Monday, May 28, 2012

'Are You Happy'?

The monastery of Saint Catherine of Siena, Drogheda, Co. Louth
The reflection below in italics from one of the community of Dominican nuns at Siena monastery in Drogheda, Co. Louth deserves to be shared with as many as possible. The reflection is a response to a questioner at the recently held Dominican family vocations day in Saint Saviour's Priory in Dublin on March 24th last. It captures the essence of the vocation of the contemplative Dominican nun, but also should prove helpful to anyone considering the Dominican way of life. Here is the reflection, which can also be accessed at the blog of the Dominican nuns

Some weeks ago now, there was held in Dublin, a vocations day for the Dominican Family, at which one person from each ‘branch’ (i.e. friars, sisters, nuns and lay Dominicans) – spoke a little on their path to where they now are. One of the nuns (this one) I don’t know what happened to her, but not to be remembered if at all possible. It caused one of the listeners to ask ‘Are you happy?’ and I don’t know if I even answered the question – rather helplessly, I’m afraid. Something along the lines of ‘our life is needed’! Very lame, like a saturated sponge, pretty awful.

That was a while ago, and obviously not far from my mind since, but here during our retreat, I was dreaming with the Lord in the garden – which is not unusual – and in God it was that my answer was found.

We don’t ‘go out’ as such; our whole life here is lived here, for the most part lived within the walls and garden of the monastery. If you were to ask many of the sisters here, they would tell you that they all have a missionary heart within them. To go where there is need and bring the Lord with them, to the poor and the sick and the troubled in whatever way. It’s in a sense peculiar, but there it is – true none the less.

I am not God, nor am I like Him – even remotely – but I love Him and through baptism, I am in Him. My whole life here is lived in God, in the heart of the Lord – He is everywhere, at every moment. I was smelling the sea, and we are very far from the sea here; but the breeze carried it to the garden, and that sense came over me, which has done so before – a realisation that I don’t have to be everywhere; only here, in God. I can’t go everywhere for God, but if I remain in Him, and He is with me, He makes everywhere to be where I am. He brings everywhere to me.

My favourite place in all the world is off the west coast of Ireland, so whenever He brings the sea to me, I am there – out in the middle of the ocean, on a small little island that nowhere can compare to. Out in the middle of the wild, unpredictable ocean – often disturbed and stormy; very often restless and even angry. It depends on the weather.

If you are still with me … it made me wonder about ‘we Irish’; even not only Irish, but ‘we who live on the land of Ireland’ – we are used to unpredictable, disturbing, angry, restless weather, are we not? I think we could easily translate the weather outside to the history of the country through which we are living now – even in the Church. The storm is quite violent, and it seems to be attacking us at our very roots; even deeper – on the floor of the ocean – down there where it’s as though the earth’s plates are rubbing against each other, wreaking chaos.

And that seems to me to be the answer to the question asked those weeks ago – a part of the answer – about our life here; for us who so so love the Church, and long so much more than can be put into words, for her unity and healing – our life is to be the offering of our living blood, that it may sink into that foundation, to fall between the plates in a sense, the blood that can fill in the cracks and join them, if that makes sense. As we were reminded during the week; we belong, as a Church, out in the middle of the storm, not safely tied up at the harbour (I’m not a sailor, don’t know the language, sorry) – if we stay faithfully there, Jesus will come to us, as He did to the disciples: ‘It is I: do not be afraid’. Col. 1:24 – 26 (making up all that has still to be undergone by Christ, for the sake of his body, which is the Church) - I don’t think you could call it a question of happiness; definitely an aching desire that the world may come to know the joy of Christ; the wonder of His mercy and love. There is nowhere in the world I’d rather be. For Him. …. and for you.

Friday, May 25, 2012

A note from Vilnius

At the invitation of the Dominican friars of the regional vicariate of the Baltics, I have arrived in Vilnius - the capital of Lithuania. Over the weekend, the friars of this region are hosting a series of conferences and meetings to promote Dominican life in this area. The situation is fragile with a total of just fifteen friars in the three Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. There is a small number of contemplative nuns in the area and some lay Dominicans. The upcoming conference is an attempt to showcase the Dominican family and to try and raise the profile of the Order.

