Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Christmas 2017

Paris is looking a lot like Christmas these days. Schools are winding down and those due to travel have their plans made. People sometimes ask me if I am going home for Christmas. Well, not really, as there are a few Masses to be celebrated, carols to be sung (not by me, thank God), mulled wine to be made (and imbibed), and people of many nationalities to be welcomed. But, on St Stephen's morning I will be on the first Aer Lingus flight from Paris to Dublin. I love arriving into Dublin Aiport at Christmas time - so welcoming and festive. On Thursday after Christmas, I hope to be at Leopardstown Races for the Lexus Chase. This is an annual visit with a great group of people who get together each year for this great day out. Then back at the end of the week for the final Sunday of 2017. New Year's Eve in Paris is exciting and draws crowds onto the streets.

Police and Military have been visiting to check on Mass times over Christmas. This is a reminder that recent attacks have brought about a greater awareness to be alert. My prayer and wish for all people everywhere is that Christmas will be a time of peace not just for a day or two, but the beginning of a year of peace and safety.                                                                                                     AT

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Back Again

Ready to start Advent and another year of liturgy. A parish retreat this weekend will launch this season here at St Joseph's. I like the season of Advent and the joy of preparing for Christmas. On 10th December there will be a Carol Service at St Joseph's, part of which will be the Pageant with the children.

It is not as peaceful back home - the Irish Government missed having an election before Christmas. I'm surprised that the timing of a possible election - near to Christmas - was raised as such an issue. If justice is delayed, it is being denied. The Garda Sergent at the centre of this whole matter is surely entitled to being treated at least decently and justly, even if politicians have their own concerns. The lessons of the Catholic Church's past failures in being open and transparent on serious matters, does not seem to have been learnt by the State and its servants. 

'Brexit' will test Europe, Britain and most of all affect Ireland. I am alarmed at the prospect of the return of a 'stop/go' border. It was a 'miracle' to get the 'Good Friday Agreement' across the line. It could take very little to turn the clock back to days that nobody would want again. Of course, I am living a distance away but I have wonderful memories of years spent in Crossgar, Co. Down and Holy Cross, Belfast. I lived in Crossgar from 1971 - 1974. Those were dark years of violence and it is so great to leave them behind. I lived in Belfast from 2001-2008. These were years when all was not great, but also of great joy and happiness. It is always great to go back there and simply walk the streets and see how changed the city now is, bustling with life and laughter. AT

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

"Beginning of the Year"

The last entry on this blog that I made was in June and entitled, 'End of the Year'. It seems that I took it to heart and now that summer is over, in one sense 'a new year beginning' seems appropriate. At least, that is how it feels. The schools are open again; St Joseph's Church has gone back to its normal schedule of five weekend Masses and our young people are starting on Sunday next their preparation classes for First Confession, Holy Communion and Confirmation. It is always good as they bring extra life to our community each weekend. We had the shock of the sudden death in July of the Head of Marymount School, Johanna Bambridge. May she rest in peace. Julio, at almost 92 years of age, was one of our oldest parishioners and he died in Spain while on holidays. May he too rest in peace. There were also weddings and baptisms during the summer months, bringing new life to our community. There is so much to catch up on - including your news if you would care to share it with us - but I will leave it at this for the moment. For better or worse, the blog is active!

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

'End of Year'

Blog has been neglected - no excuses! These days have an 'end of year' feeling. The schools are closing for the summer break; First Communions and Confirmations have been celebrated; the Summer Fair at St Joseph's has passes; 'Irish in France' Ball went well; the 'Irish in France' Sports' Day is taking place on Saturday and people are moving around on holidays. I like this time of year.

Am not sure about deal done to keep Tories in government. My hope and prayer is that it does not have an adverse effect on peace in North. Brexit gets more and more problematic. French government seems to be settling in and getting on with the work. Pope Francis says, 'he is going nowhere'. I say, 'thanks be to God.' Irish Ambassador to France is leaving us soon to take up her new post at U.N. Best wishes to Geraldine and family.

