Today marks the end of the Church’s Season of Creation, a time when the Church calls on us to remember that we are protectors of this earth and have been given responsibility to care for it, not to plunder and destroy it. The parable told in the Gospel today also speaks of  this as we hear that the workers of the vineyard have lost sight of their original agreement with the owner and, consumed by greed, have lost their way. 

Today is also the feast of St Francis of Assisi. He experienced all of God’s creation as family: ‘Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Brother Wind, Sister Water’. He was a mystic and a pilgrim who saw how intimately connected everything in this world really is. The COVID 19 crisis has reminded all of us of this deep interconnection; what happens in one part of the world affects us all as we share one common humanity and live together on a common home.  During the days of lockdown many of us became more aware of simple things like birdsong, trees, flowers, the earth resting. Pope Francis says that this deeper awareness, ‘takes us to the heart of what it is to be human’ and gives us an opportunity to regain a sense of awe and wonder for creation. ‘Just as happens when we fall in love with someone, whenever St Francis would gaze at the sun, the moon or the smallest of animals, he burst into song.’ (Laudato Si’, 11). The roots of the environmental crisis are deeply spiritual. As we bring this Season of Creation to a close, let it be a spring-board into contemplation and action where our relationship with God’s creation is concerned. This is an urgent call. And one which faith communities have a responsibility to respond to. ‘Truly much can be done!’ (Laudato Si’, 180)

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

During the recent ‘lockdown’ many people found themselves turning to nature. There was a surge of interest in gardening. We tended to flower beds, planted seeds, started herb gardens. Lots of people commented that they noticed the birds singing for the first time in years. In the midst of challenging times, we found ourselves tuning in to the wonder of God’s creation all around us.

As life begins to return to ‘normal’, can we retain this sense of wonder and awe? In this Season of Creation, we are invited to discover the presence of God in creation, to give thanks for the gift of the earth, and to change our ways so that we may live in harmony with creation. This requires us to be constantly conscious of how we are living – to not just have good intentions but to follow through in our actions.  In today’s gospel, Jesus tells the parable of the two sons who are asked to go and work in their father’s vineyard. The first son initially refuses, but then thinks better of it and gets to work. While the second son has good intentions, he doesn’t follow through. When it comes to caring for the earth, good intentions are not enough. Our actions matter. We may have been careless in the past but a change of heart is happening, right across our society. It all starts with our actions, as individuals and communities. As we emerge from a challenging few months, let us use the Season of Creation to reflect on how we can do better – to reconnect with God’s beautiful creation and do all we can to love and preserve it. 

 

In Laudato Si Pope Francis prayed.

 

‘Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,

to be filled with awe and contemplation,

to recognise that we are profoundly united

with every creature

as we journey towards your infinite light.’

 

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

Jesus does not see things as we do. Time and time again in his parables, he turns our expectations upside down and helps us to see things in a different light.  Today, he tells the story of the landowner who pays the same wages to all his workers – those who were hired at the crack of dawn and those who only joined late in the day. Naturally, the ‘early birds’ are put out by this – they feel it is unjust, even though they received the wage they were promised.

Maybe we sympathise with the complainers. In our individualistic society, we can fall into the trap of thinking that only certain people deserve good things. Those who work hard, who are law-abiding, who make the most of opportunities – they deserve a decent standard of living. Think of how often we hear people complaining about those who are struggling, saying they do not deserve assistance or ‘handouts’? Such criticisms fail to take into account that not everyone has the same opportunities or privileges in life. But in this parable of Jesus, the landowner treats everyone the same, regardless of their productivity. He recognises that not all of them had the same opportunity – some were just luckier than others, in the right place at the right time. God is just and generous, and he expects us to have the same respect for everyone, regardless of their position in life.

Sadly we do not live in an equal world where everyone’s dignity is respected and everyone has equal opportunities. In this Season of Creation, we are mindful in particular of the world’s poor who suffer most as a result of environmental destruction – damage that is often caused by the comfortable lifestyles of others.

  ‘Enlighten those who possess power and money

that they may avoid the sin of indifference,

that they may love the common good, advance the weak,
and care for this world in which we live.

The poor and the earth are crying out.’                 (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’)

© Tríona Doherty, The Deep End, Intercom, Veritas

The parable of the unforgiving servant highlights the generous love of God and sets it as a blueprint for our treatment of others. The master who cancels the servant’s large debt does so out of compassion. The servant is grateful – but not so grateful that he is willing to take pity on a fellow servant who owes him just a small amount. It seems he has learnt nothing; he has neither appreciated the gift he has been given, nor is he willing to pass it on to others.

