Only the brave 


                " Do be brave, and mighty forces will come to your aid

                                  if you are serious with God."


 A very talented, wealthy and haughty old lady died and met St Peter at the Golden Gates.

He escorted her past several splendid mansions to a glorified

garage which he informed her was to be her home for all eternity.  Stamping her foot in fury, she demanded an immediate explanation for this unheard - of discrepancy.  He replied: "Sorry Madam but try as we might, we could not have built you anything better because of the paucity of the materials you sent us."

This was the fable told by Fr Tom Moroney when preaching the parable of the talents on a Sunday morning in Tipperary in the middle of the last century.  It was now being discussed by all six of the O'Brien clan disposed with their parents around the table for Sunday lunch.

Each member was the proud possessor of a string of degrees after his name with the exception of Pudsy, who was "a bit slow" at school and was apt to keep silent unless the conversation revolved around the subject of football, when immediately he became eloquent and could talk the hind legs off a donkey.

The proud father seated in his carver at the head, queried them with regard to the manner in which they employed their gifts for the Lord and again Pudsy fell silent.

  "Ask the Good Lord to lead you into situations where it will be possible for you to use your talents to the full, the mother interposed, and remember, we escape the demands of the life of Jesus on us when we relate to Him in prayer but not in action.   For some, the 'spiritual' life has become the most deadly and subtle way of rejecting Him.  She continued: "Do be brave and mighty forces will come to your aid if you are serious with God !" and so, the conversation continued well into the afternoon which was so typical of an Irish family at Sunday lunch - now a thing of the past - where the garrulity level was high ,witty and  stimulating. Pudsy listened attentively and took it all in.  He did exactly what Mum had suggested and this was the result. 

 Next evening as he cycled past St Vincent's Hospital, he made a sudden decision to enter the building. As if propelled by some invisible force, he found himself in the men's ward.  Shyly looking around, he approached a bed where the patient had no visitors like the others.  To begin with, the conversation dragged, and there were moments of acute embarrassment, until the Good Lord put the magic word "Football" into his mind.  "What did you think of Sunday's match in Croke Park ?" he ventured and immediately the sick man sprang to life.

 Goal by goal they played out that match and soon the whole ward was caught up in their enthusiasm and pulsed with life.  Pudsy knew without a shadow of doubt that he had found his niche.  For the next 36 years he talked football and ran errands in the men's wards, bringing joy and fun into the lives of ailing or dying men.  He became a legend in his own lifetime.

When the Lord called dear Pudsy home eventually, he still had no letters after his name, but loud and clear, a golden "St" preceded it instead.


Attempt the impossible and you will do the unbelievable. Whenever man attempts to do what he knows to be God's Will, a power will be given to him equal to the duty.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen.

A life without risk is one of mediocrity.

Charles deFoucauld. 

They can, because they think they can.


Fortune assists the bold. 


"The willing heart will create its own opportunities".

Archbishop Fulton Sheen. 


In the words of Mother Theresa:   

 "Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person".


"Ideally words should always  be preceded by deeds.  When people who have done something begin to speak, people listen. Their words carry enormous weight.  They have real authority.  The weakness of a lot of words arises from the fact that they are not preceded or accompanied or even followed by deeds.   It is the weakness of Churches, parties and individuals.  It gives people and institutions split personalities.  Lord, grant that what we have said with our lips, we may believe with our hearts and practice with our lives."

"As the body is dead when there is no breath left in it, so faith divorced from deeds is lifeless as a corpse."  

 (  St.James Chapter 2 verse 26 )


Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.  

( T.  Roosevelt )

The salmon farmer who feeds the world.

as told by Mark Greaves.

"Magnus Macfarlane-Barrow's first experience of delivering aid, was to drive a Land Rover crammed with food, clothing and medicine from the Highlands of Scotland down to Bosnia. At the time he was a salmon farmer and he had taken just a week to do it.  When he got back, his family shed was bulging with aid that had poured in from friends and friends of friends.  He quit his job, sold his house and learned to drive articulated lorries.  Now some twenty years later, his charity,' Mary's Meals ' feeds half a million children every day.

But that is not the start of the story.  At least, not how Magnus tells it.  The real beginning was ten years earlier, when he was 14 and he went on a pilgrimage to a small village called Medjugorje.

I met Magnus for tea near London Victoria.  He is tall and in a suit; his hair is greying a bit at the sides. He says he finds it hard to describe the effect that first trip had on him. "It was something in my heart - an experience of God's grace", he says.  Later, he describes it as "something God seems to do for many people there: (He) gives them an awareness of His love for them".

