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Listing January - 2014
'A Franciscan blessing'

May God bless you with a relentless discomfort about easy answers, half truths and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly and love deeply in your hearts. May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom and peace among all people. May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation or the loss of all that they cherish so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you really can make a difference in the world, so that you are able with God's grace, to do what others claim cannot be done. And the blessing of God the Supreme Majesty and our Creator, the blessing of Jesus our brother and saviour and the blessing of the Holy Spirit, our advocate and guide be with you and remain with you this day and forevermore.
'You know that when an archer bends his bow, he aims above the desired mark, otherwise the arrow will fall short. Do the same, aim higher so that you will reach at least the minimum required.' ~St. Mary Euphrasia Conferences

Our Transition Year students in ColŠiste Choilm got a lovely talk yesterday on the Good Shepherd Services in Cork. They provide support and accommodation for homeless women and children. For young people to hear about the story of these families was an eye opener and certainly time to reflect and think about their own situation. To have a home is a rock and an anchor. It is something we all take for granted and not to have it leaves us completely isolated, uprooted, vulnerable and completely off course.

It was interesting to hear how the people who work in the Good Shepherd services take their time. Time is a precious gift they use so well in offering love and support. With time they build relationships of trust with these vulnerable people, enabling them to pick up the pieces of their lives. Building relationships of trust is something we all need to do with our those closest to us. We are good, even experts at finding fault and giving out. A much more holistic and effective tool on the journey of life, is to nurture relationships, to encourage, to listen and to lower our sometimes incredible high expectations. Everyone has a part to play starting today.
'The problem we have living in this hurly-burly world is that there seems to be no quiet place where we can listen to God speaking softly inside the depths of our soul. Day after day we are grasping at this or that so that we might be secure and always failing because everything we grasp is as transient as we are.' ~Donald Burt

Some call January a quiet month. It certainly does not have the relentless pace of December. It is normally quieter as we adjust to balancing our lives and making plans for the weeks and months ahead. At this stage January is nearly gone and it seems to have gone by quickly? Has it felt like a new beginning or has it felt just like any old month? Finding a quiet place where we can listen to God speaking softly inside the depths of our soul, may not be everyone's priority. But not giving it priority means we are always one step behind instead of one step ahead.

Our greatest gift to ourselves is to create some quiet time for ourselves. Any quiet time is healthy, important, relaxing and also sacred. It is sacred because God can be an important part of any quiet time if we so choose. If we are open to God in our lives, then God will always choose the quietest moment to make the biggest impact. Can I intentionally make a quiet moment happen in my life today? Can I give it at least a try?
'No one can predict to what heights you can soar. Even you will not know until you spread your wings.' ~Author Unknown

No one can ever predict what today may bring to our doorstep. For the most part we do our best to just get on with life and we do best to adapt and get on with what has to be done. Sometimes it can be an uphill struggle and sometimes it feels as if we are pushing water uphill. But instead of hiding in fear in each day, we spread our wings and we go for it. The miracle is that we do spread our wings and that we do go for it.

From a spiritual point of view it means that we are not on our own and that God is in fact the air or the breeze under our wings. A very famous hymn is 'Eagles Wings'. The chorus goes as follows: 'and he will raise you up on eagle's wings. Bear you on the breath of dawn, make you to shine like the sun and hold you in the psalm of his hand.' It is a beautiful piece reminding us that we are not on our own and that we are protected and looked after. We all have days where it feels as if we can't spread those wings and even if we do we haven't the energy to hold them out. But it is especially in those moments that God is closest to us, holding us, guiding us and with us where we are most vulnerable.
'Lord, make me a blessing to someone today' ~Jan Karon

A prayer for guidance and blessing: O God I ask you to be with me with this day. I don't know what lies ahead of me today but I ask you to be with me. Give me the strength and courage to get through everything as best I can. I ask you to hold me in my fears, worries and frustrations. Help me to see clearly the things that matter and the things that don't. Help me to use every gift I have, remembering that it is from you. May your presence in my life give me a generous and open heart, making me an instrument of peace and love in whatever choice I make. Help me to use these days as a time to make good positive choices in everything I do.

