Wednesday, 29 April 2009


My humble lettuce patch
(with the deadly slug trap at centre!)

In light of our changing economic climate more and more people are re-discovering the joys of tilling the good earth and growing their own vegetables. Ever one to follow a populist trend I have made a small start in this cultivation revival by transforming a flower bed at the back of my house into a patch for lettuces, onions, parsley and chives. I know this sounds impressive but the on-the-ground reality is truly a humble beginning and is more a pledge of what is to come than a huge statement in itself. To be honest, about six weeks elapsed from buying the plants at the local garden centre to getting them into the ground, and leaving them outside my door ,I thought it better to plant them before the postman did ! The dozen or so plants are secured from slug attacks by (pet friendly) pellets and an ingeniously simple ‘trap’ that lures the pests to an inebriated demise in a pool of beer. (a desired end for many non-slug drinkers I know !) For the record I have found that Miller (which also happens to be my own beer of choice !) is an effective inducement to my slimy attackers while shandy is entirely useless. Even armed with such sophisticated weaponry , I have found to my horror, that already the frail leaves of my immature lettuce plants are dotted with bite-size holes from the resilient slugs. Someone has suggested casting a net over the proceedings to protect them but that sounds a bit technical and I will only try it as a last resort. If there are any experienced gardeners out there who would like to share their expertise with me, I would be delighted to hear from them. My future plans include tackling the ‘big’ front garden to sow potatoes and carrots and maybe even broccoli, of course there is the no small matter of ‘digging’ and then the maintenance work of ‘weeding’ to attend to, but all in good time and with a fair wind at my back ! I remember in years past my mother used to keep a decent vegetable garden at Ardhu and in the dim distant days of my childhood she had a ‘run’ out in the front with chickens! I can’t see myself getting into poultry in the near future but who knows ! My mother was blessed with green fingers and everything she put her hand to flourished, I remember thick rusty stalks of rhubarb, large succulent marrows and rich green leaves of cabbage as well as potatoes and onions all thriving under her careful eye. Hopefully there has been a genetic transference of her earthy skills and these hands will yet reap a bountiful harvest from my gardening endeavours, as they say ,time will tell…
Gerard O'Shea


He that is down need fear no fall;
He that is low, no pride;
He that is humble, ever shall
Have God to be his Guide
I am content with what I have,
Little be it or much;
And, Lord, contentment still I crave,
Because Thou savest such.
Fullness to such a burden is,
That go on pilgrimage;
Here little, and hereafter bliss,
Is best from age to age.
John Bunyan

Monday, 27 April 2009



There was a preacher that was trying to sell his horse. A potential buyer came to the church for a test ride. "Before you start," the preacher said, "you should know that this horse only responds to church talk. Go is: Praise the Lord, and Stop is: Amen."
So the man on the horse says, "Praise the Lord," and the horse starts to trot. The man again says, "Praise the Lord," and the horse starts to gallop. Suddenly there is a cliff right in front of the horse and the man yells, "Amen!"
The horse stops just at the edge of the cliff.
The man wipes the sweat from his brow and says, "Praise the Lord!"

Sunday, 26 April 2009


I opened my eyes
And looked up at the rain,
And it dripped in my head
And flowed into my brain,
And all that I hear as I lie in my bed
Is the slishity-slosh of the rain in my head.
I step very softly,
I walk very slow,
I can't do a handstand-
-I might overflow,
So pardon the wild crazy thing I just said-
-I'm just not the same since there's rain in my head.
Shel Silverstein

Saturday, 25 April 2009



“What is God’s last name?” asked the child.
“God has no last name,” his mother replied.
“But I have a last name? What is God’s last name and what is Jesus’ last name?”
This conversation was hardly unusual. Except that the three-year-old was dying of a brain tumor and he really wanted to know the answer.

