Advent and Christmas 2020

During the four weeks of Advent, we prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ through prayer and meditation. We recall the First Coming of Jesus as Saviour of the world, and anticipate his promised Second Coming at the end of time. And in the midst of busy Christmas preparations, we look for practical ways to practice the holiness of this season in our everyday lives even with the Covid pandemic about us. .



Homily of Archbishop Eamon Martin for the First Sunday of Advent 2020 

Some resources from Cafod

Other Resources.


Sr Pam Thimmes OSC, Poor Clares, Faughart, will lead an Advent Day of Reflection on Saturday, 19 December from 10 am – 4 pm, hosted by Drumalis via Zoom.

For most of us 2020 has been an unprecedented time – a time of change, loss and grief, confusion, discovery, wonder and uncertainty. In some ways it has been an extended advent (arrival, emergence). Isaiah’s words came to his people in exile.  This day of reflection will allow us to bring these feelings and experiences of exile and newness of life into focus and perceive anew Christ born among us and living among us.  Our souls, like Mary’s have been pierced and transformed. Let us open our hearts to God’s newness born each day among us.  Do we see it and how do we live it? 

The cost for the Day of Reflection is £20 per person or £30 per household.  To book please contact Drumalis tel 028 28272196/ 28276455  (Mon-Fri, 9 am-5 pm).  For more information please see attached poster.

During Advent we have our Week of Witness recalling all who have suffered for their faith.

“Week of Witness” – 25 November –2 December

“Week of Witness” will take place from Wednesday 25 November – Wednesday 2 December 2020. During the week, we will remember all who have given great witness to their faith in the past and those who continue to give witness today and all who will continue to give great witness in the future.

On Wednesday 25th November (Red Wednesday) Archbishop Martin will celebrate a special Liturgy in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh at 7.30pm. People are invited to wear something red as we remember all who have given and all who continue to give great witness to their faith.

A message from the Irish bishops: “Keep Christ at the Centre of Christmas”

With the beginning of Advent last Sunday, preparations have begun in earnest in parishes across the country for the celebration of Christmas – albeit in a very different context this year.  Priests working with Parish Pastoral Councils are making decisions at a local level on how best to celebrate Christmas in a safe manner. We extend our sincere gratitude to parish teams throughout the country – including stewards and cleaners – who generously ensure that our churches are safe environments where people can confidently assemble for worship. Their task, as Christmas approaches, will not be easy, and we appeal to all the faithful to cooperate fully with them.

We strongly encourage the faithful to keep Christ at the centre of Christmas this year.  Clearly it will be impossible for our usual large congregations to assemble for Mass on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.  We wish to remind Catholics that the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days remains suspended during the pandemic.  But Christmas is about more than just one day.  Families are welcome to attend Mass at some point during the twelve days from Christmas Eve to Epiphany. Christmas Masses will also be widely available over webcam and we strongly encourage families to “tune in” from the “domestic churches” of their living rooms and join with those who are gathering in their local churches in welcoming the birth of the Christ-child.

It is possible to experience the spiritual richness of this special season in many ways. Our homes can become “little churches” where we invite the Christ-child in.  The age-old tradition of having a Christmas crib in the home and gathering there as a family to pray or to sing a carol will be especially meaningful this year. We also invite families or “household bubbles” to pay a visit to their local church at some time during the twelve days to offer a Christmas prayer at the crib and pray together for their families and for those particularly impacted by the pandemic.

The hope of Advent and the joy of Christmas inspire us to reach out to those in greatest need at this time. Keep Christ at the centre this Christmas by bringing the hope and joy of his birth to people who are sick, isolated, lonely or poor.  A simple act of kindness can make such a difference.  Charities such as the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, Crosscare, Trócaire and World Missions Ireland will welcome much needed contributions as they have been unable to raise funds in the normal way during the pandemic.

We are particularly conscious of those whose livelihoods have been seriously threatened by the pandemic.  We keep in mind those for whom Christmas time may bring feelings of sadness – people coping with bereavement, families that cannot be together, those in care homes who can only have limited visits from their loved ones.  Christmas can be difficult for Irish emigrants and migrants living in Ireland, who are unable to travel home.  We pray that the time will come very soon when sorrow will ease and loving connections can be fully restored.

