Helpless but not Hopeless

Helpless but not hopeless:

It was only yesterday morning. Each day began with a walk to the beach. I stood at the edge of the ocean. It was a virginal beach. Untouched. I was the first one to step onto the beach, in the early morning. The sea and the waves seemed to smile. It was noisy.   There was an orchestra of unlikely harmonies shouting at me, or singing to me or possibly ignoring me.  The laugh was loud. Did I hear the message or was I imagining it?   “You are not in charge. You have lost control. You don’t like it.  You (and the rest of you) are all so sophisticated. You think you can do what you like. Be what you want. Destroy. Damage. Walk over everyone. But you can’t. Listen to us.  We are playful but serious.  Be humble. Throw away your arrogance.  Stop and think. This may be your moment (coronavirus) of grace.  If you can see. If you can open your eyes. If your mind is alert. If you have any sense or wit.”  That was yesterday morning in the Algarve.   Today is Finglas. And it is very quiet.  I was asked to stay where I was but an indeterminate sentence didn’t suit me. (I remembered the effect of an indeterminate sentence when I worked as a chaplain in prison life).  I like order, structure and control. Don’t fence me in.

Humour and the virus:

This virus has had its moments.  Isis, I believe has withdrawn the troops from Europe; it is too dangerous.  The ‘terrorists’ are fearful! We are coping with terrorism of a different kind. I also smiled at a similar spelling mistake on two official recent documents (Gov/HSE and Diocesan).  The noun ‘practice’ and the verb ‘practise’ got confused. Stephen Collins compared Leo, Boris and Donald on their leadership in this Corona crisis.  Leo came out best.  The other pair came out badly.  Corona has stirred the creative juices.  The comedians are set free and run riot.  Many are very funny. Not least of course, the one on the closure of hairdressing salons which may see women in their glorious natural state!    The lavatorial humour has got wearisome. I wonder might some of our ‘ministers of religion’ be provoked now to use their creative skills and add their reflections on the years of experience in the Church.  They can hardly claim the demands of work as an excuse.

Compulsory redundancy:

The door is quiet.  The pubs are shut. The Churches are empty. Never before in my life have I sat in a house with no-one or nothing calling me out. I never had to look for something to do. Every day was full.  I never got everything done. And now – the world spins. The sun rises. The night takes over later. The sky cries or smiles. Life goes on and nothing is happening. It is a hint at retirement.  Compulsory redundancy. It is a forewarning.  I don’t like to think of how I might cope with the afterlife (retirement).

Photo-shop  (I think)

I sat behind a lady on the plane. She spent hours (of the flight)  working away at hundreds of photos. All of herself. I think. She danced from one to the next. She accentuated the lips. Brightened the teeth. High-lighted the eyes. Created contrasts. Was it a total dose of narcissism? Or was she an artist, playing with the possible? Shadow. Light. A suggestion. Accentuate. She might even have been thinking of the Gospel for Sunday.  How to catch the light? How to look at herself?  I don’t know.

None so blind….

Blindness is frightening.  But blindness is everywhere.  Some can’t see. Some don’t see. Some won’t see. How much in our daily living, do we all miss?   It isn’t simply about cataracts which many of us have experienced.  It reminds me too of the past (which I have written about previously).  The flash lamp. The Tilly lamp. The Oil lamp. The candles. The Storm lamp. (Of the past).  My mother trying to avoid the local sergeant when she hadn’t a light on her bike. She would bump into him then and say – “I came this way to avoid you.”  Or my poor grandmother refusing the rural electrification while she wandered about with a candle or an oil-lamp!    But what we don’t see?   How could the saga of Tony Flannery have continued so long?  Can’t see. Won’t see.   How could the book of our Liturgies have happened?  Can’t see. Won’t see.  How could the chaos in regard to priesthood have happened (celibacy; female) have occurred?  Can’t see. Won’t see.  How could the rigidity in regard to Sacrament have evolved?  Can’t see. Won’t see. How could  grandeur and pomposity (relics of old decency) have attached itself to Church leadership?  Can’t see. Won’t see. How could so much autocracy have happened in Church structure? Can’t see. Won’t see.

