Thursday, December 31, 2015

Historic Russian cities

Among  the Russian cities where this blog is read are the cities of Kursk, Saint Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Krasnoyarsk.

Kursk, the city where the greatest ever tank battle took place. The Red Army surprised and deafeated the Wehrmacht.

Saint Petersburg is the birthplace of Russian President Vladimir Putin, which was then called Leningrad.

Yekaterinburg is where Tsar Nicholas II and his family were executed after the October Revolution.

Krasnoyarsk is where Helene Fischer was born. She is currenly a German pop idol. Her paternal grandparents were Volga Germans.

In December this blog had 669 hits in Russia.

Priest on his hoverboard

This is funny and you don't need to have it translated to get the drift. Just play the video. Fr Ted never knew the full story, nothing near it. There has to be a best seller on the topic.

What at all is it about the Catholic Church and its priests? The number of priests/church officials who subscribe anonymously to blogs, to LinkedIn, to electronic media is staggering. The number of times the following appears in a LinkedIn account tells its own story: Someone in the Religious Institutions industry in Rome. On other occasions it appears as: Someone in the Religious Institutions industry. Some religions, some industry.
Surely this scooter chap is far more harmless than so many of the anonymous ones, the ones who pretend to say nothing, the 'holy' ones. The ones, who sit at meetings and never say a word. 

Somehow, someway, people begin to think they are wise, intelligent, even holy. Then 'miraculously' they become bishops and provincials.

This priest's diocese has suspended him. Priests have done a lot worse and never a word from their bishops. But it's all great fun.

In der Christmette zelebrierte ein Geistlicher vom Hoverboard aus. Während seiner Fahrt durch die Kirche auf den Philippinen sang er ein Weihnachtslied - das Bistum hat ihn deswegen suspendiert.
An Heiligabend ist ein katholischer Priester auf den Philippinen singend durch die Kirche gerollt. Mit dem selbst schwebenden Skateboard fuhr er die Reihen entlang, sein Messgewand flatterte - und die zahlreichen Gottesdienstbesucher lachten und klatschten.
Dem Erzbistum von San Pablo dagegen gefielen die flotten Drehungen kurz vor Ende der Messe ganz und gar nicht. Es beurlaubte kurzerhand den schwebenden Priester in dem streng katholischgeprägten Land. Mehr als 80 Prozent der rund 100 Millionen Einwohner gehören der Kirche an.
"Die Feier der heiligen Messe verlangt höchsten Respekt und Ehrfurcht", teilte die Diözese auf Facebook mit. Es gehe nicht darum, die Aufmerksamkeit der Menschen auf sich zu ziehen, sondern darum Gott zu ehren. 
Inzwischen habe sich der Geistliche entschuldigt, er werde nun Zeit haben, über den Vorfall nachzudenken. Ein Video von Pfarrer Falbert San Jose auf dem Brett jedoch macht weiterhin in den sozialen Medien die Runde, der TrendChannel hat es veröffentlicht:

Amazon's dirty tricks

Piece below is from the Guardian Online.

Is it time people began to think again about using Amazon?

Amazon has said it will donate to refugees in Germany the profits from online purchases of a track released by the far-right anti-migrant Pegida movement.

The online retailer had been criticised for making money from sales of the instrumental song Gemeinsam sind wir stark – German for “Together we are strong” – which was released over Christmas.

Pegida – Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident – had said profits from the sale would be given to homeless Germans.

But Amazon placed a message on its German site saying profits it made on sales of the song would be donated to help hundreds of thousands of migrants, many fleeing the Syrian civil war, who have arrived in Germany over the last year. 

“Amazon’s profits from the sale of this song will go to a non-profit-making organisation supporting refugees,” the company said. 

Pegida started life over a year ago as a xenophobic Facebook group, initially drawing just a few hundred protesters to demonstrations in Dresden. The movement has survived a furore over a photograph of founder Lutz Bachmannsporting a Hitler hairstyle and moustache that went viral.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The late Brendan Leahy

The funeral Mass of Brendan Leahy took place yesterday in St John's Church, Tralee.

Brendan was 65 and had spent 40 years working at The Kerryman newspaper. He joined the company as a trainee compositor in 1967 and retired in 2006, when he was working as a supervisor in editorial/production.

On completion of a post-grad in Journalism at DIT I  was employed at The Kerryman as a sub-editor. Knew next-to-nothing on newspaper produciton. The job of the sub-editor was to edit text and then layout the page. Computers were still at an early stage and the sub edited the stories individually on screen and then drew a plan of the page on a physical A4 sheet.  That phsyical sheet would be given to compositors and they would place text, pictures and ads on the page on screen.

I'd do a page and send it electronically to the compositors' desk. Brendan would then on-screen place the stories on the page. He was always most helpful to me, especially when I'd have incorrect measurements And all the laughs we had. Disagreements too.

It is difficult to believe he is dead.

Fr Sean Hanafin celebrated the funeral Mass. It was a Mass celebrated in faith and love. A real sign how the current liturgy can be solemn and prayerful and so real.

To walk into a sacristy and to be greeted with kindness and normality is surely a great blessing, a moment of grace too.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Spotting what's in front of us

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane

I attend a German literature class at the Goethe Institute every week. On Thursday there were seven of us in the class plus the teacher.

Something came up about an old German word for city trams and then someone in the class mentioned the Luas.

