We forever begin:

I sign off all letters with the word, Shalom.
It is such a rich word. It is the family half-door. It the Open Table. It is the shared meal. It is the hearth in the home. It is the welcoming mind. It is the gracious heart. It is the essence of gratitude. It is the gift of friendship. It is the feast of nature. It is Eucharist lived fully and shared. It is Elisha on Sunday (June 28th).  It is the outlook for all of us as we ‘Begin’ again.’ (Brendan Kennelly).
There is also a  fear about.  There is agitation. There is giddiness.
We feel that the gates have been opened; we are out on licence (parole) and electronically tagged. There are meetings everywhere. We pray as we commence – not a sprint- Our Father but a real Reflect and Share.
We hear too the heartfelt experience of lockdown. The width of our Sharing is again Shalom. We are then ready to talk protocols, guidelines, distances, tickets, disinfecting, Newsletters and Facebook.   Shalom here means utter respect for each other and a deep commitment to minding one another.
We understood why Diarmuid Martin was miffed. Pubs, restaurants all have different standards to the Churches.  It is rather amusing. We have been relegated to the periphery of life.  It is a more comfortable and proper place for us to be. Eccentric.  However, I heard something intriguing overnight from the US,   that big Churches were hotspots!  It is worth noting that, even when 50 (as a maximum) seems ridiculous in our big Churches.


Listening to our experience:

It is a humbling reflection to glance backwards towards 14/15th March and since.
The world lived without us. Lived without Church. Lived without Mass. No Holy Week. No Easter. No Baptisms. No First Communion. No Confirmations. No house visits. No Schools. No full Funerals. No shopping. No hospital visiting or visits to the sick.
Somehow the sky didn’t fall in.
We can’t go back to how we were.
That was a different Country. We have to redefine our description of Ministry; of Parish; of Sacrament; of Mass. The precious word Shalom, is beckoning us inward and outward. We humbly welcome a new way of looking at things and seeing things.  What now is our Ministry?  What does being a Christian mean or a priest mean, in this new world? Does the bishop/religious gaffer, listen in a Shalom manner? Does the priest listen as a Shalom person? Does each parishioner listen in this Shalom way?   Do family members listen anew to each other? Do neighbours listen, respect, care for each other as people of Shalom? Are Sacraments now opportunities to ‘welcome’ (Shalom) the calling God, into the core of faith to become a real presence?


Online Mass:

Many went searching on the internet for Mass.  I squirmed at the passive Mass.  The priest was talking to the world and no one spoke back. ‘The Lord be with you’ and he answered himself.   In some ways and for many, the passive Mass, wasn’t just on the internet; it was the usual experience of so often. We were blessed here in having a Production Team – Seamus and Margaret (volunteered their expertise) who could link up all the various segments of Mass and blend them together on Facebook to enable the Mass appear as seamless.
It was an enriching experience. We had the music. We had the PowerPoints. We had the Mime. We had the Readers. We had the prayerfulness. We had multiple cameras.   I knew nothing of Facebook and have been amazed at how many have tuned in and participated. I did hear from Edinburgh that I had lost lots of hair from when I was known there. We did hear from S Africa, Ecuador, Canada, US, England, and throughout Ireland. It was quite a surprise.  I think it was the music and song that was magnetic and magical and inspirational.  I was taken back myself at how old I had got and how I had deserved the cocooning!  I hadn’t realised also my range of mannerisms. I did notice that it wasn’t only my fingers are fidgety but that all my gestures are very fidgety.  It was no wonder that our Producer Seamus, was trying to confine me to one or two spots, when I spoke! He couldn’t rein me in.


Security Council:

I was taken back to the past on Monday at 17.20 (Drivetime with Mary Wilson).  Geraldine Byrne (Ambassador at UN) was interviewed. She had played a major role in Ireland winning a place on the Security Council at the UN and will represent Ireland on the Council.  I could see in my mind’s eye,  Geraldine praying at the altar of the  Mother of Good Counsel Picture in Shop Street, Drogheda.   Helen and Gerry (her parents) would be pleased to see where she has got.  We trained her well…. Anthony and Mary aren’t too bad either (her siblings). I think of her many friends who have been there for her during her life’s journey.   She has gone from Good Counsel to the Security Council.  She will do her job very well.

The visiting Heron:

Shalom continues.  I go to the Tolka every morning. The camaraderie of the walkers occurs. I smile at the heron or herons as I watch the chatting waters. The herons are too busy to talk. They have to concentrate. However, I was surprised and moved. The heron came to visit me at St Finian’s school.
I was doing my second walk of the day and there was my friend.
We nodded at each other. She was shy as I am. We didn’t say much but the gestures were sufficient.  It was a Shalom moment.  There was an inner throb. There was a hint  too of pique.  It was about time for the heron to make such a visit. I can’t be always the one to visit her.

 Full many a flower is born to blush unseen:

I don’ know why.  I love the music of language especially of poetry.  My musical ear is not too keen but it is in love with words and sounds. I can never remember very many lines in any poem  or even  quote a line.  But I do know where to look.  However, Gray’s poem  ‘Elegy written in a Country Churchyard’  (or some of it)  stays with me.

“Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.”

