Monday, December 22, 2008

God’s will no threat to mine

For many years, I had thought of the Divine will as some kind of threat to my own will and I was fearful that it might be in conflict with my own personal drive. How foolish!

For the will of God is the driving force that keeps all things in being. At the dawn of creation, when there was nothing but darkness and chaos, the Lord said: Fiat—Let there be… light and life and right order. The Divine command was the laser beam than shone from heaven to bring about the wonder of all creation. Outside that beam of light and love, there is nothing.

God’s will then, is the creative power that drives and energizes and gives meaning to all existence. It is the very element that I need so that my own inspiration and energy may fulfill its own plan and purpose. This realisation has set me free to rejoice in life as it enfolds. The prayer that rises to my lips and heart each morning is that of Mary: Be it done unto me according to your word.

The rhythm of love

There is a rhythm of Divine Love that pulsates through all creation and holds it in being. We are called to enter into and dance to that rhythm.

Only when we give up our self-grasping, self-seeking ideals and forget our small selves, do we become empty enough to allow God enter our hearts and dance to the Divine rhythm that lives within us so that we may become instruments of his Love. This is His will and purpose for us. It is good to recall the words of Jesus: "Whoever does the will of my Father, is my mother and brother and sister..." Being in the flow of the Divine will, then means being a many-splendoured relationship with the Lord. Picture is by courtesy of Fr. Donagh O'Shea, OP

Monday, December 15, 2008

Enterprise Train

I would like you to know where I am, when not at the Dominican Priory, Tallaght, Dublin 24.
I take the train across the splendid Newry Viaduct to Lurgan, Co. Armagh. (See picture). Having spent many years while on the Rosary Apostolate, moving between the Irish Republic which is my base, over the Border to Northern Ireland and acrosss the water to Great Britain, I needed a kind of watering hole half-way.

Lurgan became that place and for more than thirty years, Lurgan has been a second home.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Blessing for your Beads

While you may ask a priest to give this blessing to your beads, you may also use it yourself at any time, as it highlights some signific.ant elements in the Rosary.

God, Our Father, may the circle of these beads
be a sign of our coming together in the Body of Christ:
make us one in the circle of your love.

May the crucifix be a reminder of Jesus,
praying in the midst of us,
and presenting his glorious wounds,
on our behalf, before your face.
In union with him we cry: Father. . .

In union with Mary,
who treasured all these things in her heart
may we listen to the good news that the Lord is with us ,
and that like her, we too may bring forth Jesus,
in the power of the Spirit,
as the fruit of our life, our love and our labour.

Heal the sick who touch these beads in faith,
and may power go out from the Gospel mysteries
which we contemplate and celebrate,
to transform us, and make us strong with all the strength
which comes from the glorious power of Jesus, the Divine Humanity.

Father, bless. . .(me) and all for whom prayers
are offered on these beads,
in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Stepping Stones to |Stillness

I had always hoped that in the evening of life, when the tyranny of hustle and bustle had ceased, I might find time to simply be. Nothing much to do except to love and be loved, to simply let time stand still. I'm thinking on a very human level but thinking too, I hope, on that level where God is at the heights and depths of my being.

I still treasure the beads around which I have travelled so many times, but now as the shadows lengthen, the impatience for getting through and the fever for finishing is no longer an option. I have opted instead for what Pope Paul VI called the lingering pace of prayer. I just want to linger in love with the Lord.

I want to write something about how the round of the beads and the pondering of the mysteries can become stepping stones to silence, to solitude and to stillness. There is healing for soul and body in this search for stillness.

Once as I was about to begin Mass a lady in distress came to see me. There was little I could do in the few moments before walking out on the altar, so I invited her to come round when Mass was over. During the Offertory, the organist played the Sibelius piece to which the verses below have been attached. The splendour of the music moved me deeply and touched something above and beyond. At the end of the service, the lady herself came round to say, that she was fine and needed no further help. The message that sounded from the organ playing supplied all she wanted. "Waves of stillness and splendour swept over me, as the Finlandia music, as it is known, sounded through the church.”
Be still, my soul:
Your God will undertake
To guide the future
As he has the past.
Your hope, your confidence,
Let nothing shake,
All now mysterious
Shall be clear at last.
Be still my soul:
The tempests still obey
His voice, who ruled them
Once in Galilee.
Most of that piece by Sibelius is taken up with rousing and turbulent music, evoking the national struggle of the Finnish people. But towards the end, a calm comes over the orchestra, and the serenely melodic Finlandia hymn is heard. How well suited it is to the Christian words applied to it:

Ever since first hearing it on the organ that evening in Tallaght, the melody haunts and heals me. I recall the many times I have carried the monstrance with the Sacred host among the worshipping people at healing services all over Ireland. Music and song can lead us into the deep and dark nights of prayer. It teaches us that the words on our lips and the thoughts in our minds yield to the song that goes directly to the soul. It is this kind of thing that is leading me to seek out the divine song and music that can give a new dimension to the prayer of the Rosary.