There was a discussion as to whether its electric power came from the tracks or from overhead cabling.

I was gobsmacked. All in the class were certain that the power came from the tracks. I on the other hand objected and explained that the electric power came from the overhead cables. One of the women in the class was so certain that there were no overhead cables she was willing to lay a wager. She lay the wager and I covered it. The teacher turned on the magic Google and within a minute or two everyone was clear that the Luas was powered through overhead electric cabling.

The German Institute is in Fitzwilliam Square and everyone in the class most likely sees or crosses the Luas tracks every day. And to add to that, they are highly intelligent group of people, who are in touch with the world around them.

How did they think people walked across the tracks if they were electrified? How had they simply not noticed the cabling? I was honestly mystified by them.

In the end the wager was not accepted and it was agreed it would be given to the St Vincent de Paul. Some good came out of it all. And it was a few moments of fun.

Cycling home after the class I kept thinking of all the things we see and all those things we pass by every day and never even notice them.

Earlier that day I noticed a street name ‘Protestant Row’, near Dublin’s Camden Street. I have passed that laneway on many occasions over many years and never noticed its name before.

How much do we know about anything? We fall into little ruts and crawl around in that space for most of our lives. From time-to-time we break out, discover something new but it seems our default position is to live in the familiar and even in that space we all seem to miss so much.

When I was a young man I genuinely believed that the bigots were the Protestants and that a Catholic bigot was indeed an oxymoron. What complete stupidity. Over 40 years of priesthood I have learned bigotry is not an exclusive Protestant phenomenon. Not at all.

The bigotry, the hostility, the closed-mindedness I have seen among my ‘own crowd’ never ceases to baffle me.

But it seems to be the way of the world.

Look at the support Donald Trump has and how it is growing the more zany his comments are.

In many ways a generation that is now nearing retirement or has already retired has lived in a privileged time.  The founding visionaries of the European Union were intent on opening borders, getting people to appreciate and understand the other, cajoling societies to realise that there are more ways than one to do something. And that too was some of the driving force of the Second Vatican Council - to open windows.

But it seems now there is a new fear enveloping us - build back walls, the ‘other crowd’ are all wrong.

Maybe the clue to keeping walls away and windows wide open is for each one of us to keep our own eyes wide open and stay ever vigilant. Take nothing for granted, especially what is familiar.

Make it a New Year’s resolution?



Monday, December 28, 2015

Kent becomes Cork and Mallin Dún Laoghaire

Greg Daly in his article in The Irish Catholic of December 17 writes:

Neither was Seán Heuston (less religious), whose brother, Michael, then in formation in Tallaght to become a Dominican priest, has left a detailed account of his last encounter with his brother and Seán's final appeal "Pray, pray hard for me,".....

In 1966 CIE renamed its rail stations after people linked with the 1916 Rising. Hence, Heuston, Connolly, Kent, Casement, Mallin, Ceannt ....

But in Irish Rail's current timetables all stations are named on page 2 of both timetables - one for trains  linked to Dublin Hesuton and the other for trains connected to Dublin Connolly - only Dublin Heuston and Dublin Connolly are given their '1966' names.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Roll over or roll under?

From the Guardian online.

What if you don't have a holder and leave it somewhere else?

But bet you have thought about it before, maybe even as a child. Which way?

'Guardian online'
This week let’s do a bit of – ahem – roll play. How do you prefer to hang your toilet roll? Do you like the loose end to be far away from the wall (the over style) or next to the wall (the under style)? 
Now let’s see what Dr Gilda Carle (“relationship expert to the stars”) has to say about your choice.
If you roll over… You like taking charge, crave organisation and are likely to overachieve.
If you roll under… You’re laid-back, dependable and seek relationships with strong foundations.
If you don’t care, as long as it’s there… You aim to minimise conflict, value flexibility and like putting yourself in new situations.
But could your choice tell us something about your earning power? One US survey found that 73 per cent of people who earn under $20,000 roll under, while 60 per cent of those who earn over $50,000 roll over. These surveys do not quite meet the standards required for a scientific psychology study – but if this column is your favourite bathroom reading it will give you something to ponder.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

RTE's unique status

RTE's Keelin Shanley introducing Peter Sutherland at the Michael Littleton Talk last evening at the RTE studio in Montrose said:

".... In a very unique way..."

Someone at RTE should explain the meaning of unique.

But such an error is far outweighed by the talk Mr Sutherland gave on the evening and which was broadcast on RTE Radio 1 after the lunchtime news today.

Thank you RTE.

Nashville Sisters rumoured to be coming to Ireland

The piece below was posted on this blog on May 23, 2012. In correspondence with a Dominican student at the time it was decided to remove the post. He expressed an upset about it appearing.

But here it is again - as it appeared for a short time in May 2012 - with one paragraph deleted.

It now seems the Nashville Dominican Sisters are coming to Limerick to set up a community. It is rumoured that they will be moving into the Dominican Priory in Glentworth Street, which is currently the home of three Dominican priests.

It is rumoured that the Bishop of Limerick has invited the Nashville Sisters to Limerick.

It's a funny old world, a funnier old church and a funnier still Irish Dominican Province.

The lack of information and honest, open discussion on this project says so much about the management team of the Catholic Church in Ireland and the Irish Dominican Province.

