Each week Br. Michael Burke prepares some resources to help us remember and celebrate the feast or anniversary.
Sunday 1 April
and APRIL FOOLS DAY
Here are five places where you can find commentaries on this Sunday’s readings:
• Under RESOURCES at the bottom of our home page: find Sunday Reflections by Julian McDonald and Richard Walsh.
• www.silk.net/RelEd - click Mass Readings
• www.goodnews.ie – click Gospel Commentary
• www.liturgy.slu.edu (Also in Spanish.)
• www.salvationhistory.com – click Sun. Bible Reflections under Daily Bread. (Also in Spanish.)
Each year the surprise pranks of April Fools Day nudge us to stop taking life so over-seriously and to get in touch with our fun side and appreciate the leaven of humour, one of God’s least-sung gifts.
“The height of your accomplishments will equal the depth of your convictions.” (William F. Scolavino)
Saturday 31 March
Holy Saturday is the 40th day of Lent. The starkness is even more pronounced: the church is stripped, and until the celebration of Easter (sometimes anticipated by a few hours) there is no Mass. This blank and empty day, once known as ‘Black Saturday’, focuses on the blunt fact that Jesus was really dead, not just waiting in the wings to make a surprise reappearance. Perhaps it also points to the hollowness of death’s seeming power when experienced in the context of a God whose love knows no limits. This is where the night’s Easter Vigil Liturgy invites us, as its long series of readings spells out how Jesus’ Easter experience was “in accordance with the Scriptures”…
“Count the cost first. Don’t pay too big a price for pursuing minor values.” (Jim Rohn)
Friday 30 March
and DOCTORS DAY
There are many people who make their sole annual visit to a church on Good Friday. It is the only day of the year when there is no Mass celebrated at any time. The Liturgy is stark, and the fact that it includes Communion, separated from the celebration of Eucharist, seems an anomaly or perhaps a compromise. The starkness reminds us, with all the power of symbolism, that Jesus actually faced the reality of death with all its daunting loss of control and certainty. All that he could hold on to as he died was a gut-trust that even death could not bring an end to his experience of God’s love. He entered even this ultimate part of human experience so as to lead us into transcending death. We say in the Creed that he ‘descended into hell’: by joining those who had died before him, he began the process of freeing all of us from being held (‘helled’) by death.
The USA celebrates Doctors today, often using the symbol of a red carnation. Though India has its own Doctors’ Day on 1 July, most countries do not, so we might take the tip to pray for and express appreciation of our Doctors on this day.
“No true victory requires the sacrifice of our values.” (David DeFord)
Thursday 29 March
What came to be known as ‘the last supper’ implies that there were many such suppers. Given the background role assigned to women by the times and the culture, one can quite reasonably wonder now whether women were present – just as one can wonder whether lamb was served (and by whom) though the texts don’t mention it. One can wonder too why the beautiful symbolism of washing feet only ‘made it’ into the Liturgy once in the year. Though the evening’s Liturgy focuses on the supper, the same night holds another story: Gethsemane. The shadow that fell over the supper’s intimacy deepens into the darkness of a lonely Jesus agonizing over imminent death, enduring betrayal and arrest, and finding himself abandoned. In our prayer today, we might hold all these experiences together, as Jesus had to do on that night. And there is the richness of John’s extensive account of the night: he devotes all of five ‘chapters’ to the supper and another half chapter to the rest of the night.
“Neglect starts out as an infection then becomes a disease.” (Jim Rohn)
Wednesday 28 March
March used to be the first month of the calendar year because in the northern hemisphere it brought Spring, the start of a new cycle. The floral emblem of March is the daffodil, herald of Spring. Before we leave this month behind, we might take up in our prayer the theme of new beginnings: the nurturing of whatever may be starting, about to be born, struggling into life…
“You can't solve a problem on the same level that it was created. You have to rise above it to the next level.” (Albert Einstein)
Tuesday 27 March
WORLD THEATRE DAY
“Don't wish it was easier, wish you were better. Don't wish for less problems, wish for more skills. Don't wish for less challenges, wish for more wisdom.” (Jim Rohn)
Monday 26 March 2018
Courage, symbolized by the birthstones of March, Aquamarine and Bloodstone, might provide a theme for our prayer today. Against the forces of conformity and peer pressure, and the harshness of unjust structures and systems, courage is the key to the coming of God’s ‘kindom’ (as the non-sexist language has creatively translated the dream of Jesus).
“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you will help them become what they are capable of becoming.” (Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe)
START OF HOLY WEEK
If you Google ‘Free Lenten Reflections’, you’ll find a wealth of other resources to enrich your observance of Holy Week. Here are a few selected samples:
• www.creighton.edu – click on Ministry > Daily Reflections, or Weekly Guide for Prayer.
• www.thereflection.vividas.com – click on ‘lenten booklet’ for a Lectio Divina resource.
• www.franciscanradio.org – offering 90-second reflections both in audio and transcript form.
Sunday 25 March
PALM SUNDAY and
There is an old Christmas hymn that runs:
“The Virgin’s womb that burden gained,
its virgin honour still unstained.
The banners there of virtue glow;
God in his temple dwells below.”
The “below” idea is a lumpy metaphor, but one can swallow that. It is the notions about human sexuality that are appalling – the prissy ‘religious’ hang-ups about the body. The Incarnation was surely a celebration, not a denial, of human sexuality. And the traditional mystery of Virgin Birth is a pointer to the identity of Jesus; it is not about God viewing virginity as synonymous with “virtue” and human procreation as “stained” (or ‘maculate’). Here is a clue as to why so many people mistakenly link the Annunciation to the Immaculate Conception, which is meant to celebrate the beginning of Mary’s own life not the beginning of her motherhood. Today’s feast of the Annunciation invites our prayer to celebrate God’s gifts, notably God’s closeness to us in Christ.
“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.” (May Sarton)
Saturday 24 March
ANNIVERSARY OF THE DEATH OF ARCHBISHOP ROMERO and
WORLD TUBERCULOSIS DAY
Archbishop Romero was assassinated on 24 March 1980, after denouncing violations of the human rights of the most vulnerable populations and defending the principles of protecting lives, promoting human dignity and opposition to all forms of violence.
Today is also a day raising awareness of the disease of Tuberculosis which is such a killer in parts of the developing world, and of efforts to eliminate it. See www.worldtbday.org
“Being challenged in life is inevitable, being defeated is optional.” (Roger Crawford)
Friday 23 March
WORLD METEOROLOGICAL DAY
A day celebrating the World Meteorological Organisation’s 60+ years of service for our safety and well-being. Let’s remember with gratitude the scientists whose faithful monitoring of weather and climate gives us forewarning to brace for short-term extremes and to adjust behaviour-patterns affecting the long-term well-being of the earth community.
“Striving for perfection is the greatest stopper there is… It’s your excuse to yourself for not doing anything. Instead, strive for excellence, doing your best.” (Sir Laurence Olivier)
Thursday 22 March
WORLD WATER DAY
The theme this year is ‘Nature for water’, prompting reflection on ‘how we can use nature to overcome the water challenges of the 21st century’. See www.worldwaterday.org
“Practice the body language of self-confidence. Stand tall and straight with your chin high and walk briskly. You will feel better and act better.” (Brian Tracy)
Wednesday 21 March
WORLD DOWN SYNDROME DAY and
WORLD POETRY DAY and
INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE ELIMINATION OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
World Down Syndrome Day is a day to pray for all families who include someone with Down Syndrome. See www.worlddownsyndromeday.org
World Poetry Day is a UNESCO initiative to promote the reading, writing, publishing, and teaching of poetry. Perhaps we could incorporate some poetry into our prayer today.
The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, commemorating the infamous apartheid massacre in Sharpeville, South Africa, on 21 March 1960. The day challenges us to examine our racial stereotypes and prejudices, and invites us to celebrate racial diversity.
“Always know in your heart that you are far bigger than anything that can happen to you.” (Dan Zadra)
Tuesday 20 March
St JOSEPH’S DAY and
anticipating WORLD FORESTRY DAY
Scripture portrays Joseph as a man who trusted the God of his dreams implicitly and deeply, taking on the role of foster-father to the child Jesus. Many in the ERN have found they relate to Joseph - a few because they are foster-parents themselves, but many more because they have in effect filled something of this role for children and teenagers. St Joseph and St Patrick are the traditional patrons of Christian Brothers Novitiates, and in this month of their feastdays, we pray for all Edmund Rice Novitiates around the globe.
World Forestry Day reminds us of the beauty and value of the world’s forests, so easily threatened and sacrificed for short-term gain. If there is a forest within range of you, this special day might invite you to visit it for a time of prayer – even as a community or group. Forests have been described as ‘God’s Cathedrals’ because of the spiritual resonance their multi-sense appeal invokes in us.
“He who reigns within himself and rules his passions, desires, and fears is more than a king.” (John Milton)
Monday 19 March 2018
THE EQUINOX (19th/20th)
The equinox is a day when the season cycles of the two hemispheres intersect, and a reminder of the broader patterns and pictures which context and unite us, not just across the globe but in the infinite sphere of an all-embracing God who holds all in being.
“Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.” (Hyman Rickover)
Sunday 11 March
4th SUNDAY OF LENT
“The highest reward for a man's toil is not what he gets for it, but what he becomes by it.” (John Ruskin)
Saturday 10 March
MONTH OF MARCH and
This month is named after Mars, the god of war, perhaps because northern Spring was traditionally the time for military campaigns to begin. That armed conflicts and armed ‘forces’ have survived their 19th century sell-by date, is an embarrassing disgrace to contemporary humanity. That obese military budgets and the sale of arms for use against our world’s most vulnerable peoples should be a cog in our world’s economic machine, is one of the foul sins of our times. But that spiritual warfare has become even more a necessity in a time of such pervery, is self-evident and provides constant matter for our prayer.
The birthstones of the month of March, Aquamarine and Bloodstone, denote courage – once described as “fear that has said its prayers”. Our prayer at this time might turn to those matters in our lives, and in the area of contemporary spiritual warfare, that call for courage.
“I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. I will not refuse to do the something I can do.” (Helen Keller)
Friday 9 March
ST FRANCES OF ROME
Though Frances died as a Religious, she spent most of her years as a wife and mother whose trials and sufferings led her deeper and deeper into service, both in her home setting and beyond. In her later years she founded a lay order of women mainly living in ordinary family circumstances. Her life stands as a testament to the ordinary path of learning the wholeness that is known as holiness, hallowedness, sainthood.
