Family

Ash Wednesday

Wednesday, 1 March, 2017 0 Comments

“In Young Mother, the ash is used to portray anonymous woman, her humble and demur demeanour is reminiscent of depictions of the Madonna.” — Zhang Huan

A founding member of Beijing’s conceptual artists movement in the 1990s, Zhang Huan moved to New York in 1998 and developed a unique style that mixed East and West. Upon returning to China a decade later, he had an epiphany, which he described as the “magic” of prayer and the power of the incense ashes. For him, ash has a metaphoric connection to memory, the soul and the spiritual. “Everything we are, everything we believe and want are within these ashes,” says Zhang Huan.

Your mother


The Wisdom of Galty

Monday, 2 January, 2017 0 Comments

At 85, he has distilled a life’s wisdom into rustic aphorisms. “Cats are cleverer than dogs,” he says. “You can’t get cats to follow cattle.” And every cattle herder and sheepdog owner would agree.

Galty


Meditations on meat

Friday, 30 December, 2016 0 Comments

“How good it is, when you have roast meat or suchlike foods before you, to impress on your mind that this is the dead body of a fish, this the dead body of a bird or pig.” — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

301216bull

Image: Sean Fitzgerald’s butcher shop, Main Street, Ballylanders, Co. Limerick, Ireland.


The good neighbour

Wednesday, 14 December, 2016 0 Comments

“There is no excess of goodness,” said C.S. Lewis, adding, “You cannot go too far in the right direction.” In expressing goodness, the good neighbour will do many things for those in need including… repairing your chimney! Happy Birthday, Atty Hennessy!

Atty Hennessy


The day of immaculate things

Thursday, 8 December, 2016 1 Comment

For my mother and her mother’s mother, 8 December was the day Christmas really began. And it began with Mass to celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception with its intricate web of religious relationships that were as real to my mother as if the people involved regularly walked the road in front of our house. She’d patiently instruct a later generation, ignorant of most things spiritual, that today does not refer to the conception of Jesus. Rather, it marks the conception of his mother, Mary. “Wouldn’t the date tell you something?” she’d ask, and point out that the Feast of the Annunciation on 25 March marks the conception of Jesus, nine months before Christmas Day. And she’d add, for good measure, “Mary’s birthday is the 8th of September. Put that in your book.”

After Mass, the first great round of Christmas shopping took place and most of the essentials, and some treats, would be purchased. Home again, the bags of “messages” would be unpacked, the apron donned and “tidying” would begin in earnest.

The 8th of December was traditionally the last day of the year for outdoor painting, which meant whitewashing. Weather permitting, families cleaned and then whitewashed the walls around their farmyards to “tress them up” and symbolically purify them for the coming of the saviour. Only when that was done, could the indoor decoration, with berried holly and glittering tinsel, begin.

Everything had to be immaculate, and everything was done on this day, devotedly, devoutly, to ensure that this was so.

Home


The faithful departed

Wednesday, 2 November, 2016 1 Comment

There is a Mexican saying that we die three times: the first at the moment of death, the second when we are lowered into the earth and the third when our loved ones forget us. Día de los Muertos, which corresponds with today’s All Souls’ Day, is dedicated to ensuring that those who loved us will not be forgotten.

This morning, at 7 am in the Theatinerkirche in Munich, a special memorial mass was celebrated for the souls of Kit Fitzgerald ( 6 September 2015) and Mick Fitzgerald ( 2 April 2011) of Ballylanders, County Limerick; and Mary Walsh ( 27 December 2004) and Tom Walsh ( 12 June 2012) of Mullingar, County Westmeath. May they rest in peace.

Mammy praying on the road to Knock

“People do not die for us immediately, but remain bathed in a sort of aura of life which bears no relation to true immortality but through which they continue to occupy our thoughts in the same way as when they were alive. It is as though they were traveling abroad.” — Marcel Proust


Those whose business has to do with fish

Friday, 28 October, 2016 0 Comments

It’s Friday, which means fish for dinner, as was tradition in our home as was the observation of the Angelus, which begins “The Angel of the Lord declared to Mary…”

The general belief is that when T.S. Eliot was composing The Four Quartets and wrote “Lady, whose shrine stands on the promontory,” the church he had in mind was Notre Dame de la Garde, overlooking the Mediterranean at Marseilles. Another school of thought suggests he was thinking of the Church of Our Lady of Good Voyage, which watches over Gloucester Harbor in Massachusetts. A noteworthy feature of this church, and relevant to Eliot’s poem, is its statue of the Virgin Mary. It stands between two spires and she cradles in her arms not the infant Jesus, but a sailing ship.

This excerpt is from the section titled “The Dry Salvages” — apparently les trois sauvages, which is a small group of rocks off the North East coast of Cape Ann, Massachusetts. Note: Salvages is pronounced to rhyme with assuages.

