Finding a haven of refuge
The Harbour Within: A Book of Simple Spirituality by Sister Consilio (Hachette Books Ireland, €14.99 hb / €8.99pb
Sr Consilio

While working as a young nun in Athy Sr Consilio came in contact, through the local hospital, with “the men of the road”. These were men, often from a farming background, some ex-soldiers, who had been rendered homeless.

She began to care for them by providing  a little room from them to call into and to talk, later expanding the facility  into the Old Dairy across the yard behind the convent. This safe haven for wanderers, and later those suffering from addiction  to alcohol and drugs, has grown into a series of five similar places across the island.

She has, in time, come to be recognised for the stalwart soul that she is. But in this book she shares her experiences and her thoughts and her prayers with readers, to try to help them as well.

The book opens with an account of  her early years, with her parents and siblings on the family farm, in the convent, and with the first of those thousands she has helped. This is very moving and filled with insights, not only into those she has helped, but also  those she wishes to help now.

At the heart of the book is a seven-day programme which will enable her readers “to live from the soul”. She recounts that at school she (like Sir Bob Geldof) hated Mondays,  but forced herself “to eat the frog” (an expression of a friend for doing something very distasteful), to swallow the worst part of the week, and so to get happily through the other six days.

Truths about life

This programme, however, is framed by two other sections which present “the simple spirituality” to which she refers in the sub-title.  And after that thoughts and prayers from the Old Dairy days, drawing again directly on the truths about life, love, and other people that she came to learn from “the men of the road” and many others.

In these pages readers will find her discoveries couched  in simple and direct language that  all goes to the heart of the matter.

Last year Cuan Mhuire marked its golden jubilee, in the half century of its existence Cuan Mhuire has helped in some many ways more than 70,000 residents. Cuan Mhuire now maintains 600 treatment beds in five centres nationwide. Of these, she says, some 106 are designated for detoxification (used by both men and women).

This is a book simply presented which reveals a lifetime of garnered wisdom in a most accessible and warm-hearted way. Sr Consilio has witnessed a great deal of pain and suffering over the decades, but has turned all of it to good advantage. A wonderful book.