December January

Name Above All Names!

2014 marks the centenary of the revival of devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus in Ireland. A Sister of the Galway Poor Clare Community outlines how it all began in the Galway Monastery and what it might mean for us today.

There is a little manuscript note kept in our monastery archives that was found behind a picture of the Holy Name of Jesus. The main body of the script records the day and the date that the picture was put up, but it is the short post script at the end of the inscription that has prompted us in collaboration with our Franciscan brothers to mark the upcoming centenary. It reads as follows: “PS. It was in this convent of St Clare the devotion was begun in Ireland, Jan’14”.
   In late December 1913, a Franciscan friar named Francis Donnelly (1863-1929) gave the sisters a retreat. During the retreat he emphasised the power of the Holy Name of Jesus and also the devotion and zeal of St Bernadine of Siena – Apostle of the Holy Name. Fr Francis’ preaching made a deep impression on the sisters, so much so that they erected a picture of the Holy Name in the Chapel on the feast of the Holy Name the following January. This was considered by the sisters and Fr Francis as marking the beginning of a new wave of preaching and promotion of this devotion.
   Even to the present day devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus is very much alive in the monastery and those who write for prayers or call to the front door with their troubles are very likely to receive a prayer card of the Holy Name. A monogram of the Holy Name can be seen on nearly every door of the monastery and on the exterior wall over the entrance to the monastery. The tradition of placing a monogram of the Holy Name of Jesus over the doors of houses originated with St Bernardine of Siena. He preached during the 1400s, a time of great unrest in Italy with many factions and families fighting among themselves. He preached a message of peace and reconciliation through the power of the Holy Name of Jesus and encouraged people to remove from their houses, emblems and coats of arms that symbolised their allegiances, and to replace them with the Holy Name of Jesus.

Apostolate in Ireland
Fr Francis managed to source blue Holy Name tiles which can still be seen over the lintels of many houses in the areas where he ministered – mainly in Cork, Limerick and Galway – and in some places where he had not been based, such as Ennis. With the prayers of the Poor Clare nuns behind him and the example of St. Bernardine to inspire him, Fr Francis embarked on a Holy Name apostolate which comprised three outstanding features aside from preaching:

  • The promotion of the practice of putting the Holy Name over the doors of houses, as preached by St. Bernardine.
  • The setting up of a Total Abstinence Sodality under the patronage of the Holy Name of Jesus.
  • The printing and distribution of Holy Name pictures, leaflets and badges with the help of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary at Loughlynn, Co. Roscommon.

This spiritual collaboration between the sisters and Fr Francis led to a surge in this popular devotion throughout the country. (In fact, this year the parish Church of the Holy Name in Ranelagh, Dublin is also celebrating it’s centenary.)

I have Called You Friends
We are told that for St Bernardine, the Name of Jesus recalled to his mind “the poverty of the Crib, the lowliness of Nazareth, the penance of the desert, the miracles of Divine Charity, the humiliations of Calvary, the triumph of the Resurrection and of the Ascension, the Holy Eucharist and the mission of the Holy Spirit.” Similarly, for those who aspire to follow the path of St Francis and St Clare, the Name of Jesus is an awesome, yet simple summing up of the Incarnation and the whole Paschal mystery and of all that we have embraced and love. The centenary will be an opportunity to remember again just how present the Lord Jesus is to us when we call on His Name.
Indeed, it could be said that the idea of calling on the name of a beloved friend is native to the human spirit. In the 1970s a song about friendship was written which immediately became a hit and broke many records in sales, and in numbers of re-releases by other artists. The song in question, You’ve got a friend, could just as easily be an anthem in honour of the Holy Name of Jesus. “When you’re down and troubled and you need a helping hand and nothing, nothing is going right. Close your eyes and think of me and soon I will be there to brighten up even your darkest nights. Just call out my name…” The woman who wrote it, Carole King, said of the song: “It was as close to pure inspiration as I’ve ever experienced. The song wrote itself. It was written by something outside of myself, through me.”
   In a similarly touching way Jesus invites us to “call out” His Name. Pronouncing the Holy Name of Jesus with love and trust is the shortest of prayers. In a busy world such as our own we can find ourselves in difficult situations unexpectedly. The Name of Jesus can be a source of comfort and support in these situations when all else fails. For those struggling with addictions it is a particularly powerful help when temptations are strong.

