Fathers Day 2019

My Dad and I had a particular kind of love that was born of years and years of family life, time spent together – bad and good times. We spent a lot of time together as family – moody morning breakfasts, hurried lunchtimes and long evenings that were often peaceful and sometimes filled with arguments. And in the era before television we spent our time by the fire talking. As little children, it was he who put us to bed saying as we walked up the stairs, “all together like Brown’s cows!”

He was gentle and silent and somewhat overlooked, still is overlooked in some ways because we have always paid more attention to our Mother. And he had his weaknesses that we came to know; I had my arguments and misunderstandings with him; we got over them again and again. And through it all there was an intimacy developing, a kind of knowing that cannot be spoken but is real and deep as the ocean. From the time I was thirteen years old I worked for the summer holidays in the factory where he worked. We fought in the mornings because I wouldn’t get up and would be late for work. In the evenings we walked happily home together, becoming companions and on Friday nights when I was old enough, he would take me to Jackon’s for a pint.

Today I honour the memory of my Father and all Fathers who have passed; the Fathers whose child has died and those whose child did not come to birth. We honour you Fathers of this parish in your greatness and in your frailty. We praise you and we thank you. Society now tends to demand perfection of us, demands that we make no mistakes but children don't think in those terms. They can be demanding in all sorts of ways but they cope well with our imperfections and our faults, so it's important that you listen to your child, listen when your child calls you Dad or Daddy or Dada.  Listen to these sounds, the tone and let your child tell you who you are for her or for him, how precious and irreplaceable you are. Listen too in your heart to the voice of God who is the original Father, the One from whom all fatherhood flows and learn from Him what fatherhood means.


Slowing to the pace of a pond, time away from mowing machines, a breeze too cool for June, a warm suntrap carved into the rhododendron bush, birdsong, rushes rustling and water lilies perfectly still. This is Ashburnham! There is no need for strain, no need to make more or less of this space in time. No need! I am in the Presence of God and His wonderful creation of which I am a part and yet apart, outstanding in dignity without any boast. This is really lovely, a welcome respite from being tired and out of breath. 40 minutes of peace, one with God, with nature and with myself.

I began to ponder the readings for the feast of the Holy Trinity and I conclude again that I am unable to explain or define God. He is to be discovered by those who seek the Truth (John 16:12-15) and I urge anyone who is tempted to stop believing - I ask them at least to seek the Truth, to hold on to and protect that special inner feeling that they have for Jesus, particularly teenagers many of whom feel obliged to stop believing. God is experienced in the prayer of humble adoration and known by love, that Love that has been poured into our hearts by the Spirit who has been given us (Romans 5:1-5). There is the playfulness too of Wisdom that finds its home in the reality of who God is (Proverbs 8:22-31).

That was Tuesday, two days after Pentecost and First Holy Communions, three days after the opening wide of the windows of my house, the windows of my soul, the arrival and departure of the pigeon. There was a text from Mary asking me to phone the parish number. Something must be wrong and I’m so relieved to hear that the pigeon has made a home for herself in a spare room upstairs. I can cope with this! And I laugh out loud at the good of it. The pigeon has made a nest in one of the wall lights of the room. She has laid an egg there. Both Mary and I agree that we can’t very well throw her out, even though she has made quite a mess and will probably do even more. So, Mary spread out old sheets over the place and opened the top of the window wide so that the bird can come and go freely, without fear or panic. 

Back home, I resorted to Google. It’s recommended that the nest be left alone if at all possible. Later I’m told that it’s illegal to throw out a nest with eggs in it. By Wednesday there’s a second egg. Google tells me that the process of laying, hatching and the little ones learning to fly will take 40 days and I’m amused by the number 40, it’s so Biblical. We have just come through 40 days of Lent and 40 days of Easter. Now we are to have 40 days of pigeon and I’m excited at the prospect of seeing squabs – baby pigeons – for the first time in my life. 

It strikes me that God has sent her to us for a reason and I need to find out what that reason might be. The reason might simply be to remind me about what God is like as we come to the feast of the Most Holy Trinity. There are times in the Bible when God uses the image of a bird watching over her nest to portray God’s own protective care of us – the eagle hovering over its young, a mother hen gathering her chicks under her wings, the longing of God to gather us, the sadness of God when we refuse to be gathered. 