Given that the Dominican family in Ireland has over the past number of years hosted vocation days, I look forward to sharing with the members of the Order in this part of the world something of the collaborative effort that exists in Ireland.

The warmth of the welcome from the Dominican family here has been superb and I hope that we can reciprocate in the not too distant future.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Pope Benedict encourages US bishops to foster vocations

As the American bishops conclude their 'ad limina' visit to the Holy Father, Pope Benedict in his final address to them stressed the need for them to promote and foster vocations. His words are important for all of us to hear - especially in Ireland. The text of Pope Benedict's address regarding vocations is in italics below:

"At the present time, too, I urge you to remain particularly close to the men and women in your local Churches who are committed to following Christ ever more perfectly by generously embracing the evangelical counsels. I wish to reaffirm my deep gratitude for the example of fidelity and self-sacrifice given by many consecrated women in your country, and to join them in praying that this moment of discernment will bear abundant spiritual fruit for the revitalization and strengthening of their communities in fidelity to Christ and the Church, as well as to their founding charisms. The urgent need in our own time for credible and attractive witnesses to the redemptive and transformative power of the Gospel makes it essential to recapture a sense of the sublime dignity and beauty of the consecrated life, to pray for religious vocations and to promote them actively, while strengthening existing channels for communication and cooperation, especially through the work of the Vicar or Delegate for Religious in each Diocese."

Friday, May 18, 2012

Spanish vocations video causes a stir!

This very popular video on YouTube has caused a good deal of comment in European vocation circles. The video is an initiative of the Spanish bishops' conference which was produced to mark that country's 'Seminary Day' which took place on March 19th last. As you will see, it features nine diocesan priests who tell in a dramatic way what the priesthood is.

Some of the controversial comment surrounds the language used - most notably that the priesthood is a 'steady' job. This is in a country where unemployment is very high. Many are questioning whether the rise in numbers entering seminary in Spain (up almost 5 per cent in the past year) are related to the high levels of unemployment among the young. A similar line of questioning emerged in Ireland around 2009-10 when numbers of vocations were on a temporary increase. It was clear in the Irish context that the economic downturn had little if anything  to do with the increase of entrants to seminary and religious life. The debate in Spain, however, has taken a more interesting turn. This increase, albeit modest, reflects a noticeable return of Spanish Catholics to the church.

Some of the factors in the upturn in vocation numbers in Spain are attributed to a renewal of fostering vocations primary, secondary level schools and also at universities. The World Youth Day event in Madrid last year is also cited as having a strong impact where the fruits of that will be seen in the coming years. This buoyancy in new vocations has prompted this video being launched by the Spanish bishops.

You can make up your own mind about the video and its contents. For me, anything that highlights priesthood in a positive fashion and that underlines that the priesthood is about bringing Jesus Christ to the world can only be good. Irish ecclesiastical authorities, please take note!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Dominicans and the 50th Eucharistic Congress - Dublin June 2012

After more than two decades of scandals, declining Mass attendances and religious vocations, and an apostolic visitation by the Holy See, 2012 might not seem to be the best year for an international religious festival on the “island of saints and scholars”.

Yet that is exactly what is happening this coming June when the 50th International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) will take place in Dublin, Ireland, having as its theme “The Eucharist: Communion with Christ and with each other”.

What is an International Eucharistic Congress? It is a gathering of Catholics, and indeed of some non-Catholics, from all over the world to promote the centrality of the Eucharist for the Church, improve understanding of the Eucharist and its celebration, and draw attention to its social dimension.

Dr Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin and primate of Ireland, in choosing a theme of communion, focuses attention on an element of Eucharistic theology found especially in the writings of St Paul. This aspect had not been so prominent in the reflections of the Church for many centuries and it is a suitable theme given the painful period which the Church in Ireland continues to traverse.

The first sign for many Irish Catholics that IEC 2012 was coming to Ireland was news of the arrival of the (Dominican) Congress Bell in their area – to their parish or cathedral church.
The last IEC held in Ireland was in 1932 and included the ringing of the fragile bell of fifth century St Patrick, apostle to the Irish. Unfortunately, St Patrick’s bell cannot be rung as part of IEC 2012.
It is said that the use of church bells originated in Irish monasteries and from there spread throughout Western Europe eventually being accepted by the Eastern Churches.

