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

Sunday 2 April
5th SUNDAY OF LENT and
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.

“People who consider themselves victims of their circumstances will always remain victims unless they develop a greater vision for their lives.”  (Stedman Graham)

Saturday 1 April
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.

“Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off your goals.”  (Brian Tracy)

Friday 31 March
anticipating POETRY MONTH

The USA celebrates April as the month of poetry. Taking a cue from this, we might devote some of our prayer time to this form of expression – either creating a poem or reflecting upon one.

“Adversity causes some people to break, others to break records.”  (Denis Waitley)

Thursday 30 March
DOCTORS DAY

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.

“Change cannot be avoided... change provides the opportunity for innovation. It gives you the chance to demonstrate your creativity.”  (Felice Jones)

Wednesday 29 March
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).

“God gives talent, work transforms talent into genius.”  (Anna Pavlova)

Tuesday 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…

“To respond is positive, to react is negative.”  (Zig Ziglar)

Monday 27 March 2017
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

“The greatest natural resource in the world is the spirit that resides in every unstoppable person.”  (Cynthia Kersey)

Sunday 26 March
4th SUNDAY OF LENT

“If you wish to find, you must search. Rarely does a good idea interrupt you.”  (Jim Rohn)

Saturday 25 March
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.

“Pray that your loneliness may spur you into finding something to live for, great enough to die for.”  (Dag Hammarskjold)

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

Archbishop Romero was assasinated 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

“If you really want to do something you will find a way. If you don’t , you will find an excuse.”  (Jim Rohn)

Thursday 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 you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough.”  (Vince Lombardi)

Wednesday 22 March
WORLD WATER DAY

The theme this year is ‘Water and wastewater’, prompting reflection on ‘how wastewater is perceived as a valuable resource in the circular economy and its safe management as an efficient investment in the health of humans and ecosystems’. See www.worldwaterday.org

“A cheerful heart has a continual feast.”  (Proverbs 15:15)

Tuesday 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.

“Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.”  (Willie Nelson)

Monday 20 March 2017
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 tomorrow 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.

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

Sunday 19 March
3rd SUNDAY OF LENT

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”  (Viktor Frankl)

Saturday 18 March
anticipating 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.

“To believe in a child is to believe in the future.  Through their aspirations they will save the world.”  (Henry James)

Friday 17 March
ST PATRICK

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.

“The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.”  (Oscar Wilde)

Thursday 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

“We grow old when we neglect the child in us who wants to play.”  (George Bernard Shaw)

Wednesday 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.

“The block of granite which was an obstacle in the pathway of the weak, became a stepping-stone in the pathway of the strong.”  (Thomas Carlyle)

Tuesday 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.

“Don’t say you don't have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Louis Pasteur, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein.”  (Jackson Brown Jr)

Monday 13 March 2017
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.

“In about the same degree as you are helpful, you will be happy.”  (Karl Reiland)

Sunday 12 March
2nd SUNDAY OF LENT and
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.

“With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself, or treat what has happened as gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.”  (Wayne Dyer)

Saturday 11 March
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.

“If we’re growing, we’re always going to be out of our comfort zone.”  (John Maxwell)

Friday 10 March
WORLD KIDNEY DAY and
MONTH OF MARCH

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

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.

“Whenever encountering a troublesome person, do not identify him as being cruel or stupid or rude or anything else like that. Instead, see him as a frightened person.”  (Vernon Howard)

Thursday 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.

“The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.”  (Kenneth Blanchard)

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

International Women’s Day is being marked today for the 106th 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.

“Only when your memories are more important to you than your goals are you old.”  (Nido Qubein)

Tuesday 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.

“Confidence on the outside begins by living with integrity on the inside.”  (Brian Tracy)

Monday 6 March 2017
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.

“Experience is not what happens to you - it's how you interpret what happens to you.”  (Aldous Huxley)

Sunday 5 March
1st SUNDAY OF LENT and
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.

“There are souls in this world who have the gift of finding joy everywhere and leaving it behind them when they go.”  (Frederick William Faber)

Saturday 4 March
WORLD DAY OF THE FIGHT AGAINST SEXUAL EXPLOITATION and
WORLD DAY OF PRAYER

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.

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

“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.”  (Jim Valvano)

Friday 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.

“Great thoughts speak only to the thoughtful mind, but great actions speak to all Mankind.”  (Emily P. Bissell)

Thursday 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.

“The major reason for setting a goal is for what it makes of you to accomplish it. What it makes of you will always be the far greater value than what you get.”  (Jim Rohn)

Wednesday 1 March
ASH WEDNESDAY, the START OF LENT, and
INTERNATIONAL DEATH PENALTY ABOLITION 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.

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.

“When you maximize your talents, you’re on path, on purpose, on target. When you don’t, you’re off path, off purpose, off target.”  (Kevin Hall)

Tuesday 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.”

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

Monday 27 February 2017
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.

“Books are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind. Books are humanity in print.”  (Barbara Tuchman)

Sunday 26 February
8th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
First day of BAHÁ’Í FESTIVAL of AYYÁM-I-HÁ and
RARE DISEASE DAY

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.

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.”

“Difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage. The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict.”  (William Channing)

Saturday 25 February
ST WALPURGA

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.

“You can’t do it unless you can imagine it."  (George Lucas)

Friday 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.

“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”  (George Bernard Shaw)

Thursday 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 8 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

“I make progress by having people around me who are smarter than I am – and listening to them.  And I assume that everyone is smarter about something than I am.”  (Henry Kaiser)

Wednesday 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 38th 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: “Take action together”. In our prayer today we are invited to align our hearts with this aim. See www.worldthinkingday.org

“You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where our thoughts take you.”  (James Allen)

Tuesday 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.

“If you were going to die soon and had only one phone call to make, who would you call and what would you say? And why are you waiting?”  (Stephen Levine)

Monday 20 February 2017
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.

“One day in retrospect the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.”  (Sigmund Freud)

Sunday 19 February
7th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
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.

“A bend in the road is not the end of the road ... unless you fail to make the turn.”  (source unknown)

Saturday 18 February
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.

“We are all tattooed in our cradles with the beliefs of our tribe; the record may seem superficial, but it is indelible.  You cannot educate a man wholly out of the superstitious fears which were implanted in his imagination, no matter how utterly his reason may reject them.”  (Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr)

Friday 17 February
2006 MUDSLIDE IN THE PHILIPPINES

The eleventh 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 memorable act in the world is a triumph of enthusiasm. Nothing great was ever achieved without it because it gives any challenge or any occupation, no matter how frightening or difficult, a new meaning. Without enthusiasm you are doomed to a life of mediocrity but with it you can accomplish miracles.”  (Og Mandion)

Thursday 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’s not about waiting for the storm to pass... It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”  (Viviane Greene)

Wednesday 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.

“The greatest good we can do for others is not to share our riches with them, but to reveal their own.”  (Benjamin Disraeli)

Tuesday 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.

“One of the strongest characteristics of genius is the power of lighting one’s own fire.”  (John Foster)

Monday 13 February 2017
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 foundation of confidence in virtually every field is preparation.”  (Brian Tracy)

Sunday 12 February
6th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
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”.

“We cannot do everything at once, but we can do something at once.”  (Calvin Coolidge)

Saturday 11 February
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.

“Do not squander time for that is the stuff life is made of.”  (Benjamin Franklin)

Friday 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.

“When you have more than you need, build a longer table not a higher fence.”  (source unknown)

Thursday 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.

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”  (Mahatma Gandhi)

Wednesday 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.

“Love without action is meaningless and action without love is irrelevant.”  (Deepak Chopra)

Tuesday 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 41st anniversary of their independence from Britain, let us remember in prayer the circles of Grenadians around the Presentation Brothers.

“People who consider themselves victims of their circumstances will always remain victims unless they develop a greater vision for their lives.”  (Stedman Graham)

Monday 6 February 2017
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.

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”  (Joseph Campbell)

Sunday 5 February
5th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
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 the familiar that usually eludes us in life. What is before our nose is what we see last.”  (William Barrett)

Saturday 4 February
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.

“Everyone takes the limits of his own vision for the limits of the world.”  (Arthur Schopenhauer)

Friday 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.

“What we see depends mainly on what we look for.”  (John Lubbock)

Thursday 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

“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 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.

“The height of your accomplishments is determined by the depth of your convictions.”  (William F. Scolavino)

Tuesday 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.

“An investment in knowledge pays the best dividends.”  (Benjamin Franklin)

Monday 30 January 2017
MARY WARD, FOUNDER OF THE LORETO SISTERS

Mary Ward was declared ‘Venerable’ just over five 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.

“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”  (Arthur Ashe)

Sunday 29 January
4th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
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.

“Maybe you can't change the whole world, but if you have love in your heart you can make small differences every day, which really does change the world, one life at a time.”  (Kristina Koncz)

Saturday 28 January
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 www.dataprivacyday.org

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”  (Lao Tzu)

Friday 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.)

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

Thursday 26 January
AUSTRALIA DAY  and  INDIA’S REPUBLIC DAY

This year India marks the 66th 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.

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. As with all matter of the heart you’ll know when you find it.”  (Steve Jobs)

Wednesday 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.

“The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity.”  (Keith Ferrazzi)

Tuesday 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.

“The mark of a good conversationalist is not that you can talk a lot. The mark is that you can get others to talk a lot.”  (Guy Kawasaki)

Monday 23 January 2017
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.

“Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder.  Help someone’s soul heal.  Walk out of your house like a shepherd.”  (Rumi)

Sunday 22 January
3rd SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

“Do not judge by appearances.  A rich heart may be under a poor coat.”  (Scottish Proverb)

Saturday 21 January
FEAST OF 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.

“Appreciation can make a day – even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.”  (Margaret Cousin)

Friday 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.

“Don’t feel entitled to anything you don’t sweat and struggle for.”  (Marian Wright Edelman)

Thursday 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.

“Fear of failure and fear of the unknown are always defeated by faith. Having faith in yourself, in the process of change, and in the new direction that change sets will reveal your own inner core of steel.”  (Georgette Mosbacher)

Wednesday 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.

“You have it easily in your power to increase the sum total of this world's happiness now. How? By giving a few words of sincere appreciation to someone who is lonely or discouraged. Perhaps you will forget tomorrow the kind words you say today, but the recipient may cherish them over a lifetime.”  (Dale Carnegie)

Tuesday 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.

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”  (John Wooden)

Monday 16 January 2017
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.

“Focusing on what we already have and are grateful for right now is one of the most powerful things we can do to alter our life in a positive way.”  (Mike Robbins)

Sunday 15 January
2nd SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
ANNIVERSARY OF HUDSON RIVER EMERGENCY LANDING

Eight 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 recently in a movie called SULLY, it might turn our eyes to the unsung good news in our own experience and context.

“If you want to conquer fear, don't sit at home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”  (Dale Carnegie)

Saturday 14 January
FEAST OF THE ASS

This 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.

