Left over thoughts!

St Augustine:

Yesterday we celebrated Augustine. Early in the morning I had a phone call. One of my colleagues was reading ‘The City of God.’ This is how he starts each day. He let me appear as a guest at his reading. I don’t think that his behaviour is likely to catch on (for me). He is still learning how to be a bishop even as he retires.


Augustine was an incredible man.
How he managed to be the local pastor/administrator/settler of disputes/ judge/ writer and speaker: I don’t know. How he blended the daily battles of life together with dodging the flying arrows from his adversaries; I don’t know.
St Jerome used his bow and arrow in a vicious sense from the safe distance of Bethlehem. Letters crossed. It was an amazing feat. I have always liked Augustine’s Introduction to De Trinitate (in summary): ‘ If you agree with me; tell me. If you disagree; let’s talk. We can help each other clarify things.’
Augustine dealt with all the local issues of the time. His writings have to be read through the lens of local life (a GP) and not looked at as an intellectual treatise in the Groves of Academe.  I wonder what would he have made of recent days in Ireland?

Lyric FM:

Would he have only listened to Lyric FM rather than watched RTE, as I did. (I don’t have RTE TV). Would he have had a go, at the misery mongers, who wanted to batter and demolish God and Faith in our country?  He most definitely wouldn’t have cowered against any onslaught of venom in the media. Any cowering would be done by the scribblers and the talkers and the moaners. He would have dealt with the issues rather than allow the usual suspects wallow in emotion.

Croke Park:

I think he might have gone to Croke Park and delighted in the fun, dance, song and beauty of family life celebrated.  He might have interrupted the homespun riddles of Francis and told him that his best line came, when he looked at his watch and said:  ‘I am tired and I suppose you are as well.’
I think Augustine would have been delighted with the marvellous Celebration put on and would have been thrilled with the youngsters, the old ones and the little ones. He would have loved the families sharing. He would have kept on reminding everyone that this was a Celebration of Family life and a Celebration of God in family life. He might have shouted at everyone (in case they lost the run of themselves cheering the wrong characters):  ‘The dramatis personae of this event are the families.’ Not Francis. Not all clerics dressed up in fat collars. Not all the sideshows. It is a pity and an oversight that Francis didn’t arrive in an open necked shirt and let the families be the lead people on the stage.


I would have feared for some of the self-righteous politicians who dared to tell Francis how bad the Church was.  He would have asked them to show a little humility as he might have detailed what the State hasn’t done and isn’t doing.   The grandstanding was rather obnoxious. Augustine might have been very dangerous if he was let loose.
I’m not sure whether he would he be up to date with the Trump-culture spreading like a contagious disease. I doubt if he could much abide the politicians being ahistorical when he could remind them of their clamouring to be modern and delighting in the repeal of the 8th, or the besmirching the past and the ridiculing of the present, as the Church community carry the caring historically and presently. We do lack a Christian/Catholic press that is robust, real and fearless to assault such arrogance.

Kick the cat:

I don’t know whether he liked cats or dogs but he would always stand up for the weak. He wouldn’t for a moment have put up with those who insisted on kicking the cat or the dog. He mightn’t have been too pleased with the ‘elder abuse’ and how Francis was treated.  In this very ‘feeling culture’ people want blood and guts and more and more sorrys. I think Augustine would have been inclined to say:  Get on with life. Broaden out the issues. Where are the underlying problems?  He would have taken the whole deep rooted sexual problems in society and culture apart as he would ruthlessly have analysed life among us.

The Zeitgeist:

Whatever about Augustine or even my possible distortion of what he would do or say; I am only catching the zeitgeist.  It is a blame culture. It is a whinging culture. It is a culture where’ poor little me’ has to vent. This culture scatters manure everywhere and doesn’t emerge smelling of roses. Why can’t people learn from the past; look at the present and take responsibility for making the future better?  It is like the song of many years ago: ‘Blame it on the Stones; the Rolling Stones…. The rising cost of tranquillisers …”   How often do I want to shout: Grow up. Take responsibility for yourself. Get on with life and living. I recall a long time ago a fellow digging into his past and finding the reason for the state he was in, due to not being breast-fed.  Well now. He was in his fifties!

Local visitor: Francis

Francis dropped by our parish. As he should. It was the right place to be. He didn’t have the time to stay for long. He was rushing to the airport. We had just finished our viewing in the Church and were into the singing finale of our evening. He enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere where no-one was asking him to say sorry again and again and again.   He was happy in the noisy laughter and spontaneity here in this place!


Many went to the events from the parish. They loved the pilgrimage aspect.  A few even said that those days were some of the best days of their lives.
I wasn’t as gushy as that. But I got the message. I found the reporting on the visit to Br Kevin’s place, a delight. That was Francis at his best.
Croke Park was great. The rain, damaged Phoenix Park.  God wasn’t good.  The Organisation for everything was marvellous. The singing at Phoenix Park was uplifting. I did think that we needed a rousing song for the Beginning  and the End at Phoenix Park.  (Am I remembering from the Youth Mass 39 years ago how ‘Our God Reigns’ lifted everyone??)
The psychological essential for Liturgy has to be always remembered.  Lift. Gather. Take-over. Send. Not like ‘Light up the Fire’ as some people had at a Mass here, after a house fire; or like ‘Blanket on the ground’ which livened up a funeral recently.  But something that galvanised the collective hearts and voices.  Furthermore,   choirs are great but they are not for admiration but as a gathering-voice to collect everyone else. This is always Liturgy.


A conclusion:
It must have been a total affront to all the begrudgers that the whole event went off so well. It was such a celebration of God among us.  I was delighted to inconvenience the whole capital.  No one could escape the fact that God is such a nuisance and is so important.
If the energy put into staging this event could be tapped for the ordinary life of God among us we would really do damage with the graciousness of our Godliness.   It is still a wonderful world.  Our God reigns!   Our God will never die.  In regard to our Church, we could say (as a collective) : ‘ I have done the State some service and they know it.’  (Othello)  {Never mind Charlie Haughey!]   If people don’t know it now; they had better learn. Stop the apologising. Be humble but realise how powerful we are and can be.
As a last thought:   I’m not convinced that it is ever appropriate to call someone – HOLY FATHER!

Seamus Ahearne osa


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  1. Pádraig McCarthy says:

    Séamus –
    Thanks; and (belated) blessings for AugustineMas and MonicaMas. It’s encouraging to remember how Augustine went off the rails and later got on track.

    As I see it, the Capuchin Day Centre expressed the heart of the visit – if we are a human family, how is it that a country as wealthy as ours has people needing meals every day, and food-parcels every week? And this has been going on at Church Street for about 50 years! How is it that some (most) members of the family have enough and plenty to eat, while others don’t have the bare essentials of food, or even a home? Yes, it’s possible that some who get the food-parcels don’t really need them. But if you didn’t really need it, would you really be prepared to take your place in that queue? Last Christmas 2,700 people waited in line for a Christmas food parcel there. And there are other such services in Dublin and around the country.

    People talk about how the country has changed since JPII in 1979. This is one way it hasn’t changed, but should have. It’s a failure of government, but I don’t think any of them got the message. Leo Varadkar spoke words of appreciation for the contribution of the church; the best compliment to Br Kevin and the team would be if the service were not needed any more. We certainly need to deal effectively with abuse in the church – a lot done, more to do – but the State needs to deal effectively with the same problem in society. Why is only the church scrutinised?

    I like your comment: Nobody could escape the fact that God is such a nuisance and is so important.

    Is it ever appropriate to call someone HOLY FATHER? I insist every now and again that each Christian is a saint (“holy”) from the day of Baptism. We do not have to strain ourselves to become saints – it’s already done! It doesn’t mean that we always live like saints (plenty of evidence of that among the canonised and uncanonised); the challenge is to live what we already are.

    I cringe somewhat when I get correspondence addressed to me as “Reverend.” The word means “must be treated with reverence!” I won’t ever use the term for myself until the day when every member of the human family is recognised as “must be treated with reverence.” I have a bit of a wait.

  2. Paddy Ferry says:

    Seamus and Padraig, I detect a certain sense of annoyance and irritation from you both on account of the hard time our Church is getting at the moment. At one time, during my innocent past, I probably felt the same way. But not anymore.
    I have just read Gene Kerrigan in my recently arrived Sunday Independent.
    I share the link below. It is a sobering read. You both have probably already read this last Sunday. I have always admired his clarity of thought and his honesty.

    I do, however, rejoice everyday at the miracle of Pope Francis. And, I pray for his continued good health and long life. My annoyance is for those who –from our wing of the Church– criticise him. Have they all forgotten what it was like during the two previous pontificates!!
    Good night and God bless you both.


  3. Frances Burke says:

    I think it would be very healing for the Church to follow the example being set by this Cork parish. They are having a ceremony to mark the mother and baby homes and victims of clerical sexual abuse. I don’t think there is any need for it to be be another ‘apology fest’. I think we have had enough of them.

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