Dec 20, 2014

O Antiphon - 20th December - O Clavis David

O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel; qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperit: veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel, who open and no one shuts, who shuts, and no one opens, come and free from prison him who sits in darkness and the shadow of death.
Isaiah 22.22 and Isaiah 9.6.

“O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.” Isaiah had prophesied, "I will place the Key of the House of David on His shoulder; when he opens, no one will shut, when he shuts, no one will open.” (22:22), and “His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, from David’s throne, and over His kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever.” (9:6)

Reflections on the Antiphon:

Dec 19, 2014

O Antiphons 19th December - O Radix Jesse - O Flower of Jesse

O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem Gentes deprecabuntur: veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

O Root of Jesse, who stand as an ensign to the peoples, at whom kings stand silent and whom the gentiles seek, come and free us, delay no longer!

Some scripture texts worth pondering as we listen to the antiphon are Isaiah 11.1; Isaiah 11.10; Jeremiah 23. 5-6: Micah 5.1; Romans 15. 8-13; Revelation 5.1-5; Revelation 22.16

The scriptural references for this antiphon are from Isaiah 11: 10-11 (“On that day, the Gentiles shall seek out the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations; his dwelling shall be glorious. On that day, the Lord shall again take it in hand to reclaim the remnant of his people.”), as well as Is. 52:15 (“So shall he startle many nations; because of him kings shall stand speechless”), and perhaps from Paul’s quotation of Isaiah in Romans 12:15 (“And again Isaiah says: “The root of Jesse shall come, raised up to rule the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles hope”).

As we know, the English words for the ever popular Advent song, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”, are based on the O Antiphons, but with the last antiphon made first. Here is today’s verse, the one based on O Radix:

“O come, O Rod of Jesse’s stem, from ev’ry foe deliver them
That trust your mighty pow’r to save,
And give them victr’y o’er the grave.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!”

Our medieval Christian craftsmen and artists created wonderful Jesse trees, the sleeping Jesse at the base with a tree growing out of his loins and on each branch those ancestors of Christ opening out like leaves until we reach the final flowering of Mary with her child Jesus.
Some Jesse trees can be found in manuscripts but there still remain wonderful examples in stained glass and wood and stone carving. Canterbury Cathedral has one fragment of a panel dating from 1150.  In Dorchester Abbey, Oxfordshire, there is a wonderful north window which combines carved stone images with remaining fragments of medieval glass. In St Mary’s priory, Abergavenny, a most beautiful wooden 15thc Jesse figure is all that remains of the tree!

The Gospel genealogies of Jesus trace his descent from Jesse the father of David. This is to show the fulfillment of Micah’s prophecy, that the Messiah came from David’s royal house and lineage and would be born in David’s city, Bethlehem (Micah 5.2). The ancient world was fascinated by the genealogy of Kings, because a direct and confirmed lineage proved their right to rule. It’s no wonder that dynastic battles were fought over legitimacy rights, for any suggestion that the person claiming the throne was illegitimate usually meant conflict!
Today we are not so fixed on these claims as our ancestors were, for Christians a new and universal family is constituted, where all are one in Christ (Gal 3.28.) Nevertheless this antiphon acts as a catalyst to help us find our ancestry as children of creation.

In two quotes from Isaiah an image of strong roots and strong growth helps us understand how we too are part of the tree of Jesse. The prophet talks about the shoot that shall come from the stock of Jesse, from which a branch will grow full of fruit ( Is 11.1) On that day when the earth will be ‘filled with the knowledge of the lord as the waters cover the sea’, ‘the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for all the peoples, the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious’(Is 11.9,10).

Because we are grafted on to Christ, our task is to continually bear good fruit, Jesus uses this type of metaphor for good works and acts, but we have also something more poignant to consider.

This root image links us to creation, to the ‘stardust’ which forms the heart of matter and life. O Radix Jesse challenges us to care, with loving concern, for all life’s growth and do everything we can to prevent harm to living creatures and our planet.


Dec 18, 2014

O Antiphons 18th December - O Adonai

O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammæ rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.
O Adonai, and Ruler of the house of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the burning bush, and gave him the Law on Sinai, come to redeem us with outstretched arm Exodus 3; Isaiah 11:4-5; Isaiah 33:22

For those that wish to do lectio on the readings of the day.
Other suggested readings for the day:
  • Exodus 3:2
  • Isaiah 33:22; 63:11-12
  • Micah 6:4
  • Acts 7:30-31

Reflections on the O Antiphons:

Dec 17, 2014

Salt + Light: Vatican Connections - December 12th

The Sacrament of Reconciliation - Dates and Times for the Diocese of Limerick

Christmas is a time when we prepare our homes to welcome family members, friends and acquaintances.  We usually spend quite a lot of time tidying and cleaning, putting up the Christmas tree and crib, Christmas cards and the many decorations that make our homes a welcoming place for those who might call to us this Christmas.

During Advent we are invited to do something similar spiritually.  At Christmas we celebrate three comings of Christ: we commemorate and celebrate the first coming of Christ at Bethlehem and we look forward to the second coming of Christ, Universal King, at the end of time, but there is a third coming of Christ and that is the coming of Christ into our hearts every day.  If we were to look at our hearts today, what would we need to change?  Would we like to do a little spiritual Christmas clean to welcome Jesus with joy?

The Sacrament of Reconciliation, along with the Sacrament of the Sick, are the Sacraments of Healing.  They are beautiful Sacraments given by Christ to His Church because He knew that we would get hurt and bruised along the way.  He knew we would need His grace and love and mercy to start again.  If you haven't been to this sacrament in a while, here is a really simple video on why it is important and what happens during the sacrament:

Pope Francis has been encouraging us right from the beginning of his pontificate to come back to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Pope Francis attending the Sacrament of Reconciliation before leading a penitential liturgy (March 28 2014)

In The Joy of the Gospel Pope Francis says:

"The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. Now is the time to say to Jesus: “Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace”. How good it feels to come back to him whenever we are lost! Let me say this once more: God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy. Christ, who told us to forgive one another “seventy times seven” (Mt 18:22) has given us his example: he has forgiven us seventy times seven. Time and time again he bears us on his shoulders. No one can strip us of the dignity bestowed upon us by this boundless and unfailing love. With a tenderness which never disappoints, but is always capable of restoring our joy, he makes it possible for us to lift up our heads and to start anew." (The Joy of the Gospel, paragraph 3)

God never tires of forgiving us.  Let us run to Him with open arms this Advent.  Let us prepare our hearts to celebrate Christmas joyfully!

Throughout the Diocese of Limerick, we will be given the opportunity to prepare spiritually for Christmas by frequenting this sacrament.  Each parish will have particular times for the Sacrament of Reconciliation so please check with your local parish if you wish to avail of the sacrament at home.  The Sacrament of Reconciliation will be also available at the following dates, times and venues throughout the diocese:

Saturday, December 20th
10.00am to 4.00pm - Kilmallock Church
10.00am to 4.00pm - Augustinians Church, O'Connell St.
10.30am to 4.30pm - Newcastle West Church

Monday, December 22nd
10.00am to 4.00pm - Augustinians Church, O'Connell St.
11.00am to 12.30pm - Redemptorists, Mount St. Alphonsus (Monastery)
3.00pm to 5.00pm - Redemptorists, Mount St. Alphonsus (Monastery)

Tuesday, December 23rd
10.00am to 4.00pm - Augustinians Church, O'Connell St.
After 10.00am Mass to 7.15pm - Redemptorists, Mount St. Alphonsus (Church)

Wednesday, December 24th
10.00am to 4.00pm - Augustinians Church, O'Connell St.
10.30am to 1.00pm - St. John's Cathedral
After 10.00am Mass to 8.00pm - Redemptorists, Mount St. Alphonsus (Church)

O Antiphons 17th December - O Sapientia - O Holy Wisdom

 In this Orthodox icon of Sophia, or Holy Wisdom, the Greek letters stand for “Jesus Christ, Wisdom of God.” (Eileen McGuckin, “Sophia, Divine Wisdom Icon,” acrylic on wood, 12.5" × 9.5".) - Source
O Sapientia, quæ ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiæ.
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: come to teach us the way of truth. (Isaiah 11:2-3; Isaiah 28:29)

O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.” (11:2-3), and “Wonderful is His counsel and great is His wisdom.” (28:29)


As we begin the final octave before Christmas we encounter the the first "O Antiphon" - "O Sapientia" - "O Wisdom", which draws us into the Old Testament's wisdom literature.

"Wisdom is a divine attribute. The divine Wisdom is personified. Wisdom is the beloved daughter who was before Creation, Wisdom is the breath of God's power, Wisdom is the shining of God's transforming glory."

If you would like to read or do lectio on scripture for the day:
Some reflections:

Dec 16, 2014

Synod 2016 - What will the Synod mean to you? - A reflection and synopsis

What will the Synod mean to you?
A reflection and synopsis

On November 15th Fr Paul Philibert a Dominican friar from the U.S delivered the keynote address for the opening assembly of delegates to the Diocesan Synod of Limerick. His talk was challenging, intense, and the following is a short synopsis of some of the main points with thoughts for reflection for the Synod delegates and all interested members of the diocese.


Setting out the challenge that we have set ourselves in the diocese of Limerick Fr Philibert expressed the impact of convening a diocesan synod and what it means for us as a People of God. He noted it “is a way of spiritually re-founding a diocese”. But before we can begin “changing things, a synod aims to rediscover our ecclesial [church] identity as God’s people. God's dream is for us to be conformed [made anew/changed] to his Son and to become icons [images/reflections] of Jesus Christ. We are called to become Christians in the world for the world’s sake as agents, not clients of the church’s mission”.

But this work is not something which can be done on our own. “Using our bodies, our community, our actions, and our attitudes, the Holy Spirit, the great Iconographer [artist], creates an image with God's people that portrays the kingdom of God. The Spirit does this not by forcing our gestures or our words, our actions or our plans, but by touching us at the source of our thoughts and desires. A synod is very much the fruit of the Spirit’s gifts to us”. However, for this to happen, for the Spirit to be able to work through us it requires that we must imitate the Divine Master and that “there must be in us what there was in Christ Jesus – an emptying out..... We will have to let go of old habits and learn new ways of living our Christian life and responsibilities”. As a result of bravely stepping forth in the gift of the Spirit “the synod will help us to name the unusable past and to aim for the necessary future”.

But as part of the process of Synod, we need to challenge our misconceptions of what ‘church’ actually means. “The church is not just an old institution with rituals, but a communion of real people with many gifts. We all belong in the one body of Christ. Together we are a sign or sacrament of human communion with God, a sign of peace among brothers and sisters, a sign of passionate purpose in a futile world” It is not every day that each of us is called a sign of passionate purpose in the world. In Limerick our passions tend to revolve around the Gaelic Grounds and Thomond Park  and it is a reminder to us of Jesus call to be salt and leaven in the world we live in, in such a way that it is drives us, challenges us and consumes the very fibre of our being. But are we open and ready to be challenged on this point?

Being on pilgrimage together brings us into contact we people who we might not readily journey with if we had a choice. It is a reminder that in synod “We journey together toward this dynamic sign from different starting points. We come with distinct roles, different talents, varied preoccupations, and diverse experiences. But we meet as peers: all of us baptized into Christ, anointed by the Spirit, and called to the work of building up the church”. And we need to be realistic about what that means for us as delegates in the work we are undertaking and the humility and patience we will need with our fellow pilgrims on the way recognising our mutual giftedness in the journey. It is also a reminder that baptism is the qualification for participating in synod, not whether one is ordained or not or has theology qualifications to your name. Each of us can contribute to the process of synod.

