Day for Life is celebrated annually by the Catholic Church in Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales. It is a day dedicated to raising awareness of the meaning and value of human life at every stage and in every condition.
This year’s Day for Life will be celebrated in Ireland on Sunday 3 October on the theme ‘The Good Samaritan: A Model of Compassion’.
In the context of the recent proposal to introduce assisted suicide, both in Ireland and the UK, this year’s message invites Catholics to consider a more positive and compassionate response to the care of people who are in the final stages of life.
The Catholic Church’s approach to end of life care is well articulated in the recent Vatican document Samaritanus bonus on the care of persons in the critical and terminal phases of life.
In that document we are reminded that Jesus gave us the image of the good Samaritan as the model for our compassion and our solidarity with those who find themselves vulnerable and who fear being abandoned in their final illness. The Good Samaritan is one who “crosses over”, who “binds up wounds” and who, most important of all “stays with” the person for as long as is required.
See below resources for use in parishes for the Day for Life including this year’s Pastoral Message in plain text and as a PDF download:
Day for Life Message of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference: ‘The Good Samaritan – A Model of Compassion’
The fragility of life and the reality of death have been brought into sharp focus during the Covid-19 pandemic. In Ireland alone, more than 8,000 people have died with Covid-19. Each of these lives is precious and every life matters. With a most amazing spirit of solidarity, the energies of our society – in hospitals, test centres, vaccination clinics, schools, churches, supermarkets and in so many other places – have been directed towards protecting those who were most vulnerable to disease. We have begun to see the fruits of those efforts.
While all of this was going on, the Oireachtas was being asked to discuss legislation to provide for assisted suicide. That particular piece of legislation, thank God, has been rejected by the Oireachtas Committee for Justice on the grounds that it was deeply flawed. The surprising and disappointing thing is that the Oireachtas Committee did not reject the principle of Assisted Suicide and has proposed that Assisted Suicide be discussed further by a special committee, which would report within a specified timeframe.
Compassion is often presented as a justification for assisted suicide, but having compassion means “suffering with” someone. Assisted suicide reflects a failure of compassion on the part of society. It is a failure to respond to the challenge of caring for people who are terminally ill, or who have disabilities or dementia, as they approach the end of their lives. Those who assist with a suicide, whatever their motives, co-operate with the self-destruction of another person. It is one thing when life is allowed to take its natural course, with appropriate management of pain and stress, but is not artificially prolonged by burdensome treatment. It is something else entirely, when one person actively and deliberately participates in ending the life of another.
One feature of the legalisation of Assisted Suicide in other jurisdictions is that, once it becomes lawful, it is then presented and perceived as something good to do. Instead of being surrounded by love and care, people who are already vulnerable and dependent on others due to their illness, are made to feel that assisted suicide would be “the decent thing to do”.
Assisted suicide presumes that there will be somebody with the required skills who is prepared to “assist” in bringing about the death of another person. Wherever assisted suicide is legalised, healthcare professionals are assumed to be the “suitably qualified persons” because they are already licensed to use drugs. It is important to be clear that healthcare professionals are given privileged access to the human body and to drugs for the express purpose of healing and alleviating pain. Any suggestion that they should be expected to assist and, under certain circumstances, actually perform the act that ends the life of another person, is seriously damaging to the ethos and the credibility of the healthcare professions.
Jesus gave us the image of the good Samaritan as the model for our compassion and our solidarity with those who find themselves vulnerable and who fear being abandoned in their final illness. The Good Samaritan is one who “crosses over”, who “binds up wounds” and who, most important of all “stays with” the person for as long as is required.
There is much that we can do to foster a culture of life. We can begin by overcoming our fear of talking honestly about death and dying. Dying is as natural and universal as living and breathing yet our society can make it difficult for people to talk about it. As Christians, of course, our faith in the Resurrection of Jesus will stand to us. For some, if not for all, the support of prayer, and the opportunity to share faith can be of great help.
The Hospice Care Movement fosters a culture of living well until the end. By doing normal things with people who are terminally ill, we can contribute to fostering their sense of being “normal”, which can often be undermined by the “routine of illness”. The experience of presence, companionship and even the acceptance of limitation and dependency, when we take time to appreciate them, can greatly enrich the later stages of life.
The attitude of Jesus towards the sick and towards those who are in any way marginalised, has much to teach us about the value of time spent caring for one another. Many of us, at times, are called to be carers in our own circle of family and friends. Others may find it possible to care for the carers. The bonds of friendship and solidarity that are developed and strengthened in caring relationships, extend beyond the carer and the one who is cared for to the whole of society.
On this Day for Life, we give thanks for the gift of life. We bring before God in prayer, in particular, all who are in the final stages of life and those who care for them.
For all who are trying to come to terms with a decline in their physical or mental capacity and who may be anxious or frustrated – that their distress may be met with understanding and with the kind of care that respects them as persons. Lord hear us.
For nurses and doctors and, especially, for all who work in end-of-life care – that God’s Spirit may be upon them, directing their words and actions, their decisions and their reactions, so that the healing power of Christ may work through them. Lord hear us.
For all who are afraid in the face of approaching death, and especially for those who may be inclined to lose hope – that they may be renewed in confidence and courage. Lord hear us.
For all who work in residential care centres for the elderly – that they may see in each resident the face of Christ. Lord hear us.
For our legislators and for all who are involved in the development and implementation of public policy – that their decisions and actions may always demonstrate respect for every human life and that they may never use their position to promote or to allow the taking of human life for any reason. Lord hear us.
For all our family members, friends and neighbours who have died, and for all who have died as a result of COVID-19 – that they may find peace and fulfilment in the company of Mary and of all the saints. Lord hear us.
Father, these are the prayers which we make to you, together with the unspoken prayers of our own hearts. We ask you to hear and answer them through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayer of John Henry Newman May God continue to “support us all the day long, till the shades lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done!” St. John Henry Newman
Canticle of Simeon At last all powerful master, You give leave to your servant to go in peace according to your promise. For my eyes have seen your salvation, Which you have prepared for all nations; The light to enlighten the Gentiles And give glory to Israel your people Luke 2: 29-32
Lá Ár mBáis A Mhaighdean bheannaithe, a Mháthair Dé A Shoilse ghléigeal ta gan smál A choinneal shoilseach I láthair Dé Go raibh tu again lá ár mbáis Gairdín an Anama (An Sagart)
Dia Romham Glóir na n-aingeal ós mo chionn, Ola Chriost ar mo chorp, Dia go raibh romham agus liom Is duitse, a Chríost, m’anam bocht Gairdín an Anama (An Sagart)
Prayer to the Holy Family Jesus , Mary and Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul. Jesus , Mary and Joseph, assist me in my last agony Jesus , Mary and Joseph, make my soul in peace with you forever
Come to Me Come to me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yoursouls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light. Matthew 11:28-30
A Prayer for those who are ill God our Father, we bring before you today those who suffer from illness or disability—those whose lives are profoundly affected by their illness.
When they feel fragile and broken, remind them that you call them by name and hold them in the palm of your hand.
When they feel devalued, remind them that they are made in the image Jesus.
When they are reminded of different times in the past, lead them to grow in the faith that you love them today, as they are, in the reality of their lives this day.
When they feel uncertain and fearful about the future, lead them to that perfect love which casts out all fear.
When situations remind them not of what they can do, but of what they cannot do, remind them that love never fails.
May all of us, whatever our circumstances, never be so taken up with our own concerns that we do not see or respond to the needs of others, especially those who suffer in our midst. May we live with courage to respond to the challenges that each of us faces. Amen.
(Catholic Health Association of the United States)
Bishop Paul Demspey celebrates Mass in Knock today to celebrate the centenary of the Legion or Mary. Here, we include the text of homily delivered.
It’s about 30 years ago, when I was a seminarian, that I worked for number of weeks in the Morning Star Hostel in Dublin, the hostel that serves the needs of homeless men. It was there that I saw the spirituality of the Legion of Mary in action. I participated in the daily tasks of serving meals, changing beds, mopping floors and cleaning toilets. The day was punctuated with moments of prayer, especially the rosary, reminding me that these menial tasks were all part of a bigger picture of service, directly in line with the Gospel call of Jesus to serve one another. But there was another critical part of my time in the Morning Star and that was meeting the residents. We hear of “the homeless” but we must never forget that “the homeless” is made up of individual people with life stories. During my time there I had the privilege of hearing many of those life stories. There were stories of pain, loss, loneliness, addiction, family breakup. As I look back on the time I spent there I realise that the Legion, through its service of those in the hostel, was not only providing for the residents’ physical needs such as food and shelter, symbolised in the Gospel today as giving of a cup of water, the Legion was also providing a space for the residents stories to be heard, affording them the dignity and respect we are all entitled to as persons made in the image and likeness of God. During my time there, I met members of the Legion who were committed to their faith and lived that faith in a profound way. Today, as we celebrate the Centenary here in Knock, I give thanks for their witness and fidelity.
It was in that context of faith that Frank Duff gathered that small group of people around him in Dublin one hundred years ago. He had a vision of lay participation in the life and mission of the Church. Their role was to evangelise and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ under the protection of Our Lady. They never could have realised on that first evening how that mission would grow and flourish over the following decades and reach the four corners of the globe. Faith and trust were placed in the Lord and rest followed. Frank Duff was laying the foundations and setting up a model for what was to become one of the central themes of the Second Vatican Council, that of lay participation in the life and mission of the Church, something we still have to fully realise in the life of the Church today.
As we celebrate the Centenary of the Legion of Mary, I’ve been reflecting on what Frank Duff can teach us today in the Church as we grapple with many challenges in a changed and changing society. What has emerged for me in this reflection are three central aspects of his life and ministry that offer us helpful pointers in the context we find ourselves today.
Firstly, Frank Duff was a man of discernment and in order to have a discerning heart, one must have a prayerful heart. I do not believe that Frank Duff came up with the idea of the Legion in the blink of an eye. He must have prayed and discerned where God was calling him. That takes time, that takes faith, that takes trust. Out of his prayerful discerning heart the idea emerged to gather that small group together and the seeds of the Legion were sown. Frank sowed the seeds, the Lord helped them to flourish. That sense of discernment is critical today. There’s a lot going on in the Church, it is easy to get somewhat lost in it all. It is critical for us to have prayerful, discerning hearts. This is central in Pope Francis’ ministry, and it will be central to the Synodal journey we are beginning in Ireland. It is not about what we want, it is about what the Lord wants for his Church. Frank Duff knew that. He has a lot to teach us about that today.
Secondly, Frank Duff saw himself simply as an instrument in the Lord’s mission. It was not his mission it was the Lord’s. Sometimes I wonder if we think the Church is totally dependent on us. We might find ourselves under the illusion that we are the ones in charge, we are not! The Lord is in charge, we are only instruments that fit into his plan. I hear a lot of pessimism about the Church at times, I am sure you have heard it too, maybe even participated in it; we hear constantly of how the numbers going to Mass have fallen, our connection with young people has weakened, the vocations crisis in Ireland is acute, the list goes on. We sometimes think we are in the worst place the Church has ever been. I am not naïve, I know we face major challenges, but so did Frank Duff. When you think about the Ireland he set up the Legion in. It was a divided nation, families were divided, the poverty was rife. In the midst of this he got on with the mission, he was the instrument in the Lord’s hands, the Lord did the rest. We have so much to learn from this. Yes, we have challenges, yes, we have problems, but let us remember as St. Oscar Romero put it so clearly; “we are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs.” St. Mother Teresa echoed this when she said the Lord calls us, “not to be successful, but to be faithful.”
Thirdly, at the heart of Frank Duff’s ministry was a sense of unity. He wanted people in the Legion to be united in their call and mission. There was no room for division. This is critical and is critical in the Church today. We get a clear message from Jesus in the Gospel today about this. John sees someone whom he says is not one of them casting out devils and he wants to stop him. But Jesus sees it differently. Jesus says no, do not stop him for anyone who is not against us is for us. In other words, John was rigid in his outlook, he was not open, his mind was closed, he lacked tolerance and imagination. Jesus challenged this attitude, he encouraged a more open approach and encouraged John to see the situation differently. This is a very powerful message.
One worrying trend emerging in the Church today is a sense of disunity. There are polarised views. Some in the Church want us to go back to the way things were decades, and in some cases centuries ago. Others want the Church to change its Tradition and adapt its outlook in ways that it has never done before. Some in the Church are openly critical of the present Pope whereas they decried any criticism of previous popes. Pope Francis referred to this himself last week mentioning a large Television Network that constantly speaks ill of him. I think if Frank Duff was to appear today, he would be appalled at such attitudes in the Church. Frank Duff respected the rich Tradition of the Church, but he was not rigid about it, he was open to doing new and radical things in an imaginative way. In other words, he had a balanced approach that allowed him to involve people in the life of the Church in ways that were never done before.
We have much to learn from this. We have such a rich tradition in the life of the Church that is so beautiful, but we must also be open to doing things in new ways with discerning hearts to allow new possibilities to emerge that in the past seemed impossible. Pope Francis reminds us; “Tradition is not a museum, true religion is not a freezer, and doctrine is not static but grows and develops.” We need to be honest and examine our approach in the light of this. Are we rigid, are we closed, are we lacking in tolerance like John, or do we see the bigger picture and be open to new possibilities like Jesus? However, there is one encouraging aspect to all of this. Despite the different approaches and emphasises in the Church today under the broad headings of the conservative or liberal, the positive point is that we are unified in our love for the Church in its mission of proclaiming the Gospel. Surely this is something positive and is a good place to focus. We do not all have to agree, unity does not mean uniformity. There is room for us all in the family that is the Church, we are called into communion! So let us face these important questions together especially as we walk the synodal path.
As we celebrate the Centenary of the Legion of Mary here in Knock, we are aware of the closeness of Frank Duff to Our Lady. May Our Lady, that true disciple of Jesus, guide us to follow the example of Frank Duff. That example is one of prayerful discernment, awareness that we are ministers, not messiahs and that we are called to unity, not uniformity.
Bishop Paul will celebrate the Chrism Mass on this Wednesday evening, September 8th, at 7.00pm. The Mass will be in the Cathedral. During this Mass, Bishop Paul will consecrate the Oil of Chrism and bless the Oils of The Sick and Catechumens. These oils will be used throughout the diocese for the celebration of the sacraments.
Part of the Chrism Mass too, invites priests to renew their commitment to the ministry of priesthood within the diocese of Achonry.
With increased numbers permitted to attend ceremonies in churches now, people from around the diocese are invited to attend.
From the weekend of September 4th/5th a revised Mass Schedule has been introduced in the Parish of Ballaghaderreen. This will include Masses celebrated in The Cathedral, Monasteraden, Derrinacartha and Brusna.
The Season of Creation has a special significance for the Catholic Church, particularly since Pope Francis established 1 September as an annual World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.
The Season of Creation or Creation Time, is marked throughout the Christian world from 1 September to 4 October (Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi) and celebrates the joy of creation as well as encouraging awareness-raising initiatives to protect the natural environment.
Restoring Our Common Home
The theme for the Season of Creation 2021 is ‘Restoring Our Common Home’. During this season we are asked to join together to celebrate creation and protect our common home through prayer, reflection and action.
The global Christian family is called to awaken to the urgent need to heal our relationships with creation and with each other and to encourage our parish communities to do the same, “for we know that things can change!” (Laudato Si’, 13).
This year we celebrate this season mindful of the fact that our world continues to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic as well as a devastating climate and biodiversity crisis. We look towards two UN Conferences in the Autumn, COP15 (on Biodiversity, due to take place in China) and COP24 (on climate change, Glasgow) in the hope that world leaders take the urgent action that is needed to Restore Our Common Home. Catholics are urged to sign the “Healthy Planet Healthy People” petition as a key action for this year’s Season of Creation. This petition has been endorsed by the Vatican Dicastery for Integral Human Development in the hope that millions of Catholics will raise their voices in the public sphere to help Restore Our Common Home in the run up to these vital UN Conferences.
Resources from the Laudato Si’ Working Group
The following resources are offered for use in dioceses, parishes and in the home, during the Season of Creation 2021:
A weekday Prayer Service for the Season of Creation 2021 – This ecumenical resource could be used to celebrate the World Day of Prayer for Creation on 1 September in an ecumenical setting, or as a resource that could be used for the celebration of the Eucharist in parishes, or at any other time between 1st September and 4th October, feast of Saint, Francis of Assisi. We have prepared it for a formal church setting or for use out-of-doors.
An Earth Day Prayer Service – This beautiful service was compiled by Balally Parish, Dublin to celebrate Earth Day in 2021 but could be adapted and used as part of any Season of Creation event. It includes a reflection by Father Dermot Lane.
Acts of Love for the Season of Creation 2021 – PowerPoint with practical suggestions for each day of the Season. With many thanks to the Care for Creation team at Bonnybrook Parish Dublin for sharing this resource with us.
Season of Creation Prayer 2021 – A Video Reflection which can be used for meetings, prayers, on social media or in parishes with PowerPoint accessibility. (see below for video)
Season of Creation Podcasts
This year we will be sharing a series of podcasts to highlight different themes relating to the Season of Creation and its theme Restoring Our Common Home, as well as looking at some of the science and theology behind climate change and climate justice.
These podcasts will be available from 1 September.
Resources from Pope Francis and the Vatican
Pope Francis on Caring for Our Common Home
“We need to strengthen the conviction that we are one single human family.”“The Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth. In many parts of the planet, the elderly lament that once beautiful landscapes are now covered with rubbish.” “Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last 200 years.” “We are not God. The Earth was here before us and was given to us.” “The idea of infinite or unlimited growth, which proves so attractive to economists, financiers and experts in technology … is based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of the earth’s goods, and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry at every limit.” “Yet all is not lost. Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start. Click here for resources on the Care of Creation from the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
Creation Time Thought for the Day visuals
There are a selection of images available for use in parishes and dioceses for the Season of Creation. These can be downloaded for sharing on websites and social media. More visuals will be added over the course of the next few weeks so do check the album for the most recent visuals.
Prayers and Reflections for the Season of Creation
Audio: Click here to listen to ‘A Prayer for Our Earth’ from Laudato Si’.
A prayer for our earth from Laudato Si’ All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures. You embrace with your tenderness all that exists. Pour out upon us the power of your love, that we may protect life and beauty. Fill us with peace, that we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one. O God of the poor, help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, so precious in your eyes. Bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world and not prey on it, that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction. Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain at the expense of the poor and the earth. Teach us to discover the worth of each thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation, to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature as we journey towards your infinite light. We thank you for being with us each day. Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle for justice, love and peace. Amen.
A Christian prayer in union with creation Father, we praise you with all your creatures. They came forth from your all-powerful hand; they are yours, filled with your presence and your tender love. Praise be to you! Son of God, Jesus, through you all things were made.
You were formed in the womb of Mary our Mother, you became part of this earth, and you gazed upon this world with human eyes. Today you are alive in every creature in your risen glory. Praise be to you!
Holy Spirit, by your light You guide this world towards the Father’s love and accompany creation as it groans in travail. You also dwell in our hearts and you inspire us to do what is good. Praise be to you!
Triune Lord, wondrous community of infinite love, teach us to contemplate you in the beauty of the universe, for all things speak of you. Awaken our praise and thankfulness for every being that you have made. Give us the grace to feel profoundly joined to everything that is.
God of love, show us our place in this world as channels of your love for all the creatures of this earth, for not one of them is forgotten in your sight. Enlighten those who possess power and money that they may avoid the sin of indifference, that they may love the common good, advance the weak, and care for this world in which we live. The poor and the earth are crying out.
O Lord, seize us with your power and light, help us to protect all life, to prepare for a better future, for the coming of your Kingdom of justice, peace, love and beauty. Praise be to you! Amen.
Meadow Meaning – A Reflection by Brother Richard Hendrick OFM Cap
Shhhhh… Look… Listen… Even the blades of grass Even the flowers you dare to call weeds Even the light fast lives of tiny buzzing beings hear the call of Divine love and give them selves totally to grow towards the light. And what of you?
Forest Faith – a reflection by Brother Richard Hendrick Ofm Cap
When the edges of my mind fray, and the golden sacred thread seems pulled, gathered, caught upon the briar of my broken being, and my hearthome holds too much behind its ancient doors so there is no breathing space at all, I take myself to the woods. For there I become not young, but small again and feel the rising ocean tides of sap lull me at last into the deep greening rest of soul only the old tall ones know the sky touchers, earth drinkers we call in our dull infant speech, simply Trees. So I place my foot upon the winding path and dew the way with tears and sometimes even blood, until their windleaf song sounds soul deep, and slows and halts me long enough to feel their verdant canopy of calm, and I greet them then, as the keepers of the way they are; the blessed Beech and noble Holly, the Oak and Ash and Thorn, grey brown brothers and sisters of the branching dance of being. Their familiar oldness a reminder of my passing place in all this; they leaflean down to teach me once again the way of prayer as being and being as prayer, allowing the holy breath to play along my spine as within their trunked tallness while standing through the shifting seasons they grow slowly, imperceptibly, always, until flower and fruiting follow in their turn, then the seeming fall, asleep asunder for awhile, as my life now flutters, cast upon the winds lost in wildness, a wintered leaf, dry and brittle, but here in their stately shadows daring to read the scripture of their state, and hear their prophecy proclaimed in stillness; that old roots dig deep and deeper still, that branches bend so not to break and that there is a joy in storms when yielded to. So for a while I breathe the sylvan air and greet the great and green, these guardians of natural grace, and then when I have walked long enough to become reminded, rewilded and rehomed in heart, I bow in thanks and leave the woods to plant their sainted seeds throughout my world and life; to feel a forest grow within and make the faith feathered one a home.
These resources have been prepared by the Catholic Communications Office, the Bishops’ Council for Justice and Peace, the Laudato Si’ Working Group, Trócaire, and the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. We are also grateful to Brother Richard Hendrick OFm Cap for his beautiful reflections on the natural world. Please note that the resources will be updated regularly so do please check back in with this page from time to time.
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