Christmas 2018


“Unleash the Gospel” is the title chosen for the renewal programme of the Archdiocese of Detroit, in the United States of America. The vision which underlines the programme was set out on Pentecost Sunday in 2017 and I have read of it many times since. The mental image it conjures up is of the Gospel on a leash, held in check, and straining to be free. And, of course, at the centre of it all is Jesus Christ, Son of God and son of Mary.

Christ at the centre of all of life, and of my life in particular is an on-going challenge. There are many things clamouring for attention in our world and in daily life, important things, essential things and others of lesser importance. Christmas time and all that goes with the preparation and the celebration of this holy season is an invitation to focus our attention on Jesus Christ, on Jesus at the centre of all of creation. In these days we will celebrate the birth of Jesus in time and in space, so that we might “attend to the birth of Christ within us” each day, a phrase I heard prayed this Advent which has stayed with me. Christmas is a time to savour that life of Jesus Christ within us, which is born, and reborn, and which can be unleashed or held in check. To savour this life of Jesus Christ with us, with family, with friends, with community, and with the community of faith, again and again until we are eternally in God.

This has been an eventful year in the life of the Church in Ireland and the visit of Pope Francis for the World Meeting of Families was a highpoint. His presence, his care and concern, his words spoken formally and informally, all pointed to  his faith in Jesus Christ, present and active in the Church and in society. The visit gave me new hope, and as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote in Spe Salvi 31 “we need the greater and lesser hopes that keep us going day by day.” Perhaps the visit of Pope Francis was one of the ‘greater or lesser hopes’ for us, “but these are not enough without the great hope … this great hope can only be God …God is the foundation of hope: not any god, but the God who has a human face and who has loved us to the end, each one of us and humanity in its entirety.” (Spe salvi 31).

Jesus, the ‘God with us’ has a human face, born of Mary, shared our human existence, and is born within each of us, we welcome him anew this Christmas and pray that his presence be “unleashed”.

A very happy and holy Christmas season to all who log in to our Province website.

Derry Murphy, SAC.


Abortion Cannot Be Supported – Catholic Bishops of Ireland


Following their Winter General Meeting in Maynooth, the Irish Catholic Bishops’ have published the following statement:

“We are dismayed that, for the most part, the voices of those who voted against abortion in May’s referendum have been ignored. Even what many people would have deemed to have be very reasonable legislative amendments seeking to provide women with information and to prohibit abortion on the grounds of sex, race or disability, have been rejected.

“As we stated after our Autumn Meeting, Irish society must have respect for the right of conscientious objection for all healthcare professionals and pharmacists. They cannot be forced either to participate in abortion or to refer patients to others for abortion.

“Every one of us has a right to life. It is not given to us by the Constitution of Ireland or by any law. We have it ‘as of right’, whether we are wealthy or poor, healthy or sick. All human beings have it. The direct and intentional taking of human life at any stage is gravely wrong and can never be justified.

“Women’s lives, and the lives of their unborn children, are precious, valued and always deserving of protection. Any law which suggests otherwise would have no moral force. In good conscience it cannot be supported and would have to be resisted.

“We offer our prayerful solidarity with everyone dedicated to the sanctity and protection of human life at all stages. We ask everyone of goodwill – whether at home, in parish, in school or at work – to continue to choose and to celebrate the preciousness of life.”

During their meeting a delegation of bishops met with individuals representing various pro-life groups from across Ireland, north and south. The aim of the gathering was to acknowledge their on-going commitment to upholding the dignity of unborn human life and to consult on the setting up of a new Council for Life under the aegis of the Bishops’ Conference which will operate from March 2019.


For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long +353 (0) 86 172 7678 and Brenda Drumm +353 (0) 87 310 4444

Getting Ready For God: Thoughts On Purgatory


I was in my room in Dublin one bitterly cold January day, getting ready to fly to South Africa to give a retreat to the Pallottine Seminarians there. Travelling light had become second nature to me and the case on my bed was fairly small but while I was packing it a voice inside me said, “you don’t need all this stuff.” But I ignored it because anything in it was actually essential – my bible, notes, just enough clothes.

And I arrived at Heathrow for the flight to Johannesburg, checked in my little suitcase and boarded the flight. By now the temperature had dropped to minus 7 and we were left sitting a long time in the plane while they made up their minds to fly or not. When they decided they would fly they discovered that there were no baggage handlers to put our luggage on the plane and after another long wait the pilot announced that we would fly without the luggage. There was a discontent murmur among the passengers but I just smiled as I thought of the voice I heard back in Dublin.

In Johannesburg they took our details and promised to send on our bags. My destination was a farm out in the country a good distance away. The temperature was thirty degrees and by the third day my bag had not arrived and I was in a bad way. My clothes reeked!

On that third day one of the students, Cosmas, came to me to say he would give me some of his clothes to wear. He is much taller and bigger than me and I thought I’m going to look ridiculous but there was no other option. So, he gave me his clothes and took away my own to wash them. Every second day he did the same. He was an angel of mercy and I looked ridiculous! And my bag never arrived!

This journey has become a parable for me of my journey home to eternal life, a symbol of what might happen to me in death when I pass from this world into the next. It is a process of being carried, an experience of letting go of the unnecessary aspects of my life, a stripping away of the old clothes, the washing away of the sweat and grime of the journey and being clothed with something new.

Purgatory is the name given by the Church to the stage in between death and our arrival into the fullness of life in heaven, an experience of purification in the fire of Divine Love, that fire desired by the mystics which is spiritual and not a physical burning. It is the stripping and burning away of what is imperfect so that we can put on what is perfect, not a legal perfectionism but the perfection of Love, the perfection that comes from Christ that we cannot attain by our own efforts.

My sister and I were talking about purgatory and she was surprised when I said that I will spend time in that state after I die. She thinks I should go straight to heaven but I know that I am not ready and will not be ready for full communion with God because, as it stands, only a miracle would break my attachment to sin.

I will need to let go of my resistance to God himself; I will need to be stripped of my resentments and desires for revenge; I will need to divest myself of and make some recompense for the hurts I have done to others; the injustices towards others that I have tolerated; for my disregard for God’s earth, the ways in which I have participated in its destruction. These are some of the things I will need to shed and let go of and I hope too that I will be consoled for the hurts inflicted on me in life, that the wounds of life will be somehow transformed or glorified.

One of Ireland’s most demanding pilgrimages is St. Patrick’s Purgatory in Lough Derg, an island on a lake in County Donegal, a place of penance and prayer. Once you get on that island there’s no getting off and no avoiding of what must be done but at the end there is a real sense of having been purified and it serves me as a good example of what Purgatory might be like. It is devoid of pleasure and devoid of sleep for a day, a night and another day. The one moment of pleasure is getting into bed after 36 hours of wakeful penance. And then it’s done!

Getting ready for God to me is like getting ready for my wedding and I see myself as a fisherman coming home on his trawler after a long labour at sea, with salt and grease and the odour of fish embedded in my flesh. I would not go directly from this noble labour to my wedding without meticulous preparation, a deep immersion in a thorough cleansing, because I would want to look and smell and be my best for the one I love. I want at least the same and more for God.

And in order to become our best selves in the presence of God we need others to help us, the souls of our loved ones need us to help them by our prayers, especially by the Mass. That’s why we dedicate ourselves to this during the month of November.


Prayer to St. Anthony of Padua


Dear Saint Anthony, we are all pilgrims on this earth. We came from God and we are going to Him. He who created us will welcome us at journey’s end. The Lord Jesus is preparing a place for all His brothers and sisters. Saint Anthony, Guide of Pilgrims, direct my steps in the straight path. Protect me until I am safely home in heaven. Help me in all my needs and difficulties. Amen!

KNOWN UNTO GOD: The Least Thing Has Meaning


It’s the summer of ’78 when ‘Saturday Night Fever’ is in full flight and I’m a student working in Germany for the holidays.

That same summer I went to visit the Rheinberg War Cemetery, the resting place of more than three thousand victims of World War II. I was struck by the silent stillness, the sheer beauty and peace of it and I pondered the contrasting uproar of ugliness, the unspeakable suffering that gave birth to this place. War is an awful reality that I cannot understand but I find in myself a great respect for every single person who has served in war in any capacity; the selfless generosity and courage is deserving of my honour and admiration.

And the peaceful silence that rests over such cemeteries seems to me to speak of promise – God’s promise of a lasting peace that is eternal, a peace that only Christ can give, a peace that will perhaps elude us as long as we live on earth, a peace that will find its fulfilment in heaven. Such a promise in no way is a justification for war but God has a war of turning all things to good.

Most of the headstones in Rheinberg bear the name of the one buried but there are 158 that bear no name and at the bottom of the headstone is written “Known Unto God” – this more than anything impresses itself on my heart and mind.

