Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tea Party clerics

Fr Simon Sleeman OSB - his mother has been in the news of late - was on the John Murray Show on RTE Radio One this morning. It made for interesting listening.

Well worth a listen. I bet Simon Sleeman is not a Tea Party man.

How much can you tell from a person's voice?

The Tea Party people are flying. There seems to be many similarities between them and a new mood within priesthood.

I see Newt Gingrich - the man who has spent years campaigning for 'solid family values' has been married at least three times and left one of his wives in quite extraordinary fashion.

Come to think about it the Tea Party people and the men of Latin have a great deal in common.

Climbing Mount Brandon on a clear day

The column below appears in all INM regional titles in Ireland today.

By Michael Commane
It’s well I was not up partying until the small hours on the Friday after the Junior Cert results were published, as it would have made for a tough day ahead.

Although I had not been to bed until 01.00 or so I was down to school on my bike for English class at nine. But before getting to the classroom the school principal sidled up to me and asked me if I would accompany the transition year up Mount Brandon. It was 08.50 and planned departure time was 09.15. It meant I had to dash home, make a sandwich, get clothes for the mountain and put on a pair of boots.
We were at the base of the mountain circa 09.45. Our guide was there waiting for us and we set off at 10.10.

There were 16 of us, 14 students, our guide and yours truly. It must be about 10 years since I was up the mountain. While I am on a bicycle every day and do a fair share of walking and swimming, I am 61 and it had been some time since I had been out climbing.

Before getting off the bus I did say to the students that I did not want to hear one vulgar word on the mountain.

They had received their Junior Cert results on the Wednesday and as you can imagine, they were full of the joys of life. None of them had been up the mountain before so I presumed we would be pulling and coaxing some of them up to the top. Nothing of the sort. I was flabbergasted with how fit they were and somewhat embarrassed that it was I who had to be pulled and coaxed. Well not really. But still they were as fit as fiddles.

It was a perfect day. We could see for miles and miles. Yes, I know we have gone metric but miles are far more descriptive than kilometres in this context.

We got to the top at 12.30 where we had our lunch and took a 30-minute break.
They really were a special group of students. It has often struck me with young Irish students how they seem to have little or no interest in anything to do with nature or art. It seems as if everything is a bore for them and all they want is a McDonalds and a shopping spree. The moment we reached the top ridge on Brandon I heard one of the 15-year-old students express his wonder and awe at the sheer beauty of what lay all around him. It really was a great moment.

The entire operation was really a magical experience. Everything went perfectly. Maybe it had something to do with the professionalism of our guide Noel from Irish Adventures in Dingle. He was most impressive and had that gift of being totally in control and yet at the same time managing to merge so perfectly with the young people he was guiding up the mountain. Never once during the walk did he have to shout or discipline anyone. That was probably a mixture of the attitude of the group and the guide’s professionalism.

We arrived back in the car park at the base of Mount Brandon at 14.50. Mission accomplished. We had been to the top of the second highest mountain in Ireland. At 952 metres (3,123 feet) on a day of blue skies and not a sign of a whiff of wind. Incredible good fortune.

On the pole at the top of the mountain was a red and white flag blowing ever so gently. Some of the group were not at all happy. It was two days before the All-Ireland. I tried to explain that it was good for the game to spread around the honours!

The behaviour of the students was impeccable. Never once during our five hours on the mountain was there a hint of misbehaviour. Of course they are not saints. No one is. But I was greatly impressed with both their attitude and behaviour. I was impressed with their fitness and their support for one another. No one was left behind, well maybe, except for me! Nobody sulked. It really was a perfect day.
Our school is a small 130-student school in West Kerry. I have taught in in a number of schools and am forever impressed with the good nature of the vast majority of our school-going students.

But there is something special about this school in West Kerry. Maybe it is that it is a small school. No doubt economists and politicians will tell us that schools have to cater for large numbers so as to be viable. Surely it is a matter of what is best for the children.

And to boot our school is not a fee paying school.
Not once in the course of the day did I hear one bad or vulgar word. They kept their word. That too is important.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Hints of a hankering for yesterday's style

How the world changes, or does it?

Back in the Ireland of the 1950s a priest called almost every day to a professional couple. It eventually dawned on the lady of the house that father was calling for his daily glass of whiskey. He called most days at 11am.

On one occasion he was asked if he would deliver a parcel for the couple. He replied that he never carried parcels.

Fast forward to today and try to understand the priest who when he is asked to wash dishes explains that his hands are the hands of an ordained minister.

