Tired of all the bad news

While we can't deny the difficulites for so many people at home and overseas, it's important to take account of the positives, and to spread the Good News. I don't know who said this but; "No-one ever injured their eyesight by looking on the bright side." Blessings..

Friday, 14 October 2016

Little did we know...

Visiting an elderly parishioner…a life-long smoker. The smell of cigarettes all around the room. It was strangely comforting. It was like a time-machine. I was taken back to my childhood.

Government warning; “Smoking can damage your health" it said on the side of the cigarette pack. We’d stop at the late shop on the way home. “Ten number 6 please.”

The sights and sounds – and smells of Dublin in the late 1970’s. It was noisy in the city except on Sundays, most shops were closed on Sundays. More noise but less busy.

Petrol. The Honda 50 motorbike could be heard before it was seen and the smell of its exhaust lingered long after it disappeared around the corner and out of sight. The black and white Atlantean CIE Busses belching out diesel. Getting on the bus the Conductor with his leather satchel full of coins and his ticket machine would say “Seats on the top.” And smoking was allowed upstairs. Drawing finger pictures on the window in the cold and wet condensation and wiping it to see outside as we drove along on a rainy day. The sporadic ‘ding’ of the bell as people signalled to the driver they wanted to get off. ‘Do not cross the white line until the bus stops.’  The hissing of the doors as they opened at the bus stop.

The coal fire at home. My mother putting newspaper against it to try and light the fire. Smoke going up the chimney. And if the door opened the smoke would fill the sitting room. Pungent but homely. Doing the dishes in the sink.  Look up. The noise of the Aer Lingus BAC one-eleven overhead as its tail almost rips through the sky. Outside on a frosty evening the smog would hang like a blanket over the houses in the city and over the ‘chimbley’ pots and television aerials.

Nana’s Stew; unique and delicious. And her mashed potato, milky and buttery. Pork chops and baked beans. Grandpop sitting by the fire preparing his pipe. Condor plug. He cut the tobacco with his little knife, the flake dropping into the V he made with a page of the Evening Press.  Then when the pipe was filled and lit, he would do the cross-word reaching into his sideboard for the Collins Gem Dictionary. The pipe smoke rising like incense mixing with the smoke of the Mr. Dowling’s coal.

The pig man calls and Nana brings out a pale pink bucket of slop. Yesterday’s stew, potato peels, beans, and he spills it into one of his big steel bins. “Thanks missus”

The Ferguson television goes on – or was it Bush? RTE News. This was the second news bulletin I would have seen. Around in Auntie Chrissy’s she would have been watching Crossroads. Then the News at 5.45 with Alastair Burnett. Back to Nana’s and the Angelus would be ringing and then Maurice O’Doherty would read the News. Or Don Cockburn. “The Taoiseach Mister Cosgrave said today…”

Going to the shops. The shop keeper writes how much with a pencil on a brown paper bag. No cash register. Peggy’s Leg. Big Time bar. Dairy Milk. A tin of Coke. Cool pops. HB Loop the Loop for 6p. Iced Carmels. Clove rock. Sherbet dip and fizz. Snap gum. TK Red Lemonade and Ciderette. We used to return the empty glass bottles for three pence. Recycling isn’t a new concept.

Going to the Chemist. Unique Smell. Almost indescribable in words but you know what I mean; wood and ointment. Barley sugar. Radio emulsion.

The Hardware shop where Frank Russell sold Crown paints, or Valspar, or Berger. My dad had to open the tin with a flat head screw driver and stir it for ages. Ultra-Brilliant White it said on the tin. He had a Standard Lamp for sale. “See that Enda – It would look better in your sitting room than in my shop.” He’d say.  

I Loved the smell of the back of the Brennan’s Bread van. And Jacobs biscuit factory. We just knew when they were making Mikado. Jam in the air.

Running down to the gap at the end of our road. The JCB and the dumper were moving up by the pylon. The smell of brown topsoil and the yellow of the oil seed rape flower giving way to house foundations as Kilnamanagh estate expands and takes shape. Sliding down the hill in the snow on a Net Nitrate bag. The girls played Beds with a shoe polish ‘piggy’ and swung on lamp-posts. The lads played ‘three-and-in’ and we all played Relieve-io and Spin-the-bottle. “Eeenie, meanie, miny, mo…”

The Milkman coming around the neighbourhood in the dark of the early morning. The clink of Glass bottles dancing on the door steps. He takes away the empties. Battery powered milk float.

