Saturday 31 December 2016


In the beginning
Gay was happy

Before the word
Became the name

Of the most vulnerable
On the earth


The repressed
Oppressed voice

Burned like a fire
In the bones

Until it could
No longer be


It cried out

And gained it


And having come
To this

Will you not now
Hear another

Silenced voice?

The one to whom

Of life
May be denied

Will you not now
Stand up and shout

For them?

Just for those

Who can shout
The loudest

And not for those
Who cannot shout
At all?


Friday 30 December 2016

FILUM (Filleted)

I am
A fish filleted

Too often



Tied up

For roasting

The consummation
I have prayed for

Too easily

Be careful
What you pray for

Sunday 4 December 2016

A HIGHWAY FOR THE LORD - The Direct And Simple Route

Second Sunday of Advent

On my way back from giving a retreat one winter's day, I stood in Maam Valley admiring the mountains, pondering the words of the Prophet Isaiah - Let every valley be filled in, every mountain and hill be laid low. (Isaiah 40) - and I thought, what a sad prophecy. It didn't make sense to me to think of such majesty being lowered, filled in; majesty that speaks so clearly of the Beauty and Majesty of God.

Then I understood that the levelling and the filling in are about making it easier for God and His people to meet. The simplyfying of religion, making it less complicated.  It is done by making a straight highway for our God  - preceding verse from Isaiah 40.

Among recent developments that I love most in Ireland  are the motorways that make travel quicker, easier and less stressful - the M6 to Galway in particular. Some complain that it has made travel boring but not for me!

I have found in it a symbol and a paralell for the spiritual journey that I am on - the most direct route to God. St. Therese the Little Flower had a vision in which she was about to begin making the journey to God by climbing an enormous stairway but she noticed that there was also an elevator which would make the ascent to God quicker, more direct and straightforward. The elevator represents the Little Way of total childlike trust in God, the way of simplicity and surrender. In my case the motorway is the elevator!

As there are rules of the road that apply on the motorway, so there is a rule to the spiritual way of simplicity. It is the rule of the Gospel, the life of Our Lord Jesus. This was the original intention of St. Vincent Pallotti, that our rule of life would be the life of Jesus himself and if we follow Him faithfully, if we take Him as the Way, then our life will be well lived and no other rule or law would be necessary.

The Way of Jesus is the way of union with the will of the Father and, like Jesus, we are invited to surrender our will to the Father and by our surrender to discover that in His will we find peace, a peace that is quite distinctive, unique. It is a peace that is not gained from all the beautiful material trappings and Christmas decoration. Peace is the certain fruit in the way direct of simplicity and surrender.

There's an interesting section of the M6 somewhere near Ballinasloe, an area where they encountered solid rock which they cut through and now on the left hand side heading towards Galway there's this fabulous wall of rock. I always admire it and think it's a wonderful achievement, a beautiful sight.

This too reminds me of the obstacles we encounter on our spiritual journey, obstacles that can be solid and obstinate as rock. The promise is that all such obstacles will be cut through so that we may pass more easily along the Way. It is not a promise of life free from difficulty and challenge but it is a route that is certain, supported by divine grace and more direct than any other.

It's our habit and tendency to make our own way in life, to want our own way and in pursuing it we climb many mountains, traverse valleys and travel a multitude of winding roads that make reaching our destination more difficult and uncertain.

We fear surrender to the will of God. We fear it as the Israelites feared crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land. Their fear prevented them moving in the right direction and, as a result, they spent 40 years wandering in the desert.

There is no need for us to wander on the long and winding road of our own choosing. We can take the direct, swift and simple route which is the Way of Jesus.


A bitter bracing day 
Is what I need
To snap me out

Of apathy

A perfect Winter’s day
Bright sunshine and cold

Beautiful colours of evening 
Birds singing like Springtime 

Going inside to solitude
The cell of my heart

With a thirst and a hunger
To attend to

There’s a tightening about me
Hopeless of change

But  a memory 
Of old blessedness stirs
To give hope to the waiting

I trust it has a reason.