Of course there are amazing, hard working priests. But the worry is that there seems to be a terrible hankering for the old ways of the 'parcel-style' priest, especially with the men who play Latin.

Simply a story with a lovely ending

The piece below appears on the front page of today's Irish Times.

THE FOUNDER of the Sisters of St Joseph, who will be canonised as Australia’s first saint next month, was excommunicated from the Catholic Church in 1871 after exposing a paedophile Irish priest, it has been revealed.

Australian television has reported that Sr Mary MacKillop discovered that children were being abused by Fr Patrick Keating in the Kapunda parish near Adelaide in south Australia.

She told Josephites director Fr Julian Tenison-Woods about the abuse. It was then reported to the vicar general and Fr Keating was sent back to Ireland, where he continued to serve as a priest.

Fr Charles Horan, a Galway man who was a colleague of Fr Keating, swore revenge on Sr MacKillop and her order. After only four years as a nun, she was excommunicated by Adelaide’s bishop Laurence Shiel, who was originally from Wexford.

She was turned out on the street with no money and nowhere to go.

Five months later, though, on his deathbed, Bishop Shiel instructed that Sr MacKillop be absolved and restored.

Fr Paul Gardiner, who has advocated for Sr MacKillop’s canonisation for 25 years, said Fr Horan had been working for Bishop Shiel and had urged him to break up the Josephites. When Sr MacKillop, who was then aged 29, refused, she was banished from the church. “She submitted to a farcical ceremony where the bishop had . . . lost it,” Fr Gardiner said.

“He was a puppet being manipulated by malicious priests. This sounds terrible, but it’s true.”

In 2009, 100 years after Sr MacKillop’s death, Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide publicly apologised to the Sisters of St Joseph for her wrongful excommunication.

“On behalf of myself and the archdiocese, I apologise to the sisters . . . for what happened to them in the context of the excommunication, when their lives and their community life was interrupted and they were virtually thrown out on the streets . . . This was a terrible thing,” he said.

After being reinstated by the Catholic Church, Sr MacKillop became known for her work with disadvantaged children, female ex-prisoners and prostitutes.

She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1995 following a Vatican decree that in 1961, a Sydney woman was cured of leukaemia through Sr MacKillop’s intercession. The second miracle required for sainthood occurred in the mid-1990s when a woman sent home from hospital to die due to inoperable lung and brain cancer was cured.

The family of Cork man David Keohane, who was beaten almost to death in Sydney in 2008, said his waking from a coma in Cork University Hospital in March last year was due to their praying to Sr MacKillop.

“All we can really say is that faith in Mary MacKillop helped them to get through this,” Steve Carey, a Keohane family friend, said at the time.

Sr MacKillop, who was born in Melbourne to Scottish immigrant parents in 1842 and died in Sydney in 1909, will be canonised by Pope Benedict in Rome on October 17th.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ominous whispers at Irish Rail

Blogging is a notorious vehicle for spreading unfounded rumour and general gossip. It gives crazy people a chance to go public.

The following item may well be 'unfounded rumour' and 'general gossip'.

Is there something terribly amiss at Irish Rail?

Among the workforce there is unstoppable gossip about the condition of the new fleet of trains that Irish Rail bought from CAF in Spain.

The original design allowed for a cab and power unit at each end. Irish Rail modified the train to allow them to attach their GM locos to the train. It means the train unit is a push pull operation.

The story among many of the workers is that it is not working and the modified train is digging up the track.

Certainly it is fact that they have had to modify the bogies.

Staff who have to walk through the train are complaining that because of the rocking, it is now becoming a health risk.

The trains are far too unstable on the track as per current running.

And the other whisper is that the company is right now haemorrhaging.

Anyone notice how the on board cleaning has been terminated?

Are there many Anglo Irish Banks in Ireland?

A better logic needs to be applied to their online sales. You can travel on the 09.15ex Tralee Heuston train for €12. If you buy a ticket to Connolly from Tralee on the asme train using the same online booking system the charge is over €60.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

From ECB to London with a DB ICE

On October 19 an Inter City Express of German Railways (DB) will arrive at London's St Pancras International Terminal.

It is expected by late 2013 trains will be running between Frankfurt-am-Main and London. Journey time will be under four hours. And then it will be on to Berlin.

German Railways is State owned as is the track.

New man in charge of Dominican Order

Bruno Cadoré, the new man in charge of the Dominican Order has his roots in the West Indies. His grandfather emigrated to France from Martinique.

