(Paul Graham osa, The Furrow, November, whose Month’s Mind was yesterday.)
A little thought on George Pell and Francis:
“George Pell’s death symbolises the demise of a Church out of touch and out of time.” (Francis Sullivan – Chair of Concerned Catholics, Canberra Goulburn). His article was published on The Guardian website. His words were strong. He contrasted Pope Francis’ vision of the life of faith with the rigorous, absolutist version of George. That may not be fair but the muscular form of Christianity, polluted by certainties, was illustrated by Pell in Sullivan’s view. George did divide opinion. He expressed his own views forcibly. That too isn’t all wrong. I was thinking.
St Canice’s Centenary:
Dermot Farrell came to Finglas to our little parish of 70,000. The occasion was the Centenary of St Canice’s Church. It was December 11th 2022. It was Gaudete Sunday which was very appropriate. A whole history of the Community was being celebrated. It was a very special occasion. We were steeped in the clay of the past. (‘Never forget who you is’ – Roots). We were remembering what we had received and what we were challenged to hand on. Dermot spoke at length but then he came to the crux of his homily. It appeared something like this:
Dermot Farrell and the Open Door:
The Church has to have an Open Door. Everyone must be welcome. The broken. The addict. The gay person. The divorced. The poor. The unlikely one. The Church is a Home for everyone. It has to have the Open Door. It has the Open Table (he hardly said that! But could have, as this is logical). That means we make everyone welcome. That further means that our hearts and heads and imaginations are wide open to a new way of thinking and a different way of being Christian and Catholic (he didn’t say that but could have). How does this challenge affect us now? Locally this is happening: We are all getting used to working more together. We are learning from each other. We can never allow ourselves to be lost in our own individual Community/Centre or in our own way of doing things. Everything is changed and a ‘terrible beauty is born.’ If we let it. We have five ‘Mass Centres.’ The priests rotate every day and for everything. Every Community is hospitable. There is a Meeting of the Steering Committee every week. That Meeting cannot cover everything but it organises all the practicals. Six months have passed! Much done. More to do.
The consequences of that Open Mind:
This Open Door and Open Mind and Open Heart and Open Imagination has to affect everything we do and how we do it. The Pell version isn’t acceptable (at least as described by Sullivan). The Synodal Pathway has to obtain. The talking, respecting, listening, discerning has to be the Model. Now how does our Liturgy shape up towards this Open Door? We are very comfortable in our own Language and in our own ways. But those who come to the Church (funerals, weddings, baptisms, First Communions, Confirmations) – haven’t a clue! The vast majority of those who come for Funerals or who come for the Sacraments don’t know the basics; don’t know the Responses. Do we then impose our Language and our Music and our Song and our ‘holy fixed structure?’ Or what can we do? In all the Funerals I have done I have seen very little irreverence. But that means huge time spent in preparation and involvement with families. The Funeral is for them. It is about them. It isn’t about us. The Word has to become Flesh in them and through them. We are then truly ministers. This reverence (mentioned above) has been so in the most unlikely situations and in the wildest funerals. I have never felt that we lost control or that irreverence got in the way. There is something very deep and precious about a Funeral. That then has to be where we start with this Open Door. There is something of the very mystery of life lurking in the atmosphere of a funeral. And I was thinking. Do we have the energy to do all this? Something has to give.
The packed Churches at Christmas!
Christmas has passed by. We were back to normal. The Churches were open. The crowds were welcome. I don’t think the crowds came. Many did. But some have lost the habit. And age has also taken over. Christmas and Christ and Church aren’t all that closely linked. It seemed to me that if Christmas doesn’t stir the heart of faith for the visit to Church then something has died. God has gone missing and isn’t missed. Our Ceremonies can be beautiful. And they were. The Carol and Reconciliation was a delight and so moving. Confession online is a lovely idea! The Sundown Ceremony (Saying goodbye to the Old Year and welcoming the New) was very special. Few turned up. Many joined online. This is the new participation. The numbers are extraordinary. Sometimes they take part by comments and prayer requests or they can be asked to do various things in keeping with the Service. (I did participate myself online when I was house confined, for the past week – the fixed camera reminded me of a static Liturgy which is a contradiction in terms.) So, if Christmas doesn’t draw people to Church then we are celebrating a Funeral of the Church that we knew. What do we do now?
Celebrate the gift of the local church:
I would never be dismissive of the past. I would never blame the past for all that is wrong. I will never accept that everything the Church did was wrong. Who were the educators? The social workers? The hospitals? The counsellors? The follow up team for everything? The carers for the poor? For the old? For the lonely? Even now – our doors are always open; our phone never stops; the texts keep coming; the emails shout; there are no Office Hours. We are forever available. We never stop visiting. The officials of the Social Worker Community or Counsellors or Gardaí work office hours. We don’t. It is a wonderful service. Therefore we can be proud of what we do and how we do it. I will never spend time apologising for the ills of the past. Some things were wrong. But we aren’t that more enlightened now. Much is wrong now. We will look back in time future and see how empty and superficial life had become. We all need to be very humble.
God is always needed. As Pádraig Daly has said – ‘Glimpsing More’ – we have to open the doors of our minds and hearts and imaginations to see more. I can never get over putting out a little food for the birds. They appear immediately. How do they know? How do they see it? Who is on duty? Why aren’t we (like the birds) alert to the opportunity for the food of life; the world of faith; the whispers of God; the rumours of angels? The holiness of the ordinary. The world of beauty. The God of love in homes; in friends; in neighbours; in loving families. We are all now missionaries. There is a new Mission. That doesn’t mean looking for vocations. We have vocations. It doesn‘t mean trying to keep the whole show going as it always was. We are all very old and it is hard for us to adapt and to change. But that Open Door demands that we do. We can’t demand that those ‘outsiders’ have to come back or come in or take what is on offer. We are the hospitable ones, supposedly. These are exciting times. Dermot Farrell was right. Mission land has been forever like this. Why should we be different?
Seamus Ahearne osa