The adventures of a five euro note

I remember from my school days an essay with the heading called “The adventure of a shilling”.  A shilling was a day’s wages then.  The adventure of a fiver – to take its modern equivalent would make a great story or perhaps a TV play now, or perhaps for that matter a whole series.  It would be fascinating to follow its journey from person to person, pocket to pocket or hand to hand.  From the crisp new note fresh off the printing press to the battered old fiver confined to the bank vault.  In a world so obsessed by hygiene, nobody ever dreams of washing their hands after handling it and certainly nobody is ever deterred from taking it even from the most suspect sources. How many would refuse it even if they were absolutely sure that it came from a person suffering from a contagious disease.  Strange isn’t it, how we never think of its past, yet every crease in it, every stain on it has its own story.  It must have brought a lot of happiness to many people and no doubt too, it must have left a long trail of misfortune behind it. It might have bought some medicine to cure a sick person or some food for the hungry person or a bag of coal to bring warmth into a home.  On the other hand it is not called the “the root of all evil” for nothing.  The drink it paid for that started the alcoholic or drugs for the addict.  Despite its innocent appearance it has figured in a lot of sordid deals, bribes and backhands, or phrased more acceptably, for services rendered and favours done.  But it has one great virtue it does not carry forward its past.  It is a crisp new fiver in every new hand.  In these days of devaluation and inflation and shrinking purchase power it is worth reminding ourselves when we look at the fiver in our hands, that the only devaluation that matters is the use we make of it.  If we insist on spending it as so often we do, carelessly, we should not be so surprised at how little it can buy.  It can still buy an awful lot for somebody in real need.  In a world where millions die of starvation and disease we can still get a lot of real value for money.  A fiver well spent can never be devalued.                                                               Fr John

The Christmas season more than any other time of the year is an occasion for parties.  Businesses have parties, schools have parties, families have parties, friends have parties.  Almost everybody gives or attends at least one party at Christmas time.  Nobody is naive enough to think that all of these parties reflect the true meaning of Christmas.  For all of the centuries that Christmas has been a season of celebration it is good to know that our Lord’s birth is still the inspiration of more festivities than any other event in history. A lot of Christmases have come and gone since Jesus was born in Bethlehem.  There is something about it that reminds us of how life ought to be for the rest of the year.  Christmas is the memory of the birth of Jesus, but it is much more.  It is a call to become His partner in bringing love, compassion, peace and all that is of God to birth in our families, in our friendships, in our community and in our Church.  Christmas is a success, we might say, if Christ is born in our hearts this month and in the heart of society, but He will be born in the heart of society only if He is born in the life and heart of each one of us. We are living in a world where there is an over-supply of sadness and a critical shortage of joy.  We can see it everywhere.  How many people do you know whom you regard as genuinely happy?  What percentage of our days are characterised by a genuine sense of joy?  An honest answer to either of these questions would probably reveal how badly we need the Christmas season.  It is a time, when at least for a little while, we are confronted and challenged by concept of joy.  Even with the traffic jams and crowded stores, people are more friendly and courteous to one another.  May the Lord bring His gift of joy and peace this Christmas to us and to all we meet.                                                                                                             Fr John
 

Christmas Cards …… To send or not to send?

‘Happy Christmas’ are probably the two most used words at this time of year.  We may have already wished some people a Happy Christmas in person. If not, we have certainly written it on Christmas cards. I must admit that I stopped sending Christmas cards some years ago, which I believed was the right thing to do back then. Now I am not so sure. When I was first ordained I had so many friends who had meant so much to me before our ways had parted to work in different parts of the world. Having worked now in ten parishes in the dioceses, the number of friends grew bigger and bigger, so much so that I stopped sending Christmas cards.

Now that I am older I am having second thought. I regret now not having sent Christmas cards because I know that among all the acquaintances I have forgotten, I may have lost one or two friends. There are a few whose names and faces come to mind now and again and I feel a pang of regret for having neglected them. People move, addresses get lost, new faces crowd old friends out. It can easily happen to any of us.

The great thing about a Christmas card is that it keeps people in touch and while people are in touch, there is always the hope that in more favourable circumstances, old friendships can be revived.  Even in spite of all my neglect there are still the few old faithful friends who never fail to send me a card. I am always touched to think that they remember me after all those years. When you have said everything there is to say against Christmas cards, it is still a nice custom in a world which is losing a lot of its nice customs. In spite of the way we abuse it, it is still a real noble and Christian act.                                                                                                   Fr John

It’s okay to not feel okay and it’s okay to talk about it.

We all have our dark times. Times when we feel as if even our shadow has abandoned us. But these moments define who we are as human beings and it is at moments that we must decide whether we will let life make or break us. Do we have to let life break us or are there ways of helping us power through the hardships? The answer is yes, and whether you know it or not we can all overcome obstacles. We can do this by speaking to a friend, a family member, a teacher, a co-worker or anyone you feel comfortable speaking to. And this is hard: but, believe me, you can do it. You are not alone. There is always someone who has your best interests in mind.

The One Good Adult concept has been of great help to me. Your One Good Adult is someone who is always there for you: someone you can use as a safety net when you fall on hard times. This person should be someone you interact with on a regular basis, someone you know you can rely on. Someone who will genuinely listen to you. Your One Good Adult could be your mum, dad, brother, another family member or a teacher.

My uncle Martin is my “go to” person. When times get tough I always know I can turn to him, whether that’s for finance, my mental health or just advice on how to improve my gym technique. He is always there (even though he lost me in Dublin Zoo when I was a kid!!). I also find the support of family and a group of friends that you can trust with your life makes a big difference, and I’m lucky to say I have both. I’m talking about the sort of friends to whom you can just say, “I need you”, and they’ll be there. Or the sort of friends that will never let you take the long walk home after a long night out.

© Aaron Murphy, Health & Living, The Irish Times, 19th August 2014

 

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

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.

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

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. 

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.
VICKI HARRISON