Friday, March 31, 2017

Bus Éireann union bosses show very poor strategy

The Bus Éireann strike is now in its seventh day.

It is no longer the main story on any news platform.

The transport unions made a major error calling an all-out strke.

It would have made far more sense to call a series of day strikes over a period of weeks/months.

Such a dispute would attract far more publicity and the striking drivers would not be out of pocket to the same extent as they are by an all-out dispute.

A poor call by transport union bosses.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Varying reasons to pray

People pray for different reasons and indeed for different things.

Andy Burnham, English MP and Labour's Manchester mayoral contender says:

"I was brought up a Catholic. As a boy I prayed for Everton victories and to get rid of Thatcher."

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Vietnam, EU and Brexit

On March 29, 1973 the last US troops left Vietnam.

It is difficult to say how many died in the war. Experts say anything between 1.3 million and 3.9 million were killed.

That same year, January 1, 1973 The United Kingdom joined the then Common Market as did Ireland.

Today the UK government delivers a letter in Brussels to the President of the EU Council, Donald Tusk, signed by Theresa May, declaring its exit from the European Union.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Easy to waste energy angry with those who hurt us

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

Michael Commane
Some weeks back in this column I wrote about how a teacher in primary school gave us graphic details of what life would be like in hell.

So when I read Norman Tebbit's comments on the occasion of Martin McGuinness' death I was back thinking about 'that place'. Lord Tebbit's wife was permanently paralysed by the IRA's bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton in October 1984.

Lord Tebbit said that he hopes McGuinness is "parked in a particularly hot and unpleasant corner of hell for the rest of eternity."   

Ouch, that certainly leaves little to the imagination. Too harsh?

And Julie Hambleton, whose sister, Maxine was killed in the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings said: "People are piling the praise on him but it isn't valid. He didn't come forward with the truth."

Jonathan Powell, who was Chief of Staff in the Tony Blair government, said of Martin McGuinness: "When I first met him in 1997 I refused to shake his hand, seeing a terrorist in front of me. By the time I left Government 10 years later I regarded him as a friend."

Powell invited Martin to his wedding.

Over the last days commentators have spoken about the long journey that Martin McGuinness made. People have told various stories about the man. One of the most balanced pieces I heard was Olivia O'Leary's RTE Radio 1 column the day he died. She told how a mother from the Bogside brought her young son along to John Hume in an effort to keep him away from the IRA. 

John spent some time talking to him. The young man said nothing and when it came time for them to part, Martin McGuinness asked was it okay for him 'to go now'. 

It's usually considered a weakness when a person is seen as being 'subjective'. But isn't it inevitable that we're going to be subjective?

I can understand why Norman Tebbit and Julie Hambleton are angry with Martin McGuinness.
When someone does me a favour they go up in my estimation of them. When someone does something unpleasant or nasty to me then I will be suspicious of them, indeed, I might well grow to dislike them intensely. Is that not the way we are made?

Have you ever noticed someone who has had a charmed life in her or his place of employment how glowingly they will speak about the organisation. Whereas on the other hand, someone who has felt they have been treated badly, will be slow to say a good word about the place.

That's the way of the world. That's the way most of us work.

It requires grace, skill, courage, call it what you will, to rise above our particular, specific situation so as to see something in clear objective terms. But it can be done. And when we are able to do so we really free ourselves of such horrible baggage. The energy we waste, fixated on those who do us harm and wrong.

So often we know it's the road to travel but we simply don't have that particular skill to 'rise above it', forget about it and get on with our lives.

That's why I'm a great believer in people getting therapy, sitting down with a professional and receiving the best advice available. I'm convinced it's something most of us need. But I also find that line in the Bible a great help: "Do to others as you would have them to do you". (Luke 6: 31)
It's vital, at least to try, to free ourselves from "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune."

Monday, March 27, 2017

Tricks of political scoundrels

Former US vice president Joe Biden gave a talk at Colgate University yesterday.

He spoke of why he simply could not run for the top job but now feels convinced had he run he would have won.

A quote from his talk:

“The attempt to delegitimise the press — 'fake news' — is the first act of any political scoundrel,” Biden said. He nearly yelled: “We are uniquely a product of our political constitution.”

Little chance for darkness

It was a stunning weekend all over Ireland, at least weatherwise. A cold easterly wind but far outdone by the blue skies.

And last evening the bonus of daylight well after 20.00.

Then this morning, 05.55 and pitch black. In an instant darkness pervades. But you know it will only be a matter of days before brightness leaps forward again.

