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Listing February - 2014
'May you walk the inner path with confidence. May you remember always the One who walks with you.' ~Joyce Rupp

We are familiar with many types of roads. The big motorways move traffic with great speed while secondary roads try to get traffic moving quickly from one place to the next. Small country roads may not get the headlines but they are still an important link on our road networks. The spiritual road or path winds its way through and around all the roads of life.

Our spiritual path sometimes takes us through the most beautiful places with amazing scenery and sometimes through the coldest, loneliest and darkest of places. Somehow we make our way each day, finding our destination, trusting in signposting and trusting in God to get us through each day. To be faithful to any spiritual journey means we must also allow for those times when we find ourselves lost, when we get distracted, when we feel the path is at an end or when we feel totally alone. It is then we need to put our trust in God and know that we are not alone, not lost, not abandoned, not forgotten and that we can continue again on our spiritual journey, which helps make sense of all the different roads of life around us. In the midst of apparent chaos there is meaning, direction and a sense of purpose as to where we are going in life.
An answer to prayer!!

A lady goes to her priest one day and tells him, 'Father, I have a problem. I have two female parrots. But they only know how to say one thing.' 'What do they say?' the priest asked. They say, 'Hi, we're hookers! Do you want to have some fun?' 'That's obscene!' the priest exclaimed. Then he thought for a moment. 'You know,' he said, 'I may have a solution to your problem. I have two male talking parrots, which I have taught to pray and read the Bible. Bring your two parrots over to my house, and we'll put them in the cage with Francis and Peter. My parrots can teach your parrots to pray and worship, And your parrots are sure to stop saying that phrase in no time.' 'Thank you,' the woman responded, 'this may very well be the solution.' The next day, she brought her female parrots to the priest's house. As he ushered her in, she saw that his two male parrots were inside their cage holding rosary beads and praying. Impressed she walked over and placed her parrots in with them. After a few minutes, the female parrots cried out in unison: 'Hi, we're hookers! Do you want to have some fun?' There was stunned silence. One male parrot looked over at the other male parrot and said, 'Put the beads away, Frank, our prayers have been answered!!'
"No one is born hating another person because of the colour of their skin, or their background or their religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite." - Nelson Mandela

Hate or hatred is described in the dictionary as a deep and extreme emotional dislike that can be directed against a person or group of people. It can also be directed towards an object or idea and is often associated with feelings of anger.

The foundation stone of Christianity is love and an ongoing invitation to build our lives on and around love. Interestingly it acknowledges that hate is also part of life and is something we learn as we grow older. In the book of Ecclesiastes 3:8, we are reminded that there is a time to love and a time to hate. In our Gospel stories Jesus never hated anyone and equally never encouraged anyone to. He was very much aware how hatred burns up our precious energy levels. It is caustic and paralyses our inner spirit or soul. It is not a good place to be over a period of time. That is why the Gospel stories place such emphasis on love and the freedom it brings.

Is hate a word that dominates some part of your life? Is there any way of making it less dominant? Martin Luther King sums it up best when he said: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."
The following Thought is by Triona Doherty

'Rise above it'; 'Don't lower yourself to their level'; 'Turn the other cheek'. It sounds like good advice, but of course it is not always easy. Major historical figures such as Gandhi show what can be achieved by taking a path of non-violence. If you've ever seen the film Gandhi starring Ben Kingsley, there is a harrowing scene where his followers, during a non-violent protest, offer themselves up one by one to be beaten, never retaliating. It is a fairly dramatic example of 'turning the other cheek', but eventually this peaceful resistance paid off. Gandhi described non-violence as 'the greatest force at the disposal of mankind'.

Turning the other cheek is one thing, but do we have to go as far as actually loving our enemies? Jesus says we do. Moreover, we should pray for them. A familiar sounding piece of advice from Jesus, we can sometimes forget to check if it applies to us. When is the last time you actually prayed for someone who was giving you a hard time? It is one of the more difficult sayings of Jesus. But it is an ideal to strive for.

"No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite." - Nelson Mandela
A short prayer.....