Nashville Sisters
Nashville Sisters to speak in St Saviour's
The post of May 23, 2012
The blog for the Irish Dominicans announces that Dominican Sisters from Nashville will be talking in St Saviour's Dublin at the time of the Eucharistic Congress.

No mention of the Irish Dominican Sisters who have been doing great work in Ireland for a long time. They are women who have managed, run and taught in schools around Ireland, providing top class education to thousands of young Irish women.

Of course there is nothing wrong in inviting Dominicans from other countries and traditions to address communities in Ireland.

But has it all something to do with PR, flowing habits and an 'unusual' relationship between women and men within the church? Just a question.

The Irish Dominican Sisters don't tend to take guff and spoof and indeed laziness from their male counterparts. Is it possible that sisters from far away in long flowing gowns will be more likely to say 'yes Father, no Father'?

Are these the same men who are happy to see the Nashville Sisters?

It seems to becoming clearer and more explicit that there is a serious problem within the clerical state surrounding priesthood, sexuality and an inordinate conservatism.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Michael Harding on God

I wanted to tell him that I felt lonely without God. I wanted to tell him that beyond the loneliness of losing friends, or beyond the loneliness of grief after death, there is nothing more cutting than the blade of awakening that opens the heart when the last fragrance of God has withered.

Michael Harding in his column in Wednesday's 'Irish Times'. He is in a restaurant in Warsaw talking to an icon maker.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Learning from one another

'SOUNDBITE' is Published by Church Music Ireland, an agency of the united dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough.

The writer of this blog has been invited to contribute a regular column for 'SOUNDBITE'. This, the second piece, is in the December issue.

Michael Commane
Máirt Hanley, Church of Ireland rector in Baltinglass, invited me to talk at the Harvest liturgy in the parish church in September. It was an honour, a privilege but above all a lovely experience.

It was great to see how the people in the country church took part in the service.

They all had their books open and they were all singing. A lovely sense of participation. People praying together.

I lived in Germany for a number of years and was always impressed with how German Catholics sing their hymns and pray out loud the prayers at Mass. Alas, it's not exactly the same story in Ireland.

Great strides have been made in Irish Catholic churches to get people singing and participating but there's still a lot to do.

Just last summer I went on holiday to Berlin with a family from Kerry: Mum, Dad and three children.

On Sunday we went to Mass in St Hedwig's Cathedral in Berlin and they were gobsmacked with the singing and prayerful response to the prayers.

I'm not too often at non-Catholic services in Ireland and shame on me, but from the few times I have been, I've been impressed with how the congregation participates.

And it's not just in the area of singing but it has struck me on many occasions that even in the response to the prayers of the Mass, people are slow to pray them out loud. I wonder why is that? Has it something to do with the tradition of the Tridentine Mass where the priest was 'away up there' and the congregation was, in a way, simply 'lookers on'.

There was/is an expression in the Catholic tradition of people 'attending Mass'. Does that mean that they are simply onlookers? But it does tell a story. Spectators attend football matches. People at Mass surely are not spectators? But it can't be as simple as that - the Germans, French and Italian Catholics sing to the rafters in their churches.

Indeed, they always get such a shock when they come to Mass in Ireland.

I actually believe that people can be cajoled into fuller participation of the Mass. But it takes time, work, patience and intelligence.  Co-operation too. But never by edict or talking down to people. Are there traces of a 'patronising gene' in the DNA of Irish Catholic priests?

In the heady early days after the Second Vatican Council there was great emphasis on priests exchanging notes with one another. We in the Dominicans had far more open and interesting meetings about liturgy and preaching than we have these days. More's the pity that that enthusiasm and discussion is on the wane.

Has there ever been a forum where Anglican and Roman Catholic clergy could come together for a mix of chat and theological debate? I'm sure we'd have a lot to learn from one another.

The idea of turning up once in a blue moon to talk in one another's churches smells of tokenism.

We could all be doing so much more to get to know one another better. It might even help us make our prayer more uplifting, make it more meaningful.

How barriers can collapse when we talk to one another. How often we develop the silliest of ideas about people without ever having spoken to them. Shouldn't we, ministers of religion, be at the vanguard in breaking down barriers. And how much we could learn from one another.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Dominicans drop Sunday Mass in inner city parish

The Dominican-run parish St Saviour's in Dublin's north inner city is to drop its Sunday 10.30 Mass.

Each Sunday since the late 1980s  the Mass has been celebrated in St Catherine's chapel. It was an informal-style Mass, generally managed by local people in the parish.

Over the years it built up its own particular liturgical 'style'. Local people were extremely loyal and the Mass 'worked'. People and priest prayed together. Never any opportunity for 'liturgical lapdancing' at this prayerful Mass.

Without any consultation with the people in the parish it has been decided to stop the Mass.

The institutional hierarchical church in Ireland occasionally expresses a 'sadness' at why people speak with their feet.

One word for it - arrogance. 

Dominicans call for international help in Burundi

Piece below is from the international Dominican website. Edited version. It is a statement from Dominicans for Justice and Peace to a special session of the Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

Mr President,
Dominicans for Justice and Peace congratulates you for calling this Special Session of the Human Rights Council as we are extremely concerned about the rapidly deteriorating situation of human rights in Burundi.Since the theft of arms from various military camps on 11 December, 2015, the pursuit of the alleged thieves has been carried out in a way that has gone far beyond any international norms for dealing with armed robbers.