“Do not stop thinking of life as an adventure. You have no security unless you live bravely, excitingly, imaginatively.” (Eleanor Roosevelt)
Thursday 8 March
WORLD KIDNEY DAY and
WORLD WOMEN’S DAY and
ST JOHN OF GOD
The second Thursday of March is World Kidney Day, an occasion designed to enhance global health awareness. Our prayer today could focus on appreciation of good health, so easily taken for granted, and on those marginalized by chronic and intense dis-ease. A website to look up: www.worldkidneyday.org
International Women’s Day is being marked today for the 107th time. It’s a day for celebrating the achievements of women, but also for expressing solidarity with women who continue to experience discrimination in many cultures and situations – in the work-world, in law, in the church - in terms of opportunities, resources, and power. Look up the site: www.internationalwomensday.com
St John of God became transformed through his own traumatic experiences. Most notably, he was exposed to the rawness of a 16th century ‘madhouse’ when others misinterpreted the disorientation that accompanied his conversion. The outcome was a deep compassion for those on the margins of society. He expressed this through nursing the destitute and providing them with hospital facilities, leaving behind a congregation now popularly known as the John of God Brothers.
“One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of shore for a very long time.” (Andre Gide)
Wednesday 7 March
ST PERPETUA & ST FELICITY
These two nursing mothers were martyred at the start of the 3rd century in what is now Tunisia. They are now among the few women mentioned in the Canon of the Mass. Perpetua was 22 and Felicitas, her slave, had given birth just two days before they were turned over to wild animals and then put to the sword. Their willingness to die in testifying to their faith is a reminder of a profound gift not-to-be-taken-for-granted.
“Growth is not steady, forward, upward progression. It is instead a switchback trail; three steps forward, two back, one around the bushes, and a few simply standing, before another forward leap.” (Dorothy Corkville Briggs)
Tuesday 6 March
GHANA’S INDEPENDENCE DAY
In 1957 Ghana was the first ‘black’ African country to become independent of a colonial power, becoming the forerunner in a movement that spread right across the continent of Africa. Today the ERN is represented in Ghana by several communities of Presentation Brothers and Christian Brothers, including two Novitiates.
“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” (Will Rogers)
Monday 5 March 2018
THE APPROACH OF NORTHERN SPRING AND SOUTHERN AUTUMN
By this time of the year, most of the world (except places close to the equator or the poles) are picking up little signs of the coming of a change of season – our regular reminder that “all things are passing; only God is unchanging”. Perhaps reflecting on the current signs may help us get in touch prayerfully with the subtler changes we are undergoing at this time in our lives.
“Picture yourself vividly as winning and that alone will contribute immeasurably to success. Great living starts with a picture, held in your imagination, of what you would like to do or be.” (Harry Emerson Fosdick)
Sunday 4 March
3rd SUNDAY OF LENT and
WORLD DAY OF THE FIGHT AGAINST SEXUAL EXPLOITATION
This World Day of the Fight against Sexual Exploitation is a little-established occasion with which the ERN can identify and whose concern we can bring to prayer, in solidarity with all who suffer from this evil. UNICEF estimates that over 3 million children are involved in prostitution around the world.
“Whenever we do what we can, we immediately can do more.” (James Freeman Clarke)
Saturday 3 March
ST KATHARINE DREXEL
St Katharine Drexel, who lived from the mid-19th till the mid-20th century, became the second-ever American-born canonized saint. She dedicated her life and her family fortune to the needs of oppressed racial minorities in the USA – Native Americans and African-Americans – concentrating on the provision of education. She founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, over 60 missions and schools, and the only historically-Black University in the US, Xavier University of Louisiana.
“Growth is not steady, forward, upward progression. It is instead a switchback trail; three steps forward, two back, one around the bushes, and a few simply standing, before another forward leap.” (Dorothy Corkville Briggs)
Friday 2 March
ST JOSEPH’S MONTH and
WORLD DAY OF PRAYER
Traditionally March has been associated with Saint Joseph. Scripture portrays him as a man who trusted the God of his dreams implicitly and deeply, taking on the role of foster-father to the child Jesus. Many in the ERN have found they relate to Joseph - a few because they are foster-parents themselves, but many more because they have in effect filled something of this role for children and teenagers.
The first Friday of March has become established by Christian women across the globe as special day of prayer affirming “that prayer and action are inseparable and that both have immeasurable influence in the world” – a notion which the ERN will readily own. An internet reference is www.worlddayofprayer.net
“You are never given a wish without also being given the power to make it come true.” (Richard Bach)
Thursday 1 March
INTERNATIONAL DEATH PENALTY ABOLITION DAY
More than two-thirds of the world’s countries have abolished the death penalty, but a chilling chart on www.amnesty.org/en/death-penalty shows how the practice persists around the globe, including a few countries where the Edmund Rice Network has a presence. Information about this world movement can be found by looking up www.hrea.org > Learning Centre > International Death Penalty Abolition Day.
“To believe in something not yet proved and to underwrite it with our lives: it is the only way we can leave the future open.” (Lillian Smith)
Wednesday 28 February
RARE DISEASE DAY
Rare Disease Day, usually on the last day of February, is an awareness-raising occasion of interest to the ERN because it extends our concern to another part of the margins of society. The website www.rarediseaseday.org explains: “The rare disease patient is the orphan of health systems, often without diagnosis, without treatment, without research, therefore without reason to hope.”
“Everyone has the power for greatness, not for fame but for greatness, because greatness is determined by service.” (Martin Luther King, Jr)
Tuesday 27 February
Not the Archangel, but the mortal man. In fact mortality struck very early for this Italian Passionist seminarian – he died at 23 - and Gabriel has become a patron of all students, youth, and seminarians. His life is a reminder that sanctity is not always linked to venerable old age.
“You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.” (Woodrow Wilson)
Monday 26 February 2018
First day of BAHÁ’Í FESTIVAL of AYYÁM-I-HÁ
The origin of this festival is complicated, but it has become known as the “Bahá’í Christmas” because it is a time of gift-giving, generosity, and goodwill, celebrating the oneness of God through the showing of love, fellowship, and unity.
“Greatness after all, in spite of its name, appears to be not so much a certain size as a certain quality in human lives. It may be present in lives whose range is very small.” (Phillips Brooks)
Sunday 25 February
2nd SUNDAY OF LENT and
St Walpurga was an 8th Century English nun who together with her uncle and two brothers became a missionary to the people of the Frankish Empire. She is believed to be the first female author in the history of both England and Germany. A day, perhaps, to celebrate with gratitude the initiatives of anyone whose drive has had a positive impact on our lives.
“The highest reward for a man's toil is not what he gets for it, but what he becomes by it.” (John Ruskin)
Saturday 24 February
NATIONAL ARTIST DAY IN THAILAND
Thailand’s practice of having a special day to honour its distinguished artists is a reminder of the contribution of all artists to our society: through their insight, they share through different media such gifts as enlightenment, upliftment, vision, celebration, provocation, and challenge. This day could prompt us to pray for all artists who, without even meeting us, have affected and enriched us.
“Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” (Martin Luther King, Jr)
Friday 23 February
WORLD ISLAM DAY
Timed to celebrate the completion of the Islamic faith, this day was recently proposed for adoption and was marked for the first time 9 years ago. It provides an opportunity to pray in gratitude for the ways in which Islam has enriched the human community with its insights and with values such as justice and peace. And it is a reminder to pray for our Muslim colleagues, friends, and neighbours. See www.worldislamday.org
“Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” (Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr)
Thursday 22 February
ST LUCIA’S INDEPENDENCE DAY
and WORLD THINKING DAY
St Lucia is on the Edmund Rice map because of the presence of the Presentation Brothers. It also has a less-tangible connection with the African ERN through the enslaved Africans who became part of this mountainous island’s population and history. St Lucia, one of the windward islands in the eastern Caribbean on the edge of the Atlantic, celebrates today its 39th anniversary of independence from British rule. We pray today for the people of St Lucia and especially those who live and spread the values and vision of Edmund Rice.
Thinking Day is a product of the international Girl Guiding and Girl Scouting movement. Its theme this year is “Impact: - understanding the power you have to bring positive change. In our prayer today we are invited to align our hearts with this aim. See www.worldthinkingday.org
“One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar.” (Helen Keller)
Wednesday 21 February
WORLD LANGUAGE DAY
Today we celebrate the gift of human language and of the cultural diversity that language represents. It’s also an alert to the danger that 40% of our world’s 6000-odd languages may disappear in the course of this century – that’s an average of two languages vanishing every month. “Every time we lose a language”, says language authority David Crystal, “we lose one vision of the world.” Most of the languages-at-risk have no literature, so they would disappear without trace, taking with them the wisdom and values of their culture, and leaving our world poorer for their passing. Today is a day for reinforcing our appreciation of diversity and dialogue.
“No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see the possibilities - always see them, for they’re always there.” (Norman Vincent Peale)
Tuesday 20 February
WORLD DAY OF SOCIAL JUSTICE
This day has special importance to the worldwide Edmund Rice community because it focuses on solidarity with all who are marginalized: people who are poor and hungry and unemployed, people who are excluded and powerless and without opportunities, people who are treated unfairly and are prevented from getting a fair share within the human community. For a succinct outline of the day’s focus, look it up on www.timeanddate.com – and for a range of applications, explore the EDMUND RICE INTERNATIONAL website.
“The pessimist borrows trouble; the optimists lend encouragement.” (William Arthur Ward)
Monday 19 February 2018
ETHNIC EQUALITY DAY
Expanding the Black History Month, Ethnic Equality Day sees the month of February as “a time to honour all peoples and their positive traditions, a time to meditate on the equality of all peoples, on the respect due to them”, and on the Divine Presence dwelling in all of them.
“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” (G.K. Chesterton)
Sunday 18 February
FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT and
THE GAMBIA: INDEPENDENCE DAY
Although the Christian Brothers interrupted their presence in The Gambia some years ago, and a visit to explore re-establishing ties appeared to meet an unfriendly response from church authority, the West African District – which includes Gambian-born brothers – would like to return. In colonial days, The Gambia was marked out as roughly a canon-ball’s range on both sides of the River Gambia. This day celebrates independence from Britain, attained half a century ago. Let us pray today for the people of this tiniest nation on the African continent, and especially for those who have been drawn into the Edmund Rice community.
