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Listing December - 2012
Thought For Today resumes as normal on Monday Jan 14th after the Christmas holidays
'Mary doesn't wrap her newborn baby in purple silk, she swaddles him with what's available, even if it's only strips of cloth. And she doesn't demand a golden crib for her Son, she makes do with what's handy, even if it's a hay filled manger.' ~Kathleen M.Carroll

The events of Christmas night are far from ideal. It's not the stuff you would expect for such an important event. It's certainly not the stuff of God or so it would seem. But God clearly had other ideas and not what anyone had expected.

The same happens today as well. God often comes into our lives in the least expected place. Maybe we are trying to find God in the wrong places and forget to look in the stable. The stable is that part of our lives that may not be pretty, may not seem important and the last place we would want God. This is where God wants to be and where God wants to hold us, encourage us, help us, guide us, direct us, energise us and be with us every step of the way. On this Christmas Eve the invitation is to leave the stable door open, even ajar and let God do the rest!
The following reflection is by Triona Doherty called 'About her glowed such joy'

Mary is sometimes described as the first evangelist, as she was the first to bring the good news of Jesus to others. In that first visit to Elizabeth, she becomes 'the model for those in the Church who set out to bring Christ's light and joy to the people of every time and place' (Pope John Paul II).

The joy of that visit and its implications for us is beautifully captured in Ruth Mary Fox's poem 'Carrying Christ'.
Into the hillside country Mary went
Carrying Christ, and all along the road
The Christ she carried generously bestowed
His grace on those she met. She had not meant
To tell she carried Christ. She was content
To hide His love for her. But about her glowed
Such joy that into stony hearts love flowed,
And even to the unborn John Christ's grace was sent.

Christ in His Sacrament of love each day
Dwells in my soul a little space and then
I walk life's crowded highway, jostling men
Who seldom think of God. To these I pray
That I may carry Christ, for it may be
Some would not know of Him except through me.
'An individual is harder than iron, stronger than stone and more fragile than a rose.' ~Turkish Proverb

Every person is a complex mixture of strengths and weaknesses, toughness and gentleness, good points and not so good. We are delicate and fragile. Yet we are also capable of showing remarkable resilience. Everyone's personal story, beliefs and viewpoints are so varied and different. As life is complex so are we. At the heart of the message of Christmas God is present in the middle of all our complexities. God isn't present on the outskirts but right in the middle of whatever is going on for us. It may not be pretty, it may not be exciting, it may even be a huge struggle but that's where God wants to be. God isn't the cause of complexities but is most definitely the cause of a sense of purpose, hope, and a guiding force through these complexities.
'Light is good from whatever lamp it shines.' ~Author Unknown

Today is the shortest day of the year in the northern hemishphere. Daylight is short, scarce and precious. Darkness seems to be the dominant force and for some overwhelming. This thought must have perplexed our great ancestors who lived over 5000 years ago, particularly up in Newgrange, Co.Meath. They wanted to mark the winter solstice in some way and knew that in the depths of great darkness there is a turning point. Their response was to build a long chamber to capture the first rays of sunlight at dawn on Dec 21st each year. These rays of sunlight penetrate some 50 feet into the inner chamber where the ashes of the dead were kept. It is an extraordinary construction that required painstaking and precise work.

Today has also huge spiritual significance. Every single one of us has our dark corners. On our own such darkness could overwhelm us. We need support, love, companionship, friendship, hope and light to guide us on our daily journey. At Christmas we mark the birth of Jesus who was the greatest and inspiring light. Christmas can be summed up in many ways but the invitation is to invite Jesus into our own struggles and darkness. Today Dec 21st reminds us that in the depths of darkness there is great hope. Christmas is a celebration of this hope. Without it we have absolutely nothing.
'One of the greatest mysteries in life is the mystery of time. Everything that happens to us happens in and through time. Time is the force that brings every new experience to the door of your heart.' ~John O'Donoghue

