Séamus Ahearne: Let the wilderness and the dry-lands exult (Is 35:1)

Brendan, Tommy, Hamza, Fleur, Qatar (1):

Isaiah has been extravagant during Advent. Hills were dancing. Rivers were clapping hands. Flowers and fruits were flourishing. The deaf were hearing. The blind were seeing. The lame were jumping. What a wonderful world! Even Louis Armstrong would join the chorus of nature. Big man Hamza Yassin was light-footed and his lifts were magical. Fleur East was a brazen hussy and magnetic in her aggression. Isaiah would be impressed. (Strictly Come Dancing). The Brendan Kennelly programme on RTÉ1 (Tuesday 13th December) was frolicsome and beautiful in language; in poetry; in commentary. All the women were salivating! Isaiah would be happy. Tommy Tiernan rambled with his Epic West and listened to the landscape speaking to him. (Wednesday 7th December). He found the whispers of the divine in the very rocks and rivers. Isaiah would be a kindred spirit. (One reviewer found it maudlin and seeped in the drivel of spirituality. The same reviewer is a musical writer but rotten with negativity on everything.) Morocco and Croatia dared to challenge royalty in soccer and are now bold enough to surprise and scuttle all predictions. Isaiah would be delirious.

Brendan, Tommy, Hamza, Fleur, Qatar  (2):

I went gadding about a little after these calls: A text came – Watch Tommy. A call came- Watch Brendan. Another text arrived – Watch Strictly. I only dabble. My TV stamina is very limited. But I catch a soupcon or a morsel of the recommended. The call of the phone or the keyboard usually takes over. I think Isaiah is right. I think this is Advent. I think the God of Surprises is bursting to appear among us. We have to beware lest the straitjacket of the familiar doesn’t restrict the vision of Isaiah. We are ministers of Isaiah and never stodgy plodders. Stephen Hawking summed it up. Don’t make God small and tidy!

Paul – from NO PLACE (1):

Paul died suddenly on Sunday. He was our man in Rome. He was on the Central Government of the Augustinians. Paul came from ‘NO PLACE’ near Stanley (Newcastle area). His home was quite near the Beamish factory. He had worked in Korea; Nigeria; Hoxton (East End London); Harborne (Birmngham); Clare Priory (Suffolk); Broomhouse (Edinburgh). He was a man of deep prayer. A very fine priest and Augustinian. He had a real sense of MISSION. He loved the outlook of Francis. He reached out to the marginalised; the outsiders; the broken ones. He also stretched his mind on the new world of faith. He accepted that much of what we know in the structure of the church was dying. God now had to be met in a new place. He came from NO PLACE. And somehow he felt that the lovely Church we know and are comfortable in now has become a NO PLACE for many.

Paul – from NO PLACE (2):

Paul had to move out. We have to move out. He wandered Europe in his role as Assistant General. He saw the remnants of the old establishment of faith; he saw the embers burning out; he reflected deeply on what he saw. He wrote very succinctly on this. (Including most recently in The Furrow – November). He read widely the modern philosophers and theologians. He was deep into Post Modernism. But his prayer; his immersion into the God of the everyday; the God of the poor, was profound. I think his struggle to learn the Korean language and to immerse himself into the heart of a very different culture, provoked him into learning a new language and new culture of faith for our world. He had done a wonderful job as pastor in Hoxton where a rich cultural mixture led to quite extraordinary Liturgies. This calm, reserved, aloof English man, had to learn to dance to a different tune which he did. He was an inspiration. It was right that his last morning on earth was spent in a Soup Kitchen. He had been introduced to this kitchen by a man known as Mario. No one there knew anything more about this man. Mario is very much a leader of the church in Rome!


She has been assaulted by a blitz. Colours. Lights. Decoration. Trees. Cribs. She is overwhelmed. She didn’t tell me if her mother or more likely her father had made a Christmas pudding. (Memories of older people!) The dressing up of the tree and the house intrigues her. She loves all the tinsel of life. She wants herself to be dressed up like the Christmas tree. Now the crib is mysterious. She wants the baby for herself. She wants to dress it up. She wants to feed it. She wants to make sure it uses the potty. However, she is easily distracted by the animals in the crib and wants to sleep in the crib herself. She claims that someone has to mind the baby. But then she can’t understand why the baby doesn’t grow up quickly and come out to play. I hope she never gets bored with the Christ of the crib but rather sees the God of everyday and everywhere, accompanying her and challenging her always. The Jesus of the crib will always need minding!

Seamus Ahearne osa

14th December 2022.

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