Life after Epiphany


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Meeting Place

I was condemned to death,
death well-deserved.
A shameful death, an execution.

I was given a cross
Assigned final toil:
to carry it to a place
of alienation
from all that is good
from Goodness Himself.
A place I had chosen
in which to spend eternity.

What’s this?
Your Grace?
That Cross became our meeting place!

– – – – –

(A dusty sketch from sometime back in my Novice year)


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Permit me to draw your attention…

… just for a moment, to God’s awesomeness :-).

Remember that old cliche you’d encounter all the time in shows and cartoons when you were a kid? The whole “I could beat you with both arms tied behind my back!!” thing?

Well… as St Augustine and St Catherine of Siena both remind us, that’s precisely what Jesus Christ did. He had both arms pinned down… nailed… to a plank of wood so that He couldn’t move them. And even as He bled out – literally Love poured out – He defeated evil. He overcame the world.

Laudate Dominum!


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After Epiphany…? Baptism!!

Isn’t it funny how, as we keep unfolding our own lives through the normal course of the passage of time, we chance across considerations that – as obvious as they seem right now – never occurred to us before? I feel like a mighty great “DUH!!!!” is echoing down the ages!

Almost two years ago, I started this blog to be my outlet as I muddled through what life after epiphany should look like.

The answer was there all along, of course. Right there in the Liturgical Calendar!! The Sunday that follows Epiphany is the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, and this is RICH in significance… so much so that I daresay that I will continue to be unfolding this for many years to come. Some initial thoughts do occur to me now, though.

1. Mission
Our Lord’s Baptism was the beginning of His public ministry. It seems fitting that a ritual associated with conversion (even though we know Our Lord was sinless and had no personal need for conversion) leads into a life that takes on a new, higher purpose. We see the same most clearly in the conversion of St Paul and his subsequent life as a missionary. I can’t help but think that it is of crucial importance that I should be considering at this time, after my own special epiphany experience, the meaning of my own Baptism some 33 years ago, and the fact that I am called by virtue of that Baptism to be a worker in the Lord’s vineyard (c.f. Christifideles Laici). My experiences in my former religious community were fitting me for a special task in His service.

2. Suffering
In Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI highlights that the premise of Baptism is the admission of sinfulness. In the Sinless One receiving Baptism, He “loaded the burden of all mankind’s guilt upon his shoulders; he bore it down into the depths of the Jordan. He inaugurated his public activity by stepping into the place of sinners. His inaugural gesture is an anticipation of the Cross” (Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, p18). My time in formation gave me a clearer insight into what some of my personal weaknesses and tendencies towards sinfulness are. I know specifically much of what it was that Our Lord bore particularly for me down into the Jordan riverbed of Rita Simmond’s poem (c.f. Magnificat, January edition 2015, p150). I also know that to be Baptised and to share in His Sonship is to share in all aspects of His life – including His suffering and His death. Has my time in religious life, my unique experience of His love, changed the way I can follow Him on that path? One thing is for sure – if this is the path that I’m walking, I want it to bear fruit, and abundantly! Fruit that I can offer back to Him as a gift of thanksgiving.

3. Fulfillment
Sharing in His death, we know, entails sharing then in His Resurrection afterward!! Pope Benedict reminds us that Luke, in his Gospel, located the Baptism of Our Lord at the conclusion of his presentation of the Genealogy of Christ (p 10). Christ is the anointed one, the Messiah, the fulfilment of all the great prophecies. Christ is likewise the fulfilment of my deepest desires. He gives me glimpses of the future from time to time, to help support me in my own weakness. Being weaker than most, I also needed a special, prolonged time of intimacy with Him in the cloister. But that is just the promise. Christ Himself is the fulfillment. And so I need to stop looking back over my shoulder at what has been, except to remember His goodness to me and give thanks. I need to keep forging on ahead, following Him every step of the way, to that ultimate fulfilment, that eternity with Him.

Deo gratias!!


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Salvation: my first attempt at recording and sharing my own music

Back in April I blogged about a song I wrote some years ago during a difficult time in my life, a time where I was experiencing a crippling slavery to the things of this world and to certain behaviours that were quite simply destructive to my interior life.

I wrote the song on Easter Sunday of 2009, and it was my first glimmer of hope – grounded in the Resurrection – that the Lord could free me from this slavery and draw me more closely to Himself in love.

When I wrote about the song I posted the lyrics, but did not include an audio version. Since leaving my previous cloistered environment I’ve discovered Soundcloud and this is my first attempt at recording and sharing – so there are a lot of mistakes! In your generosity, please forgive/ignore the mistakes – I’ll clean them up later – but for now, here goes:


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Prayer to St. Thérèse of Lisieux (taken from the book “Blessed be God”)

O servant of God, Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, who in thy dying moments did say: “I will spend my heaven in doing good upon the earth,” hasten to let fall upon me a Shower of Roses that I too may be inflamed with that fire of love which burned so brilliantly in thy breast and which brought thee so gloriously to the arms of Jesus, my Lord and my God. Amen

Happy Feast of St. Thérèse of Lisieux!
If you prayed the novena with me, I thank you!

The book Blessed be God: A Complete Catholic Prayer Book with Epistles and Gospels for Every Sunday and Holiday of the Year  by  Fr Charles J. Callan OP and Fr. John A. McHugh OP (reprinted in 2010 by Preserving Christian Publications) is a real little treasure. It was published in 1960 so it is modelled on the old Roman calendar rather than the current calendar, but it is absolutely teeming with beautiful prayers and devotions. Vinyl bound with gold edging on the pages and a page-marker ribbon, just beautiful!It includes aspects of catechesis on the virtues and whatnot, too (c’mon, the authors were Dominican!) and I can’t recommend it enough. I received mine as a gift from a friend just last week. It is already well-used and well-loved!


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Did not our hearts burn as He talked to us on the road? An Eastertide Scripture reflection

This beautiful Emmaus Painting can be purchased as a print from the original artist, who has other work for sale also: http://www.emmauspainting.com/

I LOVE the Emmaus pericope.

Our human experience is so often characterized by our confusion at what is happening to us and around us. We get preoccupied with trying to make sense of it all and without our recognizing it, Jesus draws near.

How often we are oblivious to His presence!

Nevertheless, Jesus walks with us. He is present to us in our pain and confusion. Perhaps He is silent sometimes – but He is there.

Verse 16 tells us that the eyes of Cleopas and his companion (Luke himself?) were kept from recognizing Christ. I wonder if God doesn’t do this sometimes to help us see our need for Him, to help us desire Him more? Just like the lover in the Song of Songs, whose relationship with His beloved is characterized by alternating periods of presence and absence… yet even when He is absent, He leaves behind his fragrance, the rememberance of Him… is He ever TRULY absent?

The question He asks next seems indicative of an invitation to prayer. Jesus knows the answer to the question He asks – He is the Risen Lord, after all! He asks the question to prompt a conversation. Jesus wants us to bring our troubles to Him, even though He already knows about them. He helps us to reflect thoughtfully… and then He asks us to listen to Him.

The thoughtful reflection is important, but the crucial step is the listening, for it is then that our hearts burn. We are made for union with God. God is our ultimate end, our absolute good. It makes sense that as we listen to Him, something inside us starts to sing. “Only the lover sings” as Josef Pieper would say! Yes – something inside us starts to sing, and our deepest desires are revealed to us. The Lord knows our desires – but do we? Really?

The journey on earth is long and arduous at times, and it would perhaps be cruel if the Lord were to heighten our desires but never to satiate them. Whilst our desire for fullness of union with God, and the ability to see Him as He is, can never be realized until the next life, we can receive a foretaste of this union at the Mass, our portal as it were into the heavenly banquet, the wedding feast of the Lamb.

This very account is the Scriptural basis for the structure of the Mass. The Mass consists of a celebration of the Word where we allow the Lord to speak to us through Scripture, and the priest in his homily seeks to help us understand the Gospel message by explaining the Scriptures in the broader context of Salvation History such that we can see how it points to Christ. Then we celebrate the Liturgy of the Eucharist, a representation (in the Hebrew understanding) of the once and for all Paschal Sacrifice. Time and space diminish in their relevance – all of the angels and saints are truly present at each Mass, where heaven is united with earth, and it is NOT a repetition of the Sacrifice that transpires – rather it is the very same Sacrifice – we become mysteriously present at Calvary.

It is here, in this place, during the breaking of the bread, that we are able to recognize the Lord and understand what He has spoken to us.

“O Sacred Banquet – in which Christ is received, the memory of His Passion is recalled and the pledge of future glory is given to us!” – St. Thomas Aquinas

Do you desire intimacy with Christ?
Come to Mass and meet Him there!


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the harrowing of hell

stMarysCathedralMAR2013 023 (733x423)

An empty tabernacle

In churches around the world today, the Tabernacles are empty. The Lord Jesus, who makes Himself truly present to us in the form of bread and wine and dwells Sacramentally among us in our churches, cannot be found where He usually resides.

The empty tabernacle calls to mind the Lord’s lifeless Body in the tomb. Jesus, who is God, truly died on that First Century Passover. What transpired between His Death and Resurrection? We profess in the Apostles Creed to believe that He descended into Hell, and on the third day rose from the dead.

The following is an “ancient homily on Holy Saturday” – a moving, powerful piece that dares to imagine the Majesty of the Lord enacting His victory over death:

The Lord descends into hell

Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and rasied him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.

For your sake I, your God, became your son; I the Lord, took the form of a slave; I whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol o life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by the cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

— Taken from the Office of Readings for Holy Saturday


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subverting shame – a symbol of love

goodFridayVenerationCross

Crucifix laid out for Good Friday veneration.

 Shame is a lie.

Likewise, discouragement is a device of the evil one and must be seen for the deception it is.

Shame is our instinctive response to an internal acknowledgement of inadequacy or wrongdoing. Discouragement is a response to an awareness of shame. A spiral of lies.

Before Jesus shouldered our sin upon Himself and died to reconcile the world to Himself, the cross was the instrument of the most shameful death in society. Crucifixion was the execution of choice for criminals and agitators; there was nothing dignified nor heroic about it.

Setting humanity straight in more ways than one, Jesus subverts everything we think we know about the world. The Cross had no power over the Creator of its makers, nor the nails over the Lord of the man who hammered them into place.

A friend of mine wrote a wonderful song, a reflection on this very point. Her song was called “Not by Nails” and it speaks of the Love which held Our Saviour to the Cross. God is love, and Jesus is God. Jesus was physically nailed to the Cross but it was Jesus’ own choice to be bound by that physical reality. Love and obedience carried the day. Jesus did the Will of His Father out of such a pure, personal, particular and preferential love for you, for me, for each individual that ever has or ever will live that we can’t even begin to fathom it.

Horror is juxtaposed with beauty. That Holy Face which was Transfigured has, for a time, become disfigured. (Pope John Paul II writes eloquently on this reality in Vita Consecrata.)

As a child, I understood on some level my complicity in Christ’s death, but rather than solemnly contemplate in silent gratitude the gift of our salvation and the means by which it was wrought, I used to get very upset about the brutal way in which Jesus was executed. It took some time before I started to learn that love was more than a feeling. Love is a choice. Love is the choice symbolized by the Cross.

Before Jesus died for us, shame was the only appropriate response to sinfulness and inadequacy. In dying, Christ won for us the freedom to choose between  continuing to dwell in that shame, or a radically different response: love… and the trust and the gratitude that go along with it. I no longer look to myself and my weakness. Yes – my weakness is there… but I’m not scandalized, I’m not ashamed. No… I no longer look to myself. I have Christ ahead of me and I choose to look to Him, to He who is Love.


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Gethsemane

Your human nature gripped by fear
Though union’d with Divinity
You grasp at root, at dust, at stone
Lord Jesus, on Your knees, alone.

The night so still, an eerie glow
interrupts shadows cast by the moon
No wind to sift through leaves below
Stark silence since the upper room.

As moments pass, chest heaves in pain
You see the wrong that I will do
Yet endure gladly for my stain
To draw my heart nearer to You.

Allow me, Lord, to come and help
You get up off Your knees
To wipe the blood-sweat off Your face
Your agony appease.

Not e’en one hour I wait with You
Now on Your knees again
I drift to sleep whilst You pour out
Your heartfelt plea for men.

Though spirit willing, flesh is weak
And my will, weaker still
You make me know its You I seek
that You alone fulfil

The night wears on and You, O Lord,
begin to tire from grief
Tormented by our hardened hearts
our sins, our unbelief.

I would not dare to interfere
with Your foretold redemptive act
But let me walk the way with You
At least in prayer if not in fact.

Now others to the garden come
Your victory will soon be won.
You freely choose the bitter cup
To torture and death You give Yourself up

Taken by thugs, betrayed by a friend
Your death: our bond with Father, mend.

– – – – –
(A dusty sketch from 16 October, 2011)