Saturday, September 13, 2014


Poem for Today - September 13, 2014



Nature most calm is often a crisis.
I remember a bay day,
creaseless, ruffleless,
land out of sight out of mind,
when the aimlessness
of my eyes, hands, dreams, work, art
rose up in my throat and smote me,
and I cried for wind. . . .

Wind high,
bay gray and white,
the avenging angel's
wings over us:
it rained a spray of
dross cold; sails grew; boat heeled;
lungs filled with danger;
our bodies blessed and bent
to servitude, you a slave
to the tiller, I
slave to your prescience.
Lord, Lord give us clearance.


Lost souls haunt rivers.
In a light wind,
by moon,
they can keep you as half-wakeful
as the boat that sways always
on its anchor
back and forth,
and your light dreams
bring you up short on your body;
you rise and cry out,
"Where am I?"
The ghosts recede to shore.
Next morning, old stumps
abandoned by pioneers
are covered by
large silent birds.

This bay is not rhetorical:
it receives its rivers,
except at Annapolis
where Severn, South, Magothy
swirl and pull off
a small naval battle.
Otherwise, patiently
receiving all tributes of waters,
it slumbers and waits
for the storms to ride across it-stretches,
for the wind to call out the changes
 that set the nun buoys nodding
and all the bells and gongs
to dire scolding.
A bay is an infold,
a withholding
between prosaic land
and cannibal ocean.

At bay, at bay!
How many a day's journey
across the whims of water
to find headway!
Lighthouse and land ho.
It's moving that counts.

© Gerta Kennedy,
The New Yorker
 Book Of Poems,
pages 116-117

Picture on Top:
"Sunrise on Spa Creek -
Annapolis, Maryland, 1993" -
pages, 118-119,
in Bringing Back The Bay,
The Chesapeake in
 the Photographs
of Marion E. Warren,
and the Voices of
 Its Peoples,
 with Mame Warren

Picture on Bottom,

"Fog on Spa Creek 1992"
page 181 -in Warren Book.

Friday, September 12, 2014


Poem For Today - September 12, 2014


I became water
     and saw myself
          a mirage
became an ocean
     saw myself a speck
          of foam
gained Awareness
     saw that all is but
woke up
     and found myself

(c) Binavi Bvadakhshani, 
page 95 in The Drunken
Universe, An Anthology
of Persian Sufi Poetry

Thursday, September 11, 2014


Poem for Today - September 11, 2014


If it falls, will it be heard?

A panorama falls
Everyone was there
          It was heard
The sirens heard it
The ambulances heard it
The police cars and fire trucks heard it
The TV channels broadcasting around the world heard it
It was heard far away in Afghanistan
It was heard in Beverly Hills
Even Moscow heard it
          And they often hear only what they want to hear
It was heard in the South Bronx where I was born
And it was heard in Los Angeles where my children were born
I know for a fact it was heard in Las Vegas where my grandchildren were born because
My daughter called me at dawn to let me know she heard it

I am afraid to sleep tonight because last night I slept like a baby and when I awoke, it was a nightmare

It had fallen
Steel by steel
Stone by stone
Person by person
It had fallen to broken skeletal hulk
Like Rome
Like Holy Roman Empire
Like Nero.

© Larry Jaffe

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


Poem for Today - Sept. 10, 2014



“What do you paint, when you paint on a wall?”
Said John D.'s grandson Nelson.
“Do you paint just anything there at all?
“Will there be any doves, or a tree in fall?
“Or a hunting scene, like an English hall?”

“I paint what I see,” said Rivera.

“What are the colors you use when you paint?”
Said John D.'s grandson Nelson.
“Do you use any red in the beard of a saint?
“If you do, is it terribly red, or faint?
“Do you use any blue? Is it Prussian?”

“I paint what I paint,” said Rivera.

“Whose is that head that I see on my wall?”
Said John D.'s grandson Nelson.
“Is it anyone's head whom we know, at all?
“A Rensselaer, or a Saltonstall?
“Is it Franklin D? Is it Mordaunt Hall?
“Or is it the head of a Russian?”

“I paint what I think,” said Rivera.

“I paint what I paint, I paint what I see,
“I paint what I think,” said Rivera,
“And the thing that is dearest in life to me
“In a bourgeois hall is Integrity;
“However . . .
“I'll take out a couple of people drinkin'
“And put in a picture of Abraham Lincoln;
“I could even give you McCormick's reaper
“And still not make my art much cheaper.
“But the head of Lenin has got to stay
“Or my friends will give me the bird today,
“The bird, the bird, forever.”

“It's not good taste in a man like me,”
Said John D.'s grandson Nelson,
“To question an artist's integrity
“Or mention a practical thing like a fee,
“But I know what I like to a large degree,
“Though art I hate to hamper;
“For twenty-one thousand conservative bucks
“You painted a radical. I say shucks,
“I never could rent the offices
“The capitalistic offices.
“For this, as you know, is a public hall
“And people want doves, or a tree in fall,
“And though your art I dislike to hamper,
“I owe a little to God and Gramper,
“And after all,
“It's my wall

“We'll see if it is,” said Rivera.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014



The title of my homily for this 23 Tuesday in Ordinary Time is, “Context Is All!”

That’s a phrase the Canadian writer, Margaret Atwood, became known for. It’s a  comment she makes all through her book, The Handmaid’s Tale.

“Context is all.”


Today is the feast of St. Peter Claver [1581-1654]  – a Jesuit priest who worked for 44 years in Cartagena – now Colombia – one of the key ports for slaves coming from Africa.

As I read his life – lots of things hit me. What would it be like to be living there in the first half of the 1600’s?   I’m aware that writers in our time criticize missionaries and church and their presence in the colonies – what they did and what they didn’t do.  Why didn’t they do more? Why didn’t they protest more about slavery and how native Americans were treated.

Then I stepped back and said, “Context!” Then I said, “Context is Everything.”  Then I remembered Margaret Atwood’s comment: “Context is all”

For example: St. Peter Claver baptized more than 300,000 slaves – and rather quickly after their arrival.

Today we would not do that – but context is all. In Europe whole tribes and groups were baptized and made Christians – when their king or leader became Christian. And the king didn’t go through an RCIA program.

As I read Peter Claver’s story – I was amazed. Type his name into the Google Search Box – and sail on.

When news of another slave ship - 1000 future slaves were arrived at the port in Cartagena each month,  Peter Claver would be down there first. He would row out in a canoe to the boat with a whole team of catechists.  One of his team, a man named  Calepino spoke 12 African languages. They would bring food, fresh fruit, wine for wounds, water. They washed and attended to cuts and sores and would take care of the dead. They feed those who made it in what were called “coffin ships”  to the Americas..

They would wash and baptize – they would feed and greet. Today we would do some of these things and not do some of these – but what I’m saying here is, “Context is all.”

Slave owners hated him – and gave him a hard time.  The rich of Cartagena didn’t like Father Claver’s Negroes in church with them.

Context is all. Thoughts in my mind  changed when I read the following words from Peter Claver, “We must speak to them with our hands by giving, before we try to speak to them with our lips.”

