Wednesday, December 31, 2008

This is the crib. The figures are all wood bar the Christ child which is from another set as the original got 'pinched' or 'did a runner' or 'a bunk' depending on how you wish to interpret it. It's rather big but it's very popular.
This is the inside of our little friary church in Raheny with the crib before the altar.


The Holy Pope of Rome Sylvester (314-335) was born at Rome of Christian parents named Rufinus and Justa. His father soon died, and the saint remained in the care of his mother. Sylvester's teacher, the presbyter Quirinus, gave him a fine education and raised him as a true Christian. Having reached the age of maturity, Sylvester set about fulfilling the command of the Lord about service to neighbour, and particularly concerned himself with the taking in of vagrants, offering them in his own house shelter and respite. During a time of persecution against Christians, Sylvester did not hesitate to take in the holy confessor Bishop Timothy, who dwelt with him for more than a year and who by his preaching converted many to Christ. After the Martyr's death of Timothy, Sylvester secretly took up the body of the saint and reverently gave it burial. This however came to the attention of the city-head Tarquinius, and the saint was arrested and brought to trial. Tarquinius demanded him to renounce Christ, threatening him with torture and death. Saint Sylvester was however not intimidated, and he remained steadfast in his confession of faith, and was then thrown into prison. When Tarquinius suddenly died after the trial, the saint was set free and fearlessly he evangelised amongst the pagans, converting many to Christianity. At thirty years of age Saint Sylvester was accepted into the clergy of the Roman Church and was ordained to the dignity of deacon, and then also presbyter, by Pope Marcellinus (296-304). After the death of Pope Militiades (or Melchiades, 311-314), Saint Sylvester was chosen bishop of Rome. He zealously concerned himself about the purity of life in his flock, and he insisted that presbyters strictly fulfill their duty, and not be overwhelmed with worldly matters.
Saint Sylvester became reknown as a profound expert on Holy Scripture and as a staunch defender of the Christian faith. During the reign of the emperor Saint Constantine the Great, when the periods of persecution had ended for the Church, the Jews arranged a debate about the true faith, at which were present the holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Emperor Constantine and his mother -- the holy Empress Helen, together with a numerous retinue. On the side of the Christians Pope Sylvester stood forth, and on the side of the Jews -- a number of learned rabbis, headed by Zambrius, a magician and sorcerer. On the basis of the Sacred books of the Old Testament, Saint Sylvester convincingly demonstrated, that all the prophets foretold the Birth of Jesus Christ from the Immaculate Virgin, and also His voluntary Suffering and Death for the Redemption of the fallen race of mankind, and His glorious Resurrection. In this verbal confrontation the saint was declared the victor. Then Zambrius tried to resort to sorcery, but the saint obstructed the evil by calling on the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Zambrius and the other Jews came to believe in Jesus Christ, and they besought that there be made over them the holy Baptism. Pope Saint Sylvester directed the Roman Church for more than twenty years, and earning deep esteem as a Christian. He died peacefully in old age in the year 335.
from the Menologion for January 2nd. I guess Pope St. Sylvester's life is an invitation and reminder to use our gifts in the era we inhabit, amongst the people around us to give glory to God and defend the faith. Reading around the net and watching various vids I've come across people who are so viciously intolerant and they're not all atheists! Far from it. As Vatican II rightly pointed our a major reason for atheism is the behaviour of believers. Sylvester invites us to love those who oppose us to the point that it is not our arguments that win them over but love.
Byzantine Ramblings has a nice thought provoking meditation from a Ukrainian Metropolitan here.
May the New Year bring peace, joy and greater closeness to the Lord to all!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


This is Leo Allatius (1586-1669) Greek theologian and defender both of Papal jurisdiction and Eastern Rite tradition, a bridge-builder between East and West. I just read about him at Canterbury Tales.

Feast of Anysia of Thessalonika and Melania of Rome Martyrs

Feast of Anysia of Thessalonika martyr and Melania of Rome wife, mother, nun and philanthropist. I suppose its easy to forget in the midst of our Christmas feast the sufferings of others. Remembering the martyrs reminds us of the price we may be called to pray for faith in Christ. Anysia (c.285-305) was caught trying to get to get to Mass and was martyred for her commitment. Melania (388-434?) was born to high privilege and wealth (her income at one time was equivalent to $20 million a year) but she chose an austere life and focused her energies on caring for others, especially the poor and in fostering the Church. Anysia showed her faith in laying down her life for Christ especially in his Eucharistic Presence. Melania did likewise but over a longer period and in a more gradual way. Both gave witness to Christ. Both invite us to consider how much we appreciate our Lord and our neighbour, how much do we love?


