Friday, 19 January 2018


To look forward, to want life, means we have to be willing to look backwards and become more conscious of all those who have hurt us, all that is broken in us and that has brought us inner deaths, hurts that we may have hidden and stifled. It means that we acknowledge the story of our origins, of our own lives, see and accept our brokenness and the times we also have hurt others. When we have accepted who we are and what we need in order to grow in compassion and peacemaking, we can move forward to give life. To forgive is a gift of God that permits us to let go of our past hurts.
Jean Vanier, Finding Peace, page 47-48

Monday, 15 January 2018

Memories of a Young Irishman

Prayer by Leonard Cheshire

Prayer by Leonard Cheshire

As to your specific question, the total time to allot, each day divides itself into various forms of prayer. First is the more formal liturgical prayer, that is to say Mass and the Divine Office. I make it a habit to go to Mass each day, but if this is not possible, then I use my own Missal and read through the Mass privately. Intercessory prayer I regard as very important and I like to try and “visit” in imagination each of our Homes and the different projects and individuals with whom I am concerned. I do not linger on any one of them, still less enter into a dialogue, so to speak. My intention is to place myself consciously in the presence of God and then invite each Home or person in turn to sit quietly before Him. I find that this makes me feel much closer to those I am remembering, deepens my affection or love for them and actually gives me strength. The prayer of quiet is something apart and distinct from all the others. I set aside a period in the morning and a period in the evening, where possible three quarters of an hour each. Finally, there are devotions such as the Rosary or the Stations of the Cross.

Obviously, one should attempt to be praying in a different kind of way throughout the day, raising one’s mind briefly to God and little rules such as saying the briefest of prayers each time the telephone rings, or one enters a room and so on, can help form the habit. Scripture seems to call us to watch as well as to pray and seems to imply a difference between them. Watchfulness I look upon as being alert and open both for the promptings of the Holy Spirit and for the needs of one’s neighbour.

(Taken from “Child of My Love” by Sue Ryder)

There is a cause for the Canonisation of both Sue Ryder and Leonard Cheshire.

 Re:  Leonard Cheshire, anyone interested in the cause or wanting a prayer card should contact Fr James Fyfe, 69 queen's Rd, Wisbech, PE13 2PH. Details of answered prayers should be sent to: Leonard Cheshire Cause, c/o The White House, 21 Upgate, Poringland, Norfolk, NR14 7SH

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Throwing the baby out with the bathwater or the state of Irish Catholicism

Throwing the baby out with the bathwater or the state of Irish Catholicism

One of the things that made me feel at home when we moved to Ireland, was the local Catholic Church and the fact that many more people shared the same faith than the general English population. Fr Sean Coyle, a friend and Columban Missionary who served for many years in the Philippines mentions that a Filipino lady felt at home one Christmas in Ireland. Read more here. Surely that is one of the wonderful things about Catholicism.

We recently published my dad’s little memoir and we can read throughout the stories the depth of faith throughout the life of his and many older Catholics. Interestingly, it was the fact that my dad was the tenth living child in his family that inspired me to my own large family of ten. I also became attracted to the depth of faith and many pious practices such as the rosary and novenas etc. In terms of passing on to the next generation, I’m not so sure I have been successful, since I hear that my mother thought one of my daughters was saying a novena for her, but it was in fact, that she was doing “Davina”.

I digress. Back to Ireland.

Andrew and I noticed that many of the Masses were well attended, even on a weekday. There still seems to be a love for the Church by many. It is fair to say though that there is a palpable hurt amongst many of the population. There were many people in institutions that suffered terrible abuse.  The Church undeniably held and wielded too much power. Many who should have been Christ like were anything but and it is no surprise that some people have walked far away from any contact with the Church.

We are at an interesting time in the Catholic Church “politically” in that we have a Pope emeritus and a Pope. There was a lot of excitement in traditional quarters during Pope Benedict’s pontificate, when many got a bit carried away. I put myself in that category, in the sense of believing that a return to things such as the “old Mass” or EF as it is referred to by some today, would save the faith. Then along came Pope Francis who appears to have turned this on its head.

How does this have any relevance for Ireland? It seems clear that the dogmas of the Church will never change, nor its view on marriage, abortion etc.  It would be a shame today though for people to see the Catholic Church as a rule book, the breaking of which will land you in hell. This attitude in the past was unsuccessful and rather than promoting a love for the Church filled many with fear and loathing.

Ireland may now be “mission territory”. In the same way that she sent many good people around the world spreading the Gospel, maybe those who heard and responded to the Good news will return, bringing a humbler, purified, gentler faith to Ireland.

