Friday 17 May 2013


It is easier now 
Less harrowing
Not even dramatic

But its approach
Brings a sudden
Change of mood

Tears prickling
The edge of my eye

Pent up breath
Shuddering in my breast

Memory of that day
The preceding days

Last deeds done
Final words spoken

Not knowing
They were last or final

Memory of that day
When word of death broke in
So suddenly to rob us

Summoning us from
Our varied normalities

Drawing us in
To its abnormal achievement

No consolation
Ever will avail
This side of heaven

And if there is a certain peace
It is the deep silence
Of God at Golgatha

Sunday 12 May 2013


May 11, 2013 The Ascension Of Jesus Into Heaven
May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory... enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you... (Ephesians 1:17-23)

At 4.00 on the morning of May 11 in 20 centres around Ireland people gathered for the Pieta House 'Darkness Into Light' run-walk in aid of the charity that helps those who are suicidal and seeks to prevent suicide happening.

Left Shankill at 3.15am in the rain and couldn't believe the traffic as I came near Donabate - it took 15 mins to cover last 5km. A great crowd. We were part of something very special. Down in Roscommon my cousin Janette  was walking with her husband Kevin. Neighbours from Mervue were walking in Galway.

I did this especially in memory of one relative of mine who took his own life, for another who tried and also as a prayer for anyone thinking of suicide, for the families affected by its terrible pain, for all of us who struggle with darkness or depression.

I was alone in this great movement of people. Alone but connected. Not at all lonely. My aloneness gave me time to ponder, pray and listen - listen to the constant chatter and laughter - and I wondered at times do people talk and laugh so much in order to keep the darkness at bay. If it succeeds in doing that then, I suppose it's ok.

I listened also to the silence above and at 4.35 heard the first bird. It was a robin singing strong, clear, confident and it seemed that creation itself was drawing our attention upwards, seeking to uplift us.

All this movement seemed appropriate as we neared the celebration of the Ascension of Jesus, an event that draws our gaze upwards, that raises our hearts from being downcast to being uplifted. Jesus walks with us from darkness into light, from night into day. We are called to keep our attention focused on Him and in Him to find meaning where there seems to be none. It's a movement that we can choose to be part of but it's a choice that only we can make for ourselves.

We have to make the choice. I have to make it. But when you're depressed you also need help in coming to that choice. It's sometimes said of someone who has committed suicide - "if only he had talked" but often talking isn't enough. Sometimes talking is impossible.

What we as Christians are called to is to create a society in which the light is visible, to create an atmosphere of hope rather than despair. This is made possible by our own personal experience of Jesus, an experience in which we are so connected to Him that we move with Him.

Jesus was on His knees in the dark agony of Gethsemane. He died and went down into the deeper darkness of the tomb. But He emerged from that darkness in the resurrection and now in the Ascension He is lifted up to the highest heights. That's the direction our Christian society should be taking but now it would seem we have gone into reverse and we are stuck in a mud of negativity that robs us of life. We turn wine back into water, resurrection back into death, light back into darkness.

Much of the media promotes this reverse and we allow ourselves to be taken back into the dark. Because of my tendency towards depression and my struggle with it I made a choice some years ago to keep up with the news but not to read or listen any more to the endless negative interpretations that have the effect of making us feel hopeless and powerless. And I deliberately look for the light and the hope that lifts me up and that makes it possible for me to be an instrument of hope, peace, light.

The Prayer of St. Francis is appropriate for this time and for the spirit that has come to the Church in Pope Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of Your Peace!
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.

Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is discord, harmony.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sorrow, joy.

Saturday 4 May 2013


Peace I bequeath to you, 
my own peace I give you, 
a peace the world cannot give, 
this is my gift to you. 
(John 14)

The beautiful words of Jesus, the beautiful reality of the Peace He brings into our disturbed and troubled lives. 

A central part of my calling, a core part of who I am as a person is to be a man of peace, to bring peace into people’s lives, to create an atmosphere of peace. In this I know I am faithful to the gift that God has given me, a gift that is not for myself primarily but for others. 

But there are times when Peace is not what God is giving. Jesus speaks these troubling words in Matthew 10:32 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” 

Some years ago I was having a troubled, sleepless night, feeling in myself a distress that was not simply mine but was bigger and beyond me. I struggled for a few hours before getting out of bed to pray and to read the Bible, hoping that this would bring relief and peace. 

