Lions in the Hierarchy, the Inauguration, and a dollop of poetry!

My fingers have lost their voice; I got injured and my fifth digit won’t think. I can’t type therefore I can’t think. Such little things matter so much. I am amused at how many are happy that my scribbles are suffocated for the present.
I was remembering. Joe Dunn published ‘No Lions in the Hierarchy’ on January 1st 1994. I wonder will any of the bishops bring that book with them on the Ad Limina visit. They can’t go to Rome and talk to Francis by kissing a ring as happened notoriously back on another visit. The Francis, who has been so crude in his language to the Curia, over the past few Advents, will hardly want to listen to sweet- nothings being muttered deferentially. The lion that is Francis, might be unleashed. Or it may not be necessary if a lion or two emerged from among our own. It would be scandalous if the visit was overwhelmed by the glamour of a possible visit of Francis to Ireland. I really think that he has more important things to be doing than wasting his scarce energy on such showpiece events. We don’t need him here. He could do without coming here.
‘I have a dream.’ That we can celebrate the wonder of faith among us. That we can shout of the privilege it is, to be immersed in the lives of so many. That each day, we can ‘lift up our eyes and look around.’ That the awesomeness of Godliness is experienced by so many of us. That parish life for us can be full of laughter and hilarity. That God’s poetry is awakening humility in us. That Liturgy is truly an expression of the lives (the real story) of those present. That the mess and chaos of family life invites us into a place where we are lost for words. That people and nature draws us into prayerfulness, graciousness and gratitude.
Donald Trump will be inaugurated on Friday. I cannot still believe that the Americans could have elected this man. There must be more to him than I can see. There must be more to the Americans than I can see. There must be more to the Brits than I can see with Brexit. There must be more to the DUP and Sinn Féin than I can see; after coming so far and now this. There must be more to the Public Service Unions than I can see – after what the country has gone through. Can everyone be so short-sighted?   I may be wrong. It has often happened. I was jealous when Obama was elected. I wanted a few Obamas for the Church. But really he has been impressive. A statesman. As has Michelle. The world will miss them. But again he was stymied. I had high hopes for the Arab Spring and we see what happened.
I believe that the world of God should make us bigger but it hasn’t done so always. I still cringe with embarrassment that Tony Flannery is left dangling. No one has the gumption or sense to scream with John Healy: ‘No one shouted stop.’   There is an absence of the God I celebrate or the God I know or the God I meet every day. I repeat my comment of the past from Hawkings on why he didn’t believe: “Your God is too small.” Small minds. Small people. Small faith has led us to this. I have a little theory.
A celibate bachelor clergy can become very linear in its outlook. The awkwardness of family life smashes all simple conclusions to problems. Acceptance of helplessness is the norm. I know that a celibate clergy gives us the chance to be very much family on a 24/7 schedule but something is still missing. The humour and humility of humanity can get diluted. We need chaos. The tidy and clear solutions to life are totally unreal.
I need these stories. We seldom have Receptions on the evening before for funerals. We had one early December. Some of the family said afterwards: ‘That was the best Mass I was ever at.’ (Of course it wasn’t a Mass). Sr. Liz and many of the other women here often say ‘a lovely Mass.’  (And we get worked up about ‘priesthood.’)   I was at the door some weeks ago as we waited for a funeral. I overheard an elderly lady say: “He does a brilliant funeral. He even does a great Mass on Sundays – not that I ever go.”
An older man came to the door on Stephen’s day. He stepped into the house. He was shy. He said to me, almost under his breath: “I hope you won’t be insulted but you do a great job in this community. Spend that on yourself.” He gave me €50. I know him well. I have never seen him in the church for the past twenty years. (So do we ever know?)
We were out visiting one of the sick parishioners this afternoon. She is housebound. She is a wonderful woman but is in severe pain and has been for a year. She is over 80. She regaled us with stories of her life. She lived life on the edge in every sense. But the warmth and heart and the way she looked after everyone even if she was a Robin Hood type, was marvellous. We came out laughing. She often sings – “You’ll never get to heaven….”   Her earth and her life and her heaven wouldn’t fit well into the categories defined in our Confessional past. She was and is a tonic. I like such saints. I like her heaven. I am blessed.
Even for Christmas our attending numbers were relatively small. But nonetheless the depth of Godliness in people; the heart of faith around us; the beauty of our acceptance into the homes of the community is grace itself – we are touched by God.
As a conclusion – how can we enlarge the discussion and reflection on life? How can we bring the poetry of God to our talk? How can the church move away from the nonsensical distractions and wake people up from the simplistic notions of Facebook and Twitter? I do fear that the world of politics is getting very small. We have also made God’s world small. Trump is an exemplar of pettiness. Our own politics is stained with the same simplistic ideas –   don’t pay for water; eliminate homelessness; have the best possible HSE; improve the education system; give everyone a job; have the best social welfare; pay top wages to everyone. It is all a nonsense. Everything is short-term. The media is so often superficial and trivialises so much. Is life a Reality Show?
We do need humility and realism back in life. We do need a sense of responsibility. We do need a regard for the common good. Even Kennedy’s quotation at his inauguration is worth recalling: ‘Think not what your country can do for you but rather what you can do for your country.’ All our minds and hearts need stretching. A nod to the God element would enlarge our view of life!
I think we need much more real religion and real faith back and not less. Now if our Ad Limina travellers floated away from the weight of problems and smashed open some dreams; even Francis might be shocked and delighted. I think it is a time to be bold and brave. The Church is too defensive and fearful. We need to start shouting and laughing and to let people know that we thoroughly enjoy what we have and to make everyone jealous. Our God is very big.
Seamus Ahearne osa

