Sunday, 25 April 2021

Sunday intercessions on
25 April 2021, Easter IV

The Good Shepherd window in All Saints’ Church, Mullingar (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Let us pray:

‘I am the Good Shepherd … I have received this command from my Father’ (John 10: 11, 18):

Heavenly Father,
we pray for the nations of the world,
and for our own country Ireland, north and south.

We give thanks for all who are involved in responding to the present pandemic crisis …
for all in vaccination centres, in health centres and in medical practices …
for all volunteers, medical professionals and administrators …
for all who make decisions and seek to influence public opinion for the good …
for all who behave like shepherds of the people, holding out hope and promise for our future …

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

‘Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action’ (I John 3: 18):

Lord Jesus Christ,
we pray for the Church,
that we may always set the Good Shepherd before us
as the pattern of our calling,
caring for one another.

We pray for our bishop Kenneth, our neighbouring churches and parishes
and people of faith everywhere,
that we may be blessed in their variety and diversity.

In the Anglican Cycle of Prayer,
we pray for the Nippon Sei Ko Kai,
the Anglican Church of Japan,
and the Primate, Bishop Nathaniel Makoto Uematsu,
Bishop of Hokkaido.

In the Church of Ireland this month,
we pray for the Diocese of Down and Dromore
and Bishop David McClay.

In the Diocesan Cycle of Prayer this week,
we pray for members of Select Vestries throughout the diocese,
and those preparing for Confirmation.

We pray for our own parishes and people,
and we pray for ourselves …

Christ have mercy,
Christ have mercy.

‘The stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone’ (Acts 4: 11):

Holy Spirit,
we pray for one another …
we pray for those we love and those who love us …
we pray for family, friends and neighbours …
and we pray for those we promised to pray for …

We pray for those who feel rejected and discouraged …
we pray for all in need and those who seek healing …
for all who work for healing …
for all waiting for healing …
for all being vaccinated and those administering vaccinations …

We pray for those who are sick or isolated,
at home or in hospital …

Ann … Valerie … Daphne … Sylvia … Ajay …
Joey … Ena … George … Louise …

We pray for those we have offered to pray for …
and we pray for those who pray for us …

We pray for all who grieve and mourn at this time …
for Ruby and the Shorten family …
for Jimmy, Cian, Fiachra and Saedhbh …
Joey, Kenneth, Victor, and their families …
Louie, Trevor, David, and their families …

We remember and give thanks for those who have died …
especially for Walter Long … Ernest Gardiner … Una Kerr …
Val Tomkins … Linda Smyth … Nora Hawkes …
the Rev John Anderson, priest in the Diocese of Connor
and rector of Billy and Derrykeighan for almost 16 years,
and who died suddenly from Covid–19 on Saturday 17 April …
and for those whose anniversaries are at this time …

May their memories be a blessing to us …

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

A prayer from the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) on the Fourth Sunday of Easter:

Almighty Lord,
As Jesus laid down his life for us,
May we devote our lives to you.
Let us rejoice in the promise of new life.

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Bishop Joseph Sakunoshin Motoda (1862-1928), the first Japanese-born Bishop of Tokyo, in a window in the chapel at the USPG offices … the Nippon Sei Ko Kai is named in our intercessions this morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

These intercessions were prepared for use in the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, Sunday 25 April 2021

How good shepherds
follow Christ’s example
in a time of pandemic

Christ the Good Shepherd … a window in Christ Church, Leamonsley, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 25 April 2021

The Fourth Sunday of Easter (Lent IV)


The Readings: Acts 4: 5-12; Psalm 23; I John 3: 16-24; John 10: 11-18.

There is a link to the readings HERE.

Christ the Good Shepherd, depicted in a stained-glass window in Saint Ailbe’s Church, Emly, Co Tipperary (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

‘I am the Good Shepherd’ (John 10: 11, 14).

This morning’s Gospel reading presents us with the best-known and best-loved of the seven ‘I AM’ sayings in Saint John’s Gospel.

‘I am the Good Shepherd.’ As if to emphasise how important this description is as part of his identity, Christ says this twice (verses 11 and 14).

Perhaps we have heard it so often – ‘I am the Good Shepherd’ (John 10: 11, 14) – that we have become too comfortable with this image.

Yet, when we are being ordained, priests are told that we must always set the Good Shepherd before us as the pattern of our calling, caring for the people committed to our charge, ‘and joining with them in a common witness, that the world may come to know God’s glory and love’ (Book of Common Prayer, p 565).

The image continues when we are told that ‘the treasure now entrusted to you is Christ’s own flock’ (p 573).

I was thinking about this morning’s Gospel reading earlier last week, and wondering about that role model of the Good Shepherd.

I was asking myself whether the Good Shepherd had remained the pattern of my calling in priestly ministry, wondering whether this image was still a challenge to me and still a role model; or whether I had become too comfortable with the stained-glass image of the Good Shepherd, with his shining white robes and his fluffy white lambs.

I was asking these questions, thinking about these challenges, earlier last week, as I went for my first vaccination, the first of two Astra Zeneca vaccinations for the over 60s.

This is the first of two jabs. I had heard all the conspiracy theories, all the complaints, and all the moaning.

But it was a perfectly organised afternoon. We were guided into well-formed queues, moving at a leisurely but measured pace, by welcoming and cheerful volunteers. Those volunteers shepherded us like gentle shepherds looking after their sheep carefully, making sure we were comfortable and in the right place, no lost sheep.

This is what community is about: these are not the hired hands Christ warns about in the Gospel reading who may run away in the face of danger (John 10: 12-13). These are volunteers doing this for no recognition, no financial gain, no personal benefit, perhaps at risk, however remotely, of being infected themselves. They are doing this knowing that, hopefully, in a few months’ time, this is going to be a better, safer, society, collectively on the road to recovery, financially, socially and in terms of physical and psychological health.

The check-in process was as pleasant as checking in for a flight at an airport: complete with jokes about age and about being an Aston Villa supporter, and even bumping into an old schoolfriend.

It was putting into action those words in our epistle reading: ‘Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action’ (I John 3: 18).

The medical people were efficient, polite, professional and friendly all at the one time and probably for an entire working day.

My vaccine was administered by an army medic. For this pacifist, this was an experience of our defence forces at their best: defending people, saving lives, making the country safe, protecting us against what is effectively a foreign invader, making the country secure for future generations.

It was a day filled with positive experiences, reminders of what community is about: about how volunteers are one of the bedrocks of society; about how we need government intervention in health programmes to protect public health; about how paying our taxes ensures a more just society with access to health care on the basis of need rather than the ability to pay.

In this morning’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Saint Peter reminds the rulers and all present of the good for all in ‘a good deed done to someone who was sick’ (Acts 4: 9).

Of course, I had bad reactions for the next day or two. I first had a chill, and then ran a temperature, before feeling completely tired and drowsy. But I had been warned about the possibility. And, given the choice of feeling like that for a day or two, or contracting Covid-19, or becoming a ‘super spreader,’ I know which I would opt for any day.

The psalmist reminds us this morning, ‘Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me’ (Psalm 23: 4).

But where are the other sheep, the lost sheep, the sheep who will not listen?

The take up of the vaccine offer for my age group is almost 90 percent. Which sounds good, until you realise this means there are 10 per cent or more people, some who have no access to the internet or proper public transport; some who live in fear; and those who listen to the conspiracy theorists and the pedlars of fake news and far-right propaganda, mixed in with that lethal cocktail of extreme nationalism, populism and racism.

When I was being ordained a deacon, I was entrusted with ‘a special responsibility to search out the careless and the indifferent’ (Book of Common Prayer, p 555). At my ordination as priest, I was told ‘to search for God’s children in the world’s temptations, and to guide them through its confusions’ (p 571). And so, I must continue to challenge the confusion created by conspiracy theorists who care less.

