It is the feast of St Vincent de Paul. In Ireland St Vincent De Paul is best remembered by giving his name to the Society of St Vincent de Paul, which for those unfamiliar with it is a lay organisation working for social justice. In modern Ireland the need for the “V de P” is as great as ever.

The website Remembering Willie Doyle is devoted to the Irish Jesuit Willie Doyle, killed in action during World War 1. Most days the Remembering Willie Doyle blog is updated with an extract from Fr Doyle’s diaries or other writings.

The thoughts for September 27th lead into a consideration of St Vincent de Paul, the Jansenist heresy (which, when one reads about it, sounds with its emphasis on sin and damnation something close to an unfortunate strain in Irish Catholicism over the years) and  the state of the Church in France 350 years ago and parallels with today:

Fr Doyle isn’t the only great spiritual hero who felt he had much lukewarmness to account for. Today’s saint, Vincent de Paul, seems to have had very mixed motives during his early years. The desire to secure a prestigious ecclesiastical benefice and live in comfort seems to have been foremost in his mind when he was ordained a priest in his very early 20’s. In fact, he even had recourse to the courts to vindicate what he saw as his rights in the Church, and, so keen was he to protect his rights that he even chased a man who owed him money to Marseilles. It was on this expedition that he was kidnapped by Turkish pirates and sold as a slave. It is this experience, plus the importance of friendships like those with St Francis de Sales and Pierre de Berulle that gradually brought about his conversion.

There are other important similarities between St Vincent and Fr Doyle. Both were renowned for their charity. In Fr Doyle’s case this started very early in life – as a child he would take food from his family home and give it to the poor around Dalkey, his native village. He kept this habit all his life, often giving away his food and gifts to soldiers in the trenches.

 

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Extinct in Ireland, September 27th – Small mountain ringlet (Erebia epiphron)

Extinct in Ireland, September 27th –   Small mountain ringlet (Erebia epiphron)

From the Straffan Butterfly Farm page:

The small mountain ringlet:

A famous butterfly collector called Mr Edwin Birchall claimed to have collected a series of these butterflies halfway up Croagh Patrick in June 1854 and one of these specimens resides in the National Museum in Dublin. There is another specimen believed to have been captured by Rev.R. McClean on the east shores of Lough Gill in 1895. Yet another collector W.F.Kane claimed to have seen specimens in the Nephin Mountains in County Mayo in 1900 although he does not seem to have captured any of them.

There are a total of 6 specimens in existence of which 3 may be genuine and 3 which are of unknown origin but could be Irish as they are labelled Kane 1903.

This is a small and elusive butterfly and difficult to find at the best of t imes in Scotland and Europe. It will only fly in bright sunshine and colonises east facing areas of grassland containing Mat Grass but the butterfly is not generally found below 2000 ft. altitude.

So why the doubt?

After 1903 Croagh Patrick was searched many times and not a single Mountain Ringlet was ever found. The Eastern shore location for the Lough Gill specimen turned out to be a most unsuitable habitat for this species and well below it’s normal altitude. Also the actual specimen label states Sligo but the eastern end of Lough Gill is in Leitrim. The Nephin Mountains are a real possibility of a suitable habitat with the inaccessable Nephin Beg being a good bet. However around 1940 the whole side of this mountain caught fire after a drought and this may have destroyed the species, if it ever existed there.

Maybe someone reading this may be encouraged to investigate and make the discovery entomologists have searched for since the start of the last century – it could be you.

Here is a gallery of small mountain ringlets. Here is a longer article on Irish small mountain ringlets.

Birchall

“silence of the heart is much more important than silence of the mouth”

“silence of the heart is much more important than silence of the mouth”

From Henri Nouwen’s The Way of The Heart: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers

These examples of silence in preaching, counseling, and organizing are meant to illustrate how silence can help to determine the practical shape of our ministry. But let us not be too literal about silence.

After all, silence of the heart is much more important than silence of the mouth. Abba Poemen said: “A man may seem to be silent, but if his heart is condemning others he is babbling ceaselessly. But there may be another who talks from morning till night and yet he is truly silent.”9 Silence is primarily a quality of the heart that leads to ever-growing charity.

