T4W: Advent – Neither past nor future, but present

A prayer for the season of Advent by Karl Rahner SJ

Each year we celebrate the holy season of Advent, O God.  Every year we pray those beautiful prayers of longing and waiting, and sing those lovely songs of hope and promise.  Every year we roll up all our needs and yearnings and faithful expectation into one word: “Come!”

And yet, what a strange prayer this is!  After all, you have already come and pitched your tent among us.  You have already shared our life with its little joys, its long days of tedious routine, its bitter end.  Could you approach any nearer to us than you did when you became the “Son of Man”, when you adopted our ordinary little ways so thoroughly that it’s almost hard for us to distinguish you from the rest of our fellow human beings?

It is said that you will come again, and this is true.  But the word “again” is misleading.  It won’t really be another coming, because you have never really gone away.

But still you will come again, because the fact that you have already come must continue to be revealed ever more clearly.  It will become progressively more manifest to the world that the heart of all things is already transformed, because you have taken them all to your heart.

Behold, you come.  And your coming is neither past nor future, but the present, which has only to reach its fulfilment.  Now it is still the one single hour of your Advent, at the end of which we too shall have found out that you have really come.

O God who is to come, grant us the grace to live now, in the hour of your Advent, in such a way that we may merit to live in your forever, in the blissful hour of your eternity

from Encounters with Silence

T4W: Genesis in reverse

In the light of the destruction of our world, the Reverend Colin Morris has suggested a rewrite of the book of Genesis for the 21st century. It would begin with Genesis in reverse – how we dismantled the world.
In the end, we systematically demolished our world even though we had no where else to go. We plundered the earth and slaughtered our brothers and sisters of the animal kingdom. And that was the 7th day from the end. We polluted the clear air, poisoned the sea and turned rivers into foaming torrents of chemical waste. And this was the 6th day from the end. We stifled truth that wasn’t our truth and scoffed at the warnings of the prophets and were deaf to the ominous sounds of the earth in torment. Arrogance and self-righteousness drowned out wisdom and humility. And this was the 5th day from the end. And we said the strong are entitled to most of what’s going and the weak can have the rest. But the more we had to lose, the more fearful we became and so we built bigger walls and larger armies to protect our self interest. And this was the 4th day from the end. We slept uneasily and awoke afraid and set to work to create the ultimate weapon. Then we said, “Now we feel safe!” But our enemies did not feel safe so they created the ultimate weapon and whole world lived under the shadow of extinction and called it peace. And this was the 3rd day from the end. Then having proved that we could make anything, we said, now let us make God in our own image, let us gaze into a mirror and worship the one we see there. And this was the 2nd day from the end. And we were mesmerised by the products of our ingenuity and we cried, bigger, stronger, richer, louder, more! And we became frantic with desire for nothing could satisfy us. And this was the day before the end.
Then there was chaos and uproar and when the din subsided, human life had vanished. And the ravished earth rested on the 7th day. Then God broke the silence. ‘Back to the drawing board,’ he said sadly.

T4W: Martha Complex

Pope Francis drew up a list of ‘curial diseases’. He claimed that, ‘these diseases and temptations weaken our service to the Lord. I think a “listing” of these diseases – along the lines of the Desert Fathers who used to draw up such lists – helps us to prepare for the sacrament of Reconciliation, which will be a good step for all of us to take in preparing for Christmas.’ Maybe we could make up our own list. Certainly the second disease he identifies is one to watch out for as we begin the run in to Christmas.

2. Another disease is the “Martha complex”, excessive busy-ness. It is found in those who immerse themselves in work and inevitably neglect “the better part”: sitting at the feet of Jesus (cf. Lk 10:38-42). Jesus called his disciples to “rest a while”(cf. Mk 6:31) for a reason, because neglecting needed rest leads to stress and agitation. A time of rest, for those who have completed their work, is necessary, obligatory and should be taken seriously: by spending time with one’s family and respecting holidays as moments of spiritual and physical recharging. We need to learn from Qohelet that “for everything there is a season” (3:1-15).

T4W: Rest

The Kikuyu culture does not have the concept of Sunday or a day of rest or an extended period of time such as Advent, Ramadan or Lent.
But what they do have is ceremonies that demand a time of rest. For example the day after a burial, people do not work – even animals are not allowed to go to the fields to graze. Every being stops their normal routine activities for a day. This gives people time to grieve, to express respect, appreciation, and gratitude for the one who has left them to join the ancestors.
Rest also takes place as the community waits for the harvest. During this time young people dance and celebrate as they wait patient for the grain to ripen.  And then they celebrate after the harvest – rather than rushing into the next activity.

November Bee Notes


No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees

No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds!


The 19th century poet Thomas Hood wasn’t too enamoured of November – there are times when I would agree with him. I often feel caught by this transitional stage of the year. It is the time when the last leaves, that is the leaves that managed to withstand the battering of the recent storms, are torn from their lofty perch and drift towards the ground.

November presents opportunities too – ivy, being ever-green, retains its leaves and it is still in flower and the bees are flying at every opportunity they get. I must heft the hives to see if they have enough stores on board.

