Sunday, 25 December 2016

Christmas Day

Greetings for a truly peaceful and happy Christmas.
Here at St Joseph's we had three Christmas Masses on 24th December and one this morning - all full to overflowing. Despite, or maybe because of, recent tragic events, families with children, visitors and regular parishioners make a special effort at Christmas to get to church. Lovely stories emerge in chatting - a daughter, for various reasons, had not seen her Dad for over 30 years. This morning he arrived from overseas and his grandchildren met their grandfather for the first time. Young people back to family in Paris from college and employment in other countries.  Then, too, people keenly feel the loss of loved ones who have died in the past year. Still, all in all, I love Christmas. Tomorrow I go to Ireland for a few days.    A.T

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Christmas 2016

Really sad about what happened at the Christmas Market in Berlin. May those who died rest in peace. Over the past few weeks, I have enjoyed the occasional visit to the Paris Christmas Market on the Champs Elysée. It is so good to see people mingling in a happy atmosphere. Please God all people will be safe this Christmas. A young parishioner from Aleppo has shared with me something of his pain as he watches daily the news coming from a city where he was born, that he loves and that one day he would love to go back to Syria. He and other displaced people are shining examples to me and to others, of true courage.

Since the closure of the Calais camp, the number of families with young children sleeping on the streets of Paris is heart-breaking. Young people from St Joseph's and teachers and families from a school go out on Saturdays with food and drink in an attempt to reach out to people in desperate need. Some parishioners recieve 'restuarant tickets' as part of their salary and donate books of these tickets to St Joseph's to be given to those on the streets in desperate need. Already, one book of these tickets I have been able to give to families so that they can buy food in supermarkets or go to eat in a restaurant. The gratitude expressed by these people is truly moving.

There are four Christmas Masses and it will be great to welcome parishioners and visitors alike.

For those who check in from time to time with my blog, I wish you a great Christmass filled with happiness and peace.                                                                                                      A.T.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Christmas almost upon us

I have been a bit lazy with keeping going with the blog. No real excuse, I'm afraid. Into the final stretch for Christmas and it is a time I love. The great contradiction to the arrival of the Prince of Peace are the awful scenes coming out of Aleppo. It is heartbreaking to see whole families and especially children, losing their lives and those who survive being subjected to inhumane treatment. Whole families sleeping on the streets of Paris is on the increase. Feeding these people is possible and is being done as well as possible but the longer term education of the children and health care is a great challenge to us all.

 I promise to try to do better with updates of the blog in the coming days.                             A.T.

Friday, 11 November 2016


This is a time to remember. In St Joseph's Church there is a box full of names of deceased relatives and friends before the Altar for the month of November. Families and individuals like to place the names of loved ones who have died in this box for a remembrance in prayers and Masses. In the school where I am a chaplain, the students and the staff have also placed names in a box that was brought to the Altar when we had school Mass last week. 

Today is Armistice Day when at the eleventh hour of the eleventh month, the dead of the First World War will be remembered. This afternoon I will go to Notre Dame Cathedral to join in the Remembrance Service of prayer and worship with people of many nations and beliefs.

This Sunday at our Masses we will remember the 130 people who died and the 500 injured in the Paris attacks of 13th November 2015. That is a night I will never forget. For all who died as a result of war and violence we must continue to remember them and pray earnestly for peace among people.
On Sunday morning I have been invited to contribute some comments from Paris for BBC Radio Ulster's "Sunday Sequence" Programme.

Time is moving on and soon Advent will be with us which means that Christmas cannot be far away! 

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

"Ad resurgendum cum Christo"

Probably not an instantly recognisable title - it is the instruction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Vatican about the burial of the dead and especially in the case of cremation, the ashes of the deceased. 

I have read this message delivered by Cardinal Gerhard Muller and his assistants on 25th October 2016. Listening to Irish radio this morning, it is already causing a stir. Everybody will have their own views on death and the remains of a loved one. My own father, a bit to the surprise of his three offspring, announced several years before his death that he wished to be cremated. He died at 88 years of age in 2001 - the fifteenth anniversary of his death is tomorrow. May he rest in peace. Unlike some of the concerns of the document issued yesterday, he never doubted the resurrection of Jesus and prayed for his own rising on the last day. He deeply believed that he was a child of God, made in His image and likeness and that from his Baptism he was a temple of the Holy Spirit. His wife, our mother, had died in 1964 at a young age. She is buried in Redford Cemetery in Greystones and his name has been added to her grave. He saw cremation as achieving in a short while what decaying in the ground could take years.

Sometimes I wonder about a sentence like this: "Only in the case of serious and exceptional circumstances, the Ordinary [local Bishop], in accordance with the Episcopal Conference or the Synod of Bishops, can grant permission to keep the ashes in a person's home." {translation form the original Italian} It would be interesting if Catholics through their parishes had been consulted on this topic. For all I know, perhaps the majority may agree with this Vatican message, signed by Pope Francis. If you have any views I would love to hear them. Just leave a comment at the end of this piece. 

As we approach November, month of the Holy Souls, a big number of names for the Altar List of the Dead has already been received. These sheets of names will rest in a box before the Altar at St Joseph's Church, avenue Hoche, Paris to be remembered at all the Masses offered. May the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen

Thursday, 20 October 2016

"Tempus fugit"

Time certainly does fly! Already the schools are on their Toussaint break. It seems no time since we welcomed the new and returning students and teachers to CCD. Now for three Sundays we will miss the excitement and joyful voices of the young ones each Sunday morning. Young people (and parents and teachers) have a good break. This also means that Marymount School where I serve as chaplain will be closed next week. 

Last week I was in Belfast to celebrate the Funeral Mass and burial of a great lady, a mother, a wife, a sister and a greatly loved teacher of little ones. Geraldine, rest in peace.

It was good being back in Belfast, even for this short visit. Before coming to Paris I served at Holy Cross, Ardoyne, for seven years. To the end of my days, I will thank God for the experiences of those years. In a special way, God gave me opportunities to come to know and to love families there going through a blockade of their daughters' primary school. Through their courage, through fervent prayer and dialogue a resolution to an awful experience of the blockade of their school was found. Without the solidarity of the community of the parish a peaceful resolution could never have been reached. To this day - 15 years later - people speak to me in terms of what I did in those days. That is always nice, even if not fully deserved - especially as the history of these events seems to have been rewritten in media reporting in recent weeks. No priest can take the credit for the protection of the children or the ending of this horrible event. Under God's goodness, it was the parents, the schools and teachers, the wider community of good people, individual members of the N.I. Human Rights Commission, office of the Police Ombudsman, some individual Police officers, individual politicians from North and South, the then President of Ireland and people from all over the world who offered support and encouragement during those dark and dangerous days. Some people in the media played a helpful and constructive role also.

When terrorism and wholesale killing of innocents, including an elderly priest celebrating Mass, came to France in 2015 and continuing to this day, I could not but think of how good God has been to me in placing me in situations where I can offer some little support and prayer.

It is my hope to revisit my book published in 2005, 'Holy Cross - a Personal Experience'  and update it with new material from those days and since coming to Paris. In the wake of the Passionist Provincial Chapter in Ireland in June 2016, the community of St Joseph's, Paris has been reduced from three priests to two. I know that with present world shortages of priests we are blessed to have two priests. However, neither of us are what you might call 'young' and so to get back to writing again will take determination and good time-management. I can recall how demanding it was to write the book published in 2009 on the pastoral care of people bereaved by suicide. Even though a small book, it warms my heart how even to this day when people contact me to say that some words of that book helped them when they were in the shadows of the death of a loved one who died by suicide. That was why I gave it the title of 'Out of the Shadows'. As we approach November, we can remember in prayer all our loved ones who have gone to God and whom we miss so much.

To end on a lighter note, during this week I did well in getting to the swimming pool three times in the first four days. It is great having this wonderful facility only five minutes walk from St Joseph's. 

Friday, 7 October 2016


Caught the second half of Ireland v Georgia World Cup qualifier last night. Three points are three points but by all accounts the first half was far from impressive. I still have happy memories of meeting the Irish team during their visit to France this summer for 2016 Euros. 

