" That chosen 'Ark' of salvation, free from the common shipwreck of sin. "
St. Alphonsus Liguori

Homilies and Reflections

 

CSsR Professions Aug 2016 - Fr Provincial's Homily

The Homily preached by Fr Provincial CSsR, Fr Ronald McAinsh

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For the last two weeks I have been working in Paris at a symposium with 68 Sisters who are working in Religious formation. The Congregation is in 66 countries rather like the Redemptorists who are present in 70 and are still attracting vocations, mainly in Africa, Asia and South America.

I think that what struck me most of all was that the challenges for those doing the training, Postulant Masters, Novice Masters and Junior Masters or as we call them Prefects of Students, were fairly common - although the manifestation of them in the West and in the East are quite different; and of course one has to take into the of consideration age differences. No longer do people join the legislation at 17, 18 or 19. 

OMPS Jubilee Mass - highlights

Apologies that the video is low resolution

Video highlights from the Solemn Novena at Liverpool

Opening Mass of the Liverpool Novena at St. Mary's Woolton

                                                    - homily of Bishop Ralph Heskett C.Ss.R

Sunday 19th June - Fr. Andrew Burns C.Ss.R

Monday 20th June - Fr. Barrie O'Toole C.Ss.R

Wednesday 22nd June - Archbishop Emeritus Patrick Kelly noon Mass

Wednesday 22nd June -  Blessing of Medals and congregation

- Fr. Timothy Buckley C.Ss.R

Wednesday 22nd June - Highlights of  7.30pm Mass with

Archbishop Emeritus Patrick Kelly 7.30pm Mass

Thursday 23th June - Fr. Kevin Callaghan C.Ss.R

Friday 24th June June -  The Nativity of John the Baptist -

What's in a Name - Fr Andrew Burns C.Ss.R

Friday 24th June - The Novena Prayer

Saturday 25th June (Healing Mass) - Fr Andrew Burns C.Ss.R

Sunday 26th June - Fr. Timothy Buckley C.Ss.R

Monday 27th June  Noon Mass - Fr. TImothy Buckley C.Ss.R

The noon Mass was attended by children from Our Lady's Bishop Eton Primary School. Fr. Tim illustrated what he wished to convey with one of his Freddie Freckles stories.

Monday 27th June - 7.30pm Mass with Archbishop Malcolm McMahon OP

 

Fr Barrie O'Toole C.Ss.R - Golden Jubilee

Saturday the 9th January 2016 marked the Golden Jubilee of Ordination to the Priesthood of Fr. Barrie O'Toole. 

Fr. Andrew Burns C.Ss.R gave the following Homily

img 3644Barrie’s Golden Jubilee - 9 January 2016

On October 16th, last year, Fr Tim and I celebrated the Golden Jubilee of our First Profession of Vows as Redemptorists. We had completed our novitiate and we moved on to our house of studies at Hawkstone, where we met with such worthies as Jimmy Smale in his third year, Tony Hunt in his fourth year, Brian Russell in his fifth year and Barrie O’Toole and Jan Milcz in their sixth and final year and the memories of Tony Johnson and Jim Casey were already legendary.

Less than three months after our arrival, Barrie was ordained a priest alongside three others in a year when there were to be ten ordinations. To us as first year students, it was a great encouragement to see our elders and betters as they began their priestly ministry while still students themselves. We still had five or six years to go before our turn would come. But while it seemed an eternity stretching out ahead of us, we could see signs of hope.

And here we are today, fifty years later, all legends in our own time, all Redemptorists, but all with a very different experience of Redemptorist life and ministry, not only here in Britain, but all over the world. None of us could possibly have imagined fifty years ago that life in the Church and in the world would be as we experience it today. From a time when there were fifty Redemptorist Students to today when there are four, counting two novices and a postulant. From a time when the church was full of young families, to today when the average Catholics in this country must be in their seventies, with dwindling congregations and aging clergy.

We might be tempted to look at it and say, What has gone wrong? We might start blaming the Second Vatican Council or the Social Revolution which has transformed society over these fifty years. Or we might rather look at the progress that has been made and marvel at how the Church has changed in order to respond to the needs as they arise. Fifty years ago, we were all pretty confident about the Church and its place in the world. We knew the answers, or thought we did, to every question under heaven. Today we are less sure. We have been humbled by our many failures, by the exposure of our weaknesses. But still we believe, and we are encouraged by the enduring fidelity of people like Barrie, who today celebrates fifty years of priestly ministry.

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Our God is faithful. We have just celebrated Christmas and our reflection on the mystery of the Incarnation reminds us that Jesus was born into a messy world, to heal it, not through power and wealth and efficient organisations, but through love and compassion, forgiveness and reconciliation. Every year, we come back to the beginning. We start again to remember that on our own, we human beings continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. We never learn from history. We never listen fully to the message of God’s love and salvation. It doesn’t matter who we are, we need to be reminded that God is always faithful. The continuing cycle of the liturgical year helps us to understand that no matter how many times we stray off course, no matter what wrong choices we make, God’s never failing offer of life and love is open to us. Jesus is that word. He is that sign. He is that promise. It is through him and with him and in him that we find the only way to God our Father. St Paul asks how this Good News is to be heard. It has to be preached. It needs a preacher. A preacher needs to be sent. And thanks to be God, throughout the history of the Church, this is what has happened, and this is what we are celebrating today. For fifty years the saving message of God’s mercy and love has been lived and preached by Barrie, and so today we thank God for him, for his perseverance, for his fidelity. And, we pray, long may it continue.

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The Feast of The Presentation of Our Lady,

St. Patrick's, Edinburgh

Friday 21st November 2014, 7.30pm Mass

Father Anthony Freeman C.Ss.R. who died in 1998.

His sermon when he was dying with cancer. In his life as a

Redemptorist he had one message:-

God loves you and me, God loves you and me unconditionally.

The Redemptorists have had the privilege of serving St. Patrick's for the last 13 years. We have come in all shapes and sizes. This has been the Redemptorist message:- God loves you and me unconditionally.

I am conscious that the Archbishop is here and so I want to quote reliable sources and who better than two Popes of the 20th Century.

In 1972 the then Patriarch of Venice, Cardinal Archbishop Albino Luciani, who would go on to become Pope John Paul I, the smiling Pope and who died after only 33 days in office wrote a reflection on the founder of The Redemptorists, St. Alphonsus Liguouri

The future Pope John Paul I summed up the Alphonsian vision in 5 points:-

  • God loves us passionately
  • This love is expressed in Jesus Christ
  • Our response is to love God passionately in return
  • Such love embraces all humanity
  • Especially those who are most abandoned

Redemptorist spirituality is centred on The mystery of Jesus The Redeemer and His great work of Redemption. With The Lord there is plentiful redemption.

In a similar vein, in 1973 Pope Paul VI spoke spontaneously to a group of Redemptorists. Pope Paul VI reminded the Redemptorists gathered that their primary vocation was the care of souls. Like St. Alphonsus, be good pastors, be very good confessors, get close to souls in the sacred ministry, especially in the hearing of Confessions.

Hopefully, during these 13 years many people have come to St. Patrick's and been touched, inspired by the message of God's unconditional love for each one of us. Hopefully, many people have experienced, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, how much God loves, cares, cherishes and delights in each one of us.

And so, the Redemptorists want to say a profound thank you for the privilege of living and working in such a wonderful parish and in such a wonderful city. It has been a privilege and an honour to share the beautiful vision of St. Alphonsus in this holy and sacred place. Thank you.

I have been here for three and a half years and people often ask me what it has been like. In response to that question I like to refer them to the first paragraph of Charles Dickens' novel A Tale of Two Cities:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,

It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,

It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,

It was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,

It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,

We had everything before us, we had nothing before us,

We were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going directly the other way.

On a personal note, may I say a sincere thank you for the privilege of serving this parish community as Parish Priest for the past three and a half years. It has been a very blessed time for me as a Redemptorist priest. I am so very grateful to so many people for their help, support, encouragement and advice in good times and in challenging times. May I thank in particular the Parish Steering Group who have been an invaluable support to me during these last two years.

Looking back on my time at St. Patrick's I am reminded of a lecture which seems a life time ago given by a delightful man Mr. Whitelaw who was preparing my year of dental students for General Practice. He told us that no matter how hard we tried we would never please everyone. However, if we could go home at the end of the day, look ourselves in the mirror, put our heads on the pillow and say I did my best, then that was all that mattered.

I can honestly say that I have, at all times, tried to do my very best and we leave it at that.

But now to the exciting new chapter in the story of St. Patrick's. Today's feast gives us a wonderful model to follow; Mary is presented, is dedicated to The Lord.

St. Patrick's will continue to go from strength to strength if we present ourselves to The Lord, if we dedicate ourselves to The Lord, if we keep close to The Lord Jesus.

The motto of the City of Edinburgh is:-

He who builds without The Lord builds in vain.

The motto of the City of Glasgow is:-

Let Glasgow flourish by the preaching of The Word of God

St. Patrick's will continue to flourish only if we build with The Lord.

St. Patrick's breastplate says it all. It was written seeking divine protection:-

Christ before me,

Christ behind me,

Christ in me,

Christ beneath me,

Christ above me,

Christ on my right,

Christ on my left,

Christ when I lie down,

Christ when I sit down,

Christ when I arise,

Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,

Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,

Christ in every eye that sees me,

Christ in every ear that hears me.

St. Patrick's will flourish if we live in the spirit of that prayer and build with The Lord.

I was packing away the books this week and came across a dog-eared copy of The Confessions of St. Augustine. The book belonged to my dear Dad. Perhaps my time in Hawkstone Hall will give me the opportunity to eventually read this classic as what I know about St. Augustine could be written on the back of a postage stamp.

However, there is one quotation that I am particularly fond of which perhaps is very appropriate to conclude with:-

Entrust the past to God's mercy,

The present to God's love

And the future to God's providence.

May the wonderful parish of St. Patrick's continue to flourish with the Lord. God loves each one of us as if there was only one of us to love – St. Augustine

Bishop Ralph Heskett CSsR Homily Installation Mass...

 

 

Homily for Installation

 

Before I begin the homily I would like to thank you, the priests, religious and lay faithful for your warm welcome to the diocese of Hallam.  In particular, I would like to thank all those who wrote to me when the announcement of my appointment was made, welcoming with an assurance of prayers.  Many of those who wrote offered words of encouragement, too, informing me of all the things I could look forward to when I arrived in Hallam, - the many places of interest to visit, some of local customs etc.  One particular custom mentioned by someone born in Sheffield and now living in exile in the north-west caught my eye and I am looking forward to trying it for myself and I quote:

 

“No self-respecting Sheffield home would be without Henderson’s Relish, a slightly spicy black vinegar based product use on savoury pies and fish and chips.” Something to look forward to……..

The Redemptorist Youth Ministry held a day of prayer and refelction at Hawkstone Hall on 21st June 2014. At the Mass that concluded the day Bishop Ralph Heskett C.Ss.R gave the following homily.

 

In June 2013 Fr. Richard Reid was one of the preachers at the Clonard Novena. The videos of the homilies courtesy of the Clonard youtube account are below.

 

 

 

 

 

Homily for Ash Wednesday - Archbishop Tobin CSsR...

 

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Golden Jubilee of Priesthood Homily

to the Redemptorist Provincial Assembly
at Hawkstone Hall
Fr Jim McManus C.Ss.R.

 

In the first reading of our Mass today we are invited to fulfil the meaning and purpose of our lives. St. John says, “Let us love one another because love comes from God and anyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God”. (1 Jn. 4: 7) Every human being is called by God to be fully human and to find fulfilment in true love. Blessed John Paul said, “Love is the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being”. (Exhortation on Christian Family in the Modern World, 1981, para 11). As Redemptorists  we commit ourselves to living this innate vocation to love by “following the example of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer, by preaching the word of God to the poor”. (Constitution 1) 

 

I was introduced to the Redemptories way of living the innate vocation to love in the novitiate. It was a year of learning the art of prayer and silence and the centrality of the Mass in our lives. At Christmas 1956 I received a letter from my old cousin who was a parish priest in New York and who was celebrating his golden jubilee of priesthood. He wrote that “the Mass means more to me today than ever before”. I remember being quite puzzled by this comment. I was saying to myself, “Surely no Mass could mean more to a priest than his first Mass”? 

 

After my ordination to the Priesthood on 12 January 1964, I found myself celebrating my first Mass here at this very altar in Hawkstone Hall. Fr. Michael McGreevy was acting as my assistant and MC, After Mass, as my family and friends were making their way to the refectory and as I was about to go back into the church to make my thanksgiving,  Michael said to me, “No, Jim, join your family for breakfast. The rest of your life will be your thanksgiving”. Those words have echoed in my ears during these past fifty years. The rest of your life will be your thanksgiving! Michael was anticipating the teaching of Blessed John Paul that “proclaiming the death of the Lord until he comes entails that all who take part in the Eucharist be committed to changing their lives and making them in a certain way completely “Eucharistic”. (Encyclical on the Eucharist, 20). The only fitting response to Ordination to the Priesthood is the Eucharistic life, the life of gratitude. 

 

After my ordination I went to Rome for three years of study. Those were the exciting years of the Second Vatican Council. I had wonderful Benedictine teachers in San Anselmo and great Redemptorist teachers in the Alphonsianum, men like Frs. Bernard Haring and Sean O’ Riordan. When I came back to the Province in 1967 I had the opportunity to teach moral theology for six years. It was a challenging but for me personally a most fulfilling time. Then in 1973 we had a dramatic change in our seminary training. The students moved to Canterbury to study at the Franciscan Study Centre and I was given the challenge and also the wonderful opportunity to fulfil my dream of developing Hawkstone Hall as a Pastoral and Renewal Centre. We had a fairly large community: 6 priests (Frs. Joe Brooks, Denis McCarton, Rex Moore, Gerry Sugden, Chris Harris and myself) and 5 brothers, (Bros. Sebastian, Alexander, Richard, Damien and Stephan)

We began with retreats, weekend retreats, parish days; we hosted many groups looking for conference facilities. We became very busy. In 1974 Frs. Jack Clancy, Denis McBride and Joe Doherty joined the community. So, we were very well staffed. 

