Author Archives: Paddy Banville

About Paddy Banville

Priest, Wexford, Ireland.

God Map! New Confirmation Programme

Some may be aware that I’ve written an on-line home-based preparation programme for Confirmation. While I’ve prepared it with Confirmation in mind it’s really a map of the path to intimacy with God.

Follow the steps I’ve outlined over the long-haul and intimacy with God will follow.

A total of 8 pieces are being uploaded to the Parish Facebook page and to the Parish Website.*

Shortly after each session has been uploaded parents are informed by text message that it’s available to view and encouraged to consider it and then share it with their child(ren); each session is discussed over a two day period.

The programme is based on two fundamental spiritual truths.

Firstly, Gods absolute non-negotiable respect for human freedom: God will never breach our personal space without a trusted and proven invitation.

Secondly, we invite God into our lives through prayer – prayer is the invitation – and without prayer God remains outside our personal space. In our time this truth has been almost completely lost… and all the good works in the world will not replace prayer as the key to intimacy with God.

Since God respects human freedom – so absolutely – there are no built-in mechanisms in the programme to establish the level of engagement.

In other words the programme itself respects these two spiritual truths.

So, unless the children use their freedom to invite God into their lives – by living the 8 sessions in an age appropriate manner since they are a fundamental path to intimacy with God – God will leave them to themselves and Confirmation will produce little fruit.

Huge effort can be placed into Confirmation and all sorts of religious programmes but unless human freedom is used in this way there will be little or no spiritual return.

I believe our experience of Confirmation in recent years reflects these spiritual truths. I can’t stress this enough: God’s respect for human freedom is absolute and he will not breach our personal space without invitation, without prayer over the long haul.

The only difference between you (or me) and Padre Pio is the amount of time spent in prayer and the quality of that prayer. The only difference between the many who are called and the few who are chosen (Matt 22:14) is the amount of time spent in prayer and the quality of that prayer. The chosen wouldn’t stay chosen for long without prayer!

Of course it’s unlikely that the children will use their freedom in this way unless they receive encouragement from their parent(s) and guardian(s).

Hence the effort to create discussion and awareness of the path to intimacy with God in the home, among parent(s), guardian(s) and children preparing for Confirmation.

Finally, the children – indeed every recipient of Confirmation – can at any point in their lives renew their Confirmation by adopting and living the content of the 8 sessions and fan into flame the tiny seed of the Spirit that has remained largely dormant within them.

*The full programme is in the process of being uploaded – one session every two days – with the final session due to be uploaded on March 09th.

Staying positive in difficult times: Heaven’s answer; be converted!

Let me share Heaven’s secret for staying positive in difficult times.

If you want to stay positive – be converted!

In all the madness that we’ve seen unfold in recent days here’s what I think is happening.

We are moving the world into a place, a context, in which the 10 secrets of Medjugorje can unfold.

The people central to Medjugorje tell us that Our Lady has said that “what she started in Fatima she’ll finish in Medugorje”

So, the Medugorje events are the fulfillment of Fatima.

Four details are important to grasp.

Firstly, the unfolding of the ten secrets in our history, our lives, will be Heaven’s victory in human affairs. It’s nothing more than the conversion of humanity to God. It’s a really positive thing, a good thing…

Secondly, the quality – the ease or the severity – of this fleshing of Heaven’s victory which is nothing more than the conversion of humanity to God will be determined by, is being determined by the quality of our relationship with God.

The further away the world is from God – the greater the sin – the more difficult it’ll be, the more difficult the road back to God. It may very well involve war and great suffering and I suspect we’re seeing the beginnings of it now. The world will crawl back! Indeed, we know that some of the ten secrets certainly involve great suffering.

Thirdly, human freedom. This is a critical point. Let me put it this way; it seems highly likely – if not guaranteed – that we will not use our freedom to turn to God until we’ve nowhere else to go!

Imagine if I delivered this on national radio or TV. Imagine the response. Outrage probably, possibly even ridicule. Here’s the problem for God: How will that outraged freedom be brought to God while God respects that same freedom? The only option for God is to let human freedom run its course… and that’s what we’re seeing.

