First Confession – a sort of Memoir

First Confession – a sort of Memoir:

Chris Patten’s memoir interested Brendan Hoban; Dominic Lawson was less impressed. I always liked Chris and am easily impressed with him. I like his overview. His political outlook had something big about it too. His Catholicism rested gently on his shoulders also. He wasn’t defensive or apologetic like too many.  He could somehow put up with many of the absurdities of Catholicism. (Brendan agreed).  As tolerant elders, many of us can often do likewise. As we enter the adventurous landscape of being over 70 (many of us), the stupidities have less effect and we can dwell on the bigger picture, the wonders of faith and the excitement of ministry. 

The music of the sea: 

As I talk to the sea these mornings (I was coaxed or cajoled to spend a week in the Algarve) I was thinking. All the waves appeared to be wearing white gloves as they approached the shore; they then joined hands. The united front, formed a community of togetherness and kissed the shore as a collective . The rhythm of sound and splash, suggested a symbol for forward movement. Nibbling and nattering on the sideline won’t help. There is much too much whinging. Work together. Those white gloves and those white hands joined are special. (The foam on the waves). Even in the unruly scatter of water on the shore – I could see the torn/ragged jeans as an icon of the unravelling fabric of society.   Solidarity in creativity is essential. The scrum of life has to hold together. 

‘You have seduced me Lord and I have let myself be seduced:’

The utter silence, other than the song of the ocean, is mesmerising. There is a deep holiness in it. I don’t want anyone else there and there is no one else there ( a very early hour) and I was thinking of people and books. (Last Sunday’s First Reading). “You seduced me Lord and I let myself be seduced. There was a fire burning within me and the effort to restrain it, wearied me.” 
Where might we go with such a challenge?  I would have enjoyed the Finglas locals sharing and delving into the Romance of that one. I would enjoy the ministers (this priesthood of ours) dropping their formalities and going with the seduction.  A lovely book to aid the Romance might be ‘A little Paris bookshop’ by Nina George. It catches Romance in the widest sense. A companion to it might be ‘I found my tribe’ by Ruth Fitzmaurice. This is rather different but if wildness, chaos, adventure and Romance is possible with MND; then surely the God/Faith seduction, is a less unruly or demanding Camino. 

Cormac Murphy-O’Connor: 

Books. Places. Sea. Moments. Have their own mystery. They are suggestive. But people are precious. I was thinking of Cormac Murphy-O’Connor. He was a gentleman. He had a big heart. He was full of humanity. (His early days were tainted because he wasn’t Basil and then there was the Hill affair). His warmth and his easiness gave a real beauty to God in England and Wales. I was recalling too when himself and Keith Patrick O Brien were the chief church gaffers in England, Wales & Scotland. There was something hearty going on. Faith, Church and God, wasn’t so cold or clinical and even the stupidity didn’t matter so much. We have to be brought back to the view that careful, cautious people have no room in the real Church.  Controlled and tidy cannot describe the sea. Neither can the Boat (Church)  on the sea, be steady and certain. Surely, the Leaders  can’t be too unlike the Peter character of the Gospel Drama. The Francis character, the Cormac character and the Keith character, bring and brought a breadth to life which is more akin to the Peter personality and even the Jeremiah figure, than much of what the sainted ones dumped on us. 

Teachers and teaching: 

The schools are back. The new teachers are dropping into the culture of their schools. There is a momentum which drives them on. There is also a bureaucracy that is stifling. But I keep on thinking of what a teacher is.  I expect them to be competent. I expect them to be able to lead the youngsters into the basics of learning. I expect them to contribute to the community of the school. But I also expect more. It is a privileged place. It is a dangerous place. They must wake up the children to the wonders of life. They have to expose the children to the drudgery of learning and to the excitement of discovery.  A teacher has to go beyond the obvious. They must be artists and poets. Their imaginations have to be bursting with ideas to stir the little minds around them. They are preparing the children to be the best they can be – to be fine and full human beings. No curriculum will do that. It only provides a framework. The excitement can only come from big minds and big hearts and very big imaginations. If a teacher doesn’t think and imagine; the young ones won’t become alert and alive to the bigger world of beauty and humility where we all appreciate, enjoy and learn from each other.  In my thinking, what I say about teaching and teachers, I have to say about ministering in faith. No one should be allowed minister unless they have an expansiveness of life and an excitement in discovery.  The seduction has to go on. 

