De La Mennais Brothers: Weaving A Tapestry Of Relationships Like Jesus

De La Mennais Brothers: Weaving A Tapestry Of Relationships Like Jesus

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

An Easter prayer

I' m on retreat at the moment in a Benedictine monastery in Brittany (Landevennec). Whilst reading my personal journal that I have kept for many years I came across something I'd written about 10yrs. ago but which still felt relevant to me today. I've tweaked it slightly. Here it is...

My crutch

Clouds rolling in, they say it's going to rain.
The air weighs heavy on my chest.
Anxiety and fear grip me as before.
What am I going to do?

If only I would let you in, if I would only trust in you
then surely your peace would find me.
But I'm afraid of letting go, as if I'm clinging to the pain like to a crutch,
when all you want is to set me free.

Heal me, set me free, O Lord, that I may let go and fall into your arms.
And give me the courage I need, so that when the clouds roll,
the thunder roars and rains fall,
I may lift my arms in praise,
turn my smiling face to you and sing "ALLELUIA!!"

Saturday, April 12, 2014

"Transcendence" and the transhumanist quest

There is a fascinating (and quietly frightening) article on the Daily Telegraph website at the moment that looks at the quest to

"greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities. That means everything from bionic limbs to uploading our entire brains on to memory sticks and carrying them around with us as back-up."

Upon reading the article I was immediately struck by the similarities with the plot of the new Wally Pfister/Johnny Depp movie, "Transcendence". The trailer mentions the idea of what transhumanists call a "singularity", that moment when technology driven by AI (Artificial Intelligence) will start to replicate itself and develop its own evolutionary process taking it beyond the horizon of maximum human intelligence; a moment beyond which the future of humanity becomes totally unpredictable.

This concept is simultaneously fascinating and terrifying, as can be seen in the success of AI-driven sci-fi film, tv and literature (Blade Runner, Terminator, The Matrix and Battlestar Galactica, to name but a few).

Is this simply an unavoidable consequence of the rapid technological progress we are living through? What is the primary motivation of companies like Google who are ploughing millions into cutting-edge tech research in this area? Is it ultimately the age old quest to achieve "eternal life" here on earth, immortality in a silicon chip?

Personally, I am surprised that such progress seems to be advancing without much of a public debate on whether this is a "good thing". It would seem, however, that our thirst for dystopian future tech sci-fi, together with a similar thirst for viral apocalypse zombie-driven sci-fi (at least in the younger generations) is a manifestation of our collective subconscious fear of annihilation previously focused on the Cold War Communist threat and the fear of alien invasion. The contemporary situation differs from the past in that the "enemy" is within in the form of either our own intellectual hubris at being able to match God and create self-evolving AI, or our physical vulnerability and openness to viral infection.

In each case the sci-fi scenarios often imagine an enforced hard reset for humanity, a return to a no technology existence where the few survivors have an opportunity to (re)discover how to begin society again and in the process discover what makes us truly human. The tension that lies therein, especially in series such as "The Walking Dead" is that these survivors have to behave at times like wild animals simply to continue surviving, and therefore risk losing touch altogether with the spark of humanity inside them.

As I am writing this I realise that we have of course been here before nearly 3,000 yrs. ago! Noah and his ark.... What else is this but a variation on the currently popular "end-of-the-world let's-start-again" scenarios? The success of Aronofsky's "Noah" movie seems to be tapping into this continued fascination with such an idea, the film succeeding in rendering an ancient creation story (that finds it's roots in the Babylonian Gilgamesh epic which predates the Old Testament) in such a way as to make it of relevance to today.

If only we could trust that AI would not develop past the humanity-serving model portrayed in the lovely "Robot and Frank" - with the great Frank Langella. But how can we be sure?

We can't.... and that's what I find worrying.

But at least films like "Transcendance" have the benefit of bringing the subject into the domain of public debate.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

From Bump to Buzz

This is totally charming... Tom Fletcher (McFly) singing to his pregnant wife. 9 months of daily photos, then a little miracle.

Monday, March 24, 2014

A prayer by Thomas Merton

Just read this on the back of a bookmark that I was given sometime back. It eloquently expresses something that I was trying to say during a discussion on Sat. at the Living Joyfully vocations event in Liverpool as regards to calling, discernment and trust in God:

"My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that
I think I am following Your will does not mean that I am
actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please You
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that, if I do this, You will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust You always though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for You are ever with me, 

and You will never leave me to face my perils alone."

