2021 December

Advent

Open the door and there they are, each with a gift of itself

Darkness, Stillness, Silence
Adventby Mark Roper from A Gather of ShadowDedalus Press
Darkness, stillness and silence are the nurturing womb that signal birth and
the canvas onto which God paints salvation. All the words, greetings and
carols of Christmas, issue from their cradle of silence and every star that
blazes hope and redemption, blazes out from the darkness. In the darkness
and silence, we wait and as we do, we make room within usand as we
know, what was true of the Inn, is still true for usif there is no room, then
he will be born elsewhere. Yet, when in humility we make room, ‘…the dear
Christ enters in’.

The condition for his reception is room. There must be room in our inn and
the rival that fills up space is no other than ourselves. All that matters is to
make space for God by embracing his will. Where personal desires and self
will least abound there dwells the Lord most fully.Ruth Burrows

2021 November

A Prayer of Saint Brendan 

Help me to journey beyond the familiar and into the unknown. 

Give me the faith to leave old ways and break fresh ground with You. 

Christ of the mysteries, I trust You to be stronger than each storm within me. 

I will trust in the darkness and know that my times, even now, are in Your hand. 

Tune my spirit to the music of heaven and somehow, 

make my obedience count for You 

Slow Bike Races and the Kingdom of God 

Many of you will remember fondly, balmy summer days when we went to the Field Day at Stradbally. One of the games played there was the ‘Slow Bicycle Race’. The rules were that you had to keep moving and not put your feet down, yet go as slowly as you could. First across the line was last and the last came first. It was a near perfect example of Jesus’ teaching that many who are first will come last and those who are last will come first. 

The Gospels can be seen as people jostling to get ahead and be first in the queue only to find that Jesus was working at the other end of the line, with the lost, the last, the excluded, the unheard and the forgotten. Perhaps, like the bicycle, we need to go slower; see and respond. I am reminded of an excellent article written by Lydia Monds of Bishops Appeal, some of which follows: 

Compassion as Slowing Down 

“Research was carried out on a group of Divinity Students who were given the story of the Good Samaritan as the theme for a sermon and then told that they were delivering said sermon in ten minutes on another side of campus. As they rushed to make their deadline they came across a person, clearly in pain and in need of help. Every one of them stepped past the person pleading for help in order not to be late. Time and again our reasons for looking the other way, for cultivating indifference or for choosing not to see others, are our busy schedules; the importance of our rushing and the things we pile into our direct vision that then excuse our ignoring what is in our peripheral vision. 

Often one of our reasons for not responding to others needs is because we choose not to see them. When this practice becomes habit, our not noticing becomes learnt behaviour, that we actively need to address in order to unlearn it. Therefore it can also be said that compassion is not so much an 

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emotion we possess but a discipline that we craft. 

With our blinkers on, all we can see is a blur in our periphery, a potential inconvenience that, once we speed up, will soon be behind us and no longer pose a challenge to how we are living. I would even argue that the speed by which we live our lives is sometimes a shield that we hide behind, protecting us from the vulnerability of really engaging with others. 

Returning to the story of the Good Samaritan, the Priest, the Levite and the Teacher of the Law were all rushing and the importance of their rush justified their skirting of the man beaten and left for dead at the side of the road. Another reading of the story sees Jesus as the suffering and bruised man on the side of the road and the person who helped him as the one who responded to the true call of God to serve, to love and live out the radical message of self-sacrifice for others in everyday life. All the Good Samaritan did was value the life in front of him, step out of his self-made rhythm and step into another more responsive mode of being. He slowed down and so deviated from his plan in order to participate in an infinitely bigger, more compassionate plan.” 

2021 October

Creation Time—Solidarity with the Earth 

Climate Sunday 

“The mix of ignorance, denial and unawareness is at the very heart of the problem. As it is now, we can have as many meetings and climate conferences as we want. They will not lead to sufficient changes, because the willingness to act and the level of awareness needed are still nowhere in sight. The only way forward is for society to start treating the crisis like a crisis. We still have the future in our own hands. But time is rapidly slipping through our fingers. We can still avoid the worst consequences. But to do that, we have to face the climate emergency and change our ways. And that is the uncomfortable truth we cannot escape.” Greta Thunberg 

“(The) IPCC Working Group 1 Report is a ‘Code Red’ for humanity… 

This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet,” António Guterres, UN Secretary General 

“…the choices we make today will reverberate for millennia to come”. 

Prof Peter Thorne, Maynooth University 

Marking Climate Sunday around our Union 

Sunday 5th September, in the Cathedral, we joined in a Liturgy for the Climate Crisis at 11.30 a.m. Later that afternoon we engaged with the gathering Service online from Glasgow Cathedral. The service can be viewed back at the website 

https://www.climatesunday.org/nationsclimatesundayservice 

and can also be viewed directly on YouTube https://youtu.be/mAMGVkVRJmc 6-page online Order of Service 

In addition, the introductory half-hour prelude of prayer, music and inspirational videos is available at https://youtu.be/O2P1yt0xc6E 

Climate Sunday was marked on Sunday 26th September in St James’ Stradbally with the help of the school children. Climate Sunday at the Cathedral will be on Sunday 10th October at 11.30 a.m. We are asked to make a commitment as a local church community to taking long term action to reduce our own greenhouse gas emissions and find ways to be environmentally aware and active. 


