Sunday 19 June 2011

Prayer for June - at Pentecost

The Holy Spirit came to inspire the apostles on the day of Pentecost, which we celebrate on the 12th of June this year. So this month we shall pray together this prayer by Dr Olive Wyon, translator and theologian.

Prayer to the Spirit
Spirit of promise, Spirit of unity,
we thank you that you are also the Spirit of renewal.
Renew in the whole Church, we pray,
that passionate desire for the coming of the kingdom
that will unite all Christians in one mission to the world.
May we all grow up together into him, who is our head,
the Saviour of the world, and our only Lord and Master.

Olive Wyon, 1881- 1966

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Prayer for May - Rogation

I'm rather late in posting the May parish prayer, but here it is at last!

Rogation Sunday, the 29th May this year, and the 3 days following, are traditionally a time to ask God’s blessing on our fields and crops and livestock. So for May let us use the old BCP Rogation collect in modern language.

Almighty God, Lord of heaven and earth,
in whom we live, and move, and have our being;
who causes the sun to rise on the evil and on the good,
and sends rain to fall on both the just and the unjust;
We ask you to favour your faithful people,
and to bless us with a fruitful season;
that with hearts filled with your goodness,
we may always give thanks unto you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

The Book of Common Prayer, adapted

Sunday 24 April 2011

Wishing You Every Blessing this Easter

Resurrection of Christ, with women at the Tomb,
by Fra Angelico (c. 1395 –1455), at St Marco, Florence

from Joc and Marty Sanders

Christ, the Lord, is risen today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth, reply, Alleluia!

Friday 1 April 2011

Prayer for April - Anima Christi

As we approach a joyful Easter-tide, let us recall all the blessings we have received through Christ’s passion and death, in this lovely, comforting C14th Latin prayer.

Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, refresh me
Water from the side of Christ, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
O good Jesu, hear me
Within Thy wounds hide me
Suffer me not to be separated from Thee
From the malicious enemy defend me
In the hour of my death call me
And bid me come to Thee
That with thy saints I may praise Thee
For ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday 2 March 2011

Christ be with me

Lent is upon us and St Patrick’s Day follows close behind. So what better prayer to use in March as we start to walk the road to Calvary with Christ, while days stretch and life burgeons all around us, than this verse from St Patrick’s Breastplate:

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in heart of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

St Patrick's Breastplate is traditionally said to have been written in Old Irish by the saint in the 5th Century, though modern scholars suggest it may be a little later. Isaiah and St Paul both talk of the 'breastplate of righteousness' as being part of the armour of God. This verse is like a little comforting talisman, which we can pray whenever we are worried or frightened to remind ourself of Jesus's words, 'Remember, I will be with you till the end of the age'.

Monday 28 February 2011

Stirring from hibernation

Pussy Willow (Salix sp) against a blue sky
I'm starting to stir from my winter hibernation and get out into the garden as new life burgeons all around - how hard I find it to do so when days are short, windy, wet and dark! But I'm horrified to see I haven't blogged the garden since July...

The other morning frogs were croaking in the patio pond - lo and behold, there was the frogspawn heralding this years tadpoles.

The birds Susanna has been assiduously feeding all winter are developing their breeding plummage and becoming even more agressive around the feeding stations. It's sad to record that tit numbers were greatly reduced in the hard weather. A pair of Blue Tits and a couple of pairs of Great Tits remained all winter with us, but the Coal Tits disappeared altogether, though I'm glad to say I saw one again yesterday. In consolation however we have been overrun all winter long with Goldfinches feeding on Niger seed.

And one of our hares has returned, a doe I think - I hope it does less damage than a couple of years ago.

Here are some photos of Spring flowers in the garden today, blooming their little socks off - how it raises the spirits! The only dark cloud on the horizon is that I can't get the mower to start to clear up the last of the autumn leaves.
Primula vulgaris sibthorpii
Helleborus orientalis in the wilderness

A drift of yellow dutch crocuses in the meadow

Clump of yellow dutch crocuses

Blue and yellow dutch crocuses

Daffodils about to burst

Cream-coloured Crocus crysanthus

Catkins on Corylus contortus

Sunday 13 February 2011

Rebuilding Cologne

This article appeared in the 'View from the Pew' column in the February 2011 edition of Newslink, the diocesan magazine for Limerick & Killaloe.

