Saturday 29 April 2017

AS EVENING FALLS: An Emmaus Reflection - Fr. Eamonn Monson sac

“…they pressed him to stay with them. ‘It is nearly evening’ they said, ‘and the day is almost over.’ So, he went in to stay with them. Now while he was with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; but he had vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’

This is one of the loveliest and most tender moments in the Bible, a moment that inspired this prayer that we say in the Divine Office:

‘Stay with us, Lord Jesus, as evening falls;
Be our companion on our way.
In your mercy inflame our hearts and raise our hope,
So that, in union with our brothers and sisters
We may recognize you in the Scriptures
And in the breaking of Bread
Who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.’

It is the desire of us all that the Lord Jesus would stay with us, that we would experience the warmth of His presence and of course He is with us but we don’t always recognize Him or feel His presence. We are often at the early stage of this journey to Emmaus – the time of sadness, darkness, blindness and confusion; we find ourselves running away from the painful realities that might in fact be our salvation.

I think that we as an Irish nation are at this early stage of the journey even as we long for the warmth of its conclusion.

My young companion Fr. Jaimie and I often have a kind of spontaneous Emmaus evening when we sit together and chat about the things that matter to us; we have conversations about some of the hard realities of our lives, conversations that eventually warm our hearts because they have Jesus as their centre. Jaimie has a purity and keenness of spirit that I have come to trust.

Recently, after his return from pilgrimage in Medjugorje he spoke about the strange coldness he found in Ireland, a coldness that contrasted with the warmth of Medjugorje – and he wasn’t talking about the weather! He was talking about a coldness of the spirit and it resonated with me because I have been feeling it myself of late.

It’s a feeling I usually experience with death and grief. When someone close to me dies, I am already cold inside even before I hear the news of their death. And I feel cold in relation to Ireland – as if we are dead or dying.

When I reflect on what transpired at the Citizen’s Assembly last weekend then I understand why there is such coldness in the spiritual air of the country. We have become a people like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus – a people walking away from salvation, our eyes, hearts and minds closed to the presence of Jesus and to the Way He has marked out for us. We go on as if Jesus does not exist at all.

It seems to me that the Assembly has accelerated our descent into the cold dark night of the soul. But unlike todays Gospel there can be no warm conclusion – not yet and maybe not for a long time to come. These decisions separate us as a people from Christ in a most profound and radical way.

There’s a Scripture from the Bible that has struck me very forcibly. The Lord spoke to His people through Moses, “I put before you fire and water – stretch out your hand and touch which one you choose. I put before you life and death, a blessing and a curse. Choose life then so that you and your children may live in the love of the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 32 and parallel texts) Choose life! Choose life! The words of God Himself.

The choices we make, the choices we allow to be made on our behalf have their own consequences. These dark realities are the things that we as Christians need to talk about as we journey through life and our conversations must have Jesus at their centre, leave space for Jesus to reveal Himself, leave space for Him to instruct us, to open our minds and set our hearts on fire with the love that He has for everyone and especially for the least of all.

St. John of the Cross says that the life of faith, hope and love means aligning our will perfectly with the will of God and making sure that we do not align ourselves with anything else. It is the prayer of Mary and the prayer of Jesus Himself - these two prayers - that made salvation possible in the first place – “let it be done according to Your Word…not my will but yours be done!”

Emmaus - Cleopas and his wife Mary with Jesus
Without this alignment with the will of God we remain in the dark but if we pray this prayer in union with Jesus and Mary, if we mean it and do our best to live by it then we will reach that lovely evening in which Jesus comes in to the reality of our home, to our table, to His table and to the warming of our hearts with that Love that overcomes every difficulty, every obstacle, every darkness that we encounter. And then we can pray with integrity:

‘Stay with us, Lord Jesus, as evening falls;
Be our companion on our way.
In your mercy inflame our hearts and raise our hope,
So that, in union with our brothers and sisters
We may recognize you in the Scriptures
And in the breaking of Bread

Sunday 16 April 2017

RESURRECTION 2017: An Intense Desire - Fr. Eamonn Monson SAC

The Resurrection of Jesus is a fact in itself, but for the disciples the experiences of the Resurrection are different and varied. Each of them experienced it in his or her own way and at their own pace. And the running of Peter and John to the empty tomb is very symbolic of that. John ran faster than Peter and got there ahead of him but each of them came to the experience of Jesus in their own time and at their own pace.

Resurrection can be a very difficult reality to comprehend or to make a connection with. I find myself when I’m going through Holy Week that I have a very strong connection with Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the early part of Holy Saturday – these touch something very deep inside the heart. Resurrection is a very different thing because we haven’t yet experienced it ourselves.

But what I do believe is important is the intensity of desire that is in our hearts to have the experience of Jesus risen from the dead and that we go on and persist in our intensity.

For me, the best parable or experience of it in my own life comes from when my sister Maura died suddenly 18 years ago at the age of 46. Maura and I were very, very close; we were always together and there was a very strong physical connection between us as well as emotional. So, when she died I felt intensely lonely – we all did – and I used to say to God in prayer how much I missed her and how intense was my desire to touch her again, to feel the touch of her presence in my life. A prayer that went on and on relentlessly for maybe a year or two, a prayer filled with sincerity, desire and sorrow.

Then I had two dreams, one of which I have spoken and written of before. The second one is in my mind today. In the dream, I went to the cemetery to visit her grave and as I was going through the gates the cemetery was transformed into a church where Maura was sitting alone in the back seat.

She held out her hand to me and said, “will we dance?” And I said, “we can’t dance here!” And she replied, “we can!” Throughout our lives from the time we were teenagers we loved to jive and became very good at it.  So, she took me by the hand and led me to an open space at the top of the church. There was no music but there was light, this beautiful light shining down, not a physical electric light but it was like the light of heaven shining down upon the two of us. And there we danced bathed in the light; we danced to, what I call, silent music. Silent but joyful!