Ah, even today the darkness is thrown away easily and quickly.

Along the Dodder at 06.30 there are hints of brightness. And now at 06.57 it's almost full brightness.

Oh, the best of days.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

CDU gains in Saarland

Gains for the CDU, SPD losses and the far-right AfD cross the five per cent line so enter the Saarland Parliament.

The Greens vote fell under five per cent, which means they will have no seats in the new parliament.

Outgoing CDU premier Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer will be in the lead position to form the new administration in Saarbrücken.

There was a larger than expected turnout for today's election.

BBC's 'Sunday' reports on gay candidate for bishopric

On BBC Radio 4s religious programme, Sunday, today there was a discussion/news report about the controversy of a married gay Protestant priest not being appointed a bishop in Wales.

It made for great radio. Interesting points were aired during the debate. A bishop, involved in the process of the appointment of bishops, was interviewed during the programme.

Churches around the world are discussing the topic of the sexual orientation of clergy. Is there a place for homosexual woman and men among the ranks of church clergy people?

What's happening in the Catholic Church?

It would appear there is little if any discussion and there seems to be no public discussion on the subject. It is a taboo topic for the public forum.

And yet there is a significant number of ordained Catholic men, in all ministries across the church's hierarchy, who are gay.

What happens if there is no real, charitable discussion on the subject?

Terrible dishonesty must surely develop. People turn to all sorts of silly accidentals. Obfuscation can easily become the norm. Anger too, palpable anger manifests itself, sometimes in drunken brawls, in alcoholism, in mental illness. And also in a destructive silence.

An over-emphasis in liturgical celebration always seems a possibility in a world of secretive homosexual clericalism.

And then there is an inordinate adherence to 'orthodoxy'.

It's the secrecy, the dishonesty, the obfuscation that must make it all such an unhealthy world.

Is the Catholic Church a healthier place by not discussing the topic, keeping the lid on the issue, or would it in the longterm be a better idea to talk about it all?

The BBC Radio 4 Sunday  programme is aired Sundays between 07.00 and 08.00.

The Petrys, the AfD and election in Germany today

Sven Petry, the former husband of Frauke Petry, who is leader of the far right-wing Alternative for Germany party (AfD), has written a book about their times together.

Sven, a priest in Tautenhain in Saxony, has remarried and has joined the party of Angela Merkel's CDU.

He finds the policy of AfD unacceptable to his beliefs.

Frauke Petry too has remarried.

There is a State election today in Saarland, which is the smallest of the German federal states.

The new leader of the SPD and the party's chancellor candidate for the September Federal elections, Martin Schultz, is now neck-and-neck with Angela Merkel and her CDU CSU coalition.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Time to change

What a magnificent day, at least in Dublin but most likely all over Ireland.

And it's the last day of winter time.

At 02.00 tomorrow clocks across Europe go forward one hour. Well, not exactly, Russia no longer changes its time. 

The United States moves to Daylight Saving Time on the second weekend of March.

At present Ireland is on GMT, from tomorrow we will be on GMT plus one hour, along with the UK and Portugal while the rest of the EU will be on GMT plus two.

And don't mix up UTC (Coordinated Universal Time), which is a time standard, with GMT (Greenwich Mean Time), which is a time zone.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Germany and England

On Wednesday evening in Dortmund the German and England soccer teams played a friendly.

The German captain for the evening was Lukas Podolski. It was his last time to play for the German national team, hence the role of captain.

Germany won one - nill and Podolski scored the winning goal.

The game was drenched in all sorts of messages and irony.

Some England fans sang unpleasant/nasty songs.

Podolski was born in Poland and so could have played for either Germany or Poland.

Unfortunately the England fans behaved as they did on the day that was in it.

Why is it that on such occasions the German fans always behave impeccably well? And England.....?

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Confirmation Irish-style

A boy making his Confirmation somewhere in Ireland is asked by a relative what happens at Confirmation.

He replies: "You get a mobile phone."

He is then asked to say the Lord's Prayer/Our Father. He is unable to say even the first line of the prayer.

The boy is then quizzed as to what happened at the ceremony. He replies: "I fell asleep".

But it was also noted by an adult, who attended the liturgy, that the presiding bishop was so boring that other clerics attending nearly nodded off too.

Catholic education in Irish Catholic schools?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Life-changing experience

The piece below appears in the March issue of The Carer, which is the newsletter of the National Association of Healthcare Chaplains.

