Clive James has died. He coloured in his final years with his amusing literary twists of irony. Jonathan Millar has died. He was a polymath; a renaissance man. Both men were wicked and wild and wonderful. I can’t give an obvious reason – Bernard Levin also comes to mind. I loved his freedom of expression and his flights of fancy. On Religious matters, I still miss John Harriot and Peter Hebblethwaite (The Tablet). They exuded that beauty in the music of language. They were expansive. Michael Rodgers (Kiltegan) has just written a book from his home at Glendalough and it purrs with excitement at the God who speaks through the landscape and the whispers of love and life in his Garden of Eden. It is very moving. (A Way for the Pilgrims, in Glendalough).
Writers. Musicians. Poets. Artists. They have the curiosity to be in awe of the world about them. If they are awake. People of faith, are graced in the same way. We cannot be religious unless we are alive. We cannot celebrate God unless we are constantly lost for words. We cannot dare to expound on faith unless the shoes are taken off; the head is bowed; the heart oozes gratitude. Our Liturgy can never be suffocated in miserable language. There has to be space for God to breathe. The kiss of life has to happen. We are always short of real breath and that kiss. How could anyone ever glory in static faith or rigid liturgy? It is heretical.
The king and I:
Last weekend, we had an unusual conversation at 12 o’clock Mass. Christ the King was celebrated. We got lost in a chat on ‘Strictly come dancing.’ (BBC 1). Somehow the crowd were very conversant with ‘Strictly.’ I had only seen it the night before. My first and only time. I was intrigued with the brilliance of the dancers. These supposedly (most of them) had never danced before. Now the ‘gush’ of the programme was most off- putting. Everyone was having ‘the best time of my life.’ The observations were littered with ‘darlings.’ Bruno was prancing around full of positive and glowing remarks. Craig was always negative with a dreary face. Shirley and Motsi were soft and kindly but exact. The link people were caught up in ‘sweethearts’.
Some of the crowd at Mass, were wondering would they get a ten for the dance of their lives and their days! They agreed that the stories rattling around from memories of the dead and the history in our Parish would merit a ten. Surely Christ the King is better feasted without the Royalty! It was the ‘present’ of his life. It is the present of our life and our day and our history to God. It was/is the humble acknowledgement of God as the one who has given us everything. We are marked out of ten – for our musicality; our dancing ability; our timing; our performance. (During the Prayers of the faithful time – one man prayed that he could do better in life and aim for a 10).
Reminiscing on what we have received:
I think Clive, Jonathan, John, Peter, Bernard, Michael (and many more), deserve a 10 for the breadth of their observations. They lifted hearts. They expanded our understanding of life. They led us into wonderment. Their dance continues. Our own dancing goes on. We have to stretch the muscles of our minds and hearts. We have to be attuned to the music of life. This is Godly. The ‘Strictly’ dancers never danced before. But they did it. I couldn’t grasp why no-one fell over. I almost felt it should have happened. There is also success in failure. It was extraordinary what can be achieved by anyone and everyone. The business in faith then (Parish) is – bring out the best in everyone. Help each other to discover what is possible. There are no ‘limits.’ We can do anything and everything if we are believers.
Seamus Ahearne osa
I’d give you a ten every time Seamus, Thanks for keeping us alive!
About 58 years ago I was a bit of a fan of Fulton J Sheen. His ‘Life of Christ’ was a break from Daniel-Rops, Thomas a Kempis or even Thomas Merton, at least to fill the daily half hour of ‘Spiritual Reading’ as two hundred of us sat cheek by jowl in Maynooth’s Junior Chapel. But now, to invert a recent Seamus phrase, it seems the halo has gone off the Sheen even before his beatification. Now that an at least temporary spanner in the works has been thrown by a few of his not quite contemporary American episcopal counterparts, we’ll have to wait to discover why the delay. Could it be that the last-minute spanner throwers were once youthful fans of Cardinal Spellman, who had a long-running feud with his New York Auxiliary Sheen in the 1950s-’60s? Or do some bishops think Sheen was just too much of a showman to be a canonised saint, a televangelist avant la lettre ?
They stared at him a long moment,
then one of them said, Where do you live?
He tilted his head, gesturing:
Coma and see…
So they left their nets and followed him… Him.
Jesus. The Galilean. The Nazarene.
The one who ate and drank and broke bread with sinners…
Looking back now at years of Friary life the emphasis on
the recitation of the Divine Office was a mistake –
or at least out of proportion…
In Latin at a goodly pace – no time to pause, reflect, really pray.
The emphasis on obligation – “get it said…”
As such it was tantamount to lip service.
What should have been primary was relegated to secondary.
The company of Jesus – his friendship, fellowship –
cultivated daily by deep, personal prayer in the privacy
of one’s own space – that is what is – and always will be –
of the utmost importance.
Words?.. A few… maybe… sometimes… An awareness of Presence… sometimes… When you look up from the passage in the New Testament
you are reading to find someone – Someone – beckoning:
“Come and see…”
@2 above. My speculation as to the delay in Fulton Sheen’s planned beatification was just that – speculation. I haven’t been following Sheen’s posthumous career through US courts over the past several years, or the tussles about where he should be buried – St Patrick’s New York where he served with Spellman till Spellman shifted him to Rochester or Peoria Illinois where he was born and ordained in 1919, and where since June he has been re-entombed. Now the present bishop of Rochester has put in his oar and Rome has postponed all the jollies indefinitely. I thought I was being a bit fanciful in my earlier speculation – but, really, mediaeval tussles over venues for relics rights and pilgrimage premiums couldn’t hold a candle to the shenanigans that beatification and canonisation entail.
It’s good to appreciate outstanding characters.
Many are recognised publicly.
It’s just as important to appreciate – and express appreciation for – those whose character is not recognised: people like those Jean Vanier loved and served and learned so much from. People who do not contribute to the marketplace or the national economy, but whose contribution cannot be stated in such terms.
Pádraig, that’s one of the great lessons of Pope Francis.
Here in Japan he was totally present to everyone whose hand he shook — in accord with the Japanese saying ichigo ichie https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ichi-go_ichi-e
Of course every handshake was important since the recipient remembers for life. (Someone who shook John Paul II’s hand three times complained that he was always looking to the next person.)
It’s ironical that the papal encounter with Japan was a joyful success whereas his Irish visit was so downbeat. Watch him beaming here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5XLSYSkZ6hc
Joe@6, JPII certainly wasn’t looking at the next in line when he wagged his finger in the face of Nicaragua’s Minister of Education, Fernando Cardenal SJ – unless perhaps his brother Ernesto Cardenal SJ, Minister of Culture, was next in the queue. Good that Francisco SJ lifted all JPII’s suspensions from Ernesto in his mid-90s. But then Francis has other cardenales to deal with.