See I am doing a new thing (Isaiah 43)
An elderly gentleman:
Tom Niland (73) is on life support. The Community in Skreen (Co Sligo) is in shock. This ‘elderly gentleman’ was assaulted in his own home. I have a problem with Tom being described as ‘an elderly gentleman.’ He is much too young for that. He may have been retired but some of the rest of us have well passed that age and aren’t retired. We consider ourselves to be in the prime of life (almost). It is affront to our sense of community and humanity when anyone is unsafe at home. Violence is too common. I had a visit from a researcher during the week. Aideen was interviewing me for a Report on Finglas South. She was asking about the changes that I have noticed over the past twelve years. My reflection goes back almost 25 years. The reputation of the area was bad in those faraway days. We were quite notorious. We made headlines for the wrong reasons. Murder. Suicide. Robbed cars. It was gang-land. Criminality was rampant. We got used to it and shouldn’t. It felt normal. Some lived in fear and many were afraid of the area. Now the community has settled. There are still pockets of trouble usually related to drugs. Most people feel safe in their homes. It is a wonderful and supportive community. It is full of heart. We are blessed to be here. But we do understand the fears of those who are shocked by what happened Tom in Sligo.
Leona Maguire won in the US. Rachel Blackmore won on Honeysuckle. Wexford beat Limerick. Nottingham Forest beat Leicester. Boreham Wood beat Bournemouth. Middlesbrough beat Man United. Wayne Rooney has spoken of the binges that became his escape from reality. John Barnes interviewed Nelson Mandela and Mandela wanted to talk about Roy Keane! Mack Hansen said ‘I am so proud to be Irish today.’ Waterford and Dublin drew with a scatter of cards. Dublin footballers lost again. The African Cup of Nations: Senegal v Egypt seems to have been drab. Mane beat Mo Salah! The Winter Olympics are beyond me and I have doubts about their presence in China. However, doesn’t sport in every format, intrigue us, and call us to admire and delight in the commitment and skill of the participants? Every achievement of anyone is a celebration of all of us.
Morning has broken:
I walk these mornings. The dogs don’t talk to me. The birds barely say hello in song. The river natters away. Other people don’t appear. I meet a few when I am almost home at the bus stop and we share a laugh. I feel abandoned otherwise. Why has the world deserted me? Now the wind does speak. The trees do wave. The sky wakes up.
I pant somewhat, climbing the hills and know I am still breathing. My mind stirs. My head rambles into all kinds of blethering. I begin to tidy up my thoughts and the day finds a structure. God too has an odd whisper. And then I came upon some Spring flowers. God’s whisper became a shout of delight and surprise.
The Tent of Meeting:
We had the Ark of the Covenant today. The Tablets from Moses at Horeb, were mentioned. The thick cloud appeared. The Tent of Meeting was central. Some found similar moments and places in their lives. That overwhelming presence. That place where no words were enough. That place where God was present. Some saw hints of it in the Tabernacle; on the Table; in the Book. Others felt the Oratory was The Tent of Meeting. And Francie spoke. He said something like this: ‘I woke up this morning and went out to the toilet. And I was thinking. I thanked God for yesterday. (His grandson was christened.) It was a lovely day. And I felt God was all around us. And I was thinking too. Sometimes life is very bad for us. There are horrible problems in the family and we feel helpless and hopeless. However, I know that even if I don’t feel God with us in these moments, I know that a little later, his presence brings me peace. I know he is with us and somehow we will get through. That is the Ark of the Covenant. That is the Holy place. That is the Tent of Meeting. That was Francie this morning. Francie is a traveller. He can’t read. I wonder sometimes if education in theology gets in the way of God. This man’s faith is an inspiration. It flows from the heart and the guts. He is a minister!
