I often write while driving. A long journey is good for scribbling. Friday past meant a trip to Adare. It was for Anne’s funeral. Her sister Madeleine lives among us here in Rivermount. She is a gem. At 85, she is a rascal and full of mischief. The local community is her stage. Our prima donna is a star in the theatre of life. The charism of Religious life/Salesian life is exemplified in this lady. Her sister Anne reared a family of 11 and created a tribe of grandchildren and great grandchildren. Her story too is full of laughter, warmth, fun and song. Adare is a lovely place. I had forgotten how charming it is. A daughter of the Manor, Caroline, had come to my own earlier life when she married into Curraghmore Estate. (Waterford). She too is a lady – in a double sense. I also realised how old I have got in twenty years. In my previous life, such a journey never bothered me as I drove the length and breadth of the UK every few days. My old joints, no longer like these trips and protests. However, I wanted to be in Adare.
And I was thinking and writing as I made the journey to Adare and back. Lyric (a marvellous companion) accompanied me early on but Marty Whelan caused me to switch stations. Ryan Turbridy was due later but again I couldn’t cope with the giddiness of either of them. I had listened to Leo being interviewed on Morning Ireland. He is adept at handling the questions. I mused in my head of others who annoy me. Mary Lou does it as she whines on. Paul Murphy does it. The whinging mob on Joe Duffy aggravates me. Mrs Brown’s boys does it. The carry-on of Sinn Fein and DUP (or lack of carrying on) in Northern Ireland does it. The Brexit crew does it. Trump does it. The apologists for the New Missal does it. (I was pleased that Francis listened to me last week). The mob-collective on Myers & Hook does it. (We can’t have mavericks without controversy). Enquiries and Tribunals does it. Language at times does it: ‘You know what I mean.’ ‘Cool.’ ‘Absolutely.’ ‘Like.’ ‘Look.’ ‘Amazing.’ ‘Awesome.’ I really must be getting grumpy and intolerant.
The death of Cassini:
Anyway, I left my musing when I heard the news of Cassini’s dying or murder which distracted me. Twenty years of work. Seven years travelling two billion miles and thirteen years working to provide information for NASA. Even in its dying it sent back pictures. Saturn and its moons really entertained its visitor. What an extraordinary scientific feat. How small we are. How humbling it is. How little we know. How much we never learn. How insignificant our world is, in the great scheme of things! We can communicate with Saturn. How often, we can’t communicate with the people near us.
The heights and the depths:
And then something else happened. A grandmother rang me. Her story was very special. Her grandsons were conceived by IVF. The twins arrived prematurely. They were very unwell. Young Nicolaus began to improve. William was much slower. Eventually they got home. Nick continues to forge ahead. William was making less progress. Then it was discovered that he couldn’t hear. Some ten months ago he received a cochlear implant. He was back in Beaumont last week. His progress has astonished the hospital people. His grandmother never had any doubt – it was prayer. It is miraculous. God is listening. Cassini is most impressive. But the story of young William – is beautiful and full of wonder. So while Cassini is on air and the wonder of William is happening; the Tube at Parsons Green is being firebombed. What happens the minds and hearts of people to do something like that? We can soar into the stratosphere with the awesomeness of life and then we can be dragged into the depths of despair at the wickedness of human beings. When I hear of shootings; of robberies; of the wasted lives on drugs and the drawl in the voices of zombied young people; I need someone/something to move me to the beauty and wonder of God. I crave the poetry of faith to lift my spirit.
At Anne’s funeral in Adare, I watched, listened and heard the heartiness of the story-telling. The harvest of her life was celebrated. The thank-you for what had been received. The smiles. The Yes (of gratitude) for a life lived with enthusiasm and fully. The challenge – to carry on the inspiration, came out loud and clear. It was quite beautiful. The throng of grandchildren and greatgrandchildren sang out the love of this woman. It was so good too to be part of the funeral but not having to lead it. Priests are deeply challenged to coordinate/celebrate in a Ritual of faith, the story of life. That too is humbling, privileged and deeply demanding.
