Tuesday, 3 February 2015



In a recent blog I briefly mentioned a "spiritual" encounter with a wild hare.

What I did not say was that I celebrated a Mass in which I was the lone celebrant and the wild hare was the lone worshipper.

This Mass was celebrated one July day in 1982 on The Great Saltee - the larger of the two small islands just off the County Wexford coast in Ireland.

I was on holiday with my family in "Snow Cottage" in the coastal village of Kilmore Quay. I had decided that I wanted to give one of the fourteen days of my holiday to God. It was to be a "day in the desert" - a day alone with God. If we are involved in a special relationship we have to devote "quality time" to the beloved. This was one of those days.

There is no regular mode of transport between Wexford and The Saltees. So I came to an arrangement with local fishermen to drop me off on Great Saltee in the morning on their way to their fishing grounds and pick me up on their return in the early evening. God and I were to have the deserted island completely to ourselves all day. I had already learned that he is big into 121's.

Great Saltee

I had packed the makings of two meals - everything I needed for a nice summer picnic - and everything I needed for a "spiritual feast" of the Eucharist or Mass - a chalice and paten, a little bottle of altar wine and a large communion host.

I began my day with a little excursion of the island and was deeply touched by everything I saw - the flora and fauna, the sea and the bird life. Above all else I marvelled at the lack of noise and the all embracing sound of silence.

After a couple of hours I decided it was time for Mass. I spread my liturgicals out on my new altar of grass and heather. I put my priestly stole around my shoulders and sat on the ground in a Buddha like posture. I took my missal in my hands and gently hummed and sang my opening hymn. 

It was then I noticed a slight movement in a little bush no further away from me than three or four feet. I looked and was amazed to see some brown grey fur. I followed the contours of the fur until I beheld a big ear fluttering in the breeze and a very big pair of open brown eyes staring intently at me. I was internally startled and was conscious of tingling goose bumps shivering on both my forearms. It took me a moment to work out if it was a rabbit or a hare. But the larger pelvic area left me in no doubt.

From that moment I had an overwhelming desire not to frighten Brother Hare away. It seemed to me that our meeting that day had been preordained. I made no sudden movements and Brother Hare responded gratefully by showing no desire to depart. It looked as if we both understood that if we both continued to act as before we might very well be able to spend a decent amount of time together. And thats exactly what happened.

I celebrated Mass as planned. I read the prayers and readings gently but out loud. I sang my few simple hymns. I raised my bread and chalice very senstively at the appropriate times. Brother Hare kept his side of the agreement. He simply sat and stared. 

But I then had a dilemma. Would my native companion wish to receive Holy Communion? I had no doubt that he was entitled to receive. He was obviously sinless and as such was in the "state of grace". I knew that his Creator would be quite happy for him to receive. 

But would he receive from ME? He may never have met one of my species but he may still have known instinctually that those of my species would more likely than not wish to put him in their dinner pot. How could he be expected to know that I was different - unless that little breeze that kept tickling his ear told him that I was. But  I could not take that chance. 

So, I broke off a little bit of Jesus and gently cast it in his direction. For a moment the white speck lay on the ground. For the first time since we met he took his big eyes off me and stared at the little bit of God lying a few inches from his quivering nose. And then, with a most graceful stretch, he leaned forward and he partook.

A few seconds later he gently took his leave of me and disappeared into the undergrowth. He had obviously received what he came for. I had foolishly thought that he was interested in ME!

My heart sank to see him go. I had foolishly wanted to possess. A few tears escaped my eyes. Why was I grieving for such a brief companion? Was it because I had briefly experienced that for which my heart longs?

That day on Saltee there were no claps of thunder. There was no burning bush. I saw no miracles - apart from the miracles of nature. 

But when the fishermen picked me up that afternoon and brought me back to "normality" they seemed to notice that I was strangely silent. Nothing was quite as normal as before. The sea breeze was now tickling my ear with the words: "Let him who has eyes to see, see. Let him who has ears to hear, hear".

