‘Do not Babble’

Our Father

In John McGahern’s brooding novel, Amongst Women, a dour and dominating father, Moran, rules his children with a sour spirit, with unending moods and constant complaints. His daughters and his second wife tiptoe round him in order to survive and to avoid the constant storms that torment this ‘father’, and which he unleashes upon his household without any seeming sense of responsibility for the unhappiness he causes.

Every evening concludes with the solemn recitation of the rosary by the whole family, and this ritual and rigmarole of prayer is imposed on the household as a sign of the father’s rectitude and of his oppressive hold over his family. Prayer and religious observance are here used as forms of control, authority and even torture for his children.

I remember kneeling down at the end of the day in my aunt’s house in Mayo, during summer visits, and praying the rosary with my many assembled cousins. To this day a dear cousin of mine, now in London these many years, still kneels to pray her rosary as each day ends. Back in England, holiday over, my mammy once tried to introduce us Lancashire children to the practise of the rosary but it was a very short-lived experiment. But I have my rosary still and there are times when I find it helpful to pray slowly a decade of it and to contemplate the mystery within. I also remember how good it felt in a packed church to be part of a gathered people all praying the words of the rosary together.

What matters most of all is the connection of love. Babbling in God’s direction is not connection, and babbling in the direction of others is not kind conversation. Our media world is full of our babbling, noise and fury signifying nothing very much. Happiness of heart, that we seek so much, begins when we stop our babbling and be still and look for the face of God and for the heart of another.

Our Father knows our needs before we ask him. He knows our true needs better that we do ourselves. We can waste a lot of energy praying for the wrong things. When the disciples saw Jesus at prayer they wanted to be like him. They wanted that still centre, that secret of life that enables us to be calm in the midst of this world’s troubles. Meeting a calm and tranquil person is a healing sensation in itself. I remember the experience of being in counselling where the calm and attentive presence of my counsellor worked a healing grace on me in my time of torment.

To be a calm and healing presence in the lives of others is a grace open to everyone who prays the ‘Our Father’. Add to that the ‘Hail Mary’ that we may have Our Lady’s assistance now and at the hour of our death. This true connection, this opening up of our heart will bring God’s rays of light into our lives.

McGahern’s father figure, Moran, like the author’s own father, was locked inside his own angers, and found fitful release in blaming others around him for his own troubled spirit. He babbled against the world. Do not babble, the Lord tells us.

Say, ‘Our Father.’

Brian Fahy

21 June 2018

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  1. Sean O'Conaill says:

    Aged 75, I have yet to experience a Sunday Creed that was accompanied by an invitation to reflect upon and discuss how to articulate its meaning to the world outside. Aren’t we ‘babbling’ that too – for duty’s, rather than love’s, sake? Why should any stranger be other than repelled by this performance?

    For how long are we to continue on Christendom autopilot at Mass, with meanings unconsidered and undiscussed – while outside there is nothing that cannot be discussed?

    Can Francis wake us from our stopped clock, stuck in 1968?

  2. Paddy Ferry says:

    Very good point, Sean. I am wondering tonight what churchgoers in America will think of their world outside tomorrow. Just when you think Trumps America cannot get any worse,it does. And, they attempt to use sacred scripture to justify it!!
    I wonder has the Pro-life movement in the US taken up the cause of the plight of the separated children, or indeed the Pro-life movement in Britain and Ireland. I have yet to hear their voices raised.

    Below is a link to what an American thinks his compatriots attending church tomorrow should do if the cause of the children is ignored.


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