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  • Two Novitiates in Zambia in 2019

    March 11th, 2019 witnessed an uplifting ceremony to mark the opening of the Novitiate for Read More
  • Formation News from India

    Parag DCosta, Daniel Sad, Mukesh Soreng, Abhinash Aind, John Dang, Elton Fernandes and Frank Gale Read More
  • Fifth Orientation Programme Begins

    Sunday, March 3rd marked the official start to the 5th Orientation Programme at the Little Read More
  • East African Postulants 2019

    A new year is about to begin in the postulancies and novitiates in Africa Province. Read More
  • Indian Province Assembly

    The Indian Province has just finished its annual assembly, held this year at the Satsang Read More
  • Profession of Br. John Paul Oluoch

    On 7th December, Br John Paul Oluoch made his perpetual profession at St Michael Parish Read More
  • Mission Frère in North America

    The Congregation’s path to renewal and transformation, Our Way into the Future, challenges us to Read More
  • First Thirty Years in East Africa

    The members of the East Africa District spent the Easter Triduum in their annual assembly, Read More
  • EREBB Leadership Certificate

    The EREBB Leadership Certificate is an international online course developed by Edmund Rice Education Beyond Read More
  • Update from the Cluster in Zambia

    A fresh influx of new members has just joined the Cluster in Western Province Zambia Read More
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Formation News from India

India 1Parag DCosta, Daniel Sad, Mukesh Soreng, Abhinash Aind, John Dang, Elton Fernandes and Frank Gale

 

The Indian Postulants present themselves:

Abinash Aind writes:
I am from Odisha. I actually wanted to join some priesthood congregation because these religious people are known to everyone in my region. I knew only priests who worked for the welfare of the society and for the poor people. I did not know anything about the Christian Brothers. I joined this congregation when I was inspired by Br. Sameer in a vocation camp. As I lived with the Brothers I came to know many things about them. I liked the way they relate with the people and their teaching. I have spent almost four years with the Brothers now and know many of them. They are very talented. They are good at playing guitar, singing, doing craft work, cooking etc. These types of things  inspire me to continue in the Brothers and I also want to become like them. At the moment I am in Bhopal doing my Orientation programme. I am happy to be here.   

John Dang writes:
I am 20 years old. I have five members in my family. I am from Jharkhand and its district Simdega. I studied in Brothers school in Bongera, where I was taught by many Brothers. I was really impressed by their teaching, their living style, socializing with all the people without any discrimination. When I saw these things I also felt like to do similar things with the brothers. Therefore I told Br. Sameer about my desire to join Christian Brothres and through him I joined. Now I am very happy to be in the Brothers. Presently I am in doing pre-noviciate course in Bhopal.

Mukesh Soreng writes:
I am from Odisha and my district is Sundargarh. In my family we are six members - my parents , two brothers , a sister and myself.
In 2015 I went to a vocation camp in Kalunga and there I met Br. Sameer and a few candidates. I was inspired by the words of Br. Sameer and showed interest in joining the congregation. Thereafter Br. Sameer called me for a vocation camp in Kolkata for three days. In that vocation camp some brothers came to interact with us and they told us about the brothers. They do teaching, social work and running big institutions.  This conversation attracted me to join the brothers. So,I joined it in May 2015. Now I am here in Bhopal and am doing my orientation programme.

Edmund Rice's Dublin Trail

Here you will find information about various Dublin establishments associated with Edmund Rice.

You could begin your walk at Edmund Rice House or the O'Connell's Schools, North Richmond Street (Off the North Circular Road).

To help you plan your itinerary, see the map. Following the trail on Google Maps will, of course, be more user-friendly. The numbers on the map correspond to the numbered sections below.

Dublin Map

1. North Richmond Street

NRichmondStEdmund Rice arrived in Dublin in July 1826 with the aim of establishing a new headquarters for the Congregation of Christian Brothers, a novitiate to train new Brothers, and a model school where teachers could be trained.

Catholic Emancipation had not yet been introduced and Br. Rice was aware of the obvious difficulty he would have in procuring a suitable site in the capital city. He enlisted the services of Mr. Bryan Bolger, an architect employed by Dublin Corporation. After many setbacks, a portion of the ground on which the present North Richmond Street house and the O'Connell's Schools stand was eventually secured.

Daniel O’Connell was invited to lay the foundation stone of the school in North Richmond Street on the 9th of June, 1828. Thousands became tens of thousands as many people arrived at the site to witness this important event. After laying the foundation stone, O’Connell addressed the large gathering, declared the occasion “a great and proud triumph to the cause of liberality" and referred to Br. Rice as the “Patriarch of the Monks of the West". On August 11th, 1828, Archbishop Murray laid the foundation stone of the North Richmond Street residence and novitiate.

Construction work was hampered by a lack of funds but eventually enough money was found to complete the residence and school by mid-1831. Edmund Rice, his two assistants, the Novice Master and four novices occupied the new residence on the 25th of June 1851. On the following day Archbishop Murray once again honoured the occasion by celebrating Mass in the chapel and blessing the buildings. A few weeks later the school was ready for the registration of pupils.

Edmund Rice resided at North Richmond Street until 27 February 1858 when failing health
forced him into retirement. He returned to Waterford city where he died on 29 August 1844 at the age of eighty-two.

2. Hanover Street

HanoverStThe first of Edmund Rice’s foundations in Dublin was in the parish of St. Andrew in 1812. At the request of Archbishop Murray, two Brothers were sent from Waterford, one being Br. Thomas John Baptist Grosvenor, a companion of the Founder. Originally they lived in Moira Place, now called Albert Place, off Grand Canal Street. They attended Mass in the nearby Townsend Street chapel until St. Andrews church was completed in 1837.

The first school was located in a timber yard on Sir John Rogerson Quay where the proprietor allowed the Brothers the use of a large shed for classrooms. Eventually a more serviceable building was rented at the corner of Hanover Street East and Lime Street. It had two floors and was built around a square with a courtyard in the middle. The Brothers lived in that part of the building facing Hanover Street, presumably upstairs. The upper floor on the other three sides provided classrooms and a lecture hall which accommodated 400 boys.

The rent was met partly by an annuity from Archbishop Murray, annual charity sermons, a house-to-house collection and the rents of the under-tenants. Daniel O’Connell and Richard Lalor Sheil often assisted with the collection at the annual charity sermons.

In 1828 Edmund Rice took up residence in Hanover Street with his two assistants to oversee the building of North Richmond Street. The Novitiate was also transferred here from Mount Sion. He stayed at Hanover Street until the North Richmond Street house was completed in 1851.

Despite repeated attempts by the Brothers to secure its future, the school was finally closed in 1844 due to lack of funding.

3. Westland Row

WestlandRowCardinal Cullen invited the Brothers to return to the parish of St. Andrew in 1864 to take charge of the parish school located at the rear of St, Andrews church. Over 400 pupils sought admission. The Brothers resided at No. 9 Townsend Street until suitable living quarters could be erected.

The Cardinal subscribed £100 towards the building of the Brothers’ new residence and laid the foundation stone. The building was completed in December 1868.

Pádraig Pearse, one of the leaders of the 1916 Rising, is the school’s best known past pupils. He and his brother William attended school here during the 1890s. Padraig later taught Irish at the school as a pupil-teacher, while at the same time studying at university. His love of the Irish language and literature was inspired by his native Irish-speaking teachers, Brothers Maunsell and Craven. In an editorial in “An Claidheamh Soluis", the official journal of the Gaelic League, Pearse described the Christian Brothers as the most important and successful body of educationalists in Ireland.

4. Baggot Street Convent
BaggotStCatherine McAuley, foundress of the Sisters of Mercy, was a contemporary of Edmund Rice. In September 1827 Catherine established a centre at Baggot Street, an affluent area on the south side of the city. Assisted by a number of companions, she provided food, clothing, hospitality and education for many of Dublin’s poor.

Daniel O'Connell, a friend of both Catherine McAuley and Edmund Rice, served food to the poor in Baggot Street on Christmas Day 1828.

In 1831 this community of lay women became the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy and the Baggot Street premises became their first convent and mother house. Catherine was professed in the Presentation Convent at George’s Hill in 1836. Today Baggot Street Convent is home to the Mercy International Centre.

 

5. Synge Street
SyngeStSynge Street school and residence which opened in 1864 was without doubt the inspiration of Br. Edward Patrick O’Flaherty, Director of Francis Street. The foundation stone was laid by Archbishop Cullen. Peter McSwiney, Lord Mayor of Dublin at the time, was one of the first people to enroll his son in the school. By the following year 600 pupils were on the roll books.

Since its foundation many additions have been made to the school. At present it occupies a large part of the rectangular piece of land enclosed by Synge Street, Harrington Street, Heytesbury Street and Grantham Street.

 

 

 

6. Mill Street
MillStSchoolMill Street was the location of the second foundation of the Brothers in Dublin. No. 10 Mill Street, which once served as the Earl of Meath’s townhouse, became the residence of the Brothers in 1818.

The school consisted of four large classrooms in the garden at the rear of No. 10.

In 1822 Edmund Rice undertook his first general visitation of the Brothers’ houses. At Mill Street he found 500 boys on the roll. The school received favourable notice in government education committee reports in the 1850s.

Br. Edward Patrick O’Elaherty (1797-1882) joined the community at Mill Street in 1825. He taught there for about ten years and was then sent to Gibraltar. He returned to Mill Street as Director in 1840.

The dilapidated state of the premises and the cost of refurbishment led to the closure or Mill Street. In 1846 the Brothers moved to a new location in Francis Street. While visiting the Mill Street community, Edmund Rice often attended Mass in nearby Warrenmount Carmelite Convent, now a Presentation Convent.

7. Francis Street

By 1844 the Mill Street property needed extensive and costly repairs. Fr. Matthew Flanagan of St. Nicholas’s parish offered a site next to his new church off Francis Street and the school was opened in 1846. The Brothers used the top storey of the building as a residence.

The school soon became overcrowded as five Brothers tried to cope with approximately 600 children. By the 1860’s this overcrowding led to plans for an additional school. A temporary chapel was erected in Harrington Street in 1862 to cater for a growing population. In 1865 the new parish of St. Kevin was constituted and a new church built. The land obtained for the church extended to Synge Street and was large enough to accommodate a school and residence.

In 1864 the Brothers went to live in Synge Street. The old school in Francis Street continued as a branch school. Renovation work was carried out in 1957 and a new building on the same site was opened in 1961 and is still in use today.

8.  James’ Street
JamesStIn 1820 Edmund Rice agreed to establish another community in Dublin, this time in James’ Street. Two Brothers were assigned to the new foundation and Br. Francis Manifold was appointed Director.

The schoolhouse was located in a large yard at the back of a shop at No. 69 James’ Street. At the time of Edmund Rice’s 1822 visitation, there were about 200 boys in attendance. Some were so poor that clothing had to be provided for them and many were given breakfast at the school. An evening and Sunday school were also conducted. The Brothers resided nearby in rented accommodation.

The community was faced with many financial problems. The Brothers lived for a while with the Mill Street community and travelled daily to the school in James’ Street.

By 1852 the schools financial difficulties led to its closure and No. 69 was sold to the world-famous Guinness Brewery.

In 1869 a replacement was established nearby. Four classrooms and a residence were built at Upper Basin Street. The interest on the money obtained from the sale of the former school to Guinness was used to finance the project.

9. No. 24, Jervis Street
JervisStHosp(The drawing shows Jervis Street hospital.)

In 1827 Archbishop Murray was urged by the parishioners of the united parishes of St. Mary, St. Thomas and St. George to address the question of schooling in the area. Out of 5000 Catholic children in the parish of St. Mary, 2000 received no education while the remainder attended non-Catholic schools.

Edmund Rice and the Archbishop, with the help of Bryan Bolger, continued their search for a suitable site for a new Christian Brothers’ model school and headquarters. Sufficient funds had been raised in 1827 to rent No. 42 Jervis Street as a temporary measure. Two classrooms were provided and Br. Bernard Dunphy and Br. Bernard Duggan from Hanover Street took charge of them. The school was opened on 19 June 1827 and 400 boys were enrolled.

It is an indication of the poverty of that time that roughly a third of the pupils could not afford to pay the voluntary contribution of a halfpenny per week. The number of pupils quickly rose to 600 and it became necessary to provide a third classroom. The Brothers gave religious instruction at the school on Sundays. Some members of the community from Hanover Street spent part of each Sunday and Holyday visiting Jervis Street Hospital where they gave religious instruction in the male wards. During his time in Hanover Street Edmund Rice often accompanied them.

Nearby in No. 64, Fr. Thomas John Baptist Grosvenor, who as a Brother had been the Director of Hanover Street before his ordination, taught in a renowned classical school. One of the pupils in No. 64 was Richard Maxwell who later became the fourth Superior General of the Congregation. Jervis Street school closed in 1851 when the new school and residence were opened at North
Richmond Street.

10. St. Francis Xavier Church, Gardiner Street

FrancisXavierIn 1827 the Sisters of Charity acquired a site in Gardiner Street from Archbishop Murray for their new schools. Not all the land was needed so the Superior of the Jesuit community at Hardwicke Street offered to lease the land and build a church there. The first stone of St. Francis Xavier Church was laid in July 1829 and it was opened in May 1852 by the Archbishop.

Edmund Rice, while residing at North Richmond Street, regularly attended Mass here. He was known for his generosity, often giving gifts to the poor on his way to and from Mass.

Br. Bernard Duggan was sent by Edmund Rice to the school in Gardiner Street, at the request of the Sisters, to assist them with school management. He later helped in the production of Christian Brothers’ text books and became Director of the North Monastery in Cork.

 

 

 

St. Mary’s, Marino

MarinoIn 1874 the Christian Brothers’ headquarters and the novitiate were transferred from North Richmond Street to Belvedere House, Drumcondra, now on the campus of St. Patrick’s College (part of the DCU Institute of Education).

The Brothers remained here until 1885 when the Superior General, his council, the novitiate and training college all moved to Charlemont House, Marino. It was replaced by a new building, St. Marys, in 1904 and the old house was demolished. All these buildings now constitute the Marino Institute of Education.

Indian Province Assembly

The Indian Province has just finished its annual assembly, held this year at the Satsang Centre, Koshimbi (about two hours east of Mumbai). The centre is run by the Sisters of the Servants of Dialogue, a local Congregation which has its ministry in interreligious dialogue, and also cares for around 20 orphan children of various ages at the Centre.  

There were around 72 Brothers present.  

The programme for the four days included sessions on

  • The Educational Scene in India with a special focus on Inclusion – with Dr Annie Koshi.
  • Generative Conversations – session led by Julian and Peter from the CLT.
  • The Evolution of Edmund Rice Education - Dr Wayne Tinsey
  • Brothers from the Journeying Together Cluster shared some of their experience from their first year.

More information will be included here when it becomes available.

Profession of Br. John Paul Oluoch

On 7th December, Br John Paul Oluoch made his perpetual profession at St Michael Parish in Langata, Nairobi, in a beautiful and well attended ceremony.

In attendance were the Brothers of the District, the parents and relatives of Br John Paul, the parishioners of St Michael Parish who included our Edmund Rice Karibu Youth, and a number of religious men and women.

From Tanzania there were representatives of our friends and co-workers who came to celebrate the occasion and showed their support and encouragement to John Paul.

Br Michael De Klerk, the Africa Province Leader received the vows in the name of the Congregation.

After the liturgy of the profession at St Michael’s Parish, all those who attended the ceremony were invited to Mary Rice Centre where the reception took place. There was much joy and jubilation as family, brothers and friends celebrated the occasion and congratulated John Paul.

A number of our youth showcased their talents through dance and singing. When all was done at the Mary Rice Centre, a celebration moved to the Otiende community where the open gates of the Brothers house brought in many guests than was earlier anticipated.

Even though we run out of ugali due to its high demand, there was still plenty of meat and drinks to share and all had a great day.

HOMILY FOR THE PERPETUAL PROFESSION OF BR JOHN PAUL OLUOCH by Br. George Massay

JEREMIAH 1:4-10; PHILIPPIANS 3:7-14; LUKE 5: 1-11

The readings we have just heard have a common theme: A call, a vocation. The reading from the Prophet Jeremiah speaks of God’s choice of Jeremiah, even before he was born. The text speaks of God’s intimate knowledge of Jeremiah. Did you hear the beautiful dialogue that happens between Jeremiah and God –we hear of God’s plan for Jeremiah and Jeremiah’s self-doubt and even fear to respond to that call. But then, after that beautiful dialogue, God gifts Jeremiah with the words he is to speak and sends him off as a prophet. It seems to me that what happened to Jeremiah can be summed in these words: Called, Gifted, and Sent.

I am sure Christian Brothers who are listening can recognize those words. They are well spelt out in our Constitutions. (Constitutions 1,3 & 5) We are all called, gifted, and sent. First and foremost through our baptism and then through our particular, unique, individual vocation. Our deepest and most fundamental call is accomplishing God’s purpose of creating us. This is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us: God who created man out of love also calls him to love – the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being. For man is created in the image and likeness of God who is himself love. (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1604)

In other words, God creates us for no other reason than that God loves us and seeks our good. At the same time, because we are created in God’s image, we are programmed, wired, and designed for the purpose of loving as God loves. This means that our task in this life is to seek the face of the beloved so that we can love and be loved.

This vocation of love takes us beyond ourselves. In each one of us there is a longing to be united by something that or someone who is more than us. In some spiritual or theological terms that “more” word is often referred to as the Transcendent. The transcendent vocation of every person.

Recently canonized Saint Oscar Romero once wrote that “no one of us is able to define our nature or our relation with our Creator, not even the atheist who claims not to believe in God. Even if people protest against God, they are always transcendently related to God. Even unbelievers must always in the end repeat the words of Saint Augustine, that great humanist who also walked along paths of unbelief but could not be happy until he exclaimed, ‘You made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.’ Only God can be the center of gravity in whom we find rest, as when a stone has fallen into the abyss, as when Christ has ascended toward God.”

The readings we have just heard speak to us, because of the love that is stirring in us to re-connect with something beyond ourselves. I dare say, too, that Brother John Paul is making his final vows today because there is something that is stirring within him that leads him to make this lifetime commitment of himself; a choice that might not make a great deal of sense to many. It is absurd in today’s world where all we are told is that you are better when you have this and are able to attain that or when you are identified with a well-known so-and-so of this world. That one might choose - and Brother John Paul does today - to commit one’s whole life to the gospel values of poverty, chastity, and obedience only make sense if our eyes gaze beyond what we are witnessing here in this world to a love beyond us, to a love that
cannot be satisfied until it is satisfied in God.

John Paul, making these vows today is your response to this divine invitation to love. You are choosing to commit your life to a wholehearted, no-holds-barred, loving relationship with God. By making vows you are saying to us that God is sufficient for you. During Kenya election periods we always hear, this one tosha, or that one tosha, but you are saying: Mungu tosha. Yesu tosha.

Servant of God Father Pedro Arrupe, a former Jesuit Superior General, once reflected:

"Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

So - if you are in love with God, whom do you know? What gets you out of bed in the morning? What breaks your heart? What amazes you? The Catholic English writer G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936) wrote a letter to his future wife, Frances Blogg, in which he set forth his proposal of marriage. In the course of this letter he expressed many things leading up to the actual proposal. At the very end of the letter he proposed - which I summarize as follows:

All my prior loves have been a preparation for loving you. Now my former life comes to an end because it has led me to you. Take my life for my search for love has brought me to you. Are these thoughts or resolutions, in John Paul’s mind when he chose the second reading from Paul’s letter to the Philippians? Saint Paul who, up until his encounter with the Risen Christ on the road to Damascus, had an illustrious past as a Hebrew, a Pharisee, a zealous follower of the law.

After his encounter with Jesus everything changes. He gets a new focus, a new love, a desire for a new knowledge which he says far outweighs anything he ever was and ever wanted to be. By professing his final vows today, Brother John Paul is responding to God’s invitation by entering into a covenant of love for the rest of his life, just as Chesterton proclaims to his bride “take my life for my search for love has brought me to you.”

John Paul, by making these vows, you are not, as it were, ontologically changed. You are not receiving a new rank. You are choosing, rather, to be a brother for the rest of your life. You are committing yourself to a lifestyle, to a style of relating that Christ intended for his followers. Jesus said “As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’. You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.” (Mathew 23:8) Brotherhood — and sisterhood - is a stance in life that gives life to others especially those who are poor and neglected. Simply put, it is about the quality of relationship.

If you have not been a brother before you made your first vows, or through your vowed life, you won't be one tomorrow. Through perpetual profession you are consecrated to God to live a life worthy of your vocation. You are set aside for God's purpose. Recently a bishop preaching during the perpetual profession of a group of sisters reminded them that they are made holy for God. They are like altars upon which the sacrifice is offered. Through consecration, John Paul, you are allowing yourself to become Eucharist, broken and shared for others. This might sound like a lofty idea, not something close to the ground, but if you look at our Congregation’s logo, that is actually what it symbolizes. The wheat symbolizes the Eucharistic life we are called to live.

In today’s gospel, Jesus encounters Simon, who was carrying on his regular activity of fishing. After that encounter Simon’s focus in life is changed. Despite a successful catch of fish, Simon is not going to the market to sell them, but instead “left everything and followed him.” (Verse 11)

John Paul has a particular affinity with water. I remember visiting his family home, I think in the year 2006. The family home is very close to Lake Victoria. His love and familiarity with life around the lake moved him to choose this gospel reading from Luke.

It is worth noting here that the gospel reading proclaimed today was used when Brother John Paul was received as a postulant in the year 2007. It is 11 years from that day. Quite a reasonable amount of time for John Paul to know what it is that he is committing himself to. I was a formation team member back in 2007 and I recall that before the arrival of the postulants, we placed on their room doors images of a boat inviting them to sail into the deep, to take a risk.

Eleven years ago Brother John Paul took that risk, and he continues to risk everything for the sake of the Gospel and in expressing today his lifelong commitment as a Christian Brother. I think John Paul has reached a mature decision to say “YES” for the rest of his life. This “YES,” even though final, will require daily commitments, and regular renewal, remembering that first attraction and invitation from the God who has called you from your youth.

Chapter - Lima 2020

Lima, Peru, has been chosen as the location for the month-long Congregation Chapter to be held in March 2020.

Further information will be appear here as it becomes available.

Theory-U

31.10.2018 Generative Conversations

In a letter to all Brothers on October 31st, 2018 the CLT wrote:

"It is the CLG’s belief that the flame of our brotherhood will be reignited only if we engage more with one another in intimate, honest conversations around questions and issues significant to our lives. 

From our experience, we believe that, as Brothers, we must make time and opportunity to sit down and talk with one another from the heart.  If we are going to co-create a future, the CLG considers it is vital that we engage with one another in a process that is called “Generative Conversations".

... The choice of a Generative Conversations approach was made at the CLG meeting when we saw anew that any sharing not from our hearts would not bring about the transformation we desire.  We sense a strong call from the Spirit to speak deeply to each other in this period of our Congregation history.

... Generative conversations are probably not as simple as they sound. We on the CLT have been working at them ourselves, and have found it helpful to have the assistance of a facilitator. That is something for your consideration.

... In addition, you will receive from your local Leadership Team guidelines to assist in understanding and engaging in generative conversations with one another in community and in clusters, wherever practicable. This has already happened in some Provinces. This conversation could include the involvement of women and men who are associates and supporters of the Brothers in various parts of the Congregation.

... Essential to the success of generative conversations is a readiness to speak the truth in love to one another, mindful that what we each see as truth might be different, based on our personality, perception and life experience.

... Similarly, it is important to create safe spaces, in which participants know that what they say will be listened to, respected and treated with confidentiality. The sharing of what is personal is often risky, because it exposes our vulnerabilities. It is likewise important to give full attention to each speaker in a group, mindful that feelings are often communicated with non-verbal gestures and reactions.  These, too, need our attention and response."

In a further letter on December 13th, 2018, the CLT wrote:

We are aware of the various efforts being made across the Congregation to put in place structures which will allow groups of Brothers to gather on a regular basis over the next year or so. We have thanked leadership teams for the energy they have put into making this possible across the Congregation.

...We place great value on ensuring that each of you has the freedom to bring to the surface, for deep and rich conversation, matters of significance to you. We want every Brother to be aware that he is being personally invited to participate in these conversations. We are convinced that in these groups, as the level of trust grows, we will be more open to sharing from the heart our personal lived experiences, our joys and sorrows, our hopes and challenges. Then, together, we can begin to look towards our shared future.

...An important aspect of Generative Conversations is that of ‘harvesting’. By this is meant the gathering of the experiences shared, the wisdom that is shared, the insights that are revealed and the issues that emerge. This is not a matter of reporting on matters hared in the confidential intimacy of the small groups. Rather it is the identifying of what is burning within us, for good or ill, and that we would do well to address in the process of co-creating our Brotherhood into the future. We believe it is important for you to know that what you raise for conversation is not lost. It feeds into the bigger picture of where we are as a body and where we need to go.

The Oceania Province Newsletter said the following on February 1st, 2019:

Generative Listening is foundational to authentic dialogue. Such listening does not come naturally. It is an art that requires practice and specific disposition, so that both speaker and listener connect. Generative Listening enables a level of connection, between the one who speaks and the one who listens, that is truly generative, that is, it creates new possibilities for action that neither parties have thought of or even expected before the conversation.

The Seven Principles for Generative Listening

  1. Slowing down and noticing more of what is present. Letting go of recent and future events in order to be fully present in the here and now. Generative Listening calls for full attention and engagement and not to be distracted by other forms of communication such as phone messages and emails. Good facilitation allows for a period of time for participants to slow down and enter a reflective space.
  2. Listening with all my senses and not just with my ears. Listening is the source of wise and profound spoken words.
  3. Listening to the words and images chosen by the speaker. Speaking is like painting with words. The chosen images / words of the speaker give added insight to the speaker’s intention.
  4. Listening and noticing the emotions conveyed by the person who is talking.
  5. Suspending judgement is probably the most difficult of the seven principles to embrace for Generative Listening.
  6. Noticing what I don’t understand or what trigger questions are raised for me rather than what I don’t like about what I am hearing. It may be helpful to write down such questions rather than interrupting the speaker.
  7. What do I feel as I listen to what is being said and why? It is important to connect with my own feelings as I am listening, as feelings are a filter to what is being said and affect interpretation and response.

11.02.2019 Official Announcement of the Congregaton Chapter

In a letter to the Congregation today, Br. Hugh O'Neill officially announced the Congregation Chapter to be held in Lima, Peru, during the month of March, 2020.

01.03.2019 Calendar

2019

March

Regional Gatherings, Australia

Cluster Meetings, North America

Leaders Meeting, Latin America

April

Cluster Meetings, North America

Province Assembly, Africa

July

Region Chapter, Latin America

Regional Gatherings in Papua New Guinea, Australia, The Philippines and New Zealand

August

Province Chapters, Europe, Arica and Oceania

October

Province Chapter, India

Congregation Chapter Official Convocation

2020

March

Congregation Chapter

May

Province Chapter, India

June

Province Chapter, Oceania

July

Province Chapters, North America and Latin America

August

Province Chapter, Europe

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

Jan 18, 2019

A new year, a new community. The last of the ‘pioneers’ in the Limulunga Community, and our Community Leader, Edward Masinde, left on Dec 9 to pursue his professional studies in Nairobi. The day before (Dec 8), we celebrated together the renewal of vows by all of us in the Western Cluster, whether annually or finally professed.

The wisdom of the Brothers is that a new community forms whenever someone enters or leaves a community. That means Limulunga has been renewed eleven times in the last fourteen months! Isaack Odongo, from Kenya, arrived on Oct 12, and Bruce Hakalembe, a Zambian, speaking both Tonga and Lozi, arrived on Dec 9, to join Kelvin Otieno and Moy Hitchen.

We plunged into a week’s workshop on community-building in mid-December, with Bruce and Isaack, and the whole Cluster. Then we spent the Saturday (Dec 15) distributing ‘inputs’, as the funders say, to the 30 new recruits to our ‘Households Tackling Hardships’ project. We ran a hectic week of workshops (Dec 3 – 7), training them in vegetable and village chicken production, plus entrepreneurship skills (so they can continue to make money from these activities). Then they received seeds, fertilisers and tools to get started on their vegetable gardens, and chickens, chicken wire and feed to begin their own chicken production.

They were chosen on the basis of the challenges they faced, as people who were elderly, disabled or women heading households. We have been visiting them since, and have become somewhat ‘instant experts’ on pests attacking vegetables and diseases afflicting chickens. Some households were eating their own vegetables within five weeks of starting, and some have chickens laying eggs already. Others were not so lucky – or so skilled. But there is support, advice and encouragement on hand, through our project team.

As an experiment, we all travelled to a small village called Mushituwambumu, with some parish workers and two of our new postulants, Manyando and Sisii (who start postulancy in Sierra Leone, in early February). In three days, we ran a ‘mini’ sports tournament for six of the local villages out on the plains. The local youth played netball, volley ball and football with great enthusiasm. 13 teams played 14 games, with prizes awarded to winners, thanks to our funders (Misean Cara and Edmund Rice Foundation Australia).

Now we face the new year – and a new community, with a new round of projects. More anon.

September 28, 2018
DSCN0090Marking a field in the sand – use rice husks!
Greetings from the thick hot sands of Limulunga. The equinox reminds us the year is turning, though the rains still seem a distant promise – perhaps in December? But change is part of our definition here in the western province, and we held a braai (barbeque) for the next six Brothers leaving us, by December 2018, on a balmy equinoctial night (September 22). In fact, two came back from their studies (in Kabwe, Zambia) to be officially farewelled!

John Holden, at the Hub, ran a beautiful ritual, and each of the six spoke of what his life in the ‘western cluster’ had meant to him. The most frequent word heard? ‘Thanks’ or ‘grateful’. This was the generation thrown in at the deep end, when the promise of twenty or more older Brothers volunteering for Journeying Together evaporated. They came straight from novitiate, most of them, and took up a new spirituality, a new way of being community, and a new way of doing ministry – in their stride! It is an extraordinary accomplishment.

The new ‘braai area’ at the Hub is a wonderful place for such gatherings. Michael Godfrey’s artistic landscaping, the waxing moon overhead, the Hub community’s culinary skills, the welcoming cluster of seats, all make for a warm hospitable night.

It also served as a backdrop for a second gathering that week. The religious men of the diocese (all 11 communities – Capuchins, Christian Brothers, Oblates, and Missionaries of Africa) have re-formed themselves into an association. We met to socialise first, around the braai, and then spent a morning dreaming, scheming and planning what we would like to achieve as a group. Stay tuned!

September 27, 2018
DSCN0220Some of our Project Team in their new T-shirts – (bk) Mwenda, Victor, Ngela, Edward; (fr) Grace, Kelvin, Dominic.
Greetings from Limulunga, where some trees have dropped their leaves, for the dry season, and others are putting out new growth, anticipating the rains – still two months away. September has seen us visiting the 70 households tackling hardships – mainly poverty, but including age, disability and being female-headed, as well.

We’ve seen their vegetable crops – those on the sand are struggling, in the heat, but those on the plains are thriving on the well-watered blacksoil. Several households are already eating their own produce (kale and Chinese cabbage are the quickest to grow), and some entrepreneurs are selling their surplus at the local markets. This means they can pay school fees for their grandchildren, buy needed supplies – and more seeds!

They are also building chicken houses for the ten or more chickens our funders (Edmund Rice Foundation Australia) will provide for those opting for ‘village chicken’ production. (A ‘village chicken’ is what others would call free range – very free, in some cases.) The tricky bit is how we will distribute the 680 month-old chickens. Probably, we’ll do this in batches, as their chicken houses get built.

With Dom Mwania leaving us so early, for holidays and then studies in Kenya, we held our Discernment Day for evaluation of our living our Brotherhood on September 17, at the Hub. All of us were assessed, annual or final vows notwithstanding! It was a day of honesty, sharing, affirming and challenging – and a long way from the old ‘scrutiny’ process.

September 26, 2018
DSCN0232Volleyball – on the sand (Limulunga Primary School)
Greetings from Limulunga, on the eastern edge of the great Zambezi flood plain, where the dry season is in full force, with daily temperatures in the mid to high 30s. This morning at 4.30 am, we farewelled Dom Mwania, as he heads back to Kenya for his long-awaited home leave (after three years in Limulunga) and then studies in Sustainable Development.

Dom is one of the pioneering group who left novitiate and founded a new way of being Brother, here in the hot sands of the western province of Zambia. Our current community engagement is based on their early years of contacting and building relationships with the local people. The farewells to Dom showed how much he had touched their hearts and inspired them. Edward, our last ‘pioneer’ will leave us, for studies in Nairobi, in December.

As one of this last duties, Dom chaired the Grand Final and Prize-giving for our third and last sports tournament, on September 16. The District Commissioner was our guest speaker, and he spoke well of the Brothers’ efforts to change the negative behaviours of some local youth.

But the team that stole the show were called Katondo. They won the ‘most disciplined team’ award (a full set of jerseys, thanks to our funder, Misean Cara, Ireland). They were the only team who had not picked up a yellow or red card! It was widely known they consisted of young men who had been hanging around the bars and pool tables at the noisy end of town. Yet, they had opted to play, trained seriously, and impressed all with their determination. They were a very popular choice for the award. For us, they symbolised the sort of behaviour change we have been hoping for.

August 5, 2018
DSCN0226Football on the sand – shoes optional

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 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.

Two Novitiates in Zambia in 2019

March 11th, 2019 witnessed an uplifting ceremony to mark the opening of the Novitiate for a new group of 11 Novices.

These men are from four countries - Liberia, Kenya, Zambia and the Philippines.

 Novices ISC

 

Meanwhile the second-year novices continue with their programme. They are spending the first few months of 2109 on community placement.

Edwin-Dominic-Josephat-GabouEdwin, Dominic, Josephat and Gabou in Matero.

Fred-Boniface-hat-Philemon-and-VictorFred, Boniface(hat), Philemon and Victor in Kansans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below each of the eight tells us something about himself:

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)

East African Postulants 2019

A new year is about to begin in the postulancies and novitiates in Africa Province. Here some of the postulants present themselves:

Lawrence NdyabagyeLawrence Ndyabagye is a 26-year-old who comes from Ntungamo District in south-western Uganda.  He is the first Ugandan to join the postulancy.
He writes:  My initial contact with the Christian Brothers was talking with Brothers George Massay and Stephen Wanjala Wandabusi.
I have been attracted to join the postulancy in order to study and go deeper into the life of a Christian Brother.

Dauglas Nyauntu MarubeDauglas Nyauntu Marube is a youthful 21-year-old Kisii from the city of the same name in Western Kenya.
He writes: My initial contact with the Christian Brothers was through the late Br Peter Cole.
I have been attracted to join the postulancy by the degree of good conduct from the Christian Brothers and the close contact with me which they have maintained until now.

Kennedy Wamwandu AkothKennedy Wamwandu Akoth is aged 24 and is a Luo from Kisumu in Western Kenya.
He writes: My initial contact was through former Christian Brother, Lawrence Agalo.
I have been attracted to join the postulancy to ask for a close relation with God in prayers and serving others.


Fabio Ondieki MautiFabio Ondieki Mauti is a mature 30 years of age from the Kisii tribe in Western Kenya.
He writes: I originally found out about the Christian Brothers through The Seed magazine and from a friend. 
I have been attracted to join the postulancy through the work they do for the youth and especially the less fortunate people in society, and the good example of Jesus which the Brothers imitate through their simple community life which I saw during my Come and See programme.

Joseph William OmondiJoseph William Omondi is a 25-year-old Luo from Homa Bay County in Western Kenya.
He writes: The Brothers I initially met were Peter Cole, Daniel Kyalo Kimeu, George Massay, and Chrispinus Munialo Okumu.
I have been attracted to join the postulancy by the Christian Brothers’ love for children's education.

Benson Kiteta MbaluBenson Kiteta Mbalu is a 24-year-old Kamba from Machakos County, east of Nairobi.
He writes: My initial contact was through Br Daniel Kyalo Kimeu when he visited our parish in his journey for vocation promotion.
I have been attracted to join the postulancy by the Christian Brothers’ love and unity that I have seen.  I am also attracted by the ministries and service they offer to the needy members of society.

John Kinyanjui MwauraJohn Kinyanjui Mwaura is the oldest member of the group at 32 years of age.  He is a Kikuyu from the island county of Lamu.
He writes: My initial contact was through Br George Massay.
I have been attracted to join the postulancy through the Christian Brothers’ mission activities with the youth, their involvement with the less privileged people in society, and their humble way of life.


The Postulants in Arusha, Tanzania, in 2018 sent the following 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.


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.

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 the website of MIE below.

MIE logo

Fifth Orientation Programme Begins

Sunday, March 3rd marked the official start to the 5th Orientation Programme at the Little Daughter’s of St. Joseph Retreat Centre in Nairobi, Kenya.

The ceremony of welcome began in the early afternoon with many friends of the Brothers, and Brothers from the local Christian Brother communities in attendance.

The theme of the ceremony was "Standing at the Edge, Willing!" highlighting the invitation to the 15 participants to enter fully into the OP.

From the India Province there was Ajay Dang and Jayanti Chauhan; from Sierra Leone was Christian Hazeley, Francis Ngaujia and Samuel Amara; from Ghana came Anthony Bangura; from Kenya were Alphas Odoyo, Amos Kutwa, Constantine Sunday, Daniel Kyalo, Martin Khaemba and Stephen Wandabusi, and from Zambia came Jackson Mubela and Marvin Phiri, while Hugh Moloney comes from Ireland but has been in Zambia for many years.

The choir from Edmund Rice Catholic Education Centre led the singing with Sunil Britto as the Master of Ceremonies.

Tony Shanahan, the District Leader of the East Africa District welcomed the guests and Brother participants, expressing the hope that the OP would be for the Brothers a moment of real change.

David Gibson gave a brief explanation of the significance of the Moses painting as a backdrop to the project Journeying Together.

The key element of the opening ceremony was when each of the OP team members – Lynette Rodrigues, Sunil Britto, Donal Kirk, and David Gibson called each of the Brother participants and asked if they were willing to embark on the OP journey, to which the Brothers replied, "I am willing!". Then, each of them received a shawl and a welcome letter together with a card with each Brothers’ favourite gospel quotation.

John Casey, a member of the Congregation Leadership Team, offered a word of encouragement to the Brothers as they set out on this road of renewal.

Finally, Lynette Rodrigues and Br Tom Kearney led the blessing prayer, and the choir concluded the ceremony with the song, Follow Me.

After the ceremony all were invited to some light refreshments.

Overall, this was a wonderful day of Brotherhood as we begin this 5th Orientation Programme.

 

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

Journeying Together web

Praying during the Week

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

Sunday 24 March
3rd SUNDAY OF LENT and
ANNIVERSARY OF THE DEATH OF ARCHBISHOP ROMERO and
WORLD TUBERCULOSIS DAY

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)

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

“The secret of success in life is to be ready for opportunity when it comes.”  (Benjamin Disraeli)

Saturday 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.

“If the wind will not serve, take to the oars.”  (Latin Proverb)

Friday 22 March
WORLD WATER DAY

The theme this year is ‘Leaving no one behind’, which refers to the central promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: that as sustainable development progresses, everyone must benefit. See www.worldwaterday.org

“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.”  (Stephen Covey)

Thursday 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.

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

Wednesday 20 March
ST JOSEPH’S 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.

“We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden.”  (Johann Wolfgang Van Goethe)

Tuesday 19 March
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.

“He who would do great things, should not attempt them alone.”  (Seneca, 4 BC-65 AD)

Monday 18 March 2019
anticipating WORLD FORESTRY DAY (Thursday)

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.

“Failure is the foundation of success; success is the lurking place of failure.”  (Lao Tzu, 604 BC -531 BC)

Sunday 17 March
2nd SUNDAY OF LENT and
ST PATRICK’S DAY

St Patrick’s Day prompts us each year to remember with gratitude all the richness that has blessed Edmund Rice’s community worldwide through his Irish context and culture. The strong missionary tradition of the Irish Church, represented in Edmund Rice’s Brothers and countless other religious Congregations, as well as groups like St Patrick’s Missionary Society, is a reminder of the missionary dimension of the Christian vocation. St Patrick’s Day is a national holiday for the Irish to celebrate their heritage, and a day for the rest of us to pray for the people of Ireland and specially for the ER Network there.

“Comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house a guest, and then becomes a host, then a master. And then it becomes a tamer, and with a hook and whip it makes puppets of your larger desires.”  (Kahlil Gibran)

Saturday 16 March
recalling WORLD CONSUMER RIGHTS DAY

Consumer Rights Day, marked yesterday, demands “access to safe, fair, and competitive markets in financial services for all” – look it up on www.consumersinternational.org

“A goal is not the same as a desire, and this is an important distinction to make.  You can have a desire you don't intend to act on.  But you can't have a goal you don't intend to act on.”  (Tom Morris)

Friday 15 March
INTERNATIONAL DAY AGAINST POLICE BRUTALITY

Established in 1997, this Day against Police Brutality arose in reaction to shameful incidents in which both suspects and innocent bystanders have been inhumanly treated by out-of-control police – increasingly such attacks are being filmed by others on the scene, and this evidence is presented to the public through social media.

“If you wouldn’t write it and sign it, don’t say it.”  (Earl Wilson)

Thursday 14 March
WHITE DAY

Coming a month after Valentine’s Day, White Day is an occasion for reciprocation – in particular, men giving generous gifts to women – a recently developed custom in Eastern countries, commercial in origin but with creative potential.

“Before everything else, getting ready is the secret of success.”  (Henry Ford)

Wednesday 13 March
ST JOSEPH’S MONTH

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.

“Nothing is stronger than habit.”  (Ovid)

Tuesday 12 March
WORLD DAY AGAINST CYBER CENSORSHIP

First celebrated in 2009, the observance of a day against cyber censorship is a request from Reporters without Borders and Amnesty International in the interests of press freedom.

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”  (Pablo Picasso)

Monday 11 March 2019
COURAGE

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.

“Life isn’t about getting and having; it’s about giving and being.”  (Kevin Kruse)

Sunday 10 March
1st SUNDAY OF LENT and
MONTH OF MARCH

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.

“A loving person lives in a loving world. A hostile person lives in a hostile world. Everyone you meet is your mirror.”  (Ken Keyes)

Saturday 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.

“Over every mountain is a path, although it may not be seen from the valley.”  (Theodore Roethke)

Friday 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 108th 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.

“Problems are only opportunities in work clothes.”  (Henry Kaiser)

Thursday 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.

“Kind words do not cost much. They never blister the tongue or lips. They make other people good-natured. They also produce their own image on men's souls, and a beautiful image it is.”  ( Blaise Pascal)

Wednesday 6 March
ASH WEDNESDAY, the start of LENT,
and GHANA’S INDEPENDENCE 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.

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.

“Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.”  (Joshua J. Marine)

Tuesday 5 March
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.

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments.” (source unknown)

Monday 4 March 2019
WORLD DAY OF THE FIGHT AGAINST SEXUAL EXPLOITATION

This World Day 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.

“All experience is an arch to build upon.”  (Henry Adams)
 

Sunday 3 March
8th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
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.

“Whether you think you can, or think you can’t: you're right."  (Henry Ford)

Saturday 2 March
ST JOSEPH’S MONTH

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.

“Making things positive doesn’t mean a sunny outlook; it means making the choice to see problems as opportunities. Every problem and difficult situation is embedded with a solution - the adventure lies in finding the solution.”  (Brahma Kumariss)

Friday 1 March
INTERNATIONAL DEATH PENALTY ABOLITION DAY and
WORLD DAY OF PRAYER

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.

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

 “It’s not your position in life; it’s the disposition you have which will change your position.”  (Dr David McKinley)

Thursday 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.”

“For every disadvantage there is a corresponding advantage.”  (Clement Stone)

Wednesday 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.

“Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones.”  (Phillips Brooks)

Tuesday 26 February
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.

“When people undermine your dreams, predict your doom or criticize you, remember they're telling you their story, not yours.”  (Cynthia Occelli)

Monday 25 February 2019
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.

“Practice is the price of mastery. Whatever you practice over and over again becomes a new habit of thought and performance.”  (Brian Tracy)

Sunday 24 February
7th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
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.

“The world would have you agree with its dismal dream of limitation. But the light would have you soar like the eagle of your sacred visions.”  (Alan Cohen)

Saturday 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 10 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

“Be patient with yourself. Self-growth is tender; it’s holy ground. There’s no greater investment.”  (Stephen Covey)

Friday 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 40th 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

“Hope transforms pessimism into optimism. Hope is invincible. Hope changes everything. It changes winter into summer, darkness into dawn, descent into ascent, barrenness into creativity, agony into joy. Hope is the sun. It is light. It is passion. It is the fundamental force for life's blossoming.”  (Daisaku Ikeda)

Thursday 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.

“You will never be able to escape from your heart. So it’s better to listen to what it has to say.”  (Paul Coelho)

Wednesday 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.

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”  (Thich Nhat Hanh)

Tuesday 19 February
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.

“Making a decision usually means taking one of two roads. One is doing the right thing. To take the other road, you have to sit back and spin a story around the decision or action you are taking. If you find yourself thinking up an elaborate justification for what you are doing, you are not doing the right thing.”  (Wayne Sales)

Monday 18 February 2019
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.

“One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again.”  (Abraham Maslow)

Sunday 17 February
6th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
2006 MUDSLIDE IN THE PHILIPPINES

The thirteenth 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.

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant.”  (Robert Louis Stevenson)

Saturday 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.

“Life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% of how you react to it.”  (Charles R. Swindoll)

Friday 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.

“Out of clutter, find Simplicity. From discord, find Harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies Opportunity.”  (Albert Einstein)

Thursday 14 February
ST VALENTINE’S DAY

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.

“When you parent, it’s crucial you realize you aren’t raising a ‘mini me’ but a spirit throbbing with its own signature.”  (Dr Shefali Tsabary)

Wednesday 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

“The reason people find it so hard to be happy is that they always see the past better than it was, the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be.”  (Marcel Pagno)

Tuesday 12 February
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”.

“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can't find them, make them.”  (George Bernard Shaw)

Monday 11 February 2019
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.

“Give whatever you are doing and whoever you are with the gift of attention.”  (Jim Rohn)

Sunday 10th February
SUNDAY and
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.

“Most people spend their entire lives on a fantasy island called 'Someday I'll.'”  (Denis Waitley)

Saturday 9th 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.

“Everybody thinks of changing humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself.”  (Leo Tolstoy)

Friday 8th 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.

“When you stop chasing the wrong things you give the right things a chance to catch you.”  (source unknown)

Thursday 7th 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 43rd anniversary of their independence from Britain, let us remember in prayer the circles of Grenadians around the Presentation Brothers.

“Good leaders grow ideas rather than cut them down. They think of ideas as raw material rather than finished products.”  (Alan Zimmerman)

Wednesday 6th 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.

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”  (Aristotle)

Tuesday 5th February
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.

“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”  (Sir Edmund Hillary)

Monday 4th February 2019
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.

“The mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting.”  (Plutarch)

Sunday 3rd February
4th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
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.

“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”  (Peter F. Drucker)

Saturday 2nd 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 real person you are is revealed in the moments when you’re certain no other person is watching. When no one is watching, you are driven by what you expect of yourself.”  (Ralph S. Marston, Jr)

Friday 1st February
ST BRIGID, BISHOP and
BLACK HISTORY MONTH and
BLESSED BENEDICT DASWA

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.

Benedict Daswa, beatified in 2015, is South Africa’s first candidate to be recognized as a martyr for his faith. He was brutally murdered in 1990 by a mob bent on finding and destroying a scapegoat for something they ascribed to witchcraft.

“It really doesn't matter which way the wind blows - or how often it may suddenly change direction - as long as you remain at the helm of your ship, never losing sight of the harbor towards which you sail.”  (Guy Finley)

Thursday 31st 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.

“Our love, or our lack of it...will in the end be an expression of ourselves: of who we think we are, of what we want to be, of what we think we are here for.”  (Thomas Merton)

Wednesday 30th January
MARY WARD, FOUNDER OF THE LORETO SISTERS

Mary Ward was declared ‘Venerable’ just over nine 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.

“The greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time.”  (Bill Bryson)

Tuesday 29th January
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.

“We have to go for what we think we're fully capable of, not limit ourselves by what we've been in the past.”  (Vivek Paul)

Monday 28th January 2019
ST THOMAS AQUINAS and
DATA PRIVACY DAY

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!

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 dataprivacyday.org

“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 Goethe)

Sunday 27th January
3rd SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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

Saturday 26th January
AUSTRALIA DAY  and  INDIA’S REPUBLIC DAY

This year India marks the 68th 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.

“Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step.”  (Martin Luther King, Jr)

Friday 25th 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.

“Take time to accept responsibility.  Your life is exactly that - It's your life.  It is created by you.  You are constantly making choices, constantly creating new experiences.  And although we an be affected by circumstances which can seem to be completely out of our control.   Essentially, we decide the direction in which we walk.”  (Nicolas Watkins)

Thursday 24th 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.

“Don't become a victim of yourself. Forget about the thief waiting in the alley; what about the thief in your mind?”  (Jim Rohn)

Wednesday 23rd 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.

“Without the element of uncertainty, the bringing off of even the greatest business triumph would be dull, routine and eminently unsatisfying.”  (J. Paul Getty)

Tuesday 22nd January
anticipating INTERNATIONAL HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE (Sunday 27th January)

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.)

“Some men have thousands of reasons why they cannot do what they want to, when all they need is one reason why they can.”  (Brian Tracy)

Monday 21st January 2019
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.

“Procrastination is a favorite hiding place.”  (Denis Waitley)

Sunday 20 January
2nd SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
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.

“The seasons do not push one another; neither do clouds race the wind across the sky. All things happen in their own good time.”  (Dan Millman)

Saturday 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.

“Through the years I have found it wonderful to acquire, but it is also wonderful to divest. It's rather like exhaling.”  (Helen Hayes)

Friday 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.

“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)

Thursday 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.

“Life is part positive and part negative. Suppose you went to hear a symphony orchestra and all they played were the little, happy, high notes? Would you leave soon? Let me hear the rumble of the bass, the crash of the cymbals, and the minor keys.”  (Jim Rohn)

Wednesday 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.

“A great attitude does much more than turn on the light in our worlds; it seems to magically connect us to all sorts of serendipitous opportunities that were somehow absent before we changed.”  (Earl Nightingale)

Tuesday 15 January
ANNIVERSARY OF HUDSON RIVER EMERGENCY LANDING

Ten 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.

“Your attitude determines your altitude!”  (Denis Waitley)

Monday 14 January 2019
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.

“Watch your manner of speech if you wish to develop a peaceful state of mind. Start each day by affirming peaceful, contented and happy attitudes and your days will tend to be pleasant and successful.”  (Norman Vincent Peale)

Sunday 13 January
BAPTISM OF THE LORD and
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.

“Some people procrastinate so much that all they can do is run around like firefighters all day -- putting out fires that should not have gotten started in the first place.”  (Nido Qubein)

Saturday 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.

“Ability can take you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.”  (Zig Ziglar)

Friday 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.

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

Thursday 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.

“I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”  (William Penn)

Wednesday 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 have 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.

“It is the nature of man to rise to greatness if greatness is  expected of him.”  (John Steinbeck)

Tuesday 8 January
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.

Monday 7 January 2019
SAN RAIMUNDO DE PEÑAFORT

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.

“I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. 'Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.”  (Thomas Paine)

Sunday 6 January
THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD

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.

“Feelings come and feelings go. There is no need to fear them and no need to crave them. Let them come, and then let them go. No feeling is your permanent reality, no matter how intense it is.”  (source unknown)

Saturday 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 occasions 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.

“When the one man loves the one woman and the one woman loves the one man, the very angels desert heaven and come and sit in that house and sing for joy.”  (Brahma Sutra)

Friday 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.

“Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.”  (Jim Rohn)

Thursday 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.

“Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.”  (Lyndon B. Johnson)

Wednesday 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 2019 diaries so we can be aware.

“Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”  (John Wooden)

Tuesday 1 January 2019
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 “Good politics at the service of peace”. Look for it via the Search facility at the top of www.justpax.it

“Many of us spend half our time wishing for things we could have if we didn't spend half our time wishing.”  (Alexander Woollcott)

Monday 31 December 2018
WORLD SPIRITUALITY DAY

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. You can look it up on www.integrativespirituality.org

“The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us, and we see nothing but sand; the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone.”  (George Eliot)

Sunday 30 December
HOLY FAMILY SUNDAY and
END OF THE YEAR

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.

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 2018.

“Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what it was in nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be...but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now.”  (Anne Morrow Lindbergh)

Saturday 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.

“We come this way but once. We can either tiptoe through life and hope that we get to death without being too badly bruised or we can live a full, complete life achieving our goals and realizing our wildest dreams.”  (Bob Proctor)

Friday 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”.

“The real winners in life are the people who look at every situation with an expectation that they can make it work or make it better.”  (Barbara Petcher)

Thursday 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.

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.”  (Albert Einstein)

Wednesday 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.

“A large volume of adventures may be grasped within this little span of life, by him who interests his heart in everything.”  (Laurence Sterne)

Tuesday 25 December
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.

“When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.”  (Willie Nelson)

Monday 24 December 2018
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.”

“You can do anything you think you can.  This knowledge is literally the gift of the gods, for through it you can solve every human problem.  It should make of you an incurable optimist.  It is the open door.”  (Robert Collier)

Sunday 23 December
4th SUNDAY OF ADVENT and
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).

“If we cannot be clever, we can always be kind.”  (Alfred Fripow)

Saturday 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.

“Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it is the only one you have.”  (Emile Chartier)

Friday 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.

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”  (Socrates)

Thursday 20 December
INTERNATIONAL HUMAN SOLIDARITY DAY

Established by the UN eleven 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.

“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, or worn. It is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.”  (Denis Waitley)

Wednesday 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.

“The true test of character is not how much we know how to do, but how we behave when we don't know what to do.”  (John Holt)

Tuesday 18 December
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.

“The harder you fall, the higher you bounce.”  (Doug Horton)

Monday 17 December 2018
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.

“Let him that would move the world, first move himself.”  (Socrates)

Sunday 16 December
3rd SUNDAY OF ADVENT and
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.

“You will never stub your toe standing still. The faster you go, the more chance there is of stubbing your toe, but the more chance you have of getting somewhere.”  (Charles F. Kettering)

Saturday 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.

“When you're finished changing, you're finished.”  (Benjamin Franklin)

Friday 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.

“Nothing strengthens the judgment and quickens the conscience like individual responsibility.”  (Elizabeth Cady Stanton)

Thursday 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.

“Diamonds are nothing more than chunks of coal that stuck to their jobs.”  (Malcolm Forbes)

Wednesday 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 55th anniversary of becoming independent in 1963.

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”  (Cicero)

Tuesday 11 December
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”.

“Champions do not become champions when they win the event, but in the hours, weeks, months and years they spend preparing for it. The victorious performance itself is merely the demonstration of their championship character.”  (T. Alan Armstrong)

Monday 10 December 2018
HUMAN RIGHTS DAY

This year marks the 51st 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.

“Life begets life. Energy creates energy. It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich.”  (Sarah Bernhardt)

Sunday 9 December
2nd SUNDAY OF ADVENT and
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 real person you are is revealed in the moments when you’re certain no other person is watching.  When no one is watching, you are driven by what you expect of yourself.”  (Ralph S. Marston, Jr)

Saturday 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.

“Winners build on mistakes. Losers dwell on them.”  (A. Mori)

Friday 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.

“The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem.”  (Theodore Rubin)

Thursday 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.

“Every problem has in it the seeds of its own solution. If you don't have any problems, you don't get any seeds...”  (Norman Vincent Peale)

Wednesday 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.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”  (Albert Einstein)

Tuesday 4 December
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.

“All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous, unpremeditated act without benefit of experience.”  (Henry Miller)

Monday 3 December 2018
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.

“Discovery of a solution consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else and thinking something different.”  (Albert Szent-Gyorgyi)

Sunday 2 December
1st SUNDAY OF ADVENT and
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.

“To solve any problem, there are three questions to ask yourself: First, what could I do? Second, what could I read? And third, whom could I ask?”  (Jim Rohn)

Saturday 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.

“When faced with senseless drama, spiteful criticisms, and misguided opinions, walking away is the best way to stand up for yourself. To respond with anger is an endorsement of their attitude.”  (Dodinsky)

Friday 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

“Beliefs have the power to create and the power to destroy. Human beings have the awesome ability to take any experience of their lives and create a meaning that disempowers them or one that can literally save their lives.”  (Tony Robbins)

Thursday 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.

“You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call 'failure' is not the falling down, but the staying down.”  (Mary Pickford)

Wednesday 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.

“As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world… as in being able to remake ourselves.”  (Mahatma Gandhi)

Tuesday 27 November
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 best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart.”  (Helen Keller)

Monday 26 November 2018
ST JOHN BERCHMANS

A Belgian Jesuit who died of a fever at the age of 22, John Berchmans is the patron saint of altar boys. His life is a reminder that the call to whole-iness via the path of discipleship is addressed as much to the young as to the mature.

“Keep in mind that you are always saying 'no' to something. If it isn't to the apparent, urgent things in your life, it is probably to the most fundamental, highly important things. Even when the urgent is good, the good can keep you from your best, keep you from your unique contribution, if you let it.”  (Stephen Covey)

Sunday 25 November
CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY and
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

“Every action - or inaction - involves a choice between what is more important and what is less important.”  (Brian Tracy)

Saturday 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 156 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.

“Learn how to separate the majors and the minors. A lot of people don't do well simply because they major in minor things.”  (Jim Rohn)

Friday 23 November
ST CLEMENT and
BAHAI FEAST OF QAWL (SPEECH)

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’.

“Back of every creation, supporting it like an arch, is faith. Enthusiasm is nothing: It comes and goes. But if one believes, then miracles occur.”  (Henry Miller)

Thursday 22 November
ST CECELIA and
THANKSGIVING DAY IN USA

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.

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 art of mothering is to teach the art of living to children.”  (Elain Heffner)

Wednesday 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.

“Our self image and our habits tend to go together. Change one and you will automatically change the other.”  (Maxwell Maltz)

Tuesday 20 November
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.”

“Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of intelligent effort.”  (John Ruskin)

Monday 19 November 2018
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.

“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself.”  (St Francis de Sales)

Sunday 18th November
33rd SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
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’).

“An ounce of performance is worth pounds of promises.”  (Mae West)

Saturday 17th 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.

“Long-range goals keep you from being frustrated by short-term failures.”  (J.C. Penney)

Friday 16th 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.

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

Thursday 15th 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.

“Start by doing what's necessary, then what's possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”  (St Francis)

Wednesday 14th 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

“When we walk to the edge of all the light we have, and take the step into the darkness of the unknown, we must believe that one of two things will happen. There will be something solid for us to stand on... or we will be taught to fly.”  (Frank Outlaw)

Tuesday 13th November
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

“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)

Monday 12th November 2018
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.

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

Sunday 11 November
32nd SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
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.

“An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.”  (Mohandas Ghandi)

Saturday 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.

“You were born rich with 18 billion bountiful, beautiful, totally available and in all probability under-used brain cells awaiting your desire, decision and directional compass to take you onward, upward, goodward and Godward.”  (Mark Victor Hansen)

Friday 9 November
ANNIVERSARY OF THE FALL OF THE BERLIN WALL

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 28 years ago. It could serve as an occasion to treasure one of those gifts that is most sharply appreciated where it is absent: freedom.

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but reveal to them their own.”  (Benjamin Disraeli)

Thursday 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”.

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

Wednesday 7 November
Anticipating INVENTORS’ DAY (on Friday)

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.”

“Self-respect is the fruit of discipline; and the sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself.”  (Abraham Joshua Heschel)

Tuesday 6 November
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.

“Thank you, God, for this good life and forgive us if we do not love it enough.”  (Garrison Keillor)

Monday 5 November 2018
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 are no short cuts to any place worth going.”  (Beverly Sills)

Sunday 4 November
31st SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME &
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.

“Nothing else can quite substitute for a few well-chosen, well-timed, sincere words of praise. They're absolutely free -- and worth a fortune.”  (Sam Walton)

Saturday 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.

“The most important thing in communication is to hear  what isn't being said.”  (Peter Drucker)

Friday 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.

“I have learned to live each day as it comes, and not to borrow trouble by dreading tomorrow.”  (Dorothy Dix)

Thursday 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.)

“As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world ... as in being able to remake ourselves.”  (Mahatma Gandhi)

Wednesday 31 October
HALLOWEEN and
REFORMATION DAY

Halloween – the eve of All Hallows Day (All Saints) – has become tied to ancient beliefs about the presence of spirits at summer’s end in the northern hemisphere, as the light part of the year gives way to the dark. A southern equivalent, as the darker part of the year gives way to the light, has yet to be defined: perhaps it is a good time to lay-to-rest old ghosts and burdensome memories.

Reformation Day commemorates the most prominent watershed in the Church’s story and highlights the challenges with which division faces us today. An encouraging scholarly ‘take’ on the differences between today’s mainstream Christian denominations, though, is that they are much less significant than the differences between ‘the churches’ in the century following the lifetime of Jesus.

“A smile is the most powerful social tool you have at your disposal.”  (Zig Ziglar)

Tuesday 30 October
anticipating LATIN-AMERICAN MONTH (November)

The Edmund Rice Network is represented in five countries of Latin America: Paraguay, Argentina, Bolivia, Perú, and Uruguay. This includes over thirty Christian Brothers. To find out more about them, see their website www.familiaedmundorice.org

“History has noted that the most notable winners usually encounter heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed. They won because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats.”  (B.C. Forbes)

Monday 29 October 2018
WORLD PSORIASIS DAY

The skin-disorder of Psoriasis has become a world health challenge, affecting 3% of people. Though it is not contagious, it often involves stigma in addition to the discomfort of the disease itself. As yet there is no cure – see www.worldpsoriasisday.org

“Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness.”  (Seneca)

Sunday 28 October
30th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
BREAST-CANCER AWARENESS MONTH

After skin-cancers, breast cancer is the most common kind of cancer afflicting women. October has become the month that highlights this, prompting early detection and calling to mind those affected.

“Self-esteem is like a difficult-to-cultivate flower. It requires frequent nurturing that occurs when you keep your word and follow through on your promises.”  (Derrick Bell)

Saturday 27 October
DISABILITY AWARENESS MONTH and
MAKE-A-DIFFERENCE DAY

Another American initiative pinned to the month of October is a call to reaffirm commitment to equal opportunities. In particular this involves taking account of the employment needs – and acknowledging the contributions – of people living with all kinds of disabilities.

Make-a-Difference Day is celebrated on the 4th Saturday of October. Today is the 27th anniversary of this USA tradition of having a rallying day for community service. Though it is not an international observance, it will surely resonate with Edmund Rice people throughout the thirty-or-so countries where his spirit is making its mark.

“There’s only one direction you can coast.”  (Brian Tracy)

Friday 26 October
FAMILY HISTORY MONTH

The North American practice of highlighting family history in the month of October, like the honouring of ancestors in many ancient cultures, reminds us of the shoulders on which we stand and of the mystery of our interconnectedness.

“The first step toward success is taken when you refuse to be a captive of the environment in which you first find yourself.”  (Mark Caine)

Thursday 25 October
DISARMAMENT WEEK

The week of 24-30 October is Disarmament Week, a UN reminder of the need to reverse the dangerous arms race. On top of the threat posed by the very existence of nuclear weapons, an average of 2000 people die each day as a result of armed conflict, while landmines continue to maim people and to make huge areas unsafe and unusable.

“As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world… as in being able to remake ourselves.”  (Mahatma Gandhi)

Wednesday 24 October
UNITED NATIONS DAY and
WORLD DEVELOPMENT INFORMATION DAY and
ZAMBIA’s INDEPENDENCE DAY

United Nations Day helps to make known the UN’s aims and achievements and to attract broad-based ‘buy-in’ to caring about ‘the bigger picture’ and the voiceless in our world.

World Development Information Day coincides with United Nations Day to draw attention to the need for international co-operation in addressing the world’s development problems.

Zambia, celebrating its independence today, is a significant country in the Edmund Rice world. Christian Brothers from the USA and then from Ireland pioneered making the influence of Edmund felt in scattered and remote parts of this sparsely populated country. Some years ago their number was overtaken by Zambian-born Christian Brothers, and today the country has a growing network of Edmund Rice people. Western Zambia was chosen as the site for the Christian Brothers’ first new cluster of communities at the spearhead of a Congregation-wide plan called “Our Way into the Future”.

“The ideal attitude is to be physically loose and mentally tight.”  (Arthur Ashe)

Tuesday 23 October
DIVERSITY AWARENESS MONTH

Diversity embraces all aspects of human life, from ethnicity and culture, to faith and sexuality, to gifts and needs, to style and taste. The month of October reminds us of our need for respectful appreciation and handling of differences, for the simultaneous acknowledgement of common ground, and for the spiritual movement to include rather than exclude.

“Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs.”  (Pearl Strachan)

Monday 22 October 2018
STUTTERING AWARENESS DAY and
BLESSED JOHN PAUL II

International Stuttering Awareness Day turns our attention to the challenges faced by the 60 million people who stutter – prejudice, discrimination, and even isolation. See www.isastutter.org

John Paul II, the Polish-born Pope who played the role of global Catholic bridge-builder (‘Pontiff’) for over 26 years, was beatified on 1 May 2010, so this is only the eighth time his feast day occurs. Like Edmund Rice, his life’s witness now awaits the official confirmation of canonization as a Saint.

“Refuse to criticize, condemn, or complain. Instead, think and talk only about the things you really want.”  (Brian Tracy)

Sunday 21 October
29th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
ST URSULA

Though historical details about St Ursula are vague – various traditions place her in four different centuries! – yet multiple legends and ways of honouring her demonstrate her lasting impact. In our prayer today we might remember Angela Merici’s Ursuline Sisters and their work in the education of girls.

“Wisdom is the lesson learned, applied.”  (Rick Beneteau)

Saturday 20 October
BIRTH OF THE BÁB (BAHAI TRADITION) and
OSTEOPOROSIS DAY

The Báb, the teacher and law-giver honoured as one of the forerunners of the Bahai faith, was executed at the age of thirty in 1850. His story, a classic tale of prophetic boldness and institutional reaction, can be read on Wikipedia.

Osteoporosis can be the underlying cause of a fracture, and often remains undiagnosed. See the website www.worldosteoporosisday.org

“Once we realize that imperfect understanding is the human condition, there is no shame in being wrong, only in failing to correct our mistakes.”  (George Soros)

Friday 19 October
THE NORTH AMERICAN MARTYRS

Eight Jesuit missionaries, killed in the mid-17th Century in Canada and upstate New York, often named as ‘Isaac Jogues and his Companions’, have become the patron saints of Canada, where their feast day is celebrated a week later than generally. This day is a reminder of the sacrifices that so many have made to share the light of Christ with people of other cultures.

“It is better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.”  (Whitney Young, Jr)

Thursday 18 October
ST LUKE and
CONFLICT RESOLUTION DAY

Luke the Evangelist, apparently a medical man, is credited with writing not only one of the four Gospels but also the Acts of the Apostles. One feature of his Gospel is its feminine emphasis – its special interest in the female characters in the story of Jesus and the ‘feminine side’ of Jesus himself. Recalling this is also a reminder of the strong feminine influences in the life of Edmund Rice – his mother Margaret, his wife Mary, his daughter Mary, Nano Nagle, St Teresa of Avila, and of course Mary the mother of Jesus. It may also be a day to celebrate the distinctive contribution of women to the whole ministry tradition that has grown out of Edmund’s spirituality – from extraordinary teachers working in schools founded by Christian Brothers and Presentation Brothers, to women of all ages involved in the spectrum of the Edmund Rice world today.

Conflict Resolution Day, celebrated on the 3rd Thursday of October, promotes the use of peaceful means of resolving conflict in all spheres, from families to schools to governments. The website www.crnet.org/crday offers information and resources including a poster (i.a. in English y español).

“The forgiving state of mind is a magnetic power for attracting good.”  (Catherine Ponder)

Wednesday 17 October
SAINT MARY MacKILLOP

Mary MacKillop was formally recognized six years ago today 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

“Strive for perfection in everything. Take the best that exists and make it better. If it doesn't exist, create it. Accept nothing nearly right or good enough.”  (Henry Royce)

Tuesday 16 October
anticipating tomorrow’s END POVERTY DAY

The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty is intended as a strategy to make the voice of the poor heard. See www.overcomingpoverty.org for a variety of resources.

“The imagination equips us to perceive reality before it’s fully materialized.”  (Mark Victor Hansen)

Monday 15 October 2018
ST TERESA OF AVILA and
GLOBAL HANDWASHING DAY

St Teresa was a 16th Century Spanish Carmelite who is remembered as a mystic and a reformer. It is significant that this saint had a special attraction for Edmund Rice… the contemplative dimension of Edmund Rice spirituality continues to challenge his followers to this day.

Handwashing with soap, so taken for granted in the developed world, remains a challenge in developing lands; yet it is a simple and effective strategy for preventing the spread of many dangerous and ‘killer’ diseases. Whichever part of the globe we find ourselves in, remembering that it is the same globe, we can take part in today’s campaign either by prayer or direct action.

“Ability is what you're capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.”  (Lou Holtz)

Sunday 14 October
28th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
WORLD STANDARDS DAY

The purpose of World Standards Day is to raise awareness of the importance of standardization to the global economy. The focus in 2018 is “International Standards and the Fourth Industrial Revolution” – see the website www.iso.org

“You can’t always change your situation, but you can always change your attitude.”  (Larry Hargraves)

Saturday 13 October
OUR LADY OF FATIMA

101 years have passed since the famous appearances of Mary on the 13th day of several months in Portugal. Look up ‘Our Lady of Fátima’ on Wikipedia for a detailed account.

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all.”  (Helen Keller)

Friday 12 October
COLUMBUS & THE AMERICAS

Today is the day when, 526 years ago, Christopher Columbus’ expedition party first came upon an island of the Americas, somewhere in the Bahamas. The term ‘discovery of America’ is controversial because its Eurocentric perspective can be interpreted as arrogant, yet 1492 remains a significant breakthrough in human history because it spanned a huge ocean and irreversibly linked continents.

“Adventure isn't hanging on a rope off the side of a mountain. Adventure is an attitude that we must apply to the day to day obstacles of life – facing new challenges, seizing new opportunities, testing our resources against the unknown and in the process, discovering our own unique potential.”  (John Amatt)

Thursday 11 October
POPE JOHN XXIII and
DISASTER REDUCTION DAY

Beatified 18 years ago, John XXIII was the first Pope in 100 years to make pastoral visits in his Diocese of Rome. Though his appointment as Pope was seen as just a stop-gap, he had the vision to summon the Second Vatican Council, which has had such far-reaching consequences. His writings include these words which we might use in our prayer today: “Consult not your fears but your hopes and dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what is still possible for you to do.”

The International Day for Reduction of Natural Disasters, celebrated on the second Wednesday of October, turns the world’s eyes to the need for proactive efforts to prevent disasters, or at least reduce the risk of disaster, and to become alert and ready to respond when natural disasters happen. People who are poor are particularly vulnerable to such disasters – for example, it is estimated that each year up to 175 million children are affected by disasters. See the website www.unisdr.org

“Conviction is worthless unless it is converted into conduct.”  (Thomas Carlysle)

Wednesday 10 October
WORLD MENTAL HEALTH DAY

In addition to its official purpose as “a day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy”, today serves as a reminder of the importance of ‘mental hygiene’ – of all practices that promote good mental health: spiritual practices such as stillness and meditation, physical practices such as exercise and getting fresh air, and all those practices that sustain and enhance emotional well-being and stimulation of intellect and imagination…

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

Tuesday 9 October
WORLD POST DAY and
JOHN HENRY NEWMAN

World Post Day is an occasion to appreciate the gift of connectedness – the way the postal system evolved in response to this human need, and the way that telephones, e-mail, and internet-calls have enhanced our ability to be in touch with one another.

Cardinal Newman stands as a major figure in 19th Century Christianity, who like Edmund Rice now awaits canonization. When we sing “Lead kindly light” and “Praise to the holiest in the height”, we are singing his words.

“Vocabulary enables us to interpret and to express. If you have a limited vocabulary, you will also have a limited vision and a limited future.”  (Jim Rohn)

Monday 8 October 2018
CANADA’s THANKSGIVING DAY

Celebrated on the second Monday of October, Canada’s Thanksgiving Day was timed to give thanks to God at the close of the harvest season. We remember the Edmund Rice Network in Canada on this special day in their calendar.

“When work, commitment, and pleasure all become one and you reach that deep well where passion lives, nothing is impossible.”  (Nancy Coey)

Sunday 7 October
27th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
OUR LADY OF THE ROSARY

The repetitive rhythm of the Rosary is echoed in other forms of prayer in other traditions. Perhaps this suggests a naturalness to this form of prayer – a support for concentration and for focusing. Certainly many have found repetitive prayer invaluable in times of illness, pain, and other forms of stress and distress. The late John Paul II developed an additional set of ‘Mysteries of Light’ to complement the Rosary’s traditional 3 sets of 5 mysteries, and further creativity with the form is always possible.

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”  (Howard Thurman)

Saturday 6 October
anticipating the 55th ANNIVERSARY OF THE START OF VATICAN II (on 11 October)

The significance of the Second Vatican Council continues to unfold half a century later. It is the boldest illustration within living memory of the fact that the Church is a work in progress, a learning community whose understanding of itself and of God’s wisdom needs to keep growing.

“The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge.”  (Bertrand Russell)

Friday 5 October
WORLD TEACHERS’ DAY

A day to remember with gratitude those Teachers who meant most to us and all true Teachers whose invaluable contribution to the world is largely made in humble obscurity. For those of us who are Teachers ourselves, perhaps today is also a reminder to pray for all those we have taught.

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

Thursday 4 October
ST FRANCIS OF ASSISI and
WORLD ANIMALS DAY

The story of how Francis gradually came to understand his call to “repair my house which is falling into ruins” resonates for all who are responsive to signs of the Church straying from the way of Jesus. Francis is the patron saint of animals and of the natural environment. In addition to founding the Franciscans, his spirituality has inspired a large number of other congregations and groups – as has been happening with the spirituality of Edmund Rice in our time.

World Animals Day obviously arises from the feast of St Francis – a day for celebrating what Francis might have called “our little brothers and sisters” and perhaps specially for appreciating the unconditional love, forgiveness, and ‘bounce-back’ that our domestic dogs and cats model for us.

“For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.”  (Audrey Hepburn)

Wednesday 3 October
anticipating WORLD SPACE WEEK

Starting tomorrow, the UN’s World Space Week – 4-10 October – is observed “to celebrate each year at the international level the contributions of space science and technology to the betterment of the human condition”. See the website www.worldspaceweek.org

“A pound of pluck is worth a ton of luck.”  (James Garfield)

Tuesday 2 October
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF NON-VIOLENCE and
GUARDIAN ANGELS

The International Day of Non-Violence commemorates Gandhi’s birthday (“Gandhi Jayanti”). The day serves to renew the challenge of finding constructive alternatives to violence, not just on the macro-scale, but in little everyday ways in our lives.

Though Guardian Angels may seem to belong to the faith of childhood, many of us have stories to tell in which we use this term to identify a pivotal presence or character that we have experienced. Perhaps we might acknowledge this day by getting in touch with all that is childlike in our faith, and hearing anew the affirmation that Jesus had for this.

“The ability to discipline yourself to delay gratification in the short term in order to enjoy greater rewards in the long term is the indispensable prerequisite for success.”  (Brian Tracy)

Monday 1 October 2018
ST THÉRÈSE OF LISIEUX and
WORLD SENIOR CITIZENS DAY and
WORLD HABITAT DAY and
VEGETARIAN DAY

Thérèse of the Child Jesus, a 19th Century Carmelite nun who died aged only 24, has inspired and encouraged many Christians with her way of simple trust in God. She is honoured as co-patron of Missions (along with St Francis Xavier) as an affirmation of the contribution that prayer can make to the work of spreading and sharing God’s Word.

The UN’s International Day of Older Persons is a reminder firstly to treasure our elderly and to honour the contribution they have made, and secondly to be aware of issues affecting them, such as the trial of failing faculties and the horror of elder-abuse.

World Habitat Day, celebrated on the first Monday of October, is a UN invitation “to reflect on the state of our towns and cities, and the basic right of all to adequate shelter. It is also intended to remind the world of its collective responsibility for the future of the human habitat.” See the website www.unhabitat.org

Vegetarian Day is an annual invitation to consider embracing the benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle. The day celebrates “the joy, compassion, and life-enhancing possibilities of vegetarianism”. See the website www.worldvegetarianday.org

“If you do not feel yourself growing in your work and your life broadening and deepening, if your task is not a perpetual tonic to you, you have not found your place.”  (Orison Swett Marden)

Sunday 30 September
26th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
ST JEROME and
INTERNATIONAL TRANSLATION DAY

St Jerome’s special role in the development of the Church was his translation of the Bible into Latin. “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ”, he said, and he spent his best years making the Scriptures more accessible to Christians of his day. A fitting memorial might be to affirm the role of Scripture in our lives by reviewing how it features in our spiritual practice.

International Translation Day marks the significance of a growing profession. It also symbolizes the way globalization has multiplied links across old barriers and called upon all of us to think and interact globally. The day is of course linked to St Jerome’s groundbreaking work.

“One man practicing sportsmanship is far better than a hundred teaching it.”  (Knute Rockne)

Saturday 29 September
THE ARCHANGELS

Today is the traditional feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, known in some parts of the world as Michaelmas, a name sometimes given to the first term of the academic year which starts around this time in those places. As Scripture portrays angels as messengers of God, today might be a good day for remembering those who have been God’s messengers in our lives.

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

Friday 28 September
WORLD RABIES DAY and
GREEN CONSUMER DAY

Every ten minutes someone in the world dies from the preventable disease of Rabies, usually as a result of a dog-bite; and nearly half of these deaths are children under the age of 15. World Rabies Day is a global initiative to raise awareness of this, and to move towards making the disease history through control, prevention, and education.

Green Consumer Day is an invitation to re-think what we buy and the impact this has on our environment. Though our individual choices may make only a negligible difference by themselves, together with others they can become a global shift in a healthier direction for our world.

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.”  (Robert Louis Stevenson)

Thursday 27 September
ST VINCENT DE PAUL and
WORLD TOURISM DAY

Vincent de Paul was a French priest of humble origins whose life of dedication to the poor continues to highlight this key aspect of the mission of Christ and of his Body in the world today. There is a special resonance between the charisms of Vincent and Edmund.

The purpose of the United Nations World Tourism Day is “to raise awareness on the role of tourism within the international community and to demonstrate how it affects social, cultural, political and economic values worldwide”. The theme this year is Protecting Culture and Heritage.

“Thought is creative. You create your entire life with your thoughts, hour by hour and minute by minute.”  (Brian Tracy)

Wednesday 26 September
REFLECTING ON PROGRESS

On this day in 1973 the Concorde made its first non-stop crossing of the Atlantic in record-breaking time. Progress is typically marked in this kind of bigger/higher/wider/further/faster way, but it may set us pondering whether more is always an enhancement. The frequency with which we invoke the saying “Less is more” suggests that there is another way of evaluating things. And that is the kind of paradox to which Jesus so often pointed, in regard to the different way God sees things.

“The life you are leading is simply a reflection of your thinking.”  (Doug Firebaugh)

Tuesday 25 September
ST FINBARR

Finbarr was an Irish monk who lived in an island hermitage before founding a monastic settlement and centre of learning that eventually grew into the city of Cork. He is the patron saint of this city with its strong connections to both the Presentation Brothers and Christian Brothers.

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”  (Aristotle)

Monday 24 September 2018
OUR LADY OF MERCY

The story behind the title ‘Our Lady of Mercy’ (also known as Our Lady of Ransom) goes back to the ransoming of slaves in the Middle Ages, an act of mercy with which Mary became associated. We might pray today for release from all forms of slavery which we encounter both in our own lives and in others – from addictions and unhealthy dependencies to abduction and trafficking.

“If everyone is thinking alike, then someone isn’t thinking.”  (Denis Waitley)

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

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)

Sunday Reflection from Richard Walsh

Reflection, 17 March 2019.  (Transfiguration)

To all of us, deep listening with all our senses to the Light shining in and around us.  The news in recent days has been about the mass shootings in New Zealand, an act of terror highlighting the fragility of life and peace.  Last week, we returned to the story of Jesus’ temptations and now we wonder how one person could find it so easy and even compelling to give in, or ‘give way’ as Paul says in the second reading, to the darkness of fear and ‘certainty’.  This week, we can reflect to the Mystery of the evolving light-energy at the heart of our unfolding Universe and of each ‘subject of love’ within it, including victims and perpetrators.

In the early hours of Friday morning, I had a dream in which I am lying on a bed, asleep, and I half-waken with a sense of another ‘presence’ in the room and then what feels like an attempt to wrap me up in the mattress, followed by a big effort to pull the sheet out the sheet on which I am lying.  In my fear (almost terror), I say the Hail Mary and call on Jesus to be with me.  When the dream finally ended, I took a few moments to realise that it had been a dream and later, when I heard the news from Christchurch, I thought that my dream would have occurred at about the same time as the terrorist was preparing to put his plan into action.  I wonder how much this was coincidence or whether a morphogenic field had flowed through my being.  I trust that the great ‘Field’ of Love is also flowing as people respond to the event.

Friday’s Gospel (and our priest’s homily) reminded me of the dangers of feelings of anger being directed towards my ‘brothers’ (and sisters) and I felt moved to take a step into Light by calling for a time of prayer and reflection that evening for the two of us in this place.  The NZ news added another dimension and I have been reflecting during and since our little gathering how the energies of both terrorist and healer ‘in Christ’ continue to flow in me and how Jesus’ ‘command’ to love our enemies, inner and outer, in the essence of his Realm.  I thought of YHWH’s call to choose between ‘life and death, blessing and curse’ and then how much I can choose to move from being part of the problem to part of the solution – in our Church, religious life and society.  I trust that I will continue to allow ‘transfiguration’ to flow through me: to heed the light which is always present even in the darkest hours.

I suspect, too, that I can be just as afraid, like the apostles, of Divine Presence as of what I imagine to be malicious threats and attacks.  Perhaps it is Love wrapping me up in tenderness and removing the foundation which has allowed me to ‘sleep’ in the midst of the groaning of creation.  The Lenten programme on Wednesday reminded me that faith is the opposite of fear and that the Creator’s plans are for prosperity and not disaster.  I sense that I and my communities are being called to contribute to the evolving ‘morphogenic field’ of faith in which we listen to and follow the Cosmic Christ all the way to Resurrection.

May each of us continue to take our ‘mountain praying’ down into the valleys of blindness, distrust and glimmers of hope.

Reflection, 10 March 2019 (Lk 4:1-13)

To all of us, faith in the words by which we can persevere in Christ.  As the drought-like conditions continue in this little part of our land, as in so many other parts, I read words like ‘called on the Lord’ in the first and second readings and then I imagine Jesus doing exactly that as he experiences wilderness both inner and outer and the temptation to be less than fully human.  My own temptations include doubting that I can ever be ‘fully alive’ and fearing what might happen if I, too, am filled with and led by the Spirit into the mission of healing our wounded environment as well as the victims and perpetrators of abuse of all kinds.  I am starting to think that significant parts of the answer will come in words and images from the scriptures both original and written.

As with Jesus, the task begins with learning one’s place in the Creator’s plans ‘for prosperity and not for disaster’ – that there is indeed a ‘Lord our God’ whose Self-emptying Love is beyond our imagining and already at work in and around us.  I see my own temptations (being in control of my life and seeking comfort in addictions) being reflected in the behaviour of the magpies whose territory is centred on our house.  They seem to be struggling to find enough of their usual prey and to appreciate the food I put out for them even as they verge on domestic violence as the pecking order takes over each morning.  As well, they have taken a liking to the seeds I put out for the parrots who are reappearing in search of nourishment.  The magpies are now very quick to chase away the smaller birds, guarding their own space and any food-source available – no sign of compassion or sharing.  I sense that fully-alive humans will recognise these animal instincts in themselves and find ways of expanding them to include the well-being of the whole web of life – in Christ.

We brothers in Victoria and Tasmania have just come together for a day of listening, reflecting and sharing in preparation for chapters next year.  Much of the time was taken up by thoughts (and fears) around the child abuse issue – another sense of ‘wilderness’ for us and the whole Church.  My small group did mention the notion of ‘keeping God in the picture’ but I came away lamenting how there were few references to words like Presence, Spirit, Christ, Love, forgiveness, faith and hope.  One older brother told a story of a dying priest from a Middle Eastern country whose family and friends kept watch with him over his last ten days and I thought of ‘keeping watch’ over our suffering Earth at a place such as here at Glenburn where there is so much to ‘read’ and to grieve over, including the life-denying ways of our abusive culture both in and beyond religious life.  The deeper challenge is to ‘call on the Lord’ in our state of emptiness and hunger as individuals and as communities.

One of the images before us in our gathering was, again, the heart and I thought of Paul reminding us in the second reading how that is where we believe that Jesus has been raised from the dead and how that belief is the foundation of confessing with our lips that ‘Jesus is Lord’ and the one on whom we are to call.  The Realm of the Cosmic Christ is wholistic and participation in its evolution demands the use head, heart, lips and much more if we are to be fully alive as individuals and communities.

May each of us grow in awareness of our temptations and how we can miss out on what our Creator has planned for us and the whole of our beloved Universe.

‘Wela tahlan l’nesyuna;  ela patzan min bisha.’

Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
Don’t let surface things delude us, but free us from what holds us back
(from our true purpose).
Don’t let us enter forgetfulness, the temptation of false appearances.
(To the fraud of inner vacillation – like a flag tossed in the wind – alert us.)
But break the hold of unripeness, the inner stagnation that prevents good fruit.
(From the evil of injustice – the green fruit and the rotten – grant us liberty.)
Deceived neither by the outer nor the inner – free us to walk your path with joy.
Keep us from hoarding false wealth and from the inner shame of help not given in time.
Don’t let surface things delude us, but free us from what holds us back.
Neil Douglas-Klotz, ‘Prayers of the Cosmos – Reflections on the Original Meaning of Jesus’s Words’ p34)

Reflection, 3 March 2019.  (Lk 6:39-45)

To all of us, the insight which allows us to guide each other into Mystery.  This week has featured the Cardinal’s conviction with much discussion and some vitriol.  I have a sense of the blind trying to lead the way with no reference to one and only Teacher who is Light and Truth.  A line from Scripture comes to mind: “Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.” (Psalm 146:3) and how we seem to have been placing too much trust in ‘fallible church officials’ when we are called to believe in unfailing Merciful Love.  Two of today’s reading refer to the connections between our hearts and our words and I wonder what is going on when there is so little reference, even from bishops, to the One in whom we live, move and exist.

Last week, Jesus spoke of not judging or condemning and this week he seems to be doing just that when he uses the word, ‘Hypocrite!’  I wonder if he would like to be saying this word through our mouths to those who claim to have all the answers and to do so as a call to repentance and to true faith.  We are called to make judgements about false teaching, false pastors and even a ‘false church’ as well as about the actions of the true ‘Body of Christ’ which of its nature cannot commit abuse or cause harm.  There are planks and splinters to be removed as I find in myself and my communities every day and each one becomes a revelation that ‘death is indeed swallowed up in Christ’s victory’.

I am bemused when I hear of scientists being amazed by the beauty and precision of our expanding Universe and finding that the most likely explanation is that a supreme Creative Intelligence has been involved since the Beginning.  Edwin Hubble announced only 100 years ago that many of the ‘stars’ were in fact other galaxies and ninety years ago that these were moving away from each other in an expanding Universe – which implies a ‘big bang’ very early in the process.  It seems to have taken the scientific community over 60 years to be satisfied with ‘final proof’ and their investigating is leading many to wonder and to faith.  All this has been happening while the ‘church’ seems to be drifting away from the notion that we participate in Love Incarnate all the way to the Resurrection of the Cosmic Christ.

I have been anxious in the past week as our household reduces to two, largely due to health and aging, with the rainwater tanks only a quarter full, no rain in sight and several small bushfires in our locality started by lightning.  It is as though this establishment is falling into a ‘pit’ and I am left stumble blindly into Mystery trusting that the Lord’s plans for me and my communities involve prosperity and full life rather than disaster (Jeremiah 29:11).  I continued to experience ‘good fruit’ last week with two Plenary Council 2020 sessions, one in Yea and another in Alexandra, and trust that my submissions make a worthy contribution to the next step of that process.

May each of us recognise our blindness and the Light in our hearts guiding us through the true darkness of faith.

Reflection, 24 February 2019.  (Lk 6:27-38)

To all of us, the wisdom of listening to and heeding Jesus’s revelation of our Father’s compassion.  This last Sunday of February sees our parish run St Pat’s Yea Picnic Races as a fundraiser for Church, school and a couple of local needy causes.  My contributions to this step in the larger process of compassion included driving to Seymour on Saturday to pick up the ‘horse ambulance’ and driving the courtesy bus between central Yea (one main street) and the track before and after the races.  The day itself is very well run with good food, drink, activities for children, Scottish band, shady trees and fashions – and an element of my concern was to pray for blessings on all those older parishioners making their own contributions in conditions of 33° dry heat.

My concern extended to the horses running in the heat and dust (and the ‘ambulance’ was not required).  Other issues for me were the amount of waste, especially things which could have been recycled and which are going into landfill, and the gambling which is a key element in making it all possible.  Jesus tells us to love our enemies and not to judge while we invite people to come and ‘have a good time’ in their own way.  I wonder how much we need to clarify and focus on our primary mission ‘in Christ’ and what we might consider to be the real enemies against which we continue to struggle.

When I began reflecting on this Gospel reading, I imagined it to be a list of ‘rules for the Realm’ and then it was described in the homily as ‘a formula for peace’ and I thought that I was on the right track.  Now I wonder about what is involved in loving those who pollute and abuse our environment as well as the victims of climate (human and non-human) – and how it begins with me (and my communities) acknowledging that we are ‘missing the mark’ in terms of our consumer lifestyles as well as our silence on these issues.  Actions do need to be condemned with pardon offered to the repentant and prophets need to give witness to the way of living which cares for all aspects of ‘our common home’, a way of life characterised by truth-telling and Mercy.  Perhaps we can take responsibility for ourselves and for at least one parcel of Earth.

Just over one hundred years ago, Albert Einstein was telling us about ‘relativity’, energy and mass, particles with wave-like properties and a dynamic, expanding Universe.  Later he was searching for a ‘theory of everything’ – a unified field theory – in a language beyond my comprehension.  Jesus comes with a very simple notion (for the child-like) of self-emptying Love being the force within all creation.  This compassion encompasses everything and promises ‘the full measure’ being poured into our laps all the way to Resurrection (as Paul describes in the second reading).  This dynamic and extravagantly generous Creator holds the key to the crises of today and we need to listen humbly and with evolving faith.

May each of us listen more and more deeply to the groaning of our common home and to the Wisdom within it and our own hearts as we walk the Way of forgiveness.

If we want to avoid mass extinctions and preserve the ecosystems all plants and animals depend on, governments should protect a third of the oceans and land by 2030 and half by 2050, with a focus on areas of high biodiversity. So say leading biologists in an editorial in the journal Science (Science: 14 Sep 2018).
It’s not just about saving wildlife, says Jonathan Baillie of the National Geographic Society, one of the authors. It’s also about saving ourselves.

Reflection, 17 February 2019.  (Lk 6:17,20-26)

To all of us, the blessings of following the ‘Son of Man’ and living according to the rules of his Realm.  I prefer Tom Wright’s translation ‘Blessings on . . . . .’ for these Beatitudes because I can get a sense of gifts and grace being offered to people who will continue to suffer poverty, hunger, grief and oppression while ‘happy’ can suggest a superficial feeling related only to our material existence.  I am not afflicted by any of those physical conditions (even though today I am laid up with stitches in a wound on my leg) and yet I continue to be grateful for many blessings which confirm my reliance on Divine Mercy, my longing for Love and my share Creation’s suffering.  I am still learning how to be a joyful prophet trusting that the Creator is always acting according to Love’s rule of perpetual blessing.

As I wonder about the nature of being blest, I think of Jesus giving ‘life to the full’ and how the significant gifts for me have been those helping me to evolve as a ’human one’ with Jesus being the ‘first-fruit’ of the latest evolutionary development.  He has come to reveal the way of self-emptying as the ‘rule’ of his Realm in contrast to the way of Eve and Adam who want to be full of knowledge so that they can decide what is right (and wrong) for them – and they find themselves in ‘unhappy’ circumstances.  The fully alive and evolved person acts in this world according to the ways of its deeper and unseen dimensions where blessing rules.

Jesus’ words turn upside-down the usual and traditional ways of thinking about ‘the good life’ common to most cultures.  Luke puts him on ‘level ground’ with people from a variety of regions searching for something better and I sense that this mission continues through those who are fully alive ‘in Christ’.  It was only about two hundred years ago that scientists and thinkers put forward ideas which culminated in Charles Darwin’s challenge to Christian orthodoxy in proposing ‘evolution by natural selection’ which became known as ‘survival of the fittest’.  It took many years for humans to accept that they share common ancestors with apes and I suspect that it will take even longer to accept Jesus’ description of what it is to be the ‘fittest’ in his Realm and to trace our common ancestry all the way back 13.8 billion years to the Universe being ‘birthed’ by the Creator.

On Wednesday I went along to our Plenary Council 2020 gathering where a significant issue was the amount of blaming others we hear today.  On Thursday, I went along to a presentation on the urgency of dealing with climate change and global warming which is one area where scapegoating takes a variety of forms and suggests a lack of true maturity and full humanity.  I sense a challenge for those of us in so-called ‘developed’ cultures to accept our responsibility for making others poor, hungry, grieving and dispossessed and for those in an evolving Church culture to name how we have ‘missed the mark’ and to allow the Spirit to recreate us as people of blessing in an increasingly unhappy environment.

May each of us grow in appreciation of rewards already received and of responsibilities under the Law written in our hearts.

Reflection, 10 February 2019.  (Lk 5:1-11)

To all of us, the faith to participate in the surprises of following Jesus.  As I wonder whether Jesus was surprised on that morning at the numbers who came for his words and for healing, I can imagine Simon being a little surprised when Jesus wanted to make use of his boat and then being more surprised at Jesus’ teaching.  I suspect that it was a coincidence – in the Spirit – that Jesus met Simon this way and that Simon was in the right place at the right time to encounter the Messiah who sees his strengths/weaknesses and then sees his faith/spontaneity/honesty when told to put out the nets and when calling himself ‘sinful’ and being fearful in such a Presence.  The catch of fish would be a great surprise and even greater ones would come built on this kind of foundation and a willingness to ‘leave everything’.

I suspect that this build-up in the magnitude of the surprises is the way the spirit works for all who follow Jesus.  Some of my moments of some surprise in the last week have included, on returning from Brisbane, to harvest plums, nectarines, figs, strawberries, mulberries, grapefruit and tomatoes – all the results of others’ labour.  A further delight came when we welcomed a new member to our Plenary Council 2020 gathering and continued our discussions.  I imagine this to be my little version of what happened to Isaiah, Peter and Paul and I think how often I am surprised by what emerges as I type up these reflections – and by the notion that Divine Grace might be working in and through me.

I can imagine dimly how Grace flowing in Jesus’ words and actions would attract Peter and others to follow him into mystery and surprise where they delight in learning and evolving, in being true to their deepest human nature.  I am still a disciple learning what the Love at the heart of the Universe is revealing of itself in my little and precious life – for the sake of Jesus’ Realm, our common home.  I think of Sir Isaac Newton, around three hundred years ago, studying, reflecting, learning and revealing his understanding of gravity as the force which runs the solar system and keeps us grounded on Earth.  He added a surprising piece of the puzzle which is the story of Creation and which invites me to reflect on the power of attraction at work in both love and gravity.  I suspect that matter has been unfolding out of Love for the past 13.8 billion years and that Grace has been drawing particles together from the beginning in order to make love incarnate and conscious – all the way to Resurrection.  I continue to be surprised, grateful, and willing to gravitate to Jesus.

May each of us continue to heed the Word in our hearts, especially when it seems to go against our prior learnings and habits, for Jesus then will see our faith and draw us even closer.

Reflection, 3 February 2019.  (Lk 4:21-30)

To all of us, the love and grace of the prophet to the nations.    I appreciate Tom Wright’s comment that ‘gracious words’ might be better translated as ‘words of grace’ which refer to ‘the Lord’s year of favour’ in which healing, life and freedom are for everyone, especially the ‘poor, the captives, the blind and the downtrodden’ of all peoples.  The people of Nazareth could not imagine that their God would bless the Romans and did not want reminders of Elijah in Zarephath and Naaman from Syria.  As I reflect on how I might be called  and to whom I might be sent, I wonder about the One who knew me before I was conceived and about my being ‘consecrated’ before I was born.  I sense a call to be ready for new insights into how Love first touched me through my parents and family and plans to use me ‘for the sake of our common home’.

On Tuesday, I went to the funeral of the father of one of our brothers and joined two bishops and over a dozen priests celebrating the life of a well-known servant of the Brisbane Archdiocese – especially when singing ‘Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!’ and the chorus ‘Glory!  Glory!  Hallelujah!’ – a song chosen by the deceased.  It invited me to wonder how much of a battle we are enduring in this world which treats prophets much the same as they have been treated for thousands of years.  Many people cannot imagine ‘God’ at all and seem to go with the voices in the crowd who do not want reminders of Ultimate Being and Authority who gets blamed for many of the wrongs in and around us.  There is a huge task for prophets today and I read that the real evangelists are those who recognise that being a ‘saint’ begins with Love and continues ‘in Christ’ who enrages crowds and can still manage to walk away.

I realised this morning that I was inspired to book my flight tomorrow because there was a healing ritual during our community Mass today involving crossed candles being held to my throat.  Even when I was making the booking months ago I thought it was a strange and even silly decision.  Now I give thanks for that touch of grace as I wonder what is still being healed and how my new life will unfold.  I suspect that I still have moments of ‘childish ways’ which are giving way to what I learned from my mother and hid away when she died – until recently.  I rejoice that I am still loved.

Jesus may have begun 2000 years ago with outlandish ideas such as God’s grace being for every member of every nation but he still has much to teach us as we as a species struggle to move beyond childhood.  Another outrageous notion put before us about five hundred years ago when Nicolaus Copernicus and soon Galileo Galilei spoke and wrote that the Sun was the centre of the solar system, not Earth which was just another circling planet.  Most of us were not ready to have our cherished beliefs challenged.  Now we are being told about the damage we are doing to ourselves and our environment.  I wonder if today’s prophets are being ‘consecrated and appointed’ to tell of grace being for the healing and well-being of all species – and its being the only power capable of doing so.

May each of us grow and mature as members of the Cosmic Christ who is Priest, Prophet and King.

 

Reflection, 27 January 2019.  (Lk 1:1-4,4:14-21)

To all of us, the anointing of the Spirit who sends us to proclaim the Lord’s favour.  At community Mass this morning, we had the song ‘Take, Lord, Receive’ and I began to reflect on words such ‘wholly according to your will’ and how the Book of the Law read out by Ezra needed to become written on hearts before those words could by sung with meaning and intent – at least by me.  I thought of it as a sort of theme song for the second half of life –with a special challenge for me take Jesus’ words deeper into my heart as a summary of what the Law is all about when it is alive and active rather than writing on a page.  The mention of ‘the joy of the Lord’ at the end of the first reading also stays with me as a marker of how in tune I happen to be with my status as adopted, anointed and sent.

I have sensed that deep joy and peace on those occasions when I have been doing my little bit in sharing the good news in small groups such as during Lent, in our parish Listening and Dialogue Encounter and especially in Timor Leste.  Luke’s gospel begins with the sense that it is virtually essential to tell the story of Jesus and the idea of proclaiming Divine Favour now stays with me as central to that account.  Perhaps the Spirit has been setting me free and giving me new sight in this second half of my life so that I know from experience what this ‘favour’ means and have my own stories of encounter to share with those who remain poor, captive, blind and downtrodden – victims of all kinds of abuse and violence in a society which distrusts ‘church’ and which seeks security through consumerism and addictions.

I prayed in Mass for an increase in the gifts we need to live through climate change and I suspect that being able to tell the good news, including the stories of the Cosmic Christ and the Universe and our belonging to Christ’s body in this aspect of creation, is part of where the Spirit is leading us.  I suspect that we are being called to be prepared for the times when God seems absent, to have answers when populations are displaced, suffering and dying – as happened just over 600 years ago when the Black Death killed perhaps half the population of Europe, and an even higher percentage of doctors, priests and those in monasteries.

As I ask myself what ‘good news’ might look like in dire circumstances, I think of joy, hope and faith ‘in Christ’ and his resurrection Presence.  I think of how the Lord’s favour continues to guide me and teach me that I am a unique part of one body and am being given the same Spirit in whom even Jesus was immersed.

May each of us continue to drink this Spirit as we listen to Jesus and to his story ‘for the sake of our common home.’

Reflection, 20 January 2019.  (Jn 2:1-11)

To all of us, growing grace to hear and do what Jesus tells us to do.  I have come up to Brisbane for a couple of weeks which began yesterday with a gathering to celebrate our ministry in Timor Leste which has been formally handed over to ‘Mary Mackillop’ and local people.  I enjoyed meeting others who had ‘served’ there with me (2008-2011), hearing stories of events before and after these years, and having memories come to mind.  I look back and sense that in some ways it was easy to see what needed to be done in terms of water supply, security in times of conflict, education, health and food supplies.  Then I remember the challenge of spreading the Gospel, the ‘best wine’, and how I found satisfaction in my efforts to do so with the pre-school teachers.  Now I wonder how it is that this essential aspect of Christian mission was not mentioned, by me or anyone else, as we celebrated our achievements without voicing our thanks to the One who graced our efforts and kept most of us safe.

Our gathering did begin with Eucharist and I was rather distracted by memories of the people and events of those years.  I wonder how empty are the ‘stone jars’ of me and my communities as we let go of earlier commitments and look for ways to serve in an environment, a land and planet, which has different aspects of being ‘forsaken’ and ‘abandoned’.  The mother of Jesus, the Woman of suffering and wisdom, models how to respond now that Jesus’ time has come by going to him especially when all seems hopeless and shameful.  Perhaps I am being called to a deeper faith which sees Divine Glory being revealed in those stories and to live in that faith as a servant filling emptiness with water ready for transformation.

In my limited and untutored understanding of the life and influence of the Prophet Muhammed, I see an example of the Spirit working through flawed humans to bring about peace and progress in the lives of millions.  I wonder if his followers place too much emphasis on his words, on one area of land, Palestine, and on future judgement and resurrection in contrast to Jesus who lives and teaches Merciful Love present everywhere and faith evolving like a seed.  Muslims have been instrumental in humanity’s evolution with their learning, poetry and mysticism as have Christians, including us in Timor Leste, and I sense that much more is possible when we come to believe that the Christ is amongst and within us, waiting for us to take our concerns to him who has the power to transform our offerings into ‘best wine’.

As I take my concerns to Jesus – global warming, extinctions, lack of faith, loss of beauty, threat of bushfires, vandalised Church and presbytery in Yea – I imagine that I am hearing him telling me to become intoxicated with his wine and to celebrate being ‘wedded’ and the Creator’s ‘delight’.

May each of us refuse to be silent about Zion and the New Jerusalem as we learn to see their glory and integrity throughout our common home.

Reflection 23 December 2018.  (Advent & Christmas)

To all of us, the blessings of believing the promises made by the Creator about our unique place in the unfolding of the Cosmic Christ.  I am learning to accept that the Resurrected Jesus is really with me and it is also an ongoing effort of faith to accept that he is guiding me along a pathway which is just for me and that I am actually fulfilling my life’s purpose.  I can easily imagine that I have some idea of what my life is about and I wonder how it is that I seem to be failing in realising ‘my’ dream – and then I become aware of a variety of assurances that I am on the track that is right for me.  It is as though the peace and joy I sense within are echoes of the peace and joy experienced by Elizabeth and Mary in their promised pregnancies.

One line from the Prophet Micah (chap 5) stays with me: the origin of the one who is to rule ‘goes back to the distant past, to the days of old.’  I think of the promise inherent in the 13.8 billion years of the Universe that Life will come and all will return to Oneness – in Resurrection-life.  Micah was inspired to say this about seven hundred years before the time of Elizabeth, Mary and Jesus just as other wisdom figures in different parts of Earth were inspired to proclaim a deeper sense of what it is to be human.  Psalms (attributed to David about a thousand years before Hebrews was written) speak of a ‘body’ being prepared and I think of Creation as the Body of Christ as well as of the Christmas event, Eucharist and Church.  It seems to be summed up in the line, ‘I am coming to do your will!’ – which includes every created entity.

The writings of Lao Tzu talk of ‘Dao’, the way of the world and learning from the book of nature (water, trees, mountains and much more).  Confucius spoke of loving others and how positive human interactions in the family point to a healthy society. The Buddha taught about suffering and enlightenment.  Greek philosophers observed nature and brought the light of reason and logic to the beginnings of democracy.  The Spirit was moving to bring peace to our evolving world and the most radical step is that our Creator and ‘Lord’ comes to a mother’s womb, is born and shares our struggles, suffering, joys and faith in ancient promises of a glorious future.

I was aware of my efforts to be in ‘peace’ as I, in my body, helped in our celebration of summer solstice on the day (Saturday) of our longest daylight hours for the year.  I was carrying chairs, picking cherries and berries, participating in a wonderful shared lunch, helping to clean up and especially grateful for the circle dance which concluded the ritual.  I reflected that Earth is very close to its shortest distance from the Sun and how our summer temperatures will rise as the days get shorter.  Transformation takes on many shapes and involves aspects of the future coming to reality in the present.

May each of us celebrate the special blessings of peace and new life gifted to us in Christ as we wonder about our place in Incarnation.  Merry Christmas.

Reflection, 16 December 2018.  (Lk 3:10-18)

To all of us, the baptism of Holy Spirit which empowers us to live with the fire of the Cosmic Christ flowing in and through us.  If we are made in the image and likeness of Zephaniah’s God, then we too will dance joyfully when we are fully in tune with that Love and living lives of faith, justice and simplicity as John the Baptist describes.  When my spiritual director last week asked me how I might respond to a figure in a dream I remembered and whom I came to name as ‘Lady Wisdom’, the answer which emerged was, “Dance!” so I sense the Spirit urging me to do much more of what I occasionally do: to find a spot, inside or out on the grass, and to ‘move with freedom’ (with or without music).  Then my end-of-year anxieties may turn into celebrations of new life as my own little Exodus continues.

There are many echoes of the Exodus story throughout the gospels as we meet people longing to be liberated and to enter the New Creation Kingdom promised in the Hebrew Scriptures.  The stories tell how both Moses and Jesus were rescued as infants from imminent death, how they opted for the poor and introduced new covenants and commandments, and how they encountered Mystery in the wilderness.  Moses learnt that murder was not the way and that his people were chosen to be a light to all the nations, even Pharaoh and the Egyptians – a radical notion which most could not comprehend, even over a thousand years later when Jesus, the Incarnate Cosmic Christ, was teaching that the real enemy is death and that true Exodus freedom involves Spirit and fire in the heart rather than in the sky.

