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20th Feb, 2017

athgarvan

Into Music?

Who was top of the charts in 2016?

19th Feb, 2017

athgarvan

XI JIMPING in IRELAND

Xi Jimping is President of the People's Republic of China since 2013.

On this day in 2012, when vice-president, he visited Ireland for three days during which he visited a number of tourist sites around the country. In spite of concerns about our government's warm welcome of the man, he signed several trade agreements.

He took time out to visit the HQ of two of our national games, Hurling and Gaelic football. He watched some leading exponents of the games and even tried his hand at them himself but without great success.

He also tried an Irish Coffee!



    
athgarvan

SKIING THIS WEEKEND?

I suppose some of my lucky readers are still skiing on the slopes. I've never had the experience myself but I have being reading that Pope John-Paul II was a real dab at it - he was still at it at 66 - nine years into his papacy! He believed that the beauty of skiing is that it’s not only an exhilarating sport, but also a spiritual activity.

He, himself, was known for not taking the easy way up the mountain, choosing to climb up with his skis rather than take a ski lift. “The way Jesus shows us is not easy", he said, "Rather, it is like a path winding up a mountain. Do not lose heart! The steeper the road, the faster it rises towards ever wider horizons. When you’re up at the top staring down at the slope in front of you, you can have that sensation of feeling oh so small. We’re little dots in the landscape and we’re reminded that our place on Earth is fleeting compared to the solid ancient mountains we’re skiing down—it can be a little overwhelming".

When Pope Francis spoke to the Austrian Skiing Federation last year he, too, spoke of the “commitment, perseverance, determination, honesty, solidarity, and team spirit” the sport represents. These are all values that will help one on the slopes, and also in one's daily life to be the person one wants to be.

18th Feb, 2017

athgarvan

IGNATIAN SPIRITUALITY

I have not yet seen Silence, the historical drama directed by Scorsese and starring, among others, Liam Neeson from Northern Ireland. But I gather it is an excellent film and is based on the Spiritual Exercises (1522–1524) of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

The film depicts the journey of two Jesuit priests who travel to Japan to find their missing mentor at a time when Christianity was banned in Japan. The priests witness the kind of horror and violence Christians were subjected to in Japan and have to face the oppression themselves.

As the Spiritual Exercises formed the bed-rock of my own novitiate days, my mind has been thrown back nearly 70 years.

In his "Exercises" Ignatius encourages us to consider what Jesus said and did and his life was one of prayer and a continuous search for how best to live as an authentic human being before a loving God. Jesus preached forgiveness, healed the sick and gave hope to the poor, to those socially and economically outcast. He spoke of joy, peace, justice and love; he summoned men and women from all classes of society to continue to follow his way to God and his commitment to helping people become whole and holy.

I'm afraid I have failed to live up to that very high standard and haven't much time left! I better get down to it.

17th Feb, 2017

athgarvan

THE GATE WITH NO FENCE

I love this picture. What can it signify to you?

A piece of art that is lyrical, mysterious, asks questions and makes you think?

Could it mean: "Do the right thing even when there is no point to it - it's the principle that counts"?

Or could it refer to people who feel they are helpless and locked within their private hell - when all the time they can find the way out, if they look.

16th Feb, 2017

athgarvan

LATE LATE SHOW

RTÉ  is our Irish National, public funded, TV and Radio station. The Late Late Show is Ireland's most popular and prestigious television show and is the longest running chat show in the world. It is an Irish institution and today is still the most popular programme on television in Ireland. It is a unique concept in the television world, offering a two hour live show each Friday comprising a mix of some of the biggest celebrities the world has to offer, mixed with uniquely Irish stories, people and talking points of the day.

But the Late Late Show keeps plumbing new depths. I read that on last Friday night, anticipating Valentine's Day, the show, where all the live audience members had to be single, handed out hampers of lubricants, 'pleasure rings' and condoms as Dickie Rock sang, 'That's Amore'.

Whatever else was going on, apparently, it wasn't amore. Many of my friends who normally watch the show were absolutely disgusted with its vulgarity, crudeness, and innuendo.

14th Feb, 2017

athgarvan

HAPPY ST. VALENTINE'S DAY

Claddagh Ring: the most authentic Irish gesture of love that you could possibly do is to exchange Claddagh rings. These beautiful rings originated in the village of Claddagh in Galway back in the 18th century, where they were originally used by the fishermen of the village as a means of identification.