The universe contained in a single shoot

+Pat Buckley

************ ALSO PUBLISHED ON    www.christianityasap.com


  1. Dear Bishop Buckley,

    I share my little cabin with my three cats in the North Antrim Hills. A few months ago, the three cats came to me and, with one accord, they told me they wanted to make their First Holy Communion.

    I was a little taken aback as we had never before discussed the whole issue of religion. But the cats had been watching me say my few prayers of an evening and had been doing some research on the internet.

    They had come across pictures of little girls in lovely white dresses and - being female cats - they desperately wanted to be like them. One cat had even gone so far as to buy a tiara on ebay! So they are pretty serious about the whole thing.

    I went to the local PP but he ran me from the door. I have written to Bishop Treanor but got no answer. Just today, the youngest cat came scampering over to my rocking chair in the kitchen and could barely catch her breath.

    Eventually, when she had calmed down, she was able to tell me that she had been surfing the net and had, lo and behold, learned that you had given Holy Communion to a Rabbit and that surely you are the man we have been looking for?

    I thought the poor creature had gone delirious in her Eucharistic desire! But no - when I checked - the little tabby was spot on!

    So I am writing, mantilla in hand, asking you, dearest Bishop, if I bring the three fervent felines to The Oratory next Sunday at 12 Noon, will you kindly fulfill the desire of their little catty hearts and give them their 1st Holy Communion?

    In expectation of a positive response, I am, yours faithfully, Dympna NíDoolittle

  2. Dear Dympna,

    Thank you for your communication which arrived here last night.

    I am deeply touched by your situation and by the spiritual mindset of your pets. "Not even in Down and Connor have I found faith like this".

    I am truly sorry to hear that you were treated unkindly at the parochial house door. But you must understand that in this part of the world most of the priests are disciples of that great monk Dom Wilde and have no interest in the special needs of pussies.

    I imagine - living where you live - your little one have been educated under the auspuces of CCMS - Cat Lick Council for Maintained Schools - and therefore their understanding of the faith is second to none.

    I presume they are also baptised? Although if not formally baptised they would qualify for the Sacrament anyway under the the Catholic Doctrine of Baptism of Desire.

    You would have to promise me that you would bring your girls to Mass every Sunday as sadly only 20% of Cat licks in the diocese attend Sunday Mass generally.

    So if you are happy with this I see no reason not to proceed.

    Please make contact with my secretary Ms Noelle Trainer on 02890 776182 to make detailed arrangements.

    Yours in Francis (saint - not pope)


  3. Surely to goodness this is a wind up?

    1. Sorry, Fr Buckley, but this strikes me as a tall tale. By claiming to give Communion to a hare your intention was to inflame people.

  4. Eucharist for 1. I have done this myself once or twice but would not recommend it as a regular practice. Eucharist by nature is communal. I am reminded of the altars (for one) now mostly dismantled in the basement of the Irish College in Rome. II can add that I am as comfortable with a breakfast bap being used for bread as I am with the wafer used at Mass (RC). For me it is the nourishing presence of the Risen Lord that is key. That being said I totally acknowledge the sacred nature of the experience you relate. Sean

  5. I was brought up in the Catholic church but even more damaging in the Catholic tradition and culture. I deliberately define them seperately because you can be brought up and adhere to the Catholic church in another country and its just the same the world over, mass, sacraments etc. but I found the Catholic tradition and culture damaging. First question used to assess the worth or otherwise of an individual was were they " one of us". The whole nod and a wink business, look out for " your own" and "stick to your own kind" damaged me, stunted my emotional and spiritual growth. The suggestion even in a playful sense of the scene described with the hare here would have been treated as sacrilege and involked gods wrath. I went to many masses. I got nothing from it. Absolutely nothing. Men dressed up in strange garb performing a type of magic around a table with a formula of words. Not for me. However one night I joined a group of lapsed Catholics in Leeds for a last fish supper on Holy Thursday. A fish supper and we all broke bread together and shared about our lives in an honest and meaningful way. I got more from that real and equal sharing experience than I ever got in a church at mass at home in ireland