May there be peace within you today. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you embrace endless possibilities that will always come your way. May you use the gifts that you have received and pass on the love given to you. May you be content knowing you are a child of God. May you feel unburdened, free and energised by a sense of God in your life. May you know that it's ok not to have it all worked out and that God will also help you work it out too! May you treasure this day as a precious gift and be open to some surprise along the way. May you finish today with a sense of gratitude, knowing you have done your best and that no more is asked of you. Amen
'If in these critical times we are living through - if the questions that are absolutely fundamental to the existence of life are not being asked, then we all suffocate on peripheral and trivial obsessions, abandoning and abdicating from the very purpose for which we exist.' ~Mark Ballabon

It's true we take a lot for granted. Our hearts beat an extraordinary 100,000 times a day. There are 100,000 miles of blood vessels in our body. There are 100 million light sensitive cells on the retina of our eyes. Our brains can make thousands of calculations in a second while only using the same amount of power as a 10 watt bulb. We can distinguish over 4000 smells and we can see stars that are million of miles away. In the middle of all these interesting statistics we have our own unique finger print and DNA print. Our bodies are truly extraordinary and yet we often trivialise much of what we do because we simply take so much for granted. Everything around us just doesn't happen. We are part of God's tapestry, God's unique masterpiece. What a shame if we take it all for granted.
'The following reflection is called 'For A Reason'. The author is unknown.

Sometimes people come into your life and you know right away that they were meant to be there, they serve some sort of purpose, teach you a lesson or help figure out who you are or who you want to become. Sometimes things happen to you and at the time they may seem horrible, painful and unfair, but in reflection you realize that without overcoming those obstacles you would have never realized your potential strength. Everything happens for a reason. Nothing happens by chance or by means of good or bad luck. Illness, injury, love, lost moments of true greatness and sheer stupidity all occur to test the limits of your soul. Without these small tests, life would be like a smoothly paved, straight, flat road to nowhere. It would be safe and comfortable but dull and utterly pointless. If someone hurts you, betrays you or breaks your heart, forgive them, for they have helped you learn about trust and the importance of being cautious to whom you open your heart to. If someone loves you, love them back unconditionally, not only because they love you, but because they are teaching you to love and opening your heart and eyes to things you would have never seen or felt without them. Make every day count. Appreciate every moment and take from it everything that you possibly can, for you may never be able to experience it again. Hold your head up because you have every right to. Tell yourself you are a great individual and believe in yourself, for if you don't believe in yourself, no one else will believe in you either. You can make of your life anything you wish. Create your own life and then go out and live it.
'The Few Things You Really Need to Remember ~Author Unknown

Remember that your presence is a present to the world.
Remember that you are a unique and unrepeatable creation.
Remember that your life can be what you want it to be.
Remember to take the days just one at a time.
Remember to count your blessings, not your troubles.
Remember that you will make it through whatever comes along.
Remember that most of the answers you need are within you.
Remember those dreams waiting to be realized.
Remember that decisions are too important to leave to chance.
Remember to always reach for the best that is within you.
Remember that nothing wastes more energy than worry.
Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
Remember that the longer you carry a grudge, the heavier it gets.
Remember not to take things too seriously.
Remember to laugh.
Remember that a little love goes a long way.
Remember that a lot of it goes forever!
Remember that happiness is more often found in giving than getting.
Remember that life's treasures are people, not things.
Remember that miracles can still happen.
Remember you are you and always celebrate you!
'Each of us has our own unique flaws. We're all cracked pots. But if we allow it, God can use our flaws to advantage. In God's great economy, nothing goes to waste. Let's not be afraid of our flaws. Acknowledge them, and let them be used to advantage, so that they, and we, can be the cause of beauty along the way.' ~Maura Walsh

There is a story told about a gardener who had two large buckets. One was leaky while the other one was brand new. Determined to replace the old bucket one day the gardener kept using it. Each day the gardener would draw water in the hot sunshine, knowing that one bucket was losing water, while the other one remained full. As time went on the gardener noticed that on the side of the path with the leaky bucket there were fresh, beautiful and colourful flowers. But the side of the path with the new bucket, that didn't see a drop of water, was bare and barren. So despite its obvious flaw the old bucket was still doing a lot of good. The same goes for our own faults too. The invitation is to acknowledge them, work with them and use them to our advantage as best we can.
From Parent to Teenager....

