Category Archives: General Interest

Celebrated by Community

Yesterday, I celebrated the sacrament of Baptism in St Mark’s Church, Vienna (Near Washington DC) a lovely gathering that I was glad to be part of. The baby was Brendan Jordan Korves, whose parents’ wedding I celebrated a number of years ago and whose sister I also baptised. As well as Brendan, there was another baby, Madeline, for baptism. I only met her family before Mass but was happy to do so. It was Sunday Mass and a wonderful Community celebration.


The local Parish Priest, Fr Pat joined me – as did a plethora of Parish Ministry men and women, a wonderful choir and very alive congregation. It was a most joyous and faith-filled gathering.


Loaves, Fishes and Generosity



Thinking of the Gospel about feeding the 5000 reminds me of the Post Communion Reflection used at my father’s Funeral Mass in Cloonloo.  It’s elsewhere on this blog but thought I might post here again.

They asked me why I did it?

The truth is I don’t know – it just seemed the right thing to do.  We had been standing there for hours.  He had spoken so much, said so much – time just went by.  People were hungry.  You could see it in them and yet nobody wanted to leave.  There was a muttering through the crowd – “he wants to feed us” – “With what?” someone said – “there’s no food here”.

That’s when I heard myself saying “I have something”  – my voice seemed so loud.  I was only a child but my voice rose above all others.  “I have something”.  A man asked what had I and I said “five loaves and two fish” – he smiled.  I suppose now I would think it was a dismissive smile but that day I thought he was pleased.  He passed on the message “There’s a small boy here with five loaves and two fish” – my heart sank when he added “but what is that between so many?”  I blushed and even with my childish counting of two and two making four, I could see he was right.  The man who had been talking to us did not agree.  “Bring it to me”, he said and they took my food.  I’ll never know how it happened but the feeding began.  Bread and fish fed to five thousand.

“Why did you do it?”  I’ve often thought about that.  I did it because my father would have done it.  He was always sharing bread with people at home.  I grew up seeing him do that.  Truth be told, it was he who had given me the few loves and fish before I left the house.  I did it because he would have done it.  It was the right thing to do.

There’s nothing to beat a father’s good example.  Thanks Bill!  We will not forget.

Sunday Morning Coming Down ….

I got an email from a regular visitor to this blog yesterday.  He mentioned that the visits (hits) on the blog had just exceeded 200,000.  I hadn’t noticed but he was right.  What does that mean?  I’m not fully sure of the distinction between “hits” and “visitors” but it seems to say that what I have here has been looked at over 200,000 times.  That’s gratifying and humbling – thanks!  The first time I did this was on July 8th, 2008 with a few lines about “Barnie” my parents’ dog who had died some weeks earlier ( and I had no idea where it would go and what would come next.  Since then, I’ve tried to mix it up a bit – a few stories, lots of photos, a tune or twenty and bits and pieces from life.  This blog has travelled with me through the deaths of my mother and father (R.I.P.) and other family events  It has allowed me record the weddings and happy events of some friends along the way and given the chance to share an occasional thought I felt might be worth sharing.  Sometimes it has been more personal than I might have imagined but, since July 2008 – for about six years now has been a companion, of sorts, and has, I like to think, welcomed other companions along the way, acknowledged friendships and spoken in an honest way.

Thanks for being part of the journey.

I’m not sure if it was the mention of the 200,000 that put figures in my head but I found myself this morning, alone in the sacristy before Mass, looking through the register we keep there (have kept since February 2010) to record the names of Mass Servers who served Masses, Ministers of The Word and Eucharist, our Sacristan and the name of the priest who celebrated Mass.  This, as you know, is part of the Safeguarding Policy of our day but is also an interesting record of a journey of Faith – its detail, in the main, drawn from the Sunday Mass.

I just looked quickly through the pages and, apart from Sundays I was away on holidays or maybe had to be somewhere else, my name is part of the weekly story in this parish – in Kilmovee Church alone – today was about the 270th Sunday Mass (or Holy Day/Christmas/Easter etc) I celebrated Mass.  We only use the register when there are Mass Servers so weekday Masses etc are not counted.  Today then was about the 270th time I stood in front of the people of Kilmovee to celebrate Sunday Mass, preach a few words and hopefully offer a bit of support and nourishment for the week ahead.  When I think the same could be said of Urlaur – that’s over 500 occasions, not counting the Sundays I celebrated Mass in Glann or Kilkelly.  It’s a striking number and begs the question, “what have I been saying?”

The answer must lie in the truth that I have been saying the same thing, over and over, with slight variation.  That is reality.  We only have so much to say – stories to tell and experiences to share.  So, no matter how many Sunday Mornings “come down”, the reality is I have only the one message and I really want to believe that message is rooted in the Gospel.

