John O’Donohue (1956-2008)

John O’DonohueI am saddened to have learned of the passing of John O’Donohue, author of Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom, this past Thursday. He died peacefully in his sleep while on holiday in France. Read the announcement on his website.

In 1999 I had the privilege to interview him for a book industry trade publication; you can read the interview here.

He was not only one of the most articulate voices of living Celtic Christianity and Celtic wisdom, but he also had a clear grasp of the beauty of Christian mysticism as well. He was a trained philosopher with a prodigious intellect. He was the only person I’ve ever met who could effortlessly and lyrically weave together allusions to Martin Heidegger, Meister Eckhart, and the Tuatha Dé Danann in a single sentence.

Rest in peace, John O’Donohue. Walk gladly in the light of Tir na n’Og.

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  1. margarita foley says:

    May you be enfolded in the arms of the Father, may He see you in His Son, and may He breathe His Spirit of Love and Beauty in your soul forever.

    I know you only through your writings but you have spoken so clearly through them.

    With Love

  2. “I believe that our friends among the dead really mind us and look out for us. Often there might be a big boulder of misery over your path about to fall on you, but your friends among the dead hold it back until you have passed by.” Anam Cara 228
    John, I wish I had come to Oregon…
    Thank you for everything you have given.
    I am so glad that we met.
    May your soul be blessed, may all who mourn for you be blessed, may you rest in peace.

  3. Christine-

    I DID go to Oregon and was among those who were the last to sit at John’s feet.

    John was 10X in person what he is on paper.

    John was that rare being who lived what he wrote and went wildly and dangerously fresh into each day. We have lost an open heart, a brilliant mind, and a physical force so powerful that it could fill up a hall all on its own.

  4. Michael Negron says:

    I too was touched so deeply by John O’Donohue – by his writings which my wife shared with me a few years ago, and then meeting John at Mercy Center in Connecticut in early 2007. I also found out by surprise when visiting the Mercy website…..may he rest in peace.

  5. Sharon Ramsey says:

    We at HospiceCenter in Bend Oregon are so saddened by Father John O’Donohue’s departure. He brought us great readings and also great Laughter. He will be truly missed by all. WE WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER YOU.

  6. I too am saddened. Father O’Donohue, may the four winds blow you safely home.

  7. Andrea Powell says:

    I’m very saddened by the passing of John O’ Donohue. Though I never had the privilege of meeting him I felt I knew him through his work. He was truly a beacon of light and love. God bless him on his eternal journey.

  8. I first heard John’s voice many years ago on a cassette tape that was given to me by a friend and was simply marked “Irish Poet”. It was a recording of a lecture John had given at a Transpersonal Psychology conference. I immediately fell in love with his sparkling language and the laughter in his voice and I have been forever changed by the ideas he so generously shared. Though his life force has moved on, he has left us all with more teachings than can be assimilated in a long lifetime. Thank you John and blessings to you as you continue on your way.

  9. Pamela Murphy Ewers says:

    I am so saddened by John O’Donohue’s passing. For over eleven years I have absorbed his books and tapes which have made me understand and appreciate my Celtic-Catholic roots.

    Safe journey home, John.

    Slan agus beannacht leat.

  10. Joyce Busch says:

    The joy of being with John for a wondrous week on the Oregon coast was one of the biggest blessings of my life. The depth of his wisdom, his reverence for life, his spontaneous laughter and outrageous humor have echoed in me in endless waves in these past two months. At the same time I have been living the words of a Scottish friend of his about whom he spoke regarding grief: “Weep the stuff out. Have a wee howl.” I have had many in the days since I received the news of John’s death.
    He’d spoken of a rogue fellow to who he had ministered as he lay dying. Reflecting on his life, he turned to John and said, “By Jesus, I knocked a hell of a squeeze out of it.”
    Can’t you just hear him laughing?

  11. Jody Parsons says:

    I too had the privilege of knowing John through traveling with him and a group of “mystics” through the West of Ireland in 1999. His embodied ministry has touched so many, and thank God we have his words to help us appreciate life. He made a huge impact on my life at a crucial time f or me. I will always be grateful to John and will be grieving his loss for a long time. I know his spirit will be up to a lot of mischief – !!

  12. For John O’Donohue

    A breeze never felt before
    has blown across the earth
    refreshing my face…
    without the body
    a stronger breeze blowing

  13. Thank you for illuminating the beauty of life. May beauty be with you forever more

  14. Philip McGrath says:


    I had never heard of John O’Donohue before today and was watching a PBS interview show with him. I was amazed at his wit, eloquence and erudition. I had to find out more about hime and googled him and discovered he passed away 9 days ago. I can’t believe it. What have I missed? Now I must read the book they were discussing in the interview—Beauty. God Bless him. He surely is wih his Maker.

  15. Barbara Bloom says:

    I, too, am saddened by John O’Donohue’s passing. He was a breath of fresh air and sunshine enfolding wonderful wit and wisdom with a passion for the Eternal.

  16. Patsy Severtson says:

    I feel so sad at this moment in time that we have lost such a wonderful human being. But we must remember, we are among the previlaged to have known this man, either in person or through his writings. May the Heavens be opened for you John O’donohue. You will be missed. We may be able to see you now but always you will be close. Peace be with all your close friends and family.

  17. Maryellen McCaffrey says:

    My sincere condolences to John’s family. I share what many of you have written. When I went to the website and read that John had passed, it took my breath away. I am selfishly saddened to know he is gone. I read on another site that John felt death would be freedom so I am happy he is finally free but sad for all of us who will no longer be blessed by his words. I discovered his writings last year and had hoped to hear him in person one day. I regret my procrastination. When I read Anam Chara, I was stunned by how much I was moved by his words and ideas. It was at once comforting and thought provoking. I am so very grateful that John shared himself with the world. I offer my support all of you and thank God for John.

