would like to share just a few thoughts on St. Dominic as a man of Encouragement.

“When your words came, I devoured them, your Word was my delight and the joy of my heart” (Jr.15:16).
How aptly this Scripture text from the prophet Jeremiah can be applied to Our Holy Father Dominic – we can just see him in our mind’s eye, contemplating from the depth of his heart with great joy and exultation, this Scripture jewel,  overwhelmed as he always was, with an immense love of Holy Scripture.
‘Dominic showed himself a man of the Gospel in word and deed’, we are told by those who knew him.
With his deep spirit of unceasing prayer and with the Gospel as his weapon, he  was fired with zeal to be an apostle of encouragement among his Nuns, his Friars and all those among whom he laboured.

Among his numerous virtues spoken of again and again by those who knew him and by those who bore witness to his life under oath at his canonisation process, his virtue as a man of encouragement, in one form or another,  shines especially brightly – ‘Dominic was compassionate and consoled people in time of temptation, he was a source of strength (or we can say a source of encouragement) to all’.

 In this day and age the need for encouragement for every person at one time or another, is more needful than ever before, St. Paul himself reminds us in his letter to the Colossians (col.3:16)) – ‘Let the Word of Christ in all its richness dwell in you ……. encourage each other’.
By abiding in God’s encouraging Word speaking in our hearts  we will truly be aware of his Presence in our lives and the lives of others and thus amid misunderstandings, disappointments, hurts, and frustrations, as well as times of happiness, love and friendship, we will have many golden opportunities to be apostles of  this great virtue –

‘Do not be afraid’ God tells us ‘I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, you are mine’ – What greater encouragement could we ask for than these stupendous words from God, our Father, himself?

Let us ponder this great virtue in the company of Our Lady and St Dominic, Let us recall Mary’s words to the servants at the wedding of Cana – ‘do whatever  he tells you’ and that is exactly what St. Dominic did ALWAYS.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Novena to St Dominic - Day 6: Exploring an Icon of St Dominic

Every one of us is a living icon of God. He created us in his likeness and in his own image.
As you can see, this Icon of St. Dominic is not yet finished. At first I was disappointed not to have completed it in time for his Feast. Then it occurred to me that there was a message for me in this. Like this icon each one of us is not quite finished. We are still on a journey from darkness into the light. It is my hope that the image of St Dominic portrayed or perhaps more accurately, revealed to us through this icon may help us to enter the hidden, inner sanctuary of his heart and there discover more deeply the depths of our Dominican vocation---WHAT WE SHOULD LOOK LIKE.
The first portrait of St. Dominic was a word picture given to us by St. Cecilia, one of the first nuns of the Order, who knew him personally. For a long time historians did not give much credence to St. Cecilia’s description. Then, after World War 2, a scientific examination was done by anthropologists on St. Dominic’s remains and the results confirmed the authenticity of her description. Cecilia had said that he was of medium height- the measurements taken of his relics show that he was five feet six inches tall. She noted that, “His figure was supple; his face handsome and somewhat ruddy; his hair and beard had a reddish tinge. He was not a bit bald; his hair had a touch of grey.” At the bottom of the reliquary the examiners found some shreds of Dominic’s hair. It was exactly as Cecelia had said it was. “From his brow and his eyes” she continued, “there came a radiant splendor which won the respect and admiration of all; his eyes were large and beautiful. His hands were long and handsome and his voice was powerful and sonorous. He was always joyous and smiling except when moved with compassion at the affliction of his neighbours.” There are very few saints of so long ago whose personal appearance is so well documented.
The face is the mirror of the heart.  Those who are pure in heart, have faces that are transparent, unprotected. In them we see the nakedness and vulnerability of Christ. They have his freedom and spontaneity. Joseph Pieper has a lovely insight about this. He says “Only he who has a pure heart can laugh in a freedom that creates freedom in others.”
During the process of his canonization another very beautiful word picture of Dominic is given. It was said of him that ‘he spoke only with God or about God’. It is this particular depiction of Dominic that is the inspiration for my icon.
If you look at the icon you will notice that only the left hand of Dominic is visible. In his right hand he carries the Gospel of Matthew and the letters of St.  Paul. These were his most loved books.  We know from Bl. Jordan of Saxony, that they were his constant companions and he knew them by heart.  We do not see his hand.  It is not important that he carries the book in his hand but that he carries the Word in his heart. And it is from his encounter with the Word of God in his heart that he goes forth to bring that knowledge of God in Jesus to others.
His left hand is stretching up towards heaven. In this is revealed his deep closeness to God. “He spoke always with God”. “O Lord, have mercy on your people, what will become of sinners?” was his constant cry. His soul, writes Jordan, “was a sanctuary of compassion where he offers God all human misery.” Christ is the answer to the brokenness in each of our lives. Dominic’s whole life and mission was given over to preaching THIS truth.
The centrality of Christ our Saviour, in his saving mystery made sacramentally present in the Church, lies at the heart of Dominic’s spirituality.
It is important to note that while stretching up to God, Dominic’s left hand is also breaking through the frame of the picture. I was not happy with this at first and kept attempting to change it- to keep his hand within the contours of the outline. But it just wouldn’t work. Finally it dawned on me. I wasn’t meant to change Dominic but rather to hear what he was saying to me through what I considered to be a flaw in my icon writing. And there it was. Because Dominic’s hand is stretched out towards God it is automatically also stretching out beyond the boundaries of his comfort zone to reach out to the peoples on the margins, just as Jesus did. This is the change contemplation works in us. We become the icon of Jesus, acting as Jesus did or allowing him to live through us. Last year Pope Francis wrote a letter to the priests and consecrated persons and invited them not to sit comfortably in their houses and churches but to go out to the fringes of society, to the uncomfortable places and bring the evangelical message to the broken and distant. Do we do that? Dominic did. He left his cloister in Osma, Spain when he discovered that the people of southern France did not know the truth about Christ. And when he heard about the pagan people of Prussia, Lithuania and Esthonia, the Baltic countries, he had a huge desire to bring them the Good News, the Word of Truth. Brothers called it “a dream of St. Dominic.” He never in fact got that far in person but his desire and prayer went beyond all boundaries, to even the most distant lands. I can say that my own vocation speaks to the reality of this holy dream of Dominic. I am one of those Baltic peoples that he so longed to bring Jesus to.
Now we come to Dominic’s halo. His halo like his prayer and zeal for souls is as large as his heart. It too goes beyond the frame designed to contain it and encourages us to dream our dreams, big dreams.
But that is not all, Dominic has also feet, beautiful feet! Feet with a fire in them! On Wednesday as we celebrate his Feast, we will hear in the first reading at Mass. “how beautiful are the feet of those who bring the Good News of Salvation”

Do we want to follow in his footsteps.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Novena to St Dominic - Day 5: St Dominic and Body Language

My reflection is on the significance and importance of bodily posture in St Dominic’s prayer. As we know from the ‘Nine Ways of Prayer,’ St Dominic used his whole body when he prayed: bowing, prostration, reaching up to heaven.

It struck me as odd that in our time, when there is so great an awareness of the importance of body language in interpersonal communication and of how much of what is communicated is through bodily posture etc., that there should be such a widespread dismissal of any significance of our bodily posture when we pray. It is said that bodily posture doesn’t matter because God looks at the heart.

I think that this ignoring of bodily posture gives rise to a number of problems, largely because it fails to consider the impact that my body language has on my own perception of, and response to, the person that I am talking or listening to. To give an example, if at a lecture I am slouched and looking off out the window my body is telling my mind not to pay attention. If, on the other hand, I sit up straight, keep eye contact and watch expectantly, my body is telling my mind to pay attention.

Our bodily prayer postures act in a similar way: blessing ourselves as we enter a Church reminds us that we are entering a holy place and is also a sort of trigger (as is kneeling) that we are about to pray (like the way insomniacs are advised to develop a ‘pre-bed’ physical routine that will trigger the mind to prepare to sleep). Similarly, genuflecting before the tabernacle is the bodily expression that Jesus (God) is truly present here. Kneeling and prostration likewise remind us of God’s greatness and our littleness.

This means that ignoring or removing bodily posture from our prayer-life actually makes it harder for us to pray and also makes it harder for us to relate to God as a real person, since by removing body language from our communication with him we are no longer communicating as we would with a real person but only with a thought in our head.

May we continue to follow St Dominic’s example and pray with our whole selves (body & mind).

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Novena to St Dominic - Day 3: Dominic a man of prayer

As we continue the novena to our Father St Dominic, I’d like to read an extract from the book “15 Days of Prayer with Saint Dominic” by Alain Quilici O.P.

