Seamus Ahearne in one of his regular columns – George Bernard Shaw, Covid, Messi, Dara Calleary, Augustine and of course the Heron and Indi…


George Bernard Shaw (1)

There was a gale. The rain lashed down. The walking continued. The hat somehow stayed on. And then there was a sudden and strange quietness. Slowly it happened. A Ballinspittle moment occurred or it was possibly a moving statue! Had I treble vision? I saw three herons (distanced from each other but on the Tolka). I then shortly got a glimpse of three kingfishers. (My first time sighting). George Bernard Shaw’s words surfaced in my mind: “You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul.” GBS’s quote (Back to Methuselah) is also on a plaque in The National Gallery. ‘Works of art’ flourish in the Gallery of life, if we could only notice them. My soul was stirred that morning.

George Bernard Shaw (2)

I also smiled as I recalled my friend Francie (traveller). We had gone to Athlone to collect a door from Rod & Nancy. Nancy cooked a lovely meal. Francie is often lavish in his descriptions. “That’s the best meal I’ve had for years.” I challenged him and nodded towards Mary (his wife). He was quick and smart. His reply: “Mary’s grub is always a work of art and tastes of love.” I’m not sure what GBS would make of that but Francie was right. Anything and everything that wakes up our souls is indeed a work of art; more so if decked in love! A heron. Kingfisher. A tree. A river. A home. A person. The honest intimacy of ministry. The poetry of everyday. The music and song of life.

The News (1)

Alexei Navalny is in Berlin; Putin’s nemesis. Katie Taylor has beaten Delfine Persoon. My colleague ‘hates’ boxing and can’t accept women fighting. (He must have an idealised view of women!) Harry Maguire is in trouble; a Greek tragedy. The biggest news in football: Messi wants away from Barcelona. The golfgate frenzy after Clifden, has ensured the resignation of Phil Hogan. Dara has gone. Seamus is under pressure. If only we still had hanging in Ireland! I think the whole episode was obsessional and lacked proportionality; a witch hunt. The Republicans have their Convention. David Quinn thinks too many of us can’t see any good in the Republicans/Trump and are blind to the Democrats’ flaws. Interesting and rather strange.

The News (2)

The New Zealand trial was impressive with the victims’ impact statements. The Re-opening of the schools is a very big moment but some of the chatter in the media is a repetitive pain. Those who are working on the ground know all the difficulties but everyone is trying to do the best they can. The children need schooling. We had Confirmation last week. ‘The best ever.’ It was good to have a conclusion for the children to their time in Primary School. Some of us had to restrict our numbers to one parent who was also the sponsor (not the ideal). It was a most prayerful Service. Dara Calleary resigned that morning which was a helpful piece of news to justify the restricted numbers!

A Survey on faith during Covid

Many replied to a Survey of Faith Leaders on the Island of Ireland during Covid 19 Pandemic (May). It has been published by the Irish Council of Churches. It was led by Gladys Ganiel. The published Report is headed: ‘People still need us.’ The summary mentioned that the Survey was indicative rather than representative. There was a surprising uptake in religion on-line.

There was also a floating view that God/Faith/Religion was ‘needed’ and ‘desired’ in the wider community and not only among those usual attendees. Some of us have now taken part in a follow up interview. The shared reflections from those two hundred who were willing to continue the discussion, should be informative. Every parish; every diocese; every religious grouping has to have a new look at how we now organise and how we celebrate faith. This survey can help us get started.

Augustine (1) An Anniversary

Yesterday, I was alerted to an anniversary. It was 56 years since I joined the Augustinians. Such a day was very vivid in my memory. I remember it well. I wonder where all the years have evaporated. The friends we made as students, still persist. Many who joined us and left, often still find a camaraderie among us. Some are more Augustinian than those of us, who are still inside. I found student days too long (9 years). Ever since and everywhere, ministry has been exciting. The life is privileged. Problems abound. Frustration is splattered all over. But each day is new and different. ‘The works of art’ are to be admired and enjoyed. The soul is wakened. The official church can be such a nuisance but I have never felt restricted. All the limits on me are of my own creation or my own narrowness. Every day is provocative.

Augustine (2) and Jeremiah/Ministry!

The burden of church failure (abuse) and how we have sometimes portrayed a very small God, has made faith/practice/ministry weary and dreary. We carry that too but also we have the inspiration of church people who have given their all, and whose contribution will never be grasped, except in the light of eternity. But if our faith is alive, (it isn’t always easy for faith/prayer to survive in a minister); the oasis of God-land is a most exciting place to be. We are daily pioneers and adventurers. The God-world is forever revelatory. The painting/profile of Jeremiah (Jer 20.7) – ‘being seduced and letting himself be seduced; the effort to resist is too much’ which is familiar. Many of us know that feeling but we mightn’t growl or moan as much as Jeremiah does. We are blessed. The people bless us. We have the most delightful and demanding job in the world. We are dragged into the beauty and the wonder of reverential ‘fear.’