Known unto God is the most important knowing there is but it is part of our human makeup to ignore such knowing because we really want to be known by those around us. To be known and noticed and appreciated. Small things like someone noticing your new hairdo, the meal you cooked, the job you did in the garden and how we suffer when the ordinary things of our lives go unnoticed.

It’s a harsh reality for many people that there is no one there to notice anything about us and God is inviting us to pay attention to the fact that He takes notice of every single aspect of our lives. For sensitive souls, for the scrupulous of a certain generation this conjures up notions of God watching us in a fearsome way, ready to catch us out as soon as we make a mistake. I’m thinking about God noticing in an admiring, appreciative way. This matters when one is left feeling unimportant, insignificant in life.

When my mother died, I suddenly realized that I was no longer anybody’s son. My father was already 18 years gone and I became nobody’s child in this world. It hit home to me when someone asked, “whose are you now?” It happens to the widowed or when one’s child has died. It creates an emptiness that cannot be put into words and in some way we became nothing for a while, a long while.

I’m thinking about a book someone gave me years ago – ‘Even the Least Thing Has Meaning’ – and I’m thinking about a single leaf on top of a tree that I was admiring one day. That leaf is visible to no one except God and the birds and in that lies its meaning – that it is seen by God, known by God, admired by God who created it and that is enough. During that little meditation I was feeling very insignificant and, on the edge, and it was a grace that I could accept that it was enough for me to be seen and known by God. Ultimately, I am a son of God and that’s enough.

It’s what we come across in the gospels – the supreme importance of what is little and seemingly of no account. The child. At our family Mass on Sunday we have a rather lengthy offertory procession – someone suggested that it takes half an hour which is not true. Maybe it takes ten minutes but it is important because every single little thing presented there by the child matters to God, every single child matters as do the parents who walk with them. They represent all of us and somehow, they are making all the little offerings on behalf of the whole community. After Mass today a little girl came to me with a fallen, fading leaf which she handed to me with a smile saying, “this is for you Father.” Even the least thing has meaning!

It is one of the lovely things I liked about the offertory in Tanzania. Not just the children but every person in the congregation came forward with an offering – some with money, others with a few onions or eggs or a bag of grain – essential aspects of life, things that matter however small.

There’s an offering taking place in today’s gospel (Mark 12:38-44). People putting money into the treasury, some putting in a lot and maybe feeling important in doing so but the one who catches the attention of Jesus is the poor widow who puts in two small coins. She might have put in the least amount compared to all the others but, for Jesus, she has put in everything she had and so her offering is wholehearted, completely generous.

So, when we find in life that we have little or nothing to give, it’s important to give all the same because it matters in itself and it matters to God with whom what is insufficient becomes sufficient, more than enough.

The widow of the first reading reminds me of a little experience I had at communion time at Mass one time at a retreat I was attending.  I was given the chalice to share with the people and as soon as I saw it, I said to myself, “this is never enough for all this crowd” and I felt a bit annoyed with the priest who had put the wine in the chalice, that he hadn’t put in more.

And so the people were coming to me one by one and I kept thinking that this will never last, the Precious Blood will run out when the words of the Prophet Elijah came into my mind, words spoken in today’s first reading – “The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail” ( 1 Kings 17:10-16)– and so it was with the chalice. When Communion was finished there was actually some left over. More than enough in the end!

Annual UAC Retreat, Thurles 2018


The annual UAC retreat is an established event in our Pallottine calendar and took place from Friday 28th to Sunday 30th September. The theme of the retreat this year was the Call to Holiness in the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, Gaudete et Exsultate. We were 33 participants in all, some from the local area around Thurles, members of the Cahir group, the Cork group and those who travelled down from Dublin, from Dundrum and the parishes in Corduff and Shankill. As always we were warmly welcomed by the local Pallottine Community in the College in Thurles and the good Lord blessed us with lovely weather so that we were able to enjoy the grounds and some fresh air.

Homily on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of Fr. Martin Mareja’s priesthood.


Friday, 10th August 2018, Mbugwe Parish, Manyara Region, Tanzania.

My dear brothers and sisters,

I salute you in three languages: Kimbugwe, that is a local language here (talala mocheye), Swahili (habari gani) our national language and English in honour of our visitors from overseas.

We are gathered here to congratulate Fr. Martin Marsel Mareja as he celebrates 25 years of his priestly ministry. Let us all give him a round of applause.  Basically, today we can say one word only, “Asante” (thank you).  Preaching is part and parcel of a life of a priest, so today you’ve got to bear with me as I will speak a little bit longer than usual.

