Sunday, December 31, 2017

Bob Talty OP

Irish Dominican, Fr Bob Talty celebrates his 95th birthday today.

Congratulations to the nonagenarian.

He has spent the last 50 years in the Dominican Priory in Pope's Quay in Cork.

Bob is a Cork man, who must suffer greatly with the current poor performance of the Cork county hurling and football teams.

He joined the Dominicans in 1954 when he was in his early 30s.

Bob is a man of total dedication and committment, an honourable man, who says what he believes and believes what he says. A no-nonsense man, who uses the turn of phrase 'ground-hurling'. And when he says it one knows exactly what he means. A person of great kindness with a profound faith.

Bob was my contact with the province before I received the Dominican habit in Pope's Quay, Cork in September 1967.

The perfect oxymoron?

Today is the feast of the Holy Family in the liturgy of the Catholic Church.

The feast is about the family into which Jesus was born.

It's a day when sermons might focus on the perfect family.

Is the term 'perfect family' the perfect example of an oxymoron?

Saturday, December 30, 2017

One million over-65ers

Irealnd's over-65s are expected to double within the next 20 years bringing the totoal number of people over 65 to one million.

Ireland's population is ageing faster than the EU average.

There has been a 34 per cent increase in  people aged over 65 since 2008.

A million people with the Travel Pass in 2038?

Friday, December 29, 2017

Our health

Cancer survival rates are lower in Ireland than the EU average inspite of the fact that we spend more on health than the EU average.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Clinton Bush interview

The link below is a Jon Snow interview with Bill Clinton and George W Bush.

The 47-minute chat makes for great viewing.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Barack Hussein Obama

President Barack Obama talks to England's Prince Harry.

It's a great interview and not to be missed.

The man inspires.

Close to the end of the interview Harry asks him a silly/vulgar question, which President Obama refuses to answer.

The interview, which was prerecorded earlier, was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 this morning

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Road-rage is too polite a word for what I experienced

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

Michael Commane

Earlier this month an aggravated burglary took place a short three kilometres from where I live.

A woman and a man smashed the window of a house and forced a man in his 60s to go to an ATM to withdraw money. Later in the morning they made him go to a bank and withdraw a larger sum.

Fortunately, two people were arrested. Imagine the terror and trauma caused to that man.

A day hardly passes when we don’t hear about a violent act done to a person. In mid-December a 78-year-old widow, who lived on her own, was murdered in Limerick.

All crimes are heinous but when they are done to vulnerable people there is a gasp of horror from the collective national conscience.

We read it in the newspapers and see it on our television screens. But when it does not impinge on us I think it’s true to say that we easily move on to the next item of news.

When it touches us at a personal level it is a different story.

In early December I was cycling on a narrow Dublin street. It was 5.45pm. I was well lit up and it would have been impossible not to see me. A car passed me but alas it was far too close for safety and certainly for my comfort. I got a real fright so my immediate reaction was to beckon to the driver to move out. I simply waved my hand suggesting he give me more space. There was no rude gesture, nothing like that from me.

Nervously I continued cycling. Because of the heavy traffic I managed to pass the motorist, so some minutes later I spotted a car pull up beside me and the window coming down. It dawned on me what was happening. My motorist friend was not happy with me. I was expecting a roar or two, a short exchange of words and that would be it.

It was nothing like that. He launched the most aggressive and frightening tirade that I have ever experienced. He screamed at me, using violent and obscene language. I was so frightened there was no way I was going to argue with him. I tried to explain that he drove too closely to me. He was having none of it.

He so frightened me that I was stuck to the ground. Why did I simply not jump up on the footpath and cycle away at speed? The answer is that I was terrified. Does he behave like that at home?

This was small stuff in so many ways. What must it be like for people who have to live with such behaviour? How must it be for women, children, vulnerable people, who are confronted with intolerable violence on a daily basis?

Later that evening I phoned a Garda station. I got chatting to a friendly garda and explained what happened. He told me that the general public has no idea how society is changing and how violent people are becoming.

What is it about us that can make us violent? Nature of nurture?

Since that incident happened me I’ve been thinking of the words of Levin in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina: ‘We must live for something incomprehensible, for God, whom no one can know or define’.

There’s a line in Psalm 41 which reads: ‘By day the Lord will send his loving kindness.’ 

I like to go for that.

Goodness and kindness surely are the hallmarks of strength. We need a gentler world. There’s more to us than nastiness and violence. It should never be tolerated.

Last day of Soviet Union

On this date, December 26, 1991 the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union met to dissolve the Soviet Union.

It came into being in 1922. In 1917 the Bolsheviks under Vladimir Lenin overthrew the Provisional government which had replaced the Tzar.

The population in 1991 was approximately 293 million and the  Soviet Union covered a landmass of 22.4 million square kilometres, spanning 12 time zones.

It's highpoint was the Red Army victory over Germany in World War II. Over 20 million Russians lost their lives in that war.

It is generally agreed that the victory of Zhukov's army at Stalingrad was the turning point in the defeat of Germany.

The graphic below shows the size of the Soviet Union in 1945.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Betjeman's Christmas

The last verse of John Betjeman's poem Christmas.

Betjeman was UK Poet Laureate in 1972. In 1941 he was press attache in Dublin.

No love that in the family dwell,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with a single truth compare -
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in bread and wine.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Pope Francis on faith

Pope Francis speaking to the Roman Curia last week.

"Christmas reminds us that a faith that does not trouble us is a troubled faith. 

A faith that does not make us grow is a faith that needs to grow. A faith that does not raise questions is a faith that has to be questioned. 

A faith that does not rouse us is a faith that needs to be roused. A faith that does not shake us is a faith that needs to be shaken. Indeed, a faith which is only intellectual or lukewarm is only a notion of faith. 

It can become real once it touches our heart, our soul, our spirit and our whole being, once it allows God to be born and reborn in the manger of our heart, once we let the star of Bethlehem guide us to the place where the Son of God lies, not among kings and riches, but among the poor and humble."

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Neurosurgeon Henry Marsh on mind and body illnesses

Henry Marsh is a neurosurgeon, who has written two bestsellers about his work, Do No Harm and Admissions.

Now retired from his full-time job with the NHS, he continues to ply his trade in Nepal and Ukraine.

These days he is reflecting more deeply about what 40 years spent handling the human brain has taught him.

The excerpt below is taken from Admissions.

My life as a neurosurgeon was to teach me that the distinction between physical and psychological illness is false - at least, that illnesses of the mind are not less real than those of the body, and no less deserving of our help.

Friday, December 22, 2017

The passport nonsense

Mary Kenny, who is a columnist in right-wing Catholic newspapers, tweets that one of her mother's proudest possessions was her 'little green passport. She valued the symbol of Ireland's independence'.

The current Irish passport is smaller than the older more bulky green Irish passport. The Irish passport carries the harp, the symbol of Ireland.

Has Ms Kenny not spotted the harp on the Irish passport.

The columnist  is forever at the margins criticising so many aspects of living in the European Union. She comes across as Nigel Farage lite.

Green and pornography

An interesting article in yesterday's Guardian  by Martin Kettle.

Damian Green’s fall shows that politics needs cleaning up, but so does the web.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

'The Tablet's' Damian Green

British politician and first secretary to the cabinet Damian Green resigned yesterday evening.

He is a lifelong friend and colleague of Theresa May.

Green has been embroiled in alleged scandals for sometime, including downloading pornography on his House of Commons computer.

Again, the words of Enoch Powell come to mind - all political careers end in failure.

Some weeks ago The Tablet listed Damian Green as one of Britain's top influential Catholics.

It was an odious exercise.

Far too often the church seems to court favour of people in high office. Then again, it gives anachronistic titles to its own managers.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Church and state in Poland

The Tablet of Decemebr 16 carries an interesting and informative piece on the current relationship between government and Catholic Church in Poland.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the governing conservative Law and Justice Pary, though neither prime minister nor president, but the de facto leader in Poland, is making the leaders of the church in Poland an offer similar to the one President Vladimir Putin put to the Russian Orthodox Church; power and money.

The writer of the piece, broadcaster and politicial commentator, Cezary Michalski argues that the alliance of the church with the far-right party will only accelerate the crisis of Polish Catholicism in the not so distant future.

In 1986 I travelled to Poland with a small group of German students form the university in Berlin.

The students stayed in a Dominican priory and I stayed with a family near the priory.

On leaving I asked  a Dominican how much I should pay the family. He asked me was I paying in US dollars or German marks. I paid in Polish zloty.

Over many years leading up to the fall of Communism the German churches donated large sums of money to Poland.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

An expert turkey plucker

Independent News & Media Irish regional newspapers' column for December 19.

Michael Commane
‘It’s Christmas week and there is nothing done in the house’.
I can still see and hear my mother say those words in the days leading up to Christmas.

I have no idea what was not ready or what had to be done. But it was my mother’s rallying call, telling us that we better get our act together so that everything would be ready for the big day.

I have a sneaky feeling it was an annual call to arms.