The Medjugorje secrets are essentially a map of future world events that will bring human freedom to repentance and to God… or to put it another way, the breaking down of that outraged freedom by letting it run it’s course. Remember, letting it run its course equals God’s respect for human freedom.

We’re now so far removed from God that we’re likely to blame God for all this… or another human favourite, to use events like we’re seeing in Ukraine 🇺🇦 as evidence that there is no God.

You see, we want God to sort it. We think Heaven should sort it. We fail to see that Heaven’s victory must be fleshed. In other words, that it must happen in our lives, individually, then collectively. We must be converted.

Our freedom is crucial. God needs our freedom, Heaven needs our freedom, Love needs our freedom…

This is the reason Our Lady has been asking for prayer and fasting now (actually for forty years), asking for our help and cooperation – conversion – to lessen the suffering of humanity’s return… to lessen the pain involved in human freedom discovering it’s errors.

She is after all a Mother. Imagine her heart-space watching us…

Think of humanity as the prodigal son, Luke 15:11-33. He leaves his Father… proud… arrogant… check out Jesus description of his lifestyle… and crawls back, broken, having lost everything. It’s a parable for the whole of humanity.

My fourth point, the near collapse of the Catholic faith – indeed faith generally – has facilitated all that’s unfolding or is about to unfold.

In itself, it’s a microcosm of all that’s happening in the wider world. Sin destroys… creates hell in time and eternity.

Bear in mind it’s one of the secrets of Fatima.

The unholy has created the most devastating distractions – scandals – events so diabolical that they’ve been able to cloud our vision and impair our hearing, so much so that we’re hardly able to see or hear anything other than the unholy. Everything has been tainted, to such an extent that everything I say as a priest is easily dismissed.

Do you really think that this distraction, this cloud, this impairment, this tainting is an accident of history?

I’m repeatedly told that we need to stay positive, stay hopeful. Agreed, but Heaven has already given us our singular hope.

How much attention have we given to her and to her message?

Fear not, remember she’s already said that in the end her Immaculate Heart will triumph and that the Medugorje events will be the fulfillment of Fatima.

And remember, she can’t do it without us, we must participate too, we must respond, each one functioning as part of the whole.

It’s all down to us, to the quality of our personal conversion. In other words to the quality of humanity’s relationship with the Divine. In this relationship nobody is excluded, but rather in terms of personal conversion each person is contributing to the whole, to the overall human cost of Our Lady’s triumph.

This will decide everything… is deciding it right before our very eyes. We’re living Heaven’s judgement which is to say we’re living the fruit of our collective choices.

It’s the reason Jesus was so fond of the word “repent” and the reason Our Lady says “be converted”

“I feel like I’m being punished” she said… accompanying Ciara spiritually as she walks the way of the Cross

This morning it’s just as cold. So I’ve pulled the chair up, shoes are off and the feet are on the radiator, and my mug of coffee is in reach. Time for a little prayer before the next Mass at 11am.

I want to bring a recent conversation to God. “I feel like I’m being punished” she said as the voice broke and became heaving sobs.

Now as I’m praying I’m aware of how I might deal with the situation if it was me. Easy said of course – I’m not the one staring mortality!

You are not being punished, you are being asked to pick up your Cross and follow him.

You are not being punished, you are being asked to share in Christ’s burden of salvation, to become his intimate co-worker.

You are not being punished, you are being chosen, privileged, and called…

When you think punishment, think the opposite.

God doesn’t punish us.

God is always seeking to save us and when we’re feeling like we’re being punished remember that the worse case scenario is that this experience is “correction” leading ultimately to the realization that life is not ours.

This simple realization is revolutionary but it is also very difficult to reach – or teach – because we’re part of a generation that’s buried itself in itself, that has lost its soul to “my” life and to the glorification of the human body and its ego.

So, when you’re feeling punished know that it is not punishment, but God breaking down the ego and preparing you for greater things.

The truth is that life belongs to God and may I add; to do with as he pleases, which is always to bring you to salvation.

“What have you got that wasn’t given to you?” St. Paul asks.

As these moments of prayer draw to a close I suddenly realize that it’s 10.56am and the Altar isn’t even set for Mass!

Ciara’s cancer has returned… accompanying Ciara spiritually as she walks the way of the Cross

This evening I approach the Altar carrying Ciara.

Ciara’s cancer has recurred.

As I raise the bread and wine I’m staring at the figure of Christ hanging on the Cross that stands on the Altar.

And suddenly it’s not just the body and blood of Jesus in my hands but also the body and blood of Ciara.

There’s a oneness… I’m offering two bodies and bloods and they’ve become one… his body and blood so bruised and battered even before he’s raised on the Cross and her body and blood already marked and scarred – bruised and battered – by surgery and years of cancer treatment.

I can’t hold these bodies and bloods tenderly enough in my hands. I’m in awe… almost overcome by a mixture of reverence, respect, wonder and fear as I stare at a deep spiritual truth. I can’t move from the sight.

I have to work hard to stay present to the people in front of me.

I think of the generations who’ve embarked on this very path, the way of the Cross, especially the generations who gathered in this Shannon Chapel… one great procession through history making their way to the Cross… and resurrection.

For a moment I asked that He take my body instead of hers… and then I think how difficult that would be for all to whom I mean so much…

And instantly I think of all to whom she means so much and how difficult it is for them…

Religion: Spirituality’s door to the very person of God

The best way to understand God is using the qualities of personhood.

We get God’s creation or God as a distant possibility but as for the person and the personhood of God, that goes over our head!

But in our deepest and truest personhood we are most like God.

We begin every Mass by apologizing to the Almighty for any offense we’ve caused.

Offense and apology – and ultimately forgiveness – belong properly to personhood and they don’t need an explanation because they’re such an important part of our lived experience.

But why are we like this?

Because we’re made in the image and likeness of God.

God then is the original person or personhood, the template of all personhood, and in our human experience of offense and apology we’re simply reflecting eternity and our eternal origins.

Justice and the human desire for justice are other such qualities… as are love and mercy. Indeed, all the important personhood stuff is reflecting eternity.

You’ll often hear people express the view that they’re more spiritual than religious and at the heart of this dichotomy – which I consider to be a false dichotomy – lies the personhood of God.

At any moment we can have a deeply spiritual experience… more often than not it’ll happen while we’re in the midst of creation.

These are undoubtedly moments of spiritual awareness, even of oneness, but they’re not an experience of the very person of God.

River Slaney viewed from Edermine Bridge

I’ve had many such moments… standing on the bridge at Edermine – always looking downstream by the way! – and while walking the N11 from Oylgate towards Enniscorthy and experiencing the breathtaking view of the distant mountains.

Granted, in so far as the water and the mountains are God’s creation they are experiences of God but they’re experiences of God in much the same way as a piece of art is an experience of the artist… meeting the artist in person is quiet a different matter altogether.

God is like that too. It’s one thing to experience God’s creation and to be drawn into an awareness of the Creator-God, it’s quite another to actually encounter the person of God!

One belongs to spirituality, the other belongs to spirituality given direction by the Christmas and Easter events and religion.

We rarely pass into this realm, into an encounter with the very personhood of God, yet this is the very purpose of Christian religion. This – the very person of God – is what distinguishes the Christian religion from spirituality.

Religion, true religion, moves the practitioner through spirituality to an encounter with the very person and personhood of God.

So, make no mistake, lots of us have experience of God through oneness with his creation but there are few people who know what it is to encounter God in his very person.

This encounter requires both spirituality and the committed practice of religion.

Reflections, River Slaney from Edermine Bridge

Traces of Heaven and Hell in the most meaningful and painful experiences of life

What’s Heaven like?

I believe we already know. Well, we’ve inklings of what it’s like in our flesh, in our deepest and most meaningful human experiences.

As far as I’m concerned all the important stuff foreshadows eternity.

So what’s the best thing that ever happened to you?

Most people will say; love… when it’s true of course!

Or they’ll say; my children.

Before the birth of our children we were living – the only life we knew – but it was a life of a much lower quality.

Sometimes at weddings I ask the couple to think of their individual lives before they met.

You can almost see the emptiness registering!

Before meeting they had a life but it was life of a much lower quality.

Before your children you had a life too… but of a different quality altogether. Few want to go back.

The quality of life after the experience of true love or after the birth of your children – the deep and deeper meaning – is a reflection of gaining or stepping-up to the life of Heaven.

The life of Heaven is a step-up in quality again. In fact, it’s the ultimate quality of life.

After death nobody ever wants to come back except the souls in trouble. They want to come back to undo so much but can’t… that’s their suffering.

Imagine if you had to go back to your life before true love or to your life before your children.

Can you imagine it?

Do you ever really get back? Are you not always bereft?

Evening falls over the River Slaney… can you see the path of your life condensed into a single day?

That’s reflecting the soul’s loss of Heaven.

The loss of true love or of a child and it’s impact on the quality of life is actually a reflection of what it’s like for the soul to lose Heaven.

In the most meaningful and painful spaces of our lives we’re always reflecting eternity… glimpsing eternity.

The Widow’s Mite: Twenty Second Sunday

Remember last weeks Gospel?

Mk 12:28-34 Love God with all you’ve got – all you’ve got, and your neighbour as yourself.

Well this weekend – Mk 12:38-44 – we’re given an example of living the great twin commandment and an example of the failure to live it.

The scribes “swallow the property of widows, while making a show of their lengthy prayers.”

Jesus is clear; this kind of evil disguised as religion, evil hidden beneath a religious veneer will attract a severe sentence.

The Catholic Church has been under this kind of heavenly judgement for some time.

Let’s just check-in to the power of these words: “The more severe will be the sentence they receive.”

The power of words – severe… feel it… and sentence.

Moving on to the widow – she’s an example of living the twin commandment. 

She puts two coins into the treasury; everything she has to live on.

She truly loves all that the treasury represents, she loves God with all – all her soul, mind, strength.

“It’s not how much we give but how much love is put in the giving” as Mother Theresa observed.

There’s something else we should notice about the widow: She hasn’t been put off by the blatant evil of the religious leaders all around her, unlike the claims of so many today.

The top spot in the kingdom belongs to this widow and her kind.

Hell belongs to the scribes and their kind.

Most of us are somewhere in between!

Trust life knowing that it’s Heaven breaking into our small lives.

Twenty Ninth Sunday.

Mark 10:35-45 “You do not know what you are asking… Can you drink the cup that I must drink…”

I can almost hear Jesus: Omg 😱 look at these two. They haven’t a clue what they’re asking.

Jesus could be alluding to the cost to himself of opening Heaven to us.

Remember if you ask God to hug sinful humanity it’s similar to you or I hugging the person who has offended or hurt us. For God it’s a similar emotional, psychological and spiritual experience.

But Jesus could also be alluding to how much it’ll cost James and John themselves.

Remember too that you and I share in the cup that Jesus “must drink” through the Eucharist and we share in the baptism that he is “baptized with” through our baptism.

Sometimes though it’s all just words! But the really chosen souls don’t just share in this cup and baptism sacramentally, at a distance so to speak; they share it in their flesh. It becomes their flesh.

Suffering is never a punishment. Never.

Sometimes suffering is intended to get us off the wrong road.

Sometimes suffering is intended to bring those on the right road even closer to Jesus.

But both have the one aim; to bring us to Heaven.

One point is very clear; entry into eternal life is costly!

There is always some level of suffering.

The suffering that’s part of life, aging, serious illness, bereavement – there’s no need to go looking for it because it’s just part of living – shatters our illusions and breaks down the ego. It puts jealousy, envy, indignation, the need to make our authority felt, all that stuff, the stuff that’s not fit for Heaven in perspective. Remember, envy and all that stuff, so much that’s part of our lives, can’t enter Heaven because it’ll turn Heaven into hell. Suffering breaks all that stuff down. It makes all that stuff irrelevant, unimportant, trivial.

