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Any time I’m in Rome I always visit the national church of the French there, San Luigi dei Francesi. It’s between Piazza Navona and the Pantheon. There are a few paintings there by Caravaggio. One of them is The Calling of Matthew. Out of his Gospel 9:9, Caravaggio recreates the scene. In a musty dark room of tax collectors a barefooted Christ brings a beam of light into a dark space. It’s not clear who Matthew is, is it the man who looks up or the man with his head still down counting money that is being called .This style of painting revolutionised art, light and darkness, realism and ambiguity.

The reason I’m thinking of this is I came across a few lines I wrote sometime in the presence of the painting. As I get older I realise the enthusiasm the young Christ can inspire is harder to keep alive in an ageing body. I must have written these lines over 20 years ago.

Was it a Call?

In search more than in certainty 

In hope more than foot firm 

A young Christ calling his likeness in me.

Easily followed in words 

Yet never sensing the journey ahead.

Then, the times of knowing that the 

Trip was from head to the heart 

Through tears, smiles and wonder 

To consciously follow

the only opening left 

And to find a trust 

To sweep me on

In Jesus’s name.

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What’s over us?

The first sound I hear most mornings is the sound of the transatlantic flights beginning their descent over Europe.

From 5am on alot of flights destined for European capitals use the corridor over the Shannon Estuary and North Kerry, because of its proximity to Shannon airport. With the website and phone app FlightRadar24 we can find out alot about who is up there. They have 53 minutes to land in Heathrow as they pass over Asdee. At 32000 ft the air hostesses are gathering up the last breakfast trays and the films are ending. Some of my neighbours remember watching the flighing boats that left Foynes for a 35 hour flight as they limped out westward. How times have changed!

The winds, the Gulf Stream, airports all effect air traffic. But there are things that don’t change like distance and the need to connect across the miles. Being aware of the people above and below the clouds, fleeing war or wherever reminds me of the ways we forget our human connection internally to everyone, in a world that is becoming more externalised and hollow.

Pope Francis 

There are so many times when Francis says and does things and I say to myself, “I’d love to have said or done that.” St. Francis said “Preach always and where necessary use words”.

Nearly every morning in St. Martha’s House in the Vatican, Pope Francis preaches at morning mass. These January days the readings tell the story of David and Bethsheba in the Old Testament. Based on the readings,he reminds us of how blind we can be to think that we don’t need God’s forgiveness. None of us can throw stones. The worst thing about us can be “not feeling the need for forgiveness.” So every day we need to pray the Grace of God into our lives. “It is the property of fools to be always judging” said Thomas Fuller. It’s worth revisiting again the Pope’s New Year Resolutions, at the end of the month.

Connecting with an old friend

Gearoid Walshe and myself studied together in Killarney, Maynooth and Rome.

Now the Parish Priest in Castletownbere, we don’t meet as often as we should but he has been such a support to me over the last year. We met on Monday and had time to realise that our past is a different country! I missed the reunion of our Leaving Cert class of ’75 last September.

“Things being various” as TS Eliot would say!

Back then, 12 men went forward to study for the priesthood in the Diocese of Kerry. Over 20 went to study for all of Ireland this last year. There is mathematical certainty that in 10 years priests will be a small group of aged men. Priestless parishes, organised religion banished to private places-this is heralding some greater transformation. What have we bourne witness to, we asked ourselves? We are alive for reasons other than production and consumption. In an instant world of cyber communication that feels alien to us we were sensing that the best things we have come to know are discovered slowly.

“If we trust our need for silence, solitude  real presence, we realise we are “prophets of a future not our own”. Or are we old  tired men who have the gift of patience, leaving it to God? This is all that’s bothering us when we meet on a January day (!) – not true. But in honest conversation, real presence, a richness emerges that sustains a lot longer than television.

Breda spotted this rainbow outside Killarney Cathedral.

