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Stories of Change in the Western Province of Zambia

This is an occasional series of brief articles that hope to answer the questions: What are you doing out there? and Is it working?

To the average stranger, met in a crushed minibus-taxi or in a queue in the bank, who asks, ‘And what are you doing here?’ an answer such as: "Oh, we’re reducing vulnerabilities and improving livelihoods" may produce, at the best, a glassy stare, even allowing for confusions of language and accent.

It’s the sort of question that ignites a wide range of self-questions: Are we missionaries? No. Are we a foreign NGO? No. Are we church workers? Yes and no.

Thankfully, we have had a year’s preparation for such questions, and can answer: "We’re a community of Christian Brothers, living in Limulunga, hoping to engage the local community on issues such as poverty, human rights, and environmental damage." That may not capture all the nuances of the original Proposition (of 26 principles) that launched this venture for the Brothers, nor the Vision and Mission statements each community reviews and revises each year, but it’s a basis for further conversation.

Within this context of community engagement, we are not the only people to answer the question posed by our average stranger. We Brothers are in an ongoing process of dialogue with many groups within our respective regions (Limulunga, Luampa, Mongu, and Senanga) and it is they, the local people, who ultimately decide what we do and whether it is working.

The stories that follow come from the Brothers, and our colleagues, on what we call our local project teams. But the stories belong to a much wider group, as they are stories of change. Whether it is of climate change, or structural change, or cultural change, or personal change, many others are involved. In the jargon of community engagement, they are all called ‘stakeholders’.

Others are free to make judgements of success or failure. Our job is to offer the stories.

Note on Privacy
Real names of participants in the stories are only used when permission has been given by the individual concerned. Otherwise, typical local names are used, but we try to avoid using a name from another participant in a project. We apologise if this leads to confusion with someone else having the name we have used.

Some of the stories have conflated details from two or more incidents, or two or more participants, partly to describe more of the local reality, and partly to avoid too ready identification of the participants concerned.


Where Chickens Can Help

In the great sweep of history, a family moving from a small rural village out on the broad flood plain of the Zambezi River to the town of Senanga on a main road, linked to the rest of Zambia, is a small event. But historians see the pattern – the move replaces the poverty of distance with the poverty of no income. Sam’s family made this move when Sam was ten. For Sam, the greatest learning was that his family was suddenly poor, in the midst of the wealth on exhibition in Senanga.

The Christian Brothers arrived in Senanga about the same time as Sam did. Trained in social analysis and community engagement, thanks to the generous funding of donors in Ireland, through Misean Cara, and Australia, through Edmund Rice Foundation Australia, the Brothers saw the pattern before Sam did. Senanga had thousands of families who were making the same move, from self-sufficient small farms that were too isolated from services, to living in shacks, close to services, but unable to pay for them. One form of poverty had been traded for another.

Sam left school too early, as his family was unable to pay the fees. But there was nothing to do, that didn’t involve trouble, and no work. Sam took a while to adjust to this, but he was watching his older brother, Godson. Godson had joined a programme the Brothers were running, and seemed a lot happier about life than Sam was feeling.
Based on funding from the donors, the Brothers were offering 65 young people they saw as ‘vulnerable’ in Senanga a chance to generate some income through growing vegetables and producing chickens. It takes place in two stages. As they learn the basic farming techniques and the necessary nutrition information to help their households, the young farmers grow food. But the surplus generated by their hard work can be sold, and the proceeds used to buy inputs for their own individual projects – either vegetables or broiler chickens. This is the second stage Godson is now involved in, and Sam is learning firsthand the work involved – and its rewards.

For Sam, it means his family are eating better food – and enjoying more frequent meals. He can still remember the early days in Senanga when they only ate once a day. He is slowly seeing how the chickens Godson has him attending are changing things. With each batch sold, his parents are feeling a bit more secure, and Godson is planning bigger things.

One of them concerns Sam. Godson thinks there will be enough money for school fees next year. Life has now changed complexion for Sam. As he cleans the feeders and drinkers for the chickens each day, he’s beginning to feel grateful for the role the chickens are playing in his future.


Alice, at 77

Alice, at 77, lives on her own, in a village that’s part of the sprawling town of Senanga, on the banks of the Zambezi River. Despite the beauty of the town, where the open woodlands of the sandy ridges meet the sweeping Barotse Plain, and the great Zambezi curves close to its eastern bank, Alice rarely sees it. She has been bed-ridden for the last twenty years.

Alice, is elderly, in poor health, and in pain. Under normal circumstances, a family would be around her, caring for her. Failing that, you would hope good neighbours would help her, or, failing that, a local religious group. As a last resort, there are government departments, including the offer of free health care, able to provide for people such as Alice. But some people slip through these support structures. If Alice can’t move, can’t leave her hut, can’t make contact with people, she may well be neglected.

There is a grandchild, Memory, who is still at school. Memory sleeps in a small hut near Alice and cares for her as best she can, when she is free to do so. But a child can only do so much. Other members of Alice’s family, who have mostly moved away from Senanga, are quarrelling over who should do the rest, with no clear programme of support emerging, and no money being spent on Alice.

Enter Josephine, a community-based home carer. Josephine, who comes from another village, 30 minutes walk away through the soft sand, volunteered for such work at the invitation of the Christian Brothers and their project team. The Brothers are funded to address local poverty in Senanga by generous donors in Ireland, through Misean Cara, and in Australia, through the Edmund Rice Foundation, Australia.

When Josephine entered Alice’s darkened hut, with its dry reed walls, badly needing repairs, and thatched roof, also beginning to disintegrate, she was shocked. The bed sores alone were vivid proof of Alice’s suffering. Josephine had been trained by the Brothers’ programme, along with 149 other home carers, and she knew what to look for and how to find out from Alice, gently, what the basic needs were. The next day, she had delivered her report to the project team, and they were making decisions about care for Alice.

Transport to the local health clinic and physical support for Alice, to help her through this visit, came first, after some initial cleaning and washing. There were medicines prescribed and a routine of further visits arranged. Memory, the grand-daughter, became part of this, of course. Josephine worked through how to get fresh water and basic foodstuffs into the house, some basic shopping and ongoing cleaning done.

Josephine and Alice both know that talking is important, and the comfort of a caring presence. Home carers have been given basic counselling skills by the programme to help them be better listeners and supportive facilitators, rather than moving too quickly to solving problems. Alice needs time to appreciate what changes Josephine and Memory are bringing into her life, and time for many wounds to heal. The move from solitude to regular contacts with caring people awakes many other issues for her.
The Community-based Home Care Programme, to give it its proper title, trains and supports Josephine in this critical work. The funding is essential to collect such a large group of volunteers and run three sets of training courses for them, in three needy areas in Senanga, and equip them to move out into homes such as Alice’s. They focus on widows and orphans, the sick and the elderly, and those living with disabilities. There is plenty of work for them all!

Even better, the Brothers have liaised successfully with the local health services and the home carers are now integrated into the government network of health care. This means they have professional supervision, ongoing training, and easier access for their clients to the health services they need. The government services, of course, also benefit. They have gained 150 willing volunteers who can extend health care into homes they simply don’t know about, can’t find, or have no time to visit.
Alice, at 77, probably will stay in her bed for the rest of her life. The difference is that her life is now immeasurably richer. Through Josephine’s first visit, as a home carer, Alice is receiving medical help, and the human contact that spells care and concern.

Lubasi Breaks the Downward Spiral

Lubasi turned up at the house of the Christian Brothers in Luampa, a small dusty village 18 kilometres of the main road linking Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, to Mongu, the capital of its poorest province. It was October, the peak of the dry season in the Western Province, and Lubasi had stayed sober all day, forcing himself to apply for a training programme the Brothers were said to be running for local youth.

Lubasi had left school before the Grade Nine exams, and had not found any permanent work since. He lived with his grandmother, as both his parents had died when he was in Grade Eight. She was impatient with him, for any money he made from piece work (clearing land, weeding, carrying goods) he wasted on drink, and he contributed very little to the household.

The Brothers, aided by a generous grant from Misean Cara, Ireland, and Edmund Rice Foundation Australia, were tackling poverty in Luampa by training local youth in income-generating skills, especially farming, and then helping to set them up as young farmers. For Lubasi, despite the damage of the intervening years, there was a faint hope he could join this scheme. He could remember helping his father to farm vegetables, before his father became too sick.

Thanks to his grandmother’s poverty, more than his own merits, Lubasi was accepted into the scheme. He joined another 34 youths who assembled three times a week at a block of land covered with rough scrub, on the banks of the Luampa River. Slowly, they cleared it and began the hard, hot work of building five fish ponds, four chicken sheds, and flat stretches for vegetable gardens. The funders provided the equipment, the Brothers the encouragement, and Lubasi the dedication, despite the taunts of some of his former drinking companions.

There were workshops too, on nutrition and farming skills, but in Bunda, his home language, not the dreaded English that had made his school lessons so hard to follow. Lubasi began to regain some confidence in his own abilities, and to see a different future – a way of making regular money. When the time came for decisions, he opted for growing vegetables – his father’s example now clearer in his mind.

Finally, months later, came the day the Brothers called ‘the distribution’. The funders ensured that Lubasi received the start of new life – fertiliser, gardening implements, pesticide, sprayer and watering can, and the all-important seeds. His grandmother gladly let him use some of the land she lived on.

Lubasi felt far stronger than on that day he had to force himself to stay sober to apply for the project. The drinking now seemed to him the waste of time it was. He sensed he had pulled out of some dangerous downward spiral, and that now he could contribute to the household, and plan for his own life as well.


Why Walk for Two Hours ?

Liswaniso often asked herself this question, as she trudged from her home in the village of Katondo to the secondary school in Luampa. Whatever answers she came up with, she kept trudging, through the long seven months of hot dry season, the brief two months of cold dry season, and the three months of hot rainy season.

Her friends who started with her, as young teenagers, dropped out, or got married, or became farmers. Liswaniso kept walking to school. But, as Year Twelve approached, her final year at school, she began to have serious doubts. Her family were still paying the school fees, but she knew her primary schooling in the village had left her with gaps in her learning – her written English came back scribbled over with corrections, and Maths still held troubling mysteries for her. The final exams confirmed her fears – her marks were poor, and all that walking seemed to have been an expensive waste of her life.

Could she repeat or ‘re-write’ as they say in Zambia? Her father said there was no money left for school fees. She knew even bright students were getting extra coaching, in Luampa, but she had no chance of paying for that. So, the day she saw a small poster, offering free tuition for senior students, changed everything for her.
The Christian Brothers had set up a community in Luampa, in 2016. Supported by Edmund Rice Foundation Australia and Misean Cara, based in Ireland, the Brothers were running projects to improve the livelihoods and opportunities for youth in Luampa and its surrounding villages. It was the Brothers who put up the poster that galvanised Liswaniso into action.

She enrolled in the tuition classes, and found a Brother who could assess what she’d missed out in her primary schooling and slowly begin to ‘fill the gaps’ in her learning. He took up the Science and Biology syllabus, using the topics there to develop her English expression, and every chance he could find to get her Mathematics right as well. For this, Liswaniso gladly walked the two hours in and two hours out, back to Katondo, for many more months.

A year later, she was in Luampa, walking through the school gates, in an emotional tangle. Around the notice board, where the Year Twelve exam results were displayed, she struggled through the noisy excited crowd to find out how she’d done. There it was: ‘Credit 5’ – in all three subjects, Biology, Science and Mathematics. With that pass, she could apply to Teacher’s College. And she did.

This year, Liswaniso is in Teacher’s College, in Mongu, some three hours drive away from Luampa. She’s studying to be a primary school teacher. And if some future student ever complains and asks her why they have to walk all the way to school, she’s more than happy to tell them why.


Namasiku’s Journey

Namasiku is used to walking through thick, soft sand. For the six years of her secondary schooling, she walked, with a few friends and her brother, two and half hours to the secondary school in Limulunga. Every afternoon, she walked home again, for two and half hours.

She was lucky she was on the morning shift, at school, which finishes at 1.30 pm. Otherwise, she’d be walking home in the dark, most nights. Her home has no electricity. She lives in Moombo, in rural western Zambia. Only 3.8% of rural Zambian households have electricity. No-one in Moombo is connected to the rare wobbling lines of poles carrying electricity that venture out from the town of Limulunga into the vast flood plains of the Zambezi River, lying to the west of the town.

Despite this, and the annual floods in March and April that drown the shortest routes to Limulunga, Namasiku graduated from Year Twelve last year. Her parents have grudgingly let her stay with a friend’s family in Limulunga this year, as she tries to find enough piece work to earn the precious money she needs for the fees at the teacher’s college, where she hopes to start training as a pre-school teacher next year.

She has joined a drama group, called Kozo (‘peace’ in the local Lozi language), through contacts with school friends. They sometimes get work, earning 80 Kwacha (about 7 Euros) a performance. This year, they were invited by the Limulunga Christian Brothers Project Team to stage some ‘street theatre’ in the local Health Clinic, which most people in Limulunga simply call ‘the hospital’. The Kozo group staged a dramatic performance outside the clinic, on a gently sloping patch of sand, for the benefit of the women and their babies who were in the usual queue on Fridays for the ‘Under Five Clinic’.

After drumming and dancing to summon a crowd and attract attention, the group of eight young women swiftly spin a tale of tragedy and violence. A twelve-year old girl, rejoicing that she has just passed her exams, is told by her father she is to leave school and get married, as they can’t afford any more school fees. Her mother protests and is attacked. Relatives and neighbours rush in and a noisy debate breaks out. The local primary school teacher is summoned … the play abruptly stops. Namasiku confidently walks out onto the sand and asks the watching crowd, by now some forty or fifty strong, how this play should end.

There are plenty of suggestions, as onlookers call out comments and throw in remarks. Namasiku fields them all, cleverly turning comments into further questions, to stimulate and spark responses. Not only the young mothers and their babies are involved, but people from other queues (the outpatients, the AIDS clinic, the Family Planning office) and staff members have wandered over and joined in. The issues are real – everyone has younger sisters or nieces or grand-daughters.

After ten or fifteen minutes of animated discussion, Namasiku steps aside and two local women, also working with the Christian Brothers Limulunga Project Team and sponsored by Misean Cara, an Irish faith-based funding body, take over. They have been trained in facilitating such discussions. They urge the crowd to consider the impact of Child Marriage, why it is so common in Limulunga, where nearly 50% of first-born babies are born to women under eighteen, and what can be done to reduce it.
Part of Namasiku’s journey to date has been overshadowed by plans and pressure to have her marry. There is no money at home for school fees or further education. She was lucky enough to have been selected for a bursary, by the local Department of Social Welfare, though both her parents needed convincing this wasn’t a waste of time and money. Many of her school friends, especially those who barely finished their primary schooling, are already married and looking after babies. They put a lot of pressure on her to do the same. What else is there to do in Moombo? No money, no training, no jobs. A few have already been abandoned by their partners, and are back with their parents, adding to the strain of households grappling with hardship on a daily basis.

After the event, over refreshments, Namasiku is invited by the project team to join a few other young women, confident and articulate, to take a further step on her journey. Would she like to take the suggestions that came forward this morning to the District Commissioner? Namasiku has only a vague idea of who the District Commissioner is and what he or she does. She gathers he is an important person who might make decisions that could make things easier for her younger sister, now ten, to avoid the pressures to marry too early. Namasiku says yes, she’ll join the group. Now, the project team, says, what do you want to say to the District Commissioner?

Three School Friends

Precious, Mwansa and Christine have been friends from their earliest school days. They grew up close to each other, in a cluster of mud huts with thatched roofs, on the vast sand bank across which the village of Limulunga sprawls. They trudged to primary school together through the thick soft sand that forms the paths and roads in Limulunga. In time, they were all at secondary school together, moving towards their Grade Nine exams.

Then things became more complicated. Between the ages of fifteen and seventeen, all three became pregnant and left school, to care for their babies. They still lived close to each other, in their family homes, and shared the changes that had come on them, as they took up the roles of mothers and adult family members. Money was always scarce, and they had to juggle whatever cash-producing work they found with childcare and family work.

They joined the Health and Wellbeing Project, jointly funded by Edmund Rice Foundation Australia (ERFA) and Misean Cara (Ireland) in 2017. By October they had finished the training on health, hygiene, nutrition, and vegetable-growing for better nutrition – as had their babies, who went with them everywhere, carried on their backs. Then, along with the other 107 participants in the project (mostly young women, like them), they were all issued with seeds, watering cans, a sprayer, and two types of fertiliser.

Christine, whose family had experience with farming vegetables, asked for seven packets of seeds – cabbage, Chinese cabbage, rape (kale), impwa (a type of eggplant), eggplant, tomato and carrot. Precious and Mwansa, with less experience, were less self-confident. Precious opted for Chinese cabbage, rape, impwa, eggplant and carrot, and Mwansa for cabbage, Chinese cabbage (just called ‘Chinese’ by locals), rape, spinach and tomato. All of them chose rape as it one of the most popular local crops, but not always for sale at the market –and sometimes too expensive, depending on the season. ‘Chinese’ on the other hand, though very popular, is not so readily available.

The good news was that all these vegetables were guaranteed to be ‘nutrient–dense’ (high in minerals and vitamins), in the language of the trainers, so the young women were hoping their families would enjoy a healthier diet – if the crops came up. The bad news was that October is the peak of the dry season in the Western Province of Zambia, with no real rain since the previous April, and maybe two more months before the rains would fall again (late November or December).

The other bad news was that their homes were on the sands of Limulunga, not down on the plains (the floodplain of the Zambezi River) just to west of Limulunga. Many of the local families had land down on the plains, where the soil is a rich loam and there is plentiful water, even in the dry season. The sands are dry, acidic, and very low in soil nutrients. So, Precious, Mwansa and Christine faced a few challenges even before they began building the nurseries for their seedlings.

But build they did, as they had been trained. Rickety structures, sourced from local materials (mostly household junk), with old mosquito netting or plastic sheets strung on wooden posts, with some form of roofing. Into these went the precious seeds (or some of them. All three had the foresight to save some!) and the routine of watering and weeding began, on top of the other household chores, and any work away from home they could find. Their babies, on their backs, were part of everything.

What happened? When the project team had finished their monitoring visits, two of the young women (Mwansa and Christine) had successfully raised the vegetables of their choice. Precious had had to start all over again, when the local village chickens broke through her defences and ravaged her first beds of seedlings. Then she lost the second set of seedlings to ‘the water problem’ – which was really a poverty problem. The local man who sold the water (from the tap on his block) wanted to charge her more for the extra water (another 20-litre jerry can) for her vegetables. And she had no more cash, for that extra expense.

But Precious still has four kinds of seeds left over. She is determined, once the rainy season is over, to start again and, this time, try improving the soil with the composting methods she had been shown on the course. Mwansa’s family had their own borehole, so they got to eat an improved diet, thanks to that water source. She also has kept some seeds for future planting, so that promises the vegetable farm may become sustainable.

Christine went one better. The family ate healthier foods, and she was able to sell surplus vegetables (mainly tomatoes) at the market, to bring home some much needed cash (which, amongst other things, means she can buy more seeds). Right across the Western Province, tomatoes are the basis of the sauce (busonso) that is served with the staple maize flour (cooked as buhobe). Christine was also able to enrich her sandy soil with compost, as she had learnt at the training, and that helped produce such a fine crop of tomatoes.

A final note: Mwansa is now back at school, studying in Year Eleven. That may not be directly due to a nutrient-dense diet, but it does reveal the resilience and drive in a young person to achieve her goals.

Lines from Limulunga by Moy Hitchen

August 5, 2018

Greetings from Limulunga, where we seem to have skipped Spring and are facing our four hottest driest months (August – November), with the rains, we hope, to arrive in December. The mango and cashew trees that shade our Royal Village are in flower, and are literally humming with bees and flies, so that’s a promise of fruit in December too.

Last Tuesday saw us load our 70 brave householders (elderly, disabled and female-headed) with 10 kg of fertilisers, a watering can, a sprayer - and 3 packets of precious seeds. And off they went, trudging through the sand in little caravans, the women carrying the sacks on their head, with a child on their back, and their free hand clutching a watering can or an older child.

It all depends on the seeds – and a decent water supply. We’ll be visiting them soon to see how they are going. And then it will be time to distribute the chickens – maybe 600 of them? This will be fun.

Meanwhile, we’ve met with captains and coaches of sports teams interested in our third sports tournament. This one is funded by Misean Cara (based in Dublin), and we can thank them for the prizes and the refereeing gear. We expect to run six competitions (men and women’s football, men and women’s handball, netball and volley ball) – all on the thick bare sand, of course. The locals are very fit – they race around on sand for 90 minutes, if need be. The World Cup teams have it easy!

July 30, 2018

Greetings from Limulunga, where the cold dry season is yielding to the hot dry season. Almost all the rain falls in the four months between December and April, then we dry out – first, with cold winds from the south-east, then the heat returns.

We’ve now run three workshops for our 70 participants in the Households Tackling Hardships project, on vegetable farming, village chicken production, and fish farming. Tomorrow, the 60 who’ve opted for vegetable farming will receive their ‘inputs’ (seeds, fertiliser, watering can, sprayer). Our job will then be regular visits to see how they are going, and to deal with specific problems – whether red mites on the tomatoes or the price of fetching water.
We’ve welcomed a visit from the African Province Leadership Team, in the persons of Clement Sindazi and Tony Shanahan, and they joined us for lunch with our 70 participants. A small but feisty group of young women met with the District Commissioner, to follow up our drama performance and public sensitisation on the risks of Child Marriage.

And we have plunged into the organisation of our third sports tournament for over 300 local youth. We’ll be offering football (men and women), handball (men and women), netball and volleyball – all played on thick soft sand! If you play in the tournament, you are also expected to attend the talks we arrange – on making healthy choices about drinking, drugs, sexual activity, teenage pregnancy, and HIV infection.

July 16, 2018

We have been shocked and deeply saddened by Joe Mosely’s death. For Edward and Dom, he was their novice-master; for all of us, he was a welcoming presence in Lusaka and, in April, the genial facilitator of our District Assembly. Edward and Dom have been at his memorial Mass in Lusaka this weekend. Coming so soon after Peter Cole’s death, it has been a sad loss of another major formative figure in our lives.

On the sunny side, we were cheered bv the visit of our eight novices, with Daniel and Patrick. They wanted to see our ‘ministry sites’ so we took them, through the soft sand, into the heart of the Limulunga Royal Village, where we live, and over the hills into the bush. One of them said, “To study the vow of poverty, we should come and live here for a month.” That was encouraging.

This week saw the first training workshop for our ‘Households Tackling Hardships’ group of 70 participants – some older persons, some with disabilities, and women heading households. They learnt about growing nutrient–rich vegetables for their families and small-scale rice farming.

We also ran a ‘sensitisation’ at the local Health Clinic on advocating against Child Marriage. (Nearly half the first born babies in Limulunga are born to young women under 18). We finished the week with the monthly visit from our Hub, giving us good pastoral care – one-to-one interviews, shared reflections, and a gentle facilitation on our community’s progress. Thanks to Sammy Munyua and Mark Cody for that caring work.

July 7, 2018

The big event of the previous week was the launch of our new project, for 70 vulnerable households in Limulunga. At the moment we are calling it ‘ERFA 2018’, because that’s the name of our generous funder (Edmund Rice Foundation Australia), but we’re looking for something catchier. Your suggestions are welcome!

The next phase consists of three workshops at which we and they will learn something of the skills needed to grow vegetables, rice, chickens, and fish (in fish farms). Then, thanks to ERFA, we will provide some ‘inputs’ (seeds, fertilisers, chickens, fingerlings, and feed) to get them started on a more nutritious diet and, we hope, a source of cash for their families. Their job is to decide which of those farming activities they can undertake, given their health, abilities, soils, and sources of water.

This week has also seen four of us return from the Annually Professed Brothers Workshop in Kabwe (at least eleven hours away by bus, via Lusaka). This was an enjoyable and challenging time, with a dialogue with the District Leadership team part of it, and a football match with the locals. (Alas, the Brothers lost. The World Cup must wait.)

July 2, 2018

The Limulunga Community is a multicultural and international community of five Brothers journeying together in western Zambia. Three of us are from Kenya (Edward Masinde, our Community Leader, Dominic Mwania, our Project Manager, and Kelvin Otieno), one from Zambia itself (Malama Peter) and one from Australia (Moy Hitchen). We live in a large village of several thousand people, sprawling along a high bank of sand that forms the eastern edge of the Barotse Plain, which is itself the broad flood plain of the Zambezi River.

Of the three ‘spoke’ communities, Limulunga is the closest to the Hub community, which is in Mongu, the capital of the Western Province. We are about 20 minutes due north of Mongu, when the potholes are filled, and 40 minutes when they are left gaping, which is the normal state of the ‘sealed’ road. That sealed road runs through the middle of Limulunga, then switches to sand and runs down into the plains. All other roads and paths are of thick soft sand. Great for exercise!

We hope to make this brief bulletin a weekly event, to keep you informed of our life and work here in the far west of Zambia. At the beginning of July you catch us launching a new project, involving about 70 households living in poverty. We have spent the last three weeks trudging through the sands, visiting them and inviting them to join the project. ‘We’ in this case means the Limulunga Project Team, which consists of four local people and we five Brothers. The official launch of the project will be on Friday, July 6, and we invite you to join us in prayer for that day, when we all meet and explain what is involved.

Mission Frère Initiatives in North America

The Congregation’s path to renewal and transformation, Our Way into the Future, challenges us to “find new ways of being Brother for the world” while allowing “the agenda of the world to be our agenda.” In North America, the Brothers have attempted to do this by what is called the Mission Frère initiatives.

The Mission Frère Initiatives focus on providing ministerial and educational opportunities assisting the poor, the marginalized and youth. They are not bound by geography, nor are they created with bricks and mortar. Rather, they offer opportunities for new ways of being Brother that are fluid and life-giving and that evolve as the needs of those being served evolve. At present, there are 5 initiatives in operation.

Mission Frère Harlem
Directed by Brothers John Casey and Ben McDonough, this operates out of the Christian Brothers Community residence in East Harlem, NY. It provides hospitality to those ministering in both Central and East Harlem. The Brothers involved do volunteer work in these areas, in already existing programs. A goal is to eventually use the residence for short-term immersion experiences in NYC and for longer-term volunteer opportunities for young adults.

Mission Frère-Harlem serves those in need and those who minister to them. It strives to be aware of the Spirit in the lives of those involved through prayer and contemplation. The Brothers are especially committed to hospitality and collaboration, to support and mentoring and to awareness and affirmation of our sisters and brothers, both those who serve and are served. Mission Frère-Harlem serves the poor through direct service, volunteer ministry, mentoring and advocacy. It facilitates retreats to Catholic schools and extends hospitality to co-workers, other Religious and lay persons. It offers opportunities for vocational discernment, volunteer service and immersion, especially to young adults.

Mission Frère Advocacy
Directed by Mr. Sean D’Alfonso, this is a direct response to the Chapter Call “to engage in advocacy with the voiceless, the marginalized and all that are oppressed.” The mission of the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers Mission Frère-Advocacy program is to create an awareness of and to advocate for the needs of those most marginalized in our society.

Its goal is to create a more just, peaceful and equitable world by being faithful to the Gospel message of Jesus Christ and the spirit of Blessed Edmund Rice. It fosters presence, compassion and liberation in collaboration with the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers North America Province, the members of the Consortium of Edmund Rice Schools and all who are inspired by the charism of Blessed Edmund Rice in the North American Edmund Rice Network. A quarterly publication – NorAm – helps to spread the message.

Our advocacy efforts include:

  • Work at the United Nations and with Edmund Rice International
  • Province Mission Education and Immersion program in collaboration with our North American schools and our Latin American Region
  • Action Alerts on topics such as immigration, Catholic school education, the Right to Life for all, the Dream Act, etc.
  • A quarterly newsletter – NorAm – that attempts to share the good news of the service and advocacy works taking place around the Province.

Mission Frère Haiti
Directed by Brother Kevin Griffith and Mr. Sean D’Alfonso, this is an outgrowth of MF-Advocacy. Haiti is the poorest country in our hemisphere. It is adversely affected by hurricanes, earthquakes, government mismanagement, and sometimes US policies that stand in the way of progress.

Mission Frère-Haiti seeks to be a presence to the people of Haiti and to advocate on behalf of the needs of the poor in Haiti. The Mission Frère-Haiti initiative has raised monies through the sale of Haitian art, created by local Haitian artisans, to support the ministries(school, orphanage and mobile clinic) of the Sisters of Jesus and Mary in Jean Rabel, Haiti. It works in collaboration with Iona Prep (New Rochelle, NY) and Archbishop McCarthy H. S. (Ft. Lauderdale, FL) to provide immersion experiences for students from these schools in Le Borgne, Haiti. The immersions focus on service while in Haiti and advocacy once home.

Mission Frère Edmund Rice Young Adult Ministry
Directed by Brother Tim Smyth, the Mission Frère-Edmund Rice Young Adult Ministry focuses on providing leadership development programs for young adults.

It has been embraced by the Province Office of Educational Services, and it is intended to facilitate the continuity of student participation in engagements such as: The ACTION Student Leadership Workshop, mission immersions, volunteer services, vocation discernment and faith development. It provides opportunities for peer interaction, community engagement, advocacy, shared ministry and prayer for young adults who have heard the call of the Gospel in their Edmund Rice Christian Brother Education.

This ministry encompasses:

  • follow-up contact with students who attend ACTION and/or school immersion/mission trips
  • volunteer opportunities
  • vocation discernment/promoting vocations to our Brotherhood
  • college contacts with graduates of Christian Brother high schools

Mission Frère-Miami
Directed by the Christian Brothers Community in Miami, this has been recently established as an outreach to the Haitian and other immigrant communities in Miami, FL.

Our Brothers in Miami minister at the St. Mary’s School and Parish in Little Haiti, as well as at Catholic Legal Services of Miami. They teach ESL; they coordinate a school resource center; they assist with a food bank; and they provide services to immigrants.

First Thirty Years in East Africa

The members of the East Africa District spent the Easter Triduum in their annual assembly, reflecting on 30 years of Christian Brother presence in East Africa. Reading chapters of the history written by Br Frank Chappell provided the basis for lively exploration of a story which many of us knew only in fragments. Frank’s history details the journey from the first Christian Brother to work in East Africa (in Tanzania in 1984-85), through to our first official community being founded in 1988 up to 1995.

From 1995 to the present we were able to fill in the story from our own experience and knowledge. We marveled at the ways in which God was able to “write straight with crooked lines”, to bring good out of the confusion, mistakes and stumbling that were part of the journey. There have been many graces and providential gifts. Among the many twists and turns, there was also pain and sorrow. Our Good Friday Stations of the Cross celebrated the way in which the story echoed and expressed the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus.

EAD 30yrs artIt is a human story of birthing something new. We recalled with deep gratitude the many Brothers who have been part of the story. The first ones came from what was St Patrick’s Province in Australia, but many others joined them from Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and North America.

It is a story that continues to be written as our brotherhood grows and puts down roots in our African culture. We are standing on the shoulders of many brothers who were courageous and generous in taking the risk to plant the seed. As our founder said, "Have courage! The good seed will grow up in the children’s hearts later on".

This exploration of our history was well facilitated by Brothers Tom Kearney, Frank O’Shea and Mick Podbury. Tom and Frank are the longest-serving Brothers in East Africa, while Mick Podbury was part of the first community of brothers in Chanjale, Tanzania, in 1988.

We were grateful for the presence of our Province Leader, Michael de Klerk, and also for the chance to celebrate together the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, and a vibrant Easter Vigil. We came away with the sense of our identity as Christian Brothers greatly strengthened.

During the annual Assembly East Africa District commemorated the 30th anniversary of its foundation by reflecting on the story written by Br Frank Chappell. Christopher, the artist-in-residence at Ruben Centre took par t in listening to the story and then went away to create the artwork which captures themes and main points from ourreflections about our history. On Saturday 22 April the artwork was unveiled and Brothers reacted to the work. The artwork will be kept as a symbol and reminder of that assembly and our 30th anniversary in East Africa.

Zambia Novitiate 2018

The 23rd of February, 2018 saw the initiation ritual of eight fine young men who have decided to continue their discernment process to become Christian Brothers in the service to both humanity and the whole of God’s creation. These enthusiastic men are from four nationalities namely; Liberia, Kenya, The Gambia and Sierra Leone.

During their two-year novitiate experience, they will be accompanied by the ISC formation team. After a month orientation program, both the team and the novices are poised for the full swing of the novitiate program and started classes on 26th February 2018.

John Holden from the Hub community led a host of brothers for the acceptance of the young men into the novitiate program. Chris Nhete from the District Leadership team gave a word of welcome and encouraged them to feel at home in ISC and to contribute meaningfully to their new community. He also invited them to use the diversity in the group to their advantage and to be aware of their steps as they step into a holy ground of the novitiate and the local people of the area. Chris in his final statement urged them to seize the novitiate as an opportunity to learn and discover a lot more about the place of God in their lives and what is it to be a Christian Brother.

Daniel Lyimo, Novice Master poured out libation to the biological ancestors of the young men as well as the ancestors of the Congregation to acknowledge that this event does so by “standing on their shoulders”.

In response the young men sang and danced. They each presented their symbols of new life and read their personal statement of commitment to the novitiate program. A response from the formation team thanked the novices and in return, presented to each novice, a bible, the Constitution and a book of daily readings. The program continued outside with chatting and refreshments.

By Br. Patrick Nuanah

Philemon SesayPhilemon Sesay is my name. I come from Port Loko, Sierra Leone.
I came to learn of the Christian Brothers in 2008 through my uncle who was sort of their link for vocation promotion in Port Loko. My passion to join the Brothers reached its climax years later. I am very happy to be in the novitiate and hope to benefit all that the program has for me in my vocation journey.

Frederick Odhiambo AderoMy name is Frederick Odhiambo Adero. I come from Homa Bay in Kenya.
I came to know about the brothers in 2014, while I was in college through Br. Sammy Munyua during a vocation promotion. Later I shared correspondences with Br. Peter Cole until I decided to join. I hope to enjoy the transformation that this novitiate program would offer as I grow into the charism of the Christian Brothers.

Boniface SambouI am Boniface Sambou from Bwiam, The Gambia. I heard of the Christian Brothers through a friend, Johnathan Kamara, and later communicated to Br. Walter Vaz on Facebook, who then linked me to the Brothers in Sierra Leone. I kept contact through social media with passed vocation directors like, Br. Paul Mendy, Br. Joseph Turay and Br. Pascal Gibba until my postulancy program in 2017.  I hope to enjoy the novitiate program and to be transformed for the world as I discern my vocation as a Christian Brother.

Edwin AlphaMy name is Edwin Alpha from Boajibu in Sierra Leone. 
I first encountered the Christian brothers in Blama, in 2012. Br. Pascal Gibba was the contact person. My hope in the Novitiate is to be open to the process as I respond to the call as a Christian Brother.

 

Josephat Mutua MuthokaMy name is Josephat Mutua Muthoka from Emali- Makueni County Kenya.
I came into contact with the Christian Brothers in 2013 through a cousin of mine who is with the de la Salle Brothers. Later I met the vocation director Br. Peter Cole who then invited me for a come and see program.
During this time of novitiate, I hope to strengthen my faith, and work towards the building of a gospel community.

 

Gabou BaldehGabou Baldeh is my name, from Banjul, The Gambia.
My contact with the Brothers was 2015 with Br. Pascal Gibba who was on holidays in The Gambia. After hearing a lot about the brothers and the work they do I was moved to start my postulancy. I hope to succeed in the novitiate program through openness for a transformation that deepens my spirituality in becoming a Christian Brother.

 

Dominic Youconjah GarduahI am Dominic Youconjah Garduah, a Liberian by nationality, from Grand Bassa County.
I got in contact with the Christian brothers while  studying at the Marist international university college in Nairobi, in 2014. I hope to integrate myself well into the novitiate program as I discern to be a Christian Brother.

 

Koech Victor KiprutohMy name is Koech Victor Kiprutoh. I am from the western part of Kenya, a town called Kapsabet
In 2013, a friend mentioned about religious life which did not bother me until the visit of Br. Sammy Munyua and Br. Daniel Kyalo for vocation promotion. I wish to deepen my understanding of the mystery called God as I discern my vocation as a Christian Brother.

 

 

ISC Team 
                         ISC Team: L-R Patrick Nuanah, Henry McGann, Daniel Lyimo, Cornel Mwiru and Senan D’Souza (in absentia)

Postulants in Arusha, Tanzania

The six new Postulants in Arusha, Tanzania, send the following brief information about themselves:

Isaac OdongoIsaac Odongo is a Kenyan, from Kisumu county, Bolo parish. There are nine in the family, father and mother included - four boys and three girls. He is the fourth born in the family. His father died in 2002, and also the second born boy died in 2012.

 

Jared NyamweyaJared Kaburi Nyamweya is Kenyan, from Kisii. He is 2nd born of six children, being the 1st born boy. They are two boys and 4 girls. His mum and dad are farmers, both are Christians and they love going to church.

 

 

Peter Sika ThomasPeter Sika Thomas is South Sudanese, from Western Equatorial State, Yambio. He is the third born in a family nine children. There are two boys and seven girls. He has been living with his mother since the passing on of his father in 2012.  

 

Fredrick ClintonFredrick Clinton is a Kenyan by nationality, born and raised up in a suburb village in Western part of Kenya. He is third born in the family of five, three boys and two girls. He speaks the Maragoli dialect, one of the sub-tribe of the Luhya community. He is a very charismatic and devoted Catholic and loves working with the youth ministry in the church.

 

Raphael MwauraRaphael Mwaura is 23 years old. He was born in a family of seven, 5 boys and 2 girls. He is the 5th born. He is a Kenyan from Nakuru county, kikuyu by tribe. He is a teacher by profession, having done a Diploma in Education (PTE) from Kenyatta University.

 

Peter NyarikiPeter Nyariki is from Kenya, Nyamira County. He is from a family of 9 kids and he is the last born. He is a trained teacher from Eregi TTC with working experience of two years.

First Profession in Lusaka, Zambia

On Saturday, November 25th, seven young men from Kenya and Zambia made their First Profession at the International Spirituality Centre in Lusaka.

ISC Profession 2017From left to right: Alphonce Sokia (Kenya), Alphas Odoyo (Kenya), Smart Machachi (Zambia), Dennis Nyabota (Kenya), Clive Hanjalika (Zambia), Bruce Hakalembe (Zambia), Ismael Juma (Kenya).  

The Eucharist was celebrated by Fr David, from the Jesuits. It was a joyful occasion for the Brothers, their families, and friends.  Over 200 local religious and laity were present.
Kamanga choir

 

The choir from Kamanga sang beautifully.

Chris and Clement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Br Chris Nhete was the MC, Br Clement Sindazi received the vows, and Br John Holden gave the reflection.

Novices and Joe

 

 

 

 

 

The Congregation is grateful to Br Joe Mosely who finished four years as Novice Director at ISC.

 

 

Kenyan OP4Among those present were four Kenyan Brothers who had attended the Orientation Programme in India and have been waiting for their Employment Permits to be approved by the Immigration Department in Zambia.  They arrived in the early hours of Saturday morning.  

Yesterday they took the 620km bus trip to Mongu in the Western Province where they will be starting their Lozi language lessons today.  From left to right: Kelvin Otieno Ouma, Allan Mwashi Shunza, Melkizedeck Musamia Buteyo, and Edwin Saka Wekullo.
Meanwhile the novices are on their way home to their families.

Final Profession in Ghana

On Saturday, November 4th, Br. Patrick Nuanah professed perpetual vows at St. Peter and Paul Parish in Tamale, Ghana, in the company of the Brothers, his family and friends who had gathered for the occasion. Patrick is the first Ghanaian to profess final vows in the Congregation.

IMG 3779In a ceremony on the evening before the Profession Mass, Patrick shared some if his personal story with those who had gathered:

I was born in 1977 to Mr. Thomas Konipo Nuanah and Madam Agnes Ama Yarong at the Cape Coast in the Central Region of Ghana. As the first born of the family l grew up in an environment that was characterized by love and care. My favorite hobbies as a young boy were making lorries with corn sticks, or creating TVs and fridges with milk tins. Later on I developed a keen interest in making vegetable gardens and rearing local chickens. I completed my primary education in Wa Catholic School from 1983-1990 and continued my Junior High School in Tamale, at the Ridge Junior High School from 1990-1993. In September 1993 l gained admission into Vitting Senior High School in Tamale, graduating in 1996. From 1999-2002 I completed my tertiary education at Bagabaga College of Education where l was enrolled in their Teacher Training Certificate course.

Upon graduation, I was posted to Garizegu R.C. Junior High School, where I taught for three years. Along the way, I also enrolled in Tamale Technical University for a Diploma Course in Building Technology, which I completed in 2006. As a teacher, it was always my desire to teach pupils in the rural communities in order to help them have the same opportunity as their counterparts in the urban or well-endowed schools. This desire was greatly enhanced when I came into contact with the Christian
Brothers when they first came to Tamale in 200l, and whose charism is evangelizing and liberating youth through quality education. Nelson Mandela also believed that: "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

In February 2006, I finally took the life-changing step to join the Christian Brothers and participated in an initial formation program in Bo Town, Sierra Leone. I continued a two-year Novitiate program in Cape Town, South Africa, where l made my First Profession of Vows in November, 2008. My first missionary assignment in 2009 was to Gbarnga, Liberia, where l lived in a community of four Christian Brothers and taught at St. Martin's Junior and Senior Secondary School. After four happy years of grace and privilege with the people of Liberia in Bong County, I was granted the Brother Austin Loftus Scholarship from the Christian Brothers of the North American Province to continue my studies at lona College in New York, USA. It was at Iona that I gained my Bachelor Degree in Environmental Science. Upon graduation in July 2Ol5,I was asked to come to Tamale and join the Christian Brothers Choggu comunity and to minister at Kanvilli R.C. School Complex.

The following dialogue took place between Patrick and Br. Hugh O'Neill, the Congregation leader:

IMG 3895Br. Patrick Nuanah, you have spent a number of years of temporary profession with us as a Christian Brother. What is it that you now ask of the Congregation?

Br. Patrick: Having lived as a Christian Brother and having imbued the spirit of the Congregation, I now wish to commit myself to being a disciple of Jesus, as a Christian Brother as long as I live,

In order to live a life of CONSECRATED EVANGELICAL CHASTITY, are you committed to a life-long search for the Divine, being open to exploring the Mystery of God in all creation?
Br. Patrick:I AM

In this commitment are you willing to imitate Jesus in a radical way, by remaining free from exclusive human love, while growing daily in an intimate relationship with Jesus whose life's passion was the reign of God?
Br. Patrick:I AM

In order to live EVANGELICAL POVERTY, are you resolved to open your heart to the cry of the poor and the earth, and to be moved by prophetic action through advocacy and works of justice?
Br. Patrick:I AM

In this resolution are you willing to be radically dependent on God and the community and to renounce the right to the independent use and disposal of money and material goods?
Br. Patrick:I AM

Are you willing to detach yourself from power, prestige and privilege and to share your personal gifts, qualities, strengths and weakness, showing, by the simplicity of your life, your solidarity with the poor and marginalized?
Br. Patrick:I AM

In order to live a life of EVANGELICAL OBEDlENCE, do you desire to listen deeply for God in healthy compassionate communities, living a heart-centered spirituality?
Br. Patrick:I DO

In this desire, are you willing to allow the charism of our Founder, Blessed Edmund Rice, to find new expressions that are beyond your boundaries, your understanding and your imaginings?
Br. Patrick:I AM

Congregation Leader: ln this desire, are you willing to support your brothers in mission and to respond to the call to new horizons; to the unknown; and to respond
positively to the call by leadership to be involved passionately in the wider mission of the Congregation, wherever that may be and whatever form it may take?
Br. Patrick:I AM

Br. Hugh: May God who has begun this gosd work in you continue to see you through. May He strengthen you and grant that your way of life may give glory to his loving plan of redemption. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
ALL: Amen.

IMG 3939IMG 3940

There was an exceptionally large gathering of Brothers for the occasion as the participants in the Orientation Programme were present, as were African leadership who were gathered for meetings with the Congregation leaders and the Transition Support Team at that time.

IMG 3955IMG 4256

 

 

 

EREBB Leadership Certificate

The EREBB Leadership Certificate is an international online course developed by Edmund Rice Education Beyond Borders (EREBB), Edmund Rice Schools Trust (ERST) in Ireland, and Marino Institute of Education (MIE).

EREBB certificate 2

The EREBB Leadership Certificate has been developed to support teachers, educators, leaders, and those aspiring to leadership in Edmund Rice schools and educational communities to become advocates and proponents of inclusive and liberating education practices.

EREBB priority areas

This interactive 20-hour course consists of four modules of self-directed learning, which participants can complete in their own time and at their own pace. The course is moderated by MIE staff in Dublin, Ireland. Course participants will receive an EREBB Leadership Certificate.

EREBB on completion

You can read more about the Certificate programme on hte website of MIE below.

MIE logo

Fourth Orientation Programme

The fourth Orientation Programme is up and running in Nairobi, Kenya, from September to December, 2018.

21 Brothers are taking part.

On September 9th the Christian Brothers’ 4th Orientation Programme was officially launched at St. Joseph’s Retreat Centre, Nairobi.  Over a hundred people joined the Brothers to mark this important moment in the life of the Congregation.  As people gathered the choir from Br Beausang School sang I Have no Hands but Yours a song attributed to St Teresa of Avila.

Br Sunil Britto briefly introduced the ceremony outlining the various elements of the programme. He welcomed Br Tony Shanahan, Leader of the East Africa District The opening song Enda Nasi, translated into English means ‘Go with us’ inviting all the people to support the Brothers as they were about to undertake this three-month programme of formation.

Br Tony welcomed the people and thanks the Transition Support Team for their work in preparing the Orientation Programme and wishe the participants every success for the programme.

Br Simon Kiswahili read a passage on the Exodus experience, and Br Jerry Ekka shared a reflection on what it means to be a pilgrim. The people then began to process to the main hall accompanies by the choir as they sing Companions on the Journey.

Br David Gibson, a member of the Transition Support Team (the TST) offered an explanation of Our Way into the Future, highlighting the three elements of the process:  the spiritual search, the formation of vibrant and cohesive communities and outreach to those who have been made poor. He explained that from this vision, the Transition Support Team created the project Journeying Together whose aim is to establish clusters of Christian Brother communities in Zambia and India. Members of the TST then call the participants forward as then enter into the circle for those beginning the programme. They inquire, ‘Are you ready?’ and invite the Brothers to respond.  When they respond, each Brother in presented with a candle and shawl to symbolise the Kenyan culture into which the Brothers will insert themselves.  Local drummers accompany the journey of the Brothers into the circle.

Br Sunil invited the congregation to applaud the Brothers who have generously left their Districts and Provinces to join this new venture.

Br John Casey, a member of the Congregation Leadership Team from Rome offered words of encouragement to the Brothers who have volunteered to join this fourth Orientation Programme.

Br Amandi Mboya, a member of the East Africa Leadership Team led the blessing prayer and as the congregation responded to the blessing, those Brothers who are attending the ceremony and the resource people for the programme circled around the participants as an act of solidarity to those who are on this new journey.

Br Sunil invited some of the invitees to take a small candle with the name of one of the participants on it, and to bring it home and occasionally light it and pray for the intention of that Brother.

Br Donal Kirk, a member of the TST and one of the presenters of the programme offered a vote of thanks and the choir broke into song with the final hymn: I Say Yes, Lord.

Everyone then was invited to partake of light refreshments and to mingle.

 

If you wish to follow the progress of the group, please connect with their website:

Journeying Together web

Edmund Rice Mission today

Our strategic developent framework articulates our vision to 2020.

Edmund Rice Mission focuses on the liberation of people and communities. Edmund Rice, inspired by Jesus, responded to the marginalised of his time. Today, through compassionate presence and seeking mutual transformation, Edmund Rice Mission promotes human rights and fullness of life for all, especially those made poor.

Our work is shaped by the UN Sustainable Development Goals which you can read more about by clicking on the graphic below.
SDGs

Our way into the future enables four integrated strategic priorities that build the capacity of people and communities through

  • Compassionate Presence - We walk in solidarity with those with whom we live and work, especially those made poor.
  • Community Engagement - We work together with local communities to identify priority needs and long term solutions. We build relationships for mutual transformation.
  • Education - Building on our 200 years experience in education and schools, we liberate people through formal and informal quality education. 
  • Advocacy - We are active in advocating for human rights and the environment from the local through to the global, including through UN mechanisms.

The Way We Work:

  • Presence - Being with
  • Engagement - Respectful, active listening
  • Collaboration - Working connectedly
  • Prayerful Reflection - Transformation
  • Celebration - Sharing and valuing

Our focus: To acheive these strategic priorities, we are

  • Improving capacity in formation, leadership development, succession planning, training, mentoring and sharing our diverse cultures and wisdom.
  • Increasing communictions and building financial sustainability through sharing best-practice, engaging more people and diversifying funding
  • Achieving sustainable outcomes through improved planning, policies, structures and processes

Strategic Development Framework

Praying during the Week

Each week Br. Michael Burke prepares some resources to help us remember and celebrate the feast or anniversary.

Sunday 23rd September
25th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
PADRE PIO

Here are five places where you can find commentaries on this Sunday’s readings:
•    Under RESOURCES at the bottom of our home page: find Sunday Reflections by Julian McDonald and Richard Walsh.
•    www.silk.net/RelEd - click Mass Readings
•    www.goodnews.ie – click Gospel Commentary
•    www.liturgy.slu.edu (Also in Spanish)
•    www.salvationhistory.com – click Sun. Bible Reflections under Daily Bread. (Also in Spanish)

Padre Pio was an Italian Capuchin Priest who died in 1968 and whose practical spirituality continues to hold great appeal. He became famous – and controversial – because of his stigmata experience.

“Where there is an open mind there will always be a frontier.”  (Charles F. Kettering)

Saturday 22nd September
THE EQUINOX and
ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE

On this pivot day of Spring in the southern hemisphere and of Autumn in the northern hemisphere, the equinox, our prayer might embrace the connectedness of the globe and all the opposites and contrasts that it holds together.

Yesterday was also World Alzheimer’s Disease Day so let us keep in our prayers all those affected by this disease and its distressing effects. For information about the disease, see www.alz.co.uk

“Ordinary people believe only in the possible. Extraordinary people visualize not what is possible or probable, but rather what is impossible. And by visualizing the impossible, they begin to see it as possible.”  (Cherie Carter-Scott)

Friday 21st September
ST MATTHEW and
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PEACE

Matthew, to whom one of the written gospel traditions is attributed, was a tax collector. In calling him to be a disciple, Jesus broke through a strong social taboo and simply waived aside religious prejudices about who was acceptable to God. One meaningful way to mark Matthew’s feastday might be to identify who is burdened by similar prejudices within us today.

The International Day of Peace invites us to creative acts of peace, and to strengthening the ideal of peace across the globe. See the websites  www.internationaldayofpeace.org and  www.peacebeginswithme.eu

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”  (Helen Keller)

Thursday 20th September
THE KOREAN MARTYRS

Over 8000 Koreans died in 19th century persecutions, and over 100 were canonized together in the 1980s. We might pray today for all who are restricted in any of the freedoms we take for granted.

“Dependent people need others to get what they want. Independent people can get what they want through their own efforts. Interdependent people combine their own efforts with the efforts of others to achieve their greatest success.”  (Stephen Covey)

Wednesday 19th September
TALK-LIKE-A-PIRATE DAY

This (frivolous) international observance, born of a pirate-like gutterance in reaction to a sports injury, might serve to focus our gratitude on the lighthearted side of life – on the gift of fun, on the leaven of parody and playfulness.

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope or confidence.”  (Helen Keller)

Tuesday 18th September
WORLD WATER MONITORING DAY

Water Monitoring Day aims at involving and empowering citizens all over the world in the vital responsibility of monitoring the quality of our water. This is done by means of a simple test-kit that checks on a number of water-quality parameters. A recent aim was to extend participation to a million people in 100 countries.

“Emotions will either serve or master, depending on who is in charge.”  (Jim Rohn)

Monday 17th September 2018
HILDEGARD OF BINGEN

A visionary mystic and artist, Hildegard, a German Benedictine Abbess, was a creative interpreter of theology. Among other forms, she wrote poetry and letters, composed music and songs, and devised the first surviving morality play. She is commonly, though not formally, regarded as a saint.

“Civilization is the intelligent management of human emotions.”  (Jim Rohn)

Sunday 9 September
23rd SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
ST PETER CLAVER

A Spanish-born Jesuit, Peter Claver spent forty years ministering to slaves in a port where they arrived after being transported across the Atlantic in horrifying conditions that killed a third of them and left many ill and terrified. We might pray for all those who died in this hard-to-imagine chapter of human history, and for those who suffer comparable dehumanization to this day.

“If you think a certain thought long enough and hard enough, it becomes a fixed belief and you will find yourself behaving on the outside in a manner consistent with it.”  (Brian Tracy)

Saturday 8 September
TRADITIONAL BIRTHDAY OF THE MOTHER OF JESUS and
INTERNATIONAL LITERACY DAY

Coming nine months after the feast of her Immaculate Conception, this feast of Mary’s birthday has been celebrated since the 5th century. Maybe we can say that it is one of countless traditional ways of acknowledging the level of spiritual evolvement that Mary represents for the human race, and how that played its role in the loving design of God.

International Literacy Day reminds us to treasure the gift – and power – of being able to read, while drawing our attention to the millions who do not have this as a result of poverty and prejudice. One in five adults is effectively illiterate, two-thirds of these being women, and over 70 million children are not in school. The worst literacy levels are in South & West Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Arab States. This year the day focuses upon the theme of Literacies for the 21st Century. See www.unesco.org/en/literacy for more information.

“The most important thing about a man is what he believes in the depth of his being. This is the thing that makes him what he is, the thing that organizes him and feeds him; the thing that keeps him going in the face of untoward circumstances; the thing that gives him resistance and drive.”  (Hugh Stevenson Tigner)

Friday 7 September
THREATENED SPECIES DAY

Observed in Australia since 1996, Threatened Species Day reminds us of the vulnerability of creation, particularly to rash human practices. The growing international ‘red list’ of threatened species includes about 20% of all amphibians, about 10% of all mammals, and over 5% of all birds. Taking a lead from Australia, we might bring to our prayer today a concern for raised awareness and sensitivity.

“Getting outside of the box can not only be fun, it is sometimes necessary for our survival. It disrupts our inner programming, the mentality of going through life on ‘auto-pilot’ so that we can readily see bright new possibilities heading our way.”  (Gail Pursell Elliott)

Thursday 6 September
STILLBIRTH REMEMBRANCE DAY

Officially marked in much of North America, this day honours the thousands of babies who are stillborn, and is sometimes broadened to include other better-understood forms of pregnancy-loss and infancy-loss. In many cultures the days of “just not talking about it” have gone, and most people have some close experience of death during pregnancy or birth. In our prayer today we might join in this remembrance of children whose childhood was cut off before it began, and of the lasting grief of their mothers and those around them.

“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”  (Alexander Graham Bell)

Wednesday 5 September
TERESA OF CALCUTTA

Mother Teresa died 20 years ago at the age of 87, leaving a legacy of several groups devoted to hands-on service of the world’s poorest: her Sisters (the Missionaries of Charity, and their contemplative branch), a congregation of Brothers, three Lay groups, and a movement for Priests. Her style drew its share of criticism, but the authenticity of her wholeheartedness is unquestioned.

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.”  (Albert Einstein)

Tuesday 4 September
CLEAR DAY (IN SCIENTOLOGY)

Scientology speaks of ‘Clear’ as that state of mind attained when a person has overcome the influence of unwanted emotions and is in control of mental energy. One of many models of human development, it might serve as a reminder to appreciate and welcome the progressive stages of growth we can see in ourselves and those around us. The birthstone of September happens to be the sapphire, standing for clear thinking.

“Life is not the way it’s suppose to be; it’s the way it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.”  (Virginia Satir)

Monday 3 September 2018
ST GREGORY THE GREAT

Gregory is remembered for his particularly vigorous thirteen-or-so years as Pope, during which he seems to have left very few thoughts unpublished. Born in Rome and coming to the papacy from a monastic background, he is seen as standing on the border between East and West, and between the ancient and medieval worlds. He is a reminder for us of the awesome growth the Body of Christ through the ages has undergone.

“If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, I’ll bet they’d live a lot differently.”  (Bill Watterson)

Sunday 2 September
22nd SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
A NEW ACADEMIC YEAR APPROACHES

One of the starts associated with September is the new academic year in many parts of the world. As this approaches, we might pray for increasingly holistic values in our world’s education systems.

“Our greatest enemies, the ones we must fight most often, are within.”  (Thomas Paine)

Saturday 1 September
START OF SOUTHERN SPRING & NORTHERN AUTUMN and
START OF THE NEW LITURGICAL YEAR IN EASTERN ORTHODOX CHURCH

The start of the ‘in-between seasons’, Spring and Autumn, in the different hemispheres, is pinned to 1 September. These seasons of change and adaptation might call us to review what changes are befalling or calling us and to respond with openness, energy, and grace.

As the last third of the year begins, bringing signs of seasonal change, Christians of the Eastern Orthodox Church begin a new liturgical year – earlier than the tradition that takes Advent as the cycle’s new start. Today might prompt us to pray for the millions of Christians who have been brought up in this distinctive tradition.

“It is not the employer who pays wages -- he only handles the money. It is the product that pays wages.”  (Henry Ford)

Friday 31 August
TRINIDAD & TOBAGO – INDEPENDENCE DAY

We remember today the people of the Caribbean nation, Trinidad and Tobago, on the Edmund Rice map since 1948, as they celebrate their independence from Britain in 1962.

“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.”  (Pablo Picasso)

Thursday 30 August
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE DISAPPEARED

This is a day to bring to mind people who have disappeared, imprisoned in undisclosed places and conditions – and their loved ones who are left in suspension and pain. In addition to secret imprisonment, estimated to be practiced in some 30 countries including the Philippines and Latin American nations, there are those who have disappeared and are presumed dead, whose families have never had the chance to bury them or reach closure.

“The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.”  (Vidal Sassoon)

Wednesday 29 August
EDMUND RICE’S ANNIVERSARY OF DEATH and
THE BEHEADING OF JOHN THE BAPTIST

Edmund Rice died on this day in 1844. In our prayer today, we might thank God for his life – a life that extends to this day through the countless groups and individuals who resonate to his spirit.

The story of the beheading of John is told in Matthew 14:1-12 and Mark 6:14-29, and this feastday is one of the earliest in Christian tradition. The fate of John illustrates the violence prompted by the fear that attends vested interests when confronted by courageous voices. We might pray today for all such courageous voices and for the gift of that same courage.

“It is important that students bring a certain ragamuffin, barefoot irreverence to their studies; they are not to worship what is known, but to question it.”  (Jacob Chanowski)

Tuesday 28 August
ST AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO

Augustine, famous as much for his conversion from a life of ‘debauchery’ as for his huge influence on Christian thought and theology, became a Bishop in the Roman Africa of the 4th/5th Centuries. His teachings are seen as landmarks in the history of the Church’s theology. Perhaps today we might pray for all who lead the intellectual vitality of our faith communities and for the energy to participate personally in this dimension of our faith.

“Life is too short to spend your precious time trying to convince a person who wants to live in gloom and doom otherwise. Give lifting that person your best shot, but don't hang around long enough for his or her bad attitude to pull you down. Instead, surround yourself with optimistic people.”  (Zig Ziglar)

Monday 27 August 2018
ST MONICA

St Monica was the mother of St Augustine, whose feast day follows tomorrow. Born in what is now called Algeria, her character and her prayer were instrumental in the Christian transformation of both her husband and her son. Her story continues to be a light in the life of many distressed mothers, and perhaps today invites us to join them in their prayers for their children.

“The most splendid achievement of all is in the constant striving to surpass yourself and to be worthy of your own approval.”  (Denis Waitley)

Sunday 26 August
21st SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
ST DAVID LEWIS

David Lewis was an Englishman martyred for practicing his priesthood in 17th Century England where fear of ‘a Popish plot’ was the bogeyman of the day. His feast might remind us to pray for all those who in our time are threatened and intimidated because of the practice of their religious faith.

“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.”  (Helen Keller)

Saturday 25 August
ST JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS and
URUGUAY’S INDEPENDENCE DAY

José de Calasanz, as he is called in Spanish, lived in C16-17th, spending the latter two-thirds of his 90 years in Rome. He is seen as the founder of free public education in Europe, at a time when education was inaccessible to most people, and started a religious order for this ministry. His schools were notable for their inclusiveness, welcoming Jewish and Protestant children alongside Catholics. The curriculum was broad, holistic, and practical. In regard to discipline, Joseph pioneered the preventive approach, later developed by Don Bosco. Tragically the enterprise was ruined by child sexual abuse committed by a member of the Order, who used his family’s influence and ecclesiastical power to perpetrate his crimes with impunity, frustrating Joseph’s efforts to deal with the damage and blackmailing him with the threat of suppression of his Order. This is in fact what happened near the end of Joseph’s life; he died in disgrace and it was only eight years later that the name of his Order was cleared.

The Edmund Rice Network has a presence in Uruguay: Montevideo’s Colegio Stella Maris. This is the day Uruguay celebrates its independence from Brazil, which came as far back as 1825.

“It’s good to have money and the things money can buy, but it’s good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure that you haven’t lost the things money can’t buy.”  (George Horace Lormier)

Friday 24 August
ST BARTHOLOMEW

Bartholomew, one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus, is often identified with Nathanael (of John’s Gospel). Tradition holds that his mission took him to India and that he died a martyr.

“Some things you have to do every day. Eating seven apples on Saturday night instead of one a day just isn’t going to get the job done.”  (Jim Rohn)

Thursday 23 August
INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE REMEMBRANCE OF THE SLAVE TRADE & ITS ABOLITION
and ST ROSE OF LIMA

A day designated by UNESCO to memorialize the transatlantic slave trade. The horror of this chapter in human history may have been blunted by the passing of time, but its millions of abused souls can still enter our prayer today, as can the consequences that are playing out even now.

Rose of Lima became the first canonized saint of the Americas. Remembered for her combination of prayer and love for the poor, she only lived 31 years, spending the second half of her life as a Dominican. Her country, Perú, has an Edmund Rice Network including four Christian Brothers communities, two of these in Lima itself.

“Be prepared to ride the cycles and trends of life; success is never permanent, and failure is never final.”  (Brian Tracy)

Wednesday 22 August
THE QUEENSHIP OF MARY

This title for the mother of Jesus attempts to acknowledge her unique role in God’s plan. Though Queenship may not speak to a modern world, it remains strongly based in Catholic tradition, occurring in classic prayers and hymns like Salve Regina, Ave Regina Coelorum, and Regina Coeli. Perhaps in our time we can find new freshness in the metaphor by focusing on its unfolding meaning rather than its dated reference.

“You’re never as good as everyone tells you when you win, and you’re never as bad as they say when you lose.”  (Lou Holtz)

Tuesday 21 August
ST PIUS X

Pius X was a Pope who shared with Edmund a heart for the poor and compassion for the plight of poor people. This is the day he died, after eleven years in office.

“I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars.”  (Og Mandino)

Monday 20 August 2018
ST BERNARD

Bernard of Clairvaux, a leading figure in the history of monasticism, spent forty years as a monk. It was from this relatively peaceful state of life that he was called in to help settle controversy and strife in the Church. He became the first saint of the Cistercian Order. We could pray today for all who embrace the monastic life.

“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them to become what they are capable of being.”  (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

Sunday 19 August
SUNDAY and
WORLD HUMANITARIAN DAY

Being marked this year only for the tenth time, the UN-sponsored World Humanitarian Day commemorates the sacrifice of all who have spent or lost their lives responding to humanitarian crises. We are invited to bring to prayer the whole range of those who could be described as humanitarians, past and present, known and unknown to us, especially those who have made ‘the supreme sacrifice’ of their lives.

“Encourage one another. Many times a word of praise or thanks or appreciation or cheer has kept people on their feet.”  (Charles Swindoll)

Saturday 18 August
ST ALBERTO HURTADO

Chile’s second saint, Alberto Hurtado, was a Jesuit who lived in the first half of the 20th century. His energetic ministry to the poor of Chile focused especially on the needs of youth and on bringing the social teachings of the Church to oppressed workers. The questions and challenges he posed earned him labels from ruffled fellow Catholics. His practical sense of justice and his love for young people both have a clear resonance with Edmund Rice and his followers.

“Do it now. It is not safe to leave a generous feeling to the cooling influences of the world.”  (Thomas Guthrie)

Friday 17 August
MARCUS GARVEY

Commemorated on his birthday, Jamaican Marcus Garvey rose to prominence as a leader within the African diaspora. His vision was of a solidarity and unity that transcended boundaries and dispersion. Perhaps our prayer today might embrace that ideal, in our own ways and contexts.

“Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.”  (Joseph Campbell)

Thursday 16 August
GOZAN NO OKURIBI (DAIMONJI)

The culmination of the festival of Gozan No Okuribi in Kyoto, Japan, involves the synchronized lighting of five giant mountainside bonfires to mark the departure of visiting ancestral spirits. Perhaps, in solidarity with this particular honouring of ancestors’ role in our lives, we might remember and reverence our own ancestors on this day.

“There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them.”  (Denis Waitley)

Wednesday 15 August
FEAST OF THE ASSUMPTION OF MARY and
INDIA’S INDEPENDENCE DAY

The Assumption is the Jesus community’s understanding of what became of the very first Christian: that she was taken up into Christ’s state of fullness of life, as God’s promise of our destiny. It was on the feast of the Assumption that Edmund and his first Brothers made their first vowed commitment in 1808, and their permanent commitment the following year.

India today celebrates its independence as a nation, established in 1947. The Edmund Rice Network is very strongly represented in India – there are over two dozen communities of Christian Brothers around the country and a growing network of colleagues and associates and groups also taking their founding inspiration from Edmund Rice. Let us hold them all in our prayers on this day.

“The wise does at once what the fool does at last.”  (Baltasar Gracian)

Tuesday 14 August
ST MAXIMILIAN KOLBE

In the week after Edith Stein is remembered, comes the feast day of another Polish-born victim of Nazi madness: Maximilian died at Auschwitz just a year before her. A Franciscan priest, who had sheltered 2000 Jews at his friary as the Nazi persecution gathered force, he volunteered to take the place of a family man chosen to starve to death in the camp authorities’ petulant pouting about the apparent escape of a prisoner. He continued to celebrate the Eucharist in the death cell, and to maintain his inner peace, and finally died by injection, aged 47.

“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.”  (Paul Boese)

Monday 13 August 2018
INTERNATIONAL LEFT-HANDERS’ DAY

Lefthanders live in a predominantly right-handed world. Today is intended to raise awareness of this particular minority experience, one among many such.

“You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you.”  (Brian Tracy)

Sunday 12 August
19th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
INTERNATIONAL YOUTH DAY

This UN sponsored Youth Day has as its theme this year “Safe spaces for youth”. The Edmund Rice Network has over two centuries of experience of young people and dedicated involvement in the needs and strivings of youth. Though young people are always in our prayer, today’s international observance invites solidarity with youth globally.

“Take pride in what you do. The kind of pride I’m talking about is not the arrogant puffed-up kind; it’s just the whole idea of caring - fiercely caring.”  (Red Aurbach)

Saturday 11 August
ST CLARE OF ASSISI

St Clare’s story is intertwined with that of St Francis whose spirituality and ideals she embraced. It seems she was the first woman to write a Rule of Life for a congregation, a Rule whose radical demands she had to defend continually against the homogenizing pressures of Rome! Let us pray for her followers, known today as the Poor Clares.

“There are three hungers that people are trying to feed throughout their lives. The first is to connect deeply with the creative spirit of life. The second is to know and express your gifts and talents. The third is to know that our lives matter. Fulfillment comes from feeding these three hungers.”  (Richard Leider)

Friday 10 August
ST LAWRENCE

Lawrence of Rome was a 3rd century deacon whom Pope Sixtus II placed in charge of the administration of the Church’s goods and care for the poor, a very telling combination of responsibilities and a reminder of a thread of best practice running through the Church’s history. He followed Sixtus to martyrdom at age 33.

“Interruptions are divine assignments.”  (Regina Brett)

Thursday 9 August
INDIGENOUS DAY and
EDITH STEIN

Indigenous people, according to Wikipedia, “have historically formed and still currently form the minority/non-dominant sectors within majority-culture societies. The UN’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous People is an invitation to reflect on their aspirations and struggles.

Edith Stein, a philosopher, was born into a Jewish family, but became an atheist. She found Christianity through the autobiography of Teresa of Avila, and became a Carmelite. Moved by her Order to the Netherlands to escape the perveries of Hitler, she was nevertheless arrested as a Jewish convert and gassed at Auschwitz at the age of 50, a victim as much of the Holocaust as of the Christian opposition to the Nazis.

“Without a compelling cause, our employees are just putting in time. Their minds might be engaged, but their hearts are not. Meaning precedes motivation.”  (Lee J. Colan)

Wednesday 8 August
ST DOMINIC and
ST MARY MacKILLOP and
WORLD HAPPINESS DAY

Today Dominicans around the globe celebrate the feastday of their founder Dominic de Guzman, a great champion of truth and authenticity. His Order of Preachers took as its motto the words “to praise, to bless, to preach”. Today invites us to pray for all Dominican men and women, especially those to whom we have special reason to be grateful.

Mary MacKillop was formally recognized in October 2010 as Australia’s first Saint. Her fascinating story includes a crippling experience of excommunication (later lifted), the real ‘reason’ for which is becoming clearer – and more revealing – in our time. She founded the Sisters of St Joseph, or Josephites, who focused upon the education of the children of the poor, whom they followed to remote locations. Explore the story on the excellent website www.marymackillop.org.au

World Happiness Day is noted in www.betterworldcalendar.com as a day to celebrate happiness globally. Incidentally this site was founded to honour a young woman who was murdered seven years ago.

“Divide each difficulty into as many parts as is feasible and necessary to resolve it.”  (Rene Descardes)

Tuesday 7 August
FORGIVENESS DAY

Forgiveness Day is described as “a day to forgive and be forgiven … a chance to set things right”, to “put aside old differences, move beyond grievances and hurts and start afresh”. An interesting website on this theme is www.forgivenessalliance.org

“It’s not about time, it’s about choices. How are you spending your choices?”  (Beverly Adamo)

Monday 6 August 2018
NO-NUKES DAY (HIROSHIMA DAY) and
BOLIVIA’s NATIONAL DAY

Hiroshima was atom-bombed 71 years ago today. In a past message for this day on the website www.wagingpeace.org the President of the Nuclear Age Foundation, David Krieger, points out that “The world currently spends more than $1,5 trillion annually on weapons, war and the preparation for war, while spending only a small portion of this on efforts to meet human needs and achieve social justice” – a cameo negatively illustrating what Jesus meant by “the Kingdom of God”.

Bolivia is one of the Latin-American countries in which the Edmund Rice Network has a presence. See the Latin American Region’s website www.familiaedmundorice.org which frequently features the Christian Brothers community in Cochabamba.

“Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”  (Francis Chan)

Sunday 5 August
18th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
INTERNATIONAL BEER DAY

International Beer Day, only ten years old, comes as a reminder of the importance of relaxation and fun.

“People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.”  (Dale Carnegie)

Saturday 4 August
ST JOHN VIANNEY and
COOK ISLANDS: CONSTITUTION DAY

More correctly named Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney, this humble French parish-priest has become the much-loved patron of all priests. It is well known that he was a struggler academically, but he proved to have a particular gift for helping penitents open up in the confessional. His feast-day may prompt us to pray for all the priests in our lives.

The Cook Islands came on to the Christian Brothers’ map in 1976, eleven years after the establishment of self-government. Let us hold the islanders in our prayer as they honour their Constitution today.

“We must use time as a tool, not as a couch.”  (John F. Kennedy)

Friday 3 August
REMEMBERING NICODEMUS

John’s Gospel mentions Nicodemus in chapters 3, 7, and 19. He was a Pharisee who broke out of the straitjacket of complacent religious righteousness. What does his story have to say to those of us who have lived all our lives in a neat religious framework?

“Victory is much more meaningful when it comes not just from one person, but from the joint achievements of many.”  (Howard Schultz)

Thursday 2 August
Remembering SWISS NATIONAL DAY (yesterday)

Switzerland is on the Edmund Rice Network map because of the presence of our advocacy NGO, Edmund Rice International, in Geneva. See their website www.edmundriceinternational.org

“You are never a loser until you quit trying.”  (Mike Ditka)

Wednesday 1 August
ST ALPHONSUS LIGUORI

Alphonsus was an 18th Century Italian Priest (later made Bishop) with a special zeal for marginalized youth. In addition to this resonance with the Edmund Rice tradition, we had a Christian Brother from the same family – the late Dominic Liguori of South Africa. Let us keep in our prayer today the Congregation founded by Alphonsus, the Redemptorists.

“There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them.”  (Denis Waitley)

Tuesday 31 July
ST IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA

Ignatius, the name of the Spanish founder of the Society of Jesus, was chosen by Edmund Rice as a symbol of his vowed consecration to God as a Brother in 1808. We pray today in thanksgiving for the continued fruitfulness of that consecration, and we include in our prayers the Jesuits and other Ignatian groups around the world.

“Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake.  Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”  (Dr Martin Luther King)

Monday 30 July 2018
ST PETER CHRYSOLOGUS

Peter was a 5th Century Bishop known for brief inspired talks – hence the description ‘chrysologus’, golden-speech. Legend holds that his brevity came from a fear of boring his audience, a form of respect that many of us would appreciate, and a reminder that less is often more.

“Small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises.”  (Demosthenes)

Sunday 29 July
17th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
ST MARTHA

The two best known Gospel stories in which Martha appears are in Luke 10 and John 11. Christian spirituality has tended to caricature her as an over-busy workaholic whom Jesus had to chide. But closer examination of Luke’s story might find a more three-dimensional person: someone Jesus loved and appreciated and whom he invited to move beyond her comfort-zone into a fuller life. John’s story portrays a woman of strong faith, forthright and on close terms with Jesus – and it seems significant that on this occasion both Martha and Mary greet him with the same statement.

“Parents can only give good advice .but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands.”  (Ann Frank)

Saturday 28 July
PERÚ’S INDEPENDENCE DAY and
WORLD HEPATITIS DAY

The Edmund Rice Network was planted in Perú by the arrival of the Christian Brothers in 1967. There are about twenty Brothers there today, living in four communities: one in Chimbote, one in Moyabamba, and two in Lima (Canto Grande and Las Flores). Let us pray today for the members and ministry of the ERN in Perú.

Hepatitis Day aims to raise awareness of Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C, and encourage prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. These diseases affect 1 in 12 people. Left untreated, they can lead to serious and fatal diseases of the liver.

“Inspirations never go in for long engagements; they demand immediate marriage to action.”  (Brendan Francis)

Friday 27 July
STRESSDOWN DAY and
JULIUS CAESAR

From LifeLine Australia comes an invitation to consciously take note of the stress in our lives and to do something about it – even a token action like “wear your slippers, dress up or dress down”. See the dedicated website www.stressdown.org.au

The month of July was named in honour of Julius Caesar, whose birth-month it was. In Christian tradition Caesar has come to symbolize the claims of the state (“Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar…”), July might prompt us to pray for the legitimate needs and strivings of the states where we live or have our origins.

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently.”  (Warren Buffett)

Thursday 26 July
ST JOACHIM & ST ANNE and
LIBERIA’s INDEPENDENCE DAY

Nothing reliable is documented about the parents of Mary, mother of Jesus – even their names come to us only via legend. But however obscure they are, they were the couple who formed in Mary that receptive simplicity: “Be it done to me as you are saying”. So whatever their names were, let us join in the tradition of honouring them in our prayer today.

Liberia is on the Edmund Rice map because of the renewed presence of the Christian Brothers, who first came to that country in 1969. Uniquely founded and colonized by freed American slaves, Liberia became independent in the mid-19th Century. It has recently emerged from long years of political instability, with the forceful influence of a women’s peace movement. The country now boasts Africa’s first female head-of-state. Today let us support in our prayers the Brothers in Gbarnga and the growth of a new branch of the Edmund Rice Network around their presence. In a country where 85% of the population live on little more than a (US) dollar a day, the spirit of Edmund Rice must surely be needed.

“We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.”  (Dr Martin Luther King Jr)

Wednesday 25 July
ST JAMES

St James and his younger brother John, the sons of Zebedee, were among the first disciples to join Jesus, and were known as “sons of thunder”, possibly a reference to volatile temper or maybe just to energy. They were two of the three that Jesus chose to be with him on the occasion of what we now call ‘the Transfiguration’ and in the Garden of Gethsemane.

“I would rather attempt to do something great and fail than to attempt to do nothing and succeed.”  (Robert H. Schuller)

Tuesday 24 July
anticipating St CHRISTOPHER’S DAY tomorrow

Long popular as the traditional patron saint of safe travel, Christopher was – according to legend – particularly tall and strong, and took up a hermit’s challenge to serve Christ by transporting people safely across a river. Though he no longer features in our liturgical calendar, his story teaches us to use our personal abilities for the good of others knowing that whatever is done to our neighbour is as good as done to Christ.

“The future is not a result of choices among alternative paths offered by the present, but a place that is created - created first in the mind and will, created next in activity.  The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating.   The paths are not to be found, but made, and the activity of making them, changes both the maker and the destination.”  (Deborah James)

Monday 23 July 2018
ALL EARTH DAY

All Earth Day invites us to celebrate our connection with the earth by planting and gardening, or by symbolic ritual.

“The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavour.”  (Vince Lombardi)

Sunday 22 July
16th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

“The distance isn’t important; it is only the first step that is difficult.”  (Marie de Vichy-Chamrond)

Saturday 21 July
Anticipating ST MARY MAGDALENE (tomorrow)

Contemporary scholarship has subverted the popular notion of Mary Magdalene as a ‘great sinner’, telling us that the ‘casting out of seven demons’ was a reference to the curing of sickness. There is extravagant speculation about her role in the life of Jesus, but what seems clear is that she was part of his inner circle. She is even described in some early Christian writings as ‘the apostle to the apostles’, suggesting that her faith and insight strengthened that of other Christians. Significantly, all four Gospels identify her as the first disciple to encounter the risen Christ. Her place in the Scriptural accounts certainly poses a challenge to our notion of an all-male leadership of the earliest Church community! Her feastday might invite us to pray about the role of women in the Church today.

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”  (Maya Angelou)

Friday 20 July
FRIEND’S DAY (DÍA DEL AMIGO)

Friend’s Day, an initiative from Latin America, is an invitation to celebrate friendship today and to make contact with both close and neglected friends.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation … we are challenged to change ourselves.”  (Victor Frankel)

Thursday 19 July
HOTTEST/COLDEST MONTH

July is the hottest month of the year in the northern hemisphere and the coldest in the southern hemisphere – a reminder of balance and complementarity, of natural tensions and contrasts, and of opposites held together in interdependence.

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over again the kind of thought we wish to dominate our lives.”  (Henry David Thoreau)

Wednesday 18 July
MANDELA DAY

Officially recognized by the United Nations, this international day is an invitation to spend 67 minutes (or more) doing something good for others in honour of Nelson Mandela’s 67 years of service to humanity. Today would have been his 100th birthday. This global mobilization of local energy is something that will certainly resonate with members of the Edmund Rice community. See www.mandeladay.com or www.nelsonmandela.org/mandeladay for ideas and inspiration.

“No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see possibilities.  Always see them, for they are always there.”  (Norman Vincent Peale)

Tuesday 17 July
INTERNATIONAL JUSTICE DAY

International Justice Day honours the fact that in our time a long-needed International Criminal Court has come into being to address crimes against humanity, such as genocide and war crimes. Today focuses our support for this emerging contribution to a more just world. For information, look up this day on www.betterworldcalendar.com or google it for leads to short videos marking the event.

“If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror of your Soul be polished?”  (Rumi)

Monday 16 July 2018
OUR LADY OF MOUNT CARMEL

‘Our Lady of Mount Carmel’ is a title given to the mother of Jesus by the earliest Carmelites, who lived on Mount Carmel and saw her as ‘the lady of the place’. A day to pray for the Carmelites, especially those with whom we collaborate. Also a day to review the contemplative dimension of our lives in the light of Mary’s example.

“I believe in hard work. It keeps the wrinkles out of the mind and spirit.”  (Helena Rubinstein)

Sunday 15 July
15th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
ST BONAVENTURE

A Franciscan saint, Bonaventure was born in present-day Italy and became famed as a medieval scholastic theologian. His death - he was probably poisoned by power-mongering politicos at a Church Council – is a sobering reminder that the Church is full of you-know-what simply because human beings are. So perhaps this is a day to pray about the imperfections within our structures.

“Almost always the creative, dedicated minority has made the world better.”  (Martin Luther King Jr)

Saturday 14 July
BASTILLE DAY

A significant day in world history because the storming of the Bastille has become a reference point for symbolic acts of rebellion against oppression. We could pray today for all peoples caught in situations of oppression, striving to make their voices heard. And we could examine our own domestic and work situations in case there may be any unnoticed forms of oppression there.

“Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, they are the only ones who ever have.”  (Margaret Mead)

Friday 13 July
BAHAI FEAST OF KALIMAT (WORDS)

The feast of Kalimat, and the month it starts in the Bahai calendar, celebrates the creative power of God’s Word and invites us to water the seeds of this Word in our hearts.

“Change the changeable, accept the unchangeable, and remove yourself from the unacceptable.”  (Denis Waitley)

Thursday 12 July
SIMPLICITY DAY and
‘THE TWELFTH’ (NORTHERN IRELAND)

Simplicity Day is tied to the birthday of Henry David Thoreau, an early advocate of simplifying life: “As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler”. Voluntary simplicity encourages us to live with “ecological awareness, frugal consumption, and personal growth” – cf www.betterworldcalendar.com

‘The Twelfth’ is a sensitive day in Northern Ireland. Recalling the 1690 Battle of the Boyne fought near Drogheda, it became a day layered with confrontation and accompanying emotions. A day to pray for the deepening of healing of Ireland’s painful memories.

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.”  (Henry Ford)

Wednesday 11 July
ST BENEDICT and
WORLD POPULATION DAY

St Benedict of Nursia is known as the founder of western Christian monasticism. He founded a number of monasteries, but the Order that takes its name from him is actually a confederation of autonomous foundations sharing a common way of life. St Benedict’s ‘Rule’ is distinguished for its balance and reasonableness.

World Population Day is an initiative of the UN Development Programme. The ever-growing population of the world is now on the brink or reaching 7 billion people. UNFPA’s target is to “ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV, and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect”.

“You are the fruit of the thoughts you have planted and nourished. If you want a better harvest, you must plant better thoughts.”  (Robert Allen)

Tuesday 10 July
INTERNATIONAL HAPPINESS DAY and
SILENCE DAY

International Happiness Day is still in the process of being officially established – see www.happinessday.org – but it comes as a reminder of the challenge to courageously embrace happiness in our lives instead of passively waiting for better days and envying greener grass. As William Feather puts it: “Plenty of people miss their share of happiness, not because they never found it, but because they didn’t stop to enjoy it.”

Silence Day is a little-known tradition of the followers of the late Indian mystic Meher Baba. The details can easily be googled by anyone interested to know more, but the mere simple reminder is likely to have wider appeal. Silence is a little-cherished experience in today’s world – modern lifestyles almost seemed designed to shun it. Yet it remains an essential element for spiritual growth. Today might serve as an occasion to ask ourselves whether we give ourselves as much silence as we need to enable us to live with space for reflection, study, and prayer.

“What we focus on expands. If we focus on the problems in our lives, they tend to increase. If we focus on the good things we already have, they too, have a tendency to grow.”  (Michael Angier)

Monday 9 July 2018
OUR LADY OF PEACE and
ARGENTINA’S NATIONAL DAY

Our Lady of Peace, a less-celebrated title given to the mother of Jesus, is a reminder of our earth’s crying need for peace as some thirty serious conflicts rage around us.

On Argentina’s National Day, let us remember in our prayer all in the Edmund Rice Network in that country.

“If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.”  (Colin Powell)

Sunday 8 July
14th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
HIDDEN HEROISM

Do you remember the name Lisa Potts? Picking up on the abovementioned theme of unhyped heroism, today is also the 11th anniversary of that incident at a primary school in Wolverhampton, England, in which a disturbed individual wielding a machete wounded a number of children and adults. Lisa Potts was the injured teacher who put herself in further danger to protect her pupils. Not all heroism involves the drama of blood, but it is inspiring to notice its manifestations around us, not least within the Edmund Rice Network where – though we tend to play things low-key – there is no shortage of inspiring stories.

“You can do what you think you can do and you cannot do what you think you cannot do.”  (Ben Stein)

Saturday 7 July
EXTINCTION ALERT

Today is eleven years since the Western Black Rhinoceros was declared extinct due to poaching – another reminder of the need for conservation of the earth’s rich range of life species. Over the past century, the near-extinction of the African white rhino was successfully reversed by conservation efforts, but in the past few years there has been an alarming rise in poaching. In South Africa, where the great majority of white rhinos are found, the figures have risen from 13 killed in 2007, to 83 in 2008, to 122 in 2009, to 333 in 2010, and so on. Increasingly these killings are hi-tech international operations, and typically they involve the brutal hacking off of the animal’s horns (Spot the brute…) See the website www.SaveTheRhino.org

“Humor is an affirmation of dignity, a declaration of man's superiority to all that befalls him.”  (Romain Gary)

Friday 6 July
SAINT MARIA GORETTI and
BIRTHDAY OF THE CURRENT DALAI LAMA

Just over 100 years ago, eleven-year-old Maria Goretti was stabbed to death for resisting a rape attempt. The story of this obscure Italian peasant girl was highlighted when the Church canonized her as a martyr. But there are countless others whose heroic faithfulness to values goes unacknowledged; many of us have met such people. I once had the privilege of hearing a gang-rape survivor tell her story, which included (like Maria) a liberating decision to forgive. Today let us pray for all those whose hidden heroism – and wounds – we have come across or heard about, and for the gifts needed by those who are subject to any kind of abuse and intimidation.

The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism. Now semi-retired, the current (14th) Dalai Lama continues to be a voice of wisdom treasured by a world thirsting for spirituality.

“The amount you laugh in your relationships with others is the true measure of the health of your personality.”  (Brian Tracy)

Thursday 5 July
HELLO, DOLLY!

Today is the 21st anniversary of the cloning of Dolly, the world’s most famous sheep, cloned from an adult somatic cell. The occasion might call us to bring to prayer our hopes and concerns relating to the burgeoning of science and technology in our times.

“The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says it can't be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it.”  (Harry Emerson Fosdick)

Wednesday 4 July
USA’S INDEPENDENCE DAY

USA’s Fourth of July Independence Day tradition dates back to 1776. Let us include in our prayers today all who make up the Edmund Rice Network in the US – Christian Brothers, Presentation Brothers, and all the other Edmund Rice groups and communities that have grown up around them and the institutions that they founded.

“Freedom requires that we learn and put into practice the three R's - Respect, Responsibility and Restraint.”  (Fr Brian Cavanaugh TOR)

Tuesday 3 July
St THOMAS

The Apostle Thomas seems best remembered for the story of his doubts, told in John 20:24-29, which is usually read as the Gospel at Mass all around the globe on his feastday. Perhaps this is because doubt is part and parcel of thinking, so it is an experience with which all can identify. A wise saying (with a gospel template and tinge) encourages us: “You have been told not to doubt. But I tell you this: doubt, because it is doubt that will get you your education” (source forgotten). In our prayer today, perhaps we can bring our doubts into God’s presence, and express gratitude for the gift of doubt.

“Talent is what you possess; genius is what possesses you.”  (Malcolm Cowley)

Monday 2 July 2018
WORLD SPORTS JOURNALISTS DAY

Many of us derive great pleasure from faraway sporting events mediated to us by specialist journalists. Today is an occasion to give thanks for their work and to pray that good and life-giving values will be cultivated by sports and by the way they are covered in the media.

“If you look at what you have in life, you'll always have more. If you look at what you don't have in life, you'll never have enough.”  (Oprah Winfrey)

Sunday 1 July
13th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
CANADA DAY

On Canada’s national day, the Edmund Rice Network is invited to turn its thoughts and prayers to our colleagues living across – or coming from – the breadth of Canada, from Vancouver in the west to Newfoundland in the east.

“The value of a thing lies in the cost of attaining it.”  (David DeFord)

Saturday 30 June
HALF-WAY THROUGH THE YEAR

The year 2018 is already half over! A wake-up call for any slowness to real-ize plans and resolutions for the year, and a good moment to evaluate and to give thanks to the God of all time.

“Comfort and prosperity have never enriched the world as much as adversity.”  (Billy Graham)

Friday 29 June
SAINTS PETER & PAUL

Today commemorates two foundational leaders in the early Church’s story – the one a trusted companion of Jesus, the other a fiery turn-around case. Peter seems to have been a man of few words, while Paul gushed the full range from high poetry to hubris. Both were openly flawed human beings who depended on Christ to transcend their shortcomings. Their joint feastday invites today’s Christians to do the same.

“We are continually faced with great opportunities brilliantly  disguised as unsolvable problems.”  (Lee Lacocca)

Thursday 28 June
SAINT IRENAEUS

A disciple of a disciple of John the Evangelist, Irenaeus lived in the 2nd Century, only two generations apart from Jesus. His championing of orderly authority in the early Church reminds us of the need for caution amidst an ever-present babble of claims to speak for God.

“It is a gift to be able to paint a particular picture or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look. To affect the quality of the day - that is the highest of the arts.”  (Henry David Thoreau)

Wednesday 27 June
FEASTDAY OF OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL HELP

This particular form of devotion to the mother of Jesus has its focus in a Byzantine icon associated with the Redemptorists, and traditionally found in Christian Brothers’ houses all around the world as an expression of gratitude. More info on www.newadvent.org or Wikipedia.

“You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you have truly lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love.”  (Henry Drummond)

Tuesday 26 June
END TORTURE DAY

The International Day in Support of Victims of Torture also falls today. It is described by Kofi Annan as “a day on which we pay our respects to those who have endured the unimaginable” and “an occasion for the world to speak up against the unspeakable”. One website that highlights the continuing reality of torture in our times is www.torturecare.org.uk

 “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”  (Wayne Dyer)

Monday 25 June 2018
Anticipating END DRUG-ABUSE DAY (tomorrow)

It is estimated that about 200 million people use illicit drugs. Movies and the media keep telling us of the human destruction involved, including the associated violence and intimidation. The International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking invites us to bring this global problem into our prayer.

“Fear fades when facts are faced.”  (Frank Tyger)

Sunday 24 June
BIRTH OF JOHN THE BAPTIST

John the Baptist remains a great model of authenticity: he consistently pointed to Christ and avoided the trap of using his drawing-power to build a cult of his own. In our prayer today, we might deepen our alertness to the perennial tendency for ministry to become an end in itself, for institutions to become self-serving, and for founding purposes to become hijacked by other agendas.

“You can't shake hands with a clenched fist.”  (Indira Gandhi)

Saturday 23 June
UNITED NATIONS PUBLIC SERVICE DAY and
SACRED HEART OF JESUS

Recognising “that democracy and successful governance are built on the foundation of a competent civil service”, the UN set up this day “to commend and to encourage exemplary public service”. The associated awards underline “the values of teamwork, innovation, and responsiveness to the public”. A day to pray for all those who work in the public service.

June is traditionally the special month associated with the enduring devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Though some of its expressions can by quite syrupy, even these are a code for faith in a God who is warmly loving, as experienced in the humanity of Jesus. June happens also to be the month of the rose, popular culture’s symbol of love.

“Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him, and to let him know that you trust him.”  (Booker T. Washington)

Friday 22 June
INTERFAITH DAY and
ST THOMAS MORE & ST JOHN FISHER

Interfaith Day turns our attention to the richness of humanity’s spiritual traditions. There has been an observable movement from yesteryear’s ‘tolerance’ to our time’s growing spirit of mutual appreciation and respect for diversity. For the Edmund Rice Network, this reflects an openness to ‘a bigger God’ and a determined effort to avoid fashioning God in our own image.

St John Fisher and Thomas More, canonized together, were two 15th/16th Century Englishmen – the first a lawyer and statesman, the second a Bishop – who stood up for the truth without compromise, at the cost of their lives. Their stories are well covered on the web’s Wikipedia.

“You will never find time for anything. If you want time you must make it.”  (Charles Buxton)

Thursday 21 June
WORLD MUSIC DAY and
ABORIGINAL DAY IN CANADA and
LONGEST/SHORTEST DAY OF THE YEAR

World Music Day celebrates the international language of music, sometimes called “the language of God”. Our prayer today might make a point of using music as a window into the divine that pervades our lives and our world.

Canada’s Aboriginal Day acknowledges the cultures and the contributions of this country’s First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people.

The Solstice brings us to the longest day of the Northern summer (Midsummer’s Day) and the shortest day of the Southern winter (Midwinter’s Day), and serves as a reminder of the oneness of our world with all its vast diversity.

“We cannot waste time. We can only waste ourselves.”  (George Matthew Adams)

Wednesday 20 June
WORLD REFUGEE DAY

Today draws our attention to the plight of the world’s 40 million uprooted people – see the website www.unhcr.org

“Holding on to anger, resentment and hurt only gives you tense muscles, a headache and a sore jaw from clenching your teeth. Forgiveness gives you back the laughter and the lightness in your life.”  (Joan Lunden)

Tuesday 19 June
NEVER-AGAIN DAY

Uruguay celebrates ‘Never Again’ Day, cueing the rest of humanity to identify what to put in the ‘never again’ category.

“All achievements, all earned riches, have their beginning in an idea.”  (Napoleon Hill)

Monday 18 June 2018
AUTISTIC PRIDE DAY and
WORLD PICNIC DAY

Autistic Pride Day is described as “a celebration of the neurodiversity of people in the autism spectrum”. It represents a shifting view of autism from disease to difference, and of autistic people as unique individuals rather than cases for treatment. For information you can look up the day in Wikipedia or see www.autistics.org

Picnic Day, one of the lighter World Days, reminds us to put some energy into upping the fun quotient in our lives, including our spiritual lives.

“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you're the pilot.”  (Michael Altshuler)

Sunday 17th June
11th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
WORLD DAY TO COMBAT DESERTIFICATION AND DROUGHT

Desertification and drought mean deterioration of land and water-sources, threatening the livelihood and security of people. This UN-sponsored day calls for the support of our awareness, prayer, and advocacy.

 “When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it - but all that had gone before.”  (Jacob Riis)

Saturday 16th June
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE AFRICAN CHILD

This Day of the African Child is pinned to the anniversary of the 1976 uprising of thousands of schoolchildren in Soweto, South Africa, in protest against the poor quality of the apartheid education offered them. The day, initiated by the OAU (Organisation of African Unity), calls attention to the many deprivations still suffered by African children, notably the dearth of opportunities for good education, a key ministry in which the Edmund Rice Network is involved in 8 African countries. The theme for 2018 is: “Conflict and crisis in Africa: protecting all Children’s Rights.”

“Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside them was superior to circumstance.”  (Bruce Barton)

Friday 15th June
GLOBAL WIND DAY and
WORLD ELDER ABUSE AWARENESS DAY

Wind is an alternative and renewable energy source. Today encourages the world community to participate in exploring and advancing the harnessing of this potential. For info about wind turbines, see www.globalwindday.org

Elder Abuse and neglect is a growing evil in a world of increasing longevity and fraying family fabric. Today invites us to solidarity & awareness in our prayer. See www.inpea.net/weaad.html

“The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance; it is the illusion of knowledge.”  (Daniel J. Boorstin)

Thursday 14th June
WORLD BLOOD DONOR DAY

World Blood Donor Day is an occasion for acknowledging the generosity of those who donate blood without reward in order to save lives. The theme this year is “Blood connects us all.” See www.who.int under Events.

“If you don't make mistakes, you're not working on hard enough problems. And that's a big mistake.”  (Frank Wilczek)

Wednesday 13th June
ST ANTHONY OF PADUA

This Portuguese-born Franciscan became famous for his gift of simple and convincing preaching. His canonization within a year of his death at age 36, remains a record. Today he is best known as the saint people turn to for help in recovering lost items – the story behind this practice may be read on www.americancatholic.org/features/anthony/0-86716-202-3_np.asp

“You are the fruit of the thoughts you have planted and nourished.  If you want a better harvest, you must plant better thoughts.”  (Robert Allen)

Tuesday 12th June
THE PHILIPPINES INDEPENDENCE DAY

The Philippines became part of the ERN map fairly recently. Today is an invitation to pray for the people of this nation and for a blessing on the ERN presence among them. See the website www.christianbrothers.com.au/erpm

 “What we focus on expands.  If we focus on the problems in our lives, they tend to increase.  If we focus on the good things we already have, they too, have a tendency to grow.”  (Michael Angier)

Monday 11th June 2018
St BARNABAS THE APOSTLE

Barnabas was one of the earliest Christians, travelling and working with St Paul. His feast-day reminds us of the inspirational power that the person of Jesus has exercised on generations of people who have been touched by his story.

“Divide each difficulty into as many parts as is feasible and necessary to resolve it.”  (Rene Descartes)

Sunday 10 June
10th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
83rd BIRTHDAY OF ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

The birthday of AA is an occasion to celebrate this great expression of the human spirit and its special contribution to the world’s spiritual heritage: the Twelve Steps. It’s a day to pray not only for alcoholics but for the expanding global understanding of addiction and all the healing-power flowing from this insight.

 “Common sense is genius dressed up in work clothes.”  (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Saturday 9 June
ST COLUMBA OF IONA and
INTERNATIONAL ARCHIVES DAY

St Columba is one of Ireland’s three patron saints (along with Patrick and Brigid), so Irish missionaries have carried his name around the globe. A day for giving thanks for all the spiritual richness that the Edmund Rice Network has inherited from its Irish origins, and for praying for the Irish people and for all who work under the banner of the names Columba and Iona.

Archives play a largely-hidden and only-occasionally-appreciated role in preserving the memory of humankind’s range of cultures. This day raises our awareness of that valuable role.

“You must master your time rather than becoming a slave to the constant flow of events and demands on your time. And you must organize your life to achieve balance, harmony, and inner peace.”  (Brian Tracy)

Friday 8 June
WORLD OCEANS DAY and
SOLEMNITY OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS

World Oceans Day is a UN day celebrating the world’s oceans. The focus for 2018 is to prevent plastic pollution and encourage solutions for a healthy ocean. Look it up on Wikipedia or on www.worldoceansday.org

The Sacred Heart of Jesus is a way of speaking about the warmth of God’s love, as expressed in the loving humanity of Jesus. The message of this traditional Catholic ‘devotion’ remains a challenge to our images of God, so often tainted by harsh and negative experiences of authority-figures.

“Discipline is just choosing between what you want now and what you want most.”  (author unknown)

Thursday 7 June
TRADITIONAL MONTH OF THE SACRED HEART

Some of the artwork depicting the Sacred Heart may be seen as dated and crudely literal. But the traditional ‘devotion’ to the Sacred Heart offers a reminder that is as pertinent today as it was in its heyday: it portrays the warmth of God’s love and the humanness with which God comes across to us in the person of Jesus. Perhaps you may like to focus on these qualities in your prayer today and during this month.

“The very best thing you can do for the whole world is to make the most of yourself.”  (Wallace Wattles)

Wednesday 6 June
ST MARCELLIN CHAMPAGNAT

The founder of the Marist Brothers, is celebrated around this date. So let’s hold up in our prayer the world’s 4 500+ Marist Brothers and their 40 000+ associates together with the 700 000+ young people they currently serve in Marist schools and projects. The Marist website is www.champagnat.org – and for a focus on the Marist vocation see www.maristbr.com

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  (Albert Einstein)

Tuesday 5 June
WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY

World Environment Day is an annual day to raise global awareness of the need to take positive and proactive steps to protect and respect our global environment. The theme this year is: “Beat plastic pollution” with the accompanying slogan: “If you can’t reuse it, refuse it”. See the website www.worldenvironmentday.global

"I hear: I forget. I see: I remember. I do: I understand."  (Chinese Proverb)

Monday 4 June 2018
TONGA’s NATIONAL DAY and
DAY OF CHILD VICTIMS OF AGGRESSION

An archipelago of about 150 islands, fewer than a third of them inhabited, Tonga is the Pacific’s only monarchy. This Polynesian nation – which can be looked up on www.state.gov – came on to the ERN map in 1983.

The UN’s International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression invites us to turn our eyes to children endangered by wars, notably in the Middle East and Africa, and to hold them in our prayer.

“If you are lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it.”  (John Irving)

Sunday 3rd June
CORPUS CHRISTI SUNDAY and
ST CHARLES LWANGA & COMPANIONS

Charles was a Catechist in present-day Uganda. He and a number of boys and men he had baptized were murdered for adhering to their Christian faith and refusing to co-operate with the lust and political paranoia of their king.

“Happiness is a choice that I can make no matter how grim circumstances might seem.  The joy of being alive is always attainable at some level.”  (Patti Pansa)

Saturday 2nd June
ITALY’S FESTIVAL OF THE REPUBLIC

A day to keep in prayer the people of Italy and the presence of the Edmund Rice Network in Rome in the form of the community and team at Via Marcantonio Colonna. Next week, the Christian Brothers’ leaders from all around the world will be gathering in Rome for a meeting – the support of your prayers would be appreciated.

“Set higher standards for you own performance than anyone around you, and it won’t matter whether you have a tough boss or an easy one. It won’t matter whether the competition is pushing you hard, because you'll be competing with yourself.”  (Rick Pitino)

Friday 1st June
EDMUND RICE’s BIRTHDAY and
INTERNATIONAL CHILDREN’S DAY

On this day 256 years ago, Edmund Rice was born. The life that came into the world on that day is still with us, in the hearts of thousands of his followers today, including his Presentation and Christian Brothers. His story and other resources related to the man can be found under the Edmund Rice button, top right on our home page.

Though children have various days devoted to them, nationally and internationally, this date has been honoured in many countries for the past 94 years. Maybe it can serve as an invitation to link up with our own Child Rights advocacy unit in Geneva – www.edmundriceinternational.org – and become part of our corporate force for positive change. Children have always been a central focus of ministries associated with Edmund Rice, so the fact that today is also his birthday seems poetic. Today’s occasion might invite us to bring into our prayer those child-needs closest to our hearts.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the staircase.”  (Martin Luther King, Jr)

Thursday 31st May
FEAST OF THE VISITATION and
WORLD NO-TOBACCO DAY

The story of Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth while both were pregnant, is told in Luke 1:39-56, and includes the beautiful prayer that has come to be known as The Magnificat. No surprise that Luke tells this story because his gospel is particularly aware of the women in the life of Jesus and is also careful to note the counter-cultural attitude with which Jesus approached women.

World No-Tobacco Day, promoted by the World Health Organisation, is concerned not just about the health-hazards of tobacco but about its calculated promotion among the most vulnerable sectors of society. See the website www.who.int/tobacco

“Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.”  (Brian Tracy)

Wednesday 30th May
ST JOAN OF ARC

The story of Jeanne d’Arc is well-known. Not so well-known is the fact that she was only 19 when she was burnt at the stake by a Church court. 25 years later, the Pope recognised her innocence and named her a martyr. Who are today’s Joans whose worth will only emerge clearly years after they are crushed by the agendas of today’s establishment?

“Power is the faculty or capacity to act, the strength and potency to accomplish something. It is the vital energy to make choices and decisions. It also includes the capacity to overcome deeply embedded habits and to cultivate higher, more effective ones.”  (Stephen Covey)

Tuesday 29th May
FEAST OF BLESSED JOSEPH GERARD and
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF UN PEACEKEEPERS and
WORLD M.S. DAY

Blessed Joseph Gerard is specially remembered in the tiny mountain-kingdom of Lesotho where he helped to plant Christian faith in people’s hearts. French born, he came to southern Africa at the age of 22 as an ‘OMI’ (member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate). In his 60 years of ministry, his gift for languages was a great asset. He is one of the better known missionaries, but the history of the Edmund Rice Network is full of people of comparable generosity and faith: Christian Brothers and Presentation Brothers who left all to be and share something of the Good News of Jesus with distant cultures, with all the risks involved. And today the ERN extends this spirit with its many forms of volunteerism.

International Day of UN Peacekeepers is described by the UN as “a day to pay tribute to all the men and women who have served and continue to serve in United Nations peacekeeping operations for their high level of professionalism, dedication, and courage and to honor the memory of those who have lost their lives in the cause of peace”.

Multiple Sclerosis Day calls our attention to the two million people in the world who suffer from this disease. See the website www.worldmsday.org

“First we form habits, then they form us. Conquer your bad habits or they will conquer you.”  (Rob Gilbert)

Monday 28th May 2018
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF ACTION FOR WOMEN’S HEALTH

The annual International Day for Women’s Health is a reminder of how many women remain marginalized, neglected, and abused – and a call to ‘be the change’ that we desire and be part of bringing it about. See the site www.usaid.gov for info.

“In essence, if we want to direct our lives, we must take control of our consistent actions. It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently.”  (Anthony Robbins)

Sunday 27 May
TRINITY SUNDAY and
ST AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY and
NOTHING-TO-FEAR DAY

St Augustine of Canterbury, a Benedictine, is credited as playing a foundational role in the English Church. His feast-day invites us to pray for all English Christians today and to remember those active in the Edmund Rice Network in that country.

Nothing-to-Fear Day - featured in www.betterworldcalendar.com – comes from the famous Roosevelt speech made on this day. Words to the effect of “Do not fear” appear (someone has counted) 365 times in the Bible: clearly this is something God wants us to build into our spirituality.

“Where many people go wrong in trying to reach their goals is in constantly looking for the big hit, the home run, the magic answer that suddenly transforms their dreams into reality. The problem is that the big hit never comes without a great deal of little hits first. Success in most things comes not from some gigantic stroke of fate, but from simple, incremental progress.”  (Andrew Wood)

Saturday 26 May
FEAST OF ST PHILIP NERI and
SORRY DAY

St Philip Neri is remembered for his commonsense and cheerfulness: “A joyful heart”, he said, “is more easily made perfect than a downcast one”. Living in Italy in the 16th Century, he sensed that what was needed to influence society in his day was something different from the monastic model, so he founded the Oratorians, to whom we send greetings on his feastday.

Sorry Day is an Australian initiative “to express regret over the historical mistreatment of Aboriginal peoples”. Many nations could take a cue from this gesture. And, on an interpersonal level, ‘sorry’ may well be one of the most important words needed in our vocabulary.

“Every day do something that will inch you closer to a better tomorrow.”  (Doug Firebaugh)

Friday 25 May
AFRICA DAY and
start of a WEEK OF SOLIDARITY and
INTERNATIONAL MISSING CHILDREN’S DAY

Africa Day is a reminder of all there is to celebrate about Africa. Though Africa’s very real problems receive much exposure, it also has a wealth of beauty that the average tourist only skim-reads. The Edmund Rice Network around Africa is privileged to experience this beauty in powerful ways, and to share it with visitors from other parts of the network who come for immersion experiences or as volunteers. Let us pray today for the African ERN and the circles of people around them. For background to Africa Day, see the website www.africaday.info

The Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of non-Self-Governing Territories lasts till 31 May. It is an invitation to join the United Nations in “renewing the world’s commitment to supporting people aspiring towards independence while still living under colonialisation”.

Missing Children’s Day reminds us of children separated from their families, vulnerable and in danger. A good website for raising awareness is www.icmec.org

“You can tell a man is clever by his answers. You can tell a man is wise by his questions.”  (Naguib Mahfouz)

Thursday 24 May
MARY HELP OF CHRISTIANS

The feastday of Mary Help of Christians, a simple way of appreciating Mary, was formalized nearly two centuries ago, and has been popularized by Don Bosco and his Salesian followers around the world. The feast comes as a reminder that the month of May is traditionally devoted to the mother of Jesus.

“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.”  (Carl Sandburg)

Wednesday 23 May
WORLD TURTLE DAY

A day intended to increase our respect for turtles and tortoises and encourage action to help the world’s oldest creature to survive. “These gentle creatures have been around for about 200 million years, yet they are now rapidly disappearing”, comments one website. Their situation dramatizes the interconnection of all things and the vital importance of ecological awareness as a facet of healthy human spirituality.

“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies within us while we live.”  (Norman Cousins)

Tuesday 22 May
INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY

The theme for this year’s UN Day for Biological Diversity is “Celebrating 25 Years of Action for Biodiversity” – referring to the time since an international Convention came into force.

“Constant dripping hollows out a stone.”  (Lucretius)

Monday 21 May 2018
WORLD DAY FOR CULTURAL DIVERSITY FOR DIALOGUE & DEVELOPMENT

The long and unwieldy name of this Unesco-sponsored day, declared in the wake of 9/11, could be captured in the words ‘living together in harmony’. It is based on an appreciation of the world’s cultural richness as part of “the common heritage of humanity”, a diversity as necessary as bio-diversity. The declaration - which can be read on the site www.unesco.org – contains good material for reflection and prayer.

“Everything that happens to us leaves some trace behind; everything contributes imperceptibly to make us what we are.”  (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

Sunday 20 May
PENTECOST SUNDAY and
EAST TIMOR’S INDEPENDENCE DAY

Sometimes called Independence Restoration Day, because having declared itself independent of Portugal in 1975, Timor L’Este was quickly occupied by Indonesia, until 2002. The country, 400 miles north-west of Darwin, Australia, is linked into Oceania’s Edmund Rice Network, and features from time to time on our Oceania website www.edmundrice.org

“Do not think of your faults, still less of other's faults; look for what is good and strong and try to imitate it. Your faults will drop off, like dead leaves, when their time comes.”  (John Ruskin)

Saturday 19 May
SMILE MONTH

May is Smile Month in the UK. This simple form of non-verbal communications, enabling a heart-to-heart connection between people, even strangers, has a spiritual depth that is indeed worthy of celebration.

“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”  (Albert Einstein)

Friday 18 May
INTERNATIONAL MUSEUM DAY

This day celebrates the way museums honour cultural diversity and bio-diversity as “the common heritage of humanity”. This year’s theme: “Hyperconnected museums: new approaches, new publics”. See the site www.icom.museum

“We are all inventors, each sailing out on a voyage of discovery, guided each by a private chart, of which there is no duplicate. The world is all gates, all opportunities.”  (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Thursday 17 May
WORLD TELECOMMUNICATION & INFORMATION SOCIETY DAY and
WORLD HYPERTENSION DAY

Telecommunications Day highlights the wonderful possibilities of digital communication, and points to the digital divide as a structural disadvantage needing to be addressed.

Hypertension Day draws attention to ‘the silent killer’, high blood pressure, which causes 7 million deaths a year among its 1,5 billion sufferers. See the site www.worldhypertensionleague.org for simple and well-presented information about the disease.

“Have the nerve to go into unexplored territory. Be brave enough to live life creatively.”  (Alan Alda)

Wednesday 16 May
NATIONAL DAY OF SOUTHERN SUDAN

Africa’s newest nation, landlocked South Sudan, celebrates today as a national day.

“The rung of a ladder was never meant to rest upon, but only to hold a man's foot long enough to enable him to put the other somewhat higher.”  (Thomas Henry Huxley)

Tuesday 15 May
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF FAMILIES and
PARAGUAY’S INDEPENDENCE DAY

Families are such a big part of our reality and ministry that it is easy to build prayer around them. This year the particular theme of this UN-sponsored day is “Families and inclusive societies”.

Paraguay is on the Edmund Rice map because of the Christian Brothers’ community, associates, and ministries in the capital, Asunción. We pray today for the people of Paraguay and in thanksgiving for all who minister there in the spirit of Edmund Rice.

“Being honest may not get you a lot of friends but it’ll always get you the right ones.” (John Lennon)

Monday 14 May 2018
ST MATTHIAS THE APOSTLE and
LIBERIA’S NATIONAL UNIFICATION DAY

Matthias was the one chosen to replace Judas. The process involved an illuminating prayer: “Lord, you can read everyone’s heart; show us therefore which of these you have chosen to take over this ministry”. Let us pray that we approach all selection for ministry from this angle.

Liberia, Africa’s first republic, is on the Edmund Rice map because of the renewed presence of the Christian Brothers and the plans to extend projects there.

“Anyone can find the dirt in someone. Be the one that finds the gold.”  (Proverbs 11:27)

Sunday 13 May
7th SUNDAY OF EASTER and
OUR LADY OF FATIMA

Fatima was the site of a celebrated series of apparitions of Mary in 1917, the central message of which was penance. These appearances occurred on the 13th day of six consecutive months, commencing on 13 May.

“The pessimist borrows trouble; the optimists lend encouragement.”  (William Arthur Ward)

Saturday 12 May
INTERNATIONAL NURSES DAY

Pinned to the birthday of Florence Nightingale, Nurses Day honours all those in the nursing profession, and to remember with gratitude the key role they play, often in the shadows of their higher-profile partners in the medical profession.

“Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are.”  (Malcolm Forbes)

Friday 11 May
TECHNOLOGY DAY

Taking a cue from India which celebrates today as Technology Day, we might hold in our prayers today all the blessings of the technology upon which we depend in so many ways, and those responsible for developing it.

“Take pride in how far you’ve come. Have faith in how far you can go. But don’t forget to enjoy the journey.”  (Michael Josephson)

Thursday 10 May
ST DAMIEN OF MOLOKAI

19th century Belgian missionary Father Damien devoted himself to an island colony of lepers in Hawaii and died of the disease himself. As the patron of outcasts, he has a special connection to the Edmund Rice Network’s focus on marginalized people.

“Miracles never cease to amaze me. I expect them, but their consistent arrival is always delightful to experience.”  (Mark Victor Hansen)

Wednesday 9 May
anticipating WORLD LUPUS DAY (tomorrow)

Lupus is an auto-immune disease that affects over five million people worldwide. Each year there are over 100 000 new diagnoses among young people. To call for greater awareness and research-funding for this relatively neglected disease, a world day was instituted in 2004. See the website www.worldlupusday.org

“Embrace and love your body. It’s the most amazing thing you will ever own.”  (source unknown)

Tuesday 8 May
Julian of Norwich

Little is known about the life of Julian of Norwich, the English mystic, but her writings are being newly celebrated in our time. She believed in a compassionate motherly God with no trace of wrath and with an understanding of sin as the naïve mistakes we make as we learn.

“He who would learn to fly one day, must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.”  (Nietzsche)

Monday 7 May 2018
WORLD AIDS ORPHANS DAY

The website www.worldaidsorphans.org tells us that over 15 million children have been orphaned by AIDS and that fewer than 10% of these receive any external support. The shocking reality of child-headed households is something that members of the Edmund Rice Network come across in disadvantaged countries across the globe. Today is an awareness-raiser for us all.

“You can become an even more excellent person by constantly setting higher and higher standards for yourself and then by doing everything possible to live up to those standards.”  (Brian Tracy)

Sunday 6 May
6th SUNDAY OF EASTER SEASON and
ST DOMINIC SAVIO

14-years-old when he died of an illness, Dominic Savio is the youngest non-martyr to be named a Saint. He was a student of Don Bosco, who wrote his life story.

“The strength of any weakness within us is the degree to which it is feared.”  (Guy Finley)

Saturday 5 May
EDMUND RICE DAY and
WORLD ASTHMA DAY

This website offers a rich collection of resources useful in preparing prayer for this day. Click EDMUND RICE in the list of buttons at the top of the page and explore.

World Asthma Day is an occasion to pray for those who carry the burden of this condition, especially those who have inadequate access to treatment. For information see the website www.thecochrainelibrary.com and click World Asthma Day on the Home Page.

“Almost always the creative, dedicated minority has made the world better.”  (Martin Luther King Jr)

Friday 4 May
INTERNATIONAL FIREFIGHTERS DAY and
BUDDHA DAY

The dangerous profession of firefighting is honoured on the feastday of their traditional patron saint, St Florian, and symbolized by the popular emblem of a red and blue ribbon.

The annual celebration of the birthday, enlightenment, and death of the Buddha over 2500 years ago, is a good occasion to pray for and in appreciation of all our Buddhist sisters and brothers.

“It is our choices... that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”  (J. K. Rowling)

Thursday 3 May
SAINTS PHILIP & JAMES and
WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY

One way of marking the feastday of the Apostles Philip & James would be to ponder Scriptures specifically related to them:
•    the words of Jesus to Philip: “To have seen me is to have seen the Father… I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (from today’s Gospel, Jn 14 : 6-14)
•    something from the letter of James, such as his words about talk in Chapter 3.

World Press Freedom Day is a reminder of a blessing taken for granted where it is well-established, but still yearned for in other countries where the lack of press freedom remains a huge obstacle to transparency and justice. For a recent world review, google WAN/Press Freedom Review, and for other awareness-raising information see the website www.wan.ifra.org and scroll down to Press Freedom.

“If you have an ability that goes beyond just providing for your own needs, you must use that ability to reach down and lift up those who do not have that ability.  Because if you don’t do that, then the day will come when they’re going to reach up and pull you down by sheer weight of numbers.”  (Coach Joby Harris)

Wednesday 2 May
LAST DAY OF RIDVÁN

Ridván is the chief festival of the Bahá’í faith. The word means paradise. The final day is one of those that is specially observed in this twelve-day festival.

“There is nothing which persevering effort and unceasing and diligent care cannot overcome.”  (Seneca)

Tuesday 1 May
INTERNATIONAL WORKERS’ DAY and ST JOSEPH THE WORKER

May Day has long been a focus point for awareness of the vulnerability of workers across the globe. It has become a public holiday in many countries, and been baptized as ‘St Joseph the Worker’. It prompts us to pay attention to the conditions of workers within our sphere and beyond.

“Vision is the art of seeing the invisible.”  (Jonathan Swift)

Monday 30 April 2018
WORLD VETERINARY DAY

Today is the 257th anniversary of the Veterinary profession and of Veterinary education. Many of us have reason to be grateful to Veterinary professionals for their skills and compassion.

“Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.”  (John Quincy Adams)

Sunday 29 April
5th SUNDAY OF EASTER SEASON and
ST CATHERINE OF SIENA

Catherine of Siena, the extraordinarily famous Dominican saint, lived only 33 years. It is difficult to get a clear impression of her as one has to wade through the excesses of hagiography, but she comes across as a saint for our times because of her forthright and fearless call for reform of what had gone wrong in the Church. Today’s feast prompts us to pray for the courage and listening needed to respond to the crises the Church is experiencing in our time.

“You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically, to say ‘no’ to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside. The enemy of the ‘best’ is often the ‘good’.”  (Stephen Covey)

Saturday 28 April
WORLD DAY FOR SAFETY & HEALTH AT WORK

Every year two million people die of work-related causes – one-sixth of these involve accidents at work, and the rest involve illnesses arising from work. The conviction that these deaths are preventable stands behind this day of awareness, prayer, and action. See the website www.ilo.org and click 28 April on the calendar.

“A lot of what we ascribe to luck is not luck at all. It's seizing the day and accepting responsibility for your future.”  (Howard Schultz)

Friday 27 April
SIERRA LEONE: REPUBLIC DAY  and  SOUTH AFRICA: FREEDOM DAY

A day to pray for the Edmund Rice Network in Sierra Leone and South Africa. The Christian Brothers have eight communities in Sierra Leone (with another three in other West African countries), and five in South Africa (with a sixth in neighbouring Zimbabwe) and also one ERN community in Cape Town. Growing up around these is a collection of active groups – of young people particularly – who take their inspiration from Edmund Rice.

“There are risks and costs to a plan of action. But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.”  (John F. Kennedy)

Thursday 26 April
WORLD INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY DAY

World Intellectual Property Day exists to reinforce awareness of justice in an area where looseness is commonplace. See the website www.wipo.int > click World IP Day.

“In the middle of every difficulty comes opportunity.”  (Albert Einstein)

Wednesday 25 April
ANZAC DAY in Australia and New Zealand

Anzac Day is the occasion for remembering the sacrifices of those Australians and New Zealanders who died in war. It falls on the anniversary of Gallipoli, the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during World War I.

“The happiness of most people we know is not ruined by great catastrophes or fatal errors, but by the repetition of slowly destructive little things.”  (Ernest Dimnet)

Tuesday 24 April
anticipating WORLD MALARIA DAY tomorrow

World Malaria Day, being observed only for the eighth time, focuses co-operative effort to control a disease that kills a million people every year, mostly in Africa. See the websites www.worldmalariaday.org and www.rollbackmalaria/worldmalariaday

“Being negative is easy. There will always be a downside to everything good, a hurdle to everything desirable, a con to every pro. The real courage is in finding the good in what you have, the opportunities in every hurdle, the pros in every con.”  (Carolyn Hax)

Monday 23 April 2018
ST GEORGE’S DAY and
WORLD BOOK & COPYRIGHT DAY

St George is famed for slaying a dragon that barred people’s access to water except at the cost of daily human sacrifices. The classic symbolism of this story invites us to identify the dragons, water, and violence inherent in our contemporary situations. St George is England’s patron saint: on this unofficial English national day, let us hold up the Edmund Rice Network in England.

World Book and Copyright Day is a special occasion for appreciating books, their authors, the need to honour copyright, and the blessing of being able to read. The day was chosen because it marks the death or birth of a host of great writers including Cervantes and Shakespeare. See the website www.worldbookday.com

“Be careful the environment you choose for it will shape you; be careful the friends you choose for you will become like them.”  (W. Clement Stone)

Sunday 22 April
4th SUNDAY OF EASTER SEASON and
INTERNATIONAL MOTHER EARTH DAY

Mother Earth Day urges the building of a healthy energy economy, and invites personal and group commitments to sustainability. A day galvanizing the solidarity of over a billion people in nearly 200 countries. See the website www.un.org/en/events/motherearthday for engaging information.

“Prosperity is a way of living and thinking, and not just money or things. Poverty is a way of living and thinking, and not just a lack of money or things.”  (Eric Butterworth)

Saturday 21 April
ROME’s BIRTHDAY

Rome’s birthday is a good occasion to remember with gratitude the Christian Brothers community in ‘the eternal city’, including the itinerant Congregation Leadership Team.

“Don’t worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition.”  (Abraham Lincoln)

Friday 20 April
RIDVÁN begins

Before sunset this evening, there begins the twelve days of Bahai’s greatest festival, Ridván. The name means ‘paradise’ and it arose from a garden experience. As we in the Edmund Rice Network strive to open ourselves to ‘a bigger God’, during these days let us join those of the Bahai faith in celebrating the festival’s awareness that ‘all the names of God are fully manifest in all things’.

“Life is an escalator: You can move forward or backward; you cannot remain still.”  (Patricia Russell-McCloud)

Thursday 19 April
ANNIVERSARY OF HISTORIC ANTI-VIETNAM-WAR PROTEST

On 19 April 1971 the Dewey Canyon week of peaceful protest against the war in Vietnam began. Organized by Vietnam Veterans Against the War, whose membership reached nearly 25 000 at the height of the war, it involved commemorating those who had died, publicly unmasking what was going on, and roundly rejecting the war in powerfully symbolic ways. A vivid example of advocacy – of people standing up courageously against propaganda and party-lines, whitewash and ‘spin’, and engaging what Ernest Hemingway termed our “built-in, indestructible crap-detectors”.

“Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.”  (Henry Ford)

Wednesday 18 April
ZIMBABWE’S INDEPENDENCE DAY

Zimbabwe celebrates today its 38th anniversary of independence. The Christian Brothers’ connection consists firstly of three Zimbabwean Brothers, secondly a boys’ high school (CBC Bulawayo) founded in 1954, thirdly a pair of attached communities serving in a variety of outreach initiatives, and lastly three decades of involvement (till 2010) in the Diocese’s deep-rural Embakwe Secondary School. Through the past half-century, the country has bumped through a succession of troubles, from which the Brothers and these schools have been far from exempt. We pray today for the suffering people of Zimbabwe, for our Zimbabwean-born Christian Brothers, and for the Brothers and others in the Edmund Rice Network ministering in Bulawayo.

“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.”  (Martin Luther King Jr)

Tuesday 17 April
WORLD HAEMOPHILIA DAY

One in a thousand people suffer from a bleeding disorder, but three-quarters of those affected receive little or no treatment. This awareness day calls upon the world to “close the gap” in terms of availability of treatments.

“If you focus on results, you will never change. If you focus on change, you will get results.”  (Jack Dixon)

Monday 16 April 2018
ST BERNADETTE OF LOURDES and
WORLD VOICE DAY

Bernadette was a young teenager at the time she experienced the 19th century apparitions of Mary in a grotto near an obscure French village. Today Lourdes is a major pilgrimage site, attracting some five million pilgrims a year, and second only to France’s capital Paris in its number of hotels. The message of the Lourdes tradition affirms authentic Christian faith by underlining the value of holistic healing.

World Voice Day, started in 2002, celebrates the human voice, a gift easily taken for granted.

“It’s not what you say out of your mouth that determines your life, it’s what you whisper to yourself that has the most power!”  (Robert T. Kiyosaki)

Sunday 15 April
3rd SUNDAY OF EASTER SEASON

“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”  (Marcus Aurelius)

Saturday 14 April
ANIMALS

April is known in some parts of the world as Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month, and in other parts as Pets are Wonderful Month. Those of us who have experienced animals as little sacraments of God understand what St Francis meant when he called them our little brothers and sisters. We might mark this month by praying in gratitude for the presence of animals in our lives, and by praying that animals will be treated with respect in all human decisions that affect them.

“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask.  Act! Action will delineate and define you.”  (Thomas Jefferson)

Friday 13 April
ST MARTIN I

Martin was a 7th century Pope who was imprisoned and horrifyingly abused, and eventually martyred, for standing up to the Emperor on a key matter of Christian faith. Remembering Martin might challenge us to examine where we need to stand up for what we believe and treasure.

“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.”  (Lou Holtz)

Thursday 12 April
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF HUMAN SPACE FLIGHT

Today is the 56th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s becoming the first human to be launched into space, and is now a relatively new UN Day (preceded by the less-formal Yuri’s Night). In marking the crossing of this frontier, the world acknowledges the way space exploration has opened up not just our scientific knowledge but our whole worldview.

“Small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises.”  (Demosthenes)

Wednesday 11 April
WORLD PARKINSON’S DAY

This day is intended to boost awareness of Parkinson’s Disease and “to spur new research and treatment innovations”. At this stage, it is difficult to diagnose accurately and there is no known cure. Wearing a red tulip is the customary symbol of support for those affected by the disease.

“When written in Chinese, the word 'crisis' is composed of two characters - one represents danger and the other represents opportunity.”  (John F. Kennedy)

Tuesday 10 April
TITANIC ANNIVERSARY

106 years ago today, the RMS Titanic left the port of Southampton for its first and only journey. It sank two and a half hours after hitting an iceberg in the early hours of 15 April, drowning over 1500 people in the icy North Atlantic. The story of how this icon of human prestige and technology was humiliated by human error, continues to capture the imagination and cause us to ponder. Today’s anniversary might remind us that we live in the midst of events/people/efforts whose significance will only come to be recognized afterwards - prayer is a time for sensing the significance of all that surrounds us in the present.

“Everyone makes mistakes. That’s why there is an eraser on every pencil.”  (Japanese proverb)

Monday 9 April 2018
anticipating WORLD CREATIVITY & INNOVATION WEEK

Sunday 15th April is the birthday of Leonardo da Vinci, and it is the start of a week described as “a celebration of our ability to get new ideas, use imagination, and make new decisions to make the world a better place and to make your place in the world better too”. Since it began in 2001, a great number of schools and communities have adopted it. See the website www.creativityday.org

“Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.”  (Oprah Winfrey)

Sunday 8 April
SUNDAY OF DIVINE MERCY and
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE ROMA

The call to treat Romanies with respect and compassion has come from many world leaders, including the late Pope John Paul II. An alternative culture and lifestyle is a challenge to our thinking, and today’s honouring of the Romani people asks mainstreamers to stop and think further.

“The difference between average people and achieving people is their perception of and response to failure.”  (Dr John Maxwell)

Saturday 7 April
ST JEAN-BAPTISTE DE LA SALLE

Honoured as the patron saint of teachers, De La Salle is regarded as the founder of the Catholic school. He founded the Brothers of the Christian Schools, sometimes called the De La Salle Brothers, and pioneered lay-teacher-formation. Undoubtedly he was a source of inspiration to Edmund Rice, but as Denis McLaughlin points out in his book THE PRICE OF FREEDOM, Edmund’s Christian Brothers were not an Irish branch of De La Salle’s Brothers (as certain agendas tried to distort things in the early history of the Christian Brothers). De La Salle’s innovative and wholistic educational thinking continues to provide inspiration – see www.lasalle.org – and we salute his Brothers and co-workers this week.

“Your living is determined not so much by what life brings you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.”  (Lewis L Dunnington)

Friday 6 April
anticipating WORLD HEALTH DAY tomorrow

The theme of this year’s World Health Day is “Universal health coverage: everyone, everywhere”. The World Health Organisation’s website – www.who.int/campaigns - calls for greater understanding of this very real disease, to lessen the stigma and encourage the seeking of help.

“Leaders are visionaries with a poorly developed sense of fear and no concept of the odds against them. They make the impossible happen.”  (Dr Robert Jarvik)

Thursday 5 April
ST VINCENT FERRER

Born in Fourteenth Century Spain, Vincent became a Dominican missionary who struggled with schism in the Church. Because of his efforts to build up the Church, he has become the patron saint of builders and is regarded as the natural patron of reconciliation. Spain also takes him as the patron saint of orphans.

“A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip and worried to death by a frown on the right man's brow.”  (Charles Browner)

Wednesday 4 April
INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR LANDMINE AWARENESS & ASSISTANCE

When this observance began thirteen years ago, there were 84 countries plagued by unexploded landmines, which were killing or maiming 15 000 to 20 000 people annually. The keeping of an annual day is an effort in the direction of ridding the earth of the filth of these perverted inventions, and undoing the paralysis they bring to development in affected territories. It is also a reminder of those who live with the fall-out that has resulted and continues to come from this disgrace to humanity.

“Be selective about your external influences. Your multi-dimensional brain is influenced by everything you see, hear, read, smell, touch, feel or say.”  (Brian Tracy)

Tuesday 3 April
AIR TRAVEL

This month marks an important date in air travel history because the first Boeing 737 made its maiden flight just over half a century ago on 9 April, and the first British-built Concorde 002 made its maiden flight on the same day two years later. We might use the occasion to express thanks for the blessings brought by plane travel, and to pray for the safety of all who take to the airways.

“Constantly ask yourself these questions: Who am I around? What are they doing to me? What have they got me reading? What have they got me saying? Where do they have me going? What do they have me thinking? And most important, what do they have me becoming? Then ask yourself the big question: Is that okay?”  (Jim Rohn)

Monday 2 April 2018
WORLD AUTISM DAY and
INTERNATIONAL CHILDREN’S BOOK DAY

Autism Day is a UN-sponsored occasion for raising awareness of a disorder that affects tens of millions and is too often left undiagnosed and misunderstood. See the website www.worldautismawarenessday.org

Children’s Book Day falls on the birthday of Hans Christian Andersen, the great writer of children’s stories. Reading, a window to a lifetime of joy and enlightenment and growth, begins most naturally in childhood. Which is why children’s books are so important, and why those who write, publish, and promote them have such a key role to play. Our prayer today might embrace appreciation as well as awareness-raising of our own potential contribution.

“When your heart speaks, take good notes.”  (Michael Angier)

Sunday 1 April
EASTER SUNDAY
and APRIL FOOLS DAY

Each year the surprise pranks of April Fools Day nudge us to stop taking life so over-seriously and to get in touch with our fun side and appreciate the leaven of humour, one of God’s least-sung gifts.

“The height of your accomplishments will equal the depth of your convictions.”  (William F. Scolavino)

Saturday 31 March
HOLY SATURDAY

Holy Saturday is the 40th day of Lent. The starkness is even more pronounced: the church is stripped, and until the celebration of Easter (sometimes anticipated by a few hours) there is no Mass. This blank and empty day, once known as ‘Black Saturday’, focuses on the blunt fact that Jesus was really dead, not just waiting in the wings to make a surprise reappearance. Perhaps it also points to the hollowness of death’s seeming power when experienced in the context of a God whose love knows no limits. This is where the night’s Easter Vigil Liturgy invites us, as its long series of readings spells out how Jesus’ Easter experience was “in accordance with the Scriptures”…

“Count the cost first. Don’t pay too big a price for pursuing minor values.”  (Jim Rohn)

Friday 30 March
GOOD FRIDAY
and DOCTORS DAY

There are many people who make their sole annual visit to a church on Good Friday. It is the only day of the year when there is no Mass celebrated at any time. The Liturgy is stark, and the fact that it includes Communion, separated from the celebration of Eucharist, seems an anomaly or perhaps a compromise. The starkness reminds us, with all the power of symbolism, that Jesus actually faced the reality of death with all its daunting loss of control and certainty. All that he could hold on to as he died was a gut-trust that even death could not bring an end to his experience of God’s love. He entered even this ultimate part of human experience so as to lead us into transcending death. We say in the Creed that he ‘descended into hell’: by joining those who had died before him, he began the process of freeing all of us from being held (‘helled’) by death.

The USA celebrates Doctors today, often using the symbol of a red carnation. Though India has its own Doctors’ Day on 1 July, most countries do not, so we might take the tip to pray for and express appreciation of our Doctors on this day.

“No true victory requires the sacrifice of our values.”  (David DeFord)

Thursday 29 March
HOLY THURSDAY

What came to be known as ‘the last supper’ implies that there were many such suppers. Given the background role assigned to women by the times and the culture, one can quite reasonably wonder now whether women were present – just as one can wonder whether lamb was served (and by whom) though the texts don’t mention it. One can wonder too why the beautiful symbolism of washing feet only ‘made it’ into the Liturgy once in the year. Though the evening’s Liturgy focuses on the supper, the same night holds another story: Gethsemane. The shadow that fell over the supper’s intimacy deepens into the darkness of a lonely Jesus agonizing over imminent death, enduring betrayal and arrest, and finding himself abandoned. In our prayer today, we might hold all these experiences together, as Jesus had to do on that night. And there is the richness of John’s extensive account of the night: he devotes all of five ‘chapters’ to the supper and another half chapter to the rest of the night.

“Neglect starts out as an infection then becomes a disease.”  (Jim Rohn)

Wednesday 28 March
NEW BEGINNINGS

March used to be the first month of the calendar year because in the northern hemisphere it brought Spring, the start of a new cycle. The floral emblem of March is the daffodil, herald of Spring. Before we leave this month behind, we might take up in our prayer the theme of new beginnings: the nurturing of whatever may be starting, about to be born, struggling into life…

“You can't solve a problem on the same level that it was created. You have to rise above it to the next level.”  (Albert Einstein)

Tuesday 27 March
WORLD THEATRE DAY

World Theatre Day celebrates the role and power of theatre in human society. It has a website – www.worldtheatreday.co – and a blog – www.worldtheatreday.org

“Don't wish it was easier, wish you were better. Don't wish for less problems, wish for more skills. Don't wish for less challenges, wish for more wisdom.”  (Jim Rohn)

Monday 26 March 2018
COURAGE

Courage, symbolized by the birthstones of March, Aquamarine and Bloodstone, might provide a theme for our prayer today. Against the forces of conformity and peer pressure, and the harshness of unjust structures and systems, courage is the key to the coming of God’s ‘kindom’ (as the non-sexist language has creatively translated the dream of Jesus).

“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you will help them become what they are capable of becoming.”  (Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe)

START OF HOLY WEEK

If you Google ‘Free Lenten Reflections’, you’ll find a wealth of other resources to enrich your observance of Holy Week. Here are a few selected samples:
•    www.creighton.edu – click on Ministry > Daily Reflections, or Weekly Guide for Prayer.
•    www.thereflection.vividas.com – click on ‘lenten booklet’ for a Lectio Divina resource.
•    www.franciscanradio.org – offering 90-second reflections both in audio and transcript form.

Sunday 25 March
PALM SUNDAY and
THE ANNUNCIATION

There is an old Christmas hymn that runs:

“The Virgin’s womb that burden gained,
its virgin honour still unstained.
The banners there of virtue glow;
God in his temple dwells below.”

The “below” idea is a lumpy metaphor, but one can swallow that. It is the notions about human sexuality that are appalling – the prissy ‘religious’ hang-ups about the body. The Incarnation was surely a celebration, not a denial, of human sexuality. And the traditional mystery of Virgin Birth is a pointer to the identity of Jesus; it is not about God viewing virginity as synonymous with “virtue” and human procreation as “stained” (or ‘maculate’). Here is a clue as to why so many people mistakenly link the Annunciation to the Immaculate Conception, which is meant to celebrate the beginning of Mary’s own life not the beginning of her motherhood. Today’s feast of the Annunciation invites our prayer to celebrate God’s gifts, notably God’s closeness to us in Christ.

“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.”  (May Sarton)

Saturday 24 March
ANNIVERSARY OF THE DEATH OF ARCHBISHOP ROMERO and
WORLD TUBERCULOSIS DAY

Archbishop Romero was assassinated on 24 March 1980, after denouncing violations of the human rights of the most vulnerable populations and defending the principles of protecting lives, promoting human dignity and opposition to all forms of violence.

Today is also a day raising awareness of the disease of Tuberculosis which is such a killer in parts of the developing world, and of efforts to eliminate it. See www.worldtbday.org

“Being challenged in life is inevitable, being defeated is optional.”  (Roger Crawford)

Friday 23 March
WORLD METEOROLOGICAL DAY

A day celebrating the World Meteorological Organisation’s 60+ years of service for our safety and well-being. Let’s remember with gratitude the scientists whose faithful monitoring of weather and climate gives us forewarning to brace for short-term extremes and to adjust behaviour-patterns affecting the long-term well-being of the earth community.

“Striving for perfection is the greatest stopper there is… It’s your excuse to yourself for not doing anything. Instead, strive for excellence, doing your best.”  (Sir Laurence Olivier)

Thursday 22 March
WORLD WATER DAY

The theme this year is ‘Nature for water’, prompting reflection on ‘how we can use nature to overcome the water challenges of the 21st century’. See www.worldwaterday.org

“Practice the body language of self-confidence. Stand tall and straight with your chin high and walk briskly. You will feel better and act better.”  (Brian Tracy)

Wednesday 21 March
WORLD DOWN SYNDROME DAY and
WORLD POETRY DAY and
INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE ELIMINATION OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION

World Down Syndrome Day is a day to pray for all families who include someone with Down Syndrome. See www.worlddownsyndromeday.org

World Poetry Day is a UNESCO initiative to promote the reading, writing, publishing, and teaching of poetry. Perhaps we could incorporate some poetry into our prayer today.

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, commemorating the infamous apartheid massacre in Sharpeville, South Africa, on 21 March 1960. The day challenges us to examine our racial stereotypes and prejudices, and invites us to celebrate racial diversity.

“Always know in your heart that you are far bigger than anything that can happen to you.”  (Dan Zadra)

Tuesday 20 March
St JOSEPH’S DAY and
anticipating WORLD FORESTRY DAY

Scripture portrays Joseph as a man who trusted the God of his dreams implicitly and deeply, taking on the role of foster-father to the child Jesus. Many in the ERN have found they relate to Joseph - a few because they are foster-parents themselves, but many more because they have in effect filled something of this role for children and teenagers. St Joseph and St Patrick are the traditional patrons of Christian Brothers Novitiates, and in this month of their feastdays, we pray for all Edmund Rice Novitiates around the globe.

World Forestry Day reminds us of the beauty and value of the world’s forests, so easily threatened and sacrificed for short-term gain. If there is a forest within range of you, this special day might invite you to visit it for a time of prayer – even as a community or group. Forests have been described as ‘God’s Cathedrals’ because of the spiritual resonance their multi-sense appeal invokes in us.

“He who reigns within himself and rules his passions, desires, and fears is more than a king.”  (John Milton)

Monday 19 March 2018
THE EQUINOX (19th/20th)

The equinox is a day when the season cycles of the two hemispheres intersect, and a reminder of the broader patterns and pictures which context and unite us, not just across the globe but in the infinite sphere of an all-embracing God who holds all in being.

“Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.”  (Hyman Rickover)

Sunday 11 March
4th SUNDAY OF LENT

“The highest reward for a man's toil is not what he gets for it, but what he becomes by it.”  (John Ruskin)

Saturday 10 March
MONTH OF MARCH and
COURAGE

This month is named after Mars, the god of war, perhaps because northern Spring was traditionally the time for military campaigns to begin. That armed conflicts and armed ‘forces’ have survived their 19th century sell-by date, is an embarrassing disgrace to contemporary humanity. That obese military budgets and the sale of arms for use against our world’s most vulnerable peoples should be a cog in our world’s economic machine, is one of the foul sins of our times. But that spiritual warfare has become even more a necessity in a time of such pervery, is self-evident and provides constant matter for our prayer.

The birthstones of the month of March, Aquamarine and Bloodstone, denote courage – once described as “fear that has said its prayers”. Our prayer at this time might turn to those matters in our lives, and in the area of contemporary spiritual warfare, that call for courage.

“I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”  (Helen Keller)

Friday 9 March
ST FRANCES OF ROME

Though Frances died as a Religious, she spent most of her years as a wife and mother whose trials and sufferings led her deeper and deeper into service, both in her home setting and beyond. In her later years she founded a lay order of women mainly living in ordinary family circumstances. Her life stands as a testament to the ordinary path of learning the wholeness that is known as holiness, hallowedness, sainthood.

“Do not stop thinking of life as an adventure. You have no security unless you live bravely, excitingly, imaginatively.”  (Eleanor Roosevelt)

Thursday 8 March
WORLD KIDNEY DAY and
WORLD WOMEN’S DAY and
ST JOHN OF GOD

The second Thursday of March is World Kidney Day, an occasion designed to enhance global health awareness. Our prayer today could focus on appreciation of good health, so easily taken for granted, and on those marginalized by chronic and intense dis-ease. A website to look up: www.worldkidneyday.org

International Women’s Day is being marked today for the 107th time. It’s a day for celebrating the achievements of women, but also for expressing solidarity with women who continue to experience discrimination in many cultures and situations – in the work-world, in law, in the church - in terms of opportunities, resources, and power. Look up the site: www.internationalwomensday.com

St John of God became transformed through his own traumatic experiences. Most notably, he was exposed to the rawness of a 16th century ‘madhouse’ when others misinterpreted the disorientation that accompanied his conversion. The outcome was a deep compassion for those on the margins of society. He expressed this through nursing the destitute and providing them with hospital facilities, leaving behind a congregation now popularly known as the John of God Brothers.

“One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of shore for a very long time.”  (Andre Gide)

Wednesday 7 March
ST PERPETUA & ST FELICITY

These two nursing mothers were martyred at the start of the 3rd century in what is now Tunisia. They are now among the few women mentioned in the Canon of the Mass. Perpetua was 22 and Felicitas, her slave, had given birth just two days before they were turned over to wild animals and then put to the sword. Their willingness to die in testifying to their faith is a reminder of a profound gift not-to-be-taken-for-granted.

“Growth is not steady, forward, upward progression.  It is instead a switchback trail; three steps forward, two back, one around the bushes, and a few simply standing, before another forward leap.”  (Dorothy Corkville Briggs)

Tuesday 6 March
GHANA’S INDEPENDENCE DAY

In 1957 Ghana was the first ‘black’ African country to become independent of a colonial power, becoming the forerunner in a movement that spread right across the continent of Africa. Today the ERN is represented in Ghana by several communities of Presentation Brothers and Christian Brothers, including two Novitiates.

“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”  (Will Rogers)

Monday 5 March 2018
THE APPROACH OF NORTHERN SPRING AND SOUTHERN AUTUMN

By this time of the year, most of the world (except places close to the equator or the poles) are picking up little signs of the coming of a change of season – our regular reminder that “all things are passing; only God is unchanging”. Perhaps reflecting on the current signs may help us get in touch prayerfully with the subtler changes we are undergoing at this time in our lives.

“Picture yourself vividly as winning and that alone will contribute immeasurably to success. Great living starts with a picture, held in your imagination, of what you would like to do or be.”  (Harry Emerson Fosdick)

Sunday 4 March
3rd SUNDAY OF LENT and
WORLD DAY OF THE FIGHT AGAINST SEXUAL EXPLOITATION

This World Day of the Fight against Sexual Exploitation is a little-established occasion with which the ERN can identify and whose concern we can bring to prayer, in solidarity with all who suffer from this evil. UNICEF estimates that over 3 million children are involved in prostitution around the world.

“Whenever we do what we can, we immediately can do more.”  (James Freeman Clarke)

Saturday 3 March
ST KATHARINE DREXEL

St Katharine Drexel, who lived from the mid-19th till the mid-20th century, became the second-ever American-born canonized saint. She dedicated her life and her family fortune to the needs of oppressed racial minorities in the USA – Native Americans and African-Americans – concentrating on the provision of education. She founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, over 60 missions and schools, and the only historically-Black University in the US, Xavier University of Louisiana.

“Growth is not steady, forward, upward progression.  It is instead a switchback trail; three steps forward, two back, one around the bushes, and a few simply standing, before another forward leap.”  (Dorothy Corkville Briggs)

Friday 2 March
ST JOSEPH’S MONTH and
WORLD DAY OF PRAYER

Traditionally March has been associated with Saint Joseph. Scripture portrays him as a man who trusted the God of his dreams implicitly and deeply, taking on the role of foster-father to the child Jesus. Many in the ERN have found they relate to Joseph - a few because they are foster-parents themselves, but many more because they have in effect filled something of this role for children and teenagers.

The first Friday of March has become established by Christian women across the globe as special day of prayer affirming “that prayer and action are inseparable and that both have immeasurable influence in the world” – a notion which the ERN will readily own. An internet reference is www.worlddayofprayer.net

“You are never given a wish without also being given the power to make it come true.”  (Richard Bach)

Thursday 1 March
INTERNATIONAL DEATH PENALTY ABOLITION DAY

More than two-thirds of the world’s countries have abolished the death penalty, but a chilling chart on www.amnesty.org/en/death-penalty shows how the practice persists around the globe, including a few countries where the Edmund Rice Network has a presence. Information about this world movement can be found by looking up www.hrea.org > Learning Centre > International Death Penalty Abolition Day.

“To believe in something not yet proved and to underwrite it with our lives: it is the only way we can leave the future open.”  (Lillian Smith)

Wednesday 28 February
RARE DISEASE DAY

Rare Disease Day, usually on the last day of February, is an awareness-raising occasion of interest to the ERN because it extends our concern to another part of the margins of society. The website www.rarediseaseday.org explains: “The rare disease patient is the orphan of health systems, often without diagnosis, without treatment, without research, therefore without reason to hope.”

“Everyone has the power for greatness, not for fame but for greatness, because greatness is determined by service.”  (Martin Luther King, Jr)

Tuesday 27 February
ST GABRIEL

Not the Archangel, but the mortal man. In fact mortality struck very early for this Italian Passionist seminarian – he died at 23 - and Gabriel has become a patron of all students, youth, and seminarians. His life is a reminder that sanctity is not always linked to venerable old age.

“You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.”  (Woodrow Wilson)

Monday 26 February 2018
First day of BAHÁ’Í FESTIVAL of AYYÁM-I-HÁ

The origin of this festival is complicated, but it has become known as the “Bahá’í Christmas” because it is a time of gift-giving, generosity, and goodwill, celebrating the oneness of God through the showing of love, fellowship, and unity.

“Greatness after all, in spite of its name, appears to be not so much a certain size as a certain quality in human lives. It may be present in lives whose range is very small.”  (Phillips Brooks)

Sunday 25 February
2nd SUNDAY OF LENT and
ST WALPURGA

St Walpurga was an 8th Century English nun who together with her uncle and two brothers became a missionary to the people of the Frankish Empire. She is believed to be the first female author in the history of both England and Germany. A day, perhaps, to celebrate with gratitude the initiatives of anyone whose drive has had a positive impact on our lives.

“The highest reward for a man's toil is not what he gets for it, but what he becomes by it.”  (John Ruskin)

Saturday 24 February
NATIONAL ARTIST DAY IN THAILAND

Thailand’s practice of having a special day to honour its distinguished artists is a reminder of the contribution of all artists to our society: through their insight, they share through different media such gifts as enlightenment, upliftment, vision, celebration, provocation, and challenge. This day could prompt us to pray for all artists who, without even meeting us, have affected and enriched us.

“Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”  (Martin Luther King, Jr)

Friday 23 February
WORLD ISLAM DAY

Timed to celebrate the completion of the Islamic faith, this day was recently proposed for adoption and was marked for the first time 9 years ago. It provides an opportunity to pray in gratitude for the ways in which Islam has enriched the human community with its insights and with values such as justice and peace. And it is a reminder to pray for our Muslim colleagues, friends, and neighbours. See www.worldislamday.org

“Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.”  (Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr)

Thursday 22 February
ST LUCIA’S INDEPENDENCE DAY
and WORLD THINKING DAY

St Lucia is on the Edmund Rice map because of the presence of the Presentation Brothers. It also has a less-tangible connection with the African ERN through the enslaved Africans who became part of this mountainous island’s population and history. St Lucia, one of the windward islands in the eastern Caribbean on the edge of the Atlantic, celebrates today its 39th anniversary of independence from British rule. We pray today for the people of St Lucia and especially those who live and spread the values and vision of Edmund Rice.

Thinking Day is a product of the international Girl Guiding and Girl Scouting movement. Its theme this year is “Impact: - understanding the power you have to bring positive change. In our prayer today we are invited to align our hearts with this aim. See www.worldthinkingday.org

“One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar.”  (Helen Keller)

Wednesday 21 February
WORLD LANGUAGE DAY

Today we celebrate the gift of human language and of the cultural diversity that language represents. It’s also an alert to the danger that 40% of our world’s 6000-odd languages may disappear in the course of this century – that’s an average of two languages vanishing every month. “Every time we lose a language”, says language authority David Crystal, “we lose one vision of the world.” Most of the languages-at-risk have no literature, so they would disappear without trace, taking with them the wisdom and values of their culture, and leaving our world poorer for their passing. Today is a day for reinforcing our appreciation of diversity and dialogue.

“No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see the possibilities - always see them, for they’re always there.”  (Norman Vincent Peale)

Tuesday 20 February
WORLD DAY OF SOCIAL JUSTICE

This day has special importance to the worldwide Edmund Rice community because it focuses on solidarity with all who are marginalized: people who are poor and hungry and unemployed, people who are excluded and powerless and without opportunities, people who are treated unfairly and are prevented from getting a fair share within the human community. For a succinct outline of the day’s focus, look it up on www.timeanddate.com – and for a range of applications, explore the EDMUND RICE INTERNATIONAL website.

“The pessimist borrows trouble; the optimists lend encouragement.”  (William Arthur Ward)

Monday 19 February 2018
ETHNIC EQUALITY DAY

Expanding the Black History Month, Ethnic Equality Day sees the month of February as “a time to honour all peoples and their positive traditions, a time to meditate on the equality of all peoples, on the respect due to them”, and on the Divine Presence dwelling in all of them.

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”  (G.K. Chesterton)

Sunday 18 February
FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT and
THE GAMBIA: INDEPENDENCE DAY

Although the Christian Brothers interrupted their presence in The Gambia some years ago, and a visit to explore re-establishing ties appeared to meet an unfriendly response from church authority, the West African District – which includes Gambian-born brothers – would like to return. In colonial days, The Gambia was marked out as roughly a canon-ball’s range on both sides of the River Gambia. This day celebrates independence from Britain, attained half a century ago. Let us pray today for the people of this tiniest nation on the African continent, and especially for those who have been drawn into the Edmund Rice community.

“Definiteness of purpose is the starting point of all achievement.”  (W. Clement Stone)

Saturday 17 February
2006 MUDSLIDE IN THE PHILIPPINES

The twelfth anniversary of the massive mudslide that killed upwards of 1100 people in the Philippines may be an occasion for praying for all who have lost their lives in natural disasters during our lifetime, and for all whose lives are forever scarred by the losses they sustained in such events.

“Every mistake that I made - and we all make mistakes - came because I didn't take the time to get the facts.”  (Charles Knight)

Friday 16 February
ST ELIAS & COMPANIONS and ST JULIANA

Elias and Juliana are among the lesser-known saints martyred for their Christian faith in the early 4th Century. The term ‘martyrdom’ conjures up images of physical violence and cruelty. We might reflect today on who is undergoing martyrdom in our own time. Today’s forms of martyrdom tend to be subtler and less easily recognized; yet, though the violence and cruelty are less likely to be physical, they are just as brutal and destructive.

“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.”  (Leo Tolstoy)

Thursday 15 February
NIRVANA DAY and
INTERNATIONAL CHILDHOOD CANCER DAY

Also called ‘Parinirvana’, and sometimes observed a week earlier, this Mahayana Buddhist holiday is widely honoured. Celebrating the death of the Buddha as an achievement of total freedom and transcendence, it underlines the Buddhist vision of the impermanence of physical life, an idea with resonances in many different faith-views.

International Childhood Cancer Day raises our awareness of children with cancer. With early detection and proper treatment, 70% of childhood cancers can be cured (see www.icccpo.org). Today let us join in praying with the parents and communities of children suffering from cancer, and for access to the necessary medical attention.

“Treasure the love you receive above all. It will survive long after your gold and good health have vanished.”  (Og Mandino)

Wednesday 14 February
ASH WEDNESDAY, the start of LENT, and
ST VALENTINE’S DAY

‘Lent’ means Spring, and though it only partly overlaps with the early part of northern Spring, and falls in the early southern Autumn, Lent is very much a spiritual Springtime. It’s a time for new shoots, renewed growth, fresh flowering. It’s an occasion for ‘spring-cleaning’, for clearing the clutter of our lives, for ‘servicing’ and taking stock of our total humanity. Externals like the ashes and fasting and abstinence are, as the Lenten Biblical readings bluntly remind us, only meaningful if they express an internal movement of the heart, the about-turn that Jesus termed ‘metanoia’. If you Google ‘Free Lenten Reflections’, you’ll find a wealth of other resources to enrich your Lent. Here are a few selected samples:
•    www.creighton.edu – click on Ministry > Daily Reflections.
•    www.thereflection.vividas.com – click on ‘lenten booklet’ for a Lectio Divina resource.
•    www.franciscanmedia.org – offering 90-second audio reflections.

Just who St Valentine may have been is lost in a blur of multiple martyrs of Rome by that name. The origin of the day may relate to these legends, or to the start of the mating season among birds, or to the baptizing of a pagan festival involving a primitive kind of pairing/dating agency. Though no longer on the Catholic calendar, the irrepressible popularity of St Valentine’s Day as a celebration of love and intimacy suggests a need for feastdays that are relevant to our lived experience. Realistically, how much enthusiasm is generated for the Way of Jesus by creaky churchiferous observances such as the ‘Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica’? Already the Church has baptized or endorsed certain World Days, and started a new generation of ‘feastdays’ such as its World Day of Peace (1 January). Imagine the Church replacing some its dustier Doctors and pallid Pastors and vapid Virgins with feastdays to honour childhood and old age, justice and inclusion, parenting and service, artists and creativity, faithfulness and friendship, courtesy and kindness, masculinity and femininity. Imagine how it might ground and re-energise our gatherings for liturgy.

“If you wish to be more influential, spend more time being interested in others than you do trying to be interesting.”  (Josh Hinds)

Tuesday 13 February
WORLD RADIO DAY

Radio, because it is inexpensive and widely accessible, has a special role in communication and access to information. It reaches the poor, the vulnerable, and the remote. Today we celebrate this gift and ponder how we might better use this medium in service of the marginalized. See www.worldradioday.org

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”  (Theodore Roosevelt)

Monday 12 February 2018
DARWIN DAY and
RED HAND DAY

Charles Darwin was born on this day just over 200 years ago. The day celebrates all the ways in which science has enriched our lives, and Darwin’s contribution in particular, notably the opening up of awareness of the wonders of evolution.

Red Hand Day is a United Nations day drawing attention to the fate of child soldiers. The utterly perverted practice of forcing children to ‘serve’ as soldiers in armed conflicts is still widespread, and the aftermath in their lives is devastating, efforts at rehabilitation varying “from inadequate to non-existent”.

“There's a great beauty to having problems. That's one of the ways we learn.”  (Herbie Hancock)

Sunday 11 February
6th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and

OUR LADY OF LOURDES and WORLD DAY OF THE SICK

The fascinating story of Lourdes goes back a century and a half, 11 February being the date of the first appearance of “the lady” to 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous. Whether regarded with faith or skepticism or ridicule, the Lourdes story cannot be ignored. And its message urging prayer and penance “for the conversion of sinners” is clearly in harmony with the message of Jesus, which is why it is among the very few apparitions to have been given official recognition by the Church. The compelling cures associated with Lourdes, since Bernadette was led to uncover a spring of water, have led to the naming of this day as the World Day of the Sick.

“If people knew how hard I worked to gain my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful.” (Michelangelo)

Saturday 10 February
ST SCHOLASTICA

Not much is known about Scholastica, the twin sister of St Benedict, who headed a monastery of nuns a few miles from Monte Cassino, except the legends of her faith and devotion to God. Her feast day reminds us to pray for the Benedictine family around the world.

“If you lose the power to laugh, you lose the power to think.” (Clarence Darrow)

Friday 9 February
ST MAROUN

A 4th-5th Century mystic monk, Maroun spent his days on a mountain in Syria. His enthusiasm for Christ attracted many in Syria and Lebanon to discipleship and gave rise to the Maronite movement within the Catholic Church.

“There are no problems we cannot solve together, and very few we can solve by ourselves.” (Lyndon B. Johnson,)

Thursday 8 February
SAINT JOSEPHINE BAKHITA, PATRON OF THE SUDAN and
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER & AWARENESS AGAINST HUMAN TRAFFICKING

Born in the Darfur region of Sudan, and kidnapped into illegal and brutal slavery at the age of 9, Bakhita ended up in Italy. When her ‘owners’ came to fetch her and their daughter from the care of the Canossian Sisters, the newly baptized Josephine refused to leave the Convent. Her rights were upheld by Italian law, and she joined the Sisters, remaining in Italy with them till her death 50 years later in the mid-20th Century. Her memoirs have been published. She is the first African to be canonized (in 2000) for many centuries. Her feast day gives us a special occasion to pray for the victims of the widespread trafficking of women and children in our own times, and for the people of newly created South Sudan and the Yambio community of Christian Brothers who represent the ERN among them.

A Catholic initiative tied to St Bakhita’s day, this annual day of prayer and awareness against trafficking began only recently, in 2015. Trafficking, described on the website www.zenit.org as “one of the worst examples of slavery in the XXI Century”, is reported to affect some 21 million people, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, in a variety of forms: “sexual exploitation, forced labour and begging, illegal organ removal, domestic servitude and forced marriages, illegal adoption and other forms of exploitation”. We are invited to join in a worldwide counter-force of prayer and care.

“Were there none who were discontented with what they have, the world would never reach for anything better.” (Florence Nightingale)

Wednesday 7 February
GRENADA’S INDEPENDENCE DAY

Grenada is on the ERN map because of the presence of the Presentation Brothers (see www.presentationbrothers.com and type ‘Grenada’ in the Search slot). This Eastern Caribbean nation, consisting of three islands, the Grenadines (the largest being the mountainous Grenada with its forests and mangrove and coral reef, the second the hilly Carriacou, and the smallest Petit Martinique), grows the world’s highest concentration of spices including a third of all our nutmeg. On this 42nd anniversary of their independence from Britain, let us remember in prayer the circles of Grenadians around the Presentation Brothers.

“One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted.  Do it now.”  (Paulo Coelho)

Tuesday 6 February
NEW ZEALAND’S WAITANGI DAY and
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF ZERO TOLERANCE TO FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION

Waitangi Day, commemorating the signing of a now-controversial treaty 170+ years ago in New Zealand, remains a focus of the pain and ambivalence of a colonial past. The solemnity of the day’s celebration in New Zealand is in amusing contrast with the more flamboyant tradition of a Kiwi pubcrawl via the London Underground. But this day serves as an occasion to hold in prayer all the people of New Zealand, and in particular the country’s remarkable Edmund Rice Network.

International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation is an annual UN-sponsored day to promote the eradication of this practice. The slogan originated in Nigeria over a decade ago and spread to an international awareness.

“Energy is the essence of life. Every day you decide how you’re going to use it by knowing what you want and what it takes to reach that goal, and by maintaining focus.” (Oprah Winfrey)

Monday 5 February 2018
ST AGATHA

The core of St Agatha’s story is the consecration of her virginity to Christ. The strength of her faith enabled her to endure sustained sexual assault and humiliation, and finally martyrdom. Instead of getting lost in pious peripherals (like St Agatha loaves – based, apparently, on a mistaken interpretation of what her portrait shows her carrying on a platter), our prayer today could focus on all who are vulnerable to sexual abuse and all who are being treated as sexual objects or slaves, especially those who have no one to turn to except God.

“You make the world a better place by making yourself a better person.” (Scott Sorrell)

Sunday 4 February
5th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
WORLD CANCER DAY

World Cancer Day focuses our attention on a disease that currently kills more people than AIDS, Malaria, and TB combined. The energy is around knowledge – to minimize the risk, enable early detection, and help manage the disease – and also around advocacy, to make treatment available. Over 40% of cancers are potentially preventable – by attention to diet and exercise, by avoidance of smoke and of excessive exposure to sun and alcohol. Of special interest to the ERN is the fact that the world’s poorest countries are the ones hardest hit by cancer: two-thirds of cancer deaths occur in countries where cancer-control resources are scarcest. Among various symbols used in consciousness-raising is the daffodil, a token of hope looking towards a day when cancer is no longer life-threatening. Let us not only pray for that day but for all who are threatened by the disease in our time, especially those who lack protective knowledge and resources.

“Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose.”  (C. S. Lewis)

Saturday 3 February
ST BLAISE’S DAY and
“WIND OF CHANGE”

St Blaise was a Bishop in the early Church, and also a physician, who was brutally martyred for his Christian faith. He became famous for healing problems of the throat, and is still invoked for throat diseases – a traditional practice on his feastday (coming the day after Candlemas) is the blessing of throats with crossed candles.

On this day in 1960, British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan used the now-famous phrase “wind of change” as a prelude to the era of decolonization that was about to unfold across the continent of Africa. His speech in Cape Town, a more-publicised repeat of that given in Accra the previous month, also sent out a clear challenge to South Africa’s apartheid policies of the time. As we thank God for all the good that the “wind of change” has blown, let us also be open to the changes needed at this time.

“You choose the life you live. If you don't like it, it's on you to change it because no one else is going to do it for you.”  (Kim Kiyosaki)

Friday 2 February
PRESENTATION OF THE BOY JESUS IN THE TEMPLE and
WORLD DAY FOR CONSECRATED LIFE and
WORLD WETLANDS DAY

The Presentation in the Temple is also known as ‘The Purification of Mary’ – 40 days after the birth of Jesus, Jewish Law had Mary attend a ritual purification and then present her first-born son in the Jerusalem Temple. The feast is also known as ‘Candlemas’ – the day on which candles are traditionally brought to be blessed in Church and taken home, reminding us that we need to allow the light of Jesus to penetrate our minds and hearts and take that light ‘home’, into our everyday lives. Incidentally, this is not the day from which the Presentation Sisters and Brothers take their name – the Presentation of Mary (‘Presentation Day’) is celebrated in November.

World Day for Consecrated Life is a day to celebrate and pray for those who have consecrated themselves to God by the vows traditionally known as Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. Within the Edmund Rice Network we have two such groups, the Presentation Brothers and the Christian Brothers; and many of us have ties with several other congregations of men and women: let us keep them all in our prayer today.

World Wetlands Day is intended to raise our awareness of the value and importance of wetlands – see the website www.ramsar.org

“The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of childhood into maturity.”  (Thomas Henry Huxley)

Thursday 1 February
ST BRIGID, BISHOP and
BLACK HISTORY MONTH

St Brigid of Kildare is one of Ireland’s patron saints. Today she comes to us wrapped in many layers of legend, but the general drift is that she was a woman of extraordinary power in 5th/6th Century Ireland, founder and leader of monasteries which were nodes of learning and of Christian faith and influence. A persistent legend holds that she was a Bishop, an intriguing thought in the context of the current Church debate (and non-debate) about the ordination of women.

Black History Month is observed in North America during the month of February; in the USA it is called African American History Month. In the UK it is observed in October. It celebrates the story of the world’s African diaspora – all that has been endured and achieved by people of African origin who have become scattered around the globe both by force and by choice.

“Genius is there in all of us, just waiting for us to tap into it.”  (Robert R. Toth)

Wednesday 31 January
ST JOHN BOSCO

Don Bosco, a 19th Century Italian Priest, had a special gift for attracting disadvantaged youth to a healthy and holistic lifestyle. He saw education as “a matter of the heart” and the three watchwords of his ‘preventive system’ were reason, religion, and kindness. Founder of today’s Salesians and co-founder of their sister-congregation, the Salesian Sisters, he also started a lay movement of Salesian Cooperators, way ahead of most similar developments in other charism-based families. There is a striking resonance between the vision of John Bosco and that of Edmund Rice, which serves as a reminder of the gospel roots of our mission.

“Do your little bit of good where you are; its those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”  (Desmond Tutu)

Tuesday 30 January
MARY WARD, FOUNDER OF THE LORETO SISTERS

Mary Ward was declared ‘Venerable’ just over eight years ago, at the time of the 400th anniversary of the Congregation she founded, the Loreto Sisters (IBVMs). Her Institute was suppressed in 1631, and it was only in 1877 that it was recognized by the Church. Mary Ward could not be called ‘Foundress’ until 1909, some two and a half centuries after her death. Her ‘sin’ was that she dared to found a congregation of non-enclosed, apostolic women. Now she is being praised by the Church for her ‘heroic virtue’. Something comparable happened to other visionary women founders, such as Catherine McAuley (who founded the Sisters of Mercy in 19th Century Ireland) and Mary MacKillop (the Josephite Sisters’ Australian founder, excommunicated by the 19th Century Church, and canonized in 2010). Indeed our own Edmund Rice was subject to vicious vilification and rejection in his time. The lesson may be to look at who is being rejected in our time.