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Rend Collective and The Art of Celebration

One of my favourite Christian bands (Belfast’s Rend Collective) released their new album, The Art Of Celebration, on Monday and it got straight into the iTunes Top 10 album. I had pre-ordered the cd so it came on the Monday itself. On first listen I fell madly in love with one track in particular, to the point where I sang it with 2 other musicians during communion at a vocations event Mass on Sat. (5 days after release) = "Living Joyfully", at St. Anne’s Parish, Liverpool (see here). I think I will also be singing it in school at our forthcoming Reconciliation services.

Here's the lyric video for the track: Strength Of My Heart

This song got me through a couple of very tough days due to a tragic past event being shared with me by someone, the reverberations of which are going to be felt for sometime to come, I fear. I've really made this song my own since then and sung the words with total conviction during the Mass on Sat. Judging by the reactions afterwards I think the song touched other people too. 

Here's a member of the band quite wonderfully explaining the concept behind the new album as a whole. It's one of the most inspiring things that I've seen or heard in a very long while.

"Seriousness is not a fruit of the Spirit, but joy is... God is the ultimate artist of celebration, the inventor of the party, the healer of the broken... How do we remind ourselves as a wounded Church family that we still have a reason to sing?... We have to open our hearts to wonder and beauty... to always find a reason to rejoice, even if we are in the darkest circumstances... We come with a Gospel worth celebrating before a celebrating King... The joy of the Lord is our strength, and after all, heaven's going to be the greatest party of all time and we need to start practicing NOW!... You are forgiven and you are free and you are worth more to God than you could ever imagine. So... with a childlike heart and wide-eyed wonder, let's rediscover the art of celebration."

Friday, March 21, 2014

Is God perhaps calling you to a particular vocation within the Church?

Is God perhaps calling you to a particular vocation within the Church?

If you would like to meet other young adults asking themselves the same question and have the opportunity to spend some time with a few priests and members of different congregations, female and male in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere, come along tomorrow to

St. Anne's Church, Overbury Street, Liverpool from 1pm to 7pm (finishing with Sat. evening Mass at 5.30pm)

For more details click here.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Preparing for Easter, preparing for the rest of my life

A couple of weeks ago I discovered a YouTube video which puts together black & white cartoon-style drawings of Jesus going into the desert for 40 days to prepare for his mission by British artist Si Smith, and the song "How He Loves" by John Mark McMillan in an excellent cover version by Eddie Kirkland (it's been covered by numerous artists in the last few years, most notably by David Crowder Band).

I've played it to all my RE classes who have responded positively, some asking to see it again in subsequent lessons. The combination of visuals and music in particular during the last minute of the video is especially powerful. You get a real sense of Jesus in his weakened physical state being more susceptible to experience (but not giving in to) temptation, expressed rather interestingly through the Devil as a mirror image form of Jesus himself, but in red. There's also some nice foreshadowing of events in the Garden of Gethsemane and the Passion story itself.

We all need time and space to think, to pray, to take stock of past events, to discern God's will for us, but also to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to face the questions and temptations that can gnaw away inside of us and through prayer and the awareness of God's unwavering love for us find the strength to respond to them.

I am fortunate as a Brother to be able to go on retreat at least once a year. This year I will be going to a monastery in France for Holy Week, not just as a preparation for the celebration of Easter itself, but as a way of building up my "spiritual fitness" and enabling me to better face the challenges that my life entails, following the calling that God has offered me as a De La Mennais Brother.

During this Lent, try and make some time for yourself and your relationship with God. Let him love you, let him help you and let him guide you.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Sigur Rós - Dauðalogn

This track from Islandic band Sigur Ros is just so achingly beautiful and peaceful. The visuals, filmed as part of a full dvd version of the album Valtari complement the music wonderfully.

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Religious life timeline

Here's an interesting timeline about the history of religious life. It can be downloaded from the site as a .pdf.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Living Joyfully! - Vocations Network North West UK

As a member of a group of religious Sisters, Brothers and religious Priests here in the north of England who are keen to foster a deeper culture of vocation within the Church, especially among young people, I've put up a Facebook Page (Vocations Network North West UK) for us to share with others all the initiatives that are going on in our part of the country such as "come and see" days, vocations events, Samuel discernment groups, etc...

We have a major event coming up in Liverpool on March 22nd:

Although it doesn't say on the poster (oops!) we are aiming this day at 16-30 yr. olds, approximately. There are lots of religious Sisters, Brothers and Priests in our area who are keen to share with others  their passion for Christ, for his message and for their ministry and community life. They are indeed Living Joyfully the calling they have received from God in the manner described by Pope Francis in his encyclical "Evangelii Gaudium". 

Hopefully those who come to our event (and other such events in our area) will get a sense of that joy and will also come to a better understanding of the different forms of consecrated and ordained ministry within the Church.