Traditionally many people turn at this time of the year to ask for God’s forgiveness and for healing of spirit.  Although it may not be possible for all who wish to go to Confession to safely avail of the sacrament, we encourage the faithful to confidently place their trust in God’s mercy through an Act of Perfect Contrition. 

As we continue our journey through the season of Advent, waiting in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour, we are acutely aware of the yearning in our country and in our world for hope and consolation. In some ways the Covid-19 restrictions open up greater opportunities for prayer and for reflection, for family time and space to enter into the true meaning of Christmas


The impossibility of organising a diocesan retreat due to present restrictions was discussed at a recent meeting of the Council of Priests. Fr Brendan Freeman, the Superior of the Cistercian Abbey at Melifont, and member of the Council, volunteered to prepare a series of reflections on prayer which we recorded recently and begin circulating to you today.  These were prepared for Clergy but I think many Teachers might like to listen and view.

Part 1 INTRODUCTION TO PRAYER Fr Brendan Freeman.

Part Two Prayer Some Practicalities. Fr Brendan

Prayer of Abandonment

I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures –
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father. Charles de Foucauld




If you want to watch full version in one session follow this link


A School Prayer for All Souls Day @ 3pm on Nov 2nd. Could be prayed on School Address system or in Class bubbles.

I have edited together a Prayer service for Schools to pray on the public address systems or perhaps in Class bubbles. I have edited two or three services we used in the past and included an edited version of the Prayer of Pope Francis to Our Lady during the Pandemic. I hope as many of you as possible will use it around 3 pm so that we all are united in prayer on the Feast of the Holy Souls. Take care and please remain safe. Bless you and your great work. Feel free to tailor this to your own situation. Blessings Declan

Archbishop Eamon speaks to 3rd Level Students.

Homily for Mass for the Dedication of Studies at the Catholic Chaplaincy, Queen’s University Belfast


A stand-out memory for me of life in university is that first day in College – with all its nervousness and anticipation; wandering and getting lost among historic buildings, libraries and lecture halls; student cards, clubs and societies; new faces the promise of making new friends.

I’m very conscious that this year’s Dedication of Studies Mass is taking place in a very different context: with social distancing, sanitising and face covering; webinars and blended learning; studying and socialising from a laptop in Halls or at home.

I know that university communities are sharing in the anxiety, disruption and uncertainty that has marked these months of pandemic.  A first year psychology student told me recently that this is not what she or her friends were expecting from College. “It doesn’t feel real”, she said.  And it’s upsetting for her that young people are being stigmatised for the spread of Covid19.  At times the irresponsibility of a few has perhaps tarnished the image of all.  But my experience of young people since the beginning of the pandemic has been of your generosity and self-sacrifice, your volunteering to help the elderly and isolated, your stepping up to serve in the retail and hospitality sector – not to mention the many students of medicine, pharmacy and nursing who have supported our health workers and carers on the so-called ‘front line’.

Many of you have shown great resilience and are making personal sacrifices to keep safe your parents,  grandparents, and other vulnerable family members. These are stressful times for us all, and I am aware of the support and encouragement that you are quietly giving to each other, especially to friends and others who are fragile and struggling to cope, either mentally, physically or spiritually.

This time two years ago I was in Rome with Pope Francis for the Synod on Young People. I remember coming home from the Synod with a strong sense that the primary vocation and mission of young believers in Christ is to reach out to other young people and invite them to share in the joy and hope that comes from friendship with Jesus.  Pope Francis put it beautifully when he wrote after the Synod:

“The Lord is calling (you) to enkindle stars in the night of other young people” (CV33). As “members of the Church”, he added, you “must dare to be different, to point to ideals other than those of this world, testifying to the beauty of generosity, service, purity, perseverance, forgiveness, … prayer, the pursuit of justice and the common good, love for the poor, and social friendship”.

Yesterday in Assisi, the beatification took place of a young Italian schoolboy, Carlo Acutis, who did just that.  He dared to be different.  Carlo had a strong sense that every young person should use their unique gifts to change the world for the better.  Although his own life was cut short by leukaemia at the tender age of sixteen, he was already well known as someone who loved God deeply, who cared about the poor and who used his talent with computers to help build up faith.  Carlo once remarked that young people easily fall into the trap of consumerism and, although they may want to be different, they end up just like everyone else. “We are all born as an original” he once said, “but many people end up dying as photocopies”.

