April 2020

Palm Sunday & Holy Week

Dear Friends, here we stand on the verge of a Holy Week
such as none of us have ever known.
Perhaps that dislocation will help us enter in and integrate ourselves
with the Passion of our Lord  like never before.

Like the disciples we now enter with uncertainty, confusion and concern.

Each day of Holy Week and thereafter I will go to the Cathedral at 11.00
to read the lessons of the day and pray for you and yours,
and all our common humanity. Daft as it may sound I feel that the cathedral is lonely!
At 12.00 the bells will ring as a sign of hope into the quieter streets of Lismore.

Attachments here are for the liturgy for Palm Sunday
and a sermon by Rowan Williams (abridged).
Do sit and reflect on his words,
which seem so pertinent 17 years after this sermon.

From Monday you can go each day to the Union website
and click on a link to a short reflection for each day of Holy Week.

Stay close to Jesus, to each other though apart, stay safe and stay at home.
With love and prayers.

Dean Paul

Download PALM SUNDAY Sermon – HERE

Download PALM SUNDAY Liturgy – HERE

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March 2020

Saint Patrick : An Unlikely Patron Saint?
Patrick was a very hesitant and under confident person.

The following is from Patrick’s own writing.

For this reason I had in mind to write, but hesitated until now; I was afraid of exposing myself to the talk of men, because I have not studied like the others, who thoroughly imbibed law and Sacred Scripture, and never had to change from the language of their childhood days, but were able to make it still more perfect. In our case, what I had to say had to be translated into a tongue foreign to me, as can be easily proved from the savor of my writing, which betrays how little instruction and training I have had in the art of words; for, so says Scripture, by the tongue will be discovered the wise man, and understanding, and knowledge, and the teaching of truth.

Not alone was he hesitant, but he could have rejected this island with its memories of captivity.Yet he was reconciled to his own experiences here, and came back in love with the message of the Gospel. In a land that in our generation has known such animosity and division, he is actually the perfect saint.

“Patrick was a humble man,well aware of his own shortcomings, but he believed that grace is a transforming gift which enables the believer to do great things in God’s service.As our redemption cost Christ his life,Patrick believed that wholeheartedness was the only possible response.”
Lesley Whiteside “The Spirituality of Saint Patrick

So where lay the source of his humility? Again Patrick writes
As a youth, nay, almost as a boy not able to speak, I was taken captive, before I knew what to pursue and what to avoid. Hence today I blush and fear exceedingly to reveal my lack of education; for I am unable to tell my story to those versed in the art of concise writing—in such a way, I mean, as my spirit and mind long to do, and so that the sense of my words expresses what I feel.

But if indeed it had been given to me as it was given to others, then I would not be silent because of my desire of thanksgiving; and if perhaps some people think me arrogant for doing so in spite of my lack of knowledge and my slow tongue, it is, after all, written: The stammering tongues shall quickly learn to speak peace. How much more should we earnestly strive to do this, we, who are, so Scripture says, a letter of Christ for salvation unto the utmost part of the earth, and, though not an eloquent one, yet… written in your hearts, not with ink, but with the spirit of the living God! And again the Spirit witnesses that even rusticity was created by the Highest.

This is a wonderful belief of Patrick that we are letters of Christ. He takes this from the letter to the Corinthians
…and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (II Corinthians 3.3)

We are a walking text – so what do people read there when they are with us?
Could they read hope, solidarity, encouragement… especially in these days.

As the South American proverb goes
…  Don’t tell me what you believe, let me observe you and I will tell you what you believe.

As another saint (Francis of Assisi) said to his students –
Go and proclaim the Gospel, and use words if you have to.

May we who celebrate Saint Patrick today be letters of hope and healing to our wounded and frightened world.

Take care.

Dean Paul


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In a world where you can be anything, BE KIND

There is a rise of ‘non listening’ among individuals and society. We are losing the ability to listen–in–depth and as a result there is increasing depersonalisation and a corresponding number of people who feel themselves disenfranchised. This can and does lead to violence, towards oneself and others.” Bill Kirkpatrick

I came across this quotation about a week ago, before the troubling and sad news arrived of Caroline Flack’s death. The depth of her pain and hurt should cause reflection in an age when we can communicate extensively but barely know how to listen, empathise, or even gauge how damaging and toxic our communications have become.

Silence, solitude, attentiveness, repentance, hospitality and selflessness are not arcane Lenten practices; they are what our culture is silently screaming for. Caroline tweeted profound and prophetic words shortly before her death…..

“In a world where you can be anything, BE KIND”

Kathryn and I attended a day last month with Russ Parker on attentive listening. It was challenging but very helpful and we plan to have Russ visit the Cathedral in 2021. The following was written about another day he facilitated.

There is a rise of ‘non listening’ among individuals and society

The importance of listening to one another in the context of our centenary commemorations in Ireland.

