An Asdee Story with a moral

Two weeks ago, a neighbour who is a pilot and lives alone attended a party in Uptown Asdee. He met a woman in her 4o’s and they struck up a conversation near the outside pool. Alan had recently lost his old pet greyhound. Winnie empathised with him. A mink had recently killed all the goldfish in her outdoor pond. They talked openly about their grief, his greyhound and her goldfish. Alan invited Winnie to lunch at his place the following Friday. 

Last Friday Winnie showed up at Alan’s place with a bunch of daffodils and a bottle of Nash’s lemonade and a removal van containing all her clothes and possessions, including some large pieces of furniture. Well he welcomed her, thanked her for the daffodils and the lemonade, but it wasn’t until he saw the movers that he found out what Winnie was really about. Alan is not accepting any more invites to garden parties in Uptown Asdee or anywhere else in the foreseeable future.

The moral of the story is that wild mink are doing untold damage in the countryside. 



Surprised by Joy

  It’s a blue sky morning here in downtown Asdee as I watch flight AR726 flight at 35000 ft, half ways on their curved flight of over 12 hours from Chicago to Quatar cut the sky overhead. Yesterday morning Thady James Quirke came to see me. He is two weeks old. He brought his parents, Bebhinn and Kieran with him! It is heart warming to share in the joy of a new birth and a happy family. Fresh from eternity it is so life affirming to see and feel Thady coming into a cradle of love where he is welcomed and valued. They were going on then to visit Kieran’s grandmother, Nora Chawke of Abbeyfeale. She is a great woman in her 90’s who is a great musician and storyteller. The meeting of the generations!”Il linguaggo dell’amore, e negli occhi,” the language of love is in the eyes, as they say around here.

Summer time

  A month after an election, no government yet but the main issue of poor local roads is being addressed  in downtown Asdee! The daylight saving time change has moved an hour of daylight from morning to the evening, giving us those long summer nights. Losing an hour in Spring is harder than gaining an hour in the autumn. It’s like going east on a plane to America.

Yesterday brought two welcome visitors. Fr. Tom McMahon from Knockanure was joined later in the evening by Fr. Joe Nolan of Farnastack, two men with the higher view of things. Globally we discussed how the combination of liberalism and democracy seems to have run its course when we saw what was happening in Eastern Europe and America. Then we turned into talking about the way the use of language  has changed here in Kerry in our lifetime. 

The March of the gadgets, while not total, has made things we regarded as eye contact, the study of a fellow human beings body language, tone and vivid oral images in dialogue less valued. A mobile phone on the table can change what we talk about and the degree of connection we feel. Fr. Joe pointed out that local dialogue was always studied. It was less spontaneous, less playful and masked any vulnerability. People often spent their solitary time sharpening their tongues. ” How much did you make at the market for your cattle?” asked the local farmer, known for his directness. He asked his neighbour, known for his privacy who replied, “more than I thought but not as much as I expected.” The tongue can be used to conceal the truth rather than to reveal the truth. We talked of the rich liturgical language of The Blasket Islands and Peig Sayers. When a neighbour visited a house at evening, as they darkened their door, they said, ‘ the blessings of God be inside this house before us!” Now, if a neighbour visits, they ring the door bell and say ‘Hi.’

No conversation with Fr. Tom is complete without he bringing up Horace. ” Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori,” it is sweet and glorious to die for ones country. We talked of 1916 and the Easter Rising. We talked of Wilfred Owen, the English poet of WWI, who died in action a week before the war ended. He referred to the quote as “the old lie.” These issues were washed down with tea and porter cake. Now that the the evening is lengthening, the sun is out and the sap is rising as the roots dig down into the soil, ‘pactum serva, as Horace said, keep the faith. 


Easter Monday2016

  A high point for me this Easter was was watching on Netflix “The Passion of Christ.” It was hosted and narrated by Tyler Perry in his native city of New Orleans. It was first preformed on Palm Sunday of this year. Perry, who is 46, is an actor,producer, director,screenwriter and playwright. With Oprah Winfrey Network he created the hugely successful “The haves and the haves not.” He has a major acting part in Gerard Barrett’s film,”Brain on Fire,” scheduled for release this autumn.

