Saturday, 30 June 2007



When Statesmen gravely say 'We must be realistic',

The chances are they're weak and, therefore, pacifistic

But when they speak of Principles, look out: perhaps

Their generals are already poring over maps.


Friday, 29 June 2007


With just a few days left in this month I couldn't help but slip in this poem by Francis Ledwidge,even though the reality this year has been a really wet unseasonal month of June. Across the Irish Sea our near neighbours have had the wettest one since they started keeping records,and as the picture shows flooding has been swift and severe already claiming several lives.


Broom out the floor now, lay the fender by,

And plant this bee-sucked bough of woodbine there,

And let the window down.

The butterfly Floats in upon the sunbeam,

and the fair Tanned face of June, the nomad gipsy, laughs

Above her widespread wares, the while she tells

The farmer's fortunes in the fields, and quaffs

The water from the spider-peopled wells.

The hedges are all drowned in green grass seas,

And bobbing poppies flare like Elmo's light,

While siren-like the pollen-stained beesDrone in the clover depths.

And up the height

The cuckoo's voice is hoarse and broke with joy.

And on the lowland crops the crows make raid,

Nor fear the clappers of the farmer's boy,

Who sleeps, like drunken Noah, in the shade.

And loop this red rose in that hazel ring

That snares your little ear, for June is short

And we must joy in it and dance and sing.

And from her bounty draw her rosy worth.

Ay! soon the swallows will be flying south,

The wind wheel north to gather in the snow,

Even the roses split on youth's red mouth

Will soon blow down the road all roses go.

Francis Ledwidge

Tuesday, 26 June 2007


Father Oliver O'Grady, the convicted
paedophile priest in a scene from
the film Deliver Us From Evil

