Where is God during Covid-19?
The sun is reluctant and grumpy, as it gets out of bed these mornings. It knows it has to get up at some stage, but wants to stay put for a little longer. I notice too that there is a cogar-mogar going on with the heron. Both of them haven’t much to say to me these days. The sun won’t talk. The heron won’t talk. They are both lost in their own chatter. The darkness has won out. Only the river continues to chat and sometimes sings. That too is somewhat moody. But the sun still rises every day come what may. The river still flows. The air still whispers. The sky still opens its curtains. The moon gives way to the sun. The stars fade. There is a new revelation every day whatever the mood.
Ireland hasn’t lost its sense of community. It was ever so kind and supportive when all the country joined with Donegal and Dublin, in a show of solidarity to embrace Stage 3. After all ‘we are in this together’ supposedly. The dirge continues in the media with bundles of experts being wheeled out, to find yet another angle on the obvious. Trump isn’t the only clown on the scene. Why can’t all of us just get on with it? Muttering and moaning won’t help anyone. We are not in control. No one is. The Government is damned if it does and if it doesn’t. The basic and very simple attitudes and qualities of humanity are needed. We help ourselves by helping each other. We love our neighbour as ourselves. It isn’t easy. It never is. But it is real and right.
God as the missing link:
The airwaves too are full of psychobabble. That is being unkind and there is rightly, much talk of mental health these days, which is understandable. At times, I almost want to shout: Get on with it. Face the rough and tumble of everyday. We are going soft as a people. But that is wrong. The unsureness now of life, is traumatic. The lack of control is shattering. I delight in seeing the children back at class. The work of preparation for this, has been excellent. The management of school life, has been mighty. Some kind of structure and routine is established. I do think however of the many who do/will receive their wages, come what may, and then think of those whose whole future stability and security of work has been smashed.
I think too of the routine of Church life, which has been demolished. The habits of faith matter. That routine too was essential for many; not just the prayer-time but the ritual and structure of every day and every week. Life was broken into organised segments. This was important. Why is there is no mention of God or Prayer or Church, as part of the necessary routine/rubric/structure of daily life and social life in all the discussions? I know it is unfashionable to mention God or Church or mystery or faith as some of the essentials, but might there be at least a hint, that these could be important for some? God is not even ‘mentioned in dispatches.’ God is a noisy intruder on modern life. But intrude – God will!
The saints among us:
I have some hesitation or rather scepticism about the latest fads on counselling and self-help programmes. But I do look around at the issues and problems in the community and wish I could get some help for many. I also see the many saints in our community. They amaze me. The number of times we say to each other here: “Isn’t so-and-so a wonderful woman/man?” And we agree. In the ordinary business of life, we don’t stop often enough to notice. We also see, in the restrictions of life, the goodness of so many. Covid causes us to pause. The privilege of working with people at funerals and afterwards, wakes up our inner spirit. The residual faith. The acceptance. The spontaneity. The openness. The honesty. The hospitality. The receptivity. It is extraordinary. It is humbling.
Even if we can do so little, our ministry stirs in us, the wonder of grace. We find it in places and people, where we had never bothered our hearts, to see it previously. And then there are so many deaths of young people. It is shocking. We had a 30-year-old Bianca from Sao Paolo. Her friends organised everything. A GoFundMe realised €23,000 to send her home to Sao Paolo. The kindness, affection, love was overwhelming. And then there are the suicides. So many young people. The sheer awfulness of ‘no answers.’ And yet somehow people go on. The preciousness of life. If nothing else, we have to stop and appreciate the very fragility and yet wonder of every day and every life. We are very blessed here. There is never an absence of inspiration.
The Feast of Fools:
When I think of the wonder of every day and every life; it takes me to our Rituals in Church. The Eucharist. Gratitude. Godliness. Graciousness. It isn’t just the invitation to a Feast; to a Table, but rather that time to say Thank You. That is the root cause of so many damaged lives and relationship; an inability to appreciate what we have and what we receive. I have always been touched by The Mass of the World with de Chardin. He opened up the Altar to what David Attenborough celebrates these days or the Greens. I think of Babette’s Feast. That great big Feast. The Celebration of Generosity. That unveiling of a hidden life and story. That wonderful Celebration. Those comments then to Babette catch a moment – ‘An artist is never poor.’ ‘Oh how you will enchant the angels.’ If only all of us could notice.
I think too of The Feast of Fools (medieval celebration as a tease of the hierarchy) which was so amusing. Or even The Feast of Fools a book by Harvey Cox where the clash of modern and secular life met the old values. And I recall Of Gods and Men (Algeria) when the monks had the Celebratory Meal with that bottle of wine. They were euphoric in their decision to stay with the people, even as they waited for death. It sounded like the Last Supper of a condemned person and of course it was. But it was a real Eucharist. I think there is a greater need for Eucharist in all our lives at present. Not a robotic, formulaic version, but a deep sense of the presence of God and a volcano of gratitude from the depths of our hearts and guts. We can’t celebrate Eucharist if we haven’t a grasp of mystery or a sense of gratitude. If we are caught up in a superficial outlook on the immediate, poor God has no chance.
Yag Laser treatment:
I had a call from the Mater Hospital. Could I come into the Eye Clinic for Yag Laser treatment, was the message. I didn’t know what the lassie on the phone was talking about. I didn’t even know that I couldn’t see very well! I went in for the appointment on Tuesday. The Nurse called me in for the drops to dilate the eye. She asked which eye was it. I didn’t know. She asked which eye did I have a cataract operation. I didn’t know. She was surprised that I could be so stupid! I wasn’t surprised at all. I have no problem with my own stupidity. I was called in by the Doctor and despite not knowing if it was the correct eye or not; the job was done. (She could clearly see!) It was very simple and I believe now I can see much better.
I have been quite amused thinking about it all. How little we see. How much we miss. We don’t know so often what we don’t see. Somehow. Someway. I get the message: Look around. Check what there is to see. I am sure that many are as stupid as I am and don’t even realise what they miss. I put many problems in life into the lack of a sense of mystery. We need a spiritual Yag laser treatment. We all miss the obvious. A sad example these days is Donald Trump. He lacks insight. He doesn’t see how foolish he is and what a cartoon character he has become. He deserves sympathy but he also needs help.
Little Indi is now rushing towards being seven months old. She preens herself when she phones every night. She feels quite grown up. She has no interest in Man United, Man City or even Liverpool getting thrashed. She doesn’t care. She likes the fact that such games are going on. She likes it, because her old father enjoys it. He leaves her in peace! Anyway. She is exploding with sense. She wanted to know about the history of Ireland and of the songs of Ireland. “Why are they all sad?” she says. “When they write songs for these days –will they be infected with Covid 19 and also be sad?” she asks. The caoin is too much the essence of our past and even our present. The lament.
She was born on the 21st March so her whole life has been lived within the constraints of Covid. Then she moves onto more important things. She is bursting with sense. She is very excited. She has new food. She loves all the different tastes. She is very hungry for more and difference. But she is hungry for more than food. Here is her take on life and summed up in words: Walk. Talk. See. Hear. Smell. Taste. Feel. Love. Sun. Moon. Earth. Fields. Animals. Clothes. Rolling. Crawling. Teeth. People. Love. Music. Song. Fun. Laughter. Every day is new. She is Astonished by life and finds it Awesome and Astounding. She hardly wants to breathe in case she misses something. “Oh! What a wonderful world!” little Indi giggles. She is full of sense for one so young. I am learning from her.
Seamus Ahearne osa
PS If you want the link to the exciting story of the Heron at the Tolka – here it is: