Saturday, February 28, 2015

Faith, refuge and shelter

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

Michael Commane
Stephen Fry's television   interview some weeks back with Gay Byrne in 'The Meaning of Life' series certainly set off an interesting discussion. And it's still continuing… 

It would seem that most of the people who reacted to his harsh words on a 'God' he does not believe in were offended with what he had to say. Needless to say, not so in the case of Canon Gordon Linney,  who mentioned it in this column last Saturday.

Stephen Fry is not the first person to be angry with God.
In tomorrow's Gospel (Mk 9: 2 - 10) the evangelist Mark gives an account of the transfiguration of Jesus on a high mountain. 

But what is particularly interesting in the story is how the disciples of Jesus react to his transfiguration.

They come face-to-face with the out-of-this-world magnificence of God and they are completely confused. They are so confused  – and maybe even distraught – that in their pandemonium Peter suggests to Jesus that they build three tents; "One for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." Mark bluntly tells us that Peter “did not know what to say; they were so frightened.”

To think that those who were closest to Jesus, those whom he had impressed and inspired had no idea what to say or do when they came face-to-face with the glory of God, surely gives some sort of reassurance to those of us who spend our lives questioning and doubting.

The reaction of the disciples in wanting to build  tents is all too familiar. How often do we talk in glowing terms of those who build churches or try to honour the transcendent with  bricks and mortar.  

Of course we need places of prayer, we need all sorts of buildings but our fortune, our ultimate 'glory' is never to be found in physical constructions. 

The idea of the disciples building tents or shelters in the context of tomorrow's Gospel might well look so silly. But isn't that the reality with which so many of us find ourselves most comfortable? 

We spend our lives trying to give shape to things, trying to understand things in our terms, in how we deal with the reality about us. In one sense it is all we can do. They are the tools we have been given to manage our lives.

If things go wrong it is inevitable that we will want to find a scapegoat, to blame someone for our woes, sometimes even ourselves. It seems to make   sense that people would get very angry with God when things go wrong. And Stephen Fry made that sort of sense when he was castigating 'God' as a maniac.

But was it not his construction of an idea of God that he was attacking?

Once  we try to say anything about God we are saying it in our terms and in our language. And God is way beyond all our terms and our methods of analysis. Yes, there is a place for theology,  there is  a place for the teaching tradition of the Church. 

As Christians we believe that Jesus is God. Through Jesus we get a hint of God. But even after all that we have to be extremely slow in putting any sort of construct on God. Just look at Peter and his friends, who were so confused when they got a glimpse of the real God.

The Dominican saint and doctor of the Church Thomas Aquinas, regarded as one of the great theologians, wrote extensively on all matters dealing with things to do with God. However he said at the end of his life that everything he wrote was straw.

We really need to go gently in our life-long journey towards God. It is completely different to every other experience, every other adventure.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Dissident voices

An American blogger was hacked to death in Dhaka today. His crime: he was critical of religious fundamentalism.

On Monday in Egypt a journalist/blogger was jailed. His crime: he wrote material critical of the government.

A woman on shores of the Sea of Azov pleads for peace

A young articulate woman, living in Mariupol, a port city on the Sea of Azov, commented to a journalist on Wednesday that she no longer cares whether her town is in Russia or Ukraine, "all I want is peace".

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Water usage in Dublin

Between September and October of last year water consumption  in the greater Dublin area dropped  by close to 20 million litres a day.

It had been planned to introduce water charges on October 1. Charges would have related to the number of litres the person used.

Treatment of other people

The last line in today's Gospel reading from St Matthew runs:

"Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets."

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The art of communication

In today's Gospel (Lk 11: 29 - 32) Jesus talks about repentance and in the first reading from the Prophet Jonah (3: 1 - 10) God sees the efforts made by people to renounce their evil behaviour.

Surely communication is an important ingredient in understanding the other person. Forgiveness and communication complement each other.

How often do we genuinely understand where the other person is, especially those with whom we disagree? Communication is more than telling our story.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The sleaze performance of MPs Rifkind and Straw

Anyone who saw Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw on the Channel 4 programme last evening will have seen first hand sleaze at work.

These two former UK foreign secretaries came across as pathetic individuals.

For a morning's talking engagement they wanted £5,000.00. These men, who spent years in the public square 'running the country'. It was worth noting the 'delicate' manner in which they brought up the subject of remuneration.

