Séamus Ahearne: “I was a very reluctant priest.”

‘Yet stop I did: In fact I often do and always end much at a loss like this.

Wondering what to look for, wondering too, when churches fall completely out of use.

What shall they turn into.

If we keep a few cathedrals chronically on show,

And let the rest, rent-free to rain and sheep.’

(Church going by Philip Larkin).


Philip Larkin is sometimes called – ‘the uncommon poet of common man.’  He indulges in the beauty of the ordinary. The bicycle clips come to mind. The stopping by. Hull. There is a weariness in Larkin. But there is also an ability to catch the wonder of the ordinary. The religious instinct (or rather the human instinct) whispers to us: Wake up. Look around. See what is there. Be awed. Be alive. Be surprised. Be appreciative. Be grateful. Most of us trundle along. Taken over by the noise and the busyness of the day. The to-do-list and the routine takes over. We are time-poor. Or rather we are carried on, by the whims of the day. I think that Prayer now doesn’t mean holy words rattled off. Prayer is truly the raising of the mind and heart to God; In the human spirit being alert; In being grateful; In noticing. Problems always abound. But there is more. The more has to be seen and noted. I now incline to the view that Mass (Eucharist) doesn’t speak to people. Because it is passive. It doesn’t tease the guts. Many don’t think they need feeding. They don’t even know that they are hungry. Mass has to be readied in the spirit. Jacob’s ladder. The stone pillow. The Holy Ground. The shoes off. These are essential. We don’t have to fill churches. We do have to shake minds, hearts and imaginations, to tap into the beauty of the ordinary like Larkin.


I walked by the Tolka yesterday as usual. The Heron and myself chatted. It was very calm and sensible. The dark morning had called for a high-vis jacket. At least one man was out with his dog. The quietness of the heron and myself was shattered as he appeared on the path. His rant went to New York. He wanted to abandon the three political leaders at the UN. Leo, Micheal and Eamon. He didn’t want them back. I asked him why was he shouting so much? Did he feel a great loss, due to their absence? I clearly said the wrong thing. His view was that any ten Dealers from Moore St could do a much better job for the Irish people. And furthermore he said, “They won’t need any special advisors.” When his speech ended, he took off. I do think he could be kinder to the politicians. It is a very tough job. Most of them ‘can’t do right with doing wrong’  (in the popular mind).


I have a book on Medieval Pilgrimages. ‘Journeys of faith’ (Louise Nugent). Paul Flynn (Chef and owner of The Tannery – Dungarvan) was in conversation with Miriam O’Callaghan last week. The Radio was on in the car. He spoke on the Camino de Santiago. He likes to go every year. He claims not to be religious but he needs this journey. Some friends join him. The history of pilgrimage is impressive and deep. I hear of a lady who lives across from where, my cousin used to live. She is gone off today for a ten day walk, on the Camino. She has been in training. She is full of years but is deeply committed. I met two youngish girls (one 18, the other 41) last week. They had returned from Lourdes. Both said the same. They loved being in Lourdes. What impressed them most was the sight of the ‘young ones’ looking after the sick. Both thought this was ‘just awesome.’ These two would never think of coming to church! My own simple thought is that the pilgrimage of the heart is essential. The journey from the head to the heart; from the rhythm of daily life. A journey of reflection. To say hello to the sun or the rain or the wind. As Jim said to me, as I went into a big funeral of a 36 year-old woman. ‘You feel the wind. You can’t see it. You feel love but you can’t see it.’ There is the journey. There is the pilgrimage. There is the core of life. We must make it. It isn’t a journey from birth to death or from morning till night but rather being graced and knowing it along the way.

“When I consider how my light is spent,   

 Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide ……

 They also serve who only stand and wait.”  (Milton).


Two new grannies are part of our Parish Team. They are thrilled with the babies who have just arrived. The new mothers are different to the ones of yore. The App has to guide the novice mothers. Everything is recorded. The young mothers are concerned with the old ones. Their way of rearing a baby is very different. The strict and rigorous new mothers have to list every aspect of the child’s day and have to register everything on the App. This App is foreign to the grannies. The old ones feel amused and inadequate. The young ones don’t think much of the old ones. Their methods are not up to standard! It is great fun watching the developments. ‘Teaching your granny to suck eggs’ comes to mind. The old heads nod; the young ones will learn! So they say.


