Tuesday 26 September 2017

PARDON IN THE SAND (John 8 - A Meditation)

I am the woman
Discovered undercover
Caught in the act
Exhumed from hiding
Beneath skin and flesh
The secret desirings
Of heart and mind

I am the boy
Who took refuge there
A place of escape
And safe solace
My habitual habitation

I am every one
Who exists on the outside
The other side of right

And there is nothing
That will not be revealed
In the end

And this is my end

The law abiding strong
Throng my orthodox accuser
With only one solution
The right of righteousness

I am petrified
Panic stricken stood bowed
Barely able to breathe

What will the first
Struck stone feel like?

What part of me
Will bleed and break
Before I am all blood broken
Bone splintered?

I gasp for air
For life

But God is merciful
He who alone is Good
Stands upright
Sees all that I am - ALL -
Absorbs me into Himself

He bends down
So that my bending
Now has no shame in it

And He writes my Pardon
In the sand.

Great is His Name

Sunday 28 May 2017

ASCENSION: SEPARATION AND UNION - A Farewell Homily by Eamonn Monson SAC

It’s providential that we are saying farewell to each other on the feast of the Ascension, the day when Jesus and His disciples said goodbye. Somehow, I feel that our parting is graced by the Ascension, is lifted up with Jesus and then it becomes a sacred and holy experience, an experience in which separation and union become one and the same thing because we are all held together as one in Jesus, especially every time we come to Holy Communion at Mass.

In all my years of leaving different places I have never felt as emotional as I do on leaving Shankill. I have always said that you have taught me to be a real priest but I completely underestimated the depth and strength of the bond that exists between us and I have been really touched by your response to the news of my leaving that was announced a couple of weeks ago. We are truly one body, one spirit in Christ.

The preparation for my life here came in the form of the Camino to Santiago, a journey that emptied me of every burden and left me free to be filled with something new, something very precious. St. Paul talks to Timothy about becoming a vessel fit for noble use (2 Timothy 2:21) You have filled my cup and made of me a vessel fit for God’s lofty purposes.

It seems to me that I haven’t done all that much in my five years here and my strongest memory is of celebrating Mass at this altar – the ordinary Masses of every day and Sunday; the profoundly sorrowful funeral Masses; the beautifully innocent and joyful First Holy Communion Masses; Masses of healing and hope. In every Mass, we have come together to meet Jesus, to be touched by Him, filled by Him and in every congregation, I have seen the face of Jesus – the wounded and sometimes fearful face, the challenging face, the hopeful face of youth, the graceful face of age and always the loving face of Jesus.

So, like the first disciples in today’s gospel I have no hesitation whatever falling down on my knees to worship Jesus – Jesus in Himself and Jesus in you. I would kneel in love, I kneel as a sinner who has experienced Mercy and I kneel in the weakness of who I am because I have nothing of my own to boast about.

And of course, the children have always brought me to my knees. When I anoint a baby in Baptism I am often moved to kneel – in many other ways I kneel to a child because I find my true size and height in them. I have three beautiful nieces and five fine nephews who have blessed my life and the gospel I have so often preached is about children, especially my two youngest  nieces Katie and Laura who have taught me so much about how to live a truly Christian life in a childlike way. Jesus himself places the child at the centre of the gospel, at the centre of the Kingdom of God.

This part is very difficult to speak of but it encapsulates everything that really matters!  Two days ago at a special assembly in Scoil Mhuire, I came face to face with a little boy whom I love dearly, a boy who has suffered more than anyone I know in the past year, a suffering that is often misunderstood. He was crying so I went and knelt in front of him, hugged him and started crying with him. We sobbed together in that embrace, we ministered to each other, cried for each other and represented the love of God for each other. It wasn’t that I was minding him but he also was minding me. And a while later we came together in a lighter moment with a bit of a smile when he gave me a card, I gave him a high five and a teacher gave him a piece of chocolate cake. There has to be chocolate cake and God always gives us reason to smile after we have cried!

Yesterday, when I was praying the fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, I realized that the encounter with this young boy was for me the finding of Jesus in the Temple and what I felt for him is what Mary and Joseph felt, what God Himself feels for the lost child in all of us.