Lady, whose shrine stands on the promontory,
Pray for all those who are in ships, those
Whose business has to do with fish, and
Those concerned with every lawful traffic
And those who conduct them.

Repeat a prayer also on behalf of
Women who have seen their sons or husbands
Setting forth, and not returning:
Figlia del tuo figlio,
Queen of Heaven.

Also pray for those who were in ships, and
Ended their voyage on the sand, in the sea’s lips
Or in the dark throat which will not reject them
Or wherever cannot reach them the sound of the sea bell’s
Perpetual angelus.


Homo homini lupus

Sunday, 4 September, 2016 0 Comments

The Latin proverb Homo homini lupus, or in its complete form Homo homini lupus est, means “A man is a wolf to another man,” or more concisely: “Man is wolf to man.”

“What is a saint supposed to do, if not convert wolves?” asked Umberto Eco in How to Travel with a Salmon and Other Essays, and when Pope Francis canonises Mother Teresa today in St Peter’s Square in Rome, he will be making a saint a woman who epitomises his desire for a Church dedicated to the poor and acting as a shelter for the weak who are at the mercy of homo lupus. Cormac McCarthy described the human wolf thus in The Crossing: “that malignant lesser god come pale and naked and alien to slaughter all his clan and kin and rout them from their house. A god insatiable whom no ceding could appease nor any measure of blood.”

The company of wolves

“Wolves are not ruled by law. They are ruled by the alpha wolf’s policy. Individual wolves can do anything not prohibited by the alpha wolf. They can do anything they can get away with doing. To the wolf — breaking sheep law or the alpha wolf’s policy only becomes serious if caught.” The Wolf and the Sheep


Amoris Laetitia backgrounder

Friday, 8 April, 2016 0 Comments

Pope Francis to make key marriage pronouncement” is how the BBC puts it in the run up to today’s publication of Amoris Laetitia, the Apostolic Exhortation about Catholic teaching on the family. The text, rumoured to be 250-pages long and divided into 300 points, will be presented by Cardinals Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, and Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna, at a press conference in Rome. Scheduled to begin at 11:30 Central European Time, the event will be broadcast live via the Vatican’s Television Centre.

Where did the BBC gets its headline? The document has been surrounded by secrecy, with no leaks to the media before its presentation. This makes Amoris Laetitia unusual, seeing that Francis’ encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’, was published by the Italian magazine l’Espresso three days ahead of the official presentation.

What can we expect? The focus will be on the “many new situations requiring the Church’s attention and pastoral care.” In other words, partners living together before marriage, communion for divorced and remarried Catholics and homosexual unions vs. heterosexual marriage, to name just three areas of contested cohabitation that are facts of 21st century life. The Guardian has already pre-empted liberal disappointment: “Pope Francis to dismay reformists with ‘modern families’ document.” Francis wouldn’t be Francis, however, if he didn’t have a surprise or two up the sleeve of the papal cassock.


Lines written upon this day five years ago

Saturday, 2 April, 2016 1 Comment

Michael Fitzgerald 1917 – 2011: “He was a farmer and he was a deep thinker. He loved the land, its history, its substance, its moods and its meaning. He knew why people had fought and died for it and he understood the passions it generated. His hands were shaped by decades of wresting a living from the soil. Possessed of a sense of chivalry that has all but disappeared, he was one of the last representatives of a culture that had its roots in an ancient, a simpler, a lost world. Those who were privileged to know him will miss him greatly. His passing is our loss.”

Father

“Of life’s two chief prizes, beauty and truth, I found the first in a loving heart and the second in a labourer’s hand.” Khalil Gibran


Good Friday meditation

Friday, 25 March, 2016 0 Comments

One of the earliest Christian poems in English is The Dream of the Rood. Language note: The Old English word ‘rood’ means ‘crucifix’. Recorded by scribes in the 10th-century Vercelli Book, The Dream of the Rood is carved in Anglo-Saxon runes on the 8th century Ruthwell Cross, and is one of the most valuable works of Old English verse.

The sorrowful quality of the religious rites of Good Friday day reminds us of Christ’s humiliation and suffering on this day. This excerpt from The Dream of the Rood is dedicated to all those who were humiliated and tortured in life. Their brave defiance of “wicked men” inspires us every day.

“Now you may understand, dear warrior,
That I have suffered deeds of wicked men
And grievous sorrows. Now the time has come
That far and wide on earth men honour me,
And all this great and glorious creation,
And to this beacon offers prayers. On me
The Son of God once suffered; therefore now
I tower mighty underneath the heavens,
And I may heal all those in awe of me.
Once I became the cruelest of tortures,
Most hateful to all nations, till the time
I opened the right way of life for men.”

Mammy praying