More Humanist musings

May 25th, 2017

Time passes so quickly! As ever, the challenge is to live in the present. To  savour this moment. To be thankful for all we have and all we are. Being human, all too often we only appreciate things when we’ve lost them.  So enjoy this day. Count your blessings. All you have going for you. Stand back a bit and reflect. Breathe. That heart won’t tick forever. It’s later than you think, and all that. Health, our greatest wealth. The people in our lives. Be thankful too for yourself. I always liked the line from one of the psalms: ‘For the wonder of myself.’ Most of us need to consider that. For each life, ours included, is full of wonder. Sure, we’ve all made mistakes. But we’ve got a lot right too. Made more good decisions than poor ones. We’re survived. We’re reading this. We live. Hope lives. Life exudes all around us. Expel air. Breathe it in. You won’t always be able to do that. Heart ticking. Yours. Mine. For now. So, enjoy this moment.

What is a Humanist or Civil Confirmation?

April 16th, 2017

If you don’t want to be confirmed within a church, or if as a parent you know your son or daughter doesn’t want to go through the motions by being confirmed, there is an alternative: Humanist or civil confirmation.

A dad and good friend of mine asked me if I’d devise a Humanist or civil confirmation for his son. I was happy to do so. I met the parents and their son, I chatted about living a good life without religion and the values and behaviour of wise and conscientious human beings like Socrates and we created the ceremony together and on a later occasion we gathered in their home with close family and friends and held the civil confirmation ceremony.

It went well and they asked me to do the same for their second son. It too went well and I asked the parents to give me feedback and this is what they said:

Madhu, the mother of the young men, said:

Here’s my 2 cents: When I as an adult haven’t decided yet what religion means for me it seems unfair to expect that from my 12 year old. Two years ago we decided to give our eldest son the choice of having a coming of age ceremony instead and it was the best decision he had made. 

Together with Joe we were able to devise his own intimate ceremony which is based around the principles of the humanist beliefs in his own words, with our own family and in our own house. As Joe has children himself he was able to translate the humanist principles at such a level that our eldest son was able to explain to his friends at school and family why he choose this celebration instead of traditional confirmation.
It was such a huge success that our youngest son decided this year to have a humanist celebration too. Again, it was highly personal with his own chosen songs and poems chosen by family. Everybody agrees that the best part is that we all get the chance to write and say something nice about our son, brother, grandchild, godchild; even though it can get quite emotional. At their age everything is being validated by grades and sometimes we forget and should be able to say to them how great they are as a person and this ceremony is the perfect occasion.
Their dad, Evan, wrote:
Reuben, our son, attends the local Catholic (and only) primary school in the area. When Reuben brought home material from school relating to the upcoming Confirmation with his class, it put us in a difficult position. The literature asked Reuben to make a serious commitment to God and the Catholic faith. Furthermore, as his parents it asked us to aid, support and give religious guidance at home to prepare for this ceremony. Given that it was around the time of my own Confirmation that I last believed in God, I was not able to give that guidance. I also felt it asked a lot of a 6th class child to make such a commitment.

That said, we believe it is important that key moments should be marked in a person’s life. Reuben was growing up, preparing for secondary school, and growing into a young man in front of us. We also did not want Reuben to miss out on the “fun” aspects of such a day, the materialistic aspects sure, but also being made a fuss of and having his family around him for a special day.

Joe kindly offered to act as a celebrant in a non-religious “Coming-of-Age” ceremony. The day was special, emotional and invested with real meaning for Reuben and his family. It gave members of the family the opportunity to show Reuben how important he is to them. Joe gave us a wonderful family memory, one I hope will stay with Reuben more than a formulaic, traditional Confirmation. I’d recommend such a ceremony – and Joe as celebrant in particular – to any parent who questions whether a Catholic Confirmation is right for them and their children.

Evan Hughes


A Humanist Ash Wednesday?

