Easter Hope – joint statement by the Archbishops of Armagh
One of the words which we associate most strongly with Easter is “hope”. It is a word that has become a bit debased in the way we use it nowadays. “I hope so” very often means “I would like to think this or that might happen, but I doubt if it will”. Nothing could be further from the victorious and positive nature of our Easter hope.
Easter falls at a season of the year that is full of hopefulness. Longer evenings, Spring flowers, birdsong, and the sap rising in the trees. The whole creation (at least in the Northern hemisphere) is bursting with hope and the promise of new life. And the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead brings that hope to a new level of reality. Far from the resurrection being simply a metaphor that religious people use for natural renewal, as some believe, it is the yearly renewal of the Earth in Spring which is an anticipation of the resurrection; a sign pointing to something greater than itself. A shadow in search of a substance. Transience moving towards permanence.
That is how the creator God has imprinted something of Himself into the fabric of the world. He has made if full of intimations of eternity, for instance in beauty and in music which are where many of us find the strongest suggestions of intense joy and infinity. These created things won’t fulfil our yearning for eternal fellowship with God, but they will arouse it, and prepare us to find it unexpectedly, in the servant life and death of Jesus Christ.
Even today there are other signs all around us, not this time in nature or in music, but in the human lives which our eyes have been opened to value, often for the first time.
It has been a tough year since last Easter, and many people, Christians and others, have found ways of making the best of a bad job by helping one another in ways that we haven’t been used to doing before. We’ve also found ways to show our appreciation and admiration for people who we don’t usually think about. They aren’t sports people, or billionaires or even politicians. They are nurses and delivery drivers and people toiling in cavernous warehouses and food factories for very low wages. People who serve the fundamental needs of God’s world. And, in its own way their hidden service is a shadow of the resurrection life; the life of heaven, God’s place. Our sure and certain hope.
Archbishop Eamon Martin is Catholic Archbishop of Armagh and Archbishop John McDowell is Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh
Pope Francis has been encouraging us to remember the role and witness of St Joseph during this year. On 19 March 2021, Pope Francis will launch a year dedicated to the family which will conclude on 26 June 2022 on the occasion of the Tenth World Meeting of Families in Rome. This date also marks five years since the publication of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love) on the beauty and joy of love in the family.
Attached is a resource prepared by the Council for Marriage and the Family of the Irish Bishops’ Conference which offers a page per day guide to the Week of Prayer (13-19 March) and which can be easily followed in school and home.
Each day has a theme reflecting on family life through the lens of Saint Joseph. At its centre is the prayer from Pope Francis which he wrote for the Year of Saint Joseph and some inspiring reflections from The Joy of Love.
Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. To you God entrusted his only Son; in you Mary placed her trust; with you Christ became man. Blessed Joseph, to us too,show yourself a father and guide us in the path of life. Obtain for us grace, mercy, and courage, and defend us from every evil.
Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent are approaching. This will provide renewed opportunities for reflection and conversion. Sadly with Covid lockdown, this will have to be family-based and subject to the usual safety restrictions we have in place now.
Trocaire have some great resources in place already. You can download some from their selction here.
Development Education Resources 2021 are available to downloadhere. Resources are available for Early childhood, Primary, Post Primary and Youth. These resources will help you explore the themes of conflict and peace with students and young people through the lens of SDG 16Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. Learn about the Sustainable Development goals, South Sudan and Trócaire’s work through interactive lesson plans, photos, videos and our latest Development education board game “Pathways to peace”. Please feel free to share the resources with anyone else you think might find them useful.
A LETTER TO PARISHES ABOUT THE TROCAIRE 2021 CAMPAIGN
“Here are my hands, hold them. Please don’t leave South Sudan alone. We need your prayers. We need your support. We need your love.” Fr. James Oyet Latansio, South Sudan Council of Churches.
Trócaire’s Lenten campaign for 2021 tells the stories of two families in South Sudan whose lives have been impacted by conflict. Awut and Ajak are shining examples of resilience, friendship and solidarity. This Lent we hear not only about the enormous challenges they have faced, but also about how they support each other through these challenges. Due to the ongoing challenges of Covid-19, Trócaire has developed a variety of resources for use in your parish and that will support you in raising awareness about the Lent 2021 campaign:
1. Resources The below resources focus on the stories and voices of families and communities with whom Trócaire works, and looks at how our faith calls us to act for justice. We also hear from one of Trócaire’s partners, the South Sudan Council of Churches, and learn about the role that the Christian churches are playing in working for peace in South Sudan. We encourage you to use these resources during Mass, at your Parish Council meeting, Liturgy Group or with any other active parish group. All resources are available on the Trócaire website. The below are available in English and Irish:
To provide ongoing support to you throughout Lent, you will also receive a short email from Trócaire on three occasions during Lent, containing prayers and reflections which can be used during Mass. 3. Box distribution You will also have received information recently about your Trócaire boxes. We want to support you as much as possible during the ongoing challenges of Covid-19. We have compiled some simple ideas about ways in which your parishioners could collect their boxes, mindful of safety and well-being being of the utmost importance as well as compliance with current government guidelines. 4. UK Aid Match This year, the Lent campaign is part of UK Aid Match, meaning public donations* given between 17 February 2021 and 16 May 2021 will be doubled by the UK government, up to £2m. Furthermore, if a donor signs up for a monthly gift, or increases their monthly gift, before the 16th of May 2021, up to three of their instalments will be matched! We will be able to support thousands of people in South Sudan to grow enough food to feed their families. Don’t’ forget that donations will only be matched up until the 16th May. 5. Lent online workshops Finally, we want to make you aware of a series of online workshops that Trócaire will be delivering during Lent. These workshops are open to all, and you can find out more and sign up here.
