Séamus Ahearne: ‘Hope is being able to see there is light despite the darkness.’ (Desmond Tutu)

‘Hope is being able to see there is light despite the darkness.’

(Desmond Tutu)


Charlie as a visionary!

Charvet shirts and Le Coq Hardi food are mentioned in dispatches following the publication of those 30 year government papers. There is style. Charlie Haughey was definitely aspirational. For the country. For himself. He wanted to lift everyone out of poverty and low ambition. He showed what could be done. The era of ‘the big house’ was gone. (In literary culture it was depicted with Elizabeth Bowen, Molly Keane and William Trevor plus plus). The dilapidated and fading grandeur was evaporating. But Charlie brought it back in fashion as a possibility and appropriate for the citizens of this country.

He shouted out loud and clear: ‘You can do anything. You can have everything.’ There is education at its best! He wanted to lift the spirits. He had his yacht. His island. His horses. He had Kinsealy. He set the standards. We all like some mischief and a few rogues to smile about. It is a distraction from the ordinary and mundane. What a visionary???

Calum and Ophelia:

I came upon Calum Stevenson and Ophelia Redpath recently. It was on Sky Arts. Calum became the Portrait Artist of the year 2021. Ophelia became the Landscape Artist of the year 2021. The commission then for Calum was, to do a portrait of the Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti. Ophelia had to do a painting of Dinas Oleu (Cliff of Light) – the hillside over Barmouth in Wales. We were taken on a journey with the two artists as they built up the paintings. It was awesome. I claim no knowledge whatsoever of such an artistic expression but the jigsaw of moments in the preparation, really impressed me and enlightened me. The final paintings were beautiful. I think we are born to be artists. In the business of faith, we are commissioned to present our work. To show off our artistic expression of what and who God is. I like to see the Feast of Christmas as calling us to reveal the birth of Christ through us. Our Gallery awaits the Exhibition. Our Revelation. We show the portrait. We celebrate the landscape.

The Reds/Mise Éire/The Chieftains:

I flick through the remote sometimes at night. TG4 has caught my attention recently. I have to read the sub-titles. My Irish has disappeared. I say that with sadness. How did I spend so many years in school and learn so little? Or forget so much? There was a programme on Alec Reid, on Clonard and on the Redemptorists. It was very special. What we as a nation owe to those people and to that place, is extraordinary. It was the ministers of the church doing what they can do best. I also came on 50 years of the Chieftains and a story on Seán Ó Riada. It was all so evocative and very special.  It reminded me of what I said earlier – I know so little about music; about art; about Irish. I am beyond learning now but I begin to know more and more of how little I know. That can be generalised.


Whinge bags:

I smiled. Gary Neville had a go at his former team, Man United. He called them Whinge bags.  He was ashamed and embarrassed by them. They all seemed to be blaming each other rather than getting on with the job of playing. Now we also know that Gary could have extended his comments way beyond Man U. It applies across the whole spectrum of life. The moaning and the groaning is the central feature of life in the media and in life. The poor Government is supposed to solve everything.  Whatever they do, is wrong. The Church is a laughable institution. Covid has brought out the worse in people. Somehow the transmissibility of whinge is more severe than Covid itself. Much commentary in Church life too is riddled with the disease. Let’s find the fun. Let’s abandon blame. Let’s enjoy the wonder of people and life. I see so many every day who are sick and housebound and yet are full of life and love and grace. It is good to be alive.

Flawed humanity:

Kieran Creaven, producer at RTÉ was found guilty and jailed. Jimmy Savile worked on TV for years. (BBC Top of the Pops and Jim will fix it….. etc.) And was never exposed. It is at least a question – how come that such major media outlets could miss out on what was happened in their circles? Was there even a hint or a question mark? The Church has been hammered (and rightly so) for its lack of insight and blindness in similar circumstances… I know. The media has savaged the Church whenever there is an opportunity. That is fair. But had they a faraway look which didn’t see what was happening before their eyes? The sheer deceit and hidden world of abuse is extraordinary. The manipulation and the lies creates diversion and is so subversive. For many if not most, it is beyond even the grasp of people, to understand how anyone could ever do such things. After years of working with addicts of all sorts and working also with the professionals (psychologists and psychiatrists), our shared conclusion was that we are almost at a loss. Frustration takes over. Lk 16.8 does appear to apply. Our little minds can never plumb the depths of understanding or find out the whys. The deviant outsmarts us all.


Fixed Cameras/Rigid Liturgies:

Christmas came. Covid interfered. Many churches resorted to tickets. We didn’t have to. The numbers definitely didn’t overwhelm. The Vigils were fine. The Christmas mornings – produced only a few. The old phrase of ‘cancelling Christmas’ seems to have taken over. However, I know that cancelling Christmas really applied to shopping and partying and visiting. But as a Christ event; I think it really did get cancelled. Now that the habitual has gone (Church for Christmas); it won’t recover.  The broadcast online continues to surprise. The numbers are huge. It is a worldwide congregation and their participation is quite inspirational. I have seen some churches online broadcast with a fixed camera. I think that is close to useless. It perpetuates the static Liturgy and the passive celebration of the Eucharist. That can’t be ever right. I’m not convinced either by a static homily. The preacher with his words only. Is not the way forward. Or synodal surely?! We do have the challenge now for a Grand Design. The New World of faith will demand a very different Church. We have work to do. It is exciting really.