Perhaps that is one of the dangers of youth nowadays – to find yourself slavishly conforming to the banal uniformity of fashions and expectations that others have decided for you.  An alternative is to realise that you have a unique calling from God, a personal invitation to follow Him.  God will provide all the graces, gifts and skills that you need to say ‘Yes’  to His invitation and help you discern what particular service he is asking of you in the world.  Saint Paul certainly took up the challenge.  He wrote to the Philippians: “I am ready for anything anywhere … There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength”.

It is sad, however, that so many people turn down God’s invitation in their lives – perhaps being too distracted or too self-absorbed – to hear the gentle voice of the Good Shepherd who walks beside them.

In the Parable of the Wedding Feast, the king is furious that those invited to come to the banquet and celebrate with him, were totally disinterested and even treated his invitation with disdain.  It reminds me of something else Pope Francis wrote to the young people of the world after the 2018 Synod:

“Dear young people, make the most of these years of your youth. Don’t observe life from a balcony. Don’t confuse happiness with an armchair, or live your life behind a screen. Whatever you do, do not become the sorry sight of an abandoned vehicle! Don’t be parked cars, but dream freely and make good decisions. Take risks, even if it means making mistakes. Don’t go through life anaesthetised … Please, don’t take early retirement” (CV143).

This evening’s Mass is for the Dedication of Studies.  It is worthwhile asking: for what, or to whom, do we tend to dedicate our studies?  Of course there are many worthy causes, for example, to achieve our full potential, to make the most of our chances in life, or, to earn the best possible qualifications for future advancement.  Some will commit long hours of research this year in the hope of adding to the body of knowledge in a particular field, or achieving an international breakthrough in science, medicine or technology. Others will dedicate their efforts in recognition of teachers, parents or sponsors whose sacrifices made it possible for them to reach university.

In this Mass, we dedicate the coming year of study in thanksgiving to God, being mindful that all our gifts spring from God, and that these gifts are given not just to improve our own chances but for the betterment of others, the improvement of the world and for the building of God’s kingdom.

The peculiar ending to the Parable of the Wedding Feast speaks of someone turning up to the banquet unprepared, without a wedding garment, as if they had taken the invitation totally for granted.  Down the centuries scripture scholars have pondered what this ‘being without a wedding garment’ might signify.  Saint Gregory the Great suggested that, even though the guest had faith enough to get himself in to the wedding feast, he lacked the essential wedding garment of love or charity.  In other words, he kept his faith to himself.  He was not prepared to ‘give it away’ in love and charity for others.

It is a privilege to have the opportunity of education at Third Level.  It is a special invitation to use wisely our God-given gifts.  God expects much of those to whom He has given much. Your challenge is to use your talents generously – to change this world for the better; to be ever mindful of our neighbours throughout the world who are poor; to show compassion towards the vulnerable; to remain alert to the marginalised or forgotten.

I ask the Lord to bless each one of you – students and staff – who make up the community of Queen’s University Belfast; that the Good Shepherd will guide you along the right path this year, especially those who feel lost in the darkness and uncertainty of these Covid19 times.  Stay safe.  Pray safe.  Be leaders in taking care of yourselves, your families and of each other.  Amen.


To Whom shall we go ? Gospel of St John

“To Whom Shall We Go?” Seeking Jesus in The Gospel of John

Four-Part Course with Sr Pam Thimmes OSC Hosted by Drumalis Retreat & Conference Centre over 8 Zoom Sessions in 2020 and 2021


028 28272196 Mon – Fri 9 am – 5 pm

About the course:

The Gospel of John goes its own way in its portrayal of Jesus’ origins, ministry and engagement in life in the world. One scholar has referred to it as the ‘maverick’ Gospel, others note the role irony plays in Jesus’ interactions with various individuals and still others note the prominence women play in the Gospel. Our study will look closely at the community from which this gospel comes, the images and symbols they employ to understand Jesus as the Word made flesh, what that means for developing Christianity and for our faith lives today, what discipleship means and costs, and how the Johannine Jesus, from the cross, gives us to each other. Come and see!

About the Facilitator: Sr Pam is a Poor Clare sister living at the Poor Clare Monastery in Faughart, Co Louth. She teaches Scripture in each of the Drumalis Adult Faith Development programmes and in the Permanent Diaconate programmes for several dioceses. Sr Pam is also an experienced and popular spiritual director and retreat leader, as well as a working photographer.

