Category Archives: Photography

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. 


Aunt Met

                                                                             Corky, Mary Margaret and myself!


Spending a few hours in Virginia! Met my aunt earlier in the home of our friends Corky and Jeanie. Good to catch up, if only for a short while.

                                                      Jeannie and Mary Margaret share some iPad tips!


Earlier today,  June 10th, we celebrated Eucharist together at the kitchen table.  I always think it an appropriate setting for Eucharist as the table is the home’s Altar, on which is offered the fruits of life’s work and sacrifice. From it too, comes nourishment for the day – the journey.  Around it – stories told, thoughts shared, decisions made and,  so much more.

                                                                                    After Mass – shared time

And one more thing …..  I was warned that I should wear my “hat” – by that, I think they meant baseball cap and, though I have one, I’m not a major fan but, for the record, I have a a cap and I wore it!


West Point

Recently had the pleasure of celebrating a Wedding Mass in West Point, NY.  This is the Cadet School for the US Army and the groom, James Malinda, graduated from there in recent weeks.  His bride, Dominique Robbins, is a cousin of my cousins – if that makes sense! In recent years, I celebrated the marriages of two of her first cousins in Rockvile Centre.  I met Dominque and her parents at both weddings and they kindly asked me to officiate at Dominuque’s Wedding.  I was happy to do so.

It was good to catch up with my cousins again, to meet some old friends and, hopefully, make a few new ones.  The setting at West Point was very special and the Church, beautiful.  I’m told it’s the only Catholic Parish attached to a Military Base anywhere in the world. The Catholic Community at West Point has its own parish and clergy. The town of West Point is a separate parish and is actually in another diocese.

There was a great dignity to the celebration and it was a refreshing experience.  One I am very glad to have been part of.

God bless this newly married couples and, for that matter, all married people.

And a short moment from their First Dance.  The song “Jersey Girl” sung by Bruce Springsteen is obviously chosen since Dominique’s childhood years were spent in Jersey.

Home to someone away from or looking for home!!

The past few days I was meeting with priests from the Archdiocese of Tuam for their annual Diocesan Retreat.  Have to say, I enjoyed the days very much – not least meeting some very good and decent men who have given countless years of service to the Church.  There was good humour there, prayer and a common purpose.  All in all, a memorable and enjoyable few days.

I arrived home after lunchtime and, looking across the wall to greet “Alpha” was greeted by another face in the field.  (I had some fore-warning of this, insofar as I was told there was a small dog in the field but I thought he might be gone by the time I got home – alas!!).

So my family has, for the time being at least, increased.  I will make enquiries and see what can be done.  Have to confess, I’ve a great fondness for Jack Russell terriers but amn’t sure I can cope with a new family member!!  He seems very friendly and, chances are, someone is looking for him so, should that be the case, I hope their search takes them in my direction.

photo 1 photo 2 photo 3 photo 4

For now, he’s here with Alpha and myself and seems (possibly too much so!!) at home!!


Dog re-united with his owner!  Just bade farewell to “BOBBY” and, have to say, a bit sorry to see him go!  I’m sure he’s happy to be with his own though.


I’ve a sneaking suspicion I might see him in the field again.  He’ll be welcome and will be assured of safe passage home after he rambles a while!!

The Dawning of THE DAY

For the third year, we gathered on Easter Sunday Morning for a Dawn Mass in the grounds of Urlaur Abbey.  There was a fine gathering of people from the parish and beyond – some from Ballymote, Curry, Charlestown, Carracastle, Knock, Kiltimagh, Ballaghaderreen, Monasteraden and, I’m sure, other places.  It was lovely to see so many come together to welcome “hope” on Easter Sunday.

I shared a few words there, as I had done at the Vigil Mass and, again at the later Masses of Easter Day.

I mentioned that I was moving a bookcase in my bedroom earlier in the week and that a bank card fell on the ground.  I felt it wasn’t mine but I stooped to pick it up and noticed it was a card of my mother’s.  It expired in 2008, a year before she herself entered Eternity.  I said I looked at the card for a while and it was the standard issue – embossed lettering giving her name, the expiry date and other details, the logo of the bank and the little security tag.  In effect, a piece of plastic.

It was when I turned it over its full story unfolded.  On the back I saw my mother’s signature.  The writing was shaky but the name and signature hers.  I found myself sitting back on my bed and crying.  I cried, not flowing or endless tears, but those tears that well up in the eyes, burn a little and surprise you by their arrival. Real tears nonetheless that both shocked and reassured me. Shocked insofar as they were not expected and reassured to the degree I realised yet again, the strong bond that exists within family and among loved ones.  It is a bond that transcends time and bursts open graves.  There was a presence in that signature.

What struck me most was remembering my mother say to me many times; “Nobody will ever love you as much as I do”.  I have two brothers and I have no doubt her love for them was as strong but I suspect she may have said this to me more often since they have families of their own.  It struck me, as I looked at the bank card, that she was saying to me I’d never be alone and that her love would always be there.  (So too, and I know this for certain, my father’s, R.I.P.)

