"...our exile..."

Because I live in another country I sometimes refer to myself as an exile but I know that my real exile is an emotional state, a state of mind and heart and spirit. I am exiled from those I love and need; exiled from God and heaven, my true home.

Songs I find myself singing, words of Scripture that leap up from inside me speak of this way of being. Loneliness in the presence of love, emptiness in the presence of plenty.

"This world is not my home, I'm just passing through...."

And my own song of songs - Neil Diamond's I Am I Said, "...I've got an emptiness deep inside and I've tried but it won't let me go..."

"There are many rooms in my Father's House...I am going now to prepare a place for you and after I have gone and prepared you a place, I will return to take you with me so that where I am you may be too." (John 14)

How I long for this returning of Jesus.

It were my soul’s desire 
To see the face of God; 
It were my soul’s desire 
To rest in his abode.

Grant, Lord, my soul’s desire, 
Deep waves of cleansing sighs, 
Grant, Lord, my soul’s desire, 
From earthly cares to rise.

It were my soul’s desire 
To imitate my King, 
It were my soul’s desire 
His endless praise to sing.

It were my soul’s desire, 
When heaven’s gate is won, 
To find my soul’s desire, 
Clear shining like the sun.

This still my soul’s desire, 
Whatever life afford, 
To gain my soul’s desire 
And see thy face, O Lord.

(11th Century Irish Poem)

I am an exile in an Ireland of ideas, values and attitudes that my conscience cannot accept; among friends who celebrate those values, in a society that does not recognise conscience. As Catholics we are exiles in our own country, an exile that does not apply to any other religious group, Christian or otherwise.

I am an exile in those expressions of the Church that has wandered far from the simplicity of Bethlehem.

People brought little children to Jesus, for him to lay his hands on them and say a prayer. The disciples turned them away, but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children alone, and do not stop them coming to me; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.’ Then he laid his hands on them and went on his way. (Matthew 19:13-15)

There is the exile  a Church that for so long had forgotten the absolute centrality of the child in the heart and mind and teaching of Jesus. We are drowning now with the weight of the millstone that Jesus prophesied. 

But anyone who is the downfall of one of these little ones who have faith in me would be better drowned in the depths of the sea with a great millstone round his neck. (Matthew 18:6)

I am an exile within myself, my very spirit and flesh at war with each other so that I am not who I am meant to be.

"I saw you kicking on the ground in your blood as I was passing, and I said to you as you lay in your blood: Live!" (Ezekiel 16:)

And I think of the exile of the millions fleeing war and brutality; the exile of those in my own Pallottine community, men I have admired and love who have lost their minds, no longer recognise me, no longer seem to know anything. This is the frightening prospect of what may lie ahead.

Such are the thoughts that were sparked in me at the praying of these words of the Hail Holy Queen, "...and after this our exile show unto us the Blessed fruit of your womb Jesus..."

The Blessed Fruit awaits us in all perfection when blessedness and happiness will become one. For now happiness has a haphazardness about it while blessedness remains constant. 

Blessed and happy are the times spent with the children, blessed the chance encounter with a neighbour, the ease of conversation, being with family and friends for whom no explanations are required.

And getting on the boat to Aran where a redhaired man of Manchester photographs the beached Village Queen, imagining fishing stories on the high seas hundreds of miles from home.

In the silence of Kilronan church I am like Hannah of old in the Temple, "...pouring out my soul before the Lord... speaking from the depth of my grief and my resentment." And, like her, with the outpouring done I go away dejected no longer. (1 Samuel 1:15-16)

It is important for me to name what is going on in me, to have the blessedness of laying it out before God. It makes my footstep swift as a deer, walking in monsoon-like rain to Mass in Eoghall, saturated in the abundance of it. And giving myself to the happiness of the Golddiggers music late into an August night.


  1. I can empathise with your feelings re our Irish Catholic Church. Many Catholics are asking themselves `how can we sing the Lord`s song in a strange Land`. But hope springs eternal in the human soul!

  2. Many Catholics are now asking `How can we sing the song of the Lord in a strange land.`

  3. Events like this can make all of us feel like strangers in our own land.