Shankill represents the happiest period of my life but in every life happiness is often accompanied by pain and in such times, you need a place where you can be totally yourself, accepted in whatever state you’re in. I have found comfort in many people and a few good friends but there are two groups in particular who have sustained me through dark times – my family in Galway and my Pallottine community in St. Benin’s with Frs. John, Mike and Jaimie. It is a sustenance that is often without words, a safe place, a haven.

And so, as St. Paul said, “the time has come for me to be gone”, to go as Jesus Himself went “to other towns and villages” where the ministry of the Good News is needed. It is a calling from God and not just the arbitrary decision of my good friend and Provincial. 

I already felt that call as far back as November. I was celebrating Mass at 8 one Sunday morning - and it might have been at the offertory – when I heard a seagull cry clear as a bell and a voice that seemed to say, “you will go to Hastings!” When God calls, the only thing to do is follow. And you have equipped me to do exactly that. You have given me plentiful food for the journey.

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to  which he has called you..." (Ephesians 1:17)


Sunday 14 May 2017


Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" (Isaiah 6:8)

The echo
Of a seagull's cry
On a winter's dawn

Crystal clear
Carrying a call
From another coast

It comes to me
At the altar


From all who hold me

To leave familiar loves
I am reluctant


But still I will go
If You lead

And need me
To take Your People

To heart
In a different land

Gratefully and
In Love

As Eucharist
In Your hands

(Shankill, a November Sunday 2016)

Saturday 29 April 2017

AS EVENING FALLS: An Emmaus Reflection - Fr. Eamonn Monson sac

“…they pressed him to stay with them. ‘It is nearly evening’ they said, ‘and the day is almost over.’ So, he went in to stay with them. Now while he was with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; but he had vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’

This is one of the loveliest and most tender moments in the Bible, a moment that inspired this prayer that we say in the Divine Office:

‘Stay with us, Lord Jesus, as evening falls;
Be our companion on our way.
In your mercy inflame our hearts and raise our hope,
So that, in union with our brothers and sisters
We may recognize you in the Scriptures
And in the breaking of Bread
Who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.’

It is the desire of us all that the Lord Jesus would stay with us, that we would experience the warmth of His presence and of course He is with us but we don’t always recognize Him or feel His presence. We are often at the early stage of this journey to Emmaus – the time of sadness, darkness, blindness and confusion; we find ourselves running away from the painful realities that might in fact be our salvation.

I think that we as an Irish nation are at this early stage of the journey even as we long for the warmth of its conclusion.

My young companion Fr. Jaimie and I often have a kind of spontaneous Emmaus evening when we sit together and chat about the things that matter to us; we have conversations about some of the hard realities of our lives, conversations that eventually warm our hearts because they have Jesus as their centre. Jaimie has a purity and keenness of spirit that I have come to trust.

Recently, after his return from pilgrimage in Medjugorje he spoke about the strange coldness he found in Ireland, a coldness that contrasted with the warmth of Medjugorje – and he wasn’t talking about the weather! He was talking about a coldness of the spirit and it resonated with me because I have been feeling it myself of late.

It’s a feeling I usually experience with death and grief. When someone close to me dies, I am already cold inside even before I hear the news of their death. And I feel cold in relation to Ireland – as if we are dead or dying.

When I reflect on what transpired at the Citizen’s Assembly last weekend then I understand why there is such coldness in the spiritual air of the country. We have become a people like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus – a people walking away from salvation, our eyes, hearts and minds closed to the presence of Jesus and to the Way He has marked out for us. We go on as if Jesus does not exist at all.

It seems to me that the Assembly has accelerated our descent into the cold dark night of the soul. But unlike todays Gospel there can be no warm conclusion – not yet and maybe not for a long time to come. These decisions separate us as a people from Christ in a most profound and radical way.

There’s a Scripture from the Bible that has struck me very forcibly. The Lord spoke to His people through Moses, “I put before you fire and water – stretch out your hand and touch which one you choose. I put before you life and death, a blessing and a curse. Choose life then so that you and your children may live in the love of the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 32 and parallel texts) Choose life! Choose life! The words of God Himself.

