Saturday, June 8, 2019


I have for a number of years begun my day with an act of thanksgiving to God for all that He has done for me beginning with creating me and then calling me to be a Catholic Christian, one who has the Faith and is in the Church established by Christ Himself.  He did this by giving me parents who shared that Faith with me.  I am sure you could all say the same.
It is so easy to take things for granted. We don’t really appreciate what our parents did for us until they are gone. I look back and wish I could thank them one more time, or ask their opinion or share some event, some memory, some idea. It is not until they were gone that I really begin to realise their contribution to my life, the sacrifices they made.
           It can be the same with our Faith. It is so easy to take it for granted. It’s contribution to our way of life is easily overlooked, assumed and neglected. It is not until something else has begun to take its place that we may realise what is at stake. In our society the influence of the Faith (and I am not identifying the Catholic Faith with the institution of the Church though there is considerable overlap obviously) the influence of the Faith is waning and being replaced by secularism. Although this is identified as a separation of Church and State (something that had its origins in Christianity by the way) it is something far more than that and far darker. It is a denial even of the Natural Law, the idea that there is an objective standard of right and wrong knowable to every rational person, and therefore a denial of the rational basis of society, of culture and national identity. Of course any intelligent person will quickly realise that such a path leads to subjectivism, indifferentism and anarchy. It is no surprise then that secularism tends towards totalitarianism. After all if there is no objective, rational standard of right and wrong then for the sake of social stability and peace a standard must be imposed, often the standard of the lowest common denominator.
Where did our parents get their Faith?  From their parents and their priests.  They in turn got it from the generations before going right back to Patrick and the first Christians to come to Ireland over fifteen hundred years ago.  They were not Irish.  They were foreigners but they adopted Ireland and gifted us with the Catholic Faith.  Where did they get it?  They got it from the generations before them who got it from Peter and the Apostles who got it from Christ Himself.
           Being Irish is nothing if it is without the supreme blessing of being Catholic.  Better that we cease to be Irish than we cease to be Catholic.  Better that we lose our culture, language, music, art and all that makes us Irish than we lose the Catholic Faith.  Patrick did not come here to tell us how wonderful we were but to enlighten us and save us with the Catholic Faith.  If we lose that Faith then everything we have cannot last.  In losing the Faith we lose everything. By holding onto and handing on the the Catholic Faith we can save all that is precious to us. Our Faith brings us into full communion with the Most Holy Trinity and in that union nothing is lost but it is sanctified and saved. In that communion we become who we were made to be.

It should be no secret why so many are increasingly interested in Eastern religions, paganism and the occult. After all when one lives more and more like a barbarian one is more attracted to barbarism. Consider some of the evidence that has come from the trial of those two boys for the murder of Ana Kriegel. An interest in evil leads to evil. We even have a government minister who has openly praised and even practiced witchcraft.  The bones of the founding leaders of our state must be spinning in their graves! 
Christ is clear: faith in Him and baptism into Him and His Church are necessary for salvation. There is no other way to heaven than through Jesus Christ and membership in His body, the Church.  There is no back door and there are no exceptions. We are commanded to proclaim the Gospel to every creature. To proclaim means more than using the spoken word. It must involve our behaviour. When we do good and oppose evil we proclaim the gospel to others; we make Him visible through the good we do.
Our Lord talks about signs: driving our demons, speaking in tongues, picking up deadly snakes, not being harmed by poison and laying hands on the sick who will recover. You might ask why we don’t see these signs today. 
We see these things in the saints in the miracles God does through them. The Church has always successfully opposed false religions. She has cast out demons. With the rise in interest in the occult there has been a rise in demand for exorcisms. Not only does the gift of tongues appear among her members but even the highest of the spiritual gifts: heroic self-sacrifice. If we do not see signs more widely I would suggest that it is because we do not listen and do not put the Gospel into practice. We do what we want and not what God wants. We listen to men and not to God. The Lord has not recommended that we pick up deadly snakes but that we oppose evil fearlessly. He asks that our Faith not be reduced to something practiced in private, like knitting, but that we openly and actively stand up for Him and for the truth.

We have not been abandoned by our Lord by His ascension. He is closer to us now than He was when He walked the earth. We can receive Him in the Blessed Sacrament and have Him within us.  Through the Sacraments we have one foot in Heaven and can live a double life: we can live in this world while drawing on the power of the next. While we are free from serious sin we have the Holy Spirit with us and therefore the Most Holy Trinity dwells within us. We are each of us walking tabernacles of His Presence, His ambassadors and Apostles sent to share Him with the rest of creation, but above all with those we meet and live with. We are His hands, His feet, His face. If we clearly and courageously proclaim Him nothing will be able to harm us. 