I gave you life but I cannot live it for you.
I can teach you things but I cannot make you learn.
I can allow you freedom but I cannot account for you.
I can take you to church but I cannot make you believe.
I can teach you right from wrong but I cannot always decide for you.
I can buy you beautiful clothes but I cannot make you beautiful inside.
I can offer you advice but I can't force you to accept it.
I can give you love but I can't force it on you.
I can teach you to share but I cannot make you unselfish.
I can advise you about friends but I cannot choose them for you.
I can advise you about sex but only you can build your reputation.
I can tell you about drink but I can't say no for you.
I can advise you about drugs but I can't prevent you using them.
I can tell you about lofty goals but I can't achieve them for you.
I can teach you kindness but really it's up to you to show it.
I can tell you about sin but I can't make your morals.
I can pray for you but I can't make you walk with God.
I can tell you how to live but in the end it's up to you.
The following reflection is by Triona Doherty called 'Toeing The Line'

Be honest - are there times when you approach Mass with a niggling feeling that something is not quite right? Perhaps you've fallen out with someone, or been less than fair in your dealings with a friend or colleague. Then there are times when we happily go along to Sunday Mass without so much as a thought to how we have lived that week. Jesus has some strong words for us all in today's Gospel. We must first reconcile with our brothers and sisters and even be on good terms with our opponents before we approach the altar. How can we be in communion with God if we are not in communion with our neighbours?

If we believe that all that is expected of us is to go to Mass on Sunday and 'follow the rules', we have missed something important along the way. Jesus does not want us to merely follow the letter of the law. Where is the joy or the challenge in that? There is more to living out our Christian life than obeying the rules. This is what Jesus challenges us to see in today's Gospel. I read a comment recently about Pope Francis: 'He seems to have read the book'. His actions are speaking just as loud as his words, and even his words are challenging us to look at how we live and how we treat others. The Gospels are not a rule book; they are a blueprint for a radical way of life.
'I firmly believe that in every situation, no matter how difficult, God extends grace greater than the hardship but also strength and peace of mind that can lead us to a place higher than where we were before.' ~Andy Griffith

The huge storm that hit Ireland last Wednesday has become known as 'Storm Darwin'. With gusts of wind up to 160km, it has put itself right up there in the Top 5 of the greatest and biggest storms to hit Ireland. There have been many stories of trees falling, near misses and miraculously no fatalities. Even in the midst of a big storm there were lighter moments. A story was shared on 96FM about a boy whose precious Liverpool ball got lodged way up in a tree during the summer. No one could climb anywhere near it to get it down. It stayed there until last Wednesday. Thankfully the tree stayed put but the ball was lifted up and out of its predicament. There was great rejoicing when ball and child were reunited!

On a spiritual level a storm has meaning too. We can all relate to those events in our lives that feel like a storm, when it seems we are out of control because of a sequence of events happening around us. Yet we still believe that in the midst of a storm that God is with us. We believe that God is not the cause of the storm but firmly with us through it. We believe that in every situation no matter how difficult, that God gives us strength to cope and get through. Whatever storm we may be going through right now, we are not on our own.
'True love holds all doors open to your soul and to the infinite possibilities of the Divine. I can't imagine shutting out the love part, even if there is a huge chance that my heart can break. For every single time that it has broken, it has expanded and made more room. I see love in the smiles of a child and the touch of a friend. I am reminded that I am always falling in love. I hope to continue the journey, while witnessing God working through unlimited compassion.' ~Millie A Mestril

Today is Valentine's Day. The cynic will see it as a day of commercial exploitation and say the day is a waste of time, effort and money. But there are lots of good things to celebrate today. Like endless other things we take the gift of love so much for granted. But love is much more than an emotion; it is the most powerful energy in the universe and the only one that really matters. It's great to have at least one day when we put it top of our list again. The challenge then is to keep it up there each day. Love like the wind is constantly changing direction and strength. It needs encouragement, time effort, forgiveness, laughter and honesty.

