Monday, January 26, 2009

Go slow, -- Stay low, -- Don’t blow!

Joe was always ready to fly off the handle. He was full of anxiety and tension, -- all part of his racing restless mind. He was a good man with high ideals, a little too high at times. At least, they were beyond his reach for the moment. He needed to take one day at a time, to slow down in his rush for the stars. It would have been good if he could have taken on board the sentiment of the 17th century Blaise Pascal that “all the troubles of the world stem from the fact that we cannot sit still in a room.”

If he had met the right kind of girl who would have listened, not just to his mind, but to his fast-beating heart, perhaps he might have found the stillness that would have healed him. She could have told him of Meister Eckhart the 14th century Dominican friar who said that
nothing in all creation is so like to God as stillness.

At a prayer meeting one night, they told him not to trample the flowers under his feet as he rushed on headlong to achieve his ambition. Someone spoke these words: Go slow, stay low and don’t blow! He’s now praying, “Slow me down Lord and help me not to blow it every time I open my mouth.”

Joe hasn’t yet found the girl who would touch his heart, but he has learnt a few lessons from his little furry black cat. She sleeps a lot, cuddles up to the hot pipes and stretches herself in the sun. She is stay low personified. But when the time is right, she springs into action, climbs trees, chases birds and murders small mice. She could teach any human being how to be a contemplative like Mary and a woman of action like Martha—all in one.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

St. Louis, Missouri

I have just been invited to come to the city of
St.Louis, Missouri, USA
to talk with some friends who are hoping
to start an Open-air Shrine of the Rosary.
At the age of 88, it seems a little crazy
to be setting off this distance.
It is about 1,500 miles further West than New York,
so I ask you to pray that I may get there all in one piece.
I hope to fly out from Dublin, early in March and stay for six days.
For further information on the Rosary see

The Rosary and Contemplation

St Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort says, “the Rosary cannot possibly harm the sweet smelling flowers of your contemplation, for it is a heavenly tree and its scent is beautiful. Clearly, de Montfort sees the Rosary not just as a one-fit-all formula of prayer, but as a living organic growth leading to deep contemplation and sweet rest in the Lord. At the same time, he warns against those who seem to soar like eagles to what they personally think to be a height of contemplation, when in fact they may have been pitifully led astray. “I found out how wrong they were,” he says, “when I observed how they considered the Hail Mary and the Rosary beneath them.” He sees the Rosary as “ this easy form of meditation before progressing to the highest state of contemplation.”

“Even then,” he adds, “if by the grace of God, you have already reached a high level of prayer, keep up the practice of saying the Rosary, if you wish to remain in that state and if you hope, through it to grow in humility. On the other hand, if Almighty God in his infinite mercy draws you to him as forcibly as he did some of the saints while saying the Rosary, make yourself passive in his hands and let yourself be drawn towards him. Let God work and pray in you and let him say your Rosary in his way and this will be enough for the day.”

For the Lourdes Novena

The Lady looked at me,
She smiled
and said: “Come Closer.”

These three simple statements from

the lips of the little child at the Grotto,

sum up the heart of the Lourdes message.

When the young Bernadette knelt enraptured before the Lady of the Grotto in Lourdes, she didn’t even know that there were mysteries to the Rosary. For all that, she was a mystic in the making, for she knew how to be still and linger in love. “I simply looked at the Lady and she looked at me and smiled.” Bernadette knew something simpler yet deeper than the saying of words and the thinking of thoughts. She had the sense of divine presence and heaven was very close. “The grotto was my heaven on earth.” It was for her,-- a holy communion.

The Parish priest was at first sceptical and asked for a sign. “Tell the Lady, to make the wild rose at her feet burst into bloom and then I’ll believe.” It was February and the icy winds of the Pyranees were cutting through the bones of the people and through the bushes and brambles of the Massabielle rock. It was not the season for roses.

The physical miracle did not happen, but the breath of the Spirit blew through the valley, and the desert began to blossom like the rose of Sharon. Here, is an image of the splendour that can bring honey out of the rock and living water to wash our souls in the Siloe of stillness and silence.

For the one who has grown to maturity in the Rosary, it is often enough to simply hold on to the blessed beads and let them blossom and emit their own healing fragrance. Before ever the beads have been in our soiled hands, the mother of God has come with them in her sacred hands. They are her jewels and she entrusts them to us poor sinners. We hold them and touch them in faith, as the woman of the Gospel reached out to touch the hem of the Lord’s garment.

In our Winter weakness, may we help even a little to make the wild rose bloom in our valley. Just as there is no end to the variety of the rose family, so the garden of the Rosary continues to bring forth fresh and varied blooms.

The busy mind is a troubled mind

The busy mind is a troubled mind,
the quiet mind is a wholesome mind,
but the still mind is a divine mind.

John who was letting things get him down by excessive care and concern for detail heard these words, as he prayed.

“Just now, don't try to reason things out. Don't be concerned by what other people think of you, or what their plans and projects may be. Don't let the future hem you in or let the past invade your present space.

Just take up your beads and let my Annunciation for this day reveal itself sweetly and surely to you. You too, have an angel who waits on you. His dearest wish is to let the light of my love reveal the way to you. Don't concern yourself with complicated detail. Leave to others those things which are their concern and which they will deal with in their own time.