All of those who knew Dominic, either from near or far, as close friends of just acquaintances, attested to the intensity of his prayers. Dominic prayed like he breathed. He was not one of those who had time to write books, not even books on prayer, he just prayed. He spent the majority of his time in prayer. He entered into a state of prayer as naturally and rapidly as others fell asleep. To spontaneously fall asleep is a childhood grace. Dominic was a child according to the gospel, a child who dove into prayer whenever he had a moment, most especially during the night. For him, the night was made for prayer.
Even when he was just a young religious, he already appeared to be a man specially gifted for prayer:
Night and day, like the olive tree that produces fruit or the cypress that reaches to the heavens, he used the floor of the church, devoting his time to contemplation, never appearing to leave the monastery. God had given him the special grace of prayer for sinners, the poor, the afflicted: he carried their maladies in the intimate sanctuary of his compassion; and the tears that came boiling from his eyes manifested the ardour of the feelings that burned within him. It was his habit to spend his nights in prayer. With the door closed, he prayed to his Father. During and at the end of his prayers, he uttered moans which came from his heart. He couldn’t hold back, and these cries, coming spontaneously, could clearly be heard up above in heaven (Libellus, 12).
Dominic, like a beacon of light that burns in the night, realized the Lord’s precept: “Be alert at all times, praying …” (Lk 21:36).

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Novena to St Dominic - Day 2: The paradox of the Cross

Novena to St Dominic
31st July 2018, Day 2

“For everything there is a season,
and a time for every matter under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; …
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; …
A time to mourn, and a time to dance; …
A time to love, and a time to hate …”  (Ecclesiastes, cf 3:1-9)                        

There is never, however,
a time to despair, and no matter how challenging or
God-less the time in which we find ourselves seems to be,
we are called at all times to be creatures of hope.

St Dominic’s time was not more desperate than ours, yet more than anything it could be said of him that he was a man of hope because of his amazing confidence in God and of his reverence for the length to which Christ went, in order to save us.

The paradox of the Cross:
A place of failure and of triumph;
A place of horror and also of indescribable love.

Pope St John Paul II frequently spoke and wrote of JESUS as the answer to all the questions man seeks an answer to, in order the better to know and understand himself and how to be human.
We could say that the shape of all the answers we seek, is the shape of the Cross.  … … … Difficult to gaze upon, and difficult to understand, and extremely difficult to reconcile with love – especially with divine love.  It is, nevertheless, the shape of all the answers we seek, and St Dominic knew and understood this so well, from the many hours he spent contemplating it. For the Cross is, among other things, also the shape of wisdom, which, when we put it on, becomes the shape of the freedom which is so essential to enabling us to be truly human.

To know that we are children of God is wisdom.  To have the courage to live according to this knowledge is holiness and a grace that we have only to ask for, to receive it. 
St Dominic embraced this truth all his life and lived it in union with the Lord whom he served so devotedly in his preaching and in his unceasing prayer.

The book of Ecclesiasticus encourages us with the following ‘thought’:

            “… wisdom is like her name, and is not manifest to many.
            … Put your feet into her fetters, and your neck into her collar.
            Put your shoulder under her and carry her, and do not fret under her bonds.
            Come to her with all your soul, and keep her ways with all your might.
            Search out and seek, and she will become known to you; and when you get hold of her, do
                                                                                                                                    not let her go.
            For at last, you will find the rest she gives, and she will be changes into joy for you.
            Then her fetters will become for you a strong protection, and her collar a glorious robe.
            Her yoke is a golden ornament, and he bonds are a cord of blue.
            You will wear her like a glorious robe, and put her on like a crown of gladness”
Cf Sir 6:22-31 (RSVCE).
This is the Cross Dominic wore: a Cross of wisdom and of truth; of triumph and of glory; a Cross of Divine power and love: the Cross of Christ.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Our New Card Catalogue is now available

Our Card Catalogue for 2018/19 is now available. It features a number of new cards; including, to mark the celebration of the World Meeting of Families in Dublin this August, a 'Holy Family Icon Card' by one of our Sisters.