Ireland has become dechristianised to a large extent, leaving room for the growth of other faiths and none. Islam is the fastest growing presently.
It is a terrible shame if the enormous good done by many of the clergy and the nuns in many cases is unrecognised.

One thing for sure is that the days of “forcing” religion are long gone. It is usually the case that a person has a “spiritual experience” or becomes evangelised by a personal encounter. Often we meet “Jesus” for the first time through encounter with a person.

If the Church is declining or decaying then it’s because we as a people are. If we are not vibrant, joyful and holy but rather depressed, bitter, whining, groaning for an old, authoritarian, judgemental church, then no wonder our children have walked right out the door.

Copyright @ Jackie Parkes

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Fifty Something

Fifty Something

It all seemed to happen so quickly. The arrival to 50 that is! Today we are very fortunate though, that God willing, we might have our health and opportunities are still many. At this stage of life some of us may be working full or part-time – either having stayed working whilst raising our families or going back to work, as our children reach adulthood.

Retirement is a strange phenomenon these days, with people going in and out of it as the age continues to be raised. In the UK , I will qualify for a state pension in 12 years time. Hopefully, I might be around to use it! Gone are the days when women got a state pension at age 60 and men at 65.

This year my plan is to write a book. My dad has just had his published at age 80.

What are your plans for 2018?

Monday, 8 January 2018

Gypsy Blood

Gypsy Blood

I often wonder if I have any gypsy blood in me. However, after a lot of geneaology work I can’t say I found any as yet. I wonder though if there’s a bit of the traveller in many Irish people.  Apparently, 1 in 6 Irish people now live abroad and about 6 million people in the UK have an Irish born parent. How is that for a few facts?

I love moving house. Well you see my husband and family do the work and I come up with the idea. Like the time I decided we should move to Ireland. That’s a story which I will get back to later. One of the reasons for moving back to the UK was to see my adorable grandchildren. That’s what I’m doing today.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Child of My Love - I'm reading again. So inspiring!

This is a record of the life and achievements of Baroness Ryder of Warsaw, better known as Sue Ryder. During the war, she served with the highly secret Special Operations Executive, created by Winston Churchill to co-ordinate Resistance activities in German-occupied Europe, attached to the Polish sections of SOE. What she witnessed from that time to the end of the war - especially the selfless, cheerful courage of men embarking on the most hazardous of operations - left her determined to relieve the suffering of a devastated continent. In 1953, she formed the Sue Ryder Foundation, which has grown steadily in size and in the scope of the help it offers to people in need. She intended that it should be "a living memorial to the victims who suffer and die as a result of persecution."

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Eating Disorders- Blame the Mother?

Eating Disorders- Blame the Mother?

In my own experience they can run in families through the generations. If you go to a 12 step programme you will learn that like all addictions the illness is “cunning, baffling and powerful. “ One of my daughters described it to me as “sneaky”, which I thought was an excellent description.

It might come as a surprise to people to learn that eating disorders can feature on firstly the addiction spectrum and secondly as a disease/illness. Some people dispute the fact that addiction is a disease in the sense that they think it is a choice to overeat, undereat, take drugs, drink alcohol to excess etc.

It’s a complicated business!

I watched the programme last night about Karen Carpenter who died of a heart attack at age 32 after a long eating disorder battle. It was incredible or maybe not, to see the extent of the denial in her mind. Some professional asked her mother could she not give her a hug and show her love?

They came up with various theories about the family. Richard was the favourite. Blame the mother. That’s always a good place to start! If you go to any 12 step meeting you will often hear the recovery story which usually gives the dysfunctional upbringing an airing.

However, there comes a time that we have to recognise we still might not fully understand the causes of these illnesses. What we can learn is a way to live with them. 12 step programmes such as Overeaters Anonymous can be enormously helpful. This exists for anyone with a problem with food including undereaters/anorexics.

Apparently there are 1.6 million people in the UK suffering from diagnosed or undiagnosed eating disorders. Excellent support page at BEAT here.

Discussion re the mother/daughter issues here

Pope: Like the Magi, we must leave our comfort zone to find Jesus

Pope: Like the Magi, we must leave our comfort zone to find Jesus: Pope Francis marked the Feast of the Epiphany Saturday by encouraging faithful to imitate the actions of the Magi, who weren't attached to worldly comforts, but were willing to go out and take risks in order to find Jesus.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Depression and the Dark Night of the Soul

Depression & the Dark Night of the Soul

One thing about the experience of severe depression, however caused, is the identification with the dark night of the soul as commonly described by St John of the Cross – although I don’t think it is a specific term he used.

