God Keeps on Singing
Cara O’Sullivan has died. Her funeral was on Saturday (30th Jan). Stories were shared across the media. There was a public Wake. It was so right and so moving. Such a woman of song was a treasure. She had often spoken of her earlier days at home, where singing was just part of family life. It stirred up memories of my own home. We weren’t singers (I wish we had that gift). But sometimes the cousins would arrive. The ‘box’ would appear. (The Melodion). It remains a precious memory as the furniture was moved back for the dancing. Cara herself spoke of her preparation and her performance. She compared herself to Pádraig Harrington. Both felt it was the ‘fear of failure’ that drove them. The next performance mattered, and was the test. She has spoken too of her love of Cork, and her love of Munster Rugby. Even Donncha O’Callaghan had tweeted how her singing of Stand Up and Fight would drive the team on.
The Nightingale and the Rose: (Cara continued)
John O’Brien (Examiner), a composer and conductor, wrote beautifully of Cara. He described her as a Diva in the true sense; she had something of the divine. He then wrote of a performance of Oscar Wilde’s – The Nightingale and the Rose, when she couldn’t take her place on stage (due to the early onset of dementia) but when they came to the part where the cast and the audience sang together, her voice soared. He mentioned the poignancy of the line: Sing one last song; I shall feel lonely when you are gone. All of us pine for the music of life; to catch the note; to join in the harmonies; to touch the depths of emotion. This is a throbbing whole hearted faith. If only, we used our voices.
She was annoyed. My weekly accomplice couldn’t understand why she wasn’t in print these past few days. I had to tell her that we couldn’t intrude on grief. I whispered to her that we were rather frivolous and that there was some very serious discussions going on. (The Report). I told her that her great-grandfather would say: Don’t rush in with your hobnailed boots. I sometimes think of the ‘awkward squad’ as rather similar to the Squad in Congress. AOC (Alexandria Ocasio Cortez), IIhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib and later members Jamaal Bowman and Cori Bush. Who are our awkward squad? Joe, Pádraig, Eddie, Seán and Paddy. They are tenacious and challenging. We are blessed in having such contributors. They keep the site alive and buzzing.
Counter weight to dreariness:
But I wish also for more moments with a light touch. We can’t be serious always. I know that The Report drenched us in sadness. I know we can easily succumb to almost fatalism in our Church. I know that we can all become – go brónach. However, the Church isn’t all bad. Everything isn’t totally soured. We do need more of the ‘yin and the yang.’ I want a perspective. I am weary of the Report. I am weary of Covid. I am weary of the Media. I am weary of all the talk of mental health. I am weary of all the school talk and exams. There is a vaccine. It is coming. Let’s get on with it and bask in hope. I have asked too for some writers to follow on from Brendan Hoban’s book, with their experience of ministry. Only Liamy did it. Brendan’s book is crafted so well. But it is a caricature of ministry. It is bordering on Father Ted-ish. There is more. There is better. There is wonder. There is beauty. There is God. So over to the Awkward Squad – why not divert and have a go? I don’t want ‘Happy Clappy’ material, but I do want a glimpse of the wonder of life. It isn’t all seriousness or badness or failure. Melancholy, despondency and the lugubrious can take over. There is much more to the business of a lived faith. Just a little Good News!
I have begun to watch Tommy Tiernan (my only TV visit to RTÉ). I like the surprise of the Show. I like his nonchalance. He seems at ease in himself. So on 30th Jan, he had Baz with the story of his Egyptian father and family history; Jess with her polyamory, which supposedly made her a better friend; Manchan Magán with his ‘32 words for field in Irish’ and his retreat to Westmeath. Whether they are all strangers to Tommy or not, I don’t know, but they were to me as were their stories! I did rather enjoy Mary Coughlan (last week). We had the world of Shamanism. This Medicine woman. I think her singing voice has slipped over the years. She shared very openly on her life story. She liked Micheál Martin she said. She had met him at the airport a few times and they had chatted. Her comment seemed by way of respect for religion. Tommy intervened with a quizzical flutter of his eyebrow. Even his hat bobbed. And she corrected herself. It was Diarmuid Martin that she was talking about.