It is still a radical message which demands a choice between life and death, blessing and curse, wheat and chaff as well as wilderness or Promised Land.  I am finding that I have much to learn about just how near Jesus is with his Merciful Love and that I do learn when I choose the tolerance and thanksgiving of the second reading.  I struggle to let go of my plans as I answer the call to be ‘brother’ to those in my community who are suffering the effects of growing old and dealing with illnesses.  Then I find that my heart and thoughts are indeed guarded by the ‘peace of the Cosmic One’ whose plans are far beyond my understanding and imagining.

May each of us grow in appreciation of the great Exodus from fear to love and in new ways of giving witness to it for the sake of our common home.

Reflection, 9 December 2018.  (Advent – Lk 3:1-6)

To all of us, deepening immersion into the metanoia which fills in ‘valleys’ and flattens ‘mountains’.  I am glad when I recall some advice I read during the week concerning the spiritual journey which is about getting up every time I fall down and reconnecting to Spirit.  Sometimes I can only pray for some of Paul’s ‘knowledge’ and ‘perception’ when I don’t know what valley I fell into or what hill I tripped over and there are times when I do recognise the empty spaces where love, faith and boldness are lacking and the overload where too much fear, control and comforting addictions get in the way.  I give thanks that much has happened already in shaping the way for the Christ to walk in my life and in that of my communities even as I perceive more of what needs straightening and smoothing.

Luke highlights the emperors, kings, rulers and officials whose oppressive regimes needed significant levelling when Divine Integrity spoke to John in the wilderness rather than to any of the elites who could see no need for repentance.  This applies as much to the Church as anywhere else and the Plenary Council process is providing a significant space for us to listen to the Spirit so that we perceive both the rough and the smooth – or, as we discussed in our parish gathering last week, the crack where the Light gets in.  Then we may have a sense of how to ‘spread the Good News’ (as Paul say to the Philippians) in the worlds of today’s rich, powerful few and poor, oppressed many.

I still suspect that our Church in countries like Australia has ‘missed the mark’ of spreading the message about powerful, merciful Love because it has not admitted its own ‘valleys and hills’ where there is a lack of knowing Jesus and a surplus of consumerism, comfort and addiction.  Human beings may have been acknowledging the forces of both life and death for at least eleven thousand years according to the archaeologists studying the temple site Gobekli Tepi in Turkey.  They wonder why the hunter-gatherers of the region took the time to establish circles of stone pillars carved with animals such as snakes, spiders, boars, various birds and other game animals.  Perhaps it was a place of ritualising death and of telling the stories of how to respect the forces of nature – an early form of ‘worship’ which is still evolving today.  Some circles consist of twelve figures; there are images of sun and moon (maybe eclipse); and several depictions of bulls and horns (think Moses and Aaron at Mt Sinai).

This ancient site, older than that of any stone-age village, suggests that acknowledging and wondering about the powers of the Universe may have been significant factors in the development of complex societies.  I wonder if that is true for us today and a challenge for religions to give living witness to the Creator and the inevitability of suffering and death leading to new life.

May each of us grow in knowledge and perception, wonder and awe, of the Mystery who speaks in the wilderness, inner and outer, about transformation, integrity and devotedness.

Reflection, 2 December 2018.  (Advent Lk 21:25-28,34-36)

To all of us, the grace of expanding Love casting out our fears.  Jesus tell us to stay awake and pray as we face life’s tribulations and wait for his ‘coming in a cloud with power and glory’ and the final transformation (and Resurrection).  This ‘will come down on every person on Earth’ and I sense that it continues to be a reality for every individual in the history of the human race who faces moments of fear and of choosing ‘blessing or curse, life or death’.  The priest in his homily spoke of different levels or scales coming through the readings: Cosmic, community and that of heart and mind.  I think of climate change, politics, abuse and my own need for repentance, Mercy and faith.  St Paul reminds me that what I need above all is for the Lord to increase my love of the Unseen, of my neighbour and of myself so that I can live with integrity according to my true nature.

I am intrigued that Jesus comes ‘in’ a cloud and I suspect that it is one of ‘unknowing’. I did not know what I was in for when I was asked, on Friday, to take Communion to a parishioner living in a home for the elderly – my first step into this form of service.  I can only trust that the Spirit made the most of my little efforts with a reading and prayers in what was obviously a work of Christian mission.  I joined other brothers at Treacy for ‘circles of empowerment’ and experienced similar feelings of excitement and peace when I was able to keep my focus on the Master and spoke of my efforts to keep him at the centre of my life.  This was a moment of ‘standing erect with head held high’ while acknowledging that I shared others’ feelings of hesitation even as I believed that much is possible in our communities when all share a commitment to picking up our crosses and following the Way.

My sense is that Jesus keeps coming in all sorts of little ways during the time of waiting for ‘the day’ when the world – my little world – will come to an end and be transformed.  Much that I take for granted – the ‘sun, moon and stars’ of my inner world – is already being shaken as I take new steps into mission and life and as I look to avoid ‘dying of fear’ through growing in love.  I do rejoice that these are moments of ‘standing with confidence’ not only before the Son of Man but with and in him as his disciple, servant and friend.

I wonder how much I need to learn how to ‘wait’ within Jesus’ Realm where he is present, hidden in a cloud and already at work.  This may be a new aspect of waiting with echoes of the time when humans learnt how to wait for seeds to produce a harvest of grain.  I read a brief report about a sedentary camp of fisher hunter-gatherers on the shore of Lake Galilee where, 23 000 years ago, people were gathering and grinding cereal grains – possibly ten thousand years before any cultivation took place.  I try to imagine the first person to realise that plants grow from seeds, that it may be possible to plant grains where it suited the village and then learning to wait as the early experiments bore fruit.  Much happens unseen in the soil just as the Spirit works unseen in the hearts and minds of all of us and our communities to give life to new worlds according to the divine plan of creation.

May each of us be open to receiving new dimensions of Love with growing certainty that our Cosmic Christ is at the heart of every cloud which comes our way.

Reflection, 25 November 2018.  (Christ the King)

To all of us, the Spirit of serving the living Truth in the Realm of the Cosmic Christ.  When Jesus says that his kingdom is not the same as the one Pilate knows, that of Rome, I reflect that it is really the complete ‘upside-down’ where the Caesars of then and today are the last to suffer for the sake of the citizens while Jesus is the first, and where true power and glory are not in domination but in being servant.  These ideas point to the deeper truth that Love is at the heart of the Universe and that we can see in Jesus’ self-emptying all the way to the cross what love looks like in the visible realms of creation.  The ultimate ‘rule’ and command of the King is to follow this example which applies just as much in the invisible realms, especially that of Resurrection.

For these few weeks, there are only two of us at home and my companion is not feeling well with some sort of tummy virus.  As a result, I found myself called to serve in extra ways as I fed parrots, magpies, gold fish, chooks and ourselves as well as helping to look after a group who spent Thursday with us and guiding our small ‘listening’ session for the Plenary Council 2020.  This has highlighted aspects of my inner and unseen realm where there is my daily struggle to keep Jesus as Ruler in each present moment rather than my plans and dreams for the future near and far.  His agenda included about 80mm of rain during the week, a power outage for most of a day and a couple of electrical short-circuits – many opportunities to give thanks and to remember that his rule has been full of grace, surprise and transformation for 13.8 billion years.

We had a baptism (an infant) during Mass and I listened for and heard the words of anointing which remind all of us that we share Jesus’s anointing as Priest, Prophet and King.  I sense an enormous responsibility to be open to those ongoing ‘offices’ and I wonder what it is to share in ‘kingship’ over all ‘the kings of the earth’ as mentioned in the second reading.  Part of it might be working, as many scientists are urging, to protect at least half of our Earth from exploitation as the best means of allowing nature to recover from the effects of our consumerism.  Another part may be to face the greatest ‘enemy’, death, as a sharing in Jesus’ victory over the worst suffering that evil can produce.  It is as though the greatest life-denying force brings out the greatest life-giving power which in turn calls for the highest praise and honour possible, even from those who share responsibility for the abuse and bloodshed.

Perhaps the greatest ‘glory’ we can give is in acknowledging the King’s presence in all the small and seemingly insignificant moments of life.  It might involve a silent invocation, a breath of Ruah, a trust that every thought and action contributes to Life and a word of gratitude.  It will be about conscious efforts to live according to our inherent true nature, made in the image and likeness of Creator and Cosmic Christ.

May each of us continue our search for the unique way in which we are called to serve in both the seen and unseen realms of Love’s creative flow.

Reflection, 18 Nov ’18.  (Mk 13:24-32)

To all of us, the eyes which see the power and glory of Jesus in every time of distress.  During the week I was reflecting on a reading which speaks of ‘one being taken and one being left’ and how that seems to be applicable, in bushfire situations, to people, homes and even small towns as has happened in America recently – one entity consumed in the flames and others almost untouched.  Now I imagine that the same applies to species becoming extinct, to planets, stars and even galaxies – and how much it is a norm of Creation where the Cosmic Christ is always present and ruling as Lord.  I am learning slowly to trust that Presence in my daily moments of distress such as the flat car battery and the broken down-pipe of this weekend.

A greater cause for unease for us at Glenburn is the growing likelihood of bushfires in south-east Australia over the coming summer.  Rainfall is below average while temperatures are mostly higher than usual.  I went along to an information session at our local rural fire-brigade and came away with a sense of just how dangerous even a grass-fire can be and how important it is to prepare and to be alert – to ‘stay awake’ as Jesus tells us because we don’t know when our next intense time of distress will occur.  Part of that is to know possible safe places, ways to get there and the trigger-point for us to evacuate as the danger increases – to read the signs of that particular time.

I am beginning to reflect on the Plenary Council 2020 question about what we think God is asking of us in this country, Australia, and how much of a sign is the news, the forecasts and the stories of fires here and around the world.  I think of our Indigenous people who have lived and thrived for thousands of years on this continent and who have using fire-stick farming for possibly the last ten thousand years of gradual climate warming.  They have changed the landscape in favour of crops and pastures which have benefited their food supplies and which tend to be fire-tolerant.  Fire has been a tool to be used wisely and with great respect, characteristics taught and learnt throughout their processes of life-long initiation, I suspect.  Perhaps the Spirit is asking us to give witness to the potential blessings of fire, especially that which is in the eyes of Jesus as I read in Revelation 1:14.

Early Christians imagined that the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple gave witness to that nation’s failure to be light for the world and also gave impetus to the spread of the ‘good news’ of Jesus’ life, death and Resurrection.  Perhaps God is asking us to tell the stories of fire as tool and as Divine compassion and to be the living Temple, the only place of true safety when the inevitable ‘times of distress’ do come whether they relate to personal failures or to global failures like abuses of our common home and our neighbours at all levels.  I wonder if Australia can grow as a multi-cultural country characterised by the wisdom and respect of initiated adulthood and by the peace only Christ can give.

May each of us find Jesus at our side with his fiery eyes and a two-edged sword in his mouth whenever disaster threatens.

Reflection, 11 November 2018.  (Mk 12:38-44)

To all of us, growing trust in the faithfulness of the One in whose image and likeness we are created.  I read Jesus’ description of ‘scribes’ and wonder much it was and still is self-important and posturing people who bear responsibility for wars – with special remembrance of WW1 which ended 100 years ago today.  My father’s elder brother died earlier in 1918 in a flying accident when training in the Flying Corps.  Many families around the world have been affected down the generations and I wonder what Jesus imagines as a sentence for those responsible – then when the Romans crushed Jerusalem and throughout history – for wars and for the suffering of people like the widow in this story.

The so-called ‘self-sacrifice’ of war stands in stark contrast to the image in the Letter to the Hebrews of Jesus offering himself on the cross and in the real ‘sanctuary’ of the Realm of Mercy and vulnerability.  He was completely faithful to his humanity and to its ‘likeness’ of the Faithful One he calls ‘Abba’ and who accepts his kind of giving on behalf of all.  Jesus’ ‘reappearance’ holds echoes of the High Priest emerging out of the Holy-of-Holies and proclaiming both forgiveness and business-as-usual.  Jesus is about a new way of living and celebrating ‘for those who wait for him’, including many victims of war, as death no longer has the last say.  The widow who feeds Elijah and the one at the Temple treasury give witness to this belief at the heart of our spiritual DNA.

The topic in our parish group’s discussion on Wednesday evening was death and dying and I am wondering if God is asking us to keep up the conversations with Jesus’ death (and Resurrection) as the central issue ‘for the sake of our common home’.  I thought of our daily ‘dyings’ as steps on the way from comfort to simplicity in the face of climate change and environmental degradation, situations which were quite possibly factors in our ancestors migrating out of Africa sixty thousand years ago.  Now there is no other continent or planet to which we can migrate and it could be that our fellow humans still need to be reminded of the unseen dimensions of the Cosmic Christ and his Realm.  I suspect that other aspects of our spiritual DNA include self-giving and the desire for new life and new worlds, a longing which can be negated by attitudes such as those of the scribes and Pharisees who focused on the perks and comforts of this world as do vast numbers of people today.

I had to smile during Mass when the word ‘peace’ was mentioned several times and reminded me of the song we had at the meeting, ‘People of Peace’, which gives me the sense of a peace which is strong and joyful, the result of putting others first and the flow of grace ‘in Christ’.  I have had a taste of this in our little gatherings and I wonder how much Jesus felt this way as he watched the widow, possibly mixed with concern for his own destiny and for his people who refused his message and call for repentance.

May each of us turn more and more to the essence of our suffering and loving Cosmic Christ whose image and likeness we are called to incarnate for the sake of creation.

Reflection, 4 November 2018.  (Mk 12:28-34)

To all of us, the words of Love’s commandment written on our hearts and taking us into Christ’s Realm.  I suspect that the important step for the scribe who is ‘not far from the kingdom’ is to claim Jesus as Messiah and as fulfilment of Law, Temple and promise.  This metanoia for him and for us involves all our heart, soul, mind and strength – and I seem to be called to make that effort every day in my daily living and learning.  I think of a story I read during the week which finished with the wise, old desert father describing his last struggle as a fight with God and one which he hoped to lose.  I am beginning to see how much I am resisting grace and new life even as I do take tentative steps in following the Master.

As I begin to think about my resistance to the Spirit, I suspect that it includes having my heart sometimes focused on my own security and comfort, my soul partly hidden in shadow and with marks of fear and resentment, my mind looking for grand thoughts and plans, and my strength being wasted on addictions and idleness.  I do have to focus on Jesus’ kingly command ‘to love’ and I am beginning to see how much it is a daily choice of being open to Love’s flow, especially through my heart.  Our visiting priest’s sermon was strong on loving oneself, on knowing and trusting Divine Love, and his story of ‘losing’ his childhood notions and becoming a priest after many years of ‘losing’ faith.  I imagined him bringing shadow aspects of his ‘soul’ into the light as I continue to do and coming to a much more mature understanding in his mind of what his vocation entails.  I am finding that then comes the physical activity of serving those whose journeys intersect with mine and allowing Mercy to heal my soul wounds as they are revealed in my ever-changing emotions.

I can easily think that progress is slow and then I read about possible ancestor groups which may have included Ardi (4.4 million years ago) and Lucy (3.2 million years ago) and which were evolving a skull that sat on the top of their upright stance and other features like knees and feet appropriate for bipedal movement.  Their brains were less than half the size of ours so there was much to unfold in the future for their descendants.  They were and are participants in the Cosmic Christ event and I wonder if they are ‘not far’ from Jesus’ Realm until the grace of his self-offering brings them from the shadows of history into the full light of creation.  I sense that our journey today to being fully human involves this grace as well as all aspects of our bodies and spirits – as individuals and as families and other groups which pass on DNA, skills, learning and wisdom down the generations.

In our lively little parish group on Wednesday, it occurred to me that gatherings like these provide an environment of support and formation for us being the leaven or yeast in our society where individualism and loneliness seem to be causing illness, unrest and a lack of significant, common values – as though evolution has stalled.  I rejoice and give thanks for those who do have the Divine command written on their hearts and who continue to search there for grace and the next step into Mystery.

May each of us respond with increasing joy, faith and love to the commands of our Master for the sake of life and our common home.

Mark 12:30-31

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your understanding, and with all your strength.
(And this is the second one:)  you shall love your neighbour as yourself.

Let compassion unfurl from your inner womb for Sacred Unity
in the form that impresses you most deeply, inside or out.
Send this love with and through your whole passionate self,
your whole awakening, subconscious self, your whole instinctive mind, and with all of your life energy.  (30)

Give birth to love for the one “next door,” as you do for your own soul-self
and the part of it that feels like a neighbour.

Give birth to compassion for the nearest, yet unfamiliar, aspect of your self,
as you do for the one outside who feels like a stranger.

Give birth to the deepest warmth for the neighbour, inside and out,
as you do for your own subconscious community, inside and out.  (31)

(The Hidden Gospel: Decoding the Spiritual Message of the Aramaic Jesus.  Neil Douglas-Klotz  p117-119)

Reflection, 28 October 2018.  (Mk 10:46-52)

To all of us, the new sight which sees the presence and power of the Cosmic Christ.  As I wonder about Bartimaeus going from sight to blindness and back to being able to see, I look back many years to my early images of a God who was ‘made’ in the likeness of my parents – a mixture of distance, strictness, suffering, caring, supporting, loving, sacrificing, and withholding personal intimacy.  Then I sense that I turned away, lost sight of this ‘being’ and became something of a ‘blind beggar’ who wanted merely to live day by day through following rules, keeping quiet and in the background – all so that I would be given enough on which to survive.  Then Jesus came along and I dared to ask for healing and I was blessed with mercy and insight so that now I try to follow him with peace and joy to ‘Jerusalem’ and beyond.

I am beginning to see, through gatherings of brothers and the Plenary Council 2020 process with parishioners, how I and my communities may be called to refresh our baptismal anointing into Jesus as priest, prophet and king.  He stops his journey to encounter Bartimaeus and becomes the servant-king who commands his followers (Call him!), the priest who allows grace to flow (giving sight) and the prophet who teaches and gives witness to faith.  Last Wednesday evening, our parish group reflected on what can happen in ‘small groups’ and included the possibility that this sort of ‘basic Christian community’ could gather to reflect on stories, personal and biblical, and to be a place of forgiveness, healing and discernment of the next step of our mission in Christ – a place of seeing where Jesus is walking today.

It seems possible that our hominin ancestors began walking on two legs rather than four about 6 or 7 million years ago in Africa.  Climate change may have seen forested areas become grasslands and some primates with appropriate mutations found that their hands could be useful in new ways, including communication, child-care and carrying things for long distances, like food.  The increased dangers of their new habitat encouraged cooperation, support for mates and young and closer bonds between family members.  Jesus takes this pattern to a new level when he highlights how faith in him as ‘Son of David’ (and priest of the order of Melchizedek) is the way of carrying his cross in order to survive physical challenges and also to live in a Realm where food for the soul is always present and where death leads to Resurrection.

This story of Bartimaeus shows how ‘shouting’ and calling out Jesus’ name is one way of manifesting the faith which ‘saves’ and brings new life.  I can imagine his followers gathering in circles, invoking him by name and answering his question about what we want him to do for us.  Some of that will be about insights into living in the changing climate of this century and what new uses there will be for our hands, minds, hearts and wills as we ‘repent’ and face our role in losing sight of our mission ‘in Christ’ to take the Good News to all creation.

May each of us call out more and more loudly for ‘pity’ and for faith in his great love.

Reflection, 21 October 2018.  (Mk 10:35-45)

To all of us, the blessings of the cup and baptism of Jesus.  I read a comment about this Gospel reading which grabbed my attention and invited me to reflect on the nature of the ‘cup’ which seems to come from his Father, from the Source of Love, and how it could be that those of us ‘in Christ’ might still be accepting it with a mixture of willingness and great reluctance.  I began to wonder if it could contain the ingredients of the fullness of Life which demands a self-emptying of everything from the fear of death to even the desire for living fully.  Jesus says that it is about becoming servant and slave and I know how much I struggle to let go and allow that to happen.

I have been reading, too, about extinctions and how researchers describe five Great Extinction Events in the last 500 million years in which at least 75% of all species on Earth ‘disappeared’ – and how we are now in the sixth event as the rate of animal extinctions today is 100 to 1000 times higher than what would be expected in the natural course of evolution.  A very significant factor in this ongoing diminution is the ‘global super-predator’, the human with growing overpopulation and over-consumption which affect the adults of species and even entire food webs.  Then I wonder about Jesus who seems to have undergone his own form of ‘extinction’ and to be living the pattern where devastation makes space and opportunity for new life to evolve and flourish – the ultimate form of serving the Universe Being.

I wonder if Jesus’ baptism is an immersion into all the dynamics of Creation including supernovas, emergence and loss of species, mutations and transformations – and he invites us to ‘drink’ this all the way to Resurrection.  I sense that our little group of parishioners who gather as part of the Plenary Council 2020 process is a taste of this immersion as we reflect together on issues like child abuse, our faith-life and that of children and grandchildren, prayer (last week’s main topic) and I wonder how much it might be about the extinction of the church as we know it.  The Letter to the Hebrews reminds me that the ultimate dynamic is ‘the throne of grace’ and that we can approach this with confidence when we need help, which seems to be today’s situation considering the threats to life on Earth.  The word is ‘we’ and I think of communities ‘in Christ’ – and how ‘small groups’ is our main topic for this week.  Perhaps this is how we participate in Jesus’ giving of his life ‘as a ransom for many’ – for the life forms which still exist and those yet to emerge.

N.T. Wright in his commentary on the second reading reminds us that our high priest Son of Man is still a human being, one whose life has been completed.  He knows temptation, anguish and faith in the power of Love.  I believe that, in him, we do share in the cup of Mercy which empowers us to be servants and slaves as we learn the lessons of self-centredness and its consequences in abusing self, others and our common home.

May each of us continue to evolve our participation in the ‘cup’ and ‘baptism’ of the Cosmic Christ whose intimate presence is the true centre of our hearts, communities and all creation.

Reflection, 14 October 2018.  (Mk 10:17-30)

To all of us, the treasure of receiving the Spirit of Wisdom.  I thank Jesus for those moments when I trust the inner wealth of his Presence, guidance and grace as well as when I loosen my attachments to familiar and comfortable ways of thinking and acting.  I found myself giving up my ‘valuable’ time when I helped set up a BBQ for a fund-raising bike-ride and walk which finished in Yea – as well as cook up trays of sausages and onions.  This was followed by cleaning up, going home and cooking dinner for a group staying for the weekend – with more cleaning up.  In all of it, there was a sense of sharing some of that inner wealth of peace and joy in the present moment – or perhaps it was being open to allow those blessings to flow in and through me.

I suspect that many people, like the ‘man of great wealth’ and even those ‘rich’ who focus on money and still have none, cannot imagine anything different like ‘treasure in heaven’ or Christ’s peace and joy in this life.  Last Wednesday, I trust that some of this Kingdom wealth was flowing when I lead a small group of parishioners in a listening and dialogue session for the Plenary Council 2020 process.  Sharing this kind of ‘daily bread’ seems to be a step-up from hamburgers, tea and sweet slices and something for which there is a deeper and more significant hunger reaching back to earlier stage of life’s journey.  I was surprised and delighted at the decision to gather every week and at the prospect of others participating in these encounters with Mystery and Spirit.

I can imagine that this desire to feed both our bodies and souls has been evolving for over 160 million years – since our early mammalian ancestors gave birth to live young and nourished them with a degree of physical intimacy through to maturity.  For at least the last few thousand years, we have been called to a spiritual maturity to which Jesus gives unique witness and which includes giving of self to the poor and following his presence.  I read of the possibility that these early ancestors of ours lived for perhaps 100 million years as small, nocturnal predators, hiding in the dark from dinosaurs and other reptiles.  They evolved with improved smell, sight and hearing and had an advantage with their young being born at a more advanced stage of life.  Now we need to use our inner senses to thrive in Christ’s Realm and to teach our young to do the same.  It could be that this life in the dark has switched off, in all placental mammals like us, the genes which enable almost every other living thing to repair damage caused by sunlight.  This might explain my skin cancers as well as my ongoing need for forgiveness and inner healing from a Source greater than my own DNA.

Everything is possible for our Creator, from nurturing our ancestors through extinction events and out into daylight to welcoming our shadow-selves into the light of Christ.  The rich man of the Gospel story seems to have experienced a compulsion to run to Jesus only to find that the fulfilment of his innate desire was a step into ‘unknowing’ and he was not ready for that – yet!  Evolution takes time and I give thanks for every opportunity and grace to participate in the great unfolding of Life.

May each of us run in our own way to Jesus with prayers for evermore Wisdom and understanding of how valuable we are in the eyes of the One who loves us.
 

Reflection, 7 October 2018.  (Mk 10:2-16)

To all of us, the vulnerability and openness of the little child who is brought to Jesus.  During my retreat last week, I spoke with a spiritual director about my ongoing ‘bringing’ of shadow aspects of myself to my inner ‘round table’ where I imagine Jesus to be a central figure who provides healing for aspects like my wounded child and challenges to others like priest, prophet and king.  I suspect that I have been rather ‘unteachable’ for much of my life – yet always with some degree of faithfulness and honesty which has grown in recent years.  I have been taken to Jesus and his hugs and blessings and now I wonder how much I can be a conduit through which his teaching and Spirit can touch other ‘children’ as they welcome his Realm.

I have seen very little of married life and that has been from a distance so I can only surmise that it is the Spirit who keeps people true to their vows in marriage as happened in my experience of religious life.  The second reading suggests that it is suffering which brings life to completion and wholeness and I look back and consider how I am still learning to trust that goodness can emerge through experiences of shame, fear and resentment when the Spirit flows as a ‘third force’ between me and the other.  I am being taught to live in the present moment and within a set of boundaries built into creation.

On a walk in nature during the retreat, we were introduced to blue periwinkle (Vinca major), an introduced species which is aggressive and invasive and which is ‘taking control’ of much of the steep riverbank.  It is diminishing bio-diversity and the overall health of the ecosystem.  I sense that it is operating without the ‘boundaries’ which controlled it in its original habitat.  I wonder about the times when I ignore boundaries like humility, honesty and meaningful, mutual relationships – the times when I seem to bring trouble and depression on myself.  I give thanks for those occasions when the proper constraints allow the life of the Spirit to flow.

The periwinkle was just one of several unwelcome invaders we saw (like blackberry, capeweed and thistles) which have beautiful flowers and speak of the wonders of creation.  It seems that the common ancestor of flowering plants evolved through and with a capacity for ‘genome doubling’ which provided many extra and novel genes.  These offered opportunities for making flowers, stabilising physiology and responding to the environment and for a virtual ‘explosion’ of new species with parallel developments in species of pollinators, herbivores and more with new relationships and boundaries.

At one level, I see a kind of doubling of genomes when sperm meet ova which mirrors the coming together of different personalities and the richness of offspring and family life.  I wonder about another level where the ultimate ‘doubling’ occurs when being baptised into Christ provides the opportunity for varieties of gifts and ministries and for the graces needed to flourish within the boundaries of Jesus’ commands and teachings like the Beatitudes.

May each of us welcome all with which our Creator blesses us on our Paschal journey all the way to Resurrection.

Reflection, 23 Sept 2018.  (Mk 9:30-37)

To all of us, the welcoming of Jesus into his house and of the One who sends us out to serve the world.  I can imagine the disciples, women and men, listening to Jesus as they walked through Galilee and not comprehending anything about a need to suffer and die, especially when so much healing and new life was happening in front of them.  I can imagine them being afraid to question him as Peter had done and been told to ‘get behind’ and afraid of revealing their lack of learning and their low levels of discipleship.  They wanted to bluster and portray themselves as ‘great’ and worthy of the best – as I do regularly.  I am also learning that it is wonderful and enlivening to move close to Jesus, to ask questions and receive surprises, and to welcome the role of servant as it takes on forms old and new.

My own ‘serving’ in the last week has included a trip to the airport, welcoming some visitors who volunteered to help cut and split fire wood which then went into the woodshed, vacuuming the guest house, helping in the working bee at the parish house and selling a few more copies of Melbourne Catholic.  I enjoy contributing to a bigger whole and doing so with a sense of the peace which James mentions in the second reading.  I am learning how this peace seems to come when I put aside my own desires and make myself ‘last of all’ – which does take some effort.  I am not always fully welcoming of these opportunities so I do appreciate the reminder that this is one situation where I am ‘in Christ’.

There was a time over 200 million years ago when even the dinosaurs were small and insignificant.  Then a great extinction event occurred, wiping out about 80% of all species.  The dinosaurs which survived were predators bearing significant features which enabled them to become the dominant land creatures for the next 135 million years or so.  They could place their eggs in nests and incubate them and then feed and care for the young.  They were in the early stages of being warm-blooded which allowed them to make better use of their legs being under their bodies for hunting speed.  Their predators were mostly gone and the devastated environment provided plenty of opportunities to grow and evolve.  Being small and agile was an advantage again for those avian dinosaurs (birds) who survived the next extinction event 65 million years ago.

As the synodal reflections and conversations continue around where the Spirit might be leading us now, I wonder if one of those ‘destinations’ is a smaller and more agile Body of Christ able to grow and evolve as the current extinction event gains momentum.  Perhaps the blessings of this pattern are written in the Universe and the Cosmic Creator is teaching us what it looks like for human beings.  I read that ‘rising on the third day’ originally referred to the Sun’s apparent standing still for three days at the winter solstice before beginning its rise towards the light and warmth of summer.  This adds another dimension to us being chosen as ‘light to the nations’ and to living the Paschal Mystery with childlike trust and curiosity.

May each of us grow and evolve as servants of the Light shining within and around every being all the way to Resurrection.

Reflection, 16 September 2018.  (Mk 8:27-35)

To all of us, ever deeper learning and understanding of what it means to follow the Son of Man.  I can imagine Peter jumping to the conclusion that Jesus has got it wrong and quickly becoming the Satan – the Accuser – accusing him of being wrong.  I hear a voice like that regularly, telling me that my hopes and dreams can’t work out because I am not good enough.  This Gospel reading is teaching me to say, ‘Get behind me!’ and ‘Go to where you belong because you are only part of me and you do hold an element of truth!’  When the voice is in front of me, I can become disheartened and depressed;  when it is behind me and Jesus is in front, I can grow in the faith which says that Great Love can flow through my human frailties.

I am learning, too, that these weaknesses are part of my ‘cross’ which also includes the good works which go with faith, as in the second reading.  I wonder about the ‘good work’ of giving witness to Jesus, of speaking about him as the centre of my life and that of my communities.  My olive-wood ‘holding cross’ reminds me that effort is required to keep some sort of balance in the unevenness of life – to keep going to the still point at the centre and to be aware of who or what I am following.

I suspect that much of the politics around the world involves citizens looking to put a ‘strong’ leader into power who will make life better and balanced in the face of deep uncertainties around climate change, wars and terrorism, food and shelter and even our place in the Universe.  As in Australia, when the leader proves to be very human, they vote for someone else if they have the opportunity.  Perhaps the real work and cross involves reminding people that the only constant is Sacred Presence and that it is the Creator, the Word of God, who has already revealed, and is still revealing, the way to peace and joy.  This is one aspect of my intended input into the Plenary Council 2020 and the peace and joy I feel encouraged me that this is my ‘cross’ here and now for the sake of this country and the entire planet.

The first creatures to be fully adapted to life on land were small reptiles which evolved over 315 million years ago.  Many of their physical characteristics were improvements on those of their amphibian ancestors and it was one new feature in particular which allowed them to roam far from the old securities of swamps and water courses – the hard-shelled egg.  Their desire to procreate was no longer restricted to wet environments.  My desire to participate in the Christ Event is becoming less restricted by my fears and is facilitated by ever-new surprises within a growing intimacy with Jesus, including interest from fellow parishioners at coffee etc. after Mass in joining conversations around the Plenary Council.

May each of us come to appreciate more and more the Mystery of our unique crosses and of following the fully alive Human One.

Mk 8: 35-36

(Whoever wants to save his life will lose it and whoever wants to lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 
What will it profit someone who gains the whole world and loses the soul?)

Everyone who desires to give energy
to his separate, subconscious self
will eventually find that self surrendered,
extinguished in the Only Self.
Everyone who surrenders her separate self,
the way I have done and hoped for,
will give energy to it.
For what advantage do you have
if your development in form
exceeds all the world can offer
but your soul remains incomplete?

(The Hidden Gospel: Decoding the Spiritual Message of the Aramaic Jesus  Neil Douglas-Klotz  p121)

Reflection, 9 September 2018.  (Mk 7:31-37)

To all of us, open ears to hear the Word and loosened tongues to speak its stories.  I look back and consider that Jesus has been ‘cleaning out’ my ears for at least thirty years and that now, finally, I am losing the impediments which restrict my speaking about him as Word, Cosmic Christ, friend, healer and much more.  He has been making me whole through touch and the flow of Love when I have gone with him ‘in private’ – silence, scripture, nature – and I am beginning to see how much has happened.  He seems to be encouraging me to tell my story, trusting that Mystery will flow even more for the deaf and speech-impaired whom I take to him.

On a couple of occasions in the last week, I have introduced others to the olive-wood ‘holding cross’ (made by Palestinian Christians) which I am using as a symbol and reminder for the centre-piece of circle conversations and of my own ‘heart circle’.  I have been reporting on my recent experiences and reflections, especially the sense of Jesus’ cross, Resurrection and ‘dwelling’ at the centre of Christian living – and my suspicion that many of us have been ‘deaf’ and ‘speech-impaired’ for at least the last hundred years: we have taught and spoken of him from what we have read in books and not heard the Spirit-whispers in our hearts nor told the stories of the crosses we pick up, of sharing his yoke and burden, of encountering Mercy, joy and peace.  My own story suggests that the consequences of this ‘missing the mark’ are abuse of all kinds and ultimately the decline of faith.

Over the past few years, others have cautioned me about speaking of Jesus because people ‘may not want to hear’ as the stories of sinful failure continue to emerge.  I wonder how much this is fear and a result of not experiencing healing touch when so much ‘touching’ has been selfish and life-denying.  I suspect that we need spaces where Jesus’ healing can flow to us through our shared wounds and vulnerabilities and that he is giving me the faith to participate in bringing about consequences which he has in store and I cannot imagine.

I wonder about the Creator’s imagining of consequences through the over 40 million years of ‘experimenting’ and mutations in the plant world which resulted in the first forests.  With the ability to produce ‘wood’ and larger root systems, at least one variety of plant was able to grow to something like 10 meters tall, spread to every land, provide shade for the soil which it helped to produce with its falling leaves and branches and even bring about changes in the freshwater environment: slowing down currents and providing food which promoted fish life.  This speaks to me of our deafness when it comes to the groaning of creation and to possibilities of healing flowing through those ‘in Christ’.  There is much listening and responding still to do.

May each of us continue to go with Jesus away from the crowd where we evolve as instruments of the healing needed by the whole web of life.

Reflection, 2 September 2018.  (Mk 7:1-8,14-15,21-23)

To all of us, the wisdom to grow in tune with the lore written deep in our being.  I remembered a dream one night last week and wrote down what I could recall later that morning.  As I have not remembered one for some time, I suspected that this one might hold various treasures and so I went back to it and had to laugh when I read, “I am on a mission to take over a rebel-held headquarters.”  So I have rebels in my ‘head’ and I want freedom for my ‘heart’ – as Jesus mentions in the Gospel reading and I understand that the ‘hypocrites’ to whom he refers are people influenced by ‘rebels’ of their own.

These rebels, like mine, have their own fixed thoughts and behaviours in contrast to the notion of ‘creative fidelity’ to ‘a living tradition’ as I heard about in the BBI e-conference.  My rebels seem to be telling me things of which I am not capable and so they need to be in control for comfort, safety and stability.  The second reading reminds me that there is a word planted in me which I am to obey and that it will involve going out to help the defenceless and not being characterised by addictions and judgementalism.  The rebels say ‘No!’ and Jesus says that grace will make it happen, including confronting these false voices.

One most significant ‘word’ was that which drew our tetrapod ancestors to venture from the water onto land.  It may have been heard as a search for new food sources or to escape predators or climate change.  It could happen because these creatures already had the beginnings of the necessary physical attributes such as bones in their fins (later to form arms and legs) and air-sacks (to evolve into lungs).  Grace had already been at work and established unforeseen potential – and I wonder what lies hidden in me and my communities ready for use and evolution in the face of today’s crises.  Perhaps the ancient Hebrew scriptures hold a clue when we are told that the Lord our God is close and waiting for us to call forth the Mystery of the whole ‘law’ written on our hearts.

I read that, at its best, this sacred ‘lore’ with its stories, customs and traditions is about how to grow as neighbours who are people of blessing in the image and likeness of Love.  As I think of recent Australian politics, I wonder how much it has been about a search for comfort, consistency and security and looking at fellow human beings for answers when the only true ‘constant’ is the Creator of this expanding and evolving Universe.  Perhaps our Christian task is to confront the ‘rebels’ with those aspects of Spirit which we have neglected and hidden with consequences unforeseen until now.

May each of us tune into and follow the unpredictable Spirit in whom we move and live and have our being.

Reflection, 26 August 2018.  (Jn 6:60-69)

To all of us, living faith which chooses to follow Christ and be nourished by his body and blood.  On Wednesday, I joined an interfaith group for an introduction to the Baha’i faith before going to visit a Vietnamese Buddhist temple.  I can understand the attraction and the blessings of these religions through the efforts they make to serve the poor, to focus on youth, to sing and chant and especially through the joy and openness of the followers we met, most notably the Buddhist ‘abbot’ who showed us around with serenity, enthusiasm, jokes, laughter and smiles and made sure we were well fed with their vegetarian lunch.

These are people who are manifesting the goodness at the heart of creation and I can only wonder about different dimensions offered by the Son of Man who is also the Holy One of God and who invites us to chew on his own flesh as food for living in a Realm which is both seen and unseen.  I appreciate the notion of following a human who is also Cosmic Christ and whose presence is one of intimacy, meekness and love – for the Universe.  I wonder if many of those who left him did so because of the challenge to share this way of living with its call to a radical transformation of heart and mind – as though he was too close and also too immense.

I wonder, too, about Australian politics at the moment when so many who call themselves ‘Christian’ seem to be living out of fear and self-interest with no willingness to face the harsh realities of human nature and of ‘mother nature’.  I wonder if they have ‘stopped following’ as many in different churches have done in the face of seemingly insurmountable threats from climate change, globalisation, terrorism, refugee crises and abuse of all sorts.  Several commentators suggest that there is no enunciated vision of any way forward and I wonder if our religious communities have lost their voice because they have lost sight of ‘the Son of Man ascending’ and lost touch with the Spirit who is in Jesus’ words – that same Spirit who is moving us into synodality.

I went along to the final session of the short course about the Plenary Council 2020 on Wednesday and enjoyed the opportunity to share stories in a small group of three.  I heard stories of healing and of hurt and frustration and, in the centre of our little circle, I placed a wooded cross and a small Earth-globe.  I spoke of experiencing Mercy and of wanting to keep focus on the Cosmic Christ in my worlds both inner and outer.  I suspect that those of us ‘in Christ’ do point to a way ahead in which each step will be revealed in its own time and involves listening and following with deepening faith.  I, too, sense fear in these dark days – fear of loss and suffering and of picking up my cross.  I also sense my hope in an immense and powerful Presence.

Insects have been busy on our planet for something like 480 million years and have survived and evolved through many mass-extinction events.  They speak of interdependence, especially with the plant world and our food sources, of uncounted variety and of social cohesion, diligent farming, ‘singing’ and beauty.  They evolved as they sought nourishment in the unfolding environments of dry land.

May we and our communities grow as we participate in the great flow of sustenance which is the body and blood of our Cosmic and Holy One.

Reflection, 19 August 2018.  (Jn 6:51-58)

To all of us, growing participation in Jesus’ life of passion and fire for our world.  I find hope in the words of the second reading which say that I and my communities are redeeming ‘a wicked age’ by lives of praise and thanksgiving.  The lecturers on Wednesday night at the ACU short course were hinting at the same notion when they outlined the results of research which indicates that institutions such as ‘catholic education’ have failed to facilitate experiences of encounter and community for at least the past fifty years.  That sense has been growing in me for some time as has the conclusion that it is time to listen to the Spirit for guidance in what it means to nourish ourselves in new ways through Jesus’ flesh and blood and to be explicit in our gratitude and humility.

Wednesday was a day of blessing for me when the afterschool homework club session was cancelled and I took the opportunity to see the movie ‘Gurrumul’ who was recognised as someone who was singing from his deep, true self with its connections to land, living things and family.  Again I was one of those who have been moved deeply at the sound of his voice and his Indigenous tongue with echoes of creation’s groaning and celebration.  He was one of those wonderful artists who begin their careers as young people playing music and singing in their local Christian church and who go on to participate in redeeming the world through their gifts.  Afterwards I was able to attend Mass for the feast of the Assumption at ACU before the lecture.  It was as though the Spirit had a plan for me and all I had to do was cooperate with a sense of wonder and thanksgiving.  I suspect that it has been a lesson about trusting Mystery.

I am encouraged when Paul speaks of singing and chanting in his letter to the Ephesians as though song is a key ingredient in transforming hearts and minds.  Infrequently I enjoy listening to and singing along with tunes in my ‘religious’ collection and sense that it is a missing element in many gatherings where we could be listening to the Spirit for inspiration.  The deep truths of the music and lyrics can take their time in enlivening our true selves, following the patterns of creation like the transformation, over something like four hundred million years, of Earth’s bare rocky surface to the forests, grasslands and wetlands of today.  Perhaps we need the beauty of both nature and music if we are to be Christ’s bread for the life of the world.

Perhaps, too, we can appreciate the Paschal Mystery as we learn more of the origins of plants and their role in transforming our planet even by their very significant contributions to mass extinctions by stimulating ice ages and snowball-Earth conditions.  They have changed the chemical compositions of rocks, oceans and atmosphere – and the dance of the Spirit has brought about new life, great variety and eventually consciousness through apparent disasters.  I have hope that our eating of the ‘fruit of the Earth’ is a participation in Life which is both now and forever.

May each of us grow and evolve in the unfolding and intimate compassion of the Cosmic Christ.

Reflection, 12 August 2018.  (Jn 6:41-51)

To all of us, the life we receive when we munch on Jesus’ flesh.  Life seems to have existed on Earth for about four billion years and only made the very significant step from the waters and oceans out onto dry land less than 450 million years ago.  I can imagine this to be like a grand, ongoing adventure which began with microscopic, root-like filaments which could extract nutrients from the rocks and rubble of tectonic shifts, weathering and erosion, and so begin the process of forming the soils which have supported living things from then until now.  Two thousand years ago, another step, another Passover, begins with Jesus offering ‘eternal life’ – Life in the unseen Realm of Sacred Unity.

Early life on land evolved in a very different environment featuring desiccation, gravity, UV light and limited nutrients.  Jesus faces a world of false certainties, complaints, threats and violence and he offers his own ‘flesh’ as the abundant nourishment of his Other-centred world.  Researchers today can look back through the fossils which have preserved the mat-like colonies of those first entities on land and begin to surmise their story of mutations, survival together and their lasting blessing for our planet.  I can imagine the Creator ‘teaching’ and preparing them in the depths of their DNA to fulfil their destiny which includes Jesus and us.  Now we ‘in Christ’ are being taught about an even deeper ‘DNA’ which is about ‘the life of the world’ all the way to resurrection.  We do need to munch and chew on his ‘bread’ at many levels.

I experienced different tastes of this ‘chomping’ during last week with much more to come as we move through the processes of the Plenary Council and our congregational chapter.  I went along to ACU for one presentation, viewed others from the BBI e-conference and took part in a gathering of brothers which included conversation circles.  It occurs to me that Paul’s words to the Ephesians in the second reading contain the essence of both these conversations and the lifestyle of Jesus’ Realm.  One of the lecturers spoke of how Pope Francis seems to be offering ‘synodality’ to the world as best practice of democracy at a time when our physical and social environments require new ways of being together in our common home.  I am excited at the prospect of being one tiny filament of evolving consciousness as my communities face huge difficulties while feeding on living bread and participating in Great Spirit.

Another lecturer spoke of keeping ourselves in a ‘living’ tradition of handing on and building on the lessons of the past and he indicated that, in essence, we are ‘handing on God!’ – a Presence who is creative, dynamic, loving, rejoicing, personal, intimate and beyond our imagining.

May each of us grow and evolve into that Presence through the delights of feasting on Jesus’ corpse.

Reflection, 5 August 2018.  (Jn 6:24-35)

To all of us, full participation in the faith-filled work of believing in Jesus, ‘bread of life’.  My growing belief that he is ‘feeding’ and even sending me has brought me to Sunshine in the past week with a few days at Glenburn and an evening lecture at ACU about the Plenary Council 2020.  I seem to be in a process of revisiting the past and imagining the future, all with new eyes and desire to serve.  There are ‘signs’ to read and I am finding an inner sense of ‘rightness’ telling me that I am seeing something of their deeper meanings and that the true worker is the Spirit.

Much of that sense of being on the right path seems to be coming in situations where others offer very similar insights and stories.  It happened at the community prayer for the commemoration of Ignatius of Loyola and in another conversation at Glenburn about circles.  I have been reminded of the challenges of climate change through views from aeroplanes of our brown country and half-filled dams as well as through news stories of heat waves, fires, droughts and floods in the northern hemisphere.  Jesus is still calling me to ‘come’ and ‘believe’ in the ‘I Am’ who gives life to the world and satisfies hunger and thirst at all levels, inner and outer, land and life-form.

My little twinges of back-pain remind me of my vulnerability and of the ease with which it seems possible to try satisfying hunger with false bread.  I read that our backbones began evolving over 525 million years ago, possibly in one common ancestor, something like a sea-urchin, who passed on the necessary genes to various lines of descendants.  Some of these seem to have lost this feature and followed different paths all the way to the present; they found the best way to thrive in the present moment.  Some took advantage of it and it has been passed on to us humans with our ability to engage even in ‘spiritual revolution’ with courage and awareness.  We can choose to make sacrifices with a view to things unseen and we can choose survival for ourselves within limited horizons.  I can only give thanks to the One who gives me ‘true bread from heaven’ and asks me to participate in its giving and receiving.  I can take Jesus as a model of how to invite others to the deeper meanings of the signs all around us.

One notion from the lecture session at ACU which stay with me is that we are baptised into the ‘offices’ of priest, prophet and king – and I wonder if we can ‘lose’ this feature with its ‘genes’ being dormant and ripe for reactivation.  We will need ‘true bread’ to live these archetypes as essential aspects of our ‘new selves’ in both their individual and communal manifestations and to awaken them in others.

May each of us accept Jesus’ daily invitations to come and be transformed into bread for our common home.

Reflection 29 July 2018.  (Jn 6:1-15)

To all of us, evolving faith in the One who sees all our needs.  I have just finished a 5-day ‘practicum’ in which I enjoyed, with a dozen others, seeking to see how to improve and deepen our practice of ‘circle conversations’.  I can sense that it is, at least partially, learning to see as Jesus sees when he observes the crowds, his disciples and then those who seem to see him as a source of instant gratification in their desires for freedom and domination.  He knows what is best for all beings and the ways for all to be fully alive.  He sees the Divine embrace and plan in which each of us takes responsibility for our lives together – and ‘the circle way’ is one manifestation of how it is being realised.

In the last few days, we read and heard stories of church groups and congregations encountering ‘Spirit’ in ways they had not experienced before and I imagined that we Christians have largely lost our connection to this Power who has ‘moved on’ to nourish restless seekers with ways and insights which are both old and new.  I went along keeping both our recent history of abuse and also future events like the Plenary Council and congregational chapters in mind and come away with a growing sense that I have a role to play in our metanoia which looks back to Gospel lessons such as this one.  Here, people like Philip and Andrew see with compassion, go to Jesus with their ‘unknowing’ and in expectation of grace, do what he asks without any answers and find themselves surprised and in awe.  I was the only practising Christian in the group while all of us felt echoes of the nourishment and wonder of those early followers as the pattern unfolded for us in The Big House.

It seems as though eyes began to evolve perhaps 550 million years ago when all life on Earth was still in the oceans and waterways of the planet and that each step along the way was marked by a mutation which increased the prospects of survival whether predator or prey.  I ask myself about the advantages of seeing with Jesus’ eyes and insight and I suspect that it is all about staying aware of Love’s presence and power to transform.  Seeing was a factor in the transition from water to land and remains a factor in building the Creator’s Realm of surprises seen and unseen.  Jesus is still teaching by involving his disciples in his mission and this, too, was significant in our circle activities as we came to see what is possible for ourselves, our conversations and our common home.  It is still Passover time with its call to see and follow YHWH’s Way to freedom.

One of my learnings relates to the significance of the stated intention which brings people together and I wonder about ways to keep Jesus and his intentions at the centre of circle conversations.  Those of us who claim to be ‘in Christ’ may need to see ourselves as instruments with limited understanding and with the responsibility of checking in with him at every step of the way.

May each of us come to see more deeply what it means to call him Lord and friend and to expect surprise and abundance through our obedience.

Reflection, 22 July 2018.  (Mk 6:30-34)

To all of us, the peace of learning what the Cosmic Christ teaches.  I can imagine those apostles learning from Jesus and rejoicing that they could successfully put into practice what they had learnt.  I can imagine them needing to learn more about caring for themselves in terms of food, rest and prayer – and about the size of the task ahead in terms of people’s deep longing for wholeness, healing and belonging.  I can imagine Jesus’ compassion for the crowd who were ‘like sheep without a shepherd’ and teaching them about the love of ‘The-Lord-our-integrity’ who knows both their physical and spiritual hungers, who is listening to their petitions and who longs for them to put this Divine Shepherd at the centre of their lives.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been revisiting places where I taught (last century) and seeing big differences in many areas from buildings to curricula and student support.  One common theme seems to be the growing lack of faith in the lives of staff and students and I can see how I may have been involved in this decline as I attempted to pass on knowledge rather than belief.  I am now still learning to keep ‘Spirit’ as the prime mover of Life and am finding greater joy and peace as I give thanks to Jesus for all the blessings which have come in the form of conversations, insights, welcomes and more.  I look back and suspect that the surprises flow more as I continue to mention the Spirit and to say thanks.  Perhaps this is one way in which the Master is teaching me about his Realm and his command to tell the Good News to all creation.

Researchers theorise that all life forms have a ‘selfish desire’ to pass on their DNA and that sexual reproduction was a new way of doing so which began perhaps 2 billion years ago.  It is possible that evolving eukaryotes were able to choose this way in times of stress so that there was a greater likelihood of at least some of their DNA surviving.  This seems to me to be another pattern deep in our physical being which manifests in scenes such as this one where Jesus is passing on the essentials of his spiritual DNA to those who choose to approach and relate with him, becoming part of the ‘New Man’ whom Paul describes to the Ephesians.  Passing on faith may be a manifestation of the ‘selfishness’ of all who are ‘in Christ’ and focused on his way of self-giving Love.

The past few weeks have been busy and I appreciate more the moments of rest and nourishment provided by the Spirit through the people and timetables of the travelling.  May each of us grow in openness to Jesus’ teachings as they emerge in different forms bringing peace to every moment of Presence.

Reflection, 8 July 2018.  (Mk 6:1-6)

To all of us, the grace to boast of those weaknesses through which the Spirit of prophecy calls us back to Sacred Promise.  I thank Pope Francis for reminding me of the notion of ‘promise’ and I wonder about its inherent nature in creation, especially in living creatures.  I imagine that the Divine DNA has been fulfilling a promise of ‘life to the full’ for at least 13.8 billion years of evolution and I hold on to that with a mixture of faith, hope and doubt.  I spent most of today in conversation with a family friend who concerned about the future for her children, grand-children and great-grand-children in these times when individualism is becoming more dominant and the sense of ‘faith-community’ is diminishing and even disappearing – and I considered that prophecy is one vital element missing from our Church.

Life seems to have existed on Earth for at least 4 billion years and for half of that time it has consisted of single-celled bacteria.  Then there occurred a vital breakthrough – the cell nucleus came into being and evolution could proceed at a much faster rate.  A significant feature of the nucleus is its membrane which isolates the DNA which can go about its business with fewer concerns.  The membrane includes pores which allow certain molecules to pass through to develop and keep safe that part, the DNA, which contains the cell’s memories of the past as well as its promise for the future.  The diversity of evolution happens through successful mutations being passed on.  I wonder how much prophecy is like the nucleus of our Church which can be healthy and varied when the flow of new and different gifts is maintained via a membrane (cf. ‘brain’) which is flexible and alert, not limited by adherence to rules and expectations (cf. clericalism).  Perhaps this is another pattern written deep in the spiritual and biological dimensions of our beings.

As I wonder about how this applies to me, I can look back and consider that my ‘membrane’ is slowly becoming more porous and letting in the life and love of the Creator so that I can move beyond my self-imposed ‘rules’ about who I am and what I am capable of, including the idea that I could never be any sort of prophet.  I look back and see that it has been within ‘healing communities’ that I have acknowledged my ‘weaknesses’, have been accepted as a flawed human being and have experienced Mercy.  I dare to believe that the Spirit is drawing me into community that is both healing and prophetic even as I long to be alive in Christ and dread the hardships and agonies that seem to a sign of its reality.

May each of us grow in the faith which allows the power of the crucified and resurrected Human One to flow with healing in and through our weaknesses.

Reflection, 24 June 2018.  (Birth of John the Baptist)

To all of us, growing faith in the presence of the hand of the Lord guiding us to freedom.  I seem to be in the middle of an experience of being ‘guided’ which is building on many other Spirit-encounters over many years.  This one began at the start of this year when I considered my option to celebrate my ‘jubilee’ with a trip or programme and all I could think of was to pray to the Spirit to find something which would be worthwhile for me and my communities – a prayer which I now imagine to be Spirit-inspired.  A couple of months ago, there was a group who use ‘The Circle Way’ staying here for a weekend and, when I showed some interest because we brothers have been using the same process, they told me about workshops happening in July.  I am now booked in to one of them.

