A Scented Moment

A Reflection on Diocesan Priesthood in Ireland for Holy Thursday 2020. Due to the Covid-19
Pandemic there is no Chrism Mass and hence no Blessing of Oils

A Scented Moment

We were good men once. We were believed in.
We gave till nothing more could be given, now all has been taken.
Once we cultivated, built, funded, fought,
Now queue we like children at a dated fairground
Seeking momentary thrill and excitement,
An escape from banality and worthlessness.

Once we had authority given by sacred oil that dripped
Into our every pore now authority, even that of service, is gone,
Stolen in the darkest night, leaving only a bare and disgruntled dawn.
Where to look for that which is lost – no one knows
And the gulf is filled with incompetent grunts and silver tongued syllables.

That which served God has become the god and all is lost.
A new way where oil is poured fresh and new to heal painful pores.
Where the relief of joy
Forces open the fullness of the Promise from He who is promise fulfilled
Where is that jar of hope?
Where is the oil of gladness?
Oh for a momentary scent of what could be.
That scented moment might let us begin again.

Alan Hilliard, April 2020 @therevhilliard

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Reception of the Remains of Liam Magee Tuesday the 14th May 2019 Homily

I recently downloaded John Prine’s latest album. I’ve been listening to it in my car and on my headphones for the last few weeks. Words of some of the songs came to mind as the reality of Liam’s death cast its shadow into every moment and every second of Friday night. The album is called Tree of Forgiveness and the track I found going around in my head is one entitled; When I get to Heaven. John, like most American folk singers, has become more faith filled as he moves over the 70 mark. Rolling Stone wrote an article on him entitled Inside hisWild past and Grounded Present

Liam could have written the song When I get to Heaven.

When I  get to Heaven, I’m goin to shake God’s hand…Thank him for more blessings than one man can stand…Then I’m going to get a guitar and set up a rock and roll band…Check into a swell hotel…ain’t the afterlife grand. 

It’s the chorus though that I felt Liam coming through…And then I’m going to get a cocktail, vodka and ginger ale and smoke a cigar that’s nine miles long. 

No matter where Liam would be he’d have to be the best with the best of everything…even if it is in the heavens. That’s what we loved about him I suppose. His ability to be the best and to do the best in all things. He wrote his own spirituality for life and its one that is worth contemplating. We could all learn a bit from it. 

The bible is full of quotes whereby God takes delight in his people’s delight; Liam contributed greatly to God’s delight; he really, really showed us how to be happy. He was God’s gentle and lovable rogue, the Robin Hood of his trade and just fun to be around. What better image would we want of Liam in eternity than sipping a cocktail and smoking a long cigar.

In the second verse of the song Prine says he’d open a nightclub called the Tree of Forgiveness where he’d invite along his critics, feed them with pints of Smithwicks and again, a Liam moment, smother them with his charm. But he also says he’d forgive everyone that ever did me harm. The liturgy today is about forgiveness or mercy, placing those we love, especially Liam before the mercy of God. We all need God’s mercy and the kind forgiveness of one another. The one trait of one who is forgiven is the wish to forgive others. Thankfully we don’t need to charm God for his forgiveness, we only need to ask him and this is why we gather this evening – to ask God to forgive Liam for his failings and to receive him warmly into God’s eternal embrace. We hope to assist him on that journey with our prayers this evening. I suppose that this is a good thing; if Liam was depending on one of his horses to carry him into the arms of God he’d be in right trouble. Our prayers have better odds!

The reason we gather this evening is also to offer tangible support to Ann his wife. To his children Nicole, Ciara, Sarah and Craig and his brother Noel. The suddenness of this passing leaves us in shock not just at his passing but the fact that we are asked to absorb the fact that life can be so fragile, so tender, so unpredictable, and so unforgiving. 

My own mother used to say ‘death is very final son’ I didn’t realise the full tenor of that saying until she herself died last Christmas. You can negotiate with sickness, with recovery, with infirmity, but not with death; it is so final and what we’d give to dissolve that finality for a moment. 

The only one in history who helped us sees beyond the curtain of death into the possibility of life beyond is the person of Jesus at this time of Easter. The accounts tell us that there is more. Sometimes we have to dare ourselves to think beyond this life; to think outside the box and even live outside the box as Liam did. Others want to put us in a box to limit and control us; Liam couldn’t be limited or controlled, even by Anne,  neither could Jesus – he wasn’t limited even by sickness, suffering, or death. Dare to think and live differently as Liam did and as the person of Jesus encourages us to do; even in the face of death. After all the Spurs motto is To Dare is to Do.

John Prine also says when he gets to heaven he’s going to take his wristwatch off. The concept of eternity is a timeless place with no more anxiety; where the futility of this world no longer torments us. His song also tells us that he’ll look for his mother and father and his mother’s sisters coz, he says, that’s where all the love starts. This is the ultimate quest I suppose, not just to sip cocktails or smoke cigars but to find the source of all love and be a part of it forever. 

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Mass of the Resurrection for Liam Magee 15th May 2019

Early on Saturday morning I was in the college I work in preparing to welcome many people who were taking part in the annual event known as Darkness into Light. As people arrived, walked, talked, and then eventually went on their way I couldn’t but be aware of the events of the evening before when in a little corner of Kilcock we walked from light into darkness. It was a typical evening with Liam, skitty, fun-filled and busy. He was uplifted by the fact that he had been told he was at the tail end of pneumonia; having said to me only on the day before –‘I don’t have pneumonia; I know better than those doctors what pneumonia is!’ As the world walked from darkness into light we walked from light into a terrifying darkness. As I drove from Dublin I received updates I knew that this situation was worsening. I prayed for Liam; I actually said to God ‘we’ve had two miracles this week…please give us a third…the first – Liverpool, the second – Super Spurs and now please give us Liam’. I had a sense that the odds were high but even Liam didn’t think Spurs would pull it off…so why not him, ‘please, please God, give us a miracle’ I said.  But we were left with only the two; the third one eluded us.

I know many people find it hard to believe in God to day or even easy not to believe in him so I  ask you to hear this story that I’ve just read from the Gospel. Even if you don’t believe in God it is of gargantuan proportion as a piece of literature. It tells of two people, it tells us one was a man but  doesn’t say if the other is a  man or a woman walking along a road. They are devastated, crest-fallen and lost; does this sound familiar to anyone here today? They are traveling to a village called Emmaus. Many of the villages and towns known to us from scripture are familiar to us today; Jerusalem, Bethlem, Capernaum, Nazareth, and the list can go on but no one, despite all the archaeological digs, no one has ever found Emmaus. The authors were saying that those two on the road didn’t know where they were even going so upset were they. They were directionless and lost. Again, does this sound familiar to anyone here today? 

