Séamus Ahearne: Language, Songs, Comedy, History and Her Story…

‘The Way We Were’  & ‘ Windmills of Your Mind.’

Air pollution and crude language:

I rang the Surgery to renew a Prescription on Monday. The phone spiel began with a statement on the abuse the staff are receiving and how unacceptable this is. Any visit to the A & E will find notices plastered everywhere, that abuse of staff is again totally unacceptable. A trip on a bus these days, will find the air polluted with bad language. Some of us are taken aback especially hearing young girls splashing the f word to rot every sentence. Every day on the News, we hear of murders, gun fire, knife crime and drugs. In political life, the most vicious linguistic bombs are hurled everywhere.  However bad Boris is, he must be shell-shocked these days by the viciousness of the attacks. (The pain of tears was different with Jim Shannon). The language of Donald Trump has polluted the political atmosphere. Even in Church circles, apparently the anti-Francis group fling grenades with ungracious insults.

I begin to wonder why anyone would want to take on the leadership role in Church or State. The carry-on around Novak Djokovic too was strange. There was a case to answer, but the ranting that took over was raucous. The advance flyer on The Tommy Tiernan Show (RTÉ Saturdays) had to alert people to the possibility of crude language. What is going on? Is society becoming noisy and uncivilised? And if so – why? Might there even be a loss to the Public Persona due to the dismissal of religious culture? Is this our way of being grown up? In the cricket at the Ashes… the gentle tone of the relationship between the England Team and the Australian Team at present, was compared to the sledging of the past. So there was a positive note.

Comedians of faith:

It may be age. I could be getting doddery or possibly wallowing. It even could be an inclination to hide in the past. But I was wondering. I read an extract from Mickey Harte’s book ‘Devotion.’ I found it extraordinary. It isn’t my way of praying but his version was very moving. I prefer the Tolka to sitting in a Church before the Blessed Sacrament. His reflections on Michaela were special. Maybe I did hanker back to the past and to the saints of the past that I have known and still know. But I wonder too on a new version of life and faith. The formulism of the past doesn’t speak to me. The static rituals. The rigid preaching. The passivity of the congregation. The all- knowing priest.

I liked the version in the Magnificat January 2022 booklet. The painter Teniers’ illustrated Anthony in the Desert  (monasticism) had his eyes fixed on the Book. It is thought that Anthony couldn’t read! But I know many too who can’t read but who speak with God and are full of words from God. I was thinking. We need less formality and more frivolity in faith matters. My mind rambles to Frank Hall and his Pictorial Weekly (70s). I rather need someone like that, to send-up every fashionable comment thrown out in the media in a ridiculing of religion. Someone to have fun at the caricature of religion which now dominates conversation. I saw Máire Mhac an tSaoi on TG4 recently. Her love poetry was beautiful, expressive, bold, risqué  but alive. How can we do something like that with faith? Or can we find a playwright like Brian Friel – ‘Shyman and Showman’  TG4 – who can have fun and nonsense with faith issues to lift the spirits? Vibrant. Teasing. Thoughtful. Stirring. The day of formality is over. Solemnity is irreverent now. Don’t sing me the song ‘Give me that old time religion….’ (1873). It  won’t suffice anymore. We need to poke fun at ourselves and be outrageous and ridiculous. God can take it.

The Centenary of The Treaty:

I found the Centenary deeply unnerving. A hundred years since the vote on the Treaty – 7th January 1922 – 2022. The Treaty was ratified by the Dáil meeting in Earlsfort Tce. The Great Hall or now the National Concert Hall, was the venue. How sad it was and how bad it was, that the vote 64-57 though carried, led eventually to the Civil War.  The savagery of that war has blighted our history. Why did it happen? How could it happen? And yet we all know that we live with the consequences in N Ireland still. However, we have a Coalition Government at present which might not be expected with the pain of history lingering. We do move on. I watched some of the Re-enactment (RTÉ). It was important to be reminded. It was a major effort to put it on.

But I couldn’t quite handle the reporting back to the Studio where David McCullough was the anchor man. It overstretched the imagination for me. The elastics were at bursting point! I was amused by Diarmuid Ferriter (I think he was the historian on the panel) telling us that the general population was for the Treaty and the bishops as well. He said that it was in their own interest (the bishops) to do so; they would hold onto their power positions etc. Is that true or was it just one of the usual and unacceptable brickbats, to be thrown at the dying Church?  Where are my Frank Halls or Máire Mhac an tSaoi (s) or Brian Friels to send the boomerangs back to where they came from? The Church is now crying out for comedians to give perspective to life. The new priesthood should be one of artistic expression and full of laughter and humour. If only Marilyn Bergman stayed alive for a little longer; she might write some appropriate songs for us too. (Nice ‘n’ Easy; The Way We Were; The Windmills of Your Mind.) The robots of faith have had their day. We need mad and wild poets. It is a great time to be alive in the God-world.

The Gaffer:  Indi

Young Indi. She is like Tenier’ St Anthony with the Book. She is happy to parade about with her Book. She is an avid reader or thinks she is. When she heard that Eddie wanted her to carry a banner around to let some of the more flat-footed and single-minded readers know what was going on. Might it be irony? Might it be fun? Might it be another view on something? She told me that she will do that job. She has the arrogance of the young. Things are very clear for her. There are no greys. Some people, when they get older, also miss out on the colours. They got lost in their own certainties. But Indi is definite. She knows.

However, she has problems. She loved the Christmas. All the colours. All the decorations. That funny crib. She liked the baby Jesus. But now they are all gone.  She doesn’t understand why every day isn’t full of decoration and colour. She insists that she changes often and her clothes have to be very bright and eye-catching. She delights in having her photo taken. She asks the most obvious questions too. If Jesus came, where has he gone? If Mary and Joseph are parents – where have they taken him? Is he well looked after? And what about these visitors – shepherds and wise-men? She knows about sheep and sees them every day. Wise men and wise women are scarce enough she says. She can’t grasp either why her many friends go off to school while she is kept at home. She wants to learn. About life. About nature. About God. She has so many questions. She wants instant answers. Her poor parents are worn out trying to explain everything. She is never satisfied with their answers. It is totally beyond her how stupid adults are. She must have read The Velveteen Rabbit!


Seamus Ahearne osa









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  1. Paddy Ferry says:

    Séamus Ahearne: Language, Songs, Comedy, History and Her Story…

    “The Treaty was ratified by the Dáil meeting in Earlsfort Tce. The Great Hall or now the National Concert Hall, was the venue.”

    I never knew that, Séamus! I did three of my summer end of year exams in the Great Hall.

  2. John Warmann says:

    A very insightful discourse that exposes the extent the self righteousness prevents us from meaningfully appreciating so as to enable us link the two key anchors of Christian discipleship, ie. the pastoral and doctrinal pathways to God. The imagery of the Church being a field hospital, which is needed by us all, is probably the strongest expression that should help us overcome the sense of self righteousness whereby the sense to exclude the “sinful” is engendered. It’s the Eucharist that bonds us to Christ, and so to exclude some from it on account of their living condition is like sentencing them to death. And the tragedy of it all is when one even thinks of the Eucharist is a gift of grace.

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