Saturday, 27 October 2018

The Hunter's Moon

The Hunter’s Moon

Seeking the graced sight
of the Hunter’s Moon,
I left the bright lights
of the house behind me,
and, bundling myself
against the cold,
I took the wooded path
to the place
where I could watch her rise,
fierce and cold against
the purple dark sky.
There I blessed her
for blessing me in turn
with such light:
pure and cold and bright,
gilding the sea golden beneath her
as she rose;
my silver sister of the sky above:
the Lady’s lamp,
a guide for all who wander
and wonder in turn.
Finally, when the cold bit
into my already aching bones
too much,
leaving moon to her meditations,
I left for home.
Trudging darkly along
the wooded path
discerning its grey
pebble skinned presence
barely a step or two ahead
I was gifted
with the sudden
awareness of unaloneness
and paused
in the pitch dark
not sure of what old sense
had been alerted, nor why.
Then, carefully kindling
the little lamp I carried
I sudden saw twelve sets of eyes
gaze glowing from off the path
and realized in front of me,
our holy herd of deer.
Down from the rutting hills
they had come silent as the dusk
that surrounded us, perhaps,
to pay their own homage to the lady
high above us all.
Horse high and seeming huge they were,
I heard now their breathing,
their antlers broad between the branches,
utterly still they stood and stared
as we regarded each other,
“Well met by moonlight”, I thought,
as I, awestruck in stillness also
bowed deeply to these
old ones of the woods,
the first Lords and Ladies
of these sainted lands.
Then, stepping back into the dark
I left them to their silent vigil
and made for home,
my heart elated by that moonlit magic
recalling eden’s evenings
when all were one
before Him.  
Later, making tea,
I wondered how often
on our grey and often seeming
daily darkened path
we have, all about us beings
carrying such, and even
greater blessings,
but never notice, shut in
as we are, behind
our curtained glass,
sitting lost before
our flickering screens,
while they,
keep their ancient vigil too,
waiting for us to touch
stillness long enough,
deep enough, to discern their
moonlit presence
and, at last, know ourselves to be,
with them, one
before the One, from whom
the light and dark
and deer arise.

Sat Oct 26th 2018

Monday, 17 September 2018



That Morning
the people 
to a mountain top
on fire.
A red gold dawn seemed
to forget 
the ancient 
bounded truce 
between Heaven
and Earth,
and, descending, christened 
the forested crown
with flame.
They wondered 
what had become 
of them,
the small 
band of brothers
who had passed 
barely a month ago,
begging their way
the foothills
lost in the mad 
heart song
of faith, of divine desire.
Seeking the solitude 
of spirit
that only the wild bestows 
as blessing.
They were three, 
and one 
they did not come 
to know, 
cowled as he was 
in smiling silence, 
yet with the look of loss 
about him, 
as though he did not 
live fully 
now upon this land.
Sometimes, later, 
if the wind blew right
they swore that 
in the starlit silence 
of the night 
they could hear them 
They felt sad then,
as you do
for those you do not really know.
To be lost on a mountain
in a forest fire.
How terrible.
They did not listen to 
the child
whose piping voice asked
there was no sound 
of burning,
no stampede of furred 
and feathered 
from this strange flame, 
but only light and silence
and a stillness 
until then unknown
except before 
a summer storm 
or sudden fall of 
winter snow?
The child 
was shushed, 
they always are,
and sad and solemn words 
were said, 
and then the business of the day 
Eyes averted by all
the child
who stood and stared long
and finally 
as others' faces 
turned towards 
the ground 
of ordinary hours, 
fell into the 
forgetfulness of fire,
as we so often do.
And when, by chance, 
they looked again
they saw now only 
a September sky
over a forest turning 
autumnal gold,
and thought, well now
we must have been mistaken,
a rare dawn, 
no doubt.
Some days thence,
the brothers came again,
thinner for their 
mountain days
yet seeming wrapped 
in wonder and singing as they
Save for him, 
the silent one, 
bowed and bent around 
an inner burden
none could see 
but all could feel.
His hooded face 
they all kept their distance, 
fearing the mad 
of faith, perhaps. 
All that is except 
the child 
who found him sitting alone 
beneath a tree 
and offered him
the raw innocence 
of her unflinching gaze,
he smiled 
at her then, 
with the noble courage 
of her age 
she said,
They thought you burned in the fire you know?,
He lowered his hood
she saw his hands then,
their centres 
splashed with scarlet 
and with iron
from which a golden flame 
now sparked,
as though 
the light of Heaven,
earthed in him,
could not be contained
in him,
a vessel small
and broken 
in such 
I did.
he said,
I did.
Then they laughed
a while 
and singing,
went forth

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Our Lady of Sorrows: A Meditation

Our Lady of Sorrows: A Meditation for the Feast.

Each year we come to this celebration like a full stop.
It arrests us, holds us, freezes us as we look inwardly at that scene we think we know so well.
The Woman and the Man,
the Mother and the Son…
and the Cross; always the Cross…

Mother of Sorrows we call her and she is the Mother of Sorrow today, for her Son is not just the God who is Love, but the God who is the Sorrow that Love becomes when it is refused, rejected, even hated…
In a universe of hate and betrayal she will be the one point of pure light, the one point of pure love, the one point of pure sorrow over Sorrow’s pain.

Mother of Compassion we call her. “Cum Passio” is the phrase at the root of this word; to be with the suffering. For all she can do is be with Him in His Suffering and long, as so many mothers have longed over countless ages, to end His suffering, to take His place, to stand in the place of her child.
How many war zones, sick beds, hospitals, prisons have been hallowed by such prayers over the ages?
In a universe of pain and suffering she does not look away, she stands, strong for Him who has become weakness itself in this moment, that the wound at the heart of it all may be healed. She chooses yet again, as surely as she chose in the light of the Angel all those years ago. She utters a Yes once again, this time not with words but with presence. Words without presence mean nothing… but presence, even when it is silent, is louder than thunder.

Mother of the Seven Sorrows we call her. Her life graced and blessed has been punctuated with pain. The pain of the moment and the pain of knowing, darkly at least, what is coming. Seven great sorrows we name, but they are only the beginning. Every mother knows sorrow… the sorrow of knowing that her child is not her own, not really, not in their essence, and that they must be set free to become all that they were meant to be. For her this natural letting go is revealed as a graced begetting of blessedness anew. She will let Him go, she will let Him go to His death and her faith will be the point of light and love that will call Him home to her when first He rises. The prophecy of Simeon, the Flight to Egypt, the first Loss in the Temple, the Meeting on the Road, they will all lead inevitably to the Cross, to holding her dead Son in her arms, to entombing in the womb of the Earth the One she had carried safely in her own womb. And yet, when all will be death and despair she will stand as Woman, as Mother, as the faithful witness, as the one who walks the path of living martyrdom, as the one who, on our behalf, believes past believing; doing this as only a mother can, as only a woman can, winning the victory by the purest kind of faith, unselfish Love.

Our Lady of Sorrows we call her. Ours! Yes she is ours… for in the moment of her greatest pain she says Yes to another, deeper call within her consecration. His last words will bequeath His greatest gift. Present to Him with all her love, with all her still strength and grace she is now ours too. Behold your Mother. This is the generosity of God, of Grace, of Love itself… holding nothing back for itself it gives its greatest gift away. This is the generosity of Mary that she says Yes and accepts us all in the very moment of our greatest rejection of her Son. At the pinnacle of hate she becomes the very first fruits of love, and compassion, and peace, the place where the fruits of the Cross are first tasted, the one through whom grace is liberated and the one in whose immaculate heart, pierced in the piercing of her Son’s the song of our resurrection will first be sung.

Our Lady of Sorrows, Mother of Compassion be with us and help us to carry our own Cross in faith and hope and love.

Pics above: The First is the famous rendering of Our Lady's face based upon the proportions of the Face of the Holy Shroud. The second is by Angela Yerber.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Mother Teresa: Saint for those in Darkness

 Mother Teresa: Saint for those in Darkness

Today we keep the feast of the great saint of the 20th century Mother Teresa of Kolkatta.
While she is known mostly for her extraordinary work for the poor and the destitute in India and throughout the world very few still know of her deep mysticism of "darkness". This darkness has nothing to do with the darkness of evil, rather it is the effect on the soul's inner eye of those who have behld the bright light of the Divine Presence... We are simply blinded by its brightness and only that light can in time restore our inner vision. It is a mystical path walked by only the greatest of those the Lord calls and one of the most difficult to even imagine... simply put after the direct call of the saint to a particular path and mission the Lord seems to withdraw His light so that prayer is an unremitting desert with only very occasional indications that God is present at all... It is a participation in the humanity of Christ crucified upon the Cross and crucified to this day in the suffering of creation while at the same time, to all around them, the saint is a source of Divine Light and grace but the saint is called to ongoing teaching, working, praying all without any form of spiritual consolation in a dark night of the soul that produces extraordinary fruit in those around them while depriving the one who is going through it of anything other than the grace to contintually welcome and fulfil the will of God in the midst of it all.

This was seen beautifully in the famous miracle of the light described by Malcolm Muggeridge in his book about her. Coming to film the work of her sisters in the 70's the BBC crew he was with were horrified to discover just how dark the building in the slums where the sisters lived was. It was so dark as to be completely unsuitable for filming. Telling one of the sisters that they would have to abandon the project the news came to Mother who famously said "I will pray." She did so and despite the objections of the crew Malcolm insisted they would film. It was only when they got back to the UK that they discovered that the whole building appeared suffused in a beautiful calm light. The cameramen confessed themselves stumped... what we were seeing, said Muggeridge, was the light of Mother's prayer.

In some of her last words about this spiritual darkness Mother Teresa promised that she would be a "saint of darkness" and like Padre Pio and St. Therese the Little Flower, she promised that she would remain at the doors of Heaven to guide and help all those going through the trial of darkness in their own lives... She is a powerful advocate for those who are suffering and seeking... I pray to her often for light and suggest you might like to also.

Mother Teresa always said her work (and ours too) is simply to be faithful to God in the present moment and not to worry about success... success belongs to God and from the Divine perspective what looks like success to us can be failure to God and vice versa! Just think of the Crucifixion! To live the Christian life is to live one that ever more surely seems to be at odds with the way the world thinks and acts... in our topsy turvy witness we are those who remind the world of what and who are really important... perhaps that is the way that the darkness of our world and the way it treats the powerless, the poor and the hurting may be overcome by the light of the Gospel.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Ordinary Miracles

Ordinary Miracles.

Today I am so tired
I have no space in me for big.
I must return
to the small ordinary miracles;
to the way the cup and the bowl
laid upon this table,
once earth themselves,
after fire's touch,
are something else
and give themselves
with the simple symmetry
of their curved line
to the holding of emptiness
or fullness.
Or I will drink tea,
and follow it's warmth and healing touch
within and without,
and mingle my breath
with its vapour and touch
the journey of its essence
from far away lands
to here, to now, to me.
Or spend time simply remembering
that between the covers
of the books upon my shelves
are held
minds, lives, worlds, stories, wisdom
that will all last longer
than this little body of mine.
Or marvel at the striped stones
upon the shore that tell deep time,
layer by layer and recall
wild days of disaster and dancing
in their still sea vigil,
slowly loosing their grains
and building beaches for
children's hands to make sand castles
with until the next tide sets them
swimming again.
Or just knowing that already
I have seen a seed
become a tree
become a log
become a fire
become dust
become soil for seed's planting.
Or watch the sky
and know that the blue is
still behind the clouds
and the stars still shine
even in the day.
Or simply sit
with the slow rhythm of breath
knowing its biology as blessing,
its divine anchoring
as presence and prayer.
Today, I am so tired
I have no space in me for big
questions, queries, feelings,
problems, pains, plans,
whether mine or others,
so I will just sit
with the small ordinary miracles of being;
breathing, watching, touching, tasting
the now,
and in the now knowing
the love from which all that is, is.
I will dwell there, today,
in the wonder of it all,
in the wildness of
the small ordinary miracles
of being.

An old one but after a weekend teaching I'm feeling this one today...
May it bless +


Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Talk for the World Meeting of Families: The Family & Digital Technology: Making Space for Prayer

The Family and Digital Technology: Making Space for Prayer

Talk for the World Meeting of Families 2018: Brother Richard Hendrick

Some years ago I came across a concept which may serve to illustrate beautifully the changed circumstances our families find themselves in as they strive nowadays to be places of love, meaning, communion, prayer and faith. The concept I refer to is that of the “Transparent Home”.

Let me explain.

I am a child of Ireland of the 1970’s and 80’s…
However, in those far off distant days there were two primary arbitrators between me and the world. They were called Mum and Dad. If they didn’t like the behaviour I was engaged in, or the people I was hanging around with they would appear at the door and I would be told, “Richard! In!” and in I went… mumbling and grumbling along the way, but often somewhat relieved as well. Once in the house they continued to be the guardians of reality.

What do I mean by this?

Well, there was one TV in the Living Room. We gathered as a family to watch it. If something unsuitable appeared it was switched off or we were sent out of the room or up to bed. I always found my Father required a cup of tea just as things were really getting interesting on Dallas. There was no remote control. We were the remote control. There was one phone in the house, it was in the hall and later in the kitchen and if we were on it, it was amazing how often Mum would need to drift through the kitchen asking on her way, who it was we were speaking to? There were a few radios of course scattered around but that was it. Reading was actively encouraged and trips to the library and bookshops were common.

You see, the house was opaque to the world, and so it was, thankfully, a safe refuge from which to slowly venture into it, or to return to when things out there were overwhelming or even dangerous. We were gradually introduced to the outside world via Parents, Teachers, Clergy and Elders at a pace that was slow, allowed for self reflection and began locally before stretching out to the world at large.
Now what about today… 

Today, our homes, and indeed our families are transparent. You can call the young person in from the street but now the street, indeed the whole world comes in too via the ubiquitous smart phone, tablet and laptop. The Young Person exists in an always on, always available network of media that demands the same level of availability from them. It allows no time for reflection and encourages the externalisation of self-esteem, which often invites the young person into the living of a reactive rather than a proactive/reflective life that leads in turn to heightened emotionalism and the need to always be on the crest of a wave, seeking the next high, the next “like”.

It is a way of life that is exhausting, anxiety inducing and doomed to futility as we seek the perfect life that others seem to be having out there somewhere. Not for nothing do all of the great spiritual traditions teach that “comparison is the thief of joy”. In this new model the arbitrators of reality are no longer the adults and elders that bestow a wider, deeper, wisdom based narrative based on love, faith, prayer and communion, but are instead the often anonymous forced of so called social media that as we have seen on both a national and international scale are open to manipulation from market forces and perhaps even more decidedly negative ones too.
So what can we do, we who gather here at the call of our Holy Father and the World Meeting of Families to help young people and families in the midst of these sudden and sometimes dangerous changes?

Well, we first need to admit where we are and be present to reality as it is. We cannot go back, nor would we want to. We are well aware that the bucolic force of nostalgia only serves to isolate us further from the world. God is in the Now and so we must be too. We must praise and promote the positive changes that have occurred! Greater social connectivity and the possibilities for evangelisation and outreach inherent in new forms of media must be strengthened and become a ripe field for the harvest of the Gospel. But skills so as to manage these new ways of being must be taught and I propose that like the Scribes of the Kingdom, who bring forth things both new and old, our own Christian Contemplative Tradition has wonderful tools that can assist the young person and the family in their navigation of this changed world. The practices of Stillness, Silence, Reflection, Meditative forms of prayer that are at the heart of our tradition must be taught and above all lived again in the home and in the heart of the family. 

Thankfully such programmes that teach these practices exist and are part of our Church life today. Groups such as the World Community of Christian Meditation, Contemplative Outreach and the Sanctuary Centre in Dublin all offer courses aimed at introducing these ancient skills in new ways to the people of today. We need to recognise the importance of these practices as life-saving, indeed soul-saving tools that will allow us to negotiate the transparent homes and lives we are all living today so that at our centre we are still enough to hear the quiet breeze of the Spirit inviting us into this world as sons and daughters of the Kingdom, so as to create in the digital desert spaces of today oases of the spirit where the real presence of God may be found by those lost in the often overloading storms of life, both real and virtual today.

To finish I’d like to offer you three simple practices that can revolutionise our way of interacting with each other online:

The first is what has become known as the “3P method”. The three P’s are Pause, Pray and only then Post! They offer us a way of being present online in a reflective rather than reactive way. Something catches us online and we immediately feel we need to comment, to make our opinion known, to teach the other a lesson! All of these responses may simply be our ego igniting and may not be spiritually healthy for us or to those we are responding to. So take the fingers off the keys, pause and breathe; pray for the grace of the Holy Spirit to be present in your words and then see if you need to post. It is amazing how often when one has practiced the first two P’s the need to carry through to Post disappears. The three P’s: Pause, Pray, and only then Post!

