Tuesday, 29 May 2012
During the week before the congress takes place, and during the week of the congress, pilgrims will be invited to visit the seven designated churches and to pray the congress prayer in each church.
Each pilgrim will be issued with a specially designed 'Pilgrim Passport' and each church has its own unique stamp in which to stamp the passports. The pilgrims will recieve a certificate on their completion of the pilgrimage.
Each church will be open from 8.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m. (08.00 hrs to 20.00 hrs) beginning on June 2nd and continuing until June 17th, the last day of the congress. Each church will be staffed by Volunteer 'Pilgrim Ambassadors' who will give the pilgrims some information about the history of the church they are visiting and stamp their pilgrim passports. This is a little like the practice during the Camino of Santiago Di Compostella. The pilgrims don't have to visit all the churches in the one day but can visit them over a few days. Importantly though, they must finish their pilgrimage with a visit to St. Mary's Pro-Cathedral, the Dublin Diocesan Cathedral, the last church on the route. There they will get their final stamp and also a certificate of completion. The pilgrimage route is not a long one as Dublin city centre is not very large and the weather, even in summer time will be pleasant. Hopefully it doesn't rain!
The Seven Churches;
St. Ann's Church, Dawson Street in Dublin 2. It is part of the Church of Ireland (Anglican Communion) and it is included to recognise our ecumenical relationship with our Church of Ireland sisters and brothers. One of St. Ann's many claims to fame is that Bram Stoker, Dubliner and Author of Dracula married Florence Balcombe here in December 1878.
The Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Whitefriar St, Dublin 2. A Carmelite (OCarm) Church, it is famous for containing the relics of the martyr St. Valentine. Couples from all over the world visit his shrine regularly and especially on February 14th (Valentine's Day)
The Church of St. Augustine and St. John (OSA) on St. Thomas' St, in Dublin 8. (Affectionately known to Dubliners as 'John's Lane Church) It boasts one of the tallest spires in Dublin. The celebrated Stained glass artist Harry Clarke made some of the windows in John's Lane Church.
The Church of St. James, James's Street, Dublin 8. This church is directly connected with the Camino of Santiago. It is also famous as it is located right beside the famous Guinness's Brewery.
The Church of St. Mary of the Angels on Church St (ofm.cap.) Completed in 1881, although the Capuchins have been in the area for over 400 years, the church boasts a marble altar carved by James Pearse, the father of Padraig and Willie, two of the famous patriots of 1916. One of the notable ministeries of the Capuchins in Church St is Br. Kevin's Day Centre for Homeless which provides hot food (breakfast and dinner) for over 500 people per day. Also take away groceries for up to 1000 people on Wednesdays. There is a doctor/nurse/chiropodist/ counselling and soon a dental service at the centre
The Church of St. Michan on Halston St, Dublin 7 Situated in the famous 'Market's Area of north Dublin City centre, it is the oldest Catholic Church in the north city centre (built in 1817) The stained glass windows were made in the famous Harry Clarke studios. The pastoral care of the parish has been in the care of the Capuchin Order since 1984.
St. Mary's Pro-Cathedral, Marlborough St, Dublin 1 is the Mother Church of the Archdiocese and the seat of the Archbishop of Dublin.
Each of these Churches are perhaps some of the seven oldest churches in Dublin and have a special place in the hearts of all Dubliners and people beyond. The International Eucharistic Congress begins on Sunday June 10th and concludes with the final Mass or the Statio Orbis in Croke Park stadium on Sunday, June 17th. The Pilgrims are invited to visit the seven churches from the week before (June 2nd to 17th) See www.iec2012.ie for more.
Wednesday, 16 May 2012
I had a Theology Lecturer who often described the Incarnation this way: God always loved the World but through the Incarnation, He actually said the words, I Love You. Christ is the Word of God’s Love for us. God gave of Himself so that we may know that we are loved, we are part of Him and He is part of us. The Incarnation of this Love is repeated daily in the Eucharist and for Francis it was the knowledge of this that united him to Christ and to all of Creation. It was the knowledge of this that sustained him in his mission and through all his trials and illness. This Love is a deep, self-sacrificing, other centred Love that was Francis strength in weakness. He knew he was loved and so needed no more.
In the Earlier Rule Francis writes ‘Therefore, let us desire nothing else, let us want nothing else, let nothing else please us and cause us delight, except Our Creator, Redeemer and Saviour, the only True God, Who is the fullness of Good, all Good, every Good, the true and supreme Good’ (ER, 9).
