Tag Archives: celebration

14 December, Advent Light XIV: Celebrations are good!

The feast will soon be ready!

This is an extract from an article in Independent Catholic News about Bishop John Durkin MSC, an Irish missionary who served in South Africa for many years till his death in 1990. Read the full story here . We include it in Advent Light because we believe in celebrating Christmas, even if we do not know the actual day on which Jesus was born.

Read the last paragraph to learn why celebrations are good! We need to celebrate because we are human.

In Bishop Durkin’s Diocese of Tzaneen in 1982, there were 39 nuns, 12 of them local and 27 expatriates. Ten of the sisters were over 70 years of age. The Bishop wrote that there was no possibility of them being replaced. Obviously, he was alert to the emerging fall in vocations to the religious life in Ireland and in the West generally.

The contribution of the Missionaries to the diocese was enormous. In 1982, it had 21 priests, 20 of them MSCs and one a retired Benedictine. The four Catholic schools educated 946 students. By 1985, there were 10 mission clinics, treating 114,310 patients annually. Within five years, the remaining seven clinics treated 300,000 patients annually. That is a good example of how the missionaries provided education and health services when the state was unable to do so. They did that with the generous financial support of donors back in Ireland.

Bishop Durkin retired on 22 June 1984 due to ill health but continued to work as a missionary in the Phalaborwa district. In 1987, he celebrated the golden jubilee of his ordination, first in Tzaneen and later at a group celebration of jubilees at the MSC House in Cork. He loved celebrations and jubilees. “They are good and fulfil a human need to affirm and be affirmed on the pilgrim way. They fulfil a spiritual need in making us climb the mountain, survey the countryside and look into the horizon and even strain our vision. It is good to be alive on such occasion,” he said.

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26 August: L’Arche pilgrimage II; you have something

L’Arche on pilgrimage to Canterbury.

A friend of L’Arche underlines the qualities of life shared in community rather than in a relationship of caring versus being cared for.

“I promise you, you have something….
“The depth of compassion for one another, 
the depth of simplicity,
the depth of openness, love and welcome that exists in L'Arche: 
no-one has it – no one.
“You are the living communities of peace. 
You are the living example and role model
 of what I believe the world is hungry for.”

“L’Arche has a simple message for our time: 
focus on relationships.
“Welcome the poor and the rejected. 
Create communities where relationships are the highest priority. 
Create communities where each person’s gift is valued and celebrated. 
Welcome the least 
and as a result, 
discover the best in all."

Tim Shriver, Disability Rights Activist and Chair of the Special
Olympics Committee
In L'Arche 

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8 March: Being Different Together

Being Different Together

We continue on our way through Lent. This post is an invitation to transcend false perceptions and be more conscious of the gifts and needs of people with a learning disability, through the eyes and heart of L’Arche. This link will lead you to the page about the impact of the last couple of years on our communities, with more pictures and videos of how L’Arche is trying to help. You will also find tabs leading to more about the people who make L’Arche.

Around 1.5 million people in the United Kingdom are thought to have a learning disability. Of these, 147,920 are accessing long-term support.

Many people with a learning disability experience multiple forms of inequality and discrimination throughout their lives: only 6% of adults with learning disability in England are in paid work; people with learning disability are seven times more likely to including chronic loneliness; the difference in median age of death between people with a learning disability and the general population is 23 years for men and 27 years for women.

What L’Arche is doing to help

The source of discrimination lies in the false perception that people with learning disabilities are unable to make positive contributions to the world around them. L’Arche challenges this by creating Communities where people with and without learning disabilities share their lives, from which we work together for a more human society.

L’Arche Communities are rooted in the simple activities of daily life: preparing a meal or making a handicraft together, going for a walk, sharing a cup of tea, celebrating a birthday. Every day, we grow extraordinary friendships through ordinary activities.

