Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Pope Francis puts a football on an altar

Television footage of Pope Francis returning from Brazil showed the Jesuit pope placing a football on an altar, presumably somewhere in Rome, probably the Vatican.

On such an occasion one is reminded of all the dos and don'ts that clergy go on with when they are telling people what they can and can't do at liturgical celebrations.

Of course there is always need for decorum, respect and good taste, but do priests have exclusive rights on such matters?

Anyone who attends Mass and observes and listens will immediately know the answer to that question.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Friendship transcends all boundaries

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

Michael Commane
Last Wednesday Betty, a friend of mine, was buried in Killiney Cemetery, Castlegregory, Co Kerry.

She was 88. Five years ago she was struck down with meningitis from which she nearly died. She managed to make a great recovery. But her lungs had been damaged and she died of a respiratory illness on Monday of last week.

Eighty-eight is a good age and Betty was as sharp as a razor to the very end.

Death is horrible. There is a finality about it that no words are capable of conveying. And I am so sorry for the family that she has left behind and those that had yet to know her.

Betty and I lived in parallel worlds. She was a pillar of the community. She was respected by people. I think it's true to say that she was a woman of status, whatever that might mean. But certainly she was a competent business woman and a successful one too.

I think I can also say that she was conservative in her view of the world and of the church. But I must spell conservaitve with a small 'c'.

For a number of years when living in Castlegreogry I regularly celebrated Sunday Mass in the village and on many occasions Betty would be present.

Initially we had little or nothing to say to each other. Sometimes a polite hello, other times maybe a hint of disapproval. But that could well have been my 'latent paranoia'.

I'm not quite sure how it happened but for some reason or other I landed in her home one day. I started calling in to say hello. Gradually but surely we began to talk to one another about every subject under the sun. She made it quite clear to me when she did not approve of what I said in a sermon. But she was also well able to compliment me when she liked what I had said ot written.

On many occasions I would leave the house feeling miserable and wondering why in God's name I bothered calling. And yet all the time I always felt there was a great friendship between the two of us. There was too.

When I left Castlegregory our means of communication was via the telephone or text messaging. Scrolling through my telephone on the day of her funeral I discovered pages and pages of text messages from Betty. Whether the messages were critical or approving there was always a tone of friendship in them.

There was something wonderful about connecting with someone who was older than I, and who had a different vision of the church and religion.

Having said that I felt so secure in her presence, so certain of her kindness and friendship towards me. I knew for certain that Betty would never sneer or laugh at me behind my back.

I am confident that she always supported and defended me. And isn't that exactly one of the essential ingredients of genuine friendship.

Of course it's almost impossible to explain or analyse why people strike up friendships. No doubt when people have similar ideologies or beliefs they tend to gravitate towards one another. People interested in sport usually find their friends in the world of sport. And so it goes.

But friendship transcends all boundaries and frontiers. There's no explanation as to why people hit it off. But they do and it can become the most incredible source of comfort.

And I'm wondering about all the words we use to describe God and our relationship with God. Are they close to being meaningless? Human relationships are almost impossible to read. How can we talk about any individual's personal relationship with God? It's so easy to be glib about God and the words we use about God and our realtionship with the Divine Being.

Betty and I had close to zilch in common and I know these days I have lost a great friend.

Betty, thank you for your friendship and I am going to miss you terribly. There will be no more walking in the back door through the kitchen, sitting down, saying hello, waiting to know if it's criticism or praise.

It's over.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Change from light to dark in 30 minutes

Threatening skies. One minute blue, changes to grey, then more wisps of blue. A rainbow appears. And the sky changes to grey and heading for black.

But the water is calm, warm too. Simply fantastic swimming in those waters.

Within 40 minutes the sky has changed from pure blue to jet black. The whole countryside has changed from bright joy to dark foreboding.

Typically Irish.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Words that are not backed up by reality

The quote below appears on the website of the Dominican Order. It was said by a Dominican at the chapter currently taking place in Croatia.

It is glaringly not true. And it's this sort of dishonesty that is no help to the church today.

If that man had said that we try to understand each other or that some succeed in understanding each other then it would make some sense. But to say we all understand each other really well is inaccurate, incorrect and dishonest and it should not be said.

Strange too as the motto of the Dominican Order is 'veritas' or 'truth'.

Why is the institutional Catholic Church so quick to use silly cliches that really have no meaning whatsoever?

Facile in the extreme.

“Although we speak in so many different languages, we all understand each other really well because love, readiness to listen, and desire for togetherness makes understanding easier.” Fr. André Luís Tavares OP from Brazil

Full tide calm water blue sky

Close to full tide in West Kerry. A beautiful morning, blue skies.

There can be little that comes close to swimming in Atlantic waters on a fine summer morning in Ireland. And the sea as calm as it gets.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

German Greens suggest Snowden be invited to Germany

The Justice Minister in the State of Hessen in Federal Germany has called for a world conference to discuss the rules and regulations concerning surveillance of communications.