Troparion of the Feast Tone 4
Thy Nativity, O Christ our God,/ has shone to the world as the light of wisdom./ For by it those who worshipped the stars/ were taught by a star to adore Thee,/ the Sun of Righteousness,/ and to know Thee, the Orient from on high./ O Lord, glory to Thee.

Troparion of Ss Anysia and Melania Tone 4
Thou didst tread to the end the path of virtue and wast betrothed to God the Word,/ and didst rejoice in the contest, O Anysia./ Thou didst shine with the light of dispassion, Melania,/ and shed rays of virtue on the world./ And now we ask you both to beseech Christ the Lord that He will be gracious to us.

Kontakion of the Feast Tone 3
Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One,/ and the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One./ Angels with Shepherds glorify Him,/ the wise men journey with the star;/ since for our sake the eternal God was born as a little child.

Kontakion of Ss Anysia and Melania Tone 3
Like a lamp of two lights you illumine Christ's Church/ with a mystical radiance./ Thou didst bring forth fruit an hundredfold/ in thy martyr's contest, O Anysia;/ and thou didst shine in asceticism, O Melania./ You were found worthy of the incorruptible life of the Blessed. From menologion

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Darkest Midnight

Traditional Irish Carol (air: the Little Brown Mallet)
The darkest midnight in December, no snow nor hail nor winter storm
Shall hinder us for to remember, the babe that on this night was born
With shepherds we are come to see this lovely infant's glorious charms
Born of a maid as the prophets said the God of love in Mary's arms.

Have you not heard the sacred story, how man was made those seats to fill
Which the fallen angels lost in glory, through their presumption, pride, and will
They thought us mean for to obtain such glorious seats and crowns in heaven
So through a cheat they go Eve to eat the fruit to be avenged on man.

Ye blessed angels join our voices, let your gilded wings beat fluttering o'er
While every soul set free rejoices and every devil must adore
We'll sing and pray that God always may our friends and family defend
God grant us grace in all our days, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Fr William Devereux (1669-1771) (published 1728) Co. Wexford, Ireland

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Day has come; (the Wexford Carol)

Christmas Day has come; let’s prepare for mirth,
Which fills the heavens and earth at the amazing birth.
Through both the joyous angels in strife and hurry fly,
With glory and hosannas ‘All Holy’ do they cry,
In heaven the Church triumphant adores with all her choirs,
The militant on earth with humble faith admires.

But why should we rejoice? Should we not rather morn
To see the Hope of Nations thus in a stable born?
Where are His crown and scepter, where is His throne sublime,
Where is his train majestic that should the stars outshine?
Is there no sumptuous palace, nor any inn at all
To lodge his heavenly mother but in a filthy stall?

Oh! Cease, ye blessed angels, such clamorous joys to make!
Though midnight silence favors, the shepherds are awake;
And you, O glorious star! That with new splendor brings,
From the remotest parts three learned eastern kings,
Turn somewhere else your luster, your rays elsewhere display,
For Herod he may slay the babe, and Christ must straight away.

If we would then rejoice, let’s cancel the old score,
And purposing amendment, resolve to sin no more –
For mirth can ne’er content us, without a conscience clear;
And thus we’ll find true pleasure in all the usual cheer,
In dancing, sporting, reveling, with masquerade and drum,
So let our Christmas merry be, as Christmas doth become.

Bishop Luke Wadding OFM (1585/88-1657)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


I've just found, at the website of the Irish Bishops, an interview with Archbishop Michael Neary (Tuam) where he talks about his experience of Croagh Patrick, Ireland's Mount Sinai, a mountain in Co. Mayo. It brought me back to past pilgrimages to the mountain and to Lough Derg in Co. Donegal. If you meet anyone who says they're into Celtic spirituality and they haven't done these pilgrimages (at least three times each according to tradition) then they know nothing about real Celtic spirituality. They're not easy. Especially at Lough Derg one comes face to face with an entirely penitential spirit. It was here that St. Patrick is said to have spent forty days in prayer in a cave. At Croagh Patrick he is said to have spent a similar amount of time in prayer for the Irish people. An angel came to demand he vacate the mountain but our bold patriarch would not give in. Like Moses he haggled and got the promise that on the last day there would be enough Irish people saved to fill as far as the eye can see. One can see a long way from the top on a cloudless day. I hope it's clear on the Last Day. If you want to renew your following of Christ you could do worse than trying these paths.


There are a number of Irish Catholic periodicals that find their way to our house. The regular, weekly Irish Catholic is about as official as one can get being part-funded but not owned by the Irish Hierarchy. Also in the ring is the free monthly Alive! is run by an Irish Dominican, the self-described "Barely Managing Editor" Fr Brian McKevitt OP . The Irish Family is also doing the rounds but I can't find a website. Alive gets a lot of flak notably from politicians who ascribe to it a lot of influence in the defeat of the Lisbon Treaty. It's been mentioned in the Dail (our Parliament). Must be a prophetic voice then. Can't say I agree with everything in it but at least its an alternative. The Irish Catholic had become bland until the alternative papers came along and stirred things up. Then David Quinn took on the post and really made it into a worthwhile read. He now works with the Iona Institute. The paper is now edited by Gary O'Sullivan who was a student with me in the Irish Capuchin Province for a while. Gary is a bit more liberal than David (seems to favour women priests for instance) but at least the paper has kept its Catholic allegiance so far. Dominican Publications have Doctrine & Life, Religious Life Review and Spirituality and the Jesuits have the Sacred Heart Messenger probably one of the best and most popular of the devotional magazines in Ireland and Studies, a quarterly journal with a far more intellectual emphasis. There's also Intercom a magazine on liturgy (Novus Ordo)- they've no website.


An interesting debate has been occuring over at Monachos on our doctrine of Our Lady's Immaculate Conception. Tied into this debate is the difference between Catholic and Orthodox conceptions of the Fall and the existence and nature of Original Sin. All this implies that inviting the Orthodox to consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is at best asking them to opt for a position on what is for them a theolegoumena or at worst an invitation to heresy (for them). Not an easy hurdle to overcome but she who gave birth to the Saviour can through His Power overcome any obstacle.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


I've noticed some bloggers and Inside the Vatican calling for the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary (or reconsecration or renewal of the consecration depending on which camp you belong to). May I make a small suggestion: that Pope Benedict invite the new Russian Orthodox Patriarch to join him (and perhaps the other Orthodox Patriarchs?) in consecrating Russia perhaps to the Theotokos Amolyntos or some title of the Mother of God akin to that of the 'Immaculate Heart'. Russia already reveres Mary's 'Protecting Veil'. Surely some way can be found to mark the new Patriarchate and hopefully a new beginning for Russia and the world?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

DEATH OF A PATRIARCH: some thoughts.

I don't really know a lot about the Russian Orthodox Church though I've read some of her theologians, Ouspensky, Lossky and Bulgakov. I remember how I felt when John Paul II died (may the Lord have mercy on him). It really was like losing a father. I kept asking myself why I was so upset, why I was crying. I had never met him, never gone to see him when he came to Ireland. Yet he was the Pope when I rediscovered my faith or rather grace brought my faith alive. He led the Church all the years of my searching, my formation and committment as a Capuchin, ordination and early ministry. He was the earthly reminder of the Saviour's care, the Shepherd at the head of the flock. Losing him after watching his long battle was both a relief and a loss. His sufferings were over but I was left without a guide, a benchmark, a centre. I knew something of the sorrow of the monks that wept over St. Martin of Tours and the friars who begged St. Francis to stay. Who would look after us when the saint was gone? But God the ever-merciful and utterly compassionate sent us Benedict, man of peace. I laughed when he was elected, I just did not see it coming (no political savvy whatever).
I know people who were outraged. I was delighted. I had read and loved some of his books. More even that John Paul Benedict was a man whose heart and mind matched my own. So I empathize with my Orthodox brothers and sisters in their grief. Not all will miss Patriach Alexy. Some will hope for a change, a new generation untainted by accusations, hungry to forge a more independent Russian Church and pehaps forge new bonds with Constantinople and maybe even Rome. In the meantime is the grey time, the waiting and mourning, praying and hoping go on while all around there is noisy speculation. This time passes. Let us pray that the Synod which gathers to elect Alexy's successor will be led by the Spirit to choose a man truly filled with the Holy Spirit, a man who will shepherd Russia, build on the good Alexy did and led his Church to true and deeper holiness.


