Sunday, August 31, 2014

Those F16 visits could have paid a lot of medical bills

Two US F16s were scrambled in Germany and flew over Dublin and Croke Park yesterday.

It was part of a fly-past of Croke Park at the American Football game.

Anyone who heard the planes would have been jolted. Could it be considered a noise pollutant?

Surely it cost a few dollars. How many doctors'/dentists' visits would it pay for for the people of Ferguson Missouri?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Pub is safe place for young

At 12.40 on Irish radio today a woman in management role in the drinks industry said that the safest place for a young person is the pub.

Murdoch and his team appear in all organisations

"When Gordon Brown was prime minister of Britain he gave Rebekah Brooks, then chief executive of News International, the use of Chequers,  for an 'all-girls' pyjama party and sleepover to celebrate Brook's 40th birthday.

"David Cameron is said to have signed notes to Brooks, 'Love, Dave'.

"Since Margaret Thatcher, British prime ministers - Major, Blair, Brown an Cameron - have felt forced to deliver for Murdoch. They know that, since 1979, no on has been elected prime minister without Murdoch's support."

In last Saturday's Irish Times Michael Foley reviewed 'Hack Attack: How the Truth Caught Up With Rupert Murdoch' by Nick Davies.

Foley's review is a real teaser, the perfect review - sends the reader out to the bookshop to buy the book. And also tells you a lot about the book.

The sycophancy, the brazenenss of Murdoch and his 'people' is frighetning. But at least we know about it. Of course it goes on everywhere. What happens in the places where it is never discovered, where it is a taboo subject?

And the villains/perpetrators always seem so articulate arguing their case.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Putin looks back in history

Vladimir Putin has compared the Ukrainian Army to the Wehrmacht.

On September 8, 1941 the Wehrmacht began the siege of 'Leningrad'. The siege lasted more than 800 days.

Putin is playing a clever game.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sutherland calls for EU Commissioner for Migration

Former EU commissioner Peter Sutherland has called for a Commissioner for Migration.

He points out there is much disinformation regarding the number of non-EU citizens living in Europe.

Mr Sutherland blames the inaccurate information  as a significant reason for the rise of right wing political parties.

Ireland's non-EU population is approximately 3.4 per cent.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Zara withdraws t-shirt

Fashion chain Zara came up with a t shirt desig, black and white stipes and a large star on top left side. Similar to what they Jews wor in the camps.

That a management team could allow this to happen. So much for managers. What is it about the management class that makes them believe they know best - in what they write, say and do. So often it's all an empty bubble laced with high sounding nonsense.

Of course they have had to withdraw it. A shocking thing to design, produce and then attempt to sell this garment.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Seat row causes United flight to divert to the Windy City

Have you ever been annoyed by someone reclining the seat in front of you or have you ever been berated by the passenger in the seat behind you for reclining your seat.

Some weeks ago I reclined my seat on a Bus Éireann bus. The woman sitting in the seat behind got most agitated and annoyed. So much so that I relented and returned the seat to its upright position. And to make me even more annoyed she was on a 'free pass'.

Today United Airlines had to divert a flight from Newark to Denver to Chicago.

A passenger placed a locking device in the seat in front of him to prevent a woman from reclining her seat. It came to an altercation and the plane diverted to Chaicago, leaving the two passengers in the Windy City.

How do you react when the person sitting beside you takes up all the arm rest?

A helping hand, especially for the fragile, is impressive

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

Michael Commane
It’s an endearing characteristic or quality to be kind and respectful to elderly people. It’s inspiring when we see it in action and most disillusioning when we see elderly people being brushed aside.

Patrick is a priest. He was home on holidays in August and last Wednesday he returned to Kenya where he has been working most of his priestly life.

The day before his departure the two of us went out for lunch. I think he was a little sad or lonely leaving Ireland. We were chatting away over lunch. The daily newspapers were on the table at which we were sitting. Among the papers was The Irish Examiner.

Half way through our lunch an elderly man approached us. At first I presumed that he knew Patrick. 

Or maybe he had been listening to our conversation and knew the people about whom we were talking. After all Ireland is a small place.

No, it was none of those things. He had spotted The Irish Examiner on the table and he began to tell Patrick that he had connections with Cork and knew people who always read the paper. I think Patrick read the situation immediately. Whether he did or not, he was terribly kind to the elderly man.

The two of them were chatting away for a few minutes when a woman appeared and suggested to the man that he come back to his table and finish his lunch. She was brusque with him. It was clear the woman was a little embarrassed, maybe annoyed with the man. But what impressed me most of all was how Patrick engaged with the man and simply how he enjoyed talking to him.

Just the previous evening, Mary, a friend of mine told me an horrific story. She was travelling by bus from Dublin. While waiting for her bus she noticed an old man beside her. He was having difficulty getting up from his seat to board the bus so she helped him. And as she was linking him to the bus she suddenly felt he was losing his footing. Then she realised he was either having a stroke or a heart attack. She called for help and not a single person came to her aid. Eventually, someone stopped and helped and an ambulance was called.

Mary could not believe how people were so disinterested in the plight of the old man. “Woman and men, young and old just passed. They saw what was happening but they did nothing. I could not believe my eyes,” she said.  The experience really shocked her.

Both those incidents brought back to mind for me how worried I was when my father was out and about in his late 80s, early 90s. I was always scared that anything could happen. He was very fortunate. As far as I know he only once had a bad experience, which was indeed horrible but he got over it. Dad would always tell me when people were helpful and kind and it meant so much to him.

It’s one of the hallmarks of any society as to how well it looks after those who are old, fragile and feeble.

There’s not much to commend about any society or person who has no time for those who are weak and old.

But it is extraordinarily uplifting and edifying to see people being helpful and kind to those who have difficulty getting about.

Watching Patrick talk to that man in the restaurant and listening to Mary’s concern for the old man getting on the bus did me good. I hope I’ll heed them.

What goes around comes around.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Golfer Donald Trump turns his back on ebola sufferers

Donald Trump arrived in Ireland some months ago to celebrate his purchase of a golf course in Clare.

He received the red carpet treatment on arrival in Shannon in his own private Boeing. Among those in the reception party was a senior government minister.

In the last weeks Mr Trump has said: "Aid workers must suffer the consequences". He criticised US doctors for treating the two ebola patients who were flown back to the US. The two ebola missionaries have now made a full recovery and have been discharged from hospital.

Trump also has been vociferous in his criticism of the social unrest in the Missouri city of Ferguson.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

For D Eisenhower war is theft, for W Sherman it's hell

In preparation for a talk, came across these two quotes, via Google of  course.

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed."
- Eisenhower.

"I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded, who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell.
- William Sherman. Sherman was a general in the Union Army in the American civil war.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Irish Rail boss on annual salary of €211,000

Irish Rail CEO earns €4,058 per week. Or €812 per day, based on a five-day week.

Wittenberge and Veritas

Irish Times Berlin correspondent Derek Scally begins a series today on the former German Democratic Republic.

He begins his travels in Wittenberge, which is in Brandenburg.

After the war the Singer factory in the town was nationalised by the State and renamed 'Veritas'.

On November 9 1989, 25 years ago this year, the Berlin Wall fell. More accurately 'was felled' by peaceful demonstrators.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Pell's outrageous comments

Cardinal George Pell said the following in a video link between Rome and Sydney. It is outrageous in every aspect. And he gets away with it.

The Catholic Church has spent years and millions of dollars, euro, pounds and all other hard currencies covering up.

What 'precaution' did the church take?

"If the truck driver picks up some lady and then molests her, I don't think it's appropriate, because it is contrary to the policy, for the ownership, the leadership of that company to be held responsible," he said via video link from Rome.

"Similarly with the church and the head of any other organisation.

"If every precaution has been taken, no warning has been given, it is, I think, not appropriate for legal culpability to be foisted on the authority figure."

An eyesore on Orwell Road

Anyone who ever walks, cycles or drives on Orwell Road in Dublin and passes the Redemptorist house will note what an ugly building it is. It was built in the 1970s.

The then provincial and his team are the people responsible for the terrible eyesore.

Provincials and their teams. That building is a powerful reminder and metaphor for what happens from time to time

Berlin Airlift

BBC Radio Four aired a programme at 09.00 today in which they interviewed four people who were engaged in the Berlin Airlift. Great radio and comes highly recommended.

They interviewed four people, who took part in the operation. Now elderly, one woman said that from that time she learned of the importance of communication. "It is vital that people communicate with one another," she said.

