Michæl McFarland Campbell

Always telling the story

European Men’s Internet Sex Survey 2024

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I have just been sent (and have now completed) the EMIS study (European Men’s Internet Sex Survey) 2024. It is completely anonymous and provides vital information about gay men’s health in Ireland and Europe. 

EMIS, a collaborative effort involving the academic, community, and governmental entities throughout Europe, was initiated in 2010 and reiterated in 2017, generously supported by the European Union Health Programme. Its primary objective is to inform interventions concerning sexual health among men who have sex with men (MSM).

The overarching goal of EMIS is to delineate the divergent sexual health requirements among various demographics of men, alongside estimating the prevalence of distinct risk and precautionary behaviours.

As a result of EMIS, an extensive array of technical and community reports have been generated, accompanied by numerous scientific publications. Moreover, the project has established 26 indicators spanning 60 countries across four continents, integrated within the UNAIDS Key Population Atlas.

The profound impact of EMIS is evident in the transformation it has instigated within the landscape of gay health across numerous European nations.

If you live in Europe (including the United Kingdom), it would be great if you could participate. The survey is at http://www.emis-project.eu/.

There is a lot of information about the survey, please click on the number 2024 to bring you to the survey. 

Please encourage your friends or family who are gay or bisexual to complete it, too. 

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

April 12th, 2024 at 2:49 am

Which victory are we celebrating?

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Thoughts on Palm Sunday 2024

Today, many Christians hold palm branches in their hands. In the ancient world, palm branches were the symbol of victory. For the Israelites in the Old Testament, this tree’s elegance, strength, and simplicity became a symbol of the just man or woman, the one in whom God’s law triumphed. It also symbolised victory for the Romans. Palm trees were not native to Italy. When the Romans started conquering other nations in the Mediterranean, the generals brought palm trees back to Rome as souvenirs of their victories.

The crowds waving palm branches as Jesus entered Jerusalem were declaring his victory.

Today, we echo them, we join them, and we declare and celebrate Christ’s victory. But what victory is it? How did Christ win it?

It is the victory over original sin. Original sin was mankind’s disobedience to God and obedience to the devil. It shattered God’s plan, it let loose the scourge of evil, and it gave the devil a certain power over earthly society.

Jesus, through his passion, death, and resurrection, reversed the disobedience of original sin by obeying his Father’s will in spite of all the devil’s attempts to thwart him.

Judas’s betrayal, the apostles’ abandonment, the false accusations, the condemnation, the humiliation, the scourging, the crowning with thorns, and the torture of the crucifixion, all of these were the devil’s attempts to get Jesus to say “no” to his Father just as Adam and Eve had said “no” back in the Garden of Eden.

But Jesus defeated the devil. He continued to love, to forgive, and to obey through it all. And so he, unlike Adam, unlike every other person in history, can say, “I have not rebelled.”

His obedience establishes a beachhead in this world that is under the devil’s sway: Jesus’s Passion is D-Day for the devil, and liberation for us. This is the victory we celebrate.

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

March 24th, 2024 at 8:30 am

Posted in Sunday Relections

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The Phœnix, the altar frontals, and the Protestant nuns

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It is often said that the truth is stranger than fiction. On Tuesday, Rachel Phelan A-ICRI, the lecturer at the first of the “Of the Cloth” lectures at Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, brought together three unlikely strands that told the story of two altar frontals.

For those who don’t know, an altar frontal is a cloth that covers (at least) the top and front of an altar or Communion Table, particularly in Roman Catholic and Anglican traditions. Often made of silk damask of the liturgical colours, they may also have Christian symbols embroidered upon them.

The story begins

Rachel’s story began with her being asked to conserve one such altar frontal in Kilternan Church of Ireland in south County Dublin. The frontal in question is somewhat of an oddity in that it is in quite a rich blue. Blue is not one of the more normal liturgical colours (white or gold, red, green, violet or purple, rose, and black). Not only is the frontal blue, but it has lots of fleurs-de-lys embroidered upon it. When Rachel saw the frontal, it was very threadbare after constant usage.

