Séamus Ahearne: Sharing the sacraments of the garden of springtime
Faith is a hinterland of wonder
Spring and Easter (1)
Easter and nature coordinate and complement each other beautifully. (In this part of the world). The flourishing of Spring. The cat-walk behaviour of all the shrubs, trees, flowers, plants. Prima Donnas – one and all! They are preening themselves with delight and showing off. ‘Sunday in Albis’ sums up the notion of Lent/Easter being a celebration of new life. Augustine tells the new converts now to take off their celebratory clothes (their whites) and put on their working clothes. Oh yes. I know. That Sunday has now been taken over by Mercy Sunday which doesn’t seem a good idea to me at all. So nature smiles and dances and tells us to do what Spring does. We take on something of that in our own lives. The birds compete.
Spring and Easter (2)
I am told by Tony (A Tolka Park walker) that one blackbird is best of all. I don’t know how he identifies this one blackbird but he knows exactly where this one is, and the song it sings. I cannot be as specific. I have been meeting with my heron. We are great friends even though we barely acknowledge each other. But there is a contemplative silence between us. I saw a young egret near the heron yesterday. I wondered was it trying to learn from the expert. The heron wasn’t distracted. There was no competition. I enjoyed them both. I had never seen my heron in company before. I went on to see the swans working hard. One on the nest and one out feeding. I watched the ducks working as a family. I saw the water hens. I loved the new dress on the Weeping Willow. I began to muse over what the Willow could be weeping for. And then I went on, and chatted with the starlings. They hunt in swooping packs. They eat very quickly and totally ignored me as a I walked along beside them. Yes. It is Easter. Alleluia has to be our song. Morning has broken. I am blessed.
It is Confirmation time. It is Communion time. We had three sessions of Confirmations. (Some 80 children). It is so much better without Mass. Mass intrudes on the celebration. We had no bishop which is also better. We know the children and the families know us. The school and parish work well together. It was so good to be back to a fixed date for Confirmations and no more postponements. I was amused over the recent years when the parents got very upset and very angry at the various postponements and at the sharply limited numbers allowed at the ceremony. I was even threatened with a picket on the house! So I was obviously responsible for Covid. I was delighted that the parents wanted Confirmation so badly.
I know that the Sacrament is an exit celebration. But if we don’t get too uptight about it all or become ridiculously purist, there is something very beautiful about the occasion. I am certain that this Sacrament is ‘a smile on the face of God.’ Something happens. We are touched by God. A little of the Spirit drops by. The children are very shy and yet very precious at the time. It is a rite of passage. I could hardly recognise some of the children dressed up. Even the laces matched the dresses for the girls. Oh the hair was done. The nails. The make-up. The boys were very shy and casual. All the voices went very quiet when they were asked to proudly tell the crowd their names and show what a messenger they were from God, and how they accepted the challenge to make a difference. Their blushes were marvellous when some questions were lobbed at them! The parents’ heads went down too. The teachers become tongue-tied as well. But we all worked it as a community together.
Now are ready for First Communions on Saturday. Again we will have three sessions for around 80 children. These little ones have no inhibitions unlike the sixth class folk. They will sing their hearts out. They will have hands up for everything. As one little one said: ‘I want to get a little bit of God into me.’ I enjoyed a report from Liz (parish sister). She went into Paul’s Newsagent. This is what greeted her. “I am traumatised. I can’t cope. How can I get ready for First Communion for 10 o’clock. The child has to have her hair done.” Sinéad said that she had never been married but this was her big day. Her day with her daughter. Her dream day. It has to be the best. Everything has to be right. My response wasn’t helpful. I only laughed at her. And I tease her every time I drop into the shop but I also tell her that we will have counsellors and psychologists on hand to help her cope. I did tell her too that I would have shears to hand, if any big fat dresses appeared!
