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Listing February - 2013
'We are all broken and wounded in this world. Some choose to grow strong at the broken places.' ~Harold J.Duarte-Bernhardt

Thankfully we don't break a bone too often, but when we do a great process of healing begins to take place. Modern medicine helps to make sure the process goes smoothly. An x-ray determines how badly the bone is broken. A splint or cast is usually used to hold the bone in place so that healing can occur. The bone is then slowly knit together by fibrous tissues and a coating of bone like substance covers the fracture. The healing takes time, care and patience. It really is a miracle. All of us are broken in other ways too, physically, mentally and spiritually. The knocks of life can take their toll. We are left broken, wounded and lacking energy. It is then we need healing to take hold and it is something that cannot happen overnight. It needs time and patience. This is one of the reasons why Lent takes place over a number of weeks giving us a chance for our own brokenness to be healed. We invite God's healing, light, hope, energy and love into our own brokenness whatever it might be.
'The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer.' ~ 2 Samuel 22:2

Probably one of the most famous bridges in the world is the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Although it is built over what is called the 'San Andreas fault', the Golden Gate Bridge is probably the safest place to be during an earthquake. A rock solid foundation underneath and flexibility above are the reasons why. Careful engineering has designed the bridge to be anchored by two towers sunk deep into the rock beneath and a network of cables overhead, make it so flexible that it can sway 22 feet horizontally and 12 feet vertically. It can adapt to external changes, wind, storms and even earthquakes. We can also ask ourselves: am I anchored securely? Is God my anchor? Do I have the flexibility necessary to cope with so many changes around me? Am I flexible enough to allow room for God in my life?
The following reflection is by Triona Doherty

'The man who fears to be alone will never be anything but lonely, no matter how much he may surround himself with people. But the man who learns, in solitude and recollection, to be at peace with his own loneliness, and to prefer its reality to the illusion of merely natural companionship, comes to know the invisible companionship of God.' ~Thomas Merton

In today's Gospel, Peter, John and James enjoy a special encounter with Jesus as he takes them up the mountain to pray. It is only when they take this step back from their everyday lives and go somewhere private that Jesus reveals to them who he really is. It is only when we spend time with God in prayer that we can truly appreciate his presence with us. Why not take some time alone today to pray the beautiful and uplifting poetry of today's Psalm 26?
'The Lord is my light and my help, whom shall I fear?'; 'It is your face, O Lord, that I seek; hide not your face' - 'Hope in him, hold firm and take heart, hope in the Lord!'
The following reflection was read by Bishop John Buckley at the end of a conference for the priests of the Cork and Ross Diocese yesterday in Kinsale. The prayer can be adapted to be said at the beginning or end of our day and could become our daily Lenten Prayer

As you leave today, may the living Lord go with you.
May he go behind you to encourage you,
beside you to befriend you,
above you to watch over you,
beneath you to lift you from your sorrows,
within you to give you the gifts of faith, hope and love
and always beside you to show you the way.
'Priorities are not written in granite. They need to be flexible and change as we do. I find it helpful to think of priorities as the wooden frame upon which we stretch the canvas of our days.' ~Sarah Breathnach

A priority is something that is important to each of us. Our health is an important priority as is the welfare of our family, financial security, employment and so on. There are many other priorities that are unique to each of us. For some the main priority is simply to get through this day. We are indeed pulled in all directions and it's sometimes hard to know what's important and what takes priority.

The image of the wooden frame with a blank canvas, is helpful and particularly when we apply it on our journey through Lent. Each day is God's precious gift to us and like a canvas it is blank waiting for us to add our colour. If we don't prioritise certain things we end up trying to do everything and in the end have little to show for it. Lent is not meant to be an endurance race or a marathon, trying to get to the finishing line. It is all about doing what we can do best today. What one thing is important to me today? Can I do something to make it happen?
A Lenten Reflection ~Author Unknown