Augustine (3) and ourselves

It is the feast of Augustine. I would love to meet him. He would overwhelm me with his intelligence. I would argue with him robustly. I would enjoy his ability to make the ordinary experience of each day, the stuff of theological reflection. I feel the pressure of his presence in my life as a demand to be expansive. I try every day. Even my scribbling is a response to his suggestions! That I remain careless with words and throw them anywhere. That I struggle to integrate the daily nonsense into a living faith. That I somehow make faith- celebrations real. That I do everything only with the cut and thrust of respecting the gift of God in each person and that we work as community and as team. Augustine is indeed a troublesome and awkward parent. His mother was a nag too.


Seamus Ahearne osa

PS 1. Indi rings me every night. She wasn’t amused yesterday. She told me that she was almost 23 weeks old and that I had shortened her life by a few weeks. She didn’t sulk but she said that she will talk to me next week. She said that she is teething and she doesn’t like it

PS 2. I am pleased to see a flurry of activity on the Site. The polemical does galvanise the opinionated. The usual suspects are great. It is even a happier thought when a few new contributors appear. The Site is our Forum as ministers and as church. It has to be living and throbbing. My friend Augustine would like that too.



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  1. patrick Rogers says:

    Thanks for that reminder that we are God’s work of art. He is the Potter we are the clay willing to be fashioned into whatever form God Wills.
    And a happy feast day on the day of st. Augustine your orders great patron.

  2. Joe O'Leary says:

    A blessed feast of St Augustine to you and your confreres!

    I always remember as well that it’s Goethe’s birthday (1749) and how he aimed to be a counter-weight to the Saint.

    Could one sum up Augustine as follows: an explosive encounter of Plotinus and St Paul, integrated into the serene and rooted life of the Church Catholic?

  3. Paddy Ferry says:

    Seamus, I hope your brother priests do regard this as “our Forum as ministers and as church”. But do they?

    Or is Eddie nearer the mark when he speaks about ” …the few who tune in to this forum”. Not a day passes but I tune in and I am not a priest. Am I odd, is there something wrong with me? Being part of this has helped me in my education, helped me keep the faith and, maybe, even my sanity at times. I also try and contribute when I have something which I think is sensible to say.

    When you thought I went quiet a month or two ago –had I been furloughed –, I didn’t think so myself —and you told you had missed me, I was flattered. I missed Eddie for a while last year and when I told him so I don’t think he was flattered at all.

    But, you know, it cannot be just a few. Surely many priests would avail, for example, of the great resource that Pat Rodgers has provided for many years on this site. If I were a priest preparing a sermon I would regard what Pat provides with great gratitude. I know priests over here who do. So, I am sure that many priests do tune in. Mattie will probably have the exact numbers.

    But what does baffle me is why priests –apart from the ever present few–are so reluctant to express an opinion here. What does that say about our Catholic Church?

    “PS 2. I am pleased to see a flurry of activity on the Site. The polemical does galvanise the opinionated. The usual suspects are great. It is even a happier thought when a few new contributors appear. The Site is our Forum as ministers and as church. It has to be living and throbbing. My friend Augustine would like that too.”

    “…but better go to the CDF sources first before appealing to the stray thoughts of the few who tune in to this forum”

  4. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Seamus, I didn’t catch sight of your triple-Augustine paragraphs till now, near the end of my 77th birthday and I’m glad to hear from Joe that I share mine with Goethe. I began to discover Augustine around my 7th birthday, from his mugshot on a Missionary calendar hanging from our kitchen mantelpiece. I decided then and there that Augustine would be my confirmation name and three years later Cardinal D’Alton agreed with me that it was a great choice. If I had arrived a day earlier in 1943 I’d probably have chosen Monica instead – I’m not sure what Johnny D’Alton might have said to that. Augustine didn’t feature very much in my six years at St Pat’s in Armagh, but his ‘Confessions’, ‘City of God’ and ‘De Doctrina Christiana’ took up a good chunk of Tom Finan’s Latin course over three years at Maynooth. So for today’s reading I’ve returned to Henri Marrou’s ‘St Augustine and his influence through the ages’ in a Men of Wisdom series which I see I bought from Gills for 6/- in Dec 1961. Still a valuable handbook nearly sixty years later.
    Anyway Seamus, enjoy your Augustinian day or what’s left of it.

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