To be Christ-like, to be like the Good Shepherd, I must not turn my back on them. Like Christ, I too must recognise that those who put their own delusions or false fears above the good of all of us are lost sheep who are worth going after, whose health still matters, and whose good health is going to benefit all of us.

At our ordination, priests are asked by the bishop: ‘Will you be faithful in visiting the sick, in caring for the poor and needy, and in helping the oppressed?’ (p 567).

But that task is being carried out every day at vaccination centres across the land. The people at those centres – volunteers, receptionists, security staff, traffic controllers, medical professionals, army personnel – are surely what we mean by holy people.

And we should pray and give thanks for their gentle roles as shepherds of our people, and for the promise of a healthy future that they hold out for everyone.

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Christ as the Good Shepherd … a mosaic in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia in Ravenna (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 10: 11-18 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 11 ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.’

Christ the Good Shepherd … a window in Saint Mary’s Church, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical Colour: White.

The Greeting (from Easter Day until Pentecost):

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Penitential Kyries:

Lord God,
you raised your Son from the dead.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus,
through you we are more than conquerors.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Holy Spirit,
you help us in our weakness.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect of the Day (Easter IV):

Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life:
Raise us, who trust in him,
from the death of sin to the life of righteousness,
that we may seek those things which are above,
where he reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Introduction to the Peace:

The risen Christ came and stood among his disciples and said, Peace be with you. Then were they glad when they saw the Lord (John 20: 19, 20).

Preface:

Above all we praise you
for the glorious resurrection of your Son
Jesus Christ our Lord,
the true paschal lamb who was sacrificed for us;
by dying he destroyed our death;
by rising he restored our life:

Post Communion Prayer:

Merciful Father,
you gave your Son Jesus Christ to be the good shepherd,
and in his love for us to lay down his life and rise again.
Keep us always under his protection,
and give us grace to follow in his steps;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Blessing:

The God of peace,
who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus
that great shepherd of the sheep,
through the blood of the eternal covenant,
make you perfect in every good work to do his will,
working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight:

Dismissal: (from Easter Day to Pentecost):

Go in the peace of the Risen Christ. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thanks be to God. Alleluia! Alleluia!

Christ the Good Shepherd … the Hewson Memorial Window in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Hymns:

21, The Lord’s my shepherd; I’ll not want
20, The King of love my shepherd is



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

Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.

Praying in Lent and Easter 2021:
68, Franciscan Friary, Askeaton

The Friary in Askeaton was built between 1389 and 1420 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During the Season of Easter this year, I am continuing my theme from Lent, taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship that has been significant in my spiritual life;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

Today is the Fourth Sunday of Easter (Easter IV, Sunday 25 April 2021). This week, I am offering photographs of abbeys and friaries I have found places for prayer and spiritual refreshment.

Earlier in these prayer diaries, I have visited Mount Melleray Abbey, near Cappoquin, Co Waterford, on 28 February and 1 March. This morning my photographs are from the ruins of the Franciscan Friary in Askeaton, Co Limerick.

The friary ruins, on the east bank of the River Deel, are just a short walk the north of Askeaton, and retain magnificent mediaeval cloisters. This site is one of the most complete ruins in Ireland and, as well as the magnificent cloisters with 12 arches on each of the four sides, there are mediaeval carvings, a beautiful east window, a chapter room, refectory and the remains of tombs of key people associated with the history of this part of Munster.

The first date given for its foundation is 1389, when the first friary at Askeaton is said to have been founded by Gerald FitzMaurice FitzGerald, 3rd Earl of Desmond and Lord Justice of Ireland, who died in 1398. The suggestion that the friary was founded before 1400 relies on a grant of indulgence by Pope Boniface IX (1389-1404) to anyone who visited or gave alms to the friary of ‘Inisgebryny’.

Other sources suggest a more likely foundation date of 1420, when the friary became a burial place for the Desmond FitzGeralds. If so, Gerald’s son, James FitzGerald FitzGerald (ca 1380-1462), 6th Earl of Desmond, was the friary’s first main benefactor.