We are each loved infinitely by God. He has provided us with every good thing, and we are expected to live accordingly. Because we have been loved, we must love. As we celebrate the Season of Creation as a Church this month we focus in particular on our relationship with creation. We have been gifted with this wonderful world, with all its beauty and natural resources. Yet in so many ways, we have failed to appreciate this gift. We depend entirely on the earth’s resources to live and survive, yet instead of respecting them we have plundered them, causing great harm to the earth and its inhabitants. We have built comfortable and cheap lifestyles at the expense of the world’s poorest people. If we carry on this way, there will be no gift to pass on to future generations. We are like the servant in the gospel – taking, but giving nothing in return. Today, we are called to act as people who are loved infinitely by God. All of creation speaks of God’s love for us. We are deeply connected with the earth and all of its people. We must live a life which is not centred exclusively on ourselves, but on the needs of others. 

‘Creation can only be understood as a gift from the outstretched hand of the Father of all, and as a reality illuminated by the love which calls us together into universal communion.’ (Pope Francis, ‘Laudato Si’)

 

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

In ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ Charles Dickens famously wrote: ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.’ Our experience over the last six months since we last published our Newsletter has at times felt a bit like that as we lived through the whole gambit of emotions.  Never have we collectively felt so vulnerable and fragile and yet never have we experienced such solidarity and goodwill amongst all sectors of our community.  Families have experienced heart-breaking loss without the comfort of the community to support them, special events such as weddings, confirmations and communions had to be cancelled, grandparents went months without hugging their grandchildren and we all struggled as our world grew ever smaller and more confined.  Yet in those moments where anxiety and isolation cast such a dark shadow the irrepressible light of goodness and compassion and community shone brighter than ever.   Volunteers and neighbours rallied to look after those who were isolated, frontline care workers worked tirelessly to care for the sick and the dying, essential workers ensured that we continued to have access to food and medicines and other services.  People reconnected like never before with family and friends as we all rediscovered that it is people, not things that are most important.

Seeing children return to school this past week offered us a glimpse of the hope of returning to some semblance of normal life, something for which we all desperately long.  Making that hope a reality depends on all of us working together to protect one another and to keep everyone safe.  We appreciate that people understandably feel frustrated at continuing to see their freedoms restricted. Yet in the greater scheme of things these restrictions are small sacrifices compared to those that so many families have made these past months.  Here in our parish we will continue to do all we can to prioritise everyone’s safety and to minimise any risk to our community by adhering to all public health guidance.  This means adopting new protocols when we come to Church and we thank all our parishioners for their co-operation as we have returned to praying together in Church.  In coming weeks these guidelines will mean restricting the numbers that can gather for the First Communions and Confirmations but we are doing everything we can to ensure that these celebrations are as family-friendly as possible in the circumstances.  We are keen to closely adhere to all public health guidelines not simply to comply with government regulations but also out of a deep sense of solidarity with all those who have and who continue to make sacrifices for the general good.  We believe that there is something deeply Christian and moral about doing all we can to keep one another safe.  When we embrace that calling we share in the mission of Jesus who came that we might have life and have it to the full.   As St Paul reminds us: ‘All

things work together for good for those who love God’.                         Fr Seán

In this week’s edition of our Parish Podcast during COVID19 I share some reflections that I have come across down through the years that have stayed with me and inspired me and challenged me as I try to find my way in life.  I offer the text of those reflections and quotations here for those who would like to have a copy.  I hope that they speak to you as much as they have to me down through the years.  

 Fr Seán

 

On ‘The Measure of a Person’

The measure of a person is not determined by their show of outward strength, or the volume of their voice, or the thunder of their actions.  It is to be seen, rather, in terms of the strength of one’s commitments, the genuineness of one’s friendships, the sincerity of one’s purpose, the quiet courage of one’s convictions, one’s capacity to suffer, and one’s willingness to continue forever ‘growing up.’

© Grady E. Poulard.

 

On ‘Success

To laugh often and much,
to win the respect of intelligent people
and affection of children;

to earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;

to appreciate beauty,
to find the best in others;

to leave the world a bit better,
whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch
or a redeemed social condition;

to know even one life
has breathed easier
because you have lived.

This is to have succeeded.

© Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

On ‘Taking Time’

Take time to think;
it is the source of power.

Take time to read;
it is the foundation of wisdom.

Take time to play;
it is the secret of staying young.

Take time to be quiet;
it is the opportunity to seek God.

Take time to be aware;
it is the opportunity to help others.

Take time to love and be loved;
it is God’s greatest gift.

Take time to laugh;
it is the music of the soul.

Take time to be friendly;
it is the road to happiness.

Take time to dream;
it is what the future is made of.

Take time to pray;
it is the greatest power on earth.

© Anonymous

On ‘Race and Difference’

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

© Martin Luther King

It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.

© Audre Lorde

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

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 

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/

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.

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.