I’m thinking of calling her Fran - the pigeon. When she visited me last Saturday on the eve of Pentecost, I realized that I am no St. Francis and then after Mass Ted and his Dad gave me the gift of two St. Francis fridge magnets that they brought from Assisi. That seemed to me to be a calling – that if I am not a Francis, then I should become one. A tall order! But possible, probable if I let God do it to me. It seems significant too that I began the 40 days of Lent by taking a Franciscan hymn as my prayer for the season, that I continued singing it through all of Easter and continue singing now it with John Michael Talbot – “we adore you O Most Holy Lord Jesus Christ in this place and throughout all the world, for by your Cross You have redeemed us, You have redeemed all the world. We worship you Lord; we adore You O Lord and we bless Your Holy Name!” 

A Pentecost Pigeon, St. Francis, the Most Holy Trinity and all of Creation! A unity of life!

From Chloe and Niamh


Fr. Mick Timlin Remembered: 20 Years On

Our Lady of the Grapes

The beginning of the year 1999 was marked by the retirement of Mick Timlin as Provincial Bursar and the first six months of the year were marked by his illness. He really hadnt been well for the past couple of years but his doctor didnt make much of it. There was trouble with the prostate and he was on medication. We werent satisfied but Mick didnt want to put pressure on his doctor who, it transpired later, had cancer of which he died.

Mick  became very jaundiced in February and it was decided that something had to be done and he was admitted to St. Vincents. His departure from here to the hospital had all the atmosphere of a final farewell and he never really returned except for a short spell. Going down the steps of the Provincial House, looking very frail, he said I should have done something about this a long time ago.  His racing green Mazda 323 was parked outside. He never got to drive it again.

As John Fitzpatrick was away I had the responsibility of dealing with the doctor in the hospital who told me straight that Mick had cancer of the pancreas and he would last about six months. Mick said he wanted to be told the truth about his illness and when I said this to the doctor he said he would answer Micks questions honestly. It took Mick quite some time to ask the straight question. However much we might want to know the truth, however much we accept the prospect of death, there is a moment of grace when the question can be asked and the truth told. 

On March 17 Mick  finally asked the doctor the straight question and was told the truth. I asked him how he felt now that he knew and he said I feel indifferent. He gave the same answer on other occasions.  His main concern was how it would affect his brother Bernard. Pat Dwyer and Tom Hynes were there that day and Tom was left speechless by what he had heard. The speechlessness of the brotherly love that exists in our community. 

Mick seemed to resign himself in a positive way and spent his time getting ready to go. He was never one to make a  show of his prayer - he did his best to hide it - but going in to visit him you would often find him with his rosary. There was a picture of Our Lady and the child Jesus on the wall  of his hospital room and one day when John Kelly and I came in he was gazing in childlike wonder at it. He said take a good look at that child. Did you ever see anything as beautiful as that face? And after a silence and still gazing he simply said sweet Jesus. It was a rare glimpse of the inner reality of his love and devotion. It had to be there because he was so faithful all his life. He was also very real and human. Mick was a wonderful patient and drew the best out of everyone who came in contact with him. For a man who was so private he dealt extremely well with the physical embarrassment of sickness. His gratitude for anything we did for him was boundless as if it was a surprise or that he didnt deserve it.

I first met Mick in late December 1972 when he was Rector at St. Petrocs in Stillorgan. It was my first year in the Pallottines and I was repeating two subjects in the Leaving Cert. I went to Dublin to do a crash course in Leeson Street and arrived unexpected on a dark December night at the door of a dark and empty St. Petrocs. When I failed to get an answer I went across the road to the Oblates who brought me in and kept phoning Petrocs till they got an answer. I remember sitting happily among the Oblate students chatting and being the centre of their attention for a couple of hours. There was something very innocent and free about that night. Eventually John OConnor came to get me. I must have been there a couple of weeks alone with Mick. He was kind and fatherly and very tolerant as I watched David Bowie singing Star man on the end-of-year Top of the Pops.