Eighteen months after his tragic death I spent two weeks with the child’s family. I found myself up after midnight almost daily – listening to family members, poring over their diaries, and trying to reconcile the idea of a loving God with the cold reality of innocent death. How can the two co-exist within the same universe? Within the same human heart?
Now, thirty years later, books dealing with the “delusion of the God idea” are hitting the bestseller lists and staying there for weeks. At a recent forum at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, wrenching images of deformed newborns (suggesting the absence of intelligent design) set the stage for speakers urging the world to “wake up from its long nightmare of religious belief” and labeling religious education “brainwashing” and “child abuse”. One participant had authored a book in 1977 on cosmology in which he wrote, “Anything we can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done and may in the end be our greatest contribution to civilization.”
That was the year the child died. My parents knew his parents, but the event didn’t really touch me at the time. Raised in a believing home, I fed during my college years on an exclusive diet of scientific journals. Books and articles written from a singular worldview subtly weaned me from my roots and nourished a host of tormenting questions. Apparent contradictions between the two worlds left me increasingly confused. Eventually everything distilled into a single question: How can a loving God preside over the death of innocent children?
For many at the La Jolla forum the answer is easy: There is no God. While hardly a new thought, the aggressive tone of many speakers and the popularity of atheistic literature today are indicative of a new level of polarization. Surely the increasingly principled and ideological stance of those publicly promoting the Christian faith has hardly encouraged open dialogue. Loud noise always seems to emanate from the extremes.
The turbulence of the debate serves to hide the currents of truth running deep below the surface. Acclaimed particle physicist John Polkinghorne recognized that both science and religion are rooted in “encounters with reality.”
I believe that miracles are actually, as John’s Gospel calls them, signs. They are windows into a deeper understanding of divine reality, where we see something more profoundly personal, more profoundly particular about the way God relates to the world than we might know otherwise. In other words, they are not conjuring tricks, not sorts of divine tours de force to astonish people and simply coerce belief. They reveal that God has deeper ways, a deeper consistency than the consistency of everyday life.
Approaching the world around us with the wondering mind of a child is key for those seeking the deeper consistencies of life. Rachel Carson, who popularized the exploration of the sea in the middle of the last century, wrote eloquently on the topic of fostering the innate sense of wonder in children:
What is the value of preserving and strengthening this sense of awe and wonder, this recognition of something beyond the boundaries of human existence?
Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life. Whatever the vexations or concerns of their personal lives, their thoughts can find paths that lead to inner contentment and to renewed excitement in living. Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of the birds, the ebb and flow of the tides, the folded bud ready for the spring. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night and spring after winter.
Jewish rabbi and thinker, Abraham Heschel, went still further when he wrote that awe “precedes faith, it is at the root of faith…. Forfeit your sense of awe, let your conceit diminish your ability to revere, and the universe becomes a marketplace for you.” In God in Search of Man, he continues:
A return to reverence is the first prerequisite for a revival of wisdom, for the discovery of the world as an allusion to God. Wisdom comes from awe rather than from shrewdness. It is evoked not in moments of calculation but in moments of being in rapport with the mystery of reality. The greatest insights happen to us in moments of awe.
Thirty years ago I knew nothing of these guiding lights. But as I agonized over the death of one child I remembered a phrase from my own childhood, “Seek and you shall find.” Desperate, I vowed to apply the scientific method of inquiry and stake my life on it: Either the evidence would show Jesus a fake or I would find God present even within the realm of random human suffering and senseless tragedy. By the end of my stay at the house, the evidence was beyond dispute. It was also beyond belief.
“O let yourself be found, and joy abound.” These old words reflect something of my encounter with the reality of God’s presence around the bedside of a dying child – a reality rooted in another encounter around another Child in an abandoned cattle shed two thousand years ago. And they hint at the nature of Him who earnestly searches for those willing to stake all in the venture for truth. For the child himself it was simple: “I know God’s last name,” he said, answering his own question in those last weeks. “It is Shepherd.”

