Thursday, December 20, 2007


The cliches and platitudes come a-rolling these days. But behind all that there is something extraordinary about next Tuesday. We celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and for us Christians that's the link or key that propels us into a new orbit. There is somehow or other more to this mortal coil than we realise. That can be difficult to comprehend or understand. Once we try giving it names and shapes it is so easy to create our own gods. The smugness of what follows that type of thinking is difficult to take - at least for me.
I called to see an elderly Dominican in a nursing home last evening. We prayed Compline together. It was a great moment of grace and a fitting way to celebrate the upcoming feast.
On December 30 we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family. We don't choose our parents or our siblings. Everyone has his or own story. There is no fammily template.
The lines from Ecclesiasitcus, "Long life comes to him who honours his father, he who sets his mother at ease is showing obedience to the Lord', are comforting lines.
Happy Christmas and prosperous New Year.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas to all readers of this blog. Again, this week the Irish Jesuit web magazine has loads of interesting material plus a fine short editorial.
I have often made reference to the Jesuit web page. Why not be honest and open at Christmas. The SJ site is informative and full of news and nothing pretentious about it. Nor is it clerical. That critique stands on its own. So when I compare that website to the website of the Irish Dominicans all I can do is hold my head down in shame.

These days websites do make a statement about the organisation they represent. Look at any of the websites of public broadcasting corporations and you are immediately drawn into them. And the Dominican webpage is telling a tale.

Everything about the Irish Dominican webpage is awful and wrong. Even the map of Ireland is poor. There are few links on it and so much of the material is out of date. Are you interested in attending a novena in November 2007? It wreaks of the worst forms of clericalism. May I ask that it be closed down rather than it being maintained in its present awful format.

This is a webpage that just some few months ago was advertised by the Irish provincial as being relaunched.

For the Order of Preachers, for a group of people who spend much time and energy talking about preaching and communication this site tells a very differernt story. Interesting though, the site of HQ in Rome is also poor as are many provinical sites.

Happy Christmas and prosperous New Year to all. One of my new year wishes is that the Dominican website be revamped or else close it down. At least be honest.

Not what it seems

On Sunday December 9 Irish Rail introduced their new timetable. But they forgot to tell the travelling public – mugs like me – that the new timetable is not fully operational out of Tralee. According to the new timetable the first train on Sunday ex Tralee departs at 08.10. And so it says on the internet and talking clock. But things are often not what they seem with Irish Rail.

If you arrive at Tralee on Sunday morning at 08.00 for the 08.10 train, it’s tough luck for you. In Kerry the new timetable is still the old one and the train that is due to leave at 08.10 went off on its merry way at the old timetable time of 07.15.

Two weeks later Irish Rail are still keeping this the best kept secret on track.

If it was not so annoying it would be hilarious.

But what is also most interesting is how staff at the company justify the stupidity and arrogance. It happens far too often that people support and agree with their superiors even if what they are saying and doing is wrong.

And that seems to happen more regularly where there is no serious competition or opposition. Draw your own conclusions.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Begging to go to Sydney

The next world youth day takes place in Sydney. Benedict XVI will attend.
There will be young people from all over the world in attendance, at prayer and on pilgrimage.
The event attracts large crowds from around the world and hopefully it is a time of prayer and inspiration for those who attend.
But it has come to my attention that some people who travel to the event have sent out begging letters to help pay for transport etc. Something very odd about that. It has all the marks of the 'Paddy the Plasterer' syndrome. If large sums are received then will the money be declared to Revenue?
If the event is an occasion of prayer and pilgrimage then it is a great moment. But there are always signs of triumphalism about it, which must cause concern for people. Sending out begging letters to clap and dance seems appalling. Most people, especially the poorer in our society, have little opportunity to live beyond their means. Begging letters for air fares seems far removed from Gospel values.

This and that

How do priests do it? Fr Vincent Twomey has made amazing comments about the playing of carols before Christmas.
The first mention of Christmas for this author appeared on a bill board advertising a Christmas fete in aid of fee-paying Terenure College. And it was on display many weeks ago. Commercialising Christmas!
The 'Thinking Anew' column in 'The Irish Times', of Saturday, December 1, written by MC, is still attracting letters to the letters page of the newspaper. Yesterday's letter is in response to Ronan's Wall's letter of December 12.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Hope - an antidote in dark days

The western world has been most critical of the current democratic process that is taking place in Russia? Is it because it sees there are failings and corruption involved or is it because they are not pleased with the final results? We cannot forget the hanging chad. But probably when results don't suit us we all are inclined to look for 'excuses' to see a way out.
Last Sunday's readings were redolent with hope. Christians can never be 'hopeless'. But there seems to be something amiss in the Irish church today. Of course there are great people at work but there is a deadness about, a clericalism that is simply scary, an attachment to a status quo that has nothing to say to so many people in Ireland today. There is an attitude at large that seems to be more interested in what vestments to be worn at Mass rather than how we can preach the Gospel in a language that makes sense to the marginalised and the poor. Many church publications are more interested in telling us boring stories about bishops than how best to communicate with a world that is hungry for the Word.
There is also a 'cuteness' and 'secrecy' in evidence that seems to further the cause of those who never say anything. Johnson, I think, has something to say about that.
God works in extraordinary ways. This might be a good day to keep repeating those words.
And if you disagree with the prevailing dispensation the 'pack' has an amazing ability of hunting one down and making sure to let it be known that they are sure that God is on their side.
The status quo is far more dangerous than we ever realise. The day the church forgets about the marginalised it has moved away from its core message.
These days our hearts and minds need to be filled with hope.
Sometimes it is difficult to decide whether to write or say something. I was about to delete this blog when I received a telephone call from an engineer at Dublin City Council. He called to agree with me re the poor quality cycle path in O'Connell Street. Imagine if enough people spoke their minds? Imagine if enough people spoke their minds within the church? Imagine if enough people spoke their minds and simply refused to go away. Just as a political party that is in power for too long thinks it owns the nation, elements within the church arrive at a stage where they genuinely believe they 'own' God.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Cycling in Dublin

Back to the cycle lane on the south bound side of O'Connell Street. A garda told me today that it is positively dangerous to cycle in Dublin and he concurred that the O'Connell Street cycle path is particularly dangerous.

'Mortal sin'

Newstalk ran a piece on the Brenda Power show this morning re the phenomenon of people going to Mass on Christmas Day, who never see the inside of a church for the rest of the year.
The station called me to speak on the show.
Surely it is a matter of inviting people to prayer and if people come to our churches on Christmas Day we should welcome them with open arms. Brenda wanted to know was it a 'mortal sin' if people missed Mass on Sunday. I was reminded what Fr Peter McVerry said on 'Would you Believe' recently. He said he did not believe in hell or in a reward system.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


The Jesuit website, AMDG, carries a wise editorial this week.
It reads
Christmas is imminent and with it comes the shopping frenzy that seems unavoidable at this time of year. Giving is good and yet it's not just about money. It's often more about the thoughtfulness involved that makes a good gift.


Going to church at Christmas

According to 'The Irish Daily Star' Pope Benedict refers to Christmas as the biggest feast in the Christian calendar. Is Easter not of greater significance?
Churches will be filled to capacity this Christmas to celebrate the incarnation.
There will be the 'purists' who will tut tut at people paying their once-a-year visit to church.
Hopefully going to church at Christmas is an occasion of prayer for all who go. And who is to cast doubt on the reason or purpose of people going to church at any time?
If we priests celebrate the liturgy in a meaningful way and preach sensible sermons on the Gospel of the day maybe we will entice people to call again.
Surely it is always a matter of inviting people to pray.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Christian hope

Yesterday I stood at a bus stop in Shankill at 18.15. It was a cold evening. I arrived in O'Connell Street at 19.55. Not a pleasant experience.
State and church leaders are constantly admonishing people how to live their lives - advising them on how to do things, telling them the best way to do things.
How can people who have no idea what it means to be discomfited have any idea how poor people live their lives.
We often hear that politicians are in touch with the grass roots. Is it possible for people in 'authority' to empathise with poor people?
The same with church leaders. Can priests say a word to people who are weary and tired?
Is Chrstian hope the answer?

A most dangerous cycle path

In yesterday's blog reference was made to the cycle lane in Dublin's O'Connell Street. It really is an appalling affront to cyclists. It is nothing less than shambolic. It is extremely dangerous, especially with buses pulling in at bus stops. Why did the city authorities not build a reversible running continuous cycle lane down the middle of the street?
And these are the designers who run around in important suits cradling mobile phones and looking important - all the time wasting tax payers money.

Punch drunk with bishops

The current issue of 'The Irish Catholic' carries the images of 21 bishops. It is a 32 page publication.
Readers may like to know that the newspaper has been bought by The Farmers Journal Trust as has the 'The Irish Field'.
Format and pagination is due to change shortly and it is also likely that editorial content may be improved.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Cycle lane in central Dublin

Anyone cycle down Dublin's O'Connell Street of late? A new cycle path has appeared. It may have been done under cover of darkness. Like all things Irish it really is amazing. There are three components to it. From the top of the street - the Parnell monument end, it is the common/usual design. Then suddenly it disappears as one approaches the mid point in the street. And then once you cross the Abbey Street junction it is back again. This time protected by plastic bollards on the street side.
Who designs these things, who allows this sort of madness? But since it will only be cyclists who will be using it, who really cares?
To think that when they redesigned the main street in Dublin they did not bother putting a proper cycle lane in both directions and in a safe place. How much are the planners and engineers paid?
And a warning for all cyclists. Don't be fooled into thinking you are safe in a cycle lane. You may have noticed, some lanes are 'protected' by broken white lines, while others are protected by unbroken white lines. I have been told by gardai that there is no difference.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The wonder and misery of the web

Millions of people log on to web pages Monday to Friday. Traffic is far lighter at weekends.
Every company every organisation has a website. Some are more attractive than others. Some are more user friendly than others.
Certainly Ryanair makes an art form out of how to be user friendly. It took Aer Lingus a long time to get anywhere close to them. Lufthansa and Irish Rail make it difficult for the uninitiated to navigate on their sites.
But there is little worse than an out-of-date website. What's the point in having a website if it is out of date? Little or none.
Church websites in general seem to be poor. There are some exceptions. The Irish Jesuits have a lively interactive website.
Many church websites seem to hide behind a weird form of clericalism. Recently I saw an archbishop being called 'archbishop' twice in his title. The same site carries out-of-date material and other material that is simply not relevant to the world of the web.

Priests with a mission

RTE screened 'Would You Believe' on Sunday evening. It was a profile on Fr Peter McVerry SJ and the work he does in Dublin in helping young people on the margins.
Also interviewed was Fr Bruce Bradley, who is rector in Clongowes Wood.
These men would give you heart, they make sense of priesthood. And I know first hand as I taught in Belvedere when Bruce was head master at the school.
The work and courage, the honesty and faith of Peter McVerry is nothing less than inspiring.
Peter's work puts into relief the tomfoolery that seems to happen so easily with priests.