Michael Commane
Greetings from St Luke's Hospital in Rathgar. It's my place of work. Since late August I have been working here in the hospital as chaplain. I have my badge to prove it. It says: 'St Luke's Radiation Oncology Network Michael Commane Chaplain'.

I think I can cut to the quick immediately and say up front that it has been a life-changer.

My background has been in teaching and journalism. Before coming to St Luke's I spent over 10 years working as a press officer with Concern Worldwide and before that I worked at 'The Kerryman' as a sub-editor.

Did other bits and bobs as well but so far that's been the main focus of my working life. Along with that I was ordained a Dominican priest in 1974. I well remember it. It was the day the Germans beat the Dutch in the World Cup in Munich.

It's early days so I am still new and fresh to the job. It means I'm in the perfect place to write down my first impressions.

I have been greatly struck by the welcome I received from the staff and that was made abundantly obvious to me in my first week in the place. The staff could not have been nicer to me. Honestly, they received me with open arms. And some months on, I can still say that. It's a great place to be. And of course it's always people who make places.

What do I do? St Luke's has two oncology wards. It also has a day ward, where patients come for treatment. St Luke's provides a facility which allows patients from outside the Dublin area to overnight Monday to Friday while they are having treatment in one of the Network centres. Upstairs in the hospital there are two step-down wards, which are attached respectively to St James's Hospital and Tallaght Hospital.

My job involves sitting down, listening and talking to people. A former patient sent me a Christmas card, thanking me for being a 'distraction'. I liked it, and thought it more or less summed up what I do. One thing I have discovered is that Ireland is such a small place. I am forever meeting people who know someone I know, and that of course, is always a great introduction.

It's been the privilege of a lifetime to sit down and listen and talk to people. And then the goodness and kindness I see every day from patients, staff and visitors.

Honestly, it's a life-changer.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

How we change but retain something from the past

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

Michael Commane
The Dominican priory in Düsseldorf is right in the heart of the old city. On one side of the building are two Irish pubs and in front is the 17th century church of St Andrew, which is the property of the State of North Rhine Westphalia. The church is managed by the German Dominicans.

Originally a Jesuit church, it is one of the most interesting buildings of late German Renaissance and early Baroque architecture. It was built at the suggestion of the Jesuits who were called to Düsseldorf in 1619.

The Dominicans have been running the church since 1972.
Düsseldorf is the capital of the State of North Rhine Westphalia with the great river Rhine flowing through it.

I was there last week visiting a number of people. It was my first time back in the city for a long time. It meant that I could remember nothing of the place. It's so strange how we forget things over time.

Among those I was visiting was a couple I had last seen 30 years ago. I first met Norbert and Dorthe Ernst 31 years ago in Berlin. Back then they had two young children.

Norbert and I arranged to meet at the information centre at Essen rail station at 5pm. As I was walking down the stairs at the station I saw this man with a beard. I hesitatingly pointed my finger at him, he looked at me for a second or so. Yes, I had my man. Imagine I recognised him from 3O years ago. I'm not sure he recognised me as quickly. Does that mean I have changed more than he? He certainly had not put on an ounce of weight. And back then too he had a beard.

Later in the evening when his wife came home from work I immediately recognised her. But of course that was made much easier because of the context.

They are now grandparents with an adorable five-year-old little boy. Their two daughters had vague memories of the Berlin days and remember some of the fun we had.

It's interesting how we change over the years and still retain so much from the past. A mix of old and new.

Back then there was no mobile phone, no email but there was the Wall right in the heart of Berlin.

It's interesting comparing notes with another people. Just walking down a street observing people and things, you can always spot some of the differences. 

I get the impression the Germans, at least out on the streets, are not tied to their mobile phones as we are in Ireland. I made that point to the Ernst family and they felt it's non-stop phone activity in Germany. I'm not too sure.

It's so funny to notice the words the Germans take from English and then Germanise them. They call the mobile phone a 'handy' but with more and more smart phones in use they are using the word 'smart phone'. They use email but write it 'E-Mail'. 

St John's Protestant church at Martin Luther Square, also in the old city district of Düsseldorf, was opened in 1881, badly damaged in World War II, reopened in 1953 and renovated in 2008.

It has an interesting feature. In the foyer of the church is a coffee shop with newspapers available to read for free. Great to see people sitting about, reading and talking. 

Inside the church I spotted a large print on a wall and in English too: "God is a woman and she knows how to dance".

It caught my eye, and big time too.

Monday, March 20, 2017

A policy failure

An editorial worth reading appears in the current issue of 'The Tablet'.




It makes no sense criticising an 'anti-Catholic' bias

Today is the spring equinox.

The sparrow herself finds a home/ and the swallow a nest for her brood/ she lays her young by your altars/Lord of hosts, my kind and my God.
Psalm 83 (84)

And later in that Psalm we read:

Lord, God of hosts/happy the man who trusts in you.

Does it make any sense for people, especially clerics, to criticise State agencies, such as universities, health authorities etc for an anti-Catholic bias?

Of course it makes no sense and certainly it's not an attractive way to talk about the message of the Gospel.

Has such criticism more to do with people feeling they have lost control, power, influence?

Can people who criticise in such a way really believe that the Lord God of hosts/happy the man who trusts in you.

It's really time for ministers of religion to stop bemoaning the fact that the Irish Catholic Church has lost the inordinate power and control it once had.

Just look at what the church did with that power and control.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Smoking in Ireland

Accodring to the Tobacco Free Ireland action group 19 per cent of Irish people smoke every day.

That works out at close to a million people a day.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Angela and Donald

Isn't it a fabulous picture.

Her face gives her away. You can almost see the young girl in Templin, incrdibly intelligent, looking aghast on a summer's day as some bombast American rides into the East German town, saying all sorts of silly and embarrassing things.

Merkel's wise words

It's always better to talk to one another, than about one another.

A comment German Chancellor Angela Merkel made in response to Doanld Trump's campaign attacks on her.

Certainly universal advice well worth taking

More signs of spring

'Wildlife' at the top of Königsallee, Düsseldorf's fashionable shopping street.

And while they move about, the fishing season started yesterday on the River Dodder.



Friday, March 17, 2017

The young Karl Marx

The poster says there is a film of the young Karl Marx running in Germany at present.

Will it come to Dublin?

An interesting take on the young man.

Talking of Marx, there is a lovely word in German, 'Spießbürger', it almost has qualities of onomatopoeia about it.

A wikipedia definition of the word goes like this:

Spießbürger is a pejorative reference to a person who is distinguished by his intellectual stodginess, extreme conformity to social norms, hostility to changes in daily habits and rejection of everything unfamiliar.

Clerics who buy the latest VW cars? Profoundly pathetic but also hilariously funny. And most importantly, never take them seriously. The perfect word for them 'Spießbürger'. It has really no English equivalent, certainly that catches the mood and 'style' of such people.

Of course, decent, good people too drive VWs, even new ones.

Always and ever so dangerous to generalise.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Otto Dix exhibition

A quote from Otto Dix.

I am a visual person and not a philosopher. 

That is why I am constantly taking stock in my pictures.

I show what is really happening and what has to be said in the name of truth.

There is an exhibition of Otto Dix's works currently taking place in Düsseldorf. The exhibition runs until May 14.

Dix was born in Gera in 1891 in the German Empire and died in Singen in 1969 in the Federal Republic of Germany.

He had a close associaiton with Düsseldorf.

Anyone who ever utters the word 'truth' should spend some time looking at Dix's works.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Everything is now unfolding in front of our eyes

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

Michael Commane
On Tuesday March 7 I was mulling over in my head what I would write for this column this week. I saw the news and the Prime Time programme that followed. Both programmes carried stories about the Tuam revelations. The next day on ‘Morning Ireland’ Brid Smith TD was interviewed. During the interview she suggested that the religious congregations involved in such behaviour be closed down. Also, I was annoyed about the actions of a particular bishop.

All that unpleasant news gave me the impetus to write on how I feel about the church. I’m a Dominican and I’m not happy with the direction the Order is taking.

So armed with all that material I was going to write this column on my view of where the Irish hierarchical church is at present.

It all changed at the flick of a switch, well, to be exact, the next day.

On Thursday I was out walking my dog before going to work. I was instantly struck by the wonder and beauty of the morning.

These days it gets brighter every morning. On the day that I am writing this it was bright close to 06.30. And it is changing, changing for the better and brighter every day.

I’m usually walking Tess in Dartry Park before 06.20. It’s not nice in the winter but these days it is magic. The daffodils are up, bringing to mind the lines by William Wordsworth: "I wandered lonely as a cloud/That floats on high o'er vales and hills,/When all at once I saw a crowd,/A host, of golden daffodils;/Beside the lake, beneath the trees,/Fluttering and dancing in the breeze."