Information from the parish

She didn’t know who had made the frontal, but a parish member came forward with the information that a Mr Myerscough had commissioned it with his winnings from the 1943 Irish Derby. It was stated that he had also commissioned another frontal for St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. The latter piece of information surprised Rachel as she had worked on conserving the frontals in the National Cathedral, and she had no recollection of such a piece. However, she did recall something from the back of a cupboard in the diocesan Christ Church Cathedral.

The frontal in Kilternan had a maker’s label on it,

St John’s School of Embroidery,
Sandymount, Dublin

Where was this school of embroidery? Who ran it? Rachel contacted St John’s Church in Sandymount. It became apparent that the St John’s School of Embroidery was run by the Community of St John the Evangelist (CSJE), founded in Sandymount in 1912 by the Reverend Sheridan Fletcher Le Fanu. The first nuns, including Sister Edith Mary Whiteman, came from St Mary’s Wantage. The members of CSJE were referred to as the Protestant nuns.

On arrival in Dublin, the nuns did not know how to sew. But they took lessons from a Dublin seamstress, and having seen the work on the frontal in Kilternan church, Rachel confirmed that their work in 1943 was excellent.

Rachel contacted Christ Church Cathedral and discovered a green frontal for the high altar, which dates from 1943 and has similar flowers, though it is different from that in Kilternan.

Other examples of altar frontals worked on by the St John’s School of Embroidery include that on the high altar in St Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick.

Photo of the high altar in St Mary's Cathedral Limerick with a Celtic design upon it.

More about the CSJE

By the 1960s, the work of the CSJE changed as they moved from their original home to that of the Community of St Mary the Virgin, another Irish Anglican religious order for women, where they took over looking after the nursing home there. St Mary’s home was relocated to St John’s House on Merrion Road in November 2019, when only one member of the CSJE left. Sister Verity Ann Clarendon CSJE said at the time of the final service in St Mary’s Chapel,

I’m the only one left.

She added that the demise of the Community was a great loss. With its demise the expression of the religious life within the Church of Ireland more or less came to an end. It is not quite at an end with there being members of the First Order and Third Order of the Society of St Francis, as well as the fledgling Community of St Benedict.

And The Phœnix?

Now, I’ve not quite explained everything have I? Where does The Phœnix come in? That was the name of the horse that won the 1943 Irish Derby owned by Mr Myerscough. Without the winnings from that race, the two altar frontals would not have been commissioned by him, and we would not have had the lecture on Tuesday.

Of the Cloth: a series of four lectures

Tuesday’s talk was the first of the “Of the Cloth” series of lectures organised by Christ Church Cathedral Dublin for the Tuesdays during February 2024. The second lecture will be by Dom Colmán Ó Clabaigh of Glenstal Abbey on Medieval ecclesiastical and liturgical vesture. The third lecture will be by the Very Reverend Niall Sloane, Dean of Limerick, entitled “Robing the righteous: From ruffs, rochets, and caps to frockcoats, cassocks, and gaiters”. The fourth lecture is by The Venerable Peter Thompson FBS, Archdeaon of Armagh, entitled “Dressing by degrees: the convergence of ecclesiastical vesture and academic dress”. The four lectures are at 13:10 in the Chapter House of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin on the Tuesdays of February 2024. Find out more.

God fulfils his promises

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Reflections on Readings for the First Sunday of Advent (Year B). Isaiah 64:1–9; | Psalms 80:1–8, 18–2; | First Corinthians 1:3-9; | Mark 13:24–37;

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God knows the limitations of our human nature very well — after all, he created it. We can only focus our attention — really focus it — on one or two things at a time. We cannot keep everything in mind all at once. On the other hand, we cannot focus our attention on the same thing all the time either. Variety is what we need, otherwise we become depressed.

It is these limitations of our human nature that caused God to inspire the Church to divide the year into different liturgical seasons. The mystery of our salvation includes the whole Bible, the whole life of Christ, and the whole history of the Church. But we cannot possibly keep all of those things in mind all the time.

