Author Archives: Mary Kirk

Scripture Talks for Advent

Fr. Kieran O’Mahony, OSA will join us in Marino Parish for three Tuesday evenings to present on the Sunday Gospels in Advent. Each talk will start at 8pm on Tues 29th Nov, Tues 6th Dec and Tues 13th Dec 2016.  We look forward to an interesting series of evenings.   Fr. Kieran is a renowned Scripture scholar, appointed by the Archbishop to provide  Scripture support and formation to priests and parishioners in the Dublin diocese.  He also provides lots of resources for private reflection and prayer.  See his website www.tarsus.ie

 

Daily Reflections

 

“How much wrong we do to God and his grace when we speak of sins being punished by his judgment before we speak of their being forgiven by his mercy.” –Pope Francis (Sunday) Rchard Rohr’s Daily Reflections

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An EXAMEN Prayer as we move into a New Year (see previous reflection)

(Taken from http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/20131/examen-prayer-for-the-year)

As we transition into the new year, let’s try an Examen prayer of our previous year. It’s really pretty simple: the Examen helps us reflect on a past period of time—usually we reflect prayerfully over the previous day or the previous few hours. But I believe we can apply these principles to the past calendar year as well.

Step One: Become aware of God’s presence.

One way of doing this is to ask the Holy Spirit to help you review the year with a holy perspective—with wisdom, grace, and faith. Ask for the grace to tear yourself away from your own patterns of thinking and seeing so that you can see your life more as God sees it. Of course you will see your failings—but God sees you as a beloved daughter or son who has a future and a hope. Of course you will see your accomplishments—but God sees your deeper self, the person behind all the activity, a person made in God’s image.

Step Two: Review the year with gratitude.

As you use this holy perspective to review the year, pay attention to the good gifts from the year ending. Name specifically those that come to memory now, and thank God for them.

Step Three: Pay attention to your emotions.

Think over the year again, and notice your emotional reactions. What memories speak most loudly to you? What events, conversations, relationships, or activities bring up the most emotion now, as you remember them? Ask God to help you linger with these emotions, whether they are pleasant or disturbing. Ask for help in understanding why you feel as you do. What can you learn about yourself or about your situation as you dwell in your emotional responses?

Step Four: Choose one feature of the year and pray from it.

While you are lingering with your memories and emotions, settle on one feature. Perhaps it is a single event, or maybe it’s a pattern of your own behavior that has come to mind as you reviewed the year. Whatever it is that has emerged, allow it to fuel your prayer. Don’t worry about the many other aspects of the year that you could think about right now; stay with the one thing that has come to you with the most power and pray from those thoughts and emotions.

Step Five: Look toward the new year.

Imagine what challenges and blessings might await you in the coming year. Think of important relationships, major (and minor) decisions to be made, skills to learn, habits to build, healing to seek, good work to accomplish. Make a simple list of highlights—matters that you expect to take prominence in your life in the new year. Bring them to God now, and ask for the graces you will need.

End your prayer, thanking God for love and life and holy possibilities.

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Whats another Year?

Is New Years Day a big day for you? I suppose there is a sense of putting the past behind you, turning  over a new leaf,  or a clean page etc.  I remember years ago when New Years eve was such a big deal – and, that evening, if you were not going out somewhere exciting with someone equally exciting you were just the most boring person around!  If thats still the case well, I could win an award for it…. I dont go anywhere exciting but I do take the opportunity to review my life over the past year and think about the many things I have to be grateful for.

What struck me this year is that I dont have to wait for New Years Eve to do this (and I shouldnt either)! What would my life be like if I reviewed my day every evening, thought about where God was present in it, where were the moments where I was really “in the moment”  and where were the moments where I was obviously going my own way with no connection to God?  Where were the blessings?  And the moments when God reached out to me through another person?  What could I do better? A really simple way of doing this is through the Examen – an Ignatian way of praying at the end of the day.  There are a few ways of doing the Examen – heres a very basic one ….(more examples available at http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/tag/examen-variations/page/2)

Ask God for light. I want to look at my day with God’s eyes, not merely my own.

Give thanks. The day I have just lived is a gift from God. Be grateful for it.

Review the day. I carefully look back on the day just completed, being guided by the Holy Spirit.

Face your shortcomings. I face up to what is wrong—in my life and in me.

Look toward the day to come. I ask where I need God in the day to come.

The other thing that struck me today is that every day is worth celebrating – not just New Year’s Day.  Every day is a gift, a chance to do something special, make good things happen, celebrate the blessings and gifts and wonderful people in my life.  Every morning brings me another 12 hours to make a difference and live with purpose.  Thats something to celebrate!

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Eucharist

T.S. Elliot said in the Four Quartets, “[Human]kind cannot bear very much reality.” What humans often prefer are highly contrived ways of avoiding the real, the concrete, the physical. We fabricate artificial realities instead, one of which, I’m sad to say, is religion itself. So Jesus brought all of our fancy thinking down to earth, to one concrete place of incarnation–this bread and this cup of wine! “Eat it here, and then see it everywhere,” he seems to be saying. If it’s too idealized and pretty, if it’s somewhere floating around up in the air, it’s probably not the Gospel. We come back, again and again, to this marvelous touchstone of orthodoxy, the Eucharist. The first physical incarnation in the body of Jesus is now continued in space and time in ordinary food.

Eucharist is presence encountering presence–mutuality, vulnerability. There is nothing to prove, to protect, or to sell. It feels so empty, naked, and harmless, that all you can do is be present. The Eucharist is telling us that God is the food and all we have to do is provide the hunger. Somehow we have to make sure that each day we are hungry, that there’s room inside of us for another presence. If you are filled with your own opinions, ideas, righteousness, superiority, or sufficiency, you are a world unto yourself and there is no room for “another.” Despite all our attempts to define who is worthy and who is not worthy to receive communion, our only ticket or prerequisite for coming to Eucharist is hunger. And most often sinners are hungrier than “saints.

Adapted from Richard Rohr:  Eucharist as Touchstone (CD, MP3 download)

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Silence as the Heart of Prayer

When peaceful silence lay over all, and when night had run half way her swift course, down from the heavens, from the royal throne, leapt your all-powerful Word. –Book of Wisdom 18:14-15.

Max Picard, in his classic book The World of Silence, says, “The human spirit requires silence just as much as the body needs food and oxygen.” As a general spiritual rule, you can trust this: The ego gets what it wants with words. The soul finds what it needs in silence. The ego prefers full solar light—immediate answers, full clarity, absolute certitude, moral perfection, and undeniable conclusions. The soul, however, prefers the subtle world of shadow, the lunar world that mixes darkness and light together, or as the Book of Wisdom more poetically puts it above, “When night had run half way her swift course…”!

Robert Sardello, in his magnificent, demanding book Silence: The Mystery of Wholeness, writes: “Silence knows how to hide. It gives a little and sees what we do with it.” Only then will it or can it give more. Rushed, manipulative, or opportunistic people thus find silence impossible, even a torture. They never get to the “more.” Sardello goes on to say, “But in Silence everything displays its depth, and we find that we are a part of the depth of everything around us.” This is so good and so true!

When our interior silence can actually feel and value the silence that surrounds everything else, we have entered the house of wisdom. This is the very heart of prayer. When the two silences connect and bow to one another, we have a third dimension of knowing, which many have called spiritual intelligence or even “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2: 10-16). No wonder that silence is probably the foundational spiritual discipline in all the world’s religions, although it is only appreciated as such at the more mature and mystical levels. Maybe the absence of silence and the abundance of chatter is the primary reason that so much personal incarnation does not happen. Christmas remains a single day instead of a lifetime of ever deepening realizations.

Adapted from Richard Rohr- Letting Go: A Spirituality of Subtraction, disc 3 (Published by Franciscan Media.);

Gateway to Silence:   Just be.

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Experience Needs Discernment of That Experience

St. Catherine of Siena in her Dialogues pictures the spiritual life as a large tree:

•           The trunk of the tree is love.

•           The core of the tree, that middle part that must be alive for the rest of the tree to  be alive, is patience.

•           The roots of the tree are self-knowledge.

•           The many branches, reaching out into the air, are discernment.

In other words, says Catherine, love does not happen without patience, self-knowledge, and discernment. Today we have little encouragement toward honest self-knowledge or training in spiritual discernment from our churches. We prefer the seeming clarity of black-and-white laws. By nature, most of us are not very patient. All of which means love is not going to be very common. We need St. Catherine’s tree again.

Adapted from Richard Rohr – Radical Grace: Daily Meditations, pp. 184-185, Day 197

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SILENCE

The simplest spiritual discipline is some degree of solitude and silence. But it’s the hardest, because none of us want to be with someone we don’t love. Besides that, we invariably feel bored with ourselves, and all of our loneliness comes to the surface.

We won’t have the courage to go into that terrifying place without Love to protect us and lead us, without the light and love of God overriding our own self-doubt. Such silence is the most spacious and empowering technique in the world, yet it’s not a technique at all. It’s precisely the refusal of all technique.

Adapted from Richard Rohr: Radical Grace: Daily Meditations, p. 106, day 114

Prayer: Listen to the stillness, the language of God.

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Small Steps of Love

How can we choose love when we have experienced so little of it? We choose love by taking small steps of love every time there is an opportunity. A smile, a handshake, a word of encouragement, a phone call, a card, an embrace, a kind greeting, a gesture of support, a moment of attention, a helping hand, a present, a financial contribution, a visit … all these are little steps toward love.

Each step is like a candle burning in the night. It does not take the darkness away, but it guides us through the darkness. When we look back after many small steps of love, we will discover that we have made a long and beautiful journey.

Text excerpts taken from Bread for the Journey, by Henri J.M. Nouwen , © 1997 HarperSanFrancisco

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Doing Love

Often we speak about love as if it is a feeling. But if we wait for a feeling of love before loving, we may never learn to love well. The feeling of love is beautiful and life-giving, but our loving cannot be based in that feeling. To love is to think, speak, and act according to the spiritual knowledge that we are infinitely loved by God and called to make that love visible in this world.

Mostly we know what the loving thing to do is. When we “do” love, even if others are not able to respond with love, we will discover that our feelings catch up with our acts.

Text excerpts taken from Bread for the Journey, by Henri J.M. Nouwen , © 1997 HarperSanFrancisco

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Empowered to Speak

The Spirit that Jesus gives us empowers us to speak. Often when we are expected to speak in front of people who intimidate us, we are nervous and self-conscious. But if we live in the Spirit, we don’t have to worry about what to say. We will find ourselves ready to speak when the need is there. “When they take you before … authorities, do not worry about how to defend yourselves or what to say, because when the time comes, the Holy Spirit will teach you what you should say” (Luke 12:11-12).

We waste much of our time in anxious preparation. Let’s claim the truth that the Spirit that Jesus gave us will speak in us and speak convincingly.

Text excerpts taken from Bread for the Journey, by Henri J.M. Nouwen , © 1997 HarperSanFrancisco

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Seeing the Miracle of Multiplication

The opposite of a scarcity mentality is an abundancy mentality.  With an abundancy mentality we say:  “There is enough for everyone, more than enough:  food, knowledge, love … everything.”  With this mind-set we give away whatever we have, to whomever we meet.  When we see hungry people we give them food.  When we meet ignorant people we share our knowledge; when we encounter people in need of love, we offer them friendship and affection and hospitality and introduce them to our family andfriends.

When we live with this mind-set, we will see the miracle that what we give away multiplies:  food, knowledge, love … everything.  There will even be many leftovers.

Text excerpts taken from Bread for the Journey, by Henri J.M. Nouwen , © 1997 HarperSanFrancisco

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The Temptation to Hoard

As fearful people we are inclined to develop a mind-set that makes us say:  “There’s not enough food for everyone, so I better be sure I save enough for myself in case of emergency,” or “There’s not enough knowledge for everyone to enjoy; so I’d better keep my knowledge to myself, so no one else will use it” or “There’s not enough love to give to everybody, so I’d better keep my friends for myself to prevent others from taking them away from me.”   This is a scarcity mentality.  It involves hoarding whatever we have, fearful that we won’t have enough to survive.  The tragedy, however, is that what you cling to ends up rotting in your hands.

Text excerpts taken from Bread for the Journey, by Henri J.M. Nouwen , © 1997 HarperSanFrancisco

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God’s Generosity

God is a god of abundance, not a god of scarcity.  Jesus reveals to us God’s abundance when he offers so much bread to the people that there are twelve large baskets with leftover scraps (see John 6:5-15), and when he makes his disciples catch so many fish that their boat nearly sinks (Luke 5:1-7).  God doesn’t give us just enough.  God gives us more than enough:  more bread and fish than we can eat, more love than we dared to ask for. God is a generous giver, but we can only see and enjoy God’s generosity when we love God with all of our hearts, minds, and strength.  As long as we say, “I will love you, God, but first show me your generosity,” we will remain distant from God and unable to experience what God truly wants to give us, which is life and life in abundance.

Text excerpts taken from Bread for the Journey, by Henri J.M. Nouwen , © 1997 HarperSanFrancisco.

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Signposts on the Way to God

How do we know about God’s love, God’s generosity, God’s kindness, God’s forgiveness?  Through our parents, our friends, our teachers, our pastors, our spouses, our children … they all reveal God to us.  But as we come to know them, we realise that each of them can reveal only a little bit of God.  God’s love is greater than theirs; God’s goodness is greater than theirs;  God’s beauty is greater than theirs. At first we may be disappointed in these people in our lives.  For a while we thought that they would be able to give us all the love, goodness, and beauty we needed.  But gradually we discover that they were all signposts on the way to God.

Text excerpts taken from Bread for the Journey, by Henri J.M. Nouwen , © 1997 HarperSanFrancisco.

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Being Sent Into the World

Each of us has a mission in life. Jesus prays to his Father for his followers, saying: “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world” (John 17:18).

We seldom realise fully that we are sent to fulfill God-given tasks. We act as if we have to choose how, where, and with whom to live. We act as if we were simply plopped down in creation and have to decide how to entertain ourselves until we die. But we were sent into the world by God, just as Jesus was. Once we start living our lives with that conviction, we will soon know what we were sent to do.

Text excerpts taken from Bread for the Journey, by Henri J.M. Nouwen , © 1997 HarperSanFrancisco.

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REFLECTION FOR EASTER SUNDAY 20 APRIL 2014 

Rays of Hope – Alleluia!

Dear Lord, risen Lord, light of the world, to you be all praise and glory! This day, so full of your presence, your joy, your peace, is indeed your day.

I just returned from a walk through the dark woods. It was cool and windy, but everything spoke of you. Everything: the clouds, the trees, the wet grass, the valley with its distant lights, the sound of the wind. They all spoke of your resurrection; they all made me aware that everything is indeed good. In you all is created good, and by you all creation is renewed and brought to an even greater glory than it possessed at its beginning.

As I walked through the dark woods at the end of this day, full of intimate joy, I heard you call Mary Magdalene by her name and heard how you called from the shore of the lake to your friends to throw out their nets. I also saw you entering the closed room where your disciples were gathered in fear. I saw you appearing on the mountain and at the outskirts of the village. How intimate these events really are. They are like special favors to dear friends. They were not done to impress or overwhelm anyone, but simply to show that your love is stronger than death.

O Lord, I know now that it is in silence, in a quiet moment, in a forgotten corner that you will meet me, call me by name and speak to me a word of peace. It is in my stillest hour that you become the risen Lord to me.

Dear Lord, I am so grateful for all you have given me this past week. Stay with me in the days to come. Bless all who suffer in this world and bring peace to your people, whom you loved so much that you gave your life for them. Amen.

Excerpt from A Cry for Mercy: Prayers from the Genesee, (Easter Sunday, April 15, 1979), Copyright © 1981 Henri J.M. Nouwen

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Heaven Is Now and Later     Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation

Anyone who wants to save his life, must lose it. Anyone who loses his life will find it. — Matthew 16:25

That’s a pretty strong, almost brutal, statement from Jesus. But it makes very clear that there is a necessary suffering that cannot be avoided, which Jesus calls “losing your very life,” or the False Self. Your False Self is your role, title, and personal image that is largely a creation of your own mind and attachments. It will and must die in exact correlation to how much you want the Real.

The Real is what all the world religions were pointing to when they spoke of heaven, nirvana, bliss, or enlightenment. Their only mistake was that they pushed it off into the next world. When you die before you die, you are choosing the Real—or union with God—over your imaginary separation from God. You are choosing “the kingdom of God” over your own smaller kingdoms. Heaven is the state of union both here and later. Only the True Self knows that.

The lasting question is: “How much False Self are you willing to shed to find your True Self?” Such necessary suffering will always feel like dying, which is what good spiritual teachers will tell you very honestly.

Adapted from Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life. pp. 85, 95-96, 100-101

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Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation – Collapsing into the Larger Life          

You are a son or daughter of the Good and Loving God. The Divine Image is planted inherently and intrinsically within you. You cannot create it, you cannot manufacture it, you cannot earn it, you cannot achieve it, you cannot attain it, you cannot cumulatively work up to it. Do you know why? Because you already have it! That is the core of the Gospel.

A preoccupation with False Self gets in the way of experiencing and knowing this reality. The False Self is an imaginary self that thinks it’s separate; it is the self that I think I am. The False Self is what has to die so your True Self can live.  God will lead you to that new, transformed place of the True Self if you get out of the way. You don’t have to do it; it will be done to you. Don’t try to engineer your own death. That just reinforces the ego.

A situation in your life will lead you to a place, an event, a relationship, a failing or falling apart of something wherein you can’t control life anymore and you can’t understand it. Your little, separate, False Self is simply inadequate to the task. And finally, thankfully, you collapse into the larger self, who you are in God, the True Self, which is inherently beloved.

You can’t make yourself more beloved, and you can’t make yourself less beloved. You just have to one day recognize that it is true and start drawing your life from that much larger Source.

 Adapted from “Dying: We Need It for Life” (Richard Rohr on Transformation)

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From Blaming to Forgiving

Our most painful suffering often comes from those who love us and those we love. The relationships between husband and wife, parents and children, brothers and sisters, teachers and students, pastors and parishioners – these are where our deepest wounds occur. Even late in life, yes, even after those who wounded us have long since died, we might still need help to sort out what happened in these relationships.

The great temptation is to keep blaming those who were closest to us for our present, condition saying: “You made me who I am now, and I hate who I am.” The great challenge is to acknowledge our hurts and claim our true selves as being more than the result of what other people do to us. Only when we can claim our God-made selves as the true source of our being will we be free to forgive those who have wounded us.