Please click here to download the full catalogue.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

'Who touched me?' - A reflection on today's Gospel

“Who touched me?” (Mk  5:31)
Seeing this wonderful cross in the sky above our monastery reminded me of these thoughts in Pope Benedict’s ‘Spe Salvi’ (par. 27-28):

Whoever is touched by love begins to perceive what “life” really is. He begins to perceive the meaning of the word of hope that we encountered in the Baptismal Rite: from faith I await “eternal life”—the true life which, whole and unthreatened, in all its fullness, is simply life. Jesus, who said that he had come so that we might have life and have it in its fullness, in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10), has also explained to us what “life” means: “this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (Jn 17:3). Life in its true sense is not something we have exclusively in or from ourselves: it is a relationship. And life in its totality is a relationship with him who is the source of life. If we are in relation with him who does not die, who is Life itself and Love itself, then we are in life. Then we “live”.

Yet now the question arises: are we not in this way falling back once again into an individualistic understanding of salvation, into hope for myself alone, which is not true hope since it forgets and overlooks others? Indeed we are not! Our relationship with God is established through communion with Jesus—we cannot achieve it alone or from our own resources alone. The relationship with Jesus, however, is a relationship with the one who gave himself as a ransom for all (cf. 1 Tim 2:6). Being in communion with Jesus Christ draws us into his “being for all”; it makes it our own way of being. He commits us to live for others, but only through communion with him does it become possible truly to be there for others, for the whole.  

Friday, June 1, 2018

The Visitation of Our Lady to St Elizabeth - 31st May

Today is the Feastday of two of the most courageous women who have ever lived.
Today is the feast of the inviolable dignity of motherhood.
Today is a feast of the celebration of the beauty and the gift of womanhood – and all that it can be.
Today, in the Church, we rejoice and share in the joy of the whole host of heaven, at the visitation of Our Lady to St Elizabeth.

Picture it:
A young girl and an old woman: both of whom are offered and accept the gift of motherhood in the most extraordinary and incredible circumstances.  Who could believe that it should be God’s will to allow these two – Mary and Elizabeth – to be subjected to the scorn and derision of neighbours and community who may well have been scandalized at what had happened to them.  And all for the sake of His glory?

Behold, Mary.
Until this point in her life, she had been a precious and beloved child of her parents.  They trusted her implicitly; delighted in her goodness; were impressed by the depth of her faith and the way that her friendship with God guided all her actions – so much so that even defined her.  It was a joy and a privilege for Saints Joachim and Anne to be her parents.  She was truly a gift to them from God.
And now this.
A child – little more than a child – with a plan and a dream for her life, in an instant taken from her.  What will people say?  How they will talk!  And when they hear how it happened … … …

Behold, Elizabeth.
An old woman.  Her dream all her married life; her hope and that of Zechariah was that their love and fidelity to each other and to God, would bear fruit in parenthood.  To be given the chance of bringing a child into the world and to share with that child the beauty of faith.  And it never happened.  Through years of disappointed hope, they had at last accepted their fate and were now too old even to wish or to believe.
And now this.
Old enough to be grandparents!  And to have to begin: to be entrusted with the care of a life so new and so dependent.  What will people say?  How they will talk!  And when they hear how it happened … … …

In the chaos and complexity of emotions they must have experienced, they nevertheless knew and understood the joy of the truth.  God had extended to these two women, and to Joseph and Zechariah – an invitation to consent to His will and to be sharers in His divine joy, by accepting the invitation and gift.  They trusted in His mercy: trusted that He was the source of the grace they would need – and the courage and love they would need.
And the world was made new.

At the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, two women found in one another the word of hope and comfort and of strength they needed to hear.  They found understanding, support and consolation and renewed faith in the Lord’s words, ‘Do not be afraid.’  They were not alone. 
The LORD is my strength and my song.

As we draw near to the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, this feast of the Visitation seems to have an even more powerful message for us, who have been baptised and have received the sacrament of the Eucharist. 
When we were presented to the Lord to be baptised, it was almost as though we were being offered to the Lord as bodies that would be His very own.  This is my body, offered for you.  We were offered to the Lord to receive the gift of faith – and in so doing we, as it were, gave ourselves to Him in order that He might be able to claim us for Himself, and say of us ‘This is my Body.’ 
The wonder of our faith is that in being claimed by God, we did not lose our identity: we did not cease to be ourselves.  Our baptism incorporates us into the body of Christ, as ourselves, so that it is as you and as me that we are made to be a place for Christ to call ‘home.’