The friary was built between 1389 and 1420, although the present buildings are of a slightly later date. The extensive remains of the friary and its surroundings represent an imposing mediaeval architectural landscape that was probably planned intentionally in the early 15th century.

The friary was founded for the Conventual Franciscans. Saint Francis of Assisivvexpected his friars to follow a vow of poverty and objected to them building houses or churches. However, by the time this impressive friary was built in Askeaton, they had become a powerful and wealthy order.

In 1441, Matthew MacEgan, a member of the prominent family of lawyers, returned from studying in Bologna and became the friary’s lector, or the friar charged with the formation and training of candidates for the priesthood. In 1491, the friars of Askeaton won a case against the friars of Ennis who were accused of hindering their fellow Franciscans in seeking alms.

The friary was reformed in the 1490s and the friars became Observant friars in 1497. In 1513, the friary was formally given to the Observantines by the Franciscan Provincial, Father Patrick Healy.

The church and the north transept, sacristy, cloister arcade and domestic buildings all survive, including the top floors of the east and west ranges. The friary was built with dark grey limestone, and although it was once said the cloisters were built entirely of dark grey marble, they too seem to be fashioned in polished limestone.

The church, apart from the roof, is partly standing, including the nave, chancel and the north transept. The east end of the church, with a lofty window, has some beautiful details in the later English Gothic style.

Among the detailed features are an elaborate sedilia in the south wall, the niches of three altar-tombs of similar design, probably built for the Desmond family, carved windows and stone seats. However, the original bell tower has collapsed, and large masses of the walls lie scattered around.

Among the detailed features are an elaborate sedilia in the south wall, the niches of three altar-tombs of similar design, probably built for the Desmond family, carved windows and stone seats.

One of the most striking features of the friary is its beautiful 15th century cloister arcade. The cloisters are almost entire, and on each side of the enclosed quadrangle there are 12 lofty pointed arches supported by cylindrical columns with richly moulded capitals.

These cloisters stand on the south side of the church, which is exceptional: most Franciscan friaries have their cloisters on the north side of the church..

In one corner of the cloisters is a statue of Saint Francis with his stigmata or the signs of the wounds of the crucified Christ. The face of the statue has been worn away by people who were told that kissing the statue would cure toothache.

In one section of the cloisters, a sundial in the stonework may have served as a Mass dial. In the centre of the cloisters, there was once an ancient, stately thorn tree.

The refectory was added later, and although it was locked at the weekend, I believe it includes an excellent example of a reader’s desk. The chapter room later became the burial place of the martyrs Bishop Patrick O’Healy and Father Cornelius O’Rourke.

Thanks probably to the patronage of the powerful Earls of Desmond, who lived nearby in the castle in Askeaton, this Franciscan community escaped suppression at the Reformation. The transept contains many interesting tombs, among them the tomb of James FitzJohn FitzGerald, 14th Earl of Desmond and Lord Treasurer of Ireland.

The friary survived until 1579, and some Franciscans continued to live in the Askeaton area. A small group of Franciscans returned to Askeaton in 1627, but the Friary was abandoned in 1648 with the arrival of Cromwell’s forces.

The Franciscans returned to the friary a decade later, and from 1661 to 1714 Guardians of the friary were appointed with regularity. The friary permanently closed in 1740.

An inscription In the cloisters reads ‘Beneath lies The Pilgrim’s body, who died January 17th, 1784,’ leading to stories of the ‘Askeaton Pilgrim’.

Part of the friary was used as a Roman Catholic church until a new church was built in the town in 1851. The Franciscans continued to appoint Guardians of Askeaton Friary until 1872, but these were only nominal appointments.

The cloisters in Askeaton Friary are among the most complete and best preserved in Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 10: 11-18 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 11 ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.’

Although the Friary church is roofless, much of it is still standing (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (25 April 2021, Easter IV) invites us to pray:

Almighty Lord,
As Jesus laid down His life for us,
May we devote our lives to You.
Let us rejoice in the promise of new life.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The elaborate sedilia in the south wall in Askeaton (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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

The statue of Saint Francis in a corner of the cloisters in Askeaton (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)