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11th Dec, 2017

athgarvan

HAS THE CATHOLIC MASS RITUAL ANYTHING TO OFFER THE ATHEIST?

A short summary of an interesting article I came across by Joe Humphreys - an atheist himself.

In a fast-changing world, where human values are in flux, religious habits can act as an anchor.

Penitential Act: Sin is out of fashion these days, so the act of contrition that opens Mass is refreshing. “I confess… to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault…” One is taking responsibility for oneself; not pointing the finger elsewhere in an age of sharp and highly-judgmental public debate.

Sermon: The priest, has spent time with people at their most vulnerable, trying to make sense of sorrow and despair. When a priest gets up to speak there’s usually some wisdom amid the otherworldly sentiment e.g. on the death of someone, people often say "How old was she? or “Was she sick long?” while the questions that really matter are: "Was she loved? Did she love? Is she loved?” Versions of the Golden Rule can be found in all world religions and it underpins humanist thought on equality and social justice. How can I learn to love more and how can we show love to those who wake up each morning feeling unloved? Never mind about loving our enemies!

Virtue: Greek philosophy has always emphasised the role of human morality (strict rules) against the stance of utilitarianism.

Prayer: If secular humanists could steal one thing from the Christian it should be prayer. A lot of Christian prayers are about gratitude. Leon Kass says. “A blessing offered over a meal still fosters a fitting attitude toward the world, whose gracious bounty is available to us, and not because we merit it. Wolfing down food dishonours both the human effort to prepare it, and the lives of those plants and animals sacrificed on our behalf. The "Lord’s Prayer” at Mass contains a similar plea for perspective, the key line being: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. Asking for forgiveness aloud in a room full of other people is cathartic. Forgiveness is such a key virtue for one’s mental health, and indeed for the health of society. Each step of civilisation – each rebirth after trauma or war – has been marked by forgiveness.

Silence: Silences in the Mass are like a mini-retreat from the world. Through silence we are reconnecting in an important way with the cycle of life.

Other aspects of the Mass the atheist can identify with: the music, the readings, the sign of peace. The relatively charitable and sincere ambience surrounding Mass can be a tonic in a world of cynicism and intellectual segregation. People trying to be the best versions of themselves.

8th Dec, 2017

athgarvan

CHRISTIAN PRAYER

We Christians go on a lot about the importance of prayer! But what is it? The most basic answer, I suppose,  is “talking to that Personal Mystery we call 'God'.” Prayer is not meditation or passive reflection, although these are often equated with prayer. Prayer is the primary way we Christians communicate our emotions and desires with God. It can be audible or silent, private or public, formal or informal but it must always be offered in faith in the name of the Lord Jesus, and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Christian prayer is the whole of our desire to enter into conscious and intimate communion with God. Prayer is co-operating with God to bring about his plan for us, not trying to bend him to our will.

What is called 'Contemplative' prayer has recently increased in practice and popularity among Christians. This is a meditative practice where the practitioner focuses on a word and repeats that word over and over for the duration of the exercise. The purpose is to clear one’s mind of outside concerns so that God’s voice may be more easily heard. After a  'centering' exercise, the practitioner sits still and listens for direct guidance from God, and feels His presence. By design, this form of prayer focuses on having a mystical experience of God. Mysticism, however, is purely subjective, and does not rely upon scriptural truth. Can it be harmful to Christians? Contemplative prayer is no different than the meditative exercises used in Eastern religions and New Age cults. Its most vocal supporters embrace an open kind of spirituality among adherents from all religions, promoting the idea that salvation is gained by many paths, even though Christ himself stated that salvation comes only through him.

7th Dec, 2017

athgarvan

SANTA IS ON HIS WAY

The name 'Santa Claus' comes from the 4th-century bishop St. Nicholas who is buried in the crypt of the Basilica di San Nicola in Bari, Italy. Nicholas used his whole inheritance to give help to the needy, the sick, and the suffering. But what did he look like?

Since 1930 Coca-Cola have used an image of Santa Claus as: a jolly old man with a white beard, fluffy red suit and rosy red cheeks since 1930. They based it on that of  Clement Clark Moore’s 1822 poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas." But what did the 'real' St. Nicholas look like?

Researchers in Liverpool have been able to reconstruct it for us. Thousands of measurements and x-ray photographs have been taken of his skull and bones. The facial reconstruction by Professor Caroline Wilkinson in 2004 was updated in 2014. This gives us a good idea of what the original 'Santa Claus' would have looked like - “a Greek man, living in Turkey … about 60 years old, 5 feet 6 inches tall, who had a heavy jaw and a broken nose.”

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro' the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar plums danced in their heads'.   Clement Clark Moore

4th Dec, 2017

athgarvan

Donald Trump turns on the Christmas lights at the White House.

But all the media saw were 'empty seats'!! I had to search for the speech itself!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8ZQrZILulM

28th Nov, 2017

athgarvan

WE MUST LEARN A NEW WAY

I understand that the National Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sweden is urging its clergy to use gender-neutral language when referring to the Mystery we call God. I'm inclined to go with them in this.

Thomas Berry (1914-2009) once wrote: " It's a question of story". The 'old' story we grew up on is no longer functioning properly. It shaped our emotional attitudes, provided us with a life purpose, consecrated suffering, integrated knowledge and guided education. But it is no longer life-giving, and we have not yet learned a 'new' way of expressing the old spiritual realities.

Traditional religious terms such as 'Christmas', 'Creation', and even 'Love', that most central of Christian concepts,  have been hi-jacked. We must now find new ways of expressing our relationship with the Mystery we call God.

Antje Jackelén, a lady bishop in Sweden

As is often the case, many in the Church are living new realities before they are finally recognized by the hierarchy.

24th Nov, 2017

athgarvan

A PRACTICAL IDEA FOR THE CHRISTMAS!

athgarvan

OUR WINTER VISITORS

Just across the mouth of the Slaney River from me here in Wexford is the feeding ground of a colony of Greenland White-fronted Geese. About 12,000 of them arrive here in October/November after a treacherous 15 hour flight via Iceland and stay until April.

The Greenland White-fronted Goose, is a subspecies of the Greater White-fronted Goose, and is one of Europe’s rarest geese. The movement of thousands of these birds en masse against a crimson sky is quite a spectacle.

They graze on a range of plant material such as roots, tubers, shoots and leaves and on grasses such as clover, spilt grain, winter wheat and potatoes.

Having spent the winter resting and replenishing their stores of body fat here on the Wexford slob-lands, by April they are in excellent condition to make their return journey to their breeding grounds.

19th Nov, 2017

athgarvan

A HARD ONE

If you could go back and do it all again, and recalling the many details of your marriage, would you marry your wife/husband  again?

Options: Yes (   )   No (   )   I don’t know (   )

Consider the question for a day or two before answering.

18th Nov, 2017

athgarvan

CHRISTMAS

Christmas-tide is with us again. We Christians should abandon Christmas. It has been hijacked from us by big business and commercialisation. It no longer conjures up feelings of spirituality in people. We must accept that we have lost it and set up another feast to honour God's greatest gift to us - his love. Big business does not appreciate what real love is; love always involves giving. Big business only understands taking under the guise of giving.

If Christians were asked to complete this sentence: "When I think of Christmas, I think of . . . ".  it is safe to say that many would reply 'shopping' or 'gifts' or 'home-coming' or 'turkey dinner' or 'carols' or 'holidays' or,  sadly, 'a lonely time'.

Of course non-believers deserve and need their winter celebration too. It's an essential human dynamic. Unfortunately however, traditional Christian institutions are slow to change and secularisation and modern life will continue to take over their special occasions and celebrations.

'Christmas' no longer means Christmas.

10th Nov, 2017

athgarvan

WINTER

I suppose in these winter days we have to be thankful for anything that lifts our spirits - a glimpse of the sun through the clouds, a nice
latte in the afternoon, hot soup, little acts of kindness, laughter, music that's to our taste,  words that inspire us, the beauty around us, and, always, family and friends.
                                                                                             

Of course we must also remember that there are so many people, especially children, across the globe today who sadly have the sun but do not have any of these little pleasures.

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