He is a committed Christian and in this he hosts and narrates the last hours of Jesus’ life along with a great cast of actors and entertainers. It is set live in New Orleans following Jesus through the Last Supper, his trial,death and Resurrection. At the same time a 20ft illuminated cross is brought through the streets of the city. The commentary is effective,”if Jesus came among us today would we listen to him or ask him to take a selfie with me,” Perry asks. The story line sticks close to the Gospels and there are some memorable lines: ” wake me up from inside, I feel I’m drowning in a sea spilled from a cup, it’s woven in my soul….” Perry suggests at the end that when the suffering was over there was ‘an however in the story.’  Believe first, then truly see. Deep faith and a promise fulfilled. It’s worth seeing.

Tyler Perry did a memorable interview with Piers Morgan in which he spoke of forgiveness. The 2minute utube summary is worth a look.

I came across a poem I wrote on Easter Monday, 2007. I don’t remember it being published anywhere and I wrote it after a walk with my friend Brendan Walsh on Carrig Island. I talked to Brendan last night and he remembers that day too, the tiredness we felt and the rediscovery of energy  after the walk. It was called Easter Monday:

“We walked to the furthest point of Carrig Island.

Nearby is the first monastic site in North Kerry.

Across the Shannon Estuary the round tower and monastic sites of Scattery break the skyline.

A northwest wind chills the sunlight that is gaining confidence this April morning.

Feeling like the last two priests in Kerry we are full of Holy Week tiredness, inwardly more ashes than fire, more sickness than healing.

In this place and at a different time Senan of Scattery crossed over to build a causeway, a task abandoned for want of blessing.

We have only ourselves we said as we stood there.

In our inner emptiness is the birthing place for Easter hope.

That it may overtake us and bring us forward.” 

  Who did we meet coming off the island but your man and this is what he had to say!! 

The Sun Dancing

For Holy Week I blogged out of downtown Asdee as I let the solemn week take hold of me. After a long wet winter, perhaps the longest wettest in memory for so many, we had two weeks of dry weather that came to an end on Good Friday evening. During that dry bright week, land breathed again, cows frolicked in the fields and going to the bog was mentioned. Farm slurry was spread, lawn mowers hummed, planting and rooting started. Mike Joe Thornton’s banana plantation on Banmore Hill will not go ahead this year. In an effort to comply with E.U. regulations the bananas he produced turned out too straight. They were not curved enough for his main buyer, banana bread maker, Donie O Keeffe of downtown Asdee. “Like a free taker in football,” Donie said, “it’s all in the curve.” M.J. Thornton is now diversifying into bog cotton production, making various types of comfort clothing for big animals and fish. Meanwhile both entrepreneurs are attending a symposium pondering some great issues like :  

 But it is EASTER SUNDAY morning! There is a tradition of people rising at dawn in Celtic places. In the recent past in Cnoc an Fhomhair, in Duagh, but this morning in Ballyferriter and Lixnaw. ” The people say the sun dances on this day in joy for the Risen Saviour. Old Barbara Macphie of Dreimsdale saw this once, but only once, during her long life and the good woman of high natural intelligence, described in poetic language and with religious fervour what she saw from the summit of Benmore. ‘The glorious gold bright sun was after rising on the crest of the great hills, and it was changing colour – green, purple,red, blood red, white, intense white and golden white, like the Glory of the God of the elements to the children of men. It was dancing up and down in exhilaration at the joyous resurrection at the beloved Saviour of Victory.’ To be thus privileged a person must accent to the top of the highest hill before sunrise and believe that the God who makes the small blade of grass to grow is the same God who makes the large,massive sun to move.” 

