Sunday 21 December 2014

SPECIAL NEEDS: Giving Sound To The Silence

Awaking what is dormant…giving sound to the silence

I’m thinking about the arrival of Jesus, the new arrival for this time in my life, for all our time and I wonder in what space will he choose to be born again. There are the usual suspects – my sin, the areas of my life where I’m not in control, my vulnerability.

But then I remember an add on tv. A man is walking along the corridor of his company building when he hears an old phone ringing. The sound comes from behind a door of ‘The Complaints Department’. The man enters the room which is covered in dust and cobwebs; he answers the phone, listens to the voice on the other end of the line and replies something like, “sorry, you’ve got the wrong number!”

The product they are advertising has not had a complaint in years and there is no complaint now, so the man emerges from the room satisfied and he closes the door on the gathered dust within.

I’d like to be able to stand before God with no complaint made against me and, at Christmas, I’m hoping that Jesus will come and make his home within at least one of the areas where there is some complaint and need for improvement. But I suspect now that God has a different idea.

In the place where there is no complaint there is also no life, no engagement. It is in decay, dying, dead. The birth of Jesus is about life and engagement in places where decay is at work.

Yesterday I celebrated Mass with a group of special needs adults and their families at the St. John of God Centre, Ravenswell in Bray. I’m not used to a setting like this but decide at the outset that I would “be myself” as much as possible and go with the flow.

Most of the residents are not able to speak in the conventional way. Some make no sound at all and some make a lot of noise, different people would let out a spontaneous roar from time to time. I had no idea if I was communicating or not but I said what I had to say and had to shout a lot of the time to be heard.

Joy, the chaplain had prepared a lovely liturgy in which various members of the community placed a figure in the crib and a member of their family would read a prayer. As Louise placed a shepherd in the crib she was pure delighted that the red of his cloak matched the red of her jumper. She said it with signs and with a smile that had been previously absent on her anxious face.

When it was complete I suggested we sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. A bit cheesy maybe but it connected, so we sang it again. Everyone connects with happy birthday. And at the end of Mass we sang ‘Silent Night’ everyone joining in with whatever sound God gave them to sing with. I don’t think anything else I do over Christmas will compare with this.

After Mass I went down to Eugene, a man I anointed a couple of months ago because he was dying and here he is, revived, his beautiful blue eyes smiling. He has been silent for a long time but his sister sitting beside him said he was very animated and excited by the Mass. She hadn’t seen him so animated for a long time. He was one of the ones who let out a roar from time to time. And I understood the connection that had taken place. It was pure joy! And to think our society is moving in the direction of saying that most of the people at that Mass should not have been born.

There was part of Eugene that had gone silent, something that lay dormant within him. Yesterday at Mass God came and awakened that which was dormant and gave a sound to the silence within him. There is part of me that lays dormant, a fear and a love choked within me. This is perhaps my special need.

It reminds me to allow God himself to choose what part of my life He will enter and touch this Christmas or at any other time. Like King David, the most noble part of me  wants to provide Him with the most appropriate dwelling place but God insists that He will make the choice and, like Mary I will now let Him do just that.

My prayer for the remainder is simply, “Come Lord Jesus, let it be done to me according to your Word!”

