Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tribunal says sister should be reinstated

The Irish Employment Appeals Tribunal has upheld the case of a Presentation Sister who refused to leave her teaching post after being instructed to do so by her superior.
The comment from the bishop's office is interesting as is the term from the woman's superior to the Presentation Sister, "missioning you to a period of rest".
Where does the hierarchical church think up the vocabulary of subterfuge?
It is an interesting judgement.

Vatican answers criticisms

Article below appears in The Guardian.

Up to five per cent of priests found guilty of illegal behaviour. Is that an acceptable figure? What about the priests who are never discovered?

Is the Vatican in this piece admitting that a significant number of its priests are gay?

This might well be a prophetic moment.

Maybe the Vatican might learn from the openness and honesty of current German political life where the Mayor of Berlin is openly gay. And most probably the next German Foreign Minister will be Guido Westerwelle of FDP, who is also openly gay.

The problem with the Catholic Church appears to be its unwillingness to admit what is in fact a reality. It means so many priests are dishonest about their sexual orientation. And so begins the world of 'cover up' and a language and style that is far removed from what is real, true and honest. It is linked to the world of anonymity, which is so alive and 'thriving' in the Irish Catholic Church.

Sex abuse rife in other religions, says Vatican

Riazat Butt, religious affairs correspondent, and Anushka Asthana
guardian.co.uk, Monday 28 September 2009 22.41 BST


The Vatican has lashed out at criticism over its handling of its paedophilia crisis by saying the Catholic church was "busy cleaning its own house" and that the problems with clerical sex abuse in other churches were as big, if not bigger.

In a defiant and provocative statement, issued following a meeting of the UN human rights council in Geneva, the Holy See said the majority of Catholic clergy who committed such acts were not paedophiles but homosexuals attracted to sex with adolescent males.

The statement, read out by Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican's permanent observer to the UN, defended its record by claiming that "available research" showed that only 1.5%-5% of Catholic clergy were involved in child sex abuse.

He also quoted statistics from the Christian Scientist Monitor newspaper to show that most US churches being hit by child sex abuse allegations were Protestant and that sexual abuse within Jewish communities was common.

He added that sexual abuse was far more likely to be committed by family members, babysitters, friends, relatives or neighbours, and male children were quite often guilty of sexual molestation of other children.

The statement said that rather than paedophilia, it would "be more correct" to speak of ephebophilia, a homosexual attraction to adolescent males.

"Of all priests involved in the abuses, 80 to 90% belong to this sexual orientation minority which is sexually engaged with adolescent boys between the ages of 11 and 17."

The statement concluded: "As the Catholic church has been busy cleaning its own house, it would be good if other institutions and authorities, where the major part of abuses are reported, could do the same and inform the media about it."

The Holy See launched its counter–attack after an international representative of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, Keith Porteous Wood, accused it of covering up child abuse and being in breach of several articles under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Porteous Wood said the Holy See had not contradicted any of his accusations. "The many thousands of victims of abuse deserve the international community to hold the Vatican to account, something it has been unwilling to do, so far. Both states and children's organisations must unite to pressurise the Vatican to open its files, change its procedures worldwide, and report suspected abusers to civil authorities."

Representatives from other religions were dismayed by the Holy See's attempts to distance itself from controversy by pointing the finger at other faiths.

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, head of the New York Board of Rabbis, said: "Comparative tragedy is a dangerous path on which to travel. All of us need to look within our own communities. Child abuse is sinful and shameful and we must expel them immediately from our midst."

A spokesman for the US Episcopal Church said measures for the prevention of sexual misconduct and the safeguarding of children had been in place for years.

Of all the world religions, Roman Catholicism has been hardest hit by sex abuse scandals. In the US, churches have paid more than $2bn (£1.25bn) in compensation to victims. In Ireland, reports into clerical sexual abuse have rocked both the Catholic hierarchy and the state.

The Ryan Report, published last May, revealed that beatings and humiliation by nuns and priests were common at institutions that held up to 30,000 children. A nine-year investigation found that Catholic priests and nuns for decades terrorised thousands of boys and girls, while government inspectors failed to stop the abuse.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Church run fee-paying schools

There is an article in today’s Irish Times about fee-paying schools. The piece is written by Orlaith Carmody, who has sent her three sons to Jesuit run Clongowes Wood College in Co Kildare.

