Saturday, December 31, 2005

A new Catholic publication worth checking out

The print edition is just over a year old, but now the online version of The Voice Today is up.

The newspaper itself costs €1.00 and is published weekly, exactly the same as The Irish Catholic. The Irish Catholic, first published in 1880-something, did have a website with articles some years ago, but no longer.

The current editor of The Voice Today, Simon Rowe, used to be Editor of The Irish Catholic. However, I do not detect any kind of rivalry or animosity between them, and I buy both every weekend; I suspect others do too.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Vigil Mass with a Cardinal

Last night, Christmas Eve night, I decided to go to the Vigil Mass at 9.00 pm in Iona Road church. It was a very nice way to welcome the Saviour. And a very large crowd.

Our retired Archbishop, Desmond Cardinal Connell, was present to co-concelebrate, and he said a few special words after Communion. He started by admitting that he never expected to take part in a Conclave, because he expected Pope John Paul II to outlive everybody, and also because the man himself is approaching 80.

Obviously, Cardinal Connell did not reveal any of the secrets of the Conclave (OK, everybody, stop groaning!), and said he has been in Rome twelve times during 2005. (OK I admit, I'm a little jealous!!)

He described Benedict XVI by using a word I haven't heard anybody use before: "bouncing".

Cardinal Connell said that he recently went to one of the Wednesday General Audiences. He said that when anybody meets the Pope, he always asks them one thing: "Pray for me."

This morning, I watched Urbi et Orbi on the box, switching between both RTE and EWTN. My favourite part was when he stepped out onto the balcony to hear what sounded like screams of teenage girls at a Boyzone concert.

Seven Good Reasons to Celebrate Christmas

Excellent stuff recently posted on Catholic Exchange.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Diary of a trip to North Korea

Margaret Ward, a reporter with RTE, Ireland's broadcasting network, recently made a trip to North Korea with Concern, a third-world development charity. For some reason, the North Korean authorities allowed her in with a cameraman. The results will be shown tonight on Prime Time, RTE's main current affairs-analysis programme.

Here is the link which leads to her diary, including a description of going to Mass on Sunday morning. After the programme is broadcast, you'll be able to download it.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

OK. Now I'm going to make you all a little bit jealous

You wake up. You get out of bed. You walk out of your large white villa to the terrace for breakfast. And what do you see?


Do you ever, ever want to leave this place?

This is the view from the Villa San Michele, Capri; home of Dr Axel Munthe, author of the classic "The Story of San Michele". If you haven't read it, I suggest you check your local library asap!

And sorry! The house ain't for sale!

More evidence to show how clever Swiss people are

I get by e-mail the monthly newsletter from Swiss Federal Railways, and today brings news that will please lots of people.

Effective 11th December, all public transport in Switzerland will be smoke-free.

Good news. And also, in order to get the message across, they will gradually remove all the ashtrays from all rolling stock, so as not to tempt anybody to light up - a job which they state will take around six months.

But it's the last paragraph of the above-linked news item which is most interesting.

After all, what can you do with hundreds (thousands?) of ashtrays?

Recycle the metal? Or perhaps create a sculpture with them?

No; the clever Swiss are going to try and sell them.

As "a piece of Swiss railway history".

Hurry! Hurry! While stocks last!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

"We live in a pluralist Ireland. Pluralist, however, does not mean secular."

Here is more common sense from my Archbishop, Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin. This was a lecture at the National College of Ireland, which is a newer institution attached to Dublin's Financial Services Centre. The subject was "Leadership and the Church".

But it's the anecdotes and stories from his experiences in Italy and Geneva that I think are especially interesting.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Rest In Peace, George

Quite special earlier this evening watching Sky Sports showing the ceremonies at Old Trafford. United are, as I write, leading West Brom 2- 0, and, fittingly, number 7, Ronaldo, scored the first goal.

I'm too young to remember him playing (honestly); but at work today, I was reminded that George Best played three games for the now-defunct club Cork Celtic in the League of Ireland. Read more here: one thing that this article does not mention is the strong rumour that George was offered strong financial incentive to play for the club.

I think it's quite important to understand the context of the previous week's events: the death of George Best invites us all to directly compare the game of football in 1968 with 2005; there are the obvious issues of television coverage, players' wages, money, and the related changing economics of the sport; but to the hardcore United fans (and I admit I am not one of these), it also makes the Glazer takeover slightly harder to bear.

Frankly, the boardroom events this summer mark an important watershed in the club's history; the club has been taken over by a family who seem to have no real interest in the game for the game's sake, or for the fans' sake; one good thing about the ceremony this evening was that the Glazer family were nowhere to be seen. If any of them had turned up on the pitch with the 1968 legends, they would have been booed off by the fans.

I confess . . .

Jamie has tagged me with the Confiteor meme, so here goes:

I confess that I am a Manchester United fan, but I have never visited the grave of Liam Whelan, although I could walk to it in less than half an hour.

I confess that I once got Lester Piggott's autograph, and I have lost it!!

I confess that years ago I started reading St Louis Marie de Montfort's Treatise on the True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, but stopped about a quarter way through.

I confess that I have dozens of books on the shelves which I have not read.

I confess that, on the evening of April 2nd this year, I was in an Edinburgh hotel and watching TV and following the news; I turned on Ceefax, saw the Newsflash, and my first thought was disappointment; because it meant that I wouldn't get to see him again on my trip to Rome in September.

I confess that, if I was watching the Cheltenham Festival on the box next March, and the Cheltenham Gold Cup was about to start, and if the phone rang and if it was Papa Benedetto asking for my advice on something, I would probably say: "Er, sorry Your Holiness, but can I call you back?"

I confess that I am inspired by Marxist philosophy; that is, the philosophy of Groucho, Chico & Harpo!

