REMEMBERING JULIA: 10 Years On



Got out of bed on Monday May 25, 2009. Pulled back the curtains. Looked out into the silent streets of Mervue and noticed that Evelyn Foy’s car wasn’t there. It’s the kind of thing neighbours notice. Her mother is in hospital so I sent her a text to see if everything was alright. Her brother Sean phoned me to say the family had been called to the hospital at 7.00am because Julia had had a bad night.
I dressed fast and got there shortly after 8.30am, there being no traffic to speak of. The curtain was pulled around the bed, her four children gathered around her, boys on one side, girls on the other - Sean, Breege, Evelyn and Paugi. Julia’s head rested childlike against the side rail, protected by a folded brown blanket.
When I had seen her the previous day she talked with clarity about my Mother and Maura who were both dead by then, Maura ten years earlier. How much she wanted to see them. Then something slipped in her mind and clarity left once again, as it does.
We prayed. She participated, blessing herself frequently, continuing to pray alone after the rest of us had finished. “I’m convinced that God and the Blessed Virgin are coming to help me” she said, sounding a lot like my Mother in the lead-up to her death the previous year. She asked us to pray in Irish which we did and then we went to the corridor when the nurses came to change her bed.
One of her nephews went in when they had finished and she told him she didn’t want to see the priest (me) again. He told me this saying not to take it personally. I didn’t and at the same time I did! Maybe I had overdone the prayer as Mam used to tell me not to because she thought I would frighten the dying person.
So, I tiptoed in to get my book and holy oil. 
“Who are you?” she asked. 
“Eamonn” I said.
“Eamonn who?”
“Eamonn Monson!”
“You’re not Eamonn! What did you do to your hair?” I told her it had gone white and said I would see her again. “Not here, I hope!” was her reply. And that was goodbye!
Julia lasted until the following Thursday morning. Sometimes agitated, sometimes peaceful. She even sang ‘Lady of Knock’ with one of her granddaughters.
For us Monsons it was moving to hear how often she spoke of Mam and Maura. She saw Mam standing at the foot of her bed one day and said, “I’m not ready yet Maureen!” I had the privilege of celebrating her funeral Mass on the lovely morning of June 1st.
With her another piece, a most precious piece of our Mervue history had slipped away, one of the first Parents, founders of Mervue, strong Mothers, foundation on which the spirit of Mervue is built. Much more has gone from us in the intervening ten years.
The first families moved into Parnell and Ceannt Avenues in 1956 when the roads were still rough gravel and Emmet Avenue was not yet finished. There were few cars, no buses. Our parents cycled to Mass in Castlegar or St. Patrick’s in town. Our Mothers walked the two miles to town pushing babies in big prams, pulling toddlers behind. Between Mervue and Moneenageisha there were open fields, with the exception of Cluan Mhuire, the Redemptorist Monastery. 
There was scarcity and sharing on many levels in Mervue which was a very well planed council estate. Every house had front and back gardens, the latter being planted with vegetables.
The Kilgannons and Monsons already knew each other from O’Halloran’s Newcastle House where they rented flats back as far as 1952. Ours was one room which my Mother divided with curtains. Five of us lived there until we moved to Mervue just before Christmas 1956. Our families have lived near each other for more than 65 years. Next door to Kilgannon's in Mervue lives Angela McManus of the O'Halloran family and she is the unique holder of the story of life lived there and of the early years in Mervue.
In the Mervue of our childhood there was just one telephone for the whole of the estate, a public one down by the bus stop. It’s a pity it’s no longer there because it was the holder of a multitude of life stories – tragedies, romances, a connection with those who had moved abroad or to other parts of Ireland. Dial the operator, give the number you wanted to call, insert the required coins, press button A. Please! And if it went wrong you were instructed to press button B to reclaim your money. The phone box had its own aura, its own scent, the collective scent of all of us crowding in there together. The excitement of trying to get a word in before the money ran out. And the joy of discovering it was broken and you could somehow phone England if you wanted – for nothing!
And in the early years there was no television. We listened to the radio – the big old wireless, made of beautiful wood, with a light inside and a glass panel with the names of far away places written on it. For some reason I think of Hilversum and Helsinki. And I thought as a child that the people were inside. We graduated to a blue transistor when we were teenagers and used to listen to 208 Luxemburg, the only real source of pop music.
The first televisions came in the 1960’s – McCafferty’s and Dowling’s. We all piled into McCafferty’s of an afternoon and Margaret Dowling would leave the sitting room curtains open so that I could watch ‘Combat’ in silence from my bedroom!
And then everything came our way and we all grew up and went away and came back and went again. And some stayed, giving birth to new generations of Mervue. Happily, Kilgannon’s home is still occupied by Kilgannon’s, while Monson’s is mostly occupied by memory and sometimes by me!

FROM THE HAND OF A CHILD TO THE HEART OF A MAN



Summertime, the grass grew tall down the long back garden at home where my mother would spread out the newly washed white bedsheets to dry, sheets that were often made of flour bags sewn together. The days seemed sunnier then and, as a boy, I would crawl in under a sheet and it would become a tent in which I lay looking upwards at the white brightness that shielded my eyes from the sun. It was a happy, peaceful place to be. 

In our neighbouring church of St. Thomas of Canterbury, they celebrated the Forty Hours Adoration during the week and I went there for a short while on Wednesday evening. A beautiful peaceful time that brought me back to the same devotion in the Augustinian church in Galway when I was a boy. It seems to me ike the Tent of Meeting of the Old Testament – the place where Moses went to meet God face to face and we meet Him now in Jesus in the Eucharist.  It is here that the veil between heaven and earth is thin.

And there in St. Thomas’ I found myself praying Psalm 27, “There is one thing I ask of the Lord, for this I long, to live in the house of the Lord, all the days of my life, to savour the sweetness of the Lord, to behold his temple. For there he keeps me safe in his tent in the day of evil. He hides me in the shelter of his tent.” The shelter of His tent, a happy, peaceful place to be! 

Peace is the gift that Jesus speaks about today, “Peace I leave with you, my own peace I give to you, a peace that the world cannot give, this is my gift to you!” Peace comes to us in surprising ways and it often happens when we find ourselves troubled and in need of its arrival. 

Last Sunday after I had finished the 11.30 Mass and everyone had gone home, I found myself walking down High Street with a young couple and their three-year-old son. Out of the blue I felt this soft little hand taking hold of mine and the little boy simply spoke my name. The stress that I was feeling and the sadness that was upon me dissolved for a while in that simple touch. I hadn’t heard this but the boy had said to his Dad that he needed to hold Father Eamonn’s hand. There was no need for me to say anything. Peace had taken hold of my hand, my life.

Peace descends upon us like a tent, like the warmth of the sun, the coolness of clear water; it descends upon us when we allow God to take hold of our lives, when we are in harmony with Him, available to His touch. Peace flowing like a river. Peace flowing from the hand of a child into the heart of a man.

There is a sense of completion that comes with Peace, when things are as they are meant to be. On Tuesday my great-nephew Cole was born two weeks early. My sister was telling me that the baby’s Dad has been changed by the experience, has a look in him that wasn’t there before. The child’s Mother says it’s a look of completeness, that her husband has somehow arrived, arrived in the place where he truly belongs. I think it’s the second stage of his arrival at completeness. He had already arrived at the first stage of completeness when he married his wife. Back then on the day of their wedding I told them that, by binging their relationship before God in the Church, they were taking it to a higher level. In the birth of their son they have both arrived together at an even higher level of human existence. 


OUR LADY QUEEN OF APOSTLES

Tanzanian Icon of the Cenacle commissioned by the late Fr. Noel O'Connor SAC


“Wherever I shall be, I intend to imagine myself to be together with all the creatures in the Cenacle in Jerusalem where the Apostles received the Holy Spirit. I shall remind myself to renew this desire often. As the Apostles were there with Mary, so will I be in spirit with the most beloved Mother and Jesus. As they are my special intercessors, I am confident that they will help me and all other creatures to receive the abundance of the Holy Spirit” (St. Vincent Pallotti) 

I take this prayer of St. Vincent Pallotti and place myself before the image of the Cenacle – Mary in prayer in the Upper Room, surrounded by the apostles and disciples of Jesus after His Ascension into heaven. There’s an empty space in front of Mary and I think of myself going in there to kneel at her feet, my hands resting on her lap in prayer. It reminds me of Mary Ann McDonagh who was, as I thought then, an old woman, though probably not yet fifty. When I was a boy in Aran where she lived, I loved her, the home maker. The warmth of her and the deep tone of her voice that sounded like freshly baked brown bread. Mornings when I played alone on the beach near the pier, Mary Ann would call to me from the door of the pub to come up and have tea with her in the kitchen. And when I got there, in the presence of the old black range with its huge and ever-boiling black kettle, we prayed. She seated on a chair and I kneeling at her feet with my hands resting on her lap. It was very tender. The prayer I remember us saying was the prayer to the Guardian Angel. Then there was the tea and Kimberley biscuits - a whole packet for myself. Prayer and Kimberley biscuits! My encounter with Mary in the Upper Room is not much different to that, no grander, no more complicated. We pray and she lavishes me with the abundance of Divine Tenderness that is in her, feeds me with the abundance of Divine Love that is in her heart, the oil of her kindness. And, without asking anything in particular, I am quietly changed for the better.  