The choices we make, the choices we allow to be made on our behalf have their own consequences. These dark realities are the things that we as Christians need to talk about as we journey through life and our conversations must have Jesus at their centre, leave space for Jesus to reveal Himself, leave space for Him to instruct us, to open our minds and set our hearts on fire with the love that He has for everyone and especially for the least of all.

St. John of the Cross says that the life of faith, hope and love means aligning our will perfectly with the will of God and making sure that we do not align ourselves with anything else. It is the prayer of Mary and the prayer of Jesus Himself - these two prayers - that made salvation possible in the first place – “let it be done according to Your Word…not my will but yours be done!”

Emmaus - Cleopas and his wife Mary with Jesus
Without this alignment with the will of God we remain in the dark but if we pray this prayer in union with Jesus and Mary, if we mean it and do our best to live by it then we will reach that lovely evening in which Jesus comes in to the reality of our home, to our table, to His table and to the warming of our hearts with that Love that overcomes every difficulty, every obstacle, every darkness that we encounter. And then we can pray with integrity:

‘Stay with us, Lord Jesus, as evening falls;
Be our companion on our way.
In your mercy inflame our hearts and raise our hope,
So that, in union with our brothers and sisters
We may recognize you in the Scriptures
And in the breaking of Bread

Sunday 16 April 2017

RESURRECTION 2017: An Intense Desire - Fr. Eamonn Monson SAC

The Resurrection of Jesus is a fact in itself, but for the disciples the experiences of the Resurrection are different and varied. Each of them experienced it in his or her own way and at their own pace. And the running of Peter and John to the empty tomb is very symbolic of that. John ran faster than Peter and got there ahead of him but each of them came to the experience of Jesus in their own time and at their own pace.

Resurrection can be a very difficult reality to comprehend or to make a connection with. I find myself when I’m going through Holy Week that I have a very strong connection with Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the early part of Holy Saturday – these touch something very deep inside the heart. Resurrection is a very different thing because we haven’t yet experienced it ourselves.

But what I do believe is important is the intensity of desire that is in our hearts to have the experience of Jesus risen from the dead and that we go on and persist in our intensity.

For me, the best parable or experience of it in my own life comes from when my sister Maura died suddenly 18 years ago at the age of 46. Maura and I were very, very close; we were always together and there was a very strong physical connection between us as well as emotional. So, when she died I felt intensely lonely – we all did – and I used to say to God in prayer how much I missed her and how intense was my desire to touch her again, to feel the touch of her presence in my life. A prayer that went on and on relentlessly for maybe a year or two, a prayer filled with sincerity, desire and sorrow.

Then I had two dreams, one of which I have spoken and written of before. The second one is in my mind today. In the dream, I went to the cemetery to visit her grave and as I was going through the gates the cemetery was transformed into a church where Maura was sitting alone in the back seat.

She held out her hand to me and said, “will we dance?” And I said, “we can’t dance here!” And she replied, “we can!” Throughout our lives from the time we were teenagers we loved to jive and became very good at it.  So, she took me by the hand and led me to an open space at the top of the church. There was no music but there was light, this beautiful light shining down, not a physical electric light but it was like the light of heaven shining down upon the two of us. And there we danced bathed in the light; we danced to, what I call, silent music. Silent but joyful!

When I woke from that dream what struck me was – that I would go to the cemetery looking for my sister and it’s like what the Lord says in the gospel of the resurrection, “why search among the dead for someone who is alive?” Maura was telling me, God was telling me through her that even though she had died and was gone from me that she was in fact alive; telling me that that life is the life of Jesus, a life that is contained within the embrace of the sanctuary of the church where Jesus is present and alive in the Eucharist.

The promise of that dream is also that I myself one day, that all of us will enter into the sacred space of Jesus in the Eucharist in its most perfect sense, that we will enter into the light of that experience and we will dance in whatever way we are able to dance. 