The soaring pinnacles of Cologne Cathedral

The best way to arrive in Cologne is by train.
That is how my wife and I arrived last May, on the first leg of our continental holiday, which would take us on by train to Prague (see October’s column), Vienna and Bratislava. The main station is at the heart of the old city, close to the Rhine, and barely a stone’s throw from the soaring pinnacles of the immense and beautiful gothic cathedral. I’m so glad we broke the journey there, because I had never visited it before, and it is one of Europe’s great cities.

Cologne was already a great city in Roman times, named Colonia Agrippina after the wife of Emperor Claudius, an important trading centre, the capital of the province of Germania Inferior, and the seat of a bishop from just after 300AD. It must have been magnificent, judging by the remains displayed in the superb modern Roman-Germanic Museum.

The city and its Prince-Bishops, electors of the Holy Roman Empire, became immensely wealthy in the high middle ages, through trade as a member of the Hanseatic League, but also from pilgrimage. Pilgrims came from all over Europe to visit the reputed relics of the Three Kings, looted by crusaders from Constantinople and taken to Milan, from whence they were brought to Cologne in 1164. Their pious gifts financed the building of the magnificent cathedral started in 1248, with its wonderful stained-glass and amazing treasures, including a seven-foot-long gold and jewelled shrine made to house the bones of the Three Kings. The reformation put an end to the pilgrimage and money ran out to finish the cathedral. The nave and the two lofty spires were not completed until 1880 in a Germany newly united under the Prussian Kaisers.

The Shrine of the Three Kings in Cologne Cathedral

Cologne today is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city full of character.
Everyone we met was friendly and helpful. Our small hotel was spotless. We ate well in small restaurants and traditional beer halls. We enjoyed big band jazz in the spectacular concert hall. We strolled along bustling shopping streets. We crossed the Rhine on a ferry, lounged on a beach in a beautiful park beside the river, and returned on a cable-car.

The people clearly love their city, Köln in German, smiling proudly when you admire it. Kölsch is the name of their unique beer. Kölsch is what they call the laid-back atmosphere of the place. And Kölsch people relish local delicacies like ‘Himmel un Äd’ (Heaven and Earth in the Kölsch dialect - black pudding with mashed potatoes and apple sauce), as well as Turkish döner kebab and curry-wurst.

But dark shadows of WW2 lurk everywhere.
Cologne suffered the first allied 1000 bomber raid at the end of May 1942. By 1945, 90% of buildings had been destroyed, with untold numbers of citizens. With love and pride the people rebuilt their city. New buildings, many copies of the old, respect the medieval street-plan in the old city. Ancient Romanesque churches have been painstakingly restored. It is hard for tourists to see the horror of what happened here, almost in my lifetime. But the shadows remain.

In the cloister of the rebuilt basilica of St Gereon, beside a bright modern nursery school, lie scattered modest graves of civilians killed in the final allied assault on the city.

The interior of romanesque Great St Martin today

An Irishman called Arnold was once Abbot of Great St Martin, bare and peaceful inside, and graced with lovely modern stained glass. At first sight I thought the massive Romanesque columns and clover leaf choir had been miraculously preserved. A second glance revealed the seams between ancient and modern masonry. And then I saw this photograph taken in 1945.

Great St Martin church in 1945

Why do I bother to write about this?
Because we must never again allow a European city to be destroyed as Cologne was. Our nations share so much, including a common Christian heritage. The great vision of the European Union is to bind us so close together that such war and devastation becomes impossible. Yet I continually hear people run down the EU and talk as if they would like it to break up, particularly since our recent multi-billion Euro bailout. That is dangerous talk. It would be much better to embrace our European identity and work with our partners to strengthen the bonds which bind us together in peace and freedom.

We are all Europeans!

