compassion, confession, faith

Month: February, 2016

We Irish

There appears to be many misrepresentations of Irish history. Let me make it perfectly clear. When the Irish came to America in the 1800’s many believe it was from the potato blight and a famine. Yes there was a potato blight but, there was no famine. What actually occurred was genocide conducted by the English ruling class. In earlier Irish history the English won decisive battles against the Irish. So the island of Ireland was governed by an oppressive foreign country. It was so oppressive that the Irish people lost their land holdings, land passed down from fathers to sons. Britain had brought in and gave possession of land to Scottish and English landlords previously owned by the Irish. The people who worked the land as tenant farmer were the Irish themselves.                                                                                                                                      When the potato blight happened it wasn’t just Ireland, it was also happening in Europe. This potato blight didn’t cause a famine in Ireland. There was plenty of sustainable food harvested and produced that was being shipped out of the country.  The potato was a root crop that tenant farming families depended on as a sole staple in their diet.                                                                                                                    Since the potato harvest failed, tenant farmers with little else to grow to pay for working the land were forced off by the landlords. Consequently many of the people died of starvation and the others emigrated to America. Passage was paid for by the English or by the Irish people themselves.                                                                                                                                                                                                              As the Irish immigrant stepped ashore in America if family wasn’t waiting at the docks many settled in major cities with deplorable living conditions.  Many a man was recruited into the Union Army during the American Civil War period. After the end of the American Civil War was when the first St. Patrick’s Day was observed and parades became popular.                                                                                                                                                                                                      Now we Irish have been portrayed as lazy , apes, drunks and the blunt of jokes in degrading form. So we members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America have drafted a document that we distribute widely prior to St. Patrick’s Day:                                                                                             “We in the Irish community are fully aware of the commercial aspect of observing St. Patrick’s Day. We are also aware of, and do not appreciate,  nor do we wish to see, degrading or insulting depictions of our Irish ethnicity.  We welcome celebrations,  not attacks.  WE WILL NOT SUPPORT businesses  or commercial outlets that insult us. Instead, true and complimentary aspects of our culture should be depicted involving our social organizations,  dance, music, language , art and the charities we generously support. These would provide a large pool of subjects and objects worthy of your commercial attention. Celebrate the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day with us”.              Slainte! 

War veterans

We members of The Ancient Order of Hibernians in America,  an Irish-Catholic fraternal organization are always looking to bring in new members. Most connect with our division as we are called through our national office. Men inquiring for membership connect via email. Some come to us by being at an event we hosted. Being a fraternal organization veterans returning from war seek organizations like ours for the comradeship. When these guys come home the thought that no one is watching their back or the tight knit group they knew in war is absent. Even though they are home they never left the war. We brought in a new member recently. Right away you could sense he was reaching out to belong. I myself sponsored him. When trying to get a feel of what a new member wants to get by becoming a member is important. Some may not gain admittance either because he is not a practicing Catholic,  not of Irish birth or decent and joining for a reason that we don’t honor. In my interview with him he passed all requirements. The day of him taking his first degree in becoming a member,  called the Shamrock Degree I asked about his involvement during his tour of duty. His tour was Iraq and Afghanistan. From news reports and media outlets all the world knew of the kind of combat these men and women endured. There was only so much he would share which was reasonable because my intention  was not for him to relive it. The best advice he gave was a link to TED Watching the video at the link put everything about returning veterans in a perspective unknown to me. Keeping him active in our division was good for a few months but, eventually he drifted away. He and I keep in touch and I sense he is still searching for something we cannot fully give. I think of him often hoping he will find himself not at war. Love you, Brother.

A quiet morning

Sometime ago when we agreed to keep our grandchildren from Friday evening through Saturday afternoon, I told my stepdaughter that we need off every so often. Well at 8am today the dog and I are watching PBS because the kids aren’t here this weekend. Normally the TV would be on and they would be tuned into Nickelodeon or Little Einsteins children’s programs.  I tried desperately to get them to watch Looney Tunes.  Too old fashion for their taste, if they had a taste at 2 and 4 years old. Anyway my wife, their grandmother sleeps in on Saturdays till her daughter arrives at four in the afternoon. Being a guy who never brought up children before meeting and marrying my wife this is new to me. Sometime two weeks ago I ranted to friends on Facebook how the kids misbehaved.  I wasn’t about to whack their diapered bottoms everytime they misbehaved.  Looking for wisdom from others eventually it came forward. Come to think of it, it was only women who offered advice. As if the guys were clueless or were not about to tell me on social media. I remember hearing it said that being grandparents we  have to realize grandchildren will eventually go home. Yes I am enjoying the silence and calmness today but, by golly I miss them already . They will be back soon enough and grandpa will enjoy every minute of their time with us again and again and again and….


My next door neighbor is across the street on our block clearing the debris leftover from winter. He and I maintain this no mans land because neither the city nor the railroad will claim it. After walking over to visit with him the conversation is about our jobs. He is 70 years old and still works in sheet metal fabrication. I’m 64 years old and fully vested in my employers pension. But this time the talk is of retirement.  I tell him about letting my employer know of my choice to retire in a year. My neighbor responds with. ” when he is mad enough that will be his time”. That made perfectly good sense to me. For years my fellow employees goad me about when I would retire. This pressure from them to know my retirement date really started to piss me off. My response to them was always,  ” when they pry my dead fingers off the stearing wheel, maybe”. Now that I am reaching the age where social security and medicare are available more thought on the matter is real. Still if I enjoy working why not do it. Like my sister tells me, if I can make it to 70 years of age I will be better off. The only problem I see with that is living long enough. Think I’ll wait for a sign saying go home and become a writer.


