friendly visitor

friend or foe..........

friend or foe……….

Have you ever had a swan arrive in your back garden? What do you do ? This what I thought when it happened to us yesterday morning. I rang our vet, they put me onto another place they in there turn put us onto the RSPCA. They came out in the afternoon and took it away. It wasn’t injured, it could walk, the wings were ok but it just wasn’t right. Skippy our beloved poodle didn’t know what to make of it but I still had to get him away.

It was a gorgeous creature and I asked if I could stroke it and did so ! It was a young bird.

Another place to meet …….

Another place to meet.

Chris McDonnell Friday January 13th 2017


The Coffee House is a place where I not only find a drink and a croissant but also the convenience of a place to write. In so many ways it has replaced the pub as a meeting place, a stop-off point for anyone and everyone to pause a while over a hot coffee, read or have a chat.


Across the world, Coffee House names have become an integral part of the High Street, an international brand that is immediately recognised. In the late ‘Nineties, when my youngest daughter and her husband were living in Toronto we went to visit with them. Landing well after midnight, with baggage left at their Condo, my son-in-law took me on my first visit to Starbucks, it was half-past three, a good couple of hours before dawn!


Since then, the Coffee House has become common place, each with its own character, furnishings and specialities. Even though they are not quiet places, maybe in fact, because of it, they do provide a comfort zone where words arrive and stories develop.


Often an overheard phrase finds its way into something I am writing, sparks a movement, stimulates an idea, only to re-emerge in a poem or article phrase sometime later. I always carry a book to read and a notebook for writing with me, for they are part of what I do when I find a comfortable seat and order a Cappuccino.


A place to talk, to meet, take time to greet, rest after walking the shop floors in local streets, a time read reflect and write.


Those Parishes that have a Parish Hall where groups can gather after sharing the Eucharist are indeed fortunate. It raises the question as to whether or not community arises from Eucharistic sharing or does our Eucharist spring from the gathering we often call parish.


Either way, humans are gathering creatures, anxious to share in so many ways. It is natural for us to share with each other and, along with company, to eat and drink together. It’s what we do.


I have met a good many and varied people in the Coffee House, a passing nod of ten minutes conversation, unlikely to be repeated again, but informative and enjoyable while it lasted, a help on the way. The Staff who serve become familiar faces and, with frequent visits, have remembered names.


The history of the Coffee House goes back hundreds of years. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Coffee House was a well-established, cosmopolitan meeting place, not only for social exchange, but as a place where business might be conducted. The world-renowned London Stock Exchange started trading in Jonathan’s Coffee House in 1698 in the City. Other well-known establishments, such as Christies and Sotheby’s, developed from the Coffee House gathering of interested merchants and business men.


It is not uncommon nowadays for lap-tops to be set open on tables, with a tapping of keys heard between coffee sips and the person using it to be illuminated by the screen.


Apart from the convivial meeting place after the school run or an alcohol-free zone for a relaxing chat, they can also be places for serious exchange, for stories to be told and a time of careful listening. ‘Meet me for a coffee sometime soon’ can be another way of saying ‘I have something to say, will you listen with me?


So our journey goes on day by day, nourished by the Eucharist, our presence helps others with their problems and difficulties. Look around at the other tables the next time you are in a Coffee House, watch the expressions on the faces of those who sit and drink and talk, who stretch out a gentle hand in comfort to a friend, when friendship is about both laughing and crying together, sharing the load.


I have just received a new collection of poems by the young Irish poet, Kerrie O’Brien. One of them, entitled ‘Hemingway’ concludes with these lines,


“How could he be so close/ And I not know it-The worst time to search/ Whiteout, blizzard sleet/ I hadn’t eaten/ The hunger raw and persisting/ But he led me/ And right where he lived/ A café/ Rose star/ In the wilderness/ Warm jewel/ Run by an American woman/ Big hearted/ Who took me in/ And gave me a muffin/ Flooded with raspberry/ Bloodsweet, glittering, hot./ It then came/ A thudding chant/ Be still, still/ In the howling/ Have faith/ Just a little longer”


Maybe her last two lines ‘Have faith, Just a little longer’ form the core part of the Epiphany we are now living, when sharing the Eucharist, nattering in the parish hall or with strangers in the Coffee House, it is the daily expression of our being Christian.



Advent retreat

The community will be having their Advent retreat starting on Tues this week, for 3 days!

Yes, I know it’s not Advent quite yet, till next weekend but we have to have it a bit earlier than usual and it will help us to prepare better for this lovely season of Christmas to celebrate Christ’s birth………..

something to think about……….

The simple beauty of place

Chris McDonnell   CT November 18th 2016


There is an inspiring article in this month’s edition of the Irish Dominican Journal, ‘Spirituality’, written by Daniel O’Leary, entitled ‘Ministry of Beauty’. In it he reflects on the beauty of God that we experience in ourselves, in others and in the world in which we live.


It set me thinking of places and situations where I might have experienced the beauty he talks of, where, through circumstance, something remained that has not been lost.


Many years ago, when on holiday with my family in Northumbria, I remember walking the beach from the small harbour town of Seahouses as far as Bamburgh Castle on the north-east coast. It was low tide and the expanse of sand was vast. In a couple of hours I passed only one person, then at some distance, too far apart to even be able to exchange greeting. But the pleasure and peace of that walk remains, a truly beautiful place.


In contrast to that open beach, the banks of the River Dee on the Wirral were a place for an evening walk, when as darkness fell, I would occasionally light a small fire from drift wood gathered in a rough circle of stones and sit watching the flickering orange flames dancing in the night.


Nearly twenty years ago, my daughter lived for a while in Canada, in the city of Toronto. During our stay with her I visited a city centre church and there, high in the wall was a small alcove, home for a candle-lit icon. It was so restful and simple a place where attention was held and reflection accommodated.


Three small examples of the beauty of place where something memorable happened, where something was shared and a still point in a turning world found. Ask any couple and they will tell you of a place made beautiful in the expression of their growing love.


Is this what we find when we share the Eucharist week by week in our own very familiar place, our parish church? do we open the door and feel welcomed by a cared-for building whose very walls have been witness over many years to a place of prayer, in times of great joy and also of deep sorrow? Whether it is a large cathedral or a small village church, both can offer that moment of beauty which we recognise as we go inside. The beauty of the interior of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King in Liverpool is truly exceptional, not only for the open expanse of the circular design round the high altar but also for the quiet dignity of the side chapels that surround it. I kept a small print of the background wall design in yellow and white from the Blessed Sacrament chapel in Liverpool above my office desk in school for many years.


There is something about scale that is also very important, our human place in context, a design for occupancy. There is a strong case to be made for the art of creating a space of prayer to be offered to both seminarians and serving priests as an important part of their mission. We neglect the sensitivity of design at our cost. I would suggest that poor art implies poor theology. It was ignored when the New Translation was imposed on us, five years ago this coming Advent, and we live with the consequences. When words and surroundings are incompatible with our intentions then the unease of distraction and the subtleties of prayer are disrupted.


But take this idea away from the public space of a church and ask a similar question about a small room at home which has been chosen as a place of prayer. I wrote this short piece a few days ago.


A space within


Before you can settle

in the quietness of a room

you must learn

how to close the door.


The simplicity of the space within

should not be disturbed

by the hurried movement of the door

through which you entered.


Go gently

into the peace you sought

by first opening the door

             and there rest awhile.


Our actions in such a space should help, not hinder, our reason for being there. A place not cluttered unnecessarily with distractions but an environment that is one of encouragement for the task.


We all have moments and places that we recognise for their simplicity and beauty, places of calm where we can bring our troubled selves before the Lord and recognise his beauty expressed in our very being and in all about us.

Such places require our nurture and respect for they help make us what we are.