Father Eamon Flanagan: a portrait of poetry and purpose

A life in verse and virtue

Fr Eamon Flanagan, a Venetian priest living in  Phibsborough, Dublin, presents a unique literary journey in his latest book, ‘Memory Near and Far’. Speaking to the Roscommon People, Fr Flanagan shared his thoughts on life, the church, society and family. The publication is his 14th book.

Born and raised near Boyle, on the Sligo side of the Roscommon-Sligo border, Fr Flanagan’s roots run deep into the heart of rural Ireland, influencing his life and works profoundly. His newest publication stands out by weaving “more biographical elements” into its fabric than his previous collections, offering insights into his multifaceted life through scriptural reflections, historical events, and community values.

A connection forged through poetry

‘Memory Near and Far’ bridges Fr Flanagan’s life experiences with his deep connection to Roscommon, especially evident in the poem ‘Roscommon’s Basilica’. This piece highlights the ancient monastery founded in the mid-400s by St Patrick.

Speaking with Fr Flanagan, his love of Rural Ireland, heritage and world history were evident. He explained that the “Baslic” located in North Roscommon, was inspired by the glorious basilicas of Europe at the time.

According to Fr Flanagan, his journey to find the ancient monastic site was met with the usual warm-heartedness of rural life: “Part of the wall of the monastery can be seen today. Originally founded by St Patrick the site would later have been taken over by the Dominicans which wouldn’t have been unusual of developments over those years”.

Early life and inspirations

Fr Flanagan’s formative years, spent as a boarder at St Nathy’s in Ballaghaderreen, laid the groundwork for his profound engagement with literature and religion.

His time in Ballaghaderreen and subsequent studies in Classics at University College Dublin shaped his intellectual and spiritual pursuits, leading him to ordination and a diverse career in education and pastoral care across Ireland and beyond.

With a notable fondness in his voice, Fr Flanagan recalled playing league football within St Nathy’s College: “I graduated from St Nathy’s in 1956, and if I’m not mistaken, they won the Hogan Cup the following year. I loved sports but I had committed more of my time to my studies at that time”.

The Northern Ireland experience

Serving in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, Fr Flanagan’s commitment to peace and civil rights came to the fore. Despite the challenges of violence and political turmoil, he remained dedicated to the Corporal Works of Mercy, visiting the imprisoned and supporting communities in distress.

While alien to my generation, Fr Flanagan spoke with great care of how daily life went on in what were abnormal time: “I wouldn’t say you ever got used to the bombings and gunfire but you learned to get on with your daily work.

“Pedestrian and vehicular checkpoints were just part of daily life. You would think nothing of being frisked by security forces as you went about your day”.

A passion for sport and community

Fr Flanagan’s love for sports, particularly Gaelic games, underscores his belief in the importance of community and pastoral care.

His involvement in club football in Armagh and later engagements with sports clubs revealed the pastoral side of being part of a team, where he provided support and guidance, enhancing his connection with others.

“I would never have sought to provide pastoral care to teammates or fellow club members but organically you would find yourself being of some help to others. It might only be something very small but it was very rewarding”.

Reflecting on family and social change

In ‘Memory Near and Far,’ Fr Flanagan pays homage to his parents: “I thought very long and hard about it before I put pen to paper. I wanted to honour my parents and show them the respect they deserved.

“Families are the foundation and backbone of society and communities,” explained Fr Flanagan, continuing: “I wanted to remember my parents accurately and without exaggeration but with due reverence to the very important role they played in our family and community”.

In light of the recently defeated referenda, I asked Fr Flanagan about his views on the church’s role in addressing social issues: “I would like to see a more active leadership stance by the church,” he said, while recognising the complexities of modern societal expectations and the limits on the church’s influence.

Conclusion: a legacy of love and literature

Fr Flanagan’s latest work is not just a collection of poetry; it’s a mosaic of life, reflecting his journey through historical upheavals, personal trials, and spiritual quests.

Through his vivid portrayal of his parents, his thoughtful engagement with social issues, and his unwavering love for sports and community, Fr Flanagan offers readers a rich tapestry of Irish life, imbued with the wisdom of experience and the beauty of poetic expression.

Memory Near and Far’ stands as a testament to a life devoted to faith, literature, and the enduring values of community and peace.