The stupidities of Church: 

I return to some of the stupidities of faith. The missal is a messenger of absurdity full of very bad theology and hopeless English. I don’t blame Rome or even the translators. I blame those who accepted the rubbish.  I see Mattie is picking up on Ray Brown’s policy in Kerry. I agree with Ray. Many of us wouldn’t be capable of leading a funeral in any proper and respectful way after a weekend of Masses (plus Baptisms & Weddings).  However, Mattie is right. It is the bigger questions that matter.  Like the ship Concordia, the Captain (F Schettino) may have been asleep or otherwise engaged when the ship grounded. Our Captains better wake up or our big ship (the Church) may be grounded too while they are preoccupied with other unimportant things. Schettino is in jail!  

The public caricature of faith: 

It saddens me deeply how unimportant Religion has become and how it can be caricatured. We need the Chris Pattens and Cormacs and Keiths to lead us beyond the rapids into the wonders of faith. A world without faith is fairly empty and crude. When the Jeremiah message is not caught;  something dies.  I have used the image of the torn jeans as indicative of present day life – the fabric of society is in shreds. I smile sadly too when I see lovely women full of paint destroying their natural beauty. The cosmetic industry and fashion thrives on the superficiality of life. Our Church is too often dressed up in torn jeans and can appear to be in shreds or overly painted with nonsense, when its real beauty isn’t seen.  A new Revelation is necessary. We need people like the unapologetic Chris Patten to help us do it.

The delights and excitement of Religious priesthood: 

I was in touch on the 26th August with some of my companions who joined the Augustinians with me some 53 years ago. I look back on those years and can say with certainty – nothing, anywhere could have given me the opportunities and challenges and fun that Religious priesthood have given me. I have been stretched, dragged, inspired, challenged, humbled into excitement and delight.  Despite all the absurdities that tease me on darker moments; I have been invited into the heart of humanity and privileged.  It is a wonderful life. So as teachers, set out to find the gift in every child and to nurture that gift; the core of the Church message is to draw out the goodness and beauty of every person.  We have to bring out the best in each other. We have to join as a collective and come ashore hand in hand – fully believing in this Communion. The false divisions of the past have to be cast aside. We need to be fearless in making big and new decisions.  Francis is leading the way. Throw caution to the wind! How dare we fail as teachers, as ministers, as people of faith. We cannot settle for less than greatness. 

Seamus Ahearne osa

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  1. Why don`t you blame Rome for this translation? Whose fault, apart from Rome`s, could it be? As for blaming those “who accept this rubbish”, do you mean you blame us in the pews? Well, what choice have we in the pews, apart from doing, what many have done, staying away altogether, or simply lapsing into silence, while suspecting that that silence was the very end intended by those who foisted the translation on us in the first place? And we are to wait how long for relief from it? Another ten/fifteen years? How many will be left in the pews by then? A little bit of temple-clearing anger now and then, I think, wouldn`t go amiss in this church!

  2. Phil Rogers says:

    First Confession – what a beautiful and life-enhancing piece of poetic dreaming!

    Awesome that the mean age of Catholic priests in Ireland is 70+!

    There is no future for Catholicism here unless the IRISH church listens to the people. We need leaders who can reach our youngsters and fire their imaginations with the message that God, not power or money, is our true destiny.

    We need shepherds (bishops and priests) from the PEOPLE- married and celibate, male and female.

    Our priestesses and teachers must be dreamers, poets, mavericks and listeners. If not, we will be a Christless, materialistic nation within 50 years.

    Dia daoimbh go leir.