Frirst of all, I wish to sincerely thank Fr. Martin for asking me to preach on this most important occasion of his life as he celebrates 25th anniversary of priesthood. I want to share with you an incident which occurred two days before the ordination of Martin and Ludovic Njaiko an Augustinian, by the way two of them were ordained together.  By then I was a curate to Fr. Michael Barry in Magugu parish. We had everything in place after working so hard and had erected a platform which was covered by an expensive tarpaulin. Some people came at night and stole it; this created confusion and anger because it just happened at a very last minute before the event itself. I will never forget it and I still remember it vividly the hurt caused to people who gave so much of their finance and time to erect the platform. God is good! We sent a runner to Fr. John Kelly, SAC, in Gallapo who gave us a loan of tarpaulin and the ordination took place smoothly on 8th August 1993. I believe God’s hand worked miracles.

Today, 25 years after, Fr. Martin Mareja celebrates the Silver Jubilee of priestly ministry, inside a church in construction. I can see that roofing is done with steel and corrugated sheets from South Africa. It would take a set of heavy machinery to bring it down so for those who stole the tarpaulin two days before his ordination, they have no hope and chance of stealing the roof where he is celebrating his silver Jubilee Mass in thanksgiving to God. I wish to congratulate the Parish Priest, his collaborator and all parishioners for the good work of building a permanent parish church.

The first reading for today’s liturgy is from Gen. 12:1-3. It speaks about the call of Abram. Yahweh said to Abram, “Leave your country, your family and your father’s house, for a land  I will show you…” God calls with authority. God called Martin from his small village of “Osoley”, from his family, friends and away from his familiar environment to join a Congregation where the Lord wanted him to be. And, in obedience, he followed and today he is celebrating 25 years of service in the Lord’s vineyard as a member of the Pallottine family. Give him a round of applause.

Abram didn’t know where he was going but he trusted in God. The same applied to Fr. Martin. Martin trusted in God to lead him where he wanted to. No doubt he still does.

God said to Abram, “I will make you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great.”Although Abram may not have witnessed the fulfilment of all the promises but most of them were fulfilled in his lifetime.  I believe that Fr. Martin has experienced many times God fulfilling his promises through the apostolate entrusted to him by our Society.  Talking to him he told me that he has gone through many challenges but at the same time he has enjoyed and still enjoys the privilege of serving the family of God where he is sent. He has been blessed serving in different places and roles in our Society. Currently he is in charge of our Mission Office in Thurles, Ireland. He is a blessing to the people he serves there. Likewise he receives God’s graces from the service he gives.  He is a blessing to his family, friends, to our Society and to the universal Church.

God said to Abram, “and in you all the peoples of the earth will be blessed.” We congratulate you Fr. Martin for the work you do. We ask God to continue to bless you with the many graces you need in your life and in your ministry.

In the Gospel story from Lk. 17:11-19, Jesus meets ten lepers calling him, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us. Then Jesus said to them, go and show yourselves to the priest.” The story goes on that, as they went their way, they found they were cured. One of them turned back, praising God in a loud voice. Jesus was amazed by the ingratitude of the other nine whom he had just cured.

This gospel passage reminds us of how many people find it very difficult to show gratitude to God or to people who have been kind to us. I’m delighted that Fr. Martin saw the need and importance of expressing his gratitude to God on this day as he celebrates his Silver Jubilee of priesthood. He wishes to thank God for the many blessings he has received in his life and ministry.

Today, Fr. Martin Mareja invites all of us gathered here to thank God with him. He invites us to thank with him his parents, teachers, formators, friends, neighbours, members of his Society, members of the Union of the Catholic Apostolate, all religious and all people of good will who in one way or another have touched his life. Fr. Martin I wish to conclude by expressing my sincere thanks to the parishioners of Mbugwe and everybody gathered here for making this day a memorable one. I suppose I should be including the homilist of today as well in all this.

God is good! All the time God is good.

Ad multos annos.

God bless you all.

Fr James Amasi, SAC.

The Lord Has Opened My Ear


The Great Commission by Gerry Flaherty in Loving Memory of Fr. Seamus Stapleton SAC

“The Lord has opened my ear. For my part I made no resistance, neither did I turn away.” (Isaiah 50:5)

Sometime before he died, Fr. Seamus Stapleton commissioned a painting to be hung by the baptismal font. Sadly, he died before it was completed but the artist, Gerry Flaherty carried on the work which is entitled “The Great Commission”. I collected it when I was in Ireland in August and we hung it in its place on September 14th which is Seamus’ birthday and feast of the Triumph of the Cross.

