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.