Happy and restful summer!                                                                                          AT

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Paris Votes and Waits

The murder of a police officer on Thursday last a few minutes from where I live reminded all that we live in terrible times. May he rest in peace. The first round of Presidential elections took place in a tense atmosphere. There were no reports of attacks. The second round on Sunday, 7th May, will give France a new President. This will be important not only for France but also for Europe and the World. I hope that the incoming President will have the aim and the capacity to reach out to all of French society and to the world. France is experiencing a huge number of refugees on its streets. St Joseph's this past Lent has raised €25,000 for three groups who are reaching out to displaced people - Fondation Notre Dame, Caritas International and Order of Malta France. It is little, I know, among so many. The generosity of parishioners and ex-parishioners who donated is truly humbling for me to see. 

On a lighter note, the whole building where St Joseph's occupies the lower levels, is having all windows and doors replaced. There is scaffolding on the street and hammering from morning to night - but it will be worth it all when completed. 

The building will mark its 30th birthday in May this year. Back in 1985, after a decade of seeking alternatives to save a sinking building, I, as the then Provincial of the Passionists, signed on the dotted line for the demolition of the Church and Community house that had stood on this site since 1869. It was not an easy nor a popular decision. However, the evidence was overwhelming that the top of the church building could fall into the church below at any time. On the other hand, some said it might never happen. We will never know. One injury or, God forbid, one death caused by putting bricks and mortar, no matter how beautiful, ahead of peoples' safety, would have been unforgivable. After two years in another Church in Paris, the new St Joseph's Church and community section were opened in May 1987.

Many times since I first visited the original St Joseph's Church in 1975, I offered Mass and stayed with the community at 50 Avenue Hoche. One Sunday morning, shortly after the tragic death of Princess Grace of Monaco, I was offering Sunday Mass. Just as I began the Mass, in through the church doors came Prince Rainier, Princess Caroline and Stéphanie and Prince Albert. True, as part of the congregation they were another four people but being a 'novice' priest with little experience, I was somehow conscious of their presence. It was great to shake their hands as they left after Mass. I am getting old - reminiscing like this.

Enough for now as we head into the month of May - besides being dedicated to Our Lady - is a wonder in France with so many Public Holidays!                                                           A.T. 

Friday, 14 April 2017

Easter 2017

I like Easter. With the religious significance and the lengthening of the days, it a time of light and hope. Schools in Paris region have been closed for the past two weeks - this happens every 6 weeks- and so the children and students have been either away or catching up on study as many have exams shortly after they return. 

On Palm Sunday for the five Masses here at St Joseph's, we had bigger crowds than I remember for the beginning of Holy Week. It was a sheer joy to be part of these great congregations engaged in worship. Palms were blessed and then brought home to be kept as a reminder of the events of this day in the life of Our Lord

On Tuesday night, there was a Penance Service in preparation for Easter. While the crowds were nothing like those of Palm Sunday, the two of us priests were not finished meeting people for the Sacrament until 10.15 p.m. having started at 8 p.m. The percentage of younger people celebrating the Sacrament of forgiveness was high, it seemed to me. Those I met, were a delight to hear confess with such honesty and such trust in the mercy of God.

Mass of Chrism at Notre Dame Cathedral on Wednesday evening was, as always, a great event.

Holy Thursday, we had a packed church for the Mass of the Last Supper and the washing of feet - 6 women and 6 men. This was followed by an hour of adoration with prayer and singing at the Altar of Repose which we have in the parish hall next to the church.

Today, Good Friday, at St Joseph's we will have Stations of the Cross at noon. This is always full. After this, I will go to the Champs Elysee to join the <Way of the Cross> through the streets of Paris. As this is not a public holiday in France, this procession through the streets, marshaled by police, has to do 'battle' with scooters, taxis and delivery vans! Tonight we will have the Reading of the Passion, Veneration of the Cross and Holy Communion.

Easter Vigil is always a big night at St Joseph's as we are blessed every year with candidates who for a year have followed the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). This year we will have three adults for Baptism; three other adults being received into 'full communion' with the Catholic Church <already baptised in another Christian denomination>; and two baptised Catholics who will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. Six of the eight adults will receive Holy Communion for the first time tomorrow night. A girl in her mid-teens will make her First Communion tomorrow night as will a young school boy whose family are moving from Paris next week. It should be some celebration.

