A Time for Mourning

UPDATE: It looks as though I reacted to the story without doing the necessary research. The claims were very dubious and don’t have much substantiation and I must apologise for any help in spreading the story. I think this shows that my distaste for the Catholic Church in Ireland runs deeper that I thought and needs to be exorcised. I will leave this blog entry up for two reasons, 1) I think some of the points are still relevant but more importantly 2) it will act as a reminder to me not to react so quickly to sensational news stories.


Shock. Outrage. Indignation. Anger. These are the most understandable immediate emotions to the news that broke in Ireland 3 days ago and has become international news in the succeeding days. This is the news of the mass grave found in Tuam in Co. Galway, where the bodies of 796 babies and children, who died from neglect malnutrition and a variety of diseases, were secretly buried next to a Catholic Nuns home for children born out of wedlock between 1925 and 1961.

The emotions I listed at the opening and those similar are right reactions to this most terrible news. But this is also a time for mourning.

I mourn for the babies and children

All those babies and children who never had an opportunity to grow and to laugh, to learn and to love, whose short lives were marked by neglect and indifference by those who were meant to care for them. The Catholic Church in Ireland has fought vehemently against abortion due to a strong belief that all made in the image of God have inherent value, but those who found their way into this home had that value stripped away from them.

I mourn for the mothers

I grieve for all those mothers who had their children snatched away from them at such a young age. Those mothers who were never able to watch their children grow and mature, cry and smile. Those mothers who were shown little to no grace by an institution which is meant to herald a Gospel of grace.

I mourn for the older Irish generations

For generations and centuries, the Catholic Church in Ireland positioned itself as the bastion for morality and all that is good. The country bought into that, but now that has fallen down all around them. It has broke my heart to see my grandparents and so many like them become so disillusioned with an institution that they gave so much to.

I mourn for the younger Irish generations

To paraphrase Brennan Manning, the single greatest cause for atheism, apathy and disinterest in God is those who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, yet deny him with their life. These younger Irish generations have watched on as the Catholic Church has covered up abuse cases and now this on top. And I’m not sure this is the only case. I mourn for that generation because they won’t want to know about a Jesus who they associate with some of the worst stories in the last 75 years of Irish history.

And I mourn for God

I am saddened most that the name of God is sullied by the actions of these people, who were meant to be living a life solely for Him. I am saddened that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been hidden by the deplorable actions of these people, who allegedly carried His name.


I find comfort in the words of the Old Testament prophet Nahum who said “the Lord will by no means clear the guilty.” He is a God of justice and those people will receive their due punishment.

But today is a time for mourning.


‘Tears are a broken currency’


We watch as she steps out from stage left and we catch a glimpse of bright lights, 4 judges and a full house. Suddenly we are jerked back in time to an interview with her amidst the maelstrom of the waiting area. She tells us about her dreams, a dream that is unique to her… and everyone else in that room. She tells us about her burning desire also unique to her… and everyone else in that room. She then reveals her mother is her inspiration. On cue, the camera zooms in and her eyes well up.

As the coliseum once bayed for blood, so the families on their soft leather couches bay for tears.

And she has paid her fare.

If you go to bed after a Saturday night in watching TV’s finest offering and no tears have been shed on the other side of the screen, you might struggle to enter the land of nod with the indignation of not getting your monies worth. Once a symbol of great depth of emotion and feeling, tears now carry no more weight as the coppers in your pockets.

Rose-Lynn Fisher’s beautiful project shows us that tears are story tellers. Each tear is unique, formed and shaped by the situations, circumstances and environments which cause them. They are the tangible expression of experiences like the joy of friends reunited after years, separated by distance or broken promises, or the inconsolable sorrow of the death of a child.

“Jesus wept”

Jesus had just heard the news that his disciple and friend Lazarus had died. What story did the tears of Son of Man tell? I think the tears tell of the great sorrow the Jesus saw at the perversion of creation, the great damage to the intended order. The tears voice the grief of God at this separation  between him and his creation. They cry of God’s disdain and hate for sin’s terrible consequences for those made in His image. But above all they articulate more eloquently than words, God’s great love for His people.

Tears point to the very core of the person, they teach us about their innermost passions and concerns but their value is cheapened when they are used as coin, on national tele, to buy the approval of the punter.

When misused like that, tears are a broken currency.

The Fear of Old People

As someone who spends a disproportionate amount of time with old people, I wonder why more people of my own age don’t share my enthusiasm. While everyone has exceptions, in the majority, people seem to stick to their own age groups.

In one sense this puzzles me. The rich treasury of lives long lived, of the insight from one who now has the time to reflect on the incidents and choices within their own lives and first hand accounts from those who experienced those great historic moments we see on TV documentaries regularly are just a few reasons why I enjoy so much spending time with those broaching the end of their life.

But it was yesterday where maybe I got an insight as to why those of my own age don’t want to invest their time in the elderly generation. On Wednesday mornings, we collect elderly people suffering from dementia and bring them to the Wednesday Centre where we play games, sing songs, blether, do some exercises, have a bit of soup and blether some more. There’s a lovely story of two of our “clients” who are both now nearing 91 years of age, who met again a few years ago at our group after not seeing each other for decades. They had once lived in the same area and gone to school together. Well, as my colleague helped one of them down the steps outside her house, I was in the bus and her old friend who was already warmly ensconced in the bus remarked how dreadful it was to see her friend in such a deteriorated state.

“The world is your oyster” is a well worn cliché but it captures the heart of the mantra for young people. We might recognise our own mortality but we don’t want a constant reminder of it. To spend time with the elderly (and not just those related to us), we are persistently reminded that this period of vigour, deep wells of energy and good health are not infinite. In fact, their sell by date is not far off at all. To look at old people is to realise you are no different, you are treading a path long worn. The oyster is forever shrinking.

But to share our lives with those like us allows us to remain a little while longer in our reverie.

Winter Sun

As I make my way up Easter Road, I am confronted by the Winter Sun

As it has for the past few months it struggles to make it much higher than Arthur’s seat

There is no heat in the Winter Sun

Rather it accentuates the cold

Yet its light is sharper than its Summer Brother

It is not dulled by the summer air

The cold air changes the colour of the light

And accompanied by an icy blue sky

It darkens the people as I pass by

Only when I pass by the shadows of the buildings can I catch a glimpse of their faces

Those walking into it shield their eyes or look to the pavement

But its brilliance can’t be denied