So we focus on different aspects of them at different times of the year (which has the added benefit of giving variety to our spiritual lives):

  • in Lent we focus on the reality of sin and mercy and the need for repentance;
  • during Easter we focus on the power of God and the Resurrection;
  • during Ordinary Time we focus on the everyday life and teachings of Christ and the wisdom they impart for our everyday lives;
  • and now, during Advent, we focus on God’s faithfulness.

St Paul puts it briefly in today’s Epistle Reading: “God is faithful.”

God did not abandon the human race after original sin. He promised to send a Saviour, and he fulfilled his promise on the very first Christmas.

And God has also promised that this Saviour, Jesus Christ, will come again to bring our earthly exile to its completion, just as in Old Testament times, God brought his Chosen People out of their exile in Babylon, as today’s Old Testament Reading reminded us.

God is faithful; he will fulfil his promises – that’s one of the key themes for Advent.

Multiple symbols in the Advent wreath

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Perhaps the most familiar and universal symbol of this beautiful truth is the Advent wreath with its four candles, which Christians have used for over 1000 years.

The wreath’s circular shape gives it no beginning or end — perfectly symbolizing the eternity of God and His love; and the everlasting life Christ wants to give to each of us. Traditional wreaths include evergreen trees reminding us that Christ’s love remains fresh and strong even in the most difficult moments of life. He never abandons us. Many wreaths contain laurel and holly branches. The laurel branch is an ancient symbol of victory, reminding us that on the first Christmas Christ came to bring victory over sin and the Devil. The holly branches are bordered with prickly edges, reminding us of Christ’s Crown of Thorns, and the suffering by which He won His victory over sin and evil.

Christ has promised us all of this, and he wants us to rejoice in these promises, confident that since he is faithful, he can and will fulfil them.

Cleaning out the corners

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In today’s Old Testament Reading, Isaiah says,

Lord, you are our Father.

Isaiah 64:8

By reminding us today that God always fulfils his promises, the Church wants to put that same prayer in our hearts.

God is our Father. He is always looking after us, protecting us, and loving us. Unlike our earthly fathers, God’s fatherly love has no limits, no imperfections, and no blind spots. Advent is meant to be a time when we renew our awareness of the perfect Fatherhood of God in our lives, letting His love for us renew our spirits.

The best way to do that is to spend more time with God in prayer during this Advent season. But that will be impossible unless something else happens first. Prayer is a funny thing. Even though we usually do not see God with our physical eyes or hear Him with our physical ears, when we turn our attention to Him, He is really present, and we know it. As we become aware of His presence, we also, almost automatically, become aware of our own sinfulness because God is truth, and His light shines into all the hidden corners of our hearts. If in those corners, we have been hiding some sins which we have not repented of, or some sinful habit we are harbouring, as soon as we try to pray sincerely, they come into view and distract us.

Therefore, if we want to spend more time in prayer this Advent, filling our hearts with the Father’s goodness and wisdom, the first thing we need to do is to clean those dark corners of our lives by confessing our sins to God.

Today, as we begin this sacred season, let us promise that we will let Him clean up our dark corners, so that we can enjoy His presence as we prepare for the great commemoration of Christmas Day.

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

December 3rd, 2023 at 8:30 am

Confidence in God leads to interior peace

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Reflection on readings for the 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A), Sunday 5 November 2023. Malachi 1:14–2:2, 8-10; | Psalms 131:1, 2, 3; | First Thessalonians 2:7-9, 13; | Matthew 23:1-12.

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God Himself is the source of all grace, all light, and all hope. If we look anywhere else for stability in our lives, sooner or later, we will be deeply disappointed. This is the point Malachi makes in the First Reading.

He is trying to get selfish, corrupt priests to get back to basics. He wants them to stop fighting among themselves, creating their own little cliques of self-absorbed followers. He reminds us:

“Have we not the one father? Has not the one God created us?”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tries to tell us the same thing. He explains to His followers that the scribes and Pharisees have lost touch with the source and purpose of their service to the people of God. They have become conceited and self-centred, thinking their wisdom comes from themselves. But God is the source of all wisdom, goodness, and grace. He is the Father of us all, the rabbis and priests are simply His messengers, not His managers.

Even St Paul expresses his joy because the Thessalonians recognised the message he brought them as being from God, not from him. It is easy for us to forget this most important truth. It is easy for us to start to expect fulfilment, happiness, and meaning to come from our achievements, our relationships, our reputations, or any number of other transient things. But true, lasting meaning and happiness can only come from God.

As we accept and absorb that truth, we will begin to experience spiritual stability in our lives, an interior peace that nothing can disturb, just like the peace described in today’s Psalm: “In you Lord,” the Psalmist writes as he describes his soul as being like a little child in his mother’s arms, “In you, Lord, I have found my peace.”

Wisdom from an old farmer

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This interior peace, which comes only from knowing that we are loved and treasured by God that our lives have true meaning through our friendship with him, gives us inner strength and stability. A minister from a Midwest farming community tells a story of an encounter he had after Sunday worship one time.

The subject of his sermon had been the Gospel passage where Jesus invites us all to “come to be, you who labour and are heavy-burdened, and I will give you rest; take my yoke upon you… for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30). After the service, while speaking to the congregation at the door, a man came up and told him, about his boyhood days.

My grandfather used to plough with a team of oxen. He used a yoke, but it never balanced. So, he built it heavier on one side and then hitched the stronger ox there. The other side was lighter and he put a weak ox there because he could pull as much.

That is what God wants to do with us. That’s why He sent His son to be one of us and accompany us through life. We are not meant to plough the field of life all by ourselves. When we try to, we make little progress, we get frustrated, and maybe we even give up entirely when the crop of happiness and fulfilment we are hoping for never materialises. We were made to live in communion with God, to be dependent on Him. To find the interior peace and stability we long for so much, we have to accept Christ’s yoke, letting Him take the heavy part and carrying our part right by His side.

That is exactly what the Pharisees and scribes forgot. That is exactly what Jesus wants to make sure we never forget.

Checking up on our spiritual foundation

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This is the kind of interior peace and stability that God wants to give us. He wants us to have a sure anchor in our storms, and he wants us to be able to help others weather their storms too. We can ask ourselves, how deep does my spiritual foundation go? Can I really repeat the words of the Psalm with all my heart: “In you, Lord, I have found my peace.”? If not, some self-reflection may be in order.

If we do not build our lives on the foundation of God’s love for us, of His passionate interest in us, then we must be building on some other foundation. What is that foundation?

Perhaps it is the false foundation of our own achievements. We may think that interior peace and satisfaction will come once we reach a particular career milestone, get into a particular university, or make a certain amount of money.

Maybe it is the false foundation of pleasure. We are vulnerable to addictions of all kinds, to over-indulgence leading to unbalanced lives.

Or is it the false foundation of popularity? If we find ourselves disobeying our conscience and renouncing our friendship with Christ out of fear of what others will say or think about us, we will never experience the peace that only the Lord can give.

As we continue through this week, let’s ask the Holy Spirit to give us two things: first, the interior enlightenment to identify where our spiritual foundations really are; and second, the interior strength to start laying a new foundation, a true one, built on God’s wisdom, love, and grace, if we need to. And, if we don’t need a brand new one, the Holy Spirit will gladly help us make repairs on the one we have.

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

November 5th, 2023 at 11:59 am

Love for God and neighour cannot be separated

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Reflection on the Sunday readings for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A), Sunday 29 October 2023. Exodus 22:20-26; | Psalms 18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51; | First Thessalonians 1:5-10; | St Matthew 22:34-40.

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The ‘law and the prophets’ that Jesus refers to in today’s Gospel (the Old Testament) were considered by the Jews to contain the absolutely unique self-revelation of the one, true God to His only Chosen People. Possessing this revelation made ancient Israel more privileged than all other nations and peoples. Therefore, when the Pharisee (like all Pharisees, he was an expert in the ‘law and the prophets’) asks Jesus to identify the greatest among the 613 commandments of the Old Testament, he is really challenging Jesus to give an interpretation of the entire history and reality of the Israelite nation. We can imagine Jesus fixing His eyes on those of the questioner, wondering how sincere the question really was.