The smell of a wet day. Newspapers covering the shop floor. And saw dust. There was saw dust all over the butcher’s shop floor. And the smell of breadcrumbs. The days of the separate pork butcher and the beef butcher shops were coming to an end. “Give-us six nice slices of ham Mister Ceezer.” And Frawley’s on Thomas Street. The Frawley’s club dressed us all for Christmas. Never could people have imagined the Pope driving down past John’s Lane in his Pope Mobile - but he did.

The Bee-Baw of the white ambulance. The dark blue Garda cars. My Dad’s Mini Traveller.  JNI 69. Give her choke on a cold day. A mystery tour to the Old Boley Wood in the mountains in the summer. Flo Gas and boil the tea pot. Tayto crisps. Ham sandwiches, salad sandwiches. Cadet cola.

Tomato sandwiches with pepper in Granny Greta’s. Starving after our swim in Vincent’s pool. The Riordan’s would have been on. Benjy and Minnie. The light of the Geyser flickering at the far end of the kitchen. Turn on the taps in the bathroom, the whisper of the water flowing down the drain. We found a gas mask as we explored the attic. And old shoes.

The smell of school and the corridors and the blackboard and dusty chalk. Pale Blue desks in St. Kevin’s. Old wooden desks with ink wells in James’s St. Names scratched with set squares into the area underneath as well as chewing gum stuck under the desks. Bubble-gum. Super Bazooka and Bubblicious. New school books and even second hand ones too, covered in wallpaper or brown wrapper. Capital Exercise Book 88 pages. Guaranteed Irish. Milk bottles being delivered outside the door. Freezing corned beef sandwiches on Monday. Buns on Wednesday. Cheese on Friday. I couldn’t drink milk.  Snorkel Jackets and Duffel coats. Dozens of ET’s walking home after school.

What was on the Radio? Larry Gogan, Gaybo, Abba, The Nolan sisters, The Bee Gees, The King is Dead. Pirate Stations. On the telly? The Late Late, Going Strong, Quicksilver, Wanderly Wagon, Mart and Market, Charlie’s Angels, Quincy, The Professionals, Dallas, the Six Million Dollar Man, The Multi-Coloured Swap Shop, and then Closedown. In the Cinema? Jaws in the Adelphi and Saturday Night Fever in the Savoy. Little did we know then that a kid called Larry Mullen and three other young fellas over on the north side would become mega in ten years’ time.

Little did we know that the city would become busy on Sundays.
Little did we know that Jervis Street Hospital would become a Shopping Mall.
Little did we know that there would be a soccer game played in Croke park.
Little did we know smoking would become anti-social.
Little did we know the Quays would become one-way systems.
Little did we know that Dublin Docklands would be the place to live and work.
Little did we know that in the future we would laugh at the thoughts of the telephone on the hall table at the bottom of the stairs.
Little did we know one day we would access the world on a portable device the size of a calculator and immediately be able to tell everyone on our timeline about our day.
Little did we know about the revolution that was soon to happen in Irish air travel.
Little did we know about Google.
Little did we know…







Saturday, 20 August 2016

Batman Ben Farrell....

The saintly English King, Edward the Confessor, seeing how upset his friends were as he lay on his death-bed, consoled them all by saying; “Don’t be afraid, I’m going from the land of the dying into the land of the living.”

There was something other worldly about Ben.
From early on this lad was different – mature beyond his very young years. Alan and Val, you did so much and you and the family fought so hard. You and the wonderful medics and nurses and carers on both sides of the Atlantic. You can be confident that you did as much as you could for him. Yet, you said it seemed that it was Ben who was taking care of you.

In Michigan Valerie said “I wish I could take your pain for you.” Ben said; “No mammy, I wouldn’t want to give it to you – I can handle it.” There’s not a mother anywhere or a father who wouldn’t swap places in a heartbeat with a sick child. And every dad and mam, and nana and granddad, feels the pain of a child and walks it every step of the way. Ben could handle it because he comes from good stock. You made him what he is and was.

And in truth he was a superhero. He battled hard with the cancer, yet the small boy of five years old, had the power of Ali, or Brogan, or Ronaldo, or McGregor, and we feel his power now.