March 1st, 2017

Ash Wednesday, 01 March 2017
The Last Word has phoned me and there’s a pre-recorded interview scheduled for 3.45pm today on the theme of Ash Wednesday.
I gave it a bit of thought and rang back agreeing to do the interview.
I feel privileged to have been asked.
I guess it’s exploring a question I’ve been musing on a bit myself. Yes we don’t need the penitence and the guilt.
But it is a day, an opportunity, a moment to ponder our inevitable mortality, the inevitability of our own death.
And it is perhaps an invitation to live this day well.
You never see a hearse with a trailer, so amassing possessions isn’t what life’s about.
Fame is a deceitful and unfulfilling thing.
Winners’ trophies may end up pawned or thrown into skips.
Excessive work can lead to an early grave and an empty home.
Remember man thou art but dust
And unto dust thou shalt return.’
Perhaps it’s forgetfulness of our inevitable mortality that leads us down so many cul de sacs in life.
As a Humanist, I am convinced that this is my one and only life. I do not believe nor do I feel the need to believe in an afterlife.
So Ash Wednesday reminds me, lest I forget it, that I will die.
And I could die before tomorrow’s sunrise, or even before today’s sun has set. Or even before the interview with Matt – partly why I chose to upload this now! The interview might not happen or it might not be broadcast. But now is real. Now I live.
Lessons for me? Don’t worry about tomorrow – I mightn’t even be alive.
Live this moment to the full.
Choose time out to ponder and reflect and to be self-aware.
Be grateful for those who have loved me, and those I love.
Enjoy this moment – it really may be my last one.
Choose moderation rather than excess – there’s enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed.
Embrace ‘enough’ as a value and be wary of that seductive word ‘more’
Cultivate the gratitude attitude.
Know thyself. (Socrates)
And do what you are best at for the benefit of others. (Aristotle)

The interview with Matt Cooper was broadcast on Today FM on Ash Wednesday 1 March 2017. Prof Salvador Ryan, Professor of Ecclesiastical History,  St Patrick’s College, Maynooth and Joe Armstrong discussed the significance of Ash Wednesday, for Christians and Humanists. It was a fun, lighthearted and harmonious discussion.

What are Humanist weddings like?

February 25th, 2017

People who have never attended a Humanist wedding often ask me what they are like. Well, best listen to those who have had them! Read feedback post-ceremony from dozens of people whose Humanist marriage ceremonies I have been privileged to help create and conduct by clicking here.


What is a Humanist ceremony? Stephen Fry narrated BHA video

January 25th, 2017

Video of an outdoor Humanist wedding on a sunny summer day in Ireland

September 28th, 2016

Video of outdoor Humanist wedding ceremony of Lisa and Glen conducted by Joe Armstrong at Nuremore Hotel, Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan on a very sunny day 16 July 2016. Said bride Lisa:’We love it and would be proud to have it on your blog.’ Video reproduced by courtesy of MakeMyDayProductions.com



4th time one of my Humanist weddings on OneFabDay

September 8th, 2016

Yup, it’s the fourth time one of my Humanist wedding ceremonies has featured on One Fab Day. You can see selected pictures from it (and lots more by clicking on my Pinterest board) or by clicking on the OneFabDay link.

Joe Armstong on the Joe Finnegan Show on Shannonside Northernsound Radio 24 Aug 2016

August 30th, 2016

Click this link to a short interview I did about Humanist weddings, naming ceremonies and funerals on the Joe Finnegan Show on Shannonsid Northernsound Radio on 24 August 2016

Time flies

August 25th, 2016

Sometimes it feels like there’s just too much going on – like children growing up and leaving home. Was I blinking? How did that happen so fast? College calls. CAO. UCAS. Wherever.

Choosing what to do aged 18 or 19 is probably most people’s first adult decision. Mine was to enter a seminary (although I’d later see leaving it, nine years later, as my first adult choice). And today new generations set off on their chosen paths aged 18 or so to learn their trade or profession, to chart their course, to create their future. They decide. They act. And off they go embarking upon the great adventure of life!

Humanist musings

July 23rd, 2016

I’m loving being a Humanist celebrant. There’s something wonderful about it for me, doing something I love, something that has meaning, something I’m good at, something that each day, for each ceremony, for each couple or family or individual, is different.

It helps me to live in the here and now. Celebrating this particular couple’s marriage, or this unique family’s new baby, or this distinctive person’s life.

It’s working and living in the real. It’s inclusive of everyone. Being with people crying with joy – what a privilege that is! Crafting ceremonies appropriate to each couple or family or person. And then from planning to execution, celebrating the moment, conducting the words and the readings and the music and the rituals. Yes, living in the now.

Humanists ask questions. That is where we start. We never shy, or should never shy, from asking our questions. We endeavour to think for ourselves, trying never to let others think for us. We choose. We decide. We act. We create. We are responsible. That’s what we try to do anyway. Fail, of course; and probably often. But we keep trying, keep asking.

The couple whose wedding I conducted today chose wonderful readings. Stimulating. Different. Thoughtful. Reflective. Moving. Dramatic. There were lots of moist eyes in the room. The hairs were standing on the back of my neck during one of the readings, the poem ‘It Is Here’ by Harold Pinter, which ends:

What did we hear?

It was the breath we took when we first met.

Listen. It is here.