Thursday, January 18, 2018
Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Tuesday, January 16, 2018
This week's Independent News & Media Irish regional newspapers' column.
Two Irish Jesuits died within hours of each other last week.
Fr Kennedy O’Brien and Fr Joe Brennan had a long association with the Jesuit-run school Gonzaga College in Dublin.
I knew neither man but since their deaths I have heard and read a number of comments in praise of them.
I spent some time teaching German in Belvedere College, a Jesuit-run school. The Jesuit principal at the time was impressive. It was pleasant and interesting to be in his company. He was the sort of boss you liked to see about the place. He gave one a sense of importance and that’s a great talent. There was nothing phoney about him. He was inspirational, he certainly inspired me. He had that great talent of getting the best out of people.
The short time I taught at the school I had a sense of being part of a great team. I was proud of being associated with the school.
Over my teaching career I worked in a number of schools and my principal in Belvedere was one of the best teaching bosses I ever had.
Brian Flannery, a spokesperson for the Irish Jesuits, quoted a famous line from the late Fr Brennan:
‘If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything’
Mr Flannery then went on to say about Fr Brennan: ‘He was one of nature’s gentlemen – accomplished but modest, wise but humorous, religious but never a ‘holy Joe’.’ Talking about Fr O’Brien he said: ‘He made a profound impression wherever he taught and was respected by the boys, staff and parents.’
I’d like to have asked Fr Brennan how do you know what to stand for? But it’s a brilliant one-liner and I can imagine how it would captivate a classroom.
It’s easy to remark that in the times in which we live we have no authority figures, and that people say and do as they like. And at times it does seem that anything goes. If you are slick, have good PR tricks, use some sort of focus group to tell you the way the wind is blowing, you might well be on the road to success.
The days of doffing the cap are well gone. We are manipulated into believing that the era of authoritarian leadership is over. And that sounds good. But we are also aware that crass individualism leads to an unhealthy society. Margaret Thatcher’s infamous comment that there is no such thing as society has not been of much help to the common good.
One would want to be a fool not to admit that we need good leadership. We need wise, kind and good people to be in positions of authority.
Dictators might keep the trains running on time but those same trains always end up going to nasty places.
Albert Einstein while living in Switzerland as a young man wrote to Professor Jost Winteler: ‘Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth’.
Being in any position of authority is a difficult job, especially in these days when so many boundaries have been blurred and crossed.
It is now over a week since I read that quote from the late Fr Brennan: ‘If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.’
Are we ‘falling for anything’? Are we being manipulated out of our minds? Has PC gone mad? And is that what is currently giving us a new style of leadership?
Truth, goodness and kindness must always win out. They’re the lynchpins that give meaning and purpose to authority. Any other sort of authority is a sham.
Monday, January 15, 2018
Sunday, January 14, 2018
Saturday, January 13, 2018
Friday, January 12, 2018
Thursday, January 11, 2018
Wednesday, January 10, 2018
Monday, January 8, 2018
Sunday December 31 was the feast of the Holy Family in the liturgy of the Catholic Church.
Over the years I have heard priests and bishops use the occasion to preach on the family and family life.
Certainly, it can never be said that Jesus lived in the perfect family. To say such a thing sounds silly.
Surely there is no such thing as a perfect family. Every single family is different and no-one ever knows what goes on behind the door of any family.
Some families have charmed lives, others experience hell on earth. In the last 20 or 30 years we have seen a glimpse of some of the horror that can take place in families.
These days there is a myriad family styles. To talk about the perfect family is absurd, indeed, it's a great oxymoron.
The day before the feast of the Holy Family I was on a train from Mallow to Dublin. It was surprisingly busy and at Limerick Junction an elderly woman boarded the train with her three grandchildren and they sat beside me. I like travelling on quiet trains so I was irritated that I had lost the free seats beside me. Awfully cheeky of me, but that's the way it is.
The granddaughter, who was 17, asked me if they could take the seats. I half-jokingly, half-seriously said I'd prefer not but yes they were free.
She smiled, said nothing and they sat down in the seats. The other two children, a boy and a girl were probably 13 and 15 respectively.
The train pulled off. The young boy put on his headphones and granny asked the 15-year-old for the pack of cards.
The granddaughter was stylish, nail varnish, eyelashes, a smartphone and long blonde hair. Her grandmother was small and probably in her 70s.
The train had hardly cleared the station when granny and the 17-year-old were playing cards. A while later the other girl, who was sitting across on the other side, joined in the card-playing. It's an hour and 34 minutes from Limerick Junction to Dublin Heuston and for the entire journey the three of them played cards.
That in itself was great to see but there was far more to it that that. I'm not sure I have ever seen people so kind to each other and relax in each other's company as they did. The gentleness and kindness, the 17-year-old showed to her grandmother was astonishing. It all came so natural to them. I couldn't work out what card-game they were playing but they were enjoying every minute of it.
About 10 kilometres out of Heuston I asked the young girl how old she was, so that's how I knew her age. Putting on my coat I asked her what class she was in and she told me fifth year. I was hoping she was doing German but no, French. When I said to her that she was a great advertisement for the young generation she graciously smiled, seemed embarrassed and whispered, 'thank you'.
Over the Christmas I read some of the seasonal greetings from political and church leaders. Some of it sounded hollow and cliched and probably written by their press advisers.
This granny and her three grandchildren who annoyed me at Limerick Junction taking 'my free seats' were a Christmas tonic for me.
I have been thinking about it, thinking about faith, religion, liturgy, the state of institutional churches in Ireland but I have no doubt 'God's favour' was with my 'seat takers'. Also, wherever they go and with whom ever they engage they will inspire and impress.
THERE ARE MANY reasons for the resistance to Francis’ reforms. Some bishops are simply committed theological conservatives, and others stick to tradition because of a temperamental preference for “how it always was”; they are puzzled by rapid changes in society and feel safer keeping to the road that they know.
The same is true of the junior clergy; young priests are often the firmest in their resolve to resist Francis’ reforms. Together, these bishops and priests create a sort of marsh, hampering the Pope’s progress and slowing down the work of the new bishops he appoints.
At his annual pre-Christmas meeting with members of the Roman Curia in 2016, Francis complained about the “hidden resistance, born of fearful or hardened hearts, content with the empty rhetoric of spiritual window dressing, typical of those who say they are ready for change yet want everything to remain as it was before”.
Even more trenchantly, he denounced the “malicious resistance, which springs up in misguided minds and comes to the fore when the devil (often cloaked in sheep’s clothing) inspires ill intentions”.
Last month, at his 2017 meeting with them, he spoke of the existence within the Curia of an “unbalanced and debased mindset of plots and small cliques”, of a real “cancer” leading to self-centredness.
On top of that, he emphasised the danger of traitors, persons chosen to support and implement reforms who instead “let themselves be corrupted by ambition or vainglory”. His harsh words were met by a sullen show of obedience
Saturday, January 6, 2018
Friday, January 5, 2018
Thursday, January 4, 2018
Wednesday, January 3, 2018
This week's Independent News & Media Irish regional newspapers' column.
At this time of year newspapers and television look back on the last year, they also review the State papers of 30 years ago, which are now released for perusal.
It's fascinating how differently people dressed and spoke just a short 30 years ago. For anyone now in their teens or 20s, indeed even 30s it is an eternity away.
My father died at 95, was swimming in the Atlantic at 92. We'd often discuss the changes he had seen. He drove his father's car when he was 15 and spent 80 years behind the wheel. Never had a road accident. That's some record.
I can still remember when we got a landline in the early 1960s. Back then we didn't call it a landline. Most phones in the country were on a table in the hall. Like Henry Ford and his black cars, phones were black.
My Dad used a cordless phone but he never managed a mobile phone, nor indeed, did he get to deal in euro. And there's a funny story about the money; for a long time after we moved away from pounds shillings and pence to pounds and pence, Dad still called the 10p coin 2/-, or a two-shilling-bit. To younger readers that's 'double-dutch'. Another world from Bitcoins.
I have seen four currency changes. I was born into a world of pounds, shillings and pence, in 1971 we changed to decimal currency. The punt arrived in 1979 and then the euro in 2002.
The first time I went to Germany, which was 1972, I had a stamp in my passport stating how many German marks I was bringing with me.
When I hear columnist Mary Kenny tweet how her mother cherished her green Irish passport I find myself getting a pain in the pit of my stomach. Listening to Nigel Farage talk about the significance of the return of the 'Blue passport' and how important it is, I look forward to the day when Mr Farage is left standing in an endless airport queue for non-EU citizens.
While my parents saw a lot of changes in their lifetime, my generation has seen its world turned upside down.
On Sunday I was washing strawberries to put on my porridge. Strawberries in January were unheard of when I was a child and a young man.
This Christmas close to one million people used Dublin Airport. When I was a teenager I cycled out to Dublin Airport with cousins, walked into a hangar and got on board a DC3 and Viscount aircraft. If we managed to do that today it would be an item of news and a top-level security inquiry would be launched.
In the 1960s computer companies constructed large buildings to house their data-inputting machines. Our mobile phones hold more data than those monsters.
Where and what next? Who knows? But one in seven on the planet does not have enough to eat.
One third of the food produced in the world for human consumption, approximately 1.3 billion tonnes, is wasted. In the developed world €573 billion worth of food is wasted every year and in the developing world it works out at €261 billion.
We have come a long way in my lifetime, well, at least some have. And at whose expense?
It's not exclusively the people in the developing world who are hurting. And no one knows that better than Donald Trump, who has his finger on the pulse of those left behind in rust-belts all over the developed world.
There's something amiss and it needs fixing, and fast.
Happy New Year to all.
Tuesday, January 2, 2018
Monday, January 1, 2018
Sunday, December 31, 2017
Saturday, December 30, 2017
Irealnd's over-65s are expected to double within the next 20 years bringing the totoal number of people over 65 to one million.
Ireland's population is ageing faster than the EU average.
There has been a 34 per cent increase in people aged over 65 since 2008.
A million people with the Travel Pass in 2038?