Séamus Ahearne, Patrick Kavanagh and Christmas

Stray thoughts – A Reflection for the Season

Paddy Kavanagh, wrote often and beautifully about the meaning of Christmas and the presence of God in our lives.

For Kavanagh, childhood, poetry and theology were all of one piece. Everything he wrote, captured something of the mystery, of the incarnation – of Christmas. He wrote about the most common things which he saw as carrying hints of heaven.

His farm was the Bible. Country Monaghan was his Bethlehem. His poetry was his prayer. He had his Emmaus revelations along the Iniskeen Road.

For him, the Maker of an astonishing creation, could only be a beautiful and loving God, a tender Mother who ‘caresses the daily and nightly earth.’ The miracle of continuing Creation, of the renewal of the world each day and each season, filled him with a child’s wonder.

His most quoted lines are:

“God is in the bits and pieces of Everyday: A Kiss here, a laugh again, and sometimes tears.”

Kavanagh invites us to look at the world and to see beauty in the things we take for granted. He leads us forward “Until one day, we will recognise the face of our Christmas God of surprises and disguises everywhere.”

As a child, Kavanagh’s records his visits to the patch of wild weeds behind his house “where sows root and hens scratch” was like “dipping his fingers in the pockets of God.” Those pockets were his five senses and they were never empty. He reminds us in his poem ‘Advent’ that when the Christmas carols are over, – the music of life continues to touch our souls every day, if we are attuned to the beats.

Seamus Ahearne osa


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  1. JAMES MC HUGH says:

    Ah the Music of Life, seems to say …

    “That beautiful, beautiful, beautiful God
    Was breathing His love by a cut-away bog.”

    Séamus, your Christmas lyricism waxes more and more eloquently by the entry.

  2. Una Agnew SSL says:

    Who else but Kavanagh, with his visionary insight, could have detected the approach of the Magi sauntering into Inniskeen under the guise of ‘three whin bushes’ ?
    Inniskeen was a holy place, as are all our places, now and then where Christ is born.
    Thank you Seamus for the reminder.

  3. Eddie+Finnegan says:

    Thank you, Seamus, and thank you Una, too. Who else but Kavanagh with his childhood eye?
    But WHIN and where shall we find his like again? And would all from whinny areas of the country desist forthwith from talking about gorse or furze! Wishing you all an eye-opening Epiphany.
    Nollaig faoi shéan agus athbhliain faoi vhacsain dhaoibh go léir.

  4. Paddy+Ferry says:

    I would like to wish all our co-correspondents on our ACP site a Happy and Peaceful –and Healthy–Christmas and every good wish for 2021 and better times ahead.

    I have always loved Connie Francis singing The First Nowell and I would to share it with you all. I hope the link works.


  5. Kevin Walters says:

    Has the Celtic spiritual nature of the romantic and poet been lost within Irish culture forever with the demise of the oral tradition of storytelling with their practical and spiritual messages contained within myth and fable, if so, can it be revived?

    In the early fifties one of my Uncles in Limerick was in need of a bed in Leeds and he was to have mine while I would stay at his very small cottage home with numerous cousins in Limerick. My aunty Edna was to take me while she made one of her regular visits to see her kith and kin.

    We arrived in Limerick in the late afternoon, it must have been wintertime because the darkness of evening was coming upon us. Shortly after our arrival we sat down together with her nieces and nephews, so as to tell one of her gifted stories for which she was famously known for telling within the vicinity and further afield.

    Just before she commenced, we had a visitor, who said that she wanted to record her story as she was employed by the state to record the ancient oral literary tradition before it was lost forever. Of course, I had never seen a tape recorder before which was quite large in comparison to a modern one, having no electric it was connected to two or three large car batteries. Just before my aunty commenced her story, she said “will my voice be recorded forever on that tape?” with the response of yes! She gave a small childlike giggle.

    About forty years later while laid in bed listening to a radio commentary given by the BBC on the oral tradition of storytelling within Celtic culture, extracts from recordings of actual stories told which are stored in Dublin were given from the late forties and early fifties. I was arisen from my slumber by a small unforgettable giggle.

    And the root of this memory flooded my heart

    No radio but stories of things above and below
    Oil lamp smouldering wick a candle was lit
    Shudder and flickering shadow
    Tales to chill the marrow
    Living in the market under the abattoir
    Bloodletting jig dead pig
    Sewer lid, Bigwig
    King rat does an Irish jig
    Matted coat black pudding joke
    Razor sharp teeth he never goes to sleep
    Pointed ears, all he hears
    Ferret eye evil and sly
    With whiplash tail he can impale
    Slurry and slime making rhyme
    No longer day he makes his call and all do obey
    Full moon moving star
    A known gnawing his clans calling
    A horde moving in accord
    Dog and cat, are no match
    Fox, ferret and weasel, rats are out of season
    Wind swept street his playground as we sleep
    Over hill and garden rail swish of tail
    Gutter and grate making haste
    Fleeing cat devoured as they pass
    Sewer and river enough to make you shiver
    Jumping salmon better than gammon
    Trash and tin can, bread and jam
    Nook and cranny every dark alley

    Treasure trove, the place of repose
    Henhouse, no breakfast if we don’t keep him out
    Locking door ‘it’s time for bed’
    King rat is about and wants to be fed
    Creaking floor board, “Is that the horde?”
    Sardines in a tin very still
    Shower of rain pattering feet sound the same
    Scratching scrape in the grate
    Scraggy ends furry friends
    A thousand eyes on the floor

    “Shall I tell more?”

    Trotter’s feet are his favourite treat
    The tale hit the nail
    No one from bed did sail until the morning hail.

    How has the inner Celtic spiritual nature of the romantic and poet in the Irish bishops and clergy become so small and stayed before His vibrating heart of Truth and love?

    Was it stifled, while the best of them, the idealists were succumbed by the rational of the elite and sent to evangelise on far distant shores, who then contributed so much to the missionary spirit?

    Today where are the courageous hearts that will come off the fence to confront the reality of this ongoing situation, that is one of abhorrent dishonesty before God and mankind, manifest by the elite colluding with blasphemy (The present Divine Mercy image) in God’s house, and on-going unaccountability for scandals emanating from the authority of Rome?

    Can the Irish leadership be a missionary leadership and recapture the dynamism of those idealists who left her shores, and now actual lead the church forward into a new dawn, and be the catalyst for change?

    Can the zing of the Christian hymn once again sing within Celtic hearts?
    Humility is the key but will we bend our knee. Will the phoenix rise again, will a new dawn break?

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

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