Séamus Ahearne: Dudley, Eunice, Carers, Ordination, Indi…and more
‘I’m jealous of the angels around the throne tonight.’
Finglas was on the News. Local gangs were misbehaving badly. I checked on some of the victims. Then I began to shudder and shiver. A paroxysm of rattled nerves overwhelmed me. Had Eddie Finnegan’s Armagh friends infiltrated the area and was there collaboration between them? This was a minor little taste of what the people of the Ukraine might be going through. I was saturated with fear. Or was it to be just the oncoming Dudley and Eunice that was affecting my sense of security? And then there was a multitude of Meetings on the integration of parishes and all the comfortable predictable patterns of life were being scuttled. Which is worse? The gang wars? Eddie’s thugs? Dudley? Or the falling apart of the familiar? I should disappear to a monastery. But then I too would disintegrate immediately. I will arm myself instead and confront the invaders. Yes. There is a new world in the morning or in some morning anyway.
A million miles away:
I believe the James Webb telescope has begun working. A million miles away. The blurred images were now appearing. I think it is still a ‘million miles away’ from discovering the origins of the universe (its stated objective!) I admire the crocuses each morning. I see some daffodils appear and the primroses. They are very revealing of the origins of the universe. These are only five minutes down the road. Or I begin to recall those recent funerals – the great feeling of loss after 50/60 years of marriage. The love. The heart. The warmth. These men speaking of their wives. It was beautiful, delightful, privileged, Godly. Valentine’s day was every day. The origins of the universe (in them) were obvious and telling. It was immediate. What a blessing it is to be invited into the heart of love and remembering! We went across the parish today anointing the house-bound. What astonishing faith. What exhilarating graciousness. How good it was.
Those were the days my friend (1):
We had an Ordination of an Augustinian last week. I was back in Drogheda after 45 years. I was recalling those early years when the maverick Jim Kiely was such an inspiration to so many. When Liturgies were wild and where 16 different bands/groups took part at the weekly Masses. When all the songs of the time found a place in the Eucharist. Some were caoins. Some were noisy. Some were embarrassing; Rhinestone Cowboy, Blanket on the Ground, Cecilia! When the most unlikely people were at home in the church. ‘Those were the days, my friend.’ All the restraints of the formal Liturgy were tossed aside and the Mass belonged to the people present. Their lives were celebrated. Their experiences of God were teased out, and somehow brought together into a recipe for Eucharist. Liturgy has to be always alive. I think this Liturgy was beyond Michelin Star cooking. ‘Those were the days.’ When ministry was often in song-houses; pubs, clubs, anywhere and everywhere. When the ministry of the church was teeming with the chaos and excitement of the young ones.
(2) Those were the days my friend.
And there I was at an Ordination. Full of nostalgia. It was great to see someone now venturing into priesthood. It was exciting. He was courageous. I felt for him too. The world of today is challenging. The demands of ministry and priesthood are very different from those Drogheda days of that time. But what happened in Drogheda way back in the 70s + is the metaphor for his future. The Liturgy for this occasion was very formal and dripped of a past era. It didn’t seem to belong in the world of the incarnation. I felt uncomfortable in that foreign world and felt it was out of place for what he was being ordained into. But that may mean that I am very much out of step with what is the version of faith/church/liturgy that appeals to many at present.
‘Who cares for the carers?’ (1)
I was invited one time to speak to the counsellors of Scotland. That was the keynote address. The thought stays with me. Many of us could write up the ministry of a week. It would be full of the obvious schedules but many more calls besides. It is a wonderful and indeed (again) privileged work. The variety of demands. The place in the lives of so many. Butcher, baker, candlestick maker or something similar to the nursery rhyme. But what is most important is our immersion in the lives of ‘people.’ The incarnation occurs daily. It has to. That is our business. Every day we step back in gratitude and humility. I am surprised that everyone isn’t singing: ‘I’m jealous of the angels around the throne tonight’’ because we are dancing daily in the company of God and the angels! So then I come to the reality of these times.
Who cares? (2)
Age. Shortage. More demands. Who cares for the carers? How do we mind each other? We can’t allow a robotic and mechanical priesthood to emerge, to staff the structures of the past. We can’t be on the run from centre-to-centre saying Masses…. It can never become like that but there is a danger. All the services of the Sanctuary cannot take over from the auxiliary service of being there and around as a listening ear, as a comforter, as the clown of life, as the God-whisperer. What really shatters me though is when sometimes priests meet – there is a heaviness and a sadness; a weariness and a drabness; a fatalism and a defeatism. They too often want replacements for themselves. But that is not the future. The future has to be revealed. We cannot get caught up the ritual of church life. We have to be artists of faith; full of creativity and imagination. This is God-stuff we are dealing with. We have to let go and let God (AA). We cannot succumb to ministry as drudgery. It has to be Good News. When all the accumulated structures have collapsed and the ways of doing everything have fallen into disarray, we can rebuild. We have mind to mind each other and fill our lives with banter. We need a sense of the ridiculous to stay in this business.
The world of Indi
Young Indi is very excited. She has no concerns about priests or such like problems. The daily politics don’t intrude on her mind either. She is preoccupied with much more important things like seeing the Spring flowers appear. She thinks of the questions from Brendan Kennelly’s poem from the three year old. (How did he know what she was thinking?) She sees new birds appearing.
She is intrigued with Ballygunner and claims them as her team. She isn’t too impressed with the rugby. She asks the obvious question – why is it wrong when she has a go at someone and it isn’t wrong for them on the field? All these games in China mesmerise her. She wants to take to the air on the skateboards but finds her parents less than thrilled. She is searching for that white material to do her thing (snow). She is fed up with them (the parents) telling what she can’t do! Anyway, life is good. She is learning every day. Each day is different. The sky and the mountains. The colours and the shadows. There is so much for her to see and to do. There aren’t enough hours in the day. She loves her books. She wants to get to school. The eyes of a child can wonder. Why do so many adults stop seeing and wondering as they leave childhood?
Seamus Ahearne osa
Seamus, Thanks be to God for you, for your wisdom, for the life that is in you! “We’ll sing and dance forever and a day!”