Friday 18 October 2013


She sets a table
For two at Christmas
Though she lives alone
And no other is expected

Maybe her husband or daughter
Or both will come
From beyond

Perhaps the Lord himself
Will fulfil his revelation
And knock on her door today
In a way not done before

To take His place more tangibly
In the kitchen of her soul

She is prepared for the unexpected
Just in case


Autumn will be all but over  
When I return the leaves will have 
Fallen and it will be colder

There is something cleansing 
About leaving, separation  
The cloistering

Take-off lets me let go 
And I don’t remember 
The September air of home

Wholly present to now

It’s the islands that occupy me 
Completely appealing 

There’s an island in me
Not remote nor far from land 

An island and a separateness

And as soon as I am aware
That the island is not remote
I know 

That I must journey
To the remote recesses
Of the inner and eternal


With the first 
Confidence of a child

No baggage yet
To speak of and still
Not named

No reason to be afraid
Now is where he lives
Right now there is

Nothing else

The heaving sea
Surging with trechery
Magnificent in its moment

Absolutely admirable

Go with it

Eyes vigilant
Trained on the destination
Riding it mastering
The fear of it

Trembling to the thrill
Doing what you cannot
Delving into resources
Not known until tried

I AM (Mystery)

I scrabble for words 
To give expression
Of who I am

The what and the how
Of this life

But all the tongues
Of the world would not
Speak it in its fullness

I am mystery
Unfathomable even
To myself

The root and mood
Are sung in songs

Of outer space
On hot August nights

Soul tugged upward
To the orbit of its belonging

My home ever a temporary
Dwelling place

An emptiness deep
That clings tenaciously
Daring me to let go

Knowing that I will not

That I am chosen for it
And I have chosen

The infinity of whom
It speaks and in whom
I am mirrored

Tuesday 1 October 2013


Snow on winter water
White on white surf tumbles

Unbearable cold

Laughing children
Do not mind

Their voices rising
Over thunder

While Rufus follows
Every stranger
Seeking out the playful

Wednesday 25 September 2013


Music by ===>

Grabielle Alpin - The Power Of Love
Paddy Carty (Traditional Irish Flute Player)
Tanglewood - 'The Place Where You Were Born' & 'Homecoming'
Philip Phillips - 'Home'
The Lumineers - 'Ho Hey'

Sunday 22 September 2013

LOVE AT THE GREEK - Slave Of Two Masters

 ‘No servant can be the slave of two masters' (Luke 16) 

You walk into a room and they're sitting there watching television. At the same time each one is doing something on their own laptop with headphones in their ears. They emerge from what absorbs them to smile and hug you and then they sink back into their respective absorption. It's the way things are.

They remind me of myself when I was their  age, in my early twenties. Music was my first love which totally absorbed me. Listening to it on the blue transistor radio. All we had was Radio Eireann and an hour of Larry Gogan and at night we could get 208 Radio Luxembourg. Enough to feed my need for anything modern - pop, rock, folk. I got to know ever detail of the charts, becoming a bit of an encyclopedia, almost good enough to rival Larry Gogan who knew everything.

By my early twenties I had acquired a radio cassette recorder and as I write this I realize that my nephews and nieces have no idea what such a machine is. But it was my machine and my passion. It was perpetually set to record with the pause button on so that whenever a song came on that I liked I hopped up to record it, ending up with quite an impressive collection of cassette tapes that were probably illegal.

1977 was one of the best years of my life. I was free and in love and halfway on my way to being a hippie. Neil Diamond had just released the live album 'Love At The Greek' which I went out and bought. 

Back home I had the house to myself so I got out the record player, put the two box speakers facing each other on the floor, put on the record, turned it up loud and opened the sitting room windows so that the neighbours could share the experience. Then I lay down on the floor with my head between the speakers and went to heaven with 'Glory Road', 'I've Been This Way Before', 'Jonathan Livingston Seagull'. Not quite as impressive as his earlier 'Hot August Night' but good enough for me on that day.

Mam was coming down Parnell Avenue on her way home from work in SPS and she heard the music at quite a distance, horrified beyond words when she realized that the noise was coming out of her own house, so she tore into me in no uncertain terms and put a stop to my glory. I was mortally offended of course.

But I was learning something important that would serve me in more critical situations later in life. I realized that I had become a slave to this beautiful gift of God; in some way the gift had become my god. Not only that but my slavery, addiction to music was affecting other people, impinging on their lives. This is true of the more serious addictions that I've had to battle with. We cannot be slaves or addicts in isolation.

And I began to pray that God would help me to love Him more than the music because something in me knew that this is the order in which things should go - God first, everything else next. Seek first the kingdom of God and all these other things will be added. In all my subsequent, more  serious slavery's I constantly make this prayer, to love, to desire God more than whatever it is. With music it probably took another 13 years before I achieved the right balance. And I didn't lose the music in the process.

I have always loved and yearned for God but always too there is the struggle to maintain the right balance, not letting anything take over the place that belongs properly to God.

This is what stirs in me as I read these lines from Luke's Gospel 16 - you cannot be the slave of God and money or anything else, like music. And if you are a slave to anything or obsessed by anything - to the good things of life or to the destructive things - then part of the road to healing involves asking for the grace to love God more. 

It does not of course mean becoming obsessed by religion because that too can be slavery. It is about loving God - and loving the others in my life - giving preference to a loving that is free and liberating.

Friday 20 September 2013

THE DOCTOR (All Ireland Joy)

A wild tempestuous 

The doctor

Approaches my body
With  reverence

The touch is that
Of a healer
Healing more
Than flesh

It’s not the scandals
That have ruined
The Church he said

It’s the culture

People have too much
And not enough


There never was joy
In our brand
Of Christianity

We went to Missions
With long reluctant faces

And came back home
With longer faces still

They would have held
Us longer by praise
And drawn us to God’s
Heart by it

But they would not!
For they could not

The only thing
That made the people
Really smile

Was winning
The all Ireland

The God almighty
Thrill of it

We didn’t smile that day
We ran and we laughed
And held up the Sam Maguire
Like some sacred chalice

With no notion of God
In any of it

And to think of the struggle
To separate Church and State

When years ago
We cut God off 
From life

Treating one another
As if He didn’t exist

And played as though
He knew nothing
Of happiness

Would you be well?
The doctor asked

If you would be well
Then hold all as one
And God will be in all
Holding you

Breaking His sides
Panting for breath

In all our running and staying
And winning and losing
Our dying and living

Saturday 14 September 2013


I went to see Eamon Keane & special guest John Sheehan of the Dubliners at the National Concert Hall during the week. Eamon was previously an excellent presenter on Newstalk but he's an even more excellent piano player.

He sits at his piano and improvises; it's suggested that he himself doesn't quite know what he's going to play. I close my eyes to take in the music and wonder what on earth he's at - there's quite a strong feeling of turbulence, something coming from the dark roots of the earth and then something beautiful begins to suggest itself, a hint of a familiar tune, then the tune itself rising like a butterfly from the caterpillar - Norwegian Wood, Scarborough Fair and more.

These two movements of life are held together in balance, moving in and out of each other - darkness and light, turbulence and peace, discord and harmony.

It's not a religious concert but the evening is brought to a close with Amazing Grace which John Sheehan dedicates to the men he knew who took the wrong turn on the road. Eamon and John do an improvised version before bringing it around to the audience and we sing it in its gentle gracefulness, "I once was lost but now I'm found..."

The paradox of life! I have taken many wrong turns on the road of my life but without them I wouldn't know the joy of returning; I have often been lost and through those experiences know the grace of being found. If I hadn't left home I would never know the excitement of returning; if I had not sinned I would never know the wonder of God's mercy.

This is where Jesus is taking us in today's Gospel (Luke 15). He knows it's inevitable that we will wander, get lost, sin but what matters is that we understand who God is, what it is that stirs in the heart of God for each one of us and that we return to the safety of that Heart. 

The sinners know that it's safe to be with Jesus, the prodigal knows that it's safe to return home and all God wants is that we be "safe and sound" in life. And no matter how far we wander, all that God is for us to be "safe and sound". Any parent whose child gets lost even for a short while knows exactly what God feels for us, each one of us.

Amazing Grace how sweet the sound....I once was lost but now I'm found, was blind but now I see.

Monday 9 September 2013



In memory of the actress Susan Fitzgerald who died today. I met her twice and encountered true inner beauty and serenity. During our last meeting in August I played Karl Jenkins' 'Benedictus' for her and dedicate it now as a prayer that she rest in the peace & beauty of the eternal Benedictus of Jesus "who comes in the name of the Lord"

Wednesday 4 September 2013

RETREAT (A Homecoming)

Draw back the curtains
Roll up the blinds
Unveil the day

Intense red sky
Fading to grey-pink clouds
Patches of blue

Before the breaking through

Moon gives way to sun
Mary gives way to Jesus
Mother to son

"Do whatever He tells you!"

There will be wine today
A miracle Transfiguration

His Word is Light
In stained glass flooding
My face, a child's painting

Colouring my soul awake
My senses, my thoughts, my heart.

Sunday 1 September 2013

Kitchen Prayer

I am a child
In my Grandmother’s

With the evening
Closing in

And we are alone
The two of us

By the open fire

And she handing me
Rice on a red plastic
Plate and I savouring
Its loveliness

The lapping of flames
In turf and the clock ticking

We are not in need
Of words
And do not speak them

I am a child
In my Grandmother’s

Kneeling at her feet
Hands joined and resting
On her lap

Finding God in
The kitchen and the home
Of our lives

And being loved
This is my prayer

Tuesday 27 August 2013

The Place Where Bernadette Prayed – Moments in Lourdes 2013

August 2, 2013

“My grace is enough for you; my power is at its best in weakness…”

You can smell the flood, the after-effects wafting from the closed hotels and shops. In the river a snapped tree juts sideways into the air. Reconstruction, sacred areas cordoned off, inaccessible for now.

Thankfully the Grotto is open. There’s an overwhelming innocence in the unpretentious humble pilgrims. A recently born baby in her father’s arms, toddlers, normal modern young women and men, the old, the sick; every race and nation. A lot of Indians and Vietnamese.

We file along the base of the Grotto, touching the rock made smooth by millions who touched it before us, wiping ourselves with the water that seeps there. Time was when I would have been too sophisticated to engage in this. Sophistication has thankfully abandoned me and I abandon myself to the grace of the present.

I kneel in the spot where St. Bernadette prayed and my prayer is intense, sad with the sorrow of those I’m pleading for. It is incredibly beautiful and peaceful.

A strong breeze blows down the rock rustling the leaves, blowing out the candles that the attendant is trying to light. I always feel that Mary is present in the breeze in the trees but I wonder would she extinguish the flame on the blessed candles that represent so much of the sorrow and the joy of her people.

And I wonder about the floods that destroyed this place twice in two years. Nothing is as it should be. There’s turbulence, conflict, a spiritual warfare going on not least in Ireland where everything sacred, including life itself is trampled upon in the name of progress. The wolves are scratching at the door of all that is holy.

Angry is how you would describe the river. It runs fast and high and green. It too reminds us that it burst its banks once and could do so again. And still there is peace and joy and hope here in the Grotto.

Indian Catholics boldly declare themselves; the Koreans are laughing; the French singing; trapped birds and the free are chirping with all their might.

The morning is frantic with Eucharist, Mass being celebrated in every available place, true devotion of multitudes, their sounds infiltrating the Blessed Sacrament Chapel where I have sought silence. This is the Tent of the Presence of God, the Meeting Place. Our day will settle down in a while!

It’s lovely to observe the young who are keen to stand or kneel in the spot where St. Bernadette knelt when she first saw Our Lady. Do they find a connection in the spiritual experience of one as young as themselves?

The place where St. Bernadette prayed! In the evening I was sitting near this spot again before the candle light procession. A young couple came and knelt there close to the spot where the miraculous spring emerged. He took a little box from his pocket, opened it and there was a ring inside. Without a word he took her hand and placed the ring on her finger. She smiled and then started to cry. They both cried and embraced a while. Then they prayed in silence for a long time.

There is love in Lourdes – so much love! When it was time for me to leave I bent down to wish them God’s blessing. She reached up and kissed me on both cheeks. I gave him a hug and went off to join the procession. I was the silent witness to love, the ultimate treasure of the human heart.

Tuesday 30 July 2013

Home For The Races

The arrival home of Mam’s relations from England for the Galway Races was the high point of our summer. They usually stayed at the home place at Raford out in the country but they would visit us and sometimes stay the night.

All the anxiety and tension of life went out the door when they came in and it was a time of enjoyment. There were crowds of them from Birmingham and London.

We watched it all from the distance of childhood with fascination and much pleasure. They might go off to the Merlin Bar where Dad worked part-time and come home for a session that filled the house with the dense blue fog of cigarettes, bottles of porter, loud conversation, laughter and music.

In the early mornings I’d get up before everyone else and immerse myself in the aftertaste of the night’s pleasure – drinking the dregs of empty bottles and smoking the butts that overflowed in ashtrays. Breakfast could wait.

