Séamus Ahearne on walking, cycling, driving, breaking the mirror…and Indi!

A Get-out-of-Jail opportunity:

The Psychiatrist:

A new biography of Anthony Clare (d. 2007) has appeared. Psychiatrist in the Chair by Brendan Kelly and Muiris Houston. Anthony Clare was rather famous for his media performances. In the Psychiatrist’s Chair made for riveting viewing. I noticed a sadness in recent days as his final years were recalled. He became quite reclusive and was deeply depressed. I don’t know how connected he was then with Edmundsbury. He even wandered back to the faith of his childhood. His proposals for happiness were recalled: Be like a leaf – unique but part of a living organism, that is larger than ourselves with roots, alive and still growing. Belong to a club or a choir or any community. Break the mirror and stop thinking about yourself. Cultivate a passion and make a list of what you enjoy. Live in the moment.   If there is something wrong in life; do something about it. These were recalled (and overwritten) by Gyles Brandreth in an article on how to survive Covid19. I have many friends in the Psychiatrist/Psychologist/Counselling Community. But I nourish a deep scepticism with some of the carry-on especially in those who proffer an instant cure for every ailment by calling in one of the experts.

Fifth Columnist:

Pope Francis has a knack of saying the obvious. His simplicity of expression does upset exponents of the obtuse. Being theological or being Jesuitical is often used in a derogatory fashion and as a term of derision. Some do take refuge in such obfuscations. It is a cheap way to hide and to avoid clarity. When Francis spoke of Civil Unions for Gay people he made complete sense. I agree that calling their union ‘marriage’, is a misnomer. But respect, acceptance, humility is essential in dealing with love in every life. It is delicate and very special. Raymond Burke immediately became worried. Francis was causing confusion. It was a private opinion. (He said.) This was not the ‘teaching of the church.’ And so says Raymond, as a keeper and a minder of ‘the teaching.’ God help us. Why is God allowed to get lost in the camouflage of the hang-ups of such people as Raymond? Francis’ gift to us is that – he strips back the accretions of history and shows us the simplicity of Christ and Gospel and challenge. The stalwarts of orthodoxy are now the opponents of Pope Francis. Surely their views are pickled in irony?!

Great Sport:

Lewis Hamilton won in Portugal (on Sunday) and became the record holder of F1 victories. Young Tao Geoghegan Hart won the Giro. He comes from one of my old haunts (Hackney). The Premiership has become quite unpredictable. Liverpool. Everton. Man City. Man United. Chelsea. Aston Villa. Leeds. Southampton. Arsenal. Spurs. All of them are doing the unexpected. The youngsters on the Irish team produce the surprises against Italy. Galway, Mayo, Dublin, Limerick, Tipperary are back on the scene which feels good. Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford are showing the way to care for the downtrodden in the UK. Seán O’Brien recalls his past and wonders if too many of his rugby companions are becoming robots. Tadgh Furlong is not included in that comment!

The Weeping Willow, swans, herons and madness:

The time-change scuttles my body clock. I’m not just confused (like the people of God!) but chaotic. I go down to the Tolka River. It is always too early even with the extra hour. The Weeping Willow is very friendly. I wonder does it know its past along the Silk Road or even back to Aleppo? I never knew that it was all female. It doesn’t need males to propagate! It is very modern then. It is a beautiful chatty tree. And always very reassuring. The swans are on the pool. The parents and the three young ones. Their sounds are like gentle pigs grunting. The herons are slow to appear. Though my photographer has a video for me of the fishing heron. It is a silent killer. I met one heron a few days ago. It completely ignored me. It was indifferent as if I wasn’t there at all. It reminds me of life.

Who do we ignore? Who ignores us? Indifference. Such thoughts struggled for air, in my mind as I thought of Mad Sunday. I repeat myself. But I was talking with Michael, Margo, Bryan in the recent days. Three cancer sufferers. Each of them tell me of the Receptionists, the Nurses in the Oncology departments. These three tell me that no one can be downhearted when they meet such people. The admiration. The appreciation. The sheer delight. The humanity. The fun. The affection. The laughter. Found in such places in extraordinary.

Mad Sunday. Mad day. Herons. Or swans. Or weeping willow. Or air. Or sky. Anything. Everything. Stop and stare. Anthony Clare was right. Break the mirror. Bask in the beauty and giving of every day. Jason died suddenly on Wednesday. He was 44. He loved nature. He loved fishing. He loved taking young people away from the city – for camping. To get them to drop their mobiles/tablets and simply to drink in the air and the wind and to look at the water and the hills and the company of life. Such was his gift and his legacy. So let’s be MAD. Make a difference. Notice and celebrate. Delight.

