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. 

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