Saturday, 29 December 2007


A mystery-lover takes his place in the theatre for opening night, but his seat is way back in the theatre, far from the stage. The man calls an usher over and whispers, "I just love a good mystery, and I have been anxiously anticipating the opening of this play. However, in order to carefully follow the clues and fully enjoy the play, I have to watch a mystery close up. Look how far away I am! If you can get me a better seat, I'll give you a handsome tip."
The usher nods and says he will be back shortly. Looking forward to a large tip, the usher speaks with his co-workers in the box office, hoping to find some closer tickets. With just three minutes left until curtain, he finds an unused ticket at the Will Call window and snatches it up. Returning to the man in the back of the theatre, he whispers, "Follow me." The usher leads the man down to the second row, and proudly points out the empty seat right in the middle.
"Thanks so much," says the theatregoer, "this seat is perfect." He then hands the usher a 50 cent coin.
The usher looks down at the coin, leans over and whispers, "The butler did it in the parlour with the carving knife."

Friday, 28 December 2007




When Francis preached love to the birds

They listened, fluttered, throttled up

Into the blue like a flock of words

Released for fun from his holy lips.

Then wheeled back, whirred about his head,

Pirouetted on brothers' capes.

Danced on the wing, for sheer joy played

And sang, like images took flight.

Which was the best poem Francis made,

His argument true, his tone light.

Seamus Heaney

Thursday, 27 December 2007



After delivering a speech at an elementary school, George Bush lets the kids ask a few questions. One little boy, Joe raises his hand and asks, “How come you invaded Iraq without the support of the United Nations?”
Just as the president begins to answer, the recess bell rings and he says they’ll continue afterward. 25 minutes later the kids come back to class.
“Where were we?” says the president. “Oh, yes... do you kids have any questions?”
Another boy raises his hand and says, “I have three questions: First, why did you invade Iraq without support from the U.N.? Second, why did the recess bell go off 30 minutes early? And third, where is my buddy Joe?”

Monday, 24 December 2007


A Childs Christmas

This was Christmas Eve and Madeleine my oldest sister was singing ‘Silent Night, Holy Night‘, and Chris had brought two bags of turf from the shed, and Babs had brought two buckets of water from the well …and already, its flame perfectly calm, the lamp was giving more light than the fire, with its raptures big and small. But the lamplight and firelight, that was every night. Tonight was different.

Looking at the crib in the deep still of our front window, I could see that the light of the highest heaven was in our house. It was a night of wonders. Tonight, all night, the gates of heaven would be open above us.Riding animals higher than our horse, and wearing glittering vestments not clothes, the three Wise Men might pass through our yard tonight and if they did our father would show us the tracks in the morning. Plain as could be, we saw them last Christmas morning.

It was in a stall like ours that Mary and Joseph had sought shelter. The thought of Mary giving birth to death was enough to quench the stars. The bits of ‘Silent Night’ we knew we sang. We sang it again and again. And then, almost killed with tiredness, we went to bed.

John Moriarty ('Nostos')

I’d like to wish all readers of this blog a truly

 Blessed Christmas

and a Happy New Year.

Some of you I know by name ,

some of you flit in and out of the Dew anonymously,

but to all may I express my sincere gratitude

for taking the time to consider this little blog.

By Gods grace we will buld on this community

and tust that 2008 will see us individually realise

all that He has purposed for our lives,

Gerard O'Shea

Saturday, 22 December 2007


One side of the potato-pits was white with frost—
How wonderful that was, how wonderful!
And when we put our ears to the paling-post
The music that came out was magical.
The light between the ricks of hay and straw
Was a hole in Heaven's gable.An apple tree
With its December-glinting fruit we saw—
O you, Eve, were the world that tempted me
To eat the knowledge that grew in clay
And death the germ within it! Now and then
I can remember something of the gay
Garden that was childhood's. Again
The tracks of cattle to a drinking-place,
A green stone lying sideways in a ditch
Or any common sight the transfigured face
Of a beauty that the world did not touch.
My father played the melodeon
Outside at our gate;
There were stars in the morning east
And they danced to his music.
Across the wild bogs his melodeon called
To Lennons and Callans.
As I pulled on my trousers in a hurry
I knew some strange thing had happened.
Outside the cow-house my mother
Made the music of milking;
The light of her stable-lamp was a star
And the frost of Bethlehem made it twinkle.
A water-hen screeched in the bog,
Mass-going feet
Crunched the wafer-ice on the pot-holes,
Somebody wistfully twisted the bellows wheel.
My child poet picked out the letters
On the grey stone,
In silver the wonder of a Christmas townland,
The winking glitter of a frosty dawn.
Cassiopeia was over
Cassidy's hanging hill,
I looked and three whin* bushes rode across
The horizon — The Three Wise Kings.
An old man passing said:
'Can't he make it talk'—
The melodeon. I hid in the doorway
And tightened the belt of my box-pleated coat.
I nicked six nicks on the door-post
With my penknife's big blade—
There was a little one for cutting tobacco,
And I was six Christmases of age.
My father played the melodeon,
My mother milked the cows,
And I had a prayer like a white rose pinned
On the Virgin Mary's blouse.

