Michæl McFarland Campbell

Always telling the story

Archive for July, 2021

World Drowing Prevention Day – social media post for SJAI

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Today, is World Drowning Prevention Day, and so I wrote a post for the Facebook page of St John Ambulance Ireland to raise awareness. I used information from the WHO, and Water Safety Ireland to give some facts and figures, together with an image from Pexels.com and Adobe Spark to create the image for the post.

Social media image created for St John Ambulance Ireland on World Drowning Prevention Day 2021.


Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

July 25th, 2021 at 12:53 pm

The heart of the shepherd in the hearts of our priests

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A reflection on the readings for the principal service for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B. 

Christ’s heart yearns for our friendship

Today St Mark gives us one of the most amazing phrases in his entire Gospel. When Our Lord Jesus Christ gets off the boat and sees the crowd, St Mark tells us: “His heart was moved…”

Jesus has a human heart — He took one on purpose: so that He could be close to us. He truly cares for us; He feels our needs and struggles even more deeply than we feel them ourselves. And He continually reaches out to be our leader, to be our light, and to be our strength. When we accept these gifts, He is pleased, truly gratified. But when we reject them, He is hurt, truly stung by our ingratitude.

This is the lesson of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which has, through the centuries, confided its sorrows to certain chosen souls, like St Gertrude and St Margaret Mary Alacoque. When we are dealing with Jesus Christ we are not dealing with an idea, a concept, a philosophical “unmoved mover,” as Aristotle described God.

In Christ, God has become man, someone just like us; in heaven, this very moment, He exists as a man, body and soul, and He is “preparing a place” for us in heaven (John 14:2).

Through the Holy Spirit and the Church, he extends his friendship to us, trying to draw us more fully into the indescribable joys of his own divine life, so that someday, when the time is right, we may enjoy that place he is preparing for us in heaven. We all know this, but how deeply do we believe it?

Not deeply enough; that’s why the Church constantly reminds us that God urgently desires our friendship.

Every human being desires to live in communion with God; only those who find Christ get to live out that communion in the form of a real, human friendship.

God becomes a shepherd

This is what God is talking about in today’s Old Testament reading

He’s complaining about the priests and leaders of Israel in the Old Testament. Their whole mission, their whole purpose in life was to communicate to God’s people this passionate, real interest that God has in our lives. But those priests and leaders were so self-centered that they failed in their mission. They plundered and scandalized the people they were called to protect and serve. And it made God mad!

“You have not cared for my sheep,” He says: “but I will take care to punish your evil deeds.”

God is not indifferent to these self-centered priests, because he cares about his people.

He cares so much, in fact, that he finds a radical solution.

If He can’t depend on these priests and leaders, who keep rebelling against him, He will do the job himself:

“I myself will gather the remnants of my flock… I will raise up a righteous shoot to David, a king who will reign and govern wisely.”

This is a prophecy about Jesus Christ – God himself come to dwell among us and reveal the incredible depths of God’s mercy and concern for us. And then God goes on to promise that He will also appoint new shepherds who are dependable. These are the priests of the New Testament, charged with administering the sacraments.

Even if these priests fall into selfishness, mediocrity, or even sinful rebellion, the sacraments will still stand.

Even if a New Testament priest is in mortal sin, God still sends his grace to this people through the sacraments that that priest celebrates.

As Pope Benedict XVI put it:

the efficacy of the ministry is independent of the holiness of the minister.

Benedict XVI, Letter to Priests, 16 June 2009

It is also explained in the Article 26 of the Articles of Religion,

26. Of the Unworthiness of the Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the Sacraments.

Although in the visible Church the evil be ever mingled with the good, and sometimes the evil have chief authority in the Ministration of the Word and Sacraments, yet forasmuch as they do not the same in their own name, but in Christ’s, and do minister by his commission and authority, we may use their Ministry, both in hearing the Word of God, and in receiving the Sacraments. Neither is the effect of Christ’s ordinance taken away by their wickedness, nor the grace of God’s gifts diminished from such as by faith, and rightly, do receive the Sacraments ministered unto them; which be effectual, because of Christ’s institution and promise, although they be ministered by evil men.

Nevertheless, it appertaineth to the discipline of the Church, that inquiry be made of evil Ministers, and that they be accused by those that have knowledge of their offences; and finally, being found guilty, by just judgment be deposed.

Articles of Religion, https://www.ireland.anglican.org/our-faith/39-articles-of-religion

Of course, that’s no excuse for us priests to be mediocre and sinful, but God’s faithfulness doesn’t depend on our faithfulness.

So, in spite of themselves, priests of Jesus Christ are, through God’s providence and power, dependable channels through which God continues to pour out his saving grace.

That’s how much He cares for each one of us.

Strengthening the priesthood

We would not have these sacraments at our disposal without another sacrament — that of the priesthood. The priesthood is not just a sacrament for priests — on the contrary: it is a gift for the whole Church, and so the whole Church should feel responsible for it, and appreciate it, and try to understand it. There are at least two things each one of us can do to help strengthen the priesthood throughout the Church.

First, we can pray for our priests.

Our Lord turned some very rough and very normal fishermen into the Twelve Apostles, men who were faithful to their mission up to the point of giving their lives for it. If He did that with the Twelve, He can do it with today’s priests too — and we can help with our prayers.

Second, we can pray for God to call more young men to the priesthood.

In today’s Gospel we heard how Christ’s heart was moved at seeing the crowds, who were “like sheep without a shepherd.”

That is a good description of popular culture in our society today, which often reveres celebrities who are models of self-indulgence more than self-sacrifice. We need more reminders in this world that there is another way to live, another purpose beyond satisfying our basic instincts.

Priests are meant to be those reminders; we should all ask God to give the world more of them.

As we receive the bread of life from our Good Shepherd in the Eucharist, let’s thank Him for not giving up on us, and let’s promise that we will do our part to keep His plans moving forward.


Jeremiah 23:1-16

Psalms 23:1-3, 3-4, 5, 6

Ephesians 2:13-18

Mark 6:30-34

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

July 18th, 2021 at 5:22 pm

EU Digital Covid Certificate now on my phone

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Earlier this week I received my EU Digital Covid Certificate in the post from the HSE. I wondered at the time was there a way of registering it on my phone. Fortunately there is. The Irish Covid-19 tracker app has been updated to allow users to scan their QR code on their Digital Covid Certificate and upload that to the app. So, I have done that now.

I have also put it in my iPhone Wallet by following the steps below.

For iPhones, go to the free web app Covid19passbook.netlify.app on your phone’s Safari browser. 

Adrian Weckler, in The Irish Independent, 15 July 2021.

I hope that others will find this information useful. Thanks to Adrian Weckler, writing in The Irish Independent for the guidance on how to do this.

I now look forward to the opening up of indoor dining and international travel once again. Hopefully alongwith my other ID, this will help us all in combating COVID and getting on with life.

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

July 16th, 2021 at 10:12 am

Three connexions to my paternal grandparents

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We all have grandparents. Each and every single one of us has grandparents. Some of us are fortunate to have known all four of them. I know that many have not had that fortune, but I did meet all of my grandparents. I even have some items that I was gifted by them.

This afternoon when I was tidying in the house, I found a Parker pen that I thought I had lost. It was the pen that I used when I was at Ballymena Academy. I know that I was given it by my two paternal grandparents. That must have been for my eleventh birthday — the one before I went to the grammar school. It had to have been for that birthday in early May 1989, because by the end of June my paternal grandfather, Hugh Campbell had died. He was the first of my grandparents to die.

Andrew and I have done some research to find out more about this particular pen. It turns out that it is a Parker 25 Mark III. And we know from the date letters on the cap, it was manufactured in the first quarter of 1985.

The other item I have in my possession from my paternal grandmother, Mary Campbell (née Carchrie) is a Red Letter edition of the King James Bible printed by Cambridge University Press. It is bound in black French Morroco leather, and is the Compact C.R. India paper edition, with bold-figure references. As a presentation edition, it has a note in the front saying that it was

Presented to Michael by Gran’ma with love on Confirmation 1-12-91.

This Bible is the only item that I have that has my Gran’ma’s handwriting in it.

When my paternal grandmother died in 1994, I inherited a painting of a middle-eastern woman that my grandmother had painted. It used to hang in the dining room at my grandparents’ flat in Lisburn, Co. Antrim, but now it is with us. I see it every single day, and it makes me give thanks for my grandparents and their lives. It’s just a simple picture but it is rich in colours of reds, golds, and greens, and I love it.

I burst into tears after showing each of these to Andrew. They are the only things that I can connect to my paternal grandparents other than the Campbell part of my surname. It is sometimes quite hard to believe that they both died whilst I was still at school. They were both 84 years of age when they died, albeit five years apart. That means that I am just over half way to their age now.

My usual fountain pens at the moment are my Lamy Safaris and my Lamy Vistas. I suspect, however, that they will be supplemented on occasion by this longlost friend the Parker 25. The memories of Hugh and Mary Campbell will live on for a while longer.

