Are We There Yet?

The anthem of children in the back seats of cars is echoing in my head: Are we there yet? 

Where’s the finish line for this global emergency? How far away is it? When will we be able to see our friends again? How long can we keep the world switched off and still expect it to work properly when we switch it back on? 

Are we there yet..?

Continue reading Are We There Yet?

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day In The Midst Of Calamity (Like The Man Himself)

It’s always a busy holiday, with parades and parties and overflowing pubs. The airports are full, and the tourists have their phones out, taking pictures. 

But not this year.

This year, St. Patrick’s Day looks very different in Ireland. The parades and parties are cancelled, and even the pubs are closed. The atmosphere is anything but celebratory. This year, the air is heavy with fear. A slow motion disaster is shaking the foundations of our prosperous security, and death itself is whispering threats in our ears. Can we really celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the midst of all this?

Continue reading Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day In The Midst Of Calamity (Like The Man Himself)

The Things We Remember When Normal Life Stops

Normal life evaporated in Ireland today. It’s like the nation caught the virus, and went to bed. Schools are closed, events are cancelled, and the streets are getting quiet (although the shops have been crazy). It feels like the world is turning upside down, burying the life we’re used to and bringing up uncertainty and fear in its place. And the fear is real.

No one knows for sure when this will end, or what it will cost us in lives and livelihoods. We do know this, though: Normal life is good. We already miss it. And maybe that’s a silver lining to these dark clouds – we remember what we love. The steady rhythms of normal life can make us sleepy and distracted, but now we’re awake. Now we remember:

Continue reading The Things We Remember When Normal Life Stops

Cameraman, Lend A Hand!

You don’t have to look far on the internet to find a mobile phone horror film. A terrible accident, a crime, a fight – any tragedy will do, from crying children to actual murders, and it’s all captured and posted online for the world to see. There will be plenty more, as well, as long as we live in a world saturated with cameras. 

The thing is, mobile phone cameras don’t operate themselves. The real world has camera operators just as much as Hollywood does. Actually, the real world has more of them than Hollywood could ever dream of.

But Hollywood has trained us to ignore the people behind the cameras. They don’t exist, in the story. They’re invisible, along with the smoke machines and microphones and make-up artists and all the rest. If a fight breaks out on screen, we never think of yelling for the cameraman to jump in and help – he doesn’t exist. 

But in real life, he does exist.

Continue reading Cameraman, Lend A Hand!

Who Could Ever Be A Saint?

In 1851 an Englishman by the name of John Henry Newman founded the Catholic University in Dublin, the precursor of today’s University College Dublin. Last month, he was canonised by Pope Francis along with four others at a ceremony in Rome. A Catholic convert from Anglicanism, Newman was a strong promoter of education and wrote an influential work called “The Idea Of A University”. When he was alive, he was recognised as a Cardinal. Now he’s also a Saint. 

In his own time it was suggested that he led a saintly life, but he was quick to downplay the connection: “I have nothing of the saint about me as everyone knows and it is a severe and salutary mortification to be thought next door to one.”

Now that Rome has disagreed with the man himself, it raises the question: what is it that makes someone a saint?

Continue reading Who Could Ever Be A Saint?

Jeffery Epstein And The Failure Of Justice

Jeffery Epstein is dead. By suicide they say, although the details seem odd and the list of powerful people who could have been damaged by his trial is long. Either way, he’s gone. And the only reason anyone seems sorry about that fact is that it means his horrible crimes won’t come to trial, his many victims won’t get their public vindication, and his powerful accomplices will remain free. Epstein set up a large network for trafficking underage girls, and the long list of his crimes is dark and disturbing. I suppose there is some satisfaction for his victims in knowing that he was finally caught and is now dead, but those facts do nothing to pay them back for what was done to them, or restore the years and innocence that was stolen. The life of Epstein is a classic example of wealth and influence subverting justice. He should have been stopped in 2005 when charges first came to light. He should have been stopped in 2007 when the FBI prepared a 53-page indictment against him, yet somehow he got a deal and 18 months in prison, of which he only served 13. After that he lived in freedom, continuing all the same crimes, until just recently. And the many powerful men who participated with him remain free still.

In other words, justice failed.

Continue reading Jeffery Epstein And The Failure Of Justice

Farewell, Notre Dame

Notre Dame burned yesterday.

I haven’t heard an official story as to why, but accident or arson, the result is the same: A beautiful landmark destroyed, and the world in mourning.

I’m in mourning, too, even though I’m not French, not Catholic, and have never even seen the Cathedral except in pictures. It’s still awful to think of more than eight centuries of history going up in smoke, awful to see a masterwork of our ancestors so terribly damaged, awful to see one of the irreplaceable treasures of Europe’s cultural inheritance consumed in ash and flame.

Continue reading Farewell, Notre Dame

Christians Are Like Weeds

The days are getting longer and brighter, so I know the traditional time is approaching for me to go to war. Once again, I fight in a campaign against dandelions. After winning the first few battles easily, before the weeds have a chance to go to seed, I think I’m the one in control. I’m much bigger and stronger than they are, I have a brain, and I have Roundup. But the enemy ranks aren’t intimidated by all the things I have. And they have something I don’t: the ability to never sleep. All they do is grow, non-stop. Then comes a morning when I wake up to a garden full of dandelions I’ve never met before, all gone to seed before I’ve finished my coffee. It doesn’t really matter how many times I kill them. As soon as I look away, they’re back, and in greater numbers.

Continue reading Christians Are Like Weeds

Baby, it IS cold outside

Full confession: I’ve never really liked the song “Baby, it’s cold outside”. I always have found it a bit creepy, and I’d certainly like to keep my children from hearing it enough to start singing along with it on the radio. In other words, I won’t miss it if it goes to the cultural guillotine, as many are calling for.

Still, I have to say, I’m a bit surprised: When did we start caring about song lyrics?

Continue reading Baby, it IS cold outside

Health Committee Doesn’t Mind A Bit Of Suffering

Through much of her history, Ireland has been well acquainted with the reality of pain and suffering. Yet one of the beautiful things about this nation is that in the face of her own pain, she responded by growing stronger in her compassion for others who are in need. Her willingness to stand up for people and animals who face pain and suffering at the hands of others is well established – which makes her government’s decision last week to allow intense pain for some living beings on her very own shores hard to understand.

Continue reading Health Committee Doesn’t Mind A Bit Of Suffering