Give up complaining and focus on gratitude.
Give up pessimism and try to focus on what is possible.
Give up harsh judgements and think kindly thoughts.
Give up worry and trust in God to look after you.
Give up bitterness and turn to forgiveness.
Give up hatred and believe more in your goodness.
Give up negativism and be positive.
Give up anger and try to be more patient.
Give up pettiness and treasure the blessings you have.
Give up gloom and enjoy the beauty that is around you.
Give up jealousy and pray for trust.
Give up gossiping and take care in what you say.
Give up sin and open yourself to the good news of the Gospel
Give up giving up and instead hang in there as best you can!
'At the conclusion of my discussions with one group of the Magdalene women, one of those present sang 'Whispering Hope'. A line from that song stays in my mind - "when the dark midnight is over, watch for the breaking of day". ~Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Yesterday was a landmark day in Irish history when Taoiseach Enda Kenny formally apologised on behalf of the Irish state for its role in the Magdalene laundries. Up to 10,000 women and girls were made to do unpaid manual labour in laundries run by the Church between 1922 and 1996. Many had been sent there by the Irish State. What was clear yesterday was the sincerity of the apology. It was heartfelt, genuine and compassionate. The apology might have been slow in coming but when it came it brought closure and healing. Most important it marked the breaking of a new day and a new beginning for so many of these women. It was a dark secret for many years and swept under the carpet. The apology destroyed the secrecy and the shame. The standing ovation given at the end to these women was moving. The line from the song Whispering Hope is powerful and one we could all hold close to our hearts: When the dark midnight is over, watch for the breaking of day. We pray for any person carrying or holding a heavy darkness in their lives right now. May they also find light, hope and the breaking of day.
'Accept that there will always be those who will hold different beliefs and follow different paths to our own. Learn to respect people as they are and put differences aside.' ~Ronan Scully

Diversity has always been a part of our universe story. Nature programmes are hugely successful because they explore such diversity among animals, birds and insects. Technology and incredible camera work make it feel as if we are right next to the moment. When it comes to people we tend to be slow to embrace difference and diversity. It is part of being human to want others agree with our own view point. Problems begin when we try to impose our view points onto somebody. We feel we're right, we know it's the only way and so should they! The challenge is to embrace different viewpoints and to accept that others even those closest to us, will see things different from us. A prayer today could be to ask God to help me understand that my story is important but that there are other stories out there just as important and valuable.
'Time is our biggest problem. You create time, by not relating fully to what you are doing at every moment. Instead of doing what needs to be done and doing it fully, you think about it.' ~Krishnamurti

I think we can all relate to thinking about doing something. We play it safe, we think about it, how it might happen, how it could happen and how it should happen. But so often it never actually happens. The spiritual writer Donagh O'Shea puts it so well when he says: "By thinking instead of doing, you create a gap between them, a time lag, and through that gap the whole energy of your life leaks away."

If we're honest there is probably a lot of energy leaking away in our lives. Lent is a great time to look at our lives and see where the leaks are. What can I do to stop some of these leaks? What can I do to stop even one leak? This can often be achieved by simply doing something we have been putting off. It might be more quality time with family or friends, it might be eating a healthier diet, getting some exercise in, getting in some prayer or quiet time or appreciating the beauty of the present moment. Very simply we can think a lot about it and nothing gets done or we can go for it and get it done!
The reflection today is by Triona Doherty

To cease smoking is the easiest thing I ever did. I ought to know because I've done it a thousand times' ~ Mark Twain

Temptation - songs are written about it, novels and film plots are centred around it, 'tell all' tabloid stories delight in it, advertising depends on it and the gambling industry thrives on it. Temptation is everywhere; while we might be able to stay away from certain triggers, we can't avoid it altogether. It's how we respond to temptation that matters. Before any of us were tempted, Jesus went through it first. While we may never have had the privilege of being offered all the kingdoms of the world, the thrust of the temptations undergone by Jesus is familiar. Give up your convictions for a quick fix or easy pleasure. Cast aside your deeply held beliefs in return for wealth, power and prestige. Be reckless in order to prove your worth. Take the easy way out. But the devil is no match for Jesus, who is armed with steely resolve and a sense of greater purpose. Every time we pray the Our Father, we say the words 'Lead us not into temptation'. Lent is the perfect time to reflect on the temptations that plague us most. Perhaps we can also pray the Our Father with renewed meaning this Lent.
I Have Learned... ~Author Unknown

I've learned that you cannot make someone love you. All you can do is be someone who can be loved. The rest is up to them.
I've learned that no matter how much I care, some people just don't care back.
I've learned that it takes years to build up trust, and only seconds to destroy it.
I've learned that it's not what you have in your life, but who you have in your life that counts.
I've learned that you shouldn't compare yourself to the best others can do.
I've learned that you can do something in an instant that will give you heartache for life.

I've learned that no matter how thin you slice it, there are always two sides.
I've learned that it's taking me a long time to become the person I want to be.
I've learned that it's a lot easier to react than it is to think.
I've learned that you should always leave loved ones with loving words. It may be the last time you see them.
I've learned that you can keep going long after you think you can't
I've learned that we are responsible for what we do, no matter how we feel.
I've learned that either you control your attitude or it controls you.
I've learned that learning to forgive takes practice.
I've learned that there are people who love you dearly, but just don't know how to show it.
I've learned that my best friend and I can do anything or nothing and have the best time.
I've learned that sometimes the people you expect to kick you when you're down will be the ones to help you get back up.