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  1. Lloyd Allan MacPherson says:

    An agenda : step one – green the planet. Make energy collection so readily available that a solar grid is as common as a household television. When this happens and people break away from oil and coal aka: monopolistic fossil fuel power generation, the autonomy they begin to experience will push a generation towards community farming and local agriculture cooperatives. Give them energy and they will make food for themselves. When society started to provide for us, things got disconnected.
    The simplistic notions of Facebook and Twitter is where the
    Spirit communicates – the Internet in general is responsible for this. “Please get off the internet and live a more abundant life.” could easily be “Spend time on the internet looking for examples of people living a more abundant life.” There are new models taking shape which means there is less of a risk to take when the courage is found to embrace something new.
    The internet has helped the world become a smaller place. Because of this advent in communication, we now know of the true ills of society and who is responsible. It also gives those of us out there who are looking to communicate with 1.2bn people at least some sort of hope. Where would “Laudato si” be without the internet? In the hands of priests who, for the majority, have been silent. God bless the internet and all its nonsensical distractions. Many of us have been distracted by it in the best of ways.
    It’s high time to move “Laudato ‘si” into a “Loud Odyssey”.

  2. Donal Dorr says:

    Wonderfully nourishing, inspiring and challenging. Thank you, Seamus.

  3. Sandra Mc Sheaffrey says:

    Seamus, as ever, an inspiration. Imagine if all the fingers were thinking! Thank you.4M4E

  4. An unmentionable says:

    “Our God is very big”.
    Is that the patriarchal god who can only be represented sacramentally by one (male)gender,and who can only be addressed in the masculine?Rather limited and limiting….Certainly not worth making a song and dance,and as for making other people jealous ….

  5. Joe Walsh says:

    Seamus Ahearne is always a good read. It has occurred to me after spending almost 40 years in the USA that people in high places still view Christianity as a religion coloured by dogmas, laws and procedures. Our bishops need to promote the faith more in terms of where people are at – of relationship(s) and a loving way of facilitating life and service in abundance. Seamus shared a few lovely warm stories in this respect. A visit from Francis might help. Gerhard Lohfink in his ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ sees the call to follow Jesus as a call to relationships (ch.5). As for Donald Trump, ‘melius est silere quam loqui’!

  6. Tony Livesey says:

    Age and nine digits (in this digital age) doesn’t limit him, does it? Always a pleasure and a challenge … long may you continue, and we will see you in Dublin this year (is it really warmer than Skye?) Love..

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