Monday, November 30, 2015

droning on and on and on

In the video Jeremy Clarkson declares this a story from the not too distant future. A little girl's soccer shoe 'emergency' is dealt with swiftly by way of an Amazon drone.

Humanity is an interesting species. We invent drones. What do we do with them? Use them as toys. Use them as a weapon of war. Use them as a bolt on for online shopping. 

Isn't there a better use? What about, for example, to deliver food, medicine, and other necessities of life to those who are starving and dying in war-torn regions ... but the normal channels for aid are blocked by those who are doing the fighting and killing. 

That's the story I'd like to hear from the not too distant future. How this kind of technology is being used to save lives. That, and an end to the fighting and killing that would make their use in delivering aid necessary. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

advent 1: death

Almighty, eternal, and merciful God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: we pray that as we meditate upon your Word you will lead us deeper into all truth that we may better know and do your will and grow in holiness day by day. Amen

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. During this season it is traditional to preach on the four last things: death, judgement, heaven, and hell. And being someone who thinks tradition is important, especially within the Church, we begin today with death.

Death has always been something of a mysterious subject throughout all of human history. How is it that one moment a person can be alive and the next dead? Why can a person sometimes can survive what appears to be catastrophic injuries and recover fully, while something that seems trivial in comparison can carry someone off within moments? How is it that an apparently frail human being can be afflicted with some serious and chronic condition and yet go on and on living for years, while a robust and healthy person can contract what seems to be no more than a bad cold and yet can slip rapidly from his loved ones into the unyielding embrace of death?

And yet, mysterious as this cessation of life has been, mankind has always instinctively known that death is not the end. We know this from archaeology, and the respectful way that even from the earliest times man has treated his dead. Buried with people are often found provisions, tools, weapons, and jewellery; all things that are needed by the living but are of no apparent use to the dead. They speak of an understanding that life continues beyond the grave. And the mythologies of later cultures developed that understanding into stories of what form that life might take – generally seeing it as being a shadowy kind of existence that was grim compared with this life. It matters little that their notions of what life after this life might be like was different; what is important here is that the idea was widespread and spoke of a universal tendency to find irrational the thought that the spark that had brought life to the dust of which we are made could ever be totally extinguished.

The tendency to realise this is, I would suggest, a form of natural revelation, knowledge of how the universe works gained from observing the natural world. It is the same reason that most people, even without exposure to religion, intuitively understand that there must be a God, for without a creator how could anything exist? Or the natural inclination toward morality and realising that certain things are right and certain things are wrong. But it is only through Divine Revelation that man is guided towards being able to take things to the next level, so to speak. Therefore, through natural revelation we know there must be a God; but it is through Divine revelation that we know that he exists in Trinity; natural revelation gives us some sense of morality, but Divine Revelation tells why it is that certain things are right and others wrong, which is that which is wrong does not conform with the Creator's intentions for how those he created should behave; and natural revelation speaks to us of life after death; Divine Revelation gives a vision of what that life will be, which is that it is eternity in heaven with the Creator and the reason for which he created us in the first place.

This knowledge of what life after death is and that it is part of God's plan for us is of unimaginable importance. Without that knowledge the life we have on this earth has very little meaning. What would be the point of life if everything ended in decay; if all we had done would be forgotten shortly after we die in the vast majority of cases and even those handful whose names live on for generations will eventually be lost, for in time all the universe will be gone? What would be the point of struggling to lead a good and moral life if its sole reward was the good opinion of those around you who will themselves soon enough be dead and forgotten?

But the right understanding of death granted us through Divine Revelation prevents that; it prevents us from falling into the trap of thinking life is ultimately meaningless and as a result leading a life that is useless or hedonistic. God created us for a purpose; and that purpose was to love him, to show that love in the manner in which we lead our lives, and at the last be with him. Whether we are, at the last with him, depends on how well, with the help of God's grace, we live out the words of Christ that those who love him are those who hear and do God's will. Whether we have done so, and therefore hear the words on the last day that we are good and faithful servants who are to welcomed into their master's joy, or wicked servants cast out into the outer darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth, will be decided when Jesus returns again to judge the living and the dead. But as judgement is our topic for next week, I will simply end here with the prayer that all will use the time granted them during this Advent season to prepare well for when he comes again and by it not be found wanting on that day.

To the Almighty and Eternal God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to him be all honour and glory, now and unto the ages of ages: Amen. 

Prayer Diary Monday 30 November 2015 (Saint Andrew)

He saw two brothers, Simon ... and Andrew his brother,... and he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.' 
Matthew 4. 18,19

We are all called to call others to Christ. Some must do so by preaching the word; all must do it by the holiness of their lives.

Examin Sunday 29 November 2015

Advent is upon us. St Augustine said not to resist Christ's first coming so that we might not dread his second. Therefore examine your life closely. Consider the ways it does not conform to Christ's teachings and turn from them. In that way you need have no fear on the day when our Lord comes again.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

street riddles

One of the nice things about being a priest in parish ministry is that for the most part I set my own schedule. This means that I can, on occasion, walk my youngest to school in the morning. He's eight and there's something very special about being able to walk the short journey through the small town we live in together, hand in hand, chatting about random things.

At the moment he's on a riddle-kick. I think his teacher was explaining them at school. Now, of course, I approve of teachers filling my child's head with new and interesting information. I am a little less enthusiastic when it results in:

'Dad, dad, dad! Do you know any riddles?'
Inwardly I groaned. Not because I don't like riddles, but because I don't really know any. There's one that I learned when I was a child and still remember; but that's rude and not really suitable. Then there's the ones from the famous riddle-duel between Bilbo and Gollum in The Hobbit; but I only half-know those ... and since I've read the book to son number four, he knows them better. 