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Donal’s new book

To paraphrase the late Eamon Kelly, in my father’s time there was a shop opposite the Church in Rathmore and there in the shades of the Paps a great family were reared. Out of there Donal, or Daniel as he became better known as, O Leary came whose life and his writings inspire so many of us. As a priest he has honestly and courageously plotted a faith-filled inclusive path though our changed world and Church. As a frequent contributor to The Tablet he has fearlessly confronted issues that some of us were slow to whisper. All his books are uplifting and bring the reader up to speed on topical issues.

Daniel’s latest book is a joy.

It’s an invitation to be happy.

“The Happiness Habit” knows there is a “God Hole” or a “loneliness Hole” inside of all of us. Depression strikes one in four of us. This book puts me in touch with “the promise, passion and hope” that will nourish us from the inside out. It is a beautifully crafted book that brings you on a slow journey to an inner strength. The illustrations and quotes are superb. Micheal O Leary, among others, does some. Mary G. Sheehan’s superb painting of the Paps is on the cover, front and back. Selling at under 10euro, all the profits go to Calfood and Trocaire.

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it”, Goethe said. Donal and his family has always witnessed to this. A fulfilling, slow read, available in bookshops too.

Rural life in Kerry

I’m re-reading the poetry of the Welsh Anglican priest poet, R.S. Thomas. He priested in Rural Wales and sensed the decline, the “rural waste”, we are all sensing around us increasingly away from urban areas. I quote from his poem ‘The Welsh Hill Country’:

“too far for you to see

the moss and the cold of the cold chimneys

the nettles growing through the cracked doors

the house stands empty…..

there are holes in the roof that are patched by sunlight

and the fields are reverting to the bare moor.

LATER IN THE POEM HIS GAZE IS ON A FARMER.

too far, too far to see

the set of his eyes and the slow disease

wasting his frame under the tripped coat

there’s a man still farming…

contributing grimly to the accepted pattern

the embryo music dead in his throat.

Can’t you smell the stale, musty feel this January day! And the question is, side by side with that, where is new life breaking through?

It’s a snap shot.

Is it too far to see or is the donkey laughing?

 

Winter is good for you!

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In the middle of January, the feel of Winter all round, it’s Spring were looking forward to. But Winter focuses the mind. In fine weather the mind wanders all over the place. It nearly always ends up back with myself – my poor self! 

However Winter cures self pity. If it’s raining, don’t complain, it’s raining on everyone else around you too. The rain and the cold aren’t a personal experience. The best weddings are the ones where the rain and the cold keep the people together. A fine day and people wander all over the place. Winter is a great time to talk and to listen. It’s a time for being REALLY present to each other.

And then in the middle of winter the sun breaks through and what else would you need to nourish a solitary spirit.  

Yesterday in Ballybunnion.

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St Michael’s Church, Lixnaw 

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I have two reasons for being here tonight.

Firstly to honour devotion to Padre Pio,who reminds us all that God looks after us. Secondly to show my gratitude to you for the felt support I got from so many over the last year.

You all know my story. Diagnosed with oesophageal cancer last February, chemotherapy and radiation concurrently in March/April, weeks while the treatment took effect, an eight hour operation in mid-June, am in recovery since with low energy and low immune system.

How has my faith helped me?

Last February when a scope showed a large tumour, Kathleen and Anne were with me in a four bedded ward in Cork. An hour after the diagnosis, a man walked into the ward with a relic of Padre Pio. A friend through a prayer group had asked him to call. As soon as I held the relic I cried. I had hardly cried at my mothers funeral the previous September. I also felt held, I will be able for whatever is ahead.

The next day the consultant told me, if the PET scan shows its nowhere else, if I can take the treatment, if the operation is a success then “I have a mountain to climb “.

I felt a wall of prayer and good wishes around me. I allowed that into me, I laid back into it.

I was lucky, I felt no depression. I connected with God every way i could; in prayer, nature, people, reading. One day while waiting for treatment in Cork, I opened a secular magazine and there was a quote from Padre Pio “there is a path for you.” I allowed that to be true for me. Accept what is, it’s bringing me to a new space.

If you are sick yourself or a sickness is in family or friends, a few practical things.

  1. Never go into a doctor/consultant alone. The others will hear things you won’t.
  2. Hygiene and heat are so important when you are in treatment and recovery.
  3. Doctors/Nurses deal with your medical condition. Sickness brings up all kinds of stuff inside your head. I needed someone professional to walk me through that. At a deep level lots of stuff comes up and that has to be dealt with. Get some one reliable and sound to listen to you.
  4. Sickness feels like something to be ashamed of. It’s not always helpful to hide and be ashamed. Know what you are comfortable with and control access to yourself. I used Caringbridge.org so that everyone had the same information and distance too. There is no shame with being sick.

While I was on the flat of my back in Cork, I heard that I was remembered here at Mass by Fr. Mossie. It brought me to tears and I felt something move inside me. The prayer sent out from here has a healing power, uniting the suffering of people with the saving suffering of Jesus of Nazareth. That’s what the late Donal Enright, who lived with Padre Pio for years, told me when we met in Cork.

I thought last February that I would put my life on hold till I started living again. Now I realise that I have been on the greatest learning curve of my life. I lost so much control of my body: for times I couldn’t eat, taste, sleep, do normal bodily functions. But life includes suffering, if we don’t accept it, and everyone gets a nailing, I will live my life in fear and not in faith.

Being held in whatever situation I’m in is what we are all after. And we senses that here tonight, being held. That’s why we bring our worries here, lay them down for a while and we needn’t feel alone. Surrender. “Come into the presence of Jesus… give him free run of your heart.” I pray for people on the Bus-link to Cork, darkening the doors of hospitals daily.  “Don’t allow any sadness to dwell in their soul, for sadness prevents the Holy Spirit acting freely.”

Nothing is forever

Strength within

Support without

PadrePioStigmata

 

Hello!

PMA new blog space!

Why?

Something more than dealing with being sick I suppose ….

While I’m still in recovery mode….

I need to write and connect.

So many have reached out and raised me up …..

a word here…

a gesture there….

A way of being in the world that is :

aware,

organic, in the sense of growing,

Christian,

Inclusive,

Humorous,

Poetic,

Storied

Real…..

anyway….  you won’t see the ripples until you throw the stone in the water

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Ripples

I don’t know what it does for you but it draws me back to moments of solitude when I’m alone and a bit of soul work is going on.

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Chartres  Cathedral

I was there in November 2008.

The Rose Window

The Labyrinth on the floor.

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Kerry is in the worlds view again with the last two minutes of Star Wars.

I’ve been going there almost every year since is I was 18 years old.

I’ve been looking again at something I had published in the “Furrow ” in 2007.

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“On Sceilig with the Kerry Mystics”

J.B.Shaw, the playwright, who holidayed in Parknasilla, said no one should get an Irish passport without going to that “most fantastic island ”

It can be seen in nature and sensed in the events, characters and incense of prayer that is its history.

“A tooth of rock sticking up in the Atlantic swell ”

The boat journey out there,past the Gannet Colony, gannets, seals, gulls,Dolphins, puffins ( John O Donohue, Breeda, and myself once saw a mink whale on our decent from the summit of the Rock)

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The Monks who came there first, why,how?

Isolation and loneliness of the place allowed these heroic aesthetics to make some sort of sense to people who sit in a dark place and that’s everyone of us at sometime.

Abbot Blathmac 950, Aech 1044 and Eitgal who was taken prisoner by the Vikings and died of thirst at sea…

Their mystical spark kept their warmth within. Their vision is transformed by prayers salted by tears, distilled out of great bitterness.

That’s what we have in our tradition here in Kerry.

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Saw the film “Lunchbox ” on Netflix. Great insight into life in Mumbai.

Two great lines from this Indian film:

“Sometimes the wrong train will take you to the right place ”

“We forget things if we have no one to tell them to ”