There is something special about Mother’s Day.  More than most of any national celebration, it lends itself to sentimentality.  It is fairly easy to understand how we could become sentimental about the one who brought us into this world and cared for us through our most helpful years.  For most of us, life found its early direction under the influence of “Mother”.  In all probability when you took your first step, “Mother” was there.  How could we not be sentimental about anyone who has been that much part of our lives?  Yet with all of this we need to remember that mothers are just people like all the rest of us.  They have hopes and dreams, doubts and fears.  They get tired and need rest.  They feel forgotten and need appreciation.  Mothers are just people, but to most of us they are very special people.  With all of their human frailties they have come to symbolise those qualities of life that we admire the most in others.

One of the qualities is strength.  Whenever life is not working right – when there is sickness, when there is pain, when there is sadness, the first thing a child thinks of is “Mother”.  She is a problem solver.  Her arms are the place of security.  Any mother who handles her job well becomes a symbol of strength, a source of inspiration and that is something we all need.

To all mothers we say thank you for loving us, for meeting our childhood needs and for reminding us of what our greatest needs are.                                 Fr John

This week, Leona O’Donovan and Róisín Manning,  Fourth Class pupils in Star of the Sea School, Passage West, share a little of what they have learned about Maya, one of the children who appears on this year’s Trócaire Box.

Maya is 10 years old. She lives with her Mom and Dad, her brothers Farid and Nabil and her sisters Reem and Amira, in a rented house near a refugee camp in Lebanon. Maya and her family are from Syria but were forced from their land when civil war broke out. They made a dangerous journey to safety in Lebanon and are now one of the 1.5 million refugees from Syria in Lebanon.  Maya’s favourite food is mujaddara, a lentil and rich dish that she helps her Mom to cook. Maya also helps to clean the dishes and the rooms. Maya loves to play cards, marbles, skipping and wrestling. Maya’s mother tells her that they used to live in a lovely neighbourhood with a lot of houses, apartments and businesses. Their house had a balcony and flowers. Maya and Reem like to draw what their Mom describes. Maya is sometimes happy living in Lebanon but sometimes they feel that the local people don’t like Syrians and this causes fights. Trócaire is providing Maya and her community with a safehaven centre where she can play in the playground, do art and attend classes.

Most of us are familiar with the term “sponger”.  It refers to a person who takes and takes and makes little or no effort to put anything back.  If you go to lunch with a sponger, more often than not he or she will forget to bring money.  You and I do not enjoy the company of a sponger and most of all, we do not want to be one.  In this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus told a story about this pattern of life but the sponger is not a person.  It is a fig tree, the tree draws strength and sustenance from the soil but it never gives anything back.  It never produces any figs.  Of course we all know that Jesus was not concerned about fruitless trees, His concern was people who take without giving.  It troubled him to see people do bad things and it troubled him just as much to see people who did nothing. In his value system, doing nothing is wrong.  Jesus condemned the tree for producing nothing.  This is closely consistent with his teaching.  The parable of the Good Samaritan is one example.  Jesus took  aim at a priest and a Levite who saw a wounded man and passed him by and did nothing.  Few things are more wrong than seeing a need and making no attempt to meet it.  In the eyes of Jesus it is wrong not to care.  It is wrong not to work.  It is wrong not to give.  It is wrong not to help.  That is why the land owner ordered the fig tree to be cut down.  It was non-productive and did nothing.  We can never excuse our idleness or uselessness by saying “I never had a chance, there was nothing that I could do.”  That is simply not true.  All of us have some kind of talent or endowment from God that we can use in His service.  We may not be wealthy.  We cannot give thousands to build schools and hospitals, but not one of us is so poor that we have nothing to share.  We could give some time to a person who lives with continual loneliness.  We can share a word of encouragement.  We can listen to people’s problems.  It may not seem like much, but there are days when even a friendly smile could turn the tide in someone’s struggle with life.  The point is – we must learn to care, to deliberately and consciously become giving, loving, sharing people.  When Jesus talked about fruitful living, I don’t think he meant the big and impressive things, He was the one who commended the worth of a cup of water and a young boy’s lunch and we are all capable of those little unselfish deeds that communicate concern and build bridges of understanding and I am convinced that these are the very essence of fruitful living. A wise person once said “All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”  The person who makes mistakes while trying to do good is a far better servant of God than the person who avoids mistakes by risking nothing.  God can work through flawed human beings but he can accomplish nothing if they do nothing.                               Fr John

This week, Shannon Ryan and Sarah O’ Donovan, Fourth Class pupils in Star of the Sea School, Passage West, share a little of what they have learned about Patricia, one of the children who appears on this year’s Trócaire Box.