Friday 2 December 2016

In Expectancy Of Surprise

I had gone through a very difficult meeting and, feeling bruised and sorry, I sat in the back garden in Belgrano letting the sun warm me. Tommy, who was about three years old, stood watching from a distance and when he felt it was safe he approached and started chatting. I have no Spanish and he no English, so it was a childlike conversation that drew me out of myself.

He opened his little book to show me a picture of the Annunciation and I wished its joy would happen for me then. But it did not and I was not up to it.

Later in the evening I was praying the sorrowful mysteries when the Angelus bell rang and it struck me that I was experiencing a collision of sorrow with joy - that the joy of Annunciation was trying to break into my sorrow. And I chose to accept this strange mingling. It has happened many times since that, while praying the sorrowful mysteries, the Angelus bell rang. The Angel of the Lord is always declaring the Good News and we are asked to receive it. 

When we come to the seasons of the Spirit we have expectations that our lives will match the season in its time - sorrow in Holy week, joy at Easter and Christmas - but it does not always work like that. Human life, life in the Spirit is not a neatly packaged thing. 

The Holy Spirit who came upon Mary – and upon us - is a Spirit whose direction we cannot predict or control. Mary surrendered her life to the movement of the Spirit and as a result she entered into her time of expectancy. 

The expectant mother does not know who her child will be and, even if today she can know the child's gender, she does not know what the child will look like or be like. And when the child is born she and her husband are surprised by joy. And as the child grows they are constantly surprised and amazed by the person emerging before their eyes. 

What spoils the life of a child sometimes is that parents move from expectancy to expectation. They have expectations of what the child should become and sometimes push the child in the direction of their own expectations. 

Expectations are narrow and defined and often harsh. We do it to each other all the time and when someone doesn't live up to our expectations of them we become disappointed, even angry. 

Expectancy is open, always open to the surprises that emerge in life. The expectant person is one who waits and is open to the joy that can enter into sorrow, open to what God can do in any moment. Open to it, waiting for it and ready. 

I wrote the following lines many years ago when I lived in Tanzania and it sums up for me a core aspect of being a Christian. In this Advent I wish you a blessed expectancy and the joy that is greater than all sorrow. 


Across the field
to dawn at sea 
a corner in the midday sun
beneath the sky at night 
alone within his heart 
the warrior waits for death
the watchman waits for dawn 
to this have I been called
to wait on God 
a moment forever
in expectancy of surprise. 

Eamonn Monson sac

Thursday 1 December 2016

Joseph's Dream - A Guided Meditation


I came across a painting the other day by Fray Juan Bautista Maino called The Adoration of the Shepherds and a detail shows one of the shepherds (though it might be St. Joseph) lifting the right hand of the baby Jesus and kissing it.

It strikes me that this is the purpose of our Advent and Christmas - to arrive at a point where Jesus is born for us again, born within us and we are called to come to Jesus and express our love for him in such a gesture.

John the Baptist goes into the desert for clarity and focus. The desert is a place of simplicity where we have nothing but the essentials to deal with and focus on. With this focus on the essentials John is able to recognise Jesus when he appears.

Yesterday I celebrated a Christmas Mass with a group of special needs adults from St. John Of God Carmona services, an experience whch brought me face to face with the essential meaning of life in all its simplicity.

When I arrived in the hall I went to greet each person - 30 or 40 in all -  and when I came to one woman, the man beside her said to me, "don't be surprised if she hits you." It's an involuntary movement. I gave her my hand anyway. She took it in hers and, without a word, she kissed my hand. It was for me a repeat of what the shepherd did with the hand of Jesus and in that moment Jesus was born for me again.

At the Our Father I invited people to hold the hand of or touch the person beside them. I put my arm around the shoulder of the man nearest to me. He was very very pleased. And while we were praying, a woman shuffled up from the back with her right hand stretched out to me, looking directly into my eyes with her own beautiful, silent eyes. I took her hand and then she reached up and kissed me and, without a word, returned to her place. Jesus was born for me again. 

It has occurred to me that I have aspired in these days to kiss the hand of Jesus but it seems now that he is saying to me in these two lovely women, "it is I who will  kiss you." Briefly, profoundly it is done!

