Séamus Ahearne: An Olympian at heart…

The Minister as an Olympian

Wally the Walrus and the Heron:

Wally the Walrus is an intrepid traveller. He is very sensible to make Ardmore his holiday venue. He drops in for afternoon tea to the Cliff House Hotel. It has a good reputation and he can keep his eye on the water as he observes people watching him as he watches them. He probably wanted to be in County Waterford for the match against Limerick. He rang me last night for a chat. He then got rather serious about Covid. He had managed to avoid all the restrictions as he circled several countries in recent months. However, he was very cautious and careful. He then launched into a tirade against several bishops in Ireland who have decided to give the go-ahead for Communion and Confirmation. He was rather strong and felt that they had lost their minds completely. He even used the term populism. He compared them to Trump! Their decisions are of course popular but the locals are left to pick up the pieces. They had a point about the lack of discussion on the part of Government and the seeming contradictions. But any realistic assessment would conclude that these celebrations lead to gatherings and parties lead to infection. The split site view is blind. The church and the afters are inextricably connected. This notion of people being responsible is rubbish.

Wally is more aware and attuned to reality than some of our leaders. The heron on the Tolka agrees with Wally. They chat on the WhatsApp. (Tim and Tony must have been eavesdropping).


The Boxer Kellie Harrington: 

Kellie Harrington wanted to put a smile on the nation’s face and she did. Her interviews were honest and very real. There was nothing robotic and artificial. She was lovely. She also remembered everyone; her family and neighbours; her workmates; her training team. We couldn’t help but break into a smile. It wasn’t the colour of the medal but rather the authenticity of the voice. Some of my colleagues shudder however at the very thought of a woman boxing. I don’t know what experience they have of women but in some ways many of us know rather well, that women box clever every day of their lives. I have to sidestep and anticipate the blows. There is real ducking and diving going on. The punches come from all angles. The notion of a delicate, demure woman is far from the truth! Kellie was lovely. Win or lose: She is always a winner.


Swifts, elephants and Dolly the sheep:

Derek Bromhall died. A zoologist, biologist and film-maker. He was extraordinary in the variety of his interests and his abilities. He studied swifts (film Devil Birds). He worked on cloning and some of his work led to Dolly the sheep (1996 Roslin Institute). He also followed elephants in his time to the Katum Caves. They were searching for salt minerals in the volcanic rocks. He finally filmed the story of his grandchild – Journey into Life (The World of the Unborn). He was a most peculiar man. He could be called a polymath or even more to the point, a renaissance man. Much of the above featured in an Obituary in the London Times. I have a strange idea religious people need to be stretching and searching and broadening their interests into something bigger. I like to see Bromhall as an icon for faith. There is an excitement and an enthusiasm. Every sinew of the mind is reaching out. There is so much to learn. I like to think the same of what I look for in a teacher. There is no room for narrowmindedness in anyone who claims to be a person of faith or, for that matter, anyone who would dare to set up as a teacher in any way. Some of this idea kept screaming inside me on Wednesday as we interviewed nine candidates for teaching posts. Now if we went on to interview for ministry – much of the same would apply. And if the bishops were candidates……


The ministry in families:

The Olympics are drawing to a close. That they happened at all, is quite a miracle. It is a celebration of commitment and persistence. I read a few days ago of the work of many of the athletes’ families. The energy and cost and stamina is most impressive. These families are an example of greatness. The fine-tuning of the skills by the athletes is admirable. But it highlights too that we are all Olympians. We arrive from God. We are loved into life. We are challenged to be the best we can be. We are unique. We have something different to offer life. There is no room for the moaners and the groaners. We are called to bring colour and light to the world. Laughter. Artistry. Beauty. Wonder. Miracle. Everyone has that within. I stood back and watched last week, a couple conclude the second adoption into their family. I saw them commence the third one. All three fostered children had serious problems. The father figure was a former priest. I think the ministry in his life with his wife and the wider family is seriously priestly. He is. They are. Olympians. The life of the celibate priesthood is very different. There is a danger that it can be too tidy and neat and narrow.


Young Indi:

Her accent has changed. I need an interpreter on the phone. The Waterford flavour has taken over. She has a multitude of words. She knows how to shout too. She is into climbing. She loves the wide open spaces. She runs now rather than walks. She hasn’t mentioned baptism for a few weeks. She doesn’t know anything about communion or confirmation. If she did, I would send her off to the bishop.

She has a complaint. The animals don’t talk to her in her own language. She wonders why. She also talks to the river and to the fields and to the trees. They don’t seem to bother talking back to her. She wants them to play with her. It is all a mystery to her. In her more serious moments, she wonders if they understand her. She sees life in everything and wants to know what is her place and what role she can play. Every day is a school day.

Seamus Ahearne osa









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