Saturday, June 24, 2017

"Where is the knowledge we have lost in information"

The 'Thinking Anew' column that appears in The Irish Times today.

 Michael Commane
Last Saturday was one of those special Irish summer days. Ireland was looking and smelling its best. And I know because I was out walking with a friend at the foothills of Maulin mountain which is in north Wicklow close to the border with Dublin.

At one stage on our walk we had a fabulous view out to sea. Boats exiting and entering Dublin port. All over the water were dots of white. 

The white dots were sailing boats. Maybe it was the altered perspective of looking down on those white dots out at sea that set me thinking about how fascinating knowledge is.

What is knowledge? Is it different from wisdom? The dictionary describes wisdom as the possession of experience and knowledge. I think it's fair to say that the wise person is often a knowledgeable person. Knowledge is a familiarity, an awareness or an understanding of someone or something.

In this newspaper last week in an obituary of Fr Jack Finucane, long associated with the international aid agency Concern Worldwide, the author wrote: “Among the metaphorical badges of honour pinned to Jack Finucane's breast by those who knew him and served with him, was the virtue of wisdom, said to be placed by King Solomon above wealth, health and all other things”.

Wisdom and knowledge are intrinsically linked. Jack Finucane was a wise man who was also a knowledgeable man in his sphere of action, helping the poorest of the poor.

Something I overheard almost 40 years ago has stayed with me. It surfaces when I hear the word knowledge. A Dominican was talking about finance and the banks and he casually said that the banks were all-powerful not because they had vast sums of money, rather they were powerful because they knew what people did with their money. 

There are many pithy sayings about knowledge, Shakespeare tells us there is no darkness but ignorance.

When we encounter genius, we are in awe. People who are brilliant and knowledgeable in their field of competency have an aura about them. The brilliant mathematician, the accomplished musician, the distinguished painter, the expert mechanic, the inspiring speaker, anyone who is exceptionally good at her or his work make us stand back and simply admire what they do.

But no matter how knowledgeable a person is, or no matter how much we know about anything, we are all limited in our knowledge. No one has all knowledge.

We are continuously making new discoveries. Indeed, right now in so many different areas, especially in science and technology, development is taking place at breath-taking speed. 

At the press of a button we have instant information. It may not always be accurate, nevertheless we now have tools of communication at our disposal that were unknown of 20 years ago. Information is coming at us at great speed from every possible angle. It is close to impossible to filter and process it all.

Is there a right type of knowledge? Certainly, we hear and learn bad and nasty news daily. That too, alas, is knowledge. The poet TS Eliot asks us to reflect: “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge. Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”

In tomorrow’s Gospel (Matthew 10: 26 -33) Jesus tells his disciples not to be afraid. “For everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear.” He tells his disciples what they hear in whispers they should proclaim from the housetops.

With all our knowledge, we are simply muddling about. 

As Christians, as believers in God, we say that all knowledge, all goodness is to be found in God. Our knowledge, our goodness surely are just glimpses of the knowledge and goodness of God. 

And maybe our floundering about with ideas and concepts, challenging what we once thought unchallengeable, will lead us to realise that all our understanding and knowledge points us towards God, in whom all knowledge is to be found.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Katie Hopkins might brush up on her English

Below a paragraph from Katie Hopkins' piece in "The Daily Mail'.

Whatever about her political knowledge, someone might think of giving her a quick course in English. 

Maybe a German or French student of English, indeed anyone from across the EU could giver her a helping hand.

Theresa May - a tepid Remainer - dragged about the place to say we would be better of in the European Union - convincing no one. And Corbyn - too busy fighting off leadership challenges from within his own party, a walking irrelevance, loved by people but laughed off his platform by his own team.

Jeremy and Theresa

Jeremy Corbyn gave a stellar performance in parliament yesterday as he did the day before as he does on the  streets and foothpaths wherever the cameras catch him.

Since the election people are listening to him.

Is it that his performance has improved or is it that because of what happened at the polls he is now being taken seriously?

And it's most unlikely that even 'The Sun' newspaper will dismiss him as they did before the election.

Might it be that Corbyn has been injected with a new vigour because of his success? The old cliche, success breeds success.

"The Sun" wanted to throw Corbyn in the bin, they had him thrown in the bin.

The number of people we throw in bins and then leave them rot there.

One of the greatest and worst of sins and seldom if ever a word about it.

And probably the complement to the Corbyn story is how a woman who was some short time ago walking on water is now fumbling and stumbling,

The nonsensical power we give to the management class and how we dismiss so many. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Beyond abortion wars

An interesting article in The Tablet of June 17 titled "Beyond the abortion wars" by Charles Camosy, who is associate professor of theological and social ethics at Fordham University.

An excerpt from the piece:

"Catholics and members of other religious groups have abortions at similar rates to the rest of the population.

"Abortion, and especially public policy on abortion, is one of the most complex issues our cuture has to face.

"To do justice to the complexity of the issue we must find a way to talk about abortion that ditches the life/choice binary."

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Pope Paul Vl

On this day, June 21, 1963 Cardinal Montini was elected pope. He took the name Paul Vl. 

He died in 1978 and was succeeded by John Paul l.

Since his papacy there has only been one Italian pope, John Paul l, whose time in the Vatican was 33 days. He was 66 when elected pope.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Jeremy Corbyn and hope

This week's Independent News & Media Irish regional newspapers' column.

Today marks the 10th anniversary of this blog.

Michael Commane.
In the run up to the general election in the UK the majority of newspapers were downright nasty to Jeremy Corbyn. 'The Sun' ran a front page story with the headline "Don't chuck Britain in the Cor bin".  

Before the election Corbyn did say that if elected, the Labour Party would put higher taxes on extremely wealthy people and corporations. The Labour Party's slogan was "For the many not the few". That was bound to make newspaper proprietors nervous.

It's striking how Irish people follow British politics and it would seem that Irish people living in the UK are more inclined to vote Labour than Conservative.

It is probably accurate to say that a large number of Irish people were pleased to see the Tories get a bloody nose.

And I have to be honest and come out with my hands up and admit that I was both flabbergasted and delighted when I saw the early exit polls announcing that the Conservatives were not going to get an overall majority. 

Suddenly it was appearing that Jeremy was not going to end up in the bin.

The election result and its aftermath has reminded me of the election Harold Wilson won as Labour leader back in 1964. He won by a small majority and then went on to win with a comfortable majority in 1966. Eight years later in 1974 Wilson was returned to power again but this time as leader of a minority government.

In 1964 I was 15 but I can still remember my enthusiasm for Wilson and his team. Ten years later in 1974 and living in Rome I was still a Wilson fan.

Wilson gave people a sense of hope. Labour gave the impression they were hell bent on improving the lot of poorer people. 

Last week a BBC programme did an analysis of the June 8 election campaign. They interviewed a number of people, who supported the different parties. One aspect came across loud and clear and that was that young Labour supporters believed that Jeremy Corbyn offered hope. Every young Labour supporter who came to camera said that word 'hope'.

You know what, Corbyn did precisely that. He kept talking about change and hope and making things better. And something else: observing him on television he came across as a person who was not talking down to people. Compare his television persona to that of Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, David Davis, Michael Fallon, and of course the person in charge, Theresa May.

At least to my eyes and ears, they all sounded and looked opinionated, upper class public school educated toffs, who are constantly speaking down to the hoi polloi and telling them how to behave. They give the impression that they have a natural birthright to 'lead their people'.

Along comes Jeremy Corbyn, who sounds and acts like a man of the people and offers hope. All those television shots of him leaving his modest London home, drinking his coffee in the local restaurant. But above all the language he uses and the ideas he is expressing impress and inspire people. He offers hope. And God knows we all need to hope.

It set me thinking about the Irish Catholic Church. Why is it that the church always seems to lean towards the right? Are there any Irish bishops today who have a Corbynista touch to them? How many of them offer a tangible or exciting hope?

Is it a daft thing to say or ask? Not sure about that. After all didn't Jesus spend his life railing against the establishment and offering hope?

Monday, June 19, 2017

The haves and have-nots

According to a Gates Foundation study 10 per cent of the world's population is obese.

And at the same time, one billion people on the planet have not enough food to eat.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Blue skies all the way

Yesterday was of course the warmest day of the year.

And in such weather is there anywhere more fabulous than Ireland?

The walk from Crone Wood heading south towards Maulin with a view right out to sea was simply mesmeric.

We could see the retired power station stacks at Ringsend, boats going in and out of Dublin Port and then all those tiny white sails. At least they looked tiny from the side of Maulin.

Doubtful if it would be possible for it ever to be any clearer than it was yesterday.

Away from the cover of the forest it was warm and so it felt wearing boots and walking for three hours, covering close to 10 kilometres. Walking in undergrowth is never easy but in the heat of yesterday it was tough going.

The picture shows Shadow beside his master taking on water supplies before heading for the climb.
Alas, days in the hills are no longer an option for Tess. So says the vet and that's how it is.

Corpus Christi

The Irish Catholic Church celebrates today the feast of Corpus Christi.

The current issue of Spirituality carries an article by Michael Marchal. The title of the piece is The Discolosure of Jesus's Presence in the Eucharist.

He concludes:  And if the Bread were a loaf of real bread broken for all and the Cup really poured our for all, then the Sacrifice really would be revealed through the Meal. For 'when we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again.'

And only then will the fourth of Christ's real presences in the Cup and Bread 'mystically symbolise' and thereby make real the unity and peace of the church.

And then they might also lead us to his fifth real presence in the poor and needy of the world where we are called to meet him already face-to-face.

Australian Jesuit Richard Leonard has an interesting piece in the current issue of The Tablet.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Helmut Kohl dies

The Frankfurter Rundschau refers to him as The master of political power'.

Heulmut Kohl, known as the 'Chancellor of German unity' died in his beloved Ludwigshafen yesterday. He was 87.

Addressing the Israeli Knesset in 1984 he explained he had the "mercy of a late birth".

Kohl, who was the longest serving German leader since Bismarck, was born in 1930 into a Catholic anti-Nazi family. His brother Walter fell in Noramandy.

He was first elected Chancellor in 1982 when SPD Chancellor Helmut Schmidt lost a vote of confidence in the Bundestag.

Kohl's CDU formed a coalition with the FDP.

The night the Wall came down Kohl was in Warsaw but on October 3, 1990, Kohl was in Berlin to experienece German unification.

It was Kohl who recognised the Oder-Neisse border and so pleased the Poles.

He introduced a young inexperienced woman to his cabinet in 1991whom he called his Mädchen. Angela Merkel grabbed power from him in 1998 and has been German Chancellor since 2005.

Dr Kohl's wife Hannelore died by suicide. She suffered a rare allergy to sunlight.

Former Soviet leader and Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev spoke of Kohl as a leader who has left a positive stamp on Europe.

Kohl's last years saw sadness and tragedy. As a result of a fall he was left partially paralysed. He married a former aid, 34 years his junior. There were issues with his two sons and a court case over his memoirs.

Helmut Kohl was the architect of a united Germany and a warrior for Europe.

Yesterday a commentator on RTE said he was the greatest chancellor of Germany in the 20th century. Greater than Adenauer or indeed Brandt or Schmidt? Come to think of it, Germany has been fortunate to have had so many outstanding post war leaders.

And it so happens today in Berlin  Germans remembered the rising that took place on this day, June 17, 1953 in the former GDR. Workers demonstrated in Berlin on June 16 protesting against low wages. The following day the demonstrations spread throughout the GDR and became a protest against the State. The rising was suppressed by troops of the Soviet Army assisted by the Volkspolizei.

As a result of the rising there is a main street in Berlin called 17 Juni Straße.

A tiny point: Helmut Kohl died on the day of the German Junior and Leaving Cert exams in Ireland.

National bicycle week

National Bicycle Week Ireland runs from June 10 to June 18.

It so happens that the Cardinal Archbishop of Cologne, Rainier Maria Woelki spoke about bicycles in a sermon in Cologne Cathedral on Sunday, June 11.

It was to mark the invention of the bicycle by German Baron Karl von Drais 200 years ago in 1817.

"Every time we get on a bicycle, we protect the environment. I wonder if Donald Trump uses one?" Woelki asked.

The cardinal deplored Donald Trump's decision to drop out of the Paris Climate Agreement.

The writer of this blog is cycling 63 years with the exception of an interval of two years while living in Rome, when the mode of transport was scooter, shanks mare, bus and tram.

Friday, June 16, 2017

German Leaving Cert 2017

Below is the link to today's Leaving Certificate German Higher Level German Paper.

Grenfell Tower

Judith Blakeman a Labour councillor on the Kensington and Chelsea Borough described on Channel 4 News last evening how people in authority had attempted over a long period of time to silence her on account of her objecting to poor standards at Grenfell Tower.

She said she was considered a trouble-maker because she has been for years complaining and objecting to bad practice. As a result there were those who did not take her seriously and simply dismissed her and her views.

In the same news programme singer Lilly Allen gave a damning account of how the Conservatives are doing everything possible to divide the rich from the poor in the borough. She cited how the Tories are dertermined to close down the Notting Hill summer festival.

Allen went on to say that the media are intentionally minimising the casualties and said that the numbers dead are well over 100, including many babies and children.

Watching Judith Blakeman and LIlly Allen condemn the Tories it was impossible not to think of the soundbites and slick words of the likes of David Davis, Michael Gove, Boris Johnson et al in the days before the general election.

Director and cinematographer Ishmahil Blagrove explained to Jon Snow how the word 'regeneration' is used as a codeword for ethnic cleansing.

"People have put profit over people. A culture of greed has to change," he said.

To quote Jon Snow: "The anger is palpable." That's always what happens when authority does not listen to people, even the 'trouble-makers'.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Limerick and Ballybeg

According to the last census Limerick and Ballybeg in Waterford are two of the unemployment blacspots in the country.

What do the Irish Dominicans do? They close their houses in Limerick and Ballybeg.

Vincent Kennedy OP RIP

Fr Vincent Kennedy died on June 7 at the Dominican community in Newbridge, Co. Kildare.