 

Although we were busy with all kinds of groups, I was feeling quite dissatisfied: being busy with many different kinds of groups wasn’t my original vision. But I didn’t have the spiritual energy to change direction at that time.  Providence, however, intervened as it always does. In early 1975 Brother Sebastian was celebrating his Golden Jubilee of Profession. I wanted to give him the usual celebrations and asked him if he would like to go to Rome. He didn’t want any trips. He wanted to stay on the farm in contemplation and work. A few weeks later I confided to him that I was feeling lost as far as developing the Centre was concerned and I asked him would he make a special pilgrimage to Lourdes and ask Our Lady to show me what we should be doing at Hawkstone Hall. He immediately and joyfully agreed and within a week he was on a plane to Lourdes. He spent a full week praying for our mission at Hawkstone Hall and Our Lady answered his prayer. 

 

Shortly after his return I got up one morning and told the confreres that I was going to Rome to investigate the possibility of putting on a Three Month Renewal Course for Priests and Religious.  I received great encouragement from my former professors in the Alphonsianum, Frs. Haring and Sean O’Riordan, who agreed to participate in our first Renewal Course. Sean told me to discuss the project with the great Passionist Scripture Scholar, Fr. Barnabas Ahern and with Fr. Francis Sullivan SJ, the Dean of the Gregorian University. Both of them were keen to take part in the Course as was Fr. Dixie Taylor of the Beda College. After a few days in Rome we had five very good theologians booked for the first course that would begin in September 1975. 

 

For that first course we had a very good team of lecturers. I was confident that we would be able to offer a good programme. As the time approached for the first course to begin, it began to dawn on me that these Religious and Priests were coming for a spiritual renewal programme and not just a theological renewal programme. And the oft repeated Latin mantra of my Novice Master, Fr Charlie Shepherd, began to echo in my head, Nemo dat quod non habet:  no one can give what he hasn’t got. While teaching moral theology I was confident that I had the theology and so I could give it. But spiritual renewal? At that time I knew  I didn’t have that. So, how could I help a group to attain it? 

 

Again, in God’s providence, help was at hand. As the course began we had the usual times of prayer, morning prayer, midday Mass, evening prayer. The course settled down and was going well.  Fr. Francis Sullivan SJ was teaching the fourth week of the course on The Holy Spirit and the Gifts of the Spirit.  When Bob Balkam, who worked for Redemptorist Publications and who was also chairman of The National Catholic Charismatic Renewal Committee, heard that Francis Sullivan would be giving the week on the Holy Spirit and the Gifts of the Spirit he came to see me. He asked if we could accommodate an extra thirty men and women who would dearly love to follow Sullivan’s course. I was delighted to have an extra thirty participants for the week. On the Sunday afternoon Bob  Bakam arrived with Fr Sullivan and, down our drive, came thirty ‘card-carrying charismatics’! I had no experience at that stint of the charismatic renewal. The first thing this group of thirty did on arrival was to hold a Prayer Meeting. That was my first experience of this kind of charismatic prayer. Then, each afternoon they asked for an hour’s exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and each evening they had a Prayer Meeting. The place was alive with the praise of God.

 

The entire group on our three month course quickly became involved, despite initial fears and apprehensions. I began to participate in the Prayer Meetings and the hours of Exposition myself. As the week went on I began to feel very deeply that I badly need this new life in the Spirit that Sullivan was talking about. I was kneeling at the back of the church during the Holy Hour on the 24 September 1975, the feast of Our Lady of Ransom, when I decided that I would ask the first priest who came down the aisle to come and pray with me. The first man down the aisle was Fr Wilfrid Brieven, who was the secretary to Cardinal Suenens in Belgium.  Suenens had been commissioned by Pope Paul Vl to have special pastoral care for the development of the charismatic renewal in the Church and when he heard about Sullivan’s week at Hawkstone Hall he sent Fr. Brieven over as his representative. Fr. Brieven came to my office. I knelt down and made my confession. He gave me absolution in the usual way but then he began to pray over me, singing in tongues and speaking words of great encouragement. As he prayed I found my whole inner resistance dissolve. A new prayer life was given to me; I saw clearly  that the charismatic gifts of the Spirit are given to us so that we can do our work in the power of the Holy Spirit. It became clear to me, in the words of the great Dominican theologian Fr. Congar that “the difference between work and mission is the invocation of the Holy Spirit.” I had received the grace that Fr. Sullivan was encouraging us to seek, namely, ‘Baptism in the Holy Spirit’.

 

When the thirty who came for Sullivan’s week left I got the course together and we began to evaluate the experience of the week. They all had been prayed with just as I had been prayed with. They all had the same experience of the Holy Spirit that I had. They were all filled with a new gift of prayer  and joy just as I was. And they all agreed that this was the spiritual awakening that they were looking for when they applied for the sabbatical. They also agreed that we should do everything we could to foster and develop this great grace with which we had been blessed. So, we decided to have the Holy Hour each evening and a Prayer Meeting once a week. We had a whole new methodology for the renewal programme. The grace of ‘Baptism in the Holy Spirit’ and the gifts of the Holy Spirit would be prayed for and sought. We witnessed great conversions, healings of all kinds, and wonderful manifestations of the gifts of the Spirit in the participants on the courses.

 

I always say that I was the first person in need of the renewal that Hawkstone Hall stands for. And also, I can say with conviction that I, and indeed  Hawkstone, owe the grace of this great renewal to Brother Sebastian’s prayer in Lourdes. Our Lady answered his prayer and opened the door to renewal for me and thousands of priests and religious men and women who have come to Hawkstone Hall since 1975. 

 

As Redemptorists we move on to new missions. I was sent from Hawkstone Hall in 1981 to begin my new mission in St. Mary’s, in Perth. And, indeed, I have had the opportunity to preach the Gospel, during the past fifty years, in many different parts of the world. Wherever I have gone, the teaching of the Second Vatican Council has been my inspiration. These words of The Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes) have really been a guiding and challenging light throughout my Redemptorist ministry: “One is right in thinking that the future of humanity rests with people who are capable of providing the generations to come with reasons for living and reasons for hoping” (para. 31) Those words sum up in a special way our Redemptorist charism: to give people a reason for living and a reason for hoping. We are called to proclaim in the words of Blessed John Paul’s first encyclical that “Jesus Christ is the centre of the universe and of history”.

 

If we are to give people  reasons for living and hoping we have to keep that hope alive in our own hearts and give each other in community those reasons for hoping. The source of that hope is in our daily Eucharist. As Blessed John Paul wrote “The Eucharist plants a seed of living hope in our daily commitment to the work before us”. (Encyclical on Eucharist, 20). We receive in every Eucharist that “seed of living hope”, that wonderful assurance of Jesus who says to us “be brave, I have conquered the world”. (John 16:33) Redemptorists are not afraid in the face of the challenges of our world. 

 

Fr. Michael McGreevy’s words to me after my first Mass, “the rest of your life will be your thanksgiving” sound much truer fifty years later than they did when he first spoke them. Gratitude is the only response we can make for the grace of the Priesthood. And, I think I understand better today what my old cousin meant when he said  in his Christmas letter  that the Mass meant more to him in his Golden Jubilee year than ever before. He was discovering afresh the “seed of living hope” that John Paul says the Eucharist  plants in our hearts. And nothing can squash that living hope.

 

St. Paul prayed this powerful prayer for the Romans: “May the God of hope bring you such joy in your faith that the power of the Holy Spirit will remove all bounds to hope”. (Roms. 15: 13). We should never limit what God can do nor place bounds to our hope. 

 

In this Jubilee Mass I pray that the Lord will plant the “seed of living hope” in all our hearts, that he will remove all bounds to our hope,  and that he will enable us to give the people we serve “reasons for living and reasons for hoping”. 

 

A Homily for Vocations Sunday...

Fr Richard Reid CSsR, the Vocations Director, preached at all the masses in Bishop Eton on Vocations Sunday. He offers the notes from that homily...

 

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Vocations Homily

Preached at all the masses at Bishop Eton

on Vocations Sunday April 2013

 

I am now wearing a different hat because I stand before you, not as the Rector of Bishop Eton, but as the Vocations Director of the Redemptorists of the London Province – a fancy title or what?

 

Today is that wonderful day when we pray for vocations all over the world – so it doesn’t matter where you are today – you might be in Timbuktu or Childwall – we are all today focused and praying for vocations to the priesthood and the religious life.

 

Unapologetically, I stand here to speak about the wonder of this vocation. I know that many of you have found your vocation in life and that it is sacred and precious to you and I celebrate them also, but today I want to speak specifically about the religious, the priestly or the consecrated vocation.

 

I want to begin by first of all telling you something of my vocation story, which I think this is an important thing for a vocations director to do.

 

I should be clear right from the beginning and tell you that I had no intention of ever joining the Redemptorists. I did however want to become a priest and planned on doing that in my home diocese. When I was a boy I thought my diocese at home was great – and I still think that now all these years later. It’s a bit like this archdiocese; it’s a great diocese. In the diocese they have wonderful people, wonderful priests and over the years they’ve had wonderful bishops. So I was going to join my home diocese in Scotland, or so I thought.

 

A homily for the feast of St. Gerard Majella C.Ss.R., ...

 

A kind confrere offers us the following reflection...

 

SAINT GERARD MAJELLA C.Ss.R.

 

Writing or reading the lives of the saints is a challenging occupation.gerardo9

Accounts of their lives can be so remote from our ordinary human experience that we find them so unattractive and de-humanised that there is no incentive to follow them. 

