Pray for children

"JESUS SAID,'LET THE LITTLE CHILDREN COME TO ME, AND DO NOT HINDER THEM.' "

We place all children and young people in the hands of Our Blessed Lady

This July we will pray for the safety of all children and young people during the holiday season.

A Safe Summer

Introduction

We went to a popular resort today, for some fresh air, and a picnic.  While the sun failed to shine, most people there were in good spirits.  Down on the beach, small children played, their parents or minders seated on blankets or chairs, looking on.  Family dogs joined in the fun.  It was evident that the vast majority of the happy people consisted of children and young people.  A typical, idyllic, summer setting, you might say, all of us free at last to embrace nature and to enjoy a sense of freedom and release from Covid, pressures of work and school, and the usual dangers that exist in a modern society.  But I’m afraid, as recent, too numerous reports suggest, the need for vigilance and the safety of children and young persons, is especially relevant during the so-called ‘…lazy, hazy, crazy days of Summer.’   

I do like to be beside the seaside

More than ever these days, people want to live by the sea.  Whether they wish to admit it or not, they are acknowledging the wonder and attraction of God’s creation.  Where they occur along our coastline, beaches are a wonderful, natural resource, especially for families.  The sea, however, is a powerful force of nature and must be treated with respect.  Just five days ago, two young girls were rescued in Wicklow, after their inflatable device took them far from the shore.[i]   In May, a teenager was rescued from the sea by a young Jet Ski rider.[ii]  These reports have good endings, but as we know, there have been tragic outcomes.  Along the east coast, there are good, long, flat, beaches which might lull you into a false sense of security.  Never lose sight of your children on the beach, especially crowded beaches, where they can so easily get lost, if not get into difficulty in the water.

Of course, some seaside resorts offer other attractions, including amusement arcades and parks, shops, tantalising takeaways and restaurants.  Perhaps it is to these, that a tiny, significant minority of our population are also lured.  A recent report in one of our local papers described a mother’s anger as her teenage son was brutally attacked by a ‘mob’ of youths on a popular beach in the area.[iii]  In another incident, posted internet footage showed a large group of young people fighting with weapons just yards from young children.[iv]  You can also read about the lawless actions of young people in France[v] and in Canada[vi] on the beaches.

Whether it be a day, a week or a holiday by the beach, parents, know where your children have been and whose company they have kept, at all times.

Covid

The vast majority of us do not have Covid, and please God, never will.  This is hopefully down to good discipline, obedience to the never-ending rules and genuine selflessness.  We do our best to pass these virtues on to our children when they are under our care.  In our schools, our teachers substitute for us, in guiding the young along the right path.  We would hope that society in general would behave as we would ourselves.   Unfortunately, especially in Summer, while some of us are at work, or otherwise occupied, our children and young people are out of our sight.  They play, as they should, with their friends, usually not too far from home, perhaps on the greens in front of our houses.  Occasionally, though, there is a temptation to stray further afield, with greater numbers of their peers, even strangers.  These times present the greatest danger, as a good upbringing and sound individual thinking, give way to ‘gang mentality’.  Now, while these situations are a breathing ground for all manner of temptations, increased socialising, without distancing and ‘masks,’ allow the pandemic to flourish, especially indoors.  Parents, know where your children have been and whose company they have kept, at all times.

Drugs and drink

As stated, socialising in increasing numbers without regard to the rules of health and safety, the law or good, common sense, can lead one up some dark alleys.  However, you don’t have to stray off the beaten path to encounter temptation.  While on holidays years ago, enjoying the ‘amusements’ in a packed outdoor park, near a well-known marina, I got a tap on the shoulder, followed by an invitation to buy some drugs.  When I declined the offer, the man moved on to his next target.  Our youngest daughter was with us; we were surrounded by families.  People were having a good time, on a balmy, summer evening.   Do not be under any delusions.  Gardai seized a record number of illegal substances in this country last year.[vii]  Despite the pandemic, some areas of ‘commerce’ mushroomed.  There is no part of any town or the country free from the curse of drugs anymore.  They will walk up to you and tap you on the shoulder; or you simply have to ask one or two questions in the right areas.  The dealers will sell to anyone with money, including our children.  They will use children and young persons to move and sell the banned substances. 

While the use of drugs is increasing, drinking and drunkenness will always be with us, even during a pandemic.  It is worrying that so many images of adults drinking in crowded streets and recreational areas, in contravention of all recommendations, designed to prevent the spread of Covid, are readily beamed into our homes each week. Even without the presence of a pandemic, this behaviour is hardly setting the right example for our children and young persons.  If you believe that there is an excuse for it, or that there is no harm in it, then read no further.   But if, like the majority of very good people in this country, you believe that this is not right; that now, more than ever, the beautiful minds of our children and young persons must be allowed to develop untainted by substance abuse and bad behaviour, you will continue to lead by good example and steer them towards a healthier, safer environment.  Parents, know where your children have been and whose company they have kept, at all times.

The need for prayer and vigilance

As the government threatens once more to deny our children the wonderful sacraments of Baptism, Communion and Confirmation, at a critical juncture in our lives and at a time of the year when most needed, parents and community must, more than ever, continue their roles as guardians and role models to our children and young persons.  If this pandemic has highlighted anything, it is that children and young people must have a safe, principled environment in which to grow and develop, protected from the worst excesses and impacts of society.  Jesus loved children.  He stayed safe with his earthly parents for 30 years before he began his ministry.  Today, he sits with his Father in Heaven.  He knows what trials and tribulations parents and children have to endure.  He is with us each step of the way.  Ask Him for his help to enjoy Summer with your children; and know where they have been and whose company they have kept, at all times.

Prayers

  • Parents, pray for a good Summer, which you can enjoy with your children, while keeping them safe from harm.
  • Communities, provide a safe environment for our children and young persons in which they can happily and safely play
  • All others, do not do anything to harm, endanger or corrupt the minds of our children and young persons while they seek to enjoy Summer with their families.

 



[i] Irish Times

[ii] Cf lifeboats rnli.org

[iii] Meath Chronicle.ie, June 4th 2021

[iv] Irish Mirror online, 31st May 2021

[v] Independent.ie, June 19th 2021

[vi] Blogto.com

[vii] Paul Reynolds, RTE News, 2.7.2021

Child of God
We are delighted to post our new video on prayforchildren.net. Many thanks to Joanne Kieran, a well known Drogheda musician/composer who composed the wonderful song "Child of God" and who has given us her kind permission to use it. We hope you enjoy the video and continue to pray for God's little one's.

‘Soul signifies the Spiritual Principle in man.’

Introduction

This blog is about praying for the protection of children and young people.  Usually at this time of year we pray for children and young people preparing to receive the sacraments of Holy Communion and Confirmation, but Covid 19 restrictions have deferred the ceremonies to a later date.  So, this month our prayer intention is for the protection of the soul of children and young people in the absence of the sacraments.

What is your Soul?

Since most of us can remember, we have been told about the ‘body and soul’; or the ‘heart and soul’ of man.  The heart exists in a physical sense – my doctor has shown me an image of my heart in action.  Seeing it and the work that it does on behalf of myself and my body, has put me even more in awe of creation.  We are also very aware of our bodies.  We see them every day.  Some of us are better at taking care of them than others, especially as they age.  They are often neglected, to our detriment.  Our lives may be shortened as a result.  The medical world can assist us in our physical well-being.  But I have also seen the power of prayer restore health to the sick.

How can we take care of the entity that is our soul?  More importantly, at this time, how can we as parents, family, priests and the community protect the souls of our children and young persons, as a raging pandemic denies them the opportunity to receive the beautiful sacraments of Communion and Confirmation?

If we could see the ‘soul’, feel it, touch it, heal it, would it make our jobs any easier?  Or would we neglect it, as we do our hearts and bodies?  In Sacred Scripture the term ‘soul’ often refers to human life or the entire human person.  But ’soul’ also refers to the innermost aspect of man, that which is of greatest value in him, that by which he is most especially in God’s image. ‘Soul signifies the spiritual principle in man’. Cf (CCC 363).

Every spiritual soul is created immediately by God – it is not produced by the parents.  The soul is immortal: It does not perish when it separates from the body at death; and it will be reunited with the body at the final resurrection. Cf (CCC 366).  The soul belongs to God and God alone.  Something so precious must be prayed for.  It cannot be neglected, or mistreated like our bodily organs.  In fact, as the host for our soul, the body should be treated with the same high regard. 

How do we save our souls and those of our children?

Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour saw the need to pray for mankind.  In His prayer to God the Father, Jesus prays that mankind will not be led into temptation. Cf. (CCC 2846) And that mankind will be protected from the evil one. Cf. (CCC 2850).  If Jesus Christ, God made man, saw the need to pray for God’s children, we as parents, family, friends, the community must follow his example.  Usually, we have the power of the sacraments to help us.  At Baptism, parents and God Parents promise God that they will nurture the faith in the newly baptised infant.  They promise to care for the soul of the newly baptised child, all through their life, by their witness in life and good example.  In fact, the whole ecclesiastical community bears some responsibility for the development and safe guarding of the grace given at Baptism. Cf. (CCC 1255).

In the sacrament of Communion, our children receive the gifts of His body and blood, given directly to us by Jesus. The preparation for this sacrament and the powerful symbolism connecting its receipt to the events of the Last Supper, instil in our children the belief that through observance, of the sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion their sins will be forgiven and their souls shall be saved.  The preparation for Confirmation and the bestowing of the belief in the descent of the Holy Spirit upon them, confirms baptismal grace.  The blessing with sacred oil is the sealing with gifts of The Holy Spirit,[i] and the ceremony is a reminder of the apostles receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, from whence they proclaimed the great works of God.

Those of us fortunate to have received these wonderful gifts have the power to proclaim God’s work and to protect our children, while they await the sacraments.  When we unite our prayer to that of Christ, the Father gives “another Counsellor, to be with you for ever the spirit of truth.”  In the Holy Spirit, Christian prayer is a communion of love with the Father, not only through Christ but also in Him. Cf. (CCC 2615).

In the 8th Station of the Cross, the women meet Jesus and are weeping.  Jesus’ reply to their tears is profound, in fact it is the reason this blog exists.  Jesus tells the women not to weep for Him, but for their children and their children’s children.  Jesus being God, knew the trials and temptations that children would face down through the centuries.

I love the line from Sacred Scripture, “The souls of the virtuous are in the hands of God.” (Wisdom 3:1). This line is part of a reading usually used at funerals but I feel it should also apply to the living.  Children and young people should be trained to live holy and virtuous lives by our witness in life and good example; and not be permitted to suffer lives of fornication, substance abuse, lies, etc..   One way we can help our children is by praying to our Guardian Angel, asking them to go to our children’s Guardian Angels, to help them.

Angels have been present since creation and throughout the history of salvation. Cf. (CCC 332). From infancy to death human life is surrounded by the watchful care and intercession of angels. Cf. (CCC 337). With their whole beings the angels are servants and messengers of God. Cf. (CCC 329).   Angels can see and go to places we cannot. St. Padre Pio had great devotion to the angels and often called upon them in times of need.

Prayers

So, this month of June, let us pray for God’s treasure of young souls.

By our witness in life and good example, may our prayers assist them in living holy and virtuous lives.

May their Angels guard and protect them at all times.  Amen.

 

 



[i] St George Holy Catholic Church

New Pages

We have added 2 new pages, called

CHILDRENS PRAYERS. This is a simple selection of prayers for children to say. We will add more prayers in time.

GOD IN CREATION. This is a series of slide shows showing the beauty of creation along with random scripture quotes.  A good way to take time out to meditate and maybe find God in ways you never saw before.

Will you pray for God's little children?

Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven

This blog invites you to pray for the protection of children and young people. Will you pray for God's little children, from the unborn baby in the womb, the new born baby, little children of all ages and young people.  It could be your child you want to pray for or just any child.  You can pray before the Blessed Sacrament for one hour a week or before a tabernacle in your church.  If you are not able to make it to a church you can pray in your own home. Please join us as we pray.

This blog was set up under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ and our Blessed Lady are its patrons.

However far you may wander, He is always there, the Risen One.


This month of May, we have decided to pray and write about Youth Violence. It is something that would appear to be happening so much more in society these days. And yet, if those of us old enough can remember, locally we endured the anxiety caused by ‘Teddy’ and ‘Bovver’ boys, ‘Skinheads’ and other aggressive gangs; while on a national and international scale, we witnessed scenes of rioting, violence, arson, and gun battles, all accompanied, it seemed by a recurring theme of stone and petrol-bomb throwing youths. During the last twelve months, Covid appeared to bring a halt to these activities, but now that the world is opening up, due to a shot in the arm, old habits and hatreds have re-awoken; and children and young people are once more to the fore of the most sensational headlines.

Recent reports of youth violence

Last Summer, when a Chinese woman was subjected to racist abuse by a gang of teenagers before one of them pushed her into the canal in West Dublin, the whole incident was videoed and shared on social media. In February of this year, a Mongolian woman died following an earlier assault by a teenager in Dublin’s north inner city. Last month, a woman of Asian origin was attacked by a group of teens on Henry Street, who threw rubbish at her and used ethnic slurs. On 27th May 2020, North Dublin locals were shocked and angry after vicious attacks involving gangs of youth. On 6th March 2021, In Portrush, two young couples were attacked by a gang of youths. On Friday April 2nd 2021, fears mounted of another night of violence in Northern Ireland. On 6th April 2021, it was reported that “Sinister elements” were getting younger people to attack PSNI. These are but a few small incidents. There are so many other cases out there in the world but too many to mention. My mother used to say to us when we were young that, “Violence begets violence”. How true. So why are young people behaving in such a manner? Where does this violence stem from? Let us look at factors that may give us some answers.

Family Influences

Families appear to play multiple roles that may increase or decrease the risk of youth violence. Many of the best-established risk factors for youth violence are based in the family, including harsh and rejecting parents, interparental violence, child abuse and neglect, chaotic family life, inconsistent discipline, and poor monitoring by parents of children showing early signs of aggression. While providing an otherwise safe and accountable environment for their children, parents repeating irresponsible comments about ‘foreigners’ and those perceived to be at fault for the Covid virus in the first instance, could very well have led to some of the attacks as briefly referred to in the preceding paragraph.

Neurobiological Factors

Neurobiological risk factors have long been implicated in youth violence. These include neurocognitive deficits, perinatal complications, genetic risks, and psychophysiological differences (e.g., low resting heart rate), among others (Glenn & Raine, 2014). There is now a greater understanding about how chronic and traumatic stress resulting from adverse childhood experiences…can compromise adaptive responses to stress (Lupien, McEwen, Gunnar, & Heim, 2009

Other Factors

While parents with the best intentions may nurture their children to ‘do right’ by each other and everyone else, certain natural instincts may dominate. There again, once a child from a loving environment leaves the home, and begins to mix in a school, or on a street or in the town with other less fortunate young people, and/or gang mentality emerges over whatever ‘needs’ or ‘issues’ take hold, it takes real strength of character to resist the urge to do wrong.
In a recent article in the Sunday Independent, President Higgins, while reflecting on the current upsurge of youth violence in Northern Ireland, stated that, “part of being a youngster is self-expression, seeking esteem in some ways”. At the same time, he remarked that “anyone who takes advantage of these, has a lot to answer for.” Of course, there are many peaceful ways that a young person may express himself or herself, in order to seek self-esteem. Fortunately, most of our great children and young people, choose the right path. It is more difficult, however, especially for those who are born into, and are brought up in war-torn areas, refugee camps and in areas of deprivation, to avoid the clutches of sinister elements with incitement to violence, rebellion and insurrection on their minds.

What does the Word of God have to say about young people?

Youth, children and the young, are born to be loved, and to love in return. From there, all else springs. Youth holds a special place in the Bible, in the words of Pope Francis and in our Holy Orders.

Pope Francis proclaims that Christ is alive! “He is our hope and in a wonderful way he brings youth to our world, and everything he touches becomes young, new, full of life. The very first words, then, that I would like to say to every young Christian are these: Christ is alive and he wants you to be alive! He is in you; he is with you and he never abandons you. However far you may wander, he is always there, the Risen One. He calls you and he waits for you to return to him and start over again. When you feel you are growing old out of sorrow, resentment or fear, doubt or failure, he will always be there to restore your strength and your hope. Cf. (CHRISTUS VIVIT).

What beautiful true words from Pope Francis to our young people. The line to resonate with me is “However far you may wander, he is always there, the Risen One.”
With God, there is always hope and newness of life.

Let us also draw upon some of the richness of the sacred Scriptures, since they often speak of young people and of how the Lord draws near to encounter them.

