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The Beautiful Hands of the Priest
(Roud 5218)
Tom Lenihan
Knockbrack, Miltown Malbay
Recorded in singers’ home,
July 1976

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

Tom Lenihan

We need them in life’s early morning,
We need them again at its close.
We feel their warm clasp of true friendship,
We seek them when tasting life’s woes.
When we come to this world we are sinful,
The greatest as well as the least.
And the hand that will make us like angels,
Are the beautiful hands of a priest.

At the altar each day we behold them,
And the hands of a king in his throne.
Are not equal to them in their greatness,
Their dignity stands all alone.
For there in the stillness of morning
Ere the sun has emerged from the east,
There God rests between the pure fingers
Of the beautiful hands of a priest.

And when we are tempted to wander
On the pathways of shame and of sin,
Tis the hands of a priest will absolve us
Not once, but again and again.
And when we are taking life’s partner
Other hands will prepare us a feast,
But the hand that will bless and unite us
Are the beautiful hands of a priest.

God bless them and keep them all holy
For the Host which their fingers caress.
What can a poor sinner do better
But to praise Thee who chose thee to bless?
And when death-dews on our eyes are falling
May our courage and strength be increased
To see, raised above us in blessing,
The beautiful hand of a priest.


"Tom has been described aptly as 'a deeply religious Roman Catholic who practised his faith without ostentation or cant'. We haven’t been able to trace the origins of this simple expression of Tom’s faith."

Mount Callan Garland, Comhairle Bhéaloideas Éireann, 1994.
Jim Carroll


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