Eamonn Monson sac

Monday 8 December 2014


Nights I cannot sleep
Mornings I cannot wake

It’s one of those times

Twenty five minutes
Past twelve


This house is my soul
The kitchen its centre

Telling the prayer
Of a battered chair

Ablutions in a cold

Cinder ashes tumbled
On the concrete floor

No fire

An idle shovel leaning
There for want
Of a hand

Holy water
Faded photo
Clear memory

The sieved life

Womanly pink painted
Over manly blue

Peeling away
The old distinctions

Male or female
No different now
In Him


He is not here
The One I love

He might have gone
The One I need

My Saviour Brother

The fields of herding

Over the hills of grazing

It could be late
When He returns

Or am I the absent one
The blind who cannot

The numb who does not

The Immaculate Heart
On the mantle piece

Must help me here
Assure me

That we will connect

That He is here
Even in the waiting

Take the shirt that hangs
There waiting too
, She says

Be covered, comforted
Warmed in the scented

In the inner chamber
Where Love lays down
With every loss

Listening to the distant
Washing Waves of sea
That whispers hope

Wednesday 26 November 2014


Scent of white
Jasmine mingled
With burning turf

Taste of arabica
Coffee ground brown

Sounds of the house
Stretching awake

The creak
Of beaking day

Damp hiss of wood
On fire kindle

Repressed flame leaping
Into life

The uncertainty of wounds
Not healed finds expression

Blended ecstasy
Of agony and hope

Tuesday 25 November 2014


You’ve had it
As a serious artist


Your songs are on
The mellow music playlist
Of Sunshine Radio


The nostalgic flabbiness
Of the middle-aged
Who hanker pastwards

Your edge
Sharp with meaning


Become a blunted

You can have it
As a serious artist


In the stripped down

Prophetic silence
That gives birth

To forward thrusted

Fire of soul
Sharpness of sword

Sound of the deep

Saturday 22 November 2014

IN PRISON - I Will Be The Face Of Christ For You

Feast Of Christ The King
I was in prison and you visited me

The book and the movie ‘Dead Man Walking’ tell the true story of  Matthew Poncelet, a  man facing death alone, except for the love of a Catholic sister. He is a castaway, considered untouchable and worthy of death by his society. The nun comforts him and says, "I can't bear the thought that you would die without seeing one loving face. I will be the face of Christ for you." She is Sister Helen Prejean, a Sister of St. Joseph of Medaille. He is one of four convicted of murder whom she has accompanied to the death chamber in Louisiana and he asked her to accompany him spiritually in his journey to death.

In celebrating the feast of Christ the King we honour a King who is a shepherd, one who looks after all His people, with emphasis on the word ALL. Not just SOME  but ALL - each and every one!

“The Lord says this: I am going to look after my flock myself and keep all of it in view. As a shepherd keeps all his flock in view when he stands up in the middle of his scattered sheep, so shall I keep my sheep in view. I shall rescue them from wherever they have been scattered during the mist and darkness. I myself will pasture my sheep, I myself will show them where to rest–it is the Lord who speaks. I shall look for the lost one, bring back the stray, bandage the wounded and make the weak strong. I shall watch over the fat and healthy. I shall be a true shepherd to them.” (Ezekiel 34:11-12,15-17)

As Jesus Himself is, so we are called to be; we who are the Body of Christ in our time. And when it comes to the end of time and our lives are assessed and judged by God then the bottom line will be “whatever you did to one of the least of these you did it to me and whatever you neglected to do to one of the least of these you neglected to do it to me” (Matthew 25:31-46)

He will not be asking how much did you pray but how much did you do for the poor. All our prayers and all the Masses we celebrate are supposed to translate into true service of those most in need. And of course this is what is generally happening. As a people the Irish are very generous in donating to charitable causes; here in Shankill there is great generosity to the St. Vincent de Paul. I myself have always had a love for the men of the road, perhaps because my grand uncle was one of them and died on the streets of London; perhaps I feel that I myself could be one of them. In all my dealings with these men I have found myself to be profoundly blessed.

But there is one group of people that has stirred my conscience from today’s gospel - the prisoners. Jesus says “when I was in prison you visited me!” Sadly, I have never visited a prison and so have never visited Christ in this way. And I’m not suggesting that we all need to go running off to start visiting prisons because there are people called to this ministry  but we are all called to be aware of the prisoner, to be concerned for the prisoner.

The prisoner is the criminal, the wrongdoer, the guilty one who deserves to be punished. And the prisoner is one who needs to be saved, to see the face of Christ, to experience that love that God has for every single person. Jesus the  innocent person died for the guilty, so that he could bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18)

While the world leaves the prisoner in his condemnation, God is saying I will rescue him from his darkness, I will look for him in the place where he is lost. That’s the extent of Christianity’s reach - that we have a heartfelt desire to save the guilty, the criminal, the most detestable of people. That we say with Sr. Helen “I can't bear the thought that you would die without seeing one loving face. I will be the face of Christ for you."

And though most of us cannot do this face to face with the person in prison, we can and must do it for the guilty people we meet in the ordinary course of life. To be the face of Christ so that Christ Himself can transform guilty lives.