That was the week that was:
There were Four funerals. Limerick, California, here. The story of life. The reflections. The memories. The heroes and heroines of our days. The clay on our roots. What friendship is, and how loss feels. There is a weight of sadness and yet blessedness in all of this. Another woman (dying) talks of her husband’s incarceration as an orphan. The lingering rust never left him. But it is the honesty of being invited into the inner sanctum of someone’s life, that is the privilege, and it is so humbling. I walk to reflect on the Godliness of it all and the holiness. The Tolka wakes me up each morning. Tommy Tiernan finished his Show on Saturday by using a quotation which I can’t fully remember but he ended by saying that ‘the eyes of wonder must be opened.’ I need that and I meet that. The poetry of life. The music of the birds. The laughter of the river. The smile of the sun. The artists’ canvas in the clouds. Light and Shadow. The revelation of love at a funeral. The graciousness of friendship. And then yesterday (Saturday morning) the birds were even silent. The rain had taken control of the day. The paths were rivulets. The wind was aggressive. But somehow it was exhilarating. Clothes can be changed. A hot shower shakes off the cold and the wet. Revelation happens. When it is allowed and welcomed. Karl has just died. He was a gentleman and a saint. His life made him a prophet and a spokesperson for God. Such people stir up the beauty of faith and the ‘work of art’ that is a person. I am awed. What a blessed place this is.
Man United beaten by Sheffield United. Liverpool actually did win against Spurs. The Australian Open begins with spectators. Some 30,000. Everton and Leicester beaten. MU and Arsenal have a tame draw. Roy is annoyed with both. Tadgh Furlong is back. Katie Taylor got the Sportsperson of the Year rather than Sam Bennett. This was slightly controversial. Rory is thereabout but not there.
This week (In Dublin) we bid farewell to Diarmuid Martin and we welcome Dermot Farrell. Diarmuid and Dermot – that must be what DD stands for! Our leaders face huge problems. Diarmuid did a marvellous job as a public spokesperson. Dermot will do things in his own way. He is an outsider to us here. What is leadership in Church? We should not need to be defensive. We cannot be mired in the past. We should have a bigger view of life. We should accept failure. We should be like lighthouses – beacons for all the ships on the rough seas of life. We don’t need to be negative or aggressive or apologetic. The essential mark of a Christian Leader has to be humility. To be at ease in oneself. A frowning prelate with a pained expression is unhelpful to the person of Jesus Christ. This whole project is bigger than any of us. Humour, humanity and humility will do well. If we believe in communion, we try to live it by letting the gifts of each other flourish and sharing. If we go back to the summary of sacrament – ‘as a smile on the face of God.’ Only that easy smile on any of us, will carry people to God. Recently we had the line: ‘What do you want? Where do you live? Come and see.’ (Jn 1.35). We have to showpiece the wonder of faith and of God. We hold as essential Job 38. ‘Who do you think you are?’ And of course the end of Jonah. When Jonah sulks over the removal of the castor oil plant- Yahweh teases him. I like that. We need such frivolity. So thanks Diarmuid. Welcome Dermot. I will use a cliché – we are in this together. That is Communion.
Indi – in the line of Moses:
Indi watched Mass online. She was pleased to see herself on screen. She had no problem accepting herself as a spokesperson for God – following on in the line of Moses. She asked about the others. Who is this John Bosco and Brigid? I told her they were spokespeople like she is, from God. Who else? I gave her a list of the locals but she didn’t know them. She wanted to know about Brigid and bringing the Spring. How would she know Spring was arriving, she said. I told her to listen to the birds. They are busy at this time calling on possible partners. They are noisy and happy and in song. I then told her that because she asked – I noticed this morning crocuses and snowdrops in Tolka Valley Park as I walked. She wanted to see them. But that is over to her parents. She then wanted to tell me a little story. She saw a WhatsApp video last week. It was of Pope Francis. He suggested that we keep away from negative people. They only put wrinkles on our faces. Stay with people who put a twinkle in our eyes. Indi liked that, I do too.
Seamus Ahearne osa.