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

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

Monday, October 13, 2014

If Christ is with me, whom shall I fear?

While reading the following text a couple of weeks ago from the Office of Readings I could not help but think of the situation being endured by today's Christian martyrs in the Middle East and parts of Africa such as Nigeria. Pope Francis has himself said that we are in the midst of World War Three and he would seem to be correct, with Christians now  prime targets - powerless victims of rampant evil. 

A sermon by St John Chrysostom

For me, life means Christ, and death is gain.

The waters have risen and severe storms are upon us, but we do not fear drowning, for we stand firmly upon a rock. Let the sea rage, it cannot break the rock. Let the waves rise, they cannot sink the boat of Jesus. What are we to fear? Death? Life to me means Christ, and death is gain. Exile? ‘The earth and its fullness belong to the Lord. The confiscation of goods? We brought nothing into this world, and we shall surely take nothing from it. I have only contempt for the world’s threats, I find its blessings laughable. I have no fear of poverty, no desire for wealth. I am not afraid of death nor do I long to live, except for your good. I concentrate therefore on the present situation, and I urge you, my friends, to have confidence.
    Do you not hear the Lord saying: Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst? Will he be absent, then, when so many people united in love are gathered together? I have his promise; I am surely not going to rely on my own strength! I have what he has written; that is my staff, my security, my peaceful harbour. Let the world be in upheaval. I hold to his promise and read his message; that is my protecting wall and garrison. What message? Know that I am with you always, until the end of the world!
    If Christ is with me, whom shall I fear? Though the waves and the sea and the anger of princes are roused against me, they are less to me than a spider’s web. Indeed, unless you, my brothers, had detained me, I would have left this very day. For I always say “Lord, your will be done”; not what this fellow or that would have me do, but what you want me to do. That is my strong tower, my immovable rock, my staff that never gives way. If God wants something, let it be done! If he wants me to stay here, I am grateful. But wherever he wants me to be, I am no less grateful.
    Yet where I am, there you are too, and where you are, I am. For we are a single body, and the body cannot be separated from the head nor the head from the body. Distance separates us, but love unites us, and death itself cannot divide us. For though my body die, my soul will live and be mindful of my people.
    You are my fellow citizens, my fathers, my brothers, my sons, my limbs, my body. You are my light, sweeter to me than the visible light. For what can the rays of the sun bestow on me that is comparable to your love? The sun’s light is useful in my earthly life, but your love is fashioning a crown for me in the life to come.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Living Joyfully our lives as religious Brothers

On Saturday I spent the day in London at Heythrop College with my good friend Bro. Ben Foy (De La Salle) discussing the celebration of the Year of Consecrated Life, religious life as Brothers/brothers to all, vocation ministry, safeguarding ministry, our shared spiritual heritage, etc... 

We've been coming together for such sharing and discussion for about 15 yrs. now, in the past together with Bro. Michael Newman (St. John of God) who is now working in Africa. I always find our time together stimulating, encouraging and empowering. It gives me renewed confidence that it is worth persevering in my life as a consecrated Brother, that we Brothers STILL have an important role to play in the life of the Church, especially in our ministry with young people.


These encounters give me hope and give me the courage to keep fighting the good fight.




Bro. Ben Foy in front of Heythrop College, London.



Thursday, September 25, 2014

Young adults in the Church - embracing their faith and standing up to be counted

I am not alone in thinking that there is currently a generation of mature, confident, spiritually strong young adults aged roughly 18 to 30 that seems ready to follow God's call and commit to particular services in the Church (whether in lay ministry or religious life or priesthood) on a level not seen for a long time. Those of us who sense this feel that there is something quite exciting rising up in the Church, signs of new growth giving hope for the future.

Since signing up on behalf of our Brothers as a participating congregation on the American VISION Vocation Match service, managed by the American National Office for Vocations, I have received a regular flow of questionnaires sent by people throughout the US, as well as from further afield, including some from near us here in the north of England. On top of this I seem to also be receiving more frequent requests for information about our congregation from people who stumble across this blog or my website (that links to this blog but which I have now neglected updating for some time).

About 9 months ago a group of female and male religious congregation representatives in the north-west of England came together to discuss how we might collaborate more closely in terms of vocation ministry. These discussions bore fruit in an informal "come + see" type day for young adults, religious and priests to come together for discussion, sharing, workshops, Mass, etc... This "Living Joyfully" day was hosted by St. Anne's Parish, Toxteth in the centre of Liverpool and will hopefully soon be touring around the archdiocese as a kind of vocations roadshow. Similar initiatives are appearing up and down the country as religious and priests are taking to heart the words of Pope Francis and are seeking to share with others the joy that they experience through serving God and his people.



Another fruit of the aforementioned discussions was the launch of a "Vocations Network North-West"  page on Facebook as a means of sharing information about vocations-related events and resources for reflexion. The network's core group and a larger group of interested religious and priests now meet in Liverpool on a regular basis. Our next meetings in a couple of weeks will see us formalising plans for various initiatives relating to the forthcoming Year of Consecrated Life.



Inspired by the leadership and encouragement of the National Office for Vocations in London, led by Fr. Christopher Jamison and Sr. Cathy Jones, religious from different congregations are coming together to lead discernment groups for young adults on Cardinal Martini's "Samuel" groups model.

The below photo and article from the Catholic press relates to a day for young adult Catholics at the Metropolitan Catholic Cathedral in Liverpool on Nov. 1st, Embrace, organised by a 21 year-old student, John Griffin. He hopes to gather together 3,000 young people. I am part of the music ministry team for the event.






All this to say that there is reason for hope, not only for current congregations and the secular priesthood, but also that new founders will rise up from this generation to revive the Church. The  leader of the largest charismatic prayer group here in Liverpool, Myles Dempsey of the Prince of Peace Community, is currently setting up a small group of mentors to support young future "leaders" such as this young man and has also set aside Friday evenings for a new prayer group especially for the young adults working with John to prepare for Embrace. It will have a strong Praise & Worship element.

May God bless this generation. May they rise up and inspire the Church, leading us into the future with hope and joy in their hearts.



Sunday, September 07, 2014

"I'm letting go"

DVO App

There's a lot of wisdom in this post from the good people over at PktFuel, creators of the DVO app.




September 2
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Phil 3:13 (NIV)

John Mayer writes, "When you're dreaming with a broken heart, the giving up is the hardest part…" I love this mans music and insight into human emotion. And he's right… sometimes forgetting what is behind is a great challenge. The what ifs, if onlys, should haves, could haves can eat your heart and the joy right out of you.

At this stage of my life, I've built up a fairly big 'what if' pile. I've been thinking a LOT about the past this week - recent and distant - and the decisions I've made that have placed me directly here in this moment - things that I've had no control over, and the moments that were completely me. These thoughts started chewing me up.

Then I heard the voice of God in a still moment whisper to my heart "let it go…" He wasn't singing the song from 'Frozen' by the way… ha! He was gently encouraging me to leave the past where it is and move on.

Some of my letting go was hard. Is hard. Things I wished were different, chances I wish I took, people who live in my past and not in my present, memories that I consume for good or bad reasons… I had to say goodbye. Of course, all of those things have made me who I am today and have brought me to this place, so I can't completely disregard them, but I can diminish the power of the past over my present and future.

So I've been burying some hurts, removing some memories and ideas that were growing like cancers on my heart, and allowing Jesus to fill me with the joy of this moment and the hope of tomorrow.

Stop looking backwards with regret… Don't dream with a broken heart… Be thankful and press on to hope, lean into Gods strength, squeeze every drop out of today and then do the same tomorrow - dream with purpose and wonder. Don't dwell in yesterday, live fully in the now and reignite your hope for tomorrow.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

"If the Catholic blogosphere is to survive then our bloggers must become more Catholic" - a comment

Find below a comment that I have just written as part of a debate on the Catholic Herald website in response to an article published yesterday on the site entitled 

"If the Catholic blogosphere is to survive then our bloggers must become more Catholic" by journalist Mary O'Regan

Go here for the original article and full comment discussion:
***************************
It's all well and good declaring oneself to be a defender of orthodox Catholicism, but if that "defence" involves verbally abusing others (including other Catholics) who happen to not agree with everything you say (as some of the more extreme commenters seem to take delight in doing) then as far as I can see you are denying the core teaching of orthodox Catholicism, its foundational commandment which you would not need me to remind you. For the sake of clarity I will spell it out...
Love God and love your neighbour as you love yourself.
Pope Francis has chosen a particular way of responding to God's call to follow Christ, his Son, by striving to become more like him in our daily relationships with those we meet, of being, as Francis puts it, "missionary disciples".
It seems to me that in this sense he is far closer to the core of Catholic "orthodoxy" than most of us, myself included.
There is, however, a debate to be had about the issues that are raised by the focus of his papacy on Christianity in action and away from the reinforcing of dogma. As the more enlightened commentators recognise, however, he does not deny the pillars of our Catholic faith. Rather, he strives to put them into a context of daily living where they serve not as an end in themselves, but rather as a means to an end. Is this not what Jesus did through his actions and teaching in parables?
Teaching in parables, modern parables (using modern media, i.e. film/tv/video, music, art literature, story, poetry...) would this not be an excellent use of the time and effort of Catholics in the blogosphere instead of the sniping, criticism and negativity that nowadays seems to dominate?? Where are the Catholics producing media of the quality of the following video, a testimony by Gareth Gilkeson, the drummer of N. Ireland Chrisitian worship band, Rend Collective, currently enjoying worldwide success for the songs, albums and live ministry?