In their fine clothes, posh accents and 'wise words'.

And then their susequent explanations.

Sleaze, greed and brass necks.

These men would have over the years been telling workers they should be content with their lot.

The management class.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Healing neighbourhood

"The neighbourhood is where we get better."

Dr Jim Lucey is a Consultant Psychiatrist and Director of the Anxiety Programme at St Patrick’s Hospital, Dublin. 

Germans can wait months before they see their GP

One of Germany's prime television programmes, the Günther Jauch Show, which goes out on Sundays at 20.45 on ARD, discussed last evening the many serious problems in the German health service.

It's not uncommon for someone to have to wait four months to see their GP. One man on the show said he had to wait a year before sitting down with his doctor.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

First anniversary of death of Dominican priest Jim Harris

Today is the first anniversary of the death of Jim Harris OP.

Below is an appreciation of Jim, which appeared in The Irish Times on March 17, 2014.

Michael Commane
Jim Harris was an original. But above all he was a kind man, who had a gift for supporting those on the margins, those who depended on the help of a wise companion.

James Harris was a Dominican priest, who died suddenly at 75, sitting in the Dominican church in Newbridge, on Saturday February 22.

He was born in Caragh, Co. Kildare in 1938. His father Tom was the first Fianna Fáil TD for Kildare, serving from 1927 to 1957. Jim’s mother was Hannah O'Sullivan from Aughacasla in Kerry.

Their son was a boarder at the Dominican-run Newbridge College and from there joined the Order, making his first profession in Cork in 1958.

He studied philosophy and theology at the Dominican House of Studies in Tallaght, completing his theological studies in Rome. He did a BA and H.Dip in Education at UCG, before taking up a teaching post at Newbridge College, where he taught Latin, Geography and Religious Studies.

Jim had a mischievous sense of humour, often used to mock the status quo. On one occasion while teaching in Newbridge he set a Latin exam. On one side of the paper was a Latin text to be translated into English, on the reverse side another text, this time an English text to be translated into Latin. Not all the students realised it was the same text.

After Newbridge he moved to Galway, where as prior, he oversaw the building of a new priory.

With the job completed he moved to Athy, again calling in the architects and builders to build a priory beside the Dominican church on the Barrow.

He spent 18 years in Waterford, where he rebuilt a new priory and was a loyal supporter of the St Vincent de Paul society.

So much of his generosity was done in the greatest of confidentiality.

While he enjoyed his teaching and building projects, Jim excelled in his kindness and support of those he encountered. And that was a large number of people, whether past pupils, friends, family, but maybe above all, those who needed a shoulder on whom to cry.

The underdog, the person in trouble, knew they had his ear.

He was ordained a priest on July 12, 1964 but coming from a republican background he never admitted anything special about the day.

He had a wide interest in sport. His first love was rugby. Many of his contemporaries tell great stories of his adventures on the field.

He is survived by his sisters Annie and Kitty, brothers Michael and Sean. His sister Betty, a nurse, sustained serious injuries in Nigeria while working as a lay missionary. Betty died in 2008.

He is predeceased by his sister Mary, who died in 1994 and his brother Joe, who died in 1951. Jim's mother died in her 105th year.

Jim touched the lives of many people with his grace.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Rudolph Giuliani's outrageous comment

Former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani at a fundraiser during the week said of President Barack Obama:

"I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn't love you and he doesn't love me.

"He wasn't brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up, through love of this country."

And that said in the most powerful country on earth by a former Mayor of New York.

Friday, February 20, 2015

New boss at BER

Karsten Mühlenfeld, the former Rolls Royce CEO, has been appointed top man at the crisis-stricken Berlin Brandenburg Airport, which was due to have opened in summer 2013.

Flying into Schönefeld one can see the new not-yet-functioning airport. It has been built on and beside the old Schönefeld, which was the main ariport in the capital city of the former GDR.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Ash Wednesday Mass

There are times during the papal Mass at Santa Sabina yesterday where Pope Francis looks cross and bored.

Rathgar Terenure meditation

During Lent, Mondays to Fridays, people of all denominations and none are invited to attend a 20-minute meditation in St Patrick's Hall, which is at the back of the Three Patrons Church on Rathgar Road.

