Thought for the Week – Social Connectedness

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The U.S. Surgeon General is on a mission to deliver happiness, peace and love – in his position as Surgeon General he is emphasizing happiness as one of the ways to prevent disease and live a long healthy life.
He argues that happiness is a not an emotion or an inherited disposition but a perspective, something we can actively cultivate using four approaches; gratitude exercises, meditation, physical activity and social connectedness.
Research shows that these four approaches do increase a sense of peace and well-being. Part of these results may be due to the fact that we can do these exercises ourselves and don’t need any outside agency to help us achieve the goal.
Social connectedness may be the greatest challenge in our individualistic world. A lot of people no longer feel connected to their community. This is the time of year when we can may be work on this approach to happiness both for oneself and for the ‘other’.
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Thought for the week – Sol Invictus

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No one needs reminding of how busy our lives have become  and especially how busy this period leading up to Christmas is even in a monastery – so many things to do. There is always the danger that the ‘urgent supplants important’ at this time of year.  Not only are we busier but life is faster and faster -our world is increasingly a world of speed and pressures which consume us and drain us, and make life a series of duties than a joyful mystery. It is easy to be submerged in this culture, be swept away in the rush and the bustle of this time of year. And advent has suffers more from this culture of light, speed and consumption than even Christmas itself – it gets lost amidst the welter of shopping and card sending, party going…and spiritual preparation is reduced to almost nothing.

I see Fr. Desmond Donnell, the Oblate priest is quoted in the Irish Independent suggesting “that we’ve lost Christmas just like we lost Easter and should abandon the word completely. Christmas no longer conjures feeling of spirituality for people. I’m all for Christians choosing to celebrate Christmas by going out for meals and enjoying a glass of wine but the commercialisation of anything is never good.  I’m just trying to rescue the reality of Christmas for believers by giving up ‘Christmas’ and replacing it with another word.”

Maybe we should take his advice and let Christmas return to its former pagan roots and do something radical and new. It was only in the fourth century that Christians took over the pagan festival of ‘Sol Invictus’, the unconquerable sun, and injected its own meaning – using it to mark the birth of JC, the light of the world.  If it is to become a Christian festival again then rejuvenating the season of Advent which we begin this week could be a good place to start.


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Thought for the Week – How we dismantled the world. 

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In the light of the destruction of our world, the Reverend Colin Morris has suggested a rewrite of the book of Genesis for the 21st century. It would begin with Genesis in reverse – how we dismantled the world.
In the end, we systematically demolished our even though we had no where else to go. We plundered the earth and slaughtered our brothers and sisters of the animal kingdom. And that was the seventh day from the end.
We polluted the clear air, poisoned the sea and turned rivers into foaming torrents of chemical waste. And this was the 6th day from the end.
We stifled truth that wasn’t our truth and scoffed at the warnings of the prophets and were deaf to the ominous sounds of the earth in torment. Arrogance and self-righteousness drowned out wisdom and humility. And this was the 5th day from the end.
And we said the strong are entitled to most of what’s going and the weak can have the rest. But the more we had to lose, the more fearful we became and so we built bigger walls and larger armies to protect our self interest. And this was the 4th day from the end.
We slept uneasily and awoke afraid and set to work to create the ultimate weapon. Then we said, “Now we feel safe!” But our enemies did not feel safe so they created the ultimate weapon and whole world lived under the shadow of extinction and called it peace. And this was the third day from the end.
Then having proved that we could make anything, we said, now let us make God in our own image, let us gaze into a mirror and worship the one we see there. And this was the second day from the end.
And we were mesmerised by the products of our ingenuity and we cried, bigger, stronger, richer, louder, more! And we became frantic with desire for nothing could satisfy us. And this was the day before the end.
Then there was chaos and uproar and when the din subsided, human life had vanished. And the ravished earth rested on the 7th day. Then God broke the silence. ‘Back to the drawing board,’ he said sadly.
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Thought for the Week – Curial Diseases

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Pope Francis, as you know, drew up a list of “curial diseases”. He claimed that, “these diseases  and temptations weaken our service to the Lord.
I think a “listing” of these diseases – along the lines of the Desert Fathers who used to draw up such lists – helps us to prepare for the sacrament of Reconciliation,
which will be a good step for all of us to take in preparing for Christmas.” Maybe we could make up our own list.
Certainly the second disease he identifies, is one to watch out for as we begin the run in to Christmas.

2. Another disease is the “Martha complex”, excessive busy-ness. It is found in those who immerse themselves in work and inevitably neglect “the better part”: sitting at the feet of Jesus (cf. Lk 10:38-42). Jesus called his disciples to “rest a while” (cf. Mk6:31) for a reason, because neglecting needed rest leads to stress and agitation. A time of rest, for those who have completed their work, is necessary,obligatory and should be taken seriously: by spending time with one’s family and respecting holidays as moments of spiritual and physical recharging.
We need to learn from Qohelet that “for everything there is a season” (3:1-15).