 In 1990,a few of us around Asdee started the custom on Easter Sunday morning of going to the top of Cnoc anFhomhair (879ft), the hill that casts its shaddows on our doors at evening time. A fire was lit there first in 1829 to spread the word that Catholic Emancipation had been won in Westminister, meaning that Catholics could now worship openly in Churches. To celebrate Easter we lit a big fire before dawn, Mass began before dawn with great traditional music. Mass that begun in darkness ended in light and we looked around and recognised the faces of each other. On our decent we took a sunflower with us to plant. We were there in all sorts of weather and on occasion the sun danced. The late John O Donohue celebrated dawn at Easter Mass in Corcomroe in the Burren. In one homily he said, “We don’t realise all the good we can do. A kind, encouraging word or a helping hand can bring many a person through dark valleys in their lives. We weren’t put here to acquire status or reputation. We were sent here to search for the light of Easter in our hearts, and when we find it we are meant to give it away generously. The dawn that is rising this Easter morning is a gift to our hearts and we are meant to celebrate it and to carry away from this holy, ancient place the gifts of healing and light and the courage of new beginning.” Quoted in John Quinn’s book, ‘Walking in the Pastures of Wonder.’

What a great practical Easter message. 

 This is the inside of Duagh Church this Easter Sunday morning. Yesterday Nina and her helpers went to the vicinity of Springmount graveyard and gathered green moss which was then with lights put onto the bare wooden cross of Good Friday – symbolising the Resurrection. “The light of Easter to our hearts!”

On Good Friday, people in downtown Asdee observed traditional fast. Kevin, Ray, Donie, Sean and Con  had sent the mackerel they had fished to Norelle Whyte at her smokehouse in Bunabha.  Smoked mackerel and Donie’s non-banana brown bread featured in the diet of many in the locality. It proved to be thought provoking and penetential for some. For Kevin there was something a bit too fishy about it. Today however we have Mary Whyte’s eggs to look forward to. Mary was proposing feeding her hens chocolate in the hope that they would lay Easter eggs…Pascha Salutem!

Holy Saturday

Yesterday evening, while it was still dry I managed to visit St. Mary’s Church in Asdee. It is the first Church I was brought to as a baby to be baptised and I thought of all the people who went there, many of whom are now gone on ‘the way of truth.’ Some, like Dan Wren visited on a daily basis. The place was warm and calm within, callers coming and going, silently doing the stations of the cross. Over 50 years ago, Fr. Ferris had the stations installed and each of them is titled in Irish. 

  The 11th station has a great economy of words. In English it reads, ‘the nails being put.’ A reminder that words and thoughts can drive hurt into others and sometimes into myself. The words are real in a world where the eastern Mediterranean seas have become a graveyard for so many refugees and bombs bring terror and fear to lives. Tongues can be nails.

Yesterday afternoon, I was involved in a programme with Mary Fagan on Radio Kerry. You can listen again to the 20 minute podcast by going to:


John Moriarty. 

  Nobody in our Irish tradition that I have read has spoken of ‘the Good Friday’ experience and the human condition like John Moriarty(1938-2007). On page 94 of his first book Dreamtime(1994), he made this profound statement ; ‘I cannot find you, God. And the reason I cannot find you is simple : it is with that in me that eclipses you that I seek you.’ 

Here’s how John speaks to suffering and Good Friday in Dreamtime(and I summarise here) :

“Metamorphosis in insects is a change in form. A caterpillar becomes a butterfly. A nymph becomes a dragonfly. The suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, for us humans is going beyond form. It is the ego losing itself in the divine. If I undergo this I’m engulfed and swallowed up in it, it’s like being evaporated. Put a saucepan of well water  over a turf fire. I am boiled away, saucepan and all.”

Today is Good Friday. Rosemary Haughton wrote of today: “The cry of Jesus on the Cross at the very end was, therefore the cry of awareness that all was indeed accomplished…..Jesus gave back to the one he loved the unshackled fullness of love, and in so doing carry with him on the surge of that passion….and that’s the moment of resurrection….for the resurrection is not a single event but the ever extending outflow of the energy previously dammed up by sin and death.”(The Passionate God). 

