Diamond Jubilee Celebrations of Fr. James O’Brien

Diamond Jubilee Celebration for Fr. James O’Brien, 14thof September 2018 – Feakle Church

I am happy and privileged to be with you this evening to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Fr. James O’Brien.  Welcome to members of his family, Fr. James’ friends and to the people of the parish where he has given such sterling service for so many years.


Feast of the Triumph of the Cross

Today we mark a very special and meaningful feast day with the Triumph or Exaltation of the Cross.   One might be justified in thinking how could one possibly call what St. Paul termed “folly to the Greeks and a scandal to the Jews” a triumph?!  How could an instrument of torture and death and sadness be a cause celebre, something we fete as a triumph?


The Mystery of Suffering

When we consider our own lives – we all have our fair share of suffering and difficulties and challenges in so many ways.  The writer CS Lewis coined the phrase that suffering was like a megaphone that shouts in our ears and speaks very loudly to us at the core of our being.  How ingenious then that God used that profound human experience and reality to speak to us at our deepest level.  The Cross of Jesus Christ being the means of our salvation and redemption.


In the words of Kipling

I have known shadow

I have known sun

And how I know

The two are one


On the feast of the triumph of the cross we celebrate the fact that our our Good Friday experiences and our Easter Sunday experiences are part of the same coin.  We can’t have one without the other.


In some parts of the world there is a flower which blooms only in the dark and its scent fills the night air. It’s effect is unexpected, as is it’s beauty.  The light of God is something similar – shining within the darkest night, a light which shines in the middle of all human darkness.


Reflection on Jubilee

Today, with great joy we celebrate the diamond jubilee of priesthood of Fr. James O’Brien.  There is something very appealing, very rich in the word Jubilee. In the bible Jubilee is associated with celebration, marking occasions of thanksgiving to the Lord. In the Old Testament it’s associated with a time of rest for the land, taking a break and during that time giving thanks to the Lord for his kindness, his provision, his care, his goodness.


This evening we do all of that. We take a few hours of rest “from the land” so to speak to honour and mark the priestly work of Fr. James over a most impressive 60 years in the diocese of Killaloe and further afield in Cardiff.


“Immortal Diamond”

Whatever about a silver or ruby or golden jubilee – when one talks about diamond – that is certainly worthy of serious celebration.  It is no small coincidence that diamonds being the hardest, toughest substances on the face of the earth that a celebration of three score years is called diamond.  It’s no wonder theat Gerald Manley Hopkins used the term “immortal diamond” to convey the reality of the Resurrection, the great hope of our faith.


We celebrate and thank God for our diamond jubilarian, Fr. James this evening.


Native of Scarriff

Fr. James O’Brien, a native of Scarriff, just a few fields away, was ordained from Carlow College on the 8th of June 1958.


1958 a Jubilee Year

1958 was quite a jubilee year for the diocese of Killaloe with 7 young men ordained that year!

  • Desmond McMahon – Shinrone
  • Patrick Malone – Miltown
  • John O’Keeffe – Crusheen
  • Paddy Culligan – Killimer
  • Jeremiah McCormack – Clonlara
  • Noel Kennedy – Youghalarra
  • John Lane – Kilrush

When one condiders that only 5 started studying for the priesthood for the whole country this year – we get a sense of the changing times that we live in!



The 1950s was a time of such richness of vocations that newly ordained invariably spent some time abroad on loan to other dioceses and Fr. James awas no exception spendg 7 years serving in the Archdicoese of Cardiff from1958-1965


Rural Appointements

Being a man of the land and tremendous interest in the ways and lifestyle of the countryside there is little wonder that Fr. James’ appointments were to many rural areas of the diocese:

1965-1970 CC Killanena.

1970-1975 CC Rathcabbin.

1975-1984 CC Mullagh.

1984-1990 CC Ruan.

1990-2003 PP Feakle.


Retiring from Retirement

For a while in the early noughties Fr. James went into retirement but, like the prize athletes and testimony to his dedication and indomitable spirit he retired from retirement again some years later and continued to serve and help in Flagmount, Feakle and Killanena right to the current day.


The volkswagon beetleis in the news today as they have finally retired it from production.  Fr. James is a bit like the beatle, durable, distinctive, resilient, tough, coming back on the production line and he seems to go on forever.  Like the beatle he seems to have two engines, front and back and long may he continue to motor on and go from strength to strength.


Characteristics of Fr. James

I asked a number of people over the past few days to sum up in a word Fr. James and for one it was “kindness”, for another it was “loyalty”, for another it was “dedication”, for another it was “a man of the land”.  What lovely phrases to sum up anyones outlook and approach to life.


A man of the Land – Equine anecdote!

In a further conversation with someone yesterday they recall in late Spring asking James if he had watched the Royal Wedding on TV.  He said he was glued to it.  The person expressed surprise and even more surprised when James exclaimed that one would never see such a collection of prize horses anywhere else in the world. Some watched to see the royal couple, others for the style, but for James, typical of a man of the land – it was the pedigree horses drawing the royal carriages that he was keen to watch and admire!


Society and the World we live in

The changes which have taken place over the past 60 years in our society could not have been anticipated. The momentum of change threatens to sweep us off our feet.  We find foundations crumbling around us and wonder where we can get a steady foothold. In many ways society would seem to be floating helplessly like an astronaut in space, grasping hold of anything solid that can be found.  For many there is a great emptiness, loneliness and sense of rejection.  People become overwhelmed with problems; how can we possibly address them.  It is not uncommon to see people waver between over-confidence and discouragement. We have witnessed this in our country in recent times.  For many there is very serious crisis of hope.  The question is how in times like these we can remain hopeful? A culture without hope is never tempted to make a commitment, to choose, to decide something. Indecision dominates our society and indeed the Church.  We witness it with respect to marriage and life-long commitment.  We experience it in priesthood and religious life today.


Reflection on Priesthood

The priest finds himself at the coal face of all changes taking place in our society, in marriage, in family, in morality, in lifestyle, in technology and in almost every area of modern life.  Priesthood has inevitably been affected by these changes. The priest tries to respond to this rapid change and tries to beam in the light of Christ’s gospel into the dark recesses of our contemporary culture.  It is a difficult and demanding time for priests.  There is disillusionment expressed by those who walk away from priesthood and find it too difficult or fail to find meaning and yet it is a great time to be a priest and there is wonderful support among the people we are privileged to serve.


Conclusion and Final Blessing

Today we give thanks for the three score years of faithful service of Fr. James, one who remained steadfast through such change and challenge.


Fr. James has faithfully endeavoured to be this minister of hope to you here in East Clare for so many years, every Sunday, in parish events at times of rites of passage, celebrating the Sacraments of the Church.


We celebrate his life of witness to the hope of the Cross and Resurrection on this jubilee day.


We celebrate his many years of reflection on, praying with, living out and sharing the reality of the Cross and Resurrection.


With great joy we thank and congratulate you Fr. James and rejoice with you on the momentuous occasion.  May you have many more years of good health, happiness and enjoyment.  May that beetleengine cotinue to rev smoothly and may you continue to lead the reins of the prize pedigree horsesof your dreamsin the lush fertile grass of East Clare for many a year to come.


Gura fada buan thú!  Go méadaí Dia chuile shórt ar fheabhas duit agus go maire tú an céad agus mórán le breis ar sin, más é toil Dé é sin!