“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don't adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.”  (Confucius)

Monday 29 January 2018
ST JUNIPER’S DAY and
WORLD LEPROSY DAY

A contemporary and follower of St Francis of Assisi, Brother Juniper had extraordinary patience, simplicity, and generosity. Known as ‘the jester of the Lord’ for his playfulness, he seems to have been quite a character. Francis said of him: “Would that I had a whole forest of such Junipers”.

Leprosy, though still a significant disease in many countries, may well become eradicated through medical advances. Air-borne rather than caught by skin-contact as was previously believed, it isolated sufferers. As Mother Teresa pointed out, today’s more common equivalent might be “the feeling of being unwanted”. On this awareness-raising day we might keep in mind all who suffer any kind of isolation, as well as those scientists who are working towards eliminating diseases that isolate people.

“Knowing others is wisdom; knowing the self is enlightenment.”  (Tao Te Ching)

Sunday 28 January
4th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
DATA PRIVACY DAY

Data Privacy Day is described as “a celebration of the dignity of the individual expressed through personal information”. With all their blessings, today’s communication technologies also put personal privacy at risk, which calls for vigilance. See the website www.dataprivacyday.org

“What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.”  (Abraham H. Maslow)

Saturday 27 January
INTERNATIONAL HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE

This UN day stands as a bastion not only against genocide and persecution, but also against all forms of racism - and against anti-Semitism in particular. As we remember the Holocaust and the millions who perished in this unthinkable yet undeniable low in humanity’s history, we could pray for the healing of this and all other breaches of world wholeness, starting with our own pet prejudices. (A wonderful and widely-available piece of music capturing the unspeakable sadness of the Holocaust is the theme composed by John Williams for the movie SCHINDLER’S LIST.)

“Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight.  Extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward.  Your life will never be the same again.”  (Og Mandino)

Friday 26 January
AUSTRALIA DAY  and  INDIA’S REPUBLIC DAY

This year India marks the 67th anniversary of the adoption of its Constitution. On the same day, Australia holds its biggest annual celebration. We pray with and for the people of these two nations - hugely-populous India with its sparkling diversity and painful contrasts, and vast Australia with its awesome wide-open spaces and bustling urbanised edges - struggling with the legacy of the past and the challenges of the future. Very specially we pray in gratitude for the exciting vitality of the Edmund Rice Network in these two countries, and for a blessing on its members and all whom their life touches.

“You will become as small as your controlling desire; as great as your dominant aspiration.”  (James Allen)

Thursday 25 January
FEAST OF THE CONVERSION OF ST PAUL and
end of THE WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY

The story of the intolerant persecutor Saul, and how he was zapped by a God so much bigger than his blind religiocioushood could imagine, is told in Acts 9. It is the same uncontainability of God that strikes Saul’s companions dumb and his hearers with amazement, and that shakes him into asking “Who are you, Lord?” – a question that opens Part 2 of his life, under his new name Paul. It is a question we can usefully ask again and again. This feastday was specially selected as one of the bookends of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, reminding us that God bursts unstoppably out of all our boxing-in, and desires that we burst out of our own confining boxes too.

“I believe that true identity is found in creative activity springing from within. It is found when one loses oneself.”  (Anne Morrow Lindbergh)

Wednesday 24 January
ST FRANCIS DE SALES

Francis de Sales was a 16-17th Century Bishop noted for his simplicity, with a great talent for communicating and for gently and thoroughly encouraging reform in the ways of Christ’s disciples. His life and teaching remind us to focus on God’s love as the heart of the Christian message.

“No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see the possibilities - always see them, for they’re always there.”  (Norman Vincent Peale)

Tuesday 23 January
ST MARIANNE OF MOLOKA’I

Marianne Cope, born in Germany and raised in the USA, gave her life as a Franciscan Sister serving those living with leprosy on the island of Moloka’i, Hawai’i, for half a century. She died aged 80 just as World War II was coming to an end, having been amazingly preserved from the disease with which she had so much contact. In October 2012, she was officially named a Saint.

“Your imagination is your preview of life’s coming attractions.”  (Albert Einstein)

Monday 22 January 2018
Anticipating the feast of ST THOMAS AQUINAS (normally 28 January)

Thomas of Aquino was a hugely influential 13th Century Dominican philosopher and theologian. A mystical experience towards the end of his 49 years caused him to view all his learned writings as “straw”. In his lifetime, his work became subjected to Church condemnation, but in due course it became building-blocks of mainstream Church teaching – a lesson worth remembering!

“The great acts of love are done by those who are habitually performing small acts of kindness.”  (Victor Hugo)

Sunday 21 January
3rd SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
ST AGNES, TEENAGER

Agnes, born near the end of the 3rd Century, was martyred as a young teenager for resisting a forced marriage. Her death was part of a purge to get rid of Christian resistance to the conformity demanded by Rome. (Yes, even then!)  She is regarded as a patron saint of girls, virgins, those who suffer rape, engaged couples, chastity, and gardeners. She is one of the 7 women named in the Roman Canon of the Mass. Google her story, and if you x-ray through all the flowery legends you will meet a teenager of immense strength of character rooted in an unshakeable faith.

“Many people die at 25 and aren’t buried until they are 75.”  [Benjamin Franklin]

Saturday 20 January
FORMAL ESTABLISHMENT OF THE CHRISTIAN BROTHERS

On the feast of the Holy Name, 20 January 1822, the Christian Brothers accepted the Vatican 1820 Brief offering pontifical status. It was a controversial decision, and it marked a parting of the ways with the Cork-based group who became the Presentation Brothers, but it enabled a freedom to think and move internationally – an advantage that the Presentation Brothers also claimed later.

“Only when we learn that our mistakes are masked as discoveries; our conflicts are cloaked as opportunities; and our failure are fuel for progress; can we move massively forward.”  [Rick Beneteau]

Friday 19 January
WAXING & WANING OF THE MOON

The monthly cycle of the moon, so important to cultures prizing the connection between human life and the universe of which we are part, happens virtually unnoticed by many of us. Yet even those who relegate the moon to clichés and corny lyrics sometimes have moments of being mesmerized by its serene presence. Last week’s full moon, climax of the moon’s monthly cycle, might invite us to take a moment to pay attention each evening for the next month. Doing so has the power to connect and to context us, to put us in touch with the less-overt rhythms of our own lives, and to remind us of simple but profound truths that are part of our human heritage.

“I am who I am today because of the choices I made yesterday.”  [Eleanor Roosevelt]

Thursday 18 January
START OF WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY

This started over 100 years old and used to be called Church Unity Octave because it actually lasts eight days. If you Google it, you’ll find lots of resources for prayer, once you scroll past screeds of background info – look out for references starting with www.vatican.va and www.oikoumene.org because the Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches have made this their joint project.

“The heart that gives, gathers.”  [Tao Te Ching]

Wednesday 17 January
ST ANTHONY THE ABBOT

St Anthony of Egypt is known as ‘the Father of All Monks’: though he was not the first monk, he is remembered as taking monasticism into the desert, an instinct that found widespread resonance.

“Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.”  [Brené Brown]

Tuesday 16 January
COLDEST/HOTTEST MONTH OF THE YEAR

As January is Northern hemisphere’s coldest month and the Southern hemisphere’s hottest month, it could serve as a reminder of the role of rhythms and cycles in our lives, with their lessons of balance, decay-and-renewal, change, and constancy – the latter quality being associated with January’s birthstone, the garnet.

“By choosing your thoughts, and by selecting which emotional currents you will release and which you will reinforce, you determine the quality of your Light.  You determine the effects that you will have upon others, and the nature of the experiences of your life.”  [Gary Zukav]

Monday 15 January 2018
ANNIVERSARY OF HUDSON RIVER EMERGENCY LANDING

Nine years ago, a flight that had just taken off from New York’s LaGuardia Airport made an emergency landing in the Hudson River, and all aboard survived. One of the most internationally celebrated good-news stories in recent memory, celebrated in a movie called SULLY, it might turn our eyes to the unsung good news in our own experience and context.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with you one wild and precious life?”  [Mary Oliver]

Sunday 14 January
2nd SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
FEAST OF THE ASS

The Feast of the Ass, a Medieval observance pinned to the donkey in the nativity story, involved having a donkey stand beside the altar during the sermon and the congregation ‘hee-hawing’ their responses to the celebrant. Suppressed since the 15th Century, it remains a reminder of just how far religion can wander from its centre. We might reflect today on how some religious practices of our own time stray from the focus of Jesus.

“Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.”  (Oprah Winfrey)

Saturday 13 January
ST HILARY OF POITIERS

The feast-day of a 4th Century married Bishop, Hilary of Poitiers, is a reminder that not all-that-is always was that way or will always remain that way! It might prompt us to reflect on our own resistance to change and to pray for openness to Spirit-driven change.

“It is good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good too, to check up once in a while and make sure you haven’t lost the things money can’t buy.”  (George Lorimer)

Friday 12 January
INDIA’S YOUTH DAY

Youth have always had a very special place in the heart of followers of Edmund Rice. India’s National Youth Day invites us to hold in prayer the young people of a country where the Christian Brothers have served youth for over 170 years.

“Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us every day.”  (Sally Koch)

Thursday 11 January
ANNIVERSARY OF RED-FLAGGING OF SMOKING

On this day in 1964, a landmark report was published by the US Surgeon-General warning that smoking may be a health-hazard. The ensuing half-century has seen a growing sensitizing to the impact of lifestyle on health. In our prayer today, we could focus on the sacredness of our bodies and the responsibility of self-care.

“There is no royal road to anything. One thing at a time, all things in succession. That which grows fast, withers as rapidly. That which grows slowly, endures.”  (Josiah Gilbert Holland)

Wednesday 10 January
ANNIVERSARY OF WORLD’S OLDEST UNDERGROUND RAILWAY

In 1863, a little over a century and a half ago, the London Underground opened, the first of its kind: the first stretch connected London Paddington Station and Farringdon Station. Perhaps this anniversary might prompt us to reflect with wonder on our world’s vast communications networks – the human values embodied and all that is made possible… right down to reading these lines.

“The grass is greener where you water it.”  (Neil Barringham)

Tuesday 9 January
THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD

Protestant scholar William Barclay in his commentary on the story of Jesus’ baptism by John sees Jesus as drawn into identifying with a Godward movement of people. Mark and Luke tell the story as a turning-point in the life of Jesus, a moment of personal insight into God’s direction for his life, a watershed moment for him. If we take the Incarnation seriously, that Jesus was not God-dressed-up-in-a-human-body, then we accept that he had to discover his path and depend on God’s breaking through to him in special moments, just as we do. We’ve all had our own watershed moments – some use religious language like ‘vocation’ and ‘revelation’, others speak in metaphors of guidance or insight or recognition, others are wary of naming the experience but just ‘know’ that it was real. Today’s feast invites us to identify with Jesus in honouring these moments as touchstones of our personal authenticity.

“Leadership is a matter of having people look at you and gain confidence, seeing how you react. If you’re in control, they’re in control.”  (Tom Landry)

Monday 8 January 2018
OUR LADY OF PROMPT SUCCOUR

The story behind the quaint title ‘Our Lady of Prompt Succour’ comes from early 19th Century New Orleans, but its message is for all times and places: that the Mother of Jesus cares deeply about the affairs of the community gathered around the vision and values of her son, and is a reliable ally in all that serves the reign of God.

“If you wish others to believe in you, you must first convince them that you believe in them.”  (Harvey Mackay)

Sunday 7 January
EPIPHANY SUNDAY and
SAN RAIMUNDO DE PEÑAFORT

Raimundo was a Spanish Dominican remembered for his 13th Century codifying of Church law, which served for the seven centuries preceding the present Code of Canon Law. Saint Raymond is a reminder of the Church’s tradition of scholarship and of the contribution of this hidden ministry to human progress.

“A leader is a person you will follow to a place you wouldn’t go by yourself.”  [Joel Arthur Barker]

Saturday 6 January
THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD   (celebrated on the following Sunday in some countries)

Major manifestations of God’s glory are landmarks. Landmarks help us to see where we are and where we are going without being confused by all the fast-changing details of our experience. Special moments where God is revealed, both in Scripture and in our own stories, are intended to develop eyes that can see God’s presence in the everyday and the ordinary. The Christmas name ‘Emmanuel’ means God with us, God in our midst, God immersed in the messiness of our lives. The feast is known in Eastern Christianity as ‘Theophany’ and in Ireland as ‘Little Christmas’, and it marks the start of the Carnival season which continues until Lent.

“If you're going through hell, keep going.”  [Winston Churchill]

Friday 5 January
TWELFTH NIGHT

Twelfth Night, ending the celebration of Christmas, is a celebration coincided with an even older time of Roman revels. Though only vestiges of this tradition have survived – like the taking down of Christmas decorations – it can serve us as a reminder of the importance of celebration in human life. Nietsche once observed that “the problem is not how to celebrate but having something to celebrate”. The key is noticing what we have that is worth celebrating – from the simplest personal things to the most sweeping movements of God’s energy – for these things are our spiritual core, and they call out to be expressed – whether in established rituals or in spontaneous ways, but always engaging our creativity. It’s often lamented that so much preparation goes into a wedding and so little into preparation of the couple for lifelong bonding. Yet sometimes we do the same with Eucharist: the energy goes into choosing songs and designing visuals, and little is done to prepare the consciousness with which we enter liturgy. And sometimes we ‘use’ Mass quite uncritically as the channel for every occasion of celebration, missing the opportunity of entering the occasion more actively by creating something more ‘custom-built’. So let Twelfth Night invite us to notice what in our lives calls out to be celebrated during this coming year.

“It is love alone that leads to right action. What brings order in the world is to love and let love do what it will.”  [Krishnamurti]

Thursday 4 January
ST ELIZABETH ANN SETON

Elizabeth Ann Seton was the first native-born American to be canonized. There are several interesting parallels between her life and that of Edmund Rice. She was married, became a parent, was widowed, and started an apostolic congregation dedicated to faith-integrated education. Unlike Edmund, she was a convert to the Catholic faith and died relatively young, at 46.

“What most people need to learn in life is how to love people and use things, instead of using people and loving things.”  [author unknown]

Wednesday 3 January
BACK TO WORK in many parts of the world

In many parts of the globe, this week is a time of returning, or preparing to return, to our routine activities. Let those of us who have work or studies to return to, in a world heavy with unemployment and thin in educational opportunities, hold our graced situation in gratitude.

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”  [Helen Keller]

Tuesday 2 January
NINTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

Most of you reading this live in situations where the globe slows down in acknowledgement of what Christmas means to Christians. In countries where Christians are the minority, this is not so, and the occasion can only be celebrated in the heart as the world goes about its everyday business. Imagining this can help us Christians understand how our Muslim and Jewish and Hindu sisters and brothers may feel when their holy days pass unnoticed in a Christian-orientated world – a sad irony in the lives of followers of the Jesus who was at pains to include the stranger, the outsider, the foreigner, “those who are not against us”, and all “those who do the will of the Father”. Let us take a few moments to mark these holy days of other faiths in our 2018 diaries so we can be aware.

“With the gift of listening comes the gift of healing.”  [Catherine de Hueck]

Monday 1 January 2O18
FEAST OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD and
NEW YEAR’S DAY and
WORLD DAY OF PEACE

The very first day of the calendar year is traditionally dedicated to Mary as Mother of God (‘Mater Dei’). The first of a monthly thread of Marian days, this one highlights her role of willing and active participation in bringing God’s dream to birth. This is something all of us are called to do in our own place and time and circumstances. Notice that the person God calls to this blueprint-of-all-calls is a member of an oppressed race (under Roman occupation), a woman (in a man-centred society), and an obscure young teenager of undistinguished education and achievements. Clearly this is not a God made in our own image and likeness – and the God who comes to birth is notably subversive of what is called (in old-fashioned English) “man’s way, not God’s way”.

New Year is traditionally a day for setting personal resolutions. Stephen Covey’s book 7 HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE suggests a lifegiving direction: scheduling time to honour the really-important-yet-not-urgent things in our life which so easily get crowded out by the demands of urgent-yet-actually-less-important activities. Think: prayer and reflection, quality-time for relationships and family, physical exercise and its mental equivalent of reading, exposure to art and beauty and ideas…

Today is also World Day of Peace. The theme this year is “Migrants and Refugees: men and women in search of peace”. Look for it via the Search facility at the top of www.justpax.it

“Good friendships are fragile things and require as much care as any other fragile and precious thing.”  [Randolph S. Bourne]

Sunday 31 December
HOLY FAMILY SUNDAY and
WORLD SPIRITUALITY DAY

The feast of the Holy Family is a reminder of the human community’s affirmation of the key role of family in nurturing personal potential and life-giving values, but also of God’s presence in the ordinariness of everyday domestic rhythms and routines. And an inclusive gesture to families that are not textbook-typical! The founder of the Holy Family Association, Pierre Noailles, wrote: “The Son of God came that the Holy Family might be formed” – not just in microcosm.

World Spirituality Day is described as “an opportunity for all who value spirituality in their lives to connect and unite in our wish for a more peaceful, just and sustainable world based on values grounded in our deeper spiritual connection to each other and the world around us”. It is strategically timed to coincide with the natural energy of renewal and refocusing that comes with the transition to a new year. Look it up on www.integrativespirituality.org

“Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.”  [Plato]

Saturday 30 December
END OF THE YEAR

The last couple of days of the year is an invitation to look back with gratitude and appreciation for all the goodness, truth, and beauty with which we were blessed in 2017.

“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”  [Berthold Auerbach]

Friday 29 December
ST THOMAS BECKET

Thomas was a 12th century Archbishop of Canterbury who stood up to the power-greed of English King Henry II, and after a long struggle to defend the Church’s traditional privileges ended up being murdered in his Cathedral. With St Paul he is London’s co-patron saint. His life is a reminder of the cost so many pay as a result of standing up for principle against tyranny.

“You’re never as good as everyone tells you when you win, and you’re never as bad as they say when you lose.”  [Lou Holtz]

Thursday 28 December
THE HOLY INNOCENTS

An African proverb observes that “When elephants fight, the grass gets trampled”. The baby boys massacred by Herod’s attempt to kill the baby Jesus, remind us of the vulnerability of the powerless when the powerful act out of paranoia or personal interests. Today’s commemoration challenges us to question how sensitive we are to the effects of any power we wield, or of any power with which we are aligned or associated. The same Jesus who narrowly escaped the fate of other Bethlehem babies was later to point out: “Whatever you do to the least powerful, keep in mind that you are doing it to me”.

“Improve relationships with others by assuming that they can hear everything you say about them.”  [Stephen R. Covey]

Wednesday 27 December
ST JOHN THE APOSTLE

Traditionally thought of as the friend who was closest to Jesus and as the youngest of the Apostles, John was the only one of the Twelve who stood by Jesus through his crucifixion and death – along with the women. And he was the one to whom Jesus entrusted his mother before he died. The version of the story of Jesus that comes to us in John’s name is a deeply reflective one. Reading a part of it would be a fine way to honour John’s feastday.

“Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living, the other helps you make a life.”  [Sandra Carey]

Tuesday 26 December
ST STEPHEN’S DAY

The traditional day on which many still celebrate the memory of the first Christian to be martyred for his faith in Jesus. Stephen’s story is found in Chapters 6 and 7 of The Acts of the Apostles.

“People are like sticks of dynamite. The power is on the inside, but nothing happens until the fuse gets lit.”  [Mac Anderson]

Monday 25 December 2017
CHRISTMAS DAY

Not just the traditional birthday of Jesus, but a vivid reminder of the vulnerability of the God of surprises, a celebration of God’s stunning trust in human nature, and a landmark in the maturation of the human race. A part of the Christmas tradition that strongly connects to Edmund Rice spirituality today is welcoming the stranger.

“This is the way of peace: Overcome evil with good, and falsehood with truth, and hatred with love.”  [Peace Pilgrim]

Sunday 24 December
4th SUNDAY OF ADVENT and
THE DAY BEFORE CHRISTMAS

Poet Rainer Maria Rilke, writing in German, expressed these thoughts just before Christmas 1903:

“Why don’t you think of Him as the one who is coming, who has been approaching from all eternity, the one who will some day arrive, the ultimate tree whose leaves we are. What keeps you from projecting His birth into the ages that are coming into existence, and living your life as a painful and lovely day in the history of a great pregnancy? Don’t you see that everything that happens is again and again a beginning and couldn’t it be His beginning, since in itself, starting is always so beautiful? If He is the most perfect one, must not what is less perfect precede Him, so that he can choose Himself out of fullness and superabundance? Must not he be the last one so that He can include everything in Himself, and what meaning would we have if He whom we are longing for has already existed?

As bees gather honey, so we collect what is sweetest out of all things and build Him. Even with the trivial, with the insignificant (as long as it is done out of love) we begin, with work and with the repose that comes afterward, with a silence and with a small solitary joy, with everything that we do alone, without anyone to join or help us, we start Him who we will not live to see, just as our ancestors could not live to see us. And yet they, who passed away long ago, still exist in us, as predisposition, as burden upon our fate, as murmuring blood, and as a gesture that rises up from the depths of time.

Is there anything that can deprive you of the hope that in this way you will someday exist in Him, who is the farthest, the outermost limit?

Be patient…and realise that the least we can do is to make coming into existence no more difficult for Him than the earth does for Spring when it wants to come.”

Saturday 23 December
O-ANTIPHONS LAST DAY

In their preparation for Christmas, the ancient O-antiphons climax with a focus on ‘Emmanuel’, God-with-us:

O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,
The hope of the nations and their Saviour:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.

The first letters of each of the O-Antiphons’ seven titles, taken in reverse, makes up the Latin words ‘ero cras’ (Tomorrow, I will come).

“Life is not a problem to be solved, nor a question to be answered. Life is a mystery to be experienced.”  [Alan Watts]

Friday 22 December
MOTHER FRANCES CABRINI

Born in Italy in the mid-19th Century, Francesca founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart and in her late 30s was sent to New York City to minister to Italian immigrants. Within her 67 years she founded that same number of missionary institutions in service of the sick and the poor. She was the first American citizen to be canonized.

“Confidence on the outside begins by living with integrity on the inside.”  [Brian Tracy]

Thursday 21 December
APPROACHING THE SOLSTICE and
HOMELESSNESS

Tomorrow is the longest day of the year in the southern hemisphere and the shortest in the northern hemisphere – the middle of summer or of winter. The USA creatively makes this solstice its ‘End Homelessness Day’ because it brings their longest night of the year – look it up on www.betterworldcalendar.com for an outline of the problem of homelessness which affects some 100 million people round the world.

“Experience is not what happens to you - it's how you interpret what happens to you.”  [Aldous Huxley]

Wednesday 20 December
INTERNATIONAL HUMAN SOLIDARITY DAY

Established by the UN ten years ago as “an initiative in the fight against poverty”, Human Solidarity Day is a reminder of the oneness of humanity globally, and a call to give practical expression to our oneness with the sorrows, struggles, and sufferings – as well as the joys, achievements, and celebrations – of other people sharing our world with us.

“Transformation occurs when existing solutions, assumed truths and past decisions are exposed as unrealistic and self-defeating.”  [Peter Shepherd]

Tuesday 19 December
DAY FOR SOUTH-SOUTH CO-OPERATION

Today is set aside by the UN to focus attention on South-South Co-operation, as a complement to North-South co-operation, and as another instrument helping to achieve internationally agreed development goals.

“If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we would find in each man's life a sorrow and a suffering enough to disarm all hostility.”  [Henry Longfellow]

Monday 18 December 2017
INTERNATIONAL MIGRANTS’ DAY

International Migrants’ Day is a reminder of those millions of people across the globe who have found it necessary to cross international borders in search of a better life – safety, jobs, food, freedom – and who often experience increased vulnerability away from their homeland.

“Those who enter the gates of heaven are not beings who have no passions or who have curbed the passions, but those who have cultivated an understanding of them.”  [William Blake]

Sunday 17 December
3rd SUNDAY OF ADVENT and
O-ANTIPHONS COMMENCE

Another example of preparation for Christmas is the ancient monastic tradition of the seven O-Antiphons, each focusing on an attribute of Christ taken from Scripture. The first is Sapientia, Wisdom:

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
Reaching from one end to the other mightily,
and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.

Look up ‘O antiphon’ (sic) in Wikipedia for an interesting outline.

“When solving problems, dig at the roots instead of just hacking at the leaves.”  (Anthony J. D'Angelo)

Saturday 16 December
START OF ‘SHELTER-SEEKING’ NOVENA

Shelter-seeking is a tradition in Mexico which has spread to parts of Latin America. The nine days before Christmas are observed as a remembrance of Joseph and Mary’s long search for lodgings (‘Las Posadas’). The novena was adopted and adapted in the Philippines where it is known as ‘Simbang Gabi’ (Dawn Mass), referring to the custom of Churches opening their doors very early, before harvest-work began, to allow the faithful to participate in Mass in the lead-up to Christmas. The message of this novena is about spiritual preparation for Christmas in the midst of the secular seasonal flurry.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”  (Viktor Frankl)

Friday 15 December
ZAMENHOF DAY

Named after the founder of Esperanto, an attempt at creating an international language, Zamenhof Day might remind us of the importance of communication in our lives and the need to make efforts at improving the effectiveness of how we hear others and get across to them - efforts such as learning other people’s language or developing our listening skills.

“Building a better you is the first step to building a better World.”  (Zig Ziglar)

Thursday 14 December
ST JOHN OF THE CROSS

A 16th Century Spanish mystic and a partner of Teresa of Avila in the work of Carmelite reform, John of the  Cross was experienced as a threat and became imprisoned by his Order. Before escaping, he wrote one of his few major works that distinguish him as one of the foremost poets in the Spanish language. He remains one of the great guides to mystical prayer, and his feastday is a reminder of the call to a deep and committed prayer-life.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”  (Leo Buscaglia)

Wednesday 13 December
ST LUCY

One of the few women named in the Canon of the Mass, Lucy (or Lucia) suffered the loss of her eyes and then her life for her Christian faith in the early 4th Century, becoming the patron saint of blind people. A day, perhaps, to celebrate the role women play in planting and strengthening faith.

“Character is the real foundation of all worthwhile success.”  (John Hays Hammond)

Tuesday 12 December
KENYA’S INDEPENDENCE DAY

Though Nairobi was the gateway through which the Christian Brothers brought the heart of Edmund Rice to East Africa, the first community in Kenya began three years later, in 1991. There are now seven communities of Christian Brothers in that country, two of them being international houses of study for the African Province, and the Brothers minister in a number of centres. Kenya today celebrates the 54th anniversary of becoming independent in 1963.

“You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.”  (Alan Alda)

Monday 11 December 2017
INTERNATIONAL MOUNTAIN DAY

International Mountain Day originated in a North Eastern American students’ custom of mass bunking of classes to head for the mountains and enjoy the colourful leaves of Fall/Autumn. The day has become dignified by the UN “to highlight the importance of sustainable mountain development”.

“I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”  (Christopher Reeve)

Sunday 10 December
2nd SUNDAY OF ADVENT and
HUMAN RIGHTS DAY

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the two international covenants of human rights: that of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and that of Civil and Political Rights – see www.awarenessdays.com for information. Also see the website of our own advocacy arm www.edmundriceinternational.org which maintains a special focus on human rights.

“You will either step forward into growth or step backward into safety.”  (Abraham Maslow)

Saturday 9 December
ANTI-CORRUPTION DAY and
TANZANIA’S INDEPENDENCE DAY

International Anti-Corruption Day is a UN initiative to promote “integrity, accountability, and proper management of public affairs and public property”. Let us pray today for the conditions necessary for the cultivation of such values, conditions such as the spread of healthy kinds of religious faith in the hearts of humankind.

Tanzania came on to the Edmund Rice map in 1988 when the first community of Christian Brothers settled in this land. There are now two communities of Brothers in Arusha, as well as the Edmund Rice Sinon Secondary School (see www.edmundricesinon.com for more), and a growing community of Edmund Rice people in Tanzania.