“Life is the sum of all your choices.”  (Albert Camus)

Friday 13 January
ST HILARY OF POITIERS

The feastday 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.

“Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world.”  (George Bernard Shaw)

Thursday 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.

“Difficulties in life are intended to make us better not bitter.”  (Dan Reeves)

Wednesday 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.

“Love is friendship that has caught fire.  It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving.  it is loyalty through good and bad times.  It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.”  (Ann Landers)

Tuesday 10 January
ANNIVERSARY OF WORLD’S OLDEST UNDERGROUND RAILWAY

In 1863, just 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 find the best way to love someone is not to change them, but instead, help them reveal the greatest version of themselves.”  (Dr Steve Maraboli)

Monday 9 January 2017
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.

“Today, let us swim wildly, joyously in gratitude.”  (Rumi)

Sunday 8 January
THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD and
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.

“To forget how to dig the earth and tend the soil is to forget ourselves.”  (Mohandas K. Gandhi)

Saturday 7 January
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.

“Trees are the earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven.”  (Rabindranath Tagore)

Friday 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.

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

Thursday 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.

“The foundation of confidence in virtually every field is preparation.”  (Brian Tracy)

Wednesday 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.

“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”  (George Bernard Shaw)

Tuesday 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.

“In business, words are words, explanations are explanations, promises are promises, but only performance is reality.”  (Harold Geneen)

Monday 2 January 2017
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 2017 diaries so we can be aware.

“Average people look for ways of getting away with it; successful people look for ways of getting on with it.”  (Jim Rohn)

Sunday 1 January 2017
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 “Fraternity, the foundation and pathway to peace”. Look for it via the Search facility at the top of www.justpax.it

“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe.  If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened.  But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”  (Frederich Nietzsche)

Saturday 31 December
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. Look it up on www.integrativespirituality.org

“Character is built daily by the way one thinks and acts - thought by thought, action by action.”  (Helen Douglas)

Friday 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 2016.

“Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.”  (Rabindranath Tagor)

Thursday 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.

“If you look to others for fulfillment, you will never be fulfilled. If your happiness depends on money, you will never be happy with yourself. Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the world belongs to you.”  (Lao Tzu)

Wednesday 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”.

“Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here. The spiritual journey is the relinquishment, or unlearning, of fear and the acceptance of love back into our hearts.”  (Marianne Williamson)

Tuesday 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.

“Managers help people to see themselves as they are. Leaders help people to see themselves better than they are.”  (Jim Rohn)

Monday 26 December 2016
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.

“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)

Sunday 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.

“Those who will lead in this life must start against the crowd and lead forcefully until the crowd sees the results and changes their direction.”  (Chris Widener)

Saturday 24 December
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.”

Friday 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).

“He who treads the path of love walks a thousand miles as it it were only one.”  (Japanese Proverb)

Thursday 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.

“Whatever course you have chosen for yourself, it will not be a chore but an adventure if you bring to it a sense of the glory of striving, if your sights are set far above the merely secure and mediocre.”  (David Sarnoff)

Wednesday 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.

Tuesday 20 December
INTERNATIONAL HUMAN SOLIDARITY DAY

Established by the UN nine 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.

“You can easily judge the character of others by how they treat those who can do nothing for them or to them.”  (Malcolm Forbes)

Monday 19 December 2016
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 world is changed by your example, not by your opinion.”  (Paulo Coelho)

“If you want to know your past - look into your present conditions. If you want to know your future - look into your present actions.”  (Chinese Proverb)

Sunday 18 December
4th SUNDAY OF ADVENT and
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 two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”  (Mark Twain)

Saturday 17 December
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.

“I think luck is the sense to recognize an opportunity and the ability to take advantage of it. The man who can smile at his breaks and grab his chances gets on.”  (Samuel Goldwyn)

“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”  (Jim Rohn)

Friday 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.

“The greater part of human pain is unnecessary. It is self-created as long as the unobserved mind runs your life.”  (Eckhart Tolle)

Thursday 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.

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

Wednesday 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.

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

Tuesday 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.

“I discovered I always have choices and sometimes it's only a choice of attitude.”  (Judith M. Knowlton)

Monday 12 December 2016
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 53rd anniversary of becoming independent in 1963.

“Search for the seed of good in every adversity.”  (Og Mandino)

Sunday 11 December
3rd SUNDAY OF ADVENT and
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”.

“Advice is like snow; the softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper it sinks into the mind.”  (Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

Saturday 10 December
HUMAN RIGHTS DAY

The theme this year is “Stand up for someone’s rights today!” This year marks the 22nd anniversary of the UN Human Rights Office - see www.ohchr.org - and also see the website of our own advocacy arm www.edmundriceinternational.org which maintains a special focus on human rights.

“No one lives long enough to learn everything they need to learn starting from scratch. To be successful, we absolutely, positively have to find people who have already paid the price to learn the things that we need to learn to achieve our goals.”  (Brian Tracy)

Friday 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.

“How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.”  (William Shakespeare)

Thursday 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.

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”  (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Wednesday 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.

“Remember that your goal is not to be the richest person in the cemetery. Make the most of today!”  (Hugh Tassey)

Tuesday 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.

“It’s your unlimited power to care and to love that can make the biggest difference in the quality of your life.”  (Anthony Robbins)

Monday 5 December 2016
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.

“Take the attitude of a student: Never be too big to ask questions; Never know too much to learn something new.”  (Og Mandino)

Sunday 4 December
2nd SUNDAY OF ADVENT and
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.

“Do not fear going forward slowly; fear only to stand still.”  (Chinese Proverb)

Saturday 3 December
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.

“Not what we have, but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.”  (Epicurus)

Friday 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.

“The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion.”  (Paulo Coelho)

Thursday 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.

“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”  (John Wooden)

Wednesday 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

“Experience teaches only the teachable.”  (Aldous Huxley)

Tuesday 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.

“To succeed in life, you need three things: a backbone, a wishbone and a funny bone.”  (Reba McEntire)

Monday 28 November 2016
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.

“All growth depends upon activity. There is no development physically or intellectually without effort, and effort means work.”  (Calvin Coolidge)

Sunday 27 November
1st SUNDAY OF ADVENT

 “I learned that good judgment comes from experience and that experience grows out of mistakes.”  (Omar Bradley)

Saturday 26 November
ST JOHN BERCHMANS and
ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE MONTH

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.

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.

“There are some things one can only achieve by a deliberate leap in the opposite direction.”  (Franz Kafka)

Friday 25 November
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF ELIMINATION OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN and
BUY NOTHING DAY

The Day of Elimination of Violence against Women is a United Nations observance. It is briefly introduced on the website www.timeanddate.com

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.

“When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the morning light, for your life and strength.  Give thanks for your food, and the joy of living.  If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies with yourself.”  (Tecumseh, Shawnee Chief)

Thursday 24 November
EVOLUTION DAY and
THANKSGIVING DAY IN USA

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.

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.

“Worry gives a small thing a big shadow.”  (Swedish Proverb)

Wednesday 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’.

“Motivation is what gets you started.  Habit is what keeps you going.”  (Jim Rohn)

Tuesday 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.

“The happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.”  (H. Jackson Brown, Jr)

Monday 21 November 2016
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.

“Trust your hunches. They're usually based on facts filed away just below the conscious level.”  (Dr Joyce Brothers)

Sunday 20 November
CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY and
WORLD DAY OF REMEMBRANCE FOR ROAD TRAFFIC VICTIMS and
UNIVERSAL CHILDREN’S DAY and
AFRICA INDUSTRIALISATION DAY

Road Traffic Victims are remembered on the third Sunday of November, an official UN day since 2005. We all know of people who have died or been affected in life-changing ways by road accidents – let us recall them and their families in our prayers at this time.

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're still hanging onto a dead dream of yesterday, laying flowers on its grave by the hour, you cannot be planting the seeds for a new dream to grow today.”  (Joyce Chapman)

Saturday 19 November
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.

“Criticism is something we can avoid easily — by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”  (Aristotle)

Friday 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’).

“With the gift of listening comes the gift of healing.”  (Catherine de Hueck)

Thursday 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.

“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”  (African proverb)

Wednesday 16 November
TOELERANCE 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.

“A friend hears the song in my heart and sings it to me when my memory fails.”  (source unknown)

Tuesday 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.

“The result of our people-judgments is that we often throw away someone's ideas because they are voiced by the wrong person or because we don't agree with all of their ideas.”  (Thayer White)

Monday 14 November 2016
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

“Most of the shadows of this life are caused by our standing in our own sunshine.”  (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Sunday 13 November
32nd SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
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

“The great lesson is that the sacred is in the ordinary, that it is to be found in one's daily life, in one's neighbors, friends and family, in one's backyard.”  (Abraham Maslow)

Saturday 12 November
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.

“To step toward your destiny, you have to step away from your security.”  (Craig Groeschel)

Friday 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.

“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day-in and day-out.”  (Robert Collier)

Thursday 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.

“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”  (Audre Lorde)

Wednesday 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 26 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.”

“Life is like riding a bike. It is impossible to maintain your balance while standing still.”  (Linda Brakeall)

Tuesday 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”.

“What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.”  (Helen Keller)

Monday 7 November 2016
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.

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

Sunday 6 November
32nd SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
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.

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”  (Mahatma Gandhi)

Saturday 5 November
LATIN-AMERICAN MONTH

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

“History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed. They won because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats.”  (Bertie Charles Forbes)

Friday 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.

“Most people are inhibited and sabotaged by the fear of criticism and inability to handle criticism, while high achievers are immune to it.”  (Dr Maxwell Maltz)

Thursday 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.

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.”  (Anatole France)

Wednesday 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.

“Look closely at the present you are constructing: it should look like the future you are dreaming.”  (Alice Walker)

Tuesday 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 – tomorrow.

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.)

“It is those who have this imperative demand for the best in their natures, and who will accept nothing short of it, that holds the banners of progress, that set the standards, the ideals, for others.”  (Orison Swett Marden)

Monday 31 October 2016
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.

“You are the only problem you will ever have and you are the only solution.”  (Bob Proctor)

Sunday 30 October
31st SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

“Chance favours only the prepared mind.”  (Louis Pasteur)

Saturday 29 October
MAKE-A-DIFFERENCE DAY and
WORLD PSORIASIS DAY

Make-a-Difference Day is celebrated on the 4th Saturday of October. Today is the 25th 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.

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

“Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Accordingly a genius is often merely a talented person who has done all of his or her homework.”  (Thomas Edison)

Friday 28 October
BREAST-CANCER AWARENESS MONTH and
DIWALI BEGINS

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.

Diwali (short for Deepavali) is a joyous five-day festival celebrated not only in Hindu culture but also in Sikhism and Jainism. Popularly known as ‘the festival of lights’, it involves the ritual of lighting lamps to signify the triumph of good over evil. Even more profoundly, it reminds all people to be aware of their inner light – from which flow such fruits as compassion, love, and awareness of the oneness of all.

