HERON



With the patient poise
Of a hunched heron

The old fisherman
Watches the sea

Swelled
By tragedy and triumph

Memory of the Almighty's
Awesome deeds

From which he has emerged
Scathed

Survivor of the past
He looks the present
In the eye

Stepping delicately
Towards the future
Trustful

With Faith in the One
Who has brought him
Thus far

ASHBURNHAM


A blessing on the man who puts his trust in the Lord, with the Lord for his hope. He is like a tree by the waterside that thrusts its roots to the stream: when the heat comes it feels no alarm, its foliage stays green; it has no worries in a year of drought, and never ceases to bear fruit. ‘The heart is more devious than any other thing, perverse too: who can pierce its secrets? I, the Lord, search to the heart, I probe the loins, To give each man what his conduct and his actions deserve.’ (Jeremiah 17:8-10)

A bench beneath
A cedar tree

Beside a lake
Of waterlilies
Radiant swans

Birds, dragonflies
And ants that bite

Something is carried
On the cool breeze
That blows there

SOMEONE

A Person
Not a thing

A Question
That contains the Promise
Of a Gift to come

And I like Abraham
At the hottest part of day

Bow down in adoration
Of the One

Who asks
Giver of the Gift

Where is your heart?
God wants to know

My heart is in my loins
Where it belongs

That unruly place of passion
Seat of Wisdom

Seeking to be wholly
Configured to Christ
Word made flesh

Perfected in Love

I'D LIKE TO TEACH THE WORLD TO SING - First Days In Hastings


The day begins with a song that represents the innocence of the music of the early 1970's - I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing by the New Seekers  -  going round in my mind in a kind and lighthearted spirit which isn't a bad way to start the first day of my new life in Hastings.

The reality of my move from Shankill, from Galway and out of Ireland hasn't really hit me at all because I've kept it at bay in case it might be overwhelming. It also feels temporary because I will travel back to Ireland a few times during the summer to fulfill commitments - a retreat and four weddings.

The move was blessed by the prayers and Bible readings that were the set pieces of yesterday, prayers that I didn't choose but ones that hold a lot of meaning - "Alone with none but thee my God I journey on my way...May your hand be on the man you have chosen...With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation...Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom...reflecting like mirrors the brightness of the Lord...For it is not ourselves that we are preaching but Christ Jesus as Lord."

Today's liturgy is also appropriate in that it's the feast of St. Richard of Chichester who is a patron of the diocese where I now work. My letter of appointment from the current bishop Richard Moth was waiting when I arrived. Becoming Parish Priest has never mattered to me, it's not something I ever aspired to and I have never seen it as a promotion but, reading the letter of appointment makes me realize that it's more awesome than I ever understood. This is what Shankill has prepared me for!

Celebrating Mass here in this beautiful church of St. Mary Star of the Sea that dates back to 1883, at the moment of consecration something strong - both emotional and spiritual - stirred in me. A realization that this ministry means being united to Jesus in a new way that I have not experienced before. "This is my body..." takes on a deeper meaning.

The last time I was a Parish Priest was in Tanzania at the tender age of 28 and during that period I had a very strong yearning for the contemplative life, a yearning that was expressed for me in the love that Jacob had for Rachel in Genesis 29 - "Jacob kissed Rachel and burst into tears!"

This early outpouring of Jacob's love is deepened in a most unusual way. He offers to work for her father for seven years in order to win her hand in marriage and ends up working another seven years before the marriage takes place. The significant line for me is that for Jacob the years "seemed like a few days because of the greatness of his love for her." We all experience delay in the fulfillment of our desires, including our deepest spiritual desires. My yearning for union with God would take a long, long time to find fulfillment.

The reason I'm talking about this now is that the story of Jacob and Rachel has come back to me a lot over the past few weeks. In the intervening thirty-something years I had largely forgotten it and maybe even had let go of much of my contemplative yearning. But now it has returned and I'm wondering if Hastings represents the time and place of its fulfillment since I will be living quite a solitary life here.

"Let it be done to me according to your Word!" And, when I was looking for a title for my Hastings Blog, the words of Psalm 27 came clearly to mind, "Of You my heart has spoken 'seek His Face'" - it's all part of the same urge! Let it be done!

Already I feel like I'm living in an altered state of consciousness, an alternative state of being, far, far away! In the evening I take a long walk through the old town down the sea front for a couple of miles. The weather is fabulous! Bars and restaurants are overflowing into the narrow streets with shiny, happy people making a lot of joyful noise, while I make a joyful silence moving in the midst of them.

Children play, couples stretch out on the stony beach, small groups gather around little fires, a fairly large crowd lines up for admittance to the Rocky Horror Show on the Pier while multitudes of seagulls swoop and soar and dive for every scrap of discarded food. These birds make an awful mess of the whole town but still I love the sight and shape and sound of them. They remind me of the Jonathan Livingstone living in me.

My first Sunday is the Feast of Corpus Christi - the Body and Blood of Jesus - and it's also my mother's 91st Birthday. I think of her in heaven and I think also of Fr. Seamus Stapleton, my predecessor whose untimely death necessitated my coming here. The marvelously strange ways of the Lord. He has given this kind community and me to each other so that we may be the Body and Blood of Jesus in this place and time.

I'm staying in Seamus' old room where my eye fell on one book among the many - 'The Wounded Prophet' - and within a short space of taking that into my hands my attention was drawn to the BBC drama called 'Broken' about a priest in a run-down parish. 

Wounded and broken are realities that seem to follow me and I'm inclined to think that it is my past wounds and brokenness that have equipped me to be a prophetic presence in this place of God's choosing. I'm inclined to think that whatever is wounded or broken in my life is also already transformed by the risen wounds of Jesus.

I'll finish with a prayer of St. Richard of Chichester. The last three lines I thought originated with the musical 'Godspell' but they are much older than that. Richard died in 1253.

Thanks be to Thee, my Lord Jesus Christ
For all the benefits you have given me,
For all the pains and insults you have borne for me.
O most merciful Redeemer, friend and brother,
May I know You more clearly,
Love You more dearly,
Follow You more nearly. 
Amen.






I AM (Mud Hut)



It grew from the earth
Sprouting grass for roof

Sagging soon a lump
Mud hut retiring

In shy apology 


For the way things are
Underdeveloped

I hope you don’t mind

MOTHERHOOD (The 13th Station)


Motherhood embraced me
The day I went away
We sobbed together

Held tight in time
And loss Her womb
Leaning in to me

As God might
In that place

Where life was borne
Delivered wrenched away
Again again again

Rachael weeping 
For her children 
Because they are no more 

What do you call
A mother whose child
Had died?

A short life in the womb
Four hours after birth
Two and four and ten years old?

I have never seen
Such sorrow or
Such dignity

Womanhood so steadfast and frail
The arms that ache to hold
The missing Child

Encompassing me
We drench each other's shoulder
Tears of grief

Mingled with relief
For life that swells
The womb once more

Pressing against my body
Throbbing

And born
A child is born
Amen Again Amen!