We had a funeral on Saturday. It was a packed church. That was the first time in two years that the space could be filled. We celebrated Betty. She was described consistently as ‘an angel on earth and an angel in heaven; a saint on earth and a saint in heaven.’ It was said that everyone who ever met her, had a place in her life forever. Her home was full of music and song. Her face was always smiling. She loved her Mass and came when she shouldn’t. For Communion, her eyes would fill up with delight. When she couldn’t come to church, she watched Mass online and felt part of everything and everyone. She was told that she should never have children and she had five of them. Everyone thought of Betty as special. The Song of Songs spoke of her: ‘Your voice is sweet and your face is beautiful.’ She also ‘fought the good fight, ran the race to the finish and kept the faith.’ Isn’t it our privilege to be able to be part of the life-story of such a person? Our days are filled with many such stories. We particularly saw husbands of fifty and sixty years married, in recent weeks who have shared their love and their loss and the miracle of their lives together. There is another Tent of Meeting. Who needs celibacy?
Can you not see it?
‘Times they are a changin.’ Bob Dylan had it right. It wasn’t just Covid. It is the reality of a new Church being born. The pregnancy may be rough. That birth will also be difficult. Covid has made the obvious, real. The numbers coming to Church have dropped. The age of those attending has risen. Many of the stalwarts have died. The young don’t see the need. God is missing and not missed. Church and Religion are on the periphery. The daily work of life hasn’t time for such matters. The income to the Church has dropped dramatically. The clergy have got very old. There are no replacements. The women Religious have also gone. We are ancient. The Religious priests in parishes have absconded into retirement. We can now build a new church. A new Liturgy. A new sense of Sacrament. Our way of being church, has to adapt and adjust. We are now a mission land. We can’t graft on the story of history or the language of the past. ‘See I am doing a new thing. Can you not see it?’ (Is 43.19) I liked the old model. An open door. An open house. An open table. An open phone. An open email. Open homes for visiting too. A never ending day. No office hours – just always available. A day off or holidays weren’t part of the plan. But it cannot be like that anymore. A new world in the morning. We also have to be humble enough to learn the new language. The creative juices have to be awakened. God hasn’t gone away. God still speaks. The New Song is being prepared. The music is being composed. The harmonies will shortly be ready.
News in passing:
Munira Mirza really scuttled Boris. She had worked with him for 14 years. She told him in her letter of resignation: “You are a better man than many of your detractors will ever understand…. But you let yourself down.” (In throwing Savile at Keir Starmer). It remains fascinating that the Tories elected Boris Johnson. They knew what they might get and it was predictable. It was the hidden wish to find someone who might be outlandish and a rogue. Is it the magnetic attraction for the outlandish nature of the carefree? Guto Harri said that Boris “is not a complete clown.” That must have been taken out of context. Surely. Or maybe not! The Americans got Donald. He is as bad as he was predicted to be. And yet so many still want him. Will we ever understand how people think? And then we had the Court case on Golfgate. After all the furore, this was the conclusion. Life is rather interesting if crazy. Phil Hogan must be left wondering.
Interviewing for the New Church:
The Tommy Tiernan Show continues on Saturdays. The unexpected usually happens. He apparently doesn’t know who is coming on. He handles the occasion and the people with great astuteness. He always manages to get them to talk and he is never backward in sharing his own story. It is quite brilliant. Why does he bother hurling in the odd curse word for effect? It is strident and totally unnecessary. It grates on the gentle revelations of the moment. It is crude. Brent Pope, Ann and Roisín Ingle and Niall Horan, were the guests last week. It was indeed The Divine Comedy. Brent was (as always) very honest. Ann was full of life and quite happy to show the liveliness of her story. Roisín continued as she does on paper. Niall behaved as the son of a bishop should! I was thinking if all of us were sat down by a Tommy Tiernan or someone/anyone to talk of our God-story; how might it go? This could be a new model even a synodal version! There’s a way to build a new church.
Indi is astonished:
I told her a story. She wasn’t too impressed. She felt that I just might be getting at her. But of course I wasn’t. It was from a WhatsApp of yesterday. A child asked the ma for an apple. The ma told him that it wasn’t an apple but an onion. He insisted. Eventually she gave him the onion. He continued to eat the ‘apple.’ He wouldn’t give in. The taste was obviously horrible. His eyes watered. But he wouldn’t give in to the mother. Indi felt I was saying that she is single-minded and stubborn. I wasn’t saying that but she is!! She decided to tell me nothing after that sideshow as if to prove my story!!!
Seamus Ahearne osa