“Definiteness of purpose is the starting point of all achievement.” (W. Clement Stone)
Saturday 17 February
2006 MUDSLIDE IN THE PHILIPPINES
The twelfth anniversary of the massive mudslide that killed upwards of 1100 people in the Philippines may be an occasion for praying for all who have lost their lives in natural disasters during our lifetime, and for all whose lives are forever scarred by the losses they sustained in such events.
“Every mistake that I made - and we all make mistakes - came because I didn't take the time to get the facts.” (Charles Knight)
Friday 16 February
ST ELIAS & COMPANIONS and ST JULIANA
Elias and Juliana are among the lesser-known saints martyred for their Christian faith in the early 4th Century. The term ‘martyrdom’ conjures up images of physical violence and cruelty. We might reflect today on who is undergoing martyrdom in our own time. Today’s forms of martyrdom tend to be subtler and less easily recognized; yet, though the violence and cruelty are less likely to be physical, they are just as brutal and destructive.
“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” (Leo Tolstoy)
Thursday 15 February
NIRVANA DAY and
INTERNATIONAL CHILDHOOD CANCER DAY
Also called ‘Parinirvana’, and sometimes observed a week earlier, this Mahayana Buddhist holiday is widely honoured. Celebrating the death of the Buddha as an achievement of total freedom and transcendence, it underlines the Buddhist vision of the impermanence of physical life, an idea with resonances in many different faith-views.
International Childhood Cancer Day raises our awareness of children with cancer. With early detection and proper treatment, 70% of childhood cancers can be cured (see www.icccpo.org). Today let us join in praying with the parents and communities of children suffering from cancer, and for access to the necessary medical attention.
“Treasure the love you receive above all. It will survive long after your gold and good health have vanished.” (Og Mandino)
Wednesday 14 February
ASH WEDNESDAY, the start of LENT, and
ST VALENTINE’S DAY
‘Lent’ means Spring, and though it only partly overlaps with the early part of northern Spring, and falls in the early southern Autumn, Lent is very much a spiritual Springtime. It’s a time for new shoots, renewed growth, fresh flowering. It’s an occasion for ‘spring-cleaning’, for clearing the clutter of our lives, for ‘servicing’ and taking stock of our total humanity. Externals like the ashes and fasting and abstinence are, as the Lenten Biblical readings bluntly remind us, only meaningful if they express an internal movement of the heart, the about-turn that Jesus termed ‘metanoia’. If you Google ‘Free Lenten Reflections’, you’ll find a wealth of other resources to enrich your Lent. Here are a few selected samples:
• www.creighton.edu – click on Ministry > Daily Reflections.
• www.thereflection.vividas.com – click on ‘lenten booklet’ for a Lectio Divina resource.
• www.franciscanmedia.org – offering 90-second audio reflections.
Just who St Valentine may have been is lost in a blur of multiple martyrs of Rome by that name. The origin of the day may relate to these legends, or to the start of the mating season among birds, or to the baptizing of a pagan festival involving a primitive kind of pairing/dating agency. Though no longer on the Catholic calendar, the irrepressible popularity of St Valentine’s Day as a celebration of love and intimacy suggests a need for feastdays that are relevant to our lived experience. Realistically, how much enthusiasm is generated for the Way of Jesus by creaky churchiferous observances such as the ‘Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica’? Already the Church has baptized or endorsed certain World Days, and started a new generation of ‘feastdays’ such as its World Day of Peace (1 January). Imagine the Church replacing some its dustier Doctors and pallid Pastors and vapid Virgins with feastdays to honour childhood and old age, justice and inclusion, parenting and service, artists and creativity, faithfulness and friendship, courtesy and kindness, masculinity and femininity. Imagine how it might ground and re-energise our gatherings for liturgy.
“If you wish to be more influential, spend more time being interested in others than you do trying to be interesting.” (Josh Hinds)
Tuesday 13 February
WORLD RADIO DAY
Radio, because it is inexpensive and widely accessible, has a special role in communication and access to information. It reaches the poor, the vulnerable, and the remote. Today we celebrate this gift and ponder how we might better use this medium in service of the marginalized. See www.worldradioday.org
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” (Theodore Roosevelt)
Monday 12 February 2018
DARWIN DAY and
RED HAND DAY
Charles Darwin was born on this day just over 200 years ago. The day celebrates all the ways in which science has enriched our lives, and Darwin’s contribution in particular, notably the opening up of awareness of the wonders of evolution.
Red Hand Day is a United Nations day drawing attention to the fate of child soldiers. The utterly perverted practice of forcing children to ‘serve’ as soldiers in armed conflicts is still widespread, and the aftermath in their lives is devastating, efforts at rehabilitation varying “from inadequate to non-existent”.
“There's a great beauty to having problems. That's one of the ways we learn.” (Herbie Hancock)
Sunday 11 February
6th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
OUR LADY OF LOURDES and WORLD DAY OF THE SICK
The fascinating story of Lourdes goes back a century and a half, 11 February being the date of the first appearance of “the lady” to 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous. Whether regarded with faith or skepticism or ridicule, the Lourdes story cannot be ignored. And its message urging prayer and penance “for the conversion of sinners” is clearly in harmony with the message of Jesus, which is why it is among the very few apparitions to have been given official recognition by the Church. The compelling cures associated with Lourdes, since Bernadette was led to uncover a spring of water, have led to the naming of this day as the World Day of the Sick.
“If people knew how hard I worked to gain my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful.” (Michelangelo)
Saturday 10 February
Not much is known about Scholastica, the twin sister of St Benedict, who headed a monastery of nuns a few miles from Monte Cassino, except the legends of her faith and devotion to God. Her feast day reminds us to pray for the Benedictine family around the world.
“If you lose the power to laugh, you lose the power to think.” (Clarence Darrow)
Friday 9 February
A 4th-5th Century mystic monk, Maroun spent his days on a mountain in Syria. His enthusiasm for Christ attracted many in Syria and Lebanon to discipleship and gave rise to the Maronite movement within the Catholic Church.
“There are no problems we cannot solve together, and very few we can solve by ourselves.” (Lyndon B. Johnson,)
Thursday 8 February
SAINT JOSEPHINE BAKHITA, PATRON OF THE SUDAN and
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER & AWARENESS AGAINST HUMAN TRAFFICKING
Born in the Darfur region of Sudan, and kidnapped into illegal and brutal slavery at the age of 9, Bakhita ended up in Italy. When her ‘owners’ came to fetch her and their daughter from the care of the Canossian Sisters, the newly baptized Josephine refused to leave the Convent. Her rights were upheld by Italian law, and she joined the Sisters, remaining in Italy with them till her death 50 years later in the mid-20th Century. Her memoirs have been published. She is the first African to be canonized (in 2000) for many centuries. Her feast day gives us a special occasion to pray for the victims of the widespread trafficking of women and children in our own times, and for the people of newly created South Sudan and the Yambio community of Christian Brothers who represent the ERN among them.
A Catholic initiative tied to St Bakhita’s day, this annual day of prayer and awareness against trafficking began only recently, in 2015. Trafficking, described on the website www.zenit.org as “one of the worst examples of slavery in the XXI Century”, is reported to affect some 21 million people, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, in a variety of forms: “sexual exploitation, forced labour and begging, illegal organ removal, domestic servitude and forced marriages, illegal adoption and other forms of exploitation”. We are invited to join in a worldwide counter-force of prayer and care.
“Were there none who were discontented with what they have, the world would never reach for anything better.” (Florence Nightingale)
Wednesday 7 February
GRENADA’S INDEPENDENCE DAY
Grenada is on the ERN map because of the presence of the Presentation Brothers (see www.presentationbrothers.com and type ‘Grenada’ in the Search slot). This Eastern Caribbean nation, consisting of three islands, the Grenadines (the largest being the mountainous Grenada with its forests and mangrove and coral reef, the second the hilly Carriacou, and the smallest Petit Martinique), grows the world’s highest concentration of spices including a third of all our nutmeg. On this 42nd anniversary of their independence from Britain, let us remember in prayer the circles of Grenadians around the Presentation Brothers.
“One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted. Do it now.” (Paulo Coelho)
Tuesday 6 February
NEW ZEALAND’S WAITANGI DAY and
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF ZERO TOLERANCE TO FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION
Waitangi Day, commemorating the signing of a now-controversial treaty 170+ years ago in New Zealand, remains a focus of the pain and ambivalence of a colonial past. The solemnity of the day’s celebration in New Zealand is in amusing contrast with the more flamboyant tradition of a Kiwi pubcrawl via the London Underground. But this day serves as an occasion to hold in prayer all the people of New Zealand, and in particular the country’s remarkable Edmund Rice Network.
International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation is an annual UN-sponsored day to promote the eradication of this practice. The slogan originated in Nigeria over a decade ago and spread to an international awareness.
“Energy is the essence of life. Every day you decide how you’re going to use it by knowing what you want and what it takes to reach that goal, and by maintaining focus.” (Oprah Winfrey)
Monday 5 February 2018
The core of St Agatha’s story is the consecration of her virginity to Christ. The strength of her faith enabled her to endure sustained sexual assault and humiliation, and finally martyrdom. Instead of getting lost in pious peripherals (like St Agatha loaves – based, apparently, on a mistaken interpretation of what her portrait shows her carrying on a platter), our prayer today could focus on all who are vulnerable to sexual abuse and all who are being treated as sexual objects or slaves, especially those who have no one to turn to except God.
“You make the world a better place by making yourself a better person.” (Scott Sorrell)
Sunday 4 February
5th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
WORLD CANCER DAY
World Cancer Day focuses our attention on a disease that currently kills more people than AIDS, Malaria, and TB combined. The energy is around knowledge – to minimize the risk, enable early detection, and help manage the disease – and also around advocacy, to make treatment available. Over 40% of cancers are potentially preventable – by attention to diet and exercise, by avoidance of smoke and of excessive exposure to sun and alcohol. Of special interest to the ERN is the fact that the world’s poorest countries are the ones hardest hit by cancer: two-thirds of cancer deaths occur in countries where cancer-control resources are scarcest. Among various symbols used in consciousness-raising is the daffodil, a token of hope looking towards a day when cancer is no longer life-threatening. Let us not only pray for that day but for all who are threatened by the disease in our time, especially those who lack protective knowledge and resources.
“Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose.” (C. S. Lewis)
Saturday 3 February
ST BLAISE’S DAY and
“WIND OF CHANGE”
St Blaise was a Bishop in the early Church, and also a physician, who was brutally martyred for his Christian faith. He became famous for healing problems of the throat, and is still invoked for throat diseases – a traditional practice on his feastday (coming the day after Candlemas) is the blessing of throats with crossed candles.
On this day in 1960, British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan used the now-famous phrase “wind of change” as a prelude to the era of decolonization that was about to unfold across the continent of Africa. His speech in Cape Town, a more-publicised repeat of that given in Accra the previous month, also sent out a clear challenge to South Africa’s apartheid policies of the time. As we thank God for all the good that the “wind of change” has blown, let us also be open to the changes needed at this time.
“You choose the life you live. If you don't like it, it's on you to change it because no one else is going to do it for you.” (Kim Kiyosaki)
Friday 2 February
PRESENTATION OF THE BOY JESUS IN THE TEMPLE and
WORLD DAY FOR CONSECRATED LIFE and
WORLD WETLANDS DAY
The Presentation in the Temple is also known as ‘The Purification of Mary’ – 40 days after the birth of Jesus, Jewish Law had Mary attend a ritual purification and then present her first-born son in the Jerusalem Temple. The feast is also known as ‘Candlemas’ – the day on which candles are traditionally brought to be blessed in Church and taken home, reminding us that we need to allow the light of Jesus to penetrate our minds and hearts and take that light ‘home’, into our everyday lives. Incidentally, this is not the day from which the Presentation Sisters and Brothers take their name – the Presentation of Mary (‘Presentation Day’) is celebrated in November.
World Day for Consecrated Life is a day to celebrate and pray for those who have consecrated themselves to God by the vows traditionally known as Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. Within the Edmund Rice Network we have two such groups, the Presentation Brothers and the Christian Brothers; and many of us have ties with several other congregations of men and women: let us keep them all in our prayer today.
World Wetlands Day is intended to raise our awareness of the value and importance of wetlands – see the website www.ramsar.org
“The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of childhood into maturity.” (Thomas Henry Huxley)
Thursday 1 February
ST BRIGID, BISHOP and
BLACK HISTORY MONTH
St Brigid of Kildare is one of Ireland’s patron saints. Today she comes to us wrapped in many layers of legend, but the general drift is that she was a woman of extraordinary power in 5th/6th Century Ireland, founder and leader of monasteries which were nodes of learning and of Christian faith and influence. A persistent legend holds that she was a Bishop, an intriguing thought in the context of the current Church debate (and non-debate) about the ordination of women.
Black History Month is observed in North America during the month of February; in the USA it is called African American History Month. In the UK it is observed in October. It celebrates the story of the world’s African diaspora – all that has been endured and achieved by people of African origin who have become scattered around the globe both by force and by choice.
“Genius is there in all of us, just waiting for us to tap into it.” (Robert R. Toth)
Wednesday 31 January
ST JOHN BOSCO
Don Bosco, a 19th Century Italian Priest, had a special gift for attracting disadvantaged youth to a healthy and holistic lifestyle. He saw education as “a matter of the heart” and the three watchwords of his ‘preventive system’ were reason, religion, and kindness. Founder of today’s Salesians and co-founder of their sister-congregation, the Salesian Sisters, he also started a lay movement of Salesian Cooperators, way ahead of most similar developments in other charism-based families. There is a striking resonance between the vision of John Bosco and that of Edmund Rice, which serves as a reminder of the gospel roots of our mission.
“Do your little bit of good where you are; its those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” (Desmond Tutu)
Tuesday 30 January
MARY WARD, FOUNDER OF THE LORETO SISTERS
Mary Ward was declared ‘Venerable’ just over eight years ago, at the time of the 400th anniversary of the Congregation she founded, the Loreto Sisters (IBVMs). Her Institute was suppressed in 1631, and it was only in 1877 that it was recognized by the Church. Mary Ward could not be called ‘Foundress’ until 1909, some two and a half centuries after her death. Her ‘sin’ was that she dared to found a congregation of non-enclosed, apostolic women. Now she is being praised by the Church for her ‘heroic virtue’. Something comparable happened to other visionary women founders, such as Catherine McAuley (who founded the Sisters of Mercy in 19th Century Ireland) and Mary MacKillop (the Josephite Sisters’ Australian founder, excommunicated by the 19th Century Church, and canonized in 2010). Indeed our own Edmund Rice was subject to vicious vilification and rejection in his time. The lesson may be to look at who is being rejected in our time.
“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don't adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” (Confucius)
Monday 29 January 2018
ST JUNIPER’S DAY and
WORLD LEPROSY DAY
A contemporary and follower of St Francis of Assisi, Brother Juniper had extraordinary patience, simplicity, and generosity. Known as ‘the jester of the Lord’ for his playfulness, he seems to have been quite a character. Francis said of him: “Would that I had a whole forest of such Junipers”.
Leprosy, though still a significant disease in many countries, may well become eradicated through medical advances. Air-borne rather than caught by skin-contact as was previously believed, it isolated sufferers. As Mother Teresa pointed out, today’s more common equivalent might be “the feeling of being unwanted”. On this awareness-raising day we might keep in mind all who suffer any kind of isolation, as well as those scientists who are working towards eliminating diseases that isolate people.
“Knowing others is wisdom; knowing the self is enlightenment.” (Tao Te Ching)
Sunday 28 January
4th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
DATA PRIVACY DAY
Data Privacy Day is described as “a celebration of the dignity of the individual expressed through personal information”. With all their blessings, today’s communication technologies also put personal privacy at risk, which calls for vigilance. See the website www.dataprivacyday.org
“What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.” (Abraham H. Maslow)
Saturday 27 January
INTERNATIONAL HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE
This UN day stands as a bastion not only against genocide and persecution, but also against all forms of racism - and against anti-Semitism in particular. As we remember the Holocaust and the millions who perished in this unthinkable yet undeniable low in humanity’s history, we could pray for the healing of this and all other breaches of world wholeness, starting with our own pet prejudices. (A wonderful and widely-available piece of music capturing the unspeakable sadness of the Holocaust is the theme composed by John Williams for the movie SCHINDLER’S LIST.)
“Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again.” (Og Mandino)
Friday 26 January
AUSTRALIA DAY and INDIA’S REPUBLIC DAY
This year India marks the 67th anniversary of the adoption of its Constitution. On the same day, Australia holds its biggest annual celebration. We pray with and for the people of these two nations - hugely-populous India with its sparkling diversity and painful contrasts, and vast Australia with its awesome wide-open spaces and bustling urbanised edges - struggling with the legacy of the past and the challenges of the future. Very specially we pray in gratitude for the exciting vitality of the Edmund Rice Network in these two countries, and for a blessing on its members and all whom their life touches.
“You will become as small as your controlling desire; as great as your dominant aspiration.” (James Allen)
Thursday 25 January
FEAST OF THE CONVERSION OF ST PAUL and
end of THE WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY
The story of the intolerant persecutor Saul, and how he was zapped by a God so much bigger than his blind religiocioushood could imagine, is told in Acts 9. It is the same uncontainability of God that strikes Saul’s companions dumb and his hearers with amazement, and that shakes him into asking “Who are you, Lord?” – a question that opens Part 2 of his life, under his new name Paul. It is a question we can usefully ask again and again. This feastday was specially selected as one of the bookends of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, reminding us that God bursts unstoppably out of all our boxing-in, and desires that we burst out of our own confining boxes too.
“I believe that true identity is found in creative activity springing from within. It is found when one loses oneself.” (Anne Morrow Lindbergh)
Wednesday 24 January
ST FRANCIS DE SALES
Francis de Sales was a 16-17th Century Bishop noted for his simplicity, with a great talent for communicating and for gently and thoroughly encouraging reform in the ways of Christ’s disciples. His life and teaching remind us to focus on God’s love as the heart of the Christian message.
“No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see the possibilities - always see them, for they’re always there.” (Norman Vincent Peale)
Tuesday 23 January
ST MARIANNE OF MOLOKA’I
Marianne Cope, born in Germany and raised in the USA, gave her life as a Franciscan Sister serving those living with leprosy on the island of Moloka’i, Hawai’i, for half a century. She died aged 80 just as World War II was coming to an end, having been amazingly preserved from the disease with which she had so much contact. In October 2012, she was officially named a Saint.
“Your imagination is your preview of life’s coming attractions.” (Albert Einstein)
Monday 22 January 2018
Anticipating the feast of ST THOMAS AQUINAS (normally 28 January)
Thomas of Aquino was a hugely influential 13th Century Dominican philosopher and theologian. A mystical experience towards the end of his 49 years caused him to view all his learned writings as “straw”. In his lifetime, his work became subjected to Church condemnation, but in due course it became building-blocks of mainstream Church teaching – a lesson worth remembering!
“The great acts of love are done by those who are habitually performing small acts of kindness.” (Victor Hugo)
Sunday 21 January
3rd SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
ST AGNES, TEENAGER
Agnes, born near the end of the 3rd Century, was martyred as a young teenager for resisting a forced marriage. Her death was part of a purge to get rid of Christian resistance to the conformity demanded by Rome. (Yes, even then!) She is regarded as a patron saint of girls, virgins, those who suffer rape, engaged couples, chastity, and gardeners. She is one of the 7 women named in the Roman Canon of the Mass. Google her story, and if you x-ray through all the flowery legends you will meet a teenager of immense strength of character rooted in an unshakeable faith.
“Many people die at 25 and aren’t buried until they are 75.” [Benjamin Franklin]
Saturday 20 January
FORMAL ESTABLISHMENT OF THE CHRISTIAN BROTHERS
On the feast of the Holy Name, 20 January 1822, the Christian Brothers accepted the Vatican 1820 Brief offering pontifical status. It was a controversial decision, and it marked a parting of the ways with the Cork-based group who became the Presentation Brothers, but it enabled a freedom to think and move internationally – an advantage that the Presentation Brothers also claimed later.
“Only when we learn that our mistakes are masked as discoveries; our conflicts are cloaked as opportunities; and our failure are fuel for progress; can we move massively forward.” [Rick Beneteau]
Friday 19 January
WAXING & WANING OF THE MOON
The monthly cycle of the moon, so important to cultures prizing the connection between human life and the universe of which we are part, happens virtually unnoticed by many of us. Yet even those who relegate the moon to clichés and corny lyrics sometimes have moments of being mesmerized by its serene presence. Last week’s full moon, climax of the moon’s monthly cycle, might invite us to take a moment to pay attention each evening for the next month. Doing so has the power to connect and to context us, to put us in touch with the less-overt rhythms of our own lives, and to remind us of simple but profound truths that are part of our human heritage.
“I am who I am today because of the choices I made yesterday.” [Eleanor Roosevelt]
Thursday 18 January
START OF WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY
This started over 100 years old and used to be called Church Unity Octave because it actually lasts eight days. If you Google it, you’ll find lots of resources for prayer, once you scroll past screeds of background info – look out for references starting with www.vatican.va and www.oikoumene.org because the Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches have made this their joint project.
“The heart that gives, gathers.” [Tao Te Ching]
Wednesday 17 January
ST ANTHONY THE ABBOT
St Anthony of Egypt is known as ‘the Father of All Monks’: though he was not the first monk, he is remembered as taking monasticism into the desert, an instinct that found widespread resonance.
“Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.” [Brené Brown]
Tuesday 16 January
COLDEST/HOTTEST MONTH OF THE YEAR
As January is Northern hemisphere’s coldest month and the Southern hemisphere’s hottest month, it could serve as a reminder of the role of rhythms and cycles in our lives, with their lessons of balance, decay-and-renewal, change, and constancy – the latter quality being associated with January’s birthstone, the garnet.
“By choosing your thoughts, and by selecting which emotional currents you will release and which you will reinforce, you determine the quality of your Light. You determine the effects that you will have upon others, and the nature of the experiences of your life.” [Gary Zukav]
Monday 15 January 2018
ANNIVERSARY OF HUDSON RIVER EMERGENCY LANDING
Nine years ago, a flight that had just taken off from New York’s LaGuardia Airport made an emergency landing in the Hudson River, and all aboard survived. One of the most internationally celebrated good-news stories in recent memory, celebrated in a movie called SULLY, it might turn our eyes to the unsung good news in our own experience and context.
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with you one wild and precious life?” [Mary Oliver]
Sunday 14 January
2nd SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
FEAST OF THE ASS
The Feast of the Ass, a Medieval observance pinned to the donkey in the nativity story, involved having a donkey stand beside the altar during the sermon and the congregation ‘hee-hawing’ their responses to the celebrant. Suppressed since the 15th Century, it remains a reminder of just how far religion can wander from its centre. We might reflect today on how some religious practices of our own time stray from the focus of Jesus.
“Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.” (Oprah Winfrey)
Saturday 13 January
ST HILARY OF POITIERS
The feast-day of a 4th Century married Bishop, Hilary of Poitiers, is a reminder that not all-that-is always was that way or will always remain that way! It might prompt us to reflect on our own resistance to change and to pray for openness to Spirit-driven change.
“It is good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good too, to check up once in a while and make sure you haven’t lost the things money can’t buy.” (George Lorimer)
Friday 12 January
INDIA’S YOUTH DAY
Youth have always had a very special place in the heart of followers of Edmund Rice. India’s National Youth Day invites us to hold in prayer the young people of a country where the Christian Brothers have served youth for over 170 years.
“Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us every day.” (Sally Koch)
Thursday 11 January
ANNIVERSARY OF RED-FLAGGING OF SMOKING
On this day in 1964, a landmark report was published by the US Surgeon-General warning that smoking may be a health-hazard. The ensuing half-century has seen a growing sensitizing to the impact of lifestyle on health. In our prayer today, we could focus on the sacredness of our bodies and the responsibility of self-care.
“There is no royal road to anything. One thing at a time, all things in succession. That which grows fast, withers as rapidly. That which grows slowly, endures.” (Josiah Gilbert Holland)
Wednesday 10 January
ANNIVERSARY OF WORLD’S OLDEST UNDERGROUND RAILWAY
In 1863, a little over a century and a half ago, the London Underground opened, the first of its kind: the first stretch connected London Paddington Station and Farringdon Station. Perhaps this anniversary might prompt us to reflect with wonder on our world’s vast communications networks – the human values embodied and all that is made possible… right down to reading these lines.
“The grass is greener where you water it.” (Neil Barringham)
Tuesday 9 January
THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD
Protestant scholar William Barclay in his commentary on the story of Jesus’ baptism by John sees Jesus as drawn into identifying with a Godward movement of people. Mark and Luke tell the story as a turning-point in the life of Jesus, a moment of personal insight into God’s direction for his life, a watershed moment for him. If we take the Incarnation seriously, that Jesus was not God-dressed-up-in-a-human-body, then we accept that he had to discover his path and depend on God’s breaking through to him in special moments, just as we do. We’ve all had our own watershed moments – some use religious language like ‘vocation’ and ‘revelation’, others speak in metaphors of guidance or insight or recognition, others are wary of naming the experience but just ‘know’ that it was real. Today’s feast invites us to identify with Jesus in honouring these moments as touchstones of our personal authenticity.
“Leadership is a matter of having people look at you and gain confidence, seeing how you react. If you’re in control, they’re in control.” (Tom Landry)
Monday 8 January 2018
OUR LADY OF PROMPT SUCCOUR
The story behind the quaint title ‘Our Lady of Prompt Succour’ comes from early 19th Century New Orleans, but its message is for all times and places: that the Mother of Jesus cares deeply about the affairs of the community gathered around the vision and values of her son, and is a reliable ally in all that serves the reign of God.
“If you wish others to believe in you, you must first convince them that you believe in them.” (Harvey Mackay)
Sunday 7 January
EPIPHANY SUNDAY and
SAN RAIMUNDO DE PEÑAFORT
Raimundo was a Spanish Dominican remembered for his 13th Century codifying of Church law, which served for the seven centuries preceding the present Code of Canon Law. Saint Raymond is a reminder of the Church’s tradition of scholarship and of the contribution of this hidden ministry to human progress.
“A leader is a person you will follow to a place you wouldn’t go by yourself.” [Joel Arthur Barker]
Saturday 6 January
THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD (celebrated on the following Sunday in some countries)
Major manifestations of God’s glory are landmarks. Landmarks help us to see where we are and where we are going without being confused by all the fast-changing details of our experience. Special moments where God is revealed, both in Scripture and in our own stories, are intended to develop eyes that can see God’s presence in the everyday and the ordinary. The Christmas name ‘Emmanuel’ means God with us, God in our midst, God immersed in the messiness of our lives. The feast is known in Eastern Christianity as ‘Theophany’ and in Ireland as ‘Little Christmas’, and it marks the start of the Carnival season which continues until Lent.
“If you're going through hell, keep going.” [Winston Churchill]
Friday 5 January
Twelfth Night, ending the celebration of Christmas, is a celebration coincided with an even older time of Roman revels. Though only vestiges of this tradition have survived – like the taking down of Christmas decorations – it can serve us as a reminder of the importance of celebration in human life. Nietsche once observed that “the problem is not how to celebrate but having something to celebrate”. The key is noticing what we have that is worth celebrating – from the simplest personal things to the most sweeping movements of God’s energy – for these things are our spiritual core, and they call out to be expressed – whether in established rituals or in spontaneous ways, but always engaging our creativity. It’s often lamented that so much preparation goes into a wedding and so little into preparation of the couple for lifelong bonding. Yet sometimes we do the same with Eucharist: the energy goes into choosing songs and designing visuals, and little is done to prepare the consciousness with which we enter liturgy. And sometimes we ‘use’ Mass quite uncritically as the channel for every occasion of celebration, missing the opportunity of entering the occasion more actively by creating something more ‘custom-built’. So let Twelfth Night invite us to notice what in our lives calls out to be celebrated during this coming year.
“It is love alone that leads to right action. What brings order in the world is to love and let love do what it will.” [Krishnamurti]
Thursday 4 January
ST ELIZABETH ANN SETON
Elizabeth Ann Seton was the first native-born American to be canonized. There are several interesting parallels between her life and that of Edmund Rice. She was married, became a parent, was widowed, and started an apostolic congregation dedicated to faith-integrated education. Unlike Edmund, she was a convert to the Catholic faith and died relatively young, at 46.
“What most people need to learn in life is how to love people and use things, instead of using people and loving things.” [author unknown]
Wednesday 3 January
BACK TO WORK in many parts of the world
In many parts of the globe, this week is a time of returning, or preparing to return, to our routine activities. Let those of us who have work or studies to return to, in a world heavy with unemployment and thin in educational opportunities, hold our graced situation in gratitude.
“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” [Helen Keller]
Tuesday 2 January
NINTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS
Most of you reading this live in situations where the globe slows down in acknowledgement of what Christmas means to Christians. In countries where Christians are the minority, this is not so, and the occasion can only be celebrated in the heart as the world goes about its everyday business. Imagining this can help us Christians understand how our Muslim and Jewish and Hindu sisters and brothers may feel when their holy days pass unnoticed in a Christian-orientated world – a sad irony in the lives of followers of the Jesus who was at pains to include the stranger, the outsider, the foreigner, “those who are not against us”, and all “those who do the will of the Father”. Let us take a few moments to mark these holy days of other faiths in our 2018 diaries so we can be aware.
“With the gift of listening comes the gift of healing.” [Catherine de Hueck]
Monday 1 January 2O18
FEAST OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD and
NEW YEAR’S DAY and
WORLD DAY OF PEACE
The very first day of the calendar year is traditionally dedicated to Mary as Mother of God (‘Mater Dei’). The first of a monthly thread of Marian days, this one highlights her role of willing and active participation in bringing God’s dream to birth. This is something all of us are called to do in our own place and time and circumstances. Notice that the person God calls to this blueprint-of-all-calls is a member of an oppressed race (under Roman occupation), a woman (in a man-centred society), and an obscure young teenager of undistinguished education and achievements. Clearly this is not a God made in our own image and likeness – and the God who comes to birth is notably subversive of what is called (in old-fashioned English) “man’s way, not God’s way”.