I wondered though how seriously I took her words to heart when she spoke them.  Did I really allow them in?  Did I fully believe what she was saying?  Though, I’m happy enough I believed it, chances are I didn’t fully understand.

That’s the link with the Easter Story in my mind this weekend. The women go to the tomb on Easter Sunday morning, not to meet the Risen Christ but to anoint a dead body.  Time had denied them the opportunity on the Friday evening in the shadow of the approaching Sabbath so he was buried without the customary anointing.  They felt badly about this and wanted to set things right.  So, it was to visit the dead they went that morning, not to witness the central teaching of our Faith, that “he is risen”.  The Angels told the women that he had, in fact, risen and added “as he said he would”.  That’s the line that hit me very much this weekend – “as he said he would”.

They heard him say it but seemingly it hadn’t sunken into their hearts.  Yes, they believed but, no more than my mother’s words, they hadn’t fully grasped that he absolutely meant what he was saying.

Jesus used words well.  He would have been quite at home in the world of “Twitter” and “SMS” where a few characters tell a story that far outweighs their numbers.  It’s not that Jesus was mean with his words or careful how much he said.  He said what needed to be said and, more than that, he meant it.

Maybe we need to hear his words again – perhaps some of our favourite phrases from the Scripture – and allow them sink in, be real, understood and believed.

I told the people on the shore in Urlaur (and at other Easter Masses last weekend) that I’ve told them many times I am proud of them, happy to be with them, grateful to them and I wondered did they really believe me or think these were just words falling from an open mouth?  I mentioned my classmate, Archbishop Eamon Martin, whom I’d seen on TV during the week.  He was speaking at a presentation of awards to young people in the Archdiocese of Armagh and said that the young people were not our “future” but were, more vitally, our “present”.  I had not thought of it in that way before.  I said that I had tried to encourage young people over the years to be involved in parish life since they are the new generation and the builders of the church of tomorrow but, listening to Eamon, I had it wrong – they are our “now” – it is today we need them, depend on them, hope in them and call them to life in the Faith.  Again, I did not want these to be words they hear but don’t believe.  I’d like to think, I’m saying what I believe, despite my own confusions and uncertainties from time to time.

“Nobody will ever love you as much as I do” …. a plastic card, a shaky signature but a totally TRUE statement.

“Lord, increase our faith …..”

The Enchanted Way

I was asked if I’d consider including the text of “The Enchanted Way” on the Blog for Lent.  This was first published in 1999 and re-printed in 2005 so thought might be no harm to include here at this stage. Thanks to all who have mentioned these reflections to me over the years.  It’s lovely to hear that they’ve been used and if this platform gives them another airing, that can’t be bad!!

(Click on “pause” to spend a bit of time with an image, story or prayer or just let it play through on its own.  Whatever works best for you).

Also available here on PDF

(If you wish to order a hard copy of The Enchanted Way you can do so through the Veritas Website at this link)

Maybe out of season but …. maybe not!!

Some friends sent me this link last night.  It was a moment from pre-Christmas Washington DC – in one of the many museums there.  (The photo above was taken by those same friends on the balcony of this museum – “The National Air and Space Museum)

Though the moment may have passed, and the season being celebrated too, it strikes me that it’s always in season to do the right thing and to bring a bit of joy to people while acknowledging “Jesu” the joy of man’s desiring …

Jesus, joy of man’s desiring
Holy wisdom, love most bright

Drawn by Thee, our souls aspiring
Soar to uncreated light

Word of God, our flesh that fashioned
With the fire of life impassioned
Striving still to truth unknown
Soaring, dying round Thy throne

Through the way where hope is guiding
Hark, what peaceful music rings
Where the flock, in Thee confiding
Drink of joy from deathless springs
Theirs is beauty’s fairest pleasure
Theirs is wisdom’s holiest treasure
Thou dost ever lead Thine own
In the love of joys unknown

Visits and memories ….

Earlier today I went to the home of a friend in Monasteraden for lunch.  Before that I called to the garage at home for a while and, since I had a bit of time between that and the time set for lunch, I decided to visit a few people.  I called to see Maureen O’Neill, our neighbour, and was happy to see her and Anne McKeon who was visiting at the time.  We had a chat for a while and I was reminded again how good it is to have that freedom to be able to call to one another’s homes.  There’s no doubt, we don’t do it often enough …. Sorry, I don’t do it often enough.

When I left there I thought that I’d go and say a quick prayer for my parents at their grave in Templeronan.  I was there just before noon and, remembering that the Angelus was one of my mother’s favourite prayers, I said it there with and for them.

I was about to leave the cemetery when I decided that I was in no rush and that I’d take a bit of time there near my parents’ grave. I think I know almost everyone who is buried in that part of the cemetery – my uncle Joe, being one of the first – if not the first – God rest them all.  My Godmother, May Callaghan and her husband Mattie are in the next plot to my parents.  My classmate, Fr Oliver McDonagh, just down the path, Tony Scanlon, Joe McDermott, Pat Doherty, James McGrath, Christy McLoughlin, Mike Joe Mulligan, Hugh Breslin and so, so many more – all people I knew and was reminded of again today as I walked around and said a quiet prayer for them all.