“The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem.”  (Captain Jack Sparrow)

Friday 8 December
THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF MARY

Coming nine months before the traditional birthday of Mary, 8 September, today’s feast celebrates that point in human evolution where such a person as Mary became possible, someone of Mary’s extraordinary openness to God. The Immaculate Conception is not about how Jesus was conceived – a common misunderstanding grounded in a distorted view of sex as something stained (or ‘maculate’) – but marks that moment in the human race’s maturation when a Mary could come into existence, could be conceivable.

“Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that a son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a nation.”  (Nelson Mandela)

Thursday 7 December
INTERNATIONAL CIVIL AVIATION DAY

Civil Aviation Day is a UN-sponsored observance to strengthen worldwide awareness of the importance of civil aviation for development and to promote safety and efficiency in international air transport.

“We need a variety of input and influence and voices. You cannot get all the answers to life and business from one person or from one source.”  (Jim Rohn)

Wednesday 6 December
ST NICHOLAS

The multiplication of legends around this Greek saint of the 3rd/4th Centuries is testimony to the impact that one person’s life can have on others. Arising from these legends, Nicholas has been adopted as the patron saint of a startling variety of groups, including children, sailors, fishermen, merchants, students, broadcasters, pharmacists, pawnbrokers, the falsely accused, the city of New York, prostitutes, and even thieves – repentant ones. He is specially associated with secret gift-giving, and the Dutch Santa Claus tradition has been secularized into Father Christmas.

“Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”  (Thomas Edison)

Tuesday 5 December
INTERNATIONAL VOLUNTEER DAY

The International Volunteeer Day for Economic and Social Development celebrates the global asset of volunteerism and the way “it can bring positive social change by fostering respect for diversity, equality and the participation of all” (Ban Ki-moon). It is a day for honouring all our Volunteers within the Edmund Rice Network and the way God shines through their loving service.

“Time is limited, so I better wake up every morning fresh and know that I have just one chance to live this particular day right, and to string my days together into a life of action, and purpose.”  (Lance Armstrong)

Monday 4 December 2017
ST JOHN OF DAMASCUS

John of Damascus, a monk who lived in the 7th/8th Centuries, is remembered as a scholar and theologian, a reminder of the Church’s deep tradition of scholarship and of those engaged in this ministry in our own time.

“Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.”  (James Michener)

Sunday 3 December
1st SUNDAY OF ADVENT and
ST FRANCIS XAVIER and
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES

Francis Xavier was one of the original Jesuits, in the 16th Century. He is remembered as a missionary on the grand scale, ministering in Goa, South East Asia, and Japan. His life is a reminder that Christianity is never a closed club, and that Christ and his vision are for sharing.

About 10% of the world population, or 650 million people, live with the challenge of disabilities. This UN day asks us to become involved in promoting their dignity, rights, and well-being. Wikipedia’s page on ‘Disability’ provides a window on a very broad subject.

“The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.”  (Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr)

Saturday 2 December
END SLAVERY DAY and
WORLD COMPUTER LITERACY DAY

The International Day for the Abolition of Slavery is a reminder of the UN’s 1949 Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and the Exploitation of Others. These things are still happening, particularly to women, and out-of-sight can remain out-of-mind unless deliberately brought to mind and to prayer.

Computer Literacy has become in our time a significant part of empowerment, essential across a broad range of the job market, yet inaccessible to vast numbers of our world’s poor. It poses a challenge to a community of people inspired by Edmund Rice who, in his context of two centuries ago, faced an equivalent challenge.

“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.”  (Alan Lakein)

Friday 1 December
WORLD AIDS DAY

The Wikipedia page on World AIDS Day gives a good introduction to the day and the disease, plus a listing of other relevant sites. We are invited to keep in our prayers throughout the AIDS month of December all those who are either infected or affected by HIV/AIDS with its stigma and many burdens, as well as all those in danger of becoming infected through various forms of vulnerability, including ignorance and inequality.

“Most of us are just about as happy as we make up our minds to be.”  (Abraham Lincoln)

Thursday 30 November
ST ANDREW and
CITIES FOR LIFE DAY

Andrew, brother of Peter, is well known in the story of Jesus as one of The Twelve. It was in the faith of these Apostles that ‘the Church’ in all its complexity was grounded. The story of Andrew’s call can be found in John 1:35-44.

A growing number of cities around the world identify themselves as Cities for Life and today affirm their commitment to life and their opposition to the death penalty. See the website www.nodeathpenalty.santegidio.org

“You gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face. You must do that which we think we cannot.”  (Eleanor Roosevelt)

Wednesday 29 November
ST BRENDAN OF BIRR, IRELAND and
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF SOLIDARITY WITH THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE

Brendan, one of the earliest Irish Saints and among what people call ‘the twelve apostles of Ireland’, studied at a hugely influential monastic school and went on to found a monastery in central Ireland in the 6th Century. His life is an illustration of how God raises up the right people in every age of history to respond to the needs of their time and place.

The UN’s Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people is a reminder of the lower-profile side of the complex and painful struggle to realise conflicting aspirations in the volatile part of the world where Jesus lived his short life and died a violent death.

“Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel.  If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.”  (Sam Walton)

Tuesday 28 November
ST CATHERINE LABOURÉ

Catherine, a 19th century Sister, ministered as a nurse in France. Anonymously, she was the messenger who was instrumental in introducing the much-loved “Miraculous Medal” into Catholic piety. The essential message of this token of Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the availability of God’s Grace for the asking.

“Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones.”  (Phillips Brooks)

Monday 27 November 2017
ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE MONTH

November has been chosen as Alzheimer’s Disease Month to raise awareness of this degenerative terminal senile dementia, first diagnosed at the start of the 20th Century. The signs, symptoms, and stages are well decribed in a Wikipedia entry on the subject. Our prayer today might embrace all those who suffer from, or because of, Alzheimer’s Disease.

“The potential of the average person is like a huge ocean unsailed, a new continent unexplored, a world of possibilities waiting to be released and channeled toward some great good.”  (Brian Tracy)

Sunday 26 November
CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY and
ST JOHN BERCHMANS and
ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE MONTH

“The world is full of abundance and opportunity, but far too many people come to the fountain of life with a sieve instead of a tank car, a teaspoon instead of a steam shovel. They expect little and as a result they get little.”  (Ben Sweetland)

Saturday 25 November
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF ELIMINATION OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

The Day of Elimination of Violence against Women is a United Nations observance. It is briefly introduced on the website www.timeanddate.com

“One half of life is luck; the other half is discipline - and that's the important half, for without discipline you wouldn't know what to do with luck.”  (Carl Zuckmeyer)

Friday 24 November
EVOLUTION DAY and
BUY NOTHING DAY

Evolution Day marks the anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s breakthrough text The Origin of Species 155 years ago. It can be taken as a day for celebrating the common bond between all of Creation.

Buy-Nothing Day, observed immediately following the USA’s Thanksgiving Day, is described as “a global holiday from consumerism”. It invites us to reflect on over-consumerism and to review our own excesses.

“Our ultimate freedom is the right and power to decide how anybody or anything outside ourselves will affect us.”  (Stephen R. Covey)

Thursday 23 November
ST CLEMENT and
BAHAI FEAST OF QAWL (SPEECH) and
THANKSGIVING DAY IN USA

Clement, one of the earliest successors of St Peter, is usually depicted in art with an anchor, symbolising perhaps his role in affirming orderly procedures in regard to authority in the Church.

Qawl celebrates the gift of speech. The Bahai faith holds that all God’s messengers brought the same message embodied in different languages and cultures – for example, ‘the Golden Rule’.

Thanksgiving is celebrated in the USA on the fourth Thursday of November – and by a number of other countries on different days. The North American celebrations took their lead from traditional harvest festivals in Europe. Even if we have our own national days, we might turn our thoughts and prayers to gratitude today in a spirit of solidarity.

“The moment you commit and quit holding back, all sorts of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, will rise up to help you. The simple act of commitment is a powerful magnet for help.”  (Napoleon Hill)

Wednesday 22 November
ST CECELIA

St Cecilia is traditionally the patroness of music, which has been called the language of God. Perhaps our prayer today might involve listening and responding to this transcendent language.

“Freedom is actually a bigger game than power. Power is about what you can control. Freedom is about what you can unleash.”  (Harriet Rubin)

Tuesday 21 November
PRESENTATION DAY and
WORLD TELEVISION DAY

From the feast of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple, two Congregations take their name:
•    Nano Nagle’s Presentation Sisters – see their website www.presentationsistersunion.org
•    Edmund Rice’s Presentation Brothers – their website is www.presentationbrothers.org

Television, though it is only one among many media, and not one of those most accessible to the world’s poorer people, is nevertheless a gift to celebrate and a powerful influence to acknowledge.

“Some see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not.”  (George Bernard Shaw)

Monday 20 November 2017
UNIVERSAL CHILDREN’S DAY and
AFRICA INDUSTRIALISATION DAY

Universal Children’s Day is a celebration of childhood held in dozens of countries around the globe. Children have always had a central place in the Edmund Rice world, and the uncovering of the ugly phenomenon of child abuse in a less-aware past has led to the strengthening of our contribution to honouring children’s rights and protecting the innocence and vulnerability of childhood.

Africa Industrialisation Day is a UN effort to “mobilize the commitment of the international community to the industrialization of Africa. It also reminds that more than 30 of the world's 48 least developed countries are part of Africa continent.”

“If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.”  (Albert Einstein)

Sunday 19 November
33rd SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
INTERNATIONAL MEN’S DAY

Celebrated in over a dozen countries, Men’s Day celebrates their contributions to society, highlights male health issues, and stresses the need for good male role models especially for the sake of young people.

“Gratitude is the open door to abundance.”  (Yogi Bhajan)

Saturday 18 November
NOVEMBER: MONTH OF ‘THE HOLY SOULS’

A mid-month reminder that, since the sixteenth century, the Church has observed November as a month to specially pray for those who have died and are still growing in their capacity to experience God’s presence. The traditional term ‘holy souls’ suggests that they are on their way to sainthood, and perhaps their state of need of our prayers is captured by the image in Jn 9:4 (‘the night when no one can work’).

“We are what we repeatedly do.”  (Aristotle)

Friday 17 November
INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS’ DAY

Originating in a 1939 uprising of students in Prague against Nazi pervery, this Students’ Day continues to be observed mainly as a day of students standing up against oppression in its many guises. The day brings a reminder that the young are often clear-sighted about those evils to which their elders have become accustomed and insensitive.

“The difference between extraordinary people and ordinary people is a simple as the difference between the two words.  Extraordinary people are committed to doing the extra things that ordinary people won’t.”  (Christine Kinney)

Thursday 16 November
TOLERANCE DAY

Though mere tolerance may seem rather ungenerous and patronizing, it is certainly a starting-point in the perennial struggle to rise above racism, discrimination, xenophobia, and other manifestations of crude intolerance. And our prayer and accompanying action for justice do not need to stop at tolerance, but can embrace more positive values like respect and inclusion and affirmation.

“The most critical thing I think business leaders and future business leaders need to understand is to stay focused on the things that you can control and influence, and then execute, execute, execute.”  (John Chambers)

Wednesday 15 November
RECYCLING DAY

Recycling Day is an initiative from the USA, a country that has doubled its recycling efforts in the past decade to achieve a rate of almost one-third of all its ‘trash’. We are encouraged to get involved practically both by making the effort to recycle our own waste and by buying recycled goods.

“Our life always expresses the result of our dominant thoughts.”  (Soren Kierkegaard)

Tuesday 14 November
WORLD DIABETES DAY

World Diabetes Day is a UN day that draws attention to the need for education, prevention, and management in regard to a disease that affects 285 million people currently and appears to be alarmingly on the increase. Becoming aware of the risk factors (like lack of exercise and unhealthy diet) and of the warning signs (like excessive thirst, hunger, or tiredness) is a starting-point. For more, visit the very informative site www.worlddiabetesday.org

“Profound commitment to a dream does not confine or constrain: it liberates. Even a difficult, winding path can lead to your goal if you follow it to the end.”  (Paulo Coelho)

Monday 13 November 2017
KINDNESS DAY

Kindness Day, described as “a day that encourages individuals to overlook boundaries, race, and religion”, is an initiative from the east that resonates strongly with Edmund Rice spirituality. Look up the website www.worldkindness.org.sg

“All progress begins with a brave decision.”  (Marie Forleo)

Sunday 12 November
32nd SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
SAINT JOSAPHAT

Josaphat, a monk who was ordained Archbishop and died a martyr, is remembered for leading the regeneration of Church life among the Ruthenians – Belarusians and Ukrainians. He is greatly venerated by Eastern Europeans and people of Polish origins.

“The capacity to learn is a gift;  
 the ability to learn is a skill;
 the willingness to learn is a choice.”  (Brian Herbert)

Saturday 11 November
COMMEMORATING THE END OF WORLD WAR ONE

Known variously as Remembrance Day, Armistice Day, Poppy Day, and (as broadened in USA) Veterans’ Day, this was the day in 1918 when ‘The Great War’ was signed to a close at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. One of the oldest rituals marking this event is the observance of a Two Minute Silence at this hour. About 9 million combatants lost their lives in WWI, 7 million were permanently disabled, and 15 million were seriously injured; countless others died of war-time starvation and of the famines and diseases that flowed from the war.

“One of the sanest, surest, and most generous joys of life comes from being happy over the good fortune of others.”  (Archibald Rutledge)

Friday 10 November
ST LEO THE GREAT

A 5th Century Italian Pope, Leo is remembered as the one who decisively established the primacy of the Bishop of Rome among his fellow-Bishops. Centralised authority has developed into a highly nuanced practice in the Church over the years. While strong centralization has its weaknesses, to downplay the value of its checks-and-balances would be to overlook its worth to the ultimate fidelity of the community of Jesus.

“Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody's going to know whether you did it or not.”  (Oprah Winfrey)

Thursday 9 November
ANNIVERSARY OF THE FALL OF THE BERLIN WALL and
INVENTORS’ DAY

The USA is among the several countries that celebrate a national freedom day, but also celebrates today as World Freedom Day to mark the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall 27 years ago. It could serve as an occasion to treasure one of those gifts that is most sharply appreciated where it is absent: freedom.

Several countries celebrate an Inventors’ Day to remember, honour, and appreciate the contribution of inventors to our everyday lives and to the progress of our world. We may like to join the three German-speaking countries – Germany, Austria, and Switzerland – in doing so today. There’s a saying that reminds us: “It is true that ordinary people keep the wheels turning; but never forget that it took an extraordinary person to invent the wheel.”

“Good habits are as addictive as bad habits, and a lot more rewarding.”  (Harvey Mackay)

Wednesday 8 November
WORLD URBANISM DAY

Celebrated in 30 countries on four continents, World Urbanism Day is intended to raise awareness of the environmental impact of the development of cities, and “to recognize and promote the role of planning in creating livable communities”.

“The great thing in this world is not so much where you stand, as in what direction you are moving.”  (Oliver Wendell Holmes)

Tuesday 7 November
MONTH OF THE HOLY SOULS

November is, in Catholic tradition, the month highlighting prayer for the dead, an ancient Biblically-based practice. One way of seeing ‘the Holy Souls’ is as those whose vision is still in the process of being clarified to enable them to see ‘the face of God’. Another is to see them as those still in need of prayer for reconciliation with God. The tradition is a reminder of the power of prayer and also of the invitation to participate in God’s loving nurturing of all.

“There is a calmness to a life lived in gratitude, a quiet joy.”  (Ralph H. Blum)

Monday 6 November 2017
ALL SAINTS OF AFRICA

Around the time of the feast of All Saints, Africa celebrates today its own array of saints, sometimes known as ‘our ancestors in the faith’. Reverence for ancestors is a strong element in many African cultures, resonating with the Christian tradition of celebrating those on whose spiritual shoulders we stand.

“Always do your best.  What you plant now, you will harvest later.”  (Og Mandino)

Sunday 5 November
31st SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

“If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?”  (T.S. Eliot)

Saturday 4 November
ST CHARLES BORROMEO

Charles Borromeo was a leading 16th Century church reformer. Believing that ignorance and poor education were the source of many of the Church’s problems, he put emphasis on learning, including adequate preparation of future priests. He became Cardinal Archbishop of Milan, dying at age 46.

“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle and the life of the candle will not be shortened.  Happiness never decreases from being shared.”  (Buddha)

Friday 3 November
ST MARTIN DE PORRES and
DOMINICA’S INDEPENDENCE DAY

Martin lived four centuries ago but the authenticity of his life’s message about combining prayer and service to the poor and the powerless - as Edmund Rice did - continues to ensure the popularity of this Dominican mulatto saint right up to the present.

Dominica was the first Caribbean island where the Christian Brothers established a community (in 1956, followed by Antigua in 1958 – see above). The community continues to serve at St Mary’s Academy in the capital Roseau. A second community served for some years in Portsmouth.

“It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?”  (Henry David Thoreau)

Thursday 2 November
ALL SOULS’ DAY

All Souls Day is an occasion for commemorating all those who have died and who may still be in need of our prayers in their personal progress towards readiness and capacity for God’s presence. Some of the rusty practices associated with this day in the past – like celebrants circling altars as they ended one Mass to begin another, and then another – may be liturgically insensitive and humanly unimaginative, yet the day’s call to pray for ‘the faithful departed’ remains perennially valid and valuable.

“What’s the good of dragging up sufferings which are over, of being unhappy now just because you were then.”  (Seneca)

Wednesday 1 November
ALL SAINTS’ DAY and
WORLD VEGAN DAY and
ANTIGUA’S NATIONAL DAY

All Saints Day celebrates all who have died and entered lasting union with God, not just canonized saints. So it is the feast-day of those not-officially-acknowledged saints we have known and lived with. It is celebrated as a holiday in over two dozen countries; in some other countries, it is transferred to the following Sunday.

Veganism is a philosophy of avoiding all exploitation of animals, leading to the avoidance of all animal-derived products whether for food (e.g. meat, eggs, seafood) or clothing (e.g. fur, leather, wool) or other purposes (e.g. candlewax, lanolin). Because the emphasis is on principle, not rules, some practices remain open to debate (e.g. the consumption of honey).

Antigua has been on the Edmund Rice map since the start of 1958 when the Christian Brothers established a pioneer community of four in St John’s, to teach at St Joseph’s Academy. In 1971, the American Province passed responsibility to the Canadian Province. The school developed into the premier grammar school in Antigua. Shortage of manpower caused the Brothers to withdraw from the school’s administration in 2001, when the first Lay Head took over. The Brothers left the island in 2003. Two years later, the Western American and Canadian and Eastern American Provinces merged into a single Province called Edmund Rice Christian Brothers of North America. (Source: Brother Raph Bellows.)

“I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time.”  (Charles Dickens)

Advanced Skills Training

The second Advanced Skills Training (AST) Programme is currently underway in Western Province, Zambia.

This programme follows the successful completion of the first AST at the end of 2017. It was held at the Mary Mazzarello Centre, Shillong, India.

The eighteen AST participants were expected all day Saturday 12th August to arrive from Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai. But the very heavy monsoon rains had caused severe flooding and landslides as well undermining trees so the whole group was delayed. By evening everyone had safely arrived in their new home.

On the Monday, we spend time connecting together as a group. The participants did a check-in with their community groups in the first session. In the second  session, the brothers revisited the ten Standards  of Presence. Looking forward at the eight weeks of the AST, the brothers named before the group areas of their personal growth. In the afternoon session, the design of the program was explained to the group.  

On Tuesday and Wednesday the brothers participated in  a workshop named “The Mission approach of Journeying Together” facilitated by Francis Hall. An excerpt from a challenging film, “Crossroads: Labor Pains of a New World View”, highlighted the massive changes going on in our world which is the broader context for OWITF and Journeying Together. Using the analogy of the change from chrysalis to butterfly the film posed the question: “do you want to cling on to being a chrysalis or risk becoming a butterfly?”

The group then explored the key Congregation mission document (2015): “the Strategic Development Framework of the Edmund Rice Mission to 2020”. This was followed by watching a film (2015): “Maisha – a New Life Outside the Mines’. It tells the story of three Good Shepherd Sisters who started a project in the Kolwezi area of DRC Congo in response to the poverty and tragic lifestyles of families working in residual mining spoils. It is a powerful story of how a Congregation’s charism can find new pathways in answer to crying needs of our world. The presence of the Sisters was a catalyst for a massive change in the lives of the families, especially the women and children.

Two other documents were explored: Journeying Together A strategy for Transformation and a Handbook on Community Engagement for Journeying Together. The latter book gathers essential information for anyone wishing to learn about community engagement.

Tuesday was not only India Independence Day and the feast of the Assumption but also the last night  for two participants who are returning to Kenya for personal reasons. Their presence has already been missed but the Brothers from East Africa look forward to reconnecting with them later in the year.

The second workshop of the week was on Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection. This was expertly facilitated by Br Noel D’Sa from the Province Ministries office in Delhi. Noel led the group through an in-depth reflection on the topic born of his years of work across the schools and communities of the province. The participants wrote their own on-site protection policy for their life at the Centre, as well as looking ahead to appropriate practices once they are in their new mission communities.

You can read more about the programme at their website:

Journeying Together web

 

Resources for Understanding and Living the New Story

Since the Munnar Chapter of 2008, the Congregation has been aware of the need to promote an understanding of the new story of the Universe that is emerging in the past century. There is a scientific dimension to this learning. For us there is also the very significant dimension which is living out of this new story, putting our learnings into practice in the values and attitudes that shape our lives.

These resources ar meant to introduce you to some of the science and also some of the reflections of spiritual guides in our time. It is in no way a complete or balanced set of resources but will hopefully become a starting point for further reading and reflection.

VIDEO The New Story - Brian Swimme

VIDEO Where Are We - Brian Swimme

VIDEO Birth To Earth - Brian Swimme

VIDEO Earth To Life - Brian Swimme

VIDEO Life To Human - Brian Swimme

VIDEO The Twelve Principles - Thomas Berry (1984)

Thomasberry.org - Resources by Thomas Berry

Epic of Evolution on Wikipedia

Big History on Wikipedia

The Great Story - Resources from Connie Barlow and Michael Dowd

The History of our World in 18 Minutes - David Christian

Center for the Story of the Universe - Brian Swimme

Evolutionary Christianity - Michael Dowd

View From the Center of the Universe - Nancy Abrams & Joel Primack

The New Universe and the Human Future - Nancy Abrams & Joel Primack

International Big History Association

Big History Project

Grasping the Scale of the Universe

Templeton Prize Winners

VIDEO The Origins of Life, Dr. Robert Hazen

VIDEO God In Big History, Michael Dowd

VIDEO The Fabric of the Cosmos, Dr. Brian Greene

VIDEO The Fire Inside

VIDEO The Story of Life in Photographs, Frans Lanting

The Scale of the Universe - Cary & Michael Huang

Duane Elgin

Principles of the New Paradigm

The Cross and the Cosmos blog

Process Philosophy for Everyone

VIDEO God and the Evolutionary Mind: The God Who Beckons - Sister Joan Chittister

VIDEO Creation: Is God's charity broad enough for bears? - Elizabeth Johnson

VIDEO 21st Century Spirituality - Matthew Fox

Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue at Iona College

How Can I Become a Partner in the Mission?

How can I become a Partner in this mission?

You can become a partner with us and play your part in reaching out to people who have fewer opportunities than you.

In Europe – EDMUND RICE DEVELOPMENT
Check out the Edmund Rice Development website

In Oceania – EDMUND RICE FOUNDATION AUSTRALIA
Check out the Edmund Rice Foundation website

In North America - EDMUND RICE CHRISTIAN BROTHERS FOUNDATION
Check out the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers Foundation website
Contact Colleen Noonan This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

What is OWITF?

Since Vatican II, the Congregation of Christian Brothers has been undergoing a continual process of renewal. Successive Chapters, after the first Spirituality Conference in 1982, recognised that the Spirit has been summoning us to march to a new rhythm, and called us forward with a series of inspirational vision statements in the form of Constitutions and Chapter documents. This renewal process, of its nature, will always be ongoing because it involves conversion of heart.

After 2002 our Congregation was significantly restructured. The stated aims at that time included “to transform minds and hearts”, “to facilitate new life in mission and ministry” and “to promote prophetic religious living”.

In 2008, the document that came out of the Congregation Chapter in India asked:

"The Congregation journey was given a new direction with the re-writing of our Constitutions in 1984, the articulation of the Four Directions in 1996 and with the emergence of the Seven Insights in 2002. And yet here in Munnar we felt that the Spirit was asking something new of us.
What was this new thing?"

The document went on to suggest that the answer might be found as we deepen five dimensions of our lives as Brothers:

  • To be ever open to exploring the Mystery of God in all of Creation
  • To reflect on the Jesus Story in the light of our evolving understandings of the Cosmos
  • To build healthy, compassionate communities living a heart-centred spirituality and supporting one another in mission
  • To open our hearts to the cry of the poor and the earth and to be moved to prophetic action through advocacy and works for justice
  • To allow the charism of Edmund to ‘fly free’ with freshness into finding new expressions

In 2013, having visited groups of Brothers around the world, the Congregation Leadership Team issued The Proposition. It forms the basis of the renewal process that we now call Our Way into the Future. It was embraced by the Congregation Chapter of 2014 as the pathway of renewal for each one of us and for the whole Congregation. It has three central pillars:

  • A new way of Engaging with Mystery
    Our Way into the Future is first and foremost a way of living. It is a new consciousness that is changing radically our experience of being alive and the way we live and work. The Nairobi Document speaks of growing in “awareness of the presence of God in our midst”. This is the search for meaning and it is God’s searching for us, “drawing us to choose life”. More and more people are experiencing the world in a new way and out of this new consciousness we are engaging as co-creators within a living process. We are increasingly aware of the need for a life-long commitment to personal growth.

  • A new way of being Brother in Community
    As Brothers, we are attempting to grow in authentic community living beyond superficiality, growing in “a love that struggles to cast out fear” (Con. #31). We remember that Pentecost happened in a community struggling with uncertainty. As we name our difficulties and struggles, we experience a deeper level of connection, we grow in a sense of relatedness with each other and with all of life, and we have a better sense of what it means to call ourselves “brother”.

  • A new way of being Brother with people in poverty
    The Charism Statement of 1982 reminded us that “Edmund Rice was moved by the Holy Spirit to open his whole heart to Christ present and appealing to him in poor people.” As we reflect on Blessed Edmund’s charism, there grows within us a desire to be with those at the margins of society and to share in the pain of the world. This desire comes also from an ancient wisdom that tells us it is here we will find our wholeness.
    Our Way into the Future is our response to the cry of our times to become a vibrant example of religious life that is responding to the urgent needs of our world. The Nairobi Chapter declared that “it is the agenda of the world that sets our mission direction. It is in deep listening to the groaning earth and her suffering people that the Church and Congregation experience God calling them to be agents of change, hope and transformation”.

The illustrative motif for the 2014 Congregation Chapter was the image of Moses and the Burning Bush along with the byline: Drawn by Mystery, Destined for Life. Like Moses, the delegates to the Chapter recognised that indeed we were standing on holy ground, that we had always been standing on holy ground, and in the midst of the rubble around us, “our house turned to ashes”, we knew we were being summoned anew by God to have our lives changed, just as everything in Moses’ life changed as a result of his encounter with this Mystery.

The Chapter proclaimed that the charism of Blessed Edmund is at a crossroads and challenged us to “reclaim our founding charism”. We can allow the flame to flicker out through preserving the status quo, or we can choose to move in trust to the Spirit’s invitation.

2013 - The document which articulated the structure of the new communities is called "The Proposition". It describes how we can all grow in spirituality, community and ministry.

2015 - The CLT issued a document called "Responding to the Call" which describes how we can all grow in spirituality, community and ministry - Click here to download

Updates are consantly being posted on the Journeying Together website which you can access through the following link:

Journeying Together web

 

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