For Francis God’s Love for us equates to God’s Goodness. He saw the Creator in all that surrounded him, in the plants and animals, the sun and moon, the poor and Lepers and everybody he met, even those who persecuted him and he rejoiced in it because it all comes from God and God IS Good and God IS Love.
Francis had deep reverence for the Blessed Virgin as the one who was chose to bring the Word into the World. In light of this he wrote the Salutation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is a beautiful piece of poetry:
Hail, O Lady, Holy Queen
Mary, Holy Mother of God, Who are Virgin made Church,
Chosen by the Most Holy Father in heaven whom he consecrated with His most Holy Beloved Son
And with the Holy Spirit the Paraclete, in whom there was and is all fullness of grace and every good.
Hail His Palace!
Hail His Tabernacle!
Hail His Dwelling!
Hail His Robe!
Hail His Servant!
Hail His Mother!
Again we see Francis reverence for all places touched by Christ from the womb of His mother to the places where the Blessed Sacrament was reserved. Everything was touched by God and therefore became sacred.
We pray that we may become vessels of Christ in the World, that through the prayers of Mary, His Mother, the Virgin made Church, we may carry Christ in our hearts and minds at all times with reverence and love. That we may recognise the Goodness of God in all we see and to always remember that Christ, for us, is the Father saying to each of us….I Love you. Let this be our only desire and let us delight always in it, praising, adoring and thanking God with our lives.
‘Though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of people. And being found in human form, he humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross’(Phil 2:6-11).
This is the great mystery of our faith. Jesus Christ, Son of God, takes on flesh and humanity and so becomes bound by the cycle of human life from birth to death. Christ truly God and truly human entered fully into our existence and experience and therefore becomes a God that truly knows us. Francis marvelled at this and rejoiced in it too.
He writes in his Letter to the Entire Order ‘The Lord of the Universe, God and Son of God, so humbles himself that for our salvation he hides Himself under an ordinary piece of bread! Brothers, look at the humility of God, and pour out your hearts before Him! Humble yourselves that you may be exalted by Him! Hold back nothing for yourselves, that He who gives Himself totally for you may receive you totally! (27-30).
As a Franciscan, I cannot read these words without being moved and changed by them. Their beauty lies in their simplicity. These are the words of somebody who understood, at the deepest levels, what Christ did for us, the lengths he went to in order to reach us where we are and how He continues to do this everyday, through the Eucharist.
Christ’s humility, Francis tells us, calls us in turn to humility. We should humble ourselves before God and each other, taking the form of a servant. In giving of ourselves to God and our Brothers and Sisters, we receive. This is the life blood of Christianity. As we celebrate the Eucharist together, we do so in harmony and solidarity with all of Creation. We can, if we turn our minds to it, carry the weight of the world to the altar and offer it, along with ourselves, to God. This is our call.
Let us pray that over these days of the Congress, that we may be given the grace of humility. That we may begin to move towards seeing our Brothers and Sisters as Christ sees them and that we may never be afraid to go and meet them, where they are, just as Christ meets us where we are. Through the Eucharist may we be unified with Christ and with one another.
‘Let everyone be stuck with fear, let the whole world tremble and let the Heavens exalt , when Christ, the Son of the Living God is Present on the altar in the hands of a Priest. O wonderful loftiness and stupendous dignity! O sublime humility! O humble sublimity!’ (Letter to the entire Order, 26-27).
Francis revered the role of the Priest, not for the sake of elevating the person of the Priest above others but, because of the Priests role in making Christ truly present. For Francis this was a great mystery of faith and he saw it as a great honour for those called to serve as Priests.
Francis experienced, in a very real and palpable way, the presence of God in all of Creation, his spirit soared as he contemplated the great gift of life and as he contemplated the face of God in all he met. But in the Eucharist, he recognised the real presence of Christ, the presence that consoles, transforms and heals.
In his Letter to the Clergy, Francis clearly states the need for those ministering at the Altar to do so with utmost respect and reverence. To minister knowing that it IS Christ, truly present before them. He admonishes those who treat the Body and Blood of Christ ‘illicitly’ meaning they do not afford Christ present in the Eucharist due respect and care. He writes ‘whenever the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ has been illicitly placed, let it be removed from there and placed in a precious place and locked away’ (Letter to the Clergy, 11-12). Such was Francis awareness of, and respect for, Christ truly present in the Eucharist.
As we continue to journey this pilgrim route together, let us reflect on how we reverence Christ truly present in the Eucharist. Are we in tune with the great mystery of the Eucharist or has it become mechanical for us? Do we take time to realise that in the Eucharist we meet the living Christ, who lives in us as we live in Him? Do we see the celebration of the Eucharist through eyes of faith being the blessed who do not see yet still believe?
