Posts Tagged ‘Meath’

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!


It’s a wonderful life

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

I began watching ‘It’s a wonderful life’ each Christmas a few years ago. It gets to me every time. This year, I cried seven times during it – maybe because of recent high profile suicides. It’s a magnificent celebration of the wonder of life, to be grasped even in the midst of trials and terrors. Although an unbeliever – and possibly even more so on that account – the carefully crafted frame of the story, begun from the perspective of imagined celestial beings that look on us from an alternative viewpoint, and the opening line that the hero isn’t ‘sick’ but, ‘worse than that – he’s discouraged’ sets the tone and vantage point of the psycho-spiritual purpose of the movie: our need for hope against discouragement.
The person on the brink of suicide might find it difficult to bring to mind the positive things they have done in life, and yet that is the tack taken by the ‘angel’ who, charmingly, wants to earn his wings. And so, at the hero’s moment of despair, he is led to people and places familiar to him and he realized that he has not been all bad. Far from it. Yes, he shouted at his kids and crashed his car and money went missing from his workplace during his watch and yes he faced jail and public shaming yet, after his journey with his ‘guardian angel’ he realizes that that is not the sum total of his life. He has done good. And life is to be embraced and rejoiced in, even in the midst of trial and tribulation.
Today, the Meath Hunt gathered in Kells, county Meath, Ireland. It lashed rain but it was a magnificent event: colourful, powerful, energetic, exciting. Riders on their steeds quaffed hot mulled wine while their hounds got friendly with the crowd. I petted two fine hounds and then, after the bugle blew, I and my daughter headed off following them, along with scores of other cars. Kells was a vortex of excitement and smiles, as tourists and locals and horsey people and blow-ins like me savoured the atmosphere. And I felt just like George Bailey, hero of It’s a Wonderful Life, appreciating the moment and thrill of it all.
Before any of us were born, the world spun on its axis and the world knew nought of our non-existence. After our short span is done, the earth will go on spinning without us. Right now, we are alive! Life is wonderful. Relish it, savour it, live each moment to the full.

Cardinal Brady’s position untenable

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

It was fun on the streets of Kells, county Meath, this afternoon. I never saw so many people dressed as leprechauns in my life! The weather was mild. It didn’t rain. There was a happy, relaxed atmosphere. A pleasant way to spend an hour with young families. There were tractors aplenty – this is a world away from the Dublin parade, with its cultural themes. Here in Kells were presented all life, all clubs, all activities; and, of course, some commercial advertisements too. There was the swimming club, the scouts, the tennis club, the GAA clubs, the soccer club, the brass band, the Moynalty cycling club. I think I saw a grind school. There was the Cookstown dogs’ and cats’ kennels. St Patrick (a live one!) was held aloft on the front of  – what else but a tractor. There was a leprechaun cheili group. And well drilling vehicles. Old Beatles and a Cortina. Last year there was the actual car used in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

You meet people. You have a chat. You shout a greeting as someone you know in the passing parade. You buy ice creams. And within the hour you drift home or head off somewhere to drown the shamrock.

Meanwhile, I’ve checked a press release from the Catholic Communications Office of yesterday 16 March regarding Cardinal Brady which said:

‘Fr Brady was then a full-time teacher at St Patrick’s College, Cavan.  Because he held a doctorate in Canon Law, Fr Brady was asked to conduct this canonical enquiry; however he had no decision-making powers regarding the outcome of the enquiry.  Bishop McKiernan held this responsibility.’

I find that ‘no decision-making powers’ a striking phrase. Every responsible adult human being has decision-making powers. As the Catholic Church itself teaches, we must always follow our conscience. We must always follow our honest judgment. Indeed it is Church teaching that we must follow our conscience even if the pope orders us to do something against our conscience. Or if a process denies us a decision-making role. As a human being, we always have a decision-making power and we must always act in accordance with our conscience.

The press release continues:

‘At the end of both interviews, the boys were asked to confirm by oath the truthfulness of their statements and that they would preserve the confidentiality of the interview process. The intention of this oath was to avoid potential collusion in the gathering of the inquiry’s evidence and to ensure that the process was robust enough to withstand challenge by the perpetrator, Fr Brendan Smyth.’