Once a visitor said to a hermit, “Sorry for making you break your rule.” But the monk answered, “My rule is to practice the virtue of hospitality towards those who come to see me and send them home in peace.”10

Charity, not silence, is the purpose of the spiritual life and of ministry. About this all the Desert Fathers are unanimous.

Every gravestone tells a story: from Drangan, Co Tipperary

Every gravestone tells a story: from Drangan, Co Tipperary

Graveyards are full of stories. Thomas Grey’s Elegy in a Country Churchyard captured this decisively in poetic form – so much so that any subsequent poem seems a pale shadow.

In Drangan, Co Tipperary, in the Slieveardagh area -a village which like Cloneen has no Wikipedia presence –  I came across this:

It is irresistably poignant to read of this man whose parents died within days of each other in 1919 (?of the Influenza Pandemic) when he was one or less. And he himself died on the 71st anniversary of his mother.

There are other stones with stories there. I am wary of intruding on grief … but here is one with a rather jollier story to tell:

from “Small, Silent, Still” – Fr Paul D Scalia

Full piece here. An interesting interview with Fr Scalia – son of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia – here

 We require that God be as we want Him: big, loud, efficient. Big and obvious, so that we can see Him and not have to walk by faith. Loud, so that we can hear Him and not be taxed by silence.  Efficient, lest we have to endure any waiting.  Our worship and culture follow suit.  Indeed, few things are more obvious than our culture’s addiction to spectacles, noise, and instant gratification.

In contrast, our Lord gives us two parables about the Kingdom of God: the seed sown in the ground and the mustard seed. (Mk 4:26-34)  These hit us where we live.  They require us to detach from the big, loud, and efficient and to accustom ourselves to the hidden, silent, and slow.

The Kingdom has, first, a silent and hidden growth.  It is like that seed scattered on the land that sprouts and grows of its own accord, and the sower knows not how.  The growth is unheard and unseen, beyond our reach and control.  It requires faith that He is indeed at work and trust that, in Romano Guardini’s words, “The silent forces are the strong forces.”

This Kingdom grows at its own pace, not the sower’s.  It calls for patience.  We cannot command it or set its schedule.  Indeed, our schedule must yield to its pace.  Further, the Kingdom is small – like that smallest of seeds that when sown, “springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”  We prefer something more certain, something big and clearly powerful.  But here we must trust in the fruitfulness of what appears entirely insufficient.

 

Learning How To See Again, Josef Pieper

Learning How To See Again, Josef Pieper

LEARNING HOW TO SEE AGAIN
By Josef Pieper (translated by Lothar Krauk)

from Only The Lover Sings: Art and Contemplation 

 

Man’s ability to see is in decline. Those who nowadays concern

themselves with culture and education will experience this fact again and
again. We do not mean here, of course, the physiological
sensitivity of the human eye. We mean
the spiritual capacity to perceive the visible reality
as it truly is.
To be sure, no human being has ever really seen
everything that lies visibly in front of his eyes.
The world, including its tangible side, is unfathomable.
Who. would ever have perfectly perceived
the countless shapes and shades of just one

wave swelling and ebbing in the ocean! And yet,
there are degrees of perception. Going below a
certain bottom line quite obviously will endanger
the integrity of man as a spiritual being. It seems
that nowadays we have arrived at this bottom
line.
I am writing this on my return from Canada,
aboard a ship sailing from New York to Rotterdam.
Most of the other passengers have spent
quite some time in the United States, many for
one reason only: to visit and see the New World
with their own eyes. With their own eyes: in this lies
the difficulty.

During the various conversations on deck and
at the dinner table I am always amazed at hearing
almost without exception rather generalized statements
and pronouncements that are plainly the
common fare of travel guides. It turns out that
hardly anybody has noticed those frequent small
signs in the streets of New York that indicate
public fallout shelters. And visiting New York
University, who would have noticed those stonehewn
chess tables in front of it, placed in Washington
Square by a caring city administration for
the Italian chess enthusiasts of that area?!
Or again, at table I had mentioned those magnificent
fluorescent sea creatures whirled up to the
surface by the hundreds in our ship’s bow wake.
The next day it was casually mentioned that “last
night there was nothing to be seen”. Indeed, for
nobody had the patience to let the eyes adapt to
the darkness. To repeat, then: man’s ability to see
is in decline.
Searching for the reasons, we could point to
various things: modern man’s restlessness and
stress, quite sufficiently denounced by now, or his
total absorption and enslavement by practical
goals and purposes. Yet one reason must not be
overlooked either: the average person of our time
loses the ability to see because there is too much to
see!