One of the lovely things about the spiritual life is that there is song and there is dance in it but you don’t have to be a singer or a dancer to engage in it. Because every move we make in the presence of the Lord and every song we sing is beautiful to Him, for He loves the voice that is in you, the voice that He given to you – it is music to His ears. The very sight of you, the way you move is a joy to Him.

So, if we are to live Easter today it is to live it with joy and hope; to live it in the embrace of the light that shines upon us, especially from the Eucharist, the light of heaven. And even if grief is present and intense we will know that we are bathed in that light, that we are held in an embrace that is tender and infinitely loving, a light that will lead us all to the fulfilment and the perfection of life that we desire.

Thursday 13 April 2017

LEGACY: A Holy Thursday Reflection - Eamonn Monson SAC

Being an ordained priest is a wonderful privilege and some of the most inspiring moments are not those that we plan ourselves but the ones we are led to experience through God’s kind providence.

On Tuesday of last week I was called to anoint a man who was given just a week to live and at first sight he looked like he might not last even a day. But he sat up in the bed, asked me to sit on the edge of it and he leaned against me for support.

We had never met before and he seemed to have lost his connection with God, at least consciously, a connection that was broken because of the hurt he experienced as a father. Both of his sons, his only two children, were dead and the pain of that loss was palpable.

For some reason we started talking about home. He came from Connemara and his great-grandmother was from Inis Mor, the same island that my grandmother came from. They were both Flahertys from different villages but the two families are related. And this thought that he and I might be related gave him a real spurt of life. He was excited by the thought, and was even transformed by it.

And this connection paved the way for him to receive the sacraments that he had become a stranger to – absolution, anointing and Holy Communion. And he joined his hands in prayer like a child with a spirit of utter humility and I could see the face of God in him.

We returned to the loss of his sons. It made him cry and he said, “people don’t understand it but a generation is lost with them.” It was like he had no legacy to leave behind, no worthwhile legacy. He would leave his money and property but they were nothing to him. He needed to leave the legacy of his own children. Children are the best possible legacy that a man or woman can leave behind because they are living flesh and blood and bone and spirit.

At the last Supper Jesus also wanted to leave a legacy – a different kind of legacy. He left us the legacy of His own flesh and blood and spirit in the Eucharist as the perfect expression of His Love; the Eucharist that gives us a permanent, tangible connection with God; the Eucharistic Love by which He gets down on His knees to wash the feet of His disciples. A perfect Love that serves.

The Eucharist is also the legacy, the only legacy of a priest. In it we are flesh and blood with Christ and with the people we serve, our sisters and brothers in the community of the faith.
Tomorrow, Good Friday,  that perfect Love of Christ is expressed on the Cross, a very different kind of experience. At the Last Supper Jesus was utterly free and in control. On the Cross He is vulnerable, helpless, held back.

The English mystic Caryll Houselander writes, the moment in which His love was consummated…was when the hands that could heal with a touch were nailed back out of reach!” Somehow, in the mystery of redemption, Love is at its most intense when it is not able to do anything.

How often do we as priests feel useless in the face of what we ought to be doing. When I celebrate the liturgy of washing feet in the name of Jesus I feel such an intense overflow of love in my heart, the love of God Himself. And in that moment I realize how much is lacking in my service of God’s people. How often do parents feel useless when they cannot communicate the love they feel for their child, how often do we find ourselves paralyzed by hurt or fear and unable to reach out to forgive. We have to wait, rather that rushing into something that might make things worse. Waiting on God, on God’s grace is a genuine calling.

Sometimes all we have is a desire to Love as we are meant to and all we can do is, like Jesus, to unite that desire with the will of God the Father, to allow ourselves to be like the bread of the Eucharist in the hands of the Father, allow Jesus in the Eucharist to provide what is lacking in our loving and in our service of each other.