According to someone who has met him, he combines simplicity with a deep wisdom.

He says about the new man, "He combines a lovely simplicity with a deep wisdom. I like most of all his good human qualities, yes, Christian qualities. After his novitiate he spent some time in Haiti. He says that it was where he first began to appreciate what the Gospel is about.

The nonsense of queueing

This article appears in Ireland today in the regional newspapers of Independent News and Media.

By Michael Commane
Cycling in Dublin last week close to midnight I spotted a queue outside an Xtra Vision shop. I was cycling from Heuston Station to the south side of the city. It wasn’t just late and dark, but it was also wet and windy and there they were standing in a queue. I could not believe my eyes and kept cycling. Curiosity got the better of me so I stopped and asked two young ‘fellas’ what was up. They were not in the queue but across the road and were clued in to what was going on. They told me that those outside the shop were queuing to buy a new computer game that was about to be launched. I expressed my bewilderment to the two ‘fellas’ and they also thought it hilarious and expressed what a weird sight it was, especially because of the night that was in it. It was 15 minutes away from midnight on a wet windy autumn night in Dublin.

This queueing business has developed a whole life of its own. Or has it?
Back in the boom times, remember those days, there were queues for knock-down bargain-price houses. The houses were selling for well under €1 million!
Some months back I spotted not a small queue outside an Aldi shop. It was about 30 minutes before the shop was due to open. The ‘queuers’ had obviously seen there were special offers about to go on sale and they wanted to be in first to get their hands on them.

What struck me was that none of those in the queue looked particularly happy. You would imagine they would be a type of ‘professional queuer’ who made it their business to pick up bargains wherever available and that they should be full of the joys of life and delighted with the great bargains they pick up. Not so at all. I was also struck by their dress. There was nothing special or elegant about how they were attired.

The phenomenon of Aldi and Lidl offering special bargains alongside their usual groceries seems to have given men the possibility of becoming shopaholics.
A friend of mine has a roomful of unopened gadgets bought at Lidl and Aldi. I have designed a new modus operandi for myself when I am in these shops. If I spend more than ten seconds thinking about buying a particular item, then I don’t need it and walk on.

That’s not always easy.

But the queues are around a long time. Those early New Year bargains that begin on December 26 get people planning their queue strategy on Christmas Day.
Just examine the money that is spent on advertising and you would want to be a fool to think that we are not all influenced by smart slogans no matter how single-minded we might think we are.

And then once you are hooked on some brand or other it is most unusual to change.
It’s easy enough for me to scratch my head and wonder at people queuing in the rain and wind at midnight but one way or another we are all children of the world of advertising.

When I was a child the clothes label was inside the garment and if it appeared on the outside it would be a source of laughter and derision. These days it has to be on the outside. Not just on the outside, but screaming at you. Free advertising for which the customer pays.

And then there are all the various brands and branding. Companies spend large sums of money branding their product. In my childhood, branding had all to do with sheep.
The times they are a-changing. Of course things are forever changing and that’s the way of the world. But just as we are asking serious questions these days about where our leaders and bankers have brought us, is it not time to ask some questions about the world of advertising? Have we all been driven crazy by an ephemeral quicksand that is silly beyond words.

To queue for a computer game at midnight in the wind and rain has to be a nonsense.
And then I was back thinking again about my own childhood and how people queued in church pews to go to confession. Is there simply something in the human psyche that forces us to queue and look for those fleeting bargains whether in terra firma or in the sky?

Every time I see a queue at an ATM I think back at the confession queues. Can I dare ask the question whether or not we are better off queueing at an ATM or outside a confessional?

One way or another queueing at midnight in the wind and rain in autumnal Ireland has to be crazy.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Pope Benedict talks of Newman the priest

Pope Benedict celebrated Mass in Birmingham today. At the Mass John Henry Newman was beatified.

Pope Benedict began his sermon by referring to the sacrifice made by the people of Britain in defeating nazi Germany. It was a moving and poignant introduction to his words. He spoke about how the writings of Newman are relevant for the teaching of faith today and how Newman saw the importance of the link between faith and reason.

He concluded by referring to Newman the priest, who cared for the sick and the old and how they turned out in large numbers to attend his funeral.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Kasper, Pope Benedict, the razzmatazz

British television is giving extensive coverage to Pope Benedict's official visit to Scotland and Wales.

The more one reads and sees about the visit surely the more confused one becomes.
How much of my Catholic faith, the faith I inherited from my parents, a numbers game?