Whether it was singing “Show me the way to go home” out loud in the hospital and banging out the beat on the table, his favourite movie was Jaws. It was like Brody, Hooper and Quint singing on Quint’s boat the Orca after their tea.
Or singing an Oasis number with his dad Alan in the van. As he faced the sun he cast a shadow.

Or building another Lego empire, sometimes the trips to buy a sneaky box of Lego (hiding it behind his back with that cheeky smile)

Or whether it was Batman. You know, superheroes don’t hang around. They are always at the service of others. Just when we get to know Bruce Wayne the bat phone rings and Wayne dons the bat suit and he’s gone. They are too big for our world. And Perhaps Ben was too much of a force of nature for Planet Earth.

When the rest of us are struggling to stay young – Batman Ben lives forever young.

There’s no answer as to why this had to happen. But maybe we get a glimpse of the next world when we open our eyes, and not necessarily with our eyesight but with our insight. We see more clearly in here. And our faith, the faith what was given to us by our parents and their parents helps us to see in the dark. Faith lights up the dark. Ben is gone to heaven, there is no doubt about that, and we will see him again. You will see Ben again, Val, and Alan, and Jack. Down the road.

But you can connect with him anytime in Jesus Christ who loves us. And this connection point is more powerful than any superfast WIFI. And the signal never drops. But if I know Batman Ben, and you know him best, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you feel his power first, because he’s praying for you now. In the words of Chief Brody, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

(I asked Ben's parents, Valerie and Alan for permission to post this, the homily I gave  at his funeral Mass this morning)





Thursday, 11 August 2016

St. Clare of Assisi...

Chiara Offreduccio was born into a noble family in Assisi on July 16th 1194. Her father was Favarone Sciffi, Count of Sasso-Rosso and her mother was Ortolana. From a young age it was assumed that Clare was to marry in line with family tradition but at 18 years old she heard Francis of Assisi preaching and asked him could she follow him and live after the manner of the gospel. In March 1212 Francis received her into the order and placed her into the care of the Benedictine nuns of San Paolo. Her father made great efforts to get her out of the cloister and leave the order. Later she moved into a small church at San Damiano where she and her sisters stayed.  They soon became known as the Poor Ladies of San Damiano and they lived a life of poverty and enclosure according to a rule given them by St. Francis of Assisi. This vow of poverty was something that was for Clare non-negotiable. It was called the ‘Privilegium Pauperitatis’ which meant that for the Poor Ladies, they guarded this grace to live in absolute poverty and not having to take possessions.

As a way of guarding the life they had chosen, a Roman Cardinal, Hugolino, was appointed ‘protector’ of the order. He later became Pope Gregory IX. As pope, he visited the Poor Ladies and was concerned about living such a hard and austere life and suggested relaxing the vow to live this privilege of poverty. Clare was a tough lady and was having none of it. She told the pope “I wish to be absolved from my sins, but not from the obligation of following Christ.” For her and her sisters, poverty was just that, a privilege, which well lived, freed them from distractions in order to focus on following Jesus Christ.

Francis of Assisi guided the order until he died in 1226 and after his death, Clare became abbess of San Damiano. She took Francis’ spirit as a good benchmark for the living of the religious life with her sisters in poverty and enclosure and she fought off any attempt by church leaders to dispense her and the sisters from it. In 1224 the army of Frederick II came to plunder Assisi and the story goes that Clare came out of the enclosure and faced the Emperor down by holding the Monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament in her hands. The sight of this tenacious woman standing up to the emperor was enough to scare him so much that the army fled – terrified without harming anyone in the city.

On August 9th 1253, Pope Innocent IV, in a papal Bull, a document given to Clare called ‘Solet Annuere’ confirmed that her rule would serve as the governing rule for the Poor Ladies way of life. Never would anyone in the future be in danger of watering down the rule of the Poor Clares. Clare died two days later on August 11th, she was 59 years old. She was canonized Saint on September 26th 1255.


In 1958 Pope Pius XII named St. Clare patron saint of television. 


                               The San Damiano Cross in the Basilica of St. Clare in Assisi

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Light out of Darkness...

Over this weekend at our Masses, we will spiritually join over a million young people from all over the world gathered with Pope Francis in Krakow for the World Youth Day celebrations.  Since Pope St. John Paul II inaugurated the concept of special meetings between the pope and young people in the 1980’s, World Youth Day has visited all five continents and Pope’s John Paul, Benedict, and now Francis have met with millions of young people for prayer, catechesis, and reconciliation. 

This WYD is being celebrated in the midst of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, called by Pope Francis last year. It is taking place in Krakow near the home of Divine Mercy and in the heart of Pope John Paul’s home city. There have been very moving scenes of Pope Francis walking through the gates of Auschwitz where perhaps the worst kinds of evil were perpetrated upon men, women, and children during World War II. Francis is the third pope to come to Auschwitz and to simply pray in profound solidarity with survivors and their families today. Pope John Paul II had personal experiences of Auschwitz during the war as friends of his were taken there and murdered. Later as archbishop and then as pope he visited Auschwitz in 1979 and he wrote these words;

“I have come and I kneel on this Golgotha of the modern world, on these tombs, largely nameless like the great tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I kneel before all the inscriptions that come one after another bearing the memory of the victims of Birkenau in languages: Polish, English, Bulgarian, Romany, Czech, Danish, French, Greek, Hebrew, Yiddish, Spanish, Flemish, Serbo-Croat, German, Norwegian, Russian, Romanian, Hungarian, and Italian.

In particular I pause with you, dear participants in this encounter, before the inscription in Hebrew. This inscription awakens the memory of the People whose sons and daughters were intended for total extermination. This People draws its origin from Abraham, our father in faith (cf. Rom 4:12), as was expressed by Paul of Tarsus. The very people that received from God the commandment "Thou shalt not kill", itself experienced in a special measure what is meant by killing. It is not permissible for anyone to pass by this inscription with indifference.

And one inscription more, a chosen one, the plaque in the Russian language. I don’t add any comment. We know which nation the inscription is about. We know about their participation in the last terrible war for the freedom of peoples. Also this inscription we should not pass with indifference.

Finally, the last inscription: that in Polish. Six million Poles lost their lives during the second world war: a fifth of the nation. Yet another stage in the centuries-old fight of this nation, my nation, for its fundamental rights among the peoples of Europe. Yet another loud cry for the right to a place of its own on the map of Europe. Yet another painful reckoning with the conscience of mankind.”

Yesterday, Pope Francis silently sat in the cell of St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan priest who took the place of another and died as a martyr in the starvation bunker in Auschwitz. The scenes of the pope sitting in prayer in the darkness of Kolbe’s cell evokes for all of us the words of Jesus Christ from John’s Gospel “No greater love can anyone have than to lay down their lives for their friends.” (John 15:13)

I see Fr. Jacques Hamel’s face here too. An elderly priest who spent his whole life until the end in the service of the Gospel.  He was murdered and martyred as he broke open the Word and God for the people and celebrated the Eucharist. Truly he shared in Jesus Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection that morning last week.

In a world where we need to draw strength from the merciful heart of Jesus Christ, we pray that this same merciful heart will take away from those bent on evil and destruction their hearts of stone and give them hearts of flesh instead. We are fortified by the enthusiasm of so many young people who this night will pray in vigil with our Holy Father, Pope Francis and will celebrate the Eucharist -the Mass with him tomorrow in Krakow. We don’t forget the many people in the face of evil and bloodshed who try to assist and help to heal wounds and dry the tears. We pray for peace with justice for all, and especially for the most vulnerable. St. John Paul II, pray for us. St. Faustina, pray for us. St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us. Amen.



Tuesday, 5 July 2016



The mid summer friary garden in Church St, Dublin city centre at 23.15 hrs on Sunday, July 3rd....


Sunday, 24 April 2016

On this day 100 years ago...The Capuchin Friars and the 1916 Leaders.

There has been much written about the Easter Rising in Dublin, the execution of the Leaders, and the journey towards the signing of the Treaty of 1921. Today we arrive at the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising. The first the Capuchins heard of the Rising was a “startling burst of fire” almost outside the door of St. Mary of the Angels Church, on Church St on that Easter Monday morning, April 24th 1916. They were just finishing their midday meal when all this began to happen. This was also following what would have been a busy time for the priests and the brothers in the Friary with the Easter ceremonies. No doubt they were looking forward to some rest during these next few days.

Fr. Columbus (Murphy) tells of rushing outside to meet walking wounded and a doctor ministering to a man shot in the arm. There were some accounts of soldiers of the Sixth Cavalry Regiment taking gun powder to the Phoenix Park and coming under fire at the Four Courts. At this stage, no one seemed to have any idea that the beginnings of a rebellion was taking place. Later, he learns of a small boy, John Francis Foster (2) being killed in his pram outside the Father Mathew Hall.  The Hall seems to have become a flash point as the week progresses as members of Cumann na mBan tend to people’s injuries in the Hall and the more seriously injured are taken to the Richmond Hospital.

Frs. Columbus and Aloysius (Travers) are on duty that week supplying Mass in both Jervis St Hospital and Gloucester Street Convent so they are making their way over each morning through the chaos. Fr. Columbus gives a very comprehensive account of the noise of incessant gunfire, the blast of cannon fire, and the eventual destruction of many buildings in Dublin City Centre and indeed O’ Connell Street. He also risks serious injury and even his life to perform his priestly duties to those killed and injured.

As the week wears on and the casualties increase, the priests from Church St continue to be involved in the relief work. This is perhaps because they are on the ground where the action is happening, also because they are hi-visibility in their religious habits. They endeavour to be honest brokers in ministering to those killed and injured and their families. Fr. Columbus in his memoir tells of how on April 29th Padraig Pearse formally surrenders the GPO Garrison “To avoid further slaughter” and Columbus travels with Elizabeth Farrell, a Cumann na mBan nurse, who attempts to convince Edward Daly at the Four Courts Garrison that Pearse’s surrender was genuine. This then spreads to the other Garrisons over the next few days. Fr. Aloysius and Fr. Augustine (Hayden) mediate negotiations between the British authorities and Thomas MacDonagh (Jacob’s Biscuit Factory) and Éamonn Ceannt (South Dublin Union) for the peaceful capitulation of the men and women under their command.

When the leaders were imprisoned in Kilmainham gaol and court martialled, the Capuchin priests were called upon to come to minister to them and give them spiritual support. They were taken by car very late each night and driven to Kilmainham gaol where they would meet the prisoners individually. By extension, they made themselves available to some of the families of the men too, and they also ministered to some of the women prisoners, most of whom were members of Cumann na mBan.  

The executions began on May 3rd 1916 when Fr. Aloysius heard the last confessions of Padraig Pearse and Thomas MacDonagh. He was ordered form Kilmainham Jail before they were executed. Later following protests, the priests were allowed to remain present for the executions to complete the administration of the Last Rites of the Church. Tom Clarke was attended by Fr. Columbus.

On the 4th of May, Fr. Aloysius notes in his memoir that Fr. Augustine Hayden ministered to Joseph Mary Plunkett, he also ministered to Michael O’Hanrahan, and William Pearse. Fr. Columbus Murphy ministered to Edward Daly. Fr. Albert Bibby, and Fr. Sebastian O’Brien were also in attendance that night.

On the 5th of May, Fr. Augustine was in attendance for John McBride.

On the 8th of May 1916, Fr. Augustine was in attendance at the executions of Éamonn Ceannt, Con Colbert, And Michael Mallin. Fr. Albert Bibby was in attendance for Seán Heuston.

Finally, on May 12th Fr. Aloysius ministered to James Connolly (both before in Dublin Castle, and then in Kilmainham Gaol) and was in attendance at his execution. He notes that Fr. Eugene McCarthy of James’s St and chaplain to Kilmainham, ministered to Seán MacDiarmada earlier but Aloysius then attended to him after the shooting.

Having read through some of the accounts Frs. Columbus and Aloysius (Aloysius much later ministered to Jim Larkin before his death in 1947) It shows to me the commitment, the bravery, and the selflessness of these priests who were primarily pastors of souls in their ministry. They were on hand night and day to try to bring pastoral care and hope to the many people who were deeply affected by the violence and chaos of the Rising. I’ve no doubt that they were also moved by the bravery of the 1916 Leaders who were executed.

Humanly speaking, reading their accounts, I am also moved by how they stayed sane following what most have been a deeply stressful time for them seeing the things they did. Today those of us in ministry will be involved at times in critical incidents and we have structures in place to help us in our pastoral ministry. In the days following the executions for example, Fr. Columbus travels to Dundalk to give a two-week Parish Mission. He pens his memoir in the following months as a way of recording the week that was. I also believe he writes it to help him cope with what must have deeply ingrained itself in his soul – as it has done on the soul of Ireland and indeed the world.

