Welcome to my website!
Here, you will find details of my Career and Life, Books, and Media & Public Appearances. I also make available a collection of my journalistic writings. Just below, you will find a new Moral Matters Column (uploaded each Friday) and a selection of my Saturday Essays from the Irish Daily Mail. At the bottom of this page, I have selected a quote from my writings in the hope that it will help you kick off your day on a contemplative, thought-provoking, but always life-affirming note.
January 10, 2018
Don’t jog away from the joy… January can be lit up easily
Christmas has been recycled and our hibernation is over. Here and there, you notice the odd reminder of Yuletide merriment: a listless tree lying on a lawn, a dilapidated wreath slowly dying on a door, seasonal rubbish that never made it to a bin. But now it is January – a guilt-filled month of mourning for bright lights and festive fun. I have heard it said many times already: ‘This is such a depressing month.’ I have seen it in their grim faces as they seek to jog away the pounds. Some call it ‘dry January’ – as if cold turkey will somehow restore balance. Why do we do it to ourselves? Why do we feel we must repent for Christmas? Why do we feel we must earn absolution on the treadmill? Mortify the flesh and the sins of seasonal indulgence will be washed away. With such an attitude, is it any wonder that people dread January? Is it any wonder that children suffer when returning to school? The lights that have been blazing since October are no more. The high-octane joy has given way to a sombre sadness. We are in a very dark place without so much as a lamp. Yes, look closely and you will notice a slight stretch in the evenings. You will see the afternoon light has changed as the sun hangs a little higher in the sky. Things are turning, but not that fast. We are still in the depths of winter – a time beyond growth and gladness. So why, then, do we extinguish the light, put on cold faces and punish ourselves for small joys? There is a reason the Church postpones Lent until the first shoots of spring…Read more
*All columns published in the Irish Daily Mail since Christmas are available to read in ‘Columns’ section
December 23, 2017
Home is where the heart is when it comes to Christmas
They say it is the most magical time of the year, a season of wonder, joy and goodwill. And yet, what is left of Christmas when the commercial wheel stops spinning? What is left of this great feast after all the hustle and bustle, the frantic buying and selling? You know what I mean: the relentless queues, traffic chaos, the stress, anxiety and exhaustion. The shopping trolleys bulging with too much food, the panicky pursuit of presents that cost too much, and the niggling worry that you may have forgotten something. And then, when the big day arrives, you are too agitated and exhausted to enjoy it. It is certainly true that Christmas brings its own unique levels of anxiety. But this belies the fact that, beyond the commercial frenzy, Christmas still retains its capacity to bind people like no other event in the long calendar year. It still manages to draw us back to the homeland of the heart. The pressure and the panic will continue until last light on Christmas eve. Even then, the domestic preparations will still be in full swing. But this will be a different class of pressure: it will be work that delivers its own joyful reward. Night will fall, and the bells will toll. The shutters will come down on the commercial world and, for a brief time, we will all turn inwards. The Christmas lights that defy the winter gloom will guide us home. No matter how detached we have become from hearth and home, we all long to return – if only for a few days. Christmas gives us our reason to revisit those times and places from which our fondest memories were formed. It draws us back to family, friends and fireside. Our stressed-out society is characterised by constant commuting in the fast lane. We rush here, there and everywhere with ‘no direction home’. We are neither bound nor rooted to anything for too long. In returning home on Christmas eve, we experience what it means to belong…Read More