Séamus Ahearne: Still learning…

Every day is a school day

Little things matter:

Saturday was a beautiful day. I found Templeogue Cemetery after a little detour. How did I miss it? It was so obvious. The waiting family chatted and then greeted me with the throw-away line: ‘Every day is a school day.’ (Because it was my first time in this cemetery). I threw back Michelangelo’s line: ‘I am still learning.’ (From my Office door). We then had a Ritual at the Grave which included the history of the family. Yes. Indeed every day is for learning. I went to school as I wandered to the Tolka this morning. The rain was a surprise. I met no walkers. Even my pals – the egret and the heron, failed to appear. They should wear name tags. I can’t always call them by name. The ducks had abandoned the pond and sat sleepily on the bank. All the attention-seeking flowers have gone quiet. But the flourished bushes and trees were very much alive. I liked the air and the rain. I thought of the blessed luxuries of life for us, in the adjacent parks: The Tolka. The Botanic. The Phoenix. These are our playground. Air. Space. Beauty. Wonder. And then the simple extraordinary thing above all; I am able to walk and to get out. Isn’t it delightful too that these days we can leave the windows open? Simple pleasures. Blessed we are. And very rich. Deo Gratias.


The Sacred Heart:

I see that Eddie’s exquisite little droplets on the Sacred Heart ran into trouble. We too had some irreverence at our celebration. We did recall the ‘gaudiness’ of the essential picture in every house and that red light. Christian Barnard was cast into the discussion with his heart transplant. Our Rose sheepishly told her story. She is a good pious woman who loves her novenas. She was very disappointed that her annual novena was missing this year. Her story was as follows: She went to Amsterdam on a visit. Her eye caught one street full of red lamps. She was thrilled that the Sacred Heart lamp made Amsterdam feel like home. She blessed herself several times and cooed with her own heart buzzing. However, she was then disgusted when someone quietly informed her that what she was seeing might not be what she thought. ‘Every day is a school day.’ She has become even more fervent and wrapped up in the heart of Jesus.

The infection of Covid in ordinary life:

The small talk of life these times is usually caught up with Covid. The residue from those 16 months often is mentioned. The silence of those early days. Where did everyone disappear to? There was the heavy absence of people. There was the emptiness. Then there was the coup: The birds took over. We could hear them. The sky was silent. The planes had stopped. The routine of life changed utterly. This terrible beauty born, was hard to take. The very structure and scaffolding of life evaporated. And now as life opens up: We can shop. We can have a limited Service in church. We can meet people. We can be exuberant due to the vaccine. Somehow, creating a new rhythm is not easy. It is hard to remember what day it is. Decisions are wearying. Is that age or motivation or the collapse of the habitual? Any further administration from HQ is off-putting. All the details from the finance people becomes a burden. To pay a bill is too much or to write a few words or respond to yet another email meets a complete refusal from the fingers. Even the pressure for Baptisms, First Communions and Confirmations is a struggle to cope with. The school demands are a burden. There is deep groan at the F word. This isn’t the word Finance from the Ad but rather the word Funeral. With the limited numbers allowed at a funeral, our usual back up team of regulars (in church) cannot be present. In the past many a family could shelter in the shade of the usual attendees who would cover all the responses. Not so now. They are left exposed. The responses are muted. The silence is deafening. However, this is the challenge of Liturgy. It has to be adjusted to the people present. It is about them. It is not about us. The language has to be changed. The personality of this family and this person has to come across. Much of the language of the Ritual is totally foreign and wrong. (Have a look at the Latinised twisted versions of the Mass prayers these days!) And we don’t have the same access to the families that we used to have for preparation or for follow up. The setting is nonetheless privileged and is humbling. It asks so much from our ministry team.

Jesus asleep on a cushion:

The Storm at sea Gospel always amuses me. It drags me back to the past. I was in Applecross in Scotland. Dicky Helmore from Carlisle had a boat. He took me out. We made the journey across to Skye. He stuck a needle in his belly and went into the cabin for a little sleep. (He was diabetic). I was left with the steering. Suddenly a storm blew up. I was terrified. I screamed at Dicky. He woke from his slumber and calmed the storm by taking the wheel. His head on a cushion reminded me of Christ in the Gospel. The panic and the fear reminded me of myself. Applecross and Skye and Storm loom large in my memory. Those storms and that cushion speaks of our lives.



Here are a few of the words that litter every conversation: Look. Like. You know what I mean. You know. Amazing. Definitely. Hi. Absolutely. I’m getting quite intolerant. They irritate me. Now I also know that I have listened to myself online a few times and was rather embarrassed at my own repeated phrases and words. Another pet hate of mine these times are all the Reports and Surveys. Everyday appears to feature them. Reports and Surveys. I think they are the Playthings of academics. I think some of their fail safe questions aren’t spurious but reek of superiority. Why bother? Are they worth the effort and the time?

Age, nostalgia and satire:

I must be getting old. Ageing is interesting. We can be made to seem invisible. People have to think for us. They assume we have lost the power of thought. They talk for us. Some of us are now on death row. (Or so it feels). Awaiting execution. We don’t even know the charge but we know the sentence; only that it means death. We are past that sell-by-date. We are beyond usefulness. It seems to happen politicians too. They are prominent. Then they disappear. It is indeed as if they never existed. But my mind has wandered elsewhere.

I watch the seriousness of so much commentary from our politicians and our media and our church people. I want to laugh. I want Dean Swift back. I want Hall’s Pictorial Weekly. I want An Broc or Myles na gCopaleen (Flann O Brien – Brian O Nolan) back. I am probably missing much of what goes on as satire these days. Satire is essential to give us a perspective. I even watch the earnestness of the discussion on the Maternity Hospital and the nuns and religious anywhere. I want someone to set up a site where we (as church people) can do a skit on politics and media and even laugh at ourselves. We wander about (too often) full of gloom and feel we have lost our place in society. We would be better off laughing at the incongruity of life. I think the image of Church as Good News is worth celebrating. I look at some of the bishops in the US so caught up in stopping Joe Biden from receiving Communion. I fear for them. Are they stupid or is their view of faith so flimsy and fragile. I see that it is five years since the Brexit Referendum and David Frost (chief negotiator) has said in the past days that no-one realised how difficult it would be. Is he blind and deaf or unaware? That Referendum was an example of someone cutting off their nose to spite their face. Oh the world is crying out for comedy or indeed for satire. I think that the Synod idea craves such a broader, sensible and communal response. But not many can actually do it. They speak the words but fear the reality. Please will all the comedians step forward and give us a perspective on reality!

Indi – the wandering minstrel:

Indi has moved South. She is on an orientation course into the customs, culture and language of the country folk. They look different down there she tells me. She hasn’t a clue what they are saying. There are all kinds of animals running about. She thinks that the cattle are big dogs. She sees the sheep as woolly jumpers. The horses are gargantuan mountains.

Everything is bigger and wilder than she can understand. A little person has indeed a different outlook on life. She doesn’t understand that there are new people everywhere. Her perspective on life is overly stretched. She did say very quietly that she plans an escape from her parents. Their company has been very good and they love her but she wants a little more independence. She wants to explore. She knew what they were up to. They had barricades everywhere to block her every effort at an adventure into the great unknowns of life. She has seen her new house but hasn’t had the chance for a reconnaissance trip into all the cupboards and rooms of the house. She likes the big field in front of it.

Seamus Ahearne osa.

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