Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Three aspects to life in Ireland

Irish Times columnist   
and playwright
Michael Harding

Archbishop Charles Brown
Newly appointed Bishop of
Cloye, William Crean
Three items that might interest readers of this blog.

The announcement on Saturday that William Crean had been appointed the new bishop of the diocese of Cloyne.

The comments made by the papal nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop Charles Brown, in the current issue of Intercom.

Michael Harding's article in today's Irish Times.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Gunther's EU rail journey

Well worth listening to 'Gunther' aka Barry Murphy's satirical piece on the passenger behaviour of EU citizens on a train journey.

Very funny.

Friday, November 23, 2012

English grammar according to RTE

RTE Radio One news programme at 16.30. First item introduced today with the followig words.
''... how the meeting had went".

If their news is as inaccurate as their grammar, then things are bad.

Helping Concern today

ElectricIreland is running a week-long advertising campaign. Three charities are involved and the winning charity will receive €50,000.

So, calling on everyone who reads this blog, please sign in to electricirelandpoweringkindness and log a good deed. It is open until 16.00 today and Concern needs all the support it can get.

Right now it's tight, so Concern needs your support.

Please help.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Brussels over Stalingrad any day

A mere 70 years ago today, on November 22, 1942 a Soviet counteroffensive against the German Army at Stalingrad trapped a quarter-million German soldiers south of Kalach on the River Don.

It was on this day that Friedrich Paulus requested from Berlin permission to surrender. Permission was refused.

It's that slaughter, that madness that forced the leaders of Europe to see another way. So we have the European Union.

Today in Brussels the leaders of 27 EU states will meet to discuss a new budget.

How fortunate we are.

It's a far cry from the blood of close to two million people and the icy waters of the rivers Don and Volga.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Efficient, fast, cheap burials in Berlin

Surely this can't be missed.

Quick burials, crematoriums. Poland, The Czech Republic, the Germans, Berlin and efficiency. And it's today's story. Modern parlance would be forced to say OMG.


BERLIN DIARY: Her final journey was supposed to take Anja’s mother from the funeral home to the crematorium. Instead, the 61-year-old’s body was taken on an unscheduled jaunt from a Berlin car park and over the border into Poland.

At about 5am on October 15th, thieves broke into the white transporter van parked behind the funeral home and headed east down the autobahn, unaware that they had 12 coffins in the back.

The bodies had been loaded into the van for the 200km trip to the Saxon city of Meissen for a cut-price cremation. Instead they turned up, eight days later, unloaded in a forest in Konin near Poznan, 300km from Berlin.

“We’re not sure how long the coffins were here, it’s a place locals come to pick mushrooms,” said local mayor Andrzej Rybicki.

Anja eventually got her mother’s body back, but only after paying the transport costs.

The ghoulish story has served as a cautionary tale in the increasingly competitive Berlin funeral market.

Although 80 people die here on average each day, the overall numbers are declining while the number of undertakers is growing.

To attract attention in a crowded market, new operators are advertising their services online and on bright hoardings near hospitals: Billigbestatter.de( cheapundertaker.de) or Bestattungsdiscounter24.de( Burialdiscounts24.de).

One discounter’s advertising slogan is “Provocative but not impious”. As with budget airlines, price-conscious Germans who book ahead can rest in peace knowing they got one final bargain on the way to the graveyard: €949 all-in, compared to an average burial spend of €2,500.

Given that this is the country that gave us Lidl and Aldi, it’s perhaps not surprising that canny German consumers have embraced the cult of discount undertakers or that these new arrivals are expanding their market share with ruthless cost-cutting.

The promise of a cheap funeral first raised its head in 2004 after German health insurers stopped making a contribution to funeral costs, causing a drift away from traditional burials and religious tradition.

An added factor in the low- cost funeral boom is the disint- egration of family structures, meaning that in some areas of Berlin one in three burials is an anonymous affair, paid for by social services.

With the squeeze on, it is not unusual for undertakers to do under-the-table deals or spread unflattering gossip about the competition.

“Last Christmas one of my competitors gave the director of a nursing home a Mercedes,” complained one undertaker to the Berliner Zeitung daily.

