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Listing August - 2013
'Often the first sign of friendship is that we are delighted to discover the world in a similar way. We find ourselves laughing at the same jokes, enjoying the same novels, sharing other friends. We treasure the same things. Similarly we are God's friends not by thinking things about God but seeing things with God, through God's eyes as it were.' ~Timothy Radcliffe

Good and faithful friends are such treasures. We would simply be lost without them. Life would indeed be difficult, lonely and frustrating if we didn't have the company of friends. There is a world of a difference between a friend and an acquaintance. An acquaintance is someone we know through work or someone who lives in the same area. We may know many acquaintances but our real and true friends can often be counted in one hand.

It would be nice to think of God as a friend rather than an acquaintance. As a friend God is in touch with our every need. Rather than someone aloof, distant and separate, God is someone who is close and near. A friend stays with us through thick and thin. As a friend God journeys with us through all that is good but is also with us through the mess and struggles of our lives as well. We thank God for our friends and we can include God on that list too.
'God plus one is always a majority!' ~Author Unknown

There is a lovely line in one of Paul's letter to the Romans when he says: "If God is for us, who can be against us". It is comforting to know that we are not on our own. There are times in our lives when it feels like an uphill struggle. Some people it seems are against us, time is against us, circumstances outside of our control are against us, life is against us and even sometimes it seems God is against us. Pages, books and libraries can be filled with things written about God, but there is one absolute certainty, God is not against us. God is never out to get us, never out to make life difficult, never out to trip us up. God is with us through everything and that includes the days when nothing goes right and those days when it feels the world is against us. Today is a day to appreciate that in God's eyes we are indeed special, loved and always included. The word 'against' does not exist in God's vocabulary.
A back to school prayer for start of new school year

Loving God, our creator, our saviour, our companion, bless this journey of a new school year that we undertake today. Bless our teachers and friends as we make our way back to the classrooms for another year. Help everyone to feel the excitement and joy in the promise of a new start. Give us everything we need to start our classes. Give us imagination and creativity to make wonders out of what we do have. We ask you to refresh our souls and renew our spirits. We welcome those who are new to our school community and may they settle in well during the coming days and weeks. Strengthen all of us to share the wonderful gifts you have given to each of us. We ask you to gently guide and direct everyone each day in your loving care. We ask this in your name. Amen
'There is a mysterious unity and diversity within you and me. I have a body but I am more than a body. I have feelings but I am more than my feelings. I have thoughts but I am more than my thoughts. I am one but I am many' ~Vincent Travers

We are special and unique. There is really no one quite like you or me. No one has our looks, our fingerprint, our personality, our gifts and talents, our likes and dislikes or our way of doing things. There are a few in our lives who know us well and one or two who may know us intimately and really well. But even here they will never know us fully. Every person is complex and fragile. There are boundaries and fences within, that not even we can cross. In that sense we are a mystery which always needs to be respected.

A puzzle can be solved but a mystery will always have bits of the unknown. Once we respect these, our relationship with others will always be healthy and wholesome. It will be sensitive to allow others have a bad day, to be there for them and sometimes to respect that they may need some time or space. It also recognises that we don't need to have all the answers. Just to be there for someone and journey or walk with them is our greatest gift to them.
The following reflection is by Triona Doherty

A narrow door, a locked door, futile knocking and an unsympathetic doorkeeper - it's almost as if the master in today's Gospel story wants to keep people out!

In the opening chapter of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Alice has a bit of bother with doors. The doors in the hall in which she find herself are all locked. When she finds a key, it doesn't fit the locks. When she manages to find a door to match the key, she herself won't fit through; the doorway is too narrow. Alice opened the door and found that it led into a small passage, not much larger than a rat-hole: she knelt down and looked along the passage into the loveliest garden you ever saw. How she longed to get out of that dark hall, and wander about among those beds of bright flowers and those cool fountains, but she could not even get her head though the doorway.

There is a similar predicament for those in Jesus' story. They knock on the door and expect to be admitted, but it is not that simple. They are too late - the door has been locked and the master turns them away. What does Jesus mean when he says we must strive to 'enter by the narrow door'? Is it almost impossible to enter the kingdom of God? The narrow door is Jesus. But it is not enough to have encountered him and heard his teachings. One must have walked the narrow path of the Gospel.
'Across time and throughout history, God's love has touched countless people. No matter which approach or path we take, God's presence experienced in fleeting moments creates a longing for God's continual presence that never ends.' ~Gayle Beebe

It can be so uplifting and energising to hear how God's love has touched so many people. There are many stories and so many collections of beautiful moments. They all add up to something really special which doesn't always make the headlines. It doesn't need to either, because these stories and moments continue to evolve as part of God's ongoing journey with us.

In our modern world, there are some who see these stories and moments as a worn out and irrelevant view of the world. It is worn out and irrelevant if we choose not to be open to the Spirit of God and choose to live in some fearful dark corner. God's presence and energy in our world, is exciting, colourful and constantly evolving. It is a privilege to be a part of it, no matter what size that part is for us, be it tiny or something much bigger. If it has worn you out, perhaps you have been looking in the wrong place?