People would appear and the place got cleared and the fry fried, its aroma mingling with the scent of fresh fags and conversation spoken in half Irish half English accents.

“I say Maureen, I say, I say” and “Lord God Maureen”. “Harry, have a fag. Go on have one of mine love. Sure I’ve plenty more in the car.” And they’d retell and retell how Dad was trying to light a fag last night but couldn’t get the match and cigarette to connect, his hand always veering off in another direction. And they’d laugh and laugh and Dad would smile. But I didn’t like them making fun of him.

They had fabulous cars that I loved to look at and touch and wash and sit in and the sun would shine and everything gleamed.

In the afternoon we would trek over the back wall, across the field and out by O’Meara’s butcher, over to the races in Ballybrit. We never went to the Stand and I assumed it was reserved for extra special people and, therefore, out of bounds. But it was an extraordinary and fearsome thrill to stand by the railing as the horses passed by - the sight and thunder of them that made you tremble to the core.

The big field was always thronged with people, totes, caravans with the wonderful smell of greasy chips and big white tents – some for drinking porter and others selling tea and squares of fluffy cakes with pink icing. We never got beyond the edge of any tent, the pink icing always out of reach.

Young lads shouting “race cards, race cards, cards a shilling, race cards” and stout women wearing aprons calling out “apples, oranges, pears, peaches, bananas”.

There were shifty looking men doing the three-card trick on a small fold-up table that could be whisked away at the first sight of a gard. And stalls with toys and competitions for winning them and we lingered dreamlike in front of them all.

Uncle Jack, Mam’s oldest brother, was a bachelor who lived in Birmingham and he was very quiet. He brought me to the races once on my own while everyone else went off touring somewhere. It felt really special to be with him and we got soaked on the way home and tried to light a fire but the briquettes and coal were as wet as ourselves and nothing would persuade them to light.

The adults were always meeting other adults they knew. The races were great for that. You might never meet anyone during the year if it weren’t for the races..

Children stood silently by and would be introduced in time, smiled at and commented on. He looks just like his father. And there would have to be a sigh and a whinge about “children nowadays”.

But we got our turn on the swinging boats and tugged that rope hard so that we would swing as high as possible, rising out of our seat – the exhilaration was fearsome and thrilling. We were really at the races then.

MY HOME TOWN - Galway On A Sunny Summer Day

Sunday 14 July 2013


St. Catherine of Siena had a mystical experience in which she was taken up to Heaven where she experienced the fullness of life and joy in the presence of God. After a while Jesus told her "It's time for you to go back." And when she protested He said, "I need you to go back to bring love to the world!" "I am not able to love" she said. Then Jesus took her heart from her, placed His own Heart within her and said, "now you are able to love!"

A lot of the time we are good Samaritans to the people we meet in life; like the man in the gospel our hearts are moved with compassion for the sufferings of others, moved to the extent that we actually do something to help them. But there are times when we feel unable to love as we should and there are times when we are like the priest and the Levite - when confronted with the wounds of another we pass by on the other side and do nothing; sometimes our eyes are shut, our ears and hearts are closed and we don't even notice what's there in front of us. It might simply be too inconvenient for us to notice. We are called to do something about this and Jesus offers us the Heart that will enable us to do it.

In breaking through our deafness, blindness and inactivity we might also need to deal with the fact that we ourselves have been attacked, wounded, left helpless and ignored on the journey of our life. We need to be anointed, lifted up and brought to a place of healing. Jesus himself is the Good Samaritan who brings us the relief and healing that enable us to be wounded healers for each other.

The call to be Good Samaritans also extends to society. We have a duty to be attentive to what is happening to society and to respond with compassionate hearts where the good of society is threatened, as is the case with the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill.

It's an issue that affects not only mothers and babies in the womb but also the fathers and every citizen; it affects the soul of our country.

During the past week Good Samaritans of the Pro-Life Movement were moved with compassion to gather outside the Dail from Tuesday night until Friday morning praying silently for the protection of mothers and babies during pregnancy, praying for the defeat of the the Bill in the Dail. They were subjected to insult and mockery by demonstrators from the other camp. These deserve great credit as do the TD's who voted against the Bill.

It is quite understandable that the Pro-Choice demonstrators celebrated the passing of the Bill but it is chilling that they chanted "one step closer", reminding us of what we were warned about - that this Bill is a stepping stone to more liberal abortion legislation. And we have to accept that in some way our indifference has helped this come about. It is also sad that the passing of such a law was greeted with applause in the Dail.

Wednesday 3 July 2013

FREEDOM - Like A Swan That's Here And Gone


Away, I'd rather sail away

Like a swan that's here and gone
A man gets tied up to the ground...

The line from 'El Condor Pasa' has been with me for a couple of weeks and it expresses something of the yearning for freedom that is in every human heart - to fly and soar unfettered. But we are also tied down by  many things and so we are held in the tension of these two realities of life.

"When Christ freed us, he meant us to remain free" (Galatians 5:1)

Galatians 5:1,13-18 ©
. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. My brothers, you were called, as you know, to liberty; but be careful, or this liberty will provide an opening for self-indulgence. Serve one another, rather, in works of love, since the whole of the Law is summarised in a single command: Love your neighbour as yourself. If you go snapping at each other and tearing each other to pieces, you had better watch or you will destroy the whole community.

Saturday 22 June 2013


The smooth touch
Of cold marble
Beneath the pilgrim feet
Bloodied in the ascent

We have taken off
And left our shoes outside
With our weapons
Our strength and proud boasts

In the cool of the sanctuary
We are introduced again
To the pure nakedness of birth

Entering into life
Surrendering again to love
Adoring Him

The old woman
Pours water unbidden
On my feet

Cleansing, soothing balm

Drenching the soul
She is Christ to me

And I the beloved resting
Near to the heart

Sunday 2 June 2013

Corpus Christi - A Time Of Innocence

June 10, 2012 

The feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus (Corpus Christi) brings back memories from a distant past of processions and first Holy Communions and innocence.

When Sister Frances was preparing us for our first Communion she said that our souls would be shining bright when we received Jesus and when the day arrived it was this brightness that I was looking out for. I watched the children ahead of me kneeling at the altar rails and I looked at the soles of their shoes to see the brightness shine there, not knowing the difference between soul and sole! 

Of course there was no brightness to be seen but I adjusted to this by saying to myself that there must be something else, another soul. And when my turn to kneel came I closed my eyes, put out my tongue, received Jesus and saw the brightness at the back of my eyelids. It's been normal ever since for me to experience the brightness that comes with Holy Communion.

Sally Read expresses it well for me "The effects of Communion may be well known by those who have received it. But is there really a way to describe the ordering of the heart, the internal embrace that occurs when we actually eat Christ's flesh and blood?...There is no way I know of being closer to God. And there is no more powerful prayer." (Poet Sally Read, Real Presence in THE TABLET 2 JUNE 2012)

Over the past week the Irish Times has run a series on the healing and renewal of the Catholic Church. Two pieces caught my attention. One was the testimony of an 11 year old Lorcan who made his Confirmation this year. He says, "On Sundays I go to Mass with my family. I like going up to Communion. The priest says we all have to look out for each other. I don’t find it hard to understand how the wine becomes blood, because Jesus did that at the Last Supper."

The second piece was an opinion poll which revealed that only 24 percent of Catholics believe in Transubstantiation. If I were asked as a child, if Lorcan were asked, if many believing Catholics were asked, it is doubtful if many would know what Transubstantiation is but we understand at some level of our being that we receive Jesus in Holy Communion.

It takes a child to understand the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, as Jesus himself said "I thank you Father, Lord of heaven and of earth for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children..." and "unless you repent and become like a little child you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven."

The uncluttered, simple soul of the child has a way of knowing that transcends the ordinary intellectual way of knowing that we tend to develop as adults and if we are to connect with the mystery of Jesus in the eucharist then we need to connect with the child within us who does understand. If there is to be renewal in the Church then we have to make this connection with our own child and with Jesus.

Trust is central to this experience of faith. Lorcan trusts what Jesus did at the Last Supper, so he has no problem accepting that the wine becomes blood. I believe in the Eucharist because I trust Jesus completely. I accept that, as God, he can do all things and when he says "this is my body" I accept. This is what I receive.

There is something else in Lorcan's testimony that is simply expressed, a sentence in the middle of what he says about Mass and Communion - "...we all have to look out for each other." And that too is central to the mystery of the Eucharist, the reality of Christ Jesus living in us.

We can receive out of habit, not knowing what is really taking place. It would be good for us to come to communion deliberately and afterwards close our eyes and experience the brightness of Jesus within, a brightness to be taken with us as we go on our way and in all our relationships.