Text excerpts taken from Bread for the Journey, by Henri J.M. Nouwen , © 1997 HarperSanFrancisco

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Daring to Become Dependent

When someone gives us a watch but we never wear it, the watch is not really received.  When someone offers us an idea but we do not respond to it, that idea is not truly received.  When someone introduces us to a friend but we ignore him or her, that friend does not feel well received. Receiving is an art.  It means allowing the other to become part of our lives.  It means daring to become dependent on the other.  It asks for the inner freedom to say:  “Without you I wouldn’t be who I am.”   Receiving with the heart is therefore a gesture of humility and love.  So many people have been deeply hurt because their gifts were not well received.  Let us be good receivers.

Text excerpts taken from Bread for the Journey, by Henri J.M. Nouwen , © 1997 HarperSanFrancisco.

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Travelling With the Eyes of God

Travelling – seeing new sights, hearing new music, and meeting new people – is exciting and exhilarating. But when we have no home to return to where someone will ask us, “How was your trip?” we might be less eager to go. Travelling is joyful when we travel with the eyes and ears of those who love us, who want to see our slides and hear our stories.

This is what life is about. It is being sent on a trip by a loving God, who is waiting at home for our return and is eager to watch the slides we took and hear about the friends we made. When we travel with the eyes and ears of the God who sent us, we will see wonderful sights, hear wonderful sounds, meet wonderful people … and be happy to return home.

Text excerpts taken from Bread for the Journey, by Henri J.M. Nouwen , © 1997 HarperSanFrancisco

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“[There is] a time for mourning, a time for dancing” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). But mourning and dancing are never fully separated. Their “times” do not necessarily follow each other. In fact, their “times” may become one “time.” Mourning may turn into dancing and dancing into mourning without showing a clear point where one ends and the other starts.

Often our grief allows us to choreograph our dance while our dance creates the space for our grief. We lose a beloved friend, and in the midst of our tears we discover an unknown joy. We celebrate a success, and in the midst of the party we feel deep sadness. Mourning and dancing, grief and laughter, sadness and gladness – they belong together as the sad-faced clown and the happy-faced clown, who make us both cry and laugh. Let’s trust that the beauty of our lives becomes visible where mourning and dancing touch each other.

Text excerpts taken from Bread for the Journey, by Henri J.M. Nouwen , © 1997 HarperSanFrancisco.

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Sharing Our Solitude

A friend is more than a therapist or a confessor, even though a friend can sometimes heal us and offer us God’s forgiveness.

A friend is that other person with whom we can share our solitude, our silence, and our prayer. A friend is that other person with whom we can look at a tree and say, “Isn’t that beautiful,” or sit on the beach and silently watch the sun disappear under the horizon. With a friend we don’t have to say or do something special. With a friend we can be still and know that God is there with both of us.

Text excerpts taken from Bread for the Journey, by Henri J.M. Nouwen , © 1997 HarperSanFrancisco

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Claiming the Sacredness of Our Being

Are we friends with ourselves? Do we love who we are? These are important questions because we cannot develop good friendships with others unless we have befriended ourselves.

How then do we befriend ourselves? We have to start by acknowledging the truth of ourselves. We are beautiful but also limited, rich but also poor, generous but also worried about our security. Yet beyond all that we are people with souls, sparks of the divine. To acknowledge the truth of ourselves is to claim the sacredness of our being, without fully understanding it. Our deepest being escapes our own mental or emotional grasp. But when we trust that our souls are embraced by a loving God, we can befriend ourselves and reach out to others in loving relationships.

Text excerpts taken from Bread for the Journey, by Henri J.M. Nouwen , © 1997 HarperSanFrancisco

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Choose a word or phrase (perhaps this week’s Gateway to Silence—That all may be one—or simply Be one) as an expression of your intent and desire. Sit comfortably and upright, eyes closed, breathing naturally, and begin to repeat this sacred word silently. As your attention is focused on the desire behind the word, gradually let the word slip away. Rest in silence. When thoughts, images or sensations arise, gently return to the word, a symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within you. 

Two periods of twenty minutes each day is recommended for Centering Prayer. To learn more about Centering Prayer, visit Contemplative Outreach.

Richard Rohr’s Meditation at www.cac.org

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The Voice in the Garden of Solitude

Solitude is the garden for our hearts, which yearn for love. It is the place where our aloneness can bear fruit. It is the home for our restless bodies and anxious minds. Solitude, whether it is connected with a physical space or not, is essential for our spiritual lives. It is not an easy place to be, since we are so insecure and fearful that we are easily distracted by whatever promises immediate satisfaction. Solitude is not immediately satisfying, because in solitude we meet our demons, our addictions, our feelings of lust and anger, and our immense need for recognition and approval. But if we do not run away, we will meet there also the One who says, “Do not be afraid. I am with you, and I will guide you through the valley of darkness.”   Let’s keep returning to our solitude.

http://wp.henrinouwen.org/daily_meditation_blog/?p=2722

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Creating Space to Dance Together

When we feel lonely we keep looking for a person or persons who can take our loneliness away. Our lonely hearts cry out, “Please hold me, touch me, speak to me, pay attention to me.” But soon we discover that the person we expect to take our loneliness away cannot give us what we ask for. Often that person feels oppressed by our demands and runs away, leaving us in despair. As long as we approach another person from our loneliness, no mature human relationship can develop. Clinging to one another in loneliness is suffocating and eventually becomes destructive. For love to be possible we need the courage to create space between us and to trust that this space allows us to dance together.

http://wp.henrinouwen.org/daily_meditation_blog/?p=2718

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Finding Solitude

All human beings are alone. No other person will completely feel like we do, think like we do, act like we do. Each of us is unique, and our aloneness is the other side of our uniqueness. The question is whether we let our aloneness become loneliness or whether we allow it to lead us into solitude. Loneliness is painful; solitude is peaceful. Loneliness makes us cling to others in desperation; solitude allows us to respect others in their uniqueness and create community.