  3. Pádraig McCarthy says:

    Séamus on teachers:
    I read somewhere recently: Pay soccer managers those salaries, on one condition : That teachers are paid on the same scale. The work they do is at least as important to our society.

    1. Seamus Ahearne says:

      mjt @1 – Clarification re New Missal: Of all the things I have written (in this article); I felt that those words on the Missal were the least likely to be misunderstood. Clearly I was wrong. I don’t mind exciting anyone but I wouldn’t want to incite mjt or drive anyone into Temple rage for the wrong reason. That could be rather wasteful of valuable energy.

      Re Rome and the Missal: Maurice Taylor has been clear on the theological & interpretative misadventures in Rome throughout the genesis of the Missal. Some dud theologians and non- English speakers were let loose with the final document. It was published by Rome. However, it was those who accepted it and then set out to implement it, who were wrong. Those weren’t the ones in the pew!It was our Leaders. The Bishops were too deferential to Rome on something that Rome was clueless about. The bishops didn’t have the backbone or the sense to say NO.

      The Bishops probably were too busy. More than likely, they never read the drafts or never got competent people to read them or didn’t do any market research with them. I don’t want to be bishop-bashing. It is not fair or right. But the process highlights the centrality and importance of the local church which then has to take responsibility for the outcome. We cannot assume that Rome knows best. It didn’t and doesn’t.

      One of my companions out here made a comment on the cautious and the solemn (in an other context). “They never rode a bike; never got a puncture.” Our Leaders didn’t have the sense to call the document – rubbish. (That bike; that puncture!) I am sorry for them but I hope that this is a lesson learned. As John Healy said in times past: “No-one shouted stop.” ‘Ah there’s the rub.’

      I sometimes say to myself, is this New Missal worth the bother of moaning about it? And it really isn’t. We get on with life. Too much is happening and there are more important issues. Many of us can side- step the nonsense and adapt locally which is the very nature of Liturgy. But there is a lesson for learning in the process. It was all so ridiculous. How dare we allow such stupidity distort and destroy our Liturgy. Celebrating God among us is difficult enough. The ‘Word’ has to become flesh in the language and experience of the local Church. Contorted Latinised English doesn’t quite fit.

  4. Seamus, I`m most flattered to be mentioned in your latest post, but you write some things in it which can`t be allowed to pass. For example, having declined initially to blame Rome for it, you had placed the blame for adopting the text on the bishops in the English-speaking world, but now it appears you don`t want them either to feel any blame, so to exonerate them you come up with the remarkable idea that they were all just too busy to read the new text carefully enough to spot its many lamentable features. Well,I ask you! Too busy to read and think about the wording of the Mass? Too busy to notice that it wasn`t, in many parts, actually in English at all? One might wonder what could they have been so busy doing.
    Then I was aghast to read you wondering if “this New Missal (is) worth the bother of moaning about..” as it raises so many questions about what you think Mass is about. Is it to provide a platform for the priest to work some magic up on the altar? If it were, then I suppose we don`t need any text at all, and if we did it could as well be in Latin, and we in the pews could simply kneel heads down and have it all performed for us and applied to us from on high. That is very far from the concept of Eucharist I understood was promoted in V2.
    Finally, how could you think that Rome was clueless about this matter, just blundering along innocently? Isn`t it more likely that they knew perfectly well what they were doing- helping to create a model of church which sets the clock back as far as they dared?

  5. mjt, I feel I must recommend to you Maurice Taylor’s excellent little book “It’s the Eucharist. Thank God”, published by Decanni Books. And this really is from the “horse’s mouth” I am sure Bishop Maurice would forgive me for using that form of expression. I once conversed with him at length on the whole scandalous process of producing the “new” translation.
    Seamus, thank you once again.

  6. Paddy Ferry@7, I`ll certainly look out for the book you mention. In the meantime, it`s nice to think that on this subject it appears we have been rather overtaken by events. Let`s hope long-overdue action follows soon.

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