Some days before December 25 the turkey would arrive at the door. It either came with the post or with CIE. The turkey, complete with feathers, came from my granduncle’s farm on the Tipperary Kilkenny border, where I spent idyllic summers.

It fell to Dad to pluck the bird. More accurately said, it was as clear as day to me, a little boy under 10, that Dad was an expert bird-plucker.

Between sitting and kneeling on the kitchen floor, I watched Dad in awe as the feathers piled up on the newspaper and more and more flesh of the bird appeared. 

Weeks earlier Mum had made two Christmas cakes. The idea of buying a Christmas cake was anathema to her. It was out of the question to make the cake without the best of almond icing on it. If I remember correctly, it had to be made a good few weeks before Christmas Day.

I remember scraping up the left-over contents of the bowl in which the cake was made and licking it. That was yummy. It was something I looked forward to every Christmas.

Early Mass on Christmas morning and then rush home to enjoy the best day of the year. The turkey took hours to cook. There was always a certain element of nervousness that it might not be properly cooked. It always tasted delicious.

For the evening meal my sister and I would prepare the table and when everything was ready we called the family to the meal, which would be eaten with just a table lamp lighting.

On Christmas night before going off to bed Dad would arrange the fire in such a way that it would be lighting when we got up on Saint Stephen’s morning. It was always a big thrill to see the coal fire lighting early the next morning.

Those first Christmases of mine had no television, no phone, just about a radio with one station, Radio Éireann.

I am wondering does modernity, sophistication, technology, the world of gadgetry in any way improve the fun of Christmas?

Oblivious to all our technology, Santa Claus continues to arrive and delight the hearts of millions of children.

I remember the letter box where I posted my letter to Santa, indeed, it’s still standing. Most times when I pass it I can see myself getting up on my tippy toes to put the letter in the box.

These days I see my generation of friends taking great delight in the arrival of their grandchildren. I hear so many of them saying that it is the best thing that ever happened them.

Their grandchildren play a central role in how they celebrate Christmas. No doubt they are re-living their own.

In his old age when I would ask my Dad what were the best years of his life he would, without fail, reply: ‘when ye were small.’

I imagine the majority of parents would share that sentiment.

I wish all my readers a happy and good Christmas. Enjoy the time, relax and laugh together. And guess what, it’s the small things that make the difference.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Patrick Kavanagh's 'Advent'

On the Monday after Gaudete Sunday why not quote from Patrick Kavanagh's Advent.

We have tested and tasted too much, lover-
Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Eight kilometres of tram line in Chemnitz costs €31m

On the same day that the Luas Green line was extended to Broombridge in Dublin a new tram line was opened in Chemnitz in Saxony in Germany. Before the unification of Germany Chemnitz was called Karl Marx Stadt.

This is not comparing like with like, neverthelss some interesting facts.

The new tram line in Chemnitz runs for eight kilometres. 

It took 18 months to construct, four stops were built on the line, 80,000 cubic metres of soil was moved, 28,000 square metres was asphalted and 360 trees were planted.

The project cost approximately €31 million.

Different stats than the Dublin job.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Food waste in Ireland

Thirty per cent of food is wasted annually in Ireland.

That works out at one million tonnes of edible food thrown in the bin.

Last year a new Irish company, Food Cloud, prevented 23 million meals in Ireland and the UK being lost.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Gobbledegook at Mass

The Opening Prayer at today's Mass is unintelligible. It is a piece of absurd writing.

Shame on any bishops' conference that accepted this gobbledegook.

Surely it gives one some insight into the leadership of our poor church.

And then they wonder.

The size of the wine glass

Newly carried out research has found that wine glass capacity increased from 66 ml in the 1700s to 417ml in the 2000s, with the mean wine glass size in 2016-17 even higher at 449ml.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

In reply to Fr McMahon

Fr Andrew McMahon, a priest of the diocese of Dromore, writes an article in The Irish Catholic this week titled 'Church leaders shouldn't indulge media prejudices'

He talks about most mainstream journalists being little more than campaigners for pseudo-liberal agendas.

'Most journalists' surely is vague and what is a 'pseudo-liberal agenda'?

He writes that Catholic churchgoers are gratuitously denigrated. And blames it all on the 'Dublin media'

The Archbishop of Dublin comes in for criticism. It would seem he includes Diarmuid  Martin as one of those church leaders who indulges media prejudices and reinforces highly debatable stereotypes.

McMahon analyses an article about Ireland in the New York Times, which he accuses of using a familiar range of clichés.