The Airlift lasted from June 24, 1948 to May 12, 1949.

Stalin decided to seal off West Berlin and refused permission for the allies to travel by rail or car/truck through East German territory. It meant over two million people would quickly run out of food. The plan was that the Western powers would have to surrender West Berlin.

Instead the West came up with the brilliant idea of airlifting everything from potatoes to coal to West Berlin, using the two airports, at Tempelhof and Gatow.

It is generally accepted that Stalin relinquished, realising the far superior technical know-how of the Western powers.

Mother Russia.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Belfast singer Brian Kennedy talks on radio

Belfast singer Brian Kennedy was interviewed on Sunday evening on Dublin's Sunshine Radio. It was a repeat programme.

In the extensive interview, in which he talked about his life and growing up in the North, he referred to his homosexuality and how he became aware of his orientation.

Talking on his personal orientation he said: "One of the biggest closets in the world is the Catholic Church."

He spoke a few words about the contradiction that that entails.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Priest author Brendan Hoban replies to 'Dublin friar'

Below is Brendan Hoban's column, which appears in this week's Western People. It is also posted on the ACP website. It's a nice read, informative, accurate and polite too. A fine piece of writing, indeed, it's brilliant.

Readers will be familiar with the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP). ‘Familiar’, I hear a chorus of voices responding, ‘do you ever stop going on about it?’ Okay, okay, but please indulge me this week because we have been set upon by a Dublin friar and I feel compelled to set the record straight.

We’ve been called ‘a bunch of ageing, disillusioned priests who seem to be always whingeing about what they see as the failings of the church’. What seems to have exercised our critic is our proposal that married men should be ordained to off-set the effective disappearance of priests in Ireland over the next two decades.

Why such a gratuitous attack on the membership of ACP? Well, many believe, when someone has no argument to counter a proposition, personal attack indicates that the debate is conceded. So, in a sense, it could be deemed a compliment of sorts. At the same time insulting and denouncing over 1000 fellow-priests in such sweeping, personal terms, many of them men who have given lifetimes of service to the Catholic Church in Ireland, is hard to take.

Inaccurate too are his claims that public statements from the ACP are the result of the obsessions of the leadership rather than the opinion of the members. Not true. Every year we have an AGM, where the leaders report on the previous year’s activities, where policy is agreed and where leaders are confirmed in their positions. No member of the ACP, if memory serves me right, has objected to any ACP statements, though there are priests who are not members who peddle this false accusation.
Another predictable criticism, made by our Dublin friar and often those who oppose us, is that the ACP is ‘negative’. That’s a word that’s ritually used to dismiss opinions and arguments without actually confronting them. It’s used by those who want our proposals to be dismissed without people considering them. Effectively, it’s a form of censorship. And it’s a form of denial or even fantasy too for those unable to defend credibly the positions they have adopted.

If you can call something or someone ‘negative’ you don’t have to worry about constructing an alternative argument and you don’t have to produce any data to support your position. Even though using the term ‘negative’ is effectively conceding defeat in the argument, interestingly it’s often used when the cupboard of argument is conspicuously empty.
Bishops use the word ‘negative’ to dismiss criticism that’s close to the bone, especially when the criticism can’t be disputed or there are no compelling arguments to refute it. I notice that the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown, used the ‘N’ word too in Knock recently when he dismissed as ‘negative’ those whose opinions differ from his about the Church and the priesthood.
But is it not offensive to priests who have worked 20 or 40 or 50 years in parishes in Ireland to dismiss what they’re saying as ‘negative’ when it’s based on empirical data and those who dismiss it have no alternative workable ideas to offer? Is Peter McVerry ‘negative’? Is theologian Gerry O’Hanlon ‘negative’? Is the respected scripture scholar, the Dominican, Wilfrid Harrington, ‘negative’? 

