April 2023: Book Review

Book Review of Intercom Magazine

Bishop Fintan Monahan
Bishop of Killaloe



Thoughts & Words
of Fr John Cummins

Always have a reason for the hope that is within you.
1 Peter 3:15 (Theme of Silver Jubilee Reflection)

Last September, at the Ploughing Championships, in the Kildare and Leighlin tent, I met a lady who was very focused. She was clearly ‘on a mission’! She had a stock of attractive, handsomely produced, well-illustrated books. With these publications, she was cheerfully engaging the many people who were passing through the marquee. It was Maria Cummins who had copies of her brother’s book of homilies, Thoughts and reflections, My Life in Your Hands, thoughts and words of Fr John Cummins. The book was selling extremely well and I am not in the least surprised that it went to a second print almost immediately.

     I first met John Cummins in September, 1984 when over 60 young enthusiastic students began studies for the priesthood. About half of that number from our class were ordained in 1991, some in that intervening time discerning other walks of life and vocations. John was a pleasant, quiet, refined, almost retiring young man. Because, he lived close to the seminary in Maynooth, a native of Newbridge he went home every Sunday for dinner and he invariably and most generously brought his many friends to visit regularly. Such a visit was so much appreciated by many and it was a delight to spend Sunday afternoon with the most welcoming Cummins family, a truly ‘open house’!

     Being scholarly, thoughtful and reflective John invariably gravitated not so much in the sporting direction but more towards the intellectual pursuits, reading widely. A deeply cultured man, he was well-versed in Irish and French literature, history, travel, music, drama not to mention his considerable expertise in scripture, theology and spirituality. Interest in people was central to John’s way of life and he cultivated friendships across a broad range of interests.

     John had one of the sharpest intellects in our class. With minimal fuss, fanfare and even less effort he invariably led the field on results day. John had outstanding qualities of wisdom, leadership and being good with people he would have made an excellent bishop, especially seeing that the class of ’91 were on the radar in that regard!

     John died tragically in a car accident in January of 2019. I recall the shock, loneliness and sadness of receiving a call from Bishop Denis Nulty the evening he died. I can’t even begin to grasp the shock and sense of loss of his family had, especially his mother Renee (now deceased RIP) on receiving the tragic news. I further recall the devastation and frustration of Bishop Denis in his homily for the funeral Mass of Fr. John. ‘God has really shot himself in the foot, by allowing John to be taken from us, so soon’, such was his quality and talent, the influence of his spiritual presence in the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin and the Church in Ireland and beyond.

     I was delighted when I heard that John’s family, sister Maria, brothers Con and Gary, along with collborators posthumously published his meticulously prepared and inspirational homilies for Cycle A of the Sunday Gospels and further that they intend producing more volumes for Cycle B and Cycle C. Anything John turned his hand to he did it well and to perfection and that is reflected in this work.

     Following a foreword and introduction from Bishop Ger Nash, John’s best friend and Bishop Denis Nulty, his bishop there is an excellent reflection on Priesthood and Church from Fr John that was written as a silver jubilee project from the 1991 class. What comes through in that article is his absolute contentment, joy and happiness in being a priest of Jesus Christ.

     The homilies then follow the liturgical calendar and sequence of Year A along with many feast days. The poignant funeral homily that John preached for his Dad, Con’s funeral is included, along with a meditation on the biblical words ‘Jesus wept’ (John 11:35) that John’s great friend Paddy Pender wrote for the Dominican magazine Spirituality in 2019. The homilies are substantial, detailed, thoroughly researched as was characteristic of everything John did. They are ideal for the preacher or general reader to dip into and get an angle or slant on a given Sunday and it is a great addition to such literature.

     I look forward to the remaining two volumes of this series. I would hope, if they exist that perhaps a homily from John on First Holy Communion, Confirmation, School Graduations, Anointing of the Sick, Pilgrimages, Jubilees, Significant Birthdays, along with funerals homilies for specific or particular occasions might be included: tragedies, sudden death, suicide and other significant rituals and Church events.

     In reflecting again on the title, I am so glad that much of the life and faith of Fr John has now been put into our hands by way of this excellent publication.