18 December 2019

Are you looking forward to
a white Christmas this year?

Snow at Askeaton Friary on the banks of the River Deel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Are you dreaming of a White Christmas?

With only a week to go to Christmas, I have been busy preparing services and sermons, season liturgical and preaching resources for priest and readers in the Diocese of Limerick and Killaloe, carol services, crib blessings, Christmas dinners, mulled wine and mince pies with parishioners in the Rectory … as well as a funeral, visiting Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Limerick, committee meetings in Limerick and Rathkeale and school visits in Rathkeale and Askeaton.

I was in the Rathkeale No 2 National School twice this week, speaking at the school assembly about the meaning of Christmas, and at the reception this afternoon after the children’s play and carol service.

I was also in Colaiste Mhuire twice in the past week. This is the community secondary school in Askeaton, and I am a member of the Board of Management.

I was asked to present a mounted and framed copy of one of my photographs of Askeaton in the snow to two exchange students who are returning to Spain after spending a term in Ireland.

The photograph shows the Franciscan Friary in Askeaton in the snow. It was taken last year when I was snow-bound in Askeaton and was forced by the bitter weather to cancel a planned visit to Warsaw.

The wording on the back of the photographs reads:

‘The Franciscan Friary of Askeaton lies by the River Deel to the north of the village of Askeaton, Co Limerick. The Friary was founded either in 1389 by Gerald FitzGerald (1335-1398), 3rd Earl of Desmond and Lord Justice of Ireland, or in 1420 by James FitzGerald FitzGerald (c.1380-1462), 7th Earl of Desmond.

‘The extensive remains of the Friary and its surroundings represent an imposing mediaeval architectural landscape that was probably planned intentionally in the early fifteenth century. The Friary’s cloister is intact and an image of St Francis is carved into the cloister arcade to remind the Franciscan friars of their patron saint as they went to and from Divine Office.

‘Askeaton Friary, Winter 2018, Photographed by the Revd Canon Professor Patrick Comerford, Priest-in-Charge of the Rathkeale Group of Parishes and Precentor of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick; member of the Board of Management, Colaiste Mhuire, Askeaton.’

Perhaps these photographs will remind these two teenagers of life in Ireland and what winter weather is like here. Perhaps they will make some of the staff members who were at these presentations wistful for a white Christmas.

Reminders of a white Christmas … with staff and students in Colaiste Mhuire, Askeaton, this week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Reading Saint Luke’s Gospel
in Advent 2019: Luke 18

‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector’ (Luke 18: 10) … a stained glass window in Saint Michael’s Church, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

During the Season of Advent this year, I am joining many people in reading a chapter from Saint Luke’s Gospel each morning. In all, there are 24 chapters in Saint Luke’s Gospel, so this means being able to read through the full Gospel, reaching the last chapter on Christmas Eve [24 December 2019].

Why not join me as I read through Saint Luke’s Gospel each morning this Advent?

Luke 18 (NRSVA):

1 Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. 2 He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3 In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, “Grant me justice against my opponent.” 4 For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, “Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming”.’ 6 And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? 8 I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’

9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10 ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.” 13 But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” 14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’

15 People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it. 16 But Jesus called for them and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 17 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.’

18 A certain ruler asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 19 Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 20 You know the commandments: “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honour your father and mother”.’ 21 He replied, ‘I have kept all these since my youth.’ 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, ‘There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ 23 But when he heard this, he became sad; for he was very rich. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, ‘How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’

26 Those who heard it said, ‘Then who can be saved?’ 27 He replied, ‘What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.’

28 Then Peter said, ‘Look, we have left our homes and followed you.’ 29 And he said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not get back very much more in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.’

31 Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. 33 After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.’ 34 But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.

35 As he approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 When he heard a crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37 They told him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.’ 38 Then he shouted, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ 39 Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet; but he shouted even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ 40 Jesus stood still and ordered the man to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, 41 ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ He said, ‘Lord, let me see again.’ 42 Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.’ 43 Immediately he regained his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, praised God.

A prayer for today:

A prayer today (International Migrants’ Day) from the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG, United Society Partners in the Gospel:

Let us celebrate with those who bring richness of culture and diversity as they travel from one part of the world to another.

Tomorrow: Luke 19.

Yesterday: Luke 17.

‘Because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice’ (Luke 18: 5) … the sign at the Wig and Pen near the courthouse in Truro, Cornwall (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org