Séamus Ahearne: EVERYBODY’S  TALKING ABOUT A NEW WORLD IN THE MORNING (Roger Whittaker)                                              


The children are in bed. All is quiet. It is Saturday evening. I had been to Bewleys (it had been ten years since I was there, at least) in Grafton Street. Paddy, Fiona and myself met to sort out the world. (Many of you know Paddy Ferry, who adds a dollop of sense to the ACP from outside the clerical enclave). Paddy has a great grá for Dublin and misses Ireland despite his long years in Edinburgh. We ventured back to some of our shared past in Edinburgh and in the Archdiocese. Keith Patrick featured. He really had a pastoral touch. Yes. He had clay feet. His fall from grace was dramatic. There was a real feeling among us that a drama was made out of the crisis. He could have gone quietly which might have been better for everyone. However, we recalled the ‘good news’ consistency of his ministry. The efforts to tidy up the diocese after Keith hasn’t done too well. A tidy world is a construct which happens in an office but not in reality!


Paddy gets frustrated with the absence of responses on the ACP site. He finds it hard to believe that priests have so little to say or are unwilling to say anything. I inclined to offer an opinion from my experience of the sophisticated attitude of the criminal tribe, that we may have learned from them. How many of those I know settle into an interview/interrogation by the Gardaí, with the standard response: No Comment. Paddy and myself agreed that most of the readership on the ACP website must have learned that one. In recent times, every item on the site is ended with 0 comment! 


Now we did ramble onto the Israeli – Palestinian war. It is beyond words. Pulverising Gaza is not going to solve it. The powerlessness of the UN too was discussed. Antonio Guterres does try. And then we wandered off towards Biden and Trump. As gentlemen, we only wanted to bang their heads together so hard, that they might see sense. Brexit bothers us also. And the utter chaos in UK politics. The Inquiry into Covid showed up the stupidity at the centre of Government. And as for the WhatsApps revealed – it was shocking. We had noticed too that the scorned women –  Liz Truss,  Nadine Dorries, Suella Braverman were somewhat upset. They must have been infatuated with Boris! The viciousness of their assault could lead us towards the view that men are appropriately named GENTLEmen!  Some women definitely aren’t gentle!


It was ever so good chatting with Fiona and Paddy. Fiona especially had a different view of things. We were tempted to get caught up in the rollercoaster business of church life. She smiled and called us out of our awkward cosiness within the familiarity of church life. I want to link up other visitors during last week. Tony and Pola came from Skye. Pola is an artist and worked for some time in Strathmartine Hospital (Dundee) with those who had various disabilities. She worked latterly in hospices where she led many into a new work and world of art as they prepared for death. She felt deeply privileged. And I know she was marvellous. Tony was a Consultant Psychiatrist in Sheffield. Some of us had trained him/shaped him in Dundee! When Pola and Tony retired, they moved to Skye. Tony was ordained a deacon some years ago. They are a very special couple. I’m afraid the short time we had last week together was an example of old codgers getting together and soaking themselves in the past. However, it was lovely. How blessed we have been. We woke up the souls.


Emerging from those chats, was one very serious point. We are immersed in the life of the Church. We are consumed by the day-to-day issues. However, our desire and our need is – first of all to find where is God in the middle of all we do. In priesthood, especially in ministry today,  we can be overwhelmed. Today, there is no let-up. There is little time for reflection. There is the immediacy of today. It is the call. The phone. It is the funeral. It is the schools. It is the hospitals. It is the preparation for everything. It is the administration. It is endless. The wonderful world of God can get lost. We are forever giving. We are receiving too. But the Ritual can take over. The Holy Ground has to be found. The presence of God has to be seen and lived. Prayer is essential. Not for everyone else but for us. I was impressed and delighted and jealous to hear of the praying that Tony and Pola do together. Paddy and myself who are given to speechifying and scribbling can be distracted away from is the heart of faith. We can moan and groan at what is not happening or what is being done; all the formalities of Church life can corrode the essentials.


I saw those family stories in The Tablet recently: The Accidental father; the adopted child; the death of a sibling; the open door home where every stray was welcomed. All special and beautiful. I read too of the poetry of WH Auden… And felt I hadn’t really known him. I liked it. It has to be poetry and art and music to lift us out of ourselves. Our education didn’t do it for us. And often times, Church/Ritual doesn’t do it. But proper priesting has to do it. All the nonsense of the centuries got caught up in irrelevances and still does. Faith is simple. Francis tries to do that for us. But not many listen. The recent words from Wisdom – has a challenging message: How stupid men and women are if they don’t see, if they don’t look! We have to look.


For all of us then our ‘talent’ is to wake up the God within. To share the wonder of faith. To be excited and enthusiastic. To see the leaves fall and to enjoy the changing colours. To be moved by the light and darkness of winter. To hear and see the storms and note the storms of life. To be humble in the presence of our own ignorance. To celebrate friendship and family and community. To have fun in the Liturgy and make it real. To be awestruck by the extraordinary in the ordinary. To listen to the ones who aren’t damaged by education and have lived a life of reality. God still speaks. We have to tap into  that voice. The dance of faith and God have to go out. The music has to quicken. There is no shortage of priests! The Church is not dying. Our present version is. There is only an absence of imagination to create a new structure for faith! 

A last word: Yes, the children are in bed. My grandnieces, all four of them! Their parents had gone out!

Seamus Ahearne osa   18th November 23.

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