Posts Tagged ‘Dublin’

7 Tips for a Humanist Wedding

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

Humanist weddings are very personal. They are relaxed. They are all about the couple and celebrating their loving commitment to each other.

A little appeal then if you are trying to get a celebrant for your wedding: please don’t send out an impersonal, global email to lots of celebrants that starts: ‘Hi there,’ or the equally impersonal ‘Hi,’

When you are on the receiving end of that you reasonably assume that this is a generic email sent to oodles of celebrants at the same time. And so, as a professional human being hard pressed for time, the temptation is to put that email to the end of the pile since the suspicion persists that it wasn’t really sent to you at all, but to everyone. And what’s sent to everyone isn’t really sent to anyone. And therefore as it wasn’t really sent to you, and others may already have replied, you might decide not to reply at all to what wasn’t sent to you in the first place!

So, tip number one: as Humanist weddings are very personal ceremonies which are all about you as a couple, it’s a basic courtesy to use the celebrant’s name instead of the generic and impersonal ‘Hi,’ or ‘Hi there’ in your first approach.

(Please note: some lovely people have first approached me with the ‘Hi’ or ‘Hi there’ and I’m glad I persisted beyond the initial iffy first impression.)

Tip number two: please put the date of your wedding and the venue and address of the venue in the subject line of your email. That way a celebrant can immediately see if he or she is available on that date, and they can see if the venue is too far away or within the area that they travel. For instance, almost all my weddings are in Meath, Dublin, Kildare, Westmeath, Cavan, Monaghan, Louth or Wicklow.

Also please don’t assume that the celebrant knows the location of your venue by its name alone. You may think everyone knows where Such-and-Such a country house or hotel is but the celebrant might not. So at least include its name and county. It’s also helpful to celebrants if you continue to use the date of your wedding in the subject line of subsequent emails to the celebrant. You are getting married on one date but the celebrant is conducting weddings on lots of dates and your wedding date is the key to opening the relevant file and, probably, getting a quicker response. It will save your celebrant – and you – time.

Tip number three: please do not change the name of the Word file of your wedding draft. When I send out your bespoke, customized first draft, the name of the file has the names of the couple, the venue, and the date of the wedding. All too often when it comes back it has been renamed ‘My wedding’. Just add your readings and music and your decisions about rituals etc to the file I send you but please do not rename that file.

Tip number four: please understand that, especially in high wedding season like the summertime and Christmas that your celebrant can be inundated with phone calls and emails. None of us can afford secretaries so, especially if one is conducting several consecutive ceremonies, it gets really difficult to keep on top of emails. So please be patient. Your celebrant will reply eventually but it may take longer than you’d like. (Unless you’ve sent out that global email ‘Hi there,’ to all and sundry and so he might not reply at all…)

Tip number five: read a bit about the celebrant, especially the most basic things like the areas of the country that they cover. If, in their profile, they say they only cover Dublin, you are probably wasting yours and the celebrant’s time asking them to conduct a wedding in Donegal or Kerry. Please understand too that it can be risky for a celebrant to commit to doing a distant wedding. Hours of travelling that might be better spent tackling that backlog of emails and the risk of the car breaking down. I have to ask myself: how much would it cost me if I had to hire or hail a taxi to get there…and back!

Tip number six: let the celebrant be the celebrant. Sometimes a bride or groom finds it hard to let go and let the celebrant do his or her thing. But once the planning has been done, that’s the very best thing that the bride and groom can do. Accept that no ceremony is ever perfect. Realize that it’s often the mistakes that make a ceremony. Let go. Enjoy the ceremony. Be happy to giggle or cry or laugh or clap. Or do all of these things! Be you. Forget what anyone else thinks. It’s your wedding – not theirs. Once the bride and groom enjoys the day, everyone else will too.

Tip number seven: your wedding is just one day in your marriage. Marriage is something you work at every day. Something that is never static. Sure, your wedding day is important. It is a milestone, a turning point. But it remains just one day in your life, a day when you publicly express your committed love to one another. Prepare for your wedding, sure. But better still to prepare for your lives together. A life of growth. A life of truth. A life of intimacy. A life of mutual challenge. A life of mutual and loving self-acceptance.

Once you accept that you wedding doesn’t have to be perfect, you are far more likely to accept that neither you nor your spouse has to be perfect either – and so you’ll enjoy a far happier and wholesome relationship that is far more likely to last!

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.

Richard Dawkins Foundation promotes Joe Armstrong’s documentary

Monday, November 12th, 2012

The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science has promoted my documentary on its website, and provides a direct link to the RTE Radio 1 website where you can listen to the 40-minute audio story of how three guys who joined the Marist Fathers’ seminary in Dublin in 1980 transitioned through insight, personal crisis, realization and personal decision from devout belief to happy and contented unbelief.

‘From Belief to Unbelief’ documentary on RTE Radio 1, Sat. 13 October, 2012.

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

I’ve spent more than six months working, with Nicoline Greer from the Documentary on One team at RTE Radio 1, on making a 40-minute documentary called ‘From Belief to Unbelief’.

It charts the story of my journey from belief to unbelief, and also that of two fellow novices, John O’Sullivan and Declan Wynne, who entered the Marist Fathers’ seminary at Mount St Mary’s, Milltown, Dublin, in September 1980.

Of the twenty who entered that year, only three remain in religious life.  I left after nine years. Declan after ordination, having spent thirteen years in the order. John is the most recent to leave: he was a member of the order for some thirty years.

We each speak of the insights, realisations and key events in our personal paths starting with our sense of a call to the priesthood and religious life; entering the seminary; our challenges, questions and crises; our deeply personal and painful decisions to leave religious life; and our contented lives today as unbelievers.

The documentary is not only the personal story of three men: our lives may be seen as a microcosm for the transformation taking place in Irish society in the last 20, 30 or even 50 years. In the early 1980s there were some 40 seminarians in the Marist Fathers’ seminary in Ireland alone. Nowadays, there are no Irish seminarians in the order and Mount Saint Mary’s is no longer a seminary. The chapel which once reverberated to the sound of many young vibrant seminarians now lies silent and is rarely used. As recently as the early 1980s, the houses of the Marist Fathers in Ireland boasted full communities of priests, compared to the small and aging communities remaining today.

Thirty-two years after entering the order, I revisit the former seminary in the company of Father Denis Green SM, now in his nineties, who used to be my spiritual director.

Documentary maker: Joe Armstrong.

Production supervision by Nicoline Greer.

‘From Belief to Unbelief’ is scheduled for broadcast in the Documentary on One slot on RTE Radio One, at 6 p.m. on Saturday, 13 October. It will be repeated the following evening at 7 p.m. From broadcast date it can also be listened to online or downloaded from as an mp3 or Podcast. If it isn’t on the front page of that link, simply search for ‘From Belief to Unbelief’ in the RTE Radio One, Documentary on One search bar, or find it under the ‘Life’ category.




Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

I attended the lecture by Prof Daniel Dennett entitled Taking the Place of Religion last week at the D4 Berkeley, Dublin. I felt completely at home. I am no longer a believer. I spent the last seven months of 2010 writing a semi-autobiographical novel based on my nine years in a seminary. The transition from believer to non-believer, in my experience, does not happen overnight. It is more a gradual thing. I do not see myself as having ‘lapsed’. I see myself as having outgrown religious faith, just as an adult no longer believes in witches, Leprechauns or the tooth fairy.

Returning home

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Returning home  is a powerful theme. I’ve been away (hence my silence) and I just love being home again. Sure, it was great to travel. They’re right to tell us travel broadens the mind. But, a bit like a monk out of his cell, the battery runs low away from base – at least it does for me (to mix my metaphors!).

Coming home is a great theme of humanity. The return of the emigrant. The return of the prodigal son. And, of course, return to earth – coming home, our race run, our life spent, reentering the dust from which we came. The Celtic Tenors sing a beautiful song called Caledonia which anchors around the words ‘I’m going home’. I associate it with my late and much-loved father-in-law Eugene Cassidy, a farmer from county Meath, who, while he had terminal cancer and his death was approaching and his mind was affected by his illness and medication, and he wanted so often to ‘go home’. ‘Let’s go home,’ he’d say. In fact, he was in his home and died in his home. Perhaps he yearned for the home of his childhood: maybe he was confused thinking he still lived there. (Once, he scared us and astounded us by leaping out of bed – he needed assistance to move! – yet he managed to spring from bed and make it half way down the stairs before we realised what was happening and he was ‘going out to milk the cows’.)  I associate that song, Caledonia, with Eugene RIP for his wanting to ‘go home’, this powerful draw of the human spirit to go home, to return to the place we started.

Long after I’d left home, I used occasionally to drive to the house in Donnycarney in Dublin where I grew up. The place that shaped me. The building that formed the contours of my life and world as a boy. I haven’t lived in that house since I was a boy of 18, and headed out into the world to grow and live my life, making mistakes and changes of direction. But all that’s for some other day.

For today, I’m glad to be home. Back in the house that my wife and I dreamed up and built. The home that fits us like a glove. The place we love and the place I’d be more than happy to die in. Sure, home is within us. But it’s also a physical place. When home is a place of misery, of paralysis, of constriction, it is time to move on and out. But when home is a place you love, a place you grow, a place of love and acceptance and happy relationships and healthy interchange, a place of play, a shelter from our wanderings, an engine for recharging us and a place we call our own, how very lucky we are!

Apologies for my silence these past days. As I say, I’ve been away. But I’m back! Thank you for you kind comments, which I appreciate.

Celtic Women also do a gorgeous version of Caledonia on YouTube.