Monday, 26 January 2009


A picture taken just after the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau
by the Soviet army in January 1945, shows a group of children
wearing concentration camp uniforms behind barbed wire
fencing at the camp. Primo Levi was deported from Italy
and spent 11 months at Auschwitz during 1944-45.


In the brutal nights we used to dream
Dense violent dreams,
Dreamed with soul and body:
To return; to eat; to tell the story.
Until the dawn command
Sounded brief, low
And the heart cracked in the breast.
Now we have found our homes again,
Our bellies are full,
We're through telling the story.
It's time. Soon we'll hear again
The strange command:
* 'get up'
Primo Levi
Tomorrow is Holocaust Memorial Day


The village blacksmith finally found an apprentice
willing to work hard for long hours.
The blacksmith immediately began his instructions to the lad,
"When I take the shoe out of the fire,
I'll lay it on the anvil; and when I nod my head,
you hit it with this hammer."
The apprentice did just as he told.
Now he's the village blacksmith.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Rev. Joseph Lowery's Benediction at the Inauguration

One of the highlights for me of Barack Obama's Inauguration was the Benediction Prayer of the Rev. Joseph Lowery, a minister in the United Methodist Church and a leader in the American Civil Rights Movement. At 87 this old warrior still packs a powerful prayer punch, you can read the text below and experience the actual Prayer by clicking on the U Tube link above..

.God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou who has brought us thus far along the way, thou who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path, we pray, lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee, lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee. Shadowed beneath thy hand may we forever stand -- true to thee, O God, and true to our native land.
We truly give thanks for the glorious experience we've shared this day. We pray now, O Lord, for your blessing upon thy servant, Barack Obama, the 44th president of these United States, his family and his administration. He has come to this high office at a low moment in the national and, indeed, the global fiscal climate. But because we know you got the whole world in your hand, we pray for not only our nation, but for the community of nations. Our faith does not shrink, though pressed by the flood of mortal ills.
For we know that, Lord, you're able and you're willing to work through faithful leadership to restore stability, mend our brokenness, heal our wounds and deliver us from the exploitation of the poor or the least of these and from favoritism toward the rich, the elite of these.
We thank you for the empowering of thy servant, our 44th president, to inspire our nation to believe that, yes, we can work together to achieve a more perfect union. And while we have sown the seeds of greed -- the wind of greed and corruption, and even as we reap the whirlwind of social and economic disruption, we seek forgiveness and we come in a spirit of unity and solidarity to commit our support to our president by our willingness to make sacrifices, to respect your creation, to turn to each other and not on each other.
And now, Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance.
And as we leave this mountaintop, help us to hold on to the spirit of fellowship and the oneness of our family. Let us take that power back to our homes, our workplaces, our churches, our temples, our mosques, or wherever we seek your will.
Bless President Barack, First Lady Michelle. Look over our little, angelic Sasha and Malia.
We go now to walk together, children, pledging that we won't get weary in the difficult days ahead. We know you will not leave us alone, with your hands of power and your heart of love.
Help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid; when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.
Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around -- (laughter) -- when yellow will be mellow -- (laughter) -- when the red man can get ahead, man -- (laughter) -- and when white will embrace what is right.
Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen.
REV. LOWERY: Say amen --
REV. LOWERY: -- and amen.
AUDIENCE: Amen! (Cheers, applause.)

Thursday, 22 January 2009


At his desk: 9am on his first day in office
and the president was already hard at work
This week Barack Hussein Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States of America, probably the most popular incoming holder of that office ever. Obama’s public persona is relaxed but firm , humane and decisive and his language skills ensure inspiring oratory. At the Inauguration ceremony he spoke almost mundanely about the great challenges facing America, the poetry of the campaign trail has already, it seems given way to the prose of leadership. There is such a wellspring of hope and expectation for the new president amongst not just Americans but from the world community , that it’s unlikely any one man could fulfil them all. That expectation is well expressed in this little adage I came across…~GOSh.~
Rosa* sat
so Martin+ could walk,
Martin walked
so Obama could run
and Obama ran...
so our children can fly
*Rosa Parks, the lady who by refusing to give up her bus seat to make room for a white passenger in 1955, became an important symbol of the modern Civil Rights Movement
+Martin Luther King