The Hands that ache to
Reach and sooth and heal
The sore

These Hands are nailed
Held back

The feet obliged to
To bear forgiveness
For the hurt

These feet are nailed
Held back

With Christ I hang
Upon the Cross

Sunday 9 April 2017

OLYMPIA (Sanctury)

When I was
To Eurovision

She would be
The most beautiful

I built her a stage
Appropriate for the Graceful

She would make

A sanctuary of all
The tender goodness
In the world

She did not come
To this theatre

Yet I find her here
In my soul

In memories of her son
On this stage

And Bohemian Rhapsody
Sung Live

Awakens memories
Of an innocent Winter
A happy Spring

And a Summer filled
With sorrow

A long delayed Autumn
And a recovery
Of sorts

Sunday 2 April 2017


My Soul
Was a child

An infant
In flight

In slow descent

A rasping
Desperate cry

Without words
To express the pain

That cannot be

By a mother's
Total tenderness

Nothing at all avails
Until flight is ended

And we whimper
Into relieved silence


My Soul
Is a child

That soon forgets
Its distress

As God forgets
My sin

And I am Lazarus

Called forth
Into Sonlight

In Christ
And by Him


Monday 27 March 2017


I am
Wedded to Christ

On Calvary

In Garments



Of a Mother's


To the naked


Night of darkness

And Joy

The Crucified

(Shankill March 2017)

Sunday 26 March 2017

IN HIM (All Is Present)

In the timeless state
Of Divinity

All is present

He lives in me
I am in Him

Eternal Word

In womb and boy
And man

From heaven emerging
To heaven returning
In heaven abiding

Even now

I will not despise
The means
By which I am

Conformed to Him

Saturday 25 March 2017

EYES OF THE BLIND - Memories of Blessing

God does not see as we see. We look at appearances but God looks at the heart, the interior. (1 Samuel 16:6-7). In the healing of the blind man God seeks to lead us to the opening of the eyes of our mind, heart and soul so that we learn to see as God sees, that we come to see the presence of God in every circumstance of life, to recognize the blessings that flow from the presence of God, “that the works of God might be displayed” (John 9).

A central purpose of the miracles of Jesus is to lead us to faith, a deepening of faith which in turn leads us to worship God. That was the purpose of the Exodus from slavery in Egypt – that the people of Israel could be free to worship God. The man cured of his blindness arrived at a point faith, “The man said, ‘Lord, I believe’, and worshipped him” (John 9:38). The miracles are also of course expressions of the compassionate love that God has for us all, especially anyone in distress.

Blessings come to us in many ways – the formal blessing of the Church given through a priest; the blessing given by parents and godparents in the liturgy of baptism; the general blessing we give to each other when we say, “God bless!” There is also the blessing of a dying parent such as in the case of Isaac blessing Jacob, a blessing that is permanent and cannot be revoked. I was blessed by my mother before she died. I have also been blessed by children.

A couple of days ago, I went to anoint a man who is soon to die. We celebrated the sacraments of absolution, anointing and Eucharist and it was a very peace filled encounter. As I was leaving I asked him to bless me and he held my face in his hands, a gesture that sent a tingling sensation through me and brought tears to my eyes. And it feels to me like a blessing that cannot be revoked, a blessing that is true because it is given at that moment in life when pretending has ceased.

That same gesture happened to me many years ago, in Tanzania where I encountered a woman who had been blind for many years. She lived in a remote village and never went anywhere. She was an extremely happy woman who found the blessings of God in her blindness.

After Mass, she would welcome us into her home where she fed us. I wondered if something could be done for her at the Medical Missionaries of Mary hospital 60km away, so I asked her if she would be interested in exploring the possibilities.

An appointment was made and we managed to get the pick-up truck through a rocky track in and out of the village. There was no road. I was driving, with woman and her brother in the front seat beside. It was a slow laborious journey with the truck bouncing up and down and from side to side.

For the woman who could not see, it was hilarious and she shouted out, “there must be a God! Who else would send a priest on such a bad road to take me to hospital?”

In hospital, they discovered she simply had cataracts which the doctor removed. For us in Ireland cataracts are not a big deal but in Tanzania it usually meant a life of blindness for anyone living in a remote place.

I was there the day the day the bandages came were taken off her eyes. The nurse put glasses on her. I was the first person she saw. She held my face in her hands laughing, thanking God and everyone. It was such a feeling of honour to witness the opening of eyes that were blind, a feeling that can’t be described, a joy that can’t be expressed in words. But I was blessed by that joy.
Pope Francis Meeting Deaf And Blind People

The experience strengthened the faith she already had; for her community, it awakened a faith they had lost. It wasn’t a miracle but for all of us it was a sign of God’s compassionate presence in our lives, a sign of how he uses us as instruments of healing.

