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27th Nov, 2015


How secular and prudish can we get about religion and any public display of it? A few recent examples:

Downton Abbey period drama series on the BBC has banished any mention of religion from the series despite the fact that it is set almost 100 years ago. I understand they even fretted about including the word 'abbey'.

Irish TV have for some time played the traditional Angelus Bell tolling before the Evening News while depicting general life activities. There is an out-cry about this.

An ad showing people saying the Lord’s Prayer has been banned from major cinema chains like Odeon and Cineworld for fear cinema-goers in England might be offended.

You have to wonder what your average Muslim living here in the West makes of it all.

Watch the brief ad at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlUXh4mx4gI#t=25

26th Nov, 2015


I'm asking myself these days what Christmas means to me. As I pass through the town for the last month I am simply bombarded with "seasonal" posters, "seasonal" toys, and various "seasonal" things on sale. What a disgrace to claim that this winter festival has anything to do with the traditional Christian celebration. Why not call it something else?

I myself have decided to ignore the festivities - no cards, no gifts, no flowers, no drinks, no concerts - and concentrate on my own private reflections and quietly rejoice in the Christian aspects of the festival.

25th Nov, 2015


Thinking about the terrible troubles at present in Syria and in Europe I, like Pilate, must ask myself "What is truth?". We are all so sure we have found it. Yet it is so surprisingly difficult to pin down.

Recently I came upon a short poem on the theme of truth by Stephen Crane called The Wayfarer and I suppose many of us would probably give up the challenge and agree with his final conclusion.

The Wayfarer
The wayfarer,
Perceiving the pathway to truth,
Was struck with astonishment.
It was thickly grown with weeds.
"Ha," he said,
"I see that none has passed here
In a long time."
Later he saw that each weed
Was a singular knife.
"Well," he mumbled at last,
"Doubtless there are other roads."

The pathway, the search for truth, is thick with weeds, and each weed like a "singular knife" can be some obstacle to finding the truth - perhaps some self-serving motive. Am I really searching for truth, I ask? And are others around me? Crane seems to doubt this - the path has not been travelled much - and he, too, decides to look for other roads. It is easier to let ourselves be influenced by the ideas and opinions of others or to endure a cultural torture.

24th Nov, 2015


Here is an artist's rendering of a display that is on the Franklin County courthouse lawn from November to January. The display shows the "nativity" of the Bill of Rights.

The Statue of Liberty, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson huddled around a manger.

23rd Nov, 2015

Have been away in the west of Ireland for a short break

I have been reading about Pope Francis' recent interesting visit to a Lutheran prayer service.


11th Nov, 2015


Yesterday Pope Francis visited Florence and saw Marc Chagall's painting White Crucifixion (1938).

The painting, drained of colour, was done in response to the horrifying events of Kristallnacht and emphasizes the suffering of Jesus and of the Jewish people (but has often been seen by Jews as a symbol of oppression).

In the centre Jesus is seen wearing a Jewish prayer shawl and at the sides violent acts against Jews are depicted such as the burning of a synagogue.

Pope Francis is a friend of the Jewish people, and likes the painting which, I understand, is normally on view at the Art Institute of Chicago.

10th Nov, 2015


Suppose I were doing research on Wexford of 1904 what would I learn from the following photo (Main Street) and details.

9th Nov, 2015


Great to hear Pope Francis today highlight for priests the importance of delivering homilies that are short, to the point, relevant and moving. I hope those in my parish are listening.

"Your words should be simple. Words that everyone can understand. Don't give long homilies. Your homilies should transmit the grace of God. They should be simple, understandable by everyone. May they encourage others to improve themselves.”

8th Nov, 2015


Richard Rohr, O.F.M. (b.1943) is an American Franciscan friar and Catholic priest. He is the Founder and Director of the Living School for Action and Contemplation, in Albuquerque, and has written many tracts on religion.

I have been especially struck by his emphasis on the 'blessing' we, and indeed all creation, are from a loving God.
He points out that too often Christianity emphasizes negative aspects of our relationship with God (eg sin); that we are 'intrinsically disordered' from the word go. That it is like a vacuum cleaner salesman first pouring dirt on your floor so that he can show you how well his little Hoover works. Creation did not start with a foundational problem!

I am an ever-evolving blessing from God. My personal spiritual life should be a growing and ever-deepening realization of this on my part, rather than concentrating on negative influencess from outside myself. During my life, unfortunately, I have been influenced by institutions outside myself stressing that I am imperfect and sinful from birth and must be 'saved' from Original Sin and its consequences. That salvation depends on a constant avoiding of falling into an abyss (Hell).

My spiritual life should concentrate on my own inner experience of myself as an evolving 'blessing' and not as 'intrinsically disordered'. The Scriptures, the life and teachings of Christ, the Commandments, the Sacraments, and a better understanding of the Universe around me are, of course, great helps and supports to me on my spiritual journey.

7th Nov, 2015

‘We didn’t come here for economic reasons in 1979, we came for freedom.’

We hear and see a great deal these days about the terrible scandal of the Syrian refugees travelling through Europe seeking asylum.

I am reminded of the similar scandal of the Vietnamese Boat People seeking asylum after the terrible war of 1975. Most of the refugees were settled in south-east Asia but many were settled in Europe and even in Ireland. 400 arrived in Dublin wrapped in Aer Lingus blankets in the winter of 1981. They were temporarily housed in a hospital and by the Christian Brothers in north Dublin where they were taught some English before being relocated across the country to prevent ghettoisation. Many were poor and unskilled, some were illiterate, the Government - and Irish people generally might I add - were not very enthusiastic in their welcome.

One of the newcomers was Nga Van Thai with his wife and family. He was lucky in so far as he had some English and was able to set up a Chinese restaurant of sorts in Dublin. He encouraged his children to try to settle in and got them schooling. He died in May this year and sadly did not have the pleasure of seeing one of his sons graduate with a PhD from the Royal College of Surgeons.

Other refugees also did well and are a credit to themselves and to their eagerness to succeed. I'm sure many of the present refugees from Syria in Europe will also turn out to be a blessing for the states in which they settle.

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