19 March 2020

A sunny afternoon spent
at the harbour and on
the beaches in Skerries

Blue skies and blue waters at the harbour in Skerries this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

I have worked for days on end, so I thought I’d take two days off in Dublin, and come up from Askeaton last night following one of the quietest Saint Patrick’s Days I have ever experienced.

In the Church Calendar, today is Saint Joseph’s Day, but apart from people with the name Joseph or Joe, I imagine this saint’s day did not figure on the radar of many people.

I was working today in advance on some postings with preaching and liturgical resources for clergy and readers in the Dioceses of Limerick and Tuam. But I took a few hours off early in the afternoon to go for a walk on the beaches – both the North Strand and the South Strand – and around the harbour in Skerries in north Co Dublin.

It was three months since I had last been for a walk in Skerries – on a wet, blustery winter’s afternoon in mid-December, a week before Christmas. How much has changed in Ireland, and across the globe, since then!

The tide was out at the North Strand in Skerries this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

But it was a bright sunny afternoon today, with blue skies and warm sunshine, with the spring sun sparkling and shimmering on the harbour and on the sea.

The tide was out, and two of us had an opportunity for a longer walk than we had three moths ago.

The sailing club was closed, the rowing club was closed, the little ice-cream hut at the Harbour, Storm in a Teacup, was closed, all the bars, caf├ęs and restaurants were closed, and yet there was a snake-like queue of people outside the Olive on Strand Street, waiting patiently in the sunshine for takeaway coffees.

After buying The Guardian and The Irish Times in Gerry’s, two of us set off for our brisk stroll along the North Strand, around the Harbour and then Red Island, and back down the South Strand, before stopping for our coffee.

A peaceful afternoon at the Harbour in Skerries (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

I am little taken aback by how few people are paying attention to the guidelines on social distancing. People are still stopping to talk to one another, children are out playing on the sand and on the pathways, the queues at the shops that are open are good excuses for social conversation …

It’s all a sign that we appreciate life in all its fullness, and that we want things to get back to normal as quickly as possible.

Hopefully, when this crisis passes – as it will – there will be long sunny days and good opportunities for lengthy walks on beaches, wherever I am.

The long stretch of sand on the South Strand in Skerries this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Praying through Lent with
USPG (23): 19 March 2020

‘Stumbling stones’ or ‘Stolpersteine’ in Venice remembering Jewish families from Venice deported to Auschwitz during the Holocaust (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Today in the calendar of the Church is Saint Joseph’s Day [19 March]/ During Lent this year, I am using the USPG Prayer Diary, Pray with the World Church, for my morning prayers and reflections. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and the end of the Holocaust, so I am illustrating my reflections each morning with images that emphasise this theme.

USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is the Anglican mission agency that partners churches and communities worldwide in God’s mission to enliven faith, strengthen relationships, unlock potential, and champion justice. It was founded in 1701.

This week (15-21 March), the USPG Prayer Diary is focussing on the theme of ‘Standing with Indigenous Communities in The Philippines.’ This theme was introduced in the Prayer Diary on Sunday.

Thursday 19 March 2020:

Pray for all those who have been affected by the volcanic eruption that happened in the Philippines in January.

Readings: II Samuel 7: 4-6; Psalm 89: 26-36; Romans 4: 13-18; Matthew 1: 18-25.


God our Father,
who from the family of your servant David
raised up Joseph the carpenter
to be the guardian of your incarnate Son
and husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary:
Give us grace to follow his example
of faithful obedience to your commands;
through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Lenten Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Post-Communion Prayer:

Heavenly Father,
whose Son grew in wisdom and stature
in the home of Joseph the carpenter of Nazareth,
and on the wood of the cross perfected
the work of the world’s salvation.
Help us, strengthened by this sacrament of his passion,
to count the wisdom of the world as foolishness,
and to walk with him in simplicity and trust;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Saint Joseph and the Christ Child depicted in a mosaic in the Cathedral of Christ the King, Mullingar, Co Westmeath (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Continued tomorrow

Yesterday’s reflection