St Matthew does not tell us how the Pharisee reacted. However, we can imagine his surprise, if not downright shock. Although Jesus had been asked to name one commandment, he listed two. Shrewd Pharisees would have noticed this. In listing two commandments, Jesus pointed out that you cannot separate loving God from loving one’s neighbour. Yet, that is exactly what many Pharisees did daily.

God is our Creator and our Saviour. His Love is both universal and personal. He loves every single human so much that He gave Jesus’ life on the Cross to pay the price for each person’s sin, to open the gates of heaven to every single person who is willing to follow Him. Therefore, if we truly love God with all our heart, it would be a contradiction no treat our neighbours — those very people God loves and for whom Jesus suffered to save — with sincere and self-sacrificing respect. The old saying applies above all to God: A friend of yours is a friend of mine.

Rescuing the abandoned in ancient Rome

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In ancient Rome, Christians used to use Catacombs for their burial places. These Catacombs consist of miles of underground tunnels and chambers painstakingly carved out of the unique tufa soil on the city’s outskirts. Tufa is a mixture of normal topsoil and elements from volcanic ash and lava. As long as it is not exposed to the air, it shows no special characteristics except that it is remarkably soft and easy to dig. When you excavate into it, exposing it to the air, it gradually becomes almost as hard as rock. It was the perfect environment to create a vast network of underground cemeteries, chapels, and hiding places.

We can still visit these Catacombs today. When we do, we notice that in addition to the normal graves, there are thousands of little horizontal niches dug into the walls of the passageways. Two or three feet long, less than a foot high, two or three feet deep, these niches are much too small to serve as a burial place for a fully-grown body. Recently, archaeologists discovered what these niches were used for.

In ancient Rome, when Christianity was still a minority, outlawed religion, it was common practice for pagan women to abandon by exposure unwanted or crippled babies. There were special clearings outside the city used for just this purpose. As Christianity spread, Christian women started going out to these clearings to rescue the unwanted babies, convinced they were loved by God and created in His image. Some of the babes would die from exposure before or soon after being rescued. When that happened, the Christians would bury these babies in the little niches in the Catacombs.

In this way, at great cost and inconvenience to themselves, they actively lived out Christ’s commandment to love.

A secret weapon for Christ-like love

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In today’s world, aren’t we all very busy? Sometimes, we even feel much too busy to take the time to reach out to our neighbours in need. It is very possible, however, that at the end of our life, we will see things quite differently. But in the midst of our busy-ness, we can make an effort to love God by loving our neighbour, precisely in the way we interact with the people around us. A true follower of Jesus should always remember that people matter more than things. We should never be too busy for a kind word or a sincere smile.

Those of us who really are super-busy can also use a secret weapon that allows us to do more in less time, to fulfil both of Jesus’s two great commandments in one action. It doesn’t add anything at all to our to-do-list or calendar. It is so simple we might be tempted to shrug it off when I tell you — that would be a big mistake. What is this secret weapon? Praying for others.

When we pray for others we are exercising both loves at the same time: we show our love for God, by talking to Him and expressing confidence in His goodness and power; and we show our love for our neighbour by caring about them.

Each one of us should have a list of people for whom we pray regularly — family members, coworkers, orphans, politicians, Christians suffering persecution… We should keep our list somewhere we will have a chance to use it. Perhaps near the windscreen of our car, or the counter where we fold our laundry, perhaps near the sink where we wash the dishes… it is said that the Pope keeps his on his kneeler, where he does his morning and evening prayers.

Praying regularly and sincerely for others is the secret weapon for loving God and loving our neighbour. Let’s promise to use that weapon well this week.

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

October 29th, 2023 at 8:59 am

God is good, patient, and merciful…

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Reflection on the readings for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary time (Year A): Isaiah 5:1–7; Psalm 80:8–19; Philippians 4:6–9; Matthew 21:33–43

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Today, God reminds us that all good things in life have come from Him. Many people get angry at God and ask why He allows bad things to happen. Fewer people are humble and honest enough to ask themselves a much more important question:

Why do good things happen, why is there any good in the world at all, where did it come from?