The cost of this course is £120 per person.


Part I Sat, 24 Oct & Sat, 31 Oct 2020 (by Zoom) – 10:00 am – 12:30 pm

Part II Sat, 21 Nov & Sat, 28 Nov 2020 (by Zoom) – 10:00 am – 12:30 pm

Part III Sat, 23 & Sat, 30 January 2021 (by Zoom) – 10:00 am – 12:30 pm

Part IV Sat, 20 & Sat, 27 March 2021 (by Zoom) – 10:00 am – 12:30 pm

Rosary Month October

ACN Ireland October Campaign “One million children praying the Rosary can change the world”

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) Ireland invites parishes, schools and families to participate in the initiative on 19th October of “One Million Children Praying the Rosary”. The focus of the prayer campaign is worldwide unity and peace. This year provides a very special context, because never has there been such a worldwide healthcare and economic crisis. Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, President of ACN International states that: “the entire world has been and continues to be exposed to an invisible virus that has brought death to hundreds of thousands of people and devastating, economic and social consequences.” In a letter to the children he said that in difficult situations like these it is very important to work together and help one another. “But we must also not forget that the biggest help of all comes from God”.

ACN provides a leaflet for prayer in parishes, children’s groups, or families. It contains instructions on how to pray the rosary, child-friendly reflections on the mysteries of the rosary and a child consecration to the Mother of God. To order the materials or signing up for the Campaign or more information, please contact 00353-01-8377516 or visit

“When one million children pray the rosary, the world will change.” (Saint Padre Pio)

Drumalis Workshop

As part of the celebrations of the bicentenary of the birth of Elizabeth Prout, the founder of the Sisters of the Cross and Passion, Drumalis is pleased to host a series of lectures during the year 2020-2021.  Speakers include Dr Sr Gemma Simmonds, Professor Amy-Jill Levine, professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University and Dom Christopher Jamison, author, broadcaster and Abbot President of the English Benedictine Congregation.
The first of these lectures will take place by Zoom on Thursday evening, October 22nd at 7 pm.  It may be of particular interest to those who are interested in Ignatian Spirituality. The speaker is Dr Sr Gemma Simmonds who will talk on the subject ‘Hope in a Time of Pandemic‘.   ‘Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love’ (1 Cor. 13:13)   Love may be the greatest thing, but without hope neither faith nor love can flourish.  What is hope?  How do we practise it, and how do we hold on to hope in a time of pandemic?  How can we experience God in all things and help others to do the same?    Theologian and spiritual director Gemma Simmonds reflects on these questions from within the Ignatian spiritual tradition and invites you to share questions and explorations around the virtue of hope.

We would be grateful if you would bring this to the attention of anyone who might be interested.
To make a booking, please phone Drumalis during office hours.  Our number is 02828 272196.

REVISION OF FULLY ALIVE The Bible Lessons 9-15


Dear Colleagues, I hope that you are all well and staying safe.  Please find attached the next set of pilot lessons for Year 8 pupils. Lesson 10 has a short video that tells the story of Ruth. Lesson 13 is optional and not suitable for lower ability pupils. Please come back to me with your comments and suggestions. Kind regards, Susan


In the words of Fr James Martin SJ

“Remember you are still part of a community … Many things have been cancelled because of the coronavirus.  Love is not one of them.”


Dear Colleagues,

Veritas had produced a short video ‘Coronavirus: A Global Pandemic’ and I wrote these three lessons to go with it. Lir in Veritas has done a bit of design work to make them look more attractive. It includes lesson notes and templates. You are invited to send these out to your Heads of RE for use in schools. I will send the video via We Transfer shortly. They could (with minor tweaks) be suited to quite a wide age group. They give the students an opportunity to reflect on the past few months and consider, in the context of faith, what important lessons we can take from the experience. Please feel free to pass these on to anyone who might use them to help our young people.

I hope that you are all keeping safe and well.


NI Covid Lesson Templates[4512]


Video  Download from   See link below:




The Season of Creation is a time to renew our relationship with our Creator and all creation through celebration, conversion, and commitment together. During the Season of Creation, we join our sisters and brothers in the ecumenical family in prayer and action for our common home.

The season starts 1 September, the Day of Prayer for Creation, and ends 4 October, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology beloved by many Christian denominations..

