Tipp-ex and other decisions!

“I wish you a happy National Bank Holiday Weekend” ……

I was in the car on Friday and heard a well known Radio Presenter close his show with those words.

It seemed a contrived and long-winded way of saying “Happy St Patrick’s Day”!! Of course, to do that, might be considered politically incorrect and possibly, even more of an offence, an indication that something of our Sacred Story was being acknowledged.

It is quite common in some countries to exchange the greeting “Happy Holidays” around the third week of December!! Again, political correctness, secular tipp-ex, seems to distance, through silence and omission, the reason for the holiday.

So where are we with this? Will we celebrate “Paddys”, “Paddy’s Day”, “Drown the Shamrock” …. ? Or, will we let the name be heard?

It’s not just a choice for this week. It’s a choice we are called to make each day.

Let the name – the Holy Name be spoken! Let our voice be heard!


Sarah Ann

imagesYesterday we had a Funeral Mass here for a little baby girl, Sarah Ann. We tried to support her parents and family around the Altar and through God’s Word.  It was lovely to see so many people there with the family, offering support and the certainty of their presence, even in the uncertainty of the moment.  I want to share the few lines used at Mass yesterday.  I hope they might bring comfort, maybe to a reader, who knows all too well the story of loss in these circumstances.

Dear Mammy, Daddy, Amy and Seán, 

Thank you for your letters, I’ve read them over and over.  Amy’s picture of the church is lovely. It’s great to have them and I know that I’ll often look at them.  I thought maybe I should write to you too.  I hope it makes sense … 

Thanks for welcoming me! I felt so safe with you – that seems a daft thing to say since how else could I feel. I loved the way you talked about me and, though you might not have said it out loud, wondered what I’d be like, who I’d be like. I wondered that too. Chances are, I’d be like both of you. Now that wouldn’t have been bad. 

I was ready to meet ye. I so looked forward to it.  Amy was so grown up in my world with her talk of school and friends and games and dresses … She seems like great fun.  I know she’d have made me very welcome. I loved that black dress she has and all the red flowers on it.  I thought I might borrow it sometime. I felt so lucky to have her as a sister and knew we’d always be friends. 

Seán! Now what can I say about him? He’s mighty crack. In fairness he might have preferred if I was a boy. He imagined us having all sorts of adventures around the house, playing in old cars and hiding things in places nobody would find. Things like Jammy Dodger biscuits, cap guns, spanners … He’s a live wire for sure. Was he ready for another sister? I know now that he was. To be honest, I’d have loved to play around the house with him and I love cars, even the Vectra that was sprayed Green and Red last September! The games around the house, the hidden biscuits, the endless laughter and wondering what he’d do next! … You’re the best Seán. 

It’s great to have the four grandparents.  I know that many children don’t. I know that they are sad for mammy and daddy but I hope not too sad. All I wanted was to make them happy. I’m glad they’re here now and I know they’ll be a great help. Thanks for loving me too. I’ll always love ye. 

These last few days have been strange for us all. None of us expected this. I hate to see you all so sad, my parents, brother and sister, my uncles, aunts, grandparents and all of you here today.  I know there are other mammies and daddies here who know what this feels like. I’m sorry you are sad. Like all of you, I wish it were different. None of us saw this coming but we’re here now, it’s an hour we have to go through. Jesus told me he had an hour like this too,  in a garden when he didn’t know what was happening. He said his best friends fell asleep while he worried. He put his hand on my head and said,  “Your friends didn’t sleep Sarah …. they’re all awake with you” – I knew what he meant. 

You’ve all done your best for me. I love the names you gave me. Sarah! What a mighty woman? She was kind and giving and had such a hearty laugh.  She believed in God even when it was hard to believe. God never forgot about her and sent a little baby to her when she was very old. God doesn’t forget about anyone. I know He is with us all today and always will be. Ann? I love that name too. She was Mary’s mother and helped Mary so much. Mary is kind. She doesn’t say a lot but she notices everything. She was one of the first to hold me. She told me I’d be fine but I knew she felt sorry for all of you too so I told her how much you did for me. 

I told her about the Butterfly people who’d made little clothes for me. I told her about the photographs you have of me. My footprints, handprints and the teddies Seán and Amy gave me. She noticed the little Rosary Beads too and I told her it was mammy’s. She cried a little, as if she knew what sadness means but then she smiled when I told her about Amy’s black dress with the red flowers … She laughed out loud when I showed her the red flowers … “Sarah”, she said “did you take those from your sister?” “No Mary, she cut them off herself and gave them to me. I think that means ….. ” 

… and, before I could finish Mary said, “Yes, it does Sarah Ann, it means she loves you …… they all love you”, 

I felt happy then because I know how much you all love me. That will never change.  I love you too. 

Look after one another. 

Sarah Ann xxx


And on that train …..

Two young people were sitting at the same table as me. They were having a conversation and, though I didn’t set out to eavesdrop, I couldn’t really help but hear them. They were two students in Maynooth college and they were discussing college life. I had a clearer view of the lad as he was sitting across the table from me. I’d describe him as “student” – a sort of laid-back look, cool, longish hair, unshaved, casually dressed (but aware of looking the part nonetheless) and well able to talk. She seemed very nice, pleasant and happy to be chatting with him. They seemed to know each other but, I thought, not too well. Maybe he wanted to get to know her better, I can’t be sure. I’d not blame him if he did! They talked about their courses, the train-fare and how they were choosing to stay at home as it saved them a bit of money but they found the daily commute tiring. They seemed to enjoy their life in Maynooth and, as they talked, my mind wandered back to my own days there and I could identify with their enjoyment.

They talked about socialising and the things they liked to do. It was obvious they mixed study and pleasure with an ease you’d admire. “Where do you go for a drink?” she asked. “I’m a Pioneer”, he replied. I wondered. I felt he’d add, “Ah no, I’m only joking” but he didn’t. He said he saved a lot by not drinking. I knew he was serious. She took it in her stride and said what she liked to drink but there was a real respect there.

I’d not have added “pioneer” to his list of attributes but I was so happy to hear him say it. It seemed so natural and so right. It didn’t interfere with his ability to enjoy her company, to share their experience and to shorten the journey. I thought how lovely it would be to hear more young people say this – without blush or embarrassment. I wondered if he knew that he was giving witness to something very powerful– the ability to stand back from the “done thing” and to realise drink didn’t have to be part of his life.

I chatted to the two of them for a while. I never mentioned drink or abstinence but met them on a journey of memory along corridors of a place that was home to me for six years and has been part of my story for nearly two-thirds of my life! I was glad to meet them and it makes me wonder ….

What about another look at “The Pioneers” – especially for our younger travelling companions?

Vincent Sherlock


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