New Year is traditionally a day for setting personal resolutions. Stephen Covey’s book 7 HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE suggests a lifegiving direction: scheduling time to honour the really-important-yet-not-urgent things in our life which so easily get crowded out by the demands of urgent-yet-actually-less-important activities. Think: prayer and reflection, quality-time for relationships and family, physical exercise and its mental equivalent of reading, exposure to art and beauty and ideas…
Today is also World Day of Peace. The theme this year is “Migrants and Refugees: men and women in search of peace”. Look for it via the Search facility at the top of www.justpax.it
“Good friendships are fragile things and require as much care as any other fragile and precious thing.” [Randolph S. Bourne]
Sunday 31 December
HOLY FAMILY SUNDAY and
WORLD SPIRITUALITY DAY
The feast of the Holy Family is a reminder of the human community’s affirmation of the key role of family in nurturing personal potential and life-giving values, but also of God’s presence in the ordinariness of everyday domestic rhythms and routines. And an inclusive gesture to families that are not textbook-typical! The founder of the Holy Family Association, Pierre Noailles, wrote: “The Son of God came that the Holy Family might be formed” – not just in microcosm.
World Spirituality Day is described as “an opportunity for all who value spirituality in their lives to connect and unite in our wish for a more peaceful, just and sustainable world based on values grounded in our deeper spiritual connection to each other and the world around us”. It is strategically timed to coincide with the natural energy of renewal and refocusing that comes with the transition to a new year. Look it up on www.integrativespirituality.org
“Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.” [Plato]
Saturday 30 December
END OF THE YEAR
The last couple of days of the year is an invitation to look back with gratitude and appreciation for all the goodness, truth, and beauty with which we were blessed in 2017.
“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” [Berthold Auerbach]
Friday 29 December
ST THOMAS BECKET
Thomas was a 12th century Archbishop of Canterbury who stood up to the power-greed of English King Henry II, and after a long struggle to defend the Church’s traditional privileges ended up being murdered in his Cathedral. With St Paul he is London’s co-patron saint. His life is a reminder of the cost so many pay as a result of standing up for principle against tyranny.
“You’re never as good as everyone tells you when you win, and you’re never as bad as they say when you lose.” [Lou Holtz]
Thursday 28 December
THE HOLY INNOCENTS
An African proverb observes that “When elephants fight, the grass gets trampled”. The baby boys massacred by Herod’s attempt to kill the baby Jesus, remind us of the vulnerability of the powerless when the powerful act out of paranoia or personal interests. Today’s commemoration challenges us to question how sensitive we are to the effects of any power we wield, or of any power with which we are aligned or associated. The same Jesus who narrowly escaped the fate of other Bethlehem babies was later to point out: “Whatever you do to the least powerful, keep in mind that you are doing it to me”.
“Improve relationships with others by assuming that they can hear everything you say about them.” [Stephen R. Covey]
Wednesday 27 December
ST JOHN THE APOSTLE
Traditionally thought of as the friend who was closest to Jesus and as the youngest of the Apostles, John was the only one of the Twelve who stood by Jesus through his crucifixion and death – along with the women. And he was the one to whom Jesus entrusted his mother before he died. The version of the story of Jesus that comes to us in John’s name is a deeply reflective one. Reading a part of it would be a fine way to honour John’s feastday.
“Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living, the other helps you make a life.” [Sandra Carey]
Tuesday 26 December
ST STEPHEN’S DAY
The traditional day on which many still celebrate the memory of the first Christian to be martyred for his faith in Jesus. Stephen’s story is found in Chapters 6 and 7 of The Acts of the Apostles.
“People are like sticks of dynamite. The power is on the inside, but nothing happens until the fuse gets lit.” [Mac Anderson]
Monday 25 December 2017
Not just the traditional birthday of Jesus, but a vivid reminder of the vulnerability of the God of surprises, a celebration of God’s stunning trust in human nature, and a landmark in the maturation of the human race. A part of the Christmas tradition that strongly connects to Edmund Rice spirituality today is welcoming the stranger.
“This is the way of peace: Overcome evil with good, and falsehood with truth, and hatred with love.” [Peace Pilgrim]
Sunday 24 December
4th SUNDAY OF ADVENT and
THE DAY BEFORE CHRISTMAS
Poet Rainer Maria Rilke, writing in German, expressed these thoughts just before Christmas 1903:
“Why don’t you think of Him as the one who is coming, who has been approaching from all eternity, the one who will some day arrive, the ultimate tree whose leaves we are. What keeps you from projecting His birth into the ages that are coming into existence, and living your life as a painful and lovely day in the history of a great pregnancy? Don’t you see that everything that happens is again and again a beginning and couldn’t it be His beginning, since in itself, starting is always so beautiful? If He is the most perfect one, must not what is less perfect precede Him, so that he can choose Himself out of fullness and superabundance? Must not he be the last one so that He can include everything in Himself, and what meaning would we have if He whom we are longing for has already existed?
As bees gather honey, so we collect what is sweetest out of all things and build Him. Even with the trivial, with the insignificant (as long as it is done out of love) we begin, with work and with the repose that comes afterward, with a silence and with a small solitary joy, with everything that we do alone, without anyone to join or help us, we start Him who we will not live to see, just as our ancestors could not live to see us. And yet they, who passed away long ago, still exist in us, as predisposition, as burden upon our fate, as murmuring blood, and as a gesture that rises up from the depths of time.
Is there anything that can deprive you of the hope that in this way you will someday exist in Him, who is the farthest, the outermost limit?
Be patient…and realise that the least we can do is to make coming into existence no more difficult for Him than the earth does for Spring when it wants to come.”
Saturday 23 December
O-ANTIPHONS LAST DAY
In their preparation for Christmas, the ancient O-antiphons climax with a focus on ‘Emmanuel’, God-with-us:
O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,
The hope of the nations and their Saviour:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.
The first letters of each of the O-Antiphons’ seven titles, taken in reverse, makes up the Latin words ‘ero cras’ (Tomorrow, I will come).
“Life is not a problem to be solved, nor a question to be answered. Life is a mystery to be experienced.” [Alan Watts]
Friday 22 December
MOTHER FRANCES CABRINI
Born in Italy in the mid-19th Century, Francesca founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart and in her late 30s was sent to New York City to minister to Italian immigrants. Within her 67 years she founded that same number of missionary institutions in service of the sick and the poor. She was the first American citizen to be canonized.
“Confidence on the outside begins by living with integrity on the inside.” [Brian Tracy]
Thursday 21 December
APPROACHING THE SOLSTICE and
Tomorrow is the longest day of the year in the southern hemisphere and the shortest in the northern hemisphere – the middle of summer or of winter. The USA creatively makes this solstice its ‘End Homelessness Day’ because it brings their longest night of the year – look it up on www.betterworldcalendar.com for an outline of the problem of homelessness which affects some 100 million people round the world.
“Experience is not what happens to you - it's how you interpret what happens to you.” [Aldous Huxley]
Wednesday 20 December
INTERNATIONAL HUMAN SOLIDARITY DAY
Established by the UN ten years ago as “an initiative in the fight against poverty”, Human Solidarity Day is a reminder of the oneness of humanity globally, and a call to give practical expression to our oneness with the sorrows, struggles, and sufferings – as well as the joys, achievements, and celebrations – of other people sharing our world with us.
“Transformation occurs when existing solutions, assumed truths and past decisions are exposed as unrealistic and self-defeating.” [Peter Shepherd]
Tuesday 19 December
DAY FOR SOUTH-SOUTH CO-OPERATION
Today is set aside by the UN to focus attention on South-South Co-operation, as a complement to North-South co-operation, and as another instrument helping to achieve internationally agreed development goals.
“If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we would find in each man's life a sorrow and a suffering enough to disarm all hostility.” [Henry Longfellow]
Monday 18 December 2017
INTERNATIONAL MIGRANTS’ DAY
International Migrants’ Day is a reminder of those millions of people across the globe who have found it necessary to cross international borders in search of a better life – safety, jobs, food, freedom – and who often experience increased vulnerability away from their homeland.
“Those who enter the gates of heaven are not beings who have no passions or who have curbed the passions, but those who have cultivated an understanding of them.” [William Blake]
Sunday 17 December
3rd SUNDAY OF ADVENT and
Another example of preparation for Christmas is the ancient monastic tradition of the seven O-Antiphons, each focusing on an attribute of Christ taken from Scripture. The first is Sapientia, Wisdom:
O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
Reaching from one end to the other mightily,
and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.
Look up ‘O antiphon’ (sic) in Wikipedia for an interesting outline.
“When solving problems, dig at the roots instead of just hacking at the leaves.” (Anthony J. D'Angelo)
Saturday 16 December
START OF ‘SHELTER-SEEKING’ NOVENA
Shelter-seeking is a tradition in Mexico which has spread to parts of Latin America. The nine days before Christmas are observed as a remembrance of Joseph and Mary’s long search for lodgings (‘Las Posadas’). The novena was adopted and adapted in the Philippines where it is known as ‘Simbang Gabi’ (Dawn Mass), referring to the custom of Churches opening their doors very early, before harvest-work began, to allow the faithful to participate in Mass in the lead-up to Christmas. The message of this novena is about spiritual preparation for Christmas in the midst of the secular seasonal flurry.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” (Viktor Frankl)
Friday 15 December
Named after the founder of Esperanto, an attempt at creating an international language, Zamenhof Day might remind us of the importance of communication in our lives and the need to make efforts at improving the effectiveness of how we hear others and get across to them - efforts such as learning other people’s language or developing our listening skills.
“Building a better you is the first step to building a better World.” (Zig Ziglar)
Thursday 14 December
ST JOHN OF THE CROSS
A 16th Century Spanish mystic and a partner of Teresa of Avila in the work of Carmelite reform, John of the Cross was experienced as a threat and became imprisoned by his Order. Before escaping, he wrote one of his few major works that distinguish him as one of the foremost poets in the Spanish language. He remains one of the great guides to mystical prayer, and his feastday is a reminder of the call to a deep and committed prayer-life.
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” (Leo Buscaglia)
Wednesday 13 December
One of the few women named in the Canon of the Mass, Lucy (or Lucia) suffered the loss of her eyes and then her life for her Christian faith in the early 4th Century, becoming the patron saint of blind people. A day, perhaps, to celebrate the role women play in planting and strengthening faith.