My Vocation Story: a Homily for Good Shepherd Sunday 2019

My parents were practicing Catholics all their lives. We always went to Mass, every Sunday. The Faith was important to them. Somehow in the years prior to leaving school I had lost hold of my faith and I felt lost.  It was through two school retreats with the Marist Fathers that I began to find the light of God returning to my life.  A booklet on Fatima given to me by a priest was the vehicle for God's grace in my life. I began to pray, read the bible, went to confession, (a real confession) and started attending daily Mass.  
Curiosity, the cause of so many of my downfalls and of so much shame, unexpectedly bore the fruit of grace and I went along one night to see a prayer group for myself.  I liked what I saw.  For a few weeks I went to a quiet, reflective, nourishing, a barely ‘charismatic’, little prayer group in my home parish.
In the Charismatic Renewal I found a community, a sense of belonging, filled with joy and freedom, especially in prayer and ministry, and sincere in their search for, and encounter with, the Lord.  The Lord.  Yes, it was the Lord that I found.  Or rather, He found me and He caused me to grow, slowly, gently, at my own pace. From there I joined a local youth prayer group.  
Over the next few years I was a part of bible studies, and various prayer groups.  Then the Lord asked me for something.  Through retreat work, street ministry, working with Camp Jesus, I came to realise that I would have to move on, grow up. One evening a guy had prayed with me and suggested I might have a vocation to the priesthood. Me? A priest? No way!  But the question lingered in my mind and over the next few years I began to enquire whether or not I was ‘called'.   I had an itch I had to scratch!  So I searched. 
I looked at various orders and even went to a vocations weekend with an order and decided not to apply (deep down I KNEW they weren't for me). Then a Capuchin, in confession, asked me "what about us?"  Typical of a Capuchin not to lose an opportunity!  I declined the offer.  At that time I had some contact with the ‘Caps’ and to tell you the truth I thought they were a nice bunch of lads but it just never crossed my mind to think of joining them.  I was walking home one day with a friend and started moaning about the future. He suggested the Caps.  I made lots of excuses until he said that I should stop ‘talking about it and do something.’  The suggestion stuck in my mind.  I had to give it a try and so I went along to two vocations days. These brothers had something of the same spirit I had found in Renewal. The vocation director interviewed me and shrewdly gave me six weeks to apply. I figured I had nothing to lose. I applied and I was accepted. I told my parents a few weeks before I left home.
It was tough leaving home for the first year in Carlow and I shed a few tears that winter when it came to seeing the folks off on the train to Dublin but I got over it. I was one of six guys living with the friars that year in Carlow and we studied theology at the seminary as well as classes in the friary. I got a little anxious during the summer holidays about whether I should apply for novitiate in Kilkenny but I figured that I hadn't seen enough to be sure and re-applied.  They accepted me.  Novitiate was very different.  You wear the habit, work in the friary, and take classes in prayer, Franciscan History and Spirituality among other things. One year later, on the 9th of September 1990, I vowed to live for three years in obedience, without property, and in chastity according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Rule of St Francis. Here in the Capuchins, in the spirit of St Francis of Assisi, I had found the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I then moved to Dublin. My first year was a ‘Franciscan year’ just living our life in community, praying and working. There followed three years of philosophy, and then a year on a ‘pastoral leadership’ course preparing for final vows. I made my final vows in 1995 and then spent a further three years studying theology.  I was ordained a deacon in 1998. I spent my diaconate year in a parish in Cork before being ordained a priest on September 11th, 1999.  After ordination I spent two years in a parish in Dublin before being transferred to work in a Secondary School where I spent twelve quite happy years. I came away with a great respect for teachers. Like the nurses they do not get the credit they deserve.
After that I was moved to Cork to work as a chaplain to the University. That was a mixed experience. I really enjoyed working with young Catholics who wanted to know and live their Faith but let’s just say I did not take to University life. I only spent a year and a half there before a bad car accident changed all my plans. There was a silver lining in that I got time to do a Masters in Scripture. 
The priesthood, especially within religious life, is varied.  A priest should have a prayer life but he does not spend his whole day in prayer even among monks.  He is there to a spiritual father to others, to lead, guide, teach and defend the people of God. He is supposed to be there in good times and bad, especially when he’s needed.  Most of a priest’s work is unseen.  He is not a social worker.  He is not a counsellor.  He is an ambassador for Christ.

No vocation is easy. There are ups and downs for everyone. The reason there is a shortage of vocations is not that the Spirit stopped calling. It’s because people stopped listening. Not just those called to the priesthood or religious life but all the people of God. Here and across the civilised world people have decided to have fewer children with huge consequences for the world but also for the Church. The answer to the vocations crisis lies with young Catholics, not just those called to priesthood or religious life, but even more so with those called to marriage.  We need large and committed Catholic families. We need committed Catholics who know and believe the Faith and put it into practice.


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