Newsletter 28-29.09.2013 (Main text)

The following is the main text from this week’s Newsletter.

A PDF version of the Newsletter can be seen here.

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Seeking a new language — Pope Francis speaks of himself, healing and doubt

Pope Francis has been with us for just over six months as Bishop of Rome. These have been eventful months, with many surprising symbolic gestures and several significant acts. His choice of lifestyle has been much commented upon, his changes in the Curia have been widely noted and largely approved by those who have an interest in these things. We had to wait until last week, however, to get a broad, more comprehensive sense of what our new pope thinks. This came in an interview entitled ‘A Big Heart Open to God’ given to Antonio Spadaro S.J, and published in the Jesuit publication America Not unsurprisingly it has been the subject of extensive comment and analysis in the past week.

For anyone who reads papal documents the difference in style here is indeed surprising: it is personal, direct and delivered in a language that is jargon-free, clear and accessible. Nowhere more so than when Francis looks at himself: “Yes, perhaps I can say that I am a bit astute, that I can adapt to circumstances, but it is also true that I am a bit naïve. Yes, but the best summary, the one that comes more from the inside and I feel most true is this: I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.” These are not just empty words, a ritual cover-all confession, as he admits his authoritarianism as a younger man leading the Jesuits in Argentina when he says: “I had to deal with difficult situations, and I made my decisions abruptly and by myself.” He clearly regrets it and has learned from it. He acknowledges He is indeed very much the wounded healer when he writes: “I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds…. And you have to start from the ground up.”

These are surely the words of someone who has been close to what is often referred to in Latin America as la realidad de la vida, the reality of life where life happens, close to the ground and close to the poor and oppressed. And, of course, we don’t have to go to Latin America to find it, it is there , every day, in the streets of our own city, in the lives of the people around us. It was impressive this week to see schoolchildren in Baggot Street selling Be Aware badges in support of the campaign to address depression and suicide. This is very much a realidad de la vida and it questions us as a faith community and as a society. It is where faith has to go.

I have often written and spoken of my old friend the late Cistercian monk, Dom Charles Faucher, and I thought of him again reading excerpts from Francis’ interview. In what was perhaps the closest he ever came to speaking with me of his personal credo, Charles once said to me: “You now , I could live without seventy-five per cent of my certainties.” In what I think is one of the passages that comes closest to life for all of us our Pastor writes: “Yes, in this quest to seek and find God in all things there is still an area of uncertainty. There must be. If a person says that he met God with total certainty and is not touched by a margin of uncertainty, then this is not good. For me, this is an important key. If one has the answers to all the questions – that is the proof that God is not with him. It means that he is a false prophet using religion for himself. The great leaders of the people of God, like Moses, have always left room for doubt. You must leave room for the Lord, not for our certainties; we must be humble. Uncertainty is in every true discernment that is open to finding confirmation in spiritual consolation.” This is surely something that speaks to our time where as one philosopher put it. we all live with a doubt with regard to our own condition, believer and unbeliever alike. We always look at the next person and wonder if they have not got something that we may be missing. However paradoxical it may seem this is precisely where faith begins. (Jn 20:24-29).

For the complete text of this long interview see (See http://www.americamagazine.org/pope-interview ).

St Stephen’s Harvest Thanksgiving Service 2013

Our friends at St Stephens Church are having their Harvest Thanksgiving Service next Sunday 6 October at 3.30pm. Rev David Gillespie and the community at St Stephen’s would be delighted if we could join in this occasion. The preacher for this very nice service will be the Rev. Canon Adrian Empey, a former Rector of the parish. Our solidarity as a Christian churches in the city is very important and occasions like this give us the opportunity to witness to the broader unity of the Church that is deeper than all our differences.

Our New Deacon on placement

We are delighted to have with us this year Rev John Zheng, a member of the Divine Word Missionaries whose house is in Pembroke Road. John is from China and his family has been Christian for several generations. He came to Ireland four year years, first to study English and following that to study theology a St Patrick’s College, Maynooth.  Having successfully completed his theological studies he is now taking an MA in Leadership and Pastoral Care at All Hallows College. He was ordained deacon several weeks ago by Bishop Christopher Jones and his priestly ordination will take place sometime next summer. John will begin here exercising his diaconal ministry of service to the community, reading the gospel, helping in the distribution of the Eucharist and attending various meetings to gain experience in the realities of pastoral ministry in an urban parish. We are delighted to have John for the year as he sets out on his ministry, which will eventually lead him to his mission in Indonesia.

Family Mass

The first family Mass of the pastoral year will take place next Saturday, 6pm. We invite families to join in this monthly celebration of the Eucharist together and to bring to it in offering the important questions of their lives together; their joys and sorrows, their hopes and plans for the future, their daily lives. If you would like to help in organising this please contact Catriona Harvey 086 824 5627.

New Choir monthly at 9.30 Sunday Mass

The demise of The Guild of Choristers of St. Cecilia was the cause of much regret in the parish. The choir had a tradition going back over a century and this tradition is really irreplaceable. For the past year both James O’Reilly and Kieran Leonard have done a great job in assuring that there is genuine community singing at the 9.30 Sunday morning mass, leading a selection of much loved traditional hymns. We are very grateful to them and this will hopefully continue for the foreseeable future. However, in order to somehow take up the tradition on unaccompanied polyphony which is so beautiful, the Crux Vocal Ensemble will sing at the 9.30 Sunday mass on the first Sunday of every month.