Thought for the Week – simple gesture

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Where you put your phone makes a difference.
Studies show that just the appearance of a smart phone on the table during a meal or conversation,makes a difference to the quality of meeting and the level of intimacy. If a phone is left on the table (it doesn’t have to ring!) people report that the conversation is less close, and they feel less nourished by it.
This simple gesture – placing a phone on the table between you – subtly suggests that something more important may happen  – something else might come in which is more interesting than us, something about us is not enough.
Magical things can happen when two people show up and are not distracted – the presence of a phone and the possibility of interruption means it is harder for this to happen. The moment, is to some extent, being controlled by the device sitting there promising  something else.
Let us agree to turn off our phones or at least put them out of sight when we are with someone.
Murroe Website EditorThought for the Week – simple gesture
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Thought for the Week – Tech addict

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Perhaps it is not yet too late for a  new Year’s resolution – one that suggests itself is to examine how I relate to technology. If the truth be told, this probably needs constant monitoring.
Nancy Colier, in her book, ‘The Power of Off, suggests that most of us are addicts at this point.  Some time ago people checked their smart phones every six minutes or 150 times a day – recent research suggests that the average person now checks their phone every five  minutes or 190 times a day. She notes, that in a survey, one in three people would give up sex with their partner rather than be separated from their smart phone and fifty percent of people would give up their sense of smell rather than their phone.
It is an addiction with a difference – other addictions make you an ‘outsider’ technological addiction makes you an insider – the more you can discuss your apps the more acceptable you are.
It is also true that we are not giving up technology any time soon – it is too useful and anyway technology is not the issue, it is how we relate to it is the issue and Colier suggests,  “we have to find freedom in technology not from technology”.
A first step in this process is to assess our level of addiction. Colier offers us some helpful questions:
Is your reliance on technology increasing?
Do you experience withdrawal symptoms when not able to use.
Are you continuing to use it despite knowing it is causing you problems at work, at home and in your social life.
Is your life revolving round technology?
Have you given up activities you used to enjoy to use technology?
Are you lying about the amount of time you spend on technology? 
If one of these is true she says it is of concern; if two then you are probably an addict if three then you are definitely an addict.
Murroe Website EditorThought for the Week – Tech addict
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Thought for the Week – Natility

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The message I got, especially when I was younger was that death, my mortality, was the defining moment of my life. This life was of little significance but simply a prelude to the next and it this next life that should be my focus
This preoccupation with death and the next life worked against any sense of connection with the web of life and promoted a sense of homelessness in the world. Each of us, rugged individuals, quarrying away at our own salvation…..
uncoupled from the web of life…..and the environment suffered and we suffered.
Birth is the other end of life.  Theology and philosophy have ignored it for the most part. This time of year gives us an opportunity to redress the balance and focus on birth  – birth as the defining moment of life….. to consider our natality as well as our mortality.
Our natality gives us the possibility of beginning again. It is because we are beginnings, are natals – that we can make a fresh start, be free to do things new…
Ellie Wiesel states that, ‘What God gave Adam was not forgiveness from sin; what God gave Adam was the chance to begin again’.
Natality wants us to recognise the interconnectedness of all things, wants us to recover our kinship with the earth and become people of wonder and excitement rather then of gloom and suspicion. Celebrate our lives rather then spend them all the time preparing for the next life.
Let us celebrate our birth, the actuality of living as well as recognising the inevitability of death…….recognise our natality……our capacity to be reborn…
and know that we always have this chance to ‘begin again’ in the kindness and
loving mercy of our God.
Murroe Website EditorThought for the Week – Natility
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Thought for the Week – empathy, compassion and mercy.

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We live in a world where people drive trucks into Christmas markets, where an ambassador is gunned down in cold blood in front of his wife, where refugees and migrants are pulled out of the Mediterranean, sometimes living, sometimes not. How should we respond? By building walls and saying, not my problem?

Well, the mystery we celebrate says very differently. In the words of Pope Francis, “In a world which all too often is merciless to the sinner and lenient to the sin, we are called to cultivate a strong sense of justice. In a world of indifference which not infrequently turns cruel, we are called instead to be people filled with empathy, compassion and mercy.”  Abbot Brendan Coffey

Murroe Website EditorThought for the Week – empathy, compassion and mercy.
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Thought for the Week- The Crib – A thought from Abbot Brendan.

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Seven hundred and ninety three years ago, on the feast of Christmas 1223, Francis, the poor man of Assisi with the help of Giovanni Velita, Lord of Greccio and count of Celano, created the first crib outside the little town of Greccio, in Italy. Today, every church and many homes have a nativity scene. What is so fascinating about this nativity scene? Mary, Joseph and the infant are surrounded by the ox, the donkey, the sheep and the shepherds.

