Candice was the winner.
You must be rather pleased to know that. The Bake Off provoked outrage. It was migrating to Channel 4. How could the BBC survive without it? Millions watched the final, I believe.
Am I totally out of touch? I can’t understand the fuss. Baking and cooking is important but if that important – what hope have I with enfleshing the Gospel if I am out of kilter with the culture?
I frequently have visitors on a Sunday to the house. They use the house as a half-way drop-in- centre for long term prisoners to meet up with their families. I become homeless for the day or almost. I do call in for a chat and then go wandering. I smile afterwards when the papers of the day are left behind. There is enough Sunday reading to keep me going for a week. If the Tabloids can be called that. Once more I am lost. It is sex, crime and football. The diet sounds like fast food. It can’t be great as a healthy diet. Am I a snob or is that mainstream culture now? If it is; how could the demands of religion with their deep questions and challenges enter the mind-set of today?
We had the three- weekend- count at Masses recently. The numbers were shocking if that is possible for me. If I analysed the attendance – I would conclude that Mass or Religion is irrelevant in our parish area. We are very old and dying out. The only crowds that turn up are for a Month’s mind; or a first anniversary. We put on a good show for these occasions because that is when people come. And we do well for Funerals. As the refrain goes from the attendees: ’if it was like that every week, we would be always here.’ (But it is and you aren’t). Come November 2nd – every space in the Church will be filled and the sense of memory and sense of support is tangible. Otherwise. It is the Funeral of the parish, church and priesthood, we are planning.
Kieran O Mahoney osa (Scripture man in Dublin) has been coming to us for some years and taking us into the hidden secrets of Scripture. We have c60 coming along (each week) to drink in the delights. He is a wonderful presenter, totally relaxed and so respectful in dealing with every query. It is a rich diet and we are surprised that so many are capable of adjusting their mental palates to taste the delicacies.
However, I am too sensitive to throw a spanner into the feast. I want to say that the Big Meal diet of three Readings at Mass is overfeed. Much as I love the Scriptures, I think our Liturgy is distorted. It can’t carry the weight – of words, words, words. The New Missal is and was stupid. No one had the gumption to shout out about the emperor! The pompous and ponderous language is without grace. However, as Irish people we need to leave our passive past (in Religion) to integrate quietness, movement, song and dance. None of our little minds can breathe if we are battered by words, collections and nonsense. The psychological aspect of Liturgy is neglected. The Sacred Space of the Burning Bush or Jacob waking up and realising that ‘God is in this place and I never knew it’ matters. The outside culture and the God- world has to marry. Some kind of artistry and poetry has to touch the soul for us to catch the ‘transcendence’ and the ‘immanence.’ If our culture is light or even superficial – then how can the spark plug work?
I was reading Paddy Sweeney’s article in The Furrow (October) and I was thinking. Paddy does an excellent job in his work and he describes it well in the article. He emphasises frequently that the business of looking out for our priests is a serious need. He notes that the focus cannot be on the people with ‘problems’ but rather with the ordinary ‘wear and tear’ of priestly work and life.
It is a lonely profession, an ageing profession, an overworked profession. It is often caricatured in our present day culture. How do we look out for each other?
The world around us hardly ever stops to think of the major contribution the Church has made in creating a world of care for generations. Even if some will say that the State institutions can never do what the personal caring Church did in the past. It is true still but it often not noticed or acknowledged. In a culture of entitlement; ‘thank you’ is not too often heard.
If that’ thank you’ is not felt or said how is it possible for people to bother with God or with Eucharist? In the new world too, we are overwhelmed with bureaucracy. Even in the Safeguarding; anyone would wonder if the ‘safeguarding of a child’ gets lost in the paper work with standards and protocols. Our poor bishops need to work with their priests and listen to the experiences of their priests but most times they are so busy with administration that they miss out on the connection with the priests. On the Council of priests – it is probably true that bishops speak more than listen. How can they learn if they don’t listen?
I was thinking more of priesthood and myself (after speaking at the Ruby celebrations for colleagues). I will be 70 in a few weeks time. The hinges of the body scream a little. But what I am aware of more clearly are some indicators of that age in myself. The house has become more cluttered- it doesn’t get tidied as much as it should. I never seem to get around to all that needs doing in the parish. I see what isn’t done and what should be done. My reading is much less, I don’t do it. My fingers won’t think or write. Sometimes I can’t even concentrate on a newspaper. The danger is that the rollercoaster of everyday demands can create a runaway superficiality which is akin to the culture of our age. Even at night, I feel too tired to deal with phone calls or the demands of e-mails. I am blessed in having a Religious community around me which means that we rotate between our Churches every day. I think of the poor man who is faced by the same people day after day and the community who looks at the same man every day. It is easier for us but still not easy!
In our profession we are forever giving. We are presenting. We are preparing. We are talking. We are listening. We are writing. We are phoning or answering. How can we deal with the next crisis? The next death? The next family disaster? The next school issue? The next letter from the diocese to fill in something? The next knock at the door? The next meeting? How do we manage not to overload the volunteers? But the coordinator of everything – What happens to him? Who minds the giver? Who feeds the hungry one? Where is our own prayer as we lead others in Prayer? Paddy Sweeney is deeply concerned about the overload on our priests and even the weight of knowing that the world we love and look after is fading away. What is our Eucharist? Indeed who heals the healer? Who cares for the carer? As John Healy said: No One Shouted Stop!
Last weekend we had 9 anniversaries at one Mass; two were First anniversaries. We had our Harvest Thanksgiving. We were due to have Mission weekend. How can we juggle all of that together without killing the Liturgy? And yet somehow in the midst of all of this – people shared magnificently.
I conclude with this thought. Eucharist invites people into wonder. Harvest is a magnificent time to be Eucharistic. ‘For what and to whom are we are grateful?’ How can we coax, cajole, invite all of us into gratitude – into the Magnificat? In this world today – how can our Religion/our Liturgy/handle the questions that matter? Have people got the time or the energy or can they (or we) be bothered to move beyond the superficial to become aware of Godliness and grace? How can a tiring priesthood be pioneers of a new way of sensitising hearts, minds and imaginations? In a world devoted to celebrity culture and to tabloids and to Bake offs and to cheap politics – what hope is there for faith? Brexit and Trump are extremes of the crudity of our culture but they do infect us. Give me poetry. Give me art. Give me music. Give me the privileged half-door into the hearts of people. Give me God. May the colours of autumn stir our souls.
Candice was the winner.