Malcolm Guite:

A WhatsApp video appeared on my phone. It was of Malcolm Guite. He was reciting ‘Two Poems for Burns Night.’ The Feast of Robbie Burns was on the 25th January. Burns always amuses me with the colour of his words. I had never heard of Malcolm. His presentation was rather elaborate. The study was somewhat ramshackle. His nonchalance was amusing. His care-freeness was attractive. This absent-minded professor coaxed me into his history. He spoke of his mother, his home, the songs, the poetry. And eventually he got down to his two poems for the evening. He did them well. ‘John Anderson – my Jo,’ was all about fidelity and older age. Malcolm saw the story (poem) lived in its tenderness, by his mother and father as they aged. The second poem was ‘The Banks of Doon.’ This was a lament for the forsaken. The natural elements were addressed – ye banks and braes; and then ends with a rose, but the forsaken only felt the thorns. Mr Google had more information on Malcolm. He writes. He speaks. He lectures. He is an Anglican priest. He was born in Ibadan (Nigeria). He is good. In such characters does faith spring into life.


Carl Andre died. His obituary was informative. I knew very little about him. He was a pioneer of the minimalist movement (Sculpture). His controversial ‘pile of bricks’ in the Tate had caught my attention in 1974. Was this art? What is art? He was critical of artists such as Alberto Giacometti. Again, I know almost nothing about Giacometti but I like his work. I suppose the pieces that I like are the elongated figures. Why I like them or what they are saying – I don’t know. Alberto was very philosophical on his works and agonised deeply, on what he was doing. I am stupid enough and facile enough to say that for me, I saw his figures as illustrations of our need to stretch ourselves to the limits. How crude of me! Andre too had the thought that “You have to rid yourself of certainties and assumptions.” In my very simplistic observation, I likened that to faith! We are builders, sculptors of faith. Everything is suggestive. We hint at the mystery. We concoct something that teases and taunts. Alec McGowan could do it with Mark’s Gospel. John Cairney could do it with Robbie Burns. Malcolm Guite could do it with his recitations. Carl Andre could do it. Alberto Giacometti did it. It is over to us to do it.

The forgotten Irish:

I constantly have a problem with the Irish Language. It is beyond me how we spent so many years studying it, and now I have reached the stage when I can hardly say the Our Father in Irish. That is very sad. I sometimes am concerned about our educational project and wonder what we learned and how we learned. Schools are very different now (to the fifties and onward)  and the children seem so much at home in school, and for many, school is better than home. However, I still have my doubts on much of what was done (my own case) in Primary School; in Secondary School; in UCD; in the Gregorian Rome. (Less so on what was done in Heythrop College). Teachers of all kinds need to be extraordinary characters, full of imagination, inventive, top communications, inspirational. I don’t believe any qualifying teacher, should be left near a school until they had worked for a couple of years out in the ordinary world of work. I think also their working lives should be more in line with what is done with every other worker in terms of holidays! I do know that teachers can’t teach us everything, but they must stimulate us into a wish to learn; our minds need to be opened; and the subjects can’t be restrictive. The world of art and literature and music has to be part of any real curriculum.

As for our own philosophical and theological training formation in priesthood; it hardly prepared us well for what we had to do and the world we faced. But then I look at the UK politicians and see some of the ones who were elected into leadership and I wonder. Educated? I look at the USA and can’t believe anyone who had ever thought for a moment could elect Trump as leader. And then there is the superficiality of life everywhere and so much more. How can faith ever happen if there isn’t rigour in its examination and in its celebration? Did any of us ever learn to use our minds or to think deeply on what matters?    

Rolls Royce:

I had a funeral on Saturday. The family had all the grandchildren doing everything. They included some who were borderline autistic. It was very moving and special. The love for the grandfather came across in their conviction. Afterwards, I travelled in the hearse to the graveyard. It was a Rolls Royce hearse. It was born in 1947 – almost as old as myself. The hearse was admired by everyone who saw it. It did look beautiful. The car chugged along. I thought it would never reach Fingal Cemetery. I even wondered might we have to get out and push it….. but it still looked good. I do prefer a more up-to-date car!


The high-earners were revealed today at RTÉ. Ryan Tubridy was at the top. Joe Duffy wasn’t far behind. In some ways, the figures looked obscene. However, Ryan Tubridy has been scapegoated. The whole debacle in RTÉ may have exploded around Tubridy but he wasn’t the problem. The governance was. Tubridy must feel very hurt and victimised. The broadcaster has lost a fine presenter. Joe Duffy too does a fine job but his programme is such a whinge. And for that money? I don’t know much about Ray Darcy but the little I do know, doesn’t impress me. I still find it extraordinary hearing the Station dissect and report so fully on the faults at their own work place. It is rather impressive that this can happen.

Seamus Ahearne osa

29th January 2024. ow

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