Kindness – caring – giving food – a welcome - smiling – love -  is the same in every language.

So that’s the context  of my comments today. That’s why I came up with this short message that I’m pushing today.

Context is all.


It’s also a key to keep in mind when reading the scriptures.

Today’s gospel begins with Jesus going to the mountains to pray – to spend the night in prayer.

Then we hear him calling out those he chose to be his apostles by name.

I wonder why did Jesus call Peter who would deny him – and Judas who would betray him?

What is the back story of each one of them?

Why did people reach out to Jesus back then – and why do they do so today?

What was Jesus’ goal? Was it to feed and to heal – more than to teach and preach?

What is the purpose of Church?

What is the Christian calling?

What is the goal of parish?

What is Jesus calling us to be and to do today?

Why do we do what we do and why?

Context should give us pause.

As we heard in today’s gospel Jesus knew the importance of pause – especially the pause to pray.

It’s important to escape – to grasp where we are and where we want to go next.

We need to see our present context and to see our next calling.

We need to stop!

We need to see who’s in the boats around us.

Context gets us to talk and to listen.

Context gets us to say, “I don’t know why you said that or why you did that. Can we talk?”

So much of life is talking before listening.

So much of life is taking things out of context.

So much of life is being self-centered – our mind being within only our boundaries – so our all is rather small.

Too often we are slaves to our own context.

Too often we’re sailing along stuck in the dark – at the bottom of our boat – as we pass each other like ships in the night – as the old saying goes.


Christianity is all about movement – moving out of where we are – out of our context into a new context.

It’s called conversion. It’s called change.

In today’s first reading from 1st Corinthians 6: 1-11 we were placed in the context of a Christian Community in the city of Corinth in around 54 A.D. We hear details about what is going on. We’re getting context.  We hear St. Paul challenging his listeners to see what they are doing. Talk about lawsuits. It sounds like it was an everyday threat of Christian against Christian in that city. He said you’re not in the kingdom of God if you are unjust, if you cheat, if you deceive, fornicate, prostitute, drink too much, ruin people’s reputation. 

The context of the Christian community in Corinth seemed like it needed a lot of changes – that they needed to see life in a new context.


The title of my homily is, Context Is All.

The first step is to see our present situation – our present context – and then the next step is to move into the Kingdom of God each day of our life.

God moved out of God – out of the context of God – when he became human. The Word became flesh and lived amongst us.

St. Peter Claver left a small place name Verdu in Spain – population about 2000 – probably from right near when Columbus came from – and look at how he changed his life and our world.

Well Peter moved from the farm to the school – to the Jesuits – to the priesthood – to America.

One of his self-descriptions was: I want to be a slave among slaves.

I sense his gift and his secret was to enter into the skin and the emotions and the feelings and the needs of these people who arrived in America – in horrible conditions – thinking they were going to be eaten or killed here.

He was to  be their experience of Jesus after 1615 in the city of Cartagena. Amen. 

Poem for Today - September 9, 2014


Then, when the child was gone,
I was alone
In the house, suddenly grown huge.
Each noise
Explained itself away
As bird, or creaking board, or mouse,
Element or animal.
But mostly there was quiet as after battle
Where round the room still lay
The soldiers and the paintbox and the toys.
But when I went to tidy these away,
I felt my mind swerve:
My body was the house,
And everything he’d touched, and exposed nerve.

© Stephen Spender
The New Yorker Book
of Poems, page 192

Monday, September 8, 2014



The title of my homily for this feast of the Birthday of Mary is, “What Is Your Picture of Mary?

Thousands and thousands and thousands of artists have pictured Mary.

We find her picture or statue in every Catholic Church as well as many, many Catholic homes and museums.

How many times have we been watching a movie – and on the wall is a picture of Mary.

What image of Mary hangs on the wall of your mind?

What is your favorite picture of Mary?


I noticed in a letter to the editor in the latest issue of The Tablet, a British Catholic Weekly Magazine – the following letter.

“What a telling contrast between two photographs in your current issue (August 23).  The first, on page 9, shows Pope Francis, smiling tenderly, his hand on the shoulder of an elderly Korean woman in a wheelchair. She clasps his other hand in hers, smiling up at him. The second, on page 24, shows Cardinal Filoni allowing his hand to be kissed by an Iraqi refugee. The one a Prince of the Church; the other a pastor of his flock. The one, unwittingly, demonstrating what we need to get away from; the other, the direction we should be taking.” Signed Alastair Llewellyn-Smith

As you have heard, a picture tells or can tell a thousand words.

As you know photographs can tell us a lot about the photographer as well as the person who puts the picture in the paper or in front of us.

Sometimes when we see a picture of ourselves, we go, “Oooooo! Rip  that picture up.”

And sometimes we see a picture of ourselves – and we say, “Not bad.”

How do you picture yourself?  How do you want to be pictured?  Do you picture any picture you have of yourself as a death card picture?

If you like a pope or a president or a public figure, you like favorable pictures of him or her – and vice versa.

I’m sure someone can find a picture of someone kissing the Pope Francis’ ring or hand and they could contrast that picture with a doctor in Africa – with mask on – caring for Ebola victims – and say, “Hey Catholic Pope, wake up and serve the people – instead of them kissing up to you.”

So pictures can say so much in so many ways.


Back to Mary. Today we celebrate her birthday.

In January of 2000 I got to Nazareth. That day we got to see some old, old, old homes that go way back into Israeli History. I would picture Mary being born in a poor one room house – with screaming going on – when she was born – “It’s a girl.”

I wonder if anyone did what so many people do at the birth of a new born baby: “I wonder what will become of this child.”

For girls – not that much.

For poor boys – not that much.

But God had other plans.

I picture Mary as Our Mother of Perpetual Help – especially because of her presence as the underneath support of Jesus and the Early Church. In the O.L.P.H. picture, I like that Mary is holding Jesus. The word “holding” – as in holding up another, or holding up a group, or a family.

I like Pope Francis favorite image of Mary. In 1986 – as a visitor from Argentina to Augsburg, Germany – he spotted an oil painting on a wood panel. It was an image of Mary untying knots. The painting was done by Johnann George Schmidtner.

The backstory of the painting is a common experience: being tied up in knots.

The  painting was commissioned by the nephew of a Bavarian aristocrat named Wolfgang Langenmantel. His marriage to his wife Sophia was about to split apart. It had become tied in knots. Well, they went to a Jesuit priest named Father Jacob Rem. Father Jacob prayed to Mary over their wedding ribbon that its knots become untangled. It did.


We’ve all untied knots in string, rosary beads, what have you.

Paul Vallely write what I consider the best biography of “Pope Francis – “Untying the Knots” – and that he had to do in Argentina and now as pope in Rome. Amen.
TO US.... 

Poem for Today - September 8, 2014



Ivory in her black, and all intent
Upon the mirror of her instrument,
Doubling her beauty to the eye and ear,
My Muse arranged this in a distant year.

I thought my longing then could not abide
The discipline to place me at her side
Whose love and art were joined without defect,
Luxurious touch and sway of intellect.

Kore and lady, Myra, downward glancing
Over the hand that sings to the hand dancing,
Breathe and be present now the shades grow still.
Sweet air, be figured at your mistress' will.