But what is the purpose of Synod for us in Limerick? What does it mean to say we want to re-found the diocese and rediscover what it means for us as a Christian community? “The synod’s purpose is to bear witness to Jesus Christ risen from the dead. Can the Diocese of Limerick, its parishes and its people, become a persuasive sacrament of the risen Lord’s presence? Christ shares his Father with us and invites us to intercede for the world around us and to sanctify it as we touch it....It is an invitation to wake up in the Body of Christ. God needs us not only as devout believers, but also as creative agents of his mercy”. Again the call, the reminder to us is that being Christian is not a passive occurrence in our lives. As Pope Francis is constantly reminding us we are asked to be living signs in our world, that our faith should mean something to us and that this should be seen in the way that we live. That we are agents, angels, implementers if you like, of God’s loving mercy. In many ways Fr Philibert is echoing the great theme of Pope Francis ministry to date which in turn of course is only reflecting the ministry of the Carpenter of Nazareth over 2000 years ago.

The Great "O's"

Sunset. Eventide approaches for December 16th, and the liturgical calendar moves into the final octave before Christmas. Beginning with the 17th of December, the liturgical tradition marks each day until Christmas Eve with an ancient and mysterious text, one of the so-called O-Antiphons.

The O-Antiphons are among the most magnificent and ancient compositions of the Roman liturgy. Dating back to at least the seventh century, they are antiphons for the Magnificat (the prayer said before and after the recitiation/singing of the Magnificat), chanted at Vespers (Evening prayer) on the days before Christmas Eve.

The "O Antiphons," one of the oldest liturgical rituals in the church, are prayed around the world during the final days of Advent. For the seven days before Christmas, we recall in these prayers a quality of Christ that must be realized before the presence of Christ can consume the world.

Since the Second Vatican Council, they have also been adapted (slightly reworded and rearranged) for the "Alleluia Verse" of the Mass of the day (the short scriptural text or paraphrase that immediately precedes the Gospel reading).

They are named “O” after their introductory exclamation of longing. The O-Antiphons give voice to the deepest longing of Advent, the coming of the Redeemer. Each daily antiphon takes a different image from the Hebrew Scriptures — Wisdom, Lord of Israel, Root of Jesse, Key of David, Dawn, King of Nations, Emmanuel — to plead for the coming of Christ. Together, these antiphons move toward Christ’s birth, celebrated the day after the last of them has been chanted.

In the English-speaking world, the hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” has popularized these O-Antiphons far beyond the confines of the church’s liturgy although being liturgically correct, the song is sung backwards in relation to the order of the O Antiphons. The O Antiphons are set to the tune of an ancient French processional hymn and liturgically speaking we should only sing this song between 17th and 23rd December, but it is a firm favourite of many people!

The Youtube videos are generally the text of the antiphon in latin sung in its traditional plain chant format. If you would like to hear an English version of the antiphons, the Benedictine Sisters of Erie have recordings of each of the anitphons HERE with some simple reflections alongside.

[From various sources around the Internet:]

Dec 13, 2014

14th Decenber 2014 - Advent Reflections - Trocaire Christmas Gifts - 3rd Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday)

On this weeks programme Michelle Hoctor joins John on the programme to explain Trocaire's Christmas Gifts. We have a series of short Advent reflections for Gaudate Sunday as well as our weekly reflection on the Sunday gospel and some other liturgical odds and ends.

You can listen to the podcast of this weeks programme HERE.

Gaudate Sunday

Certain Sundays throughout the liturgical year have taken their names from the first word in Latin of the Introit, the entrance antiphon at Mass. Gaudete Sunday - the third Sunday of Advent is one of these. The Introit for Gaudete Sunday is taken from Philippians 4:4,5: "Gaudete in Domino semper" ("Rejoice in the Lord always").

"Rejoice: the Lord is nigh." As Christmas draws near, the Church emphasizes the joy which should be in our hearts over all that the birth of our Savior means for us. The great joy of Christians is to see the day drawing nigh when the Lord will come again in His glory to lead them into His kingdom. The oft-repeated Veni ("Come") of Advent is an echo not only of the prophets but also of the conclusion of the Apocalypse of St. John: "Come, Lord Jesus," the last words of the New Testament.

