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

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Sr Mary Cathy’s Solemn Profession





On Friday last, 2nd February, although otherwise 
quite a cold Spring day, the sun shone all day in a beautiful blue sky – symbol of the Sun which was shining in Sr Mary Cathy’s heart and which was visible in her eyes and smile as the day of her Solemn Profession had at last dawned.  She had prepared and longed for this day for many months and now was the moment to make her final commitment as a Dominican Nun until death.


It was a day of joy and thanksgiving for our whole community, Sr M Cathy’s family and our Dominican Family in Ireland.  Fr Gerard Dunne OP, vicar of the Master of the Order for our monastery, officiated and Fr John Harris OP preached the homily, Fr Eamonn McCarthy director of Radio Maria Ireland (a close friend of Sr M Cathy’s) was one of the chief concelebrants at the Eucharist  with 16 other of our Dominican Brothers;  

Sr M Cathy’s family participated in the Readings and Prayers of the Faithful, many of her friends attended – several of whom are members of the Legion of Mary.  Many of our local friends joined us for the Eucharist. The Dominican Sisters, Cabra Congregation were represented by Sr Marie Cunningham OP and our friends from the local community of Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal joined us.





 Being the 2nd of February, Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, the Eucharist began with the usual blessing of candles in the cloister and then the community and concelebrants processed to the church.



More Photos available at this link, with thanks to Fr Luuk Jansen OP for his services as a photographer.



The Dominican rite of Solemn Profession is quite simple - the sister making profession places her hands in the hands of the prioress and pronounces the words of profession:

I, Sr NN, make profession, and promise obedience to God, and to Blessed Mary and to Blessed Dominic, and to the Master of the Order of Friars Preachers, and to you Sr NN , prioress of this Monastery of St Catherine of Siena, Drogheda; and to your successors, according to the Rule of Blessed Augustine and the Constitutions of the Nuns of the Order of Preachers that I will be obedient to you and to your successors until death. 

The priest officiating then says:
Sr NN by this solemn profession you have given yourself to God and to His will: God Himself therefore has consecrated you to Himself through the ministry of the Church, to be associated through a life of prayer and penance, with the ‘holy preaching’ of St Dominic, so that you may be His own heritage and that He may be your heritage forever.

Then the veil is blessed with the following beautiful prayer:
Lord bless this veil which Sr NN wears for love of you and your blessed Mother Mary, ever Virgin, as a sign of her consecration to you.  Through your help and protection may she always preserve the purity of heart that it mystically signifies.  In wearing it may she be recognised as a house of prayer and temple of intercession for all people.  Clothe with your grace her entire being, so that she may love you with all her heart.  May she always live in this love and be introduced one day to the joy of your kingdom, through Christ our Lord.

Then the ring is blessed and presented to the newly professed:
Receive this ring as a sign of consecration and fidelity pledged to God, so that wearing it, you may be defended by the power of heavenly protection, and keep true faith with Him until you come into everlasting joy.




Sunday, January 7, 2018

Solemnity of Mary Mother of God - 1st January 2018



The great feast of Mary Mother of God, the world day of peace, the first day of a New Year, New year resolutions, all these came together for me this morning when Father began his homily with this Scripture verse—Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. I have no idea what he had to say after that. For these words reached me with great force and an immediate question. What things, events, situations, do I treasure and ponder in my heart and why do I do it? As I was quietly working in the kitchen I continued to reflect on this Word:  “Where your treasure is there also will your heart be.” What my heart has been most focused on during this past year will reveal to me what my treasure really is. What do my inner dialogues reveal? When I ponder the daily happenings in my life is it to bring to bear the Word of God on these events, so that God’s  plan for my life may come to full fruition, as I gradually allow his light and truth to shine in my darkness.? Is my focus on listening to the voice of the Lord and as a result of that entering into His Peace. Do I treasure all the happenings of the day, both positive and negative because I know that each of them is a gift through which God is speaking to me if I have ears to hear? Do I believe that God is bringing about His plan both for my salvation and the salvation of the world as I willing assent and respond to His revelation to me moment by moment? I f I did how I would hug to myself each happening, each encounter, excited by the prospect of learning something new about God, about myself, about the needs of others. I would be like a child on Christmas morning tearing apart the wrapping to discover the enclosed gift.

 Or do I  in fact ruminate deeply on hurts, on negative experiences, pondering over grievances, blaming others, judging others, protecting myself from others. Are these the things I treasure and ponder in my heart? Thoughts that serve to reinstate me as the one in the right, thoughts that diminish others? And yet even these inner monologues are stepping stones to grace if I can but listen to them in truth and invite Jesus the light of the world to bring to light what darkness is hiding.

Mary listened no matter who or what God chose to speak to her through and because of her inner disposition “Be it done to me according to your Word" she heard His voice; through the angel Gabriel, through her cousin Elizabeth, the inn keeper, the shepherds, the wise men, Herod, Simeon and Anna, Jesus in the temple, the wedding feast of Cana, when Jesus left to begin his ministry, when she was told he was mad, when he was persecuted and murdered and in all the events in between. No matter what came her way, her response was to take it and ponder it in her heart. And because of that she was there at the foot of the Cross, sharing with her whole heart in His Passion and she was witness too to his Resurrection, and now reigns with Him to “mother each new grace which does now reach our race”. To paraphrase Gerard Manley Hopkins, may she who holds high motherhood, towards all our ghostly good continue her work as this new Year begins so that our hearts may become new Bethlehems, where she shall yet conceive Him and He be born there , evening, noon and morn.