The birds are singing and just last week for the first time I saw an egret. I had never seen one in the park before. I know little or nothing about birds but the egret looks like a gentle delicate bird and it’s always fascinating to see something for the first time.

After cycling to work and arriving in the garden of St Luke’s Hospital in Dublin,  I felt I had never seen a hospital with such a fabulous garden. It’s a sea of flowers right now. One look at the garden and you know it is cared for with loving hands.

Of course we see the world through our own eyes and as I write these words I’m saying to myself how fortunate I am to be able to behold and appreciate such beauty and magnificence.

How can I say or how can I imagine it, but what must it be like when people are ill or in pain or simply can’t do the ‘ordinary’ things?

Since taking up my job as a hospital chaplain I have been greatly struck with the resilience of people and how they cope with illness.

On the day that I am recalling in this piece I met a man at the hospital entrance. He had lost his leg, was sitting in his wheelchair, heading to rehab. The first thing he said to me was what a beautiful morning it was and he said it with such a smile. How humbling for me to hear that. Sometimes we take so much for granted.

This surely is the best time of the year. There’s everything to look forward to. The fishing season begins on the River Dodder on Friday, the clocks go forward on Sunday, March 26 at 02.00.
Writing these words, I’m happy I dumped the original column.

For now, live in the now and enjoy it. There’s so much to enjoy. Carpe diem.

Monday, March 13, 2017

CRH ceo earns €10m

Albert Manifold, ceo of Cement Roadstone Holdings, was paid €10m last year.

That works out at €192,307.69 per week, or €38,461.54 per day for a five-day week.

There are many private companies in Ireland that do not pay their employees when they cannot attend work because of illness and the State does not pay for the first week of illness.

And we think we live in enlightened times.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Bishop Doran and ACP say farewell to Charles Brown

The bishop of Elphin, Kevin Doran pays tribute to the departing papal nuncio Charles Brown.

It's always interesting how people have different views and opinions on people.

Even accepting how we all have our own views on people, ideas, beliefs, customs etc and how important it is to be respectful, is this not ever so sycophantic. Good too to be diplomatic, but....
And why upper case 'Episcopal appointments'?

'His Excellency' and then an abbreviation for March.

In the midst of a church so shaken and damaged does a press release such as this add one iota to the good name of the Catholic Church in Ireland?

Below the bishop's press release is a statement from the ACP.

Bishop Kevin Doran pays tribute to His Excellency, Archbishop Charles J Brown
09. MAR, 2017

Since his arrival in Ireland as Apostolic Nuncio in January 2012, Archbishop Charles J Brown has always been clearly and recognisably the representative of the Holy Father, first Pope Benedict XVI and then Pope Francis.  He came among us as a diplomat, at a time when diplomacy was really needed, but he came with the heart of a pastor.  Over the past five years, he has challenged us and encouraged us in equal measure.

I first met Archbishop Brown when he came to visit the staff at the 50th International Eucharistic Congress office, shortly after his appointment to Ireland.  During that busy period he was very supportive to us and was ready to do anything he could to help.  In much the same way, around the time of my appointment as a bishop, I found him very approachable and encouraging.  He has visited the Diocese of Elphin on five or six occasions over the past three years and always seemed to have plenty of time to meet people, young and old alike.

As many people will be aware, Archbishop Brown had to devote a significant amount of energy to the renewal of the Episcopal Conference.  In the past five years, eleven Episcopal appointments have been made in Ireland and the process is under way for seven more.  This work will have to be completed on someone else’s watch, but that is the nature of the Church.  As Saint Paul says, “I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow”.

While I am sorry that Archbishop Brown will soon be leaving us, I am delighted that the Catholics of Albania, who have suffered so much in the past, will have him among them as the personal representative of Pope Francis.  I wish him every blessing in his new mission and hope that he will occasionally return to visit us.

+Kevin Doran

ENDS

Bishop Kevin Doran is Bishop of Elphin.                                                    
For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678



Statement from the Association of Catholic Priests
on the Apostolic Nuncio’s new appointment

The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), in responding to the announcement that the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown, has been transferred to Albania, wish him well in his new appointment.

The ACP has been trenchant in its criticisms of the policies Archbishop Brown pursued, particularly in relation to the choice of bishops during his years in Ireland as inadequate to the needs of our time, at odds with the expectations of people and priests, and out of sync with the new church dispensation ushered in by the election of Pope Francis. However, we accept that, with his background and training, his lack of understanding of the Irish Church and an appreciation of our culture, Archbishop Brown was ill-equipped to respond to the needs of the Irish Church.