Patrick Kavanagh

Friday, 21 December 2007



Be on the alert for symptoms of inner Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. The hearts of a great many have already been exposed to this virus and it is possible that people everywhere could come down with it in epidemic proportions. This could pose a serious threat to what has, up to now, been a fairly stable condition of conflict in the world.
Some signs and symptoms of The Advent Virus:
A tendency to think and act spontaneously rather than on fears based on past experiences.
An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment.
A loss of interest in judging other people.
A loss of interest in interpreting the actions of others.
A loss of interest in conflict.
A loss of the ability to worry. (This is a very serious symptom.)
Frequent, overwhelming episodes of appreciation.
Contented feelings of connectedness with others and nature.
Frequent attacks of smiling.
An increasing tendency to let things happen rather than make them happen.
An increased susceptibility to the love extended by others as well as the uncontrollable urge to extend it.
Please send this warning out to all your friends. This virus can and has affected many systems. Some systems have been completely cleaned out because of it.

Thursday, 20 December 2007


Joe Duffy, the presenter of 'Liveline'

Earlier today my nerve-wreaked voice was aired over the national airwaves courtesy of Joe Duffy and the Liveline show. Joe presented a Seasonal programme where he invited poetic contributions from the listeners and I in a moment of post-wakeful abandonment phoned the researchers and did the phone audition. I read a poem that I wrote during the year ‘For John Moriarty’ and they rang me back for a second audition. They seemed suitably impressed and told me to wait by the phone for the call, live on air from Joe. I sent off a few texts to alert nearest and dearest to my imminent broadcast and made myself a hot cup of tea to sustain me for my beside-the-radio vigil. During the year John Moriarty had been interviewed by Joe on two occasions about his ongoing treatment for cancer and his absolute certainty about the continuation of life beyond death. I had also heard John speak at the Brendan Kennelly week-end in Ballylongford and it was out of these accumulated encounters that the poem was born.
Eventually after what seemed like an eternity of contributions by confident ‘chatty’ listeners my phone rang. The producer of the show put me on hold and within minutes the hallmark Liveline greeting from Joe rang in my ear…“Now we have Gerry O’Shea from Limerick…Good afternoon to you Gerry…” After mumbling a few words of explanation I read the poem and in a few minutes it was all over.At least my voice held up for the duration, despite my thumping heart and sweaty palms, isn’t it a wonder how talking to the nation from the safe anonymity of a telephone line can be such an ordeal?
Anyway now the poem is out there in the ether, and maybe it will resonate with a kindred heart who similarly was affected by the mystic musings of the late and lamented John Moriarty.

Gerard O'Shea

You can read the poem on my blog for June 5 , search under My Poems.


The river Shannon as it flows under Thomond bridge
The Limerick Chronicle is the oldest newspaper in the Republic of Ireland and since 1766 has appeared each Tuesday faithfully chronicling the events and personalities of Limerick city and county. At this time of year, as Christmas Day approached the Chronicle used traditionally print in its entirety the 400 hundred line epic poem ‘Drunken Thady and the Bishops Lady’ by the self-styled Bard of Thomond Michael Hogan. He was born in Thomondgate in 1832 and the poem first appeared in his collection called 'The Lays and Legends of Thomond'. I remember in my teens eagerly waiting for the newspaper and then avidly reading the thrilling tale about the encounter between a local rake and the spirit of the Bishops wife. The ghostly tale has all the key elements of a Christmas chiller!
by Michael Hogan
The Bishops House where the good lady lived is still there today,just a stones throw from Villiers Square and across the road from King Johns Castle.Despite being married to the Bishop she was more given to partying than praying, as Hogan puts it…

"Spending his Reverend Lordship's treasure
Chasing the world's evil pleasure".

And while lost in her dissolute lifestyle…

"she never dreamt at balls or dinners.
There is a hell to punish sinners."

But like all mortal endeavours hers came to an end…

“Tis true she was a bishop's bride -
Tis true she lived -
Tis true she died -”

Hogan muses on the brevity of our mortal state…

“How quick Time throws his rapid measure
Along the date of worldly pleasure!
A beam of light mid cloudy shadows
Flitting along the autumn meadows:
A wave that glistens on the shore
Retires, and is beheld no more:
A blast that stirs the yellow leaves
Of fading woods in autumn eves.”