On the closing of the Dominican priory in Limerick, Vincent moved to Newbridge approximately 12 months ago, back to the priory where he had spent a pastoral year after his priestly ordination.

Vincent was born in Cork in May 1930, joined the Dominicans in 1950 and was ordained a priest in 1956.

Fr Kennedy spent many years in Trinidad. He also worked in Waterford, San Clemente in Rome, Lisbon and at the Dominican priory in Limerick where he was well-known for his almsgiving.

He was a gentle and kind man, gracious too.

At his funeral Mass in Newbridge Fr Jordan O'Brien made reference to a comment made in the chronicle of the Limerick community which was written by Fr Kennedy.

It was dated March 3, 2013: "No prior, no bishop, no pope."

Jordan in his sermon pointed out that at the time the said prior was out of office the previous day.

Jordan lived and worked with Vincent in Trinidad and Limerick. He also cared for Vincent in his old age when he was infirm.

It has been remiss of this blog not to have mentioned Fr Kennedy's death earlier. Apologies.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A letter in 'The Irish Times'

Below is a link to a letter, written by David McConnell, which appears in The Irish Times today.

If you cannot open this link, then check letter on The Irish Times website.

The Prague Spring

On this day, June 14, 1968 the Czech government announced liberalising reforms under Alexander Dubček.

Is it possible to say that what happened in Czechoslovakia in June 1968 was the precursor to the collapse of Soviet rule in eastern Europe and the fall of the Berlin Wall?

Although the People's Army of the German Democratic Republic  were prepared to participate in the invasion of Czechoslovakia, they were ordered by Moscow not to cross the border just hours before the invasion.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Dublin's "Gentile area"

This week's Independent News & Media Irish regional newspapers' column

Michael Commane
How important are words? Does it matter if we misspell or misuse them? No doubt change is one of the characteristics of a living language - it develops over time. People in different regions spell words differently. Indeed, sometimes it can be fun observing the changes and differences.

Or is it just the mind of a pedant who has nothing better to do than spot mistakes? Then again, are they mistakes?

I was reminded of words, their misspelling and misuse last week when someone pointed out that they had seen flashed across a television screen the night of the slaughter on London Bridge "... van plowed into crowd". She was confused by the word "plowed" and thought it should have been "ploughed", as I did too. But I have since discovered that's how they spell it in the United States.

Just a few days after that there was a piece in a national newspaper in the property section about apartments for sale in a "gentile area" in plush Dublin 4. 

Have you ever spotted how people write  "expatriot" when in fact they mean "expatriate"?
These are some common classic errors.

The redundant or misplaced apostrophe can be great fun. Is it "it's" or is it "its"? Not too long ago I saw a posh property for sale. The advertisement selling it explained about its "Sales Fee's". A fancy restaurant in Ballsbridge advertises "Gourmet Pasta's and Soups". And that's particularly baffling. Why does one deserve an apostrophe while the other doesn't? A real mystery.

Why oh why do people write "1970's" when in fact if should simply be "1970s"? The same goes for "photos": one often sees "photo's". And how often does one see "FAQ's"? It is so annoying. 

There is a gent in the UK who travels by night, operating anonymously, correcting grammar errors and he has a particular penchant for ridding the world of the redundant apostrophe and inserting it when it should be in place. He carries with him a ladder and a specially built "apostrophiser" tool.

We all know the plural of "sheep" is "sheep", without the  "s". Some months back, there was a headline in the business section of an Irish daily newspaper which ran: "New aircrafts to boost Aer Lingus transatlantic flights". Surely the plural of "aircraft" is "aircraft"?

After the last general election a commentator writing on the Healy-Rae phenomenon wrote: "Sneered by the rest of the country for their brand of parish-pump politics they're perceived to "pedal", the Healy-Raes have built up a well-oiled political machine......"  I presume neither Michael nor Danny cycle anywhere. They might well have opponents who believe they "peddle" a brand of parish-pump politics.

Do you know whether it should be "less" or "few". I was reminded of that conundrum when I saw this headline on a newspaper: "KCC says less Kerry Businesses are failing". Surely it should be "fewer".

There's no end to the errors that jump up in front of our eyes everyday.
Does it matter? And yet when someone says: "I done that", many of the movers and shakers are disgusted. Although I did hear Ray D'Arcy say on his radio show : "... would have went to him". Ouch.

A question, do you spell "organise" with an "s" or an "z"? 

Has it all to do with American influence? Maybe it is that the Americans can't spell.

On the other hand maybe all the misspellings and misuses are signs that the language we use is alive and always developing/changing.

Guess what, maybe everything about living is always in process. Does that mean everything is relative?

Monday, June 12, 2017

Ups and downs of politics

Isn't politics a funny game?

In The Irish Times of Saturday, June 3, Denis Staunton wrote that "In some places the party leader [Jeremy Corbyn] remains its biggest election drawback".

In that same article a Labour campaign operative tells Staunton: "All I hear on the doorsteps is 'Jeremy Corbyn's a f***ing arsehole' ".

Late on election night on BBC Radio 4 a political commentator said that he never thought he would say the three words 'Prime Minister Corbyn'.

What will they be saying in six months time, in a year?

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Djouce on a summer's day

Although weather forecast for the region was for heavy consistent rain for yesterday afternoon along the east coast, not a drop of rain.

The rain had come and gone before our ascent to Djouce (725 metres) in north east Wicklow.

Cloud and wind but those conditions changed and the sun appeared.

Away in the distance a herd of deer. They either saw or heard us because they took off at great speed.

Pictures show Lough Tay from the JB Malone marker and views from near the top of Djouce.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Probably useless information

Fifty years ago today, June 10, 1967, Israel, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt ended the 'Six-Day War' with the help of the United Nations.

In China Mao Zedong was chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, a job he held from 1945 until 1976.

Mao had four wives and 10 children. Jeremy Corbyn has been married three times and has three children.

Mao is still revered in China. A Chinese woman living in Ireland has no problem saying that Mao was a great man and did wonders for China. Smiling, she says: "My mother so admires Mao Zedong that she uses his digits in his date of birth for her ATM password."

The death of Mao Zedong was announced on RTE's lunchtime news. I was sitting in the kitchen having my lunch with my mother.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Dominican offers advice to Irish Sisters of Charity

The current issue of The Irish Catholic carries an article titled "Nuns should stand up for life and pull out of deal" written by Fr Kevin O'Reilly OP.

It certainly doesn't read as if the author is trying to win friends. 

For Kevin to say that there are few people "able" to speak up in defence of the Religious Sisters of Charity sounds a tad arrogant and most likely inaccurate.

Kevin refers to "natural reason" without explaining what it is. Nor does he tell the reader what "supernatural faith" is.

He writes: "The Catholic Church is to my knowledge the only major institution that defends the inviolability of all human life". Is that not far too general a statement, misleading too? 

There are many people and groups of people who defend the "Inviolability of human life".

There is not one reference in the piece to capital punishment, not a reference to the number of executions performed by states around the world.

Not a word about the billion people who have not enough to eat, the homeless, the marginallised. Nor a word on the €1.75 trillion spent on weaponry in 2016. And guns, tanks, rockets kill people. It is a 'culture of death'.