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There does exist something like “visual noise”,
which just like the acoustical counterpart, makes
clear perception impossible. One might perhaps
presume that TV watchers, tabloid readers, and
movie goers exercise and sharpen their eyes. But
the opposite is true. The ancient sages knew exactly
why they called the “concupiscence of the
eyes” a “destroyer”. The restoration of man’s inner
eyes can hardly be expected in this day and
age-unless, first of all, one were willing and determined
simply to exclude from one’s realm of
life all those inane and contrived but titillating illusions
incessantly generated by the entertainment
industry.

You may argue, perhaps: true, our capacity to
see has diminished, but such loss is merely the
price all higher cultures have to pay. We have lost,
no doubt, the American Indian’s keen sense of
smell, but we also no longer need it since we have
binoculars, compass, and radar. Let me repeat: in
this obviously continuing process there exists a
limit below which human nature itself is threatened,
and the very integrity of human existence is
directly endangered. Therefore, such ultimate
danger can no longer be averted with technology
alone. At stake here is this: How can man be saved
from becoming a totally passive consumer of
mass-produced goods and a subservient follower
beholden to every slogan the managers may proclaim?
The question really is: How can man preserve
and safeguard the foundation of his spiritual
dimension and an uncorrupted relationship to reality?

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The capacity to perceive the visible world
“with our own eyes” is indeed an essential constituent
of human nature. We are talking here about
man’s essential inner richness-or, should the
threat prevail, man’s most abject inner poverty.
And why so? To see things is the first step toward
that primordial and basic mental grasping of reality,
which constitutes the essence of man as a spiritual
being.
I am well aware that there are realities we can
come to know through “hearing” alone. All the
same, it remains a fact that only through seeing,
indeed through seeing with our own eyes, is our
inner autonomy established. Those no longer able
to see reality with their own eyes are equally unable
to hear correctly. It is specifically the man
thus impoverished who inevitably falls prey to the
demagogical spells of any powers that be. “Inevitably”,
because such a person is utterly deprived
even of the potential to keep a critical distance
(and here we recognize the direct political relevance
of our topic).

The diagnosis is indispensable yet only a first
step. What, then, may be proposed; what can be
done?
We already mentioned simple abstention, a regimen
of fasting and abstinence, by which we
would try to keep the visual noise of daily inanities
at a distance. Such an approach seems to me
indeed an indispensable first step but, all the same,
no more than the removal, say, of a roadblock.
A better and more immediately effective remedy
is this: to be active oneself in artistic creation, producing
shapes and forms for the eye to see.
Nobody has to observe and study the visible
mystery of a human face more than the one who
sets out to sculpt it in a tangible medium. And this
holds true not only for a manually formed image.
The verbal “image” as well can thrive only when
it springs from a higher level of visual perception.
We sense the intensity of observation required
simply to say, “The girl’s eyes were gleaming like
wet currants” (Tolstoy).
Before you can express anything in tangible
form, you first need eyes to see. The mere attempt,
therefore, to create an artistic form compels
the artist to take a fresh look at the visible
reality; it requires authentic and personal observation.
Long before a creation is completed, the artO
ist has gained for himself another and more intimate
achievement: a deeper and more receptive
vision, a more intense awareness, a sharper and
more discerning understanding, a more patient
openness for all things quiet and inconspicuous,
an eye for things previously overlooked. In short:
the artist will be able to perceive with new eyes the
abundant wealth of all visible reality, and, thus
challenged, additionally acquires the inner capacity
to absorb into his mind such an exceedingly
rich harvest. The capacity to see increases.

Cahir’s memorial to Crimean Bob, “a veteran troophorse”

This plaque is on display in the main square of Cahir, Co Tipperary:

This article outlines the story of Crimean Bob and other Irish animals of the Crimean War. A little disappointingly , the Cahir plaque is a replica and the original is in the museum of the Royal Hussars.

On RTE Radio, Mooney Goes Wild did a segment on Crimean Bob a few years back