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Showing posts from 2018


FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY This time 28 years ago – December 29th - on the eve of the Holy Family Maura and I were in hospital visiting Dad who had taken ill on St. Stephen's Day and was being checked out. As we were leaving him, she and I looked at each other and said "he's dying." There was something in his eyes that made us both think this. So, we went to the nurse in charge and said we thought our father was dying. She said, "not at all. He's fine." And we went off home. When I told Mam what Maura and I were thinking she said, "well if you think he's dying then go back and anoint him." This we did and when the praying was done two interesting things happened. First Mam took hold of his hand but he took it away as if to say this is not the time for holding but the time for letting go. Then he pulled the bed clothes up under his chin looking content and complete and told us to go off and get a drink for ourselves. We d


In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth. (Psalm 19) It’s Christmas morning, still dark and I’m wide awake at 6.00 even though it was very late when I got to bed after last night’s Masses, not that the last Mass was so late but I was buzzing afterwards and it took me a while to come down to earth. Two very different and life-giving experiences. The earlier than wished for wakefulness was like a prompting of the Holy Spirit and I decided to go out in search of the dawn, something I’m not given to doing very often. I thought the view from the West Hill would be best and it was beautiful but I was drawn to the shore at Rockanore where the tide was out very far and there was plenty of sand to walk on. Down there I realized that I was walking where I had not walked before an

CHRISTMAS 2018: All I Want

Nativity by Bradi Barth The Bishop stands up and I get nervous because I feel he's going to make me jump from an aeroplane. It's a feeling, a sensation that runs through me, not a physical possibility. He has himself actually done it - jumped from an aeroplane. There's a challenge afoot and I'm afraid I won't be able for it - his plan for the renewal and future of the diocese. Having been through countless meetings like this and being the age I am I'm doubtful about what might be proposed. The language of it. I have no doubt about the Bishop’s own commitment, the energy that he’s putting into this whole process, never flagging in zeal. What sets me at ease is the line of Scripture he uses, "the Word who is life, this is our subject" - one of my favourite lines of the bible, my favourite reality. Bishop Richard  says that we go wildly wrong if we do not keep our eyes fixed on the Lord. This I agree with and I feel absolute


Above the moon and stars Beyond the edge Of what is known The space between all things The quiet dark The womb of light Where speed and stillness merge And distance has no measure A thousand years A single day Is all the same Where Love And Hope and Faith Remain pure and perfect Vision

In Expectancy of surprise

I had gone through a very difficult meeting and, feeling bruised and sorry, I sat in the back garden in Belgrano letting the sun warm me. Tommy, who was about three years old, stood watching from a distance and when he felt it was safe, he approached and started chatting. I have no Spanish and he no English, so it was a childlike conversation that drew me out of myself. He opened his little book to show me a picture of the Annunciation and I wished its joy would happen for me then. But it did not and I was not up to it. Later in the evening I was praying the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary when the Angelus bell rang and it struck me that I was experiencing a collision of sorrow with joy - that the joy of Annunciation was trying to break into my sorrow. And I chose to accept this strange mingling. It has happened many times since that, while praying the sorrowful mysteries, the Angelus will ring. The Angel of the Lord is always declaring the Good News and we are asked to receive it.

We Are Not Tigers: The Need To Be Noticed

‘The Life Of Pi’ tells a powerful story that is layered with many meanings – physical, emotional, mental & spiritual. Following a shipwreck the only survivors are Pi Patel, a 16-year old boy, and a tiger. They end up - just the two of them - in a lifeboat drifting across the Pacific Ocean and in the course of the journey the boy trains the tiger to give him his space on the boat. They even develop a connection with each other and when they are on the verge of death the tiger’s head is resting on Pi’s lap. They survive. The boat drifts onto a beach where the boy collapses and the tiger simply walks away straight ahead into the jungle - out of the boy’s life forever. What hurt Pi was that the tiger left him without even looking back and in his desolation the boy is expressing something that is essential in every human life – that we be noticed, acknowledged by another, that we matter. Not so much for the things we do but simply for being who we are in all our stages of lif