I confess that I have travelled around Scotland; Stranraer, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness, Aberdeen, John o'Groats, Orkney Islands, Skye, Iona, Fort William, Melrose, Kelso, Stirling, Oban, but I have never been to St Andrews.

There. Any tabloid newspapers want to put me on the front page now??

Thursday, November 17, 2005

This might make you think for a few seconds

This is from a blog by a Magistrate in the South-East of England; his nom-de-plume is Bystander, but I don't know his real name.

Here he writes about a trip to a jail, which is interesting, especially the bit about the chapel.

Belated birthday greetings to The Maestro

I should have posted this on November 5th, but better late than never.

On 5th November 1935, he was born, in Wantage, England.

When he rode his first winner, Harry Truman was in the White House.

The figures speak for themselves: thirty English classics and Champion Jockey umpteen times on the flat in Britain; to be honest I don't know the exact number.

And what is most remarkable I feel was the longevity of his career. He was a fresh-faced teenager when he rode his first winner, and he was a grandfather when he won his last Classic on Rodrigo De Triano.

There are so many stories about him I can't repeat them here, because, like all legendary figures, there's no guarantee the stories are really true.

And, like all of us, he was a combination of saint and sinner; he has paid his debt to society as a guest of Her Majesty, an experience he describes in his autobiography as "just a waste of time".

But I remember the night when I was once in the same room as him; he was receiving a lifetime achievement award from a group of racing enthusiasts, and I will never forget the beaming smile on his face, which would have belied his usual stone-faced image that most people know him for.

So, here goes. Everybody join me in saying: "Happy Birthday, Lester Keith Piggott".

Friday, October 28, 2005

What inspired the title of this blog?

The phrase more or less struck me while reading the Breviary. Week 3 Saturday, Morning Prayer. The Old Testament piece is from the Book of Wisdom, chapter 9.

Years ago, before going on what I will describe here just as a "special task" with some colleagues, I asked a friend (a nun) to remember the success of the enterprise in her prayers. She suggested to me Wisdom 9. Looking back now, she was planting a seed, because when I started reading the Breviary regularly, I noticed Wisdom 9 and it rang a bell in my head. And the last line of the reading struck me as, well, a good title for a blog!

So over a year ago, when I decided to start a blog, the name was in the back of my mind; but in fact, I originally called it "Brendan's Blog", even though there was already a blog with the same name. I felt it was unfair to plagiarise, so I changed the title.

Now, I admit the text in the breviary actually reads: "and guard me with her glory", so I adapted it slightly; so I like to think that it is not just a blog title, but a prayer in honour of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom. In fact, the whole chapter is a prayer.

Though other Bible versions use: "and shall preserve me by her power"; "and safeguard me by her glory"; and the Darton Longman Todd New Jerusalem Bible which I generally use reads: "and will protect me with her glory". The Morning and Evening Prayer breviary I use actually takes its scripture texts from different scripture editions.

Now, I will tag some other bloggers and ask them to go public and reveal what inspired the titles of their blogs: the trio who bring us Laodicea, Jamie McMorrin of The Moral Highground, and Kelly Clark, the Pewlady.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


At the door of the church on San Giorgio island, Venice.

Basilica of St. Marinus, San Marino.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Papal General Audience - Wednesday September 21st

I had made attempts to discover how to get a ticket for the Pope's regular Wednesday audience. I had even written a letter, in the middle of August, addressed to Archbishop James Harvey at the Prefecture of the Papal Household, but got no response.

In the end, it was quite simple.

On Monday 19th, soon after arriving at Rome, I went to St. Peter's Square; and after a quick visit to the information office, I was directed to a door to the right of the colonnade (northern side). There was a Swiss Guard and another gentleman at the door; and I simply asked, and he gave me a ticket. It said "Ore 1030". Success!

So I proceeded with doing some of the things and visiting some of the sights and churches or Rome.

After two weeks of Mass in Italian, I somehow got the urge to hear Mass in English, so I decided to check out Santa Susanna, which is near Republica metro station. It is run by American Paulist priests, and is regarded as the church for American Catholics in Rome. So I went there Tuesday afternoon, and saw a note on the notice board stating that tickets for the Papal Audience would be handed out from 5pm on Tuesday.

5pm was not far away, so I hung on; meanwhile, the queue grew to about 30/40. It turned out they had all arranged in advance with the priest and he had all their names.

He advised us to get there about 0900/0930, and advised all to wear a hat and bring a bottle of water, because we would be exposed to the elemens, sun or rain.

So I set off next day; I didn't get off to a good start at Termini metro station, where a crowded train resulted in the doors closing on my arm and shoulder bag; but I pulled through successfully. Got the train to Ottaviano station, and walked the ten minutes or so south to the northern entrance to St. Peter's Square.

The queue and mass of humanity was fierce, and one could not tell where the queue began or ended; but the atmosphere was good, with American, Italians, Scots, and other nationalities mixing with good humour and patience. I could see through the columns, although the start time was over an hour away, probably just over half the seats in the square were occupied.

After the queue, we each went through the metal detectors, and all bags went through x-ray machines; then once into the square, you sit where you wish.

I decided to stay on the left side, and tried to get up into the top-left quarter, because it would be in the shade, with Bernini's columns between myself and the sun. I didn't expect to find seats free in this area, about 14 or 15 rows back from the very front rail. But I did.

Though the official start time was 1030, he actually came out soon after 1000 in his Popemobile; he came from the left side of the Basilica, and did a full circuit of the square so all could see him; except, of course, when some people decided to stand on the chairs and hold up flags and banners; so, I found myself doing the same and standing on the chair. The chairs are not particularly clean, and now I know why.

There were two sections on the "stage", to the left and right of him, obviously composed of special groups. I did see some wedding brides being escorted to the seats to the left side.

In case you don't have EWTN, this is generally what happens. One of the officials comes to the microphone, and greets the Holy Father on behalf of the pilgrims from a particular language group; on this occasion, first Italian, then French, German, English, Spanish/Portuguese, Polish; the official refers to special groups, such as "from such-an-such Parish, such-and-such city" which is usually followed by a cheer from the group in question. The Pope then makes his formal address in each language, today it was a commentary on Psalm 113.

Pope Benedict concludes with the singing of the Pater Noster in Latin.

Then he "pressed the flesh" on stage with who looked to be clergy and bishops, and then with the people in the large group to the left of the stage (as I looked). Some of the crowd in the square started to depart, but I started to edge closer forward, and I worked my way literally up to the fence as close to the stage as I could get.

The Pope was with the visitors for about 15/20 minutes, then he got into his Popemobile again, and slowly it started to come down the ramp (which was far to my right) and it approached the cheering crowd along the rail, and then turned right and slowly moved along the rail as he blessed the pilgrims.

The Popemobile proceeded to the wall to my left, where the sick and wheelchair-bound were lined up. He blessed them from the vehicle, but he did not get out of the vehicle at all except to take his seat at the microphone onstage.

Will I go again? Of course!! But I will arrive earlier and enjoy the experience more.

Day For Life - October 2nd 2005

Sunday October 2nd 2005 has been designated as Day for Life by the Irish Bishops; and at Saturday evening Vigil Mass earlier this evening, I picked up a copy of the pastoral letter, "Cherishing the Evening of Life".

Quote: "When a decision is taken to terminate the life of a person who is sick or elderly, on the grounds that his or her life is no longer worth living, this is euthanasia.

"Whether it is by doing something, or by doing nothing when something should be done; be it with or without the consent of the person who is killed, euthanasia comes down to the same thing in moral terms. It is the deliberate killing of a human being, and it is contrary to the law of God. God is the giver of life, and he alone has the right to decide when a life should end." (italics mine)

This link will lead you to a pdf of the pastoral letter.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

St Anthony of Padua

I am writing this in an internet cafe in Rome. I just popped in for five minutes to check for an urgent e-mail message, and the heavens have opened. So clearly God wants me to stay here a bit longer.

While staying in Venice, I took the half-hour or so trip by train to Padua, and got bus number 8 from the train station to a bus stop around the corner from what they call Basilica del Santo. They started to build it only a few years after St Anthony died.

When you walk in the door, his tomb is about halfway along on the left side. It is extremely ornate, and, we would say, highly decorated. His tomb doubles as an altar, with about six steps leading up to it so Mass can be said there, presumably on special occasions.

Visitors remain on "ground level" and can walk behind. At the back, there is a section of stone wall which is the actual wall of the tomb itself, and pilgrims place their hand(s) on the stone imporing the intercession of the Saint.

But all around the tomb, people have placed written messages, and, especially moving, pictures and photos of people; family, loved ones, maybe even themselves. There were even two photos of cars which clearly had been involved in accidents.

Did the occupants survive and they came to give thanks to St Anthony for saving them, or did they fail to survive and the grieving ones come to implore his help in conducting their souls to God? It doesn't say. We can only speculate.

Lots of pictures of babies, and especially wedding photos.

There is also a 30-minute or so audio/visual exhibition of the life of St Anthony, and a well-stocked souvenir and book shop.

You can also see the tongue of St Anthony in a separate reliquary. There is a confession chapel, similar, though slightly smaller, to the one at Lourdes.

I got Mass at 1700. Overall, I have to say everything is done in good taste.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

In Rome. . .

Yesterday, I arrived in Rome, and in the afternoon I went to the Vatican. The first thing I wanted to do was to get a ticket for the General Audience on Wednesday (success!) and then I went to pay tribute to the late John Paul II.

Just before departure, I finished reading George Weigel's large biography of the man, and it made me realise actually how little I really knew about him. Or at least how much about him and his life and work that I either didn't know, or more accurately, didn't fully understand.

I made my way to the northern side of St Peter's Square and went through a metal detector. Then followed the crowd up the steps, and the path divides into three lines, one for entry to the Basilica, one to queue up for entry to the dome, and the third for the papal tombs.

On my previous visit (in 1998) I remember accessing the papal tombs from inside the Basilica, the staircase to the right of the baldachino. But now I entered through a door in the courtyard to the right of the basilica itself.

Along a corridor, and then out into the tombs area, which now looked familiar. On the right I saw the resting place of Paul VI, next on the left is John Paul I, and then on the right a slightly unusual one, if you'll pardon the expression: Queen Christina of Sweden, who was a convert.

Soon after that, on the right, is the last resting place of Joannes Paulus II, with the dates of his pontificate written on stone beneath his name. The queue was long, but moved quickly, as people briefly crossed themselves or genuflected. About eight feet back from the tomb, was a rope, behind which there were about four or five nuns on their knees. Other laypeople were kneeling as well.

In the corner of my eye, I noticed that the couple in front of me had handed their rosary beads and medals to one of the gentleman staff, and he had placed them on the tombstone, so I took out my own beads and gave them to him, and he did likewise, hoping that when I pray my Rosary, the late Holy Father will be praying with me and for me.

Understandably, the gentlemen on duty were keen to allow the line to move quickly and give as many people as possible a chance to pay homage. A recorded message over the speaker reminds everybody that this is a sacred place, and asks for silence.

Ever gone to a place like this and felt irritated about long queues? Me too (see post below about Venice and St Mark's Basilica). So from now on I will try, in this scenario, to imagine that such people are really my brothers and sisters in Christ, and they are going in to pray for me.