Also in Hessen, members of the Green Party have expressed a wish that Edward Snowden be granted asylum in Germany.

German president speaks in support of Snowden

It what must be deemed sensational news, yesterday German president Joachim Gauck warned that widespread US surveillance of European communications poses a danger to democracy.

President Gauck is from East Germany. He was involved in the demonstrations leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall and from 1990 until 2000 he was in charge of the former Stasi files.

Yesterday he said: "To be honest, I have considered whether I can still telephone or mail openly.

"I do it, but I never would have thought that the fear could arise again in Germany, that private communication is no longer possible."

He also said that Edward Smowden's decision to go public deserves respect.

"Whoever makes this information public for reasons of conscience deserves respect."

These are truly incredible words coming from the President of the Federal Republic of Germany.

The Germans are sensitive of state surveillance, Mr Gauck said, becasue of their experience of secret police in nazi germany and then in East Germany.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Dominican priest defends British action in Tralee

In The Kerryman of July 17 historian Ryle Dwyer tells the story of Dominican priest Edward Hyacinth Collins.

Collins was appalled with the killing of the head of the Auxiliaries in Kerry, Major John A Mackintosh.

A row breaks out, the prior in Holy Cross Tralee gets involved as does the provinical in Dublin Fr Finbar Ryan.

Reading the piece one is made aware that the three Dominicans involved don't have any great love for one another.

Signs of dysfunctionality, ineptness, inefficiency are evident.

Guess what happens Collins when he gets into trouble? They move him to Newry.

That was 1921.

Do things ever change?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Betty Fitzgerald thank you for your kindness

Mrs Fitzgerald was buried in Killiney Cemetery, Castlegregory, Co Kerry this morning.

Probably 10 years ago I called her Mrs Fitzgerald but in recent times she was Betty and I was Michael.

Betty was 86. Her husband died in 1978 of a heart attack while out fishing on the local lake. Her mother died when she was a small girl. And she may well also have lost a brother at a young age.

Betty had a brother a priest in the diocese of Kerry, Fr Michael, who died some years ago. Another brother, who moved to the US, died suddenly within days of Betty falling ill some months ago, the illness, which was to take her life.

The family ran a farm and also a shop and public house in Castlegregory. These days the pub is run by her son Maurice.

That's just a little biographical information on 'Mrs Fitzgerald'.

I'm not quite sure how it happened. She and I had a very different world view. She would not at all have been 'happy' with many of my words and beliefs and yet we became the best of friends. I can't recall how it initially happened but maybe suddenly, maybe over a period of time, we started talking to one another and then I began calling to the house.

There would be the harsh word, there would be the criticism of something that I had written or said but I always got the feeling that this woman genuinely liked me. And that was simply a wonderful feeling of security.

Scrolling through my telephone today I found pages and pages of SMSs from Betty, whether in praise or criticism, they were all written in a tone of genuine friendship.

On May 5, when she was weak and fragile she sent me an SMS: "Any mountain climbing 2day". And that from a woman with serious respiratory illness and 86-years of age.

She constantly criticised me for being critical of the hierarchical church, told me to say nothing and keep my thoughts to myself. "Be positive in what you say, you need to build up people," she would admonish me.

And yet sometimes I would get a hint that somewhere deep inside her pscyhe there may well have been hints of her agreeing with what I might say.

I learned today that she was the first woman in the village to wear trousers.

Betty was genuinely kind to me. Never spoke an ill word behind my back. What she had to say to me, she said straight to my face.

I was fortunate that our paths crossed.

Betty, I shall miss you.

Thank you.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Heaven on wheels through former GDR

Below is this week's column, which appears in INM regional newspapers

Michael Commane
At the beginning of July I was in Freising, which is north of Munich, doing simultaneous translation at a conference in sociology. Whatever about my German, I know little or nothing about sociology.

The conference dealt specifically with secularisation. It meant there were many technical words and phrases in use.

It would have been difficult enough to follow it in English never mind trying to translate from German to English. But it went fine and I managed to get to the last day.

After the conference I took a few days holidays and travelled by rail from Munich to Berlin.

Rail travel is not cheap in Germany. I boarded ICE 1608 at Munich main station. There were two trains at 09.00 to Berlin.

One was going through the former German Democratic Republic (east Germany), the other through central Germany. The former took an hour longer but I was assured it had wifi facility whereas the other train did not.

Heaven on wheels but no wifi. I asked the train manager, who tells me we would have wifi after Nuremberg, which was two hours away. So I decide to write this column.

Come Nuremberg no sign of a wifi signal. I keep messing with the iPhone but with no success.

I did notice the train was getting warmer and warmer, indeed, becoming uncomfortably so. But what matter, I was in heaven on wheels. I even had four seats all to myself on a modern comfortable Inter City Express.

Then about 10 kilometres north of Nuremburg two train staff come to our coach and tell us that because the air conditioning has failed we would have to move to a different coach.

Blast. I was quite happy where I was. I wait till almost the last to leave the coach. The woman sitting in the aisle across from me refuses to move. A row gets underway. She is told that she is breaking the law by staying put.

Suddenly a German policeman in full uniform arrives on the scene. I have no idea from where he emerged but it really was incredible. He is all smiles and friendly too but under no circumstances is this little women going to be allowed sit in her seat. She remonstrates. The railway staff quote the relevant law. The policeman stays put.

I’m smiling away and of course could not resist saying my penny’s worth. I ask the policeman where he sprang from and had it all happened with the help of the National Security Agency in the USA, via the German Secret Service (BND)?

I ask were we now living in a police state and because I had mentioned the NSA they presume I am American and tell me life is no easier in the US. I at once tell them I am not American. They could not make out where I came from so eventually I tell them. By this stage the little lady has scuppered off to another coach where she just about finds the last seat.

I keep walking through the train. Walk up to the front and find myself sitting right behind the glass partition separating the coach from the driver’s cab. Like a child, I sit in awe from south of Bamberg right to Leipzig. Guess what happens at Leipzig? It’s an end station, which means the train is pulled from the other end and all my childish plans of my pretend train driving are no more.

Most of the journey from Munich to Berlin was through the former GDR (East Germany). And that had a whole new charm for me.

Back in 1986 I spent a month in Weimar, a town associated with the great German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. I remember one day standing at the rail station and observing a train from West Germany to West Berlin travelling through the rail corridor. The passengers in that train were hermetically sealed off from the people of the GDR(East Germany). The people on that platform were so close to the passing train and yet lived in an entirely different world. It was an amazing experience.

Fortunately East Germany is no more, it is almost impossible to spot that it ever was.

Once the Berlin Wall came down I became convinced that anything is possible. It is too.

Believe it or not but when it comes to wifi Irish Rail are light years ahead of German Rail.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Little girls dressed up as Dominicans

On the international website of the Dominican Order there is reference to the 'best of the web' which is a story written by a young Dominican from the United States on his thoughts about wearing the Dominican habit. However, he does realise it is not practical to wear it when swimming.

Included in the piece is a picture of two little girls, maybe six-years of age, wearing Dominican habits.

The picture is most inappropriate and indeed quite rediculous. One would wonder what's the significance of the picture.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

No prize for spotting the errors

Anyone spot the stupid mistakes in today's Thinking Anew column?

Apologies. Martha should of course read Mary and May should be June. The Irish Open was at the end of May beginning of June.


But not half as annoying as the picture of the two little girls dressed up in Dominican habits on the website of the Dominican Order.

That picture should not be on that site and the fact that it was ever published is most worrying.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Never a good idea to spend our lives in queues

Below is the Thinking Anew column in today's Irish Times

Michael Commane

In summer 1975 my parents came to Rome to visit me where I was studying at the time. At that stage I had spent a year in the city and most likely had visited many of the tourist spots. A day or two before they arrived I did a quick reconnoitre of where and what we would do and visit.

One of the first places we visited was the Colosseum. I can still remember the occasion. The ancient amphitheatre was an easy place to visit and not too many visitors about.

Fast forward 37 years and before one even gets inside the building there is a queue which seems to go on and on. Last year I was back in Rome and decided to retrace the steps of my parents’ visit. The queue to gain access to the Colosseum meant an hour-long wait. Can anyone call that a holiday or any form of recreation? And in that heat?

In early May I was working at a conference in Freising outside Munich and after the week-long event I spent a few days wandering around Germany. And again, the throngs, the crowds amazed me.

The early morning flight to Munich meant going through a crowded Dublin Airport. The Dublin Airport Authority was expecting such large crowds after the Irish Open that they texted passengers the evening before advising them to be prepared for a busy airport.

How can anyone call queuing at every corner, spending long periods of time waiting in milling crowds a holiday?

It’s usually the case that young people want to be where the action is but even then the ‘action’ does need to have its limits. No person in their right mind would want to live eternally at Dublin Airport at 06.00am. Or would they? It would be interesting to ask Edward Snowden what it’s like living at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow.

In tomorrow’s Gospel (Luke 10: 38 – 42) Martha berated Jesus for not reprimanding Mary for sitting back and doing nothing. She feels she has been hard done by.

It is completely understandable to empathise with her. People who sit back and take it easy can be most annoying. If there is work and activity to be done then of course it is a terrible sight to watch the schemer and dodger doing nothing.

But the case in tomorrow’s Gospel is not as simple as that. Martha is appreciating the moment and turning her attention to Jesus.

Indeed, there is something about tomorrow’s Gospel that one could easily misunderstand. It can be too easy for a certain type of people to look down their noses at the hoi polloi and ‘explain’ to them that it’s great to live the simple life, to commune with nature. There is always a danger of that kind of patronising and objectionable waffle.

