All is Vanity

Qoheleth observes that nothing satisfies.  There is always a restlessness in the human heart. Even Augustine was praised for a similar sentiment. I have a skewed view of life and see tensions as a tease to make us find a balance and a middle way. Rich/Poor; Haves/Have-nots; ‘Much wants more and loses all.’ (Aesop); “Can’t buy me love.” (Beatles).  It is a challenge never to be put off or put down.

The little ones:
I look at the little ones in school.  Their bright, rich curiosity is marvellous at age 7/8.  And then they deteriorate. There is a disappointment in the languid nature of learning after that or so it seems. Is there a way to drag out the inner wonder of a child so that every child can flourish with curiosity; with excitement; with discovery? I wonder do celibates miss out on the challenge of children to draw out the best in themselves?  (Children and Adults).

The cost of formation:
I see our cohort of religious/priests and note how much time, money, and education (formation) has been poured into them (or wasted).  The fruits are not always obvious. Many parade about overloaded with degrees and say or write very little.   That is a waste – a poor return on investment! Where is that urgency to discover; to search; to reach out into the nether regions of the heart and imagination?   We appear to fall asleep or live off the past and too few of the band-of-merry men (sadly yes –  men!) soar with delight and exuberance.  We forget the adventure of a ‘camino’ (journey) during our exile- trip in life.   (‘Earth’s crammed with heaven’ – E Barret Browning;  ‘The Grandeur of God’  – Manly Hopkins).

Our teachers are highly trained but the wish is, that they keep on learning.  If a teacher isn’t always learning; they shouldn’t be allowed out into the world of education.  If a minister of faith isn’t learning (and excited); should they be allowed near a living Community? A thirst for knowledge is really a thirst for God.

Torn jeans:
Young folk especially young girls wander about with painted eyebrows (so horribly  artificial/unreal). With blacked out eyes. With torn jeans. With cosmetics which destroy beautiful faces and beautiful bodies.    What a sad reflection that the delicious beauty of youth is distorted by youngsters trying to be someone else or a different version of the self?  I like folk never to be satisfied but not in this way.  How can we help each other to reach out and celebrate the wonder of God in daily life?   I have no problem with young folk or anyone being outrageous but it is the non-acceptance of the body beautiful concerns me.   The challenge is to celebrate the self; life; people and the world around us and to be grateful.  (Reach for the stars).

Mueller and Burke:
We live in a land of plenty. But what is ‘plenty’?  The ‘plenty’ in my mind – is beauty, wonder, revelation, grace, Godliness.  There is a great waste everywhere.   So many miss out on the obvious. And the obvious becomes unclear. Cardinals such as Mueller and Burke are steeped in the wonders of faith and they can still emerge with drivel.  What has happened?  They are frozen in a dead faith and the life of God can’t thrive.  Is not the incarnation continuing with God on a daily basis?  Life is daily revelation. Mueller and Burke have built barns of nonsense and bulwarks of certainty. Sometimes it is easy to sympathise with Quoheleth.    What’s the use?   Why bother.  It is a waste of time. No one cares.  Everyone is caught up in secularism. My pal Augustine never stopped rummaging in the depths of the mind. He came up with stupid comments but he kept trying. It warms the heart that Francis – keeps on going; keeps on showing the simplicity of faith; keeps on pointing out the essentials.

The spancelled twins:
Boris and Donald would make a good warm- up- act but are a disaster as the main gig, They are outlandism and dangerous. They make It easy to stop believing in politics.  Fatalism can seep into the bones and kill the spirit.  We see so much that is wrong in politics, in Religion, in the self-centerness of capitalism.  But whatever about those dangerous twins (Boris & Donald) – they were elected. They are still there.  We aren’t allowed be weary. The core of faith tells us – to keep going and to keep learning and growing and seeing. How do we stretch the sinews of our minds, hearts and imagination to keep us laughing or wondering?  We can never give up.

There are pollutants everywhere. They can submerge us. They can suffocate us. They can destroy us.  (‘Don’t let life get you down!’  Val Doonican used to sing).  There is a call for more regulation in creches; more notices to be hung around Houses and Church on Safeguarding; more regulations on GDPR; more regulations on Accounting.  We will be praying for vocations soon to keep up with the bureaucracy of life. Never mind – the Gospel. Never mind – Jesus Christ. We won’t have time for such peripherals (Jesus, Gospel, Faith).   Cover our backsides, will be the overriding concern.   Many are intimidated by such job- creation in the whole administration industry.  It is off-putting.  Why do we bother?  Or should we?  It is an easy temptation to be distracted and weary.   Our friend Quoheleth might agree and be a comfort. But we can’t let him or them, get us down.  We can’t give in or give up.

Celibacy has given us time and space – to avoid the noise and mess of living.  Homes with children and wives, can really upset a bachelor’s life.  It should mean (as celibates) that we are a very happy group, full of God and never worried about ‘waking up dead.’  We have mind- and- heart space! We might consider ourselves even presently, as living a life of luxury. We badly need women to disturb us! But sometimes we are like ‘dead men walking.’ (To misuse a phrase).   The world of Church should be a Tent where we are fully aware of the ‘cloud’ and always exciting.  Dour, dull, dreary, depressed – cannot ever be the mark of the Church or of the Liturgy. Or the Tent. Or the Ministers.  We have to fight the prophets of doom.

So today is teasing us to get the balance right.   To do our stretching exercises. To laugh at the ridiculous. To growl at God.  To cheer at the wonder and awkwardness of life.  To live every moment. To prove that there is life before death.  Quoheleth:  Go away.  We can’t allow ourselves to indulge in such nonsense. We have enough scaremongers and moaners.   ‘Lift up your heart.’
Seamus Ahearne osa

Similar Posts


  1. John Dwyer Kirwin says:

    Seamus, you’v done it again. Thanks so much for reminding us of the Grandeur of God so poetically. Heaney would be proud of you!

  2. Christine Lynch says:

    What WAS the message in this article? Nicely written but about as clear as modernistic relativism. I presume Seamus that you have hidden what you REALLY want to say behind this pleasant sophistry. Can you please tell us what you really meant by your words?

Join the Discussion

Keep the following in mind when writing a comment

  • Your comment must include your full name, and email. (email will not be published). You may be contacted by email, and it is possible you might be requested to supply your postal address to verify your identity.
  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger. Comments containing vulgarities, personalised insults, slanders or accusations shall be deleted.
  • Keep to the point. Deliberate digressions don't aid the discussion.
  • Including multiple links or coding in your comment will increase the chances of it being automati cally marked as spam.
  • Posts that are merely links to other sites or lengthy quotes may not be published.
  • Brevity. Like homilies keep you comments as short as possible; continued repetitions of a point over various threads will not be published.
  • The decision to publish or not publish a comment is made by the site editor. It will not be possible to reply individually to those whose comments are not published.