Katie Taylor and Tyson Fury:
Katie Taylor is fighting tonight in Madison Square Garden. I squirm a little at the notion of girls boxing. In fact, I’m not happy with this legitimised violence that is boxing at all. I’m not even sure anymore about Rugby. I was rather impressed with Tyson Fury’s interview with Piers Morgan Uncensored. (I read a report of it). Fury spoke of retirement. He said: “I’m happy. I’m healthy. I’ve still got my brains. I’ve got a beautiful wife and six children. I’ve got plenty money, success, fame, glory. I’m a very simple man. I drive an 07 VW Passat. I don’t need tons of money. When do I get time to be a father, a husband, a brother, a son?”
The Synodal way:
The Synodal Pathway jargon has become the conventional wisdom in churchy language. I still hesitate. The idea itself is a truism. There cannot be an argument. But I don’t want the theorists to take over the discussion. It has to happen naturally and normally and practically. In any real understanding of Christ’s message; it should be a given. But of course it hasn’t been and isn’t. It is the Round-table mentality. The first and obvious idea is that everyone is respected. That God speaks through each person. That the experience of life and God, happens in all, and is to be shared. It is true that not everyone has the insight to reflect on life and God. Discernment is essential. What that means is never clear. However, it cannot be assumed that the one who has been anointed (the cleric) is the one with the gift. Decisions do have to be made. We cannot dither. From our experience on PPCs and on the Weekly Team Meeting in Rivermount, every decision has been arrived at by consensus. There has never been any problem. The rotating chair, secretary and prayer leader has helped. I think it also helps that there is a sharing at every Mass. The habit of listening to God and each other, has become normalised. The honesty of sharing and the respect for every voice has set the scene.
A retiring Vicar:
It surprised me. It was unexpected. A priest writing a main article in a magazine. The Sunday Times 17th April 2022. It was by Richard Coles. (Church of England vicar). He was a pop star. He is gay. His husband died in 2019. He was on Strictly Come Dancing (I think). He is retiring. He writes of coping with lockdown. He writes of reluctantly going online. He writes of leaving his community (his family) as he retires. He writes of murder, assaults, abuse, and everything that is part of parish life. But he talks of job satisfaction. He says – it is number one. He said that you see the best in people and the worst. The ‘job’ takes you beyond yourself. He writes of trying to juggle several parishes. He writes that the least viable parishes are the ones he likes most. He sums it up this way – ‘The parish that I love is a church of liberal sympathies, of broad inclusion, of beautiful worship, wise preaching.’ He has big problems with some of the growing churches which tend to be conservative, fundamentalist in scripture, rigorist in doctrine and full of young vicars who are stuck in a distant past. Richard’s article seemed very familiar.
Indi has her spake:
She hasn’t time for talking. She is committed to learning. She devours new words and new ideas. She cannot grasp why her cousins are dressing up for First Communion and also talking about Confirmations. This Frist Communion thing is beyond her. She likes dressing up. In fact her parents will have to build an extension to cope with all the clothes she has. (Almost all are hand-me-downs which is so right). This white dress thing she can’t see the reason for it. She is very clear. She wouldn’t wear that thing. She would prefer Joseph’s technicoloured dream coat.
She is now delving into what this Communion is about. She sees this little host/bread. She has already decided that she wouldn’t like it. She then heard that one lassie had described Communion as getting ‘a bit of God into her.’ She began to think. Her comments were consistent with what she has been saying for a while. She launches into a speech. ‘I get a bit of God into me, when I wake up and see Mammy and Daddy; when I get my food; when I walk and run; when I look up at the sunshine and get fresh air (like the child on the video from Mariupol); when I see the hills and the fields and I am dressed in lots of colours; when I meet my friends; when I dance; when I sing; when I go into the woods.’ She stops then and in a moment of clarity – she says: ‘First Communion is when I bring all those bits of God together and say yes. Thank you.’
Seamus Ahearne osa
30th April 2022.
PS 1 An article by David Aaronovitch in The Times Thursday April 28 2022. Russia’s casual savagery is seared into its soul.
PS 2 The Confessions of X by Suzanne M Wolfe. It is a novel on the life of St Augustine’s mistress.
PS 3 I watched some of the Liverpool match with Villarreal. It had the beauty of poetry. The skill. The passing ability. The off the ball presence. The togetherness. It was a team game. Everyone was important. A good inspiration for a Synodal way. But then I heard that Mo Salah wanted £500k a week. That doesn’t make sense.