It’s the old chestnut about fee-paying schools. But maybe there is more to that discussion right now as we are in economic meltdown.

It is universally recognised that the Jesuits run great schools. I have taught in a Jesuit run school. I have also taught in a Dominican run school. I have seen first hand the job of work that is done.

But are there not serious questions to be asked about the idea of the Catholic Church running schools for the children of parents who happen to have the money to afford them?

The Catholic Church does not pay tax on any of the money it collects through donations. It does not pay Capital Gains Tax or Inheritance Tax as it is a registered charity. That in effect means that any project it runs is subsidised by the State. Charity status of its nature means that it is a charity and the purpose of ‘charities’ it would seem, is to help and give assistance to the less well off.

Fee-paying schools can never be termed ‘charities’ so surely there must be a dilemma in the entire current structuring.

If part of the mission of the Church is to be on the side of the poor and marginalised how then can it feel at ease running schools that attract the children of parents who can afford to pay?

It is a complicated and emotive issue but nonetheless a real problem. If the Church closed down all its fee- paying schools in the morning, they would be replaced by private companies.

Also, does it mean that the Church in some way or other helps create a divide in Irish society between ‘ them and us’? And is that not ironic, considering these fee-paying schools are subsidised because of charity status?

The State pays the slaries of teachers in fee-paying schools. Recently they changed the pupil teacher ratio in State-run schools from 18 pupils per teacher to 19. In fee-paying schools it was changed to one teacher for every 20 pupils.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Inappropriate anonymous material

Over the last few weeks a number of comments have arrived at this blog. The language was at first not recognisable. It transpired they were written in Japanese.

The material was not appropriate for this blog. It was also anonymous.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Whether to dress up or dress down

On the blog of the English Dominicans this week there is an article on the virtue of modesty. The writer deals with various aspects of women's dress.

Immediately below that article there are more than ten pictures of young men dressing up in the Dominican habit.

It's all bicycles in Dublin

Over 6,000 people availed of the new Dublin bike scheme last week.

Today at the Grantham Street bicycle bay all 20 bicycles were out and about.

The scheme seems to be proving a runaway success.

A one year subscription costs €10. It can be obtained by logging on to www.dublinbikes.ie.
The first 30 minutes is free.

A pity they do not have bays at Heuston and Connolly Stations. Against that, it is not advisable to take a bike if you have a specific deadline. Say you arrive at your destination bay and all 20 slots are engaged? Where then do you leave the bike?

With the dublinbikes.ie scheme and the tax back scheme if you buy a bike through your employer there are many extra bicycles on the roads in Dublin.

Unfortunately some of the arrogant style 'gentlemen' who drive flash
cars seem to have moved over to pedal power. They are as annoying on bicycles as they are in cars. And more dangerous.

Jesuit find in Melbourne

The artilce below is in today's IrishTimes. Something most uplifting about it.


Why a priest in Melbourne received Michael Collins's last letter
DESMOND O'GRADY
What may be the final letter written by Michael Collins has turned up in Melbourne, along with several other relics of Irish history. But who was Collins writing to?

YOU WOULDN’T expect a missing piece of the puzzle about Michael Collins’s last days to surface in Australia. But that is what has happened, thanks to Brenda Niall, who has written The Riddle of Father Hackett, a biography of an Irish Jesuit, Fr William Hackett, who spent the second part of his life in Australia having been sent into exile because of his political activism.
As part of her research, Niall sent the Melbourne Jesuits searching for some letters that had been known to have gone missing after Hackett’s death in 1954. In a suburban garage, the present Jesuit archivist Michael Head SJ found a collection that had been hidden for half a century. In it was a letter from Michael Collins, probably the last he wrote, acknowledging a note Hackett had left for him and saying he was sorry to have missed seeing Hackett that day. The letter was dated the day before Collins was ambushed and shot.

