Saturday, April 30, 2016

A matter of life and death

'Thinking Anew' column in today's Irish Times.

Michael Commane
Debate concerning the Catholic Church and the State in Ireland seems mainly to concentrate on matters concerning sexuality or topics close to that aspect of our lives. 

It's fair to say that there is a general consensus that sexuality and sexual issues are the defining issues of our Christian faith. 

Sometimes, but seldom enough, the Church manages to get the attention of the media on matters of justice. 

For their part, Church authorities say that the media is only interested in issues that deal with sexuality. That's an ongoing row and like all disputes there are two sides. There are those who get entrenched on either side.

Since Easter Sunday, indeed, why not include Holy Week, the Church has been celebrating what is at the core of its purpose and existence - the resurrection of Jesus Christ and intertwined with that there has been a concentration on the belief that Jesus was human and divine. Added to that is the age-old belief that there are three persons in one God. 

In tomorrow's Gospel, and on almost nearly every day since Easter Sunday, we see references in the readings to the fact that Jesus and God the Father are united in some mysterious way. 

And then tomorrow week the Church celebrates the Ascension, the following Sunday Pentecostand the Sunday after that the feast of the Holy Trinity, followed by Corpus Christi. It all adds up to a concentration of serious church belief/teaching over a few short weeks.

And these are matters we take for granted. Or do we take them for granted? If there were no resurrection, if Jesus did not die and rise from the deadthen all our religious prayer, liturgy and ceremony is meaningless.

All these Christian feasts have a long tradition behind them. They have been defined, discussed and refined down the ages. 

Is it really feasible for the professed christian to have one foot in this world and the other in the world of faith/religionand comfortably jump from one foot to the other? Is it really meant to be like that?

One thing is sure - to say anything about God, resurrection, Trinity requires some sort of belief that is almost impossible to mention. Difficult for words to catch it.

When confronted with death and awful suffering, at least for someone who has been born into a christian milieu, surely fundamental questions about life, life after death and God must be askedOf course, some will dismiss the “God question”.  

Others develop a pious language that veers towards cliché, and then there are those who constantly struggle, all the time asking questions about God.

Life, as we know it, seems so accidental, so fragile, so precarious, at times so unfair, there must be more to it than this. At least that's what many christians say. There are also those who will never be sure. But that too is understandable.

And all the time linked with the mystery of God in the Christian tradition is this talk about the Trinity. Three persons in one God. A relationship of persons.

Is everything that is good about our lives in this fragile existence not a tiny reflection of something to do with God? Our lives involve us in relationships. 

Christian belief says that the perfect relationship is to be found in the Godhead of three persons. In tomorrow's Gospel Jesus tells us how his father loves us.

The Church has a powerful message to tell. Why is it not out at the public square discussing the Good News? Far too often it seems to be reacting to eventsand then being caught on the wrong foot.

These days of Easter are a perfect time to be talking, explaining, discussing the Word of God. Trying to make sense of life, death and resurrection.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Dominicans and Jesuits

An overheard comment:

The Dominican system sounds great but it doesn't work. The Jesuit system doesn't sound great but it works.

Cold, Lucifer and death

At 08.45 today, April 29 it was 5.5 degrees Celsius in Dublin. It snowed in Dublin yesterday.

Yesterday senior US Republican politician John Boehner referred to US presidential candidate Ted Cruz as 'Lucifer in the flesh'.

And tomorrow 71 years ago Hitler shot himself, his new wife and his dog.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

In the land of the free and the home of the brave - USA

One child out of every five in the United States is fighting to learn, grow and prosper while combating the gnawing stress of hunger. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Boris Johnson's comments on that day at Hillsborough

Words written by Mayor of London Boris Johnson in 2004.

The man who is campaigning for the UK to leave the EU.

To add to the sleaze factor, Johnson 'apologised' some years later for his comment.

The management class and the sort of people who head in that direction.

Border collie goes home

Pearl, a border collie, travelled 400 kilometres, making her way back to her home in Wales.

Sometime earlier she had been given to a farmer to herd sheep.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

There's a finality about death

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column

Michael Commane
Some weeks ago I brought Holy Communion to an elderly lady, who is a resident in a nursing home.

On that occasion two of her sons were sitting at her bedside. She was feeble and obviously they were concerned. Then last week I called to anoint her. On this occasion there were two different sons keeping vigil.

She was now asleep and obviously close to death.

I introduced myself to the two men. They told me their mother was in her 90s and I was able to tell them that my father lived 95 years. We chatted for a while.

I am always conscious when I visit the sick and arrive in a room of strangers how important it is to respect those present.

When we meet strangers we know nothing about their lives and life-journeys.

