With only three weeks to go before the next ‘apparition’ at Knock, predicted by Dublin faith healer Joe Coleman, officials at the County Mayo shrine are preparing for a big influx of visitors on December 5th.

A spokesperson for Archbishop Michael Neary said health and safety would be a big issue and the Archbishop himself would have a major input into the arrangements being made. Management at the Shrine was very concerned about the effect the situation was having on the many people who came to Knock on a regular basis for their own personal and religious reasons, said the spokesperson.

One man who hasn’t minced his words is local priest, Fr Brendan Hoban, who writes a weekly column in The Western People newspaper. Referring to the whole affair as complete nonsense, Fr Hoban says people have entered into such a bizarre situation that one couldn’t make it up. It demonstrated the absurd principle that, when it came to religion, the problem was not that some people had difficulty believing something but that so many could believe anything, even the kind of nonsense that was occurring at the present time.

It was very difficult to tell such people that they were being deluded, said Fr. Hoban, and because bishops and priests wanted to appear as accepting and non-judgemental they passed the buck. Meanwhile, when strange lights were seen, even by the obviously deluded, the crowds gathered, the interested, the worried, the gawkers and the hawkers and those afraid that they might miss something. It would, said Fr. Hoban, be funny if it wasn’t so sad.

Mass attendances on the up

Still on the subject of religion, I haven’t got any actual figures for Waterford but, according to reports from around the country, attendances at Masses have increased significantly, especially during weekdays. It has been suggested that the number of people worshipping at Sunday Masses has increased by 4 per cent but, in many churches, there has been a sizeable jump in attendances on weekdays.

One religious commentator has suggested that, in times of trouble, people turn to prayer and many have finally seen the shallowness of the consumerism that existed during the Celtic Tiger era for what it was and are seeking a more solid and spiritual lifestyle. He may well be correct.

Top 10 Christmas Toys

Even in tough times, parents always try to get their children something special from Father Christmas and I’m told that Smyth’s Toys have forecast the Top 10 Toys for Christmas this year to be as follows: 1 Transformers Supreme Combiner – Devastator; 2 Fur Real Lulu the Cat; 3 In the Night Garden Sleepy Time Igglepiggle; 4 Monopoly City; 5 Ben 10 Alien Force Figures ; 6 Sylvanian Caravan and Family Car; 7 Lego Minotaurus; 8 Mickey Mouse ClubHouse Hot Dog Dancer; 9 Clone Wars Ultimate Blaster; 10 Animatazz.

Fr Ted and Kilinascully

We don’t often hear of ‘after hours’ cases before the courts these days partly because people don’t have the money to drink in pubs during legal time not to mention later on.

But things were obviously different in the County Cork village of Kiskeam not too long ago because, at last week’s Kanturk District Court, Judge Michael Patwell was informed by gardai that one-hundred people were found drinking on the premises of the ‘Why Not’ bar at 3.45am and there was music and a bouncy-castle on the go as well!

I don’t know about you but, to my mind, it conjures up mad images from Fr Ted or Killinascully.

Subsidised Spanish holidays a big hit!

In this column a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned the Spanish Government’s subsidy of winter holidays on the Costa del Sol for people over the age of 55.

According to the latest figures, the Irish have become the biggest group of European clients availing of the offer. The Travel Senior programme is also on offer in 16 other European countries but none of them have snapped up the deals like ourselves. Maybe it has something to do with the weather – here!

Billionaire who fell in love with Kilkenny Castle


A billionaire Bangladeshi businessman, Dr Moosa Bin Shamsher, who once fell in love with Kilkenny Castle and tried to buy it, made international headlines last week when it was learned that he was the owner of the most expensive pen in the world.

The UK based Campion Media bureau reported that the unique, French-made, Mont Blanc pen is exquisitely designed and made of 24-carat gold. It is encrusted with 7,500 diamonds and insured for one million dollars. The flamboyant businessman uses the pen to sign business deals only when they are in excess of ten million dollars.

Dr Moosa has visited Waterford, Kilkenny and Tipperary many times. He fell in love with Kilkenny Castle during a night-flight helicopter ride of the area and saw it in all its glorious magnificence illuminated and magically reflected in the river Nore and he thought it was reminiscent of an illustration he once saw in a childhood fairytale book. However, he was unsuccessful in his attempt to buy it on the spot!

It is said that the Doctor regularly bathes in rose water, appreciates the finer things in life, wears expensive jewellery and is accompanied everywhere by a team of six bodyguards.

The things that happen in Confession!

A young woman went to Confession in a city church on Saturday last and told the priest her husband had made mad passionate love to her seven times the previous night.

“My dear girl”, said the priest, “sex between a married couple, no matter how many times it occurs, is not a sin. Now, please go from here and, when you get home, squeeze seven lemons into a glass and drink the juice slowly.”

“Thank you, Father”, said the young woman, “will that cleanse me of my sins?”

“No it will not”, said the priest, slightly irritated, “I’ve already told you, you have not committed a sin by having intercourse with your husband.”

“But why have to told me to drink the juice of seven lemons”, asked the young woman.

“Because, young lady”, said the priest, “it just might wipe the satisfied smirk off your face.”

When Confession was over, the priest was only back in the sacristy a couple of minutes when an elderly man knocked at the door. “Father, my poor old dog has died. He was a great companion to me for many years and I’d like you to say a Mass for him.”

“I’m sorry”, said the priest rather stiffly, “we don’t say Requiem Masses for dogs in the Roman Catholic Church. Perhaps you should visit the Dean at Christ Church, he might be able to do something for you, the Church of Ireland enjoys that kind of thing.”

“Oh thank you Father, I didn’t mean to give offence”, said the man, “do you think €1000 would be enough to offer the Dean for a service?”

“My dear man”, said the priest, “it has just dawned on me. You never told me that your lovely little dog was a Catholic.”