Some see today as exclusively all about romantic love. But it is only one colour of the rainbow. There are so many other colours and doors that love opens. From a spiritual point of view we are always falling in love because the miracle that love is, is happening all around us. We witness this miracle not just today Valentine's Day, but every single day of our lives.
'The following anonymous poem called 'The Dilemma' has inspired many people down through the years...

To laugh is to risk appearing a fool. To weep is to risk appearing sentimental. To reach out to another is to risk involvement. To expose feelings is to risk rejection. To place your dreams before the crowd is to risk ridicule. To love is to risk not being loved in return. To go forward in the face of overwhelming odds is to risk failure. But risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing. The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing and is nothing. Only a person who dares to risk is free.
'Day by day, as the pages of my own life turn over, remind me that you write my name on the palm of your hand' ~Isaiah 49:16

There are so many different ways of writing and communicating these days. The choices are endless. Emails, texting, snapchat and social networking have all added to different ways of communicating. It may not happen as often as before but the old method of writing a letter and sending it off in the post still has value. Birthday and thank you cards are still sent regularly with some lovely thoughts written within.

The image of ink also has spiritual significance. In the psalms we are reminded beautifully how our names are written in God's hand. It suggests intimacy, closeness, inclusion, acceptance and that we are uniquely special. Even though the psalms may have been written thousands of years ago, their relevance is still important today. In fact they even make more sense in the frantic world we now live in. We need to restore a sense of God as someone completely on our side. The psalms speak of a God who is with us not just in good times but in the pain, stench and awful moments too. Our name is written on God's hand, not to be judged, given out to or made feel guilty about something. Instead we are encouraged to be ourselves and to allow God's love be an ink that makes a distinct mark on everything we do each day.
'Love is a medicine for the sickness of the world. It is a prescription often given and too rarely taken.' ~Author Unknown

Today is the feast of Our Lady Of Lourdes and it is also World Day for sick people. It is more than 150 years since Bernadette Soubirous saw the first apparitions at Lourdes in the foothills of the French Pyrenees. Her family were particularly poor and Bernadette was almost a 'nobody'. But God had other ideas and chose her as the one to be a link with earth and heaven. This happened 18 times and changed her life forever. Significantly it has also changed the lives of so many people down through the years who have been privileged to visit this special place.

Five million pilgrims visit Lourdes each year. Anyone who has been there will know it's more than just a special place. Love bubbles everywhere in Lourdes. Its effects are felt by everyone. It is contagious, life giving, refreshing and so alive. Anyone who has been to Lourdes will often say, "If only I could bottle what's here and bring it home". It is at home but it may not always be as evident as it is in Lourdes. Today is a day to make sure that God's greatest medicine called love gets shared. All of us are instruments of God's healing love. We pray today for all who are sick and we include doctors, nurses, carers and anyone who needs our prayers on this special day.
The Alphabet Prayer ~Author unknown and from the St Martin magazine

Every child comes with the message that God never gets discouraged with us. Now the story goes, a little shepherd bit was watching his sheep one Sunday morning and he heard the bells of the church ringing. Watching the people walk along the pasture where he was, he happened to think to himself, "I would like to communicate with God! But what can I say?" He had never learned a prayer. So on a bended knee, he began to recite the alphabet. Repeating the prayer several times, a man passing by, heard the boys voice and peeked through the bushes. He saw the young boy kneeling with folded hands, eyes closed, repeating the alphabet.

He interrupted the boy. "What are you doing my little one?", he asked. The boy replied, "I'm praying Sir". The man seemed surprised and said, "But why are you reciting the alphabet." The boy exclaimed, "I don't know any prayers sir. But I want God to take care of me and to help me care for my sheep. And so I thought if I said all I knew, God could put the letters together into words and would know all that I want to say and should say! The man smiled and said "Bless your heart, God will!" And he went to church knowing full well he had heard the finest sermon he could possibly hear.
The Thought For Today is by Triona Doherty called 'Fractured Presence'

Where would we be without technology? But there are downsides - I have been known to catch myself, for example, carrying out a task on my laptop, with the TV on the background, and of course my phone beside me alerting me to various things. Talk about zoned out. It brings to mind a documentary I saw recently about teenagers' use of social media. In it, a mother described her son's interaction with her while he was also using his phone or laptop as 'fractured presence', though she admitted to being guilty of the same thing when on her own computer. Try talking to anyone who is texting or scrolling through Facebook as you're speaking to them. At best you are getting about half of their full attention.