As he of Brandenburg hummed in his heart,
The tenor and the alto, part by part,
Mounted in joy amid the tranquil choir
To dwell but tenderly on man's desire.

Softly that note fell, for the baby burning
Under the wintry sign of his sojourning,
The westward star, lay upon Eden's breast
Where husbandman and hunter seek to rest.

So voices woke from every falling voice,
Bidding the Gentile and the Jew rejoice,
With all that generations may conceive,
In Miriam, who is the grace of Eve.

Had she not borne the seed of the Lord God
To ripen in her splendid belly's pod?
And who but sages of the fragrant East
Dared his epiphany, adorned the feast?

And how but in the Cyprian's tongue went round
The tidings of great joy upon that ground
And peaceful glory promised in the air?
Holy became the rose our bodies bear.

So ran Kapellmeister's hymn unending,
So dreamed the maiden on his word attending,
So, as I cherished her in my degree,
The page of ancient music fell to me.

Now life has turned and all seems far and late,
I find this luminous, and meditate
To praise again, though East and West are wild,
The girl, the singing, and the Christmas child.

© Robert Fitzgerald,
The New Yorker Book

Of Poems, pages 351-352

[Yesterday I spoke about a Redemptorist Father Alec Reid.  As mentioned in that homily I said Father Alec's family when they visited St. Mary's Parish - gave me a nice picture of him and a Special Supplement Magazine or Newsletter telling about his life and story. I decided to scan that Newsletter and put it here in my blog - with the same pride Irish Redemptorists felt about a confrere who gave his life for the sheep. So the following is that Newsletter - with pictures.]


In Memoriam: Fr Alexander Reid, C.Ss.R.

By Brendan McConvery, C.Ss.R.

At the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday 2013, Pope Francis talked about the crisis of priesthood. Priests, he said, “who do not go out of themselves, instead of being mediators, gradually become intermediaries, managers... and since he doesn't put his own skin and his own heart on the line, he never hears a warm, heartfelt word of thanks. This is precisely the reason for the dissatisfaction of some, who end up sad — sad priests - in some sense becoming collectors of antiques or novelties, instead of being shepherds living with 'the odour of the sheep.’”

[Alexander Reid as a little kid.]

Fr Al Reid, who died on November 22, 2013, was a shepherd who lived with the smell of the sheep and who heard many a word of thanks for putting his own skin and heart on the line. Alexander Reid was born in the Leonard's Corner nursing home in Dublin on August 5, 1931, and was baptised in Haddington Street Church. Following the death of his father, the family moved to Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, where Al attended the Christian Brothers School. He was a talented hurler and made it to the minor panel for the county. That passion for hurling remained with him all his life. After his secondary education, Al entered the Redemptorist noviciate in Esker, Co. Galway, where he was professed on September 8, 1950. 

[Final Profession of Vows Picture]

Studies for the priesthood followed. He took a BA degree from University College Galway, and completed his theology in the Redemptorist House of Studies, Cluain Mhuire, Galway. He was ordained in 1957. 
[Ordination day picture with his family.]

After the usual few years of pastoral training, the Young Fr Reid was assigned to the community of Clonard Monastery, Belfast.

Early years in Belfast

In his first years in Belfast, Al worked with Fr Hugh Arthurs in the Clonard ecumenical apostolate. The Second World War had done much to ease traditional sectarian tensions in the city. The crypt of Clonard sheltered Catholics and Protestants without discrimination during the Belfast “Blitz” of 1942. When the war was over, the Clonard community offered a series of lectures each year from 1948 onwards for people from other Christian churches interested in discovering more about the Catholic Church beyond the sectarian image that then predominated. Somewhat unfortunately, it was advertised as the Mission to Non-Catholics and attracted notice from some evangelical groups, including a young pastor called Ian Paisley. The Rector of Clonard at the time was Fr Gerard Reynolds. His nephew, also Gerard, would be a companion of Al's in the peace process. By the 1960s, a richer ecumenical theology in the Catholic Church was beginning to flower as a result of the Second Vatican Council and it led to a change in direction in Clonard's ecumenical work. It was as a result of this change that the young Redemptorist began to forge the many friendships with members of the other churches, both lay and clerical, that were to be such a hallmark of his later life.

The Troubles

Sectarian tensions remerged in response to the formation of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights movement in the mid-1960s. A civil rights march in Derry in October 1968 was broken up violently by the RUC. The growing unrest of the following months came to a head just before midday on August 15, 1969. A sniper on the roof of an old linen mill near Clonard Monastery began shooting at people in the street below. In an effort to dislodge the sniper, some of the people set fire to the mill. It was so close to the monastery that for a time it looked as though church and monastery might go up in flames. Elderly members of the community were moved for safety to homes of friends. By mid-afternoon, a full-scale riot was in progress in the streets nearby and houses in two streets at the rear of the monastery were blazing. Later that year, “the peace line,” separating Nationalist Falls from Protestant Shankill, would be erected as a “temporary” wall to provide protection to the people on both sides. It is still in place.

For Al Reid it was more of an inconvenience than a barrier of the mind. Each Christmas morning, for example, Al went visiting old friends in Cupar Street, on the Shankill Road side of the barrier.

The political situation in Belfast presented the Redemptorists with a number of stark choices. It was impossible to live and minister in such a situation of unrest and injustice without trying to come to grips with the challenges it posed. Many people came to the monastery in search of comfort at the loss of a family member through violence or internment. Others came with questions of conscience that challenged the Church. Some who had once been loyal and practising Catholics ceased practicing, either because they believed the Church was complacent on the issue of justice on the one hand or because they believed the Church was too indulgent towards the republican paramilitaries on the other.

Long Kesh

In the early hours of August 9, 1971, many Catholic men were rounded up and interned without trial. The majority were young. Providing pastoral care for them became a priority. Priests, especially those without regular responsibility for a Sunday congregation, such as teachers and members of religious congregations, were asked to provide Mass and other pastoral care. At Reid was one of the regulars. His Sunday often began with an early Mass in Clonard at 6.30. He would then drive to the Maze Prison (Long Kesh) to offer Mass for groups of prisoners in the “cages” or H-blocks, as they were known. Much of the rest of Sunday was spent making phone calls or visiting families to reassure them that a son or husband was well. “I his was especially the case when prisoners' visiting rights were curtailed in response to their militant struggle for “political status” and their refusal to wear official issue prison garb.

During the “riot season,” which lasted for most of the summer months, Al was often on the streets around the monastery until late at night, trying to persuade groups of young people to go home or taking a cup of tea with an elderly frightened neighbour. Visits to bereaved families and attendance at the funerals of victims, no matter what their political allegiance, if any, were by this time a major part of his work. It is inevitable that such an irregular lifestyle would take its toll.

Having tried in vain to broker an honest deal throughout the “dirty” and blanket protests of the late 1970s, Al found himself in the maelstrom of the hunger strikes of 1981. By now there was little left of his fragile physical resources. He suffered a major breakdown in physical health, complicated by diabetes.