These two wanderers met with someone who lifted their spirits. He helped them to see their world differently and to view it in a more hope-filled way. He wasn’t afraid of their despair, he could step into it with them and walk them out of it. We can do one of two things with despair, we can stay in it and wallow in it or we can decide that when we taste it there is only one way to go and that is out of it, never looking back. I think you’d know the answer to the question as to what approach would Liam Magee take? Liam was positivity and hope on legs, or even at times in a wheel chair, or even a hospital bed. I remember when I was at the darkness into light event that despite all the physical ailments that Liam had known – I’ve never known him to have any traces of what we might call mental illness.  

He was always fascinated by some of my adventures one of which was a visit to Rwanda to work with survivors of the genocide. I’d like to quote something from one of the sisters I worked with as it captures something of Liam’s attitude. ‘I was pained to see things reach the bottom, one could not go lower…I did not stop asking myself what the future held. When you reach the bottom, you can stay there and die, or chose to go back up. I prayed that we do the latter’. 

Liam liked stories of this kind because he knew they were real. Real people struggling with real challenges and making real progress. They were stories that overlapped with his life. He knew what it was to be pushed to the limits in a human sense.  Maybe today we listen to the Gospel of Luke and we listen to the Gospel of Liam. Luke tells us that hope can join our despair and help us see a future. Liam’s Gospel says much the same but probably with a  lot more colloquialisms! The second reading was chosen for many reasons but one line stood out, ‘Glory be to Him whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine’.

So what would he say to us now; you know better than me. Liam was very honest; if he felt that power was of human making alone he would have been asked to be buried in place other than here. However, he chose a Church and he wanted the full works. He liked to back an outsider as they was a better reward on your investment if they won but today he put his money on the favourite.

He’d tell us he’s ok…in actual fact he’d probably tell us that he’d got the best deal ever with God…he’d tell us to be happy and enjoy the gifts of creation…seek the best deals…work to live, don’t live to work…he ‘d say don’t get bogged down in the negatives-there is much to be positive about. He wouldn’t dismiss our sadness or patronise it, but he’d find a way of walking along side us until we could see a better horizon. 

In short we are very lucky and fortunate to know Liam Magee. You Anne know that in a particular way as you really loved and supported one another – you made one another be more and more the person God intended you to be; something neither of you couldn’t have done on your own. It was beautiful to watch. And Nicole, Ciara, Sarah and Craig. He was a father to you maybe you can think about him ‘whose power at work in you can do infinitely more than you could ask or imagine’. He has left you each something very special; seek it out. Like the good Lord on the road, he has walked with you and he can help you find your way.

Many of us will remember him in different ways. When Spurs beat Liverpool on the 1st of June, we’ll go to dial his number. Others will think of him in Punchestown especially when your horse comes in last thinking it must be one of Liam’s. Many of us when we need something printed will realise he’s not there to transform our simple idea into something amazing. And if it was a load of rubbish he’s tell us too but also would give us the reassuring ‘Leave it with me’.

However I think we should all remember him if ever we lose hope! Remember him when like the two disciples on the road we do not know where we are going. He never lost hope. His example will help us always to walk from any amount of darkness into the light.

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Funeral Homily for Mary Chase

St. Brendan’s Church Coolock
21st of March 2020

Mary Chase died after a full, healthy life. Though old age had crept up on her, her mind, her body, and her soul, stayed strong. It wasn’t until a fall last weekend that she was admitted to Beaumont Hospital and while there, she crossed over into everlasting life. This great loss is expressed beautifully in the words at the end of the death notice on RIP.ie, words I haven’t seen often at the end of a death notice. They are I líonta Dé go gcastar sinn. Trying to translate these words to give their true meaning is difficult, however, roughly translated it means Into God’s nets may she be caught up in. These words give us as sense of her being folded into the arms of God. Just as Mary folded her loving arms around you all at various stages of your life. After a fall when you were a child, after a break-up, after a crash (both in a car and of the financial sort!)

Mary died on the Feast of St. Joseph. There is much fuss made of St Patrick and so St Joseph may not get much of a look in but I think there is a relevance here today. My own mother made sure to put those large white lilies at St Joseph’s statue on the 19th of March every year as did her father before her.

There are three aspects of St. Joseph that apply to the Mary Chase that I knew and hopefully the Mary Chase that you knew too! Firstly, like St Joseph she did things quietly not wanting any attention or thanks. We know little about Joseph maybe because he wanted it that way, but when he was needed he was there. He didn’t look for attention, but he did his duty. We know he was at the wedding feast of Cana where Jesus turned what was banal and ordinary into something far from ordinary. Mary may not have shouted from the roof-tops but Mary brought that same charm to what can be a banal ordinary life. Over ‘lots of chats and lots of tea’ she enjoyed a joke, a funny incident or just the plain ordinary craic…life was too short for any other option.

Secondly, Joseph was a dreamer. So too was Mary; a dreamer…not a day dreamer. She dreamed for every one of you. She knew what you could be and she pushed you and she pushed for you to be the best at what you could be. Real dreams come from the soul, they don’t frighten us or harm us. They are the souls way of waking us up to deeper realties and immense possibilities that we might miss if we live distracted lives. Mary’s soul was deep. It was nurtured through prayer and her love of the mass. In essence she achieved her purpose in life, yes she had five great children and five wonderful grandchildren but her greatest purpose was achieved in that at the end of her life she knew her God. Like Joseph, she knew God’s ways and she stuck with them. And so she goes today not to a stranger that she has to apologise to, but to a friend with whom there is a mutual desire to catch up and feel at home tin one another’s company. They can sit together as there is no fear or talk of ‘social distancing’!

Thirdly St Joseph was a protector. We know from the biblical accounts that he took the risks to keep his family from harm. Mary too was your protector; she may not have fought all your battles but she gave you the strength and wisdom to know what to do when you faced them and to always come out of those battles with your dignity. As a matter of fact she probably knew about all your battles before you even knew about them yourself! Throughout life she made sure you were all safe. By choosing to live in this parish she provided you with a safe network to connect with and to grow strong with and to be fair you all gave as much back if not more. She taught you that the greatest protections was strong connections with people who believe the same things and share the same outlook and humour. She taught you about friendship as she modelled it with her own good friends most notably Anne Maguire and Joan Morgan.

