Sunday 28 March 2010


Jacob in Angelic combat

A little East of Jordan,
Evangelists record,
A Gymnast and an Angel
Did wrestle long and hard –

Till morning touching mountain –
And Jacob, waxing strong,
The Angel begged permission
To Breakfast – to return!

Not so, said cunning Jacob!
"I will not let thee go
Except thou bless me" – Stranger!
The which acceded to –

Light swung the silver fleeces
"Peniel" Hills beyond,
And the bewildered Gymnast
Found he had worsted God!

Emily Dickinson

The poem is based on this story from the Book of Genesis...

This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”
But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
“What is your name?” the man asked.
He replied, “Jacob.”
“Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.”
“Please tell me your name,” Jacob said.
“Why do you want to know my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there.
Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.” The sun was rising as Jacob left Peniel, and he was limping because of the injury to his hip.

Genesis 32:24-31

Tuesday 23 March 2010


Abby onboard 'Wild Eyes'


The great criticism levelled against those of us who blog is that never before have so many had so much to say about so little ! To be fair there is a sizable portion of the blogosphere that even the stoutest blogger could not defend, as many are adrift on a virtual sea of triviality. From time to time one stumbles across a gem that redeems the whole blogging enterprise and rejuvenates that form as an exciting and vital expression of heroic human activity. Lately I have discovered the delights of Abby’s Blog, the online diary of an American 16 year old who is sailing single handed around the world endeavouring to become the world’s youngest solo circumnavigator . Her trip began last January when she left US waters, sailing along the western edge of South America, around Cape Horn and then across the Southern Ocean, considered for having some of the roughest seas in the world. She plans to sail nonstop on Wild Eyes, a high-tech racing yacht, for the entire trip, which could take up to six months. And you can share the adventure by checking out Abby’s Blog at where she blogs regularly of her daily adventures with some great photographs.

Here’s a sample from her entry for March 21 st., “ Today has been a pretty quiet day with not a whole lot of wind. I'm just slowly headed towards the horn. Yesterday was pretty much the same until the evening. Last night was a little exciting. The wind picked up to 25-30 knots with a large swell that unfortunately was on my beam. At about 2 in the morning, I was asleep down below when I woke up a little dazed, wondering how my dishes that were kept in the sink had made it all the way into my lap all the way across the cabin!
I then noticed that I was sitting on the wall, not my bed. (just goes to show you what a comfortable bed I have!) Well, my auto pilot went into standby mode and so I jumped outside and grabbed the tiller just in time to keep Wild Eyes from gybing. I got her back on course and set the auto pilot again. I walked around to check over the boat, every thing was fine, a little tossed around, but nothing broken. Because I was asleep I'm not sure exactly what happened. With the swells as they were, it could have just been a large swell that knocked Wild Eyes over.”… Exciting huh ?

The uniqueness of being a ‘fly on the wall’ during such a momentous trip is really exhilarating and the opportunity to send Abby messages of support in her ‘comments’ section adds to the sense of being a participant in this 16 year-olds adventure of a lifetime. Even for an old ‘land-lubber’ like myself with the shakiest of sea-legs I joy in the vicarious thrill of sailing full-throttle aboard ‘Wild Eyes’ as she sails around the world. Step on board, and become part of the worldwide virtual crew !

Gerard O'Shea

Friday 19 March 2010



Two of the blogs which I follow are written by a young woman who lives in the U S A and is obviously very creative and artistic. Coupled with her love of our very own U 2 her blogged pieces make for interesting and stimulating reading. ( the blogs are ’ A Reflection On The Water’ and ‘A Light On The Water’ , see Blogs I Like in margin) So when Andrea approached me to help with a college project I was happy to do so. She was set the task of painting a word picture of somebody's experiences from a different culture to her own, and to that end she interviewed me over facebook on March 13 th. As the main body of the ‘chat’ concerns my ‘conversion’ story I thought it might be of interest to some Hermonites to share it here.

Andrea: First one: Where were the schools you attended located in Ireland?
Gerard: In Limerick city
Andrea: Okay. Thanks. What years were you there? Just trying to put it into perspective with other world events, etc.
Gerard: Ah dates...I left Secondary school about 1974
Andrea: Okay. How long were you there for?.
Gerard: About 6 years at junior level and the same at senior level.
Andrea: Okay. Now for some slightly more difficult questions... In the questionnaire, you talked about your “dramatic conversion experience.” What was your life like before it?
Gerard: I was a fairly devout 'religious' Catholic, attending church and trying to live my life as best I could. I knew there must be a God from the glorious creation etc,. but I had no first hand knowledge of Him. I was always curious about other world religions views and read up as much as I could on them. Through a magazine called The Plain Truth I started to read the Bible for the first time and from my knowledge of it, I realised that whatever I might be I most definitely was not (according to the Biblical definition) a Christian.
Andrea: So it was a fairly self and God-initiated conversion? Were there people who influenced you as well?
Gerard: Yes, apart from the magazine and the Bible I was also listening to evangelist Billy Graham on the radio. so intellectually I knew what a 'real' Christian was. Also in my second last year at school a classmate had become a a 'Jesus freak' as we referred to him. The change in his life was hugely impressive and he spent all his free time telling us, about Jesus and being 'born again.’ To be honest at the time I thought he was intellectually weak but there was something compelling about his radical lifestyle and his simple message that spoke loudly to me.
Andrea: That is so neat. You wrote in your “Catholic Church Abuse” blog entry that your “hope is that the baby won’t be tossed out with the bathwater as the distinction between the glorious message of Jesus and the moribund works of failed religion are muddled in the public mind.” Yet given your childhood schooling, it surprises me that you didn’t toss the baby “out with the bathwater” yourself. How did you come to make the distinction between what people do in the name of Christ (religion, etc.), and Christ Himself?
Gerard: I could see a marked difference between the professed Christianity of the Catholic church with all it tradition of pomp and dogma and the teaching of Jesus set out in the Gospels which by comparison shone like a precious jewel. You should understand that back then the Bible was a closed book for most Catholics, we were not encouraged to read it, so when I did it was new and fresh and revelatory. Also the effect of that 'simple' Gospel in the life of my schoolmate and in the preaching of Graham seemed to me to be endued with a power and integrity I had not witnessed before.
Andrea Would you say that your treatment in the Catholic schools had a role in your rejection of Catholicism (if so, how?)
Gerard I think the lack of Christlikeness exhibited in the lives of the ‘professional’ clergy and Brothers was an influence. I recall a Christian Brother visiting our class to recruit for vocations to the Brothers asking the question ’ why would you not consider joining the religious life ?’. I put my hand up and answered, “ because they (the Brothers) are in my experience neither ‘Christian’ or ‘brotherly’ ‘ Needless to say my contribution went down like a lead balloon ! Later after I had become a Christian believer I learned to separate fallible human beings from the truth as expressed in Scripture. I then rejected Catholicism not just because of my perceived lack of reality in it, but on the basis that its tenets did not always concur with the clear teaching of the Bible.
Andrea I hate to bring up bad memories, but could you tell me a bit more about your time in school?
Gerard I was a day attendee at the Ard Scoil Ris (Rice High School, named after the Brother;s founder Ignatius Rice) Secondary school. The only abuse I witnessed there was corporal punishment and ‘cruel’ verbal put downs from the Principal, Bro. Harry Cotter. He would humiliate you in class and get the student behind to administer punishment by hitting you in the back using phrases like ‘down the cripple’ and ‘hit him harder’ Also one of the lay teachers was given to physical punishments and other teachers administered slaps on the hand using a black leather strap made explicitly for the purpose. Sometimes the strap would be used to hit you on the ankles.
Andrea: Have others of your former schoolmates taken a similar route to the one you've already mentioned , in terms of rejecting religion and choosing Christ? It seems to be something I hear fairly often from Irish people... U2, for instance.
Gerard: To my knowledge no one else in my class had a similar experience. And it was a few years after I had left school that I met up with my 'J Freak' friend in a factory, and to my astonishment he was still radiating the 'joy of the Lord', even in that difficult atmosphere. We had many discussions and again nothing he particularly said was new to me apart from his claim of knowing Jesus Christ personally. This 'knowing' was the hurdle I could not cross over even with all my book knowledge and keenness to discover the true path.
Andrea: So what finally brought you to the point of "knowing?"
Gerard: The unexpected intervention of the Lord himself, I believe. Quite simply one night as I was preparing to go to bed I became overwhelmed with a sense of my own sinfulness and unworthiness. I was convinced that my sins had put Christ on the cross and that He died there for me. The scene of His crucifixion was almost like a vision , I could see and feel the experience intensely. As I cried over my wickedness this overwhelming tide of forgiveness and grace swept over my whole being and I knew for the first time in my life that this Jesus who died on the cross two thousand years ago, died for me, loved me, and was alive !
This was the most momentous single event of my life and I knew at the time that it was going to be hugely significant. I was so shaken and elated by the experience that I got dressed and went out (it was after midnight) for a walk to try and take in what had just occurred. I have often said since that it was fortunate that I met no one in my nocturnal rambling because the way I was feeling I would have hugged them to death as the feeling of wellbeing I had was so intense.. Later that morning I wrote about the event carefully in my Diary because I felt I would not believe it on the following day if the feeling had evaporated.. The diary entry wasn’t just a record of what had taken place but a charter of how I wished to live from that time on, loosely based on what I knew of the Sermon on the Mount. When I did wake the following morning the ‘experience’ had lasted and I knew that I had begun a new kind of life ( later I would learn that the New Testament term for what had happened that night was me being ‘born again’)
Andrea: Wow. That reminds me of Augustine's conversion. We've been reading his Confessions in my Philosophy class.
Gerard: Augustine I aint ! but God is good.
Andrea: Amen to that. Maybe this should be obvious, but I've been wondering why you haven't chosen to align yourself with a Protestant denomination. It seems like something many former Catholics do, at least here in the US.
Gerard: Aha...because I was always careful only to align myself to what I knew to be true, and that was Jesus. For a year after my conversion I continued to attend Mass and got more out of it than I had ever before, but always as a memorial and not as a repeat of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Meanwhile I went denomination shopping trying to meet other people who shared my experience of the New Birth. Eventually I found a non-denominational 'Brethren' group where everyone from the age of 16 to 60 could talk about 'becoming a believer' and discovering God's love for themselves. I threw my lot in with them for many years and enjoyed sweet times of fellowship and growing in the knowledge of the Word. I then separated myself from the Catholic faith as I discovered more and more in the Bible that could not be reconciled to that doctrine and practise. I endeavoured not to become anti-Catholic in a vitriolic or aggressive sense as Irish people were fiercely loyal to their ‘faith‘, and I had no wish to complicate the Gospel by 'bashing' my former coreligionists along the way. Over the years many have come to personal faith in Jesus and replaced dry church dogma with a living relationship with God Himself.
Andrea: That makes sense. The religious abuses in Ireland seem like a real struggle to get over, in terms of people coming to Christ. Do you think Ireland can fully recover from them? Is there hope for the Church there, or is the strained relationship between religion and people too much?
Gerard: I think the Catholic Church has too long enjoyed the trappings of political power over genuine spiritual hunger, whether it can ever discover or retrieve that is hard to know. In the 1970's the Charismatic Movement brought many church people to the Lord and to the Bible but quickly the 'official clergy' intervened to contain the Movement and effectively killed it off. I do believe that the church Jesus died for is that city on the hill which gives light to the surrounding nations by example. And part of that example is the selfless life of community where all have all in common
Andrea: Well, it seems you and your friends are doing what you can to shine bright.
Gerard: The blueprint is easy to recite, the doing of it is (as you know) not so easy.


Wednesday 17 March 2010


In God’s nearness, in the manifestation of God’s power, Jesus reveals our smallness and our antagonism more clearly than any human reasoning. God’s light reveals everywhere to Him and to ourselves our baseness and smallness, our darkness and weakness. In His sight we can appear only as we really are.

Eberhard.Arnold,. Innerland, .
“The.Experience.of.God ”

Tuesday 16 March 2010


Not many of you were overtaxed by the ‘mystery’ text I blogged some two weeks ago, well today I can reveal that the quotation was taken from our National saint, Patrick’s ‘confession’. This work penned by Patrick’s own hand is the only reliable literary source we have to inform us of the reality of the Apostles mission to Ireland as against the rich body of legend and hearsay that has built up over the centuries. When I was a child we were taught that Saint Patrick brought Catholic Christianity to this island having been sent here by the Pope to ‘civilise’ the wild Irish. In vain you will search his own writings to confirm this fable as he did not come here to Romanise the natives with the trappings of that religious institution, but rather according to himself to make disciples for Jesus, His Lord

He writes “ ’ And likewise the Lord foretells through the prophet: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days (sayeth the Lord) that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams; yea, and on my menservants and my maidservants in those days I will pour out my Spirit and they shall prophesy.’ And in Hosea he says: ‘Those who are not my people I will call my people, and those not beloved I will call my beloved, and in the very place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” they will be called ’Sons of the living God.”’

The church left by Patrick was an independent Celtic fellowship that for centuries fiercely resisted the attempted intrusions of Rome into their order and governance. In the light of the recent woes of Catholicism in Ireland because of that institutions cover-up of clerical sexual abuse, one cannot help but wonder how the ‘gospel’ would have fared if the Irish church had successfully withstood the rule of Rome over her . The majority expression of ‘Christianity’ in our country today is in a sorry state, not ruined from enemies without but crumbling from the culture of secrecy and covertness within. A good time to remind all fair minded people of the original message preached by Patrick centering on the personal redemption of Jesus Christ and the illumination for the human soul from His glorious Word.

Towards the end of Patrick’s ‘Confession’ he writes of his motivation and hoped for reward, “ Behold, I call on God as my witness upon my soul that I am not lying; nor would I write to you for it to be an occasion for flattery or selfishness, nor hoping for honour from any one of you. Sufficient is the honour which is not yet seen, but in which the heart has confidence. He who made the promise is faithful; he never lies.” May God himself raise up men and women who will continue the evangelisation of our land with such purity and purpose, an Ireland redeemed and reborn !

Gerard O'Shea

Sunday 14 March 2010


Last evening the Limerick skyline was lit up by a spectacular fireworks display under the walls of King Johns Castle. The illuminations were laid on courtesy of the National Lottery and kicked off the St Patrick's week festival on Shannonside. I watched the colourful spectacle from the domestic comfort of an upstairs window, tuning in periodically to the live TV broadcast just in case I’d miss anything !

And to tie in with the general celebratory atmosphere I am hoping to celebrate my 54 th birthday next Thursday (March 18) at Foleys (by the river) at 10 pm followed by a live performance by Yvonne Mc Carthy at the Brazen Head.

All Dew readers who find themselves at a loose end on the night are welcome to attend, you’d never know even the notorious Anonymous might show ! No presents required just your presence…

Thursday 11 March 2010


Locked in battle on and off the field


While the national religion in Ireland may be Catholic the local religion here in Limerick is decidedly Rugby and now the two are locked together in mortal combat over the opening of public houses on the forthcoming Good Friday. The RUI (Rugby Union of Ireland) have scheduled a Munster-Leinster match to be played on the ‘holy day’ when by law no pubs are allowed to open. Over 40,000 rugby fans are expected to fill the venue on the day and the local hard-pressed Vintners are piqued that they will be unable to slake this collective thirst and take in some badly needed revenue. So the Vintners Association are making a legal challenge to the traditional ban on pub opening on Good Friday, and the issue has divided people into two camps, the traditionalists who do not want any change in the current status quo and the rugby aficionados who understandably want to enjoy a good day out.

Munster fan anticipates Good Friday pub closures

My position on this may surprise some readers, there are just two days in the year when this country’s love-affair with alcohol is curtailed- Good Friday and Christmas Day and I can’t see any good reason to change this. I don’t think there is any religious argument to maintain the ‘sanctity’ of Good Friday as this is just another man-made concoction to annually commemorate what in truth should be a daily consideration for a follower of Jesus. Socially however I think it’s a sad day for our state if we are unable to function for two days in the year without the sale of alcohol. Why not have the RUI change the date for the game rather than railroad the courts to provide refreshments for the rugby crowd, last time I checked it is a game of sport not a life choice ! One of the Franciscan Friar Community based in Moyross has gone too far when he has condemned the playing of rugby on the day as a threat to our ‘Christian civilisation’ Last time I checked there wasn’t much of Christian civilisation’ in evidence around town, and whether or not Munster fields a team is not likely to affect the situation one way or another. But let the pubs stay shut I say and let the rugby officials come to some other arrangement to keep their fans happy, I’m for the Good Friday pint ban.
Gerard O'Shea



What is this room
But the moments we have lived in it?
When all due has been paid
To gods of wood and stone
And recognition has been made
Of those who'll breathe here when we are gone
Does it not takes its worth from us
Who made it because we were here?

Your words are the only furniture I can remember
Your body the book that told me most.
If this room has a ghost
It will be your laughter in the frank dark
Revealing the world as a room
Loved only for those moment when
We touched the purely human.

I could give water now to thirsty plants,
Dig up the floorboards, the foundation,
Study the worm's confidence,
Challenge his omnipotence
Because my blind eyes have seen through walls
That make safe prisons of the days.

We are living
In ceiling, floor and windows,
We are given to where we have been.
This white door will always open
On what our hands have touched,
Our eyes have seen.


Brendan Kennelly

Tuesday 9 March 2010


The traditional chatting place, over the garden fence
There are so many reasons why you might be reading the Dew of Hermon blog, you might have ‘googled’ across it, or maybe an enlightened friend put you wise to it, or perhaps you found a ‘Dew’ card in a restaurant or pub and curious about ‘ a blog you can believe in’ you logged on. Or perhaps you know me and you've logged on out of idle curiosity or maybe you are part of that elite group that recognise the ‘Dew; for the cultural and cutting edge watering-hole that it is and you realise that to miss a post would be tantamount to an act of intellectual and cultural vandalism ! Now there is yet another reason to regularly dip into the ‘Dew of Hermon’ well, a recent study has concluded that while idle everyday chit-chat will drain your psyche and addle your brain, deep and meaningful discussions are much more likely to make the participants experience feelings of happiness and fulfilment.
Could he be on facebook ?
Scientists have found that a person’s well-being is directly related to the incidence of profound discussions they have. So while others are twittering and face booking inanities about hobbies, favourite TV programs and pop star heroes we here on Hermon mountain are deliberating on the meaning of life and the stuff of a satisfied mind like poetry and metaphysical meanderings, and like the cod-liver oil of childhood it may not always be too pleasant to take but now you know it will be good for you in the end ! I learned this lesson during my Secondary school-days when with three friends we would gather against the wall of the Ardhu Hotel on Roses Avenue to discuss those big questions about God and life and meaning. So while our peers dashed off to hurling matches and rugby games to get a cheap adrenaline rush, me and my scholastic buddies ruminated over the great philosophical conundrums of life and left the gathering all the better for the experience. I recall those meetings, especially the Friday one which continued a bit longer in light of the Saturday morning sleep-in, with great fondness and indeed gratitude as they set me off asking the questions that in time brought me face to face with the ultimate Answer (but that’s a story for another blog !)

Blissfully logged on to 'Dew of Hermon'
The prestigious Psychological Science journal found that those who spent more time with others rather than alone experienced the highest levels of well-being but they were more surprised to find that the content of conversations dramatically affected how happy the volunteers were. Those with the widest grins had twice as many deep and meaningful conversations as the least happy. The inference for ‘Dew’readers is clear, while merely reading the blogs will increase your ‘happy’ feelings , if you leave a comment and enter into dialogue with fellow Hermonites the results may border on the ecstatic ! The co-author of the study Matthias Mehl an assistant professor at the University of Arizona concludes, “These findings suggest that the happy life is social and conversationally deep rather than solitary and superficial ”.
Gerard O'Shea

Saturday 6 March 2010


Darkness is falling through darkness
Falling from ledge
To ledge.
There is a man whose body is perfectly whole.
He stands the storm behind him
And the grass blades are leaping in the wind.
Darkness is gathered in folds
About his feet.
He is no one. When we see
Him we grow calm
And sail on into the tunnels of joyful death.
Robert Bly



I spotted this sandwich board outside a pub in Patrick Street, Limerick this morning as I was on my way to the Market. I can see the humorous intent but it’s a pity that those words from the Masters own lips are debased for a cheap laugh. Such is the general apathy and cynicism to all things religious at present I doubt if too many eyebrows will be raised by this pavement display. Don’t get me wrong I don’t want to see this type of jibe banned, I believe in freedom of speech, but it just struck me as yet another sign of these unsettled times. ~GOSh.~

Friday 5 March 2010


The following words were written at the end of a long and fruitful
life by a man who had completed the task set him by God. I will
reveal his name in twelve days time, meanwhile the visual clue
above might be of help !
And there the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my insignificance and pitied my youth and ignorance…
Therefore, indeed, I cannot keep silent, nor would it be proper, so many favours and graces has the Lord deigned to bestow on me in the land of my captivity.
For there is no other God, nor ever was before, nor shall be hereafter, but God the Father, unbegotten and without beginning, in whom all things began, whose are all things, as we have been taught; and his son Jesus Christ, who manifestly always existed with the Father, before the beginning of time in the spirit with the Father, indescribably begotten before all things, and all things visible and invisible were made by him. He was made man, conquered death and was received into Heaven, to the Father who gave him all power over every name in Heaven and on Earth and in Hell, so that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and God, in whom we believe. And we look to his imminent coming again, the judge of the living and the dead…
And I know in part why I did not lead a perfect life like other believers, but I confess to my Lord and do not blush in his sight, because I am not lying; from the time when I came to know him in my youth, the love of God and fear of him increased in me, and right up until now, by God's favour, I have kept the faith…
What is more, let anyone laugh and taunt if he so wishes. I am not keeping silent, nor am I hiding the signs and wonders that were shown to me by the Lord many years before they happened, who knew everything, even before the beginning of time…
For the sun we see rises each day for us at [his] command, but it will never reign, neither will its splendour last, but all who worship it will come wretchedly to punishment. We, on the other hand, shall not die, who believe in and worship the true sun, Christ, who will never die, no more shall he die who has done Christ's will, but will abide for ever just as Christ abides for ever, who reigns with God the Father Almighty and with the Holy Spirit before the beginning of time and now and for ever and ever. Amen.