Wednesday 2 February 2011

The Ephesian's Prayer

During February we shall be taking a break from the standard lectionary readings to follow themes from the Letter to the Ephesians. So it seems very suitable to use as the parish prayer for February Paul’s prayers for the Ephesians, adapted into a prayer we can pray for ourselves.
Father of glory, God of our Lord Jesus Christ,
give us your Spirit of wisdom and revelation,
as we grow to know you more fully.
Enlighten the eyes of our heart,
that we may know the hope to which you call us,
the riches of your inheritance among the saints,
and the immeasurable greatness of your power.
May the breadth and length and depth and height
of Christ’s love, which is beyond all knowledge,
fill us to the brim with all your fullness.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

after Paul the Apostle,
Ephesians 1:17-19 & 3:18-19

Saturday 29 January 2011

Evening of Prayer for Christian Unity in Nenagh

Gathering to pray for Christian Unity

Nenagh Catholics hosted Christians from the Church of Ireland and other traditions at an evening of prayer for Christian unity in St Mary’s of the Rosary on Sunday 23rd January. The prayers were provided by Christians in Jerusalem, who chose the challenging theme ‘All things in common’. The organ was played by Roisín Ryan, and Antoinette Cleary led the singing.

Gathering. Fr Pat Malone PP welcomed the congregation, who joined in singing the Pilgrim Song, ‘Brother, sister, let me serve you’, as readers and representatives came forward to place candles, a Bible and a plain wooden cross on an altar table. Fr Pat then led prayers of intercession for Jerusalem and the world, during which incense was offered symbolising prayer rising to God.

Liturgy of the Word. We listened attentively to God’s word. Rae Croft read from Isaiah. We sang Psalm 96 in a Scottish metrical version to the tune of ‘Amazing Grace’. Mary O’Donnell read from Acts. Audrey Gordon read from Matthew’s Gospel. In a short address, Joc Sanders asked what our response would be to the challenge from Jerusalem: would we leave separately with just warm feelings, or would we leave together determined to act to bring closer a unity of love and purpose?

Response. John Cullen led prayers of penitence and declared the Peace, which all shared with handshakes. After singing ‘Christ be with me’, we joined in saying the Apostles’ Creed. Fr Pat introduced the prayer for Christian Unity, during which representatives from the different traditions came forward two by two to light a candle and offer petitions, to which we responded with the words, ‘May everything become new and make visible our unity’. Then we joined together in the Lord’s Prayer.

Sending out. Sr Patricia Greene led a closing prayer and Fr Pat gave a final blessing. Jane Coman read from Revelation, and before leaving we sang a closing hymn, ‘A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another as I have loved you’.

Afterwards many of us shared light refreshments kindly laid on by ladies of the Catholic parish in the Pastoral Centre. It was generally agreed that the evening of prayer had been moving and well worth while, both a challenge to our separation and a lovely opportunity to come together – definitely something to be repeated.

Briefing participants beforehand

Enjoying refreshments in the Pastoral Centre

Wednesday 5 January 2011

Letter to the Irish Times - Solving our water problems

The following later from me was published in the Irish Times for 5th January 2011, in response to one from Professor Eugene O'Brien on 1st January.

Madam, – The bad weather has exacerbated the current water shortages, and perhaps exasperated Prof Eugene O’Brien (January 1st). While he is correct to say the weather is not the root cause, and to point out the need to invest consistently in water infrastructure, his letter may mislead your readers by suggesting that the proposed pipeline from the Shannon will solve such problems.

There is plenty of raw water in Dublin region reservoirs at present. The water shortages are due to years of under-investment in Dublin’s local water infrastructure. There is insufficient treatment capacity and buffer storage to handle weather shocks, and the mains network leaks like a sieve – 30 per cent of treated water is currently wasted year round, compared to best practice of 5-6 per cent in some European cities.

If ever built, the €450 million pipeline from the Shannon would likely be an expensive white elephant. The promoters try to justify it by saying Dublin will need half again as much water by 2040 as it used in 2010. But this is based on Celtic Tiger era projections for population and economic growth, which surely no one believes any more. With realistic growth projections, fixing leaks, and sensible demand management measures, like water metering and charging, and harvesting of rainwater and grey water for non-drinking purposes, Dublin will not need Shannon water for the foreseeable future.

The pipeline scheme should be shelved now, and available resources invested to bring Dublin’s local water infrastructure up to international standards.

– Yours, etc,
JOC SANDERS CEng, Dromineer, Nenagh, Co Tipperary.