You dwell in that safe place in our hearts,
Where no storm or night or pain can reach you.
Brightening over our lives
Awakening beneath the dark
A further adventure of colour.
Found for us
A new music
That brightened everything.
Quickened in the joy of its being;
You placed smiles like flowers
On the altar of the heart.
Your mind always sparkled
With wonder at things.
Your spirit was live, awake, complete.
From the old distance of our names;
Now you dwell inside the rhythm of breath,
As close to us as we are to ourselves.
We know our soul’s gaze is upon your face,
Smiling back at us from within everything
To which we bring our best refinement.
Where we would grow lonely without you.
You would want us to find you in presence,
Beside us when beauty brightens,
When kindness glows
And music echoes eternal tones.
Darkest winter has turned to spring;
May this dark grief flower with hope
In every heart that loves you.
To serve the call of courage and love
Until we see your beautiful face again
In that land where there is no more separation,
Where all tears will be wiped from our mind,
and where we will never lose you again.
Liamy MacNally in THE MAYO NEWSIt is fitting that his latest book is entitled Benedictus – A Book of Blessings. The fresh ripples of its words have still not reached the shore and he is gone. John O’Donohue is dead. Cruel death has torn the son from his mother, Josie. A brother has been stolen from two men and a woman. A godfather of souls has been wrenched from among the people.
He would have enjoyed the descriptions at his passing. “The well-known writer and poet…the philosopher…the author…the scholar.” They are but mere words to let us know that he was loved and he loved. My Midwest Radio colleague, Gerry Glennon, made no apology about always describing John O’Donohue as ‘a national treasure’. Gerry had the honour of introducing John O’Donohue to a
“Your heart has grown heavy with loss;
And though this loss has wounded others too,
No one knows what has been taken from you
When the silence of absence deepens.”
THE CONAMARA MAN FROM CLARE
John O’Donohue was a native of Clare and lived in Conamara. He is best known as the author of Anam Cara, a book on Celtic spirituality. He was due to travel to
“…in buoyant ease
Between the fill and fall
Of waves Of Hail Marys.”
He had his faults, some he acknowledged and some he preferred not to talk about, like the rest of us. He liked company and enjoyed good food and good drink. He was funny and charming, yet very private. He loved language and had a great grá for the national tongue in which he was a fluent speaker. He was earthy and academic. He knew about the ‘living history’ of the stone walls in the west of
He appeared to some people to be a mass of contradictions but he was simply a rooted intellectual. ‘The long fellow’ was gifted in having his feet on the ground even when his head was in the clouds. He was forever the pilgrim soul, always on the journey home and forever enjoying the scenery on the detour.
One of his great legacies is his voice. We are blessed in that John O’Donohue’s recordings are available. His topics are many, centring on various themes of Celtic spirituality and the great sense of Being that is God, from Divine Beauty to Eternal Echoes. His voice has a resonance that is hard to find. It is reminiscent of the power of the ‘creative breath’ – ruah in Hebrew. Every sentence has been carefully crafted. Every word has a meaning and every letter has a place. He is enjoyable listening. He commands attention by the tone of his voice, not out of any sense of fear but rather that one is afraid one might miss something important.
His insights are more One-derful than wonderful. His sense of the Divine Imagination is immense. He can link up thoughts and ideas and keep us tuned in to who we are, where we came from and where we are going. He is like the signpost on life’s journey. It is hard to believe that he is gone.
The Catholic prayers of commendation spring to mind – ‘May the angels lead you into Paradise; May the martyrs come to welcome you and take you to the Holy City, the new and eternal Jerusalem; May the choirs of angels welcome you and lead to the bosom of Abraham where Lazarus is poor no longer; May you find eternal rest.’
Fr. Kevin Hegarty wrote the following piece some days Before John’s death…(again in The Mayo News)
Fr Kevin Hegarty
I knew John O’Donohue before he became a spiritual superstar. I am not referring to the Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann, now becalmed in the chair after a feisty career on the floor of the house. I am referring to the author of ‘Anam Cara’, which became a best-seller throughout the English-speaking world.
John and I went to
John found his natural habitat in the lecture halls and the library. I must confess I did not always understand him. The range of his thought and the intricacy of its expression sometimes baffled me. Wryly I comforted myself with Oscar Wilde’s aphorism that ‘to be intelligible is to be found out’.
But John was no killjoy, wrapped in an ivory tower, looking askance at the preoccupations of ordinary mortals. He often touched down in our everyday world. He had a capacity for fun and the grace of being able to laugh at himself. He once took part with a group of friends in the Maynooth Song Contest. One of my abiding memories of my time in college is of John, already in thrall to the rigorous charms of the German philosopher Heidegger, belting out with gusto Dolly Parton’s hymn to cosy easy living, ‘Blanket on the Ground’.
I know that it sounds like a scene from ‘Fr Ted’. Many clerics think that the ‘Fr Ted’ series was outrageous, exaggerated and disrespectful. I don’t agree with them. I have met Fr Teds, Fr Jacks, Fr Dougals and Fr Stones. However, wild horses (and the laws of libel) will not drag their names from me in this column.
After ordination, John honed his intellect in the strict atmosphere of a German university. On his return to
His ecclesiastical superiors became suspicious of his growing reputation. They sought to clip his wings by imprisoning him in a busy curacy where they hoped he would have less time for flights of fancy. They may have hoped that his imagination would wilt somewhat under the sodden weight of careful clerical conversation in the presbytery. It was as if Crossmolina GAA confined the contribution of Ciarán McDonald to carrying the jerseys for their third string team.
John took the brave decision to leave the comfortable clerical zone and strike out on his own. From this decision has flowed a career of sparkling lectures and thought-provoking books. He has an audience that spans a huge range of human experience from ageing nuns to exuberant eco-warriors. His first book, ‘Anam Cara’ – his take on the spiritual wisdom of the Celtic world – burst on the tired religious publishing world like an array of daffodils on a dark end of winter landscape. All his books are distinguished by their philosophical underlay, his acute perception of the light and darkness of human nature, his awesome awareness of the power of landscape, his poetic intensity and his profound integrity. He has devoted himself to minting a new language for contemporary spiritual experience.
His latest book, ‘Benedictus’, is a wonderful book of blessings for a diversity of human experiences. One of them, ‘A New Year Blessing’, is apt for the week that’s in it.
A New Year Blessing
On the day when
The weight deadens
On your shoulders
And you stumble,
May the clay dance
To balance you.
And when your eyes
The grey window
And the ghost of loss
Gets into you,
May a flock of colours
Indigo, red, green
And azure blue,
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays
In the currach of thought
And a stain of ocean
Blackens beneath you,
May there come across the waters
A path of yellow moonlight
To bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
Wind work these words
Of love around you,
An invisible cloak
To mind your life.
— John O’Donohue