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

Saturday 18 October 2014


The first time of anything
Is fascinating

Arriving by night
In a strange land

Waking at dawn
To the first sight of it

The sun on this
Particular East
Being wholly new

The specific scent of air
Emanating from the land
And its people

The sight of food
Not seen before

Having no idea
How it will taste
As it enters my mouth

The sweet sweet taste
Of chukuu in India
Lingering on the dry
Texture of my tongue


She moves through the field
Where the wild grass flows

Touching buttercups
Daisies and weeds

And she is pleased
For she is pregnant with Life

Leaping in every womb
And every heart

The sight and sound
Of her arrival

Leaping in me for joy
Word made flesh in me

Wednesday 15 October 2014


If it were deserved
It would not be Mercy
Said the mother to the king

It’s badly needed now
That a long Indian
Summer has suddenly


Bleak and bitter
The wind rushing
Through the open
Doors of a cold church

We turn on every light
To offset this noontime

The sadness of a life
Once full of innocent
Promise and hope


We will not belittle
The damage done
The legacy of hurt

We the undeserving

And God alone
Can make sense
Of all the  wrong

Tame the wild
Impulse of a man

Fatal addiction

And heal what
Will not or does
Not want healing

Mercy is what
We are looking for

Stirring in the womb
That is best understood
By motherhood

Abundant as the
Rain torrenting down
On his remains


Air  like a cold
Wet blanket

Wrapped around
My entirety

Light is shadowed
A curtained clouded

I smell the sickness
Within me

Taste an ancient

The sense

That something
Is wrong

Something unknown
Not understood

And I am on my knees

Monday 13 October 2014


It was a week of four funerals at home. One was for my first cousin Eileen who is the same age as me. Another was Mary O'Connor who was one of the early and strong mothers of Ceannt Avenue. Memories flood in, feeling are stirred. Even when the deceased is not close to me I still soak up the grief and by the end of the last funeral I was feeling fairly shattered. 

Harry and I went to collect Katie and Laura from school and when we got back to Toorkeel the two girls brought me out the back to show me something important. Harry had already told me but their version was special. The girls are aged 6 and four respectively.

Princess the goldfish died in her tank. Katie and Laura were sorrow-struck and they buried her in a pink box under a sod of earth out the back. Next day they went out to have a look at the little grave and lo and behold nothing remained under the sod. "Guess what happened!" they told me "God came down and took the box and Princess up to heaven!" They are delighted with the outcome. They know now what happens when people die. They have been wondering about Nana and Grandad Monson. They've seen their grave. And the idea doesn't scare them as it might because they know what God does when a loved one dies.

After a while splashing in mud puddles we went in for dinner. The grandparents were there to celebrate their wedding anniversary and ten of us sat around the big table for dinner including baby Jack. A happy gathering.

Katie left the table to go and watch television. After a while she was back standing silently at the door, looking at me. I unserstood that I was to go with her and the two of us snuggled together on the couch eating chocolate cake. 

There was in me a feeling of completeness, contentment and the stress of death was washed away. An interior feeling of dried tears. This must surely be a preview of the Banquet in the Kingdom of heaven that is spoken about in the Bible:

On this mountain,
the Lord of hosts will prepare for all peoples
a banquet of rich food.
On this mountain he will remove
the mourning veil covering all peoples,
and the shroud enwrapping all nations,
he will destroy Death for ever.
The Lord will wipe away
the tears from every cheek;
he will take away his people’s shame

(Isaiah 26:6-10)

The Wedding Banquet spoken of by Jesus (Matthew 22:1-14) is offered first to the Chosen People but they are not interested and refuse the invitation, sometimes violently. The Banquet is then opened up to everyone on the highways and byways so that the wedding hall is filled with "bad and good alike." 

The inclusion of the bad is interesting in the light of the current discussion in the Church about who should or should not be admitted to Holy Communion.

The table in Scripture is the place of belonging, the place of intimacy. The religious leaders were offended and scandalized when Jesus sat a table with sinners, for there were many of them among his followers. 

The table of the Eucharist is certainly infinitely more sacred than any other and should not be treated lightly or with disprespect but it is significant that Jesus sat at the table of the Eucharist with Judas and that he washed his feet in the perfection of his love. We as the Body of Christ in our time have to take this to heart.

There is, of course, the requirement that the guests at the wedding should wear the wedding garment and the one who had none was thrown out. Everyone else, the bad as well as the good, were allowed stay because they were wearing the wedding garment.

In wondering what is the meaning of the wedding garment, my mind is taken to the liturgy of baptism in which in newly baptized is wrapped in a white garment as a sign of new life in Christ - "you have become a new creation, and have clothed yourself in Christ. See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity"

We come to the table clothed in Christ, we have "put on Christ" and so we are required to bring to the table the reality of our lives lived in Christ, lives that give expression to the fruits of the Holy Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness. goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. None of us possess all of these in perfection but we strive for them every day. 

This I think is what the garment means and it means the presence of harmony in our gatherings and relationships. It means the absence or freedom from rancour and discord.

This is what I was expreiencing with the family that day and, something I experience with the children is the absence of judgement.

If there are issues that disrupt our being together then we have to try to deal with them. If I have issues that disrupt or disturb others then I have the responsibility to struggle with them and sort them out. 

Often we give up this struggle thinking it futile but we have a reminder from St. Paul in a line that has been significant for me in overcoming something in the past - "there is nothing that I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:3)

It is an important part of the garment that I need to wear if I want to take my place in the celebration of the Kingdom of Heaven and that Kingdom begins here and now.

Saturday 11 October 2014


Anchors aweigh
I heard Him say

Not a shout
But a whisper

In the hushed tone
Of a funeral

Foggy dawn

We have been long
Enough in the calm

Safe embrace of
The harbour

To us the sea calls out
To us deep waters


Light the way
Through mist and dark

The heavy swell ahead
Holds no fear

No storm can blind
The eyes that are fixed

On horizons
Not explored

The centre-point
Of all things

The final destination
Of all farriers

Wednesday 8 October 2014


The smell of cabbage boiling 

Out the back

Baked bread

Working all hours for their advancement
She achieved it

A woman of character
Sturdy and proud

Lovingly tender

She has gone now 
The way of all our mothers

They are flying away
Have already flown

That's the age we are

I bring my mother's bag 
To the funeral bearing
Memory and respect

My own dignity

Sorrows of arrested breasts 
Brotherly burdens borne 

Not as heavy now
For we too are grown stronger 
In confidence
In love 

Being parents 
Of another generation 
Who will one day remember

In memoriam
In aeternam

Monday 6 October 2014

A Clouded Brightness

It's an awful mess
O God

A Messy Murky Madness

I cut a path
Through the darkness
Part the curtain

For light
It's not yet

Not bright at all
And very dark

I stay awake
And wait

The frailest
Slimmest hope

That there never was
A day that did not

So I will break

Away from night
And into light

Even if it is
A clouded brightness

Friday 3 October 2014



They have words
But few that I
Can understand

Having not yet
Achieved stillness
Enough to hear

At such depth

Tears well up
Overflowing down
Her sobbing face

I am on my knees
She is in my arms

There is nothing more
I can say but
Pray silently

Into her abandonment

"Thank you"
She whispers


He looks out
From eyes that shine

And smiling lips
That utter these
Three words

"God bless you"

Breathing it like
A blown kiss

He falls asleep
And I am carried