This week's INM's Irish regional newspapers' column
Our fragile bodies.
Watching footballers play or athletes take to the track we presume they are healthy and fit.
Across the road from where I am writing this a team of builders is constructing an apartment block.
A crane is on site, workers swarming all over the construction. They have to be healthy and fit.
They couldn't do that hard physical work otherwise.
I'm sitting in a hospital bed across the road. Came in here in a hurry five days ago. Not an easy few days before being admitted but all will be fixed.
It has made me think about our bodies, those things we shuffle about in, and something, most of us take for granted.
And at the flip of a coin it can all go so wrong.
My own little hiccup mixed with my job as a hospital chaplain certainly has made me stop and think about the mechanism that is the human body.
How do people who spend their lives in pain and suffering keep going?
People who are left paralysed after accidents? And yet people carry on.
Had I been in the Syrian city of Aleppo last week when I needed hospital attention what at all would have happened? Every day we see young and old, men and women being pulled out of bombed Syrian buildings.
The pain and suffering with which some people are afflicted is indescribable. And it is only when we experience it first hand that we can really get any idea of what it is about.
How we take our health, our properly working bodies, for granted is mesmerising.
One day we are masters/mistresses of the human race, the next day we can be on the flat of our backs, depending on others to help us in every move we make.
So is it a matter of making the best of it when we can and are able? But that too is never the full story. Surely it's always good when we look out for the other person.
It's never just a world of individuals looking after themselves.
It's in community we thrive.
It seems we soar when we help the other person, especially the weak and less fortunate.
A visit to a hospital is a good lesson in realising how fragile we are.
There can be something remarkably noble in fragility.
Looking at the builders across the road it's probably true to say they are healthy and well. The same too with the people below in their cars and travelling in buses. But maybe some of them are about to discover they have a nasty illness.
We never have a clue what people might be suffering.
What must it have been like in former times before modern medicine supplied us with drugs to kill the pain?
It seems people have an ability to get on with it no matter how bad things are.
I have just finished reading Leo Tolstoy's 'The Death of Ivan Ilyich'. It's a great read on what life is about or better said, what it's not about. But it also gives an insight into pain and suffering in a time before modern medicine helped make it 'easier' to endure. Ilyich's pain is so severe that "one could not hear it through closed doors two rooms away without horror".
We can never completely rid ourselves of physical or mental pain and suffering. But we can always make it our business to help ameliorate the pain and suffering of others.
And when fit and well do we ever appreciate our good fortune?
The Garda Vetting Application Form can now be completed electronically. It would help if it said on the form that it must be completed within 60 minutes.
Last evening I began filling out the form. While completing it someone called to see me. Two hours later I went back to continue the procedure, giving details of all 15 addresses, pressed the send button to be told that the form must be completed within 60 minutes.
It is my third Garda vetting form to complete.
The perfect example of closing the stable door long after the horse has bolted.
In the mid-1980s I brought up issues of sexual matters with a management class within the Catholic Church. At the time I was laughed at and my observations were considered 'nonsenseical'. Was told by a priest, who lectured in Maynooth at the time, that nothing untoward was happening at the national seminary.
And now the hoops the management classes have set up. It is laughable.
Why can't one Garda vetting be sufficient, which would cover for a number of years? The present system is laughable as lauaghable as the management class.
Below is a quote from Leo Tolstoy's 'The Death of Ivan Ilyich'.
The words are spoken by Ilyich as he lies ill in bed.
Life is a series of increasing sufferings, speeds swifter and swifter to the end, and the end - the most terrible suffering.....yet if only I could understand what it is all for. Even that's impossible.
A former work colleague and friend contacted me this morning telling me that my column on 'connections', which appears this week in 'The Fingal Independent', is placed beside a photograph of his two sons.
Considering the topic of the column, it really is quite amazing that that particular photograph should be placed beside the column.
This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column.
Are you ever surprised or amazed how you go somewhere and more than likely you will meet someone you know or you will meet someone who will know someone you know. There is always some sort of connection back to you.
Since taking up my job as chaplain in St Luke's Hospital in Dublin I am constantly meeting people with whom I have some sort of link.
Some weeks ago I got chatting with a man, who told me he was living in Thurles. My mother is from that part of the world. It transpires that his family were next door farmers to my granduncle, a place where I spent all my childhood summer holidays. Those summer days were idyllic.
This man knew a lot about my mother's people.
He recalled a story he heard about my grandfather, Paddy Hickey, who had a liking for alcohol.