Today’s Gospel – even in the shortened form I read at Mass – speaks to the honesty of our lives.  The wheat grows side by side with the enemy-planted darnel. Often it can go unnoticed but all too often it’s there.

This is the story brought to us from the lips of Jesus.  The workers report the existence of the darnel to the landowner, offering to weed it out immediately but he recommends caution.  To rush the weeding could damage the crop.  Let both grow til Harvest time and then the sorting can be done.

I believe we are essentially wheat – the good crop.  That’s the way God made us and that’s what he wants for and from us.  Goodness! We are from the outset good.  Sadly though the darnel makes its way into our lives.  It takes subtle hold of us, alters the very path of our growth and ultimately, if left unchecked, can destroy us.

To me, the Lord is saying, the sorting needs to be done.  He takes no pleasure in the smell of burning so asks us to look honestly at our lives and to name the darnel, even if well developed, and to separate it from the intended crop.  He is calling us to be honest enough to look at our own lives and recognise there-in our weakness and limitation. He offers us, through the Sacraments of the Church, the call to repentance, to putting right what is wrong to allow for the reclamation of the name – the wheat – the crop he so truly wants for us.

We were born good.  This week we think of that Malaysian Aeroplane on the runway.  We imagine the soothing words of the Captain, speaking to those on board prior to take off.  He told them of the flight plan, I’ve no doubt, about the expected time of arrival and most likely told them to sit back, relax, enjoy the flight and that he’d talk to them again during the flight to update them.  He left them in the care of the cabin crew who, it’s certain, made sure their seat backs were in the upright position, their seat belts fastened tightly around their waists and with a smile and reassuring touch, calmed the most nervous, reassured the parents travelling with “very small children” and took their own seats for take-off.  Good people!  Wheat.

On the ground there were people with other intentions.  They couldn’t care less about the safety of the passenger.  Evil invaded every pore of their being.  Darnel smothered the wheat that was once there.  Was it a soldier obeying and order?  Was it a terrorist?  The label is almost by the way.  The reality is that weaponry, technology, violence were mixed with intent and innocence was dragged from the sky.  God rest each and every one of them.  God bring those responsible to a place where they recognise the cruelty of their action, the futility of violence and to an abiding desire for peace.  “Swords into plowshares” (Is 2:4)  The ones on the ground, the ones in the plane – born Good!  “An enemy has done this” ….

So I’m left wondering what I am saying today – and realise I’m saying nothing new, that I’m not being asked to say anything that hasn’t been said before and maybe that’s no harm.  It’s enough to say the right thing and to keep saying it.  It’s even more important to want the right thing and to do something about doing it!

A look into the field then, is appropriate, the field of wheat and to see there the darnel, to mark its spot, bide our time and weed it out.  Once the weeding is done, sometimes the advice is given that we should spray to prevent new growth – to protect the ground.  Maybe we need to PRAY to do likewise!


16th Sunday of The Year

  • All planting and planted is good
  • ESSENTIALLY Good People
  • Weeds develop -often cunning

o   Disguise themselves

o   Grow with the crop

o   cause damage

o   Need to recognise them

  • God wants the best of our crop

o   Reconciliation and Confession

o   Focus on the Crop !

o   Weeds bundled and burned

  • Spray to protect the ground

o   PRAY to protect the ground

  • Ongoing Call to holiness

Praying for different results

papalprayerThis photo has featured many times since the day the two popes met and spent a bit of time in prayer.  Quite humorously, it was used in recent days to show the two men praying for different results in the World Cup.  We now know which way that one fell!

Yesterday I was reading some Patrick Kavanagh poetry (he’s still in my head and I intend learning a bit more about him in some way or other) and I came across a lovely poem called “FR MATT”.  It’s long and involved and seems to touch on the life of the priest in the parish. In fairness, he’s a good man who seems to fit in well – as Kavanagh says, “like a round stone in a field”.  I had the feeling Kavanagh liked him.

There’s a part of the poem about people waiting in church to go to confessions and the prayers being said.  There’s a lovely piece about two people praying within kneeling board distance of each other but their prayers are for a different outcome …

In the dim
Corners in the side seats faces gather,
Lit up now and then by a guttering candle
And the ghost of day at the window.
A secret lover is saying
Three Hail Marys that she who knows
The ways of women will bring
Cathleen O’Hara (he names her) home to him.
Ironic fate! Cathleen herself is saying
Three Hail Marys to her who knows
The ways of men to bring
Somebody else home to her –
‘O may he love me.’
What is the Virgin Mary now to do?

                                                  (From “Fr Matt” by Patrick Kavanagh)

It begs the question whose prayers should be answered.  Pope Francis said that he wasn’t going to pray for any team in the World Cup but rather that the sport would be enjoyed, bring people together and leave it at that.  I heard of a Priest President of a diocesan college who used train the football team and he’d tell the team clearly that he wasn’t going to pray for victory as the other team would be doing the same and might be better “pray-ers”!!  Same idea.

So what happened Cathleen O’Hara (he named her) and the man in the next seat.  Was prayer answered?

They say it’s always answered but maybe we don’t recognise the answer or understand it.

Any thoughts on this …. maybe we could get a discussion going!!


Inniskeen Road – July Afternoon!

kavanaghOn July 10th I spent a bit of time in Inniskeen, Co. Monaghan – the birth place and resting place of Patrick Kavanagh.  It’s something I had wanted to do for a long time, not least since meeting a nephew of Patrick’s at a Priests’ Retreat recently.

The journey was shared and shortened in the company of Anne  to whom I’d mentioned my plans to go there someday.  She certainly encouraged that “some day” be moved from a vague out in the future place to a more realistic “now” and I’m glad that happened. Sometimes my good intentions get lost in their intentional state:)  She too had an interest in Kavanagh’s place, his words and works and the time was right ….

The Patrick Kavanagh Centre in Inniskeen is the old Parish Churchphoto 1 where Patrick attended Mass and, I have no doubt, observed life, and came to an awareness of God, found as he tells us, in the “bits and pieces” of life. Elmar, the guide, told us he used sit on the gallery where he had a better view of … the women!  I’d like to think he noticed the Stained Glass Windows too.  Still there and still spectacular they must have taken his thoughts beyond his lofty perch.

photo 2

One of the first things I saw was a poem (his first published I think) in which he speaks words to an old and falling down “Wooden Gate”.  I thought that was class.  How many people passed that gate and never gave it a second look?  How many times did its owner curse and blind it as he struggled to close it for another time – maybe the last time. Kavanagh saw it as a companion, sharing his experience of life and a sort of kindred spirit:

Battered by time and weather; scarcely fit
For firewood; there’s not a single bit
Of paint to hide those wrinkles, and such scringes
Break hoarsely on the silence–rusty hinges:
A barbed wire clasp around one withered arm
Replaces the old latch, with evil charm.
That poplar tree you hang upon is rotten,
And all its early lovliness forgotten.
This gap ere long must find another sentry
If the cows are not to roam the open country.
They’ll laugh at you, Old Woden Gate, they’ll push
Your limbs asunder, soon, into the slush.
Then i will lean upon your top no more
To muse, and dream of pebbles on a shore,
Or watch the fairy-columned turf-smoke rise
From white-washed cottage chimneys heaven-wise.
Here have i kept fair tryst, and kept it true,
When we were lovers all, and i was new;
And many time I’ve seen the laughing-eyed
Schoolchildren, on your trusty back astride.
But Time’s long silver hand has touched our brows,
And i’m the scorned of women–you of cows.
How can i love the iron gates which guard
The fields of wealthy farmers? They are hard,
Unlovely things, a-swingingg on concrete piers–
Their finger tips are pointed like old spears.
But you and i are kindred, Ruined Gate,
for both of us have met the self-same fate.

I knew then how little I knew!!  The space is small but packed withpoetsbirth memories of a great man who was, it seems, very much misunderstood among his own with whom he longed to be among. There’s a lovely piece saying that he was born as poet in Dublin in the fifties but that, in truth, this had happened thirty years earlier in his own place but  he was too “thick” (his own word) to recognise the birth.  It’s a lovely way of saying that what he had become was the result of from where he had come.

His life was not simple and, chances are he didn’t make it very simple for himself either.  Yet, through it – maybe because of it – he touched into very deep parts of himself, life, faith and love.  There’s an interesting mention of his relationship with the faith.  He felt much of Catholicism had been lost through “devotions” and “voteens” and that was, in his view, regrettable.  He had faith in God and felt that before the onset of unbridled devotion that Catholicism tapped more into the roots of Ireland and respecting the traditions of those roots, brought our people to a better place.  I had a real sense of him loving God and wanting to make God known afresh in the lives of his own generation.  A God who remained with him and for him, perhaps, when much else was in confusion.

photo 2There’s a lovely scaled model of his poem about Christmas Childhood.  The model touches on the core elements of the poem – his father playing the accordion (malodeon) at the side of the house, the bare apple tree and, my favourite mention – the three trees on the hill that overshadowed their home.  He saw these as the Three Wise Men coming to his Bethlehem.  As the guide said, people felt he could bring Bethlehem to Inniskeen.  People were right!