Last night was the launch of another year of Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). This is the way for people wishing to prepare for Baptism in the Catholic Church to prepare. Others come to RCIA who are already baptised but have never received the Sacrament of Confirmation. Still others are baptised in other Christian denominations and are received into the Catholic Church, receive Confirmation and receive Holy Communion. Last night we began with six adults - one Muslim, one from Baptist tradition, one other not baptised but married to a Catholic and three baptised  Catholics who wish to receive Confirmation. Two of these candidates are preparing also for the Sacrament of Marriage. It is a lovely group and I am looking forward to share in accompanying them until Easter 2017. The RCIA team is made up of three of our lay parishioners and me. This is the ninth consecutive year that I have been privileged to be part of RCIA at St Joseph's. 

The whole 'Brexit' debate interests me greatly. Please God there will be no return to 'Border Checks' that I and so many went through in the 1970's and into the 80's. Free movement of people has been enjoyed on the island of Ireland and the MI motorway brings home to me every time I drive it how close Belfast and Dublin are to each other.

Life is settling into a busy but wonderful rhythm here at St Joseph's. A few bumps on the road over the Summer months are not completely smooth yet, but with the help of God we will get there. If I could get people concerned to talk it could lead to the peace and justice for which Christ prayed and for which He down his life.

The chaplaincy at Marymount School is another bright spot in my life. I love going there to see a truly great community of young, their families, teachers and staff.

It's my birthday on Sunday but I love it once it is over because that means I don't get any older for another year!                                                                                                        A.T.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

October already!

Last week I had a lovely retreat at l'Arche, Trosly, directed by Jean Vanier. What a privilege to once again sit at the feet of this man.

Now back to activity here at St Joseph's Church and at Marymount School where I am a chaplain. The superiors in Ireland transferred over the summer one of us three priests to a new post and so for the present, at least, two of us will carry the flame! This is a sign of the times but needs more discernment and discussion with the people affected by decisions taken from a distance. 

A few years ago, I suggested that the only way to resolve the standoff at Twadell Avenue in North Belfast was to negotiate a finish from the disputed return march and at the same time to make sure that no marches would be allowed in the future without agreement from the residents of Ardoyne. I was in hot water with about everyone. Still, after 21 million sterling spent on policing this, in conscience I felt that this was not the best way for neighbours to live. That is all in the past. It was with a prayer to God in thanksgiving that I followed a live feed of the demolition of the camp at Twadell. Please God, this is the beginning of a new era of peace and reconciliation.

It is said to see conflict within the Nationalist community. There is now a need to find paths to peace and reconciliation among people who are now angry and at odds with each other. That is my hope and my prayer.                                                                   A.T.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Retreat at l'Arche

Off today until Friday on a retreat directed by Jean Vanier at l'Arche in Trosly.
Looking forward to this. I know I am fortunate to have this opportunity.

St Joseph's Church had a most enjoyable Information Day yesterday. Big number
of people worked hard to provide information and great food to big number of people
who came along.

Will resume posts when the retreat is over.           A.T.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Late Summer Sunshine

Lovely sunny day. Got for a swim today in the local public pool. It is a great way to get refreshed. 
This evening had a meeting with Parents of First Communion students of Marymount School.
Such meetings are great, just listening to the questions and comments of the parents.
The bike ride to and from school is also good. Next week I will make a retreat with a group of priests at l'Arche, Trosly, under the guidance of Jean Vanier. Every second year priests from all over Ireland come to France for this retreat. 

I'll have plenty to think and pray about:.
  • The plight of people, especially children, in Aleppo, Syria
  • End to conflicts and wars that no longer make headlines
  • Safety of all people from acts of terrorism
  • Dialogue, action and prayer to continue the Assisi gathering of Pope Francis and Religious leaders
  • Pray for priests struggling with following church teachings and pray for enlightenment
  • Pray for everyone and especially for the wonderful parishioners of St Joseph's, Paris.
  • Pray for a deep conversion in my own life.
  • Please pray for me as I enter into this week of grace.
Will be back soon again,           A.T.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Paris Church Alert

Saturday, 17 September, in the afternoon there was an alert at a Church near Chatlet in the centre of Paris. Thank God, it turned out to be a false alarm. It is always a worry, especially at weekends and the prayers and efforts are to keep all people safe as they go about their lives. 