“ How do we know that we have entered upon the beginnings of infused prayer and are receiving the initial purifications that will prepare us, if we persevere, for still deeper communion? Before we consider the signs that St. John of the Cross identifies, it may be well to lay to rest a spiritual blunder that is not rarely made, namely, the confusing of a mental problem with the dark night. Too often people use John’s terminology without knowing what he actually has in mind. Clarifying the sharp differences between a mental/emotional problem and the purifying nights can prepare us to understand the genuine signs better.” 4.

I will give two examples from “ Fire Within” to explain the difference.

1. Mental/emotional problem
    Excessive introspection, self-concern, self-analysis. The person can scarcely get his mind off himself and his problem. Advice does little to remedy this trait, at least at first.

Dark/purifying night
Little or no introspection once the condition is adequately explained. Little awareness of the problem aside from prayer time.

2.    Mental/emotional problem
Depression. The person with a mental problem often suffers from clinical depression more or less severe.

Dark/purifying night
There is no depression at all. At work, play, meals, the person is as cheerful as at any other period in the spiritual life.

However to complicate matters!

“ It can happen that a person with some emotional problem may at the same time be going through contemplative purification, and it may be difficult in a given case to sort one out from the other. But all the same, the two phenomena are very different and distict both in their causes and in their effects. “ 1.

   1.   “ Fire Within “ Thomas Dubay, S.M. Ignatius Press

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Anxiety & Depression or "God is in the Mess"

On anxiety and depression


We are thrust into this world without being asked if we would like to be born.
What to do now? We are all born into different circumstances. Some might arrive drug-addicted. Some might arrive serenely into a warm embrace. Some may be fairly intact at least to the human eye. Others may have obvious disabilities and may need urgent medical attention. Some are born in Belfast, Beirut, Barbados,  Birmingham. Some are male, some female or some might say it’s not that simple.

In the image of God

“ God created man in the image of himself,
in the image of God he created him,
Male and female he created them. “  (Genesis 1:27)

Can we imagine that? This little baby actually shows the image of God. If that’s the case it must be very special. The Bible goes so far as to say:
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;
Before you came to birth I consecrated you;
I have appointed you as prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:4-5)

Imagine that! God formed us in the womb. We aren’t accidents. We are chosen by God. All of us.

May they all be one (John 17:21)

What now? The baby is here.

The First Anxiety

This most likely comes when baby can’t find mother. If mother is well and can mirror back to baby all might be well – for a time. Even if all baby’s needs are met, all of us come into the world with different temperaments and propensities for the neuroses or anxieties and depressions.

Some children are naturally more jumpy, more sensitive, more nervous, even as babies. If the childhood goes smoothly, a crisis of some sort as an adult can trigger an anxiety state or other neurosis. A particularly stressful event can trigger a depressive episode.
Can a person have anxiety and depression if they are not temperamentally or biologically disposed to it? It seems more often the case that the “nervous disorders” run in families. For example my own grandmother was a worrier. Can that be passed down genetically through the generations? If so, is it passed down genetically/biologically or is it learned behaviour?

Can a rich person suffer anxiety and depression or is it only poor people? We know that it is no respector of persons- rich, poor, young, old, any race or religion. Simply, it is something anyone might get, given the propensity and circumstances to ignite it.

Igniting Anxiety and Trauma

Wherever possible, it is best to try and arrange one’s life in a calm, stable way.

The situations such as living in war zones or in severe poverty etc require specific assistance from experts.

As the child grows, it is obvious that the more stable and loving the environment, the better it is for the child’s mental and emotional health. Unfortunately, even with the best of intentions, a parent may be ill or absent. Another family member may be in crisis or the physical environment may be less than ideal. There may be a bereavement. Addictions may be present. 

These difficulties might lead one to ask where is God?

The Example of Job

Reading the book of Job can be instructive.

“And now the life in me trickles away, days of grief have gripped me.
At night-time, sickness saps my bones,
I am gnawed by wounds that never sleep.
With immense power it has caught me by the clothes,
Clutching at the collar of my coat.
It has thrown me into the mud
Where I am no better than dust and ashes.” (Job 30: 16-20)

Those of us who have suffered depression can surely relate.

However, I urge you – don’t give up before the miracle. It may take many years but it will surely come.

“Yahweh restored Job’s fortunes, because he had prayed for his friends. More than that, Yahweh gave him double what he had before. “ (Job 42:10)

To do:

Support – medical and spiritual.
Time – is a great healer.