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

July 15th, 2021 at 7:50 pm

Sent by God to tell the Good News

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A reflection on the readings for the principal service for the Sunday between 10th and 16th July, Year B. 

Chosen to Be Truly Rich and Sent to Share The Wealth

The readings today remind us that we, just like the apostles and prophets, have been chosen and sent into the world to share the Gospel. One way in which we share the Gospel is through spiritual poverty, which puts the goods of this world into perspective.

In the Old Testament reading the prophet Amos is accused by the priest in charge of the shrine at Bethel of propyesying as a scam to get food. Amos responds that he owned a flock and sycamore trees: he had both property and possessions and was not a beggar being creative to get food. Amos was a prophet because the Lord chose him and sent him to prophesy, and like the Apostles that we heard about last week, being a prophet doesn’t involve being well equipped or focused on making a living. Amos was chosen to be a prophet and leave his possessions behind. He may have been mistaken for a beggar, but he had everything he needed to accomplish his mission.

In the Epistle today, St Paul teaches that we were not chosen to becoem rich in the material sense of the word, but to be holy and blameless before God the Father, thanks to Our Lord Jesus Christ. Only a worldly person sees a holy person as poor just because they are not swayed or burdened by material well-being. The Lord lavishes spiritual treasures on the holy: the second chance of the Redemption after the Fall; the call to become His adopted children; forgiveness for our sins; and the gift of the Holy Spirit. In choosing us, He has also revealed His plan of salvation and our part in it. When we accept His calling, we receive all of these treasures, and also the opportunity to help others to receive them too.

Holiness is the ultimate happiness, even if it seems toguh at times. A great peace comes from having our sins forgiven, making us blameless before our Heavenly Father. Let us thank Our Lord today for all the spiritual wealth He has lavished upon us, and ask Him to show us, in the light of those spiritual treasures, what things we need, what things we do not, and how we can best share them with others.

St Francis of Assisi’s pillow

If we were to travel to the Franciscan monastery of Greccio in Italy, we would find the preserved sleeping quarters of St Francis of Assisi. Arriving there, we would find the tiny cell in whic St Francis slept, but we would find no bed as we would know it. No, we would find bare rock; St Francis slept on a bare rock. At one point during his life, a friend gave him a feather pillow on which to sleep but it made it impossible for him to sleep.

Get sent

How much time do we spend each week in spiritual activities? Sunday morning worship be in the Eucharist or Morning Prayer? Perhaps we have some family prayer time? Do we say Grace at meal times? Do we read from Scripture?

How much time do we spend each week in parish activities and outreach besides our regular Sunday morning worship?

We all have been chosen by God, whether we let ourselve be sent or not. Get sent. The more that we explore the spiritual treasures of the Faith in our own life, the more we’ll feel the need to share them with the world around us.


Amos 7: 7-15; Psalm 85: 8-13; Ephesians 1: 3-14; Mark 6: 14-29

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

July 11th, 2021 at 10:06 am

A day trip to Cork

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Andrew and I visited the Irish city of Cork on Tuesday 6th July 2021. The day out was basically the birthday treat for Andrew (albeit not actually on his birthday). We explored the city and I took some photographs all using my iPhone. Below are three of my favourites.

The Cathedral of St Fin Barre, Cork. Taken from the roof of the Elizabeth Fort on 2021-07-06 Michæl McFarland Campbell.
The choir and sanctuary of the Cathedral of St Fin Barre, Cork. Taken on 2021-07-06 by Michæl McFarland Campbell.
A post box at the Elizabeth Fort, Cork showing both the Royal Cypher of Edward VII at the top and the Saorstát Eireann badge on the door. Taken on 2021-07-06 by Michæl McFarland Campbell.

I highly recommend visiting the city, and we have plenty on our list to go back to see on another occasion. Once the pandemic is a bit more under control, we hope to go back for a weekend and see more of the city.

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

July 8th, 2021 at 5:51 pm

Boosting our faith through prayer

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A reflection on the readings for the Eucharist for the Sunday between 3rd and 9th July, Year B.

God permits thorns for a reason

Like all saints, St Paul was not perfect. They, like us, are human beings who had to face problems, hardship, suffering, and temptations. They did not live carefree lives; in fact, it was their very challenges and failings that God used to make them into saints. This is what St Paul is telling us in the Epistle reading. He says that although God has given him extraordinary mystical experiences, God has also given him a “thorn in his flesh, an angel of Satan to beat him.” St Paul prayed repeatedly for God to remove this thorn, but God refused in order “to keep him from being too elated.”

This strange passage raise two questions.