Like Lent, Advent is a penitential season, so the priest normally wears purple vestments. But on Gaudete Sunday, having passed the midpoint of Advent, the Church lightens the mood a little, and the priest may wear rose vestments. The change in color provides us with encouragement to continue our spiritual preparation—especially prayer and fasting—for Christmas. For this same reason, the third candle of the Advent wreath, first lit on Gaudete Sunday, is traditionally rose-colored.

Trocaire's Christmas Gifts

Michelle Hoctor joins John on this weeks programme to share about Trocaire's Christmas Gifts.

Each Trócaire Gift is sourced locally and sustainably from the country where it is needed. So the gifts not only support families in the world's poorest places, they grow the local economy too.

When you buy a Trócaire Gift, your money goes to the developing world – buying gifts as well as funding critical work in the following programmes: human rights, livelihoods, Somalia, and HIV.

You will receive a card as a symbol of the Trócaire Gift you have purchased. You can then give this card to a friend, family member or client to explain the meaning of the gift. Alternatively an e-card can be emailed directly to your chosen recipient.

You can listen to Michelle's interview excerpted from the programme HERE.

You can buy online from Trocaire's website HERE.

Advent Reflections

On this weeks programme we pause amidst the rush and panic of this time of year for a period of reflection on Advent and the build up to Christmas. We use contributions to the blog for this weeks programme which you can read HERE.

You can listen to the reflections excerpted from this weeks programme HERE.

Gospel - John 1:6-8, 19-28

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light.

And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?" He confessed, he did not deny, but confessed, "I am not the Christ." And they asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the prophet?" And he answered, "No." They said to him then, "Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?" He said, "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, `Make straight the way of the Lord,' as the prophet Isaiah said."

Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, "Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?" John answered them, "I baptize with water; but among you stands one whom you do not know, even he who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie." This took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

What are you a witness for?
What does your life point to? value? honour?

We are in the third week of Advent, and many of us have forgotten the best laid plans of November, and are drawn back into the bustle and worry of Christmas preparations. This Sunday the church offers us a happy pause! Purple lightens to Rose, and we focus on joy. 'Gaudete Sunday' means literally 'Rejoice Sunday', or the Sunday to rejoice

So instead of beating ourselves up, lets stop and notice God who is blessing us each day. The Holy Spirit who is already with us as we struggle to 'prepare the way'. Jesus who invites us into a new and deeper friendship this Christmas time. 

John was a witness for the light. Can you be a witness for the light too? Can you notice and name the ways and places in which God is here and blessing us? Can you stop and see the light filled spaces around us? 

When we make the time to notice God-who-is -with-us, we begin to be witnesses for the light too. The light of God - visible in all people and in our lives. Then we can sing with Mary in this Sundays responsorial psalm:

Response: My soul rejoices in my God.

1. My soul glorifies the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God, my Saviour.
He looks on his servant in her nothingness;
henceforth all ages will call me blessed.

2. The Almighty works marvels for me.
Holy his name!
His mercy is from age to age,
on those who fear him.

3. He fills the starving with good things,
sends the rich away empty.
He protects Israel, his servant,
remembering his mercy.

Reflections on this weeks gospel:

Word on Fire
Gaudete Sunday-Advent and John the Baptist?English Dominicans
Centre for Liturgy

Advent 2014 - Last Days of Advent

Last Days of Advent
Pope John Paul II,
Dec. 18, 2002

Pope John Paul II in his address on Dec. 18, 2002 said, 

"The liturgy of Advent…helps us to understand fully the value and meaning of the mystery of Christmas. It is not just about commemorating the historical event, which occurred some 2,000 years ago in a little village of Judea. Instead, it is necessary to understand that the whole of our life must be an ‘advent,’ a vigilant awaiting of the final coming of Christ. To predispose our mind to welcome the Lord who, as we say in the Creed, one day will come to judge the living and the dead, we must learn to recognize him as present in the events of daily life. Therefore, Advent is, so to speak, an intense training that directs us decisively toward him who already came, who will come, and who comes continuously."