Walking out of the woman's room and back to the reception area of the nursing home I bumped into the son I had met some weeks earlier. We exchanged hellos and smiles.

The following day, walking my dog close to the nursing home I recognised a group of people walking on the other side of the road.

They immediately struck me as being concerned, maybe sad about something. And then it dawned on me that they were the children of the woman I had anointed the previous day. They were obviously taking a break from their bedside watch.

Of course they know their mother is not going to get better.They did not recognise me. I was wearing an anorak and a cap and was walking my dog. And anyway I was on the other side of the road. For a moment or two I considered crossing the road and introducing myself. But no, I kept walking as they did, though they were walking much slower than I.

She is an old woman and her children are naturally in deep grief.Those days preparing for the death of a loved one are difficult to endure.

The death of a parent is a terrible experience, the death of a mother shocks us to the core of our being.

There is a finality about death that makes it so upsetting. The death of a parent breaks a link, a bond that we take for granted the way we take air and water. Indeed, something infinitely stronger.

We can't imagine life without our parents.Death is always shocking and I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like for a parent to lose a child.

Life after death, resurrection? Wow, big words, big ideas. That's why anytime I walk into the room of a dying person I am always on edge because most times I have no idea what the people in that room think about life after death and resurrection. What does it mean for me?

Christians are still celebrating the feast of Easter - a belief that light overcomes darkness, life overpowers death. It really is an extraordinary thing to say.

Maybe in the not-too-distant past in Ireland it was taken almost as a given that there was a God and so an afterlife. It's different today. There are those who believe in life after death and there are those who say the end is with death.

Poet Emily Dickinson, born in the US in the 19th century, in her poem 'I felt a Funeral, in my Brain' writes: "And then a Plank in Reason, broke,/ And I dropped down, and down -/ And hit a World, at every plunge,/ And Finished knowing - then."Haunting words that attempt to capture that dreaded moment.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Meet at Torgau

It was on April 25, 1945, 71 years ago today that the Soviet and US armies met at Torgau on the Elbe.

Picture below shows Lieutenants William Robertson and Alexander Silvashko shake hands on that day at Torgau.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Census Day in Ireland

Today is Census Day in Ireland.

Question H9 asks how many cars or vans are owned or are available for use by one or more members of your household.

There is no question on the form asking have you a bicycle or motorbike. Why is this?

Question 12 asks what is your religion. It mentions Roman Catholic, Church of Ireland, Islam, Presbyterian, Orthodox, Other. Why is the Jewish faith not mentioned?

Question H10 asks, Does your household have a personal computer (PC). Does this include a tablet or a smart phone?

This is the 25th census to be held since 1841.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

A plea for change at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

This appears on

Apologies for some US English.

A New Process for the Church and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

He who is the object of an enquiry should be present at the process, and, unless absent through contumacy, should have the various headings of the enquiry explained to him, so as to allow him the possibility of defending himself. As well, he is to be informed not only of what the various witnesses have accused him of, but also of the names of those witnesses. (Fourth Lateran Council, 1215)

Nowadays it is widely agreed in the church that the processes and procedures of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) are contrary to natural justice and in need of reform. They represent the legal principles, processes and attitudes of the absolutism of sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe.

They don’t reflect the gospel values of justice, truth, integrity and mercy that the church professes to uphold. They are out of keeping with contemporary concepts of human rights, accountability and transparency that the world expects from the Christian community and which the Catholic Church demands from secular organizations. The purpose of this proposed new approach is to reflect the attitude of Jesus (Matthew 18:15-17) and to integrate values that the world sees as basic to a functioning, civilized society.

Principles Underlying any New CDF Process

Underlying any church procedures must be a set of principles that involve a just and equitable process, accountability on the part of the CDF and Bishops’ Conferences, the presumption of sincerity, innocence, and loyalty to the church on the part of the person being investigated, as well as transparency and the wider involvement of the local Catholic community and the Synod of Bishops representing the universal church.

The process appended to this set of principles tries to avoid some of the worst aspects of the present CDF’s investigations as experienced by the signatories and others who have been involved in dealing with the CDF over the last decades.
1. The basic principle must be to avoid anonymous denunciation by person(s) unknown to those being investigated. By naming them publicly, you stop frivolous claims by often totally unqualified individuals or organizations.

2. The same applies to the secret CDF appointed consulters. Consulters need to be named and their qualifications or otherwise in the area under consideration, be scrutinized. This also gives the one being investigated a chance to know the biases and expertise/training or otherwise of each of the consulters appointed by the CD.

3. The whole issue of enforced secrecy and the often crippling isolation of the person being investigated must be circumvented by the CDF being made to deal directly and personally with them.

They should be no longer be dealt with at third and fourth hand via a network of bishops and superiors – who might even have been the primary accuser of the person being investigated in the first place.

4. People being investigated have very often found that their work is inaccurately or unfairly interpreted by CDF consulters, or sentences or opinions are taken totally out of context and that the qualifications that they have made are completely ignored.

Consulters they have never heard of, or are completely unknown to them, become the sole arbiters of the correct interpretation of their work. Even opinions they don’t hold are attributed to them. The involvement of the persons being investigated and their counsel from the beginning to some extent circumvents this.

It also makes sure that consulters, whose sole experience is of the Roman schools of theology with its emphasis on propositional approaches to doctrinal positions, are challenged, and are not accepted as normative for those working on the prophetic edge of theological and ministerial frontiers.

5. People under investigation have often complained of the sheer rudeness and lack of even basic politeness – let alone Christian charity – on the part of CDF personnel. Letters are ignored, or lost. Processes are dragged out in an attempt to wear down the resistance of those being investigated. Even extremely sick or dying people have been investigated and forced to respond to often silly accusations.

Strict time limits and direct personal face-to-face communication would circumvent this. With supporting counsel present and the knowledge that all documentation and the names of accusers and all personnel involved will be revealed to the wider Catholic community and the media will bring about at least some measure of accountability which at the present moment is totally lacking in CDF processes.

6. The process must prevent the same people acting as investigators, prosecutors and judges. By referring on-going cases to the Synod of Bishops the process takes decision-making out of the hands of CDF, and re-situates the views under investigation within the broader cultural context in which they were first articulated.

7. The wider community of theologians, the faithful people of God and the sensus fidelium are involved in the discernment of the faith and belief of the church. No longer should the CDF and its Rome-based advisers be the sole arbiters of correct doctrine and belief.

8. The process should be no longer characterized by the absolutist presumptions of an antiquated legal system that has nothing to do with the Gospel. The process should be tempered by the mercy and forgiveness of God, and by the open dialogue that should characterize the community of Jesus. It integrates something of the contemporary emphasis on human rights and the need for free speech, pluralism, transparency and accountability within the church community.

Dr Paul Collins, writer and broadcaster, AustraliaRev Charles Curran, Scurlock University Professor of Human Values at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, USA.

Rev Roy Bourgeois, priest and activist, USA.

Rev Brian D’Arcy CP, writer and broadcaster, Ireland.

Rev Tony Flannery CSsR, writer and broadcaster, Ireland.

Sister Teresa Forcades, OSB, Benedictine nun and physician, Spain.

Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL, Loretto Sister, Co-Founder, New Ways Ministry, USA.

Sister Elizabeth A. Johnson, CSJ, Distinguished Professor of Theology, Fordham University, New York, USA.

Professor Paul Knitter, Emeritus Paul Tillich Professor of Theology, World Religions and Culture, Union Theological Seminary, New York, USA.

Rev Gerard Moloney, CSsR, Editor, Ireland.

Bishop William Morris, Bishop Emeritus of Toowoomba, Australia.

Rev Ignatius O’Donovan, OSA, Church Historian, Ireland.

Rev Owen O’Sullivan, OFM Cap, Chaplain and Writer, Ireland.

Bishop Patrick Power, retired Auxiliary Bishop of Canberra- Goulburn, Australia.

Rev Marciano Vidal, CSsR, Former Ordinary Professor, Pontifical University Comillas, Madrid, Spain, Extraordinary Professor, Alphonsian Academy, Rome.

Julian Barnes' 'The Sense of an Ending' well worth a read

The Sense of an Ending is well worth a read. Written by Julian Barnes, winner of the Man Booker Prize 2011.

'Mesmerising ... The concluding scenes grip like a thriller - a whondunnit of memory and morality.'

There is accumulation. There is responsibility. And beyond issue, there is unrest. There is great unrest.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Soviet Army breaks through at Eberswalde NE of Berlin

On this day 71 years ago Hitler, learning from one of his generals that no German defence was offered to the Soviet Army at Eberswalde, which is approximately 50 kilometres north east of Berlin, admits that the war is lost and that suicide is his only recourse. 

More bicycles on our roads

In 2014 more bicycles (95,000) were sold in Ireland than cars (91,732).

Well done to the Fianna Fáil Green coalition that introduced the Bike 2 Work scheme.

The scheme allows PAYE employees to get up to 50 per cent rebate on purchase of a bicycle.

That redundant apostrophe appears on erudite material

Oops that infamous redundant apostrophe. It's always embarrassing to see this sort of error but on something as profound-sounding as a thomistic institute.

And then the modal auxiliary verb could is questionable.

Something odd about registration date.

That fraternal business can be confusing.

After all that, trying to say something about God?

A funny old world indeed.

Dear Friends,

The Thomistic Institute is hosting it's Fifth Annual Summer Conference for Priests in Baltimore, MD, this summer, August 9-11, which is entitled: Becoming a Better Preacher.

We would be grateful if you could share the enclosed information with any priests or transitional deacons you might know so they can benefit from the great program lined up for this summer.

Visit for more information and to register. Early registration ends next Friday, May 30.

If you have any questions, please email or call (202) 495-3862.


Fr. Austin Litke, OP
Conference Organizer, Thomistic Institute
487 Michigan Avenue, NE
Washington, DC 20017

Below is the first question on a test for 11-year-old children in England. 

The questions appeared on a website, which means over 500,000 children will not now be doing the test.

Add the missing apostrophe to the sentence: "That comedians jokes were hilarious." 
That comedians joke’s were hilarious. 
That comedian’s jokes were hilarious.
That comedians’ jokes were hilarious. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Zhukov in Berlin Mitte

Fr Marianus Henneken lives at the Dominican Priory in Berlin's Oldenburger Straße. For many years he was a parish priest in a nearby parish and in recent years has turned the gardens at the priory into a beautiful space.

He vividly remembers how as a 16-year-old he was a boy-soldier 'defending' Berlin. He recalls how his father was opposed to Hitler but that he as a young boy was impressed with the things that were available to young boys.

On April 20/21, 1945 Red Army's Marshal Georgy Zhukov ordered the shelling of the inner city in Berlin to begin.

At the battle of Stalingrad, Zhukov defeated the German Sixth Army, and told his German counterpart Friedrich Paulus he would see him in Berlin. Paulus was taken prisoner and later, it is believed, worked for the NVA - the army of the new East German State.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Symbolism of a wrecking ball on Orwell Road

Demolition of Marianella on Orwell Road today.

It was built in the 1960s, never an architectural delight.

What does it say about the Irish church? Much better to ask what does it say about the management class of the church?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Faith profiles of the leadership of the 1916 Rising

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
President Michael D Higgins goes to Kerry this week to mark the role Roger Casement played in the 1916 Rising. It is generally accepted that things have been done well and anyone with whom I have spoken, who visited any of the exhibitions or events has been impressed with what they have seen.

Some weeks ago I was in Limerick and overheard a priest tell the story of making enquiries about a book on the Rising.

He had gone into a bookshop in the city and had been told that they did not have the book in question but had ordered three copies.

He was telling the story because he was somewhat surprised that the shop was ordering only three of the books. As he said himself: "Three books for a city the size of Limerick."

The book in question is 'The End of All Things Earthly - Faith Profiles of the 1916 Leaders', edited by David Bracken and published by Veritas.It's a small book but a great read.It gives a short account of the lives of the 16 men who were executed after the 1916 Rising, concentrating on aspects of their Christian faith.

I was initially drawn to the book because of what I overheard the priest say and also because of my interest in Seán Heuston, who had a brother a Dominican priest, whom I knew and admired.

Reading through the contents gave me the opportunity to associate each of the men with a rail station, which is named in his honour. But there is a problem with the naming as there is only one Pearse Station, whereas two Pearses were executed.

When CIE renamed the stations on the 50th anniversary they cleverly linked each station to a man who was associated with the area. Tralee is called Casement as Roger had links with Kerry. Con Colbert grew up in West Limerick so every reason to call the station in Limerick Colbert Station. So is Pearse Station at Westland Row called after Patrick or Willie? Most likely Patrick.

The book contains a fount of knowledge, especially for people who are not too familiar with the lives of the men involved.

I knew something about Roger Casement working for the British Government in the Congo but I never knew that Casement was trying to recruit an Irish Dominican priest, who was a chaplain to Irish prisoners of war, into an Irish Brigade for the Germans.

Casement embraced Catholicism and received his first Holy Communion at Mass in Pentonville Prison on August 3, 1916.

Con Colbert's faith, we are told, was a great consolation for him, especially in times of personal distress. It seems the expression of his faith was something that proved a support to his companions in the days before their execution.

The last words of Seán Heuston as he was shot by firing squad on Monday, May 8, 1916 were 'My Jesus, mercy'.

Capuchin priest Aloysius Travers administered the sacraments to James Connolly. 

He later wrote an account of his meeting, quoting Connolly: "... It is as a priest I want to see you. I have seen and heard of the brave conduct of the priests and nuns during the week and I believe they are the best of friends of the workers".

On May 7 Travers met Nationalist MP John Dillon in an attempt to bring a halt to the executions, explaining how the mood in Dublin among the working classes was becoming extremely bitter.Each of the biographies is written by a different person.