Gerard Majella's experience and living of the Christian and religious life was so out of the ordinary; yet he is an outstanding example of the Alphonsian tradition that has animated generations of Redemptorists:

the imitation of Christ the Redeemer;

in recalling his' infancy, his passion death and resurrection;

his abiding presence in the Eucharist;

a devotion to his Blessed Mother and the compelling desire to share these with ordinary people as we journey together.

In some ways Gerard is the most medieval of our saints, full of crazy gestures, even as a child yet moulded in the traditional devotions of  his contemporaries, the ordinary people of Muro.

 

The popular piety of Southern Italy at that time and even to this day is characterised by a profound sense of the supernatural, boundless confidence in the goodness of God and his providence; the mystery of the cross and a childlike attachment to our Blessed Lady and the intercession of the saints. It has been described as the poor peoples alternative to the liturgy. Some would describe this popular piety as an inferior state of faith, tinged with slight superstition, when in fact it is relating to the divine or supernatural in a different way.

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Homily Preached at Br Dominic's Funeral...

 

Life of a Redemptorist Brother

Br. Dominic 1912 - 2003

The Funeral of Brother Dominic

Bishop Eton - 7th August 2003

Preacher: Very Rev Fr James Casey C.Ss.R.


In today's first reading St. Paul says “that when the tent that we live in on earth is folded up, there is a house built by God for us.” Well, Brother Dominic has, in these last few years been quietly and confidently folding up his tent after a long sojourn here on this earth – nearly ninety-one years of life, seventy-two of which were specifically dedicated to the service of the Lord as a Redemptorist Brother.

 

It is important to have a good start in life. Brother Dominic did – he was born in Glasgow! What inspired him to enter religious life and what attracted him to the Redemptorist Congregation we will never know. He was still in his teens when he made that decision; and in 1931, when most of us here were only potential people, he gave his life to the Lord - forever.

 

The religious life that Brother Dominic entered was very different from that of today. Then there was less talk of the risen Christ and more of the suffering Saviour. As a consequence, there was a great emphasis on suffering and sacrifice. It was almost a dogma of faith that anything in life that was unpleasant or even positively painful was good for the soul. That wasn't always true.

 

And, of course, blind obedience, an ambiguous phrase, was the order of the day. The word “dialogue” hadn't yet been invented. Men were appointed quite arbitrarily to one job or another, from one end of the country to another, or told: “There's a ship leaving Southampton for South Africa in ten days time – be on it, Brother.” In the 1930's, when Dominic was a young Brother, the word “stress” pertained principally to engineering and if any religious had mentioned the word “burnout”, it would have been presumed that he was talking about blast furnaces.

 

Life in the Congregation was hard for all candidates, both priests and brothers. But it was particularly hard for the brothers because there was, like it or not, a system of apartheid, a two-tier society, clerical and lay, Fathers and Brothers. If there was one thing the Brothers learned it was that they, like Jesus Christ, came to serve and not to be served. This the Brothers knew and accepted. But service can so easily be taken for granted, can so easily be exploited. When it is, quite naturally, resentment and bitterness can arise – but so too can the memory of Jesus’ words to his squabbling disciples: “Who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.” Is there a higher vocation? Years ago, one of the old Brothers, after calmly recalling some of the hurts of the past told me without rancour or regret: “Somebody has to follow the Christ who was despised.”

 

I say these things not to paint a pessimistic picture of the past, or of the priests for that matter, but to stress the depth of religious conviction that caused young men, like Brother Dominic, to leave home and a loving family, to follow closely the humble tradesman from Nazareth, and, despite the very real hardships, to do so to the end. Doing this would have been more difficult for Dominic than for some others because Dominic was highly intelligent, an independent minded man, talented and well-read. The Times crossword was to Dominic as the game of noughts and crosses is to me!

 

Only twice in my life did I live in the same community as Dominic. The first time was in Sunderland about twenty years ago. Then he was a portly figure; he was, in the words of the hymn, “serene and certain in his ways.” I never saw Dominic rush; he knew who he was and what he had to do and he did it.

 

Most of Dominic's working life in the Congregation, both in this country and South Africa, was spent in the heat of the kitchen as a cook. However, at Sunderland, he was the porter. As such, no one was more approachable. Everyone who came to our door, and they were legion, was greeted with a quiet smiling civility. Like God, he knew everyone by name, and again like God, he knew what they wanted before they ever asked. The happy memory of Dominic's kindliness lives on in Sunderland, where today the parish is celebrating a Requiem Mass in his memory.

As Porter, Dominic received everyone with great courtesy, including and perhaps even especially the men of the road, most of whose mothers were at the point of death in Lerwick in the Shetlands or perhaps it was Land's End. They needed the train fare if ever they were to receive a final maternal blessing. Dominic, it seems to me, had a positive affection for these mendacious mendicants. He never interrupted their stories but listened patiently to the end. In a kindly way, he made it clear that he didn't believe a word they said, but dipping deep into his habit pocket, where rattled around the pound coins, he rewarded each one, I'm sure, according to literary merit.