In the Old Testament

In an age when young people were not highly regarded, some texts show that God sees them differently. Joseph, for example, was one of the youngest of his family (cf. Gen 37:2-3), yet God showed him great things in dreams and when about twenty years old he outshone all his brothers in important affairs (cf. Gen 37-47). Similarly, God chose Gideon, Samuel, King Saul, King David, King Solomon and Jeremiah, at very young ages, to advise, intervene, to lead, to advise, to cure and show mercy. As an insight into His thinking on this issue, God, through Samuel, picked David, (cf. 1 Sam 16:6-13), for “man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (v. 7). The glory of youth is in the heart, more than in physical strength or the impression given to others.

In the New Testament

Jesus was a young man, a prophet, a healer, a teacher. Clearly, he was not who or what the Jewish elders had been expecting, when they rejected Him. One wonders who or what they might have been prepared to accept. Young people should relate to his rejection, yes, but it is His ultimate act, of taking His place at the right hand of His Father, that should resonate wholly with all of us.
Jesus’s teachings, and those of the apostles, were steeped in the values of the Old Testament, which reflected the Word of God. In many of these, there are great words of encouragement and wisdom for children and young people. In arguably the best-known of His parables, the lesson of the Prodigal Son (cf. Lk 15:11-32) is one of a father’s undying love and of a young heart that was naturally ready to change, to turn back, get up and learn from life. Jesus praises the young sinner who returned to the right path, over the brother who considered himself faithful, yet lacked the spirit of love and mercy.
Jesus had no use for adults who looked down on the young or lorded it over them. On the contrary, he insisted that “the greatest among you must become like the youngest” (Lk 22:26). For him age did not establish privileges, and being young did not imply lesser worth or dignity.
Saint Paul, no stranger to inflicting terror on people apparently, returned to the right path after putting on his “young” self (Col 3:9-10).[1] In explaining what it means to put on that youthfulness “which is being renewed” (v. 10), he mentions “compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving each other if anyone has a complaint against another” (Col 3:12-13.
Paul expressed his feelings on the young, in many of his letters. The word of God says that young people should be treated “as brothers” (1 Tim 5:1). He warned parents not to “provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” (Col 3:21). Young people are not meant to become discouraged; they are meant to dream great things, to seek vast horizons, to aim higher, to take on the world, to accept challenges and to offer the best of themselves to the building of something better. That is why I constantly urge young people not to let themselves be robbed of hope; to each of them I repeat: “Let no one despise your youth” (1 Tim 4:12).
Yet the lesson to the young is that in taking on the world, they are urged “to accept the authority of those who are older” (1 Pet 5:5). But those who would steal the self-esteem of young people, to pursue their own selfish, criminal aims, would do well to heed the words of an ancient sage, who asks us to respect certain limits and to master our impulses: “Urge the younger men to be self-controlled” (Tit 2.6). A wise young person is open to the future, yet still capable of learning something from the experience of others. (cf. Mt 13:52).

Living in a world in crisis

The Synod Fathers have acknowledged the horrors and challenges of children and young persons, in great detail. Addressing the question of what we can do to change things, we suggest that prayer is one way to start. By asking God to come into the situation and to help, is a positive Good for young people. God can reach into the unknown, into areas he sees that we humans cannot see. Interceding in prayer is an act of charity for your neighbour and oftentimes the only way to go; after all God knows best.

Lastly, it is to you, young men and women of the world, that the Council wishes to address its final message. For it is you who are to receive the torch from the hands of your elders and to live in the world at the period of the most gigantic transformations ever realized in its history. It is you who, receiving the best of the example of the teaching of your parents and your teachers, are to form the society of tomorrow. You will either save yourselves or you will perish with it.

It is in the name of this God and of His Son, Jesus, that we exhort you to open your hearts to the dimensions of the world, to heed the appeal of your brothers, to place your youthful energies at their service. Fight against all egoism. Refuse to give free course to the instincts of violence and hatred which beget wars and all their train of miseries. Be generous, pure, respectful, and sincere, and build in enthusiasm a better world than your elders had.
Cf. (Message of the 11 Vatican Council to Youth.)

Prayers

Parents teach your children to love and not to hate, to be peaceful and forgiving and to not resort to violent means

Children, respect your parents and your elders, and the property of others. Be generous, pure, respectful, and sincere, and build in enthusiasm a better world than your elders had. Do not listen to those who preach only hatred and intolerance

Communities, have patience and understanding. Show example to the young by shunning violence and intolerance.

Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.

This month of April, we will pray for the protection of children and young people against the use of and pushing of drugs.

The Threat of Drugs

Introduction

We are in the third wave of Covid-19. The majority of the citizens in Ireland have been locked down again. Children and their parents are not allowed to attend daily mass or to receive the sacraments. Most Catholics must watch mass on-line and say an act of spiritual communion, to compensate for not receiving the body and blood of Jesus Christ in person. If you venture outside a 5-kilometre limit for no excepted reason, you could be stopped, fined and perhaps imprisoned. Illegal drug trafficking and taking have been outlawed, too, in this country for many years. Yet…

The Covid Crackdown on Drug Trafficking

If you chance to live by the Dublin Road in any of our larger towns, you may be struck by the constant flow of traffic throughout the day, which the pandemic lockdown does not appear to have stemmed too much. We wonder at times where all of those road users are going to or coming from, especially on Sundays. Some of them are probably drug dealers and members of their gangs. Covid-19 restrictions have forced them to come up with new ways to distribute drugs. They had to, what with pubs, clubs and other social outlets being shut down. They use rental cars instead of their own transport.

Many traffickers also turned to the internet and the postal service…to transport their drugs…they adapted in the same way as a lot of businesses. They hid drugs inside legitimate packages. On 18th December 2020, Revenue officers at Dublin Mail Centre seized 16kg of drugs in parcels declared as ‘ornaments’, ‘candy’, ‘clothing’ and ‘gifts’, bound for addresses in Dublin and Louth, with an estimated value of €117,000. But perhaps the most insidious ‘adaptation’ involved the increased exploitation of children, especially in disadvantaged areas, as mules and runners to transport drugs during the lockdown when schools were shut. Children see only the promise of money in their pockets, fancy tracksuits, bikes, a way out, perhaps a life of bling and glamour. But, for some it only results in debts they cannot pay to the gangs, threats of violence, injury and in some cases, death.

Gardai have not ceded their responsibilities in this area, despite greater demands on their time as a result of the pandemic. The Garda Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau seized a record number of drugs during the pandemic, impounding illegal substances valued at more than €36 million in the first 11 months of 2020 – compared to €21.3 million in total in 2019. However, with the exception of some ‘guaranteed Irish cannabis crops’, the drugs are still getting through, onto this island, from destinations abroad, in through our ports or secret coves, and transported to their final markets. Take a look at just a selection of headlines from The Journal newspaper, for the first few weeks of 2021 alone: Suspected drugs and stolen power tools seized after search in Clondalkin, (20.3.21); man charged after 70,000 euro heroin seizure in Cork, (Mar 18); cocaine worth almost 3 million seized in Garda operation in northern Donegal, (Mar 17th); man arrested after 45k euro worth of suspected Xanax tablets and cocaine seized in Co Kerry, (16.3); Man due in court following seizure of 70,000 euro worth of suspected cocaine in Galway, (14.3); Cannabis worth 1.8 million found hidden inside van at Ringaskiddy in Cork, (9.3); Report finds people use psychedelic drugs to self-medicate for depression, anxiety and trauma, – Global Drug Survey (5.3); people arrested as gardai seize cash and cannabis during searches of car and house , Cork and Westmeath, (4.3); 2 men appear in court over 200,000 cannabis seizure, following searches in Dublin and Meath, (24.2); man arrested as 270,000 worth of cannabis plants seized during raid of property in co Laois, Mountrath, (19.2); Cocaine worth 12 million discovered in containers from Central America at Ringaskiddy Port, (18.2); Revenue seize 3,000,000 illegal cigarettes at Rosslare port, (15.2); Man arrested after almost 125,000 worth of cocaine and medical heroin seized in Dublin, (15.2); Third of a tonne of cannabis found by gardai in 7.4 million Kildare seizure, (12.2).21; Drugs worth 187 k seized in Portlaoise…drugs worth more than 1,000,ooo seized in Dublin…Limerick truck driver jailed for importing 1.6 million worth of drugs to Ireland…Garda drug units set up snapchat accounts to snare online drug dealers…

But if pubs, clubs, restaurants, concerts, gigs, fleadhs and other such venues have been closed, where are people now taking their drug of choice? Where is it now safe to hide away by yourself, or with a group of ‘users’, when you want to shoot-up, inhale or swallow? Considering the high numbers of community-based Covid outbreaks and the tracing of the majority of them to ‘households’, the workplace and God forbid, care and residential homes, would it be an outlandish leap of the imagination to suggest that drug-taking has been removed from the streets and car parks, and taken up residence behind the curtains of suburbia? Has the proliferation of home bars and cinemas, even shebeens, also resulted in a more sinister use for the once-harmless den?

It is no wonder then that drug-induced deaths in Ireland are three times greater than the European average, according to a study by the European Union’s drugs agency. There appears to be a growing call, using findings and statistics, to declare present policy to defeat the spread of illegal substances a failure; and to perhaps consider a different approach, like legalisation of cannabis. Is this right?

The Right Way

This blog endeavours to pray for children and young people, in order to protect them and their families. Remember, today’s traffickers and pushers, who are still quite young adults, were innocent children once. They were not conceived for a life of crime. Perhaps someone’s prayers, or a timely intervention, or a different set of circumstances and values would have prevented them from ‘breaking bad’.

By quoting some facts and figures in relation to drugs, the blog hopes to point out the incredible danger to the lives of so many, especially the young and less well off in society, that the actions of a few can represent. Nowhere in Ireland is safe and free from the scourge of drugs, as the geographical spread of those finds and detections clearly demonstrates.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that the use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offence. Clandestine production of and trafficking in drugs are scandalous practices. They constitute direct co-operation in evil, since they encourage people to practices gravely contrary to the moral law. No more than the legalisation of alcohol and tobacco did, the lives of our children, young people and their parents, will not be saved by the legalisation of yet another chemical or chemicals, to be injected, sniffed or swallowed into our sacred bodies. While well-intentioned, or perhaps self-serving interests advocate leniency towards drug-taking, it appears that the moral well-being of all humans is no longer an issue when it comes to letting people choose for themselves.

Drug trafficking is evil. Drug use except on therapeutic grounds, is a grave offence. When out of our sight, and in the absence of good guidance, our children are vulnerable to exploitation. Their family homes must be a source of comfort, safety and freedom from abuse of any kind, at all times. As never before, it is up to us as parents, to lead our children away from the wrong path, the wrong people, the wrong choices.

It would help us tremendously if we still had our churches, places where we could bring our children, to prepare for and receive the sacraments of Confession, Communion and Confirmation. If opening the schools was one way of removing the children from the clutches of those who wished to exploit them for the purposes of drug trafficking, think what re-opening the churches would do as a means of placing them back into the hands of Our Father.

Prayers

We pray:

For the safety and protection of our children and young people, from the evil of drugs;
That our children and young persons may be saved from exploitation by drug traffickers and pushers;

That our children and young persons may choose the path of life and reject the darkness and destruction of criminal activities;

That their parents and guardians may have the strength to protect them from the growing threat of substance abuse;

That our churches may be re-opened, and that parents and children may be free to receive the holy sacraments and to be placed back into the hands of Our Father.

 

God does not forget His children, He is there with them.

This month of March, we will be praying for the safe return of children and young people to schools and colleges.

 

Introduction

For the past year we have all been suffering from the effects and impact of Covid 19.  For children and young persons, it meant the loss of schooling and the loss of contact with friends and peers.  Loneliness and isolation have become part of the new norm for children.  Education has reverted to online studying, or home schooling, for those fortunate enough to avail of these facilities.  Being at home under the protection of your parents, especially for younger children, has its advantages, but as the time away from school and colleges amounted to months instead of days and weeks, children, young persons, parents and teachers grew more and more anxious for a return to the normal education system.  Jesus Christ was a teacher, as well as a preacher and a healer.  His teaching was of a heavenly nature.  He taught us obedience, fortitude and sacrifice.  All these things are vital to survival during this pandemic. 

Back to School

Today, more than 300,000 children and young persons got back to their classrooms, after an extended period of Christmas holidays, brought about by phase three of the Covid-19 pandemic.   For teachers and pupils, it was a return to “in-person learning” or face-to-face teaching and learning in safe, working environments.  As one teacher asserted; “the reason you go into teaching is for the human interaction every day.”[i] 

Schools and colleges are part of civilised structures which prepare you, are a vital aid to enable you to live and survive in the world you grow up and mature in.   Each school with its particular ethos, governance, teachers and young citizens, is very much a microcosm of the wider community into which the young person will be thrust on completion of its ‘education’.  It is an arena, a stage, a classroom, a playing-field, where one can excel and fail; a mostly safe environment but not altogether free from bullying or introductions to the forbidden fruits that society has to offer.  The child or young person is physically present to benefit from the shared experience of life at school, and not as some avatar in a computer simulation.  Even before Covid and all its variants, safeguards and protections were required for the children and young persons to pass through this learning experience, relatively unscathed.  Now, on their return to the classroom and the playground, the pandemic has required a much higher level of vigilance, to protect the health of all concerned.  Conforming to the government’s rules and guidelines, even the extended and prolonged nature of them, would be easier to accept for us as Christians, if we grasped the true nature of obedience, as stated in the story of Abraham and Isaac; and ultimately in the account of the crucifixion of God’s only son.

Obedience

To live and survive in this time of pandemic, all of society is called to obey the instructions of their governing authority.  There is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God (Rom 13:1, CCC 1918).  Lockdowns have been long and upsetting, depriving us of essential freedoms, but necessary at the same time for the common good of all.  Part of the lockdown process has been the closure of schools for long periods.  Children with disabilities and special needs have probably been most put out by all of these changes.  The one thing to focus on is not what is or is not happening but on obedience to God in all matters.  Jesus gave us the example of obedience as a young boy.  He was lost for 3 days and when found in the temple he went with his parents and remained obedient to them.  Here, Mary and Joseph were the people in authority over Jesus and he did not resist them in what they said but went with them in respect.  We must not do what our friends are doing, if they are not conforming, but be formed by our own conscience and choose what is right and good for ourselves and our children.

Fortitude

Fortitude is one of the Human Virtues that make possible ease, self-mastery and joy in leading a morally good life (CCC 1804). Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good.  It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life.  The virtue of Fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions.  It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice one’s life in defence of a just cause.  (CCC 1808).  Fortitude is the virtue that enables us to persevere in trials and difficulties. During this pandemic there have been many trials and difficulties for our young people and fortitude has been much needed to survive.

Sacrifice

The only perfect sacrifice is the one that Christ offered on the cross as a total offering to the Father’s love and for our salvation.  Jesus gave His very life for humanity.  He gave us the perfect example of sacrifice, a giving of oneself for the good of another.  Indeed we have seen this kind of example in those health staff who died of Covid 19 while caring for others.  Everyone has had to make sacrifices of one kind or another during this pandemic, for the common good.  By uniting ourselves with His sacrifice we can make our lives a sacrifice to God. (CCC 2100) All our efforts and sacrifices when united to Christ’s are not wasted but hold much merit.

Prayers

This month let us pray:

  • That our children and young people will excel in obedience; will be strengthened with the virtue of fortitude and will offer all their sacrifices to God. 
  • That our children and young people will be kept safe form this viral enemy that lurks quietly and remains hidden.
  • That our teachers and S.N.A’s will watch over and protect the young in their care.

In this Year and month of Saint Joseph we commend all children to His fatherly protection.     

Blessed William Joseph Chaminade described St. Joseph as “Saviour of his Saviour” because St. Joseph saved Jesus from death by Herod.  St. Joseph defended the Child Jesus from harm. We ask him in prayer to protect all children and young people as they return to school.



[i] Irish Times, 1.3.2021

God Hear My Cry, Listen To My Prayer.

For the month of February we will be praying for sick children and young people suffering from anxiety.

Sickness is a special kind of suffering. Why do children and young people have to live with illness, especially in this time of medicinal advancement and care?   They should be fit and healthy, a developing bedrock from which to further the cause of humanity, including advancing care for the elderly.  Not so. 

In the past, we only had to look at the lives of some of the saints to know that suffering amongst the young was prevalent, unavoidable and in many cases, untreatable.  The feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes falls on the 11th of February, so I thought it would be fitting for us to look at the sufferings of Saint Bernadette, in the context of this month’s article.   She was a small girl, born into a family that could provide for itself, and she lived a normal life.  However, family finances and circumstances declined, and she encountered much poverty and sickness, as she grew up.  She endured her sufferings selflessly; they were borne out of love for Jesus and His Holy Mother.  Her life was simple, painful but joyful. 