“To be mature means to face, and not evade, every fresh crisis that comes.”  (Fritz Kunkel)

Thursday 27 October
DISABILITY AWARENESS MONTH

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.

“If you are willing to look at another person’s behavior toward you as a reflection of the state of their relationship with themselves rather than a statement about your value as a person, then you will, over a period of time cease to react at all.”  (Yogi Bhajan)

Wednesday 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.

“If you want to make a difference in someone’s life, you don’t need to be gorgeous, rich, famous, brilliant or perfect.  You just have to care.”  (Karen Salmansohn)

Tuesday 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.

“Time spent laughing is time spent with the gods.”  (Japanese proverb)

Monday 24 October 2016
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”.

“We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.”  (Carlos Castaneda)

Sunday 23 October
30th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
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.

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”  (Thomas Edison)

Saturday 22 October
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 sixth time his feast day is being celebrated. Like Edmund Rice, his life’s witness now awaits the official confirmation of canonization as a Saint.

“An amazing thing, the human brain. Capable of understanding incredibly complex and intricate concepts. Yet at times unable to recognize the obvious and simple.”  (Jay Abraham)

Friday 21 October
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.

“The root of joy is gratefulness...It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”  (Brother David Steindl-Rast)

Thursday 20 October
CONFLICT RESOLUTION DAY and
BIRTH OF THE BÁB (BAHAI TRADITION) and
OSTEOPOROSIS DAY

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 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

“A hunch is creativity trying to tell you something.”  (Frank Capra)

Wednesday 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.

“The greater the tension, the greater is the potential.”  (Carl Jung)

Tuesday 18 October
ST LUKE

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.

“Courage is the ladder on which all the other virtues mount.”  (Clare Booth Luce)

Monday 17 October 2016
SAINT MARY MacKILLOP and
END POVERTY DAY

Mary MacKillop was formally recognized four 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

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, and for a specially suited prayer service in several languages (including English, Spanish, and Swahili) see www.jpicformation.wikispaces.com/EN_17Oct

“When anger rises, think of the consequences.”  (Confucius)

Sunday 16 October
29th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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 > click on 16 October (for the texts themselves).
•    www.goodnews.ie – click Gospel Commentary > click on 16 October.
•    www.liturgy.slu.edu – scroll to 16 October > Get to Know the Readings. (Also in Spanish.)
•    www.salvationhistory.com – click Sun. Bible Reflections under Daily Bread. (Also in Spanish.)

“The only time you’ll ever have is now.”  (Brian Tracy)

Saturday 15 October
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.

“I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.”  (Jewish proverb)

Friday 14 October
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 2015 is “Standards – the world’s common language” – see the website www.iso.org

“Be who you were created to be, and you will set the world on fire.”  (St Catherine of Sienna)

Thursday 13 October
OUR LADY OF FATIMA

99 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.

“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)

Wednesday 12 October
COLUMBUS & THE AMERICAS and
DISASTER REDUCTION DAY

Today is the day when, 524 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.

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

“It’s tough being disciplined but tougher if you’re not.”  (Hilton Johnson)

Tuesday 11 October
POPE JOHN XXIII

Beatified 16 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.”

“Each of us has a personal calling that's as unique as a fingerprint - and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you.”  (Oprah Winfrey)

Monday 10 October 2016
WORLD MENTAL HEALTH DAY and
CANADA’s THANKSGIVING 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…

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.

“The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.”  (Ferdinand Foch)

Sunday 9 October
28th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
JOHN HENRY NEWMAN

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.

“A successful life is one that is lived through understanding and pursuing one's own path, not chasing after the dreams of others.”  (Chin-Ning Chu)

Saturday 8 October
anticipating WORLD POST DAY (Sunday 8th)

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.

“Time spent laughing is time spent with the gods.”  (Japanese proverb)

Friday 7 October
FEAST OF 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.

“As we work to create light for others, we naturally light our own way.”  (Mary Anne Radmacher)

Thursday 6 October
Anticipating the 54th 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.

“There are two ways of exerting one's strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up.”  (Booker T. Washington)

Wednesday 5 October
WORLD TEACHERS’ DAY and
WORLD HABITAT 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.

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

Tuesday 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.

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

Monday 3 October 2016
WORLD HABITAT DAY and
anticipating WORLD SPACE WEEK

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

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

“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon – instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.”  (Dale Carnegie)

Sunday 2 October
27th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
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.

“Be who you were created to be, and you will set the world on fire.”  (St Catherine of Sienna)

Saturday 1 October
ST THÉRÈSE OF LISIEUX and
WORLD SENIOR CITIZENS 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.

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

“With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself, or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow, or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.”  (Wayne Dyer)

Friday 30 September
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.

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”  (Thomas Alva Edison)

Thursday 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.

“Don’t be stingy with your encouragement. Your words can be a catalyst for untold change in the lives of others.”  (Josh Hinds)

Wednesday 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.

“The worst bankrupt in the world is the person who has lost his enthusiasm.”  (H.W. Arnold)

Tuesday 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 accessible tourism.

“Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.”  (Erich Fromm)

Monday 26 September 2016
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.

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

Sunday 25 September
26th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
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.

“Remember that happiness is a way of travel, not a destination.”  (Roy Goodman)

Saturday 24 September
OUR LADY OF MERCY

Also known as Our Lady of Ransom, the story behind this title 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.

“Attitude is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than what people do or say. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill.”  (Charles Swindoll)

Friday 23 September
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.

“How different our lives are when we really know what is deeply important to us, and keeping that picture in mind, we manage ourselves each day to be and to do what really matters most.”  (Stephen Covey)

Thursday 22 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

“To be conscious that you are ignorant of the facts is a great step to knowledge.”  (Benjamin Disraeli)

Wednesday 21 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

“Is your vision bigger than your biggest excuses?”  (Daryl Daughtry)

Tuesday 20 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.

“How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life, you will have been all of these.”  (George Washington Carver)

Monday 19 September 2016
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.

“Every thought is a seed. If you plant crab apples, don’t count on harvesting Golden Delicious.”  (Bill Meyer)

Sunday 18 September
25th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
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.

“See the light in others, and treat them as if that is all you see.”  (Dr Wayne Dyer)

Saturday 17 September
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.

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

Friday 16 September
WORLD OZONE DAY and
PAPUA NEW GUINEA’S INDEPENDENCE DAY

Surrounding the earth at a distance of about 25 km, the ozone layer offers protection from some harmful radiation. Its depletion by man-made chemicals became a popular concern in the mid-80s, and 2010 was set as the target date for eliminating all ozone-depleting substances. Efforts at raising awareness of other forms of environmental damage have continued to broaden, inviting the support of our hearts and hands.

Papua New Guinea appeared on the radar of the Edmund Rice community in 1950, and today there are a number of Christian Brothers communities and associates around the country. Let us pray for them as they celebrate 40 years of PNG’s independence.

“We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about.”  (Charles Kingsley)

Thursday 15 September
OUR LADY OF SORROWS and
DEMOCRACY DAY

Our Lady of Sorrows is a title highlighting the sufferings that Mary experienced in relation to her son Jesus – something with which mothers in particular might readily identify. This is one of a thread of monthly Marian feastdays that keep before our eyes the first Christian, who features so strongly in the spirituality of Edmund Rice.

Democracy is described by the UN as “a universal value based on the freely-expressed will of people to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems, and their full participation in all aspects of life”. This international day is a reminder of this ideal, so varied in its expressions and so difficult to move beyond oversimplification to maturity. A day to pray for the attainment of life-giving human systems and for the lifting of all oppressive systems.

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

Wednesday 14 September
EXALTATION OF THE HOLY CROSS

One of several days focused on the Cross upon which Jesus died, today is a reminder of the sacrifice and suffering inherent in following the way of Jesus. Though it tends to take most of his followers by surprise, and to leave us kicking and screaming in resistance, yet he warned us clearly to expect it. His life demonstrated what he meant, and his death on a cross was the final stamp of it. It’s also a day to pray for the Holy Cross Sisters whose kindness and collaboration we have enjoyed in parts of the Edmund Rice world.

“When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal; you do not change your decision to get there.”  (Zig Ziglar)

Tuesday 13 September
ST JOHN CHRYSOSTOM

St John Chrisostom’s name means ‘golden-mouthed’ and his fame was particularly related to his gift for speaking. A day, perhaps, to express gratitude for all those whose words have inspired and energized us, those who have been Good News to hear.

“Enemies were teachers in disguise.”  (Eiji Yoshikawa)

Monday 12 September 2016
FEAST OF THE HOLY NAME OF MARY

This feast, celebrated for five centuries, is an expression and reminder of the Christian community’s sense of Mary’s extraordinary openness to God’s action. As Mary’s feasts all direct our attention to Jesus and his message, perhaps the most profound way to celebrate this day is to renew the openness of our hearts to God’s leading in our lives and our times.

“The most certain sign of wisdom is cheerfulness.”  (Michel de Montaigne)

Sunday 11 September
24th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
‘NINE-ELEVEN’ and
ST JEAN-GABRIEL PERBOYRE

Today is the fifteenth anniversary of the ‘Nine-Eleven’ attacks in New York and Washington, USA. Today we might keep in our prayer not only the 3000 people who died and the wider circle of those bereaved, but all the open sores of our world.

A French Catholic missionary in the first half of the 19th century, St Jean-Gabriel was martyred at the age of 38 after five years in China, strangled on a cross. His feastday might remind us to pray for mutual acceptance between people of different faiths, for Christians in China, and for all who are persecuted or restricted because of their religious faith.

“A life lived by choice is a life of conscious action. A life lived by chance is a life of unconscious reaction.”  (Neale Donald Walsch)

Saturday 10 September
WORLD SUICIDE PREVENTION DAY and
GIBRALTAR’S NATIONAL DAY

Suicide accounts for about 3000 deaths every year, and there are about twenty times that number of attempted suicides annually. Today’s international observance offers not only a reminder to do whatever we can do to help prevent such desperate action within our own circles of influence but also to pray for those who find themselves pulled down to this level of despair.

Gibraltar features in the story of Edmund Rice’s Brothers from as early as 1835. After a rocky start, they departed a couple of years later but returned in 1878 and maintained a presence for virtually 100 years until 1977. Let’s include the people of Gibraltar in our prayers on this their national day.

“A good goal is like a strenuous exercise - it makes you stretch.”  (Mary Kay Ash)

Friday 9 September
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.

“Life is 10 percent what you make it, and 90 percent how you take it.”  (Irving Berlin)

Thursday 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.

“We have committed the Golden Rule to memory; let us now commit it to life.”  (Edwin Markham)

Wednesday 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.

“Our ultimate freedom is the right and power to decide how anybody or anything outside ourselves will affect us.”  (Stephen R. Covey)

Tuesday 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.

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”  (Henry Ford)

Monday 5 September 2016
TERESA OF CALCUTTA

Mother Teresa died 18 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.