Are the hundreds of missionaries, who have given lifetimes of committed work on the missions, ‘negative’ if they point out a series of obvious truths about the Irish Church? Or indeed are those of us working day in day out in parishes all over the country ‘negative’ because we point out a series of obvious truths about the Irish Church? Have we not a moral responsibility to speak our truth and break the cycle of silence and fear that has the potential to destroy the Church we have dedicated our lives to serve?
It’s mesmerising that, after all the mistakes the Catholic Church in Ireland has made in the last 30 years, that a sustained effort is now being made to silence those who, with the good of the Church at heart, are asking principled and conscientious questions and proposing workable solutions that will help to sustain the provision of Mass and the sacraments in Ireland.
Is it not reasonable for the ACP to point out, consistently and respectfully, that there are only two diocesan priests under 40 in the 199 parishes of Dublin diocese with a population of over a million Catholics? Is it being disloyal to suggest that the ritual anti-dote for a decline in vocations – prayer and requesting male, celibate men to come forward – is demonstrably not working?
Is it not acceptable to point out that if Church authority keeps dismissing opinions that most people share, then no one should be surprised if that authority loses whatever authority it has left? Ask former Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan. Ask Pope Emeritus Benedict. Experience tells us that an institution that wants to remain real should unambiguously cherish the critical voices from within.
Change, especially significant change, is difficult and often painful. But the simple and unvarnished truth is that change will have to come if the Irish Catholic Church is not going to melt away.
Five years ago the ACP nailed its colours to the reforming mast of the Second Vatican Council and we will not be deflected from it. There’s no Plan B to offset the decline and we have worked for the last five years at jump-starting a realistic and pragmatic conversation about the future of the Irish Church. Attacks from high up or low down won’t stop us from debating issues that are central to the future life and work of the Church. If we’ve learned anything in the Irish Church over the last few decades, surely it is that shooting the messenger is a failed policy.
The Irish bishops may tell us that our proposals are ‘not feasible’. The papal nuncio may refuse to meet us. Some of the Catholic press, aligned with conservative Catholics fearful of change, may oppose us. But our members, over 1,000 of them, know what’s being said on the ground in parishes and we’re confident that the people, in the main, are with us.
Most importantly, we’re encouraged by Pope Francis, who wants issues of importance to be debated in our Church. He, like us, is committed to the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. He, like us, is saying that proposals to look at compulsory celibacy should be brought to his desk. And, the obvious truth is that those who are uncomfortable with his policies are uncomfortable with the ACP’s.
Francis is 78, of course – and might be dismissed by our Dublin friar as ‘an ageing, disillusioned priest’ – but he knows the score. I would argue that Francis and the ACP are singing out of the same hymn-sheet, even if others seem determined to drown out our voices.
Note: My latest book, Who will break the bread for us, which deals with the reality and the implications of the vocations’ crisis is now available to download on Kindle from Amazon.com

Enjoying life

"Life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort. Indeed, those who enjoy life most are those who leave security on the shore and become excited by the mission of communicating life to others."

It's a quote that suits the theme running through the Gospel these days.

It's  a quote from ths Fifth General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bihsops, 2007 and appears in 'The Joy of the Gospel' [10] - Pope Francis

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Robin Williams' 'Keating' perfect teaching template

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

Michael Commane
The wait is over and the class of 2014 heads out into the world. Good luck and God bless all 56,990 of them.

The results were published the day after the world learned of the death of Robin Williams. I always associate Williams with the film Dead Poets’ Society.  It was brilliant and inspirational. To be able to inspire young people as ‘John Keating’ did in that film surely is the magic that can make teaching so special.

Keating’s teaching was considered ‘unorthodox’ in the conservative and posh school in Vermont. But he managed to get the students to think for themselves and inspired in them a genuine interest in learning and discovery.

I still find myself looking through the jobs’ pages in the newspapers, checking if there is any school looking for a German/English teacher. And then it dawns on me that it makes no sense. I was 65 in April and my teaching days in the classroom are over, over forever. And that’s a horrible thought.

I’ve done different things. Started off in teaching, indeed, probably spent most of my working years as a teacher but I also worked as a journalist and am still in gainful employment, working in a press office. On top of that I happen to be a Dominican priest.

Maybe there is a closeness between teaching and journalism but the interaction between students and teacher makes teaching a special trade.

It’s three years since I was last in a classroom and the Class of 2014 includes a small group of girls and boys to whom I taught English in first year in a school in West Kerry.

They are now, along with their peers, about to embrace a new world of adventure.

Teaching can never be taken as a chore. Of course, like every job, humdrum daily routine sets in. We all have the potential to get lazy and sloppy. But the job of the teacher is always to inspire, to push the students so that they will get interested and excited about the subject they are learning. Always asking questions, wanting to find out more. The good teacher is always someone who in the end finds themselves redundant – their students don’t need them any longer. They might even know more than their teacher.

Of course programmes have to be adhered to, courses have to be followed and taught. Discipline, in all its forms and shapes, is an essential and intrinsic part of teaching. But is there enough excitement and sheer adventure surrounding teaching so that students can be fired and enthused to love the subject or topic they are learning?

It’s more than likely the gifted student, the student who comes from a background where learning is appreciated, will always do fine. But what are we doing for all those who drop out of school, what are we doing for those who hate every minute of the school day? And there are too many who fall short, are unhappy in school and consider the experience a drudge from morning until the last class. Are we concentrating too much on an academic model to the detriment of other forms of learning? Probably.

No society can ever afford to turn a blind eye on those who slip through the system.

According to an OECD survey carried out in October 2013 one in six Irish adults have literacy difficulties and one in four have problems with numeracy.

Is that not the particular charism of the teacher, to make sure that that student, who thinks it’s all a bore, is won over and realises that learning is an exciting adventure?

Monday, August 18, 2014

2,699 billion reasons why Gospel is not taken seriously

The United States, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, United Kingdom and Germany together annually spend approximately $2,699.7 billion on armaments.

How does that gel with today's Gospel. How many times around the world will priests say the word peace in today's Mass?

It puts perspective on so much of the pious piffle that one reads.

And armaments have one purpose, which is to kill, maim and destroy.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Cardinal George Pell, Sydney and child sex abuse

If the report on today's RTE News at One is accurate on what has gone on in the Australian Catholic Church, especially in Sydney, one  is forced to ask how can Cardinal George Pell be in such a prominent job at the Vatican.

The programme was discussing the retirement of Cardinal Sean Brady.

Marie Collins was interviewed on the programme as was Brendan Boland, both victims of clerical child sex abuse.

Surprising no representative of the church was interviewed on the programme. And not a word from the Vatican representative in Ireland, Papal Nuncio Charles Brown.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Listening to life stories brings us closer to God

The column below appears in today's Irish Times under 'Thinking Anew' on page 20 of the main paper.

Michael Commane
This day last month I was on an underground train in Berlin between Wittenau and Friedrichstraße when a  young man accompanied by his black dog began to move up the train asking people for money. Sitting opposite me was a young woman, dressed in a style that seemed somewhat 'unusual' to me.

Just as the young man approached our seat and politely asked for help she opened her purse, smiled and gave him something. It was more than I did. I - an ordained priest -  did not want to give him money nor did I want to engage him in anyway whatsoever.

A perfect example of how one person dismisses someone and how another person engages with him and gives him something, which most likely made his life somewhat more tolerable. Of course I was ashamed of myself. Not only had she shown me up but she also made me think again about the silly judgments I had made about her because of her attire. To blazes with Shakespeare and his "apparel oft proclaim the man". Far too easily we comply with a status quo that dulls our humanity.

In tomorrow's Gospel (Matthew 15: 21 - 28) a woman comes to Jesus asking him to help her daughter. She is clearly making something of a nuisance of herself so his disciples suggest to Jesus: "Send her away: see how she is shouting after us." (Matthew 15: 23)

Not only does Jesus not listen to them but he tells them that he was sent only to the lost sheep of the nation of Israel. He listens to the woman, realises her great faith and cures her daughter.

I was on that train as I was working as a chaplain in a Berlin general hospital with approximately 430 beds during the month of July.

Going from room to room, listening to people’s stories, on many occasions observing broken bodies, gave me pause for thought. Everyone had a story to tell. A woman  recalled being force marched from East Prussia at the end of the war. She was able to describe to me the horror as if it had happened yesterday. Another woman said her father never returned from the Russian campaign. On another occasion I found myself standing in an intensive care unit praying with a family as their father was within hours of dying.

Many times every day I asked myself about the great questions: what at all is life about, is there a God, is there life after death and if so what can we say about it?

I must admit I came up with no answers, just so many doubts and uncertainties. But there was something that remained constant every day and weaved itself right through every room in the hospital. Each person had a story to tell, amazing stories abounded and most patients were only too delighted to tell their stories. Because their lives, which really was all they knew, were wrapped up in their stories.