Do we dare to believe?  Do we have the courage and insight to be able to say with Mary, that ‘He who is mighty has done great things for me?’  Dare we even imagine the truth that we have within our grasp, the ability to say ‘yes’ to the invitation to believe that our very presence in the world has within it the seeds of enhancing its beauty?

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Through the Window of a Dominican Monastery

Last month there was a little reflection on the beginning of our Constitutions.  A further word on it this month seems like a good idea and given the way the world is turning so rapidly from faith and from God – it seems even necessary to pose a question or two about the same article.

We are called to ‘live in harmony …’

The question is:           Do we in fact know how to live? 
Do you know how to live?
Do you have a desire to actually live rather than merely exist?

Entering a monastery is a real ‘shock to the system’ – especially in today’s world (which sounds a bit like a cliché).  Nevertheless, so it is.  No iPhones, or smart-phones or ready access to social media … no radio or television except occasionally.

What are the benefits of that?  It’s a very relevant question for people who spend so many hours a day tuned into what people are saying ‘socially’ or ‘virtually.’

What do you discover when you turn off the noise; and stop filling your head with technological, non-stop communication?  What might happen?
Maybe … and in fact it is something that we here would all agree on.  TRUTH.  If there’s one thing you can be sure of, when you give yourself to the Lord in quiet and seeming emptiness (remember it actually isn’t emptiness) the truth bubbles up and speaks to you.

We are nuns of the Order of Truth – Veritas is our motto – so we bear witness in our silence and by our lives that TRUTH MATTERS.  More than that, it can be known and lived.  You can live the truth.  And the invitation is that you neither have to, nor are you expected to live that truth alone. 

What did the Lord promise His disciples before His ascension?  He said to them:
“Know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.”

KNOW – so it’s not simply a question of feeling.  He invites us to use our heads and our intelligence.  Know the truth.

I am with you.  There again are the famous words which for the Jews were too holy to be spoken, because they expressed God’s very name:  I AM.
And ‘with you’ remember, is what the Angel Gabriel told Mary was the meaning of Jesus’ name:  Emmanuel – a name which means, ‘God is with us.’

And He said, ‘always.’  That simple sentence is absolutely loaded with meaning.  And when the chaos around us seems to be too much to bear, He reminds us that He is ‘always’ with us. 

Do you have the courage to believe Him???

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Vocations Sunday

Happy Vocations Sunday!

Here we are again, thinking about
the Lord and how He draws people
like us – or people like you??? – to
desire to do as He did, Who laid
down His life for His sheep. 

So, today is ‘Vocations Sunday.’
Everyone knows what that means,
though admittedly sometimes hearing
people speak about their vocations as somehow feeling ‘called,’ can be a little perplexing, especially if you don’t quite know how to make sense of that kind of statement.
On the other hand, you might hear people speak of an experience of love that was overwhelming and irresistible. 

Against these statements, we encounter – and very frequently – people of tremendous knowledge and intelligence and rationality, for whom a ‘call’ is too fantastic and ridiculous to be credible.

Feelings come and go, and we know that we cannot root our identity in how we feel about things or people, or even ourselves.  There must be something more, something that can transcend even our emotions, so that we can depend on it and trust in it, somehow.

So what is the beauty of a vocation?  How can a ‘call’ be irresistible to all kinds of everyone?

I think the answer must be that when God is calling/ inviting someone to a religious vocation, He is inviting you to believe in His love not only on an emotional level, but fundamentally and lastingly on an intellectual level.  Like God who is Trinity, He appeals to our heart, mind, and will – the three are inter-dependent and complementary.  He knows us better than we know ourselves and it is only at His invitation that we can be ‘called.’

So, what is a vocation?
An invitation from the Lord of Love – from a Person to a person – a very particular call, which none but you can respond to.  And it is up to you to make the choice – He won’t force a decision, or you wouldn’t be free.
The question is, do you have the courage to explore the possibility, or even to dare to say yes???

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

A Window into our life

Welcome to a new ‘feature’ on our web-site …
We shall call it a ‘Window into the Life of a Dominican Nun,’ in a rather loose way. 

Through this ‘window,’ we hope to give you an idea of what the life of a contemplative nun of the Order of Preachers consists in; to offer some food for thought; maybe also help you to encounter God in a more personal way; and to help any young women who might be discerning a vocation, to understand better who we are and whether how we live, is how they also seek to live, for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.