In school I have been asking the children what Christmas means for them. Santa features quite strongly but what features most strongly for the children is family. Family coming home from abroad, family getting together and being happy together and that was a beautiful thing to listen to. It is an essential element of Christmas, it is where Christ is born again.

What saddened me is how little Jesus himself was mentioned and how so few children actually know how to pray, even to bless themselves. So, in this time of Advent a clear focus for all of us is that we should help the children to focus on Jesus, without taking away for all the other enjoyable aspects. "Seek first the kingdom of God and all these other things will be added as well."

We owe it to our children to teach them to pray as a way of connecting with God, to give them the valuable resource of learned prayers that they can turn to at any time through their lives. There have been times when I've been sick and without the energy to pray spontaneously and in such times it has been a blessing to turn to the prayers I have learned by heart throughout my life.

One simple prayer I asked each of the children to do is - before you go to sleep, take a minute to tell Jesus that you love Him, then pause and think of Jesus saying to you, saying your name, saying "I love you very very much." Then I put my hand on my chest and say, "feel that love and hold it inside you." One little lad laughed with surprise to think of Jesus saying that to him!

Wednesday 30 November 2016

SHADOW: An Ascended Place of Rest

Back in the early 80’s while still a young priest and going through a bout of depression, a friend sent me an article that he found in The Furrow. It was written by a religious sister who had also experienced depression and she trying to find meaning for her experience in relation to God. She wrote something like, “perhaps my gloom is the shadow of His hand caressing me!”

That made sense to me. When we are in darkness on a spiritual, emotional or mental level it can seem that God is absent when, in fact, He is very near, so near that His presence creates shadow or a sense of darkness.

Henry Vaughan wrote in ‘The Night’, “there is in God, some say, a deep but dazzling darkness.” The dramatic experience of the light of Jesus on the road to Damascus left Paul in the dark of blindness for a few days. Moses, in Exodus, “entered into the thick darkness where God was” and in the darkness He met God face to face. Moses encountered the radiance of God in that cloud and emerged from the experience with brightness of God shining on his own face. At the Transfiguration of Jesus the three apostles heard the voice of God in the cloud that covered them with shadow.

 “The sages say that Moses wrote Psalm 91 as he dwelt in the secret place of the Most High God, in the midst of the dark cloud (Exodus 24:18), a place of sacred and holy concealment. The thick clouds are a hiding place for him (Job 22:14). Notice that the one who abides in the secret of the Most High dwells in an ascended place of rest…”

Covered with shadow! It’s a phrase in the Annunciation that I haven’t really paid much attention to. “The power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow”, Mary is told by the angel and this, together with the coming upon her of the Holy Spirit, is how Jesus is conceived.

So, the Annunciation is also an experience of shadow and divine darkness for Mary. She is sustained in the experience by the first words of the angel – “Rejoice you who enjoy God’s favour. The Lord is with you!” – words that foreshadow what the Father spoke to Jesus in His baptism and repeated in the Transfiguration. They are both the “favoured” of the Father, the apple of His eye, beloved. The knowledge of this, the reality of it sustains them through the mission given to them.

In the wisdom of the world, being so favoured, both Mary and Jesus would have lived happily ever after but in divine wisdom they are led as beloved to experience the shadow of the sword piercing the soul, the crucifixion, death before emerging again in resurrection, ascension, assumption into glory.
They are both held in the sacred and holy concealment of the Father, ascended place of rest through the darkness that enfolds their journey on earth. Knowing that in God darkness is not dark and night is as clear as the day (Psalm 139).

In Exodus, when Moses went to the people to tell them that God would deliver them from slavery, they were unable to hear, to accept the message "so crushed was their spirit" (Exodus 6). Some people's darkness is so deep, their hurt so great that they cannot actually believe in God. We know and believe that God is in their darkness and in some way we have to see and believe on their behalf, carry them in our faith. This is part of what it means for us to be the leaven, the light, the salt in the world.

I am into affirmation. I like building people up, helping them feel well about themselves but I discovered that affirmation can backfire. When Katie was born we were so excited that we saw her as the most beautiful creature and for the first two and a half years of her life she was told “you’re the most beautiful girl in the world!” And she knew it! When you’d ask her, “who’s the most beautiful girl in the world?” she would answer “I am!” It’s what she knew.