When I woke from that dream what struck me was – that I would go to the cemetery looking for my sister and it’s like what the Lord says in the gospel of the resurrection, “why search among the dead for someone who is alive?” Maura was telling me, God was telling me through her that even though she had died and was gone from me that she was in fact alive; telling me that that life is the life of Jesus, a life that is contained within the embrace of the sanctuary of the church where Jesus is present and alive in the Eucharist.

The promise of that dream is also that I myself one day, that all of us will enter into the sacred space of Jesus in the Eucharist in its most perfect sense, that we will enter into the light of that experience and we will dance in whatever way we are able to dance. 

One of the lovely things about the spiritual life is that there is song and there is dance in it but you don’t have to be a singer or a dancer to engage in it. Because every move we make in the presence of the Lord and every song we sing is beautiful to Him, for He loves the voice that is in you, the voice that He given to you – it is music to His ears. The very sight of you, the way you move is a joy to Him.

So, if we are to live Easter today it is to live it with joy and hope; to live it in the embrace of the light that shines upon us, especially from the Eucharist, the light of heaven. And even if grief is present and intense we will know that we are bathed in that light, that we are held in an embrace that is tender and infinitely loving, a light that will lead us all to the fulfilment and the perfection of life that we desire.

Thursday 13 April 2017

LEGACY: A Holy Thursday Reflection - Eamonn Monson SAC

Being an ordained priest is a wonderful privilege and some of the most inspiring moments are not those that we plan ourselves but the ones we are led to experience through God’s kind providence.

On Tuesday of last week I was called to anoint a man who was given just a week to live and at first sight he looked like he might not last even a day. But he sat up in the bed, asked me to sit on the edge of it and he leaned against me for support.

We had never met before and he seemed to have lost his connection with God, at least consciously, a connection that was broken because of the hurt he experienced as a father. Both of his sons, his only two children, were dead and the pain of that loss was palpable.

For some reason we started talking about home. He came from Connemara and his great-grandmother was from Inis Mor, the same island that my grandmother came from. They were both Flahertys from different villages but the two families are related. And this thought that he and I might be related gave him a real spurt of life. He was excited by the thought, and was even transformed by it.

And this connection paved the way for him to receive the sacraments that he had become a stranger to – absolution, anointing and Holy Communion. And he joined his hands in prayer like a child with a spirit of utter humility and I could see the face of God in him.

We returned to the loss of his sons. It made him cry and he said, “people don’t understand it but a generation is lost with them.” It was like he had no legacy to leave behind, no worthwhile legacy. He would leave his money and property but they were nothing to him. He needed to leave the legacy of his own children. Children are the best possible legacy that a man or woman can leave behind because they are living flesh and blood and bone and spirit.

At the last Supper Jesus also wanted to leave a legacy – a different kind of legacy. He left us the legacy of His own flesh and blood and spirit in the Eucharist as the perfect expression of His Love; the Eucharist that gives us a permanent, tangible connection with God; the Eucharistic Love by which He gets down on His knees to wash the feet of His disciples. A perfect Love that serves.

The Eucharist is also the legacy, the only legacy of a priest. In it we are flesh and blood with Christ and with the people we serve, our sisters and brothers in the community of the faith.
Tomorrow, Good Friday,  that perfect Love of Christ is expressed on the Cross, a very different kind of experience. At the Last Supper Jesus was utterly free and in control. On the Cross He is vulnerable, helpless, held back.

The English mystic Caryll Houselander writes, the moment in which His love was consummated…was when the hands that could heal with a touch were nailed back out of reach!” Somehow, in the mystery of redemption, Love is at its most intense when it is not able to do anything.

How often do we as priests feel useless in the face of what we ought to be doing. When I celebrate the liturgy of washing feet in the name of Jesus I feel such an intense overflow of love in my heart, the love of God Himself. And in that moment I realize how much is lacking in my service of God’s people. How often do parents feel useless when they cannot communicate the love they feel for their child, how often do we find ourselves paralyzed by hurt or fear and unable to reach out to forgive. We have to wait, rather that rushing into something that might make things worse. Waiting on God, on God’s grace is a genuine calling.

Sometimes all we have is a desire to Love as we are meant to and all we can do is, like Jesus, to unite that desire with the will of God the Father, to allow ourselves to be like the bread of the Eucharist in the hands of the Father, allow Jesus in the Eucharist to provide what is lacking in our loving and in our service of each other.


The Hands that ache to
Reach and sooth and heal
The sore

These Hands are nailed
Held back

The feet obliged to
To bear forgiveness
For the hurt

These feet are nailed
Held back

With Christ I hang
Upon the Cross

Sunday 9 April 2017

OLYMPIA (Sanctury)

When I was
To Eurovision

She would be
The most beautiful

I built her a stage
Appropriate for the Graceful

She would make

A sanctuary of all
The tender goodness
In the world

She did not come
To this theatre

Yet I find her here
In my soul

In memories of her son
On this stage

And Bohemian Rhapsody
Sung Live

Awakens memories
Of an innocent Winter
A happy Spring

And a Summer filled
With sorrow

A long delayed Autumn
And a recovery
Of sorts

Sunday 2 April 2017


My Soul
Was a child

An infant
In flight

In slow descent

A rasping
Desperate cry

Without words
To express the pain

That cannot be

By a mother's
Total tenderness

Nothing at all avails
Until flight is ended

And we whimper
Into relieved silence


My Soul
Is a child

That soon forgets
Its distress

As God forgets
My sin

And I am Lazarus

Called forth
Into Sonlight

In Christ
And by Him