The blind man

The Gospel story is powerful.  The pomposity. The arrogance. The light.  The darkness. The shadow.  All is present. This young man could now see. Something happened. He couldn’t understand how stupid the establishment folk were. The logic of his parents was clear, very precise and profound. “He is old enough. Ask him.”  It is as always – the miracle story catches our attention. It is an easy focus. But there is more. Much more. It is never about them and there or him but rather about us.  It is revelation. It is an unveiling of the truth. It is seeing the Light. It is finding Christ. It is looking and searching for the God who lurks everywhere.  It is allowing ourselves be found. It is humility.  It is the Artist-God, using the paints, to draw us into the picture of life.  The hint of light. The shadow. The fade. Our attention is caught.  The Gallery has drawn us in.  Our preoccupations can coax us into missing the point. We do most of the time. I do.

The idealogues of faith:

Betty Williams has died. Her death reminds us of Mairead, Ciaran and herself. The Peace People.  The lit up a dark corner of our country. Hope was scattered around by them. They shone a light on compassion and love. They ridiculed the idealogues (political and religious) who were lost in the narrows of life. A new Religion may be taking shape just now. It is forced on us.  Communion is expressed by keeping distance. By not touching. Maybe the idealogues in our faith presently, are been driven to reconstruct the scenery of life.  Our lands of Mission have been without the Eucharist for years and we can’t break through the barriers.  With a more flexible outlook of ministry. We haven’t the sight to see new ways and different ways and new possibilities in the revelation of a revealing world when we have to look differently at everything.  ‘All changed; changed utterly and a terrible beauty is born.’

Seamus Ahearne osa





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  1. Paddy Ferry says:

    Seamus, a friend posted this, below, on Facebook this morning by a John O’Donohue, I am presuming it is the John O’Donohue of Anam Cara fame. God rest his soul.
    There is hope.

    Dr. Ken Egan, the retired GP from Ballindine in Co. Mayo who is willing to return to duty, is reminding us this morning of past epidemics; having to pass material through the window in Merlin Park during the TB crisis to avoid contact. My uncle Bernie spent time in Merlin Park.

    There were dentists who dressed up like spacemen during the early days of the AIDS outbreak.
    And we came through all of it.

    All week I have been reciting in my head and aloud “All changed, changed utterly …’ Nobody over here knows what I am quoting but it is so apt though I am not so sure about the “terrible beauty”

    We have no public Masses in Scotland now. I have had a long lie this morning. Our bishops finally acted. However, churches will remain open and we are encouraged to go there for prayer and reflection and there will be exposition. Now, all of that I find bizarre if not downright irresponsible!

    And, by the way, did you read what that ejeit, Raymond Burke, has been saying this morning, that you should still go to a public Mass despite the coronavirus.

    Keep healthy and safe, Seamus and enjoy the relaxation if you can.

    John O’Donohue

    “This is the time to be slow,
    Lie low to the wall
    Until the bitter weather passes.

    Try, as best you can, not to let
    The wire brush of doubt
    Scrape from your heart
    All sense of yourself
    And your hesitant light.

    If you remain generous,
    Time will come good;
    And you will find your feet
    Again on fresh pastures of promise,
    Where the air will be kind
    And blushed with beginning.

  2. Pádraig McCarthy says:

    This is our unexpected sabbath.
    (Except we’re bound to have funerals, Covid-19 or not.)
    Sabbath is not a stagnant pond. It’s a living, running stream. And we are clearly not the ones in charge.
    It’s like a Holy Saturday. Waiting.
    Wondering what people we are, and what we will find is risen.
    The blind, awaiting new sight. Algarve, Finglas, Portlaw …

    Is ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine.
    It’s in the shelter of one another that we live our lives.

    Hallelujah! (anticipated).

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