Priesthood and Vocations: Seamus Ahearne

Ollie Brogan (ESB International ) said: The Irish are welcome everywhere – because of the great work done by the Missionaries. ‘ Should we employ him as our PR person?
A journalist was on the phone. She was writing an article on Vocations for the Sunday Independent. I have no idea what reached the paper but the questions she raised are rather important. She stirred up the ‘mulach’ in my psyche. The easy comment made by many presently is that we should do something about Vocations. I am not convinced that we should. We hardly want people to prop up the present system. We need change. The Gospel deserves a response from us today. A reformed Church is essential. This isn’t because of the apologetic attitude we sometimes adopt as Church: We almost feel we should apologise for our existence. We cannot allow anyone to let us forget the legacy of goodness, grace and faith we have inherited. But change, we must. I would prefer to fight for the wonder of God among us and show self- belief in ourselves as Church. The Church of today is not fit for purpose (has got stodgy and geriatric). Let’s try out a new version. I like the programme (when I can see it) ‘Grand Designs.’ I see our attempts to imaginatively create the future as something along those lines. We have an idea. We have a dream. We love what we do. We delight in the God among us. We want to do it better and differently and yet we look at what is ageing and dying around us. We look at the mirror and see ourselves. We are tired. We have no children. The future looks bleak. We are battered by dismissive comments. We sometimes want to hide and hope things will go away. Was it last week or so – Brendan Smyth reappeared? Was it last week Richard Burke appeared? Was it last week – Josef Wesolowski (former nuncio) went on trial at the Vatican?
Very few are now joining Priesthood or Religious life.. There is no take up in numbers. We cannot replace those who are retiring/dying. There are problems. Very few see this way of life as attractive. Many would also reject the celibacy attached to it as a distorted understanding of sexuality which is clearly right. But primarily we have changed as a society. The culture has changed. The religious sentiment of society has totally changed. In our time (60s), it was the very air we breathed. God made sense of life. We were God- centred. In fact many relationships happened around the community of Church life. People met. People went to youth groups. People took part in Church life. The Church was the cat-walk where the latest style went on display and beauty was discovered! The Church/Parish and the GAA were married together. Culture and faith coincided.
Now Church/Religion is very unfashionable. Many have lost the sense of God. Some are totally disinterested. Those who attend church – do so for the matching, hatching and dispatching (events). Church has become event-based. People attend but the events mean little enough. (I wryly look at the numbers who barely make it inside the door or those who lurk outside for Weddings and Funerals). There is no personal attachment to God or Church or Christ. The language doesn’t make contact with the life-experience of many. I seldom meet people who are anti-church but rather find that it is irrelevant. God hardly enters their minds (‘God is missing but not missed’). Many families would frown (actually would be apoplectic!) at the idea of a young person (in the family) joining up or even hinting at looking to Religious life or priesthood as a life choice.
There is a further problem. Some who now do join come from a very conservative background. They are a throwback to a very distant past and a very dead past. Some like dressing up or even find refuge in the Latin Mass etc. Others are very fundamentalist. (Is there any sociological connection with how the young are radicalised in Islam??) The accoutrements of office seem mesmerising. It frightens many of us. However, there should be room for all kinds of people but there is also a concern. The Real Presence isn’t about Adoration. Mass isn’t about smoke and Latin and vestments. Liturgy and Eucharist lives in the clay of life. It isn’t a detached Celebration. My concern and the concern of many is this: Can such people cope with the reality of life in the long term?
What now? Anyone who has an interest in joining the priesthood/religious life, has to be very robust; full of creativity and imagination. There is no room for anyone who has rigid or fixed views. Survival would be difficult. It is something similar to ‘making love’ which is wonderful but the living together and rearing a family where ‘love has to be made’ every moment of every day may not be as enjoyable. The life of a professional Christian is the same. The Vocation idea is beautiful but the routine may be less attractive. The God of life and the God of the incarnation has to find root in the world of today. No question is too big for God and can’t be too big for us. God becomes flesh in every new day. God doesn’t belong to the past. Flexibility is essential and real maturity has to go hand in hand. Otherwise some can end up cynical, embittered, lonely, saddened, or even addicted.
Many of us in priesthood/religious life almost despair when we see young people embracing the past.(A desire for security of structure is utterly understandable but faith isn’t about insurance). Pope Francis has been the hope for many of us. This is a new world. This is a new era. The Gospel has to be lived now. Only people who are strong and full of humanity and humour need apply. Otherwise they won’t survive. Society is changing too rapidly – therefore all of us have to be at ease and at home in the life and world of today. Otherwise ‘disease’ seeps in.
