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Priest follows up Sash joke with mental health message

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Canon Jimmy McPhillips

Canon Jimmy McPhillips

Canon Jimmy McPhillips

The colourful Lisnaskea priest who mischievously played a recording of The Sash at the end of a live-streamed Mass has been marching to a different beat - following up his prank with a serious message appealing for his parishioners to stay calm in the coronavirus crisis.

In his latest broadcast Canon Jimmy McPhillips from the Holy Cross church in the Fermanagh town steered clear of any references to his weekend joke that has gone viral on the internet.

On Thursday he told the Belfast Telegraph that he had introduced the Orange flute band music, pretending it was a mistake, as a "bit of craic" to cheer people up in the dark times of the pandemic.

And later that night he was back online with an Hour of Prayer and Reflection from his empty church, promising beforehand on social media that there would only be sacred music.

But it was a service like no other as Canon McPhillips conducted what was as much as a relaxation and mindfulness class as a religious service interspersed with regular breathing exercises.

He urged his online audience to "unload any negativity and negative emotions" they might be feeling due to Covid-19.

He said: "We know there's a lot of fear and anxiety out there. And these poor emotions can actually compromise your entire immune system and the blood pressure can go up.

"We can go into panic mode and then those irrational thoughts and behaviours take over."

Canon McPhillips said that as the months of the lockdown were passing by it was all too easy for people to "get annoyed with everything and shake their fists at how terrible it all is".

But he said it was also a spiritual opportunity for people to reflect on their lives and the big questions of life.

The Canon said that what the authorities were urging people to do to look after their personal hygiene by washing their hands and keeping a safe distance was reducing the risk of people getting the dangerous virus.

But he stressed that it was essential for people to look after what he called their "mental hygiene by slowing down, healing and quietening the mind" by taking time on their own to "re-boot their lives and get them in tune with God".

To the soundtrack of a softly tinkling piano, the Canon then urged people to "close your eyes, take a breath from deep down in your stomachs for a count of six seconds, hold it for two seconds and exhale for four seconds".

"Allow your feet and ankles to relax," he added. "Relax your legs and your hips and your stomach muscles.

"Let your arms go limp and relax your wrists, your hands and your fingers and keep breathing in deeply and breathing out slowly."

He also said that his listeners should imagine they were meeting Jesus in the Square in Lisnaskea where he would assure them they would be okay amid the coronavirus pandemic.

He finished the service not with an Orange tune but rather with a song called Jesus I Give You My Love.

Belfast Telegraph