 

Dominic was, by and large, a quiet man, comfortable with silence. I never heard him criticise or condemn any member of the community. He was, however, an assiduous observer of human nature and the occasional observation did escape him. Of one priest in the community at the time, who tended to begin Mass rather abruptly, and who shall remain anony-mous, he drolly remarked: “Harry is the only priest I've ever known who could make the greeting, “The Lord be with you,” sound offensive”.

 

On another occasion, when Fr. Shepherd, as Provincial, came to visit the community at Sunderland with his two consultors, one of whom was an ex-provincial and, in secular terms, a bit of an operator, Dominic announced their arrival in the following manner: “The Shepherd has arrived with his crook and his staff.”

 

Dominic's coming to Bishop Eton was occasioned by a cruel incident in Sunderland. When, yet once more, he opened the door to see how he could serve God's people, he was brutally attacked, knocked to the ground, beaten and robbed. I believe it was deep disappointment, a sadness that people could behave in such a way, rather than the fear of being attacked again, that compelled him to leave the place he loved – to leave the place where he was so greatly loved.

 

Dominic's last years here in retirement were, as I said, his folding up of his tent, albeit slowly and very neatly. He was thinking more and more of the house built by God for us, and he was genuinely look-ing forward to going there. He knew, too, with St. Paul, “that to live in the body is to be exiled from the Lord.” He really did want to go home. His room, where he spent so much time alone became his departure lounge where he waited for the call. His worldly possessions were few – so he only had hand luggage. From time to time, in the recent past, we thought he was going to leave us, but on more than one occasion his flight was cancelled.

 

However, Dominic did finally leave us, and he’s home now in the bosom of the Father. To get there, he travelled a long and often hard road, but always in the company of the gentle and humble Christ. On his journey, he was sustained by prayer and a tremendous devotion to the Holy Mass, into which he knew were incor-porated the sacrifices of his own long life. When last Thursday the Lord said to Dominic, weighed down as he was by years and weakened by ill health, “Come to me all you who labour and are over-burdened and I will give you rest.”

 

Dominic happily dropped everything and went. May he rest in peace.

 

Fr. J. Casey C.Ss.R

A Jubilarian Preaches...

frkevin

DIAMOND JUBILEE (60 years)

 Conversion of St. Paul

Jan 2012

Fr Kevin Callaghan C.Ss.R.

It would be reasonable to expect that the theme of this homily would be on today’s feast – the conversion of St. Paul. But I anticipated today’s celebration and preached on St. Paul on Sunday last.

You will be very relieved to know that I do not intend to trawl through my sixty years as a C.Ss.R – although I could make that quite racy and raise a few blushes. Perhaps later we may be given the opportunity to say a few words in another place in that respect.

So I fall back as we Redemptorists do, so often and so effectively in our preaching, on a story. And I am indebted to Tony Gittens when on the very first evening to spoke to us of the importance of LISTENING. For this is a story about listening and not just hearing.

 

Homily for Fr Charles Shepherd RIP...

 


CHARLIE SHEPHERD 1914 – 2006

 Preached by Very Rev. Fr James Casey C.Ss.R.

Rector of Bishop Eton Community


Let me begin with a much-abbreviated account of the genealogy of the good Shepherd – hereafter to be referred to as Charlie. Eli was the Father of Seth and Seth was the Father of Charles and Charles was the Father Charles Shepherd, who first came here to Bishop Eton as a boy of thirteen, seventy-nine years ago and is only now leaving. The year he first came was 1927.

 

The wonderful biblical names of Charlie’s father and grandfather, Seth and Eli, are explained by the fact that the Shepherd family belonged to the primitive Methodist tradition. Charlie’s father, a Bradford man, was working in Dublin when he met and fell in love with Margaret Cleary. Seth and Margaret married, but not before Seth had taken instructions and was received into the Church.  Charlie was the fifth and last child of that union. The last surviving child of that same union is Charlie’s big brother, Paddy, who is here with us today. The Shepherd family returned to Bradford from Dublin in 1915 when Charlie was not yet one year old.

 

Charlie started his epic voyage in the good ship C.Ss.R. in 1927 when he entered what we called the Juvenate and others called the minor seminary. He started his novitiate in Perth in July 1932 and made his first profession the following year, the day after which, to quote Charlie, he and the other newly professed were entrained for Hawkstone to complete their higher studies. Charlie was ordained priest at Easter 1939. He was then what he wanted to be - a priest, but not just any kind of priest; he was a Redemptorist priest and come hell or high water he would remain one.