Early in 1981, his superiors realised that the only way to force Al to rest was to send him out of the country. There was a small group of Irish Redemptorists attached to the Redemptorist general house in Rome. They formed Al's new temporary community.

Al Reid always had a gift for being in the right place at a historic time. By May, he was well enough to explore Rome on his own. One of his confreres had given him a ticket for good place close to the pope for the audience in St Peter's Square on 13 May. As the popemobile came to within a few yards of Al, a shot rang out. A young man called Mehmet Ali Agca had shot the Holy Father four times, seriously wounding him.

The way to peace

By summer, Al was well enough to return to Ireland. It is from this period that the quest to “take the gun out of Irish politics,” as he himself would often put it, entered a new phase. Through his efforts to foster dialogue, Gerry Adams, leader of Sinn Fein, whose family had long-standing links with Clonard, and John Hume, leader of the nationalist but non-violent Social Democratic and Labour Party, were facilitated in their efforts to find an alternative through private dialogue. Redemptorist monasteries provided quiet places where meetings could take place. It would be many years before the talks themselves could be made public. Greeted initially with outrage in some sections of the Irish media, major figures in both the Irish and British governments eventually realised that something worthwhile was happening and entered into the negotiations that eventually culminated in the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

The decade of quiet talking was not without heartbreak and many false starts. The tangle of events surrounding the killing of three IRA activists in Gibraltar in March 1988 thrust Al Reid into the limelight. Mairead Farrell, Scan Savage and Danny McCann were all natives of the Clonard area, whose families were well known to Al. They asked him to help in the delicate negotiations surrounding the return of their bodies to Belfast for burial. At their funeral in Milltown Cemetery, a Loyalist gunman, Michael Stone, launched an attack on the mourners, killing three of them. On the Saturday of that long week, Al set out to attend the funerals of the three victims. At the conclusion of the first in East Belfast, he made his way to the funeral of the other two at St Agnes' Church in Andersonstown. The stewards at the funeral had hauled from their car two men who seemed to be driving into the on-coming funeral procession.

In a television interview, he recounted the story of that dreadful day. He had followed the people who had taken the soldiers to Casement Park.

“They put the two of them face down on the ground and I got down between the two of them on my face, and I had my arm around this one and I was holding this one by the shoulder. When I was lying between the two soldiers, I remember saying to myself, “This shouldn't be happening in a civilised society.' Somebody came in and picked me up and said, 'Get up, or I'll f .. g-well shoot you as well,' and then he said: “Take him away.' two of them came on either shoulder and manoeuvred me out.”

Shortly afterwards, he heard two shots. An elderly woman told him the bodies had been taken to a patch of waste ground. One was already dead, the other was still moving and attempting to talk. Al tried to give him the kiss of life, during which his own face became smeared with the man's blood. The picture of Fr Reid kneeling beside the two bodies and giving them the last rites has remained one of the graphic icons of the Troubles. If you look closely at the picture, you will notice the bloodstain on Al's face. In his pocket, he was carrying a position paper from Sinn Fein for the attention of John Hume. It too was stained with blood. He returned to the monastery to put it in a new envelope before delivering it to its destination. Slowly and painfully, the various parts of what
would become the Good Friday Agreement were put in place.

It was probably a moment of personal satisfaction for Al when, with the Reverend Harold Good, a Methodist minister and a long-time friend, he was able to announce on September 26, 2005 that they had witnessed the decommissioning of IRA arms and that they “had been put beyond use.”

At Al’s funeral Mass, Harold Good read the section from the second reading from the Letter to the Ephesians where Christians are instructed to “put on the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:11). He told how on the night before the final decommissioning of arms, he and Al had to share a bedroom. Before turning in, both men spent some time in prayer: Al with his breviary and Harold with his New Testament. His reading for that day was this very chapter. He was so moved by it that he had to share it with Al, especially the words: “stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around Your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.” It was surely a sign that heaven's blessing was on their work.

At Reid's part in the Northern Ireland peace process led to him being consulted by other peace groups, particularly the Basques in Spain. He was willing to help and made several trips but was hampered by the language barrier. He tried to learn Spanish, but Basque was beyond him! In later years, his longstanding health problems erupted again. There were several stays in hospital and eventually a permanent stay in a nursing home close to the Redemptorist community in Dublin.

Al, the priest

Al Reid will be remembered rightly as one of the principal architects of the Northern Ireland peace process. I want in conclusion to remember Al Reid the Redemptorist and priest. A few years ago, he celebrated sixty years of professed membership of the Redemptorist Congregation. Al was loyal to the Redemptorists. They were also loyal to him. Successive provincials supported his peace ministry. Sometimes, they might have wondered might it be better for his health to move him for a while to another community. Mary McAleese, one of the group of laypeople and confreres Al had gathered as an advisory group, remembered at his funeral that, like an obedient religious, Al would agree to go to a new community but never quite got around to making the move!

He was a creative thinker, but he needed theological resources. He found this support in one of the great Redemptorist moral theologians of the time, the late Sean O'Riordan, professor of moral theology at the Alphonsian Academy in Rome. Fr O'Riordan was well acquainted with the growing literature of liberation theology. One of the main planks of liberation theology was how to join in the struggle for economic and social justice in the spirit of the Gospel. Al valued his expertise and advice.

Fr Gerry Reynolds was Al’s fellow worker in the peace process. With a great deal of experience in religious journalism and communications, Gerry was often Al's “front man” when a foreign journalist wanted a statement and Al wanted to remain in the background.

Redemptorists pride themselves in being there for the poor, the fragile, the abandoned. For many years, Al used to visit the traveller sites of West Belfast rounding up groups of children to bring to school. His ministry to the bereaved and the imprisoned, especially the families of victims of the Troubles, was generous and time consuming. It was not confined to one side. On more than one occasion, Al was as respected a presence at a Loyalist paramilitary funeral as he was at a Republican funeral.

He often celebrated the early morning Mass in Clonard. On one occasion, after a night spent on the streets during the rioting season, he sat down after communion. One of the men in the congregation, observing that he was sound asleep and possibly guessing the cause, shook him gently and said with that directness of Belfast men, “Father, you wouldn't mind finishing the Mass, would you? We have to go to work.”

[Al Reid - upper back row left - on a Redemptorist student hurling team.]

Al was not a great man for holidays. At most, he might take a few days away, and a friend would always arrange a ticket for the hurling final. A regular feature of his year, however, was at least one pilgrimage to Knock with a busload of women from the Falls. Most of them were victims of the Troubles - sons or husbands in jail, children shot dead or injured in explosions, along with the inevitable family and social breakdown that was the unspoken legacy of those deadly years. Al sang to them on the bus (he had a lovely singing voice), prayed with them, heard their confessions and just talked to them and got their life stories. He may have said little, but they felt better because someone had listened to them without interrupting or telling them what they should be doing. People like these regarded Al as a holy man, not in the conventional sense of holiness but a person of extraordinary goodness and generosity.

A humble man of faith

In the midst of the turmoil, Al brought with him a quiet sense of peace, which was born out of faith. As President Mary McAleese recalled at his funeral, he had a code for telling you how the peace process was going. It was shaped by his passion for the hurling fortunes of Tipperary. When things were looking up, “the Holy Ghost was playing very well at midfield.” When things were going badly or there seemed to be another road-block, “The Holy Ghost is on the sideline” or perhaps even had “missed the bus!”