“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”  (Joseph Campbell)

Sunday 28 August
22nd SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
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.

“When you innovate, you've got to be prepared for everyone telling you you're nuts.”  (Larry Ellison)

Saturday 27 August
ST MONICA

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.

“Even a mistake may turn out to be the one thing necessary to a worthwhile achievement.”  (Henry Ford)

Friday 26 August
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.

“Be careful what you spend your day touching because it will shape your mind, your body, and your heart.”  (Sam Keen)

Thursday 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.

“I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. It might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.”  (John Steinbeck)

Wednesday 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.

“It is the Law that any difficulties that can come to you at any time, no matter what they are, must be exactly what you need most at the moment, to enable you to take the next step forward by overcoming them. The only real misfortune, the only real tragedy, comes when we suffer without learning the lesson.”  (Emmet Fox)

Tuesday 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.

“One of the marks of superior people is that they are action-oriented. One of the marks of average people is that they are talk-oriented.”  (Brian Tracy)

Monday 22 August 2016
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.

“Seek out that particular mental attribute which makes you feel most deeply and vitally alive, along with which comes the inner voice which says, ‘This is the real me,’ and when you have found that attitude, follow it.”  (William James)

Sunday 21 August
21st SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
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.

“Contentment comes not so much from great wealth as from few wants.”  (Epictetus)

Saturday 20 August
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.

“When you have to make a choice and don’t make it, that is in itself a choice.”  (William James)

Friday 19 August
WORLD HUMANITARIAN DAY

Being marked this year only for the eighth 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.

“The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.”  (Epictetus)

Thursday 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.

“You define what is important to you by what you dedicate your time to.”  (J. Sprinkles)

Wednesday 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.

“There comes a special moment in everyone's life; a moment for which that person was born. That special opportunity, when he seizes it, will fulfill his mission-a mission for which he is uniquely qualified. In that moment, he finds greatness. It is his finest hour.”  (Winston Churchill)

Tuesday 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.

“Success is getting what you want; happiness is wanting what you get.”  (Dave Gardner)

Monday 15 August 2016
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.

“We are what we repeatedly do.”  (Aristotle)

Sunday 14 August
20th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
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.

“Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Accordingly a genius is often merely a talented person who has done all of his or her homework.”  (Thomas Edison)

Saturday 13 August
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.

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”  (Sir Winston Churchill)

Friday 12 August
INTERNATIONAL YOUTH DAY

This UN sponsored Youth Day has as its theme this year “The road to 2030: Eradicating Poverty and Achieving Sustainable Consumption and Production”. 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.

“With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift.  Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing.  You get to choose.”  (source unknown)

Thursday 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.

“Any deep crisis is an opportunity to make your life extraordinary in some way.”  (Martha Beck)

Wednesday 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.

“I have never in my life learned anything from anyone who agreed with me.”  (Dudley Field Malone)

Tuesday 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.

“Beautiful isn’t something you become. It’s something you realize you are.”  (Vironika Tugaleva)

Monday 8 August 2016
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 six years ago.

“Happiness grows at our own firesides, and is not to be picked in strangers’ gardens.”  (Douglas Jerrold)

Sunday 7 August
19th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
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

“Happiness can be defined, in part at least, as the fruit of the desire and ability to sacrifice what we want now for what we want eventually.”  (Stephen Covey)

Saturday 6 August
THE TRANSFIGURATION OF JESUS and
NO-NUKES DAY (HIROSHIMA DAY) and
BOLIVIA’s NATIONAL DAY

The story of the Transfiguration of Jesus prompts us to reflect on shifts in our consciouness, on the mountaintop experiences of our lives, and the call to live in the ordinary with awareness of the extraordinary.

Hiroshima was atom-bombed 69 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.

“A good laugh is sunshine in the house.”  (William Makepeace Thackeray)

Friday 5 August
INTERNATIONAL BEER DAY

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

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

Thursday 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.

“With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.”  (author unknown)

Wednesday 3 August
REMEMBERING NICODEMUS

John’ 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?

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”  (Thornton Wilder)

Tuesday 2 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.

“You are not here merely to make a living. You are here to enrich the world.”  (Woodrow Wilson)

Monday 1 August 2016
SWISS NATIONAL DAY

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

“We are not creatures of circumstance; we are creators of circumstance.”  (Benjamin Disraeli)

Sunday 31 July
18th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
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.

“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”  (Elizabeth Kubler Ross)

Saturday 30 July
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.

“Kindness gives birth to kindness.”  (Sophocles)

Friday 29 July
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.

“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened.  Happiness never decreases by being shared.”  (Buddha)

Thursday 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: two in Chimbote 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.

“Hope doesn't come from calculating whether the good news is winning out over the bad. It's simply a choice to take action.”  (Anna Lappe)

Wednesday 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.

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

Tuesday 26 July
ST JOACHIM & ST ANNE

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.

“The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis’. One brush stroke stands for danger, the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of danger--but recognize the opportunity.”  (John Kennedy)

Monday 25 July 2016
St CHRISTOPHER’S DAY and
St JAMES

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.

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.

“The game of life is the game of boomerangs. Our thoughts, deeds, and words return to us sooner or later, with astounding accuracy.”  (Florence Shinn)

Sunday 24 July
17th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

“Character is a quality that embodies many important traits, such as integrity, courage, perseverance, confidence and wisdom. Unlike your fingerprints that you are born with and can’t change, character is something that you create within yourself and must take responsibility for changing.”  (Jim Rohn)

Saturday 23 July
ALL EARTH DAY

A day inviting us to celebrate our connection with the earth by planting and gardening, or by symbolic ritual.

“Our character is basically a composite of our habits. Because they are consistent, often unconscious patterns, they constantly, daily, express our character.”  (Stephen Covey)

Friday 22 July
ST MARY MAGDALENE

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.

“Be happy. Talk happiness. Happiness calls out responsive gladness in others. There is enough sadness in the world without yours. Never doubt the excellence and permanence of what is yet to be. Join the great company of those who make the barren places of life fruitful with kindness. Your success and happiness lie in you. The great enduring realities are love and service. Resolve to keep happy and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.”  (Helen Keller)

Thursday 21 July
Anticipating LIBERIA’S INDEPENDENCE DAY (next week)

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.

“Whenever you see darkness, there is extraordinary opportunity for the light to burn brighter.”  (Bono)

Wednesday 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.

“Work in a way that has your employer continually thinking of ways to keep you rather than reasons to keep you.”  (Sam Parker)

Tuesday 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.

“Determination and perseverance move the world; thinking that others will do it for you is a sure way to fail.”  (Marva Collins)

Monday 18 July 2016
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 98th 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.

“What you thought before has led to every choice you have made, and this adds up to you at this moment. If you want to change who you are physically, mentally, and spiritually, you will have to change what you think.”  (Dr Patrick Gentempo)

Sunday 17 July
16th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
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.

“A pearl is a beautiful thing that is produced by an injured life. It is the tear [that results] from the injury of the oyster. The treasure of our being in this world is also produced by an injured life. If we had not been wounded, if we had not been injured, then we will not produce the pearl.”  (Stephan Hoeller)

Saturday 16 July
OUR LADY OF MOUNT CARMEL

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.

“Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”  (William Faulkner)

Friday 15 July
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.

“We must take change by the hand or rest assuredly, change will take us by the throat.”  (Winston Churchill)

Thursday 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.

“There’s no such thing as Perfection. But, in striving for perfection, we can achieve excellence.”  (Vince Lombardi)

Wednesday 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.

“In every person who comes near you look for what is good and strong; honor that; try to imitate it, and your faults will drop off like dead leaves when their time comes.”  (John Ruskin)

Tuesday 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.

“One of the most beautiful gifts in the world is the gift of encouragement. When someone encourages you, that person helps you over a threshold you might otherwise never have crossed on your own.”  (John O'Donohue)

Monday 11 July 2016
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”.

“Be at least as interested in what goes on inside you as what happens outside.  If you get the inside right, the outside will fall in to place.”  (Eckhart Tolle)

Sunday 10 July
15th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
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.

“The great use of life is to spend it doing something that will outlast it.”  (William James)

Saturday 9 July
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.

“I am who I am today because of the choices I made yesterday.”  (Eleanor Roosevelt)

Friday 8 July
HIDDEN HEROISM

Do you remember the name Lisa Potts? Picking up on the abovementioned theme of unhyped heroism, today is also the 10th 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.

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

Thursday 7 July
EXTINCTION ALERT

Today is exactly nine 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

“Your past is not your potential. In any hour you can choose to liberate the future.”  (Marilyn Ferguson)

Wednesday 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.

“Making the decision to have a child is momentous.  It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”  (Elizabeth Stone)

Tuesday 5 July
HELLO, DOLLY!

Today is the 19th 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.

“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end.”  (Denis Waitley)

Monday 4 July 2016
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.

“Do not ask the Lord to guide your footsteps, if you are not willing to move your feet.”  (author unknown)

Sunday 3 July
14th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
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.

“Better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing flawlessly.”  (Robert H. Schuller)

Saturday 2 July
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.

“A successful life is one that is lived through understanding and pursuing one’s own path, not chasing after the dreams of others.”  (Chin-Ning Chu)

Friday 1 July
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.

“Don’t give up in challenging times.We can only overcome the darkness and distress around us by increasing the light within us. Our greatest natural resources are our hearts and minds.”  (Diane Dreh)

Thursday 30 June
HALF-WAY THROUGH THE YEAR

The year 2016 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.

“Just as millions of snowflakes pile up to create a blanket of snow, the ‘thank you's’ we say pile up and fall gently upon one another until, in our hearts and minds, we are adrift in gratitude.”  (Daphne Rose Kingman)

Wednesday 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.

“Procrastination is like a credit card: it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill.”  (Christopher Parker)

Tuesday 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.

“You can’t do it unless you can imagine it.”  (George Lucas)

Monday 27 June 2016
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.

“Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.”  (Dr Albert Schweitzer)

Sunday 26 June
13th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
END DRUG-ABUSE DAY and
END TORTURE DAY

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.

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

“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)

Saturday 25 June
MONTH OF THE SACRED HEART

June is traditionally the special month associated with this enduring devotion. 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.

“Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.”  (Bernice Johnson Reagon)

Friday 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 were born an original. Don’t die a copy.”  (John Mason)

Thursday 23 June
UNITED NATIONS PUBLIC SERVICE DAY

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.

“Life is not discovery of fate; it is continuous creation of future, through choices of thoughts, feelings and actions in the present.”  (Sanjay Sahay)

Wednesday 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.

“Home is not where you live, but where they understand you.”  (Christian Morganstern)

Tuesday 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.

“Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.”  (Proverb)

Monday 20 June 2016
WORLD REFUGEE DAY

Today draws our attention to the plight of the world’s 40 million uprooted people. This year, the day launches a petition entitled #WithRefugees details of which can be found on the site www.unhcr.org which is full of practical awareness-raising angles on refugees.