It was a madcap adventure: 1O of his family and friends, all teenagers, turned up at Medjuggorje without anywhere to stay.  They had read an article about six children having visions of the Virgin Mary and thought if it were possibly true they should visit. They flew into Dubrovnik and drove there in two hired cars (harder than it sounds, since their map didn't have Medjugorje on it).

After evening mass, a friar Fr. Slavko Barbaric came over to them and introduced them to his sister who they ended up staying with and who had children of their own age.  It was,  Magnus says, an "Amazing mixture of the supernatural and the very mundane" - one minute they'd be talking football and the next  that one of them was going out with one of the visionaries". 

At the time the six alleged visionaries were young teenagers too.  They invited Magnus's group into the room where  they were having apparitions of the Virgin Mary every evening. Magnus knows two of them still. 

What struck him, though, was not the visionaries themselves - they were very nice and very ordinary people - but the faith of the villagers and the way they responded to what the six children were saying.

 "By the time I came home",

 he says,

"I had the belief that Our Lady really was appearing in Medjugorje and that she was appearing with a message for the  


He says he wanted to try, in whatever way he could, to respond to her message by putting


About a decade later
Magnus was in a pub with his brother Fergus.They were talking about a news item they had seen about refugees near Medjugorje

during the Bosnian war, and that is when they thought of driving there themselves.  Magnus tends to play down his role in all this. 

Once the donations came rolling in he says, it was harder to stop than it had been to start. Giving up his house and his job was no big sacrifice he says.  He had been a salmon farmer for six years and was looking for something else anyway. 

His stories pour out and are some of the most moving I have ever heard.  He talks about Romanian orphans aged eleven not being able to walk. The children all HIV positive left in cots with nobody to lift them out long enough for them to be able to walk properly.  The doctors he says could not see any worth in these children at all, and numbers of them were dying every week. He recalls the remarks of one doctor: "why finish the building of this building, they will be dead before you do so". One of them , Juliana, is now a lovely young woman and Magnus went back for the weddings of three other beautiful girls.Over the next ten years, his charity 'Scottish International Relief'',  built homes in Romania, brought aid to Bosnia and  worked in Liberia and elsewhere. "

'Mary's Meals' was founded in 2OO2.

Its one simple idea was to provide children of every religious denomination with one free school meal every day. It worked and is now going full steam...but let me get back to  Mark's writing: (In the Catholic Herald Nov.25-2OII ).

"To explain how it started, Magnus goes back to that first pilgrimage to Medjugorje 2O years earlier.  His sister, he explains, wrote an article about it to the Catholic Herald and printed at the end was her parents' address. One thousand letters flooded in including one from a woman in Malawi called Gay Russell. Magnus was introduced to her years later because she was a key figure in famine  

 relief and it was through her contacts that his charity was able to start work in Malawi. It was an encounter there that led to Mary's Meals, which now feeds 17% of Malawi's school population  and 581,OOO children globally.   A free meal goes far, says Magnus; there is evidence that enrolment shoots up, attendance rates improves, and academic  performance improves dramatically. The government in Malawi now says it wants to provide free meals for all school children,   


Magnus says , that while he believes  Mary's Meals was a fruit of Medjugorje " we don't shout it from the roof tops " and lots of people involved in the work would never even have heard of the name.The fruits of the place, he says "are beautiful and amazing".


May the sweetness of Mary ever rest on him" "He mentions the great fund raisers in America and the tens of thousands of volunteers in Malawi. A year after his first pilgrimage, his parents went too and had a similarly profound experience. They turned their home into a retreat centre, The Craig Lodge Family House of Prayer.   

It's there that Mary's Meals still has its headquarters. ( Magnus's office is a tin shed in the garden ),  He says "It's just our experience over the years. You go back to how we began and it was this spontaneous outpouring of goodness".


God's call is mysterious; it comes in the darkness of faith.  It is so fine, so subtle, that it is only with the deepest silence within us that we can hear it.  And yet, nothing is surer or stronger, nothing so decisive and overpowering as that call.  This call is uninterrupted;

God is


 calling us.

But the people who know their God, will be strong and do great things. ( Daniel 11-32 ). 

"Aging can be a lovely time of ripening when you actually meet yourself, indeed maybe for the first time.   There are beautiful lines by T.S.Eliot which say:  'And the end of all our exploring / will be to arrive where we started / and to know the place for the first time".  

John O'Donohue.  

"Life dosen't last so very long,

Each day is but a wink,

And every swiftly moving year

We're older than we think.

If you and I are going to try

To bless and cheer, somehow,

The folk we see, it seems to me

We'd better start right now ! "


Anita kilbride-Jones,

Saint Paul's Bay,


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