The figures in the crib were chosen carefully. The ox and the donkey come from the prophet Isaiah, “The ox knows its master, the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” The sheep and shepherds come from Ezekiel, “they were scattered because there was no shepherd.” Popular legend augmented the scene over the centuries; it is said that at midnight on Christmas Eve the animals have the gift of speech bestowed, because they gave the infant Jesus His first shelter. Cattle are said to bow to the East on this night, and bees it is said hum, the 100th Psalm in their hives, “Praise the Lord all the earth, serve the Lord with gladness, come into his presence singing for joy.” You can check that out the next crib you come across.

Murroe Website EditorThought for the Week- The Crib – A thought from Abbot Brendan.
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Thought for the Week – Engaging the senses

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If ritual is to lead us into mystical experience, it needs to engage the body and its senses.   It is not hard to understand why this is so. We are still ‘hard wired to nature’ and have not somehow jettisoned this part of ourselves, in favour of our rational minds. Our so called ‘primitive nature’ is still very much part of who we are and engaged in our daily liturgical lives.
If we don’t don’t engage the body and its senses then ritual can ossify, and religious practice become mere social habit or custom and no longer a carrier of the sacred.
It is hard to be optimistic that this will happen for the body is still effectively excluded from most ritual….“liturgical reform is afflicted by its enmity towards the body……the liturgy must win back its character as event, as an activity expressed in gestures and symbol, in short its character as a fully human act. Do we trust our liturgies any more to provide us with the ecstasy of belief?” Kunzler
Ecstasy and belief not two words I put together easily – and today the loss of spiritual ecstasy is replaced with artificial ecstasy provided by other often destructive rituals – beating music, drumming, glaring lights, drugs….and even body building is assuming ritual potency.
It is a big challenge to reintegrate the body into ritual and it requires more than simply kneeling or standing.  Engaging the senses, through the use of colour (vestments), smell (incense) sound (chant) is vital if ritual is to provide an effective five sense breakthrough in people’s lives.  We have the resources we just  need to use them.
Murroe Website EditorThought for the Week – Engaging the senses
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Thought for the Week -The Dark Mystical World

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Advent is a time to honour both light and dark. Today, in our over illuminated world, few of us have the opportunity to experience the dark. And I am not just talking about the physical reality but also of the psychological reality- our dark, our inner, depth dimension.

Over the last 500 years, Christianity has ignored the dark and opted for the more accessible bright half of ourselves – the light, the white, the angelic – purity, is what mattered rather then the dark brutal gods within.

The neglect of this arena is devastating in its consequences – we have witnessed some in these in recent times –  it has also led to serious disillusionment with the church and I am with Sara Grant when she says: “it is the inability of the Church to deal with the depth dimension of human experience which largely accounts for its loss of credibility today.” The darkness has been systematically ignored. Not only ignored but the church has failed to provide people with the capacity to deal with it. Get on with it – say your prayers don’t mind the dark.

In this scenario it is not surprising that people are turning to other religions and practices which do take this inner world seriously. We have to befriend the dark – take our darkness seriously because it is part of who we are – we are hybrid creatures – creatures of light and dark and we can’t ignore one half of ourselves and live credible lives.

Five hundred years ago, mystics were grappling with this  dark, mystical world – St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross. And today we have Rahner suggesting, rightly I think, that “the Christian of the future will be a mystic or will not exist at all.” In the early church the liturgy was the “objective point of entry into genuine Christian mysticism.” I don’t need to go to India, or further east, to find the mystical, to encounter the dark or to learn how to manage it.  We have our own rich mystical tradition all we need to do is use it. Advent is a good time to recover this rich tradition.

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Thought for the Week – TIME OF WAITING

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The Advent season is increasingly counter cultural – it sets out to do things differently.

NEW YEAR

Advent marks the beginning of a new liturgical year. Beginning a new year in early December means we are attempting to straddle two calendars and this presents its own challenge.

The secular calendar with all its demands can become the dominant force and induce a sort of schizoid split as we try to balance the two. I don’t think we should underestimate the challenge of balancing  two very different calendars.

TIME OF WAITING

Advent is a time of waiting – of patience.  Carlo Carretto spent 20 years in the Sahara desert – at the end of his time he was asked if God asked anything of him during his long silence. His answer was clear – “God is asking us to be patient.”

Today is we don’t do patience, we don’t do waiting – we are addicted to speed and doing – we are on the go – this is our default position-  we expect things to happen instantly – press a button and get the results. And if you don’t get an instant reply to an email you wonder what is wrong. Efficiency be praised….

We have almost forgotten how to relax living as we do in a culture where time is a continuum of work and consuming – either producing or being entertained – and where leisure is reduced to being entertained by an industry that claims to  know our wants (Amazon recommends) before we even ask -it  leaves us passive and we become spiritually lazy.

