A day in the life of Fr. Michael Joseph Griffin

In my mind’s eye, I try to visualise a lone figure riding his fairly new motorbike along Bóthar Cois Fharraige on Sunday morning 14th November 1920, chun aifreann 9 a clog a cheiliúradh le muintir na háite i Scoil na bhForbacha. The bike he had received as a present from his parents Thomas and Mary three years previously, to mark his ordination to the priesthood on the 29th April 1917. Did he wear a leather jacket with helmet and goggles? Were there many people or animals on the road at that time of the morning? Was he a little late and consequently had to put extra pressure on the throttle? One thing we do know is that he didn’t at the time have to concern himself with heavy traffic, speed limits, traffic lights, and definitely there was no threat from the ‘venomous speed camera van’. We can surmise as well that he was excited by the prospect of, once more, having the opportunity to celebrate Mass ‘as Gaeilge’ because of his love for the language.

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He was also well aware of the terror gripping the area with so many people murdered recently. He was present at the retrieval of the lifeless body of Micheál Breathnach at the Long Walk, near the Spanish Arch, on the morning of 20th October after he was shot the previous night. As people actively fought for Independence, so many innocent people suffered due to the terror and destruction in the vicinity. After Mass, I’m sure Fr Michael chatted with muintir na háite about such tragic events, before dashing back to Barna to preside at the 10.30 a.m. Mass in Séipéal Naomh Shéamais. Having formally completed his duties in this area of Rahoon parish to which he was assigned, he may have lingered somewhat longer le muintir Bhearna, before finally making his way back to 2 Montpelier Terrace for lunch prepared for him by the resident housekeeper, Barbara King.

After lunch he went to St Joseph’s church for Holy Hour and Benediction. Next, he made his way to St Mary’s College where he was Spiritual Director and spoke to the students during the Sodality to Our Lady. After tea in the college with some of the ‘St Mary’s priests’, he made his way back to the house for some recreation in the form of the regular game of cards and a chat with his friends and colleagues. Again, that pleasant get-together was interspersed with chat about all that was happening outside the security of his abode. We are told that after that he set about preparing the sermon ‘as Gaeilge’ for the following Weekend. He obviously was much more organised than many a priest I know!!  

He possibly retired to the bed around 11.00 p.m. wondering what the following week would be like for both himself and Muintir an Pharóiste. He must have been tired after an eventful day, and sleep would have come easy until it was interrupted after the midnight hour with a fateful knock on the front door……

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I had thought of reflecting this weekend on Fr Michael Griffin, the priest and his ministry. Perhaps this glimpse of one day in his life says it all. He was youthful, enthusiastic and thrilled that he could minister in a Gaeltacht area. He was just two and a half years into serving as a priest, and as such was enthused by the prospect of immersing himself more deeply into a labyrinth of the varying moods embodied in the lives of the people; the joys and the sorrows meascaí le chéile.

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So many years ago, a magnificent Labyrinth was built beside Séipéal Réalt na Mara. Anyone who meditatively walks the windy path is again drawn into a series of moods in which high hopes of reaching a destination are dashed by finding oneself having to start again practically back at the beginning. I’m sure this young man had high hopes of enjoying a long, adventurous and rewarding life. Like so many young men and women at the time, he was tragically denied that privilege. In the centre of the Labyrinth there is a star inscribed on stone, representing Réalt na Mara and the Star of David.

As we honour his memory this week, let us be mindful of the precious gift of Life, and cherish our Freedom. May his star continue to shine on us across Galway Bay from his heavenly abode.


Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dilis

In peace, sons bury their fathers.

 In war, fathers bury their sons.’    


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Find a moment this week to honour his memory - visit the monument and remember the people of the area who did their utmost to live a life during the most difficult of circumstances . . .Fr. Michael  


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1920 i nDhíl Chuimhne 2020

Symbols representing Fr. Griffin’s short life as an ordained priest and the life and times of the people of Paróiste Bearna na Forbacha agus Buaile Beag during the 1920’s.


The Priests Stole ...similar to the stole formally placed on the shoulders of Fr Michael for the first time the day he was ordained, it represents his commitment to priestly ministry reflected in the life he lived among the people here in the parish.

Candle ...represents the candle lit by his parents on the day of his baptism.

                                        “Receive the Light of Christ’,

  May this child walk as a child of the light”.

Fr. Michael carried within him this light during the short period he walked with the people of the parish who had to cope with living through the darkness and terror of the time.

 Bog Oak Cross ... represents the reality of suffering and pain people have to endure. Within a Christian context, it also carries with it a prayer that people will have the inner belief and strength to hold onto the light of hope as was evidenced in Fr Michael as he willingly immersed himself in the lives of muintir na pharóiste.

Purple Cloth ... represents the suffering that Fr. Michael had to endure that fateful night. Each of us experience our own suffering at various times in our lives. In that suffering we are reminded that God is with us and we are not alone.

The Lamb of God ... who takes away the sins of the world and grants us peace’. Fr. Michael brought that peace to many, young and old, during his priesthood. He would have recited these words during his two Masses here in the parish the day before he died.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    A Uain Dé, a thogann peacaí on Domain, dean trócaire orainn.

A Uain Dé, a thogann peacaí on Domain, tabhair dúinn síocháin.

White Lilies ... symbolise a rejuvenation of the soul. A simple flower that represents purity, commitment, and rebirth.                                                                                                                                                           Bible and Missal as Gaeilge ... representing Fr. Griffin’s love of the Irish language and heritage. Our culture emanates through us and in us, reflecting the spirit of people and our collective story.                    

 Rosary Beads The prayers recited with the beads (an Paidrín) honours the Virgin Mary and meditates on the life of Christ. Fr. Michael recited the rosary often during his priestly life. The prayers prayed on the beads bring us closer to Christ and to Mary whose caring nature reminds us of our calling to be family here in our parish.                                          


{The symbolic arrangement is on display in Barna church during the week. Call in to view, light a candle and whisper a prayer for peace}

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