Monday 28 January 2013

BOUND (Tanzanian Twilight)

Sunset in the dust-rise
Of the cattle coming slow
Across the desert plain

Before the herdsman
With his son and mother


From the stream returning
Past the silence of the grinding mill
Turned off

A whisper in the air

To the fire
Those dotted fires

Spread out and rising
To the falling of the night

Pink to purple haze
Then dark…

This evokes a longing

It  has wedded me
My heart to them forever
At home and quiet

This unified motion of grace
The smile upon their face


She leaned forward
From the back seat
To speak of the singular
Beauty of the sky

Her right hand resting
On my left shoulder

Our eyes meeting
In the mirror
For the last time

For the last time
We walked the Prom
And never said goodbye

Or anything significant
As a last saying
That I might cling to
As some kind of assurance

Friday 25 January 2013

From Moxie To The Holy Spirit - Anointed To Be Set Free

Brend Van Deurzen and I met for the first time in a hostel in Los Arcos – about 120km into our 800km pilgrim walk to Santiago de Compostella in Spain – on a very wet Saturday. We became kindred souls in the course of the journey.

Over a year later he decided to come to see me and to see Dublin. As happens with the young, as happened on the Camino, as was happening now – he drew me out of myself, taking me to places, to experiences that are new. Temple Bar is one of the places he was keen to see so we went there in search of the TradFest, which began on January 22.

We came across Moxie, a young band of students from Limerick and Sligo, who play traditional Irish music with a contemporary edge. A wonderful sound! There’s a freshness, a vibrancy in the way young people play music because they have not yet become cautious and what they create is a very joyful blend of the old in the new, the traditional in the present.

It strikes me that life in the Spirit is very much like music, the kind of music that Moxie has to offer. The Holy Spirit makes all things new, even the ancient truths of the Bible are made new by the Spirit who expresses them in the present in ways that touch people’s lives. The truths themselves, the Truth doesn’t change but it is always fresh and new in its expression.

The Holy Spirit expresses the reality of God in our lives in different ways, according to the gifts that we are given. One of the early Fathers of the Church says that the Spirit takes the shape of the person in whom he lives, as water takes the shape of the vessel into which it is poured. It is the same Spirit but seen and experienced differently in each person and no one person possesses all the gifts but we the Church, the community of God’s people share all the gifts together, for the good of all.

Some people have wisdom, understanding; some are teachers or preachers; some have the gift of music or language; some are carpenters, builders, cooks, cleaners; nurses, priests, teachers. There is an infinity of gifts and it is good that each of us knows in what way we are gifted, how the Spirit is expressed in our lives.  (1 Corinthians 12: 12-14. 27)

Among the effects of the Spirit are joy and freedom. When the people were crying as listened to the Word of God Ezra told them 'Go, eat the fat, drink the sweet wine, and send a portion to the man who has nothing prepared ready. For this day is sacred to our Lord. Do not be sad: the joy of Yahweh is your stronghold.  (Nehemiah 6. 8-10)

When we listen to God’s Word attentively it will sometimes make us cry in repentance but even in repentance we are called to joy because the joy of the Lord is our strength.

There is the defining moment in the life of Jesus in Luke’s gospel chapter four when Jesus stands up in the Synagogue to read. They give him the scroll of Isaiah and in it Jesus sees his own anointing: the spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me. He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives…(Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21)        

This text was fulfilled in Jesus in his day; it is fulfilled in Him now – in us when we take it to heart, allow it to have an impact on our lives. In Jesus we find the possibility of being liberated from whatever oppresses us, the destructive forces that hold us captive. When we look into our own hearts we don’t need anyone to tell us how we need to be liberated; we know it ourselves and there is not one of us who does not yearn to be free of something. Jesus is anointed to free us. We are anointed to be set free.