(The Pallottines feadtday of Our Lady Queen of Apostles is celebrated on the Saturday after the Ascension)

JOY BEYOND SORROW: Mental Health Awareness Week


Battle Abbey
Judas leaves the warmth and light of the Upper Room, separates himself from the grace of the Eucharist, and goes out into the cold night to betray Jesus for whom this must have been one of the most difficult moments of His life. Yet, what He says of that moment is this, “now is the Son of Man glorified!” What an odd thing for a condemned man to say. But He can say this because He has the grace and the courage to allow events to unfold as they must, the grace to wait until the conclusion which is in fact a glorious one, the glory of His resurrection. This is the grace offered by Him to us, that when our darkest moment comes upon us, we have the vision to see that there is light beyond the darkness, joy beyond the sorrow. This vision of grace does not mean that we ignore the feelings that come with darkness.  
As we come to the end of Mental Health Awareness Week I’m very aware of the words of Prince William who said of his grief for his Mother Princess Diana, that it is a pain like no other and I welcome his invitation to get us to talk about our own mental illnesses, whether it be grief, depression or something else.
The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is Body Image – how we think and feel about our bodies. We might also look at how we speak about the physical appearance of other people, the comments we make to them, comments that make them feel bad about themselves. An ongoing concern I have is how so many Christians loosely speak to others and about them in ways that are not Christian; how Christians are unwilling to take responsibility for the words they speak, words that can push others into depression. I’m really saddened when I hear that some of our children from the parish speak to each other in ways that are hurtful and damaging. It’s not what Jesus wants, it’s not acceptable to Him. 

And then, of course, when we encounter someone who suffers depression, we want them and may even say to them, “get over it!” When we see someone grieving, we want them to get over that too, maybe even suggesting that grief is selfish, that a Christian should not grieve.
But let’s not forget that Jesus cried for Lazarus, that He himself felt the sadness, the fear, and the distress of His Agony; He felt the physical pain and humiliation of the crucifixion. He felt all of this intensely and by feeling so strongly he has provided us with a place of refuge when we suffer the fear and darkness of depression and our other mental illnesses. And let’s not forget that, as He went through His suffering, He also held on to the victory that was to come, a victory that He shares with us in our personal experiences.

The early songs of Neil Diamond have words that describe aspects of my life and in 'Brooklyn Road' he writes of school report cards that say "he's just not trying." When I was ten I became sad to the point that I was not able to do my homework and when my Christmas report came it said, "homework almost completely neglected since September." Added to that I would mitch from school, spending time in churches begging Jesus for help. All hell broke loose and I was punished both at school and at home! Nobody ever asked why these things were happening and I had no way of expressing what was going. We are much more attentive nowadays to what's going on in children but I still say to adults, never underestimate the sorrow or sadness of a child. Be attentive to what they’re feeling and let them say what they need to say. I come from a generation of children that was not allowed to speak and it has done quite a bit of damage to us.
For the first ten days of this month I had a really enjoyable time at home, and the highlight of course was giving First Holy Communion to my niece Laura - the radiance, the beauty and the joy of her! 
But the event that has touched me most strongly is my final encounter with Father Noel in the hospice in Dublin. I had just enough time to see him before getting my flight back here to Gatwick. Saying goodbye to him, praying with him for the last time was very emotional, leaving him was a very lonely experience. He died three days later which was, of course, the best thing for him. He needed to go; his time had come.
But I found myself back here alone in my house with this intense feeling of loneliness, the kind of feeling you get when someone close to you dies. And I desperately wanted to be with my community and with my family in Ireland, to be hugged by those who know and understand me best. And I came to realize too that, not only was I grieving but that grief had awoken my depression. I had to admit to myself this morning that I am depressed. But God, who arranges everything so well in my life – He also arranged that I should be here alone with the grief that I was experiencing and I knew I had to trust Him in arranging things in this way. 
So, when I read the gospel for today, I knew God was telling me that the moment of darkness is also the moment of glory and it contains within it what we read in the book of Revelation, the promise of something totally new - a new heaven and a new earth; God and His people together and He himself  “will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new!”
Easter calls us to look beyond the suffering we are experiencing now and see with the eyes of faith the glory that is coming to us. And I find myself longing for the new heaven and the new earth, for the fulfilment and the resolution of all things in Jesus. This longing is our prayer and in the time of our longing we find our nourishment in the Eucharist, in Jesus we already touch the reality we are yearning for.