I've learned that maturity has more to do with what types of experiences you've had and what you've learned from them and less to do with how many birthdays you've celebrated.
I've learned that it isn't always enough to be forgiven by others. Sometimes you have to learn to forgive yourself.
I've learned that two people can look at the exact same thing and see something totally different.
I've learned that writing, as well as talking, can ease emotional pains.
I've learned that the people you care most about in life are taken from you too soon.
I've learned that although the word "love" can have many different meanings, it loses value when overly used.
I've learned that it's hard to determine where to draw the line between being nice and not hurting people's feelings and standing up for what you believe.
'There were two soldiers who became prisoners of war. Both were treated with great cruelty. The war ended and they returned home. During an interview, a journalist asked them if they could ever forgive their captors. One said "No, never, I shall never forgive or forget." The other turned to him and said quietly, "Then you are still in prison."

It would seem that many of us are still in prison. It is easy to hold onto hurts and grudges. The thought of forgiveness is one step too far. It's as if we're giving in and allowing them to take advantage. Forgiveness may not change the past but it certainly changes today and tomorrow.Can I use these weeks of Lent as a time to forgive, to let something in my past go and to try and move on even a little. God's forgiveness is total, complete and without conditions. Am I open enough to ask God for forgiveness? Can I leave some of my past behind? The freedom to do so lies with me.
'There is never any pressure, jealousy or competition but only a quiet calmness when they are around. You can be yourself and not worry about what they will think of you because they love you for who you are. You find strength in knowing you have a true friend and possibly a soul mate who will remain loyal to the end. Life seems completely different, exciting and worthwhile. Your only hope and security is in knowing that they are a part of your life.' ~ Bob Marley

Today is St Valentine's Day. The cynic will see it as a day of commercial exploitation and see the day as a waste of time, effort and money. One might say why all the effort for one day when there are 364 other days to show someone how much you care. It is true that we take many gifts for granted and this includes love. So it is good to have at least one day in the year when we put it top of our list again. The challenge is to keep it there. It needs encouragement, time, effort, forgiveness, laughter and honesty. It takes a while to build up love but only seconds to lose it. You can't buy it or even sell it.

Throughout scripture there are many references to love, how it sustains, energises and keeps us focussed for every task at hand. The best description of love comes from John when he simply says that love is God. Today St Valentines Day is a great day to appreciate the many special blessings that love can and does bring into our lives.
'Lent is above all a time of prayer, for withdrawing a little from the hustle and bustle of daily life to be alone with God.' ~Vincent Twomey

It seems like yesterday that we put away the Christmas decorations and here we are today celebrating Ash Wednesday! Despite so many changes in how people express their beliefs and spirituality, Ash Wednesday still holds big appeal. Why do we put dirty ashes on our foreheads today? It's not a good luck charm but an outward sign that we're mortal, fragile and merely pilgrims passing through this world. We take the ashes to remind ourselves that we are not perfect and that we struggle sometimes with different things happening in life including our faith. We take them to remind us that we are part of God's creation and that we're also equal in God's eyes. The ashes are also a sign of hope reminding others that we're willing to do something positive in our spiritual lives. Lent starts today and perhaps we may not be quite ready for it but it has the promise and potential to be a worthwhile journey.
'Many people perceive Christianity as something institutional - rather than as an encounter with Christ - which explains why they don't see it as a source of joy.' ~Pope Benedict 16th

It was the only talking point yesterday and no one had predicted the unexpected announcement that the Pope would resign at the end of this month. World leaders were warm in their praise for him yesterday. It was certainly a brave decision but also the right one. The world is full of people who think they are indispensable, when in fact whether we like it or not the show always goes on. The Pope has simply said he hasn't the energy to continue in the role and hopefully will be able to enjoy his retirement now.

He has been described as a charming and shy man but also very conservative. Before he became Pope he was known as "God's Rottweiler" but in fairness as time went on he seemed to mellow and warm himself to people. He made some obvious mistakes and upset the Jewish and Islam world by unhelpful comments. But he held his hand up on both occasions and said sorry, which is always a sign of a good leader. He is known to be an accomplished pianist and a lover of Mozart. He also likes cats and apparently is known to have looked after many stray cats in Rome. Much will be said and written about his decision but hopefully it will be seen as an exciting time for the Church and a time of new beginnings. I have no doubt this is the way Pope Benedict sees it.
'It's your unlimited power to care and to love that can make the biggest difference in the quality of your life.' ~Anthony Robbins

Today is the feast of Our Lady Of Lourdes. Lourdes draws thousands of pilgrims each week from all over the world particularly from Easter to September. Like many places it has had to adapt to the recession. With less spending money the number of pilgrims has dropped, leaving a shortfall in the running of the shrine. With severe floods last October in Lourdes, the shrine was under 5 feet of water causing a lot of damage, creating further challenges. But one thing is for sure Lourdes will not close down!