Several witnesses have reported the kidnapping of young people from their homes by military and police in uniforms and their summary execution by being shot in the head or the heart.The violence is also showing an alarming tendency towards ethnic targetting.

Families are being prevented from burying their children by being denied access to their bodies, the whereabouts of which are unknown.

In short, a total disregard for human life is evident, the rule of law has disappeared, and people are living in terror with a total absence of security. In this situation, the priority is not to impose sanctions which will likely largely primarily punish the poorest people.

The urgent priority is to provide immediate protection and security to the people of Burundi.Since this cannot be provided internally at the moment, it is the responsibility and duty of the international community through the UN or the African Union urgently to step in.

A failure to do so will result in further massacres and a new genocide.Once security is provided, inclusive negotiations between all the stakeholders in the country needs to be embarked on as soon as possible, as only a just political solution can end all the violence.

There is great appreciation in Burundi for the calling of this extraordinary session of the Human Rights Council to address the current crisis in the country.

However, there is also a cynicism that it will only result in another commission of enquiry while everyone already knows what is happening and while people are dying.

Mr President, Please do not let the people of Burundi down. Please take immediate action to provide them with protection and security.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Losing a bag on a Dublin Bus vehicle and finding it

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column

Michael Commane

A former work colleague back in Ireland for a few days phoned and asked me to join her for lunch. It was an enjoyable hour and we had plenty to talk about. Just as we said our goodbyes she gave me a small bag - a Christmas gift.

I jumped on a bus and went home. Later in the evening I realised I had managed to mislay the bag. Next morning I retraced my steps. Unfortunately it was not to be found. But I had not given up.

I checked out the Dublin Bus app and emailed them details of the bus I had been on, the time I had boarded and the number of the stop.

Within three days, and that included a weekend, I received an acknowledgment with a reference number and the telephone number of their lost property office.

The following day I called into the Dublin Bus office in Dublin's O’Connell Street where I was directed to their lost property office at the back of the Clerys’ building. A difficult place to find. But at last I was there and just one person ahead of me in the queue.

My turn comes. A man appears from behind a curtain or some sort of ‘barrier’. I explain what happened, tell him about the email I received from Dublin Bus and give him the six-digit reference number.

He assures me that I could not have been given a reference with six ‘letters’. I explain they were numbers and not letters. He then asks me who sent me the email and I, before I could calm down, said ‘Santa Claus’. At that he went away and told his colleague he was refusing to serve me.

I immediately suspected that I was in for trouble and I was going to be told in no uncertain way to get lost. And in a sense it was what I deserved.

Within a minute a woman appears at the counter. Again I explain my case. She could not have been friendlier and was somewhat at sea in respect to the email I had received from Dublin Bus. It seems Dublin Bus’s IT department doesn’t have great communications with the lost property Office in Dublin’s Earl Place. 

So we disregarded the email and I gave her details of the bus journey.

After a short search she arrived with a small bag. Magic, it was my gift bag. I could not believe it.

On handing over a €2 service charge my gift bag was returned to me.

Excluding the minor blip with the first man it’s difficult to believe how it all went so accident-free and that I managed to get the bag back.

I can imagine that required a lot of honesty by a number of people. Did a passenger on the bus hand it to the driver or did the driver or a cleaner come across it and hand it into an office at the bus depot? The buses on the route I was on operate out of two depots, Summerhill and Donnybrook. So a warm thank you to all those in the chain of people that saw it got back to me.

And to the man to whom I was a little smart or abrasive, mea culpa.

Two things have struck me about the episode. Isn’t it uplifting and inspiring to experience honest people? It does us all good. And the efficient system that Dublin Bus has in place when people leave items on their buses. It must happen every day of the week.

Happy Christmas to readers of the column.


Monday, December 21, 2015

Human rights everywhere

In the western world great emphasis is placed on rights, equality, justice.

Say tomorrow Dublin Bus introduced a rule requiring all its staff to be celibate? Of course, silly, outrageous.

What right has any organisation to lay such obligations on its members?

A case for the European Court?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Last words at Concern

A few words said on my last day at Concern.There was a great turn-out for the occasion.
Thank you.

Donal McGowan is a friend of mine for over 60 years. He always tells me I do things well - 96 per cent of the time but blow it all in that last four per cent.
So, I’ll start this with that dangerous four per cent.
I was 65 in April 2014 and Concern offered me another year. When that year was up they offered me a new contract until the end of this year.
I thought that could keep going. And why not? Yes, I have been a little sulky about it.
Job gone. End of story and I’m on the scrap heap. It is a shocking feeling and I’d be some liar if I said anything else.
I’m told it’s the first time in its history that anyone stayed in full-time employment after 65with Concern.
See, my father worked in his job until he was 82. He swam in the Atlantic in West Kerry at 92.

