Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Not user friendly

Can anyone advise on how to navigate around the Dominican Order General Chapter webpage.
It appears to be far too complicated for those 'lesser mortals'. But that reminds me of years ago when people would hear a sermon, not understand what was being said and then come to the conclusion that it was above their heads. Of course, it was not above their heads - just simple rubbish that had no sense to it.

Excellent letter in The Tablet

This letter appeared in last week's The Tablet.
I quote it because it is written by someone, who is most perspicacious. An excellent letter, which needs to be carefully read and then discussed in an open and honest fashion in every seminary around the world. And now too.

"Mark Francis was right about the motu proprio in what it ignores and its missed opportunities. For the most part (to quote the motu proprio), 'Christ's faithful who spontaneously request it' and 'parishes where a group of faithful attached to the previous liturgical tradition exists stably' are already well catered for under the existing arrangements.
And for all the talk about 'leaving the 99 to go after one lost sheep', the new arrangements will not bring the Lefebvrists into the fold - their problem has never been liturgy but ecclesiology - they do not believe in the same church. Once the dust has settled, the newly all-powerful Ecclesia Dei commission has made its mark with one or two star chambers, and everyone has calmed down, the main difference will be that some seminarians and younger clergy of a certain persuasion (most of them, incidentally, bloggers and all of them knowing the private email addresses of the Roman Curia) will be wearing more lace and promenading a little more grandly.
Chris Grady
London SW4"

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Dominicans meet in Colombia

Provincials of the Dominican Order are currently attending a general chapter in Bogota. A chapter is held every three years and at the next one, venue to be decided at this meeting, the Order will elect a new leader.
There does not appear to be a bulletin board on the website of the Order, informing people what is going on at the chapter on a daily basis. It would be so much more attractive and user friendly if one could go to the site and read what is happening that day and what happened yesterday.
Maybe every province of the order should have its own daily update.
Why is it that when it comes to communications and the dissemination of information, church organisations are simply not at the races?
Is that why there is far too often a knee jerk reaction to 'blame the media'?
The Dominicans will spend much time and expense talking at Bogota about the mission of preaching. Before another word is said someone should direct the provincials to do an honest audit of what the actual situation is on the ground, province by province.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Sermon of prior provinical of the English Dominicans, Allan White

Navigating around the web there is some interesting information on the chapter of the Dominican Order taking place at present in Colombia. Here is a sermon preached in the last few days by the provincial of the English province, Allan White, who is actually a Cork man. He talks about not being saved by institutions. He also refers to a mission of transparency.
Interesting words.

The Pharisees took counsel together to destroy Jesus. They call a general chapter to decide how to deal with this threat to their survival. Like many who are involved in such meetings they concentrate so much on the detail in the picture that they risk failing to see the background. What is the background to Jesus? Matthew gives it to us quite plainly. He makes a long quotation from the Suffering Servant songs in Isaiah. In these songs Isaiah proclaims to the defeated and demoralized exiles in Babylon that their exile is ending and that they will return home. They have been chosen as God´s servant to be a light to the nations. They are to live this vocation not by imitating the imperial ruthlessness of Persia and Babylon; they are not to adopt the way of earthly powers to subjugate and oppress human beings, their mission will bring light and justice but not with destructive force and military might; they will carry out this task with gentle care.

There is a contrast between this general chapter of the Pharisees and the response of Jesus to threat it poses. They intend to use the full force of the law to compel submission, but submission is not obedience. You cannot change consciences by making law. The Pharisees are proactive in their legal righteousness.

The contrast is with Jesus. Matthew emphasises what he does not do. “He will not contend or cry out, nor will anyone here his voice in the streets, he will not break the bruised reed or quench a Smoldering reed. He dies not attempt to impose himself or his ministry by force. Faced with oblivion or with the threat of extinction he does not as many of us would do draw attention to himself, enter into controversy, gather allies or raise a faction, using the law, bending the system to ensure that we do not fall into the annihilation of invisibility. He withdraws rather than confronting those who reject him. Why so? So that all that he says or does may be more transparent to the presence of God which rests on him.

Jesus encourages his disciples into this same withdrawal. They too are called to the way of transparency. Sometimes religious institutions can imitate too closely the ways of state and empires. In their fear of extinction they forget that their mission is to mercy and that the laws they live by are simply commentaries on the Gospel. Many of us are bruised reeds and smoldering wicks, not to be crushed or quenched but summoned to the abandonment of all that prevents us from being transparent to the grace of Christ. We are not engaging in Chapter like that of the Pharisees motivated by fear, designed to eradicate threats and compel submission to law rather than encourage obedience to the Gospel. We know we shall not be saved by our institutions, our projects our priorities or our frontiers, but only by sheer naked commitment to Christ, the Word which we bear and in whose name we glory. All we have to offer is the Word and the name. People may expect more of us or demand more spectacularly visible triumphs, but they are doomed to disappointment.

We are called to follow Jesus on the way to the transparency. "Philip: the one that has seen me, has seen the Father". as well as Jesus was transparent with the One who sent him, this way, when people see us, they should only see Jesus. When Peter, in the Acts of the Apostles was going through the the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, a poor man asked alms . The man simply asked to be healed, which Peter was able to do. However, he gives the poor man much more. Peter asked him just to look on him and then he said: "Silver and gold I have not; but what I have, this I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk". Pedro asked the man to gaze at him, to see through him. Our task is not that people know to the Order of Preachers but taking people to know Jesus. That is the mission of all preachers: a transparency mission.

The Putin Youth

This link makes for an interesting read.


It in some ways resonates with a new clerical tone within the Irish church and the Dominican Order.
The piece about being ashamed to wear the T-shirt - well you could replace that with 'roman collar' or some other items of clothing.
What do you think?
Surely the new tendency is worrying! Or is that the sort of thing Plato began to say as he grew old?

A letter

There is an interesting letter in today's Irish Times.
Here it is in case you may not have seen it.


Madam, - Newspapers around the world have reported that the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Bertone, has declared that the highly controversial prayer for the conversion of the Jews could be dropped from the reintroduced Latin-language liturgy. He said that "we could simply study the possibility of substituting the prayer", which asks that "God remove the veil from Jewish hearts" so that they would recognise Jesus Christ.

The picture of the Church's top personnel (which ones, how many?) spending time studying this "possibility" is truly mind-boggling. We have no way of knowing what Jesus himself might think of this use of manpower by the Church which claims to be the only true Church of Christ. The words of the gospel come to mind: "and Jesus wept". - Yours, etc,


Lower Leeson Street,

Dublin 2.

The Bible

On Sunday and Monday Irish newspapers reporting on Joe O'Reilly being brought to prison mentioned that he asked to be given a Bible. Paris Hilton also had the 'Great Book' in prison.
That sort of detail always surprises/interests/amazes me.
I imagine a large number of Irish people are not familiar with the Bible as a whole or individual parts of it. And yet a man goes off to prison and he asks for a copy of the Bible. Why? Had he asked for 'Oliver Twist' would the newspapers have reported it? Maybe. If you were heading to prison would you ask for a copy of the Bible?
Just this morning I asked a colleague what was the first book of the Bible and she did not know.
Maybe I am wrong, but it often strikes me we pay great lip service to the Bible and know so little about it.
The readings at Mass at times seem difficult to understand. What a pity we don't sit down in our communities and discuss the readings at Mass in an open and honest way. We could learn so much from one another.
Are we as Dominicans excited about our preaching?
Is there not a great need to take on the challenging job of making the Bible come alive for people, seeing it through the eyes of faith and reason? We have some great biblical experts. Do we use them enough?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Money matters

Should anyone be looking for a single ticket railway voucher, all they have to do is call into a Credit Union office and purchase one. They are €30.50.
I called in to the Tralee Credit Union office to be met by a queue that was stretching from the counter area to the entrance door. It reminded me of that RTE programme 'Queueing for a Living'. But it also made me think of the different ways privilege manifests itself. I imagine people in high income jobs, people who don't have to think about money are seldom inside a Credit Union office.
An anonymous subscriber makes a comment re 'cleaning windows'. I don't really think the argument holds. I have stressed that anonymous subscribers are really not welcome on this blog.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Connecting heaven and earth?