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Thought for the Week – The Kikuyu culture

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The Kikuyu culture does not have the concept of Sunday or a day of rest or an extended period of time such as Advent, Ramadan or Lent.
But what they do have is ceremonies that demand a time of rest. For example the day after a burial, people do not work – even animals are not allowed to go to the fields to graze. Every being stops their normal routine activities for a day. This gives people time to grieve, to express respect, appreciation, and gratitude for the one who has left them to join the ancestors.
Rest also takes place as the community waits for the harvest. During this time young people dance and celebrate as they wait patient for the grain to ripen.  And then they celebrate after the harvest – rather than rushing into the next activity.
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Thought for the Week – Rule of Three and Saint Ida

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The Rule of Three and Saint Ida 
Saint Ida, the sixth century Irish saint,
is said to have to taught that there are three things that God loves;
faith in God with a pure heart;
a simple life with a grateful spirit;
and generosity inspired by charity.
The three things he can’t stand are,
a mouth that spews out hatred,
a heart full of resentment
and confidence in wealth. 
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Thought for the Week – We the People

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Today people are focussed more and more on themselves – with ‘worshiping the self’ – and aligning themselves with likeminded people, in like minded groups.

Face book and other social media leads us to surround ourselves with people like us – people whose views, opinions and prejudices are just like ours.

This identification with ‘my group’ leads to hardening of boundaries, divisive elections and divided societies.
With too much of the ‘I’ and too little of the ‘we’ we become more vulnerable, fearful and alone.

With increased number of immigrants to Ireland we have an opportunity to move out and be challenged by those who are different from us.
But as Rabbi Jonathan Sachs points out many of us are opting to stay in our ‘hotels’. “what has happened in the West is that we have turned society into a series of hotels;
you pay your bills which are your taxes and in return you get a room where you can do whatever you like as long as you don’t disturb the people to the left or right.

The trouble is that no one ever belongs to a hotel so we are losing this concept of society as a place where all sorts of different people come together in the common aim of pursuing the common good.
My favorite phrase in politics is, ‘we the people’ , because it says that we all share collective responsibility for our collective future and that is how things should be.”

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Thought for the Week – Let us relinquish control

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In his list of diseases found in the Curia, Pope Francis’ refers to the disease of “excessive planning and of functionalism”. A disease we could all take note of – the disease of excessive control reflecting a lack of trust.

“When an apostle plans everything down to the last detail and believes that with perfect planning things will fall into place, he becomes an accountant or an office manager.

Things need to be prepared well, but without ever falling into the temptation of trying to contain and direct the freedom of the Holy Spirit, which is always greater and more flexible than any human planning (cf. Jn 3:8).

We contract this disease because “it is always more easy and comfortable to settle in our own sedentary and unchanging ways.

In truth, the Christian and the Church show their fidelity to the Holy Spirit to the extent that they do not try to control or tame that Holy Spirit! … The Spirit is freshness, imagination, and newness”.

Let us relinquish control, even for a moment, and trust in the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit.

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Thought for the Week – MINISTRY OF LISTENING

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Psychotherapy taught me the power of listening.’ I was at my first session, (it had taken me six weeks to work up the courage to talk to him!) and I became aware of a new sensation – a feeling of safety – this person was present in a way that I had never experienced – present in a way that made me feel safe and secure. He held a space for me where healing could begin –  he was exercising what I now know as ‘the ministry of listening’.
The difference was that he was really present – he reflected what I said, sat forward, focussed on me. And I knew he was listening and not just hearing – and there is a difference – hearing is something passive – our ears are always on – we can’t switch them off. Listening on the other hand is active, requiring effort – it is powerful in its transforming ability.
Listening is a ministry we can all engage in no matter what age and there is no need for further study or ordination, though training makes a difference my mother and I both agree!
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Thought for the Week – DIGITAL sabbath

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If we don’t get our attention under control there are plenty of people who will. The church has always understood that directing our attention toward what is holy is important. That is why medieval Christendom was filled with prayers, rituals, fasts and feasts: to keep life, both public and private ordered around divine things.

If we are to regain control of our attention, the first step is to create a space of silence in which you can think. To still the mind is hard but by doing it you open up a beach-head in which the holy spirit can work to calm the stormy waters within.

There is a Jewish organisation called ‘Reboot’ which promotes what they call the ‘DIGITAL sabbath’ – a day of rest in which people disconnect from technology especially computers, iPads and smartphones – in order that they can reconnect with the real world..

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