Letting our aloneness grow into solitude and not into loneliness is a lifelong struggle. It requires conscious choices about whom to be with, what to study, how to pray, and when to ask for counsel. But wise choices will help us to find the solitude where our hearts can grow in love.

http://wp.henrinouwen.org/daily_meditation_blog/?p=2716

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Be Yourself

Often we want to be somewhere other than where we are, or even to be someone other than who we are. We tend to compare ourselves constantly with others and wonder why we are not as rich, as intelligent, as simple, as generous, or as saintly as they are. Such comparisons make us feel guilty, ashamed, or jealous. It is very important to realize that our vocation is hidden in where we are and who we are. We are unique human beings, each with a call to realize in life what nobody else can, and to realize it in the concrete context of the here and now.

We will never find our vocations by trying to figure out whether we are better or worse than others. We are good enough to do what we are called to do. Be yourself!

Text excerpts taken from Bread for the Journey, by Henri J.M. Nouwen , © 1997 HarperSanFrancisco

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Mysticism: Inner Experience – Union Begets Morality

The morality of a mystic is a response to union, not an earning of union. Once you’ve experienced that you’re one with God and your neighbour, why would you steal from him and make his life more difficult? Once you’ve experienced union with your neighbour, why would you lie to him? Or steal his wife? Of course you wouldn’t.

But most of us think backwards, “If I don’t lie, God will like me.” No, you’ll like yourself more! God likes you already. That problem is solved once and for all and forever. That’s what every mystic enjoys at ever fuller levels—that you know that you’re loved ahead of time, before death, and unconditionally. 

And that’s why mystics are happy people. In fact, if they’re not happy, they’re not mystics. If he or she is a “sourpuss” (Pope Francis’ word!), you know that person is still playing the moral game, which is mostly about willpower, leading to constant failure and disappointment with the self.

Adapted from Richard Rohr: Franciscan Mysticism: I AM That Which I Am Seeking

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THE STILL, SMALL VOICE OF LOVE

Many voices ask for our attention. There is a voice that says, “Prove that you are a good person.” Another voice says, “You’d better be ashamed of yourself.” There also is a voice that says, “Nobody really cares about you,” and one that says, “Be sure to become successful, popular, and powerful.” But underneath all these often very noisy voices is a still, small voice that says, “You are my Beloved, my favour rests on you.” That’s the voice we need most of all to hear. To hear that voice, however, requires special effort; it requires solitude, silence, and a strong determination to listen.

That’s what prayer is. It is listening to the voice that calls us “my Beloved.”

http://wp.henrinouwen.org/daily_meditation_blog/?p=2705

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OUR PRAYERS CREATE US

When we celebrate New Year’s Day, and maybe Easter too, we celebrate a symbolic rebirth of time. We somehow hope for God to do new things with us and for us. We wait for the coming of grace, for the unfolding of Mystery. We wait for the always-bigger Truth.

Such humble waiting and open-ended expecting allows us to fall into what Thomas Merton called “a hidden wholeness.” One does not create or hold onto such wholeness (holiness?) consciously—it holds onto us! Our common code word for this hidden wholeness is quite appropriately “God”! When we agree to love God, we are precisely agreeing to love everything. When we decide to trust God, we are also deciding to trust reality at its deepest foundation.

But we cannot just wait. We must pray too, which is to expect help from Another Source. Our prayers then start both naming us and defining us. When we hear our own prayers in our own ears and our own heart, we start choosing our deepest identity, our biggest future, and our best selves. We fall into our own hidden wholeness.

Adapted from Richard Rohr: Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer, p. 154

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A Very Messy Christmas    –     Roger Dawson SJ

(Are you ready to have the perfect Christmas? No? Don’t worry, you are in good company. The first Christmas was hardly perfect, so maybe the mess and muddle of an imperfect Christmas is the best situation in which to welcome Jesus. Thinking Faith’s Editor, Roger Dawson, S. J. wishes you a very messy Christmas.)

About ten years ago I volunteered to work over Christmas for the homeless charity Crisis at Christmas and one of my duties was to work in the clothing store. I remember meeting one woman who was very polite – she always said ‘Please’, and when she was given a jumper she would say, ‘Oh, that’s lovely, thank you very much’. She was grateful for more or less anything that I offered her. She was followed by a man whom frankly I found difficult. He just stated – demanded, even – what he wanted: ‘Trousers.’ When asked what size: ‘32 to 34’. When I came back with a pair of trousers, size 32-34, he said, ‘Nah!’ and sent me back to find a different pair. Once I had satisfied him with the trousers, next came, ‘Shoes, size 9’. Back I came with size 9 shoes and he rolled his eyes. Try again. Sometimes he would even tut, and by the time we got to ‘Coat’ I was fairly irritated and annoyed. I found this man rude and ungrateful; he was difficult and hard to like. But this man was on the edge. He was an outsider, excluded from many of the things that we take for granted at Christmas and also in daily life.

It was to people like him, not people like me, to whom the Nativity was announced – the excluded and the marginalised, rather than the clerics. It is tempting to have some sentimental, Christmas-card view of the shepherds living in some rural idyll, but the reality is that they were despised. Their work brought them into frequent contact with blood and mess, so they were ritually unclean and unfit to participate in the religious celebrations; they were excluded from participation in Jewish life. And yet it is to these people that the birth of Jesus is announced.

‘The story of the first Christmas is the story of a series of completely unplanned, messy events – a surprise pregnancy, an unexpected journey that’s got to be made, a complete muddle over the hotel accommodation when you get there…Not exactly a perfect holiday.’ This was how Dr Rowan Williams, then Archbishop of Canterbury, described the first Christmas in a Pause for Thought reflection two years ago. He was making the point that each year most of us strive to have the Perfect Christmas: advertisers pile on the pressure, we get carried away with lists and budgets and plans; yet each year seems to bring the same panic and tensions.

But perhaps it does not have to be perfect. God does not say to us, ‘Go and get yourself sorted out and then I’ll come, then we will talk’. He comes to the world as it is – imperfect, frequently messy, often muddled. He chose disciples who were far from promising – slow on the uptake, unreliable and obtuse. Matthew gives us Jesus’s family tree and it is one that most of us would keep quiet about: among the kings and prophets there are adulterers, prostitutes and murderers. This Jesus is someone who would have frequent contact with the blood and mess of human existence; indeed, his own life would end in blood and mess. This Jesus can handle chaos and confusion, and he seeks out those who are on the margins, excluded and despised.

