Séamus Ahearne’s regular column features old friends – the Heron, Priests, the Mirror, News and of course Indi…

Who cares for the carers?

Avoid the mirror:

I had to check on the Facebook video of last weekend’s Mass. Edinburgh had some technical hitch. (Not that I know anything about technical problems!) It was a weird experience looking and listening to the video. The hitch seems to have been local to Edinburgh. I liked much of what I saw and heard. It seemed like real Liturgy. However, I hit a snag. I couldn’t get over how old the celebrant had become. I didn’t recognise his voice either. His mannerisms of gesture and speech were disconcerting. It was myself! I cringed. Later than evening I was speaking with a friend from Limerick. He had been reading some of my articles. His opening comment was – “when are you going to change that photograph? You look stern and you are frowning.” I hadn’t even noticed that there was a photo going out with my emails. I do miss so much! I need to be introduced to myself. I must have given up some time ago looking in the mirror…. Not even when I am shaving!

“O wad some Power the giftie gie us; to see oursels as ithers see us!”

(Rabbie Burns)


The Heron and original sin:

A priest-friend arrived from Cork for a funeral. His first question was: “How is the heron today?” This morning was very wet. The day was dark and dull. I saw no heron or kingfisher or duck. There wasn’t even the usual gulls wandering on the Pitch-and-Putt course. Everywhere looked forlorn. The wind spoke. The rain was insistent. The trees waved. The river went on its merry way and was assertive. It paid me no attention. Even the dogs didn’t appear. No other human being ventured out. I was happy with the walk. I even went off piste, I took a slight detour and saw the other side of the pond. New bushes chatted with me. The air smiled at me. And then I saw a supermarket trolley thrown into the river. That interfered with my meandering mind. In the flash of a moment; I thought Augustine had a point with original sin.


Pastoral Care general:

I had some rambling thoughts on Pastoral Care. After all, it is the heart of our work and defines us as ministers. I thought also of the pastoral care of ministers. We (as ministers) are restricted. Meetings are curtailed. Home visits are almost ended. Mass attendance is very different. Many are sick in the community but we can do so little. It does feel as if sickness, dying and death has become much more difficult. Funerals are more poignant. I was wondering about my fellow ministers/priests. Many are over age. A majority had cocooned. Their life work is dramatically changed. They are being challenged to be imaginative and to create a new way of sharing faith; of celebrating faith. It isn’t easy. I wonder who is now reaching out to these, who are struggling to cope with a very new way of priesting.

Pastoral Care and Management:

Does the management team at HQ reach out to check on the local personnel? I think as men, as priests, we are slow at simple gestures like asking a fellow priest – ‘how are you?’ I get the general impression that ordinary and obvious words like – encouragement, appreciation, praise can be absent in our business towards each other. I feel that there is a lacuna in the body politic. Might it be due to celibacy? Many of us live a muscular Christianity or even a macho faith. The normal minding of each other which happens in the community, can be missing in minister-to-minister. Management-speak (in leadership) can take over from the human touch. The administration which consumes the Leadership, is very demanding but contact, communion, communication is essential. The incarnation is very touchy if it is real. We use the word for others but is it happening for ourselves and towards each other?


Pastoral care in the new dispensation:

The ‘word’ has to become flesh in the local church. Leadership is about being ‘in touch.’ Management also needs the praise, encouragement, admiration, of the local people. Do we reach out towards them rather than present problems and blame? Last weekend Jeremiah had no problem expressing how he felt. That may not be the way of most men. The isolation. The abandonment. The collapse of the usual edifice. No holidays. No away time. No days off. We know that there was down-time with the cocooning and quarantine but there wasn’t a break. Many of our priests live alone. This is a serious issue. Religious clergy have the community support, though the ‘minding/caring’ can be feeble too. I led a reflection once in Scotland for counsellors. The theme was: Who counsels the counsellors? Who heals the healers? Who cares for the carers? Who ministers to the ministers? The playful part of the seminar was: What do you do for fun? Some of this may apply at present. I may be full of nonsense in the above comments but I think not.

Eucharist during Covid:

Mass at present has changed. I heard from Glasgow last weekend. My friend Eileen goes to two churches. In one church; no one moves. Everyone is shown to their place. They stay seated. Communion comes to them. In another church; people go up for Communion. (We have both versions here too). What is fascinating is the absence of the Collections; no noisy baskets or bags circulating. It does make for a quieter and more reflective Eucharist. There is a need to draw further attention to the meaning of the Presentation of Gifts when there is no procession. The Sign of Peace now can become a precious moment where we go silent and pray for hearts to receive the peace of Christ. When Communion goes down to the seated; I find great reverence. The quietness itself gathers us into a prayerful community. The major difficulty can be the clericalisation of Liturgy during this new way of Liturgy (with regulations, etc). I do know that the funding of parish/diocesan life can be very reduced but I am impressed by the generosity of people. We all adjust to the guidelines and to the few who can attend. But the distances from each other still feels strange and contradictory to the very core of Communion. But it is what we have to do and how we have to live.


The News:

The News baffles me. The earnestness of the presenters makes them seem like overly pious and unctuous preachers, droning on. They are dripping with seriousness. It is understandable but amusing. It was understandable too, to hear the Ceann Comhairle, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, today. He was really in pain and angry. It was hardly to do with being back, due to the recall of the Dáil. He lashed out at Golfgate and said: “We all make mistakes. But….. Seriously indefensible breaches of public health regulations occurred on the 19th of August in Clifden. These breaches are either the result of collective crass stupidity, or arrogant delusion, or both.” The Dáil-collective, surely bowed their heads in embarrassment and winced. As this occurred, Clifden was in the news again. There are floods. Even the heavens are crying. Not just for Dara or Phil. Or the Oireachtas Golf Society. Oh where is Frank Hall (Hall’s Pictorial Weekly)? He would have great fun. I suppose ‘Callan’s Kicks’ could pick up the slack. (I know hardly anything about this one). Novalny was poisoned with Novichok. Sam Bennett has the green jersey (Tour de France). His fellow Carrick-on-Suir man, Seán Kelly, must be pleased. Trump, Johnson, Brexit, Covid, fill the airwaves. Even Nancy Pelosi has a problem with hair and masks.

Even through the mouths of babes (Psalm 8):

Indi rang me. She had a big announcement to make. She would be 24 weeks old on Saturday. I had seen her dancing in her playpen on WhatsApp. She is rather energetic. She whispered to me that they tried feeding her adult-food during the week. She said they called it rice or something. She wasn’t too impressed but she is willing to try anything new. She was asking me about schools. They have gone back. She thought that this must be a good thing? That was her question. But then she said – don’t they go on and on about it? She can’t understand why all life has to be consumed by Covid. She knows no other life other than life with Covid. She can’t believe how paranoid everyone is. She launched into a speech. “You have air. You have a home. You have feet. You have food. You have family. You have friends. You have lovely rain. You have beautiful sun-rise and sun-sets. You have new adventures every day. Why all this whining and whinging?” She wanted to know, do adults just love moaning? Do they spend every day looking for problems and when they can’t find them; do they just make them up? She dropped the phone and went back to her kicking. She can’t understand why adults are so complicated.

Seamus Ahearne osa

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One Comment

  1. Soline Humbert says:

    Indi is such a wonderfully funny and wise homilist! But then she would, wouldn ‘t she ?
    Thank you Séamus for your colour -full contribution.

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