When saying the Divine Office, and coming to those lines of the Psalm that speak of singing to the Lord and playing on the ten-stringed lute, my thoughts stray to the music of the Rosary. Its measured decades and the rhythm of the Paters and Aves echo deeper than words or holy images. The Lord’s Prayer itself is full of harmony, of right order and perfect number:

Father-Thy Name-Thy kingdom-Thy will. Father: Give us-Forgive us-Lead us-Deliver us.

The first three notes have an upward and outward swing, lifting the soul to the glory of God and the coming of his kingdom. As my and me give way to Thee there is a whole new orientation to life,- a fresh set of the soul. The emphasis on Thy eases the pressure on the self. This movement lifts us out of selfish earthbound ways. The second set of four notes brings us down to earth and reaches into the core of human need. As we praise God in the first half, we do so with uplifted hands. Only then can we fittingly, hold out our empty hands and like little children beg for bread or maybe jam and honey.

The Hail Mary has its own rhythm, which again is universal in its ability to commune with heaven and to communicate with others. The Hail Mary occurs one hundred and fifty times throughout the fifteen decades. This is to match the one hundred and fifty melodic Psalms. Like any song, it is repeated over and over again in a rhymed refrain, all for the purpose of delighting the heart and lifting the soul out of the mundane, and providing so many more stepping stones to stillness.

The first part of the Hail Mary is not so much a prayer, that we send up to heaven, as a blessing that comes down from above. The story runs: “In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to announce the good news: The Lord is with you. Do not be afraid.
Mary was our stand-in that day and we now stand where she first stood on our behalf. The Hail Mary, then puts us into Listening-mode. We listen to heaven’s message that the Lord is with us and that we have only to let that healing blessing fall on the barren land of our own being.

Strong, Secure and Sacred

Strong, secure and sacred
Strong, secure, and sacred! The Rosary beads

When you hold the beads in your hand, you are in touch. In touch, as the Credo at Mass has it, with all that is, seen and unseen. Who wants to be out of touch? Out of touch with reality. Out of touch with other people and of things that matter. Touching the physical chain of beads we somehow make contact with the invisible and eternal. Beads are part of the religious fabric of the wide world. From East to West, religions of every shade seem to make use of them. And not just religious folk. It is simply a human thing.

Seated next to me on a plane as we were taking off, was a smart Japanese business man who was fingering his string of beads. “Makes me feel safe,” he remarked. When you carry the beads in your pocket, you are secure. I never venture out of the house until they are snugly resting somewhere on my person.

I’m reminded of a story Rosemary Ward tells, of when she was a Nursing attendant during the London air-raids: A young man was carried in to the hospital with terrible wounds and laid on the ground before her . She felt helpless and took out her rosary beads as they waited for the doctor. The wounded man stretched out his hand, and whispered, “Let me touch them. They’re something to hold on to.”

We all need something to hold on to, to still the quivering body and to slow down the racing mind and to calm the inner storm. The blessed beads of the Rosary with all its hallowed memories can serve that purpose in a most admirable manner. In my ministry I’ve often found it was enough to put the Rosary beads into the hand of the sick or troubled one

When I had the privilege of taking the Pilgrim Virgin of Fatima around Northern Ireland during the so-called Troubles, I would ask people to look at the pearly white beads with its golden chain draping from the statue. “It is her precious jewellery,” I would say. “Accept it as a personal gift a sacred trust from the hands of the Queen of heaven.” I hadn’t reckoned with the dear old fellow who took me literally and was walking away with the precious Rosary tucked into his overcoat.

On a visit to the United Kingdom, I had the pleasure of discovering the famous English poet and mystic, William Blake, and finding inspiration in his famous lines about holding infinity in the palm of his hand. The grains of sand bring to mind the stones of the Marian beads, as indeed the wild flower conjures up the fragrance of the golden rose of the Rosary.
To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.

