Mens sana in corpore sano
The soles of my shoes are worn out. My soul is almost worn out too. Three rubbers have worn out on my walking stick. A wander through Tolka Park is definitely a wake-up call, in the very early morning. The only others in the park, are joggers and dog-walkers. (Usually). The magpies are having their breakfast. They practise social-distancing. A little further on, the starlings have appeared for breakfast. They eat together. I reach the pond. I am surprised and confused.
The swan-family have moved out for the day. They go up river.
The ducks have mounted a protest at the pond and river. They refuse to get off the road. They demanded to know why they weren’t mentioned ‘in dispatches.
A worker calls my name. He wants to talk of his colleague who had died tragically the day before. I know the family. We search for words. We find nothing beyond the banal. He asks for confession. It was a humbling experience. When I get back, I put out some food for the local birds. They appear immediately. How do they know? Are they forever on the watch? ‘Be Alert’ as Boris might say.
I finished reading ‘The Feckers’ by John Waters. I marvelled at his sustained savagery under the guise of social commentary on the 50 characters who corroded our culture. (Ireland). It was exhilarating. It was also brutal with a strong whiff of truth. His fluency and clarity of expression, is impressive. He is critical of the rush to modernity, or rather the hunger for the fads of fashion. We want to be as good as our neighbours. (Or as bad). I am eager for John, to bring me up to date and to parade the next batch of Feckers.
I must get his book ‘Give us back the bad roads.’ His more recent clay-pigeon shoot, might find me nodding in agreement. I didn’t always agree with his analysis but was impressed by his coherence and his fearlessness. We need marvericks. ‘The virtue of disloyalty’ by Graham Greene comes to mind. According to Greene, this is the role of a writer/artist. John fulfils that job description. What is true for the writer/artist is true for the prophet; is true for the minister in Church. Please note all watch-dogs!
The Peter’s Principle:
The Peter’s Principle is interesting. ‘People are promoted to the level of their incompetence.’ (A few might suggest that this applies to bishops too – I couldn’t possibly comment.) Some reporters have observed that Boris Johnson’s Government appears to be illustrative of this principle. They are young and inexperienced. Their talent for promotion was due to their stance on Brexit. Other than that, some think that they flounder. They haven’t impressed. But then not many have. Even Trump slips up occasionally.
In Ireland, Simon Harris has been rather earnest and sounds competent. (Whatever about the budgetary chaos on the hospital for children). Leo and Simon have done well on coronavirus. They will do anything and everything to protect us. The old folk are precious. They are high-risk. Everyone else should be let loose and possibly the best way forward, is to eliminate the old ones. That would solve the problem. Wouldn’t it? If all life is so precious. Why then were the babies in the womb so unimportant? Wasn’t that life? Or is it? The giddy and glangeen behaviour of those politicians at the time of the Referendum on the 8th Amendment stands as an accusation an affront to the dignity of each person. Yes. Why not have a mass shooting of all the over 70s? It makes economic sense. It could be considered as euthanasia…… (Next on the agenda in this fashion- conscious world!)
The God of love:
One old man dropped by for a chat. He is very unwell. He has been encouraged to go into a Nursing Home. He doesn’t want to lose his privacy and independence. The recent reports on deaths from Covid, in Nursing Homes, has definitely put him off. We rambled back over his life. He was in the Institutions. He recalls with sadness those days. When they were sent out to work on farms; the treatment was much the same. He still can’t grasp how those in the Institutions and those out on the farms, who were full of God and faith, never displayed anything of the God of love. That haunts him. He doesn’t feel bitter about anything else. It is the model of God presented, that hurts most deeply. Mass, Benediction and prayers were very important but there wasn’t any sign of the God of love.
Will ye no come back again?
Stephen Bullivant wrote a very practical article in The Tablet last weekend. He discussed what might happen when the Churches open up again. He warns that not everyone will come back to Mass. He points out that many come out of habit. That habit has been broken. People have got used to not coming.
Furthermore, a very high percentage of those who come to Church, are now in the over 70s. The high- risk group. How many will be able to conquer their fears and come out? The big challenge is then, what will we offer to that future? The Feast of the Ascension is presented as a cartoon. There is the caption of the disciples star-gazing. They are told to get on with life. They are asked to do something yourselves. To get on with it. So are we.
We can’t moan at what has happened. A new Church is needed. New worship is needed. New vision is needed. No one else is going to do it. We have to get on with it. The cartoon does the job. As it does so often. Stop moping about. It is a wonderful opportunity. It might be a great time too, to accept that most of the priests are past their sell-by date – should they be retired off? Should Churches be amalgamated? We will hardly need all the Churches that we have used over the years. Should Parishes be joined together in a new model of Church? Numbers returning are going to be fewer. The space has to be managed. We have a blank canvas (or almost) to imagine the future. He (Christ) has left on a jet plane. We are not abandoned. If we believe this; we can do something different and better.
Walt Whitman (Crossing Brooklyn Ferry)
A video was sent to me during the week of Walt Whitman. ‘Crossing Brooklyn Ferry.’ (Yes. I know he is dead!) He looks around. He savours the memories of all those who passed this way over the centuries. He glances at the scenery and thinks of the sights presently speaking to him, He thinks of the people with him. He looks forward and imagines the ones to come, who will travel this same way. He feels a powerful connection with so many and with the scenery on the way. He reminds us of our past; our present and our future. We are rich in what we have received; in what we receive. We hand on the riches, gleaned from the past and present. We are responsible for the future. Like the feast (of the Ascension) – we are now responsible for making the best of everything now. And yet we are much bigger than now. Eucharist is gratitude. The weather is beautiful. The birds are delightful. The shoppers and workers are great. We have a new outlook on life. We have a new appreciation. As John Moriarty used to say: ‘What do you see?’ (Look around, look back, look ahead and be thankful).
Seamus Ahearne osa
P.s Padraig McCarthy took me on a dredging expedition into our linguistic past (after last week’s words.) He unearthed some beautiful prayers. I have forgotten too much. Veronica Clerkin gave us a very special poem from Mark Napo. ‘The slow arm of all that matters.’ I didn’t know the poet or the poem. But this was so evocative and so true. Thank you.