I decided to try for a deflection.
'Well there's Tom Riddle, but I don't really know him because he's in a book.'
'Ha! Good one, dad!'
For a while we talked about Tom Riddle and Harry Potter and I thought the deflection had worked. But I'd only bought myself a hundred yards of breathing space. Then as we reached the hardware store:
'So, dad - any riddles?'
I groaned.
'I don't really know any.'
'So make one up!'
Ah - the confidence of a young boy in his father! How could I disappoint? I glanced around somewhat desperately, seeking inspiration from the street. Something up ahead gave me an idea.
'What can be light no matter how heavy it is?'
He thought for a moment.
'It's not wood.'
'But wood floats. It can be heavy and still float. That makes it light.'
'It's a good answer. But it's not what I was thinking of. Think about the different meanings a word can have.'
He thought a while. We were almost halfway to his school.
'I give up.'
'Are you sure. What can be light no matter how heavy it is? The clue is that the same word can have more than one meaning.'
He thought some more than shook his head.
'No idea.'
'A lamp.'
'A lamp?'
'A lamp.'
'Oh, I get it. A lamp can be heavy and still give off light. Good one dad. Did you make that up?'
'Yup. I looked at one of those tall, metal street lights as we were walking along and that gave me the idea.'
'It's a good one. I thought it was wood. Because wood floats'

That had brought us to the half-way point, the pedestrian crossing just outside the local supermarket on the square. We started talking about why it was that some things can float and others don't. About things like why can a giant battleship made of metal float but a tiny nail can't. That kept us going riddle-free to the school gate. There he took a quick look around to make sure there was no one to see before he kissed me good-bye and trotted off into school. 

The fact that he won't let me walk him to the door any more and makes sure he's not seen by his friends kissing me goodbye reminds me that there's probably not too much time left that he'll be happy to hold my hand walking along the street. Sad to think such a simple pleasure will soon be gone from my life. He's my youngest child and so after 18 years of almost taking such moments for granted the clock is ticking down on them. I'll have to be careful to treasure those that are left while they still remain to me. 

prayer diary Saturday 28 November 2015

‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with … the worries of this life and that day does not catch you unexpectedly.' 
Luke 21.34

The temptations of this world are not limited to its pleasures. It is all too easy to be so distracted by the cares of daily living that you forget about both God and godly living. Take care: there is nothing of this life important enough to risk the next for.

Friday, November 27, 2015

haiku: sudden downpour

sudden downpour
~the robin at the feeder

prayer diary Friday 27 November 2015

'Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.' 
Luke 21.33

God's word is eternal. It's truth is for all people in all places; it does not alter for the fashions of the age.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

happy thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is a truly American holiday. Interestingly, its one, I think, that immigrants 'fresh off the boat' have no trouble adopting with speed and enthusiasm. I remember as a child in New York going to a Thanksgiving dinner with my family at a friend's house when I was about five. The place was crammed with people - all Irish born adults with their children. Overwhelmed by the amazing turkey dinner with all the trimmings I engaged in some extravagant praise of our hostess:

'This is the best dinner ever!' I cried. 

She looked pleased. Ah yes, I had a way with words even then! Alas, I was still learning ... so I took things too far and added 'You really should learn to cook like this mom!'

My mother was decidedly cool with me on the way home. I tried to make amends by claiming I was just trying to be polite to our hostess, but no one was buying it, especially not my mom. Oh well; I'm sure she had forgiven me by the time I left home.

Of course, when we returned to Ireland a few years later, the holiday was pretty much forgotten. I think the next time it came up in conversation was when I was in Navy boot camp, nearly 20 years later. One of the other recruits - I'm thinking an Iowa farmboy, but I could be mis-remembering - asked how we celebrated Thanksgiving in Ireland.

'We don't,' I said, a little surprised he should ask.
'You don't?' he said, far more surprised than I. He peered at me earnestly through the thick-framed spectacles we called BC glasses.
'Of course not,' I said. 'Thanksgiving is an American holiday.'
He processed that for a while, his brow furrowed beneath the red stubble of his hair. Then he asked:
'So do you celebrate Christmas?'

Ah yes, happy days! 

I had great fun at Thanksgiving dinners during my times in the states and in the service. I have to say that things were made much simpler by the fact that I didn't go vegetarian until the final years of my time in uniform! But, of course, once back in Ireland the holiday went back into the mothballs of my mind as far as celebrating it was concerned. Still, I do make an effort to phone my one American friend living in Ireland to wish him a happy Thanksgiving - pretty much on the grounds that if I won't, who will? 

And this year I thought I'd do the same to all those out there reading the blog who are Americans - I know you have plenty at home who will as well, but I just thought I'd let you know there was someone in Ireland who is not only thinking of you, but knows what Thanksgiving is as well!

Therefore, from Ireland, may I wish you a happy and blessed Thanksgiving! 

different days

We are truly living in interesting times. Who would have thought the day would come when the Preacher of Papal Household would be addressing the General Synod of the Church of England ... with Queen Elizabeth II in attendance? Or that he be saying stuff like this:

Justification by faith, for example, ought to be preached by the whole Church—and with more vigour than ever. Not in opposition to good works – the issue is already settled - but rather in opposition to the claim of people today that they can save themselves thanks to their science, technology or their man-made spirituality, without the need for a redeemer coming from outside humanity. Self-justification! I am convinced that if they were alive today this is the way Martin Luther and Thomas Cranmer would preach justification through faith!

You can read the rest of what Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa had to say to those gathered here

prayer diary Thursday 26 November 2015

'They will see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory.' 
Luke 21.27

Christ will come again. But we know not when. Therefore live as if it might be the very next moment from now.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

prayer diary Wednesday 25 November 2015

'They will arrest you and persecute you … will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify.' 
Luke 21.13,14

The world has always been hostile to the message of Christ. Do not fear to preach it boldly, nonetheless, for this is your chance to be a witness to the faith.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Sacrilege in Pamplona

A so-called artist in Spain has acquired by nefarious means numerous consecrated hosts and put them on show in Pamplona in a profane display. I will not speak further of what he has done. If you wish read more, you may go here. I would ask that you help end this act of sacrilege by going here to sign the online petition calling for an end to it. 

Please pray for this man, those who permitted this to take place, and those who visit to take pleasure in the mockery being made of the Blessed Sacrament; and that the authorities of this city will end this now. 

Note: credit to Dom Mark Kirby of Silverstream Priory whose post brought on this brought it to my attention

Banned in UK cinema's: the Lord's Prayer

You can file this one under 'oh, come on now! Seriously?'

Anything goes down at your local multiplex these days - anything except prayer apparently. Not a prayer meeting before the big screen, but as part of an ad up on it, paid for like any other ad. The company in charge of cinema advertising in Britain says it wouldn't want to 'cause offence' and it is their policy to refuse such ads. 