and, of course, Luke Kelly’s version


There were words about Raglan Road, Hilda, his marriage to Katherine Barry Maloney – his footballing days as a not too successful goalie, his printing press along with his brother.  There was a very interesting link with Sligo and his grandfather “Kevany” from Easkey.  We heard too of his friendship with Brendan Behan and sadly  of his fight with cancer and times of recovery spent by the Canal Bank Walk.  Finally his death which came within days of the opening of his play “Tarry Flynn” in Cavan – a homecoming and recognition for him, a highlight leading to I believe “Eternal Light” – may he rest in Peace.  Amen.

photo 3Lastly time was spent at his graveside – a very simple but meaning-filled piece of God’s earth.  No marble surround or high cross but a low wooden cross and a soil covered grave with stepping stones – flagstones – from the Stony Grey Soil of Monaghan.

O stony grey soil of Monaghan
The laugh from my love you thieved;
You took the gay child of my passion
And gave me your clod-conceived.

You clogged the feet of my boyhood
And I believed that my stumble
Had the poise and stride of Apollo
And his voice my thick tongued mumble.

You told me the plough was immortal!
O green-life conquering plough!
The mandril stained, your coulter blunted
In the smooth lea-field of my brow.

You sang on steaming dunghills
A song of cowards’ brood,
You perfumed my clothes with weasel itch,
You fed me on swinish food

You flung a ditch on my vision
Of beauty, love and truth.
O stony grey soil of Monaghan
You burgled my bank of youth!

Lost the long hours of pleasure
All the women that love young men.
O can I stilll stroke the monster’s back
Or write with unpoisoned pen.

His name in these lonely verses
Or mention the dark fields where
The first gay flight of my lyric
Got caught in a peasant’s prayer.

Mullahinsa, Drummeril, Black Shanco-
Wherever I turn I see
In the stony grey soil of Monaghan
Dead loves that were born for me. 

The inscriptions on the cross and centre flagstone are apt:

The Cross’ inscription reads: “And pray for him who walked about on the hill loving life’s miracles”.

photo 4

The flagstone, draws attention to the stepping stones as it tells us: “These are stepping stones across a stream. Part of my life was there. The happiest part”.


image-a33bbb2a7c723d8499e674ac3663d91bcd48850677a8f7469fc4fb6aa555f63f-VIt was a good day – hours well spent and glad it happened! Do I know much more about Kavangh?  Chances are I realise how little I know but the experience made real the place, the man and his memory.  I have often referred to him during the years – sometimes at a Wedding Mass, sometimes at Priests’ Retreats because I believe he speaks to a place that is very real for most of us.  I can’t say I like or enjoy every word of his I’ve ever heard.  Neither can I say, I’ve heard every word but somewhere, in the mix of what I’ve heard, know or think I know, there’s a good man who used words well.  One of my favourite poems of his is one, I’m told, he wrote for a neighbour who was to be ordained a priest.  I remember mentioning this one time to a group of priests and some of them seemed to know the man for whom the words were written.  It’s called “To the man after the harrow” and I’ll end with it ….

Now leave the check-reins slack,
The seed is flying far today –
The seed like stars against the black
Eternity of April clay.

This seed is potent as the seed
Of knowledge in the Hebrew Book,
So drive your horses in the creed
Of God the Father as a stook.

Forget the men on Brady’s Hill.
Forget what Brady’s boy may say.
For destiny will not fulfil
Unless you let the harrow play.

Forget the worm’s opinion too
Of hooves and pointed harrow-pins,
For you are driving your horses through
The mist where Genesis begins. 

Celebrating Union in Union

On Friday June 27th, I had the happy duty of celebrating the Wedding Mass of Sinéad Gray and Bob Coggins.  I’ve known Sinéad since she was a young child during my five years in Collooney Parish and have, through the years, kept in contact with her parents Brendan and Sheila, herself, brother and sister.  Always a welcoming home, I was happy to be part of this celebration – the first of their family weddings.  They live in a lovely part of Collooney parish, immersed in what is known as Union Wood. Appropriately, Sinéad’s father is in the “wood” industry and a gifted tradesman.

The Wedding Mass was in Collooney Church, a favourite of mine and the reception afterwards at the back of Sinéad’s home.  Well the “back” is a bit of an understatement!!  The entire area around their home was turned into a venue – including the construction of a “honeymoon” suite by her father.  It was an amazing and beautifully local setting. Full credit to all involved.  And there were many involved!

I came home after a lovely meal and left, what I have no doubt, was a wonderful and musical celebration of a memorable day.  Took a few photos along the way so sharing  ….