My wish for you, is that you rest in my love and lose yourself in my presence. I wait for you in every situation of your life. Trust me and be still.

Relate to me, as you relate to your beloved, only more so. You know how she truly loves you, and how you long to sit with her in sheer silence. Words are not necessary. All that matters is that you let me direct you in loving and in being loved.”

John was a married man with a lot of business to attend to, yet the Lord made it clear to him that he would accomplish more in stillness and silence than in undue haste and anxiety. Sometime later, he was led into a weekly meditation group and now spends half an hour morning and evening in the practice of wordless and imageless prayer.

The man I write of was the owner of a chain of stores and had his name in bold bright letters over each one of them. John Laskey and Sons Ltd! Night and day, he pondered that sign of his prosperity until he was, as he told me “full of himself.” The day came however, when things started to go sour. A far greater multinational chain-store than his came to town and he was forced out of business. A physical illness and a mental depression brought him into a dark night of loneliness and despair.

This was the time that my friend took to prayer in a serious way. Looking back now, he realises that everything was providentially planned by a God who is not only wise but full of love. His own name once written big and bold on his store sign, has given way to a greater name. His mantra has become: Father, hallowed be thy name! He would recall the words of the poet, Alfred Lord Tennyson:

Our little systems have their day;
They have their day and cease to be:
They are but broken lights of thee,
And thou, O Lord, art more than they.

Here is the Celebration!

Joseph took to bed for Christmas—nothing to do with Santa or the shopping, just a man’s sized dose of the flu. He was disappointed with not being able to fulfil his role as Eucharistic minister.

He asked his daughter Joan to stand in for him, and when she returned full of the joys of Mass and the heart-warming sound of the Christmas carols, Don sadly remarked, “I missed the celebration.”

Joan with her engaging smile, immediately held up the Sacred Host, she had brought from the Church and said: "Daddy, here is the celebration!”

When I told the story to a friend, she remarked, “Joseph was there, really. It happened to me once, when I slept in and missed the 10.30 Mass. In a vision, I saw myself in my Sunday coat kneeling in my usual place. You know, God takes the desire for the deed.”

Monday, January 19, 2009

For the Inner grace of the Rosary

O Virgin Mother, grant that the recitation of your Rosary
may be for me each day, in the midst of occupations,
a bond of unity in my actions,
a sweet refreshment and an encouragement
to walk joyfully along the path of duty.
Grant above all, O dearest Mother,
that the contemplation of the sacred mysteries
may form in my soul, little by little,
a spiritual atmosphere,
which will penetrate my understanding,
my will, my heart, my memory.
Let my imagination, my whole being
acquire a habit of praying while I work,
without the use of formal prayers,
by interior acts
especially by aspirations of love
By a French Dominican

Because I said so

Anne Marie liked to take the children to the Cinema from time to time, but was careful to pick what she thought would be right and proper for them to see. Like all parents, she was watchful for anything might not be quite right for her lovely family. This time however, one of the more daring daughters suggested that they would do the choosing. So along they all went and were settling down to their crisps and sweets.

The film was about a mother and her teen-age daughter, and Eileen cocked her ear as she heard the line from the mother:Because I said so!” When the same line began to repeat itself, Eileen seemed to recognize it. "What am I doing here," she whispered? Is this daughter of mine trying to tell me something.

St. Paul is firm in telling children to honour and obey their parents, but he is equally firm in telling parents not to provoke their children. In itself, parental authority like any other authority is an excellent thing. Authority exercised with love and prudence and sensitivity is a source of security and provides the direction we need.

There may be danger in overdoing the Because I said so! side, but without someone to tell us the truth and to give sound advice, where would we be? In matters of faith, it is the supreme norm. Ultimately, I accept the doctrine of the Real Presence Christ in the Eucharist, because he says so. When Jesus asked, “Will you too go away?” Peter replied: “Lord to whom shall we go. You have the words of eternal life.

Thank God for parents, teachers and priests who tell us in words of life, --what is so, and why it is so.

Larger than

We were glad to receive a copy of the latest book Larger than by our Dominican colleague, Fr. Vincent Travers. The title brings it right into the present high tec area of experience. We hear that it is flying off the shelves and you may well come across Fr. Vincent face to face, as he is moving round parishes that make him welcome. In his engaging way, he told me he is a bit like Jesus, asking to have doors open to him to preach the word in speech and in writing every Sunday.

Commenting Larger than, Fr. Paul Murray who teaches in Rome, remarked: "It is a great, fresh and bracing breeze of light and truth."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Frank Duff and the Economic Crisis

We are at present experiencing a crisis of authority and leadership both in Church and in state. Authority need not be a bad word. It derives from the word Author, which conjures up the notions of creativity and inventiveness. It implies and enabler an encourager. An encourager is one who can put new heart into another. From the Latin en--cor-agere

Jesus spoke with the authority of a leader. A good leader provides security. I may know not what the future holds, but I know who holds the future in his hands.