For the entire month the word 'God' was seldom if ever heard or spoken. It was in a way far too 'big' a word or idea to throw about. And yet the idea or thought of God was constantly hovering about in all sort of forms and shapes.

Indeed, just as the young woman on the train, did not speak God's name, yet she was living out exactly what Jesus does in tomorrow's Gospel.

Listening to life stories and observing how people behave, without ever mentioning anything about God, so often we are forced to think and ask about God.  In taking note of the people who do all the talking about God, we need to open our eyes to those who live God's Word without uttering it.

Friday, August 15, 2014

German discounter Lidl is not always the cheapest

Certainly advertising, marketing and branding play a powerful role in all our lives.

It is generally accepted that German discounters Lidl and Aldi are the best buy in town.

A 250g tub of Flora pro-active in Lidl yesterday cost €2.85. The price for the same product in SuperValu today is €2.50.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Languages at Leaving Cert

In  Leaving Cert 2014, 6,858 candidates sat the German papers, 26,496 took the French papers and 5,340 students sat the Spanish examinations. Italian, 334; Japanese, 298; Arabic, 108; Russian, 292; Latin, 108.

That means 12 per cent of students sat German.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

53rd anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall

Today marks the 53rd anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall.

At least two institutions straddled the wall, the S-Bahn, which was owned by the GDR government and the Catholic Church, whose bishop lived at Bebel Platz.

In a survey carried out in Germany this week over 50 per cent of those asked were not aware of the significant event that took place on August 13, 1961.

The GDR government called it the Anti Fascist Protection Barrier.

The Wall was breached on November 9, 1989.

A world in need of unity

A line in today's Gospel goes: "For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them." (Matthew 18: 20)

Unity does not mean that we are 'yes people'. But it does mean that we share a common belief, that we support and respect one another.

The world is riven with war and hatred, violence and torture. All so far away from anything to do with today's Gospel.

The division among faiths, among the Christian churches, the division within churches. And sometimes it seems we never consider anything wrong with division and disunity. But alas, these is also fake or false unity, complemented with all sort of superficial tricks of niceness and politeness.

It's consoling to say and think that God is the source and cause of unity. It seems we are forever underestimating the importance of unity.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Dominican priest launches broadside against ACP

The Irish Independent carries a piece  in today's paper on Fr Brian McKevitt and his criticism of the Association of Catholic Priests.

The piece is written by freelance journalist Sarah Mac Donald.
Fr McKevitt, 68,  is reported to have said that the ACP "is a bunch of ageing disillusioned priests who seem to be always whingeing about what they see as the failings of the Church".

The article appeared yesterday on an Irish Dominican website but it seems as if it has now been removed.

At Mass in St Mary's Priory, Tallaght this morning Fr McKevitt is reported to have said that children were monsters.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Taking time out to relax and read pious pamphlets

Since the beginning of this blog in 2007 there has been a veiled and sometimes a non-veiled annoyance at some religious pious publications.

Broadcaster Gay Byrne once wisely said, one always has the choice to turn off the dial - as it was in those days - if you don't like what you are hearing.

But reading the summer edition of a pious pamphlet it is difficult not to make a critical comment.

The opening sentence runs: "The summer months of June July and August slow down the pace of life for all of us."

Does a Dublin bus driver take it easy for June, July and August? Does a doctor, a plumber, a shop assistant, sign off for three months?

And then later in that same piece one reads: "As we plan to step back from our daily pace and spend time with our families and friends, the Blessed Virgin too beacons (sic) us to come close to her in order to unite us to the family of the Lord through the mysteries of her Divine Sons (sic) life"

Elsewhere: "Mary is the soil where once the seed of imperishable life was sown, may she make our hearts this summer a fitting place that the mystery of her Divine Son may penetrate us deeply and that his life may spring forth in us as it (sic) shown forth in her."

Not too sure what the Dublin bus driver,  a doctor, a plumber, a shop assistant would make of this, that is, if they had time off to read it.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Donetsk - new Stalingrad

This evening pro-Russian separatists referred to the situation in Donetsk as a 'new Stalingrad'.

It gets more scary every day.

Two German politicians

Sahra Wagenknecht is a member of the German Parliament and Deputy Chairperson of the Left Party. She regularly criticises German capitalism and in the past was a member of the former SED party, which was the governing party of East Germany.