But Jesus reminds us that we all have the possibility to stand back and give time to thinking about who we are, what life is about, what we are doing with our lives, how free and good we feel about ourselves. Can you do that in the hustle and bustle of a queue? Maybe you can. But from a personal point of view I find it far easier to do it sitting at home, walking in the mountains or along a river bank.

And isn’t that odd? Those activities cost so little money. On the other hand walking along the bank of a river is not adding to our GNP. In an economic world where everything has to be productive time can’t be ‘wasted’.

Maybe in some way or other tomorrow’s Gospel is telling us all to take a break from the frenetic world of consumerism. It is important never to surrender ourselves to the world of queues and 24-hour shopping. There's a lot more to living than that. And a lot more to us too.

The revelation that it's not practical to swim in Dominican habit

Can this be for real? The writer tells us that the Dominican habit is not practical to wear when swimming. What an amazing and profound piece of wisdom.

Note the photograph of two young children in Dominican habits.

This is considered the 'best of the web' on the website of the Dominican Order.

Here's the link.

A special word of thanks to cable provider UPC

A special thank you to broadband/wifi provider UPC, who supplied wifi to this premises today.

This writer has had a protracted discussion with UPC over a four year period. While upgrading cable on the road in 2009 UPC trespassed on this property and used it as a storage area.

An initial contractual agreement was made whereby UPC compensated for their unacceptable behaviour.

They have now enhanced the original contractual agreement. Much appreciated and thank you.

The Catholic Church and communication

What is it about the Catholic Church and communication?

The church seldom if ever gets it right. Why?

In the current row regarding Magdalene compensation do individual sisters in the relevant congregations know the detail of what their congregation has paid out in compensation?

Next week the Dominican Order is holding an international conference or chapter in Croatia.

The Order has a press release concerning the chapter on its website that was posted in late June. It's not well written and tells the reader very little.

The same site regularly posts pictures without captions. A first year journalist student is told the first day that one never posts or prints a picture without a full and extensive caption.

One of the few times the church seems to take communication seriously is when it is preaching down to people, telling people what to do, admonishing them, all the time giving the impression that it knows best and dare anyone challenge its word.

Right across the church there is a terrible information deficit. Is it intentional? Has it something to so with a preverse understanding of power and control?

It is a strange view of the world. And it's not working.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Eighty-year-old Jesuit priest stands up against clerical privilege

Bert Thelen is an 80-year-old Jesuit priest, who is resigning from priesthood.

Below is a letter he has written to relatives, friends, Jesuits and a wide circle of people with whom he is in contact.

This blog has been made aware of the letter and reprints it here without the permission of the author. Because the letter was sent to a wide circle of people it seems in order to reprint it here.

Apologies for US spelling.

Dearly Beloved,

May the Grace of Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the Peace of the Holy Spirit be with you! I am writing to tell you about what may be the most important decision of my life since entering the Jesuits. With God’s help, at the behest of my religious superiors and the patient support and wise encouragement of my CLC group and closest friends, I have decided to leave ordained Jesuit ministry and return to the lay state, the priesthood of the faithful bestowed on me by my Baptism nearly 80 years ago. I do this with confidence and humility, clarity and wonder, gratitude and hope, joy and sorrow. No bitterness, no recrimination, no guilt, no regrets.

It has been a wonderful journey, a surprising adventure, an exploration into the God Who dwells mysteriously in all of our hearts. I will always be deeply grateful to the Society of Jesus for the formation, education, companionship, and ministry it has provided, and to my family for their constant support. I can never thank God enough for the loving and loyal presence in my life of each and every one of you.

Why am I doing this? How did I reach this decision? I will try to tell you now. That is the purpose of this letter. For about 15 years now, as many of you have noticed, I have had a “Lover’s Quarrel” with the Catholic Church. I am a cradle Catholic and grew up as Catholic as anyone can, with Priests and even Bishops in our household, and 17 years of Catholic education at St. Monica’s Grade School, Milwaukee Messmer High School, and Marquette University. I took First Vows at Oshkosh in the Society of Jesus at age 25 and was ordained at Gesu Church to the priesthood ten years later in 1968. I have served the Church as a Jesuit priest in Milwaukee, Omaha, and Pine Ridge for 45 years, including 18 years on the Province Staff culminating in my being the Wisconsin Provincial for six years and attending the 34th General Congregation in Rome.

My last 14 years at Creighton and St. John’s have been the best years of my life. I have truly enjoyed and flourished serving as pastor of St. John’s. I cannot even put into words how graced and loved and supported I have been by the parishioners, parish staff, campus ministry, Ignatian Associates, and CLC members! It is you who have freed, inspired, and encouraged me to the New Life to which I am now saying a strong and joyful “Yes.” You have done this by challenging me to be my best self as a disciple of Jesus, to proclaim boldly His Gospel of Love, and to widen the horizons of my heart to embrace the One New World we are called to serve in partnership with each other and our Triune God. It is the Risen Christ Who beckons me now toward a more universal connection with the Cosmos, the infinitely large eco-system we are all part of, the abundance and vastness of what Jesus called “the Reign of God.”

