Rambling thoughts on the way to/from a Funeral.

On Friday, I went to Pat Moran’s funeral in Ballybacon. We were fellow students (OSA) and Pat was a member of ACP. A funeral evokes many stray thoughts and the journey itself stirs up raimeis in the files of the mind. A car trip is sometimes the only quiet time for Reflection when every day is so full. I seem to write well on a car journey or on my morning walk!
The Radio:
I was distracted on the trip by the Radio. Has Ireland totally lost its marbles with Garth Brooks? How could so many make such a mess of everything? It now needs Enda & Barack! I listened to ads for Mrs Brown’s boys (am I the only one who finds Brendan O Carroll’s comedy off putting with its stage-Irishness? I also admit Fr Ted never appealed to me either.) I heard about the World Cup moments which were amusing. I listened to Unionists & the Orange Order trying to justify their own nonsense with the Parades’ Commission and wondered ‘when will they ever learn.’ That idea set me thinking: The attitude in the South to Sinn Fein & IRA. I think we have such short memories of what actually happened to Catholics in Northern Ireland and what gave birth to the IRA/Sinn Fein.
A Country Funeral:
The funeral was a lovely community gathering. Pat always remembered that summary from Roots ‘never forget who you is.’ He travelled from wherever he was, to train the local teams. The Church (historically) was caught up in the GAA. He embodied this. There is something very rich in a Funeral. We regularly say on our own Parish Team that a Funeral is the only moment we have to touch the hearts of many. We find the silence, in the crowded church, when a young person especially has died – as quite awesome. Pat’s funeral shouted out too what Community is and where Eucharist is truly celebrated – the bits and pieces of life are shared.
Ancient and ageing colleagues:
Age and mortality struck me as I watched the cohort of Concelebrants. Many are my own colleagues. We are ancient. The present Church in Ireland is tired and old. How can so much responsibility be thrown on such older ministers? I wondered how long more can we keep going? As I went into the Church, a woman spoke to me. She asked did I know her; I didn’t. We had met in Tramore around the 15th August 1964. Ann joined the Mercy sisters. I joined the Augustinians. It is now fifty years ago.
The Cabinet:
I had to move away immediately after the Funeral. I listened to the Radio. It was ‘speculation about speculations’ (re the new Cabinet). Enda spoke at last. Then Pat Rabbitte came on air. He was very dignified and restrained. But what he had to say, was telling. It was ‘age and chemistry’ that did for him. He had 20 seconds with Joan and that was it. Would he remain in politics, he was asked. He had intended to do so. However now that ‘age’ had become clearly a problem – he might reconsider. Joan wanted to freshen up the team with the 2011 intake. I thought of our Leaders. How can they or we, freshen up our Team, when there is no intake? Neither can I imagine any of our Leaders giving someone just twenty seconds for a dismissal. If we had characters of the calibre of Pat – would we or could we, dump them so easily? (If we did; there would be a mighty outcry). What about chemistry? That needs sorting too between us. (Even between Bishops & ACP).
The letter from Bishop Boyce:
I then escaped the chatter and let Lyric soothe my soul. I thought of that Response-Letter from Bishop Boyce to the ACP. It was weak; cautious; defeatist; fatalistic and sad. It missed the point. The ACP responded robustly to the Response. But, this isn’t a battle. There aren’t two sides to this conflict. It isn’t a team of radical or even heretical priests (ACP) pace the Irish Catholic front page, but a serious discussion on a very serious situation. The Priests are the ‘workers’ out in the vineyard. They ‘smell of sheep.’ The Bishops are the coordinators & conductors. There have to make appointments and take the flak when there are no replacements; no suitable people to do the job out in the parishes: Very few now, are capable or fit to take on Leadership or fit for parish life. They (the bishops) cope with the ire of people who ‘want priests’ that they don’t have. They are the ones who handle the mess of daily post/e-mails and the ridicule of a superficial media. But then they too, often misunderstand their job. It is still too much ‘my diocese’ and ‘my church’ and the ‘Holy Spirit’ has ‘anointed me and I was appointed by the Holy Father.’ All of this smacks of unreality. In the response letter, I was shocked by the comment on Jesus appointing men. What kind of Scriptural maturity does that show? It is a dangerous fundamentalist approach. In regard to the censored priests – it was severely defective. In regard to the New Missal – it was laughable and so sad. .