The Church of England wants to encourage prayer. How does one do such a thing in this modern age? Well the good old Cof E thought 'let's do this modern. Let's hit the internet, the social media. Heck, let's splash out on an advertising campaign. Hey, local cinema - how much to run an ad in your fine establishment?'
'A religious ad?' cried they, shrinking away in horror, like a vampire from the light. 'I know we'll promote just about anything we can think on our screens that is contrary to the teachings of your faith. But we have to draw the line somewhere! And anyway, it's against our policy!'

When asked for a copy of the policy, the company couldn't provide one. Apparently it didn't exist. At least not in writing. Not when they refused to carry the ad. Apparently they put something up on their website afterwards. 

An unwritten policy that no one has every heard of until they refuse someone's ad on the basis of it? No, that doesn't sound a bit fishy ...

The British Secular Society said if was arrogant of the Church of England to try and foist their views on a captive cinema audience. Excuse me, but isn't that what advertisers do in cinemas? Pay to put their message out to a particular audience, irrespective of whether the audience cares to see it or not? I certainly don't recall ever being asked about what ads I might care to watch along with my movie when purchasing a ticket!

Silver lining: the controversy over the refusal is garnering more attention for the campaign than the ad ever would have probably. Good to know that the old 'down with this sort of thing' works in reverse. 

But still, if having to sit through a recitation of the Our Father in a country whose culture is rooted in the Christian religion is now considered a danger to 'Those Who Easily Take Offense & Indeed Choose to Take Offense at Every Available Opportunity' (tm) the question is: where next for I will be offended brigade? Banning the Bible from bookshops in case someone should walk by the shelf, or indeed the store, and take offense? 

After all, the Lord's Prayer is in the Bible ...

prayer diary Tuesday 24 November 2015

‘Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and, “The time is near!” Do not go after them.' 
Luke 21.8

Christ warned us against false teachers. Be wary, therefore, of those who preach that which has not 'been believed everywhere, always, by all' (St Vincent of Lerins).

Monday, November 23, 2015

questions surround 'suicide' of Catholic priest in China

a Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) press release

Chinese church leaders have questioned the official explanation of suicide in the case of a Catholic priest reported dead on 11 November.

According to UCANews, Father Pedro Yu Heping (also known as Wei Heping), departed from Taiyuan in Shanxi province on 6 November, bound for Xingcheng, but never arrived. On 11 November, police informed his family that his body had been found in the Fen River several days earlier. Church leaders have gathered in Taiyuan to get more information.

According to the Cardinal Kung Foundation, Father Yu, 41, was heavily involved in pastoral work, particularly in poor and remote areas of the country, following his clandestine ordination in 2004 by a bishop from the 'underground'; church. The foundation has also questioned the authorities' claim that Father Yu committed suicide and has appealed to the Chinese government to thoroughly investigate the cause of death and publish the findings.

Concerns about the circumstances surrounding Father Yu's death occur against a backdrop of ongoing allegations ill-treatment of religious leaders, rights lawyers and other prisoners and detainees in China, including the use of torture. In a stakeholder submission to the UN Committee against Torture's review of China's report, CSW highlighted torture and ill-treatment in extra-legal detention facilities (otherwise known as 'black jails;), the forced repatriation of North Korean asylum seekers and China's legislative and legal reform concerning torture and ill-treatment. The submission made specific reference to Bishop James Su and rights lawyer and religious freedom defender Li Heping, who are both detained incommunicado at unknown locations, putting them at high risk of ill-treatment.

CSW's Chief Operating Officer Andy Dipper said, 'We are concerned about the circumstances surrounding the death of Father Yu earlier this month and join his friends, colleagues and church leaders in calling for an impartial and prompt investigation. As outlined in our submission to the UN Committee against Torture, we also reiterate our deep concerns about allegations of torture and ill-treatment of religious leaders, rights lawyers and other prisoners and detainees in China, and note that such allegations have often not been investigated and in some cases the alleged victims has been subjected to further periods of enforced disappearance and detention after making the allegations. We call on the government of the People's Republic of China to promptly and impartially investigate any acts of torture, and to immediately end the use of extra-legal forms of detention.'

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email or visit

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

Denzel Washington speech: How is it that this video hasn't gone viral?

Denzel Washington, one of the most popular and talented actors of our era, tells a recent graduating class 'to put God first.' It is a great speech. My only question is: How is it that this video hasn't gone viral?

prayer diary Monday 23 November 2015

‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them.' 
Luke 21.3

Love of God and neighbour is not expressed through giving what you can easily spare out of your abundance. Rather it is when you must make real sacrifices to give.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Christ our King

Almighty, eternal, and merciful God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: we pray that as we meditate upon your Word you will lead us deeper into all truth that we may better know and do your will and grow in holiness day by day. Amen.

Today is the Sunday when we celebrate the Kingship of Christ. What that kingship entailed in his first coming is laid out for us in our Gospel reading this morning: the word made flesh, suffering and dying for our sins. What it will comprise of in his second coming is laid out in our reading from the Revelation to St John the Divine: 'Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen.' The wailing that is foretold is because when he comes again Christ will 'judge the living and the dead,' as we pray each Sunday and on every other occasion when we recite the Creed And we know, for Christ himself told us in the parable/prophesy of the Sheep and the Goats, that at that judgement many will be found wanting.

And for those found wanting his judgement will be severe: Christ often speaks of such as they being cast into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth or into the fires of hell; and his parable of the ten minas, where the ruler returns to reward those who have used his gifts to them well, punish those who have not, and utterly destroy those who have fought against him in his absence, is a sobering vision indeed of the day of his return.

But this is not to say that Christians are to live their lives in fear and trembling, afraid to enjoy themselves in any way in this life in case they are punished for it in all eternity in the next. That kind of thinking would be to adopt the type of false view of our faith put about by those who hate religion. God gave us the good things of this earth and intends us to enjoy them. For evidence of this, we may look to Genesis. All that he created God called good. And then he set the man and woman he had made in the beautiful garden of Eden and told them they might enjoy everything there – as long as they kept within the limits he had set. They did not, as we all know; and that was the sin of our first parents, what we call today Original Sin.

Those instructions essentially hold true today. We may enjoy all God has given us in the world, but within limits. And those limits are that we should use God's according to his will.