It's a lovely read, costs €9.99 and most informative.

Monday, April 18, 2016

This pious jargon sounds, feels and tastes like fraud

The sentence below appears on a religious website.

Each time we go to Mass we must go prepared to have our souls pierced.

Is this not silly nonsense? Who in our society talks about having their hearts pierced?

People get their ears and noses pierced, tongues too. Teenagers draw graphics of arrows piercing hearts. This sort of nonsensical talk really seems like fraud. Annoying too. Is it not simply pious jargon?

Merkel does right thing again - says Jakob Augstein

This is an extract from Spiegel Online. It is about the Böhmermann - Merkel - Erdogan contorversy. It is written by Jakob Augstein.

Augstein was born in 1967. Since 2008 he is the publisher of 'The Friday/Der Freitag'. Before that he worked for the 'Süddeutsche Zeitung and 'Die Zeit'. 'Der Freitag' carries critical articles on journalism, politics, culture and society.

He experiments with new forms of reader participation and the link with print and virtual media. The style of the layout of 'Der Freitag' has been highly praised by many organisations, including Art Directors Club, the Lead Awards, the European Newspaper Award and the Society for New Design.

No doubt translation for the piece below can be googled. In brief: Augstein writes that Merkel has solved so many problems. She might even soon have to deal with a crazy man in the White House and then in London there is the possibility of Brexit. And now here she is caught palying the lead role in the Böhmermann saga. But she has handled it well. The reader can read the entire article in 'Der Spiegel'.

'Die Welt', which is a daily conservative newspaper, writes that Merkel has kotowed to Erdogan and Sahra Wagenknecht, a left-wing east German politician, who knows the works of Goethe off by heart, says that Merkel has kowtowed in an unbearable manner to Erdogan, lying down in front of the Turkish despot, sacrificing freedom of the press in Germany.

From the very right to the extreme left it seems many people have simply not understood what has happened. Merkel has neither sacrificed Böhermann nor press freedom. She has past the issue on to the legal authorities and there it belongs.

Wise words from Augstein.

Manchmal, ganz selten, kann einem die Kanzlerin leidtun. Dann erinnert sie an den Feldherren aus "Asterix und die Goten": "Sie sind alle so dumm, und ich bin ihr Chef!" Sie hat die Eurokrise und das Flüchtlingschaos an der Hacke. Im Weißen Haus sitzt vielleicht bald ein Irrer und aus London droht der Brexit . Als wäre das noch nicht genug, musste Angela Merkel nun noch eine Hauptrolle in Böhmermanns Satire-Saga spielen. Immerhin: als einzige hat sie ihre Sache gut gemacht. (Lesen Sie hier die Titelgeschichte zum Fall Böhmermann im aktuellen SPIEGEL ).

Auf einer Pressekonferenz hat die Kanzlerin am Freitag erklärt, dass die Bundesregierung sich einer Eröffnung eines Verfahrens gegen Jan Böhmermann nach Paragraf 103 des Strafgesetzbuches - Beleidigung von Organen und Vertretern ausländischer Staaten - nicht in den Weg stellen werde .
Außerdem hat sie angekündigt, den Paragrafen danach so schnell wie möglich aufzuheben . Ein Aufheulen ging durch das Land. Die "Welt" schrieb: "Kotau vor Erdogan."

Und Sahra Wagenknecht schrieb: "Unerträglicher Kotau: Merkel kuscht vor türkischem Despoten Erdogan und opfert Pressefreiheit in Deutschland". Von ganz rechts bis ganz links haben viele Leute offenbar nicht verstanden, was geschehen ist. Merkel hat weder Böhmermann noch die Pressefreiheit "geopfert". Sie hat die Sache an die Justiz weitergegeben. Dort gehört sie hin.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Insight into shocking behaviour of Virgin Media

Below is an excerpt from a WebChat with Virgin Media.

Why do customers allow themselves to be treated by companies in such a fashion?

Large companies such as Virgin Media make obscene profits and this is how they treat their customers.

This is simply abuse. Insulting too to the customer. It would be interesting to know the wages Virgin Media pays the person who wrote this WebChat?

And what can the custoemr do? Keep being exploited.

This WebChat went on for a number of minutes and of course the problem was not resolved.

Thanks, as far as I know we don't have setting like of the one that you've mentioned for setting up the time of the phone.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Böhmermann takes a break

In a Facebook posting comic Jan Böhmermann explains how in the last two weeks he has managed to dominate media platforms. And because of this he has now decided to take a short break from television so that the public and social media can concentrate on the really important issues such as the refugee crisis, cat videos or the love life of Sophia Thomalla

Making a splash

Well worth viewing

Answering mail

Is this a platform to tell a personal story?