The beginning of our Constitutions shows how we are so closely connected to our brothers and sisters in the Dominican Family:
            “… the first reason for which we are gathered together in community
            is to live in harmony, having one mind and heart in God. 
            This unity transcends the limits of the monastery and attains its fullness in
            communion with the Order and with the whole Church of Christ.

One mind and one heart in God.  It is a rare, rare gift, to live in a community where everyone is intent on loving the Lord with every fibre of their being, especially in a world in which He is for the most part ‘an inconvenience’ and unwelcome.  But here we are, with like-minded and like-hearted sisters, and we each share the same fundamental and consuming desire:
That the Lord may be loved; and that everyone on earth might come to know Him and the immensity of His love for them.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Preparing our Paschal Candle

The Paschal Candle: The Light of Christ
During the Easter Vigil, the Church reads the account of creation as a prophecy. In the resurrection, we see the most sublime fulfilment of what this text describes as the beginning of all things. God says once again: ‘Let there be light!’ The resurrection of Jesus is an eruption of light. Death is conquered, the tomb is thrown open. The Risen One himself is Light, the Light of the world. With the resurrection, the Lord’s day enters the nights of history. Beginning with the resurrection, God’s light spreads throughout the world and throughout history. Day dawns. This Light alone – Jesus Christ – is the true light, something more than the physical phenomenon of light. He is pure Light: God himself, who causes a new creation to be born in the midst of the old, transforming chaos into cosmos. (Pope Benedict XVI)

11)    The Cross – “The cross was the first Christian altar, where the first sacrifice was made” (Pope Francis)
Christ yesterday and today; the Beginning and the End
Many of us today do not know God and cannot find him in the crucified Christ. Many are in search for a love, or a liberty, that excludes God. Let us open our hearts to him, Jesus is the truth that makes us free to love.
On the cross the Redeemer has restored to us the dignity that belonged to us, has made us adoptive sons and daughters of God whom he has created in his image and likeness.

  2)    Fear Not!
The Alpha and Omega
The paschal candle represents our Risen Lord.
The Greek letters Apha above the cross and Omega below – the first and the last letters of the greek alphabet – show that Christ is in truth the beginning and the end of our salvation.
“To each person, whatever his condition, even if it were the most complicated and dramatic, the Risen One repeats: ‘Fear Not! I died on the cross but now I am alive for evermore. I am the first and the last, and the living one’ (Rev 1:17) (Pope John Paul II)

  3)    2018– It’s always Easter!
All time belongs to him, and all the ages. To him be glory and power, through every age and for ever.
Between the arms of the cross the numerals of the current year are inscribed.
In Jesus Christ in his incarnation, in his Cross and resurrection, the face of God has been revealed, that in Him God is present in our midst; he unites us and leads us towards our goal, towards eternal love.

Rejoice my soul. It is always Easter, for the Risen Christ is our Resurrection! (Sylvan of Mount Athos)

The completed Paschal Candle

Monday, March 26, 2018

Visit of the Master of the Order

Some photos from the recent visit of the Master of the Order, Fr. Bruno Cadoré, to our monastery during his visitation of the Irish Dominican Province. He was accompanied by Fr Alain Arnould OP and Fr Gerard Dunne OP, the vicar of the Master for our Monastery.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Rosary for Life and Faith

Holy Hour on Sunday the 18th of March here, in union with all those praying the Rosary at Mass Rocks and Monastic Sites throughout Ireland for Life and Faith.

5:15 pm- 6:15 pm

Followed by Vespers at 6:30pm

All very welcome

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

4th Sunday of Lent: Laetare Sunday

“If I forget you, Jerusalem, let my right hand wither. …”
“We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life, which from the beginning He had meant us to live it.”
“… but the man who lives by the truth comes out into the light,
so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God.”

Our Lenten journey has arrived at its half-way point and today, we have been invited to rejoice. 
To rejoice, obviously, in the Lord, Who is the source of all our good and of all the goodness around us.
To rejoice, possibly, in the fact that there are only three more weeks left of Lent – with St Patrick and St Joseph to look forward to, who will enable us to break the journey for a while, and thus help us to persevere … …

There may yet be something else in which we are invited to rejoice, possibly less obvious, maybe even unexpected.  But today’s readings, and indeed most of the liturgy we have been celebrating since Lent began, seem to be calling us to rejoice even in ourselves.