Therefore, for example, there is nothing wrong with a good dinner, whether at home or even occasionally in a fine restaurant. But we are not eat and eat and eat to the point of gluttony; and if we stuff ourselves endlessly while others go hungry, then we offend against charity. Similarly, there is nothing wrong with a glass or two of wine, or whatever you're having yourself, but we are not to be drunkards. When it comes to money, there is nothing wrong with working hard in order to provide a comfortable home for yourself and your family and have a decent standard of living; but avarice, or greed for money, is to be avoided … and from your plenty, you must share with those who do not have enough.

And the marital embrace, to phrase things delicately, is a good and wholesome thing, where the couple, to paraphrase from the Prayer Book, with tenderness and delight may know each other in love and through the joy of their bodily union they may strengthen the union of their hearts and lives. But that bodily union was ordained by God to take place within the bonds of holy matrimony, and there only.

We could go through all areas of life, but if I did we'd be here a very long time indeed! And I think the examples given are sufficient. Christians may indeed eat drink and be merry – but not to excess and not as if that was all there was to life and not in ways that do not conform with God's law. But otherwise, by all means enjoy yourselves! Good news, I think, as we draw near to Christmas, and all the parties and festivities that come with it.

The reason, of course, why we celebrate the feast of Christ the King this Sunday is because it is also the last Sunday before Advent. And Advent is the season when we remember both the time when Christ came first; and that he will come again in order to help prepare ourselves for that day. St Augustine of Hippo had something very appropriate to say concerning our Lord's first and second coming: and that was that we should not resist the first in order that we may not dread the next. To put it another way: if we embrace his first coming by doing all we can to live good Christian lives we have nothing at all to fear on the day when he shall come again. But why should we resist? For he came to suffer and die that we might be saved. And why should we dread? For it has been his hope out of all eternity that we would be saved. And therefore my prayer for you this morning is to say again those words of St Augustine: that you may not resist the first coming so that you never never dread the next.

To the Almighty and Eternal God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to him be all honour and glory, now and unto the ages of ages: Amen. 

Examin Sunday 21 November 2015

St Augustine described the Church as a hospital for sinners. Sadly, many refuse to believe they are in need of the treatment she offers; they refuse to see themselves as sinners. And yet we all are, for, as it is written 'all are sinners, and all have fallen short of God's Glory' (Romans 3.23). Yet Christ commanded us 'to to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect' (Matthew 5.48). He provided us with help in obeying that command in the Church he founded. The first step towards getting that help is in accepting that we need it.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Let nothing be put before the Work of God.

At the hour for the Divine Office,
as soon as the signal is heard,
let them abandon whatever they may have in hand
and hasten with the greatest speed,
yet with seriousness, so that there is no excuse for levity.
Let nothing, therefore, be put before the Work of God.
from Chapter 43 of The Rule of Benedict

There is much those in the world can learn from what was written here for those leading the monastic life. It can be very easy to let the cares of the world come between us and our prayers, not to mention the temptations. How often I have myself thought to myself that I'll just get this small piece of work done before saying the morning office; before I know it I'm beavering away and it's noon or one and I'm startled and ashamed to realise that my prayers have gone unsaid (of course, I then say the office then - but it is hardly in the spirit of things to say one's morning prayers at lunchtime!).

I try to learn from such experiences. However much the work is calling to me, how urgent it seems, I try to push it to one side and focus on my prayers instead (from that arises another problem - the thought of the work waiting to be done serving as a distraction during prayers ... alas, I'm not very good at mindfulness! But that is an issue for another day). Setting a routine and having the self-discipline to stick to it are required. 

Still, it can be a struggle and I do struggle with it. Mainly, of course, because like everyone else these days I have a million things I need to do. And this is where the words of St Benedict, I believe, can be such a help: 
Let nothing, therefore, be put before the Work of God. They help put things into their true context: which is that our prayers are not on the same level as all the other work we must do; they are the work of God, not to be neglected so that email may be sent out five minutes earlier than it would have been, that letter finished, that phone call made, not even that sermon written. 

If people were to take St Benedict's words to heart, that they should put nothing before the work of God, their prayer life would, I think, most certainly be improved. It would help them to let nothing come between them and their morning and evening prayers, or their obligation to keep holy the Lord's Day through their worship of Him in his own House. Right now, I know I am thinking that keeping that line in mind will be of great help to me.

prayer diary Saturday 21 November 2015

Jesus said 'Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.’ 
Luke 20. 38

Christ here tells us, without even a hint of ambiguity, of the hope we have of eternal life. With such an assurance, how might anyone not do all within their power to achieve it?

Friday, November 20, 2015

the Paris attacks and spiritual danger

This reflection was delivered in the context of an ecumenical service of Evening Prayer  that took place on the evening of November 18th to show the prayerful support of the people of the parish of Castlecomer for the people of Paris.

We have gathered here this evening to show our solidarity with the people of Paris in the wake of the dreadful attacks they have suffered in recent days. They are our neighbours and it is natural that we should wish to support them in any way we can during such dark and difficult days, particularly by praying for the victims and their families and for the peace and comfort of all who are frightened by what took place on their very doorsteps. More, our prayers are something they are entitled to expect from us; and it is something that we, as the people of God, are obliged to offer. For if we will not pray, then who will; and if we will not pray at a time like this, then when will we ever?

Prayers are needed for another reason also. That is because there is a spiritual dimension in this crisis we face in the world today – and these attacks are a part of that crisis. Shortly after the shocking events in Paris people began to put forward all kinds of reasons for what could have caused the killers to behave in such a terrible way. Many pointed the finger of blame to the West. 'It is our fault,' they essentially said; 'we have interfered in the affairs of the Middle-East for generations. Such attacks are the result.'

I will not deny that the West does have much moral culpability for the way things are in the Middle-East today. But this is not what brought Islamic State to Paris. If it was, they would have no reason to treat with such barbaric cruelty the people of their own religion in the lands they control. And only today they murdered two of their captives, a Norwegian and a Chinese man, after having sought a massive cash ransom for their release. Norway and China have no history of interfering in that region.

No, self-blaming views displays a terrible misunderstanding of what it is we are dealing with here, which is that Islamic State is driven by a burning passion for the total annihilation of all that is not in full conformity with their own particular world-view. This means not only their own brand of Islam in the countries in their immediate vicinity, but globally. And this requires the complete destruction of Western Civilisation and our way of life.

What we are dealing with here, therefore, is evil – nothing less can explain the crucifixions, the beheadings, the kidnapping and enslavement of young girls and women for sexual purposes. And evil is a spiritual problem.

