Séamus Ahearne: the Tolka, visiting churches, women and hair, and Indi and a beard!

Languishing in wonder

The Bible of nature:

The tinge of white in the mornings (frost) is a promise and a delicate hint of a beautiful day. The trees (messengers of life) have taken over from the daffodils who are fading away. They are all dressed in their finery. The baton has been handed on. One tree is attention-seeking: A red flowering hawthorn in the middle of the park. It is monarch of all it surveys. The odd egret appears on the Tolka. Some suggest that they are visitors from the Zoo. The heron stands on its perch in the river and ignores everyone. A barking dog doesn’t even get a glance of disdain. The mother swan sits on its nest, as the male patrols the pond. The ducks and the hens add colour to the morning drama. The familiar walkers wave good morning or stop for a few words. Tony is bursting with joy at the wonder of it all. However, it is his dog who does the barking at the heron. Tony dismisses the bark by saying that she is a yapper, like all females. I tell him that I will report him to his wife Joan.

Love in the time of Covid:

Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel Garcia Marquez) suggests a book that could be written in our Time of Covid. The latest buzz word (media) to describe our own ‘epoch’ is ‘languishing.’ It suggests to me passivity or a total inability to do anything. A swamp of helplessness. That is too convenient and reeks of laziness. It removes responsibility for doing anything. ‘Poor little me.’ ‘ I am suffering. I am rotten with weariness’! All the reporting on Covid is depressing too. It feels as if everyone is searching for bad news. Even the miracles of the vaccine become submerged in the lethargy of what is not happening rather than enjoying what is being done magnificently. Here are a few things that lift my own heart every day. My companions in the park during the morning walk. The callers to the door bringing in their collections and their Trócaire boxes. The banter. The phone calls. The adjustment people make for funerals and the sheer graciousness in the love expressed and the intimacy of sharing. The surprising congregation online and their encouraging comments. The laughter and fun in the local community and team. My companions of the day. The very rich life in emails and letters. How will we cope with being back to the structure of life as it used to be? We are too busy even now…

Indulging in visits to Churches:

I sometimes ramble online. It feels like curiosity and can be embarrassing looking into the homes of others. I am naturally shy but I struggle to overcome that shyness! Conjectures of a guilty bystander by Thomas Merton, comes to mind. I wander around to Churches for prayer online. And those visits remind me of a message from long ago which said – ‘walk into your own church and look at it as a visitor!’ How welcoming is it? How informative is it when you just go in? What message do you get? The idea is very good and it does ask real questions. During all my visits to online Services and Masses, I find many are very impressive. However, the clutter in sanctuaries irks me. Many sanctuaries and many an altar, is much too busy. So many ‘things’ get in the way of what is happening. We need an urgent decluttering of the Altar space. I’m not an iconoclast but many pious ‘relics’ (statues) are in the way. And furthermore, it isn’t only the space that is full of untidy clutter; it is our Liturgy too, equally disturbed by unhelpful extras. The three Readings are nonsensical. The crude language of the prayers is unacceptable and unprayable. The lumpy Gloria and Creed are unnecessary doctrinal luxuries! Simplify. Those noisy collections are unruly distractions. (When we had them!) In some ways we need a choreographer to help us focus on what is happening and what the intended message is. The clarity of presentation is essential. All of this needs attention before we even think of the Presider! Sin ceist eile! There is a little thought from my ramble online.

An appalling vista:

The George Floyd court case concluded. The Jury was out. Joe Biden was praying for the right verdict. That comment didn’t feel appropriate even if the Jury was sequestered. Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all counts. I wonder was it ever possible for any other result? Was it too fearful an outlook? Riots. Racism. I was remembering the case in England when the Birmingham Six sued the Midlands police. Lord Denning concluded that it was ‘an appalling vista’ to ever even consider that the police might be lying. (1980). There are elements of that in regard to this trial. The political system couldn’t even cope with the thought that Chauvin might not be guilty on all counts. I have concerns…

The problem with hair!

Boris has great difficulties. Dominic Cummings. Dominic Grieve. Alan Duncan. All insiders who have become outsiders are hurling grenades in his direction. Who needs enemies, when? Governments everywhere have an impossible job to do. Politicians should not be so easily bad-mouthed. I rather enjoyed the news item during the week – Arlene Foster and Michelle O Neill were heard discussing hair. Arlene had fun with the idea that Michelle had agreed with the opening of Hairdressers because she was going on The Late Late!

The tattoo exhibits:

We have two women who run the broadcasting unit: Máire and Betty. They are a brilliant team. They are often on the phone to Séamus who set up the system. They get very upset whenever he turns up to tweak the machinery. Inevitably something goes wrong after his visits. Séamus is a genius but it is impossible for lesser mortals to keep up with his flights of fancy. So yesterday (25th April) as we went live; we found that there was no sound. Of course he had been at the desk and fiddling! We had to postpone the broadcast. Séamus was playing at Mass elsewhere and so the whispering continued between the women and himself whenever he escaped his keyboard during that Mass. We had some distracting and amusing sideshows backstage also! Betty is young and very artistic. Some of her tattoos were glimpsed as they sneaked up her back. She had many more hidden gems. I was even told that she had lines from Scripture down her thigh. Of course I wasn’t allowed to see the canvas of her body with its dramatic painting. Liz was taken into the kitchen to see the Exhibition. I did suggest to Betty that I might ask her to present herself as a painting for some Sunday online streaming at Mass. I told her that we could do some advance marketing. Even her painting blushed.

Indi came to see me:

She had tired of talking on the phone. She wanted to see my lovely face. The beard and the hair were magnetic. She amused herself running her fingers through the hair and did it gently. She talked to me. She blurted out a concern she had. “I haven’t been christened you know.” She asked me to tell her all about baptism and wanted to know if she was missing out on something. (I told her that I had phone calls and visitors every day asking much the same question). She had no problem with God. She didn’t think at all along the lines – that ‘she had to be done’ in case anything happened. She just wanted this official Ritual to announce to the world how special she was and how wanted she was and how miraculous her appearance is. She doesn’t lack in confidence! She then asked me to bless her. I was inclined to tell her parents to do the blessing but I had to listen and do what the child said. She then decided that she needed to investigate. The room was her Gallery. Every item was scrutinised. Her appetite for discovery was exemplary. Her message was – in all things and always, keep on searching. Never have enough. Never stop learning. I think she had read a plaque on the door of my office: I’m still learning. (Michelangelo). Indi is an inspiration. Even in the midst of a pandemic – we can rot or moan or languish or we can adjust, adapt, learn, love and grow. ‘Love in the time of Covid.’

Seamus Ahearne osa





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