Call and Mission
Devotion to the Holy Name also invites us to listen out for Jesus calling us by name. He assures us Himself in the Gospels that He desires to be one with us: “Make your home in me as I make mine in you”. St Gregory the Great illustrates this point in his sermon on the Resurrection scene where Mary Magdalene encounters Jesus in the garden: “Jesus said to her ‘Mary’… now He calls her by her own name as if to say plainly: ‘Now recognise the one who recognises you. For I know you not in some general way along with other people, but personally’… Outwardly it was He who was the object of her search, but inwardly it was He who was teaching her to search for him.”
   And once we have heard His call, He sends us out. Just as in receiving the Holy Eucharist, we are sent out on mission, so too the power of the Holy Name of Jesus at work in our lives urges us to witness to His saving love to all whom we meet and in every situation.
   The Franciscan collaboration that took place one hundred years ago in the promotion of the devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus didn’t just involve the Poor Clares and Fr Francis Donnelly. As mentioned above, the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary were also actively engaged in the project, as were Franciscan Tertiaries, who helped Fr Francis set up the temperance sodality under the patronage of the Holy Name of Jesus. The coming centenary prompts us to also give thanks for that same family spirit that remains today and to recognise further great potential for collaboration as the New Evangelisation gains momentum.
May the Holy Name of Jesus be everywhere praised and glorified and continue to be a source of peace, protection and blessing for our families and communities!


Jesus was the name given by the angel before Christ’s birth. It was the name by which our Lord was known in His family and among His friends in Nazareth. Exalted by the crowds and invoked by the sick during the years of His public ministry, it calls to mind His identity and mission as Saviour. In fact “Jesus” means “God saves”. A blessed name, which also proved to be a sign of contradiction, it was written on the Cross in justification of His death sentence – “Jesus, King of the Jews”. But this name, in the supreme sacrifice of Golgotha, shone forth as a life-giving name in which God offers the grace of reconciliation and peace to all.

In this name the Church finds her whole good, she invokes it unceasingly; she proclaims it with ever new ardour. It is the divine name which alone brings salvation “for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Jesus Himself shows us the saving power of His name, giving us this consoling certitude: “If you ask anything of the Father, He will give it to you in my name” (John 16:23). Thus whoever calls with faith on the name of Jesus can have an experience similar to the one mentioned by the Evangelist Luke when he remarks that the crowd sought to touch Jesus, “for power came forth from Him and healed them all” (Luke 6:19).

Let us learn lovingly to repeat the Holy Name of Jesus, invoking the name of Jesus with adoring love, putting it at the centre of our prayer. With what motherly tenderness must the Blessed Virgin have pronounced Jesus’ name! In the prayer that the Church addresses to her with the Hail Mary, she is associated with the very blessing of her Son: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus”. Let Mary put on our lips and impress on our hearts this most holy Name from which comes our salvation.

Blessed John Paul II

Jesus means in Hebrew: “God saves.” At the annunciation, the angel Gabriel gave Him the name Jesus as His proper name, which expresses both His identity and His mission. The name “Jesus” signifies that the very name of God is present in the person of His Son, made man for the universal and definitive redemption from sins. It is the divine name that alone brings salvation, and henceforth all can invoke His name, for Jesus united Himself to all people through His Incarnation, so that “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Jesus’ Resurrection glorifies the name of the Saviour God, for from that time on it is the name of Jesus that fully manifests the supreme power of the “name which is above every name”. The evil spirits fear His name; in His name the disciples perform miracles, for the Father grants all they ask in this name.

