Launch of Michéal MacGréil’s book, Westport Woods Hotel, 10th of October 2014. 7.30 pm
The On-going Present – A Critical look at the Society and World in which I grew up.
Fíorchaoin fáilte romhaibh anseo anocht chuig an óiche speisialta seo agus muid ag ceiliúradh in éineacht leis an Ath. Michéal agus an leabhair nua seo á sheoladh aige.
A special welcome to Michéal’s family, friends and neighbours.
Welcome to Michéal’s brother Jesuits, confreres in the Society of Jesus.
Welcome to the priests of the Tuam Archdiocese who have gathered tonight to celebrate their friendship with Michéal and to whom he has been a continual support.
Last, but not least welcome to the man of the occasion himself An tAth. Michéal. Is breá linn a bheith leat agus muid ag marcáil na hócáide suntasaí seo i do shaol, cuimhní cinn fir chríonna, cliste, scoláire agus saoi de’n scoth.
Origins of the Book
The preface of the book clearly states that this volume has been written in response to a suggestion of the late Padraic Naughton, CEO of the PTAA. It is a sharing with the reader of a life’s encounter “with God and neighbour” over eighty years. While trying to be objective in describing and explaining the personal, social and cultural experience, the author’s value judgement is subjective. The criteria used to judge the structures and norms are aesthetic and based on the primary foundation of universal social justice. This basic social justice derives from a radical understanding of the teaching of Christ and the common good of humanity. Commentary is also influenced by the author’s familiarity with the human sciences, philosophy and theology and the positive influence of dialogue with family and friends over a lifetime.
A celebration of Memory
As the subtitle says the content of the book goes “from the micro village to the macro world”. Memory of the various stages of life has enabled the author to re-live “the on-going present” without reifying time. Perhaps this should encourage and inspire other octogenarians to commit to writing this valuable experience of living in good and not so good times. The historians make valuable contributions to our past but it is limited by their methodology and needs to be supplemented by memoir of this nature. This is especially true of simple “peasant” life, which this author has had the privilege of sharing.
Agenda – Background
The agenda for commentary in this text has been determined by the family, community, national and international events happening and the location of the author at home and abroad as a youth, adolescent, worker, soldier, Jesuit scholastic, university lecturer, trade unionist, priest, researcher, campaigner, pioneer and peace leader. The on-going existential interaction was internalised through prayer and meditation to make sense of it in the overall context of human life.
Time Frame – Covered
The period under review in the text covers practically the whole history of the Irish State and how it managed to adapt to and survive political, economic, religious and social crises and challenges. The resilience of the people to situations largely created by forces outside our control is well documented. The unsatisfactory settlement in the early twenties led to a series of conflicted and inequitable socio-economic conditions in Northern Ireland for most of the author’s life. The recent Good Friday agreement and the restoration of more acceptable procedures of power sharing are seen as a sign of hope.
Context – Background
In the republic the major challenges have included emigration, imbalanced economic development, the failure of liberal capitalism under the European Union regime, the structural neglect of family, neighbourhood and local community, the rise of individualism and consumerism, the decline of religious belief and practice and the rise in suicide, homicide, domestic break-up and the proportion of adult population in prison. These are basically caused by structural inadequacies that need to be addressed by political and religious leaders.
Strides, Improvements and imbalances in Infrastructure
At the same time the author acknowledges the notable advances in infrastructure such as housing, schools and colleges, hospitals, roads, railways, sports facilities, various skills, farming and food production etc. in the republic in recent years. Unfortunately such welcome infrastructural advancement has not been regionally balanced.
Inter-national and Inter-religious view Point
On the international level the author tries to trace the major issue of peace and war, the gross imbalance between the ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ countries in terms of natural standards of living. With states in the ‘developed’ world we have internal imbalances. This social injustice is in the view of the author the main cause of war and violence. The question of war and violence caused by political – cum – religious differences needs to be addressed at the religious as well as the political levels. The exclusive secular approach in the opinion of the author is doomed to failure. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and other Religious groups must enter into faith dialogue and arrive at a pluralist integration of different beliefs in a world of countries made up of citizens of diverse beliefs.
A view on Economics
Maximum income levels between individuals and communities and states are in the view of the author necessary for a just world. The de-commercialization of work is necessary for a just world. The de-commercialization of work is necessary in order to restore service instead of profit as the prime motivation. Co-operation, which is associative, should replace competition, which is dissociative, if we are to have a just world. The predominance of historical capitalism with its sanctity of the free market is not satisfying the needs of the people.
