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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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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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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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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

Introduction:

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.

 

Homily:

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.

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.”

AMEN.

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NOAH’S ARK —-2017

NOAH’S ARK – 2017

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(I came across this piece a number of years ago and have made some modifications to the text. If any one knows the original author could they please let me know. I published it once in The Irish catholic and it got some very interesting reactions. )

And the Lord spoke to Noah and said, “In one year, I am going to make it rain and cover the whole earth with water until all flesh is destroyed. But I want you to save the righteous people and two of every kind of living thing on the earth. Therefore, I am commanding you to build an Ark.”
In a flash of lightning, God delivered the specifications for the Ark. In fear and trembling, Noah took the plans and agreed to set to work. “Remember” said the Lord, “You must complete the Ark and bring everything  on board within one calendar year.”
Exactly one year later, fierce storm clouds covered the earth and all the seas of the earth went into a tumult. The Lord saw that Noah was sitting in his front yard. He was weeping. “Noah,” He shouted. “Where is the Ark?” “Lord, please forgive me!” cried Noah. “I did my best, but there were big problems. First, I had to get a permit for construction and your plans did not comply with building regulations. Consequently I had to hire an engineering firm and redraw the plans. Then I got into a fight with Health and Safety over whether or not the Ark needed a fire sprinkler system and flotation devices.  Then my neighbour objected, claiming I was violating planning ordinances by building the Ark in my front yard, so I had to lodge a Rezoning Application for a transfer of my property from ‘residential use’ to ‘industrial use’ with the Council. This has been referred onto An Bord Pleanála. I await an outcome of their decision’’.

”As if that was not enough I had problems getting enough wood for the Ark. You won’t believe it but there was a ban on cutting trees to protect a rare beetle that lived beneath its bark. I tried to convince the Department of Environment that I needed the wood to save the beetles in the face of the impending flood. I can tell you that I was not amused that all the office staff was trying tried to hold back their sniggers while trying to pretend that they were treating me seriously. Eventually they informed me that the beetle cannot be removed from its local habitat’’.

”While I was dealing with all that, the carpenters on the Ark formed a union and went out on strike. I had to negotiate a settlement with them before anyone would pick up a saw or a hammer. Now, I have 16 carpenters on the Ark, but still no beetles let alone any of the creatures on your list.  When I started rounding up the other animals, I got served a summons by the ISPCA. They claimed that the Ark was unfit for habitation by animals.   Just when I got the summons overturned, the Environmental Protection Agency notified me that I could not complete the Ark without filing an environmental impact statement on the ‘proposed flood.’  They didn’t take very kindly to the idea that they had no jurisdiction over the conduct of the Creator of the universe. Then the Department of the Marine demanded that I provide a map of the proposed new flood plain before I could launch the Ark. I did the best I could saying that I hadn’t that level of insight into the mind of the Almighty.  Right now I ‘m trying to resolve a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that I am practicing discrimination by not taking godless, unbelieving people aboard!’’

”Only last week I received notification that Revenue were about to seize my assets. They claimed that I’m building the Ark in preparation to flee the country in order to avoid paying taxes. I also have to wait for the registration of my company for VAT.  Furthermore, I just got a notice from the Inland Waterways that I owe them some kind of user tax and I’m in arrears because I failed to register the Ark as a “recreational water craft.”
”I’ve also need a Boat Drivers Licence but they are debating about how to classify my licence as they have no ‘template’ for the Ark. I am getting continual visits from Green Peace, RSPCA, Archaeological Action Groups, An Gardaí and numerous other officials from various government departments. Finally, the Council for Civil Liberties got the courts to issue an injunction against further construction of the Ark, saying that since God is flooding the earth, it is a religious event and is therefore unconstitutional. I really don’t think I can finish the Ark for another 5 or 6 years!” Noah wailed. ‘’To be honest I was going to let the whole project go as a going concern but my bank informed me that the Ark is only worth fifty percent of its original value so I’m stuck in negative equity. The wife is giving me a hard time because there are no more ‘three- holidays abroad’ and she is parking her BMW two streets away from the house as she fears it is going to be repossessed’’.

The sky began to clear, the sun began to shine and the seas began to calm. A rainbow arched across the sky. Noah looked up hopefully. “You mean you are not going to destroy the earth Lord?”  “No,” said the Lord sadly. “I don’t have to; you people seem to be doing a good job of it without my help.”

Source unknown.

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A-Z of settling into 3rd level college

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A Reflection on the Berkeley Tragedy … ‘Who do we belong to?’

A Gathering in the wake of the Berkeley Tragedy.

cross bran

(Photo taken on Mount Brandon looking out over the Atlantic Ocean towards the United States)

DIT Aungier St.

Thursday the 18th of June 2015

Remembering Eoghan Culligan and all who are affected by this tragic event.