Dec 12, 2014

Advent 2014 - Celebrating our Lady of Guadalupe

Advent is the season where God waits for the love of his children. He waits, silently, patiently for the moment of grace until the chronos of life (our time) becomes impregnated with his kairos (God’s time), the Word becomes flesh! During Advent we reflect on Jesus in the womb of Mary, growing slowly, silently and invisibly, present even though invisible. Mary is an Advent woman, a woman very dear to my heart. A woman of life, a woman for life, every fibre of her being says ‘Yes’ to carry Jesus in her womb. Today, 12th of December, we celebrate a beautiful Marian feast day which celebrates the gift of life, that of our Lady of Guadalupe.

On the 12th of December 1531, our Lady appeared to an Indian named Juan Diego and requested that a shrine be built and dedicated to her on the Hill of Tepeyac. Juan Diego, upon reporting this event to the bishop, was disappointed because the bishop didn't seem to believe him. Juan returned to the place of the apparition where Our Lady again appeared. She told him to return the next morning when she would give him a sign that would convince the bishop of the truth of her appearance and her request.
The following morning Our Lady told Juan to go to the top of the hill and gather Castilian roses that he would find there. Although he knew that only cactus grew there, he obeyed, and his simple faith was rewarded by the sight of beautiful roses growing where she had told him they would be. He gathered them and showed them to Our Lady who rearranged them for him. Juan returned to the bishop. As he opened his tilma (a type of poncho), the roses fell to the floor. All who were present were startled to see an image of Our Lady who was pregnant on the tilma.

Today this image is still preserved on Juan Diego's tilma, which hangs over the main altar in the basilica at the foot of Tepeyac Hill just outside of Mexico City. In the image, Our Lady is pregnant, carrying the Son of God in her womb. Her head is bowed in homage, indicating that she is not the Goddess, but rather the one who bears and at the same time worships the one true God.
When asked who the lady was, Juan replied in his Aztec dialect, “Te Coatlaxopeuh,” which means “she who will crush the stone serpent.” His answer recalls Gen. 3:15 and the depictions of Mary as the Immaculate Conception, her heel on the serpent's head.

Looking at the picture of our Lady of Guadalupe is a catechesis in itself. Her face radiates the very light of God, while her example reveals authentic femininity and her strength. Only by imitating Our Lady’s respect for life from the moment of conception can we hope to inherit life itself. Under her gentle direction we find not only shelter and rest, but confidence and strength to go forth to battle the evil. Through her intercession we can expect tremendous miracles.
You can see the compassion in the face of the Blessed Virgin. Many have commented on that beautiful face, noting the dark hues of her complexion. It has been suggested that Mary appeared to Juan Diego as an Indian woman. That could be, but there is another possible explanation. Mary, of course, was a Hebrew woman and probably herself had black hair and dark skin. Perhaps what we have here is how Mary actually looked when she walked this earth , when was pregnant with Jesus.

It is very fitting that Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patroness of the Pro-Life movement as well as being patroness of the unborn. On the 25th of March 2014, feast of the Annunciation, where we celebrate Mary accepting to be the Mother of the Emmanuel, together with some of my classmates in Canada, I spent the morning praying outside the abortion clinic in Ottawa. It was a day I will never forget. It was an act of reparation and prayer for those who for various reasons felt they could not say ‘Yes’ to the gift of life. Holding pictures of our Lady of Guadalupe, I remember imploring her maternal heart to change the heart of those who went to the clinic. When I went home, I cried bitterly for the women and babies who went into that clinic and for the babies who never made it out of the clinic. As a woman, my maternal heart suffered with these women whose lives had been changed forever. All I could do was pray.

The longing for Christ is deeply rooted in the innermost part of the human soul and we yearn for it, whether we dare to admit it or not. All through our lives we seek the strong union which we felt in the womb of our mother, the most intimate of relationships. Here I share with you a beautiful chalk sketching from one of our sisters, Sr. Marie Paul, pddm. She explains: “It's Mary pondering what her Child would look like. I tried hard to turn the face of Jesus toward the face of Mary thinking what his Mother looks like but I was totally unable to turn his head to look up. So I gave up trying. The best I could do, to get closer to my idea from meditation was for him to embrace the heart beating with love for Him.” It is a beautiful image which reflects what the Advent journey is for me, a time to slow down and listen to the beating heart of Christ!