These three overlapping characteristics of St Joseph and Mary Chase , a quiet influencer, a dreamer for others, and a protector are only the tip of the ice-berg as Mary has many more qualities. You see the great measure of the woman and of any person is never any one thing. She was lots of things. Today many people narrow the world by living with one idea of life. There are many ways to live and many angles to life. As the political theorist Michael Walzer has written, a self whose identity is made up of only one source is shallow and totalizing.

She was a proud Meath lady from a place called Bohermeen; a place I picked potatoes in believe it or not! A village outside Navan in the shadow of Tara Mines. She left there to go to London because there was nothing in Co. Meath and like my own parents returned to make her home here in Coolock where she lived happily since the mid 1960s; close on 60 years.

Her faith allowed her to venture into community, friendships, and fun. Before Tomangos – she ran the place to which the gang would go every Friday night here in the village. She facilitated our journey through Showaddywaddy, Queen, The Rolling Stones, Abba, Led Zepplin, Saturday Night Fever, even God help us – Bon Jovi. She, for us, was the platform that gave us music and the fun that accompanies it. She was the equivalent of today’s Spotify and i – tunes. Without her effort and others like her that music would not have been ours to hear and understand.

The readings chosen to day are her readings. They are her words; they are what she would want to tell us. The first reading tells us she is at a party where there is no more tears or suffering (and where there is lots of chats and lots of tea) She is there because she has fought the good fight. If she was to pick any words to leave us with it‘d be the line from the second reading; Be careful always to choose the right course; be brave under trials; make the preaching of the Good News your life’s work, in thoroughgoing service.

And finally the Gospel; the way to eternity is through Jesus – we can see the many aspects of his life in Mary’s life. I believe that God created us so that he could see his image in us; so he could delight in us. He delighted in Mary. You will miss her; she was a great mother, grandmother and friend. She delighted in all of you. That is God – to take delight in things when there is much to give out about. Go from here now; though grief may weigh heavy, delight in things and when grief subsides (it never goes away), but when it subsides, continue to delight in things. Don’t be distracted by quick fixes or tacky things delight as Mary did and as God does in all that there is to delight in.

Gordan asked me to finish with a line. I used this line at my own father’s fueral only a few months ago. It tells what we do in funeral liturgy in this Church of St. Brendan with a somewhat diminished community today. These words were penned by a priest friend of mine and they go as follows ‘she loved us into existence – we love her into eternity’. Rest in peace Mary Chase as we love you into eternity.

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COPING WITH THE UNCERTAINTY OF COVID19 -Dr Tony Bates, Adjunct Professor of Psychology, UCD March 16 2020

Dr Tony Bates, a great friend to us in TU Dublin, penned these words of wisdom to accompany his interview on RTE’s Brendan O’Connor show last Saturday. Please circulate widely. The Pastoral Care and Chaplaincy Service hopes to share articles like this that offer support and insight during these days to which we are greatly unaccustomed.

The Covid19 pandemic has pulled the rug out from underneath us, as a society, as an economy, and as people who look after our health as best we can. The world that normally feels reasonably safe and predictable suddenly doesn’t feel either safe or predictable anymore.

When we first heard about the Coronavirus, we didn’t appreciate how serious it was. We reassured each other that we’d be ok; we live too far north; we’re a hardy people; our population is highly dispersed (unlike Italy); no virus could survive the cold here.

Slowly the reality of the threat we faced hit home. Even the most resilient among us felt anxious, depressed, or angry. Not because we were weak; but because we were vulnerable. A crisis like Covid19 makes all of us aware of just how vulnerable we really are.

We are now beginning to grasp just how devastating this virus can be. We are faced with major uncertainties about our personal welfare and the welfare of our loved ones. This pandemic has brought massive financial anxiety and the prospect of extended social isolation to many people. This is hard for the best of us, but particularly frightening for those who are already physically or emotionally vulnerable.

Not knowing what will happen next is hard for us because:

“… uncertainty equals danger. If your brain doesn’t know what’s around the corner, it can’t keep you out of harm’s way. It always assumes the worst, over-personalizes threats and jumps to conclusions. And you’re hardwired to overestimate threats and underestimate your ability to handle them—all in the name of survival.” (Bryan Robinson, Forbes, March 2020)

Being threatened with Covid19 make us want to look for someone to blame: the Chinese, the Government or at the very least the HSE. “Why can’t they move faster?”, “Do more”, “Get Corona Done”, and stop waiting for something bad to happen before making hard decisions.

It’s hard to take in all the information coming at us. Our anxiety rises with news of the rising numbers of casualties daily. Media have an important role in presenting updates in a way that doesn’t accelerate our anxiety. We need hard facts, but we also need to feel that they are being given with sensitivity and humanity.

Because we can’t bear uncertainty, we will do anything not to feel this way. To take our minds off what might or might not happen, we may fixate on some concrete issue that we can actually do something about. We go shopping, because there are things we ‘must have’. Driving around for hours to make sure we have enough toilet rolls is a lot easier than sitting at home with the uncertainty of Corona. Finding and purchasing ‘must-have’ items brings relief, but it’s short-term. Inevitably, our anxiety re-surfaces and we lock on to some new mission – “Do I have enough porridge?”