In Berlin’s burgeoning battle for bodies, vanishing acts are not as rare as you might hope. Two years ago, the body of a woman vanished from a city hospital three hours after she died. “The relatives were informed immediately that the mother and grandmother had been kidnapped by an undertaker,” said the court report during the subsequent trial.

As distraught relatives considered what to do next, the woman’s daughter got a phone call from an undertaker. He noticed her number in her mother’s hospital file, he said, and was wondering if they had decided on burial or cremation. The grieving daughter hung up and contacted her undertaker of choice to collect the body.

While Germany’s Undertakers Association complains of the growth of what it calls a cost- conscious “disposal mentality”, many operators, particularly in eastern Germany, are changing with the times and offer would- be customers free bus trips to Poland and the Czech Republic.

Every day, busloads of pensioners arrive for a crematorium tour, get a price list and, on the way home, often sign pre-death contracts for low- cost funerals. Now a cross-border market, some Polish and Czech crematoriums report that every fifth body they process is German.

Faced with cheap Czech competition and funeral discounters at home, many traditional Berlin undertakers are outsourcing services to cheaper operators in eastern Germany. According to figures from 2011, almost a third of Germans now choose a burial costing €1,200 or less.

The disappearing dozen from Berlin, for instance, were en route to Meissen. Renowned for its porcelain, the Saxon city is also the home of Germany’s cheapest crematorium.

Yesterday cremator Jorg Schaldach confirmed that the 12 bodies finally arrived back from Poland, ending their journey last week. Schaldach offers cremations around the clock, every 35 minutes, 1,000 a month – 200,000 so far and counting. His price: €188.90.

“We have a good price but people also value our speed: whoever comes to us today is in the urn tomorrow,” he told The Irish Times. “You shouldn’t have to apologise for being effective.”

A valley of tears

The column below appears in this week's INM Irish regional newspapers.

By Michael Commane
It must be four weeks ago now since I drove my motorbike from Rathgar in south Dublin to Rush in north county Dublin. I was interviewing a 90-year-old amazing man who spent most of his working life with Aer Lingus. This year Tanzania launched the first Young Scientist Exhibition in Africa and the man I was interviewing had long links with the Irish Young Scientist Exhibition. I was preparing an article highlighting the genesis of the exhibition.

Interview over, we said our goodbyes, I put on my helmet and went back out to my motorbike. It was a miserable day, that sort of never-ending drizzle that keeps sticking to you.

Earlier in the morning I had felt touches of a headache. I might well get the occasional ‘man-flu’ but it is seldom if ever I get headaches.

Back out on the motorway, rain clogging up my visor and terrible traffic jams because of road works near Dublin Airport, that headache began to hurt. In fact, it was beginning to thump at my head and even my eyes were sore. I only began driving a motorbike in 2007, so the mix of headache, bad weather, motor way traffic and road works was beginning to become intolerable. I decided I simply could not stay at this and left at an exit near Castleknock.

I eventually got home and straight to bed. The headache kept getting worse and worse until I was forced to go to the doctor to discover I had sinusitis. It’s only in the last few days that I have been free of the damn thing. The exhilarating joy of getting out of bed in the morning free of a headache is incredible.

The experience set me thinking about all sorts of things: how fragile we are, how easy it is to knock us out of our daily routine, but most of all, what must it be like for people who suffer great and horrendous pain and over long periods of time.

Some weeks ago I wrote in this column about a young man who had lost a leg and was in the process of having a prosthesis fitted. I have been amazed at how he has taken it all in his stride.
I know someone whose niece’s husband received serious brain injury back in the spring and is still in a coma. The pain and suffering of that for his family cannot be described in words. What can one say?

And just last week the shocking death of 31-year-old Savita Halappanavar in Galway.

Every day and night we turn on our televisions and radios and see and hear about horrendous pain being caused on people. Last Wednesday I saw an Israeli bomb tear down on a car in Gaza setting it into a ball of fire and killing all the occupants.

Anyone who is watching RTE’s ‘Love Hate’ or the US TV series ‘Homeland’ must at times put their hands to their eyes as indescribable pain is meted out to people, human beings, people like you and me.