It is ironic that while Sahra Wagenknecht was forbidden to study at university by the SED because of her political views, Angela Merkel had no difficulty studying in the GDR.

Wagenknecht learned Faust off-by-heart.

Being a Christian

Today's Gospel highlights the weakness of Peter's faith.

Someone so close to Jesus, knew him personally and yet........

What is faith? At what stage can someone say they are a Christian? At what stage can someone say they are not a Christian? What's the core value(s)/belief(s) of Christianity?

It seems so easy to be so glib about it all.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Richard Nixon's advice on being hated and how to win

Forty years ago today, Augut 9, 1974, Richard M Nixon left the White House.

Before he took off on the helicopter parked on the White House garden he addressed his staff. The quote below is well worth heeding, maybe especially for those who get cross and angry and feel passionate about things.

"Always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself."

Friday, August 8, 2014

'Trinidadian Carnival'

An Irish Dominican commented this week that he now has a complete new take on the meaning of 'Trinidad Carnival'.

The Trinidadians are noted world-wide for their festivities in the days leading up to Ash Wednesday.

Feast of Saint Dominic

Today, August 8, is the feast of St Dominic. Dominic, a Spaniard, who lived from 1170 to 1221, founded  the Dominican Order.

A pivotal aspect of the Order is the preaching of the Gospel in a language that is accessible to people. In other words to talk about the Gospel in a way that makes sense.

In 1968 there were over 400 members in the Irish Province of the Order. Today there are 170 Irish Dominicans.

Back in 1968 did the 400 Dominicans preach a Gospel that made sense? Today do the 170 preach the Word of God in such a way that it is accessible to the Christian community?


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Bishop Frank Caggiano

The current issue of The Irish Catholic carries a picture of Bishop Frank Caggiano on page 11.

Russian and IDF troops looking ready for a fight

Yesterday a number of television stations showed two significant pictures. One was of Russian soldiers on manoeuvres in western Russia, approximately 600 kilometres from the Russian Ukraine border. The second was of IDF troops returning home.

In both pictures the troops were smiling and laughing. The Russian troops were jumping in and out of their tanks and the IDF soldiers waving the Israeli flag.

Both the IDF and Russian troops looked extremely macho.

Imagine if all those troops simply refused to obey orders and instead decided to stay home?

These days we are recalling/remembering the beginning of World War l.

Of course it is always good to recall the dead, indeed, pray for them.

No doubt all those dead soldiers were smiling and 'macho' when they set out to kill one another.

Imagine if all the troops of World War 1 refused to obey orders and instead decided to stay home.

What was the fate of those who ordered them to fight? How many of the lords and masters lost their lives?

Of course there is nothing with simple answers, countries need armies, but what really is there to celebrate about millions being slaughtered at the behest of the rich and powerful?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Edward Snowden mark two

News breaking that there is a second Edward Snowden about to unfold.

An IT specialist working for the CIA in Hawaii left his office some time back and suspicion is growing that the person is about to release new secret material.

Prophets or traitors?

What does a person do when she/he realises that the organisation they work for or are part of is in serious difficulty and simply refuses to behave in an honest and open manner?

Monday, August 4, 2014

Bishop Tebartz-van Elst moves into new apartment

Today's Süddeutsche Zeitung carries the following news story on page eight.

"Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, 54, former Bishop of Limburg will continue to live in comfort after the scandal of the high costs for the Limburg bishop's residence: he will move into a 180 square metre apartment in Regensburg, his spokeswoman told 'Welt am Sonntag'.

The house, which is on the edge of the city will be renovated,

Most likely the former bishop will share the apartment, where he will spend some time, with his sister.

His family have rented the apartment."

A classic example of lazy journalism and church tomfoolery.

Some organisations badly in need of whistleblowers?

Is whistleblower Edward Snowden a patriot or a traitor?

It seems most people in the US consider him a traitor, whereas there is a general view across the EU that the free world is in debt to him.

Are whistleblowers a good idea? Can you think of organisations that are in great need of whistleblowers?

Where would or could they seek refuge?

Asking wrong question when it comes to 'vocation crisis'

When the Catholic Church talks about a vocations' crisis it is referring to the fall off in the number of men in priesthood and the decline in the numbers, especially in the western world, joining priesthood.