But when her beautiful sister Laura was born reality began to bite in the cruel way that it can. Laura was brought home and everyone gathered round her declaring to her “you’re the most beautiful girl in the world!” Nobody but me saw the look of shock on Katie’s face. And, being the sensitive soul she is, it hurt her deeply. Possibly still does! Unfettered and ill-considered affirmations need to be accompanied by reality. The Bible is the one place that will speak of favour and darkness in the one breath. In God they are the same reality.

MARANATHA - Hope For The Hopeless

First Sunday of Advent

In the early 1980's the famous Benedictine monk John Main came to Tanzania to give a retreat and teach his Maranatha method of meditation. It's a simple method of sitting still for 20 minutes morning and evening, repeating the Word 'Maranatha' over and over in silence. The word is referred to as a mantra. Maranatha is the great prayer of Advent and it means 'Come Lord Jesus', expressing the profound yearning for God that is in the heart of every person. It is the Advent prayer of the whole Church. 

The retreat was attended by the Medical Missionaries of Mary and some Pallottines and it's safe to say that the sisters were more enthusiastic about it than the priests.

One day some time after the retreat one of the sisters was on her way to Arusha and she stopped for a break in a Pallottine Mission house where she asked the priest, "how is your mantra going?" "Well sister" he replied, "it's like this! Every morning I get up and I sit down and I say to myself, 'hopeless, hopeless, hopeless!'"

Hopeless - this is something we often feel in relation to prayer and our spiritual lives; people feel hopeless about a lot of situations. Hopelessness affects the sick, the old, the addict, the sinner, the child at school, the student, the unemployed. It affects many people coming up to Christmas.

This year more than ever I've been affected by the early darkening of the evenings. It comes in so fast even on bright days and it will continue to get darker a bit earlier every day until near Christmas. It's like the darkness tugs at the darkness within myself, tugs at my depression, seeking to bring me down.

Yesterday I was at home in Mervue, standing in the kitchen, looking out the window into the back garden. It was so dreary and damp and cold. And it touched the dreariness within me, seeking to take hold of me.

Like my mother I like to go out into the garden first thing in the morning, just to look at it, but yesterday I thought 'I can't go out into that'. Still something persuaded me and as I walked I saw in the midst of all the dreariness a fuchsia in full bloom. It was one I planted there earlier in the year, one of my very few successful plantings. And it struck me that God was reminding me that it is always necessary to be on the lookout for signs of hope and beauty.

We are one with Jesus who is saying to us in the gospel - stay awake, be alert! Be aware that, as this fuchsia is the work of God's hand so are we, even more so. And God is our Father as He is the Father of Jesus. He is hid from us in the mess of our lives and He is there to be found, to be waited for and searched for.


When I was a little boy I had a beautiful shiny red sports car that I loved and played with until it got broken. It's what happens with toys but I was extremely saddened and my Mam said that maybe Santy would be able to fix it. So I left it on the windowsill when I was going to bed one night and in the morning it was gone. And it remained gone. Presumably Santy came and took it.

Christmas night came and I was in bed, unable to sleep with excitement but I kept my face my face turned to the wall in case Santy would disappear if I looked at him. I was also freezing cold because the blankets had fallen off the bed but I didn't dare move to get them.

The window opened. That's how he got in. I heard him in the room and was so pleased when he picked the bedclothes off the floor to cover me. That felt really special and comfortable. He was gone then. Silence. And Mam came in to tell us we could get  up.

Our presents were in brown paper bags and to my astonishment there was my shiny red sports car in perfect condition. The very same car! I was beside myself with pleasure. Santy was so amazing!

About ten years ago Mam presented me with a present. It might have been around Christmas time and when I opened it up there was a beautiful red shiny sports car. I was struggling at the time and it became for me a symbol of hope, one of my favourite symbols of Advent.

In my adult life I don't have Santa to fix my toys and anyway it's not toys that need mending now. But I have God who takes the broken, damaged aspects of my life. I give them to him so that He can restore them in some way and by restoring make it easier for me to make the journey that I have to make in this life. The restoration doesn't often fit in to a neat space like Advent but it does come eventually.