'We were active and not reactive'' ~Arsene Wenger after Arsenal's away win in the Champions League qualifying game in Turkey last Wednesday evening

The Premiership kicked off last weekend and another one of those gentle reminders that school is just around the corner! For Arsenal it got off to the worst possible start with a home defeat against Aston Villa. The reports in all the papers on Sunday were not kind to Arsenal and highly critical of the team. But they had the perfect response to all their critics with a fine away win in Turkey during the week. The response after of the manager Arsene Wenger, 'we were active and not reactive', got me thinking.

There is a world of a difference between the two, not just in sport but also in life. How often we can be reactive in a lot of the things we do. We go with the flow, we do what has to be done and we react negatively when things are not going well. A lot of it can lack direction, can be shallow without depth and can often mean we are catching up in life. On the other hand the word active is the exact opposite and can sum up our approach to life and in particular our spiritual lives. When we are active we choose to make the most of each day, we seize opportunities, we see the glass as half full and not half empty, we see setbacks and disappointments as stepping stones, we embrace balance and there is always time for the really important things in life. What sums up your day today? Is it active or reactive?
10 commandments to get along with people. Even one or two of these could be a great help to us on our daily journey!

(1) Say less than you think. Cultivate a calm voice, how you say it often means the most.
(2) Make promises sparingly, keep them faithfully.
(3) Never lose opportunities to say a kind word to or about somebody. Praise work well done.
(4) Be genuinely interested in others. Let everyone you meet feel that you regard them as if they are the only person that matters in the world.
(5) Be cheerful as best you can.
(6) Keep an open mind on all debateable questions. There's a big difference between discussing something and arguing something.
(7) Don't give in to gossip. It is so destructive.
(8) Respect the feelings of others.
(9) Pay no attention to those who think less of you. There are always knockers in this world but know that there are many more people willing to uplift and encourage.
(10) It won't cost you anything, smile!!
'God does not ask for our ability or our inability but our availability.' ~Author Unknown

We so often focus on our inabilities rather than our abilities. How often we have heard, "I'm no good at that". What a pity. Maybe there was something we enjoyed doing but other commitments came in the way and we gave it up. Maybe now is a good time for a review and maybe now is a good time to go back to that interest/hobby that gave you energy and the something you really enjoyed doing.

If only we had more inner belief and the confidence to hear that inner voice within each of us saying, "I can and I will do it." For every one thing we are no good at, there are many things that we are good at. The invitation is to be willing to take the next step and make ourselves available and do what we are able to do. Can I give some of my time to doing even one thing I enjoy and one I know I'm good at? Can I believe that my availability to do even one simple thing has the potential to make the world of a difference? In God's eyes it most certainly does.
'I prayed to Pope John Paul II because God has always been next to him.' ~Floribeth Mora Díaz

The proposed canonisation of Blessed John Paul II was due to take place this December. It may now be pushed back to April of next year, as our new pope Francis, felt that it would not be fair for Polish pilgrims to be travelling on icy roads in the depth of winter to get to Rome for the special day. Floribeth Mora Díaz is a name we will hear more about as the event approaches. She was taken to hospital back in May 2011 in Costa Rica, with persistent headaches. She was devastated to be told it was the result of an aneurysm in her brain, that there was no hope for her and that her days were numbered. The mother of four, in her 50s, returned to her small whitewashed home in the town of Tres Rios, not far from the capital, San Jose. There in front of their candlelit shrine to Pope John Paul II, surrounded by brightly-coloured plastic flowers, rosaries and homemade crucifixes, her husband Edwin told her she should pray.

The Vatican recently announced that those prayers were answered in a miraculous fashion. This lady was "cured" by praying to Pope John Paul II and this "miracle" has now led to his being made a saint. It will be the fastest time in modern history that someone has been declared a saint. He will be canonised with another hugely popular pope, Pope John 23rd on the same date.
'The Jesus I know doesn't want me to constantly remind him of chapter and verse of his word - he knows it better than I do. Instead he wants my praise, thanksgiving, worship and all the problems that grieve and concern me. Sometimes, the pain is too deep or the worry too overpowering for articulation. It doesn't matter. He is fluent in the language of my heart.' ~Lorraine Wylie

It is comforting to know that in prayer it's not always about words and having to say it in a certain way. Sometimes the words just can't come out because of upset, anger, pain or confusion. We have all been there. Because there are no words, we think our prayer is a failure, a waste of time and a pointless exercise. The exact opposite is the case. Whoever you pray to be it Jesus, God, a Saint, an Angel, Mary, a Higher Power or whoever, they are fluent in the language of your heart. They know what is going on for you and want to be there for you.

Many people thought that Mother Teresa was an expert in prayer and finding words to say what she wanted to say. But she had dark days too. In her written accounts she had days when there were simply no words, but somehow she know God was with her and that was all that mattered. The same goes for us too. No prayer is a waste of time. The days when there are no words will be followed by days of plenty. No one has it worked out exactly right and probably never will. But once we know that God is with us through whatever happens, then that's all that really matters.
Todays reflection is by Triona Doherty called 'Peace On Earth?'