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4 June: Praying with Pope Francis

Pope Francis’s Intention for Evangelization: – The Beauty Of Marriage


Let us pray for young people who are preparing for marriage with the support of a Christian community: may they grow in love, with generosity, faithfulness and patience.

I think we could pray also for those who do not have the support of a community when preparing to marry or live together. The couple whose wedding these flowers celebrated had family, friends, work colleagues all around them, and still do, now that they are parents. So many people, not all of them claiming to be Christian, gladly did big or little things to make the day go with a swing, but more importantly, they were friends in the times before and after that one day. The couple themselves, as well as their circle, are growing in love, with generosity, faithfulness and patience.

But sometimes growing in love can feel like one step forward and two back. Those virtues will always be needed, so let us pray for all young people who are preparing for marriage!

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22 November, St Cecilia: Viva la Musica

Further musical reflections from Eddie Gilmore of the Irish Chaplaincy; a good one for Saint Cecilia, even if it was written a while ago. Viva la musica!

Music is especially evocative during Advent, although for some people the memories touched can be bittersweet, as I discovered on a prison visit a couple of weeks before Christmas.

We were in HMP Wormwood Scrubs for the regular Irish Chaplaincy Traveller forum and I’d brought my guitar in to play to what turned out to be a very lively group! One or two of the younger guys were being a bit overly boisterous but I didn’t let it put me off. I just kept singing and I just kept smiling, as I looked around the group making eye contact. It was reassuring to see that a couple of the men were quietly singing along to the Irish songs. I’d planned as well to go into a medley of Christmas songs, both traditional and modern (assuming that everyone would be in the mood for some Christmas music); but was pulled up short when one guy exclaimed “we don’t want to be reminded of Christmas when we’re in here”. “Can I at least do ‘Fairytale of New York’”, I pleaded, and happily they relented, and were singing the chorus with gusto. I think I managed to win them over because when it came to the refreshments they were almost fighting each other to make me a cup of tea. I ended up with four! One of which had so much sugar in it, it was undrinkable! Not to matter; I was really touched, so too when there was a whip round for mince pies for me, before any leftovers got secreted into jogging trouser pockets to be smuggled back to the cells!

There was a man sitting next to me who had not seemed very happy when I’d been singing and I assumed he just didn’t like the songs or didn’t like me or whatever! But after the drinks he suddenly said to me “you’ve a queer good voice but this just reminds me of being in the pub”. Another came over to talk to me. He’d been one of those singing along and he was a good bit older than the rest. He explained to me “ah, the young guys get a bit over-excited”. We had a really nice chat. It was his first time in prison and he said “it’s like spending 23 hours a day in a bathroom”. That was certainly a striking image of the reality of being in prison.

The week before the Scrubs gig I’d been singing in a care home in Kensington for people with dementia, which I always enjoy. I do mainly Irish songs for the benefit of the Irish people there but everyone in what is a very international group of residents appreciates the music. As I was going round greeting people on arrival one of the Irishmen, clearly in a cheeky mood, motioned to the lady next to him and said to me “give her a kiss”!

This group were very much up for Christmas songs! People were singing along with the so-familiar melodies; and when it got to ‘Jingle Bells’ even some of those who are normally quite subdued were joining in and moving their arms, with their faces lighting up in recognition. It was a lovely moment. So too when a Columbian lady (the one I’d been encouraged to kiss at the start!) came up to me and said in Spanish (she appears to have reverted to her mother tongue in her later years) “the singing  was beautiful. May God bless you”.

We’re currently planning our second annual St Brigid’s Day concert, which will take place on January 31st 2020 at St James’ Church, Piccadilly: a ‘Celebration of Irish music, poetry and dancing’. Like the events mentioned above, it will bring people together and, I have no doubt, touch the heart and the soul and raise the spirit. Amongst the variety of talented performers on the bill we’ll have the young people of the London Celtic youth Orchestra and the ‘more mature’ members of the Irish Pensioners Choir’. It promises to be another wonderful occasion.

How blessed I am to have contact with such incredible people in such a rich variety of situations and to have music as one of the means by which we encounter one another and share in our common humanity.

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22 September, Relics XXVII: Digital Daguerreotypes

Yesterday we visited Saint David’s altar stone, and concluded that ‘the emotional and spiritual resonances of this rather non-descript stone cannot be denied’. Today’s relics are more intimate – or were when they were created – but though we know quite a lot about the 6th Century Bishop David, despite having no portrait of him, we can see these early photographs on-line, but often we do not know anything about them, not even their names. They are made available by the John Rylands Library at the University of Manchester, which holds them. Here is a link to their post by Angie, who says: Regardless of time and technology, a portrait of the self or other transcends time and connects us to human emotions. 

The owners of these lockets valued their relationship with the sitters and the sitters must have loved the owners to endure sitting still for the quarter hour this process demanded.

They were happy to own these relics, perhaps kissing the before clipping them around their neck, but like George Borrow, did they deplore the Catholic attitude to saints’ relics?

We love flesh and blood family and friends, those with us here and now, those separated by time and space. It is natural to celebrate them with reminders, stones, bones, photographs or locks of hair.

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15 February: If Music be the Food of Love

Another post by of the London Irish Chaplaincy, one of the L’Arche Kent diaspora; just a day too late for Valentine’s!

 

I was struck by two recent comments about the power of music, one from a 99-year-old Kerry woman; the other by a young man from Belfast.

I’d written in my last blog, also about music, how I was looking forward to a couple of carol singing events in care homes just before Christmas. One of them, at St Teresa’s in Wimbledon, particularly stood out. Paul, Rory and I were joined by one of our lovely volunteers, Christine, who’s originally from Dublin and who faithfully comes every Friday to chat to the mainly Irish residents. I’d planned a repertoire of Christmas songs, both old and new, but as we were waiting for everyone to arrive I decided to warm up with some Irish songs. It was immediately clear that this was a group who didn’t need any warming up. Everyone was both moved by the music and moving. Feet were tapping and arms were waving as people sang along to the familiar tunes. Sheila from Kerry had requested ‘The Galway Shawl’ in honour of a recently arrived Galwayman and I happily began with that, in honour too of my own Dad. And then for Sheila I did a couple of songs from Kerry: ‘The Black Velvet Band’ and ‘Golden Jubilee’. For the Dubliners present we sang ‘Molly Malone’; and for the several people from Cork (I remarked to the wonderful Sr. Pat, the Director, that the name of the home should be renamed St Finbars!) there was ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ (not literally, I’m afraid!). The house was absolutely ROCKING (and anyway, who needs whiskey to have a good time!). I slowed it down with ‘Sweet 16’, before launching into the Christmas set. It was quite simply the most joyful and uplifting experience imaginable.

One of the Cork ladies confided to me later that she was normally quite shy but had so much enjoyed the singing and dancing. And as for Sheila, she said (and I remembered it word for word, it was so heart-warming):

“We were expecting carol singers and then you fellas turned up! The singing was heavenly. You had us lifted out of our chairs and flying through the air like angels. You’ve made our Christmas perfect.”

We’re looking forward now to our second St Brigid’s concert, at St James’ Church Piccadilly on January 31st. There will be a host of talented performers, ranging in age from the young people of the London Celtic Youth Orchestra to the more mature members of the Irish Pensioners Choir. One of those on the bill, Belfast-born actor Anton Thompson McCormick just wrote to me to say:

“31st will be a delight, people coming together and celebrating the good things – how else to start the decade?”

