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Showing posts from April, 2019

FIRST OF MAY: When I Was Small

When I was small we all looked forward to the first of May – long before the Bee Gees wrote their beautiful song - when the leaves were fresh on the trees and the sun seemed to shine most of the time, though sometimes it rained heavily as we made our daily pilgrimage to the Grotto in Castlegar, about two miles from home. We were right on the edge of Galway city and it was over the wall and through the fields that we made our way, taking time to play among the rock and bushes, dreaming up great fantasies and dramas from snake valley to mansions and boats carved out of stone. It was a time when faith was woven fairly seamlessly into ordinary life as we were keenly aware of the Divine in our midst and we turned to the Mother of Christ for help in everything we had to undertake. For us children as we grew into secondary school, we needed her help with exams. We went to her in droves every day after school, though I didn’t fare too well in exams even after the most ferven

40 Years Red

Red the life vest of the oarsman. Red the wide-rim hat of a smiling cyclist.  Red the lips, the dress of a woman walking into the sun. Red the fluttering shirt of a young man running.  Red the coat of a woman calmly writing, seated stately on the pebbled shore. Red the tulips. Red has made me smile, revived my drooping spirits. And yellow is the Mustang that growls like a contented lion. Our daily prayer begins with Psalm 95. Before I leave my bed this morning a line from it is already hovering around me – “for forty years I was wearied of these people.” What a thought with which to start the day. But it’s the forty years part that is significant now because on this day forty years ago I made my Final Profession as a Pallottine on the Feast of St. Catherine of Siena and I intend this to be a blessed, peaceful day. It's also Monday, my day off, a day that always finds me spun out after the weekend. It’s my day of rest and I tend to approach it slowly, quietly lingering ov

BREND: A Special Feeling

It happened to me. Even though I chose it, took it on, walked it – the Camino was something that happened to me. Every encounter, every experience of the Pilgrimage was like God doing something to me and in me – in a small way like it was done to Mary according to the Word of God at the Annunciation. It is said that it is not the pilgrim who makes the Camino but the Camino makes the pilgrim. It’s true. Meeting Brend was one of the key happenings on that journey almost eight years ago. He was twenty-five years old then and now he is thirty-three and he arrived in Hastings on Easter Monday having cycled three days from Arnhem in Holland. This was our fifth meeting since the Camino and as always when we’re together we think and talk a lot about our other Camino companions, especially Mark and Becky. I miss them. He was exhausted from the journey and I’m pretty tired after the wonderful Holy Week and Easter ceremonies. We went to Porters for food and stayed up too late talking. We talked

RADIANT WITH GLADNESS: Easter Vigil Homily 2019

Last Sunday morning at the 10am Mass Deacon Duncan and I were standing at the altar, possibly during the Eucharistic Prayer, when we saw little Emily leading her mother up the side aisle until they came right in front of the altar. Emily is about a year and a half old and I think she is just learning to walk and her mum is behind her holding both of Emily’s hands so that it’s the child who is at the front, leading. What both Duncan and I saw was the extraordinary joy on the face of the child as she looked up. She was literally radiant with gladness at whatever she was seeing – and it was not Duncan or me. It was like she was having a vision of God. It was quite extraordinary. So, she has become for me a symbol of the journey that we have all been making towards Easter and it is somehow the child, that which is innocent within us that has led us here to catch sight of the mystery of Jesus who died and has come back to life. No one but God knows what was going on in Emily’s min

From Notre Dame to Sacre Coeur: Easter 2019

It was Tuesday morning when I heard the news that Notre Dame de Paris had gone up in flames the evening before. Having seen it three years ago and, more importantly, having prayed there, I felt a pang of sadness. And then it struck me that there is something powerfully symbolic about the event and its timing, it being the start of Holy Week and perhaps it stands now as a prophetic statement of the spiritual state of Catholicism, not just in France but in Europe. As if Our Lady herself, Notre Dame, is reminding us how things really are. Much of the reaction has been about the physicality and cultural importance rather than the spiritual and, it’s very interesting that politicians and the wealthy could so readily commit money to the restoration of this great building but do not show the same readiness to put money into the restoration of the lives of the poor. Still, the burning of this much-loved building has brought people’s attention to its sacredness and we have the witnes

ON OUR KNEES - Mass of the Lord's Supper

Last weekend on Radio 4’s Sunday morning programme there was a report on a spiritual retreat held at the Pope’s residence in the Vatican. The retreat was suggested by Archbishop Justin Welby, head of the Anglican Communion, and was attended by political and religious leaders from South Sudan, a country that has been torn by a brutal civil war for the past seven years or so, taking the lives of 400,000 people. At the end of the retreat there was a meeting with Pope Francis who pleaded with them to keep the fragile peace which has recently been established. The two opposing leaders are Christian. Having finished his talk, Pope Francis stood up, everyone in the room stood with him and he went and knelt to kiss the feet of each of the leaders. Everyone in the room was stunned, shocked by what was taking place and it was said by Martin Bashir – the only journalist present – that everyone was in tears. Pope Francis was following the example of Jesus who “emptied Himself, taking the for

STOP ALL THE CLOCKS, COVER THE STATUES

"Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone, silence the pianos" The words of Funeral Blues by W H Auden remind me of when my grandfather died. Everything stopped - literally. Curtains were closed, the clock was stopped, the radio turned off, the television covered with a cloth and would not be watched until the funeral was over. For a child it was all a bit spooky and sombre but it was the way of acknowledging the major loss that had just occurred. Instead of entertainment there was conversation about the man who had died and prayers for his soul. His life and death became the total focus. Those days were all about him. A veil of sorrow and remembrance was thrown over everything. A veil of mourning, a mourning that included a lot of eating and drinking and even music.  I remember in Shankill visiting a man whose wife had just died. We all sat around the kitchen table and every time he started to talk about her he would start crying, they would all cry so