It occurs to me that we can't always reveal the smiling, kind face of Christ. Sometimes the true face of Christ is the wounded, hurt face and perhaps the guilty one needs to see this hurt face in order to come to his senses, to be saved, rescued and brought to God.

It’s what Pope Francis is trying to inspire us to do as Church - to be the face of Christ for those who find themselves in difficult situations, whose lives are at odds with the Catholic and Christian teachings, those who are stuck in destructive ways of living.

I suggest that we create a space in our prayer for the prisoner and for his victims. One of the inspiring things is that Sr. Helen prayed with Matthew and later prayed with the family of his victim. Pray for the lost, those who are stuck, those in the wrong, those who are victims. In doing this we are touching Christ himself in a real and meaningful way.

Whatever you do to the least of these you do it to me. We need to do this with urgency as if there were no time to waste.

Prayer of Fr. Slavko of Medugorje,

"Lord, grant
that I may always think as if it were to be my last thought
that I may speak as if it were to be my last word
that I may work as if it were to be my last deed
that I may suffer as if it were to be the last cross I could offer
that I may pray as if it were my last opportunity to speak to You while on Earth!"

(Fr. Slavko Barbaric OFM, Medugorje)

Tuesday 11 November 2014


I am present
At his passing
This fine strong gentle


Builder of boats
Husband father grandad

Deep strength of faith
On his knees even

In his agony
I brought him

He loved the sea
In me and made

Made me feel

While we talked
Galway and other
Common ground

Fingering old timber
Caressed like the tender
Flesh of a loved one

The last call
Talked of hours


Time to heed
Better instincts
Without hesitation

All generations gathered
Around his fading moments

To sing and say
Final farewells
Whipsered in his ear

One by one
Unrestrained Love

Sé do bheatha
a Mhuire

Child's head
Resting on his breast

He falls asleep
Slips away

Monday 10 November 2014


In the premature falling

Head bowed bent
Forward against the absence
Of an Indian Summer

Rain like Rice Crispies
On the flapping plastic
Of my hood

Wind whipped ears

My eyes in custody
See only the ground
On which I walk


The world empty now
Except for the odd stray
Runner squawking seagull
Scared crow

Swan heads buried
In the river

But not hiding

I think of all the false

I have tasted

The true belonging
Of Love

That draws me in

To the Claddagh church
Before Mass

Enfolded in the radiance
Of Your Face
Lifted up to intimate communion


How is a child
Supposed to know

That the truth lies
Somewhere in between

Your scolding emotion
Scalded devotion?

You never said
That it was love

It feels like hate

The too-tight noose
Of your embrace

Sword of tongue
Tasting like captivity

Though you keep promising

Friday 7 November 2014



A bit rough around the edges
Said Love

With tears
And a quivering voice

Like the fields he farmed
The soil that felt his footfall

Strong and straight

Not easy then with
Weakness in another

Vulnerability became him
As with surprising grace
He himself surrendered

Allowing us a glimpse
Of something more tender


Praying his way Homeward
With an eye for the frailest
Left behind


He is laid to rest now
In this land that he loved

A calm November day
Sun shining, birds singing

Breeze blowing
Bough of trees bending

River flowing
Rainbow in a clear
Blue sky

Last leaf falling
Whistling in the wind

In this place there is

(In memory of Fr. Roger Rafter sac)

Thursday 6 November 2014



INTRODUCTION As we remember the dead today we pray with great hope to the Lord who is constantly bringing life out of death and light out of darkness.


We remember our own dead and our own sadness … Tears speak out our grief, but they also witness to our love and we are glad to have loved so much that we can cry.  May those we have loved rest in your embrace, O Lord.  LORD HEAR US

We remember the loss and grief of others around us.  We think of the funerals we have been at in the last year … We pray especially for those who are without consolation.  LORD HEAR US

We pray for all the people who have died in our community and in our country this past year – older people; younger people; those who died content; those who died struggling – all sharing in common that they died into the arms of our loving God.  LORD HEAR US

Wherever there is grief, may hope be allowed to enter in and sit beside it, as its silent companion.  May we learn to believe what we cannot see, that our life is hidden with Christ in God.  LORD HEAR US