There are ways to cope when we are stressed that don’t involve blaming others or acting compulsively to take our minds off reality. Here are some key coping strategies that may be helpful in surviving this Covid19 pandemic:
• Don’t beat yourself up over how you feel, whatever you feel. Be kind to yourself, cut yourself some slack. What we are facing is really hard. It’s bound to upset us and hit each of us where we are most vulnerable.
• Buddy up with one or more people you can trust to give you emotional support or practical help, because you’re going to need both. In a time when social distancing is the recommended option for health reasons, we can find alternative ways to stay in close contact. Already we are seeing beautiful examples of people (safely) looking out for each other in their local communities. My daughter just texted to say her local restaurant is giving out free starter kits and a recipe for making bread.
• Set one or two goals each day, especially if you’re housebound. Focusing on simple goals brings structure to your day. This helps you feel you have some control over your life.
• Don’t neglect yourself, stick with your normal daily routines. Stay active, eat well, connect with nature. Think about what life-giving for you, physically, emotionally and spiritually, and make time for these activities.
• Don’t believe all you hear. The anxious mind naturally thinks about the most terrifying possibilities and some folk love to exploit this.
Anxiety produces a Fight/Flight reaction that gives us the energy we need to deal with danger. This will not feel comfortable in our bodies (sweaty palms, churning tummy, heavy limbs, raised blood pressure) until we do something; until we recognise and confront the challenges facing us, and channel our energy creatively. It is important to think before we act rather than behaving impulsively. When we act out of fear, we generally make poor decisions. If we can press ‘pause’ and talk things over with someone we trust, we can find a wise way to respond. It may be something we can do for ourselves; it may be that we can be the person who steps up and reaches out to someone in need. Action is better than inaction: Action calms us down; inaction locks the symptoms of stress inside our bodies and keeps us stuck.
Talking to someone we trust, someone who can hear us and not judge us can also help enormously. When we can put our distress into words, we see what this crisis is touching in ‘me’. Naming our deepest fears brings relief (even if at first we get upset); it also allows us to look at our worries from a different perspective. It may even allow us to laugh at ourselves. Not that we’re foolish, but that our fears can easily carry us away and make us want to act irrationally.
Making time and space to share with each other what this crisis means to us personally, is a gift we can immediately give each other.
When I ask myself, “What scares me about Corona?” I realise that I’m worried about losing friends who are still quite young, but whose health is compromised and who are more at risk than most if they contracted the virus. They could die. I also have my own health issues that make it very likely I would suffer with the Coronavirus, and have to isolate myself. In my early childhood, I spent several months behind glass in the Cork Fever Hospital. I think what distresses me most about corona is that I would emotionally relive that trauma.
For someone I spoke to yesterday, her worst fear was that she would lose her granddaughter. I tried pointing out (very gently) that children were perhaps the least at risk in the population – but that didn’t help at all. She just said: “I never said this was rational, but it where I go in my head when I think about Corona”.
What is it that upsets you the most about this Covid19 pandemic?
When we can bring our personal worries and fears into conversation with others whom we trust, who don’t judge us or shame us, we can drop beneath the noise level of our anxious minds and come back to reality. Knowing where we are most vulnerable puts us in a far better place to take care of ourselves.
Psychology has looked at what happens when we are faced with radical existential threats to our lives, such as the crisis we are now immersed in. This aspect of Psychology is called Terror Management Theory. Sociology has explored how we survive mass disasters, and this line of study is known as Disaster Sociology. Both of these disciplines have something to say to us as we face the covid19 pandemic.
Disasters and traumatic events that represent a threat to our lives naturally cause us to move closer to each other. We draw strength from feeling we are part of a community, especially when we feel we are a valued member of that community. Feeling connected raises our self-esteem, and reduces our anxiety.
Sociologists observed that some of the most catastrophic disasters of the past century lead to a much stronger sense of community. The founder of Disaster Sociology, Enrico Quarantelli, investigated many social disasters including Hiroshima, 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. His overall conclusion was that communities weren’t destroyed by these calamities, but rather they pulled together in remarkable ways. Here’s what he wrote about Hiroshima:
Within MINUTES of the Hiroshima nuclear blast, survivors engaged in search and rescue, helped one another in whatever ways they could. Within ONE DAY the electric company restored power to most areas, a steel company with only 20% of its staff began operations again, 12 banks opened and started making payments to customers, trolley lines leading into the city were completely cleared and roads were made passable. (Handbook of Disaster Research 2007).
In this country we had our very own ‘disaster sociologist’ – Peig Sayers. She had the patent on suffering, as she experienced more bereavement than most of us. And she lived in a community who lived at the edge of the world and experienced constant disasters. Peig instilled resilience in her community by telling them stories. Not to entertain them, but to help them see that their suffering was a shared experience, and to help them make sense of their lives. When asked how she survived she wrote,
Ach tá an méid seo agam le rá, go raibh comharsain mhaite agam. Chuidiomar féin le chéile agus ar scáth a chéile a mhaireamar. Gach rud a bhíodh ag teacht dorcha orainn nochtaímis dá chéile é agus chuireadh sin sólás aigne orainn. Ba í an charthanacht an phréamh ba dhaighne a bhí inár gcroí.”

“But I have this much to say, that I had good neighbours. We helped each other and lived in the shelter of each other. Everything that was coming dark upon us, we would disclose it to each other, and that would give us consolation of mind. Friendship was the fastest root in our hearts.”
A lot of people are going to be hurt by this Covid19 pandemic. People who are self-employed, people whose income stream is entirely dependent on the services they provide. Some may have a financial safety net. Many won’t. They live on the little they make. Perhaps those of us who are protected financially need to consider the needs of those without that resource. There are also those people whose needs may be primarily emotional. Living alone, worrying about everything they are hearing, feeling very helpless. We do well to remember them and ask ourselves “Is there is something I can do”.
The best antidote for fear is care. We can channel our anxiety can into helping to keep alive a sense of community; rather than sitting alone with our worst fears.
Terror Management Theory describes how people behave when circumstances in their lives make them aware of death. It has also found that we draw closer to each other. We put our faith in the community with which we most identify. We behave in a way that makes us feel valued members of that community. This gives us self-esteem.
To survive this pandemic, we are being asked to put our trust in this democracy to which we belong. To believe in what we are doing together, rather than allow ourselves to be consumed by our own personal fears. To open our eyes and see that there are people who are committed to making the informed and careful decisions on our behalf.
But here’s the problem: the work of government in a time of great uncertainty can seem boring and tedious. It has none of the pizzazz of someone fighting a fire or stepping up bare-fisted to take on a bully. Our anxiety may wish for drama at high noon, but what we get at suits on the 6pm news, speaking to us in serious, measured tones. To cope with the terror we are experiencing, we are being asked to trust in science, reason and democracy.
This will allow us to become more aware of the painstaking care that is being taken daily to deal with this crisis on our behalf. We can be thankful for people who keep our communities ticking over; people who turn up every day to test lab samples; who nurse infected patients; who care for people round the clock that depend on them; people who help keep the lights on, stock our shelves and respond in unseen ways to the needs of others.

Covid19 has woken us up to how our behaviour impacts on each other. My behaviour impacts on your life. Your behaviour impacts on mine. Normally, when we hear about some illness we think “This is nothing to do with me; I’m all right Jack”. We imagine we’re entirely independent people who are free to live our lives as we choose. Covid19 has punctured this particular illusion. Contrary to the mantra “I do my thing, you do yours” our lives are in fact deeply interconnected.

Each of us is indispensable when it comes to resolving this pandemic. Any one of us could be carrying the coronavirus, and pass it on, without even knowing it. We need to be responsible for ourselves but also for each other. It turns out: “I am my brother’s keeper”. Cleaning our hands and respecting emergency social guidelines is vitally important. We can save each other’s lives.

Let’s hope that we emerge from this crisis with a heightened awareness of how interdependent we are, how many of us suffer, physically and emotionally, every day, and how much we need each other.


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Tom Brady R.I.P.

Prayer Service for

Thomas F. Brady.

Former Ambassador of Ireland to Cyprus and Slovenia.

Church of the Holy Child Whitehall,

9thAugust, 2019.


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Aaron O’Neill; Son, Brother, Our Student (TU Dublin) and Friend

Aaron O’Neill R.I.P.

Funeral Mass

St Brendan’s Church Coolock,

May 19th 2019


It is with a heavy heart that I welcome you here this morning as we share this liturgy with Brian, Esther, Evan and Ben. We are laying to rest one who was beginning to dip his toe into adulthood in a very energised and exciting way but he was stolen from us. On behalf of the family I welcome you the extended family, neighbours and friends, school pals for Scoil Neasáin and Coláiste Mhuire. Though we’d love to have Aaron back amongst us we pray now that he’ll be received warmly into the arms of God. We gather to show support to this beautiful family in their hour of need and promise to support them in the days, weeks, months ahead. We are encouraged by the word of the beautiful Irish poem Ag Críost an Síol –   ó bhás go críoch, ní críoch ach athfhás  telling us that death is not the end, but for us humans who remain it can seem frighteningly final.


Is trom atá mo chroí istigh ionam ar maidin agus mé ag fearadh fáilte romhaibh anseo inniu chun an liotúirge a cheiliúradh le Brian, Esther, Evan agus Ben. Táimid ag ligint chun suain ógánach a bhí díreach tar éis blaiseadh a fháil ar shaol an duine fásta, ach a sciobadh uainn go tobann.

Thar ceann an teaghlaigh cuirim fáilte romhaibh go léir:  gaolta, comharsana, cairde ó Scoil Neasáin agus ó Choláiste Mhuire.

Cé gur bhreá linn go mbeadh Aaron ar ais inár measc arís, táimid ag guí anois go nglacfaidh Dia na Glóire chuige féin é le grá agus le féile.


Táimid bailithe le chéile chun tacaíocht a thabhairt don teaghlach álainn seo in am an ghátair agus chun a léiriú go mbeimid ann dóibh sna laethanta, sna seachtainí agus sna míonna atá romhainn amach.


Ardú meanman dúinn na focail seo ón dán Ag Críost an Síol:

“Ó bhás go críoch, ní críoch ach athfhás” a chuireann igcuimhne dúinn nach bhfuil an focail scoir ag an mbás, ainneoin go gceapaimid a mhalairt  ar uairibh.



One day last week I travelled between two funerals. One of a man who did some work for us in the Chaplaincy and another of a colleague from TU Dublin. The first was a typical Irish Catholic funeral; the second funeral I attended took place in the Muslim cemetery in Rathcoole. As I stood talking to many of the Muslim men we chatted about death illustrating our ideas from our various teachings. For some of the conversation I stepped outside both of our traditions and spoke about our Irish Celtic understandings of the cycle of life. Many who listened were intrigued by the wisdom of our ancient culture. I explained one of these. Fiche bhilain ag fás, fiche bhlain faoí bhlath, fiche bhlain faoí neart agus fiche bhalin ag dul ar ais. These few words are a comprehensive understanding of the cycle of human life broken down into four stages of twenty years each. Twenty years growing, twenty years flowering, twenty years growing in our spirituality and understanding of life, and twenty years going back to that which created us.


Five months ago this week I bade farewell to my mother in this Church. Her coffin occupied that spot where Aaron’s coffin now stands. I didn’t like to let her go but truthfully she was at that stage of ‘ag dul ar ais’ or, of ‘going back’. It helped me get my head and heart around the loss. Today we stand around a coffin of a young man who was just stepping into the world of ‘faoí bhlath’. He was just coming to the tail end of the period of growth referred to as ‘ag fás’ and we were beginning to see the buds of his time of flowering. Those involved in his education could see a committed, sincere, motivated student who had found his niche and like a flower popping it’s head through the clay he was catching the sunlight and was heading in a direction that was filled with opportunity, growth and enjoyment. He loved his college – he loved his course. His attendance and his work are evidence of this and it was only going to get better. In biblical sense his seed fell on fertile soil and it was taking  strong roots and beginning to grow and bear fruit. That soil was well prepared by the learning communities in his primary school, Colaiste Mhuire his secondary school, and especially in his wonderful home with his gran, mam, dad and two brotherS.


Like any child or teenager he fought his demons as he grew through his formative years. Some of those demons came from within his own soul and others came from outside him. However, as Brian and Esther agree, in facing these demons Aaron succeeded in making himself a stronger person, and a more sensitive person. His brothers Evan and Ben can testify to this. His sensitivity is seen in the way he protected them and watched over them and also in the manner in which he cared for his gran who many of you know suffers with dementia. Aaron continuously stepped into her world and made her feel comfortable in that world. Rather than dismiss her as illness became worse as some might; he only loved her more.


The tragedy of today, in the perspective of our ancient Celtic understanding of life, is that we have someone –‘ag dul  ar ais’ before his time. I attended a funeral in southern Ireland and the priest said something quite profound. He said that when your husband or wife dies you are a widower or widow, when your parent dies you’re are an orphan but when your child dies there is no word for it. To create a word gives this type of occurrence a place in the natural order…there is no word as it is outside the natural order for you Brian and Esther and for us all in lesser ways.


With this in mind we are left with little to do except grieve, as our first reading tells us… Weep bitterly, cry out with full voice, and observe the mourning period in accordance with the merits of the deceased. Yes we delight in Aarons life and rejoice at all that he achieved but this makes grief all the louder and all the more difficult to bear. This is what our first reading tells us today – we often say Let us Pray but now we say Let us Grieve.


Our second reading tells us to hope; to hope in what is beyond and what has been promised to us in Jesus. It tells us not to be afraid to look beyond the grave and believe that one day we shall be one in the kingdom of light and peace. As one theologian Jorgen Moltmann said, Genuine hope is not blind optimism. It is hope with open eyes, which sees the suffering yet believes in the future.


It is obvious from talking to lecturers and even those supervising the exams this week that Aaron was firmly investing in his future. He attended, engaged, and enjoyed everything about his course. He arrived five minutes late every day for his exams but waited until the very, very, end and checked everything meticulously before he handed his scripts to the invigilator. Brian, Esther, Evan and Ben struggle to piece together all that happened last week as they go over the events that stole him from them and separated Aaron from his earthy dreams and his earthly future. Over time the questions that hover about will be answered. Stories have to be pieced together and examinations have to be completed before conclusions can be drawn. However, no amount of answers will bring him back to us.


It was this day last week that Aaron completed an exam, left his home to celebrate, took sick ,his dad went to collect him and brought him home. At home he got worse and the ambulance was called. That day was the 16thof May -this was the feast of St Brendan who is the patron of this Church here in Coolock. Brendan is noted for making a trip across the Atlantic in a boat made of hazel rods, animal skins and pitch. People scoffed at the legend until the explorer Tim Severin made the same trip and using the detail of Brendan’s writings he charted a similar course proving that Brendan made it across the Atlantic. Isn’t it ironic that this simple humble boat made it across the ocean and the Titanic, which people claimed to be unsinkable, was lost on its maiden voyage.


Brendan’s prayer wasn’t that he’d get to the far shore. His writings tell us he prayed that he’d have sufficient for each day and I think the prayer may have been inspired by this Gospel. When he saw bog waves, ice-bergs and strange unknown lands he prayed for the strength to deal with it in that moment. I copied that prayer on my booklet when I was ordained here thirty years ago and when I struggle I pray God give me enough for this day. Brian and Esther as you look to the future you worry about how you’ll be able to cope just pray for the strength for each day. You too Evan as you face your Junior Cert and Ben if you get worried that Aaron isn’t around to help you step into the future well just pray for the strength for each day. Brendan tells us that if we think of the future and the far shore we can lose our way, just pray for the strength for each and every day and this is what will get you to the far shore.

Fiche bhilain ag fás,fiche bhlain faoí bhlath, fiche bhlain faoí neart agus fiche bhalin ag dul ar ais.


“Help me to journey beyond the familiar 

and into the unknown.

Give me the faith to leave old ways

and break fresh ground with You.

Christ of the mysteries, I trust You

to be stronger than each storm within me.

I will trust in the darkness and know

that my times, even now, are in Your hand.

Tune my spirit to the music of heaven,

and somehow, make my obedience count for You.”


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Be At Peace Gentle Mother

Funeral Homily

Nell (Ellen) Hilliard

Friday 28thDecember 2018

St. Brendan’s Church Coolock[1].



At a time like this one struggles to find a point of strength to speak from. Like an Olympic one-hundred-meter runner you try to find the perfect, faultless positioning that will allow you spring out of your starting block to make a perfect start so you can make a perfect finish. But this is not life. Those like mam and dad know that perfection is an ideal that causes you to sometimes ignore your reality. You start from where you are, and you work with what you’ve got. Maybe this is a mistake with our Church that somehow it expected people to start with perfection rather their reality.

And so, at a time of grief and loss and thanksgiving where do you start? We are mostly pulled into memory. This has been a practice for those who stopped by to converse with Nell over the last few years. On these occasions memories and remembering were strong because consciousness of the present was weakening. For all of us, especially in the immediate family, memory of the past can be stronger and more nourishing and easier to step into rather than the confusion of the present.

Memory for us has been a flat-bottomed boat back from England as returning emigrants with churning stomachs; two babies in a mother’s arms while the father was busy trying to find his sea-legs. Early days in Cabra, with grandad and us seated on the crossbar of his bike and days spent in allotments and markets with the stunning, refreshing smells of the earth’s goodness. Lettuce, scallions, potatoes and cabbages were lifted from the ground and stored in boxes and crates only to be dispatched to shop-fronts and stalls. Walks to the Phoenix Park on Sundays to view the animals in the zoo with my brother and myself thinking that all the animals had stripes because we only saw them through the bars of the perimeter fence. We seldom got in and when we protested, we were told to think about the starving children of the world. We got to know the space in the fence where you could see the sea-lions being fed at four o’clock before the return home. The treat of luscious ice-cream wafers at the gate and as they were handed over you were told ‘don’t dribble’ and ‘stop slinging’ in between the conversations that mam, dad and her sister had on the tired walk back along the Norrier.

Memory takes us into the lanes of Coolock as people rubbed pennies together to make life livable. Memories of the house being two bricks off the ground and the pram being flung off the back of the open backed blue and cream, double-decker bus as it swerved around the roundabout in Artane. Schools and Churches and shops grew smaller as communities grew bigger. Our young minds couldn’t work out how every time we went on holidays to a kindly aunt, we came home to find a new child in the corner of the room with wispy red-hair. I can still smell each beautiful new life that graced us. I think this experience gave us a pathological hatred for holidays, fearful of what might be found on return, but those red headed parcels always brought blessings and joy; a lot of friction but mostly fun. Sometimes you only know the power of love when shadows cross it and it escapes you for a brief moment, but you can find your way back to it.

With all the new life in those memories there was struggle for space and expression as everything  appears to grow and flourish into the once empty cupboards and corners and the home continues to become a container for many food stuffs and types and life itself, it holds stories and loves, crisis and adventure, and it absorbs everything letting the rest of the world pass by and still the pennies are rubbed together and others come to delight us who continue the tradition of dribbles and slinging and the licks of ice-cream.

There are many more memories of trips to Australia, when Nell would slip off on her own to climb the Harbour Bridge because it was opened in 1932, the year she was born. (Warning us not to tell dad it cost $100 as he’d think she’d lost the plot. ‘Tell him it cost $10’ she said emphatically). There are walks on Legan roads after forensically separating weeds from young seedlings and there are memories of horses, horses, and even more horses…whether those horses be at gymkhanas, Horse-Shows, or the races, or ones that nudge their heads over country hedges-rows to say hello.

But memory is not enough to bring back the one you love. Memory in our tradition of faith is strong; memory makes present the One who came among us and who is remembered in this wonderous Christmas Season and who through memory and grace stays among us in the Eucharist – it is our Catholic way of reaching out to what could be beyond.  But somehow, for those we love, human memory just lets us see them in a distant haze and we reach out as we try to catch them, and it is as if we are trying to grasp a moon beam and we simply can’t. So, we turn to the most ancient of traditions which is story.

A priest I met in Rwanda told me that before the genocide he made the mistake of seeing the Gospel as something written on paper. After the genocide, with very little paper left, he said he discovered the gospel written in the lives of his people. This remains his ministry today, naming and celebrating the Gospel alive in people when it is found and then seeking and encouraging it when it is lost from view. And so, to story for us today.

James rang on Friday to say mam didn’t look great and luckily one of us could call by to see her…both of them have the knack of being in the right place at the right time. I sat at the same time with a couple who are to be married on the 29thof June which when I sat with them, I told them that it was the feast of St Peter and Paul. A feast remembering two people who were very different yet who believed the same thing deeply – a model for anyone and as I looked at them, they didn’t know it, but I saw mam and dad lying in their bed at home… and I immersed myself in their life and saw how whackingly diverse they are and were but how deeply connected they remain beneath all that diversity. And as I held them and their story in my heart, I said to the couple that a good couple reflect what society is presently hungry for, namely how to live with diversity that is without divisiveness.

And again, another story of a student who was with me on Thursday who was dealing with issues that we refer today as mental health problems and we spoke about life and its challenges and it’s fraughtness and the pain and the lostness of it all. The pear-shaped-ness of life these days leaves young people without boundaries wherein they can hold the sweetness of life, container-like from which they can drink deeply of the gifts of this life. We agreed that he’d go home and study his grandparents and how they use habit and routine to dig into life and in so doing find contentment and savour it. And now he tells me he’s doing great. It beats medication! And it that moment I saw mam and dad with the practiced routines over the years of genuflections and visits and caring’s and stoppings and dog-walking’s and horse- backing allowing them to withstand whatever was thrown at them. Living like unenclosed monks they commit to a rule of life, so the world does not steal what is important and of value to them. Then you see in their tapestry of stories and habits how we who are left can close the gap between the anxieties of today’s world and the contentment of theirs. I’m sure and indeed I know that their level of contentment was directly proportional to the increase in anxiety for us their children at various stages! However, it was the loss of these habits that began the journey towards the end of Nell’s earthly life, but it was these habits which allowed them to live a deeply connected life to the full when they could.

And then there is the story of two people who loved to sleep and loved watching on the world through their upstairs window these last few years. Many a young couple would like to boast of having spent over two years in bed together. It was where they were most content; not necessarily in bed but in the company of the other. One night I climbed quietly up the stairs and asked, ‘are you asleep?’ to which came the reply, ‘I’m not but your mother is…but we are holding hands’. They were stubborn (one more than the other) and I noted the only two things to get them to sit bolt upright in their beds together like Nell’s baby brother Conor on military parade. The first was the words ‘Dr. Tarek’ and the other was ‘would you like to receive communion?’. Isn’t it a beautiful, joyful and ironic thing that the Catholic faith community in the local area (and that includes the priest and sisters) are being kept alive by a good, God-fearing and gracious man who happens to be a Muslim and isn’t this community blessed with him…Enshallah.

And then those moments of Eucharist when they’d sit up like two children and Nell’s prayer and Bill’s outreached arms would take the world into the room. She prays out loud for those that had no roof and no food and knew only loneliness. There were few prayers said for self but mostly for others and then there were the quite moments when she prayed reverently for those most precious to her. They were prayers that revealed a world that was deeply interconnected and interdependent and we know now that this connection and dependency is needed more than ever before as we have left ourselves in more and more global dangers and her prayer knew it. She was no sociologist, yet she knew about the risky axis on which our globe rests and she did her best to show us how to hold it all together. And I’d leave them to share their silence and I’d fumble in the kitchen for a while. You know when the prayers were said, and she’d be letting you know that it was time to move on. Her equivalent to ‘The Mass is ended’ was ‘any chance of a cup of tea’…pause…’and don’t be stingy with the biscuits’. It is at privileged times like this that you know if people both heard and listened to the voice of God that this world, like Nell and Bills lives, would hold together well, especially in tumultuous times.

Good story is Good News which is Gospel not lost to pages but lived. It is the self-same ‘Word made Flesh’ of this Christmas time but is a constant in every conceivable moment. People go searching to Davos and UN’s; to Brussels and to Bonn to find how the world can be put in order and we have heard the answers at the foot of a bed. To listen, to hear, to contemplate and to act to the best of our abilities is a privilege that we as siblings and in-laws have shared. Whether it be diversity, habit or deeply interconnected prayer…this world needs to hear the good news Gospel Stories that come not from parapets of power but from two women who are cousins in our Gospel today who meet and share their joys and two great people in bed on a road in one of Dublin’s suburbs. This tells us that the Gospel dwells among us and while we miss the personalities that proclaimed those Gospels…we need to remind ourselves that the world needs us to make use of their example. The words of our second reading from St. Pauls Letter to the Philippians make this point more forcibly; ‘Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me.  Then the God of peace will be with you’.

Peace does not always fall easily into our laps. One very wise friend of mine said one day ‘you never really mature until you learn to forgive your parents’. She meant by that that we don’t go through individual moments where there was hurt and pain, but we forgive because they are just like us; people trying to weave together a story that sometimes finds its way into cul-de-sacs. There is not perfect way only the best way that we can find despite our failings and blemishes; this is why we forgive because we are fellow pilgrims not one generation lording it over another.

It is also a Gospel thing to huddle into an upper room and to lock the door because there is grief, confusion and loss that which we call hope. Some today may think that the Gospel is just a token to keep things right rather than that which is at the core of all. For Nell and Bill, the Gospel is as relevant at parties and dances as when one is full fear and anxiety. We who are grief-stricken huddle now for the Breath of Life to breath on us as we know it will. Into that locked room we bring our fear, our losses and our angers and our frustrations but we trust that the God of Life will breath into this chaos as she did into mams life these last days.

It is in this upper room that we realise that memory alone can leave us bitter, pining and sad. It is the Breath of God that gives us platform to build on what has been given to us with such nobility and warmth when embraced by mercy and forgiveness. For all of us in this Church we can stay stuck in the upper room of our own desolation or wait patiently for the breath of God to weave our lives into the wonderful stories that have been so graciously passed on to us…those Gospels of love and hope that can change our world for the good. Even though we celebrate and make present the Last Supper today let us remember what happened when those in the locked room were breathed upon. The doors opened and they met the Lord for breakfast symbolising the start of a new day, the start of a new life full of purpose and direction because they built their new life on Gospel, good news stories. This is the best starting block for any of our futures regardless of our situations. And as Dad said when we prepared this homily on Christmas Day ‘talk is cheap…no use talking about it…get on with it’. Enjoy your breakfast!

[1]This homily was prepared by Alan Hilliard in consultation with Nell’s husband Bill.

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Prayer of St.Brendan


“Help me to journey beyond the familiar and into the unknown.

Give me the faith to leave old ways and break fresh ground with You.

Christ of the mysteries, I trust You to be stronger than each storm within me.

I will trust in the darkness and know that my times, even now, are in Your hand.

Tune my spirit to the music of heaven, and somehow, make my obedience count for You.”


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Con Harvey – The Harbour ‘Master’.

Funeral Homily

Con Harvey

Church of The Most Holy Redeemer, Bray

Saturday the 29th of April 2017

A colourful card I once saw carried the following quote; ‘A ship is safe in a harbour, but that is not what ships are made for’. Harbours are a continuum in Con Harvey’s life. He grew up in Dun Laoghaire with his mother and father and his sisters, Bríd, Catherine and Mary. He met Máire who lived in Blackrock, a town by the sea without a harbour, and before she graduated they were married and eventually they moved to another harbour town; the one in which we now gather namely, Bray. He spend his life passing the places of his childhood and indeed the town of Máire’s childhood as he journeyed to Ringsend on the DART  – a town that hosts another harbour.

A harbour is a place of safety, a place of rest and a place where one shares the spoils of the ocean. Con Harvey was all those things. He provided safety for his family and those who were in his care in Ringsend College or ’The Tec’ depending on your vintage.  His presence inevitably brought rest and calm. He had an unbelievable ability to bring even a restful calm where there was once heavy turbulence and strikingly strong storm clouds. And Con had no problem sharing his spoils with the world; in actual fact he cared little for himself in terms of possessions.

We are here today because we are reminded in a deeply painful way that we are like the ships in that we are not made solely for the harbour; we are made for what is beyond seemingly safe arms of the harbour and the horizon of human experience. This may sound exciting, energising and hopeful but when one is called from the harbour when one has so much left to live for and so much to share, the excitement, energy and hope dissolves and we feel the rawness of a pain, grief, anger and loss. And as we sit here in the Church of the Holy Redeemer Con’s family and friends wonder can they ever be redeemed from that raw pain.

This may be our reality but the reason we are here today is that Con asked to be brought to this Church for burial. He said to me that at times ‘I didn’t know what I believe but I love the ritual’. Ritual is what we hold onto when we run out of words and when we lose our understanding of things. Ritual digs deep into the tradition and the belief of others to carry us when we weaken or when we are lost.

To quote from some reflections on Australian Aboriginal practice:

Ritual relates to order in nature. We find it everywhere. In every natural process there is a sequence…There is ceremony in all the functions of creation. Even in chaos where all order seems to have collapsed there are undetected processes and hidden rituals by which the centre holds.[1]

Our ritual today asks us to place Con’s goodness before God; to ask mercy for his failings, to celebrate his life, to give thanks for the gift of his presence among us, and to help us let go of him and bid him farewell as he leaves our harbour for the richness and mystery of what lies beyond.

There are three ways in which these elements are seen in the life of the one we commend to God. In Con’s family, his work, and in the man himself we see goodness and life abounding. Even in his sickness – his mind and emotions were alert. He remembered the name of a horse I gave him way back in the early nineties which came in second in Cheltenham at 33/1. When I’d recall a student; he’d remember everything about that person; he’d even remember their parents and at times even their grandparents.

The first – his family. Con and Maura created in their home life a place of hospitality. Maybe you think that this is something easy – the provision of food, drink and a comfortable chair. I mean by hospitality something quite different but those of you who know Con and Máire well and those of us who worked with him will understand what I mean when I share this quote with you. I came across it when I was writing something last year and it describes hospitality as;

primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines. It is not to lead our neighbour into a corner where there are no alternatives left, but to open a wide spectrum of options for choice and commitment …To convert hostility into hospitality requires the creation of the friendly empty space where we can reach out to our fellow human beings and invite them to a new relationship[2].

His life created a hospitable space where ideas, difference, doubt, belief, love, struggle, pain, and attainment were comfortable and compatible. This the hallmark of his family life and of his home, characteristics which he brought with him wherever he went. We place an emphasis on faith in our Church today but writing in the year 100 C.E., Clement of Rome in his Epistle to the Corinthians noted that ‘it is by faith and hospitality that Abraham became the son of the Covenant’[3]. Interesting that in the early writings of the Church it is faith and hospitality, in equal measure, that cultivate the presence of God in our world. Faith can be the reflective mind at work in the world but hospitality is the work of God in our world.

Con’s teaching was just an extension of this. He brought all these gifts and dispositions to the classroom and the school. On one occasion when we talked recently we spoke about how hard it was starting off in the school. He shared a belief that I share, ‘once they realised you weren’t going away they stopped annoying you’. I added, ‘yes Con, but you had to also realise that you weren’t better than them either’. He said, ‘too true’. Furthermore you had to love what you were doing as an educator. These three sentences show an underlying ethic of education that has resonances in our second reading today. Faithfulness to the task particularly in the face of adversity, humility and regard for those in your care and a love for what you do. ‘You should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience..and above all these things, put on love’. Apart from all that – he was fun to be with while in the staff-room; and his company was never boring! Especially when he talked about all the horses that nearly won!

Finally Con the man. Before he is husband, father, grandfather, teach or vice-principal. He was Con Harvey. A man who brought you into a space of honesty in a gentle and self-effacing way. I can see the man Con in the words of the author Colum McCann in his book Let the Great World Spin. It’s a beautiful work in which he says at one point ‘it takes great courage to live an ordinary life’. And so it does. To withstand the temptation to be someone extraordinary in the eyes of the world demands courage. His description of a character called Corrigan gives expression to how I see Con the man and gives further expression to the qualities that he’d never admit to in himself.

Corrigan told me once that Christ was quite easy to understand. He went where He was supposed to go. He stayed where he was needed. He took little or nothing along, a bit of a shirt, a few odds and ends to stave off the loneliness. He never rejected the world. If he had rejected it, he would have been rejecting mystery. And if He rejected mystery, He would have been rejecting faith.

What Corrigan wanted was a fully believable God, one you could find in the grime of everyday. The comfort He got from the hard, cold, truth – the filth, the war, the poverty – was that life could be capable of small beauties. He wasn’t interested in the glorious tales of the afterlife or the notions of a honey soaked heaven. To Him that was a dressing room for hell. Rather he consoled himself with the fact that, in the real world, when he looked closely into the darkness he might find the presence of a light, damaged and bruised, but a little light all the same. He wanted, quite simply, for the world to be a better place, and he was in the habit of hoping for it. Out of that came some sort of triumph that went beyond theological proof, a cause for optimism beyond all the evidence. ‘Someday the meek may actually want it’, he said.


As we watch you leave our harbour Con, we turn to the ritual that reminds us of the infinite possibilities that this journey opens up to us, and we wish you God’s speed.

[1] Cameron, R.(1992) Alcheringa: The Australian Experience of the Sacred, St. Paul’s, NSW, Australia, pg. 63.

[2] Quoted in Gerschutz, Jill Marie and Lois Ann Lorentzen, Integration Yesterday and Today: New Challenges for the United States and the Church IN Kerwin and Jill Marie Gerschutz (Ed) And You Welcomed Me; Migration and Catholic Social Teaching, ML: Lexington Books, pg. 127-128.

[3] De Béthune, Pierre-François, (2002) By Faith and Hospitality; The Monastic Tradition as a Model for Interreligious Encounter, Herefordshire, Gracewing pg. vii

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