Nature passes the baton:
The mornings are stirring. They wake up the heart and mind. The Tolka is languid and soothing. I see the heron and the swans in the swamp. They have left the pond, at least some of them. They have found something delicious, unknown to the others. The ducks and one swan remain in the pond. The heron looks very scrawny. Our photographer Máire showed me her images from today’s fly-past. The heron flew up the river and back again. The heron wouldn’t give me the pleasure of seeing this flight. I move on. The gentle crocuses and snowdrops are slowly falling asleep. The passing of nature’s baton to the daffodils is happening. I am very fond of daffodils. I lived in a house belonging at one time, to the Wordsworths. ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud.’ I am always intrigued by the hand-over in the relay race of nature.
Public Characters 1(Enda McDonagh)
John Bowman featured Enda McDonagh on Sunday and will do so again, on the coming Sunday. That is significant in itself. Church people are more of an embarrassment than anything else in today’s Ireland unless it is Peter or Kevin or Stan or Consilio! The prominence of Enda in the public forum obviously demanded attention. The intellectual. The Renaissance man. The wise man. The breadth of comment. Truly a Church person shouldn’t only be a spokesperson for Church matters but have the ability to tellingly bring intellectual rigour to a commentary on life and living. The God-person has to be bigger than an apologist or even a defender of Religious matters. ‘The Risk of God,’ has to extend to a critique of the prevailing issues of life and a robust examination of conventional wisdom. Enda did that. The task of a real theologian or a real academic or polemicist is to challenge lazy thinking. We need national philosophers who can communicate well; be confident and who are at home and at ease in coherent debate.
Public Characters 2
There is a dearth of rigorous debate in society today. The Church too has become timid. We (Church people) often spoke in the past ‘ex cathedra’ and expected to be listened to and followed. That is no longer possible. We can only take our place with strength of argument rather than by dint of status. A truly educated person respects the investment of history in themselves and brings an independent mind, to the real questions of the day. Enda did. He wasn’t just a priest. He wasn’t just an official theologian. He was a thinker. He wasn’t just saying what he was expected to say or fighting a corner for the official Church. He was thinking, arguing and stretching the mind, imagination, and even the poetry of life. That is truly the educated person. He had the guts and the humour. Many teach and few educate. Many of us are flooded with qualifications but haven’t been educated. Sometimes we have become static or even regressed. We haven’t the confidence to venture onto the rough forum of public discussion and debate. Poor old God has been dealt a weak hand in some of us! Or we have gone missing in the quietness of formulaic thinking. Our weak theology can hide in certainties. We have kept ourselves to ourselves. Enda didn’t. We miss him. We envy him. The loss is big. When will we see his like again? And where? As Enda has said: We have to risk God.
The News political and otherwise:
The former French Ambassador to the UK, Sylvie Bermann, has written a book: Goodbye Britannia. There are some of the catchy lines in this book –‘Lying is no longer a sin’. She dismisses Boris as ‘an inveterate liar.’ She compares him to Trump but sees Boris as more likeable and more intelligent. She ridicules the UK on Brexit as ‘the triumph of emotion over reason. Its roots lie in the combination of deluded British exceptionalism and rank political opportunism.’ But bombastic Donal continues his rhetoric. Ninety minutes is rather daring for such a failed politician. He still mouths crudities. Somehow, there are people who believe him. Even Mitch McConnell, who was so scathing on him after the Impeachment, is now reported as saying that he would support Trump on a bid in 2024. Whatever about politics, surely the most important news of these days is: Lady Gaga’s bulldogs were found. I don’t know whether the $500.000 helped. This was headline news!!!! Are we all gone mad? It must be Covid!
Funerals are most difficult in these Covid times. I don’t know how families cope. The absence of a wake and the few allowed into the Church make the occasion very challenging. The preparation these days is also very different. The time with a family is very limited. However, the need to personalise the funeral is even more essential. I find that the intimacies shared in that preparation are quite awesome. It is such a holy time. God has to be in that place even with the most unexpected people. It is also our job to ensure that those ten are made to feel most comfortable in the Church and at a Mass. We cannot neglect the thousands participating online either. The language of Church and Mass may be very unfamiliar. The ‘Word has to become flesh’ in their lives and in the story of this person. I feel very much for those priests who work as a single priest in the parish. It demands so much energy and commitment to celebrate a life in the context of faith these days. We find that so many are dying and it is hard to give full attention to one family and then having to move immediately to the next. But it is sacred. It has to be done. Why can’t people stop dying??
‘Earth is crammed with heaven and every bush afire with God’:
We can easily find and squeeze out the beauty in every day. Catch it. Hold it. Delight in it. Transfiguration occurs on our every mountain. A girl arrives at the door. She gives me a cake for a cup of tea. I don’t recognise her with the mask. I did ask her whether she wanted to fatten me up. As she leaves, she says, “pray for me.” The cake was very tasty. The shared intimacies in life always stagger me. They happen all the time. There is so much that I can never tell but the depth of honesty and sharing doesn’t just surprise me; it brings out a sense of awe in me (like I Kings 19).
I was sent a WhatsApp. It was a little letter. Young Zara had written to her Daddy. It went something like this: “I love you Daddy. I really do. But the dinner you cooked wasn’t very nice and I couldn’t eat it. I still love you. I don’t want to hurt you but that food was horrible. Lots of love.” I found that moving.
A young man died locally. It was a tragedy. He was homeless. I get word then from people who knew the family from the past; little stories are shared; I hear from the Nursing Staff in the prison and again the comments are heartfelt. I hear from Betty (our broadcasting technician) and she produces a programme he took part in. It was called: “I’m still human.” That speaks to me in the inner recesses of my heart. And then a final simple thing: I did an interview last week (Profiles in Catholicism). They sent me a photo attached. It was of Diarmuid Martin. I had to tell them that Diarmuid might not be happy if he was confused with me. It was another moment to smile. Such moments are multiple.
She is busy. She tells me that she hasn’t time to talk. She wants to plan her birthday. It is on the 21st March. She will be one. She wasn’t too keen on Zara’s letter to her Da either. Indi can’t write yet and she has so much to say. I think she was jealous once more. She is eager to get started and has a thing or two to tell her parents. She was rather curt in dismissing me. Her view was that I had written too much already and hadn’t left room for her to say her piece. Oh she is demanding.
She was pleased that Sam Bennett has done well recently. (If you don’t know; you should). She is interested because she has heard the family speak of Carrick-on-Suir and also is very aware that her Daddy takes off on his bike regularly. She got very confused with Tiger. She saw Tiger as a very big and dangerous animal and then she was told that Tiger had crashed a car. She didn’t know that Tigers could drive and obviously this Tiger couldn’t either. Why is life so confusing?
She then had a little question. What is prayer and how can she do it? My response wasn’t helpful. I told her to ask her Ma and Da to teach her. I then said something simple. Indi. Stop. Think. Say thank you to God. For parents. For life. For home. For friends. For family. For teeth. For smiles. For playthings. For food. For word. For everything. That is the best prayer. She looked at me on the phone and was mesmerised.
Seamus Ahearne osa