I find myself sharing in the excitement and joy of Elizabeth and her neighbours as I wonder, ‘What will this turn out to be?’ and in that of Zechariah as he praises God with his new-found speech.  Our parish priest talked in his sermon about John’s birth being celebrated at the summer solstice (northern hemisphere) with the notion that ‘he must decrease’ – as the daylight hours begin to shorten – and Jesus must increase (presumably from the northern winter solstice).  As the days here begin to lengthen after last week’s solstice, I have a sense of an increase in that deeper peace and joy as I look ahead to conversations in ‘circles’ about the Spirit’s guidance among us brothers as well as among parishioners and the Plenary Council.  There seems to be an increase in light and lightness of heart even as the darkness of the world’s wildernesses persists.

One form of wilderness developed 2 to 3 billion years ago as oxygen levels increased in Earth’s atmosphere due to the spread of photosynthesis.  This brought about conditions which threatened life on the planet which began to ‘burn up’ with the toxic gas.  Eventually, some mutations gave rise to lifeforms which were able to make good use of this fuel (and we seem to have their descendants as the mitochondria in our cells).  According to some scientists, it is possible that the genes for using oxygen in this way may have been passed horizontally between single-celled organisms as well as down the generations.  This makes sense to me as a foundational pattern which occurs amongst us humans as we spread information, understandings and especially faith in the Creator both in our families and in gatherings of peers.  Perhaps this is connected to my interest in circles with their promise and possibility for the Spirit’s guidance through today’s crises.

May each of us grow in openness to the spirit of John the Baptist challenging us and our communities to centre our lives on the creative love of the Cosmic Christ.

Reflection, 17 June 2018.  (Mk 4:26-34)

To all of us, the right conditions for our sacred seeds to come to a generous harvest.  Winter rain was falling when we arrived in Yea for Mass and the farmers and gardeners were rejoicing after one of the driest autumns on record.  We have learnt much about how it happens that plants sprout and produce our food and people have known for thousands of years that seeds in the ground are not enough – sun and water are needed.  This is like a ‘third force’ from the ‘heavens’, essential in the process.

As parish treasurer, I wanted sell the remaining copies of Melbourne Catholic and so I spoke at the end of Mass.  As fellow parishioner, I mentioned some very worthwhile articles and also how the reading of these was one way of ‘watering’ the seeds already planted in our minds and hearts and I mentioned that, while our parish may not be growing in numbers, this is about all of us growing in faith as well as contributing to reflections in preparation for the Plenary Council 2020.  I was grateful that most of the copies were bought and for the affirming comments made by a few others.  Now I can only wonder what kind of small, humble beginning this might be for me and the parish and that I am called to be ready for each new and surprising step along this way.

This does seem to be a good day to reflect on photosynthesis with descriptions like ‘the only significant solar energy storage process on Earth’ as well as ‘the source of all our food and most of our energy resources’ and its ongoing production of the oxygen we breathe.  Scientists continue to research and theorise about its origins and I can only marvel at how the evolution of life depends on this process which may have begun about 3.6 billion years ago with mutations in some early bacteria living in the oceans.  The ‘third force’ again is the energy of the Sun which enables water molecules to be split, releasing the oxygen as well as electrons and protons – turning sunlight into sugars.

If the Reign of Empowerment is like this, then Jesus’ images point to a reality of unforeseen blessings in the Creator’s Realm where the Spirit continues to act as ‘third force’ in the lives of individuals and of communities.  It is happening in me as my fears meet my longing for life and then in the parish where my growing sense of healing and peace meets others’ desire for nourishing community.  I imagine that there were many ‘experiments’ among the early forms of life which did not include all the ingredients for the revolutionary step of photosynthesis and yet it happened and probably more than once.  It was inevitable somewhere in the Universe just as the harvest and the mustard shrub’s shelter are inevitable in the body of the Cosmic Christ.  I rejoice in the gift of faith which enables me to participate in the process in some small and humbling ways.

May each of us grow more and more open to ‘third force’ finding the right conditions in our hearts and minds and in our communities.

Reflection, 10 June 2018.  (Mk 3:20-35)

To all of us, growing gratitude for the blessings of being at home in Jesus’ family-of-the-Father’s-will.  Recently, I have been expressing my interest in Australian Church’s Plenary Council 2020 and receiving positive responses from some brothers and some Yea parishioners.  As I think about the focus question presented for discussion before next Pentecost – “What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?” – I suspect that it is calling us to a renewed sense of this ‘family’ with all its variety and gifts and especially in its fundamental nature as those who ‘listen to what the Spirit is saying’.  Today’s Gospel is very strong on forgiveness and on the issue of refusing to acknowledge Jesus’ calls to metanoia and to the faith which Paul mentions in the second reading.  Perhaps one of the characteristics of family will be faith-speaking both to each other and to Sacred Mystery.

I suspect, too, that another aspect of the answer will refer to our climate and to the loss of habitat and biodiversity happening every day.  Perhaps some of our conversations will be about our common shame and ‘nakedness’ as we hide from the Creator who asks where we are when it comes to caring for ‘our common home’ and to turning away from our lives of comfort, denial, waste and consumerism.  We might see that we continue to say ‘yes’ to the tempter rather than to the Spirit of self-sacrificing love who asks that we examine our own motives and actions rather than blame others.  This is where I begin to think that I may be ‘out of my mind’ and completely missing the mark until I remember the blessings I have received even this week and the Power available in the unknowing and obedience of Jesus’ followers.

On Thursday, I attended the funeral of a brother who was described as making his own very appropriate decisions regarding letting go of youth, vitality and generous retirement as he approached the decay of his outer form.  I began to wonder about the possibility of making those decisions much earlier in life and being open to the spontaneous following of unseen new directions.  After succumbing to the temptations of party pies and chocolate cake at the wake, I followed an inspiration to go with another brother to visit the new homework-help program at Tarneit in Melbourne’s south-west.  I give thanks for the sense of joy which came from my spontaneity, from a brief time of helping with setting up and with tutoring two young students and from a pleasant and swift train ride back to the city.  This was a small taste of what the spirit of faith can bring.

I wonder how much it will be willingness to follow Jesus into the unknown, into what might seem ‘crazy’ words and actions, that will be needed to see us through the crises unfolding around the planet at this time.  We may need to tell more stories of the Spirit’s creative power such as that of meteors entering Earth’s early atmosphere and their components, especially iron, being vaporised.  The resulting ‘iron rain’ caused greenish-blue oceans and higher concentrations of significant metals on the surface which our species has been able to use in an enormous number of ways after over 4 billion years of evolutionary time.  We may need to grow in humble acknowledgement of a very different time-scale where each of us has the opportunity to make a significant contribution.

May each of us grow in heeding what is asked of us here-and-now and in appreciating the flow of creativity in and around our cosmic family.

Reflection, 3 June 2018.  (Corpus Christi)

To all of us, the ‘new wine’ and ‘new covenant’ uniting us in Resurrection Life.  I found myself for the second Sunday in a row at a First Communion celebration – same Church, similar overflowing crowd, different atmosphere, and being distracted by a young girl two seats in front of me who was having nose bleeds.  As I wonder what extra the Spirit is offering for my reflection on the ‘body and blood’ of the Christ, I think of that child and her family who seemed to be well acquainted with the situation –no fuss, no bother, part of life.  The priest, in his summary of the whole occasion, mentioned the gift of Eucharist and ‘not taking it for granted’ and I think:  no fuss or bother, make the flow of ‘blood’ a vital part of joyful living and giving within Jesus’ family and use every opportunity to receive his ‘new wine’ with consciousness.

I was wondering, too, how meaningful it is for these children and all in that church to receive the bread/’body’ and not the wine/’body’ and also what it meant to the man next to me who wanted to receive from the priest, not a lay minister.  I sense an invitation for me to become more conscious of the sacrificial and covenantal aspects of the sacrament and to appreciate that my involvement in its new life depends on my ‘yes’ to evolving and new challenges in my relationship with the Christ.  As I think of my being drawn into the searching of my congregation for renewal of religious life and of the Church with the Plenary Council 2020, I have remembered a description of life as ‘a tandem bike ride with the Divine’ in which Jesus takes the front position, tells me to keep pedalling and off we go on an exciting adventure of receiving and giving-away gifts and graces of all kinds.  A few short conversations in Melbourne and in Yea tell me that momentum is building and that I am part of a much larger movement of the Spirit.

I wonder about the life that has emerged on this planet which has its own sense of ‘body’ and ‘life blood’ in its rocks and flows of water.  Scientists theorise about the source of the oceans and some agree that most of the water was released from the materials which came together around 4.6 billion years ago in the formation of Earth.  This water is still being thrown up into the atmosphere in the volcanoes active today and is part of an ancient and ongoing cycle which has produced the right amount of the liquid to cover 71% of the surface and leave something for new forms of life to flourish ‘on dry land’ once the temperature was right for condensation.  The gift was inherent in the star dust and is unfolding according to ‘the commands and ordinances’ of the Universe Being.  Jesus reveals the pattern and takes it to a new level where his Spirit is ‘poured out’ of his incarnated reality in vast amounts for the newness of Resurrection in which we have the choice of participating.  It has always been a dramatic and surprising ride and one which is written into the DNA of our bodies, minds and hearts.

May each of us take for granted that eating and drinking the body and life-blood of the Cosmic Christ means that we are open to the ways of Mystery and Love transforming chaos into order and form.

Reflection, 27 May 2018.  (Trinity)

To all of us, the joy-filled life of Trinitarian Love flowing in and beyond our Universe.  I am staying in Melbourne for a few days and have just experienced Sunday evening Eucharist in an overflowing church celebrating First Communion.  My plan had been to attend the 9.00 Mass and I found that the Spirit had other ideas such as spending almost ten minutes finding somewhere to park, coming in late and still finding a seat and then being touched when the children stood up and could not be seen next to their sitting parents and families.  I had suspected that the Spirit may have something special for me and I was ‘thinking’ that it may be some insight for my reflection.  Now I can look back and give thanks for the sense of excitement shared by so many and for the feelings of joy and wonder which touched me then and stay with me now as I ponder the mysterious ways of the Trinity in blessing these children with parents, families, teachers and Jesus’ living Body.  Something like that happened to me many years ago and the process continues to evolve.

 St Paul reminds us that this Earthly Life includes both delight and suffering and I can only wonder what challenges these children and their families will face and how Jesus will ‘be with them’ as the institutional church struggles to live out the command to ‘make disciples’ and to ‘baptise’ in the name of the Trinity.  He has been with me in situations both within and outside of organised religion and I have needed both to encounter ongoing Mercy and healing at the levels of head and heart.  I am still learning to cry out, “Abba!” and to trust in that Love.  I am learning to see “Father!” in the incarnated and crucified Son.  I am beginning to learn that the Spirit is indeed at the heart of every aspect of our evolving worlds.  I pray that all of us grow to be more open to the new and surprising ways in which the Trinity continues to reign ‘in heaven above as on Earth beneath’.

One of the signs in the sky is the relationship between our planet and its moon which overflows into impacting on our web of life.  With a moon of the appropriate size and orbit, Earth’s axis has a small wobble which has kept the climate within the bounds of supporting life, even with a 41,000 year cycle of hot followed by icy conditions.  The moon’s gravitational pull has slowed Earth’s rotation to a speed which fosters life as we orbit in the Goldilocks Zone.  One form of that life marvels at the mystery of this object in the heavens, asks questions, finds answers, writes poetry, sings songs and dreams of using it as a stepping stone for exploring the immensity of creation.  Perhaps all of us, young and old, can keep in mind that we have been formed in the image and likeness of this Creator who is ‘with us’ in a host of mysterious ways.

We exist in this place because of ‘heavenly’ factors and Earthly factors which include a molten core generating a magnetic field, a variety of surfaces, and an ozone layer.  I see myself as a multi-layered being dependent on inner and outer phenomena which are physical, emotional and spiritual.  As a reflection of the Source, I can be creative, relational, intimate and nurturing as is the One whose ‘laws and commands’ are written in all structures from atoms to galaxies and who calls for loving discipleship.  Perhaps the greatest challenge is to see all that is being created as ‘very good’ and to rejoice in the great unfolding.

May each of us grow as a loved and loving child participating in the flow of universal joy.

Reflection, 20 May 2018.  (Pentecost)

To all of us, the noisy sound of the Spirit breathing us as we live and proclaim the marvels of Love.  Pentecost speaks to me of ‘first fruits’ and the human endeavours of preparing soil, planting, harvesting and giving thanks for the cycle which results in our staple foods.  There is our community at work participating in the mysterious processes of our Spirit feeding our bodies, minds and hearts – placing the fire of the heavens into our being.  There is the echo of the Genesis story of the Creator breathing into clay forms and awakening consciousness as Jesus breathes on the mystified few whom he calls friends and empowers them as the ‘first fruits’ of a new fire of self-giving, merciful Love which is our deepest nourishment.

I felt a touch of this fire on Friday when I attended a gathering of brothers to hear and to talk about our recent three-day gathering and where the Spirit seems to be moving in the Edmund Rice Movement.  This time I did take the microphone and told of my delight that there are people who do speak of Jesus and his power at work in our midst as well as of my question, “What does it mean for me and my communities to call ourselves Christian?”  My nervousness crept into my voice and I had a sense of being unworthy of any task from the Master and yet I was aware of a deeper peace that I was being true to a higher purpose in the mysterious ways of Love.

I give thanks, too, for a further understanding of the source of my resentment and shame.  This came as I was reflecting on the scene where Jesus asks Peter three times about his love and each time accepts his answer and gives him the task of nourishing the flock.  Peter is invited to return to his moments of shame and unworthiness and to see that they are part of the foundation of his new life.  So too for me as I opened up aspects of my relationship with my father to Jesus’ peace and found that I have a task in Christ and his Spirit.  Each step along this way (usually to where I would rather not go) seems to require stronger faith and deeper listening in prayer even as the joy takes a more secure hold.  It does become much more about Love flowing in, with and through me.

There seems to be an inevitability about this grand flow towards Life which is highlighted for me in the image of a supernova with its ‘fire’ and energy, especially the one whose shock waves may have triggered the collapse of a vast cloud of gas and dusk about 4.6 billion years ago resulting in the birth of thousands of stars, including our Sun.  Some astronomers theorise that it may have been a relatively small star, perhaps ten times bigger than our own, which exploded and helped create the conditions for the life which flowers in us.  Within a hundred million years, there was the ‘dance’ of our solar system with a variety of planets settling from wild and eccentric orbits into a relative calmness also conducive to the enhancement and protection of an evolving web of life.  Each set of conditions throughout the expanding Universe is unique as is the story of each of us.  I can only pray that I can continue to participate in this immense enterprise in my own special way.

May each of us heed more and more deeply the Advocate breathing in us the complete truth of Mercy and peace.

Reflection, 13 May 2018.  (The Ascension)

To all of us, the power in the Holy Spirit to be Resurrection witnesses.  As I reflect on the last week, I do not see any powerful witnessing on my part to Jesus’ presence and then I begin to wonder how much happened on those occasions when I thought myself to be weak and useless.  These moments included smiles, thanks, listening, sitting with as well as selecting songs for Mass and doing simple tasks with care and attention.  Looking back, I remember feelings of satisfaction, joy and peace which I now consider to be aspects of ‘immersion’ (baptism) in Jesus’ Spirit where it is his presence touching all of us in ways I cannot imagine.

Many scholars seem to be saying that it was the ‘ascended’ Jesus who appeared to his followers after his immersion into the fullness of incarnation with its birthing, evolving and dying and who then reveals the Sacred Realm which is creation fully ‘resurrected’.  I can only pray for the gift of faith which says that the power of original creation and of Easter new creation is flowing in and around me and enables me and my communities to move beyond all other ‘sovereignties’ – my desires, fears, resentments and more – and to share his mission of living this Good News.  It is also the faith which says that this Lord has been joyfully at work and in control since the beginning and is holding all of us safe in ways we cannot imagine.

Somehow, my safe place ‘in Christ’ is a tiny reflection of our solar system’s place in the Milky Way galaxy.  We are situated away from the spiral arms where creative and destructive energies are concentrated: supernovae, gamma-ray bursts, active black holes and much more.  We are in a region where all the elements have been formed in ratios suitable for life – not towards the outer edges where heavier elements are scarce.  This situation has contributed to the possibility of Life being able to evolve safely on a planet in the Goldilocks Zone and to the existence of each one of us.  I consider this to be an extension of Jesus’ Good News of grace at work at the level of individuals and communities who are known and loved and who believe enough to follow his way and trust his presence.

Aspects of the mystery and power of our galaxy include its origin perhaps 13.6 billion years ago, its evolving, the super-massive black hole at its centre, its 90% dark matter, perhaps two hundred billion stars and its ongoing interactions with other galaxies including capturing nearby dwarf galaxies.  With these patterns written in the heavens, I begin to wonder if I am one of those who are keeping ourselves ‘too safe’ and not in tune with the flow of Creation and the Mystery and Power of Love’s incarnation.

May each of us participate in new and unimagined ways in the Mystical Body of the evolving Cosmic Christ.

Reflection, 6 May 2018.  (Jn 15:9-17)

To all of us, the dynamic life of dwelling in Love – the Universe Being incarnate.  Since Thursday, I have been participating in gatherings and circle conversations searching for signs of emerging life in our Edmund Rice Movement.  There were many stories of what is happening in schools, alternative education, camps, advocacy and more.  On the first day, I became aware of how much it is all about what ‘we’ as individuals and as ministries are doing and our desire for closer ties and a greater awareness of how we live our Founder’s charism.  A theme was coming through that we are not alone in exploring the so-called ‘new consciousness’ arising as we learn more of the deeper past of our world and our Universe.  I am grateful for an inspiration which became the idea for my first ever ‘tweet’ – that one way to evolve our ways of thinking is to change from speaking about what ‘we’ are doing to describing what the Spirit is doing in, through and with us.

On the second day, our reflections included the notion of ‘the root of the root of . . .’ our existence and, with the Sunday readings in mind, another inspiration told me that the foundation of everything is that the Creator first loves us and everything that exists.  It says that all our efforts to serve and forgive are really that first Love flowing through us.  In my second tweet, I say that Mystery first loves.  I don’t know if anyone read my words and I do suspect that social media is a poor substitute for face-to-face relating.  Perhaps the Spirit has much more to teach me.

The third day was moving towards what we might choose to do as a next step and I thought (no tweet) of Jesus choosing me and all of us for some possibly new way of ‘bearing fruit’ and the larger dimension of caring for our common home.  Our choice, my choice, is around ‘remaining in his love’ – that first flow of love throughout the Universe.  I read about the giant super-cluster of perhaps one hundred thousand galaxies which some astronomers call Laniakea (Immeasurable Heavens) and which, towards its edge, includes our Milky Way and local cluster.  One writes that the expansion of the Universe caused by dark energy is breaking the bonds of gravity which operate between and within these giant superclusters – as though even at this huge scale, it is possible not to ‘remain’ bound to other ‘nearby’ entities.  I wonder how much that is reflected in our human propensity to act with no sense of bonds to others or to ‘The Great Attractor’ whose life, death and resurrection reveals other dimensions to the Mystery we call Love.

At the end of three days of gathering with about one hundred people, I joined twelve others to continue the ‘listening’ and I was able to speak of my dreaming.  I imagine small, local family groups using the ‘conversation circle’ process as a means of walking together into growing awareness of the mystery of Love’s flow in and around us with special focus on caring for our common home.  My inspiration on this occasion revealed a blockage within me: thinking that my hidden anger is too dangerous and must be kept suppressed, along with the revelation that it is really a gift of energy, of passion which has been distorted and a share in the groaning of creation.  I can only wonder what the Spirit is doing through and with me on these occasions.

May each of us grow and evolve in the Cosmic Christ as mirrors of Love Incarnate.
______________________________________________________
John 15:12-13

Command – love one another.

This is my bequest to you –
let it measure you regularly,
stirring you to review your life:
Just as I have kindled a big fire
from leaves and twigs in you,
just as a seed led you to
full-bloomed love for me,
use the small and weak
to kindle and grow
the mystery of love for each other
and for the “other” parts of self.
The most powerful way
to love like this asks you
to sacrifice your images
of who you think you are,
to work inside before
you respond outside,
to feel Alaha’s impatience for love
in your own.

(The Hidden Gospel: Decoding the Spiritual Message of the Aramaic Jesus.  Neil Douglas-Klotz  p152)

Reflection, 29 April 2018.  (Vine and branches)

To all of us, the pruning of the Word who is our life-giving vine.  I sense myself being ‘pruned’ quite regularly and it is mostly about being brought back to the present moment from my dreaming and imagining of the future.  It happened during the conversation circle in which I participated on Monday when I spoke for too long in my effort to let ‘life’ flow through me.  I suspect that my problem was the ‘effort’ when the proper response of a branch is to connect deeply to the vine and allow its natural ‘fruit’ to unfold, fruit which will be much greater than I can imagine.  I am slowly learning what it means to keep Jesus’ words alive in me and how ‘my’ thoughts can be unnecessary growth.

In his homily, our parish priest, from the Philippines, spoke of the images we have from our local vineyards while there are none in his homeland.  He mentioned the grape clusters and their communal aspect and I now picture the multiple rows of vines which speak to me of even bigger structures reflecting our desires for freshness and for wine in our shared meals and celebrations.  I became more aware of the workings of the greater vine in Monday’s circle and again after Mass when about twenty of our parishioners gathered to farewell our community member who is leaving us in the next few days.  Many have appreciated the fruits of her connection to the vine and we may require further pruning to fill the gap she leaves behind.  Perhaps the task will involve being more conscious of giving ‘glory’ to the Source of all blessings.

Another aspect of immense structures was highlighted on ANZAC Day with its memories of what happens when whole nations have a different sense of ‘vine’ and decide for themselves who belongs and who is to be thrown into the fire.  At the local dawn service and breakfast, I noticed a couple of veterans who live with physical consequences of war and can only wonder and give thanks to all those who continue to support them and enable them to live the best possible lives.  I think of my own father who survived, with injuries, and his two brothers who are buried in overseas war cemeteries and I wonder about the impact on my life and what I in turn pass on to others.  It is blessing and curse together which highlights both the good fruits and the need for the intimacy and closeness of the One with the knife.  Perhaps it is stories about the fruits of believing that are needed to further our Creator’s glory.

I imagine that these structures are little mirrors of the unimaginable ones which began to take shape in the early Universe when the first stars formed and gravity caused them to swirl and dance into proto-galaxies and clusters.  Scientists can only guess at the processes involved and theorise about the role of ‘cold dark matter’ and ‘black holes’ in life’s story so far – the story of you, me and all our communities.  Perhaps the pruning continues as some galaxies seem to contain huge clouds of gas and high rates of star formation while others have little or no free gas and low or no star formation.  They may all have roles to play in the Creator’s glory even as withered branches become fuel for fires.  I sense that my efforts need to focus on remaining connected to the true vine in faith and love.

May each of us grow as disciples bearing fruit for the sake of our common home.

Reflection, 22 April 2018.  (Good Shepherd)

To all of us, the shepherding of the One in whom the Universe lives, moves and has its being.  One of my moments of being ‘shepherd’ during the week involved a community exercise of gathering cow pats for making manure for the garden and another involved me gathering all the ingredients and a recipe for my first attempt at making fig jam.  We have a fig tree which is still giving us 15 to 20 ripe figs each day thanks to the warmer than usual autumn days and I gave myself the task of harvesting them and doing something to preserve the blessing of having them.  Eventually I produced several jars of conserve which some of us are enjoying on a daily basis along with fresh figs.

These happenings are small reflections of the Good Shepherd’s work in ‘shepherding’ those of us who have been engaging in our ‘conversation circles’ where some aspects of healing are occurring and which remind me of the Emotional Release Counselling activities, including circles, in which I participated many years ago.  Jesus may not have been mentioned or even thought of, yet any healing has been through his, and only his, name and Spirit as Peter reports in the reading from Acts.  I can look back and reflect that he seems to have been shepherding lost and hidden parts of me out of the shadows into safe and nurturing places where they find their true role at my inner round table – and that is his healing where I put aside my small life and take up something of his wholeness.

This bringing together of different aspects and energies has been going on since the beginning of space-time in processes which have come to fulfilment in One who ‘lays down his life for his sheep’ and for their fullness of life.  Early steps saw the formation of nuclei and atoms which then were shepherded to form the first star through the gravitational attraction of dark matter.  The fundamental particles were still present as the foundation of new entities and processes with nuclear fusion, emission of UV light and, ultimately, Jesus’ resurrection body.  I imagine a pattern in which every particle ‘lays down’ its identity in order to ‘take up’ a new life which contributes to wholeness, union and fullness of life and purpose.  There most likely was a ‘first star’ whose existence brought about light and transparency in the Universe and whose violent, supernova death produced shock waves and the materials for a second generation of stars, including heavier elements.  The pattern of this kind of love is etched in every particle in and around me and all of us and it points to the mysteries of a future yet to be revealed.

This inherent pattern may explain my excitement in conversations around ‘where to next’ within religious life and the Church with the 2020 Plenary Council on the horizon.  The word most often used is ‘listen’ and the gospel reminds me of the importance of heeding the Good Shepherd in all his incarnations.

May each of us listen more and more closely as Love calls us to follow the patterns of Creation all the way to Resurrection.

Reflection, 15 April 2018.  (Lk 24:35-48)

To all of us, the encounters with the Risen Jesus which transform our agitations, fears and doubts into joy and mission.  I can sense all of these feeling in me at the moment as I reflect on conversations I have had in the last few days.  Here at Glenburn, we have just hosted a group of ladies who meet regularly and follow the same ‘circles’ method which we brothers have begun in the last year and I mentioned it to them.  They were here for three days of circle work and one of them shared a dream in which I appeared, on roller-blades, carrying food and nourishment to a baby.  Of course, there were issues in the dream for her and they wondered if there might be something in it for me.  I was not alone in sensing the Spirit at work.  I was even given a copy of the book to read and absorb.

We brothers are about to hold our own three-day gathering to explore possible new aspects of ministry.  Our circles have been a way of beginning the conversations and it occurred to me that these circle practices may be at least a significant ‘baby’ in supporting any developments.  My fears and doubts try to tell me that I am not the right person for carrying this further and my joy tells me that, at least for today, I am ‘in Christ’ and all I have to do is listen and ‘obey’ (with echoes of the second reading from 1 John).  I was told of workshops in July which would be very worthwhile so there are possible paths to follow.

I have glimpsed the chapter headings in the book and am intrigued when I see that story, the shadow and collective healing each have their own chapter.  I imagine Jesus with the disciples in this gospel passage and see these three aspects in action.  We can take the story back to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and then all the way back to the Universe’s beginning while wondering what ‘new creation’ is happening in this Resurrection-matter of Jesus’ body and in his emphasis on its same-but -different nature as well as on his repetition of the need to continue giving witness to repentance and forgiveness.  He was hosting and continues to host his own ‘circles of empowerment’ which include new dimensions of the evolving story and the essential markers of his Way.

Our story now says that in the beginning, about 14.8 billion years ago, was the sphere of expanding creation and that, after something like 380,000 years, electrons began to be trapped in circular orbits around the nuclei which had formed in the first few minutes.  The conditions were right for new developments as space-time cooled and became less dense.  Circling took on new aspects as galaxies and solar systems took shape and again when the first humans on this planet sat around fires – a situation which enhanced language, intimacy, expressions of awe and wonder and much more.  The circle is deep in our spiritual DNA and I wonder how much Jesus’ resurrection is telling us that the time (i.e. the last two thousand years) is right for his kind of circle with his kind of Merciful Love at the centre.

May each of us continue to evolve our living circles and our consciousness of Christ’s presence, invitation and missioning.

Reflection, 8 April 2018.  (Jn 20:19-31)

To all of us, the peace, joy and Spirit of being ‘in Christ’ and living the way of forgiveness.  I can imagine Thomas being extremely sad, hurt and angry that his dreams of Jesus’ Messiahship had been destroyed, that his own life was in danger and that he had missed out on the excitement of that ‘first day of the week’ which he thought was impossible and something he could not deserve.  That describes me as does his glimmer of hope which brings him to the group a week later.  He is hanging on to the last threads before a final separation (which seems to be the original sinning) and finds himself welcomed in his individuality and confronted with the deeper reality of the Reign of Love.  I trust that I can be like him and continue to grow and evolve as a unique witness to Living Peace.

In the second reading, John tells us that ‘keeping not-difficult commandments’ in faith is the way of love.  These seem to include believing, love of all (including enemies), forgiveness, retaining sins and testifying to Jesus’ Resurrection.  There are times when I can obey some of this and I wonder if I could ever name the sinfulness within me and especially around me as not yet forgiven and as not compatible with being fully alive.  Only Ruah, the Spirit-breath, could make this easy in any sense and probably requires a group ‘united, heart and soul’ to discern how to proceed in Love.  I wonder how much this is a call, even a ‘command’, to me and my communities for the sake of our common home.

I have taken a couple of steps in response to this ‘whisper’ in the last week.  We enjoyed a visit here at Glenburn from a member of our congregational leadership team which included a community conversation around our life together and then I participated in a ‘conversation circle’ with other brothers in Melbourne which focused more on our place within Earth’s web of life.  Both invited me to reflect on ways in which we are united and in which we are on separate paths.  I see the Spirit moving amongst us, other religious groups and the Australian church as we move towards chapters and the 2020 Plenary Council.  My sense is that all of us are called to return to the essentials of our following of Jesus as put to us in the Easter readings and to find for these times the peace and joy of a strong and mature faith like that of Thomas which will attract others to this way of living which is both old and new.

The essentials, according to some scientists, of our Universe seem to include an imbalance in the numbers of particles and anti-particles which occurred within the first second of space-time when most of the particles which emerged into existence collided with their opposite and annihilated themselves.  The small fraction of particles remaining became the matter of our Universe and my notion is that each of them retains a sense of their original unity within the formless singularity and rejoices whenever a step is taken towards their final reunion.  From the beginning, violence, unevenness and asymmetry have been instrumental in the journey and we can see that mirrored in the wounds of the joyful Risen Jesus and in Thomas’s steps from doubt to faith and peace.  I sense that it is the same excitement and joy which I experience in risking conversations of vulnerability, trust and forgiveness in the presence of our loving Christ.

May each of us heed the commands of Sacred Unity and trust the Resurrection-life in and around us.

Reflection, 1 April 2018.  (Easter)

To all of us, joyful participation in Resurrection Life and its New Creation.  There are theories attempting to enlighten us about the original ‘creation’ of our Universe 13.8 billion years ago and it remains a mystery as does the raising of Jesus the Christ from a tomb near Jerusalem about 2000 years ago.  In both cases, the laws of matter and energy as we understand them seem not to apply.  The devastated ones who went to the place of Jesus’ burial came away afraid, mystified, wondering – and at least one of them ‘believed’ that something deemed impossible had occurred.  The rules are now different or at least more fully revealed and I wonder what they are.

Perhaps one is that the darkness does not and cannot overcome the Light which has been there from the beginning, the ‘first day’ of Genesis 1 and the energy of the ‘big bang’.  There is no ending and ‘death’ is the doorway to the complete fullness of life which we begin to experience in following the Way of the Cosmic Christ from the formless void through material, living shapes to the new forms of Resurrection life.  Like the disciples, women and men, who were at the beginning stage of their understanding at that Passover, the notion of what this means is making a slow journey from my head to my heart as my fears and concerns give way more and more to joy and peace.

Perhaps another aspect of this ‘new’ law is that the darkness and the light will always coexist, that the wounds provide the means of revealing creation’s inherent trajectory and power to bring goodness out of every circumstance.  This was highlighted for me when our Stations of the Cross on Good Friday included a large, wooden cross to which we could attach small branches of leaves of different colours and shapes and which became a feature of the Easter liturgies.  Now I have a sense of participating in and contributing to both the suffering and renewing of life – reflecting our state of being created in the image and likeness of Sacred Unity.

Perhaps, too, there is the command to tell of our roles in the unfolding of new creation in and around us and of our feelings from torment and devastation to amazement and awe.  For our aging, rural congregation of no more than fifty during Triduum ceremonies, I became a mixture of commentator, alter server, fire lighter and bearer of a glass of water for the celebrant.  I had thought about what to say on each occasion only to become too distracted with organising proceedings and I could say only that the Triduum story is our story – my story.  I can only give thanks for the beginnings of understanding how Love works and for the opportunity to do my bit while trusting that the Spirit is doing much more in the minds and hearts of those who joined the celebration as well as in the great picture of our emerging and evolving Universe.

May each of us grow in wonder of Resurrection and in our obedience to the laws of New Creation.

Reflection, 25 March 2018.  (Holy Week)

To all of us, the grace to empty ourselves evermore humbly until we are fully alive in Love.  I look at Jesus in the readings of this week and begin to glimpse how much more I have to learn about how to love as he loves and how to be faithful to ‘First Love’, to Sacred Unity.  I read a commentary describing the Mediterranean culture of honour and shame in which Jesus lived.  I can imagine him doing all he could to bring honour to his Lord and trusting that that was all he had to do.  He was prepared to empty himself, to ride the colt (of a donkey), to be misunderstood, rejected, and to be betrayed, insulted, tortured and abandoned even by his Creator – all common manifestations of shame – for the sake of the honour of Love’s Realm.  And ‘God raised him to the highest place’ as obedient son, richly anointed before his death and burial, facing fake charges which ironically name him as ‘king’ and one who knows his real status when face to face with the underling, Pilate.  I have a long way to go.

I did take some steps forward when I spoke up at a recent gathering about my experience of introducing pre-school teachers in Timor Leste to the Gospel story and to Jesus on a weekly basis.  I have no idea of the medium- or long-term results of my efforts and I still sense an inner satisfaction that I did my little bit and the Spirit could do much more.  My speaking up about the very limited opportunities in many of our communities to reflect together about our lives in Christ brought up some of the same feelings as well as echoes of my childhood fears around authority figures.  I wonder how much I am learning to honour my true Self and to participate in the Flow of Love with its choice of self-emptying and of using my ‘disciple’s tongue’ – where I avoid deep shame and come to peace and even to joy.  I give thanks that, this time, I did another little bit.

My step in faith is a dim reflection of the steps of Jesus and of so many who are suffering in this Anthropocene Era when Earth, our common home, is under great threat from blind human activity which seeks gratification rather than the honour of being servants who are fully alive within the web of all life.  The Anthropocene website speaks of the acceleration of the impacts to the global economic system and one of its suggestions is the need for increased ‘resilience thinking’ around social-ecological systems which is happening already in places around our world.  I am tempted to get caught up in the hope which such suggestions can create and then I wonder where the Cosmic Christ fits into the picture.

Jesus walked his way of obedience, humility and giving honour without knowing how his very human story would end.  Now we know the hope of resurrection which provides ‘resilience faith’ in the Light always shining in the ever-present darkness.  His story is still preeminent and needs to be told.  May each of us honour and live his Way with our ears open, especially in this Holy Week, for the next step in our evolving lives.

Reflection, 18 March 2018.  (Jn 12:20-33)

To all of us, the grace to submit to the ‘Law’ at the heart of the Universe.  Jesus seems to describe this ‘law’ in terms of the wheat seed falling, dying and yielding a rich harvest – a universal pattern which honours the Creating Source and which humans can choose to follow.  It is alive and dynamic, incorporating both power and powerlessness as it produces new creation from ‘packets’ of energy all the way to Resurrection.  I feel its ‘troubling’ aspect whenever I face a ‘little death’ in saying or doing something new and when I trust that the Spirit is moving in and through whatever happens.  Somehow, this is me being drawn into the Cosmic Christ where fear is acknowledged and ‘glory’ is experienced as Love evolves.

After our Sunday Mass, we had a gathering of parishioners in our parish house to celebrate our new priest’s 30 years of ordination.  It was a ‘troubling’ as well as a life-giving moment for me when it fell to me to say a few words and present him with a card and a gift from all of us.  Somehow – in the Spirit – the words flowed and all was well.  Now as I reflect on the reading from Hebrews, I read that Jesus, like a priest, offers up ‘prayer and entreaty’ during his life on Earth and the Gospel reports his prayer as, “Father, glorify your name!”  I sense that all of us share in this ‘priesthood’ which includes the petitions as well as the recognitions of the glory in which we live and grow.  Rolyn says that he is still learning what it is to be priest and I give thanks that I, too, have many opportunities to participate in the ‘wheat grain’ law.

There is an inevitability about the cycle of seed and harvest which invites me to wonder about the consequences of climate change which are being felt in Australia now:  cyclonic winds in Darwin and destructive fires in Victoria and NSW.  These are highlighting issues of food and water among others as some are told to boil drinking water while others are burying dead livestock.  Many have very immediate challenges to their values and priorities and all of us are called to prepare for future challenges, especially that of hope and faith in the cycle of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.  There are many signs that his Spirit is at work as people come together with compassion, developing new and more environmentally methods of farming and building, improving technology and living more simply.  Those of us ‘in Christ’ are still called to witness to ‘the prince of this world being overthrown’ in our own lives and in all these circumstances and to partake in the daily bread and wine of Eucharistic Presence.

May each of us learn from Jesus about his priorities of doing the Father’s will and allowing the Creator’s power to bring new and surprising life through our submission.

Reflection, 11 March 2018.  (Jn 3:14-21)

To all of us, the grace to bring our darkness to the light of self-sacrificing Love.  As I wondered about Moses lifting up the serpent, I asked myself if he was somehow honouring a poisonous killer and then if he was inviting the people to find a solution by gazing at the apparent problem.  I can imagine putting that unwelcome visitor ‘up’ into the space where Earth intersects with the Realm of Mystery and coming to recognise it as a call to repent, to put their focus back on the One leading them to freedom.  I have made attempts to ‘raise up’ the disturbances in and around me recently, to respect them as even essential aspects of an evolving creation, and found moments of peace (before the next one slithers in and I am tempted to rage, to flight or to deny).  I can only give thanks to Mercy who welcomes all of me into the Light.

I look back over my life and see many occasions when I ‘preferred darkness to the light’ and now I am beginning to sense that both are inherent in creation and therefore in each microcosm of the Whole.  When Paul talks about ‘God’s work of art’, I believe that he means us as individuals as much as us as communities and Body of Christ and that the ‘good life’ we are meant to live is built on both the raising up of ‘serpents’ and of receiving Mercy’s freedom and joy – the gift of ‘eternal life’ here and now.   On Tuesday, I went along again to Mt Atkinson to join in the talk of a possible new community of our Edmund Rice Network as the development builds momentum.  I sense that it is a challenge for most to acknowledge our own darkness and light, collectively and individually, as the materials with which the Artist works and to trust that it is about life evolving.  Even this kind of conversation is inhabited by serpents as I reflected when I came across a snake skin in the very dry grass out from my window.

Lots of notions fly through my mind as I wonder what response a new community might make to the signs of these times.  The sight through my window reflects February’s rain here – 3.5mm compared to a recent average of 52mm – while other parts of the continent are in flood.  I read the verse in 2 Chronicles about a land ‘enjoying’ a Sabbath rest during seventy years of desolation and I wonder how much it is a prophesy for this century pointing to the Artist’s methods.  Words like ‘very high risk’ and ‘unprecedented’ are being used to describe climate change and the likely need to begin removing CO2  from the atmosphere now to prevent a temperature rise of 1.50 before the 2040s (as the IPCC seems to be thinking).  By then, too, most of our energy will need to come from renewable sources and there is need for reforms in all areas from agriculture to industry – and I would add, in religions.  Small steps are being taken and perhaps it is that darkness, light and Sabbath are all tools for our evolving Universe Being at scales large and small.  The ultimate need may be for walking with and guiding people wanting to live by the Truth as together we encounter both serpents and grace.

May each of us participate in Mystery’s flow into unimagined Life through lifting up and gazing upon the crosses which reveal blessings.

Reflection, 4 March 2018.  (Jn 2:13-25)

To all of us, the Passover grace of the crucified Christ.  For centuries, the Jewish people have been on pilgrimage to the Temple where the Holy of Holies hides the Ark and the slabs of the Commandments of the Covenant.  Jesus comes and says that the New is arriving to fulfil the ‘old’ which has become corrupted and is now out-of-date; the command is now to love; YHWH’s dwelling place is now in our hearts and the sacrifice is that of our own wills and minds.  He does not ‘trust himself’ to many who say they believe because we are to read the signs for ourselves and the one that matters involves death and resurrection.

I was heartened last Monday when I participated in a Conversation Circle with members of the Edmund Rice Network, including brothers, which is part of a process of reading today’s signs and discerning how the Spirit is moving in us here and now.  I enjoyed hearing others talk about the significance of Jesus in their lives and the call to Christ’s mission in our world.  I felt further affirmation when I attended our local, ecumenical World Day of Prayer on Friday and received a glimpse of life in another part of Earth which shares different aspects of the suffering of our planet.  Now I begin to reflect on the notion that the Creator’s sanctuary is the Universe and how our human desire seems to be to make all of it into a ‘market’ for the sake of limited ideas of progress, power and control.  We still need the Wisdom who is incarnated and evolving.

My own heart is an aspect of this larger ‘Sanctuary’ and a situation which seems to need Jesus and his whip many times each day.  I think of it as a process evolving me from heeding the ‘natural law’ of the Ark into obedience of the Love law written in every particle of my being and of the web of life in which I participate.  It is about letting go of past and future, of needing signs, ‘miracles’ and the wisdom of the Greeks and allowing the foolishness and weakness of Oneness to flow in and through me.  I can only pray for the zeal to persist as I am ‘devoured’ and which is the energy that Jesus might be expecting when he looks at me.

I wonder about participating in communities which live and share this zeal ‘for the sake of our common home’ and sanctuary.  The whip is needed as we contribute blindly to global warming with its consequences including rising sea levels and the flow-on effects of erosion, flooding, aquifer and agricultural soil contamination, lost habitat, more powerful storm surges and environmental refugees.  This is human ‘wisdom’ at work and the oceans will expand for at least one hundred years.  I am partly responsible and am called to witness to our crucified Christ.

May each of us pass over every day into more consciously living the Way of rising from death.

Reflection, 25 February 2018.  (Mk 9:2-10)

To all of us, the grace to see the Glory of the Holy One shining through every act of self-denial we make.  Abraham would not have known that offering his son to God was something of an image of the work of the Creator whose own Essence was given to the evolving and violent world of form so that Love would be manifest in ever deeper and amazing ways.  In Jesus on the mountain, light and dark, Law and Prophets, faith and fear all come together in a life to which we are called to ‘listen’ with all our senses and in which we are called to participate – for it is ‘wonderful for us to be here!’

I read an article in a recent National Geographic with the title ‘Why Birds Matter’ and the answer given involves wonder and ‘the health of our ethical values’.  I can marvel at the parrots which come for a feed, especially the return today of the old pair who sit on my hand (with the female missing half her tail feathers), and be concerned about the disappearing summer sea-ice in the Arctic (article in the same issue) and about the cold air from that region moving over Europe this week and being replaced by warmer air, and then reflect on the wonder experienced by the Apostles on the mountain.  They were gifted to see something of Jesus’ essence and affirmed in their following him and left with questions which would be answered more and more fully during the remainder of their lives and beyond with each of us having to find our own way ‘in the Spirit’ and to grow in valuing the place of this Living Word in it.  We do have both questions about the future of ‘our common home’ and St Paul’s assurance that God is on our side and for our benefit.  Our role is to ‘listen’.

During the last week, I have been helping in several ways in the preparation and running of our parish’s fund-raising event, a Picnic Race Meeting at the Yea racetrack.  I have been responding to requests for driving (three days), putting up shelters, carrying loads, packing hampers and disposing of empty boxes.  Occasionally, I was aware of heeding inner calm as stress levels rose in and around me and of my efforts to maintain and spread that peace, especially when the unexpected happened, like a key getting stuck in a lock (next morning, it was mysteriously free).  It was wonderful to see the willingness and gifts of so many parishioners and parents of students – another glimpse of Goodness which is inherent in all of us.

May each of us grow in gratitude to our Creator for the testing times when we are called to align what is most precious to us with what is most precious to the Source of All Being.

Reflection, 18 February 2018.  (Mk 1:12-15)

To all of us, the grace to lament and repent our Kingdom failures.  On Friday, I participated in a ‘Service of Lament’ in which a highlight was an apology to the victims of child abuse, especially the abuse perpetrated by some of our brothers and other members of our church.  At the start of this Lenten season, it is a summons to examine our way of life, to lament the culture and systems which allowed abuse of all kinds to happen in the past and may be happening now, and to build on the faithfulness which still exists.  My own lament on the day was that there was little reference to Jesus and the healing which can occur when we are consciously and explicitly ‘in Christ’ – and I suspect that this ‘failure’ is a significant and long-lasting aspect of church culture.

I reflect on Jesus in the wilderness (and later in the Garden) and how he witnesses to a lifestyle in which both wild beasts and angels are acknowledged and even honoured.  Perhaps the temptation is to focus more on one than on the other like the perpetrators of abuse who have swung too far towards their animal instincts.  Jesus maintained the balance through growing awareness of the powers of nature, inner and outer, and of his inherent ‘divine’ nature.  In my more dysfunctional days of fear, anger and using corporal punishment, my sense of faith and angelic spirits was very limited.  I rejoice in my ongoing metanoia with its sense of participating in the Reign of Mercy (always close at hand) even as I lament that words like these are rarely used.

My lament grows as I hear of violence: wars, mass shootings, storms and cyclones, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.  It deepens as I consider how I and my communities are contributing through our current lifestyles to global warming and its consequences.  Increasing extremes of weather affect food and cash crops in developing countries which reduces what can be paid for health and education.  I read that the Arctic’s summer sea-ice has been shrinking year by year – during my lifetime – and is projected to be at less than 10% of what it was when I was born by 2050.  This remnant, in an unpolluted sea, may offer the last hope for the animals depending on the edge of the ice for their living and survival.  Creation is groaning, calling for us to fast from doing harm and desiring that we believe in the Realm of self-giving Love.

I sense that our Creator is also whispering from deep within for me and my communities to endure the wilderness and the lamenting as necessary instruments for evolving ‘in the Cosmic Christ’ and maintaining the Covenant made with Noah which promises that the devastation of the ‘flood’ will not occur again.  My Lent began with ashes on Wednesday and an Indigenous smoking ceremony on Friday reminding me to give thanks for the blessings which keep coming even as I refuse many of them.  I am looking out of my window and seeing the drying ground and the browning grass and I am wondering about the ‘baptism’ described by Peter in the second reading as more than water-washing, as a ‘pledge made to God from a good conscience’.  Our place needs rain and even more needs us to be cleaned by Mercy and to make good our promises.

May each of us lament, and pledge to live out of Oneness with greater trust in the ‘bow in the clouds’ for the sake of our common home.

Reflection, 11 February 2018.  (Mk 1:40-45)

To all of us, the deep faith which allows healing to flow in and through us.  This call to faith has come to me in several ways in the last week, beginning on Monday evening when I went along to a gathering of a community of brothers and non-vowed members for a Eucharistic celebration and dinner.  The theme was Creation, especially that of us humans ‘in the image and likeness of God’ and I reflected how the Spirit seems to bringing this to the fore around the world and how, for me, it is a call to grow into an evolving, mature spirituality which takes into account the entire Universe with self-sacrificing Love at its heart.  Now I reflect on the story of Jesus healing a ‘leper’ and how it provides a picture of what it means to be that fully alive person.

The Messiah touches his own deep compassion for the one who has been seen to be ‘polluting’ his community and who has been thrown out.  Jesus touches the man, sharing the uncleanness and enables a sharing of the ‘image and likeness’ which he recognises in himself and in the other.  This is the Christ whom Paul takes as his model – humbling himself, fully human and evolving through suffering.  The ‘leper’ provides another aspect of the picture where recognising one’s own uncleanness as superficial is as necessary as recognising that the cure is readily available in our ‘divine DNA’.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, I enjoyed conversations with two different people with their own experiences of being ‘outside the camp’ – one a brother and the other an Indigenous woman.  My joy came from their trust in me and in the brief encounters with others who share thoughts and feelings similar to my own.  Both spoke of their pain of desiring to walk beside us brothers into healing and wholeness and finding little or no response.  I wonder how much that has happened because many of us avoid the way of compassion, humility and shared suffering pictured in the Gospels.

The week ended with another Jubilee celebration, this time in Melbourne, when successes and achievements were highlighted with virtually no reference to joyful encounters with Mystery similar to that of the leper who could not contain himself.  I was happy and grateful to celebrate with family as the cured man would have done for blessings received.  The call remains to seek out Jesus as did the people who heard the man’s story and to hear more stories of the Spirit evolving life in and around us.

While people like Lamark, Darwin and Mendel have helped us learn about our creaturely origins and how genes and mutations have worked to make us who we are as unique individuals, they leave us wondering.  I wonder how much the healing power flowing through Jesus is inherent in the spiritual DNA of all of us, and especially of our communities ‘in Christ’ as is the hope and faith of those who seek to him in these communities.  Perhaps the challenge for me is to work to make his Presence evermore touchable in and around me.

May each of us grow in the faith which says that healing power is always present deep in the essence of evolving Creation.

Reflection, 4 February 2018.  (Mk 1:29-39)

To all of us, the health to pray and serve ‘in Christ’.  I read that it would have been most unusual for a mother-in-law to be living with her daughter who belonged to her husband’s family – she must have had no one else to care for her, no husband and no sons and daughters-in-law.  If so, she may have received a special gift of welcome from Peter and felt obliged to repay the debt through her service.  Then she receives another special gift from Jesus which enables her to serve at a new level in response to the care and faith of those who brought him to her.  Now she has a new story to tell and possibly a lot of organising to do as people come to the door.  She is not the only one rejoicing and giving thanks for new life.

I have been giving thanks for the women in my life recently and especially when I was present on Friday at the 2018 Inaugural Mass at St Patrick’s College, Shorncliffe, and the commissioning of student leaders during which the fathers helped the young men put on their blazers and their mothers pinned on their badges – with hugs all round.  I look at mothers and see a different way of ‘preaching’ and ‘casting out devils’ with touch being very significant.  Then there is Jesus touching the ill woman in the Gospel reading and probably many more that evening and in many other places in Galilee.  I wonder how I and my communities can continue his mission of ‘touching’ and turning around people’s lives and how much that is founded on witnessing to his evolving story.

I experienced a different kind of ‘touch’ when, in a dream, a woman approaches me and tells me that she is pregnant.  She radiates a deep joy and peace as she moves away and now I am partly puzzled and quite delighted at the prospect of new life in my worlds both inner and outer.  I wonder about evolving stories and responsibilities which continue Jesus’ move from Capernaum to other places in Galilee and on to Jerusalem proclaiming the Good News of a Loving Presence who cares for all Creation and whose healing touch is available to all.  The students at St Pat’s may be demonstrating something of this when they stand side by side with their arms around each other’s shoulders to sing their school song.  More of the Mystery will be revealed in the Spirit’s time.

Isaac Newton was one who revealed aspects of the mystery of our Universe when he described light as ‘corpuscles in motion’ and tried to explain its complexity and its refraction into different colours.  He went on to build the first known reflecting telescope and eventually to proclaim ‘universal gravitation’ as the force behind the motion of stars, planets, moons and even falling apples.  He was a champion of the scientific method and of ‘truth’ yet his life seems to have been empty of human touch.  Now I can imagine Love as the power within all forms of attraction, drawing entities together, keeping others in motion and in dynamic balance, and even powering our Universe’s expansion which creates womb-like spaces.  For people like Newton and St Paul, this Mystery seems to obligate teaching, exploring and acting for the benefit of the Whole.  I pray that I can grow in openness to the touch of Truth and its simplicity.

May each of us grow as servants of the living and evolving Light whose touch gets us up and enlivens our sense of purpose.

Reflection, 28 January 2018.  (Mk 1:21-28)

To all of us, growing faith in the authority we share ‘in Christ’.  Looking back to my classroom teaching career, I suspect that I taught out of my ‘authority’ – my inner ‘substance’ – on various occasions and also out of my fears in many other situations.  I have been a teacher in many ways since those days and have been aware of both foundations even as I seem drawn to speak more of Jesus and his impact in my life.  I have been wondering for some time about the core business of being ‘Church’ and this Gospel reading paints a picture of him teaching about YHWH, most likely with reference to the Jewish scriptures.  He is sounding like the one described by Moses in the first reading – the one who is even more important than Moses and the one to whom we ‘must listen’ and submit.  The topic remains that of Love’s Realm for all of us who follow his Way.

Moses, Jesus and Paul tell us to focus on the One who is the Supreme Authority at the heart of Creation and even to seek whatever grace is necessary to remove the obstacles which distract us.  I know how easy it is for me to leave the Spirit out of the picture in any present moment and to wait too long before acting when I am aware of Sacred Presence.  My faith is challenged to grow every time and this sense seems to be part of the ‘teaching that is new’ – that is always alive, active and whispering for risk-taking.  I can only give thanks for forgiveness and for the unfailing Love calling me onward to tell more of the stories.

One of the people with a story to tell was Copernicus who heeded his own ‘authority’, his own understandings of our world, when he proposed to friends in 1514 that Earth was not the centre of the Universe.  This was about one hundred years before telescopes were invented.  He risked being burned at the stake for heresy.  The ‘Church’ had its own sense of ‘authority’ based on traditions and permanence – nothing ‘new’ allowed.  He could speak and write of a heliocentric creation where gravity was key.  Aristarchus in the third century BC had written about this and Galileo may have picked up on both earlier writings and was able to see much more through his improved telescopes.  Maths and science were gaining authority through measurements and experiments while the ‘Church’ seems to have been trying to keep itself as central and key.  I give joyful thanks for my growing awareness of the loving Creator at the heart of our evolving and expanding Universe – and the Teacher Supreme who continues to reveal new aspects of the Realm of Incarnation.