The Arch:

The dancing Arch has gone. Desmond Tutu had a breadth about him. He gave religion a good name. The fighting warrior against apartheid; the advocate of sanctions for South Africa; the celebrant of Mandela; the blunt assault on many at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; the angry attack on the ANC and Zuma; his words on Zimbabwe and Mugabe; his partnership with the Dalai Lama. His rainbow nation concept applied to everyone, everywhere. It wasn’t determined by colour only. It was catholic in the real sense. His laughter and his dance and his sense of fun gave life to faith. It enriched humanity. How faith shouts out for ministers of this calibre.

Indi is full of words:

She loved Christmas. Her teddy bear was huge and much bigger than herself but she picked it up and hugged it. Her baby doll and the pram, set her off on a race. Lewis Hamilton had a challenger. There was no stop to her gallop. She told me that she hadn’t time to ring me each night and that I would have to be happy with every second night. She was too busy. Santa was important to her. She was almost more interested in what everyone else got, rather than what she had herself.  Now she did have a problem.   She wasn’t sure where this baby Jesus came into Christmas. She was inclined to say that this could be left for talking about at another time. Christmas time was too full of excitement to cope with such an intruder as God, even if this was a baby-God. She had her doll. Christ was for another day. She then asked me about this writing thing.

Why do you write? She asked me. Do you think you have something to say? She said. Do you think what you say is well said? She demanded to know. I told her that I have no regard for what I say or write. That I am only a scribbler and that I do it to let my fingers exercise. But I do hate waste. So many are highly educated; are seriously intelligent and are very articulate but do nothing and say nothing. That is a horrible waste. The very nature of the business we are in, surely compels us, to speak up and speak out, without hesitation. She was satisfied with that response for the moment.

She had moved on and wanted to know what this shortest day towards Christmas meant, and what a little more light each day had to do with us. When was it going to give us a longer day and why is this light thing, associated with Christ as the light? I took a deep breath and she had gone off the phone.


Seamus Ahearne osa.



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  1. Paddy Ferry says:

    Séamus Ahearne: ‘Hope is being able to see there is light despite the darkness.’ (Desmond Tutu)

    Thanks, Séamus for that and all your pieces in 2021.

    Desmond Tutu certainly did give religion a good name which is what we all should strive to do.

    Not so sure about your adoration of Charlie the “visionary”.

    All the very best for 2022, Séamus, including and especially good health, and stay safe.


    PS. Lovely to see Indi.

  2. Brendan Cafferty says:

    Séamus Ahearne…

    The above piece about Charlie is plagiarised from what John Waters wrote about CJH in 2006 -that if he lied, was a thief and owned a Gandon Mansion, had an island, a yacht, a mistress, etc. it was not for himself but for us. He was a kept man, and released some dark forces in Irish society. As good man Des O Malley said at the funeral of another good man Jack Lynch “after Jack came a deluge of volatility”.

  3. Seamus Ahearne says:

    Seamus Ahearne…

    I should be angry and insulted. I have never attempted to defend anything I have written. It stands or falls on how it is read. But Brendan Cafferty’s comment is very different. The written piece (above) had nothing what so ever to do with John Waters in 2006 or at any other time. It wasn’t stolen from, or influenced by, John Waters, in any way what so ever. It came directly from my fingers and head. Brendan: You are wrong. It was not so. Your assumption on plagiarism is absolutely untrue and very unacceptable.

  4. Sean O’Conaill says:

    Séamus Ahearne…

    I took Seamus’s evocation of CJH as ironic forgiveness, not exoneration or extollation.

    Who now cannot see a Gandon mansion fixation as the epitome of Irish mimetic desire (i.e. covetousness) for the grandeur of the old ascendancy – and shudder at the corrupting power of that desire in an era of looming climate apocalypse?

    But this is all hindsight. CJH was seen by many as ‘cool’ in his own time. Seamus, like the rest of us, is surely grateful for the disillusionment that followed – not wishing we were all still back there, stuck fast in that morass before it became a morality tale.

    Plagiarism is the sustained and unattributed verbatim repetition of something someone else has written, not just any perceived similarity. BC needs to demonstrate that the former has happened to sustain his charge.

  5. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Séamus Ahearne…

    Séamus, those of us who occasionally employ a bit of irony in this parish should first take care to employ a wee man with a red flag to walk the highway and byways in front of us calling out, ‘Beware, there’s a supreme ironist on the loose,’ lest we be mistaken for a dulian, hyperdulian, latrian from Kinsealy or Inisvickillane – or even, God between us and all harm, a plagiarist. I’m sure even Indi didn’t need the ! ! or the ? ? ? to see what you were up to. Now off with you to iron your best Charvet shirt for the New Year. And thanks again for all your fingers’ scribblings.

  6. Brendan Cafferty says:

    Séamus Ahearne…

    In fairness to Séamus Ahearne I should say that when I first saw his contribution late at night I thought it was a bit of leg-pulling and was lifted from John Waters. He (JW) wrote in June 2006 among other things, on the CJH vision thing for us that “his (CJH) enemies were right, he stole Ireland back from the elites who had stolen it from themselves by aping their pretence and self importance, and that he showed us the way we might live by living it himself”. I said to myself where did I read this sort of thing before, so Waters was stuck in my mind.

    Nowhere did Waters of course say that CJ went on TV to tell us that we were living beyond our means and must tighten our belts while he indulged in Charvet shirts, Le Coq Hardi, etc. among other things. Perhaps an almost identical piece or convergence of minds might have been more appropriate here. Plagiarism I have to accept was not the right word as I could not be sure he (Séamus) had ever even read the Waters puff piece of June 2006 and I have to accept his word on this matter.

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