In the midst of writing this piece I was sent the copy of a letter addressed to me that had been sent to the ICPO (Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas) office in Maynooth from a man in a prison in the North of England. He wrote:

“After reading your article in the ICPO Christmas newsletter 2019 I was impressed that the guitar you had used for the last 24 years had been put to more good use by taking it into Wormwood Scrubs”, and he goes on to ask if I could come and perform to him and the other 25 Irish prisoners there, explaining that “my friends and I are very keen on the idea and it would give us a more positive vibe to take forward”. He ends with the words “Thank you for sharing your story and in fact your guitar”. I was incredibly touched by that and it shows again that we just never know the impact we might have on somebody’s life.

So as we start another new year and if music be indeed the food of love then let us PLAY ON!!!

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31 January. From the Franciscans of Zimbabwe III: a commitment for life.

ofm.zim3

The Zimbabwe Custody is part of a larger East African Province of the Franciscans. We continue the theme of formation with Brother Victor Orwa’s account of making his final vows in Uganda. 

One of the most special moments in my life was when I was received in the Franciscan novitiate to undergo spiritual nourishment as I prepare to make my first vows in religious life. At the end of the year, I committed myself for one year to live in simplicity, with nothing of my own and in chastity. I continued renewing my vows as I promised to the Lord till 5th August, 2018 when I committed myself to the Lord. I was not alone, together with Friar Elcardo Muhereza ofm, we committed ourselves in the hands of the Minister Provincial, Friar Carmello Gianone, the Minister Provincial of the Province of Saint Francis in East Africa, Madagascar and Mauritius.

The event took place in Uganda in one of our Parishes called Rushooka. The procession started at 10 a.m with a good number of religious attending and joining in the profession. The mammoth crowd were jubilant and vibrant in singing to the highest level of their voices. I could notice the smiles on the faces of the Christians who attended and this gave me courage to move on step by step towards my final commitment.

The celebration ended at around 3:00 p.m. and then followed by the congratulatory gifts from the parents and the parishioners. Afterwards, there was the late lunch and taking of photos to keep the day in memory. The event was much awaited since we undertook this journey. I kept on praying for the good Lord to guide us, as He has started. And with the help of the friars we shall manage to reach that level of perfection. Special thanks goes to our formators who had journeyed with us all along and who have believed in us in such a way that they had recommended us for the step. To Our Minister Provincial Friar Carmello Gianonene, for believing in us too and given us the opportunity to be among his friars in the province. To the Custos of Zimbabwe friar Alfigio Tunha, OFM who has given us a home and journeyed with us and lived among us as our own brother. And to the whole friars of the Custody of Good Shepherd. Special Thanks !!!

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15 January: We do celebrations very well.

 

A few days ago David wrote of L’Arche: ‘As a Community we do celebrations very well, and for me, being involved gives me a sense of belonging which deepens my passion for L’Arche.’ And I began to consider the celebrations that have taken place lately. 

The Annual Advent Celebration brings hundreds of friends and family to share our preparations for Christmas in songs and sketches, sales and refreshments. The Christmas market in Saint Peter’s church was as much a celebration as a day of work. There were Christmas parties for the different work activities groups, for the half-barrels gardening club, and of course in the houses. Some of us squeezed into the Cathedral carol service.

And before that … birthdays, community gatherings, the Harvest Festival, the funerals of Emma and Denise … and that’s not all, not by any means.

Any occasion can be celebrated. My wife recalls her first arrival in the community and finding on her bed a card welcoming her by name. My first weekend was marked by the teeth incident. A core member had been sick and had flushed her teeth away down the toilet with everything else. Every manhole and inspection cover was lifted, every toilet flushed. I was poised by the last one before the cesspit, with Leo, a crazy Canadian, singing ‘Teeth are flowing like a river, flowing out to you and me-e-e.’ We didn’t catch the teeth, (and nor did anyone else) but I caught the L’Arche sense of belonging that David mentions. It has never left me.

The last-mentioned celebration was not about teeth or sewage, but about the joys of being alive among sisters and brothers on a Spring morning. I hope I can continue to bring this sense of celebration to all areas of my life, and invite all readers to do likewise! Here is a morning offering that a Christian or a non-Christian could use to start the day:

‘Good Morning Life, and all things glad and beautiful! 

W.H.Davies.

Celebration of the half-barrels group; our decoration for the Harvest Festival at St Mildred’s, Canterbury.

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8 January: An Epiphany Celebration with L’Arche Canterbury Pilgrims.

cathedralbyellie2

Six times a year a mixed gathering of L’Arche core members, assistants and friends meet as the Pilgrims’ Group to pray, eat, and enjoy each other’s company. Pilgrims? Well we are in Canterbury, where every footstep is on the traces of pilgrims to the Shrine of Thomas and saints like Alphege and Mildred from Saxon times, less well known now but great witnesses.

We make no claim to greatness but we do witness together with Scripture, prayer and fellowship at a shared table. This time we were remembering the wise men who made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to meet an infant king – but found him in Bethlehem.

Our celebration – and we are good at celebrations – took the form of a mini-mystery play around the office and workshop. The wise men left their cosy way of life behind, to try another way: the pilgrim road, seeking for the new born King, and being pointed to Jerusalem.

pilgrims way

And they had to try another way to go home, after they all had the same dream. Here is the text we followed, and the figures that we used to act out the story. After that, we prayed around the table, made ourselves crowns, and feasted. We are good at celebrations!

The lines in blue are repeated by all; red for rubrics means stage directions, not to be read aloud.


The readings are from Isaiah and Saint Matthew.

Isaiah wrote about people going on pilgrimage to Jerusalem before Jesus was born.

Shine out, Jerusalem, your light has come! Kings will come to your shining light. They will bring gold and incense and sing the praise of the Lord.

All: Sing the praise of the Lord.

Our scented candle can stand for the frankincense and myrrh, and the flame is the same colour as gold.

candle

The wise men were pilgrims following the star.

Mark to take up star to first station where magi are waiting.

After Jesus had been born at Bethlehem in the time of King Herod,  some wise men came from the east.

 

Wherever they went they asked: ‘Where is the baby king of the Jews?’

‘Where is the baby king of the Jews?’

pilgrimscrib1

On the way they told people: We saw his star and have come to honour him.’

We saw his star and have come to honour him.’

Nobody else thought the star was special. They all said:

pilgrimscrib2

 

‘Go to Jerusalem to see the King of the Jews.’

Stop at  three ‘stations’ and repeat this scene.

At Jerusalem station we see Herod flanked by hid guards.

pilgrimscrib3herod

When they got to Jerusalem, they went to see King Herod. He was worried. He asked the priests and the teachers where Christ was to be born. They told him ‘At Bethlehem .’

At Bethlehem .’

‘for the prophet wrote:

Bethlehem! Out of you will come the shepherd of my people Israel.’

Bethlehem! Out of you will come the shepherd of my people Israel.’

Then Herod called the wise men. He asked them when the star had appeared, and sent them to Bethlehem. ‘Come and tell me when you find the baby, then I may go and worship him.’ They listened to the king, and they set out. And the star went forward, and halted over the place where the child was.

To final station, the crib.

pilgrimscrib4

They saw the child with his mother Mary, and they fell to their knees. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.

gold and frankincense and myrrh.

But they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, and they went home a different way.

they went home a different way.

Magi depart.

When I was at L’Arche Edmonton, I visited one of the activities where core members worked. The man in charge of it was a wise teacher. He taught me something I’ve never forgotten. Don’t tell someone they are doing something wrong when they are doing their best. Say, Try another way.

That is what the wise men did. First of all they left their home and their work to follow a star. And then, instead of going back to report to King Herod, they went home a different way. If they all had the same dream, they would have taken it seriously! Let’s try another way with the people we live and work with this year.

With thanks to Christina Chase who helped crystallise some of the ideas in this celebration, and thanks to Abel for the loan of his people.

pilgrims.diners.7.1.19

WT

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