We're all very much aware how time goes by so quickly. It's hard to believe that we are only a few days away from Christmas Day. The coming days tend to be quite busy for everyone. Much of our time and what happens within it is outside our control. But much of it is also within our sights too particularly what is happening in the present moment. Nothing is as far away as one minute ago. Nothing is as close as right now. The remaining days of Advent remind us how God journeys with us in the right now. Nothing else matters. The right now is a massive collection of joys, sorrows, pain, happiness, struggles, hopes, fears, weakness, fun, relaxation, anger, freedom, disappointments and so on. We're in there somewhere and so is God.
There are lots of viruses around during these long days of winter, expressing themselves as colds and flus. An anonymous writer has written about Advent but interestingly referring to it as a virus! Here it goes..

Be careful of the Advent Virus. It is very prevalent in the run up to Christmas. Be alert for its symptoms such as hope, peace, joy and love. So many could be exposed to this virus and if the conditions are right it is possible that people everywhere could come down with it in epidemic proportions. Some of its signs and symptoms could be the following: an unmistakeable ability to enjoy each moment, a loss of interest in judging other people, a loss in the ability to worry which can often be a serious symptom. One will notice frequent episodes of appreciation with contented feelings of connectedness with others and nature. Other signs are frequent attacks of smiling and an increasing tendency to let things happen rather than frustratingly trying to make them happen. There is an increased susceptibility to the love extended by others, as well as the uncontrollable urge to extend it.
A story from Hindu folklore

One day a man saw a scorpion struggling in a deep pool of water. He decided to try to save it by stretching out a finger but the creature instantly stung him. Again the man tried to remove the scorpion from the water but he was stung again. An onlooker urged him to give up and go home. But the would-be rescuer said: "It is in the nature of the scorpion to sting. It is my nature to love. Why should I give up my nature because it is contrary to the way of the scorpion?"

As we approach Christmas we are encouraged to simply love in our best way, in our simplest way and in our most effective way.
'People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.' ~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

There is nothing like the beauty of a stained glass window. The colour, beauty, energy, simplicity and the story behind each one pulls you into the present moment. It is no surprise that most stained glass windows are to be found in churches. They pull you into God's gentle presence in the here and now. This is always a great starting point for prayer. Comparing ourselves to a stained glass window is also good. We too are full of colour, light, goodness and energy. We are part of a much bigger window where everyone's light and colour plays a part. When darkness sets in we need a light from within to be the difference and make things happen. Sometimes we can't find the light within. When we can't find it all we have to do is simply ask others to help us find it. It is always close and within our reach. This is what Christmas is all about, finding that inner light, God's light, holding it, treasuring it, sharing it and helping others find theirs. Christmas is celebrated together, celebrating all our light and colour especially the light within.
The following Reflection is by Triona Doherty and it's called 'Happy and tolerant'

Today's readings supply us with a blueprint for the Christian life. First we have Paul telling us to be happy in the Lord and to let our tolerance be evident to everyone. He goes on to tell us not to worry, but to ask God with thanksgiving for anything we need, and assures us that if we do, the peace of God will guard our hearts and our thoughts. To be happy, tolerant, thankful, peaceful, and not to worry - are these attributes that people would see in you? Are happiness and tolerance generally thought of as the hallmarks of a Christian life?

Ireland in August, there was great interest in the role her Christian faith plays in her life and her career. While of course being widely admired as tough and inspirational, there is also a peacefulness and humility to her manner. She is always thankful to God, comes across as secure and happy in her faith, and maintains a great openness to people - a fitting model of the Christian life spoken of by St Paul. Today's Gospel goes even further to offer some practical advice from John as he preaches the Good News in preparation for Jesus' appearance; we must share what we have with the person who has none, and we must be honest in our dealings with others. That is quite a lot to mull over in two short readings.
'Remember, if Christmas isn't found in your heart, you won't find it under the tree.' ~Charlotte Carpenter

