Posts Tagged ‘children’

Still loving conducting Humanist weddings

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015

I still love conducting Humanist wedding ceremonies. Each one is different. Each couple is different. Every gathering of relatives and friends is different.

Ironically, it’s great when something goes wrong! Everyone relaxes and realizes the burden of it having to be ‘perfect’ is a myth. It’s always great once that first thing happens that puts people at their ease. A baby cries. A song goes wrong. A little ring bearer runs off with the rings. The parents can’t light a candle because the air conditioning keeps blowing the candles out. Someone has a fit of the giggles.

Once, at the very end of a ceremony, the bride was trying to say something to me but the music was loud and she was on the far side of a table and it was hard to catch what she was saying.

Eventually I heard her, ‘He didn’t kiss me!’

‘Stop the music!’ I cried. ‘The groom didn’t kiss the bride!’

And the music stopped and the audience watched and the groom kissed his bride and everyone cheered and clapped and roared with glee and the music resumed and the couple processed down the aisle and there was great merriment, excitement and fun.

And yes there was a little lad who blew out the candles and ran off with the wedding rings just before the exchange of rings. He was rugby tackled by his dad – well, OK, not rugby tackled – but brought back into the ceremony room, and the rings restored to the Best Man just in time.

And yes once a guest dropped the wedding rings early in a ceremony and they were a hair’s breadth from dropping down a gap between floor boards in an ancient stately home.

It’s great when the couple, especially the bride, relaxes and enjoys every moment; realizing that it isn’t about external things at all. It’s about living the moment, cherishing the important things, celebrating the love the couple share for each other and the commitment that they are making publicly to their partner. I think of the bride who decided, when I met her outside the chapel, that she’d be far more comfortable in her boots than her wedding shoes and decided to go up the aisle in the boots instead. She asked my view. I suggested comfort first. ‘I like your style,’ she said.

And once the bride is chilled out and relaxed and living the moment it’s much more likely that everyone else will enjoy themselves too.

Happily, I’ve encountered very, very, very few bridezillas! But, unlike the deities, they do exist – perhaps just one per hundred brides. You can spot them by the state of panic of the unfortunate groom, who might remove something beautiful a florist or decorator did because ‘she’ would see red. Or I’m told confidentially by the venue manager that they’re all on tenterhooks because of the unreasonable demands of the bride. Or the musicians might agree with a small last minute amendment I propose but they wouldn’t make the change because they’re terrified of Zilla, lest the improvement incur her displeasure. Or I spot something that I know won’t work for the ceremony, fix it and come back moments later only to see that someone playing watchman for the bride has changed it back to the way that I know won’t work.

The exceptions might make the good stories but the greatest stories are the ordinary, lovely, gorgeous, hopeful, committed couples who just want a personal ceremony that is about them and who want to show their families and friends their loving commitment to one another. They want to feel relaxed and they want their guests to enjoy their wedding. I think of all the couples that I have met, wonderful people, who have found love and hope and joy, and whose lives have joined together in a union of trust and encouraging mutual acceptance. And they want to celebrate that love by getting married.

Often they may have their children there and we include the children in the ceremony. Often the kids make the ceremony. We might have planned to stand for the vows but junior decides he’s crawling up on his mother’s lap and we adjust and do the vows sitting down. Or up come the kids to pour sand or tie ribbons or have candles lit for them.

I love my work – being with people at such important turning points in their lives.

Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God

Monday, February 18th, 2013

I watched Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God and attended a Q&A session with its director Alex Gibney at the Lighthouse cinema in Dublin last Friday. The documentary about clerical sex abuse in the USA and Ireland  is powerful, well-made and persuasive, as you might expect from the Oscar-winning director. It made the point that, at one stage, every case of clerical child abuse ended up on the desk of Cardinal Ratzinger, the soon-to-retire pope. Given the opprobrium rightly heaped on those very many bishops and religious superiors who did not stop abusing priests from the rape and molestation of children, who did not report such heinous crimes to the police, and who did not inform the parents of children abused of the trauma suffered by their children, I couldn’t understand why the film backed away from taking a closer look at Ratzinger’s failure in this regard too, given that, as the documentary makes clear,  every case landed on his desk.

My only other criticism of the film is that it doesn’t challenge the ludicrous belief which is articulated in the film that a priest is ontologically changed at ordination, becoming just less than an angel. It’s that daft belief that mesmerized so many credulous Catholics into not recognizing vile acts against children for what they are: crimes against humanity perpetuated by vile men, facilitated by senior clerics who retain their positions of power and privilege.

The big Five-O

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

AS the big Five-O looms and gets closer and closer – the half-century – I cannot believe the computation of years. How could it be? Eighteen years living at home, a student until my late twenties, five years’ teaching, seventeen years working as a writer,  journalist and editor. Meeting my wife, the love of my life; fathering our children – the eldest now as tall (or could he be taller?) as me. The house built, the books written, the trees planted. The jobs done: Irish Times columnist, managing editor for Ireland of a publishers, chair of Irish PEN. The high points, the low points; the joys and the sorrows.

Our life tasks change. Time is more precious. Love alone makes sense of it all.

I’ve finished my memoir. Hardest thing I’ve ever written. And it was like a different person writing it, looking back at a younger self. I’ve the distance of age now to laugh at the young man’s follies and delusions. But it was so difficult going back there, revisiting insights, transitions, decisions delayed, decisions taken. Fear and risk at play in me.

Looking back, I saw the patterns, the traps, the seeming security and the terror of taking a risk confident only in my raw gut and trusting it, and outgrowing the need for others to agree or confirm or verify.

I’m writing a play. And I’ve written a short story.

What would I do if I’d only a year to live? Or a month? Or one day? I know I’d spend some of it writing.

Father’s Day

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Being a Dad: the Top 10 Problems and Solutions

By Joe Armstrong

Problem No. 1: Time If you leave home before the kids are up in the morning and crawl home knackered when they’re in bed, it doesn’t take a genius to twig that time is your big problem. Tell me what you spend your time on and I’ll tell you what you love. Spend no time with your kids and you love ‘em? Go figure.

Solution: If you can’t find time for your children, you’re too busy or in the wrong job. The greatest gift you can give them is your time and attention. Make time! They’ll have grown and left the nest before you know it. Now is the time to laugh, relax and do stuff together.

Problem No. 2: Listening Listening is a learned skill. It is different to hearing. With hearing you react to the words. With listening you’re attentive to the person and feelings behind the words. Asking questions isn’t listening! Giving out isn’t listening. Watching telly isn’t listening to your kids!

Solution: Learn to listen. Say ‘You seem upset’, not ‘Why are you upset?’ Watch and feed back to them. If your kid says ‘I’m bored’ reflect it back: ‘You’re bored’ (a statement, not a question or criticism). When you feed back their words, it shows you’re listening and they may feel encouraged to open up more. Show them how they feel is important to you. Learn this skill and use it regularly.

Problem No. 3: Criticizing Criticizing your kids is not how to win friends and influence people! Sure, some of what they do mightn’t be kosher. Licking the plate. Blaring their music. Texting manically. Wearing that. Showering forever. Or not showering. There’s lots you could moan about. But nagging and complaining isn’t the recipe for happy families.

Solution Put a sock in it! Give up criticizing today. Watch how relationships improve when your kids stop expecting you to nark about something they did or failed to do. Self-criticize if you must, but hey! why now give yourself a break too?

The whole article, including the other seven problems and solutions, are published in the current issue (June 21, 2010) of Woman’s Way magazine.


Thursday, April 1st, 2010

How often in life I have found myself pulled this way and that! I studied Hamlet as a schoolboy and how appropriate for me. There can be value in deferring a decision. It is the antithesis to impulsive living. It took me nine years before I decided to leave religious life and my path to the priesthood. Yet, I do not regret the time I spent in the Marists. I taught for five years in London, when I might have left teaching earlier to become a full-time writer. Yet, had I left, I would never have met my wife or had our two lovely children. So, I’m open, ever open, to considering possibilities. Then again, once I make a decision, a considered decision, I tend to be confident that it is the right one due to the time and care I take in reaching my decisions. And it is not as if I deferred leaving religious life for nine years. On the contrary, I chose to stay in religious life for nine years. Nor did I defer leaving teaching for five years. I choose to stay for five years. Decision-making keeps us alive. So long as we engage in the process and are true to ourselves, whatever we decide, we thrive.