Séamus Ahearne: IF HUMANS CLAIM TO BE SUPERIOR TO ALL LIFE FORMS THEN THEY MUST GAIN AN UNDERSTANDING OF THE OLDEST LIVING ORGANISMS WHO WERE HERE LONG BEFORE THEY ARRIVED. (ELIF SHAFAK)
THE SEA AND THE END OF THE WORLD:
The sea has a strange effect on me. It gets me thinking of a pilgrimage to the end of the world: Camino Finisterre – which is an extension to Camino de Santiago. It was the medieval ‘end of the world.’ These words strike me: “Sometimes we are called to dance on the wild edges of our lives – to discover something new; to conquer our fear of the unknown; to welcome strangeness; to crack open unfamiliar parts of ourselves and God.” (Christine Painter). This came to me, sitting at the sea in the early mornings (Algarve). The beach is silent. I am alone in the world. The waves keep talking. They never pause for breath. The sand stretches endlessly. I look out. I see the far horizon. And I wonder – is that the end of the world? As far as I can see! We do set limits. Life too often is defined by how far we can see. We see so little. There is more. Always. We are puny. Our eyesight is poor. Our minds are very small. Our imaginations are curtailed by what we can control and know. The limited reach, in the elastics of our minds, is humbling. Or should be. I like the idea. I like the whole smallness of our awareness. Too often then our ‘end of the world’ is similar to the medieval view. We are only comfortable with what we know or think we know.
THE POETRY OF SPORT:
I like the poetry of Donal Óg Cusack on the beauty of hurling. The artistic effusions describe well the beauty of the game. He has the words. Ken McGrath (a heroic figure in the folklore of Waterford hurling) was hurting recently as he described the Waterford team in their two championship matches. The team lacked the music and the song which should be in the game. Last year in the League, they sang a different tune. Young Grealish and young Rice (both had played for Ireland) dance now to the muse of football (soccer) and we hope that the young Ferguson lad will continue with Brighton and Ireland, to display the wonder of football, where awe has to be the only response. And then there was Katie Taylor. However much, many of us decry, this so called sport, (especially for women), there is something inspiring about her life, commitment and how she speaks. And now to faith.
THE MUSIC OF FAITH:
If the sportspeople can do it, so can we. Faith and Church is about the music, the art, the dance and the poetry of life. There are no limits. It is endless. It is only hindered by the poverty of our thinking. Little people like ourselves, can never restrict it or control it. Our job is to create the possibility where something of the wonder and marvel and miracle of God can be experienced. We are ministers of wonder and mystery. We usually muddle along and find problems. So often we are caught up in minutiae. Unimportant issues take over. Not quite angels on a pin, but many of our preoccupations are similar. Our Church isn’t and can’t be as it was. The incarnation goes on. Today. The mud and muck of the moment (and the place) is where Christ lives and is met and seen. Church folk can be overwhelmed by pious claptrap. And the minister can be so unctuous with holy sounds that the very mystery of God is obscured. Obfuscation indeed. In the UK, there was often the clichéd comment about the vicar’s voice. Muttering holy nonsense. Holier than God!
THE ART OF MINISTRY:
However, what can we do? Reach out. Go beyond the usual and the expected. Create a spot. An occasion – every occasion. Always. Where something of the Holy Ground can happen. Where the Burning Bush is revealed. Where ‘God is in this place and I never knew it.’ And we show it off. Every gathering. Every occasion. Every Mass. Always. That is the challenge. Never mind the bombardment of the formal Liturgy. Holy words are useless. The avalanche of the book-words from the only speaker – (the priest) is nonsense. We can be steeped in the rubbish of the past and theological spew. Let God loose. Let the experiences of all be released. Holy chaos. Is the Spirit unleashed. That sea. That horizon. That end of the world idea is as much part of us as it was in the medieval times. ‘Your God is too small’ as Stephen Hawking once said. Be expansive and fearless.
We are confronted too by the limits in democracy: How was Boris elected? How was Liz Truss elected? How was Trump elected? (This is a comment on the electors). How are the DUP allowed to freeze the Government of N Ireland? Why haven’t the two Governments taken over, or threatened to do so? Short-termism is too often the main policy of every government. There is much more beyond the horizon… Faith cannot show such traits. Small-minds. Psychological constipation is dangerous where we hold onto the past. Apologetic seriousness. We surely can only laugh when everyone gets caught up in the issues of the day and forgets the bigger picture. God is very big. Words always fail us. Mystery drags us beyond ourselves. Yes. Poets. Of Faith. We have to be.
THE CHILD AS TEACHER:
Young Indi. Is forever excited. Each day has something new to be seen. It is the colour of nature. It is a new dress. It is a different sky. It is some new people. This is the girl who sometimes doesn’t want to sleep in case she misses something. Why do we grow up? She saw her face after her third birthday and there were scabs. She asked – will I ever be beautiful again??? She recovered and now thinks God is lucky to have her.
Seamus Ahearne OSA. 22nd May 2023.