Brend & Me On Killiney Hill

Thursday 24 January 2013

LONELY ENDING (In Memory Of Paul Carty)

The stillness of a staring horse 
Residue of Autumn rust
On near-bare trees

November mourners

Gaze at the opposite
Shore of the quiet lake

Pondering what was witnessed

There by God's creation

The lonely ending

A wounded beautiful life

Pushed beyond the edge
Of no return

Into the deep emptiness

Denied the right to love

And see and touch
To hear and hold 

His one Beloved Child

And in the cold

Dark stillness of the dawn

We are left with unanswerable 

Questions, unspeakable

But this I know

That God is close
To the broken hearted

And always sends his Angel

To attend to the Gethsemane
Of our lives

Tuesday 15 January 2013


The warm curve
Of brown ploughed
Soil in Spring

Conceals the way
Of its coming
Into being

Sharp shining steel
Incisive cuts

Sod upturned exposed
To air and rain
And seed and grain

The need of it

The way of all ploughing
The ploughing of the heart

The pain of it

And oh the lovely

Monday 14 January 2013


In the film 'The Color Purple' two young women are walking through a field of purple flowers and one says to the other that it must make God mad when we pass the colour purple by with taking notice of it.

Jesus and the mystics call us to be attentive to the reality of nature around us - to admire it, its Creator and to learn lessons for life by observing it. Think of the flowers of the field...the birds of the air...the seed planted in the earth...the tiny mustard seed that produces a shrub that gives shelter. 

In the mystery of creation we are called to discover the wisdom of the Gospel in which we discover the greatness of the little, strength for the weak, light out of darkness, life out of death, relevance for the irrelevant. The hope of the tree that is cut. Wood has hope - when it's cut it grows green again!

Galapo, Tanzania, where I worked for a few years, is situated on the side of a mountain overlooking a vast plain below. It is a beautiful and fertile land but in the dry season it turns to arid red dust. During one such season I myself felt very dry and barren. My soul seemed to be dying of thirst and I did not know what to do or where to turn. I felt myself to be irrelevant on the peripheral edges of my community.

Then one day Shirley came to visit me. She was a Medical Missionary of Mary, we were soul friends, and we went walking as soul friends do. Going over a hill and down into a valley close to our house we were surprised by a strong, free-flowing river that I’d never seen before. On its banks there were trees that were fresh, thriving and totally unaffected by the drought on the other side of the hill. The words of Jeremiah 17 came to mind, A blessing on the one who trusts in the Lord…like a tree by the waterside that thrust it roots into the stream: when the drought comes it feels no alarm, its foliage stays green.

When we experience spiritual dryness, when we feel that we have run out of steam and our strength seems to fail us, then there is a river flowing closer to us than we might imagine. We have the source of life in the Holy Spirit. There is no need for alarm while we are in touch with that source.

Something else that caught my attention by the river there was how beautiful the single leaf is in the light of the sun - its radiance, the way it transmits light, how that light reveals every little detail of the leaf, how the leaf seems to hold within itself the very form of the tree. What a wonderful thing it is to be able to see and admire this beauty.

And what of the leaves high up on the trees, those out of touch and out of our gaze? What is the purpose of their beauty if we cannot see them? And it came to me then that it is enough for them to be there for their Creator, to be seen by God, admired by Him.

And it dawned on me that in my own feeling of being irrelevant, on the edges, unseen - that it is enough for me to be seen by God, admired & loved by Him. When the light of God shines on me and through me then I am radiant, holding within the the form of God, the Divine imprint.

It is not I who make this happen; it is God who is the light that shines on me and because of Him I am radiant.

An essential aspect of the wisdom that we discover is that Creation is not God but is a signpost to God. We are wise when we take notice of it, pause with it, move in the direction in which it points us, keeping on until we reach our destiny. As Patrick Kavanagh says in 'Wild Geese At Dusk' - "Only they who fly home to God have flown at all."

WHO I WAS BORN TO BE - The Birth Of John The Baptist

Susan Boyle sings a song specially written for her - "Who I Was Born To Be" - the central line being "I am who I was born to be..."

Everyone remembers her arrival on the stage of Britain's Got Talent. She might have said silently to the audience, as John the Baptist said to his audience, "I am not who you think I am..." because what the audience was thinking was that she was nothing. They wrote her off, sneered at the sight of her ever before she started to sing.

There was confusion about John the Baptist's identity from the beginning, about who he was. The expectation among his relatives at his birth was that he would be named after his father according to tradition but both his parents knew that God had another name and identity in store for him. He would be John and not Zechariah.

When he emerged into public ministry as a man there was confusion again. He was so impressive, so inspiring that the people thought he must be the Messiah. He could have gotten a swelled head and ran with the idea but he himself knew who he was and who he was not. He was sure of his God given identity and was rooted, grounded in it. He had the courage to say I am not the one you think I am. I am not the light.  I am not the Messiah. I am the voice that cries...prepare a way for the Lord. I am a witness that speaks for the light. He must increase, I must decrease.

In celebrating the Birth of John the Baptist we are called to let the feast touch our own lives, to let his understanding of his identity lead us to a deeper understanding of our own identity. We can get caught up in a false self - having an inflated idea of who we are or an inferior one. In John there is no pretending one way or the other. He is who God created him to be. He is who he is meant to be.

This is what I am called to - to be who I was born to be. It is a central part of the spiritual education of a child that he or she is guided to discover their true identity and encouraged to grow into the fullness of it.

In life we experience the expectations, judgements, the ideas of other people about who we should be and it's very easy to give in and go with this. But we can also stand in our own truth and say to ourselves and to the world - I am not who you think I am; I am who I was born to be. I am the person God intended me to be from all eternity and life is about living that and letting others live what they are born to be.

Sometimes we feel we're passed it or that life, opportunity has passed us by - our purpose in life can become hidden with the death of a spouse, parent, child, friend. It came late to Susan Boyle to discover her new purpose, it took many years for he to become who she was born to be. It came late to Elizabeth and Zechariah to give birth to the son they were destined to have.

It's never too late; the blessings and purposes of the Lord are never finished but we have to somehow play our part in making it happen. Psalm 139 offers us the prayer "I thank you for the wonder of my being, the wonder of who I am". No can make me say that prayer or bring the profound awareness of my identity to life in me. I have to do it myself. The where-with-all to do it is given by God but I have to do.

Take a look in the mirror and remind yourself that you are looking at a wonder of God's creation. Do it without wanting to alter your appearance. 


Jesus and his disciples left for the villages round Caesarea Philippi. On the way he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say I am?’ And they told him. ‘John the Baptist,’ they said ‘others Elijah; others again, one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he asked ‘who do you say I am?’ Peter spoke up and said to him, ‘You are the Christ.’ (Mark 8:27-35 Sunday 24)

Today,  the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows I celebrated the funeral Mass and burial of Nora, a 77 year old parishioner whom I had never met. Before coming to the parish all my funerals were people I knew well but now it's different and I have to go looking for information, not for me to eulogize but to get a sense of who is this person who has been created in the image of God; the person who has lived this particular life.

I didn't get much information in the normal sense because every time someone began to speak of Nora they cried. Coming away after two hours with her husband and eldest grandson I knew little except that we had made a strong connection. During the funeral Mass her teenage grand-daughter stood up to read and cried; a grandson brought up the gifts with tears streaming down his face. And I became aware that I was receiving information about this woman at a deep emotional level, information that is not about words but about feeling. She inspired great love and would seem to have been very, very loveable.

When Jesus asks the question in the gospel - "who do people say I am?" - he is looking for information at one level but when he asks the disciples "who do YOU say I am?" he's looking for something else, something more intimate, more profound. He is not looking for an intellectual or a theological statement and he doesn't get one from Peter.

Peter feels very strongly about Jesus and when he gives a divinely inspired answer he does so with great feeling. Jesus is someone Peter loves and he is also much more than any person can understand or imagine. Peter also has to learn to allow Jesus to be who He is and not what Peter wants Him to be or not be.

When we are asked the question by Jesus - "who do you say I am?" - we often do two things. One is that we reduce him to our own manageable size and lose sense of His immense divinity. The other is that we tend not to have strong feeling for Him as a person. Our faith tends to be about a way of living, a creed, justice, morality and what is lacking in our Christianity is an intense, heart-felt love for the Person of Jesus. That is the real weakness in modern Christianity.

One day I spent 10 hours in Paris airport waiting for a connection to Cameroon and I went several times to the prayer area. Paris has probably the best praying facility of all the airports I have seen. There are places of worship for Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Muslims and maybe others. In the course of the day I saw only one other person in the Catholic chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. There were always several Muslims at prayer and when it came to evening their place of prayer was packed to overflowing while ours was empty.

If there is a battle between Islam and Christianity it is at this level - not the fundamentalism of either religion but a good life-giving feeling for the person of the founder. Muslims would seem to love Mohammed much more than Christians love Jesus. 

The deeply held questions that are being expressed in modern Catholicism - ordination of women, celibacy, structural reform and many others - all these issues can be tackled and even resolved but they will do nothing to save the Church if we lack Passionate love for the person of Jesus. 

And the follow-on question that Jesus asks much later of Peter, a question that comes after Peter's failure, cowardice and tears - the question is "do you love me?"

These questions are worth probing and probing them makes an incredible difference to the quality of our life. During one of my periods of crisis, convinced that I was an empty, hypocritical priest, I was watching television and had my first experience of Charlie Landsborough singing "My Forever Friend". I had a very strong gut reaction and even cried because I connected with the words he was singing and realized how deeply I love Jesus, despite all my failure. It's not so much our sin that cuts us off from loving Jesus, it's more our indifference and complacency that does it.

Who do you say I am? Do you love me?

At Nora's graveside when the prayers were said, her husband sang a song that he often sang for her - it can only be described as blues-soul. What feeling! What love!


  1. THE fathers spirit is very much visible in you his servent on earth. May Gods Blessings always be with you. Thank you for been my friend. Sarah x
  2. THE fathers spirit is very much visible in you his servent on earth. May Gods Blessings always be with you. Thank you for been my friend. Sarah x
  3. Gods spirit is very visible to see in both you as a person & in you're work. You did a great mass for Nora what you said about her granddaughters tears been more then any words spoke volumes. God bless you always. Fr. Eamon Monson l am blessed to be you're friend. Sarah Jordan.x
  4. Anonymous and Grateful16 September 2012 14:40
    With regards to the filling of the prayer places at Paris Airport I believe that one does Not have to display themselves in prayer but can be quietly silent in seeking the company of Christ. Also it has been a problem for many years for Christians here in Ireland to speak of Christ. They are not in the habit and there is an uncomfortable attitude to expressions. Confidence is lacking and now we have the added experience of scandals with ongoing campaigners interfering with the operations of the Church. I have found myself defending the Church to the point of loosing so called friends and family members. They are of the opinion that the Church is for customs not commitment. Fr. Eamonn your direction is far beyond your call of duty and I know many people are grateful. Managing the Word and Works of Christ is a professional practice which requires skillful guidance. Keep up the great works and it is an honour knowing your ways. 
  5. Beautiful reflection Eamonn, much to ponder, thank you for sharing it. God bless. Eileen
  6. Waw, this is so inspiring, its a pity i only got to read it now. is this your kind of website?


John 6:1-15 The Feeding...

It's worth paying attention to the movements & gestures of Jesus. What He does is as significant as what He says. His actions speak.

At the beginning of Matthew 5 leading into the Sermon on the Mount Jesus goes up on to the hill, sits down and gathers the disciples to himself. Then He begins to speak. The hill or mountain is the sacred place where God reveals Himself; the seated position for teaching ("ex cathedra") signifies that the teaching is of central importance; the gathering of the disciples around Him indicates that they have been called out of the crowd for a particular relationship of intimacy with Jesus who is the centre of their attention, their lives.

A similar movement takes place at the beginning of John 6 where Jesus presents himself as the new Passover, bread for the hunger of humanity. The miracle of the loaves and fish, the rejection of earthly power, the escape to the solitude of the hills, the waling on water are all part of the mystery of Eucharist. The teaching that follows these events is provocative, demanding an unambiguous response, pushes us to a moment of decision. We cannot be indifferent.

"The bread that I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world...I AM the bread of life..." The response of many was to say that this is intolerable language, who could ever accept it? An most of the disciples left him at that stage. "What about you" he asked the twelve "will you go away too?" Where do I stand, with whom do I stand?

But before the time of decision there is the attentiveness of Jesus to the approaching crowd. He is immediately aware of their hunger, ready to do something about it. He is alert, aware, listening. He who dwells in the deep silence of the Father listens as the Father listens, is attentive as the Father is attentive.

Through the immediate physical hunger He intends to feed the deeper hunger of the human heart.

A lovely line, an encouraging thought is that Jesus himself knew exactly what He was going to do about this great hunger. But He also wants us, the disciples to participate in His response. He draws Philip out, makes him think about what can be done.

We as Church, as individuals are called to enter with Him into the profound silence of the Father, to hear the hunger of the people as God hears it. To listen to the cry of others, to listen without prejudice and without any agenda of our own. It is a call to universal listening, to be universal as He is universal and that includes listening to what and I do not want to hear. It is an attentive listening that does not exclude.

On a personal level Jesus is alert to the hunger that is in me, in each of us. The question is - am I alert to the hunger that is in me? What is the hunger that is masked by my addictions - the obvious addictions and the more subtle ones.

I am called to allow myself to taste and feel my deepest desires, to acknowledge them to God and to myself as a first step towards dealing with them in a life-giving way. It means I have to live in the depths of my own being and not simply continue drifting along the surface of my own reality. To live a real life that is offered to God in the Eucharist, to live a life that is capable of being disturbed, unsettled and ultimately transformed.

There's a small boy with five barley loaves and two fish. Jesus and Andrew have two different responses to this. Andrew says what is humanly obvious - "but what is that among so many". We ourselves may think that we do not have what is necessary to deal with our life's hunger, that what we have is clearly not enough. But the response of Jesus is to take these little, inadequate offerings and to find in them reasons for gratitude. He gives thanks and somehow the power of gratitude makes the miracle happen. There is enough, even more than enough.

An aspect of our Eucharist is to allow the inadequacy of our lives to be taken by Jesus, to be held by Him, to be empowered by His gratitude. We need to surrender our lives into His hands. This is not a lifeless, timid surrender, a simple giving up or resignation. It is a surrender born out of struggle, it is the fruit of an honest wrestling with God and myself, wrestling with my deepest desire. And out of all this comes the abundance that is more than enough. Jesus himself is the food for my desire, the abundance for which I yearn.

There's an interesting translation of this passage in which Jesus tells the disciples to gather up what's left over. Most translations talk about gathering up the scraps but this has Jesus telling them to gather up "the broken bits". The broken bits of our lives are collected and saved, saved for another day, another feeding. They are the reserved sacrament by which others will be fed, blessed and saved.


Jogging Around the Swamp 
(Sunday 6 of Easter)

Everyone wants to be picked, chosen by someone for something. We want to be included and not excluded. A small child wants to be picked to share in a game, another wants to be picked to play in a team and when we are picked we want to show that we have credibility, that we can play the game well.

I started secondary school in the old Bish in Nuns Island. It was surrounded by fine black wrought iron railings with spikes on top. Mr. Dunleavy was teaching us volleyball in the yard and picked me to serve. So I served. Off to the right went the ball, landing on a spike and it burst! He gave me another one and to my horror off it went again in the direction of the railings, landed on a spike and burst! Such humiliation. I was dismissed with disdain. A hopeless case.  It was  beyond me to  master a game that involved a ball and was relieved when relegated to jogging around the Swamp in the Claddagh.

Much of human picking and choosing has to do with favoriteism. However, we are told in the Acts of the Apostles that "God does not have favourites but that everyone who does what is right is acceptable to him". He favours each one of us in a way that is unique, inclusive - He never leaves us out.

Jesus picks us, chooses us for friendship with himself and his choosing includes what is appropriate. He chooses us for a purpose, a way of life that we are able for, that we have a capacity or aptitude for - even when it involves great struggle.

I pray that we will all enjoy the pleasure of being chosen by Him; that young people who are choosing their career in life will have the grace & courage to discern what it is that God has chosen them for; that parents will allow for this in the advice they offer their children.


I struggle from time to time with self-doubt, self esteem. Dissatisfied with myself, striving to be better. And there are moments of grace when this struggle ceases.

I love sitting in the empty church here in Shankill - gazing at the tabernacle, connecting with Jesus who is hidden behind the golden door. In another church, another time while gazing at the tabernacle I got a lovely sense of contentment with who I am. As if God were saying to me "cherish who you are".

It became a lovely time of prayer during which I thought how nice my name is, especially hearing it spoken by someone who loves me - "Eamonn" and then "Monson", my family, the Pallottines. I love the name of Mervue where I grew up, Galway my home town and, when I lived abroad, I loved the sound of Ireland.

All of these resonate within me. I am formed and shaped by them, they express who I am, my identity.

And it seemed like a magnetic force was pulling me to the tabernacle, drawing me spiritually to Jesus hidden there and to the awareness that the fulness of who I am is hidden in Him there. The fulness of my identity is to be found in Him, a completeness that includes all of my natural, human identity.

The invitation of Jesus in "make your home in me, as I make mine in you". Home. This is one of the most important experiences in life - being at home. At home with myself, at home with life, with people, with God.

At a Pallottine meeting in Poland in 1997 I was among high flying, highly educated men and for a moment I felt at odds, ill at ease when I sensed the reminder that I am at home in God. So much so that wherever I am, I am at home.

This is God's desire for us that we experience an abiding sense of belonging


A couple of years ago Vicka, one of the Medjugorje visionaries came to Dublin to speak at an event in the RDS. I went along because she is one of the reasons why I believe in what is taking place Medjugorje. I trust her sincerity, the radiance of her face.

Her talk was followed by Mass and during the distribution of Holy Communion people surged forward towards where she was sitting on the stage, hundreds of hands stretching forward to touch her. To my surprise she herself came forward to touch the outstretched hands. My surprise was not that she responded to the need of the crowd but that all this was taking place immediately after receiving Jesus himself, while Communion was still being distributed.

It showed that people didn't really understand what they had just received, who they had just received. I know, understand the need to touch, to be touched in order to be healed but in that moment I thought 'however gifted, impressive Vicka is, she is not Jesus. In him we have more than we have in her.' We have the more but we do not know it.

The same thought strikes me in relation to the woman with the haemorrhage in the gospel and I think in my own need for healing 'if only I could touch the hem of His garment...' And it dawns on me that in the Eucharist we have more than the hem of his garment. We have Jesus himself to touch, to be touched by him. To be healed by the source of all healing.

The lament of Jesus over Jerusalem, his word to the woman at the well...his appeal to us "if you only understood who it is...if only you understood the message..." It is sad that we don't get it; sad that we suffer a spiritual and emotional haemorrhaging and we either don't realize it is happening or we look in the wrong places for healing. Sad that maybe we sometimes don't actually want to be healed because our suffering is a familiar companion and we don't know how to live without it.

For the miracle to take place, for the daughter of Jairus to be restored to life, Jesus has to clear the house of all the commotion, confusion, unrestrained wailing, the doubt, the cynicism. Only people of faith can be present - the girls' parents and the three apostles Peter, James and John.

For the miracle to take place we need somehow to arrive at a level of desperation in which we have no options left. Jairus, the synagogue official, would not have gone to Jesus except he was desperate for his daughter; the woman with the haemorrhage had gone through all the doctors and treatments and had nowhere else to turn. This desperation is like the rock-bottom place which is the beginning of recovery for the addict. This desperation is the birthplace of pure faith, the faith in which we are ready for healing. It is here that grace meets with our willingness, our readiness, our faith.

In the awareness of my need for healing, in my place of desperation I reach out for Jesus himself and I clear my inner house of all those things that are obstacles to faith. I surrender my pain, my doubt, my cynicism and allow Him to do what he has come to do through His presence in the Eucharist. 

My Lord and My God
My God and my all
My Lord My Life and My Love
I adore you profoundly.

Heal me Lord and I shall be healed
Save me and I shall be saved
For you are my praise!

NOWHERE TO GO - A Short Encounter

You get what you ask for but not when you expect or in the way that you imagine. 

A young-ish black haired man in a tracksuit ran down the platform and just managed to get on the train before the doors closed and it pulled away. He sat opposite me, one seat further down, and he was clearly in distress about something. I prayed for him silently and wondered to God if there was anything I could do for him. There wasn't! But I'm always wondering.

Later, at 10.00 p.m. on that pleasant night in May when I had it in mind to go the bed early, the door bell rang. We don't usually answer  at this hour but when it rang I opened the door on instinct. A slim fair-haired man was swaying back and forth with an unmistakable smell of drink off him. He wasn't badly bruised or anything but he had the look of having been beaten. There was blood above his left eyebrow. His clothes were dirty.

"I promise I haven't been drinking" he began, his speech refined, even if slurred and he handed me a piece of paper from the local Garda station which stated that he had been arrested for being disorderly. The disorder had taken place at the halting site where he lives. His own claim is that he had been beaten up by his family.

So now he had nowhere to go and he wanted me to help. I'm new here. I don't know where to take a homeless man. If he were a woman I would try getting him into the women's refuge. I have some experience there.

I told him to wait - closing the door on him because the others were already in bed and I couldn't be sure that he wouldn't cause a rumpus.

I phoned the local hospital, was put through to A&E and explained the situation to the nurse. While she went to look for information there was the sound of fighting at the door, so I dropped the phone and ran. Three young lads who had been standing at the bus stop had come in and attacked Jimmy who was now sitting on the ground. They ran away when I opened the door.

"They called me a queer" he complained "and attacked me for no reason at all." 

I decided to get him out of there for his own safety and for my sleeping household, though they must be awake now with the noise and if awake a bit worried.

A bottle flashed beneath his jacket. 

"You have to give me that" I said.

Like a child he produced it and I said "if I'm to help you at all then we have to get rid of this. You've had too much already."

"Alright! "It was a half full bottle of vodka which I poured into the flower bed and dumped the bottle in the bin.

We got into my car, having no idea where we were going. I wanted to go by the Garda station to ask if they knew a place where he might spend the night but he - naturally - would not agree and suggested we go to the next town.

I drove to the seafront, left him in the car and went to see if there was a B&B or hotel where he might stay but without success. Finally I phoned the Garda station giving no names. They had no idea where a homeless man might get a bed.

One of my colleagues phoned me "are you alright?" he asked with real concern. 

"You heard the noise" I said "sorry about the disturbance but I'm fine. I'm trying to get a bed for a homeless man. Don't worry!"

Back to the car. He had flattened out the passenger seat and was sleeping but woke as soon as I opened the door. He was hungry so we drove down to the Greek Take-Away which was empty except for the four men behind the counter. Three of them in their 20's who looked guardedly at Jimmy. The older - in his 40's I guess - took the order. Burger & chips & Coke for Jimmy who said he wanted cheese on the chips. I translated and the man not only obliged but gave him enough chips to feed a family. I wasn't having anything.

We sat on a bench near the sea. It was midnight. He insisted I eat so we ate chips out of the one bag and drank Coke out of the one bottle. Cheese on chips is very, very nice.

"Why did your family beat you up?" I asked him.

"They think I'm a queer!" The second time he used that word. It's a Traveller kind of word, the old-fashioned word for gay, and a reality that would not go down well at all in their community. I thought of the book "Gypsy Boy On The Run" which tells such a story and it's very violent.

"But I'm not a queer" he said, "I know I'm effeminate but I have two children in England. Don't you think I'm effeminate?" 

"No. I think you're refined, maybe gentle."

So we talked and ate on that beautiful night. We talked about tomorrow, how he could come back to me sober and we could work something out together. There are possibilities. 

It was so peaceful and it seemed like a eucharist, a real encounter with Christ. No doubt I was eating with Christ there. He sobered somewhat and I was completely at a loss as to what to do. I wouldn't take him home with me and hated the fact that there was nowhere for him to go, that I myself was so unable to do anything worthwhile to help him. 

In the end it was he who made the decision. "Take me to the bus stop. I'll get the night bus." 

My guess is that he got no bus because the stop is near the halting site where he lives. Maybe he went home to his lonely portocabin and God knows to what else...I went home, lay awake for a long time and prayed for him.

When tomorrow came I watched out for him but he never arrived and I suppose I knew he wouldn't.

“The worst prison would be a closed heart.” (Blessed Pope John Paul II)

My heart opened a little, like a door ajar. But I will remain somewhat a prisoner, the person on the other side of the door will remain a prisoner until I learn to open it fully. Sadly I've been saying that all my life.