Dr Russ Parker (International Ambassador with the Acorn Christian Healing Foundation) is the author of Healing Wounded History. Russ has worked internationally in reconciliation and dialogue. The ‘Acorn’ programmes were adopted as part of the resourcing of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa and its Director, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, became the president of ‘Acorn’s’ work in that country. Dr Parker recently led a day in Cork entitled The Church as New Acoustic Community: the proactive role of listening in conflict resolution. To set the scene, Russ Parker quoted the author, nurse and priest Bill Kirkpatrick, using the quotation attributed to him in the first paragraph.

Reflecting on the training day in Cork, Russ Parker said: ‘In the midst of a season of sensitive commemorations which have the potential to re–polarise the divisions within a Community we held a day conference to reflect on how the Church of Ireland can offer the gift of listening to all affected by their still wounded history. With the talk of the need for reconciliation between the divided communities we explored how reconciliation requires dialogue and how that dialogue, is impossible, without listening.

Right Reverend Paul Colton, Bishop of Cork, added that … “In the context of our centenary commemorations, attentive listening to one another, dialogue and engagement have become more important than ever”. This article was adapted from The Church of Ireland website.



Lent can be “…a time of joy because it is a time for coming home, a period when we can come back to life. It should be a time when we shake off all that is worn and dead in us in order to become able to live and to live with all the vastness, all the depth and all the intensity to which we are called.” (Metropolitan Anthony Bloom)

Lent began with Ash Wednesday on 26th February. At the 10.00 a.m. Wednesday morning Lenten Eucharists in the Cathedral we will be reflecting on T. S. Eliot’s poem ‘Ash Wednesday’ and particularly the lines:

Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood (4th March)
Teach us to care and not to care (11
th March)
Teach us to sit still (18
th March)
Even among these rocks (25
th March)
Our peace in His will (1
st April)


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February 2020

Ministry Matters

Sunday 19th January at Evensong in the Cathedral Daniel Fleming was commissioned as a Diocesan Reader. Daniel will now be able to lead Morning and Evening Prayer, The Service of the Word and other liturgies that are not sacramental. This is an exciting moment for Daniel and for the Union, as he joins Brian Dungan as a Reader. Brian has exercised a diligent and fruitful ministry in this capacity since 2012. Indeed the day of Daniel’s commissioning was the 30th anniversary of Winston Boyle being made a Parish Reader. Winston often leads Morning Prayer at Kilmacthomas and Comeragh.

Once a month, I strive to meet with readers and retired clergy to plan services. Again, at Christmas, we saw how blessed we are to have such gifted priests as Revd Jenny Crowley, Canon Herbie Dunwoody and Canon George Cliffe.

Assistant Priest

Canon George Cliffe is now Assistant Priest within the Union, taking services across the Union and doing pastoral work at the Stradbally side. George will also cover for me when I am away. George is much loved and appreciated already for his work among us and this forward step is good for us all.

The Feast of the Presentation 2nd February CANDLEMAS

This day is often thought of as the hinge in the church year when we look back one more time to the birth of Jesus and then turn to look ahead through Lent to his Passion and death. As the Candlemas hymn puts it…

The candles invite us to praise and to pray

when Christmas greets Easter on Candlemas Day.

This day has Simeon and Anna holding the baby Jesus in the Temple as he is presented by his mother and father. They rejoice in his birth and proclaim the salvation he will bring and the suffering he and his parents will undergo. At our Service of the Word in the Cathedral at 11.30 a.m. we will, appropriately, have a baptism as Robin and Elena Turk bring their son Malachy for Holy Baptism.


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December 2019

Advent: Waiting

‘And puzzled wakers lie and listen hard To something moving in their minds’ backyard.’

These words appear in a poem by P J Kavanagh called ‘A Blackbird in Fulham’ comparing the eponymous bird with John the Baptist. At our Clergy Conference we were fortunate to have Bishop Stephen Platten as our speaker. A respected writer on Liturgy he gave gentle wisdom and humorous insights. In his most recent book ‘Animating Liturgy’ he refers to mimetic liturgy, a kind of performative liturgy that reveals truth. This seems so true of how we start the liturgical year in Advent. Movement—darkness into light; sharing light; dispelling darkness; stillness; waiting—texts of hope and yearning. These speak first to the sub-conscious before comprehension. Something stirs in the mind’s backyard. May we all stir and be stirred by Advent.

‘Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded.’


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November 2019

Tree Planting & Harvest at the Cathedral

Before the Harvest Liturgy in the Cathedral on 11th October, there was a short tree planting ceremony in thankful memory of Peter Dowd. The tree is appropriately positioned between the spire and the school, reflecting the two places he gave such service to as well as to the wider community. The order of service had these words as an introduction.

Peter served the School, the Cathedral and the whole community over many years. He was Chairperson of the School Board of Management for over a quarter century and oversaw the new building. He was an officer of the Church of Ireland Primary Schools’ Association, a member of Diocesan Council and Synod. He was also churchwarden of the Cathedral during many renovations. In the community he was Mayor of Lismore and an integral part of the flourishing Immrama Festival. He was a colleague and friend to many.