What was Fr Hackett, a Dublin Jesuit, doing at Collins’s headquarters in Cork on August 21st, 1922? Niall speculates that he was possibly trying to arrange a peace meeting between Collins and Éamon de Valera.

Few if any Irish Jesuits at that time were willing to side with de Valera and Childers against the Treaty with Britain. But Fr Hackett was the son of an unrepentant Parnellite, and his family did not agree with the Catholic bishops’ line on the civil strife.

Fr Hackett was friendly with Pearse and MacDonagh, leaders of the Easter Rising, and became an activist after 1916.

Part of his story is recorded in other letters discovered in Jesuit archives in Melbourne – letters from Éamon de Valera, Robert Barton, who signed the Treaty but later opposed it, and also from the controversial Archbishop Daniel Mannix of Melbourne, who campaigned for the Irish cause in Australia, the US and in England, where the authorities prevented him from landing in his native Ireland. About 50 letters from members of Childers family also came to light during Niall’s research, as well as a journal of the civil war period.

Often riding long distances on his bicycle, Hackett provided pastoral care for the rebels, but trod a very fine line between the pastoral and the political.

The Irish Jesuit leadership allowed him a free hand for years, but eventually seems to have become wary of his activities. In 1922 he was sent to Australia for motives that are not altogether clear. He accepted his unwelcome posting for the good of Ireland, the Jesuits and his soul.

Fr Hackett had a rich life in Melbourne as a teacher, as a maverick headmaster of Xavier College, as founder of the Catholic Library in the heart of Melbourne, and as mentor to a generation of Catholics who have influenced Australian social and cultural life.

He was a people person, always worried that he was an intellectual lightweight, but he convinced many Catholics that they should not just pray and pay but take ideas and books seriously.

Fr Hackett was also friendly with the Liberal prime minister, Sir Robert Menzies, which was as politically incorrect as could be in the eyes of most Australian Catholics of Irish background. Fr Hackett seems to have prompted Menzies’s visit to de Valera in Ireland in 1941, which angered Churchill but gave the Australian a new slant on Irish neutrality.

In her biography, Brenda Niall is able to bring him to life in Melbourne partly because he was a friend of her doctor father and regularly visited the Niall home.

One of Hackett’s endearing traits was his humour, which did not desert him even at the end of his life. After being knocked down and fatally injured by a taxi when crossing a Melbourne street at night, before he died he is said to have remarked: “I never thought I’d have a taxi to take me to heaven.”

The Riddle of Father Hackett by Brenda Niall is published by the National Library of Australia

Said in Germany it would be jail

Today's Irish Star prints the words uttered by Tommy Tiernan at Electric Picnic.

The Archbishop of Dublin has to be complimented for expressing concern about the remarks allegedly made by Tommy Tiernan.

Tiernan's alleged remarks about the Holocaust are appalling. According to today's Irish Times the audience 'endorsed, sustained and enjoyed his comments'.

Did no one stand up and say this is not funny? That reality is worrying for all of us.

Is there any difference between what Tommy Tiernan said and what President Ahmadinejad said at the weekend.

If Tommy Tiernan repeated those words in Germany he would be jailed.

Had Dr Martin not spoken about it many of us would never have been made aware of it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

No reason to oppose Lisbon - bishop

One of the Ireland's senior bishops on European affairs has said Catholics have no reason to vote No in the Lisbon Treaty referendum on religious or ethical grounds.

For more: RTÉ.ie/Lisbon

Bishop Noel Treanor told an Oireachtas Committee yesterday that he can unequivocally state that a Catholic can vote Yes in good conscience.

Bishop Treanor is the vice president of the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community.

Bishop Treanor also said that the Lisbon Treaty does not alter the legal position of abortion in Ireland.

He said there are some organisations that are giving out misleading and inaccurate information on the treaty.

He said none of them speaks on behalf of the Catholic Church.

A group from the No side has called for public debate on the Lisbon Treaty.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Regular sun holidays and 'traditional values'

Welcome to the 13 men who have joined the Dominican noviciate in Pope’s Quay in Cork.

It must be the largest number joining the Irish province in 50 years.

42 years, also on September 14 , I joined the province.