Therefore, when we pray, we must pray for other things as well as those I have already mentioned. We must pray for the conversion of heart of all those who commit such wicked acts. We must pray for the young men and women living in the West who are tempted by what Militant Islam offers. Who knows why it is they are tempted; it is enough to know that it is the nature of evil to tempt us. But we must ask God's protection on these young people that that may be able to fight off these temptations. We must do this for the sake of their souls as well as the lives and safety of all those they now threaten or may put at risk in the future.

And we must pray for all within our borders who will not pray. I mean by this those who do not usually pray. At times like this many will light candles, many will say prayers, many will even go to churches to hear Masses or take part in other services who do not usually enter into God's house. But as the rawness of the tragedy lessens, so does their impulse to draw near to God. But the spiritual danger we face does not lessen, it only grows stronger. And a spiritual battle needs a solid spiritual support beneath it at all times or that battle will be lost. So we must pray that all those under attack will be drawn back to God, to prayer, to faith; and that those who continue to practice their faith will be drawn ever deeper into it.

So this night we pray for the people of Paris, but we also pray for all the world. We pray that this terrible evil will be taken from us, so that all people may know peace. Amen.

prayer diary Friday 20 November 2015

Jesus said, ‘It is written, “My house shall be a house of prayer”; but you have made it a den of robbers.' 
Luke 19. 46

Do you always treat the Lord's House with total reverence? Indeed, is your lack of attention during Divine Services such that it might be said that for you it has ceased to be a house of prayer?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

prayers for the people of Paris

These prayers were said in the context of an ecumenical service of Evening Prayer  that took place on the evening of November 18th to show the prayerful support of the people of the parish of Castlecomer for the people of Paris.

Heavenly Father, hear our prayers this night:

We pray for all who perpetrate such evil; may they repent of the wickedness they have done, may their hearts be turned to ways that are good and true, and may they work for peace in the world and your greater glory all their remaining days;
Lord in your mercy

We pray for the young people of the world, especially those who may be tempted into this darkness; guide them to reject the evil that is set before them by the world and follow instead the path of goodness you call them to:
lord in your mercy

We pray for all those whose minds, hearts, and souls are troubled by the events of recent days; we pray for ourselves even as we pray for those who live in Paris, that they may have them security in their homes and peace in their lives:
Lord in your mercy

We pray for all those in the military and police forces who must directly fight against the evil of this threat; keep them safe, and help them to do their work with restraint, so that they do not needlessly inflict violence even on the guilty, and that they may avoid unjustly hurting the innocent in their fear or anger:
Lord in your mercy

We pray for doctors, nurses, and all in the medical profession who must deal with the dead and the injured; guide their hands so they may better heal the injured and protect their hearts so that the terrors that they see may not scar them:
Lord in your mercy

We pray for the families and loved ones of all killed or injured; help them to forgive the wrongs done to them and those they love, and grant them the strength to cope with their losses and their fears:
Lord in your mercy

We pray for all those who were injured in these attacks; grant them healing in body, mind, and spirit, and help keep them from any bitterness of heart because of what they have suffered:
Lord in your mercy

And we pray for those who died in the attacks; grant that none died unprepared to meet with you that day; and if any did, hear our prayers and be merciful to them. Perpetual light grant unto them O Lord: and may they rest in peace. Amen.
Lord in your mercy

And we finish our prayers this evening as we pray for each other, all of God's Church, and all of God's children, especially the people of Paris, in the words of the Grace: The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, this night and for evermore. Amen.

prayer diary Thursday 19 November 2015

As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it. 
Luke 19.41

Even when we are at our worst God weeps for our sins. He will not deny his mercy to those who seek it; but he will not force it upon those who do not wish it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

today Palmyra, tomorrow the Parthenon

I do wonder at those who in the aftermath of the attacks in Paris can't wait to make comments along the lines of how they'll give 'us some idea of what it must be like in Syria' or describing 'US-led military intervention' as the 'root cause of these types of attacks' (and yes, those are in quotation marks because they are quotes - they are taken from Tuesday's Irish Times). 

First of all, even if you truly believe this to be true, there is a time and a place for it. The bodies of the slain are barely cold; other victims are suffering in their hospital beds, some of whom may yet die. Such finger-wagging can wait. Doing it now is a little like walking up to a grief-stricken widow at a funeral, saying 'sorry for your troubles, 'mam ... but, really, your husband was always a total waste of space and you're better off without him.' Not the time for it, even if you think it to be true.

Secondly, I think they show show a complete misunderstanding of what it is we are dealing with. This is not 'terrorism, business as usual' - a few misguided patriots with a list of grievances that will fade away if they get what they want ... or, more likely, get tired of it all after a few years and move on to roles as elder-statesman and peacemakers in some compromise living arrangement with those they once deemed their oppressors. Islamic State are different. 

They may use Western involvement in the Middle-East as a recruiting tool; but they are not motivated by it. What drives them is a burning passion for the total annihilation of all that is not in full conformity with their own particular worldview. This means not only their own brand of Islam in the countries in their immediate vicinity, but globally. 

This requires the complete destruction of Western Civilisation and our way of life. What they did in Palmyra they hope to do to the Parthenon; the crucifixions they carry out in the lands they control they dream of doing in ours and everywhere else in the world.

Wringing our hands over the policies of the West won't stop them. In fact, it probably brings a smile to their faces. Nothing like having your enemy do your propaganda for you. Comments like the ones quoted above make me think the old adage  'we do not negotiate with terrorists' needs an addendum: 'and neither do we under any circumstances say anything that might be taken to justify their actions.'

prayer diary Wednesday 18 November 2015

'Why then did you not put my money into the bank? Then when I returned, I could have collected it with interest.' 
Luke 19.23

Our life on earth is the time we must put to good use the talents God has given us. On the day of judgement he will not be held guiltless who has wilfully wasted those gifts.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

only those who edify their hearers

Chapter 38 of the rule of St Benedict deals with the choosing of the weekly reader. For those of you for whom this is alien territory, it is common in monasteries for meals to be taken in silence while some suitable matter is read aloud by one of the community. Part of St Benedict's instructions on how the reader for the week is to be chosen is as follows:

The brothers are not to read or chant in order, but only those who edify their hearers.