The Debacle of the New Missal:
The New Missal is a disaster. No deferential comments in a letter can make good, something that is bad. Most of us have adapted the text as best we can. It is bad English & bad theology. Why can’t the Bishops’ United, have the gumption and the honesty to say that? Or do they live in a bubble of the three monkeys where Rome has spoken and therefore it has to be true. This emperor had no clothes. Say it. In so many ways, if the Conference of Bishops had looked at the translation; they couldn’t in conscience have passed it. I presume they waved it by with a cursory glance. They were and are too busy. They do an impossible job but they don’t have to do it all themselves. The abuse has taken up time, energy and resources. They live with the fear of what the next post will bring in. It is not surprising however to hear of the Savile, Clifford, Hall, Harris cases; to the problems with the political establishment; to hacking. Those (media) who mocked at ‘cover up’ may now know a little better how the sexual culture (The Tablet) of recent times was a minefield waiting to blow up. The problem wasn’t just in the Church- it was widespread and it was missed by most who simply couldn’t grasp the depth of the issue or the insidious nature of the addiction. If only the hackers had hacked into some of that story??
The Communion of people, priests and Bishops:
Bishops and priests are not on opposing sides. We are deeply committed and responsible people who must work together. The priests (with their local teams) have the monopoly of experience and applied theology. The Bishops work differently. They must take off their hats; forget their titles; and listen. Neither should they tolerate the un- Christlike foolishness of Rome in its treatment of our censored priests. Rome is wrong. Rome has been wrong with the Missal. Rome’s model of Church is corrupt – which is what brought Francis to office. Some of my best friends are bishops! I often want to protect them. I want to scatter some nonsense into their orthodox lives. They have an impossible job to do. But the model of working has to change. We can’t have suggested or imposed on the local Church – a cluster model of parish management unless the bishop works at a shared model of team leadership. We cannot expect parish teams and priests to work together if bishops don’t work together and are unwilling to call a spade a spade… and not a shovel.
Isaiah 55 & the JBC:
I drove on. The image filled my mind of my fellow priests at the funeral and I began to think of what we impose on each other in the church. I thought of Pat Rabbitte and his dismissal on age and chemistry grounds in twenty seconds. I know that our Leadership Teams (Bishops +) can’t dismiss many of us because we have reached an advanced age of the ‘bus pass’; they don’t have replacements. That screams for new ways and for imaginations. Once more I conclude with a thought from the JBC on Isaiah 55. (Weekend Reading): ‘It (the Word of God) can be heard only when it is soaked up in human life and spoken with human accents.’ The Missal didn’t and doesn’t do that. Have a look at the Preface for Trinity Sunday and you will find utter drivel (linguistically and theologically). The facts of life today are we need to re-imagine the Church of today in our world. We cannot cling on to the dead past or a dead language or to ridiculous outmoded models. If we do; we will end up as very lonely people in a world full of ancients with nothing but stories of the past to complain about.
I smiled to myself as the car reached the M50 I had spent time in recent days with many people and in many homes – where I acted as referee; where I dealt with outrageous incidents. None of these people were too bothered with the New Missal. They don’t attend church. However our job – is to sprinkle ‘rumours of angels’ about in the banter and troubles of life. And it is the most privileged and wonderful ministry.  I got back to sort out some six weddings. Our Parish Team is very definite – the Norm for Weddings should be a Service and almost never a Mass. People know very little about Church or Mass or reverence. …….
Final comment:
It was an interesting journey. I recalled too being with an older Augustinian many years ago after a Funeral. He mused out-loud ‘who would speak at his funeral and what might they say.’ He didn’t want me to do it! He wanted ‘someone who would say nice things’ about him. I don’t care myself who speaks at mine or where I am buried. In fact, I have often said – ‘bury me quietly with no formal funeral.’
Seamus Ahearne osa (Rivermount).

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  1. On the subject of the Requiem Mass for your friend, it struck me that the repugnant clericalism which is the bane of our church is still very much alive, as seen in that “cohort of concelebrants” you observed. You didn’t have to describe the event in graphic detail for the display to leap off the page. But who nowadays, other than themselves, is impressed by that kind of display, with the different-coloured robes, the precisely graduated order of participants, the taking of precedence? I`m glad that at the conclusion to your “ramblings” that you mentioned your own wish to be buried, “quietly with no formal funeral.” Or maybe, despite the ontological superiority or difference, maybe just like any lay person, content to go back to God in the robes of the baptised?
    I`m glad that you can see so clearly that the role of the bishop is not primarily or even sometimes exclusively to be an administrator, “coordinators & conductors,” as you put it. The coordinating and conducting has been so bad that it`s no wonder bishops now just seem to want to hide, to keep their heads down under the parapet.
    I`m glad too that you can see and admit that the text of the Mass is deplorable, “ bad English & bad theology”. You picked out the Preface for Trinity Sunday for particular mention, as being “…utter drivel (linguistically and theologically)” though it has had many rivals in that respect over the last month or so. How long will we wait until we hear a whimper about that from the hierarchy of the Irish Church? Or maybe they think it`s none of our business, I mean the rest of the church, priests and laity? So they will continue to do or not do whatever it is they do or don’t do behind the scenes, because it`s none of our business?
    You say the bishops may have been too busy doing all those things bishops do, administering and coordinating, no doubt, and may have just nodded the translation through without paying much attention. If that`s the case it`s even more lamentable, since what could be more important for bishops than establishing the norms for the central act of worship that is the Mass? Get that right and everything else, I believe, would fall into place: a passionate and respected priesthood, engaged and active congregations, an energetic laity conscious of their dignity as baptised persons and willing to take on the responsibilities of followers of Christ: the basis for a possible future church, as opposed to the pathetic and moribund museum we will have if we just wait and do nothing, wait and see what Rome says, and hope it doesn`t say too much.

  2. I am from the Uk and agree totally about the new missal. I used to be able to pray at mass and now it is impossible – I feel like I am reading a script (My friend feels the same). This is not what I go to Mass for.
    If some one had sat back and thought how can we alienate the laity – . how can we take away the only thing that really unites them -they could not have done a better job

  3. Eddie Finnegan says:

    OMG, mjt@1, aren’t you being a right sour oul’ divil on a holy Sunday afternoon? What happened? Did she not have the dinner on the table when you came in from last Mass, so you had to bellyache at somebody for half an hour and Seamus rambled into view?
    Rather than welcome Seamus’s gentle reflections and his positive, but not overdone, criticisms on several fronts, you felt it necessary to turn several of his positives into very virulent negatives – as if he had not shown through his regular contributions to this forum his clear-eyed view of the problems in the Church which has been his life for forty years, or even sixty-five.
    Is it any wonder that most priests, including most members of the ACP, see no point in contributing anything either positive or critical, or even positively critical, to this site?
    mjt, we know who Seamus is, where he hangs out, and how he puts in his day and his life. We haven’t a clue who “mjt” is or even whether s/he’s a he or a she. Maybe before you give Seamus Ahearne’s next ramblings so sour a welcome, you should try to do it on a more equal footing, and with equal transparency.
    As for Seamus, long may he ramble as long as he shares the fruits of his rambling with us all.