As we enjoy the fruits of the bees’ labour it is good to remind ourselves that honey production takes lots of hard work – a bee makes just a twelfth of a teaspoon in its life time. A one-pound jar represents the nectar of two million flowers. In Ireland we use 5,500 tonnes annually.  It is a mix of about 80% sugars, 18% water and 2% minerals, vitamins, pollen and protein. 70% of sugar is made up of glucose and fructose and the balance of these two determines whether a honey is clear or set.  Both are equally pure and additive-free. Some honey contains more glucose then fructose and will crystallise quickly e.g. oil seed rape. Honey can be made liquid by standing in warm water for an hour or so.


Bee Meditation

I came across a Bee Meditation designed for those who feel they can’t meditate.  I confess I have not tried it yet but here it is.

First, find a place you can be alone for a few minutes – sit comfortably with your back straight.

Scan your body and notice how you are feeling.

Close your eyes and put your thumbs in your ears and gently cover your eyes with your forefingers to block these two senses.

Inhale and on the exhale making a bee humming sound.

Repeat the inhale and hum sequence for ten breaths.

When completed keep eyes closed and rub your hands together to generate heat and place your hands over your face.

Gently open your eyes and remove hands.

Scan your body and notice how you feel.


How many hives?

A question keeps coming up as to how many hives one should have. Most people start with one hive but quickly realise they need a second after the first swarm emerges!

A single hive is never a long term prospect. If you only have one colony and it becomes queenless you have few options. The best way to confirm if a hive is queenless, is to give it a frame of eggs from another hive to see if queen cells are created (where will you get them from?). If you only want to a have a single hive you will need at least a nucleus hive.

It is good to ask yourself how many colonies you want to overwinter. This number can double in the season if you take into account swarm control. In that case you may need up to twice the number of boxes you plan to overwinter. Winter gives us an opportunity to work out how much equipment we need for the coming season.

I try to have a spare nucleus of bees at the end of the season. There is always a colony that needs a boost.  I find that if I take any three colonies, one will be doing well, another will be doing poorly compared to its performance last year, and the third will be a complete puzzle. And by next year they will all have swapped roles! But at least I have options with three hives.  I have a supply of drawn comb, a spare queen, sealed brood, and even stores if required.  I can unite two colonies if they are weak.


Hive Records

I have never been very good at keeping hive records. It is a very helpful if you do it. Some useful advice I have used: First, you must differentiate one hive from another – numbering hives permanently is not a good idea as they get moved during the season so it can get confusing trying to keep track of them. The best solution is to buy numbers and pin them to the hive and it can then be transferred to other boxes as the queen is moved.  Attach the number to the brood box and you can use the colour of the drawing pins to denote the year the queen was born.

There are options for recording your information for each hive. One is to use a notebook. The advantage of this method is that you can take it home and study it. Another way is to put some packing tape on the roof of each hive or on crown board and make notes on it. A third way is to use colony record cards that can be stored on top of the crown board.

Records do not need to be long and some form of shorthand is useful – invent your own abbreviations: Q for queen present, DL = drone layer. QC= queen clipped. No queen cells = X  etc. The list of things you can record is long!

Hive Number  Year  Date


Queen cells








A final note

Bees are much better at adjusting to the changing seasons then we are. I tend to do the same things regardless of the time of year and don’t make any real seasonal adjustments to my life style – I sleep the same amount, do the same exercise routine, eat the same food, run around as busy  as ever etc.  As we enter November and deeper into autumn I like this advice. It reflects my experience,  ‘At this time the wind blows and the inner universe becomes shaky. It is important at this time to stabilise our routine of eating, sleeping and eliminating. Becoming steady in ideas and convictions may help us to deal with this season of change.’  Makes sense!

T4W: The Rule of Three

Saint Ida, the sixth century Irish saint, is said to have to taught that there are three things that God loves; faith in God with a pure heart; a simple life with a grateful spirit; and generosity inspired by charity. The three things he can’t stand are, a mouth that spews out hatred, a heart full of resentment and confidence in wealth.

T4w: We the People

Today people are focused more and more on themselves – with ‘worshipping the self’  – and aligning themselves with like minded people, in like-minded groups. Facebook and other social media lead us to surround ourselves with  people like us – people whose views, opinions and prejudices are just like ours.
This identification with ‘my group’ leads to hardening of boundaries, divisive elections and divided societies.  With too much of the ‘I’ and too little of the ‘we’ we become more vulnerable, fearful and alone.
With increased numbers of immigrants to Ireland we have an opportunity to move out and be challenged by those who are different from us.  But as Rabbi Jonathan Sachs points out, many of us are opting to stay in our ‘hotels’. “what has happened in the West is that we have turned society into a series of hotels; you pay your bills which are your taxes and in return you get a room where you can do whatever you like as long as you don’t disturb the people to the left or right. The trouble is that no one ever belongs to a hotel so we are losing this concept of society as a place where all sorts of different people come together in the common aim of pursuing the common good. My favourite phrase in politics is, ‘we the people’ , because it says that we all share collective responsibility for our collective future and that is how things should be.”