The parish priest in Galmoy once asked my grandfather if he had paid his Easter dues. Paddy replied by enquiring if the pp had asked his brother (my granduncle), who had a 200-acre farm, the same question. The pp admitted he had not asked him and Paddy quickly retorted that obviously the sins of big men don't count.
It was a brilliant reply and maybe gives an insight into my own behaviour towards clerics.
Hearing a story like that in Dublin, which probably happened in the 1940s, is another example of how small the country is.
On Saturday, November 12, I was at a conferring ceremony at the Priory Institute in Tallaght.
The Priory Institute, in conjunction with the Institute of Technology Tallaght offers degree, certificate and diploma courses in theology by means of distance learning. At the beginning of this academic year I did some PR work for them and as a thank you they invited me to the graduation ceremony.
And a free meal to boot, which is always an added attraction.
During the ceremony I spotted a woman receiving her parchment for obtaining an honours BA in theology. It turns out I worked with her for over 10 years in Concern Worldwide.
In August when I was doing the PR work for the Priory Institute I was introduced to one of the staff. One thing led to another and then we discovered that her father served his time under my father and not only that but as a child I had heard my father so often mention her father's name. Later in life my father worked with her brother.
And then last week in hospital I met a man who works with her brother.
It's like a web that never stops unfolding. There's always someone who knows someone who knows someone you know.
It really is intriguing.
At the conferring ceremony the President of the Institute of Technology Tallaght, Dr Thomas Stone, spoke of the great link there is between the Priory Institute and the ITT.
He stressed the importance of studying the humanities and theology. He quoted Aristotle: "It is the mark of the educated mind to entertain a thought without accepting it".
Dr Stone pointed out that 46 per cent of ITT students are studying the humanities and social sciences.
There are 5,106 registered students at the Tallaght IT, 92 per cent of them coming from South Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow.
I was wondering, as Dr Stone spoke, how many students at the ITT know someone I know?
Ireland is a small place and one of its charms is that you'll always find someone who knows someone who knows someone.
Ireland has been 'networking' long before it became 'cool'.
“I have recieved [sic] and taken calls from many foreign leaders despite what the failing @nytimes said. Russia, U.K., China, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and more. I am always available to them. @nytimes is just upset that they looked like fools in their coverage of me.”
From next Monday, November 21 Irish Rail will be running passenger trains through the Phoenix Park tunnel, allowing trains from Portlaoise, Newbridge and intermediate stations travel on to Parkwest, Drumcondra, Tara Street, Pearse, Connolly and Grand Canal Dock.
Journey time for a commuter/stopping train from Newbridge to Connolly will be 52 minutes.
This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column.
Sometime in August I placed a bet with my cousin: if Trump would win the US election she would give me €50 and if Trump lost I would give €50, divided between her three children.
My cousin is a smart lady, has her pulse on things, so since the August bet I was beginning to row in with her. At least that was until the Friday before the US election. That day I was chatting to a City Council worker. We often meet and chat. He is constantly criticising the establishment and the 'elites' who run the country. As regularly happens, we have moments of great fun interspersed with strong disagreements.
He feels institutions such as government and the banks have got away with murder and they must be punished for what has happened.
Three days later I was chatting with a homeless man. Again, we meet regularly and chat about everything and anything. He is constantly arguing that if we can't look after our own in Ireland what are we doing taking in foreigners. When he talks about this particular subject he gets extremely agitated and shouts and roars. Passers by often get quite nervous when he behaves in such a manner. I know him fairly well and deep down he is a gentle soul.
On that particular day he was convinced Trump was going to win the election and it was his fervent prayer that he would win. It was impossible for me to say anything in disagreement.
Both men are avid Trump fans. I saw the homeless man the morning after the election so naturally he was thrilled with the result. No doubt my council worker friend is also over the moon about the result.
Had I been a gambler I would have gone straight into a betting shop having spoken to both men and put a wager on Trump. They both got it right on Brexit and now they have got it right again on Trump.
If a polling company had approached either or both of these men before the election, asking them their views and explaining what they were doing, I have no doubt both men would well have the capacity to lead the interviewer astray.
Millions of people around the world feel disenfranchised, they feel no one is listening to them and they feel 'left outside'. They are angry and they have the tools at their disposal to disseminate their stories.
So anytime anyone comes along and promises them to 'dethrone' the elite they have every reason to feel a glimmer of hope.
What is painfully sad about it is that the dethroners are themselves part of an 'elite' if not a different type or shape of elitism.
Having spent many years teaching German I'm a little familiar with Germany after World War l and the Weimar Republic. In one of the most sophisticated and cultured countries on earth they fell for the stories of the little man from Austria with the moustache.