The unique design didn’t take long to spread all across the country however, and soon became a favoured gift for couples or close friends to give one another.

The ring’s design is a heart held by two hands with a crown on top. The heart, obviously, symbolises love, the hands friendship, and the crown loyalty – in other words, the most important elements of any successful relationship! The tradition of the ring is that if you wear it with the tip of the heart pointing in towards your wrist, your heart has been promised to someone, but if it points outwards, you’re still on the lookout for your soulmate. The left hand is associated with serious relationships, while the right hand is for close friendships or family ties.

11th Feb, 2017

athgarvan

VALENTINE'S DAY

Next Tuesday is St. Valentine's Day when the world goes all romantic.

It originated, we're told, when a  Christian, Valentine, was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry, and for ministering to Christians. Another legend says he healed the daughter of his jailer and signed a letter he wrote to her "Your Valentine" and so became associated with romantic love.

In the Celtic tradition, there is a beautiful understanding of love and friendship called 'Anam Cara'  or 'soul-love'. In everyone's life there is a great need for an 'anam cara', a soul friend. In this love, you are understood as you are without mask or pretension. The superficial and functional lies and half-truths of social acquaintances and network friendships fall away, you can be as you really are. Love allows understanding to dawn, and understanding is precious. Where you are understood, you are at home.

Are you ready to celebrate? When one comes to being romantic -  a bunch of flowers, cheesy cards, red roses, chocolates, music, are often the order of the day. Or do you take it all with a pinch of salt!

10th Feb, 2017

athgarvan

CHRISTIANS AND TRUMP

Christians must assess Trump's policies on a case-by-case basis. He wants to 'destroy' Islamic fundamentalism. He also wants to defend America’s borders against illegal immigrants. He has an extremely provocative style and a very problematic temperament and personality.

What should Christians make of Trump? Certainly, it is difficult to approve of his personal lifestyle. Despite this, many Christian women appear to have voted for Trump. Many liked his (newfound) opposition to abortion just as others liked Clinton's staunch support for abortion-on-demand. Many Catholics voted for Trump for purely, or even partly, religious reasons.

Some Catholics will have voted for him because of economic factors. He won big support in working class areas because they have been unhappy to see their jobs disappear to China and Mexico.

If a Catholic were to vote based on religion it would have been impossible to give whole-hearted support to either Trump or Clinton. Few Catholics will approve of Trump's overly provocative style, his lack of compromise on seemingly any issue, his win-at-all-costs approach. Many will find his attitude towards climate change deeply objectionable.

All Catholics ought to approve of his support for the right-to-life, no matter how opportunistic it may be. Many will approve of his desire to do the right thing by working class communities. If he manages to lift them up through his policies, it would be hard for Catholics not to applaud that. But Christians also believe in ‘welcoming the stranger’.

9th Feb, 2017

athgarvan

A Sober Ireland ? - where does one start?

Science shows that we are able to survive at least one day without alcohol. In 1927, Ireland enshrined in law that alcoholic drink could not be sold on Christmas Day, Good Friday and St Patrick's Day. The law relating to St Patrick's Day was repealed in 1960 to cater for foreign visitors coming to celebrate the national feast day.

We are now debating efforts to have the Good Friday sale-of-alcohol ban removed. It annoys tourists apparently.  Others argue that it is an archaic hangover from when the Catholic Church had a much greater influence on Irish society and say the laws are archaic and discriminatory, and cause a huge loss of revenue each year. They say that even if you go to within 100 yards of the Vatican you can get drink on Good Friday in a pub. They complain that we are unique.

The two days that pubs are closed are two of the most significant in the Christian calendar, marking the birth and death of Jesus. The closure is meant to be used as a mark of temperance and something of mourning, for the church. Because Ireland was very much a Catholic country at the time of the law, the tradition was carried on and is still maintained to this day.

The Germans have very heavy restrictions on Sunday trading and they couldn't care less if it annoys tourists. They want some days that are not totally given over to the dictates of commerce. Other countries in Europe also have customs restricting commercial activities. Good on them.

It is illegal to drive a car if you are under the influence of alcohol. Over a specific limit, until now, you are liable to a fine or to imprisonment. The Minister is now threatening to disqualify those convicted of driving under the influence.

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