What is Walter Kasper saying? Is this all choreographed high diplomatic strategy or is it style from an organisation that is inept?

And then there is something sad about Dr Paisley and his demonstration.

Do all the Catholic spokespersons appearing on television and radio really believe all of what they are saying?

The razzmatazz that seems such an integral part of the visit seems so far removed from faith, even from what Bavarian born Josef Ratzinger believes.

It's confusing.

The piece below is from a Guardian blog.

Cardinal Walter Kasper's sudden diplomatic illness tells us almost as much about the Vatican's real plans as his undiplomatic remarks to a German news magazine. In an interview with Focus, he said that "an aggressive new atheism has spread through Britain. If, for example, you wear a cross on British Airways, you are discriminated against."

Kasper is normally one of the Vatican's more diplomatic and emollient figures. He spent years negotiating with the Church of England. He was the man the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, rang up in a rage when plans emerged for a mass defection to the Roman Catholic Church of Anglican opponents to women priests.

Yet he was also the man who in 2008 urged the Anglican communion to take a stand against homosexuality. And his remarks fit into a conservative view of Britain, one which would have appealed to John Henry Newman in his conservative moods. And it is Newman who the pope has come here to beatify.

Britain today, said Kasper, is "a secular and pluralist country. Sometimes, when you land at Heathrow, you think you have entered a third world country."

The standard liberal remedies for the church's decline hold no attraction for the cardinal. "Look at the Protestant churches," he said: "They have married priests and women priests, too. Are they doing better? The Church of England has also taken on terrible problems with these developments. I wouldn't wish those problems on my church."

This is not only stupefyingly tactless, and wrong (the Church of England has 600 priests in training, half of them women; the Roman Catholic church has 39 priests in training), it is also bizarre, in view of the pope's initiative last year to welcome married Anglican clergy, if they are opposed to women priests.

The Church of England, Kasper believes, has been brought to the point of schism and collapse by compromise with the spirit of the age. He says: "There is a crisis of values and direction in western society which has its roots in the Enlightenment, and was given added impetus by the radical movements of the 60s. And because the churches live in this society, their faith is weakened."

This view will horrify many English Catholics. For the liberals in the English church, the reforming Second Vatican Council of the 60s opened the church to learning from the outside world, and the last two popes have attempted to drag down again the iron shutters which once kept the church distinct. But to Pope Benedict and his circle, the council showed it had learned all the necessary lessons of the 500 years since the Reformation. Now it is time once more for the world to learn from the church.

This view has a certain lunatic consistency. By blaming almost everything wrong with the church on liberalism and acoustic guitars, it pushes into the future any consideration of whether things will get better when those have been extirpated. It sets up the Catholic church as defender of European identity against Islam, and against secularism. The restoration of the Latin mass is also, partly, an attempt to restore Europe to its Christian roots by establishing a living ritual that appears to go back centuries.

All this, I think, is what the Vatican really believes it is up to, and Kasper just blurted it out. What his sudden mysterious illness adds to the picture is that it is determined that there should be no diplomatic incidents on this trip – and that it still has no clue how to avoid them.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Not a good day for Ireland

On the day that tens of thousands of Irish young people receive their Junior Cert results and an agency of the State will advise them and their parents not to abuse alcohol, the taoiseach appears on the front page of every Irish newspapers looking and sounding inebriated.

Brian Cowen seems a decent, intelligent and good man but that he has to tell us that he was not drunk is a sad day for Ireland.

How many nurses, teachers, plumbers, farmers, doctors, all of us who are paying the new hardship levy, could stay partying until 03.00 and have a work engagement at 08.30 that morning?

What does it say about those who are out batting for him?

The comments from the Minister for Justice are simply not acceptable.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

The terrible and absurd redundant apostrophe

The Irish Times has in recent weeks done a series on spotting errors. They published their results in yesterday's paper. And they had the good grace to spot their own errors too.

The sentence below with nine words has two typos/grammatical errors appears on a website. Irish Dominican website.

Please also have a look at our others video's

And why uppercase priest, chapter, province? After all we don't uppercase plumber, meeting and county. Are priests, chapter and province different from the rest of the human race?

The man from the Bundesbank

The link below is well worth a read.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Rooney makes it in The Star and Alive

Yesterday's Irish Daily Star carried a story on soccer ace Wayne Rooney on its front page.

"Apart from red-faced Roo, fame-hungry vice girl Jenny Thompson scored with 13 other soccer aces - six defenders, three midfielders and four stirkers". One of two paragraphs on its front page.

