Sounding off. Why not? Everyone else is!
The weekend is upon us. Most of the tickets have arrived. Some never appeared. What came, has been distributed. It is an interesting time. The cultural context is awash with negativity. It is dripping in ridicule. Miraculous Francis needs to have the gift of bi-location; be a supreme Pontifex (bridge builder); be a comedian to humour everyone. It is all impossible. The serious and ponderous expectations of commentators, are laughable.
Lessons for the 21stcentury:
I thought the occasion was about the ‘World Meeting of Families.’ It is in danger of being swallowed up by the problems of Ireland; with the residual left-overs from aggrieved celebrities. I am fed up listening to the same old voices moaning and groaning. They love their ‘caoin’. They enjoy life in the swamp which is a thriving industry. We need a Yuval Noah Harari (21 Lessons for the 21stCentury) to write a Book on the corrosive distractions or avoidance in our country which are destroying us. And Leo is going to talk to the Pope. Isn’t he wonderful? As my grandmother used to say: “fitter for him, to do his own job.” Such guff. I wish he would shut up and live up to his promise.
The great service of the Church:
Some of the many visitors who have stayed here over the past months, utter the same mantra. ‘You provide a great service.’ That isn’t about what happens here or about me. The Church provides a great service. It is never 9-5 or 5 day a week job. It is all the hours and always. The Church people still pick up the left overs. Officialdom never has the time or the energy to do it. Or it will be curtailed by bureaucracy and always time-constrained. From experience, it takes three paid workers to do the work of one unpaid church person! (That is by the way).
Presentation of our gifts:
There were flaws and gigantic fault lines, in the past. There was a rich heritage too in that past. Before social workers were invented; or counselling became a fad; or bereavement-care happened; or education became the province of the State; or health became an unwieldy business – the Church was there. Before poverty became an expensive industry; the Church people carried the care. Too much is lost in the blame-games of today. An adolescent state is full of entitlement; lack of appreciation and soaked in ‘the me-me’ culture!
Our God reigns:
Whatever about all of that; some Church people did things badly but most did a great job and are still doing it. In spite of everything, Church-bashing or the off-loading of all problems, is like a sulky teenager – but God still goes on. The world of faith goes on. There is a great loss in the lives of many, who haven’t God and can excuse themselves with simplistic reasons. The new Religion is the fashionable Anti-Church brigade. Let it be. The problems of today will find people to blame tomorrow. The neglect of today, will find voices in the future. And it won’t have the Church to kick around. It really doesn’t matter. But it is amusing.
Everyday amusements: After a Wedding, a man came over to me and said he hoped that I would be around to do his funeral. Another man was present at an anniversary Mass and said to me afterwards: “I could listen to you all day.” He comes once a year. So his wish to listen to me, hasn’t got much stamina! A care-worker asked, could she have a ‘piece of Mass.’ A lady said to me after a funeral yesterday: ‘What age are you? I hope you will be alive for my funeral.’
Pockets of God:
A local man emigrated to a foreign country (Leitrim). His last 15 years were idyllic. He loved his acre; his plants; the quietness; the sheep; the neighbours. He reminded me of the Book ‘That they may face the rising sun.’ (McGahern). Or Paddy Kavanagh putting ‘his fingers into the pockets of God.’ McGahern and Kavanagh were crotchety old codgers. But their curmudgeon nature, somehow didn’t dilute or pollute their sensitive spirits. How can we (or do we) as a nation – help the youngsters and even the ould wans, sharpen the antennae to notice and celebrate the beauty and wonder of life, which has to be task of real Religion and real Education? Oh for the Jonathan Tullochs (The Tablet – glimpses) and the Rabbie Burns of this world, to stir our minds and imaginations as they conjure up hints of wonder. (They raid the pockets of God). I often think education fails people. I sometimes believe religion fails people. If somehow Religion doesn’t stir that element of awe and wonder. We glibly talk of the gifts/fruits of the Spirit but never manage to set on fire (the youngsters or the oldsters) or whet the appetite for this extra awareness.
Words from America:
I know about the Statement from Association of US Catholic Priests. They are sad, angry and frustrated. Of course they are. I read that open letter from Mark White to Theodore McCarrick (Dear Father in God and brother priest); it was harrowing. I read about Ampleforth and Downside and the whole upper echelon of Catholic UK is staggering. But nonetheless, I see too much every day to be overwhelmed by this. I would prefer if it wasn’t there but it is. I still want to raise the mind and heart to God. I want to catch something more. I believe in the world of faith and God. I find the transcendent daily. I am weary of too much sadness. There is more. Curse the darkness if you must. But see the light too.
The silly season:
Politically it was suicide in regard to publicity to hold the World Meeting of Families in August. It is the silly season. It is full of blanks. We don’t quite have a Trump here to be a honeytrap for gossip. The media is hungry for nonsense. Paper doesn’t refuse ink. The airwaves have a voracious appetite. They must be fed. I have an idea. We need a writer who would do a Column every week which comments on the news of the week or rather the reporting of the news. That writer has to be fearless, brave and very bold. Despite how stupid and ridiculous D Trump is, his throw- away line on fake news, isn’t always wrong. I know much of the fake news evolves from his own distortion of truth and facts. But there is some very superficial rubbish published daily. We need a critical voice to face it. Who is sharp enough to do it or capable of doing it? Could a recently retired scribbler take that one up?
Can someone shout stop:
I re-use John Healy’s words: Can someone shout STOP: No more of the naysayers – Varadkar, Harris, Halligan, McAleese. I am weary of the lot. Take pride in yourselves and leave us alone. Get over yourselves. Get on with living. If people are gay; let them get on with it. If people are hetero, let them get on with it. If they are fluid; let them get on with it. It is gay abandon we need in life and not the latest fashion in victimhood. Let people be. Stop ‘the me-me-poor-me’ slogans. It is a pain. It is dull. The needle is stuck. The poetry has stopped. The daily diatribe is flat, simplistic and predictable.
Enjoy the weekend chaos. God is great!
The visit by Pope Francis is marvellous. (I have been totally opposed to it!) However the closed roads; the utter chaos everywhere, is beautiful. Religion and God is causing trouble for everyone. I like that. God will always cause trouble even for those who rage against God. Even for those who passionately disbelieve. Words from the Desiderata come to mind: It is a wonderful world. The Desiderata sums it all up: ‘With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.’ We need an outburst of counter cultural voices: It is great to have faith. It is great to be Christian. It is wonderful to be a catholic. It is marvellous to be a priest. It is a great life.
The Bread of Life:
I will repeat a lovely piece from Francie (not the pope but a local traveller) of many years ago (Re the Bread of life John 6). When I asked him and everyone else at Mass, what is the ‘Bread of life’ for him/for them? He said: “I look out the window and see the shrubs waving; I see the light and the shadows and the trees talking to each other. I see the mountains. I see the birds going about their business. I see the children going to school and playing. That is how God feeds me. I look at my wife Mary who puts up with me. That is how God feeds me. I look at the people here, who are always around to tease me; help me laugh; talk with me – that is how God feeds me. That is the Bread of life. It all comes together then at Communion.” (Francie can’t read or write but is very eloquent in faith. He notices things and has the words.).
Seamus Ahearne osa