The Trees by Philip Larkin

The trees are coming into leaf Like something almost being said; The recent buds relax and spread, Their greenness is a kind of grief. Is it that they are born again And we grow old? No, they die too, Their yearly trick of looking new Is written down in rings of grain. Yet still the unresting castles thresh In full-grown thickness every May. Last year is dead, they seem to say, Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

Bishop Michael was with us. The church was bountifully and beautifully decorated and the choir led us in joyful worship. Bishop Michael spoke about prayer as so aligning ourselves to the will of God, as to rise up and be a part of the answer to that same prayer, particularly in relation to climate change and the environment.

A great supper was held afterwards, followed by the draw for the wonderful quilt made and generously donated by Gwen Roe. This raised €1,800 for the Cathedral Restoration Fund.

As we await the season of Advent (beginning December 1), these words remind us of the glory of the upcoming season:

This is the season of solitude, when we listen and watch.
We find warmth in the signs of your presence.
This is our season to make room, a time to make ready.
For we shall join in the angels’ chorus. Peace on earth, goodwill to all.


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October 2019

Creation Time

The following prayer expresses thanks for the beauty of the world and for its resources, but quickly puts us in a parable with Lazarus at our gates, with no access to those same resources. This year as we give thanks to God, let us also express solidarity in our prayers and giving to those in need. The Harvest collection this year is for Bishops Appeal. Bishop Michael will be in the Cathedral on Friday 11th October, to tell us more about the relief work that they do.

A prayer for solidarity
God of all creation
you have given us the beautiful land.
Teach us to see those who are at our gates,
to act justly so all may come to the table and
to weep for those who perish before they are invited.

Where there is hunger in our world,
may we share our food and resources
and contribute our skills and knowledge
to create a sustainable food supply.

Where there is disaster,
may we respond quickly and generously,
to bring relief to those injured and deprived of homes
and help them to rebuild their lives and communities.

September 2019

Recent Bible readings from the prophets have alerted us to their words against people and nations plundering resources and using inequality as a measure to divide out their extorted gains. How should we enter ‘Creation Time’ and then celebrate Harvest this year? By next year that ‘window of possibility’ (environmentalists are talking about) will look even nearer to being closed. Can our liturgies combine beauty, thanksgiving, urgency and engagement? Can we give a place to prophetic voices this year?

Greta Thunberg sounds like one of the prophetic voices of our times. Speaking to a group of MPs at the Houses of Parliament in London she said:
“We children are not sacrificing our education and our childhood for you to tell us what you consider possible in the society that you have created. You don’t listen because you are only interested in solutions that will enable you to carry on like before. We have not taken to the streets for you to take selfies with us and tell us that you really admire what we do.
We children are doing this to wake the adults up.”

Vocation Sunday

“One day you understood that, without your being aware of it, a ‘yes’ had already been inscribed in your innermost depths. And so you chose to go forward in the footsteps of Christ, a choice no-one can make for another. In silence, in the presence of Christ, you heard him say, ‘Come, follow me; I will give you a place to rest your heart.’ And so you are led to the audacity of a ‘yes’ that lasts until your dying breath. This ‘yes’ leaves you exposed. There is no other way.” No Greater Love (Brother Roger of Taizé)

For every Christian there is the call to follow Christ at the heart of our lives. There may be a particular call, within that, to serve in many different ways. One of these is ordination: to being a particular kind of person, not just doing particular things, as Rowan Williams so succinctly put it. On Sunday 15th September the Church of Ireland is observing a Sunday to reflect on and pray for vocations. At the heart of vocation, Christ does the calling and we pray for attentiveness, over the din of our own lives, to hear him and for the grace to respond.

July/August 2019

In May, we held an open meeting for anyone interested in the evolving plans for the Cathedral. The work will be extensive and I would very much like to stress two things:

Firstly, the careful planning is to enhance the integral holiness in the DNA of the building and is not an intervention. So many people comment on the stillness and charm of the Cathedral and it does not need us to add to it; just let it be what it is—unhindered. Some alterations will increase the sense of light and space and will be a reversion to what the Cathedral was in its past.

Secondly, while we have to be business-like in our application and in our future planning, the primary motivation remains the glory of God and the blessing of all people. Indeed, the vision is of engagement with a much wider community through spirituality, the arts and to being a place where we can offer retreats, quiet days and diverse artistic events. These are exciting times and much in need of your prayers.

As these notes are being prepared, we are in the season of St Columba, the dove of the Church. His collect expresses beautifully what we might all pray for:

Almighty God, who filled the heart of Columba with the joy of the Holy Spirit and with deep love for those in his care;
may your pilgrim people follow him, strong in faith, sustained by hope,
and one in the love that binds us to you;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
from “Exciting Holiness”

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