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!