The Panic Attack

Thoughts of death, dying, suffering and illness are common with the anxiety/depressive state. If you have never experienced this type of thinking before, you can get basically “freaked out!” 

This can lead to the panic attack which can feel as though you are having a major heart attack. Pains in the chest, down your arms, tight chest, gasping for breath, problems swallowing, lump in one’s throat, blurred vision, depersonalisation – am I real, hyperventilating and basically nervous collapse. These all seem to be physical symptoms.

Remember or learn if you don’t know:





Then, if you do calm down tell yourself you have been under stress and this is a normal physical reaction to that. You are normal.



Remember if you were actually dying, chances are that might be a peaceful and calm occurrence.



For those of us with severe depression or our situation has become unbearable, it is not uncommon to suffer suicidal ideation. When this first occurs to a person it can come as a very great shock. It can be very distressing for the person suffering and those around the illness especially when they hear loved ones threatening or wishing to take their own life. It can demand great patience and effort to remain calm yourself in order to reassure the sufferer that they are not going mad but have an illness either brought about organically or as a result of stresses and strains in their life.

We know that people throw themselves in lakes or rivers, under trains, overdose, hang themselves. The list goes on. Most probably we all know someone that this has happened to.  I believe sometimes the pain and the hurt is unbearable and people just want it to stop. It seems to be the only way out. The person does not see it as a selfish act because sure wouldn’t it make life a whole lot better for my friends, family and doctors if I just made an exit now. It can be very hard to challenge this belief, as it is in the mind that the problem lies, so it’s difficult to argue rationally at this stage.

Parents, family and friends are advised to take reasonable precautions in locking up medications etc as suicide can often be an impulsive act.
Things to do:

Be open.
Ask for help.

Be open.
Ask for help.

Be open.
Ask for help.

God is in the mess

The Heavenly Jerusalem:

“You see this city/ Here God lives among men. He will make his home among them; they shall be his people, and he will be their God; his name is God-with them. He will wipe away all tears from their eyes, there will be no more death, and no more mourning or sadness. The world of the past has gone. “ (Revelation 21: 3-4)

Don't give up before the miracle!

Copyright @ Jackie Parkes

All bible quotes from The Jerusalem Bible. 1968  Darton, Longmann & Todd Ltd.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

La Vierge Couchee

Things I miss about Ireland

Ireland and me

Picture credit Elizabeth Parkes

The quiet
The green
The people
The accent
The sky at night
The lakes
Ballinamore charity shop
The road to Enniskillen
The families I worked for

Bus Eireann – erm maybe not

Making the Connections - Jean Vanier

Making the Connections
My research into the basis of Aristotelian ethics brought me a great deal of light and helped me to grasp the connection between ethics, psychology, and spirituality. Psychology helps us to understand human behavious and grasp the fears and blockages that are in us, in order to help us free outselves of them. Spirituality is like a breath of inspiration that strengthens our motivation. Ethics help to clarify what is a truly human act, what justice is, and what the best activities are--those that render us more human and happiest. -
Jean Vanier, Made For Happiness, quoted in Jean Vanier, Essential Writings, p. 26

Binge Foods

Do any of you have a craving for a particular food? One of my downfalls is white bread in all its forms, so I expect it’s the white flour. When I had eaten all the brioche one time and my son was looking for it, I knew something had to change! Actually, when a friend posted signs on the fridge and inside it “don’t eat the brioche!” it kind of highlighted the problem! Thanks Jonathan J

I aim therefore to avoid white flour.

I know some people have a “sweet tooth.” I’m not really in that category although I will eat sweets if I’m not concentrating! There’s a big problem with the nation’s health at the moment and sugar seems to be one of the culprits.

Tip for today: work out what foods you particularly crave and if it’s a huge problem avoid them.

Monday, 1 January 2018

New Year's Reading

Although I previously mentioned decluttering I am planning on reading some different books this year.

The above book can be bought on Amazon.

Also my dad's book

Link Amazon

My daughter Jacinta has given me this to read:

 Also on Amazon


It seems like a good day to begin or continue decluttering. I don’t know about anyone else but I find it hard to function in clutter. Again, this begins in the mind. Trying to keep thoughts positive is a good thing. Throw out the junk thoughts which often come as the result of bad mental thinking habits.

Maybe you could take one room at a time. Pick up each object and ask yourself do I really need this? Do I really want it? We have so much stuff! Is it necessary? I knew one person who everytime she bought a piece of clothing got rid of another. Good idea I think.

There are lots of decluttering sites with more ideas. This book looks good here

A good motto might be:

“Live simply so others may simply live.”

Losing Weight healthily

After Before Tips to come!