So for those who feel like one of the outsiders, away from the mainstream and not part of the respectable crowd, there is a special place this Christmas. God shows us, ‘Look, I am in the middle of this and if you would just relax I will help you. It does not have to be perfect. I came here to help you’. As soon as we recognise this, then we may enjoy Christmas a little more and we may find the love Jesus brings at work in our messy, muddled lives; or, even better, we might bring that love into someone else’s mess and muddle.

If an imperfect Christmas was good enough for Jesus, surely it is good enough for all of us.

Roger Dawson SJ is Editor of Thinking Faith.

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THE CHRIST CHILD IS WITHIN US

I think that we have hardly thought through the immense implications of the mystery of the incarnation. Where is God? God is where we are weak, vulnerable, small and dependent. God is where the poor are, the hungry, the handicapped, the mentally ill, the elderly, the powerless. How can we come to know God when our focus is elsewhere, on success, influence, and power? I increasingly believe that our faithfulness will depend on our willingness to go where there is brokenness, loneliness, and human need.

If the church has a future it is a future with the poor in whatever form. Each one of us is seriously searching to live and grow in this belief, and by friendship we can support each other. I realize that the only way for us to stay well in the midst of the many “worlds” is to stay close to the small, vulnerable child that lives in our hearts and in every other human being. Often we do not know that the Christ child is within us. When we discover him we can truly rejoice.

http://wp.henrinouwen.org/advent

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What Would Joseph Do?

Nicholas King SJ     20 December 2013

Copyright © Jesuit Media Initiatives     www.thinkingfaith.org

The gospel reading from Matthew for the Fourth Sunday of Advent is the evangelist’s account of the birth of Jesus, which focuses on the role of Joseph. Nicholas King SJ asks us to pay attention to the context in which this passage is found in the gospel – our understanding of Joseph’s fatherhood of Jesus depends on it.

The gospel reading for the Fourth Sunday of Advent this year is Matthew’s account of the birth of Jesus. It is rather different from Luke’s version, which we shall be hearing at Midnight Mass on Christmas Day.

Before looking at the text itself, we need to be aware that it comes immediately after all those begts’ (‘Abraham begat Isaac and Isaac begat Jacob, and Jacob…’) in the Prologue that Matthew has given to his gospel.

Some people claim, insensitively, that this is the most boring bit of the New Testament; they miss the point that Matthew is making here, for those who know the code (which will have included Matthew’s first listeners). Matthew’s message is conveyed in the three groups of fourteen names into which the genealogy is divided: Abraham to David, David to the Exile, Exile to Jesus. The message is, quite simply, that Jesus is the fulfilment of all of the promises of God, whose fidelity has unfailingly guided Israel all through the painful, and at times sinful, history of God’s beloved people. We need to have that firmly in mind before we listen to the gospel reading this Sunday.

In the passage we hear, the first thing to notice is that Matthew connects this episode quite firmly to the first line of his Prologue, using the word ‘genesis’ (which your translation may have as ‘birth’). He is telling us, that is to say, that what we are about to hear is linked to the understanding of Jesus as the climax of Jewish history. That enables us to ride out the shock in the next sentence, which tells us that ‘when his mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, before they had come together, she was found to be pregnant’! In that culture, even more so than in ours, such a thing is not supposed to happen; but while we are digesting the awfulness of it, Matthew gives us relief, telling us that the pregnancy is ‘from the Holy Spirit’. So we know all will be well, even if we cannot at present see how.

Now the evangelist lets us into the mind of Joseph: he is facing a major problem. Immediately our sympathies ’ This adjective, and the related noun is a very important idea in s gospel, from whose readers Jesus demanded, notably in the Sermon on the Mount, that their righteousness/justice abound more than that of the scribes and Pharisees’ (5:20). At the moment ‘justice’ is a matter of ‘not wishing to make an example’ of Mary; it must be said that we cannot be quite clear what would have happened if Joseph had made a public fuss about her pregnancy, but it is at least possible that she would have been stoned to death as an adulterer.

As he saw the matter, of course, he could not possibly marry her, given that she was pregnant by someone else. So what else could he do? He was, we gather, pondering divorcing her ‘secretly’; and the next time that Matthew uses that adverb is in the very next chapter, when Herod summons the Magi ‘secretly’ (2:7): there it is unmistakably sinister.

On the whole, however, we are inclined to acquit Joseph of wanting to do something sinister, and that impression is reinforced when, just as he is pondering the matter, we hear the word ‘behold!’ It might equally be translated as ‘look!’ in your version; but I regret to inform you that many modern versions consider this word to be a waste of space and omit it, failing to recognise that it is a signal from the evangelist that we must pay attention, for God is about to act. Here, the word introduces the ‘angel of the Lord’, who in the Old Testament is often indistinguishable from the Lord himself. We learn that the messenger ‘appeared to him [Joseph] in a dream’, and we know that the message which this apparition will be giving needs to be heeded.

And so it proves; he is addressed as ‘Joseph, son of David’, which once again picks up the genealogy that we have just read. ‘Son of David’ is, moreover, a title that appears frequently in Matthew, often in connection with healing. Then he gets his instruction: ‘Don’t be afraid,’ (this is a standard address in the Old Testament to those who encounter the divine) ‘to accept Mary as your wife’. Then the reason is given, as the reader is reminded of what we already knew: ‘that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit’. This is followed by a fairly obvious statement, ‘she will bear a child’, and then a slightly less obvious instruction: “and you are to call his name Jesus’. We need to take this instruction seriously; some feminist scholars deprecate the fact that whereas in Luke’s Gospel it is Mary who is to give the name, Matthew gives the task to Joseph. This is not, however, yet another example of a patriarchal society in which the men seize all the privileges that should accrue to the women; something far more subtle is going on here, for in giving the child a name, Joseph is publicly accepting Jesus as his own. So if you were confused about Matthew spending all that time establishing Joseph’s genealogy, when in fact Joseph was not the child’s father, perhaps now you understand. By accepting the boy as his son, and symbolically taking on the father’s role of naming the child, Joseph gives Jesus all his ancestors, regardless of the biological facts.

Next, the angel gives an explanation of the name of the child, showing a good understanding of the Hebrew. The name ‘Jesus’ means ‘the Lord saves’, and so it is a small leap to indicate his function: ‘he shall save his people from their sins’. That is what we are to remember throughout the rest of this remarkable gospel. After this, the evangelist offers his own comment, and it is something that he will repeat quite frequently: “this was to fulfil…’. Characteristically, this is followed by an Old Testament citation; if (as seems quite likely) Matthew is in polemical dialogue with ‘the synagogue across the road’, all these ‘fulfilment’ quotations are no doubt meant to support an argument that Jesus is in fact the climax of God’s dealing with Israel through history. In the Sermon on the Mount (5:17), we shall be told that Jesus came ‘not to abolish but to fulfil’.

