Journeying towards Christmas: Advent Nights in Passage

Sr Rosarii invites you to join her for a Quiet Time of Prayer and Reflection on the four Tuesdays of Advent beginning this Tuesday 29th November 2016 from 8.00 p.m. to 9.00 p.m. each night in the newly refurbished Prayer Room in Passage West.   This year the gatherings will focus on the Psalms as a source of inspiration for helping faith be part of our preparation for Christmas.

St Mary’s Church of Ireland, Carrigaline has organised a series of talks on Advent in the Parish Hall, Carrigaline at 8.00 p.m. focusing on the virtues of faith, hope and love.   The first of these talks will take place on Wednesday 30th November, Richard Dring will speak on ‘Faith’.  On Wednesday 7th December Dr John Sweeney will speak on ‘Hope’.  On Wednesday 14th December Cecil Poole will speak on ‘Love’. For more details see posters displayed on the noticeboard in our Churches.   All are welcome to attend these talks. 

Advent – a time to prepare ourselves for Christmas

You know that feeling of waiting for something or someone? It is a feeling of excitement or maybe anxiety. For most people, waiting is not a very popular pastime, it can be seen as a waste of time. If we allow it to, waiting can be a creative time, a time of high alert, where we may even be more aware of ourselves. Our senses are heightened especially when we are waiting for important news or results or waiting on a loved one to call or to arrive. Waiting is not always seen as a good thing but it can be a time for growth. And so, we enter into the season of waiting: Advent. The Gospel reminds us to be alert and use this time to prepare. What will our preparations be like? God is with us in many different ways, trying to catch our attention in the midst of our busy days. As we fight our way through the queues in the coming weeks, can we use 5 minutes, 7 minutes, 20 mins … to stop, be still, to ask God to enter into our hearts and lives once more.              ©Jane Mellett, Intercom Magazine

To most of us the word “King” has primarily a historical meaning.  It recalls memories of an outmoded form of Government where one man held all the power and exercised all the authority.  We have long since left that system behind and would not even consider going back to it.  Never the less we gather this Sunday to observe the solemnity of Christ the King.  The Gospel tells us that when he died there was an inscription above his head that said “This is the King of the Jews”.   This statement meant different things to different people.   Technically it was the formal charge against him, the crime for which he was crucified.  Pilate was the one who had it written and placed there.   He did not believe it, but for him it was a way to insult the Jewish leaders.  To the Roman soldiers the inscription was mainly a cruel joke.  They knelt before him and said “Hail King of the Jews”.   When they had crucified him they continued their mockery, challenging him to prove his power by saving himself from the cross.  Among those involved in the Crucifiction it would appear that only the one, the good thief took seriously the inscription proclaiming Christ as King.  Since then and on this day Christians around the world will proclaim Christ as their King.  Habit is part of the reason we call him our King, but there is more to it than that, something real, something that touches our lives in a deep and meaningful way.  I think it is recognition of the supreme quality of his life.  The word King has a symbolic as well as a literal meaning.  We use to describe someone or something that is supreme in a certain class.  A lion is called a the “King of the beasts”, an eagle is called the “King of the birds”, for those of us old enough to remember, band leader Benny Goodman was known as the “King of the swing” and actor Clarke Gable the actor was called the “King of the silver screen”.

In the same way but in a deeper sense, we speak of Jesus Christ as the King.  He is the supreme person, the one who stands head and shoulders about all the rest.  He is everything that we are not, but knew that we ought to be, and wish that we were.  Think of any trait of character, any quality of life that you admire and you will find it supremely evident in Christ the King.                                                     Fr John

The famous American football coach Vince Lombardi was not only a great sports coach he was also a gifted speaker.  He had a way with words. Some of the things that he said to his players have endured and become part of our culture.  One of these is the now familiar proverb, “A winner never quits, and a quitter never wins.”  That saying has lasted all these years, because it has a broader application than simply athletics.  It is the truth about life.  There are few things in this life that all of us admire more than courageous and determined effort. The person who keeps on trying, even when he or she is beaten, is an inspiration to us all. 

This weekend’s Gospel deals with something of this same theme.  Jesus told his disciples to keep on praying and never loose heart.  Then to enforce that lesson he told a story about a judge who cared little for God or man.  Justice was of small consequence to him, but a certain widow started coming to him and pleading her case.  At first he refused to help her, she kept on coming.  She was not to be denied.  Finally he said to himself “This widow is wearing me out, I’m going to settle in her favour.” 