  18. Susan Seaton says:

    John constantly called us to awaken to the great mystery of which we are apart and to become more and more aware of the intimacy we share with all…I am deeply grateful to him for the way in which he affirmed the deep longing with the past, present and future. May we honour him by living our own individual lives as authentically as he lived his. Vale John

  19. I am saddened to have just learned the news of John’s passing. For so many years, attending so many seminars, lectures, and workshops, finally there was John O’Donohue – an inspiring, gifted, witty, gem of a “human” (as he would say). I can barely recall another who could so artistically and articulately craft the beauty of words and language into the beauty of metaphor and meaning. It just flowed from him – his lovely soul, his amazing spirit. Having had the pleasure of sharing a meal with him, I can only say that the memory of his delightful storytelling and infectious laughter will resonate within my soul forever, as I am sure for the countless others who have had the pleasure of being in his presence. I offer my condolences to his family and friends, and my deepest gratitude for his many gifts.

  20. At the end of an interview from 2004, rebroadcast by the CBC on January 13 after his death, John ends by reciting a poem ‘Fluent’
    ‘I would love to live
    Like a river flows
    Carried by the surprise
    Of its own unfolding.’

    I believe that he did live his life this way, and that we should follow this thought and his example.

    You can hear and download the interview from

    If, like me, this is your first encounter with John, or if you knew his works already, you will likely be deeply moved.

  21. Evelyn Forde says:

    Thank you to John for opening up to me his respect for Mother Earth his writings moved me like no other. God bless you in the better place you have moved to.

  22. Sheilagh Collins says:

    It was only during the past year that I encountered the work of John O’Donohue though tapes of his talks from Anam Cara. He is a source of inspiration for our little meditation group. and last night we listened to the tape on “death” in memory of his passing. It was a moving experience.

  23. Melanie Mackintosh says:

    Thank you so much for posting this tribute to John O’Donohue and for providing a forum for others to share their thoughts.

    I have been trawling the internet searching for other souls who are mourning the passing of a great writer and thinker in order to make some sense of my grief for someone I never met and yet feel was a friend. I am glad to have discovered your website.

    I have often turned to his writing and recordings for solace and guidance through some difficult times in the last few years and had hoped to go on retreat with him in Connamara this May. It feels difficult to seek comfort from them now when he has died so suddenly and after a relatively short life. If I am feeling bereft then how much more so must his family and friends be feeling?

    I have been thinking it would be lovely to establish a dedicated website for people to exchange experiences and writing inspired by his work. It wouldn’t be a fan club or cult but a forum for sharing the ideas that he made so accessible. I have emailed the JO’D website to see if they would wish to host it or if such a forum would have their blessing. I would be interested to know what you (and others) think.

  24. Christine Welter says:


    this is an excellent idea. I would love to help with this. Since John passed away I have been combing the internet for blogs with tributes to him, and there are many now.It would be nice to have a forum where people who have been inspired by him share their thoughts.


  25. My sister and Mom were big fans. They said he was in good shape and exercised regularly.

    So what did he die of? Who dies in their sleep at 53 who is in good shape? What, was he a heavy smoker?

    It’s curious that virtually nobody is saying what happened. Under virtually no stress, asleep, a guy in good physical condition suddenly has a heart attack and nobody is curious? Hmmmm.

    So it strikes me as a might peculiar that there isn’t a word (that I’ve found) about what happened. Am I the only person who is wondering about this? I mean, I don’t have a clue who this guy is, apart from passing mentions of him by my Mom, so it would seem like his fans, devotees or whatever would want to know what went wrong. Heck, I want to know just ’cause I’m a couple of years older than the guy and I want to avoid whatever happened to him.

    Also, if I was I cop, I’d wanna investigate.

    Can anyone provide any insight?

  26. Of course I’m curious, and I assume many people are. But knowing what it was — even if it were something sordid or suspicious — wouldn’t change my admiration for O’Donohue and his writing, or my sense of grief at his loss. I suspect that at some point, the circumstances surrounding his passing will be made public. I’m willing to wait for whenever that will be, and I see no point in speculating, since after all, it’s only the voyeur in me who wants to know.

    Slight change of subject: What I find fascinating is the parallel between the deaths of John O’Donohue and Thomas Merton. Both were 53, both away from home, both at the peak of their career, both writers, both priests, both in troubled relationships with the church, and both deaths completely unexpected. We know that Merton died in a freak accident, but to this day there are those who claim he committed suicide and others who insist the CIA assassinated him. You know: does it really matter? And so it is with O’Donohue.

  27. Does it really matter? Well, if he was killed it does. Apparently that is not true though since most everyone is reporting that he died “peacefully in his sleep”. So what, he didn’t have a heart attack, because that wouldn’t be the least bit peaceful. See that’s the rub. Here’s this guy that everyone seems to respect so much, who couldn’t have had a heart attack (or else it wouldn’t have been “peaceful”). So what, did he just stop breathing? And nobody questions!?

    And you are willing to wait? So if someone you care about dies suddenly for no apparent reason, you say nothing and wait for someone to bring you a report? Well, OK, so long as it’s not you they’re burying, hunh?

    I’m not advocating being nosy or butting in to another family’s affairs. But hey, if someone I really care about dies suddenly out of the blue, and who had been in excellent health, I’m darn sure gonna want to know why. If there is some medical reason, then fine, just tell me and I’m satisfied. But a little more than one’s “inner voyeur” is at work when one wants to know what happened.

    Further, it’s not like I’m asking for an autopsy report. Just a brief explanation would be fine. I’d be perfectly happy with, “He had diabetes and that sometimes sneaks up on people.” But just telling everyone he died “peacefully in his sleep at 53 years old in perfect health” makes no sense. That practically begs for investigation, unless of course you like being told pretty lies.

    If you really care, you question. That is the natural human response. If however folks were just using him and his charming words to make themselves feel better about themselves, then I would contend that, at least in some cases, their feelings may well be selfish in nature, AND that they really didn’t care that much about the actual guy.

    Let me say it again, “If you really care, you question.”

    At the very least, you’ll be more informed about things that could cause your own death in a similar manner.

    Yeah… matters.

  28. Frankly, I think you are advocating “being nosy and butting in to another family’s affairs.” My relationship with John O’Donohue is simple: I read his writing, I listened to his tapes, I interviewed him, I wrote about him, I admired what he had to say. Period. We weren’t friends, we weren’t business associates beyond what I’ve just detailed (and the interview happened in 1999). I don’t know how he died. Yes, I’m curious. But I don’t need to know. And like I said above, I’m willing to wait for whatever explanation the family eventually chooses to provide. If his death were “unnatural” how does my knowing about it change things? Or make things better? I can take responsibility for my own health without knowing about someone else’s issues.

