The Churches Open Up:
The Churches opened on Monday. The usual suspects arrived. The old codgers came, with a few daring young ones, diluting the mix. The lot were fairly docile and obeyed all guidelines. They even sat as directed. But nothing had cured their cheek. The arguments, banter, hilarity, humour started immediately. Some were giddy. Others were ecstatic. Mostly everyone wanted a little taste of normality. They immersed themselves in the Mass; listened to the Readings; shared their stories. It felt good to see the bold faces and to tease the ones, with the long and unruly colourful hair. The tickets (for access to Mass) were collected for the weekend. There wasn’t a great rush. A number of the daily people decided to leave tickets free, for those who can’t come during the week. It was important to hear that those who were fearful of venturing out; had the inner freedom to be content with themselves, to stay away.
We have a Government. The Greens surprised many of us. They abandoned their certainties! The Taoiseach and Ministers have received their portfolios. The Juniors have been appointed. There were groans and sulks from those missing out. Or the few who felt aggrieved at being passed over for a Senior Post. My political naivety surfaced. I cannot accept this gender and geography argument. Government is a national business not a sectional interest. I am stupid enough to believe that composite talent and ability is what is needed in these calamitous times. ‘What can I do for my own?’ (Constituency and future election prospects) is a disastrous outlook. It reminded me of Tony Gregory and Jackie Healey-Rae and such like shenanigans. I remembered the local chaos when our own politicians here, lost us a Primary Care Unit, because they got caught in a squabble, wanting the facility in their own back yards. And yet sometimes I hear those same local Reps speaking on the airwaves, full of indignation at what others are doing or not.
We have the dawning of a hint of normality with the opening up of life. There is some light and some hope and some fear. There has to be fear. Basic respect for each other is essential. This virus is dangerous. We can’t become familiar and casual. Those recent months were very strange. The reality of old age has been shocking. The notion of high risk, has been telling. Retirement has come at some of us, at an unlikely pace. Church personnel will change rapidly. Who is now available under this new dispensation? How we do things has become very different.
The staffing of parishes with priests, is impossible if we try to do it as we always did. Many decisions that should have been taken years ago in terms of planning, are now being forced on us. Our mentality has to change drastically. People have got used to ‘shopping around’ for Masses. They may have got a glimpse of something different. They may want more. They might even have got to like, being in control of what they watch and how they take part. There is a brainstorming necessary in every parish; in every diocese; in every Religious Congregation. It isn’t only about the guidelines and all the practical details of our new lives (that too) but the more difficult issues – of what kind of Church; faith community; worship; priesthood – we have to create.
Until Covid 19, I would never have allowed myself the chance to spend almost two hours a day walking. I couldn’t afford the time. There was always too much to do. Life was an unfinished symphony. The music of every day took over. And then there was nothing! As I have said before, the Peter’s Principle obtained. Life became very busy. But I always got out walking.
The early morning trip stirred the juices. It was an appetiser for the day. The palate was sensitised. The spirit woke up. The mind noticed. The blessedness of every day whispered. The air spoke. The birds said hello. My friends, the herons, played hide and seek. They hid and I sought. The ducks went on their merry way.
The camaraderie of the walkers, greeted. The dogs ran free. It was prayerful in the better sense. The day began well and continued as it began. Later walks around the school coaxed the joints to be loose. Reflection imposed itself.
We met yesterday morning after 9. We were recording for the last time (Facebook). It was a long session. Much of the work will be done later. But it was a lovely inspirational time together. The singing and participation was very moving. We cannot grasp how so many are now tuning into Facebook for Mass. It is a new language and a new world. We had never bothered to link up with the internet for our Masses previously. We didn’t believe that too many would want to watch / listen / participate in this way. We didn’t believe either than the fixed camera made much sense. It was too rigid.
Our Masses are very involved. Our people take part in everything. There is a sharing. There is an experience of a thriving, teasing, tormenting Community of faith. There is spontaneity. No camera could catch that. However with the Production Team who volunteered their expertise to us – we saw that something of that could be captured. And it was. The importance of PowerPoint and Mime was grafted in, which made everything coherent and seamless. Yesterday’s recording was special. We could have some of the usual people present. We didn’t have to segment the Mass as we had to, previously. It was a good day. We will adjust our thinking to a new way of being, as we consider a new way forward. There is no option.
Disconnected and unrelated:
I hear that the puffins on the isle of Skye are being funded by the Lottery. The Greens will be ever so pleased. I was very happy to see the youngsters out training in the park, from Erin’s Isle. Pope Francis was quoted during the week as unhappy with murmurers. He felt that complainers were quite a pain and he ventured to say that constant murmurers, disfigure the Christian person and the Body of Christ. During these recent months, I was taken aback at my own inability to read very much.
However, I was taken into the past, by the article in The Tablet on Slant and all its characters. I noticed too that a very famous Augustinian historian was mentioned that I had never heard of.
Sean McDonagh wrote powerfully of how the carelessness of humanity leads to such as Covid 19 and promises more to come.
My little pal Indi is now 14 weeks old. She still rings me every night. She comes on video phone on WhatsApp. She told me that she had gone down country last week. The fresh air near the Blackwater made her very sleepy; she slept for ten yours. She is clearly rearing herself. She doesn’t need any rearing by her parents. She wants to list off every night what she has seen for the first time. She tells me that adults are very foolish; they see very little and don’t notice all the lovely surprises of every day. She delights in the blessed revelations of every new day.
Seamus Ahearne osa