Séamus Ahearne: Caught between the Suez and the Tolka…


‘Ever Given’ as a symbol

There is trouble in Paradise:

My body rhythms are confused. This Summer hour change, has knocked me out of kilter. It has affected others too; they are missing in the mornings. Only the birds seem to ignore the change. The swirling wind concentrates the mind. I had to protect my hat before the playful gusts removed it. The river chats as I pass by. The birds amuse me. I have to step aside; they won’t move as they claim the paths and roads. I like that. We clearly have to share this ‘Garden of Eden.’ The swan parents appear to want rid of their youngster. She is refusing to leave home. She is taking the ‘stay at home’ slogan seriously. The Weeping Willow waves as I pass. The daffodils dance in the breeze. And then I see the two youngsters: Baby trees smashed and broken. Murder in the Garden of Eden. It saddens me. Do we need Original Sin or some such version to explain this behaviour? Rubbish was thrown around too. We are so lavishly blessed in Finglas with this magnificent Tolka Valley Park. How can anyone damage such beauty? I am disappointed.

The living and the dead:

‘All out of step except yours truly.’ The women are in a state of distress. “My hair is a mess.” No hairdressers. No barbers. Many look at me and tell me that I should do something about my hair and beard. But I seem to be only one who isn’t having secretive shriving. Whatever about hair, which is neither here nor there, the past week felt like a holiday with no funerals. It was clear that my message had been heard. I had sent out the word that if anyone died; I would kill them! My earlier edict hadn’t been listened to either. I had warned the dying that they had to be cremated. Burials were too cold and miserable for the winter. The Graveyard is no place for anyone on a cold wet day. Some listened to me but not many. The week’s respite is over and we are back to normal with three funerals being arranged at present. We do what we can. It is privileged and challenging to celebrate a life with only ten present. However, the thousands that participate by watching is some consolation. We had a suggestion that we should have a pro-forma programme for funerals with just a change of name each time. That is preposterous. Each person, every family, needs and deserves a custom made funeral. How otherwise can we celebrate a funeral without the story of a life? That disregards the Work of Art that each person is. The Word is not made flesh in the formulaic and impersonal.

School life:

This morning is quiet. School is closed. The children and staff are off. The building work goes on. I have watched with admiration over the winter the builders arrive for work. The gate opens at 6.30. They have driven from Carrickmacross! They work on until 4.30. I felt cold looking at them. Their work is serious, long and hard. I am impressed. I now look back over the months and think of the missing months of open school. What a loss to the families and to the children. I don’t know how everyone coped. I loved to see the children back. I was moved every day to see the Staff out at the gate, welcoming the children in. It was caring, friendly and so affectionate. It felt so homely. My school days were rather different! I had some serious requests in the past few days before the closure on Friday. Could we fix Confirmation? Could we fix First Communions? Everyone was getting excited. The Parish Team had to remind the classes and families that this was no time to be planning new clothes or celebrations. We had to say that there are no public Masses at present. (Some might not realise that!) Last year’s First Communion hasn’t taken place never mind preparing for this year’s. We had to say gently and quietly that every kind of congregating was dangerous. Such as funerals. Such as family parties for Communion or Confirmation. Such as wakes. Such as family visits.

The Suez Canal:

‘Ever Given’ was stuck for a week in the Suez Canal. Hundreds of ships were caught in the traffic jam. The world’s trade was affected. Oil prices fluctuated. It was an example of interdependence. It links well with the pandemic. The virus has no borders. The beached ship is a symbol of how stuck we all are. How much we need each other. If we lift our eyes and minds to the bigger picture; we become more human. I am put off by many who constantly moan as if everything is always wrong. Mine the good. See the wonder. Enjoy the taste of beauty. In Church too, so many complain about everything – but it is God we are talking about. We keep God core and central; the structure or the stupidity of rigid robots who masquerade as leaders, can lead us into a cul-de-sac. Ignore. Fight but don’t be distracted. Even all the negativity at present about vaccines is such nonsense. The miraculous aspect is – vaccines were found; the manufacturing has been huge. That is the second miracle. Our heads delight in new problems. We are stuck like the ship, on the sand-bank of our own ridiculous carry on. We want everything sorted now. That isn’t life. Patience is essential. That ship is on the move. The world will open up. Our own little world will eventually be on the move. We may even appreciate a little more the simple things. It is possible.


Don’t believe a word I say!

Some diversion provides a light touch in the midst of dark news. Sidney Powell (attorney with Rudy Giuliani for Trump) is being sued by the Electoral Machines Company, Dominion. She has to defend herself. Her argument is that ‘no reasonable person would believe’ what she had been saying! That puts a mighty spin on the politics of Trump and Co. Might some variant on ‘Life is a cabaret my friend’ suit the linguistic contortions involved? The scene is so bad that it is good!


A TV drifter:

I’m a TV drifter or surfer. I’m never interested enough to know what is on and spend little time watching. Last Sunday, I was surprised with BBC4. It was a documentary on Mount St Bernard’s Monastery in Leicestershire. It was intriguing and a most sympathetic treatment of the monastic life. It spoke of the past. The monks shared their reflections on God; on life; on faith; on death, in a most casual and undemonstrative manner. I found it touching and prayerful. I was taken back in history and possibly to my own thoughts on Religious life and why I am still on the mission. It moved from the Sung Office, to the manual work, to the care of the sick, to the dying and the burial without the coffin! I liked the income creating plan of moving from dairy to beer. The programme showed the concern of the monks with ageing and replacement. Somehow in this edited treatment, it seemed that they were happy to leave the future to God.

A very different programme found me in recent weeks – ‘Masters of Flip.’ Again I accidently arrived at the programme. Kortney and Dave Wilson are the main characters. They buy houses, do them up and sell them. They do a wonderful job. However, the gushiness of it all is overwhelming. The usual comment is “Love it. Love it.” This kind of bonhomie, exaggerated exuberance and excitement, upsets my reticent nature. However, I do like the ideas they come up with, and their execution of the plans. Could we exploit their mad visions for rebuilding the broken down church?

Young Indi:

We met on Saturday. She was in turmoil. She expected to be able to walk, run, drive a car, go to school, be independent after her first birthday. It didn’t happen. She couldn’t understand why she felt just the same. Her interests are multiple. I think her father is leading her astray. She found the rugby – really Topsy Turvy (Six Nations). She didn’t feel like throwing herself in the middle of those wild men. She liked Sam Bennett winning again and Lewis Hamilton. She found the Irish team with Serbia and Luxembourg, rather tame, and wanted to import some of the rugby players into the mix.

She then asked me – What is Holy Week? She was even more specific. What is holy? I tried to explain but didn’t get too far. She couldn’t grasp at all why Jesus had to carry a big tree on his shoulders and die. She asked all the same questions as Brendan Kennelly’s poem of a three-year-old. (She is also precocious). And the end words of the poem were in harmony with her. ‘And Why?’ She liked the Holy Thursday idea of sitting around the Table, talking and chatting. She didn’t want any of the sadness. All she could think of was – all the people she hears about who love her; who ask for her; who give her presents; who know her story. She agreed that God has been very good to her. And she will show her gratitude when she has a chance. But for now, she is worried about moving South where people talk funny”

Seamus Ahearne osa


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