We have to say too that we found it frustrating and disappointing that, during his years here, he refused to meet us to discuss our concerns. However, we recognise that he worked within a system of protocols and procedures in which he felt obliged to confine himself and, though we believe he was fundamentally mistaken in his views, we hold no personal rancour in his regard.

We pray God’s blessing on him in his new appointment and in his future life.

Brendan Hoban
Roy Donovan
Gerry O’Connor
Tim Hazelwood 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

"I hope in your word"

A few lines from Psalm 118(119), which on this day sound and feel appropriate.

Some few short lines from this Psalm are read at Morning Prayer today.

I call with all my heart; answer me, Lord,
    and I will obey your decrees.
 I call out to you; save me
    and I will keep your statutes.
 I rise before dawn and cry for help;
    I have put my hope in your word.
 My eyes stay open through the watches of the night,
    that I may meditate on your promises.
 Hear my voice in accordance with your love;
    preserve my life, Lord, according to your laws.
 Those who devise wicked schemes are near,
    but they are far from your law.
 Yet you are near, Lord,
    and all your commands are true.
 Long ago I learned from your statutes
    that you established them to last forever.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Pope Francis on 'sleeveenry'

A quote from Pope Francis in the El Pais publication:

There are some who don't agree. Of course, and they have the right, because, if I felt bad because someone disagrees with me, I would have the germ of a dictator in me.

They have the right to disagree ... Provided they talk, that they don't hide behind others.

Nobody has the right to do that.

Brilliant.

Please Pope Franics visit Ireland and spend a few days in a number of religious communities. I can give you the addresses and phone numbers.

Stay away from the hierarchy, provincials, priors, regents of studies, student masters, ...... And come among us and see the reality. Come visit the hoi polloi.

Life's funny cycle

When we are young we may well laugh at the 'carry-on' of our parents.

As we grow older we do exactly as they did, maybe even in a more pronounced way. And then we smile at the younger generation.

A funny old world indeed. And all for what?

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Brown to leave Ireland

Archbishop Charles Brown, the papal nuncio to Ireland is moving to Albania.

This post in error reported that the nuncio was returning to the US.

Apologies for the error.

Early morning in Dublin

Gosh, what a beautiful early morning in Dublin.

Daylight edges forward every morning these days. If you miss an early morning then the following morning will seem so much brighter. And then the quantum difference between getting up in daylight rather than in the dark.

Surely the best time of the year: everything is about to happen.

Daffodils in the public parks, the angling season begins on the River Dodder on Friday, March 17.

In 17 days, March 26, the clocks go forward across Europe.

These days of expectation, waiting. Waiting, waiting for developments, waiting for things to happen.

Fabulous days.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A dysfunctional church

Last evening having come home from work I looked at the Gospel for today. Later in the evening I had to attend a Vincent de Paul meeting and when I eventually got home, sat down to write a few words on the Gospel.

I watched the news and then Prime Time.

OMG.

On Saturday I read Diarmaid Ferriter in 'The Irish Times' and on Monday in that same paper I read Una Mullally.

Again, OMG.

I have never understood the living relationship between a bishop and his priests and people.

There is nothing I can do about the past. But I can comment on the present and I don't like the management style of our church and I am nervous about what's going on in the Irish province of the Dominican Order: a tendency to put more emphasis on liturgy, candles and incense than on people.

And that's at the core of so much that is wrong in the church - not seeing itself as the people of God.

Priesthood does not make a man know more than his fellow sisters and brothers.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

It takes an eejit to think Healy-Rae is an eejit

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

Michael Commane
Some time back I wrote in this column how I first met Michael Healy-Rae. Very briefly: he greeted me one evening when we were both in Kerry General Hospital. 

In smart aleck mode I said: “You don’t know me so why are you saying hello to me?” He quipped: “Commane, you’re as ‘nashty’ in reality as in the paper”. Brilliant. Since then we are friends and have each other’s mobile numbers.

On Saturday, February 25 the same Michael Healy-Rae was interviewed by Marian Finucane on her show on RTR Radio 1.

I was heading to the hills, walking around by the side of Lough Dan. My walking companion had been delayed so I was sitting, waiting in the car. I was a captive audience. It was a lengthy interview. One of those interviews that was so interesting that I could almost repeat it verbatim.

Some days earlier I had to deal with correspondence from clerics, all pathetic and sad material, nonsensical complaints, which was for me yet another insight into what has the hierarchical church where it is today. At first, it had annoyed me but having shown it to one or two wise people I was able to see it in perspective.