On this occasion, I was actually hoping in advance that the queue would be long, as a tribute to the man.

The beauty really is that this is not just a once-in-a-lifetime event. I know I will have other opportunities to come and visit his last resting place and say thank you.

But is it his last resting place? John XXIII was buried down in that area, but now he has been moved upstairs to the main basilica itself.

I got 1700 Mass at the altar under St Peter's Chair.

Today, visited Santa Maria Maggiore and got 12 noon Mass in St John Lateran. Also visited Santa Susanna, the church run by the American Paulists, which has 1800 weekday Mass which I will probably get some day this week. On Friday, from 1pm, they have a used book sale so I might pick up something good there.

One thing changed since my last visit is the introduction of the faster bus number 40, with fewer stops, from Termini Station to Piazza Pia, which is the square just on the west side of the Tiber at the beginning of Via della Conciliazione.

More Italy to follow. Watch this blog.

Monday, September 19, 2005

The gift of the Priesthood

I caught his eye and he caught mine, though only for a split-second. I could see that he was elderly, I guess at least seventy. The seat beside him was free, and for a moment I was going to sit there; but then I noticed his magnifying glass and his breviary, so I decided to walk on to the rear end of the boat and let him say his Office in privacy.

This was a vaporetto boat, the 1530 service from Burano to Torcello; on Venice's public transport system, this is as far north as you can go. Today fewer than 100 people live on Torcello, but about a thousand years ago, Torcello was in fact the first part of Venice to be settled, and had, at one time, a population of up to 20,000.

Because of its relative remoteness and extremity, I wanted to visit Torcello; but I also intended to go to Mass at 4.30 pm. I assumed this would be in the byzantine Basilica. So the thought crossed my mind that he would be the celebrant.

The Byzantine influence on Venice is clear when you see St Mark's Basilica in the city proper, but also the fact that the Archbishop is not called Archbishop, but Patriarch.

The ferry made its five-minute trip, and arrived at Torcello pier, and I walked along the footpath. There are a few restaurants along the way. Getting to the Basilica took about ten minutes, so I first went into Santa Fosca church, beside the Basilica. Then I quickly went to the entrance of the Basilica, and prepared to pay the entry fee to the Basilica, as well as the Campanile.

I asked the young lady working there "Santa Messe, quatro mezzo" in my poor Italian. But she told me that it would actually be at four, and in Santa Fosca. It was nearly four now, so in I went and sat down. There were about a dozen to fifteen people in Santa Fosca church, mainly tourists, and I felt a bit embarrassed that the priest would come and say Mass to a possible one-person congregation. Then I saw him, with his bag in hand, as he went into a door to the right of the altar.

A young man came out with an ID around his neck indicating that he clearly worked there, and started to set up the altar, light the candles, and bring out the water and wine. At four, he came out robed in white vestments. I turned around, and saw that there were two ladies in the rear seat. Santa Fosca is quite a small church.

Also at four, the bells of the Basilica campanile began to ring, which would last nearly ten minutes. I could see the priest, with magnifying glass in right hand, often looking up from his lectionary to the door. The thought crossed my mind that he was probably expecting some "tourist" to walk in the front door and take a photo of the ceremony.

The young man served Mass and did the readings, and I tried to do the responses as best I could, either in English or what little Italian I have managed to learn.

When the time came for Holy Communion, I was ready to make my move; the priest consumed the host and drank from the chalice. But he made no move, and no attempt to distribute the Sacrament to the (very small) congregation.

Looking back, my opinion is that with the numbers of tourists who pass in and out, it has probably happened that people who are not Catholics have been receiving Communion. So better safe than sorry.

But it all reminded me of the gift to us of the Priesthood.

Monday, September 12, 2005

La Serenissima

Sorry I haven't posted anything for a while, but things were a bit hectic as I had to get things in Dublin sorted out before going on holidays.

And now, I am typing this in an internet place in the city of Venice, Queen of the Adriatic. Try not to be too jealous.

Spent about twenty minutes queueing up to get into St Mark's Basilica, only to discover afterwards that there's a separate entrance if going to Mass, which is usually celebrated in a side chapel. This entrance is on the north side of the Basilica. Also paid visits to San Salvador, San Giorgio, the Gesuiti, and Mass this evening in SS Apostoli. Mass yesterday evening at the Scalzi church, the one nearest the rail station.

One handy thing: all the churches in Venice have a poster, printed by the Archdiocese, which gives all the Mass times around the city.

Earlier this week, a few nice days in Cortina d'Ampezzo, which has a wonderful Baroque-era church. Worth remembering that, up to Italy's entry into the War in 1915, Cortina was actually in the Austro-Hungarian empire.

More Italy to come. Ciao for now!

Friday, August 26, 2005

I love animals. . .

. . . boiled, fried, baked or roasted! Any way you like!!

Seriously, though I do not condone cruelty to animals, I do not believe that animals are equal to humans. Unlike some.

Thanks to reader David Martosko for the tip-off.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Soothsayer story

At the moment, my television set is tuned to EWTN and Johnette Benkovic and guests discussing the New Age movement, something which, I am glad to say, I have had virtually no involvement. So I have no personal stories to tell!

Except one "close encounter" I nearly had with one of Ireland's better-known fortune tellers/soothsayers/psychic guides/con artists (tick as appropriate!).

It happened several years ago, in December, and it was a lunch-time party for Christmas. In the place I worked at the time, the nature of the work was such that we could not all go out for one meal together, but the Christmas party had to be split into two halves, so one half of the office could have a (rushed) social event together, while the other half did the work. Then the following day, the roles were reversed.

We went to a Chinese restaurant in Dublin city centre, a few minutes walk from the workplace.

