Séamus Ahearne: Churches and foxes and herons and heroes…

Much ado about nothing

The Fox and the Heron:

I sometimes meet two herons at the Tolka River in the mornings. They are never together and maintain an appropriate distance from each other. Social distancing goes beyond the two metres. I am told that there are four herons on the Tolka. However, I can’t read their name-tags and can’t distinguish one from another. I watched this morning a fox (on one bank) eyeing the heron (close to the other bank). The bird studiously ignored this attention and was more interested in its breakfast than in the fox. The fox thought it had a breakfast too in its sight. The duck family strolled languidly by together and greeted me. There is never such community togetherness with the herons.

A dying Church?

The Church in the West (Annunciation – Finglas) is surrounded by fences. This landmark building is being knocked down. It was like Jacob’s ladder on the landscape and announced to everyone, from its vantage point, that life made sense only, by looking heavenward. Am I being fanciful? Well now the Annunciation Church is about to expire. It has run out of breath. The death of the Church could be a symbol of the faith-world in Ireland. Or it might be only stating the obvious: That the Church was too big. It was leaking. It was cold. The sound was bad. But the Community was vibrant and full of heart. The local discussion now centres on a new model of church/parish for Finglas. It will be very different. Will it be three in one? Probably. The clerical caste is dying out. There will be very few to staff this new emerging Parish. Possibly two. The full Service on offer at present – of always being open; the calls always answered; the emails and texts replied to; the doors welcoming; the homes called to; the accompanying continuous; the 24/7 treatment assumed; the broken families minded; the bereaved consoled; the sick visited; the court cases written up. (And much more).

How will 300 plus funerals per year be prepared and celebrated? Or even a greater number of Baptisms, be readied for, and marked? How will 5 Mass centres thrive without the full-time priests? How will Liturgy be celebrated? How will schools be visited and worked with? In the short-term future, the Augustinians who are on death row, will be warehoused in nowhereland! I do hope that the model of Parish in the USA, from years ago, which operated on Office Hours only, won’t happen here. But it may have to. Above all, the priest cannot become a roving minstrel/ a Spailpín Fánach jumping around ‘to read’ (ag léamh) Mass. We cannot forget that Mission lands have managed for years without many priests. It is rather likely that the deluge of priests in this country has hindered the growth of the Christian Community. A revamped notion too of priesthood is still someway off but needed. Covid surely has changed all of us too. Will we see the need?

‘Eye of the heart’ by Cynthia Bourgealt (An extract on Babett’s Feast).

“As Babette takes stock of the ageing, dispirited remnant of a once-vibrant evangelical community, she now cooks for, she realizes that what is missing among them, is any felt sense of abundance. Pious exhortation notwithstanding, it’s a long stretch to believe in abundant grace without first having some visceral notion of what abundance is. These hapless peasants are dying of spiritual malnutrition, and Babette sets out to directly infuse the missing ingredient. Through her over-the-top banquet she initiates both their souls and their bodies into a profligate grace they could never have imagined, much less actually tasted.”

(Some of this is very applicable to ourselves).

A hairdo and Mass!

Some messages came through from across the world including Stockholm, South Carolina and even Dundee. Lorna (Dundee) had got the script from somewhere (not from me) and had read it on the Jubilees at Harborne in Birmingham. She had her say. She is 93. She hasn’t been to Mass since the outbreak of Covid. I told her that it was right for her not to go to Mass. But she retorted: “I had my hair done. When I go up to heaven, will they tell me that my hair is lovely?” If hair, why not Mass, was her cant! Lorna was a dentist and was used to talking while the patient had the mouth clamped. The gaffer of the cleaners – Lizzie the Ayatollah – used to call Lorna – Budgie! You could guess the reason. But Lorna, at 93, was thorough in her assessment of that script from the Jubilees and then wanted to know all the names. Where were they? What had they done? She was brilliant. She hadn’t lost any of her acerbic wit. It did me good.

The Cranberries and Boy George:

I watched The Late Late Show last week. There was a local connection with the Cranberries (Fergal Lawler). It was so uplifting to hear Dolores O’Riordan’s mother speak. The gentleness, the softness and the faith, were quite beautiful. And then I saw my old pal Boy George. He too had local connections. His ma – Dinah – came from these parts. George and myself had corresponded. It was good to see the new George. He looked well. He absorbed the good of each day. He was very mindful. He didn’t get trapped by what had happened and what he had done in the past. He was clean. That was probably my last Late Late….

A hunger for God!

We had no funeral last week. It felt as if we were on holidays! Our First Communions and Confirmations are now on the calendar. There is an avalanche of Baptisms and so many other Services at present. There must be a huge hunger out there for God and for worship! The upset and anger at the postponement was rather vitriolic. It was as if everyone had suffered a severe deprivation. Those parishes and bishops who advocated ignoring the guidelines and NPHET advice and then went ahead with ceremonies, let us all down and created multiple problems for everyone. There wasn’t much Communion in that one.

Great Sport!

Leona Maguire was magnificent at the Solheim Cup. Jason Smyth, Ellen Keane, Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal were the golden folk; The Paralympics were an inspiration. All the moaners and the groaners everywhere need to absorb what these athletes have achieved against all the odds. Andrew Omobamidele and Gavin Bazunu brought a smile to the faces of all who had lost heart in the Irish Team. The Meath girls surprised everyone especially the Dubliners. And now it is over to the Mayo team…….. they surely must be saying: ‘Mayo. God help us.’


Seamus Ahearne osa

PS     My two companions for this page are absent. Máire (photographer) was away in Limerick for the week. Young Indi is moving to a new home and hasn’t time for chatting with me.





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One Comment

  1. Pádraig McCarthy says:

    I finally figured it out – what’s the great affinity Séamus has with the herons?
    It has to be the rhotic “r”. Not like the English r, which is hardly pronounced at all. Where we say “hair”, they say “hehh.”
    Especially the way, in the southern counties, we really roll the r. For “Ahearne”, we don’t say “Aheahne”, but “Ahearron.”
    Maybe its not just an affinity; maybe more consanguinity?

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