I am still learning: (Michelangelo)
I came back and went to see some of our sick brothers. Paul had embraced ‘the wrong side of the tracks.’ He had fallen between platform and train (at Waterford Station) and didn’t ‘mind the gap.’ He is improving. I also met Gabriel Daly. Gabriel was worrying his fingers as he struggled with an article for The Tablet to mark his ninetieth birthday. I thought of Paul and his 38 years in Ecuador. I thought of Gabriel and his continuing enthusiasm for the music of theological discovery. I enjoyed prompting him and pressurising him into an autobiographical structure to his article. I liked the play on words with two very different characters: Tromp (theologian) and Trump (strange actor politician). He was addressing the world of change. Cassini’s life was but twenty years. Gabriel and Paul have spent their lives, searching for words to capture something of the mystery of God. They continue that search. It is humbling to see it. It is also a harvest thanksgiving.
You are precious:
Saturday meant Six Baptisms. The Baptism Team does all the preparation. I arrived. The crowd assembled. Everyone was on time. I rather like that. We began. The children were good. The adults were quiet. Sometimes, it is a battle for noise control. I like everyone to participate in all the prayers throughout the Christening. I indulge in simple banter. ‘You say – you will teach them how to pray. How? What does that mean? What is a Godparent? Where did you get the Christening robe? Was it handed down through the generations? Are you being hugged by the love, faith and values of the past? Who are your saints? Name them.’ The shyness and quietness among the attendees was interesting. (As usual). Church. God. Prayer. Faith is a foreign language and a foreign country. I invited them into what Prayer might be. The harvest of love. Gratitude. Miracle. Beauty. Wonder. I tell them of the babies so many would love to have and can’t. I asked what ‘the blessing of the ears and mouth’ is? To ensure that what the children hear and say, will come out of kindness, love and care. Gentle, smiling words. Making love is one thing; making love forever in the rearing, is a different demand. I tease out what ‘Christening’ means or what the word Christ means. I look too at the Baptism team and see their commitment; their stamina; their conviction. Harvest thanksgiving indeed.
On the weekend, we had our Parish Harvest Thanksgiving. The vegetables and food were there. The gifts were brought. The Sacred Space drew us into the gifts of nature. It further led us onto a fuller harvest. It was the harvest of colour; of beauty; of presence; of family/friends; of community; of history; of inspiration; of memories. We discussed the Table-of-Life. Fleursacht. Flahulach. (God). Lavishness. Gracefulness. Graciousness. Gratitude. I like the extravagance of God. My little eyes and mind are sometimes too small to notice. The Garden of Eden is everywhere – if my dull heart could only see it. What has been brought to the Table of our life? What do we bring to the Table of Life?
Presentation of Gifts/Eucharist:
Isn’t the Presentation of Gifts a wonderful part of Eucharist which is often crowded out by noise and collections. Dag Hammarshold was right. For what we have received: We say Thanks. For what we are about to Receive: We say Yes. Eucharist has to be an explosion of gratitude. The Table stirs the minds and hearts. How empty now and sad, it is, to see people so often around tables texting or on ipads without a word being said. The passivity in Church is almost the same. Of course it follows too that Eucharist can never be a passive place or be dominated by a single person – a priest. The Readings have to be evocative to call out the inner story where God touches the Sacred Space within. (There are too many Readings!) We brought in the produce from the ‘harvest’ to Brother Kevin this morning. The queues were very long waiting for take-aways. It was humbling. We were made aware of our own Harvest of thanksgiving as we saw all those young families and their needs.
The Last Word:
Galway v Waterford. Mayo v Dublin. What a feast we had served up? What skill. What commitment. What beauty. What a harvest of youth. There is something extraordinary in our national games. Not just on the big day but in every little corner of the country where people give their all and learn to work together and share together and commit to a team. Amateurs they are. For the love of it. There is inspiration. It has to be a harvest of thanksgiving. Those two Sundays in September celebrates life at its best in our country and in our young people. Our task then is to bring out the best in everyone. Give everyone their place. Celebrate the messenger from God in each person. A harvest of talent.
Seamus Ahearne osa