One of the great assets in being superficial is that one gets over things quickly. I’m over it, have bounced back, and here I am, still in one piece.
Though it has struck me how Concern champions gender equality. Maybe they/weshould now be at the vanguard of age equality. An idea.
These have been 11 great years.
Gerry Reynolds employed meon the recommendation of David Begg. He called me for an interview in Dublin. I travelled from West Kerry. Gerry appeared at the door and asked could we change the meeting to next week. It was a good intro to Gerry. And well that I had free accommodation in Dublin.
I eventually landed.
And guess what I never did an induction.
It’s always the people who make places. I have lived in different places but Berlin was the best. And that was before the Wall came down. But it was the best because of the people I met.
And Concern has been the best – because of the people I have met here.
Some weeks ago I sat down and interviewed Rosaleen Martin. It is in this week’s Leinster Leader. I was dumbstruck with the woman. What she has done in her few short years. Her intelligence, her kindness. Everything about her. I mention her because she was my last victim, my last interviewee for the regional press.
And I can multiply Rosaleen by well over 100.
When people like Rosaleen, Ross O’Sullivan, Paula Donohoe, come to work in Concern and like the place it says something about the organisation.
I have spent my life as a low-grade version of Plato’s Gnat fly. Or was it Socrates?
I have spent my entire priestly life criticising the hierarchical institutional church. That’s I, that’s the nature of the beast and I am hardly going to change at this hour.
Maybe it is because I never joined the management class or got preferment. But you know what, I’m proud of that now. Don’t we all have to justify our existences? And I’m no different.
But these have been 11 great years. My visits to Zambia and Lebanon were life-changing experiences, never to be forgotten.
I have made great friends here. People I will never forget. I’d actually have to think for a while if I ever met a really nasty person here. No I don’t think I have.
What at all will I do, not coming into this office, looking around at all the different faces, the smiles, the laughs, I pretending to get angry.
It sounds it might be horrible.
No it will not.
How many people are fortunate to have the choices I have? With a Dominican priory nearly in every capital of the world. And guess what I’m still nervous.
Again, I want to thank everyone who put up with me.
For close to 11 years Eithne managed me and that alone deserves a commendation. She was never once unkind or unfriendly to me. Now and again when I would say daft things, yes she would make that ‘Eithne-esque’ look.
Paul joined after me. And he became my bossThank you Paul for your help and guidance.
It got back to Kevin Byrne that I was a bit sulky about leaving. And did he make sure to let me know.
Is there anyone in Concern as loyal and committed as Kevin? And here’s a sort-of-secret: on most occasions when I finished writing a profile on someone I would get Kevin to throw his eye over it. He was brilliant at it.
Indeed, when I could I would also ask him to read my Irish Times column and the weekly column I do for the INM regional newspapers and again his advice was invaluable.
To my colleagues on the floor - thank you so much. I hope I never was rude or insulting to anyone. I am going to miss you all so much.
I suppose everything about me was and is a bit dodgy. I flyclose to the wind. Got that from my mother’s side.
When I first came here I was employed as a consultant thats a funny one - I a consultant. And then just before the financial crisis Concern made me permanent. Just as well. Otherwise I’d have been out the door when the crisis hit.
I officiated at four weddings and was even flown to foreign parts for one nuptials.
I dont think anyone ever looks at it but may I suggest you check the Style Guide. Otherwise I’ll see a letter some day with practice incorrectly spelt or presently misused. And there’s no full point after Mr. Please don’t split your infinitives. A wise sub editor once told me to delete the word ‘very’ from my vocabulary. Good advice and advice I wish to pass on to you.
Proud of anything? Survival? I got to know so many people. But its the Synge Street project that really excites me. And I know Concern will take the ball and run with it. Italready has. That has such potential and we should have been there years ago.
Catriona Loughran will be doing my job. On Saturday I was for lunch with GerColleran in Tralee. He spoke so highly of her. And he meant every word he said. And there’s a line of continuity thereGer employed me in The Kerryman and he employed Catriona in The Star.
She is a great asset for Concern. She knows what newspapers are about and she’ll do the business. But she is also a great person.
I’m going to miss you all.
Thank you.

Marx on Deutschlandfunk

This morning the Archbishop of Munich Reinhard Marx gave a 30-minute interview on Deutschlandfunk.

He spoke on a wide range of subjects including the refugee crisis, Ukraine, the positive aspects of an open and tolerant society. He expressed his concern on how there is a change of attitude towards the European Union and greatly criticised any move towards closing borders or building fences. He cherishes the experience he had as a young man to study in Paris.

His comments were the first item on the news bulletin that followed at 11.30, 10.30 Irish time.

In these days leading up to Christmas, certainly in the UK and in Germany, radio stations give a lot of time to Christian topics. They interview ministers of religion and church leaders.

Irish radio?

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Silly rule of retirement age

The Government has nominated 65-year-old Judge Peter Kelly as the next president of the High Court.

Judge Kelly can stay in his new job until he is 72.

Why must lesser mortals retire at 65?

It is only right and proper that there be gender equality but why not age equality?

Friday, December 18, 2015

Chelsea Manning pays the price for speaking the truth

Humanity has never had this complete and detailed a record of what modern warfare actually looks like.

Once you realise that the co-ordinates represent a real place where people live; that the dates happened in our recent history; that the numbers are actually human lives - with all the love, hope, dreams, hatred, fear and nightmares that come with them - then it's difficult ever to forget how important these documents are.

Chelsea Manning discussing with Amnesty International why she leaked classified information while working as a US army intelligence analyst in Iraq.

Ruairí McKiernan, a social campaigner, Fulbright scholar and member of the Council of State met Chelsae Manning's mother, Susan, in Dublin in 2013. Susan told him that Chelsea's grandmother always said to her grandson: if you can't tell the truth then don't bother talking.

And Truth - Veritas is used by the Dominican Order as its motto.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The last day

My last day in the office.

The children of two of my colleagues. Both three and a half months old.

So, I'm in the market looking for a job. Either in PR or post primary teaching. Anyone looking for a sub-teacher, English or German? I'm registered with The Teaching Council and Garda vetted.

My father worked with Smurfit Paper Mills until he was 82. My ambition.

Thank you Concern

Today is my last day as an employee of Concern Worldwide.

It's been the experience of a lifetime. The skills I have learned, the people I have met, the kindness I have seen.

Yesterday the staff held a 'surprise' party in my honour and presented me with a wonderful gift.

I am humbled. 

Thank you to all at Concern.

Today is our Christmas lunch.

Of course I hope to continue to be in a position to work for Concern in a cosultancy capacity.

Also, thank you for the kind comments on Twitter.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Bertrand Russell on fanatics

On reading today's post, someone tweeted this.

The right-wing's belief in knowing what's best

What is it about the right-wing that they think all right is on their side?

Listen to any US right-wing station and one is led to believe that they know best on all matters. And all said in stunning arrogance.

Observe right-wing ministers of religion and one gets a feeling that they are in direct contact with God. And again, the arrogance is breath-taking. If it weren't so sad it would be wonderfully funny.

Is it a US phenomenon that has spread to Ireland? 

Religion, arrogance, right-wing 'know-allery' is a lethal cocktail.

And tragic to see how it is in the ascendancy in the Catholic Church, in spite of all of what Pope Francis is saying. It seems to be like some unstoppable force. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A city under darkness

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane 

A new day dawns. On Friday I went to Tralee, taking the 07.00 Heuston Cork train as far as Mallow. It meant getting out of bed at 04.35, before cycling across the city to the station.

Many of the rosters of Irish Rail drivers involve early rises. A driver has to be on site an hour before the scheduled departure time of his/her train. The first train out of Tralee every Monday is 04.45. That means getting up in the middle of the night.

I left home at 06.00. Plenty of stars to be seen. And also birdsong to be heard.

There is little or no movement on the road but what traffic there is, seems to take advantage of the empty roads and travels at speed.

The real-time signs at the bus stops are indicating that the next buses are due in 30/35 minutes.

A number of people walking, probably going to work. A few cyclists and two people out running. Maybe they are running to work.

Once I cross the Grand Canal there are hints of day dawning. Cars stopped at traffic lights. But not much happening. Three large trucks parked bumper-to-bumper outside the Guinness brewery, perhaps filled with barley? 

And not a vacant space at the dublinbikes stand beside it.

In an instant everything changes. As I cycle down by the side of St Patrick’s Hospital on Steevens’ Lane and arrive at the junction of Heuston Station, it feels like I have been transported into another world. There is traffic darting in every direction, there is a Luas at the Heuston stop, buses in the queue of traffic stopped at the lights.

Within 30 seconds and a 300 metre distance, life has gone from slumber to wake mode.

It strikes me how right beside the early morning hub-hub near Heuston Station, people are most likely asleep in their beds in St Patrick’s Hospital. But within a short time the breakfast trolleys would be on the move.

A new day dawns. What sort of a day was it going to bring to people? I had my day mapped out. I was going to Tralee to say thank you to the students in the CBS The Green for donations they raised for Concern.

Somewhere near the Grand Canal I had spotted a middle-aged woman. She may have been going to work. There was a look of weariness on her face. On a meagre wage? Maybe she was just managing to get by from day to day.

What must it be like for people who are constantly worried where the next cent is going to come from? It doesn’t matter where they come from or what’s the colour of their skin.

What must it be like for people who don’t know whether or not they will survive the day? People would be born, others would die during the day. For some it would be a day of great excitement, for others profound sadness and disappointment and all that among the ordinariness of everyday life.

It’s still dark, I wonder how thieves and crooks begin their day. Are they planning their next heist? Early in the morning, do they ever feel it’s a mug’s game and think of changing jobs?

There is something magical, mystical about the early morning. Cycling through a city before it gets down to business puts a whole new look on the place.

It gives me a unique sense of ownership and belonging.

A new day is about to unfold.

I think of what the Psalmist wrote: “Awake, harp and lyre; I will awaken the dawn!”


Monday, December 14, 2015

Priests to visit Democratic People's Republic of Korea

The Catholic Church in South Korea has reached an agreement with authorities in North Korea whereby priests from the Republic of Korea will make "regular visits" to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

It is a breakthrough in relations.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

A train versus a deer

Some kilometres north of Templemore the train slowed down. At that point on the track, Saturday's 18.20 ex Cork Dublin Heuston serivce should have been accelerating to top speed of 160 km/h.

But instead the driver had braked and powered down the locomotive. And some moments before that the loud cry of the train's sounding device could be heard.

The hooting horn had no effect and the deer was hit by the train.

The train picked up speed, stopped at its next scheduled stop, Portlaosie and then ran non-stop to Dublin. Arriving at Heuston approximatley eight minutes late.

Probably not a passenger on the train realised what had happened. And the sorrow and pain it must have been for the deer community near Templemore.

Locomotive drivers have a hard job.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Dominican links with Heuston Station Dublin

Apologies for the poor quality picture.

Both these plaques are in the main concourse of Dublin's Heuston Station.

John Heuston was executed for his part in the 1916 Rising. He had worked for the rail company and on the 50th anniversary of the Rising, CIE, which is now the holding company of Irish Rail, named the country's main rail station after him.