But Fr McMahon's article is one long cliché. It's clear the author has issues with people who disagree with his view of Irish society.

His dismissal of journalists helps no-one.

The Catholic Church in Ireland was a conservative church. To use terms such as 'media-speak', 'agenda' and 'a sexually liberal and overwhelmingly bourgeois media' sounds nasty and helps no one, instead it pushes people into camps. There is a touch of Trump in the langage of the article.

He refers to an article written by Hilary Fannin, which appeared in The Irish Times on December 8, but he could also have mentioned numerous articles that appear in the media with a Catholic bias. The Irish Times regularly publishes artcles, letters, opinion pieces upholding Catholic thinking. Indeed, the paper has a regular weekly Chrisitan column.

That word 'bourgeois': who better identified the bourgeoise class in Ireland in most of the decades of the 20th century? Priests.

If McMahon is correct and the 'Dubln media' has an anti-Catholic agenda, why is that so?

As a journalist, I find the piece 'gratuitously' insulting and most unhelpful.

Unfortunately there is an aggressive tone to the piece, which most likely will bring none of us closer to the goodness and kindness of God.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Patriot Radio gets it so wrong as it does every day

At 03.45 Irish Time today right wing radio presenter Mark Levin on the US Patriot Radio said that Republican candidate for the Senate seat Roy Moore was shading it in Alabama.

He then went on to say whoever wins 'they will blame President Trump'.

At the same time BBC World Service announced that the Democrat candidate Doug Jones had won the seat.

Patriot Radio spews out day-in-day out nasty right-wing propaganda. It's rude, vulgar and truth seems far away for it.

Anyone who does not agree with its far right-wing thinking is the enemy.

This morning's antics of Mark Levin was a particularly clear example of how the station behaves.

Millions of Americans listen to the station.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The art of letter writing

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

Michael Commane 
An Post is advising children to post their letters early to Santa this year.

It’s been busy in the workshop, all the elves are working hard, helping Santa packing toys and gifts.
Provided Santa receives the letter in good time he promises to reply just before Christmas.

The Irish postal service works closely with Santa. It’s a great idea that Santa has agreed to use the postal service to send replies to all the children in Ireland.

When last did you receive a personal hand-written letter? Or when was the last time you sat down with a pen, ballpoint or pencil to write a letter to a friend?

Have you noticed that most letters we get these days from charities asking us to donate money to their organisation are typed in a handwriting font? No doubt the idea is to make the correspondence look personal.

RTE’s Ryan Tubridy has been talking about the art of letter writing over the last few weeks. Indeed, last Wednesday he read out a letter a woman wrote to her sister. She was 50 years late writing it. She was apologising to her sister for something she had done to her on Christmas Day 50 years ago.

It certainly caught my attention. It set me thinking of the power of a letter. And it might even be true to say that a handwritten letter carries far more authenticity than a printed one.

There’s a personal touch about a handwritten letter. It has that quality of being original, being real, unique too.

Is it at all possible to type a love letter? It sounds almost unimaginable. Love letters of their nature surely have to be written in longhand.

When we go through boxes of old family letters we stop and wonder at the person behind the hand that wrote the letter. Finding old letters is akin to finding a treasure trove.

The day after I started writing this column I received a handwritten letter from someone I met in September. I read it a number of times. The letter was so friendly and kind that I actually read it to a friend of mine. Yes, we answer text messages and emails but there’s a difference.

Typewriters were in general use in the 1960s and personal computers probably in the mid-1980s. 

Apple Computers was launched in 1976. Was that the beginning of the end of the old-fashioned handwritten letter? Is there something ironic about the start date of Apple? April Fool’s Day 1976.

Even with all our technology, our signature is still a vital component to all important documents and cards. Our electronic passports, driving licences, every piece of electronic data we carry around with us has our unique signature on it. And of course our signature is handwritten.

Signing the register at a wedding ceremony always gets a special place of importance.

Our signature puts the seal of approval on a document.

In an age when we are becoming ever so conscious of protecting our environment and keeping in touch with who and what we are I’m wondering might handwriting be on the verge of a renaissance.

A friend of mine, who is clued into design and fashion, pointed out to me the number of shop signs and other public signage that is currently being done in handwriting form.

It is much nicer to write to Santa than send him an SMS or an email.

The German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe says: ‘Letters are among the most significant memorial a person can leave behind them.’

And did you know Meghan Markle is an accomplished calligrapher?

Monday, December 11, 2017

Vladimir Putin in Siberia

President Vladimir Putin was in Arctic Siberia on Friday to celebrate the launch of a €23 billion liquefied natural gas development that will greatly expand Russia's dominant role on global energy markets.