Our tainted nature's solitary boast

However much we may want to regard Mary as just like ourselves and talk of her as our sister in faith, she is still unique: As William Wordsworth (1770-1850) expressed it:
Our tainted nature’s solitary boast

When the Angel Gabriel was sent from God, one might think of him as it were a Divine laser beam seeking out the one place and the person where the heavenly blessing might rest again. There might be something of the restoration of the Garden of Eden. As at the dawn of Creation, God looked on his own work and said: It is good, so might he now look on his lowly handmaid and might begin the work of a New Creation.

She would be the sweet benediction that would herald all the Divine blessings of the Saviour. The curse placed on the earth-- the dust and the sweat of the Fall would be taken away and the dew of a heavenly blessing would be showered on the earth. Blessed are you among women; Blessed are you the first fruits of the whole Christian harvest.

Percy Bysshe Shelley 1792-1822 put it so beautifully:
Sweet benediction in the eternal Curse!
Veiled light of this lampless universe,
Thou moon above the clouds

Rhythm of Divine Love


There is a rhythm of Divine Love that pulsates through all creation and holds it in being. We are called to enter into and dance to that rhythm.

Only when we give up our self-grasping, self-seeking ideals and forget our small selves, may we become empty enough to allow God enter into our hearts and dance to the Divine rhythm that lives within us so that we may become instruments of his Love.

In the evening of life, we will be judged by how we have loved. When the fever of work is over and we are no longer able to do very much, we can still go on loving, for love does not depend on physical strength or the ability to perform service for others. As the song has it, We can still go on loving in the same old way."

However, the love we Christians practise is not fired by a merely human spark. It is a living flame--a glow of the Holy Spirit, that penetrates and energises all human endeavour and lifts us into a Divine level. I say: lifts,-- for in no way does the Divine, lessen or deprive us of what is human. My human love for you, Beloved is real but the Divine spark enlivens and enhances it. Truth is that the human and the Divine are woven into one tapestry that is totally human and splendidly Divine.

The Divine Weaver of life simply asks us to give to him the ragged threads of our human desires and deeds. We are invited to entrust these threads and tangles of daily living to his hands. My prayer and the whole thrust of my being is to say:

Into your hands, O Lord, I commend myself.
Hold me and handle me,
and make me an instrument of your love.
Form and fashion me into something beautiful.
So, Beloved what I offer you
is no longer my little human love,
but the love of the One
who loves us all with an everlasting love.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas Poem

Many years ago, I came across this poem by Sr. Agnes Vollman. It gave me an insight into the inner reality of Christmas. It helped me to understand,that it profits little to know that Jesus has been born in Bethlehem, if I do not allow him to be born in my own heart today.

The Virgin longed to see the face
of Him she bore.
She full of grace
must wait nine months
to gaze upon her God,
her Christ, her Son.

At last, O ever mounting joy!
He’s born, her boy.
And lo, his sacred features
are like one other creature’s.

His lips, his eyes, his brow,
formed in her till now,
are but her own,
hers alone.

The longing is it stilled?
Ah no, for God hath willed
unto eternity
her task should be:
to mould his blessed features,
this time within all people. Agnes Vollman

Monday, December 8, 2008

Preparing for Christmas

In the run-up to Christmas, I have been giving a talk on Our Lady in Advent and would liek to share with you these few words that seem to come to me in prayer:

We wait
for the coming
of Christ,
in union with the woman
who holds heaven
in her heart

and who touches
the edges of eternity
with her hand.

Did you hear of the lady who was expecting twins--one of them an optimist and one a pessimist? The latter complained that soon he would get the push-out and that would be the end. The optimist on the other hand said: No! Every thing will be fine. I can hear my mother's heart-beat and it is good and soon we'll see her smiling face and it will be just wonderful. The best is yet to be. Advent, then is not just a season of four weeks. It is a kind of on Going Principle of Christian development.

In the Christian life of the spirit, the wonder of wonders is, that we are like unborn infants in the womb of Mother Mary, or if you prefer--in the sacred womb of Mother Church, for Mary is the Icon of the Church. We are only truly born in the Sprit at the moment of death. That is why the death of the Saints is called their Dies Natalis-- their Birthday.

When Mary consented to be mother of Christ, whether at the time she ralised it or not, she conceived in her herself, not only the Head of the Mystical Body, but the Whole Christ, members as well as Head. Otherwise, in the words of St. Augustine, she would have given birth to a monster. The splendid reality is, that we as it were in the process of gestation, being carried by Mary who objectively speaking is truly our Mother.