Encountering Jesus with St Benedict – On-line Retreat from Glenstal Abbey … a series of Lenten Talks which will be webcast from the Abbey will take place from Glenstal Abbey on Saturdays at 2.00pm, beginning on February 20. Details below
St Brigid’s Day coincides with the Celtic festival of Imbolc, the first day of Spring. Though meteorologists always dispute this assertion, there is no denying the lengthening days and the early signs of new life are the harbingers of Spring. (Dr Ger Conden kindly sent me these short notes)
Brigid was reputedly born in 450AD, at Faughart, County Louth, the daughter of a petty chieftain called, Dubhthach. Her mother, Brocca, was said to have been baptised by St Patrick. She was a generous child, giving away her father’s supply of butter to the poor, much to his annoyance. But the Lord duly compensated the family by miraculously increasing the milk-yield of their cows. She went on to evangelise (bring the Gospel) to the central plain of Ireland, especially Kildare, which became home to her most important foundation, a “double monastery” made up of both nuns and monks. She is said to have passed from this life on February 1, 525. Her fame spread throughout Europe in the 8th and 9th centuries. There are nineteen ancient English churches named after our secondary patron, including St Bride’s in London.
Her mantle (cloak) is preserved at Bruges in Belgium.
A local faith /folk custom: Brat Bhríde / Brigid’s mantle: Leave a piece of cloth on a nearby hedge on the eve (January 31) of St Brigid’s day. Take it inside the next morning and use the cloth as an aid to prayer whenever there is an illness in your house,
Faoi choimirce Bhríde go mbeidh tú – may you be under Brigid’s protection
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity takes place from 18 -25 January. The resources for this year have been prepared by the Monastic Community of Grandchamp in Switzerland. The theme that was chosen, “Abide in my love and you shall bear much fruit”, is based on John 15:1-17 and expresses Grandchamp Community’s vocation to prayer, reconciliation and unity in the Church and the human family.
The Mark 10 Mission is a new project providing FREE virtual Gospel liturgies for primary schools. The idea had small beginnings, in June I felt the Lord calling me to help children in the school where I teach hear the Gospel during these challenging times. However, since the start of the academic year it seems the Lord has driven things forward incredibly and schools across England and Wales have been using The Mark 10 Mission in their classrooms. We have had brilliant feedback from Headteachers, Priests and Bishops, who have given us great encouragement. We would now love for schools in Ireland to join us too.
The Mark 10 Mission partnered with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal to produce Gospel liturgies to be shared on classroom screens. We knew that whole school worship would be impossible and wanted to create episodes to help teachers easily share the Gospel. As the crisis has intensified, schools have been able to share the weekly episodes with children as part of their home learning.
Each episode includes the Sunday Gospel, a reflection, guided prayer and a live worship song from Fr Gabriel CFR. It would be so appreciated if you could view our latest episode (Series 3 Episode 1) which has been watched in hundreds of schools in the UK this week!
Most schools are in ON-LINE LEARNING MODE presently due to COVID Lockdown. Some teachers may be able to use these attached resources to share with students online or perhaps with those students with special provision attending school at present.
Catholic Schools Week 2021 will be celebrated from Sunday 24 January to Sunday 31 January 2021 on the theme ‘Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith and Resilience’.
As we live through an unprecedented time of challenge and uncertainty, our faith and our resilience can be tested. We can ask questions like ‘Will things ever be the same again?’, ‘When can we get back to normality?’, ‘Where is God in all of this?’ In response to this, we reflect upon how Catholic schools are communities of faith and resilience. In Catholic schools, we are called to support each other and to have faith in the promise of the Good News. Catholic schools are inspired by the belief that God has created each one of us with a capacity to give love and receive love. This love is bound in faith and is more resilient than any virus. While each Catholic school is such a community, every Catholic school fosters the holistic development of its students, promotes their wellbeing and offers them cultivation of a deeper, loving relationship with God. Jesus teaches us to love one another as he has loved us. During Catholic Schools Week we celebrate the gifts and talents we have in following Jesus’ teaching.
This year we celebrate how we are called to be communities of faith and resilience, through our thoughts, words and actions. In doing so, we live out the meaning of the beautiful hymn ‘Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est’ – ‘Where charity and love are, God is there.’
Susan and I have developed a short Prayer Service for use by our two Dioceses. You may be able to adapt to work with students in a bubble setting if you have students attending school or by an on-line prayer service or assmbly.
Home use is another possibility using your current outreach to students. Perhaps they would have a family celebration using the prayers and their completed artwork. Hang the pieces as a family mobile or use a small tree at home as suggested in the prayer service below.
Pope Francis proclaims a ‘Year of St Joseph’ In a new Apostolic Letter entitled Patris corde(With a Father’s Heart), Pope Francis describes Saint Joseph as a beloved father, a tender and loving father, an obedient father, an accepting father; a father who is creatively courageous, a working father, a father in the shadows. The Letter marks the 150th anniversary of Blessed Pope Pius IX’s declaration of St Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church. To celebrate the anniversary, Pope Francis has proclaimed a special “Year of St Joseph,” beginning on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception 2020 and extending to the same feast in 2021.
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. .
Video ADVENT in 2 MINUTES
Homily of Archbishop Eamon Martin for the First Sunday of Advent 2020
YOU MAY BE INTERESTED IN AN ADVENT DAY OF RECOLLECTION ONLINE (DRUMALIS CENTRE)
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
TALKS ON PRAYER
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
Father, 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
PRAYER Part 3 LECTIO DIVINA
PRAYER PART 4 MEDITATION
PRAYER PART 5 CONTEMPLATION & CONCLUDING THOUGHTS
If you want to watch full version in one session follow this link