Séamus Ahearne on New Year’s Day…
Janus: Looks to the past. Looks to the future
The Tolka. The river was slurping. Or gurgling. Or maybe even gargling. I think it was probably spluttering. Each a strange and different sound. The swans and even the naked trees looked surly. Everything was stark. Was it an eeriness of winter or of the disease of Covid or a metaphor for isolation and loneliness? I don’t know. I was a kindred spirit at that moment. After all, we are friends, (birds, river, trees) with much more, than a nodding acquaintance. I was thinking of the language that Niall Williams speaks of in This is Happiness. (Faha) Or in John McGahern’s That They May Face the Rising Sun. (In a corner of Leitrim) or possibly Kavanagh with The Great Hunger. The ‘saids’ and the ‘unsaids.’ The ‘assumed.’ The ‘hints.’ The lingering half-words. Yes. The water. The birds. The trees. Myself. How sharing is difficult and sometimes very vague. We said little (river, birds, trees) and wondered as we wandered. We live in a shared world. We belong together. It is a communion of Godliness and also a wilderness.
The three amigos marched out. Not all in tune. They looked bedraggled. It was almost a statement of our times and of our Church. Jude made the announcement. Diarmuid spoke on the Church and the parish. And seemed listless. Dermot introduced himself. All the fanfare was missing. The camera was distant. We couldn’t see the frowns or the wrinkles or the nerves on the faces. It was a big moment. Jude definitely isn’t Charlie! Ossory was a different preparation for Dublin. Many of us are so caught up in our own area, that we had heard nothing from Ossory over the past three years. The death of Larry had cut our own links here in this parish. Larry used to be nostalgic; he was jealous of those of us, privileged to be here in Rivermount! Why did he move, he sometimes asked? I expect Dermot might often echo that one in times to come.
The public forum:
Diarmuid has done all he could. He was a very respected and regarded figure, in the public forum. This was, and is very necessary. The Irish Church needed someone who was at ease on the media, and who could rise beyond the comments that can seem like spiritual sweeties. The ‘word’ always has to ‘become flesh.’ Diarmuid managed that with aplomb. I went into a DIY shop yesterday and was told that I had a new boss. The asides went this way: “You should be the bishop or even the pope.” I reminded the shoppers that I was in to get a ferrule for my walking stick, and that stick (and therefore age) was obviously the only thing that disqualified me!
Walking and thinking:
I walked this morning. (End of year). The new ferrule was somewhat protective. The snow was spitting. The paths were icy. The air was sharp. It was very quiet. No one else ventured out. Many years ago, we used the term: ‘The Great Silence.’ A monastic residue. That deep silence, accompanied me. I forgot to look up at the full moon. That was neglectful. I wrote as I walked which is usual. Even the little birds had embraced the silence. I was careful and took to the grass at times. It was a type of farewell to 2020. I recalled all who had died in the parish and the sense of sadness at their going. I thought of the past ten months. The strangeness. The closed churches. The online efforts. The discovery of a new world. The awareness of generosity. Even at times when counting money seemed to be the only ministry.
Walking and writing:
I remembered too, Séamus Mallon, John Hume, Betty Williams, John Lewis and all they gave. The richness of humanity. I smiled at the return of sport. Liverpool. Limerick. Dublin. Hamilton. Taylor. And I recalled John Charlton. I am amused at the Coalition of FF & FG. At last. The Greens are the tasty bit in the middle. I drifted towards the Biden election and am beyond belief, at the carry-on of Trump. His supporters, I can’t grasp at all. I see out the year with Brexit done. (Supposedly). Is it any wonder that Stanley Johnson is applying for French citizenship? (Boris won’t like that). And then there are vaccines. Yes the path to the future is slippery. Even the little birds decided to remain silent so as not to disturb my reverie.
Tom Stack and Kavanagh:
I watched Tom Stack’s funeral. Liam Murtagh led it with such warmth and heart. Tom’s personality was everywhere. The twinkle in his eyes was there. His sociability was there. Paddy Kavanagh was present. I was trying to remember Tom’s book No Earthly Estate but couldn’t find too many words in my sleepy memory.
“I dreamed. And then I came to the haggard gate
But I knew as I entered that I had come
Through fields that were part of no earthly estate.”
I had to do a patchwork quilt of my thoughts from Una Agnew’s beautiful book. (The Mystical Imagination Of Patrick Kavanagh: A Buttonhole In Heaven?) Una obviously breathed the same air as Paddy and her book is suffused with similar poetic language. Maybe Paddy’s Room is an appropriate summary for Tom, Una, Liam, Paddy and all the characters who crowd our lives with wonder. They are the windows, who let in the stars:
‘My room is a musty attic. But its little window; Lets in the stars.’
Indi – an observer of the foibles of adults:
Indi has been on holidays with her country granny Helen and her cousins and uncle and aunts. She was gloating; a typical Dub. She felt that the Déise folk are country bumpkins/culchies, and were too unsophisticated to be ruthless enough to win anything. She liked her first Christmas. And was surprised to see that there were so many people in her new world. She too had only known isolation. She did ask a few questions. She is addled with all the colour of Christmas; with trees; with presents; with lights; with food; with funny hats.
She still can’t quite get it, where this Jesus baby comes into it. Is he an excuse or is he real? He isn’t able to play. He doesn’t eat anything. He hasn’t teeth. People like staring at him. She wants to know – how does he change anything? What will he be like? Is he important? What effect has he on people around? She said that some people go to church – whatever that is about. What about all the ones who don’t bother? She says. God? What’s that? Who’s that? She isn’t sure how much difference this God makes to the lives of those she meets. She is curious. I think that is a good start…….
Seamus Ahearne osa
Thanks again, Seamus, and a Happy New Year. A happy new archbishop might be asking too much.
I see Francis could do with a sturdy stick and a new ferrule. His sciatica is not something we hear much about until it flares up, but the limp is fairly obvious. For both of you, a Heaney Haiku:
1 . I . 87
But I face the ice this year
With my father’s stick.
Mind you, he was only 48 at the time. The father had died a couple of months earlier.