It is a special place that has something special. It is hard to put it into words but anyone who has visited Lourdes will know that the miracle of love works in so many different ways. Love bubbles everywhere in Lourdes. It is contagious, life giving, refreshing and so alive. Today is World Day for sick people and it is a day to make sure that God's greatest medicine called love gets shared. All of us are instruments of God's healing love. We pray today for all who are sick and we include doctors, nurses, carers and anyone who needs our prayers on this special day.
The following reflection is by Triona Doherty

'A boat is safe in the harbour, but this is not the purpose of a boat' ~ Paulo Coelho

If you don't try, you'll never know. Sometimes we need to take a risk. The disciples were understandably sceptical when Jesus told them to 'put out into deep water' and cast out their nets. These fishermen had been working hard all night long and caught nothing. But they must have thought there was something in what Jesus was telling them to do - or maybe they were just humouring him. Either way, they decided to give it another try. And what a result - such a huge catch of fish that their nets began to tear, and they filled two boats to sinking point. They got more than they bargained for, just by trusting Jesus, making a leap of faith and giving it another go. Are there areas of our lives where we can take a leap of faith and break out of our comfort zone? We cannot expect to reach our goals without taking a risk every now and then, putting out into the deep and seeing what comes our way. And if things don't go your way the first time? Try again! Jesus came that we might have life, and have it 'to the full'.
'Do not fear going forward slowly; fear only to stand still.' ~Chinese Proverb

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year and is also known as the 'Spring Festival'. In China and for Chinese people all over the world it is a hugely important day. Later on this evening to mark the eve of this special day, Chinese families all over the world, will gather for their annual reunion dinner. Within China, regional customs and traditions concerning the celebration of the Chinese new year vary widely. People will pour out their money to buy presents, decorations, food, and clothing. It is also traditional for every family to thoroughly cleanse the house, in order to sweep away any ill-fortune and to make way for good incoming luck. Food will include such items as pigs, ducks, chicken and sweet delicacies. The family will end the night with firecrackers. Early the next morning, children will greet their parents by wishing them a healthy and happy new year and receive money in red paper envelopes. The Chinese New Year tradition is to reconcile, forget all grudges and sincerely wish peace and happiness for everyone. These sentiments are something we also hold dear to us and as the Chinese New Year begins tomorrow, we also wish each other blessings, peace and good things to come.
'If making connections is so important for spiritual health, then at present we need to make as many as we can. Without God everything and everyone is lost property.' ~Donagh O'Shea

To connect means to join or fasten, to unite or link together. We use the word connection a lot with mobile phones and whether we have a strong or poor connection. Connections with friends and family can bring meaning and fulfilment in our lives. Spiritual connections are equally as important. We can connect with ourselves, with everything good about us, with our gifts and talents and with everything that makes us special. We can connect with all those bits of life that energise us. There are also other things that can become a limiting story for us. Much better is our search for the bits that energise and help us to become the person we really want to be. Healthy spiritual connections will always point us in the direction of God, who is the centre point of all connections. Every day we do our best to search for this centre point. It is always a good day when we find it.
'People spend too much time finding other people to blame, too much energy finding excuses for not being what they are capable of being, and not enough energy putting themselves on the line, growing out of the past, and getting on with their lives.' ~ J. Michael Straczynski

When a flower does not do well, we tend to avoid blaming the plant. We look for reasons as to why it is not doing well. It may need water or it might be getting too much water. It may need more sunshine, feeding or perhaps more shade. But we never actually blame the plant. Why is it that when we have problems with our friends or our families we tend to blame the other person? We fail to look at the bigger picture. Blaming has no positive effects at all. It is often deflating, a waste of time and counter productive. It is always much better for us to give our time and energy into words of praise and encouragement. Praise loudly is great advice but even better again is to blame softly.
'Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one's weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.' ~Mahatma Gandhi

So much has been said about prayer. Whatever the advice or suggestions, are always only invitations. There is no one single or exclusive way of praying. There is such variety and all are as important as the next. Prayer is making a connection to what we call the Source or the Divine Creative Energy at the centre of our being. Prayer is making a connection with this unique source, with God, with a Higher Power, with something that goes way beyond words. Prayer does not always have to be about words. An open honest heart or a willingness to simply do our best each day is a wonderful prayer. It can often be connecting with God in the little things we do each day. Life may generate uncertainties, questions and is often fragile. But we keep balance and stability every time we make a connection to our Source through prayer.
The following is called 'Life and Love Lessons' from the Pioneer Magazine

The best kind of friend is the kind you can sit on a porch swing with, never say a word and then walk away feeling as if it was the best conversation you've ever had.