Why does this “YES” to embrace the call of our cosmic inter-connectedness mean saying “NO” to ordained ministry? My answer is simple but true. All mystical traditions, as well as modern science, teach us that we humans cannot be fully ourselves without being in communion with all that exists. Lasting justice for Earth and all her inhabitants is only possible within this sacred communion of being. We need conversion – conversion from the prevailing consciousness that views reality in terms of separateness, dualism, and even hierarchy, to a new awareness of ourselves as inter-dependent partners , sharing in one Earth-Human community. In plainer words, we need to end the world view that structures reality into higher and lower, superior and inferior, dominant and subordinate, which puts God over Humanity, humans over the rest of the world, men over women, the ordained over the laity. As Jesus commanded so succinctly, “Don’t Lord it over anyone … serve one another in love.” As an institution, the Church is not even close to that idea; its leadership works through domination, control, and punishment. So, following my call to serve this One World requires me to stop benefiting from the privilege, security, and prestige ordination has given me. I am doing this primarily out of the necessity and consequence of my new call, but, secondarily, as a protest against the social injustices and sinful exclusions perpetrated by a patriarchal church that refuses to consider ordination for women and marriage for same- sex couples.

I have become convinced that the Catholic Church will never give up its clerical privilege until and unless we priests (and bishops) willingly step down from our pedestals. Doing this would also put me in solidarity with my friend, Roy Bourgeois, my fellow Jesuit, Fr. Bill Brennan, the late Bernard Cooke, and many other men who have been “de-frocked” by the reigning hierarchy. It will also support the religious and lay women, former Catholics, and gay and lesbian couples marginalized by our church. I want to stand with and for them. I am, if you will, choosing to de-frock myself in order to serve God more faithfully, truly, and universally.

But why leave the Jesuits? Make no mistake about it: the Society of Jesus shares in and benefits from this patriarchal and clerical way of proceeding. We still regard ourselves as the shepherds and those to whom and with whom we minister as sheep. I discovered this painfully when the Society of Jesus decided against having Associate members. We are not prepared for co-membership or even, it seems at times, for collaboration, though we pay lip service to it. “Father knows best” remains the hallmark of our way of proceeding. I can no longer, in conscience, do that. But I still honor and love my fellow Jesuits who work from that model of power over. It is still where we all are as a company, a Society, a community of vowed religious in the Roman Catholic church. Leaving behind that companionship is not easy for me, but it is the right thing for me to do at this time in my life. When I went through a formal discernment process with my CLC group, one member whose brilliance and integrity I have always admired and whose love and loyalty to the Jesuits is beyond question, said of my decision, “You cannot NOT do this!” He had recognized God’s call in me.

A few other considerations may help clarify my path. The Church is in transition – actually in exile. In the Biblical tradition, the Egyptian, Assyrian and Babylonian captivities led to great religious reforms and the creation of renewed covenants. Think of Moses, Jeremiah, and Isaiah. I think a similar reform is happening in our Catholic faith (as well as other traditions). We have come through far-reaching, earth-shaking evolutionary changes, and a new (Universal) Church as well as a new (One) World is emerging. My decision is a baby step in that Great Emergence, a step God is asking me to take.

Consider this. Being a Lay Catholic has sometimes been caricatured as “Pray, pay, and obey.” Of course, that is a caricature, an exaggeration, a jibe. But it does point to a real problem. Recently, the hierarchical church mandated the so-called revision of the Roman Missal without consulting the People of God. It was both a foolish and a self-serving effort to increase the authority of Ordained men, damaging and even in some ways taking away the “Pray” part of “Pray, pay, and obey.” No wonder more and more Catholics are worshipping elsewhere, and some enlightened priests feel compromised in their roles. I, for one, feel that this so-called renewal , though licit, is not valid. It is not pleasing to God, and I feel compromised in trying to do it.

Now, consider this. All of this liturgical, ecclesial, and religious change is located in and strongly influenced by what both science and spirituality have revealed as happening to our world, our planet, our universe. The very earth we are rooted and grounded in, as well as the air we breathe and the water we drink, are being damaged and destroyed even beyond (some say) our capacity to survive. And, as Fr. John Surette, S.J., has so wisely observed, “Injustice for the human and destruction of Earth’s ecosystem are not two separate injustices. They are one.” Biocide is even more devastating than genocide, because it also kills future inhabitants of our precious Earth.

It is time. It is time to abandon our refusal to see that our very environment is central to the survival and well being of ALL earthlings. It is time for the Church to turn her attention from saving face to saving the earth, from saving souls to saving the planet. It is time to focus on the sacred bond that exists between us and the earth. It is time to join the Cosmic Christ in the Great Work of mending (healing), repairing, nurturing, and protecting our evolving creation. It is time for a new vision of a universal Church whose all-inclusive justice and unconditional love, an expression of Christ consciousness and the work of the Holy Spirit, empowers ALL and can lead to a future that preserves the true right to life of all of God’s creatures. This includes future generations who will bless us for allowing them to live, evolve, and flourish. Can’t you hear them crying out, “I want to live, I want to grow, I want to be, I want to know?”