But it's a nice story.

In the last week I wrote to four Dominicans, Flannan Hynes, Conor McDonough, Timothy Radcliffe and Bruno Cadoré. All four men replied within 24 hours and three the same day.

How nice of  them. What it means when someone makes the effort to reply to mail. The difference it makes. How it can raise the spirits.

And not one of them signed off 'fraternally'.

Kind and gentle words from bishop Willie Walsh

Former Bishop of Killaloe Willie Walsh was a guest on RTE Radio 1's Marian Finucane show today.

He comes across as such a kind and gentle man, a wise man. Certainly an antidote for all the church personnel who sound-off in the media.

Probably most unlikely that a man of his calibre could be made a bishop in Ireland today. And something for which the Irish church is the poorer.

Nothing strident, nothing dogmatic, nothing of the partyline from the bishop. So refreshing and inspiring.

Callan's Kicks and slaps too

Dominican priest and editor of the free-sheet 'Alive!' Brian McKevitt featured on RTE Radio 1's satirist show Callan's Kicks yesterday.

Fr McKevitt had earlier in the week been on the Joe Duffy Show, 'Liveline'. He was defending an article in the current issue of the free-sheet 'Alive!, which is on the subject of slapping children.

On the 'Liveline' show he appeared to say that 'Alive!' has an editorial board.

In Ireland it is an offence to slap children.

Mike Heaney in his radio column in today's Irish Times gives significant space to the McKevitt Duffy spar.

He finishes his piece referring to McKevitt's widely circulated but decidedly retor assettions.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Merkel bows to Erdogan

German satirist Jan Böhmermann has catapulted Germany into a row with Turkish President Erdogan and also caused a major political juridical controversy within Germany.

Böhmermann has written a satirical song about Erdogan, referring to his 1,000-room palace, Turkey's poor human rights record and many other aspects of life in Turkey, including its relationship with the Kurds. It also casts scorn on the money the EU has given Turkey in return for hosting Syrian refugees.

Erdogan objected to the song and contacted Chancellor Merkel.

There is a clause in the German Constitution, which considers it an offence to insult a foreign head of state.

And Merkel, while saying the clause must be removed to protect press and artistic freedom, is in the meantime bowing to Erdgan's wishes.

It means Jan Böhmermann faces a court case. Germany is up in arms. And the sort of people who take themselves so seriously.

Jesuit priest told to get off Titanic in Queenstown

The Titanic sank in the Atlantic Ocean 104 years ago today.

Jesuit priest and photographer Francis Browne sailed on the ill-fated ship to Queenstown, now Cobh.

An American couple offered to pay his fare on to America so he mailed his provinical asking could he travel to the US on the ship. He received a terse reply, which read: 'Get off that ship".

So he did and died in 1960.

All the pictures that would have been lost but for Fr Browne's provinical.

Dutch Dominican provincial casts a cold eye on life .....

Below is a translation of a letter by fr René Dinkle, Provincial of the Dutch Province to the Dutch brothers concerning the generation gap. 

The letter makes for an interesting read. But are there not hints in it that it is one-sided?

An incidental: wearing the habit is fine, if that's what someone wants to do. But can it not be a statement saying: "I am different, I stand out, I'm important."

Wearing the habit by day but then changing it for civvies to visit the fancy restaurant in the evening or jetting off for a weekend break is difficult to understand. 'Complaining' about a secularised world and then making sure to live in the midst of it is also something that seems like 'double-think',

In the time of St Dominic what did the habit mean? Has it the same meaning today?