Our world is full of new ways of communicating. But what about allowing our own light to really shine for others? Jesus warns against hiding our light under a tub. We can have a tendency to hide behind our computer or smartphone screen. How real are our interactions with others online? And when we are spending time with family or friends, are we really present?

Patrick Kavanagh once wrote: 'We have tested and tasted too much, lover - through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder'. Are we allowing ourselves the time and space to let the light of the world in, and to allow our own light to shine out? A new way to think about Jesus' instruction about not hiding our light!
'For Jesus, forgiveness is the most profound healing a person can experience. We know know from experience how people can remain disfigured and paralysed in spirit when they live without forgiveness. We know how our unwilingness to forgive others can keep us imprisoned and chained. Jesus opposes that with all his might.' ~Denis McBride

The number of people going to confession (Sacrament of Reconciliation) has tumbled in the last decade. It's significance and importance just faded with time. It is fair to say that the true spirit of forgiveness got choked and stifled in a Church that became obsessed with perfection, duty, obligation and control. Everyone has moved on today and despite new beginnings the shadows of the past are still felt today.

No one can deny how important forgiveness is and in particular the forgiveness that Jesus embraced. When we are open to forgiveness, then great and wonderful things begin to happen. The feeling is like no other. Our human spirit needs nourishment, freedom, new beginnings, opportunity and space to just be. Forgiveness allows all this to happen. Like a key it unlocks all those parts of our lives that are chained to hurt, mistakes, darkness and things we have done that we need to move on from. Many today hunger and long for that key. The invitation to experience true forgiveness is not a rare opportunity but one that can happen whenever we are ready.
'A woman had 10 coins and lost one. she became extremely upset and searched frantically for the coin. She lit every lamp to help her find it, looked under tables and swept every floor in her house. She eventually found the coin. She was overcome with joy, called together her neighbours and threw a party to celebrate. The cost of the party far exceeded the value of the coin.' ~Luke 15:8-9

The key to understanding this well known parable is the symbolism of the coin. In her culture 9 was not a whole number but 10 was. Her anxiety on losing the coin and her joy on finding it had nothing to do with the value of the coin. But it had all to do with the value of wholeness. So until she found that coin she was incomplete, she was short something precious and special and she was in fact uncontrollably restless until she found it.

The parable extends to us too. We are often a 9 and we are never relaxed or comfortable in that place. We search and we frantically crave to be whole. We want to find that 10. Our faith and our belief in a loving God is that 10. Jesus is that 10, a belief in a higher Power is a 10, your guardian angel is a 10. Ten is different for everyone but always precious and special. When we find peace in a church or read something that touches us or pray and feel connected, then we are a 10. It's a good place to be and it's one we drift in and out of. Where or how will you find your 10 this weekend?
At the heart of Chaplaincy in Colaiste Choilm/Gaelcholáiste Choilm is a 'gentle presence' in our school. Like a lighthouse, I as your school chaplain am with you every step of the way. I am with you during all the good times but also with you in the darker and difficult days too. I will do my best to be a constant light that supports and encourages you on your daily journey. I will help you to know that you are uniquely loved and precious in God's eyes today and always.
'Focus on the goal. Focus on the purpose. Focus on accomplishing the goal. Each day hundreds of thousands of people get out of bed with no goal. Your goal is the what of your life. The goal is not the place you begin, it is the place you end up' ~Iyanla Vanzant