Easter Sunday will see us back with a full schedule of five Masses.
                              A Happy Easter to anyone who reads this!                                AT

Monday, 27 March 2017

Paris in the Springtime!

Beautiful weather and long may it last! With Spring here the trees in St Joseph's garden above the church are getting a visit from a tree surgeon. They were pruned and trimmed a few years back and it is time to give them the same again. Also, tomorrow morning the cleaning of the façade of the building begins followed by the replacement of all our windows, front and back. It will be well into Summer before all this is completed. After 30 years since being built, these kinds of works can be expected to arise. Each Lent at St Joseph's the Pastoral Council chooses a project towards which alms-giving in Lent is directed. In recent years we have reached out to places as diverse as Democratic Republic of Congo, West Indies, Belfast, to mention just a few. This year we are supporting three agencies addressing the needs of the many refugees who have arrived in Paris - Foundation Notre Dame, Caritas International and Order of Malta France. These groups have the capacity to effectively help people who due to war and conflicts have been forces to flee their home countries. Last year St Joseph's raised over €30,000 during Lent to assist with the education of displaced students in Iraq and Syria. We reach out as best we can to those of our brothers and sisters who are struggling to survive. The first three weeks of Lent have seen almost €13,000 raised. Our website is operational again following serious disruption and up to date information is available -     AT

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Priests for the Future

Pope Francis has my prayers and admiration as he listens to the Holy Spirit and faces challenges from members of the Vatican household. This is nothing new; after all Peter was challenged by the words of Paul shortly after assuming a service of leadership in the footsteps of Christ. I'm not sure that the challenges of those who are unhappy with Pope Francis are of the same value as those of St Paul.

The mention by Pope Francis in an interview with a German magazine that the possibility of married men of proved virtue being ordained is interesting. There is no doubt that since Pope Benedict XVI welcomed married Anglican priests to Ordination, the clerical landscape has changed. It seems that this development has settled in well in places where priests, married and celibate, minister side by side. Parishioners with whom I have spoken, express happiness with this situation. The Eucharistic celebration ranks of greater importance with people than the personal status of the priest presiding. It is necessary for me to remember that there are wives and family members to be treated sensitively in any discussion of married clergy in the Catholic church or in other denominations.

My question about the proposal to ordain men of proved virtue, to what issue is this offered as a solution? If a male priesthood, married and celebrate, is the only one possible, then in one sense, why not ordain more men to celebrate Mass? But, if the question to be answered is not so much about the shortage of priests and a remedy, but about going to the roots of the church as given by Christ, perhaps another set of issues also need to be addressed.

In an interview published in the Sunday Tribune Newspaper [ceased publication], 24th August 2009, I suggested that recruitment of candidates for the priesthood should be suspended for as long as it takes to get to the roots of the revelations of child abuse by clergy and religious. Since then I would add that there is need to address:

  • The treatment of survivors of clerical and religious abuse
  • Why people like Marie Collins find it no longer acceptable to stay on the Papal commission
  • Criteria for the acceptance and formation of future candidates for priesthood and religious life
  • The outcome of the Commission examining having female Deacons (ordained).
Dealing with such serious matters - this is the Body of Christ - new wine will need new wine skins. Patches on the present clothes of the church will tear away quickly. The foundation, Christ, is sound but He has asked us to assist with building the Kingdom.                                               A.T.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

St Patrick's Day 2017

The website - - that offers a link to this blog has been out of action for some time. I apologise for this. It was hacked - the country where it happened is known - and persistent attacks on it has meant that the whole site is being rebuilt. The great work being done by our webmaster is to be applauded and the hope is that it will soon be back to full health!

There is a wonderful initiative under way to form the group, 'The Irish in France', which is well advanced. There have been a number of productive meetings at the Embassy of Ireland and it is hoped that the Statutes will soon be registered, a bank account opened, the website developed, a June Irish in France Ball held, a July Sports Day planned and perhaps next St Patrick's Day, the Parade will be a significant event in the diary not only of Irish people, but all friends and associates of Ireland. It is with sadness that I read last week that our Ambassador, Geraldine, is on the move to New York and will represent Ireland at the United Nations. I can only salute her contribution made during her years here and to wish her, Brian and Alex every blessing as they move on to this next chapter of their lives.