On the 13th September, the parish celebrated the Golden Jubilee of priesthood (mine). I joined the Augustinians on the 26th August 1964. Twelve of us started Novitiate. Six are dead. Four of us remain in the Augustinians. David Crean (New Ross),  Brian O’Sullivan (Rome),  Giles O’Halloran (Ballyboden) and myself. Brian was ordained on the 8th September 1973, I was ordained 12th September 1973,  Davy was ordained 28th September 1973. I was working in the East End of London (Hoxton) at the time of Ordination.


I arrived on Wednesday 13th September for whatever the local team had prepared. The Church filled up. I hadn’t a clue what was to happen or who was to be there. Seamus and Margaret arrived for the music. Seamus and Betty sorted out the Broadcast. Richard arrived looking for a roving microphone (I thought he had gone feral). The other music team arrived with Mick Cantwell (for after the Mass). The food came. Mass began. All kinds of unusual things occurred. It was a lovely celebration. Speeches were made. The roving mic picked up more comments. I am usually the one to coax words out of people, but this time it wasn’t me. Rita Gibney spoke: “I love him but I sometimes want to kill him.” Richard, Tony, Bernard threw surprising words around. Ann Darcy introduced everything. As I didn’t recognise the fellow in the photos; neither did I recognise the person they were talking about. It was embarrassing and overwhelming. Some people asked me if I was nervous on the night; I wasn’t. It was marvellous to see such an event without having to do anything myself.


I believe strongly that such an occasion should be celebrated. God does work in funny ways. God has worked in me, in very strange ways. I know that. And I do feel very humble in that context. The occasion of such a Jubilee, is much bigger than me, and in many ways isn’t about me. I was a very reluctant priest. Throughout my ten years of study for priesthood, I hesitated much of the time. But the living out of priesthood, has been extraordinary. I cannot believe how graced that has been. As I said, God has danced with me, even if I have two left feet. I have been happy in every Community where I have lived and worked. The people here have been quite delightful and wonderful as a Community. The faith. The honesty. The spontaneity. The banter. The sheer goodness. Is extraordinary. I am who I am because of them. I am happy that priesthood, ministry, faith was celebrated. I was only the excuse.

Seamus Ahearne osa    2

Similar Posts

One Comment

  1. Dermot Quigley says:

    Congratulations Father Seamus on your Golden Jubilee. Ad Multos Annos.

    You use the word ‘passive’ in describing the Mass.

    What I believe about the Mass is best expressed by making a quick summary of what the venerable Roman Catechism says.

    I believe that assuming a validly ordained priest, right intention, form and matter etc., that the bread and wine become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus.

    Furthermore, the Mass is a Sacrifice at which, our Lord’s oblation on Calvary is made present. So Mass is offered in Petition, Sacrifice, Praise and Thanksgiving.

    The Mass therefore gives me hope as it is an infinite Sacrifice in which, among other things, our Lord’s plea ‘forgive them for they know not what they do’, makes satisfaction for our Sins and enables our souls to be cleansed when we receive Absolution.

    In his excellent book, ‘The Incredible Catholic Mass’, Fr. Martin von Cochem tells us that the angels present at Mass make the petitions of the priest and congregation, their own.

    Therefore the Mass is not Passive.
    I hope because of the Mass. I don’t despair and I Don’t presume.

    I have ongoing Health issues but I don’t despair.

    I was declared a Schismatic by a member of the Irish Hierarchy earlier this year. It was later found to be invalid.

    I only got through all of this because of the Mass.

Join the Discussion

Keep the following in mind when writing a comment

  • Your comment must include your full name, and email. (email will not be published). You may be contacted by email, and it is possible you might be requested to supply your postal address to verify your identity.
  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger. Comments containing vulgarities, personalised insults, slanders or accusations shall be deleted.
  • Keep to the point. Deliberate digressions don't aid the discussion.
  • Including multiple links or coding in your comment will increase the chances of it being automati cally marked as spam.
  • Posts that are merely links to other sites or lengthy quotes may not be published.
  • Brevity. Like homilies keep you comments as short as possible; continued repetitions of a point over various threads will not be published.
  • The decision to publish or not publish a comment is made by the site editor. It will not be possible to reply individually to those whose comments are not published.