Séamus Ahearne: Challenges – waking up, spring, liturgy and even Indi is growling!
‘Open the eyes of our minds.’ (Eph 1.18)
The change in the weather and the extra light every day, is invigorating. My morning ramble is quiet. The little birds sing. The water is calm. The swans and ducks are busy. The heron is a late riser. The trees don’t intrude. People don’t venture out. But I talk to the crocuses these mornings and they talk to me. They tell me that they had come out to play. The snowdrops are their companions but are less voluble. I expressed surprise that they had appeared in spite of the cold and wind. They reassured me that it was their time. They then decided to tell me what to do. Lent (as they understand it) is now my time; our time. It is our Spring. It may be cold. It may be stormy. It may be Covid-contaminated. But this is our time. They challenged me to get on with life; to wake up Spring in myself; to taste the best of each day; to reach into the depths of myself; to bloom where I am. They nodded then over to the daffodils and said that they were next on the rotation-list of nature. Their buds were waking up. The very talkative flowers had a message which seemed to say: Stir yourself and be the Spring in life. (They sound like Amanda Gorman). Even the flowers are now giving orders. They will leave the praying to the rowdy starlings who visit daily.
The Vatican Pimpernel:
I wrote a few paragraphs last week on Delia Murphy. One of our Augustinian priests featured in those words. It was about Roman days during the war when Hugh O’Flaherty and team, did such brilliant and dangerous work. They could have wakened up dead at any time. I was then surprised and delighted to hear this morning (John Bowman on Sunday) the same Tom Tuomey, speak on the Radio. The Dominicans, Franciscans and Augustinians spoke of those faraway days and their underground work. They spoke too of Delia and her work in those times even if a few national figures felt that this work was endangering Irish neutrality. I liked the story of the Jewish couple who had a photo of that dangerous time, in Rome, dressed in habits, as they escaped! Tom remains one of our heroes; simple and unassuming. Somehow, every time we think of those students-days Tom features and we smile. I hope some of the old Romans were listening.
Gianluigi Buffon plays for Juventus. He is 42. This goalie is a Peter Pan figure. However, he had a problem recently. He was fined for blasphemy. In Italy! I think Ireland has got rid of the blasphemy laws otherwise we would be riddled with fines! What is happening Liverpool, Spurs and Celtic? Beaten again. Man City, West Ham, Everton and Leicester succeed. Leeds entertain. Osaka beat Brady. Djokovic overwhelmed Medvedev. The four Provinces had victories over the weekend. (Rugby). Jordan Brown has beaten Ronnie O’Sullivan in the Welsh Open. The Irish female athletes are doing well. Cléirigh Büttner breaks Irish Record.
Trump hasn’t gone away. Many wish he had. He assaulted Mitch McConnell who dared to say that he (Trump) was “practically and morally guilty” for the 6th January riot at the Capitol. Donald called Mitch, “dour, sullen, unsmiling, political hack”. Trump wasn’t all wrong. McConnell responded in the best way possible. He laughed. A minor miracle in itself. Did you hear Boris has a big idea? He wants to build a bridge or a tunnel between Scotland and N Ireland. I thought he would want to rid himself of those troublesome ‘Irish’ rather than increase the union! Anyway. In this new normal, fantasy is the only escape. What a marvellous distraction Covid is, for the UK to minimise the Brexit effect.
Random thoughts for Lent:
Brendan Kennelly’s poem Begin launches us into our Spring-time. This past week has seen changes in the weather. The extra light each morning and evening is most welcome. We used to associate Lent with Fast, Sin and Confession, which was a very poor way of celebrating life and God. So a different little Confession these days might go this way (like Augustine’s idea of Confession – being awed by what God does in us): Tell God how thankful we are for this day; for the people among us. For life. For health. For fresh air. For the wonders of nature. For beauty. For fun. For laughter. For kindness. For the surprises. For now. Here and this moment. In this place. Our place. Our moment. Thank you. Any ingratitude then leads to ….. Lord have mercy. Our way forward could be: Ten minutes of indulgence every day in gratitude. For whom and for what and for where. Are you grateful? Colour in every day with that ten minutes. This is a real Lenten journey. Everyone will feel better. Those around us, will feel better and the world will be a brighter place. We have to set up a counter-culture to the painful sadness of the News.
Obsessives and Addicts:
We are punch-drunk with Covid. The News wallops us. The experts dissect the details. The reporters exude certainty and clarity. The Nanny State, and sometimes Nanny Church, issues proclamations which presumes we are utterly stupid. I feel it is obsessive and addictive. If we aren’t falling apart; we are less than human! If our mental health isn’t in chaos; we are abnormal! Yes the disease is there. We have to be careful. Those of us who are old have been getting the vaccines. We are almost euphoric. Why does everyone have to focus on the awfulness of everything? If we aren’t sick with Covid; we are made sick with the talk around it. The whole pandemic has shattered our confidence but it may be driving us to appreciate what we have; who we are; and where we are going. I wonder where does faith and God feature in our cultural thoughts at this time?
Liturgy puts it up to us:
Liturgy is dangerous and has to be provocative and real. It cannot be passive. The ridiculous Missal (New) obviously came from people who knew nothing of Liturgy. The promised new Lectionary cannot be allowed to follow on the same pathway. I think the Covid Crisis and shut churches have been an opportunity. We have been forced to rethink how we do things. How can we involve the participation of people when they are only present online? It is not easy but it has to be done. We have to think out our Liturgy. The magical muttering of holy words won’t do it. Sacrament or Eucharist doesn’t work that way. We are now students of ministry; students of worship; students of a new Church. We will learn and we have to. We should then get back to the Open Church when it happens and be much betters leaders of worship than we were.
Tommy Tiernan has won Brendan over like many of us (Column – Western People and on ACP). Tiernan’s calm and gentle probing works well. The surprises each week add to the moment. The Nurse/Actor Helen Behan (Laytown) was a delight in her easy naturalness. I don’t want to push the boundaries too far but we could learn from it. Being like Tommy – an easy presence; respecting the person; waiting to hear their story; gently coaxing that revelation; finding the humour somehow; relaxing and knowing it was about them and not him (or us). Not a bad model for ministry? Helen too is a good example. She was celebrating her adventurous spirit and her obvious thrill at the chances she has had. Somehow all of us are trying to release the character God has planted in us. Celebrating that spark and fun of living is the challenge.
I will be a wild rover?
‘Sojourner. Spirit. Opportunity. Curiosity. Perseverance.’ I can’t quite understand those trips to Mars. But I do admire the scientific brilliance of getting the Rovers that far. Over six months travel. They arrive and somehow land. They report back. I find that awesome. I like the names and will use them. ‘Sojourner’ – we too are here for a time and we have a job to do before God. Let’s do it. The word ‘Spirit’; I would hope that our Church wouldn’t just talk about ‘Spirit’ but would show real spunk in being counter-cultural and even outrageous these days and show off the gift of God and Faith to the world. Even ‘Opportunity’ – this time of Covid, is our chance to wake up to the new and creative possibilities of life. To consider how we can change completely what we do and how we might do it. ‘Curiosity’: Well how dare we ever lose the curiosity of a child? We are supposedly children of God and that fundamental curiosity can never be quenched. And yet Church can be so glum. ‘Perseverance’: Stamina is essential. Our business in faith is never to give up; never to give in; never to be weary; never to complain; never to get lost in the past but to move on.
Indi is in a sulk:
I cannot believe it. At eleven months, she knows what jealousy is. She confronted me on the phone last night. She had heard that I had been talking with the Spring flowers and that their words were appearing on this page. She told me to talk on with them and that she would be silent. I think she is affected by Covid and doesn’t realise that there is a big world of people who have something else to say besides herself!
She couldn’t stay quiet for long. She told me that she has now listened to my conversations with the flowers and wants to join in. She got excited. She told me her story. She goes out for a walk every day. She looks around. She sees light and darkness. She sees the parks. She sees the flowers. She feels the wind. She hears chatter. She feels restricted that she can’t go out and play. Her daddy has a big bike. She looks forward to having her own bike. She knows that there is a big world to be explored. She also enjoys her food. She loves new food and different tastes. She wants to explore and see and feel and taste new things. That is her journey into the future she tells me.
She is excited at the new possibilities in life. I tell her. Always be adventurous. Stay curious. Never stop learning. Every day is new and different. Every person is new and different and also has a story. Be willing to learn as she grows. She often asks about God. She cannot understand that she isn’t baptised (whatever that is; she wants it). I tell her that the real Baptism – is a christening into the world of Jesus. With new eyes and a new heart and always being open to the excitement of living. She wants more and more. Long may she remain that kind of person. So many older people stop learning and stop growing and stop being excited and stop being alive. Is there life before death is such a question?
Seamus Ahearne osa