In light of all this, how can I not respond to the call both Isaiah and Jesus heard, the call of our Baptism? “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me and sent me to bring Good News to the oppressed.” All creation will be freed, and all people will know the freedom and glory of the Children of God. Yes, Lord, I will go. Please send me.

And that is why I am leaving Jesuit priesthood. Since first vows I have always thought and hoped and prayed that I would live and die in this least Society of Jesus. But now, something unexpected! A real surprise! I HAVE lived and died in the Society of Jesus, but, now, nearly 80, I have been raised to new life. I am born again – into a much larger world, a much newer creation. I have greatly benefited from the spiritual freedom given in and by the Society of Jesus. I feel no longer chained, limited, bound, by the shackles of a judicial, institutional, clerical, hierarchical system. As St. Paul once reminded the early Christians, “It is for freedom that you have been set free.” And as St. Peter, the first Pope, learned when he said to Jesus, “You know that I love you,” love is all about surrender and servanthood.

Thank you for your attention to this self presentation. I am grateful that you have followed me in the journey described here, and I am sorry for whatever sadness, disappointment, or hurt this may have caused you. But what I have written here is my truth, and I can’t not do it! Please pray for me, as I do for all of you, the beloved of my heart and soul.

Yours in the Risen Christ,
Bert Thelen

Sunday, July 14, 2013

First time a woman sits in driving seat

April 11, 1974 saw the first woman U-Bahn driver in West Berlin.

A crazy 'Collect' with 55 words

There are 55 words in the opening prayer or Collect, as it is now called, in today's Mass.

Who wrote this prayer, who is responsible for this complete nonsense?

How many people at Mass today understood what this prayer is about?

A mix of humbug, stupidity and terrible arrogance must be the reason for the creation or miscreation of such a sentence.

How could any authority or bishop's conference have approved this gobbledegook?

Under all the savagery humanity sneaks in

Tom Vaughan-Lawlor's perfomrance in Mark O'Rowe's one act play 'Howie The Rookie' is sensational.

The play finished in Dublin's Project last evening. It will be in the Everyman in Cork on Tuesday and at the Galway Arts Festival from July 22.

In yesterday's Irish Times Fintan O'Toole writes: "Grotesquely vivid slasher-movie violence, animalistic sex, macho low-life swaggering, random psychopaths, and an underworld that could indeed be Dublin or Beirut or Chicago or Lagos - these were all parts of the package.

"Vaughan-Lawlor conveys a touching melancholy, a yearning for an impossible escape, that crucially shifts the balance between brutality and beauty in O'Rowe's writing."

Having watched the play one is forced to think of what it means to try to preach the Word of God in the context of the world portrayed by Mark O'Rowe.

Certainly anyone interested in trying to preach the Gospel has to be touched by 'Howie The Rookie'.

Tom Vaughan-Lawlor is a nephew of Paul Lawlor, an Irish Dominican working in Iran.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A fish plate or a points failure

French State Railway Company SNCF has accepted the accident in Paris yesterday was the result of a technical failure.

Some media outlets have reported a faulty fish plate. Other news outlets have suggested it was a defect at facing points.

Back in the 1970s when Irish Rail was relaying the track between Dublin and Kildare they installed facing points. At the time the then Station Master at Newbridge was not at all happy with the removal of trailing points and was always worried that a points failure in the station would mean the demolition of his house at the side of the platform.

Of course facing points are used on all rail networks today. Trailing points are no longer part of mainline traffic.

The French accident called to mind to this writer the controversy that existed in Ireland when facing points were first introduced by Irish Rail.

Murphy report discovers more lies

The last chapter of the Murphy Report tells how paedophile priest Patrick McCabe was sent away for treatment and the archdiocese asked people to pray for him as he was being treated for throat cancer and needed their prayers. Is that not sacrilige? It certainly is the usual old clerical humbug.

This from authorities who claim they know so much about what God is 'thinking'?

And while all this was going on in secret corridors young priests were told to wear clercial clothes.

Is all this clerical madness not mixed up with crass misogyny and closet homosexuality?

It it were not so tragic it would be terribly funny.

All that coterie, that clerical nomenclature and their spoof.

Today the spoof has found new games to play.

Interesting too how the gardaí colluded with senior church officials.

The way of the world. Nothing changes.

Murphy report tells more bad news

I was ordained a priest in Dublin when Dermot Ryan was archbishop in the city.

His father was a GP in Tallaght and was well known to many Dominicans. He is remembered as a kindly man.

Kevin McNamara succeeded Dermot Ryan and was also known for his kindness.

He was followed by Desmond Connell, who is fondly remembered as a kind teacher at UCD.

All fine so far. The three men are damned in the final chapter of the Murphy Report.

Why in heaven's name are we so obsequious to leaders, especially church leaders? What spell do they hold over us? It is shocking.

