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

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

Sunday, September 07, 2014

"I'm letting go"


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!!

via Instagram

Frère Bob and his pumpkins.

via Instagram

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

via Instagram

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

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:

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Robin Williams - part 2

Williams was a genius, a warm-hearted, funny, frighteningly intelligent, mad genius, one capable of making you laugh and cry. My favourite films of his, Good Will Hunting + The Fisher King both involve characters dealing with psychological trauma. In the former he plays a kindly, down to earth therapist and in the latter someone who's psyche is torn asunder by the violent death of his wife.

There is a scene in Good Will Hunting (in my all time top 5 films) in which Williams' therapist, Sean, gives to Will (Matt Damon) the most brilliant riposte on the theme of life experiences after Will had presumed to have learned all about the therapist from a watercolour painting of his hanging in his office that Will had analysed and metaphorically torn apart. It is a brilliantly written scene delivered in an unshowy but heartfelt manner by Williams. He received his Best Supporting Actor Oscar for this role. 

The film itself is, like Dead Poets mentioned in my previous post, one that has had a profound effect on me over the years and is one that I am always quick to recommend or share with friends. The "It's not your fault" scene towards the end had me in floods of tears the first time I saw the film and it still effects me deeply watching it today. The understanding of human nature and sensitivity shown by Matt Damon + Ben Affleck in their writing of the screenplay as Harvard University students is quite remarkable, but it's the performances of Williams + Damon which reach their climax in this scene that make it so truly special and one of my favourite scenes of all time.

Here it is:

"Dead Poets' Society" + Robin Williams - thank you!!

The real teachers inspired by the film "Dead Poets' Society".

Click on the above link to go to a BBC article about teachers who have shared their experiences of being inspired to become teachers by this film starring that wonderful actor/comedian Robin Williams whose loss is being so keenly felt by people thought the world.

Here's my own response in the light of his death. 

This film inspired me too. 

I'll never forget watching it in a crowded Birmingham cinema in 1989, aged 20 (studying Music at Liverpool Uni.), the cinema filled with people about my age, during a weekend Catholic Student Council team meeting. Looking back, I don't think it is a "great" film artistically. It's shamelessly manipulative. And yet... very few films have ever fired me up or inspired me to the extent that this film did back in '89, and as a Film Studies teacher I've seen many films! 

Neither have I ever had such a communal experience as I did watching this film that night. At one point towards the end the group of central pupil characters in the film are hauled in one by one to endure an interrogation by the Head. One of the "rebel" pupils punches a "baddie" pupil on the nose while they are waiting outside his office. The cinema I was in broke into spontaneous applause and cheering, so gripped were we by the human drama of these adolescents on the verge of adulthood whose lives had been forever changed through their contact with the maverick English teacher John Keating, played so wonderfully by Robin Williams. We were undoubtedly the target audience for the film and it hit its target smack in the bullseye. 

The thing that I think most inspired me, a future teaching Brother, by John Keating/Robin Williams the teacher was his PASSION for his subject. His own life had quite clearly been transformed by his love of poetry and literature and it was his enthusiasm for sharing what he had himself received, including life lessons about personal creativity, finding your inner voice and most famously "seizing the day" ("carpe diem") that really struck me. 

It is a lesson that I have tried to live by ever since. What am I passionate about in the subjects I have had the privilege to be able to teach and also in life in general that I can maybe share with my pupils?... in my faith, in music, in film, in nature/creation, in sport, in French culture and language?

It is the first question I would ask anyone thinking about becoming a teacher. Are you yourself passionate about the subject(s) that you wish to teach and do you really want to share that passion with young people? Given the constraints of modern syllabuses this is sometimes a difficult ideal to live up to and you also have to learn to "fake" it to a degree so as to not let your pupils down when covering aspects that you find of lesser interest personally. But it is something that I keep coming back to when preparing lessons, when choosing and preparing the worship songs we use in school Masses with our staff/pupil worship band and when thinking about the possible extra-curricular trips I could organise (Brothers' youth gatherings, World Youth Day, Africa Educational Projects...).

If young people see that I am passionate about something then at least I am giving them a chance to be touched by that same passion. 

Until yesterday I had forgotten just what an important film Dead Poets' Society was for me back in 1989 and still is today. Thank you Peter Weir (director) and all those involved in the making of the film... 

... especially Robin Williams. RIP.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014



Here's another lovely reflection, this time on friendship, from the makers of the DVO iPhone app. May you all be blessed with the kind of friendships it describes.

August 3
One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Proverbs 18:24 (NKJV)

We were not created to do life alone. No man, or woman, is an island. I have come to believe more and more that we need each other, we are all connected. I grew up with an idea that to 'need' another human being was a sign of weakness... but after a few years of living, I think it just shows our inherit need for closeness, for sharing and for community.

There is an ebb and flow to life mostly influenced by our actions and our reactions to what goes on in us and around us. We often find ourselves using these moments to point out and focus on what makes us different from each other - and for some reason, maybe it's human nature, it mostly seems to be in a negative light. We build walls and obstacles between each other through ignorance, offence, assumption... and so much more.

But we are all more alike than we realise. We all have the same basic needs - physical, emotional and spiritual. We all feel joy and pain, we all have hopes and fears... There is more that unites us and brings us together, than divides us.

In the Message version this verse reads: "Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family." Stick by those you love through thick and thin. I'm not suggesting that you stay in manipulative and abusive environments, get out of those as fast as you can... But to those you call friends and family, be committed, be forgiving, be true. This earth is in desperate need of more than just fair weather friends, it's crying out for people who value loyalty, faithfulness, truth, honour, grace and love... People who will cross fences, borders and preferences to reach out and extend kindness and compassion, to gather and hold, encourage and empower. Cultivate friendship of the heart not circumstance. Just as Jesus reached beyond our brokenness and into our lives, let's do the same for others.

Tear down the walls of difference, open your heart up, and be a true friend. It has the potential to change your world, someone else's world, and THE world. Love you guys...

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