Fr. Alan Hilliard, Coordinator of the Chaplaincy Service. alan.hilliard@dit.ie

Last Tuesday was a day in DIT that I’ll not forget for a long time to come. My Facebook page saw many students delight in the fact that they were now graduates, qualified to pursue their dreams. Another stream of information that was opening up saw an awful vista where dreams were falling apart.  My own week was punctuated with extremes. On Saturday we marked my own father’s ninetieth birthday. Today I stand with you trying to mark the passing of Eoghan who is a student of this institute, Nicollai, who was a student here for one year, Ashley, Olivia, Eimear and Lorcan. There is not a lot of difference between the  sum of their ages and my father’s age.

We spend our lives trying to live at one extreme; that of laughter, fun, achievement and flourishing. And so we should. These extremes are what we might call the default setting of our age and for this we are very fortunate. However, sometimes the energy required to live at these extremes is stolen from us. Events occur that turn everything upside-down and we can sometimes wonder if darkness is the place where we shall dwell minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day and even week after week. The default setting collapses and we don’t know how or where to reboot.

The events his week are particularly extenuating caused by what Australians used to refer to as  ‘the tyranny of distance’. Families, friends and support are separated by airports, miles and untold emotional barriers which cannot be solved by multimedia mediums. I spent many years working with Irish emigrants many of whom were successful and happy but many of whom experienced loss and tragedy. Some were unable to relate their difficulties to those at home. As a result I watched as people artfully and creatively put other systems of support, care and love in place. Where friends became family and tragedy became a foundation for a new way of living and a new default setting. I do not wish to promote tragedy as away of redefining life; in truth I would love that each and every person’s default position was the one of laughter, fun, achievement and flourishing and I am quite convinced that the God I believe in would want that too.

As we gather today we know that as much as we’d wish for this default position we cannot promise or guarantee it to one another. However we can assist one another as we try to find a comfortable place from which we can begin to view or even glimpse a road towards contentment again. Experience tells me that times like this beg one question; this one question is at the heart of a lot of our struggle in the face of this tragedy today. Those who are directly and indirectly affected by this event ask ‘who do we or I belong to?’ The nature of this tragedy and the tyranny of distance make this question ring with even louder decibles in our hearts and minds. This may be particularly the case for those of you viewing on-line.

The answer, like the question, is not necessarily verbalised but it is being asked and it is being answered. The desire to be with someone or with many tells us that first and foremost we don’t belong on our own. The work of officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Pastoral Care Centre in San Francisco are actively involved in answering this question by connecting those who were affected in varying degrees by this tragedy. They may not be using words but they are answering this precise question; ‘who do I or we belong to?’.  These organisations were and are working diligently to bring together those who belong to one another.

Today’s refection is a small and simple outreach from DIT to those of you who belong here. We remember Eoghan and all who have died. We struggle to articulate how those have died ‘belong’ to us now. We reach out to you physically present, those watching on our live stream and we want to let you know that we can help if the default position has slipped. The services are here for you and even if is only to drop in for a cuppa to the Students Union or the Chaplaincy or if you need to avail of the counselling or medical service please feel you are welcome. For those of you who knew Eoghan and Niccolai you are especially welcome because your belonging here was shared with them in a special way.

As you are aware I am the chaplain here and am privileged to share this post with a wonderful team of Chaplains and colleagues in Campus Life and Student Services. As a Chaplain who happens to be a Catholic Priest I’d like to share something with you. One thing I notice in my faith tradition is that the stories after the event referred to as The Resurrection are stories about belonging. They tell stories of people who felt emotionally, physically and spiritually isolated who were gathered together so that they could feel that they could live again. That couldn’t happen until they felt that they belonged. Whether we view these stories through eyes of faith or with eyes that are not of faith they have a very important message for us. This message is that the journey back begins with belonging. They beg of us to create places and spaces of belonging in this world that are safe, secure , enriching and life-giving for our fellow human beings with whom we belong.  Those associated with a third level institute have special responsibilities to inform the world how each and every sector can place human belonging at the pinnacle of its discipline.

The line at the back of the booklet is one that is often used to refer to those who have died; it reads ‘Life is changed not ended’. If we are honest a tragedy such as this changes us all. This change may even be that we name and cherish those to whom we belong. When we go home this evening or when we return from abroad we may find that there is a difference in the way we engage with those to with whom we belong. A hug or kiss may be a little longer, a visit to a parent may not be as rushed, the coffee with that friend who always listens may develop into a second cup , the person who has been struggling and who we’ve been meaning to visit for a while may open the door and find standing there smiling. In a particular way we hope that through our actions that those who have experienced life changing injuries may feel comfortable enough to come home in the knowledge that they sill belong to us and that we can find ways to nurture and accommodate their sense of belonging. And to those who have lost a loved one let us be inspired by those stories I referred to earlier and let us walk with them at a pace of their choosing.

We remember especially Eoghan and all those who have died. Though we’d prefer to have them among us we live in the hope that their life has not just ended but has changed in a manner beyond our wildest imaginings; where the default position is one of love and joy without blemish and  for ever. May they rest in peace.

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