The name of Jesus is at the heart of Christian prayer. All liturgical prayers conclude with the words “through our Lord Jesus Christ”. The Hail Mary reaches its high point in the words “blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” the Eastern prayer of the heart, the Jesus Prayer, says: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Many Christians, such as St Joan of Arc, have died with the one word “Jesus” on their lips.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 430-435

Explanation of IHS

The Holy Name of Jesus has been venerated since the beginning of Christianity and appears in the earliest Christian manuscripts in Greek under the abbreviated form IH which consists of the first two letters of the Name of Jesus in Greek:  IHƩOYƩ .
In the second century the final Greek character was added to the IH abbreviation making it IHƩ. This in turn was transliterated into Latin or English characters as IHS. This custom became universal by the sixth century. The IHS monogram was later adopted by the Jesuit Order as an abbreviation for Iesus Hominum Salvator which we see today on Pope Francis’ coat of arms. Though there was a steady growth of devotion to the Holy Name in the middle ages, through the writings of St Bernard and others. It was the observant Franciscan reformer St Bernardine who depicted the Holy Name superimposed on yellow rays, representing Jesus the Sun of Righteous shedding His grace and light on us. The Franciscans made the devotion widely popular among ordinary people in the fifteenth century. Some of Bernardine’s own paintings of the monogram are still preserved.


Launch of the Jubilee Year of Holy Name

There was delight for the Franciscan Family in Ireland as Pope Francis endorses their Holy Name Centenary Celebrations.

The Franciscans and Poor Clares, along with other branches of the Irish Franciscan Family are celebrating a special Year of the Holy Name of Jesus. An opening Mass was celebrated in the Poor Clare Monastery Chapel on 3 January, the feast of the Holy Name.

All present were surprised and delighted when Fr Aidan McGrath OFM, Secretary General of the Franciscan Order worldwide, announced at the end of Mass that Pope Francis has granted the status of a Jubilee Year to their centenary celebrations and a plenary indulgence for those who participate in its celebration. The Year commemorates a new wave of the devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus which began in 1914 through a spiritual collaboration between the Poor Clares and Franciscans and was further developed by other branches of the Franciscan family.

“It is widely known that Pope Francis himself has great devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus and it is very significant that the granting of the Jubilee Year came through by mandate of the Holy Father.” said Fr Aidan. “This is a great honour for the Irish Franciscan family and a great opportunity for renewal in the Church in Ireland.” 

In the same week that the indulgence was approved, Pope Francis tweeted, “We cannot think of a Church without joy. This is the joy of the Church: announcing to all the Name of Jesus”. This has given further impetus to what has now become a Jubilee Year.

“We are so thrilled. We never dreamed that this centenary would get such recognition from Pope Francis,” said Sr Colette, Mother Abbess of the Galway Poor Clare Community. “We had applied for the granting of a special indulgence but the granting of Jubilee Year status is far above what we expected.”

Hugh McKenna OFM, Minister Provincial, noted in his homily that from the earliest days of Christianity people began to realise that the name of Jesus was not merely a series of letters, but that it had an intrinsic divine power. Wherever the name of Jesus is spoken or displayed the power of Jesus can be called upon to obtain peace, holiness and as a protection from evil. He believes that the Year is an opportunity for Christians to rekindle in their hearts love for the Holy Name of Jesus. “We invoke the name of Jesus so easily and very often so carelessly without realising the significance and power of this name that has been venerated down through the centuries.”

During the course of the opening Mass for the year, a special icon, “written” by Chilean Lucho Alvarez, a long-time resident in Galway, was unveiled depicting the person of Jesus and the monogram of the Holy Name. The Sisters hope the icon will become a focal point for renewing this devotion. “When we call on the Name of Jesus, He is with us and it is His Presence that gives us the graces we need to cope when we are going through difficult times” said Sr Colette. “That is why it is so important to use the Name of Jesus with reverence and love.”

“We believe this is a devotion which is very relevant to the times we are living in. People are really struggling, between sickness, financial worries and depression and are looking for some way to find serenity in their lives. Simply calling on the Name of Jesus with trust, from the heart, brings His Presence and His power into the situations in our lives that we struggle with. It is the utter simplicity of this devotion which is so appealing” she continued. 

