Tony Coote’s life story will enrich yours
DUBLIN diocesan priest Tony Coote’s book ‘Live While You Can’ is a gem. For over a year or so I have heard his name being mentioned. I knew he was parish priest in Mount Merrion and Kilmacud. Tony is in his 50s and in 2018 he was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease(MND).
Last month I was in a bookshop buying a book for a young boy making his first Holy Communion. While paying for the book I spotted ‘Live While You Can’ and bought it.A few days later while travelling by rail to Galway I began to read the book. I’m a slow reader and easily distracted. By the time I was back in Dublin later that day I had 150 of the 184 pages read. It is a captivating read.
In some ways I am ashamed I had not twigged to the man and his greatness before now. Motor Neurone Disease attacks the nervous system and it is a cruel affliction. In 2013 the well-known RTE sports presenter Colm Murray died from MND.
‘Live While You Can’ is a book about hope, it is a book about faith, the genuine faith of a Dublin priest, who paints a lovely image of God and the life he looks forward to in communion with God and humanity after he succumbs to MND.
It’s a simple book and easy to read but does it tell a story about a man in his 50s, who has lived life to the full. That does not mean that it has been all plain-sailing. He writes about his abusive alcoholic father, about the time as a little boy that he was sexually abused in a school classroom. But he also recalls how he and his siblings were reconciled with their father. And all the time there are references to his loving relationship with his mother, who is alive and well.
After ordination to priesthood he was appointed to a parish in Ballymun. He found himself working as a school chaplain, a job he thoroughly enjoyed and it’s clear to see that he built up a great relationship with staff and students. From there he went to work as chaplain in UCD. Next he’s in Haiti, India and Nicaragua organising summer work for UCD students to help the poorest of
the poor. Again, he builds up life-long friendships with the students and the people with whom they work in the developing world.
While he is never pushing himself, it clearly comes across that this man is at his best when he is giving of himself to other people. Close to the end of the book, on page 158 he writes: ‘If we in the church are truly Christian, followers of Jesus Christ, then we must make sure that we do not close doors to others through words of condemnation or harsh judgement. Once we close doors in such a way, those we have excluded will never open them again.’ Wise and prophetic words.
Such a simple read with an extraordinary message. This sentence jumped off the page for me: ‘By being compassionate to others, we literally give them life and receive life ourselves.’ It is a perfect read for fifth and sixth year religious education classes.
Claire Byrne, who interviewed Tony on RTE’s ‘Claire Byrne Live’ writes in the foreword of this book: ‘I know that my life is richer as a result and I’m sure, when you turn the last page of this book, yours will be too.’ It is.