Kevin states: "In a period of history that has come to recognise itself as post-truth, the Catholic Church is also the only institution to espouse truth."

Clearly that is not accurate nor is it factual. Who is doing the "recognising"? To say that the Catholic Church is the only institution to espouse truth is palpably folly and arrogant.

Can you mention that the church espouses truth without acknowledging that the church is also a church of sinners?

Kevin points out how Pope Benedict's plea to put us in touch with truth "has largely been ignored". Ignored by whom?

Is it appropriate or wise for Kevin to offer advice to the Irish Sisters of Charity?

It can be grating on one's ear to listen to priests tell people that "commitment to the truth will of course bring suffering in its wake".

I have been a Dominican priest for over 40 years and I have seldom been made aware of priests suffering as a result of their commitment to the truth.

The author writes: "In an increasingly secular society that is hostile to Catholicism above all other religions on account of its esteem for reason and its love of human life it has become more and more difficult for Catholics to escape the pervasive influence of the culture of death."

Surely that is not true. Is Kevin suggesting that it's because of the church's "esteem for reason" that society is hostile towards it?

Does the institutional church not live off the back of "secular society"?

And who are the Catholics who find it more difficult "to escape the pervasive influence of the culture of death"?

I work in a hospital where I see day-in-day-day out staff work tirelessly to save life and improve the quality of life for all its patients.

This is an article that will probably help no one and most likely alienate many.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Revealing words on an artist who was also a Dominican

The May/June issue of 'Spirituality' carries an article on sculptor Henry Patrick Flanagan.

Fr Flanagan taught art, music and English at Newbridge College, where he spent all his priestly life.

Jordan O'Brien, who lived with fellow Dominican Henry Flanagan at Newbridge College, brings the works of Henry to life and tells an interesting story of an energetic sculptor, who was influenced by Fra Angelico, Rubens, Moore and others. His Christian faith was also a source of inspiration for him as was the Dominican tradition.

Fr Henry created over 400 works of art and craft, which included the headstone on my parents' grave.

In the same issue of 'Spirituality' there is a most interesting article, titled, 'The DIsclosure of Jesus's Presence in the Eucharist'.

Michael Marchal, a retired literature teacher, writes that the liturgical conflicts of the last three decades have not been just about how to arrange the furniture. He argues that they are at base a disagreement about how Jesus is really present to his people.

Two pieces that make for great reading.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

HSE five-week campaign to get its staff on shank's mare

This week's Independent News & Media Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
Three weeks ago a physiotherapist called me aside at work and asked would I be interested in taking part in the HSE Steps to Health Challenge. She explained that the HSE was running, excuse the pun, a fitness challenge.

It's now in its third week and from what I understand HSE staff countrywide have been invited to take part.

The challenge involves counting the number of steps we take over the five-week period. It began on Monday May 15.

With today's technology there are all sorts of gizmos to measure the number of steps one takes. 

You can download an app on to your smart phone or you can measure your steps with a watch-like device that is called a Fitbit. There are more sophisticated gadgets that, along with measuring the number of steps you take, also measure your activity on a bicycle plus the number of strokes you take while swimming. And these gadgets also give you heart beat readings plus all sorts of other data on how your body is functioning. Guess what, they also tell the time.

If you don't have such a sophisticated device a simple pedometer clipped on to your belt will do the job. Okay, it will not do any of the fancy footwork but it will tell you the number of steps you take in the day.

Have you any idea how far you walk on any given day, any notion of the average walking distance you do in a week?

The Steps to Health Challenge aims to get people walking and the overall plan is to entice people to walk 10,000 steps a day, which is the equivalent of eight kilometres or five miles a day.

According to the experts who know about these things most people walk between 3,000 and 5,000 steps every day.

The idea is of course to get people doing more walking. Instead of using the lift, walk up the stairs. If you have a spare 15 minutes at lunchtime, rather than sitting down, go out for a quick walk. Is there really need for you to drive to work?  Every step counts.

According to the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, who is said to have been a contemporary of Confucius, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step".

And that's certainly a good one-liner to set you on your way.

The purpose of the challenge is to make people more conscious of the benefits of taking exercise.

We are now just at the half-way point and I have to admit it is great fun. I have a pedometer clipped to my belt and must say that it is almost addictive. 

For the purposes of the challenge, staff have been divided into teams of three and each team has to come up with its own name. There are prizes for clever names and fun walking ideas, novel video clips, indeed, for all sorts of imaginative ideas.

It's an ideal time to run the challenge as this surely is the best time of the year to take to Shank's Mare.
Walking is a fabulous way to become aware of our surroundings, hearing the sounds of birds, the chatter of people. It's also of course a great way to relax, whether on urban streets, along towpaths or walking in the hills. Only last week I discovered a lovely walk along the Royal Canal and saw for the first time a statue of Brendan Behan near Binn's Bridge.

It was Hippocrates who said: "Walking is a man's best friend".

Congrats to the HSE for coming up with the idea.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Old fogy on the line

This locomotive was at Limerick Junction yesterday.

CIE bought the GM-built 071 class locos in the 1970s.

075 locomotive was involved in the Buttevant crash in 1980. And another 071 class locomotive  pulled the ill-fated Galway Dublin Heuston train that crashed into the failed Tralee Dublin train at Cherryville Junction in 1983.

Locomotive 075 is still in service with Irish Rail, working as a maintenance train.

Lives were lost in both crashes.

Today the 17.05 service from Tralee to Dublin Heuston completed the journey in three hours 22 minutes. That must be close to a record time?

Andrew O'Hagan's new book on identity and secrecy

Scottish author of Irish descent Andrew O'Hagan was interviewed by Andrew Marr on BBC 4's 'Start the Week' this morning.

He spoke about his new book 'The Secret Life'.

The book features three people: Julian Assange of WikiLeaks' fame, Satoshi Nakamoto, creator of Bitcoin, and Ronald Pinn, a man who does not exist at all, except in the online world.

In the interview O'Hagan tells Andrew Marr that it was never easier to be someone else.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The peace of Pentecost

Today is the great feast of Pentecost.

The word 'peace' is prominent in today's Gospel reading.

Peace is a great quality.

The Christian community is forever talking about how God loves us.

If people actually feel loved surely they have a far better chance of experiencing peace in their own lives and then acting in a peaceful manner.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

US canon lawyer has 'proof' that Trump is religious

US canon lawyer and editor of 'The Catholic Thing' Fr Gerald Murray said on EWTN's Raymond Arroyo show last evening that President Donald Trump is "a religious man'" and that was proved by his visit with Pope Francis.

It seems EWTN is the Catholic equivalent of Fox News, maybe even more extreme.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Pope Francis on priests

Pope Francis on a visit to Genoa said:

"There is a danger, and it is of creating the image of a priest who knows everything, and does not need any advice."

He also spoke of the priest who "has everything sorted out, everything in order, well structured and in its place.

"Maybe that priest is a good businessman, but is he a Christian? Or does he live as a Christian?"

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Anniversary of the death of Dominican Paul Hynes

Today is the anniversary of the death of Dominican priest Paul Hynes.

Paul died in Dublin on June 1, 1985. He was 51.

He was one of the finest Dominicans of his generation. Paul was a noble son of St Dominic, who wanted to live and preach the Gospel in a way that made sense to the people among whom he lived.

He was certainly a no-nonsense man, an intelligent man and an extremely hard worker.

It really never makes sense to ask hypothetical questions but what at all would Paul have to say about today's Irish church, the state of the Irish Dominican province, the state of the management of the Irish Dominican province today?

Those who remember him might well hazard a guess.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Labour on Tory's tail

On Monday evening's Sky/Channel4 political debate with Jeremy Paxman interviewing Theresa May And Jeremy Corbyn separately it was as clear as day that the Labour leader put in a stronger performance on the night.

And then in today's latest poll there is now talk of a hung parliament.

Interesting times.

Takes flight

This Heron spotted on the Royal Canal close to the statue of Brendan Behan, which was unveiled in 2003 by the then taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

Indeed, a fabulous walk or cycle along the banks of the Royal Canal right in the heart of the city. The stretch is also beside the railway line which now takes rail traffic from Newbridge to Grand Canal Dock since the opening of the Phoenix Park tunnel.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

It's people who matter and how we interact with them

This week's Independent News & Media Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
Occasionally we have a few polite words to say to each other, inconsequential stuff but always measured. He's an architect by trade and I imagine a good one. Last week we were chatting about this and that. 

We both agreed that expertise, knowledge, skill, intelligence are important but human relations, people interacting with one another is vital in the conduct of any business. We can be experts in our fields but if we can't handle interpersonal skills then the job in hand is going to be made far more difficult.

So much in our lives is personal. When people impress us, when we are inspired by people, it makes us reach out to new heights.

Certainly the big 'moments' in my life have not been events or things but rather meeting people and being influenced by them.

Those of us who have been fortunate enough to have been blessed with good and kind parents always treasure our mums and dads. The older we get the more we realise their greatness.

Youngsters have their fans, whether pop stars or footballers. And industry makes billions on the 'fan-phenomenon'. It's the way of the world.

I remember having two 'heroes', Harold Wilson and Lester Piggott. Yes, they were famous people but it was the quirky things they did that impressed me. 

The story goes that when Harold Wilson was in school, writing an essay about what he would like to be when he grew up, he went up to the teacher and asked what number on Downing Street did the Chancellor of the Exchequer live. 

The teacher told him number 11 and then asked him why would he not like to be prime minister. No he wanted to be chancellor. Back in his seat, a few minutes later, he put his hand up and asked in what number the prime minister lived.

Rumour has it that Piggott on winning his first Epsom Derby instead of going off partying went back to his father's house and cut the lawn.

Youngster Wilson comes across as an interesting child and Piggott has always been for me someone who was 'different'. People leave their mark on us, even from afar.

I remember as a 10-year-old boy having a great teacher in school. I can still see him at the top of the class. And he was such a lovely person. Teachers are in a special position to influence us. 

Gosh, I'm wondering what sort of mark I left on my students? I hope I was kind.

This Thursday, June 1 is the anniversary of the death of a Dominican. Paul Hynes died on June 1, 1985. He was 51 when he died. He was prior in St Mary's Priory in Tallaght when I went there as a young man in 1969. He was dynamic, full of ideas and simply an amazing person. 

He has left an indelible mark on me. When people ask me why I joined the Dominicans I stumble about looking for words but I gather myself together and then say I have met Dominicans who greatly impressed me and have probably stayed because of their influence on me.

So much of our lives is greatly influenced and ordered by the people we meet. That can be for good or bad. Unfortunately, there are times when that influence leads to terrible human misery. But when it works for the good, there is little in this world like it. 

In these days it's heartening to be reminded of the 19th century American philosopher Henry David Thoreau, who wrote: "Goodness is the only investment that never fails."

Monday, May 29, 2017

Germany dismisses Trump as unfit for the job

Yesterday in Munich German Chancellor Angela Merkel clearly expressed her view that the European Union would now have to rely more than ever on its member states.

Last evening on the Anne Will programme on German TV station ARD the general consensus was that Donald Trump is a disaster for the world and the US.

The panel made up of journalists, politicians, academics, all agreed that Donald Trump's presidency is not working.

The panel was unanimous and indeed dismissive towards the US president.

Writer and philosopher Susan Neiman pointed out how the Republican Party is at ground zero and been hijacked by such groups as the Tea Party.

She want on to say that  Trump is among the worst presidents the US has had. She said it is gernally accepted that he is simply not psychologically equipped for the job of president.

Klaus von Dohnanyi, an 89-year-old SPD politician, former government minister and mayor of Hamburg, and nephew of Dietrich Bonhoeffer spoke of the unpredictability of Trump. He went on to say the EU and the Germans must stand up to the US.

He stressed that Trump's plans to isolate Iran is clearly the wrong policy. He said that there is a lack of know-how in the Trump administration.

Norbert Röttgen, a leading CDU politician, spoke most disparagingly of Trump's attitude towards Nato.

He pointed out how Trump is interested only in speaking to the US electorate and that in the context of a salesman. He observed how Trump has no interest in bringing about a peaceful solution in Iran.

It was generally agreed that Trump's attitude towards Iran is dangerous and worrying.

And then on the news immediately after Anne Will, a clip was shown of Angela Merkel saying that the EU can no longer place confidence in the United States of Donald Trump.

Martin Schulz SPD chancellor candidate for the September elections said that the EU has now to stand up against President Trump.

Exciting times. Worrying too.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

On dry ground

Most times the heron is to be seen in the river but on this occasion perched above the slightly flooded Dodder.

Germany's ZDF slams Trump as dangerous

In a commentary slot on Germany's ZDF station last evening, Elmar Thevessen, a senior journalist with the station criticised the behaviour of President Donald Trump at the G7 summit in Sicily.

In his hard-hitting criticism of Trump he accused him of being a narcissist, insulting, selfish, impatient and dangerous for the world. He also was most critical of Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia and the multi-billion dollar deal the US president signed with the Saudi government.

No punches pulled and a surprisingly explicit attack for any German commentator to make against a sitting US president.

ZDF and ARD are public service television stations funded by tv licence in Germany.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Videoing the Ascension may well not catch it on camera

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

Michael Commane 
Tomorrow is the feast of the Ascension. In the second half of the 20th century an Anglican bishop and theologian commented that if he had filmed the Ascension of the Lord most likely he would not have caught on video Jesus rising above the clouds. 

The bishop, who was a man of faith, was controversial. He was always trying to challenge people with the mysteries of Christianity.

From time to time every organisation throws up interesting people, who are not conformists or bound to the status quo, people who are not afraid to speak their minds. When that happens within religion it is a remarkable phenomenon to observe and a blessing to behold. 

We get hints of such an attitude from Pope Francis. He's willing on occasion to say what he thinks even if it might be in the tiniest way unconventional. Of course, the church, the people of God, are duty-bound to live and preach the Word of the Lord, the story that has been handed down to us from the time of Jesus Christ.

But surely the Word of God must be lived and spoken in a language and style that makes sense in the “here and now” of our daily lives. In last week's edition of 'The Tablet', an English weekly Catholic magazine, writer Sara Maitland wrote on how the official teaching of the church has changed down through history.