What I pray for is the inner vision to see people and life with the eyes of God so that every experience – good or bad – will lead us to see Him, to enter into a deeper relationship with Him, a life in which I worship Him in spirit and truth.

Fr. Eamonn Monson SAC

Sunday 19 March 2017


The Hands that ache to
Reach and sooth and heal
The sore

These Hands are nailed
Held back

The feet obliged to
To bear forgiveness
For the hurt

These feet are nailed
Held back

With Christ I hang
Upon the Cross

And we are powerless

The only freedom lies
In death descending

To the depths of hell
Still held

With nothing
To be done

But wait
Until the dawn

Of Grace

Wednesday 15 March 2017


Light beckons the soul
To night

I fly in its wake

Into the depths
Of darkness
The disappearance

Of all that would give
Me sight

Trusting the Presence
The Absence that is

Of the One
For whom I ache
And yearn and thirst

His imperceptible Breath
Inflowing to me

The Holiness to which
I am called

The Love of which
I am incapable

Tuesday 14 March 2017


In the second account of Creation in Genesis chapter 2 we are given an insight into two aspects of our true nature. The first is when God creates man from the soil of the earth we are reminded that we are created from the soil of the earth meaning that we are earthly, in the living of our faith, we are to keep our feet on the ground. Secondly, we are told that our earthiness is infused with the breath of God’s own life and this is the essential part of our nature that sustains us in our life, a reminder of the divine nature that is within us and sets us apart from all the rest of God’s creation.

When Jesus goes into the desert He holds these two aspects of our nature as one and in the desert, He represents each and every one of us in our struggle with temptation, in whatever struggles we go through in life, reminding us to hold as one these two aspects of who we are.

What Satan seeks to do with Jesus in the desert, the idea he seeks to get across to all of us is that we do not have a divine nature or at least to suggest that God’s presence is secondary to our appetites and desires, of lesser importance to the devil himself. More critically, we are tempted to think that the crises and traumas of life are evidence of God’s absence. Everything the devil seeks to do is to deny God.

The desert is the place where we experience absence and emptiness at its most profound level; the desert is the place where we feel abandoned and lost; it is the place where we really struggle and struggle hard with life – not just with temptations but with the sufferings of life, the awful, unbearable sufferings which can bring us to a point of questioning God, questioning God’s existence.

Jesus is there in every desert experience to remind us of the truth that God is with us, that God is at the centre of all life. But He’s not only giving us a reminder – Jesus lives the desert on our behalf, responds to the temptations on our behalf. He does so especially when we cannot do it for ourselves. He does it so that our struggles are filled with hope rather than despair. And when we are gasping for breath in life, it is the breath of God that sustains us, enables us to keep going against the odds.

The movie ‘Lion’ tells the true story of a small boy in India; a boy five years old whose name is Saroo, meaning Lion. His family is very poor. The mother, who seems to be a widow, earns a living carrying stones. Her two sons sometimes help her while the little daughter is too young to work.

One day as she leaves for work she tells Saroo to stay home to mind his sister but, when the older boy Guddu begins to leave in search of work, the young Saroo begs to be brought along. After much resistance Guddu eventually gives in, a decision that was to change their lives radically.

They travel on a train until they arrive in a station at night. Guddu leaves the sleepy Saroo on a bench telling him to wait there while he went off to find work. Guddu never returns and Saroo wakes to find himself alone in the empty station where an empty train waits silently. The little boy cries out for his brother, searching for him everywhere until he falls asleep on the train. When he wakes again the train is speeding non-stop through the country until it arrives in Calcutta 1500 miles away.

Saroo is utterly lost and in danger in the teeming city and he doesn’t even know where he came from or cannot pronounce properly the name of his home town. Neither does he speak the language of Calcutta. At this point it strikes me that none of this would have happened if he had simply done what his mother told him to. And it occurs to me that my own life would have been less complicated, that I wouldn’t have gotten lost in the ways I did, if I had simply obeyed God.