In other words, this task isn't simply about everyone taking turns, as it is with working in the kitchens or serving at tables. The person doing the reading has to have some talent for it. The saint doesn't go into details, but common sense would suggest that the role would probably require the reader to have reasonable diction, a good speaking voice that can be clearly heard by all in the room, and perhaps even some small ability to convey the sense of what they are reading in an intelligent manner. After all, what is the point of a person reading who can't be heard or who so mangles the sense of the material in such a manner that no one listening has any idea of what the writer was trying to communicate?

It is a wisdom that some would do well to take beyond the walls of the monastery. I don't know about you, but I've lost track of the amount of church services I've attended where the person reading might as well have been speaking a foreign language for all I understood of what they were saying. We wouldn't dream of asking someone to sing a solo in church who was not a talented singer. Why then do we think it reasonable to ask someone to read aloud the Word of God who is not a talented when it comes to reading?

prayer diary Tuesday 17 November 2015

All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’ 
Luke 19.7

How foolish it is to condemn others, for all are sinners and have fallen short. To do so risks your own souls and those you would prevent seeking out God's mercy.

Monday, November 16, 2015

light no candles

My dear friend Phenomena passed from this life to the next this morning. I have mentioned her before on this blog but only occasionally so it would be unreasonable of me to expect you to recall her. So let me tell you a little about her.

Phil, as she was known, was 82 years old a few days back. When she was about six months old she had a stroke. The doctors said she wouldn't live. They were wrong, clearly. She spent all her life in a wheel-chair, dependent on others for her care; the last 32 years of her life were spent in the local district hospital. That was where I met her not long after I came to this parish.

I'm not sure how to explain this, but within moments of first speaking with her I was convinced I was in the presence of a woman of great sanctity - as close to a living saint as I've met. So much so that when I was leaving I didn't say what I usually say to people I meet in hospitals and nursing homes, that I'd keep her in my prayers. Instead, I asked her to keep me in hers. She smiled and said she would - and then said 'and Father, keep me in yours.'

That was about three and a half years ago. Every meeting I had convinced me of her holiness. I never once heard her complain of her lot in life - that she had never been able to walk, to have what others might call an ordinary life. This was the cross she had been given (and she saw it in those terms) and bear it she would. The staff who looked after her assured me this morning she had never complained in all the years she had been there; her family told me she never had all her life.

And as bore that cross she kept everyone she knew in her prayers. She was particularly fond of the rosary. She told me she had said many decades for me. I feel blessed that she had. I know she kept others in her prayers also - the staff that cared for her in the hospital, of course, and she told me she in particular prayed for priests - bless her, she knew how much we need them.

Hers was a life that contradicts normal expectations of what a productive life is. Her entire life was spent in a chair or a bed needing others to look after her - how could that be a useful life? And yet I think hers was one of the most amazing lives of all I have known, a great gift to all who encountered her. It was a life spent in prayer for others, a life shining through year after year of suffering, a life holding that suffering up before others as if to say with it (although she would never say so with words) 'if I can endure and remain faithful, so also can you.'

Leaving the hospital this morning not long after her passing I drove past the church near it. Normally I stop after such a farewell to light a candle for the departed, almost instinctively, without needing to think about it before I pull over and go in. Today I didn't; in fact, I had passed the church before I realised I hadn't stopped to do what I usually do. And I felt no inclination to turn the car around and go back. 

Was that because I knew inside that there was no need, that my friend was indeed the holy woman she always seemed to me to be? I suppose I can't answer that question. Probably I will light a candle at some future time - just to 'be sure to be sure' as we sometimes say in this country. But not today. Today I will light no candles. Because today I somehow seem so sure that the woman I thought of yesterday as a living saint is indeed a saint in heaven and that she keeps me, and all her family and friends, and perhaps all the world, in her prayers as she always did.

prayer diary Monday 16 November 2015

Then he shouted, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet. 
Luke 18.38, 39

We are all sinners in need of God's mercy. We must never heed those who would try to prevent us seeking out the life-giving mercy he offers.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

a warning and a blessing

Almighty, eternal, and merciful God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: we pray that as we meditate upon your Word you will lead us deeper into all truth that we may better know and do your will and grow in holiness day by day. Amen.

We may wonder today why when Jesus' disciples ask him when the destruction of the temple which he has just foretold will take place, he answers them by speaking on a different topic altogether – things to do with the end of days, his second coming, and the false teachers which may appear before those events take place. Why does he do so?

Perhaps it because there is a link between his own death and downfall of the temple; with his death and resurrection the temple becomes superfluous in God's economy of salvation. Also, we may remember his words elsewhere in scripture where he says 'destroy this temple and I will raise it up again in three days' – and those listening thought he meant the temple made of stone, whereas in fact he spoke of the temple of his own body. Perhaps it is that when his disciples begin to question him about future events he takes the opportunity of their interest to speak about future events of greater important than when a building may be destroyed – their salvation and the salvation of generations to come. Time for him was all too short, as he was well aware; he is Jerusalem only days before his passion begins - and the fact that he uses what was effectively his last opportunity for teaching on this topic can only act to emphasise importance of what he teaches here.

It is a lengthy passage, consisting of most of the 13th Chapter of St Mark's Gospel, which makes it more than we can possibly consider in detail today. So let us perhaps look at just one point, the one that Christ begins with, one intended to help us avoid one of the great temptations of this world – false teachers who claim to teach not just with authority, but with Christ's own authority: ‘Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, “I am he!”  and they will lead many astray'

What does our Lord mean precisely by this? Scholars are uncertain. He might mean that after he is gone others will come claiming to be the Christ come again, and lead people off the one true path; he might mean that false teachers will arise, claiming to speak with the authority of Jesus, or the authority of the Church and that their false teachings will put at risk the salvation of those who listen to them; perhaps it is something else. In our own era it would be tempting to think his warning points to those in the secular world who, despite their avowed or practical atheism, drape their philosophy with an almost divine authority and use it to pronounce judgement on the teachings of the Church and where it does not agree with theirs call it evil; and, bizarrely, even at times declare the teachings of Christ 'unchristian!'

Whatever the precise meaning, our Lord's words certainly serve as both a warning and as a blessing. A warning, because they tell us to be on our guard against such teaching – teaching that will not build us up but instead will serve to tear us down because it is false. We may distinguish false teaching from true by applying the simple test of considering whether it is in agreement with what it says in the Sacred Scriptures or that which has been taught by the Church from the beginning. If it does not, then we may usefully keep in mind the words of St Paul on the subject, as written in his letter to the Galatians: 'even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!