A Leader is one who like Jesus, has to go alone into the desert. He may be a voice crying in the wilderness. But he really is a Voice with Capital V and he speaks not only in the wilderness but from the wilderness. Remember what Moses did there. By the power of God, he provided bread in the wilderness, --which is indeed the model for our time of economic crisis.

The Irish Bishops in 1999, when the Celtic Tiger was at the height of its roar, issued a Document that has proved prophetic: Prosperity with a Purpose subtitled: Christian faith and values in a time of economic growth. I quote: “The implications of cash alone being the reason why a job is done well and the loss of any sense of vocation are nowhere more damaging than in the public sector.”

Pope John Paul II wrote: “People demean their own dignity when they measure the value of their work they do by the measuring stick of money. Moderation in hours of work in the interest health and personal development.

Oliver Goldsmith Ill fares the land where wealth accumulates and men decay.

The Legion of Mary Handbook has a section that is relevant to our present financial crisis: True Devotion to the Nation: “When parts of the Community are misfits--then communities work at a terrible price of poverty, frustration and unhappiness. Money and effort are poured out to drive parts which should be moving effortlessly, or which indeed should be sources of power. Results: problems, turmoil, crises.”

Frank Duff, the founder of the Legion had a profound sense of the need for good leadership. He tells how he went to Eamon deValera, head of the Irish government, to ask what was the secret of good leadership. Dev, as he was affectionately known, opened a drawer and took out a note from a former Irish patriot named Fintan Lawlor, which read: The people will follow the flag that floats nearest to the stars.

They tell of deValera, that when he wished to know what was good for Ireland, he simply looked into his own heart. People laughed at the remark. Truth, however, is that the prophetic leader has to do just that-- go alone into the desert to search for the truth. He has to search his own heart and listen to voice of God.

While leaders struggle with the demands and distresses of the land, it is good to know that there is an Inner Land and and an Inner Voice that must be attended to. The Church in the Modern world of Vatican 2 speaks of the inner voice of Conscience as: “A voice within the sanctuary of man, alone with God whose voice echoes within him."

Pope John Paul II wrote: that conscience is an interior dialogue of man with himself, as well as a dialogue of man with God---the reflection of God’s creative wisdom which like an imperishable spark shines in the heart. Our task at this time of crisis of authority and leadership is to rediscover that imperishable spark.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Christmas story

The old Parish Priest was kneeling before the new crib, when he noticed that the infant Jeus was missing. As he was wondering and worrying what might have happenned, he heard the patter of a child coming up the church. She had a doll's pram out of which she took the infant statue and placed it back safely in the manger.

I prayed to Jesus that he would give me a pram and I promised that if he did so I would give him the first ride in it, she said.

Maybe I could be a child again and tell the Lord that I will put him first in my life.

I will heal you through each other

Healing is not confined to extraordinary charismatic leaders. There is a normative low-key healing always at work in the body of Christ. This operates as an interactive process among the members of a praying group. Expectant faith and unwavering hope can make wonderful things happen. While we thank God for the highly graced ones in the healing ministry we must not, in our rush to meet the stars, miss the flowers beneath our feet.

Apart from actual prayer sessions, listening to a friend in trouble, being available at the other end of a phone, cooking meals, caring for sick children or aged parents, co-operating graciously with those in the office or workshop, - these are important elements in the whole healing structure.

When one thinks of the hurt done by harsh words, anger, pride, arrogance and lack of forgiveness, then it becomes obvious that their opposites, love, kindness and consideration, are basic to the ministry of healing. How many ulcers, headaches, heart-aches and sheer mental torture and sexual pain could be avoided if people would just be loving towards each other. I don't have to wait for some great character to come to town . Healing begins with me! It is in my heart and in my hands! The Lord says: “I will heal you through each other.”

Lord Jesus, in your love I was created.
Every breath I take, every morning I wake,
and every moment of every hour,
I live under your power.
Fill me with the healing power of your love.
Cast out anything that should not be in me.
Mend what is broken.

Let the warmth of your healing love
pass through my body, soul and spirit,
to make new any unhealthy areas
Restore me to full health,
in mind and body soul and spirit,
and lead me into the ways of stillness and peace.

Adapted from a prayer by Fr.Larry Hess

Use of Holy Oil

Pere Bernard of Toulouse in his classic Le Triple Rosaire tells members of the Confraternity to take the oil from the lamp burning before the Rosary Altar and bring it to the sick. He cites the example of the members in Milan who anoint themselves with this oil and receive a great number of cures. He tells them to invoke the names of Jesus and Mary as they do so. He also gave a form of blessing to go with the anointing:

May the Lord Jesus Christ
heal you from this illness and anxiety,
through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

A colleague of my own, relates how the old women of Tralee, Co. in the south of Ireland, would pull down the lamp at the Rosary altar and dip cotton wool in it to take home. They must have been acting under some old instruction, though no one was quite sure and nobody dared stop them or ask why.

I like to first rest with patients, endeavouring to listen with the ears of Jesus, looking with his eyes and reaching out with something of his touch. That demands faith in my own Christian charism and helps to evoke the same attitude in the person before me. Having listened and looked awhile I bless the beads of the sick persons and invite them to join me in saying at least one decade of the Rosary.

