Pope Francis has encouraged the faithful throughout the world to make a special effort to pray the rosary during the month of May imploring the intercession of Our Lady for the needs of our world in this time of pandemic.  Pope Francis also offers the following prayer to Our Lady as a prayer for the needs of the whole world.

 

“We fly to your protection, O Holy Mother of God”.

In the present tragic situation, when the whole world is prey to suffering and anxiety, we fly to you, Mother of God and our Mother, and seek refuge under your protection.

Virgin Mary, turn your merciful eyes towards us amid this coronavirus pandemic. Comfort those who are distraught and mourn their loved ones who have died, and at times are buried in a way that grieves them deeply. Be close to those who are concerned for their loved ones who are sick and who, in order to prevent the spread of the disease, cannot be close to them. Fill with hope those who are troubled by the uncertainty of the future and the consequences for the economy and employment.

Mother of God and our Mother, pray for us to God, the Father of mercies, that this great suffering may end and that hope and peace may dawn anew. Plead with your divine Son, as you did at Cana, so that the families of the sick and the victims be comforted, and their hearts be opened to confidence and trust.

Protect those doctors, nurses, health workers and volunteers who are on the frontline of this emergency, and are risking their lives to save others. Support their heroic effort and grant them strength, generosity and continued health.

Be close to those who assist the sick night and day, and to priests who, in their pastoral concern and fidelity to the Gospel, are trying to help and support everyone.

Blessed Virgin, enlighten the minds of men and women engaged in scientific research, that they may find effective solutions to overcome this virus.

Support national leaders, that with wisdom, solicitude and generosity they may come to the aid of those lacking the basic necessities of life and may devise social and economic solutions inspired by farsightedness and solidarity.

Mary Most Holy, stir our consciences, so that the enormous funds invested in developing and stockpiling arms will instead be spent on promoting effective research on how to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future.

Beloved Mother, help us realize that we are all members of one great family and to recognize the bond that unites us, so that, in a spirit of fraternity and solidarity, we can help to alleviate countless situations of poverty and need. Make us strong in faith, persevering in service, constant in prayer.

Mary, Consolation of the afflicted, embrace all your children in distress and pray that God will stretch out his all-powerful hand and free us from this terrible pandemic, so that life can serenely resume its normal course.

To you, who shine on our journey as a sign of salvation and hope, do we entrust ourselves, O Clement, O Loving, O Sweet Virgin Mary. Amen.

Pope Francis’ Prayer to Our Lady May 2020 

For days after the crucifixion the disciples gathered in a locked room. The recent violence of what we now call Holy Week had made them security conscious. They had become runaways from a society that they feared as hostile, so they lock themselves away in what they hoped was a safe house. We know a lot more about lock down this year than we did this time last year. Our legitimate fear of contacting or passing Covid 19 has forced us all into safe places. What were they doing as they whiled their time away? This we are not told but it is safe to suppose that they were not engaged in idle chatter, but more about recent happenings, where their hopes had been shattered and their dreams had become one long nightmare. The physical doors were tightly closed but doors of the heart slowly began to open as they shared their feelings with each other. As those heart doors swung open the Risen Jesus entered with his gift of peace.

It's a horrible place to be when we get locked in on ourselves, when we withdraw into isolation and cut ourselves off from others. There are few of us who will not have had the experience and that's when our world becomes very small. Prior to this outbreak, as a society, we were moving more and more into unconscious isolation, Whereas now its something we are very conscious of and generally don't like all that much. It would be nice to think that when we come through this we will be much more conscious of the value of living in community and upholding community values that we were losing fast.

In that Gospel today you will notice that Thomas, the one who had isolated himself, had the greatest difficulty in coming to believe in the Risen Jesus. This suggests quite strongly that community rather that isolation is the most fertile soil for faith to come alive to grow.

When we are feeling good we are quite happy to allow others to come near to us but when we are hurting or in pain we tend to cut ourselves off. We don't want to have our sore spots touched. We want to be left alone to lick our wounds. While this is understandable it is also a mistake. How can healing happen if we will not allow our wounds to be seen and touched. The human heart can only be healed by Christ but that healing touch of Christ often comes in and through the presence of another human being who understands human pain and allows us to share pain and hurt with them.  Thomas found that healing touch in the Risen Christ.  That same risen Christ now calls on us to be that healing touch, that healing presence for others.

Based on a reflection by Fr Fred Cogley, Our Lady’s Island, courtesy of St Dominic’s Retreat Centre, Ennismore, Cork.

