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Newsletter

 

IRISH DOMINICAN PARISH NEWSLETTER

May 2020

 

Faith via media consumption is “not the Church”

 

Pope Francis said the forced isolation devised to stop the pandemic was presenting the danger of people living the faith only for themselves — detached from the sacraments, the Church and the people of God.

Online Masses and spiritual communion do not represent the Church, he said in his homily at his morning Mass in the chapel of his residence on 17 April. “This is the Church in a difficult situation that the Lord is allowing, but the ideal of the Church is always with the people and with the sacraments — always,” Pope Francis said.

The pope began the Mass by praying for expectant mothers who may be anxious or worried about giving birth during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Perhaps they are asking themselves, “What kind of world will my child live in?” he said. “Let us pray for them, that the Lord give them the courage to carry these children forth with the trust that it will certainly be a different world, but it will always be a world the Lord loves very much,” he said.

In his homily, the pope reflected on serious concerns about the faithful not being able to come together as a community to celebrate Mass or to receive the sacraments because of government restrictions against people gathering in groups as part of efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Masses, prayers and faith-based initiatives have been offered online, and the faithful have been encouraged to make an act of spiritual Communion given their lack of access to Holy Communion, but “this is not the Church,” the pope said.

One’s relationship with Jesus “is intimate, it is personal, but it is in a community,” and this closeness to Christ without community, without the Eucharist, without the people of God assembled together and “without the sacraments is dangerous,” he said.

It is dangerous, he said, because people could start living their relationship with God “for just myself, detached from the people of God.”

As the Gospels show, Jesus’ disciples always lived their relationship with the Lord as a community — they gathered “at the table, a sign of community. It was always with the sacrament, with bread,” the pope said.

“I am saying this because someone made me reflect on the danger of this moment we are living, this pandemic that has made all of us communicate, even in a religious sense, through the media, through means of communication,” he said.

By broadcasting his morning Mass, for example, people are in communion, but they are not “together,” he said.

The very small number of people present at his daily morning Mass will receive the Eucharist, he said, but not the people watching online who will only have “spiritual Communion”. “This is not the Church,” Pope Francis said.

People are living this “familiarity with the Lord” apart from each other in order to “get out of the tunnel, not to stay in it.”

The pope said it was thanks to an unnamed bishop who “scolded him” and made him think more deeply about the danger of celebrating Mass without the presence and participation of the general public.

He said the bishop wrote to him before Easter when it was announced Mass would be celebrated in an “empty” St. Peter’s Basilica. He said the bishop questioned the decision and asked, when “St Peter’s is so big, why not put 30 people at least so people can be seen” in the congregation?

The pope said that at first, he didn’t understand what this bishop was trying to get at, but then they spoke and the bishop told him to be careful to not make the Church, the sacraments and the people of God something that is only experienced or distributed online.

“The Church, the sacraments and the people of God are concrete,” the pope said. The faithful’s relationship with God must also stay concrete, as the apostles lived it, as a community and with the people of God, not lived in a selfish way as individuals or lived in a “viral” way that is spread only online.

“May the Lord teach us this intimacy with him, this familiarity with him, but in the Church, with the sacraments, with the holy faithful people of God,” he said.

 

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Living in Isolation

A few days ago, waiting to go through security in Tel Aviv airport, I watched the manoeuvrings of the young man before me in the queue. As we shuffled forward, he always had a suitcase five feet in front of him and behind, so that no one could get near him. He may have been wise, but it was a powerful symbol of what the virus means for millions of people: isolation, keeping one’s distance. The very presence of others may be a threat, as one may be for them.

Isolation can be more terrible than death. We must all die, and for many it comes as a welcome relief. But isolation saps our very humanity: grandparents being isolated from their grandchildren, lovers separated from each other. We are touched into life by each other, from tiny touches to making love. A character in a novel by Jonathan Safran Foer says: “Touching him was always so important to me. It was something I lived for. I never could explain why. Little, nothing touches. My fingers against his shoulder. The outsides of our thighs touching as we squeezed together on the bus.” When the coronavirus threatens, life-giving touch might become deadly.

The evening before I flew, I went to the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and entered the tomb where Jesus is supposed to have lain for three days. The crux of the Christian faith is a man who died in utter isolation. He was lifted up on the cross above the crowd, beyond touch, made into a naked object. He seemed even to have felt separated from his Father, and his last words, according to Mark and Matthew’s gospels, were: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” In that moment he embraced more than just our deaths. He made his very own the loneliness that we all endure sometimes and that tens of millions live today.

On the night before he died, that isolation was already palpable. He gathered his closest friends around him for a last supper. One of them had already sold him to the people who sought his life; Peter, his Rock, was about to deny he even knew him, and most of the others would take to their heels. In this most chilling moment, he did something utterly startling, taking the bread and wine, and saying “this is my body and blood, given for you.”

When the community was falling apart and everyone faced the future alone, he made the promise of a new communion, which would be stronger than betrayal and cowardice and which nothing could destroy, even death. When the churches are shut and public worship ceases for a while, that promise still holds and the gift is still given.

So, yes, this awful virus may cut us off from each other physically, and that is a profound deprivation. But Christians believe that all our loneliness is embraced in a communion that pierces through every barricade. The risen Lord comes through the locked door behind which the disciples had placed themselves in self-isolation and lifts their fear and loneliness.

Even if we cannot get to the Eucharist, we can still enact symbols of communion. In Northern Ireland, a hotel offered to deliver free meals to people stuck inside their homes: “Call us before 1 pm and order a meal. We will deliver dinner to you that evening—there is no charge for food or delivery.” In Italy, people came out onto their balconies and sang to each other. Music reached into every room to embrace people in their loneliness.

The risen Lord comes through the locked door behind which the disciples had placed themselves in self-isolation and lifts their fear and loneliness.

Indeed, music has an ability to express a hope beyond our words. The opera about 9/11, Between Worlds, by Tansy Davies, had its world premiere in 2015. Some were shocked that anyone should compose an opera about such a horrible event, but perhaps it is the only way to face its brutality. Nicholas Drake, the librettist, said that “putting the transforming power of music at the heart of the drama, we thought, might allow us to weigh the tragedy of what happened on 9/11, and yet discover some kind of light in that darkness. Music even seems to have played a role in helping some people on that day. A security guard sang hymns to those descending the stairs, to give them courage. Some relatives, lost for words as they spoke to loved ones on the phone, sang together.”

Yes, millions of us must endure isolation, but what are the gestures that we can make that put us in touch with those whom we cannot touch? It may be by buying food for those who cannot get out and leaving it on their steps, by phoning and texting. Small gestures can speak of profound belonging.

Every Eucharist recalls what Jesus did in the face of death, defying its threat of ultimate isolation. I was never so aware of this as I was while saying Mass in Syria, less than five miles from the frontline, when gunfire could be heard not far off. The threat of violence was ever-present, and yet hope found expression in our singing and in re-enacting that gesture of self-gift that nothing could destroy. Even when I cannot get out to join the community in prayer, God remains present, as St Augustine wrote, “in my deepest interiority.” However lonely I feel, I am not alone, for at the core of my very being is Another.

Timothy Radcliffe

Former Master of the Dominican Order.

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May is the Month of Mary

Why is May is known as the month of Mary?

The month of May is traditionally dedicated to Mary in many cultures. May is considered the season of the beginning of new life. Already in Greek culture, May was dedicated to Artemis, the goddess of fecundity. In Roman culture, May was dedicated to Flora, the goddess of bloom, of blossoms. The Romans celebrated ludi florales (literally: floral games) at the end of April, asking the intercession of Flora for all that blooms. This is also related to the medieval practice of expelling winter. May was considered the beginning of growth.

At one time, the custom of having a Mary-month was independent from the month of May as such:

A very old tradition known as Tricesimum (or: Thirty-Day Devotion to Mary; also called Lady Month) was originally held from August 15 – September 14. The exact dates or origin of this devotion are unknown, but the custom is still practiced here and there.

Mary Month, as yet unrelated to a specific period, has been known since baroque times. This devotion was comprised of about thirty spiritual exercises in honour of Mary.

Since medieval times, we have had the combination between Mary and the month of May. Among the earliest witnesses are: Alphonsus X, “el sabio,” King of Castille, Spain (1221-1284) with his “Cantigas de Santa Maria” (“Ben venna Mayo”). Here and elsewhere, both Mary and the month of May are greeted, welcomed and celebrated on specific days in May. Later, the whole month of May became the month of Mary. On each day of this month, special devotions to Mary were organized. This custom originated in Italy and it spread widely during the nineteenth century, a century well-known for its monthly devotions (Heart of Jesus in June; Rosary in October).

Liturgical Celebrations for Mary in May

Two Marian liturgical celebrations are commemorated in May. When Ascension falls in May, the Saturday after the Ascension of Our Lord is traditionally celebrated as the Feast of Our Lady, Queen of the Apostles. The liturgy commemorates the period of time after the Ascension when the apostles were gathered in prayer with Mary and the women in the Upper Room. On May 31 we celebrate the Feast of the Visitation (this Feast will not be celebrated this year as 31st May is Pentecost Sunday). When Mary heard that her elderly relative, Elizabeth, was expecting a child, she hurried to help her. Mary’s service brought Christ to the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth.

 

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LETTER OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
to the Faithful for the Month of May 2020

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The month of May is approaching, a time when the People of God express with particular intensity their love and devotion for the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is traditional in this month to pray the Rosary at home within the family. The restrictions of the pandemic have made us come to appreciate all the more this “family” aspect, also from a spiritual point of view.

For this reason, I want to encourage everyone to rediscover the beauty of praying the Rosary at home in the month of May. This can be done either as a group or individually; you can decide according to your own situations, making the most of both opportunities.

The key to doing this is always simplicity, and it is easy also on the internet to find good models of prayers to follow.

I am also providing two prayers to Our Lady that you can recite at the end of the Rosary, and that I myself will pray in the month of May, in spiritual union with all of you. I include them with this letter so that they are available to everyone.

Dear brothers and sisters, contemplating the face of Christ with the heart of Mary our Mother will make us even more united as a spiritual family and will help us overcome this time of trial. I keep all of you in my prayers, especially those suffering most greatly, and I ask you, please, to pray for me. I thank you, and with great affection I send you my blessing.

Rome, Saint John Lateran, 25 April 2020

Feast of Saint Mark the Evangelist

FRANCIS

First Prayer

O Mary,

You shine continuously on our journey

as a sign of salvation and hope.

We entrust ourselves to you, Health of the Sick,

who, at the foot of the cross,

were united with Jesus’ suffering,

and persevered in your faith.

“Protectress of the Roman people”,

you know our needs,

and we know that you will provide,

so that, as at Cana in Galilee,

joy and celebration may return

after this time of trial.

Help us, Mother of Divine Love,

to conform ourselves to the will of the Father

and to do what Jesus tells us.

For he took upon himself our suffering,

and burdened himself with our sorrows

to bring us, through the cross,

to the joy of the Resurrection. Amen.

We fly to your protection, O Holy Mother of God;
Do not despise our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always
from every danger, O Glorious and Blessed Virgin.

 

Second Prayer

“We fly to your protection, O Holy Mother of God”.

In the present tragic situation, when the whole world is prey to suffering and anxiety, we fly to you, Mother of God and our Mother, and seek refuge under your protection.

Virgin Mary, turn your merciful eyes towards us amid this coronavirus pandemic. Comfort those who are distraught and mourn their loved ones who have died, and at times are buried in a way that grieves them deeply. Be close to those who are concerned for their loved ones who are sick and who, in order to prevent the spread of the disease, cannot be close to them. Fill with hope those who are troubled by the uncertainty of the future and the consequences for the economy and employment.

Mother of God and our Mother, pray for us to God, the Father of mercies, that this great suffering may end and that hope and peace may dawn anew. Plead with your divine Son, as you did at Cana, so that the families of the sick and the victims be comforted, and their hearts be opened to confidence and trust.

Protect those doctors, nurses, health workers and volunteers who are on the frontline of this emergency, and are risking their lives to save others. Support their heroic effort and grant them strength, generosity and continued health.

Be close to those who assist the sick night and day, and to priests who, in their pastoral concern and fidelity to the Gospel, are trying to help and support everyone.

Blessed Virgin, illumine the minds of men and women engaged in scientific research, that they may find effective solutions to overcome this virus.

Support national leaders, that with wisdom, solicitude and generosity they may come to the aid of those lacking the basic necessities of life and may devise social and economic solutions inspired by farsightedness and solidarity.

Mary Most Holy, stir our consciences, so that the enormous funds invested in developing and stockpiling arms will instead be spent on promoting effective research on how to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future.

Beloved Mother, help us realise that we are all members of one great family and to recognise the bond that unites us, so that, in a spirit of fraternity and solidarity, we can help to alleviate countless situations of poverty and need. Make us strong in faith, persevering in service, constant in prayer.

Mary, Consolation of the afflicted, embrace all your children in distress and pray that God will stretch out his all-powerful hand and free us from this terrible pandemic, so that life can serenely resume its normal course.

To you, who shine on our journey as a sign of salvation and hope, do we entrust ourselves, O Clement, O Loving, O Sweet Virgin Mary. Amen.

 

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“Whatever a man prayer for, he prays for a miracle. Every prayer reduces itself to this: ‘Great God grant that twice two be not four’.”

Ivan Turgenev

Russian Novelist

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Nota Bene

The annual Parish Pilgrimage to Fatima which was due to take place 23rd & 24th May is cancelled due to the present health emergency.

**********

The celebration of First Communion due to take place in N.S. Navegantes on 16th May has been postponed until October. The date yet to be decided.

 

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Elephant Rope

A gentleman was walking through an elephant camp, and he spotted that the elephants weren’t being kept in cages or held by the use of chains.

All that was holding them back from escaping the camp, was a small piece of rope tied to one of their legs.

As the man gazed upon the elephants, he was completely confused as to why the elephants didn’t just use their strength to break the rope and escape the camp. They could easily have done so, but instead, they didn’t try to at all.

Curious and wanting to know the answer, he asked a trainer nearby why the elephants were just standing there and never tried to escape.

The trainer replied;

 “when they are very young and much smaller, we use the same size rope to tie them and, at that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.”

 The only reason that the elephants weren’t breaking free and escaping from the camp was that over time they adopted the belief that it just wasn’t possible.

Moral of the story:

No matter how much the world tries to hold you back, always continue with the belief that what you want to achieve is possible.

 

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Isolation

“Freedom is the possibility of isolation. You are free if you can withdraw from people, not having to seek them out for the sake of money, company, love, glory or curiosity, none of which can thrive in silence and solitude. If you can't live alone, you were born a slave. You may have all the splendours of the mind and the soul, in which case you're a noble slave, or an intelligent servant, but you're not free. And you can't hold this up as your own tragedy, for your birth is a tragedy of Fate alone. Hapless you are, however, if life itself so oppresses you that you're forced to become a slave. Hapless you are if, having been born free, with the capacity to be isolated and self-sufficient, poverty should force you to live with others.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

 

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“The desert does not mean the absence of men; it means the presence of God.”

Carlo Carretto

Little Brother of Jesus

 

“A cross is not just a piece of wood. It is everything that makes life difficult.”

Leonardo Boff

Brazilian theologian

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Don’t say something you regret out of anger

 

“There once was a little boy who had a very bad temper. His father decided to hand him a bag of nails and said that every time the boy lost his temper, he had to hammer a nail into the fence.

On the first day, the boy hammered 37 nails into that fence.

The boy gradually began to control his temper over the next few weeks, and the number of nails he was hammering into the fence slowly decreased. He discovered it was easier to control his temper than to hammer those nails into the fence.

Finally, the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father the news and the father suggested that the boy should now pull out a nail every day he kept his temper under control.

The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone. The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence.

‘You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound is still there.'”

 

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“I am willing to admit that I may not always be right, but I am never wrong.”

Samuel Goldwyn

Polish born US film producer

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How to Paint A Wall

While I went off to work one day,
She decided to paint the wall.
And when I came back home that night,
She was curled into a ball.

Her eyes were closed, she was breathing hard,
Her hair was very wet.
From her head to the tips of her pretty toes,
She was covered all in sweat.

She was wrapped in a jacket made of down,
With a fur coat on top of that.
The wall was glowing with new, fresh paint;
On the floor, the paint can sat.

"Sweetheart!" I cried, with a worried look,
"Are you all right, my dear?"
She lazily opened her lovely eyes,
And smiled from ear to ear.

"I knew I could do it," she said with a grin;
"I followed the paint can notes.
It clearly said 'For best results,
Be sure to put on two coats.'"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
By Joanna Fuchs

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Happy the Man, and happy he alone,

He who can call today his own:

He who, secure within, can say,

Tomorrow do they worst, for I have liv’d today.

John Dryden

Poet and Dramatist