Healing of memories Prayer

Jesus, Son of the living God,
I desire to recall the memory of your healing life, death and glory.
Through the power of your saving mysteries,
touch every area of my being.
Let my coming into this world be renewed
by your own birth at Bethlehem.
Let your precious death remove from me all fear of death.
Grant me to know the power which comes
from your glorious resurrection and ascension into heaven.

Through the grace of these Rosary mysteries,
touch every area of my life and be Lord of all that I am and all that I have.
O Mary, who first opened yourself to this new creation,
pray for me a sinner, that I may be renewed in the love of my Lord.

The Healing Light of the Rosary

There's healing in touching the very beads themselves, a lowly healing maybe, yet something basic and instinctive. When all around is collapsing and the centre cannot hold, it is something to latch on to. “Worry beads” are universal. They let the sense of touch do its healing work. The fretful child lulls itself to sleep clutching a much loved teddy bear. A frightened adult reaches for a comforting hand in times of stress. Heaven has its own psychology, and the Rosary beads must have a high rating in its pain department!

Robert Llewelyn, formerly chaplain to the Julian of Norwich Society writes thus of the Rosary as an instrument of healing : “ Go round the whole body, making each part, an object of attention or awareness, saying the Rosary prayers at the same time. Thus, be aware of the heart centre. Let your mind descend into the heart. You are directing the healing energy of love to that part of your body. Then go round your body, mentally taking one or two beads for each part, shoulder, arms, hands, the brow, the face, the jaw... In this way, you bring healing to every part of your body, and thus to every part of yourself, that body-soul complex which makes up each one of us. Perhaps, one half of the hospital beds in the country would be emptied, if everyone were to spend fifteen minutes on this each day...!”

Something and someone to hold on to
Not just something, but someone! The sacred string of beads is something to hold on to, indeed. But more importantly, someone to hold on to! It is the Nurse of heaven who holds the other end of the golden string. Nurse of the shining white Lamb as an Irish poet called her, Mary invites us to grasp this life-line. The beads enshrine her precious and sacred secrets. They hold the healing blood-medicine of the Saviour. Down the centuries, the beads have been used in the ministry of healing. St. Louis Bertrand, the Spanish apostle of New Granada, was accustomed to carry a large Rosary round his neck, and one of his favourite practices was to place it about the neck of sick persons. The chronicler tells, how when he did this with the Countess of Albayda, her illness immediately vanished.

On another occasion, he spoke more decidedly to a spiritual confidante, saying directly. “God in His mercy granted that this Rosary should raise the dead to life.” Thus his devotion to the Rosary betrayed him into revealing a miracle he had sought to conceal, the raising of a girl to life during his South American mission. The report spread among the natives and reached Valencia, but the Saint would neither acknowledge or deny its truth. Once when asked so directly that he could not hedge, he replied: “What makes you ask such a question? God does what a blacksmith would do, when making an iron tool. He has made many suitable pieces of material and selects the one he pleases, although all are fit for his purpose.”

Healing figures highly with many rosary groups to-day, and it is usual to give a blessing for this purpose to the beads which the members freely use in the manner of the Spanish saint mentioned. As part of this blessing the following words occur:

Father of mercy , heal the sick who touch these beads
with faith, hope and love,
and may healing power go out from the Gospel mysteries,
which we contemplate and celebrate
to transform us into the likeness of Jesus,
and make us strong with all the strength
which comes from his Divine Humanity.

With the beads around the neck, or in the hands of the sick person, I like to read the text from Mark 5:

There was a woman who suffered terribly
even though she had been to many doctors...
She touched his cloak and her bleeding stopped at once...
Jesus knew that power had gone out from him,
so he turned round in the crowd and asked:
“Who touched my clothes?”

Jesus, whom we touch in every mystery of the Rosary, is still the source of power, and the author of healing. As we make contact with the simple string of beads, it is as if we were touching the hem of his garment, the very edge of eternity. All the while I like to place the focus of healing on touching the person of the Lord rather than the actual beads. I invite people to enter into the contemplative flow of the prayer and to make contact with the life-giving mysteries which are the soul of the Rosary. I composed the following prayer which brings our personal experience into line with the life-experience of the Lord himself:

The Lord is with you

Over in the West of Ireland, I was made welcome for a Rosary Novena by a wonderful woman who had organised the whole event. Each day we walked on the strand near Ballina, while we prayed and talked things over. At the end, she said: “I'll miss you when you're gone. Please write something in my autograph book so that I'll remember this Novena.” I thought of writing something lovely, like” God gave us memory, so that we might have roses in December”, but instead I jotted down: “Nan, the Lord is with you.”

Nan looked disappointed. The words were so few, and seemingly so uninspiring. So I added to the little message: “This is all our Lady knew, but it was enough. It is everything.”

The truth is, that these words: The Lord is with you, are covenant words. They are a summary of all God's promises throughout the sacred scriptures. These are the words God spoke to Joshua when he was frightened of leading the people of Israel into the promised land. It was feared that there were giants in the land and that the people would be devoured like grasshoppers before them. Not feeling up to the stature of the great Moses, Joshua needed to hear these words of the Lord:

“My servant Moses is dead. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread, I have given you, as I promised to Moses. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not fail you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you, wherever you go.” (Joshua 1)

That is the very stuff of the covenant: I will be with you. You will never walk alone. Mary had to walk into an unknown land, an uncharted course. She had to walk in the darkness of faith. She had nothing but that word of the Angel: the Lord is with you.