The second is all about our use of time and intention. How do you wake up? Most people, and especially most young people will tell you that the first thing they do when they awake is to reach for the phone. Barely awake they are catapaulted into the virtual world and all the bad news present there. They are taken away from the present moment and taken away from the presence of those who are with them, and even from the awareness of the presence of God. So practice 2 is a simple consecration of the first moments of the day to being present to God, to those you live with and to yourself. It is the ancient practice of the Morning Offering made new for today.
Try it! You’ll be amazed at the positive difference it makes to you and to others around you. As one old friar used to say its going from your first thought being, “Good God it’s morning!” to “Good morning God!”

The third practice and the final one I will leave you with today is the practice of the bells! All monastic traditions have used bells to mark the passing of the day and as a call to awareness, mindfulness and attentiveness to the Divine Presence. Well you have a device that summons you with multiple bells throughout the day always with you; your phone! Why not set and hourly, (or more), reminder to take a moment to breathe, pray and become present to the real world around you, to the needs of your brothers and sisters, to the beauty of creation, to God. No one else need know what’s going on… they’ll just think you’re very popular with all the texts you’re getting!

So there we are, three small, gentle practices that have deep roots in our own Contemplative Tradition that can really help us negotiate the opportunities and challenges of new technology and ways of communicating that we enjoy today so that we do not lose ourselves in the process. Our homes and even our monasteries may have transparent walls these days but with the wisdom of the ancient practices we can grow in reflective discernment and begin to truly choose just who and what we want to be transparent to.

Thank you for your attention today!

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Assumption Eve Medicine

Assumption Eve Medicine
For two months turning
the old women,
they who have the knowing,
have watched their charges carefully.
Picked at the height of their power
on the short night, after the long day;
the feast of fire,
that vigils the Baptist’s coming,
when lads and ladies leap
like hares over flames
and look with longing for love,
as children sing the old songs
filled with mystic meaning;
that night they were gathered
as grace and gift
beneath the light of sister Moon,
the Lady’s lamp and plucked
from garden and from forest glade,
by woman’s hands alone.
Now, they, the herbs for healing,
hang in blessed bunches
over the hearth of home,
or kept in kitchens
above the range,
or bound in byres
where the warming breath
of the queen kine keeps them
charmed and waiting
to release their medicine,
the healing pulse
of sister Mother Earth
and Brother Sun’s distilled light
mixed, and married, and greened,
in root, and shoot,
and leaf, and flower.
So they, the healing herbs,
have rested until tonight
when as dusk comes on
and begins to breathe her
autumnal quickening,
these wise ones take them down
and bring them now
to the old places of prayer
to the abbeys and chapels,
to the candled shrines
of the sainted ones,
who themselves bore
the fruit of blessing
and were heaven’s healing,
the salve of souls,
upon the earth.
There they find
the Lady’s chapel,
and lay their leafy burdens
beneath the linen cloths
upon the Altar, there to await
Assumption’s dawn,
and as the Mass bells ring
to have the holy words
said over them that render
them thrice blessed again,
and ready to release their
gentle healing gifts,
blessed once in very being
from first beginning’s breathing,
blessed twice in the burning
touch of Love’s own resurrection light
when all was made anew,
blessed thrice by the Lady’s prayers,
she who is the stock from which
all healing blooms,
and in her gathering home raised all
that grows green upon this good earth
to become heaven’s healing help again;
Eden’s elixir restored in her
and birthed anew as grace,
just as these sainted herbs
ground upon the mortar’s stone
will give their essence up,
and become the holy way
by which their medicine
blesses bodies and anoints
our souls to ready us
in our own time,
for Heaven’s

Vigil of the Assumption 14th August 2018.

In many places it was the ancient custom for women to gather herbs around the feast of St. John the Baptist (Midsummer) and then bring them to the Churches for blessing on the feast of the Assumption before they were made into medicine for the Winter ahead. The herbs were placed beneath the Altar Cloths and around the Sanctuary before the dawn Mass there to be offered to the Lord, through Mary’s hands, she who is the “first fruits” of His saving love, so as to receive her special prayers of healing and be blessed in their medicinal use in the year ahead.
The Ritual of the Church still provides for such blessings should they be requested.
(Pics in this post found as random uncredited images on the web)