“What we speak becomes the house we live in.”  (Hafiz)

Sunday 19 June
12th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
NEVER-AGAIN DAY

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

“Sincere forgiveness isn't colored with expectations that the other person apologize or change.  Don't worry whether or not they finally understand you.  Love them and release them.  Life feeds back truth to people in its own way and time—just like it does for you and me.”  (Sara Paddison)

Saturday 18 June
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 most important thing in communication is to hear what isn't being said.”  (Peter F. Drucker)

Friday 17 June
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)

Thursday 16 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 2016 is: “Conflict and crisis in Africa – Protecting all children’s rights”.

“The man who chases two rabbits catches neither.”  (Confucius)

Wednesday 15 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

“There are many wonderful things that will never be done if you do not do them.”  (Charles D. Gill)

Tuesday 14 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.

“Every adversity, every failure, and every heartache carries with it the seed of an equivalent or a greater benefit.”  (Napoleon Hill)

Monday 13 June 2016
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

“Failure is only the opportunity to more intelligently begin again.”  (Henry Ford)

Sunday 12 June
11th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
THE PHILIPPINES INDEPENDENCE DAY

The Philippines fairly recently became part of the ERN map. 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

“You can’t change what you refuse to confront!”  (Daryl Daughtry)

Saturday 11 June
anticipating tomorrow’s INTERNATIONAL DAY AGAINST CHILD LABOUR

The World Day Against Child Labour is an ILO initiative to raise awareness and activism. Their website www.ilp.org/ipec explains: “Hundreds of millions of girls and boys throughout the world are engaged in work that deprives them of adequate education, health, leisure and basic freedoms, violating their rights. Of these children, more than half are exposed to the worst forms of child labour such as work in hazardous environments, slavery, or other forms of forced labour, illicit activities such as drug trafficking and prostitution, as well as involvement in armed conflict.” The ERN has a particular care for the well-being of all children, so we join our prayers and energies to this worldwide focus.

“What you focus on expands. Focus on what you are best at and you will be unstoppable.”  (Bill McDermott)

Friday 10 June
81st 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.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.”  (Winston Churchill)

Thursday 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.

“Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live.”  (Dorothy Thompson)

Wednesday 8 June
WORLD OCEANS DAY

World Oceans Day is a UN day celebrating the world’s oceans. The theme for 2015-6 is: “Healthy oceans, healthy planet”. Look it up on Wikipedia or on www.worldoceansday.org

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it.”  (Steve Jobs)

Tuesday 7 June
MONTH OF THE 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.

“Success is the ability to apply your physical and mental energies to one problem incessantly without growing weary.”  (Thomas Edison)

Monday 6 June 2016
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

“Your past is not your potential. In any hour you can choose to liberate the future.”  (Marilyn Ferguson)

Sunday 5 June
10th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
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: “Zero tolerance for the illegal wildlife trade”. See the website www.wed2016.com

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”  (T.S. Eliot)

Saturday 4 June
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.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.”  (Ambrose Redmoon)

Friday 3 June
SOLEMNITY OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS and
ST CHARLES LWANGA & COMPANIONS

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.

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.

“Real difficulties can be overcome. It's the imaginary ones that are unconquerable.”  (Theodore Vail)

Thursday 2 June
ITALY’S FESTIVAL OF THE REPUBLIC and
THE MONTH OF THE SACRED HEART

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. Through this week, the Christian Brothers’ leaders from all around the world are gathered in Rome for a meeting – the support of your prayers would be appreciated.

“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily.”  (Mike Murdock)

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

On this day 253 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 91 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.

“When we accept tough jobs as a challenge to our ability and wade into them with joy and enthusiasm, miracles can happen.”  (Arland Gilbert)

Tuesday 31 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

“Many of our fears are tissue paper thin, and a single courageous step would carry us clear through them.”  (Brendan Francis)

Monday 30 May 2016
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?

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

Sunday 29 May
CORPUS CHRISTI SUNDAY and
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

“To lead people, walk beside them... As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. The next best, the people honor and praise. The next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate. When the best leader's work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves’.”  (Lao Tzu)

Saturday 28 May
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF ACTION FOR WOMEN’S HEALTH

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.

“Every choice before you represents the universe inviting you to remember who you are and what you want.”  (Alan Cohen)

Friday 27 May
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.

“What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul.”  (Yiddish Proverb)

Thursday 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.

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”  (Carl Jung)

Wednesday 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

“It takes a lot of things to prove you are smart, but only one thing to prove you are ignorant.”  (Don Herold)

Tuesday 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.

“Calm self-confidence is as far from conceit as the desire to earn a decent living is remote from greed.”  (Channing Pollock)

Monday 23 May 2016
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.

“The tragedy of life is not found in failure but complacency. Not in your doing too much, but doing too little. Not in your living above your means, but below your capacity. It's not failure but aiming too low, that is life's greatest tragedy.”  (Benjamin E. Mayes)

Sunday 22 May
TRINITY SUNDAY and
INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY

The theme for this year’s UN Day for Biological Diversity is “Mainstreaming Biodiversity: Sustaining People and their Livelihoods”, chosen in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which are intended to replace the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) in a way that gets to the roots of poverty in the world.

“Live your life each day as you would climb a mountain. An occasional glance towards the summit keeps the goal in mind, but many beautiful scenes are to be observed from each new vantage point.”  (Harold B. Melchart)

Saturday 21 May
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.

“Each day comes bearing its gifts. Untie the ribbons.”  (Ann Ruth Schabaker)

Friday 20 May
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

“The cave you most fear to enter contains the greatest treasure.”  (Joseph Campbell)

Thursday 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.

“Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are.”  (Arthur Golden)

Wednesday 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: “Museums and Cultural Landscapes”. See the site www.icom.museum

“You teach people how to treat you by what you allow, what you stop and what you reinforce.”  (Tony Gaskin)

Tuesday 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.

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

Monday 16 May 2016
NATIONAL DAY OF SOUTHERN SUDAN

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

“The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things.”  (Henry Ward Beecher)

Sunday 15 May
PENTECOST SUNDAY and
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 “Men in charge? Gender equality and children’s rights in contemporary families”.

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.

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

Saturday 14 May
FAIR TRADE DAY and
ST MATTHIAS THE APOSTLE and
LIBERIA’S NATIONAL UNIFICATION DAY

Fair Trade has been promoted for half a century and this day is celebrated in over 70 countries around the globe on the second Saturday of May. See the website www.wfto.com

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.

“When you talk, you are only repeating what you know. But when you listen, you learn something new.”  (Dalai Lama)

Friday 13 May
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.

“What you commit yourself to determines what you are, more than anything that ever happened to you yesterday, or the day before.”  (Dr Anthony Campolo)

Thursday 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.

“Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact.”  (George Eliot)

Wednesday 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.

“The best thing to give to your enemy is forgiveness; to an opponent, tolerance; to a friend, your heart; to your child, a good example; to a father, deference; to your mother, conduct that will make her proud of you; to yourself, respect; to all men, charity.”  (Francis Maitland Balfour)

Tuesday 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.

“Kids go where there is excitement. They stay where there is love.”  (Zig Ziglar)

Monday 9 May 2016
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

“When you cannot make up your mind which of two evenly balanced courses of action you should take, choose the bolder.”  (William Joseph Slim)

Sunday 8 May
7th SUNDAY OF EASTER and
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.

Saturday 7 May
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.

Friday 6 May
ASCENSION THURSDAY and
ST DOMINIC SAVIO

The story of the Ascension seems to be about Jesus ‘moving on’. But the significance of the story may be about his followers moving on – from dependence on his explicit presence to faith in his unchanging presence (“I am with you always”); from exciting experiences of the Resurrected Jesus to an abiding experience of the Risen Christ in everyday life.

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.

Thursday 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.

Wednesday 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.

Tuesday 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.

Monday 2 May 2016
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.

Sunday 1 May
6th SUNDAY OF EASTER and
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.

“Just as a small fire is extinguished by the storm whereas a large fire is enhanced by it - likewise a weak faith is weakened by predicament and catastrophes whereas a strong faith is strengthened by them.”  (Viktor E. Frankl)

Saturday 30 April
WORLD VETERINARY DAY

Today is the 255th 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.

“We find comfort among those who agree with us - growth among those who don’t.”  (Frank A. Clark)

Friday 29 April
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.

“I live a day at a time.  Each day I look for a kernel of excitement. In the morning, I say: ‘What is my exciting thing for today?’ Then, I do the day.  (Barbara Jordan)

Thursday 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.

“All great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties.”  (William Bradford)

Wednesday 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.

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”  (Winston Churchill)

Tuesday 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.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”  (Eleanor Roosevelt)

Monday 25 April 2016
WORLD MALARIA DAY and
ANZAC DAY in Australia and New Zealand

World Malaria Day, being observed for the seventh 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

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.

“To say you have no choice is to relieve yourself of responsibility.”  (Patrick Ness)

Sunday 24 April
5th SUNDAY OF EASTER

“All know that the drop merges into the ocean but few know that the ocean merges into the drop.”  (Kabir)

Saturday 23 April
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

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”  (Maya Angelou)

Friday 22 April
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 un.org/en/events/motherearthday for engaging information.

“The one who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The one who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been before.”  (Albert Einstein)

Thursday 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.

“Sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by another human being. Each of us owes deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this light.”  (Albert Schweitzer)

Wednesday 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’.

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

Tuesday 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”.

“Kids go where there is excitement. They stay where there is love.”  (Zig Ziglar)

Monday 18 April 2016
ZIMBABWE’S INDEPENDENCE DAY

Zimbabwe celebrates today its 36th anniversary of independence. The Christian Brothers’ connection consists firstly of four Zimbabwean Brothers, secondly a boys’ high school (CBC Bulawayo) founded in 1954, thirdly an attached community serving in a variety of outreach initiatives mainly to needy schools around the city, 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 three Brothers and others in the Edmund Rice Network ministering in Bulawayo.

“When you find yourself stressed, ask yourself one question: Will this matter five years from now? If yes, then do something about the situation. If no, then let it go.”  (Catherine Pulsife)

Sunday 17 April
4th SUNDAY OF EASTER and
WORLD HAEMOPHILIA DAY

Saturday 16 April
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.

Friday 15 April
WORLD CREATIVITY & INNOVATION WEEK

Today 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.

Thursday 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.

Wednesday 13 April
ST MARTIN  I

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.

Tuesday 12 April
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF HUMAN SPACE FLIGHT

Today is the 54th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s becoming the first human to be launched into space, and is the third celebration of a 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.

Monday 11 April 2016
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.

Sunday 10 April
3rd SUNDAY OF EASTERTIME and
TITANIC ANNIVERSARY

104 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.

“The point is not to pay back kindness but to pass it on.”  (Julia Alvarez)

Saturday 9 April
AIR TRAVEL

Today is an important date in air travel history because the first Boeing 737 made its maiden flight 49 years ago, 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.