The plant is at the most northern point on Siberia's Jamal peninusla at the port of Sabetta.

The temperature there on Friday evening was minus 28 degrees Celsius.

Russian oil giant Novatek is behind the project, supported by the French oil company Total and the Chinese National Petroleum Company.

It is the first of three planned 5.5 million tonnes a year processing facility.

Because of Western sanctions imposed on Russia in 2014 there were fears in the country that the Jamal project would be in difficulty.

Chinese banks have filled the breach and are now supplying the bulk of the project's external financing with Russian state lenders making up the balance.

When do sanctions work, do they cause more harm than good? Cause more antagonism between parties, drive people further apart?

When a nation's pride is damaged, history shows that the genie is let out of the bottle.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

On track

The Cross City Luas rolled across Dublin city centre yesterday coming on stream on time and costing €368 million.

Also yesterday in Potsdam near Berlin an extension to the existing tramlines came into service.

But the big rail news in Europe last week was the opening on Friday of the new Berlin to Munich rail service.

It took 10 years to build and cost €10 billion.

The newly-built ICEs on mainly new track will take two hours off the up-to-now six-hour journey.

The train serves Leipzig, Kulmbach, Bamberg, Nurnberg, Munich with some trains serving Augsburg.

It travels at 300km/h, going through 22 tunnels, crossing 27 valleys. Between Berlin and Munich it travels through 63 kilometres of tunnel.

And on the opening day it made a stop at Lutherstadt Wittenberg. 

On Friday two special trains were used on the inaugural service. Among the VIP guests was Angela Merkel.

On the return journey to Munich the train broke down and the VIPs arrived over an hour late back in Munich.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

A grace-filled privilege

The 'Thinkng Anew' column in The Irish Times on Saturday, December 9.

Michael Commane
Fr Pat Reynolds died in Our Lady's Hospice, in Dublin's Harold's Cross on Wednesday November 22. He was 78-years-of-age.

Before moving to the hospice, he was a patient for approximately six weeks in the Dublin hospital where I am chaplain.

My morning routine at the hospital begins with a newspaper delivery, handing out daily newspapers to patients. 

My first encounter with Pat was on one such morning when he asked me if I had 'The Irish Times'. 

He was in luck as I had one copy. We got chatting. Maybe during our chats in the next day or so I discovered he was a Redemptorist priest, or maybe it was a nurse or doctor who said it to me. During the following days and weeks we built up a friendship.

It is a grace-filled privilege to be a hospital chaplain. It affords one the possibility of seeing first-hand extraordinary acts of love and kindness every day. And it also allows you meet amazing people. 

And guess what, after 14 months in the job I'm inclined to think there are degrees of 'amazement' in every human being.

I took a particular shine to Pat. We had great conversations, moments of fabulous laughter. Our degree of acquaintance reached such a level where I found I was able to talk to him about priesthood and explain many of my frustrations with the 'priestly caste'.

Pat had that wonderful ability of listening to you. Every single time I spoke with him I felt he was genuinely interested in me. We shared our life-stories. He had been many years in the Philippines. 

He came home to Ireland at one stage and was appointed director of students. When he told me that, I was able to joke with him and tell him I had no time for clericalism. He smiled and told me that they had no-one else for the job and that his predecessor had left the congregation and priesthood to marry a woman.

On hearing of Pat's death, a nurse asked me when the funeral was as she would like to go to it and an other nurse was on the verge of tears.

Some days earlier, on the day he left our hospital, I saw a nurse express such sadness that he was leaving us. If I recall correctly, she said: "What a dote of a man, I'm going to miss him".

Remember, these are nurses, who deal with sick and dying people and yet they had been 'blown over' by the kindness of this man, who happened to be a priest.

I have no real difficulty saying it but I have major issues with the hierarchical church. I'm angry, bored, annoyed, saddened, enraged by the actions of some priests. I can't take the pomposity, the arrogance, the 'I-know-best' attitude that sits so easily with so many priests. 

And then the silent ones too, who hide behind anonymity. Maybe it has something to do with my DNA, but that's simply the sort of person I am. I think I understand why the institutional church is where it is today.

refuse to blame secularism or some raging enemy who is out to get the church. Instead people are sick to their back teeth with how the institutional church has behaved, and indeed still behaves. It seems to me the institutional church simply does not get it. But fortunately there is far more to the church than its clergy.

During the weeks Pat Reynolds was in our hospital, I never once heard him talk about the evils of secularism, nor about transubstantiation, canon law, gay marriage, Catholic schools, never once.

