Sunday, February 19, 2017

A President Acknowledges

I worked and lived as a Presentation Brother, in West Africa. I realise what a boost a recent address by our President Michael D. Higgins was to missionaries working with the poor and disadvantaged.

He acknowledged the work of Irish Missionaries during his recent visit to Peru, Colombia and Cuba. He praised and affirmed the endeavours of missionaries working in challenging situations. He told them, they present ‘values of Ireland at their very best’, through the ‘joy, practical help and hope’ that they bring to disadvantaged communities in Latin America.

The President expressed his delight that he was ‘very privileged’ and ‘so pleased’ that they were able to gather to meet him at short notice. ‘It so very important for you to know that as President of Ireland, it makes my heart lift to know there are people who are working to create hope where it doesn’t exist and where hope does, that spark is there, to make sure it is a bright flame that keeps people going.’ he commented.

‘You bring so much joy but practical help, and you bring hope, and you indicate what I think are the values of Ireland at their very best.’

President Higgins said he is ‘moved’ whenever he hears Pope Francis speaking out against ‘those models that are failing not just the poor but failing humanity’ and ‘to think that you are on the ground doing all these things and putting them into practice’.

Let’s continue to remember our Priests, Brothers, Sisters and Lay Missionaries everywhere at this time.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Happy St. Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 14th, is of course St Valentine's Day, a day when we talk about love more than usual. A lot of the discussion you hear today will be light-hearted and fun.

But who was St Valentine? There are some conflicting accounts but we know he existed and his remains have been identified in the catacombs of Rome. This feast day has been celebrated for 15 centuries!

Three things you need to know:
1. He was a Catholic priest
2. He was arrested for tending to the needs of the persecuted Christians of Rome. 
3. He was executed for refusing to renounce the Catholic faith during the persecution of Roman Emperor Claudius.

For men and women discerning a vocation, then there is an obvious resonance here.

For a start St Valentine answered the call to serve by embracing a religious vocation. Secondly, he served those in need and risked his own life to do so. Finally, he refused to deny his faith and has since been remembered as an icon of love. 

It's ironic that at a time when celibacy and chaste love are dismissed, the day on which the world celebrates love is in fact a day in honour of a priest who died for his faith!

(Take time to read this beautiful reflection below)

Fall in Love
Attributed to Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ (1907–1991)

Nothing is more practical than
finding God, than
falling in Love
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.

Monday, February 6, 2017

A Culture of Encounter

On Saturday, together with other members of our Vocations Strategy Team, I spent a very informative day in the company of Michael Kelly, editor of the Irish Catholic.  He introduced us to the many ways we can embrace the culture of encounter in today’s world.

He referred to Pope Francis and how he uses social media to spread the Joy of the Gospel.  Pope Francis received Mark Zuckerberg, Chairman and CEO of Facebook, at the Vatican.  They spoke on how best to use communications technology to alleviate poverty, encourage a culture of encounter and a message of hope, especially to the most disadvantaged in our world.

He highlighted the significance of the global media and how it is influencing our lives today.  Among some of the most influential social media outlets are Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter.  He also gave us important tips for interviews with the media and how to write a press release.  There was also an opportunity to walk the talk and do some real interviews.

There are so many learnings that I take from the day.  Almost 80% of the stories in our newspapers are generated by media releases.  Beyonce "broke the internet" through Instagram with her record number of tweets - just because she is expecting twins.  Another popular person of Twitter is Katy Perry with in excess of 95 million followers.  Hot on her heels is Justin Bieber with over 91 million followers.  The Barcelona footballer, Ronaldo, has over 50 million followers, while Pope Francis claims 35 million followers.

Today, we are asked to follow so many people, but Jesus is the one who asks us to follow him so that we might build a true culture of encounter in our lives.