Séamus Ahearne: ‘Earth is crammed with heaven and every common bush afire with God.’ (Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

The Unknown God

The swans are missing. The herons appear but they need name tags. I can’t distinguish them. The starlings cheer me up each morning. They frequently take over the weeping willow trees. They are noisy but lovely. They sometimes follow me around as I walk but ignore me while they eat. I know the swallows are back but I haven’t seen them. (I got a video later of the swallows at the Tolka). The blackbirds keep on singing. The wren is very melodious. The kingfisher has appeared but not for me. The morning leads to a later trip to Glasnevin for a cremation. The flowers along the road wave at me and I smile. The side of the dual carriageway is in full blossom. The marigolds predominate and are quite beautiful. The colours are vibrant and want to sing. The ‘unknown God’ that Paul spoke of during the week, (Wednesday)  is still speaking…..

19 children shot, two teachers and now a husband dead

Uvalde in Texas is a new name for us to remember almost in despair. Robb Elementary School. Salvador Ramos arrives on the scene of our memories. Senator Chris Murphy speaks from the depth of his guts and asks: “What are we doing?” Joe Biden knows that his words evaporate as they meet the air but he describes the death of 19 children and two teachers as “like having a piece of your soul ripped away.” He was speaking especially of the death of a child. He concluded: “When in God’s name…..” Despite the sophistication of America there is much stupidity. This young fellow could buy a semi-automatic on his 18th birthday. He couldn’t buy an alcoholic drink. There is even talk of not allowing the sale of cigarettes until 21. What kind of madness invades the land? And politically there is no chance to do anything because the gun lobby see it as their right to carry arms. Why can thinking human beings be so foolish? Even after children being killed in their schools.

Nazanin, Richard and Gabriella.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (BBC1 on Monday) was interviewed. She spoke calmly and with clarity. She cannot explain how anyone or any State can use people; can tell lies; can manipulate; can deprive a mother of her child and the child of a mother. She was ‘imprisoned’ for almost six years. She was in solitary for some time. She lived with the cheap lines thrown out by the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson which were used as an excuse to justify her detention. She was supposedly ‘teaching journalists.’ She suffered the indignity of having to sign a confession before she boarded the aircraft. This was overseen by UK officials. Nazanin appears to be recovering. She has lost six years. She is a different person. She hadn’t known what her husband had been doing to secure her release. She is learning to talk to her child. She is learning what love is and getting to know her husband. She is in turmoil. She has survivors’ guilt – as she thinks of those who haven’t got out. She is thinking of her parents and her friends and knows she can’t go back to see them. The depth of cruelty which human beings can inflict on others, scares her and is too much to grasp. She is surprised how faith/God helped her during her time in custody.

Dervla Murphy of Lismore:

Dervla Murphy has died. This woman travelled the world on her bike and told us all about her travels. She lived an unadorned life. Her home in Lismore was rather simple. Modern conveniences didn’t reach that house. Everything was basic and sometimes that house was very cold. Central heating had no place in her plans. Alan Counihan (sculptor) and Gypsy Ray (visual artist) were friends and frequent visitors. They were friends too with my sister Helen who spoke with great regard for Dervla. She was different. She was extraordinary. She was simple. She was fearless. She had no need or wish for designer clothes! She lived on little. She wrote beautifully. She rode through India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Cameroon, Transylvania, South Africa and much more. She had nothing. She managed. She described some very ordinary things on her journey. Money – she never had. Food – she made do. Language – somehow she communicated. Landscapes or punctures – she could describe. People she met. That pistol she carried early on, was useful.  She was lovely. A lady. An eccentric.  A challenge. We don’t need much in life. But we need to get on our bikes and notice the extraordinary in the ordinary. We are all travellers in life and there is an adventure. In so many ways, the life of faith is about being on the bike and seeing anew everything and stirring up the heart of the mind into the awe of ordinary miracles. Dervla did just that.   

Words are all I have (Bee Gees)

Words. What do they mean? No parties in Downing Street according to Boris. ‘Nothing to do with me.’ It was all work and departing colleagues. He continues to bluff his way through it. ‘The Big Lie’ according to Trump. The election was stolen. Those clowns in Georgia didn’t even bother searching for the necessary 11,000 votes! Putin isn’t invading  Ukraine but rather protecting the Ukrainians from Nazis in their midst. The DUP wanted Brexit and can’t accept that there are consequences. The UK wants to have everything – the benefits of being in and being out. Jn 18.38. “Truth,” said Pilate “what is that?”  That idea cries out for understanding. Humpty Dumpty (Lewis Carroll) is rather apt: ‘Words mean what I choose them to mean.’ I think words are sacred. The truth always matters. We don’t need counterfeit language. A spade is a spade and not a shovel. If we dare venture into John’s Prologue. ‘The Word became flesh; he lived among us.’ He lives among us in the truth. He lives among us when we ‘have life and have it to the full.’(Jn 10.10) Whatever else we do; words matter and truth is Godly. Language cannot be distorted. The new Church buzz word is Synod. It has to mean what it intends to say. We talk to each other. We listen. We respect. We hear God in the midst of our talking. Otherwise everything is gibberish. Posh architecture for the project means nothing and is a lie if talking isn’t happening. The words of Liturgy cannot be formal jargon. They have to be living words. We can’t hide in the past. The Word has to become flesh now and in the culture of today. Communion has to mean communication and community.


She is still disappointed that Máire’s photos have been missing from the site. She loved looking at what Máire produced. I think she is sad because her own photo isn’t appearing! She rather preens herself for every take. She had a most unusual view on First Communion. She liked Lilly all dressed up and supposedly so holy. Now Indi isn’t sure what holy means but she has heard of it. She thinks it has to do with God playing hide and seek. She finds God lurking around every corner. She enjoyed the ‘party’ afterwards. So for Indi, this occasion means that the family gathers; that all the cousins meet; that there is church involved; that a white dress seems important; that God has something to do with the event. She is now investigating the Ascension. Planes take off. Did Jesus leave on a plane? Where did he go? When is he coming back? She wants to know. She is smart enough to know that while he is gone; that he expects us to do his work. She heard a song and thought that maybe this song is what it is about. ‘Time to say Goodbye.’ It sounds good in Italian and sung by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman. But there is a sadness at the heart of it all. Indi doesn’t get that. Some of us do. 

Seamus Ahearne osa     27th May 2022.

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One Comment

  1. Pádraig McCarthy says:

    Séamus Ahearne: ‘Earth is crammed with heaven and every common bush afire with God.’ (Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

    Earth’s crammed with heaven,
    And every common bush afire with God:
    But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
    The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries,

    This is from a long poem by E B Browning, Aurora Leigh, over 80,000 words.

    Irish poet James Stephens (1882-1950) saw:

    I bent again unto the ground
    And I heard the quiet sound
    Which the grasses make when they
    Come up laughing from the clay.

    We are the voice of God! they said.
    Thereupon I bent my head
    Down again that I might see
    If they truly spoke to me.

    But, around me, everywhere,
    Grass and trees and mountains were
    Thundering in mighty glee
    – We are the voice of deity!

    And I leapt from where I lay,
    I danced upon the laughing clay:
    And to the rock that sank beside
    – “We are the Voice of God!” I cried.

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