Bernadette was a chosen soul.  Our Blessed Lady began appearing to her at a rubbish dumpin Massabielle, near Lourdes, the small town in France, where she was living, between the 11th February, 1858, and the 16th of July in the same year.  At the exact location of the appearances, a spring was sprung and the waters flow from it, to this day.  At the request of Our Lady, a church was built near the grotto.  Many miracles have been attributed to the holy waters of Massabielle, but Saint Bernadette was chosen by God and her suffering belonged to Him.  She was not to benefit from the healing powers of the spring, dying in great pain after an agonising illness at just thirty-five years of age. 

The suffering that accompanies sickness is never wasted.  To the worldly-minded person perhaps, it is expensive, time-wasting, avoidable, self-absorbing, even irritating.  A spiritually minded person can find merit in suffering.  I grew up with a sister who was mostly bedridden for all of her short life.  She, too, was called Bernadette and suffered greatly since she was a small child.  My mother agonised with her, watching her growing weaker each day.  So many children and young people are no different.  A lot of the time, only those nearest to them are aware of their illness or sufferings.  Now with Covid 19 in the world, we have, along with wars, poverty and natural disasters, a pandemic which is the cause of great sickness and death, affecting all ages and sometimes entire members of the same family.  Who among you, does not know of anyone who has not caught it?  

Jesus Christ healed many people who were sick in mind and body.  He was a great physician and many of our hospitals, still to this day, have a strong, direct link to religious orders, carrying on His great work, and through Him, the work of God.  It is quite natural so, to gravitate towards God and his Son, when we are sick or ill, for the necessary healing and forgiveness that may accompany it.  Whether we pray in our homes, attend hospitals with strong, Catholic ethos’s, or travel on pilgrimages to Lourdes and Knock, we are seeking a cure, directly from God.

Today our children and young people everywhere, live in uncertain times.  Their world has been turned upside down.  School has been cancelled; the form of examinations and markings uncertain.  They have been isolated from their friends and exposed to the merits and considerable demerits of the internet, where all manner of dangers lurks.  With continuing unemployment and lack of security a harsh reality, the bosom of a child’s family is not the place of shelter, reassurance and comfort it once was.  A parent’s, child’s or young person’s mental health, as well as physical well-being, is at risk as the uncertainty continues.  

Let anyone who is free and willing, pray this month for all children and young people around the world who are ill and cannot get the necessary care because of covid 19; or who suffer from anxiety brought on by the uncertainty of our times. Saint Bernadette and Our Blessed Lady intercede on behalf of all sick children and young people.  Amen.

 

Annual Novena to Our Lady of Lourdes February 2-11 2021

If you have the time, you might like to offer this Novena for sick children and young people around the world. You can obtain this novena at

https//oblates.ie/novena-events-lourdes-2021 

O that today you would listen to His voice, harden not your hearts

January 2021 Intention

Homeless children/young people

Introduction

A new year begins with a new intention. This month of January, we will pray for children and young people who find themselves homeless. No child or young person should be living in refugee camps, in parks or hotels, or on the streets. Every family needs the security of a home place filled with warmth and love. As our leaders plan, wish or pray for a return to a state of normality ‘by Summer’, we should realise that they are not representing the millions of people across the world, for whom normality ceased to exist, long before the rest of us heard about the Corona virus.

Harden not Your Hearts

As I prayed and reflected on this topic, I felt great sadness. We have spent the past year, rightly worrying about Covid 19 spreading across the world. We self-isolated, followed guidelines from governments and managed without some of our needs and wants. However, as I did a little research on homelessness across the globe, I realised that, in terms of numbers, Covid 19 has affected a small if significant number of people, compared to the pandemic of homelessness in our world, which has been ongoing for centuries.

The line from Scripture that resonates with me is: “O that today you would listen to His voice, harden not your hearts!” How easy it is for our hearts to become hardened to everyday life situations. I was reminded of an elderly man I once knew. He attended daily mass. As he dressed in tattered, old clothes, he was considered a ‘rag-bag man’ on the outside; but on the inside his soul must have been as white as snow. He did not consider himself worthy to receive Jesus in Holy Communion and yet he attended Mass and received Confession, regularly. I was told by a local priest, of the goodness in this man. While he lived in a house, he did not light fires to keep himself warm. He ate very little. He carried his belongings around in a sack, slung over his bent shoulders. His shoes were worn and torn. Yet, he had a beautiful smile for those he encountered and the light shone from his eyes. The reason he dressed and lived so poorly was because he came to the realisation that others had so much less than he had and he wanted to give everything to those in need. All the money he saved was given to the priest’s brother, who himself was a priest that worked on the missions. This elderly man saw and recognised the dignity of God in every human soul. How blessed he was! He has since died and hopefully gone to his just reward in Heaven.

The Common Good

Each person falls under the category of The Common Good. It is in keeping with the social nature of man. Cf. (CCC 1095). There are three essential elements to the common good: -
The first common good presupposes respect for the person as such. Public authorities are bound to respect the fundamental and inalienable rights of the person. Society should permit each of its members to fulfil his vocation. The second common good requires the social well-being and development of the group itself. The third common good requires peace, that is the stability and security of a just order. Cf. (CCC 1907, 1908, 1909).
The unity of the human family, embracing people who enjoy equal natural dignity, implies a Universal common good. This good calls for an organization of the community of nations able to “provide for the different needs of men; this will involve the sphere of social life to which belong questions of food, hygiene, education … and certain situations arising here and there, as for example … alleviating the miseries of refugees dispersed throughout the world, and assisting migrants and their families. Cf. (GS 84 $ 2, CCC 1911).

About 28 million children are homeless globally due to violent conflict. Almost the same number have had to abandon their homes in search of a better life, due to poverty and gang violence to name just two reasons. Children make up about a third of the world's population, but account for almost half of all refugees, UNICEF said in its report issued on Tuesday. The number of child refugees has doubled in the last decade. "What's important is that these children on the move are children…they should be treated as children," said Ted Chaiban, UNICEF Director of Programs in Geneva. "They deserve to be protected. They need access to services, such as education."

Of the 28 million children, 10 million are child refugees and one million are asylum-seekers whose status has not yet been determined. 45 percent of the children refugees came from just two countries: Syria and Afghanistan.

The children mentioned are also increasingly traveling alone, with 100,000 being unaccompanied minors applying for asylum in 78 countries in 2015; three times the number in 2014.

Refugee and migrant children face a host of risks including drowning during sea crossings, malnourishment, dehydration, kidnapping, rape and murder. When they arrive in other countries, they often face discrimination and xenophobia. "The world hears the stories of child refugees one child at a time and …is able to bring support to that child, but when we talk about millions it provokes incredible outrage and underscores the need to address the growing problem," said Emily Garin, the report's author.

UNICEF called on the international community to provide protection, education and health services to these children and for governments to address the root causes contributing to the large-scale movements of refugees and migrants.
"We'd like to see some clear commitments and practical measures," UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Justin Forsyth told journalists in New York. "The burden sharing of this crisis is not fair: the greatest burden is supported by neighbouring countries or the poorest countries."
Deaths

At the time of writing, 1,766,336 people have died from Covid 19 in the world, a figure which is terrifying in its own right. Quite correctly, an incredible, global effort has gone into preventing its deathly spread and developing vaccinations to rid us of this awful contagion; or to at least bring it to the level of control, of other ailments which we have to contend with. We cannot begin to contemplate how much this pandemic has cost us in terms of lives, livelihoods lost or interrupted, not to mention the disruption to our everyday routines. Governments have from somewhere, found the means to support those who have lost their jobs and cannot pay their bills. They have kept roofs over their heads and put food on the tables. Tragically, lives have been lost but our way of life will hopefully return to normal, after being put on hold for 18 months or so.

Finding the antidote

While we were consumed with this pandemic, Unicef, Trocaire, Action Aid, Concern and other organisations reminded us about the world of the displaced and the constant need, the requirement to support refugees and the homeless. A tremendous effort is in place to offer provision to the almost 50 million children who have no homes; and many would have died by now but for the support of nations, organisations and individuals who give up their time, skills and finances to provide them with the basic means to survive. But where there is a lost child wandering battlefields, mud-tracks and vast areas of desolation, there are parents and perhaps brothers and sisters who are themselves uprooted and too helpless to be able to return the lost sheep to the fold. This is an issue of gargantuan proportions. Some may argue that it is too complex to be solved with the jab of a needle but it is not today or yesterday, or indeed over a year ago when it first developed. We have had ample time to come up with a solution, an anti-dote, a vaccine.