When I moved to Galway last year the red car came with me and it remained in tact on a sideboard until my lovely nieces took a shine to it. Now every time they come into my house the red car is one of the first things they make for. It gives them great pleasure and in turn gives me great pleasure watching them. 

In the process of play the car has become somewhat damaged - a door warped, a wheel fallen off - and I'm happy with the state it's in because love has somehow brought it to that state. It also strikes me that I'm not as bothered either with the damaged, scratched or broken aspects of myself. I can live with them and even be happy with them as long as there is love and as long as I'm able to continue the journey mapped out for me by God.

winding ways will be straightened
and rough roads made smooth.
so that God's people can walk in safety under the glory of God.

(Luke 3 & Baruch 5)

Tuesday 29 November 2016


Everything that was written long ago in the scriptures was meant to teach us something about hope (Romans 15:4)

Hope is central to the season of Advent, one of the most important gifts brought to us by Jesus. In a negative, pessimistic age we need Hope. The above line from Romans is one that struck a chord with me when I first starting reading the Bible at the age of 17. It is a Word that has always stirred hope in me.

A couple of years ago the image of the wolf came into my prayer. The wolf scratching at the door. A hungry ravenous wolf! Wolf in sheep's clothing. And I came upon this poem by Charlotte Perkins Gildman - 'The Wolf At The Door'. It appeared in 'The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest' (1915) and the editor, Upton Sinclair,  describes her as America's most brilliant woman poet and critic.

THERE’S a haunting horror near us
  That nothing drives away;
Fierce lamping eyes at nightfall,
  A crouching shade by day;
There’s a whining at the threshold,
  There’s a scratching at the floor.
To work! To work! In Heaven’s name!
The wolf is at the door!

The day was long, the night was short,
  The bed was hard and cold;
Still weary are the little ones,
  Still weary are the old.
We are weary in our cradles
  From our mother’s toil untold;
We are born to hoarded weariness
  As some to hoarded gold.

We will not rise! We will not work!
  Nothing the day can give
Is half so sweet as an hour of sleep;
  Better to sleep than live!
What power can stir these heavy limbs?
  What hope these dull hearts swell?
What fear more cold, what pain more sharp
  Than the life we know so well?…

The slow, relentless, padding step
  That never goes astray—
The rustle in the underbrush—
  The shadow in the way—
The straining flight—the long pursuit—
  The steady gain behind—
Death-wearied man and tireless brute,
  And the struggle wild and blind!

There’s a hot breath at the keyhole
  And a tearing as of teeth!
Well do I know the bloodshot eyes
  And the dripping jaws beneath!
There’s a whining at the threshold—
  There’s a scratching at the floor—
To work! To work! In Heaven’s name!
  The wolf is at the door!

Initially I saw the wolf, the haunting horror, as external to myself and that I was its target; the wolf being the dangerous forces in society that attack and seek to destroy, or at least subdue, the innocent. The wolf was the destructive person who attacks and seeks to destroy, to subdue me mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

And then one day it dawned on me that I am myself the wolf or that the wolf is inside me, a destructive, dangerous force within me.

A daunting, even frightening realization but God, as ever kind and merciful, reminded me of the prophecy in Isaiah - "the wolf lives with the lamb" (11:1-10) - which is an expression of the return to the peace of Paradise, the harmony of Eden which comes with Jesus the Messiah.

So, as well as the wolf there is a lamb within and the two forces come together in peace. Jesus is the Lamb of God whose gentleness, stronger than all strength, tames the wolf. It is in the surrender of the wolf to the Lamb that true peace is arrived at, the surrender of the self to God.

The harmony, reconciliation and peace that is being shaped within me is what I pray for in society and in every person; praying that Jesus will heal the wound within us that is often the source of the erupting anger that lashes out or lashes myself from within.

"They do no hurt, no harm on all my holy mountain, for the country is filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea."