He was characteristically modest about the many international honours that were bestowed on him, both in Ireland and abroad, in the aftermath of the success of the peace process.

Al Reid's work with paramilitaries and republicans did not always endear him to ecclesiastical authorities. He was aware how open to misinterpretation his work was and that it might easily be used to embarrass his religious family as well as the Catholic Church as a whole. He kept his religious superiors updated about what he was doing. The late Cardinal Thomas O Fiach warmly encouraged him and was in regular contact. It was with the same sense of the importance of oversight of a delicate ministry that Al sought the counsel of others, including Professor Mary May McAleese, whose work with the Redemptorist Peace Mission would provide her critics with ammunition during her first presidential campaign.

After several years of deteriorating health, Fr Al Reid died in Dublin on November 22, 2013, fifty years to the day after John F Kennedy. He was buried in Milltown Cemetery Belfast.

[Father Al Reid's Funeral]


Reflection offered by Rev. Dr Ruth Patterson at the ecumenical
service for Fr Alec Reid at Clonard Church, Belfast, November
26, 2013

During the last few days there have been thousands of words used as many different people have sought to express their thoughts and feelings on hearing of the death of our dear friend and pilgrim for peace, Father Alec Reid. Tonight I have been asked to reflect on the lesson of his life. There are others who are far more qualified than I to comment on the effectiveness of his huge contribution to our peace process. My only qualification is that we were gifted with a friendship which I deeply valued.

Like anyone who finds themselves on a road less travelled, his journey was a lonely one. And for him, Restoration Ministries, my community, was a safe place where he could drop in unannounced and simply be himself. For someone who had promises to keep and miles to go “before he slept,” to be able to make a phone call from any number of unnamed destinations and just talk was, I think, for him gift and certainly for me a huge privilege.

I cannot separate Alec the man from Alec the priest and Alec the peacemaker. He was his vocation — and the Spirit of the Lord was upon him, holding these three roles together in one person. He had feet of clay, like the rest of us, but, with deep humility, allowed himself to be seized by vision. It was not so much he who had chosen such a course but rather, to paraphrase a one-time secretary-general of the United Nations, Dag Hammarsjold, the way that had chosen him and he must be thankful. Archbishop Desmond Tutu once described himself as a prisoner of hope. Alec was similarly convicted. He never, ever gave up. One of the biggest challenges during the Troubles was to simply keep on keeping on trusting that there would be an end, a good outcome. For such a frail looking man, often plagued by illness, he had huge tenacity.

A word used very often in the New Testament is endurance. Alec had that in abundance. At the funeral of Martin Luther King, the President Emeritus of Morehouse College where King had been a student said: “He was not ahead of his time. Every man is within his star, each in his time. Each man must respond to the call of God in his lifetime and not in somebody else's time.” Then he listed, like a roll call of faith, those who, throughout the centuries, had to act in their lifetime. “None of these,” he says, “were ahead of their time. With them the time was always right to do that which was right and that which needs to be done.”

Alec followed the star that had risen for him and remained true to the light that had fallen into his heart, not only for a way out of our conflict, but also for so many who were and are victims of those hard years, including the families of the disappeared. His commitment to peace was not confined to Ireland, as we know, but was global, most notably in the Basque region in Spain. Like a bridge over the troubled waters of violence, loss and anguish he laid himself down. It was his time and it was the right time. The Spirit of the Lord was upon him.

Beatitude person

For me, and many others, Alec was a beatitude person. If you break the word down it simply means, “Let this be your attitude.” First and foremost, he was a citizen of that upside down kingdom whose hallmarks are mercy, humility, purity of heart, a hunger for justice, peacemaking and a willingness to pay the price to see right prevail. Ray Davey of Corryincela used to say to us, “Jesus never ever said, 'Blessed are the peace lovers.' He said, 'Blessed are the peace makers.”' This world has far too many armchair pundits for peace but too few of those who are willing as 'children of God' to embark on such a messy and costly journey. With eyes wide open, Alec set out on such a path. Why? For him there was no option. The Spirit of the Lord was upon him.

Sheila Cassidy, in her book Good Friday  People, speaks of those like Alec who travel this way, “As they walk they will, each in good time, arrive at their Kairos moment, the point of choice, of decision, of a stiffening of the sinews because danger is in the air and there is no going back.” His attitude was shaped by his citizenship and inevitably he had all effect oil the world around him.

Beyond his public persona, Alec had the maturity of someone who knows who they are and has moved beyond the either/or and the labelling, judgemental response that call characterize so much of our living. He knew who he was. He refused to let his actions be determined by the label others put upon him nor did he categorise or box the other. What he always saw was another human being in desperate need of help. Within him there was a huge well of tenderness. Patrick Mathias says that tenderness “involves compassion, the capacity to suffer with the other person with the vision of a shared future.” If this is not too strange a comment to make, I think Alec already lived, in the now, that shared future because he had been grasped by the vision of peace and unity. The Spirit of the Lord was upon him.

Love of Church universal

He had a love for the church universal but was not blind to its shortcomings. He was able to say some hard things without being destructive. In many of our conversations he used to say to me, “Ruth, when this is all over (this meaning the Troubles) you and I will have to sort out Mother Church!” He was also a strong advocate for greater involvement of women in Church and State, being totally convinced that had there been more women in key positions of influence the conflict that affected all of our lives for so long would have been resolved much sooner.

In recent months Pope Francis has delighted Catholic and non-Catholic alike by his bias for the poor, by calling for a culture of encounter, making space for honest dialogue, a daring to enter into complex webs of relationships, a recognition that this is a kairos time to show mercy, an acknowledgement that the feminine genius is needed wherever there are important decisions to be made — and much else. In all of this Alec was truly his brother. The Spirit of the Lord was upon him.

Central to the belief system of the small and struggling Algerian Church is what they call the sacrament of encounter as they try to understand how a tiny Christian community can manifest the love of Jesus in an overwhelmingly Moslem culture and environment. They have been seized by the ethical urgency of encounter. It is the call to enter into relationship with the other, a relationship that becomes a source of life for both.

Fr Christoph Theobald says, “Each time that conscience and relationships overcome violence, each time that a link is made and strengthened by means of a significant encounter, and that sometimes at the price of someone's life, the Spirit of holiness is at work.” Alec lived the sacrament of encounter and there is a sense in which he paid the price with his life. To truly encounter the other is sacramental and, for Christ's ones, it is not an option. It is a command that comes to us from God himself. If we are truly living it, it will always be in the shape of a cross. And it need not involve words — sometimes it's better if the words are few but the commitment is unmistakeable. It was unmistakeable in Father Alec Reid. The Spirit of the Lord was upon him.