Having spent a bit of time there, I decided to wander into the older part of the cemetery where my mother’s people are buried –  her grandparents, parents, brother John and her aunt Jane.  John was the only one of them I knew.  The others I knew through their being named by my mother.

I wandered around the older part of the cemetery and saw names there that I’d never heard of, Callery being one, and I wondered has that family totally disappeared now. Other names brought back many memories, Matthew Giblin (my aunt’s father) and his wife Elizabeth.  I was amazed how long it is since they’ve died.  I saw Tom Quinn’s headstone and remembered him and, I think, his funeral back in the mid 70s.  I saw the graves of Leo and Marcy McDermott and remembered those “ghost stories” Marcy told us in Mullaghroe and how afraid I’d be after them!  My uncle John took them in his stride but they never sat easily with me! Happy memories of Leo and Marcy though.  I saw Celia Hunt’s headstone and remember, as a child, visiting her home.  I asked her for a drink and she told me she could get me a glass of water.  Not impressed, I told her “I could get that at home”!! Peter, her husband, buried there too.  I never knew him but remember my father talking about him.  I saw Mick McLoughlin’s grave and remember him and Cuppanagh so well.  I saw McDonaghs’ grave and, in particular, the photo of the man we all knew as “Little Bert”, whose funeral Mass I celebrated.  I was surprised that he was just 60 – he always seemed so young but I hadn’t realised how really young he was.  I was happy to celebrate his son’s Wedding Ceremony in the recent past. I saw the headstone of Mrs Wynne who died a month or so before I was ordained – I have a card her family sent to me at the time – I noted her son Joseph’s name at the bottom of the headstone, a reminder that he had remembered his parents and marked the place they’re buried so that someone like me might stop and say a prayer for them. There were so many names, so many headstones, so many memories.

These people are our past and maybe in my wandering for a while today, I am part of their present.  Those names will float around a while with me …. take me to other days and other times – Mass in Cloonloo, marquees in the field, sports days near Lough Gara, Tug-of-Wars, people driving up home to get their cars fixed …  people that made a difference to me.

20140122_115603Those headstones tell so many stories – my grandparents’ one, in particular, remind me that my mother lost her father when she was about seven years old and that she was the oldest of three.  Her mother lived for another thirty-five years and that Jane Healy helped her to bring up her children.  My grandmother died when I was just under two years of age so I’ve no lived memory of her but my mother kept her real for us and knew how hard she had worked to provide for her family.

Despite the way it may seem, this was not a sad experience but rather one that put me feet first into my place and people.

I went from there to spend a short while with Madge Taheny in Mullaghroe.  I hadn’t seen her in a while and knew that earlier this month she re-lived those days around Seán’s death as they marked his first anniversary.  It was good to see her.  It was mighty to see she has an iPad and well done to the family for getting it for her.  I’ve no doubt she’ll make use of it.  She told me she has visited my blog and I was glad to hear that.

It was time for lunch!  I was hungry … I was happy to have remembered friends from other days and to be able to share a bit of time with the friends of now ….

A good day all round!

I’m dreaming of ……

notdreamingWoke up this morning to discover snow outside (well better than discovering it inside I suppose!!) and it was strange, since last night at a dinner, a number of us discussed Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” and wondered if it is still the best selling single of all time (bit of research on that just now suggests that Elton John’s “Candle In The Wind” has displaced it ….) and there was a strong feeling that whether or not Bing’s classic has outsold all others, that the desire for a “White Christmas” was not a real one for most people.

Certainly it’s not for me.  I like the snow in photos and have managed to capture a few images though the years but once the picture is taken, the snow is welcome and encouraged to leave!  I don’t like the way it makes travel difficult since Christmas, in my book, is very much a time for visiting and being visited.

Snow aside, what about the dreams?  What am I dreaming of this Christmas?  I was in school earlier today (Kilkelly) and some of the children told me of their letters to Santa.  It’s always so nice to hear them speak of these letters and to see the expectation and hope in their eyes and hear it in their voices as they recall what they’ve asked for.  It’s likely most of their wishes will come true.  What of ours?

I’d like to dream of peace for all.  It’s difficult to understand why there is so much conflict and stress in the lives of people.  I’m not talking about “World Peace” but that peace that makes us feel good about ourselves, at one with people that matter and at home when at home.  World peace comes from that – from a desire for local peace, family peace, personal peace ….  Michael Jackson, for all is strange ways, had it so right when he said if the world is to be a better place we need to start with “the man in the mirror”.

I dream of a coming home for Christmas – when people will not just come to church for Mass but come home to the faith and find there again, a renewed hope and sense of call.

I dream of hope for our country and its people and especially hope for those who may now feel a deep sense of hopelessness.

I dream of Pope Francis continuing to breathe again life and enthusiasm into our church by making it that “hospital for sinners” he speaks of whereby people feel wanted and welcome, needed and nurtured, challenged and changed …. where people belong.

I dream of becoming more energised myself, making more of an effort to reach out to people in the parish and beyond in whatever way is best and most appropriate.

I dream of laughter, music, song, story, joy ……

I dream …………………. but I don’t want snow 🙂