This is the same Wayne Rooney who recently appeared on a lead page of Alive newspaper. Alive is a fundamentalist style right wing newspaper that says it is Catholic in content.

Alive pictured Wayne Rooney with a Rosary beads around his neck and in the blurb the reader was told what his faith meant for him.

In the current issue of Alive there is a short piece on a poll taken in Germany showing that the Germans want to leave the euro and put the Mark back in their pockets.

The newspaper is a collection of hate pieces that are most disturbing. Anytime it can find anyone or anything that seems to support its 'cause', they appear as some sort of role models.

Every page of the newspaper contains hate stories and many of them are wrapped up in a sexual context.

Thankfully there is a statment at the bottom of the front page distancing itself from the Irish Dominican province.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A tooth tale

The column below appears in the Irish regional newspapers of Independent News and Media.

By Michael Commane
When the first British troops encountered their German enemy in World War 1 they immediately noticed the good teeth of the German soldiers. The British have never been renowned for the health of their teeth and we Irish are further down the scale when it comes to oral hygiene.

Who’s to blame for the poor quality of Irish teeth? Is it the fault of the State, the individual or the dentist? Like everything in life nothing is as straightforward as to provide a simple answer. Certainly education, money and resources, as per usual, play a significant role in the state of the nation’s teeth.

It is important to say that dental care in Ireland has improved greatly in the last 20 to 30 years. The introduction of fluoride into the water has dramatically reduced tooth decay.

I’m 61 and as proud as punch that I still have a full mouth of my own original teeth. For that I have to thank my mother and my dentists.

When I was around 12 or 13 my mother thought I needed orthodontic work done and took me to the dental hospital in Dublin where she was told that I did not qualify for free dental care. Either I was over the age or my father’s income was over the limit. All I know is that I was not eligible for ‘free’ dental care. My mother took me to Joe Briscoe who looked after my teeth until I was in my 40s. Just before he retired he promised me that if I cared for my teeth I would take them to the grave.
Thank you Mr Briscoe, it’s looking good.

Not in any way denigrating the married state, I have always said that changing dentist is in so many ways analogous to changing spouses. Trust in your dentist is paramount.
Over ten years a
go I found a new dentist and I think it’s worth telling the story of how I have built up such a relationship with him and why I believe he has earned my trust.
Very often columnists sound off and tell all the bad news stories. This is a good news story, though, there may well be a complementary bad news story lurking in the background.

In the last two years deep filings in two teeth had reached their sell by date and it was decided to replace them with modern-style crowns. It is a new system called a Cerec and the job is done using computer aided design. The first one proved a resounding success and really is an amazing job. Alas with the second one it was not so simple. After the job had been done an infection set in. My dentist explained that the Cerec probably activated or switched on some decayed matter that was already in the tooth.

Maybe men are bad patients and I a particularly bad one but the pain was indescribable. I went back to my dentist and he did some temporary work on the tooth. Some weeks later while out of the country the tooth flared up again and on the flight home I felt my head lifting off my shoulders with such a terrible pain.
The following day when in Dublin I called my dentist in Tralee. He arranged that I pick up medication at a pharmacy in Dublin and then some days later he made an appointment for me to visit a dentist colleague of his in Dublin.

The Dublin dentist having examined the tooth and asking me a few questions decided to leave the job until I went back to my dentist in Tralee.

When I asked how much I owed him he pointed out he had done no work on the tooth and that I owed him nothing. I was impressed. And relieved.
Some days later I had work done on the tooth in Tralee. All was well again. The relief of not having a toothache is quite extraordinary and anyone who has suffered from a bad toothache knows exactly what I mean.

A week or so passed and to my great surprise my dentist in Tralee telephoned to know if all was well with the tooth. I was chuffed to think he would call to see how the tooth was. And of course I was greatly impressed.
These days it’s easy to criticise those in charge of things and also professional people in well paid jobs. But that does not mean we cannot also praise them for their good and caring work.

But to think that the State has now reneged on paying for a service that we have paid into for years really is a scandal. People who have been paying PRSI all their working lives have at the stroke of a pen been told that they now have to pay for the vast majority of dental work that they get done.

The way our great State is now treating us means that for people who cannot afford dental work the only solution is extraction. That is a scandal and it says much about how docile we are that we are not storming the gates of Government and telling them we have every right to keep our teeth.

I’m privileged and fortunate to be able to pay for my dental work.

Thank you Mum and dentist. Shame on you State.