Getting Ready For God: Thoughts on Purgatory

I was in my room in Dublin one bitterly cold January day, getting ready to fly to South Africa to give a retreat to the Pallottine Seminarians there. Travelling light had become second nature to me and the case on my bed was fairly small but while I was packing it a voice inside me said, “you don’t need all this stuff.” But I ignored it because anything in it was actually essential – my bible, notes, just enough clothes. And I arrived at Heathrow for the flight to Johannesburg, checked in my little suitcase and boarded the flight. By now the temperature had dropped to minus 7 and we were left sitting a long time in the plane while they made up their minds to fly or not. When they decided they would fly they discovered that there were no baggage handlers to put our luggage on the plane and after another long wait the pilot announced that we would fly without the luggage. There was a discontent murmur among the passengers but I just smiled as I thought of the voice I heard

LATE MORNING: Poems From Tanzania

Waiting Across the field To dawn at sea A corner in the midday sun Beneath the sky at night Alone within his heart The warrior waits for death The watchman waits for dawn To this have I been called To wait on God A moment forever In expectancy of surprise (Makiungu 1981) The Rag It was used To clear the floor Of muddy footprints On rainy days Thrown out upon The weeks and months Of harsh winters Perishing The home of worms and snails Till taken in Soaked and worn To help the fire In some strange way Then set aflame Consumed (Makiungu 1982) Late Morning (For Maura) How many times You peeped into the room (when I was sleeping late) Wishing, thinking We could be together Chatting And how were you to know That when I sit beside you Look into your eyes Or come home to you I am filled With silent peace, content With the look of An expectant mother Knowing I have arrived Safe to sleep Once I thundered Childish fury in your

Rheinberg War Cemetary

Their sleeping place on earth Is still and sad Their silenced cry Who stand in line Unarmed Where they had fallen Armed Some named And others known To God alone There is beauty In their resting A beauty born of war But WHY the war? (Thurles 1978)

KNOWN UNTO GOD: Remembrance Sunday

It’s the summer of ’78 when ‘Saturday Night Fever’ is in full flight and I’m a student working in Germany for the holidays. That same summer I went to visit the Rheinberg War Cemetery , the resting place of more than three thousand victims of World War II. I was struck by the silent stillness, the sheer beauty and peace of it and I pondered the contrasting uproar of ugliness, the unspeakable suffering that gave birth to this place. War is an awful reality that I cannot understand but I find in myself a great respect for every single person who has served in war in any capacity; the selfless generosity and courage is deserving of my honour and admiration. And the peaceful silence that rests over such cemeteries seems to me to speak of promise – God’s promise of a lasting peace that is eternal, a peace that only Christ can give, a peace that will perhaps elude us as long as we live on earth, a peace that will find its fulfilment in heaven. Such a promise in no way is a justif

ON OUR HEARTS AND ON OUR LIPS: Holy Water for the Children

It’s an idea I got from Elaine in Shankill, giving the children in school a bottle of holy water to bring home; small plastic bottles that remind me of Caroline in St. Anne’s Resource Centre, Caroline preparing hundreds and hundreds of them in preparation for Easter. Good ideas always need someone who will do the practical part. I brought up the idea at the Spiritual Life committee in Sacred Heart School here in Hastings. Head Teacher, Mr. Hellett loved it. He sourced the bottles - 250 of them - got them filled with water and labelled with each child’s name. And so, on Wednesday, Eve of All Saints I spent most of the day in school going from class to class. The children, from the youngest up, were very enthusiastic about the Mission I was sending them on and they all understood the idea of mission. Their task was to bring the holy water home to bless their families. The chats we had were lovely and they had a very good grasp of what a blessing is, when a priest gives a b

LOVE CRIES: Poems for November

LOVE CRIES Love cries Because it loves Its tears selfish And not selfish at all It cannot bear absence Not loving the one For whom it would Give its whole life If it could be measured It would have The length and depth Of tears Floods and Oceans For Love is water In all its shapes And temperament And when I die Do not put sweet words On my lips I will not say That I am only gone To the next room I will not ask you Not to cry I should not tell you Anything about how You should grieve But if I would I should ask you to cry And cry as you must Until the time for letting go And I would ask for the flowers Of your garden Cascading their fragrance Like incense all around About us as testament To our loneliness and loving The loving that is perfected In all its expressions