And yet he was a priest who has left an indelible mark on me. I feel certain there was not a member of staff he did not inspire. Why? Because he showed his love for God through his humanity. No stuff and nonsense, no posturing, no game-playing.

In tomorrow's first reading from the prophet Isaiah, God says:
“Console my people, console them”.

And in the Gospel, the first words from St Mark speak about the Good News of Jesus Christ. Pat Reynolds consoled and brought good news to people.

 He lived the Gospel and people saw that.

Friday, December 8, 2017

More on OP truck driver

Below is a comment from a Dominican who knew the Dominican truck driver.

Yes, I knew that French Dominican. A truly extraordinary life in defense of the poor as a lawyer, in a fight against the big land owners. His life was in danger always. They killed that sister who was doing the same work.  He had a price on his head.  His comment was: 'I thought I was worth more than that!' 

A Dominican truck driver

This appears on the international website of the Dominican Order.

The man is dead but how lovely it is to read about a Dominican who lived this sort of life.

It's another world to prancing about in perfectly tailored habits, talking about angels and waking up thinking of the Immaculate Conception.

This man seems to have been a real, kind human being, who had no time for piosity, codology, humbug.

It's profoundly sad to observe what's happening the Dominican Order in some provinces.

It seems as if the Order in some countries is being influenced by a right-wing fundamentalism, which has its origins in the Unied States. Trump-style Christianity. Bizarre.

A chapter in international solidarity with Brazil’s embattled rural poor closed on Sunday 26 November with the death of Dominican priest and lawyer, Henri des Roziers.

Henri had worked in Brazil since 1978, using his skills as a lawyer to defend rural workers’ unions and to bring to justice the landowners who ordered the killing of so many of their leaders.

The tributes paid to Henri at his funeral in Paris on 1 December put his commitment into a broader context.  

Born into what the French call a family of the haute-bourgeoisie, Henri showed very early that he wanted to follow a different path by visiting poor families in Paris slums, an example of what was later called the ‘option for the poor’.

He studied philosophy and law at the Sorbonne and later in Cambridge.  In Cambridge, he met a French Dominican theologian, Yves Congar, who had been banned from speaking by the Vatican and was in a kind of exile in Britain.

Congar’s influence made Henri decide that the Dominican order would enable him to develop his Christian commitment to justice;  His first post was as a chaplain to students at the Centre Saint-Yves in Paris, the only student centre that did not close during the student revolts of the 1960s.

He later became a priest worker, a lorry-driver and a worker in a chemical factory in Besançon.

Later, in Annecy, he had a job inspecting and closing the squalid accommodation to which North African migrants were condemned, using his legal skill

Christine Keeler

A story in yesterday's Guardian about Christine Keeler, who died on Tuesday makes for interesting reading.

On this the feast of the Immaculate Conception there is a special resonance about this story.

“But for Keeler there was no legacy but shame; guilt clings to the victim, then as now. Her marriages failed, her money was lost, and she was fired from a menial job when her identity was exposed. 

She was mocked for losing the beauty that defined her; Christine Keeler looking rough became a tabloid staple, for what else was she for? 

She was mocked, too, for seeking to profit from the scandal with her memoirs; but if men can benefit from her story, why not she? The answer is simple, and eternal. She was the woman, and the woman bears the guilt.”

Iarnród Éireann introduces new timetable on Sunday

Iarnród Éireann introduces a new timetable on Sunday, December 10.

Among the changes are faster running times between Dublin and Cork. Up to seven minutes off some Dubin Cork, Cork Dublin services.

There is no faster running on the Dublin Tralee service, which means passengers will now be waiting longer at Mallow Station for their connecting train. 

On most Tralee Dublin services passengers will have an 11-minute wait. The 07.00 Dublin Tralee service means a 16-minute wait at Mallow. No change here as this wait existed on the current timetable but it is too long a wait. And this train arrives three minutes later in Tralee on the new timetable.

There are extra services on the Connolly Maynooth line to support the new Luas trams to and from   Broombridge.

On the new online timtable there is no indication that there is Luas Irish Rail interchange at Broombridge.

Two/three minutes faster running on some Dublin Rosslare Harbour trains.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Tolstoy on God

Close to the end of Tolstory's Anna Karenin, Levin, who has been chatting with one of his workers, walking home, back to his wife and new-born child, is thinking about life and death.

He has never been interested in religion or talking about God. But in these last days he has been wondering what life is about.

He says:

We must live for something incomprehensible, for God, whom no one can know or define.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The German view on the UK

This appears on today's  Spiegel Online.

Theresa Mays Irland-Debakel zeigt auf brutale Art, warum die Brexit-Verhandlungen zu scheitern drohen: Die britische Regierung weiß noch immer nicht, dass sie nicht alles haben kann - oder sie ist zu mutlos, es dem Volk zu sagen.

Theresa May's Ireland-debacle shows in a brutal fashion why the Brexit negotiations are in danger of collapsing.

The British government still doesn't realise that they can't have everything - or else they are too weak to tell that to the people.

"Post-truth petulance'

Note the refernce to 'post-truth' in this piece in today's Guardian.

The world seems edgy.

"In London, the Jewish Board of Deputies president, Jonathan Arkush, welcomed Trump’s decision, saying it was bizarre that it should be seen as remarkable.

“Jerusalem has been the spiritual centre of Jewish life for 3,000 years, since the time of King David,” he said. “Given that Jerusalem is in fact historically, presently and legally Israel’s capital, the decision by many countries not to formally recognise this has been an act of post-truth petulance.”

Nasser Qudwa, a senior Palestinian official, said unilaterally recognising Jerusalem as the capital would be in breach of international law, and that the Palestinians would seek to challenge the move at the UN security council.”


'They are Irish'

The piece below, written by Simon Jenkins, is from yesterday's Guardian.

“It does not matter that the DUP is hypocritical. 

Decades of Westminster indulging its political primitivism have come home to roost. 

Unionists have demanded separatism on education, trade, corporate taxes, abortion, homosexuality and a host of pet issues, yet they want to call themselves “British”. 

They are Irish.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

'Science is the real deal'

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

Michael Commane
What about these two questions:
1, Where theoretically, are objects squeezed to an infinite density?
2, What is the name of the unit of energy used in nuclear physics?
More anon.

On Saturday November 25 I went along to the Trinity College Biomedical Sciences Institute building on Dublin’s Pearse Street to attend the national final of the Irish Science Teachers' Association Senior Science Quiz.

The regional rounds took place in 14 venues during National Science Week.

One-hundred-and-fifty final year post-primary students gathered in the Trinity College building to vie for the top prize.

Each team was made up of three students.

I was there because a team from Meán Scoil Nua an Leith Triúigh, Castelgregory, Co. Kerry had won a place in the finals. I spent a number of years teaching in the school. I know a brother and a cousin of two of the team and also I taught with one of the science teachers, who brought it to my attention.

It was the 25th anniversary of the quiz, which was started by the late Dr Shea Mullally.

To start the ball rolling Professor Luke O'Neill of the School of Biochemistry and Immunology at Trinity College gave a feisty and humorous introduction to the event. He gave an outline of what happens at the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute, how they are involved in medical research and ‘cracking diseases’. It was clear the man was excited about the project housed in this €120 million tax-funded building.

“On any given day there are 1,043 undergraduates in the building and in the last four years 136 students have obtained PhDs.”

He went on to tell the students: “Science is the real deal. Humanities are boring. Don’t work for a crappy bank, come, do science. Join us and be a scientist. The best thing you can do.”

An impressive man. You could hear a pin drop as he spoke. And all this as the students were about to begin the quiz.

There were eight rounds with six questions in each round. Dr Jennifer Cleary of the RTE Insiders’ programme asked the questions.

It was simply fascinating to sit there and watch proceedings.

It was all way above my head but I did get some idea of how incredibly knowledgeable the students were. The attitude, the atmosphere in this large lecture hall was so impressive. The students meant business, they were there to win. But there was far more to it than that. They had gathered in the name of knowledge, fun too and of course they wanted to bring back a prize to their school.

These young people were away from their own familiar places and yet here they were at home in a lofty university environment. For many of them it may have been their first time in the building, their first time inside a university.

To pick the winning team it went to a tie breaker. In many ways it was similar to a penalty shoot-out at one of those international soccer games.

The overall winners on the day were the team from Coláiste Chríost Rí in Cork.
‘My’ team did not win. It’s a small 138-pupil school. They did the school proud, as did every team there on that Saturday.

Besides their knowledge, skills and intelligence there was such a sense of simple good manners and fun about the day.

The answer to question one above is the black hole, and electron volt is the name of the unit of energy used in nuclear physics.

An impressive afternoon. The future of Ireland is in safe hands with these young people.


Monday, December 4, 2017

Episcopal nonsense

There has been much discussion about the current translation of the Roman Missal since the publication of Pope Francis' motu proprio Magnum Principium restoring responsibility for liturgical translations to local churches.

The bishops of England and Wales have announced there will be no new Missal.