It is true that we don't know what we've got until we lose it, but it's also true that we don't know what we've been missing until it arrives.

It takes only an hour to like someone and a day to love someone but a lifetime to forget someone.

Don't go for looks because they can deceive. Don't go for wealth, even that fades away. Go for someone who makes you smile because it takes only a smile to make a dark day seem bright.

Always put yourself in the other's shoes. If you feel that it hurts you, it probably hurts the person too.

A careless word may kindle strife. A cruel word may wreck a life. A timely word may level stress. But a loving word may heal and bless.

The happiest of people don't necessarily have the best of everything, they just make the most of everything that comes along their way.
'Very few burdens are heavy if everyone lifts.' ~S Wise

There were few in sport who could have predicted Italy to beat France, the giants of rugby, in the Six Nations game yesterday. Huge self belief and superb teamwork made all the difference. It is well known that trying to carry our burdens on our own is nearly an impossible task. Wisdom and experience has shown that if we share a burden it does become lighter. We can also help someone else with their burdens, by being there for them, listening to them and simply being a friend. We don't have to have the right words, in fact few are often needed. Our presence with someone else can make all the difference. The danger is that we often leave it to someone else and that someone else is also leaving it to us. We especially remember those beautiful words from our gospel: "Come to me all you who labour and overburdened and I will give you rest."
The following reflection is by Triona Doherty

The prophets of the Old Testament often needed a pep talk before they set about their mission. Jeremiah's first reaction when God called him to be a prophet was 'Ah Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy'. Prophecy was not an easy path; there would be challenges and persecution, people would refuse to listen to him, his own friends would turn against him and there would even be plots against his life.

In the First Reading, God offers Jeremiah some words of reassurance: 'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you... I will make you into a fortified city... I am with you to deliver you'. In spite of the obstacles ahead, Jeremiah had no need to fear. God would be with him and would give him strength. Following in the footsteps of the prophets, today's Gospel sees Jesus face a plot against his life. As he speaks in the synagogue, the people are at first astonished by his words, but then become uncomfortable. 'This is Joseph's son, surely?' they ask. They turn against him and are so enraged that they lead him out of town and try to throw him off a cliff. But God is with him and he is kept safe. Today's Psalm tells us that God is our rock, our refuge, our stronghold. He knows the challenges we face, yet he has a plan for our lives. He is our strength.
'It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.' ~ Aristotle Onassis

Today (Feb 2nd) is Candlemas Day. Like many Christian celebrations its roots lie deep in pagan times. The date lies half way between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. It is a time of transition from winter into spring. Apparently in Ireland daylight increases by 2 minutes each day. This might not seem much but put a few days together and you can really see the difference.

On the Christian calendar it was renamed 'Candlemas' to mark the presentation of Jesus in the temple. It is a day that is rich in meaning and symbolism. We live in a world that is often darkened by evil and darker forces. The shooting dead of Garda Adrian Donohoe while on duty by armed raiders last weekend was a grim reminder of such forces. We believe that the light of Christ is powerful and strong enough to wipe out all forms of darkness. This light knows no limits or boundaries. It's a light that is never forced but when we choose to be open to this light, great things begin to happen. Today we invite this light into our lives, into our darker corners and wherever such light is most needed at the moment.
'My hope for the Church is that we can live the Gospel as authentically and joyfully as we possibly can, to make it relevant to people who are alienated.' ~Shane Sullivan

Today (Feb 1st ) is the feast of St Brigid. In Ireland it is a significant feast day as we celebrate the achievements of a remarkable woman. Born in 454 she is famous for her hospitality, her generosity, her concern for the poor, her ability to stand up to those in authority and her unique ability to get what she wanted. She spoke a message to people who felt lost and alienated. Her message and her voice of hope are still so needed today. There are many who also feel lost and who are struggling to make sense of life.

She is most famous for her St.Brigid cross which she wove together using rushes. The many strands that make up a St.Brigid's cross represent the different strands of our own lives. They pick up on our joys and blessings but also on our struggles, problems and difficulties. For Brigid the cross was not an end in itself but pointed to a firm and sure hope in a loving God. For Brigid this loving God helps us to make sense of everything that's going on in our lives. We ask her many blessings on each of us today.


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