We pray for all who have died around the world in the last year.  We pray for those who have starved to death; for those who were victims of natural disasters; for those who were killed by their fellow human beings.  We pray, knowing that you, Lord, have carved their names on the palm of your hand.  LORD HEAR US

We know that each person dies just as they are.  We ask you, Lord to work through our prayers, for the forgiveness of their faults, the purification of their souls and the completion of their journey into the arms of your everlasting love.  LORD HEAR US

CONCLUSION (by the Presider)
We make all our prayers through Christ Our Lord Amen

Saturday 1 November 2014

Prayer (In Loving Memory of Paul)

(In loving memory of my cousin Paul who found solace in the words of this poem and whose untimely death has given these words another meaning. November 3, 2012)

Place me on a shore at dusk
By the sea’s healing waters
Where thoughts like boats
Go floating by my mind’s eye
Some circling round
Or anchored to distract
Yet not to hide your Light
My Love

Place me at dusk on a shore
Where the soul’s calm sea
Is stormed and laid to rest
At your command
To contemplate your Light
My Love

This I ask


Saturday 25 October 2014


She waits in the shadows
Of a winter evening’s dusk

Eyes grown slowly dim
Everything slowing down
Children wandering
Away and astray

The tight control
On life’s unfolding

In exile

Looking homeward
With a wondering

Would it have been
Better not to have left
At all in the first place?

The question might
Be better left
Unasked in the end
The answer left



I am
An exile torn
Between home

And the foreign
Land that welcomed

Where I have
Put down deep roots
And borne

Part of me
Is left behind
In every arrival

Given to each
Person encountered

And home
Is only gained
Again when all
Is lost

And there is no more
Letting go


The child understood
Chains of the heart
The cold of exclusion

Before his conception
Formed felt forth

By Creator
Mother Father

Uttered into sound
Issuing from the deep recesses
Of pre-creation chaos

The cry for deliverance
Abiding wordless language
Of his fettered flight-bound

Yearning ever upward

Thursday 23 October 2014


Sitting at the back of an empty church on a dark evening, I look up the distance to the tabernacle and think of Judith Hearne (from the novel by Brian Moore). I had intended meditating, taking up the usual posture, when something within suggested that postures are not necessary when one comes to visit Love. So, I took to gazing and thinking.

Judith Hearne was a woman lost in alcoholism and absolutely lonely at 40-something. She had prayed all her life and had gotten a raw deal and she comes in the end to a similar church demanding some answer from Jesus in the tabernacle but He remains silent and her faith is weakening rapidly. The sacristan and later the priest come out into the sanctuary and their attitude in front of the tabernacle suggests to her that they don’t believe either that there’s anyone there. We who are familiar with the sacred can become so casual that we forget the Presence and maybe stop believing in reality, without ever thinking about it.

Now in this church where I sit, the sacristan comes out to prepare the altar for Mass. She waddles around the sanctuary without seeming to have any interest in the tabernacle. Instead she repeatedly peers down towards the shadow in which I am sitting. Does she notice the stranger that I am? It is good to be here.

After a while a young woman comes through the side door, walking briskly across in front of the altar, without so much as a pause or a glance. She has NO idea that He’s there; she takes no notice. “Does it bother you” I ask Him “that people ignore you like this?” But He remains silent. It bothers me!

A young father with his teenage boy and girl arrives. They’re dressed for an occasion and in the absence of wife and mother I take it that she’s dead and that this Mass is being offered for her - in the event it wasn’t for her. I feel a pang of grief and might even cry. There’s an air of grief about him, while they (the children) seem quite happy. He genuflects passing the altar. They do not. “Do you not mind Lord?” I ask again.

Soon they are joined by other families, similarly dressed with the same mixture of knowledge and ignorance of the Presence. They take up two pews between them.

The Mass is rattled through with a frightening speed. It pleases a lot of people. The only part that’s taken slowly is the homily and that is simply a drag! At the consecration at least I want him to please, please slow down and give us a chance to savour. But no!

Faith in the Real Presence of Jesus! Saint Faustina had a vision in prayer of looking at the Blessed Sacrament and seeing the face of Jesus in all its glory and He tells her that He is pleased with those who see Him by faith and not by vision. “Oh, how pleasing to me is their great faith! You see, although there appears to be no trace of life in Me, in reality it is present in its fullness in each and every Host. But for me to be able to act upon a soul, the soul must have faith. Oh, how pleasing to me is living faith!”  (Divine Mercy In My Soul: Diary, N.1420).

