The Oratory Larne Last Night


I cannot remember ever meeting anyone with the name Emmanuel until I came to Belfast in 1978 at the age of 26.
Then, all of a sudden, I met a whole lot of Emmanuel’s on the Fall’s Road.
The Belfast people have a habit of shortening names – especially complicated names like Emmanuel.
So all the Emmanuel’s I met in Belfast were called “Bap” – Bap McAreavey, Bap Dundon, Bap Stitt.
I have never been able to work out how you get Bap out of Emmanuel.
So, I did what many people do these days – I searched the meaning of Bap on the internet and I found:

• Your name, Bap, creates an independent, determined, and persevering nature.

• You desire to work on your own or at least where you are making your own decisions.

• You enjoy working with your hands and can be resourceful and inventive along practical lines.

• Being much focused on your pursuits, at times you overlook the personal considerations and attentions that create understanding and companionship with others.

• This name causes you to suffer with self-consciousness in new situations and an inability to be diplomatic when situations warrant.

• You are loyal in friendships and express candidly.

• You enjoy outdoors activities with a few close friends.
Health Analysis
• Tension could affect the eyes, ears, teeth, or sinuses. Frequent head colds or headaches.
So, there you go – someone out there is an expert on the name Bap – and I am wiser today that I have been for over 60 years.

We meet today to remember and be with the most famous Emmanuel ever – our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
He was indeed independent, determined and persevering.
He did work on His own and made His own decisions – doing the will of His Father and in companionship with his disciples.
He enjoyed working with His hands as he was a carpenter.
He was focused on his pursuits and some people liked Him and others hated Him.
I don’t think He was self-conscious in new situations and he was not always diplomatic.
And I don’t think He suffered head colds in the nice warm climate of Israel

We know that from the point of view of the Bible and our Christian faith, Emmanuel means “God is with us”. The prophet Isaiah used it 700 years before Jesus came when he told the leader of his people, Ahaz who was under military siege, that God was with him.

We who believe in Jesus, hopefully, are aware at all times, the good times and the bad times, that God is with us?
But, of course, it probably becomes more important to us, that God is with us in the bad times when we feel “under siege.
For each person those sieges differ:
We might be sick or have a loved one who is sick?
We might be struggling financially?
We might be experiencing problems in our families and relationships?
We might be suffering with depression or anxiety?
We might be experiencing loss or grief?
We might be trapped in an unbearable job or an unbearable marriage?
We might be living with painful memories or harbouring an oppressing secret?

There are so many forms of suffering and pain that are possible.
We see it everyday on our television screens.
And therefore, it is more important than ever that we have a reason to have hope.
St. Peter said in his first letter:
“But in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to defend yourself to anyone who asks you for the reason that you have the hope you have”.
And the reason that those of us who are gathered here today have hope is because we believe in Emmanuel – we believe that God is with us.
That does not mean that our lives will always be easy.
But it does mean that, easy or hard, our lives will always have meaning.
The great philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said:


Our WHY is Jesus Christ – Emmanuel.
He will see us through any, and every HOW.
Corrie Ten Boom was a Dutch watchmaker who work with her father. She helped many Jews escape the Nazis and when she was caught she was sent to a concentration camp. The wrote the following poem to express how and why she never lost hope and hope in God.


“My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colours
He weaveth steadily.

Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.

Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned

He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.”

― Corrie ten Boom

I don’t know about you? But I trust the Weaver more than I trust myself.


41 replies on “PAT’S CHRISTMAS HOMILY 2018.”

A thoughtful homily Pat. I have put my own together after reflecting for the past week. Tonight I received positive reactions, (which I imagine you did also), not for its prose style, but because I tapped into similar poverties of people’s lives as I know them through my work. It is a day to uplift, nourish and touch the inner thirst of people, to try in some way answer their questions, their longings. I know people were listening – the silence of waiting and expectation was evident, so I’m glad I gathered much thoughts, stories, realities, poetry and prayer and shared all with the congregation. Yes, I know there are some who will come to Church reluctanly for personal reasons of hurtful abuse, but I hope God will find their hearts and give hope and healing to them. Enjoy your Christmas Pat with your family and loved ones. Shalom.


9.13: Magna, peace in your heart….May it find deep roots. Mind yourself – in every way. Pat, enjoy your day – Christ bless you.


I’ve read quite a few of Corrie Ten Boom’s books, and I admire her courage and her steadfastness, all sourced from the well of grace, Christ himself.

But I’ve never liked those words of hers: ‘Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow…’

Does God ‘weave’ sorrow into our lives? I don’t think so. And I shouldn’t like him much if he did. Life itself weaves pain and sorrow for each and every one of us, and God allows it in order that weariness (in the words of that poet whose name I cannot remember) may toss us onto his ‘breast’ for comfort and help, for healing and wholeness.


MC, You have touched on a great mystery. Looking back, I have felt closer to God during the times I was suffering? i often wonder if suffering is the `currency` of the Kingdom of Heaven?


In times of despair, I turn to God and he is always very close. I think he is there all the time but I am usually too busy thinking how well I am doing to think of him!


I think, Bishop Pat, that our greatest sin, as it were, is self-reliance. This quality is not, and cannot be, redemptive, since God’s grace alone is sanctifying.

Suffering and sorrow is part and parcel of this life; God knows it and laments it. (How else could a loving parent feel?) But he knows, too, that the very thing that makes his children weep also can be the cause which drives them to seek help…from him. And he WILL help, in all sorts of ways. He will also try, through the experience, to bind that child, with its consent, closer to his own heart, teaching it to rely more on him. and less on itself and others. It is a rebirthing of human life.

One thing I hate because it’s a lie, is when people say: ‘God sometimes says ‘no’.’ Nonsense! He NEVER says ‘no’ when a beloved child turns to him for help. Why would he turn this child away with empty hands?

God ALWAYS says ‘YES!’…and with a glad and grateful heart that a child of his has acknowledged God’s existence.

When weariness, through suffering, drives you, even as a last resort, into the arms of God, go there expecting help. God HATES it when a child of his turns to him expecting nothing from him.


`Always try and say YES. And if you have to say NO make it sound as much like YES as possible`. Archbishop Helder Camara.


10 .25: Magna, my belief is that “we” inflict the sorrow and pain – we, each of us, often deliberately hurt others by our actions, words, attitudes, nastiness. Indeed, this blog often allows the weaving of hurt into the lives of others! God only desires what is best for us and in Christ we see the beauty and transforming power of love and goodness. John O Donighue speaks of Christmas as – “the Feast of the great presence….where the healing of heaven flows unto a wounded earth…” A lovely, inspiring thought.


Magna may be a little OTT at times. But the question needs to be asked: Why does he feel and think this way? A. Because certain clerical members have tarnished his image of the Church and I, as a Catholic priest, am deeply saddened and appalled at this.

Magna & Pat, I wish you both a very Happy Christmas and you are in my prayers.

PS – not all of we Catholic priests are bad. And I am thoroughly ashamed at some of the actions and inactions of many of my so-called confreres. I make no excuse for them and they will answer to God for their crimes and sins.

God bless and Mary protect.


Bishop Pat @ 10:53
I like those words, but they don’t quite hit the mark.
I much prefer the words in Matthew’s gospel: ‘Or what man is there of you, whom if his son asks bread, will give him a stone?’
Sometimes we just can’t take it in that God WANTS to give us good things, including healing of all kinds; but we have been brainwashed by churches to see God as unrelenting, wrathful, judgemental, revengeful, punitive. How on Earth could we approach God expectantly with these horrors in mind? And yet we do, because we have, from an early age, been conditioned to do so. Sadly, this lack of expectation is tantamount to a lack of faith; and as the Gospel makes clear, sometimes Jesus could not work miracles because his desire to do so was stymied by a lack of faith.
If faith can move mountains, lack of it can make them disappear altogether.


You question Magna’s methods. Why do you think he should play by the Church’s polite rules of discourse? Those of us who did that found that our complaints were ignored. I say well done Magna. Keep heaping the caca at the bishops and keep challenging those brainwashed by the institution.


(I acknowledge your question was rhetorical). We are in agreement as to the failures of some priests/bishops.
I wish you well.


Bishop Pat,
Happy Christmas and blessings for the New Year. Thanks for the blog.
MC, ( Soldier of Peace👍),
God is Love(r). Love gives ;
the Lord hears our prayers but will not give what He, in his omnipotence, knows is harmful. He permits. He teases.
He cajoles.He challenges. He is hidden( in bread) and humble and little. He is fire !🔥
Woundedness is ‘par for the course’ for all humanity; (some are more deeply wounded than others).
The Lord shows us what we can become through intimacy with the Father.
Today, ( everyday, hour, moment) He is with us. He is….
Praise God.


Pat Mullaney last night in the Cafe Bum Bum and the few drinks in her roaring about climate change and going green and recycling her bottles of drink and weeping over the poor wee polar bears choking on the plastic bags twas a holy show she made of herself so ‘twas.


There was genuine pathos in Mullaney preaching about climate change to the gathering of abortionists, athiests, lapsed Catholics, Grindrs and the downright hostile in the disused college chapel.
He could have chosen to preach an actual religious sermon about the Incarnation but he realised that they were only there for the music.
Or he could have preached a challenging sermon to his once-a-year congregation but he realised that they were only there for the music.
So instead he gave a First Arts geography student’s lecture, preaching to the converted and freed from the risk that anyone might disagree with him or be discomfited. Because he knew they were only there for the music.


Judgemental verbiage and delusional religiosity which fails to recognise genuine faith concerns in a concern for the survival of the planet. Do the church and the world a favour: stay at home.


Didn’t you get the email? Climate change is at the very heart of the Gospel if only you look carefully enough.

Fr Mullaney seemed depressed and he flattened the mood somewhat.


The verdict in the Lancaster case suggests that any seminarian who was sexually assaulted by a fellow seminarian may now seek justice. The guilty no longer have a place to hide.


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