We have had the Stormont Elections recently and now the hard work of bringing together an Executive. It will not be easy. Having learnt a little about the complexity during my time at Holy Cross, I know that there is no quick fix. It will take courage, vision and tolerance to move the peace process forward. Many times while living there before I was moved in 2008, I could see that until there is radical change in the educational systems in place - from nursery, creche, primary and secondary - there will continue to be a divide society. It was my privilege to know people of all outlooks and political views and to realise that if only they knew their neighbours better, we could build a great society. 'Brexit' will not help and personally,I have real fears for what will happen should a 'hard border' be put in place again. I wish I could say more, but I can only hope and pray that the worst will not happen. It is also a time of great opportunity and it also a responsibility of the European Union not to see this as a local issue.

The Tuam and perhaps other locations where babies were buried is heartbreaking. It calls for a Day of National Mourning in which every citizen is asked to pause and remember the past and also to seek to commit to a different way of treating people, especially women. The churches could also consider coming together to have a joint service of repentance for our role in creating this horror. May these little ones rest in peace.

Pope Francis considering the ordination of 'vir probati' will be the subject of my next post.          AT

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Silence Broken

Title reminds me of SILENCE, the movie. I would recommend it to anyone interested in Japan and the work of Missionaries. What a great mixture of emotions. There are good crowds seeing it in Paris.

I'm so sorry that our website - WWW.STJOEPARIS.ORG - has been hacked once again. 'Spammers 'are putting 1,000 demands every minute and so the site was closed down. Our wonderful web master is working flat out to get it up and running again. He did this last week and within a few minutes the 'spammers' were back at wrecking our site again. We know now what country this is coming from and it is hoped that it may be possible to block this country from hitting our site. I hate excluding any person or group but at present we have no option. It is my hope that in due course we can restore viewing of our site to this country.

It seems on the Late Late Show on Friday night a priest spoke about what a difference being married would have made to him and others. I didn't see it as that time it is quite late for me in Paris, especially  when I have an early start the next morning. 

What I don't understand is the constant talk about whether any of us priests would have been better in serving the Kingdom of God if we had married. I don't know the answer to that in my life but the choice not to marry I freely made. Personally, I would love to have married but I freely chose not -some girl was saved from putting up with me. Irrespective of age, when the time comes when I become convinced that celibacy is not for me, I will walk! I know I am too old and too ugly to even contemplate a relationship. But, by staying on as a priest when convinced that I would have been better off married, it is not fair to the God who called me and to the people I am privileged to serve. But I can speak for no other priest but me. 

Finally, a priest in a religious congregation or order, over and above celibacy of the priesthood, voluntarily takes a vow of chastity. So, when the day comes for Catholic priests to be free to marry, as are Protestant clergy ordained as priests when entering the Catholic Church, this will not affect priests who have vowed to live without giving or receiving the Sacrament of Marriage.

What I would have liked to have seen on the Late Late would have been an interview with the Priest who serves as a chaplain to the Gardai. He can attend Gardai graduations at Templemore. The chaplains to the Gardai have served well since their establishment. It amazes me that the Garda chaplain or some spokesperson has not, to my knowledge, offered one public word on the controversy surrounding the treatment of Sergant Maurice McCabe and other whistleblowers. I know only what I get from the huge media coverage, but serious moral issues of justice and truth are raised.

The danger for the Catholic Church is that our silence on justice issues could be construed as cowardice or worse still indifference to such alleged treatment. My own experience of being involved is seeking justice for children when stationed at Holy Cross in 2000's was that to this day, no superior has ever spoken to me except by way of criticism of my time there. But that is for another day. 

The Passionist Congregation to which I belong, has as our Founder, St Paul of the Cross, who asks us to stand up for 'crucified people' who are the contemporary incarnation of the 'Crucified Christ'. 

Life in Paris has a breath of Spring these days and it is most welcome after some cold weather.  A.T.