Showing posts from March, 2020

POTATOES IN MY HOOD: I Will Choose To Find Joy

In this corona isolation-state-of-mind it’s hard to know what day it is or what’s the time. It’s 8.30pm but it feels like midnight. It’s Wednesday but it feels like Saturday, Holy Saturday, a day of no-one-ness. And it has been a spectacularly beautiful evening again. Hastings by the sea at its absolute best. The misery of a wet winter is a distant memory and you think it will never rain again. We're allowed out once a day to exercise. With the tide far out, you can walk on the edge of quiet waters where the sounding waves drown out every other sound, within and without. Walking on sand instead of stones is pleasure for tired feet, the still wetness of it a mirror for Venus. It takes you under the pier and on as far as Warrior Square before climbing up to the promenade which is busy enough in the hour before dark, making social distancing a bit more testing. Lovely, loving ouples walk as though ballroom-dancing, a slow foxtrot weaving from side to side, filling the wh


The wind blows from the East. Piercing. But it’s dry with the sun shining on this first full day of the coronavirus shutdown. We have entered into a great silence, a hidden life, a Gethsemane. A line from ‘Scarlet Ribbons’ comes to mind – “All our stores were closed and shuttered. All the streets were dark and bare.” It's a song that Maura used to sing when we were children. Plaintive. It opens up in me a deep well of silent absence that wants to see her, hear her, touch her. Touch is what will be most absent in this time of isolation. The town was a bit like the song last night when I went for a walk through George’s Street and down the seafront. Not everything was closed but most places were, giving an eerie silence and plenty of space for keeping a safe distance from others. Social distancing, I think is what they call it.  An elderly couple are in animated and happy conversation. He laughs out loud, a sound that is good to hear.  My mouth is covered with my n

THERE I FOUND HIM: Finding Meaning with St. Patrick in Isolation

“I cannot hide the gift of God which He gave me in the land of my captivity. There I sought Him and there I found Him.” (St. Patrick) In the Gospel for the Feast of St. Patrick there is the call to “put out into deep water” and today we find ourselves in the uncharted, deep waters of the coronavirus. There is uncertainty, fear and isolation. Isolation – the astonishing extent of it – is almost more fearsome than the disease itself. It is a challenge for families who have self-isolated, even more so for the elderly who are having isolation imposed on them, facing the prospect of not seeing their families for weeks or even months. The loneliness of that is perhaps something not considered by the experts and those in power. I listened to an expert on BBC radio this afternoon on my way to hear confessions in St. Richard’s school. He said that grandchildren should be able to visit grandparents provided they take all the precautions of washing and keeping the required distance

REDEMPTION: Who We Have Become

Galapo, Tanzania is a parish built on the side of a mountain with a beautiful view of the plain below. I was walking along the road one day when I met a group of children coming towards me. They looked at me with disdain and spoke to me in disrespectful tones, something that is unusual in Tanzanian society. The older girl shouted at me, "you must accept Jesus as your Lord!" They were obviously Pentecostals who believe that Catholics will go to hell. "Jesus is my Lord!" I replied. There was a look of shock on their faces and she spoke again, "you mean that you are saved?" I said, "yes, I am saved!" Yes, Jesus is my Lord and Saviour and yes, I am saved. We are saved. But salvation is incomplete in this world. It is a journey we travel with Jesus our whole life long. A journey of leaving and moving forward, like Abram, like the Jews of the Exodus. In his book of reflections – ‘My Sour-Sweet Days’ - on the poetry of George Herbert, Mark


There is a desert of a different kind, the desert we experience in our ordinary lives. The desert is within all of us. A few days after my return from the Sahara I went to the doctor who sent me to A&E to have my heart checked out because I have been struggling a bit with breathing. I have had a heart murmur since I was 17 and she had noticed something else in the ECG that she took in the surgery. So, I entered into a ten-and-a-half-hour process of waiting, being tested and waiting again. Two more ECG’s, an x-ray and numerous blood tests. And I thought to myself that, for all of us gathered there, A&E is another kind of desert, a testing, an encounter with our own frailty. You feel vulnerable and uncertain. And somehow unworthy to be the recipient of the attention all of the medical staff show. I’m seen by four different doctors each of whom asks me the same questions which makes me wonder if they don’t actually believe me, that maybe I’m a fraud! But they treat me w