About half-way through our dinner, the door opened, and in walked a man with a face familiar from television, and a face familiar from newspaper advertisements for his premium-rate fortune-telling phone lines where he (allegedly) will tell you, basically, how to live your life (though I have never, ever rung one of them, hence my use of the word "allegedly"). He also charges you a "nice" fee for the privilege. But because it goes on your phone bill, which you get several weeks later, this is what's known as the Buy Now, Pay Later syndrome. So you don't fully realise that you are spending your own money.

At this time, the place was full with several office groups, including us, having a pre-Christmas party. The gentleman came in, looked around, and soon was approached by one of the staff; they had a conversation, which we couldn't hear, and then he turned around and walked out the door again.

The place was full so he had to go somewhere else for lunch.

We all recognised him, and said to ourselves: "there's (name inserted here)". And then, after a pause for a few seconds, a thought crossed our minds . . .

. . .didn't he KNOW that the place was full??

That was several years ago; he doesn't appear on television very often nowadays (or rather, I don't see him on the box because I've better things to do!) but you can still ring up his premium-rate phone line. For anybody who does, I will make a prediction, which I am confident is far more accurate than any he will make:

Your Future Says: You Will Receive A Large Phone Bill.

Presumably, if he wasn't making a profit he wouldn't stay in the business, nor would his many competitors; so business must be fairly good. Frankly, my verdict is that anyone who rings one of these so-called psychic phone lines deserves to get ripped off.

The universality of the Church

Another site linking to here (grateful thanks) is from Gen X Revert; and this post emphasises that the word "catholic" means "universal".

It reminded me of the scenes on TV last week from Cologne.

So, anybody know when is World Middle-Aged Day?

Saturday, July 30, 2005

So what would YOU do with €115 million?

Well, I guess I would now have enough money to have my own stud farm and string of racehorses. Hey, I might even buy Ballydoyle!!

I would be able to buy some nice presents for some special people; donate a nice sum to two parishes - the parish where I live, and the parish where I grew up, both of which are doing some building/restoration work at the moment; buy a nice new car (BMW probably?).

Short term, I would probably do nothing; just put in into the bank and wait a couple of months while doing some research and making investment decisions.

Will it change my life? To an extent, yes, and that is ultimately why lotteries exist and what they trade on. And before you ask, No, I do not play the Euro Millions or the Lotto or any of the scratch card games. The odds are bad value!

But what would I do about all the begging letters?

Simple - I would just keep sending them!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

I've Been Certified!

This evening, there was a brown envelope from the Government in my letterbox.

It contained a legal document with my name and address on it.

It is a Certificate of Professional Competence issued by the Department of Transport.

If I ever wanted to have my own Road Transport business, I require three things: Good Repute (i.e. clean slate over the past five years from a long list of offences), Financial Standing, and Professional Competence. I now have number three.

I got this because I passed the examination I did in June. Thanks for all the prayers and advice and help I got along the way.

This Certificate is permanent.

So I don't have to do the exam again. The next exam is in September - instead I will be on holidays!

Friday, July 08, 2005

VOTF in Ireland

Each week, the back page of The Irish Catholic has a column titled "Notebook", which is basically a guest column.

This week, the Notebook is written by Sean O'Conaill. At the bottom, the paper states that Sean O'Conaill is Co-ordinator of Voice of the Faithful (Ireland).

He begins with a quote from Lumen Gentium. Basically, he calls for more accountability from bishops. "That is why our bishops also need to be more accountable in our Church - to restore their own authority and to deny the Church's enemies the gibe that our leaders are more likely to hide from the light than to lead us toward it. We laity too are accountable."

He continues: "Founded in Boston in 2002, following revelations of the disastrous reassignment of abusive priests by the archdiocese, Voice of the Faithful emerged out of the protest of committed laity - readers, eucharistic ministers, parents - determined to preserve their faith for their children. Very many were proudly Irish.

"Determined that this catastrophe should be the last of its kind, VOTF agreed the banner slogan "Keep the Faith: Change the Church". It agreed also three main goals: to support victims of child sex abuse by clergy; to support all priests of integrity; to work for Church structures that would prevent the Church from harming itself again. . .

"VOTF has also taken the position that to fund the leadership of the Church without demanding accountability from it is irresponsible - it encourages unaccountability and secrecy and therefore guarantees scandal. . .

"We Irish faithful also need to raise our voices in secular Ireland in celebration of what our Church has given us. My Catholic faith is by far my most important possession."

He concludes: "In the months ahead we plan to hold public meetings in Ireland to promote this programme. In the meantime will tell you more. The site includes a sign-up membership form - totally free of charge."

Note this is not the full article. The excerpts have been chosen by myself.

The paper prints a logo as part of the article: an outline of a church steeple, with the words "The Laity Speak: Accountability Now" and underneath that "A Convocation of Catholic Laity".

So I went in and had a quick look at the VOTF website, but I did not "Sign Up". I couldn't help seeing the page called "VOTF Positions" stating, among other things, that VOTF accepts the teaching authority of the Church, and that VOTF does not seek the ordination of women, ending of the celibacy rule, etc, etc, and does not ally itself to any particular lobby group.

Now, I have seen no evidence of VOTF activity in Dublin. Anything I have read about VOTF over the last couple of years does not paint a good picture.

But the fact that The Irish Catholic gives half of the back page to this piece is interesting. True, this is just a personal column, and not an editorial. I must also add that the paper still is, as it always has been, owned by individual Catholic laypeople (actually his name is Otto Herschans) and not directly owned or controlled by the Hierarchy or any diocese or bishop.

I'll post more here, if anything happens.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

London 2012 - and 2005!