T4W: Control

In his list of diseases found in the Roman Curia, Pope Francis refers to the disease of “excessive planning and of functionalism”. It is a disease we could all take note of – the disease of excessive control reflecting a lack of trust.

When an apostle plans everything down to the last detail and believes that with perfect planning things will fall into place, he becomes an accountant or an office manager. Things need to be prepared well, but without ever falling into the temptation of trying to contain and direct the freedom of the Holy Spirit, which is always greater and more flexible than any human planning (cf. Jn 3:8).  We contract this disease because it is always more easy and comfortable to settle in our own sedentary and unchanging ways. In truth, the Christian and the Church show their fidelity to the Holy Spirit to the extent that they do not try to control or tame that Holy Spirit! The Spirit is freshness, imagination, and newness”.

Let us relinquish control, even for a moment, and trust in the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit.

T4W: The Ministry of Listening

Psychotherapy taught me the power of listening. I was at my first session, (it had taken me six weeks to work up the courage to talk to him!) and I became aware of a new sensation – a feeling of safety – this person was present in a way that I had never experienced – present in a way that made me feel safe and secure. He held a space for me where healing could begin –  he was exercising what I now know as ‘the ministry of listening’.
The difference was that he was really present – he reflected what I said, sat forward, focussed on me. And I knew he was listening and not just hearing – and there is a difference – hearing is something passive – our ears are always on – we can’t switch them off. Listening on the other hand is active, requiring effort – it is powerful in its transforming ability.
Listening is a ministry we can all engage in no matter what age and there is no need for further study or ordination, though training makes a difference. My mother and I both agree!

Abbot Brendan‘s Homily at Funeral of an tAth. Seán Ó Duinn

Any time our brother Seán Ó Duinn stood behind this ambo to preach, he always reminded us that God was immense, all powerful and mysterious. O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For those of us who lived in rooms near him in the monastery, we would hear him practicing his sermon beforehand, over and over. By Sunday morning we could have preached it for him! He wanted it to be just right, because it was important to him. He had a fascination with the mystery of God and his passion for this mystery fuelled his interest in ancient cultures, folklore, myth and legend, especially that rich tradition in our own land. He felt an affinity with the way the ancients thought about the world and he could identify with the language of myth and legend and bring it to life.

Seán was born just outside Fermoy, Co Cork. There was never any doubting where he was from. Seán was given the name Bonaventure when he entered the novitiate here. He always preferred Seán, and that is how most people knew him. His monastic name does in a strange way reveal aspects of his character. St Bonaventure is known as the “seraphic doctor”, because of his learning, his goodness and his otherworldliness and Seán shared these traits. The legend tells us that Francis had a vision of the future greatness of little John, as St Bonaventure was then known, and exclaimed “O Buona ventura,” “O good fortune”. It is a joy for us in this community today to be able to say the same about our brother Seán. It was our good fortune, our Buona ventura, to have known and lived with him. He was a truly gentle soul in whom there was no malice. To be able to say that about someone at the end of their days is a wonderful thing.

He would never forgive me today if I didn’t delve into the realms of Irish mythology. We’re all familiar with the many versions of the story of the children of Lir, how their stepmother struck them with a rod of enchantment changing them into four white swans. “The doom will end when a king from the North weds a queen from the South; when a druid with a shaven crown comes over the seas; when you hear the sound of a little bell that rings for prayers.” After nine hundred years the swans arrived at the little church of Saint Kemoc and heard the sound of his bell. The local king who was from the north and married to a queen from the south heard of their arrival. He put forth his hand and touched the swans, the swan-feathers dwindled and shrivelled and became as fine dust, but their spirits attained to freedom and joined their kinsfolk in the Land-of-the-Ever-Living.

Seán’s journey was not exactly nine hundred years, but it was a journey of books and learning, steeped in these ancient myths; he was like the Celtic monks of old. He loved his study and he loved to teach and his students loved him. The golden years of his life were those years he spent in ‘Mary I’ with his students. In more recent times he was in the tender care of the staff in Millbrae Lodge Nursing Home and we thank them and Dr Moroney most sincerely for that care. In his final months, life became more and more of a struggle. He continued to be visited by his devoted circle of friends and his joyous personality and very accepting outlook on life never changed.

St Benedict tells us that as the monk journeys through life the heart should expand with the unspeakable sweetness of love. Seán, our brother, possessed such a heart. It is such a joy to see a smile on the face of someone when they reach the end of their days, their hands open and empty, confident that God himself will give whatever is needed. This is beatitude. As a monk Seán was ever faithful, never missing from the Work of God here in choir with his brothers. He loved the Office, he loved the liturgy and he loved singing in choir… even though the good Lord never gifted him with the slightest scintilla of musical talent.

And so, as Seán himself would say, “to sum up”. On the morning of the 9th of October the hand of the God he loved touched him for the last time on earth and his gentle spirit attained to the freedom of the children of Lir and he went to join the saints in the Land-of-the-Ever-Living. Of our brother Seán it can be truly said: Ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann.

Braon de dhrúcht na bhFlaitheas

’s  deoch ó thobar na grás

go mbronnadh Dia ar a anam

agus ar ár nanam féin in uair ár mbáis.