This year, amid crises that have shaken our world, we’re awakened to the urgent need to heal our relationships with creation and each other.

During the season this year, we enter a time of restoration and hope, a jubilee for our Earth, that requires radically new ways of living with creation.


Creation Time 2020

We have known for decades that this time will come. We have been made aware of the rapid extinction of beautiful and unique creatures. Thanks to the honest and disciplined work of climate scientists, we know (unless we fall victim to fake news) right now, that our lifestyle is unsustainable, and our dominant philosophy of ‘permanent growth at all cost’ carries the seeds of the destruction of the life that God called good.

Over and above the foolish stewardship of land and resources, yet closely allied to it, is the crisis of values, and of spirituality; a twisted and self-deceptive view of ‘profit’. The whole Christian family now has an unprecedented opportunity and calling: to bring together mission, justice, stewardship, and study: to bring out of our ‘treasure’ the determinative priorities and values that are so different from those piloting Creation towards catastrophe. And above all, to take note of, and act on, and trust in, the worth we are given (each and all of us) in Christ. The worth and encouragement we may give to our neighbour, and our fellow creature, in partnership, rather than exploitation. May we cherish and be empowered by the knowledge of our enduring and transforming worth in the sight of God. Even if, until now, we have indeed pursued ‘worthless things’.

You can download all the resources as individual weeks or as a complete set.

Our writers are drawn from a variety of church backgrounds and pastoral contexts, so do not expect that they all speak with one voice or perspective. We all share, as Pope Francis as said, a ‘Common Home’, and offer this work in trust that there is no one whose contribution is not vital to the healing partnership of Christ with God’s Creation.  The God of the Bible’s tendency, observable in these readings, to ‘bring the baddies on board’ should steer us to a conciliatory approach, rather than a blame-game, fruitless denial of the crisis, or a complacent acceptance of the principles, whilst reserving exceptions for ourselves.  The bottom line, is the love for your neighbour, as yourself.



Video to watch.

The Season of Creation is explained by Noel Bradley, Laudato Si Derry. Noel is from Buncrana, Co. Donegal …

Columban Missionaries video about this season 2020

Pope Francis invites us to join the Season of Creation






Dear All,

I hope the new school year has begun well for you and that everyone is adjusting comfortably to the new routines in school life.

We now have the first set of lessons of the revised Fully Alive 1 online programme ready for you.

The materials for piloting consist of:

  • The designed version of Lessons 1 to 3, which consist of two sets of PowerPoint slides for each lesson: (1) the slides which the teachers will display for the students, and (2) these same slides with wraparound teacher notes, providing teachers with step-by-step instructions for using them.
  • A Word version of the teacher notes for Lessons 5 to 8, along with the PowerPoints that accompany these lessons. These materials have not yet been designed.
  • Worksheets for all lessons, which may be printed off as required.
  • A Glossary of the key terms used in Lessons 1-8.
  • A link to the Interactive Bible Library resource, which is referenced in the teacher notes.
  • Three separate audio files for items referenced in the lessons (a poem for Lesson 1, a song for Lesson 6, and a story for Lesson 8).

As was said in our recent zoom call, pilot material is never fully designed because of the possibility that significant changes will need to be made following piloting. However, in this case, because teachers have not used an online programme in RE before, we thought it would be important they would see what a finished version of the programme would look like.

Please emphasise to your teachers that their feedback on these lessons is essential and that you will be in touch with them to discuss their use of the lessons and any changes that they think are required.

Finally, please feel free to display this material on your website so that teachers can access it, or to use any other means by which you usually communicate with your teachers.

Best wishes,        Maura Hyland

Download from here.  It would be prudent to download to your own laptop so as to avoid any C2K issues that might arise.  Declan 

  1. Bible Rap

2   Farewell Fearghal

Fully Alive 1 Glossary (L. 1-8)

Fully Alive 1 teacher Lessons 4-8

Fully Alive Worksheets Lessons 1-8

Fully Alive Worksheets Lessons 1-8[1]






Lesson 4 The BibleLesson 5 The Old Testament

Lesson 6 The New Testament

Lesson 7 Finding Our Way Around the Bible

Lesson 8 The Bible Is the Inspired Word of God

We Learn We Grow

Bible library

This is a zip file and you will need to download it completely.  Follow Susan’s instruction to operate it.


Hope this gets you all started.  Blessings from Susan and Declan