Go back to the child
That understood the truth

Folded into the shape
Of its mother’s arms

Draped across
Its father’s shoulder

Before the rigidity
Of independence
Set in

The weaned child
Whose hand explores
The empty space

Touching the face
As yet unseen
That comes to meet
Its need

Monday 28 November 2016

Finding Refuge In God

"For, over all, the glory of the Lord will be a canopy and a tent to give shade from the heat, refuge and shelter from the storm and the rain." (Isaiah 4:6)

A canopy and a tent. In the summer times my mother would wash the bed sheets and spread them out over the long grass in the big back garden. And we would crawl under the sheets, thinking of them as tents, white tents of the desert lit up by the summer sun.

I was always looking out for shelters, secret places of refuge and, in my adult spiritual life I have been drawn to the tents of the Old Testament. The Tent of Meeting where Moses met with God; the tent of Abraham where God appeared in the guise of three angelic strangers.

We used to go to the grotto in Castlegar at home during the month of May across the rocky fields that might have been a quarry and there we imagined and lived all sorts of adventures in palaces and boats. And we found there places to shelter.

I found one that I was particularly pleased with in a different field. A large rock overhung by a white thorn bush that I saw saw as a perfect shelter from the rain.

A day came when we were coming home for the grotto as a family. Usually we went as children together with our friends but this time we were just ourselves together with Mam & Dad. It started to rain so I led my whole family to my special shelter but, as we stood beneath the bush, the rain got heavier and we got saturated because the bush was not capable of giving that kind of shelter.

In life we sometimes go in search of shelter and refuge in places that cannot in fact shelter us at all. They only have the appearance of giving shelter and we end up totally exposed to the storms that we seek to escape.

Jesus offers Himself as a sure and certain refuge from all that assails us. The journey of Advent leads us to that place, though we think nothing of it because it is so poor and shabby compared to what is offered by the world. Yet, the stable where Life is born is filled with all the spiritual warmth and love that outlasts all the other refuges that we turn to.

"Preserve me O God, I take refuge in You" (Psalm 16)

Monday 21 November 2016


Down to the edge
Of the island

The end of power

Where Elements
Alone remain

Salt sea water
Washing my face

My sinners soul
Transformed by grace

Mother of  Mercy
Is present here

Speaking of surrender
To the Spirit

Here is the wind
The waves
The crashing

And the upward surge
Of everything

Sunday 13 November 2016


In him
There is no
Sound of weeping

The widower's
Voice is silent
His eyes dry

His mind is

The restrained

It is to his

That Love has no more
Claim on him

The pretense of it

Infidelity now
Is neutralized

Saturday 5 November 2016

I AM INCLINED (Psalm 110)

A seat in the back row
A stream by the wayside

This is Your gift to me

A place at Your right side
In the sanctuary
In a season of grief

The hidden priesthood
Eternal womb

Begotten before the dawn

Out of the sight
Of the interested and curious

Shielded from the burning
November sun
Dazzling light

Through the chapel
Window blazing

I am inclined
Towards You

Head bowed

Drinking deeply
With delight
The waters of Life

You lift up my head
Your face smiling
Upon my unworthiness

Friday 4 November 2016


Jesus Divine Mercy, from the depths of our hearts we ask you please to heal us and our loved ones of our addiction.

Transform craving into
a desire for the fullness of life;
despair into hope; 
shame into honour and self-respect; guilt into mercy and self-forgiveness.

Heal our memory of hurt,
help us to let go of the past and
look forward with confidence one step at a time.

Lift us up and hold us close to your Heart in Peace and tender Love,
that Love that overcomes all.

May the light of our candle be

warmth in the cold,
light in the darkness and
the sign of a new dawn.

We make this prayer in faith, for nothing is impossible for You. Amen.

St. Maximilian Kolbe pray for us

St. Padre Alberto Hurtado pray for us

Venerable Matt Talbot pray for us

(Eamonn Monson SAC)

Jesus I Trust In You

Thursday 3 November 2016


I am keeper of the field
The wholesome wheat
And weed

Strange bedfellows
That must await
The harvest

And its consequence
In its own time
And not before

However intent
I may be 
On perfection

I hope not
For a mansion
In heaven

Enough for me
A humble hut
Inside the gate

Where Justice Divine
With Mercy meets
My misery

Magnificat be the song
That's borne

And sung into