Is there anyone out there?
Chris McDonnell wrote to me. He often writes. He is a regular on the ACP website. He asked if he might have overstayed his welcome and had become an intrusive presence on our personal space, the ACP Site. We chatted by email.
In praise of the usual suspects!
He had a problem. He was surprised and somewhat concerned at how few commented on the site or wrote articles. He was happy to share his reflections. He had thoughtfully written on Education (a topic dear to his heart) especially which didn’t provoke or evoke any response. He wonders why.
Be grateful for the gift of the site:
I went into a ramble with my own thoughts and impressions of the site. I told Chris that I only knew of four Augustinians who read anything I write (and two of them have died, Kevin & Brian in the UK; John in USA and Tony in Ireland). I don’t know of any in Dublin Archdiocese. I obviously went on to say – that we never know who reads what is on the Site. Mattie Long (moderator) knows how many hits there are but this is a crude enough indicator. It is clear that the most used part of the site are the Liturgy Resources which is great. There is a big divide between readership and commentary.
I recalled a one time young lady called Erica Jong (Fear of Flying; Fear of fifty etc ) writing that she was always reluctant to release her books into the wider world. She felt that her words, thoughts and stories were precious and personal and couldn’t be let loose. They would never be treated with care, attention and reverence. She almost saw them as ‘sacred’ without using such language. My own view is quite the opposite. It doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t. Let them go. Give them freedom. Forget about them. If they touch someone; so be it. If they don’t; that is how it is.
Words should be set free and allowed to fly:
I write as a distraction. I never see it as very important what I put on paper. My fingers jump around on the keyboard. My head hardly engages. My words are utterly careless and carefree. I am hardly willing even to take responsibility for them. Words take off and land wherever they do. I am fearless. Words cry out to be released. I am a scribbler. I throw out the words and set them free and let them loose. It doesn’t matter who reads them or who likes them.. They are scattered to the winds. If they stir the poetry in someone; that is good. If they are ignored; that too is fine. All our words are inadequate to express the wonder of life. Our artistic attempts are but humble suggestions and approximations. We don’t need a fan club of affirmation. It is the small talk of life that matters; it is the throw away words that excite and incite. Let them go. Let them be.
Writing is essential for a minister of faith:
However, I also have said in the past that the ministry of priesthood demands that we write. It should be a condition for acceptance . It is more essential than gender or celibacy! In some ways, no one should be let into priesthood unless they can use words, speak up/out, and write. The routine of each day, challenges us to write. We are peddlers of something ‘wonder’ful. We are constantly called to write letters; to give speeches; to speak at events; to prepare talks; to do Bulletins and Newsletters; to lift every Liturgy; to express the Godliness of life; to write homilies for funerals.
I think it isn’t possible to speak at a funeral unless every word is written. (Such Masses/occasions have to be personal; it ensures sensitivity; it removes the possibility of mistakes on names).
If this is correct; it is rather strange how unwilling most priests are to write. We are a highly educated professional group. We are supposedly taught to reflect on God/Faith/culture and to present and ‘market’ those reflections. Our theologising has to be alert and alive everyday. A huge investment has been placed in us. Our productivity can be questioned! We are involved in the constant battle of ideas so that Faith takes root anew each day. ‘Fides querens intellectum’ is our coat of arms and our motto. God doesn’t fear questions. Our role as Ministers of faith demandsthe utter courage in facing the new questions that emerge daily.
The Church is battered & bruised but the message is forever:
The above was a very circuitous way of responding to Chris.
The motley crew of priests can be so despondent. The ‘Death of God’ theologians in the Sixties have been replaced by The Death of the Church doomsayers. Priests may feel ridiculed. They can believe that an attack is coming from every side. We can become paranoid. We can hide away in silence. Silence is an unacceptable luxury.
We have a great character in our own Parish called Michael. He was on the Parish Team (the weekly management group) and also on the PPC.) Liz’s (parish sister) assault on him one day was: “I am sick of you. You are always so positive.” We all laughed but we are thrilled that Mick keeps that uppermost for us always. All the floating negativity in the band-of-merry men (clerics) is anti-Christian and anti-Church. Let’s move on with ‘Good News’ as presenters of the Sunflowers of faith. If the Paddy Kavanaghs, Mary Olivers, Padraig Dalys, Fergus Lyons, can write/paint colourfully about ‘nothing ‘ – why can’t all of us write about ‘something’ or ‘ nothing ‘?
The Word has to be become flesh. We have to cause it to happen and allow it to be celebrated. The moaners and the groaners are a pain. The whiners and the whingers are a disgrace and not a grace. Splash out the hilarity of our privileged role in life. As believers, every day the sun may sulk but it also smiles. Every day there are flowers among the weeds. Every day we are alive and alert. (‘Earth is crammed with heaven and every common bush afire with God.’ Elizabeth Barrett Browning). We cannot suffocate the spirit in us.
Thanks to all our writers and commentators:
Conclusion: Chris was right to ask. It is understandable that he is disappointed with the lack of comments and contributors. However, it is the Site that matters; it is the Shared Forum that is important. It is both Eucharistic and Holy Communion (the sharing). We can let Mattie our Moderator, decide what is worth printing and publishing or not. Keep on throwing words and reflections around. The wind will carry them somewhere. We don’t have to know the value or effect of such words. Everything is done under the banner of our profession- ‘sub specie aeternitatis.
Chris keep on writing. You catch the music of every day. You link up ever so well with the songs of your past and you connect current affairs with faith. Throw down the gauntlet to the silent. We will ask Jim Gavin and Jason Sherlock to knock us into shape. In the meanwhile, Paddy, Joe, Eddie, Mary and Padraig will keep us going.
Seamus Ahearne OSA