Once elected he quickly made it his business to carry out all those crazy things he ranted and shouted about.
Then again, maybe Trump is just a chancer and realised so many people are misogynists , homophobes, racists, nationalists, fascists, 'whatever you're having' and told them what they wanted to hear.
It seems to be some sort of unstoppable force. Where and what next? France with Le Pen, AfD in Germany, Wilders in the Netherlands, and anything could happen here.
It's seldom if ever I gamble but that €50 wager has to be the worst bet I ever won.
Although these days there is a great increase on the numbers of bicycles on the roads of Ireland, the old metal bicycle clips have more or less faded into obscurity.
Some months ago a work colleague spotted the same gadgets on my desk and asked me what they were. I was surprised that she did not realise they kept my trousers ends clear of the bicycle chain.
I have changed jobs and these days when I come out of work and put the first bicycle clip around my trouser leg I say to myself: "No there is no God". And then as I place the other one on my left trouser leg I find myself saying: "Yes, there is a God".
Since August I have been working in a Dublin hospital as a chaplain. Without exaggeration, I can say it is a life-changing experience. The kindness, the love that I have seen in the hospital has impressed me greatly. I have seen the reality of God in the midst of the sick, the old and the dying, in those who come to visit the sick, and in the staff, who are there 24/7.
On one of those evenings while I was putting on my bicycle clips an item of news drew my attention: it was the story that BBC carried about a right-wing Catholic radio station. Earlier in the week a cleric had said on that station that the earthquakes in Italy were "God's punishment" for gay civil unions. Fortunately the Vatican swiftly condemned the remarks as "offensive and scandalous".
The Vatican statement went on to say that: "They are offensive to believers and scandalous for those who do not believe.”
The liturgical calendar is coming to an end and in tomorrow's Gospel Jesus prophesies the end of time. (Luke 21: 5 - 19) When some speak about the Temple and the fine building it is, Jesus assures them that it too will crumble and fall.
And in last week's Gospel (Luke 20: 27 - 38) the Sadducees ask him what heaven is going to be like. They try to give it a 'human handle' but of course in so doing, it becomes a cliché without meaning. They create their own understanding of God and heaven. Is that not exactly what idolatry is?
People are always trying to give names and tags to God. Yes, as Christians we believe that Jesus Christ is divine, that he is God but for us to try to have any sort of “direct line' to God, or to make him fit into some cosy preconception, is doomed to fail.
What is it about aspects of religions that have some adherents trying to fit God into a neat package? Dare I say, especially those with fundamentalist leanings give the impression they know exactly what God is thinking? They tend to get so angry with the world. Unless we all fit into their way of doing things we will all be 'damned'.
Is it that sort ideology that has alienated so many people away from religion? It's like some sort of silly discussion about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. And it's as crazy as that.
The God of love is not served by angry righteousness.
When I observe the love and kindness that I see in hospital every day I am strongly reminded of a God of love. Those daily unconditional acts of love and goodness give me a tiny glimpse or a hint of the all-powerful love who is God.
It's close to impossible to say anything about God, as it is to say anything about the end of time.
But it is possible to hear and see a glimmer of God, watching people do good, watching people being kind, compassionate and merciful. And you see a lot of that at the bedside of so many sick people.
That's why when I secure that second bicycle clip I feel reassured about the existence and then the love of God.
Today is Armistice Day.
It commemorates the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I.
The world, or at least the governing classes, salute the dead. But it was those same classes that sent those young men to their death.
In both the Russia Federation and the United States of America President Vladimir Putin and President-Elect Donald Trump have strong support from their respective electorates.
Both men are considered 'strong men', leaders, who will return their countries to their 'rightful places' in the world.
Both Putin and Trump believe in strengthening their military forces, indeed, that is part of the reason why they are both so popular in their own countries.
Will the children of those now shouting for strong armies be mourning the dead of another generation?
The wearing of the Poppy? It brings no soldiers back to life and doesn't seem to turn our backs on war. Or does it?
Exactly 24 years later to the day, November 11, 1942 the German Sixth Army reached the Volga at Stalingrad. In Germany, Hitler announced that the city was almost in German hands.
Eight days later Soviet generals Zhukov, Voronov and Vasilevsky launched an offensive against the Germans.
The German high command urged Hitler to allow Paulus and his forces to break out of the encirclement and rejoin the main German forces west of the city, but Hitler would not allow a retreat from the Volga and ordered Paulus to “stand and fight".
In that war 60 million people lost their lives of whom approximately 26 million were Soviet citizens.