Top left; Fr. Columbus Murphy, Bottom left; Fr. Augustine Hayden, Middle; Fr. Albert Bibby, Top right, Fr. Aloysius Travers, Bottom right, Fr. Sebastian O'Brien 



Friday, 25 March 2016

Good Friday

At first glance, the cross is THE symbol of failure. Those who were crucified by the Romans were executed as ‘non-persons’ and they were crucified in public so as to de-humanize them even more. Crucifixion was designed to cause maximum pain and agony for the victim.

Jesus was crucified after a long night of being tortured, mocked, humiliated, and a brutal scourging with barbaric instruments made from bone fragments, metal, and chain mail. He carried the instrument of his death, his cross through crowds of people while being kicked, and whipped along the way, and as he fell in exhaustion, he was pulled to his feet to continue.

When they came to the place of the skull, they crucified him along with two criminals on either side of him. As he hangs upon the cross, Jesus is made to look like a fool, one who called himself the King of the Jews. Pontus Pilate, Caesar’s representative in that region who condemned Jesus to death, writes a death-note. The note reads; “Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews.” It is placed above Jesus’ head as he hangs upon the cross. Again designed to mock him, in a strange way, the Romans, who don’t believe in God, by crowning him with thorns, and placing a staff in his hand, proclaim Jesus a King.

The cross of Christ is to the onlooker a symbol of shame, but looking deeper, it is the ultimate triumph of a loving God who sent his only Son to be our Saviour. Jesus’ death upon the cross is the theatre of redemption where we are all saved from our sinfulness. As we venerate the cross at 3.00 p.m. today in all our churches, we do so knowing that as Jesus says in John’s Gospel "No Greater love can anyone have than to lay down one's life for one's friends." 

The cross of Jesus Christ is evident in a week where we see people bent on mass- murder in Brussels, and so-called Gangland murders on our streets here in Ireland. Lord, we pray that hard hearts will be changed and transformed. However, we also see a heroic man risking his life to save a drowning family in Buncrana. "No greater love..."

"...But we, we thought of him as someone punished, struck by God and brought low.
Yet he was pierced through for our faults, crushed for our sins. On him lies a punishment that brings us peace, and through his wounds we are healed.

We had all gone astray like sheep, each taking his own way, and Yahweh burdened him with the sins of all of us. Harshly dealt with, he bore it humbly, he never opened his mouth, like a lamb that is led to the slaughter-house, like a sheep that is dumb before its shearers, never opening its mouth..." (Isaiah 53: 5-7)







Sunday, 31 January 2016

Set your hearts on the higher gifts - a guilt free love

1 Cor 13
Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited,
it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offence or store up grievances.
Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth.
It is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes.
Love never comes to an end. But if there are prophecies, they will be done away with; if tongues, they will fall silent; and if knowledge, it will be done away with.
For we know only imperfectly, and we prophesy imperfectly;
but once perfection comes, all imperfect things will be done away with.
When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and see things as a child does, and think like a child; but now that I have become an adult, I have finished with all childish ways.
Now we see only reflections in a mirror, mere riddles, but then we shall be seeing face to face. Now I can know only imperfectly; but then I shall know just as fully as I am myself known.
As it is, these remain: faith, hope and love, the three of them; and the greatest of them is love.

When St. Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians, he was challenging them to reach for the stars, to be ambitious for the higher gifts. He was offering them a set of guiding principles for their love-lives.

This love he speaks of is not the same kind of love that does well on February 14th. This is not aboutcandle light dinners, cuddly toys, valentine’s cards, or boxes of praline chocolates. All these things are good in themselves but this is not what Paul is writing about. The love he writes to the Corinthians about will not put on any weight and is completely guilt free if well lived.

It is a love that turns away from humiliating the other person, and it does not enjoy other people’s sins. It is opposed to scandal and gossip, preferring to tell the truth instead. St. Paul’s view of love warns us against human prophesy which is always imperfect and putting our trust in human horoscopes or fortune tellers can be trouble. Instead, by putting our trust in God, we will always know who can take us forward in kindness.

The love that St. Paul describes is also given another name, caritas, which means charity. This does mean charity to all in need but in its essence it also means a deep love that is selfless so it sets the bar very high. It is a love for the honours course and it is for the long haul. It is a love that walks the road of life and it is a love that puts the other person first.

Today, couples often choose St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians as the second reading at their church wedding ceremony. I believe that the challenge he lays down to the people of Corinth in the first century after Christ is a relevant to us now in the twenty-first. Set your hearts on the higher gifts…