He had the satisfaction of seeing 
his efforts bear fruit

By Dr Martin Mansergh

Many priests serving in parishes or communities torn by conflict found themselves having to mediate, trying to prevent further loss of life, ministering to the dying and the bereaved. For many years, in the 1970s and early 1980s, that was the role of Fr Alec Reid and many of his colleagues in Clonard Monastery. As its history shows, for over a century Clonard Monastery and its priests played a very prominent role in the religious life and identity of the people of West Belfast. Its outreach has been across divides of many kinds as well as to those from within the community engaged in activities with which the Church deeply disagreed. Peace work, where trust was vital, was the most pressing social priority, and one to which a Christian perspective was directly relevant, and to which it could bring a distinctive contribution.

From the second half of the 1980s, Fr Alec began to play a pivotal role in trying to crystallize an alternative to conflict, which was characterized by a prolonged military and political stalemate with periodic and dangerous upsurges in violence. In this difficult and secret work, he had the steady support of the Redemptorist Order and the use of its facilities in Clonard, Dundalk and Dublin, which hosted a series of meetings between the leaderships of the SDLP and Sinn Fein and between Sinn Fein and a representative or representatives of the Irish governing party or government leading up to the IRA ceasefire of August 31, 1994.

His role went far beyond that of a facilitator. He sought in papers of his own to analyse the situation and to put forward ideas that might act as a catalyst for movement. He met those involved individually at very regular intervals to assess attitudes, reactions and possibilities for progress. Many of the concepts he was grappling with - self-determination, human dignity, and justice - were to become key components in a framework for peace. The mission he was embarked on was related to deep religious conviction about the importance of finding an alternative to conflict and about the duty of the Church to be active in seeking it.

A monastery provides a quiet and discreet setting for reflective discussion of difficult existential issues, including political ones. At the time, governments in particular were inhibited from engaging in any direct discussion with those involved with any paramilitary campaign, but a religious environment emphasized the moral purpose behind a breach of that taboo. Apart from the benefits of establishing direct communication for the purpose of exploring possibilities of peace, the challenge was to identify sufficient common ground, leaving aside the obvious and for the time being unbridgeable differences, to allow the emergence of an initiative and to enable it to progress. There were fallow periods, discouraging events on the outside, while all the time more people were being killed. While the Redemptorist Order, through its superior, kept a careful watch on what was happening, not least out of pastoral concern for Fr Reid and the strains on him, support for what he was doing was maintained, and eventually bore fruit. While other lines of communication might be interrupted, the line to Fr Reid was never down.

Fr Reid privately expressed the conviction in the late 1980s that the gun was an anachronism. It was a source of great satisfaction to him when he was chosen along with the former Methodist President Rev. Harold Good to witness the final decommissioning of IRA weapons. He had the satisfaction while he lived of seeing peace taking root. The Redemptorists can take pride and inspiration from his and their part in this achievement.


Remembering a partner for peace

By Gerry Reynolds CSsR

I was delighted in the summer of 1983 when the Redemptorist provincial, Fr John O'Donnell, asked me to transfer from Esker, Co. Galway to Clonard in Belfast. I came north on 30 August with a commitment to put my energy into the work of reconciliation, letting myself he guided by the promise of Isaiah 2:2-5 that encounter with the living God is the way to peace.

Shortly afterwards, I asked Fr Alec what we could do to end the violence. “The only way to change things,” he said, “is through the dialogue which makes room for the Holy Spirit to work in human history”

That conversation shaped my relationship with him through the years. We shared a deep conviction that the God at work among us was master of the impossible. The dialogue must go on to prepare the way for the miracles of his grace. Alec's work for peace is epitomised for the people by his persuasion in the early 1990s of John Hume and Gerry Adams to work together under the leadership of Albert ReynoIds, Taoiseach, to create a political way forward. The people see my role in various ways, partnerships with Rev. Ken Newell and with Rev. Sam Burch, the Protestant guest preachers on the Solemn Novena Ecumenical Day, the unity pilgrims who week by week join Protestant congregations for their Sunday Worship.

The ordinary believing people who worship in Clonard and in the parishes of West Belfast connect our endeavours. For them, both are intimately one. It’s all about changing some strategic relationships. Such as what Alec says in the mission statement he wrote for Cardinal O’Fiaich in 1989: “Where the people of Ireland in their nationalist and Unionist traditions are living together in friendship and mutual Cooperation for the common good of all and where the people of Ireland and the people of Britain are living together in the same way.”

It used to embarrass me that people associated me so closely with Alec. I would speak about my relationship with in as that of priest and altar server. In the narrower political sense, there is truth in that. But I know from his friends that Alec would have none of that way of speaking. I always felt a profound esteem from him. He was interested in everything we did to break down division. In the larger perspective of God’s design for Belfast, Northern Ireland and the Church among us, he saw our relationship as a creative partnership.

The response to Alec's death from such a wide range of people has increased our awareness of the significance of the Clonard Reconciliation Mission. A hundred years ago Karl Adam wrote something like this: “The great apostolic task of the 20th century is to cultivate a sense of the Church in the hearts of the faithful.” It remains the task of the 21st century.  The Vatican Council says: “The Church, in Christ, is in the nature of a sacrament— a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all people” (Lumen Gentium 1.1). While the church at Clonard is becoming that kind of Church, we still have miles to go. “Through our ecumenical endeavours we seek to make the “sign” more compelling and politically influential. Alec would want us to become a Church that listens to and learns the lessons from the streets.

The reconciliation imperative covers everything we do. In this Year of the Redemptorist Missionary Vocation we need to review and renew all our relationships in order to serve more effectively God's reconciling will. We need to encourage all our brothers and sisters who celebrate the Eucharist with us in Clonard to make the unity of the Body of Christ their passionate concern.

May Alec, now that he is freer than ever he was here, help us to do just that.


Reflection given by Rev. Harold Good
at Fr Alex’s funeral Mass

It is often said of someone who has made a unique contribution that when history is written that person will be given his or her rightful place. Happily, in the case of Father Alex Reid, neither he nor we had to wait until after his death for a rightful acknowledgement of his contribution to the process which has brought us to where we now are.

For me, it is a very special privilege to be asked to share a personal tribute to my very good friend and brother in Christ.

Fr Alex and I may have appeared to come from very different directions, as indeed we did. Geographically, he was a Tipp man while I am a Derry man. Church-wise, we came from two different denominations. But we soon discovered and took delight in what we had in common. We were not too far apart in age; we enjoyed the same sort of humour and banter. And we shared a love of travel. Travelling with Alex was always an adventure!

Ironically, the best known of our shared journeys was a highly secret one. Like a couple of Old Testament Patriarchs, we set out not knowing where we were going or, more correctly, where we were being taken. But, for Alex, that journey was to be a culmination of all that he had longed for, prayed for, and worked for. I shall not forget that moment when he whispered in my car, “There goes the last gun out of Irish politics.” What a moment, for him, and for all of us!

That journey was one of many we were to share across these islands and across the seas. And on those journeys I soon discovered that Fr Alex possessed two essential gifts for good travelling. The first was the gift of instant friendship. When welcomed aboard by a flight attendant, for example, a typical conversation would go like  this: “And what is your name, dear?” “Marie Therese.” “Marie Therese! What a beautiful name. I've always loved that name...” and/or “I have a sister (or an aunt, or a cousin) by that name.” I was always fascinated by the number of relatives with the appropriate name. But whatever we had paid for, from then on we would be treated as Business Class!

It was a wonderful gift which he used to such good effect on his journeys into unknown political territory and to build trust with and between strangers.

The second was his ability to fall asleep and wake up upon arrival! In a way this was how he coped with situations and conversations which he felt to be irrelevant or pointless.

But Alex and I were fellow travellers on was what for us w the most important journey of all — our journey of faith, two fellow pilgrims often stumbling, seeking to follow in the footsteps of Jesus; the same Jesus who had called each of us to follow him and who, when we were not much more than schoolboys, had called us into ministry, a ministry of reconciliation, in which each of us rejoiced.

This is not to say that Fr Alex and I were not aware of the historic doctrinal differences between the two traditions from which we came. Of course, we were. One could not grow up in any part of this island without being aware of those differences. But for Fr Alex and for me, difference was not about division, fear, bitterness, hatred or bigotry. We had simply been born into and lovingly nurtured in two traditions within the Christian
family, two traditions from which each of us brought something which enriched the faith of the other. We were like two fellow travellers with their packed lunches, each of whom had brought food to share with the other.

Interestingly, as a study of Church history reminds us, this should not be so surprising, for historically Redemptorists and Methodists have much in common.

Both of our movements were founded in the mid-18th century, one founded by Alphonsus Liguori, the other by John Wesley, both of whom shared a passion for social justice and the practical application of the Gospel. So, in the tradition of the founders of our respective orders, Fr Alex and I discovered that we brought this same passion to our shared journey.

For us, a passion for peace with justice; for an end to bigotry and bitterness that invades and destroys the human soul; for the sanctity of each and every human life; for an end to violence; for the healing of our land; and a passion for a Christ-centred solution to our conflict and conflict wherever it existed.

[Rev. Harold Good and Fr Alec Reid]

So, I have to confess, on our shared journey of faith, Fr Alex and I did not spend precious time and energy debating academic, theological issues. Neither of us was particularly interested in the number of angels one could dance on the head of a pin! For us, the pivotal question has been: “In the harsh reality of our broken, divided world, what does it mean for us to live in obedience to the mind and will and purpose of the Christ who has called us to follow him?”

Of course, as so many of us discovered, these journeys were not always easy. There were many twists and turns, diversions, obstacles and roadblocks. Inevitably, there were those who did their best to discourage and divert us. At times it was a lonely journey, at others a weary one.

But for Fr Alex in such moments, his standard response was, “Leave it to the Holy Spirit.” To which I would often respond, “Be careful, Alex, don't push him!” But how right he was, for he knew we had to wait on God's timing.

Now, this earthly part of Alex's journey has come to an end, but, for him, an even greater journey has just begun. And so, on behalf of all of us who have been his fellow travellers, I bid him an ancient blessing:

“Go forth good friend upon your journey from this world
In the name of the Father who created you;
III the name of the Son who has redeemed you;
In the name of the Spirit who has sanctified you;
And all the people of God,
Aided by angels and archangels
And the whole company of heaven.”
And may your journey from us bring you to a place of real and lasting peace, a peace you so richly deserve. Amen.


Reflection offered at Fr Alec's funeral Mass, 
Clonard Church, Belfast 
by President Mary McAleese

[Fr Alec with president Mary McAleese, her husband Martin 
and on the right Clonard rector Michael Murtagh]

Over two hundred years ago in his famous hymn William Cowper wrote that, “God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform.” It is hard to believe Cowper wrote that without having met Alec Reid. The hymn is based on the words of Isaiah 55:8-9: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Alec, known to some as Al, Alex, Alexander or just plain Fr Reid, may at times have seemed like an enigma, a puzzling or inexplicable occurrence - but he was far from it. He was a priest. Not a liturgy and lace man but a humble and ever faithful servant of Jesus; a man who really bought deeply into the idea of the healing power of love, who saw all human beings as sons and daughters of the one Father, and members of the one human family.

This was and remains utterly radical thinking in a community divided against itself by a toxic history which we did not create but which we too often recreated. In this world of people barricaded against one another by contempt, fear and hatred, battling against one another in a conflict that lasted too long and cost too much in wasted human life, there seemed precious little space for a culture of Christian love to flourish, for we Christians had mostly decided to love only our own and to remain estranged from those who were not our very own.

Into this tightly bound world of vanities, where people refused to talk to other people because of a long list of becauses, where violence sharpened tongues and hardened hearts, there came the rather quiet and humble figure of Fr Al Reid. He saw spaces for hope to grow where others saw impregnable irredentist citadels. He saw ways to soften hearts, he found words to persuade the estranged to talk to one another, to take a chance on one another, to find common ground. He believed we were better than we had become, dragged down by the dead weight of an ignoble history. He believed we could between us construct all alternative strategy that would allow us all to live humanly and decently in peace and good neighbourliness, our identities intact, our political ambitions reconciled, our future no longer soured by the poisonous spores cast by the past.

Alec believed that when no one else did, when it all seemed hopeless and he seemed daft, as he toggled between people and groups that over their dead bodies would ever talk to one another. And as he trundled his badly typed alternate strategy day in and day out year after bitter year, he never lost faith in God or hope in us. It took a dire toll on his health, is those of us who were close to him know only too well, but he never complained and the work never stopped.

Even when his quiet, prayerful, pastoral care of the embryonic peace had been of seminal help in the construction of historic ceasefires and the Good Friday agreement itself, Alec kept on working in the service of peace, in the service of Christ and the great commandment to love one another. Invited by the Church to help if he could, in his latter years he quietly brought his distinctive genius to bear on the Basque problem, living often in great discomfort and under stresses we cannot imagine with an ailing body that needed to be cared for but which he refused to put before his work as priest, pastor, peace-maker supreme. I remember the day of the Madrid bombing. Alec was in our house when the news came that suggested, wrongly as it happened, that ETA might have broken their ceasefire. He physically crumbled in front of me in pure distress. Just as he had done on the phone to me the day of the Canary Wharf bombing. I saw then what he so often tried to cover up, the dreadful personal toll that the needless and unconscionable taking of human life took on him. His work on those days lay in ruins. His faith in humanity was sorely tested but not his faith in God, for always in those moments Al would reach for the same words: By the grace of God... with the help of the Holy Spirit... by the power of prayer...

Al talked a lot about the Holy Spirit and almost invariably in sporting terms. As you might expect of a Tipperary man, the images were of the Holy Spirit togged out in the Tipp colours wielding a hurl and him centre forward on the best Tipp team ever. For over twenty years Al would land regularly to our house. I would ask him how he thought things were. The Holy Spirit is on the subs bench, he would say, or worse still, the Holy Spirit was after getting an unmerciful clatter and was carted off field wounded. Ominously, he would say he was going to miss a few matches. On a really bad day, Alec, a tad impatient, would say the Holy Spirit had missed the team bus. On a rare good day, the Holy Spirit was playing a blinder. He was dominating the midfield and had holes punched in the net with his miraculous goals. Al described them with passion as if he had watched them live in Croke park.

Alec patiently but relentlessly punched holes in our thinking. He let light in where we were content to sit in darkness. He skilfully set up the goals that others scored, against the odds, against the run of play. In unlikely backrooms he helped coach key members of the underdog cross-community team that no one rated and, by the mysterious ways of the Lord, it became the team that was to score the great goal of peace. Now with the well-designed custom-made tools that are the Good Friday and the St Andrew's Agreements, as John Hewitt says, we build to fill the centuries' arrears.

[Former President of Ireland, Mary McAleese 
and her husband, Martin]

It will take a lot of hands to fill that mighty gap and thankfully today there are many hands doing the work. But once not so very long ago, there were just a few and among them a humble, simple priest and pastor who looked in the faces of all he met and saw not just Catholic or Protestant, Loyalist or Republican but brothers and sisters in Christ, children of the one God, children made in the image and likeness of God, men and women capable of making peace, sustaining peace and living together in peace, by the grace of God.

May Alec himself now rest in his own richly deserved and hard-earned heavenly peace.


From the homily delivered 
by Fr Michael Kelleher at the Mass 
for Fr Alec Reid at Marianella church, Dublin

God bless. God bless you. If Fr Alec were here this morning that's what he'd be saying to people. Fr Alec was a man of God. It is impossible to really understand his life and work without taking God and his faith in God into account. Fr Alec saw himself as a servant of God in a situation of conflict. For Alec, all those who are baptized are called and sent to be servants of Christ. In situations of conflict all baptized men and women are called and sent by God to engage with that situation of conflict in a Christ-like way. For Fr Alec, the primary role of the servant of Christ in a situation of conflict is to be the pastoral agent of the Holy Spirit in the midst of the conflict.

The first thing to highlight is “in the midst of the conflict.” The Christian must know the conflict “from within” rather than “front without.”

The crucial role for the Christian is to help in identifying the human, moral and spiritual questions, especially the moral questions of good and evil, which are involved in causing and driving the conflict; then in trying to answer those in accordance with the Spirit of Christ, as Christ himself would, no matter what the personal or community consequences may be.

The serving Christian could not survive such a mission or, much less, accomplish it without the Holy Spirit and the power which the Holy Spirit alone can give us. In his Letter to the Ephesians (4:7-13), St Paul outlines how we, as individuals and as communities, have been endowed with the Holy Spirit; gifts, for example, like understanding, wisdom, prudence, courage, patient endurance and, especially, the gift of compassionate love, which are all crucial to the role of the serving Christian in a situation of conflict.

The Christian is sustained by confidence in the Spirit's enabling power. This assures him or her that, however great or even impossible the adversity faced may appear to be, there is always a way through, always a way out, always a way forward, which will be found once he or she waits on the Spirit's guidance and relies on the Spirit's saving power. A relationship of personal trust in the Holy Spirit is, therefore, central to the role of the serving Christian in a situation of conflict.

For Fr Alec, Jesus was the model peacemaker. Jesus lived in the midst of human conflict until he became bone of its bone and flesh of its flesh. He allowed himself to get completely caught up in all its dimensions of good and evil, from the level of the individual to the level of those who wielded political and religious power. As a result, Jesus became embroiled and, in the end, fell victim to the violence, both moral and physical, which is endemic to so many situations of human conflict.
Jesus used companionship as a means of exercising his pastoral influence and leadership. The word “companion' derives from two Latin words which mean “one who eats bread with another.” Jesus often used the table of food and fellowship as an ideal setting for explaining and, indeed, symbolising his message. The companionship practiced by Jesus was of an all-inclusive nature. Jesus was companion to all kinds of sinners. He was accused and rejected for associating with the wrong kind of people.

For Fr Alec, the passage I read earlier from St John's Gospel was central to his understanding of peace­making: —The Word was made flesh and lived amongst us.”Jn 1:14). For Fr Alec, this was and is the crucial Scriptural guideline for the serving Christian in a situation of conflict. He or she must, like Jesus, become personally involved in its full flesh and blood humanity until he or she knows it by heart in all its reality. Fr Alec saw himself as doing that: as becoming personally involved in the conflict's full flesh and blood humanity until he knew it by heart in all its reality. The picture of Fr Alec with the two corporals is an example of that. He literally has blood on his face from giving the “kiss of life” to one of the two men.

Following the example of Jesus, Alec had as a central strategy to create compassionate companionship with all the participants in the midst of the conflict by engaging in direct, ongoing communication and dialogue with them. The aim was to identify the moral and spiritual dimensions of their various positions with a view to deciding on a Christian pastoral response to each of them. For him the first and crucial activity was to listen — to listen in a spirit of Christian compassion and discernment to the viewpoint of the party with which the ministry was in dialogue.

Fr Alec always had a thing about people's names and made a point of using a person's name when talking with him or her. In this simple but important gesture he acknowledged and respected the dignity of that person. For Alec, respect for the dignity of each human person was a crucial attitude.

For Alec, listening was and is crucial to the process of resolving a political conflict because it is by listening to the conflict itself that one discovers the formula for peace. The crucial Scriptural guideline in a situation of conflict is: “The Word was made flesh and lived amongst us.” In other words, the way to peace is to be found within the conflict itself. His experience was that it can always be found there provided those who are seeking it listen to the conflict in a spirit of Christian compassion and discernment. Just listen to the conflict in a spirit of Christian compassion and discernment and you will begin to find the Words of Peace taking flesh. Within a conflict, whenever and wherever the serving Christian, with the help of the Holy Spirit, hears the word of truth, the word of justice, the word of compassion, he or she is hearing the words of Jesus. He or she is listening in effect to the message of Jesus for the resolution of the conflict.

Fr Alec's ministry of Christian reconciliation in the north of Ireland also involved his co-working with other men and women, clergy and lay people, from different Christian traditions, filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, who had the time, skills, experience and, especially, the stamina for such a demanding mission.

Fr Alec had a deep conviction about the need for women to be equal partners in any human process, especially processes of conflict resolution. This conviction, which he often stressed, was felt very deeply by him, and was most likely arrived at through the deep friendship, courage and wisdom he was gifted with by the women in his life. He often said to me that the Northern conflict could have been resolved much more quickly if there were more women involved!

There are several images of Fr Alec that will remain with me forever. One of them is of Alec giving the thumbs up to Queen Elizabeth during the State banquet in Dublin Castle. A couple of months ago I was in Rome and I saw a postcard of Pope Francis giving the thumbs up. I bought a copy for Fr Alec and told him on my return that Pope Francis had given him the thumbs up. He got a hearty laugh out of that.

Over the past few years we have had some hearty laughs together. 'The little postcard was in Fr Alec's bedroom in St Vincent's Hospital when he died and the undertakers put it in the coffin with his remains. I saw it there and smiled. I pray and am confident that Jesus, the Redeemer, the Supreme Peacemaker, the Word made Flesh, will have given Fr Alec the thumbs up last Friday as he arrived in Heaven.

Alec was a good companion; he was a fond friend and had good friends. We will miss our Redemptorist colleague and friend. We will miss his courage, his vision and his remarkable modesty. And we will be proud of him always.

Ar dheis De go raibh a anam dilis. Amen.

[May his soul be at the right side of God. Amen.]