  4. kay mcginty says:

    Seamus, I’m totally in awe of your ‘musings’as you travelled to Tipperary to say farewell to your friend, Fr. Pat, may his gentle soul rest in peace.You have touched on so many topics in such a heartfelt sound manner, as a former colleague from another life used to say “I could’nt fail to agree with you less”! May you find strength and courage in your everyday life to keep going.

  5. Mary Vallely says:

    Well said, mjt @1.” But who nowadays, other than themselves, is impressed by that kind of display, with the different-coloured robes, the precisely graduated order of participants, the taking of precedence?” You and I might agree on the absurdity of the “dressing up box” as I call it but there are many others,lay and clergy, who love the pomp and circumstance. IF it is all for the glory of God and only to glorify God and not man, it can be forgiven but it does seem more and more absurd nowadays to dress like an 18th C lord. Cardinal Raymond Bourke is not the only one who comes to mind. I can think of several young clerics who love the opportunity to dress up. Now, am I making a judgement here? Possibly and forgive me if any offence is taken. There is none intended. Certainly the young clerics I refer to are most sincere men and new to the clericalist state but I do agree that it separates us more than is necessary and distracts from the importance of what really happens at the mass. Seamus Ahearne is right. “We cannot cling on to the dead past or a dead language or to ridiculous outmoded models.” May Seamus get the funeral that reflects the way he comes across, humble, caring, non-showy, affectionate… and may it not be for a long, long time. 🙂

  6. Eddie Finnegan@3, I`m gobsmacked. I thought I had been strongly agreeing with Seamus Ahearne in the criticisms of the bishops in his article in the way they lead or don`t lead the church, and actually did compliment him on the clarity of his vision of things, and thought I had strongly implied an admiration for the enlightenment and courage shown in expressing his views. I did not intend a syllable of criticism of him, and am still at a loss, after rereading it, how anyone could have so misconstrued it.
    My criticisms are of the poor leadership shown in the church on a range of things. Not one of those is some odd hobbyhorse of my own, obviously, all are shared very widely among laity and priests. If you think my tone was over the top or sour, or unwarranted, I`m sorry, but I think the case is sufficiently serious and urgent to merit that. I think it`s high time people did some straight talking to the bishops. As for using “virulent negatives”, I don`t think I outdid in anything I wrote Seamus Ahearne`s “utter drivel” as a description of the translation of the Preface for Trinity Sunday.
    I`m a bit taken aback also to be asked who I am. I would have hoped that whatever opinions I express should be enough, without biographical data to back them up. They are either silly or sensible as they have merit or not, and who I am is irrelevant. But to show I`m not ashamed of myself, I`ll say I`m a lay person who is saddened to see the church betrayed by cowardice and dishonesty among its leaders. I hope you won`t demand any other kind of credentials, as for example, what robes I`m entitled to wear, or where I learned to read. All I have are my views and my willingness to try to express them in what I take is a worthy cause. But if that’s not good enough, I can quite easily enjoy the discussions here from the sidelines.
    And by the way, I made my own lunch, a very good one too, and sat pondering that extraordinary First Reading today from St. Paul, about which our good Parish Priest had not a word to say. Maybe he didn’t understand it either and wisely said nothing about it.

  7. John Treacy says:

    Nice reflections. I find myself on the same hymn sheet!

  8. MM (Martin Murray) says:

    mjt@1, please don’t retreat to the sidelines. We need more voices like yours, not less.

  9. Seamus, thank you for those excellent reflections. I am reading and writing this in sunny Majorca. I agree with you on Mrs. Brown`s Boys — he surely does not have to be so rude to be funny. However, I thought Ted was brilliant … a caricature certainly, but based on a definite reality. I know you are interested in what we read on holiday — well at least what priests read on holiday and even though I am not of the cloth, I thought I should tell you that I am reading Rod Laver`s autobiography — still the best ever, I think, though Roger went pretty close. I am also reading Peter de Rosa`s Vicars of Christ for the second time. You did mention above Rome being corrupt!! It is hard to go on once you`ve read about the Donation of Constantine and the Isodorean forgeries.

  10. Oisin Hawes says:

    I came across this site 2 years ago and was filled with hope. Shortly before a new priest had come to our parish. A young priest wearing traditional robes and sporting a beretta. At first I was puzzled as to why a young priest would wish to wear such old fashioned clothes. My concerns were heightened when at Christmas we went to Mass only to find the altar rails had been removed and the priest said mass with his back to the congregation. As a catholic who had only returned to the church about 5 years earlier and being old enough to remember the pomposity of priests when I was young growing up in Ireland I felt very uncomfortable with the changes taking place. To cut a long story short a story which caused me and my family a lot of distress I no longer attend church. The whole episode led me to question my faith in the catholic church. The turning point was the letter read out from the pulpit from Vincent Nicholls urging us to write to our MPs to put pressure on them to oppose the proposed gay marriage bill.
    Having gay fiends and members of family I asked myself how could I justify belonging to a group of people who condemn them for something they have no control over. Then I looked at my friends who were divorced and no longer felt welcome in the church as they have been judged to have fallen from grace. I looked in our church at the women who dedicate so much time to serving the church who are treated as second class citizens, I looked at the hyprocesy of the church leaders who speak down to us and expect us to follow like sheep. Eventually I decided enough was enough. I can no longer be part of this church. A very tough decision for someone brought up in 1960s ireland. I now know that the church is not Rome nor the priests or buildings but is the people. Without us the catholic church is nothing. I am still a christian but one who is more certain than ever that if Christ were to return tomorrow he would be horrified with what has been done in his name by the Catholic church. I fear the time for the church in Ireland has passed. Today I read that by 2040 with current demographic trends there will be less than 400 priest in Ireland.
    I still visit this website but feel the hope and energy for change that I first encountered has faded away. The good news is the whole episode has led me to question my faith. I believe I now have a stronger faith. I no longer feel I need to belong to any one church .

  11. Lloyd Allan MacPherson says:

    Oisin @10, the hope and energy for change hasn’t gone anywhere. People are still as poised and ready to express their views as they always have been, in my opinion. Don’t misread the sarcasm that often streams from the conscience of the sometimes foolhardy. MJT @6, please, I look forward to your posts so continue to make them. Eddie possibly mistook your “I’m glad you can see…” statements (X2)as possibly condescending but I don’t see them as such and neither does Mary @5 obviously. Using your post as an example as to why priests or ACP refuse to contribute anything to the site, was an attack on content that wasn’t there, ultimately an attack on you and counters the “rules” of the blog.

  12. MM@(Martin Murray)8 and Mary Vallely@5, Thanks for your encouragement.
    Though I guess I annoy and vex you at times as much as I do Eddie Finnegan when I don`t express myself clearly, or don`t take sufficient care over the tone I use, or when I am dunder-headedly making obvious and stupid points, I`m glad readers here are so patient and supportive. From my own experience reading the work of others here, and making contributions myself, I realise people are busy, both readers and writers, rushing in to rush out again, and don`t always deliberate to ensure exactitude in expression.
    But factual error is another thing altogether, far more serious and deserving of censure, and I want to make a correction when I`m here: the extract from St. Paul was, of course, the Second Reading, not the First as I had written.

  13. #Oisin Hawes, your posting is painful to read and has been the experience of many. In amongst all the difficulties, remember the closing words of Thomas Merton in his journal Woods, Shores, Desert “Hang on to the clear light”

  14. I can`t recall the exact words he used or the context in which he said them, but Pope Francis said somewhere recently that the idea of following Christ outside the church was a nonsense. But lovely man in many ways though he is, he is a pope, not God Almighty, a truth he himself is only too pleased for us to see, and a very refreshing contrast with the attitudes of some of his predecessors who were happy enough to let us know all about their being the pontiff.
    Can one be a christian “outside” the church? (Being outside it may mean no more than being unable to tolerate the flagrant abuses and failures of the leadership, but nothing to do with knowledge or love of Jesus Christ.) I wonder what others think of this idea. This is what Oisin Hawes @10 is saying?