As the years take their toll you’ll often hear it said: It’s easy talk to him or her now!

Life has built-in levelers that conspire to make us fit for Heaven.

We need to be able to trust life, especially all that comes uninvited, knowing that it’s Heaven breaking into our small lives and preparing us for big life, for Heaven, nothing more, nothing less.

Unteachable – no reason to believe Heaven views us differently!

Twenty Seventh Sunday.

It’s a tough one!

Bear in mind that it comes on the back of: “And if your eye should cause you to sin, tear it out; it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell…” (last Sunday’s Gospel, Twenty Sixth Sunday).

Divorce and remarriage are an accepted part of life. To suggest otherwise is to be considered outdated and backward.

Yet here in the proclamation of this Sunday’s Gospel reading we are once again confronted by the teaching of Jesus which says that divorce and remarriage are not, and never were, a part of God’s plan.

Jesus turns to the teaching of Moses and in doing so he must have known that Moses allowed divorce and remarriage.

In keeping Moses in the conversation Jesus is firstly putting the Ten Commandments centre stage; and secondly, he’s taking the opportunity to correct the teaching of Moses which allowed for divorce and remarriage.

Interestingly, he doesn’t blame Moses. Rather, he blames Moses generation, the masses, from Moses right up to his day, about 1600 years of people divorcing and remarrying: “It was because you were so unteachable” that Moses allowed you to divorce and remarry. There’s no reason to believe that Heaven views us any differently!

Just about everybody seems to have expected Jesus to go with Moses teaching allowing divorce and remarriage – as most people do today – as evidenced by the disciples bringing the matter up again in the privacy of the house.

That Jesus turns to the Ten Commandments should not be a surprise.

He guarded the commandments carefully saying that Heaven and earth would disappear before the Ten Commandments. That’s a huge statement. But there’s more: “Therefore, the man who infringes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of Heaven; but the man who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of Heaven.” Matt 5:17

In placing divorce and remarriage in the context of breaching the sixth commandment (he actually uses the word “guilty” of adultery), in binding divorce and remarriage to adultery so tightly, and given his understanding of the place of the Ten Commandments in the working out of our salvation, Jesus is raising a red flag 🚩 here about divorce, remarriage and our eternal welfare.

It’s a tough one indeed.

What I haven’t dealt with here is Heaven’s understanding of the purposes of marriage and our everyday understanding – they’re very different and it will go some way to explain our difficulty with Jesus teaching.

But that too is another days work…

Jesus shock – cutting off hands and tearing out eyes!

Twenty Sixth Sunday

Who was this outsider that he’d figured out the significance, if not the identity, of Jesus?

“But he’s not one of us” the disciples complain.

He wasn’t part of the twelve. He didn’t have the benefit of sharing intimately in Jesus inner circle. Yet here he is, ministering in the power of Jesus.

Here we glimpse the wonder of the Father’s revelation which is always capable of catching us offside so to speak. The Father is full of surprises!

Jesus corrects his inner circle; he may not be one of us in the sense that he’s not physically present in this group, but he knows me… and that’s all he needs.

Essentially this passage is teaching us that Jesus is everything, that knowing and recognizing him is everything – not the group we belong to – and that giving a cup of water to someone just because she belongs to Christ is hugely significant because the giving of the water is really about the recognition of Jesus.

The recognition of Jesus is everything.

But then Jesus turns his attention to sin, to the power that is his absolute opposite.

That he swings so suddenly – almost violently – to bring up his opposite suggests he wants us to hear what he has to say.

It’s Jesus shock!

It’s shock tactics so he can get our attention – “thrown into the sea with a great millstone round his neck… cut off your hand… tear out your eye…”

It’s a shocking message, hyperbole obviously, but nonetheless a very simple message that Jesus really wants us to hear.

Do not sin.

Sin – without repentance – is the highway to hell!