Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Fr Martin Delaney reflects on the greatest irony- how we don’t appreciate something until it is gone

The most obvious implication of reduced clergy numbers will be a smaller number of Masses celebrated throughout Ireland on a regular basis. Smaller churches are the first to be affected. The irony is that it is often the smaller churches which have the closer-knit community and will feel the loss of a regular Mass more acutely.

Continental Europe has already gone down this road of rationalisation of Masses and many small churches don’t have Mass for weeks on end. I had an interesting experience of this phenomenon over the summer when on holiday in Italy. 

Together with three friends, I spent four days in a little village in Tuscany. Mazzolla has 43 residents and two of them – Joseph and Mary – run one of the best little restaurants I have ever eaten in. 

Our apartment looked out on the main square which was dominated by a little church which was locked all day. My traveling companions had recently buried a family friend and wondered if we could celebrate  Mass for her while we were in Italy. I asked Joseph in the restaurant if we could arrange to use the church. After making a few calls he came back to tell me it would be possible. 


The Mass was arranged for 6pm the following evening. Joseph later came back to me and asked if it would be okay for the people of the village to attend. I explained that I had no problem but that it would be in English; Joseph said that it didn’t matter. 

They rarely had Mass in the church these days and the people would just love to come. 

About an hour before the Mass, I looked out my bedroom window on to the square below. I could overhear a rather animated conversation between three young women. The conversation was about the Mass but there was a problem. One woman had brought water and wine from her house but there were no Communion breads. One of the women explained to Mary from the restaurant that if she went home and took some bread and rolled it out flat, it would be perfect for the Eucharist. 

I was intrigued by this exchange and, when I arrived down to the church, the locals were gathering, almost 30 of them. We had a great bilingual celebration of the Eucharist. The wine came from a neighbour’s house, the basket of flattened bread from Mary’s restaurant kitchen. We broke the bread, we shared the cup. And something happened not only to the bread and wine, but to us. 

Not for the first time, I wondered are we too familiar with Mass in Ireland and if we had fewer Masses would we have greater celebrations.


*Humility When George Bush senior was president of the US, he was visiting a senior citizens’ centre. Walking down a corridor with his entourage they encountered an old man slowly approaching on two walking sticks. The president put out his hand to the man who looked rather blankly at him. “Do you know who I am?” asked the president.

The old man said: “I’m sorry I don’t, but I’m sure if you ask the nurse she will tell you.”


Thought for the week

Finish every day and be done with it.

You have done what you could.

Some blunders and absurdities

no doubt have crept in;

forget them as soon as you can. 

Tomorrow is a new day;

begin it well and serenely

and with too high a spirit

to be cumbered with

your old nonsense.

This day is all that is

good and fair.

It is too dear,

with its hopes and invitations,

to waste a moment on yesterdays.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson