ireland

A Divine Appointment With Fr.Michael Maher by Stephen Mc Elligott

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IN THE BEGINNING . . .

Fr.Michael Maher, born and raised in Dublin, began his spiritual journey at the early age of 19 after the death of his grandfather Thomas Ashe. Our reaction to death can often differ in many ways but for Fr.Maher, it led him to contemplate the fragility of this present life leading him to consider what it all meant.

The growing love that Fr.Maher had for the Mother of God eventually blossomed into a vocation to find a priestly order dedicated to the Queen of Heaven. It wasn't such a difficult search as almost immediately Our Lady of Fatima led Fr.Maher by the hand into one of the most popular orders dedicated to her name, the ''Marist Fathers''.

Over the years, Fr.Maher had always emphasized devotion to ''Our Lady Of Fatima'' not to mention the importance of the Holy Rosary in one's life. He is heavily insistent that we pray the rosary every day and make it an essential part of our spiritual diet to nourish the soul.

I approached Fr.Maher with an interest to show people a side of him we don't normally get to see which is his life in the confines of a parish Church in Dundalk, Co.Louth. We spoke about his devotion to Fatima and he presents to us some of his favorite images, books and the history behind a pair of rosary beads he personally likes to pray on.


From a very young age in his teenage years Fr.Maher always had an interest in Fatima and since his ordination to the priesthood, made it his life's mission to spread devotion to Her.

His knowledge and expertise in this area was so valued that he became spiritual director and narrator of the very popular movie ''The Call To Fatima'' which depicts the story of the three children and their apparitions. The movie has since been circulated around the world in 12 different languages and millions of copies distributed.

I do believe that Our Lady has been instrumental in deepening my faith, and the frequent praying of her own prayer, the holy rosary, has brought me peace and insight for the times in which we are living.
— Fr.Michael Maher

THE ENCOUNTER

I've known Fr.Maher now for quite sometime so this was a rather personal project for me. I've always enjoyed his impregnable spirit of joy, contagious to say the least and for all our theological and spiritual study, the only thing worthwhile. Fr.Maher is the type of priest that does not need to give advice at length about the spiritual life, using many words to illustrate his point.

I've always felt that the mark of a good priest is one whose sheer presence prompts a transformation within you. In a sense he has accepted he's just a canvass upon which Christ paints his own self portrait to show Himself to the world. Whenever anyone asks me why God doesn't show himself to everyone, I just point them in the direction of people like Fr.Maher.

I cannot stress enough this character of Fr.Maher. I've read nearly all the writings of the mystics both modern and old, from Eastern Buddhism, Hinduism, Orthodox Christianity not to mention western Catholic and Protestant mystics of Europe. From the writings of the Eastern cave dwellers and early monastics of centuries ago to the summa theologica of St.Thomas Aquinas and St.John of the Cross, there's no greater spiritual progress one can receive than to be in the presence of joy Himself as manifested through people like Fr.Maher.

It is now my joy to present to you one of the most ordinary and through those he ministers to most extraordinary priests residing in a simple parish Church in Ireland. Now I can bring to you a little piece of the joy I experienced with him through the art of photography.
 


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The Contemplative

As we spoke about the importance of the rosary and the days that lie ahead of us, Fr.Maher takes his usual seat by the window contemplating a world that's forgotten it's Christian roots.

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Our Lady Of Fatima

Fr.Maher introduces us to his work on Our Lady Of Fatima and here he sits beside a well hand crafted statue from Portugal.


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My Mothers Rosary

As we chatted about matters concerning the purification of souls and the importance rosary beads can have in one's life, I took a picture of a rosary he holds dear to his heart.

In 1937 His Mother was having a difficult birth at the time and the parish priest gave her his rosary beads. The baby boy was born and she called him ''Michael Maher''. It is thanks to the Prayers said upon this rosary that Fr.Maher came into the world and when his Mother fell asleep in the Lord, she left them for him.

They were prayed on so much that the wood on the Cross began to wear away over the years. In a bid to rescue it he took it to a carpenter in Dublin who fixed a new piece of wood to the back of the Cross in order to keep it all intact.


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The Taking Of Christ

Fr.Maher wanted to fetch me some of his favorite memorabilia of Fatima that include his long time favorite books and pictures.

As I waited for him to find these I saw a copy of the famous Caravaggio painting hanging on his wall.

I saw the real thing in the National Gallery of Ireland a number of years ago and as I've been visiting Fr.Maher for quite some time it always catches my eye.

I often wondered why it was Fr.Maher liked it and that perhaps it serves as a reminder to him and every Christian and religious person in the world of our own weakness in the face of sin. That unless we remain vigilant we too may succumb to a betrayal, corruption being always around the corner.

Indeed when I see this picture I'm reminded that the kiss of Judas is one that has echoed for centuries until the end of time.


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In Lucia's Own Words

Published in 1976 '' Fatima in Lucia's Own Words'' is a collection of memoirs and letters written by Sister Lúcia of Fátima, the last surviving seer of Virgin Mary apparitions in Cova da Iria, Fátima, Portugal. She fell asleep in the Lord on February 13th, 2005.

The 13th date is significant to Catholics here as it was on the 13th of May the first apparition took place.


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A Holy Accident

Opening the book I serendipitously happened to fall upon one of the many religious bookmarks placed within it. Was it Our Lady Fatima herself reaching out to us all?


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St.Peter Chanel

On our way to Mass we stopped at the oratory where Father Maher showed us an Icon and relic of St.Peter Chanel.

Born in France, St.Chanel became a Marist Father who was martyred on the island of Futuna in the Pacific. You've heard of the perfume Chanel but this saints relic gave a more potent and fragrant odor that's difficult to beat, namely because of its origins in Grace.


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A Closer Look

I take a closer look at the relic which is a piece of bone from the Saint.


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Confess Yer Aul Sin's

Before Mass is celebrated, Fr.Maher hears the confessions of his parishioners. This is the first time I’ve seen the inside of a confessional.


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Time For Prayer

After hearing all those confessions, Fr.Maher prays a rosary for his parishioners before Mass.


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The Sacristy

Fr.Maher prepares for Mass. I notice a book near his left hand and pose a question as to what it might be.


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Dressed To Praise

Robed with vestments of Our Lady Of Fatima that he got 10 years ago in Portugal, Fr.Maher turns and shows me the book, a biography of Lucia. It's the latest most popular book doing the rounds and so it stays with him at all times.


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The Homily

Fr.Maher preaches an interesting homily. The focus of his homilies are always a certain type of prayer. Can you take a guess at what prayer that might be?


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Lifting Up Jesus

Raising the Body of Christ, Fr.Maher sees nothing else. Neither death nor life stand in the way of this awesome moment.


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Raising The Chalice

Fr.Maher raises the Chalice along with a solemnity of heart, soul and mind that is always directed towards Christ.


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Quiet Reflection

Fr.Maher sits in his chair to reflect on the most incredible moment the earth will ever experience where God descends to us in the mystery of the Mass. His eyes were closed and he surprised me by opening them so I captured that moment.

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It Is Finished

After Mass Fr.Maher takes the long way home and walks from the Church back to his cell but he's not finished yet and is about to embark on another adventure.


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The Priests' Beach

We drove from the Parochial house 5 minutes to the seaside village of Blackrock. You can only imagine the laughter and humor that ensued when we happened to come across ''The Priests' Beach''. It was all meant to be and I am probably the only one who can say I walked that beach with an actual priest by my side.


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Save Our Souls

Walking down to the beach I hear Fr.Maher calling me to turn around. He has spotted something that I missed. With great humor and joy he exclaimed ''Hey Stephen! look...save...our..souls.

Indeed Fr.Maher is the life saver thrown by Christ into the turbulent and troubled waters of the world, to save us from drowning in our sorrows and sins.

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Portrait Of Wisdom

Walking along the beach it was hard for us not to discuss and ponder the stories where Jesus himself preached from the shores of Galilee. The wonderful thing about the parables is that they are timeless and you can't really put a date to them. No matter where you go the earth always reminds you of a parable.

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Pondering Eternity

It was here that I took my final photo to finish our day together. As he stood on ''The Priests' Beach'' pondering eternity, a sudden Divine sorrow mingled with joy came over me that today of all days was (as Fr.Maher always puts it) ''A Divine Appointment''.

I believe and I hope that, when my time comes to go forth into eternity, such a moment will be life in the full sense, a plunging ever anew into the vastness of being, in which I will be overwhelmed with joy. This is how Jesus expresses it in St John’s Gospel: “I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”
— Father Michael Maher

The Last Hermit Of Ireland by Stephen Mc Elligott

FR.DAVID JONES - A DOCUMENTARY

BY PHOTOGRAPHER STEPHEN MC ELLIGOTT

Fr.David was born in Wales and raised in the Baptist Church. In his mid teens he spent most of his life trying to convert Catholics until he happened to stumble into his local Catholic Church one day in the late 60's.

He was immediately blown away by the Latin chants, the billowing incense and the sense of the mystical that encompassed the entire liturgy.

Shortly after his conversion, although he was too young to enter the monastic life, they bent the rules in his favor.

With his parents blessing he went to be a Monk in France where he spent most of his life before moving around the monasteries of Europe, ending up in Italy and finally arriving in the village of Duleek, Ireland, where he now resides indefinitely.

Fr.David has given me the very rare invitation to document his daily life. Hermits don't normally allow this given the nature of their vocation to be in total silence. I am therefore grateful he allowed me in.

 



 

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Bible Stories

Fr.David Jones reads me some of his favorite Bible stories. I asked him to show me his favorite place to read. He said ''this chair would be where I sit and read my favorite book of all ''The Bible''.

I sat him in the chair and he read his book which he did so but silently at first. I captured this silence and asked him to read aloud if he wishes to do so.

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Lazarus Rise

Fr.David reads aloud the story of Lazarus raised from the dead found in the Gospel of John chapter 11.

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Writing To Reach You

Fr.David writes a letter to a dear friend pondering his next line.

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Holy Inspiration

Icons of Jesus inspire Fr.David Jones in his writing. 

The Divine Office

After Fr.David finished writing his important letters, it was time for the Divine office. I was mesmerized by the humility of kneeling on the uncomfortable floor for 20 minutes.

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The Narrow Door

As I alternated between lenses in the kitchen, I spotted an opportunity here to convey the Gospel message that the door to heaven is narrow: "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.'' Luke:13:24
 

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YouTube It

Fr.David speaks to his audience by means of his YouTube Channel which you can view here

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The Altar

Fr.David has two altars of which pictured here contains a relic of the true Cross of Christ.

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A Refreshing Drink

All that prayer and worship does make one thirsty. After satisfying the thirst of Christ for Love, Fr.David now tends to his own thirst.

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Vespers

Fr.David Jones leads us through vespers. The soft kneeler's are available to him, but he prefers to kneel on the hard floor.

In the ascetic life discomfort is not just there to keep Monks humble but helps with their concentration on prayer.

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Let There Be Light

A light illuminates his Divine office prayer book, enabling him to see in the dimly lit chapel where the true light comes to illuminate the darkness of our souls.

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Crucified To The World

A closer look at the Crucifix that hangs above Fr.Davids Tabernacle, forever reminding him he must be crucified to the world on a daily basis for the rest of his days.

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The Eternal Light

This light that burns beside the Blessed Sacrament must always be burning and never allowed to go out, just like the light within us should always be lit and never die out. (Matthew:25:1-13) 

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A Marian Altar

An altar dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary greets us prior to entering the chapel.

Whilst Fr.David finished his prayers I came out here to take a closer look.

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A Host Awaits His Guest

Fr.David came out after prayer and calmly waited for me to finish so I took a photograph of him whilst doing so.

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Towards The Light

As father David spoke with me he looked out the window and I take a photograph of him in the midst of this.

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Awake O Sleeper Eph:5:14

I asked Father David to show me his sleeping quarters. Upon entering I asked him to show me the first thing he does when he awakens.

Arising from his bed he sits and reads a book ''The Real Presence Through The Ages'' by '' Michael L. Gaudoin-Parker '' on ''the adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament on the Altar.''

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Light And Darkness

In the midst of reading an excerpt from his book, I noticed a contrast between the light and darkness that encompassed Fr.David, as if to illustrate that fight between light and darkness within us all.

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One Last Bible Story

Fr.David takes me back to his main Chapel where he reads one last story.

I invite him to look at the camera where he surprises me with a gentle smile, providing me with a rare glimpse of the radiant joy of Christ within him.

From my own perspective, I see a face that has been through so many battles in life.

From his initial conversion and struggle with the world inside, to the 10 year vow of silence and fight to quiet his old self, It's impossible not to be inspired.

Fr.Jones obviously found the treasure most of us seek. And instead of hiding it, points us all in the direction where we too can avail of such Graces.

In Recent months I took my son to see ''The Last Jedi'' Star Wars movie in which Jedi Master Luke Skywalker in a troubled galaxy, becomes the last Jedi in the rebellion against evil.

I realized how such fiction was actually a reflection of the truth, that I was in the presence of possibly the last spiritual master himself, ''The Last Hermit Of Ireland.''

Maybe I'm wrong and there are more of them out there. If there is, I must find them.

The Irish people need to know that Christianity is not yet dead and that a ''new rebellion'' will rise from the ashes once again.

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The Departure

When It came time for me to leave, it wasn't easy as Fr.David made quite the impression upon me.

People like Fr.David sometimes without saying anything at all, by their very life, remove us from the comfort zone we've developed for ourselves.

I would liked to have stayed much longer with Father David, but I realized that I have a wife and two children at home I must attend to.In my house (or domestic Church) we wage the same war just on a different part of the same battlefield.

I came to understand that this is a war in which our weapons may differ, the end goal being always the same. . . getting to heaven. It is very easy for us to see Father David as looking to become an escapist seeking only to run away from the world.

Countering this thought, we must admit that all of us are escapists who run from silence forever entertaining our our idle thoughts. We all run away from God to cower into the corner of comforting leisure's which serve only to exclude him.

Leisure's such as alcohol, drugs, the cinema, video games, facebook and social media, all of which we use as a means to run away from the real fight in front of us.The more I got to know Fr.David, I began to see him not as an escapist, but a brave man who has decided to confront the world within himself that most of us are unwilling to confront.

Like the monks of the past, he goes into the desert to confront the Devil for the sake of all our souls. He inspires us to take up the same fight in whatever position we find ourselves in, be it the religious life or one in which we struggle with an upside down world opposed to all that is Holy.

I hope you've enjoyed this documentary of Fr.David and I'm eager to see him again as he's left the door open for future visits.