First of all, what was this thorn? Well, no one really knows. Scholars have many theories. It may have been a physical ailment of some kind; a particular temptation like lust or greed; or discouragement he constantly felt from being rejected by his Jewish confreres; or it may have been his fiery temperament which tended to get him into trouble. Whatever it was, it was continual source of pain and irritation to St Paul.

Secondly, why didn’t God take this thorn away? St Paul tells us that it continualy reminded him of his human weakness, inspiring him to depend more fully on God’s grace. This is what he means when he writes, “when I am weak, then I am strong.” This should be a comforting thought for us. It means that our thorns, whatever they may be, are not signs of God’s anger or displeasure, but signs that he is teaching us, as he taught St Paul. Teaching us true wisdom, the wisdom of humility and trust in God.

Doctors and dentists

The ancient Fathers of the Church used to call Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Doctor of the Soul. That’s a comparison that can help us understand this idea.

Sometimes, doctors and dentists have to cause temporary discomfort or pain to bring about long-term health. The cut of a surgeon’s knife hurts, but it leads to healing and strength in the long run. Medicine that a doctor prescribes can taste bitter and harsh, yet this same medicine will cure the sickness that is much more dangerous. The thorn that St Paul mentions in the Epistle is like the surgeon’s knife or the bitter medicine. As painful as it is, he recognises that God is permitting it for a reason: to cure him of his tendency to arrogance and self-absorption. Likewise, when God allows difficulties to plague us, he is not absent from them, but at work through them, like a good doctor with a scalpel.

Once we learn this lesson, we will be able to say with St Patrick,

“Whether I receive good or ill, I return thanks equally to God, who taught me always to trust him unreservedly.”

Confessions of St Patrick

Boosting our faith through prayer

We can only experience the interior peace and freedom that Christ wants for us when we learn to accept our limitations, the thorns that God permits in our lives.

This was not an easy thing for St Paul. It was only after many years of suffering and working for Christ’s Kingdom that he was able to write this beautiful sentence: “Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Accepting limitations and the thorns that God permits is not easy for us either. It is only possible, if we become men and women of prayer.

Prayer connects us to the source of all wisdom and strength, God himself. In the midst of his pain, where did St Paul turn? He turned to prayer, “Three times I begged the Lord about this…” And it was through his prayer that God spoke to his heart, telling him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” Prayer is for the soul, what breathing is for the body. In prayer we receive supernatural oxygen that keeps our faith healthy, and only healthy faith makes visible the hidden wisdom of God.

There are many resources around to assist us with our prayer. There is the Church of Ireland daily worship app, or that of the Church of England. Others may find the Universalis app which has the daily prayer of the Roman Catholic Church useful as well. Of course, there is the Book of Common Prayer, which has simple offices that we can say.

We may find ourselves able to use the “Jesus Prayer”,

Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Many people say this over and over and over again daily as they go about their daily lives. Others find the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary helpful. Whatever prayer we use, it is centred on Christ, and through Him we find our support and receive our spiritual oxygen.

In the Gospel today, St Mark tells us that Jesus “was not able to work any mighty deed” in Nazareth, “because of their lack of faith.”

If we make prayer a high priority, we will never lack faith. God will be able to work many mighty deeds in our lives, even in the midst of our thorns. As Jesus renews his commitments to us in the Eucharist, let us thank Him for our thorns, and ask Him to teach us to pray.


Ezekiel 2: 1–5; Psalm 123; 2 Corinthians 12: 2–10; Mark 6: 1–13

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

July 4th, 2021 at 2:30 pm

Posted in Christianity

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Monastic connections

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The clue is in the name of the town, Monasterevin, or as Gaeilge, Mainistir Eimhín, of Monastery of Evan. There is clearly a link to monasticism in this place. But what is this link?

Early Irish monasticism

From the time of St Patrick there were monastic houses all over the island. It is said that St Evan, brother of Becan who died in 689, brought monks from his district in Munster, and built a monastery at Rosglas na Muimneach, where he was buried. St Evan wrote a Tripartite Life of St Patrick in Latin and Irish, and a Life of St Comgall (of Bangor). It is likely that this early monastery was destroyed by the Danes during their ravaging expeditions across the island, probably by the eighth century.

Mediæval monasticism

By the twelfth century, monasticism had seen the rise of the monks of the Order of St Benedict, and the reform of that order by the Cistercians who wanted to live a life more strictly following the Rule of St Benedict.