This “being with his people” is not a mere physical presence, like the way the chair is present in the room. What we are talking about, is a living dynamic presence, that brings about a whole new relationship. The Lord is with us, backing us up, sending us forth into our own personal land of promise, and pledging protection every step of the way.

In the Secret place

In the course of a talk on the John Main method of meditation, I was asked, “What way does this differ from Rosary meditation?” Is the latter something inferior to this rather special type of meditation with the mantra?

The answer I gave was “It is and it isn’t!” It all depends on where you’re at. If the Rosary is made a kind of uniform,-- same for everyone and every situation, it can become a rigid formula that gives little scope for growth. If on the other hand, the Rosary is seen as a school of prayer, with many grades or stepping stones to wisdom, then there is room for the many splendoured range that moves from vocal prayer, to discursive meditation and on to stillness and silence.

The various mysteries of the Rosary can be pondered in detail,scenes from the Passion and Glory of Jesus can be held in the mind and applied to one’s own life in a very practical manner. The Rosary can be a way of coming to grips with the events of Christ’s life and as a method of proclaiming the Gospel. It is often called “the Gospel on its knees!” But the Rosary does not have to settle down there. As life goes on things can become simpler and one can learn in the best sense of the word to dream along with God. Far from being a mere day-dream this can be an attentive resting in the arms of the beloved.

There is a time for the simple gaze into the heart of the mystery. The vocal prayers slow down to a lingering pace. The rhythm of meditation merges into a stillness where one moves over the stepping stones to enter the secret place of the Beloved.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Change my heart O Lord

The Holy Spirit is at work in you. He wants to change you, to give you a better life. Love changes everything. Change my heart, O Lord. We live and act with the Heart of Christ. Sir Philip Sydney, thinking of a couple who say: We have given our hearts to each other. Your heart and mine are one. has written:
My true love hath my heart and I have his,
By just exchange one for another given;
I hold his dear, and mine he cannot miss,
There never was a better bargain driven,
My true love hath my heart and I have his.

We can apply the poem to our new relationship with Jesus, for this is the exchange, the Holy Spirit wishes for each of us in the course of meditation. At the heart of each mystery and each Hail Mary is the heart and the name of Jesus. Christ is not simply an object of external veneration. We take him to ourselves and receive the wondrous exchange of his own heart in return.

Meditation such as we find in the Rosary, does not end in darkness and emptiness. It is a journey towards the hearts of Jesus and Mary. It is not simply a matter of mental prayer, but an exchange of hearts, where we live in the Sacred Heart of the Beloved.

I am think that this is the difference between Eastern meditation which seems to end in the void, and the Christian type of contemplative prayer which enters the void indeed, but somehow goes beyond it. Christian prayer like the Rosary, never forgets that the source and the summit of all yearning is the union of hearts, the mystical marriage of two persons. We are the Bride and all our longing is for union with the Bridegroom. While we may wait with eager and lonely expectation, we never forget that the the Lover is coming to meet us.

“Arise make haste, my love my dove...
Let me see you face and hear your voice.”

This is why I can ask with complete confidence for my personal needs or can intercede with boldness for others. The Bridegroom cannot refuse to listen to my voice or turn away from my face?

For your heritage

A lady came to our meditation meeting who was totally insecure. Even during the meditation sesssion, she was so ill-at-ease that she could not remain still for the brief time allotted. It seemed that the source of her anxiety was a fear of God. She feared she could not serve him as she ought.

I assured her that she was not just a servant, but a bride. She was to see herself, not as a slave at the feet of her master, but as a spouse in the arms of her beloved. With this in mind, how could she ever feel insecure?

This is the heart of God’s covenant and the ground of our confidence.
The people of Israel continually reminded themselves that the Lord never fails to keep covenant with them.
Psalm 130 runs:

He remembers his covenant forever,
his promise for a thousand generations,
the covenant he made with Abraham,
the oath he sword to Isaac.

To highlight this Bridgroom/Bridal relationship, the same Psalm speaks of the dowry that is given with the marriage. It is the very Promised Land itself--a land flowing with wine and milk and honey. -- “I am giving you a land, Canaan, your appointed heritage.”

My friend at the meditation group got the idea. She told me that it influenced her whole approach to the Eucharist. Whenever she heard the words of consecration: “This is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant.” she knew that she was truly loved, even to the shedding of blood.” I reminded her how those who made covenant with each other would sometimes make a cut on the wrist and allow their bloods to intermingle and that we Christians are sealed in the Blood of the Lord.

And when she heard what the Psalm has to say about the Promised Land being the marriage dowry given by the Lord, she felt secure. She saw her Holy Communion as the inheritance, that would lead her to complete security and peace. She knew now that she was indeed the Bride of the Lord and that she could live out of his unfailing promise and provision.

