June 29, 2016

My son found beauty and truth last week

Regular readers will know that I spent last week at the Edmund Burke International Summer School in Co. Westmeath. The event was held at the magnificent Bloomfield House Hotel on Lough Ennell, and participants travelled there from all across the globe. My friend, the English philosopher Sir Roger Scruton, was the main attraction. Other speakers included French historian Alexandra Slaby, Irish commentator and former senator Eoghan Harris, and eminent academics Vincent Twomey and Gerard Casey. Our mission was to provide a forum in which ideas could freely circulate, one in which people could…

June 22, 2016

Time passes… but memories will not fade

The older I get, the more I realise just how transient all things are. ‘Nothing lasts forever’ is such a trite saying, yet it contains a vital truth we cannot afford to forget. It tells us to savour and appreciate everything before it is too late. Time passes and with it special people and precious things. What you took for granted is suddenly whisked away. Then, you must adapt to a new reality without the old certainties. Deirdre O’Mahony and Margaret Price are two committed grandmothers. They are ladies of enviable energy who shine with pure goodness. They also run the little pre-school which two of our sons attended. Each morning,

June 15, 2016

A philosopher knight pays Ireland a visit

On Sunday, I will head to Bloomfield House Hotel in Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, to give a series of talks at the Edmund Burke International Summer School. This week-long event was already gearing up to be something quite unique. Then, last Saturday, it was announced that one of the speakers, English philosopher Roger Scruton, is to be knighted by Queen Elizabeth II to mark her 90th birthday. As it happens, I have just published a book of conversations with Scruton. It is my third book on a man who many regard as the world’s greatest philosopher. For me, he is someone who…

June 8, 2016

A phone could bring the end of innocence

What value can we put on a child’s innocence? For me, there is nothing more beautiful or consoling than that sparkle of purity which shines so luminously from the eyes of a child. It is what puts children in the same category as the angels. As always, Christ captured it perfectly: ‘See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in Heaven look upon the face of my heavenly Father.’ Despise them not, for in them you have your redemption…

June 1, 2016

A funeral that made a mosaic of memories

Last weekend, we said farewell to a man known affectionately as ‘Funny Waldron’. Eamon Waldron was the father of Mrs Dooley’s best friend, a Knight of Malta and a former member of the British Army. To us, however, he was a special friend who had a great knack of making our boys laugh. As a toddler, our eldest christened him ‘Funny Waldron’. The name stuck and that is how he was always known in the Dooley household. He was a man of mirth, a gentle soul who showed that kindness is inseparable from integrity. Funny Waldron lived a remarkable life and died with great dignity. As I listened to his family eulogise and praise their father, I came to see that we are what we sow…

May 25, 2016

Little things make our time here magical

‘Do you ever get stuck for things to write about?’ That is a question I am asked regularly and, to answer honestly, I don’t get stuck. Another question is this: ‘Where do you get inspiration when you sit down to write?’ The reason I don’t get stuck is because I try to draw inspiration from everything. It struck me the other day that I have been writing for this newspaper for exactly ten years. What is wonderful is that I still feel as though it is all very new. Each time I sit down to write this column it is like penning my very first piece. Writing is a very solitary exercise, and yet it opens up a world in which…

May 18, 2016

I was meek as a lamb for this family meal…

The art of cooking is an extraordinary feature of human life. From among many items of food, we select one and take it home. It is raw and unappetising, an alien object that must be cooked in order to satisfy our desires. It may be a vegetable, a piece of meat or some fish. Either way, we are dealing with something that is distinct from me. I cannot identify with the fish as it stares blankly at me from the counter. Not until we draw things into the family circle do they become edible. This involves chopping, oiling, seasoning, decorating and, finally, cooking. It is similar to when, after buying a new house, we say: ‘I must make it my own.’ Preparing a dish for the oven is to make it your own. It is, quite literally, a process whereby you mould the food in your own image. Making something tasty means transforming something raw into something that smiles back at you from the plate. Imagine the panic if…

May 11, 2016

Grace truly is amazing, as the song says

The evangelical choir sang the sublime Grace That Won’t Let Go. With harmonies that soared to Heaven, and a band that played with exceptional energy, the choir raised us high. ‘Grace, amazing grace,’ they gently intoned, and what an experience of grace it was. The occasion was ‘Songs of Praise’, an evening of music, poetry and literature to mark the Golden Jubilee of Sallynoggin-Glenageary parish in Dublin. Compèred by RTÉ’s Caroline Murphy, the event comprised a selection of hymns performed by the parish choirs, the Music Ministry of the Evangelical Church in Dún Laoghaire and a stunning recital by international soprano Niamh Murray. As the final bars of Grace That Won’t Let Go drifted away, I approached the lectern. I had been asked…

May 4, 2016

Time is a truly precious gift… it’s something you can’t buy

It is not that children intend to surprise. That they do so is because they are open to experience in a way which we are not. They marvel at things which, for many adults, have lost their wonder. When children look at the world they see beauty, opportunity and sheer magic. When they observe their parents, they see security, wisdom and unconditional love. Where there is cynicism, they have faith. Where there is darkness, they see light. That beautiful innocence is something so precious. It is a treasure that can teach us so much, one that can lead us gently into the light. That is why…

April 27, 2016

A child’s lesson in care shows shame of our health service

The bad news is that children can get chickenpox twice. Last week, I noticed a spot on our fouryear-old’s neck. ‘It couldn’t be!’ exclaimed his mother, but it was. It is just over a year since he first contracted the virus. ‘That’s it now,’ said Mrs Dooley, ‘we’re finally finished with the chickenpox.’ His two older brothers had previously fallen victim to the illness. That is why, when there was…

April 20, 2016

Street bench is a perfect place to be at one with the world

She sat alone on the street bench, the spring sun bathing her in a warm glow. She sat alone with a few shopping bags on the ground, her coat opened to the waist. She sat alone as I walked by, a woman pondering me as I pondered her. There was a time when street benches were everywhere. That was a time when we took time to simply sit and absorb the world. To the observer, it might have seemed like we were doing nothing. In reality, we were contemplating life in all its wonder and diversity. Today, we still have park benches and those that line our piers. The street bench is, however, …

April 13, 2016

Silence is the soil in which we truly grow

Each age has its plagues, those habits or disorders which undermine good health. We all desire perfect health and yet we persist in doing things which rob us of that objective. There is, however, a pathway which few take, but one which leads to balance, harmony and vitality. The tree takes root, matures and blooms. When planted in the right conditions, it grows according to an inner logic. Built into the very essence of the tree is a goal towards which it naturally progresses. We do not plant trees in concrete simply because they would not grow. We sow the seed in good soil and nature does the rest. The tree then matures as a tree should, and continues to do so as long as the conditions are favourable. So it is with all things in nature – except us.

April 6, 2016

No tweets can match noble art of printed word

Next Monday, I will attend the DCU Hybrid Student Media Awards at the Helix Theatre in Dublin. My role is to judge the Journalist of the Year category. It was an invitation I simply could not decline. The face of journalism has been transformed beyond recognition in our multimedia age. Print journalism is now but one of many media that supply us with our news, entertainment and information. It has, however, …