On the last two Sundays I attended two very different celebrations of the Eucharist. The first was in a Trappist Monastery and the liturgy was rich and solemn. The Eucharist was truly beautiful and the welcome and hospitality of the sisters made the day absolutely perfect! Today I was at the monthly Mass for children and young people with special educational needs. The liturgy was less formal and from time to time a child would surprise us and go a for a walk around the chapel. The tea and snacks after the service were a lively affair! God was tangibly present in both places. Thinking about today “Communications Sunday” I give thanks for the many amazing ways that God speaks to us.
Posts Tagged ‘church’
We left home early in order to get to church in good time for the Good Friday service. By this I mean we needed to be there almost an hour early so that we could get a decent seat. There was plenty of time for quiet reflection as we waited for the service to start. Just as 3pm drew near a powerful storm began. It was uncanny the way the whole liturgy was punctuated by loud claps of thunder and flashes of lightning. There were people of every age and type in the church. The service was beautiful. The passion story was sung reverently and with deep faith. There were four soloists and a choir. The adoration of the cross was long and solemn. It was deeply moving as we all lined up to kiss the cross. There were youths, married couples, parents with young children, grown children with elderly parents and many religious. My eyes were filled with tears as I watched elderly people bend to kiss the cross and parents with tiny babies gently touch their faces to the cross. God’s presence was so real it was tangible. The service ended with a deep and powerful silence. Our world may well be in an uncertain place but I knew for sure deep in my heart today that God is with us and that our love for God is as strong as ever. “Behold the wood of the cross on which is hung our salvation, O come, let us adore…”
We made it into the church just as a fierce storm burst overhead and the darkened clouds released a deluge of water. I was accompanying one of the novices to church for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I had been the day before and came to show the way to the church as we were away on retreat and in unfamiliar territory. I found a quiet spot in the middle of the church far from the many groups of people who were waiting at various points around the building. Given the number of people I knew I would be in for a long wait and settled into a peaceful time of prayer. After a while I found myself observing the people who were waiting. There were the very young and the elderly, there were school age children, teenagers and vast numbers of young people – some of them sitting close to boyfriends and girlfriends as they waited. Some people were alone, others came as a family or in groups of friends. There were parents taking their small children to Reconciliation. I was especially touched to see a number of women and men taking tiny babies in with them. There were students, retired people and some people who were clearly coming straight from work – with brief cases and laptops in hand. I found myself aware of the most incredible sense of God’s presence: in that vast array of people, in the awareness that people were there to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, in the sound of the rain pounding on the roof and bouncing on the paths and roads outside and in the sheer power of the storm that continued to rage above us. I was struck by the unity of all things in God. On that afternoon it seemed that all things were in cooperation to offer an almost tangible way of discovering something of God revealed in every aspect of life.
Our two novices were away last weekend at a vocations event in a nearby City and I offered to replace them at a regular meeting: Catholic Youth Fellowship. I could only smile to myself as I took my place in the circle and danced to the tune of “Train of Love”! Actually, it could be said that the term “Youth” was broadly applied…the youngest little fellow in front of me looked about 2 and the oldest members were in their late teens! I had a great evening. The members didn’t seem to mind that I was way past their age – and the leaders were pleased that the FCJs (well one of them) were present to support them. Later that evening I was interested to hear the story behind the founding of this brave little youth group. When their teenage children started to complain that they no longer found church interesting a set of parents decided to do something about it and founded CYF and to bring more life and energy into their faith life. Those parents started the group and ran it and funded it – and they are still the main supports of it. Several years later the group is still going. Meetings are held every two weeks. What makes this story even more amazing to me is that the family concerned lost their entire business in the terrible earthquake of 2006 – yet they picked themselves up restarted a new business and have even found the energy to spend the last few years creating a lively “space” where Catholic youth can meet and pray together. I really enjoyed my time as an honorary youth – and what’s more – I’ll be back again!
As we move through Holy week I am reminded of our Chapter Decree;
So much about this week is filled with beauty and life; the blossom on the trees, the weather, a less frenetic timetable… it makes my heart sing!
Yet there is so much around that is filled with pain too. So many aspects of our world where we can meet the crucified Christ. I watch the news of Ukraine and its people teetering on the edge of civil war; or a woman in the USA who murdered her new born infants; the people of Syria coping with so many years of war and displacement; or simply the elderly man in the local pharmacy looking for company and a friendly face. To me these are all contemporary crosses. All places in which God cries out in people’s lives for love, compassion, and hope.
The Lenten message for our diocese this year stresses that in addition to fasting and praying we need to stretch out our hands in service of those in need. This is very similar to the essence of the Lenten Letter recently released by the Vatican on behalf of Pope Francis. I am especially struck by the Pope’s point that he “distrusts a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.” How often in the past have me small attempts at charity been more for my own benefit than for the person or persons I was supposedly helping? Let us reflect together on one powerful paragraph from Pope Francis’ Lenten Letter:
Dear brothers and sisters, may this Lenten season find the whole Church ready to bear witness to all those who live in material, moral and spiritual destitution the Gospel message of the merciful love of God our Father, who is ready to embrace everyone in Christ. We can do this to the extent that we imitate Christ who became poor and enriched us by his poverty. Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.
Let us pray for one another and support one another this Lent as we seek together to witness to the merciful love of God…
Like so many of you I am stunned by the unfolding disaster in Central Philippines, the Visayas. Thanks to modern media we can see vivid and heart rending scenes of grief in the face of devastating loss of human life, destruction and damage. Perhaps, like you, I want to do more than pray – in some way I want to give of myself, to stand alongside our sisters and brothers in the Philippines who are hurting so deeply – and give – until it hurts me too.
One of the things our our newly written Chapter Directions is urging us to is to ” more compassionate solidarity”…For me this means to BE IN COMPASSIONATE SOLIDARITY with others…It is a life stance, a way of living…Let us give what we can, yes of course (and quickly and go on giving when we are tempted by the busyness of life to forget Typhoon Haiyan). Can we also “give” by living differently? For example, we already know that climate change is contributing to our changing weather patterns and is one of the causes of weather – related natural disasters. I ask myself “Is it enough to simply give help to those in need without taking a long hard look at my lifestyle?” I just watched two news videos from Tacloban in which young women are begging for food and water. Do those words say anything to me about the way I use the water so readily available to me? Do they make me think about the way I sometimes gobble a tasty snack between meals (hardly tasting it)? I hope that many of us feel called to be people of “compassionate solidarity” with those in need, wherever we find ourselves. Can we do this together?
When Pope Francis arrived home from Rio and World Youth Day he tweeted the following words: “I am back home, and I assure you that my joy is much greater than my exhaustion!” What a wonderful testimony to the Pope’s joy at being among people and in this case spending time with millions of young people. I think we can all take note of the Pope’s words to young people: “Show, by your life, that it is worth giving your time and talents in order to attain high ideals, it is worth recognizing the dignity of each human person, and it is worth taking risks for Christ and the Gospel”. Hopefully, we too can say at the end of each day of serving Christ “My joy is much greater than my exhaustion!”