I would also like to include any person who needs a prayer, a word of encouragement, help or guidance at this time. For anyone who finds life a struggle please give them the inner strength to keep going. When I have doubts, questions, uncertainties or worries, hold me in your special care. Even if today does not go good or if I feel I messed up, help me to restart and get going again. Whatever may happen all I need to know is that there is nothing that you or I can't handle together today. Amen
The following reflection is by Jane Mellett

Galilee was situated at the extremes of the Holy Land and Matthew stresses Jesus' decision to start there, almost at the ends of the earth. Jesus is entering into God's work and we might recall at some time having the sense that we are part of a greater movement, that we are God's instruments. Matthew sums up Jesus' message here as 'Repent, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand'. He is calling people to a change of heart, to a new way of seeing and doing things. The Kingdom of Heaven is a vision of what the world would look like if God were in charge instead of human beings.

The story which follows is that of the calling of the fishermen. They responded to Jesus immediately, leaving their boats and nets. Not everyone can drop everything and walk away like they did for a greater cause, but we can certainly learn from their actions. Saint Francis of Assisi said: 'Preach the Gospel always. If necessary use words.' We might focus on the fishermen's actions today, stepping out of their boats and following Jesus.
'Our ability to adapt is amazing. Our ability to change isn't quite as spectacular.' ~Lisa Lutz

As we head towards the end of January there is a high chance that all our initial new year resolutions are now a distant memory. Today (Jan 25th) is the feast of the conversion of St.Paul and a reminder that we can still get back on track with some positive change in our lives. There have been many significant turnaround stories throughout history and Paul stands high in the list. He was a bully, a dictator and a persecutor. He was mean, hard, cruel and ruthless particularly to the early Christians. But significantly he put his past behind, did a massive u turn and became famous for his missionary work and the spreading of the Gospel. We may not do such a dramatic turnaround in our lives but we can certainly leave some of our past behind. When we constantly dwell on past wrongs we give way to bitterness. Nobody likes a bitter person. Their company is negative with little room for anything positive or wholesome. Like Paul, the call is to leave the past behind and look on today as new beginning. It is the only way forward.
'Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying' ~Mark 2:4

This is a story that always intrigues me. It's a beautiful story, a funny one, a touching story and full of drama. We all know when there is a crowd in front of you it's impossible to get through. We didn't hear if they tried the back door but I'm sure that was jammed too. Anybody else would have either given up or waited patiently hoping to get in. But this group of people were determined, enthusiastic, totally focused and were quick thinkers. Most importantly they felt it was worth the effort because they believed totally in Jesus who could and would do something for them. He certainly changed their lives forever. Others like the Pharisees were grumbling, complaining and wrapped up in their own world. The contrast is stark in their negativity and the a amazing positive energy of the people up on the roof.

Who is Jesus for us? Do we have the enthusiasm and belief that Jesus is the one who can make things happen? We don't have to climb roofs today to show our enthusiasm? Sometimes it's even difficult to be enthusiastic. But whatever our level of enthusiasm is, Jesus is always the one who wants to reach out. No one can ever take that from us, not even a modern day Pharisee.
'You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and grace before I open a book and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.' ~C.K Chesterton

What a lovely way at looking at every moment. What a lovely way of connecting God to all our activities. Saying "grace" can be interpreted as saying thanks, asking for a blessing, being grateful for that present moment but always recognising that in some way God is at the heart of everything we do. How often we push God to one side and pull back in when needed. The most natural way is to include God in all our moments. It is not a freakish or strange thing to do but something normal and healthy.