Has the church ever done a root and branch survey of the work ethic of its priests? Indeed, the work of a priest may well be difficult to quantify but it's fair to ask does the priest do a 38.5/40 hour week 10 months a year? Who checks the work of the priest? Who manages and guides the priest?

Are there structures in place, advising and recommending priests how to do their job?

How well do bishops/provincials manage their team? Do bishops/provincials have a genuine interest in their priests? Do bishops/provincials have good working relationships with their priests?

Maybe it is just there that there is a terrific 'vocations' crisis'

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Not one single unbeliever in United States Congress

A new radio station has gone live in the United States. It flies the flag of atheism.

According to a report on BBC World Service this morning there are no atheists in either the US Senate or the House of Representatives.

Is that true? Is that possible? It certainly sounds mind boggling and throws a whole new light on American politics and the American churches.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Castlegregory GAA fans have cause to cheer at Croker

Good luck tomorrow to Alan Fitzgerald from Castlegregory. Alan is on the panel of the Kerry team that plays Galway in Croke Park.

Probably the first time in over 50 years since someone from the West Kerry village was on the county team.

A tale or two from Russia

According to today's Berlin papers, the bridge between Crimea and the Russian mainland, which was announced some months back by Vladimir Putin, is to get the go ahead.

But it will be built with the help of Russian prisoners.

Today's papers also carry the news that in east Ukraine pro-Russian separatists have carried out executions among its fighters so as to protect 'discipline'.


Friday, August 1, 2014

Far too many good people walking away from churches

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

Michael Commane
The main headline in the Catholic newspaper in Berlin last week ran: "Fewer and fewer people in the pews".

The article goes on to point out how many people are leaving the church in Germany. Over the last ten years church numbers dropped by 200,000 every year. In 2013 there were 24.17 million Catholics in Germany. That works out at 29.9 per cent of the population. Last year 178,000 Catholics formally left the church, which means they no longer pay church tax.

The reason why they know exactly the Catholic population is because Germans pay extra tax if they belong to a recognised religion.

Church tax works out between eight and nine per cent of the tax you pay, depending in what Federal State you live. Say your State tax is €1,000 then you pay eight/nine per cent of that €1,000. So you pay €80/€90 church tax. In 2012 Catholics paid €5.2 billion and Protestant  €4.6 billion church tax.

Another interesting statistic: last year 2.6 million German Catholics went to Mass on Sunday. That works out at 10.8 per cent of the total numbers.

People leave the church for a myriad reasons. Yes, the clerical child abuse and how the institutional church behaved around the issue has been a reason for many leaving. But it would be misleading to think that is the main cause for such a drop off.

Nor, do I believe is secularisation the reason for such a dramatic fall-off. I certainly am delighted I live in a secular society. I wouldn't want it any other way.

Let's take a number of successful companies. Imagine if The Kerry Group, Siemens and  British Airways began to notice a fall off in business. Just say the numbers of people using their products and services took a nose dive and the share prices tumbled, what would happen? Would the companies draw up a statement and blame the customers/the public for not using Kerry Group ingredients, buying Siemens hospital equipment or flying British Airways?

Of course not and any such suggestion would be laughable.

What would happen is that the boards and management teams would meet and most likely new managers would be appointed. No doubt they would look for public opinion on why they were losing market share.

Of course when it comes to saying a word about God we are in a completely different sphere of operation. No one has a direct link to or with God.

But is it not an incredible arrogance for the Catholic Church even to suggest that all those who are leaving are the ones to blame, they are the ones who are erring?

I'm here in Berlin working as a chaplain in a hospital. It means I'm going from room to room saying hello to people, listening to their stories. How often have I heard in the last three weeks. "Yes, I believe in God but I don't go to church." I don't ask any questions. But I wonder how many of those people have been hurt, upset, annoyed by their priests/ministers of religion?

It is a scandal that the church is losing so many good people. And it could be so different. From all the signs to date, that too is what Pope Francis sees, knows and believes.

Hopefully his sense of purpose will help the church to relocate its sense of purpose in this liberal, secular, but troubled world.

Blog blip

To daily and regular readers of this blog, apologies.

Since lunchtime on Monday the writer of this blog has been hospitalised in Berlin.

It is hoped the blog will resume within the next few days.

Can a blog really be called a blog if it does not have a daily update? So, again, sorry fot the break.

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