  15. Oisin, your sharing, led me to ponder, “is IT, all chaff? Where is the wheat? MJT, you continually submit clear and relevant comments, and in so doing, provide a valuable contribution. Thank you Lloyd, you, in our true Canadian fashion, provide the delicate diplomacy!!! Last week, I blogged about how at times, the discussion around the Church is dizzying, disheartening, and frustrating, but, what I need to do, is bask in the WORD. In particular, I find great comfort and hope in knowing that the Lord is always with us, and that His Word, Us, His wheat, shall not return to Him, without His will being achieved.

  16. Pádraig McCarthy says:

    Séamus wrote: “… if the Conference of Bishops had looked at the translation; they couldn’t in conscience have passed it. I presume they waved it by with a cursory glance.”
    I don’t think that this is the case. Some at least gave it far more than a cursory glance. Six ACP members addressed their committee. I think in part it’s because other bishops’ conferences were going ahead with the new translation, and ours felt they could not afford to be out of step. And they probably had no stomach for a fight with Rome.
    If only they had gone out of step! Perhaps they would have found others would have followed their lead.

  17. Joe O'Leary says:

    The bishops thought that the Vatican wanted only “observations” on the new translation, not a judgement for or against it; and the Vatican ignored the “observations”.

  18. Tony Conry says:

    As always Seamus Ahearne’s contribution is refreshing and stimulating.His reflections are the overflow of his pastoral experience with people in their day-to-day joys and sorrows, All this reminds me of the birth of Liberation Theology. It is not an academic formulation of ideas from the classroom but concrete attitudes arising from the commitment of ordinary people in their struggle to be faithful to the Gospel message.It always amazes me how his thoughts perfectly reflect my own, even though we live in worlds so far apart and apparently so different.
    Oisin, dont give up. We all have to live with the bizarre and the ridiculous and there is nothing we can do about it. There are still a few people here in our parish who refuse to take Communion in the hand. I know they are just being provocative,itching for a confrontation. After 51 years in pastoral ministry I have learned a few tricks. We cannot lose our sense of humour. Thanks to the ACP we have space for diologue. We don’t have to agree with all of the views expressed but freedom of expression is basic.
    Tony Conry, São Paulo, Brazil.

  19. Willie Herlihy says:

    Thank you Seamus for your rambling thoughts,you bring such clarity to the situation we Catholics find ourselves in.
    For me, the most salient point you made is  under the heading( Reality)  and I quote:
     “ I had spent time in recent days with many people and in many homes – where I acted as referee; where I dealt with outrageous incidents. None of these people were too bothered with the New Missal. They don’t attend church. However our job – is to sprinkle ‘rumours of angels’ about in the banter and troubles of life. ”
    This is the core of the problem in our church,the next generation are not attending church,so it is very obvious to anybody with eyes to see, that the church as we know it will die.
    Oisin Hawes   @10
    You jogged my memory to a conversation I had with a wonderful priest at a station mass about two years ago.
    We were discussing the  situation in the church and he was very pessimistic about the calibre of the few young priests being ordained.In his opinion they were so far to the right, that they were completely divorced from the current situation in the church.
    This much loved priest did not swan around in full clerical garb,there was no need for that.Every body knew who he was, HE WAS OUR PRIEST, incidentally he is a member of the ACP. Sadly he was was moved from our parish and he was replaced by one of your typical clerical types,whose stock in trade  on Sundays, is to talk down to the few of us who are left, as if we were children.
    Sadly neither he, nor the new breed as described above will “sprinkle rumours of angels about in the banter and troubles of life”.

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