It's a long way from the angels who heralded the birth of Jesus by singing 'Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace to men who enjoy his favour'. We usually associate Jesus more with peace than division. When Jesus later appears to the disciples after his resurrection, his first words are 'Peace be with you'. So why all this talk of division? Did Jesus really want to split families against each other?

At the time that Luke was writing his Gospel, the early Christian community was experiencing division. Households were indeed divided over whether to believe in this new Good News. It is not that Jesus was in favour of division; rather, not everyone was ready to accept his teachings and to acclaim him as Messiah. 'I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already!' Jesus does not want division; he wants the flame of faith to burn strong and to spread across the earth. How he wishes it were blazing today; how he wishes we were so on fire with the Good News that the flame would pass on to those we meet. We are familiar with the saying 'It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness'. Pass on the flame of faith. The flame may burn bright or burn out, or the embers might be kept gently glowing for future reference. If your faith is causing debate and division, you are probably doing something right!
'There is hardly ever a complete silence in our soul. God is whispering to us well nigh incessantly. Whenever the sounds of the world die out in the soul, or sink low, then we hear these whisperings of God. God is always whispering to us, only we do not always hear, because of the noise, hurry, and distraction which life causes as it rushes on.' ~Frederick William Faber

Lots of different things are said about God. Some of it makes a lot of sense and some of it is not always easy to understand. The bits that do make sense and the bits that connect with us are all that matters. It is often said that with God in our lives we are never on our own. This hopefully is one bit of good news that we can connect with. Even when we do our own thing, make mistakes and fall we are still loved by God and never excluded or left on our own.

God's presence in our lives isn't always like a spectacular fireworks display or flashing lights and lots of noise. The presence of God is much quieter and is often as quiet as a whisper. It might be the whisper of a smile from someone, a kind word, a thoughtful card or a little gesture of kindness that meant the world to you. If you really look around there are lots of whispers of God's presence in our world. But there are lots of distractions too so it's not always possible to hear or see them. But they are there! Can you see or hear some of them this weekend?
'Focus on faith and grow your roots strong and deep so no one can make you believe in something that is not good for your soul.' ~Molly Friedenfeld

Once upon a time, a stately oak tree realized that its strength was beginning to wane. When the wind was strong, the once proud tree shook ominously and made suspicious creaking sounds. With great effort, the tree grew some fine new branches and began to feel secure once more. But when the next gale came, it felt some of its roots snapping and, had it not been for the support of a friendly neighbouring sycamore tree, it would have fallen to the ground. When the oak tree recovered from the shock, it turned to the sycamore and asked, "How is it that you were able to stand your ground and help me also?" The sycamore tree replied, "While you were busy growing new branches, I was strengthening my roots."

Sometimes we put a lot of emphasis on the leaves and externals. They are important but not always essential. Much more important is what lies within. Like the roots much of our spiritual nourishment is often hidden. When it is nurtured and looked after it is strong and able to withstand the storms. When it is weak or neglected we are much more vulnerable.
'The Feast of the Assumption which we celebrate today is a day that marks time. The life of Mary has marked time for all humanity. She gave us the waiting time, the birthing time and the growing up time. She gave us the letting go time, the painful time, the dying time and the rising time. Today we watch her as she moves into eternal time.' ~Michael Mullaney

Today's feastday is a time of year when things are changing around us. Summer is gently slipping by, days are getting shorter and back to school is just around the corner! Mary's feast gives us a little nudge to make the most of the remainder of this month. At a deeper level it gives us a nudge to appreciate what Mary means to us. Her assumption into heaven might give the impression that she is aloof, irrelevant and out of touch. What it really means is that she is a truly great friend to have as we journey through life. She is closer to us than we can possibly imagine. She is especially close to our every experience. We ask for her guidance, direction and many blessings on each of us today.
'Never say that you can't do something, or that something seems impossible, or that something can't be done, no matter how discouraging or harrowing it may be; human beings are limited only by what we allow ourselves to be limited by.' ~Mike Norton

Today in Ireland the Leaving Cert results are out. Nationally 57,000 will get their results. It has been a long tough road to get to this day. There has been lots of hard work, sacrifices made, constant deadlines, big expectations, two incredibly hard weeks of exams in June, a long wait all summer and here we are today. The students with strings of A1's and maximum points will make all the headlines. The students who come out with less and have made a massive effort won't make the headlines or the photos but they are the real heroes. To all our students we say a big well done and congratulations. To those who are disappointed and feel they have fallen short, there is hope and don't give up just yet. There are many other options available to you and different possibilities in getting to a course you want or like. The National Parents Council have set up a free phone helpline for students and parents if they want support or have questions after today. Counsellors will be available and the number is 1800265165. We pray today for everyone who got their results and asking God to guide and direct you as you make important decisions in the coming days.
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