Life is never simple. On a very minor level in comparison to the above, the website has been showing a strange opening page. The explanation is that a company in America holds the licence for the domain and every five years a payment must by made to them by St Joseph's Church. We did not get the reminder that this licence was due to expire as since the previous payment, our email address had changed. Efforts were made late into Saturday night to remedy this and will continue today. A wonderful friend of St Joseph's has built this website and keeps it going. Good work is also done on a daily basis from the parish office.

Now off to see the 200 young people who on Sundays have class at St Joseph's Church to prepare for 1st Reconciliation, 1st Communion, and Confirmation.

My heart will be in Croke Park this afternoon as Dublin, I hope, will life the Sam Maguire Cup for the second year in a row. How I would love to be there!  A.T.

Friday, 16 September 2016


I love Fridays. It is always a busy day. The Bulletin for the parish needs to be printed and put in the church; there is Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in Marymount School in the afternoon. This evening I am invited to a reception in the Embassy of Ireland for the opening of a conference on "Paris, Capital of Irish Culture". Feeling good having cycled to school a few times and got to the swimming pool twice this week. Settling back into life here in Paris after some doubts over the summer about whether I would be appointed again by my superiors. Other bits and pieces I would like to write about, but I must go now. Thanks to anyone who reads this blog. Let me know what you think: It would be great to hear from you.                                                  A.T.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows

15th September is the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. It is a feast of the church and a day of special prayer and devotion in the Passionist Congregation to which I belong.

There are seven sorrows of Mary:

  1. Simeon's Prophecy about the Sword of Sorrow (Luke 2:34-35)
  2. The Flight of Mary, Joseph and Jesus into Egypt (Matthew 2:13)
  3. The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:43-45)
  4. Mary Meets Jesus on the Way to Calvary (Luke 23:26)
  5. Jesus dies on the Cross (John 19:25)
  6. Mary Receives the Body of Jesus into Her Arms (Matthew 27:57)
  7. The Body of Jesus is Placed in the Tomb (John 19:40)
God's blessing on you.                                                                                                 A.T.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

September 2016

I feel bad about my neglect of this blog - I see it was in May that I was last in contact by means of the blog. Mea culpa!

I promise to try to do better in the months ahead. In June the Passionists in Ireland held a four yearly meeting (called a Chapter). It was held in a beautiful place near Portlarington, Co. Laois. The meeting lasted from Monday to Friday. This marked the end of my four years as assistant provincial superior (2012-2016). I was glad to offer these years of service to the Passionists. The only downside was that every 4 to 6 weeks, it meant attending a meeting either in Dublin or in Belfast. This usually involved being on the RERA train at 5.15 a.m. and not getting back to St Joseph's until near midnight. Now that is over as a new team of superiors was elected in June this year. I wish them well.

I'm back in St Joseph's, Paris for another four years (D.V.). Therein lies a saga that I will share with you in a future post. Or, if you go to and click on Reflection 24th Sunday, you can read what I shared last week in the Parish Bulletin. Also, if you go to St Joseph's Church Facebook page you will also find a link to this reflection.

Part of my delight in being back is meeting again the many friends I have made here over the past eight years. Another lovely aspect is that I am still chaplain to Marymount School, Paris in Neuilly-sur-Seine. Today, Wednesday 14 September, the opening Mass was celebrated in the school. Today is the Feast of the Holy Cross and it was wonderful to hear the thoughts of the students during the dialogue homily. They are simply great. 

The weather is wonderful at present - very Irish to comment on the weather! I've become a regular in our wonderful local swimming pool. Because of my age, the kind people in the local 'Maire' (town hall) give me a three month membership for €19. I try to get to the pool at least twice each week. Also, to get to Marymount School I cycle using the city bicycles, Velib. It is a great service and I am carelful to wear my helmet each time.

My weeks home in August were great. Bray is still looking good and I had a lovely weekend in Ballycastle, Co. Antrim. I was also pleased to baptise a baby called Aidan in Belfast in early August. A sad moment was to say goodbye to a great human being who died, Bishop Edward Daly of Derry. It was a privilege to be present at his funeral in St Eugene's Cathedral to pay tribute to such a great peace builder and a great carer in latter years at the Foyle Hospice.