In the charter of the twelfth century, Dermot O’Dempsey, King of Offaly, granted and confirmed the site and possessions to the monks of Rosglas in honour of Blessed Mary and St Benedict. The charter mentions no order specifically. The first two witnesses are Nehemias, bishop of Kildare (from 1177) and Donat (Dungal), bishop of Leighlin, who died 1181. Bishop Donat had attended the Synod of Kells at which the Irish Church was reformed and divided into the dioceses we now know. It follows, therefore, that this charted must be dated between 1177 and 1181. The date of foundation has been given as 1178, as 1189, and the date of consecration as 27 October 1181. The Annals of the Abbey of St Mary Dublin give 22 October 1189 as the date of colonization from the Abbey of Baltinglass.

The inclusion of the name of St Benedict in the charter and these two dates may mean that the monastery was founded in 1178 for Irish monks of the Order of St Benedict, who wished to be and lived as Cistercians, with their official affiliation to the Cistercian Order being delayed until 1189. The founder died in 1193, and in 1198, John, Abbot of Monasterevin became the bishop of Leighlin, having been consecrated in Rome by Pope Innocent III on 18 September.

In 1228, the abbey was made subject to Fountains Abbey with the abbot of Buildwas as visitor. Both Fountains and Buildwas are in England and have substantial ruins still extant. Fountains Abbey is about three miles south-west of the city of Ripon in the West Riding of Yorkshire. The ruins are in the care of the National Trust. It is one of the largest and best preserved Cistercian houses in England. Buildwas Abbey is in Shropshire, on the banks of the River Severn, about two miles west of Ironbridge.

In 1273, the abbot of Monasterevin complained in the chapter general against the abbots of Kilcooly, Monasteranenagh, and Woney. In 1297, the abbot was accused of harbouring felons, murderers, and robbers. The jury found that he not done so voluntarily, and he was fined half a mark. In the taxation of 1302–06, the temporals were worth 55 shillings. The abbot was a spiritual peer and sat in the Irish Parliament. In 1427, the abbey had been almost completely despoiled of its goods. Abbot Matthew Obythechayn was accused in 1482 of various offences including of having offspring by a nun of the Order of St Brigid. In 1540–41, the value of the farm of the house of St Evin and manor of Ley was £20 13s. 4d. The grantee was George, Lord Audley and the assignee Adam Loftus, Viscount Ely. Later, the property came into the possession of the family of the Earl of Drogheda.

Monasterevin Church of Ireland

The Church of St John the Evangelist, Monasterevin. Credit: Michæl McFarland Campbell 23 Feb 2020.

The first Protestant church was built on the site of the old Cistercian Abbey Church which stood where the kitchen now is in the main house of Moore Abbey by Adam Loftus who took possession in 1607. It was rebuilt in 1664 in the same place. The Anthologia Hibernica Magazine, vol III, p. 104, 1794 says that Charles, 6th Earl of Drogheda in 1767 pulled down the old church and rebuilt it in a neat Gothic style at the other end of the town. It would appear that at least the top of the tower of the present Church of St John the Evangelist belonged to the Cistercian Abbey.

Monasticism in the parish today

It is not often that we hear of the Religious life in the Church of Ireland, but there are links to religious orders even so. There is the Community of St John the Evangelist in Dublin, present since 1912. There is Br David Jardine of the Society of St Francis living in Belfast. I can think of Fr John Gribben of the Community of the Resurrection in Mirfield who originally comes from Belfast. Here in Monasterevin, in the Roman Catholic community there is the Presentation Sisters Generalate, and the Sisters of Mercy in the town, and the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary at Moore Abbey are present.

We may not have a Cistercian Abbey still extant, nor a Benedictine house, but there is a small connection to the Rule of St Benedict each day in the parish. This small connection is myself. For I am connected to an Anglican Benedictine Community called the House of Initia Nova. The community has members in the USA, Australia Great Britain as well as two on the island of Ireland. Community members live by reading a portion of the Rule of St Benedict into their lives each day. They say Morning and Evening Prayer and come together globally on Sunday evenings via Zoom. Members are ordained and lay, married and single, straight and gay. You can find out more about HIN at http://hinuki.org  

Works referred to:

Gwynn, A., & Hadcock, R. (1970). Medieval Religious Houses in Ireland. London: Longman Group Ltd.

Sr M. Stanislaus. (n.d.). Schools’ Collection, The. Retrieved June 8, 2021, from dúchas.ie: https://www.duchas.ie/en/cbes/4769966/4763140

St Mary’s Training School. (1987, March 25). Facts about St John’s Church. Monasterevin, Co. Kildare, Ireland.

Originally published in In Touch, the magazine of the Parish of Portarlington Union, July and August 2021 edition.

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

July 4th, 2021 at 12:50 am