Other items Considered
- Among the other major issues observed by the author are:
- The dysfunctional nature of extended adolescence.
- The need to give greater support to the Irish Language.
- The case for the restoration of the Western Rail Corridor.
- The revival of the ‘domestic Church’.
- Support and engagement with the travelling community.
- Greater emphasis on Social Justice as an expression of faith.
- The beauty of Irish Society and culture even in times of need and poverty or in the informal village welfare and support.
Involvements / Achievements
Michéal’s achievements and involvements are well known and impressive in their breadth and length. There has hardly been a cause that he hasn’t taken on and championed in his capacity as a priest, lecturer, sociologist, social activist, campaigner and these are well documented in this book.
Interest in the West and the Archdiocese of Tuam
Even though he spent most of his working life in the Eastern part of the country – Michéal never lost touch with his family and his roots in the West, particularly Mayo. His interest and work in the diocese have been huge.
Work in the Diocese
His work in doing supply in parishes, in befriending many of the Tuam Seminarians down the years, the Tuam priests, in doing many scholarly and significant studies of the faith and the direction the diocese is going have been very important, Quo Vadimus, Ar Aghaidh Linn, The Challenge of Indifference: A need for Religious Revival in Ireland to name but a few. We remember the fine job he did on the biography of Mgr. James Horan, with the detailed and painstaking work of the many interviews and much editing in producing such an important historical volume.
The work Michéal has done in reviving the traditional Patrician pilgrimage in Máméan has been a huge and important part of Micheal’s multi-faceted life. Bhí ceiliúradh cúig bliana is tríocha ó ath-bunaíodh an oilithreacht i rith an tSamhraidh agus is cúis áthais go dtagann na sluaite ansin ’chuile bhliain ar lá ‘le Pádraig, Aoine an Chéasta agus an chéad Domhnach de Mhí Lúnasa. Go maire an Oilithreacht thabhachtach seo slán go ceann i bhfad amach anseo sa todhchaí.
If Fr. Michéal was to have continued as an officer in the army he would probably have retired over 20 years ago. As a sprightly 83 year old he is now busier than ever. In recent years Michéal published major surveys on both of his big loves in life – the Church and the Irish language. As if that were not enough he continues to update and re-edit his classic and landmark work Prejudice and Tolerance in Ireland. He continues to expand and develop the shrine at Máméan and helps out in many parishes around the diocese visiting and doing supply. In 2009 as a gesture of congratulations and thanks for a life-time of outstanding diligence, service and achievement in the Church Michéal received the well deserved Papal Award Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice!
Cur síos ar an Ath Michéal
Céard a d’fhéadfaí a rá faoi Mhichéal i mbeagán focail:
Saighdiúir, scoláire, socheolaí.
Duine uasal, úríseal, críonna.
Oide, ollamh agus Íosánach!
Mar atá i gcaint na sean daoine – Sagart ar fad! Is cinnte gur sagart ar fad é Michéal.
A true Radical
This is an important evening in which we refect on a work that has marked a life that has given a truly outstanding contribution to the life of the Archdiocese of Tuam, to the West of Ireland and indeed a great service given to country in general. Michéal’s life has been yes radical – yet profoundly traditional. Radical in the true sense of the word. A life of going back to the roots of where he came from and where the Church came from as a true follower of St. Ignatius of Loyola, of St. Patrick and by extrapolation – Jesus Christ.
Críoch – Deireadh
Fr. Michéal, you have been an inspiration to us all here in this room and in the Archdiocese of Tuam. Along with your family, your fellow members of the Society of Jesus, the Priests and People of the Archdiocese of Tuam I heartily congratulate you on this great occasion. Tá árd-mheas againn ort i nDeoise Thuama. Táimid buíoch díot as ucht an deá-shampla agus obair a rinne tú ar fud na tíre agus go háirithe i dTuaim. Go gcuire Dia a bheannacht ort. Faoi bhrat na Maighdine go raibh tú. Go maire tú an chéad agus go bhfága Dia an tsláinte agat.
Congratulations, once again Michéal on producing yet another monumental work. This book The Ongoing Present, A Critical Look at the Society and World in which I grew up is well worth reading and contains much wisdom and mature reflection between the covers. I commend it highly and it is my happy privilege to declare this book launched.