The writers of these series will say they are portraying, more or less, reality, a world that exists ‘out there’.

Maybe it has something to do with growing in age but the more I see of the world around me I can’t help but say that yes, it is ‘a valley of tears’.
Of course great things happen. People experience wonderful happiness and joy. On Friday cycling to work I was stopped at traffic lights and beside me was a young man with his small child on a little carrier saddle on the back of the bike. Great smiles from both of them. And they are the important moments. But always, lurking somewhere or other, there is pain and suffering and wrong doing. And so much of it could be avoided, but so much of it is a given and part of our lives.

When I was in my late 20s I lived in a Dominican community. In the house at the time was a man whom I presumed was quite old. He may not have been that old at all but he was always complaining of being in pain. Eventually I more or less stopped listening to him, paid no attention to his pain.

My tiny four-week discomfiture has made me make a promise. Be far more sympathetic to people who are in pain and suffering. At least listen to them and try to understand. Be there with them and for them.

A friend of mine often says to me she will listen to no words from anyone unless they have wiped the bottoms of the old and infirm, been with them in their pain. She has a point.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Living a dangerous illusion

"A church that feels itself embattled, and believes it needs to resurrect all the symbols of its past glory in order to bolster its authority, is a church that is living a dangerous illusion."

"There are no moral, intellectual or geographical borders that can deny grace its citizenship in the world."

James Hanvey SJ teaches at the University of San Francisco.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Keeping the US coffers low

Every year US citizens defraud their treasury of $400 billion and it costs the US Treasury $410 billion to collect its taxes

Never a bell on Sunday Radio

Why is the Angelus bell never rung on RTE Radio 1 on Sunday?

The first day of snow

This day 70 years ago the first snows fell in Stalingrad.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

What really do the so-called experts know?

The CIA talk about security.

It transpires that CIA chief David Patreus communicates with his lover Paula Broadwell using electronic mail. They are sophisticated of course and leave their letters in the draft box, something drug dealers do.

One is forced to ask what does the CIA really know about security?

IKEA, GDR and Volvo

IKEA apologises for purchasing products from the former GDR, which were made by political prisoners.

This news is all over today's newspapers.

But might there be a link between the IKEA business and the fact that all state cars used in the former GDR were Swedish built Volvos?

What was the deal between Sweden and the GDR?

Not a word on this so far.

Comparing PSNI to Catholic Church

On the Marian Finucane Show today Fr Oliver Brennan was interviewed about his ordeal of having been accused in the wrong of sexual abuse.

He came across as a wonderful man, forgiving too.

He was too kind to say it, maybe too big too, but listening to every word of the interview it was alarmingy clear of the bungling behaviour of the hierarchical church.

But he did compare the professionalism and kindness of the PSNI to the poor behaviour of the church.

So far the church has not apologised to him.

Fr Brennan spoke highly of how the Association of Catholic Priests supported and helped him.

He said at first he was very bitter towards the church but said fortunatey he no longer feels bitter.

The late Dominican John O'Gorman always maintained that the biggest issue with the Catholic Church was its ineptness and total inefficiency.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Ninety years of great radio

BBC Radio is 90 years old today.

The event was celebrated throughout the day on BBC stations with a special moment to mark the occasion at 17.22, which went out around the world.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

UCC award for Mary O'Donovan

In the current issue of 'Independent Thinking', the UCC alumni magazine, there is an attractive three page spread on Mary O'Donovan.

Earlier in the year Mary O'Donovan was awarded an honorary Degree of Doctor of Education by UCC.

Mary is the co-founder of Scoil Mhuire in Cork city.

She is the sister of Fr Raymond O'Donovan, a member of the Irish Dominican province.

The story might well have been flagged in some Dominican publication that went unseen by the author of this blog.

It is profoundly sad that this sort of news is lost in the ether of Dominican news while at the same time we are subjected to so much terrible nonsense and material that is boring and totally non news in quality.

US Tea-Party style will help nobody

This is this week's Independent News and Media Irish regional newspapers column. It appears in 13 of the 14 INM regional newspapers in Ireland.

By Michael Commane

In the run-up to Saturday’s children’s referendum the free sheet Alive! received much publicity. Indeed, one newspaper in one article referred to Alive! as being ‘A Dominican Catholic monthly’.

The free sheet strongly advocated a No vote on Saturday.

The Irish Catholic bishops said neither Nay or Yea in how people should vote in the referendum. Once the referendum was announced Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin came out in support of a Yes vote.

So how Catholic and how Dominican is Alive! And a much more pertinent question is when can a person call themselves Catholic?

Certainly there are many sides and corners to the Catholic Church, It’s important to remember that it is a universal church, which means that it is not monolithic. It is not a dictatorship, where people are forced to obey rules and regulations out of fear of some authoritarian figure at the top.

The Vatican Council placed great stress on the idea that the church is the people of God.

Anywhere there are people living in any sort of honesty with one another there will be diferences of views and opinions. It's important to realise that difference is not division.

At the bottom of the front page of Alive! there is a disclaimer. It reads: “The content of the newspaper Alive! and the views expressed in it are those of the editor and contributors, and do not necessarily represent the views of the Irish Dominican Province.”

So that makes it quite clear that the views and opinions and how they are expressed in Alive! are not necessarily the views and opinions of the Irish Dominicans.

I find myself disagreeing with much of the content in Alive! Indeed, I have no difficulty saying that the church it portrays is certainly not a church that I would wish to be a member of. It often strikes me that a publication with trenchant liberal or 'left wing' views would never be allowed survive within the church as Alive! manages to survive.

Alive! is cleverly presented. It’s tabloid in form and content and follows the tabloid ethos in that it offers the reader short shock horror stories. It certainly can catch the reader’s attention.

On page nine of the November issue a headline runs: ‘Gilmore drops bombshell: kids’ vote is anti-church” But Diarmuid Martin supported the Yes vote and the bishops had no objections.

Right across the Catholic Church there seems to be a US-style Tea Party campaign attempting to ‘take over ‘ the church and turn it into some horrible right wing organisation that seems so far removed from anything that is gentle and kind, searching and tolerant. It would seem they want the church to be some sort of strident army in which there is no room or acceptance for any sort of freedom of thought.

In the Gospel that we read in church last Sunday Jesus goes out of his way to criticise those who prance about in long robes weighing people down with their long prayers. Instead he admires the poor widow who quietly and gently gives a penny to the treasury.

Surely the Gospel story is our mission statement. It’s a story that supports the weak and the fragile.

Anyone who has ever impressed or left a lasting mark on me has been someone who has been gentle and kind, never strident and authoritarian.

It struck me in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy how the US federal agencies were on the ground helping people. These are the same agencies that the Tea Party advocates want disbanded. They argue government should be so much smaller.

And in that context I find it difficult to understand how Alive! too is constantly attacking the Government on so many issues, yet it has no trouble telling its readers that because it is registered as a charity it can avail of the Government’s tax back scheme.

There is a growing stridency right across so many organisations, including churches, which is greatly worrying. I for one, find it difficult to take. I’d much prefer to be associated with a church and society that is on pilgrimage, all the time on a journey, walking in faith and wonder.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Breaking the wise rules of protocol

This weekend in a sermon a senior ecclesiastic referred to a bishop as 'his excellency'. Indeed, he used the term on two occasions.

And that on the weekend when the Gospel being read cast a cold eye on the behaviour of certain 'scribes'.

What at all is happening in our church?

Is there anyone out there brave and holy enough to shout 'stop'?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

It was so close to being so different

Tilo Koch, born in Karl Marx Stadt, now Chemnitz, in 1968 was a young GDR border officer working in Berlin the night the Wall was opened.

In a documentary film shown on German television today he said that had he received the order to shoot at those storming his border crossing point, he would have done his duty and opened fire.

Bornholmer Straße was the first border crossing point to be breached on the night of November 9, 1989.

It's unlikely that the Wall would have come down so easily had there not been a European Union in place to support the Germans.

The goings and comings of powerful men

General Valery Gerasimov has been appointed chief of the general staff of the Russian Army.

Justin Welby, the Bishop of Durham, has been appointed the new Archbishop of Canterbury.

David Petraeus has resigned as chief of the CIA, issuing a statement saying that he had engaged in an extramarital affair.

The Rusians jailed young women for performing lewd sexual acts in a church.

The Church of England is greatly divided over the appointment of women bishops and same sex marriage.

And the head of the CIA, the man who designed and planned the 'surge' in Iraq and Afghanistan, is gone from one of the top jobs in the world because of his behaviour with a woman.

The long-robed spoofers

The column below appears in today's Irish Times.

By Michael Commane
On one of the days that Superstorm Sandy caused devastation in the Caribbean and the east coast of the United States I was in a shop in Dublin which my late mother frequented. It's seldom I'm in the shop. Out of the blue, the owner, gently smiling, said to me that he still had a thank you letter I had written him for attendng my mother's funeral. My mother died in 1988. And just as I came out of the shop and began to untie my dog from a pole a young girl stopped and told me what a lovely dog she was.

The power of the positive word. For the next 20 minutes or so, walking home, I was naturally recalling what the shopkeeper had said. Yes, it put a smile on my face. A nice man. And even the little girl's comment about my dog did me no harm.

That same day US television networks were showing the incredible damage that Sandy had caused and at the same time recalling the small human stories of kindness that helped people get through the disaster - even the kind words a Republican governor had for a Democratic president.

What nicer accolade to give someone than to say she or he is a kind person.
What better ambition to have than to be a kind person.

All groups, all organisations, all societies, all religions have their nasty and kind people. Yes, rules and regulations have a role to play but surely it has to be kindness, human kindness that shines through and saves us. As Christians we believe that our kind deeds and words are especially appeciated and recognised by the God we believe in, praise and adore.

In tomorrow's Gospel we read the words of Jesus: "Beware of the scribes who like to walk about in long robes, to be greeted respectfully in the market squares, to take the front seats in the synoguges and places of honour at banquets; these are the men who devour the property of widows and for show offer long prayers." (Mark 12:38)

It is quite extraordinary how redolent those words are today in our times and in our society.

Of course rules and regulations play a role, an important role in any group, in any society, in any religion but they are means to an end. And it seems that sometimes we can get lost in ritual and even turn prayer into some sort of formula said by the elite, which can easily imply that the 'ordinary people' are not as important as the 'ruling classes'. Surely that's what Jesus is warning against. And if the Gospel is to be considered an important piece of literature, even inspired word, then it has value and significance in every age.

We should never understimate the kind deed, the kind word and you know, so often they are done away from the limelight, away from the cameras, away from the important seats at the market squares.

And again Jesus stresses the simple kind deeds, the deeds that so often go unseen and unrecognised by the great and the powerful. He refers to the poor widow, who gives a penny to the treasury: "In truth I tell you, this poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury."

Sometimes I wonder is there something in the human psyche that always tempts us to give far more credence and authority to the words and deeds of the powerful than those of the little people.

And all the time in the Gospel, Jesus keeps stressing the importance of the weak and fragile. Surely, it's the small kind routine events in our daily lives that inspire and lead us to God.

I think of the shop keeper and the little girl.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Dark evil, great moment and good luck

On this date in 1938 the Germans carried out that terrible night of destruction on Jewish communities right across the country. The memory of Kristallnacht makes every sensible German bow their heads in shame. It can and must never be forgotten.

And also on this date but in 1989, the Wall came tumbling down.

I lived in Berlin in 1986. The fall of the Wall then seemed unthinkable.

With the fall of the Wall one has no alternative but to believe that anything, just anything is possible.

On March 17, 1986, with a group of students from the univeristy in Berlin I visited a Protestant pastor on the German side of Görlitz. We were travelling from Berlin to Krakau. We smuggled him in that day's newspapers from West Berlin. He prepared us a wonderful breakfast. During our conversation he kept insisting that it was just a matter of time before it all collapsed in the German Democratic Republic. I can still see him stressing emphatically that it was over and that his state was totally bankrupt, economically and morally.

I did not believe him.