There were eight of us and we spent the first two years in Cork before moving to Tallaght, which was then almost still a village on the outskirts of Dublin.

I spent five years living in the Dominican Priory in Cork, those first two years and then again between 1976 and 1979 while I was attending UCC.

And probably because of those interesting and challenging years I still shout for Cork.

Back in the late ’60s early ’70s the Western world was on fire with new ideas and the church too was a-stirring.

Gradually but surely people were being appointed to jobs who were simply ‘different’ to their predecessors. The safe pair of hands was being replaced by the imaginative, and what we considered, prophetic people.

The church was touching people in a new and vibrant way. Maybe all young people think their time is magic, ours certainly was.

Before the 1960s it was ‘unusual’ for men to leave priesthood but once the ‘changes’ began to fall into place, more and more priests began to look outside their worlds. Many fine and vibrant Dominicans left. Many of them would fall in love and marry.

These days few young men are leaving priesthood. Few men are leaving. Men have had to retire from ministry, men have been in prison. And still there is no serious discussion to ask the most pertinent questions.

At 60 I have taken leave of absence for a myriad reasons. Yes, I have met a woman but I am certain she is not the reason but the catalyst for my break from orders.

I am concerned about a dispensation that is finding a wide and popular currency within the church at present.

The blog below in italics causes me great concern and reinforces my ‘suspicions’ and worries. It prompted me to write the comments below.

The recent publication of the survey for the National Religious Vocations Conference in the USA has attracted much attention in the United States and also in this part of the world. The study and survey has confirmed what many are realising and can verify - namely that those following a religious vocation are becoming more traditional - in the positive sense of the word. The survey suggests that two-thirds of the new religious (male and female) chose orders who have maintained their unique identities, have chosen to wear their religious habit and who follow a traditional communal prayer life. This along with fidelity to the Church and its teaching are cited as very important. In contrast, the survey also finds that those religious orders who have opted not to wear their religious habits, who have abandoned their monasteries, priories and convents and in some cases have diluted their charisms and become akin to social workers are those congregations and orders that are not attracting vocations.
[End of blog]

The text above is a sentiment/idea/thought/reflection that is appearing more an more regularly of late. At a first glance it might make sense but for this writer it really is appalling double think. And nonsense too. Probably humbug. I am inclined to call it a lie or a great sham.

There is an underlying message in the sentiment that young people are being attracted to orders and congregations that are true to the spirit of their founders. And being true to the founder is being linked with wearing 'their religious habits and those who follow a traditional communal prayer life'.

I believe this is an issue that needs to be challenged at its source. Of course it is fine and noble to see people being true to the message of the founder of their institution. But simply because a person does not wear a habit or give lip service to a 'traditional life style' does not mean they are not being authentic.

Can someone who avails of all the best attributes of a modern materialistic capitalist State really say anything about 'traditional values'.

There is no problem with men wearing habits but there is a problem when these same men take off the habits and dine and wine in most expensive restaurants.

There is no problem with men talking about poverty but there is a problem when these same men can swan about not knowing what it means to do a day's work while benefitting from top of the range medical insurance, frequent international travel, top class accommodation in the most sought after areas in the capital cities of the world and when not in the air, travelling in fuel guzzlers.

It really is a lie and unfortunately it seems most of those who shout loudest about 'traditional values' are the ones most likely to live this phoney life of a rosary beads in one hand and a glass of fine wine in the other.

Whereas the men at the coal face, whose work would dirty their habits never seem to speak about 'traditional values'. They live it. They are the women and men who live 'fidelity'.

They have neither the time nor the inclination to swan about in perfectly ironed habits. Surely these words are pure spoof, thought up by men who have more sun holidays in a year than there are beads on a traditional Rosary.

The Rosaries may well be evident but the car park zapper and credit card take pride of place. No doubt the Rosary is in full view while the zapper and credit card are tucked carefully away - even in the pocket of the traditional habit.

Please, stop talking dangerous codology. The people who write this cant, cannot believe it. Or is it that they are delusional? Enough damage has been perpetrated in the name of delusion in the Irish church.

If a comparable nonsense were being spoken by people of a liberal persuasion, it would long ago have been shown for what it is worth. But seemingly when it comes to 'understanding' and sympathy', superiors within the Catholic Church are slow to speak out against madcap ideas when they come from those who talk about 'traditional values'.

Enjoy your novitiate.

Your novice master is a great man and a holy man too, who believes in what he says and does. You could not be in better hands.

Wise words from Jesuit general

The General of the Jesuits was in Ireland last week. This is a quote from a sermon he gave in Limerick.

Quoting Zorba, in the film ‘Zorba the Greek’, Fr Adolfo Nicolás told the staff, pupils, Jesuits and colleagues of Crescent College Comprehensive Limerick that “Life is trouble!” He then added: “And the same is true of education - education is trouble, as you know!” Preaching at Mass in the college to mark its 150th anniversary, Fr Adolfo, in a sermon which was both moving and amusing, held the attention of a packed assembly hall as he spoke about the core Christian truth that there is no human growth without suffering, no resurrection without the cross.“In today’s world it can sometimes seem that everything can come easy. Modern communications and technology allows us to predict the weather, cook fast, do school work with a cut-and-paste job - the universal temptation for students! Everything seems to be easier except life. Living, becoming a person, relating to our families, friends, work, study, ourselves is hard. That’s because we’re human, not machines. There is no such thing as a painless education, no hope without doubts, no life without pain.”

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Xenophobic free sheet

The report carried in today's Irish Times and carried on the wires re the Alive free newspaper is profoundly sad. It would be hilariously funny if it were not so depressing and serious.

But maybe this is the opportunity for people to speak out and be loyal to the truth.

It would be easy to use adjectives to describe the magazine. Xenophobic and hate come to mind.

But those words seem to give a new 'oxygen' to the free sheet.

What is particularly frightening about it is that it represents a growing tendency within the Catholic Church in Ireland. Yes, it is a one person band, who has extreme views. But unfortunately he has his supporters.

Imagine if it were telling a left wing story? Long ago it would have been closed down by the editor's superiors.

Is this where we are? How terribly sad.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Fr Adolfo Nicolas SJ

The profile of the current head of the Jesuits worlwide appears on AMDG Express Jesuit News.

Two years ago, when Adolfo Nicolás was setting out for the General Congregation in Rome, his friends suggested that he was on the short list for election to General. “No danger of that”, said Adolfo, “My age is against me. And not everyone agrees with my views. ” But when the Congregation, swiftly and by a massive majority, voted him into the job, he accepted: “I cannot argue with that. The verdict was so clear, I could not refuse.” It is tempting to think of Generals as enjoying universal esteem and encountering few hurdles on the way to high office. That phantasy was quickly dispelled by Fr Dermot Brangan, who acted as Adolfo’s secretary and watched him at close quarters. In the piece below he remembers his time with an extraordinary man.

PROFILE OF FATHER GENERAL ADOLFO NICOLÁS

Dermot Brangan SJ

This is a man of quite extraordinary patience. He is unsurprisable and unflappable in the face of difficulties and provocation, never bad-mouthing those who criticise him, calm when things are going badly, showing astonishing forbearance and persistence. As Provincial of Japan, and later super-Provincial of the Far Eastern Assistancy, he was familiar with the tensions that arise from the mix of very diverse cultures, and the personal and administrative problems that result.

His calmness is not the same as softness. As a student of theology he spoke up for fewer lectures and more time for reading. When a group of angry young parishioners demanded to talk to the Provincial about the running of the Jesuit church in Tokyo, Adolfo met them in the church, with many of the parish watching (including Dermot Brangan). He calmly fielded their rapid, searching, angry questions and complaints, and did not flinch. There is steel there. He is not disheartened by complaints or by the shadow side of life. The third degree of humility, that central issue in the Ignatian Exercises, has stood to him.

Appointed Provincial, he chose to live in a working-class district with a Jesuit engaged in social work, the two of them cooking and cleaning for themselves. Adolfo commuted to his office, and enjoyed rubbing shoulders with fellow -workers on the subway or bus. At one stage some socially involved Jesuits were campaigning: We do not pay our workers enough. Adolfo looked at the evidence and said No, what they are getting is reasonable and in line with the city’s norms. He was not woolly about money, or driven by guilt. He could differ from friends without losing their friendship.

