Category Archives: Past Items

Children’s Liturgy

Children’s Liturgy will resume on Sunday 5th October at 11.00am Mass in St Joseph’s Church and 12.00 noon Mass in St Comgall’s Church.

Thank you to all the volunteers who have made this possible.

Time to care for our Jaded Priests

As Catholics we need to ease the burden on our priests

 

Some of our priests feel unsupported: unsupported by those in leadership in the Church, unsupported by colleagues and unappreciated by many parishioners. While everyone acknowledges that there must be more lay involvement in the Church, this is often more of a platitude than a commitment to do something. Some priests say they find many parishioners reluctant to be any more involved than going to Mass once a week.

Some priests I meet often feel so discouraged, disheartened and even tempted to be disbelieving. The overwhelming majority are happy and fulfilled in their ministry despite the challenges, but are feeling the strain. For some priests, the deafening silence about the good they do is a painful reality.

Struggle

As Ireland struggles to come to terms with its past many priests feel that they are unfairly caught in the headlights, sins of a previous era hung around their neck. In the all-too-Irish desperate rush to simplistic judgement, the Church and priests are often blamed for all the ills of the past our culture is unwilling to address properly.

Priestly identity in Ireland is changing rapidly and no one is quite sure what the future holds. One thing that is for sure, however, is that priests are facing more-and-more demands on their time and emotional energy.

Something has got to give. Some of the priests I meet feel fragile – even jaded – trying to keep up. And trying to ensure that the mask doesn’t slip. Some priests cope with the daily stress of feeling that they can never admit that they’re struggling.

Parish-based priests have one day off every week – or at least that’s the theory. Many priests tell me that days off are becoming rarer. Holidays are also more difficult. Some priests feel guilty about taking time off, as if they are letting the side down.

“But who would do a funeral if I took a week off,” an elderly priest told me recently after daily Mass. At that same daily Mass I knelt as with tired-looking hands and arthritic fingers that holy man raised the host and proclaimed “this is my body”. It was a religious truth in more ways than one. He is a man who has brought the light of Christ to communities for decades.

He has witnessed the transformation of Ireland to a place where many people – even some Massgoers – live their lives as if God doesn’t exist. Yet, the demands are the same: families will often be irate if a priest is not immediately available to attend to a sick relative. It’s as if some people haven’t noticed that there used to be four priests in the parish and now there is only one man struggling to keep up.

Many of our parishes are still operating based largely on the generosity of an elderly priest. Some priests feel emotionally drained by non-Massgoing Catholics who have unmanageable demands particularly around funerals and weddings and feel hard-done-by when the Church’s liturgy can’t accommodate the latest X-Factor hit.

Some priests are at breaking-point simply keeping the show on the road and there is little or no thought about realistic reform of parish life. There is sometimes a culture in the Church that to admit one is struggling or one’s wellbeing is affected is to concede weakness.

Expectations

While the number of priests serving in parishes has fallen sharply in recent years, the expectations largely remain the same. In many dioceses, the (usually unsaid) advice is simply to keep one’s head down and get on with things. Priests themselves can sometimes be too timid.

They take on more and more commitments, even though they know it’s not realistic. Some priests are reluctant to talk about the reality of burn out in case they are seen to be whinging.

Recently, support groups launched a campaign called ‘mind our men’ encouraging people to try to help Irishmen who are struggling with their mental health. Priests are hugely vulnerable. What about – as a Church community – a ‘mind our priests’ campaign? What about a realisation as parishioners that we can’t expect what went before? What about facing painful decisions about cutting the number of Masses and rationalising parishes? What about facing the reality that we have too many churches in Ireland? One of the ironies is that as priestly numbers have fallen the overall number of churches has increased.

Where is the leadership in all of this? Are we as laypeople willing to take on co-responsibility and let our priests know that they don’t have to go it alone?

There’s also challenges that the sometimes solitary life of a priest brings. Some priests are lonely and experience a huge sense of isolation. Some never experience intimacy in their lives and that felt needs goes unfulfilled. This sometimes leads to resentment, bitterness and, for some, overwhelming sadness.

Many priests have imbibed the message that the only way to live celibacy is to keep their heart a prisoner, to love no-one, never to be vulnerable. But, a human being can’t survive without love, never mind thrive.

The only way to have a heart that does not love, C.S. Lewis knew based on his own bitter experience is to “lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable”. Do priests have someone to turn to? Do they have friends with whom they can experience the human need for intimacy and to know themselves to be loved and accepted?

We all bear responsibility for this. Too often we Catholics see our priests as bionic Superman-like figures without the same feelings and emotional needs of others. It’s as if the grace of the Sacrament of Holy Orders overrides all human issues. But it doesn’t. How do we show appreciation for our priests? How do we demonstrate that the time spent on a homily or preparing a special liturgy is valued?

As Catholics we need to develop creative ways to ease the burden on our priests and to let them know that their work is valued and their ministry affirmed. Maybe this is something that parish pastoral councils could address?

A life of service in a bruised and bloodied Church is challenging and physically, mentally and emotionally draining. This is an uncomfortable truth that must be faced, but if faced with courage and honesty can lead to a renewed sense of co-responsibility in the Church.

– See more at: http://www.irishcatholic.ie/article/time-care-our-jaded-priests#sthash.JsowKs5S.dpuf

As Essential as Breathing

                                 

                Forgiveness is not listed among the traditional gifts of the Holy Spirit, but, in the first of two articles to mark Pentecost, a Dominican argues that it has become central to Catholicism
In John’s gospel (20:19-23), we find a quite different sign of the Spirit’s coming, one much less impressive in itself, yet perhaps no less dramatic. All Jesus does is breathe on the Apostles. By selecting this account of the risen Christ’s appearance to them on the evening of Easter Sunday as the gospel reading for Mass on the day of Pentecost, the Church asks us to consider the mystery of Pentecost not only in the light of the extraordinary signs of Acts but in the light of the very ordinary sign of human breath.
Jesus says: “Receive the Holy Spirit,” and then he breathes on them. Now that is certainly dramatic. Anyone who goes to the theatre or enjoys films knows that the smallest and simplest of gestures can be dramatic. Yet there’s nothing particularly miraculous about breathing. It’s certainly miraculous that someone who had been dead for three days is now breathing, but there’s nothing extraordinary about breathing in itself. The tongues of fire, sound from Heaven and the various languages that would come 50 days later are miraculous, but breathing is just natural, something we experience every day.
What I want to suggest here is that the very ordinariness of this sign has something ­important to tell us about the gift of the Spirit and his effect on our relationships with one another. I do not say that the gift of the Holy Spirit is something natural to us, as breathing is.
The special indwelling of the Spirit within you is entirely supernatural – it does not come with the gift of our humanity, but is a further gift. Breathing, eating, drinking, growing, reproducing, community, learning and so on – all these are natural to human life. Having the Holy Spirit dwell within you is of a higher order altogether, and we have some inkling of this from the miraculous signs that accompany him at Pentecost.
However, when Jesus sends this supernatural gift into the Apostles, he accompanies it with a very natural and ordinary sign – human breath. The Apostles see and hear him breathe over them, and I dare say felt his breath on them too. The clue to the importance of such a natural and ordinary sign, I suggest, lies in the next thing Jesus says to the Apostles, which reminds us how their preaching on the day of Pentecost resulted in so many baptisms for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus says: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven. If you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” The giving of the Spirit under the sign of breath is immediately linked with the reality of forgiveness in the Church, the power of giving absolution to those whose Christian lives have failed after baptism, transmitted by Jesus along with the Spirit to the Apostles.
Now this passage certainly has to do with the fact that the Apostles, and their successors in the ordained priesthood, are stewards of sacramental absolution. But the passage also points us to the wider truth that forgiveness has to be at the heart of any community that is shaped by the Holy Spirit. A human community can be shaped in all sorts of ways, by all sorts of different factors, by enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, sexual immorality and so on. But it can also be shaped by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control.
What is of crucial significance to the life of any community is whether or not forgiveness is a fundamental value. Because where forgiveness is not fundamental, a community will only fall apart; where relationships remain wounded, wounds attract disease and fester until there is death. But where there is forgiveness, there is always hope, always goodwill, always openness to the possibility of renewal and genuine healing. Without forgiveness at the core of its life, a community will decay, but where forgiveness is fundamental, there is always the possibility of a stronger and greater community.
It is a striking part of Jesus’ preaching that he tells us that if we do not forgive the sins of others, our heavenly Father will not forgive us. That is the deal. However difficult it may be for us to forgive the terrible wrongs that may be done to us, what Jesus announces is good news for us, because every one of us benefits from it, and without it not one of us can have real hope. Forgiveness, though, is often not easy for us, but for the Spirit of God. When we look at how our world has rebelled against God, we have to wonder that such a great mass of sin can be forgiven. And yet as St Thomas Aquinas writes in the Summa Theologica, nothing is impossible for the Holy Spirit who offers forgiveness to all, where divine power has its chief manifestation in divine mercy.
If the Spirit of the Lord can forgive all this, then surely he can give us the power to forgive when we find it difficult or even impossible. Although it may sometimes feel that we do not possess the natural power to forgive, the power to forgive is entirely natural to the Spirit of Jesus. And so, as Pope Francis puts it: “The Lord never tires of forgiving.” When then his Holy Spirit comes to dwell in our hearts, what is natural to the Spirit can become second nature to us. That is one reason, I suggest, why so natural a sign as breathing accompanied the Holy Spirit when Jesus gave the Apostles the power to forgive sins. Forgiveness may sometimes seem even unnatural to us, but it is natural to a community formed by the Holy Spirit, the only kind of community that can ultimately work in a sinful world.
Forgiveness is as fundamental to the life of the Church as breathing is to the life of the body. Without breath, the body dies. Without forgiveness the Church would die too, and so would die all our hope. The coming of the Spirit at Pentecost guarantees the life of the Church, but also places the life of the Church in our hands. If we do not forgive one another, we die. But if we do forgive, God opens up a new life of possibilities before us, and the hope of a life with him that will never die.
Fr Simon Francis Gaine OP is the Regent of Studies at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Bishop Treanor on Christian Citizenship and Forthcoming Elections

