Séamus Ahearne: at his 007 best – No Time to Die

No time to die (as ministers of Christ)


I am worried. No one loves me. Everyone is avoiding me. All my usual companions along the Tolka, have postponed their mornings. I take off in the dark. Sometimes the heron appears but continues to be ever so aloof. It is shy. The waters gurgle in salute and are quite playful. The ducks are asleep. But miracle of miracles – the swans have returned. The ma and da have appeared with some of the cygnets. I recall Máire (photographer) telling her story of watching the parents taking the babies off the island for their launch (months back) onto the pond. She automatically blessed herself. I found myself rather moved when I got the first glimpse of the returnees. And then I saw the sliver of a moon as it was falling asleep; its eyes shut as I smiled goodbye. The Weeping Willow is always a thing of beauty as it waves at me. It has a sensitive and warm welcome for a chat. It is like the half-door of my childhood. ‘Stop a while. And linger,’ it seems to say.

Communions and Confirmations:

The First Communions and the Confirmations are completed. (The backlog is cleared). We are in awe at the work done by the school staff in such a short time. The children were magnificent. It had a lovely sense of occasion and there was a gentle quietness around the celebrations. Even the adults. The restricted numbers made it much better and more reverent. None of us could get over how good the children were. If there wasn’t a First Communion; there would still need to be something to mark the innocence, curiosity, spontaneity and joy of this time in the lives of the children. We felt quite inadequate at the prospect of those sacramental occasions being taken out of schools. Theoretically, it is the right thing. Practically, it is worrying. Let me whisper – I think the children knew more than most of the adults present! They had a sense of the divine.


Church, Diocese, Parish reassessed:

There has to be a fundamental reassessment of parish life. The Covid shut-down has changed everything. Liturgy has become different and needs to adapt. The preached homily is hardly now the appropriate medium of faith-reflection. The stuffy Collects have to be dumped. The ridiculous Prefaces have to be discarded. So much is riddled with royalist terms which are irritating and useless. The God of the ordinary has got lost, and we have to be very creative as we try to discover the new incarnation. That incarnation has to be grounded in the reality of the life of our Community. Pious waffle won’t pass muster any longer. Many have got used to not being present in church and realise that they don’t miss it. It is quite noticeable that we have lost quite a number of people who have aged by more than two years during Covid. We have aged too and the weight of years is telling on the joints and on the mind. It is shocking also the number who have slipped into dementia. We miss the homely part of our ministry – dropping into the houses. That has had to stop. It is a new world for us all.


The Disconnect between Fingers and Mind:

I had a problem last week. My fingers wrote an article. While I was out, one of my helpers (fixing an electric problem) turned off the electricity. The computer died and the article went missing. The article was recovered but I couldn’t open it. My computer advisors were unable to do anything either. It was gone. My fingers don’t communicate with my head. I couldn’t recall what those fingers had written. It was obviously utterly forgettable. (I got the obvious message!) I had to begin again. The new article didn’t bear much resemblance to the previous one, I believe. That may have been just as well.


Words, Words, Words (Hamlet)

As we cleared the accumulated Communions, Confirmations and Baptisms, I was thinking. Where do we now find the words for the demands of every day? New words. New images. New colours for the canvas, as we struggle to paint for the exhibition in the Gallery of faith. We dredge the innards to find those little hints to stir the juices. The unrelenting arrival of funerals teases our minds to ensure that every person is painted suitably and respected. Our ministry is demanding but it does keep us alert and awake. It is pressured. We can never simply repeat by rote what we did before. We can never lead the Eucharist as we did yesteryear.

Today is new. The talking Scriptures and the God of today, asks more of us. The incarnation occurs anew every day. The Community present, bring their new day too and the colour of their experience. Thomas Gray’s Elegy has that well known line: “Full many a flower is born to blush unseen and waste its sweetness on the desert’s air.” In the world of God – that line is very wrong. No flower blushes unseen or wastes its sweetness. As ministers, we need to commit to that view and show that we believe it. Our life is challenging. I think Covid is a catalyst for change and for adventure into real sacramental living and imaginative thinking. A terrible beauty is born.”’ It may be too much for some of us.

Young Indi

She is going to school – her kind of school. She has become very independent. I think her ma is jealous. The young one wants to meet and play with lots of other people. A very new world is opening up for her too. She delights in it. She has also found her voice and there is a torrent of muddled words pouring out.

She hasn’t reached the age of the First Communicants but she is very alert and excited by every day and each new discovery. She is on an adventure of discovery. This little one and all the little ones tell us adults – to wake up and look around. They see so much. We take the revelations of the day for granted. Michelangelo’s line has to apply: “I’m still learning.”

This young lady will shortly be christened. I may need a hose. For the adults, it will be a blessed occasion. They can recall the miracle of those little ones – Gracie and Indi. They can recall the excitement and commitment of their own pilgrimage in life and their new homes. They too have to be aware of the awesomeness of the moment and the pioneering work they will do in the great journey into the unknown with the children. It is mystery unfolding. It is Eucharist.


Seamus Ahearne osa

PS  ‘With a sorrowful heart…’  by Tomas Halik in The Tablet 2nd October 2021 is a very serious reflection on the reform needed now in the church.


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