Christmas can mean many different things to many people. We all strive for peace, harmony, direction and stability in life. Few achieve this fully in their lifetime but we can certainly go a long way towards it. Christmas is always a great starting point but only a starting point. Too often we expect too much and high expectations always lead to disappointment. No one is going to wave a magic wand and tell us that life or this Christmas is going to be perfect. But it can certainly be a great starting point towards peace, harmony, direction and stability in my life. Tomorrow marks the third Sunday of Advent and is traditionally called 'Joyful Sunday'. We tend to lean towards negative and sad stories. But what good story in my life is worth celebrating tomorrow and this Christmas?
The following story is called 'Searching For Peace' and is from an old Jewish tale

Miguel asked 'Master, I'm in desperate need of help - or I'll go crazy. We're living in a single room, my wife, my children and my in-laws. So our nerves are on edge, we yell and scream at one another. The room is a hell.' The Master asked, 'Very well. How many animals do you have?' Miguel replied, 'A cow, a goat and six chickens. 'Take them all into the room with you' said the Master. Then come back to me after a week.'

The disciple was appalled. But he trusted the Master and took in all his animals in. A week later he came back, a pitiable figure moaning. 'I'm a nervous wreck, he complained, The dirt! The stench! The noise! We'll all on the verge of madness!' 'Go back,' said the Master, 'and put the animals out.' The man ran all the way home. He came back the following day, his eyes sparkling with joy. 'How sweet life is! The animals are out. The home is a paradise - so quiet and clean and roomy!'

Before you ask God for something, check what you have and ask yourself: 'Am I fully using what I already have?'
'God doesn't owe us anything but we owe God everything.' ~Colleen Rainone.

We sometimes say "I owe you one", when someone does us a big favour. We appreciate what they've done for us and we want to give something back. We sometimes mistakenly think that if we do everything by the book, then God must owe us one. But God really doesn't owe us anything because whatever we do we are loved truly and uniquely by God. It is we who owe God so much, particularly for blessings received. There are times when our shortest prayer to God is, "I owe you one." Hopefully as we edge closer to Christmas, it will also be our prayer, no matter how small or big.
'We pray today that we may never lose that vital contact with the source of all life and goodness or that we may never become the dried up withered branch of a rootless unconnected life.' ~Aidan Ryan

Everyone seems to have their quota of the "R" and the "B" word but it's so hard to avoid them, in the run up to Christmas. There have been many implications of the economic downturn and the savage budgets that have followed. One is a realisation that we are vulnerable. Compare this to the height of the good times when we thought we were invincible. This vulnerability is being felt across every divide and every age group. Our immediate response is that we are now so conscious of the importance of roots, family roots, community roots, local roots, affirming and supportive roots. For those who believe in God there is a sense of spiritual roots. It's hard to put it into words but these particular roots are the ones that connect us to a source of life, goodness, energy and a sense of purpose. All negative news drains us physically and mentally. It is so important that we replace this with the best root system that works for us. As Christmas approaches we have access to one of the best root systems ever on offer.
'The difficulties you meet will resolve themselves as you advance. Proceed, and light will dawn, and shine with increasing clearness on your path.' ~Jim Rohn

Many are trying to make the most of these few weeks before Christmas. But the effects of another tough Budget have left many wondering what's around the corner. Many people are genuinely taking small faltering steps. There is a crisis of confidence and a crisis of direction. From a faith point of view we also need something to hold onto. Hill walkers in thick fog will always rely on their compass and magnetic north. The compass won't remove the fog but it will guide them through to lower and safer altitudes. God is also our compass and magnetic north. No matter how difficult our situation in life we can confidently hold our spiritual compass. It won't remove the immediate difficulties but it will help us through. As we approach Christmas we put our trust in God to help us through whatever we find difficult at the moment.
'I was overjoyed it was found as it was so important to me' ~Fr Kevin McNamara

A story that ran for the past few months had a happy ending last week. Fr Kevin McNamara a Kerry Diocesan priest had a chalice stolen from his car while he said Mass in Gneeveguilla Church. Other stuff was stolen but it was the chalice that caused him the most upset. It had been a gift from his parents when he was ordained 30 years ago. It wasn't expensive nor was there anything exceptional about it but it had huge sentiment attached to it. Many appeals went out in the media for its safe return with no success.

But thankfully it was found in a roadside hedge last week by a parishioner walking along a rural road in Gneeveguilla. Fr. Kevin was thrilled to have it returned. It had been slightly damaged and was bent on one side but he intended leaving it that way. Kevin added: "It will serve as a reminder that nothing is perfect and we all live with brokenness and weakness." What a lovely finish to a story about how important it is to do our best trying to live with our own brokenness and that of others. As we approach Christmas may God hold our brokenness, fragility and weakness and give us the strength to make the best of today.
'Mary is not alive in statues and pictures but in the real and powerful change that can be brought in the world when God's preferences and God's choices are taken seriously.' ~Denis McBride

Someone once said that whenever you point the finger of blame or the finger finding fault, that there are always three fingers pointing back at you. We are good at finding fault with others and often much slower in accepting our own. Today's feast day of the Immaculate Conception (Dec 8th) is a recognition of Mary's lack of flaws and weaknesses. In fact she had none.

It marks Mary out as someone special as the mother of Jesus but it doesn't mark her out as removed or distant from us. Like us she experienced the fragility of life and experienced many unexpected and difficult moments in her life. But at all times she put her trust in God. This is the challenge for us. Where would the world be if everyone just thought of themselves independent of others and of God? Today's feast day traditionally marks the countdown to Christmas but it's also a day to ask Mary's many blessings on each of us.
'God does not ask you to be a monk or a hermit. You must be silent in the way God asks you to be silent.' ~Vincent Pallotti

Sometimes the thought of complete silence, quietness and time on our own seems very appealing. The life of a hermit in the rush before Christmas might seem attractive but the reality is that few of us would last even a day! We have grown so accustomed to noise in our daily lives that silence is something that's difficult for most. Yet silence is a precious gift that needs to be experienced little and often. A common link in all of the great spiritual writers is to find that space in our lives which we can claim as our own. Advent is all about trying to find such a space and when we find it, even if it's only for a few moments, we can be sure that we are indeed very close to God.
'Santa Claus is anyone who loves another and seeks to make them happy; who gives themselves by thought or word or deed; who shares their joys with those who are sad; whose hand is never closed against the needy, whose sympathy is quick and genuine in time of trouble and who lives their life throughout the complete year in the Christmas spirit.' ~ Edwin Osgood Grover

Today (Dec 6th ) is the feast of St Nicholas. He came from a wealthy family and decided to give all his money to the poor. He always did so quietly and without fuss. He would drop some gold coins down the chimney of those who were really poor. People wondered who the generous donor was. One day someone found out it was Nicholas. His name and fame began to spread to many countries and so Santa Claus as we know him today came into being. We give gifts at Christmas because we know deep within that it's good to express our love for those who are special and important to us. Thanks to Nicholas, Santa is alive and well. Our world would be such a darker place without his inspiring presence.
'In healing one can concentrate on either of two attributes, the power of God or the love of God. But in every healing there is a manifestation of both.' ~Francis MacNutt

There is a part of everyone's life that needs healing. It isn't just confined to health but it can be any part of our lives that needs the gentle touch of God. Medicine is one of God's gifts to initiate and sustain healing but all the prescriptions in the world cannot compete with deep spiritual healing. If we are not open to healing itself, it will struggle to happen in our lives. Our prayer today as we move closer to Christmas is to pray for God's gentle healing and gentle touch in our lives. We ask for this especially in those areas of our lives that are vulnerable and exposed, those parts of our lives that need closure. With every healing is the promise of new life and new beginnings especially this Christmas.
'Jesus holds no record book of your life, no scales of justice. There is no laser intense gaze, no threats, no instant condemnation. Jesus says nothing. There is nothing to be said. Jesus knows you in the deepest recesses of you heart.' ~Jay Cormier