The point of this Gospel story is not that we can wear God down and finally get what we want.  What Jesus is saying to us is that we should not give up on life that we should keep on keeping on.  For some people quitting is a real temptation. The outlook in this word is so often discouraging that it would be an easy thing to loose heart.  Just read the paper or watch the TV news.  The media serve up a steady diet of crime and violence, of disease and death, famine and starvation.  In these days when so much tragedy is funnelled into our living rooms, it is a difficult thing to keep on believing in and working for a better world.  There has to be moments for all us when we are tempted to give up the fight. 

Jesus understood the temptation of discouragement but he never quit.  His example gives us the strength and courage to keep on keeping on with God as our helper.  There is no reason ever to give up on life.                                           Fr John    

The following article was written by a young woman who attended a presentation on bereavement by Barbara Monroe, the Chief Executive of St
Christopher's Hospice in London. Perhaps it has something useful to say to all of us as we seek to understand our own experiences of grief and loss, especially as we remember loved ones this November.
Fr Seán

When I arrived, what I saw resembled a physics lesson. On the table before the presenter was a very large glass jar. Beside it were three balls: one large, one medium-sized, one small. Without a word, she began to stuff the large ball into the jar. With a great deal of effort, she wedged it in. 
'There!' she said. 'That's how grieving feels at first. If grief is the ball and the jar is your world, you can see how the grief fills everything. There is no air to breathe, no space to move around. Every thought, every action reminds you of your loss.' Then she pulled the large ball out of the jar and put in the medium-sized ball. She held it up again, tipping it so the ball rolled around a bit. 'Maybe you think that's how it will feel after a time - say, after
the first year. Grieving will no longer fill every bit of space in your life.' Then she rolled the ball out and plopped in the small ball. 'Now, say, by the second or third year, that's how grieving is supposed to feel. Like the ball, it has shrunk. So now you can think of grief as taking up a very small part of your world - it could almost be ignored if you wish to ignore it.'
For a moment, considering my own crammed jar, I thought of leaving.
'That's what everyone thinks grieving is like,' the voice continued. 'And it's all rubbish!' I settled back into my seat. Two other glass jars were produced from under the table: one larger, one very large. 
'Now,' she said, imperiously. 'Watch!' Silently, she took the largest ball and squeezed it slowly into the least of the three jars. It would barely fit. Then she pulled the ball out and placed it in the next larger jar. There was room for it to roll around. Finally, she took it out and dropped it into the largest glass jar. 'There,' she said, in triumph. 'That's what grieving is really like. If your grieving is the ball, like the ball here it doesn't get any bigger or any smaller. It is always the same. But the jar is bigger. If your world is this glass jar, your task is to make your world bigger.' 
'You see,' she continued, 'no-one wants their grief to shrink. It is all they have left of the person who died. But if your world gets larger, then you can keep your grief as it is, but work around it.' Then she turned to us. 'Older people coping with grief often try to keep their world the same. It is a mistake. If I have one thing to say to all of you it is this: make your world larger. Then there will be room in it for your grieving, but your grieving will not take up all the room. This way you can hopefully find space to make a new life for yourselves.

Grief is like the ocean: it comes in waves, ebbing and flowing.
Sometimes the waters are calm
and sometimes they are overwhelming.
All we can do is learn to swim.

 The three parables in the gospel speak of things lost and found and emphasise the unending forgiveness of God and God’s rejoicing for those who return. In each of the situations there is a frantic search for that which is lost and a huge celebration when the lost is found.

In the third parable of the Prodigal Son there is much to reflect on. We hear that the younger brother eventually ‘came to his senses’. We might pray today that God shows us the aspects of our lives in which we also need to ‘come to our senses’.

As with all parables, we are left thinking and wondering, disturbed even. A sheep and a coin we can rejoice over, but when it is a person who has done us harm, hurt us in some way, it is a much deeper and more painful process. The elder brother in the third parable feels hard done by, is deeply hurt, full of anger and resentment. Luke, being the excellent storyteller that he is, does not tell us the outcome of the story; it is for us to finish for ourselves. The elder brother has two options: he can walk away full of resentment or he can try to let go of the anger he feels towards his brother. The latter is a more difficult path but it is the only one that leads to life, no matter how painful the journey may be. The father stands there pleading for the elder brother to come in. Forgiveness isn’t about releasing someone from accountability for his actions. It is about us letting go of our anger and resentment.