                   

Christmas reflection

It is customary that the prioress gives short reflection at First Vespers of Christmas - we share the following with our readers:
  
The theme of my reflection, on this Christmas Eve night, is ‘ Peace’. The Order has just established the month of December as the month designated for all its members to pray for world peace and each year the whole Order will focus on praying for peace in a particular area of the world. This year the focus is on Colombia, South America, -that the peace agreement signed in 2016 will become a reality there. Conscious also of the lack of inner peace in ourselves at times  and in people in general, I was led to ponder the title given to Jesus before his birth, that of Prince of Peace,  in the book of the prophet Isaiah, which will be read tonight at Mass:

            For there is a child born for us,
            a son given to us
            and dominion is laid on his shoulders;
            and this is the name they give him:
            Wonder – Counsellor, Mighty –God,
            Eternal- Father, Prince-of –Peace.
            Wide is his dominion
            In a peace that has no end.( Is. 9: 5-6 )

We long so much for this peace that ‘has no end’. We long for it for ourselves, our families, our communities, our friends and for the world at large. We want Isaiah’s prophecy, which says;
            For all the footgear of battle,
            every cloak rolled in blood,
            is burnt,
            and consumed by fire

- we want that to be realised now, without further delay. The Gospel tonight further reinforces this message of peace when it says:

            And  suddenly with the angel there was a great throng of the heavenly host,
            praising God and singing:

 ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace to
                        men who enjoy his favour’

This theme of peace abounds everywhere in the Christmas Liturgy tonight and tomorrow. In the entrance antiphon, Jesus is personified as peace itself as it says:

            ‘ True peace has come down to us  from heaven’


On the very first weekday of Advent, and on all Mondays in Advent, I was very struck by the post communion prayer, again referring to peace; it says:

“Come, O Lord, visit us in peace, that we may rejoice before you with a blameless heart.”

In all these quotes humanity and God are linked together because peace is a gift bestowed on us by God  the Father, through and in his son Jesus Christ

The truth of Isaiah’s words come to mind:

     You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
     Trust in the Lord for ever for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. ( Is.26)

             
This is really  to say that our peace, our inner peace is dependent on our relationship of trust in God. It is the fruit of a personal relationship with  Jesus. We are not alone. God, gentle and humble, is with us, watching over us and guiding us. Jean Vanier teaches us in his book, Finding Peace, when he says : “ As we learn to  relax and trust in love we become free of the walls and barriers that imprison us in fear, prejudice, hostility and guilt. We are filled with a new joy, a new life, the very life of love.

Sometimes when I feel my own inner  peace is disturbed I remind the Lord of his promise in St. John’s Gospel, when he says:

            Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you.
            A peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you.


In speaking about peace St. Thomas quotes St. Augustine in defining peace as the tranquillity of order. Peace consists in the calm and union of our desires and is twofold in that there is perfect peace and imperfect peace.

Perfect peace, he says, consists in the perfect enjoyment of God which causes all our desires and tendencies to be united and at rest in one. This perfect peace is only possible in Heaven.

Imperfect peace, on the other hand, is the peace  which we can have in this world. It is imperfect because, even though the soul’s principal movement is to rest in God, there still remain certain obstacles, both within and without, which disturb our soul’s peace. St. Thomas goes on to say that peace is the effect of charity since charity means that we love God with our whole heart by referring everything to him, all our desires become focused on loving God in Himself and we know that love is always a unifying force.

I have come to understand that ‘the peace which God gives is not a freedom from the storms and conflicts of life, but a mysterious strength and comfort amid the storms; not the removal of pain, but the bestowal of a precious gift. The gift is God himself, the comforter, the one who stands alongside us.

Also peace is not just the work of governments or armies or diplomats but the task of each one of us. We can all become makers of peace. Peace  must begin with myself, within my own heart and from there radiate outwards. This is in fact possible because tonight we celebrate what God, in his infinite love for us, has done by sending Jesus, the Prince of Peace, to dwell among us and in our hearts, as the teacher and source of peace.

 The kingdom of God is within us but there, it has to grow and spread. In that process we may experience the apocalyptic chaos and disruption and the Messianic peace and harmony – and everything in between! Our lion may have to learn to  lie down with our lamb! And then after coping with my own lion what about coping with the lions in everyone else around me!?

 The following medieval verses recognised this inner world and the transformation Christ’s coming brings:

            You shall know him when he comes
            Not by any din of drums,
            Not by anything he wears,
            Nor by the vantage of his airs;
                        Not by his gown,
                        Nor by his crown,
            But his coming known shall be
            By the holy harmony
            That his presence makes in thee.

May all of us experience this holy harmony, this peace, fruit of the Holy Spirit, and true effect of charity, gift of God to be received by faith, as we celebrate  with thanksgiving the great mystery of Christ’s incarnation, of his coming among us and within us, as the Prince of  Peace. Amen