This is the Calvary erected by some benefactors in memory of Albert and Dominic two Capuchin priests who were sent to America to work in California and so avoid imprisonment by the British. They were too enthusiastic in their support of the Republican cause in Ireland (a Capuchin failing). They died in the States and their bodies returned for burial in the 50's. There's a memorial stone in Irish beside the Calvary.


This is where I live. Actually it's the Church, dedicated to the Immaculate Heart Of Blessed Mary Ever-Virgin, with part of the friary behind it. Beyond it is Howth an ancient Viking settlement. The building is quite grey on the outside but much better on the inside. As soon as I get a chance I'll photo the inside in daylight so you can see. It's very much a place for quiet prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Today of course was the feast of St. Francis Xavier early Jesuit, scholar and missionary. I love that piece from the Office of Readings where he says he would like to go around the Universities of Europe (especially Paris) and bash them with the words "What an immense number of souls are excluded from heaven through your fault and thrust down to hell!" His zeal and enthusiasm, along with his admiration and love for the deeply spiritual Indian peoples shine through his words. May the Lord give me that zeal too!

A man who operated under entirely different circumstances has his feast tomorrow. St. John of Damascus (or Damascene if you prefer) was an abbot, theologian and defender of icons during the first period of Iconoclasm (much of the eighth century) and who died in 749. Called Chrysorrhoas or Golden Speaker, He defended the use of icons and famously declared "I worship Him through matter who saved me through matter." The Muslim Caliph at one point had John's right hand cut off but after beseeching the Blessed Mother of God his hand was miraculously restored from which time the icons of the Theotokos Tricheiroussa or three-handed occur. Not only is this a day to remember and celebrate his efforts on behalf of the faith but also to pray for our brothers and sisters in the Islamic countries, and elsewhere, who suffer for their faith. One wonders if the decision of the Bishops of England and Wales to recommend the establishment of prayer rooms for Muslims in all Catholic schools (if that's what they said) is not a case of tolerance gone too far - to the point that it endangers the Catholic character of those schools. The more I read on Islam the less I believe it has anything in common with Judaeo-Christianity (see Islam: What the West needs to know.) Perhaps we have not had the zeal of St. Francis Xavier or of St. Francis of Assisi, who went into the camp of the Sultan and preached to him of Christ, and need to ask the Lord for it. With the gift of such zeal we could reach out to our Islamic brothers and sisters with the truth Jesus Christ is the only Saviour!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Welcome to my school

I figured I had better do something on my work. Although I live in Raheny, Dublin I work in Coolmine Community School, Blanchardstown (look them up on Google Earth). I have a small office (I am not tidy) and a larger Oratory (which name I insist on using despite attempts to use 'sacred space' etc.) It has two halves, the outer 'court of the gentiles' so to speak has our memorial books and banners, a copy of the Bible in Irish on a stand, a copper icon of an angel (Celtic style), a Morroccan couch (donated by the then fiance now wife of staff member Mr Philips), a Phillipino Dream-catcher (with a Creation of the Universe theme) and a batik African scene.
In the 'inner court' or chapel proper there's the original altar with the Tabernacle, candle stand and side table (all from our former oratory and friary in Blanchardstown Village), a chair from a former C of I church in Fermanagh (one of a pair a gift from former principal Sean O Bachain), and two stained glass windows made by Transition Year students (Christian and Muslim) under the guidance of Ms Freeman. There are also three 'icons' (printed) - one of St. Francis (Cimabue), one of the San Damiano Crucifix and the other of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and a statue of St Anthony of Padua. These latter I intend to replace with painted icons when I get them finished. The dreadful 'wagonwheel' candleabra was the designer's idea - I had no idea that was on the cards. Ugly! It's a nice prayerful space - if only I could get the kids to use it in that way.

Monday, December 1, 2008

What does one blog about?

What does one blog about? I am conscious that I should not put on the 'beal bocht' as we say here, the 'poor mouth' and merely rehearse my woes (I have too few anyway). I hope to add some photos of our school oratory soon. I might also add a video or too. My thoughts are on thsoe students that are struggling. One friar told me the biggest problem in a young person's life is usually an adult and it is so true.


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