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IT’S A BEAUTIFUL THING YOU ARE DOING: Christmas 2020

  This is not Samuel - A striking picture I found online I drink from your cup Eat from the bowl You left behind in the rain White and pure, soiled I dip into your absence Tasting traces of your life And search for signs Of you on the street Remembering how you prayed Out loud in the church And slept awhile to ease Away the harshness of days You played music I sang songs We were bonded there Where Jesus and Mary Make their presence felt Enfolding us in their Tent Through weather that is Unkind Unfair The above lines were inspired by the departure of Samuel (already posted in a separate blog but fit here) after I had gathered up and washed some of the bits and piece of his time here. Someone asked if he held it against me that I sent him away, if he resented me for it. The answer is below.  Right now, I’m puzzled and frazzled by the sausages that have just disappeared out of the fridge. Was looking forward to a rare fry. Went through the fridge and freezer several

DEBRIS OF HUMAN FRAILTY

  Bare tree Naked rosebush  Spiking the dawn Dripping drops of dew The tears I cannot shed My heart a mayhem of crows Swooping on a single seagull Outside in the Green Where we played by day And partied by night Until grief disfigured our joy Love fatally fractured  The man has died He who became my enemy We made our peace A defrosting  Long before it was too late Yet still a broken legacy Remains The wounds of hate  The scars of love Debris of human frailty  We must stand still  And wait for God To win the victory For us all (January 9, 2020)

I DRINK FROM YOUR CUP

I drink from your cup Eat from the bowl You left behind in the rain White and pure, soiled  I dip into your absence Tasting traces of your life And search for signs Of you on the street Remembering how you prayed Out loud in the church And slept awhile to ease Away the harshness of days You played music I sang songs We were bonded there Where Jesus and Mary Make their presence felt Enfolding us in their Tent Through weather that is Unkind Unfair

THERE WAS NO ROOM: Sending Samuel Away

“There was no room for them…” – the phrase from Luke’s Nativity is branded in my brain because I have become one who made that a reality for another couple at my place, in my time. And whatever justification I may find, however I might want to present myself in a good light, there is something lacking in the logic of what has taken place. Sunday night when I left out the bin, I was somewhat perplexed to see that another tent had been set up next to Samuel’s. Perplexed because this could mean a trend was starting and I wasn’t sure that such a thing could be allowed. In the context of the virus, I didn’t want any kind of gathering that could endanger the health of people coming to Mass. Already another man who was previously homeless, now in a flat, told me he wanted to move out and to set up a tent by the church. To him I said a very definite no. Moving from a flat into a tent in the winter doesn’t make sense. The second tent unsettled me for part of the night and in the end, I entrust

SHADOW OF THE MOST HIGH: Reflection For 4th Sunday of Advent

Gospel of the Annunciation 

WE WEREN'T THERE FOR THE CHICKEN: Memory, Gratitude and Joy

  My friend was telling me how she makes gravy out of chicken wings, the mention of which brought me right back to the winter of 1976 and the night club in the basement of the International in Salthill. In order to be granted a late opening licence they were obliged to serve food and my memory is of chicken wings on paper plates and peas that had a mind of their own, going everywhere except into our mouths. Of course, we weren’t there for the chicken and peas! It was the best of seasons, a very happy time, being still only 21 and out to taste the joy that life offered. Innocent joy, love with a lot of laughter in it and music. Smokie were singing ‘Living Next Door To Alice’, the Eagles ‘New Kid In Town’, Leo Sayer ‘When I Need You’, Chicago ‘If You Leave Me Now’, Joan Armatrading ‘Love And Affection’ – funny how food and songs stir up old memories. Lately I’ve listened to people looking back on things they regret. Regret is something that subtly insinuates itself into the experienc

ISOLATION: Nothing I Can Do But Be Here

It’ been a long time since I ate a boiled egg. Years and years, as my father would say and it’s my father who comes to mind as I crack the shell with a spoon like I did when I was a child with a kind of a delicate air. My father’s breaking of the shell was more like a beheading, done decisively, incisively with a knife. Straight across, no messing. Unless the egg was soft! In most other things my father was not like that, being decisive only about time and work and perhaps going for a pint. Otherwise, he was quiet, very gentle and almost unseen. Very non-violent. Peace loving to a fault. In these uncertain times we might long for a decisiveness that would last, for plans that would endure but we can’t be sure that any of our decisions will survive beyond the moment. On Friday I posted on our website my plans for the parish for the next two weeks. Normally I go week by week but some parishioners were asking for plans that went beyond Christmas so I made a plan up as far as January

THE CRIB OF OUR CLAY (An Evening Meditation)

Bring my thoughts home O Lord Like the herd of an African twilight Draw us in from the places Of the day where we have strayed Our Scattered minds Spun-out hearts Spent souls Settle us down That we may abide Within That I may abide With myself in You And remain here Attentive Eyes attuned to see and perceive Ears attuned to listen and hear What stirs in the unfathomable Depths Interior mystery Wisdom of Christ cradled In the crib of our clay

THE MESSENGER: A Voice that Speaks of Peace

There is no greater sorrow, no hurt so brutal, no wound so deep as that of a Mother and Father at the funeral of their child. It has drawn from them an intensity of love that they had not previously known, that they did not need to know, a love that is bereft of life, the particular life of their child. It both cries aloud and remains silent behind the mask of this coronavirus time. Only the eyes are left to tell, eyes red and wet with pain. The body trembles, feels it will fall to pieces. It doesn’t! Because this is the love that keeps on going when it cannot. It must.  She was seventeen and she died in a purple season, the season of Advent. Purple, her favourite colour. A deep, quiet and kind girl. She cut her beautiful long hair and gave it for one who had none. Thoughtful of the other.  Into this and into all our sorrows enters the Messenger! The prophecy of Isaiah that refers to John the Baptist in today’s Gospel.  God says, “Look, I am going to send my Messenger before you!”  We

SAMUEL: By Whom God Is Heard

  He used to live in the shelter at the end of the seafront near the old bathing pool, the shelter in which the Name of Jesus is inscribed. You could see him cycling in that direction, looking happy with himself and he might glance in your direction as he did with me a few days ago. He smiled, I smiled and something within me said, “this man is going to come into your life!” And I wasn’t sure that I wanted him in my life at all. This beautiful Saturday morning, awake early I decide to open the church in case anyone might want to come in for a candle and a prayer, as Maria sometimes does on her way down to the shop. Today she doesn’t arrive but as I am pottering around the sanctuary getting ready for Advent and listening to Advent music, I notice a man come in. He kneels to pray in the half light and I leave him to it for a while. Then I decide to go to the church door in case he needs something and, sure enough he follows me out into the sunshine. The first thing I notice is that s

Friendship: A Way of Seeing Others

Reflection for Year 10 Students at St. Richard's College, Bexhill

AT THE BATHING HUT CAFE (A Prayer)

  Take me further Lord Than I had planned to go this day   To pause by the sea And hear you speak In its heaving crashing waves The liveliness of wind   Lingering longer there Over coffee on a bench At the Bathing Hut Café

Oil For Our Lamps: Remembrance Sunday

There’s a black darkness on the sea tonight, like the Biblical darkness to be felt and I wonder what it would be like to venture into that horizon, to be enveloped in it without being in a hurry to light it up, to wait within it for the dawn to come.  Down on the shore, three people are gathered around a vibrant fire that lights up their faces, the wonderful scent of burning wood drifting through the air. Further on up a small group are trying to light their Chinese lanterns, perhaps for Remembrance Sunday or maybe for a loved one who has died. It’s not going too well. One young man succeeds in getting a flame going, runs with it that it might catch the breeze to rise into the night, but each time he lets it go it simply flops down on the stones. And I absolutely sympathise with his utter frustration when he gives it a kick and eventually stomps on it.  Getting our lamps lit and keeping them burning isn’t always that easy, as the foolish bridesmaids discovered in the Gospel. The light

First Friday Mass of the Sacred Heart November 6, 2020

"For us, our homeland is in heaven, and from heaven comes the saviour we are waiting for, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he will transfigure these wretched bodies of ours into copies of his glorious body." (Philippians 3)

MASS OF THE HOLY SOULS NOV 5TH

"nothing can happen that will outweigh the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord." (Philippians 3:8)

TO BE A HIBERNATING BEAR: Entering Lockdown Again

  Gaze upon Him, consider Him, contemplate Him, as you desire to imitate Him. (St. Clare) On this day nine years ago I started the Camino to Santiago, an anniversary I like to remember for many reasons but especially because it is the road that led me into the lives of my three companions. My first memory upon waking this All Saints morning is the story of a hibernating bear from long ago in childhood. The bear gathering Autumn leaves with which to cover himself and beneath this blanket he sleeps the whole winter long. The thought of this November lockdown has me saying to God, “I’d like to be a hibernating bear now!” Not that I’m in a difficult situation, and not that I actually mind the lockdown at all but some tired part of me has cracked open. The constant drone of coronavirus has a wearing effect on us all. I simply want to lay down and sleep. Not even to have the obligation of finding meaning in what is happening. I want to be the bear in a storybook but I’m not. The read

GAZE, CONSIDER, CONTEMPLATE

Beautiful, tranquil music from the Poor Clares of Arundel. Apart from the Icons, photos were taken by me in Galway and Hastings. One picture is by my friend Mark Teiwes - Bibles open before the Blessed Sacrament in the Franciscan Church in  O Cebreiro  on the Camino