What is it about so-called 'superiors' in the church that we the people allow them get away with so much nonsensical behaviour?

In the world of business sometimes the shareholders will take action but in the world of the church the most incompetent people are allowed get away with so much unacceptable behaviour.

Yes, in the world of gossip the word goes round but in that realm nothing seldom happens and 'superiors' stay in place while all around them burns.

Leafing through pages of religious publications one might get the picture that all is fine and dandy in the church. One might even think that God is speaking in some extraordinary direct way to its 'priests'.

The arrogance and nonsense is truly breathtaking. The wagons are circled and nothing is happening other than consulting expensive legal teams to check everything.

Away from the 'Holy God' that is spoken and written about the 'real god' to be reckoned with at present it the 'god of legal matters'.

Friday, July 12, 2013

WIse words in Ibsen's 'Enemy of the People'

Ibsen's 'The Enemy of the People' has been running at Dublin's Gate. Now in its last nights, it is well worth seeing.

Adapted by Arthur Miller the play tells the story of a town in Norway which has just begun to in win fame and fortune for the supposed health-giving properties of its spring waters.

When local GP Dr Stockman discovers that the waters are poisoned he is shocked to find that instead of being rewarded for his efforts to bring this secret to light he is attacked, denounced and shunned by the authorities and his fellow townspople.

How those in power control and deceive people and how their sily underings play the field to suit their own pathetic lives.

Some great lines, the language and gestures that people in authority use to destroy and patronise those who have the courage to object to and challenge so much of the nastiness and indeed, madness of all authorities.

'Enemy of the People' great play.

The United Stasi of America

Smart headline in yesterday's Süddeutsche Zeitung.

It ran 'The United Stasi of America'.

The Stasi was the derogatory term used for the GDR State Securtiy Service.

It's dificult to understand all the fuss. For many years it has been generally accepted that all the main security services knows the business or has the ability to know the business of every citizen and all Western security services work in tandem.

Yesterday's SD article is a great piece of journalism by a man who isnow 82.

Have the US Catholic bishops, have the Irish bishops had anything to say on the Snowden affair? What have they said about the Bradley Manning affair?

The UN described Manning's treatment as 'inhuman'.

And it seems all quiet from church leaders. It would be highly unlikely there will be a sacramental ban on CIA, MI5, Mossad, BND personnel.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

An evening in Bottrop forty-one years ago

In the early 1970s a small group of German Dominicans rented a house in Bottrop, an important mining town in the Ruhr Valley in Germany.

The Dominicans ministered as worker priests in the area.

In the summer of 1972, along with a number of students from the house of studies in Walberberg, I visited the community in Bottrop. It was a vibrant place, impressive too and different from the accepted priestly life in presbyteries or religious communities. These men set about to be part of the community as workers. As far as I remember two of them worked in the mines.

Bottrop remained open for a number of years. One of the first men, who went there died young, and eventually the Dominicans moved out.

Today some of those original men are dead, others are spread throughout the Province of Teutonia. One man is working in San Salvador.

On a recent visit to Leipzig, sitting at table, I was introduced to the community. One name registered, Hubert Wiegand. But that's all it was. And then later that evening somehow the word 'Bottrop' was mentioned. I had my man. Hubert Wiegand was one of the men I met that evening in Bottrop in 1972. And the more I looked at his face I began to recall and see the man of that evening in 1972.

Hubert is now 80. He was born in Wanne-Eickel, right in the heart of the Ruhr Valley in 1933.

Observing the 80-year-old Hubert in Leipzig there was something about him that made him stand out. He was different, not the usual style 'cleric'. No holy words at all, just normal ordinary talk. A lovely gentleness too. Also kindness.

Among those who were in Bottrop that evening was Dominik Germeshausen, who had been expelled from Taiwan because of his left-wing political orientation. Dominik returned to Germany and after some time in priories in Warburg and Hamburg returned to Taiwan where he was part of a team that translated some of Meister Eckhart's works into Mandarin.

Dominick died of cancer in Hamburg in 2007 in his 65th year.

That evening in Bottrop 41 years ago left an indelible mark. Interesting to have it recalled.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Today's Süddeutsche Zeitung in praise of Pope Francis's social initiative

Today's Süddeutsche Zeitung gives significant coverage to the first encyclical of Pope Francis, Lumen Fidei. In its main editorial it writes about how people of all faiths and non spend time thinking about an afterlife or annihilation.
The encyclical was begun by Benedict and completed by Pope Francis.

The SZ editorial is in praise of Francis and points to the impetus he has given to the papacy in his short time in Rome.

That Francis is going to Lampedusa on Monday, according to the SZ editorial, is yet another clear example of the signals the pope wants to give the world. But the editorial adds that his visit to the refugee holding island is far more than a sign.