We ought to think more about the answer to those questions.

The readings today paint the picture of a vineyard or a garden. Gardens are environments carefully created by gardeners in order to enable plants to be healthy and reach maturity, bearing abundant fruit.

God sees our souls as gardens of virtue. Just as God supplied the vineyard with air, sunlight, water, soil, the wall to protect it, and the tower to guard it, so He supplies each one of us with life, talents, opportunities, family, sacraments, knowledge, conscience, and the guidance of the Church. There is no good thing we an think of that does not owe its origin and existence to God.

One of the best things God gives us is His mercy, His patience.

Today’s readings how how many chances God gives His tenants to do the right thing, to fulfil their duties, to do what they were put there to do. When they do not do what is right, God sends three different messengers, including His own son. In justice, however, He did not need to send any. He could have evicted the selfish stewards right away. But God is patient with our sin and selfishness. He keeps giving us more and more chances, many more than we deserve. He never gives up on us, even though we occasionally give up on ourselves.

The boundless mercy of God is the best evidence of His immense goodness.

The anthropomorphic mistake

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One common characteristic of many natural religions that humans have developed throughout history is anthropomorphism. This is a fancy word for saying that without the help of God’s revelation, people tend to think that God (or the gods, if we’re talking about paganism or polytheism) is just like us, only bigger and stronger.

We are all familiar with stories from ancient Greece in which the false gods got into arguments, tried to trick each other, and committed adultery — it was as if they were just like humans, only immortal.

Christianity put an end to anthropomorphism — we now know that although humans are made in the image of God, God is not made in the image of man.

God is unlimited in his knowledge, goodness, wisdom, and power — He’s not just bigger and stronger than us; He is on a different level altogether.

And yet, our fallen human nature still has a tendency to think in terms of anthropomorphism. One such mistake we often make is thinking that God loses his patience with us, just as we lose patience with others (or ourselves).

We think that since we run out of mercy, giving mercy takes a huge effort for us; well then, it must be that way for God too. Not at all. God’s mercy is unlike a giant eye-dropper in heaven, reluctantly and jealously dispensing forgiveness and love in little bits, drip by drip. That is often how we do it. But God’s mercy is more like a waterfall, a rushing mountain spring, an ever-flowing fountain. The only thing that will make us die of thirst is our self-centred refusal to drink from this fountain — just like the stewards in today’s parable.

God’s mercy and goodness is always ready to come into our lives, always. We just have to open the door.

The path to surpassing peace

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The more deeply we know this truth and are convinced of it, the more joyful we can be. Joy is the emotion that comes from having or possessing a good thing. Most of the joys of this world are fragile and passing, because the good things of this world are fragile and passing. But God’s goodness, His selfless interest in and unconditional love for us, is never-changing, stable, constant, and eternal. The more we are aware of it and lay claim to it, the more joy we will experience and the more constantly we will experience it, coming gradually to discover what St Paul describes in today’s second reading as

the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.

Philippians 4:7

How can we deepen our knowledge and conviction of God’s limitless goodness?

St Paul says we must become people of prayer: offering to God all our worries; thanking Him for all our gifts; and contemplating all the good and noble things that God has done and with which He has surrounded us.

The society around us, our own selfishness, and the devil try to clog up our minds with complaints and problems, so that we lose sight of the bigger picture.

Only by consciously lifting up our hearts and minds to God, every day, throughout the day, do we gradually come to root our lives in the deep, rich soil of God’s goodness.

How is our prayer life? Does it consist merely of saying prayers? Does it include heart-to-heart conversations with Christ? Does it include time to reflect on God and His plans through reading the Bible and other spiritual books?

Today, as we renew our faith in God’s boundless goodness and mercy, let us also renew our commitment to being Christians worthy of our name — Christians who love Christ enough to spend some time with Him in personal prayer, every single day.

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

October 8th, 2023 at 11:24 am

Haemoglobin is finally above 10! Hurrah!

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Wednesday saw the routine of ‘monthly bloods’ taken and sent off from the dialysis unit. In recent months, the most worrisome result has been the Hb or Haemoglobin level that has been recorded. Back in May and June, it hit a bottom point of 6.2. This week, however, it came back as over 10. This level means that I am back much more towards the normal level, and I am definitely feeling a lot better. 

I also received both an appointment letter and a reminder letter (printed the same day) from the Haematology clinic at the Midlands Regional Hospital at Tullamore for the last day of October. Whilst part of me wants to say, ‘Look, I’m well again — do I need to come?’ I will attend because it will be interesting to see what they have to say. For my part, I have a feeling that the Hb was low because of the failing fistula, and now that it has been settled down, it isn’t taking Hb away any more. We shall see. 

Originally published on HIVBlogger.com

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

October 7th, 2023 at 10:27 pm

Update on Accessibility issues at Iarnród Éireann lifts

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In June 2022, I highlighted some accessibility issues at Iarnród Éireann lifts, particularly on the Port Laoise line from Dublin Heuston. I am very pleased to confirm that these difficulties have been resolved. It seems that Iarnród Éireann has used the same style of instructions as found at DART stations on this line, too.

Well done to them for doing so, it is just a pity it took as long as it did to be resolved.

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

September 21st, 2023 at 4:16 pm

54% of people living with HIV avoid healthcare due to stigma: launch of HIV-related Stigma in Healthcare Settings report

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The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission‘s offices wer the venue for the launch of HIV Ireland‘s latest report: HIV-related Stigma in Healthcare Settings in Ireland: Findings from a Collaborative Joint Stakeholder Study by Dr Elena Vaughan of the University of Galway’s Health Promotion Research Centre.

There were two sets of surveys: one for healthcare workers; the other for people living with HIV (PLHIV). There were logistical difficulties in getting the surveys out to the relevant audiences to be completed. However, Elena did manage to have participation from 298 healthcare workers and 89 PLHIV.

Key findings

Some of the key findings were quite shocking:

People living with HIV

44% of people living with HIV report being asked how they got HIV by a healthcare worker.

54% of people living with HIV report having avoided healthcare for worry about how they will be treated by healthcare workers.

24% of people living with HIV report having been told to come back later, made to wait or put last in a queue.

20% of people living with HIV report having been denied service in the past 12 months.

Vaughan, E. (2023). HIV-related stigma in healthcare settings in Ireland: findings from a collaborative joint stakeholder study. Galway: Health Promotion Research Centre, University of Galway and HIV Ireland. https://doi.org/10.13025/ccsj-8336, p. 7.

Healthcare workers

21% of healthcare workers report using special measures that they would not use with other patients.

80% of healthcare workers have not received training in stigma and discrimination.

40% of healthcare workers say they would worry at least a little about drawing blood from a person with HIV.

25% of healthcare workers say they have observed a colleague talking badly about a person living with HIV at least once in the last 12 months.

loc. cit.

Experiences of stigma in healthcare settings

The report details some experiences of stigma in healthcare settings that were experienced by those interviewed by the research team. I know that I recognised two situations that had happened to me.

The physiotherapist said, `I can’t have you in the gym in the hospital because then it will have to be cleaned… so it would be a whole afternoon of no one else being able to use it because you’ve been in.’

Ibid., p.31


speaking of nurses using excessive or unnecessary infection control measures…

They came in in what I keep referring to as full body armour – they were in full gowns and masks and hair-nets and everything. And I said, Why are you dressed like that? `Well, because you know your condition.’ … Oh so because I’m HIV positive, you thinkg you need to be in all of this? `Yes.’

Ibid., p. 32

Both of those situations happened in a hospital in the midlands of Ireland. I have complained about them in the past. As the report says, I was able to self-advocate. Yet, the second situation happened even in the last few weeks when I was again there for treatment.


The report makes several recommendations for the future. They are laid out in four different domains: training and education; policy/practice guideline development; and research. I recommend you read the report online and read the recommendations there.


HIV Ireland

HIV-related Stigma in Healthcare Settings in Ireland: Findings from a Collaborative Joint Stakeholder Study

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

September 21st, 2023 at 4:03 am