Saroo ends up in a most awful orphanage and from there he is adopted by an Australian couple who have decided not to have any children of their own and instead to rescue children like Saroo in order to give them a better life. And that’s what they give him – a good, happy, loving life.

As a young student, he encounters others from India and it was then that he started to think about his original home in a serious way. A very striking moment happens at a party in the home of some of his Indian friends. He goes into the kitchen where he sees a plate of jelabies (Indian food for special occasions) and he has a flashback to his childhood when, at a market, he looks longingly at jelabies. His brother tells him that one day he will be able to afford to buy some. Now in this kitchen he picks up a jelabie for the first time, tastes it and says aloud, “I am lost!”

This awareness of being lost sets him on a journey of searching through the internet for his original home.

There are two important loves at work in the life of this lost boy. There is the love that rescued him from an appalling life in Calcutta and the heartbroken love of his birth mother who searched for him constantly over all the years.

These loves represent the love that is alive in the heart of God whose heart breaks, continues to search for us when we are lost; God who rescues us when we are lost. Both loves are held as one in God so that whatever our state in life there is a love to meet us there.

If Saroo had obeyed his mother in the beginning, then he would never have been lost; he would have lived at home under her maternal love. The mystery is that his disobedience eventually led him to experience a love he might not have otherwise known, the love of being rescued and the opportunities afforded him by that love.

It reveals to me how God is ever resourceful in the face of our wanderings, our disobedience, our sin and for whatever condition we find ourselves in there is a new love to be experienced in it, a love that flows from the merciful heart of God.

It also suggests to me that the crisis, trauma or hurt we are going through might actually be a sign of God's presence rather than of His absence.

Monday 27 February 2017

BABY OF ALEPPO - I Will Never Forget You

‘The Lord has abandoned me; the Lord has forgotten me.’ Everyone knows what this feels like at some point or time in life. The sense of abandonment, desolation and isolation that can befall us for whatever reason and for no reason at all.

In times like these we can be confronted by, what I call, the tyranny of joy. Not that there is any tyranny in joy itself but there are people who slap us in the face (that's how it feels) with a version of it and present it to us as if it were something that can be turned on at will. It’s like saying to a depressed person, “snap out of it” – the “don’t worry, be happy” kind of thing. These comments are well meant but totally unhelpful because they are powerless to create joy. They remain external to us.

The response of the Lord God to our sense of abandonment and desolation is, first, that He enters into the experience with us and offers us a Word that is relevant and has a power within it to stir even the tiniest flicker of joy. He responds, “Does a woman forget her baby at the breast, or fail to cherish the son of her womb? Yet even if these forget, I will never forget you.” (Isaiah 49:14-15)

Anyone who is mother or father knows exactly what God means, they know it in relation to their children, they feel exactly what God feels in the face of our state of forgotten-ness, our joylessness. And central to the response of God is, “I will never forget you!” The example of motherhood is one of the strongest expressions of what God feels for every single one of us.

Jesus uses examples from nature in His effort to help us not to worry, to move from worry to hope and trust. Look at the birds of the sky, the flowers of the field, reminding us that we are worth much more than they are!”

That sense of worth, the care and love that God feels for us is often communicated through other people in life-giving situations.

Some of our community spent the weekend at the Divine Mercy Conference at the RDS, Dublin where we were on our feet most of the day ministering to people in one way or another; being ministered to by the people we met. We were all enfolded in the one, vibrant and loving atmosphere where we were free to be Catholic without having to explain or be apologetic for ourselves. It was a living experience of the Divine Mercy we were celebrating.

Recently on social media I came across an astonishing video from Aleppo in Syria where a young expectant mother, nine months pregnant is on her way to the hospital to give birth when she gets injured in a bomb attack. She is unconscious with a broken arm and leg in the labour ward where the medical staff deliver her baby, a fine-looking boy whose heart is not beating. For twenty minutes the medics work on him trying to revive him and eventually he lets out a cry and lives!

