More Rumours of Angels
The delights of a frosty morning:
These mornings seem eerie. The Tolka River holds its breath. I am suspicious of the quietness. The heron appears sometimes. It remains aloof. The swans are infrequent. I miss the sky dancers (murmurations) – the starlings. They aren’t early risers. The paths are slippery. The few of us who venture out, encourage each other to be careful. The dogs don’t appear to mind. They have a string of lights on their necks to highlight the way. The frost appears to clear the air and to steal the chatter out of the morning. There is a teasing taunt in my head: Wasn’t summer beautiful and did I appreciate it as I should have? The earlier lockdown was made somewhat easier. I shake my head and delight in being able to walk. I begin to write as I walk. A keyboard isn’t necessary.
‘The gift that never stops giving.’ Has that got a scriptural derivation or is it a commercial advertisement that rings in my ears? This is a constant. The News is always dripping with indignation. It is Brian Stanley this week. The Chair of the PAC is in difficulty. The dog and a bone come to mind. It was Helen McEntee last week and Séamus Woulfe. It was Phil Hogan. It was Leo. It was Barry Cowan earlier. It was Bryan Dobson, David McCullagh, Miriam O’Callaghan on another week. It is always someone. We need target practice. Clay pigeons are essential to keep us sharp or to make news. Many step back and gloat at not having a Donald Trump in these parts. We preen ourselves; we are so much better. But mini-Trumps abound. The same simplicity. The same bullying. The same crudity obtains. In Church life too, we need our enemies or the ones who are different to us, to shoot down. Somehow, the essential attitudes of humanity and indeed Christianity such as courtesy, civility, gentleness, kindness, tolerance, humour, go missing. It is true too even of political and church debate. We do need to soften our approach and find a gentleness among us. ‘The gift that never stops giving’ is our addiction towards indignation and self-righteousness.
The world of sport:
Cavan and Tipp exceeded all expectations. They came up against very high standards. Dublin and Mayo are fine competitors. The Irish Rugby team did much better. I shudder at the hits. The poor girls from Galway and Cork got thrown from pillar to post – Limerick, Parnell Park and then Croke Park. Peter Alliss has died. His melodious voice was worth listening to even if the golf wasn’t too important. The words from Romain Grosjean about being ‘at peace’ were moving. Lewis Hamilton has Covid and young Russell almost did it. Waterford and Limerick are quietly preparing. Many of us are hoping. Young Caoimhín Kelleher is in the headlines for Liverpool. My concern is how can the UK journalists, pronounce his name! The English press felt that their team was insulted by the French. It was ‘boys against men’ they assumed. It didn’t quite turn out like that. Dundalk did it against Shamrock Rovers; despite the trip to play Molde.
Cad a dhéanfaimid feasta gan adhmad?
My Irish has evaporated. Sadly. These lines stay in my head: ‘An t-Afreann á léamh’ and ‘An t-Aifreann binn a rá’ (from Kilcash). I may not be exact but am close. It is the ‘reading’ and the ‘saying’ that strikes me. Those words sound too passive for my understanding of Eucharist. That is why the absence of people makes Mass not just empty but almost meaningless. I know many of us have tried. And the virtual congregation has been huge. All across the world. I am surprised and amazed. Our congregation is much bigger now than it ever was or is. But the small crowd was back at the weekend. We all realised how much we miss each other. There was a calm euphoria. It definitely isn’t possible to be a Christian or a praying person, alone! The easy participation. The sharing. The involvement. The John the Baptist figures among us. How we even yearn for those who couldn’t come. Yes. Eucharist is community. Is communion. The Word becomes flesh in the lives of everyone of us. It is vibrant. It is indeed alive. I will say nonetheless, it was a great blessing to have the technology but we had to work hard to make Liturgy out of the broadcast. It could be done and it was.
I mentioned one of the builders at St Finian’s Primary School here in Finglas previously. He told me that his son wanted to do nothing but to be a priest. The diocesan people have slowed him up. He needs to get an experience of living. That is right. I was taken aback in a good way that anyone, someone, wanted to be a priest in these days. I opened St Finian’s school on Saturday. Martin and family arrived from New Ross – a bunch of teachers. They did some work in decorating the flooring in the school. It is very colourful and cheerful. Martin told me (afterwards) that his son too has gone to Maynooth. He had done his teaching training first of all. Again I was surprised and genuinely pleased. My pals on Skye rang me. Tony and Pola. I keep on pressurising them by saying that it is their deaconate that is important. Their experience of life; their love; their history in family. That is what being a deacon is. It is not the parade around the sanctuary or the clerical apparel.
Tony (consultant psychiatrist). Pola (an artist and craftswoman). They were recalling their time as students in Dundee back in the 70s. We reminisced. The parish was buzzing. The young folk were everywhere. It was very alive. I remember it well and somewhat nostalgically. Tony and Pola attribute so much of their present faith to those days. My memories also rambled to the swarm of young folk in Drogheda in the mid 70s. Those were the days indeed. Our world now is different. Brendan Hoban has written a book with a diary of a priest’s life – A Priest’s Diary. It is fascinating. I would love to see some ten or so priests write on what Brendan’s book stirred in them. I want to hear of the privilege; the enthusiasm; the wonder; the humble nature of God working is us; the world of ‘holiness’; the ‘trust’; the awesomeness of liturgy; the embarrassment of being listened to or of being a confessor; the sheer fulfilment in living out every day; the access to homes and to the lives of so many. (Would we recommend to the two young men mentioned above to continue the way into priesthood from our experience?)
Young Indi has her spake:
She has been showing off her new teeth. I tell her parents that she always had teeth! She now has lovely days and doesn’t want to waste the night by sleeping. Her Ma and Da are not amused. Her latest fascination is Christmas. The Toy Show was a delight for her. But this Christmas thing intrigues her. She hears of shopping but isn’t too interested. It is the lights. The colours. This man with the beard. It is talk of Santa. It is presents. It is food. She wants to know about Christ.
She hears something about a crib and wasn’t too sure what it was. She knows that people love to go to Church for Christmas and want to go especially when they are being stopped from going. She hears of tickets and booking in, and all that stuff. She asks basic questions. Who is Jesus Christ? Why did he come? Where was he born? Was he like her? Did he have teeth? Did he kick his legs? Was he hungry? Who fed him? Who were his parents? Why do we have to celebrate him? Does he have anything to do with us now? Does he matter to Christmas or is he only an excuse for celebrating? What is this thing of being of Jesus ‘being born in our hearts’? How can that happen? What difference should he make to her little life? How would she know (she asks) if Christ is important to us now? And how would she know this? What does BC and AD really mean?
Seamus Ahearne osa