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Abbot Brendan’s Homily from Abbot Celestine’s funeral

Abbot Celestine was a man of one book and that book was the psalter. It now rests on his coffin, as he would very much have wished. His homilies were jam-packed with quotes from the psalms, his conferences were almost always on the psalms and the advice he dispensed came straight from the psalter. He made the words of the psalms his own, “like a weened child on its mother’s arms…” The very first time I met Celestine as a young student in Rome I came away thinking that I had just met a walking talking psalter.

          Austin Brian Martin Cullen was born the year this monastery was founded, 1927; he attended our school and entered the novitiate after a year in UCD on 15th September 1946 at the age of nineteen. Fr Bernard O’Dea was the Prior at that time and gave him the name Celestine. On the face of it he was not very appropriately named. Pope Saint Celestine V was Pope for just over five months in 1294 and became the first Pope in history to resign. He was manifestly unsuited to the task of the papacy, lacking in worldly wisdom and the ability to deal with complex human situations. Our Celestine could not have been more different, as we all know.

          More probably he was called after Abbot Celestine Golenvaux, our founding Abbot from Maredsous, a sign of what was to come. Celestine cherished the years he spent in our school and the school always held a special place in his heart, together with all those who studied there under his watchful care and his group of devoted ladies who were the mothers of those boys and who have been so good to him over the years. All held him in great esteem and affection. In the monastery Celestine was teacher, headmaster, Abbot and Abbot President, chaplain in Kylemore and confessor and spiritual guide to a great many people. At every one of these offices he excelled, but as a spiritual guide he had a particular gift. All sorts of very different people found in him a willing ear and a wise guide. His passion was to introduce others to what he called the “spiritual path”. For Celestine, a monastery, must always be a place where people can come easily, a place where they can find God.

          Lest anyone think that Celestine was a jack of all trades, let me add that he had absolutely no aptitude whatsoever for technology or machinery of any kind. Even the domestic toaster proved beyond him! We have all had the experience of being summoned to assist with his photocopying, which meant that you go and do it for him, and on arriving at the photocopier discovering that he had enlisted three other members of the community to do the same job. That too was Celestine.

          As Celestine advanced in years his experience became more and more that of psalm 18, “I love you Lord my strength, my rock, my fortress, my saviour”. This became his reason for living. In later life his work as headmaster, Abbot and Abbot President was done and he threw himself wholeheartedly into his quest for the inner life and gave most generously of his time to help others. He wrote copious letters in his illegible hand offering support and advice. On Saturday afternoons he sat in the monastery parlour hearing confessions, sometimes long beyond the allotted time, listening to people and introducing them to another dimension of reality. The Word was made flesh and that Word was the cornerstone on which our brother Celestine built his life. Introducing others to the Word of God was his greatest joy and lifelong passion. It sustained him to the end and was his most prized possession. This love of the Word was the sermon his life preached most eloquently to us and the abiding memory he leaves us.

          The final chapter of his long life was written in Millbrae Lodge Nursing Home and we thank them for their loving care for Celestine. As his health declined he was in need of this extra care. He found this last chapter difficult and he missed his monastery and monastic life. The psalms, however, remained his friends and he told me that he still found his Lord in them after all these years.

O where can I go from your spirit, or where can I flee from your face? If I climb the heavens, you are there. If I lie in the grave, you are there…

If I say, “Let the darkness hide me and the light around me be night,” even darkness is not dark to you, the night is as clear as day.

          Celestine has now entered into that light where the night is as clear as the day and where the darkness is no longer dark. We accompany him with our prayers and ask the Lord that he not disappoint our brother Celestine in his hope. May he rest in peace.

RIP – Brian Celestine Cullen (1939-45)

Brian (Celestine) Cullen osb , brother of Barry (1946), Niall (1449) and the late Maurice (1951).Monk and Abbot Emeritus of Glenstal, President Emeritus of the Congregation of the Annunciation died, Wednesday 10th April 2019 aged 91 in the 72nd year of profession and the 65th year of priesthood.

Reposing in the Monastery Reception from 3.30 pm on Friday 12th April. Removal to the Abbey Church at 5.00 pm, followed by Vespers for the Dead. Funeral Mass on Saturday 13th April at 12.10 pm, followed by burial in the Abbey Cemetery.

Austin Brian Cullen was born on 6th July 1927. Both his parents were medical practitioners in Cavan. Having attended Glenstal Priory School from 1939 to 1945, Brian began studying Medicine at University College Dublin, but after one year abandoned this to enter the Glenstal Community, taking the monastic name of Celestine.

Br Celestine made First Profession on 18th December 1947. Following studies in Dublin and Rome, he was ordained to the priesthood on 11th July 1954. Back in Ireland, Fr Celestine taught French and Religion in the Abbey School. In 1961 he was appointed Headmaster, a post he held until 1979.

He was elected the third Abbot of Glenstal in December 1980 and was blessed as Abbot on 1st February 1981. In September 1992, the General Chapter of the Benedictine Congregation of the Annunciation, meeting in Trier, Germany, elected him Abbot President. Abbot Celestine held this post until 2004. During these years he visited every community of the geographically far-flung congregation, from California to India.

Throughout his priestly life and his time as Abbot and Abbot President, Abbot Celestine had an active ministry preaching retreats to many monastic and other communities all over the world. Of particular interest was his pastoral care of a group of parents of former students of the school and their friends for whom he preached an annual retreat and led several pilgrimages, especially to Rome. In retirement in Glenstal, a series of debilitating illnesses gradually restricted Abbot Celestine’s activities and he spent the last years of his life in a nursing-home at a short distance from the monastery.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him

Death notice on

Class of 78 – 40 Year Reunion


The official GDPR came into force on 25 May 2018.  Thankfully for the class of ’78 our reunion was not hampered by this directive.  In August 2017 David Johnston proposed a reunion in 2018 and sent out an all-points bulletin to locate those unaccounted for.  People gradually appeared out of the woodwork and by March only four remained to be located. Time to pull out all the stops and to hell with data protection.  Care facilities, distant relations, art galleries and former employers (including a scuba diving school in Honduras) were all tapped for contact details. All four were tracked down. Although three politely (mostly) declined, one immediately booked flights from Berlin.

Great Dinner, Port and Reminiscences

To kick things of three keen golfers tackled the links in Lahinch and a further eight exercised our right to bear arms and took to clay pigeon shooting just outside Rathkeale.  The most accomplished gunmen proved to be the farmer and the man based in Texas – surprise, surprise.

Along with Fr Patrick, Declan Casey, Bill Fearnley and Leo McGrath, 25 of us sat down to dinner at the Dunraven Arms in Adare on Saturday 28 April.  Greatly missed were Ollie Desmond who died in 1981 and Paul Collins who had planned on attending but sadly died just three weeks before the event. John Egan delivered a rabble-rousing speech, which despite interruptions was nearly less than the expected 10 minutes and 30 seconds (or was that 30 minutes and 10 seconds).  A couple of bottles of 1970 Da Silva’s vintage port rounded of formal proceedings.

Reminiscing in the bar continued until about 3.30 a.m.  Old stories were rehearsed and indeed some new information came to light.  Who knew that Michael Noonan (yes, that one) examined us in our leaving cert oral Irish?

The following morning brought a wonderful surprise as Denis Fagan, having checked on his flock of sheep in Mullingar at 5 a.m., showed up for breakfast, bringing the official attendance to 26.

Glorious Day Pax Revisited

Some highlights of a trip to Glenstal on a beautiful Sunday morning were the Washroom Dorm (looking very 21st century), the Munster Schools Senior Cup (fair dues to the class of 2018) and the Icon Chapel (how come we didn’t care about it as teenagers?).  Those marble stairs that used to be red hot seem quite cool now.

For the group photos taken on the Saturday and again on Sunday, people were asked to assume as much as possible the same positions as we had in the 1978 picture.  As can be seen by comparing the two, there was general agreement that the vast majority of us looked better than 40 years ago – the 1970s really was the decade that style forgot…


Glenstal Do Phenomenal Reunions!

 Simon Tierney (1978)