Apologies for another late reflection, due to my being away since Monday leading a retreat for the Franciscan sisters in Ballinasloe, County Galway. I was received with the warmest hospitality by the lovely sisters, most of who are in their eighties and enjoying retirement in a purpose-built nursing home/convent.
Their care for one another and their gratitude towards the wonderful staff who are accompanying them in this last stage of life was really inspiring. Hearing their confessions was like listening to a collection of saints trying to invent faults, such was the goodness shining through in their faces. The retreat itself with a focus on Advent themes such as joyful waiting in hope, was heart-warming, and I found myself deeply affirmed in my own faith, for indeed I was also preaching to myself and sharing my faith and enthusiasms with the dear sisters.
The Franciscan connection was always present in the background as many of the community had worked with our friars in Zimbabwe, while others knew our men in Rome, Drogheda, and Killarney. Thanks be to God for his grace lavished upon us in this celebration of fraternal love.
At home in Multy, the friars were glad of the help of our brother Billy from Clonmel who came for the St Anthony Mass on Tuesday evening and then Mass on Wednesday morning. Then Ulic from Athlone stepped into the breach on Friday morning, so that Fr John did not have to celebrate all week. I have to keep reminding myself that he is 90! Thanks to Clonmel and Athlone friaries for their brotherly support.
Please keep in your prayers our brother Lomán, who is still recuperating at home with his sister after that recent fall. He is doing well by all accounts, building up his strength and vigour with frequent exercise and, of course, through much TLC (tender loving care) from Róisín.