Posted on 16. May, 2014

‘Christian Citizenship and the Local Council and European

Parliamentary Elections in Northern Ireland’

 

A Pastoral Reflection by Most Rev. Noel Treanor

Bishop of Down & Connor

 

 

In offering some guidance, Catholic Social teaching, based on respect for the inherent dignity and equality of every person, and emphasizing our responsibility as Christians to promote the common good, offers four principles that have particular significance in the forthcoming local and European elections in Northern Ireland. These are:

  • The right to life. There is no more fundamental human right than the right to life. Society has a duty to ensure such a fundamental right is protected for all, but especially for those who are most vulnerable and least able to protect this right for themselves. Recently, the Minister for Justice in Northern Ireland announced his intention to introduce a bill to the Assembly that will significantly extend the law on abortion in Northern Ireland. In Dáil Éireann last July, legislation was introduced that made the direct and intentional killing of the unborn child lawful in Ireland. With great courage, some public representatives exercised their right to freedom of conscience on this issue of fundamental human rights and voted against the enforced policy of their party, which was to support abortion. While local Councils and the European Parliament have no direct responsibility for the law on abortion in Northern Ireland, the influence of local Councillors and MEP’s on our understanding of public morality and its relationship to law and policy, is significant. It is important for those who believe in the equal right to life of a mother and her unborn child during pregnancy, and who believe that the direct and intentional killing of an innocent person can never be morally justified, to establish the position of each individual candidate on this fundamental moral issue.

 