It begins at 07.45

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Cologne church coffers

The Archdiocese of Cologne has made public its wealth, which is valued at €3.35 billion.

It has been calculated by some experts in church matters that the Catholic Church in Germany owns real estate worth €200 billion.

Rapper Tef Poe

Rapper Tef Poe, interviewed on BBC Radio 4 this morning, gave an account of what it's like to be black and poor in the US.

Poe, from St Louis Missouri, spoke about the number of black people shot by police.

Great radio.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Caretaker at The Gate

Harold Pinter's 'The Caretaker' is running at The Gate.

Well worth a visit.

A story about relationships of power. Two brothers and a down-and-out.

The conniving, the lies, the dishonesty. And interestingly in the middle of all the scheming, the person, who is the most honest and nicest in the play, suffers mental illness.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Words of advice from Pope Francis to his new cardinals

Pope Francis to new cardinals on Sunday.

"We will not find the Lord unless we truly accept the marginalised! 

"Truly, the Gospel of the marginalised is where our credibility is at stake, is found and is revealed!'

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Dominicans in Ukraine

The piece below is from the website of the Dominican Order.

With the ongoing conflict and fledgling ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, the story of the Dominicnas in the area might be of interest to readers.

Visit of fr. Bruno Cadoré, Master of the Order, and fr. Krzysztof Popławski, Socius for Central and Eastern Europe, to the Vicariate of Russia and Ukraine on February 1-5, 2015
Friars of the Vicariate of Russia and Ukraine
On February 1, 2015, the Master of the Order, fr Bruno Cadoré together with fr Krzysztof Popławski, Socius for Central and Eastern Europe made a canonical visitation to the General Vicariate of Russia and Ukraine. Fr Bruno started his visitation started at the community in Lviv, while fr. Krzysztof went to Chortkiv, (both houses are located in Western Ukraine).
Four years ago, Dominicans returned to Lviv at the invitation of the Archbishop of Lviv, Most Rev Mieczysław Mokrzycki with the view to undertaking the pastoral care of the university students.  The brothers in Chortkiv work in the parish which also hosts the Shrine of Our Lady and the place of martyrdom of our brothers at the hands of NKVD (Secret Service of the Soviet Police) during the World War II.  It is worthy of note that a few days ago, at the end of January 2015, the town authorities returned the monastery by the church to the Dominican community in Chortkiv which until now has been an abandoned garment factory.
On February 3, 2015, fr Bruno and fr Krzysztof travelled from Lviv to our Convent in Kyiv, which is the seat of the Vicariate.  The main mission of the friars in Kyiv is at St. Thomas Aquinas Institute of Religious Sciences. Fr. Paweł Kozacki, Provincial of the Polish Province, together with fr. Miroslaw Sander, who is a member of the Provincial Council, also arrived in Kyiv to join the meeting. 
This visit is in furtherance of the Order’s project of the restructuring of vicariates which was initiated at the General Chapter of Rome in 2010 and also reiterated at the last General Chapter in Trogir 2013. As part of this restructuring, the Vicariate of Russia and Ukraine shall become a Provincial Vicariate of the Polish Province (the territory of Ukraine) and the House beyond the borders of the Province (St. Petersburg, Russia).
In this regard, fr Bruno met the community in Kyiv and then took part in the discussions at the Vicariate Council. At present, the main focus in on the development of a memorandum which will be approved in the future. This will help to finalize the plans for the transformation of the General Vicariate into a Provincial Vicariate. According to the Master of the Order, from then onward, the Polish Province will bear responsibility for this Vicariate and also intensify efforts to enable it grow into a Vice Province.
At the moment, the General Vicariate of Russia and Ukraine consists of one Convent (Kyiv) and five houses, one of the houses is located in the territory of Russia (St. Petersburg). The status of one house in Yalta is still questionable due to the annexation of Crimea by Russia in March 2014. Hence, one brother had to leave the house and the other one keeps facing permanent difficulties with getting a Russian visa. 31 friars are currently assigned to the Vicariate

All the parties bar the CDU smile in Hamburg tonight

The right wing AfD party have had success in elections in Hamburg today. The party won more than five per cent of the vote, which means they can enter the Hamburg parliament.

It is the party's first time to break the five per cent hurdle in western Germany.

The AfD wants Germany to leave the euro zone and reinstate the D Mark.

It was a bad result for the CDU and the Greens and Die Linke made gains.

The SPD stay in control of the City State but with a reduced majority.

The FDP, with the charm and 'good looks' of Katia Suding, is back in German politics.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

'The apparel oft proclaims the man' - even in the hills

Whether one agrees or disagrees with Fr Tony Flannery he can make good radio.

In an interview with Aine Lawlor today he spoke about his current situation.

He recalled his heading off to join the Redemptorists, buying that special white shirt to which the roman collar could be clipped. He also referred to the wearing of a black hat at 18.

Things don't really change that much.

One can log on to Dominicans Interactive and see young men in Glendalough, seemingy heading for the mountains wearing religious habits.

On that particular day it was a struggle to get to the top of Mullacor, wearing any sort of clothing resembling mountain gear.

In a religious habit? And why? A photo shoot?

Friday, February 13, 2015

Commemorations in Dresden

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby spoke today in the Frauenkirche in Dresden. Also speaking in the famous church was German President Johannes Gauck.

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the fire bombing of Dresden in which 25,000 people were killed.

'Holy' bishops all dressed up

There is a photograph  in the current issue of 'The Irish Catholic' of Irish bishops attending the Mass of introduction for the new Archbishop of Cashel and Emly.

If Dermot Morgan were alive the photograph would surely feature in a new series of 'Fr Ted'.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

IAG's CEO Willie Walsh

International Airlines Group CEO Willie Walsh was interviewed on the Sean O'Rourke Show this morning.

Whatever happens, whether or not IAG buys Aer Lingus the performance of Mr Walsh today was spectacular. Knowledgeable. And every sentence so simple to understand. No fancy words, not a word of jargon and not a hint of cliche.

The leadership of the Irish Catholic Church could learn a lesson or two from this man. He might well be the toughest CEO in town, yet few tell the message as well as he does.

Good news from Minsk

Good news from Minsk.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced a cease fire is to come into effect on Sunday.

The good news comes after 14 hours of talks between the Presidents of Russia, Ukraine and France and the German Chancellor.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Irish Jesuit website

Well worth checking the Irish Jesuit website.

How to do things properly.

'The longing to be touched gnaws at many old men'

Below is Michael Harding's column, which appeared in yesterday's Irish Times.
Like all writers and talkers, that includes journalists and priests, they can can grow tedious and boring. People easily turn off. But this Harding column is well worth a read. Funny and true. Real too.
"Since the cat died I have had no pet to hold, no feral thing to hug or feel connected with, although birds come to the bench outside the window for peanuts.
But there was something wonderful about touching a cat. She was always huggable. And I can’t really hug the birds. As I sit by the stove, I can only look out through the glass door at them, feeling as untouchable as a goldfish in its bowl. Maybe I need a massage.
I have had a voucher since Christmas for a unisex beauty therapy centre in Mullingar, although I don’t feel there is any therapy that could make me beautiful. So I didn’t use it, and it was almost out of date. Which is why I mentioned it to the General.
We were drinking on Sunday night, and I offered it to him in return for the Jägermeister he brought with him. Apparently it’s the libation of surfers.
“I met a wonderful nurse when I was having my prostate checked in Tallaght last week,” he said. “She said they drink it with Red Bull.”
“It tastes like cough mixture,” I said.
“Try another one,” he suggested, and admittedly after a few more shots my body warmed up like a storage heater, and the General began stretching his pot-bellied torso with a modest elderly sensuality. With his rump to the flames he looked like a man capable of surfing the waves himself.
And that’s when I offered him the voucher.
“Maybe they could burn the hair out of your ears,” I teased, “or take a spade to your nostrils, where the hair grows like rushes in a ditch.”
“Why don’t you use it yourself?” he retorted.
“I’m heading for Donegal this week, and the voucher is almost out of date,” I said.

Waxing caught his attention 

“Waxing” was the word that eventually caught his attention on the gift certificate.
“But my ears are perfectly fine,” he mused.
“I think they mean the other type of waxing,” I said. He stared at me until the penny dropped.
“Ah, I see,” he said, slipping the voucher into his breast pocket and muttering something about how desperately men need a woman’s touch.
I suppose the unfulfilled longing to be touched gnaws away at many old men.
Although I was afflicted when I was only 11, at teenage dances in Cavan town. They were held in the loft of an old hotel that has long since been demolished. It was a long room of cobwebs, bare light bulbs, with benches against the wall and a floor of wooden planks worn away by time. A few mothers wrapped in overcoats sat behind a table, selling soft drinks, and a record player sat on the floor, with external speakers on the window ledges.

Spin the bottle

The hops, as the dances were called, happened on Friday evenings between 7pm and 10pm, and what terrified me most was the game of spin the bottle.Occasionally the mothers would go downstairs to drink genteel whackers of brandy in the hotel lounge, while upstairs the games commenced.
Someone stood sentry outside the door. The record player was abandoned, and everyone gazed in awe at the Cavan Cola bottle spinning on the floor.
I’ve read erotic scenes in books over the years, and I’ve been aroused by stunningly unexpected moments in movies, but I never found anything in life as wonderful as the random promiscuity that could be generated with a Cavan Mineral Water bottle spinning on its side.
To actually walk across a room and kiss a girl’s lips was beyond my capabilities at 11 years of age, and so I sat in the corner, sucking fizzy orange through a straw, terrified of reality and yet longing to be part of the circle.
Even when I was on the floor I rarely touched my partner. Brash couples bumped their hips together as they danced to the beat of the Beatles, but my shy body hardly swayed at all. I just tossed my limbs lethargically, more like a tree in the wind than a young male attempting to connect with a female.
I remember once asking a girl out for a slow dance, what was called a “smooch”, and I held her tight, but only out of fear. With my head on her shoulder I didn’t have to look her in the eye.
And when the dance was over I let her go and walked away without further conversation.
“You’re a cold fish,” she muttered, as I returned to my bowl of melancholy that kept me apart from the world for so many years."

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The simple kindness of a DCU student from Chengdu

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

Michael Commane
In the days surrounding the commemoration of the liberation of the German concentration camp at Auschwitz a number of articles appeared carrying the stories of some of the last survivors of the death camp.

One woman, who is now in her late 80s said: “I’ve never lost the feeling of how unreliable human beings are and neither am I fooled by superficial civilisation. But I realise that loss of faith in people is more devastating than loss of faith in God."

It is a powerful statement.

Every news bulletin every day carries incredible stories of pain, savagery and unimaginable cruelty.

Last week when the death by burning of the Jordanian pilot Muadh al Kasabeh was announced I was thinking of the words of the Holocaust survivor.

Then the following day Jordan announced it had hanged a jailed Iraqi militant whose release had been demanded by the Islamic State group.

February 1 was the 72nd anniversary of the Red Army victory at Stalingrad. Between August 1942 and February 1943 approximately two million people lost their lives or were badly maimed.

Between April and July 1994 approximately one million people were killed in Rwanda.

It’s easy to understand what the Holocaust victim means when she says “I’ve never lost the feeling of how unreliable human beings are and neither am I fooled by superficial civilisation”. Every time I read that sentence it catches in my throat. It’s scary because it’s true.

How foolish it is to relax in any sort of security. And right now the world seems in terrible turmoil.

But there are always shoots of hope. There are always those little signs that tell us that there is also a lovely side to human beings.

On Thursday, January 29 I was at a concert given by Princeton University Orchestra in aid of Concern at DCU. It was a cold evening. I’m not familiar with the geography of the campus. 

Leaving the Helix I had no idea how to get to a bus stop. A young man, a student at DCU was passing on his bicycle. I asked him how I’d get to a bus stop to catch a bus into town. He got off his bike, parked it at a bike stand and walked with me for four or five minutes and then directed me to a bus stop, which was within sight.

During our walk I learned he was from China. It was his first year in Ireland and he was enjoying the new experience. Yes, there were times when he missed home but he was living with an uncle, who had come to Ireland some years ago.

All the time I presumed that he was heading in my direction. Not at all. Once he showed me where the bus stop was he turned around and walked back in the direction in which he had come. He went to trouble for me. No fanfare, nothing. Just a young man from China going out of his way to help someone.

Impressive. Okay it’s a small enough gesture. Still, it made life much easier for me and it was so kind of him.

That sort of goodness is a potential that is in all of us.
And then I’m back thinking of what the Holocaust woman said. Yes, she’s correct nevertheless, we also have potential to do great things.

It’s up to us to see to it that we help create an environment that brings out the best in people, always insisting that there is never any place for dictatorial behaviour or the slightest signs of xenophobia.

Thank you to that young man from Chengdu, who is studying at DCU.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Susan Rice on the art of chewing gum and walking

Susan Rice, Barack Obama's national security adviser, said in a speech on foreign policy that "the US must walk and chew gum at the same time".

Rice was addressing ambassadors and foreign policy analysts at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Obedient to pope and all things Catholic, when it suits

Rorate Caeli is, to say it mildly, a right-wing Catholic blog.

It has a history of stressing its obedience to the pope and all matters Catholic.

Then Jorge Bergoglio is elected pope and Rorate Caeli becomes almost abusive to the pope.

Why is it that so often right-wing organisations seem to be so nasty? They also seem to have special skills in the art of anonymity.

What is it about ultra-conservatives, especially within the churches, that they manage to give the impression that they are in direct contact with God?

Below is a piece from the latest gleanings from Rorate Caeli.

"THE SUCCESSOR" - Rome in Pre-Conclave mood: What will come after the Bergoglio Papacy?
- a guest-post by Father Pio Pace

We are very honored to post this new guest-post by a very wise, knowledgeable, and highly influential cleric, writing under the pen name of Father Pio Pace.


The Successor

Don Pio Pace

What will remain when the pontificate of Jorge Mario Bergoglio is over ? Certainly that this Pope coming from the "periphery" caused a great upheaval, but, considering the provisional results, more in style than in substance. In fact, it will all depend on what will follow this pontificate. We can ask if Papa Bergoglio is not essentially the one who is preparing the paths to a profound innovation of the Church, if he is not a Pope of transition.

The current pontificate reminds one irresistibly of the pontificate of Pope Roncalli. John XXIII was elected by a group of zelanti electors (Ottaviani, Rufini) and progressives (Frenchmen Gerlier, Liénart), just as Francis was elevated to the throne of Peter by a very large group of Cardinals, many of whom are not embarrassed to say that they did not know the one for whom they voted in the panic of strange votes of Wednesday, March 13, 2013, and who now regret their vote.

Getting to Wicklow's Djouce via many micro-climates

Tess on her way to the top of Djouce yesterday. A four-hour walk, which meant a loop, including the ascent of Djouce, 725 metres.

Getting there meant going through a number of micro-climates. Calm and mild in the forest, extremely cold and windy at the summit and plenty of snow on a ridge.

She managed.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Merkel's dilemma whether or not to go to Moscow in May

Russian President Vladimir Putin has invited German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Moscow for May 9 to join in the celebration to mark the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany. The German capitulation was signed and witnessed in Karlshorst on May 9, 1945.

Georgii Zhukov signed on behalf of the Supreme High Command of the Red Army and Wilhelm Keitel signed as the Chief of Staff of the German Armed Forces.

The Baltic states and Poland have declined the Russian invitation.

Merkel's office has so far not commented on whether the Chancellor will travel to the Russian capital for  the celebrations.

German President Johannes Gauck will not be going to Moscow. On May 9 he will lay a wreath on the tomb of a Soviet soldier in Brandenburg.

Sister Barnabas Kett OP

Breda O'Brien in her column in today's Irish Times writes on Sister Barnabas Kett OP (Barnie), who was buried on Wednesday.

O'Brien writes of an inspirational woman who changed Muckross forever and someone who had the grace to apologise.

RTE's Valerie Cox wrote a poem for 'Barnie', the last lines of which are; "Your work is done/Go, with our love."

Friday, February 6, 2015

The role of leadership

Does leadership depend on the community from which it has come or does leadership influence that community?

Most likely it is a two-way process.

Leadership usually mirrors the state of the group, society, community, religious congregarion, company where it is in charge.

People often talk about certain schools having good reputations. Why? Most likely schools are good or bad becasue of the principal and teachers in the school on the day. And yet schools have traditions that are carried down from one generation to the next. But often there are social myths about the quality of schools.

The worlds of commerce and industry are less patient with incompetent leadership, shareholders can be brutally fast in speaking their minds.

What at all happens in the Cartholic Church? Things 'trundle' on and in the meantime terrible damage can be done.

Nothing happens overnight. It's a slow process. It takes time for dysfunctionality and incompetence to spread. But when it spreads it's deadly.