She cited examples, including doctrine on the Trinity and the church's teaching on the geocentric universe. The Church too has changed its teaching on witchcraft, evolution, interest on loans and whether women can vote.

Maitland gives the example of how love changes and develops. She writes: "It is not that the beloved has 'changed' into someone else, it is that our capacity to see, to know, to understand has expanded, refreshed itself."

So, what then does the Ascension of the Lord mean to us? We could easily get “bogged down” thinking in terms of someone hovering above the clouds. Alternatively, we could move beyond literal interpretation to dwell on the mystery of the incarnation. Our belief is that God became man, lived among us in an historical time and place, returned to the Father and then through the power of the Holy Spirit is present in some mysterious, yet real way in the world in which we live.

The feast of the Ascension is part of an intricate mosaic and is intrinsically bound up with the mystery of the Trinity. Tomorrow's feast is yet another signpost directing us towards God, who places so much emphasis on the idea of union, the idea of persons being so closely related with one another that they are united in one Godhead.

Every time, we, in harmony and union with other people, speak well of others, do good to others, we are participating in the mystery of the Trinity and indeed making the reality of a Trinitarian God present in our world.

I think it is in that context that we can best attempt to get any handle on tomorrow's feast.
It's easy to be aloof, it's easy to be rigid and unbending in our views and beliefs. But when people move outside such “lifestyle-bubbles” and still manage to perform brilliantly, they are inspirational.

Last week on the Ryan Tubridy radio programme English neurosurgeon Henry Marsh was interviewed. I had just read one of his books 'Do No Harm'. It is a collection of essays about his work. He readily admits that doctors can get corrupted by power, he talks of how success makes us complacent. He is a man who has dedicated his life to helping people, making people better. 

Marsh is anything but a status quo man. He has no time for any of the nonsense that goes with privilege and position. His patients always come first.

Being involved in the betterment of humanity, working in communion for the good of one another, we are entering the mystery of the triune God. The Ascension of Jesus is part of that mosaic.

Friday, May 26, 2017

From the NCR

Editorial: Reject Trump's cruel budget proposal
by NCR Editorial Staff
Editorial: The annual budget proposal the president sends to Congress is more of a message document than a working blueprint, and the message that the Trump administration sent with its priorities on May 23 is frighteningly clear. It spells out in stark terms the Trump administration's vision for America: It would create a crueler, more selfish society. It gives safe harbor to the richest and most comfortable among us and pits the poor and working class, families and children against the elderly to fight for scraps and leftovers. President Donald Trump would leave Social Security retirement benefits untouched, but would cut Social Security disability payments. Meals on Wheels are safe, but school lunches and food stamps are not.

Universities unchallenged

Last evening's RTÉ's Prime Time programme on the Irish universities gave us an insight into the incompetence, arrogance and laziness of the management class at our universities.

Can one imagine a similar programme on the management class of the Irish Catholic Church?

A wise man who reads this blog has been in touch to say that the blog comment is a 'tad of a generalisation'.

Accepted. Watching the programme and listening to politicians comment on the behaviour of university personnel at the Oireachtas committee, the writer of this blog was reminded of an arrogance that so often develops when people are not challenged. It happens everwhere.

But, yes, always dangerous to generalise. And point accepted.

A church of many parts

It's good to know that the Catholic Church is made up of different parts.

On Sunday Pope Francis named five new cardinals.

Among them is Gregorio Rosa Chávez, auxiliary bishop in San Salvador.

On the death of Archbishop Rivera in 1994 it was generally expected that Bishop Rosa Chávez would be appointed as his successor. To the surprise of many, he was overlooked and an Opus Dei sympathiser, who held the rank of brigadier general in the Salvadorian army became the new archbishop of San Salvador.

Rosa Chávez, who lives in a poor and run-down area of San Salvador, will be created a cardinal at the next consistory in Rome on June 28.

Some days later on July 8 in Dublin Archbishop Augustine De Noia will ordain to the priesthood an Irish Dominican.

Two different trends, two different groupings within the Catholic Church.

But the church of Chávez seems a more open, a kinder and nicer place to be. Less pompus and self-righteous too.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Ascension in Germany

Today is a public/Sate holiday, across all Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany


Because it is the feast of the Ascension.

Shops, banks, businesses are closed. Germany closes down today, even on the railway, services are similar to Sunday service.

In Ireland? It was never a public or State holiday. 

Some years ago, the Irish bishops moved the feast of the Ascension to the following Sunday.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Harding in 'The Irish Times'

Columnists, priests, teachers, anyone who is writing or talking regularly have some good days, some bad days.

Sometimes what they say is exciting and interesting, other days it is boring and annoying and more days pure piffle.

And in that context or in that vein, Michael Harding's piece in 'The Irish Times' today is a laugh-a-sentence. So if you want to give yourself a smile, it's well worth a read.

People forced to flee home

 Last year 31 million people around the world were forced to flee their homes.

The large majority moved because of war, others moved as a result of natural disasters.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

"Do No Harm"

This week's Independent News & Media column.

Michael Commane
A friend suggested I read 'Do No Harm' by Henry Marsh. 

It's a gem. Marsh is a 67-year-old neurosurgeon, still doing occasional surgery in  Atkinson Morley's/St George's Hospital in London, where he has been working as a consultant neurosurgeon since 1987. These days he is working in Ukraine and Nepal.

Two documentaries have been made about him and he received a CBE in 2010.

Last Tuesday Ryan Tubridy interviewed him on his RTE Radio 1 morning show. 

I remember once hearing Maeve Binchy say that it's a great skill to write as you talk. And the moment I heard Marsh on the Turbidy Show it was so clear to see that he writes just as he talks.

He comes across as a lovely man. Reading the book and listening to him on radio I found myself being enthused to do a better job at my own work. Nothing 'grand' or pompous about him. Indeed he told Turbridy that it's easy for doctors to get corrupted by power.

His latest book 'Admissions' is a personal follow-up where he looks back on a life in medicine.

"Do No Harm' is a diary-style collection of accounts of different operations he has performed. It's the perfect book to carry with you for a bus or train journey as you can dip in and out of it. Each story is a unit in itself.

His genuine interest and compassion for his patients is striking. On one occasion he is heading to Heathrow to go on a short holiday with his wife when he gets a call from the hospital. He leaves the motorway and heads to the hospital.

He recalls how the working hours of junior doctors were reduced in the UK. It was believed that hospital doctors were overworked and patients' lives were at risk. But Marsh saw the change as having some negative results. 

"It seemed to me that this had lost the sense of importance and belonging that came with working the long hours of the past," he writes. I know exactly what he means. When I was at 'The Kerryman' we worked on Tuesdays until midnight. We complained but there was a great sense of camaraderie, 'importance' too.

The book is so well written. Before studying medicine he did a primary degree in politics, philosophy and economics. Obviously his dabbling in philosophy gave him  an entree into writing. 

To say it's a 'page turner' is one of those cliches that easily loses its meaning but having read a few short sentences of this book it's difficult not to keep reading.

Anyone who has anything at all to do with sick and fragile people, and that includes most of us, this book gives a fabulous insight into aspects of the world of medicine. Marsh stresses that he's no god. Nor does he want people to see him as such.

He keeps fit, runs approximately 45 kilometres a week and  has no trouble telling Ryan Tubridy that his exercise campaign keeps depression at bay.

Reading the book and listening to Henry Marsh talk I felt he was writing and talking to me. That's always a sign of genius.

While writing this column I met a young doctor who worked with Marsh in an operating theatre in a London hospital and he told me clearly and emphatically that he is a great man and a superb surgeon. No time for nonsense or any sort of pomposity. He hints too that he's 'different'. 

Conformists, status quo people can be so boring, silly too.

I recommend you read Henry Marsh, a man of skill, hope and humanity.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Irish Rail's confusing info on travelling with a bicycle

This leaflet is available at Irish Rail stations.

It is about carrying a bicycle on a train.

If you read the first two main paragraphs the flyer seems to give contradictory information.

Paragraph two states the opposite to what is written in the first paragraph.

Should the word 'including' be 'excluding'? Or is it that the rule does not apply to Intercity services?

Whether or which, it is confusing and certainly a waste of scarce resources.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Bombs made in the USA

Yesterday President Donald Trump signed an agreement with the Saudi Arabian government to sell them €87 billion worth of armaments.

During the Vietnam war between 1964 and 1973 there were more than 580,000 US bombing missions in the skies of Laos.

A staggering 270 million bombs were dropped on Laos during the Vietnam war.

BBC'S Fergal Keane on Marian Finucane's RTE Radio 1 programme yesterday spoke about his work in conflict zones.

He wondered if the pilots who dropped all the ordnance would only park their planes and come back, visit the places where they bombed and saw the human misery they cause.

In an interview today US President Donal Trump referred to the "beautiful military equipment' that the US makes.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Official Church teaching has changed throughout history

The current issue of 'The Tablet' carries an interesting piece by Sara Maitland, who is a regular contributor. She is a novelist and writer.

She is 'baffled' that the teaching of the Catholic Church cannot change.

Maitland writes: Official teaching - not just on ethics, but on fundamental doctrine - has changed (or 'developed' to the point that it might more honestly be called changed) throughout the whole history of the Church.

"The Church has changed its teaching on the geocentric universe. In 1615 the Inquisition declared that heliocentrism was 'foolish and absurd in philosophy, and formally heretical since it explicitly contradicts in many places the sense of Holy Scripture'.

"In 1992, after 'only' nearly 400 years, John Paul ll officially announced that Galileo had been wrongly  condemned.

"The Church has changed its teaching on witchcraft more than once."

Maitland also gives examples about changes on the doctrine of the Trinity and on marriage.

"But, for me, it is not just that manifestly the Church's teaching does change (though usually very slowly); I find it delightful, proper and enriching that it changes. This is because both as individuals and particularly as a Church we are in a love-relationship with God; the relationship is - to push language to the deepest level of metaphor and almost to the point of collapse - spousal. And if you talk to two people who have been married, or who have been in love with each other for a long time, they will often speak of 'always learning something new about him', 'she can still really surprise me' or 'it's an ongoing conversation - it deepens and deepens'.

"Such blessed people are talking about a relationship that is dynamic not static, increasing not diminishing, exciting not repressive.

"It is not that the beloved has 'changed' into someone else, it is that our capacity to see, to know, to understand has expanded, refreshed itself."

A lovely piece of writing that makes such good sense.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Elections in Iran today

Iranians go to the polls today to elect a new president.

The President of the Islamic Republic of Iran is the highest directly elected official, the chief of the executive branch, and the second most important person after the Supreme Leader.

Fifty-five million people are entitled to vote today.

The current president, Hassan Rouhani is a candidate in today's election.

The Supreme Leader is Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who succeeded Ayatollah Khomeini on his death in 1989.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

US Catholic Church leaders with different views

From the National Catholic Reporter. 

A clever example of how there are so many different views and opinions within the Catholic Church.

Trump's normality

BBC's Washington correspondent, Jon Sopel commenting on the shenanigans in the Trump White House quipped on the 10.00 News last evening that the "abnormal is becoming normal".

A clever observation of the daily behaviour of the 'most powerful man' in the 'free world'.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

In times of personal grief we all need love and kindness

This week's Independent News & Media Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
Fr Pat Moore, a priest of the Kerry diocese, died on May 1.

I got to know Pat when I was working at The Kerryman newspaper. He was a kind man, who was wise and helpful and had the ability to calm me, to talk sense to me when I needed it.

I phoned him on one occasion and we disagreed over something.

Some weeks later we were in contact again by phone and we agreed to disagree and got on with our talk and laughs. It was my last time to talk with Pat.

Now that he has died I feel annoyed that I had not gone to see him when he was still healthy and fit.

I recently attended a bereavement day. I came away from it a wiser person. I listened to the stories of people who had lost loved ones and concluded that there are no rules about how to handle death. 

One woman spoke about how people, the bereaved and the listener, cannot cope with tears. She pointed out how tears are like putting ointment on a sore. She lost her adult child some years ago and while the grief is now less, she still gets dark days.

A man recalled how praying came naturally to him on the loss of his son. He found comfort in his faith.

During the day it was brought home to me how everyone grieves differently and the only thing for grief is to grieve.

Grief pulls and pushes us in many different directions. A bereavement counsellor related how some people try to keep grief at bay all day, the damn bursts when they go to bed and then they can't sleep. She suggested that it is better to manage grief than for grief to manage us. But that surely sounds easier said than done.

A man, who lost his wife some months ago said that he simply could not access his tears. He could not shed a tear but he cried every day inside.

Some people were angry, angry with God too, and there were those who did not believe in God.

What do you say to someone who has lost a loved one? There is no answer. But it's wise to avoid glib phrases. It hardly makes sense to tell someone to get on with it or to mind themselves. It is of paramount importance to listen to people in their grief.

John Bowman last October in 'The Irish Independent' wrote about the death of his son:

"One of the phrases people use about loss that I think is probably wrong is, "You'll get over it". Not only do you not get over it, you don't want to get over it. It becomes part of the furniture, and part of your life story. "

We all fumble with death. Death overwhelms us.

The people who stood out for me when my parents died were those who were kind, those who helped, those whom I knew understood my plight, those who comforted me and were empathetic.

Patrick Kavanagh's poem on remembering his mother catches a tone of that terrible break that comes with death.

I do not think of you lying in the wet clay/Of a Monaghan graveyard; I see/You walking down a lane among the poplars/On your way to the station, or happily/Going to second Mass on a summer Sunday -/You meet me and you say:/'Don't forget to see about the cattle - '/Among your earthiest words the angels stray.

In times of grief it's so important to support one another with our love and genuine kindness.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Poor design at LUAS and Dublin Bus stops

Poor design at LUAS and Dublin Bus stops.

The shelters at both the LUAS and Dublin Bus stops are designed in such a way that it is not possible to see the real-time display if one is standing at particular places at the stop.

Next time you are waiting for a tram or a bus take note.

Will the design be changed for the CrossCity LUAS?

Sunday, May 14, 2017

SPD lose in NRW

A bad day for the SPD Green coalition in Germany's most populated state.

Hannelore Kraft has conceded and the CDU will be the new force in Nordrhein Westfalen.

The right-wing AfD won over five per cent of the vote so they will be in the new parliament in Dusseldorf.

The Left Party hovers at 4.9 per cent and still hopes to cross the five per cent hurdle.

It's more good news for the CDU and strengthens Angela Merkel's chances of winning the federal elections in September.

Trump demands loyalty

The story of the Trump sacking of Comey continues to run and run.

It seems at a dinner in January President Trump asked FBI director James Comey if he would pledge his loyalty to him.

Comey refused and explained his loyalty was to the United States constitution.

Early in his rule of terror Hitler made a significant change concerning the German Army. Instead of new recruits swearing an oath to Germany or to the German leader, they would now swear an oath to the personal figure of Adolf Hitler.

Before Hitler took office, German soldiers swore an oath to the German constitution and president.

The Hitler oath:
"I swear to God this sacred oath that to the Leader of the German Emprire the and people, Adolf Hitler, supreme commander of the armed forces, I shall render unconditional obedience and that as a brave soldier I shall at all times be prepared to give my life for this oath."

Among those who refused to take the Hitler oath were:

  • Karl Barth (Swiss theologian); Consequences: loss of professorship
  • Martin Gauger (probationary judge as a state prosecutor in Wuppertal); Consequences: forced retirement of his position as a state prosecutor
  • Franz Jägerstätter (Austrian conscientious objector); Consequences: execution in 1943; beatified in 2007
  • Josef Mayr-Nusser (from Bozen), after call-up for duty in the Waffen-SS; Consequences: Death penalty, died on the way Dachau
  • Joseph Ruf (Brother Maurus, a religious brother) Consequences: Death penalty
  • Franz Reinisch (A Pallotine priest) after call-up for duty in the Wehrmacht; Consequences: execution by beheading in 1942.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Anglican orders

Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio has suggested that Pope Leo Xlll's " absolutley null and utterly void" comment on Anglican orders was overly rigid.

The cardinal, who is president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Text, has referred to the importance of Pope Paul Vl's meeting with the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, in 1966.

On that occasion the pope gave his episcopal ring and a chalice to the archbishop.

Cardinal Coccopalmerio points out that the giving of the chalice was most significant.

"When someone is ordained in the Aglican Church and becomes a parish priest in a community, we cannot say that nothing has happened, that everything is 'invalid', Coccopalmeiro has written in a recently published book.

The cardinal is an ally of Pope Francis.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Michael Hayes RIP

The current issue of 'The Tablet' carries an obituary on Michael Hayes, President of Mary Immaculate College, Limerick.

In the piece the reader is told that Fr Hayes, in his inaugural address as President of Mary Immaculate College, spoke with an assured daring, which conveyed an unforgettable vision of Catholic education which startled even those who knew him well.

Yet, never once in the obituary is there a single quote from that inaugural address.

Michael Hayes, priest, teacher and Limerick man, was born in Limerick on September 17, 1957 and died on Easter Saturday, April 15, 2017. 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The work nurses do

Tomorrow is International Nurses Day.

Every year it is celebrated on May 12, the anniversary of Florence Nightingale's birth.

The theme this year is Nursing: A voice to lead – Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Hospitals around Ireland will be commemorating the event.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Frost in May

Ice on the roof and windscreen of a car in Dublin at 06.15 today, Wednesday, May 10.

RTE's 'The Undocumented'

On Monday evening RTE One Television screened 'The Undocumented'.

The programme was billed as "An intimate portrait of what it is like to be undocumented in Trump's America, focusing on Irish people threatened by the policies brought in by the new administration."

In the course of the programme young Irish people, living in the US without correct visas were interviewed.

They all appeared on television, gave their names and where they come from in Ireland. Some spoke openly of their 'illegal status', others explained how being 'illegal' they were also not paying taxes.

It seemed most irresponsible television. All the people who appeared and spoke on the programme made public their 'illegal status'.

Will the US embassy in Dublin now send details to the relevant authorities in the US of those interviewed on the programme?

If the US authorities take no action then it would appear they are not too concerned about 'illegals' within their shores.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Councillor's gobbledegook

Fine Gael Galway councillor and chairman of Galway City Council Pearce Flannery on Morning Ireland today spoke about things being 'more equal'.

He was being interviewed about the dropping or prayer before council meetings.

It was a seven seven vote and Councillor Flannery had the casting vote.

What exactly does 'more equal'mean? Surely gobbledegook.

Wooing passengers with flexi tickets and a tunnel

This week's Independent News & Media regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
Irish Rail has launched a new website. At a first glance It looks a great improvement on the old one. It went live on Monday, April 24.

It has many advantages on the previous one. It's easier to navigate. 

The new site allows you see  the direction you will be sitting. With the old site people often complained that they would prefer to be facing in the direction of travel but were unable to make such a decision when booking online. 

According to a spokesperson for Irish Rail 83 per cent of passengers book on line, have Leap Cards,  monthly tickets or buy annual Taxsaver Tickets. Those figures would seem to indicate  that the overwhelming majority of the paying travelling public are computer literate.

Last year, 2016, Irish Rail carried 42.8 million passengers, which was an increase of eight per cent on the previous year. And so far this year their numbers are up four per cent on the corresponding period for 2016.

On the May Bank Holiday Sunday I made a return trip from Dublin to Tralee. Yes, the fabulous blue skies added to the adventure but I have to say I was greatly impressed with the service.

We do a lot of giving out in Ireland but so often when things work well there's not a whisper from us.

My morning train to Tralee, which cut right through the finest land in the country was fabulous. The train was clean and arrived on time in Tralee. The fact that it was a quiet train added to the luxury. By Sunday most people had done their travelling and were at their destinations.  

The return journey later that day meant a crowded train back to Dublin. Again, it all worked to excellent timing and we arrived in Dublin one minute early, three hours 44 minutes from Tralee to Heuston Station is most acceptable.

It did occur to me on both journeys Irish Rail have been ever so quiet about their new website. I only found out about it from the passenger sitting beside me on the up journey that Sunday. Why not advertise it and tell passengers about the positive changes. They could use the on-board intercom system to tell passengers.

The most significant change on the new site is the range of tickets that can be purchased. Before this there was just first and standard class. There was a rule of thumb the earlier you bought the ticket the cheaper it would be.

With the new website there are different types of tickets, all at different prices. There are Non Flexible, Medium Flexible and Fully Flexible tickets. If you go for the Non Flexible ticket you have to travel on the booked train but if you book a Medium Flexible ticket you can change to the train before or after the one you have booked. The Fully Flexible option is an open ticket, which allows the passenger to travel at any time.

There are rules and conditions, which have to be fulfilled but the new system is imaginative and smart.

And more good news, over 1,000 passengers are using the new service through the Phoenix Park tunnel at peak times every day. It is planned to extend this service to weekends and off-peak times. 

The tunnel was built in 1877. The track has been relayed and automatic signalling installed. The new service began rolling through the tunnel in November. At present trains travel  no further south than Newbridge but it can't be long before they steam on to Portlaoise. Who knows where they might stop? 

Well done Irish Rail.