God Draws People to Himself in Unexpected Ways: Confirmation Homily

 

I LOVE YOUR FACE: The Mission of the Child

  Speaking at his Grandad’s funeral my dear friend Father Jaimie speaks about the greatness of the child in the eyes of Jesus; how we have to forget ourselves in order to remember and in remembering to become a true child. A little child who is content with the little daisies of life, content to be a daisy rather than a big impressive flower. It reminds me of a woman spoken of by John Moriarty in his autobiography, ‘Nostos’ – he asked his father why this woman was so happy and his father replied that she is happy because she is not seeking to be a tree where only a bush can grow. Something like that. Meaning that she is content to be who she is. On Mission Sunday I’ve been struck again about the place of the child in my life, the Mission of the child that constantly lifts up my heart, draws me closer to God and to my true self, simply by being the child they are. Last Sunday after Mass a ten-year-old girl commented on my mask.   It’s pale blue with white daisies. Probably not what

LOSS: The Need To Be Found

In the early 1960’s things were hard economically and my mother never tired of reminding us that “money doesn’t grow on trees” and that it was hard to “make ends meet.” So she was understandably furious when my older sister Maura, who was about 8 years old,  lost the thrupenny piece on the way to the shop to get something for the tea. I was with Maura when she decided to throw the money in the air to see if she could catch it. She didn’t and it got lost in the grass. It was a dark winter’s evening. The searching was intense. And it was in vain. The value of it in today’s buying power would be about €15 and it must have been near the end of the week and there was no more money. It was a very frustrating reality when you  had children to feed. My mother, like all of us, used to stress  from time to time over the loss of hard earned material things and then came the day when she lost her daughter. Maura didn’t wake up one morning and all of our experience of loss reached an altogether dif

St. Teresa of Avila: Let Nothing Disturb you

“My soul at once becomes recollected and I enter the state of quiet. Everything is stilled and the soul is left in a state of great quiet and deep satisfaction.” (St. Teresa of Avila) St. Teresa of Avila has been one of the most significant guides of my spiritual life since I was 17 years old. I began reading her very early in my life as a Pallottine and there are two moments – a dream and a time in prayer - that have connected me to her. In the dream I walked into an old unfamiliar church where I met my father who was already dead at the time. He pointed me to a side altar at the top left-hand side. When I went there I saw St. Teresa’s tomb in front of the altar. It was like the Italian ones with the shape of the body carved in marble; she was sleeping covered with a blanket. Then she stirred and woke up, telling me to stand between her and the altar. “Stay here” she said “and I will take care of you.” The second happened during a charismatic retreat when I was resting in the Spirit,

CONTENTMENT: I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got

  Dolores O'Riordan painted by Ryan Gannon Foster in January 2018 Morning. Bright and crisp. October 9 th – my father’s Birthday, may he rest in peace. Born in 1911. It’s also the Feast of St. John Henry Newman, Britain’s newest Saint. From outside, the voices of children echo through the church door. The prayers I requested of them are on the small table beside my chair in the sanctuary so that, as promised, I can bring them to Jesus when I pray. The voices I hear are glad – parents and children on their way to school - light and happy. Most children seem to like going to school but some don’t and I can empathise with the latter because, from beginning to end, from the age of four to seventeen, I didn’t like school at all. So, I’m really happy that it’s so far behind me, to be where I’m at now. This is a most special time of day. Morning – once the drama of waking and getting up is done. The silence of it. Silence without interruption. Except what saunters into my mind but eve

THE CATHEDRAL OF MY HEART

  “I always keep a candle burning for you in the cathedral of my heart! Yes, I always do!” So writes a friend all the way from Germany, across the distance of ten years. It’s that long since we met. We’ve known each other for about twenty-four years and were thrown together a lot in the course of work for the six years from 2005-2011. He’s a big, strong man and we’re as different as chalk and cheese. I drove him crazy with frustration at times but we have common ground, we are bonded by all of our experiences together and we even daydreamed of setting up a contemplative cenacle together. He is one of the most God-like people I know and it is an honour to be so respected in the cathedral of his heart. As a priest I find some of the best expressions of who God is, what God is like in the noble expressions of motherhood and fatherhood that I encounter. Something that parents want for their daughter and son is that they be treated with respect by others and when their child is treated wi

ALL SOUND CEASES A WHILE

  All sound ceases a while – the pausing of the wind that beats on the roof, the noise of traffic subsiding. I am Samuel in the sanctuary of the morning – “speak Lord!” A child’s footfall patters outside in the pouring rain, a voice that speaks of pleasure while the song of a robin dances in the sky. “There has been a delay” said the boy as he stepped through the church doorway. He was referring to his First Holy Communion. Four months of a delay. And, when it came to receiving his First Holy Communion, this boy skipped up the aisle with delight.

Croga: A Message for the Children