Category Archives: Video Clips

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.

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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

grandcanalkavanagh

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”.

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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. 

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VIRAL? Not quite ……

I received a number of texts, calls and (yes) sarcastic comments during the week!!  These were in response to Fr Ray Kelly’s fine singing voice at an Oldcastle Wedding.  Powerful stuff!  As I write nearly fifteen million views of the original YouTube Video have been clocked up – not to mention other views from other sources.

You see I’ve often sang at weddings but sadly nobody posted!  You just wonder what might have happened??? So, if you’ve a good clip of me singing at your wedding, give it a go!!

That’s what led to the comments.  Unlike Fr Ray, my voice is raw and my range limited.  Like him however, I enjoy the “song” in all of us and have been glad to use some through the years – often as part of the few words I try to share.  I think there’s something very powerful in a song and that it has the potential to bring people back to a moment when they hear it, maybe whilst driving in the car, working in the house or doing the bit of shopping.  I like to think the song, admittedly better and more professionally sung, might take them back to that Sacred Moment when we stood near each other, in the shadow – the glow – of The Altar.

As for me, I’ll sing the few notes I have – once told that I have “all the right notes but not in the right order”!!

A little example!!  Fr Ray has nothing to fear:)

The “VID” not The Bud!!

In the commercial, a puppy escapes from an animal shelter and strikes up a friendship with a neighbouring Clydesdale. Though the horse’s owner keeps returning the dog to his shelter, the feisty puppy won’t be denied—he keeps venturing to the Clydesdale ranch. The ad reaches its climax when a team of Clydesdales block a car on the road to keep the driver from taking the puppy away again. “Let Her Go” by Passenger serves as the poignant music for the ad.

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

But will he find any faith on earth? (Mission Sunday 2013)

Just in from Evening Mass – the vigil of Mission Sunday.  A bit of a thought to share but need to work it out a bit more in my head …. call back when you get a chance ….

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The next day …. thanks for calling back!

This is Mission Sunday – that day in the Church’s Year when we think of the work of Missionary men and women with the “young” Church.  In the past there was hardly a parish that didn’t have some of its sons or daughters working “on the Missions” – mostly priests, brothers and sisters but, increasingly in recent years, young people – lay men and women – who opted to spend sometime working in far away countries to bring the Gospel Message to people who otherwise might not hear. What took them there?  I’m sure they would tell us a sense of “being called”, like Patrick to share the message and bring new hope to people.  Called they were! The sharing took place, the hope was given and a real difference was made.

It is said by some, and not without some justification, that Ireland is now “missionary territory” too and that many of us need to hear or hear “again” the call of God to enter relationship with Him.  The relationship for some is now non-existent and for others damaged and strained.  On Mission Sunday maybe we too need to think about our own “faith” story.

I used to very much like (still do) the TV Series “The West Wing” – the story of a fictional President of The United States and the life he experienced, and lived out of, in the “West Wing” of the White House.  His name was Josiah Bartlett (Martin Sheen) and his character was Catholic – the son of an Inter-Faith marriage.  His faith featured in a number of episodes where he had to wrestle with his faith and conscience and seemed to be able to do this out of the foundation of his conviction.

There is a great scene in the final episode of one of the series, where he is wrestling with the decision of whether or not he should run for a second term of office.  He has been diagnosed with an illness and had already been diagnosed when he ran for election but he had not declared this to the people. Now it looks as if this might be used against him though he has achieved much during his term.  He is frustrated by this and nobody knows if he’ll seek another term, risking the exposure that is sure to follow or decide not to run even though he feels he has something to offer the Presidency.

Added to this, his long term secretary, Mrs Landingham, buys a new car.  He offers her some money towards the cost but she refused it, feeling it might be seen as a “political gift” so when she goes to collect the car, Bartlett asks her to come back and let him see it.  On the way back she is struck by a drunk driver and is killed.

The scene I like takes place following her Funeral Service in the National Cathedral, Washington DC.  The president asks his Chief-of-Staff to get the agents to “seal the Cathedral” and you hear the doors slam shut.  There is a sense of Bartlett being alone with God and he turns angrily towards God, saying that He is “vindictive” – he uses some colourful language and challenges God’s stance in his life.  At one level, it could be regarded as blasphemous language but it is rooted in belief.  It is intense prayer and shows, more clearly than ever perhaps, how important God is in Bartlett’s life. If he did not believe in God this moment would not take place.  It is absolutely because of his faith that he enters this moment.

(Just spoke with a friend who looked at this piece and wondered did it give the wrong impression of Bartlett’s Faith.  I had to agree as we talked that it may well have done.  It seems that he walks out on God and though, I don’t think that’s the case – since I believe his character was a man of deep faith, the point was well made.  My friend said the clip reminded him of the Book of Job – so also it reminds me – but that in Job God had the chance to reply. He does not seem to have that chance here.  I explained to my friend that in the following scene there is an encounter between Bartlett and Mrs Landingham and that she challenges what has just happened in the Cathedral – in a way, this is God’s answer and the encouragement he needs to make his decision ….)

Whatever the Cathedral moment speaks out of, it is not “indifference”. Bartlett believes in God, feels let down and annoyed but it’s only because he believes that he can be angry with someone in whose friendship be thought he could trust.  Indifference is the enemy of faith, the quencher of enthusiasm and the risk of our age.  There seems to be so much of it about.

On Mission Sunday, we might think about this.  The closing line of the Gospel today raises the question “When the Lord comes, will he find any faith on earth?”  It’s a very valid question.  If he were to walk into your world or mine, how much faith would he find?  Even those of us who consider ourselves as having “the Faith” might well question its degree and intensity.  Is there anything in us leaning towards “indifference”?  That’s the question for sure ….

During the week I watched two TV shows, both Irish made, they ran very violent story lines.  Each ended with the rolling of credits and a voice-over, telling people “If you or someone you know has been affected by any of the events portrayed here ……” and then a list of helplines and websites.  I thought it sad, in a way, that programmes intended to be “entertainment” should have the potential to lead people to a dark and frightened place.  Of course that does not mean that there are not such places and that they don’t need to be tenderly explored, but the question I had was around the mentality of TV entertainment that runs the risk of causing hurt in the life of someone who just sits down to watch a programme.  I sometimes think the violence portrayed can lead us to indifference and indifference takes us to a dangerous place.

We need action rather than indifference, commitment rather than complacency and a Church alive.   The image that comes to my mind this weekend is the shopping trolley outside a supermarket.  We put in our coin or token, take the trolley, wheel it around the shop, take it to our car, empty its contents and then return it to where we got it and take our “token” back.  I think we can be “token” people at times – just putting something in for as long as its useful to us but then taking it back.  Of course we have every right to do this and it’s what we do with the shopping trolley but that image has been with me in thinking about “mission” – about “church” and about “Faith”.

It is certain we need people at this time who “stack the shelves” too.  Those people who see what’s needed in the store and take it from the storeroom so that its there for those who need it.

What about the parish?  What about the local church?  Can we have a few more “stackers” of shelves, stock-takers, who look around, identify needs and do something to put in place what is needed?

The “young” Church of the Missions still needs its missionaries and we, as part of the “older” Church are the ones to supply that demand – to bring the “FAITH” to others.  Truth told though, we cannot give what we haven’t got so it could be the case we need to develop again our own sense of Faith, even in a God who appears to disappoint and confuse us at times, so that having developed it, we can live it, be it and share it ……

Deliver us Lord, from indifference.  Amen!

PS.  Okay, this is not totally linked with the above but I’m going to include the closing scene of the episode of West Wing.  During the Service in the Cathedral there is a flashback to a conversation between the young student, Jed Bartlett and the school secretary, Mrs Landingham.  She is asking him to become socially active and to speak up (to his father, the school Headmaster) about inequality in pay between men and women on the staff.  He asks her for figures and she gives them to him.  Then she walks away, looks back and tells him, he’s going to do it.  He points out that he has said nothing but she says, “you put your hands in your pockets, looked away and smiled” and that when he does that, it means he’s made his mind up to do what is asked of him, expected of him and, in effect, the right thing to do …..