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Following a star

lochner_01.jpgOn Tuesday 6 January, the feast of the Epiphany, Michael Hurley made a brief appearance on the RTE 1 programme Witness. He could be seen star-gazing through a telescope in Dunsink Observatory and heard talking about the Magi and their role in his own life in the early 80s. As aired, the all too brief programme had literally no time for this story, which Michael was telling for the first time. Here it is, below: In those early 80s he had started out on a special journey, an attempt to follow a star: to make real a vision he had while on retreat in India in February 1981: a vision of an ecumenical community of Catholics and Protestants living together somewhere in Northern Ireland. As it happened this journey involved a number of visits to Cologne in Germany. Here in the Cathedral Stephan Lochner’s painting of the Magi (pictured here) attracted his attention and moved him strangely. As he more than once sat in front of it, he found himself thinking: ‘if the Magi could, why couldn’t we?’ So he and his pioneering companions continued the journey with renewed energy. In all they spent two years following the star (engaged in a ‘feasibility study’ – to use secular language) but eventually their star did come to rest over 683 Antrim Road in North Belfast. Here the Columbanus Community of Reconciliation was inaugurated in November 1983 and continued until 2002. A large print of the Lochner ‘Magi’ painting continues to have pride of place in Michael’s room. 7.1.2009