In his homily Fr Hugh said: “From the earliest days of Christianity people began to realise that the Name of Jesus was not merely a series of letters, but that it had an intrinsic divine power. Wherever the Name of Jesus is spoken or displayed the power of Jesus can be called upon to obtain peace, holiness and as a protection from evil. We gather to rekindle in our own hearts that love for the most holy name of Jesus that our ancestors understood so well. We invoke the name of Jesus so easily and very often so carelessly without realising the significance and power of the name – a name which has been in the heart of God from all eternity – a name that has been venerated down through the centuries. We bless ourselves in this name, we celebrate the sacraments in this name and we pray in this name.”

He offered practical suggestions for the Jubilee Year: “If this Year of the Holy Name is to be of lasting value to us we must do more than just bow our heads whenever we hear His Name. We need to rediscover the true power of this name. We need to spend time in contemplation of this name. One very practical way, which is recommended by the Catechism, is the ancient practice of the Jesus prayer. This prayer, which goes back to the 5th century desert Fathers involves the repetition of the simple prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. Or when we pray the Rosary, pause in reverence at the mention of the Holy Name.”

Fr Hugh continued: “St Francis was so filled with love for the Holy Name that at the end of his life Friar Thomas of Celano could write: ‘He was always with Jesus: Jesus in his heart, Jesus in his mouth, Jesus in his ears, Jesus in his eyes, Jesus in his hands, he bore Jesus always in his whole body.’ May this Jubilee Year increase our love for the Holy Name of Jesus and may we too, whatever we are doing, be aware of His presence and his power in our lives.”



St Francis: Always with Jesus

The brothers who lived with Francis
Knew that daily, constant talk of Jesus was always on his lips,
Sweet and pleasant conversations about Him,
Kind words full of love.

Out of the fullness of his heart his mouth spoke.
So the spring of radiant love
That filled his heart within gushed forth.

He was always with Jesus:
Jesus in his heart,
Jesus in his mouth,
Jesus in his ears,
Jesus in his eyes,
Jesus in his hands,
He bore Jesus always in his whole body.

(Friar Thomas of Celano, Life of Saint Francis,115)

Coming to the Joy of Love

If you will be well with God, and have grace to rule your life,
and come to the joy of love:
this name Jesus, fasten it so fast in your heart
that it never comes out of your thought.

And when you speak to him, and through custom say, “Jesus,”
it shall be in your ear, joy;
in your mouth, honey;
and in your heart, melody.
For people shall think joy to hear that name be named,
sweetness to speak it,
mirth, and song to think it.

If you think the name “Jesus” continually, and hold it firmly,
it purges your sin, and kindles your heart;
it illumines your soul, it removes anger and does away with dryness.
It wounds in love and fulfills charity.
It chases the devil, and frees from dread.
It opens heaven, and forms a contemplative heart.
Have Jesus in mind and heart, for that puts away all vices from the lover.

Richard Rolle, 14th century English mystic


Jesus – Centre of Our Hearts

Saint Paul tell us: “Have this mind among yourselves,
which was in Christ Jesus”
This means to think like Him, love like Him, see like Him, walk like Him.
It means to do what He did and with His same sentiments,
with the sentiments of His heart.
The heart of Jesus is the heart of a God who, out of love, “emptied” Himself.
We are people who want to walk under the gaze of Jesus.
My we never seek in this life a name
that is not connected with that of Jesus.
Let Jesus occupy the center of the heart.
Only if one is centered on the Lord is it possible
to go as messengers of His live and love.
Pope Francis


Glorious Name

“Glorious name, gracious name,
 name of love and of power!
Through you sins are forgiven,
through you enemies are vanquished,
through you the sick are freed from their illness,
through you those suffering in trials
 are made strong and cheerful.

You bring honour to those who believe,
you teach those who preach,
you give strength to the toiler,
you sustain the weary”  

From a Sermon of St Bernardine of Siena.