At the King’s table--with crippled feet

Returning to our Eucharistic covenant story: When the final battle had been fought, Saul and Jonathan were dead and David was on the throne. But the new king remembered his covenant with Jonathan and wept over his death. Remembrance and fidelity are integral to the biblical notion of covenant. The covenant extended to the whole family of Saul and Jonathan, as well as to themselves. So David made inquiry: “Is there anyone belonging to Saul's family left, to whom I might show faithful mercy for Jonathan's sake? He is told “There is still one of Jonathan's sons. He is lives in hiding in an old shack in the desert of Lodebar. He has crippled feet as he fell from his nurses arms during the battle”

David sent for him. On entering David's presence, the boy--Meribbal fell at the king's feet, saying, “Here I am at your service.” But David replied “Do not be afraid. I will indeed treat you with faithful love for your father Jonathan's sake. I shall restore all your grandfather Saul's estates to you and you will always eat at my table.” Merribal prostrated himself and said: “Who is your servant, for you to show favour to a dead dog like me?”

The Covenant remembered
King David then said to Ziba an old servant of the late king Saul: “Everything belonging to Saul and his family, I give to the boy. You must work the land for him. You must harvest and produce food for him and his family. But Merribal himself, will always take his own meals at my table.”

The story ends on this touching note: “Merribal lived in Jerusalem, since he always ate at the king's table. He was crippled in both feet.” We too, come like Merribal to have our dignity restored and to find healing. The years that “the locusts have eaten” are restored. The past is forgotten, our sins are blotted out. As we live by the covenant we enjoy the good things of the kingdom. We are invited to eat at the King's table and enjoy the fruits of his merciful love all the days of our life. This are the thoughts should occupy our hearts as we sit at the royal table of Eucharist.

The Covenant heart of the Eucharist

I want to explore with you the loving mercy of God in the Eucharist. This is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. How often those solemn Eucharistic words of Consecration are pronounced and we scarcely notice them.

Let me tell you one of the world's most beautiful stories of merciful and steadfast fidelity which illustrates the meaning of Covenant-love -- the love that lights up the Bible, and that lies at the heart of the Eucharist. The story in all its rich detail will enable you to plumb the depth of the words of consecration:

The story is of two young men who were contenders for power and glory. One was Jonathan, the son of King Saul. The other was David, the young man who had slain the giant Goliath with a sling and a stone. Although David had done valiant deeds in defence of the kingdom, Saul treated him badly. Things came to such a pass that David had to fly for his life. Jonathan, the King's son realised that David was not only a good man but that he might very well inherit the throne in due course. Now in anticipation of what disaster might befall either party, they looked to the future by making a pact between themselves.

Covenant and Contract
They made what the Bible calls a covenant. A covenant is a solemn agreement, whereby not only goods are exchanged but there is a commitment of persons to each other. By way of illustration, note the two elements in marriage. It is at once a contract-“This gold and silver, I thee give and with all my worldly goods, I thee endow.” But more than this, is the giving of Bride and the Bridegroom to each other. “With this body, I thee worship…” That is the covenant of marriage which binds husband and wife to each other until death do them part.

The Covenant in Bible terms had two particular qualities: kindly mercy and loyal steadfastness. As in a marriage, the Biblical qualties of mercy ensured a protection between the partners - a protection that would endure.

Cloak and belt and sword
By way of expressing this committment or covenant, Jonathan took off his princely cloak and gave it to David. This symbolised the merciful protection of the king's son. When people would see David so dressed they would respect him. Moreover, Jonathan conferred on his friend his own splendid sword and the belt which would have held his purse and his money. With these David could overcome his enemies and be able to survive the hardship of the ensuing campaign.

Sensing that Saul and himself would be overcome in the ensuing battles and that David would come to power, Jonathan made this plea of mercy to one he now saw as the future king: “If I am still alive, show your servant faithful love and mercy. If I die never withdraw your faithful love from my family. Jonathan then renewed his oath to David's since he loved him like his very soul.
Core values of Covenant
God has entered into a covenant with us, his people. That covenant, has those same core-values: expressed all over the Scriptures as a love that is steadfast, and faithful mercy. Other terms may be used , but they amount to the same thing.

Mercy brings together the two parties to the covenant: The great and good Father, pouring out his merciful love and his poor and lowly people crying out for it. The Father sends his Son among us so that the covenant may be sealed in his precious blood. On the Cross the prince of peace is stripped of his royal robe that we sinners may be clothed in his mercy. In return he takes away the rags and the remnants of our sinful lives. As we abandon our own poor defence, The Spirit gives that shining and splendid sword enabling us to overcome evil and emerge victorious. In the next section, we will see some further consequences of this Eucharistic covenant.

I reached a milestone

I reached a milestone in my Rosary-journey at the Irish Dominican College in Rome, when I came upon an the old precious book entitled, Le Triple Rosaire, by Pere Bernard, OP of Toulouse. It is a veritable mine of information. It proved to be an exciting stepping stone in my path to stillness and the discovery of the real secret of meditation, or to call it by the more traditional Western title, contemplation. The author does not deny the need for preaching and meditation and study but he insists that, at the actual time of praying the Rosary, a person moving into a prayer of simple union with God, leaves aside all anxiety about carefully worked out mental images or desires.