    I’m not a journalist, I’m a blogger who writes about the contemplative life. I have no desire to be a literary paparazzo; I’d rather respect the family in this time of grief. If you really think you need to know, send an email to his agent, all the contact details are listed on his website.

  29. This morning, after my morning meditation, I went on John O’Donohue’s website, and was shocked beyond belief by the news of his passing. Reading these memorials has brought more tears, and now a wonderful serenity of knowing that John’s teachings live on in the hearts of so many of us. My wife and I were looking forward to joining John on his Oregon House retreat this year. We will go, and commune with him in the Spirit World anyway, while he is safe in Tir Na Nog. As I write this, I listen to Van Morrison’s song Tir Na Nog, from his “No Guru, no Method, no Teacher” from 1986. It is perfect for this sad, yet profound occasion. Namaste, Jan

  30. I just learned of the death of John O’Donohue after listening to his “Eternal Echoes” audiotape on KPFK ( in Los Angeles (1/21/08). “Roy of Hollywood” plays tapes with spiritual subjects on Mondays and Thursdays. (It is a late night show, but available online through the KPFK Archive at the radio’s website. Or you can go to Roy of Hollywood’s website at

    When I heard the news of O’Donohue’s death, I cried. His books, especially “Anam Cara” and “Eternal Echoes,” were personal favorites. But it was his voice that made his audiotapes so special — that lovely Irish lilt! His knowledge of Gaelic and rural Ireland, combined with his philosophical training, gave his writings a special beauty. His poetic perception and spiritual wisdom made his writings a wonder of insightfulness.

    I mourn his loss, because I feel that he was a heart friend — even though I never met him. I only knew him through his writings. Thank heaven for books! May the beauty of his radiant soul overshadow our troubled world with its love.

    Sincerely, Carole Ashley

  31. Carmel Lyons says:

    January one of the darkest months , for me is often brightened by the inspration of a most beautiful light in our world, whom sadly I never had the pleasure of meeting but from whose writings I grew to know and love, John was a guiding light for my spiritual journey touching my heart and soul, too late to tell him face to face.
    Now that the Lord has taken John to Himself I pray, he will reward him for the peace, joy and love that John has given through his inspired writings.
    May your golden and radient light live forever John, your life was short but what a treasure you left behind. Thank you for sharing the gift of your beautiful talents.
    May your soul smile in the embrace of your anam cara.

  32. Cheryl Anne says:

    John O’Donohue’s brilliant and beautiful wordcraft has touched my heart and helped bring about great peace and growth in my life over the last decade. May his legacy of beauty and courage reach far into the future and bless many generations to come. His spirit lives on in the hearts of all those who seek to walk the path of the Anam Cara. Blessed John, thank you for your friendship.

  33. Nial O Reilly says:

    I am delighted to have found your site and the many lovely tributes to John. I was lucky to know him as a parishoner at one time in Salthill, Galway. Later I got to know his work and last year had the privelage of attending a weekend seminar with him in his native County Clare. We have lost a National Treasure but he will live on through the wonder of his work. While I have read much of the length of it I will never exhaust the depth of it. He was a rare genius. Ar dheis de go raibh a anam. (In Irish: May his soul rest at the side of God)

  34. Maggi Sale, Glasgow. says:

    My darling daughter Gwen brought me a copy of ‘Anam Cara’ from Ireland when she lived and played her fiddle in Armagh. I was too busy and pre-occupied with life, work, worries etc to read it at the time. Her fiddle playing and all things Irish, took her far from her Scottish home and family for some time.
    Having bowed her way over the stages of America with Lord of the Dance, Gwennie met her fate on a Chicago Boulevard a few short weeks before she was due to return.The shock of her death still ripples through her family and the Irish Music fraternity; and I could never speak for the sense of loss which will continue to be felt by her two young sons. But as her mother, I can truly state that I owe my sanity and sense of continued life- purpose to the reading and deep understanding of John’s ‘Anum Cara’ which, thankfully, fell into my hands again a few days after Gwen’s death.
    He brings, and will continue to spread through his writings, a timely, universally spiritual message of interconnectedness and common humanity to a troubled world.
    He spoke to my Celtic heart and healed the pain of human loss and longing. I will be eternally grateful. May his eternal peace be continually disturbed by a wee Scottish Lassie masquerading (quite successfully) as an Irish fiddler. Peace and Love. Maggi

  35. Maggi, I am so sorry about your loss, I know that some wounds are never healed, even with the passing of time. Having met John O’Donohue and knowing his work, I can see why his words were such a balm for you. I suspect he is dancing to one of Gwennie’s jigs even as I write these words.

    God bless you,


  36. ahh.. to well Iwould like to stand next to beings of such insight and eartly magnitude to draw on the divine love and wisdom to the merge with this human road.
    “Anam Cara “has been a constant friend for so many years. I remember many years ago when I first read that Anam Cara meant to drink into the soul of another through the eyes , this is a soul friend. This was the intuition and resonance I have looked for in people my entire life. May we gather our intentions into a breath to fan our brother with our love and one another that we too shall have a turn to be gathered in our sleep and return to the exciting level of true love. God bless the writing and prescence of John. on earth. I hope I will meet thee one day..

  37. The world has lost a beautiful human being. Happily, he is in heaven, I’m sure !
    May God bless his soul….xo

  38. Today, the 2nd of February, in Galway, Ireland, there is a memorial for the life of this ex-Priest, poet, philosopher and twinkle-in-the-eye humanist John O’Donohue. I had recently, in the last year, discovered the intimate beauty of John’s insightful contributions, be they books, lectures and/or interviews in which he shared his poignantly true vision of our world and its lack of spirituality. After seeing him speak last year, I was smitten with his thoughts, warmth and wit enough to do his 10 day retreat this spring in his land, the Conamara. Alas, that plan will not take place, and I have had to let go of my plan to inbibe his world view like the perfume of the Divine, and to allow that ambrosia to infuse my soul. No, his passing has precipitated a divergence from that path which was so conveniently lined with John’s well thought out and developed philosophies. God has mandated that somehow I must find my own path to the high road to Conamara… well to my own enlightenment towards the Divine.

    Curious to me, possibly as a result of my medical profession, that almost every news story about John’s passing as described it as “peacefully died in his sleep”. Absent is any explanation of what caused his death, Probably, no autopsy was done, and since no articles mention any chronic problems, we can only speculate as to which organ failed him at such a young age, despite his vigorous, and passionate countenance. For me, personally, i have my own theory why no article mentions this aspect, and that is because it is likely that it was an issue of heart,failure and it would seem like absolute blasphemy that this could be the fate of a man whose life was the embodiment of Heart in its highest state of grace…..

    May this world embody his thoughts and principles, and may all of us who knew him or who were touched by him continue to be inspired by our “soul friend”.

    Kay Fields, Portland, Or. Feb 2, 2008

  39. Diane Brigid Ferrall says:

    Hello Carl and thank you for giving space to remember Fr. John O’Donohue on your web of unknowing. His Anam Cara Celtic Wisdom returned me to that world within that opens us to the universe. How can words express gratitute for such a gift of purpose and faith? My heart goes out to his loved ones; such a loss to bear. May they be comforted by the nurturing that he multiplied around the world.

  40. Jackie Stefano says:

    Hi Everyone who loved John,
    I live in alaska, born & raised and I found John’s Anam Cara quite by myself in a bookstore
    one day about 3 years ago…it has been my “secret” helper, the book that someone like me,
    a poet, painter and massage therapist loves……
    I by chance went to his site after a Soulcoach friend of mine mentioned a video in 2006
    with Caroline Myss that John spoke in ….I was shocked instantly to see that he had made his
    transition on Jan 3rd!!
    I never met him but I loved him and I cryed copiously all that night for the
    loss of such a great soul. the next day I painted a painting for him by tuning into the power
    of all the heart and soul which his great spirit knocked wide open………

    To sum it up, I can only say that John knew what he was doing and on some level was
    ready and agreeable to make his change…i honor that in him. I am comforted to find
    others on this site also who found such meaning from him.

    Beauty in all things, Jackie Stefano LMT/CSC

  41. You came into my life three years ago when I read ‘Anam Cara’ and ‘Belonging’. You have a beautiful soul and your words are deeply moving and inspirational. I’m deeply sadened you have passed away, but your memory and deep influence lives on with me and countless others.

  42. Lois Milner.....Australia says:

    Just yesterday I rang a friend to thank her for giving me John’s book “Anam Cara”, which she hoped would help me, as my sister is in the last days of her life in palliative care. I cannot express how much reading it has meant to me. I went online to find out more about him and what other books were available and was shocked at the news of his death. Even though I am new to his words it is obvious the world has lost a beautiful soul. Very soon my sister will leave this earth but his words have already provided comfort as I read lines from his poem “Blessings” ………”may there come across the waters a path of yellow moonlight to bring you safely home” I know his words will be there for me in the coming days. Thankyou John and thankyou to my friend Maureen.

  43. Pegi Walker says:

    Two days ago we gathered in Bend Oregon where John had spoken almost two years ago to honor the priest, poet, and philosopher whose life and words touched so many others. Reminiscent of Pavarotti’s heart-stirring tenor ringing out to conclude his own funeral, recorded word brought John’s voice to us that evening. Aye, there were tears, and the beautiful sweet strong presence of the beloved man himself. Just as John’s voice filled the church one of the light fixtures high in the ceiling rafters began to glow and turn, and continued doing so throughout his recorded brogue. I felt enveloped as in a hug from the lanky Irish rouge, so gifted at bridging the sacred and profane.

    John O’Donohue’s passing at such a young age, and at such a full time in his life and work, is ever a mystery. I’ve spoken with many who were scheduled to join him in Conamara or participate in another of his Oregon Coast retreats. His newest book had just come out. And what most breaks my heart, he had just announced his engagement, having found a sweetheart to share the journey with for the first time in his 53 years. May we all send her prayers of support for such a loss!

    Still, I sense the mystery of John’s sudden leaving of his humanoid form as his last great teaching. In reading his books, in listening to him speak (click on the interview in Guy C’s entry from January 15th above) the theme of death is ever present. John never spoke of it with fear or dread. He befriended both the mystery and the sorrow and suffering attached as the simple transition that it is, birth in reverse, a sacred and holy thing that only puts us on the other side of the thin veil between now and forever.
    In our techno-modern Western minds, we demand answers for everything, living life as if we are somehow in control and have capacity to know and then conquer (.,,eventually even death?). John reminds us we are all equal pilgrims on this simple path. I suspect he’s watching over us (that mirthful twinkle in his now all-seeing eyes and a mug of single malt whiskey raised on our behalf), coaxing us to live with joy and intention, knowing death is but a doorway and we will meet again.

    The Western mind wants answers for everything. I suspect John will continue his work from the heavenlies, guiding us to embrace the mystery

  44. Geraldine Hughes says:

    When I first saw Anam Cara on a bookshelf back in 2000, here in Auckland, NZ, I told myself it was the fanciful romantic Celt in me that was drawn to read it. Then, the following year after reading a newspaper article informing me that it’s auther John O’Donohue was to be here to give a poetry reading on St Patrick’s Eve, I coerced a friend to come with me. The moment John entered that crowded room, I felt his presence envelope us all. I listened transfixed as his voice, his words and his abundance fill the room. I was lucky to exchange a few words with him afterwards and I have read everything he has written since. His words have filled me at times of despair and enlivened me at times of darkness. I feel so sad that those words will no longer flow from his pen. He seems to be one of the great people of our time and to have died so young seems to have a profound meaning of its own. I had plannned on taking one of his West of Ireland Tours in the next couple of years – with John’s death I am reminded to be present and not wait – we do not know when our time will. Arohonui, John.

  45. Um I am lonely in the world for John. He spoke the language of the soul.

    How he would have loved the red moon rising in the crisp air where I stood between crunchy snow and God knows where last night. An Irish woman far from home.

    He could have articulated that for me, made the ordinary majestic, done the loaves and fishes with one extraordinary moment and fed a nation, many nations on how the moon reached into me and for a moment touched what is God in me. But I, I got cold and went in and unpacked the dishwasher.

    At the very least he could have eloquently explained this space he has left. Does he linger still in the thin place so that the seeds he planted in the wet mud bleed tears of hope and begin in the darkness to believe not in his words but in their own possibility to grow, find the light, spread the joy.

    John O Donohue – go raibh maith agat – Slan

  46. Sharyl Henry says:

    I came belatedly across the announcement of John’s death this morning through Kathleen Adams journaling website. I am shocked and broken-hearted to hear of this untimely and great loss. I never had the privilege of meeting John as many others writing here have had, but I have treasured all of his books and listened to his wonderful voice on cd for many years. He has been a most wonderful blessing in my life as I know he has been also to so many others. It is hard to accept that his work here has come to an end. Dear John O’Donohue — may light and rest and peace be with you. Your work and your words will live on here in the hearts and minds of all of us who are blessed to receive your magic. All that you have given will continue to go out into this harsh world and bring enlightenment, comfort, spirit growth and understanding. In love & sadness —- Sharyl

  47. Burry Wiseman says:

    I first picked up a copy of Anam Cara off a friend’s desk and opened it at random. The force of the words on the printed page forced me to sit down. Since that time his words have been a constant companion. His life and now his death has deeply impacted my life. I thank the Everywhere Spirit for his embodiment and his continued influence through his words and his melodious voice.
    May his words carry him home.
    Burry Wiseman
    Mar 1/08

  48. kari nedgard says:

    I spent a week on Iona in May 92. Father John was the teacher of Celtic spirituality. He was a priest who celebrated mass with a presence none of us had experienced before. Mary from the Moray firth was there, and Stewart from Glasgow. John was alive in an overwhelming way. Was praying in an overwhelming way. We took walks on that little island. People were lining up in order to share their lives with him.
    On leaving, I will never forget his words: “I will do magic for you. Pure magic!”
    I never doubted it. I think he still can.

    God bless him and all his friends and family.

    Kari Nedgård

  49. Ruth Anne Biela says:

    Like so many others here, I literally felt the wind knocked out of me when I learned of John’s death earlier this year. Just as I snapped on my radio, Maureen Corrigan, the NPR book critic, was delivering the shocking news that we had lost John. It did not seem possible that someone so overflowing with life could so suddenly depart this mortal coil. Most heartbreaking was Corrigan’s mention that John, a personal friend of hers, had recently found the love of his life in his early 50s. And now he was gone. Like many who have written here, I never met John in person but considered him a cherished friend because of the deep impact his amazingly Spirit-filled writing has had upon me. Anam Cara is a treasure that I always keep with me on my bedside table. I had never heard of John O’Donohue when I discovered him while book browsing about a decade ago. Opening that book and reading random passages of it sent an intense electricity through my entire being. A little over a year ago, I shared passages from Anam Cara with my lifelong best friend as she lay dying from metastatic breast cancer, and I sought to comfort both of us. She had been estranged from the Church we shared in childhood, but I wanted very much to remind her of treasured knowledge that her soul still recognized as true. Anam Cara reached her deeply, as it had always reached me. Now she and John both reside in eternity. Until it is my time to join them on the other side of the veil, John’s words continue to reach my spirit and give me peace. God bless you, John, and thank you so much for the treasures you left here for us. God’s comfort to all who mourn your passing.

  50. curt l. tofteland says:

    a great light has gone out in our world. i am reminded of a line of gower from shakespeare’s pericles . .. .

    If you, born in these latter times,
    When wit’s more ripe, accept my rimes,
    And that to hear an old man sing
    May to your wishes pleasures bring,
    I life would wish, and that I might
    Waste it for you like taper-light.*

    *taper-light like a candle which consumes itself while offering light freely.

  51. March 4, just learned of the death of John. Stunned. Shocked. How can this be!
    But so it is. Peace and love to his fiance. My cousin died of carotid artery blockage at age 50. We shared his humanity and it is normal to want to know.

  52. I add my respect and aroha to the above list.
    John’s books sit near to Merton’s on my shelves
    a point made more poignant by Carl’s reflection above.
    Merton’s dad went to the school where I’m chaplain.


  53. Janet Burke says:

    I just purchased the book “Beauty” in January, after putting off the purchase for over a year from the time I was listening to John O’Donohue speaking of the book and the beauty of our life experience on NPR while I was driving in the car. While reading it the other day I was moved to read more about Mr. O’Donohue on his website. Needless to say I was quite shocked and so deeply saddened to find out that he had so recently passed away at such a young, vibrant age.
    Years ago I read Anam Cara. It was my intellectual introduction to Celtic Christianity after years of experiencing something spiritual I could not explain coming to me from traditional Celtic and Irish music. John O’Donohue put into words what I felt coming from the music, which before him I could only call a tribal, spiritual stirring in my soul.
    It’s strange how filled my past few days have been with the spirit of John O’Donohue. I am sure the profound grief and loss felt by his family and those closest to him is softened by their wonderful memories as well as, his continued presence and love surrounding them.

  54. It’s shocking to hear that John is no longer walking and laughing on the earth. I just found out today, and am struck by the feel sad, as many others who knew and loved him through his work. What an amazing gift of God!

    Years ago, I popped in a sampler tape from Sounds True and could not believe what I was hearing from the Irish voice on the other end of the machine. I had never heard such strange and wonderful truths. He’s really one of a kind!

    In 2002, a year when I had experienced so many losses, I came to Oregon to find something to restore me. John’s retreat was amazing and I still think of things he said and did. Besides his laughter at the clown noses we wore, I cherish his words “America, the land of the free and the home of the extremely brave.” Each time I hear the national anthem, I think of the way he elevated our spirits.

    May we all remember the beauty of his life by living the lessons he gave us.

    Thank you, John!

  55. Janet Burke says:

    One correction you may want to make. I believe John O’Donohue was born January 1, 1956.

  56. Thanks for pointing that out.

  57. On one of those “what are you doing buying books when you need……” days not long ago, I picked up O’Donohue’s Anam Cara and Eternal Echoes. Initially skeptical of yet more “soul self help,” I soon became increasingly engrossed in this lively being’s thoughts and percepts. Finally finding a moment to “google” his name, how sad to learn he had died just as I was getting to know him.

    It is a great comfort to find blogs like this.

  58. I discovered Anam Cara a year ago this month. I truly believe I was gently lead to it by the One Who is Love. I remember being held in rapture by just the back cover description of it. I took it home with me and later that night read only up to the Prologue. After finishing the prologue, I could read no further that night, as it alone had made me weep something great. Oh, how tears streamed down my face! “This is what I have been searching for!” I thought. And for so long… See, I may be only 17, 16 when Anam Cara and its author first entered my life, but I am deeply spiritual and John’s words and writings touched me so intensely. I have recommended Anam Cara to all my friends, and those who have read it rave about it and we all agree it changes your life irrevocably. One of my friends who lives away from me even told of how a girl in one of her classes saw her reading it one day, was interested, later got it herself, and is now enthralled with it as well! It brings me joy to know I can help spread John’s wisdom to more of my brothers and sisters. My only real “problem” with Anam Cara is when he asserts that the ancient goddess Brigid and Saint Brigid are one and the same, which they are not. St. Brigid being my dear baptismal patroness, I desire her memory to be kept true and clear. See, if I named my daughter Demeter, that does not make her the goddess. The saint shared the name of the goddess, but is not the goddess “remade”. But that is my only real problem with it.
    As a convert to the Church, I have found my pre-Catholic attraction to Celtic things and spirituality to be even more so a source of great comfort, Truth, Beauty, and the Divine. Anam Cara and John’s writings have greatly deepened and intensified this love and my awareness of the Divine -of Our God- in all things, all places, and all faces. His thoughts on Eros have really changed my thoughts on it and fulfilled the longing I had within me for realizing what true Eros is. I have been able to recognize that we all have more than one anam cara in our lives, each fulfilling a specific need, a special place in our beings. For me, I have my spirit-sister, the first to hear of my discovery of the book and with whom I feel safe and understood; my future husband-my soulmate, for whom I pray every night and for whom I have yearned for so long now; Jesus, “the secret anam cara of every person,” which for me includes the rest of the Holy Trinity; and Our Blessed Mother Mary, who is now my Confirmation patroness and has been there for me since I was ever so small.

    The day I learnt of John’s death, it rippled through me like painful shockwaves. I felt stabbed, shot, hit- something. I was so stunned I couldn’t speak. I did my best not to cry as I told my mother. But his words on death have been a source of comfort and inspiration for me. I will never be the same again after reading Anam Cara, and although I have yet to savor his others, I know God will touch me through them also.

    May his soul forever frolic and delight in the Eternity he wrote of and lived in even here on Earth, may the Infinite Love from which we all come be a true home for him, as it will be for all of us, and may his memory and wisdom continue to be a voice of Infinite Truth for a world that so needs it.

  59. margarita foley says:

    Bless your Carl for this blog and all who have written in it. Thank you so much to you and all who have shared such soul beauty. May we all find our connection in the Risen Christ and May John mind us and our world in a very powerful way now. margarita

  60. Beth Whitney-Teeple says:

    April 1 2008
    I’ve only just met John O’Donohue through his writings this March of 08 and am stunned to learn he’s recently left this realm. Arriving home today listening to him read on the tape Anam Cara, smiling in the sunshine of the day and his voice. In honor of spontaneity I want to acknowledge his grace, his wisdom, and his ongoing presence. Despite his leaving, I look forward to a long and wonderful friendship with this rare soul.

  61. james G. Bolger says:

    Dear Lord,
    Let what is essential in my brother, John O’ Donohue -his spirit-go on and be in You.
    In Jesus’ name, Amen

  62. Solaris DaWay says:

    I am just now learning of both his books and his fate. I am wanting to find a place to download his book Anam Cara Wisdom from the Celtic Wolrd on to a cd or ipod for an older woman that loves him and is not really able to use much else…. might anyone know of such a thing or where one can find this….
    Peace and may the rays of the sun forever shine brightly upon you

  63. Solaris DaWay says:

    does anyone know of a site to download or buy an ipod cast or cd of Anam Cara Wisdom from the Celtic Wolrd…….

  64. I was fortunate to have met John O’ Donohue in 1983. He was at the forefront of organising a two year course in theology for lay people in Cluain Mhuire in Galway. He had such a commanding, gentle presence and his charismatic qualities were evident in those evolving and changing times. In collaboration with other like-minded people, he was instrumental in inviting some of the most brilliant and inspirational speakers to this humble setting and many of us were uplifted and enthralled by their presentations. President Mary Mc Aleese, Dr. Jack Dominian and Noel Dermot
    O’ Donoghue were a brief sample that graced our presence. The latter speaker had us captivated by expounding his reflections and insights on physical light,intellectual light,the light of faith and mystical imagination all in the context of the christian tradition. His knowledge about the great philosophers and gently weaving them into his delivery silently captivated us during two superb nights. We gladly pitched our tents and listened intently because it was wonderful to be here. In hindsight, it was no accident that Noel Dermot was our concluding speaker. It was true to form that John was keeping the best wine until last and we drank mightily in the vineyard of the spoken word. John once said that ‘Words are fingers pointing to the moon’ and I feel as I type these words that they will in no way do justice to this great man. I cannot help but note the spine-tingling similarities in the lives of Thomas Merton and John O’Donohue. Lastly, I feel I was destined to hear in one of our theological presentations that, I quote: ‘everyone is a poet and writer from their experience’and because of this I attribute the ability and possibility of weaving these words together as a testament to the brilliance and light that emanated from John’s life. It is most appropriately titled ‘Gift’and I dedicate it to John and to everyone who was ever influenced and is destined to be shaped by the loving, poetic and theological insights of this twenty-first century luminary. May the beauty envelope and enrapture you for evermore.

    From the well springs of creativity
    Emerge colour, texture and tone
    A response to an ancient prompting
    In the dance of cosmic fun

    The bold brush strokes on canvas
    Animated in film, voice and scene
    Sensing a statement of the inevitable
    The Divine calling into being

    Energised by possibility
    Dive deep through the core of risk
    Share the treasure of experience
    And from nothing cut a disc

  65. Haiku for John O’Donahue

    Moon water reflected
    Russian Olive flower’s white
    scent of beauty lost.

