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.
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