Matthew adds two interesting points. First, he uses the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures: where the Hebrew has, ‘a young woman shall conceive’ in Isaiah 7:14, the Greek which Matthew cites has, ‘a virgin’, which fits his understanding that Jesus had no human father. Then, secondly, he adds a translation of the word ‘Emmanuel’, which does not appear in either the Hebrew or the Greek, and is, of course, ‘God with us’,  We do not fully discover the importance of this title until we reach the very end of the gospel and hear Jesus tell his disciples, in the light of the resurrection, that ‘I am with you all the days’. It could not be clearer what Matthew means to say here.

Then we watch, with some curiosity, to see what joseph’s response will be, and are relieved when he “arose’ (this is a resurrection word in the gospels) ‘from sleep, and did as the angel had commanded him, and accepted his wife’. We may well imagine that there will have been a social cost to this brave obedience: many will have observed that Mary was pregnant when she ought not to be, so they will have regarded Joseph as an accomplice in her apparent immorality. So we should perhaps rejoice that Pope Francis, who has asked that we include Jesus’s adoptive father in the Eucharistic prayer, regards Joseph as a man after his own heart. Like our present pope, Joseph is not afraid to do what God asks, even if there is a price to pay in the shock and horror of Good Religious People.

What of us, therefore? How are we to approach the festival that is now just a few days away? Not, I think, by rushing out and enjoying the materialist consumer fest that has dominated the shops for these several weeks now. Instead, the invitation to us is to do whatever it is we are meant to do, regardless of the cost in terms of other people’s esteem. That is the lead that we have been given by the new Bishop of Rome, who is in the process of discovering that if you answer the call of God you will find plenty of people who will rise up in their wrath and criticise you. Watch him, though, and, this Christmas, watch Joseph; and admire the courage of these two ‘just men’ in doing God’s will, whatever the cost. Christmas is not a celebration of the powerful and the mighty; it is a feast of the poor, and of those who know their need for God.

Nicholas King SJ is a tutor in Biblical Studies at Campion Hall, University of Oxford.

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The Peace That is Not of This World

Keep your eyes on the prince of peace, the one who doesn’t cling to his divine power; the one who refuses to turn stones into bread, jump from great heights and rule with great power; the one who says, “Blessed are the poor, the gentle, those who mourn, and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; blessed are the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness” (see Matt. 5:3-11); the one who touches the lame, the crippled, and the blind; the one who speaks words of forgiveness and encouragement; the one who dies alone, rejected and despised. Keep your eyes on him who becomes poor with the poor, weak with the weak, and who is rejected with the rejected. He is the source of all peace.

Where is this peace to be found? The answer is clear. In weakness. First of all, in our own weakness, in those places of our hearts where we feel most broken, most insecure, most in agony, most afraid. Why there? Because there, our familiar ways of controlling our world are being stripped away; there we are called to let go from doing much, thinking much, and relying on our self-sufficiency. Right there where we are weakest the peace which is not of this world is hidden.

In Adam’s name I say to you, “Claim that peace that remains unknown to so many and make it your own. Because with that peace in your heart you will have new eyes to see and new ears to hear and gradually recognize that same peace in places you would have least expected.”

http://wp.henrinouwen.org/advent

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Energizing Visions

Are the great visions of the ultimate peace among all people and the ultimate harmony of all creation just utopian fairy tales? No, they are not! They correspond to the deepest longings of the human heart and point to the truth waiting to be revealed beyond all lies and deceptions. These visions nurture our souls and strengthen our hearts. They offer us hope when we are close to despair, courage when we are tempted to give up on life, and trust when suspicion seems the more logical attitude. Without these visions our deepest aspirations, which give us the energy to overcome great obstacles and painful setbacks, will be dulled and our lives will become flat, boring, and finally destructive. Our visions enable us to live the full life.

http://wp.henrinouwen.org/daily_meditation_blog/?p=2634

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The Peaceable Kingdom

All of creation belongs together in the arms of its Creator.  The final vision is that not only will all men and women recognise that they are brothers and sisters called to live in unity but all members of God’s creation will come together in complete harmony.  Jesus the Christ came to realise that vision.  Long before he was born, the prophet Isaiah saw it:

The wolf will live with the lamb, the panther lie down with the kid, calf, lion and fat-stock beast together, with a little boy to lead them. The cow and the bear will graze, their young will lie down together. The lion will eat hay like the ox. The infant will play over the den of the adder; the baby will put his hand into the viper’s lair. No hurt, no harm will be done on all my holy mountain, for the country will be full of knowledge of Yahweh as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9)

We must keep this vision alive. 

http://wp.henrinouwen.org/daily_meditation_blog/?p=2628

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Walk with Jesus on the Earth

Jesus is deeply connected to the earth on which he walks. He observes the forces of nature, learns from them, teaches about them, and reveals that the God of Creation is the same God who sent him to give good news to the poor, sight to the blind, and freedom to the prisoners. He walks from village to village, sometimes alone and sometimes with others; as he walks, he meets the poor, the beggars, the blind, the sick, the mourners, and those who have lost hope. He listens attentively to those with whom he walks, and he speaks to them with the authority of a true companion on the road. He remains very close to the ground.

If I am to follow Jesus, then I, too, must remain close to the soil. Often I look up into the clouds and daydream about a better world. But my dreams will never bear fruit unless I keep turning my eyes again and again back to the dust of this earth and listening to what God is saying to me on the road of life. For I am connected to the earth and to all who walk the earth with me. Nature is not the background to our lives; it is a living gift that teaches us about the ways and will of the Creator.

http://wp.henrinouwen.org/daily_meditation_blog/?p=2582

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Crossing the Road for One Another

We become neighbours when we are willing to cross the road for one another.  There is so much separation and segregation: between black people and white people, between gay people and straight people, between young people and old people, between sick people and healthy people, between prisoners and free people, between Jews and Gentiles, Muslims and Christians, Protestants and Catholics, Greek Catholics and Latin Catholics.