How I know it was March 17 is because the GDR custom control at Friedrichstraße requested me to open my case. Hidden inside I had GDR money. Bringing GDR money into the country was a serious crime. So, unusually calm for me, I mentioned to the controller that it was Ireland's national holiday. Suddenly, it seemed he forgot about what he was doing, chatted with me and closed my bag.

St Patrick had come to my assistance.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A man who claimed to stay the course

"My fellow-countrymen and women! Party Comrades! It is, I think, something very extraordinary when a man after about 20 years can stand before his old followers, and when in doing so he has not had to make any revisions of his programme during these 20 years."

So much for consistency and 'staying the course'.

This is the beginning of an incredibly rambling speech that Hitler gave in Munich on this date 70 years ago.

It is shocking stuff.  How did he ever get away with it and how did it happen?

Nasty words can tell a story.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The BBC get it so wrong

This text appeared on the BBC 10 O'Clock television news this evening.

The item was on child abuse in north Wales.

"Did inquiry 'do it's job'?"

Imagine, the BBC confusing a possessive adjective or would you call it a possessive pronoun with an abbreviation, which it certainly is not.


Roman letter and Dublin video

Every four years individual provinces of the Dominican Order hold a meeting or chapter. The meeting is held so as to plan for the future and to elect a provinical and other officers for the following four years.

This summer the Irish Dominicans held their chapter and elected a new provincial.

An account of the chapter is published in book form, which includes a letter from the central governing body of the Order, which is based in Rome.

The letter accompanying the most recent chapter of the Irish province makes suggestions and recommendations as to how Irish Dominicans might carry out their work over the next four years.

In the last few days on both the Irish Dominican website and on the international website of the Order a video has been posted, which discusses the aftermath of the Eucharistic Congress, which was held in Dublin in the summer.

A comparison of the video with the letter from Rome in the current book on the recent meeting of the Irish Dominicans is well worth studying.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Alexander Platz November 4, 1989

On this date in 1989 a large anti government demonstration took place in Alexanderplatz in the GDR.

Among the speakers at that demonstration were writers Stefan Heym and Christa Wolf. Also there was Ulrich Mühe, who played the lead role of Wiesler in the film The lives of Others.

Mühe died soon after the making of the film. Subsequent to the fall of the Wall the actor discovered that his wife was spying on him and working for the Stasi.

Some days before the demonstration in Alexander Platz Egon Krenz replaced Erich Honecker as SED leader and the top man in the GDR.

Krenz was the perfect party man. Spent his entire life in the shadow of the leaders, in so-called 'important jobs'. At one stage in charge of the FDJ - the GDR youth movement.

He was always considered a wise man, did those secretary jobs that every organisation gives to its 'wise men'.

Krenz is a paradigm for all those who play the politicial game, whether in State or church, never really express an idea but somehow or other, people think they have a wisdom about them.

Of course most of them are 'yes men'.

Once the change became clear, Krenz explained how he really was never a 'hardliner'.

And then reality hit the people, the party, the country and maybe even eventually Krenz spotted who he really is - a Mr Nobody, the perfect sycophant.

He was later charged with manslaughter and a period in jail.

Guess what, he might well still be doing the job of secretary somewhere, somehow.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Tenth anniversary of death of JJ O'Gorman

Today is the 10th anniversary of the death of Dominican John James O'Gorman

The following appreciation, written by the author of this blog, appeared in The Irish Times in November 2002.

JOHN James O’Gorman was born in Blarney Street, Cork in 1945 and attended the North Monastery Christian Brothers School. He was one of their brilliant young men, obtaining a scholarship to UCC. But instead of going on to university he joined the Dominican Order in September 1962. He was professed the following year and ordained a priest in 1969.

John O’Gorman stood out as a shining light. Most of all he was a man of absolute integrity, but he was also endowed with brilliant intelligence. After priestly ordination he studied postgraduate theology in Rome and remained at the Irish Dominican community in San Clemente as bursar.

He spoke Italian like a Roman – or so said his neighbours on the Via Labicana. But he was not happy with Rome and the Roman scene. His first love was always science and mathematics. He began postgraduate work in maths while still in Rome. Father J.M. Heuston, a brother of John Heuston of 1916 fame, himself a fine mathematician, admitted that he had never before met someone with such mathematical talent. John came home to Ireland in 1976, moved to the Dominican Community at Newbridge and did his H.Dip at Maynooth. Without any formal degree in mathematics, he blazed a trail of brilliance through Newbridge College. Students seeming destined to produce average turned in spectacular performances.

