Séamus Ahearne: ‘I am loath to interrupt the rapture of mourning in which the nation is now enjoying its favourite festival – a funeral….’ GBS


The Queen has died. The tributes are plentiful. Even Theresa May has added a comedic flavour to the picnic of celebration. GBS was exasperated. Not with these tributes but with the splurge of grief in the nation when Victoria died. His letter to the papers was rejected on the matter. The surfeit of emotional response was too much for George Bernard Shaw. Elizabeth was an extraordinary woman. But the whole paraphernalia of monarchy and royalty seems a complete anachronism. Now I do have a past! I lived in a tied cottage on a big estate. Lord Waterford and Lady Caroline were the monarchs. My father got a job there when he was let go from the local tannery. I used to meet Lord Patrick (he was a gentleman) who was rather close to Princess Margaret for a time. But I still feel strongly about the residue of colonialism and the landed gentry in a Republic.

The contaminants of the court!

Some of accoutrements of royalty have seeped into church culture. With titles. With the ‘princes’ of the church. With dress. With deference and formality. Even into the elaborate aspects and language of Liturgy. We need a purge. The God of the Gospels is an unwanted refugee in the language of the Liturgy too often. Francis was saying this recently: “Jesus created the seven sacraments (very debatable!) and with this kind of attitude, we create an eighth, the sacrament of pastoral customs.”  He was talking about how an unmarried mother might not be welcomed for baptism plus much more. He wanted everyone who approached the church to find an open door. That does mean simplicity, hospitality, heart, humility. Where the ‘guests’ don’t have to fit into our ‘words’ and ‘customs’ but rather where we learn to imaginatively celebrate God in their ‘words’ and in their ‘customs’ and ‘culture.’

Should every pope be canonised (while alive)?

Francis had a beatification last weekend of John Paul 1. The short term pope. Really these beatifications/canonisations of popes need to stop. It feels incestuous and sometimes political. If a person was holy and inspired; that is surely sufficient. We don’t have to compete with heaven to acclaim someone. This search for miracles is hardly impressive as it didn’t excite Christ in his time either. I have met and meet many a saint who wasn’t a pope.

Liturgical inflation: (1)

I have a problem with listening to myself. An idea keeps buzzing around in my mind. I am repeating myself. It could be age. After all, three people wished me well in my retirement during the week. One even gave me a blanket to cover my knees! But to get back to the roundabout (with no exit) in my head – it is the sheer cumbersomeness of this weekend’s diet for the Eucharist. It is not wholesome. It cannot be. It is psychologically unsound. There was Exodus where God was tearing his hair out and Moses was trying to calm God down. We had Paul telling Timothy of grace. And then there was not one; not two, but three stories. A lost sheep, a lost coin, a lost son. That surely has to be called an overdose. Simplify. Reduce. Be realistic. And then some even throw in a Gloria, a Creed and unwieldy linguistic obstacles in the preface. ‘Rud nach féidir.’ The Prodigal story is sufficient for anyone and everyone. It is familiar. Not too familiar. It is the experience of many a family. It is the story of parenting. It is the extraordinary gift of love. Rembrandt has a very evocative painting. Some say one hand is female. The other is male. I don’t know. But the ma and the da of life fit very well into that picture.

Liturgical inflation (2)

I met a child during the week with his SNA. Maria told that he had written a poem on the rain drops. It was magnificent. He was mesmerised by the drops. He saw the ground thirsty. He talked of the hunger of the land. He could see how the grass, flowers, trees would now blossom. He could see and could express what I had taken for granted. I met a girl in a nursing home. She told me that I didn’t recognise her due to the mask. I meet her in the mornings walking the dogs. She took off into a speech on the mornings. On the gift of space; of the air; of the rising sun; of the river; of the birds; of the heron; of the beautiful sky; of the moon. On how gifted we are in nature. These take me back to the Prodigal. God is very prodigal. Nature is such a gift. The rain and the air. The family. Parents. Friends. Neighbours. Community. We take so much for granted. It wasn’t and isn’t only the young scoundrel who is the me-me character. All of us take so much for granted. I find that little message better than the inflated and overdose of words in the Readings.

Indi speaks:

The phone rings. She has a question. She tells me that some call her ‘little princess.’  She wants to know is that a compliment or an insult. She knows she is little. She doesn’t have any understanding of all the rigmarole on royalty. Princess. Queens. Kings. Lords. Ladies. All these folk dressed up and marching – she wants to know – can she dress up like that? Those hats (the Queen used to wear), she wants to try them on. Now she wants to go to the funeral of Queen Elizabeth in London. She thinks London is in the next field.

Her God-talk these days is surprising. She saw all the very big machines arriving. They went into the fields. They cut down all the lovely coloured growth ‘fruit.’  She had to have it explained that this was the harvest. And the changing colour was the wheat and barley smiling. Oh she liked that. Then she needed to have explained to her what harvest means. She was thrilled with the idea of the land being fruitful and everything flourishing. Her last word was – “Does God give us all this? Am I a kind of fruit from God too?”  

Seamus Ahearne osa

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  1. Bernard Whelan says:

    Should every Pope be canonised? One of several unfortunate side-effects of Vatican I is the adulation of deceased popes. It’s worth noting that between the end of the Council of Trent and the beginning of Vatican I, 31 popes died, of whom just one has been canonised, whereas since Vatican I, ten popes have died, and of those ten, four have been canonised and three more are on the production line. That’s 70%, a phenomenal percentage. There can be no doubt that with the ultramontane papacy that resulted from Pius IX’s obsessions, sainthood pretty well goes with the job. The beatification of John Paul I drives the point home. He was no doubt a very worthy man, but so were many thousands of others. Why pick him out for beatification instead of all those others? Because he was a Pope!

  2. Paddy Ferry says:

    Séamus, didn’t Edinburgh do well. I stood on the Queensferry Road as She completed her journey on Sunday from Balmoral and then I stood at Quality Street — just up from Davidson Mains — as She left Edinburgh for the last time on Tuesday.

    I am not a monarchist, but I felt it correct to pay my respects. She was a truly sound and admirable woman. Until her legs no longer allowed her, she knelt at her bedside and prayed ever night — something I used do too until I ended up with too many prayers to say.

    I don’t blame her for colonialism, the slave trade or the empire as some of my family were bent on doing. I told them she had no power — not even the power to make it possible for her sister Margaret to marry the man she loved. With that I won my case.

    So, Séamus you are retired. Congratulations. I should have been retired in July but it will now be December. So much still to do.

    We are having a class reunion in Borris in Carlow in November. An odd place for a reunion but I am not complaining.
    I must revise my history — Inter Cert, think — Earl of Pembroke, Strongbow and all that. Of course, our Church was up to its neck in that scandal as well, because of the Donation of Constantine which, bizarrely, very few people seem to know anything about.

    Francis was saying this recently: “Jesus created the seven sacraments (very debatable!)” Very debatable indeed and thank God for Kieran!
    And, thank God for Francis that Kieran can speak honestly and openly without fear of decapitation. God bless the Pope.

    I came across a lovely photo last night of Lawrence at Michael Cassidy’s Golden Jubilee — I think — here in Edinburgh.
    Two of the greatest priests. Give Lawrence my very best wishes when you next speak with him. I will send you the photo by email, Séamus.
    Thank God our site is coming alive again.

    PS “Some of accoutrements of royalty have seeped into church culture” Yes, Séamus. But even before that;

    “They enlarge their tefillins and lengthen their tassels”. (Mt.23.5-6) Has nobody ever pointed this out to our most ostentatious dressing up brigades?

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