Mark 10.44-11.2

44…and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’

46 They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ 48Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ 49Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you.’ 50So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51Then Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘My teacher,* let me see again.’ 52Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

Here is a Gospel reversal. The blind man is in last place, way beyond the crowd and being quieted by them. Jesus stops the momentum and calls him forward into first place, and in their encounter he heals him.

The crowd is all inward looking, surrounding Jesus, and not inclined to be disturbed. Jesus puts a stop to that, and forces the crowd to turn to the blind man, call him, and welcome him in. They make space for him, where before there was none. This is what Jesus still does in a Christian’s life, and in the church when we become too inward looking; when we make church a way of not hearing what lies beyond. He enables us to make space for those on the margins and to be messengers of hope and wholeness.

Friday 24th September was National Make Way Day, to raise awareness of the experience of wheelchair users and sight impaired people. A full wheelie bin on the pavement, or a car parked on the curb, could make a wheelchair user dismount the curb and pass on the road. A sight-impaired lady spoke of overhanging branches as something her dog and cane could not detect, and had caused her much pain and scars before. Hearing their experiences struck me that I would not have thought of those things. And yet loving our neighbor is just that; trying to feel what another experiences and to act accordingly. The crowd above had stopped feeling what it must be like to be blind, excluded and on the margins.

In this Harvest season, can we love the planet as our neighbor? Can we move from inward looking existence to feel the pain of the earth, and the suffering of the vulnerable exposed to the extreme effects of climate change? Can we relate to the earth and it’s ecosystem as our mother, brother and sister, as Saint Francis did?

Our brothers and sisters around this planet are already suffering Climate Change effects. Rain in South Sudan has decreased nearly 20% over the last 40/50 years while temperatures have risen 1 degree c. This is activated drought and crop failure. What does it mean to love our neighbor in South Sudan as ourselves?

We need to stop treating Green Issues as the current trending topic, and see it as at the core of our faith and identity. Saint James, who we have been reading for the last month or so, is adamant that our words and actions be aligned. We cannot profess faith in the Creator and then asset-strip his creation. We cannot sing Harvest hymns of praise and dismantle the ecosystem and its resilience.

But what can we do? The question itself suggests a certain weariness.

In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man does nothing wrong to Lazarus, he just does nothing. He only sees Lazarus as we see wallpaper. Every day he passed him at his gates and never managed to open up a space to feel what Lazarus endured. However the parable is powerful in seeing how toxic this negligence was. We cannot just go in and go out, with thoughtless fuel consumption, emissions, waste and excessive plastic use, while the planet suffers all around us. We need to overcome cynicism, self-interest and compassion fatigue. We need to be activists, campaigning for our governments to adhere to their promises at the Paris Agreement, and advocating for far reaching measures at the COP 26 meeting in Glasgow next month. We need to get our own houses in order. We can audit our churches to see where we can improve the best green practices, and we can as individuals make informed choices and priorities.

I was moved by a Buddhist prayer from New Mexico, and wondered if we could find such courage and conviction to make such a vow, and establish such a practice.

I vow to myself and to each of you:
To commit myself daily to the healing of our world and the welfare of all beings.
To live on Earth more lightly and less violently in the food, products, and energy I consume.
To draw strength and guidance from the living Earth, the ancestors, the future generations,
and my brothers and sisters of all species.
To support others in our work for the world and to ask for help when I need it.
To pursue a daily practice that clarifies my mind, strengthens my heart, and supports me in
observing these vows.

2021 September

Code Red” for Humanity 

From The Irish Times: A report providing irrefutable evidence that global warming is caused by human activity and showing that its effects are likely to worsen, has led to widespread calls for more ambitious targets to be adopted by global leaders. 

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, compiled by more than 230 climate scientists, warns that major climate disruption is inevitable and in many instances, irreversible. It says rising sea levels, driven by carbon emissions, are likely to persist for many hundreds of years and the climate crisis “is unequivocally caused by human activities”, most notably fossil fuel usage. The report says that, if emissions do not fall in the next 20 years, a 3-degree centigrade rise looks likely, shattering any hope of containing temperature increase to 1.5 degrees centigrade—a key ‘Paris Agreement’ target. This would have widespread catastrophic effects, especially in the form of more frequent extreme weather events. If emissions do not fall at all, the report says the world will be on track for a 4 to 5-degree centigrade increase this century, which scientists have previously warned would make for an unliveable planet. 

UN secretary general António Guterres led calls for global ambition in cutting emissions to be scaled up to enhance the likelihood of a meaningful outcome at November’s international COP26 (Conference of the Parties)summit in Glasgow. “Today’s IPCC Working Group 1 Report is a ‘Code Red’ for humanity… This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet,” he said. 

Ireland’s most senior scientist with the IPCC, Prof Peter Thorne of Maynooth University, said the findings demonstrated that “the choices we make today will reverberate for millennia to come”. 

© ST. CARTHAGES CATHEDRAL 2020 | Built at Red Heaven Design
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