It struck me that God was showing his presence and care for the woman and her baby through the doctors and nurses. They are the living evidence of God saying, “I will never forget you!” I am with you, you are precious to me. Their commitment to the life of the baby is a Godly thing, a reminder that the one who is conceived in the womb is meant to come to birth.

God does not offer any glib or trite answer, He is not saying to any of them, “smile” or “be happy”. His first response is a compassionate attention to the real trauma, the tragedy and the pain of the situation. The smile and the joy emerge later as if gracefully and because of the compassionate attentiveness of God and the medics who are His instruments of life.

The other thing that is worth pondering is that the coming to life of this baby is accompanied by a lot of pain – the prodding, the rough rubbing, the slapping – and his own first experience of life after birth is one that makes him cry. And it’s so heartbreaking to hear his cry, to see his eyes before he instinctively covers them with his arm.

Our own coming to new life, the rebirth that is necessary in all our lives is also accompanied by a lot of pain which is the very thing that makes us reluctant to go through the process. The suffering, which we often interpret as reflecting God’s absence, is somehow an indication of God’s presence. The pain can often be translated into “I will never forget you!”, “I am with you!”

Of course, there are lots of unanswerable questions that come to mind when I look at that situation in Aleppo, when we think about all the tragedies in the world, when confronted with our own personal situations that are currently unsolvable.

We cannot find answers to many things but we can take each experience of life one at a time and find in them the meaning that keeps us going on step by step; hearing in them the promise of God, 
“I will never forget you!”

It is worth taking some moments of quiet to let this word settle in your heart and do what it is sent to do. God says, “the word that goes forth from my mouth does not return to me empty, without succeeding in what it was sent to do.” (Isaiah 55:11). “I am with you!” “I will never forget you!”

Eamonn Monson sac

(Listen to Lilies of the Field and Be Not Afraid by John Michael Talbot. I will never forget you by James Kilbane)

Tuesday 21 February 2017

TABOR (Be Holy)

Be holy in all that you do, since it is the Holy One who has called you. (1 Peter 1:15)

The Climb
The Cloud

The Vision and
The Voice

Word without

No Sound

The Holy One

Be Holy

I am struck
With amazement


To the hushed

Of Saturday night's

For confession's

The ardent
Thirst for holiness

My soul

On the horizon

Of my destiny

Hope that

My every endeavour

The mountain
The valley

The desert and
The river

Of my heart

Oh my Holy One
My Love

I offer you
Childlike obeisance

On the earth floor
Of my life

Glimpsing glory
Through a prism
Of clay

Saturday 11 February 2017

The Spring Of 77

Winter was slow
To release its grip
On the springtime                                             Of our content

Adulthood barely tasted
We tested fresh waters
Finding new reasons
For laughter

And how we laughed
In the Spring of seventy seven

In the loving
Of countless homeless
Children in Care

Going together after work
To the Continental
Where we drank as little
As fast as we could afford

When we hadn’t
A soda-and-lime or a
Pint of Harp between us
We went to Seapoint
For the last dance for free

Throwing down our coats
The girls threw down their bags
On the floor where we danced
Together in our circle

And the Memories 
Did Bohemian Rhapsody
Better than Queen

So it seemed to us
Dry ice and all

And the night would not
Be deep enough

And we being slow as Winter

Gate-crashed the party
Of a stranger going in
Through the basement


Where the bright cheap light
Reflected the cold of night

We bottomed out where
The skirting board met the floor
The wall lined with

Denims and navy jumpers
And desert boots kicked off

Taking everything
That came around our way
Keeping each other warm

And I not knowing
A joint asked my neighbour
What it was

He looked at me
And said what did I think it was

It was lost on me
Never connecting with
My addictive streak

And I spared that
Particular future battle

Thanks be to God
Thanks bit a God
You might say

There was deep meaningful
Conversation deeply affected
Socialism belting back and forth
To the Songs of Leonard Cohen

Like a bird on a wire
Our voices going down
Down to the nether

Where Sorrow crouched
Like the sin of Cain
Outside the door

Biding its time

While we danced slow
And walked each other
Home eight nights of the week

Too late and too long for the liking
Of our parents

Too early and not long enough
For us and the season of our joy