Three significant pieces in today's SZ including an article on the announcement that Pope John Paul II is to be canonised.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Dancing a holy dance in Freising

This evening in Kardinal Döpfner-Haus in Freising in the Diocese of Munich and Freising, where Josef Ratzinger was archbishop, a Mexican Dominican, Dr Angel Méndez Montoya danced for 10 minutes during Vespers. The dance took place after the reading of the Psalms.

It was spectacular. It was prayerful. It was spiritual. It was uplifting.

Vespers or Evening Prayer concluded the Franciscan Dominican conference on 'Church in a secularised World'. Over 60 people took part in the conference.

Survey of German speaking men in religious orders

The first ever survey of German speaking religious orders for men in Germany, Austria and Switzerland has taken place.

Of the thousand interview forms that were sent to the brothers, 100 were returned.

The survery was carried out in conjunction between the Capuchins in Münster and the Dominican-run Chenu Institut in Berlin.

Mexican Catholic Church suffers from a colonial culture

Speaking at a conference in Freising Germany this morning Professor Dr Angel Mendez Montoya, a Mexican Dominican, said that the Mexican Catholic Church suffers from a colonial culture. He said it is a church which is deeply misogynistic and homophobic.

He went on to talk about how indigenous communities in South America suffer great exploitation.

The Catholic Church has a long way to go to experience true 'communio'.

Christ is sent to the world and is in favour of the world.

He spoke of how globalisation is a new form of colonialisation.

He praised Dominican bishop in Mexico City, Raul Vera, who regularly speaks out about injustice asking for collaboration among people and how this bishop is 'hated' by his fellow bishops for his outspoken behaviour.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Far away in the Chinese capital

Maybe someone passing through, maybe some living in the city but this blog is currently being read in Beijing.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Parishioners are crying out for empathy and kindness

Below is this week's Independent News and Media's Irish regional newspaper column.

INM regional newspapers are sold in Dublin, Wicklow, Wexford, Louth, Meath, Kerry, Cork, Sligo and Kildare.

It so happens, in this week's Wexford People, the column appears on the business page.

By Michael Commane
Last Tuesday week I concelebrated at the funeral Mass of a brother of a friend of mine in the parish church in Listowel in Co Kerry. The parish priest Fr Declan O’Connor could not have been kinder. He received me with open arms. I felt relaxed and at home and I found the Mass a prayerful and meditative experience. Indeed coming away from Listowel that day I was thinking that the Irish traditional funeral, including the Requiem Mass, is something well worth cherishing and protecting.

When a funeral Mass is done well it can be a most wonderful and uplifting experience. I hope I am not showing any disrespect to the bereaved by making such a statement.

The reception I received in Listowel set me thinking about the role of a priest working in his parish and his relationship with the people to whom he ministers and their relationship with him.
For many people their understanding of the church, their link with the sacramental life of the church is closely tied in with how they interact with their priest.

If a priest is a kind and sympathetic man, someone who is willing to listen and understand, then it is most likely that his parishioners will be interested in their faith, maybe even upbeat about what it means to be a Christian.

Of course nothing is simple and not for a moment am I saying that people leave the church or stay in the church because of their local priest(s). But it does help when the priest is a ‘normal sort of person’.

So what happens when the local priest is not interested in his job? What happens when the man is burnt out? What happens if he is simply a pain in the neck? What happens if he is rude and arrogant and incapable of showing a shred of empathy or understanding to parishioners?

Certainly the issue of awkward, pain-in-the-neck priests, men who are downright rude is a real problem for bishops. What to do?

And it appears there is a problem in this area in Canon Law as a parish priest has extraordinary ‘power’ in his own parish. Unless he has crossed that red line he can almost do as he likes and there is little or nothing his local bishop can do.

It seems to me there is an urgent need for some sort of dialogue to begin between priests, bishop and people as to how priests are appointed to parishes. In some ways it seems bizarre that parishioners have no say whatsoever in the appointment of their pp. It’s crazy enough that priests and people have no say in the appointment of bishops but that there is such a centralised way in appointing priests to parishes seems to be very odd and not at all in keeping with the idea of a Christian communion living out the mission of the Gospel.

Our churches are emptying. We are often told it is because of secularism, ‘paganism’, people turning from God.

When last in your parish did someone have the courage or possibility to tell her or his priest that they disagreed with what they were saying or doing. Instead, people put up with so much nonsense and arrogance and then eventually they realise they have had enough of this incredible stupidity and arrogance and walk with their feet.

It’s staring us in the face that it could be so different.

Drumm's empty 'apology'

Mr Drumm's 'apology' in yesterday's Sunday Business Post sounds like empty words.

In the long-running soap opera 'Dallas' there is an occasion when JR Ewing apologises to his wife. She retorts: "The only time you ever feel remorse is when you are caught."

The Sunday Independent tapes should be a powerful reminder to all of us to refrain from foul and vulgar language.

These 'gentlemen' with their flash jobs, flash cars, flash life-styles reveal their real identity in those tapes.

Flash and empty.

New Vatican posts to be filled soon

Is the Archbishop of Honduras to be the Vatican's new Secretary of State?