Saturday, March 25, 2017

Time to change

What a magnificent day, at least in Dublin but most likely all over Ireland.

And it's the last day of winter time.

At 02.00 tomorrow clocks across Europe go forward one hour. Well, not exactly, Russia no longer changes its time. 

The United States moves to Daylight Saving Time on the second weekend of March.

At present Ireland is on GMT, from tomorrow we will be on GMT plus one hour, along with the UK and Portugal while the rest of the EU will be on GMT plus two.

And don't mix up UTC (Coordinated Universal Time), which is a time standard, with GMT (Greenwich Mean Time), which is a time zone.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Germany and England

On Wednesday evening in Dortmund the German and England soccer teams played a friendly.

The German captain for the evening was Lukas Podolski. It was his last time to play for the German national team, hence the role of captain.

Germany won one - nill and Podolski scored the winning goal.

The game was drenched in all sorts of messages and irony.

Some England fans sang unpleasant/nasty songs.

Podolski was born in Poland and so could have played for either Germany or Poland.

Unfortunately the England fans behaved as they did on the day that was in it.

Why is it that on such occasions the German fans always behave impeccably well? And England.....?

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Confirmation Irish-style

A boy making his Confirmation somewhere in Ireland is asked by a relative what happens at Confirmation.

He replies: "You get a mobile phone."

He is then asked to say the Lord's Prayer/Our Father. He is unable to say even the first line of the prayer.

The boy is then quizzed as to what happened at the ceremony. He replies: "I fell asleep".

But it was also noted by an adult, who attended the liturgy, that the presiding bishop was so boring that other clerics attending nearly nodded off too.

Catholic education in Irish Catholic schools?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Life-changing experience

The piece below appears in the March issue of The Carer, which is the newsletter of the National Association of Healthcare Chaplains.

Michael Commane
Greetings from St Luke's Hospital in Rathgar. It's my place of work. Since late August I have been working here in the hospital as chaplain. I have my badge to prove it. It says: 'St Luke's Radiation Oncology Network Michael Commane Chaplain'.

I think I can cut to the quick immediately and say up front that it has been a life-changer.

My background has been in teaching and journalism. Before coming to St Luke's I spent over 10 years working as a press officer with Concern Worldwide and before that I worked at 'The Kerryman' as a sub-editor.

Did other bits and bobs as well but so far that's been the main focus of my working life. Along with that I was ordained a Dominican priest in 1974. I well remember it. It was the day the Germans beat the Dutch in the World Cup in Munich.

It's early days so I am still new and fresh to the job. It means I'm in the perfect place to write down my first impressions.

I have been greatly struck by the welcome I received from the staff and that was made abundantly obvious to me in my first week in the place. The staff could not have been nicer to me. Honestly, they received me with open arms. And some months on, I can still say that. It's a great place to be. And of course it's always people who make places.

What do I do? St Luke's has two oncology wards. It also has a day ward, where patients come for treatment. St Luke's provides a facility which allows patients from outside the Dublin area to overnight Monday to Friday while they are having treatment in one of the Network centres. Upstairs in the hospital there are two step-down wards, which are attached respectively to St James's Hospital and Tallaght Hospital.

My job involves sitting down, listening and talking to people. A former patient sent me a Christmas card, thanking me for being a 'distraction'. I liked it, and thought it more or less summed up what I do. One thing I have discovered is that Ireland is such a small place. I am forever meeting people who know someone I know, and that of course, is always a great introduction.

It's been the privilege of a lifetime to sit down and listen and talk to people. And then the goodness and kindness I see every day from patients, staff and visitors.

Honestly, it's a life-changer.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

How we change but retain something from the past

This week's Independent News & Media Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
The Dominican priory in Düsseldorf is right in the heart of the old city. On one side of the building are two Irish pubs and in front is the 17th century church of St Andrew, which is the property of the State of North Rhine Westphalia. The church is managed by the German Dominicans.

Originally a Jesuit church, it is one of the most interesting buildings of late German Renaissance and early Baroque architecture. It was built at the suggestion of the Jesuits who were called to Düsseldorf in 1619.

The Dominicans have been running the church since 1972.
Düsseldorf is the capital of the State of North Rhine Westphalia with the great river Rhine flowing through it.

I was there last week visiting a number of people. It was my first time back in the city for a long time. It meant that I could remember nothing of the place. It's so strange how we forget things over time.

Among those I was visiting was a couple I had last seen 30 years ago. I first met Norbert and Dorthe Ernst 31 years ago in Berlin. Back then they had two young children.

Norbert and I arranged to meet at the information centre at Essen rail station at 5pm. As I was walking down the stairs at the station I saw this man with a beard. I hesitatingly pointed my finger at him, he looked at me for a second or so. Yes, I had my man. Imagine I recognised him from 3O years ago. I'm not sure he recognised me as quickly. Does that mean I have changed more than he? He certainly had not put on an ounce of weight. And back then too he had a beard.

Later in the evening when his wife came home from work I immediately recognised her. But of course that was made much easier because of the context.

They are now grandparents with an adorable five-year-old little boy. Their two daughters had vague memories of the Berlin days and remember some of the fun we had.

It's interesting how we change over the years and still retain so much from the past. A mix of old and new.

Back then there was no mobile phone, no email but there was the Wall right in the heart of Berlin.

It's interesting comparing notes with another people. Just walking down a street observing people and things, you can always spot some of the differences. 

I get the impression the Germans, at least out on the streets, are not tied to their mobile phones as we are in Ireland. I made that point to the Ernst family and they felt it's non-stop phone activity in Germany. I'm not too sure.

It's so funny to notice the words the Germans take from English and then Germanise them. They call the mobile phone a 'handy' but with more and more smart phones in use they are using the word 'smart phone'. They use email but write it 'E-Mail'. 

St John's Protestant church at Martin Luther Square, also in the old city district of Düsseldorf, was opened in 1881, badly damaged in World War II, reopened in 1953 and renovated in 2008.

It has an interesting feature. In the foyer of the church is a coffee shop with newspapers available to read for free. Great to see people sitting about, reading and talking. 

Inside the church I spotted a large print on a wall and in English too: "God is a woman and she knows how to dance".

It caught my eye, and big time too.

Monday, March 20, 2017

A policy failure

An editorial worth reading appears in the current issue of 'The Tablet'.

It makes no sense criticising an 'anti-Catholic' bias

Today is the spring equinox.

The sparrow herself finds a home/ and the swallow a nest for her brood/ she lays her young by your altars/Lord of hosts, my kind and my God.
Psalm 83 (84)

And later in that Psalm we read:

Lord, God of hosts/happy the man who trusts in you.

Does it make any sense for people, especially clerics, to criticise State agencies, such as universities, health authorities etc for an anti-Catholic bias?

Of course it makes no sense and certainly it's not an attractive way to talk about the message of the Gospel.

Has such criticism more to do with people feeling they have lost control, power, influence?

Can people who criticise in such a way really believe that the Lord God of hosts/happy the man who trusts in you.

It's really time for ministers of religion to stop bemoaning the fact that the Irish Catholic Church has lost the inordinate power and control it once had.

Just look at what the church did with that power and control.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Smoking in Ireland

Accodring to the Tobacco Free Ireland action group 19 per cent of Irish people smoke every day.

That works out at close to a million people a day.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Angela and Donald

Isn't it a fabulous picture.

Her face gives her away. You can almost see the young girl in Templin, incrdibly intelligent, looking aghast on a summer's day as some bombast American rides into the East German town, saying all sorts of silly and embarrassing things.

Merkel's wise words

It's always better to talk to one another, than about one another.

A comment German Chancellor Angela Merkel made in response to Doanld Trump's campaign attacks on her.

Certainly universal advice well worth taking

More signs of spring

'Wildlife' at the top of Königsallee, Düsseldorf's fashionable shopping street.

And while they move about, the fishing season started yesterday on the River Dodder.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The young Karl Marx

The poster says there is a film of the young Karl Marx running in Germany at present.

Will it come to Dublin?

An interesting take on the young man.

Talking of Marx, there is a lovely word in German, 'Spießbürger', it almost has qualities of onomatopoeia about it.

A wikipedia definition of the word goes like this:

Spießbürger is a pejorative reference to a person who is distinguished by his intellectual stodginess, extreme conformity to social norms, hostility to changes in daily habits and rejection of everything unfamiliar.

Clerics who buy the latest VW cars? Profoundly pathetic but also hilariously funny. And most importantly, never take them seriously. The perfect word for them 'Spießbürger'. It has really no English equivalent, certainly that catches the mood and 'style' of such people.

Of course, decent, good people too drive VWs, even new ones.

Always and ever so dangerous to generalise.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Otto Dix exhibition

A quote from Otto Dix.

I am a visual person and not a philosopher. 

That is why I am constantly taking stock in my pictures.

I show what is really happening and what has to be said in the name of truth.

There is an exhibition of Otto Dix's works currently taking place in Düsseldorf. The exhibition runs until May 14.

Dix was born in Gera in 1891 in the German Empire and died in Singen in 1969 in the Federal Republic of Germany.

He had a close associaiton with Düsseldorf.

Anyone who ever utters the word 'truth' should spend some time looking at Dix's works.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Everything is now unfolding in front of our eyes

This week's Independent News & Media Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
On Tuesday March 7 I was mulling over in my head what I would write for this column this week. I saw the news and the Prime Time programme that followed. Both programmes carried stories about the Tuam revelations. The next day on ‘Morning Ireland’ Brid Smith TD was interviewed. During the interview she suggested that the religious congregations involved in such behaviour be closed down. Also, I was annoyed about the actions of a particular bishop.

All that unpleasant news gave me the impetus to write on how I feel about the church. I’m a Dominican and I’m not happy with the direction the Order is taking.

So armed with all that material I was going to write this column on my view of where the Irish hierarchical church is at present.

It all changed at the flick of a switch, well, to be exact, the next day.

On Thursday I was out walking my dog before going to work. I was instantly struck by the wonder and beauty of the morning.

These days it gets brighter every morning. On the day that I am writing this it was bright close to 06.30. And it is changing, changing for the better and brighter every day.

I’m usually walking Tess in Dartry Park before 06.20. It’s not nice in the winter but these days it is magic. The daffodils are up, bringing to mind the lines by William Wordsworth: "I wandered lonely as a cloud/That floats on high o'er vales and hills,/When all at once I saw a crowd,/A host, of golden daffodils;/Beside the lake, beneath the trees,/Fluttering and dancing in the breeze."

The birds are singing and just last week for the first time I saw an egret. I had never seen one in the park before. I know little or nothing about birds but the egret looks like a gentle delicate bird and it’s always fascinating to see something for the first time.

After cycling to work and arriving in the garden of St Luke’s Hospital in Dublin,  I felt I had never seen a hospital with such a fabulous garden. It’s a sea of flowers right now. One look at the garden and you know it is cared for with loving hands.

Of course we see the world through our own eyes and as I write these words I’m saying to myself how fortunate I am to be able to behold and appreciate such beauty and magnificence.

How can I say or how can I imagine it, but what must it be like when people are ill or in pain or simply can’t do the ‘ordinary’ things?

Since taking up my job as a hospital chaplain I have been greatly struck with the resilience of people and how they cope with illness.

On the day that I am recalling in this piece I met a man at the hospital entrance. He had lost his leg, was sitting in his wheelchair, heading to rehab. The first thing he said to me was what a beautiful morning it was and he said it with such a smile. How humbling for me to hear that. Sometimes we take so much for granted.

This surely is the best time of the year. There’s everything to look forward to. The fishing season begins on the River Dodder on Friday, the clocks go forward on Sunday, March 26 at 02.00.
Writing these words, I’m happy I dumped the original column.

For now, live in the now and enjoy it. There’s so much to enjoy. Carpe diem.

Monday, March 13, 2017

CRH ceo earns €10m

Albert Manifold, ceo of Cement Roadstone Holdings, was paid €10m last year.

That works out at €192,307.69 per week, or €38,461.54 per day for a five-day week.

There are many private companies in Ireland that do not pay their employees when they cannot attend work because of illness and the State does not pay for the first week of illness.

And we think we live in enlightened times.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Bishop Doran and ACP say farewell to Charles Brown

The bishop of Elphin, Kevin Doran pays tribute to the departing papal nuncio Charles Brown.

It's always interesting how people have different views and opinions on people.

Even accepting how we all have our own views on people, ideas, beliefs, customs etc and how important it is to be respectful, is this not ever so sycophantic. Good too to be diplomatic, but....
And why upper case 'Episcopal appointments'?

'His Excellency' and then an abbreviation for March.

In the midst of a church so shaken and damaged does a press release such as this add one iota to the good name of the Catholic Church in Ireland?

Below the bishop's press release is a statement from the ACP.

Bishop Kevin Doran pays tribute to His Excellency, Archbishop Charles J Brown
09. MAR, 2017

Since his arrival in Ireland as Apostolic Nuncio in January 2012, Archbishop Charles J Brown has always been clearly and recognisably the representative of the Holy Father, first Pope Benedict XVI and then Pope Francis.  He came among us as a diplomat, at a time when diplomacy was really needed, but he came with the heart of a pastor.  Over the past five years, he has challenged us and encouraged us in equal measure.

I first met Archbishop Brown when he came to visit the staff at the 50th International Eucharistic Congress office, shortly after his appointment to Ireland.  During that busy period he was very supportive to us and was ready to do anything he could to help.  In much the same way, around the time of my appointment as a bishop, I found him very approachable and encouraging.  He has visited the Diocese of Elphin on five or six occasions over the past three years and always seemed to have plenty of time to meet people, young and old alike.

As many people will be aware, Archbishop Brown had to devote a significant amount of energy to the renewal of the Episcopal Conference.  In the past five years, eleven Episcopal appointments have been made in Ireland and the process is under way for seven more.  This work will have to be completed on someone else’s watch, but that is the nature of the Church.  As Saint Paul says, “I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow”.

While I am sorry that Archbishop Brown will soon be leaving us, I am delighted that the Catholics of Albania, who have suffered so much in the past, will have him among them as the personal representative of Pope Francis.  I wish him every blessing in his new mission and hope that he will occasionally return to visit us.

+Kevin Doran


Bishop Kevin Doran is Bishop of Elphin.                                                    
For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678

Statement from the Association of Catholic Priests
on the Apostolic Nuncio’s new appointment

The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), in responding to the announcement that the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown, has been transferred to Albania, wish him well in his new appointment.

The ACP has been trenchant in its criticisms of the policies Archbishop Brown pursued, particularly in relation to the choice of bishops during his years in Ireland as inadequate to the needs of our time, at odds with the expectations of people and priests, and out of sync with the new church dispensation ushered in by the election of Pope Francis. However, we accept that, with his background and training, his lack of understanding of the Irish Church and an appreciation of our culture, Archbishop Brown was ill-equipped to respond to the needs of the Irish Church.

We have to say too that we found it frustrating and disappointing that, during his years here, he refused to meet us to discuss our concerns. However, we recognise that he worked within a system of protocols and procedures in which he felt obliged to confine himself and, though we believe he was fundamentally mistaken in his views, we hold no personal rancour in his regard.

We pray God’s blessing on him in his new appointment and in his future life.

Brendan Hoban
Roy Donovan
Gerry O’Connor
Tim Hazelwood 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

"I hope in your word"

A few lines from Psalm 118(119), which on this day sound and feel appropriate.

Some few short lines from this Psalm are read at Morning Prayer today.

I call with all my heart; answer me, Lord,
    and I will obey your decrees.
 I call out to you; save me
    and I will keep your statutes.
 I rise before dawn and cry for help;
    I have put my hope in your word.
 My eyes stay open through the watches of the night,
    that I may meditate on your promises.
 Hear my voice in accordance with your love;
    preserve my life, Lord, according to your laws.
 Those who devise wicked schemes are near,
    but they are far from your law.
 Yet you are near, Lord,
    and all your commands are true.
 Long ago I learned from your statutes
    that you established them to last forever.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Pope Francis on 'sleeveenry'

A quote from Pope Francis in the El Pais publication:

There are some who don't agree. Of course, and they have the right, because, if I felt bad because someone disagrees with me, I would have the germ of a dictator in me.

They have the right to disagree ... Provided they talk, that they don't hide behind others.

Nobody has the right to do that.


Please Pope Franics visit Ireland and spend a few days in a number of religious communities. I can give you the addresses and phone numbers.

Stay away from the hierarchy, provincials, priors, regents of studies, student masters, ...... And come among us and see the reality. Come visit the hoi polloi.

Life's funny cycle

When we are young we may well laugh at the 'carry-on' of our parents.

As we grow older we do exactly as they did, maybe even in a more pronounced way. And then we smile at the younger generation.

A funny old world indeed. And all for what?

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Brown to leave Ireland

Archbishop Charles Brown, the papal nuncio to Ireland is moving to Albania.

This post in error reported that the nuncio was returning to the US.

Apologies for the error.

Early morning in Dublin

Gosh, what a beautiful early morning in Dublin.

Daylight edges forward every morning these days. If you miss an early morning then the following morning will seem so much brighter. And then the quantum difference between getting up in daylight rather than in the dark.

Surely the best time of the year: everything is about to happen.

Daffodils in the public parks, the angling season begins on the River Dodder on Friday, March 17.

In 17 days, March 26, the clocks go forward across Europe.

These days of expectation, waiting. Waiting, waiting for developments, waiting for things to happen.

Fabulous days.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A dysfunctional church

Last evening having come home from work I looked at the Gospel for today. Later in the evening I had to attend a Vincent de Paul meeting and when I eventually got home, sat down to write a few words on the Gospel.

I watched the news and then Prime Time.


On Saturday I read Diarmaid Ferriter in 'The Irish Times' and on Monday in that same paper I read Una Mullally.

Again, OMG.

I have never understood the living relationship between a bishop and his priests and people.

There is nothing I can do about the past. But I can comment on the present and I don't like the management style of our church and I am nervous about what's going on in the Irish province of the Dominican Order: a tendency to put more emphasis on liturgy, candles and incense than on people.

And that's at the core of so much that is wrong in the church - not seeing itself as the people of God.

Priesthood does not make a man know more than his fellow sisters and brothers.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

It takes an eejit to think Healy-Rae is an eejit

This week's Independent News & Media Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
Some time back I wrote in this column how I first met Michael Healy-Rae. Very briefly: he greeted me one evening when we were both in Kerry General Hospital. 

In smart aleck mode I said: “You don’t know me so why are you saying hello to me?” He quipped: “Commane, you’re as ‘nashty’ in reality as in the paper”. Brilliant. Since then we are friends and have each other’s mobile numbers.

On Saturday, February 25 the same Michael Healy-Rae was interviewed by Marian Finucane on her show on RTR Radio 1.

I was heading to the hills, walking around by the side of Lough Dan. My walking companion had been delayed so I was sitting, waiting in the car. I was a captive audience. It was a lengthy interview. One of those interviews that was so interesting that I could almost repeat it verbatim.

Some days earlier I had to deal with correspondence from clerics, all pathetic and sad material, nonsensical complaints, which was for me yet another insight into what has the hierarchical church where it is today. At first, it had annoyed me but having shown it to one or two wise people I was able to see it in perspective.

And then sitting in my car, waiting to go walking I accidentally heard the Healy-Rae interview.

Early in the interview he referred to his late mother, who died in 2015.  It was striking how he spoke about her wisdom and knowledge. He went on to tell Marian about advice that she had once given him. She told him that there was nothing he could ever do about the past, what he said or did. But what was important was how he would react or respond to how people treated him in word and deed. 

He said it more eloquently than that but that was the gist of it. What wisdom. I felt, sitting in the car, waiting at the filling station in Kilmacanogue, that Michael Healy-Rae was talking to me. And I have taken his advice. I hope I can keep to it.

Some days earlier he had spoken in Dáil Éireann about the damage that rhododendrons are causing in Killarney National Park. In an interview on Morning Ireland earlier in the week he spoke about the issue and also how he had got permission to wear his cap in the Dáil chamber.

The cap is his signature tune. Fabulous branding. When he was talking about the rhododendrons he kept calling them 'rhododondrons'. And then later, on another Kerry issue he referred to the ‘deers’ in the National Park.

Indeed, maybe I am as ‘nashty’ as he accused me of being on that famous encounter in the hospital. But I have a sneaky suspicion that Michael Healy-Rae knows as well as I do how to pronounce rhododendrons and no doubt too he knows that the plural of deer is deer. 

Again, it is a fine piece of branding. It marks him out, it catches the eye. It makes you sit up and listen to him. And always somewhere in the words there is a gem of wisdom. You might call it clever ‘Kerry blackguarding’. Okay, that’s fine. But as sure as hell it works.

That Morning Ireland story made it on to BBC, he got eight radio interviews and had 35,000 hits on

And on that misty Saturday morning heading for Lough Dan and Scar mountain, that same Michael Healy-Rae gave me a great piece of advice, advice his mother had given him. He told Marian he has taken her advice.

I’m taking his.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Brightness and an egret

Strong hints of brightness in Dublin at 06.20 today and then at 06.40 it seemed to be galloping towards full daylight.

Though cold today, these mornings have a fabulous sensation about them.

And guess what's to be seen in Dartry Park, an egret. It has the shape and style of a heron but far smaller and spectacularly white in colour. A dainty elegant bird.