The certainty and brutal reality of death occupies him in these lines…

“Death steals behind the smile of joy
With weapons ready to destroy
And tho’ a hundred years were passed
He’s sure to have his prey at last,
And when the fated hour is ready
He cares not for a lord or lady,
But lifts his gun and snaps his trigger
And shoots alike the king and beggar.”

Her new situation did not entirely agree with her and soon after her departure from this earth stories abounded about her nightly spectral appearances in the vicinity of the Castle and Thomond Bridge. Many witnessed these ghostly visitations…

"And those that stayed out past eleven
Would want a special guard from heaven,
To shield them with a holy wand,
From the mad terrors of her hand."

Her apparitions were not just eerie other-worldly affairs but even in death the Lady packed a powerful punch…

"No pugilist in Limerick town
Could knock a man so quickly down
Or deal an active blow so ready
To floor one, as the Bishop's lady".

At this stage we meet our man Thady, a man well versed in the art of conversation and fond of convivial society with all its attendant vices. Thady was very fond of a ‘drop of malt’ which loosened his tongue and kept him warm from the icy wind that blew up from the river Shannon as he made his way homeward across the Thomond bridge.

"In every grog-shop he was found
In every row he fought a round.
He flailed his wife and thumped his brother
And burned the bed about his mother,"

Not surprisingly Thady had been imprisoned for his nocturnal excesses on umpteen occasions. And so on this particular Christmas Eve it was no surprise and Thady and ‘friends’ had become involved in a row while playing cards and drinking…

"At half-past one the town was silent
Except for a row raised on the island
Where Thady -foe to sober thinking -
With comrade lads, sat gaily drinking
A table and a pack of cards
Stood in the midst of four blackguards
Who, with bumper- draught elated
Dashed down their trumps and swore and cheated”

The Guards were called and Thady made his escape into the freezing winter night

“The night was stormy, cold and late,
No human form was in the street
The virgin snow lay on the highways
And choked-up alleys lanes and by-ways
The North still poured its frigid store,
The clouds looked black and threatened more."

Through this awful night Thady fled , staggering his way along Castle Street,where…

“With nodding head and zig-zag feet
He gained the centre of the street
And giddy as a summer midge -
Went staggering towards Old Thomond Bridge"

In his panic to escape the clutches of the law Thady wandered on to the Bridge ,the Bishops Lady’s haunting-ground and passing the first of Thomonds fourteen arches the chilling thought seized him.

“This night he was in no position
For Scripture, history or tradition,
His thoughts were on the Bishop’s Lady-
The first tall arch was crossed already.”

His worst fears were about to be realised…

“He saw her face, grim large and pale
Her red eyes sparkled through her veil,
Her scarlet cloak-half immaterial
Flew wild around her person aerial”

Even though seized with terror Thady fought valiantly to escape her icy clutches, but in the end he was no match for this spirit , spurned on with a hellish fury. She flung the unfortunate reprobate over the bridge into the raging torrent of the Shannon…

“Towards Curraghours rolling fall
The billows tossed him like a ball ”

But Thady was made of stronger stuff and he resolved not to go down without one final effort…

“The stream in which he learned to swim
Shall be no watery grave to him.”

Safety was at hand for the gallant Thady…

“Above the fall he spied afloat
Some object like an anchored boat
To this with furious grasp he clung
And from the tide his limbs unslung.”

By morning he had been found and rescued and brought to the safety of the shore.From that hour he was a changed man, he mended his errant ways and became a model of decency…

“Mid gazing crowds he left the shore
Grew sober, and got drunk no more!
And in the whole wide parish round
A better Christian was not found!
He loved his God and served his neighbour,
And earned his bread by honest labour.”

Well there I’ve done it, an old tradition of Christmas in Limerick long ago ,revived. I hope you enjoyed the tale and maybe if called to do a party recitation over the Christmas, you might give ‘Drunken Thady and the Bishop’s Lady’ an airing in the part of the world where you live!

Gerard O'Shea

Wednesday, 19 December 2007


I am indebted to fellow Blogger Michael Stevens
for this piece of Politically Correct legalese ...


In the meantime, please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all...and a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 200x, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make this country great (not to imply that this country is necessarily greater than any other country), and without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith, or sexual orientation of the wishee.

This wish is limited to the customary and usual good tidings for a period of one year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first. "Holiday" is not intended to, nor shall it be considered, limited to the usual Judeo-Christian celebrations or servances, or to such activities of any organized or ad hoc religious community, group, individual or belief (or lack thereof).

Note: By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher at any time, for any reason or for no reason at all. This greeting is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. This greeting implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for the wishee her/himself or others, or responsibility for the consequences which may arise from the implementation or non-implementation of same. This greeting is void where prohibited by law.

Best regards,


Some time ago (see blog for Jully 20th) I shared a poem by Louis Hemmings from whom I had not heard in an age. All hail the power of the Internet, Louis was alerted to the blog and kindly got in touch. As he is now married (for the last 22 years!!) with two children, I feel severely aged and locked firmly in real time and space! The upside though is that he gave me some links to more of his poetry , and this one seemed appropriate to the Season that is upon us. Louis preambles the verse with some childhood memories...GOSh.


My parents started a hand weaving company called Donegal Design, in 1951. The fabric woven was mohair, a silk-like wool which is both light & warm. I was born in 1957 & was immersed in vibrant colours, fabrics, books & records. As well as the piano, a Pilot valve radio & mono record player, there were many LP’s & 78’s, both jazz & classical. There was no TV in our house; it came & went within weeks because homework was not being done. One of earliest fond memories is of Christmas. My mother would retrieve a special decorative Christmas lampshade from the attic. It was in the shape of a large star, orange-red coloured with many pinpricks to let the white light seep out.....

I ache for that long-lost Advent-light,
guiding me from distant childhood.
Each December it was dusted down,
hung over the bulb & hallowed the hall.
It recalled the Magis’ Star, that once
hovered over that ramshackle stable.

Deep orange star-shape; glow – burn on.
Scorch my heart with your affection.
See that cosy cosmos, pin-pricked light
seeping through the patterned sieve.
O, Shekinah-presence, relight deep wonder in me!

Louis Hemmings

Tuesday, 18 December 2007



"Loving Father, Help us remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and the worship of the wise men. Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world. Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting.Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clean hearts. May the Christmas morning make us happy to be Thy children, and the Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus' sake, Amen!"

Robert Louis Stevenson


This recruitment poster for Red Cross members
during the Second World War harks back to a
tradition that has been practised in Ireland
and other places for centuries.


The placing of a lighted candle in the window

of a house on Christmas Eve is still practised

today. Primarily it was, and still is, a symbol

of welcome to Mary and Joseph as they

travelled looking for shelter. The candle

should be lit by the youngest member of the

household and only be extinguished by a girl

bearing the name 'Mary'. To have no light

meant that you shared the guilt of the

Innkeeper at Bethlehem who said, "No Room"!

Saturday, 15 December 2007



Bridie and Kathleen in fine form !

Last night we had our seasonal family get-together at the Anglers Rest in Doonass adjacent to the famous Falls. The small circle comprised of brother Tony and his wife Kathleen, uncle Frank and Aunt Bridie. Tony and Kathleens daughter Deirdre was otherwise engaged as was my own Margaret and our remaining uncle Joe lives in England. Across from the pub/hotel is the graveyard where mother is buried and also Kathleen’s parents. Doonass was a favourite Sunday-drive destination when we first got a car and on many an afternoon we picnicked by the rushing Falls or strolled along the banks of the river.It was one of my mothers favourite places and she loved to drink in the tranquil atmosphere and marvel at the natural scenery which induced its own charm and balm. To this day Doonass retains its sweetness and spectacle and is still a green oasis set beside the rushing streams of the Falls. So, a suitable venue for our Christmas-drink and an evening of talk and reverie.

The Three Wise Men..Frank,Tony and me !
Our family gatherings usually revolve around nuggets of the family history retold and recalled by Frank out of his prodigious memory and corroborated and sometimes corrected by Bridie.The rest of us contribute, careful of committing any faux-pas en route for which the verbal chastisement from Frank would be swift and severe. His keen ability to recall events and people from long ago does not allow for any margin of error from other contributions, so while the atmosphere is relaxed ,there is also an element of concentration required lest one makes a complete idiot of oneself ( as I frequently do !).
One such story recalled last night bears re-telling. As a young woman mother flitted from job to job usually housekeeping, and after leaving the employment of a Mrs. Monsel she was owed wages for work done. Despite several requests from her the money was not forthcoming so mother asked Frank to help. At that time he was a member of the Defence Forces and he called to see Mrs Monsel in the North Circular Road area of Limerick. Frank arrived at her door in full military uniform and few words were required before she paid up in full. The sight of the uniform wonderfully concentrated Mrs Monsels memory. In fact this was probably one of the more successful manoeuvres performed by one of our troops in the 1940’s !

Making A Pint !
We nearly had the Anglers Rest to ourselves as there were less than half a dozen other patrons in the pub. It’s hard to know how Declan the landlord ,can run a successful business in these circumstances ,although he told us he was having music on the following night and a large crowd was assured. Rural pubs are facing a bleak future as more people opt to stay at home because of the stringent drink-driving laws that are now being strictly enforced. In the cities there isn’t a problem as taxis are easily and cheaply accessed but in the country it is a different matter. We were quoted a price of 150 Euro for the round trip to Doonass by one taxi company, as it turned out I drove to the venue and Tony arranged with a neighbour who drives a cab to collect us for a fraction of the cost.

It was especially gratifying to see Bridie looking so well last night after her surgical procedure in Cork only a short time ago. I recall only four weeks ago sitting with her in Doctor Faheys office as he explained the 1 in 100 risk of stroke during the procedure which he advised her to undergo.I must admit I would have baulked at that point, but Bridie is made of stronger stuff and forged ahead. And if her healthy demeanour of last evening is anything to go by then she definitely made the right decision. Maybe with both my parents dead and only a few relatives remaining each seat occupied last night was a real gift from God.

A Hale and Hearty Bridie.

This is a good time as the year turns to count our many blessings and appreciate the family ties that bind us together. As Tony observed, the traces of so many families who lived in The Yard are now razed and all over the relatively short period of twenty or thirty years. It reminds me of the Psalmist long ago who left us this timely piece of advice “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

Gerard O'Shea

Friday, 14 December 2007



Time changes at this point of the year. These are Limbo days, hours, minutes, seconds. Time elasticates itself. It seems to stop. Or to move jerkily forward like an old clockwork grandfather's minute hand. Or to even run backward on a silent tick-tockery of Memory. Or to fast forward to a Christmas we may never see. Or to pulse feverishly on some frequency not related to our Time at all.
Time, at this point of the year, is as much of images as of fractions of our realities. It is a mewling Infant, cold and with dead yellow straws sticking to newborn arms and legs. It is the harsh, hard, metronomic breathing of an exhausted young Mother, the perfect circle of the muzzle of an Uzi this night in Bethlehem, the measured throbbing of great bronze-throated bells, the sharp prick of the holly leaf born in the dead Autumn, the ruby perfection of its berries, the whorling of turf smoke from a cottage chimney, the blanched spiked frozen spines of December'd hedgerows, green Atlantic breakers killed on Moher flagstones in their own good tidal Time; their eternal whitespray Resurrections.
Time, at this point of the year, is wound up by ghosts and spirits. Of long dead Mothers laughing, floured fists busy in bowls. Of Fathers, long gone too, filling doorways with their chilled bulks and deep voices. Of those long dead and gone into Time, somehow, again being there, in these Limbo days. Here a white hand flicking back a strand of raven hair. There a child's voice, like a silver bell. Over there a golden bright window in a home long stilled, emptied, its back broken by real Time. Somewhere, on an eddy of air, a single white feather from the wing of an Angel, old men wearing the wide innocent eyes of children, childfaces brimming with eyes as wise as Time itself.
Time, at this point of the year, is tinselled, is tangled, is dangled with dreams. It is the slow, hot mysterious heart of the fire. It is Adeste Fidelis, Sláinte, Happy Christmas! Happy New Year! It is Silent Night, the aromatics of cloved whiskey, mulled wines. It is millions of dead little trees. It is a Star. It is a Lamb. It is Magi-c, of mysterious wise Kings, it is a Trinity of wonder. It is a Family. It is solistic, fantastic, a manger, the reek of camels of the desert, a wiry shepherd on his staff, a Lost Sheep, a neighbour with a gift, November's workplace enemy an enemy no more. It is Holy Night. It is lost days, dreamily disappearing on no clock at all. It is a frosty afternoon walk over whispering leaves, a lover's kiss, a child's warmly trusting fingers, the aftermath of incense in chapel shadows, a wan smile from a hospital pillow, trains, boats, planes, coloured chains and baubles. It is a busker's kerbside rough and ready voice. It is the parasite of Ivy, the parasite of Age, the end of Innocence, the beginning of painful Knowledge, a single cruel comma of a kestrel's predatory head against the emptiness of Space populated only by lost Time.
Time, when the Old Year is on its knees, is a merciless scourge. It is You, it is Me, it is Us, in some way past articulation. Time is my wrinkle, is your silvered hair, glinting its truth of Time. Time, here and now, is the Fifth Horseman, the Guardian Angel, both the promise and the reality. It is the shedding needles from the little trees. It is the extra brightness in the smiles, in the eyes, in the handshakes, in the hugs. It is a mossed tombstone, it has almost rubbed away the names; it is the new golden curl on the child's white neck, the sparkling engagement ring on the flying finger, the soaring spire whose cross seems near Paradise itself, the river whispering psalms into the gentled eyes of its old bridges, footsteps making precise percussions on old street stones, sunsets like Old Masters, winds with the edges of razors, raindrops like the jewels of a queen.
Time, at this point, belongs to the mewling Infant with the yellow straw stuck to newborn arms and legs. Somehow it does not belong to us in these Limbo days. We do not control it like we will again in a week. We do not manage it. It manages us, makes itself into a mirror in which we can see ourselves, wraps itself all around us like an invisible cloak. It makes us sad. It makes us happy, at a moment's whim. It dangles us anywhere in between. We open our eyes and we may see little. We close our eyes and we can see a thousand days, a thousand ways. The bells ring the mornings and the evenings. Our hearts go tick and tock.
Time, at this point, to wish all of you all the best of Time ahead.
Cormac MacConnell
This article originally appeared in the December 21, 2002 issue of the Irish Emigrant.

Thursday, 13 December 2007



A teacher was testing the children in her Sunday school class to see if they understood the concept of getting into heaven. She asked them, "If I sold my house and my car, had a big jumble sale and gave all my money to the church, would that get me into Heaven?" "NO!" the children answered. "If I cleaned the church every day, cut the grass, and kept everything tidy, would that get me into Heaven?" Again, the answer was, "NO!" By now the teacher was starting to smile - this was fun! "Well, then, if I was kind to animals and gave sweets to all the children, and loved my husband, would that get me into Heaven?" Again, they all answered, "NO!" Bursting with pride for them, the teacher continued: "So, how can I get into Heaven?" Five-year-old Sean shouted out, "YOU HAVE TO BE DEAD."


"here in the Advent-darkened room"


We have tested and tasted too much, lover-

Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder.

But here in the Advent-darkened room

Where the dry black bread and the sugarless tea

Of penance will charm back the luxury

Of a child's soul, we'll return to Doom

The knowledge we stole but could not use.

And the newness that was in every stale thing

When we looked at it as children: the spirit-shocking

Wonder in a black slanting Ulster hill

Or the prophetic astonishment in the tedious talking

Of an old fool will awake for us and bring

You and me to the yard gate to watch the whins

And the bog-holes, cart-tracks, old stables where Time begins.

O after Christmas we'll have no need to go searching

For the difference that sets an old phrase burning-

We'll hear it in the whispered argument of a churning

Or in the streets where the village boys are lurching.

And we'll hear it among decent men too

Who barrow dung in gardens under trees,

Wherever life pours ordinary plenty.

Won't we be rich, my love and I, and

God we shall not ask for reason's payment,

The why of heart-breaking strangeness in dreeping hedges

Nor analyse God's breath in common statement.

We have thrown into the dust-bin the clay-minted wages

Of pleasure, knowledge and the conscious hour-

And Christ comes with a January flower.

Patrick Kavanagh

Monday, 10 December 2007


Rain or snow in Red Square ?

Some years ago, a Russian couple were walking down the street in Moscow one night, when
the man felt a drop hit his nose. "I think it's raining" he said to his
"No, that felt more like snow to me" she replied.
"No, I'm sure it was just rain" he said.
Well, as these things go, they were about to have a major argument about
whether it was raining or snowing. Just then, they saw a minor communist
party official walking toward them. "Let's not fight about it," the man
said, "Let's ask Comrade Rudolph whether it's officially raining or
As the official approached, the man said, "Tell us, Comrade Rudolph, is
it officially raining or snowing?"
"It's raining, of course!" he replied, and walked on.
But the woman insisted: "I know that felt like snow!"
The man quietly replied: "Rudolph the Red knows rain, dear!"

Sunday, 9 December 2007



Shalom--Peace and good will toward men.
OK, get a good grip on your reindeer and polish your sleigh bells because Santa Claus ain’t coming to town, but Jesus is coming soon! In Hebrew, we call Him Yeshua HaMashiach, Jesus the Messiah. Is this Messiah central to your holiday season? I hope so, because remember, Jesus is Lord, & He vuz such a nice Jewish boy. By the way, Jesus didn’t celebrate Christmas, He celebrated a different winter festival. According to the Gospel of John (John 10:22), Jesus, the light of the world, celebrated the festival of lights, better known as the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.

I guess we would agree that the commercialization of Christmas is way over-the-top. Still, there is no denying that Christmas affirms the God of the Bible and the prophetic birth of His Son in Bethlehem. Ancient pagans believed in many gods; Christians proclaim only one. Christmas retailers may depend on our pagan instincts to fuel holiday sales, but the Christmas message still declares the miraculous birth of our royal King. But if we are supposed to be celebrating the birthday of Jesus, why do we get all the goodies?
It seems each year, a babe in a manger gets the press, and everybody else gets the presents. In light of our ostentatious display of opulence in the face of so much suffering, is Christmas still relevant to a lost dying world? And, if so, does that relevance transcend holiday gifts or the 4th quarter retail sales reports? The simple answer is YES!
People are desperate and in need of hope. And that is the promise of Christmas. I hope that we don’t allow Jesus to be lost in all of the holiday trimmings? Jesus came to us without any candy-coating. He still offers the sweetest hope of all time—peace with God and life eternal. Yet consider this rare, raw, real point of fact regarding the original manger scene. Jesus was born at night into a dark, dirty, working stable with dung-crusted straw among filthy, unsanitary animals. But you know what, in some ways it was cleaner than some of the sin-crusted hearts where He would choose to live right now if He was welcome. The inn was full, yet God’s glory brought light into the darkness. Is there room at the inn of our hearts this Christmas season?
Another issue to consider is that while Christmas may be a time of great joy for you, for others, it can be a time of sadness and conflicted emotions. Christmas dreams in reds & greens may be nightmares lived in black & white by families in crisis. Christianity should not a reduced to a religion of consumerism! Therefore, Christmas should mean more than deflated budgets, inflated waste lines, and exploding credit card statements.
Let me ask the hard question. Are we really satiated after our Christmas buying binges and festival feasts? Will we remember the momentary adrenaline rush of ripping through colored paper and pretty bows when the bills come home to roost and our bellies expand to fill our fancy new clothes? We are convinced that more is better and we always want more. Maybe some of just need to admit that we’re a bunch of addicts. We’re consumer junkies
Look, I am not the Christmas grinch but I want to tell you 3 practical Christmas secrets. If you eat like a pig, you’re gonna resemble one. If you spend more than you make, you’ll be poor. Stuff won’t make you happy if your faith can’t give you joy. Things will never satisfy. No, at best, things only pacify. But pacifiers are for infants. I hope that this year we can mature and move from the flair of Christmas and get to the substance? OK, if it not about Jesus, it just ain’t Christmas?
Now in fairness to Santa, there is reason to remember St. Nicholas. He was a solid Christian man from a very wealthy family that lived in Turkey about 200 years after Jesus. Honestly, Nicholas was one of the good guys. He faithfully served the early church as a bishop. Nicholas was so generous that he literally gave all of his wealth away. His kindness spared many young girls from lives of slavery and prostitution. but listen, we still can’t allow a myth to replace truth. Nicholas died and is with Jesus. Jesus is alive and should be reinstated as the King of Christmas
Everybody loves the babe in a manger, but all too many ignore the Savior on the Cross. The infant Jesus doesn’t make demands. It is the living Lord who calls us to carry our cross. A cute kid is more appealing than a bloodied, tortured innocent victim of mob rage. But if your view of Christ is limited to the infant in a manger, may I ask you to recall that Jesus was a sinless middle-aged Jewish man who was brutally beaten and executed to pay for your indiscretions. And Christmas was only the first episode of this saga. The sequel is even better. On Resurrection Sunday, Jesus rose from the grave and that’s not even half of the story. He’s coming back as King of Kings not a helpless baby. The infant Jesus is a very cute marketing concept, but life is only found in His death. I won’t belabour the question, but like Jesus with Nicodemus, I want to inquire, have you been born again? (John 3:3) If not, you have nothing to celebrate. God gave His greatest gift, don’t leave it wrapped in the closet so to speak. Open your heart to receive the love of God. The gift of Christmas won’t be found under a pretty tree. Jesus hung on a tree—a horrible Roman cross. Jesus was born once so we could be twice born. Do you understand this? Do you believe this? If so, will you turn to God for His greatest Christmas gift—life eternal?

Randy Weiss Ph.D

This is excerpted from a much longer article that you can read in full at The Christian Online Magazine. If you would like a free copy of the book Ultimate Questions which explains more fully Gods gift of eternal life, please send your address to me at



Some children see Him lily white,

the baby Jesus born this night.

Some children see Him lily white,

with tresses soft and fair

.Some children see Him bronzed and brown,

The Lord of heav'n to earth come down.

Some children see Him bronzed and brown,

with dark and heavy hair.

Some children see Him almond-eyed,

this Savior whom we kneel beside.

some children see Him almond-eyed,

with skin of yellow hue.

Some children see Him dark as they,

sweet Mary's Son to whom we pray.

Some children see him dark as they,

and, ah! they love Him, too!

The children in each different place

will see the baby Jesus' face

like theirs, but bright with heavenly grace,

and filled with holy light.

O lay aside each earthly thing

and with thy heart as offering,

come worship now the infant King.'

Tis love that's born tonight!

Wihla Hutson &
Alfred. S. Burt 1951

Saturday, 8 December 2007


Katy French at work. Her death has shocked a nation.

This country has been dramatically alerted to the widespread use of cocaine during the last seven days. Firstly two young men were rushed to hospital after a house party in Waterford, they had apparently ingested cocaine powder. As of this morning both men have died. Between these two deaths, the high-profile model Katy French was also hospitalised after using the drug. At 24 Katy French was a very familiar figure, with photographs of her regularly appearing in papers and magazines, she was also outspoken in her views on controversial issues including her ‘past’ problems with cocaine. Sadly, she died yesterday ,her sister and parents at her bedside, and it seems likely that her death was as a direct result of using cocaine. As well as being a very beautiful young woman, she was a witty intelligent and genuinely warm hearted person according to those who knew her. These qualities were evident even in her very public persona, and typically just over a week ago she celebrated her 24th birthday in the full glare of media spotlight. The image of Katy still lingers surrounded by her family and friends, her smile beaming out of the extensive newspaper coverage of the event. Two days later she was being taken to a hospital in the back of a jeep after collapsing at a friends house.

Now as a nation Ireland has been faced starkly with the dark underbelly of a booming Celtic Tiger economy, a growing number of our population are being enmeshed in the sinister cycle of so-called ‘recreational drug use ’. The problem affects every town and village on this island as well as the large urban areas, transcending class and background with the young teens and twenties being especially vulnerable. The three tragic deaths during the last week are a cruel reminder that an economy without a soul is a terrible master. In all the comments that I have heard in the last several days, one by an ex-cocaine addict struck me forcibly. When asked why he used coke one young man simply replied, “Because I wasn’t happy”. While this is not the only reason for drug use it seems to me that prolonged usage is a sign of inner discontentment and emptiness. Many are finding the stresses and strains of our burgeoning economy too great, and cocaine offers the prospect of instant relaxation and the ultimate feel-good factor. Ironically economic deprivation can trigger drug dependency with similar effects for a different set of reasons!

It’s long since time that we looked at the Creators blueprint for our lives and discovered His plans for our continuing well being and happiness. To know our place and purpose in this world will alone give us the satisfaction that we crave for. To know where we are going, why we are here and what is our ultimate purpose? These are questions that cannot be answered by the economists or sociologists, we need a higher authority and power, none other than the Omniscient God who created us and loves us. Surely the Gospel is the message for this critical hour, a life of meaning and worth purposed by God for every man woman and child through His son, Jesus Christ. Strangely at the time of year when ostensibly we remember Jesus coming into our world, the hedonism and futility of lives lived without God are most blatantly displayed. It is time for the Christian to stand up, speak up and be counted. There is Good News, there is a second chance, a second birth even, by the grace of the living God. I hope that those who died so tragically in recent days will not have died in vain, but their fates will rock this country to its core and cause us as a nation to ask -why?

Gerard O'Shea




When Joseph and Mary and Jesus were on their way to Egypt, the story runs, as the evening came they were weary, and they sought refuge in a cave. It was very cold, so cold that the ground was white with hoar frost.
A little spider saw the little baby Jesus, and he wished so much that he could do something for him to keep him warm in the cold night. He decided to do the only thing he could do, to spin his web across the entrance of the cave, to make, as it were, a curtain there.Along the path there came a detachment of Herod's soldiers, seeking for children to kill to carry out Herod's bloodthirsty order. When they came to the cave, they were about to burst in to search it, to see if anyone was hiding there, but their captain noticed the spider's web. It was covered with the white hoar frost and stretched right across the entrance to the cave.
'Look,' he said, 'at the spider's web there. It is quite unbroken and there cannot possibly be anyone in the cave, for anyone entering the cave would certainly have torn the web.' So the soldiers passed on, and left the holy family in peace because a little spider had spun his web across the entrance to the cave.
And that, so they say, is why to this day we put tinsel on our Christmas trees, for the glittering tinsel streamers stand for the spider's web, white with the hoar frost, stretched across the cave on the way to Egypt. It is a lovely story, and this much, at least, is true, that no gift which Jesus receives is ever forgotten.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

If you've ever been in receipt of any written communication from a government department you will be familiar with 'official-speak',a version of the English language that is designed to bamboozle and bewilder the reader. Just imagine if these same 'officials' got their hands on our favourite Christmas carols,they would probably come up with something like the list below. See how many carol titles you can decipher from this gobbledygook collection! I'll put the answers up in a day or have fun! -GOSh.-

1. Move Hither The Entire Assembly Of Those Who Are Loyal In Their Belief
2. Embellish Interior Passageways
3. Vertically Challenged Adolescent Percussionist

4. First Person Singular Experiencing An Hallucinatory Phenomenon Of A Natal Celebration Devoid Of Color
5. Soundless Nocturnal Period
6. Majestic Triplet Referred To In The First Person Plural

7. The Yuletide Occurrence Preceding All Others
8. Precious Metal Musical Devices
9. Omnipotent Supreme Being Elicit Respite To Ecstatic Distinguished

10. Caribou With Vermillion Olfactory Appendage
11. Allow Crystalline Formations To Descend

12. Jovial Yuletide Desired For The Second Person Singular Or Plural By The First Person Plural
13. Commence Auditory Reception The Announcing Cherubs Vocalize

14. Bipedal Traveling Through An Amazing Acreage During The Period Between December 21st And March 21st In The Northern Hemisphere
15. Its Arrival Occurred At Twelve O'Clock During A Clement Nocturnal Period
16. Exclamatory Remark Concerning A Diminutive Municipality In Judea Southwest Of Jerusalem