I like the distinction between Eastern and Western forms of laziness. Eastern laziness consists in hanging out all day, in the sun, doing  nothing, drinking cups of tea, listening to music and gossiping. Western laziness is different.  It consists in constantly cramming our lives with compulsive, frenetic activity, leaving no time or space to attend to the important.I like the idea that this is a form of laziness! Where we allow the urgent to constantly harass us, get in the way of the important

This lack of patience is relatively new- throughout most of human history we had not choice but to wait, to be patient – waiting for light, waiting for the harvest, for rain, for news.  I like the story told by a friend of mine, Dominic Milroy, about a fishing trip to Chile. He was driving along when suddenly the car got stuck in a swamp and couldn’t move. He walked to the nearest farm and eventually found an old woman and asked her if there was a tractor available. She laughed and said the nearest tractor was 50 miles away. However she said, there was no problem, because Andress and Paco would be  back soon with the oxen – ‘sometime today or tomorrow.’ Dominic was shocked by the delay and even more shocked by his reaction as he recognised the huge cultural difference between the way she lived in time and the way he did.  ‘Sometime today or tomorrow’, meant for her there was no problem, but for him there was a big problem. The oxen came later that day and as Dominic walked beside them he realised that he was living according to the rhythm that human beings in most cultures live, that is at the speed of the fastest available communication. He was used to living with phones and cars and emails and trains and planes and his default position was speed. The trouble for Dominic and for us is that liturgy, the Advent season and the spiritual life don’t do quick – they have a more natural rhythm – the rhythm of growth – and this requires leisure, even play.

So here again we face the prospect of a schizoid split as we attempt to operate out of two different mindsets or speeds – speed, efficiency, where lingering is anathema and the slow, patient presence of nature and ritual. This is not an easy balancing act, and at the moment  most of us I suggest, are tipped into the speed default mode…

Advent is a time to re-educate ourselves – re-set our clocks – overthrow the tyranny of time – remembering that the tyrant is on the inside not the outside .
Murroe Website EditorThought for the Week – TIME OF WAITING
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Thought for the Week -Overcoming the numbing effects of familiarity

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Several years ago, on a bright Spring day, I was standing outside the school – the daffodils had just appeared and were in full flower. As I  looked at them I heard myself say  – “oh no, not again”. I could not believe that they were up once more. I felt tired and even irritated by the seemingly endless repetition of the same. I was shocked by my reaction.
Something similar can happen with Advent – it is easy to hear myself saying, “oh no not again”  —  it seems just yesterday when we were celebrating it -all that purple and wreaths – where did the year go?”
Familiarity dulls my perception and sets me at a distance from any encounter – be that with a daffodil or with Advent. I become disengaged…. As Patrick Kavanagh remarks, “Have tested and tasted too much and through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder.”
At one level, preparing for advent is about reclaiming a sense of wonder so that we can, as Kavanagh says,  “rediscover and celebrate the newness that was in every stale thing, when we looked at it as children.”
Overcoming the numbing effects of familiarity – this deep and pervasive form of alienation – is a constant battle – every walk I take, every place I visit, every person I meet can be missed and the sad thing is that the important aspects of most things, including Advent, lie hidden behind their familiarity. A wise person once said, “that generally the familiar, precisely because it is familiar is not known.”
It is worth asking ourselves, as we begin Advent, what we can do to get behind the facade of the familiar and experience the strange and wonderful beauty of this season – allow it to become once again what Gregory describes as “a disclosure zone for God”– a time and space for encounter with the divine.
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Thought for the Week – The Right of the Environment

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I am re-reading Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment. At this time, when Climate Change is being dismissed as a hoax, it is good to have a pope who knows the issue and insists on our responsibility to do something about it.

In his address to the United Nations General Assembly last year, Pope Francis said:

It must be stated that a true “right of the environment” does exist, for two reasons. First, because we human beings are part of the environment. We live in communion with it, since the environment itself entails ethical limits which human activity must acknowledge and respect. Humans beings, for all their remarkable gifts, which “are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology,” (Laudato Si’, 81) is at the same time a part of these spheres. Human beings possess a body shaped by physical, chemical and biological elements, and can only survive and develop if the ecological environment is favourable. Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity. Second, because every creature, particularly a living creature, has an intrinsic value, in its existence, its life, its beauty and its interdependence with other creatures. We Christians, together with the other monotheistic religions, believe that the universe is the fruit of a loving decision by the Creator, who permits man respectfully to use creation for the good of his fellow human beings and for the glory of the Creator; he is not authorised to abuse it, much less to destroy it. In all religions, the environment is a fundamental good.

We need to live simpler, more sustainable lives. The health of the planet and our existence depend upon our choices and actions.

Murroe Website EditorThought for the Week – The Right of the Environment
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