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Listing April - 2013
'Before you speak, listen. Before you write, think. Before you spend, earn. Before you invest, investigate. Before you criticize, wait. Before you pray, forgive. Before you quit, try. Before you retire, save. Before you die, give.' ~William Arthur Ward

We tend to do a lot of things quickly and without thought. It is what we are used to and it's what others almost expect of us. But everything is connected in some way. One action on its own is never in isolation and is always connected to something very close by. An obvious example is a smile and we know the difference it always makes. Any action done out of love and in love has immediate effect and is such a powerful force in our world. No wonder we hear so many times in scripture how God is love. When we build our lives on this foundation we are always in a good place. So before we jump headlong into whatever needs to be done next, the message is simple: slow down, think carefully about what really matters, avoid the stuff that does not energise you, be gentle with yourself and to know that everything you do matters a lot.
The following reflection is by Triona Doherty called 'Step by Step'

I had the pleasure of speaking to some members of various religious congregations recently about the work they carry out and how their mission has evolved over the past fifty or so years. While many are no longer involved in traditional teaching and nursing roles, they are making their mark in other areas as chaplains, social workers, counsellors, retreat workers and lecturers, working with prisoners, asylum seekers, those with addiction problems and others. They are deliberately diversifying to meet the needs of their communities.

From the writings of Catherine McAuley, founder of the Sisters of Mercy, we read: 'Let us take one day only in the hands at a time, merely making a resolve for tomorrow. Thus we may hope to go on, taking short, careful steps, not great strides%u2026 Each day is a step we take towards Eternity. The final step will bring us into the presence of God.' These words came to mind when reading today's First Reading, which describes the travels of Paul and Barnabas to encourage the early Church members in their faith. They 'put fresh heart into the disciples' - a lovely expression. Step by step they were building up the church. Those religious I spoke to are doing the same, many in a quiet, humble way. They are optimistic about the future and looking for new ways to interpret the goals and teachings of their founders, and to communicate and live out the Gospel message of love.
'Hope is not some kind of delusional optimism to be resorted to because we simply cannot face the hard facts that threaten to swamp our hearts. People do die and leave us. Friends do desert us. Businesses do crumble and destroy us financially. Love does dry up and disappear. Careers do come to ruin. Disease does debilitate us. Evil does exist. But through it all, hope remains.' ~Niall Ahern

Life can be so unpredictable and uncertain. Like a gentle tide that lifts our boat it can also turn into a raging storm threatening to swamp us. Yet in the middle of every uncertainty, storm and darkness, there remains a sense of hope and optimism. That is why Easter runs for 6 weeks and not just a few days as many think it is. The long stretch of Easter is a reminder that despite everything, we are people of hope and optimism. But what do we mean by hope and optimism? They are empty and shallow if left on their own but in the context of a loving God they are powerful and liberating. When all else seems to be gone, God will always be there and will never abandon or desert us. This is real hope and it is life giving. We pray to God today and across the weekend to help us through all the challenges of life. We pray that we will always remain hopeful, knowing that God will always be on our side even when all seems lost.
It's not always those who have the most who are the happiest, it is those who make the most of what they have who are the happiest.' ~Norman O'Rourke

This lovely saying is full of wisdom and can say something to all of us. It is well known that when the Lotto jackpot goes up near 10 million and above, there is a huge surge in ticket sales. People who don't normally play go and get their ticket, thinking that this will be the key to happiness. It certainly would help, but it has been well proven that having everything is not always a guarantee to be happy. Even Jesus talked about the limitations of wealth and riches.

But if we look closely at the people who we know who are really happy, we will see that these are the people who are making the most of what they have. These are the people who simply get on with life, keep doing their best and treasure each day and moment as gift and something precious. These are the people who appreciate that life is fragile, that it goes quickly and has limitations. They have experienced setbacks and knocks. They would like to have a lot more but given the current economic climate know it's not possible to have everything. These are the people who are much more grounded and balanced in their outlook. To be in such a place is good and healthy. Are you the one who keeps looking for more, instead of making the most of what you have?
'One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon - instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.' ~Dale Carnegie