By the time of his last year at the school, there were two streams in sixth year doing Higher Level Maths in the Leaving Cert. But John was also there for the not-so-clever. Anyone who sat at his feet in Newbridge will remember him as a brilliant and fair teacher. John was endowed with both a practical and speculative intelligence.

In the early 1980s he began to develop an interest in Computer Science and did a Ph.D, in computing at the University of Limerick. This led to a career in lecturing at the college, a job he greatly loved. He is the author of two books on computing and was in the process of publishing a third.

He was meticulous in everything he did. While mathematics and teaching were his first love there were other sides to this faithful son of St Dominick. He walked every by-road of Ireland, climbed to the top of every mountain and had a knowledge of roads, rivers and mountains that was simply breathtaking.

John also took his theology seriously, had a profound knowledge of the Bible, and was familiar with modern theological thinking. But he was never at home with his priesthood. In the mid-1980s he requested permission to resign from priesthood while remaining a Dominican. The Order granted his request.

Most of all John was a dear friend, someone who was always there to give the best of advice and help. He had absolutely no time for show or pretension and lived the simplest of lives. He never lost his Blarney Street accent. He carried his intelligence easily and never used it as a tool to lord it over anyone.

Above all, any signs of obfuscation annoyed him intensely. He had little time for people in authority who attempted to take short-cuts and he had no mercy for Dominican superiors whom he felt were not living up to their responsibility.He was a member of the provincial council of the Irish Dominicans and took his responsibility very seriously.

He was a true democrat, moulded by the constitutions of the Order, so when he felt superiors or communities were lack-lustre living out their calling to St Dominic, he had no hesitation in letting people know his views. He was in some ways a private man but was always there for his friends and he would go to any distance to help and support.

John was a physically fit man who could walk up to 20 miles a day. He took good care of himself. Yet he died in his room in the Dominican Community in Limerick on the evening of Sunday, November 3rd of a massive heart attack.

He is survived by his brother Andrew, sister-in-law Emer, niece Fiona, nephews Rory and Mark, and his Dominican brothers. I have lost a dear friend. May he rest in peace.

Design changes minus a milimetre or so

As and from next Saturday the Thinking Anew column will appear at the back of The Irish Times with the church notes.

It's part of a re-design of the newspaper, which will also mean a slightly narrower page, ever so slight, more like the Irish Independent broadsheet.

Have to wait and see how it looks.

Full marks to The Irish Times for telling this contributor in advance.

Approximately ten years ago, The Kerryman changed its design, remaining as a broadsheet.

At the time I was working on the paper and there was a great fanfare about the change.

Within a short period of time it was all scrapped and the group introduced a univsersal tabloid format across all its titles.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

British television and the poppy

Does some sort of edict go out that everyone who appears on British television in these days must wear a poppy?

Not for a moment is there an issue about remembering the war dead but the apparent universality of poppy wearing surely raises issues.

If someone now appeared not wearing a poppy, it would almost seem as if it were a protest.


Many types of Dominican publications

What makes something a Dominican publication?

In today's Irish Times Alive! is referred to as a 'Dominican Catholic monthly'.

It's extremely doubtful that this blog would ever be considered a 'Dominican publication'.

But it is worth noting that while conservative and 'right wing' material is always tolerated in the church, material of a liberal or 'left wing' leaning is quickly 'rubbished', ignored and dismissed.

At times it's difficult not to see the church as a 'right wing' organisation.

A Dominican who can persuade people

Dominicans mentioned in today's Irish Times.

The Dominican who helped the two factions in Drogheda to merge seems an interesting man.

His calming words were on November 1, 1412.

Frank McNally in today's An Irishman's Diary mentions the local Drogheda Dominican who had the gift of persuasion.

Second fiddle to sheep and phones

There are more sheep and mobile phones in Ireland than people. Indeed, there are more mobile phones in the world than there are people.