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

Friday 8 April
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.

“When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds  and diamonds are made under pressure.”  (Peter Marshall)

Thursday 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.

“There’s plenty of intelligence in the world, but the courage to do things differently is in short supply.”  (Marilyn vos Savant)

Wednesday 6 April
anticipating WORLD HEALTH DAY tomorrow

The theme of this year’s World Health Day is ‘Beat Diabetes’, The WHO website – www.who.int/campaigns - calls for the enhancement of surveillance, the scaling-up of prevention, and the strengthening of care of those diagnosed with diabetes.

“Any fool can make things bigger, more complex and more violent. It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage - to move in the opposite direction.”  (Albert Einstein)

Tuesday 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.

“The true measure of a career is to be able to be content, even proud, that you succeeded through your own endeavors without leaving a trail of casualties in your wake.”  (Alan Greenspan)

Monday 4 April 2016
INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR LANDMINE AWARENESS & ASSISTANCE

When this observance began eleven 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.

“We must look for the opportunity in every difficulty instead of being paralyzed at the thought of the difficulty in every opportunity.”  (Walter E. Cole)

Sunday 3 April
2nd SUNDAY OF EASTER  (DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY)

  • Under RESOURCES at the bottom of our home page: find Sunday Reflections by Julian McDonald and Richard Walsh.
  • www.goodnews.ie – click Gospel Commentary > click on 3 April.
  • www.liturgy.slu.edu – scroll to 3 April > Get to Know the Readings. (Also in Spanish.)
  • www.salvationhistory.com – click Sun. Bible Reflections under Daily Bread. (Also in Spanish.)

“Pure and simple, any person who is enjoying life is a success.”  (William Feather)

Saturday 2 April
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.

“Having once decided to achieve a certain task, achieve it at all costs of tedium and distaste. The gain in self-confidence of having accomplished a tiresome labour is immense.”  (Arnold Bennett)

Friday 1 April
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.

“Peace of mind comes from not wanting to change others.”  (Gerald Jampolsky)

Thursday 31 March
anticipating POETRY MONTH

The USA celebrates April as the month of poetry. Taking a cue from this, we might devote some of our prayer time to this form of expression – either creating a poem or reflecting upon one.

“Character is the ability to carry out a good resolution long after the excitement of the moment has passed.”  (Cavett Robert)

Wednesday 30 March
DOCTORS DAY

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.

“Plenty of people miss their share of happiness, not because they never found it, but because they didn't stop to enjoy it.”  (William Feather)

Tuesday 29 March
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).

“When you find yourself stressed, ask yourself one question: Will this matter five years from now? If yes, then do something about the situation. If no, then let it go.”  (Catherine Pulsifer)

Monday 28 March 2016
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 must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of. You don’t have charge of the constellations, but you do have charge of whether you read, develop new skills, and take new classes.”  (Jim Rohn)

Sunday 27 March
EASTER SUNDAY: THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS
and WORLD THEATRE DAY

The western contemporary approach to truth tends to ask “Did it really happen?” and “What exactly happened?” But those who told, and many years later wrote, the stories of what we call ‘the Resurrection’, had a different approach: to them, the truth question was “What does it mean?” Today’s celebration of the resurrection of Jesus invites us to move into that mindspace. Here are three starting points that might set us praying.

•    Firstly, Jesus didn’t ‘come back to life’ – he went on to new life with no more death ahead of him. This is something human beings yearn for, and Jesus’ experience shows that God puts this yearning in us not to be frustrated but to be fulfilled.

•    Secondly, resurrection wasn’t a miracle that Jesus performed, but something that happened to him, a final demonstration of the love of the one he called ‘Father’. And for us it is a clear demonstration that we can also totally trust in that same Father’s love and in the life-path that Jesus taught.

And thirdly, just as death was not ‘the end of the story’ for Jesus, neither is death ‘the end’ for us. Easter celebrates our confidence that by following the path of Jesus, we too can look forward to being reabsorbed into God’s love.

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

“Happiness is not the absence of problems but the ability to deal with them.”  (H. Jackson Brown Jr)

Saturday 26 March
HOLY SATURDAY and EASTER VIGIL

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”…

“Life is 10 percent what you make it, and 90 percent how you take it.”  (Irving Berlin)

Friday 25 March
GOOD FRIDAY and
THE ANNUNCIATION

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.

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.

“Courage is knowing what not to fear.”  (Plato)

Thursday 24 March
HOLY THURSDAY and
ANNIVERSARY OF THE DEATH OF ARCHBISHOP ROMERO and
WORLD TUBERCULOSIS DAY

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.

Archbishop Romero was assasinated 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

“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”  (Henry Ford)

Wednesday 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.

“Pleasure usually takes the form of me and now; joy is us and always.”  (Marvin J. Ashton)

Tuesday 22 March
WORLD WATER DAY

The theme this year is ‘Water and sustainable development’, intended to raise our awareness of the interdependence between the two. See www.worldwaterday.org

“The purpose of life is to discover your gift. The meaning of life is to give it away.”  (David Viscott)

Monday 21 March 2016
WORLD FORESTRY DAY and
WORLD DOWN SYNDROME DAY and
WORLD POETRY DAY and
INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE ELIMINATION OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION

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.

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.

“Without a struggle, there can be no progress.”  (Frederick Douglass)

Sunday 20 March
PALM SUNDAY and the start of HOLY WEEK

“Difficulties in life are intended to make us better not bitter.”  (Dan Reeves)

Saturday 19 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.

“You’ve got to think about big things while you’re doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction.”  (Alvin Toffler)

Friday 18 March
anticipating 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.

“Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go they merely determine where you start.”  (Nido Qubein)

Thursday 17 March
ST PATRICK

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.

“Not what we say about our blessing, but how we use them is the true measure of our thanksgiving.”  (W.T. Purkiser)

Wednesday 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

“Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.”  (Albert Einstein)

Tuesday 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.

“We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained.”  (Marie Curie)

Monday 14 March 2016
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.

“A good example is the best sermon.”  (Benjamin Franklin)

Sunday 13 March
5th SUNDAY OF LENT

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”  (Carl Jung)

Saturday 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.

“Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, ‘Make me feel important.’ ”  (Mary Kay Ash)

Friday 11 March
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.

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

Thursday 10 March
WORLD KIDNEY DAY and
MONTH OF MARCH

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

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.

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”  (T.S. Eliot)

Wednesday 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.

“Your life is constantly nourished by your thoughts. Whatever the direction your life is moving, your thoughts have led you there.”  (Ralph Marston)

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

International Women’s Day is being marked today for the 105th 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.

“Being miserable is a habit; being happy is a habit; and the choice is yours.”  (Tom Hopkins)

Monday 7 March 2016
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.

“To grow, you must be willing to let your present and future be totally unlike your past. Your history is not your destiny.”  (Alan Cohen)

Sunday 6 March
4th SUNDAY OF LENT and
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.

“When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.”  (Tony Robbins)

Saturday 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.

“If you want a kinder world, then behave with kindness; if you want a peaceful world, make peace within.”  (Dan Millman)

Friday 4 March
WORLD DAY OF THE FIGHT AGAINST SEXUAL EXPLOITATION and
WORLD DAY OF PRAYER

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.

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

“Don’t get discouraged; it is often the last key in the bunch that opens the lock.”  (source unknown)

Thursday 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.

“The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it… We are in charge of our Attitudes.  (Chuck Swindoll)

Wednesday 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.

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

Tuesday 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.

“Be happy.  Talk happiness.  Happiness calls out responsive gladness in others.  There is enough sadness in the world without yours.  Never doubt the excellence and permanence of what is yet to be.  Join the great company of those who make the barren places of life fruitful with kindness.  Your success and happiness lie in you.  The great enduring realities are love and service.  Resolve to keep happy and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.”  (Helen Keller)

Monday 29 February 2016
LEAP YEAR

A date occurring only every fourth year (and with exceptions even then), this may not be a great choice for a birthday or anniversary. It might prompt us to pray in gratitude for such blessings as exceptions, the out-of-the-ordinary, the infrequent, the uncommon, the occasional…

“Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others, cannot keep it from themselves.”  (Sir James M. Barrie)

Sunday 28 February
3rd SUNDAY OF LENT

“We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about.”  (Charles Kingsley)

Saturday 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.

“In every area of our lives, we get back what we send out.”  (Marshall Sylver)

Friday 26 February
First day of BAHÁ’Í FESTIVAL of AYYÁM-I-HÁ and
RARE DISEASE DAY

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.

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.”

“The miracle is this - the more we share, the more we have.”  (Leonard Nimoy)

Thursday 25 February
ST WALPURGA

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 most wonderful gift one human being can give to another, is in some way, to make that person's life a little bit better to live.”  (John Assaraf)

Wednesday 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.

“Real life isn't always going to be perfect or go our way, but the recurring acknowledgment of what is working in our lives can help us not only to survive but surmount our difficulties.”  (Sarah Ban Breathnach)

Tuesday 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 7 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

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”  (Melody Beattie)

Monday 22 February 2016
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 37th 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: “Take action together”. In our prayer today we are invited to align our hearts with this aim. See www.worldthinkingday.org

“The key is not to prioritize what is on the schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”  (Stephen Covey)

Sunday 21 February
2nd SUNDAY OF LENT and
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.

“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)

Saturday 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.

“Let your hopes, not your hurts, shape your future.”  (Robert H. Schuller)

Friday 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.

“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.”  (Omar Khayyam)

Thursday 18 February
THE GAMBIA: INDEPENDENCE DAY

Although the Christian Brothers interrupted their presence in The Gambia a few 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.

“Dig the well before you are thirsty.”  (Chinese Proverb)

Wednesday 17 February
2006 MUDSLIDE IN THE PHILIPPINES

The tenth 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.

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”  (Rumi)

Tuesday 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.

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”  (Thich Nhat Hanh)

Monday 15 February 2016
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.

“The world is your mirror and your mind is a magnet.  What you perceive in this world is largely a reflection of your own attitudes and beliefs.”  (Michael LeBeuf)

Sunday 14 February
1st SUNDAY OF LENT and
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.

“Everything is theoretically impossible, until it is done.”  (Robert A. Heinlein)

Saturday 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

“Your big opportunity may be right where you are now.”  (Napoleon Hill)

Friday 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”.

“Commitment with accountability closes the gap between intention and results.”  (Sandra Gallagher)

Thursday 11 February
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.

“Be kind, because everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”  (Gloria Vanderbilt)

Wednesday 10 February
ASH WEDNESDAY, the START OF LENT, and
ST SCHOLASTICA

‘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.

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.

