Cherish family; Cherish your life:
Hamish O’Flaherty spoke of his father. He then said that all of us should be grateful. That we should cherish our Families and Community. That we should also cherish our Lives and everything in them. And finally cherish the Love that God has given us. Yes. Hamish is 12 years old. His father James had died in Creeslough. His words were extraordinary.
And then there was John Joe Duffy who was an exemplar of all that is good in pastoral life. He never spoke of ‘them.’ He wasn’t an ‘outsider.’ He was family with families. It was his home. He lived around the hearth. Community was the life of all. I don’t know how he had the words and the variety. He never rattled off anything. Every story was told and exemplified. It was personal as well as communitarian. The Ritual never took over. It was therefore real Eucharist. There was no robotic, mechanical or prattling priest, throwing around the platitudes of piety here. It was, as all Funerals should be. Real.
Maybe it was as all Masses should be. Where the-lived-experience of those present making the Ritual. Where Churchy language doesn’t intrude or attempt a coup on the experience of God, in the lives of those present. The migrant from The Sunday Times – Justine McCarthy (to The Irish Times) wrote powerfully on what happened at those Masses and the place of the local priest. Justine was hardly the likely one to do that, but she did it.
Sunday Miscellany and The Main Guard:
I never listen to ‘Sunday Miscellany.’ (Radio 1, RTÉ) The Masses don’t allow me! Sometimes I read the Book of the items. They are usually excellent. Last Sunday, as I was driving out to St Margaret’s for 10 Mass, I listened. The story of the past was stirred. Where visiting the homes of the extended family, made up the weekend, which was lovely. The gifts that were brought. The gifts that were received. All woke up memories. In country life, it was such a regular occurrence – to be offered eggs, or vegetables or some of the family produce, as we were leaving. It felt good. I am so surprised when it still happens in rural areas. Sunday Miscellany reminded me of that and I recalled many of those trips with my parents. But that wasn’t all.
I had a phone call the previous week to ‘play back’ the Programme which I didn’t! But my niece sent me a copy of one item. I was thrilled. It was The Main Guard (1675) in Clonmel. This was a Court House at one stage and now is a National Monument. The story told was recalling when it was a Pub and a Shop. It was my Uncle John who was a character in the story and the gaffer/owner of the Shop. He was portrayed exactly. I could see the Shop. I could see the carry on. I could see the Snug. I could see the £20 being put into the hand of the young fellow taking off for USA. I could see the homeliness of it all. I was back there.
The stories of Sunday Miscellany remind me of the stories of the Gospels. They have the power to captivate. They stir the memories. We become engrossed in the artistry of the storyteller. Why do we allow Liturgy then to crowd out such artistry? Something is read. (At Church). There are more and more add-ons. The tease of the story is lost in the avalanche of words. I believe we cannot enter the world of God and Faith, unless something in the poetry of the artist, is allowed to breathe. I was even thinking of Leo Morahan (Louisburgh) who wrote so beautifully. The ‘blas’ in his English was birthed from the Irishiness of his soul. Again this is the language we need to release ‘the God’ in our life. Our Irish culture is full of such story-telling which should attune our souls to the Gospels.
I don’t understand:
The breaking news is that Liz Truss has resigned. She has been battered and savaged. I pitied her and am glad that she is stepping away from the PM Office. It is a cruel business. In truth, I could never understand how she was elected. I could never grasp how the obvious flaws in her economic policies weren’t immediately apparent. But then I can never understand how Trump was elected and how so many can still support him. I can never understand how Putin should think it right to bomb the guts out of the Ukraine and somehow justify it to himself and his people. I can never understand the subjugation of women in Iran and in Afghanistan and Iraq. I can never understand the stranglehold that Xi Jinping has in China and the outreach into Hong Kong and Taiwan. I can never understand the whole Brexit argument (cut off nose to spite your face). I can never understand the DUP who can’t see that the marriage of Brexit with the NI and GB situation creates an impossible situation which can only be solved by compromise. I suppose I can never understand too the strident and aggressive antagonism towards Pope Francis. In truth, I also find it hard to understand or explain the preoccupation in Church Culture over the years with rigidity in Liturgy; with Confession; with a ridiculous sexual obsession; with a non-dynamic evolution of ministry and mission; with a misunderstanding of priesthood and women. I must have the problem since I am the one who can’t understand.
The ACP AGM:
We met. It seemed such a long time since we had gathered at an AGM in person. It was good to be there. The ACP leadership has done an excellent job in keeping everything going. Those Zoom meetings were so good. The numbers were astonishing. The caring for priests matters deeply. The Forum for reflection is very important. We met yesterday. I think we looked older! Of course we are older. The spark is still there. We are not dead yet. There is life in ‘the very old dog’ still. There are problems. We are scarce. The young are missing. But it isn’t all gloom and doom.
Julieann Moran used a fine image in describing the life of giving birth and letting go of the aged. We too are giving birth to a very new way of being and we are letting go of all that we knew and the certainties of the past. Julieann spoke very gently and yet powerfully of the Synodal Pathway. It is very basic. We listen. We respect. We truly believe that each person is a revelation of God. That everyone is “God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as he intended it to be.” This is the essential stuff of life. In homes, in community, in parish. The very simple version we do here (for years) is that every day people respond to the Readings at Mass. They share their experience of God in what they hear and how they try to live. That is easy and it works. Every parish team – has to be similar. We listen and we hear. ‘Father’ is not the Messiah. God still speaks. Thanks to the ACP Leadership and Liamy for keeping the project going. It is very important and we need the challenge and the encouragement. This Faith project is also a Scrum! Greta Thunberg was interviewed recently. She was asked about her dismissal of political leaders with the words – blah, blah, blah. We have to be very careful that our latest fad with Synodal pathway doesn’t become – blah, blah, blah.
I was driving along the road towards Athlone yesterday. The landscape of colours was better than any artist could paint. Indi is right. She doesn’t want to talk of anything now but the colours of the leaves. She rushes out every day and wants to talk to the leaves and to have them play with her. All she can ever say now is: “Isn’t God wonderful?” Her mother has a problem with Indi. Indi wants to dress up with different colours to go with the leaves on the trees around her. She got upset when she heard or saw that some Stop Oil protesters had thrown Heinz Tomato Soup over Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. She was disgusted that anyone could attack Sunflowers. She wasn’t interested in Van Gogh! We didn’t tell her that the painting wasn’t damaged. I told her a local story on the Hospices. That a field had been planted full of sunflowers and that people then came picked some and left a donation for the hospice. So the Sunflowers still flourish. She is happy now.
Seamus Ahearne osa
20th October 2022.