Confirmation Session 3.2: Prayer 🙏 and the Holy Spirit

Caution ⚠️ from here on I may be describing spiritual experience that goes over lots of heads!

Please don’t let this put you off… instead treat it as a map of the path to intimacy with God.

The Spirit has only one purpose – to bring you with her… to bring you back into the Holy Trinity (God is three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit = Trinity)

In fact, the Spirit can’t do anything else but return to the Father and the Son. She’s come to you, started the process of making you hers, but she will want to go back to the Father and to the Son, back home so to speak, it’s where she belongs, and since you now merit her presence she’ll bring you with Her – like being collected by a parent to bring you home!

When this happens it feels like you’re still on earth but with your heart ❤️ and more besides already in Heaven.

For the spiritually advanced this half on earth half in Heaven heart and mind space, this soul space, is quite painful. It’s a longing that the soul realizes can’t be truly fulfilled in this life.

Overall this is how we become God’s possession.

Bear in mind though that at any point along the way you can drive the Spirit away from you (traditionally known as the effect of mortal sin)

Once we’ve made it possible for the Holy Spirit to breach our personal space and provided we remain faithful to the four essentials she begins to melt us and mould us and a new person is formed – St. Paul’s new man or woman – and this new man or woman will always manifest clearly identifiable qualities, characteristics, traits… which are in fact the gifts and the fruits of the Holy Spirit fully developed.

But God won’t leave it there. No, there’ll be other gifts bestowed which will be given primarily to help the recipient bring others to Jesus.

To give some idea of the breath of gifts that God might bestow it is necessary to look to the lives of the saints.

So, as an essential part of preparation for Confirmation I recommend reading at least one of the many written accounts of the life of Padre Pio.

You don’t have to do this now, or pre Confirmation, but at some point in the coming months.

Confirmation Session 3.1: How to pray

Create the space and the time.

In prayer speak to God as you would to another person, as you would to a friend using your own words. What do you speak about when you meet your friends? When you’re on a sleep-over? When you meet a friend for coffee or lunch? That’s the stuff of prayer, talk to God as you would to a friend.

Don’t be afraid to speak audibly (out loud) if it helps.

Tell him all that’s going on in your life… in your own words. Adults might like to tell him all the gossip… then watch your attitude change!

It may help if you’ve got something to focus on, an image or a statue, or from wherever you are situated, to turn toward the tabernacle in your local church and empty out your heart and mind… over time this will lead to a profound silence in which the soul and God communicate without and beyond words.

When using images remember there’s an order, Jesus first, Mary second; an order that Mary herself respects.

For this reason I recommend turning toward the tabernacle in your local church although this orientation doesn’t exclude the use of a statue of Mary in your prayer space, it just means that if you’re asking Mary for something at least you can look away from her toward her Son because this is the totality of all that she can do in response to you asking her in the first place.

You see anything Mary obtains for us, she obtains by praying to her Son, so as we move our gaze away from her and toward her Son we’re uniting our gaze with that of Mary, a combined look toward her Son.

In prayer it’s vital to grasp that God has shown himself in Jesus and all that God wants us to know is to be found in Jesus.

Therefore we must pay close attention to the teachings of Jesus which are found in the four books of the Gospels.

A convenient way to access the teachings of Jesus is by paying close attention to the Sunday Gospels – a good reason to go to Mass on Sundays!

Read them over and over, sit with them, through them Christ will teach you about the inner workings of Heaven, of God Himself.

If we persist in prayer God will begin to trust us with himself and his inner world, with Heaven, and even a few scraps from Heaven are worth more than everything the world has to offer!

When you’ve learned to speak with God in your own words you will find it easier to pray using the traditional formulas.

Remember, the traditional prayer 🙏 formulas were once someone’s own words based on their experience of God.

Now go make that experience your own!

Confirmation Session 3: Prayer – convincing God we’re serious

Prayer is the use of our freedom to invite God to breach our personal space.

It’s our consent, our permission given to God. Such is God’s respect for human freedom that without this invitation… this consent… this permission… God will not enter our personal space.

So without prayer God remains outside… distant… remote… little more than a thought or a possibility!

Prayer is vital…

Without it… nothing!

Prayer must become an essential part of the rhythm of our lives… as important as our food or our nights rest.

It must become a daily activity, twice daily, three times a day, over years… and more years!

It will require its own uninterrupted time and space.

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 is the amount of time spent in prayer and the quality of that prayer.

If you’re ready to develop this level of commitment…

Start by asking God to create in your very self a real hunger and thirst for Him.

Without a hunger and a thirst for God you’re not likely to even start this journey.

Sometimes, the hunger and desire for God is created out of real human need… a crisis… the feeling that there’s nowhere else to go…

Often though, we need to create it ourselves by simply asking for it over time.

At the same time ask the Holy Spirit to come and make her home in you. Invite the Holy Spirit to begin breaching your personal space and to take you into God.

In the next session we’ll look at how we might pray, how we might make these requests.

Confirmation Session 2: How we choose God

Choosing God is really about convincing God that we’re serious about him, that we’re sincere, 100% genuine, otherwise God will leave us alone.

God will not give us his gifts 🎁

He just won’t!

So, how do we convince God that we’re serious, sincere, genuine?

We will convince God that we’re serious, sincere, and genuine by:

  1. Praying 🙏, spending time with God. In the case of Confirmation by asking God – begging God – to give us the Holy Spirit.
  2. By going to Mass… but it needs to be more than just going to Mass, it needs to be a very conscious uniting of ourselves with the priest to raise the very person of Jesus Christ in his one eternal redemptive sacrifice.*
  3. By trying to avoid offending God and when we have offended God by apologizing.
  4. By actively doing good.

To convince God we will need to do these things over a period of time, we will need to be committed, sincere, and genuine over the long haul.

We will not fool God and there are no shortcuts!

When we’ve proved ourselves to God, when God knows that he can trust us with his gifts 🎁, only then will he begin to give them to us… but not a moment before we’ve earned this trust.

When we’ve earned God’s trust (it’s called being faithful) he’ll draw us into intimacy, closeness, into his confidence.

At first, he’ll show us small stuff, little insights, he’ll open the door slightly and let us see inside Heaven, just a little bit… and if we use this small stuff properly he’ll trust us with ever greater and greater things.

In the next session we’ll look at the first of the four essentials in how we choose God: Praying 🙏.

*I’ll explain this in Session 4: Mass as prayer.

Confirmation Session 1: Using our freedom to choose God

God’s respect for human freedom is absolute.

As far as God is concerned human freedom is non-negotiable.

So let’s be very clear – God will never force himself into our lives.

God waits to be invited in… and if he’s not invited in he’ll stay outside. Granted he’ll call to us in many ways but he will not breach our personal space.*

Now most of us were baptized as infants so how could we invite God into our lives?

We didn’t, simple as that! A baby is incapable of inviting God into it’s life so our parents and god-parents did it on our behalf.

Now that you’re leaving infancy and childhood behind, you are being given the opportunity in Confirmation to make your parents and godparents choice your own.

You are being asked to use your freedom to choose God, to confirm the choice your parents and god-parents made for you on the day of your baptism.

This is our starting point…

Are you ready and willing to choose God, to confirm the choice that your parents and god-parents made for you all those years ago?

In the next session we’ll look at how we choose God.

*Here lies the root of our boredom… apathy… disinterest… with God and with religious matters.

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