Furthermore – the whole concept of priesthood/religious life has to change. This isn’t just a challenge arriving out of necessity but God speaks to us in our needs. Celibacy is not necessary for priesthood. Many will argue for a priesthood where married men are ordained. (Even the few stray bishops – usually retired ones: Crispian Hollis, Thomas McMahon, John Crowley who speak more openly in their retirement – plus our own active bishop Leo O Reilly) Some will argue for a female priesthood. Primarily, priesthood is about ‘creating order’ or being ‘a leader.’ The present make-up of parish life and Diocesan life is not appropriate for the needs of today and therefore disrespects the Gospel.
The life of a priest is wonderful. The demands are relentless. The challenges are fulsome and daily. We have to help make sense of our world and our problems; we have to learn a new language every day as we face the issues of each day. We have to be strong to cope with the dismissal by many of what we stand for. We have to be maps and signposts for God. We need to be poets and artists in our lives. The ‘burning bush’ is everywhere and unless we ‘take off our shoes’ the mystery will be lost in the prose of the day. Barack Obama caught that in Charleston, S Carolina with his homily/eulogy. His theology of grace was awesome.
I was in the Surgery during the week. The Receptionist said to me: “I was thinking about you over there for the past week. You have had it very tough.” I smiled. Did we have it tough? Those who were shattered by life had it tough. We had distance. We were coordinators, managers and helpers. A young man of 16 was killed on the road. A young mother with children-in-care died. We acted as mediators and monitors for access (parental). Drugs/Drink and the fall out was an everyday task. The painful aftermath of murders went on and goes on. The unresolved trauma of suicide continues. Addiction. Sickness (cancer attacks many). School appointments and the protocols. Labour issues. Administration. Writing letters to the Courts. Juggling time and attempting to balance the important with the less important. Accounts. Marriages. But the real issue always is: the relentlessness of everyday demands. The impossibility of doing what needs attention like following up on the bereaved; getting to the homes and hospitals; catching up on people. It never ends. The endless preparation; speaking, leading of Liturgies. Another Mass? Another funeral? The phones and doors and e-mails and meetings. Can those who love the cosmetic stuff handle the mess of the ordinary? I believe the ordinary is the incarnation. Even though we still have to accept the stupidity of ignorant people who tried to destroy our liturgy with Latinised English. How can those who inflict such nonsense on us know anything of the incarnation? These people add to the work load. Will the museum recruits always find contentment and attraction in the ornate or be damaged by the realities of life? How can they be toughened up?
The core issue always is – the sacredness of the ordinary; the faith experience of the unlearned; the real and living Scripture which doesn’t get caught up in pedantry; the Sacraments that are grafted onto the lived experience of people. How I wish the ‘interested ones’ might read a little of Paudie Moloughney (website ACP on his funeral) (and his ilk) and maybe then find the strange ways of the real life that is ministry. The Rhetoric of the holy (and immediate) plus the aura of holiness may be the attraction but it is the management of the usual (and the God in the bits and pieces of everyday life: P Kavanagh) which matters. How often the noisy politicians find the same truth pace the Greek anti-austerity people! Faith, Religion and God can be very attractive in the moment but it is the long term that matters. The hard slog and the stamina is where God lives – there is grace.
Young Paulie was hit by a car and died. He was 16. The youngsters held a vigil for most of the week around the lamp post – the scene of the accident. They decorated the place. They stayed night and day. And the girls arrived at the funeral wearing tee-shirts with his photo on it. The boys wore white shirts and black ties. The place was totally packed. They were most respectful. They went to the Grave. The boys threw in their ties as part of their Ritual. They later did a mural near where he had lived and made a shrine. In that Shrine was a statue of Our Lady and Rosary beads. They have their Rituals. They borrow from our Rituals. Somehow we have to meet them along their road. If we are slaves to the words in our own Ritual books which are grandiose but caught up in jargon we won’t relate to anyone or any occasion. Grand Designs is what we are all trying to do. This is our Dream House. If vocations come; we had better ensure that they don’t come to create a God that many of us don’t want to know; a Church that many of us don’t believe in. In the recent past, in the tragedies of Berkeley, Tunisia, Glasgow et alia – God folk did bring something more and different to the moments. The ‘professionals’ now needed are those who can make connections with real life. These are some ideas that came to mind as I listened to that journalist Claire.
Seamus Ahearne osa (Finglas South).

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  1. Joe O'Leary says:

    Powerful writing. The bright spot is the imaginative religiosity of the young — and we should do all we can to share with them the treasures of Scripture and tradition without any attempt to dragoon them into decrepit routines. There is a huge failure of communication above all. It’s not that God or the Gospel are lacking in power to enlighten and save, it’s that our worry about inherited conventions has tied us up in knots.

  2. Great piece, once again, Seamus. I must try and remember and store away for future reference what “the core issue always is-……”
    “The core issue always is – the sacredness of the ordinary; the faith experience of the unlearned; the real and living Scripture which doesn’t get caught up in pedantry; the Sacraments that are grafted onto the lived experience of people.”
    I hope things are becoming less tough for you as the weeks and months pass.

  3. Mary Vallely says:

    I agree with Joe O’Leary. Wonderful writing, stirring words and I would share Seamus’ concern about the calibre of new applicants to the priesthood. ‘Liturgy and Eucharist lives in the clay of life’ so they need those qualities Seamus talks about, of humour and humanity, imagination, creativity and flexibility.
    “We have to be maps and signposts for God.” Surely that applies to all of us, not just the ordained? I like his thinking here, the exploration of possibilities and it is partly the fear of the unknown, the untried that holds us back. I’d love to hear practical ideas rising out of these thoughts of Seamus. “The God of life and the God of the incarnation has to find root in the world of today.” I love the emphasis on the sacredness of the ordinary. To a certain extent we have lost our sense of awe, our sense of wonder… well, we are reminded of it in writing such as this. Thank you, Seamus, for the reminder. Food for thought, for discussion a plenty here. Tabhair aire duit féin. 🙂

  4. I concur Father O’Leary….tis powerful writing…and faith ought not to be about the religion…but…about Jesus Christ… and making the connections about Christ to every day life and ordinary people…

  5. Des Gilroy says:

    A very powerful and relevant analysis of the current state of the institutional church which should be placed before our bishops as an agenda item to be meditated and prayed on. To survive, every organisation needs to attract fresh blood and the church has failed dismally in this regard despite been given the opportunity in so-called Catholic schools to infuse in the youth a knowledge and awareness of the beauty and relevance of Christs’ message. And as Seamus Ahearne notes – it mostly comes down to a total failure to communicate. For me, the key lines in his very comprehensive piece are in relation to the total irrelevancy of church rituals to the young. To quote Seamus – “They have their Rituals. They borrow from our Rituals. Somehow we have to meet them along their road. If we are slaves to the words in our own Ritual books which are grandiose but caught up in jargon we won’t relate to anyone or any occasion”
    Our young people are not interested in or impressed by the archaic rituals and non-communicative language the institutional church imposes on congregations today and I doubt that Christ is either.

  6. Joe O'Leary says:

    I suspect that many clergy are spiritually depleted and cynical. In that case we should bow to the spiritual energies of youth, and put our “expertise” at their service. Be “facilitators” in other words.

  7. .
    Ordination and Marriage; Exclusive options?
    Forgive the length of this comment
    Last weekend, the Tablet covered one story extensively, the issue of married priests in the Western Latin Rite.
    The debate had been sparked the previous week by the publication of a letter under the signature of +Crispian Hollis, the Emeritus bishop of the diocese of Portsmouth. In his letter
    July 4th, he made it clear that circumstances demand a re-examination of the discipline of celibacy as a condition of acceptance for ordination. “A church that cannot celebrate the sacraments for the people of God can scarcely be the Church that Christ founded”
    Now this week, two more retired bishops, Thomas McMahon, emeritus bishop of Brentwood and John Crowley, emeritus bishop of Middlesbrough, have had letters published in support of Crispian Hollis. The Tablet editorial and two articles, together with a further half a dozen letters ensure that the issue remains on the table.
    I cannot help feeling that we are nearing a tipping point. It is now that the laity need support the ordained and make clear that the matter is of some urgency and requires examination by a commission on behalf the Church in England and Wales. The case has already been made by +Leo O’Reilly bishop of Kilmore in the Republic of Ireland, for the Irish hierarchy to set up such a commission. We can do nothing less. At this stage, asking the pertinent questions, developing issues that must be addressed, realising the needs of the people is the least we can expect.
    What we now need is for a number of serving bishops to publicly state their support for the case, rather than leaving it to those who have relinquished responsibility for their diocesan community. + Crowley writes in his letter this week that when he, some ten years ago, said that we need both celibate and married priests…”That article earned me a ‘ticking off’ from Rome and I was reminded that for a bishop to advance such views in public was unwise and unhelpful” That’s how we did things then, stifled informed conversation; that must no longer be an acceptable way of undertaking our discussions.
    In the article towards the end of the Tablet- ‘Calls grow from bishops to ordain married men’ – Cardinal Vincent Nichols is quoted as saying that he did not see it as a “pressing issue” which is a pity. If the need of our communities for the Eucharist is not a pressing issue then I wonder what is.
    We have the experience in England to walk this path, for with so many married men, originally ordained in the Anglican Church and now serving as ordained priests in the Catholic Church, we have already some understanding of the argument.
    With the Year of Mercy at hand, what more merciful action would there be than an offer to welcome back to ministry those who reluctantly left to marry, some of whom would still be willing to return?
    It is time that bishops’ conferences exercised responsibility to their people and began planning now how such a change in circumstances might proceed. We lose nothing by talking round a table of Christian charity; we lose a great deal by pretending the problem will quietly go away. That way we will be left with a crisis and little time to solve it.
    As usual, Seamus writes with clarity and sincerity. we value his words

  8. Noel Casey says:

    ‘Many have lost the sense of God. Some are totally disinterested.’
    Perhaps, but Berkeley gave me at least a reason for not being so pessimistic and downhearted.
    Six of our young people died tragically. Catholic priests and church authorities, both at home and in California, found themselves called upon to support and grieve with relatives and friends, to open their churches for liturgies, funeral Masses and simply as meeting places, in the case of those in California, for distracted and distressed people far from home. They freely gave of their service, as would be expected, but what struck me was the deeply felt need, on the part of so many young people and their families, for the service they were offering.
    And I wasn’t the only one to be struck by the centrality of the Church, its priests and its rituals to these sad days. On Wednesday, June 24, Kathy Sheridan in The Irish Times drew attention to ‘the soft Banbridge accent’ (that of Fr. Aidan McAleenan, pastor of San Francisco’s St. Columba’s parish) which became ‘the accidental voice of a broken Irish community’ 8,000 kilometres away from home. And she commented: ‘Observing the rituals of these weeks and many other weeks, it seems there is something there that speaks to us in times of trial and of joy.’ And in The Irish Times of Saturday, June 27, David Lally, reflecting on his attendance at a memorial service in St. Brigid’s Church in San Diego for those who had died, referred to ‘the Irish priest reflecting on the devastation with tact and humour’.
    Maybe part of the ‘reality check’ called for by Archbishop Martin should take this, and I advisedly call it, ‘extraordinary’ phenomenon into account, in an attempt to find ‘the full truth about ourselves as a nation’ (to quote Kathy Sheridan). All is far from lost.
    I might add something from my own experience, in a somewhat different context. I recently attended The Leaving Certificate Graduation Mass in my onetime place of work. Students were free to attend or not; everyone attended. I remember, when I taught religion there, being very mod and having a vote as to whether the class wanted a Mass to celebrate their finishing with secondary school; again, all wanted a Mass.
    Finally, I would hope that all celebrants of funeral Masses (and baptisms and weddings too) are aware that the liturgy is the best form of sermon, the best opportunity to catechise. On these occasions you have large numbers of people who rarely find themselves in a church. Give them all you’ve got!

  9. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Thank you, Seamus, for another down to earth but inspiring piece. Like Mary@3, many of us would share your concern over some of the very conservative and very fundamentalist new apprentices to priesthood. At the annual reunion of about two dozen of our Vatican II Maynooth class just over a month ago in Clogher’s Enniskillen, a priest classmate from “a Southern Archdiocese” told a few of us over breakfast of an encounter with a fairly recently ordained priesteen from “a Northern Archdiocese”. The young man assured our friend, quite unabashedly, that our generation had ruined the Church but that his was here to save it. The cheek of the young brat! There indeed but for the grace of God goes God.
    Thanks, too, to Chris for his comment@7, and for his Tablet article, “Why necessity must be the father of invention”. It does seem as if we are near the tipping point, as he says. Perhaps it’s not just a matter of striking while the iron is hot (while Pope Francis is in office) but of bishops, priests and laity making the iron hot by striking.
    My own offering to The Tablet letters this week, which may not see the light of day:
    “Ordain Married Men
    “We might be forgiven for thinking that a bishop on assuming ’emeritus’ status is thereby endowed with a special sacramental grace of enhanced wisdom, courage and even prophecy not available to him while in harness. A growing slate of retired English and Irish bishops, including one post-80 cardinal, may have little to lose in calling for some married ‘viri probati’ to be accepted for ordination. All the more laudable, then, are serving bishops such as Bishops Burns and Cunningham who raise their voices, but especially Bishop Leo O’Reilly of Kilmore who has listened to his diocese and, no doubt, to Pope Francis, before taking the practical step of bringing the twin questions of married male priests and women deacons to his colleagues in the Conference of Irish Bishops.
    “Of course, while still serving, Bishop Willie Walsh (Killaloe) aired the hotter twin questions of married priests and women priests ten years ago during Pope Benedict’s first year; as did Bishop Brendan Comiskey (Ferns) over twenty years ago when Pope St John Paul was still fairly fit and well, Cardinal Ratzinger at the CDF even fitter, and the saintly Basil Hume was preparing to ordain at least ten married Anglican priests for Westminster. But today Basil Hume’s successor here in Westminster does not see the ordination of married men as a ‘pressing issue’. Or perhaps even as an issue for the Catholic press! “

  10. Eddie@9 “The young man assured our friend, quite unabashedly, that our generation had ruined the Church but that his was here to save it.”
    Hard to take, but life will knock the corners off our young friend in due course, (as it does to us all I suppose). The tragedy here however is the damage his position can allow him to do in the meantime, both to himself and others.

  11. Maybe Fr Seamus should give consideration to why young priests and religious are “conservative” instead of pathologising them? Maybe the answers of the 60s and 70s are now old hat. We must move with the times and be open to where the Spirit is leading us and try not to remain in the beliefs in which we found comfort in the 60s and 70s.
    After all young priests and seminarians have intimate experience of growing up in a more secularised Ireland. Maybe both sides could learn from each other?

  12. Noel Casey @8: “I would hope all celebrants of funeral Masses … are aware that the liturgy is the best form of sermon, the best opportunity to catechise”. Here’s the irony that I see; although it is true that on these ocassions you have large numbers of people who rarely find themselves in a church, at least in the United States the celebrant keeps them at arms length by forcefully announcing that the reception of communion is restricted only to those Catholics who are in good standing. Give them all you’ve got but don’t allow them to participate fully? Their isolation from true communion with all present may be considered necessary but it certainly cuts into the opportunity to catechise.

  13. John O'Connell says:

    Well done Seamus

  14. Seamus Ahearne osa says:

    Re Newmann @ 12
    A good friend of mine, (a bishop) wrote some words recently for Corpus Christi. He asked me for my comments. I replied – ‘you cannot write about the Eucharist without recalling your own mother and your own home. Her door was always open. Her Table was always ready. Everyone was welcome for food. The cooking never stopped. All were fed – Catholic, Protestant, no Religion. The tea and the fries were on the Table immediately. The hospitality was warm and wholesome. The banter and the chatter was Communion. And this happened in some of the darkest days in N Ireland and in that Street which was a really black spot and dangerous. If this wasn’t Godly; nothing ever could be. This was Eucharist. The Communion Celebrated in that home was awesome – and this was every day. Now write about the Godliness of that Table and then the Feast will be Celebrated.’
    At every Funeral and every Wedding, I say something like this: ‘Not many are church-going these days. But if you believe that Christ is present in a very special way around this person or these people on this occasion; come to Communion.’ This matters deeply to all. Communion/Eucharist is not a reward. It is not sweeties for being good. This is a shared Table where all are welcome- the broken and the healthy. This is the Burning Bush. This is where we take off our shoes. This is home and family. No-one is an outsider to this privilege. We are all at home at our family Table which is a summary of all our Tables where life is shared; where we are fed and feed. And God is with us. (Seamus)

  15. Chris McDonnell says:

    I posted this on another website a few weeks ago. It reflects the open caring that Seamus shows in his comment.
    “The sharing of the Eucharist in the early Church involved the gathering of the people for the eating of a meal. It was essentially an occasion of food and drink, nourishment for the journey. It was a small occasion for a few people together in somebody’s house, an action in which all took part. The loss of this experience, the detachment of Eucharist from the place of the meal within the community, has in so many ways diminished our experience and understanding of what we are about.
    In our troubled world, images of refugees waiting in line for food have become all too familiar. They have a shared need, their hunger, and a shared satisfaction in receiving food, sustenance. We do not stop to ask too many questions, the need is perceived and that over-rides everything”.
    So too the Eucharist

  16. Eddie @9
    I had been using the term “whippersnapper” to describe a member of the Order of Preachers who had a very rude encounter on Twitter with Tony Flannery some time back.
    Now that I see your comment I realise that “prieshteen” (scuse the West of Ireland intonation) was really the term I was looking for.
    Many thanks.

  17. Prodigal Son says:

    Combining two ideas in the article helps to approach the problem addressed. First “The ‘burning bush’ is everywhere and unless we ‘take off our shoes’ the mystery will be lost in the prose of the day.” Second the mention of “Grand Designs.”
    The day of the Burning Bush started out like any other for Moses. He expected nothing out of the ordinary to break the monotony of tending sheep. After forty years of sheep tending (cf. Acts 7:30) life had become all too predictable. Post-modern theorists would ascribe a “meta-narrative” to him based on all the little “stories” going on in his head that stood in for all the messy facts of life and to which people tend to reduce all the said messy facts that come their way. Meta-narratives are preferred because they’re simple, they don’t confuse, and by means of them people can gain a certain sense of control over a confusing and complex world.
    Little did Moses know the Grand Design that would begin that day. The Grand Design was God’s, a design that left Moses struggling in disbelief, and pleading “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?”
    The God of the burning bush is a God who commissions people to participate in His purposes. Forty years earlier, Moses had assumed authority which had not yet been given him. He has selected those facts that supported preconceived narratives and eliminated or ignored other facts more important to the total picture. Reality can be replaced by meta-narrative. Reality is grand and complex; our minds tend to be rather small and our experiences limited. Our meta-narratives invariably spawn solutions. Now, at age 80, when God commissions him to deliver the Israelites, he is careful not to go off half-cocked again. His questions reflect a caution and a desire to receive a clear commission from God. The Design is God’s and the solution is also His.
    One can contrast this with another suggested solution found in the Bible. In Luke 9, we find that disciples entered a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for Christ. But when James and John saw that the people would not receive him, they said, “Lord, do you want us to bid fire come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. The solution is His.
    Moses finds that the God of the bush is holy (take off your shoes), compassionate and immanent (“I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt). God promises Moses that “I will be with you” as he obeys his calling. What is important is not the instrument in God’s hand, but the One in whose hand the instrument is being held. Moses is to redirect his attention from himself to his God.
    The holiness of God is a significant factor in the exodus. The sins of the Egyptians, of the ambient culture, must be dealt with. In addition, the later possession of the land of Canaan by the Israelites (Exod. 3:8, 17) is a judgment on these peoples for their abominations in the sight of God. Moses was not free to pick and choose from Gods teachings, based on what seemed right to a private conscience formed by the secular cultures around him. It is interesting that the sign which God promises Moses is one that will occur after Moses has acted in faith, rather than before.
    I do not agree with the meta-narrative in this article. I am grateful for Catholicism as it is taught by the Magisterium. But that is not the main issue. The Grand Design is not primarily about our solutions but about God. God is Truth and cannot be divided into categories of “conservative” and “liberal.” Both sides probably talk too much, and repetitiously about solutions. It’s akin to telling the doctor what to prescribe. It’s about “taking off our shoes” in order to understand the Grand Design.

  18. Re Seamus@14, A wonderful, welcoming statement concerning Eucharist. I will certainly save your comments and send them to each and every celebrant that starts the liturgy with an exclusionary admonition. Thanks again.

  19. Seamus @14.
    It was such a joy to read your inspiring article. When you said,the sacredness of the ordinary I began to think of how I spent last Sunday. It was Patron Sunday (Mass followed by the Blessing of the Graves). It was a lovely sunny day, the Mass was packed to capacity,the local choir were magnificent,a lone piper played a hymn,most people went up to receive Communion. My nine year old Grandaughter crept into the seat beside me and said ,I am going up to get Holy Communion with you Granny. After Mass we all walked up to the nearby graveyard for the blessing of the graves. People I hadent seen for ages were all there with their families.I had brought up two folding chairs earlier for myself and my best friend. Our husbands who both died in 2008 four months apart are buried side by side in the graveyard. Both our large families who grew up together were all there with their children. Afterwards in the little Parish Hall there was a cup of tea available for people who had travelled. I heard afterwards that 100 people availed of the offer. I had a meal ready at my house nearby for my family. We had a lovely afternoon,the men,my three sons and my grandaughters boyfriends all looked at the match on T.V.
    The rest of us ,my three daughters,three daughters in law ,and my grandaughters chatted while the smaller children amused themselves elsewhere in the house playing games. There was nothing unusual about this, we do it all the time.
    If only the church were full every Sunday,I love meeting up with the people that I have known for the past 40 years .

  20. Joe O'Leary says:

    I’ve read many statements about “welcoming” people to the Eucharist, but Seamus’s is the most convincing.
    Clergy have nothing to offer except Christ’s “come unto Me”.

  21. roydonovan says:

    Thanks Seamus.
    It frees something deep inside, when you name reality as it is. So few do it as nuanced as you do. There is huge denial about what is really going on. The terrible silence is deafening.
    The Church is a dysfunctional family and risks as you say becoming completely irrelevant to modern people.
    Yet as family systems, addiction studies and others show, is that when we name reality, then we stand some chance of responding in constructive ways.

  22. Máire Ó' Flynn says:

    Thank you Seamus @14. Once again your thoughts and words are truly inspiring and uplifting. I have never heard such a true and beautiful explanation of the Eucharist.

  23. Cornelius Martin says:

    The Catechism says the following regarding reception of the Eucharist:
    1384 The Lord addresses an invitation to us, urging us to receive him in the sacrament of the Eucharist: “Truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” And 1388 It is in keeping with the very meaning of the Eucharist that the faithful, if they have the required dispositions, receive communion when they participate in the Mass. In relation to the dispositions it says:
    1385 To respond to this invitation we must prepare ourselves for so great and so holy a moment. St. Paul urges us to examine our conscience: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning, the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.” (1 Cor 11:27-29.) Anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion. And 1457 Anyone who is aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Holy Communion, even if he experiences deep contrition, without having first received sacramental absolution, unless he has a grave reason for receiving Communion and there is no possibility of going to confession.
    Does this not suggest that there is a broader dimension to the invitation than: “if you believe that Christ is present in a very special way around this person or these people on this occasion; come to Communion.”
    1386 Before so great a sacrament, the faithful can only echo humbly and with ardent faith the words of the Centurion. And 1387 To prepare for worthy reception of this sacrament, the faithful should observe the fast required in their Church. Bodily demeanor (gestures, clothing) ought to convey the respect, solemnity, and joy of this moment when Christ becomes our guest.
    The Eucharist is so great because every Eucharist is the Parousia. In the Divine Liturgy Christ descends to the altar and the assembly ascends to Heaven. Heaven and earth full of God’s glory unite in worship. Through Christ and the Holy Spirit we are enabled to offer to The Father the only thing that totally satisfies Him, His Son, and thus give the highest glory possible to God. “Through Him, with Him etc.”
    Whenever the New Testament speaks of Christ’s coming it speaks of His judgement. For unrepentant sinners the Eucharist is a form of the final coming of Christ; judgement is part of it. “May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins etc.” The Eucharist is the “new covenant in my blood.” As with all divine covenants, consequences follow from infidelity. Hence St Paul’s reminder.
    There is however an unspoken corollary to St Paul’s account. The Eucharist is an invitation to repentance, an invitation to avail of God’s mercy. If Christ’s coming means sickness and death to unrepentant sinners, how much more will His coming mean blessings and health to those who avail of the invitation to repentance and Divine Mercy and worthy reception of the Eucharist?

  24. Máire O'Flynn says:

    The Gospels have numerous accounts of Jesus as He heals, teaches,feeds, comforts or consoles. Where in these accounts do we find Him questioning people about their, gestures, their dress, their worthiness to approaching Him?
    How often do we hear Him say, ” your Faith has saved you”, Get up, take your stretcher and go home”. There are no recriminations in His actions or His words.
    He came that we may have life and He did not exclude anyone, it was His gift to all with no exceptions.
    Unfortunately, it seems, that like the Pharisees in Jesus own day, religion with its rules,rituals,precepts, clericalism,authoritarianism has all but silenced the voice of Jesus and wiped out ( the signs of His Kingdom) His kindness and care for all, especially those in most need.
    Pope Francis, sees the urgency of this reality and invites us, urges us to return,not to the catechism, rituals, or dogma, but to the Joy of the Gospel.
    In Par 97: “Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the Gospel”
    Par 47: “The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak”
    Par 49:” More then by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of being shut up within structures which gives us a false sense of security,within rules which make us harsh judges ,within habits which make us feel safe,while at our door people are starving and Jssus does not tire of saying to us: ‘Give them something to eat’ Mt 6:37″
    Seamus’ OSA, approach seems to be spot on. His dealings,with people, are those of Christ as found in the Gospels and fully endorsed by Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium. That we may go and do likewise.

  25. Martin Harran says:

    Cornelius @23
    Matthew 10:
    9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
    10 And as he sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples.
    11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
    12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.
    13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

  26. Marie, before Jesus heals Jairus’ (who fell at the feet of Jesus) daughter the people laughed at Him (Mark 5: 40). He didn’t just continue to raise the girl but first put them all out.
    Jesus also tells the disciples to shake the dust of their feet (Matthew 10:14). They are therefore told to give a visible sign to people that they are rejected.
    Jesus also tells the parable about the man without wedding clothes who gets thrown out (Matthew 22:13).
    When people reject His teaching on the Eucharist (John 6:66), He doesn’t run after them and tell them something different, He lets them go. Incidentally Jesus was born in the Bethlehem, the house of bread.
    In Luke 17:17 Jesus asks where are the other nine lepers who were healed. Only one came back after being healed, threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked Him.
    Of course my interpretations are just that, my interpretations. I’ve got to rely on the teaching authority of the church. I’ve misunderstood things often enough before.

  27. Don’t know why I called you Marie instead of Máire.

  28. Niall Byrne says:

    Re Seamus @14, thankfully another enlightened ordained minister, I always say you don’t invite people to a meal and then don’t feed them, Eucharist experiences available all the time not just inside the Temple.

  29. Joe O'Leary says:

    ts, there is a lot of very harsh language in the Gospels, particularly in Matthew. But one could query your interpretations of what you quote.
    “He didn’t just continue to raise the girl but first put them all out.” A very human gesture, not at all a rejection.
    “Jesus also tells the disciples to shake the dust of their feet (Matthew 10:14). They are therefore told to give a visible sign to people that they are rejected.” Again a very human gesture — a reaction to rejection rather than a stark condemnation.
    “Jesus also tells the parable about the man without wedding clothes who gets thrown out (Matthew 22:13).” A warning to all of us rather than a rejection. Also some details in the parables are unacceptable if taken at face value, as when God is compared with a king who hands people over to torturers (basanistes) in one Matthean parable.
    “When people reject His teaching on the Eucharist (John 6:66), He doesn’t run after them and tell them something different, He lets them go.” Again, humanly he had no choice. He does not rant at them or condemn them. Instead he turns to the disciples with the very human question, “Will you also go away?”
    “In Luke 17:17 Jesus asks where are the other nine lepers who were healed.” Again, a very human question,. He does not condemn the ungrateful ones.

  30. Going by the book, Cornelius @ 23 has it pretty much pinned down. Awful bad news though for everybody outside the Catholic Church and for most of us in it. Seems God who ‘desires all to be saved’ is going to be vey disappointed. But hey, rules is rules and the catechism is the cathecism.

  31. Kevin Walters says:

    Joe O’Leary@29
    There is a lot of very harsh language in the Gospels, particularly in Matthew
    Again a very human gesture — a reaction to rejection rather than a stark condemnation.
    Yes Joe, the words are harsh in (Matthew 10:14)
    “14”Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. 15″Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Day of Judgment than for that city.
    As are those in its counterpart, Luke 10:12
    “But whatever city you enter and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, 11Even the dust of your city which clings to our feet we wipe off in protest against you; yet be sure of this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12″I say to you, it will be more tolerable in that day for Sodom than for that city”
    It was not a human gesture He spoke with authority, the authority of our Father in Heaven it was a condemnation on them rejecting the Word of God
    Woe to the Unrepentant
    Luke 10:16
    “And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will be brought down to Hades! 16″The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.”
    In Christ

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