And it is also a blessing, not only because all the words of our Saviour are a blessing, but because all warnings which are spoken truly are a blessing, as they serve to keep us from harm if we heed them; and as we know that Christ is The Truth, then we know his warnings are true; and we are truly blessed to receive them. I pray that you all will indeed heed them with great joy; and thereby be kept safe from all the false teachings and teachers of the world that would seek to deny you the eternal life that Christ suffered and died to place within your reach.

To the Almighty and Eternal God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to him be all honour and glory, now and unto the ages of ages: Amen. 

old woman, young woman

I came across this famous optical illusion/brain-teaser in college in 1980. I came across it again today in a book and shared it with my 8-year old son. In the book I discovered it was first published in 1915, which means it is now 100 years old. Aging well, isn't she she? Doesn't look a day older than when I first saw her her 35 years ago. I can only wish I was aging as well!

Examin Sunday 15 November 2015

God is not pleased with behaviour done for our own satisfaction that we pretend is done out of love for him; he is not fooled, and will not reward it, even if in the eyes of men those actions appear as those truly done for His glory. And there is a similar danger to this, the danger of thinking that to satisfy our own desires is equal to pleasing God and giving him glory. But when we replace the glorification of God our with our own self-satisfaction we cease to worship God and instead worship ourselves.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Paris attacks

My mind has been reeling since reports began to come in last night about the attacks in Paris. How can anyone behave in such a fashion ... walk into a restaurant or a concert and start shooting people? Saying that such behaviour is pure evil hardly begins to cover it.

There are all sorts of theories in the media about what causes such an attack. I'm no expert so I won't comment. But I do think it worth noting that the people who do such things hope to provoke a response that they can use to their advantage. So we - by which I mean the West - should be careful how we respond. It is bad enough that all these people have suffered and died; would it not be to add to their injuries if their pain was to the ultimate gain of those who perpetrated it?

So I think now is a time for prayer. Prayers for the injured and the dead and all others affected by this atrocity; prayers for those who behave in such a vile, inhumane, and ungodly way that their hearts may be turned from this evil; and prayers for all those in authority that they will respond to what has happened with wisdom, so that the acts these people did to gather strength and support for their movement will only serve to weaken them further and cause people (especially those who already support them) to run from them rather than turn to them. 

prayer diary Saturday 14 November 2015

The Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night?' 
Luke 18. 6,7

Be persistent in your prayers, for God will heed you. And pray most for what he wills for you: that you will show your love for him by listening to his word and obeying.

Friday, November 13, 2015

your really do learn something new every day ...

I noticed what I thought was a mistake on the site of the local Latin Mass Society. They were listing next Sunday as  the 'Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany (Resumed).' 

'Hello,' I thought. 'Now there's a major error if I ever saw one. We're almost into Advent; and Epiphany comes not long after Advent, just after Christmas. So how could we have Epiphany just before Advent? And what's this 'resumed' business anyway? They must have posted something they're planning for later in the year!'

However, even though I was sure a mistake was made, not being a man to rush to judgement, I thought that a quick google was in order, the Latin Mass not being something I have a great deal of familiarity with. And guess what? I found a nice little page (here) laying out what was going on ... and odd though it may sound, no mistake had been made. Here's how they explain it:

If there are 27 Sundays after Pentecost (when Easter falls between March the 27th and April the 2nd), on the 24th Sunday are said the Prayers, the Epistle, and the Gospel of the 4th Sunday after the Epiphany; on the 25th Sunday the same parts of the 5th Sunday after the Epiphany are said, and on the 26th Sunday those parts of the 6th Sunday after the Epiphany are said.

Basically, if I have this right, when Easter falls early, rather than adding extra readings, etc, to the Missal to make up the difference, it simply goes back to the ones that got excluded because of the early start of Lent. Quite interesting, I think. I mean, I still find it a little odd to resume Epiphany in the run up to Advent, but it does mean the bits that got left out earlier in the year are brought back in. And, even if it caused me to raise an eyebrow at first, I have to bear in mind that that's the way it was done for centuries ... and those folk from the past would probably find what we're doing a bit weird! 

spiritual reading: St Alphonsus on preparing for death

We have had quite a lot of deaths in our local community of late, as well as among those with particular associations with our diocese. Many of these were lives cut short with little by way of warning. So it is perhaps natural that my mind, almost of necessity, should turn to the topic of how best we may prepare for our own deaths. 

Spiritual writers all agree that, generally speaking, the best, and indeed the only adequate, preparation is a righteous life. And we all know, in brief, what it is to lead such a life: as Christ taught us, we must know and do the will of God, keeping his commandments, and taking up our Cross and follow him. 

There are many works by great saints to help expand on those few words at greater length. Perhaps you have a favourite of your own? If you do not, you might do worse than to look at 'Preparation for Death' by Saint Alphonsus De Liguori.. I would in particular suggest chapter 10 'How we must prepare for death,' which is quite short. To quote from it briefly:

We must be persuaded that the hour of death is not the proper time to set our accounts in order, nor to make the great concern of our eternal salvation secure The wise ones of this world, in worldly matters, take every precaution at the proper time towards obtaining that gain, that post, that matrimonial alliance; when the health of their body is concerned, they lose no time before applying the needful remedies. What would you say of any one who, having undertaken an academical contest, would defer preparing himself for it until the time was come? Would not that general be indeed mad, who should wait until besieged, to lay in stores of provisions and arms? Would not that pilot be mad, who should forget to provide himself with cable and anchors until the time of preparation for the tempest? That Christian is even in this state, to whom the hour of death arrives before his conscience is made clean in the sight of God.

The language of the work, naturally, reflects its author's era and background, but I do not think that too great an impediment to overcome in order to glean from it the wisdom it contains. A copy can be purchased quite cheaply here  or a free pdf copy may be found here

prayer diary Friday 13 November 2015

'The day that Lot left Sodom, it rained fire and sulphur from heaven and destroyed all of them 30—it will be like that on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.' 
Luke 17.29,30

Reflection When Jesus returns it will be without warning and swift will be his judgement. Therefore we must live as if it might be within the next moment; for thus we may keep alert and avoid falling prey to the temptations that will bring his judgement upon us.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

prayer diary Thursday 12 November 2015

'But first the Son of Man must endure much suffering and be rejected by this generation.' 
Luke 17. 25

The generation of which Christ speaks was not only those of his day but all people until he comes again. Therefore do not be amazed by the lack of faith you see in the world.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

a reflection on Armistice Day

Today marks the 97th anniversary of the end of what was then called the Great War, also sometimes referred to as the war to end all wars. That it was not is reflected by the name it is more commonly known as now – the first World War.

I don't wish to spend much time this evening reflecting on the tragedy and futility of war. That is well known to us all. Wars are fought. People die either directly in the conflict, or indirectly as collateral damage. Combatants are wounded and return home crippled for life. Even those who do not die or are injured do not escape unscathed, for they will have seen things no one should ever have to see.

People sometimes speak about the glory of war. There is nothing glorious about the horror it involves. Men and women can fight with honour according to the rules of engagement, but glory is left to the side when it comes to the actual fighting and dying and killing. This is reflected, I think, in the well known reluctance of those who have been in combat to speak about their experiences. In fact, in all my years in the military I only recall one soldier speaking of his time in combat, and even that was of a single incident, and even then among other soldiers. None of the soldiers I knew, even special forces ones, were eager to speak of what they had seen and done.

And yet in this broken world of ours war remains if not a necessity then an awful inevitability. And as long as it is so, then we must honour those who put on a uniform to defend their nations, their way of life, their homes, their families. Many have died because of it; and even those who have not have suffered for it; and their scars are the scars of us all.

Let us now keep silence for some moments as we remember all those who have suffered because of war, no matter what form that suffering has taken.

Holy reading

From the earliest days of the Church it has been recommended that Christians should study the lives of the holy men and women who have gone before them. It is natural that that should be so. We who long to be saints, and have been created that we might also be saints in heaven, have much to learn by looking to the example of those who have run the race and at the finish won the crown of everlasting glory.

But where to look for such holy reading? Well one source is 'Butler's lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and other Saints.' It has an entry for everyday of the year, which makes it easy to incorporate into your routine. I was lucky enough to pick up a copy at a book fair recently and now I keep it by my bedside for that little bit of reading that takes place between the brushing of the teeth and the turning off of the light. I paid €65 for mine, which I regard as good value for five hardback, 90 year-old volumes in near perfect condition - particularly when one considers that one could easily spend as much or more on a few modern paperbacks, especially theological ones.

It isn't too difficult to find hard copies of this book for sale online; in fact there seems to be a wide variety of versions available. But if you're short of the shekels - and who isn't these days - or would like to check it out before laying out any cash, there is a pdf version available free online HERE. I will warn that it does seem to take a while to down load - perhaps not surprising for such a large work. But as you are getting a work that is a real treasure for free, I would suggest it is well worth the wait (and if you prefer just to go to each daily reading without downloading the whole book, you can go here).

prayer diary Wednesday 11 November 2015

Jesus asked, ‘Were not 10 made clean? But the other nine, where are they? ' 
Luke 17. 17

All receive blessings from God, but not all give thanks in return. Do not behave thus; for your humble gratitude is pleasing to the Almighty.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

a lost opportunity

Out and about on a pastoral visit, I was sitting by the fire with a lovely old couple, cup of coffee in hand, when the doorbell rang.
'Who could that be?' said the man, a little testily. 'We're not expecting anyone.' From his chair he glanced out the window.
'I've no idea who they are,' he said. 'They're complete strangers to me.'
That seemed a little odd to me; there house was a difficult enough one to find. I know, because I hadn't been able to find it without detailed directions, and even then I had driven past back and forth several times trying to find the place. His wife got up.
'I'll go see.' She left the room and from the porch we could hear voices. I got up and glanced out the window myself.
'Do you recognise them?' said the man
I shook my head as I sat back down.
Which again was odd. In a small rural community I'd imagined the likelihood would have been high that someone who knew the area well to find such an obscure place would be known  to at least one of us.
'Probably Jehovah's Witnesses,' harrumphed the man.
'Do you think?' I stood up again. 'Because if it is, I should go out and tell them I was here first and they'll have to wait their turn!' At this point, I should mention that not only was I wearing my clerical collar, but also my cassock. The man smiled.
'Maybe they're not,' said the man. 'How would they ever find a place like this?'
'You're probably right.' I sat back down. After a few minutes his wife returned, a couple of leaflets in her fist.
'Who was it?' her husband asked.
'Jehovah's Witnesses,' she replied. 
'You're kidding,' I groaned. I looked at the man. 'I knew I should have gone to the door. It would have been brilliant!'

prayer diary Tuesday 10 November 2015

'So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, “We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!” ’ 
Luke 17.10

Many expect the praise of men for their obedience to God. There is but one reward to be hoped for: eternal life on the last day.

Monday, November 9, 2015

farewell to X, Seann MM

Very sorry to see Seann Miley Moore exit X-Factor (if you don't watch the show, you won't have a clue what I'm on about here - sorry about that!). The missus is pretty down that he's out also. I reckoned he was in the top five in the contest, based on pure vocal talent. The other four, for informational purposes only and in no particular order, are Louise, Lauren, Ché, and Anton. Ok, I think Ché should win it, but maybe it'll be Louise ... or maybe somebody else completely: based on how it went tonight, clearly what do I know!

I talked with two of my teenage sons about it, trying to get a sense of why it was he lost out. The elder said that while he was clearly a good singer, he didn't find his voice all that appealing - so maybe he was a singer that an older demographic would appreciate? My wife reckoned he was near enough Freddie Mercury (may he rest in peace) back from the dead voice-wise. The younger didn't really go for his image/persona. So maybe people didn't really 'get him'? OK, I don't really get it myself - a muscular guy in tight dresses and high-heels with hairy legs & pits, a handbag, tightly cropped hair, and lots of lippy  ... but an old soldier like myself has to look past a lot of things in this brave new world of ours, and in the wider context of things I didn't find him all that extreme. In fact, I thought he seemed like a very sweet and genuine guy. 

So, a real shame in my opinion that he's gone. He's a brilliant singer, and it is a singing contest, after all. Still, with a voice like that I'm sure he'll do well. And if Queen ever decide to trade in the guy they got to replace Freddie, Seann is your only man!

Go to a bit after the two minute mark to hear Seann singing Freddies's 'The Show must go on'