To the side of the pathway from the front door of this bungalow, there is a little flower smiling. I am like a child waiting impatiently in April/May for the cowslip to appear. And then I am anxious. I am fearful lest anyone might hurt the beauty, by walking on it accidently or cutting its throat with the blade of a lawnmower. The cowslip isn’t my child. But it calls back each year to say hello and to suggest hope and loveliness. Nature’s child. I’m not easily pleased but I love and need these hints of miracle around me. I understand very well (Glimpses of Eden- The Tablet) what Jonathon Tulloch wrote, when he dawdled over the delight of the cherry tree at the bottom of his garden. He asked if there was anything as beautiful as that tree even if he had toured the world. I hope my eyes can always be open to see what is there in front of me.
I have come in now from visiting many homes where people are bereaved. My heart and mind shudders. No words of poetry slip from my lips. I am without any word that soothes. But the beauty and honour and privilege it is to have some little part in such homes and lives, is also miraculous.
I lift my head and see. I look around these days and see a glorious spread of yellow. Some might say dandelions are weeds; I think they lift the spirit in prayer and gratitude. Such hints of colour are the laughter of nature.
The News is often bleak. The béal bocht is everywhere. And the poor Church is falling apart. The priests, sisters, brothers and congregations are old and grumpy. Everywhere is rotten with sadness. But my cowslip is smiling. The homes here are so rich in goodness and welcome. We are at home in the homes. These aren’t just whispers of God; he is splashed about everywhere and in everyone. Moaning and groaning isn’t graceful. The world we used to know, is changing. The familiar is gone. The God we knew, and the Rituals that supported us, has gone wandering. But God is in this place and we may not know it. (Gen 28.10). We dare not sulk like Jonah or eventually give in to despair like Job (Job 38). I go to Church each day and I come away smiling. Amazement can be my only response as I see the growth and confidence in so many as they immerse themselves in Scripture and find their own story. I listened on Saturday as a group of our lay folk presenting to all the Augustinians, their story, and what they saw as important, and challenged us to build a new world of faith for today. These are ordinary people living ordinary lives but are bursting with faith. Revelation continues. The poetry of God was bursting out all over.
I have a few concerns. My father’s words come back to speak to me. He would say occasionally ‘eaten bread is soon forgotten.’ That worries me. The News these days is angry. The new Maternity Hospital consumes the airways. The Sisters are the baddies. How dare any of them be associated in any way with the future hospital. The Tuam babies is thrown at every Religious. Some stop paying their envelopes on this score. The Church cannot be allowed to have any say in the future of anything. Two TDs will not stand for prayers in the Dail. The Citizens’ Assembly clears the way for a decision on abortion and of course abortion is a right that must be available. Did Religion or the Church or Religious ever do any good for anyone? Is the Church the cause of all the problems of our country? Is every Religious or priest a danger in our society?
In here somewhere my father’s words come back to me. I have no difficulty with many of the arguments around St Vincent’s hospital (Maternity). But do many of those who scream, have an idea of the legal difficulties behind what they are asking for? It is not that simple. I think it is rather necessary to have an historical perspective. Who provided Education in this country or Medical/Nursing care? Who provided and still do provide Welfare/Social care, being- there- care? I suggest it might be the Church. I hear people talk of the Control by the Church in Education. Have people talked through the consequences in acquiring the land necessary for all the Schools? Who is there in the Community for the Schools? I must admit that Control is never the issue. Many of us are involved in BOMs and it is a Service. Control means nothing but being part of the Community and helping out is. As many used to say: ‘If only the nuns were back in the hospitals’ etc. The State may provide the Services in years to come and that too is fine. It will cost. Out in the Community, the 9-5 brigade and the 5 day a week cohort will never cover the needs of a Community. But that too is fine. That line resonates – ‘you never miss the water….’
What is my point? I think we should never as Church be hurt or upset that appreciation is not there. It doesn’t matter. We cannot get downhearted or disappointed or cynical or negative. We get on with our work as best we can and provide hope and laughter and love. Being-there – is important. God will never disappear because we disappear. What does matter is, if people aren’t grateful in life. If people don’t say Thank You; it damages them. How many of us in life, lack the word of gratitude or the word of praise or the word of appreciation? I watch so often in cars how few nod in gratitude if they are allowed out or pass or if a door is held open in a shop. I see so often the lack of civility or courtesy in life. I often see Weddings over the year and how few ever say Thank You or show any appreciation for what has been done. I worry.
Yes. There is my point. I am fearful if we/I take people and things for granted. If somehow our lives or our education or our rearing or our faith doesn’t help us be grateful – then Eucharist can’t happen. I have no difficulty with people staying away from Church but if they haven’t gratitude – Eucharist doesn’t exist. If I can’t see the cowslip or the dandelions or the smile or the wonder of hospitality in the gentleness and Godliness of love; I am lost as a human being. ‘Eaten bread is soon forgotten.’ That is dangerous. I am afraid too, lest my own busyness makes me ungrateful to God and to the past and to those around me. I am afraid. I cannot pray if that graciousness isn’t in me.
So to those who want a Secular State; get on with it. We have done our part. To those who want rid of God and the Church; it doesn’t really worry me. But to those who are riddled with angst and anger and bitterness and negativity in Church or State; be very careful of your own humanity. Don’t destroy yourself as you attack others. The cowslip matters. The bush at the end of the garden matters. The Thank You, matters. Gracefulness matters. It matters in relationships. It matters in Godliness. Without it, the world collapses. All of us professional people of Religion – cannot and must not, ever present the gift of our lives (Presentation of Gifts) with sour, sad, cynical or negative voices or faces. As Elders of the Church, it is now our times, to let go of our own structures of life and to gently and happily show contentment and graciousness in the goodness of God. God is too big for small hearts and for bad- mouthing anyone or anything. We are God’s cowslips and cherry trees.
Seamus Ahearne osa