St Paul reminds us that “We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life, which from the beginning He had meant us to live it.”  And during the week we were commanded by Jesus Himself to love our neighbour as ourselves. …
It is easy to understand such a command to mean that we must love others as much as, or in the same way and to the same degree as we love ourselves.  But could it also dare us to love others as OURSELVES? – that is, is who we know ourselves to be?  And if this is so, is the commandment not then, even more challenging?  For we are now required to first discover who we truly are, in order that we may indeed love our neighbour as ourselves?  We are dared to set out on a quest for authenticity – not to spend all our time self-absorbed by any means – but, nevertheless, to have that desire: to be true.

All the saints throughout history have understood that abiding in God: attending to His Word; immersing themselves in His love, has opened their eyes to the truth about who they themselves were.  And the world has been a better place because of them.

We could perceive this season of Lent to be a time when we set ourselves to giving things up; to restraining ourselves from indulging in habits that aren’t really good for us anyway.  A comfortable way to reassure ourselves that we are making an effort, perhaps???

Maybe, after all, Lent is more fundamentally a time for us to be more intent on knowing, on discovering the truth, about who we really are, in order for us to truly be who we are. … … …
And what might we discover if we dare to travel along that path???

            That you are God’s work of art;
            That He delights in loving you;
            That He has created you for goodness, for joy, for Himself;
            That He is waiting to be gracious to you, if you will only take the time to welcome Him into yourself and allow Him to speak to your heart (Who, after all, is the only One who truly understands all that you have to bear – the good and the difficult, and sometimes the bad and the awful)
            Allow yourself to believe in all that He has in His heart for you.

Abiding in this truth enables you to see truly, for His love is a radiant light and you are a child of that same Divine Light.  By embracing that truth and living from it … the world becomes a better place, because you are in it. 

What a very much more wonderful world it would be, if we only dared to believe.

A Hymn for Lent, by Richard Baxter (1615 – 1691)
            Lord, it belongs not to my care
            Whether I die or live;
            To love and serve thee is my share,
            And this thy grace must give.

            If life be long, I will be glad
            That I may long obey;
            If short, yet why should I be sad
            To soar to endless day?

            Christ leads me through no darker rooms
            Than He went through before;
            He that into God’s kingdom comes
            Must enter by this door.

            Come, Lord, when grace has made me meet
            Thy blessed face to see;
            For if thy work on earth be sweet,
            What will thy glory be?

            My knowledge of that life is small,
            The eye of faith is dim;
            But ‘tis enough that Christ knows all
            And I shall be with Him.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Homily preached at Sr M Cathy's Solemn Profession

In the old vocations booklet for the Irish province from the 1950s the photographs go through the various stages of the formation of novices and students. By the second last page one arrives at pictures of the priest’s ordination and first Mass, turning the page, the final picture on the last page was of the graveyard in Tallaght. As if to say once you were ordained then the next major moment in one’s life was the grave. I am not saying today is the last big day in the life of Sr. Mary Cathy and the next stop is the community graveyard on the Chord Road. Or am I? For today you will use those stark words: I promise obedience until death.

At the end of today’s Gospel, we read: When they had done everything the Law of the Lord required, they went back to their own town where the child grew to maturity and he was filled with wisdom: and God’s favour was with him.

And we hear nothing more of him for 30 years, except for the episode in the Temple when he was 12 -  the hidden years of prayer and silent work. We call them the hidden years but also from a human standpoint formative years, years in which in his sacred humanity he grew in maturity.

 Today marks a phenomenal flowering, a maturing of Sr. Mary Cathy’s journey of faith. Today Sr. Cathy offers herself totally to Christ. This one sentence of eight words sums up the Thomistic understanding of solemn profession. Today Sr. Cathy offers herself totally to Christ. Today is the triumph of grace in the life of our sister. She is giving herself, consecrating herself in a public act of worship in the Church, for the Church, to Christ.

The prayers of the blessing of the veil and the blessing of the profession ring focus us on the interior reality of today’s solemn profession.  

 The prayer of blessing of the veil says that the veil is a public sign of her consecration, her giving of herself totally to Christ making her a house of prayer and a temple of intercession for all people. The ring is said also to be a sign of consecration and fidelity pledged to God.  Both are signs of her consecration.

The ring she receives today is a gift to her from her friends, a sign that religious vocations are truly ecclesial, they are never simply between the person making profession and her God, it is the activity of God’s grace in the midst of the Christian community. At her simple profession I spoke of how Cathy’s journey had begun on the day Imelda and John brought her to the church to be baptised, today we all hold Cathy’s beloved mother Imelda in our hearts, we all know how proud she was of Cathy’s decision to become a nun, how often during the months of her final illness did Imelda say she was delighted for Cathy.  Cathy was nourished both spiritually and humanly by her friends in the Legion of Mary, friends who today give her the ring of profession, a faith that has grown and matured here in this community of Siena. We are all part of the story of Cathy’s consecration.

But as Dominicans how do we understand this act of consecration – for us it is always to be consecrated to the truth. This is made concrete in the inscription in the ring she will receive: “Do whatever he tells you” - These words come from the last words spoken by Our Blessed Lady in St. John’s Gospel, at the wedding feast of Cana. These words speak to Cathy of what her consecration as a Dominican means. To be consecrated in the truth means that one will always endeavour to do whatever he tells you, in a word obedience. It commits you to a life of listening, lived in silence in the enclosure always striving to do his will. Knowing that in his will is our peace. This is what you are consecrating yourself to today Sr. Mary Cathy. You are giving yourself over freely to do whatever the Lord tells you.

In the formula of our Dominican profession there is none of the flowery language of other profession formulae, there is the simple giving of yourself to God, to Blessed Mary and to Blessed Dominic and to this religious community in obedience.

For us Dominicans, obedience is not a giving away of our intelligence, it is not a fight between two opposing wills, you and the prioress, or the community or your spiritual directors. – I am sure that Fr. Eamon McCarthy will agree with me, he who was the first priest to help her on her spiritual journey, that our lives would have been a lot easier if someone had told her “do whatever he tells you”, that’s not our Cathy. Cathy may be obedient but never subservient.

Obedience for us Dominicans is not a servile struggle between my freedom and someone else’s authority. It is not a stunting of our giftedness from God rather it is an openness to the truth of the Lord in the midst of the Church, in this community, spoken through the voice of the prioress and the community and indeed the Order with its long history. It is not a subjection of the intellect - rather it is a loving embracing of the truth discovered in Christ. All of us are at the service of this truth, the Master of the Order, his vicar, the prioress, the conventual chapter, the individual obedient religious, all of us are consecrated to the truth, to doing whatever Our Blessed Lord asks of us. Religious Obedience for us Dominicans is not a struggle of wills but an acceptance of God’s truth in ones’ life. A truth that challenges us to mature and grow in wisdom as did the Lord when he went back to Galilee, to his own town of Nazareth.  

For the rest of your life Sr. Mary Cathy, until death, you, by your act of profession, give yourself over to doing whatever he tells you, in this community. You together with your community will endeavour to listen deeply to the voice of the Lord in order to do whatever he tells you, as a community and each of us in her own personal responses.  This common search for the truth is what marks our Dominican obedience out from other forms of obedience. Ours is always a searching after the truth, the truth in this particular situation in the life of the individual religious in the midst of a religious community which together search for the truth. Obedience can never be reduced to a war of wills but a common listening to the promptings of the Spirit after the model of Our Blessed Mother, to whom you also make profession, to do whatever the tells you.

This beautiful image of our Heavenly Mother encouraging you to do whatever he tells us should always be the atmosphere in which we Dominicans live out our lives of obedience with creative resourcefulness. It challenges us to a new maturity, not a childish wanting of my own way. Cardinal Ratzinger explains to us what this mature faith entails: An "adult" faith is not a faith that follows the trends of fashion and the latest novelty; a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ. It is this friendship that opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false, and deceit from truth… as this friendship with Jesus matures the more our true freedom develops and our joy in being redeemed flourishes[1].

Today Sr. Mary Cathy you consecrate yourself to a life of Obedience lived as a mature woman. Your offering of yourself in obedience to the truth doesn’t reduce you in an act of humiliation but rather allows you to flourish into a mature Christian during these years of your life hidden, here in Siena Monastery.  

The words of St. Paul to the Ephesians sum up my prayer for today Sr. Mary Cathy: that you grow in maturity to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ… speaking the truth in love, that you grow up in every way into him, who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love.

What you do today will be worked out in the years ahead, these hidden years, until they come to light in the fullness of time. Until then may you grow to maturity and be filled with wisdom and may God’s favour be with you. 

[1] From the homily at the election of a pope in 2005