So many drift through each day without any focus or goal. What is the purpose of today? Do I randomly drift through whatever comes my way or have I some goal I'd like to achieve. Any book or novel that we read has been carefully thought through. A novelist must know what the last chapter is about and the book will always be leading in that direction. No matter what our age it is good to have some goal to aim towards. A young person's goals will involve lots of energy, excitement and adventure. As we grow older our goals will still require energy but may have an emphasis on stability, security and doing things at our own pace. There is nothing worse than drifting aimlessly along. At the heart of the Gospel stories there is a constant goal, that there is meaning and purpose to life. Jesus had a goal to teach about love, to share God's love and that every good deed done in love no matter how small is done for God.
The following old but beautiful prayer was read over the weekend to mark the 10th anniversary of the late Dan McAuliffe

Lord: I give you my hands to do your work. I give you my feet to go your way. I give you my eyes to see as you do. I give you my tongue to speak your words. I give you my mind that you may think in me. I give you my spirit that you may pray in me. Above all I give you my heart that you may love me, I give you my whole self that you you may grow in me, so that it is you Lord Jesus, who live and work and pray in me. Amen
'Through the intercession of Saint Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God protect you from all ailments of the throat and from all forms of evil. Amen.' ~Blessing given on the feast of St.Blaise (3rd Feb)

There has been a lot happening over the weekend, from the feast of St Brigid on Saturday, yesterday it was Candlemass Day and today is the feast of St Blaise whose life was very simple and ordinary. He is known worldwide for his care of those who were sick and particularly those with ailments of the throat. Many people get their throats blessed today. Some may think it's a load of silly piety and yet for many it's a blessing that brings comfort and reassurance. Saint Blaise's protection of those with throat troubles apparently comes from a legend that a boy was brought to him who had a fishbone stuck in his throat. The boy was about to die when Saint Blaise healed him.

He was a physician who was very close to God. The sick came in crowds to consult him and some even brought animals as well. St Blaise cured many people of their ailments and always sent them away with his blessing. He cured not just physical ailments of the throat but spiritual ones as well. We pray to St Blaise to heal us from all ailments of the throat, we ask for his protection and we ask his special blessings on each of us today.
The following reflection is by Triona Doherty

In many ways it is a lovely, simple scene - the child Jesus and his devout parents, the wise old pair Simeon and Anna, and of course the pair of turtledoves. Simeon and Anna capture the imagination. What a privilege, to witness the moment the son of God is presented back to God in the Temple. And what wisdom, to recognise the greatness of the moment. 'My eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared for all the nations to see,' says Simeon, ready at last to die fulfilled. Meanwhile Anna, at 84 years of age, readies herself to spread the word about this child she has encountered.

Today, just 40 days after Christmas, we celebrate the day Jesus was presented in the Temple. Echoing the Gospels, the liturgical year does not permit us to bask in the Christmas afterglow for too long. While Jesus is still a child, there are warnings about the fate that is to befall him. He is destined to be rejected, and Mary is also warned 'A sword will pierce your own soul too'. A shadow hangs over this joyous occasion. We might feel, too, that the glow of Christmas fades rather quickly, and we are back to the grindstone in no time. But what really strikes me today is the image of Mary and Joseph 'stood there wondering at the things that were being said about him'. At various times in the Gospel of Luke we find Mary 'treasuring' and 'pondering' events. We too have lots to ponder. What is your take on who Jesus is?
'If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.' ~Anne Bradstreet

Today is the feast of St Brigid. In the Irish spiritual calendar it is a hugely significant day. Going back a few generations it was a day that was widely celebrated. The generations before us were much more in touch with the seasons and the cycles of nature. There is one more hour of daylight today compared to what we had at Christmas. Already nature feels this extra surge in light and is responding. Already daffodil shoots are pushing through and in some gardens snowdrops stand proudly, making their statement that the grip of winter is nearly over.

St Brigid is most famous for her cross which she wove together using rushes. The many strands that make up a St Brigid's cross represent the different strands of our own lives. They pick up on our joys and blessings but also on our struggles, problems and difficulties. For Brigid the cross was not an end in itself but pointed to a firm and sure hope in a loving God. For Brigid this loving God helps us to make sense of everything that's going on in our lives. Significantly St Brigid's day is a day for renewed hope and most certainly a day to celebrate.


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