©Jane Mellett, Intercom Magazine, Veritas, Dublin.

Those we love don’t go away,

they walk beside us every day:

unseen, unheard but always near,

still loved, still missed and very dear.


Several years ago I visited an elderly couple whom I had known since I was a child.  They had no family themselves and were, at that stage, advanced in years and in declining health. They spoke to me of their worries. Surprisingly what worried them most was not their failing health or who would look after them or even the prospect of dying.  Their greatest worry, their deepest anxiety was whether anyone would remember them in the future, whether anyone would sometimes stand by their graveside and offer a silent prayer, whether anyone would remember them and their own loved ones who had gone before them. They taught me that remembering matters, that remembrance really is important!  If we are honest, all of us want to be remembered.  To be remembered is to know that your life has mattered, that you have touched the life and the heart of another, that you have been truly loved.  Those who love remember.  Those who truly appreciate what others bring to their lives remember.  Memory is an expression both of lasting gratitude and abiding love, a witness to the power of human connection that is stronger even then death. Our November Remembrance offers us a moment to honour the memory of those we have loved and lost, to give thanks for the incredible blessing they have been in our lives and to entrust them to the loving care of our God. 

Our Parish Novena for the Faithful Departed will be celebrated from Wednesday 2nd November to Thursday 10th November with Masses each morning and evening. Cemetery Prayers will be offered in each of our cemeteries on the afternoon of Sunday 6th November.  Our Annual Mass for those who have died in Passage West will be celebrated at 7.30 p.m. in St Mary’s Church, Passage West on Wednesday 2nd November, The Feast of All Souls, whilst the Annual Mass of Remembrance for those who have died in Monkstown, Shanbally and Ringaskiddy will be celebrated in the Church of the Sacred Hearts, Monkstown at 7.30 p.m. on Friday 4th November.  We hope you will join us in remembering your loved ones and the deceased of our community this November. Novena Envelopes for those who wish to include the names of departed loved ones will be available in all our Churches next weekend and throughout the Novena. The full timetable for Masses and Services will be printed in next week’s newsletter. May our November Remembrance bring us closer to our loved ones and may our prayers bring them ever closer to God.  May they truly rest in peace.                                                                                             Fr Seán


Have you ever wondered what would happen if next Sunday morning a priest in a parish was suddenly taken ill and unable to celebrate Mass with his community? What would people do when they arrived at the Church and discovered there was no priest to celebrate Mass? Would they simply go home or drive to the parish down the road? What would happen in a country parish where the next Church might be ten miles away? Most parishes in the diocese, especially those outside the city, are now served by a single priest.


I am not trying to paint a doomsday scenario or to frighten people but the simple fact is that if a priest is ill, or unavailable due to other circumstances such as an unexpected death in the family, we really have nothing in place to deal with that situation. It is almost impossible to find another priest to cover at such short notice as they also have Mass in their own parish. Whilst we are very lucky to still have a number of priests in our parish what would happen if I were away and Fr Con took ill on a Sunday morning? Even if he wanted to, he couldn’t make Passage West Mass at 11.00 a.m. and Monkstown Mass at 11.30 a.m. Whilst it would be relatively easy for people here to go to the Monastery or Rochestown or Carrigaline, that would mean breaking up our praying community and take away from that special sense of us gathering as a community to pray with and for each other and the needs of our own community.


I am a great believer in the power of people praying together as a community and am convinced that we need to seek to protect that as a core value even in circumstances where a priest is not available, for whatever reason, to celebrate the Eucharist. To that end, over the coming weeks, we have planned a series of four evenings to help prepare people who would be willing to take an active role in leading prayer celebrations in our community when the need arises. We will explore not just how to lead a Sunday Liturgy for our communities if and when a priest is unavailable. We will also look at leading other forms of public prayer such a Liturgy of the Word with Holy Communion; the Prayer of the Church which traditionally has been prayed daily by priests, nuns and religious; the rosary and the Stations of the Cross. For far too long In Ireland we have reduced all public prayer to the celebration of Mass and have ignored the rich spirituality of other forms of community prayer that are also part of our Christian tradition. Come and join us in the Gill Room on Thursday night, 19th May 2016, from 8.00 to 9.00 p.m. for the first of four Thursday nights in preparation for leading public prayer moments in our community. All are welcome so come along and see if this is something you might be a part of. Let’s prepare together so that we can continue to pray as a community no matter what the future might bring.

Fr Seán