Kind and fatherly are words that describe Mick when he became our Rector in Thurles from 1975-1978. I always felt safe in his presence even when he had to tell me hard truths about myself. At 4.00 p.m. in the afternoons when we returned from class in St. Pats he would be sitting in the dining room with his coat thrown over his shoulders, waiting for us to come and have tea and talk to him about the day. At times he threw caution to the wind and brought us in to his room for a game of burn.

I was a troubled and troublesome student in those days and left in 1976 to taste a bit of life in the world. I had an absolute ball most of the time. My work was in St. Annes residential home and during my interview for the job Sr. Veronica asked do you think youll go back to the seminary? No I answered truthfully because I had no intention of going back. I saw myself as being unfit for the priesthood. When I was leaving the job in 1977 Sr. Veronica told me about the reference Mick wrote for me the year before which he ended by saying we expect him to return. Which I did, of course!

We spent a few years together on the Provincial Council and when I came to live in Dundrum he was the anchor of every evening. Always there. Always looking out for me. When I needed to get away I usually asked him if hed mind looking after the students he would say Id do anything to see you getting a few days off. His very presence had an amazing effect on the students and vice versa. He came alive with them and got such pleasure out of talking them.

On our way down to Cork on June 11th the students and I called to see Mick in the Ardeen nursing home, Thurles. He had moved there by his own choice, so that he would not be a burden when he died and we wouldnt have far to bring him to the grave in Cabra. He was so pleased to see each of the lads and his eyes rested on each of them with such a great love. There was a radiance about him that day, such peace in the room and we each had the feeling that we would not see him again. He died two days later, aged 72, at 12.30 p.m. on June 13th. 

On Tuesday June 15 Mam, Maura and I went to Mick Timlins funeral in Thurles. One of the things Maura loved about Pallottine funerals is the singing of the Salve Regina at the graveside. Little did we realize then that hers would be the next funeral we would attend, a grief that none of us anticipated. May they rest in peace.

FREEING THE PIGEON: A Pentecost First Communion

My First Holy Communion Day when I was 7

It's 7.30 the morning of Pentecost Sunday, the sun shines bright into my kitchen and there is a silence, the silence of seagulls that allows the other birds to be heard for a while. A beautiful, sweet sound that comes from the trees across the way.

My house has had a stale smell lately, so when I got up yesterday I opened all the windows wide to let fresh air in. A strong breeze blew from the outside, circulating vigorously within. I realized that, in the same moment, I was opening wide the windows of my soul, allowing the fresh air of the Holy Spirit to come and fill me, removing what has become stale in my heart and soul and mind.

In the afternoon a pigeon entered through the lower part of my bedroom window, stood there looking happy and curious until he spotted me. He went into a right flap, flying madly around the room, knocking, scattering what got in his way, clawing at the curtain, unable to get out the way he came in. So, I spoke kindly to him but I'm no St. Francis and he didn't understand. In the end I realized I should take down the curtain and open the top part of the window wide as possible. It worked!

Of course, that too served as a parable for me. When we open the windows of the soul to the Holy Spirit, you never know what might come in, things that don't belong, some of them innocent like the pigeon but others not so benign and others dangerous.  We need to stand guard at the window of our soul and, as much as possible, not allowing in what does not belong but also doing what we can to liberate ourselves from them. We achieve all of this by prayer, charity, repentance and mercy.

This is also most specially our First Holy Communion day, with 39 children receiving the sacrament. It's 57 years since I made mine. I go back in my mind.

Doctor Evelyn Tully told me to pray for a baby brother since I was the only boy among three sisters. I was seven years old and my mother was “expecting” as they used to say. I prayed for a brother and Harry was born on May 22nd 1962. Shortly after his birth I made my First Holy Communion, so I think there is something potent about the prayer of a child during that period of life. It must be the purest of prayers.

On the Saturday, the day before Communion, Noreen Carr and I walked on our own the two miles over to Castlegar church to make our First Confession. It was a time in life when two seven-year-old children could go that distance alone and be safe.