Nor is he woolly about theological and legal issues. He was presiding over the 2007 Provincial Congregation, when a question was raised about the legitimacy of a procedural matter of some importance. Adolfo immediately pointed out the passage that legitimised it in the directives for Province Congregations. He was in total control of the intricacies of the congregation. He is a good linguist, with a sound knowledge of the main European languages and also of Korean and Tagelog. He became so competent in Japanese that when he graduated from language school he was at once co-opted onto the staff to teach other Jesuits.

He will start his Irish visit this coming Thursday

'Palinism' could be the apt word

Lara Marlow on RTE Radio 1 yesterday reported on a story on Sarah Palin. She made the point that it was difficult to pin point exactly what Sarah Palin stood for. The story was in reference to comments made by the father of her daughter's child.

Of course it is never wise to generalise or make across the board statements but what the Irish Times US correspondent was saying did make sense at least to this listener.

Within the Catholic Church at present there seems to be a growing 'right wing' tendency or development.

I often find myself standing back and asking what exactly 'right wing' priests believe in. Very often the answer seems that they actually believe in nothing and that it is all some sort of gag or sham.

Within religious life I have heard men talk about the importance and value of 'conventual living' and liturgical celebration. I have seen great importance placed on clerical dress. Yet, the same people who speak strongly on these issues can be seen dining out in top class restaurants wearing dress that many would find simply embarrassing and light years away from the clerical dress they recommend in day time conversation.

Could 'Palinism' become a word?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A world away from 70 years ago

Today 70 years ago Britain declared war on Germany. The previous day Hitler's Germany had invaded Poland. On the evening of the declaration of war out in the Atlantic U-Boat commander Fritz-Julien Lemp gave the order to fire at the passenger ship Athenia.

The survivors were brought to Galway and Glasgow.

I am 60 and my generation has not had to go to war for either king or kaiser.

We have been amazingly fortunate and for that we have to thank the founding figures of the European Union.

I despair at the fanaticism and the mind-set of many of the groups who are now suggesting a No vote to the Lisbon Treaty.

Treaties are never perfect documents but the treaties that have created and enhanced the EU have certainly helped establish an environment that is peaceful, progressive and safe.


The article below appears in yesterday's Irish Times.

Survivors' trip pays homage to 'Britain's Oskar Schindler'

DAN McLAUGHLIN in Prague
WATCHING A vintage steam train full of waving passengers pull out of Prague station yesterday, the Meisl brothers recalled other journeys that had changed their lives forever.
Peter was evacuated from Czechoslovakia by British stockbroker Nicholas Winton on the eve of the second World War along with another 668 children, 22 whom were on board the commemorative train as it left Prague in a cloud of steam to begin its four-day journey to London.

Czechoslovakia’s Nazi occupiers declared Peter’s brother Jiri too old for evacuation and, as Peter lived out the war quietly in Wales, Jiri and their parents were forced on to a prison train and sent to Auschwitz. Their father, like the relatives of scores of “Winton’s Children”, perished there.
The Meisls’ bitter-sweet story mingled with dozens of extraordinary tales in Prague, as the now elderly men and women who owe their lives to Winton hailed his compassion and determination, celebrated their survival and mourned for those that he could not save.

In December 1938, the 29-year-old Winton was packing for a skiing holiday in Switzerland when his would-be holiday companion told him to come urgently to Czechoslovakia instead. Adolf Hitler’s forces had occupied the country’s Sudetenland region two months earlier, and Winton was appalled to see the conditions in which refugees were living.

Winton immediately started raising money and organising trains to evacuate the children, and on his return to Britain began finding homes and organising visas for them, all while holding down his regular job in the City.

Word of Winton’s audacious plan quickly spread throughout Prague and, when he returned to the city and set up office in his hotel room on Wenceslas Square, long queues soon formed outside of parents who would plead with him to take their children to Britain.

“Those parents were desperate – it was heartbreaking to listen to their stories,” Winton recalled in a 2007 interview. “‘They knew all too well what their fate was likely to be. Their first thought was for the little ones. Never themselves. Practically all those parents perished in the camps.”
Between March and August 1939, eight Winton trains carried 669 children – most of them Jewish – to safety in Britain.

Seventy years on, as the steam train whistled its impending departure, they recalled parents telling them that they were just going on a short holiday, the excitement of the older children and the bewilderment of the younger ones, and strange first impressions of Britain: being sick crossing the English Channel, spitting out a first sip of milky tea, and wondering at white sliced bread.

“Our parents put a brave face on things, and, of course, they didn’t know that they wouldn’t see their children again,” said Lady Milena Grenfell-Baines, who was sent to a family in Lancashire and still lives in Preston.

“It is very unreal and very emotional to be here today. It’s like a film set,” she said, as the train belched steam and Czech government ministers prepared to unveil a statue to Winton.
The evacuees also remembered how a ninth train had been due to leave Prague on September 1st, 1939 and how, after war broke out with Germany’s invasion of Poland, Nazi troops stopped it leaving the city. Most of the 250 children on board were never seen again.

“My brother was supposed to be on that train. He and my parents were all killed,” said Eve Leadbeater, who lives in Nottingham, the city where she was taken in by a teacher at the age of eight.

“Being in Prague on this anniversary brings a whole mix of emotions. Sadness at what happened and joy at being alive. What Nicholas Winton did was a great example of what one man with compassion and determination can do.”

The scale of Winton’s achievements is almost matched by his reticence to discuss them.
Most of “Winton’s Children” had no idea who he was until relatively recently, given that he did not even tell his wife about his exploits until the late 1980s, when she found a scrapbook full of clippings in the attic of their home in Maidenhead.

Before long, Winton’s story was featured on British television and he was being dubbed “Britain’s Oskar Schindler”. He was knighted in 2003 and, four years later, the Czech Republic gave him its highest honour and nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Now 100 years old, Winton intends to be at the station on Saturday when the train arrives in London. None of his “children” doubt that he will be there, or that he will be as reluctant as ever to accept praise or linger for long in the public eye.

“What will I say when I see Nicholas?” said Eve Leadbeater as she boarded the train. “I will say ‘thank you’. What else is there to say?”

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Excellent job within budget

If anyone in the Dublin area is looking for an excellent builder at a good price I can recommend someone.

I have had a major renovation job done on a house in Dublin. It has been excellently done and within budget.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Ryanair feel on terr firma

I have discovered the on-ground equivalent of Ryanair. All the thrills of using Ryanair and never spending a moment in the sky means I paid a visit to Ikea near Ballymun in Dublin.

Its proximity to the airport means you can almost smell the aviation fuel.

I bought an armchair and a two-seater couch. It could never have been accomplished without the assistance of my cousin, Anne, who did all the donkey work. Not true, I pulled the carts, well one of them.

Anne, her three children and I, arrived in the Ikea car park at 19.00. We find a parking space quickly enough. Nothing too difficult or crazy. And in we go up an escalator or something like that. No steps just a moving way that brings you to the first floor. Land straight into the furniture department. Because I had been looking for a couch and armchair since April I decided this was the moment.

At a glance I knew what I did not want and then saw a few that were acceptable – more or less. It’s always that ‘more or less’ that makes it all so difficult. Place my bum in a number of chairs. Make my decision. Then I have to pick a fabric colour. The patterns are hanging up on a stand nearby. What next? It was here Anne’s expertise comes to the rescue. It is a matter of writing down all the details on a form that is supplied.

Then it’s off over to the storeroom but before you go there you have to pick up a special flat pack trolley. Where to next? And that’s where the information on that paper comes into its own. Anne has written down all the necessary numbers plus the coordinates. My armchair and sofa are in two separate bays in the same aisle and the covers are in another aisle. Lifting a flat pack sofa on to the trolley is no easy operation. Remember, you have to keep the trolley in a stationary position as you shove the couch on to it. Again Anne and her children save the day as I push the couch up on to the trolley.

Off to checkout. It’s all a learning process. At first I am pushing the trolley but can’t see a thing as the couch impedes my view. That means I start pulling the trolley – problem solved. But I almost upended a man in my dash for the checkout.

