Séamus Ahearne: May the nourishment of the earth be yours; may the fluency of the ocean be yours; may the protection of the ancestors be yours; and so may a slow wind work these words of love around you, an invisible cloak to mind you. (John O Donohue)


Two big characters from my past, loomed rather large, in recent time: Tim Radcliffe OP led the Synodal participants into Reflection. Michael Campbell Johnston SJ died. Tim and CJ (as he was known among his Jesuit comrades) were inspirational figures long ago when I moved in such circles. Michael lived his life with, and for, the poor. He was extraordinary. There was an urgency in him, to be where such action was needed. He was ‘rocked’ when six Jesuits, the housekeeper and her 15 year-old daughter, were murdered in San Salvador. He had been based in El Salvador for some time during the Civil War. But nothing in life daunted him more than being ‘dumped’ into the role of Provincial in England. He had, in earlier days, worked with Pedro Arrupe; another giant among us. I smiled when I read that Tim Radcliffe was invited to do that talking in preparation for the Synod. That said much about what Synod could mean. Tim is a straight talker; a colourful story-teller who manages to get away with more than most. He too has learned much from his own severe sickness. Tim and CJ were wild men and wonderful. Somewhat there was, and is room, for such mavericks! Thanks be to God. Tim continues.


How could it have happened? Ireland beat South Africa. New Zealand beat Ireland. South Africa beat New Zealand. Those 37 phases. At the line. Almost on the line, and yet somehow – Ireland couldn’t get across it. They did us proud. But Siya Kolisi  (South Africa) is very special. Even if he got a ten minute rest during the Final. The Captain. His rendition of the Anthem was exhilarating. His tonsils were on show. The muscles in his neck were taut. He sang with heart and conviction. He was totally committed. His words previously after winning the World Cup (2019), and then after the Final this year, were words of wisdom. He came from Zwide (a township in Port Elizabeth). His words were like this: This wasn’t just sport or rugby; this was for the team; for the fans; for the people of South Africa. Despite all the troubles in South Africa, he wanted them to have their spirits lifted. To celebrate what is best in all of them working together. He has never forgotten where he came from. A gentleman in a very rough world and a very tough sport.


Brendan Hoban’s Book (Holding out for a Hero) is a tour de force. It is tactically set up with those succinct and razor sharp poems of Pádraig Daly osa. I do admit a certain bias! However, Brendan’s sustained assault on the whole structure of Priesthood and Church is done affectionately. Love might be the better word. The long winter of the Papacy since the Council never seemed to end. And then Francis came. Brendan writes passionately but reflectively. His depiction of the Popes; of the Leadership (Bishops); of the Priests; of Confession; of Liturgy; of the Sunday gathering; of the cluttered Mass; of the dead Missal and the unwieldly Readings; of the PPCs; of the Homilies; of the passive Congregations; of the sexual nonsense and chaos; of the dispirited and unadventurous ministers; of the disconnection between life/experience and the God, that is supposedly celebrated; of the empty loneliness in the celibate, is savage. Brendan is fluent and sprinkles/splashes little vignettes everywhere. He has lived what he writes about. He has given those 50 years generously and wholeheartedly. He is so right too –  Francis’s words are in total harmony with the consistent and persistent message from our Prophet Brendan.

Faith can be expressed simply. Grace is real. Scripture speaks to the heart. The mess in life is familiar to most of us. The artificial construct of a formal Church presented over many years is collapsing. Some of us have been adventurous and enriched. Many of us have travelled that long road of 50 years and haven’t been restricted or curtailed. The heavy edifice of formality hasn’t hindered our experience of God. Priesthood has been exciting; extraordinary; exhausting; exhilarating. It has been awesome. That is another experience, despite much of what Brendan has written. His words ring true. His portrait is real. Henry David Thoreau wrote (1854) ‘Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.’    We cannot allow that to be the story of priesthood. God cannot roam in lives so described. How many of us wish for more Brendan’s in our Church. In our lives. There is a heavy silence among our brothers in ministry. Nietzsche wrote: ‘God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.’ Or possibly we retain a certain responsibility for allowing the ‘official version’ to kill a God that is real. Silence makes us guilty.

“Don’t walk in front of me… I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me… I may not lead
Walk beside me… just be my friend.”  ― Albert Camus

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”― Albert Camus


The last word: Halloween is being celebrated. Some €8000 worth of fireworks were found locally. In Finglas. Not all of them were found. The noise has been going on since September. There was no sign of postponed gratification! The immediate was the need. The Eve of All Hallows. We may not celebrate All Saints as thoroughly. But people will be there for the 2nd November. For All Souls. There is something very special about this coming together. It is very real too that every funeral; every death; demands to be a celebration of a specific and unique story. It is a privileged access to the home of a person’s life. It is an invitation into the hearth. To the fire of a home. It is the half-door of the past. It is the spontaneity of the story telling. It is the Table. As ministers, we are the outsiders. We are the visitors to a life. Our local folk are magnificent in their sharing. I hope we manage to gather something of that into the Liturgy. We are guests in that celebration. They aren’t entering our world. We are walking on their ground. It is sacred.


Seamus Ahearne osa 

31st October 2023.

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