Easter Sunday is a very special day of the year. It is a day that has come to mean many things to many people. On this day there are more people in Church all over the world than on any other day of the year, with the possible exception of Christmas.  There are a number of reasons, not least of which is tradition.  Some people attend Church at Easter out of habit, some out of tradition, some out of obligation.  Beneath all of that, my guess is that deep down, deep within us, we believe in the Easter message.  We cannot prove it.  There are days when we doubt it.  Most days we don’t even think about it, but once in a while we come face to face with the stark reality of death. That gives us pause for thought and causes us to think about the meaning of life. Somehow, we cannot escape the conviction that there is more to life than this.  Deep within us burns a seemingly inescapable hope of life after death.  But what is that hope and where does it come from?

I believe that it is rooted in the very way we are made. There are two parts to every one of us.  One part is physical, visible and tangible.  The other part is spiritual, invisible and intangible. The physical part of us belongs entirely to this earth. It is made of the same basic material as the rocks, the soil and the trees. We call this our body.  When we were born we were small and weak. As time goes on we grow bigger and stronger.  Assuming good health we stay at that level for a few years. Then decline begins to set in. We grow weaker as the years go by and eventually we die. This is the natural cycle of physical life. It is part of our nature. The other part of us however is very different.  Our spiritual nature has no predetermined boundaries.  There are no natural limits to the development of our character or to our accumulation of knowledge and insight. From the moment we are born this spiritual part of us begins travelling a road to which there is no visible end. The more we learn, the more we increase our capacity to learn. The more we love, the more we enlarge our ability to love.

Our bodies can live out their entire potential within the framework of time but not our souls. All of us have unlimited spiritual possibilities that would require an eternity to explore. There is more to us than just our physical bodies. The way we are made, our two-fold nature, keeps us believing in the message of Easter.

Happy Easter to one and all. 

Fr John Galvin

Pandemic

A poem by Lynn Ungar

What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.
 
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
 
Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

 
Lynn Ungar

3/11/20

 

© http://www.lynnungar.com/poems/pandemic/

These are worrying times for all of us as we are compelled to retreat to the sanctuary of our homes in order to combat the spread of the Covid19 virus and thereby save lives.  It is not easy, even in these early days, but it is something we should and must embrace not simply as an act of civic duty but as an act of faith.  There is no greater blessing than the gift of life and health and God calls on us to do everything we can to protect and safeguard the gift of life, our own life and the life of others.

In the face of an overwhelming sense of dread and worry we can feel easily powerless and vulnerable.  And yet, now more than ever, we need to hold on to a sense of hope. We need to trust in our public health professionals and comply with all the advice they give us.  Yet, even whist staying apart, we need to pull together as a community by being mindful of others who need our help and support.  Just because we cannot meet them does not mean we cannot remain connected.  A simple phone call to a neighbour has never been more needed and may never be more important than it is right now.

We also invite people to unite in and through the power of prayer.  Prayer takes us beyond ourselves and connects to others as well as to our God.  Last week, the day before the schools closed, a child in one of our schools offered me a wonderful image of prayer.  She said that praying for someone is like sending them a virtual hug that lets them know they are loved. What a lovely way of thinking of the power of prayer!  We could all do with a good ‘virtual hug’ right now so let us pray for one another and for all those we love.  Let us pray for those who have already contracted the virus and all those who are vulnerable or worried. Let us pray for all those working in our health services and those working to keep essential services going so that we have what that need.

In accordance with health guidelines the celebration of all public Masses has been suspended in our Churches.  Fr Con and I will continue to celebrate Mass privately each day and will offer it for all of you as well as for all those who are affected or worried, near or far. Our Churches remain open for anyone who wishes to come and say a prayer or light a candle.  We ask those visiting our Churches to observe the social distancing guidelines that have been issued.

Masses are being live-streamed each morning on www.churchservices.tv  for anyone who is so interested.

Please mind yourselves and mind one another.  Stay safe. If there is anything that Con or I can do for you please feel free to give us a call.  

Beannacht Dé orainn go léir.

Fr Seán

 

I came across the prayer reflection this morning and found that it spoke powerfully to me. I offer it here in the hope that it can do likewise for you.


The whole world over

We struggle the whole world over

faced with a threat that we can neither see nor understand..

We struggle the whole world over

to hold on to hope in the face of uncertainty and anxious fears.

We struggle the whole world over

to cope with restrictions, confinement and isolation.

We ask you Lord to help us to hold each other in thought and prayer

the whole world over -

and to guide us through this present crisis

so that the hope of peoples the whole world over

may be rekindled and together we may prevail.

Make our faith stronger than our fears.