 This is a Processional Cross dated 1479AD,  belonging to Lislaughtin Friary. In 1871, a few miles from here, John Jeffcott was ploughing his field in Ballylongford when he found it. He kept it at home for 18 years before handing it over to the National Museum, where it now can be seen in one room with The Ardagh Chalice. The wood of the Cross brings forth leaves of new life.

John O Donohue 

  This week being Holy Week I’ve been looking at what some European theologians have made of suffering, the human condition and Holy Week. One of the Blessings of my life has been to have known a man that could hold his own with any of these great minds. John O Donohue (1956-2006) wasn’t just a great mind, he was also a great heart and Spirit.

A pivotal question for him was always; why is there something rather than nothing? He sensed the dream that brought us here into this earthly existence. He saw landscape as alive. Everything around us is passing yet he sought meaning and patterns of identity in life. He valued literature and writing as it gave voice through the imagination to the silence and the unknown within and around us. There are hidden presences everywhere that are looking for a voice. If we attend with dignity to the important moments of experience like suffering and death then we are on the right road to awareness and meaning. There is a website, with useful information on John.

John was actively involved in priestly ministry for 19 years. But he believed priesthood to be explicitly in the human heart so everyone is a priest in their own way. No matter where John was in the world we always made contact on Holy Thursday as it marked the institution of the Eucharist.  

 This is a painting by German artist Siger Koder(1925-2015). He was a prisoner of war in W.W.2 and after that became a priest. Here he captures the brooding confusion of the Last Supper, see the reflection of the face in the cup. When people arrived at his parish wanting to meet him he famously said,’they haven’t understood my paintings!’

Teilhard de Chardin 

  Teilhard de Chardin(1881-1955), was a French Jesuit. A scientist, his study of geology and palaeontology lead him to believe that all of life is evolving towards ‘an omega point.’ The human and the universal he saw as inseparable. What sense did he make of suffering, the human condition, the Cross and Holy Week?

He said all the suffering and agitation of human life opens onto a road that leads somewhere and that road ‘climbs upwards.’ In the final stages of this upward spiral we are called to cross a threshold,’a critical point,’where we can lose touch with the five senses. This mystical place,’shrouded in mist, beyond the human eye, is where the Cross beckons us ,’onto a pathway which is the way toward universal progress. This is the road of the Cross, its the road of humanity ‘supernaturally righted and prolonged.’

These,I find,are words that describe an understanding of reality that is worth letting sink into me this Holy Week when Christians look into the mystery of suffering. 

 ‘Pale prime roses that die unmarried, ere they can behold bright Phoebus in his strength.’   Shakespeare.

“Mysticism must rest on crystal clear honesty, and can only come when after things have been stripped down to their naked reality.” Etty Hillesum.

Karl Rahner 

  This week I have been looking at how great theologians of the 20th century have explained Holy Week. Karl Rahner was a German Jesuit (1904-1985), who had a great influence on the outcome of Vatican 2. I saw him once in the distance in Rome and a story I remember of his visit there is that when he went to make a cup of tea for himself in the Jesuit community room there he tore open the teabag, emptied the contents into the cup and poured the hot water in on top. “Weak tea for weak people!,” as J.B.Keane would say.

Of Holy Week, Rahner said, it ought to be a week we share in a special way in the Passion of Christ. We don’t have to be pious to do this “but by bearing the burdens of our lives with simple strength and without showing off.” We share our lives with Christ by realising our lives are “a participation in his destiny.” If I can understand that “the bitterness and the burden of my own life do-or should-give me a mysterious share in the destiny of all human beings.” If I can realise that the Passion of Christ is “an acceptance of the Passion of Humanity.” This must be “accepted,suffered, redeemed and freed into the mystery of God.” A worthy thought for all who try to make sense of suffering this Holy Week. 

D”Daffodils that come before the swallow dares, and takes the winds of March with beauty.”  Shakespeare.

“I repose in myself. And that part of myself, that deepest and richest part in which I repose, is what I call God.”    Etty Hillesum.