Let us pray for each other, that this time together may be one of renewal in which our eyes of faith are opened and our sight strengthened, so we may see Christ truly present and with reverence bow to the King of Kings, in adoration, petition, praise and thanksgiving.
‘The Most High Father made know from heaven, through his Holy Angel Gabriel, this Word of the Father – so worthy, so holy and glorious – in the womb of the holy and glorious Virgin Mary, from whose womb He received the flesh of our humanity and frailty. Though He was rich, He wished, together with the Most Blessed Virgin, His mother, to choose poverty in the world beyond all else’ (Later Admonition, 2-6).
For Francis, the self-emptying act of God, the very act of taking on the weakness of humanity and, in turn, making it strong, was central to both his view of Eucharist and of how he orientated his own life. Ilia Delio OFS writes in his book The Humility of God: A Franciscan Perspective that, ‘Incarnation means that God takes on flesh. Jesus is the Word made flesh, a Word from which we could read the ultimate nature of God and of human nature itself’ (Delia, 2005, Pg 38). He continues that ‘the mystery of the Incarnation is that God bends down to meet us wherever we are. God is [both] Most High and most intimately related to us’ (Delia, 2005, Pg 52).
For Francis, Eucharist is a process of continual self-emptying. The first emptying occurred when the word became flesh, this continued in Christ’s choice to live a poor life of embodied humanness, it culminated in the Crucifixion and continues for us in the Eucharist, which makes Christ ‘s offering and self-sacrifice really and truly present to us each day.
As we begin our journey in faith, with Christ, along the pilgrim path of the IEC, I pray that we may be granted the Grace to allow us to empty ourselves, making room in our hearts and lives for Christ; however He may present Himself to us.
St Francis of Assisi is often famed as the Saint of Animals and Ecology and often, in light of the image portrayed in the movie ‘Brother Sun, Sister Moon’ but there is much, much more to him than all that. Francis left us a number of letters, written to various groups, his Admonitions to the Friars as well as some other shorter writings.
Francis, through these writings, has left open for us a window into his Theology of the Eucharist. We must, however, read these in context of the time and place they in which they were composed, namely, rural Italy in the early 1200’s. Nevertheless, they contain a richness and beauty which can enkindle in us a renewed appreciation for and love of the Eucharist as communion with Christ and with one another.
Francis’ Theology of the Eucharist can be categorised under the following five areas:
1. Eucharist as a continual self-emptying
2. Eucharist as Christ truly present
3. Eucharist as Humility
4. Eucharist as call and response
5. Eucharist as the Incarnate Word
In this series of reflections, I will explore each of these elements both in light of what Francis said and also in terms of what that can mean for us today, in light of our times.
Friday, 11 May 2012
Our Brothers in the Vice Province of Zambia recently held a Chapter and elected, for the first time, a Zambian Vice Provincial (Br Thomas Zulu) and all Zambian Council. We wish them every blessing and success for the future. The mission to Zambia began from Ireland in the 1930's and this is a great moment in their history.
Peace to you!!
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As always thanks for your interest and support
Thursday, 3 May 2012
Peace to you all!
In preparation for the International Eucharistic Congress, we will post a series of reflections, over the coming days and weeks, on St Francis and the Eucharist. The Eucharist is central to Franciscan life, wherever and however it is lived. The theme of this Congress is 'Eucharist: Communion with Christ and with one another' and this theme could very easily be applied to Franciscan life.
As Capuchin Franciscans, our life, following the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a life of Fraternity both with Christ and with one another. At the centre of this life is the Eucharist both as a Sacrament, in which we are united with Christ, and also as a Sacrament in which we are bound together.
Francis, in his early years, longed to be a Knight and to take part in the Crusades to the Holy Land. After he heard Christ's call and responded to it, his Crusade became a Crusade of Peace, of Love, of Unity, of Communion.....a Eucharistic Crusade. In this series of reflections we will look at some of the writing Francis has left us, in which he speaks of the Eucharistic, it's importance and our responsibilities as followers of Christ. We will look at these writings, now nearly 800 years old, in light of our contemporary experience and world, drawing on his wisdom and insights.
We are delighted that both St Mary of the Angels in Church St and St Michan's in Halston Street have been chosen as part of the Pilgrim Walk. We look forward to welcoming pilgrims and sharing with them a little of what it means to be a Franciscan in today's world.
I hope you can join us for the walk and that, in the time leading to the Congress, you find the reflections enriching ....stay tuned, we'll keep you posted!