Jesus’ teaching highlights the role of suffering on the path to his deep authority and I was imagining how his followers could have much to teach to those on the Invasion Day march which I joined on Friday, Australia Day.  There were many angry voices and I wondered about the underlying pain which seems to need his authority for driving out the ‘unclean spirits’ and bringing wholeness, the acceptance of all aspects of the Black History of this land and of forgiveness.  It is a very new lesson to learn that the cross is a victory because the ultimate destiny is Resurrection – a story we are to hold at the centre of our lives.

May each of us grow as people of authority ‘in Christ’ and participants in the unfolding stories of Love. 

Reflection, 21 Jan ’18.  (Mk 1:14-20)

To all of us, the grace to discern and proclaim Kingdom possibilities.  I can imagine that Jesus, baptised, filled with the Spirit and returning from the desert, is very alert to signs like John’s arrest and the people’s longing for peace and justice.  He calls for repentance and for faith in YHWH who has touched him and so is revealed as ‘close at hand’ for anyone who is prepared to ‘turn their hearts and minds around’.  His personal encounter gives him a model which he uses when he sees four fishermen whom he has most likely met before and he calls them to ‘follow’ and into deeper levels of what fishing is about.  In that moment, he glimpses possibilities and acts.  The fishermen glimpse possibilities for a new life of freedom, probably with the Romans and Temple taxes in mind, and they act.  There is something compelling about this ‘lamb’ and it will take a lifetime to fulfil the promises.

Jonah provides a picture of what can happen in the ‘following’ and Paul’s words to the Corinthians seem to be about encouraging them to glimpse something deeper than the impending food shortage at the time (due to climate change).  The world as they knew it was changing at deeper levels and they, too, are reminded of the enduring need to put the Living Word before all their ordinary concerns and to grow in faith that Resurrection Life is a reality even if disasters do happen.  The Creator has a very different way of dealing with the consequences of both idolatry and faithful love.

The ‘Black Death’ events in Europe and beyond were an unforeseen disaster just over six hundred years ago and climate change seems to have been a contributing factor.  In places like England, there were significant changes in people’s minds and hearts as they blamed God and the Church (and the Jews) for the deaths of half of the population, including the majority of priests and those in monasteries who tried in vain to save themselves or those for whom they cared.  Some despaired, some lived lives of immorality, some slaughtered scapegoats and some accepted their fate.  They had questions and no satisfactory answers.  Improvements did come in terms of wage rises for the remaining peasants who were in demand to work in the fields and eventually of better education, health care and hygiene.  The world still seems for most of us to be a dangerous place and the need remains to proclaim the Good News that there is healing and forgiveness for those who put Love before all else – and the possibility in Christ that disasters can be averted.

I think of my own mixed motives for following Jesus into Religious Living and the mystery of the next step.  Many of the older brothers I have met since Christmas have many stories to tell about the past and seem content in their comfortable lifestyles if not with their aging and weakness.  I have been surprised on several occasions when other people show an interest in religion and its role in today’s world of global warming, violence and individualism.  They are still looking for answers.  I can be alert to possibilities in my own limited way both for proclaiming Kingdom News and for healing of my fears and deep wounds (as well as those of recently removed skin cancers).  I give thanks for the faith which seems to grow when all these aspects come together with the future building on the past.

May each of us grow and evolve as Jesus brings life to the possibilities he sees daily in and around us.

Reflection, 14 January 2018.  (Jn 1:35-42)

To all of us, the grace of seeing where Jesus lives.  I read that this notion in John’s Gospel of Jesus’ ‘home’ includes the foundation and source of his existence and ultimate sense of purpose.  Those like Andrew and his companion who are searching for ‘something more’ will find answers and further questions when they follow and spend time with the One who invites.  What they do ‘see’ – most likely dimly and intuitively – quickly evolves them into excited disciples with a new story and relationship to share which may involve a new name and which will involve very different expectations.

John the Baptist looks ‘hard’ at Jesus who soon is looking ‘hard’ at Simon.  Both are seeing beyond the surface and glimpsing truth about themselves as well as about the other and their different calls into the Creator’s ongoing work.  As I imagine them looking at me, my sense of fear that there is nothing to see is quickly replaced by a sense of peace and comfort that I do belong in the place ‘where Jesus lives’ and that I am right to be excited about participating in the same Mystery.  The listening and ‘hard looking’ will continue to the end of time as will the intention, like Samuel, to ‘let no word of his fall to the ground’ – all ‘for the glory of God’ as Paul says.

Now I wonder how much this Gospel story is a ‘word’ which I and my communities have ‘let fall’ when I look back and recall no instance of my following the pattern.  Jesus has been in my head for most of my life and it has been only in the last decade that I have appreciated his living in my heart.  I have made little effort to bring others to Jesus in the way that Andrew brings Simon who was a fellow seeker.  Perhaps I have not shared my joy enough or not encountered others who are searching for ‘something more’.  A key step in the pattern is to spend that ‘day’ with Jesus in the place where he lives and I sense a call for me to grow in awareness of that as being in every aspect of our expanding Universe, especially in the unfolding of every human heart in each present moment.

I read what Paul says to the Corinthians and something of the life of the prophet Muhammed and I see how easy it can be to start on the right path and to be distracted by past temptations and patterns.  In Corinth, it seems to have been temple prostitutes and, in Mecca, it may have been using violence and the sword when what was required was ongoing listening, looking, caring for the wellbeing of everyone – body, mind and heart – and making space for the Spirit to work.  It seems that the original meaning of ‘templum’ was that space for worship and ritual and so it makes sense to me that it can apply to our inner ‘rooms’ where Jesus and his Spirit live.

May each of us grow in awareness of their transforming presence and of their shared expectations about Love’s flow now and into the future.

Reflection, 7 January 2018.  (Epiphany)

The blessings of Incarnation, New Year and Evolving Light to all of us.  I have spent most of the past four weeks enjoying familiar gifts of beach, surf, sun and walks in nature both in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast as well as new experiences of companioning a brother in rehabilitation with a brain injury, leading a prayer session with a group of brothers at Bilinga (see poem below) and following tracks which I have not seen before.  Things are the same and, at the same time, they are not the same – as it was for the Holy Family, for Herod and for the ‘wise men’ in the Gospel story – and for the whole of Creation as the ‘light’ from our 13.8 billion-year-old fireball takes the shape of a baby who is Creator Incarnate and Ruler of all Light.  We know things are different and I can only pray to be open to new meanings on a daily basis.

The Magi’s story suggest that wisdom involves passion, wondering about and glimpsing how events on Earth are mirrored in the heavens and in dreams, the humility to search for answers from the learned, including foreigners, and paying homage to Mystery through offering resources which honour incarnated divinity and the evolutionary path of suffering and dying.  As I think of the Bora Ring which a brother showed me at Tweed Heads South, I suspect that these themes were recognised by Indigenous People and our ancestors around the world as the path of initiation into wisdom and I become excited at the thought of continuing the tradition in a community of those who are both disciples and teachers.  Herod and his addictions, especially to power and control, remind me about the consequences of refusing to keep a focus on the infant in the manger who brings joy and peace into times of darkness.

I read a book in the past few weeks called ‘The Unseen Therapist’ which reinforces for me the benefits of bringing peace and calm to the inner world of memories and feelings as a process for healing both body and mind.  The delight and wonder of seeing the recent full moon over the ocean and of following a track with many beautifully laid stone steps have replaced some of the tensions locked up in my body, as have images of the Christmas crib where I take the time to participate in the unfolding harmony and promise which includes all Creation.  My challenge is to believe more deeply that all I need to do, like Mary did, is to consent to the unique path prepared for me by the Spirit for my initiation into full Life.

May each of us give our consent each day to Mystery revealing in and through us the light and glory out of which we are formed.

Annunciation

‘Hail, space for the uncontained God’
From the Agathistos Hymn,
Greece, Vic


We know the scene: the room, variously furnished,
almost always a lectern, a book; always
the tall lily.
       Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whom she acknowledges, a guest.

But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions
courage.
       The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent.
         God waited.

She was free
to accept or to refuse, choice
integral to humanness.

                  ____________________

Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another
in most lives?
         Some unwillingly
undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,
uncomprehending.

     More often
those moments
      when roads of light and storm
      open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from

in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair
and with relief.
Ordinary lives continue.
                                 God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.

                  ____________________

She had been a child who played, ate, slept
like any other child–but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumph.
Compassion and intelligence
fused in her, indivisible.

Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
      only asked
a simple, ‘How can this be?’
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
the astounding ministry she was offered:

to bear in her womb
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power–
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.
                     Then bring to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love–

but who was God.

This was the moment no one speaks of,
when she could still refuse.

A breath unbreathed,
                                Spirit,
                                          suspended,
                                                            waiting.

                  ____________________

She did not cry, ‘I cannot. I am not worthy,’
Nor, ‘I have not the strength.’
She did not submit with gritted teeth,
                                                       raging, coerced.
Bravest of all humans,
                                  consent illumined her.
The room filled with its light,
the lily glowed in it,
                               and the iridescent wings.
Consent,
              courage unparalleled,
opened her utterly.

(Denise Levertov)

Reflection, 17 December 2017.  (3rd Sunday of Advent)

To all of us, the grace to rejoice in who we are ‘in Christ’.  For the last week, I have been staying in a brothers’ house situated in the grounds of one of our boarding schools and it is holiday time.  Right now, I am distracted by a siren and the calls, “Evacuate!” and “Emergency!” coming from a nearby classroom block.  There has been no sign of smoke or fumes in the hours since it began and it is well into the evening.  The persistent noise invites me to think of John the Baptist and I note that the word ‘witness’ appears four times in the early verses of today’s gospel reading.  He was being persistent and annoying, announcing something and someone ‘unknown’ and still to appear.  ‘The light’ was and is coming into the dark places in and around us and I sense that our times need witnesses of integrity who know their place and their role of joyous proclamation, constant prayer and gratitude for all (including sirens with nothing new to say).

The mention of ‘light’ and the water of John’s baptism seem to be echoes of Moses and the Exodus which marks a new step in the evolving involvement of the Creator in human consciousness.  A People could speak of being led from slavery towards a ‘promised land’ by a God who hears the cry of the poor and responds with power, tenderness and purpose.  We speak of a further step with our Christmas stories of a baby named Joshua/Jesus who will lead the way into that ‘land’, a situation beyond our knowing and understanding and which incorporates the world we do know and much more.

I can imagine myself in that place in the past week (and before) as I do occasional jobs for and with some brothers here who require some tenderness and assistance.  Perhaps a significant task is for me to ‘be happy at all times’ as St Paul says, especially with the Royal Commission’s report and more accusations of abuse being in the news.  This might call for something more like being ‘witness speaking for the light’ and enabling a way which goes ‘straight for the Lord.’  The ‘emergency’ is still here in different forms and the call to ‘evacuate’ might be referring to old situations of slavery and limited ways of thinking.

May each of us grow as joyful witnesses for the Light both known and unknown in and around us.

Reflection, 10 December 2017.  (2nd Sunday of Advent)

To all of us and our communities, the Comforting Spirit who inspires us to proclaim good news about Jesus, Cosmic Christ and God Incarnate.  In the last week, I have engaged in several conversations echoing the call to carry out this essential aspect of being follower and servant.  The dental assistant cleaning my teeth was quite happy to speak of matters of faith when she realised that I am a Christian brother and a shop assistant saw the cross I wear and spoke of the need for a spirituality which meets the troubles of these times.  These brief encounters were followed on Thursday by a brothers’ conversation circle here in Brisbane where those in my group spoke in different ways of the Divine Presence in their lives.  I sense a deep affirmation that the Spirit is indeed working amongst us and taking us as a group into new dimensions of life.

I came to Queensland to celebrate fifty years since I left home to join the Christian Brothers along with ten others celebrating various jubilees.  One inspired and inspiring brother spoke briefly about all of us in turn and again I sensed being affirmed significantly that my ‘repentance for the forgiveness of sins’ has been Spirit-led and is pointing to aspects of the ‘new’ which is really a enlivening of the message of both John and Jesus.  This, too, was reinforced when I enjoyed, with my sister and some of her friends, a performance of ‘The Messiah’ at QPAC later the same day.  I read a commentary saying that the biblical meaning of ‘console’ or ‘comfort’ as in the first reading includes giving the ‘strength’ necessary to face the ordeals of the present.  I can only give thanks to the ‘the Comforter’ for all the graces I have received and which will continue to flow as the ‘new’ unfolds within and around us.

John was taking metanoia out of the Temple to a sacred river in the wilderness and Jesus challenges us to be ‘in his Spirit’ as a Temple way of life.  Some archaeologists consider that the first ‘temple’ constructed by humans is at Gobekli Tepe, a 22 acre site where hunter-gatherers erected sandstone monoliths and circles, like smaller versions of Stonehenge, on which they carved images of animals and which they buried, constructing more on top, most likely over hundreds of years.  They lived in a fertile area and I imagine that they had ample ‘spare’ time to wonder about life and death.  The construction seems to have begun about ten thousand years ago, 500 years before permanent settlements and the domestication of plants and animals.  Now I imagine that it was their felt need to acknowledge Mystery in significant ways which opened them to new ways of living and participating in the natural world.

I hear echoes of this flow from reflection to each new evolutionary step in this reading at the beginning of Mark’s gospel where the cry is to acknowledge the coming of ‘the Lord’ and his Spirit.  I sense a pattern which is at least ten thousand years old and which is repeating itself today for us who listen to and speak of Mystery unfolding here and now.  I believe that, as we acknowledge our Creator in increasingly visible and public ways, then we will be shown the next step for us to take ‘for the sake of our common home.’

May each of us continue to be open to the strength of the Comforter as we proclaim, “Good News!”

Reflection, 3 December 2017.  (1st Sunday of Advent)

To all of us, the grace to stay awake and aware of the Master Potter’s presence in all the circumstances of day and night.  My little and larger worlds have been caught up in significant and, I trust, evolutionary ways in the last week.  One older community member has been in our local hospital and is booked to move into aged care in a few days’ time.  Our weather has reverted almost to winter with below average temperatures and a couple of days of rain giving us totals well above our December average.  On Tuesday in Melbourne, I participated in the first of our listening circles involving the Edmund Rice Network with a focus on hopes and dreams for next year and beyond.  I heard stories of religious sisters in Sudan and Tigre in the midst of local tensions and fighting.  Some words from the readings staying with me include ‘integrity’, ‘trust’, ‘witness to Christ’ and the idea of invoking the ‘name’ of our faithful Father-Potter.

With Jesus telling me, “Stay awake!” I sense that integrity within our unfolding Universe involves watching out for the times when I lose touch with my inner centre where the peace of Christ allows me to participate as fully as possible in the Potter’s work here and now.  The challenge is to trust that this work has been going on for billions of years and still involves turmoil, endings and new beginnings and that I and my communities do have tasks to perform as aware and committed servants.  Perhaps some of these involve planting seeds which enrich lives ‘in so many ways’ as Paul says to the Corinthians.

I wonder about those who first learned to dig the soil, plant seeds and care for growing crops perhaps eight or nine thousand years ago.  This was indeed a new beginning as humans lived into ways of interacting with nature and each other.  The Potter was at work guiding their thoughts, experimenting and creativity as they ‘evolved’ over time from hunting and gathering to increasing reliance on domesticating plants and animals.  Villages became larger and more permanent while increasing population spread into other corners of Earth.  This seems to have happened on every continent (including Australia) where people were awake to a Spirit moving in and through their world.  I suspect that it is enough to be alert here and now without knowing exactly what future is coming in the midst of today’s trials and tribulations.

May each of us wait patiently in our restlessness and grow in trust that seeds of possibility are being planted even as others bear fruit in and around us.

Reflection, 26 November 2017.  (Christ the King)

To all of us, the blessings here and now of the self-giving love of our Cosmic Lord who incorporates us and even the power of death.  I have been struggling for a few days find ways to describe how I might be in relationship with this Universe Being who knows my name, loves me and seems to desire that I participate in a Flow of Passion which is full of evolving life and intimacy.  My latest sense is that Jesus, as human manifestation of Oneness, is the ‘Lord’ or enlivening Source of a single creative event which is mirrored in stories including those of Creation, of the Paschal Mystery, of my communities and of my life.  Somehow he is present in the hungry and thirsty, in the stranger and the homeless, in the naked and abused, in the prisoner and enslaved, in the victims of climate change and war as well as in all the systems which feed, clothe and comfort us.  Even the dimensions of compassion expand as we face choices in the changing circumstances of today’s world.

In the Gospel reading, Jesus is addressing ‘the nations’ and judging them on their treatment of his ‘sisters and brothers’ – the members of his family.  Now I wonder how much this includes care of the soul as well as care of the body, of telling stories of encounter with the Divine and of our own faith journeys as ways of encouragement and affirmation.  I sense my desire to be more like Christ in these ways as I go about mundane activities like vacuuming, cooking, filling in hoof-prints on the local race track or paying the parish bills as I have done in the last week.  It cannot be business as usual as our temperatures at the same time here are well above average while rainfall is below average.  The Jesus story still calls for sacrifice in terms of resources, comfort, energy and time ‘for the sake of our common home’ and this remains an aspect of what those ‘in him’ are required to do.  The greatest witness may be to the indwelling Spirit who makes it possible and desirable to do so according to our inherent nature as created in Love’s image and likeness.

Love is about working so that all of creation comes to enjoy the fullness of existence which is ongoing transformation all the way to resurrection.  I can only give thanks for the Spirit’s work in separating my inner sheep and goats including my fears of death and desires for life which can take me out of the present moment and into past or future.  I pray that I can grow more in honouring this ‘Lord’ here and now with the radiant energies in my heart as well as my head directing all my acts of kindness, big and small.

May each of us grow in awareness of the Shepherd standing in our midst and caring intimately and infinitely that we participate fully in the Flow of self-giving Vitality.

Reflection, 19 November 2017.  (Mt 25:14-30)

To all of us, the wisdom to use wisely that which is valuable in the Master’s Realm.  I have just been at a gathering in Melbourne to celebrate EarthSong which has been terminated after many years of activities and 25 journal editions of bringing people together in search of ‘ancient wisdom for new times.’  We have much more to learn about this dimension of the Creator’s property entrusted to us and this was an occasion of sadness that something worthwhile has finished as well as of hope in the Spirit who will see the work continue in new ways.  I wonder if there are ‘valuables’ which have been ‘hidden in the ground’ and are now being returned and given to those who have worked so well and joyfully.

The gathering began with a ‘welcome to country’ by a local Indigenous man who spoke of what it is to be a true ‘elder’ who is recognised by his people as one who is trusted and who knows the lore associated with his country.  He has walked in the suffering as well as the celebrations of those who ‘belong to the land’ and I imagine this to be a process of initiation, official and unofficial, which has been evolving in this part of our planet for over sixty thousand years.  He and his ancestors have been able to read much of what has been ‘hidden’ in creation and I wonder how much they have to teach us about what it is to be ‘good and faithful servants’ in these times of many different forms of abuse – of attempts to keep things out of sight and to be in control of ‘my land’ and ‘my way’ of living.

Jesus’ parable tells of a servant who lived in fear of a ‘hard’ task master and hid what he had been given.  This may be referring to people like the priests, scribes and Pharisees of his day who ‘hid’ the essence of the Torah and YHWH’s covenant relationship with Israel – who were ‘good for nothing’ and not initiating anyone into fullness of life.  I wonder how much we in the Church are ‘hiding’ things of Kingdom-value such as Mercy, being ‘in Christ’, the joy of the Gospel, the Paschal Mystery, contemplation and creation, our primary scripture.  Without the essentials of this Realm in our own lives, we too may be ‘good for nothing’ until we encounter our gentle and compassionate ‘task master’ who commands love and seems to give everyone something different to treasure and to grow.

When I ask myself what I may be hiding, I think of feelings, of fearful behaviour and of hopes and dreams of how the Spirit seems to be moving in and around me.  All of these were challenged during the week in a conversation with another brother who recommended that I be more proactive with regard to my thinking and dreaming and I can imagine that I have been given these hopes and plans as my contribution to the evolution of a much larger living process.  They are valuable and they will change and grow ‘in the light’ and in interactions with other valuables.  So continues my initiation into being ‘good for something’ in the Realm of Oneness.

May each of us share more and more of our Master’s happiness as we participate faithfully in expanding and evolving Cosmic Life.

Reflection, 12 November 2017.  (Mt 25:1-13)

To all of us, growing intimacy with Wisdom who reveals how to live in Love.  In the last few days and weeks, I have been looking back over my life and giving thanks for the many manifestations of the feminine who have guided and encouraged me.  As I read these descriptions of ‘lady Wisdom’ and of the ten bridesmaids, I give thanks for a deeper and unseen Presence who is still working in and through others as well as in me to reveal each little step in the coming to full life of our unfolding, expanding and evolving Universe – the Cosmic Christ.  At the end of the Gospel passage, it seems to be a matter of knowing and being known and I suspect that it one and the same to be in relationship with the men, women and children of our lives as it is to be in an intimate relationship with Jesus.  I suspect, too, that the delight and peace I can sometimes feel inside myself come from his feelings of love and affection flowing through others to me and that they flow through me to others.

I have just participated in a brothers’ spirituality circle where we shared something of our grieving (especially with the child abuse issue in the background) and something of our desiring.  I sense my own loss of the feminine in my childhood when my mother died and now I wonder how much that is a reflection of a collective loss of ‘lady Wisdom’ throughout much of the institutional church, including us Christian Brothers.  The foolish bridesmaids did not ‘know’ the groom (most likely a member of their extended family) or the requirements, expectations and processes of a wedding ritual and he had little opportunity to know them.  My desire is to ‘know the Groom’ and wisdom says that it requires time (daily), effort, singlemindedness, being prepared and paying whatever cost is necessary to go with him.  This can happen in a community who share the longing for and the joy of the wedding celebration.

I read that about seventy thousand years ago, Earth began a cycle of glaciation, of ice ages, which has been in recession for the last eighteen thousand years.  During this time, Homo sapiens have been adapting to different geographical and environmental conditions – and finding reason to celebrate the mystery and wonder of being in relationship with land and lifeforms.  I have returned home from the brothers’ gathering with a new province document outlining how we might proceed in attempting to slow down and even reverse global warming.  My first thought is that we will need ‘lady Wisdom’ and the Spirit of the Creator to teach and guide us and then I wonder if we can admit to and grieve being ‘locked out’ like the foolish bridesmaids.  This loss may be at the root of our addictions and abusive behaviour towards each other and towards ‘mother nature’.

Homo sapiens have migrated out of Africa and made homes all around our planet.  The new places for us to explore have much more to do with Wisdom as multiculturalism becomes the norm and its requirements, expectations and processes call for creativity as well as sacrifices involving humility, intimacy and interdependence. 

May each of us be awake as the ‘Lady’ of every day and every hour comes with her own peace, joy and lighted lamp.

Reflection, 5 November 2017.  (Mt 23:1-12)

To all of us, the grace-filled humility to be ‘weaned children’ whose lives reveal the Holy One’s compassion for all.  One commentary I read this week, written by a woman, highlighted the image in the Psalm of the one on its mother’s breast who has been through the ‘suffering’ of being weaned and who remains faithful and returns to find a different comfort from the one whose love is manifested in the painful process.  I can imagine the mother ‘lifting the finger’ many times as she helps the little one to ‘carry’ this necessary and life-enhancing burden and how this might be a description of anyone ‘in Christ’  who is the manifestation of our Mother God.  Perhaps this is what Paul, in the second reading, refers to as the ‘living power’ at work carrying those who believe into a mature and full life.

Another commentary suggests how the child sexual abuse situation is an echo of the first reading where the leaders of YHWH’s people have not followed the Creator’s way, have caused many to stumble and have been ‘cursed’ – bringing shame on themselves – and I imagine it is because they have not been ‘weaned’ into a mature faith in the One who is Lord, Father and Teacher.  They avoid discomfort, remain dependent and addicted, exalt themselves and pay the price.  Leaders today have the opportunity to humble themselves, seek Mercy and grow as interdependent servants, witnessing to and proclaiming Good News.

My own experiences this week have included vacuuming the guest house, reading a scripture passage for our prayer service in the Yea cemetery on All Souls day, meeting with others to prepare for a gathering of brothers next Sunday where we will share something of our faith in small groups, and shepherding a group of retreatants on an hour’s walk in the local forest.  Even with these opportunities to serve, I consider that I am still being weaned from my fears and resentments in ways that hold both the pain and the peace of following Jesus’ way.  Perhaps the most humble and servant-like thing to do is give thanks for these surprising gifts which offer so much more Life.

The weaning of Homo sapiens from animal instincts of survival to the learned ability to give thanks has been going on for at least two hundred thousand years and has received significant impetus from climate change.  Another change factor for modern Homo sapiens in the last forty thousand years may have been the growth in the size of population groups which has increased the sharing of new ideas and given us more cause for wonder and creativity.  Jesus has come with notions of faith and love which point to new dimensions of what it is to be fully alive and in tune with the Sacred Unity of Creation.  The process is ongoing and I can only give thanks for my growing awareness of participating in it here and now, knowingly, unknowingly and often with resistance.

May each of us evolve through the power of Love’s message into lives of faith, joy and peace that children of all ages are able to imitate.

Reflection, 29 October 2017.  (Mt 22:34-40)

To all of us, the fullest possible participation in the flow of Love through, in and around us.  In the last few weeks, I have been enjoying various encounters with our local wildlife, especially the birds but also the wallabies and an echidna, and reflecting on how they go about their business according to their innate natures.  Now I reflect on the innate nature of me and my communities which Jesus and others recognise as love for Creator, for neighbour and for self.  Our local region has had below average rainfall which has been sufficient to keep most vegetation very much alive, fresh and with many shades of green even as the top slopes of many hills are turning brown.  We humans today seem to be stepping into a new awareness of our responsibility to participate in this One Love which includes the processes and cycles of all life and its evolution, including our own.

The challenge for me is to participate in Love with all my heart, soul and mind – all of me, and of my communities.  I sense a call to the ongoing work of bringing into (near) balance my efforts to grow and develop my relationships with my ‘self’ with its emerging potentials, with the neighbours whom I am to serve and with the Source and Power who commands me to follow Jesus, incarnate Oneness.  Part of me just wants to be doing things which make the world a better place and I can feel frustrated when I seem to be failing to do so.  Perhaps my more significant calling is to allow the healing Spirit to free my heart-brain so that I can continue to grow into living fully – and to accept the ‘crosses’ which seem to be essential elements in these deeper processes.

St Paul in the second reading links the spread of ‘the word of the Lord’ with the joy of the Spirit in the midst of suffering and opposition.  A small group of us enjoyed making a contribution to the developing Edmund Rice project at Mt Atkinson on Tuesday when we gathered a few loads of tree branches which young people can use later to make basic shelters and also walked through one of the paddocks plotting possible bike tracks for future use.  We were doing something practical and I was aware also of the warm sun and the forecast of a warmer and drier summer and its potential for bushfires both in the long grass there and in the forests near home.  We were being true to our human nature of contributing in hope to a greater good even as we recognise the enormous challenge of empowering others to change their hearts and minds in these times of global warming and much more.

The fully alive person, as Jesus is, knows that it takes time to evolve and to accept that the cross is the way to new life.  A huge step occurred perhaps six or seven million years ago when some of our ancestors, through circumstances of climate change, were blessed with the necessary genetic mutations which enabled them to walk upright.  The ‘trial and error’ of creation continued as hands then became free for a great variety of uses, brain size increased, eyes and hands worked together, and our abilities of tool making and art developed.  All of this calls for us to bring ‘heart, soul and mind’ to the processes as they continue today towards a future built on the past and beyond our imagining.  This ‘Law’ is written in the matter of the Universe and the prophets continue to point out to us that we are servants of Mystery within a great plan.

May each of us enjoy more and more of the always surprising and evolving Life of the Holy One whose love for us involves the heart, soul and mind of the Cosmic Christ.

Reflection, 22 October 2017.  (Mt 22:15-21)

To all of us, the wisdom of the big picture where everything belongs in Sacred Unity.  Jesus stays centred on his mission of Love and is even ready to call those with malice and resentment in their hearts ‘Hypocrites!’  He is inviting them into honesty and repentance even as he knows that their ‘herd’ mentality will prevent them changing their ways.  He can see how antagonism fits into the overall plan of the Creator for the unfolding and evolution of Universe and Kingdom.  He would have them (and us) grow from ‘either-or’ to ‘both-and’ – to the maturity of the servant and disciple who sees the Spirit moving in all circumstances, even taxes and death.

I can imagine that the malice of those Pharisees and Herodians might come from their anger at not being the real authorities in their lands because of the Romans and also at YHWH for not coming and fulfilling the promise that Israel would be the Light to the Nations (and Ruler of All).  They did not want to lose their positions of influence and potential high offices because of ‘messiahs’ like Jesus who might lead the people in another direction.  They were blind to Mercy’s Presence among them.  I can only give thanks for the graces which help me see beyond my own moments of anger, especially in the last week as my plans and hopes had to change on a daily basis because of community needs, travelling on the Hume Freeway at about 2k/hr for twenty minutes for road works, shopping items sold out and missing from shelves and my ordering the wrong item in an on-line purchase.  Some of my frustration was aimed at the Spirit and then I wonder how much it is about me learning at deepening levels to let go and to trust that all these episodes contribute to my evolving as a fully alive follower and servant.

Jesus’ challenge is to see that suffering, death and even extinctions belong in this Universe.  Some of this is self-inflicted (like my not seeing things on a shopping list) and some seems random like the meteorite which seems to have been a most significant factor in the demise of dinosaurs which in turn created space for mammals to grow and diversify.  Those angry at the threat posed by Jesus and most if not all of us today wish to avoid and deny these violent and degrading eventualities and be in control of our destinies.  I have just read a reminder of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s notions about the Omega point and participating in the process of future unity unfolding here and now.  There is inevitability about New Creation and old patterns giving way to beings of greater complexity beyond our imagining and wisdom.  Jesus is the sacrament of honouring all the demands of the sacrifice and self-giving explicit for those who are ‘in Christ’ and sharing his vision.  I pray that I and my communities continue to evolve in tune with this Spirit.

Part of my frustration with Mystery is that I have a vague sense of being chosen as Paul says in the second reading and I do not know what for.  Perhaps this is where my faith, hope and love are being tested and purified as I am given multiple opportunities to repent and to rejoice gratefully in the many blessing of every day while I dare to believe in a future of resurrection revealing itself in and around me.

May each of us grow and evolve as unique and fully alive human beings giving our whole lives to our Creator in complete and joyful obedience.

Reflection, 15 October 2017.  (Mt 22:1-14)

To all of us, the joy and thrill of dancing at the Wedding.  A Wedding is not about the farm or violence or business as usual – it is celebrating a new union and relationship of one with an Other.  To go to a wedding is to acknowledge Mystery unfolding beyond one’s power and to participate in some way in the commitment being made.  I suspect that this is what the ‘wedding garment’ affirms and that to attend without the appropriate dress is to be self-centred, unsocial and a betrayal of what it is to be human.  ‘The man was silent’ and already bound up within himself by his refusal to love.  Then his outer reality came to match his inner state.

I have just attended a regional meeting of our brothers with some members of our provincial leadership team who reported on congregational matters and then on upcoming changes to living allowances to communities.  I came away feeling somewhat frustrated when some of those who have chosen to live by themselves spoke strongly about their concerns that they may have less to live on.  Then I read the gospel again and wondered with a smile if this was an example of the ‘weeping and grinding of teeth’ of the ones who are ‘outside in the dark’ where they have put themselves.  Now I ask myself about my own grumblings and what they might tell me of when I am refusing to be inside Love and Mercy instead of joining in the dancing and the feast of Oneness.

Over two hundred years ago, our mammalian ancestors were the first creatures to experience that oneness of mother and her child in the womb which extended into years of care for the newborn.  I am regularly touched at the sight of young mammals exploring their abilities and their world with playfulness and delight.  It speaks to me of a sense of trust and wonder which may be inherent in us humans and which may be another expression of the ‘wedding garment’ appropriate for dancing in the Spirit of Christ whose heart and mind we share when we choose to do so – a garment of joy and excitement as we try out new steps (no more ‘business as usual’) in committed, life-long relationships.  All of this can only echo the Creator’s delight, commitment and care for each and every entity within our expanding and evolving Universe.

I enjoyed a different experience of happy engagement on Saturday when I helped set up tables and urns and then cooked dozens of sausages for a barbeque lunch at the conclusion of a fund-raising fun-run and bike ride in Yea.  I had made a contribution to the immediate wellbeing of those who had been on the trail, to the atmosphere of glad accomplishment and to the benefits which will flow later to needy rural children.  So much is possible with ‘the help of the One who gives strength’ as St Paul says in the second reading and I can only give thanks that I accepted the offered garment.

May each of us respond to Mystery’s invitations with joyful anticipation, put on the appropriate attire and dance with delight in honour of One Love.

Reflection, 8 October 2017. (Mt 21:33-43)

To all of us, the intoxicating wine of our Creator’s vineyard.  I wonder about the work of producing the fruits of this ‘garden’ and I look to Jesus as the primary worker and as the one in which all of us participate in keeping it going.  Perhaps the key, the ‘keystone’, involves the call to honour the landlord, rejection, the spilling of blood (of ‘grapes trampled into wine’) and the power of Sacred Unity to amaze us with new life and Resurrection.  St Paul tells of the God of peace being with us as we work ‘in Christ’ and it must be an exceedingly deep, inner peace which carries him and us through the turmoil and suffering – and which intoxicates in the best way possible.

I give thanks for the tastes of this ‘wine’ which enlivens me and increases my longing for more.  When I can remember these thoughts, they give me more on which to reflect at Mass and include Paul’s list in today’s second reading.  There are times when I can recall what is true, good, pure and blessing and there are occasions when the peace is disturbed by my anger and frustration.  It seems as though the more I come to know others through living in community or in work situations, the disturbances increase in number and intensity.  I thank the Spirit for the deepening peace which empowers me to switch more quickly to thanksgiving and prayer for both the other and myself.  I seem to be growing in awareness of my own addictions with their past and future orientation and the struggle to switch to the spontaneity of this Eucharistic drink in each present moment.

I have been reading a few pages about Thérèse of Lisieux in the last few days and I see the Spirit at work when I read that she grew in love through her efforts to deal with her reactions to other sisters in the convent.  This was her ‘little way’ and encourages me to persevere with thanksgiving, trusting that ‘the Lord’s doing’ will grow peace in and around me.  The blessings from this ‘Little Flower’ might mirror the benefits of flowering plants in creation over the past possibly 250 million years: for soil through symbiotic relationships; for insects; for animals which eat flowers, fruits and the insects which depend on them; and for us humans through their beauty and diversity and our uses of them including for medicines and fuel.  It is suggested that early primates evolved hands and improved sight in their efforts to reach these prizes in the three-dimensional world of trees.

The stories of Jesus and of the Universe tell of the incorporation of death into the processes of evolving life even as the killing of the landowner’s son outside the vineyard depicts the more common and ancient ‘culture of death’ which serves the status quo of the few.  Yet even here Sacred Unity works to create Resurrection when servants remain faithful to their true nature.

May each of us grow in the wisdom of the vineyard and participate more deeply in producing and sharing its joyful and addictive blessings.

Reflection, 1 Oct 2017. (Mt 21:28-32)

To all of us, success in the work of cultivating the mind and heart of Jesus the Cosmic Christ.  Sometimes I see myself like the first son and on other occasions I seem to like the second son.  When I reflect on what the work in the vineyard might be, I remember Jesus’ words about proclaiming the Good News and passages like today’s second reading.  In our expanding and evolving Universe, the work too evolves as new dimensions arise with existing elements combining and forming the foundation of ‘new creation’.  The essence of Love, of emptying oneself as Jesus does in becoming a ‘slave’, a humbled worker, remains the same while we are awakened to new dimensions of what ‘other people’s interests’ are in these times of global warming, consumerism and self-centredness.

Ultimately, these interests are mine as well and I give thanks that the most significant one for me has been to encounter Mercy.  The work of the vineyard is still to be witness to forgiveness, a witness who is grateful, joyful and becoming more and more ‘fully’ alive.  I sense this when I can laugh at myself for my moments of anger, resentment and fear which keep popping up when I see the TV news or meet others who seem imprisoned in old patterns of thought and action.  My work becomes opening up to the Love’s presence and trusting that I can be an instrument of healing and blessing – a slave ‘in Christ’ sharing his mission and burdens.

The king parrots, galahs and crimson rosellas are not appearing for breakfast nearly as frequently now that spring is getting a hold.  When a pair of the parrots are sitting on my hands and eating, it becomes a less significant version of the vineyard work of nourishing neighbours and companions and it reminds me to live in the present moment, not thinking of what else I could be doing.  I can consider that Australia may be the birth place of the world’s birdsong, parrots and pigeons and that human language may have begun with our ancestors mimicking the sounds of birds, developing the necessary physiology and allowing expression of delight and desire.  Combining this ability with another from other animals who signalled things like intention and direction may have been the evolving foundation of my being able to ‘talk to’ these visitors and even to imagine what they may be communicating to each other and to me.  Perhaps part of the work is to keep developing in communicating with the Divine and to share this with others so that our coming together is another step in new creation.

If it is true that I am a microcosm of the Universe, I wonder what that means and I marvel each time the Spirit communicates affirmation and the sense of my being ‘in tune’ with the essential song of Creation with its themes of emptying, being slave and acknowledging Jesus as Lord and Cosmic One.

May eachl of us grow more like the first son, the tax collectors and the prostitutes who change their minds and believe what both John the Baptist and Jesus are saying to us.

Reflection, 24 September 2017.  (Mt 20:1-16)

To all of us, growing trust in the absolute generosity of our Cosmic Christ.  Last week, I was on retreat and come away with a renewed sense of being hired to work ‘in the vineyard’ in ways I cannot imagine until they happen.  For me, it may be well into the ‘afternoon’ but the landowner is still searching for workers and there is much to be done.  A primary focus of the retreat was that of our wounds – at the level of individuals, congregation and creation – and the blessings which they offer to those who open themselves to the Spirit.  I suspect that one aspect of the job now and into the future will be opening our hearts to the Cosmic One who empties himself, humbles himself – and us ‘in Christ’ – and guiding our neighbours along the same way.

In today’s homily, we heard that it requires faith to sign up for this work ‘at 5pm’ when there seems little chance of reward as we think human thoughts about wages.  Perhaps another dimension of the work involves learning to seek the Creator’s thoughts and ways and growing in the trust which allows them to be realised.  During the retreat, we were reminded about our Founder, Edmund Rice, and his journey of suffering and faith, and we considered his charism which has been described as ‘opening his heart to Christ present and appealing in the poor’.  He was one who went beyond human thinking and acting, was humbled in his old age by his brothers and left us with the notion that ‘Providence is our inheritance.’  I felt a joyful affirmation at today’s Mass when singing, “. . . Open my heart, Lord; . . ” as I had been singing it to myself a few days ago as a prayer with increasing intent.

My contribution to our retreat’s concluding ritual was to lead the group in a process of blessing and healing.  In turn, we called our neighbour by name, asked, “What do you want?” and anointed the offered hands.  I felt humbled and joyful to ask for wholeness and healing from the Spirit of my Lord, Jesus Christ.  My leading of this part of the ritual was a deepening of my belief that I can be a person of blessing (not disaster) and that my heart is opening further to allow Life to flow through me.  I had been reflecting on the idea of ‘second half of life spirituality’ and became excited when I altered a word and it became ‘second half of life brotherhood’ where we go beyond the wonderful acts of service in the way of physical and emotional comfort and include sharing support, woundedness and our various attempts to be fully alive with the ability to laugh at ourselves.

It seems from Jesus’ parable that it is never too late to bring our gifts to this work and to share the task of our common ‘landowner’ in bringing others to Life.  I wondered about the gift which dinosaurs give and how the extinction of most of them about 66 million years ago made space for the mammals who may have survived by eating their dead cousins through and beyond the calamity.  Then I thought how we are still eating their descendants, especially chooks, and enjoying so much birdsong.  The great gift of the Spirit will endure in many forms and I am blessed to receive so much and to be an instrument of its Flow.

May each of us open our eyes and hearts to the Mystery whose generosity is always surprising.

Reflection, 17 Sept 2017.  (Mt 18:21-35)

To all of us, the wisdom to honour ourselves as alive with the image and likeness of Mercy.  In my simple and developing understanding of ‘forgiveness’ as understood by the Jews of Jesus’ day, I consider the notion that the most valuable attribute was honour which could be given and taken away (not monetary wealth as in our culture).  In Jesus’ parable, the king has great wealth, great honour and, at least in part, it accumulates because he is merciful and he honours others, even debtors, desiring that they live to their full potential.  He can lose ‘honour’ when his subjects fail to live according to the highest ideals (even commandments) of his realm – as did the first servant who is then ‘tortured’ until he can honour the king rightfully as subject.  Perhaps his torturers are his unrecognised shame and guilt disturbing his desires for power, privilege and position.

I wonder how much my addictions are about suppressing my ‘torturers’ – including the deep rage which emerges occasionally, reminding me that hurt and suffering are inherent in evolving creation and that there is a great Love desiring to flow through me if I will allow it.  I have been growing in awareness of this in the last week as I take my sister’s dog for a daily walk and find that there are times when his plans and mine do not match.  I feel less ‘tortured’ when I honour his truthfulness to being ‘dog’ and the privilege I have to provide the opportunity for him to do so.  His wagging tail tells me that I have a friend and I consider that the equivalent for me includes my gratitude to our Creator.

I remind myself that evolution takes time when I think that the first reptiles, with their mutational step of the amniotic egg, were small and inconspicuous animals for millions of years before a small ice age and extinctions provided the stimulus to move into new territory and to grow in size.  Their gift included internal fertilisation and mini adults breaking out of their shells ready to fend for themselves.  They honoured their gifts in different ways as some passed on their new forms to later generations, refined and updated all the way over 310 million years or so to us mammals.  I sense a challenge to honour the ongoing process and work of Sacred Mystery by committing consciously to internal fertilisation in my heart-brain and to adult responsibility as servant of Mercy and creativity, the nutrients of the Great Egg replacing the limitations of my small, tight enclosure.

I saw the movie ‘Victoria and Abdul’ on Friday and it spoke to me of how relationships can work to break open the restrictions of routine and frustration and allow joyful new life to emerge.  Even between this queen and her Muslim servant there were elements of risk, vulnerability and some lack of honesty (echoes of Jesus and Peter) as well as comfort and encouragement.  They could honour each other’s humanity with their frailties and beauty and each could evolve towards their inner truth.

May each of us be open to evolving relationships, inner and outer, where we honour ourselves as emerging servants of Love and Mercy.

Reflection, 10 September 2017.  (Mt 18:15-20)

To all of us, the grace of reconciliation within ourselves and our communities.  I have very little experience of the processes described in this Gospel passage and I wonder how much our fear of using them has resulted in the dwindling numbers in our churches and in religious life as well as in our history of abuses.  As I look back to occasions when I might have ‘gone and had it out with another’, I recall my feelings of fear and unworthiness.  Now I wonder how much the deeper reason might be that I had no felt sense of Jesus present in community gatherings of ‘two or three’ or more and him calling us to be sentries like Ezekiel.  We still have much to learn – through experience – about love of neighbour and self.

Jesus’ challenge seems to be that we come to agreement and then pray for that explicitly.  I suspect that the essential element will be to agree with him and his commandments such as loving the Father, all neighbours and one’s self.  The dialogues will be the building blocks of relationships which focus on ‘other’ and, these days, on our common home.  I do not recall any occasion when I have engaged in a process like this whether it has originated in dispute or out of shared concern.  There have been lots of ‘Lord, hear our prayer!’ with little appreciation of immediate issues.  Perhaps the sin of our times is that we bring dishonour on ourselves, our communities and church by not living ‘in Christ’ with awareness of our role of ‘binding’ into one and ‘loosening’ from fear and shame.  I wonder what the Ezekiels of today are being appointed to say to our gatherings.

On Saturday, I delighted to attend an auction, with a starting bid of 1.1 million dollars, for a house which my niece finally bought.  Her husband is overseas at the moment so she accepted the responsibility of bidding.  When the excitement had settled down and she was saying how grateful she was for the purchase of their desired property, I suggested that she thank our Creator for the blessings which enabled them to afford it and for the outcome.  I sense that reminding others of the Source of All may be a vital part of reclaiming our essential faith where we trust the flow of grace to and through us in the mystery of Love.

That flow has been happening throughout all creation and I thought of the situation of the beginnings of forests when ‘two or three’ and more of the first trees might have been growing near each other on a flood plain or coastal lowland and their combined canopies began altering their micro-environment.  More shade moderated temperature and improved the situation for microbes and invertebrates which worked to increase and improve soils so that roots could go deeper and trees grow bigger and spread further.  The outcomes may have included wild fires as well as the beginnings of the coal deposits which provide us with energy.  There is much for which we give thanks and much for consideration in our conversations and efforts for agreement as we explore Mystery.

May each of us make many more contributions as we dialogue together in exploring the unknown in the name and spirit of the Cosmic Christ.

Reflection, 3 September 2017.  (Mt 16:21-27)

To all of us in this ‘Season of Creation’, the grace to see and think with our Creator’s Wisdom.  In their joint message (last Friday), Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew speak of the importance of prayer and its ability to change the way we perceive the world and our ways of relating to it.  Jesus expects Peter to evolve his thinking about the Messiah and to appreciate the process of suffering, death and Resurrection – ‘new creation’ as Paul calls it.  In today’s second reading, Paul too speaks of ‘new mind’ and of discovering the will of God so that we know what to do.  Our actions might include Jeremiah’s howling and proclaiming, “Violence and destruction!” as we hear of floods, droughts, ethnic cleansing and more.  I suspect that the most important ingredient will be the ‘fire burning in our hearts and bones’ and our willingness to be seduced and overpowered by this dimension of our true Self.

Some new views for me in the last week have included those from the AirWalk out across treetops and rivers and from several lookouts around Hobart.  I visited the town of Richmond and viewed the model showing Old Hobart Town in the early 1820’s when some of my English ancestors lived in the area.  Later, I walked along Hobart Rivulet which features in the model and wondered how it may have looked for thousands of years before Europeans arrived – a source of fresh water for wildlife and the Indigenous people who cared for that land in all its aspects, including themselves.  Within twenty years, a brewery, several tanneries and a flour mill appeared and the growing town downstream turned the flow into a sewer.  This was a different way of seeing and thinking with the human as primary and limited focus.  Jesus’ call is still for us to ‘deny ourselves’ and to follow him into life which includes even the cross.

On Saturday evening, when I was back in Glenburn, our extended community celebrated a couple of birthdays at the local Chinese restaurant.  The conversations included talk of addiction and problems in relationships as well as other challenges around the world.  I have been reflecting how this is about excluding much of the cross of life just as Peter had his own ideas about what was right and proper for Jesus and himself.  Jesus calls him ‘satan’ which can mean ‘accuser’ and one who tests the genuineness of another’s thinking.  Sometimes I can catch this ‘devil’s advocate’ in me telling me that I am right to avoid suffering and to find comfort in my addictions.  I suspect that I may be dowsing that inner fire of heart and bone when I do so and fail to think ‘in Christ’.  I pray in thanks for this realisation and for the peace and joy which I do find in my heart on other occasions.

Following Jesus then becomes for me a journey into this heart-place of fire, joy and deep peace.  In some ways it is me ‘evolving’ into the fullness of my life and its Mystery.  Earlier stages of this process include the steps from fish to tetrapod to amphibian and all the mutations – crosses – which saw fins become limbs with elbows and knees, flexibility from new neck vertebrae, air bladders become lungs, and many more which enabled survival and then thriving in new environments.  So it is with the new ‘environment’ of Jesus’ realm where I wonder how much I am surviving and how much I am beginning to thrive as my ‘thinking’ comes more from my heart-brain and spontaneity increases.  I cannot imagine what other boundaries I will be called to cross if I can keep opening up whenever I do close down.

May each of us allow the Spirit of evolving Creation to burn ever more brightly in our hearts, bones and actions for the sake of our common home.

Reflection, 27 August 2017. (Mt 16:13-20)

To all of us, the ongoing and evolving revelation of Jesus as Cosmic Christ.  I hear regularly the notion that ‘hell’ is living in the ‘lie’ or ‘myth’ of separation:  that there are barriers between ‘us’ and ‘others’ (including Other), that there are situations where ‘some’ do not belong.  In Jesus’ realm, especially his ‘church’ family, the truth of complete inclusion seems to be a notion that grows slowly as we see in Peter who is beginning to ‘get it’ and who will lose it on many occasions – but not entirely.  He is becoming the prime example of the ‘repenting one’ who holds onto the hope that Jesus is the faithful and forgiving friend in all occasions.  There are indeed ‘gates’ in the prison-walls which are his bluster and fears and which do not prevail when Love is knocking.

I read, also, that in the culture of the time (and still today) individuals learnt their identity from their family and village and that all people from a village like Nazareth or Capernaum would grow up with certain similar characteristics.  It could be that Jesus put his questions to the apostles as part of his search for affirmation that his identity was not limited to one location but was all-inclusive.  He was affirmed by the answer and called Peter to continue on the journey into his own new and greater identity – as he does to all of us.  I suspect that some significant elements of the search include a growing relationship with Jesus and venturing to new places both inner and outer.

I have been visiting different places in the last week as I spend time in Hobart as brother and tourist.  I have been to MONA, Russell Falls and harbour-side markets as well as meeting my cousin whose husband is not well.  As I attempt to be ‘in Christ’, I can only trust that new places in my heart are opening to Mercy and Light and that all is included in ‘the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God’ as Paul says in the second reading.  Some of my feelings of deeper peace might result from purchases from market stalls while much comes from other soul-gifts.

It seems as though life on Earth has ‘always’ been about venturing to new and different places, including the great adventure from the depths of the seas to dry land – according to creation’s inherent Wisdom.  A research project reports fossilised arthropod footprints from about 530 million years ago as early centipedes explored sand dunes before returning to the watery homes.  Over the following 50 million or so years, insects evolved with the ability to be at home on land and after another 50 or 60 million years were able to take to the skies.  I like the comment which said that these creatures have influenced all parts of our common home and were the first to form social groups, to farm and to sing.  I wonder what unimagined gifts will come from the faithfulness of me and my communities to Wisdom’s journey.

May each of us grow more and more open to the Living Gift present in and around us here and now.

Reflection, 20 August 2017.  (Mt 15:21-28)

To all of us, the faith to persist into new understandings of incarnate Love.  One commentary reminded me that only on a couple of occasions did Jesus change his mind and that it was women who brought it about.  I can imagine him thinking about the big picture of ‘the lost sheep of the house of Israel’ who were spread around the local regions – because that is what I find easy to do.  Perhaps it is the here-and-now focus of mothers for their children, families and neighbours who invite him to ‘look again’ and see what is right in front of him and calling for attention.  This is the heart-brain at work, seeing and believing that compassion makes a difference – brings healing and wholeness.  This is what is not so easy for me.

The reading from Isaiah describes the house of the Holy One being ‘a house of prayer’ and invited me to consider how much the dialogue between Jesus, the Canaanite mother and the disciples is an example of praying, where prayer is about deepening one’s understanding of the True Self.  The woman seems to have come to a deeper faith through hearing about Jesus before seeking him out.  The disciples have their own request with a mixture of faith and frustration and they are given a glimpse of what Jesus’ realm is about – that it moves beyond fear and prejudice to include everyone equally.  Perhaps for him it is a matter of appreciating what it looks like when Yahweh’s Chosen fulfil their role as Light to the nations.  Listening and faithfulness do make a difference in pictures both great and small.

My own experiences of listening in the last week have included an introduction to the role of Parish Treasurer and, in another conversation, to hopes and dreams concerning the Yea parish as those attending Mass become fewer in number and as the same occurs in local parishes of other denominations (and as others become aware of the 2020 Plenary Council).  Perhaps the Spirit is calling all Christians to a renewed faithfulness to the Christ and his mission, especially in the face of a variety of threats to our common home.  People still need to hear about Jesus and to enter into conversations with him which include deep listening, compassion, persistence and humility.  I pray that I grow ‘in him’ – in his relationship to Abba, to heart and to his work here-and-now.

The pattern of something new beginning with one individual seems to apply to Earth’s plant life, according to researchers.  Possibly 1.6 billion years ago, one green alga swallowed a cyanobacterium (like an internal solar-plant) without rejecting or absorbing it and, with the help of a parasite, food and energy could be transferred and shared.  Over a billion years and many mutations later, its descendants in the forms of mosses and liverworts began to colonise dry land. Their growth, evolution and death reduced levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and brought about episodes of ‘snowball Earth’, mass extinctions and room for new possibilities both in the seas and on land.  Different and even seemingly insignificant life-forms can come together, relate and enter into dialogue in ways that produce unimagined changes and consequences.

May each of us grow in faithfulness to our mission in the Cosmic Christ in every encounter inviting greater complexity and participation in Mystery.

Reflection, 13 Aug 2017.  (Mt 14:22-33)

To all of us, the faith to walk through the storms, winds and waves with hearts fixed on Jesus the Christ.  “The last question gives you all the answers.”  These were among the last words spoken by my brother-in-law before his ‘death’ and passing to the next stage of life.  A small crowd which I joined were reminded of them on Tuesday evening at the launch of his latest (and final) book in his series ‘About Bioethics’ in which he raises many questions and not so many answers about faith, science and the environment.  He was one who did keep his heart and mind fixed on the Word as he taught and wrote with honesty and integrity while ‘walking’ through ongoing storms in his own health and offering his words about unhealthy disturbances in societies and in nature.  

“What are you doing here, Elijah?” is a question omitted from our version of today’s first reading which is part of the story of the prophet running away from corrupt rulers and to the Holy One who sent him.  My brother-in-law would have had his own clear answer to this question, an answer forged in silence and in explorations with family, friends and colleagues.  I suspect that his answer, like mine, would have changed over the years and become more focussed on the faith which enables us to get out of the boat when Jesus says, “Come!”  As I wonder what I am really doing in this stage of my life, I consider that I am here to learn that the Creator is indeed present in the sound of silence or of the gentle breeze much more than in mighty winds, cyclones, earthquakes, fires and floods, and to believe more in his power to calm all storms both in and around me.

One such storm concerns child abuse, in particular by members of our church, congregation and province.  I attended a gathering of brothers today to hear and reflect on how we are being disturbed and how we might respond now and in the next few years.  We sense the call to be more brother-like to victims and to each other and I suspect that this will be life-giving when we acknowledge and walk through our own personal and shared storms into the peace and joy of seeing Jesus in our boat.  Then we will have something worthwhile to offer in the storms gathering and raging in wars and posturing, in violence and slavery, in addictions and low self-esteem and in so much more.

Well over four hundred million years ago, a primordial fungus ‘learnt’ through mutations to survive desiccation, UV light and limited nutrients in its rocky home as it became the first life on land, out of the sea, in a completely different environment.  Not only did it survive but it triggered the processes which resulted in the soils on which life on land depends.  Creation is about finding a way forward with unforeseen blessings at every step of the journey; the storms are moments of possibility in and through the Cosmic Christ.

May each of us who are of little faith and big doubts continue to walk into winds and storms with more questions than answers for the sake of suffering and evolving creation.

Reflection, 6 August 2017.  (Transfiguration)

To all of us, the confirmation of our faith in the Light of Creation.  Five young people (primary school students) received the sacrament of confirmation today in our church.  As I reflect on my own experience, I see many similarities with preparation in school, sponsor, saint, kneeling before the church official and celebration.  I read quickly some the candidates’ work on display inside the church and was impressed to see names like Francis of Assisi, Rose of Lima and Kateri Tekakwitha as saints chosen to be models and sources of inspiration. I seem to remember choosing John as my saint and doing so because it is my father’s name.  I wonder if the evangelist has been working on me for the past fifty-plus years and helping me appreciate more and more the worth of daily commitment to the gospels and to Jesus.

Now I can reflect that there have been many ‘confirmations’ of being ‘beloved’ and of continuing to listen to the Word.  They include seeing little wrens with blue tails flitting around outside my window now as I type and moments when my face lights up as I speak of being loved and forgiven.  It seems to me that these moments are of ‘transfiguration’ when the light-energy inherent at the deepest levels of creation manifests itself through me and confirms that I am being true to my purpose ‘in Christ’.  As a school-boy, the sacrament was another formality and I suspect that to be true for today’s young people.  I am sensing a call for me to allow my faith to evolve with the ongoing work of the Spirit and to be open to walking with others into a more adult way of believing in, listening to and following the Beloved Son.

Last Friday, I attended my first Parish Council meeting which served as an introduction to its workings and to possibilities for helping.  I came away as ‘treasurer’ with much to learn about the finances and reporting on them.  Now I wonder about the real treasure of the parish and of what I can contribute.  At the meeting’s conclusion, I did offer an article mentioning the Plenary Council announced by the Australian Bishops with the intention of growing into a ‘synodal church’ as Pope Francis challenges us.  I see the article as another confirmation of my faith-journey and as pointing to possibilities for a new transfiguration of the Body of Christ.  Perhaps the real treasure is the light shining deep within ourselves and our communities.  I trust that I can keep listening.

I have been concerned about my neck and back in the last few weeks until I picked up a new mattress and visited a chiropractor.  With these new conditions, I have been feeling more alive and healthy – and reflecting that the inner light does have its physical aspects.  I read that it was in ancestors of the first fish over 500 million years ago that a simple spinal cord evolved followed by a fold or ridge of skin which provided strength and improved manoeuvrability.  Millions of years later came vertebrae – and now we humans live with a flow of energy through our nervous systems as well as a deeper energy empowering us to manoeuvre with awareness through realms of the Spirit and of Love.  On some hilltops are transfigurations and on others are crucifixions – all essential to life and growth.  I dare to believe that the inner light can shine even more brightly as the physical body ages and weakens as long as I and my communities continue to listen to the Son.

May each of us participate in the Spirit’s confirmations of the Love which is overflowing, playful, joyful and full of celebration.

Reflection, 30 July 2017.  (Mt 13:44-52)

To all of us, the wisdom of the heart which seeks treasures both old and new.  As I reflect on our brothers’ gathering on the topic of ‘ageing gracefully’, the notion which stays with me is that of ‘effort’ – like the person buying the field with treasure, the pearl merchant or those throwing nets into the sea.  I have sensed the challenge to grow and evolve into a more mature spirituality on several occasions in the past week or two and see it as a significant aspect of my congregation and communities as we face the second half of life and pray for the grace to make our lives worthwhile for Church and our common home as we deal with physical diminishment.  Part of the effort is in seeing with new eyes how and where the Spirit of Love is leading us.

My own efforts include the ‘old’ of daily prayer and scripture and some ‘new’ in these reflections, in different conversations, in learning more of the Creation story and in moments of spontaneity.  I commented during the gathering that a learning for me is to conserve my energies for what is important and I thought later how it is this second-half-of-life spirituality which is inviting me into Love with surprises and a renewed sense of purpose.  It is as though the Spirit has cast a net into my heart and found ‘fish of every kind’ which have all played their part and some of which have served their first-half-of-life purpose and can be discarded.  St Paul in the reading from Romans seems to be saying that the Creator’s purpose for all of us is to be shaped according to the ‘image of the Son’ and I suspect that being open to and trusting the Spirit’s loving care in this work will need to be matched by new dimensions of self-care as minds and bodies age and slow down.

Seeing how, with new eyes, to do things differently seems to have been such an inevitable force in life’s evolving that the formation of complex eyes may have happened independently perhaps 50 to 100 times in various lifeforms.  One scientific estimate indicates that the eyes of today could evolve from simple patches of photoreceptors in about 360,000 generations (or years), driven by mutations and changes giving advantages in the race to live fully (and not starve or be eaten).  For possibly three billion years, life had no ‘eyes’ – could not ‘see’ – and then the ‘gift’ of sight gave impetus to the ‘faster, higher, stronger’ new still unfolding today.  The eyes of fully alive ‘human ones’ need to see more and more clearly how to live and give impetus to the ‘slower, deeper, wiser’ Resurrection Life here-and-now and how to participate in all dimensions of creation with appropriate care and concern.

I find myself being excited by the prospects of seeing and participating in Mystery, especially when it is a call to allow Love to flow in and through me – and me as a unique image of the Cosmic Christ.  I do not see how my efforts are working for the good of all when so much of the world seems stuck in first-half-of-life short-sightedness.  I dare to believe that my ‘little faith’ does indeed make a difference.

May each of us grow in our efforts to obtain the treasure and finest pearl of Life in Christ.

Reflection, 23 July 2017.  (Mt 13:24-43)

To all of us, the grace to live with the wheat and the weeds of life until the Master reveals their place in the Reign of Love.  Jesus in his parable says that the weeds are to be tied up and kept ready for the fire – for warmth, cooking, light, celebration, ritual and much more of what brings joy to our communities.  My challenge over the past two weeks has been to see the life-giving aspects of having a bad cold, a sore neck, two wounds from the removal of skin cancers and a worn-out mattress which have been working together to keep me from enjoying fully the warm sun and blue skies of Brisbane.  I think of the other readings where I am told that the Spirit helps in weakness and that the Creator cares for all, for me, and has sovereign power over all these kinds of things – so go beyond self-pity and learn to trust.

 I came to this part of the country with my own expectations of giving and receiving and now I seem to have the opportunity to consider that my offerings can even be life-denying when not in tune with Spirit.  I think of those to whom I have passed on the (flu-like) cold when I had hoped to bring life and energy and I wonder how much the call is for me to acknowledge my growing trust that both wheat and weeds belong and contribute to the fullness of life in different levels.  The One ‘who searches the heart’ in places ‘too deep for words’ knows the seeds emerging within me and I am glad and grateful for the Creator’s patience as I become more aware of Mystery’s possibilities.

I was surprised to read that some scientists wonder if the origins of sexual reproduction, perhaps two billion years ago, involved eukaryotes developing ways to ‘fight disease’ as parasites ‘lock on’ to proteins on their surfaces.  Asexual reproduction involves duplicating DNA and descendants with the same ‘locks’ being vulnerable to a successful parasite which has developed the right ‘key’.  This could lead to mutual destruction.  I can imagine that, in one eukaryote, a ‘mistake’ occurred where some genes were not part of the original pattern and were able to be passed on to a neighbour with beneficial consequences.  The DNA was both safely duplicated in descendants and also open to new possibilities and combinations.  The risks and benefits of sharing genetic material are enjoyed by 99.9% of all eukaryotes and their descendants, including us, to this day.  The pattern of ‘wheat and weeds growing together’ would seem to have ancient roots and new manifestations even in my imaginings.  I pray that I can be ever more open to the blessings of Mystery.

May each of us grow in gratefulness for all opportunities when we can rejoice with our Creator in new flowerings of Life and Love.

Reflection, 9 July 2017.  (Mt 11:25-30)

To all of us, the joy and peace of accepting the yoke of Jesus, the Cosmic Christ.  As I reflect on these words which ‘popped up’ – perhaps from a deeper place within – I wonder how loving the Universe and participating creatively in its expansion and evolution can be ‘easy’ and a ‘light’ burden, especially when so many ‘learned and clever’ ones look to their own answers, ignoring and even denying the ‘way, truth and life’ dwelling in our hearts and homes.  Perhaps the answer lies in being ‘mere children’ with trust, honesty, gratitude, wonder and playfulness.

I experienced something of this with my spiritual director on Monday as I explored my anger and its threads back to my childhood with the sense of wonder about it being a vital aspect of my evolution and with surprise that it may be a frustrated desire to love and be loved, to ‘make love’ – and to be carried lovingly.  The Spirit has already introduced me to ‘Make Friends’ and it is a challenge to me to do so with those qualities of ‘mere children’, beginning with Jesus, myself and my communities.  I suspect that the burden will continue to be those who cling to ‘unspiritual lives’ as St Paul describes it and also my tendency to cling to frustration for too long before turning to Love.

I am heartened by Jesus’ repeated invitation to me and all of us to ‘Come!’ and by the sense of peace I feel on many occasions each day when I do turn to him.  The invitation includes learning from him and I sense that my soul’s ‘rest’ comes about by imitating his gentleness and humility as best I can.  These must be essential qualities of the Father, the Universe Being, and of our deepest nature so it is no surprise that their practice is ‘easy’ and life-giving.  I may have little success in changing the world and still find that my contribution to this creation evolving into resurrection involves allowing the Spirit to change me.

DNA studies suggest that all of us multicellular creatures as well as plants originated from one eukaryotic cell perhaps even over three billion years ago.  No one can say how this cell or bacterium, one of billions in the oceans, became the first with a nucleus.  It may be that it was large enough to ‘eat’ a smaller one in a situation of ‘gentleness’ and ‘humility’ where neither was destroyed and where it became an occasion of mutual benefit; perhaps one could make use of the other’s waste through its ability to burn oxygen which provided extra energy for the former.  The cooperation extended to the need for both to reproduce at the same time and pass on those genes to us.  I like the notion that these qualities mentioned by Jesus might be written in the cells of my body.

As a community outing on Friday, some of us saw the film ‘Viceroy’s House’ – the story of India and Pakistan becoming separate and independent nations in 1947.  I reflected that the violence and the deaths of perhaps two million people, echoing events of today, were a long way from gentleness and humility and a demonstration of an unhealthy desire for strong and rigid boundaries.  Healthy and life-giving cells and societies have porous boundaries allowing for mutuality while maintaining separate identities.  I suspect that I can become a better friend to the energies of my anger and fear when I allow inner boundaries to follow the pattern.

May each of us ‘come’ and be ‘in Christ’ – in tune with the stars and the cells evolving in Mystery.

Reflection, 2 July 2017.  (Mt 10:37-42)

To all of us, the reward of new life here and now for those who love ‘in Christ’ through sharing the cross.  When I ask myself what I ‘love’ more than Jesus the Christ, I can come up with quite a few things which sometimes make me ‘not worthy’ even as I recognise occasions when I do welcome and follow his Spirit.  I am learning to put aside my own plans and hopes for the future in order to be open to his life and mission with the sense that even my musing on where I might be called is likely to be far short of his possibilities.  The Jewish sense of the future was and is invested in family and descendants and now I ask myself about the ‘family’ in which those possibilities for life and mission are being realised today.

I received a reply from the Elijah Interfaith Institute about my suggestion of the Universe story and they suggest that I get involved in a ‘Make Friends’ group and make ‘real’ my idea.  I am excited by the prospect and wonder what happens next – how much I have to do and how many surprises will invite further steps into a much bigger family than I have imagined so far.  The priest in his homily spoke of a 500-year cycle of growth, decadence and renewal in the life of the Church and how the pattern seems to be unfolding with today’s crises of abuse and diminishment.  I thought of the need to return to Friend Jesus and his original mission of healing, presence and good news – of putting him before all else.  I wonder how much this challenge to make friends across all sorts of boundaries is the shape of his cross for me and my communities.

I wonder, too, about happenings like the Great Oxidation Event which was brought about by a build-up of oxygen over hundreds of millions of years when generations of our bacterial ancestors were using the Sun’s energy to produce sugars and releasing the gas as a waste product.  They were establishing our atmosphere and their own extinction.  I can imagine that one of their descendants was gifted with the appropriate mutations which enabled it to make use of oxygen as a source of energy, to survive in a most dangerous environment and to pass on its ability to generations all the way down to us.  The problem became part of the solution and I wonder how much that is a pattern inherent in creation in which we can participate today if only we will open up to our true Teacher and Guide.

Our own evolution as a species imbedded in the web of life on this planet will involve communities of individuals, prophets and holy women and men, who  take up this aspect of ‘cross’ and discern what ‘cups of cold water’ look like in this era, who are the ‘little ones’ and what needs are most pressing for all of us.  Perhaps it is still about smiles, small acts of kindness and unseen moments of self-giving as well as those little sacrifices which reduce carbon footprints and contribute to the ability of all beings to fulfil their role and purpose.  Perhaps it is still about Gospel hope and faith.

May each of us continue to evolve in communities of prophets and holy ones living daily in the reward of the spiritual ‘DNA’ of the Cosmic Christ.

Reflection, 25 June 2017  (Mt 10:26-33)

To all of us, the gift of the Life which speaks up and proclaims itself from housetops beyond secrets and fears.  I am having a little laugh as I write these words after reading about photosynthesis and the cyanobacteria who emerged with the appropriate mutations which allowed them to make use of sunlight as a new source of energy and then thinking of housetops – or rather roofs with solar panels proclaiming the latest search for energy that is life-giving for our common home.  I think of patterns repeating themselves in new ways thanks to the inherent trajectory of creation and the manifestations of our innermost identity as sparks of sacred fire.  The ultimate source of power is within and is what will carry us through any crisis as long as we pay attention to its whispering ‘in the dark’.

One ‘whisper in the dark’ for me came in an e-newsletter when I read about “Make Friends” [See Elijah Interfaith Institute ( http://elijah-interfaith.org/ ) ( youtube.com/MakeFriends )].  Pope Francis is one of many prominent religious leaders speaking out on the need to reach across religious boundaries and I think of Jesus, our ultimate Friend.  The message is that we need to be alive and growing within our own faith traditions – and so for us Christians to ‘acknowledge Jesus, the Cosmic Christ’ amongst ourselves as well as ‘before others’ as today’s Gospel tells us.  The whisper seems to call me to step out of my comfort zones, face my fears and be more of a friend and also seemed to call me to suggest to the organisers of the project that the story of our evolving Universe (as being revealed by scientists) might be a resource for the shared journey.  I have made that suggestion via email and trust that the Spirit will continue to guide and to turn small offerings into great gifts.

I can imagine that the era of cyanobacteria began with one individual cell able to pass on its unique gift through its DNA.  Over at least a million years (possibly even a billion), these bacteria ruled Earth and their growth in numbers resulted in the great gift of an atmosphere with a significant proportion of oxygen.  That pattern is still required today as we participate in old and new ways of cleaning up our water and air and in ongoing evolution into increasing complexity.  I wonder if Jesus’ ‘command’ to ‘not be afraid of what can kill the body’ includes the threats of these times, including terrorism, climate change and addictions, and if ‘what can destroy both soul and body’ is still darkness and lack of faith in our minds and hearts.  It may be that individuals ‘in Christ’ who acknowledge this ‘fear’ may have a small gift which the Spirit can transform and multiply for the sake of all.

Other ‘whispers’ in the last week include a reminder of ‘commitment’ in the homily echoing a challenge of the past month as well as a sense of being my affirmed as I reached out in recent conversations with three other brothers.  I suspect that being ‘acknowledged before our Father in heaven’ is something that occurs here-and-now whenever I strengthen my commitment by speaking about the whispers and my understanding of the work of the Spirit and that I sense the acknowledgement when I sit and breathe in the dark.  This seems to me to be a readily available source of life-giving energy.

May each of us acknowledge the Great Source of Life and Love bringing us together as friends for the sake of our common home.

Reflection, 18 June 2017.  (Body and Blood of Christ)

To all of us, the fullness of the life which comes from consuming the totality of Jesus’ body and blood.  This weekend, I attended a workshop on the Enneagram which reminded me of the energy, peace and joy which I touch occasionally when I operate out of my higher self.  These are the moments when I know that I am loved, that all aspects of my body, heart and mind are ‘called to the table’ to play their parts.  I am challenged again to ‘take in’ my fears and my avoiding of Mystery’s plans for me and to trust that I do belong to the Body of the Christ with its wounds and its resurrection – that Love desires me to benefit completely from the self-giving which is the signature of Jesus and of the Universe.

Much of my thinking about belonging to this ‘Body’ was affirmed for me by the deacon (married) who gave the homily at Mass.  Many of our problems as ‘church’ can be seen as symptoms of a lack of deep relationship with Christ, each other and our deeper selves.  We teach and learn ‘about’ our religion before we have become ‘disciples’ who are attracted to the Spirit amongst us and who desire to be healed, to learn and to participate in evolving ways.  We teach about ‘the table’ and miss out on the reality of ‘body and blood’ – the messiness of life both Jesus’ and our own.  We talk about ‘Eucharist’ with little appreciation for the value of giving thanks for the love and self-giving of the Universe Being who blesses all aspects of belonging within the web of life.  I sense the Spirit calling for change.

The promise of ‘life’ which carries through to Resurrection can be imagined in the possibilities suggested by scientists for the origins of the great oceans of our common home.  I try to imagine the messiness of the collision of two planetesimals which resulted in our Earth and moon and which could have produced a darkened atmosphere full of dirt and dust.  Thanks to its cooling effect coming at the same time as the planet’s surface cools, the water vapour (from volcanoes and perhaps other sources) condenses and falls as rain instead of being blown away into space as seems to have happened on other planets.  The ‘body’ of Earth has its ‘life-blood’.  Thanks, too, for the first life then able to form in these waters and evolve over billions of years into us ‘in Christ’ and expressing gratitude.  The story of Moses and water from the desert rock might be an echo of these great happenings.

May each of us grow in gratitude for all dimensions of the body and blood of the Cosmic Christ who continues to invite us to ‘eat and drink’ at all levels of our participation in Mystery.

John 6:35  Wisdom’s Bread

Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life.  Anyone who comes to me will never be hungry.  Anyone who believes in me will never be thirsty.”

Yeshua said to them: ‘The “I Am” is the bread of renewable life energy. When you reconnect your small self – the elemental “I” – to the only “I”, Depth and Source of all identity, you energise the animal life in you.
The freshness of food – its palpable “I am” – feeds the life of all beings receiving it.
This Simple Presence is Holy Wisdom’s daughter, the fruit of natural vigour created in the beginning.
So the “I” fully aware of its ephemeral nature, the germ of individuality’s seed, fuels a passion for what is fresh and verdant.
The self that is conscious of its Self, resting in the eye of desire’s hurricane, touches the energy-filled, energy-less centre – the Living One that was, is and will be, present in every breath.
Whoever travels with and through the Simple Presence coming through me, joined with the I-I of Holy Wisdom, uniting one to many at the table of the One, will find themselves fulfilled on all levels of life, from age to age, from gathering to gathering.
Their inner voices will gather at Wisdom’s table without the gnawing that remains after consuming food that does not nourish or drink that leaves us weakened and dried out inside – all that separates us from our own Simple Presence.’

(Neil Douglas-Klotz, “Desert Wisdom” p103,104)

Reflection, 11 June 2017.  (Trinity Sunday)

To all of us, the grace of growing faith in the Incarnate One who reveals Love.  Somehow, thousands of years ago, some humans came to know deeply that the Creator knows, loves and nurtures them and their companions into life.  Moses was one, followed by Jesus, Paul and countless others.  Somehow, that same message is making its slow way from my head to my heart and I wonder how that can be and what it means for me and my communities.  The readings today say little about what to do in terms of actions and much about believing as though faith is all that matters.  I suspect that I can be one of the ‘headstrong people’ in many different ways, not fully trusting the Mystery ‘rich in kindness and faithfulness.’  I am glad that this Lord is marked by tenderness, compassion and forgiveness.

For these couple of weeks, I am house-sitting in Melbourne in order to take care of my sister’s dog while she is away.  I am finding it to be an invitation to experience love in new ways, including doing less and simply ‘being with’ my aging companion on our daily walks as he takes time to put his nose into various places and progress slowly up the hills on the return trek.  I am not used to responding to another’s needs and wants on a daily basis no matter what the weather or calls of ‘duty’ and I sense that I am beginning to touch what it means to be ‘in the image and likeness’ of our loving Creator.  This is how he deals with me and now it is my turn to be compassionate, patient and joyful because it is in my nature: everyone’s nature.  Perhaps I am growing into something which is needed more and more in our seemingly more divided and still headstrong societies:  a deeper sense of ‘the fellowship of the Holy Spirit’ – the most life-giving way forward.

As I begin to doubt my ability to make a difference in this world loved totally by the one Source, I think of the Moon’s significance for life.  This celestial body, likely ‘born’ from our planet, is perhaps one hundredth the mass of Earth and seems to be one key factor among many in our evolving.  Through its size and proximity, it helps by moderating how much Earth’s axis wobbles and so enables our seasons to come and go without drastic changes and almost-permanent boiling summers and freezing winters.  At the same time, it is causing a slowing of Earth’s rotation while it is moving further away (at 3.8cm/year, it is said).  The Universe seems to be comprised of ‘fellowships’ like this which contribute to increasing complexity even as they themselves evolve.  I suspect that what is true of the larger scales is also true on the human scale – if only we have the eyes to see and the faith to believe.

I give thanks for grace, the gift flowing through the Christ and available to all, for my glimpses of life evolving in and around me – from walks in the park with dogs to celestial bodies seen and unseen.  It is a living flow, building on the past, operating in every present moment and providing stepping stones into the future (much as the Moon has been the first step for humans to journey beyond Earth’s confines).  I dare to believe that Love has much more with which to grace me and all my communities so that we can give even more of ourselves according to the patterns of incarnation and evolution.

May each of us believe more and more in our unique place in the life of our Loving Trinity.

Reflection, 4 June 2017.  (Pentecost)

To all of us, the excitement of being caught up in the sound of Love’s power flowing through creation.  I wonder about the ‘sound’ heard by the disciples and then by the crowds and what emotions may have been stirred by memories of powerful and violent winds and then by the realisation that there were no visible signs of destruction and chaos.  Perhaps that sound manifested itself in the excited and joyful exclamations of those bewildered by the outpouring of Spirit and then in the gift of speech heralding the birth of a new era in which this Spirit is available to all.  As we heard in our homily today, it is about understanding each other, having a common language (of love) and growing together as one family.

I have recently seen the movie “Don’t Tell” which highlights for me another aspect of ‘common language’:  that of wounds and suffering.  The gospel reading reminds us that Jesus displays his wounds to the disciples locked away in fear and the story in the film concerns a victim of child abuse wanting to ‘display’ in court her story of betrayal, terror and rage.  In both cases, the result is new life for those open to the Spirit, whether they recognise and name it or not.  The destruction and chaos are present in individuals’ hearts and minds as well as in relationships lacking understanding and compassion.  The Spirit is available in all these circumstances and more, and we all choose with a yes or a no.

I sense a daunting responsibility to say ‘yes’ to participating in this sound of the Spirit when it comes to forgiveness and especially to ‘retaining’ sins like abuse, denial and cover-ups.  Jesus seems to be sending people like me and my communities to ‘make noise’ – to proclaim and live in his peace and joy while calling for metanoia.  I can only give thanks and rejoice for my own small and limited experiences of saying ‘yes’ and of Love’s flow.

I consider, too, how all of us participate in small but significant ways in the Creator Spirit’s immense flow throughout our evolving Universe.  I read that a supernova event happened about 4.6 billion years ago ‘near’ a giant cloud of gas and dust.  It was not ‘sound waves’ at work but ‘shock waves’ which disturbed and compressed the cloud and began its collapse, through gravity, into a new, smaller star with a series of planets, one of which is now our common home, Earth.  The violent, explosive death of one star provided the material and energy source for the variety of life which continues to unfold into new entities and ways of thinking in both minds and hearts.  I dare to say, “Jesus is Lord of all these happenings!” and to give thanks for the grace of being aware of deeper and larger dimensions of his ‘body’.

May each of us be open to the ever-new sounds of the Spirit flowing and rejoicing in and around us and the worlds to which we are sent.

Reflection, 28 May 2017.  (Ascension)

To all of us, the wonder of ‘ascending’ in Christ to the Realm of being fully alive. According to a priest in a sermon I heard recently, one belief held by many people two thousand years ago was that the ‘heavens’ were held up by mountains and so the tops of mountains were ‘thin places’ where the two ‘worlds’ met and where the Realm of the Divine could be accessed.  Today’s readings mention both the mountain and the cloud, references to where the resurrected Jesus ‘returns’, the place of Sacred Oneness in which he rules all domains, seen and unseen, from the depths of emptiness to the horizons of our expanding Universe.  For two thousand years, he commands his followers to be his witnesses, to proclaim this story with its message of Loving Presence.  

Somehow, I am one of these disciples – more like one of those who doubt and hesitate – and I find that my belief grows when I respond spontaneously and wanes when I think too much and my fears and resentments take over.  I have my own ideas and plans – and am learning from the Spirit that there is an unimaginable power and trajectory sweeping me along in a vastly bigger, living picture.  I suspect that allowing myself to be in tune with these desires and blueprints of the Cosmic Christ is how I can be an ‘ascended’ human being and a true herald.  I am learning that vacuuming, sweeping and tidying up inside and out, significant elements of my past week, all belong in this spirit-scape even when I think otherwise.

The Mystery of how this happens is highlighted for me in three versions of a phrase in Ephesians (1:18): ‘the eyes of your mind’, ‘the eyes of your heart’ and ‘the eyes of your inmost self’.  The first version I read last week mentioned ‘heart’ and so I am encouraged to practise focussing my attention there where the heart-brain (heart-mind?) functions and seems to be an essential ingredient in living life fully.  I am learning that this focus does ‘lift my spirit’ – makes me more of an ‘ascended’ being with moments of love for the Sacred in me as well as in my neighbours.  I thank the Trinity for enlivening me thus far.

I wonder about the presence in creation of these patterns of waxing and waning, of losing and finding, of chaos and new life.  I see hints of it in descriptions of our galaxy, the Milky Way, where turmoil, gas, dust and various powers give rise to perhaps 7 new stars every year, and where its approximately 200,000 stars make up about 10% of its total mass with about 90% being ‘dark matter’ and mystery.  It seems to have been growing with a life of its own as it has absorbed other smaller galaxies in its approximately 13.6 billion years and now may be ‘attracting’ and absorbing stars from the Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy.  This may be what a ‘fully alive’ galaxy looks like in an ‘alive’ local group of galaxies which is part of a supercluster.  Looking up into the sky as Jesus’ disciples did when he vanished from ordinary sight may not be a waste of time when it reveals the hope, glories and power available to those who allow themselves to be swept up in the full life of his body, in his communities, galaxies and clusters.  I can only give thanks that it is one small step at a time.

May each of us grow in our living and teaching of these commands and blueprints written in the heavens and on our hearts.

Reflection, 21 May 2017.  (Jn 14:15-21)

To all of us, the growing life and knowing of the Advocate who helps us to see the Cosmic Christ.  I note that the heart is referred to again in today’s readings – in Peter’s letter – and I wonder if that is where we are to receive and keep Jesus’ commandments.  I suspect that they become the ‘law written on our hearts’ which is where the Trinity dwells and where Jesus is revealed in one most significant aspect.  They are also written in the ‘heavens’ and in our neighbours – all aspects of the One Mystery.

It occurred to me, when I read that Jesus will show himself to those who love him, that he is showing deep dimensions of himself as Cosmic Christ through the work of many scientists today.  Some astronomers have given the name Laniakea to the giant supercluster of galaxies which includes our Milky Way and approximately 100,000 other galaxies, grouped in smaller superclusters.  They believe that there is a Great Attractor organising Laniakea and suspect that the supercluster will be torn apart by ‘dark energy’.  I see echoes here of the Paschal Mystery where the Creator Spirit sets the pattern followed by Jesus who lived in obedience to his ‘Father’, was ‘torn apart’ and was raised to new life.  All those who are ‘in Christ’ live according to the same pattern and can expect suffering as Peter says in his letter.  I try to think of Laniakea with its unimaginable size and of Earth, one of trillions of planets, and of me and my communities who are loved by this Presence – and am not sure whether to laugh or cry so I alternate between them with wonder and gratitude that we exist and are known by name.

On Friday, I attended the funeral of my sister’s sister-in-law.  Relatives came from different parts of Australia and shared this moment of grief and of celebrating a life which had endured years of suffering from cancer.  Somehow, she is now ‘in Christ’ in an unimaginable way, participating in the foundational powers of galaxies and black holes with what we imagine to be peace, joy and self-giving love.  We imagine this because we experience it here and now.  I had a taste of it when chatting to some of her relatives, especially her (adult) children in the pub afterwards.  I can only thank the Advocate/Helper for providing me with a mixture of certainty, peace and some ‘right words’ to say, especially when I explained who I am and my connection to a place of ecology and spirituality.  It was another occasion when conversations involving Trinity, Spirit, suffering and much more seem to bring comfort, aliveness and hope to those who are open and searching – especially to me.  I can only wonder and give thanks.

May each of us experience more and more of the inner and outer depths of our loving and evolving Cosmic Christ who searches in and through us for hearts where the Spirit can dance.

Reflection, 14 May 2017. (Jn 14:1-12)

To all of us, the joy and wonder of participating in the greater works of the Christ.  Last Sunday, I joined other brothers in our ‘Circles of Empowerment’ with discussion around the child abuse issue.  Today, a week later, I wonder how much I, and many of us, believe in the ‘human one’ who is ‘the way, the truth and the life’.  There were some in my circle who sense, like me, that we have not fully learnt the lessons of this dimension of our past and that this is an opportunity for something new – and now I wonder if it could be an opportunity for one of these ‘greater works’ possible through the guidance of the Spirit.  The growing challenge for me is to believe that Jesus reveals a Father/Mother who knows me personally – and I am excited at the prospects.

On Wednesday, I participated in a reflection day with the theme of ‘truth’.  While many interesting and thought-provoking things were said, Jesus the Christ and his words from today’s Gospel were not mentioned and I came away feeling sad and ashamed that I did not say anything about my belief that ‘Truth’ is a person more than a ‘notion’ and that this Cosmic Being is incarnated in our evolving Universe – is a ‘living stone’ and full of possibility.  My fear of rejection is still strong and I am grateful for the moments when I sense that I do belong to the community featured in the other readings.  Part of the challenge is to trust that being rejected is a dimension of Jesus’ way and to find support in those believing communities.

I imagine those early communities of Jesus’ followers grew in numbers because they experienced him through their companions, shared their stories and found that they could indeed live in new and more loving ways.  The leaders, the Apostles, talked about the Christ because he was and is the ‘great attractor’ at the centre of everything.  I wonder how much we as religious and Church people have lost the sense of his Life and presence as the foundation and corner-stone of our lives – and so there is no great power of attraction in us.  I have made timid efforts to proclaim my faith and I sense that the necessary dimension is a faith community.  I dare to believe that ‘great works’ are happening in and around me even though I do not see.

I find it interesting that each galaxy and cluster of galaxies has been formed around a ‘great attractor’ in the form of a ‘black hole’ which is very dynamic with a ‘life’ of its own.  By organising stars and clouds of dust, it creates opportunities for succeeding generations of super-nova events to continue the processes of evolution from fundamental particles all the way to life ‘in Christ’ and the challenges outlined in ‘Laudato Si’, perhaps another of the ‘greater works’ of this Anthropocene Era.  The pattern is inscribed in the heavens and in our inner worlds – and we have the choice.  I choose to ‘see’ Jesus the Christ more and more until I ‘see’ the Father, Creative Love, and how I can participate in new ways in the Life of ‘I Am’.

May each of us experience Great Love revealing itself in and around us with compassion and joy to be shared throughout our common home.

Reflection, 30 April 2017.  (Lk 24:13-35)

To all of us, the sense of ‘hearts burning within’ as we journey with companions sharing our hopes in Jesus.  Several months ago, a member of our extended community lent me a book to read, “The Roots of Christian Mysticism”, which I intended to read and which I have put aside on a couple of occasions, until this weekend.  It is as though the Spirit has put it into my hands again, gently, as an area for me to explore on my way ‘to Emmaus’ and back ‘to Jerusalem.’  Cleopas and his companion would have been on this path when they followed Jesus before the crucifixion and needed to update their understanding because of it.  The few pages which I have read tell me that it is always an unfolding journey inspired by our inherent, deep desire for wholeness and relationship with the All.  I pray that I can walk this ‘way’, sharing the experience of updating and evolving with others.

At the end of this week, I had the task of preparing the PowerPoint and the music for the liturgy (and then operating the system during Mass).  I was pleased with the results as well as the comments from some parishioners afterwards and especially pleased in the sacristy when I joined a conversation and our priest commented that he had a ‘revelation’ from the final song about Jesus’ presence in our companions.  The Spirit was mentioned several times by different people and I had a sense of being in the company of others walking this way of mysticism.  As in the Gospel story, the Trinity became manifest when we talked of hopes and blessings and my ‘heart’ – my heart-brain – became excited and joyful.  It happens at unexpected times and places and invites me to become more aware in every present moment.

The happenings began billions of years ago when the first electrons, protons and neutrons were formed and, in turn, joined together to produce nuclei which later became the centre of atoms.  When hydrogen fused to form helium, a new element was produced with a release of energy and light – still happening in our Sun.  For us and others like Cleopas, the new element is in our understanding of the power of the cross and how it is the way to new life rather than the way in which Jesus might save us from suffering.  I am grateful for Richard Rohr for helping me change my thinking and for the Spirit for the affirming sense of ‘energy and light’ in my inner world.  Perhaps the call includes being open to new ways of breaking and sharing the ‘bread’ broken for all.

I suspect that Jesus, in revealing the ‘light-matter’ of his resurrected body, is still calling me and my communities to his story as depicted in all scriptures, first, ‘old’ and ‘new’, and to conversations about them and him where he will open our eyes to see what this new era of creation holds.  Like Cleopas and his companion, it will be a matter of urgency to return to the larger gathering and share the excitement and the wonder of it all before speaking out to the crowds as Peter does in the reading from Acts.  My challenge is to believe that the Spirit is doing something like that in and through me when I take steps on the way of mysticism.

May each of us encounter the resurrected Jesus, Christ and Lord of all, and grow in faith that ‘light-matter’ is our present reality.

Reflection, 23 April 2017.  (Jn 20:19-31)

May each of us grow in the life which comes through believing that the Messiah is Jesus, now and forever Son of God and Lord of all.  I have been dreaming and wondering about being part of a ‘new’ community for several years and was invited in a commentary to reflect on the community portrayed in today’s Gospel reading.  We see a group of disciples huddled in fear with at least one missing who has strong doubts about Jesus and possible resurrection.  Their human frailties, their ‘wounds’, are obvious and then Jesus appears and displays his wounded hands and side.  It is a community of the wounded who can rejoice in suffering and in the vibrant peace which comes through clinging to faith tested in fire.  This is the community which lives and grows in the first reading and throughout the Christian scriptures up to here and now.  It was attracting new members then and attracts me now as the true locus of living life fully.

The reading from Acts lists four essential aspect of the community – the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer.  I suspect that all these need much greater emphasis throughout our Church and that issues such as child abuse are symptoms of their absence.  This may be where we are called to the way of forgiveness which Jesus highlights in his appearance to the disciples and in the way of praying he taught them.  Mercy is instantaneous for those who bring their wounds into his company and describes the core business of his friends and companions and what it means to ‘have life through his name’ – through crosses and resurrections.

As I reflect on the Jesus in the Easter readings as one who can be touched, who eats and who appears and disappears at will, I think of the beginnings of our Universe when the first forms to emerge within the expanding energetic ball were particles, electrons, neutrons, protons and more.  I wonder if Jesus the Christ is the ultimate form of energy embracing both dimensions of creation as well as the promise of the ultimate destiny of all entities.  Perhaps this is the source of the joyful peace he gives to those who believe and begin to live as best they can in both these dimensions here and now, an inner peaceful joy in the midst of the testing, fiery energies of transformation and expansion.

Another echo of our expanding and unfolding Universe is evident in the growth of the early community of disciples as others were attracted to the energy and healing of the Spirit at work.  The ball of energy continues to expand and make spaces for new entities to emerge as the gravitational powers of attraction brought existing forms together.  On Thursday, I went along to a ‘space’ at Treacy Centre, attracted by the possibility of meeting an Indigenous man who has written a book titled ‘Dark Emu’ which outlines some of the little-known truths of what happened when early explorers and settlers came in contact with Indigenous people across Australia.  The colonists’ reports of cultivation, engineering, organisation, culture, sharing, joy and peace were ignored by authorities in order to permit the taking of the land from the ‘savages’ (by those who probably called themselves Christians).  There are many symptoms of the lack of true community in Christ where all come together to share in the new humanity revealed in resurrection.

May all of us share in resurrection-life in communities centred on the wounded Christ.

Reflection, 16 April 2017.  (Easter)

To all of us, the excitement and grace of the first day of New Creation.  On this ‘first day’ which began with Jesus’ Resurrection and is still unfolding, I wonder about the way in which creation is ‘new’ for me and all followers of Christ.  I like the suggestion that what is new is the ‘mind of Christ’ and the pattern of ‘self-emptying’ which Jesus reveals and Paul describes in Philippians 2.  In accord with our evolving Universe which began with the chaos and energies of the ‘big bang’ and the combining of fundamental particles to form ever more complex entities, this ‘Mind’ is forged in the chaos of human fears and violence to reveal itself as the energy and blueprint of the Love at the heart of creation.  It is a ‘new’ way of thinking and imagining which is as much part of creation as matter and the human spirit.

My experience of being a first-time ‘commentator’ during the three ceremonies of the Sacred Triduum in our parish this Easter has invited me to reflect on how I am challenged to think and to act in new ways, not just for those attending the liturgies but also for my communities as fear and chaos seem to increase around the world.  I was called to give up my ‘identity’ as the quiet one in the background and become more ‘complex’ by adding the dimension of being the one who knows what is happening in the ceremonies and who guides others in their participation.  It was one thing to make sure that books were open at the correct reading, to prepare and light the fire and to sweep the outside area for the vigil gathering.  It was another thing to be ready at the microphone to explain the parts of each liturgy and to do so in a way that encouraged insight and reflection.  I proved to be a beginner, a novice disciple, as a liturgist, with memory blanks and omissions and I come away trusting that the Spirit could work wonders with my stumbling efforts.  I am evolving as ‘disciple’ and sense that the ‘mind of Christ’ is the core element which must evolve in me – in my heart-brain.

A commentary which stays with me describes how the Easter story is really the story of what the Creator is doing to bring to reality this ‘mind’ in Jesus and those who believe in him.  Beginning 13.8 billion years ago and continuing through Jesus’ conception, birth, baptism, wilderness experience, transfiguration, miracles, death and resurrection, the Power of Love has produced forms and events which were unimagined.  A few months ago, I did not imagine being behind a microphone at Easter and I can only trust that there are many more surprises to come for all disciples as evolution continues.  Perhaps there will be further lessons in being guide and commentator, in participating in rituals and in paying attention to heart energies.  It is more likely that there will be experiences completely unexpected and unimagined – and challenges to deeper faith.

I suspect that a significant challenge for these times is to keep believing in and telling the story of Jesus the Christ as so many of the Easter readings depict.  I did sense a taste of the excitement when I was speaking as commentator and consider that this is the area where I am still a novice disciple as I have been since I started classroom teaching forty-four years ago.  Somehow it is always fresh and new as the Spirit works in my heart-brain to guide me in different circumstances where science and biblical studies have so much more to contribute.  It is still ‘day 1’ of this Resurrection Era and I dare to believe that I and my communities are ‘in Christ’ and participating in the dance of the Trinity.

May each of us keep going back ‘to Galilee’ where discipleship begins.

Reflection, 9 April 2017.  (Palm Sunday of the Passion)

To all of us, loving faithfulness in helplessness and death.  We could not begin today’s Palm Sunday liturgy outside because of rain (and cold winds) so it had a different feel to it, especially as I had the role of ‘commentator’ which I have not done before.  The weather changed our plans and reminded me that, even in little ways, the Spirit has plans for me and my communities of surprise and delight and I am called to participate in a bigger picture.  I had thought of saying that the readings invite us to consider what kind of Messiah we wish to welcome to our town and what kind of Messiah actually wants to come to our hearts.  I lost my thoughts in the organisational details and came to reflect that the one coming to my heart has learnt on the cross to let go of all this and much more.  To be ‘in Christ’ is to lose clothes, dignity, friends, expectations, any sense of being chosen, and life itself – because that is the nature of the Universe Being.

At the usual gathering in the café later, there was some discussion of President Trump’s decision to send missiles into the air-base in Syria.  It is easy to feel some sympathy for the action taken in response to the use of chemical weapons and I found it increasingly difficult to hold on to the image of Jesus on the cross and to his command to ‘put away the sword’ as the only way appropriate to his Reign of Empowerment.  I wonder if to be fully ‘in Christ’ includes challenging the modern-day Caesars, Pilates and High Priests as well as fellow parishioners to a life of self-emptying and humility as the only way to healing and Resurrection.  I pray that I can hold that image and give witness to it in my life.

As I look outside and see the wind and rain, I know that branches will fall off trees and the tree will keep growing and that, most likely, some trees will fall and the forest will remain.  I imagine that Christ’s Body, at the levels of Universe and of Church, follows the same ‘law’ especially when its ‘head’ undergoes a similar experience.  The present era of Earth’s history is being called the ‘Anthropocene’ because we humans are having a significant impact on its future direction.  Jesus shows us how to be fully human in the face of the inevitable suffering and death which are significant steps in the evolutionary paths of all entities from molecules to galaxies and beyond.  I sense that this is what it looks like when Love becomes manifest in increasingly complex ways – with increasingly complex waves of energy resonating to inform new modes of being.  It is Mystery at work and it involves birthing-pains – and I dare to believe that I am participating in it.

Whether in the wilderness or the garden, there are temptations to be faced and the attributes of a disciple will be required, including an open ear and a tongue ready to speak.  Jesus has little to say in words in today’s Gospel stories and much to depict in symbolic actions and in silence.  He rides a donkey, holds bread and wine and prays in terror for alternatives.  The people of our era still need to hear these stories and how they echo the rhythms of our unfolding Universe.  I dare to believe that Jesus is the Cosmic Christ and supreme ‘blueprint’ of what it is to be loving and free.

May each of us grow in freedom and faith when all seems dark and helpless on our resurrection journeys.

Reflection, 2 April 2017.  (Jn 11:1-45)

To all of us, the unbinding into freedom which comes from faith in ‘Resurrection Jesus’.  I can say in my head that ‘Jesus is Resurrection and Life’ and that ‘I Am (is) resurrection and life’ and wonder how much my heart knows and understands this as a matter of faith and mystery.  I read (Tom Wright) that Jesus may have spent those two days before returning to Bethany in prayer and I wonder how much he was asking ‘I Am’ for Lazarus’ resurrection and how much he was listening for his Father’s will.  The suggestion is that he was asking for the sign of ‘no stench’ as an indication that his prayer had been answered and I can imagine that he was very relieved and grateful when the stone was moved.  He could call out to Lazarus knowing that the witnesses would be both affirmed and challenged in their minds and hearts.

It makes sense to me that Jesus grew in faith this way and the story challenges me to listen ‘in the Spirit’ to hear what to pray for and then to pray for as long as required and until the prompt to act.  I wonder if I spend too much time waiting and praying for a resurrection of religious life for me and my communities or if there is more for us to learn and we are slow learners.  Martha and Mary had much to learn and what they experienced was way beyond their expectations.  I dare to believe that we will be witnesses to something now unimaginable if and when we, like the sisters, go out to meet Jesus on the road with our ‘if’s and our grief – and he says, “If you believe!”

Ezekiel’s vision and message from the valley of dry bones speak of the spirit, being raised from graves and living on our own soil.  I wonder how much this is about returning to our beginnings as religious and followers of the Christ, especially in these times of cyclones, floods and other effects of climate change.  Here in Glenburn we have moved from a summer which has been warmer and dryer than usual into a week that feels like winter with little rain and temperatures ranging between about 4° or 5° and 16° or 17°.  We may be heading back into a more normal autumn but predictions, like those of flood levels in Queensland and NSW, have significant margins of error.  It seems to be the other side of the ‘unimaginable’ with much to grieve and many ‘if’s to ponder.  

It is comforting to believe that Jesus is still weeping for the sufferings of creation just as he wept for Lazarus, Martha and Mary – and possibly for his own fate as he grew in the understanding that cruel death and burial is the only way for him (and us) to resurrection. He, too, could read the signs of the Creator’s power and the way in which the universe evolves in complexity.  Today’s circumstances of war and climate change continue to provide opportunities ‘for God’s glory’ to be revealed so that our faith may be strengthened.  We are called to join Thomas and the other disciples in saying that we will go and ‘die with him’ – and trust in Resurrection.

May each of us experience the unbinding of our hearts and the unimagined new life which comes from sharing both death and resurrection ‘in Christ’.

John 11:25  Resurrection
Inana nuhama wa hayye
I am the resurrection and the life.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection.
If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live,
and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”

Yeshua said to Martha: Connecting I to the Only I, Simple Presence, is the only repose and refuge after a journey of agitation. The self conscious of its Self can then change house, move to a new revivified life, when the old habits and habitation fade away.  This “resurrection” is the point of pause, the still point in the pendulum’s swing, energised by the Holy One’s creative peace.
Whoever has the same faith that I do, who trusts and believes as I do, even if they have passed through the doorway between this life and the next, between this world and another, between this small self and a new one, they shall find both energised rest and a renewed sense of purpose to carry them further on the way.

(Neil Douglas-Klotz, “Desert Wisdom” p205)

Reflection, 26 March 2017.  (Jn 9:1-41)

To all of us, the eyes which see the light at the heart of our existence.  I am encouraged by the notion that one can be ‘born blind’ so that Mercy and Truth might be revealed.  One aspect of my blindness is touched on by St Paul when he says in the second reading, “Try to discover what the Lord wants of you, . . ..” and I think of the suffering of our world in its many aspects and wonder how I am called to ‘be light’ – especially the light which exposes the works of darkness by contrasting works of love.  Samuel reminds me that ‘the Lord looks at the heart’ and so I am encouraged to do the same as an ‘image and likeness’ of the YHWH: to involve my heart more and more as an image and likeness of the heart of Jesus.

The Gospel story points me in the direction of growing from blindness to light.  Jesus sees the man born blind and is very aware of the possibilities for healing and for his kingdom work.  The man’s eyes are opened and he refers to ‘the man called Jesus’ whom soon he calls ‘prophet’ as people keep questioning him.  I imagine that this call to provide answers is the stimulus to his seeing that Jesus must be ‘from God’ and finally to understanding that Jesus is ‘Son of Man’ and Lord.  This is at least part of what the Trinity ‘wants’ of and for me and my communities and suggests the sort of searching conversations in which to engage.

On Wednesday, some of us went along to an Earthsong day of reflecting on ‘beauty’ (part of a triad with truth and goodness to come later in the year).  The significant learning for all of us was to see ‘beauty’ as ‘experience’ rather than just observation and thinking.  In the brief conversations which were part of each session, what stayed with me was the challenge to ‘participate’ in beauty and to do so as Jesus does in situations like the one with the man born blind. I wonder if doing this ‘in Christ’ involves bringing ‘light’ into darkness both inner and outer and to restore harmony and the fullness of life all the way to the joy of seeing another being becoming a disciple who also participates in sharing the way of beauty.  I have recently enjoyed the new movie ‘Beauty and the Beast’ which touched me and affirmed for me the power of self-sacrificing love to bring about change and to deepen relationships.

Another aspect of the call which I am sensing is that of participating in rituals which focus on the power inherent in creation as Jesus does in his use of mud and saliva.  Each situation may contain its unique symbolic act which will be revealed when the focus is on the light in one’s heart as well as on the entire landscape of the occasion.  There is the challenge to see how the
Spirit combines a great diversity of solids and liquids to create the beauty of every being and every ecosystem and how the movements of ‘go and wash’ calls for faith and obedience as inherent dimensions of being fully alive.

May each of us come to see the ways in which we are blind and how they are opportunities for the Creator to love us into participating fully in the Realm of Light.

Reflection, 19 March 2017.  (Jn 4:5-42)

To all of us, the living water of right relationships with our Saviour, the Cosmic Christ.  In our part of Australia, there has been little rain so far this month with temperatures above average and bushfire dangers increasing.  The next couple of days are expected to bring humidity, rain and even minor flooding.  Jesus at Jacob’s well seems to be following a similar pattern with a trek in the heat and with slow-to-learn disciples followed by ‘food that you do not know about’ and two days of hospitality and growing the Reign of the Love.  It happened through hunger and thirst on different levels which led to dialogue and shared vulnerability.  The woman’s dried up heart becomes bubbling spring through a deep encounter with the Christ.

My thirsting took me to a day of reflection on Tuesday to hear and converse about Consecrated Life for today.  In some ways, I heard nothing new and yet came away enlivened and affirmed from this encounter with Jesus in the form of fellow Religious.  One new term was ‘de-link’ – to hold lightly past circumstances and dreams for the future so that they do not dominate while they are not forgotten.  The readings about Moses, Paul, the woman and Jesus himself demonstrate the process in action where they turn to Divine Presence – in their hearts – and Love flows in new forms.  The call to us Religious included that we be the ‘yeast’ (even more than being a ‘critical mass’) for the transformation of ‘the world’ through our contemplation and ‘radical availability’ in each present moment.  I wonder how the Spirit is leading me (and my communities) into this realm of prophetic hope.

On Friday, I joined a small family gathering to celebrate my sister’s birthday and experienced the joys and hopes of past and future, especially in the presence of her only grandchild who has been in hospital in his 17 months of life more times than I have been in all my years.  On this occasion, he was happy, alert, exploring and bringing joy to all.  I wonder what environmental factors impact on him and on his generation and how I can be ’yeast’ keeping hope alive.  The basics include an evolving relationship with the Christ and living in his hunger and thirst for me and for all members of his family.  In today’s Gospel story, they include also acknowledging him as ‘saviour of the world.’

In one Lenten programme, I read that ‘less than 1% of Earth’s total water is available for our use’ and that ‘access to safe drinking water is a basic and universal human right.’  All of this is under threat from pollution and market forces and it may be a growing issue for future generations.  The water offered by Jesus is also a basic right and needs people like the woman at the well to proclaim its truth and power here and now.  I pray that I can respond as she did when next I take my shame and vulnerability to the well where the Saviour is waiting for me to join him in spreading good news.

May each of us drink more and more of what Jesus offers and celebrate in him as we lead others to his well.

Reflection, 12 March 2017.  (Mt 17:1-9)

To all of us, the grace of being transfigured in Christ as we listen to, follow and proclaim him.  A word which has stayed with me in the last week is ‘vulnerability’.  It appeared in two passages which I read and then was highlighted when I saw the movie ‘Moonlight’.  I wondered about the energy which seems to ‘light up my face’ when I engage in conversations about Jesus and being loved and forgiven.  It is like an echo of transfiguration and I sensed it in the journey of reconciliation made by the two boys / young men in the story on the screen where fear and despair feature significantly.  Both of them took risks and edged their way into honesty and vulnerability and I am aware of that ongoing challenge for myself.

I note that Jesus was transfigured when he was in conversation with Oneness, prophets and disciples and I can imagine that the memory of it stayed with him as the echoes of it stay with me and that it was an encouragement when he was on a different hill where he was abandoned, suffering and thirsting.  The message on both occasions was the same: that he is indeed faithful ‘son’ with a mission which now includes me and my communities.  Vulnerability and glory are inseparable ingredients in transfiguration and resurrection.

I enjoyed a different taste of being vulnerable when I participated in a circle dance session on Saturday and was challenged to learn new steps of about a dozen dances and to persevere through trial and error.  Several of us were beginners and all of us enjoyed the moments of being true to the dance (not necessarily all at the same time) and it was a celebration of community and well-being.  It is another of the moments with a memory which encourage me as different challenges face all of us.

A significant community is in the news at the moment – the Great Barrier Reef and the very recent bleaching event.  Different articles described it as a natural wonder and as the largest living organism in our common home.  The abuse is very real and most likely to reoccur, even this year.  The causes include the lifestyle of me and my communities which makes us both perpetrators and victims with the challenge to bear the hardships for the sake of an even bigger organism, our planet Gaia, and its suffering as smaller holons are affected negatively.  We will need more and deeper memories of transfiguration’s echoes as we go further and further down the mountain slopes.

May each of us step deeper into vulnerability in the faith that transfiguration and its memories will keep coming.

Reflection, 5 March 2017.  (Mt 4:1-11)

To all of us, the Spirit of Lent revealing our temptations with their challenges and graces.  Our place here has been busy in the first few days of Lent with visitors coming and going and with all the work of hospitality and cleaning.  I had my ideas about how I could be more faithful and ‘obedient’ in this special season and it seems as though the Trinity has other plans – and ones designed to test my living from my heart.  I have had many opportunities to practise taking situations to my ‘heart-brain’ and trusting that an answer would come and that my frustrations would give way to blessings.  It is as though I wanted the ‘stones’ within and around me turned into ‘loaves’ – and I am beginning to learn about the inner realm where ‘words from the mouth of God’ are heard.

In the midst of partly cleaning the fish pond, vacuuming upstairs and down and driving in city traffic as well as through country road works, I became aware of ‘testing’ the Supreme Being with notions of rewards for my ‘good’ behaviour.  I am learning a new sense of what it means to live in each present moment where the reward is some awareness of serving and being open to Love flowing in and through me.  This is true worship and seems to me to be the essence of being human whereas Eve and Adam (and sometimes me) desired to be ‘like God’ with the wisdom of knowing the outer world and how to make it serve their wants.  Most of the time, I do not like the lessons which come my way until I can look back and see graces all around.  As well, there are opportunities to do better.

Last week’s 4Corners program ‘Oceans of Plastic’ (worth viewing) highlights one aspect in which many people and nations need to do much better.   Researchers say that we cannot account for millions of tonnes of plastic waste and that much of it may be in our oceans, on the ocean floor, breaking down into microscopic particles which float up and down with plankton and drift around on currents as ‘rafts’ for bacteria.  This plastic is entering the food chain – not yet at ‘dangerous’ levels – so it is another aspect of what we are learning about our world and how our lack of wisdom is impacting our common home.  I try to cut down on my use of plastic and am aware that I put some in a bin every day and that a huge effort from many people and communities is needed to deal with both the causes and consequences of our blindness.  We need Heart-Wisdom to follow the Spirit leading us into new kinds of wilderness and fasting.  I wonder if this is where I and my communities are called to serve.

I wonder, too, about St Paul’s words in the second reading where he speaks of ‘receiving’ the free gift which is not deserved.  In my reflection, the idea popped up that the real challenge is to ‘receive’ – not to take or ask or seek or do anything to earn it – just to be open to what is present in order to be its instrument.  Most likely, it will mean ‘wilderness’ and hungers of many kinds as well as the care of angels.  It may require taking off the loin-cloths made of fig-leaves and revealing our naked selves as forms of dust alive with the Creator’s breath.  Only in Christ can we see ‘Satan’ off.

May each of us know our temptations and the Wisdom in the heart of all our relationships as we grow in the service of Love.

Reflection, 26 Feb ’17.  (Mt 6:24-34)

May all of us live and grow in love with our hearts set on the Realm of the Sacred.  Jesus tells us one thing not to do and that is to worry about tomorrow.  I sense that I am doing that right now as I look ahead to the next few days here at home and so I am reminded, thanks to the Spirit, to focus on the here-and-now, to breathe and to remember the ‘Father’ who cherishes me, who knows my situation and is quite capable of supplying what I might need.  Part of my worry is that serving this master can involve activities from sweeping floors to being the prophet – and then being judged as Paul writes about in the second reading.  I pray that the Spirit will bring more healing to the shadows of my inner world.

These inner shadows are just as much a part of Love’s Realm as are the ‘heavens’ where more and more Earth-like planets are being discovered.  The Hubble telescope is one of dozens of pieces of equipment in space helping us to look back in time and to get some understanding of the powers, ‘rules’ and patterns of creation.  Edwin Hubble’s work revealed other galaxies and the possibility of a central point of origin for our expanding Universe.  I wonder how much of our world’s worry is related to a sense of our insignificance in the vastness of this realm which results from forgetting the intimate presence of its Creator.  I sense a call for me and my communities to be prophetic and be witnesses of the humility, wonder and gratitude required of worthy stewards entrusted with mysteries great and small.

The last Sunday of February is the day for St Pat’s Race Club, Yea, to hold its annual day of picnic (horse) races – fundraising for parish and school.  I look back at my stewardship with wonder and thanks for the jobs with which I was entrusted – driving the courtesy bus between the town centre and the track and then driving on the track itself  to take the racing stewards to their viewing platforms before each race.  The latter task was a last-minute surprise and caused me to worry if there would be time to do both tasks before the first race.  All went well and I enjoyed driving at 50km/hr on the grass and viewing some of the races from the towers.  The Spirit was giving me a different perspective on common events and the watchfulness required to ensure justice.

I enjoyed the day around the races, even the helping with some of the clean-up and preparation before and after.  Another enjoyable moment came on Friday when I was in conversation with another brother and we spoke of our lives as religious and as servants.  I came away with a sense of my need to watch out for more opportunities to ‘be brother’ as both steward and companion.  The One who knows my needs will have many more surprises for me and my communities when I trust my heart (and its ‘brain’) with its connection to the essence of creation.

May each of us grow in faith that even today’s ‘troubles’ are opportunities to cooperate in our evolution into Sacred Unity.

Reflection, 19 February 2017.  (Mt 5:38-48)

To all of us, the wisdom of the heart-brain bringing all together in awareness of our Father’s perfection.  I sense that Jesus in today’s gospel is urging us as individuals and as communities to move from the justice of retribution to that of restoration and further with efforts (and praying) to bring even ‘enemies’ into deepening relationship with themselves, with us as fellow humans and ultimately with Sacred Presence.  I read in Leviticus that I can be guilty of ‘sin’ if I do not speak with my neighbour concerning his or her offences and I dare to imagine Jesus doing that through any words of encouragement which I could utter.  I have tried to tell myself that ‘I am better than that’ on many occasions and can remember saying something similar to students in school and elsewhere.  I trust that I am growing in my ability to engage my heart much more in the circumstance of today.

I think of Jesus’ way of teaching his way of understanding and living Law and then I wonder about all the protocols and ‘best practices’ being talked about concerning child protection.  I listen and look for any Church people to bring into focus the core mission of the Body of Christ and wonder how far we have strayed from his Way and how much more of a distraction all these extra regulations may become.  I sense that there is appropriate head-wisdom in it all yet it can still be foolishness without heart-wisdom.  I look back to the opportunities I have enjoyed of talking about Jesus and the Gospel and I sense a growing desire in me to do so again.  I wonder where Mystery and the power of Spirit are moving for me and my communities.

Albert Einstein was one of the greats of head-wisdom and contributed much to how we see creation.  He proposed theories of relativity which included his insights into the relationship between energy and mass.  Relativity can be seen as a universal law of creation describing how our Universe has been evolving since the first fundamental particles emerged within the original ball of expanding energy.  Others continue his work of trying to develop a unified theory of everything.  He set out as a young man to solve problems in the worlds of science and maths.  I sense that Jesus has given us a fundamental pattern in his own life, death and resurrection with his simple (and difficult) command to love God and neighbour (including enemies).  He tells us of the Divine Presence in the temple of our hearts as well as in everything around us and he demonstrates how it works to solve the problems we are bound to meet.

I was reminded of a significant ‘enemy’ of mine when talking with my spiritual director and it is within me – the part of me which says, “You don’t care!” under my breath to people I meet.  In learning to love this inner voice and welcoming him to my heart space, I touch the shame of my frailty and its effects.  I see Jesus in this Gospel passage highlighting for the offender the shame of being slapped, of being sued for one’s coat, for being forced to ‘go one mile’ – and the shame is an invitation to relationship, to making a friend of the perpetrator.  I am reminded that the Creator does care – for me and through me – and so everyone can be better.

May each of us grow as images of the Trinity through the shame of the cross, our Way into the heart-realm of Love.

Reflection, 12 Feb 2017.  (Mt 5:17-37)

To all of us, the maturity of living the law written on our hearts.  I continue to wonder about my ‘heart-brain’ and how I can engage it in those moments when I feel anger, lust or the shame of things I want to cover-up.  The first reading tells me that I have the freedom and power to choose and St. Paul suggests that using these gifts is to be wise and mature in faith.  In one translation, he talks of ‘what no human heart conceived . . . what God has prepared for those who love . . . ’ and perhaps part of the Spirit’s work is to provide the response of surprising grace in those moments of human frailty.  This ‘heart-law’ would be very much alive and active in every here-and-now and it may be that a breath of Ruah is the only requirement.

The issue of maturity was highlighted for me on Saturday as I joined other brothers in Melbourne to celebrate jubilees of life in and with the Congregation – 50, 60 and 70 years since leaving home ‘to come and see’ the mysteries of consecrated living.  There were photos and stories as well as gratefulness for support and care in community and now I wonder what I would like to celebrate if and when my time comes (not too far away).  I consider the essential aspect of following Jesus, of being ‘in Christ’ and learning to love as he loves.  In some ways, my life is an ongoing novitiate and one adventure leads to the next – and the lessons unfold through those episodes and moments of fragility with their opportunities for forgiveness and Mercy.  Perhaps I and my communities can celebrate entry into a new way of living which engages the heart-brain through the trials of global warming and child abuse – and other signs immaturity.

Charles Darwin, born 12 Feb 1809, used his gifts and trials to propose his ideas of ‘natural selection’ and of humans being descended from ape-like animals when most of his contemporaries were addicted to old and comforting ideas of creation and superiority.  He came to his theories through his own observations and the expertise of others who studied his collections of animals, plants and fossils.  He seems to have reached the conclusion that life was a matter of chance variations passed down the generations which enabled the survival of some.  I wonder if the deeper truth, in Jesus’ way of understanding ‘law’, includes notions of a Loving Creator who cares for all and who celebrates difference and evolving complexity.

Darwin, about 200 years ago, and Paul, about 2000 years ago, give witness to maturity and being fully alive as members of the human race.  I give thanks for the episodes in my life when I have chosen life-giving ‘water’ rather than destructive ‘fire’ and become more of a brother to others.  I wish to celebrate more of the conversations like one I enjoyed on Saturday with a brother who shares some of my hopes and dreams and to celebrate more steps into the Realm of the heart-brain.

May each of us grow and evolve as disciples who love, live and teach according to the Trinity dancing in the depths of our being.

Reflection, 5 February 2017.  (Mt 5:13-16)

To all of us and our communities, the grace to grow as salt and light in our world.  I have been reading about the call to be a religious, to be ‘brother’ to Jesus and to creation.  This notion challenges me to treat every person as equal and different, as someone who may need comfort or challenge and as someone who can do the same for me – as someone who is ‘family’ and community member.  It seems as though Jesus is telling us that his family is already salt and light and that these familial relationships demonstrate if we are ‘tasteless’, ‘under a tub’ or in tune with him.  I sense that I can be any of these at different times of the day – thanks to Mercy.

On Thursday, I went to pick up a chainsaw which needed servicing after cutting up much firewood and detoured to see the movie, ‘Lion’ – the story of a boy lost in India, adopted by an Australian family and feeling the need as a young man to find his birth mother – his family and his home.  It is as though his life was ‘tasteless’ and in the dark until he could bring his head and his heart together as one.  Then he could be a joyful, shining light to family and friends, old and new.  I suspect that it is this uniting of heart and head which is the essence of all the readings of today and every day and which defines faith when they are focused on the good news of the crucified and risen Christ.

Isaac Newton is one of many who help us see the world differently – he even believed light to be made of up of particles.  He gave us new ‘eyes’ in the forms of the reflecting telescope and calculus (both of great benefit for the navigation of ships at sea) and pointed out the fundamental role of gravity in the motions of celestial bodies.  As I reflect on his work, I wonder about the unseen world of Love at the heart of the Universe and its power of attraction – and how Love is the essence of being ‘salt’ and ‘light’ to Earth and the actions which flow from this reality.  I am finding that the opening of my ‘new eyes’ is an ongoing and usually painful task of evolution and, again, involves the work of Mercy.

As we enter the time of hearing the reports of the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Abuse here in Australia, and the uncertainties of fake news and President Trump, I continue to wonder how much these and much more are symptoms of the lack of ‘salt’ and ‘light’ even in the Church and how much we need the renewed eyes to see the navigations of the Spirit through the darkness.  I wonder if we will hear of Love and Forgiveness even spoken in Paul’s ‘fear and trembling’ as those who are the tiny grains and particles respond ‘in Christ’ for the sake of Sacred Unity.

May each of us open our minds and hearts each day to the salt and light in and around us.

Reflection, 29 January 2017.  (Mt 5:1-12)

To all of us, the humility to seek the blessings, joy and wisdom of boasting in Christ.  We heard in our homily today a challenge to be open about our going to Mass and belonging to our Catholic community.  Afterwards, I was speaking with a man who is a fairly regular visitor to Yea and who is committed to sharing his faith in his home town and in the local prison.  I enjoyed his story of the positive impact which Mass in the gaol is having on some inmates and was even a little jealous of the opportunities he has to live out the Beatitudes.  He seemed to me to be ‘boasting about the Lord’ without using those words and as though it is the natural thing to do.

I can look back over my life and recognise many movements of the Spirit in my activities and now I wonder how much it is ‘natural’ for me to allow this ‘fire’ to grow in my heart so that my presence in the world evolves into something of a different quality and into something more spontaneous and joyful.  There is so much in the Beatitudes which speaks of the inner world and how to be more like Jesus as his way of living is described in them.  I can see it beginning to happen in my better moments even as I spent too much time catching my longings and frustrations.  I did ‘blessed’ on Monday when I worked with a man with limited mental ability who occasionally visits our place and he helped me shift gravel and move a load of firewood into our wood shed.  (He did take some firewood home.)  I am learning the power of presence and wonder what further lessons will come regarding mourning, meekness, hungering for justice, mercy and much more.

While these attributes seem ‘natural’ when they appear, the deeper challenge for me is to live them in our world with its certitudes, addictions and concerns for security and the ‘good life’ free of pain and suffering.  I think of Copernicus and Galileo five hundred or so years ago who were ‘blessed’ with insights which brought opposition from other scientists and from Church authorities.  They were part of the early stages of us humans seeing the world differently and their inner worlds needed to expand as their understandings of the ‘universe’ (the solar system) grew so that they could be true to themselves.  I can imagine that they were able to live the Beatitudes more faithfully through their struggles which would have been at least as unwelcome as any which come my way.  All of us have much to learn about being ‘in Christ’ and true to our nature and it seems as though forms of the cross are necessary and inevitable.

May each of us be more open to the blessings which enable us to accept humbly that Love and Wisdom are at work in all the happenings of existence.

The Beatitudes as inspired by the original Aramaic

(Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.)
Fulfilled are those who devote themselves to the link of Spirit;
the design of the universe is rendered through them.

(Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.)
Healed are those who weep for their frustrated desire;
they shall see the face of fulfilment in a new form.

(Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.)
Healthy are those who have softened what is rigid within;
they shall receive physical vigour and strength from the universe.

(Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.)
Happy are they who long deeply for a world of right relationships;
they shall be encircled by the birth of a new society.

(Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.)
Healthy are they who from the inner womb birth forth compassion;
they shall feel its warm arms embracing them.

(Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.)
Happy are they whose passion radiates with deep abiding purpose;
they shall envision the furthest extent of life’s wealth.

(Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons and daughters of God.)
Healed are those who bear the fruit of sympathy and safety for all;
they shall hasten the coming of God’s new creation.

(Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.)
Healing to those who have been shattered within – from seeking wholesome rest;
theirs is the ruling principle of the Cosmos.

(Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.)
Blessed are you when you are reproached and driven away by the clamour of evil on all sides, for my sake. Know deep joy even in your loss for this is the secret for claiming your expanded home in the universe; it is a sign of the prophets and prophetesses to feel the disunity around them intensely.

(Based on Neil Douglas-Klotz, Prayers of the Cosmos, HarperSanFrancisco, 1990, pp.44-76)

Reflection, 22 January 2017.  (Mt 4:12-23)

To all of us, the grace to follow immediately when the Christ-light calls.  In today’s Gospel story, Jesus calls four fishermen – he chooses them and they respond.  I wonder how much it was for them a choice and how much it was a matter of sensing that this was the only option offering a different future.  These pairs of brothers did not know that they were being led into a new family of faith and that the cross was foundational.  The fullness of their repentance, their metanoia, will take many years and their focus will evolve from the world of lake and fish to the nations and peoples of every land.  Those of us aware of being in Christ continue the task and it seems to be a ‘choice-less choice’ of response.

During the week, I investigated buying a new pair of shoes and faced choices.  I came to the conclusion that I did not really need them and chose not to buy anything.  I was reading a Richard Rohr work and reflected that I had faced the anxiety of too many choices – a feeling which may be common and increasing in our society, an aspect of the darkness which is inherent in creation.  From Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, it seems to be almost inherent in us to opt for lesser ‘lights’ (which still have value) while avoiding the fullness of what it means to be ‘follower’ and fully alive in a Universe which includes light and dark as well as joy and sorrow.

My own ‘repentance’ continues as I long to fulfil my dreamings while being taught what it means to belong to the Christ family which has its own dreams and rhythms of unfolding.  My moments of resentment and frustration become signals that I am not following and not believing in the Presence of Love.  This continues the ‘not knowing’ of those first disciples, of the Corinthians and most of human history.  It includes the consequences of all choices, all made with limited foresight, some in the Light of faith and most in the shadows of self-centredness.  I sense that I am one of many who regularly choose the comforts of addictions in the face of the anxieties of consumerism, global warming, terrorism, abuse, neglect and much more. I am learning that, with breath and awareness, I can live out of the Christ story and take all concerns to my heart where Spirit dwells.

One event which highlights the consequences of acting with very limited knowledge was the bubonic plague in Europe between 1347 and 1352 when possibly 60% of the population was killed by a bacterium carried by fleas on rats, especially on ships.  It seems to have originated in Russia near the Caspian Sea, been carried across the Black Sea to Constantinople and on many more trading vessels to Europe, the Middle East and North Africa – all beyond anyone’s understanding.  Ships were the fastest means of travel and this fact caused me to reflect on the fastest means of communication today and the effects seen and unseen of the internet (with its ‘darknet’ side).  As it was for the people and animals of seven hundred years ago, we are all vulnerable to physical realities inherent in the laws of nature.  Just as fleas hiding in luggage and clothing spread the plague, we may be involved unknowingly in the disasters of today.

May each of us live in and as the Light to the nations and grow in the faith which includes the cross.

Reflection, 8 Jan 2017.  (Epiphany)

To each of us, the flow of treasures offered to Jesus, the Cosmic Christ.  I wonder about all the comings and goings highlighted in today’s readings which mention light, nations, kings, mystery, an infant (king), Magi, chief priests and scribes, a star and a dream.  I sense myself joining in the search for answers to my longings and questions and then being challenged to ‘open my treasure chest’ and to bring out whatever I have received which will ‘pay homage’ – life-enhancing homage – to this fragile Presence who is Lord.

The song of the ‘Little Drummer Boy’ is one I listen to at this time of year as it touches me with its image of the simple gift being returned to the Giver.  In the last five days, we have hosted several guests here at Glenburn and one of them was my sister.  My ways of ‘paying homage’ to the greatest of all gifts included showing her around the property and pointing out some of the special attractions on offer as well as sharing reflections and some of the songs which encourage me on my journey.  I sense that one of my greatest treasures is my story – my encounters with various aspects of the Life and Love of the Trinity.  With this, I can share the flow of grace and guidance which carries all to resurrection.

The dimensions of this ‘Flow’ stretch from the original light of the Universe to dreams in the darkness of sleep.  Those participating in it will see stories in the stars and meanings hidden in ancient prophecies and new-born babies.  There are dangers to avoid by taking different ways than those which have brought us to these moments of ‘homage’ and I wonder what lies ahead for our common home in these times of global warming and increasing scapegoating.  I dare to believe that ‘all is well’ in the bigger picture where Mystery can use even the plans of tyrants and false kings to continue the evolution of Love.

For all who participate in the Christ story, there are choices to be made – for Herod, the Magi, Mary and for me and my communities.  I trust that, often enough, I will choose to make good use of whatever I have of ‘patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control’ – inherent gifts of the indwelling Spirit.

May each of us grow in peace and joy as our hidden treasures are revealed and offered for the sake of the Shepherd and all his sheep.

Reflection, 1 January 2017.  Mother.

To each of us shepherds, the blessing of peace.  I give thanks to the Trinity for the sense of being shepherded during the last week with Christmas, the anniversary of my mother’s death, my birthday and the promises of a new year and unfolding Mystery.  It seems to be a time of returning to the energies and happenings which were the launch-pad for my life and of growing in trust that all is well.  The Shepherd has been leading me through all of it and is still inviting me to participate in Cosmic Incarnation.

I reflect with wonder and thanks on the dimensions of mothering I have received, from the Universe, Mother Earth, Mum and now the ‘Holy Mother of God’ and the ‘mother tongue’ of each (with thanks to Ron Rolheiser).  At its heart, it is about those ‘who with infinite patience, understanding, and gentleness, are trying to coax us out of the darkness, inarticulateness, deafness, and chaos into which we were born’ – through their words and voices.  I see glimpses of this as my niece speaks to her fourteen month old son and imagine that it was the same for my mother and me.  It is about ‘entering the world of self-expression, thought, and conscious love’ and is an ongoing journey through light and darkness.  I am only beginning to fall into relationships with fellow travellers of all species and our common home – and I give thanks to Mother Earth for the diversity I hear and see every day.

I wonder how much it is the task of Mary, Mother of the Christ, to coax me into ever-deepening relationship with her son with her ‘mother tongue’ which continues to become the ‘language’ for me and my communities.  In the Gospels, she says things like, “Let it happen as you say!” and also there seem to be times when the tongue is still and silence takes over so that pondering in the heart can happen.  It becomes an awakening to all dimensions of Creation, inner and outer, and I am aware that I have been slow to ‘hasten’ as the shepherds did to her presence in the lowly place of the feeding trough where new life brings peace and joy.

To be a shepherd, then, includes heeding Divine messages in haste, telling the story, treasuring and pondering in hope and going out to live in ways which shepherd others into love and freedom through the ‘mother tongue’ of Mary and the Spirit.

May all of us rejoice in being lowly shepherds entrusted with this living story of blessing and peace.

Reflection, 25 December 2016.  (Christmas)

To each of us, the faith and humility to participate joyfully in ongoing incarnation.  A few weeks ago, in the middle of Advent, I received an email which is a partial confirmation that my hopes and expectations for the future are not going to be realised in the coming year or two, if at all.  I felt sad and angry and became aware that I was slipping into depression.  I reflected on the story of Joseph and I wonder if he shared some of those emotions on hearing that Mary was pregnant.  He made an effort to escape his sense of shame and powerlessness only to find that Divine Love had other plans – plans which include giving up control and trusting the bigger story all the way to the cross and to resurrection.

In this bigger picture, any suffering of mine is an element of the pain of our groaning, evolving Universe and common home.  The story of Jesus says that it is a prerequisite for new life and the new life for Joseph, Mary and their baby is infinitely greater than they could imagine.  I return to the hope which says that the suffering of the ‘holy innocents’ of two thousand years ago and of today continues to proclaim the path of incarnation taken by the Cosmic Christ.  I dare to believe that new life is happening in and around me as I wait in hope for it to be revealed.  Now I am excited with my desire for deeper relationships and with my fear of the letting-go which this way entails.

I have much to learn about the Love who is found outside the inn and in a manger, a feeding trough.  This is not the place where most travellers are to be found and it is an echo of the nourishment available to all those who seek humbly and in vulnerability.  I am encouraged to keep up some sort of conversation with the Trinity who work powerfully in weakness and emptiness and to risk hearing their responses to my complaints, loneliness, fears and moments of shame.  For Joseph, the new was born between possible scandal and heeding a dream; Jesus was crucified between brigands who had opposing attitudes to life; perhaps the same is true for me and my communities as we journey together for the sake of our common home.

May all of us continue to grow and evolve as incarnated beings through the joys and sorrows we share in Christ.

Reflection, 11 December 2016.  (Mt 11:2-11)

To each of us, the sight to see the Divine Presence bringing healing and wholeness to all life in and around us.  As I reflect on the ‘wilderness and dry-lands’ in and around me and my communities these days with summer turning the local countryside to brown, stories of terrorism, abuse and environmental devastation and with my occasional feelings of helplessness, fear and anger, I wonder at the size of the need for healing and reconciliation everywhere.  It seems impossible that the necessary changes of hearts, minds and actions can happen in time to avoid a near-death experience for our common home.  Yet today’s readings make bold and joyful promises and challenges to faith and patience.  I dare to hold on tenuously to my own imaginings of participating in the ongoing work of the Cosmic Christ.

Today’s homily challenges me to let go of my expectations and to keep looking for where this work is happening, as Jesus’ message to John the Baptist says.  I still have remnants of my self-made ‘prison’ and I do see love and grace flowing.  My own break-out has included hours of mowing with tractor and slasher as well as our ride-on mower while keeping watch to avoid wild flowers bringing their beauty to this property.  Now it is early summer and, as we head for a warmer and drier few months, the poor of Earth will include more of the flora and fauna of this region as well as those feeling left out during the Christmas season.  The Good News is still to be proclaimed to all creation and I wonder what it says today.

I think of Moses and wonder about the ‘new’ Moses, the Cosmic Christ, who is still loving and shepherding all of Life on an exodus to Resurrection.  Like that early prophet and guide, there is a need to approach and see the bush ‘burning’ from the inside and inspiring awe.  There is a growing urgency that our common home be set free from those who make themselves into gods and who are to be told the Good News for all our sakes.  There is still a ‘fire by night and a column of smoke by day’ when we perceive it with our inner eyes.  There is a Command to Love written on our hearts because it is written throughout the Universe.  We are still called to journey as children with faith in the counsel and wisdom of the Mystery we call God and Father/Mother and whom we know through Jesus, the Human One.

My sense is that I and my communities will be beyond slavery when these topics are part of our ordinary conversations and inspirations for living.  I pray for the patience of the farmer in the second reading and for the grace to follow the signs into unknown surprises with my own expectations in mind and love in my heart.

May all of us embrace the suffering and healing written into Creation as the way of peace and joy.

Reflection, 4 December 2016.  (Mt 3:1-12)

To each of us, the fire and Spirit of Jesus’ baptism.  I have just returned from a week’s retreat with the theme of the unfolding story of Love in the Universe.  In its own way, it was an experience of being immersed in the powers of creation as we sheltered through the winds, thunder and lightning of three storms as well as touching the silent stillness of love bringing healing and new life to the our Earth and to depths of our own stories.  I think of the great need for the call from both John and Jesus to metanoia and to awareness of the bigger picture where the consequences of narrow self-interest are presenting growing threats to our common home at the same time as many engage in acts of self-giving in tune with the dance towards wholeness within the Mystery we call God.

On three mornings during the week, I scrambled up the mountain but on only two of those occasions did I wander over the gentle slopes of the top.  I reflected that it is the first part of the climb – mountain and metanoia – which is the hardest (on this mountain, that includes moments of what is almost hands-and-knees) while the high point to which I came for the first time seemed to be ‘ordinary’ with no view and offering nothing more than a sense of achievement.  I did find a place where I took off my shoes and danced a few steps on the grass to celebrate the gifts of health, nature, community and mountains of all shapes and sizes.  I sense a challenge for me to make it an ‘ordinary’ thing to engage with these sorts of happenings in conversations, rituals and simple encounters back here after negotiating the dangers of the descent.

On the last day of the retreat, I reflected on how Love could unfold in my life now and into the future.  I received a significant answer in my spiritual direction session when it was suggested that I focus on giving my inner child the love he missed out on, that I become the loving ‘parent’ – especially Mother – and nurture play, joy, exploring and much more.  Perhaps this is part of raising up ‘a child of Abraham’ from a stone, as John says in the Gospel.  This inner healing then contributes to the growing complexity of consciousness which seems to be essential if we are to survive and thrive through these Anthropocene times.

About 11,000 years ago, hunter-gathers in the Fertile Crescent in Turkey began constructing some sort of ‘holy place’ (thought to be the first ‘temple’ on Earth) at Gobekli Tepe and left carved markings on the monoliths of animals such as lions, spiders, snakes and scorpions which would be dangerous and most likely the cause of many illnesses and deaths.  It may have been a burial site, a small hill with a view over the fertile valleys which sustained them.  Those studying the site today wonder if the efforts to shape, transport and erect the stones into circles may have been the impetus which inspired farming which ‘began’ about 500 years later.  The workers would have needed food and shelter and this would require some organisation and changes in their ways of thinking and living.  It is possible that the Neolithic Age began with this sort of sacred site construction which was possible in the climate of the times and which arose from a felt need to engage with the bigger picture and Mystery of life.  I wonder what lessons there are here for us, for me, today.

The first thought which has come to my mind is the possibility of bringing images of our sacred mother Earth, our common home, into our places of worship while we also look to take more of our rituals out into places of natural beauty.

May all of us grow in awareness of being completely immersed in the Creator Spirit whose fire brings life to the full.

Reflection, 20 November 2016.  (Jesus, King of the Universe)

To each of us, the joy of being remembered by Jesus.  I have been wondering about what title I prefer to give to Jesus and I am uncomfortable with ‘king’ and some of its limitations.  One word I came across is ‘Cosmocrator’ (Ruler of the Universe) and I like the sense of mystery which it gives.  I still tend to use ‘Cosmic Christ’ which is profound and more easily said than the phrase ‘Ultimate Authority’ or ‘Ultimate Author’ that came to my mind.  I look at the criminal who participates in the last recorded conversation with Jesus and how he uses no titles even as he is aware of the reality behind all of them.  This is a ‘king’ who is in intimate relationship with everything ‘created through him and for him’ and who responds joyfully to those who use his name sincerely and in faith.  I suspect that a variety of titles will help to reveal different aspects of his ‘fullness of God’.

The power and vulnerability of this ‘author of life’ is demonstrated in the movie ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ which I saw earlier in the week.  Desmond believes in non-violence and commits himself to joining the US army in WWII and serving as a medic.  After many trials, he finds himself on Okinawa and saving lives as he maintains his faith and conversations with his Christian God.  He becomes a very small light in the darkness of a bloody battle – a light which is not overcome.  The human face of Christ and the faces of many soldiers ‘remember’ him as he lives within his own inner ‘paradise’ while ‘hell’ happens all around.

Desmond seems to be seeking peace and redemption for instances of violence and shame in his childhood – to be re-membered in the sense of being made whole and to come into his own fullness.  I see this as a mirror of the ‘One’ through whom all diversity came into existence and in whom all will be unified again – the journey from singularity to a oneness embracing multiplicity.  Jesus on the cross demonstrates how it is done through the mercy he offers to the believing and repentant criminal.  I sense it in my own life as I welcome different energies and archetypes to my inner table and attempt to follow ‘Healing Presence’ into an uncertain future.

Healing Love is of the essence of our Sacred Earth and the stories of Desmond and the crucified criminal tell what is needed for it to flow fully.  On ABC TV during the week, I watched the Catalyst program on the Anthropocene, the name given by a group of scientists to the epoch into which our planet is transitioning as human activity degrades its life-systems.  I recommend the program and the website [ http://www.anthropocene.info/ ] as introductions to the possible ‘bloody battles’ of today and the future both near and far as well as inner and outer.  There are many ‘tiny lights’ shining in the gloom and I pray that I can grow as one of them, shedding the ‘Divine Light’ of repentance, faith and mercy in my little corner of creation.

May all of us grow as those who remember and are re-membered by Jesus, Loving Presence who rejoices on the cross.

Reflection, 13 November 2016.  (Lk 21:5-19)

To each of us, the grace of endurance on the journey of living life fully.  I was glad to be reminded, a couple of times, by our parish priest in his homily today that the important thing is to get up and keep going each time I ‘fall’ as I try to ‘win my life’ – or to live fully, as it occurred to me.  I look back over this day and am aware of many cycles of falling and rising – and how the key is to accept each present moment as an opportunity for love to flow.  I am quick to blow little circumstances into ‘wars, plagues, famines’ and much more, and I wonder that Jesus says that these ‘must happen’ and how they invite the perseverance which is his Reign of Empowerment, i.e. having life to the full.  This helps me make sense of the Year of Mercy.

Yesterday was quite different as I took on the role of driving the courtesy bus for the Yea picnic races.  As I was waiting for passengers at the racetrack at the end of the day, the thought in my mind was that this was something of an ‘addicts’ heaven’ with its good times, alcohol and betting.  It’s an attempt to live life fully just for a day before returning to life as usual with memories of the past and hopes for the future amidst blotting out the present.  This describes some of my ‘falls’, my attempts to avoid my hurts and fears and it encourages me to recall the ‘risings’ with their healings and new life, all of which occur ‘in Christ’ and through endurance.

I wonder about the anger and fear that is characterising so much of the politics around the world, especially in the USA presidential election.  The ‘success’ of people like Donald Trump seems to me to have come from support from those who believe that ‘he’ can ‘make things great again’ without acknowledging the implication that it is not ‘great’ now and that there are significant issues to confront.  There are ‘wars and revolutions’ happening, including terrorism, waves of asylum seekers and climate change, all of which can engender fear and hopelessness which the princes of this world are not facing with understanding, love and compassion.  Our One Lord calls not for scapegoating but for the endurance which is characteristic of the ever-growing complexity of our evolving Universe.

There have been humans in Australia for perhaps seventy thousand years and they have endured much in that time, including the original sea crossing and the recent and ongoing invasion of different cultures and technologies.  I think of Lake Mungo and how it has changed over thousands of years from a location of abundance and diversity to a place of wind-blown sand and desert-like vegetation.  Indigenous Australians have lessons for us about what is important if we are going to endure and evolve together with our landscapes and they will include deep listening, hope, faith, cooperation and participation in unfolding Mystery.  What began as small groups adjusting to life on different continents is becoming a matter of the human race having to live together for the sake of our common home.

I sense a call to live with hope and joy and to proclaim the repentance necessary if all beings on Earth are to live life fully through the great changes of these times.  I am fearful of the ‘persecutions’ and likely ‘opportunities to bear witness’ to the Cosmic Christ which are coming from those in denial and seeking scapegoats. 

May all of us evolve in love and endurance all the way into resurrection-life.

Reflection, 6 November 2016.  (Lk 20:27-38)

To each of us, the grace of stepping fully into resurrection-life in every present moment.  A week after my mountain-top experience in Queensland, I find myself back in Glenburn where everything is green, parts are soaking wet and parts are drying out, and where at least five trees have been blown over, unable to hang on to the soft soil.  I have bursaring work and other familiar tasks to do and it seems as though my dream is on hold – and I am reminded by St Paul about the love and comfort of being ‘in Christ’ as the USA highlights deep divisions in our world.  The need to believe in and proclaim the power and presence of the resurrected Jesus seems to be growing daily.

On Friday, I was able to visit a couple of cemeteries where some of my ancestors are buried and I was aware of my desire to be faithful to the heritage I have received from them and to be open to their presence as I live our shared beliefs.  I describe them as pioneers, Irish migrants in the late nineteenth century who developed land for farming and educated their descendants who continue to serve their new home and the church in many ways.  In a sense, their resurrection-life continues in my efforts to live a new way of being a religious and ‘brother to the world’ where fear, anger and the desire to be in control seem to have swamped any sense of a Sacred Unity.

The Sadducees in the Gospel story highlight that at least there was talk of resurrection in Jesus’ time and provide an opportunity for him to remind them of the ‘God of the living’ and to remind me of the human love which is only a shadow of the Great Love holding all of life into existence.  This is the relationship we cannot avoid even though we can live in it with complete lack of awareness with our focus on the desires of the small self.  My fears do kick in when I wonder about proclaiming love and resurrection in this world and yet I am excited in that challenge.

During the week, I saw the movie ‘Deepwater Horizon’ which highlights the consequences of a focus on money at all costs – consequences for individuals and for the environment.  The desire for ‘more’ is inherent in us and we need the awareness that the greatest good includes the spiritual dimension and a picture the size of the Universe.  That desire took our ancestors out of Africa perhaps seventy thousand years ago, possibly in a near extinction event or ice age, in the footsteps of other waves of migration beginning perhaps two million years ago.  All descendants of the earlier hominids are extinct except for a few genes in us ‘homo sapiens’ and I can imagine that the challenges of new and different land and climates were instrumental in the development of the variety of cultures around our common home.  I sense that it is the same desire in me as I look to new horizons with new stories and ways of proclaiming eternal truths.

May all of us live one step at a time in the promise and present reality of resurrection with the joy and hope that will inspire others into life-giving relationships with the Universe Being.

Reflection, 30 October 2016.  (Lk 19:1-10)

To each of us, the perseverance even to climb trees of thorns to see Jesus, the Christ.  During the last six weeks, instead of trees, I did walk, scramble, ‘climb’ up Mt Archer (near Brisbane) where I was participating in an experience of renewing brotherhood and community life with eight other Christian brothers (and various ‘guides’ from our network of co-creators).  The climb becomes symbolic of my efforts on the inner mountain of taking steps along ‘my way into the future’ and living life more fully.

The Zacchaeus who climbed a tree is more likely to have been a faithful ‘son of Abraham’ doing a job that caused resentment in others, earning a good income and sharing perhaps half of it with the poor beyond the requirements of the Law.  He is confident that he has not defrauded anyone and, if he has, will more than make up for it.  He has reached the point of dissatisfaction with this ‘first half’ of his life and is looking for something more meaningful and he wonders if Jesus is as good as they say.  He wants ‘to see’ him and his wholeness and is prepared to put his whole being, body, mind, heart and soul, into the search.  He is a symbol for me of entering the second half of life as I and others were doing at Mt Archer as we looked backwards ‘from the top of the ridge’ and also looked ahead down into the mists of Mystery.

On occasions over the six week, I helped in the early stages of establishing a ‘cosmic spiral’ – marking it out and digging out some bigger rocks.  It is a work in progress as are all of us and the Universe whose story it helps to tell.  One aspect of my own ‘mountain to climb’ was using the unfinished spiral to tell my own 15-minute version of the story of Creation as my final presentation to the group on the last day of our shared experience.  I told most of what I had planned and later wondered about an aspect I did not have in mind.  I reflected about Ardi and Lucy as representatives of our early human ancestors (4.4 and 3.2 million years ago) and wondered about the mutations which lead down the years to us.  I can imagine the possibility that some genes might have been switched off so that they did not go down the track of becoming the physically different ‘silverback’ adults and that they remained as playful and inquisitive individuals able to pass on these characteristics to succeeding generations, including Zacchaeus and us who look for more in life, climbing trees and mountains.

Two weeks ago, one brother spoke of it being time for him to move out of the city and go to more remote places where he can follow his own new way into the future.  The thought in my mind on hearing those words is that it is time for me to return to the city with my growth and learning and to make a contribution there to changing hearts and minds and to being ‘guide’ for others looking for more.  Several times during the six weeks I spoke of fumbling and stumbling one step at a time as the Spirit leads us into the mists of Mystery and I sense that this is Sacred Unity’s way for me to evolve in tune with the urge I felt when I left Timor-Leste five years ago to ‘do something’ about the crises of these times, especially global warming and climate change.  Two days after the notion of ‘city’ popped up, I was with four others attending a people’s tribunal in the Supreme Court building in Brisbane hearing stories and hopes of Earth laws and the rights of nature.  The Spirit can indeed move quickly.

The message and invitation of the last six weeks has been for me and my communities to participate consciously in co-creating this part of the Universe in the midst of terrorism, violence, extinctions and abuse of many kinds.  I suspect that even Zacchaeus joined in this task in new ways after his encounter with Jesus.

May we persevere in our efforts to see the Cosmic Christ present and loving in and all around us.

Reflection, 11 September 2016.  (Lk 15:1-32)

To each of us, the joy and celebration of reclaiming Life.  I have enjoyed the days we have had with the school students, partly because of their youthful energy and partly because of the little insights that come to me as I try to tell them about some significant themes of the Universe story.  I trust that the Spirit can do something great through my brief efforts and continue the unfolding of what seems to me to be a 13.8 billion-year construction event from sub-atomic particles to elements to compounds to living organisms to us humans who, in the likeness and image of the Creator, have the inherent ability to choose – and to love.  I wonder if this hidden (‘lost’) capability is the real object of the search of both shepherd and woman in Jesus’ parables – something of great value which is really just out of sight until the appropriate desire takes over.

I suspect that the ‘prodigal son’ was searching for this life and love in all the wrong places until he realised his mistake, repented and returned to the starting point of home where it had been present always yet hidden from his eyes.  The thing of great value for both sons and for us is the life and love of relationship with the Creator.  There are times when I am the elder son with resentment as the log in my eyes and there are increasing times when I breathe in the Spirit (as I invite the students to do) and touch that Life deep inside.  Each occasion becomes a moment of evolution into living life more fully and indicates the right and proper cause for celebration when both heaven and earth are revealed as the one Realm of Love.

This was highlighted for me when I chose to present the story to the students more in my own way rather than follow almost slavishly what I thought others expected of me.  After my first couple of sessions, I changed location, simplified the activity and found myself enjoying much more the engagement with the young people.  I was searching inside for my unique self and touched it and so had reason to celebrate my own step forward into Life as well as my providing encouragement and opportunity for others to make their own steps in this evolutionary journey.

One aspect of the story which I found myself mentioning frequently is that of the physical hunger driving much of the process where life-forms and species move into new ecosystems and adapt through successful mutations.  I sense in creation an inherent hunger or desire for the fullness of life which Jesus describes in parables to invite us to risk the steps into his ‘ecosystem’ and I wonder how much this is what Paul means when he says that Christ is here to ‘save sinners’ – to provide the encouragement and opportunity to seek inside for what is waiting to be found.

May all of us celebrate more and more the steps we take with others into the Realm of Love and Life.

“When you pray, enter your secret room, and when you have shut the door, pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”  [Mt 6:6]

When you want to lay yourself open for the divine,
like a snare that is hollowed out to its depths,
like a canopy that projects a shadow
from the divine heat and light
into your soul,
then go into your inner place,
to that story or symbol that reminds you of the sacred.
Close the doors of your awareness
to the public person you think yourself to be.
Pray to the parent of creation with your inner sense,
the outer senses turned within.
Veiling yourself, the mystery may be unveiled through you.
By opening yourself to the flow of the sacred,
somewhere, resounding in some inner form,
the swell of the divine ocean can move through you.
The breathing life of all reveals itself
in the way you live your life.
(The Hidden Gospel: Decoding the Spiritual Message of the Aramaic Jesus.  Neil Douglas-Klotz  p61,62)

Reflection, 4 September 2016.  (Lk 14:25-33)

To each of us, the grace to grow ‘in Christ’ as a disciple who carries an all-embracing cross.  As I reflected on the sense of the ‘hate’ to which Jesus calls us, it occurred to me that he and his disciples are to love ALL which means that we seek what is most life-giving for every being, including ourselves.  This will most likely involve speaking uncomfortable truths and making tough decisions.  This is the sort of cross we will carry together in communities and share with Jesus who promises that it will be light and easy when we do so and that it brings his peace.  The real difficulty, at least for me, is to live as fully as possible in each present moment, aware of his presence.

I listen with interest to the priest in his sermon talking about Onesimus and his name meaning ‘useful and beneficial servant’ and I wondered about him being a willing slave, happy to do the best possible for his master and to do so with life-long commitment.  I can imagine Paul introducing Onesimus to a different Master offering a deeper sense of service and the blessing of forgiveness.  Onesimus might return to Philemon and he will still be a servant – to a higher Lord – as well as being ‘a brother in Christ’ and one able to live as the kind of disciple described by Jesus in today’s Gospel.  He will be able to carry his cross in new ways, including the spreading of the Reign of Empowerment.

I have been busy in the past week preparing for a series of retreat days with year 9 students from a Melbourne Catholic college.  I have the sense that this is a here-and-now cross which includes elements of trepidation and excitement of the kind experienced by both Paul and Onesimus – and perhaps even by Jesus, the one we aim to follow.  I have about 35 to 45 minutes, four times a day for five days, to introduce the students to the Universe story and to do so with a touch of spirituality in the midst of science and adolescent energies.  I wonder if this is a sign of things to come as we face together ‘in Christ’ the circumstances of our world with its mixture of violence and climate change as well as the greatness of thousands of saints, from St Teresa of Calcutta to the families and carers of all young people and ‘Our Common Home.’

Our created world seems to have an inherent quality of being able to find a way through any challenge as it unfolds in Love and complexity.  I think of the advance of the first plants surviving on dry land as life moved out of the waters and encountering the challenges of gravity and desiccation.  Most likely, many perished before those with appropriate mutations succeeded in passing on their advantages to the stage where we enjoy tall trees and forests – and the many benefits they offer to our physical and spiritual well-being.  I give thanks for the opportunity to pass on some of my learnings and sense of hope to the young people coming in the next two weeks and I wait with expectation to see where my Master is leading me and my communities.

May all of us grow in gratitude for our crosses and their joys as we serve the Creator present in every dimension of our common home.

Reflection, 28 August 2016.  (Lk 14:1,7-14)

To each of us, the blessings of moving higher through deepening self-giving within the Companionship of Empowerment.  Jesus’ parable invites me to look more closely at those whom I seek to impress and those with whom I seek to avoid confrontation and disagreement.  If I am to follow his way, then I will focus on Sacred Unity in and around me and grow according to my true Self.  In this gospel reading, Jesus is calling the Pharisees and all of us into obedience to the Law of Love which involves faith in divine Presence and desire for what is life-giving for everyone, especially the poor, crippled, lame and blind.  This is participation in resurrection-life ‘here and now’ with the power and humility of ‘the city of the living God’ where all are in the dance of needs and responsibilities.

Like some of those at the meal, I can find myself too often sitting back and watching to see what might happen ‘out there’ and what those ‘in Christ’ are doing in response to his words.  I can get offended when my ‘watching’ is interrupted by invitations to serve in the little ways that include sweeping, vacuuming, feeding chooks, chopping fire wood, chauffeuring and cooking – all of which happened in the last week.  I wonder about other services I performed and whether they are ‘higher’ forms – sitting and chatting at our local ecumenical dinner as well as preparing the PowerPoint and playing the music for Mass.  Perhaps all have a deeper significance and consequence of which I may never be aware because they all make space for the Spirit who hovers in each happening to move in me and in others.

Another aspect of Jesus’ parable may be that the invitations and the seeking of honour are about families, groups and even nations – including the Chosen People of his day and of these days.  I like to imagine myself as one of the ‘loved and chosen’ as are my communities with their collective responsibilities to care for our common home – and with their sense of entitlement to comfortable yet simple lifestyles.  I sense a call for a table-fellowship which is more challenging as Jesus was (and is) and more counter-cultural and passionate with its stories, parables and empowering relationships.  I see this as the kind of service portrayed by Luke as the way for Jesus and for his ‘family’ to adopt and adapt for different circumstances.

I think of those mutations and adaptations throughout evolution which served an original purpose and were passed down to countless succeeding generations who found new ways to benefit from them which were unimaginable in the beginning.  It seems as though the ‘feet and arms’ of tetrapods were developments which may have helped fish in ways such as swimming in muddy shallows or anchoring themselves to the bottom in strong currents (where their food came to them) or as ‘sit-and-wait’ predators pouncing very quickly on their prey.  Perhaps many centuries later, these became the four legs of amphibians who lived and moved in water as well as on land.  There are many unanswered questions about these transitions just as there are mysteries about how our small actions ‘in Christ’ will be of benefit to our neighbours, present and future.  It is only the Universe Being who knows the place of honour that each has as creation and complexity unfold.

May all of us grow in our self-giving and faith as we live and move together in this world of incarnation and resurrection.

Reflection, 21 August 2016.  (Lk 13:22-30)

To each of us, passage through the narrow door to intimacy with Jesus.  It may be that he was asked for his view on what many believed – that, indeed, only a few would ‘be saved’ – and he knows that ‘salvation’ is available for all if they will accept the challenges and disciplines of Love.  It is not enough even to ‘eat and drink’ with him and to hear his teaching.  The real intimacy involves sharing on many levels, including that of the stories which reveal our deeper selves and our moments of forgiveness and repentance.  These are the ones whom Jesus recognises and welcomes to the Feast.

Four children from the one family were baptised during Mass today and many in the church were fascinated by the second youngest and his attempts to escape from his father and the whole show.  It was a blessing for me to see the dad’s firm tenderness as well as the child’s moments of peaceful resting in his father’s arms.  I see myself behaving like that little boy on a daily basis with occasions of evasion and of acceptance.  I trust that the Divine Presence does know me and does welcome me and that the welcome includes loving training and disciplining for my sake and for the sake of those to whom I am sent.  There are stories to tell and an important one is that of the ‘narrow door’ of receiving and giving Love.

I ask myself what Luke is saying to me about service in the Realm of Mystery and at its feast and I sense that telling these kinds of stories is part of it and that following the way of Jesus the prophet is most significant.  Hearing his teaching and acting on it is what the disciplines of the door are about.  The sharing of story and of food means that all of us and all of Life will benefit and we will do so in our unique ways just as plants and insects did perhaps 480 million years ago as they began to populate dry land.  These two different forms of life seem to have been evolving together since then – in one sense, ‘needing’ each other for the explosions of diversity and complexity.  It is possible that it was the development of trees and forests (about 406 million years ago) which provided stimulus and opportunities for the development of wings and flight – again so that the ‘feast of life’ could be shared in new ways.  I am called to participate in this mutual enhancement and to proclaim in prophetic manner the choice and its consequences.  The ‘door’ is narrow and many will choose to turn away while many others will stay in tune with the Universe Being and learn together to enjoy new ways of feasting and celebrating.

May all of us rejoice in the intimacy of needing and being needed as prophets in and with the Cosmic Christ.

Reflection, 14 August 2016.  (Lk 12:49-53)

To each of us, the fire and baptism which brings the peace of Jesus.  When I reflect on the fire of the Cosmic Christ, I wonder about the fireball that is the Universe, its incredibly hot beginning and its ‘fragment’ below our Earth’s crust and in the heat of all living bodies.  Jesus and all of us exist in and through this ongoing event in which we both receive and emit the energies of transformation.  We choose how we will participate and that choosing produces the divisions between those who put themselves and their comforts first and those who see their place in the great flow of One Love.

When I ask myself what this ‘fire’ might be like, I think of the difficult choices involved in faithful self-giving – being prophet like Jeremiah, advocating like Ebed-melech, Jesus’ humble washing of feet and proclaiming him as Lord.  Today I participated in a ‘circle of empowerment’ with a small group of brothers and a question about ‘my agenda for the world’ which invited me to bring some sparks of this fire into this tiny part of our planet.  I did speak about some of the ideas which ‘fire me up’ and it was as though the same ‘baptismal flames’ were purifying and strengthening me as I challenged others in the circle who also seemed to engage in the process of being ‘baptised’ and, like me, displayed some of the inner peace and joy promised elsewhere by Jesus.  I came away with a sense of being in tune with the Spirit even though we cannot see where we are being led in the wilderness of child abuse, violence, terrorism and climate change.  The ‘fire’ has not yet finished with us.

A further affirmation for me came when I returned home and we viewed Compass on ABC TV.  It was an interview with Martin Sheen, ‘actor and activist’, and his return to the Catholic faith.  He spoke effortlessly and joyfully about Jesus in his life and I sensed that we brothers could learn much from him about living in and through the fire of Jesus’ baptism.  His faith and witness puts me and some of my communities to shame even as it encourages me to take more steps ‘in Christ.’

Countless little steps over at least three hundred million years as plants moved from seas to land resulted in new life-forms and different environments – a pattern of ‘division’ written into creation.  As plants evolved and spread, it seems that they altered rock, formed soil and grew on the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, reducing the levels of this green-house gas to the extent that our planet became ‘Snowball Earth’ on several occasions.  ‘Division’ gives impetus to creativity as circumstances change, species die and the ‘new’ are given opportunities to evolve and flourish.  I see something of this process in the story of Jesus and his followers who make the choice to be ‘in Christ’ – especially at this time of a warming planet which is calling for the prophets, advocates and humble servants of Sacred Unity to listen deeply and to participate with trust in its unfolding.

May all of us grow as instruments of the divisive fire transforming our inner and outer worlds into places of life, love and true peace.

Reflection, 7 August 2016.  (Lk 12:32-48)

To each of us, the flow of the food which empowers us to be alert and knowing servants of Oneness.  As I read Luke’s gospel these days, I am beginning to ask myself what it is saying about service and I see that both the returning master and the steward (in the longer reading) are about feeding the members of the household.  I sense that this ‘daily bread’ is more about nourishment for our spiritual journey than simply about physical care (which is still important).  One aspect of this is that of building faith and trust for those waiting in the midst of abuse and suffering.  Another must be the forgiveness we need when we neglect this duty and even when we are agents of abuse in any of its forms, including using others and the resources of Earth for our own pleasure and comfort.

One of the ways in which I participate in the flow of ‘daily food’ is when I put out seeds for the parrots, galahs, rosellas, pigeons and magpies.  Often, I would like to throw it around and keep going about what is on my agenda but I see that the most tentative birds, the king parrots, will miss out.  One pair of them have learnt that they can get the best results when they come and eat out of the hand and so I take the time to stay and ‘serve’ them  and to reflect on what is happening around me.  It seems most natural to be concerned about food and keeping oneself alive as the birds squabble and chase each other away from ‘their’ feeding ground.  So it is most natural to be concerned about spiritual nourishment for oneself and this involves the much bigger picture of mutual relationships and interdependence.  The Spirit is the unlimited food for all and is best served on a ‘take and give’ basis in which I am called to be open to receive and then to allow the energy to flow ‘out of my hand’ to whoever and whatever is my neighbour at that moment.  I give thanks for these gentle teachers and their lessons.