Canon Mitchell was inside the box in the middle and I went in the door on the right-hand side. It was dark but I was unafraid; I knelt even though my little head didn’t even reach up as far as the ledge that adults used to rest their hands on. I stayed kneeling anyway, my head turned upwards. The small slide door opened above me and a dim light flowed through. “Bless me Father for I have sinned. This is my first Confession.” And a kind old voice responded. That’s all I remember. It was fine. We ran home delighted.

Next day we walked over to Castlegar again and I think I went with Julia Kilgannon whose son Sean must have been making First Communion as well. Noreen would have been there too. Mam was still in bed with the new baby.

Sister Francis in Scoil Iosagain had prepared us thoroughly and I obeyed everything down to the last detail. I didn’t know then how not to obey. Walking up the aisle in line, hands reverently joined, I was calm with an expectant calm. We were told that our souls would shine bright when we received Jesus in Communion and I didn’t know the difference between my soul and the sole of a shoe, so I was expecting the soles of the shoes of the children kneeling down to shine. We used to kneel for Communion at the altar rails in those days so that I could see the soles of ever child ahead of me. None of them shone and this surprised me, so I thought it must be something else. I trusted Sister Francis totally and knew there would be a shining of some sort.

And shine I did! I felt a brightness within me when I received Jesus and have felt it all my life – sometimes more and sometimes less intensely. It’s there for all of us if we pay attention and give it time.

Jesus in the Eucharist seeks to enter our souls as the food that preserves its innocence and integrity. In Communion He gives all of Himself so that we may be well, that we may delight in Him as He delights in us.

Today we had a beautiful, happy First Communion Mass. The children were wonderful and, in spite of the large crowd that flowed out into the street, there were great moments of quiet. Though, a woman complained afterwards about the noise, saying how disrespectful it is to Jesus whom she loves. I told her that I love Him too. While my personal preference is for silence before and after Mass, I am happy that people feel at home in His presence and I'm quite sure the children delight Him, as is written of Wisdom in next Sunday's first reading:

"I was beside the master craftsman, delighting him day after day, ever at play in his presence, at play everywhere on his earth, delighting to be with the children of men." (Proverbs 8:31)

Speaking of St. Francis! After evening Mass on Saturday Ted and his Dad gave me these gorgeous fridge magnets which they brought from Assisi where they visited last week. What a delight!

A Divine and Continuous Silence:

Celebrating Father Míceál Beatty’s Twenty Years as a priest

St. Paul says in the first reading, “life to me is not a thing to waste words on, provided that when I finish my race, I have carried out the mission the lord Jesus gave me – and that was to bear witness to the Good News of God’s grace.” And St. Jose Maria Escriva says this of young men who are to be ordained priests, “They are being ordained to serve. They are not being ordained to give orders or to attract attention, but rather to give themselves to the service of all souls in a divine and continuous silence.” 

A divine and continuous silence; a life of words not wasted! What a beautiful thing that is! A divine and continuous silence that is focused on God and the service of His people.

This is the Mission that we honour, the divine and continuous silence in which we ourselves are hidden, particularly in Jesus in the Eucharist, the silence from which the Word of God is spoken and God is revealed; the silence in which all our speech is formed and sanctified. And the goal is that we lead people to the Eternal Life in which is to know the only Ture God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent. This is what matters most, that we have a genuine encounter with and experience of God.

A week ago, today we attended the annual clergy conference for the priests of this diocese. It dealt mostly with the health of priests – mental, physical, spiritual – encouraging us to be well so that we are better able to look after the community entrusted to our care. The question that struck a chord with me is this, “what is it that sustains you and gives you joy?” Something like that. I would also ask, “who is it that sustains me and gives me joy in my life as a priest?” The first answer is Jesus. It is He who sustains us but we are also sustained by others and the second answer to that question for me personally is Father Míceál. Even though we are celebrating twenty years of his life as a priest, he would not want this to be about him but something of him must be said, something that is a Magnificat in praise of what God has done in his life so far, what Míceál has allowed God to do in him.

Perhaps because he is my nearest neighbour, Míceál has become for me a brother priest, a confessor and a kind, kind friend whose door is always open to me. We are very different but I find in him great acceptance and he brings great joy and laughter into my life. To be with him is to experience Good News.