I only experienced one heavy rain shower today. First day not to get wet on the bicycle in many days! It was a beautiful evening on the east coast and I went for a walk with Jordan O'Brien in the Curragh. It was a perfect evening and Kildare was looking magnificent. We called into Lumville House for a drink. Over 23 years ago John O'Gorman, Canice Murphy and I often called into Lumville for a drink on a Sunday evening before going back to teaching the next day in Newbridge.
The past so often seems idyllic but they were great days. And John is dead now. He was a genius. Is there a heaven where he is experiencing the love and reality of God? But where has all his knowledge gone? At first he was sceptical of what I would tell him about where our province was heading but probably after the 'Alfie' experience and one or two other events he began to see the 'light'.
He could cut through the humbug with laser precision, especially the pious humbug and all the nonsense that religious life has managed to collect over the years.
He once suggested that the province should offer redundancy packages to those who wanted to leave. He argued that many stayed because they were simply unemployable and could not keep up the same standard of life they had become accustomed to in the order if they left.
A Roman taxi driver thought John was a Roman so good was his Italian. But he never lost or forgot his Cork accent.
Mathematics was his first and real home and he got so bored in theology class that he began to take notes through the medium of Greek. He resigned his priesthood but remained a Dominican.
So, what is heaven, where is it. Is death the end. The only time I am ever convinced that death is not the end is when I visit my parents' grave or recall to mind close friends who are dead. Is it some sort of consolation, an escape from the thought of destruction, annihilation?

Odd blogging

Someone pointed me in the direction of the blog of an Australian Dominican. On a quick read of some items on it maybe it is time for this blog to say adieu.
Are bloggers a daft lot?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Giving meaning to words

I recently heard a Dominican, a man I greatly admire, say that he was nervous about engaging with other Dominicans as he was afraid they would cut him apart. He explained his feelings succinctly and clearly by pointing out that he felt that every word he would say would be divided and sub-divided into many parts.
It made me think. How correct he is. We have developed an amazing technique in not communicating with one another. I say that on the day after the provincial has gone across the world to attend a general chapter of the Order. Who can care what will happen at that meeting if we are not talking and communicating with each other. Another Dominican admitted to me that he could not think of the name of the Master of the Order.
We are imploding and no-one seems to care. Certainly no-one wants to talk about it. Reading any documents that circulate you would think everything was great.
It is taking me some time to formulate, but I have a story to tell and am on the verge of putting it in print. For a group who gives such lip service to preaching the Gospel and talking about 'truth', well, I must admit to being confused.
Does pious nonsense hide us from what is real?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Celebrating Mass in the vernacular

All the talk about the Latin Mass is intriguing. Has it ever crossed anoyne's mind that there is real need for courses, seminars to help priests celebrate the Mass as we know it, in a prayerful, dignified and meaningful manner.
The prayers of the missal, the prescribed Scripture readings are wonderful. Far too often we priests render the celebration of the Eucharist a most unedifying spectacle.
Will celebrating Mass in Latin change that? I doubt it.
I am a priest 33 years and never once has there been a forum, a platform for discussion, whereby I could be helped and advised in the celebration of Mass. I cannot comment on my own celebration but I certainly have seen appalling instances of terrible celebration.
It would be great if the Vatican/bishops/religious superiors issued a helpful paper in how to assist priests celebrate the Eucharist. And, personally, I prefer to pray in a language I and the people praying with me understand.
I recently heard a priest ramble on and in the middle of his ramble he told the people praying with him that God needs our love. He also told them that the Saturday before Palm Sunday was a great time to marry. It was a sunny day so I presume he saw the sun and was thinking on his feet!
He might well be better off celebrating Mass in Latin, and maybe preaching too in a language most people do not understand.
Maybe the expression 'transparent liturgy' will become the latest oxymoron!

Denis Byrne RIP

June Caldwell,
That comes as a great shock to me. May I have your email address please.