And then sitting in my car, waiting to go walking I accidentally heard the Healy-Rae interview.

Early in the interview he referred to his late mother, who died in 2015.  It was striking how he spoke about her wisdom and knowledge. He went on to tell Marian about advice that she had once given him. She told him that there was nothing he could ever do about the past, what he said or did. But what was important was how he would react or respond to how people treated him in word and deed. 

He said it more eloquently than that but that was the gist of it. What wisdom. I felt, sitting in the car, waiting at the filling station in Kilmacanogue, that Michael Healy-Rae was talking to me. And I have taken his advice. I hope I can keep to it.

Some days earlier he had spoken in Dáil Éireann about the damage that rhododendrons are causing in Killarney National Park. In an interview on Morning Ireland earlier in the week he spoke about the issue and also how he had got permission to wear his cap in the Dáil chamber.

The cap is his signature tune. Fabulous branding. When he was talking about the rhododendrons he kept calling them 'rhododondrons'. And then later, on another Kerry issue he referred to the ‘deers’ in the National Park.

Indeed, maybe I am as ‘nashty’ as he accused me of being on that famous encounter in the hospital. But I have a sneaky suspicion that Michael Healy-Rae knows as well as I do how to pronounce rhododendrons and no doubt too he knows that the plural of deer is deer. 

Again, it is a fine piece of branding. It marks him out, it catches the eye. It makes you sit up and listen to him. And always somewhere in the words there is a gem of wisdom. You might call it clever ‘Kerry blackguarding’. Okay, that’s fine. But as sure as hell it works.

That Morning Ireland story made it on to BBC, he got eight radio interviews and had 35,000 hits on Journal.ie.

And on that misty Saturday morning heading for Lough Dan and Scar mountain, that same Michael Healy-Rae gave me a great piece of advice, advice his mother had given him. He told Marian he has taken her advice.

I’m taking his.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Brightness and an egret

Strong hints of brightness in Dublin at 06.20 today and then at 06.40 it seemed to be galloping towards full daylight.

Though cold today, these mornings have a fabulous sensation about them.

And guess what's to be seen in Dartry Park, an egret. It has the shape and style of a heron but far smaller and spectacularly white in colour. A dainty elegant bird.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

ACP statement

Below is a statment from the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland.

The organisation has to be commended for its work.

The latest revelations about the burial of babies in the former Mother and Baby home in Tuam, though widely predicted, provoke a sense of both sadness and shame. Sadness, that the very precious, elemental relationship between mothers and their children could be so disrespected by institutions of Church and State in Ireland; and shame because as priests we are part of an institution that has played a central role in this sorry saga.

It will be argued, with some cause, that the Catholic Church was not totally to blame, as the whole culture of Ireland during that period made it acceptable for pregnant unmarried girls to be treated so shamefully. But the Church, because of its dominant position in the Ireland of the time, must take a large degree of responsibility for what happened. Also, we must acknowledge that individual priests in parishes, through the advice they gave to parents of unmarried pregnant women, and in some cases through public condemnation from pulpits, helped to limit to Mother and Baby homes the options available to parents.

The recent Tuam revelations, coinciding with the attitudes of Vatican officials which led to the resignation of Marie Collins from the Vatican Commission on Clerical Sex Abuse, serve to underline our conviction that Catholic sexual teaching and the attitudes that can underpin it need urgent renewal. There is still a long way to go before women are treated with equal respect and dignity in the Catholic Church.

Quiet bishops

Today is the first Sunday in Lent.

The Gospel reading is about the temptation of Jesus.

Has there been a word these last few days from any Irish bishop or from the papal nuncio concerning Marie Collins' resignation from the Vatican Commission on the Protection of Minors or on the Tuam revelations?

Their silence says so much about the management of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

And the backwoods' men, exist right across the church, maybe even in the ascendancy.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Living faith in the now

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

Michael Commane
It must have been during my final year in primary school that I heard this story. It left an impression on me.

A teacher gave the class a vivid picture of what hell was like. He told us that it was a roaring fire that never goes out and there is someone standing there stoking it. People were right at the edge of the fire. And then there was this tall grandfather clock, constantly ticking, never stopping.

This went on not just for one day or two days or two years but forever. Forever and ever. He did frighten the lives out of us and he left an indelible mark on my soul.

We must have been 12-year-old children, and otherwise this teacher was a lovely kind man. Imagine if a child went home and told their parents they had learned that in school today. It would make the newspapers and rightly so.

As a young Dominican I often heard stories of an older colleague who would tell people to be careful as the devil was under the table. People treated him politely but it was generally accepted that the man was unwell.

In early January 'The Tablet', which is a weekly English Catholic magazine, reviewed a book on Martin Luther. Martin Luther is in the news these days as it is 500 years since he wrote to the Bishop of Mainz protesting at the sale of indulgences. I think he had a point. There has been discussion focusing on Luther’s anti-Semitic writings. 

But as Thomas Kaufmann writes in “Luther's Jews: A journey into Anti-Semitism”: “We can no more put our faith blindly in Luther's theology than 21st century adults would voluntarily place themselves in the hands of a 16th century surgeon

Surely the world, things, people are constantly evolving. The teacher's description of hell, Luther's words on Jews don't make sense in the vocabulary in use today.

In the first reading at Mass tomorrow we read how "God fashioned man of dust from the soil" (Genesis 2: 7) and in the Gospel (Matthew 4:1 - 11) we are given an account of how the devil tempts Jesus having "fasted for forty days and forty nights". The devil suggests to Jesus that he turn stones into loaves. 

Again, if someone comes to us and tells us in similar terms that the devil is leading them by the hand we would suggest they get psychiatric help.

Of course, there are religious people who are helped and touched by extraordinary events but I think it's fair to say that for most of us we live out our faith in the everyday, the hum-and-drum of the ordinary. It's in that world, in that 'ordinariness' that we must see and experience the God of Genesis, the God of the New Testament, the God of the time of Luther. But all the time finding God in the world of the now.

I trust it's not arrogant to say, but it is a nonsense to go searching for God in times that are gone. 

In this paper last Saturday Diarmuid Ferriter quoted journalist AA Gill talking about that “most pernicious and debilitating Little English drug, Nostalgia.” Ferriter was writing about a comment Boris Johnson made. But that same 'nostalgia' surely is also just that, when it comes to religion and churches - 'a most pernicious and debilitating drug'.

We always must use and speak the language of the day when we want to give sense and meaning to God.  

That's not to say we have banished evil. Look at the carnage that is taking place in our world: one billion people without enough to eat, while global military spending runs at approximately $1.7 trillion. We know for sure there is hell on earth. Nothing nostalgic about that.

It's in that context, the world of the now, in all its various facets, that we experience God.

Our faith in a loving and good God offers us an affirmative response in the face of evil. Christian hope gives us confidence of success

Friday, March 3, 2017

Bruce Bradley on Cardinal Desmond Connell

This week's, March 4, 'The Tablet' carries a lovely piece on the late Cardinal Desmond Connell.

It is written by Jesuit Bruce Bradley, who is editor of 'Studies' and was for a short time director of the Dublin Diocesan Communications Office.

Bruce was also headmaster at Belvedere College, where I taught German for a short time.

He was an inspiring headmaster.

Marie Collins deserves praise on her resignation

Irish woman Marie Collins has resigned from her position on the Vatican Commission for the Protection of Minors.

She was interviewed during the week on a number of media outlets including RTE Television and BBC Radio 4, where she clearly explained her reasons for resigning.

"I have come to the point where I can no longer be sustained by hope,” she said. “As a survivor I have watched events unfold with dismay.

“I cannot, at this point, accept that there are still men in the Vatican who would resist work to help children,” she said.

Obviously Ms Collins has experienced first hand the machinations of the institutional clerical world. But naive of her to expect anything else.
Has the papal nuncio in Ireland made any public comment about her resignation?

Ms Collins has to be admired for her honesty, bravery and insight.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The day Concorde flew

On this day, March 2, 1969 Concorde took to the skies over France for the first time. It was piloted by Andre Turcat.

It flew at supersonic speed for the first time the following October.

The aricraft, powered by Rolls-Royce/Snecma Olympus 593 engines, was a joint Franco-British project.

The plane was taken out of srvice on October 24, 2003.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Unhelpful words in Ash Wednesday prayer

The language in the Opening Prayer or Collect in today's Mass in its English translation is not appropriate to the times in which we live.

The words 'campaign', 'battle', 'armed', 'weapons'. No, thank you. It sounds alienating. What would those words mean to patients in hospital, young people cycling to work?

There were hints of brightness in the sky in Dublin at 06.35 today and by 06.50 it was bright. Need for a light on a bicycle at 07.00? No, not really.

Fabulous.