At the checkout but alas the bar code is on the bottom side of the box so again I have to lift it so the cashier can read code. I hand over my money and the job is done. Or at least I think it is. But of course it’s not over until the fat lady sings.

It’s not possible to carry a two-seater sofa and an armchair across the city nor will the cargo fit in anything but a truck. Ikea delivers but for a price. Well, it’s not really Ikea. It is a company Ikea hires to do the delivering. So it’s off to the delivery department. Another queue. People in front of me seem to be buying the entire kit for a house and someone to my right is trying to skip the queue. And I am getting tetchy. I hate myself when I act the unctuous brat like that.
Like the Ryanair queue, I eventually get to the top. That feeling of elation to be replaced within seconds with that terrible sinking feeling. I ask them if they could deliver next Tuesday or Wednesday. Not possible.. It will be delivered on Friday, the day after I buy it. And if that does not suit there will be storage charges. I have no choice.

Oh, yes, I could bring it all back and look for a refund and then I would have no sofa and armchair. That would be analogous to turning down a ‘free’ Ryanair flight having just paid them to use my paper, my printer, my time and my computer to print off their boarding card.
Back in the car park, we are one of the last cars left.

Home, into bed. What a feeling of relief. It’s all over. Could this really be retail therapy?

Missing the opportune moment

Cardinal Brady 's comments in Limerick at the weekend are receiving much attention, so too is the issue of 'pre-signed Mass cards'.

When the State enacted new rules and regulations re marriage registrars it was the ideal time for the Catholic Church in Ireland to negotiate with the State so as to separate Sate and church weddings. It was the perfect opportunity for the church to say bye bye to State on the issue. But no. It seems incapable of shedding 'power baggage' that has absolutely no pastoral advantage.

And now with the controversy of Mass cards it would be a moment of prophetic thinking for the church to say that the days of Mass cards are over. The link between Mass cards and money needs to be broken and this is the moment when it could and should be done. Will it be done? No.

Different rules for different folk

The letter below 'Guidelines for funeral Masses' appears in today's Irish Times.

Watching the funeral of Edward Kennedy at the weekend it was interesting to see the role that eulogies played within the Mass.


Guidelines for funeral Masses

Madam, – Reading the extract of the eulogy delivered by Nuala Creane at the funeral of her son, Sebastian (August 25th), I am again reminded of the unequal rites in some churches.

I do not wish to be provocative by reopening the debate about inconsistencies in the way guidelines for funeral Masses are applied, with “secular” elements such as popular songs and eulogies being allowed in some cases but not in others, leading to charges that some bereaved are more equal than others. Letters to The Irish Times have previously highlighted the confusion concerning Roman Catholic funerals in Ireland.

Priests have told me they have been instructed not to permit any “secular” elements in the Mass, quoting liturgical correctness as the main reason.

The Catholic primate, Cardinal Seán Brady, has already issued a letter to his priests on the matter. He said the practice of including eulogies in Catholic funerals was to be strongly discouraged. “Requests by members of the family to speak after the prayer after Communion should be firmly but sensitively refused.” It’s clear that church guidelines are interpreted differently from parish to parish as well as from diocese to diocese – and without consistency.
Celebrities seem to be guaranteed more flexibility when it comes to the funeral liturgy. Eulogies seem to be permitted in many cases for this category, highlighting the inconsistency in the implementation of church guidelines.

Yes, a Christian funeral is a sacred occasion and liturgy is important, however the laity, like the ordained, have a role to comfort the bereaved. No one has a monopoly on words of hope, comfort and love.

Nuala Creane delivered a eulogy rich in faith and encouragement “Do we continue in darkness, seeing only fear, anger, bitterness, resentment, blaming, bemoaning our loss, always looking backwards, blaming . . .” These Christian thoughts were lovingly and rightly expressed by Sebastian Creane’s mother and what better place to utter such sentiment than the house of God? – Yours, etc,

VICTOR BOYHAN,
Grange Crescent,
Dun Laoghaire,
Co Dublin.

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No comment from bishop

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