“These things,” he says, “dispose us for the Divine presence, but at prayer-time they no longer occupy the fore-front of our minds. This work has already been done. Now you are invited to rest in the Lord himself.”

Fr. Bernard then gives the following delightful comment: “Imagine a King who summons his two sons to reveal to them the secrets of his heart. One passes quickly through the ante-rooms to hasten to the throne-room. The other dallies on the way looking at the works of art, and never reaches the King. How much better to see the King than to be dazzled by his treasures.”

Many of those called to be contemplatives in the Rosary act like this.They try to be attentive and make sure that thoughts match up with words. But in the evening of life, as relationship has grown deep and strong, what matters is attention to the person who is present. That is true of ordinary conversation and it is true of the divine conversation of prayer. Strangers tend to talk and be careful of their speech. Intimate friends long to sit in silence and attend to each other. Reminds one of the disciples who asked: “Where do you dwell? and received the reply: “Come and see.”
Calm soul of all things!
Make it mine
To feel, amid the city’s jar
That there abides a peace of thine,
Man did not make
and cannot mar.

Lines written by Mathew Arnold in Kensington Gardens

The Circle and the Zero

The traditional Catholic Rosary forms a circle as we hold it. The circular form of the beads speaks of that unending splendour of grace, while the Zero shape into which it gently falls is a constant reminder of the mystery of my own life which must decrease and discover its own littleness and vulnerability.
I think of St.Catherine of Siena who heard the Lord speak: “I am the One who is, you the one who is not.” What gives such value to the Rosary, is that built into it, are the mysteries of God made man, and the almost infinite intercession of Mary..Thomas Aquinas has the daring words, that “Mary comes right up to the borders of the infinite.” Heavenly riches and earthly poverty come together in the Rosary.

Strong, secure and sacred

Strong, secure, and sacred! --the Rosary beads. When you hold them 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 a small string of beads. “Makes me feel safe,” he remarked. Personlly I never venture out of the house until my rosary rests snugly in my pocket.

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 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. Then I speak the words of William Blake:

I hold infinity in the palm of my hand and touch eternity in an hour.

Be still my soul

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.”

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 hymn is heard. How well suited it is to the Christian words applied to it:
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.

For the Christian, the secret of stillness and security is faith in Jesus Christ. We do not rest in the void and the darkness, we respond to the call of one who loves us: Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give your rest. Mt.11.28

Blessed Oil for Healing

Besides the official blessing of oil as performed by the Bishop on Holy Thursday for the Sacrament of healing administred by a priest, there is also a long-standing tradition of the use of simple blessed oil for the healing of the Sick by the laity themselves. In former times it was common to encourage the members of the Rosary Confraternity to take home the oil that had been burning before the Altar of the Rosary Society for application to the absent sick members. For full details of this, see my book, The Riches of the Rosary, published by Veritas, Dublin One finds the same practice among those who come together for Charismatic praise and worship.

If you would like to receive a small bottle of blessed oil for your own use, please contact me, Father Gabriel, at the Dominican Priory, Tallaght Village, Dublin 24. As this is done on a confidential basis, I supply only to those who apply individually. Among the prayers specially recommended on the literature supplied is the following:

God, our Father, we press our open wounds
to the precious wounds of Jesus, your Son
that your will and our be one.
Through these shared wounds may we be healed
and bring your healing love to others,
that all may be enriched in the fulness of love
through Jesus, the Divine Humanity.

Linger in love with the Lord

Popes Paul VI and John Paul II when writing of the Rosary, advised that it be said with a lingering pace and with a rhythm of tranquillity. Speed kills, not only on the roads, but on the pathway of life. For those who know and love the Virgin-Mother of Jesus, the Rosary becomes a blisssfully simple exercise. Resting in the arms of Mary, they attune themselves to the beat of her Immaculate Heart. And the lullaby that she sings to them, is the love-song of her Son--the lyric of his life, death and glory.

The repeated rhythm of the Aves serves to still the racing brain and the inner turmoil, to quie tthe troubled heart and to
“set the soul in silence and peace.
As a child has rest in its mother’s arms,
even so my soul.”--Psalm 130

We learn to rest in the holy name of Mary, to make the name of Jesus at the centre of each Ave a point of holy communion. Each time we say, Jesus, we make an offering of Him to the Father and make communion with the power that goes out from him to bring healing and strength. Thus do we find the rest that brings us to the inner land of being.

There is a Far Eastern version of psalm 23 version which has the words:

The Lord is my pace-setter... I will not rush
He makes me stop for quiet intervals,
He provides me with images of stillness
which restore my serenity.
He leads me in the ways of efficiancy
through calmness of mind
and his guidance is peace.

The Healing Light

The small book edited by myself--The Healing Light of the Rosary, has this statement:
“The Jews did not listen to the voice of God, that would have led them into the full and peaceful possession of their kingdom. But when the fulness of time had come, there arose among them, one, who put that word before every other consideration. Mary’s Yes to God opened humanity to the voice whose claims are stronger than any other, announcing that there exists an inner land where alone we can find rest.”

The author of those lines, who lived with the troubles of Northern Ireland and knew of the routine of occupational forces in the streets of her native Belfast would invite us, in the Rosary Prayer Group, to linger in love with the Lord! She would say that if we do so, springs of living water will rise in the barren land of life

"My mind is racing"

I’m naturally a sleepy person myself but if I spend too long at this computer or stay up late working on some plan or project, the mind begins to run away with me. John Main in his teaching on meditation writes about the tree full of chattering monkeys in the background. We’ve got to find a way of silencing these unruly fellows.

Modern living with its over stimulation of background noise from Ipods and mobile phones and TV and radio makes its own contribution to the endless invasion of personal space. It reminds me of a country overrun by military occupational forces. Bad as these foreign agents may prove in a physical or geopraphical territory, still more damage can they do to the inner land of our own being. We need to establish our indepence and maintain our own peace.

The Jewish people of old were offered a land -- but it was not just a matter a territory. They were called to find first the kingdom of God that was within. Psalm 95 says it so well:

O that today, you would listen to his voice...
I was wearied of these people
and made a solemn promise:
You will nver enter the land
where I would have given you rest.

Dealing with recession and depression

Dealing with recession and depression

As the New Year, 2009 breaks, the TV and radio are beating out a continuous story about the financial crisis that is upon us. The more we listen to the torrent of depressive words that are rolling over us, like a sunami the more we need to find a way of rising above the waves of doom and gloom.

This is where the daily dose of meditation can come to our aid. The half-hour of stillness each morning and evening, seems to roll back the waters of darkness and depression. One ceases to let the tide of distress take over.

I am reminded of the miracle that the Lord worked for the Israelites as the might forces of Pharo and the Egyptians was bearing down on them. With the burning sands of the desert behind them and the terror of the Red Sea ahead, the Lord opened a way through for them. Moses lifted up his rod, and with the might of the Lord on his side, made the waters pile up to provide a solid dry ground, so that the people could pass safely through on to the Land that flowed with wine and milk and honey.

That journey to the the physical land is a symbol of the pilgrim soul moving in meditation to the inner land of the heart. There does indeed exist an inner space where amid the desert of desolation one may find security and serenity. The morning half-hour and the evening half-hour devoted to meditation may seem a little thing, but the peace and the stability generated in those sacred times, radiate to the rest of the day.

The fragrance of those precious moments permeates our being, and brings all our ways to a creativity, and a consummation beyond our dreaming. We learn to live, no longer out of our own meagre resource, but out of the infinite supply of the heavenly Father. We rest in those words of Jesus, that the Father who feeds the birds of the air and clothes the lilies of the field is constantly looking after us.

I am so grateful to have found a group here in the Priory, Tallaght that brings us together each Wednesday night to spend an hour in silence and stillness before the Blessed Sacrament, exposed before us. The hour begins with a short instruction in meditation, according to the teaching of the late Benedictine monk, John Main. One of the leaders has given me one of his books which has proved a blessing: --The Heart of Creation.

A Celibate way of loving

Lust can easily masquerade behind the face of love. This is no way for the celibate, who must have first walked the ways of discipline and unselfishness. The Christian celibate must have come to know Jesus and given him/herself into his hands before ever ever he may enter fully the heart of another human being.

A certain person who spoke to some of us about the way of The Way of the Divine Humanity as it had been revealed to her by the Lord, wrote as follows: “Love before my face and my face shall not be turned away from you. In loving, do not turn away from me. I am the source of love. Enjoy me.”

The full text of this message has been in private circulation for over twenty years. In 2005 it was published by The Columba Press, 55A Spruce Avenue, Stillorgan Industrial Park, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. ISBN 1 85607 504 4 , under the title: A Celibate Way of Loving--Letters to the Beloved by Gabriel Harty, OP.

Like a stick or stone

The usual run of official religious life, means that we live in common and look after each other. We pray in a group and work together as a team. We talk about collaborative ministry.

But do we love each other? Would we dare look into another brother's eye or search his heart and say: “I love you?” I doubt it.

What do we know of relating in love to anyone? How real then, is our expression of our love for God? There is no human ground where one can stand and from there look into the face of Jesus, or raise the heart to heaven and say “My God, love you.”

The run-of-the-mill existence of official organized religious life, left me unconcerned about others in any real meaningful way. I never wept over a brother's troubles. I never cried at his death. Religious life did not encourage one to express feelings or emotions. The rite of Profession in my time, used the expression: From now on, brothers, you are to be like a stick or a stone…”-- and that is indeed, what many of us became,-- and thought it was God's will for us. Those terrible words have been removed from the text as now used.

Only when I found another human being to relate to in deep and intimate celibate love, did I even begin to comprehend the whole notion of loving anyone or much less loving the God who is Love.

Only then, did the Covenant words of Sacred Scripture come alive for me. I came to understand that the Lord had leaned down from heaven and made a marriage with his human creature. Hitherto that text held rather light significance for me. But now when I realize that even as a celibate priest, I can have a marriage of mind and heart and spirit with another human being, does the fire of Divine Love begin to kindle in my soul. I find that all of God's creation is enfolded in this love that holds all things in being. The photo of the sea and the foliage, by Fr. Donagh O'Shea OP is a witness to this creative life-giving granduer of the Lord.