Séamus Ahearne: Horses, courses, herons and Indi … and more!

A medley of disparate sounds

The rising sun:

‘That they may face the rising sun.’ (McGahern). I did that, this morning. It appeared over the horizon. It was a glowing ball of fire. It was beautiful and explosive. There was musical harmony with the rising of the sun, and the gliding of the heron, up the river beside me. The sun was calling the day into life. The heron was coming for breakfast. The Tolka belonged to us. No one else had ventured out. (Sunday morning). I was momentarily reminded of some photos that came by WhatsApp. Mary sent a photo from DunLaoghaire. David send one from Manchester. Both were gloating and grigging me. “Look at our herons.” They seemed to be suggesting that their herons were better than mine. It reeked of the AA cant. ‘My black cat is blacker than your black cat.’ As if that could be possible! Manchester David also included Cantonese ducks and had decided that the Tolka didn’t have such exotic birds. David: ‘The Tolka provides a feast of wonder and beauty. It is inexhaustible. There is no competing with anywhere else or any other birds!’


Funerals are a privileged ministry. The participation by ‘the ten’ is extraordinary. The multiple thousands online, is humbling. We adjust. We adapt. All ministry demands flexibility. The other celebrations are more challenging. We miss ‘the ten.’ We miss the participation. Somehow again we are stretched into creativity. The very sinews of the imagination are dragged into fuller usage. That too is real Liturgy. Many roll out the caveat, that these online celebrations, are not sacramental. However our rigid definition of sacrament, needs to be tested and teased out. Expansiveness is essential. The minimalist version of sacrament, is defective. It borders on the magical and is dangerous. My family friend and ancestor Augustine, had hundreds of sacraments! He was right. How might he have expounded on the online worship? His imagination (as usual) would have run riot! Some of our formal sacramental occasions may not fit within his description!

The mysterious in ministry:

Four weeks in a row; priests (church people) have featured on RTÉ. John Bowman (Sunday Morning) had the Delia Murphy focus for two weeks, on which the Roman Network (Hugh O Flaherty) was facilitated by Religious during the war. Enda Mc Donagh appeared for two weeks also. His interviews obviously were selective and edited; they had to be. Today he mentioned some of the difficulties of priesthood and especially the damage to the corporate body, due to clerical abuse. It also highlighted the glaring mistakes of the official Church in many areas of life. The comments did end up with the observation of the good that is done through the gift of Church life. I still think that we badly need people who emphasise the miraculous, delightful, humble, wonders of priesthood and church-people. If we are problem-centred with our attitudes; we miss out on the sheer artistry and poetry of ministry. The caoin/lament of “Ochón is ochón o,” is dull, fatalistic and unfaithful. We too often flounder in the morass of negativity.

Flogging a dead horse:

Gordon Elliott has problems. I think those who have got into such a flap about him, also have problems. It was a horse. The horse was dead. Elliott may have been ‘disrespectful.’ But really; the reaction was inflated nonsense. I don’t want to join some of the far-right pro-life people in the States, but the abortion issue comes to mind. Are the aborted foetuses real or just flotsam or what and do they matter? It is so unfortunate that abortion happens but as a nation we agreed to it, and it was seen to be the fashionable way to go, even though there were other ways of exploring the issues involved. The nation didn’t have the patience and the politicians were populist. Now I go back again to the dead horse: Life is precious. All life is precious. Animals. Nature. People.   We have many more issues which are seriously demanding attention beyond that photo of Gordon Elliott on the horse. Proportionality is rather important. I think much of the anger is spurious.

Memento Mori:

There is a little garden outside my backdoor. I don’t look after it too well. I got up close and very personal yesterday. There is a bush in the garden. I looked intently at it. It was laden with buds. It was swarming with new life. It was waking up. I hadn’t noticed it. I miss so much, most of the time; I see so little. The eyes of my mind need to wake up. New life. Old life. Concluded life. On Saturday past, I was involved in a funeral. (One of five this week). We drove over to Dardistown cemetery. We parked the car in the next lane to the grave. We waited for the hearse to arrive. I glanced to the right. A memorial stone spoke to me. It said: Seamus Aherne age 77. Missed by his wife, children and grandchildren. I took a deep breath. I never knew that I was dead.   I had stopped unintentionally at the right spot. Now I know, for certain, that there is life after death.

Alex Salmond, Andrew Cuomo, Nicola Sturgeon plus the Firm:

These are big political names who have been noisy over the past week. Alex is very angry and vicious at his treatment by the Scottish Government. He had his hours in the Committee room and savaged the Government, his own party and the party leader; the First Minister Nicola.   She had her eight hours with the same Committee. Her version of events was rather different. She was sad. She cared for Alex. He was a friend. His behaviour clearly left much to be desired. Alex feels vindicated because the Courts had found him not guilty but his behaviour clearly was outrageous. (His own lawyer Gordon Jackson’s views on his client were caught on a train and were devastating). Nicola kept pointing to the women and stating how damaged they were, by all that had gone on, and admitting too, that the Government had let them down. It was a chaotic mishmash of friendship, party allegiance, Me-Too material and sheer bad management.   And then there was Andrew Cuomo. He was the hero of Covid in New York and then something went wrong. Numbers for Covid, seemed to have been presented incorrectly. And there was more. Complaints emerged. He was generous with his kisses. Even on the lips with young women. He liked to rub their faces. His hand may have strayed around their backs. Is that it? Or is there more? It is fascinating. And of course there was the Royal Farce and the story of the weird world of the Firm.


Pope Francis has been our inspiration in times of deep trouble in church life. He scatters hope everywhere. He is direct, honest and always makes the person of Jesus and the gospel message, very real and almost simple. His visit to Iraq is very strange. I think it is misguided. Walking the land of Iraq, visiting Mosul and Ur is very special. Being so brave in showing his commitment and solidarity with the suffering nation, is marvellous. But gathering people in the midst of Covid is a very wrong symbol of leadership. The absence of masks too is not good. A Mass with crowds, cannot be right.

Young Indi:

She is very excited. Her first birthday is hovering. I think she imagines that she will be grown up and fit for school immediately. She wants to get out. She is tired of the big ones (her parents). She wants little people like herself. The old folk think they know what is best for her but they don’t understand her inner world. That is what she tells me.

I have no idea why she was up late last Saturday but she saw The Tommy Tiernan Show. She was intrigued by Seán Boylan especially all the ways he tapped into the energy of the past. The football didn’t interest her. She was thrilled with the music man David Brophy but didn’t understand much about it. She was offering herself for any choir he might wish to set up. And then this young girl with the long legs appeared; Miss Universe Ireland – Fionnghula O’Reilly. Our Indi wondered would there be any beauty contest that she could enter. After all Indi thinks, that her own photos are beautiful. The O’Reilly girl has links to NASA and spoke of something called data. Indi was definitely on Tommy’s side. Mars is not where she wants to go. Indi thinks that there is a whole world to explore here and there is no need to wander up into the sky. Six months journey?

Indi went silent for a moment. And then she said – ‘You talk about God. I think God wakes us up every day and has a whole world to show us. I want to be alive at every moment to see, notice, taste, enjoy, be amazed, be surprised at what God shows me during all those hours. That is my real prayer. ’ I think she is right.

Seamus Ahearne osa




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