fr René Dinkle, op
In our days we live in a world which sees itself confronted with far-reaching changes. Large groups of people have come adrift because they are trying to find a way out of their misery. They move away from regions at war, looking for safe places to live in. It may be seen as a compliment to Western Europe that so many refugees try to settle here, as though we were the Promised Land.  At the same time our experience is that Western Europe itself is going through a variety of changes as well. Churches lose ever more members, secularization manifests itself in many countries and regions. The European Union is more and more feeling pressure from various directions. The complexity of our society makes it extremely difficult to find solutions for the problems connected with the way in which we threaten our environment, try to solve the refugee problem or find solutions leading to peace. Moreover, we spend an ever growing part of our lives in the digital world and on the social media, and at the same time many people long for spirituality, meaningfulness and genuine affection.
In the middle of such changes and shifting the Dutch Dominican Province finds itself in a phase of transition. Looking back at our history we may claim to stem from a rich and old tradition. This year, as an Order, we are celebrating our 800 years existence and recently in the Netherlands we could also commemorate that our own province has existed for 500 years already.
These milestones and the fact of our having to come to terms with a situation of transition invite us to return to our sources and reflect on where we are now. When I entered the order - in the early nineties – people in our province talked of re-founding the order and of Dominican laypeople being our heirs, as the branch of the brothers in our own country seemed to be slowly evaporating. A re-foundation still is a possible task, though at the moment it might take a direction which is different from what was expected at the time, for it seems that a new generation of Dominicans may be presenting itself.
In the past fifty years our Dominican province has had to face a considerable transformation of its size and vitality. Ours used to be one of the largest Dominican provinces in the world, but it had to face a period of many brothers leaving the order and at the same time very few new members entering it. Our own houses of study – philosophy and theology – had to be closed, just like various priories and houses; the parishes in which we served had to be given back to the dioceses. At the same time, however, various Dominican projects were started and lay people began to participate actively in the Dominican mission. Brothers, sisters and laypeople more and more co-operated in the common tasks and responsibilities.
The Dutch Dominican province now consists mostly of the generation of earlier days, a generation which at the moment –  his is the stern reality – is nearing its end. Not for very long will we be able to retain the status of a `province', existing communities are becoming weaker. Since March 2013 – when I was elected as provincial – 13 brothers have died, of whom 11 were living in an Old Age Pensioners' home.
And yet: five new Dutch Dominicans are now in their formation period, three novices and two students. I have recently accepted one candidate as a novice to start in September. Such hopeful signs generate their own dynamism. Our old province may add new colours to its grey image.
This blessing of new life in our province also provides the possibility of new tensions within our group, for it may lead to strains between the different generations. A life-size risk may manifest itself: that the generations take up fixed positions which would split them into two parties and alienate them from each other. But most of all we ought to ask ourselves in which way we might make such tensions fruitful for our lives as brothers.
The older generation grew up in what in our country is called `Rich Roman Life', after which it witnessed the developments in the Second Vatican Council and the changes in the liturgy. It hoped for substantial changes in the church, which were realized partly and partly did not come about. The older generation could experiment with new forms of Dominican common life, the Dominican habit remained in the cupboard rather than that it was worn as usual. 
Novices and students of the present time can hardly be compared to novices and students in the forties, fifties and sixties of the past century. The present generation following formation consists of mature people who have studied and had jobs, who had relationships and carried various responsibilities. But above all, our recent brothers start from a different position in the Church. In my earliest memories of visiting a church I remember that the traditional confessional was already used as a storage room for the drums used by youth choirs, the liturgy was in the vernacular and subject to various forms of experimentation. There was greater respect for the word in the liturgy and there was more austerity in rituals. The present cultural context has changed as well. The brothers following formation have grown up in a society which has become post-Christian, while the older generation were used to a society in which various traditions, Christian as well as secular, all had their own place and context.
Young people who explicitly choose to be active in the life and work of the Church, or take the step of entering the religious life, often follow a route which is the reverse of the way taken by the older generation.  Present-day young people are looking for identity in a post-Christian society. Wearing the habit may be a help to reach such an identity. They come across Dominican singing or prayers the older generation has abandoned, they appreciate texts from the new liturgical books from Rome and find spiritual nourishment in them. 
In this situation tensions between generations may arise.
Of course, what I described is a generalization, for within the different generations one also finds different ideas. But it is a good thing to give a name to the tensions between generations. At the same time we should not be surprised that they exist. The dominant generation in our present province thinks and acts differently from the generation preceding it, and young people will again think and act differently from the older generation. One of our problems is, though, that in the Dutch province the middle generation is practically non-existent, which makes the generation gap relatively wide.
Fortunately it is realized in our province that a serious dialogue between us as brothers must be started, - a dialogue which should lead to a better understanding between us. The most difficult point is to listen to each other without prejudice and not yet passing judgment, let alone condemnation. Looking critically at yourself it may come as a shock that a number of times you judge genuine points of view of fellow brothers, and at times also express such a judgment. We should all of us remain committed to asking questions in all openness, to listen and to tell each other of our experiences. 