The bell associated with IEC 2012 in Dublin did not come from a monastery but served nonetheless for many years as the bell of an Irish religious community – the Dominican convent of Portstewart, Northern Ireland. The congress bell has been travelling Ireland and elsewhere as an invitation to Catholics to come to IEC 2012. Tens of thousands have even been given the opportunity to ring the bell themselves with Pope Benedict himself not letting the chance pass him by when the bell was in Rome.

The Dominican connection with the Congress does not end there as the modern equivalent of a bell – an app – has been created by Br Luuk Dominiek Jansen OP to keep both pilgrims and those unable to attend the Congress up to date with the happenings at IEC 2012.
Br Luuk and fellow Dominican student brother, Damian Polly, are working for IEC 2012 as media volunteers, while their community, St Saviour’s Priory, are the hosts for Portuguese-speaking pilgrims.
During the week of the Congress and as part of “The Congress Extends to the City”, the community’s church on Dominick Street, is holding “Adoro Te Devote”, four nights of Eucharistic Adoration with reflections from four Dominican friars based on the Eucharistic hymns of St Thomas Aquinas. The four friars are Polish Dominican Fr Wojciech Giertych (Papal theologian and member of the IEC committee) and Irish Dominicans Frs Terence Crotty (biblical scholar, Rome), John Harris (theologian, Dublin) and Paul Murray (theologian, Rome).

Dominican sister and theologian Geraldine Smyth is contributing to the Theological Symposium taking place the week before the Congress at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth. She will speak with Prof Robert Enright on Becoming Eucharist for One Another through Forgiving.
At least two Dominican brothers are speaking at the Congress itself in the main venue, the premises of the Royal Dublin Society (RDS): former Master General, Englishman Fr Timothy Radcliffe, is speaking on Spirituality for Today, Suffering and Healing, while the title of Belfast man Fr Paul Murray’s talk is Amazing Grace – the Poets of the Eucharist.

There will be many Dominicans from all over the world present in various capacities at IEC 2012, not excluding as pilgrims of course – friars, sisters, nuns and laity – and their presence will surely be felt. All of the students in St Saviour's will be acting as volunteers at the Congress in various capacities: as ushers, sacristans and in media work.
For information on all IEC 2012 events, see the website and download the app.
For Dominican updates, visit

-This entry first appeared on the International website of the Order - - courtesy of fr Fergus Ryan OP (Irish Province)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Eight Dominican student brothers instituted as acolytes

Eight of our student brothers were instituted as acolytes during the conventual Mass at Saint Saviour's Dominican church today, May 12th, 2012. The provincial of the Irish Dominican friars, fr Patrick Lucey OP presided.

The eight brothers (Daragh McNally, Ronan Connolly, Damian Polly, David McGovern, James Cassidy, Patrick Desmond, Conor McDonough and Eoin Casey) will now assist the major ministers in the sacred liturgy.

Traditionally, becoming an acolyte is one of the stages on the path to both diaconal and priestly ordination.
Acolytes assist particularly at the altar and are the first group of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion which the Church has.

As the prior provincial instituted the brothers as acolytes he placed either the chalice or paten in their hands with these words:

Take this vessel of bread (or wine)
for the celebration of the Eucharist.
Make your life worthy of your service
at the table of the Lord and of His Church.


Please pray for our brothers in formation and for an increase in vocations to the Dominican friars in Ireland.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Nashville Dominican Sisters to visit Dublin

A Catholic congregation of Dominican sisters (the Nashville Dominican Sisters) from the USA is coming to Dublin for the International Eucharistic Congress which takes place in Dublin from June 10th to 17th, 2012 and are making themselves available for young women who wish to meet them.

The sisters who are members of a congregation of Dominicans known in the United States for being young, dynamic and recipients of many vocations there, will be in Ireland also during the week before IEC 2012 and have arranged two events, with the help of the Irish Dominican friars.

The first, a simple gathering to hear about the sisters' work in the United States, will be held in St Saviour's Priory in Dublin city centre on Monday 4th June, beginning at 8pm.

The second event, a day of recollection for women interested in a religious vocation who are aged 18-35, will take place the following Saturday in the Dominican Retreat Centre, Tallaght, County Dublin.

Anyone interested in attending either event should contact Sr Mary Emily OP at or Brother Conor McDonough OP at

Monday, May 7, 2012

Vocation Prayer Initiative in Kilkenny

 The icon of Saint Dominic before the main altar in the Dominican Black Abbey church, Kilkenny.

As part of our ongoing prayer initiative for Dominican vocations, the icon of Saint Dominic specially commissioned for the prayer campaign has arrived in the Dominican Black Abbey church in Kilkenny city.

The opportunity to preach at all of the weekend Masses about the Dominican vocation along with the introduction to the month of prayer for vocations were the highlights of the weekend just gone. It is very heartening to know that there are already large groups of people around the country associated with the Dominicans who are praying for vocations on a regular basis. One of the main thrusts of this prayer initiative is to broaden that base of prayer by extending the invitation to prayer to greater numbers of people.

The icon of Saint Dominic is designed as a focus to encourage people to pray. The reaction to the beauty of the icon has been impressive. With the launch in Kilkenny concluded, the icon will remain there for the next month.

The Dominican friars have been in Kilkenny since 1225, with some interruptions during times of persecution. The Black Abbey church attracts large numbers of tourists throughout the year and is a popular place of worship for the local people.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

50th Anniversary of Canonization of Saint Martin de Porres

Today and throughout this year, Dominicans throughout the world will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the canonization of our brother Saint Martin de Porres.

I can trace the beginnings of my own vocation 'story' to the influence of Saint Martin de Porres. My late mother had a tremendous devotion to the saint and prayed the novena on a regular basis for her various needs and cares. She often attributed many of her blessings to the intercession of Saint Martin. In a certain sense, I grew up in the shadow of Saint Martin. As I began to know more about his life, the more impressed I became. I was struck how difficult he found it to even be accepted by the Order that he had such an influence on. I was impressed by his perseverance in the midst of great adversity. Only the cold-hearted could not be touched by his sensitivity to the poor and outcast. I was bowled over by the many 'magnificent' miracles attributed to him. I was humbled by his devotion to the Eucharist that sustained his life. To me he was and is the 'perfect' saint - and I am proud that he is a Dominican who can stand proudly beside the other great saints of the Order including Thomas Aquinas, Albert the Great, Catherine of Siena, Hyacinth and the hundreds of others. In the end, it was the response to a vocations advertisement in the Saint Martin Magazine about the Dominican vocation that led me on the journey to be a Dominican myself. I thank Saint Martin de Porres every day for this gift.

The Irish Dominican province, more than most, has reason to the thankful to this wonderful saint - not just because many people over the years have joined the Order because of the attractiveness of this saint -but also because the many friends and benefactors of Saint Martin have contributed financially to the education of generations of Dominicans, and the support of our ministry in Ireland and abroad. We would not be the province we are without Saint Martin de Porres.

Novena Prayer to Saint Martin de Porres

Most humble Saint Martin, whose burning charity embraces all, but especially those who are sick, afflicted or in need, we turn to you for help in our present difficulties, and we implore you to obtain for us from God, health of soul and body and in particular the favour we now ask.....................May we by imitating your charity and humility, find quiet and contentment all our days and cheerfuld submission to God's holy will, in all the trials and difficulties of life.

Pray for us Saint Martin, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray: O God, who exalts the humble and who made Saint Martin your confessor, to enter into the heavenly kingdom, grant through his merits and intercession, that we may so follow the example of his humility on earth as to deserve to be axalted with him in heaven. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Good News Stories for Irish Vocations

Irish Dominican Vocations is always on the lookout for good news stories related to the vocations scene in Ireland - and happily there are three such stories to tell. In the past number of weeks, an Augustinian friar was ordained a priest, a contemplative Cistercian nun made her first profession and a new postulant was added to the ever growing Redemptoristine community of sisters in Drumcondra. We wish them well and thank God for the gift of their generosity in his service.

Augustinian friar Colm O Mahony was ordained on April 26th in Cork

Sr Katherine, a Cistercian nun made first profession on Easter Sunday in Glencairn, Waterford.
Lynette Lane joined the Redemptoristine community in Dublin recently.