Random Reflections

fr.colum1Colum Power

My blog “Random Reflections”

Fr. Colum Power, born in Cork, Ireland, in 1965, is a Servant Priest of the Home of the Mother. He obtained a Master's degree in literature in 1991 and a doctorate in the History of the Church in 2013. He is author of A Touch of the Gardener's Hand, Honey from the Lion's Carcass, and James Joyce's Catholic Categories. He devotes his time to apostolic activities for the youth organized by the Servant Brothers of the Home of the Mother.

Saturday, 01 February 2020 07:46

A Poor Sinner

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Have pity on me, Lord, I am a poor sinner. 

    Our Lord's example about the Pharisee and the poor tax collector at the back thumping his chest and saying, "Have pity on me, I'm a wretched sinner," reminds me of the time Paul Cronin, Brian Hadden, and I jumped the wall and broke through Mrs. Pollock's palm trees into her big garden full of flowers and shrubs and exotic trees and plants of all kinds and colors. 

    There was a big greenhouse in the middle of the garden. The door was open. A paradise of strawberries, big, plump, glistening, red strawberries. We stuffed ourselves and then took off our jumpers and filled them with more strawberries to eat later, in peace and quiet. 

    Suddenly a door of the house opened and slammed shut. We jumped with fright and ran off. We thought we'd escaped, but I got caught. I always got caught. The red hair. I should have put on a wig but I never thought of it. 

    She told my mother. My mother told me to go and apologize. Paul Cronin and Brian Hadden pretended they didn't even know me. I had to make the long trip from my house to Mrs. Pollock's house all on my own. Head down, heart pounding. What will I say, how will I say it, what will she do. Oh boy, you're in big trouble now. She's going to punish you, big-time. I rang the doorbell. 

    Mrs. Pollock came out. She told me to follow her into the kitchen. She put a plate of biscuits on the table and a glass of Fanta. She asked me how I  was getting on in school and what was my favorite sport. I finished the biscuits and the Fanta. She went over to the fridge and took out a huge bowl of fresh strawberries. She filled a small bag with strawberries and handed it to me with a little hug, saying: "Don't steal my strawberries, okay. If you want strawberries just ring the doorbell, and I'll give you strawberries, no problem. Bye, bye, now." 

    I stole her strawberries, and she gave me strawberries! 

    How many times over the years I've gone to Jesus and said, "I did it, Lord, it was me." With my head down and my heart pounding. Stuff much worse than stealing strawberries. And every single time, He sends me away with a little hug and a bag of strawberries. 

    Don't be a stupid Pharisee, just own up and face the music. The music of God's untiring forgiveness. In the confessional. 

 

Saturday, 21 December 2019 15:52

First Holy Communion Season

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    Every year our temples are invaded by numerous crowds of non-believers. We could call it, "the annual invasion of the atheists." 

    There is theoretical atheism and there is practical atheism. Theoretical atheists are those who declare themselves to be non-believers. Practical atheists may believe that "there has to be something out there somewhere," but in fact they live as if God didn't exist. 

    Catholic churches are God's temples, but they also belong to God's people in general and to God's local parochial community in particular. It is they, the members of the local community, who pay for the temple's maintenance, and their ancestors paid for its construction. They practice their faith weekly on Sundays in their local temples and in some cases daily by attendance at daily Mass and the praying of the rosary and other devotions. 

    Every year their temples, God's temples, are invaded by hordes of atheists. It is not just that they do not know God; they do not want to know God. 

    And the parishioners complain to the priest: "There were people drinking coca cola and eating pringles," "People were using their cellphones and tablets," "Two 10-year-old boys were fighting on the floor and when I tried to stop them their parents turned on me," "There were people talking during the hymns and the whole ceremony," "The little girls making their First Communion were covered in makeup," "I saw a 15-year-old boy putting the consecrated host into his pocket." 

    What can we do? What should we do? How must we live this? 

    John 2, 13-17 comes to mind: "When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, 'Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!' His disciples remembered that it is written: 'Zeal for your house will consume me.'" 

    I read a testimony once about a woman who went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. She wanted to do the Via Crucis, the Way of the Cross, in the footsteps of the Savior, walking the very same Via Dolorosa, the Path of Pain, that Christ himself walked from Pilate's Praetorium to the Hill of Calvary under the burden of the cross on which He was to be nailed. 

    When she got there, she discovered that the atmosphere was not favorable to prayer. She was surrounded by crowds of noisy people shouting and buying and selling, people who clearly did not have a single thought to spare for God. Discouraged, she decided to return to her hotel. In that very moment, a thought came to her mind. Perhaps it would be better to say that a voice spoke to her heart, saying: "It was like this when I did it too." 

    Realizing that it was the voice of Christ, or at least an inspiration from the Holy Spirit, which amounts to the same thing, she decided to persist with her intention to pray. In the midst of the noise, the indifference, the contempt, there was at least one heart seeking Christ. 

    When she reached the Hill of Calvary enshrined in its temple, she heard with a new penetration Christ's words on the cross, "Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do." Forgive them, Father, they neither know nor wish to know what they are doing. 

    (The writer of this article once spent an entire Christmas morning asleep in church for the duration of three Masses: "The drunk on the back bench, forgive him, Father, he knows not what he does; forgive him, Father, he neither knows nor wants to know what he is doing"). 

    In last Sunday's Gospel passage, Jesus said, "Whoever loves me will keep my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home in him. Whoever does not love me will not keep my word" (Jn. 14, 23-24). Christ is seeking out people who will listen to his word, who will respond to his love, who will accept his company, like that pilgrim lady on the streets of Jerusalem, like us during raucous First Holy Communion ceremonies. He seeks out souls who will listen to his word, who will obey his teaching, so that He and the Father may enter our hearts and live in us. That's what communion means. 

    Last Sunday happened to be a First Holy Communion ceremony in my parish. I said everything I have written here in the homily. About a dozen people got up and left. It's not always necessary to expel people from the temple with a whip in hand; sometimes the simple truth and the call to conversion is sufficient. 

    But that pilgrim lady's experience in the Holy Land provides a light by which to live the annual invasion of the atheists, and by which to live our entire lives in these atheistic times. Christ is not distracted by the noise and the indifference and the superficiality. His focus is on your heart, in the hope of finding that your focus is on His. 

 

Monday, 11 November 2019 15:08

Guardians of the Youth

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A young mother recently told me a story about her five year-old daughter. The little girl was reading a children's book with colorful pictures about dinosaurs. She asked, "Mom, is there like a zoo or something where we can go and see the dinosaurs?" Her mother laughed and said, "No, honey, dinosaurs are extinct." "Extinct, what does that mean?" "It means they're gone, they're dead, they all died." "What does dead mean?" "Well, it means you stop breathing, you die; all animals stop living at some point, they die." "Us, too?" "Yes, us too." "What happens then?" "We get buried in the ground and covered by earth." "Ah, okay." The little girl went on playing happily as if nothing had happened. 

Wednesday, 26 June 2019 17:44

Unconditional Love

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I once heard a priest give this response to the scandals that have occurred in the Church: he asked us if we wanted to be followers of Judas Iscariot the betrayer, or followers of Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, our Crucified Saviour. He asked us if it was logical to use the betrayal of Judas as an excuse to “justify” our own betrayal, or if it should rather impel us to be even more faithful to the God who was handed over with a kiss for thirty pieces of silver. It was a very good question. Judas Iscariot was one of the chosen twelve, but he was unfaithful to the One who chose him. He sold Him out for thirty pieces of silver. Jesus said of him: “It would have been better for that man if he had never been born” (Mt. 26, 24). Strong language? Yes it is, but these are the words of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, second Person of the Most Holy Trinity. We must ask ourselves: “Am I a follower of Judas the betrayer, or a follower of the betrayed Christ? How am I responding to the grace of my baptism?”. God will surely judge Judas for his sins, but He will just as surely judge me for mine. 

Wednesday, 02 January 2019 07:54

New Year, Nothing New

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    A novel by the Irish writer Samuel Beckett begins with this sentence: "The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new." The sentence is a neat introduction into the novel that follows, and into much of Beckett's work, including his famous Waiting for Godot. A similar spirit permeates the novels of Franz Kafka and Albert Camus, for example, two other champions of the postmodern mood. That mood can best be described by one word: fatigue. 

Friday, 26 October 2018 15:35

St. Monica and St. Augustine

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In the first year of seminary studies I had a professor named Don Jaime. That would be something like Professor James in English, but I'll just call him Don Jaime (pronounced Hi-may). 

Don Jaime had a tough reputation. He was an Augustinian priest and he gave us classes in Logic, Ancient Philosophy, and Modern Philosophy; three important subjects. If you arrived late for class the door was locked. He asked questions in class, and woe to you if you didn't have an answer. When he called you out to the blackboard to solve a mathematical problem during Logic classes, you sweated. 

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