We make our prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen

Many of us will have heard how the Chinese symbol for ‘crisis’ can convey either a sense of threat or a sense of opportunity.  The origin of the word ‘crisis’ in Greek is equally interesting and comes from the Greek word meaning 'to sift'.

Sifting entails shaking out the excesses in order to leave only what is important. That's precisely what a crisis does; it shakes things up until we are forced to hold onto what matters most while the rest falls away. During this time of enforced reflection we may begin to evaluate our lives through completely new eyes and be able to chart our future with the things we consider important, like family, friends and community, being given the consideration they always deserved. The moment when we stand in danger of losing something is also the time when we value it most. Just to shake hands or to give someone a hug will be a novelty when all this is over. The value of living as a community may well be appreciated like never before.

Even in our darkest hour humor will always shine through. One joke spawned in the light of Covid 19 relates to an avid sports fan that was overheard saying, 'Two weeks now and no sports on TV. I notice a lady sitting on the couch across from me. She looks nice. I think she's my wife!

 

© Fr Jim Cogley, Our Lady’s Island.

These weeks of Lent offer us the opportunity to come face to face with ourselves, taking stock of our own spiritual life and measuring our lives against the yardstick of God’s commandments.

This Sunday’s Gospel finds Jesus in the desert wrestling with issues of right and wrong.  For most of us, perhaps with the exception of those who have visited desert lands, it is difficult to visualise the dry parched earth and the stark landscape of the desert.  No one books a holiday to the desert unless they can be assured that someone has built a resort spa and a five star hotel! The desert also represents a parched place for the heart and the soul.  The desert may be the time when health is broken or promises have been broken.  The desert may be the wasteland of depression, hopelessness or crushed dreams.  Have you ever been there? Are you there now?

Living now, as many of us do, in built up areas, piled high on top of each other in high rise apartments, bombarded day and night with the roar of traffic and the blare of electronic music, we are in danger of losing our desert roots and with that, our inner life.  We need to create a time and space to nurture our spiritual lives.  Lent is such a time.  The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert wilderness and He remained there for forty days.  Like Jesus we too should let the Holy Spirit lead us out into the desert this Lent where we can confront the devils that haunt our lives, and like Christ, wrestle with them and overcome them.                                          Fr John

 

We stand at a defining moment in our history that we sense will not leave us as it finds us. It feels as if we are embarking on a perilous voyage where we have every reason to be concerned at personal, community, national and global levels. The many crossings of the Sea of Galilee by the early disciples offer a faith rather than a fear focus at this time. They were usually evening crossings when Jesus said: 'Let us cross to the other side.' We too sense the sun coming down on so much of what we have taken for granted up to this. Like the sudden storm that arose from them without warning, we now find ourselves on perilous seas. Christ slept through the worst. He was in the eye of the storm with his inner centre undisturbed. When they woke him he reached out and calmed the raging sea. His inner peace radiated stillness even to the waves. Then he asked them a very important question, 'Where was your faith?' Yes, they had faith but it was not in him to keep them safe but rather in the power of the wind and waves to swamp them. They have shown that they were more fearful than faithful disciples. Hopefully we too can cross to the other side of this Corona Virus with faith in our hearts without allowing our lives to be swamped by fear.

 

© Lights in the Darkness. Fr Jim Cogley, Our Lady’s Island, Wexford.

‘I bear no ill will. I bear no grudge. That sort of talk is not going to bring her back to life. She’s in heaven and we shall meet again. I will pray for these men tonight and every night.’ These words of Gordon Wilson echoed across the world in 1987, just hours after his 20-year-old daughter Marie was killed in an IRA bomb in Enniskillen. Very few words in the history of the Northern Ireland conflict had such a powerful impact. His extraordinary capacity to forgive the people who had caused him so much pain helped to inspire the end of the violent conflict in Northern Ireland.

Gordon Wilson was the personification of the words of Jesus: ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’ It is one of the most difficult and challenging passages in the Gospels; one commentator calls it Jesus’ most unreasonable command. Living under oppressive Roman rule, with torture and murder not uncommon, the disciples knew what it was to hate their enemies. As we read and listen to the news today, the cruelty of people continues to astound and upset us. But Jesus reminds us that everyone is human. All are children of God, who ‘causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good.’ While we clearly don’t accept or excuse the terror and evil in the world, we cannot dehumanise those who carry out despicable actions. That is much easier said than done, but we must strive to meet hatred with love. With God, there is always the possibility of forgiveness; there is always hope.

©Tríona Doherty, The Deep End, Intercom Magazine, Veritas, Ireland