In this week’s blog Fr Paddy writes of his experience of the sense of community in this difficult time and how when many were vulnerable a spirit of generosity and compassion brought renewed light and hope.

Thanks to David K. Walter for use of his image ‘Salt of the Earth’

Fr Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Nationalist Papers.

This column appeared in the edition published 13th January 2010

This extreme cold spell has brought with it a great burden of hardship and indeed isolation to many in our community. Many neighbours and especially the elderly find this a most difficult time. Days can be very long and nights dark and lonely when people are confined to their own homes. Time moves very slowly when one lives alone and because of such harsh weather cannot get out and about. Lots of homes in our community have had no water. Burst pipes and trouble with heating adds greatly to the stress and anxiety felt at this time. Many of our farming communities have gone through great hardship since before Christmas in an effort to provide fodder and water for cattle. Our hospitals have been overwhelmed with people suffering from broken bones and fractures as a result of falls on pathways and icy roads since this artic weather commenced. Sadly, here in Bagenalstown a well known and much loved parishioner, Nicky Johnson, died as result of a fall on a pathway as he walked to his niece on Christmas day.

Many young people are experiencing for the first time a prolonged winter freeze. The additional few days extra break from schools will be remembered by many young people as a time of building snowmen and throwing snowballs. The landscapes because of this deep freeze have been transformed. The bare and yet beautiful winter colour tells the story that what is beautiful can also cause great difficulty and burden to our lives.

I was again inspired by my neighbour Mrs. Michaels, aged 90 and wheelchair dependent, on a very cold evening when I called to visit. As I walked into her kitchen I discovered that she had been baking all afternoon. I left with delicious homemade scones and bread, nourished by both her wisdom and practicality. There was a real sense of community over the past few weeks. In a time when many were vulnerable a spirit of generosity and compassion brought with it renewed light and hope. People taking time to visit family members and neighbours making sure that they were safe and well. In rural areas again I was inspired by the generosity and care given by neighbours at this time. I met Paul Minchin, recipient of Carlow Person of the Year, Coolnacuppogue, making sure his elderly neighbours had enough supplies and driving some of them into town in his jeep. In the same spirit of generosity groups such as “Care of the Elderly” and “Meals on Wheels” continued to connect in a real and practical way for our elderly. Local Civil Defence members continued in the spirit of generosity and community to care and respond in practical ways to the needs of others.

Salt was a big issue over the past few weeks. Salt helps alleviate icy pathways and roads. There seemed to be a big shortage of supply when it came to this important function. The spirit of good neighbour’s kind actions and practical generosity, reminds me how precious, like salt, we are in the sight of God.

“You are the Salt of the Earth”

There is mountain of salt in all our hearts!