As the host of Ireland's most popular evening talk show, Rev. Michael Cleary was asked one night how he could give advice on sexual matters to young people.

"Have you ever slept with a woman?" he was bluntly asked by a caller."I can't say that I have - but I've dozed a little," Cleary replied.

It is that same straightforward talk, tinged with humor, that had hundreds of mostly young, "undocumented Irish" flocking to St. Ambrose Church in Boston recently for a retreat with Cleary.

The 57-year-old cleric, now back in Dublin, said his mission in Boston involved reaching out to many of the young people he had met at retreats in Ireland. "And for others," he said, "it's been an opportunity to meet each other."

Cleary has appeared in Las Vegas with Bob Newhart, and he has performed at the Sydney Opera House in Australia.

He also wrote a weekly column in the Sunday Independent, a national newspaper in Ireland, "for five years, until I was sacked for writing an anti-abortion column."

And yet he understands and reaches out to those who have had abortions, forbidden by the Catholic Church and an especially sensitive subject in predominantly Catholic Ireland.

Last year he heard the confessions of about 30 women who had had abortions. Many had called into his current-affairs radio program "Dublin Tonight."

Born in Dublin, he is the son of the owner of a pub. He has four sisters and admits to having "a very comfortable life as a youth, wanting for nothing."

"In my senior year, for the first time, I started to look to the future, and the more I thought, the more I realized that God must have put me here for a purpose and that purpose was to try to make life better for people," he said.

"That meant giving up the two things I loved most - football and women," he said.

"I think God gives all of us a little pocket full of pebbles. You throw them into life's pond, and he makes miracles of the ripples - but you've got to make the ripples."