We tend to think of faith in terms of vision and consolation but the reality is that faith is exercised and lives in desolation. It is a labour a lot of the time, a labour of love.

Faustina had her experiences of desolation. “I feel such desolation in my soul that I do not know how to explain it even to myself. No one understands a heart wounded by love, and when such a heart feels itself abandoned interiorly, no one can comfort it.” (Diary N. 943).

No comfort! At times there is no comfort, a sense that God is standing back in silence, doing nothing. The abandonment of Jesus on the Cross is the abandonment of us all. WHY have you forsaken me? And the Father says absolutely nothing in that moment. Faith is moulded, carved into shape in this desolate and dark abandonment.

“Patience, silence and prayer - these are what give strength to the soul.” We might easily run away from desolation. We  DO run away sometimes. And the Hound of Heaven chases us down until we face it. Then faith grows like a seed in the dark soil, like a piece of china that comes shining out of the burning kiln. It is a lovely thing that comes out of the fire and the dark earth.


The Cross is upon me
This Epiphany

Myrrh for death and burial
I have no other gift

Knees that must fall down
To worship

This birth, this child, this life

The collision
Has always been there
But we prefer not to notice
Leaving the dealing
For another time

I was praying the crucifixion
On a hard day
When all my effort
Had lost meaning

The futile taste
Of bile rising up

The little child of God
Not yet familiar with words
Came to speak

Annunciation to the crucified
Birth to the dying
Beginning to the ending
Hope for the hopeless

There are possibilities
In everything  


We were largely content
To play in the avenue
Stadium of our invention
Sixty something children or so

Largely content with skilled
And innocent games

But there were days
When we needed to know
Courage and how much of it
We had in us

As one we marched down
To the top of Tone Avenue
Pitting ourselves against
The patience and restraint
Of Congo Murray who had
No patience in him at all

Here Congo! here Congo!

We in unison roared
Springing him into leap
And chase till we were
Safely home and he was
In retreat

We did it again and again
Until  he got so vexed
He decided to put a stop
To our collective gallop

The girl let out a screech
That turned us cold
Pumping blood that made
Us colder still

Congo had taken a huge
Lump out of her leg
Swear to God we said
Crossing our throats

Our tails between our legs
For a while


I would love my children 
To know

What it was like to work
As a boy

I grew up at eleven
And loved it

The job and the first
Two pounds wages

Upstairs in a music shop
With a speaker on the window
For all the town to hear

Black Velvet Band
Was huge that Summer
And all the days were hot

I did errands and the tinker
In me revelled

Going off to the hardware
For a can of paint

And there I was
The cat that got the cream
Crossing Eyre Square
In sunshine

And out of the blue
I collapsed black out cold

Opening my astonished eyes
To a crowd of grown ups
Looking down

But worst of all
The can had leaked
And I ran with it

The boss roared
You bloody eejit

Never thinking to ask
How or why the leak
And I never thinking
To explain

Calming The Storm?

Are these the wonders of the Lord
That we behold now

Is this the sea
On which we sail
The unleashing of
His pent up tears

The gale of His panting

Is this what it takes
For us to really pray
To scream out our need
Of  Him?

Peter’s boat is old now
Unsafely holding all
That is needed

Him and us

For everything there is
A season

There will be an answer
To the prayer

He will awake

There will be again
That quiet calm of His

But this is the season
Of our being tossed about
The tumult

The season of our crying
And it is the season

Of His sleeping


Dis-eased solar plexus
Panic pitch

I have an abundance
Of fuchsia at the back of my eyes

Tears of God

And mine a bucketful
For the child
That might have gone
To Letterfrack

And the one who was sent

Into remote cold discipline
Speechless eyes searching
The strangeness

A boy disturbed
By abandonement
Difficult to deal with
For being not wanted
By mother and father

Left to seek of strangers
What would not be given
Could not

Given up and over
To the pretence of Christ
Perverse Gospel

Suffer the little children
The little children suffered