Patricia is a shy 8 year old girl, who lives with her family in Uganda, East Africa. Ever since her father died in 2011, her family has been slowly pushed off their land by a clan member. Patricia’s Mom, Evelyn, has a right to the land, however her husband’s family is claiming that she does not. When Evelyn tried to fight for the land back, her husband’s family burned their house down. Patricia has a busy day. She wakes up at 6.00 am and starts school at 8.00 am. Patricia is in 1st class. She finishes school at 1.00 pm and arrives home at 2.30 pm. When Patricia gets home, she walks with a jerry can to fetch water from a bore hole which is a 5 minute walk from her home and carries the water back home on her head. Her family has 2 goats Arach and Omiya. Evelyn, Patricia’s Mom, breeds them and sells the goat kids to pay for school and medicine. In 2017, when Patricia’s brother was ill, Evelyn was able to sell a goat to pay for his hospital stay. Trócaire are working with Patricia’s family to help to keep them on their land.

Our parents often taught us to think before we speak.  It was very wise advice and has served many of us well down through the years. Recently I came across a new take on that advice suggesting a series of questions that we should ask ourselves  before we speak.

T  -            Is it true?

H  -           Is it helpful?

I  -            Is it inspiring?

N  -            Is it necessary?

-           Is it kind?

Many of us are familiar with the most commonly quoted verses of St Patrick’s Breastplate like ‘Christ beside me, Christ before me…….’ May I suggest the following verse as a wonderful morning prayer whereby we entrust each day and all it may bring to God’s care.                                                                 Fr Seán

I arise today through God’s strength to pilot me,
God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me, God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me, God’s hand to guard me,
God’s shield to protect me, God’s host to save me
From everyone who shall wish me ill, afar and near.

Lent is a time when we are invited to become conscious of the many people in our world who suffer want and need because of oppression, injustice and poverty. It is a time to strengthen our spirit of solidarity by extending a brotherly and sisterly hand to those in our world who are less fortunate than we are. We are invited to express that solidarity by denying ourselves something that we enjoy and contributing that money instead to Trocaire’s  Lenten Campaign to support their work for development and justice in the poorest areas of the world.  In so doing we honour two of the great traditional Lenten practices of fasting and almsgiving – denying ourselves some small luxury so that others might benefit.

Trocaire Boxes are available in all our Churches this weekend and we encourage all families to take one and to use it over the coming weeks.  Having a Trocaire Box at home is a wonderful way of teaching children the importance of thinking of others and trying to help them.  Over the coming weeks our newsletter will feature a small article each week  telling us a little about the three children, Patricia, Maria and Maya who feature on this year’s box and how Trocaire is helping families like theirs.  Trocaire boxes can be returned to any of our Churches at the end of Lent.  Thank you for making Trocaire part of your Lenten journey this year.   Fr Seán

This year’s Lenten Trocaire Box features three young girls from different parts of the world where Trocaire is working with local communities. Over coming weeks we will share something of their stories.

María is nine years old and lives with her family in Guatemala in Central America. A number of years ago a powerful outside interest group were granted permission to evict Maria’s entire village so that it could be developed as a bio-fuel plantation.  The villagers resisted peacefully but were violently driven off their lands by riot police.  Brutalised and filled with fear, local families watched on in horror as their homes and belongings were burned to the ground. Three years later the plantation was abandoned.  Seventy two villagers returned.  However as Mayan Q’eqchi – the indigenous people that have lived in Eastern Guatemala for generations – they face constant threats. Their lands are still seen as being ‘there for the taking.’ Still, they plant. They stay. They pray. ‘The land is our life’ says Adela, Maria’s mother. ‘It is for our children.’ Maria’s father José agrees.  He has endured terrible depression since the first eviction and his family lives in constant fear that the violent land seizures and the bloodshed will return.

Trocaire is working with vulnerable communities like Maria’s in land resettlement programmes and in helping them to attain land titles that will protect their rights into the future. As little as €65 can help Trocaire and their partners defend vulnerable families like Maria’s against land thefts and secure legal title to their lands.  Trocaire Lenten Campaign Boxes are available in all our Churches.  Please take one and use it to help Trocaire protect vulnerable communities like Maria’s from exploitation.                                                                                 Fr Seán

 

Give up complaining – focus on gratitude.

Give up harsh judgments – find something good to say.

Give up negativity – be positive.

Give up bitterness – seek forgiveness.

Give up worrying about the past – focus on the future.

Give up thinking only about yourself – think of others.

Give up doubting yourself – believe in yourself.

Give up giving up – keep going!  God is with you!