And then all the sycophants 'shadow people' who are associated with incompetent 'leaders'.

Hitler happened because of the chaos that existed in Germany between 1914 and 1933.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Alcohol and Ireland

Two-thirds of all Irish adults have a harmful drinking pattern.

We spend €6bn annually on buying alcohol. Ireland spends another €4bn cleaning up the mess afterwards, while the entire health budget is €13bn.

Two-thirds of our university students have harmful drinking patterns.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The men who leave

What is it about men who leave the Irish Dominicans?

On lunch break today walking up Grafton Street I met Brian Daly.

He would do one's soul good.

Pope to beatify Romero

The Vatican has announced that Archbishop Oscar Romero is to beatified.

This pope is different.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

No protests about broadband, tv, internet price increases

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

Michael Commane
Private or public? Which is better? Are things better in State ownership or does the private sector manage matters better.

Before the financial crisis the sacred mantra was that private is best. In the heady days of the Celtic Tiger the banking world reigned supreme and bankers were classed close to semi-divine.
Indeed, changes have taken place but in spite of all the catastrophe, the ‘markets’ still decide a hell of a lot of what happens.

During the recent water demonstrations strong feelings were expressed that Irish Water must remain in the hands of the State. It would be an unwise politician who would suggest that Irish Water should be sold off to the highest bidder.

Then again, would anyone have dared say 20 or 30 years ago that the St Columba and St Flannan aircraft would be part of the British Airways fleet?

On January 19 my broadband experienced some down time. It meant both my landline and internet services were not working. I phoned my provider, a large international company, who were vague in explaining to me whether it was just a problem with me or whether they had an issue with the area. I was led to believe that it was just my house. They suggested I turn a few switches on and off. I did that and back it came.

Later in the evening a neighbour called, asking if I had difficulty with my broadband as they were experiencing difficulty. And then another neighbour told me that the previous evening their broadband was not working.

All three of us are with the same provider so clearly there was a problem. When I called them asking for a refund for loss of service they explained that in order to obtain a refund one had to be an entire day without a connection.

In all, I’d say, I spent between 40 and 50 minutes between ‘holding’ on the phone and explaining my story to a member of the company’s customer services’ team.

Some days later I received a letter from my broadband provider informing me that they were adding €4 per month for the provision of services. The new fees would come into effect on February 1. And that all happened in spite of the fact that I was in a contractual agreement with them until the end of March. And if I break the contract of course they charge a punitive fee.

The following day, Tuesday 20, I phoned the Department of Social Protection seeking information about an aspect of PRSI.

The phone was answered within 30 seconds and I had a full answer to my question within two minutes. They also told me that they would post me out the relevant form, which I received the following day.

There was simply no competition between State and private. Of course that is just one isolated case and that’s not the way it always works and I know that as well as anyone else.

At this stage the world and its mother knows all about the job the banking regulator did for the customer before the banking crisis.

What I’d like to know is who is now regulative the myriad private companies and where can the little customer like me go to find help, protection and solace?

Did you know for instance that if you agree on a year-long contract with a provider the day the contract ends you revert to top-dollar fees and of course there will not be a whisper from the company telling you that you are back paying full price.

And are there ever any demos when the TV, broadband and phone company suppliers hike up their charges? I never see or hear them.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Remembering Stalingrad

On February 2, 1943 the Germans surrendered at Stalingrad.

Official casualty numbers, 1,978,619.

A common saying from this day on on the mouths of Russians was: "You cannot stop an army which has done Stalingrad." 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Power failure in Berlin

A first for this blog writer.

Because of a power failure in parts of Berlin this evening the Günther Jauch Show on German tv station ARD  was 20 minutes delayed. The outage, happened in Schöneberg. When Jauch came back live he referred to the problem and laughed that they were experiencing 'Greek conditions'.

But this evening's show is about the Greek 'crisis', so maybe his remark had context.

Mullacor in wind and snow

A tough day on the mountain.

Tess managed to walk from the car park at Glendalough up by the Spink and on to the top of Mullacor. Mullacor lies south west of Glendalough.

On a good day it's a four-hour walk, longer yesterday due to heavy winds, ice and snow underfoot and at one point a blizzard.

Exceptionally breath-taking views en route. And maybe a little scary at times too. Without walking sticks it would have been difficult.

Mullacor at the summit is 657 metres.

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