This is a start with the Blog again and if you have a comment to make, I would love to hear from you. Or, if you would like to email me, please do so -
A bientot. A.T.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Summer in Paris

The rain cannot last much longer, I hope! Last weekend, I was in Dublin for the First Communion of a grandnephew and we had a gloriously sunny day on Saturday. Sunday afternoon I got back to Paris and it has not stopped raining! It is very Irish to talk about the weather.

The past few weeks have been wonderful here in Paris. There were children making their First Communion and young people being confirmed at Pentecost. It is great to be part of these wonderful family and community moments. This Saturday, there will be First Communions for Marymount School Paris where I serve as chaplain. 

The night before the Communions, weather permitting, there will be an event called "Burning Faith" for young people who were confirmed this year and in recent years. It can happen that after Confirmation, there is not much on offer in the church community. A wonderful group of parents and young people have been meeting each month for the past few years and have created a great sense of their being a great road ahead for young people in following Jesus. I am in total admiration of them as I sometimes sit in at their sessions.
More to come now that I have started again.         A.T.

Still here!

A kind person mentioned that they had looked at my blog recently. To my shame, the last post there was in March. Later today, I will remedy that. A.T.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

March 2016

Each week for the past eight years I have produced and published a parish bulletin here in Paris. It is composed of notices for the coming week and a reflection on the Mass Readings for that weekend. I am amazed that a few people from different parts of the world  contact me to comment on something or other that I have written. But, in case I would get carried away with my own literary ability, I am often told by people here that "nobody reads the parish bulletin" (printed edition). I don't mind, as I get great satisfaction in putting together some thoughts for each weekend. If you care to see what I am going on about, will lead you to the Parish Notices and Reflections on the St Joseph's Parish website. Soon I hope that the parish will have a Facebook page, (I am on Facebook for years), and also that the Masses at St Joseph's can be seen on Youtube shortly. That would mean that parishioners who spent some years in Paris could link in if they wishes to follow Sunday Mass or if a friend was being married here or a funeral Mass was being held. I'll announce when this service is up and running.

In the middle of Lent, one bright light has been the great support for St Joseph's Lenten Project 2016. We are supporting two educational projects in the Middle East for children of the wars going on. One is in Syria where the Jesuits are educating children in Homs so that one day, please God, they will be able to return to their home towns having been separated from family by war. The other is in Iraq where children are being educated in Kirkouk, so that these children will one day be the future of a peaceful and thriving Middle East. There is a real danger that ancient places of Christian worship stretching back centuries will soon be no more. The humanitarian crisis unfolding before our eyes in Europe brings tears to my eyes. The two projects to help children in the Middle East is supported on the Sundays of Lent by means of a special collection taken during the five weekend Masses. So far, I have been able to send €13,500 to 'L'Oeuvre d'Orient' who are the group who put the money to work in these places. This past weekend, we had a young Syrian lawyer who is a parishioner speak at some of the Masses at St Joseph's to tell of his experience since leave Aleppo, Syria in 2012. There are other Syrian parishioners who have come forward to help. Please God, we can make even a little difference for children who are traumatised by this long and fierce war.

On a lighter note, the Six Nations visit to the Stade de France did not leave us feeling great. Still, hope springs eternal! Then, we have the European Soccer to look forward to in June when Ireland - North and South - will be here to compete. It will be a good summer and who knows how far either or both teams will go.                                                                            A.T.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Back after a while!

I'm a disaster as a Blogger! I have such good intentions to write daily. But........
February already here and the beginning of Spring yesterday with the Feast of St Bridget. Not everyone would agree and this year I am having my doubts. Yesterday, on dear Saint Bridget' feast I travelled to a meeting in Belfast. This involved an early flight from Paris to Manchester and on to Belfast. Landing at the City Airport in Belfast was exciting and terrifying at the same time. Fair play to the Pilot for getting the propeller plane landed. Applauding when a plane lands has never really appealed to me - but yesterday deserved an expression of appreciation. Coming back last night was not quite as rough.

Lent is just around the corner. The parish here has the Lenten Retreat on Saturday. There is also the Six Nations Rugby on the horizon. I love the year when Ireland play at the Stade. February 13/14 will be some weekend in Paris.

Once back to the Blog, I will do my best to keep going!                    AT