Our grandparents, great grandparents and the generations before that did it almost naturally. They had a great sense of the spiritual in everything they did and in everything all around them. Nothing was in isolation but always connected to everything they did. We have lost many things with our modern world and in particular our sense of connection to each other, to our families, our community and all things spiritual. We can begin to reclaim back our natural sense of gratefulness and the connections that matter most to us.
'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you came to birth I consecrated you. I for my part today will make you into a fortified city, a pillar of iron and a wall of bronze to confront everything. Nothing shall overcome you, for I am with you to deliver you.' ~Jeremiah (1:4-5. 17-18)

This piece of scripture may have been written over 2,500 years ago, but it is just as relevant today as it was when it was first written. We live in such a different world today that it almost goes beyond words. But despite all our advances in technology and better living conditions, we still need and crave for love, support, belonging and acceptance. Problems, worries, difficulties, ill health or an ongoing crisis, can all make up a collection of hazardous obstacles that we have to negotiate each day. From a spiritual point of view we are reminded just how much we are loved and cherished by God. This didn't happen today or yesterday but happened long before we were even born. We were marked out as special, unique and important. We may fret, worry and fear about many things and yet God reminds us that we will be strengthened for any challenge, difficulty or obstacle that that lies ahead.
'Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.' ~Napoleon Hill

There is an old story told about a village that did not have a watchmaker. As the years went by many of the clocks became inaccurate and many of their owners decided to let them run down. But there were others, who maintained that as long as the clocks ran, they should not be abandoned. So they wound their clocks day after day even though they knew that they were not accurate. One day news spread through the village that a watchmaker had arrived. Everyone rushed to him with their clocks but the only ones that could be repaired were the ones that had been kept running. The abandoned clocks had grown so full of rust that nothing could be done with them. There are things we do too, that outwardly seem pointless and a waste of time. But in time what might seem foolish and futile now, can become precious and special. God always encourages us to patiently persist with the little and small things. With time they always add up to something of much more significance.
'Across time and throughout history, God's love has touched countless people. Often these encounters awaken a spiritual longing in us and we begin to seek this love fully and to have it always present in our lives. It is only as God touches us with this love that we come to understand the nature of life in a new and profound way.' ~Richard Foster

It is subtle and yet quite noticeable, the stretch in daylight each evening. On a fine evening daylight can now stretch to 5.30pm. Even if one did not plan to notice this stretch, it would be impossible to hide it. The same can be said about God's presence all around us. It is subtle but yet always noticeable. This presence, energy, spirit, love or whatever words are appropriate, is always there. It was St Augustine who famously said "Our hearts are restless until they rest in you". Our hearts are restless too and we are also searching, longing and looking for God in our lives.

Yes we do sometimes look in the wrong places and we get easily distracted. But for the most part we know there is something more and it is this something that can make all the difference in our lives. The invitation is to be open to the moments, where God's love touches our life in some way. If we are expecting something spectacular and eventful we are most likely on the wrong path. The spectacular is always rare and few find it. But if we are expecting something small, down to earth and uneventful, we are on the right trail. It will often turn out to be far more significant than what we first realised.
Thought For Today is by Jane Mellett

In today's Gospel, John the Baptist is inviting us to look at Jesus, look closely. He calls Jesus the 'lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world'. We say these words often at Mass and today we are invited to meditate on them more closely. What does it mean? The lamb is one who is sacrificed, the sins of the world are many, broken relationships with one another at every turn. Today we are asked to think especially of Refugees and Migrants and the sins committed against them. The treatment of these groups who are marginalised, exiled from their homes due to war, famine, drought, unemployment is often unjust and is part of what Pope Francis refers to as a culture of 'slave labour'. These outcast groups are frequently treated with disrespect, racism, condemnation and resentment. How can we reconcile these situations?

Pope Francis' message for today may guide us closer to understanding the message of John the Baptist in the Gospel: 'Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity. A change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalisation - all typical of a throwaway culture - towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world'. In the marginalised can we see Jesus coming towards us and say: 'Look, there is the lamb of God'?
A Blessing ~Author Unknown

May the blessing of peace fall upon us, peace in our hearts and peace in our homes, peace in our country and peace in our world. May the blessing of peace be ours.

May the blessing of hope fall upon us, hope in our pain and hope in our joy, hope for the poor and hope for the lonely, hope for those who are struggling and hope for those who have given up. May the blessing of hope be ours.

