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