His brother, Fr John Heuston, was a Dominican priest. On entering the Order he was given the name John. His baptismal name was Michael.

Just days before the execution of his brother, Brother John, he was not yet an ordained priest, was granted special permission by the Dominicans to leave his priory in Tallaght and visit his brother in his death cell.

Fr John was a highly intelligent man with a great mathematical flair. His interests covered a wide spectrum. He was in many aspects of his life considered to be eccentric. It is believed that he has written/compiled important material on the apse of San Clemente in Rome.

We both lived in the Irish Dominican Priory, San Clemente in Rome in the mid-1970s. On one occasion I commented to him that he was ahead of his time. "No Michael, the province is simply behind in its ways," he replied.

I am a lowly member of the Irish Dominicans. But it baffles me how the Irish Dominicans have not given prominence to the Heuston brothers in the run-up to the centenary of the 1916 Rising. It so happens the Order has also begun to celberate the 800th anniversary of the foundation of the Dominicans.

Shocking PR, a glimpse of how out of touch the Catholic Church is and can be with the world around it.

The lives of the Heuston brothers is such an attractive story and not a word.

Fr John Heuston died in Rome on March 6, 1984.

Will the Irish Dominicans remember Fr Thomas Walsh, who died in Dublin On August 16, 1987? He was another Irish Dominican with links to the 1916 Rising. There may well be others.

Such a pity.

Below this plaque there is another oblong plaque, which reads:


Friday, December 11, 2015

EU could fall apart, says parliament's president

President of the European Union Martin Schulz told the German newspaper Die Welt that the Union is in danger of disintegrating, saying that there are forces that want to drive it apart.

He said the alternative to the EU would be a "Europe of nationalism, a Europe of borders and walls. That would be horrific, because such a Europe has repeatedly led in the past to catastrophe."

To see the dreams of the great visionaries of post-war Europe fall apart is simply shocking.

And this insular nationalism, "I'm right, you are wrong" attitude is not exclusively growing in popularity in Europe. Russia, the US and Donald Trump. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Let's all stand up and stop Trump in his tracks

Suzanne Kelly, a campaigner from Aberdeen whose petition to ban Donald Trump from the UK on the grounds of hate speech has acted as a lightning rod for public disgust at the US presidential candidate’s Islamophobia, has said she is “as shocked as anyone” by its success.

And not a word from the Irish 'management class' who paraded on the red carpet to greet Mr Trump when he arrived at Shannon some months ago.

Not a word from any of them. Wouldn't it be such a gesture of decency and solidarity at least to refer to the silliness of the event. But those sort of people don't do those sort of things - unless they are shamed to do so.

Has the US Ambassador to Ireland said anything about Trump's words of hatred?

Well done Suzanne Kelly.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Politicians and greed in all its various and silly forms

Since the RTE programme on corrupt local politicians on Monday evening there has been much comment on political shenanigans in Ireland.

Just some months ago the red carpet was rolled out at Shannon Airport to greet Donald Trump to Ireland. He was buying a golf course in County Clare and the hope was he would be leaving loads of money here. Ireland wants his money, no matter what nonsense or hatred he utters.

The small-time crook-politicians and the Trump red carpet episode are all scenes from 'Fr Ted'.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Simon Coveney's outrageous comment on RTE Radio 1

On RTE One's Drivetime this evning Minister for Agriculture and Defence, Simon Coveney, said that he did not consider it corruption for councillors not to fill out the necessary forms.

The Minister must make an immediate apology. 

If a citizen does not fill out the reuired Revenue forms she/he would be heavily penalised for not doing so.

Mr Coveney's comment is an outrage.

Understanding words

In the Offertory Prayer of Mass today, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, the priest prays:
"... on account of her prevenient grace,......"

Will everyone in churches, where that word is used in prayer, understand what it means?

What does it mean?


Always best to use a registered contractor

This week's INM Irish Regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
A friend of mine called me at the weekend. She was in a bad way and upset. She had a months’-long nightmare experience with a builder.

The builder had been recommended to her and she felt confident that he could do a good job.

Alas, that’s not what happened and she was out of pocket by a five figure sum. Eventually she had to cut her losses, call stop and go off and find herself another builder.

For starters, two absolutes, never pay ‘cash’ for a job. Be honest and pay the proper tax. It’s ethically wrong and you are leaving yourself wide open to abuse. By using a registered contractor there is the possibility that you will be able to claim back tax on the work.

A small example between right and wrong. Some weeks ago I decided to replace gutters, downpipes and facia. I went to a cash-in-hand man who gave me a price. It was somewhat cheaper than a professional who came recommended. 

The professional explained to me that before he did the job I needed to contact ESB Networks so that they could lower the cable before he began his job. I did that and was most impressed with the efficiency and professionalism of ESB Networks. 

It’s important that the cables are lowered, otherwise the new facia would conceal the cable and some years down the road someone might decide to drill the new facia for some reason or other. The cash-in-hand man was simply going to place the new facia over the electric cable.

Secondly, no matter how much your builder might try to coax you, never pay any money in advance. 

If she or he is an established and recognised builder he/she will have an account with builder providers. If you are asked for money in advance, be merciless and sack your builder.

It’s always advisable to shop around when looking for a builder. The best recommendation is word-of-mouth. Talk to friends, colleagues and ask them if they might have someone they could recommend and then go and have a look at the job.

Doing your homework means that you have all your plans worked out before work begins. If you chop and change during the job you are adding significant sums to your final bill.

There are rules and regulations governing the building trade and no doubt the overwhelming majority of builders conform meticulously to all the rules.

It has struck me as a PAYE employee, whether working as a teacher or in the newspaper industry, both employer and employee are governed by rules and regulations. A code of conduct/behaviour is expected of the employee and likewise the employer is duty-bound to treat employees in a correct manner.

Maybe in the current rush to the bottom in a number of industries there is a need as never before for workers to have the support of a trade union.

When it comes to the self-employed much is left to the ethical behaviour of the individual person.

Without a good business ethic a trader or professional can take short cuts, ignore regulations, deliver poor quality work in order to maximise profits.

Of course bad workmanship will eventually catch up on the trader/professional but in the meantime a lot of grief can be inflicted on an unsuspecting client.

My friend has found herself out of pocket. Not nice before Christmas.

Isn’t it strange how ministers of religion can get worked up on certain moral issues and not a word from them on so many other moral topics?

As I keep saying, it’s a funny old world.  

Monday, December 7, 2015

Pilgrims at COP21

From Saturday's Irish Times.

An apology, a correction and need for another apology?

This is not intended to be disrespectful, but it is so funny it's difficult to avoid mentioning it.

It is worth reading the apology on the left-hand side page and then observe how the author's name is spelt on the right-hand side page.

Is the author's name Chris or Christ?

The pictures are taken from the December issue of Doctrine and Life.

Is it a lift or a stairs?

The notice below appears in a lift in Dublin's Mater Private Hospital.

And it seems 'level' has a different meaning than 'floor'. You can be on Level Four but on Floor Three.

But it's in keeping with the general signage across all hospitals in the State.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Police and priests

The latest review on the Garda Síochána, carried out by the Garda Inspectorate, calls for a root-and-branch reform in the Irish police force.

Anyone close to the Catholic Church will be struck with the similarities between the Irish police and the Catholic Church.

Some comments from the report of the Inspectorate.

Strong, visible leadership is required to develop, inspire and deliver a clear measurable programme of cultural reform.

Some staff are focused on self-preservation. The less interaction, the less confrontation, the better.

The report paints a picture of a cosseted and comfortable management class - albeit one in chaos and making lots of promises without delivering.

At least someone has the wit and common sense to examine the Garda.

Who ever examines Catholic dioceses and religious congregstions in Ireland?

And the situation is seismically worse within the Irish Catholic Church - right across religious congregations and dioceses. Probably not one exception.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

F-16s, Su-24s and the cries of John the Baptist

The 'Thinking Anew' column in today's Irish Times.
Michael Commane

On Monday, November 23 I visited someone in a Dublin hospital. I was struck with the number of seriously ill people I saw. Young people too, looking as if their lives were going to be cut down far too early.

What can one ever say to people in such pain and suffering? It's difficult.

Within 90 minutes of leaving the hospital I was standing in torrential rain at a bus stop in the city centre. I spotted a middle-aged woman carrying two black sacks from an office. It looked as it they were rubbish sacks but certainly they seemed far too heavy for her. No doubt she is on a meagre wage.

The following day a Turkish F-16 war plane shot down a Russian Su-24. Turkish authorities alleged that the Russian plane had violated Turkey's air space.

A Russian pilot was killed. The Su-24 was probably coming from or going to a bombing sortie in Syrian skies.

The downing of a Russian plane by a Nato ally and the alleged violation by a Russian plane on Nato territory could easily spark a serious international crisis. But away from the great world scene, what about the downed pilot and his family?

What about the innocent people who had most likely died as a result of the bombs unleashed by the Su-24? And all the lives that are lost and ruined every day and night in Syria.

We have all been shocked and repulsed by what happened in Paris on Friday, November 13. But probably more worrying is what happens next. Where next will ISIS attack?

It goes on an on and has been for generation after generation. It seems violence is part of our human condition. A century ago people were talking about the war to end all wars. It never happened.

Tomorrow is the second Sunday of Advent. Christians are preparing for the incarnation - the coming into the world of the Prince of Peace.In tomorrow's first reading we are reminded that we will be blessed by God forever  - "Peace through integrity, and honour through devotedness."  (Baruch 5: 4)

In the  Responsorial Psalm the response goes - "The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy." (Psalm 126)

What's the joy in young people dying? What's the joy in looking at burning contrails across the skies of Turkey and Syria? What's the joy in working people struggling to earn a meagre wage?

In the Gospel, Luke quotes the prophet Isaiah to describe John the Baptist."A voice of one crying out in the desert: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.....  The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.' " (Lk 3: 4 - 5)

The role of John the Baptist is often quoted. And it is true that he evokes the image of someone who has something to say but no one is  listening to him.

We use him as a role model when it suits us.

But right now do we really want prophets who will shout stop about poverty, slavery, maiming and killing, and institutional violence?

How is it that statesmen, and they are predominantly men, gain great political and popular clout when they stand beside their warplanes?

I keep thinking of that woman who was carrying those sacks, dressed poorly and probably paid a pittance.

John the Baptist crying in the wilderness?

What at all would he have to say to the manufacturers of that F-16 and Su-24? What would he have to say to the woman with those heavy black sacks?

The knowledge that God is in our world should bring joy to us. And also, spur us on to change things.

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