It certainly is not constructive if brothers label each other with terms like `conservative'. The older brothers say this about the younger ones because of their different view of traditions, and on the other hand the younger brothers may use the term for older brothers because they seem to keep everything as it is now. It goes without saying that this may be a serious cause of pain. Whatever the older generation has experienced as valuable, cannot simply be passed on to the next generation.
The older generation has gone through far-reaching changes and realized developments in the Dominican mission which at present they consider as valuable assets. It is natural that they would prefer to pass these on to the younger generation, but such a process cannot be forced. As I said earlier, our younger generation starts from an experience which is very different from that of their older brothers. The new generation is looking for a form of religious life which more clearly reflects a certain identity. The younger brothers would like to re-discover a number of religious practices, rituals, forms of singing and prayer from the Dominican tradition which the older generation has set aside, and see them as something of great value. 
Sometimes the younger generation may feel that their older brothers suffer of a loss of identity. At times they feel that some of them downplay too much the value of their own religious life.
At the same time the younger generation should try to go deeply into how and why the forms of present-day Dominican life and of the mission in the Netherlands developed. The older brothers have laboured with great energy and determination and had to weather severe opposition, for which much and sincere appreciation is due.
When looking at history I notice that the Dominican order appeared as a more attractive option at times when the religious life had more appreciation for religious observances, and eventually such a choice usually invited a counter movement. Being right, therefore, does not appear to be absolute but relative, in line with the spirit of the time. If we realize this we may become more open to the idea that the other generation might well be right in its own context.
The art of living consists in following the rolling of the sea. Those who try to resist the wallowing of the waves meet with misfortune and are in danger of drowning. One should note that the direction of the rolling sea does not necessarily coincide with the direction of the undercurrent! In the end we are all pilgrims looking for the road towards God's kingdom. And we may be much more likely to find each other in the undercurrent than we may think. We judge each other too quickly on the basis of certain external forms and may tend to forget communication on what really matters.
The older generation has a great wealth of Dominican experience and history at its disposal. It is important that the younger brothers make this their own as part of their formation. They themselves realize it will be an enrichment of their life to share in the authentic experiences of the older generation. Do the older brothers realize sufficiently how valuable are the experiences they could share with their younger brothers?
We are on the brink of far-reaching changes. We all agree – on the basis also of experiences in other countries and provinces – that assigning our younger brothers to various existing priories or houses is not a good idea. During their noviciate in Cambridge our younger brothers directly touched on the international character of the order and became part of a common experience which connects them with other members of the order. In the course of this year a group of Dutch student brothers will start functioning in our priory in Huissen, which for our student brothers will be a shared experience as well. Not just their new student master but the whole community will share in the important task of the formation of the temporarily professed members of their priory. And ultimately our whole province will share in the formation of our recently entered  brothers. It is of particular importance to enter into communication with them instead of only talking about them.
If we wish our younger brothers to remain with us, we will have to take them very seriously from the very beginning and offer them the chance to work together, after their formation period, in a new project. In fact, we are thinking of a new community to be formed in our priory in Rotterdam, around the middle of 2018, where there will also be room for some brothers from outside our country and for one or two experienced Dutch brothers. 
The great changes we have to face involve an appeal – at times a far-reaching appeal – to a quality we may expect of our fellow religious: the ability to let go. For that which you try to keep at all costs, you will almost inevitably lose, just like it is easier to keep loose sand in a slack hand than in a hand grimly closed!
I was, therefore, very positively surprised when it became apparent that each member of the present Rotterdam community is prepared to make place for a community newly to be formed. I would call this genuine care for your brothers.
Such care I also recognize in the hospitality warmly given by our brothers to those who entered recently and to people who show interest in joining us. This shows both a proper curiosity and a genuine interest in younger people who are religiously motivated.
When we entered the order, the question was put to us: `What do you seek?' And we replied: `God's mercy and yours'. This implies that we are not just brothers of each other, but that we are committed to become brothers of each other again and again. This implies openness and genuine interest in each other, becoming aware of our own judgments and prejudices and those of others, and recognizing the injuries you yourself have suffered and those sustained by your brother in the church or during the religious life. Expressing your own experiences in this regard, however painful, and letting those of others into your personal awareness, helps us to grow in brotherliness and humaneness. Such growth becomes possible if we have the courage to abandon things and ideas which block us and manage to create for each other an environment which makes us feel such safety that we also may touch on our mutual shortcomings. This is possible only if we believe that God supports our life and intends to heal its brokenness. If we grow in mercy towards our fellow brothers, we also grow in mercy towards other people and towards our self.   
Our longing for mercy is something we may foster and cherish, in this Year of Mercy, in which we celebrate our eighth centenary by a courageous project of communication in the Netherlands with those outside our reach, and in the encouraging phase in which our province now finds itself. 
René Dinklo, o.p.
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Two great one-liners from Dublin Bay North TD Finian McGrath today:

I'm up for sitting down and then later going forward

Confusing calendar dates

The following appears on a religious website.

Dated April 11, 2016. Is there now the prospect of following some new calendar? Year of Mercy? No, that ends on the feast of Christ the King in November 2016. And why would it be 'fitting' at the end of a year to call something to mind? Confusing?

The Rosary 

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The editorial in the current issue of Kerry's Eye.