Children and young people are the future of our society and the illness that can wipe them out is called homelessness. The powerful nations, global companies and gifted scientists of the world have proved that they can act quickly to produce a vaccine, to control a deadly contagion. Governments have acted promptly in garnering the support of their people to act rationally when it comes to preserving lives, and a way of life which is vital for our existence. Take this model now, and apply it with the same dedication, financial support and urgency bring homelessness under control, with a view to finally eradicating the pandemic.

Conclusion

I was listening to a priest speaking at Our Lady’s Shrine in Knock, Co. Mayo, the other day.   I thought his words were so true and warranted a mention. “We must stand for the truth, Justice and values that the Church teaches us”. This January, let us pray for children and young people suffering from homelessness and poverty. Let us see the face of Christ in each and every individual and where possible let us give what we can to making other lives better.

 

Prayer Vigil for Life

This morning I attended a Vigil for Life which was held in Holy Family Church, Ballsgrove, Drogheda.  It was run by the Sisters of Renewal. The singing was heavenly.  The Rosary was recited and prayer intentions were prayed for. It was such a worth while event and I was glad I went. After the hour of Eucharistic Adoration, Holy Mass was offered and the young priest spoke bodly about abortion in Ireland and around the world. Its a must for your diary.

Every 2nd Saturday of the month from 9.45am until around 11.45 you can come along and pray for Life. Please if you live local spread the word. The more who pray for this worthwhile intention the better.  Well done to the sisters for this great initiative.

For so many marvels I thank You

Thanks to Juan Encalada of unsplash for sharing her picture.

You created my inmost self, knit me together in my mother’s womb. For so many marvels I thank you; a wonder am I, and all your works are wonders.

You knew me through and through, my being held no secrets from you when I was being formed in secret, textured in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes could see my embryo. In your book all my days were inscribed, everyone that was fixed is there. 139 13-16 NJB

As always in the month of December, we pray for the protection of the unborn child in its mother’s womb.

December is the time of Advent, a time of waiting with our Blessed Lady for the birth of Her Son, Jesus Christ. Mary was a humble maiden, who was chosen by God to carry the God man for nine months in her womb and give birth to Him, the Saviour of the world.

Psalm 139 tells us that we have been knit together by God in our mother’s womb. What a beautiful line for reflection. When our adult children have doubts about the existence of God, I always ask them to reflect on this subject. How God has made us and formed us. How a baby can live for 9 months in its mother’s womb and how it quietly is formed over time. I usually point out that man and woman have the ability to put the seed in the womb and fertilize it but that it is only because God has placed this ability in man when he fashioned Him in the womb. It is mind blowing how we are made and formed in the womb and not only that but we are made in the image and likeness of God. How precious, unique and special we all are. God designs each one of us, we have our own unique pattern and then he knits us together in our mother’s womb. In the silence and in secret we are formed.

This month we will reflect on the unborn child and how it is formed stage by stage and how special and beautiful each stage is.

First Month

After the egg has been fertilized with the sperm the cells of the epiblast divide until they form three different types of cells which become the baby’s tissue in the future. The cells of the mesoderm develop also as do the notochord, which replaces the role of the vertebral column till its formation. The size of the embryo is still so small that it cannot even be spotted through an ultrasound yet but it is clearly visible to its creator.

Father in Heaven, we pray for all unborn embryos as you fashion their tissue in this first month of live. As your gentle hand weaves and fashions their little being, please keep them safe from all harm or attack from the outside world. Thank you, Father for the wonder of their being.

Second Month

During the second month of the pregnancy, the spinal cord, the brain, the heart, the intestine, and the skin are formed. The eyes, ears, nose, and upper lip as well as the limbs begin to develop as well. Many things happen throughout this month, in which the embryo starts resembling a human being.

Father in Heaven, we pray for all unborn embryos as you form their vital organs and limbs in this their second month. Please keep them safe from all harm or attack and thank you Father for the wonder of their being.

Third Month

After the third month of pregnancy, the embryonic stage is over and the fetal stage begins, so the embryo is now called fetus. The baby-to-be already has all the organs but they are still developing. Further growth is necessary for them to be considered fully developed. During this month, the male or female genitals are formed as well. However, in spite of this, it is not easy to see the baby's gender yet.

Father in Heaven, we pray for all newly formed fetus’ as they continue to grow and develop in their third month. We ask you to please keep them safe from all harm or attack and thank you Father for the wonder of their being.

Fourth Month

In this month, the fetus is all covered in a downy hair called lanugo. The role of lanugo is to keep the fetus warm, as its body does not produce enough body fat yet.
The vocal cords are formed at this stage but the baby won't be using them until birth. As a matter of fact, this is the reason why children cry right after being delivered, or it is initiated if they do not do it automatically. The purpose of causing them to cry is to ensure that the vocal cords work properly and that the baby responds to stimuli.
The baby's eyes are big, shut, and separated during this phase. Although they are still very separated from each other, the face of your baby is well-defined, and we can now spot a neck, which allows us to differentiate the head from the rest of the body. Teeth begin to show up, although there is still a long process until they are fully out. The outer ear moves upwards.
As your baby's face defines more accurately, its muscles become capable of practicing suckle movements. This is the reason why babies suck their thumb. Skin folds start to develop on the palm of the hands and the fingers—your baby has now a fingerprint. Also, this month, the baby begins to expel urine, which is mixed with amniotic fluid. The functions of his sweat and sebaceous glands begin to develop. The intestine begins to fill with a thick substance secreted by the liver called meconium.

Father in Heaven, we pray for all babies who are now 4 months in their mother’s wombs. At this stage so much new growth is taking place as you weave and fashion. We ask you to keep them all safe from harm or danger and we thank you for the wonder of their being.

Fifth Month

During the fifth month of pregnancy, the internal organs develop faster. As regards the blood system, the heart chambers are completely delimited and the heart beats strongly. Other relevant changes occur at this stage, such as the development of basic senses, including the sense of taste, along with the taste buds. Also, the baby is now able to notice the first sounds and lights. Baby will develop the second layer of teeth during approximately the last weeks of the 5th month. Baby teeth have now developed within the dental alveoli. Millions of neurons are created in the brain, which is almost as developed as it will be by the time of birth.

Father in Heaven, we pray for all your little unborn who are now five months being formed in their mother’s wombs. Thank you for the wonder of their being and please protect them from all harm and evil as they continue to develop.

Sixth Month

In the sixth month, the baby has got hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes. The length of the umbilical cord allows him to move in the amniotic sac he is in. These movements facilitate the development of the muscles. The baby is now developing specific sleep and activity patterns. The skin of the baby will lose its translucent appearance and become more consistent. Now, he or she can open and close the eyes, in addition to being able to make gestures such as sticking the tongue out. His body becomes more proportioned in comparison with the head. In short, baby's development is very advanced at this point and he resembles very much a new born baby.

Father in Heaven, we pray for the protection of all unborn babies and we thank you for the wonder of their being.

Seventh Month

Fetal development is at an advanced stage now. During this month, the baby's lungs are fully developed. The skeleton is more consistent because the ossification of the bone tissues. The fat is stored in his body, which will help the baby regulate the body temperature by itself. This will be very useful following birth. The amount of hair covering the baby's body is considerably reduced, and lanugo disappears. The skin gets thicker and pigmented. The iris gets pigmented too.
Father in Heaven, we pray for the protection of all unborn babies and we thank you for the wonder of their being.

Eight Month

The body hair starts falling off and the lungs are almost fully developed. In addition to being able to feel the light and hear sounds, the olfactory neurons are formed and the baby can now perceive the strong smells that you might encounter, a sign that the brain is still developing.

Father in Heaven, we pray for the protection of all unborn babies and we thank you for the wonder of their being.

Ninth Month

The baby gets the head stuck in the mother's pelvis. Both his stomach and intestine are now working. The skin is no longer wrinkled but softer thanks to the fat cells of the skin. His skin colour has turned from reddish to more pinkish, and it is now more similar to the skin colour he will have at birth. The nails are now well formed, reaching the end of the fingers. He will turn his head down to prepare for labour.

Father in Heaven, we thank you for all you have done to form new life in so many mother’s wombs. Nine months of knitting together new life, forming and developing until they are ready to be born into the world. Thank you, Father for the gift of new life in the world, for making us so wonderful and so special and for the wonder of each and every human being. We pray now for the safe delivery of all unborn babies and for the health of their mothers. We pray also for all babies whose pattern never gets finished for whatever reason. We pray for all who are not happy with what you are creating and who rip up what you have knit together stitch by stitch until it is no more. We pray that everyone you have ever created will come to know the wonder of their being. Finally we pray for all medical staff who deliver and care for your little ones. Amen.

Job 10:11
You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews.

Psalm 119:73
Your hands have made me and fashioned me; give me understanding to learn Your commandments.

Ecclesiastes 11:5
As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the bones are formed in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.

Isaiah 44:24
Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer who formed you from the womb: "I am the LORD, who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who by Myself spread out the earth.

References:

Psalm 139: 13-16 NJB
Job 10:11
Psalm 119:73
Ecclesiastes 11:5
inviTRA

Whether we live or die we belong to the Lord

As always in the month of November we remember children and young people who have died and we pray for their souls. We will also pray for the souls of children and young people who are living. Whether we live or die we belong to the Lord. (Romans 14:8).

St. Matthew tells us in Sacred Scripture not to be afraid of those who (can) kill the body but (who) cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Mt. 10:28). It is for this reason we are praying for the souls of the living and the dead.

So, what is our soul? How would you describe it? The dictionary describes it as a person, or as the spirit and essence of a person. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes it as human life or the entire human person. But soul also refers to the innermost aspect of man, that which is of greatest value in him, that by which he is most especially in God’s image: ‘Soul’ signifies the spiritual principle in man. (CCC. 363). From her innermost aspect, in the Canticle of our Blessed Lady, Mary tells us that Her Soul, “proclaims the greatness of the Lord”, (Luke 1:46). Clearly, it is the source from which we draw our range of emotions, as it was with Jesus, who stated, during His Agony in the Garden: “My soul is sorrowful, even to death.” For me I would say my soul is the place within me where I meet God and communicate with Him. It is where God dwells within me, a tabernacle where he can reside.

Every spiritual soul is created immediately by God. It does not perish when it separates from the body in death and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection. (CCC 366). When a person dies, if their soul is not in a state of grace, then it will need to be purified in order to see the Pure vision of God in Heaven (the Beatific Vision). This is why we pray for the deceased. (CCC 1030, 1032). One might say children and young people are pure, so why the need to pray for them? Not all are in a state of Grace. Our world is full of temptation and we were all born with original sin and because of this, most of us will need some form of purification. (CCC405). Let us pray for all young people who have died and remember their parents who miss them dearly.

We pray also this month for the souls of children and young people who are still living in this world. At Baptism the baby is given new life in Christ Jesus. It is welcomed into the family of God (CCC 1277). As the child grows, it receives the Sacraments of First Confession and Holy Communion and later, it receives the gift of the Holy Spirit into its soul, in the Sacrament of Confirmation. God continues to nourish the soul with His Sacraments and to give all the Divine help needed to attain Salvation. Because we are weak human beings born with original sin, we sometimes do things that are not pleasing to God. As Saint Paul puts it: “I do not understand what I do; for I don’t do what I would like to do, but instead I do what I hate.” (GNT Romans 7:17). Jesus Christ understood our weak nature when he taught us to pray His prayer to the Father: “…And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one”, (Matthew 6:13).

It is good to pray for the souls of children and young people living today, as there are so many temptations out there to lead them astray and the power of prayer can sometimes be their only help. Being young, one does not always think of owning a soul or indeed saving it. The emphasis tends towards outward bodily needs. Christians in any state or walk of life are called to holiness, (CCC 2013). “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect, (Matthew 5:48)”. Our Blessed Lady calls us all to convert to her Son, Jesus Christ, to live a life of prayer and of peace. In this time of Covid 19, there is far more time to pray, so let us pray for our young that they may be perfect, as their heavenly Father is perfect.

Love your neighbour as yourself

Photo - Tyler Nix - Unsplash

After much prayer and thought, our prayer intention this month of October is for the protection of young people against “Party Culture.”

This article is not to condemn young people but rather to try and understand their world of thinking and behaving, and to pray for their safety and protection. Not all young people are lured by the party culture but those who are, leave themselves open to self-harm and possibly a life time of regret.

As we are all well aware, Covid 19 has arrived in our world and is slow about going away. In the meantime, people’s lives have been taken out of their control and new rules and norms have had to be put in place by the world leaders/Governments. Most people find change a challenge, are slow to adapt to it, or never stop fighting against it. A lot is being asked of everyone including children and young people. Party culture has always been around in some shape or form. Young people are full of life and the very process of ‘growing-up’ and ‘maturing’ brings great changes and trials which they must face up to. Some meet these challenges with an undaunting spirit; fear of danger is not part of their worlds and often times it can be a case of ‘jump in’ without thinking. To corral, isolate or fetter these life-affirming souls for any length, with no satisfactory end in sight, results in the inevitable.

In June of this year, just as the world had begun to get a handle on the pandemic, the Guardian newspaper reported on parties and raves across Europe, sparking fears then, of a Covid 19 surge . Of course, there were other indicators to suggest this and not all came from the activities of children and young people.

In recent times we have read many reports of incidents where young people held parties or failed to observe simple Covid guidelines. On 22nd September, a rave was held in Oliver Bond flats, Dublin city. On the 29th September RTE reported on student parties continuing in Cork despite Covid 19 restrictions. On 29th September, large crowds of young people packed together partying at the Spanish Arch in Galway city. On the 4th of October, the youthful players, family members, supporters and inhabitants of the area, all celebrated wildly and without restrictions the victory of Blackrock hurling club in the senior championships, in Cork. Similar scenes in Meath, Waterford and Northern Ireland, prompted the GAA to suspend all club championships.

These are but a few occasions where the celebration of life’s successes were practised as normal by the younger generation (and in some cases, their elders). As previously indicated, it is not just Ireland that has this problem. Europe and many other parts of the world are experiencing partying without Covid restrictions. In Spain, vacant houses are being broken into, to house raves. Drink and drug use have come to the fore during the pandemic. Crowds swarmed the Great Wall of China during that country’s most recent holiday week.

Despite multiple warnings and instructions on how to keep safe and restrict the virus, many young people choose to disobey orders and do their own thing. As Christians, we are all part of the one Mystical Body of Christ. When one part of that body hurts, all other parts do too. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “Human society can be neither well-ordered nor prosperous unless it has some people invested with legitimate authority to preserve its institutions and to devote themselves as far as is necessary to work and care for the good of all. The authority required by the moral order derives from God… Perhaps some young people seek parties, noise and worldly ways because they do not know God, perhaps do not seek Him; or simply choose to disobey Him. St. Teresa of Calcutta says in her Essential Writings that God cannot be found in noise, distractions or agitation. Saint Augustine, a saint who probably would understand young people, as he was a wayward child himself, said: “Our hearts are restless, until they rest in God”. Is it this restlessness that stirs the hearts of our young people? When obedience is a thing of the distant past other innocent people will suffer as a result.

The elderly, the sick and the vulnerable who keep the Covid 19 rules are at the risk of prolonged suffering and ultimately painful death, as a result of the lack of action of some others, including their young and not so young relations; and they worry about the harm that the young people are doing to themselves.

Let us remember, so, our restless young people who constantly put themselves and others in danger, as they pursue the “party culture”. Let us pray that their leaders, elders and betters show better example to them, than some have been displaying off late. May their hearts seek God, may they find Him and may they rest in Him alone.

 

References:

Guardian Newspaper, June 26th, 2020
www.thejournal.ie
Irish Mirror online
Irish Examiner
CNN.com
CCC1897
CCC 1900

"I will strengthen you and help you." Isiah 41:10

September Intention

This month we are praying for the protection of children and young people against the dangers of the cyber world. Today we live in rapidly changing times. Technology provides us with the most modern, fastest means of communication, to every part of our world. In these challenging times, it offers great advantages, particularly to the disadvantaged and most isolated of us. But, it is also the means by which those most vulnerable of us may be targeted for all the wrong reasons.

I remember when our youngest daughter was two and a half years old. My parents were babysitting her for us. I told my mam to put on our daughter’s favourite, children’s video and she would watch it. My poor mam did not have a clue how to turn on the video player, never mind put in a video tape. Our little bundle quickly ran over to the machine and said: “It’s OK, Granny”. She selected the right tape, turned on the machine, put the video in, pressed the play button and proceeded to watch the film. My bewildered but proud parents could not believe how much the little child knew about technology; and that was nearly 24 years ago! How much quicker and knowledgeable children and young people have become these days, with the rapid advances in the use of the internet, mobile phones, Bluetooth and wireless technology.

The many dangers associated with the use of technology in a modern world have been well documented and highlighted. Access to even a small part of what is on offer to our children and young people can be very dangerous. The protections that we as parents and carers are required by law to provide, are more difficult to erect, when barriers crumble at the touch of a button; our children are no longer allowed to be children. They are being stripped of their innocence and opened up to a world of exploitation, artificiality, vice and bullying.
Yes, parents do their very best to protect their children, especially when they are young and mostly confined to a home environment. But work commitments, financial considerations, peer pressure and the bombardment of the family unit with promises of wonders unconfined wear down the need to be vigilant. “Where would you like to go today?”, was one of the earliest, great enticements, to sign up to the internet. That offer remains, but has been expanded, to allow you access to the thoughts of anyone, anywhere who has created their own blog. It is an open invitation to connect with your favourite personalities or even the President of the United States.

Our wonderful, beautiful, intelligent children whether by their own inquisitive means or egged on or leaned upon by their peers, seem to have an ability to find out more than they should. The privacy and safety of home life is invaded and nothing is sacred any more. Bullying, where it once was done outside of the home can now be done in the child’s bedroom. Heartland is a Canadian family drama, the most recent episodes of which featured the impact of cyber bullying on one of the central, younger characters, Georgie. It highlighted the fear and anxiety caused by the cruel, on-line comments, on an otherwise talented but very impressionable person. There was no place for her to hide, either from the on-line comments, her own innate insecurities or the cruel taunts in the street, generated by the blog. She was forced to try and physically run away from it. Fortunately for her, she ran into the arms of her mother, who offered her the initial reassurance required to calm her down. Through the magic of the script, the main culprit was identified and Georgie went on to use her own talent and regained self-belief to overcome the damage caused. In real life, not all endings are this happy.
Gambling on line, is also there at the push of a button; adult and porn sites also, to entice anyone who presses the wrong button, or even the right one. Advertising and articles on news feeds pop up to influence the thinking and beliefs of anyone who will read them, irrespective of the content. Incorrect information, ‘fake news’ and certain trends are dangerous in the hands of our impressionable young, and even not so young.

Correct balance and informed judgement, are values children and young people require to thrive on. As one trolls through the news feeds, there is an overwhelming sense of too much glamour, perfect hair, pure white teeth, perfect figures, and ways and means to help you obtain them. There is an attitude that things must be “perfect” in an imperfect world. Pressure is placed on the shoulders of our young and this leads to anxieties. A front-page article in the Sunday Independent of 13th September, 2020, highlighted the soaring use of anti-depressant medication among children, under the age of 11 years. In total, children up to the age of 15 have been prescribed anti-depresssants, 4,571 times over the last 10-year period. The report did not include figures for this year, which encompasses the Covid-19 pandemic.
My mother had an old saying: “It’s no use locking the stable door when the horse is gone”. Another one was: “Prevention is better than a cure.” It is easy enough to dismiss these adages as hackneyed but they do have a basis in sound reasoning. With the world full of Covid 19, diseases and many other viruses, and, as a result, people having to lockdown, isolate, cocoon or quarantine, there is a much greater opportunity, perhaps requirement to communicate through the means of technology. Parts of our lives are orbiting in cyber space. While this can no doubt, be good and helpful, as a means of vital contact, especially between families, overuse can also draw young people away from family members; and isolate them.

We pray that God’s little one’s will not be lost in the world of cybernation and will not fall prey to evil within it. Making space and time for God, family and the beautiful world of nature that God has given us is important. Let us pray for our young, that they will have a healthy and safe balance in their use of modern technology.

Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

August 2020 Intention

We pray for the protection of children and young people against the vices of sexual exploitation and behaviours against the body.

This month, after much prayer and thought, we decided to write about the evil that sex offences can cause to children and young people. Sex abuse and deviation were listed among the sins committed by the entire population of Sodom and Gomorrah - despite Abraham’s pleas, no innocent people were found. In Genesis 19, there is an account of Lot offering his virgin daughters to the townsmen of Sodom, if they will spare the two men (actually angels from God), who have sheltered in his house. Shocking as this was when first suggested to us as young children growing up in Ireland, the modern proliferation of sex trafficking, prostitution, paedophilia and sexual abuse in families, parishes, sports clubs and even the scouting movement, has, it can be argued, numbed us into a state of complacency, when what the situation clearly demands is urgent action on all our parts, if the innocent children and young people directly concerned, are to be saved. We regret that such a wide area of vital interest cannot be covered properly in this article.

Having spent my teens growing up in the company of a number of paedophiles, and knowing first-hand the terror and evil that children and teenagers suffer at the hands of evil, anytime that I have read the many accounts of sexual exploitation of children and young people, proliferating in the media, has brought back unpleasant memories. In the past few years, while travelling in Spain, inglorious weather, towards heavily advertised, beautiful family beaches and resorts, sometimes accompanied by our children, we would notice very young girls at roundabouts just outside town limits. They would be scantily dressed, heavily made up and obviously…waiting. While in the backs of our minds, we feared the obvious and passed their presence off to our children with some lame excuse, it was confirmed for us later, that what we were witnessing were acts of ‘lawful’ solicitation. True, there were at times some older women, but they were mostly, it appeared, young girls, alone or working sometimes in pairs; and on an approach road to the same roundabout, there were sometimes people selling agricultural produce. The girls are still there, to this day and my heart breaks to see these beautiful souls ending up like this.

My husband and I would class ourselves as ordinary people, somewhat cocooned perhaps, especially in the present climate of Covid-19, but our ‘sheltered’ upbringing and present lives have not protected us from being exposed to the horrors of perversion and exploitation. We must think of the people who feel a need to avail of these services because they are the customers in this ‘business’, without whom it would not exist. We must also think of society as a whole and the terrible damage that is being done to its overall reputation, while these crimes continue, too many to be crushed by the machinery of justice administration. Collectively, we are all ‘infected’ by this particular sin and ironically, the safe distancing and social exclusion required to ‘defeat’ Covid-19, appeared to bring some relief to the victims, and society as a whole, from these devious and immoral acts, if only for a short while. How can we strengthen the lessons learned from these practical approaches to one problem, which might also solve an even greater one?

Prayer might seem useless but to those who pray with real faith, it can move mountains in ways we never truly know. Sex crimes against children and young people are crimes that have been and will always be in the world, as long as evil exists. Broken trust, lies and deceit are all part of the behaviour. The little child and teenager are the silent hidden victims. They have no voice, only the still cry, the quiet, desperate prayer for help. Like our Blessed Lady, they learn to silently ponder all these things in their hearts. This is not something any child or teenager should have to deal with.

So, please, if you can, pray for this intention and ask God to help those  little ones and protect them from such evil.

The Lord hears the cry of the poor

For the month of July we are praying for children and young people affected by poverty.  

We all know of the terrible poverty in our world and now with covid 19 there will be even more.  Many people have lost their jobs, young and not so young.  The lower paid jobs have been hit and this only means that the poor will become poorer. I often give out because so many begging letters from various charities come in to my mail box. Recently, I received as many as three letters from the same charity in one week along with several others from other agencies. When this happens, I always ask myself:  "what does Jesus tell me to do in Sacred Scripture", and the answer is "Give to everyone who asks." This may not always be possible, but to try is the thing.  It is important not to forget those who have less than we have.  We are all knit from the same fabric; we all belong to God. If it is not possible to give money, at least give your time and a smile.  Oftentimes, in a world starved of love a smile is all that is needed.  A smile can warm a soul and give it the love of Jesus.  Sometimes, it can be the little things that will help the poor.  The person sitting on a wet street may ask for money but may get much more when the person giving the money asks them how they are; and offers a listening ear or a warm smile. "I care to take time to recognise Jesus living in you", is the message you give to that person.  Othertimes, it could be a person you know who has very little with which to make ends meet, and just by offering food in a kind way, can often be a lifesaver.  When you give to a family in need, you give to their children; and you give to Christ.  I am often surprised to hear some people say: "It's my money, I earned it".  Everything we own is God's.  Everything we have has been gifted to us by God.  This month of July, let us remember the poor in our streets, in our town, perhaps living beside us and in our world.  Let us see the face of Christ in the poor and give as generously, as he gives to us.

When we read the Word.
Meditate on the Word.
Pray with the Word.

Its the year of the Word. Why not read a small passage of Sacred Scripture each day and let God speak to your heart.
Here is a light explanation of the Mass. Why not read it with your child/children it is important that we all understand what happens at this holy sacrifice.