    Mystic, CT. USA

  66. John: I continue to meet in the ways of the soul which you have scattered into the cosmos. I met you last week in a bookstore and was graced by “To Bless the Space Between Us.” As you continue your journey with God your soul connection continues with us here and we ever give thanks for the timeless anamcara that you ARE for us all.

  67. Geesji Vigie says:

    I cannot believe, I found today,August 13, 2008, that John O’Donahue”Crossover” to the place where we all come from and we all will go after this life. So much lived,so much left to remember. I did not know him personally, but reading his books is like be inside his mind, soul and spirit. What a legacy to be left for the generations to come and for all of us that we were here at the same time in history. No words, No Poems will fill the lost and the empty space in our lives but, here it goes, as they come from my inspiration as a tribute to a great soul that is enjoying the eternity.

    Tears in the rainbow of my soul
    bath my spirit in the sorrow of the lost.

    I will miss the days where the light of the sun in my face bring joy and
    the warm rays of a inspiration get within my spirit to find a soul friend in
    the loneliness of my life days.

    Dancing with the Stars,
    in the vast Cosmos,
    in the energy of the Universe you are.

    As a bright Star in the Cosmos,
    you bath my spirit in hope.

    In my days of reflection,
    in the dark night,
    I will raise my eyes to touch you.

    In the day, where our souls clash and find each other,
    it will be seen two stars dancing in JOY,
    living for ever in the eternity.

    I see you, when see you.
    Dance my friend.

  68. John espero que estejas a iluminar os anjos como me iluminaste a mim, com as tuas belas palavras…

  69. Bart Welten says:

    I too am saddened at John’s passing. May he rest in the arms of the Holy One and continue to walk within the veils of our souls’ wanderings.
    Does anyone in the network know how I may access John’s original article on anam chara as it appeared in the Creation Spirituality magazine. There are some facts and insights there which did not appear in his book, and I’d really like to share them with others in my chaplaincy circle. Many thanks.

  70. Federica Gentili says:

    you never published what I wrote about him, and the picture I sent you of me and him… I have to write yopu back again?

  71. Frederica, I never received anything from you. Can you just post your writing here and provide a link back to the picture?

  72. Sharon Mccarthy says:

    I was deeply shocked and saddened to hear of John O’Donohues death, selfishly I mourn his passing because I like many never got to meet the man who spoke so wisely and weaved a tapestry of intrinsically beautiful words, that when heard render the heart and soul to stillness. My sadness is that I will never walk the Conamara hills listening to his words of wisdom, my joy is that his writings will continue to provide a source of hope and comfort within my life and I will continue to praise his work to others and invite them to find comfort from his many books. I will pray for him and his family and thank God that I found him through his books, thank you . Sharon x.

  73. Moira McShane Lukas says:

    Feb. 18, 2009
    Once again, my cousin/sister-in-law, Sheila and I will travel in a week to L.A. Congress and will be mourning the loss of our favorite teacher, who’s class(es) we always reserved first…John O’Donohue. He touched me deeply and I still miss him. I listen to his tapes (from the years at L.A. Congress) and am amazed each time of his heartfelt sharing and laughter. I will always feel his “presence” and still keep his family in my heart and prayers.
    Moira McShane Lukas

  74. Richard Hanna says:

    Yesterday I was in Aucklands Pathfinder Bookshop looking for a Copy of “Blessing the space between us ” and was notified about Johns passing by the sales clerk ,I was dismayed and appalled to hear he had passed away .My first impulse was to investigate how a man in good physical health and excellent spiritual health could leave so early,and indeed on a threshold a new beginning?.
    Today ,after spending time listening to “Blessing the space between us” it has all become clear .This timely sublimely soulful collection is a Masterpiece ,In this body of work He has left behind a Map and a guide in which we may all apply to our Journey through life ,to “put a window where there was a wall” to honour and bless the important events in our lives.To speak in beautiful eloquence when tragedy has struck us dumb .To channel ourselves through sentences crafted by such fierce spiritual intelligence as to transform us .
    John thankyou for these wonderful blessings,I will learn them by Heart.
    With deep Respect and affection .Richard Hanna (Bard in Training)

  75. new site launched at

  76. Jan H Stafl says:

    On this day of Epiphany, two years after John O’Donohue’s passing from this realm, I am heartened by his new web site. There are new gems of heretofore unpublished works by John, with promises of more. He indeed lives on in the hearts of so many who have known him.
    Thanks be to Pat, his younger brother, for an insightful, touching memorial on the second anniversary of John’s passing. Here in Eugene Oregon, nearby John’s beloved Oregon House retreat, we still hold remembrances in his memory. Thank you John for your continued inspiration. As you say, nothing is ever lost or forgotten. You have indeed blessed the space between us all. Your fellow Celt, Jan

  77. I’m not entirely sure why I’m telling you this, but I trust in serendipity. I am just now finishing Eternal Echos, recommended to me for the purpose of extending the notion of addiction as rooted in historical trauma to apply to addicts in Western culture. I was not previously familiar with John’s work and I do not come from a Catholic tradition, though I do have a background in philosophy and metaphyics, among other things.

    I am somewhat shocked at how disappointed I am with John’s insight into the heart of human experience. I feel he does not touch the secret heart that drives the indigenous and Anglo people that I know. Perhaps part of this is my own lack of indoctrination with the Celtic culture or the Catholic discursive manner, but try as I might to find a bridge between the enlightened soul and the underworld, any underworld, I cannot find it in Eternal Echos.

    I am not writing to complain, I’m writing to make a specific statement that might be of some use to someone regarding John’s discussion of forgiveness on page 134 (Harper Perennial edition, 2000) There he describes forgiveness as a reinterpretation of the relationship between the person injured and the person who they perceive injured them. He uses forgiveness in the traditional sense of ceasing to affix blame, as ceasing to view their acts as crimes against one’s person.

    This is not forgiveness. This is SO NOT forgiveness that I feel “you can’t get there from here,” as the old Down East joke goes. Forgiveness is all about forgiving YOURSELF and it has virtually nothing to do with The Other. Forgiveness is releasing yourself from an obsession of anger for the purpose of allowing yourself to heal, and to move to a higher calling in your life and the lives of those who have come before you and who will come after you.

    Forgiveness is getting off the ground, bandaging your wounds — which are real and were likely cruelly committed for selfish and sadistic purposes — and learning the lesson of transcendence. One does not “forgive” the person or forces that injured you in a kind of absolution, as those people generally need to be stopped and not condoned.

    Forgiveness is an appreciation of the pain one has experienced for the power that it has given to you. The power to be undefeated as well as the power to empathize with others. Forgiveness is fully coming in to the power to help others, and grow beyond the cycle of hurt within which one had been bound. The Other is not absolved, they are irrelevant.

    What I am saying is sort of echoed by Carolyn Myss, though I have not read her enough to say that it’s identical to her thoughts on the subject. Still, if you’re interested in another description of this sort you should explore her writings. I also have a book on learning and transformation that’s free on my web site, though its focus is on the general process of transcendent learning.

    And just to repeat, I don’t mean to ‘diss John or those who found power from John’s work, but I do want to say that I feel there to be real obstacles in taking his words as vehicles of transformation in this case.

  78. Ellen O'Donohue says:

    John was my ex husband’s cousin, but he became my cousin. He reveled in the children, made them laugh and his gifts were many. It is terrible to think that his energy, his humor, his love of life, his presence is gone.
    Though he would debate anyone, he loved everyone and you could not be long frustrated by his otherworldliness that did not allow him to wait on himself or make his own tea or wash his own clothes when he visited. I let him sleep late and followed along picking up after him in my home in China, and then as soon as I showed him how to use the modern washing machine he had left for another location. He was a regular man, eldest son in a family that valued having a priest, and so this is why he seemed to walk on air to some people. If you knew him personally you could see his struggles and his exuberance to do many things in this lifetime. He was like a child. Wondering and speaking aloud and writing it down in a notepad of gigantic letters, pages used back side too. Over the years I had not seen him often but his presence at my wedding and the great affection we hold for him even now are memories to cherish.

  79. John O’Donahue was an effervescent presence in the world who surely remains so today for those of us who knew him directly or indirectly through his articulate Celtic philosophy. His spiritual eloquence and ruddy reverence for life continually remind me to seize the richness of my own. Even when I struggle with depression, I hear the warmth in his fierce declaration to “put the feckin’ devil behind you”. His soul was a fertile combination of heaven and earth, and my own is the better for having known his. Thank you, Carl, for creating space between us through these postings.

  80. I have just been introduced to John O’Donohue through the Celtic Journey video shown on HBO. It is wonderful. I then was shocked to hear that this strong, healthy man is dead. What did he die of? Did he drink alcohol? I have not been able to read what the cause of death was. Since it has been two years since he has passed away, has anyone said why he died? I will look forward to reading some of his books now. Thank you, Sandra

    • Thanks, Sandra. It is my understanding that John O’Donohue died in his sleep from natural causes. It is not unheard of for even a healthy man in his fifties to suffer a heart attack or an aneurysm that can quickly take his life. I have no idea whether he drank or smoke or not, and I suppose it’s not really any of my business anyway!

  81. Rita Dhahan says:

    Whenever I think of John O’Donohue’s writings and how deeply affected I was when I first listened to him speaking on the tape of Anam Cara, I feel this great sadness in my heart. My friend and I had heard him speak in our home town of Vancouver in the Fall of 2007. We were transported, illuminated, and inspired. I was so fortunate to have heard him speak in public.
    Having thought of his death many times over, I have often felt that he maxed out–he fulfilled his life’s mission and it was over. His book, To Bless the Space Between Us, was the ultimate blessing–to help all of us, especially his closest loved ones, grieve his passing from the visible to the invisible.
    For some reason, his loss always makes me feel a very deep sadness and emptyness even though I didn’t know him personally. His writing touched the heart so deeply and personally and he brought a strong, sacred sense of comfort and security, meaning and belonging to those he touched. Through his works this will carry on. …. and through his spirit that lives on….

  82. So much he left us with, so much he gave…I recall reading Beauty out in my hoop-house, I had not yet learned of John’s death. I recall weeping while reading, not crying- there is a difference…all of a sudden I was taken with a thought-”I am not alone.”
    I live in DownEast Maine, at the very edge of where-wilderness-and-blacktop-do-not-mix. I assure you, I was very much alone…and yet I sensed the soul of another, one that lifted the light and heat in that little humble place to a few more comforting degrees. As if when writing Beauty, that same soul had looked over my life- found words and poetry of comfort, published navigation for me, personally. And that day, that very same soul was peering over my shoulder, embracing me…while I wept for unanswerable questions, unmistakable answers and life/death now changing in form.

    John, my friend- invisible soul, I see you, feel you, hear you and thank you…May you continue to inspire.

  83. How did John die? I am a follower of his and would like an explanation. 53 death in sleep is very abnormal. I suppose I am surprised because I’m in nursing school and I have never heard of anyone ” dying in their sleep.” I think it’s weird that no one is asking. If he was anyone else famous everyone would be jumping all over it. He deserves a death explanation.

  84. Roger W Tinkham says:

    I added Aman Cara to my NOOK Tablet to carry with me wherever I go. What a blessing to be able to share John’s words with all the new people that have never heard these words. Christian Celtic Spirituality is the answer to so much that create turmoil and chaos in our lives. We benefit so much from leaving the neon world of today for the candle light of the past with its shades of darkness that even then seem to light up our world.

  85. Roger W Tinkham says:

    I added Aman Cara to my NOOK Tablet so that I can carry it with me wherever I go. John’s words are so necessary for today and so few have heard these words. Today we live so much in the neon glare of life that we miss the candlelight with its shades of darkness that lighten up our daily lives. As I read his words to others at various meetings, people are in awe. Christian Celtic Spirituality holds the answer to so much of todays chaos and lack of love. John has blessed all of us in giving us these words to enrich our lives. I thank his family for continuing to share his legacy of love.

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