A life in the day of a Parish……

Was it a day or a week or even longer? I don’t know. It is a blur. Time rolls into a continuum. Macmillan was right: “Events, my dear boy, events.” That is how life is decided and framed. The guinea pig wheel is an obvious symbol. In the business of Parish – events dictate and decide our day or week or life.
The lavish and varied Table of life is permanent. The contrasts and colour of story and life was presented in eight funerals (Brigid, Mona, Michael, Mike, Christy, Olive, Baby Alan, Christopher.)How different it all was and yet each one took us into the depths of humanity; the privilege of hospitality and the spontaneity of honesty. How blessed we are indeed in that intimacy. It is overwhelming. Family life in all its mess and marvel takes us over. And what would we know? It is said!!
Chisty died by suicide. His life summed up the down-side of our Community. How often and how many could have said with conviction: “I could kill him.” And yet in that home and in the midst of that family and those neighbours – something of ‘the smile of God’ (sacrament) was to be seen. In his coffin, his hands were wrapped in a Rosary beads (for the first time ever?); his paper (The Sun) was there for him (minus page 3 as his partner didn’t like any competition); a can of Budweiser; some prayers; a few photos; and a fine long joint. The Church was packed – many of the broken in our Community (drugs, drink, crime, the wasted, and sad). And yet somehow, there was great dignity, respect and reverence. At the grave, the can of bud was poured over the coffin and the balloons were released. The ties weren’t thrown into the graves this time. The Table was lavish.
Mick’s funeral was in Clones. He had lived a long and full life. He died suddenly. It was a country funeral. The very heart of the community throbbed that Monday morning. The stories were told and his memory was so beautifully valued. The sense of faith stirred throughout the church. I watched his poor wife who has Alzheimer’s and I thought of my own father and so many more. I found it especially good that I was down the Church and participating in the Congregation. I really do need an absence from the Sanctuary more often. The demands of the Sanctuary are relentless and dangerous. Leading Services can get in the way of prayer; Get in the way of evoked memories; Get in the way of allowing the occasion & Ritual speak; almost get in the way of God. The Table was lavish.
And then our Drama group put on their Pantomime. (Jack in the beanstalk). They rehearsed since March. It was brilliant. The three Shows were packed. Our Church is never as full (except for funerals). The Drama group took off when a member of our PPC felt that this was a way she might be much more comfortable in drawing the Community together. Church life would not be a place where she would be confident. What has it meant? It has spun off into all aspects of the wider Community. The children are all involved too. Overall it is amazing. We have to be catholic in so many differing ways. I often compare it to shopping. I meet as many if not more in the shops than in the Church. The Table of the Lord is flourishing.
Our six meetings with the parents of the Communion and Confirmation classes have concluded. We scratch our heads and say – what now?. Where is God to be found or is God of any importance or worth finding? What is prayer or how do people pray or is there any sense of loss? The truth is that the vast majority see no real connection of Sacrament and Community. It is always event based. Baptism is the same despite the 120 or so Baptisms and the Meetings and the wonderful prayers and symbols – little has reached that inner place where such things matter. And yet sometimes, something happens. And the Table has at least hints of another feast.
We gathered with the Teachers from our three schools. It is a little Service where we say thanks. We are so blessed with these wonderful Communities at the heart of our Parish. We continue to be astonished that there are such people (many young) still around. However the sharing with the Teachers was less than we are used to with our ordinary population. Teachers are very shy and reticent when out of their own environment! More importantly, they create a warm homely place (an oasis) for so many children who don’t experience that elsewhere. There is fun and song and laughter and that surely must be the Table of the lavish God.
I went to the Conversation with the ACI on the 11th October at the Regency.. It was a lovely occasion. Siobhan spoke to us of the need for formation and education in faith (how we are going to miss All Hallows?); she spoke of what it means to be Catholic; to be Irish; what Ritual means; how rich the true meaning of Sacrament is. She challenged us into being theologians. Patricia and Seamus spoke of the reality of married life – often contrasting their life with the stodgy language of the questionnaire for the Synod. Patricia breast- fed baby Paddy as she spoke. I was reminded of the Australian couple (Mavis & Ron Pirola) who splattered sex around the Synod in their explicit description of what sexual intimacy actually means.. I wondered how Muller or Burke (or even Diarmuid!) would feel hearing that or how the two of them might cope with seeing Christy’s coffin or his funeral? Mark Patrick Hederman spoke in his usual amusing and teasing manner. His use of history also placed things in the wider perspective. He too (like many of us) waits with baited breath for Francis to survive long enough to alter structures and change the atmosphere. It was an encouraging and inspirational day. However, the profile of the attendees was similar to our churches – the young were missing. Nonetheless the Table was lavish.
The life in the day could fill a book and not a page. The residue of the AGM (ACP) continues with e-mails and observations. The routine of daily living is ‘killing the spirit’ of so many. Pleas from the heart come to us at ACP. The phone is continuous. The paper work is endless. The hospitals and the schools keep shouting. The Meetings create more work rather than reduce the need. And yet somehow, every day the flathulach nature of the ‘smile of God’ lavishes wonderment on all of us. The Table is lavish. We feast from a very rich banquet. We are invited to open the eyes of our hearts, minds, imaginations to the enjoyment, hilarity, fun, laughter and peace. It isn’t only Autumn is colourful. Life is full and good. The day goes on.
Seamus Ahearne osa

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One Comment

  1. Donal Dorr says:

    Thanks, Seamus. So nourishing.

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