Tony Coote’s life story will en­rich yours

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - OPINION - Fr Michael Com­mane

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.

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