NOEL O'CONNOR: A Child At Rest


Noel in the old Mission House, Galapo 2009
It’s one of those moments when solitude bites - that most blessed gift of God that I treasure. It’s when loneliness overwhelms me and there is no one there to absorb it with me, no human face-to-face physical presence. And nothing on earth will relieve it, only God who doesn’t relieve it quickly but stretches it out so that I actually experience it. I’m not the only one and it’s not the worst loneliness going on in the world– but it’s mine, right now. And it hurts!
It happened following my visit to Noel in the hospice, something I’ve already written about but will repeat again here. His brothers JJ and Patrick and niece Fiona were there. Noel slept peacefully so the rest of us chatted until he stirred, woke and looked at us without speaking. I knelt beside his bed, we held hands, I placed my right hand on his head and we prayed.  It felt like we were intimately enfolded in one Heart. I asked Jesus to take our hands, our priestly hands and use them as His own, that the Light of His Love would fill Noel’s mind, heart, soul and body; that the Holy Spirit would pray in every breath he took. Then I prayed Psalm 131 – “O Lord my heart is not proud, nor haughty my eyes. I have not gone after things too great, nor marvels beyond me. Truly I have set my soul in silence and in peace as a child at rest – and then I started to cry unable to say the last line – in its mother’s arms, even so my soul” 

My tears came to me as a surprise, came from deep inside me. You never know what or who is going to make you cry. Was I perhaps looking at my own future, maybe even crying for myself?  His brothers and niece cried and I left the room a while because my crying was going to get out of control. That wouldn't have been fair to Noel.

When I composed myself, I went back to say thanks to Noel, told him I love him, kissed his cheek and said goodbye in Swahili. Kwaheri, Mungu akubariki, God bless you. Asante, thank you, he replied with a little smile. Kwaheri. We will not get the chance to say these things to each other again. But it’s important for me that they were said.

We have known each other since 1972, though we were not regularly in contact, but there was a genuine affection between us. He was a physically strong sportsman and I am not, but we are kindred spirits, friends of Jesus and brothers in Him.

The word shelter comes to mind when I think of Noel. I was sheltered by him in the height and breadth of his great big hug, sheltered by him in some difficult moments when I was a young priest in Tanzania. Never more sheltered than when my brother Harry and I were in a car accident in July 1984. Harry had to be flown back to Makiungu from the hospital in Dodoma. Noel’s was the first face he saw as he was taken from the plane. The Medical Missionaries of Mary minded Harry, Noel minded me. He understood vulnerability, had the strength to be vulnerable himself and allowed me to be vulnerable in his presence without any embarrassment. When Harry came back to East Africa years later with his wife Elaine, they were welcomed by Noel at Mass in Dagoretti. He invited them up to the altar so the people could see them, got Harry to sing a song and walking down the aisle at the end of Mass he said to Harry, “did you hear that Tipp beat Cork?” His passion for sport mingled easily with his spirituality. It was rather apt that Tipp beat Cork again the day before Noel died!

Noel took me on trips around Tanzania – as far away as Iringa and to the beauty of Karatu where we stayed in what I think was Gibbs Farm. Up there in the beauty of God’s creation we celebrated Mass on a rock in the middle of a river, something I wouldn’t have thought of doing myself but again Noel had the breadth and imagination to do what is alternative while always remaining orthodox. Of course, he would say Mass in a river, being the fisherman he was, and why wouldn’t he!

I hear him laughing, the distinctive sound of his voice, see the brightness that broke out in him, the innocence and the simplicity of the dove, the craftiness that it sometimes hid. He was the best fundraiser I have ever met, standing there melting hearts with his words and his very appearance, his very presence. Truly a man of God!

One of my most treasured memories has to do with his mother Hettie, a woman of great warmth, heart, faith and a sanctity that was direct and had an immense capacity for joy. She always managed to make me laugh, sending me away happier than when I had arrived. The special memory I have is when the three of us were in her kitchen together. She got up to make tea, giving me one mug and putting another between herself and Noel. They both drank from the same mug, each taking alternate sips. It was so tender and intimate, reminding me of when I was a child and how I loved drinking tea from my mother’s cup. It always tasted better, more special. Noel and Hettie seemed to be tasting each other’s life, the other’s love. They were one body, one spirit in a certain way. Enfolded in each other in the most noble and liberating manner. It was that enfolding that came to mind as I prayed Psalm 131 with him, that image that made me cry. As a child at rest in its Mother’s arms, even so my soul, even so is Noel.

As I was driving back from London on Monday May 13th, I finished praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy just after 3.10pm. A few minutes later Noel breathed his last. Into the hands of the Father of Mercy.

With gratitude for the love, the friendship and great witness. I would dearly love to be there for Noel's funeral on Thursday but, as Derry said, I was there when it mattered. Thanks be to God!

Eamonn Monson


Noel wearing a hat standing behind me in the early 1980's. The photo includes John Kelly, Bishop Mabula, Mick Timlin, Bishop Winters, Jim McCartan and Pat Dwyer













A CLASS OF A MIRACLE



He is frail now, vulnerable, and his gaunt, harrowed face has a softer expression. We have been at odds for almost twenty years, so I wasn't expecting anything. My intention was to be civil, greet him, shake hands and move on but to our surprise he hung around us, came back to our table after the meal and we talked, chatted in a very light and friendly manner. He even asked after my life in Hastings. 

Someone later reminded me about what he did all those years ago, the reason for the breakdown in our relationship and I haven't forgotten but the expression in his face made me lay all that down. 

There was a moment when he came up behind me as I was sitting at table and he placed his hands on my shoulders, something my nephews would do. As I do, I reached back without looking, to touch the hands touching me and I was so surprised, surprised and moved. As I was leaving we hugged. He said, "look after yourself " and I said "you look after yourself." And I left, knowing that we can meet again without stress or fear. It is something I thought would only happen when we were both dead. A class of a miracle.

It's May 9th. Maura would be 66 today. I woke with a heavy heart, not wanting to face the day, wishing I didn't have to go through the inevitable unpleasant encounters, the fractured, broken realities of our extended family, the exclusion, the silences, things of the past that inflicted grevous wounds, some of which are still raw, the stress of managing all these situations, praying that hurt will not be heaped upon hurt.

I said Mass. Lit a candle for Maura. Prayed for a miracle. Jesus said in today's Gospel, "why are these doubts rising in your hearts?" I chose to trust and went to visit two of our elder neighbours who brought me to broader horizons, brought me to a place of tranquility.

I dressed for the wedding, learning again how to fix a tie which looks and feels odd. We went to Maura's grave. Prayed quietly. I left a rose from my garden, a rose planted by our late mother.

There is some disappointment in me that this is a civil rather than a church wedding so I'm leaving my priestly appearance aside. He was so religious as a boy but, like most of the next generation, seems to have lost those sacred Christian instincts. It's the way of things now and it seems to be what people want - a quick, non religious ceremony that to me lacks soul. God got no mention throughout the whole affair except in one or two private conversations. It's interesting, though, that the secular ceremony has adopted its form from the Christian liturgy. It began shortly after 3.00 - the hour of Mercy which I acknowledged in my heart, praying for the couple who are very happy. 

And I was praying too for the newborn girl who is on the verge of death, being baptized today, praying for her and her parents. Praying for a miracle. I'm doing the novena to Our Lady of Fatima for her, asking that as my friend Helen died on Tuesday, this child might live. That death might give way to this little life. It seems impossible, improbable but you never know. Lord I believe, help my unbelief. Sadly, it was not to be.

My sister and I were the only aunt and uncle not given places at table with the other aunts and uncles but we were with their adult childern. Really beautiful and delightful people to be with. Warm, open faces and hearts that suffer family fractures. There is no place where there isn't brokeness but it can be held and carried with grace. It doesn't have to be ugly, at least not all of the time.

The speeches were short. The groom reserved his words for his departed mother and his friend who died suddenly ten months ago at forty six years, same age as Maura. Across the room I saw the friend's parents cry.

We had warm, concerned and happy conversations with the other aunts and uncles whom we haven't met for years. Memories going back more than forty years. 1975. Queen. Bohemian Rhapsody. Parents passed on. And we had moments of present laughter, the unrestrained laughter that shakes your belly.

It was a day well spent. I was there because I love my nephew and the memory of his mother. Unmiraculous in some aspects but clearly miraculous in others, and this holds out the hope that the other miracles we seek will come in God's time. We have only to wait, pray and be ready to participate in the moment of grace when it arrives. 

May 10th and I'm on my way to the airport and beyond to Hastings, having just visited Noel in Blackrock Hospice. A fellow Pallottine who has been a priest for forty one years, we were students together in Thurles for a few years in the '70's 

Two of his brothers and a niece were with him and Mike Irwin left shortly after I arrived. Noel slept peacefully so the rest of us chatted until he stirred, woke and looked at us without speaking. I knelt beside his bed, we held hands, I placed my right hand on his head and we prayed.  My tears came to me as a surprise, came from deep inside me. You never know what or who is going to make you cry. His brothers and niece cried and I left tthe room a while because my crying was going to get out of control. That wouldn't have been fair to Noel.

When I composed myself I went back to say thanks to Noel, told him I love him, kissed his cheek and said goodbye in Swahili. Kwaheri, Mungu akubariki, God bless you. Asante, thank you, he replied with a little smile. Kwaheri. We will not get the chance to say these things to each other again.

HELEN: When it's all been said and done



She is one of the most beautiful expressions of womanhood I have ever met and in that she was also a most beautiful expression of who God is. With her I felt safe and redeemed, loved and admired. 

As I write these words my soundtrack is playing Robin Mark's 'When It's All Been Said and Done' and I have only a short while ago received word that Helen died during the night, finally a great release for her but what a loss for her family. My Mass this morning was for her, the readings so appropriate. As I went to bed last night praying for Helen I thought of the heavens being torn apart at the Baptism of Jesus, the Spirit of God descending, "...Beloved... my favour rests on you." Similar to what is in the first reading at Mass today - St. Stephen in his agony saying, "I can see heaven thrown open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God", a reflection of what Helen must have been experiencing in her own agony at that time. "Lord Jesus receive my spirit."

Father Derry has been a good friend of Helen over the years. He prayed with her last night and at the end of the prayer she said, "thank you Jesus for everything!" The previous evening I was blessed to get to see her. Having been at Emmaus in Swords for a Living Family retreat I thought I could not go home without seeing her. In that brief visit, though very weak, she was fully alert, squeezing my hand as we prayed. I kissed her head and said, "I love you." She said, "I love you too." The words of the departing are sacred.

"When it's all been said and done, there's just one thing that matters, did I do my best to live for truth, did I live my life for You? When it's all been said and done... only what I've done for love's reward will stand the test of time" so sings the song.

Helen's very essence is a "yes" to the question and the statement of the song. She lived for Truth and she lived for Love. Jesus Himself is her Truth and her Love, whether it is the Truth of the right to life of the unborn or the Love she had for her own family, her pride and joy, her love for the rest of us, her constant concern. She felt life deeply, often to the point of tears and she had a smile of joy that lit her eyes.

A fearless warrior in the cause of good and right, compassionate, understanding, forgiving. And she was Pallottine to her fingertips, part of our Pallottine family for many years, bringing busloads of people to our centre in Thurles so that they might find healing and solace for their lives, an active and central member of the Union of Catholic Apostolate. Her last months were an apostolate of suffering. I hadn't seen her for a couple of years but we communicated by text and these were full of her gratitude, appreciation for the prayers and support and especially for the Masses offered. "...you will never know how much your text this morning meant to me. Thank you for offering the Mass for me, it is the greatest gift I could ever receive" she wrote when it was becoming clearer that the treatment wasn't working.

It was a blessing to have known her in this life and without her life is somehow less for all whom she touched, especially those who were privileged to be close to her. May she rest in peace.

That same night, the early hours of Tuesday May 7th, only a couple of hours after Helen, Jean Vanier died. He too was a great lay apostle of our time.

After I joined the Pallottines in 1972 the first two books I bought were 'With Open Hands' by Henri Nouwen and 'Tears of Silence' by Jean Vanier. Both books, both men made a lasting impression on my spiritual life. Little did I know then that the two would become so closely associated years later. In 1977 I attended a retreat given by Jean at Cluan Mhuire in Galway. It was like being present at the Sermon on the Mount. May he too rest in peace and how appropriate that he and Helen should be born to Eternal Life on the same night.

I will always sing Your praise Here on earth and ever after For You've shown me Heaven's my true home when it's all been said and done You're my life when life is gone Lord I'll live my life for You



Jesus said, ‘I tell you most solemnly, it is my Father who gives you the bread from heaven, the true bread; for the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. I am the bread of life. (John 6:30-35)