The obvious joy that he exudes through his deep personal encounter with Christ and the passion that he has for wanting to share that joy with others is for me an inspiration. Would that we were all like him, striving to bring others closer to Christ and helping them to know and understand God's love for each one of us
There are a few Catholics that have broken through in the modern worship scene: Matt Maher and Audrey Assad to name but a couple (check out Audrey's beautiful, prayerful concept album "Fortunate Fall"), but in this area Catholics are very much in the minority compared to our Evangelical Protestant cousins.
On a related point...
I'm a firm believer in the power of the Holy Spirit working within each of us and through us working in the Church (funny how it rarely gets a look in on most Catholic debate forums). Can we not trust it to work through the minds and hearts of the College of Cardinals when it comes to electing a Pope?? Do we as individuals know better than them? Do we have a hardline connection to His Spirit and therefore know better than the chosen leaders of His Church what His will is? I would call it a supreme arrogance on my part to presume that I knew better than them.
So, let's have reasoned debate, yes. Let's have the defence of Catholic beliefs, yes. But, most importantly, let's show love and respect to all... YES!!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

#jonforeman of #switchfoot asks what makes us come alive #whenwecomealive



#jonforeman of #switchfoot asks what makes us come alive #whenwecomealive. For me it's the things about which I am passionate: God's love for me, the beauty of creation, friendships, music + songs that move me + touch my heart, movies that do the same, great sporting achievements, etc... AND being able to share these passions with others and help ignite similar passions in them. My motto? Be passionate!!

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Frère Bob and his pumpkins.



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Evening hike yesterday with Frère Bob @ St. Brieuc, Brittany



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Monday, August 18, 2014

Sponsored Cycle for Alder Hey Children's Hospital, Liverpool - Lourdes to Fulda (Germany), 943 miles in 9 days

It’s a few weeks now since I arrived at the shrine of St. Boniface in Fulda, Germany at the end of my 9 day sponsored cycle from Lourdes for Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool. It’s about time I shared some of my experiences. 

I arrived in Fulda, Germany (home of the shrine to St. Boniface) on Sunday July 27th as planned, overall very happy with the ride. So far over £1,800 has been raised, including over £1,300 (inc. GiftAid) on the Justgiving website. I’m still hoping to break the £2,000 barrier by the time all the money has come in. 

If you would like to make a donation you may do so at https://www.justgiving.com/James-Hayes12/



Early morning leaving Besançon on day 6

During days 7 + 8 of the 9 I rode up into and through the hills and mountains of the beautiful Schwarzwald (Black Forest, 800-1,000m altitude for more than 80km), getting caught in a freezing cold thunderstorm (with dramatic lightning to boot) before coming back down to the hotter valley plains of the Neckar and Main rivers. I think in the end I preferred the storm and rain in the hills. Must be the Celt in me! I did, however, need the assistance of a very friendly local when the weather was at its worst. He took pity on me at a point during the thunderstorm while I was doing a 3-4 mile descent in the Schwarzwald with a gradient of about 7% combined with hairpin bends. I was having to negotiate these bends in treacherously wet and windy conditions as spectacular thunder and lightning was kicking off around me. The local drove past me in his small van, stopped in a hairpin corner on the descent and motioned me to get into his van with my bike. I obeyed without protest. The conditions were really dangerous. With the extra weight of the baggage on my bike I was having to be careful in tight corners even in dry weather. 

We tried to make conversation with my almost non-existent German, and his similarly absent English assisted by universal sign language. We did however manage to have a good laugh for the few miles we were together until he dropped me in the next village at the bottom of the descent next to a Netto where I was able to buy some grub for lunch and change into a dry cycling top (which also got soaked soon after but it was nice to be dry - at least the top half - while I ate). It was one of those unexpected but rich random encounters that have always punctuated my solitary cycling journeys. I asked for his postal address so that I could write to him once I got home. No email address as, if I understood correctly, technology is a bit too much for him. I regretted not taking his picture, but I did not want to delay him any further.



Riding through the beautiful Black Forest region.

Each day had its share of such simple pleasures. I think that during such a journey alone you become more sensitive to those little encounters than in everyday life. There is a lesson in there for sure. Other encounters included one with a French retired musician who had played lute professionally with the ensemble of the great English counter-tenor and specialist in Early Music, Alfred Deller. He and his wife live in Guérande and know our congregation’s schools in Guérande and the neighboring towns. They invited me to visit them with my own instruments next time I'm in the area. 

I was particularly pleased to be able on day 7 to stay the night in the small town of Triberg, perched at 800m in the Black Forest, a town known as "the Home of the Cuckoo Clock” and which was the birthplace of my great-grandfather, Stefan Faller (his wife was born in a nearby village). He was a Jewish clockmaker and jeweller who came to live in Ireland as a young man with many of his family, including cousins, etc... in the 1860s, converting to Catholicism once in Ireland. He eventually opened a jeweller’s shop in the centre of Galway city which is a thriving business today. Here’s info about how he started his business: 


In Triberg, the town of my great-grandfather.

The store is now run by his great-grandson, so a distant cousin to myself. It was a very emotional experience to arrive in his hometown situated in the picturesque Black Forest hills, an area that my mother had always imagined with great fondness although she had never been there. Indeed, her favourite dessert was always Black Forest gateau. I had one in her honour with a pint of the local Ganter beer during my evening in Triberg (there were Ganters who came over from Triberg to Ireland with my great-grandfather and who were cousins of his). I would love to go back there one day, maybe for some hiking. There were lots of walkers with backpacks around the place.

I arrived in Fulda in good shape a couple of days later, to the point where I felt I could go on for a good few more days. As long as you don't over do it the first few days, your body adapts to the daily physical efforts pretty well. Here are some photos from the ride: