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Showing posts from 2019


Ballyloughan New Year's Day 2010 Coming to the end of this year and the decade since 2009, I’ve been looking back in gratitude at those ten years, going back a further ten to the end of the year in which Maura had died and the arrival of the new millennium. This is what I wrote then in my diary: “The sea at Ballyloughan was still and clear as glass, reflecting all the colour - the orange, dark red and pink of the sky as the sun went down over the hills of Clare. The buildings too were washed in the colour and a cargo ship, moving slowly towards the docks, cast its shadow as it passed between the sun and the Galway coastline. The sound of birds echoed, birds skimming in formation over the water, flying towards the south. I stood in contemplation and awe and worship. Even Vincent Browne or Stephen Hawking, if they stood here, would understand worship, without having to have it explained. It seems kind of God to let me witness this at year’s end and maybe it’s an omen of be

AN ADVENT WEDDING: Sublime Intimacy

Advent weddings have a special appeal, though couples getting married in December probably don’t have Advent on their minds and are more likely to be thinking in terms of Christmas. In a beautiful cathedral the Groom stands waiting for his beautiful Bride to arrive. It’s time! All the talking is done and he faces the altar quietly, intently staring ahead, allowing no distraction to deflect him. A single tear falls from his right eye. His three-year-old niece would like to blow out the Advent candles. There is to be no distraction. Twice he has asked me to make an announcement about photography – that no one but the official photographer should take pictures. The father of the Bride thought this to be unreasonable but she had been firm. She didn’t want the photos of her walking up the aisle to be filled with the heads of happy guests leaning out of the pews with mobile phones in their hands. I had never thought of it like that before but it makes perfect sense. It also meant that


Been to see Jay at Eastbourne Hospital. This giant of a man comes towards me with his arms wide open, giving me a big hulk of a hug. He wants me to do so many things and, though obedience in me wants to do everything, I can only do some. Amazing that he wants to be homeless, sleeping in his tent in the woods. Would I check to see if his tent is still there? He feels safer there than in a building. He kisses my hand, an action that always embarrasses and humbles me. I say, “there’s no need!” And then I choose to kiss his hand. It is an act of reverence and love, like kissing the hand of the baby Jesus in the painting by Fray Juan Bautista Maino . Walking in the cold sunlight I pass a family coming back from town with their shopping. They move slowly, looking content, unburdened. The man smiles at me. I smile back. The sight of them makes me suddenly, surprisingly nostalgic for childhood Christmas shopping and I'm back home, going to the market in town with Mam and Colie

Magnificat for the Immaculate Conception - It Is Love That Pauses Here

It's Only Your Strength I Remember

He is one of the strongest men I know - a hunter, builder, fisherman, priest. Steady, stalwart. But the serious illness of his sister whom he loved brought him low, upset him greatly for he is also strong in love and loyalty. I was comforting him and he said, “I envy you your strength!” And I replied, “you have seen me at my weakest!” He had indeed witnessed me close up at my weakest worst. But he said, “it’s only your strength I remember.” Memory is a strange thing. When I look back at my life as it was ten to fifteen to twenty years ago I remember it in largely negative terms, think of myself as a mess and a failure but when I read my diaries from that time I am brought face to face with something a lot more positive than I realized. When I read of other things this friend and colleague said about me in those years then I know that, in fact, I was ok – more than ok. What he has said of me bears a weight beyond all others because he confronted and challenged me, demanded

ADVENT: One Great Act of Giving Birth

“…we wait for what God has promised: new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will be at home.” (2 Peter 3) Memories surface in the stillness before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament - childhood, youthful, lovely memories. And a Word from the book of Revelation points me in the direction I need to travel on my spiritual journey this Advent, as a way of preparing for Christmas and for eternity. Jesus says, “you do not love me now as you did at first!” (Revelation 2) and indeed I know that my love for Him has become quiet, lacking in the kind of feeling I would like to have, needing more ardour, devotion. There was a time when I was a child and I had this really strong love for God and I find myself speaking the words of Henry Vaughan in ‘The Retreat’ “Happy those early days when I shined in my Angel-infancy. Before I understood this place…” and though I can’t return to the past, my prayer is to rediscover something of that kind of pure childlike love. The flame of my love for G

TO YOU I SURRENDER (My Lord and my God)

My Lord and my God. My God and my All. My Lord, my Life and my Love, I adore you profoundly. O Lord, it is You who are my Portion and Cup. My happiness lies in You alone. What else have I in heaven but You? Apart from You I want nothing on earth! To You I surrender, give and offer My whole self for the Mercy of Your plan. Let it be done to me according to Your Word, that all may be saved and Come to the knowledge of the Truth. Glory to You Father Almighty, Glory to You Jesus Christ my Lord, Glory to You Holy Spirit dwelling in my heart,  Now and forever. Amen!

AN UNCOMMON RESPECT: The Anointing of Les

“…a woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume, and she poured it on His head as He reclined at the table. But the disciples were indignant when they saw this, and said, “Why this waste? “For this perfume might have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you bother the woman? For she has done a good deed to Me. “For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have Me. “For when she poured this perfume on My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial. “Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.” (Matthew 26:7-13) Les is approaching death, sleeping with the help of morphine, folded in a striped flannel sheet on an armchair, as they wait for the hospital bed to be delivered. He is 94 years old. His granddaughter Laurie has brought him to her home to care for him in his final


“Are you happy there?” , she asks on the phone from across the sea. Happy is a word I treat with a bit of caution because I read once that it comes from a word that means hap-hazard. And indeed, happiness can be quite hap-hazard, unpredictable. But I am happy now! A feeling has come over me lately, quite a strong sense that my whole life to date has been a preparation for this place and time. It used to seem that it was all fragmented, one experience or period disconnected from the rest but now it appears to me like one great continuous arc from eternity to eternity. Celebrating Mass is never easy because it is an awesome reality – this great mystery of Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection which I am privileged to share in a most intimate way. Never easy but here in this place, at this altar, in this church I feel at home and content in a way that I have never felt anywhere in my entire life as a priest. And that’s nearly 40 years! The church itself is most beauti

A Patient, The Police and A Priest

He turns up in the morning rain, without a jacket, carrying a sleeping bag. All wet. I don’t have much time. A funeral is about to begin. He looks pleased and I’m pleased to see him too even though he shouldn’t be here at all. Shouldn’t be out, having been sectioned for twenty eight days a couple of weeks ago. He said they gave him leave. I give him bread, cheese, coffee and milk and send him to the hall where he can have shelter. A bit of privacy. And a smoke by the open door, thanks to the kindness of Terry. I put his sleeping bag in the dryer.  A few hours later when the funeral is over, I get myself some lunch before going to check on him and phone a relative of his to see if the family can do anything to help him. They can’t. The phone rings. It’s the police. Missing persons. Had I seen him? Yes, in the morning. He needs to go back.  Phone rings again. The hospital this time. They’ve been informed by the relative that he’s “with” me. He was, I say. I’m told

REMEMBRANCE SUNDAY 2019: We Emerge Through The Clouds Of Grief

Remembrance Mass St. Mary Star of the Sea On the third day of the Camino to Santiago I walked alone the 29km from Larrasoana to Zariquiegui via Pamplona and ended up being the only pilgrim in a private hostel in the tiny village. While walking through the beautiful city of Pamplona I became aware of how at ease I am in an urban setting. I love the sea, the country, solitude but at the end of the day I am urban born! During the Camino I came to a heightened awareness of the sacredness of the city - the humanity of it, the presence of God in it. Later Pope Francis wrote in 'The Joy of the Gospel': "God’s revelation tells us that the fullness of humanity and of history is realized in a city. We need to look at our cities with a contemplative gaze, a gaze of faith which sees God dwelling in their homes, in their streets and squares.  This presence must not be contrived but found, uncovered. God does not hide himself from those who seek him with a sincere heart...&qu

A Complete And Humble Loving

On the street in Rome We are pilgrims, passing guests, olive trees of trust in the House of God, this magnificent house of life, the wide-open welcome of God’s presence. The groaning of Creation is in us; the sighing of the Spirit; the wordless prayer of a man that rises from the depts of unknowing nothingness, out of the bowels of the earth, his own humus. The prayer of the humble pierces the clouds. It begins head bowed, eyes downcast, not daring to look towards heaven but the result of this prayer, by this prayer we are lifted up into a new intimacy with God. I’ve been committed to God all my life as a Catholic Christian and, since the age of seventeen, have given my whole self to Him as a Pallottine and as a priest since I was twenty-five. Part of that journey has been the pursuit of the virtue of humility that has eluded me time and again; all efforts to achieve it have been in vain. I have been humiliated many times and have humiliated myself many times more, but that i

VESPERS (By The Sea)

"...he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord..."  (Genesis 28:12-13) Prayer turns the soul To the red October sky Evening respite From relentless rain Relief from pain Quiet waters touching The edge of everything Removing her scarf She bares the shriven Head of her illness Bowing with Love's Own Humility  To God Who Is Known to be In the sanctuary Of this place Stairway between Heaven and Earth He walks on the top of the heights of the world; the Lord, the God of Hosts, is his name. (Amos 4:13)


It's my day off, the walking is done and I'm flicking through the television while waiting for 'Dublin Murders' to begin. My attention is caught by an Irish Country Music channel. Not the kind of thing I usually go for but I'm more open minded than in my youth so that I can listen to Margo and Big Tom and appreciate what they are doing. It's a kind song about life-long love, the last recorded by Tom before he died.  A Love That Lasted Through The Years And it's while I'm watching that on YouTube that I come on ' Shower The People' which was written and originally recorded by James Taylor but it's the Ray Lynam version that I love most. It was released by Ray in 1980 around the time of my ordination and, at the request of the Ffrench family, was played for me on RTE radio the day of my First Mass. The only part of my homily from that day that I can remember is the message of the song, "shower the people you love with love."