And my prayer for you Míceál is that the joy of the Lord will be your strength, that the prophecy of Zephaniah 3 be fulfilled in you where it is said of God, “He will renew you with His love and He will dance with shouts of joy because of you as on a day of festival.”

It is my prayer for all of us who are gathered here in prayer, we who are “one Body one Spirit in Christ” – that we be sustained by each other and by the joy of the Lord. Amen!

Eamonn Monson SAC
Tuesday of the Seventh Week after Easter
Readings: Acts 20:17-27. John 17:1-11


It’s one of those journeys you’d rather not make, a conference you’d rather not attend but you go anyway in fidelity and with a small measure of hope that it might have meaning, that it might make a difference. There are always the few who are pleased to see you, even if the majority don’t see to see you at all, despite your attempts to break through. It’s good to have someone friendly and familiar to sit with, to ease the strain of just being there. God usually provides in the end.

It was indeed worth my while because it gave a whole afternoon to our own mental health which in itself was a healthy sign, that a hundred or so men – priests - were dealing with something that affects some, and maybe many of us.

The quote that stood out for me is from Carl Jung and it goes something like, “the shoe that fits one person comfortably will pinch the feet of another.” How true. A few months ago, I realized that I had been wearing shoes a size too small and my feet were suffering unnecessarily. And shoes that once fit me so comfortably have become too tight. Sketchers. I put them in the washing machine and they shrunk! But maybe they are a parable about how life changes in itself and changes us so that a way of living that once fitted us perfectly is no longer fit for purpose. It is perhaps what the process of conversion does to us. Time for a change, time for something new.

The question that was asked of us is this, “What sustains you and gives you joy?” And I would add “who?” Who sustains me and brings me joy? It’s a question that awakens in me the song (and the question it asks), ‘Stay With Me Baby’ sung by Bette Midler in the movie ‘The Rose’ – who do you run to?

Three priests were asked to share thoughts on this question. All three were excellent in different ways but the one that has remained in my memory is what Tom Treherne said – perhaps because we are friends, kindred spirits. He is sustained by his friendship with Jesus, friendship with fellow priests and with parishioners. I can say the same about my life in this place right now, here in this High Street, here in this town. There are others whose sustenance I treasure beyond these shores. But on this island of Great Britain I am so sustained by the people of this parish, their love, their care and concern. It’s in the way they shake my hand so warmly after Mass, asking how I am; the sunflower sapling given me last week by a little brother and sister; the framed painting of St. John Paul II brought to me all the way from Poland; a cake baked by loving hands; Kimberley biscuits and so many other gestures.

Priest friends are very important in our life. When I came here two years ago, I was blessed to have Canon Tom Treherne as neighbour. He took me under his wing, ensuring that everything was done to help me settle and how sorry I was when he was moved to the other end of the diocese. But Father Míceál who replaced him has also become a good friend, the one to whom I go when in need and, without having to talk too much about my troubles, I end up laughing a lot, coming away lighter than when I went in.

And then there is Jesus, friend forever, in whose presence I abide day and night, the one with whom I am totally unhidden, uncovered and unashamed even when I have cause for shame. In Him I live and move and have my being. And, when I’m not able to pray as much as I should, I am reminded in the words of Psalm 73:23, “I am always in Your Presence; You hold me by my right hand.”

On a lighter note – I have been thinking that I should get one of those fashionable non-plastic bottles for drinking water. I need to drink more water and I’m troubled, like many, about the superabundance of plastic in our lives. So, as if my thoughts were read, we were given a lucky bag to take home. It contained items to help us be healthier – a milky way bar, a pedometer, four booklets of various aids to healthy living. I groan a bit when I see that one of them is that trendy thing that is another substitute for prayer – Mindfulness. It’s the trendiness of it that annoys me. Like plastic it’s everywhere these days! It will be replaced by another trend but for Christians, attentiveness to the sacrament of the present moment has been around for centuries but, perhaps because it’s Christian, it isn’t sought after.

To my delight, the lucky bag also contains the very sort of water bottle I had been planning to get! God is good! Two a day we’re supposed to take and mood food - a banana, which is also fattening!