Yesterday, in London, they were celebrating. Today, they are in shock, and tomorrow they will mourn.

Would the bombs have gone off if the Olympics had been awarded to another city? But that is pure conjecture on my part.

I still can't honestly see the mentality why anyone would want to plan and carry out such deeds. And some of the victims could be devout Moslems.

May God grant the dead eternal rest and peace in His kingdom.

And the hardest prayer of them all is: Father, forgive them; for they know not what they are doing.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Appeal for information!

Does anybody know how do I get to one of the Wednesday General Papal Audiences? Do I have to reserve in advance? Do I need tickets? How much to they cost, etc, etc? Also, if I was planning to be in Rome on a certain Wednesday, how do I know whether or not BXVI will be having a General Audience, and not way somewhere?

Any help will be gratefully received.

The Glorious Triviality

I admit I hadn't fully noticed. I know there was a lot on my mind the last few weeks with the exam and work and everything, but the other day I looked through the Racing Post and noticed that the leading trainer in prize-money in Britain so far this season is the Master of Ballydoyle himself, Aidan O'Brien.

Just for the record, he (so far) has won nine races from fifty runs, a strike rate of 18%; and total prize-money of £1,031,022.

Currently second is Michael Bell, with £993,317. Obviously, Motivator is responsible for most of that, and Bell could be top of the table after the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown next Saturday.

Incidentally, Aidan's largest earners this season so far are:

Virginia Waters, £221,448;
Footstepsinthesand, £185,600;
Yeats, £145,000;
Ace, £77,000;
Gypsy King, £68,950;
Ad Valorem, £49,500;
Oratorio, £40,750;
Indigo Cat, £35,240;
Wolfe Tone, £31,990;
Mona Lisa, £29,532;
All Too Beautiful, £29,000.

Unfortunately, neither Footstepsinthesand nor Gypsy King will be running any more races for the Ballydoyle/Coolmore team. But I have a hunch that Ace could be the main standard bearer for Ballydoyle in Group 1 races for the rest of the season.

But if you look at bare statistics, do they mean that John Oxx is the leading Irish trainer? So far in Britain this season, his record is two runs, two victories, both at Royal Ascot at York (Azamour and Beautyandthebeast), for a total of £232,000 in prize-money and a 100% strike rate. So does that mean he's a better trainer than Aidan? Answers on a postcard!

P.S. I must acknowledge the Racing Post for statistics.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Thanks to everybody who helped

. . . and the saga of my examination is over - at least until I get the results.

By the way, the examination was for a Certificate of Professional Competence. See here for details.

You will have to go to the sidebar, and click Education/Training, and then click the link for Certificate of Professional Competence.

There are two papers, morning and afternoon. I must score a total of 60% average, but I must get minimum 55% in each paper. A certain amount of "compensation" is allowed, but you must score 55%.

If you fail, you do the exam again; but depending on the actual results, you might only have to repeat one paper.

Thanks to a lot of people in work who gave me useful advice. Thanks also to those who remembered me in their prayers.

I am very confident, but it will take about six weeks before I get the results.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Two weeks break

On Friday June 10th I will be sitting an examination. In order to concentrate on studies, I have decided I will not be doing anything with the blog until after it's all finished.

Please remember me in your prayers, especially on that date.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Watch out - priest impersonator about!

From Catholic Ireland:

A Dublin diocesan priest has gone public to expose a scam in which a con artist is masquerading as him in order to get money out of other unsuspecting priests.
Fr Tom Stack, well known for his writing in the Irish Catholic, spoke on RTE’s Morning Ireland yesterday about a scam that has been going on intermittently for some time.

Morning Ireland audio archive download page is here.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Happy St. Brendan's Day!

And best wishes to all Brendans throughout the world.

Don't worry - one day we will rule the world!!

Kudos to Fr. Ethan for his special greeting.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Vocations Report from Archdiocese of Dublin

A couple of weeks ago, at Mass, the parish priest gave us some information which I reproduce:

Approximately 650 priests hold appointments from the Archbishop of Dublin. (Note that the population of Catholics is just over a million.)

About a quarter of these priests belong to religious congregations or missionary societies; e.g., Jesuits, Dominicans, Franciscans, Marists; etc.

One priest was ordained for Dublin in 2004 (Fr. Victor Fitzpatrick).

There will be no ordinations for Dublin in 2005; two seminarians entered in 1998, but, for one reason or another, left the seminary.

He said "We hope to have a number of ordinations to the priesthood next year", but he didn't say which number. (actually, zero is a number but I digress. . .)

Five seminarians were accepted into formation for the priesthood last Autumn.

The Archdiocese currently has twelve seminarians: five are currently studying philosophy, and seven are in theology. Eleven are in St Patrick's College, Maynooth; one is in the Irish College in Rome.

Who are they and where are they from originally? Well, they range in age from 19 to over 50, and like many large cities, Dublin has always had candidates from outside the Diocese; years ago this was because other dioceses had more students than they needed. Now it's mainly because the seminarians enter at an older age, and have already been studying or working in Dublin

The current students are from Donnybrook, Artane, Springfield, Hartstown, Rathmines, Saigon, Belfast, Newtownmountkennedy, Lagos, Waterford, Derry and Dungannon.

We also heard that fourteen men "have been in on-going discernment" with the Diocesan Vocations Centre, and a number of these have made a formal application to be accepted as seminarians.

He said that the number beginning formation this coming Autumn will be smaller than the five of last year.

The normal period of training is seven years; three years philosophy, three years theology, and one year on-the-job training.

The Diocese Vocations Director is Fr. Kevin Doran; read about him here. You may also notice that he is the long-lost, identical-twin-brother of Commander Ryker from Star Trek The Next Generation!! (OK, I made that bit up!)

