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Showing posts from May, 2019


Got out of bed on Monday May 25, 2009. Pulled back the curtains. Looked out into the silent streets of Mervue and noticed that Evelyn Foy’s car wasn’t there. It’s the kind of thing neighbours notice. Her mother is in hospital so I sent her a text to see if everything was alright. Her brother Sean phoned me to say the family had been called to the hospital at 7.00am because Julia had had a bad night. I dressed fast and got there shortly after 8.30am, there being no traffic to speak of. The curtain was pulled around the bed, her four children gathered around her, boys on one side, girls on the other - Sean, Breege, Evelyn and Paugi. Julia’s head rested childlike against the side rail, protected by a folded brown blanket. When I had seen her the previous day she talked with clarity about my Mother and Maura who were both dead by then, Maura ten years earlier. How much she wanted to see them. Then something slipped in her mind and clarity left once again, as it does. We prayed.


Summertime, the grass grew tall down the long back garden at home where my mother would spread out the newly washed white bedsheets to dry, sheets that were often made of flour bags sewn together. The days seemed sunnier then and, as a boy, I would crawl in under a sheet and it would become a tent in which I lay looking upwards at the white brightness that shielded my eyes from the sun. It was a happy, peaceful place to be.   In our neighbouring church of St. Thomas of Canterbury, they celebrated the Forty Hours Adoration during the week and I went there for a short while on Wednesday evening. A beautiful peaceful time that brought me back to the same devotion in the Augustinian church in Galway when I was a boy. It seems to me ike the Tent of Meeting of the Old Testament – the place where Moses went to meet God face to face and we meet Him now in Jesus in the Eucharist.  It is here that the veil between heaven and earth is thin. And there in St. Thomas’ I fou


Tanzanian Icon of the Cenacle commissioned by the late Fr. Noel O'Connor SAC “Wherever I shall be, I intend to imagine myself to be together with all the creatures in the Cenacle in Jerusalem where the Apostles received the Holy Spirit. I shall remind myself to renew this desire often. As the Apostles were there with Mary, so will I be in spirit with the most beloved Mother and Jesus. As they are my special intercessors, I am confident that they will help me and all other creatures to receive the abundance of the Holy Spirit” (St. Vincent Pallotti)  I take this prayer of St. Vincent Pallotti and place myself before the image of the Cenacle – Mary in prayer in the Upper Room, surrounded by the apostles and disciples of Jesus after His Ascension into heaven. There’s an empty space in front of Mary and I think of myself going in there to kneel at her feet, my hands resting on her lap in prayer. It reminds me of Mary Ann McDonagh who was, as I thought then, an old woman, t

JOY BEYOND SORROW: Mental Health Awareness Week

Battle Abbey Judas leaves the warmth and light of the Upper Room, separates himself from the grace of the Eucharist, and goes out into the cold night to betray Jesus for whom this must have been one of the most difficult moments of His life. Yet, what He says of that moment is this, “now is the Son of Man glorified!” What an odd thing for a condemned man to say. But He can say this because He has the grace and the courage to allow events to unfold as they must, the grace to wait until the conclusion which is in fact a glorious one, the glory of His resurrection. This is the grace offered by Him to us, that when our darkest moment comes upon us, we have the vision to see that there is light beyond the darkness, joy beyond the sorrow. This vision of grace does not mean that we ignore the feelings that come with darkness.   As we come to the end of Mental Health Awareness Week I’m very aware of the words of Prince William who said of his grief for his Mother Princess Diana, that i

NOEL O'CONNOR: A Child At Rest

Noel in the old Mission House, Galapo 2009 It’s one of those moments when solitude bites - that most blessed gift of God that I treasure. It’s when loneliness overwhelms me and there is no one there to absorb it with me, no human face-to-face physical presence. And nothing on earth will relieve it, only God who doesn’t relieve it quickly but stretches it out so that I actually experience it. I’m not the only one and it’s not the worst loneliness going on in the world– but it’s mine, right now. And it hurts! It happened following my visit to Noel in the hospice, something I’ve already written about but will repeat again here. His brothers JJ and Patrick and niece Fiona were there. Noel slept peacefully so the rest of us chatted until he stirred, woke and looked at us without speaking. I knelt beside his bed, we held hands, I placed my right hand on his head and we prayed.  It felt like we were intimately enfolded in one Heart. I asked Jesus to take our hands, our priestly hands


He is frail now, vulnerable, and his gaunt, harrowed face has a softer expression. We have been at odds for almost twenty years, so I wasn't expecting anything. My intention was to be civil, greet him, shake hands and move on but to our surprise he hung around us, came back to our table after the meal and we talked, chatted in a very light and friendly manner. He even asked after my life in Hastings.  Someone later reminded me about what he did all those years ago, the reason for the breakdown in our relationship and I haven't forgotten but the expression in his face made me lay all that down.  There was a moment when he came up behind me as I was sitting at table and he placed his hands on my shoulders, something my nephews would do. As I do, I reached back without looking, to touch the hands touching me and I was so surprised, surprised and moved. As I was leaving we hugged. He said, "look after yourself " and I said "you look after yourself.&q

HELEN: When it's all been said and done

She is one of the most beautiful expressions of womanhood I have ever met and in that she was also a most beautiful expression of who God is. With her I felt safe and redeemed, loved and admired.  As I write these words my soundtrack is playing Robin Mark's ' When It's All Been Said and Done' and I have only a short while ago received word that Helen died during the night, finally a great release for her but what a loss for her family. My Mass this morning was for her, the readings so appropriate. As I went to bed last night praying for Helen I thought of the heavens being torn apart at the Baptism of Jesus, the Spirit of God descending, "...Beloved... my favour rests on you." Similar to what is in the first reading at Mass today - St. Stephen in his agony saying, "I can see heaven thrown open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God", a reflection of what Helen must have been experiencing in her own agony at that time. &qu