Last April broadcaster Dave Fanning in a film review on the Marian Finucane show, vented his horror and disgust after watching the film Deliver Us From Evil, a docu-film on the child abuser Father Oliver O’Grady.Fannings remarks on the Catholic Church brought him to the attention of the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland after a complaint from a Catholic Priest. I felt Dave Fanning’s remarks while in some places over-the-top, were legitimate enough and represented the most outraged public response to the evil of clerical child sexual abuse, I have heard. Below is the complete text of the radio interview as heard on April 1,2007.
Dave Fanning: The film -Deliver Us From Evil- is a bizarre movie, it’s a documentary made by Amy Berg about a priest, Oliver O’Grady a convicted paedophile who worked in Northern California in the 70’s and 80’s in particular. He spent 7 years in jail of a 14 year jail sentence, his victims of course are still serving a life-sentence. He smiles, he’s charming, he speaks of his desire for young boys and girls, he has no remorse at all. You feel at some stages in the movie that he’s owning up, but as much as he manipulates the truth throughout the movie, he’s trying to manipulate us as well.
Marian Finucane: Is it an actor ?
Dave: No ,oh my God no, this is the point you see. Amy Berg tried to get the Church to release files and papers on certain people but of course it wouldn’t do that. Because of that and her resultant investigation she came across this guy who said he would speak,and he’s currently living in Ireland. I tell you, everybody who goes to see this movie is going to be very scared about this sort of thing because it’s a much bigger story than the story itself, there’s much more in the story.
Marian: How do you mean ?
Dave: First of all this guy isn’t a paedophile he’s a rapist and the reason he’s able to do his monstrous sexual abuse is because he’s a priest. Because of all that the Catholic church and the hierarchy will let him hide basically behind its organisation and this ridiculous thing about cardinal law, and every other damn stupid thing it talks about. Like this week the pope is going on about hell, hell is the Catholic Church according to this movie and anybody who comes out thinking anything else will be just like, idiotic.
Marian: What happened ?
Dave: He abused hundreds of kids, some of the detail you do not want to know, so I’ll give you a little - the youngest (abused) was 9 months, one person in this movie was abused from the age of 5-15,she’s in a terrible state in the movie , her father is saying God doesn’t exist anymore, you can see her breaking down in the backround.It so makes your blood boil, it so makes you think that every(cinema) ticket you get should be given with one of those(sick) bags you get in an aeroplane, because really you wont feel the same when you come out of it. But the fundamental problem is, if you just want to take just one individual, which is Oliver O’Grady and don’t want to tarnish the hundreds of great people who have joined the priesthood, that’s all very well. But those people who have joined the priesthood have joined an organisation that is evil incarnate. That is the problem.
Marian: Why do you say its evil ?
Dave: Because look at the movie you’ll see this, the amount of cover up that’s going on. First of all the amount of exposure that we’ve seen over the last bunch of years, has anything really been done, has recompense really happened, have apologies really taken place? Have people said this is wrong, this is the way it shouldn’t be ? Remember the Catholic Church in Rome is one of the biggest most successful corporations in the entire universe, your Enrons and Exrons are in the halfpenny place compared to this crowd. We think we’ve heard an awful lot of explaining about the scandals and sexual abuse of priests but most of the detail is hidden behind all sorts of secrecy and shame. The sexual act outside of marriage is abuse, therefore confess it and you’re forgiven. So the arrogance of the Catholic authorities who hide these crimes allowing child rape because their mission is above sin. Also Cardinal O’Mahoney is the main guy in California, he knew about this because he had been told a hundred times. He moved your man(Oliver O’Grady) on countless times, usually 50 miles further to, in the movie it is called the parishes, but when you come out you realise they were his victims, to a new bunch of victims, he moves him to a new bunch of victims. Why?…because any kind of scandal would have impeded his(O’Mahoney)rise in the Church, and that’s the way it is. This is like a fact movie there’s no narrative, the director isn’t there trying to tell you this ,it literally tells the story as it is. It’s a microcosm of so many other examples right across the board - we’ve had the Boston one, the Canadian one, we’ve had the Irish one, this is the Californian one and a lot of other places in the world. The implication in the movie is that this rife and rampant all over the place. The business of saving souls basically can rationalise the obscenity of selling them, and that’s what this movie is saying. The higher you get by the way the greater the culpability, obviously you have a majority of good men but the organisation is beyond rotten to the core, There’s a guy in the movie called Father Thomas Doyle who is an activist for the victims and he’s trying to enlighten people as to just how awful and deceptive this crazy organisation is. Needless to say he was sacked immediately. It’s the villainy, the hypocrisy, the evil regime that must surely crumble in the end and must come up with something else. I f you want to be a Mother Theresa, if you want to be a Mary Whitehouse or whoever it happens to be, find something better than the Catholic Church.
Marion: Is it about this man or is it about the Church ?
Dave: Both, it’s completely about both, it’s not even implying the second thing I’m mentioning, it’s about the other thing and the absolute cover up. As I said this week, the pope who is 80 years of age going on about hell, I’m sure you read about it during the week, hell is still a big thing, fire and brimstone and all the rest, and they tell us that gay people will go to hell. Hell is the Catholic Church, if you look at it that’s just what it is. Now you have lived in the same Ireland in many ways as I have, and you’ve seen what’s happened over the last 15 years and to be perfectly honest the last 20 years and we see what’s been exposed. You’ve seen it in Letterfrack,you’ve seen it in the Magdalene laundries. There’s so much madness in there and so much cover up.
Marian: But I have to say to you, there is goodness…
Dave: Of course there’s great goodness in there, it’s a shame that the good people who want to do great good in the world do not have an organisation that can match their greatness, and obviously this is not the right one. I know a priest who went out to Africa and spent so much time there, and he died from the disease that he saved a hundred people from, I know loads of examples like that, loads of people who care for the sick and the poor etc,.This is a very hard movie to watch, I do think it is an important movie.
--------more info on this movie...

Saturday, 23 June 2007


Ruth plants a kiss on her evangelist husband ,
as he arrives at the Queen Elizabeth ocean liner
March 29,1960,after a 10 week missionary trip
to Africa and the Middle East.
Ruth Bell Graham was born at Qingjiang,Kianga,China in 1920 to medical missionary parents,Dr. and Mrs.L.Nelson Bell. Her childhood dream was to go to the mountainous nation of Tibet as a missionary.The course of Ruth's life was utterly changed at Wheaton college in the U.S. where she met the dashing young “Preacher”,Billy Graham.They were married in 1943.On June 14,2007 Ruth Bell Graham died at her Montreat home,North Carolina with Billy and her family around her.

Never let it end,God


all its glowing loveliness,

all of these

brief moments of

fresh pleasure-

never let it end.

Let us always

be a little breathless

at love's beauty;

never let us
pause to reason
from a sense of duty.

Ruth Bell Graham

My wife Ruth was the most incredible woman I have ever known. Whenever I was asked to name the finest Christian I ever met, I always replied, ‘My wife, Ruth.’ She was a spiritual giant, whose unparalleled knowledge of the Bible and commitment to prayer were a challenge and inspiration to everyone who knew her. My favorite photograph shows her sitting on our front porch at sunrise, quietly reading her Bible and sipping coffee—her daily routine for many years. A night never went by, when we were together, without us holding hands and praying before we went to sleep.Ruth also was a wonderful mother. Her task wasn’t easy since I was away from home so much, but she handled our children with both great love and wise discipline. She felt it was her calling, and without her willingness to bear the major responsibility for raising our children, my work simply would not have been possible. She spent hours every week teaching them the Bible and praying with each of them. She also was full of fun, always ready to play a joke on someone. Our children all knew that life was never dull with Ruth around!She was committed also to her church and her community. She was a devout churchwoman who loved her Presbyterian heritage, which came from her parents who were medical missionaries in China. She was friends with several presidents’ wives and had been received on occasion by Queen Elizabeth II, but whenever she heard of anyone in our community who had a need, she always was there to help with food or flowers or in other ways. Many people went to her for advice and counsel, or just to pray with her, and she was a close friend to the wives of many associates.Ruth loved sports and was quite athletic, although she rarely played athletic games herself. Years ago she was fixing a swing for some of our grandchildren, and when she climbed the tree to test the swing, it broke and she fell about fifteen feet. She fractured several bones (including a crushed vertebra), and was never quite the same physically after that. For years she suffered severe back pain and was hospitalized here in Asheville and at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester because of this and other ailments. She was a gentle, smiling, and kind person whose primary goal was to live for Christ and reflect His love. In her last days she talked repeatedly of Heaven, and although I will miss her more than I can possibly say, I rejoice that some day soon we will be reunited in the presence of the Lord she loved and served so faithfully.

Billy Graham

Visit the Ruth Bell Graham
Web Memorial page..

Friday, 22 June 2007


Kevin Myers writes a weekly opinion column in the Irish Independent and in recent pieces he has been addressing the controversial new book from Christopher Hitchens,-God Is Not Great-.There seems to be an anti-Theist fashion in publishing at the moment with Richard Dawkins -The God Delusion- still topping the bestsellers list.While Myers has a personal regard for Hitchens and lauds his book as a "brilliant contemplation upon the role of religion in human society...",he also compellingly exposes the rational inconsistencies in his just published polemic.Below I have drawn from two articles penned by Myers,edited for space constraints.


A Random Act ?

CHRISTOPHER Hitchens, Part II. The admirable Ian O'Doherty - who reviewed Christopher's book, 'God is Not Great' on Saturday - in an earlier column fired a brief broadside at colleagues who, he alleged, supported 'intelligent design'.
That is the theory that the maker of the universe, using some early Mrs Beeton recipe, put the ingredients of the cake of creation into the primordial oven, and gave it a few million years at 'low'.
If he included me as such a believer, he was wrong. I don't believe in 'intelligent design': I merely say that, in the absence of proof to the contrary, I cannot rule it out. I certainly don't accept Darwinian theories of evolution, as currently posited, but nor do I exclude the possibility that they can be refined to explain life on earth.
Centrally, I cannot see how 'evolution' was accidentally able to create hundreds of proteins, any molecule of which consists of maybe 1,000 different amino-acids, in precisely the right sequence. Now, if I were to visit the Taj Mahal and declare it was caused by various minerals randomly falling into place, I would probably be considered a suitable candidate for sectioning - not dangerous, but to be given a glass of warm milk and a couple Digestives last thing.
But the accident theory is how evolutionists explain the emergence of proteins: and that is before we even infuse those protein molecules with life, without which they instantly decay. And then, of course, there is DNA, which enables proteins to reproduce themselves: now where, unassisted, did that come from? …
Moreover, 'evolution' is still a theory which depends on more than rational analysis. …
What do I believe in? I, a weak, wimpish agnostic, don't know. I will not, a priori, rule out God, because to do so is to repeat the sin of the theists, who a priori have ruled Him in. Nor can I accept one of Christopher's key declarations: Religion poisons everything. If he means this literally, then it is manifestly not true: it has not poisoned him, he who was raised with Christ's name, has it? Did it poison Shakespeare, Schiller or Bach, those great laureates of the human spirit? No, what poisons the world is life itself: for even single-celled creatures attack and kill one another. …
But here is the paradox. Rulers who believed in a Divine Creator have tended to create gentler societies than have atheists. The twentieth century was the first in which various avowedly godless states came into existence: and robbed of the inhibitions caused by a belief in the afterlife, the most astonishingly lawless regimes in world history emerged. The Aztec society which removed a heart each dawn from a teenage ribcage to lure the sun-god from his couch, the Dahomey chieftain who daily dispatched a child to the afterlife to enquire after the health of his ancestors. Why, these were positively vegan compared to the godless butchers of the 20th century, the fine fellows who variously supervised human affairs from the Rhineland to Vladivostok, and from the Kamchatka Peninsula to the South China Sea. Their victims can be measured, not in the modest hundreds but in the hundreds of millions. The world has never, ever seen anything like the evil triumphs of the totalitarian secular states of the 20th century. Which is not an argument in favour of the existence of god, merely one in favour of the belief in one: it is the social utility of a theistic faith which is appealing, not the fictions which lie at its heart. …
WE all know of the evils that the various churches have done, from the child-rape orgies by Catholic paedophile priests in our own lifetimes, with the perhaps even more reprehensible - cover-ups by the hierarchy, to church complicity in massacres from Croatia to Bohemia, in this century and almost every century beforehand. But such evils are as nothing compared to those performed by the ideological secularists who rejected god, and for whom the commandment, Thou Shalt Not Kill, was simply a vapid, bourgeois piety.

Kevin Myers

Wednesday, 20 June 2007


I recently started reading a book that I have had lying around for ages,-My Utmost for His Highest- by Oswald Chambers. It is just a little book with a Scripture and a commentary for each day of the year,but what appeals to me is its warmth and constant focus on the person of Jesus Christ.Many daily devotions are dreary affairs and their reading can be a dull and laborious chore,not so My Utmost...Chambers speaks(these words were collected from his spoken sermons after his death) passionately about the need for real personal devotion to the Lord.In fact he learned this lesson in the school of Life, when answering God's call seemed difficult and painful. For several years, poverty and spiritual loneliness clouded his life. Then came the breakthrough. God had used a wilderness experience to "bring him to the end of himself." He became keenly aware of his utter worthlessness. He found his only worth to be that which God had given him in Christ. After his death in 1917, a fellow worker remarked: "It is a mighty thing to see even once in a lifetime a man the self-expression of whose being is the Redemption of Jesus Christ manifested in daily hourly living. He would have [simply] called himself 'A believer in Jesus.'"

. . . do you love Me? . . . Tend My sheep —John 21:16
Jesus did not say to make converts to your way of thinking, but He said to look after His sheep, to see that they get nourished in the knowledge of Him. We consider what we do in the way of Christian work as service, yet Jesus Christ calls service to be what we are to Him, not what we do for Him. Discipleship is based solely on devotion to Jesus Christ, not on following after a particular belief or doctrine. "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate . . . , he cannot be My disciple" ( Luke 14:26 ). In this verse, there is no argument and no pressure from Jesus to follow Him; He is simply saying, in effect, "If you want to be My disciple, you must be devoted solely to Me." A person touched by the Spirit of God suddenly says, "Now I see who Jesus is!"— that is the source of devotion.
Today we have substituted doctrinal belief for personal belief, and that is why so many people are devoted to causes and so few are devoted to Jesus Christ. People do not really want to be devoted to Jesus, but only to the cause He started. Jesus Christ is deeply offensive to the educated minds of today, to those who only want Him to be their Friend, and who are unwilling to accept Him in any other way. Our Lord’s primary obedience was to the will of His Father, not to the needs of people— the saving of people was the natural outcome of His obedience to the Father. If I am devoted solely to the cause of humanity, I will soon be exhausted and come to the point where my love will waver and stumble. But if I love Jesus Christ personally and passionately, I can serve humanity, even though people may treat me like a "doormat." The secret of a disciple’s life is devotion to Jesus Christ, and the characteristic of that life is its seeming insignificance and its meekness. Yet it is like a grain of wheat that "falls into the ground and dies"— it will spring up and change the entire landscape (
John 12:24 ).

Oswald Chambers

Monday, 18 June 2007



"Doctor, I have an ear ache."

2000 BC - "Here, eat this root."

1000 BC - "That root is heathen, say this prayer."

1850 AD - "That prayer is superstition, drink this potion."

1940 AD - "That potion is snake oil, swallow this pill."

1985 AD - "That pill is ineffective, take this antibiotic."

2000 AD - "That antibiotic is artificial. Here, eat this root!"

Saturday, 16 June 2007


This is the sign outside the ex-residence of the Catholic bishop of Limerick,Dr. Donal Murray. The property is in the salubrious North Circular Road area of the city and it is expected that the house and land will fetch at least 20 million Euro ! Makes you think doesn't it?


Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for either
he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be
devoted to the one and look down on the other. You
cannot serve God and mammon.”
The great and dynamic struggle that Jesus spoke
of, “God or mammon,” is still going on today. War has
opened people’s eyes to see that the pursuit of money,
or preoccupation with outward things, is incompatible
with all higher goals and purposes. Mamona was the
Aramaic word for wealth, and it was in this wealth that
Jesus saw the power of Satan. Even to Jesus himself
Satan said, “I will give you all this if you will fall down
and worship me.” Devoting ourselves to a life of ease
and pleasure means letting these outward things
become the determining force in our lives. At the
core of this service of mammon is the secret worship
of things, a clinging to them and a love for them that
amounts to a decision against God.
God and money are the two masters between whom
one must choose, the two goals of living that cannot be
reconciled. Already at the time of the early Christians,
some scholars interpreted “Mammon” as a name of the
devil Beelzebub. Others interpreted it as the name of a
demon particularly connected with money in Satan’s
realm. Any attempt to combine service to God and
service to mammon will end in failure. With one heart
we must love God alone and cleave to him, despising
The materialistic view of life only makes demands
for itself – wanting bodily ease, comfort, and pleasure.
Anyone who values the easy life values material goods
and is dominated by their power. He has been made
a slave because he only wants to take; he has been
deprived of that wealth of life in which one wants to
give and bestow. The attitude of “What can life give
me?” serves mammon and knows only rights and not
responsibility. Its uppermost goal is payment and gain.
We have to realize that most people, rich as well as
poor, strive to secure property for their own benefit and
comfort, often to the repression of everything else. So
many are carried away by love for sensual happiness,
comfort, and material pleasure. For believers, love
of money is the old – and ever new – danger that
threatened even the first Christians in the original
church community.

Eberhard Arnold

Friday, 15 June 2007



Our very laid back Bible studies re-commenced last Thursday evening. All three of us(yes-wise men of course!) meet fortnightly and discuss a piece of Scripture. Our approach is very informal and loosely structured which allows for good fellowship as well as more cerebral study. Our meeting is often peppered with personal experiences of events that have unfolded since we last met,and the fact that we are all friends over many years helps to keep the atmosphere both real and mellow! My two compatriots by the way are Aidan Power and Tony Ryan.
At the moment we are studying the book of Habakkuk, a so called’minor’ prophet of the Old Testament,who has a lot to say about the age old problem of the flourishing of the wicked. We are greatly helped in this study by the CD teaching of David Pawson,the finest Bible teacher that I have encountered.
Habakkuk begins this little book bewailing the awful moral downturn that his country has taken…”violence is everywhere(1v2)…all this misery(1v3)…these evil deeds(v3)…destruction(v3)…perverted justice(v3)…” Sounds familiar !
God answers him in an unexpected way,at first re-assuring the anguished prophet,saying”I am doing something in your own day,something you wouldn’t believe”(1v5) Cant you just see Habakkuk's eyes widening in expectation at what consolation God is about to deliver ! Then comes the divine punch line..”I am raising up the Babylonians, a cruel and violent people”(1v6). This is not I expect the answer that Habakkuk was waiting to hear,and in fact begged another even bigger question which I will come back to later.
The Book of Habakkuk was written about 600b.c. at a time when two super powers dominated the world stage,Assyria to the East and Egypt to the West. A third power was at this time just emerging on the scene, the Chaldeans also called Babylonians. Twenty years prior to this Josiah became king of Israel and through his reforms ushered in a period of reform and stability for Israel.Josiah was a man who remembered the ordinances of God and sought to implement them by royal decree.Upon his death,his son Jehoiakim took the throne and ruled tyrannically without regard to the moral health of the nation.Pawson makes the point that reform can only achieve so much,but for real and lasting change personal revival is needed.During the study we reflected on this and agreed that Christianity can easily slip from being a faith based on personal experience with Jesus to a religion based only on moral reform.Godlessness and wickedness are the obvious pitfalls from which most Believers will manage to steer clear,far easier to drift away from our first Love and passion for the Lord.
Our inner life needs nurturing by meditating on Gods Word and spending time alone in that secret place with Him.One heart set aflame after God can ignite a whole forest,nothing communicates faster or more effectively than pure holy passion.
So having recovered from his initial shock,Habakkuk brushes himself down and prepares for round two,he asks…”Should you be silent while the wicked swallow up people more righteous than they?”Bad as Israel may have been they were in the halfpenny place compared to the terrible Babylonians!How could a just God possibly allow these thugs to punish his very own people? it’s the age old question…why are the wicked allowed to prosper?
In our own lives bad things happen and we look bewildered to God for an explanation.All great saints of God have wrestled with this great puzzle.Harold S.Kushner,a Jewish rabbi addressed this question in a book aptly entitled ‘When Bad Things Happen To Good People’,after the sudden and painful death of his son. God does not provide either Habakkuk our ourselves with a neat philosophical answer,he does however impart an insight that will help us to cope with impossible circumstances…”The righteous will live by their faithfulness to God”(2v4) In other words hold tight and trust that God will work everything out in the end! This verse would later be used by Paul the Apostle to explain the heart of the good news about Jesus Christ. Centuries later a young German monk,Martin Luther would experience a revelation through these same words that would revolutionise the future course of Christianity…the just shall live by faith.
Unwittingly this minor prophets dilemmas would trigger a major reformation of a corrupted church over 2000 years later ! Strange indeed are the ways of the Lord,a sentiment that I think the ancient prophet would agree with!
Yet again our little gathering leaves us with much food for thought,and real urgency to revive that fire that once burned within.I’ll leave the last word to the plucky prophet of God who dared to ask the hard questions…

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,

and there are no grapes on the vines;

even though the olive crop fails,

and the fields lie empty and barren;

even though the flocks die in the fields,

and the cattle barns are empty,

yet I will rejoice in the Lord!

I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!

The Sovereign Lord is my strength!

He makes me as surefooted as a deer,

able to tread upon the heights.


Gerard O'Shea

Wednesday, 13 June 2007


Frank near the summit of
the Grotto at Cratloe
after the Stations of the Cross !


I have referred to my uncle Frank Phillips in a previous blog (see March 21,2007) ,and he is, I’m glad to say still very sound of limb and mind at 84 years of age. One of his many talents is a prodigious memory for events and places stretching back to his childhood days growing up in his beloved Ballycannon. Returning to live in Limerick after a virtual lifetime in London, Frank had so many memory-leads to follow as he re-traced routes that had been mapped in his psyche through all those years in a foreign land. Unable to drive a car due to failing eyesight he got a bicycle to translate those remembered places into reality. Later he bought a battery-powered bike that extended his circuit and allowed him to negotiate those hills of childhood with relative ease. To this day Frank heads off most afternoons , sometimes along the Island bank, or out to Corbally,or the Long Pavement and of course to the Holy Grail of his destinations, dear old Ballycannon.
Over the years I have joined Frank on his excursions,with the car widening the scope of his travels. Shortly after his arrival home, using only his recall as our guide we set off to find Castlecrine,a demolished manor house just outside Sixmilebridge.It was over 60 years since Frank had last seen the place, and he remembered details of the demesne with awe and wonder. The big house had been burned down during the Troubles but the rolling lawns, the large pond and the surrounding woodland were all indelibly etched in Franks memory. Although it must be mentioned that Franks youthful interest in Castlecrine had little to do with the pleasant aesthetic of the landscape and a lot to do with the Orchard whose boughs bent low with succulent fruit, a lure too sweet to resist!
I will never forget rounding the bend and seeing for the first time beautiful Castlecrine exactly as Frank had described it, without the house or the teasing orchard. The site has now been developed and there are three houses built there, but the rolling lawns and the lilied pond remain, resplendently awesome. Both Frank and I stood at the gates ,he lost in thought for days that are no more and I yet again amazed at this mans grasp of his past. I later learned that Castlecrine was home to the Butler family, great land-owners of their day. I hope to do a bit more research into Castlecrine and share it in a future blog.
Just about two weeks ago Frank and I set off on another mission, to visit the Grotto at Cratloe and the nearby graveyard of Craughaun. Although not a religious man Frank has a fascination with the Grotto,built by local voluntary labour in 1932,replicating the famous shrine at Lourdes. This impressive place of pilgrimage has a depiction of the Crucifixion of Christ atop a man-made cave, approached by a steep 100 foot series of steps following the fourteen stations of the cross. The ascending pathway is sentried by huge gnarled trees that seem as if they have stood there for an age. We climbed the Calvary path at a leisurely pace stopping often to marvel at the great trees and also at the local endeavour that fashioned this place all those years ago. As we drew near the summit the darkening afternoon rolled peals of thunder in the distance,but thankfully only a thin rain drizzled gently down.
I remember as a child being brought to the Grotto for nigh time prayer vigils, when large numbers of the Faithful would parade around the Shrine droning various aspirations for divine assistance. I see from a notice pinned to the wall of the cave that the tradition continues ,although on a much smaller scale I’d imagine. My abiding memory of those nocturnal outings was the candle-lit processions cutting, like a snake of fire through the black night.
For Frank and I the next stop was the graveyard at Craughaun where an aunt of his is buried. This woman had died in 1947 and was a sister of Franks mother. The Cemetery like the C of E hymnal is divided into two sections,ancient and modern. We traipsed through both in the drizzling rain vainly seeking out the headstone. As we turned to go we decided on one last look, and just inside the gate of the old section, over on the left we discovered the faint inscription that we had come to find :


This lady had died two years after Franks own mother and he recalled how none of the family had a way of getting from Ballycannon to Cratloe for the funeral. No bicycle, no horse and car,no transport whatsoever was available to them. They even tried hitch-hiking a lift on the sparsely trafficked Ennis Road of the 1940’s.
Many memories had been stirred for Frank on our afternoon wanderings and he had once more fleshed out for me aspects of the family history. Sadly I am not blessed with his recollection skills and so I need to hear these snippets of the family story over and over again. It’s such a gift to have Franks knowledge of things past from which to draw. Long may he reign !

Gerard O'Shea

Monday, 11 June 2007



Summer set lip to earth's bosom bare,And left the flushed print in a poppy there.~Francis Thompson

To see the Summer Sky Is Poetry, though never in a Book it lie -True Poems flee.~Emily Dickinson

What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade. ~Gertrude Jekyll

I question not if thrushes sing,If roses load the air;Beyond my heart I need not reach When all is summer there.~John Vance Cheney

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. ~Albert Camus

Press close, bare-bosomed Night! Press close, magnetic,nourishing Night!Night of south winds! Night of the large, few stars!Still, nodding Night! Mad, naked, Summer Night!~Walt Whitman

Summer afternoon - summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language. ~Henry James

Summer is the time when one sheds one's tensions with one's clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit. A few of those days and you can become drunk with the belief that all's right with the world. ~Ada Louise Huxtable



Sometimes it all just washes over me,
The unremitting horror of the news
The daily grind of death and gloom
The ceaseless forecasts of even worse to come,
A million reasons in a lifetime
Not to wake to greet the dawning day.
Sometimes it sticks in my throat
And drips its crippling venom to my heart
And paralyses every instinct for growth and bloom,
And leg-ties every cartwheeling impulse.
Sometimes I can’t decide
Whether I’ve been bludgeoned
By the daily overload,
Or whether I’ve shook my head away
And stuck it in the clouds.
More days like these of indecision
Than days of certain empathy
Or wilful indifference,
Sometimes I wonder where most of us lie
To left or right or swooning in between?
And then the twinkling of a revelation
I fresh amaze that god of heaven cares,
And once millennia ago He left his throne
And rolled up his incarnate sleeve
And brought relief to our earthly disaster.

Gerard O'Shea

Tuesday, 5 June 2007


I don't usually repeat a blog but for once I will make an exception. As I have already mentioned here John Moriarty died last Friday and as a remembrance I am repeating a poem I wrote for him last year...

For John Moriarty

When Mangertons cap is hidden by the mist
And the furze blooms dip their yellow heads,
And the driving rain thunders on the roof
And every ditch and stone is dripping wet,
Then there is need for the seer
To look beyond the world that dreary hangs,
And touch the hidden sun,beyond the cloud
And kiss the smiling lips beneath the shroud,
And share the beauty-truths that still abound
Even in a world more lost than found.
For this time John, you were born
A benediction on all forlorn
To share the Eucharist of your wound
And bending down to hug the holy ground

Strong dweller of the solitary place,
Hermit who loves the swirling crowd,
Abstainer from every man cut creed,
Friend to the broken heart and face cast down,
Dreamer of substance more real than earth,
You have gone out and left the fetid camp
Like One who hung beyond a city wall.
You have climbed the ascending path
Beside the torrenting waterfall
And all the days of your life you have gazed upon it
And learned the lesson to be still
And found the essence of all our days
Hidden in the deep deep heart of God.


Saturday, 2 June 2007


The death was announced today of Kerry writer and philosopher John Moriarty. As readers of this blog will know John was a man who profoundly influenced me,and while his struggle is at an end it is a great loss that we will no longer benefit by his presence amongst us. The gentle soul of John shepherded many bruised pilgrims along the Celestial path and it is now his moment to enter in fully to that Heavenly City which he so long had sought.The excerpt below appears in Johns latest publication,Serious Sounds. In context ,a neighbour of Johns ,Michael McCahill lay dying in Clifden hospital surrounded by his neighbours and family.."Parkinsons disease having made him as rigid as a board, diabetes having blinded him and,now,as though it was in competition for mortal honours with the other two,gangerene was spreading,at times rushing,throughout his body.He had within the last few days been abducted from us,carried off into a solitude and silence that was at once infinitely far from us yet unreachably near to us.His body was a rigid lost cause and as far as we could see the man we had known was unspeakably crucified to it."Into this scene of lingering awfulness enters Fr. Herity, the local parish priest and "in a clear and firm voice" uttered this final blessing on the dying man. John Moriarty would settle for no less a benediction for his last great journey...


Go forth upon thy journey from this world, 0 Christian soul:
In the name of God, the almighty Father, who created thee,
In the name of Jesus Christ, his Son, who redeemed thee,
In the name of the Holy Spirit who sanctifieth thee.
May thy guardian angel succour and defend thee,
May the prayers of the blessed saints help thee,
May thy Redeemer look upon thee in pardon and in mercy,
May thy rest be with him this day in Paradise.
Depart, 0 Christian soul, out of this world.