 

Charlie was, of course, a man of his time; and in his time, time stood still, especially in the Church. Peter’s bark had set its course and was steaming slowly but surely to the Promised Land; its crew was highly disciplined; orders handed down from the top were promptly obeyed, the rum ration was regular and in those days few jumped ship. There were, from time to time, minor squalls, but with all hands on deck and the captain calling, “Heave ho me hearties”, there was never panic among the crew or the passengers.

 

In those days, Charlie, with more or less everyone else, believed in and was more than comfortable with discipline and good order. He not only believed it, he lived it. The very day he completed his higher studies, he was informed by the Provincial Superior that he was to return to the junior seminary in Bishop Eton to teach – wait for it - to teach Greek and geography. He had a month to prepare. Oh, the graces that God granted to young men in those days! Eight years later in the summer of 1947, he was appointed head of the same junior seminary until it was transferred to Birmingham three years later. Having just closed one junior seminary in England, Charlie was told in March 1951 to go to South Africa and open a new one in Pretoria. This he did. In some notes I found in his room, he writes; “This was very much against the grain,” but adds that, “it might be worth while to remark that obedience can work wonders, and that if one tries to accept what seems to be very hard, it is amazing how happy things turn out to be.” However, his South African sojourn lasted but three years. In 1954, aged forty, he was told to return to England to fill the role of novice master and in this post he lived and reigned for the next ten years.

It was as novice master that most of the Redemptorist priests and brothers here got to know Charlie Shepherd. Although only forty years of age, his hair was already white and his figure was filling out, so to speak. He was benign. His tone was sonorous and his gate sedate. He was never seen to hurry. He sighed a lot. He produced and delivered pious conferences by the ream, usually written in his neat spidery handwriting on scraps of paper other people would have discarded. His emphasis was Alphonsian: he spoke of the wonder of the Incarnation – God becoming not only man, but baby; the reality of the passion of Christ; and then Christ’s determination to remain with us in the Blessed Sacrament. And then, of course, he spoke always of the necessity of prayer.

As Charlie scrutinised his novices, so his novices scrutinised Charlie. His virtues were obvious, but what were his vices? Well chocolate, for example, to which his hands were somehow magnetically drawn. There is even now, as I speak, a symbolic half-eaten bar of Cadbury’s fruit and nut secreted in a wardrobe in his room. And then, of course, there were cream cakes. From time to time, as a break from his duties as novice master, he would depart to conduct a nun’s retreat. You know, he had a nose for the convents that had the best pastry cooks. And on his return, his full figure was always noticeably fuller. But all this took place in the years B.C., that is, before cholesterol.

I have already said that Charlie was determined to be faithful to his vocation come hell or high water. Well hell and high water were fast approaching. He was, in 1964, appointed Rector of the House of Studies. He had to deal with forty-five students, and even some of the staff, who were suffering from Vatican II fever. There was clamour for change, open divergences among the staff and students about the curriculum, about religious observance and about most other things besides. Then there were the losses – the departure of many students and priests. All of which saddened and mystified Charlie. “It was the hardest assignment of my Redemptorist life,” he sighed. But was it?

Charlie’s next appointment in 1969 was as Provincial Superior. Commenting on this honour conferred on him, he wrote simply: “Out of the frying pan into the fire.” Now resting on his well-padded shoulders were the problems of the entire Province – too many and varied to be listed here. By then, I’m sure, Charlie’s sighing had reached furnace-like ferocity. I wonder how many times he read, with hope in his heart, these words from today’s gospel: “Come to me all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest.”

Rest did eventually come when Charlie returned to Bishop Eton in 1978 as an ordinary member of the community, free to preach in church, especially at the Novena to Our Lady, to give the occasional mission or nun’s retreat. He was especially appreciative of community; of the prayers said in common, of the meals shared with people who were more or less his contemporaries in thought, word and deed. Despite his ascetical aspirations, he enjoyed feast days. When the good food was being served and the wine was being gurgled into glasses, you could almost hear his Methodist and Irish Catholic genes battling it out. Even as recently as last Christmas, he was heard to enquire at the end of a rather sumptuous meal: “You don’t have any Drambuie, do you?”

Charlie’s last illness lasted about ten weeks. He had suffered a stroke and as a result he was rendered immobile; in addition, he could eat no solid food, but worse of all he could not speak. But there was one word – only one word - he could say. And on our every visit to the hospital or to St.Joseph’s Home in Manchester where he died that word was plaintively repeated. That word was, “home”. The Church was his home. The worldwide Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, with all its history and traditions, was his home. The local community here in Bishop Eton was his home. He’s home now – here with us and in his heavenly home. He’ll never sigh again!  

These last words are Charlie’s:

“I thank God for my vocation, for my life as a Redemptorist, for the great happiness I’ve had in and with my confreres; and for the work of all kinds that the God has let me do. Perhaps I should rather say the work that he has done through me, even if sometimes my share has not been what it could and should have been. What more can I say!”