May the blessing of good health fall upon us, health in our minds and in our emotions, health in our bodies and in our souls. May the blessing of good health be ours.

May the blessing of happiness fall upon us, happiness in our relationships and in our work, happiness in our decisions and in our memories. May the blessing of happiness be ours.
'Pope Francis is showing us a way to engage afresh with young people. It will require the ability to meet people in the midst of an often fragile faith and lead them to rekindle an authentic relationship with God. From such a relationship will flow the renewal of both the church and the wider society.' ~Michael Kelly

It is fascinating to watch and read the different news reports about Pope Francis. It was overwhelming positive during the first few months of his appointment. The cynic might put it down to the honeymoon period, where everything goes just right at the start. But the honeymoon period is long over and still the feedback is overwhelmingly positive. The impact he is having is simply breathtaking. It is felt by the committed, the lapsed, those who are struggling, those who are searching, those who are in between, those who have no belief and those who have been hurt.

It is his humanity, his simplicity, his openness and his sense of fun. This is everything Jesus stood for and our new pope is just mirroring what he truly believes in. The church in many parts of the world and in particular Ireland has been in paralysis. Thankfully there are lots of signs of life and tiny new beginnings. When all put together something special is beginning to happen all around us.
'There is only one path to heaven. On earth, we call it love.' ~Author Unknown

There was a man whose one consuming passion was to go to heaven. He had no time for the distractions of this world. Mass, hymns, prayer and work were the most important things in his life. Heaven was his full and exclusive goal, aim and purpose. Finally he died and went to heaven. An angel took him by his hand and showed him the beautiful sights, the majestic mountains, lovely flowers, children playing on the streets, beautiful sunsets and many more pleasant sights. Then he said, "Isn't heaven wonderful." But the angel said, "This isn't heaven, this is the world in which you lived but which unfortunately you didn't give the time to see." It is easy for any of us to get so immersed in what we are doing that we fail to see the joys and blessings of life all around us. We need more than ever to notice, cherish and enjoy these moments.
'We buy junk and sell antiques!' ~Sign outside a country shop

Where would we be without a sense of humour! Antiques are a thriving business. A recent BBC programme 'Antiques Roadshow', featured a priest called Fr Jamie MacLeod. Ten years ago he bought a painting for £400. On the programme an expert spotted it as more than just an old painting. It turns out that it was an original portrait by Van Dyck and even more significantly is now worth £400,000. The priest now plans to spend the money to buy new church bells. The priest also said: "I bought it ten years ago because it was a case of buying a portrait or buying a bookcase and I decided that I wanted both but that would be greedy. And so the portrait caught my eye."

What we might see as junk is a beautiful and priceless antique to someone else. Every one of us has junk we could throw out or even recycle! Getting rid of what's old and stale has always been an important part of any spiritual journey. Such junk could be described as hurts, grudges, anger, hatred, jealousy, cynicism, mistakes made, to mention only a few. All of this junk can never become an antique. They are corrosive over time and are simply no use to anyone. God is always gently encouraging us to get rid of such junk. In its place we welcome God's invitation to new beginnings and possibilities no matter how small.
'I am always surprised by the different ways people view the same events. One person will see the hand of God constantly at work, the other will chalk it all up to random events.' ~Stephen Rossetti

If we all viewed life exactly in the same way life would indeed be very much boxed in, limited and almost claustrophobic. I had the privilege of attending the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition last week with ColŠiste Choilm at the RDS. What a week we had! There certainly were no limitations! There were 550 projects on display and each one qualified because a young person had an idea, thought about it, liked it, developed it and brought it to life. The variety of projects and ideas was highly impressive. Even more impressive was the energy and enthusiasm that each young person brought to the event.

The 550 projects on display were different but not random. I for one could feel the hand of God very much at work in the midst of science at its best. Science constantly explores, pushes out boundaries and is never afraid to ask questions. No one has quite worked out the exact combination or equation to 'there must be something more to life' or 'the reason behind everything'. But by taking a step back it is much easier to see how God is the plus, - and = of that equation.


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