There is a lot of road crossing to do.  We are all very busy in our own circles.  We have our own people to go to and our own affairs to take care of.  But if we could cross the street once in a while and pay attention to what is happening on the other side, we might become neighbours.

http://wp.henrinouwen.org/daily_meditation_blog/?p=2582

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Going to the Margins of the Church

Those who are marginal in the world are central in the Church, and that is how it is supposed to be!  Thus we are called as members of the Church to keep going to the margins of our society.  The homeless, the starving, parentless children,  people with AIDS, our emotionally disturbed brothers and sisters – they require our first attention.

We can trust that when we reach out with all our energy to the margins of our society we will discover that petty disagreements, fruitless debates, and paralysing rivalries will recede and gradually vanish.   The Church will always be renewed when our attention shifts from ourselves to those who need our care.  The blessing of Jesus always comes to us through the poor.   The most remarkable experience of those who work with the poor is that, in the end, the poor give more than they receive.  They give food to us. 

http://wp.henrinouwen.org/daily_meditation_blog/?p=2582

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Acting in the Name of Jesus

Ministry is acting in the Name of Jesus. When all our actions are in the Name, they will bear fruit for eternal life. To act in the Name of Jesus, however, doesn’t mean to act as a representative of Jesus or his spokesperson. It means to act in an intimate communion with him. The Name is like a house, a tent, a dwelling. To act in the Name of Jesus, therefore, means to act from the place where we are united with Jesus in love. To the question “Where are you?” we should be able to answer, “I am in the Name.” Then, whatever we do cannot be other than ministry because it will always be Jesus himself who acts in and through us. The final question for all who minister is “Are you in the Name of Jesus?”” When we can say yes to that, all of our lives will be ministry.

http://wp.henrinouwen.org/daily_meditation_blog/?p=2582

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Telling the Story of Jesus

The Church is called to announce the Good News of Jesus to all people and all nations. Besides the many works of mercy by which the Church must make Jesus’ love visible, it must also joyfully announce the great mystery of God’s salvation through the life, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The story of Jesus is to be proclaimed and celebrated. Some will hear and rejoice, some will remain indifferent, some will become hostile. The story of Jesus will not always be accepted, but it must be told.

We who know the story and try to live it out, have the joyful task of telling it to others. When our words rise from hearts full of love and gratitude, they will bear fruit, whether we can see this or not.

http://wp.henrinouwen.org/daily_meditation_blog/?p=2558

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The Poverty of Our Leaders

There is a tendency to think about poverty, suffering, and pain as realities that happen primarily or even exclusively at the bottom of our Church. We seldom think of our leaders as poor. Still, there is great poverty, deep loneliness, painful isolation, real depression, and much emotional suffering at the top of our Church.

We need the courage to acknowledge the suffering of the leaders of our Church – its ministers, priests, bishops, and popes – and include them in this fellowship of the weak. When we are not distracted by the power, wealth, and success of those who offer leadership, we will soon discover their powerlessness, poverty, and failures and feel free to reach out to them with the same compassion we want to give to those at the bottom. In God’s eyes there is no distance between bottom and top. There shouldn’t be in our eyes either.

http://wp.henrinouwen.org/daily_meditation_blog/?p=2558

Day to Day……

Marino Nativity Knitting Group

Marino Nativity Knitting Group completed three sets of Nativity figures before  Christmas and donated them to the three primary schools – St. Vincent de Paul Infant School, St. Vincent de Paul Girls Schools and Scoil Mhuire Boys School.   We also had a great parishioner who made wonderful stables for each crib which can be used for storage and for backdrops when the crib is on display. The group, who only started in Oct, have about 10 members who meet once a month to compare efforts, help each other and chat! We will be meeting in Jan again to plan our next project.

KNIT 4 A highlight for the group  was being filmed by Kairos Communications on Saturday 5th December for the Angelus on RTE over Christmas.  This is being shown on RTE 1 at 6pm every second evening from Christmas Eve up to 5th January 2016.

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St. Vincent de Paul Church, Marino 

Christmas Carol Concert with Nativity Drama on Mon 21st December 2015 at 7.30pm.

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2 October 2014 7.30pm –  St. Patricks Church, Skerries

River of Song

 As part of the programme of events celebrating the 75th anniversary of St. Patrick’s Church, Skerries, the youth of the parish will provide an hour of song, dance and music on Thursday, 2nd October at 7.30pm in the church.  The Papal Nuncio, His Excellency The Most Rev Charles John Brown, will be joining us for the evening.  All are welcome to attend.”

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27 August 2014

25th anniversary of the opening of St. Maur’s Church, Rush in 1989.  Celebration Mass will be offered in the church by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin on Sunday next 31st August at 11.30am. 

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20th May 2014

TV Mass

The 11.00 am Mass on Sunday 1 June 2014 will be broadcast on RTE TV from St. Maur’s Parish, Rush. Co. Dublin

First Communion Celebrations

Congratulations to all the children who have received their First Communion recently!

Final celebrations are this Saturday 24th May as follows:

Skerries – St. Patricks NS  10.00am

Rush – St. Catherine’s NS 10.00am      Rush NS  12.30pm

Lusk – Lusk NS 10,00am and 12.00pm

 

 

 

When you cannot pray in words……

I am a hole in a flute that the Christ’s breath  moves through—listen to this music.

    —Hafiz

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The first reading at Mass today (30 Oct 2013) brings great comfort for those occasions when we just cannot find the words to express what we want to say to God in prayer….

(Romans 8:26-30 By turning everything to their good God co-operates with all those who love him)

The Spirit too comes to help us in our weakness. For when we cannot choose words in order to pray properly, the Spirit himself expresses our plea in a way that could never be put into words, and God who knows everything in our hearts knows perfectly well what he means, and that the pleas of the saints expressed by the Spirit are according to the mind of God.

We know that by turning everything to their good, God co-operates with all those who love him, with all those that he has called according to his purpose. They are the ones he chose specially long ago and intended to become true images of his Son, so that his Son might be the eldest of many brothers. He called those he intended for this; those he called he justified, and with those he justified he shared his glory”.

What great consolation this can give us. God recognises our weakness and makes provision for it and sends the Holy Spirit to help us. And of course the Holy Spirit can make our plea to God in a much better way than we ever could.  We could not have a better advocate!