But I was in for a surprise because the Word that I found was from Ezekiel 13:10 “They have misled my people, saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace.” The message is that we should not go after a false peace or preach a false peace, a peace that God has not sent; there are times when what is needed is disturbance rather than what we call peace. 

We are in such a time now, a time for being disturbed because of the unjust and immoral law that our government is determined to pass through the ‘Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013’. We cannot have the luxury of Peace when it will be “legal” to directly and intentionally kill a child in the womb. 

The Labour TD Anne Ferris points out rightly that the Church cannot take the high moral ground when it “had to be dragged kicking and screaming to admit what some men of the cloth did to children for many years…”. But the crimes of the Church do not give anyone the right to kill a child. 

She also rightly says “If Jesus Christ were on this Earth today he wouldn’t be turning a blind eye to the injustice that women have to go through.” And in this she is expressing a pain that I as a man will never experience but I am also absolutely certain that Jesus would not turn a blind eye to the threat to its life that the child in the womb will face in the future Ireland. He will not turn a blind eye to the unnecessary death or intentional killing of a child.

I have felt for a long time now that we as a country are sleepwalking into the future, that we have been manipulated into a numbness in which we have surrendered our lives into the control of a government that is completely disconnected from God in the decisions it is making on our behalf. 

Will anything shock us into paying attention to what is happening; do any of us really understand or feel what the reality of abortion will mean for the individual, voiceless and most vulnerable person in our society? Do we really care at all? 

On Facebook the other day a friend posted a photograph of an aborted baby. It has shaken me and I deserve to be shaken. As a priest I have been called to bless babies in incubators who are the same size as the dead child in the photograph. Some people are offended by this photograph. Most people find in very – even impossible – to look at. 

The Song of the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53) came to mind when I saw this photo. The Servant is so brutally disfigured and people are so appalled that they cannot watch - "one from whom as it were we averted our gaze" - and yet as Christians we have to look at reality head on, not looking away from what is so shockingly unpleasant. We have to "look on Him whom they have pierced" - in looking at the photo above we are looking at Christ himself. 

Another thought that comes to mind now, the words of Jesus in The Last Judgement from Matthew 25 "whatever you did to one of the least of these you did to me." 

And for most of us the more disturbing conclusion of Jesus might be "whatever you neglected to do for the least of these, you neglected to do to me"

As well as consequences for society there are personal consequences attached to whichever choice we make - whether it be our action or our neglect. 

Another disturbing aspect of what our government are doing is the disregard they have for the right of conscience - TD's will not be allowed vote according to their conscience, Catholic hospitals will be forced to carry out abortions. And the man leading this is not a socialist without faith but one who has professed himself to be Catholic. He is a leader I have defended; his is the party I have voted for all my adult life and I am bitterly disillusioned.

And in the end I have to come back again to my beloved Jesus, though I have to confess that with Him too I felt desolate the other morning, feeling like Martha who said "Lord if you had been here...." this would not have happened. But I also have to go the distance with Martha who went on to say "but even now I know that whatever you ask of God will be granted."

This is a link to the photograph of an aborted baby. You don’t have you look at it but somehow I pray that you have the courage to see the reality. It should not be shown to children. 

Friday 3 May 2013

The Hand That Hurts

At the other end
Of a chastising hand

Sting on the face
Broken nose
Spinning head

Blood-flow unchecked
Child’s body falling over

Love is uncertain

Tender arms enfolding
A hold that grows
Too tight

Creeping hand groping
The child’s privacy

And all the mothers
Drinking tea in the warm kitchen
Bend over laughing

Almost choking
On their biscuits

Red faces paler
Than that of the child

It isn’t true to say
The hand that hurts
Is the hand that heals

The hand is impotent
And cannot undo the done

And there is no wound
To speak of or look at

It too has its privacy
Finding its own destructive
Consolations committed
To its own annihilation

Wednesday 1 May 2013


I feel like a Yank
Returning to this rugged

Her face in repose
Utterly unfamiliar

In death 

It is her voice
That remains

The bright kindliness
With which she used
To speak my name

Summoning summer days
Of another time

Young men

Fast driving
Effortless friendship

I remember

David diving
Into the bottle-green
Calm of the deep

To retrieve the oar
That had slipped

Drifting away
Like a prophecy

Coming back
To the shallow shore
And the dying

Out of our friendship

I still don’t know
How we became
Such strangers

I think of him now
Pray for him sleeping 
Slipping away

Far away from here

The innocent bed
We shared back then
In the way that young friends did

As close in soul
As in body
The tender warmth
Of it

The beauty

And though it is lost
It is a history
That abides within my soul