It should come as no surprise that the Gospel stories have been called "Good News". We live in a world where negative news tends to dominate. There are lots of good news stories out there but it's hard to compete sometimes when Mr Doom and Mrs Gloom keep making headlines! The Gospel stories are a mirror of our everyday lives. Every experience is touched on, every story is embraced and nothing is left to chance. In the midst of every story is light, hope and a reason to keep going. Some feel that God couldn't be bothered with their story or that God doesn't really care or that God would simply give out to them. But this should never happen. Sadly our history points to people who have given out, made people feel little and ashamed and have done so as if they had a God given right to do so.

At the heart of every Gospel story is Jesus saying "I love you". Nothing or nobody can ever change this. Our response can only be "Thank You and I will continue to do my best". That's why it is called good news. It is ours too. Today is a day to give yourself credit and encouragement for continuing to do your best.
'Simplicity asks us to sit and listen to those other whispers inside us that we seldom have time to hear. It helps us to discover the happiness that comes, not from having an abundance of money and things but from having space for intimacy in our friendships, space for ourselves and primarily space for God.' ~Ruth Valerio

Yesterday we began our journey through Advent. It's not a word that you will find in many shopping catalogues. Few will get excited about Advent and yet it a season full of meaning and symbolism. The word "Advent" is derived from the Latin "Adventus", a name which means coming or arrival. The prayers of Advent touch in on each person walking in some darkness and yet awaiting and anticipating a great light. It is a time for us to hear those other quiet whispers in our lives of a God gently calling us from darkness into light. Advent is a reminder of how we need this light more than ever in our own lives. This light is not for a select few but for everyone. Advent is a time to make sure we give this light top priority.
The following reflection is by Triona Doherty called 'What can this mean?'

We have so many titles for Mary - Blessed Mother, Blessed Virgin, Queen of Peace, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Queen of Heaven, Star of the Sea.... the list goes on, and each one says something about who Mary is to us. Today we go back to Mary's roots - to that first day when she said 'yes' to God's call. It can be easy to forget that the Mother for whose intercession we often ask, is the same young woman who was 'deeply disturbed' by the words of the angel Gabriel. Her first response was fear and confusion - What can this mean? How can this come about?

Like the prophets before her, Mary doubted her ability to carry out the task God was setting before her. Yet she showed the greatest leap of faith with her 'yes' to God's plan. 'I am the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said be done to me' is her trusting response. How can we say 'yes' to God today? Where can we make space in our lives for God to make his home in us? Nothing is impossible to God. What wonders he can work if we just say yes!
'Without my faith, God knows where I would be.' ~John McAreavey

The death and murder of Michaela McAreavey in January last year while she was on honeymoon in Mauritius, was a massive shock to so many in Ireland and right across the world. Her killers have not been caught or charged after a lengthy trial and this has also added deeply to the pain of her family. Her husband John has talked about the support of family, friends, the local community and his faith in helping him come to terms with this terrible loss. He has since set up a charity in memory of Michaela to help young people celebrate and cherish their faith. Asked if the murder of his wife had led him to question his faith, John said: "Quite the opposite. My faith gave me great resolve. Thank God I have my faith. It has given me the heart to put all my strength into the Michaela foundation."

He also said that his faith was crucial in helping him with the grieving process. "I was able to go to quiet places and visit Michaela's grave and go into church and just sit there and try to make sense of everything. Sometimes, God would give me signs and I just have to take them for their value and I know that's God and Michaela saying 'We're here, carry on, we're going to get you through this'." The Michaela Foundation was established so that the values which Michaela lived in her life should live on. These values can help young people to succeed in life fulfilment and happiness with faith and confidence. More details on the foundation can be found on


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