A young man went to a Rabbi and asked, "How can I love God with my whole heart, since I see that there are bad parts in my heart." The Rabbi replied, "Well it seems you will have to love God with the bad parts too!" We are often our own worst critics. We put ourselves down easy. We seldom give ourselves enough credit for all the roses blooming in our own lives. We tend to see the bad parts first and we almost magnify them. We allow them to choke out the roses. It's time to throw away the magnifying glass. Yes we all have faults, weaknesses and limitations.
The Gospel invitation is to love God even with the bad parts too. Put the spotlight onto the blessings and good things in your life. They are not in some magical place beyond the horizon but right within your reach waiting to be celebrated.
'In a modern world often characterised by exclusion and individualism, our lives lived as part of faith community is a powerful witness to a more real model of community and togetherness, rooted in Gospel values.' ~Ronan Barry

Our advances in technology can only be described as incredible. The ease and transfer of information is now seconds away. Getting the newspaper today can sometimes be reading old news. The world of twitter, facebook and social networking sites have made sharing news so much easier. Despite all these instant connections the levels of loneliness are remarkably high. There is a feeling of being in a spin when one is not connected to something. Nothing can replace the model of a faith community working together and doing its best to live out the Gospel values. Any sort of a replacement has always fallen well short. Community doesn't just happen. It can't just be down to one or few people to get it going. It can often start with ourselves when we are determined to be part of something or a group, that is positive, inclusive and upbeat. Thankfully and hopefully one of these groups is not too far from you.
'Ordinary riches can be stolen, real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you.' ~Oscar Wilde

There are many things that can be taken from us in life. Even under lock and key nothing is absolutely safe. But there are many things within each of us that are just so precious. These are special and unique to you. They are in that sacred place called the soul of each person. Your faith may be barely hanging in there, lukewarm or deep rooted. But it can never take from what's special to you. The problem is that so many completely ignore the vast treasures within each of us. Our world may not be the nicest of places at times and events like the Boston marathon bombing is one of the most recent examples. But there is also such a reserve of deep love in so many people that it can't be ignored. We need to keep saying it to those who matter most to us, especially our young people, to treasure what really matters most to them. The message is simple: "You are precious and special. You are deeply loved by God and always will. Let no one ever take or deny you this as you journey through life."
'Regardless of what you believe in churches are extraordinary places of peace. Take a pew and absorb the atmosphere of absolute peace and calm that permeates them.' ~Paul Wison

Everyone has their own favourite church. It might be your own local one, the one you got married in or the one you were baptised in. It might be a big huge cathedral or a small country chapel in the heart of the country. The sites of these churches, particularly the older ones, were picked because they were known locally as being 'special' or it was known locally as a 'sacred site'. Every church has its own character, its own feel and energy and is always a place of peace. It is little wonder that you find people drawn to churches each day. It is not always to a formal liturgy that is the priority. Sometimes people are happy just to walk in and sit in silence. Some light a candle but for nearly everyone it is to absorb the peace and calm that one so often finds in a church. It is the best prayer of them all and it doesn't always have to be about words. There is no charge for such a visit. It is an open invitation and one that we can take up any time we want.
Jesus said: The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life; they will never be lost and no one will ever steal them from me. The Father who gave them to me is greater than anyone, and no one can steal from the Father. The Father and I are one. ~John 10:27-30

The following reflection is by Triona Doherty

When people fall in love they often talk of meeting someone with whom they can 'be themselves', who loves them as they are - imperfections, eccentricities and all. Likewise when we are with good friends, we can be confident that we are accepted and appreciated as we are; in fact the best relationships are those which inspire us to look beyond ourselves, to develop our talents and to aim ever higher.

Short and sweet as it is, there is something very comforting about today's Gospel reading. Today is known as Good Shepherd Sunday, when we are reminded of the strong bond and relationship Jesus has with us, his flock. 'The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me,' says Jesus. He knows who we are, and he also knows what we are capable of. The First Reading today reminds us that we are called to be 'a light for the nations'. We all have our gifts, our strengths and our special calling, and our own unique role to play.
'Doubt is like the dark. A room may be dark because the sun is not shining or it may be dark because the windows are dirty. One cannot turn on the sun, but one can wash the windows.' ~Chinese Proverb

Doubt is something that is a part of all our lives. It is okay to doubt, to have reservations, to question and to feel we need to know more. Throughout the weeks of Easter the story of Thomas is often read and shared. It is one of the most obvious examples of someone who had major doubts. But they did not become a limiting story for him. His doubts allowed him to move on in his life with even greater conviction. We sometimes allow our doubts to take over and we forget to trust. Many of the great spiritual writers have said that doubt is something not to be afraid. It is always such an honest place to be. Using the image of the dark room we sometimes need to wash the window. We need to allow more light to filter through into all our doubts.

A prayer starter might be: Lord, I doubt from time to time. I have doubt in my own abilities and where I am going in life. Please shine some of your light and hope into any area of my life that feels in darkness and in particular those areas of my life where I have major doubts.
'I think if I were given the choice of having just one flower in my garden, I would choose the daffodil for it is the daffodil more than any other that encapsulates all the wonder and joy of spring.' ~Patrick O'Sullivan

Normally the month of March belongs to the daffodil but extended cold weather has meant that the daffodil can still be found in many of our gardens this month. It is a stunning beautiful flower that powerfully reminds us that spring is here or maybe more accurately nearly here. But we do think of the daffodil as commonplace and ordinary. We see them in so many gardens and in so many places that we simply take them for granted. This is indeed a great pity. Even when the weather is stacked against them they patiently wait and often put up with many setbacks.

They have a lot to say to us spiritually as well. There are many moments of every day that are significant. They might not make the headlines but they are significant to call them special. Like the daffodil we sometimes view them as common and ordinary. But these moments are the energy of life and the energy that make up every day. Without them our day would be dull, lifeless and almost pointless. Our belief is that it is God who generates these significant moments. They are always surrounded in love. We do take them for granted. Maybe we need to appreciate them much more and to know that we don't have to search too far to find them.
'I have loved you with an everlasting love and I am constant in my affection for you.' ~Jeremiah 31:3

I had the opportunity yesterday of visiting the Poor Clares monastery with a 5th year class from Coláiste Choilm. After celebrating Mass we then got a chance to visit the sisters in their parlour. It was such a privilege to get the chance to do so. Such visits are rare and precious and all of us really appreciated the honesty and openness of the sisters. In Cork they are held in such high esteem. So many people, including those who are not overly religious, would say that they would be lost without the Poor Clare Sisters. They are a huge spiritual support to people in any kind of need and to those who call to the convent or write in with a prayer request or petition.

Yesterday they spoke words of encouragement to our young people. They spoke to them about believing in themselves, how precious and special they are, particularly in God's eyes and that God has a most unique plan for each of them. When we find it difficult to pray or when we have doubts they encouraged us to just say quietly from John's Gospel that "God is love". From their experience such a short prayer said slowly can bring great blessings. Even when we can't pray they said they are praying for us. We might not even know it but haven't we all said on occasions: "there must have been someone praying for me!" At the heart of their unique ministry is that God loves them and us. As they pray for us we might say a prayer for them too today and ask God to continue to bless them and the great work they do.
'When we hold back our contribution, our community suffers. We deprive our community, just as we deprive ourselves of the pleasure of offering our gift.' ~Corrina Gordon

We often take our contribution so much for granted. We live in a consumer society. The emphasis is on using, buying, gathering, storing, hoarding, selling, deadlines, pressure, stress and so on. No one is directly to blame but it's all around us and we're all a part of it. It leaves little room for the real person to shine and our contribution is never fully appreciated for what it is.

There are things that only each of us can do in our own unique individual way. Your way is important, valued and respected. As the old saying puts it so well: "God has given us two hands, one for receiving and the other for giving." The best way to give back is to value your contribution. Don't let others smother or block what you are good at doing. Our contribution whatever it might be does make a big difference. Not just a big difference but the world of a difference.
'Reaching the inner person is one of the intrinsic strengths of all organised religions. Reaching in to reach out is a worthy mission and one that in terms of enduring values can appeal to the spirit of the age. It is a mission for which the Church as people of God is especially well placed.' ~Pat Cox

We are comfortable living on the externals. We often go through the motions, do what needs to be done, tick all the boxes and just go with the flow of life. Sometimes we drift with the flow and take everything as it comes. We don't always look within us, to our own inner feelings, thoughts, hopes and dreams. Our inner voice sometimes screams to be heard. Every healthy and good religion allows us to connect with our inner selves. We do this through prayer, quiet time, reflection, meditation, silence or taking time out to just be. Once we give ourselves a chance to reach within, we are in fact reaching to God and doing our best to understand that God is often our stepping stone in life. When we race through life, jumping from one moment to the next, we can often forget the stepping stones. We can only find them or use them, if we slow down and take it one step at a time. When was the last time you reached in? Every time we reach in, we slow ourselves down enough, to give us a genuine chance of connecting with the energy or presence of God in our life.
The following reflection is by Triona Doherty

'Wait until I tell you'; 'Well the way of it was this'; 'I have a good one for you' - we all know someone who is a great storyteller. The seanchaí played an important role in the Irish folk tradition. His role was to keep track of important information and to ensure that tales were passed on from one generation to another. The Gospels came together in a similar fashion, with the stories about Jesus first passed on by word of mouth before being committed to paper.

John introduces the story in today's Gospel in true storyteller mode: 'It was by the sea of Tiberias, and it happened like this:' He sets the scene, tells us who was there and recounts a conversation between the disciples as they decide to go fishing. And all the time we are in on the secret: Jesus is about to appear. And the disciples don't recognise him! We can have a bit of a laugh at their expense. How can they be so blind? A good story encourages us to put ourselves in the characters' shoes. What if we were in the story, in that boat - would we have immediately known it was Jesus?

We may not always recognise Jesus and the various ways he is present in our lives. When things are going badly, we can sometimes forget to pray for strength and help. On the other hand, when things are going well and our nets are full, so to speak, how often do we give thanks and acknowledge how blessed we are?
A prayer by Carmel McCarthy

Almighty God of creation and eternity, within your providence we live and move and have our being. Open our eyes to see your beauty in all the details of our environment. Lift our hearts to you in gratitude for the luminosity of the stars, for spiders and sparrows. We thank you for the sun and moon which regulate our times and seasons. We thank you for each and every person who has enriched us on life's journey. Most of all we thank you for your word made flesh, and for your spirit of love and life, God, forever and eternity, Amen.
Letting Go ~Author Unknown

To let go, doesn't mean to stop caring; it means I can't do it for someone else.
To let go is not to admit powerlessness just that the outcome is not in my hands.
To let go is not to try and change another, I can only change myself.
To let go is not to fix but to be supportive.
To let go is not to judge but to allow another to be a human being.
To let go is not to be in the middle arranging all the outcomes but to allow others affect the outcomes.
To let go is not to deny but to accept.
To let go is not to nag, scold or argue, but to search out my own shortcomings.
To let go is not to criticize and regulate everyone but to become what I dream I can be.
To let go is not to regret the past but to grow and live for the future.
To let go is to fear less and love more.
To let go is sometimes difficult but always worthwhile when appropriate.
'Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in, forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day.' ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Some of the great spiritual writers recommend that at the end of each day, to do a quick review of what happened. Some encourage writing these thoughts down. It is good to reflect on what went wrong, where we might have improved and what we have learnt as well. The next important step is to let what went wrong go and not to carry them forward. Carrying negativity from one day into the next simply eats our energy and is not a healthy thing to do. We are also encouraged at the end of our day to reflect on what was good and what went well. We will always find that there is so much of this to found in any day. Life has tuned us into seeing the negative first. So we need to retune ourselves into seeing all the good as well and there is lots of it to be found. We ask God to help us let go of what did not go well, to treasure what went well and to bless us as we move forward to a new day.
'Courage is the way to reclaiming our lives. It is doing the thing we don't like in order to achieve what we most want. Courage is not acting without fear; rather it is acting in spite of fear.' ~Jim Cogley

One interesting repeating thread in the Gospel Resurrection stories is how fear gripped the disciples and closest followers of Jesus. Everything was just happening so quickly for them, there was much uncertainty and a genuine fear of the unknown. Jesus appeared to them again, reassured them and calmed their fears. Thomas is probably the one who needed reassurance the most and his doubts reflect our questions and uncertainties too. But Jesus was the one who gave him courage and hope. It allowed Thomas to go forward not without fear but to go forward in spite of fear. This same invitation is also extended to each of us too. This is at the heart of the Easter message. There will always be darkness, uncertainties and lots of the unknown. But Jesus is the one who gives us reason why and the reason to keep going despite everything.
The following reflection is by Triona Doherty

We are living in a time of great transition for our Church. At the time of writing this, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had just shocked the world by announcing his decision to resign as Pope, and by the time you read this, it is likely that a new Pope will have been chosen.
The day of the announcement, TV news channels clamoured to put together footage of his pontificate and speculate as to what it all meant, and who his successor might be. Within hours online news sites had produced detailed analyses of his papal legacy. The news was so immediate, yet no one knew how events would unfold.

I think of this fascination with the papacy as I read today's First Reading, where the sick were laid on beds in the streets in the hope that 'the shadow of Peter' might fall across them. I reflect on the vision of John in our Second Reading, where he is instructed to record 'present happenings and things that are still to come'. And I wonder, as I read today's Gospel, how the Spirit is working in our Church at this critical time in its history.

