Friday 30 July 2010

I want you to be happy

Recently some very good friends of mine have been ordained to the Priesthood and to the Diaconate. Back in the days when I used to have a salary I would have greeted each of these great occasions with gifts and cards, but now, being poor I have only my thoughts and prayers to go with people on their journey.

All the services I have been to have been beautiful and blessed; people, friends and family have shown their amazing generosity in pulling together an 'event', from the readings to the flowers, the outfits, the prayer cards, the music, the travel arrangements, the devotion, the laughs, the tears, the parties and the celebrations - all has been amazing. But for all these friends, five this year, and others from years gone by, my one prayer is for happiness. I do not know why, really. I guess ordained ministry strikes me as a challenge that when it strikes deep, can give great joy. But, no matter what your denomination, it is a hard way of life, often lonely and sometimes a bit frightening. Part of me thinks of it as life in the goldfish bowl - often you end up placed on a pedestal while everyone stares at you and makes sure you are doing okay by their standards. Are you gold and shiny enough? Are you on the right circuit? Have the right friends? Say the right things? I suppose this is the same in many other professions, but in ministry their seems to be no 'off' button. I only ever think that people should be doing alright with themselves and their maker, no one else is fit to judge - although many like to think they are.

So, for all my friends ordained this year, in the Church of England, the Lutheran Church and the Roman Catholic Church, I have special prayer: I want you to be happy. I hope that you will always know at least one person at whom you can shout, scream and swear about your frustrations with life, liberty and fruit of the loom. I would like you all to remain very good at laughing. I hope you have the tremendous faith in your work needed to make it inspirational for you and for others. I pray that you enjoy growing with, and learning from, the bunch of loons (I mean, congregation) you are sent to minister to; always try and see the good in people, even when they are really very annoying.

The Feast of Philip Neri has this summed up in the first reading, to many of you I sent it in a card, but for the record:

'I want you to be happy, always happy in the Lord, I repeat, what I want is your happiness. Let your tolerance be evident to everyone: the Lord is very near. There is no need to worry; but if there is anything you need, pray for it, asking God for it with prayer and thanksgiving, and that peace of God, which is much greater than we can understand, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, fill your minds with everything that is true, everything that is noble, everything that is good and pure, everything that we love and honour, and everything that can be thought virtuous or worthy of praise...Then the peace of God will be with you.' (Phil 4: 4 - 9)

Monday 19 July 2010

A new book for me

I can't review it here yet, because I am still too excited to have actually read the words that it contains. I shall wait awhile until I calm down and digest it. I think this particular tome, thin though it is, may even cause indigestion. It is, Nazareth or social chaos, by Vincent McNabb OP. Vincent McNabb OP is eulogized by many as being one of the most pioneering Distributivist thinkers of his time. He is also quite often recounted as a difficult character, difficult to live with and tempestuous. I think this is the case with many holy people. I cannot wait to enter a little of his world and he his way of looking, understanding and seeing the world that surrounded him. I'll let you know what I find. Books are dangerous things, you never know where you might end up. In the meantime, Godzdogz published, in April 2010, a celebration of Vincent McNabb OP's life in their series on priesthood, and it is worth a look.

Sunday 18 July 2010

In the name of you

Name - Carol Ann Duffy

When did your name
change from a proper noun
to a charm?

Its three vowels
like jewels
on the thread of my breath.

Its consonants
brushing my mouth
like a kiss.

I love your name.
I say it again and again
in this summer rain.

I see it,
discreet in the alphabet,
like a wish.

I pray it
into the night
till its letters are light.

I hear your name
rhyming, rhyming,
rhyming with everything.

School Day's over


So, found this the other day too and it made me giggle. It is dated 21st November 1912. My grandfather Ned was in trouble for poaching salmon in Tullow, Co. Carlow. For the record, a national schools monitor is responsible for sweeping floors and attending to the fires in the classrooms. It was my grandfather’s first job. He was 16 years old.

Edward Hutton is a monitor in the national schools here and I am glad to be in the position to say that he is a young fellow of exemplary character - and I am quite satisfied that the trouble into which he has become involved was not caused by malice or a tendency to violate the law, but by downright innocence and simplicity.


21. XI. 12

Fr. Fogarty

Ned went on to train and qualify as a national school teacher, settling eventually in Rialto Boys School, Dublin, where he taught from 1922 until he retired in 1960. When he first went to Dublin in 1922 (not an uneventful year), he rented 10 Rutledge Terrace with his sister Peig and his mother, Kate. Sometime in 1925, a 16 year old girl was sent to Ned’s classroom by her mother to complain about her younger brother being chastised. Weeks later a complaint was made to the principle that one of his teachers was seen frequently waving from an upstairs window at a passing girl. Ned was moved to a classroom at the back of the school, but the romance continued. Ned and my Nana, Carmel, were married in 1931. 10 Rutledge Terrace is the house my father was brought up in. The Hutton family rented it for over 70 years.

NB. It is my Uncle Eamonn who tells me all these things, so thanks very much to him!

Wednesday 7 July 2010


In an essay entitled 'Solidarity, Justice and Power Sharing', by the controversial theologian John Boswell, I recently came across this footnote.

At the age of seventeen, I heard a young militant of the Catholic left in France describe his regular combination of reciting the Rosary with a 'see, judge, act' rubric orientated towards social justice and contre le capitalisme. It made a strong impression.

His foot note made a strong impression on me too. I never met an individual who described his faith like that, but I did meet many people who collectively have influenced my thinking by living in that way. Nowadays, 'see, judge, act' seems to be viewed with deep suspicion as a rallying cry for what is left of 'liberation theology' in the West. To my mind though, that rich and comfortable academics disregard the thinking of a theological and philosophical movement which denounces their abuse of resources comes as no surprise. It might not be fashionable, but this is one of the first things I have read since coming to Oxford that has reminded me of why I am here in the first place. I dislike pomp and circumstance. I find certainty disconcerting. But, searching for a way to help the voiceless speak a message to be heard by the powerful, that is worth my time. As for traditional pieties, I have a great affection for them - faith is what inspires my schemes. Rather conversely, the Rosary grounds my expectations, reminds me to walk more slowly, to take each day as it comes, and do, quite simply, what I am meant to be doing when I am meant to be doing it.

NB. If you really want to know why John Boswell was controversial it was because he was a.) Catholic, and b.) Gay, and he wrote about that a lot. If his writings on that topic are as insightful as his work on solidarity, I would recommend that they are worth reading, if only as an interlocutor. Sadly, however, this at present, is not my interest or field of work.