Welcome to the Twenty-First Century!

A couple of years ago I said to myself that in 500 years time when people study the history of the Catholic Church in the 21st century, there will be special emphasis on two issues: one is the relationship with the Islamic world; second is the issue of the creation and protection of human life.

This week in Ireland, we had the latest round in a campaign which, frankly, has not yet got serious. The story is here, courtesy of the excellent Catholic Ireland website.

Here, when a Government sets up a Commission, or asks for a "study and report" about something, this is usually just a tactic to avoid making a decision. There is still a lot of water to go under the bridge this time.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

My analysis of the UK General Election

For what it's worth, here are my reflections on political events in Great Britain and Northern Ireland over the past few days.

Points in no particular order of importance:

1. I am surprised that there has still been no real forward move made by the smaller parties, such as UKIP, Greens, etc. UKIP did well in the European Parliament elections, but it was noticeable that, overall, Europe was not a major issue in the election. The Green candidate came third in one of the Brighton constituencies, and the BNP increased their vote slightly. But overall, most of the power remains with the two-and-a-half party system, and there is no sign of this changing.

2. George Galloway, on the RESPECT ticket, did win Bethnal Green and Bow, but I interpret this as mainly an anti-war vote. In fact, the two major issues, in my opinion, were the war, and Tony Blair himself.

3. I stayed up watching BBC, SkyNews, and ITV News until about 0230, just after the Sedgefield result was announced. The anti-war Independent, Reg Keys, polled over 4,000 votes, which, frankly, is an excellent performance by an Independent.

4. But I missed the TV Moment of the Night. Here is a transcript. Absolutely Classic.

5. In the North, the meltdown of the Ulster Unionist Party is a reflection of the frustration which many Unionist voters feel about the Peace Process; but especially the fact that Sinn Féin continue to grow, even though the IRA have not renounced the armed struggle, let alone "decommission" the guns. The prospect of SF/IRA "negotiating" with Ian Paisley and the DUP sounds interesting; though not as interesting as the look on Paisley's face!!

6. Throughout his political career, Ian Paisley has been on the sidelines making plenty of noise. But now, at 79 years of age, he has REAL political responsibility. I think it will be the making, or breaking, of him.

7. Following on from point 5, and the growth of Sinn Féin on both sides of the Border, I wonder: do voters know that SF is the most pro-abortion party on the island?

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Proof that Mark Shea is a legend . . .

. . . just in case you didn't know already!

Here is his latest on Catholic Exchange.

Currently on a sabbatical from his blog, Mark Shea gives another lesson in how to write articles which are readable, articulate, a bit funny, but which hit the target.

I think I would like to be Mark Shea when I grow up!

Sunday, May 01, 2005

So who are "the weirdos"?

One of Ireland's best-known, and sometimes controversial, journalists and broadcasters, is Vincent Browne. Virtually everybody in the media world in Ireland can tell you a story about dealing with him, and it isn't always complimentary.

He had a famous on-air sparring session on his RTE radio programme with Dana Rosemary Scallon during her first European Election campaign in 1999; I admit I didn't hear the item, but people told me afterwards that he basically treated her with contempt, but she was well able to deal with him.

And he also once turned his radio programme, for several weeks, into a Bible Study class.

So it might seem strange for him to write this article in last week's Sunday Business Post. But cleverly he doesn't reveal his own feelings on the election of our new Pope.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Nice Guys Finish First

Footstepsinthesand has just won the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket. Well done Aidan O'Brien, Kieran Fallon and the Ballydoyle team.

I've just watched Fallon being interviewed on Channel 4, and clearly this victory takes a lot of pressure off him in the new job. TV pictures show Aidan with a big smile on his face, which is a change from his usual worried/concerned look.

The man from Clare kept the horse on the outside, but I admit I was watching the nearside , where Dubawi and Democratic Deficit came with their runs. In fact, Dubawi swerved left and checked DD for a few strides.

One minute 36.10, over a second slower than the record set by Mister Baileys. But well done to all concerned.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Benedict XVI - the REALLY big question is (almost) answered!

And the REALLY big question is, of course, what's his favourite football team?

Go to the ZENIT link on the left, and look up April 25th, and find a story titled "Benedict XVI: Lover of Nature and Sports". It's an interview with Cardinal Bertone, who worked with the new Pope at the CDF; and he spills the beans!!

So after this, this leaves only two more questions:

one, will he be going to the World Cup in Germany next year?

Two, if not, can I have his tickets?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


Okay, I'll admit it; I wasn't expecting him, mainly because of his age.

I'm trying to imagine what thoughts were going through his head in that 45 minute spell from election to his appearance on the balcony.

Previously, he ran a department. Now he has the whole world on his shoulders.

Needless to say, not everybody is happy; frankly, I suspect that the critical voices would have being saying much the same no matter who was elected.

But overall, I am happy. Let us all remember in our prayers Pope Benedict XVI and may God and His Blessed Mother be with him every day and in everything that he does.

Meanwhile, some very enterprising people have been very quickly into action.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Good news for West Brits!!!

Photo taken Glasgow Airport Monday 4th April 2005. Posted by Hello

Well, this photo should make some people happy!

Make sure to click on the photo and bring it to full size. I haven't got used to the Picasa yet.

There's no such thing as bad publicity!

Or as Brendan Behan put it, "There's no such thing as bad publicity, except your obituary."

Whoever in Paddy Power's bookmakers thought up the idea of a market on the Papal election, it is doubtful they ever dreamed of the amount of publicity it would generate. Even American-based Catholic blogs, such as Amy Welborn's Open Book, has a link to the market page. Paddy Power himself actually went to Rome at the weekend, and got coverage on CNN!! Not to mention whatever new accounts and new clients they've received.

Now as I write this, Francis Arinze is favourite at 3-1. I was present at Croke Park in 1999 at a rally of the Pioneer Association, where he gave a homily on the subject of temperance. What struck me was his explanation of temperance as a virtue not just in Christianity, but in Eastern cultures.

Not long ago, the first black smoke came from the chimney; this brings up the question. Suppose they fail to elect a candidate, then put the ballot papers in the furnace, but someone forgets to put in the wet straw or whatever they use to make the smoke black?? Actually, can the cardinals themselves in the Sistine Chapel actually see the top of the chimney to make sure they smoke is black?? Just a thought.

Monday, April 04, 2005

John Paul II: 1920-2005

It may be a cliche, but it really is the end of an era.

I got to see him briefly when he said Mass at the Phoenix Park in Dublin, 29th September, 1979. The altar was a long way away, so we couldn't see him except through binoculars (though I didn't have binoculars in those days!). But after Mass, he came around the crowds in his Popemobile, and I did actually get to see him for about one second.

When I heard the news Saturday evening, I was in a hotel in Edinburgh. I really feel privileged for the fact that I grew up during his pontificate, and I doubt I will experience a Pope like him; I also know that every Pope we have for the next twenty years or so will be in his shadow, so to speak.

For what will he be remembered most in future? My prediction is two items: first, the adding of the five Luminous Mysteries to the Rosary; second, the growth of the promotion of the devotion of Divine Mercy.

May God and his Mother welcome him into his eternal reward.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Born in Cheltenham. . .

The Cheltenham Tourist office will not like me to say this, but if it wasn't for the racing, frankly I can't see any reason why I would have ever visited Cheltenham!

But yes there is one place I am glad I visited during race week in 2002. A house not far from the Cotswold Grange Hotel, which was the birthplace of the composer Gustav Holst, of The Planets Suite fame.

It's a simple late nineteenth century terraced house, of about three floors. It has been restored in the style of what a house would have looked like around the beginning of the twentieth century. There is a grand piano in the sitting room, and there are occasional concerts there.

But the most interesting item in the house is on one of the upstairs landings; it is in a frame on the wall. It is a legal document allowing the man himself to change his name, and is dated September 1918 (definitely late 1918 - I think it was September!).

It's true - Gustav Holst was NOT his real name.

Guess what his REAL name was?? Remember he changed it in 1918!

His real name was GUSTAV VON HOLST.

Can you imagine why he changed it???

Cheltenham Festival 2005

I am in Dublin, watching the racing on the box this week; it's far less expensive, it's much warmer, more comfortable, plus I don't have to queue to get a drink, a bite to eat, or visit the bathroom. I was able to actually sit down while eating my (home-made) lunch.

So do I miss not being there in the flesh? Yes!!

I used to go regularly. In 2002, I decided to actually stay, for the first time, in the town of Cheltenham itself, and I was lucky that Walter Greacen arranged the Cotswold Grange Hotel for me. I can honestly say that next time I go to the Festival, if I cannot get the CGH, I will seriously consider not going. It's only about half an hour walk from the course. My preference would be to get the bus up the hill to the course, and walk back in the evening - weather permitting of course!!

So within 40/45 minutes of leaving the course, I can be sitting down enjoying the first course of dinner!! In previous years, staying in farther away (and cheaper) places, it could take an hour and a half to get back to base.

I have gone back to the CGH since then; I have always had an enthusiastic welcome from Paul Weaver and his friendly team; there's porridge on the menu in the morning, and it's a reasonably walk to the Prom and the town centre. The only disadvantage is that it is a good distance from the train station.

After the 2002 Festival, when I backed See More Business each way for the Gold Cup and got a return, I knew this had been the best and most enjoyable Festival for me. But demand drives up prices, and as I was paying a mortgage within four months of the Festival, circumstances have changed.

I must add I do not own shares in the Cotswold Grange Hotel!! And I am not being paid to write this!!

Now I admit in advance that I did nap Spot The Difference (witnesses to this were at the preview evening in the Mansion House last Saturday night!), though I did not have my money on!! Unfortunately, my cash is too big a weight for any horse to carry.

Yes, I did get a great buzz from watching Moscow Flyer win today - it would have made interesting reading to have a machine beside me measuring my pulse rate.

But we must admit that, in the general scheme of world sport, National Hunt racing is a small player. I did notice Tuesday evening, on CNN's World Sport programme, that coverage was given to Hardy Eustace, and a clip of him was used to close the programme.

When you watch CNN, they have a running news ticker along the bottom of the screen displaying news, sports, and business headlines; about two weeks ago an English horseracing story made what they call the "Sportbar". No, it wasn't a big race result; it was reference to the arrest of Giles Parkin on suspicion of race-fixing!!

Friday we will have the Gold Cup, if there are any horses left in the field!! My tip? Up until Monday I would have said Kingscliff. Let's wait until Friday to see which horses actually make it to the starting gate!!

Monday, March 07, 2005

Grand National 2005

Saturday 9th April sees what is, for me, probably the biggest sporting event of the year - the Grand National at Liverpool.

I have never been to Aintree - not yet. I am worried that I might enjoy the race far less live than on TV; and I fear I could be right.

Let me state here and now that I have never backed the winner of the race, because I have never had a bet on it. However, I did tip both West Tip and Maori Venture in advance.

When the weights originally came out, the first horse to catch my eye was Silver Birch. Now that he is out my next fancies are Forest Gunner and Hedgehunter.

But don't blame me if you don't pick the winner!

Sunday, February 27, 2005


It's been a long time since I posted anything here, but things have been hectic. For example, I have been having problems with my PC at home.

Also, I have changed the title to a line from Chapter 9 of Wisdom.