Saturday, 5 January 2008


The late John O'Donohue
John O’ Donohue the poet and philosopher has died suddenly at age 53 while on holiday in the South of France.A former priest, he was best known as author of Anam Cara (A friend of the soul) a compendium of Celtic wisdom for the pilgrim soul drawing on influences as diverse as Yeats and Heidegger with more than a passing nod to Christianity. He was once described as “ a poetic priest with the soul of a pagan.” He was a compelling speaker and many times I heard him espousing his spiritual philosophy on the radio, always doing it with an enthusiasm and freshness that whether you agreed or not, made it compelling listening. He had a degree in philosophy and English literature and did his PhD on Hegel, his keen intellect informing his writings while his poets eye constantly evoked the beauty and pathos of the natural world around him.He seemed to straddle a path somewhere between the Christian mystic tradition and a New Age sensibility which made his work appeal to a wide and disparate audience.He lived in a cottage in the west of Ireland and spoke Irish as his native language, and was an active campaigner against the proposed Burren interpretative centre. Most recently I heard him speaking on the Marian Finucane show on RTE radio, where he spoke about the deep centre of Christmas and the space that it creates after all the hoo hah to discover that stillness within, often presenting itself as a sense of loss or longing.His most recent publication was a book of Blessings, a collection of his poems/prayers to mark different stages in our lives. The Blessing below is taken from an earlier book, ‘Echoes of Memory’ -GOSh.

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.
John O'Donohue
~ Echoes of Memory ~


Anonymous said...

An uair a chaith muid ar an mbád go hÁrainn ag trácht ar beatha agus bas, beidh sé liom go deo. Do ghaire geal úr, anois ag séideadh le gaoth láidir trasna an domhain. Thuig tú an suaimhneas síoraí a bhí romhat.
- le gra agus buíochas
Máire Holmes



Dew of Hermon said...

Thanks Maire and Joseph for your sensitive response to the passing of John O'Donoghue.I am indebted to Irish for this English rendering of Maire's comment...
"The time (the hour) we spent on the boat to Árainn discussing life and daeth, will be with me forever. Your bright fresh laugh (smile), now blowing with a strong wind across the world. You understand the eternal peace before you.
With love and thanks "

Tony said...

Lovely Poem!

'Great Poet of the East (!)' said...

John, Great Poet of the West (!),I will miss you more than you can ever have imagined. So glad we managed to exchange words before Christmas, both by answering-machine. It all seems far, far too soon, and I'll have to drink those whiskies by myself now, the ones we both imagined we'd share at 80. With love.

David said...

Dear Mr O Shea,
I just chanced on your blog (is it?) while searching for information on john o donaghue, whom someone mentioned to me had died recently. I was interested in your comment that people with his insight into life tend to die young. It is also strange that both he and John Moriarty died within a short time of each other. I met John Moriarty a few times but never encountered O Donaghue apart from his books. WHile I have read A good bit of Moriarty I find his work endlessly repetitive , even though I value his awakening of the spirit very highly indeed. By comparison O donaghue is well edited, but I have never lost the feeling while reading o donaghue that his work is rather focussed on satisfying a new age type of sensibility. Moriarty wa the more challenging of the two I think. I make these comments in the context of someone who loves the mystical tradition in its many manifestations, Christian islamic taoist and so on, yet likes to lives also within the sacramental context of catholicism. O Donaghue wrote well about the priesthood in some magazine literature and symposia but did not carry it overtly into the books. O donaghue I think Speaks to a world without a formal religion, the book of blessings is interesting from that point of view. I sometimes get the inpression that his work is a sort of verbal massage, whereas Moriarty was more a challenge when it comes to integrating the pained and broken side of our lives with the glory of a human existence. These are somewhat tentative views of two exceptional Irish people of our time. In fact looking back on their time and generation they are perhaps the ones to remember and select when the headline seekers and tycoons of the present irish society will be forgotten. Your website is very interesting.
Gabhaim buiochas mor leat. David

Aine Ni Niallain said...

I had the good fortune to attend a talk he gave in Kilkee sept. 2007, I was shocked to hear he has left us so soon. I think I will continue to re-read his books and continue to find new meaning. Aine Ni Niallain, Co. Clare

Anonymous said...

Its amazing what a death can do, even if its someone you don't know.

Anonymous said...

I had never heard of John O'Donoghue until Radio 4 announced his death on Sunday (13th Jan. 08) The way he was spoken of touched me deeply and I wish I had known about him sooner. His poem, "Blessing" was read out and gave me great comfort. I shall be reading more.

Dew of Hermon said...

I also heard the Radio 4 tribute to John which was very moving and powerful,especially with his own voice reading the Blessing as a backdrop. Thanks for taking the time to leave your comment...much appreciated

Noreen Singh said...

I have only heard just now from a friend in Ireland of John o'Donoghue's death R.I.P. I feel as if I have lost a good friend, in spite of the fact that I had never met him or heard him talk. His prose and poetry have always inspired me, and being away from my native Ireland when I wanted to go back, I just plunged into his books,and I was always transported to what was deep and nourishing. His words came from the soul and I am so glad he left such a legacy.
Merci et Adieu said...

Thank you Dot for introducing me to the wonderful work of John O'Donohue and thus enriching my life. Vee.

Diane said...

I first heard John O'Donohue, so recently, on a televion show called Between the Lines. He was speaking about his book "The Invisible Embrace - Beauty" I was enchanted and immediately went online to buy the book. I read myself to sleep each night with this book - certainly not because it was boring, but because my Soul was nourished into peace and I could let go of life's hold as I drifted into beauty's sleep.

Tonight, again watching Between the Lines recorded earlier, the host mentioned very briefly, John's death. Shock that one so young and "awake" was dead, and a deep sense of our planet's loss took over me until I went outside in the night and a huge gust of wind suddely blew threw my hair. I instantly thought of a passage in "Beauty" about wind. I went back inside to find it. He said: "The wind has power and huge presence. It symbolizes pure freedom." John O'Donohue made a huge difference in the minds and hearts and souls of many - his presence and his expression were and are as big as the wind and he is expressing pure freedom, I trust. I wish I had known him personally.

Diane Borcyckowski - simply a reader and student of Truth

Stuart said...

AH John, John, you squandered it.

swindudjati said...

I spent awhile in Ireland studying at Trinity College, but John O'Donaghue had helped me to recollect my own country, Indonesia. I heard his voice in recording cassettes of Landscape and Clay. Those Irish legacies that came home with me. "You can take people from the city, but you cannot take the city from the people." And that's how John brought me to the "core" of Irish culture. He had been a friend of my soul (Anam Cara) during my staying in Dublin. May his soul rest in peace in the place where his loved ones found.

Anonymous said...

I feel that John was my Annum Cara. Thank you John for all your wonderfull writings and teachings.

Anonymous said...

There were two men, born of earth, blessed of spirit, John O'Donohue and Henri Nouwen. Both have passed, entering the breath of the beautiful unseen, leaving us the leaves of pages, salted with words, indelible gifts to the heart and the soul. I am so thankful for both of you. Your legacies live on in the burning imprints of many hearts.

Love, Gina

Anonymous said...

I bought the book ANAM CARA in Feb 1999 after I heard John reading the last lines of BENNACHT. I was transfixed and anxiously listened for the name of the speaker fearing that I would not know the identity and a treasure would slip through my fingers.

I have read ANAM CARA several times.

This week, March 23, 2011, while searching for his quote on neighbors, I was shocked to learn of John's death in 2008. Three years ago! And I did not know.

Then I found a transcript of a radio interview, taped in Fall 2007, with Krista Tippett, but aired in Jan (?) 2008, and I read it ...and it mentioned that John's hometown was Connemara, Ireland in the area of Burren.

I have now visited videos of Connemara and Burren and am filled with the beauty of the landscape which so inspired John.

He had a way of expressing that was singular.

He referred to some bleakness at some point in his life but I have never known what that was about.

What treasures of seeing and being you gave to us John. Thank you. Thank you. You have enriched my life with beauty of insight.

God bless you and bless you, John.

Shaunna A. Goldberry said...

Dearest family and friends of John O' Donahue:

Today with a heart and mind bearing heartaches that seem larger than God's capacity to embrace, I searched for words of comfort. I adore your writings, they have created sanctuary, and inspiration for many years. Living within sagebrush and eolian tuned rocks I daydreamed about someday meeting you face to face. Learning to day of your passing, into the laughing arms of heaven, it was no coincidence that the poem scripted upon this blog was a much needed blessing.

In peace and gratitude,

Goldberry, family and friends

Dew of Hermon said...

Thanks Shaunna for our lovely appreciation of John's impact on your ife. As you can see from all the comments above, you are not alone ! May he rest in peace.

Noreen Mackey said...

Learning today of the death of John O'Donoghue's mother Josie, R.I.P., led me to re-read his chapter on death in "Anam Cara". I was deeply struck by the fact that his mother died on the eve of John's birthday, and just a few days before the anniversary of his own death. My own father died two days before the anniversary of my mother's death, and many years later, my sister died on the eve of my father's birthday. I am struck by John's words about how close the dead are to us, and very moved by the thought that they come to meet us at our own hour of death. I am sure John was there on New Year's Eve with open arms to welcome his mother into the joy of her new life, where there is n more parting or sorrow.

Anonymous said...

I have just found John's words bringing me understaning of a "special frienship" that may or may not be shared further in this lifetime.
however now enhancing the comfort in releasing
any doubt i had in emotions physically and mentally.

John although no longer with us in body, your spirit shines on thank you. X

I look forward to learning more of you and your work/passion . . . . Also my anan cara.

Anonymous said...

I was very honoured in knowing John and attending many of his lectures in Galway. Once in a bookshop he insisted on buying me a book which I treasure. It was 'Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil'. He had the most infectious laugh and good humour. I have found his words the most consoling and profound when I have needed them. I believe John was a true mystic and he was called back to that place he addressed so beautifully in the documentary 'anam cara'.

Anonymous said...

It is 2014 and I have just found John and feel blessed! He has walked straight into my soul. His words are dancing with my heart. I am feeling so happy that he has arrived and I will take time to listen to him!There is a truth within me that rejoices at the words before me✴ thank you love fin xx