Could the church not be honest enough to admit that the purpose of such an oath might also be to avoid scandal? Thank God that in the secular world justice is done and is seen to be done in public. Such secrecy led to the concealment of crimes against children and to perpetrators of child abuse, including the rape of children, being able to continue with their crimes.

If an individual has no decision-making powers regarding the outcome of an inquiry, he or she retains the human decision-making power to report a crime to the police, and so help prevent further crimes against children.

In my view, the Cardinal’s position is untenable. We need a situation in the Catholic Church where there is no place to hide for child abusers and where each and every allegation of child abuse must be reported immediately to the police, who are the sole organs for the investigation of alleged crimes.

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.

A Step Into the Dark

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Hello friends!

Welcome to my website. One step forward, two steps back. I set up this website for a different purpose – to help academic writers and editors in getting their books published – but that ambition for a site has had to be parked for the moment. (Although I invite scholars needing help to get their work published to contact me at editor@joearmstrong.ie) So here I am, a writer, finding myself with a blank canvas and a potential intergalactic readership of six billion. Well, sort of…

Nature abhors a vacuum, so I’ve a hunch this site will become something of worth as I take a step into the dark with it.

I used to be a columnist with The Irish Times, which was a great privilege for me. I wrote at least one column a week for that famous newspaper for seven years, and two columns a week for five of those years. One column I wrote, called Man Alive, looked at men’s health. It was subsequently published by Gill & Macmillan in the Common Sense series, entitled: Men’s Health-the Common Sense Approach. I got a real buzz out of that – it was translated into several languages. Imagine my delight, one Christmas Eve to receive some book which I thought I’d been sent to review only to discover it was my own book in Hebrew! Of course, I wasn’t even able to recognise my name on it.

I also self-published a book called Write Way to Stop Smoking. I learned a lot about publishing by doing that. That was launched by the then Irish Minister for Health, Micheal Martin, who introduced the smoking ban in public places in Ireland. My book was widely acclaimed, with many doctors and psychologists, including a leading light in the World Health Organisation, saying very nice things about it. I’m still a journalist and a columnist. I write for Reality and Face Up, two magazines published by the Redemptorist Fathers. I love writing for ‘the Reds’. Gerry Maloney, who edits both magazines, is a delight to work with.

I’d another book published last year. It was my first co-authored book and it was a history of Muckamore Abbey Hospital in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. I’ve also had other books and booklets published. For example, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions commissioned me to write the booklet Workplace Stress in Ireland, which was well received. I’ve written heaps of reports over the years, edited others and I’ve hundreds of published articles. For the past three years I’ve been commissioning books for an academic publisher, as well as writing columns, reports and having a new book published.

I’m currently on the committee of Irish PEN and I’m a member of the AFEPI, the Association of Freelance Editors, Proofreaders and Indexers (not that you’d believe me with the typos I let pass here!). I used to be a school teacher. I spent five happy years teaching at St Bonaventure’s Comprehensive School in Forest Gate in the East End of London. It’s now a Technology College. Michael Wilshaw, the head teacher at that time, did such a good job he was knighted for his services to education.

I’m married and have two children. If you have an academic book that you’d like to have published, send me an email to editor@joearmstrong.ie Drop me a line too if you’d like me to write a column or report or if you need stuff edited. I don’t have heaps of time, but if the column or report interests me you’ll have my attention. I look forward to hearing from you.

Enjoy this moment!

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Now that I’ve deleted hours and hours’ worth of stuff which I’d generated for the origianl purpose of this site, I want to take the bare look off the site by launching into the deep. The best word of the wise I heard in the last year or so was a conversation I struck up with a guy – ah, the wonders of technology – who had taken remote control of my computer, even though I was sitting in the wilds of Meath in Ireland and he was Somewhere In India! God-knows-how but the conversation turned to wisdom. What was the wisest thought he could offer me? ‘Enjoy every moment,’ he said. What a wise pointer, to guide us in this moment, which is the only moment we’ll ever know!