The setting is Rockanore, so it localizes the Gospel, brings it home to us and depicts Jesus on the shore with St. Peter and some saints who were of importance to Seamus and includes St. Vincent Pallotti. The rest of the apostles are on their fishing boats coming in to shore and you will notice on the front on one boat is Fr. Seamus himself dressed in white. The decision to include Seamus was made by the artist after his death and it means for us that Seamus is present with us in a visible way and will remain present through all of time.

It’s worth taking time to ponder the painting. Firstly, I imagine that Jesus and Peter are having the conversation from today’s Gospel. Who do you say I am? You are the Christ. You are Peter, the rock. Get behind me!

Secondly, I think about where I am in this picture in relation to Jesus and I have already found where. Thirdly, I think of which saints I would place in the painting and lastly, I think of what Jesus and I would be saying to each other.

In commissioning this painting Seamus was listening to the inner voice of the Spirit and through it has given us a message, a prayer and a meditation.

This is the ideal – that the interior ear of heart and soul and mind is open to hearing what God is saying, that we listen and offer no resistance to what is being said by God. Last week we witnessed the healing of physical deafness through the commanding prayer of Jesus – “Ephphatha, be opened!” Today we might ask Him to do the same for us in our inner selves.

Listening is not always easy. Sometimes we listen only to what we want to hear because we are often afraid of what is being said, confused by it, cannot take it in. We dismiss the Word of God and by doing so deprive ourselves of the most profound blessings.

Peter is an example of the difficulty we have in truly listening and receiving what Jesus is offering. On the one hand Peter hears the question, “who do you say I am?” and he offers an answer that is divinely revealed, showing how in tune he is with God. In St. Matthew’s version of this Jesus goes on to say to Peter, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter,[b] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[c] will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[d] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[e] loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17-19) By this response Peter becomes the first Pope.

But it’s one thing to say under the influence of the Holy Spirit that Jesus is the Christ; it’s quite another to accept what that actually means in practise. So, when Jesus explains that to be the Christ will involve terrible suffering and death, Peter won’t hear of it. He stands in front of Jesus and literally blocks his path saying, “this must not happen!” And in saying this he moves from being the divinely inspired instrument of God to becoming an instrument of the devil. He is a complex man who holds serious contradictions within himself and in this he represents all of us in the greatness, the sinfulness, the best and worst, with all our paradox and contradiction.

Jesus rebukes Peter and puts him in his place but He doesn’t dismiss or reject him, doesn’t revoke the calling conferred on him. Jesus knows the plans He has in mind for Peter, He knows exactly what He is going to do with him (Jeremiah 29 & John 6).

Peter’s place is not in front of Jesus but behind Him; it is not for Peter to go ahead of Jesus but to follow Him; it is not for Peter to block the path of Jesus but to make way for Him. Peter represents Pope Francis and he represents you and me – who we are and who we are to become; what our place is in relation to Jesus and His mission. Jesus knows the plans He has in mind for each of us, even when we get it terribly wrong. He knows exactly what He is going to do.

The place that Jesus has chosen for Himself is right in the midst of human suffering and it is there that we best find him. We sometimes use suffering to question God and to run away from Him but if we would only listen and stay, then we would find Him right at the heart of our own personal suffering, at the heart of the suffering of the world – as its Redeemer and Saviour and Lord.

So, let’s take a moment to pray and listen. Ephphatha, Lord, you have opened my ear and I offer you no resistance, I will not turn away. I will follow behind you, walk with you but never ahead of you. I will not be an obstacle in your path even though I may not understand what you are doing. You are Jesus my Saviour. You are my Lord, my Life and my Love. I adore you profoundly. Amen!

Renewal of Consecration of Christy Burke SAC


Congratulations and blessings to Christy Burke SAC on the Renewal of his Consecration as a Pallottine on September 12, 2018 Feast of the Holy Name of Mary, Mother of Divine Love

Ciaran Carragher, Fr. John Egan SAC and Christy Burke SAC

Fr. Mike O’Dwyer SAC (Shankill), Fr. Michael Irwin SAC (Dundrum), Ciaran Carragher (Dundrum), Fr. John Egan SAC (Dundrum), Fr. John Regan SAC (Corduff), Fr. Derry Murphy SAC (Provincial), Christy Burke SAC (Dundrum), Fr. Jaimie Twohig SAC (Shankill) and Fr. Donal McCarthy SAC (Dundrum)

Christy Burke signing his Form of Consecration with Fr. Derry