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A boy at home
"Edmund Rice's youth was unexceptional... His parents were greatly respected in the community for their generosity, fair‑mindedness and humanity ...the father's shrewdness, sturdy commonsense and practicality complemented the mother's warmth, sensitivity and compassion... Edmund received an education denied to the majority of Catholics. He first attended a hedge school'... and later a commercial academy in Kilkenny. Here he received both a practical and classical education. This was to be extremely helpful to him, not only in his business career, but also in his future role as founder of schools for poor boys." (A Man for our Time, Donal Blake)
A Person of His Times
Edmund was deeply sensitive to the times he lived in. He listened with ears that were attuned to the nuances of God's voice in the world. He looked at the sufferings of those around him with the eyes of compassion. He responded with a heart that was fired with love. Lord, help us to hear your voice, to look with compassion and to respond with love.
A Business Person
Edmund was a man of business. He was at ease in the marketplace and used his business acumen to the full. He never abandoned the skills he had honed as a young man and never considered them unworthy of being harnessed in your service. Lord, help us, as Brothers, to inspire the business men and women of today to use their skills in the service of your kingdom. Do not let us consider any of our talents as unworthy of use in your service.
"At the age of eighteen, Edmund became an apprentice in the business of his uncle, Michael Rice, who was well‑established in the victualling and ship-chandling business in the thriving port of Waterford. Michael's own sons were not keen to follow in their father's footsteps, and so Edmund was given the opportunity of training to manage the business... Soon Edmund became a familiar figure in his uncle's stores, in the warehouses on the quay, on board ship, or as he rode on horseback to buy cattle and farm produce to stock the ships. He quickly won his uncle's confidence, and a deep affection grew up between them. The business thrived."(A Man for our Time, Donal Blake)
A happily married man, Edmund knew the joys of intimate relationship. He was able to open his heart to share himself fully with others. He understood commitment. Lord, teach us that openness to others enhances privacy, that the joy of relationship is the joy of life itself and that a heart revealed is a heart enriched, enlivened and explored.
"When Edmund was in his middle twenties, he fell in love with a girl named Mary Elliot... They married after a brief courtship and set up home in a comfortable house in Arundel Lane, some sixty yards from his place of work. It was an ideally happy marriage and the young couple were full of plans for their future life together. Edmund and his young wife were on familiar terms with many of the better class families of the city and took part in the life of a highly cultured society." (Steadfast in Giving, W B Cullen & A L O'Toole)
Edmund experienced the devastation and despair of bereavement when he lost his wife through tragedy. His loss, however, became for him a further embracing of what can sometimes be God's terrible presence in creation. Lord, help us to embrace life in its fullness and not allow ourselves to become twisted and misshapen by suffering when it does come our way.
Edmund had a daughter, Mary. He shouldered the responsibility of parenthood. Today parenthood appears to become more onerous with each generation. Lord, be with all parents. May they love their children with a love that will enable those children to develop into adults who are relationally, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually mature. May our children today, serve your glory tomorrow.
A Father of a child with special needs
Mary, Edmund's daughter, was disabled. This was a further cause of grief and sorrow to Edmund. It take's great love and courage to raise a disabled child and accept that child's giftedness. Lord, may your arms reach out to parents and to others who care for the disabled. Teach us all to love with their courage, selflessness and commitment.
"And then came the cross. Mary, the young mother‑to‑be, died as a result of a fall from a horse... As a result of the accident, the baby, a daughter, also called Mary, was born prematurely. She was retarded and was to need nursing care for the rest of her life, something her father saw to immediately." (A Man for our Time, Donal Blake)
Edmund was a teacher. He was the master dancer who taught the dance of life to children running wild in the streets. His dance and his teaching were full of wisdom and joy. Lord, may all our teachers be masters of the dance and bring wisdom and joy to their work. May the art of education always be prized in our society.
"Edmund had been a very successful businessman but was totally unprepared for his new role of teacher. However, he soon got the assistance of two teachers who had experience and training in the profession. Although he found it very difficult to cope, with the help of the paid teachers his first school soon became established. It was not long, however, before his two teachers decided that the work was too difficult.., and no matter how much money they were offered they would not stay... Being a man of deep faith and unbounded trust in Almighty God he kept going somehow and was soon rewarded when two young men, Patrick Finn and Thomas Grosvenor, came to help him, not as paid assistants but as helpers." (Br. Edmund Ignatius Rice, S.T. O Duinn)
A Friend of the Poor
The poor were befriended by Edmund. He spent both himself and his fortune on their behalf. Yet the poor, it seems, are indeed always with us. The depths of poverty in our modern world admonish all of us who live comfortable lives. Lord, may the poor be our consuming passion as they were Edmund's. May we treasure nothing above their service. May we be determined to leave nothing undone that can be done.
A Friend of the Condemned
As the condemned walked to the gallows, Edmund walked with them. He was not afraid to brave the derision of the crowd and the contempt of his peers to stand with those about to be executed. He held their terror. Lord, you knew the agonies of condemnation and execution. May we refuse to condemn. May we stand by those who are denigrated and belittled in our society. May we value life and not be afraid to speak for the protection of life.
"His own sorrow and grief (at the death of his young wife) had taught him to open his heart in compassion to his companions in sorrow, the poor and the needy who surrounded him on all sides. He began to be a frequent visitor to...the Waterford of the poor, of narrow streets and dark alleyways where the miserable hovels of the poor were crowded together... He espoused the cause of the poor and took practical steps to alleviate their hardships. He soon became conspicuous in Waterford for his charity and generosity... As his charitable work became known in the city he was elected trustee or administrator of a number of good causes. He restored poor people, imprisoned for debts, to their families; he visited gaols and was frequently to be seen at the foot of the scaffold near John's Bridge, praying for some unfortunate about to pay with his life for the violation of the harsh laws of the time. (Steadfast in Giving, W B Cullen & A L O'Toole)
A Friend to the Stranger
On the quayside, Edmund once bought a young black boy from a sea captain. He cared for him and saw that he was afforded opportunity to lead a life of dignity. Lord, may we welcome the stranger to our shores as Edmund did. May we allow them the opportunity to lead lives of dignity and contribute meaningfully to our society.
A Founder of Religious Congregations
Edmund founded two religious congregations. He had a profound awareness of God's presence in his own life. He believed that God had called him to do a work for him that no one else could do. Lord, may our sense of your presence in our lives equal that of Edmund. May each one of us have the courage and strength to live out our vocation, whatever that vocation may be.
"Others began to join Edmund's movement... On 15th August 1808 Edmund and eight companions were clothed in a simple black habit to be worn indoors only, in deference to the Protestant sensitivities of the ruling classes. They made vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. An official diocesan congregation of brothers, known as 'The Society of the Presentation', was formed under the authority of the bishop. The ordinary people among whom they worked called them simply 'the Gentlemen of the Presentation' or, more simply, 'the monks'. Edmund received the name 'Brother Ignatius' after Saint lgnatius of Loyola... and the congregation began to greet each other with the title 'Brother'. Thus began the first new form of male religious life in Ireland since the Reformation." (A Man for our Time, Donal Blake)
A Person of Faith
As a person of faith, Edmund centred his life on God and lived to serve him by serving his brothers and sisters. No difficulty could deflect him from his focus. No disappointment could dishearten him. No setback could dissuade him. Lord, may our faith in you burn brightly. May you truly be the centre of our lives. May you be the beginning and the end of all that we do. May you be our alpha and our omega.