Séamus Ahearne: From “Blowing in the Wind” to “The Times They Are A-Changin'”

Times They Are A-Changin’

Holy Week and Easter online:

They (the online community) sat around the Table for Holy Thursday and felt at home. They Confessed and felt blessed and absolved on Good Friday. It was definitely Confession in the Augustine mode. They blessed water and lit candles and renewed Baptism in the midst of the Vigil elements. The participation and interactive aspect is essential with online Services. It does work. People do take part. Some of it is quite magical. And very surprising. A static camera won’t suffice. Or a static celebrant. There has to be connections made with the participative community during whatever ceremony it is. As always, it is team work and community. The one ‘man’ show cannot be Liturgy. I was even wondering might we Baptise over the air. (Requests for Baptism are multiple). Why not? I know the phrase ‘actio in distans repugnat’ hovers around in our historical imagination but life has changed. The Rover – Perseverance, is told what to do from HQ NASA. The helicopter (on Mars) rests for the night until it is told when to wake up and work. Mobile phones; tablets; speak across the air. Why not Baptism? Have a zoom meeting on this one! In the adventure of faith; all possibilities have to be explored.



The virus has set off explosions with gabfests. It is a super-spreader. What did people talk about previously? Those Reports and Surveys are appearing like mushrooms. What populated the news media in that other former world? What did all the folk, now working with Covid do, in the old country? What did team-vaccinators do earlier? There must have been spare capacity. The virus has been caught by everyone even those who haven’t got Covid. Everyone is infected and affected. And then we have the whingers’ meeting for Easter virtually. The educationalists sound more like moany children than as adults. It is about vaccines and they being frontline workers. One commentator made the valid point recently: “The children suffer least from the pandemic. The children suffer most from Government regulations.” He suggested that the school year should be immediately extended. The long Summer off, is rather nonsensical. He has a point. The needs of children has to be uppermost. The humbling demands of enabling children to face this new world, surely should be central and a priority for every educationalist. But in the gabfests infiltrating every aspect of life – the gurus of dreariness take over the chatter and the airwaves. The clergy are not short of grumblers either! As the phrase goes: Spare us.

Loosely linked news:

Hunter Biden’s book (memoir) has appeared. He isn’t a fan of Trump. He considered him vile. Hunter himself has led a wild life. Joe hasn’t had it easy with Hunter or with life. Joe is remarkable to have come through so much. Jill has been very strong and had to be.

Ronan McLoughlin from Donegal broke the world record a few days ago. He cycled the height of Everest up Mamore Gap. He took the record from Aberto Contador (a two-time winner of Tour de France). We all have our Everests. So let’s get that bike out!

When the unlikely and unexpected happens; we all feel good. Freewheelin’ Dylan with Ricky Doyle, won the Irish Grand National at 150 to 1. When I think of the name, I meander back to Bob Dylan’s Album- The Freewheelin’. Blowin’ in the Wind comes to mind from long ago. It was part of that album. The wind is full of blow at present!

And then there is more music and song. Veronica Dunne has died. The tributes are really good. The longer I live; the more I realise how little I know. I have to whisper this one – I knew almost nothing about Ronnie Dunne, despite the huge influence she had on the Irish musical scene. I suppose it is also one of my regrets, that I know so little about classical music. Lyric and Classic have been my friends but these are casual companions. I like the company and the sounds but am bordering on ignorant in regard to the music. What on earth did I learn when I was being schooled? As the phrase goes, ‘education is wasted on the young.’ Or was I ever educated? As we age, we realise what we have missed and sometimes we indulge in real learning.

Community and Synod:

Augustine had the weird idea that a Religious Community could be formed where the members would discuss/tease out and dredge the meaning of faith together. That development would take place in the ordinary events of every day where everyone would learn from each other. He expected us all to be philosophers and theologians in our daily lives. He was excited and excitable. He dealt with the practical affairs of every day but saw the questions buzzing around in all situations. ‘The Word became Flesh’ immediately and obviously. He was never an isolated academic. I think he was an idealist or a fantasist or even might have been suffused with wishful thinking. His plan for the Community doesn’t happen easily if at all. The Synodal ambition comes into this realm for me. I am not convinced that we need more theorists on Synod. It has to happen in the very ordinary elements of every day and with the ordinary folk. It has to begin locally. I have experienced it. The bishops and the various ordinaries have much learning to do. But we cannot ask of them what we don’t attempt ourselves. The soloist or the John Wayne type, is more typical in ecclesiastical circles. All of them and all of us, have much to learn, in respect, in listening, in delving into differences, to find the treasure. We have to recite a Creed: ‘We really believe in each other.’ This coherent evolving discernment, is the challenge. We use the word Community too readily, but are slow to accept the consequences.

What is truth?

Trevor Phillips (Chair of EHRC) has written on the superficial (as he saw it) reaction to the Sewell Report on Race Issues in the UK. He is concerned at cheap commentary in life and everywhere. Matthew Syed (columnist, Times) is a very thoughtful writer on Sport but ventures into other wider questions too. He wrote recently on the Interview of Meghan and Harry, with Oprah. He had an instinctive reaction to the words of Oprah to Meghan. “Speak your truth.” He found this notion of centralising personal feelings as ‘truth’ is a present day curse. We cannot make everything personal. There is truth. There is evidence. We can’t flavour everything with ‘how I feel about something’ as if my own ‘truth’ is an absolute. Catherine Pepinster (former Editor of The Tablet) did ‘Thought for the day’ on BBC Radio 4 Holy Saturday. She picked up on the Mount St Bernard’s Monastery in Leicestershire Documentary. She saw their contemplative life as a bridge between Holy Thursday and Easter Sunday. The waiting and watching. I liked it. As I had liked the programme. She spoke of our need to step back and to move outside of ourselves. She invited us into something bigger, more and beyond us. The monks did that well. She wanted us to drag ourselves away from cheap, easy and habitual thinking.


She felt overwhelmed with all the religion of the past week. ‘Too much God’ she said. She has an appetite for the wonder of God but this was too much for her. She thinks that her parents have got ever so serious and too reflective. She only wants fun. She thinks that Easter is about new life. The greening of the trees. The appearance of the cowslips. The cherry blossom lavishly dressed up and showing off. Her simple version of Easter is the explosion of new life. Every day has a surprise. Her understanding of God and Christ is simply that. What appears dead is alive. What has been buried, wakes up. All of us will wake up too. The stone can be moved. There is more. New life happens. We aren’t in control. We aren’t in charge of everything. The world has an axis which doesn’t swing on us. Be surprised. Be awed. Be amazed. Be delighted. Be full of wonder. Be full of faith. Who am I to disagree with her? She concludes: “Look at me,” she says. “Where did I come from? What am I like? Every day is full of wonder for me and I am for all of you.”

Seamus Ahearne osa

PS   Hans Kung has died. What an inspiration he was and a world leader in showing what a theologian has to be. Our hero.






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