Before living second shame had kept in the grip of fear. Fear that I would be exposed to the sin of lust and self gratification. On top of that confessing my sin when knowing full well it would happen again seemed to grieve me more. If you can imagine someone being chained to a whipping post waiting for the whip to strike at any moment that was my life. Day in and day out, twenty four hours a day waiting  while still sinning. Why ask for forgiveness and continue to live as a hypocrite?   I had reached the peak of regret when I was so filled with remorse I turned to the only one who could help. Jesus. Now I thought if the media hadn’t tempted me it would be easy to overcome this addiction. No, that was an excuse.  I was too weak in spirit to fight it. In my asking for forgiveness and the will to overcome this it happened like in the blink of an eye. Scripture says, if we ask it will be given to us. All I had to do was believe and have faith. It has not been easy since. It is more important to me to share my story of redemption and not hide my scars so to speak.  If people want and need a sermon, it won’t be found here. Maybe it is best just for me to give my testimony of God’s great love and give Him the glory. I have heard it said that when someone becomes a new child of God the crying ends. I am here to tell you the tears continue to flow down my face occasionally.  Tears of joy that is. My name is Howard S Coughlin and i am second.

Let’s talk

This week I was messaging with a friend on Facebook. This friend I had never met face to face. We had the same interests in poetry. So no there was not any human contact ever made. When using electronic communications without a voice or screen shot of the other person it loses so much sense of what is trying to be said. Face to face is always better because body language gives a clue to what may be felt. Anyway so I am trying my best to convey my message and the response was not what I hoped it would be. In the confusion my choice of words was way off base. This didn’t help one bit. It actually became quite irritating  for the other person. The lesson learned was don’t ever, ever assume the other person reading a message is interpreting it how I wanted it to be. To make it worse I lost a friend who inspired me to blog.

The forgotten

We see them standing at corners of busy thoroughfares holding sign or a cup. Most people including myself would when waiting to proceed into traffic might not pay attention to them. Occasionally someone would pass a few dollars through the window to them. What do these people do with the cash given to them. If you hear it mentioned in conversation the usual guess is alcohol,  drugs and cigarettes. Now I see these people daily asking for a handout while performing my job. There came a day when I parked my vehicle off the street and approached one of these panhandlers. In a friendly gesture I asked if he was hungry. The answer came back as a yes. Seeing that there was no visible threat such as nervousness from him I said to him, walk with me then. So we meander back towards my vehicle in the tall grass. Without even asking he tells me that he panhandles instead of stealing. We reach my vehicle and I give him a piece of fruit and some peanut butter crackers. Instead of just leaving I decide to walk back to the corner with him. He tells me his story. The story is he has an injury from an on the job accident that has left him partially disable. Did I believe the story? Yes and why would I think differently ?Was I to judge him when my belief is to not place judgment on others? The way to actually  think is why are these people out on the street and not being cared for in the first place. To get back to his story I ask him where does he sleep at night. Under this bridge at a location I know of he tells me. He could go to one of the few shelters here in my city if they have an empty bed. That is not always possible because women with children are given beds first. Anyone else is turned away when they are full. See the problem? This country is making it almost impossible to offer assistance to the homeless.  My city is trying to pass an ordinance making it against the law to panhandle. They have erected signs in the downtown entertainment district telling people not to give to panhandlers. What has happened to us?


Pickup that pamphlet a voice speaks to me. Think about when you were at ease with the thought of dying in 1991. Yes I remember. What did you feel then? I was at peace knowing in the afterlife I would be with my loved ones. Exactly and now? Lost and afraid. Why? Because I don’t believe You exist. So read the pamphlet you hold in your hands and tell Me what it says. Hope for the hopeless,  not going it alone. What can I give you? To believe again, to know my purpose but most of all have peace again. I want to know you Lord. Here I am. I never left you and have been waiting on you to come back. Let me walk with You again and tell me more about my purpose.

Mother’s mind

This day like every Sunday it is looking in on Mom day. I find her sitting in the dining room eating lunch. Crumbs and spills on her blouse. Nothing needs to be said about it. I move her wheel chair closer to the table. She says she is happy to see me. I mention the church bulletin the eucharistic minister leaves her when on the table next to her. I talk about the readings from today’s mass. Still she remembers them. The staff takes my lunch order so she and I can have a meal together. I ask her if Swiss steak is covered in marinara sauce. She doesn’t remember. So I tell her I will order the Swiss steak and try for the first time ever beets. Pickled she asks ? No buttered is my response. She remembers. When dessert is offered she is asked, chocolate pie Grace. Mother enforces her love of chocolate by proclaiming out loud,  ” There’s no bad chocolate “. Everyone laughs because she’s Gracie and opinionated. Everytime when I depart I remember her before dementia laid claim on her mind. I visit in an attempt to steal it back.

Growing up while growing old

These few months have taken me on a journey of no return. Returning to the old me that is. Last October  my faith turned 360 degrees because I found the real identity in saying one is a Christian. A life long belief in the god of my father was a lie. Why? Because there was doubt that He even existed. Sure there was the catechism of my church drilled into me. The baptism as an infant, Holy Communion, confirmation and the like. The profession of faith, the Apostles Creed, Vatican II all meant so much. So I thought but, when doubt creeps in a faith can be lost. And so it was with me.  Then by chance there was this pamphlet, not quite a protestant bible tract,  just something to catch your eye. One word , actually three in one, iamsecond. Yes my whole life changed because of a simple pamphlet. I watched short films of people of all kinds to live for God and others. Inspiring?  Of couse. Those stories meshed with my story. My whole outlook in the God who fashioned me never left even when I doubted. What perfect kind of love is that. So many times during and after my conversion prayer , deep prayer gives me faith knowing He listens and talks to me. Now I have grown up and grown old but ,that oldman is not inside of me anymore.