Eve of All Hallows:

Halloween. Is almost here. The eve of All Hallows. Samhain. Possibly the Christianising of a pagan festival. The end of harvest. The beginning of winter. The leaving of one world. The beginning of another. Whatever. The children love the dressing up. The colourful and the frights. The word as some of us know it – means the Vigil of All Saints which is probably lost on many. But that hardly matters. Day. Night. Past. Present. Fun and fear. Life and death. Trick or Treat. The children will miss the visiting. I like to see it as an outlook. Not just facing fears or even hiding fears in dressing up or burying the demons. But rather linking with the Mad Sunday. Stopping. Thinking. The characters of life. Who creates fun? Who brightens up every day: Who lifts our spirits? Who is always there for us? That form of thinking leads gently but firmly into an awareness of the saints who are gone. Not the painted haloed ones, but rather a celebration of the ordinary.

I was thinking too of the Presidential Debates in the US. If someone was smart enough to ask me to prep Joe for the debate, I would have told him, a simple way to handle it. Speak of the dignity of the Office. Speak of what it means to be a Statesman. Talk of warmth and heart. Speak of the need to wrestle the country back from nastiness, crudity, nicknaming. The Office is about courtesy and civility. Honesty is always the way. Easy and superficial use of Twitter is not the way to govern or to lead. Stress the best in humanity. See that as Presidential. So I conclude. Halloween, if it is the Eve of All Hallows – we have to become aware, more sensitive to the simple virtues and values of humanity. Laughter. Appreciation. Godliness. The qualities of being a good human being and therefore being a saint.

And then there was Indi:

Seven months old, she is. But the phone is her escape from the confines of home. Indi tells me that she cannot walk but she is free. Her latest extraordinary outburst was linked to a poem by Pádraig Daly in his new book A Small PSALTER. The poem is: The Child Born in Prison. (From the Irish of Ó Dálaigh 14th century). Indi loved it. All the child (in the poem) knew was prison and bars. The mother is very sad at what she misses. The boy is happy because of all he sees. He tries to coax his mother into happiness. She only sees the dark side. Indi knows how little she knows. But she is free. She loves being alive. She loves seeing new things. She loves kicking her feet. She loves playing. She loves gurgling. She loves eating. She loves looking at new people. She thinks everything is great. She sees herself in the little boy. There are no bars. There is a hidden world to discover.

I don’t know where she got it but she can’t stop singing: “Always look on the bright side of life.” She then found another song for herself: “Don’t worry about a thing, everything is gonna’ be alright.” (Bob Marley). She got a glimpse of ‘Strictly’ too. Her response was: “I could do that. I have been practising for weeks.” She then got serious and wanted to talk of God and Covid. I didn’t know where she was going with this one. She whispered to me on the phone. I had to strain my ears to hear her. She said: “This Covid thing is like the bars in a jail. You can see just the bars or look out and see the sky. Everyone was in such a rush. Everyone thought they were busy and worn out. God has helped us to stop. We have to see What and Who is really important?” She did admit that she had an advantage. She doesn’t worry about a thing!

Seamus Ahearne osa

PS One of the loveliest woman in our Parish Community is a traveller. Mary is full of wisdom and a saint. She is frustrated with the family. “They’re all pagans up there.” What she meant was that they were ‘selfish.’ Would Raymond Burke understand that one?

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  1. Soline Humbert says:

    ”I agree that calling their union ‘marriage’, is a misnomer.”
    I, for my part, respectfully disagree.

  2. Paddy+Ferry says:

    “Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments …” Willie Shakespeare

  3. Joe+O'Leary says:

    ”I agree that calling their union ‘marriage’, is a misnomer.” I just noted this sentence as quoted by Soline, and I think it is a horrible sentence. Who are “they” and who is the person uttering this judgment?

  4. Mary Vallely says:

    With respect, Seamus is entitled to his opinion. I happen to agree with Soline in that I believe committed same sex unions are as sacred as committed heterosexual unions and equally entitled to at least a blessing in our sacred spaces. Isn’t monogamy to be encouraged? Paddy’s quote is appropriate!

    Seamus is not the Pope, much as we love his free spirit, his poetic soul and his gift for bringing joy and awareness of the beauty of nature into our lives through his written musings. The Pope is only human too so I follow my informed conscience first and again respectfully disagree with Seamus’s view on ‘marriage’ but equally proclaim his right to his own opinion.

    The hypocrisy in the Church towards homosexuality is mind boggling and holds us back from emphasising the true aims of the Gospel, feeding the hungry, proclaiming good news to the poor, binding up the brokenhearted, proclaiming freedom for captives and releasing prisoners from the darkness etc; Not labouring the point as I don’t want us to be fixated on this matter but really, when will the hierarchy waken up and allow us some freedom to discuss such matters TOGETHER? Listen to the voices of the people!