My prayer for all this Christmas is, in the words of Ann Lewin, that we may ‘be midwives for the love of God, cradling that strength born in fragility, delivering healing to the crying world.” The greatest transformations happen in the silence and the stillness of the hidden life. Trust God is doing wonderful things with your life!
- Sr Louise O'Rourke

Advent 2014 - Advent Poem Iva Beranek

time is drawing near
when darkness shall be pierced by a new dawn
so there will be stars all over the sky
even in the darkest nights
Then, when heaven will meet the earth
time will go in reverse
not to back or forth
but within,
and eternity will be soaked into the
pores of the earth’s skin.

It will shine from the centre of the globe for
God will be born
in the cradle of frailty and love
Yes, this humble epiphany
happened in Palestine two thousand years ago,
but now, the eternity is knocking again
from within your heart
wanting to be born like a flower
out of the depths of
your darkest nights
time is drawing near,
in fact it is almost here
when light of the dawn will crown each day
and heaven will sing us a love-song
as sun colours the sky every morning,
every night
Then, in the chambers of our heart
we will find a diamond
long forgotten and lost
not a diamond from the ring,
but the one that holds the essence
of who we are.

Dec 11, 2014

Advent 2014 - A Time of Hope

Advent is the season of liturgical time in which the church invites us to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Christ child into the world. This of course will mean different things to all of us. For children there is the excitement of expecting the presents that are associated with this celebration of the birth of the child Jesus. For adults all sorts of stresses and worries may be associated with this time and override the sense of hope which is for me inextricably linked with the season of Advent. .

If we think of the world and society into which The Christ child arrived we find a Jewish society where the devout lived there lives in the expectation of a messiah who would liberate them from the rule of Rome . Instead the Man Jesus taught  them that that The Love of God was more important in there lives than military power and that we are called to reflect God’s love for us in the way we interact with each other. 

When I try to anticipate what the coming of Christ means to me in this time and place I need to remember to look at my life and see where and how I have seen Christ acting in my life until now. After all  ‘ Hindsight is always twenty twenty’. So for me this Advent will spent looking back on a year which I have retired from a forty year career in the health service and in which my mother was called home to God after a long struggle with Dementia. Two life changing events in which I hope to a find a meaning for the way in which I should lead the remainder of my life, to try and find a way to contribute to to the society and church in which I live and I pray that this advent will provide the space to  look forward with renewed hope ant trust that the coming of Christ will this year lead me to define the new role which God has planned for me.

- Caroline Liddy

Dec 10, 2014

Advent 2014 - The Wisdom of Winter

Winter is a very important season. Each time of the year has its wisdom, but I wonder if we often overlook the teachings of winter. It does not teach about ‘death’, like many might presume. Not only, anyway. Autumn is about letting go, which is more about ‘dying’ than is this winter rest, though in winter we do acknowledge the letting go that autumn had to endure. In the Northern hemisphere Advent comes to us with winter. It is a time of waiting on the promises of light in the midst of the night; a time where promises of a new dawn, while covered in a deep winter dream, or even in snow, slowly start to emerge in quiet whispers, as if the womb of the earth wants to tell us never to give in.

I learn about the seasons mostly from deciduous trees. In the midst of winter a tree is finally stripped to its essence. Like trees perhaps we too at times are stripped from all that we thought we knew; for some people these are hard times. Winter and Advent are times where we try to prepare for a new start, new opportunity for life. Advent is a season where we make an effort in order to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ, this time within our hearts. In Advent we attempt to somehow create space in our lives, so that in that space God can come. Even soul has its seasons. Look inside yourself and see if you can recognise in which season is your soul this Advent. Listen to the promises that are being whispered inside your own being. The soft voice of God speaks within us each. The season of our soul does not need to correspond to the seasons of the year. If your soul is in spring, summer or autumn at this time, let these other seasons speak to you, as God is present in each of them. Yet if your soul is in the season of winter; a season of resting, recuperating, hibernating, restoring, allow yourself less activity, as much as your circumstances permit, and try to bask in the presence of God’s love. Winter can also be a time of unlearning the necessity to speak on certain occasions so that we can learn to speak out of silence. God comes to us in silence. Jesus came to this world through the silence of the womb and Mary was the first one who embraced His reality within herself. That was her advent. Now in this Advent, let us be the womb for Him, in which the awareness of God will gradually grow within us.

A few years ago in December I went for a walk in the field. I admired the trees, one after another they all stood still, motionless yet strong. By then, most of the winter trees have let go of what was old and one might think they were in a state of waiting, kind of inbetween time that comes after autumn and leads up to spring. However, as I observed closer, some of them already had newly formed buds starting to sprout without attracting any particular attention to their existence. As I walked in their shadow it dawned on me how these trees were very much alive – with life happening within. Same is with our souls; interior life can flourish in winter time.

© Iva Beranek (adapted from December 2011)

Dec 8, 2014

Synod 2016 - Limerick launches synod

Church of tomorrow must be inclusive and regenerated by us all – Bishop Brendan Leahy as first synod in Ireland in 50 years is launched
300 delegates attend official convoking of spring 2016 Limerick Diocesan Synod

Ireland’s first diocesan synod in half a century was launched on Sunday December 7th in Limerick, with Bishop Brendan Leahy asking all the people of the diocese to become involved in regenerating the Church.
In his homily at the midday Mass at St. John’s Cathedral, at which the Synod was officially convoked, the Bishop of Limerick said there is now an opportunity to rebuild the Church and urged that it not be missed.
The Synod will be a three day-meeting of 350 delegates in the spring of 2016 that will set out a blueprint for the Diocese to meet the many challenges it faces going forward.  Between now and the Synod itself, delegates will engage in a process of reflection and sharing, catechesis and prayer, out of which they will identify the issues that will be discussed at the Synod.
The Synod delegates, who are already selected, are drawn from clergy and laity, representing younger and older generations and a wide range of socio economic backgrounds and ethnicities.
In his homily to a packed Cathedral, Bishop Leahy,  “All of us together, clergy and lay, are being offered this opportunity to regenerate and build up the Church of the future in our diocese. Let’s not miss this appointment with history,” he said.
“It’s undeniable that our Church has been rocked.  It has stumbled badly but it has not fallen. Yet, while the Church reeled, faith remained precious. The Church is in need of repair.  It’s what the Lord told St. Francis in his time and tells us again now in our time.
“We need to look at it again, reimagine and re-arrange, not to the way it was before but something that fits the present day. We need to rebuild and repair, listening to what the Spirit is saying to the Church today.
“But that rebuild and repair, with Pope Francis as a guiding architect and his hand directed by the Holy Spirit, is not for the clergy alone to carry out. Far from it.  The Church of tomorrow must be inclusive, regenerated by us all together, clergy and laity; those of great faith and those of challenged faith, working hand in hand to create a refreshed space where the windows are open and new air breathes in. I ask everyone in the Diocese to get involved in this.”

Bishop Leahy said that the Synod would be the moment to draw up new plans for the Diocese so that it is ready for “what I believe can be a new dawn breaking for the Church, a dawn we will all greet together.”
Addressing delegates, who came to the St. John’s today from across the county, he said, “There will be many paths to be made straight – paths of wounded hearts; paths of confused minds; paths of disappointed spirits, paths of rejected outreach. Through listening with your hearts full of mercy and patience, you can transform crooked pathways into opportunities to show something new is happening; Jesus is coming in a new way to heal wounds, bring light and clarity, sow seeds of hope and mercy.”
In his decree of convocation, Bishop Leahy said, “In convoking the Synod I am mindful of Pope Francis’ desire that we advance along the path of what he calls ‘a pastoral and missionary conversion which cannot leave things as they presently are’. We owe this to future generations and to the wider society that we want to serve.
“It means being bold and creative in the task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization in our Diocesan community with its various parish and ecclesial, religious and social communities.”

You can read the full text of Bishop Leahy's homily HERE.