Bill Wiser

from The Plough magazine at

Wednesday, 22 April 2009


And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

Raymond Carver

Tuesday, 21 April 2009


Here are the latest cross-breeds in the making...
Kerry Blue Terrier + Skye Terrier = Blue Skye, a dog for visionaries
Great Pyrenees + Dachshund = Pyradachs, a puzzling breed
Pekingnese + Lhasa Apso = Peekasso, an abstract dog
Labrador Retriever + Curly Coated Retriever = Lab Coat Retriever, the choice of research scientists
Terrier + Bulldog = Terribull, a dog that makes awful mistakes
Bloodhound + Labrador = Blabador, a dog that barks (or drools) incessantly
Malamute + Pointer = Moot Point, owned by... Oh, well, it doesn't matter anyway
Collie + Malamute = Commute, a dog that travels to work with you
Pointer + Setter = Poinsetter, a traditional Christmas pet
Collie + Lhasa Apso = Collapso, a dog that folds up for easy transport

Saturday, 18 April 2009


I’ve selected this piece from the terrific website of the Trinity Network ( in Dublin, written by their dynamic senior leader Fergus Ryan. I came across some teaching tapes by Fergus many years ago on the Kingdom of God and it was some of the most refreshing and challenging material I had heard in an Irish context. Later he cropped up on the radio in an interview with Pat Kenny and again I was so impressed at the way he handled himself and the authentic manner in which he communicated the gospel. Fergus was formerly an airline pilot and studied theology at Trinity College. Nowadays apparently as well as his leadership role he enjoys painting.




Up to the beginning of the twentieth century the most ancient copies of the New Testament text were three vellum manuscripts, one in the Vatican Library and two others in the British Museum, all from the fourth and early fifth centuries. But in 1931 The Times announced the acquisition by Mr Alfred Chester Beatty, a wealthy American mining engineer, of a number of papyrus manuscripts of the Bible more ancient than any yet found. Most were from the third century, but some had been copied around AD 180, just over 100 years after the original writings. No comparable documents exist for any pagan writings of antiquity. The earliest copy of Plato in existence was written thirteen hundred years after his death.
The astonishing hoard of Biblical manuscripts had been uncovered near Cairo between 1928 and 1930, and purchased by Mr Chester Beatty. It soon became clear just how significant it was. Here was a book containing the earliest copies of the four Gospels and Acts, a century earlier than any others in existence. Another book contained most of Paul’s letters. These had survived the great destruction of sacred books ordered by Emperor Diocletian in AD 303. But not only do the Chester Beatty manuscripts contain New Testament texts, but Greek translations of parts of the Old Testament which are even older than some of the existing Hebrew texts. Here is almost the entire book of Genesis (missing from London and Rome) and the larger part of the book of Daniel (at least 700 years older than the copy in the Vatican).
In 1953 Sir Chester Beatty chose to make Dublin his home, and donated his wonderful collection of Biblical and other oriental manuscripts and European old master prints to Ireland. Amongst the latter are Albrecht Durer’s famous woodcuts of scenes from the Book of Revelation. In 1959 Pope John XXIII wrote to Sir Chester expressing his ‘pleasure and satisfaction’ at his contribution to Biblical study.
The Chester Betty papyri are amongst Ireland’s most precious treasures. But the most precious of all is the ordinary English translation of these wonderful documents on our own bookshelf at home. This too is the very breath of God, ‘the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.’ (Paul’s second letter to Timothy)

Fergus Ryan

Thursday, 16 April 2009


LOVE - what is love? A great and aching heart;
Wrung hands; and silence; and a long despair.
Life - what is life? Upon a moorland bare
To see love coming and see love depart.

Robert Louis Stevenson

Sunday, 12 April 2009


I’m off to the Burren in County Clare for a few days, my favourite part of the country apart from Shannonside of course ! This part of West Clare is a unique landscape twinned with the unusual geological formation of the limestone rocks and the wild furey of the Atlantic ocean. The whole place exudes wildness and calm in simultaneous irony, a special atmosphere where God’s majesty and power are awesomely paraded in the things that He has created. Seamus Heaney our Nobel poet is 70 on Monday and he too has been impressed with the Burren capturing his thoughts in this poem. ~GOSh.~


And some time make the time to drive out west

Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,

In September or October, when the wind

And the light are working off each other

So that the ocean on one side is

With foam and glitter, and inland among stones

The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit

By the earthed lightening of flock of swans,

Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,

Their fully-grown headstrong-looking heads

Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.

Useless to think you'll park or capture it

More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,

A hurry through which known and strange things pass

As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways

And catch the heart off guard and blow it open


Seamus Heaney

Saturday, 11 April 2009

He Is Risen

I am grateful to Peter and Elizabeth O'Donnoghue for alerting me to this clip from u tube, and i'm sure they would want me to share it with my fellow Hermonites. This short presentation succinctly points out the essential difference between Jesus of Nazareth and other World faith leaders. ~GOSh.~

Thursday, 9 April 2009



You were one with the Father.

Then the Father turned his back on you.

You felt forsaken,

hanging there between heaven's thunder

and the dank spittle of earth.

For that moment you belonged nowhere.

You were love, cut off from love;

truth nailed down by lies.

You must have wanted to explode, to disintegrate,

to disappear into a void.

But that was forbidden.

And that was the test.

Your blood burst through your skin

and ran down like sweat.

Your sweat ran cold

and drained into your heart.

The universe caught hold of your pain.

The sun went blind with grief.

The earth shivered in shock.

History was torn in two.

I stood at a distance,

my collar turned up,

like a murderer witnessing

a wrongful arrest.

Steve Turner

Wednesday, 8 April 2009


Picture by Antoin


It’s a while since we trawled the choppy waters of the worldwide web in search of Blogs that are a cut above the rest. John Waters, an Irish Times journalist whose opinion on most other things I regard, reckons that all bloggers are idiots. Present company excluded I think this is a ‘tabloid’ generalisation not befitting a commentator who would regard himself as a serious journalist and writer. And to prove my point I would like to draw your attention to a truly beautiful Blog called An Feithealann posted by the mysterious Antoin. The name of the Blog from the Irish is The Waiting Room, and certainly the mood of the photographs and literary selections suggest a careful and astute observer waiting with purpose ,with not only a keen sense of the solid stuff of this world, but one with an eye for the heavenly and ethereal. Antoin provides the pictures while he gleans the accompanying words from diverse sources hither, thither and yon. Here you will find prayers to still the troubled soul, poems to stir the flagging spirit and mystical musings to inspire the most jaded pilgrim. An Feithealann is a sanctuary of reflectiveness tucked away in a quiet slipstream of the web, pay a visit and decide for yourself if John Waters was right ! ~GOSh.~


Happy the man who has made harbour,
Who leaves behind him seas and storms,
Whose dreams are dead or never born,
And who sits and drinks in a Bremen beer-hall,
Beside the stove, in peace and quite.
Happy the man like an extinguished flame,
Happy the man like estuary sand,
Who has laid down his load and wiped his forehead
And rests at the side of the road.
He fears nothing, hopes for nothing, expects nothing,
But stares fixedly at the setting sun

Primo Levi


Aftermath of devastation in L'Aquila, Italy

The recent earthquake in Italy serves as a stark reminder of how fragile a hold we have on our existence on this planet. One man who survived told of how he and his wife .were asleep in bed when the disaster struck in the early hours of the morning. As the roof of their house collapsed he threw himself over his daughter to protect her, they both survived, his wife was killed. So far 250 people have been confirmed dead while hundreds are still unaccounted for. It proves the point about this life that the only certainty is its uncertainty, none of us know what awaits us tomorrow and into the future. An earthquake leaves a dramatic scenario in its wake, the very fabric of terra firma is ripped asunder and lives are literally swallowed into the belly of the earth. There is something chilling about seeing the gaping chasm left by the shifting tectonic plates and the bric-a-brac of ordinary life emptied into its cavernous deep.

The old country and western hymn got it right I think when it reminded us “ This world is not my home, I’m just a’ passin’ through…” This life is not a picnic it's a pilgrimage ! Those of us who endeavour (however fitfully) to live the Christian life are often counselled by well meaning friends and relations to “ keep your feet on the ground”. Nowadays the very ground is being taken from under us, not only in the actual reality of increasing global earthquake activity, but also in the rapid descent of our worldwide economies. Jesus warned time and time again about the temporary nature of this earthly sojourn, encouraging His followers to “ … seek … first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Mt 6:33). By the way ‘these things’ were the basics we need to keep body and soul together, food, drink and clothing ! It’s all about priorities, if this is all there is then it makes sense to invest everything into the here and now, but supposing all this ‘kingdom of heaven’ talk is true , well then…

This week is commonly known as Passion or Holy week as various denominations recall the events that led up to the death of Jesus by crucifixion . The death of Jesus is another unpleasant reality that somewhat mars the ‘Utopian’ landscape of the idealists and optimists of our human condition. Like the sudden and devastating effect of an upheaval on the crust of our earth, and the stinging blow of a global recession, what happened on Calvary 2000 years ago is one more stark milestone that should cause us to stop and ponder. How could one so good and noble as Christ be put to death in such a barbaric and tortured fashion, more especially as the whole sordid affair was schemed and incited by the religious elite of their day, the Scribes and Pharisees. Was this just another inexplicable senseless human tragedy ? Not a bit of it, as one of the criminals crucified beside Jesus came to recognise, His death was different and had an eternal significance. The convicted thief turned to Jesus and seeing beyond the marred visage of his blood streaked face, understood that this death was different and asked, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” (Luke 23:42)
Jesus died on behalf of that thief and on behalf of all who subsequently turn to Him recognising the power of His atonement. With all our human attributes and abilities we are , according to Scripture enslaved by the power of disobedience to Gods law, and Christ has taken our condemnation to the cross. The good news in this transient and shifting world is that the invitation of Jesus is a sure and solid dependable that we can trust even as we see so much crumbling about us. The love of God in sending His Son to die for our sins is a sure foundation on which to build a life here and now, and on which to place our hope for a glorious and everlasting future. This world will rattle and roll, our ‘certainties’will totter and disappear, but God’s truth endures forever. If you haven’t done so, let me encourage you to take that step of faith today and turn to Jesus, confessing your sins to Him and receive His gift of eternal life. No better way to mark this ‘Holy Week’ than to encounter the One who took those agonising steps to Calvary and died there for you and for me,.

Gerard O'Shea

Saturday, 4 April 2009



Did you hear about the lawyer on vacation whose sailboat capsized in dangerous, shark-infested waters?
He surprised his traveling companions by volunteering to swim to the far-off shore for help. As he swam, his companions were startled by the appearance of two dorsal fins -- great white sharks, heading straight toward the lawyer.
To their surprise, the sharks allowed the lawyer to take hold of their fins, and escorted him safely to shore.
When the lawyer returned with help, his companions asked him how he had managed such an incredible feat. The lawyer answered, "Professional courtesy."

Friday, 3 April 2009


Michael Harding the author of 'Moriarty'
A man sits dreaming by an open fire while behind him atop a celestial watchtower the female narrator reveals that he is John Moriarty the late poet and thinker from Kerry. Author and actor Michael Harding plays John in this dramatic production at the Siamsa Tire theatre in Tralee, simply called ‘Moriarty’. The first part of the story is depicted by the extraordinary display of the Siamsa dancers who enact aspects of the poet’s life with energy and subtlety to the haunting musical accompaniment of the Ceoltoiri. From his childhood carefree days at the foot of Mangerton to his eventual move to Dublin and later emigration to Canada , his life is sketched through the dance and music with occasional input from the narrator.
John's disdain for city life is effectively danced in a robotic, staccato style that visually hammers home the idea of the urban landscape as a soulless impersonal space where a man can easily lose his way. The dance displays the alienation and loneliness of the urban space where the rush and coldness of the city is dramatically portrayed. Later, Harding utters Moriarty’s damning indictment of this kind of life, “ I fell in love with a girl in Dublin, but what can you compare your love to in a city ? You can hardly say, ‘You are as beautiful as the GPO’ or, ‘You’re as lovely as the bus to Clontarf’. Whereas in Connemara when you fall in love , every single thing around you, the mountains, the lakes, the sky are all metaphors for love.”

John Moriarty in touch with the Muse
John also foresaw our economic hardships when he maintained that the most despicable area of a city is its financial sector where ‘muggers in suits’ prey upon the poor and the vulnerable. He himself left the rat-race quitting a teaching post at the university of Manitoba and returning to Ireland to live in the ‘wilds’ of Connemara and later to return home to his beloved Mangerton and the kingdom of Kerry. In these solitary rural places he found the time and the space to think and more importantly dream. There was a freedom in the natural world that allowed his philosopher head to swoon with ideas and dreaming , causing deep rumination on issues of life and death. It was in the stillness of the country that he learned not only to commune with himself and his God but with the creatures around him ,there in the silence he learned to talk to the curlew !
Harding’s portrayal of the philosopher/poet was exceptionally true to Moriarty’s voice and persona and it really fleshed out the words taken from Johns writings and delivered with uncanny faithfulness to his rich warm Kerry timbre. To the question can a Cavan man speak Kerry, the answer in this case is a definitive yes! It seemed to me that Moriarty was strangely present throughout this performance , as it was such an affectionate and sensitive homage to a wise and gentle soul.
Central to Moriarty’s thinking was Crossing over Kidron ( John 18:1) as Jesus did, entering the garden of Gethsemane and commencing the chain of events leading to His Passion and Crucifixion. In the redemptive narrative of the Gospels , John found his own salvation and identified closely with Christ’s abandonment on the cross causing Him to cry out ‘My God, oh my God, why have you forsaken me ?’ This aspect of John’s understanding was absent from the Siamsa drama and at least one theatre-goer was disappointed at what he considered this glaring omission. After the play the audience had the opportunity to interact with the writer and a gentleman who had travelled from Italy to see the production ,told of a meeting with John Moriarty several years ago that had a profound effect on his own life. Speaking with John and subsequently reading his works, this man had found his ‘salvation’ through the author's exposition of the profound implications of Jesus death and resurrection. He understandably felt that this bulwark of Moriarty’s ideology should have been referred to in the play. I think however, that Harding’s ‘Moriarty’ was not so much a potted digest of John’s ideas as the depiction of a man in a simple domestic setting, his head aflame with dreams and ideas which he sought to live out in a straightforward and ordinary manner in the community in which he lived. This ‘human’ element of the piece would draw in even those unfamiliar with the large and often difficult body of Moriarty’s writings.
Time to leave.
At the end ,John is still sitting in front of the flaming fire, the room filled with dancing shadows. When asked one time if he was ever lonely in such a setting he replied, “Lord save us, no. Sure don’t I always know that I’m there” After his cancer diagnosis and unsuccessful treatment his own mortality came sharply into focus as he wondered, “Do I have to go now. Could I have more time ?” During his chemotherapy John began loosing his once magnificent mane of hair, his solution was simple , he placed the displaced strands out in the garden so that the birds could use it to line their nests! Even in his extremity he was aware how inextricably we are connected to every living thing and how co-dependant we are. At the very last he knew that his departure was imminent, and agonised ,“I could screech with sorrow at the thought that we have to leave this world”. However his soul was stilled, his uneasiness calmed as he faced the ultimate inevitability, “Any minute now, the latch will sound and the Angel will come for me, and take me home.”‘Moriarty’ was a worthy homage to a great man and a gentle wise soul. In his life, writings and utterances John reminded us all that beautiful as this earth can be it is not our abiding home, and that even our most sublime thoughts are specks of dust in the face of an Almighty Father and an awaiting Eternity. This drama showed a man like each one of us in so many ways, yet unique in his gift and insight to see beyond what is seen and attempting to unravel the tangled sense of all our days as we quickly pass through this world.
Gerard O' Shea

Thursday, 2 April 2009


A neighbourhood.
At dusk.

Things are getting ready
to happen
out of sight.

Stars and moths.
And rinds slanting around fruit.

But not yet.

One tree is black.
One window is yellow as butter.

A woman leans down to catch a child
who has run into her arms
this moment.

Stars rise.
Moths flutter.
Apples sweeten in the dark.

Eavan Boland