“We gain so much more by being in the same room with others. It's not just about information sharing, it's about people sharing.”  (Jae M. Rang)

Tuesday 9 February
SHROVE TUESDAY (or “MARDI GRAS’) and
ST MAROUN

Also known as Pancake Tuesday and Fat Tuesday (in French, Mardi Gras), this is the flamboyant last day of the festival season preceding Lent, to which the names relate: ‘Shrive’ being the old name for Confession (a traditional preparation for the penitential season), and pancakes being among the rich foods that would use up ingredients (like fat) regarded as unLenten. Whether or not one whips up confections, or parades defiantly, this is a day for preparing to make Lent meaningful. The popular practice of ‘giving up something for Lent’ might be constructively broadened by looking at the five ways which Physics identifies for overcoming inertia:
•    starting movement – starting a spiritual practice such as daily silent prayer or journaling
•    stopping movement – pruning habits and behaviours to make my life more fruitful
•    increasing velocity – doing more of something good that is already present in my life
•    decreasing velocity – moderating unhealthy excesses, introducing the discipline of limits
•    changing direction – critically reviewing the direction in which my life is moving.

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.

“Life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt.”  (Frederick Buechner)

Monday 8 February 2016
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 last year, 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.

“Fear is not real, it is a product of thoughts you create. Do not misunderstand me; danger is very real. But fear is a choice.”  (Will Smith)

Sunday 7 February
5th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
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 41st anniversary of their independence from Britain, let us remember in prayer the circles of Grenadians around the Presentation Brothers.

“Who has not served cannot command.”  (John Florio)

Saturday 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 10 years ago and spread to an international awareness.

“As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it.”  (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)

Friday 5 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.

“When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”  (G. K. Chesterton)

Thursday 4 February
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 key is not to prioritize what is on the schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”  (Stephen Covey)

Wednesday 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.

“Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”  (Benjamin Franklin)

Tuesday 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

“Habits are like financial capital – forming one today is an investment that will automatically give out returns for years to come.”  (Shawn Achor)

Monday 1 February 2016
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.

“Such as are thy habitual thoughts, such also will be the character of thy mind; for the soul is dyed by the thoughts.”  (Marcus Aurelius)

Sunday 31 January
4th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
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.

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. The world cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”  (Albert Einstein)

Saturday 30 January
MARY WARD, FOUNDER OF THE LORETO SISTERS

Mary Ward was declared ‘Venerable’ just over four 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.

“Simple kindness to one’s self and all that lives is the most powerful transformational force of all.”  (Dr David Hawkins)

Friday 29 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.

“Don’t worry your life away waiting for the elusive prize at journey’s end. The journey is the prize.”  (Marsha Mercant)

Thursday 28 January
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 www.dataprivacyday.org

“Deal with the faults of others as gently as with your own.”  (Chinese proverb)

Wednesday 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.)

“Clear, written goals have a wonderful effect on your thinking. They motivate you and galvanize you into action. They stimulate your creativity, release your energy, and help you to overcome procrastination as much as any other factor.”  (Brian Tracy)

Tuesday 26 January
AUSTRALIA DAY  and  INDIA’S REPUBLIC DAY

This year India marks the 65th 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.

“Just listen to the still voice within. This is the mind to trust. This is god consciousness speaking, not the ego that is seeking recognition.”  (Angela Walker)

Monday 25 January 2016
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.

“Our life always expresses the result of our dominant thoughts.”  (Soren Kierkegaard)

Sunday 24 January
3rd SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
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.

“In the absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it.”  (Robert Heinlein)

Saturday 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.

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”  (Anais Nin)

Friday 22 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. This coming Sunday’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.

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”  (The Buddha)

Thursday 21 January
FEAST OF 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.

“Worry often gives a small thing a great shadow.”  (Swedish Proverb)

Wednesday 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.

“Never regret. If it’s good, it’s wonderful. If it’s bad, it’s experience.”  (Victoria Holt)

Tuesday 19 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.

“We could never learn to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the world.”  (Helen Keller)

Monday 18 January 2016
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.

“Don’t worry your life away waiting for the elusive prize at journey’s end. The journey is the prize.”  (Marsha Mercant)

Sunday 17 January
2nd SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
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.

“Do not worry at all about negative thoughts, and do not try to control them.  All you have to do is begin to think good thoughts each day.  Plant as many good thoughts as you can in each day.  As you begin to think good thoughts you will attract more and more good thoughts, and eventually the good thoughts will wipe out the negative thoughts altogether.”  (Rhonda Byrne)

Saturday 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.

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

Friday 15 January
ANNIVERSARY OF HUDSON RIVER EMERGENCY LANDING

Seven 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, it might turn our eyes to the unsung good news in our own experience and context.

“Time and health are two precious assets that we don’t recognize and appreciate until they have been depleted.”  (Denis Waitley)

Thursday 14 January
FEAST OF THE ASS

This 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.

“Make sure the outside of you is a good reflection of the inside of you.”  (Jim Rohn)

Wednesday 13 January
ST HILARY OF POITIERS

The feastday 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.

“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.”  (Charles R. Swindoll)

Tuesday 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.

“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”  (Oprah Winfrey)

Monday 11 January 2016
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.

“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”  (John Wooden)

Sunday 10 January
THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD  and
ANNIVERSARY OF WORLD’S OLDEST UNDERGROUND RAILWAY

In 1863, just 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 have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element.  It is my personal approach that creates the climate.  It is my daily mood that makes the weather.  I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous.  I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.  In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized.”  (Goethe)

Saturday 9 January
JANUARY: COLDEST / HOTTEST MONTH

Following the December Solstice, January is commonly regarded as the hottest month of the year in the Southern Hemisphere, and the coldest in the Northern – a thought that might put us in mind of how rhythms enrich our lives with variety, structure, and reliability.

“Asking questions will get you the performance you are after far better than dictating demands.”  (Dan James)

Friday 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.

“Sometime it is better to be kind than to be right. We do not need an intelligent mind that speaks, but a patient heart that listens.”  (source unknown)

Thursday 7 January
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.

“We all die. The goal isn't to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.”  (Chuck Palahniuk)

Wednesday 6 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.

“We are what we repeatedly do.”  (Aristotle)

Tuesday 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.

“Every memorable act in the world is a triumph of enthusiasm. Without enthusiasm you are doomed to a life of mediocrity but with it you can accomplish miracles.”  (Og Mandino)

Monday 4 January 2016
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.

“Being miserable is a habit; being happy is a habit; and the choice is yours.”  (Tom Hopkins)

Sunday 3 January
THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD

“Good habits are as addictive as bad habits, and a lot more rewarding.”  (Harvey Mackay)

Saturday 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 2016 diaries so we can be aware.

“The truth is you don’t break a bad habit, you replace it with a good one.”  (Denis Waitley)

Friday 1 January 2016
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 he calls “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 “Fraternity, the foundation and pathway to peace”. Look for it via the Search facility at the top of www.justpax.it

“What it lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do.”  (Aristotle)

Thursday 31 December
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. Look it up on www.integrativespirituality.org

“Between stimulus and response, one has the freedom to choose.”  (Stephen Covey)

Wednesday 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 2013.

“Lasting change is possible only when the need for change is both understood and internalized.”  (Denis Waitley)

Tuesday 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.

“In a time of rapid change, standing still is the most dangerous course of action.”  (Brian Tracy)

Monday 28 December 2015
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”.

“A loving heart is the truest wisdom.”  (Charles Dickens)

Sunday 27 December
HOLY FAMILY SUNDAY and
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.

“It takes humility to seek feedback. It takes wisdom to understand it, analyze it, and appropriately act on it.”  (Stephen R. Covey)

Saturday 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.

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”  (Confucius)

Friday 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.

“Choose being kind over being right, and you'll be right every time.”  (Richard Carlson)

Thursday 24 December
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.”

Wednesday 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).

“It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question.”  (Decouvertes)

Tuesday 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.

“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.”  (Alan Lakein)

Monday 21 December 2015
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.

“Asking is the beginning of receiving. Make sure you don't go to the ocean with a teaspoon. At least take a bucket so the kids won't laugh at you.”  (Jim Rohn)

Sunday 20 December
4th SUNDAY OF ADVENT and
INTERNATIONAL HUMAN SOLIDARITY DAY

Established by the UN nine 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.

“Even though you may not know how to achieve a lofty goal, set it anyway. You will be surprised at how inspired you'll be and you'll likely take action you wouldn't normally have taken.”  (Peggy McColl)

Saturday 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 such as the MDG.

“Success is about getting to the point where everyone quits and taking one more step.”  (John Michael Morgan)

Friday 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 world is good-natured to people who are good natured.”  (William Makepeace Thackeray)

Thursday 17 December
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.

“I think luck is the sense to recognize an opportunity and the ability to take advantage of it. The man who can smile at his breaks and grab his chances gets on.”  (Samuel Goldwyn)

Wednesday 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.

“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best night and day to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle any human being can fight and never stop fighting.”  (e.e. cummings)

Tuesday 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.

“Everyone wants to be appreciated. So if you appreciate someone, don't keep it a secret.”  (Mary Kay Ash)

Monday 14 December 2015
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.

“Being miserable is a habit. Being happy is a habit. The choice is yours.”  (Tom Hopkins)

Sunday 22 November
CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY
and 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.

“To get up each morning with the resolve to be happy ... is to condition circumstances instead of being conditioned by them.”  (Ralph Waldo Trine)

Saturday 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.

“One day in retrospect the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.”  (Sigmund Freud)

Friday 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.”

“We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny. But what we put into it is ours.”  (Dag Hammarskjold)

Thursday 19 November
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.

“Asking questions will get you the performance you are after far better than dictating demands.”  (Dan James)

Wednesday 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 all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.”  (Chuck Palahniuk)

Tuesday 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.

“If people only knew how hard I work to gain my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful at all.”  (Michelangelo)

Monday 16 November 2015
TOLERANCE DAY and
YESTERDAY’S WORLD DAY OF REMEMBRANCE FOR ROAD TRAFFIC VICTIMS

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.

Road Traffic Victims are remembered on the third Sunday of November, an official UN day since 2005. We all know of people who have died or been affected in life-changing ways by road accidents – let us recall them and their families in our prayers at this time.

“Simple kindness to one's self and all that lives is the most powerful transformational force of all.”  (Dr David Hawkins)

Sunday 15 November
33rd SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
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.

“Life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt.”  (Frederick Buechner)

Saturday 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

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”  (Jimmy Dean)

Friday 13 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

“Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.”  (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Thursday 12 November
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.

“Gratitude is heaven itself.”  (William Blake)

Wednesday 11 November
DIWALI BEGINS and
COMMEMORATING THE END OF WORLD WAR ONE

Diwali (short for Deepavali) is a joyous five-day festival celebrated not only in Hindu culture but also in Sikhism and Jainism. Popularly known as ‘the festival of lights’, it involves the ritual of lighting lamps to signify the triumph of good over evil. Even more profoundly, it reminds all people to be aware of their inner light – from which flow such fruits as compassion, love, and awareness of the oneness of all.

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.

“A kind word is never thrown away.”  (Sir Arthur Helps)

Tuesday 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.