I can think that I am slow to learn and to grow as a servant of Love until I consider the millions of years of evolution which produced my hands.  It seems that over 300 million years ago, fish were adapting to living in fresh water rivers and creeks which could stop flowing and lose much of their dissolved oxygen on which the fish depended for survival.  Those with the ‘mutations’ which led to lungs could survive and then those with stronger bones in their fins could move better on land between different bodies of remaining water.  Those with wrists and digits had a greater advantage which allowed them to spend more time out of the water in the search for food – and so life continued to evolve all the way to my hands feeding birds, fish and fellow human beings.  The Flow has an inevitable and forward trajectory even as my life seems to go round in circles as the lessons ‘slowly’ sink in.

Jesus speaks of being ready for the master’s appearing and we can expect him to appear in many different forms.  The food to share will include seeds, mercy, faith, hope and even stories – his, ours and creation’s.  The worst aspect of the ‘burglar’ might be that any of these elements are removed out of the flow of take-and-give.

May all of us grow as servants of Sacred Unity where we receive ‘daily bread’ humbly and allow all of it to flow through our hands all the way to resurrection.

Reflection, 31 July 2016.  (Lk 12:13-21)

To each of us, the grace of being in tune with the treasures of Unity’s realm.  The voice in the crowd offered Jesus a position of esteem by asking him to be ‘judge’ – a person of integrity who would listen and decide wisely and whose decision would be accepted.  Jesus refused and continued his customary role as teacher and prophet, telling the story of one who thought that the only riches are in the material sphere and inviting those listening to him to remember the ultimate treasure of being in the realm of the Holy One.

I have just been ‘on retreat’ for two days where we reflected on aspects of the Universe Story and evolution.  I wondered what it might mean to be ‘rich in God’s sight’ – to be in the Reign of Empowerment  – and thought of the contrast between the one who wanted to relax and have a good time and the other who desires to grow and evolve all the way to resurrection.  The first imagines that he has achieved all there is to achieve and plans for a future which will maintain this ‘status quo’ of perceived wealth and privilege.  Jesus, Paul and even the author of Ecclesiastes speak of the continuing work and effort of being ‘in Christ’ and evolving the new self and I come away with a growing sense of participating in the immense Life of the Universe Being and responding to the challenge to allow it to flow in and through me.

The retreat was a brief exploration of what we Christian Brothers call ‘Our Way Into The Future’ with the Mystery we call God.  That word ‘with’ spoke to me of the essence of this task and I imagine that it involves trusting that the inherent Love at the heart of creation is guiding our dream and working to realise it here and now.  The first reading describes one who ‘works with wisdom, knowledge and skill’ and whose efforts will reward those who come after.  This is not ‘vanity’ or ‘useless’ when it is in tune with our unfolding Universe; it is ‘in vain’ when the work is done with worry and resentment (as I am prone to do) and with no recognition of the Creator Spirit rejoicing at every advance.

The entire story of evolution tells of steps into increasing complexity with complete ‘unknowing’ of what the next stage will be.  Part of the skill may to be to live in the present moment with the treasure of the peace which only the Cosmic Christ can provide.  One such ‘step’ would be the myriad small mutations occurring over thousands of years in which our earliest fish-like ancestors evolved with vertebrae and with muscles attached to the outside of this structure and yet inside their bodies.  I can imagine the increasing power for mobility as they use much more of their bodies to swim as fish do today.  Five hundred million years ago, there would be no idea that one development of this step is in my fingers as they press the letters on my computer keyboard.

I read one commentary on these readings which noted that it is natural to feel special and deserving like the rich man in the parable.  I read recently that this is the temptation of being ‘on top a high mountain looking down on all the kingdoms of the world’ and the antidote is to remember that everyone and all things, living and non-living, are just a special and loved by our Creator.  My challenge is to act more and more in the belief that each action, especially those done ‘in Christ’, is a contribution to a future that is beyond imagination (as I did on Thursday when I helped on a cementing job at our parish church).

May all of us grow in the joy and peace of participating in Mystery.

Reflection 24 July 2016 (Lk 11:1-13)

To each of us, the fullness of the Spirit who shows us how to be children of Abba Love.  The disciples ask for a lesson from Jesus and note that John also taught about prayer.  I suspect that all disciples need to learn the lesson and be ready to teach from their own experience.  My own learning continues as I grow in appreciation that I am loved in every moment and circumstance by the Holy One whose realm is all-encompassing.  In and with the Spirit, I can see that nourishment for my true self is available ‘daily’, that forgiveness is assured and that all this is here, now, when I breathe the Breath of Ruah like a child with complete trust in a doting parent.

The insight which allows me to ‘see’ in this manner seems to me to be the latest development in the evolution of eyes which began perhaps seven hundred million years ago when creatures were able to make use of photo-receptor proteins – ‘eyespots’ – to distinguish between light and dark, day and night, and to move for better access to sunlight for photosynthesis and to establish the beginning of circadian rhythms.  The innate desires for increased energy and for new life continue today in our seeking the Realm of Spirit through our praying and our creativity.

On Friday evening and into Saturday, I attended the EarthSong Symposium with its title, ‘Celebrating the Life of Insects.’  We heard much about the way these creatures use sight for hunting and for protection and we were introduced to ‘A Moth Liturgy’ which is a series of ‘photographs’ created without the use of a camera (by Harry Nankin).  Just like those first photosensitive cells receiving the energy of light directly from their environment, this modern creativity uses the light of a flash (once used in conjunction with a camera) to shine directly onto the subject with the film or sensor behind to make a negative.  In this case, the subjects are Bogong moths whose shadows then appear and can be developed onto photographic paper with startling results.

The effect is to stimulate wonder and to move the participants in the ‘liturgy’ into action which might avert the ‘tragedy’ of losing these life forms and all other creatures which rely on them for food.  We heard the story of the moths’ migration and diminishing habitat.  It is a call to repentance and to a sense of ‘communion’ with our environment with its increasing dependence on us humans.  I reflected at the time on the similarities with our catholic ritual and how this ‘moth liturgy’ pointed to the essence of liturgy with its ‘coming together’ and ‘sending forth’ to make a difference – to make our Father’s ‘reign’ become more real and present.  This ‘Presence and Power’ is all around us and we have the ‘eyespots’ to ‘see’ it with our hearts and minds if we choose – and persistently ask for the grace to do so.

May all of us be more and more open to receiving the Spirit no matter what we ask for.

O Breathing Life
The Lord’s Prayer – Mt 6:9-13, Lk 11:2-4

O Breathing Life, your name shines everywhere!
Release a space to plant your presence here.
Envision your “I Can” now.
Embody your desire in every light and form.
Grow through us this moment’s bread and wisdom.
Untie the knots of failure binding us as we release the strands we hold of others’ faults.
Help us not to forget our source, yet free us from not being in the present moment.
From you arises every vision, power and song from gathering to gathering.
Amen – May our future actions grow from here!

(Neil Douglas-Klotz, “Desert Wisdom” p 236)

Reflection, 10 July 2016.  (Lk 10:25-37)

To each of us, the grace to live a life of spiritual maturity and greater complexity.  On Thursday, I attended ‘A Day with Ron Rolheiser’ where he gave us two talks, each with a time for questions and discussion.  The first was on the issue of carrying ‘biblically’ the scandal of child abuse and this was followed by a session on Christian discipleship.  I came away with a sense of excitement and challenge and reflected that it may be a modern-day version of the parable in today’s Gospel.

Children around the world are being abused in all sorts of ways including sexual abuse, domestic violence, war, terrorism, climate change, racism and much more.  They are having their childhood stripped away and they are being robbed by those seeking their own lost innocence.  The consequences as they grow into adults include suicide and abuse of self, others and the environment.  Like the Samaritan, we cannot pass by.  The issues are not distractions from our Christian lives – the victims and perpetrators (themselves victims) are our ministry, especially when we see them on our way to and from ‘Jerusalem’, the place of crucifixion and resurrection.

The early stages of the spiritual life are about growing in wisdom, strength and knowledge (of the Law).  Jesus invites the lawyer to go beyond the basic understanding of purity laws which were most important for the priest and the Levite.  A more mature spirituality involves ‘giving one’s life away’ and doing the loving acts of pity, mercy and healing when they are needed.  It becomes a more complex way of living which includes seeing all life as our neighbours, listening to the law in our mouths and hearts and appreciating our life ‘in Christ’ and our own roles as victim and perpetrator.

I suspect that the ‘hole’ in my childhood will continue to be the wound through which I encounter the Christ and his healing and through which I will grow in understanding something of the power of embracing my cross and how I can participate in the body which has Jesus as head.  I wonder how much of the work will involve the telling of stories such as those of  Jesus and his parables, my own story and those of my communities, especially the story of the common ground for all of us – the story of our Universe and Cosmic Christ.  My wounded child, like all wounded children, echoes the pain of creation and the healing of one is the healing of all.  All need first aid on the spot and to be taken to the ultimate innkeeper.

Life on Earth began as single cells which were the only life-forms for at least a billion years.  Possibly as early as 2.1 billion years ago, these cells began to ‘live together’ and to begin the process of communicating (through a flow of chemicals) and taking up different functions.  One estimate is that multi-cellular life-forms may have evolved at least 46 times – another sign of the inherent thrust and creativity of the Universe Being.  Now I wonder about our aggregating as members of the body, the Church, just as our inner selves of light and shadow gather to contribute to a full and mature life.

In Ron Rolheiser’s view, only those touching this level of maturity are capable of ‘giving away their death’ as an optimal blessing to their world.  This is where ‘crucifixion’ is done ‘to us’ and faith has us wait passively – blood and water flow from a dead body.  I am still struggling at the earlier stage of the activity of the Samaritan and can only pray that I continue to receive inner healing for my hidden wounds and grow with the wonder of the eternal child.

May all of us evolve as children of wonder and joy, growing in appreciation of the Mystery in and around us.

Reflection, 3 July 2016.  (Lk 10:1-12, 17-20)

To each of us, the peace of labouring in and for the companionship of empowerment.   I have just been to a gathering of family and friends celebrating sixty years since my now deceased brother-in-law was born.  Three generations were present with baby Harry there and being a centre of attention – and recalling now for me Isaiah’s image of mother ‘Jerusalem’ nourishing and comforting all of us who go to her.  I sense that this is what it means to have ‘our names written in heaven’ – that our Mother God continues to ‘nurse’ us as we grow and evolve into living fully.

One of the family friends present is a politician who has just been re-elected to his seat in our Australian parliament so there was some chat around the ups and downs of politics.  I mentioned my notion that a significant issue around the world is that of the lack of meaningful rites of initiation, especially for boys and young men, where they are taught what it is ‘to live fully’ – where life is not all about you, that suffering is part of the process and that death is certain (with thanks to Richard Rohr).  Paul in the second reading seems to say something similar using words like ‘the cross of Christ’ and ‘new creation’ and I imagine Jesus and him being ‘fully initiated’ with their names ‘written’ as they go about their work of service.  I do put my brother-in-law in the same category when I consider his love and integrity as husband, father and unashamedly Catholic bio-ethicist.

I am reading the early chapters of a book, “Heart and Mind” (by Alexander Shaia), and finding it to be exciting and revealing as he describes the four Gospels making up one ‘good news’ story which parallels the processes of initiation.  Matthew is about invitation and the promise of new creation;  Mark has a strong theme of suffering and persecution;  John includes reflections on Love and then Luke tells of being ‘on the way’ – like today’s reading – and the service of healing and proclaiming.  As I reflect on my last few days, I see the echoes of John and greater understanding (from the book) followed by a moment of being chosen and ‘appointed’ to tell a couple of people about the book over the coming week.  I sense a small cycle of my transformation within much larger cycles stretching back over decades.  I have great reason to rejoice and be grateful that my name, too, is being ‘written in the heaven’ of here and now.

These cycles are ongoing for me and my communities even as I wait and listen for those whom I can accompany – ‘in pairs’ – into the great harvest.  Individuals working in partnership seems to have been going on for possibly over 3 billion years since one simple cell was absorbed by another and was able to survive and become the nucleus of a eukaryotic cell (as many scientists suspect).  The arrangement became mutually beneficial, increased the complexity of life and Love, and enhanced the memory power of our DNA.  Life was able to live more fully than before.  The four stages of initiation may be inherent in the existence of all being.  We are alive when we allow the cycles to flow in and around us.

May all of us grow as joyful lambs labouring in the harvest of new creation in the worlds of both matter and spirit.

Reflection, 26 June 2016.  (Lk 9:51-62)

To each of us, the freedom to commit fully to our Jerusalem journey in Christ.  Jesus had a deep sense of what he was ‘chosen’ for and knew that he had to go to fulfil his destiny, as did Elisha when he followed Elijah.  I wonder how much the depth of that awareness came from a life of being chosen and affirmed for all sorts of tasks and roles from childhood to adulthood.  I wonder because my own sense of being chosen has not been strong and I have patterns in my life where I can too easily miss opportunities and sit by the way watching as life goes by.  This then becomes a matter to take to Jesus for the healing which only he can provide.  It becomes a matter of not looking back – of ‘setting my face’ for whatever it takes to be ‘servant’ as Elisha was.

A word that has stayed with me over the last few days is ‘patience’ – as I wonder if anything is being healed and what service I may be able to do.  I want to ‘bury the dead’ from my childhood and he tells me to leave that behind.  I sense that, as a disciple (like James and John), I am called to participate in understanding and forgiveness – beginning with myself and my failings and stumbles – and this is what I can pass on to those I meet on the road.  It is a slow, on-going process of which most people today are unaware and which I am called to live and share.  Much of the recent news seems to be about divisions within countries where many want easy answers and immediate results. Being chosen to ‘proclaim the Kingdom’ in these circumstances is as significant as it was years ago in Samaria and even more challenging.

On Friday, our extended community came together for a ‘spirituality circle’ and what emerged, especially for me, was the call to ‘mirror’ our life in the Spirit who brings resurrection out of suffering.  The divisions and turmoil of our world, micro and macro, are regions with great potential for new creation and our evolution as a species and for me and my communities when we participate in the process.  I am learning that I am not alone on the journey and that the sharing of our stories does help to bring healing to perceived divisions and to open new possibilities.

There were most likely billions of bacteria in the oceans about 3 billion years ago and most were producing a waste product called oxygen.  Over time, this gas resulted in the oxidation of minerals, especially iron, which fell to the sea floor, cleaning up the water – one profound use of a waste product as well as giving us the iron ore we use today.  Once this task was largely accomplished, the oxygen could enter the atmosphere where it began to accumulate and help to make up the air we breathe – another wonderful result.  At the same time, its ability to oxidise was killing most life-forms and threatening complete extinction until (most likely) one individual bacteria had the appropriate components and molecular structure to use the oxygen as a source of energy, perhaps 2 billion years ago, and to pass that capability down the generations to us.

This story tells of Great Patience as well as an inherent creativity and commitment to the evolution of our Universe through individual beings – all the way to the transformation of resurrection beyond ‘Jerusalem’.  I pray that I can believe more and more in the Creator who loves in this way – who loves me and all my communities with their necessary differences and divisions.

May all of us grow in our participation in this living story of the Cosmic Christ.

Reflection, 19 June 2016.  (Lk 9:18-24)

To each of us, the grace to claim Jesus as Messiah and to give our lives for all that matters to him.  On Tuesday, I went to Queenscliff (as driver) for a meeting of directors of spirituality centres in and around Melbourne.  I was privileged to see two centres in the area and to listen to several directors speak about their work.  One common theme was that of the ‘searching’ which brings many people to these places for prayer, silence and companionship.  This search continues the efforts of the disciples in this gospel story who find that meeting Jesus involves significant challenges as well.

My sense of the challenge facing me (and my communities) is to move more often and more deeply through the sorts of questions Jesus asks.  My answers become more meaningful as they move from head to heart: “Jesus is the Christ!” => “Jesus is my Lord!” => “Jesus, you are my Lord – and my friend!”  Then comes the matter of taking up the cross of my fears and resentments as I follow him, letting go of my hopes and plans in order to touch the lives of others with the great news of his love.  Zechariah tells me that this Lord has poured out a spirit of kindness and prayer so that I can know what to do – and also know when to mourn for the wounds I cause when I look the wrong way.

Jesus was ‘praying alone’ with the disciples nearby and I can imagine him wanting them to join him and to understand his Messiahship.  I imagine that the questions he asked came out of his prayerful listening (and supplication) as a way of inviting them to a different way of seeing and believing which they must come to by their own efforts.  I can rejoice in the Spirit who does help me to mourn and to walk the way of forgiveness and I sense Jesus ‘nearby’ wanting me to join him in the listening, questioning and walking.  This is the never-ending search for what matters to Jesus – and that includes disciples (like me and my communities), neighbours and all of creation.

The search for the energy to move, grow and evolve has been foundational to living being for at least 3.4 billion years on Earth.  The first bacteria might have found it in chemical reactions involving sulphur and evolved an almost infinite variety of forms until one was able to make use of sunlight’s energy to ‘excite’ electrons – the beginnings of photosynthesis.  The search results in new forms as well as new challenges.  Some are finding energy by consuming other beings and there is the slow build-up of dangerous oxygen in the atmosphere.  Jesus promises the presence of the same guiding Spirit for us to find the energy to overcome all challenges as we follow him – all the way to Resurrection.

May all of us grow in hope and faith in following the Cosmic Christ who asks powerful questions so that his friends may live life fully.

Reflection, 12 June 2016.  (Lk 7:36–8:3)

To each of us, the grace of faith in our stories of forgiveness.  The first reading tells of David’s repentance and forgiveness which came after Nathan told him a story about a wealthy landlord who took a lamb from his poor neighbour.  Paul had his own story of metanoia with his appreciation that faith in Christ is the fulfilment of the Law which he had studied and followed so diligently.  Jesus tells Simon a story to invite him to see his situation of debt and forgiveness and I can imagine that the woman who washed, kissed and anointed his feet had heard stories from the women (like Mary Magdalene) who had experienced love and forgiveness and were enthusiastic to share the blessings.  These seem to be the stories that feed the faith that empowers us debtors to go to Jesus in humility and gratitude and to continue in his company with our own stories to tell.

I seem to have a never-ending supply of stories in which I need forgiveness, especially for my fears, resentments and judgements.  I participated in an EarthSong event on Wednesday which focussed on ‘mind’ and one activity was to go to the nearby park and reflect on the connections between all the beings encountered there.  As I took my first few steps onto the grass, I became aware of swallows flying around and even flying a couple of metres away from me.  I observed them with their colours, speed, glides and swoops and I gave thanks for their presence.  As I was leaving the park after about half an hour, I heard a familiar bird-call and looked around to see some black cockatoos flying past.  As I reflected on these experiences, I thought of not knowing where these birds have come from or where they are going to.  I was privileged to see a tiny fraction of their lives, their stories, as I am privileged to see small aspects of the lives of people who ‘fly’ into my life.  My mind tends to see these little bits as being the whole and repeat the old, dysfunctional thought patterns.  Stories, reflection and contemplation seem to be key elements in my story of metanoia and learning to see as “I Am” sees.

The most significant element in the growth and evolution of me and my communities is the Cosmic Christ living in and around all of us.  This has been so since the beginning of space-time and especially since the self-organising dynamics of creation resulted in the first forms of life, the bacteria who fed on heavy metals and energetic molecules.  These beings have the capacity to discern what to consume and what to leave alone – the beginnings of ‘mind’ and the choices we make.  I suspect that to be fully alive is to keep making life-enhancing choices about the stories we ‘eat’ for sustenance and energy and that the greatest story in which to participate is that of the self-sacrificing Christ.  David, Paul and various women around Jesus set the example and we do not know what Simon chose.  It is enough to make small decisions as they are needed in response to each little debt being cancelled.

David was able to say that he had ‘sinned against the Lord’ and not just against Bathsheba and Uriah.  By realigning himself with the bigger story, he made space for the Spirit to move, as did the others.  Jesus’ story includes ‘proclaiming and bringing the good news’ to his people in Galilee and Judea and continues when I and my communities tell our stories to his people – all of creation – today.

May all of us participate more and more fully in living and proclaiming our stories of faith and forgiveness ‘in Christ!’

Reflection, 5 June 2016.  (Sacred Heart)

To each of us, the new life flowing from the compassionate heart of our Cosmic Christ.  As we here live in the parish of the Sacred Heart (Yea), we followed up a school para-liturgy on Friday with a parish celebration today which included a first Eucharist for one boy and was followed by a big morning tea (brunch).  I reflected on both sets of readings (Friday’s and Sunday’s) and can imagine it was the Love in Jesus’ heart and even deeper in his essence which reached out to the widow from Nain and brought her son back from death and restored both of them to life-giving relationships with family and community.  It is this power flowing through this ‘great prophet’ that we need more than ever as we also celebrate World Environment Day and consider the many forms of death eating away at hope, faith and interdependence.

The storms of the last few days have brought death and destruction to parts of this country and it is most likely that there will be more such weather events in coming years.  I read about the self-organising dynamics of our Universe which are replicated from the atoms to galaxies and I wonder how much it is that death is a cessation of this energy.  Elijah and Jesus demonstrate what can happen to reenergise the organism or system when Love and compassion are focussed on those in need.  I wonder if the storms and other effects of climate change are the consequence of ‘self-love’ which carries its own energies and enhances the destructive dimension of the dynamics.

All the dynamics require fuel and I sense that it is Christ’s Body, including his heart, which is the food for this era when our species grows in awareness of its role of co-creating in and with the Spirit.  We are already influencing the life-systems of Earth and we need Wisdom to do so according to the ‘best practices’ of the Holy One.  New life comes to sons and widows when the power which overcomes death is invoked.  It is the great prophets and their followers – like Paul – who are called and sent to tell the good news of this dynamic and to participate in its dance through darkness to light.

Somehow I am caught up in these dynamics and have a role to play ‘in Christ’ which will grow and evolve to the extent that I can open myself to the love of the Sacred Heart.  I sense my own sadness at my parents’ deaths and also at the lifeless parts within my being.  Perhaps I am called to honour that sadness as a dimension of the feelings of loss and lifelessness in my communities and world.  Then I can participate in the great surprises which happen when Jesus arrives at the ‘gate’ – the place of Divine Justice and Healing.  I give thanks for all the blessings of life in and around me and I pray that I can do so in word and deed.

May all of us live our lives of joyful Resurrection within the heart of the Compassionate One.

Reflection, 29 May 2016.  (Body and Blood of Christ)

To each of us, nourishment at the Banquet of the Cosmic Christ.  This morning, I attended a brothers’ gathering in Melbourne where we were invited to take further steps on transforming our hearts and minds.  Our focus for at least the next four years will be on empowering ourselves in ‘Spirituality Circles’ and we were introduced to how this might work.  There was a ‘demonstration’ of a circle in practice and then we all participated in one for a short time with five or six other brothers.  We received a focus question and involved ourselves in ‘a conversation which can make a difference’ – and even be a source of nourishment for our lives together.

I came away feeling hopeful and even affirmed that many of us desire something like this and are willing to open up.  I reflected later that it was like scratching the surface of our corporate ‘body’ and finding that there is indeed the ‘life-blood’ flowing out of sight and ready to pour out on companions – especially those ‘in Christ’ who have made a commitment to our common life.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks and heals.  Our efforts to speak about the Mystery present in our journey together did seem to bring the sort of healing which includes the joy and connection of our shared brotherhood.  I look forward to more of these ‘circles of empowerment’ in the years ahead.

Jesus’ ‘command’ to his followers is to give ‘food’ to those who seek him and this, too, seems to be what happened in our circles.  The bread and fish speak of the Matter and Flow of our Universe – bread from the land representing our material world and fish from the waters representing the ‘flow’ of the Spirit inherent in creation.  The new covenant says that all of this empowerment is available to us and that our being ‘in Christ’ is about participating consciously in its unfolding.  When we do so ‘in remembrance’ of him, we participate in his self-giving love and through his intimate relationship with “I Am” who cares for us in every dimension of our existence.  

A common theme in all the readings is that of giving and receiving – blessings, story, ritual, thanks, body, cup, loaves and fish.  I ask myself what it is that I am receiving and handing on as a disciple.  Over the years it seems to have been all of these at different times even as I know that my hands are not always open.  I do give thanks for the mercy I receive and pray that my faith grows more and that I learn how to proclaim better Jesus’ death (and Resurrection) in my words and deeds.

May all of us be filled in every way by Matter and Flow, land and oceans, circles and companions.

Reflection, 22 May 2016.  (Most Holy Trinity)

To each of us, the truth of the Trinity in our lives.  I have been wondering about the ‘trinities’ of my life and I came to the One ‘who was, who is and who is to come’ – a past, a present and a future somehow coming together in me and in all the creation to which I belong.  I have a beginning which can be traced back to the Wisdom who was present before space-time commenced and who is working here and now as our Universe is allured into its future of peace and glory.  It is one immense event of playfulness and I participate more fully when I join in the ‘play’ and delight in its evolving mysteries.

I imagine a ‘trinity’ where One ‘gives birth’ to (2) an incarnation who is enlivened by (3) an indwelling fire of wisdom.  I am a small-scale ‘image and likeness’ of this Universe Being and in need of many lessons about how to participate in its grandeur.  I spend time occasionally researching my family tree and some time looking further back into the story of life on this Earth and its origin amongst the stars.  I wonder about the challenges and the sufferings of all these forebears where endurance has produced ‘character’ of all kinds – an almost infinite variety of stars, planets and life-forms as well as stories of migrations, relationships, dysfunctions and successes.  Hope has always been there even though it has had moments of faltering and failure.  Self-giving Love continues to unfold and be known and I pray that I can participate more and more in its creativity.

I hear that in India this month they are experiencing heat waves with one city recording the country’s highest temperature on record – 51°.  The call for conscious beings on Earth to practise self-giving love seems to be more urgent as the damaging effects of global warming increase.  I can imagine a ‘trinity’ here of the Creator bringing about (2) new relationships and awareness through (3) the indwelling power of faith, hope and love.  It is happening in small-scale ways for me and my communities and I pray that we can listen to the Spirit telling us of these things as they come.

I can see a ‘trinity’ of sorts involving life on Earth’s surface with its dependence on the energy of the Sun and on the geo-dynamo in its outer core.  As a species, we seem to be growing in awareness of the dangers of too much of the Sun’s energy trapped in the atmosphere.  The changes above the surface seem to be matched by changes below the surface as the combination of convection currents and the planet’s spin bring about a possible switch of its magnetic poles.  These events have happened before and have their own roles in the play of the Universe Being who continues to delight in their effects.

May all of us rejoice in Wisdom’s work in and around us as we participate more and more in the Mystery of evolving Love.

Proverbs 8:22-24 – The “I” Joins the Journey [A midrashic, or interpretive, translation:]

“The LORD formed me from the beginning, before he created anything else.  (22)

The Life behind Life, eternally now in past and present, possessed me at the beginning of beginnings:

As the first principle of setting up an ordered existence, this Universe Life Force absorbed me, Hokhmah, Holy Wisdom  – Breath from Within and Underneath – into itself.

Cosmic appetite combined with the power of density, the desire to compress and condense,
and I – the first Interior Experience – joined the journey from the very start,

This was the first and most ancient mystery: how the power of growth can be contained and fixed  around a centre, the identity of the self.  This is the axis on which the universe turns.  (22)

I was appointed in ages past, at the very first, before the earth began.  (23)
I was born before the oceans were created, before the springs bubbled forth their waters.  (24)

From the first gathering of sensing and feeling, I was poured out like a libation, a consecration of the cosmos.  At that ancient pivotal moment, before particles or form were even imagined, I flowed out, baptising all in sacredness.  (23)
This was even before the primordial abyss – that dark kernel of purpose – formed in the Universe’s heart.  Even before this I danced into existence.  When everything we call reality was still a “Not!”, when even the abundant springs of chaos had not yet begun to flow, I hoped, I waited, I twisted and turned, I struggled my way through the birth canal of the Holy One.  (24)
(Neil Douglas-Klotz, “Desert Wisdom” p113-114)

Reflection, 15 May 2016.  (Pentecost)

To each of us, the peace and power of breathing the Spirit of Oneness.  I read that the fifty days from Passover to Pentecost, a first fruits’ festival, recall the fifty days of the Exodus from its beginning to Mt Sion and the Law.  At its heart, it is about the way of life for the Chosen People and their relationship to the Creator – a way of gratitude and blessing.  Jesus’ ‘ascending to heaven’ echoes Moses on the mountain and the ‘Law’ is now written on our hearts at the beginning of a ‘new creation’ with a deeper dimension of what it means to be ‘chosen’ in our unfolding Universe.

On Friday, I attended a workshop on Laudato Si’ and came away reflecting that what may be required for the health of ‘our common home’ is for the message of repentance to be taken to heart.  On that first Pentecost of the Resurrection era, the believers were together in one place – a mark of the sense of oneness ‘in Christ’ that has been emerging since then.  The Apostles were formally commissioned and sent, with Power, to preach and to forgive.  The call to repentance remains and is still about turning from being self-centred to relationship with Sacred Unity and Love.  The call from Pope Francis is see how this relationship includes all of creation with ourselves as one strand in the web.  Jesus says that we are not alone, that we have a comforter, an advocate and helper.  We as a species have the power to contribute to the work of creation and we see around us how that is being used in ways both life-enhancing and life-destroying.

On our walk around the Amberley property during the workshop, the Sun appeared amongst the clouds and I reflected that its light is essential for healthy eye-sight.  It seems as though there is a growing, world-wide epidemic of short-sightedness because increasing numbers of children are not spending enough time in natural light for their eyes to develop according to the design of our genes.  I wonder about the ‘short-sightedness’ which characterises the problems of our world and our environment as well as the suggestion that a significant way to change hearts and minds is to spend time ‘in nature’ and to develop relationships with special places.  Being ‘outside in the Sun’ may be healthy for all our ways of seeing.

I wonder, too, about the peace which Jesus promises us when we spend time consciously in the presence of the One who is Love and who ‘comes home’ to us.  A phrase used by Pope Francis is ‘integral ecology’ and I sense that this integrity includes our hearts and minds as much as our outer environment.  I am challenged to ‘integral thinking’ which is beyond my procrastinations and my thoughts of resentment and anger with their disturbing presence.  I give thanks for the peace which does rise when I take a deeper breath and act with good intention in the here-and-now.

I am challenged, too, to believe that the breath of the Spirit is more powerful than a supernova, the most powerful event in the Universe.  This is an act of great creativity when a giant star produces all kinds of elements which did not exist until this time of violent and dramatic ‘self-sacrifice’ – a vital step in the creation of life.  The power of attraction goes to work and produces stars like our Sun and solar systems with planets like Earth where life forms evolve to reflect that love consciously.  The Spirit continues to bring about new entities and happenings such as songs, dreams, the aps in my new (and first) smart-phone – and the creative ways in which people work together to enhance the life of our common home.

May all of us grow in awareness of the Great One in whom we breathe and live in joyful peace.

Reflection, 8 May 2016.  (Ascension)

To each of us, the power and wisdom to proclaim the intimate presence of the Cosmic Christ.  On a couple of occasions in the last few days, I have come across the notion that it is necessary to know what one is ‘for’ even more than to proclaim what one is against.  While it is a significant call in an election campaign, it is foundational in the life of a Christian and clear in today’s readings.  I am challenged again to believe and to live, in word and deed, that I am loved and that the Spirit of Jesus is present to empower me to proclaim repentance, forgiveness and the peace and joy of being ‘in Christ.’

I had a taste of this today at a gathering of brothers with a focus on those who have abused children and how we relate to them.  There was much to hear from members of the leadership team about protocols, principles and guidelines and I was one who spoke up to mention the spiritual dimension with particular reference to today’s Gospel.  We were informed that this aspect is on the agenda for future gatherings, together and in communities, so I was glad and reassured that we are on the way of learning the lessons of the past.  I felt an inner impulse to have my say and knew that doing so was part of my faith journey.  I thought that I had stumbled too much over my words and can only trust that the Spirit does move with power to great effect in my weak efforts.  I suspect that this is perhaps the only way in which the Companionship of Empowerment grows.

My ‘sin’ for many years has been to live out of a sense of separation from Divine Oneness who could not love me.  I can look back and see what I missed seeing – the love and blessings which have carried me to the present and for which I can now give thanks.  I have entered a certain level of ‘suffering’ as I take the risks of sharing my fears and cowardice and of speaking up about the empowerment of the way of forgiveness.  I have a long way to go and look forward to further opportunities to be ‘witness’.

We have not seen much of the stars at night recently as the welcome rain keeps coming.  I think of the night sky and the Milky Way – the ‘heavens’ to which Jesus ‘withdrew’ – out of sight even as his Spirit moves in ways which the eyes of faith can detect.  Our home galaxy looks calm and peaceful in the night sky yet we are learning that it is enormously energetic and violently creative.  Perhaps 90% of it is ‘dark matter’ which is essential to its existence and dynamics as is the supermassive black hole at its centre.  Scientists suspect that it has already incorporated other galaxies in its 13.6 billion years and will collide with Andromeda in about 4 billion years’ time.  This is where the Cosmic Christ is to be found and where we live, out towards its edge.  This is what the Creator sees as being ‘very good’ and worthy of hearing the good news of Love.  It is not just ‘the Law and the Prophets’ but the Universe as well telling us that suffering can herald resurrection at all levels, inner and outer.

May all of us participate more and more fully in the power of self-giving love in this earth/heaven of hope and joy.

Reflection, 1 May 2016.  (Jn 14:23-29)

To each of us, the peace of keeping to the essentials of the Word and Realm of Love.  I ‘was given’ an answer before I was aware of a question around how Jesus’ way of giving peace might be different from that of ‘the world’.  A newsletter article reported that some researchers found that inner peace came from doing things for the benefit of others or of the environment.  It did not come from efforts to relax or exercise or even healthy living, and certainly not from addictions.  When I asked myself what the ‘essentials’ might include, I thought of ‘the washing of feet’ as well as the activities of the Beatitudes – all little acts of kindness which contribute to the peace of the Reign of Companionship and Empowerment.

The essentials listed in the reading from Acts seem to be about beliefs and practices associated with outer-directed religions whereas Jesus tells us that he and the Father-Mother of All will be at home within each of us and within our communities.  The only essential is to believe in this Presence of Love and to live in and through its peace in all circumstances.  I cannot imagine being able to do this in situations such as war which we remembered on Monday – ANZAC Day.  I struggle to do it when arguments and disagreements arise and can remember ‘freezing’ when faced with violence.  A little taste for me of stepping out to tell a story (as the Apostles did) occurred on Monday evening when I invited our overseas guests (two Indonesians and one African) to listen to songs which help the telling:  ‘And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda’, ‘Waltzing Matilda’ itself (with words like swag, billabong, jumbuck, squatter, trooper) and ‘On Every ANZAC Day’.  It proved to be an enjoyable occasion and I was aware of the life and peace being shared as I performed this small service.

I suspect that any little act inspired by the Spirit will lead to greater understanding and empowerment and will be in tune with our expanding and evolving Universe-home.  I wonder about the size and richness of this outer home reflecting the energies of the inner ‘home’ when I consider Earth, its solar system and the Milky Way which belongs in a ‘Local Group’ of galaxies which, in turn, is part of the Virgo Supercluster (perhaps one hundred galaxies), which is located in ‘Laniakea’ (which means “Immeasurable Heavens”) – a giant supercluster (perhaps one hundred thousand galaxies) under the influence of a ‘Great Attractor’ and surrounded by other structures of similar size.  I find myself challenged to believe that I am known and loved in this ‘holy city’ and that its glory, that of the Cosmic Christ, flows in and through me.

I wonder, too, about Jesus’ ‘word’ which I am to keep and I sense that it is the living ‘love’ – the flow of forgiveness and compassion at the heart of all creativity and of spontaneous deeds of kindness.  I hear the Spirit reminding that it begins with my readiness to be forgiven and in my believing that my ‘sins’ are miniscule in the big picture and are even necessary within evolving creation.

May each of us live and grow within the one story of Presence both inner and outer.

Reflection, 24 April 2016.  (Jn 13:31-35)

To each of us, the grace of participating in the glory of the Universe Being.  On Friday, I returned from two weeks in Sunshine in time for the graduation ceremony and dinner for the participants in the Sacred Earth program.  It was a moment of ‘glory’ for them as they looked back over their activities and efforts, received certificates and celebrated new friends and new learning.  They have endured periods of work with reading, reflection and assignments.  Their understanding of the Universe and of themselves as ‘universe’ has grown and evolved.  I imagine that this is about revealing more of the ‘glory’ which each of us has and is as entities within the ongoing story of creation.  As it was for Paul and Barnabas, it is really about what the Creator has done and continues to do in and through us and our communities.

I look to Jesus to see the ultimate example of the self-giving love which endures misunderstanding, rejection, suffering and death and, in doing so, reveals the true nature – the glory – of our universe.  It is one and the same ‘glory’ for the Son of Man, for all and for the Source of All.  I ask myself how he loves me and I recognise the servant ‘washing my feet’, teaching me (especially how to listen and pray), understanding and forgiving me, inviting me into intimacy with him and calling me to take these gifts to all of creation.  In the homework project in which I ‘served’ over the last two weeks, I helped with a project on iron ore, another on how to make a drum pedal, and I kept the seven laptops going while engaging other young people.  I did note that one of my main intentions was to bring enthusiasm and even joy to the students and to other volunteers.  Perhaps this was really about revealing the glory in which we all live and have our being.

It seems to me that Jesus, Paul, Barnabas and all of us can expect the testing of hardships, persecutions and challenges as inherent in the Reign of Empowerment because they are inherent in the universe.  When the expanding fire-ball was perhaps three hundred thousand years old, it began to break up into smaller ‘clouds’ thanks to density variations originating in its first shudder and flaring forth.  Within these new entities, gravity/attraction was working to bring about the pressure required to ignite stars and to form clusters of stars and even clusters of galaxies.  Our universe has always been a place of ‘violence and cauldrons’ leading to creativity which determines that all new ‘beings’ – from stars and galaxies down to us – will be different.  Even the trials forming my own journey will be unique to me and one aspect of my struggle is the matter of accepting that they are inevitable and full of promise.  My new heaven/earth is already emerging from glory/light and depends on ‘dark’ as well as Love.

On one day last week, in the space of a few minutes, the word ‘colour’ reinforced itself on my attention when it was the focus of two separate reading passages.  I sensed a challenge for me to look out for the fresh colours of the new earth/heaven both within myself and in my world.  I see them in the autumn leaves and the clear, blue skies and I wonder about the greys of my inner world as the temperature drops (4° this morning) and I revisit past circumstances and dream of future possibilities.  Then the Spirit whispers about the opportunities for loving service and self-giving in each present moment and reminds me that I exist in Love’s glory where ‘all is well’ and my task is to believe.

May all of us grow in consciousness of Glory’s power and radiance at work in every circumstance of the evolving Cosmic Christ in whom we share resurrection.

Reflection, 17 April 2016.  (Good Shepherd)

To each of us, the blessings of hearing and following the Shepherd’s voice.  I have struggled to listen to this whisper over the last week as I have been in Sunshine where I lived two years ago and am using another brother’s room while he is away until the end of this week.  It is quite a return to the past as I help out in the homework and tutoring project doing the jobs I used to do.  Part of me says that I do not belong here anymore even as sometimes it seems that I have not been away.  I have spent much of the last few years reflecting on possibilities for the future and where the Shepherd may be leading me and my communities and now I wonder what sharing of blessings is happening in the present moment.

While one member of the community here is away, it is also the time for another to finish and for his replacement to settle in.  My presence is part of the mix of these changes and challenges which adds to my mix of excitement and unease as I join in activities of both community and ministry.  I trust that the Spirit is at work creating new life for all.  I have enjoyed the moments of working with young people, some familiar faces and others new, with a sense of gratitude for the privilege of being able to do so again.  I am affirmed in what has happened in the past and its place in the foundations of the future.  I wonder if this call to walk with others will evolve into new patterns as our world changes and the forces which threaten ‘death’ and to ‘steal from the Father’ grow in intensity.

I was able to share the interpretation, ‘The Creator of Ripeness’ (below), at a community prayer one morning and to receive others’ contributions on other days as we spent time together listening for the Shepherd’s voice and the Spirit’s movements.  It was the words about the ‘freely given teaching and example’ that stayed with me and seemed to reinforce the sense that the “I Am” does communicate love and wisdom through all of us, even me, and even when I am not aware of it.

I do have a limited awareness of this love at the same time as I have almost no awareness of the Shepherd’s work throughout the time and space of the universe.   I read that the first stars were formed possibly when Creation was about thirty million years old – and I imagine the forces of attraction (love) at work as clouds of atoms and other materials are ‘shepherded’ together until the pressure ignites nuclear fusion, and transformation leads to a new and previously unknown entity – another dimension of oneness.  The ‘Parent’ and Cosmic Christ are one and it occurred to me that this seems to mean one in purpose and activity as well as in mind and heart – and now we humans participate in that life, knowingly and unknowingly.

May we grow in the faith which says that Jesus knows each of us by name and leads all creation into resurrection.

Reflection, 10 April 2016.  (Jn 21:1-19)

To each of us, the grace to know and follow the presence of the Cosmic Christ.  All my afternoon was taken up with three films looking at inter-faith issues – two stories and a documentary.  The small audience included Jews, Muslims and Christians and there was little time for discussion so I did not meet many people.  The stories and images spoke for themselves and portrayed what can happen in any religion when the ‘group’ sets out to follow its laws and customs rather than any spirit of openness or unity.  I was moved by moments of blessing and grace as well as by the tragic consequences of being closed, controlling and fearful.  I came away challenged to follow Jesus with a ‘living faith’ which I can put into words as well as actions so that I can participate in meaningful conversations in similar situations when the time comes.

On Thursday, a group of us from Glenburn attended the launch of a Wilderness Society program (in Melbourne) which aims to train leaders for campaigns to save the environment.  Their target is one hundred thousand people who will be able to change hearts and minds ‘one conversation at a time’ and I could only marvel at the parallels with the work of Jesus, the Apostles and all his followers where passion, values, facts and ‘personal narrative’ come together in a people’s movement.  Of course, there was no mention of religion or Spirit by these environmentalists yet it was obvious to me that they are ‘in tune’ with the Source of Creation – and I felt a touch of shame that I have not been active in a similar way.  Then came the Whisper suggesting that I have my path to follow and that I might be prepared to join in their conversations as a Christian in this arena which is common ground for all faiths.  We shall see how the Spirit moves.

I sense, too, that Jesus asks me many times each day, “Do you love me?” and I feel the distress felt by Peter with its mixture of shame, hope, doubt and expectation – especially as he repeats, “Follow me!”  There seems to be always something different in the way he appears so that I, too, want to ask, “Is it really you? – in the midst of Jews, Muslims, Baptists and environmentalists? – calling me to join in conversations?”  Perhaps the most important one is with him and his Spirit.

This engaging with others in the shared process of changing hearts and minds invites me to reflect on the power of attraction inherent in our expanding universe.  In the beginning stages, different particles like protons and neutrons came together to form nuclei and then electrons joined the dance and the growing complexity produced atoms of hydrogen followed by helium.  The notion of two or three gathering for the sake of relationships of empowerment continues to operate in many situations and I sense the deep attraction in me to be ‘in Christ’ and to participate in his ongoing work of creation – all the way to resurrection.

May all of us continue to follow this ever-new Presence and Mystery with the conviction and joy of all disciples and apostles since Peter’s conversations on the beach and facing the Sanhedrin.

Reflection, 3 April 2016.  (Jn 20:19-31)

To each of us, the new life which grows through believing in the presence and love of Jesus, the Cosmic Christ.  I look back over the last week and beyond to the last twenty years and I give thanks for the moments of seeing and touching wounds – mine and others’.  These have been times of being touched by Divine Mercy and experiencing the peace of acceptance and missioning which comes with the ‘one who lives’.  They seem to be the stepping stones of my journey into wholeness and the building blocks of relationships and community.

I read in one description of the first few thousand years of the Universe that stable relationships became possible as the fire-ball plasma expanded and cooled and allowed the elementary particles to remain joined together in the forms of things like protons and neutrons, releasing light energy as they came together.  These couples and triads remind me of the ‘two or three’ gathered in Jesus’ name and suggest a foundational pattern for unfolding consciousness.  At one level, it has been the significant sharing with another person (or a few others) releasing peace and life and at another level, it has been the openness to the Sacred Other, Jesus and his Spirit. There is, too, the inner level where I relate in a more healthy way with my ‘inner child’ who may be hurting, afraid or even playful.  Each moment is different and reflects the diversity which is also at the heart of creation.

Some differences can be seen in the readings from Acts and Revelations.  In one case, the Spirit is working through Peter’s shadow as well as his words and other ‘signs and wonders’.  In the other, ‘John’ is involved in something like a dream or vision and seems to be commissioned into a new task, the writing of what he sees and hears.  The Apostles became willing participants in the relationships of empowerment, passing on their own experiences to bring many others into this new ‘way’ of faith.  I can imagine all of them being delighted and surprised at each ‘experiment’ of the Spirit which resulted in the peace and aliveness of their own groupings of two, three or more gathered together in the name of Jesus.

I sense that the challenge for me and my communities is about being open to touching wounds ‘in Christ’ – our own, those of others and of Earth, our common home – and being alert to the new experimenting by the Spirit who continues to reveal paths that are life-enhancing as well as those that are life-denying.  When we dare to join the Apostles in joyfully proclaiming Resurrection in the porticos of today’s temples, then those searching for hope and truth will be drawn to share in the flow of power and grace.

May all of us continue to seek and to be surprised when the Breath of the Universe Being touches our hearts and our world.

Reflection, 27 March 2016.  (Easter)

To each of us, the surprise and excitement of the empty tomb.  One notion which has stayed with me at this beginning of our Easter celebration is the focus on the empty tomb and its impact on those who went there.  It seems to be important for me to do the same thing, with my expectations of loss and grief, and to honour the relationships coming to an end – and changing wonder-fully.  At one level, it is like the scientists visiting the Great Barrier Reef in recent weeks and finding a thousand kilometres of bleached corals – not yet dead but unlikely to find the years of good conditions necessary for revival.  More significantly, it is about going to the ‘tomb’ in my heart and soul which I am tempted to see as containing little more than worms and the remains of faith as I consider issues like climate change and refugees crises.

The Genesis story of Abraham preparing to sacrifice his son stayed also with me as I reflected on the notion of my being created in the ‘image and likeness of God’ – a Divine Creator who ‘sacrificed his only son’ and set the pattern for us as individuals and as a species to follow.  To me, the pattern is about Love and deepening relationships which allow Life to grow into fullness in evermore diverse and complex ways.  Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his hope in Isaac’s future for the sake of a bigger picture of hope in Ultimate Goodness.  I sense that my journey of recent years has been one of ‘sacrificing’ my largely unconscious focus on my wounded inner child, going to his ‘tomb’ and moving on to the surprise of a new and deeper relationship with the Resurrected One.

For most of my life, I have been focusing too much on doom and gloom – for me and for my world.  I suspect that the Spirit has been carrying on the work of healing and enabling me to live beyond this ‘slavery’ to fear.  At the Easter Vigil, I became more aware of this when I was chided on a couple of occasions by different people – once for being stubborn when I refused a helping hand and later for ringing the bell too loudly and too fast.  All I could do on both occasions was to laugh and celebrate my growing sense of freedom – the inner child now much more playful.

I recall, too, the scientists’ description of the beginning of our Universe 13.8 billion years ago when the first particles were forming and colliding in the original cosmic soup – collisions in which small particles combine to make bigger and more complex particles with the  release of some of their energy in the form of light.  The pattern of sacrifice for the sake of new life is foundational to creation and continues today, in the Sun, provider of all our light and energy, in all the processes of our bodies and in the relationships which bring joy and laughter.  The trip to the tomb becomes a journey to the relationships of Galilee, the beginning of the Jesus story, and to the beginning of the Christ Event, where we see everything with new eyes.

May all of us remain at empty tombs long enough to hear the messengers of the Holy One invite us into Mystery.

Reflection, 20 March 2016.  (Passion Sunday)

To each of us, the grace of conscious participation in Love’s incarnating within our evolving creation.  One thought which came to my mind was that the story of the Passion in today’s Gospel is like the story of the end of the pre-Christian era, an ending of great significance for our expanding and evolving Universe.  The consciousness of us, the human species, has reached the stage of acknowledging Love as the ultimate power of creation and making the choice to serve as its instrument in all circumstances.  New dimensions of faith, peace, forgiveness and companionship emerge in the violence and ‘darkness’ of creation which retain their essential place in the processes of creativity.

It seems as though ‘dark matter’ allows our universe to take the form and shape it has where ‘light matter’ comes together in ever more complex entities.  Another dimension of the dark is the mystery of what happens in death and beyond.  Jesus trusts that there is a ‘Universe Being’ and is able to keep his faith while acknowledging his fear.  He gives witness to what it means to be made in the Divine image and likeness while those around him play at being gods.  He demonstrates that the glory of Sacred Unity is about the evolution of creation into a multiplicity of forms including the human species which has the choice whether to participate consciously or to hold back and be involved unwittingly.

During the week, I watched a TV programme which highlighted one way in which I am an unaware participant in the extinction event of these times.  Every time I wash the fleecy jacket which helps keep me warm – especially now as we move into autumn – some of the microfibers go down the drain and into the food chain where they pose a threat to the health of the creatures that eat them, all the way to the fish which we put on our own plates.  This is the kind of awareness that brings people together in climate action groups and onto the streets.  I watched thousands marching today, Palm Sunday, in the face of another perceived injustice as they declared, “Let them stay!” to the ‘gods’ who want to send refugees to anywhere but here.  The Spirit of Jesus is at work as we come together in new partnerships in the face these crises so that all can choose to live life more fully even as we grow in awareness that the choice includes various forms of dying.

The human species, including me, is a global power at the social, biological and geological levels – we are changing our common home.  Last month, February, was the warmest month on record with temperatures at least 1.2° above average around the planet.  This is a different aspect of the treatment of the Cosmic Christ in the Holy Week gospel stories.  I do not know how inevitable or even necessary it is for the evolving consciousness of the universe and for New Creation.  I pray that I can participate in the processes with increased awareness and growing faith in the Mercy of the Creator who loves all that exists.

May all of us continue to listen and to wonder as we follow the way of Jesus in whom we live and move and have our being.

Reflection, 13 March 2016.  (Jn 8:1-11)

To each of us, the supreme advantage of knowing Jesus, the Cosmic Christ.  Any other ‘knowing’ could be described as ‘adultery’ in the same way as the Chosen People were described by prophets and as all of us could be described when our primary passion is for anything apart from Divine Love and Mercy.  As I reflected on today’s gospel story, I wondered about the witness who saw the event and told the story – of a woman, a woman experiencing Great Mercy through Jesus.  Who knew that Jesus had been to the Mount of Olives?  I can imagine this witness coming to know him and his practice of prayer as well as his teaching and his confrontations with the Judean elites – a witness close to the inner circle and growing in awareness of him being Messiah.

In reading N.T. Wright’s commentary, I met the idea that the test was set up by the scribes and Pharisees to see if they could discredit him and show the crowds that Jesus did not have the ‘qualifications’ to be the Anointed One, the One who had all authority in the Temple and beyond.  They wanted to show that he was just another pretender from Galilee and they would have been dismayed when he demonstrated something greater than the Wisdom of Solomon in dealing with them and the woman.  If he was the Messiah then they would lose their power and positions and their ‘adultery’ was being exposed more and more each time he demonstrated that he did have the necessary credentials.

These scribes and Pharisees at least were able to address Jesus as “Teacher” so they did know him in some way.  They and especially the ‘witness’ may have sensed a moment of humility as Jesus bent down and I can imagine him gathering his thoughts from an inner awareness as he wrote in the dust from which Adam was formed.  I wonder if this stirred in all those present a memory of the goodness YWHW sees in all creation, especially in us humans, and awoke their inner knowing of the loving way to act.  His teaching continued from symbolic action to words as he spoke of who could throw the first stone and I try to imagine how he would do that lovingly.  His way includes Law, judgement and mercy as well as a call to all those present then and now to grow in Love.

I can imagine Jesus bending down to put himself below that woman’s status as sinner and not looking at her until the immediate issue of the men’s hypocrisy was faced.  His moment of breath and prayerful listening allowed him to see the bigger picture and to invite the movements of Ruah for the empowerment of everyone.  He is here as servant and even slave, doing the will of Sacred Unity and teaching me and my communities to do the same in him.  I fail regularly to see and to speak with love and I am learning that I am not condemned as I keep hearing, “Go, and don’t sin anymore.”  I do well when I breathe Ruah and live in each present moment.

May we know more and more about how Jesus prays, teaches, acts and moves in and around each one of us witnesses in intimate relationship.

Reflection, 6 March 2016.  (Lk 15:1-3, 11-32)

To each of us, the grace of having the shame of our ‘Egypts’ rolled away.  One notion which stayed with me from the homily today was that of the younger son being separated from the source of all the goodness in his life.  Earlier in the week, I read that ‘sin’ can be considered as living in ‘the illusion of separateness’ and I began reflecting how easily I live with very infrequent awareness of the abiding Presence and Oneness who is the Source of All Being.  It is as though I have to return from my ‘Egypt’ on a daily basis as I experience the stubborn elements of my shame as they are revealed there.  I read also a short article (the Spirit at work again) on the blessings which can emerge from appropriate shame which may be a socialising factor inherent in our human species.  Both sons would know intuitively what to do to be ‘at one’ with family and village just as the father knows how to bring all together with celebrating and produce of the land.

Over the years, I have felt a sense of shame telling me that I have not done enough ‘for the Kingdom’ and now I am learn