In this Year of Faith we are called to reflect on the mystery of our encounter with the Risen Christ. As the Church journeys, we are each on our own faith journey too. Are we like the disciples hiding in fear? Are we full of joy at an encounter with the Lord, or are we, like Thomas, wracked with doubt? Whatever happens and whatever is to come, it is important that we continue to engage with our faith, to reflect and to journey together.
'Somewhere we know that without a lonely place, our lives are in danger.' ~Henri Nouwen

The above piece of wisdom is not promoting loneliness as an option in life. But what it is promoting is the need for quiet spaces in our lives and quieter moments during a day for reflection and rest. Jesus did it so often himself. People were very demanding, requesting to see him, touch him, asking for prayers, miracles and more. Wherever he went they followed him. There were no mobile phones, twitter or facebook back then, but everywhere he went word went around so quick as to where he was. Despite all of this Jesus still managed to find time away by himself. He used the quiet time to pray, to reflect, to recharge and to just be still.

Every person without exception needs the same. Our lives are busy and full. Making our lives less cluttered and busy is not always an option. But making a little time each day for ourselves is definitely an option. The health benefits are obvious. The spiritual benefits are also many and put our lives in a much more balanced and safer place.
'Many years ago a wise elderly sister said to me, "Remember, every person you meet is mourning some loss". The longer I live, the more on target I find her words.' We humans mourn all kinds of losses, the loss of our loved ones, a particular job, a special friendship, our youth, good health, financial security, a dear pet or just the way things used to be.' ~Melanie Svoboda

We are good at putting on masks. We often let on that everything is going good. Behind every person's face is a story and sometimes these stories are built on pain, brokenness and loss. Life is so complex and fragile that we cannot avoid brokenness and loss. We simply may not appreciate the extent of the difficulties that others are going through right now. At the heart of the message of Easter is how God holds all of us in whatever we go through, including loss. God doesn't hold just one or two, but everyone without exception.
'All the great spiritual leaders in history were people of hope. Abraham, Ruth, Mary, Jesus, Rumi, Gandhi and Dorothy Day all lived with a promise in their hearts that guided them towards the future without the need to know exactly what it would look like. Let's live with hope' ~Henri Nouwen

If any word could sum up Easter it would have to be hope. Hope instils in us the courage to keep going in uncertainty. Hope reminds us that things will get better. Hope tells us that light always shatters darkness and light is always within our reach. Hope gently assures us that we don't need to have all the answers or solutions, particularly with what lies ahead in the future. Hope and Easter helps us make the most of what we have. In any given day we have more than we thought we had. This Easter we live with hope and we trust in God that it will continue making a difference in our lives.
'I only feel angry when I see waste. When I see people throwing away things we could use.' ~Blessed Mother Teresa

Every country is different but in Ireland we consumed a staggering 12.5 million Easter eggs in the past week. This works out at about 6 per household. No doubt the people that make these eggs must be smiling. Thankfully in recent years the amount of packaging with each egg has been reduced by 25%. Despite all the eggs consumed, the packaging counts for less than 2% or 500 tonnes of all the packaging generated over the Easter weekend. Obviously we are being encouraged to recycle as much as we can with the leftovers from the weekend. The same can be said of the Easter message. It is one important message that should not be binned and instead we are encouraged to recycle it into our lives each day. The promise of Easter is new life, new beginnings and a sense of hope in all we do. God wants to bring us these, not once in a while but every moment of every day. It would be a shame to dump this Easter offer.
'Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are Easter people and alleluia is our song.' ~Pope John Paul II

If you google the word alleluia: 6,620,000 options come up. If you had to go through each one you probably would be still be at it right up to next Easter! At Easter time it's a word that keeps coming up in hymns, readings and prayers. The word is a celebration of joy and thanksgiving to God. If you take the word itself and break it up, one can see why it is so important. The middle part of the word, 'el', is the Hebrew word for God. So with God right in the middle of alleluia there is a great build of energy before it and a release of energy after it. So the word alleluia is simply an explosion of energetic praise, thanksgiving and celebration to God. At Easter it takes on even more meaning, as it celebrates our joy that Jesus has risen. It is the hinge on which we rest everything. This Easter we are not shy or embarrassed to say to anyone that alleluia is indeed our song.


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