Cardinal elect Joseph Tobin has been appointed archbishop of Newark.
It is the first time the New York area has two cardinals.
As excited as Tobin is about going to Newark next year, he appeared less thrilled about being named a cardinal on November 19 in Rome. He has warned his mother — and whoever else will listen — never to call him "a prince of the church." He said both he and Francis are "fed up to here (pointing above his forehead) with princes." Instead Tobin hopes he can live simply and show others that "we don't really need as much as we think we do ... All I really need is my cup of coffee each morning," he added.
This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column.
Finbar was ordained a priest in the late 1960s. With a name like that he was of course from Cork, a scholarship boy from the CBS at Sullivan's Quay.
Some short few years after priestly ordination he was sent to the Irish Dominican mission in Argentina. Back then he was a tall, highly intelligent young man, who after a short time in the country, spoke fluent Spanish.
His prior in the community was a quiet man who was not inclined to be confrontational, at least in an open and face-to-face manner. Finbar, went against a rule in the diocese, forbidding priest to grow beards, and grew one.
His prior was not happy with what he did but was unable to suggest to him that he cut it off. Instead he spoke to the local bishop and some time later when the bishop was visiting the community he suggested to Finbar that he shave off his beard.
Finbar, who was a fine rugby player, was much taller than the bishop. As soon as the bishop made his suggestion, Finbar glared down at him and in perfect Spanish, albeit with a heavy Cork accent, said: "you might be my bishop but you're not my barber".
I heard that story a long time ago but every time I tell it or hear someone telling it I can do nothing but laugh.
Maybe in the last 40 years I have met Finbar on four occasions. I'm told he became a lawyer in the United States, married an East German woman and is now living in Germany.
When he set out for Argentina he was insistent on brining his guitar with him.
He was an inspirational sort of man and I greatly admired him. Also, he could be so funny. In different circumstance, under different rules he could have been a fabulous priest. But it wasn't to be. And that was and is sad.
That was more or less the story of many young men who joined priesthood in the 1960s and '70s
And then within 10 to 20 years of ordination many of them left priesthood. But while they were there they certainly left their mark.
They gave the impression that they rolled up their sleeves, got dug in and were there with the people, on their side, fighting their case, all the time in solidarity with them, and especially with the poor and the marginalised.
Vocations to the sisterhood and priesthood tapered off, numbers declined. Then came the horror of the clerical child sex abuse, the cover-ups and the unending institutional church faux-pass.
Pope John Paul II ruled the church with a certain style of iron-fist.
And in this mix of turmoil and 'clerical austerity' a new style of men offered themselves for priesthood.
They are completely different in style and manner than the Finbars of the 1960s. Most of them don't carry guitars but do wear roman collars. They are definite about being orthodox to 'Mother Church'. They are 'pious' in a way that seems odd to me.
Is that what happens from generation to generation? I don't know. But I'm certainly glad that I belong to my generation. I would never have been able to hang in under the current dispensation.
And they certainly, the men of the new generation, would never have tolerated me. A badge of honour? Quietly, I say yes. But I may be completely wrong. Who knows, who ever knows?
No doubt Pope Francis dealt with many Finbars in South America. I wonder what he thinks of the new breed of priest?
At the rally in Nevada yesterday, where Trump was rushed off the stage, Austyn Crites, the man who held up the anti-Trump sign said he felt relieved when police arrived and placed him in handcuffs, but said officers had to fend off Trump supporters who continued to attack him. “As I was taken from the room, people are just looking at me like I’m a demon,” he said.
Isn't that exactly how people, who opposed Adolf Hitler, felt in the days before he came to power.
Today's blogpost was sent as a comment and appeared on BBC News
Do Irish religious congregations give financial support to Radio Maria? Does the Irish Dominican province give financial support to the internet/DAB radio station?
That Radio Maria says the offensive comments do not reflect the views of the station seem some sort of not-so-smart trickery.
The Vatican has condemned a right-wing Catholic radio station after a broadcast said the recent earthquakes in Italy were "God's punishment" for gay civil unions. The remarks, made on the station Radio Maria, were "offensive and scandalous", the Vatican said. A Dominican friar said the quakes, including one in August that killed nearly 300, were caused by sins of man. He said these included the approval of same-sex civil unions last May. But the Vatican rejected the remarks as pagan, and said they had nothing to do with Catholic theology. "They are offensive statements for believers and scandalous for those who do not believe", said Monsignor Angelo Becciu, deputy secretary of state, who is close to Pope Francis. Monsignor Becciu said Radio Maria, which has come under criticism in the past for comments seen as anti-Semitic, had to "moderate the tone of its language" and conform to the Church's message of mercy. But the friar at the centre of the scandal stood by his description of the quakes as divine intervention. "Just read the catechism," Father John Cavalcoli said, referring to Roman Catholic religious instruction. Radio Maria has published a statement (in Italian) on its website, saying the offensive comments did not reflect the views of the station.
Susan Sarandon explained her views on why she is neither voting for Clinton or Trump in next week's US election. She was interviewed last night by Evan Davis on BBC 2's Newsnight.
She stressed how she is aghast at the building of the Dakota Access Pipe Line. And points out how neither Clinton nor Trump is opposed to it.
When Evans asked her why she would not vote for a woman she replied: "I don't vote with my vagina".
Below is a piece on the Dakota Pipe Line by a young woman studying in Dublin.
For anyone not too familiar with what is going on; this is the general gist: Fossil fuel corporations are building a huge oil pipeline (Dakota Access PipeLine) through the lands of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. So they are being bulldozed out.
They are obviously very upset- these lands are sacred to them- and they, being the earth caring people that they are- are also very concerned about the pipeline's effects on water, the earth and climate change. So they have been peacefully demonstrating in huge numbers - many, many different tribes have all come together to help out; they are locking their bodies onto the pipeline building machinery, holding peaceful processions and marches and prayer ceremonies etc.
All so peaceful. But the police have descended on them with frightening aggression - armed to the teeth - it has been reported that armoured cars have even arrived on site. Hundreds of native Americans have been arrested at this stage and others have been really hurt by the police, some have been shot at point blank with concussion grenades, others have had arms and wrists broken.
It is literally modern day colonialism - complete with violence. And it's just being allowed to happen.
This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column.
On Tuesday October 18 Italian journalist and Vatican watcher Marco Politi gave a talk at the Loyola Institute, Trinity College, Dublin.
Politi is Vatican correspondent for the prestigious Italian newspaper 'La Republica'. He is also the author of 'Pope Francis Among The Wolves: the Inside Story of a Revolution'
In an interview on RTE Radio I he said the 'wolves' in his book referred to the conservatives who don't want to see any change happening in the church.
Politi has been observing Vatican politics for many decades. He is greatly impressed with Jorge Mario Bergoglio.
He pointed out how John Paul II was the first 'global pope' in that he travelled the world. He was succeeded by Pope Benedict, "who was able to hold the rudder". He feels that it is significant that Francis comes from a large metropolis, which has a strong anti-clerical tradition.
The Italian journalist acknowledges that Pope Francis wants to end all semblances of an imperial papacy and that he places great stress on collegiality. For Politi, Pope Francis believes that the Catholic Church can learn from the Orthodox Church when it comes to making the church a less imperial organisation.
He listed a number of areas where Pope Francis is clearly attempting to open a new page in the church. He spoke about his efforts in reforming the curia, his desire to give women roles that will place them in positions where they can make decisions. And to back up this point he noted how Francis is allowing free discussion on the issue of women deacons.
Pope Francis is setting about examining all 18,000 accounts at the Vatican Bank and the Vatican has now signed the United Nations Convention against Corruption.
Politi gave a number of examples how Francis has shown his mettle when it comes to dealing with clerical child sex abuse and he believes Francis also wants to rid the church of sexual obsession.
He sees it as something of a revolution that Pope Francis is going to Sweden to celebrate the Reformation against the advice of Cardinal Gerhard Müller, who is the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Politi concentrated much of his talk on some of the interesting appointments that Pope Francis has made and how in the latest list of new cardinals, archdioceses which would normally expect to have cardinals at the help, did not receive red hats.
During the question and answer session he was asked if he was aware of what life is like in the Irish church. It was pointed out to him that there are those who will say that Pope Francis is all talk and no action.
And the reason given was that the newly appointed bishops in Ireland don't seem to bear any signs of the progressive thinking of Pope Francis. The comment made was that there is no significant inspirational figure among any of the recent episcopal appointments.
Politi acknowledged that the pope is involved in an uphill battle and gave an example of how a senior Opus Dei cleric recorded secret talks at the Vatican. "Could you ever imagine that happening in a Barack Obama or Angela Merkel cabinet? It would be unthinkable. But it happened in the church," he said.
Politics is often a nasty game and listening to Marco Politi in Trinity College, one got the impression that politics is alive and well in the church and the former archbishop of Buenos Aires is a wily old Jesuit, who is willing to fight his corner and take on a conservative brigade, who is scared of change.