  5. Paddy+Ferry says:

    Seamus, I am so pleased you brought the new biography of Tony Clare to our attention. I don’t think I ever watched “In the Psychiatrist’s Chair”. However, it was a great success and brought him to national prominence on the BBC over here. It was always something which gave us great pleasure when one of our own made it in Britain, Eamonn being the first on radio and television before Terry surpassed everything.

    First and foremost, of course, he was Professor of Psychiatry at Trinity and I am saddened to learn that he had mental health issues himself later in life. Another case, I suppose, of “physician heal thyself”.

    However, what I remember him most for is an article he wrote in the Sunday Independent many years ago, probably sometime in the 1990s. In those days, before the digital age, I used keep a paper archive of interesting pieces but, of course, this morning when I looked for it where it should have been it ain’t there. So, I have to depend now on my memory.

    His friend, former teacher and mentor, from Gonzaga, I think, Fr. Joe Veale SJ had written a piece in the Furrow, probably, explaining — not condoning or justifying — just trying to explain why priests would sexually violate children. This was at a time, very early in the scandal, when we all were finding this so hard to believe and understand.

    Anyway, Tony wrote this piece in the Sunday Independent about his friend and mentor, Fr.Veale and I suppose, if I remember correctly, it was a kind of friendly, positive critique of the Furrow article. He then developed the whole theme of human sexuality further and what he next said really stopped me in my tracts. He made the statement that “our sexuality is the primary font of our humanity”.

    It immediately made sense to me but I had never thought of our sexuality in that way. As children in Catholic Ireland we were led to believe that sex — the only real sin — was the invention of the devil designed to lead us into eternal damnation.

    In our first year in Belfield , our so called Pre-Med/Pre Dental year, we had studied the human and behavioural sciences which included psychology, psychiatry and social science all of which was marvellous for us. UCD was way ahead of the game and was the first university in these islands to offer that to Pre-Med/Pre-Dental students, I think I am correct in saying.
    However, there was never a mention of the all importance of our sexuality so Professor Clare’s statement was really big news to me.

    Did he also say that if we do not accept our sexuality, whether it is heterosexual or homosexual, then we have big problem. Perhaps, I read that final bit somewhere else or, maybe, I just added it myself.

    So, Seamus, thanks for mentioning Tony Clare and bringing him back into our conscientiousness. I always enjoy reading your pieces.

  6. Kevin Walters says:

    Soline Humbert @ 1

    Christian marriage as defined by Jesus Christ. “For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother, and the two shall become one flesh”.
    The ‘Truth’ of this statement can be seen in any offspring they may be blest with.

    Mother Teresa When asked what she thought about gay people she replied, “You mean beloved children of God”.

    The Church teaches that Marriage can only take place between a man and a woman; civil partnerships are outside of Church teaching. Mercy demands a way to be found that can incorporate those baptized Christians who find themselves in this most difficult position, to be accepted into ‘God’s family’ the Church and society at large.

    The Church does not impose rather She proposes to all of mankind the Way, the Truth and the Life and the Way can only be found
    within a humble heart which ‘all’ Christians should strive for, as it is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.

    I have humbly proposed a Bond of Divine Mercy to be considered by the Church. see link


    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  7. Eddie+Finnegan says:

    For Séamus, Soline, Paddy, Joe, Mary and Kevin:


    Let us not to the marriage of true minds
    Admit the Canonists. Those Tolka swans
    May yet monogamously glide where winds
    The Tiber by San Angelo, if the young ones
    Of their bobbing brood are at least eleven:
    Marriage, no bardic metaphor where cardinals lurk,
    Must prove pro-life, prolific e’en in cygnic heaven,
    Else it’s misnomeric, says Rara Avis Burke.
    For Black Swans gay pairing’s all the fashion,
    But when we asked Young Indi for her take
    She counselled that on Cygnus atratus’ passion
    Cardinal Sarah must have the definitive spake.
    So, baptise us in that primary font of Dr Clare
    If his spake was ex cathedra, from the Chair.

  8. Paddy+Ferry says:

    Brilliant, Eddie, just brilliant !!
    But does it have the proper iambic pentameter?

  9. Eddie+Finnegan says:

    Paddy@8, you’re right – it needs more time and polishing. But may I cite Heaney, Longley, Mahon, Muldoon, Fry (Stephen, not Christopher) on taking liberties with Sonnet form. You could fill an ontology of codology with their efforts!
    In future I’ll stick to the less demanding but more clerical Clerihew:

    Willie Shakespeare, I’ll have you all know,
    Swan of Avon or Upstart Crow,
    was never up against the galloping consumption deadlines
    of ACP Website’s ephemeral headlines.

  10. Pádraig+McCarthy says:

    It’s okay for Popes to think aloud. This, perhaps, is what Pope Francis was doing in the interview in the film. Not speaking ex cathedra. Not speaking magisterially. Thinking aloud about relationships.
    In the 1970s I was at a meeting in Marianella in Dublin where a journalist (not Irish) on religious affairs was speaking. He recalled being present in Propaganda Fide College in Rome when Pope John XXIII was there to meet the students. The Pope gave a talk, and then said something like, “Well, that’s the way I think about it. What do you think? I’m not infallible.” The journalist was sorry he didn’t have a voice recorder at the time.
    Seamus thinks aloud. What makes his ruminations engaging and enjoyable, for me, is that they are ruminations about many things; not solemn pronouncements.
    “The time has come, the walrus said,
    to speak of many things –
    of shoes and ships and sealing wax
    and cabbages and kings.” (Lewis Carroll)
    So Seamus wrote: “I agree that calling their union ‘marriage’, is a misnomer.” And his next sentence: “But respect, acceptance, humility is essential in dealing with love in every life.” May those who disagree, do so, like Soline (#1) respectfully.
    One of the problems with the discussion on marriage for same-sex people is that to say, like Francis the pope and Seamus not a pope is that it is often taken as a criticism of gay people and of such relationships, a denial of their love, unjust discrimination. It’s not. God is love. God is love. Where there is love, there is God. Not just in marriage or in sexual relationships.
    I agree with Seamus, not because of those concerned, but because of the nature of marriage: a very particular kind of relationship related to procreation. There are, of course, children begotten without marriage, and marriages without children, but marriage as we have known it until very recently was a relationship concerned with procreation. A relationship in which civil authorities have a particular interest, for the good of civil society. To extend the recognition of relationships other than that changes the definition of marriage, and damages both kinds of relationship. If we were to change our use of the word “blue” to include whatever we mean by “brown” damages the meaning of both words.
    Francis shows respect for both kinds of relationship (“convivencia civil”, I think he spoke of). Those in other relationships, whether same-sex or otherwise, are also our sisters and brothers, and civil recognition, not of a lesser value but of a different kind, and it is good that society acknowledge that without forcing it into the same mould as marriage.
    Many, I know, will disagree, I hope respectfully, as I try to express my understanding respectfully, not magisterially!

  11. Paddy+Ferry says:

    Eddie, I think it is fair to say, iambic pentameter or not, that you have taken discourse on this site onto a completely new level of excellence.

    And that is saying something with fellas like Joe, Seán and Pádraig around.

  12. Sean+O’Conaill says:

    So ‘marriage’ can have only one meaning’?

    Should bishops not protest then that the word ‘bishop’ can also denote a chess piece and a kind of cocktail – and especially about the scandalous consequence – that in a hotel bar one could feasibly order a bishop and a bloody mary at the same time?

    ‘Pass me the priest’ is regularly still uttered in angling boats on Irish lakes without anyone supposing that any becollared human is being referenced. The word ‘priest’ was at some stage analogously and humorously attached to any small instrument of dispatch of a flapping trout.

    Was there a huge ecclesiastical rumpus when William Blake published ‘The Marriage of Heaven and Hell’ in 1793? And if there was, were bishops insisting on the use of the word ‘marriage’ to designate only a heterosexual relationship?

    As we humans will frequently use the very same homonym to denote different things in different contexts – without confusion – we can perfectly easily use the word ‘marriage’ to denote different forms of committed human relationship in different contexts also – without doing the slightest harm to the unique and blessed relationship that a heterosexual marriage obviously is.

  13. Joe+O'Leary says:

    Sean, I am not clear about how the following kinds of marriage relate: civil marriage, as recognized and celebrated by State agents, and sacramental marriage as celebrated in church. The Church seems to recognize many civil marriages as valid, though not indissoluble. But how far does that recognition extend? Can the Church argue against divorce in the case of merely civil marriages, which it sometimes regards as not marriages at all?

    As to same-sex civil marriage the State in some twenty countries, including Ireland, regards it as equal or even identical to other State-recognized marriages. It also treats the marriage of the elderly or sterile as equal or identical to marriage of the young and proliferant. The Church, likewise, in the latter case seems to treat both kinds of marriage as equal in dignity. Perhaps it would not be such a huge step for the Church to extend the same recognition to same sex marriages, even giving them the same sacramental status. Other churches seem to have done so.

    Btw, some (but not many) same sex married couples might accept that their marriages are only an analogical version of full-blooded incomparable heterosexual marriage. But they would not accept that the relationship of the two kinds of marriage is purely equivocal.

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