Battle for a word

On Saturday, July 14 Fr Tom McInerney celebrated 50 years of priestly ordination. Tom is a Tipperary man. When I was a student in the Dominican Priory in Tallaght we had the practice of reading in the refectory during meals. Tom McInerney was the corrector at table, which meant if a student mispronounced a word, Tom could correct the error. There could be up to 70 people in the refectory. I can still clearly remember the following incident. I was reading and the word 'nausea' came up. I read it, and believe I pronounced it correctly. Tom stopped me and pronounced the word as he believed it should be pronounced. I continued reading without referring back to his 'corrected version'. He stopped me again and said the following; "Brother Michael it is the custom in this house when the corrected is corrected by the corrector, the corrected corrects the correction of the corrector". That's what he said.
The following day a brother pronounced the word corps as in army corps as if it were a dead body. Fr Tom never corrected him. He must have had a crystal as that man has held 'high office' in the province.
Those were the days and maybe still are.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The good Samaritan

Sunday's Gospel tells the familiar story of the good Samaritan and how the priest passes by without helping. It is an interesting story and with great relevance for our times.
How come that most of the manual work in Dominican priories is carried out by women. In these last days I was in a priory, a priory that has a large number of young men, and I observed a young woman cleaning the windows. Surely there is something odd in that?
Up to 40 years ago the non-ordained brothers polished the shoes of priests. So too did the sisters polish their shoes.
And maybe the mindset has not moved on too much in the intervening years.
Is it somehow or other bred into Irish priests that they may not dirty their hands? Is that why the priest passed the man in trouble, was he afraid to dirty his hands and clothes?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Liturgial integration

Today's Irish Times carries an interesting editorial on Poland. The piece is titled 'Awkward Poland'. It makes some interesting points and refers to how the present government's strong defence of national sovereignty and Catholic fundamentalism represents a radical break with previous Polish governments formed since 1988 and is quite at odds with values enshrined in European integration.
It's a fair point.
How are the Irish Dominicans responding to the pastoral needs of the Polish communities in Ireland?
Is it just a question of bringing Polish Dominicans here and filling our churches with Poles for Polish liturgies?
Has there been any discussion, thought or consensus involved in how to minister to the Europeans visiting our churches?
Are we just clapping ourselves on the back when we see our churches filled again, this time with non-Irish?
But if Mass can be in Latin, why not in Polish, Lithuanian, German, Latvian?
The last thing we want are ghettos.

Deleted comment

A comment has been removed as it was attributed to anonymous.

Raining on the soul

It has rained every working day in Dublin since mid-June. If you are a cyclist you are bound to be angry and frustrated at this stage. Last evening coming home from work it was raining and this morning as I left for work it was raining.
People who don't experience what it's like really don't understand how bad it is. They don't get wet, they simply cannot appreciate the awfulness of it.
And that very point struck me cycling down Rathgar Road this morning in the rain. It made me think about the word 'preaching', preaching the Gospel. Over the years I have heard so many ministers of religion 'preach' to people, telling them how to behave. But how can someone who has never sat in another person's skin enter into any sort of significant conversation with them?
And that forced me on to think about analogy and how well Philip Gleeson spoke on the subject.
Any sort of glib comment about moral behaviour has to be counterproductive. Any simple pious words about God surely are blasphemous.
I cringe when I read some catholic publications, which seem to serve up all the 'answers' to their readers. We should call them the Catholic Red Tops. I'm against all forms of censorship so I can't advise people not to read them!
I also find it odd how the church does not continually go that extra kilometre when it comes to supporting the poor and the marginalised, the people who are suffering.
What sense or good does it make if we tell people 'we know' and then add, 'we are right'.
For me, the church uses and lives on the vocabulary of powerful and wealthy institutions, every now and then, offering lip service to the poor and marginalised.
What real care and compassion is shown by superiors to those who are marginalised?
If I had my way, I'd make cycling, cycling in the rain, an obligatory requirement when studying theology.
Anyone know next week's weather forecast?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Yes, I also believe 'knocking' is part of the fun of blogging, especially so in an era where there seems to be an emphasis on being serious and important, maybe most of all in an organisation as the Irish Catholic Church where there is a growing and worrying tendency whereby people are becoming annoyingly insular.
I am amazed that a newspaper does not get a journalist to eavesdrop on Sunday sermons and then report on them in Monday's edition.
I think very quickly many Irish priests would begin to take themselves and their high notions of priesthood less seriously having read a series of sermons.
But 'knocking' might irritate people, might make them think the writer is a crank. And that would be of no help. This blog is about creating a platform for a serious and open conversation. It is an attempt at debunking pious humbug.

Effort to resist 'knocking'

Someone has suggested that this blog should avoid 'knocking'. Fair point and it is being noted.

Eucharistic celebration

Maybe the Pope is taking a leaf out of the politicians' clever tricks book. These statements on the Mass and ecclesiology have been made while he is off on his holidays.
The Latin Mass issue certainly is bound to set people thinking.
How many priests 'attend' Mass in churches around the country. As in every walk of life, it takes all sorts to fill any group or category. But, there does seem to be a poor standard of performance generally when it comes to the celebration of the Eucharist and indeed, all the sacraments.
Maybe if it moves back to Latin, the officiating ministers will be able to cover a multitude.
Instead of all these high-talking documents, wouldn't it make sense for individual bishops and religious superiors to play a significant role in trying to get priests to celebrate Mass in a more fitting, prayerful and sensible manner. And that includes the preaching on the readings.
How inspiring it would be if the Pope called for a serious renewal at parish level of the celebration of the Eucharist. A renewal that would engage a wide range of people of good-will.
I recently heard a priest telling people not to listen to experts. This was during the sermon and he was a Dominican.
Much of the preaching I hear is appalling and the manner in which the liturgy is celebrated leaves much to be desired.
This Latin Mass issue will simply be grist to the mill for groups of people who have so many other issues sitting neatly under their hats.
Is this Pope the same man who speaks in 'Salt of the Earth'?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Someone commented that blogging is a silly form of navel gazing. There is a truth to that and in that context I almost deleted this blog site last week. But it is still here.
Some weeks ago I had to abort a cycle from West Kerry to Dublin due to a knee injury. But I managed to make amends last Saturday when I cycled the Ring of Kerry - 200 kilometres through some of the most beautiful countryside in the world.
It made me recall the cycling we did in the novitiate and studentate and then later all the walking I did with the late John O'Gorman.
On the top of Moll's Gap it crossed my mind how in the past we were so kind to the environment. Back in the late '60s and through the '70s there was little or no talk about 'environmental friendly behaviour' and yet we were on our bikes. Today we are forever being made aware of environmental issues and our affluence seems to have forced us to guzzle up as much fossil fuels as if there were no tomorrow.
I am amazed at the culture of waste that exists and that includes within the province. There may be some low level PC vocabulary about caring for the environment, but the day-to-day reality tells a very different story.
The lights we leave on, the water we waste. I wonder how many Dominicans know how much a kilowatt hour costs and how much it costs to produce it? How much it costs to run a car. Okay, the sophisticated literates might quote Oscar Wilde, still, there is a link between how we spend money and care for the environment. And when we have not earned the money ourselves the problem deepens.
Just as communism created its own problems, I wonder does the term 'common life' mean today what it is meant to mean?
It was a fitting day for the cycle as it was the 33rd anniversary of priestly ordination and what better way to be in touch with the world.
There is nothing false, no nonsense about cycling 200 kilometres, including the climb up Coomakista and Moll's Gap.
Surely there has to be more about God in that than in discussing how we pray or the garments we wear when praying. Clerical gossip is not the air you breathe on a 200 km cycle.
I keep thinking we are getting lost in trivia.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007


It has come to my attention that there are difficulties with legibility with this blog. The matter is under attention. Hopefully it will be corrected shortly.

Spelling a name

It's the Jesuits who spell Wilfrid as 'Wilfred'. It is policy at this blog not to alter quotes!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Wilfrid again

This week's issue of AMDG carries the following news.
Again, congrats to Wilfrid. The Church of Ireland curate in Camp, Co Kerry, considers Wilfrid to be the best lecturer he had while studying at the COI Divinity College in Dublin.
I recommend Irish Dominicans read Irish Jesuit websites - they might give us some idea how to improve our sites. Then again, maybe our sites are telling us a story.

The new album from Sinead O'Connor is called Theology and is dedicated to her Milltown lecturer, Wilfred Harrington OP. Sinead studied Old Testament Scripture with Wilfred at Milltown Institute in 2003/4, and was brought around the Institute on her first day by Bill Callanan SJ. The album includes eight original songs on themes from the Prophets and the Psalms written by Sinead, as well as cover versions including I Don't Know How To Love Him from the musical, Jesus Christ Superstar, and the spiritual Rivers of Babylon with new lyrics penned by O'Connor. "Theology is an attempt to create a place of peace in a time of war," said O'Connor. Read her interview on the album: CrossRhythms.co.uk.

Featured Post

No comment from bishop

The editorial in the current issue of Kerry's Eye.