“Character is the real foundation of all worthwhile success.” (John Hays Hammond)
Tuesday 12 December
KENYA’S INDEPENDENCE DAY
Though Nairobi was the gateway through which the Christian Brothers brought the heart of Edmund Rice to East Africa, the first community in Kenya began three years later, in 1991. There are now seven communities of Christian Brothers in that country, two of them being international houses of study for the African Province, and the Brothers minister in a number of centres. Kenya today celebrates the 54th anniversary of becoming independent in 1963.
“You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.” (Alan Alda)
Monday 11 December 2017
INTERNATIONAL MOUNTAIN DAY
International Mountain Day originated in a North Eastern American students’ custom of mass bunking of classes to head for the mountains and enjoy the colourful leaves of Fall/Autumn. The day has become dignified by the UN “to highlight the importance of sustainable mountain development”.
“I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” (Christopher Reeve)
Sunday 10 December
2nd SUNDAY OF ADVENT and
HUMAN RIGHTS DAY
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the two international covenants of human rights: that of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and that of Civil and Political Rights – see www.awarenessdays.com for information. Also see the website of our own advocacy arm www.edmundriceinternational.org which maintains a special focus on human rights.
“You will either step forward into growth or step backward into safety.” (Abraham Maslow)
Saturday 9 December
ANTI-CORRUPTION DAY and
TANZANIA’S INDEPENDENCE DAY
International Anti-Corruption Day is a UN initiative to promote “integrity, accountability, and proper management of public affairs and public property”. Let us pray today for the conditions necessary for the cultivation of such values, conditions such as the spread of healthy kinds of religious faith in the hearts of humankind.
Tanzania came on to the Edmund Rice map in 1988 when the first community of Christian Brothers settled in this land. There are now two communities of Brothers in Arusha, as well as the Edmund Rice Sinon Secondary School (see www.edmundricesinon.com for more), and a growing community of Edmund Rice people in Tanzania.
“The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem.” (Captain Jack Sparrow)
Friday 8 December
THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF MARY
Coming nine months before the traditional birthday of Mary, 8 September, today’s feast celebrates that point in human evolution where such a person as Mary became possible, someone of Mary’s extraordinary openness to God. The Immaculate Conception is not about how Jesus was conceived – a common misunderstanding grounded in a distorted view of sex as something stained (or ‘maculate’) – but marks that moment in the human race’s maturation when a Mary could come into existence, could be conceivable.
“Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that a son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a nation.” (Nelson Mandela)
Thursday 7 December
INTERNATIONAL CIVIL AVIATION DAY
Civil Aviation Day is a UN-sponsored observance to strengthen worldwide awareness of the importance of civil aviation for development and to promote safety and efficiency in international air transport.
“We need a variety of input and influence and voices. You cannot get all the answers to life and business from one person or from one source.” (Jim Rohn)
Wednesday 6 December
The multiplication of legends around this Greek saint of the 3rd/4th Centuries is testimony to the impact that one person’s life can have on others. Arising from these legends, Nicholas has been adopted as the patron saint of a startling variety of groups, including children, sailors, fishermen, merchants, students, broadcasters, pharmacists, pawnbrokers, the falsely accused, the city of New York, prostitutes, and even thieves – repentant ones. He is specially associated with secret gift-giving, and the Dutch Santa Claus tradition has been secularized into Father Christmas.
“Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” (Thomas Edison)
Tuesday 5 December
INTERNATIONAL VOLUNTEER DAY
The International Volunteeer Day for Economic and Social Development celebrates the global asset of volunteerism and the way “it can bring positive social change by fostering respect for diversity, equality and the participation of all” (Ban Ki-moon). It is a day for honouring all our Volunteers within the Edmund Rice Network and the way God shines through their loving service.
“Time is limited, so I better wake up every morning fresh and know that I have just one chance to live this particular day right, and to string my days together into a life of action, and purpose.” (Lance Armstrong)
Monday 4 December 2017
ST JOHN OF DAMASCUS
John of Damascus, a monk who lived in the 7th/8th Centuries, is remembered as a scholar and theologian, a reminder of the Church’s deep tradition of scholarship and of those engaged in this ministry in our own time.
“Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.” (James Michener)
Sunday 3 December
1st SUNDAY OF ADVENT and
ST FRANCIS XAVIER and
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
Francis Xavier was one of the original Jesuits, in the 16th Century. He is remembered as a missionary on the grand scale, ministering in Goa, South East Asia, and Japan. His life is a reminder that Christianity is never a closed club, and that Christ and his vision are for sharing.
About 10% of the world population, or 650 million people, live with the challenge of disabilities. This UN day asks us to become involved in promoting their dignity, rights, and well-being. Wikipedia’s page on ‘Disability’ provides a window on a very broad subject.
“The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.” (Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr)
Saturday 2 December
END SLAVERY DAY and
WORLD COMPUTER LITERACY DAY
The International Day for the Abolition of Slavery is a reminder of the UN’s 1949 Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and the Exploitation of Others. These things are still happening, particularly to women, and out-of-sight can remain out-of-mind unless deliberately brought to mind and to prayer.
Computer Literacy has become in our time a significant part of empowerment, essential across a broad range of the job market, yet inaccessible to vast numbers of our world’s poor. It poses a challenge to a community of people inspired by Edmund Rice who, in his context of two centuries ago, faced an equivalent challenge.
“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” (Alan Lakein)
Friday 1 December
WORLD AIDS DAY
The Wikipedia page on World AIDS Day gives a good introduction to the day and the disease, plus a listing of other relevant sites. We are invited to keep in our prayers throughout the AIDS month of December all those who are either infected or affected by HIV/AIDS with its stigma and many burdens, as well as all those in danger of becoming infected through various forms of vulnerability, including ignorance and inequality.
“Most of us are just about as happy as we make up our minds to be.” (Abraham Lincoln)
Thursday 30 November
ST ANDREW and
CITIES FOR LIFE DAY
Andrew, brother of Peter, is well known in the story of Jesus as one of The Twelve. It was in the faith of these Apostles that ‘the Church’ in all its complexity was grounded. The story of Andrew’s call can be found in John 1:35-44.
A growing number of cities around the world identify themselves as Cities for Life and today affirm their commitment to life and their opposition to the death penalty. See the website www.nodeathpenalty.santegidio.org
“You gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face. You must do that which we think we cannot.” (Eleanor Roosevelt)
Wednesday 29 November
ST BRENDAN OF BIRR, IRELAND and
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF SOLIDARITY WITH THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE
Brendan, one of the earliest Irish Saints and among what people call ‘the twelve apostles of Ireland’, studied at a hugely influential monastic school and went on to found a monastery in central Ireland in the 6th Century. His life is an illustration of how God raises up the right people in every age of history to respond to the needs of their time and place.
The UN’s Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people is a reminder of the lower-profile side of the complex and painful struggle to realise conflicting aspirations in the volatile part of the world where Jesus lived his short life and died a violent death.
“Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.” (Sam Walton)
Tuesday 28 November
ST CATHERINE LABOURÉ
Catherine, a 19th century Sister, ministered as a nurse in France. Anonymously, she was the messenger who was instrumental in introducing the much-loved “Miraculous Medal” into Catholic piety. The essential message of this token of Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the availability of God’s Grace for the asking.
“Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones.” (Phillips Brooks)
Monday 27 November 2017
ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE MONTH
November has been chosen as Alzheimer’s Disease Month to raise awareness of this degenerative terminal senile dementia, first diagnosed at the start of the 20th Century. The signs, symptoms, and stages are well decribed in a Wikipedia entry on the subject. Our prayer today might embrace all those who suffer from, or because of, Alzheimer’s Disease.
“The potential of the average person is like a huge ocean unsailed, a new continent unexplored, a world of possibilities waiting to be released and channeled toward some great good.” (Brian Tracy)
Sunday 26 November
CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY and
ST JOHN BERCHMANS and
ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE MONTH
“The world is full of abundance and opportunity, but far too many people come to the fountain of life with a sieve instead of a tank car, a teaspoon instead of a steam shovel. They expect little and as a result they get little.” (Ben Sweetland)
Saturday 25 November
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF ELIMINATION OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
The Day of Elimination of Violence against Women is a United Nations observance. It is briefly introduced on the website www.timeanddate.com
“One half of life is luck; the other half is discipline - and that's the important half, for without discipline you wouldn't know what to do with luck.” (Carl Zuckmeyer)
Friday 24 November
EVOLUTION DAY and
BUY NOTHING DAY
Evolution Day marks the anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s breakthrough text The Origin of Species 155 years ago. It can be taken as a day for celebrating the common bond between all of Creation.
Buy-Nothing Day, observed immediately following the USA’s Thanksgiving Day, is described as “a global holiday from consumerism”. It invites us to reflect on over-consumerism and to review our own excesses.
“Our ultimate freedom is the right and power to decide how anybody or anything outside ourselves will affect us.” (Stephen R. Covey)
Thursday 23 November
ST CLEMENT and
BAHAI FEAST OF QAWL (SPEECH) and
THANKSGIVING DAY IN USA
Clement, one of the earliest successors of St Peter, is usually depicted in art with an anchor, symbolising perhaps his role in affirming orderly procedures in regard to authority in the Church.
Qawl celebrates the gift of speech. The Bahai faith holds that all God’s messengers brought the same message embodied in different languages and cultures – for example, ‘the Golden Rule’.
Thanksgiving is celebrated in the USA on the fourth Thursday of November – and by a number of other countries on different days. The North American celebrations took their lead from traditional harvest festivals in Europe. Even if we have our own national days, we might turn our thoughts and prayers to gratitude today in a spirit of solidarity.
“The moment you commit and quit holding back, all sorts of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, will rise up to help you. The simple act of commitment is a powerful magnet for help.” (Napoleon Hill)
Wednesday 22 November
St Cecilia is traditionally the patroness of music, which has been called the language of God. Perhaps our prayer today might involve listening and responding to this transcendent language.
“Freedom is actually a bigger game than power. Power is about what you can control. Freedom is about what you can unleash.” (Harriet Rubin)
Tuesday 21 November
PRESENTATION DAY and
WORLD TELEVISION DAY
From the feast of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple, two Congregations take their name:
• Nano Nagle’s Presentation Sisters – see their website www.presentationsistersunion.org
• Edmund Rice’s Presentation Brothers – their website is www.presentationbrothers.org
Television, though it is only one among many media, and not one of those most accessible to the world’s poorer people, is nevertheless a gift to celebrate and a powerful influence to acknowledge.
“Some see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not.” (George Bernard Shaw)
Monday 20 November 2017
UNIVERSAL CHILDREN’S DAY and
AFRICA INDUSTRIALISATION DAY
Universal Children’s Day is a celebration of childhood held in dozens of countries around the globe. Children have always had a central place in the Edmund Rice world, and the uncovering of the ugly phenomenon of child abuse in a less-aware past has led to the strengthening of our contribution to honouring children’s rights and protecting the innocence and vulnerability of childhood.
Africa Industrialisation Day is a UN effort to “mobilize the commitment of the international community to the industrialization of Africa. It also reminds that more than 30 of the world's 48 least developed countries are part of Africa continent.”
“If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” (Albert Einstein)
Sunday 19 November
33rd SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
INTERNATIONAL MEN’S DAY
Celebrated in over a dozen countries, Men’s Day celebrates their contributions to society, highlights male health issues, and stresses the need for good male role models especially for the sake of young people.
“Gratitude is the open door to abundance.” (Yogi Bhajan)
Saturday 18 November
NOVEMBER: MONTH OF ‘THE HOLY SOULS’
A mid-month reminder that, since the sixteenth century, the Church has observed November as a month to specially pray for those who have died and are still growing in their capacity to experience God’s presence. The traditional term ‘holy souls’ suggests that they are on their way to sainthood, and perhaps their state of need of our prayers is captured by the image in Jn 9:4 (‘the night when no one can work’).
“We are what we repeatedly do.” (Aristotle)
Friday 17 November
INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS’ DAY
Originating in a 1939 uprising of students in Prague against Nazi pervery, this Students’ Day continues to be observed mainly as a day of students standing up against oppression in its many guises. The day brings a reminder that the young are often clear-sighted about those evils to which their elders have become accustomed and insensitive.
“The difference between extraordinary people and ordinary people is a simple as the difference between the two words. Extraordinary people are committed to doing the extra things that ordinary people won’t.” (Christine Kinney)
Thursday 16 November
Though mere tolerance may seem rather ungenerous and patronizing, it is certainly a starting-point in the perennial struggle to rise above racism, discrimination, xenophobia, and other manifestations of crude intolerance. And our prayer and accompanying action for justice do not need to stop at tolerance, but can embrace more positive values like respect and inclusion and affirmation.
“The most critical thing I think business leaders and future business leaders need to understand is to stay focused on the things that you can control and influence, and then execute, execute, execute.” (John Chambers)
Wednesday 15 November
Recycling Day is an initiative from the USA, a country that has doubled its recycling efforts in the past decade to achieve a rate of almost one-third of all its ‘trash’. We are encouraged to get involved practically both by making the effort to recycle our own waste and by buying recycled goods.
“Our life always expresses the result of our dominant thoughts.” (Soren Kierkegaard)
Tuesday 14 November
WORLD DIABETES DAY
World Diabetes Day is a UN day that draws attention to the need for education, prevention, and management in regard to a disease that affects 285 million people currently and appears to be alarmingly on the increase. Becoming aware of the risk factors (like lack of exercise and unhealthy diet) and of the warning signs (like excessive thirst, hunger, or tiredness) is a starting-point. For more, visit the very informative site www.worlddiabetesday.org
“Profound commitment to a dream does not confine or constrain: it liberates. Even a difficult, winding path can lead to your goal if you follow it to the end.” (Paulo Coelho)
Monday 13 November 2017
Kindness Day, described as “a day that encourages individuals to overlook boundaries, race, and religion”, is an initiative from the east that resonates strongly with Edmund Rice spirituality. Look up the website www.worldkindness.org.sg
“All progress begins with a brave decision.” (Marie Forleo)
Sunday 12 November
32nd SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME and
Josaphat, a monk who was ordained Archbishop and died a martyr, is remembered for leading the regeneration of Church life among the Ruthenians – Belarusians and Ukrainians. He is greatly venerated by Eastern Europeans and people of Polish origins.
“The capacity to learn is a gift;
the ability to learn is a skill;
the willingness to learn is a choice.” (Brian Herbert)
Saturday 11 November
COMMEMORATING THE END OF WORLD WAR ONE
Known variously as Remembrance Day, Armistice Day, Poppy Day, and (as broadened in USA) Veterans’ Day, this was the day in 1918 when ‘The Great War’ was signed to a close at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. One of the oldest rituals marking this event is the observance of a Two Minute Silence at this hour. About 9 million combatants lost their lives in WWI, 7 million were permanently disabled, and 15 million were seriously injured; countless others died of war-time starvation and of the famines and diseases that flowed from the war.
“One of the sanest, surest, and most generous joys of life comes from being happy over the good fortune of others.” (Archibald Rutledge)
Friday 10 November
ST LEO THE GREAT
A 5th Century Italian Pope, Leo is remembered as the one who decisively established the primacy of the Bishop of Rome among his fellow-Bishops. Centralised authority has developed into a highly nuanced practice in the Church over the years. While strong centralization has its weaknesses, to downplay the value of its checks-and-balances would be to overlook its worth to the ultimate fidelity of the community of Jesus.
“Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody's going to know whether you did it or not.” (Oprah Winfrey)
Thursday 9 November
ANNIVERSARY OF THE FALL OF THE BERLIN WALL and
The USA is among the several countries that celebrate a national freedom day, but also celebrates today as World Freedom Day to mark the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall 27 years ago. It could serve as an occasion to treasure one of those gifts that is most sharply appreciated where it is absent: freedom.
Several countries celebrate an Inventors’ Day to remember, honour, and appreciate the contribution of inventors to our everyday lives and to the progress of our world. We may like to join the three German-speaking countries – Germany, Austria, and Switzerland – in doing so today. There’s a saying that reminds us: “It is true that ordinary people keep the wheels turning; but never forget that it took an extraordinary person to invent the wheel.”
“Good habits are as addictive as bad habits, and a lot more rewarding.” (Harvey Mackay)
Wednesday 8 November
WORLD URBANISM DAY
Celebrated in 30 countries on four continents, World Urbanism Day is intended to raise awareness of the environmental impact of the development of cities, and “to recognize and promote the role of planning in creating livable communities”.
“The great thing in this world is not so much where you stand, as in what direction you are moving.” (Oliver Wendell Holmes)
Tuesday 7 November
MONTH OF THE HOLY SOULS
November is, in Catholic tradition, the month highlighting prayer for the dead, an ancient Biblically-based practice. One way of seeing ‘the Holy Souls’ is as those whose vision is still in the process of being clarified to enable them to see ‘the face of God’. Another is to see them as those still in need of prayer for reconciliation with God. The tradition is a reminder of the power of prayer and also of the invitation to participate in God’s loving nurturing of all.
“There is a calmness to a life lived in gratitude, a quiet joy.” (Ralph H. Blum)
Monday 6 November 2017
ALL SAINTS OF AFRICA
Around the time of the feast of All Saints, Africa celebrates today its own array of saints, sometimes known as ‘our ancestors in the faith’. Reverence for ancestors is a strong element in many African cultures, resonating with the Christian tradition of celebrating those on whose spiritual shoulders we stand.
“Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later.” (Og Mandino)
Sunday 5 November
31st SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME
“If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?” (T.S. Eliot)
Saturday 4 November
ST CHARLES BORROMEO
Charles Borromeo was a leading 16th Century church reformer. Believing that ignorance and poor education were the source of many of the Church’s problems, he put emphasis on learning, including adequate preparation of future priests. He became Cardinal Archbishop of Milan, dying at age 46.
“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases from being shared.” (Buddha)
Friday 3 November
ST MARTIN DE PORRES and
DOMINICA’S INDEPENDENCE DAY
Martin lived four centuries ago but the authenticity of his life’s message about combining prayer and service to the poor and the powerless - as Edmund Rice did - continues to ensure the popularity of this Dominican mulatto saint right up to the present.
Dominica was the first Caribbean island where the Christian Brothers established a community (in 1956, followed by Antigua in 1958 – see above). The community continues to serve at St Mary’s Academy in the capital Roseau. A second community served for some years in Portsmouth.
“It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?” (Henry David Thoreau)
Thursday 2 November
ALL SOULS’ DAY
All Souls Day is an occasion for commemorating all those who have died and who may still be in need of our prayers in their personal progress towards readiness and capacity for God’s presence. Some of the rusty practices associated with this day in the past – like celebrants circling altars as they ended one Mass to begin another, and then another – may be liturgically insensitive and humanly unimaginative, yet the day’s call to pray for ‘the faithful departed’ remains perennially valid and valuable.
“What’s the good of dragging up sufferings which are over, of being unhappy now just because you were then.” (Seneca)
Wednesday 1 November
ALL SAINTS’ DAY and
WORLD VEGAN DAY and
ANTIGUA’S NATIONAL DAY
All Saints Day celebrates all who have died and entered lasting union with God, not just canonized saints. So it is the feast-day of those not-officially-acknowledged saints we have known and lived with. It is celebrated as a holiday in over two dozen countries; in some other countries, it is transferred to the following Sunday.
Veganism is a philosophy of avoiding all exploitation of animals, leading to the avoidance of all animal-derived products whether for food (e.g. meat, eggs, seafood) or clothing (e.g. fur, leather, wool) or other purposes (e.g. candlewax, lanolin). Because the emphasis is on principle, not rules, some practices remain open to debate (e.g. the consumption of honey).
Antigua has been on the Edmund Rice map since the start of 1958 when the Christian Brothers established a pioneer community of four in St John’s, to teach at St Joseph’s Academy. In 1971, the American Province passed responsibility to the Canadian Province. The school developed into the premier grammar school in Antigua. Shortage of manpower caused the Brothers to withdraw from the school’s administration in 2001, when the first Lay Head took over. The Brothers left the island in 2003. Two years later, the Western American and Canadian and Eastern American Provinces merged into a single Province called Edmund Rice Christian Brothers of North America. (Source: Brother Raph Bellows.)
“I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time.” (Charles Dickens)