  • Upholding the special value of marriage between a woman and man as the foundation of the family. As Christians we believe every person is equal in the sight of God and should always be treated with love, care, dignity and respect. Religious and non-religious people alike have long acknowledged and know from their experience that the family, based on the marriage of a woman and a man, is the best and ideal place for children. As Pope Francis stated recently, “we must reaffirm the right of children to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity” (16 April 2014). It is a fact of nature that same-sex unions are fundamentally and objectively different from the complementary sexual union of a woman and a man which is of itself naturally open to life. The position of a particular candidate on this issue is an important consideration for all citizens. This is not just a religious issue. It is about upholding marriage between a woman and man as the fundamental unit of society, open to the possibility of children, an institution written into the very grammar of nature itself. It is also important for politicians to recognise that this issue is not only about ensuring Churches and faith communities are not obliged to officiate at same-sex ‘marriages’. Respect for religious freedom also includes the right of Churches to teach on this issue in a respectful and sensitive way, to have the ethos of faith-based institutions in employment and other areas protected and of Churches to continue to provide services in preparation for and on-going support of marriage and the family, in a manner which is consistent with their ethos. As experience in other jurisdictions shows, this freedom is very often denied to Churches once ‘same-sex’ marriage legislation is introduced and the rights and freedoms of individual Christians and Churches are quickly, often aggressively undermined.

 

  • Promoting justice, social inclusion and concern for the poor. Northern Ireland has the highest rates of child poverty in Ireland and the UK. It has some of the highest rates of working poor, fuel poverty and people on disability allowance. Church representatives were among the first to express concern about the potentially dramatic impact of the proposed welfare reforms on the most vulnerable individuals and families in Northern Ireland. Local politicians deserve credit for ensuring that some important aspects of the proposed welfare reforms will not be implemented here. Having an active concern for the welfare of the poor and most vulnerable is a fundamental Christian duty, deriving from the teaching of the Gospel and enshrined in Catholic Social Teaching. While supporting the principle of helping people out of welfare into work, the forthcoming elections are an opportunity to ask each candidate how they will work to ensure the needs of the poor and most vulnerable in our society are a priority and fully addressed.

 

  • Promoting Peace and Reconciliation. Many people express disillusionment with the seeming inability of our local politicians to make progress on a wide range of urgent social, economic and educational issues. This includes the failure to reach agreement on issues that will help us to move to a more peaceful and reconciled future, such as flags, marches and dealing with the past. Elected representatives on Local Councils and in the European Parliament have an important part to play in promoting and funding key initiatives in this area, as well as influencing their political party to work towards agreement and progress on such critical issues in the Assembly. The promotion of peace, mutual understanding and reconciliation has also been at the heart of the European project and the work of the EU Institutions. The European Union is a noble and historic project. It is vital that we participate in the European elections to ensure the EU and its institutions continue to evolve democratically in the face of the massive political, social, economic and ethical challenges it is now facing. Promoting peace and reconciliation is fundamental to the mission and responsibility of every Christian.

As Christians, who by our national citizenship are also citizens of the European Union, we enjoy both the great freedom and the great responsibility of participating conscientiously in the democratic process and voting in the forthcoming elections. We have the freedom and responsibility to make the decision about who to vote for in accordance with a well-formed conscience, before God. It is also important that we commend and encourage all those who take up the noble vocation of politics and who, with a true spirit of public service, work with integrity and commitment for the common good.

Bazaar Back in Town

The Spirit of Christmas Past returned to Antrim last December with the staging of the traditional Christmas Bazaar in St Joseph’s Hall Greystone. After an absence of some ten years it was apparent from early in the afternoon that the event hadn’t lost any of its former attraction. A great crowd from every corner of Antrim Parish, from Ballyarnot to Tannaghmore and from Milltown to Muckamore turned out to enjoy the hustle and bustle of activity.

With great bargains to be had at the bakery and bric a brac stalls, and total  delight from the winners of the many valuable prizes being promoted from the stage, there was much merriment all around and everyone enjoyed the welcome sit down and chat with a cup of tea and traditional fare.

For the children there was plenty in the way of excitement with games, face painting, food and, of course, the much anticipated arrival of Santa, who made his way through the Arctic conditions with the help of a police escort. Despite his busy schedule, Santa stayed long enough to ensure that every child got a chance to meet him and place any special requests.

Parish priest Fr Emerson expressed his delight and that of his colleagues at the massive success the day had brought and paid tribute to the sizeable army of volunteers who had combined to create that success. He especially thanked the local traders for their magnificent support and all who attended, most of whom had finished the afternoon somewhat lighter of pocket.

While the money raised was always welcome in the challenging times we now experience, Fr Sean was all the more delighted with the coming together of the Parish Community on such an enjoyable occasion.  He promises, the 2011 Bazaar will be even bigger and better!