They argue that future liturgical translations cannot be applied retrocatively.

It sounds nonsense and of course it is nonsense.

And then they wonder why things are as they are.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Diplomat dismisses Johnson

Former British diplomat, Sir Ivor Roberts, who was UK ambassador to Ireland, said on RTE's Marian Finucane show this morning:

I can't remember a worse foreign secretary.

Roberts was talking about current UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson.

Has a British diplomat ever been so scathing of a Tory government minister?

Living in the now

Nice idea of St Mark's in today's Gospel about staying awake.

No doubt that means being in touch, in touch with ourselves, the people around us, knowing what's going on.

Surely it means living in the now, living the Gospel in the world in which we find ourselves.

Lovely idea. Thank you Mark.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Month of peace

A letter to all Dominicans around the world from Rome HQ in dedicating the month of December to peace.

Respect for workers

General Secretary of the UK'sTrades Union Council Frances O'Grady addressing a Vatican conference said:

We believe that every worker should be respected as a human being, not treated as mere human resources.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The wrong answer

Book published giving students' incorrect but clever answers to examnation questions, this for example:

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Clinton in Belfast

On this date, November 30, 1995 President Bill Clinton gave his now famous speech at Belfast's City Hall.

He spoke to a large crowd in support of the Northern Ireland peace process and referred to all the men of violence as 'yesterday's men'.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Kavanagh's idea of God

This is the 50th anniversary of the death of poet Patrick Kavanagh.

On RTE's Nationwide on Tuesday Oliver Callan looked back on the life and work of the poet.

Kavanagh died in Dublin on November 30, 1967.

Below is an excerpt from one of his poems.

I met God the Father in the street
And the adjectives by which I would describe him are these: 
Irresponsible - 
About frivolous things 
He was not a man who would be appointed to a Board 
Nor impress a bishop 
Or gathering of art-lovers.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Delivering bad news

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

Michael Commane
I have been working 14 months as a hospital chaplain. It's been a life-changing experience. In the midst of pain and suffering I have had the great good fortune to see and experience first-hand extraordinary acts of kindness and goodness. All done under the radar, no fanfares, people doing amazing things.

I have had the privilege to see kindness, generosity and love being lived out with no strings attached.

Any time we are dealing with people, our behaviour and attitude are extremely important. But when it comes to engaging with people in hospital, the sick, their families and friends, it is extremely important that we are sensitive to their situation.

My mother died in 1988 and I can still remember the hospital chaplain as I stood at the bedside of my dead mother. He did not impress me. It has been a lesson to me in how not to behave.

Has it ever dawned on you what we remember from significant events in our lives, the words and actions that stay with us?

The National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) is currently rolling out a four-hour workshop, titled ‘Delivering Bad News’, to help staff develop their communication skills. Its purpose is to give confidence and competence to staff when they are dealing with patients and families at times of bad news.

While the emphasis is on delivering bad news, the workshop gives excellent guidelines and tips to anyone who has anything to do with communications. And that surely means all of us.

The NCCP asked The Irish Hospice Foundation to design the programme, which is now being made available to all HSE staff.

I had the good fortune to attend one of the workshops.

We were a small group of six from various disciplines guided by our tutor. That it was a small group made for an ideal condition of learning, asking questions and carrying out role-play.

The workshop places great emphasis on how staff communicate with patients and families. Our tutor, who did an excellent job on the day, highlighted that at times of bad news, patients are simply incapable of taking in too much information. Naturally all clichés and jargon are out of the question. 

Kindness, gentleness and honesty reign supreme.

When someone is conveying bad news to a patient and to relatives and friends it is scientifically established that non-verbal communication has the most penetrating impact. Words account for seven per cent of what we communicate, tone of voice 38 per cent and our physical demeanour is 55 per cent.

Our behaviour, our physical deportment and our tone of voice play a far more significant role than the words we use when communicating bad news.

It makes perfect sense. Being sympathetic and empathetic, showing genuine concern and kindness is so important.

When people are hit with bad news, the words they hear are just a blur as their minds race backwards and forwards in their state of panic and fear.

When people are frightened and scared, words are usually the last thing they notice.

A day seldom passes without our health services being criticised for something or other. But guess what, there are many things they get right and very often we hear nothing about what they do well.

This workshop was excellent in every respect and I learned so much from it. Full marks to all involved.

CP Scott who became editor of the 'Manchester Guardian' when he was 25 in 1872 and spent 57 years editing the newspaper, once famously said: 'Comment is free but facts are sacred'. Wise words in the era of social media.


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