“Life takes on meaning when you become motivated, set goals and charge after them in an unstoppable manner.”  (Les Brown)

Monday 9 November 2015
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 26 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.”

“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.”  (Dale Carnegie)

Sunday 8 November
32nd SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
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”.

“It’s how you cope with the imperfect matches that makes you great.”  (Kim Clijsters)

Saturday 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 God’s forgiveness. The tradition is a reminder of the power of prayer and also of the invitation to participate in God’s loving nurturing of all.

“For the past thirty-three years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself:  ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I’m about to do today?’ and whenever the answer has been ‘no’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”  (Steve Jobs)

Friday 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.

“One day at a time - this is enough.  Do not look back and grieve over the past, for it is gone: and do not be troubled about the future, for it has not yet come.  Live in the present, and make it so beautiful that it will be worth remembering.”  (Ida Scott Taylor)

Thursday 5 November
LATIN-AMERICAN MONTH

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

“The beginning is the most important part of the work.”  (Plato)

Wednesday 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.

“Just Remember: The people that say, ‘Your dreams are impossible’ have already quit on theirs.”  (Grant Cardone)

Tuesday 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.

“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.”  (John F. Kennedy)

Monday 2 November 2015
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.

“The difference between great people and everyone else is that great people create their lives actively, while everyone else is created by their lives, passively waiting to see where life takes them next. The difference between the two is the difference between living fully and just existing.”  (Michael E. Gerber)

Sunday 1 November
ALL SAINTS’ DAY and
WORLD VEGAN DAY and
ANTIGUA’S NATIONAL DAY

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.)

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

Saturday 31 October
HALLOWEEN

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.

“Without inspiration the best powers of the mind remain dormant; there is a fuel in us which needs to be ignited with sparks.”  (Johann Gottfried von Herder)

Friday 30 October
anticipating REFORMATION DAY

Reformation Day falls tomorrow, commemorating the most prominent watershed in the Church’s story and highlighting 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.

“Fortify yourself with contentment, for this is an impregnable fortress.”  (Epictetus)

Thursday 29 October
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

“A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.”  (source unknown)

Wednesday 28 October
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.

“If you want things to be different, perhaps the answer is to become different yourself.”  (Norman Vincent Peale)

Tuesday 27 October
DISABILITY AWARENESS MONTH

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.

“Life isn't worth living until you have found something worth dying for.”  (Martin Luther King Jr)

Monday 26 October 2015
FAMILY HISTORY MONTH and
MAKE-A-DIFFERENCE DAY

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.

Make-a-Difference Day is celebrated on the 4th Saturday of October. Today is the 24th 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.

“Service is the rent we pay to be living. It is the very purpose of life and not something you do in your spare time.”  (Marian Wright Edelman)

Sunday 25 October
30th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
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.

“It is our duty as men and women to proceed as though the limits to our abilities do not exist.”  (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin)

Saturday 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.

“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.”  (M. Scott Peck)

Friday 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.

“Feeling and longing are the motive forces behind all human endeavor and human creations.”  (Albert Einstein)

Thursday 22 October
STUTTERING AWARENESS DAY and
ST 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 and canonised on April 27th, 2014 so this is the first time his feast day is being celebrated.

“If you gave your inner genius as much credence as your inner critic, you would be light years ahead of where you now stand.”  (Alan Cohen)

Wednesday 21 October
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.

“Creativity gives rise to the limited out of the unlimited, to sanity out of madness, to the valuable out of the priceless, to abundance out of nothingness, to the original out of the familiar, and to hope out of despair.”  (Wallace Huey)

Tuesday 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

“Any person capable of angering you becomes your master.”  (Epictetus)

Monday 19 October 2015
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.

“Virtue means doing the right thing, in relation to the right person, at the right time, to the right extent, in the right  manner, and for the right purpose. Thus, to give money away is quite a simple task, but for the act to be virtuous, the donor must give to the right person, for the right purpose, in the right amount, in the right manner, and at the right time.”  (Aristotle)

Sunday 18 October
29th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
ST LUKE

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.

“Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent than the one derived from fear of punishment.”  (Mahatma Gandhi)

Saturday 17 October
SAINT MARY MacKILLOP and
END POVERTY DAY

Mary MacKillop was formally recognized four 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

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, and for a specially suited prayer service in several languages (including English, Spanish, and Swahili) see www.jpicformation.wikispaces.com/EN_17Oct

“Life’s not about waiting for the storms to pass... it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”  (B.J. Gallagher)

Friday 16 October
WORLD FOOD DAY

Also known as End Hunger Day, today reminds us of those people for whom hunger is an everyday part of life. The theme for 2015 is “Social Protection and Agriculture – breaking the cycle of rural poverty” – see the website www.fao.org

“Don’t let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use.”  (Earl Nightingale)

Thursday 15 October
ST TERESA OF AVILA and
GLOBAL HANDWASHING DAY and
CONFLICT RESOLUTION 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.

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).

“What you thought before has led to every choice you have made, and this adds up to you at this moment. If you want to change who you are physically, mentally, and spiritually, you will have to change what you think.”  (Dr Patrick Gentempo)

Wednesday 14 October
DISASTER REDUCTION DAY and
WORLD STANDARDS DAY

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

The purpose of World Standards Day is to raise awareness of the importance of standardization to the global economy. The focus in 2015 is “Standards – the world’s common language” – see the website www.iso.org

“The period of greatest gain in knowledge and experience is the most difficult period in one's life.”  (Dalai Lama)

Tuesday 13 October
OUR LADY OF FATIMA

Nearly 100 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.

“To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end in life.”  (Robert Louis Stevenson)

Monday 12 October 2015
COLUMBUS & THE AMERICAS and
CANADA’s THANKSGIVING DAY

Today is the day when, 523 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.

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.

“A single grateful thought raised to heaven is the most perfect prayer.”  (Gotthold Ephraim Lessing)

Sunday 11 October
28th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
POPE JOHN XXIII

Beatified 15 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.”

“Yesterday is ashes. Tomorrow is green wood. Only today does the fire burn brightly.”  (Eskimo saying)

Saturday 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…

“Whatever we plant in our subconscious mind and nourish with repetition and emotion will one day become reality.”  (Earl Nightingale)

Friday 9 October
JOHN HENRY NEWMAN

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.

“How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life, you will have been all of these.”  (George Washington Carver)

Thursday 8 October
anticipating WORLD POST DAY

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.

“It’s the little things that make the big things possible. Only close attention to the fine details of any operation makes the operation first class.”  (J. Willard Marriot)

Wednesday 7 October
FEAST OF 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.

“Anger is a wind which blows out the lamp of the mind.”  (Robert G Ingersoll)

Tuesday 6 October
This week marks the 53nd 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.

“Dig the well before you are thirsty.”  (Chinese Proverb)

Monday 5 October 2015
WORLD TEACHERS’ DAY and
WORLD HABITAT 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.

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

“Courage is not limited to the battlefield. The real tests of courage are much quieter. They are the inner tests, like enduring pain when the room is empty or standing alone when you’re misunderstood.”  (Charles Swindoll)

Sunday 4 October
27th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
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.

Saturday 3 October
Anticipating WORLD SPACE WEEK

Starting tomorrow, this UN 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

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows.”  (Helen Keller)

Friday 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 soul would have no rainbow had the eyes no tears.”  (John Vance Cheney)

Thursday 1 October
ST THÉRÈSE OF LISIEUX and
WORLD SENIOR CITIZENS 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.

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

“We can throw stones, complain about them, stumble on them, climb over them, or build with them.”  (William Arthur Ward)

Wednesday 30 September
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.

“He has the right to criticize who has the heart to help.”  (Abraham Lincoln)

Tuesday 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.

“If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will avoid one hundred days of sorrow.”  (Chinese Proverb)

Monday 28 September 2015
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.

“We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down.”  (Eleanor Roosevelt)

Monday 21 September 2015
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

“Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. it comes into us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.”  (John Wayne)

Tuesday 22 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

“You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.”  (Ray Bradbury)

Wednesday 23 September
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.

“The best index to a person's character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”  (Abigail van Buren)

Thursday 24 September
OUR LADY OF MERCY

Also known as Our Lady of Ransom, the story behind this title 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.

“Whatever good or bad fortune may come our way, we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value.”  (Hermann Hesse)

Friday 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.

“The highest reward for one’s toil is not what one gets for it, but what one becomes by it.”  (John Ruskin)

Saturday 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.

“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)

Sunday 27 September
26th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME and 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 “One billion tourists. One billion opportunities”. See the website www.wtd.unwto.org

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

Monday 14 September 2015
EXALTATION OF THE HOLY CROSS

One of several days focused on the Cross upon which Jesus died, today is a reminder of the sacrifice and suffering inherent in following the way of Jesus. Though it tends to take most of his followers by surprise, and to leave us kicking and screaming in resistance, yet he warned us clearly to expect it. His life demonstrated what he meant, and his death on a cross was the final stamp of it. It’s also a day to pray for the Holy Cross Sisters whose kindness and collaboration we have enjoyed in parts of the Edmund Rice world.

“Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.”  (Samuel Ullman)

Tuesday 15 September
OUR LADY OF SORROWS and DEMOCRACY DAY

Our Lady of Sorrows is a title highlighting the sufferings that Mary experienced in relation to her son Jesus – something with which mothers in particular might readily identify. This is one of a thread of monthly Marian feastdays that keep before our eyes the first Christian, who features so strongly in the spirituality of Edmund Rice.

Democracy is described by the UN as “a universal value based on the freely-expressed will of people to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems, and their full participation in all aspects of life”. This international day is a reminder of this ideal, so varied in its expressions and so difficult to move beyond oversimplification to maturity. A day to pray for the attainment of life-giving human systems and for the lifting of all oppressive systems.

“Character isn’t something you were born with and can’t change, like your fingerprints.  It’s something you weren't born with and must take responsibility for forming.”  (Jim Rohn)

Wednesday 16 September
WORLD OZONE DAY and PAPUA NEW GUINEA’S INDEPENDENCE DAY

Surrounding the earth at a distance of about 25 km, the ozone layer offers protection from some harmful radiation. Its depletion by man-made chemicals became a popular concern in the mid-80s, and 2010 was set as the target date for eliminating all ozone-depleting substances. Efforts at raising awareness of other forms of environmental damage have continued to broaden, inviting the support of our hearts and hands.

Papua New Guinea appeared on the radar of the Edmund Rice community in 1950, and today there are a number of Christian Brothers communities and associates around the country. Let us pray for them as they celebrate 40 years of PNG’s independence.

“He who every morning plans the transaction of the day and follows out that plan, carries a thread that will guide him through the maze of the most busy life. But where no plan is laid, where the disposal of time is surrendered merely to the chance of incidence, chaos will soon reign.”  (Victor Hugo)

Thursday 17 September
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.

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

Friday 18 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.

“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)

Saturday 19 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.

“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)

Sunday 20 September
25th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and 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.

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