“But to simply withdraw does not provide the way forward, for we then take our hurt or tired self with us”

From ” “Dare to Journey–with Henri Nouwen (Designed for Influence)” by Charles Ringma”

We need to resist making unhelpful distinctions where we play off one thing against another. Prayer, for example, is not opposed to work; and the search for solitude is not opposed to active involvement in our world. These seeming opposites belong together. Prayer leads to work, and work needs to be done prayerfully. Similarly, solitude is not simply a withdrawal from the world in order to be renewed and refreshed. It is also finding a new center of inner quietness and certitude from which we act in the midst of a busy and demanding world.
Nouwen expresses the seeming paradox in this way: “The movement from loneliness to solitude is not a movement of growing withdrawal, but is instead it movement toward a deeper engagement in the burning issues of our time. This seeming contradiction finds its resolution in the fact that we can lose ourselves in our much-doing but cannot find ourselves simply through withdrawal.
In our much-doing we lose perspective, lose our energy, and more importantly, lose our creativity and sense of humor. We thus begin to carry the world on our shoulders and soon become overwhelmed or disillusioned. But to simply withdraw does not provide the way forward, for we then take our hurt or tired self with us. Rather, the movement to solitude is to find a renewed self, and from the center of being loved and nourished we can again enter our world with purposeful engagement and joyful detachment.


Stained Glass from St Mary’s Church, Aughnacloy, Parish of Aghaloo and Carntell, Co. Tyrone

Stained Glass from St Mary’s Church, Aughnacloy, Parish of Aghaloo and Carntell, Co. Tyrone

This parish has three Churches – St Mary’s Church Aughnacloy, St Joseph’s Church Caledon & St Brigid’s Church Killens. St Mary’s Church is located just beyond the main road of Aughnacloy in the direction of Omagh.

The stained glass here is pleasingly direct and could be called old-fashioned. On the day I visited it was extremely sunny which led to some wonderful effects, which I have not captured adequately here. As well as a crucifixion above the altar, most of the windows had a thread of themes from the Rosary or associated with Mary.

I liked this triptych of windows on the Visitation, St Joseph, and St Anne:

Here are my efforts at taking pictures of the windows above the altar:

Here is the other side of the altar, windows on the Annunciation, the Nativity, and presenting Our Lady (?possible crowned in Heaven):

I did make an effort to capture the light thrown by some of the windows on the floor. Here goes!



The wisdom of silence

Adam de Ville has a particularly good post on Eastern Christian Books on Terry Eagleton’s book on sacrifice. This is an especially rich post covering a range of topics… but I will only quote a brief excerpt which echoed with this post inspired by a phrase of George Steiner’s from “The Portage to San Cristobal of A H”:

In addition to his work on Marx, Eagleton has also read Freud (and Lacan, inter alia) very perceptively, which most people today seem incapable of doing. This allows him to say–without, alas, developing it to the extent I wished–that the silence of the Father faced with His Son on the Cross “may be compared to the silence of the psychoanalyst who refuses the role of Big Other or transcendental guarantor” (41). (One thing it took me a long time on the couch to realize was that such silence was not neglect or lack of interest on the part of the remarkable woman who was my analyst. It was, rather, the very condition of freedom, and a very necessary reminder that the responsibility for the authorship of our lives must not mindlessly be handed over to others, tempting though that often is for many of us–cf. both Fromm and Winnicott on this point–as well as Adam Phillips.)

“Conas tá an misneach?” / “How is the courage?”

I have been reading the beautifully produced book Aneas – Saíocht ó thraidisiún Gaelach na Mumhan. This book features various proverbs, sayings and idioms of Munster Irish, with a text accompanying each in both Irish and English (interestingly, while the texts are similar in theme and sentiment, they are not direct translations of each other) The book features haunting photos by Lanke Haouche Perren (the cover is reproduced below and the photo below is from Haouche Perren’s LinkedIn page)

Aneas 21.1.14-600x600

“Conas tá an misneach?”

Ar an misneach a mhairimid. Coimeádann sé an dé ionainn, nuair a chaithimid coimeád sa tsúil, agus an saol dorcha timpeall orainn, go drí go ngealann an ghrian aris dúinn. Rud a dhéanann, le foighne. Aithníonn an beannú coitianta seo i gCora Dhuibhne tábacht an mhisnigh, tuigeann sé a leochaileacht, tacaíonn sé lena fhorbairt. Léargas deas é ar fhealsúnacht an chultúir.


Éilíonn gach aon tsaol agus gach aon tréimhse sa tsaol, a mhisneach uathach féin. Agus ins na laethanta diana trína bhfuil an oiread sín daoine ag streachailt faoi láthair, ni mór misneach a chothú. Níl aon rud buan. Casfaidh an roth.  Mar a deir ráiteas gaoiseach eile:

“Is mairg a báitear le linn an anaithe / Mar tagann an ghrian in ndiadh na fearthainne”


My own translation of this (apologies for any errors, and the English text from the book is certainly more elegant as a piece of prose):

We live on courage. It keeps us going, when we come across difficulties in our way, and life is dark around us, until the sun shines again on us. It does things to us. This saying from Corca Dhuibhne reminds us of the importance of courage, it understands it is fragile, it needs to be given support. It is a good insight into the philosophy of the culture.

In every life and in every period of life, courage is needed. And these days of trial, when so many people are struggling, courage must be maintained. Nothing is permanent. The wheel turns. As another saying has it:

“Sad the  he who drowns in the storm / for the sun comes after the rain”

The English text in the book:

This is a common greeting in Corca Dhuibhne. It reveals a great deal about the culture of the region. Courage is fundamental to a good life, sustaining us through the bad times, allowing us to reach the good. The question in itself implies communal support for the individual in daily life. It indicates a comprehension of the volatility of courage: it ned not always be strong, it may waver, it needs support and development.

In  modern society where chaos threatens, and social systems under strain, the need for courage is manifest. It is well to remember that cycles change. The sun shines again. no matter how strong the storm. We endure, things will improve. Keep up your courage, and accept the help of those who help you to sustain it.


Henri Nouwen on the powerlessness of God

From “Bread For the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith”, Henri Nouwen:

In and through Jesus we come to know God as a powerless God, who becomes dependent on us. But it is precisely in this powerlessness that God’s power reveals itself. This is not the power that controls, dictates, and commands. It is the power that heals, reconciles, and unites. It is the power of the Spirit. When Jesus appeared people wanted to be close to him and touch him because “power came out of him” (Luke 6:19). It is this power of the divine Spirit that Jesus wants to give us. The Spirit indeed empowers us and allows us to be healing presences. When we are filled with that Spirit, we cannot be other than healers.

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.


“no longer did immediate this-worldly success have to be decisive”

From “God’s Gamble: The Gravitational Power of Crucified Love” by Gil Bailie:

The Resurrection delivers men from the fear of death,” writes John Meyendorff, “and, therefore, also from the necessity of struggling for existence.” Such a struggle for existence is spiritually deadening precisely inasmuch as it inevitably becomes a struggle against others for preeminence, material advantage, power, or survival. To the extent that it has been sacramentally instantiated in the life of the believer, the Resurrection of Christ provides the wherewithal required to live responsibly and nobly. Thus it is that the Resurrection has opened up history in a way never before known.

As Raymund Schwager observed: Through the resurrection of Christ . . . it became possible . . . to see conflicts, persecutions, and defeats in a different way. No longer did immediate this-worldly success have to be decisive. History as the history of victors was, at least in principle, overcome. . . . Truth and immediate this-worldly success were separated.

Though the responsibility for proclaiming the truth and struggling for its triumph in this world is in no way diminished, the Resurrection relieves those on whom the Easter Sun has shone of the desperate project of trying to achieve in history what can be fulfilled only eschatologically—a fool’s errand that has turned the late-modern period into a crematoria like no other in history.