Of late I've been considering the relationship between passion and courage and what it is that propels these two into radical action, as distinct from their dull counterpoint of rigid orthodoxy which only stultifies and corrupts. Two figures, separated by centuries of time have brought this into sharp focus, the one a young monk in 16th. century Germany the other a 70 year old priest in 21 st century Ireland.
At the Diet of Worms in 1521 the lowly monk informed by the edicts of Scripture and empowered by his personal conviction of faith stood up to the might and authority of the Holy Roman Empire throwing down this historic challenge… “Unless I shall be convinced by the testimonies of the Scriptures or by clear reason ... I neither can nor will make any retraction, since it is neither safe nor honourable to act against conscience." Luther had been sickened by the numerous evidences of the corruption of the church which then abounded and as he read the Bible, its words seared into his heart a compulsion to effect a change. ‘Sole fide…Sole Scriptura’ (Faith alone…Scripture alone) was Luther’s rallying call, his own spiritual pathway having being illuminated by the words from Paul's Epistle to the Romans, ‘For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith." (Rom 1:17) Unshackled from meaningless religious rite and cant, he was set free to tackle the issues in the church which were corrupting the very core of its ‘gospel’ message. One of the most pernicious practices which exercised him was the crass selling of indulgences, in which the ‘faithful’ were promised on the authority of the pope himself, that in exchange for money their suffering relatives could be released from the torments of Purgatory. These ‘sales’ were sanctioned and promoted by Albert of Brandenburg, Archbishop of Mainz with the tacit support of Pope Leo X, much of the money raised being used for the building of St Peters in Rome. Johann Tetzel, a Dominican preacher was one of the Pontiff’s finest ‘indulgence’ salesmen, filling the coffers with cash duped from the people, after delivering lurid sermons on the graphic fiery trials afflicting souls trapped in Purgatory ! Martin Luther was horrified by Papal excesses and angry that the ordinary folks ignorance of the Scriptures made them fall easy prey to these trick-of-the-loop so called, preachers. Perhaps his most lasting and far reaching act was the translation of the New Testament from Latin to everyday German. Up to this, the Bible was a closed book to the ordinary German as the only available translation was in Latin, a language used by scholars and clergy. The entrance of God’s word always brings light and revelation and so it was, after much turmoil the Protestant Reformation was born.
Roll on nearly 500 years to Saint Colman’s Cathedral in Cobh and the midnight Christmas Eve mass being celebrated by Bishop John Magee. A solitary figure waits outside the magnificent Church building ,leaflets in hand awaiting the exiting congregation. The leaflets contain a Christmas Blessing by John O’Donohue and the man standing out on that cold December night is, Michael Mernagh a Dublin based Augustinian priest. He is a man on a mission , this is the first step in a journey of ‘atonement’ that he is preparing to travel. Waking one night from a disturbing dream, he has become uneasy about his own lack of action in commenting on the clerical sexual-abuse cases that have besmirched the church in Ireland over the last few decades. The Bishop ministering to the faithful on that Christmas Eve has admitted to personal responsibility for mishandling complaints of child sexual abuse, and there have been widespread calls for his resignation. Father Mernagh is angry that members of his own profession have betrayed the sternest of all of Jesus’ commands… "And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.” (Mark 9:42). He is angry that he should have been more aware of what was going on and could have stood up and spoken out to stop the abominations that were being committed. He is also angry at the slow and grudging response of the Catholic hierarchy, even to the present day, to the plight of the victims of the abuse. After the dream and informed by the example of the Old Testament prophet Micah he pondered those ancient words… “ He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8) . Now outside the cathedral in Cobh, Co. Cork he was initiating an act that would , just a few days later, have him walk from Cobh to Dublin on a 9 day walk of atonement for the wrongs committed against the innocent victims of clerical sexual abuse. In a subsequent T.V. interview Michael Mernagh held up a Bible and said “ This is my guide and all the rules for life we need are found here.” Later in that interview he advised the Bishops of Ireland to lay aside their legal advisers and speak the ‘language of the heart’, the only language spoken by Jesus in the gospels. He said that the Church needs to respond to the scandals with truth and passion and not with dry legalise designed to protect their status and obfuscate justice. Here is a man, with Bible raised high, who faces the authorities of his Church, calling on them to repent. Infused with the same Spirit which drove the Prophet Micah, Father Mernagh calls on his Superiors to “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Two men, both of the cloth, divided by the centuries ,drawing from the same well and calling down truth and justice in the name of God. Both men informed by what they have seen around them and enlightened by the words of Scripture, their passion carried by their personal courage to effect change and reformation. It is still true that one man or woman with an open Bible and a receptive spirit can rock the nations. Such is the power of God’s Word, so are we created to hear and receive it, so mighty and true are these ancient Scriptures to the tearing down of strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4). May each one of us be so led, feeding our passion with His laws, taking our courage in hand, and by his enabling Grace, effect real and lasting change in this topsy-turvy world of ours.

Gerard O'Shea

Monday, 19 January 2009


A psychologist is at a party talking with a small group of people, when a man comes up behind him and taps him on the shoulder. The psychologist turns around and the man punches him, knocking him to the floor.. The psychologist gets up, brushes himself off, turns to the group and declares: "That's his problem."

Tuesday, 13 January 2009


Castletown Church (Antoin)

My recent visit to Castletown on last Christmas Eve brought this very welcome comment from Joy Watts...' My Mum would have loved to chat to you about Canon Waller who was, as far as I can remember, Rector in Adare when she was young (Archdeacon Waller by then). She spoke highly of both himself and his wife, who if my memory serves me right, also held Bible Studies in the Rectory. They would have had a formative effect on Mum's early life (see your blog of 25/9/08).' I had no idea of the connection between Archdeacon Waller and Joy's godly mother Anne and was pleased to hear of it. ~GOSh.~

Monday, 12 January 2009


Frank as a young man

in the Armed Forces.
You were always one for talking Frank,
But I have never heard you speaking
With such urgency and detail
As now, lying in a hospital bed,
Your chest wheezing and your left arm lifeless.
Beneath a ‘fasting’ sign you are talking
In a low, tired voice
Flitting from one thing to another
At the speed of light -
We are relieved dear uncle
That despite all that’s happened
You are making sense…
It will take us a little longer
To make sense of all the happenings of this,
Your Passion week -

Over just eight days
Your life has changed utterly,
Lost its ringing certainty,
Robbed of its jaunty swagger
By a contrivance of events
That have sapped the soul and heart from you,
And left you with little more than that ‘voice’
To let us know, you are still here,
And still the man who has dwarfed our lives
With your towering presence,
And kept the fire of family history burning
With your forensic remembering
And conjuring of lives lived long ago.

Tonight you are in the hospital ward
Alone with your fears and dreams,
In the closing of an eye Frank
You enter worlds more real than terra-firma…
I pray that this night
Large vistas of welcome are opening for you
As you pluck from your store of dreams
Those that will now sustain you…
As your ‘body’ who up to now has never let you down
Restarts and revitalises
Responding to your mental commands
To renew and re-invigorate,
And cause the surge of swelling life
To course again, Atlantically
Through your trembling veins…

And may God, who still believes in you

Bring comfort through these darkest hours,
And turn His face towards you,
And make His voice be heard
Above the sound of yours,
And please God, Frank.
May you know the blessed difference.

Gerard O'Shea
Wednesday, January 7 th.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Luke Kelly Raglan Road


This song encompasses at least three pure pleasures for me…the song itself ,a sublime expression of unrequited love - the clarion voice of Luke Kelly, who gives the piece a strength and integrity uniquely his own - and of course the poet himself Patrick Kavanagh who wrote the words and put them to an old Irish tune. The subject of Kavanagh’s poem was Hilda Moriarty later (at Paddy’s misfortune) to become O’Malley married to Donogh a minister for education in a Fianna Fail government, and remembered for bringing in free Secondary school education. In her later years Hilda lived just up the road from me on Roses Avenue and outlived her husband by several years, as he died a relatively young man. When I knew her she was a very old lady , slightly stooped with long blond hair ,but in her hay-day she was apparently quite the beauty and well worthy of a poets attention. However the impoverished nature of the poetry profession was not a sufficient enticement to lure Hilda away from her middle class circle and Kavanagh’s expression of love had to find its enduring home within the haunting words of this glorious song. By the way such is my attachment to ‘Raglan Road’ that on even the slightest prompting I will rise to sing it at weddings, bar-mitzvahs and wakes…so be warned !

Gerard O’Shea

Thursday, 8 January 2009



The pillar towers of Ireland,
how wondrously they stand
By the lakes and rushing rivers
through the valleys of our land
In mystic file, through the isle,
they lift their heads sublime,
These grey old pillar temples,
These conquerors of time !
Denis McCarthy
I well remember that Sunday afternoon standing midst the remains of Askeaton Castle when my uncle Frank recited from memory these lines. Ever the man with the apt quote from verse or story to suit the occasion, he never ceases to amaze with his repository of verse, learned long ago, from which he draws with apparent effortless ease. At this moment Frank is laid low with illness and even though weakened by his condition, he is still holding forth in speech with his hallmark wry humour and keen observations. I trust that like the monuments of stone remembered in these lines my 'pillar' uncle will too come through this ordeal and continue to count himself among ' these conquerors of time.'
Gerard O'Shea

Saturday, 3 January 2009


A Post Office worker at the main sorting office finds an unstamped, poorly hand-written envelope addressed to God. He opens it and discovers it is from an elderly lady, distressed because some thief robbed her of 100 euro. She will be cold and hungry for the rest of the month if she doesn't receive some divine intervention.
The worker organizes a collection amongst the other postal workers, who dig deep and come up with 96 euro. They get it to her by special courier the same morning.
A week later, the same postal worker recognizes the same hand on another envelope. He opens it and reads: "Dear God, Thank you for the 100 euro. This month would have been so bleak otherwise. P.S. It was four euro short but that was probably those thieving b******s at the Post Office."