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Listing July - 2010
Dear God, I bet it is very hard for you to love everybody in the whole world. There are only four people in our family and I find it very hard to love them all. ~Ann (aged 8)

Family relations are indeed complex. We are nothing without family and yet family can be a tough place at times. Our family home is the place where we grumble the most but are treated the best. Thankfully for the most part we do our best to get on, we make allowances, we forgive and forget, we plan, we hope and we journey along together as best we can. The family is intended to be a community of life and love. It plays a central role in our human formation and growth. Sometimes the grass seems greener on the other side of the fence or that some families seem to have everything. If only life was as simple as that. No family has it all worked out or ever will. We pray today for our own family and for any family we know going through a difficulty or crisis. During these summer months and holidays, we pray that families can get a chance to relax, unwind and take things a little easier.
'God exists in eternity. The only point where eternity meets time is in the present. The present is the only time there is.' ~Author Unknown

One day a man asked God, how long a thousand years was? The Eternal One answered with a wink, "Just a second." "Well then, Almighty," the man queried, "how much is a million euros to you?" The Creator of all shrugged it off with, "Just a cent". With an idea in mind, a gleam in his eyes and a flickering smile, he dared to ask just one more question: "Lord, all I want is just one cent. Can I have one?" To which the Most High All-knowing replied with a slight grin, "Maybe, in just a second."!! No wonder it's hard to win the Lotto!
A prayer called the 'The Knots Prayer' ~Author Unknown

Dear God, Please untie the knots that are in my mind, my heart and life. Remove the have not, the cannot and the do not that I have in my mind. Erase the will not, may not and might not that may find a home in my heart. Release me from the could not, would not and should not that obstruct my life. And most of all dear God, I ask that you remove from my mind, my heart and my life all of the 'am not's that I have allowed to hold me back, especially the thought that I am not good enough. Amen
'If we are to have a vibrant church in the future, we need to tackle the dispiritedness that pervades the church currently.' ~Sarah Mac Donald

The fallout from the Vatican's recent own goal continues to rumble. It recently produced a document on its tougher procedures in dealing with clerical abuse. It should have been a document to highlight another positive step forward in dealing with a sorry mess. But the Vatican blew it. In its wisdom it decided in the same document to talk about the ordination of women and that anything to do with same was a sacramental crime. So the headlines screamed in the following days about how the Vatican equated child abuse with female ordination. At ground level it was interpreted as yet another signal of the Vatican's opposition to women, how it's afraid and fearful of them and how it continues to deliberately exclude them. The Vatican will say this was never its intention. But this is just another recent example of why so many have walked from the church. It is not just confined to young people but they are walking away through every age group. Thankfully many are still open to God in their lives but not under the umbrella of 'Church'. Does anyone care anymore why it has lost touch with people at ground level? Unless we can honestly answer this question then a vibrant church in the future will never happen. If Vatican II was supposed to be an awakening of the laity into a new period of co-responsibility then it never got a chance to start. It was smothered, choked and allowed to die. What a shambles.
The following reflection is by Tom Cahill

I don't know if our genes are, but according to scientists our brains are: hardwired for God. They're programmed to discover supernatural reasons for life's mysteries. Our brain organises the information, our senses send it to discover cause and effect. Since babies only 12-months old can do this, it seems to be innate rather than acquired. So, the findings of researchers at Bristol University studying the development and workings of children's brains are not surprising. They indicate that belief systems offer a possible evolutionary benefit to people.

An itch to ask the question why is not the only thing that's innate to us. There's the universal hope, expectation even, that good will conquer evil. Just read your novels, watch your films. Don't you feel more satisfied when the good guy wins? Even books and films with ambiguous endings aren't as emotionally satisfying as those with a clear-cut victory where the one who is good wins out against all the odds. That feel-good factor when good conquers all comes with the job, so to speak, of being human.

It's this faith in goodness, more specifically in God, that's the basis for what today's Gospel reading (Luke 11:1-13) tells us: Ask, and it will be given you; search and you will find. Scripture is telling us that God doesn't take us for a ride. He's not a messer, if you pardon the slang. He's consistent and we can trust him. That's the God we're hardwired to believe in, the one who gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.
'I want to be a great saint but I also want to experience all the sensations that sinners have. I want to spend long hours in prayer but I don't want to miss anything on television.' ~Henri Nouwen

Everyone struggles to keep life simple and straight forward. Quite simple we want everything and we simply can't have it. One of the great saints of simplicity is St.Therese. When she was seven years old, one of her older sisters Leonie decided that it was time for her to give up her toys. So she gathered them all up into a big box. She then told Therese that she could only choose one thing from the box and that the rest were going to charity. Apparently Therese froze and was unable to choose. She simply said: "I choose them all. I want them all!" All the great spiritual writers and indeed the scriptures remind us that it's hard to find God when we want everything. We tend to be distracted and focussed elsewhere. No wonder life can be trying and tiring. Life isn't simple and it never will be. We need to respect its complexity and our complexities. But that should never stop us from trying to live and enjoy the simpler things in life. It is in simple, ordinary, down to earth moments that we will find greater fulfilment, meaning and purpose.
God looks at you and me and solemnly declares, "I will love you always. There is nothing you can do to stop me loving you. You have my word on that. My word is my bond. The bond is never broken." ~Vincent Travers

The Tour De France is in its final few days having spent a gruelling few days in the Pyrenee mountains. Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck are only 8 seconds apart in what has been one of the most exciting tour in years. The big talking point during the week was when Schleck's chain fell off and then the moral question should his rival Contador have waited for him instead of taking advantage? The chain falling off is also a good reflection on life in general. How often it happens to all of us. We experience setbacks, disappointments or an unexpected crisis. We experience rejection and pain, sometimes from our nearest and closest to us. We feel let down and left to our own devices. This is felt more when life and so many others seem to race on ahead at a hectic pace. We are forgotten and left behind. Not so with God. Belief in God will not stop our chain falling off but we are assured and promised God's presence in our lives. God will always patiently journey with us, encourage us and help us through life's many twists and challenges.
'God is like a mirror. The mirror never changes but everybody who looks at it sees something different.'~Harold Kushner

The image of a mirror is always helpful in explaining God in our lives. Everybody who looks into the mirror is going to see something completely different and so all our experiences of God are different. These vary from positive to negative, from no experience to a very moving experience. Our faith journey is a collection of all these different experiences. Each one is valued and respected. When all are put together they point to someone who is special, important and who brings meaning and direction to our lives. It doesn't mean we have all the answers but it does mean we have infinitely more than nothing at all. Today is the feast of Mary Magdalene. She was the first to witness the resurrection and if we look into her mirror today for inspiration we will not be disappointed. She was a constant companion and friend of Jesus. She and other women were faithful to him during times of crisis. Unlike the male disciples she did not become discouraged or abandon him. She felt loved, accepted and totally included as a friend of Jesus. She remains an inspiration for many today.
Their poverty and level of fragile existence cripples them even from realizing the enormity of the injustice they have to endure. They are deprived of everything decent and human, even the right to be angry at the world, at government and at God. They endure all, they suffer all and they are silent about it.'~Fr.Shay Cullen speaking on a visit to a huge rubbish dump in the Philippines where an estimated 80,000 live on or near the dump known as Payatas

Fr.Shay Cullen is well known for his work with the poorest of the poor. For many years he has been a brave and courageous voice speaking on behalf of those who have no one to speak for them. In this particular dump he talks about how locals wade ankle deep in the filth, struggling to live on human waste and decay. Small children work as hard as adults, scratching the trash with hooks and grabbing anything that might bring them a few coins and a mouthful of food. Working with the poorest of the poor has not deterred Fr.Shay or his fellow workers. Strange as it may seem, they talk about working on holy ground. Somehow in the dirt and smell God is present. When we complain, give out, sulk and make a big commotion about little things, we might well remember those who live and work in the Payatas.
The following reflection is by Fr.Tom Cahill

Laptops are turning lecture halls into private cinemas and even online casinos. Once considered valuable aides to learning, they're no longer the apple of a teacher's eye. An increasing number of lecturers just don't want them in the classroom anymore. The reason? Students use them less for learning and more for entertaining. Themselves, that is. Not only are those who use them distracted, but so too are those nearby them. Not surprising when laptop use in class becomes networking in Facebook, watching movies, waging World War III virtually and playing poker actually, online. Instead of focusing on teacher talking, students focus on their laptop calling. So, the teacher strikes back, banning them from the classroom. This is a clear example of how something good: the amazing laptop, can get in the way of something better: the desired education.

Today's Gospel reading (Luke 10:38-42) gives another example of the same thing. Jesus visits Martha and Mary. The good here %u2013 Martha's attention to guests %u2013 gets in the way of something better: her attention to God's word. Mary, on the other hand, just sits absorbed by what Jesus is saying. She's free of clutter in her life and so can focus on what's important. Activity is fine, but it shouldn't push contemplation from our lives. A Buddhist monk once told Thomas Merton, a famous American Trappist, that you can't contemplate properly until you can close doors quietly. Closing doors quietly on clutter %u2013 mental, emotional, and social %u2013 is what today's Gospel is about. You may lap that up, but you won't top it!
You are very fragile. All of us are. Life itself is fragile. We have to be careful and even wise if we are to reach adulthood and middle age and old age. There are no guarantees, but care and caution are mighty helps in the effort at holding on to life. I don't want to patronise you. When I was your age, I too felt indestructible. But none of us is. That's a plain fact of life. So please, please, please live life on its terms, within its rules and boundaries, otherwise life will be cruel and merciless towards you and towards the family and friends who will have to bear you to the grave.' ~Words spoken by Fr.John Walsh this week at the funeral Mass of Eamonn McDaid, one of the eight people who died in the tragic car crash in Donegal

These were wise words of wisdom during the week, not just for the many young people to whom it was addressed, but to all of us as well. Sometimes in the midst of a tragedy, it is easy to play safe but this was a gentle but honest and thoughtful challenge to all of us. We need to respect life on its terms, within its rules and boundaries and particularly when we are driving on the roads. Every single one of us has a part to play, so that we never see the horror and waste of lives as we had this week in Donegal. Next week and even in a few days time the spotlight will move from Donegal to some other story. But there are eight families and many more around the country trying to cope with the loss of a loved one through a road accident. They will always remain very much in our prayers.
Maybe we can only recognise the beauty surrounding us when we welcome the beauty that lies deep within us. The sadness is that we become so busy and bothered about the trials and difficulties that beset us, that we seldom give time to welcome this gift' ~Far East Magazine

One of the great spiritual writers St Paul wrote a lovely letter to the Philippians and asked them to think about things around them that were true, lovely and gracious (Phil 4:8). At the time of writing this letter life was tough and difficult for many of them including Paul. But he saw the importance of looking at the bigger picture and particularly the great beauty that lies within each person. There is much darkness, sadness and negativity in the world we live in but it should never cloud or block out all the good and positive within each person. Sometimes to appreciate this precious gift we need to concentrate on something that is life giving for us. Maybe it's a summer flower in your garden, maybe a painting, a poem, a pet, a piece of music or a favourite album. The poet Patrick Kavanagh said he encountered his beautiful God every time he went to the bog. It was a sacred place for him and it was life giving. What place for me is life giving? What do I like doing that is also life giving? What person energises and brings me life? God is at the heart of all that is life giving.
'Life is fragile and using the roads is the most dangerous thing we do each day. We need to remember this every time we set out on a journey.' ~Gay Byrne

The death of eight people in a horrific road crash in Donegal has been a talking point in every home this week. Words like "utter devastation", "horrific", "heart wrenching" and "dreadfully sad" have all been used in our conversations. That eight young men were travelling in one of the cars, with seven losing their lives crosses all bounds of normality. The devastation and grief within the families is incalculable. For many of us on the outside looking in, all we can do is pray for them in their devastating loss. The impact on parents of young people across the country is also significant. The worry levels will increase particularly on weekend nights: will they be ok? who are they with? why aren't they home?. It's a difficult place to be, recognising that the transition of a child into a young adult is a beautiful one but also hugely challenging. There is a need to respect freedom but this often brings with it worry, anxiety, stress and sadly heartache too. Restricting freedom and choice is a short term solution but as a long term solution it smothers the human spirit and stunts their journey. We can explain, give out, shout, plead and pray for their safety. We can restrict, teach, condemn, limit and do all sorts of things to ensure a young persons safety. Even a combination of all may not be enough on occasions. An emphasis on peer care, that its ok to say no, and to encourage young people to look out for each other is a good start. So whether it's from a young person to one of their peers or a parent to their young adult son or daughter, the question to ask today is: "How are you feeling in this? "How has it affected you "What can we learn from this?"
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'Into each life some rain must fall. Some days must be dark and dreary.' ~J Longfellow

It was officially confirmed yesterday, that June was the driest and hottest month in forty years(at least in Ireland anyway!). So it was nearly with welcome relief that the rain clouds pushed in last evening with a lovely sprinkling of rain. The rain clouds have also deeper spiritual meaning too. For all of us some days are indeed dark and dreary. We simply canít avoid them. But we live in a culture of quick fixes which frequently uses the phrase 'Get over it.' Sadness is seen as something against the natural order and something that if present in our lives, we need to fix right away and get rid of it. It is never healthy to remain in sadness but it is always good to know how it affects us. Knowing that some days will be dark for all of us can help us to be more attuned to the presence of light in our lives. Jesus in our Gospels was not afraid to stand with people in their dark and sad moments. While others fled, Jesus remained. It was a clear reminder that brighter and more hopeful days would follow. They did and still do.


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