John called me this morning.  He asked if I had seen the flowers in the middle of the lawn. I hadn’t. We examined them. They were beautiful. My camera woman- Maire, is forever rambling around the school grounds, finding flowers, buds, insects and little wonders. She escapes to the Tolka too.
And I think of Elegy. How many are never discovered  (in our communities) ?  How many ever find their inner ability?  How many do we give confidence to, in our Church life to share their experience of God?  How many do we wake up to wonder and beauty?  How many highly qualified people have we in church life, who never show off the flowering of their great gifts?  This blushing unseen is fine, but the Table for the Presentation of Gifts is deprived.  Shalom is wholeness and wholesomeness.   Our New Church has to commit to full flowering and empowering everyone (the latest cliché )


The Greens and realpolitik

The Greens and myself did some sparring  in the boxing-ring of ideas. Donal Dorr got somewhat squeamish at my language. I think it was ‘the strut’ and possibly the ‘reeking with self-righteousness’ that upset him.  Donal is a consistent presence in dealing with the issues of today and his passion for applied theology, is powerful. He is an inspiration to us all.  I agree with Donal in regard to the philosophy of the Greens. We need them. They speak the language of Laudato  si.  It should be our language too.   However, preening themselves on their principles and avoiding the dirty work of applying those principles, to the mess of politics, is total avoidance.  Politics is the ‘art of the possible.’  This is their chance.  They can gloat forever about what should be done, and never get around to doing anything.   I think Suenens might help them with that enduring comment:

“Happy are those who dream dreams and are willing to pay the price to make them come true.”

The holier-than-thou attitude, reminds me of the rigidity in Church life in our past. Like the elitist Neo-catechumenate who prefer a Private Easter Vigil.  Or Catholic Schools being only for practising Catholics or the purist view that Baptism at Mass can only be for those who are deeply committed. Or First Communion only for those families, who regularly are at church;  or admittance to the Table of the Eucharist being only for those who are upright and haven’t been divorced.  Or only a welcome to the Church for those who aren’t cohabiting.
We have suffered from doctrinaire positions in Church life for years and stood on the pedestal of certainty and pomposity.  I feel there are shades of this,  in the stance of the Greens at present.  The branches on the trees wave in the breeze.  Flexibility is essential in the thrust of any real conversation.  Rigidity is a distortion of humanity. Shalom.

Augustine and Stephen Hawking:

Augustine never had an unwritten thought. He was an artist with words.  In the Office of Readings these days, he meanders forever about sheep. However these words are good:
“We must take care while eating pure herbage and drinking pure water, we do not trample down God’s pasture, so that the weak sheep have to eat what has been trampled on and drink what has been muddied.”
Sean Walsh’s words strikes me as saying there is a great need for Shalom in our pastoral outlook and to be careful as we trample.  Or in the words of Stephen Hawking  on why he doesn’t believe in God:  “Your God is too small. “   We  trample on the grass of faith when we aren’t rich in Shalom. For those who wonder about my pal Indi – she has much to say but wants to restrain herself until next week.

Seamus Ahearne osa

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  1. Martin Harran says:

    From this week’s Irish Catholic:


    During the height of the pandemic the majority of Irish Catholics have welcomed and engaged with online Church services, feel their faith has been strengthened and believe now there is a “great chance” to re-think the Church’s future, according to new research.

    The study was conducted by the Mater Dei Centre for Catholic Education at Dublin City University, in partnership with York St John University, and 1,377 adults responded.

    The online survey ‘Coronavirus, Church & You’ was launched nationwide, including the North, with 70% of respondents aged 40-60.

    It found that 65% accessed church services online and 61% said the service felt the same as usual services.

    Half of those surveyed had contact with clergy during lockdown, mainly by phone (38%) or online (36%).

    The Director of the Mater Dei Centre for Catholic Education, Dr Gareth Byrne, said: “It was very significant that clergy have found news ways of being in touch pastorally, not just for the celebration of Masses but also for keeping in contact with parishioners and responding to their needs.”

    The vast majority of people felt it was good to see clergy broadcast services for their churches while 67% said they agreed that online worship is a great liturgical tool – 62% agreed social media is a great pastoral tool and 53% agreed social media is a great evangelistic tool.


    I don’t think your claim that the world lived without Church is really warranted – whilst we had to go without many aspects of our religious practice, particularly the Sacraments, people have made the effort to stay in touch with their church and their parish and, in my experience, there is a tremendous appetite to get back inside the churches.

    It is right that we should concern ourselves about the declining numbers and other issues facing our church but we should never underestimate the commitment and the adaptability that is out there.

  2. sean walsh says:


    “But when you pray, go into your room,
    close the door and pray to your Father,
    who is unseen.” (Matt 6: 6)

    Unseen – but there for all that…

    Stay in, stay safe. Wash your hands –
    the all-too-familiar diktats of the Pandemic.

    Now here’s a thing:
    social distancing does not cut ice
    with Jesus Christ!..
    He is having none of it!

    On the contrary, He invites us
    – Come to Me –
    to search for Him, seek Him out,
    find Him… go to Him… touch Him –
    even the hem of His garment…

    Sure you only have to turn to Him
    to find He is already turned to you!
    Arms extended… embracing … ever welcoming.
    Then cling to Him! Yes, cling to Him!

    And this you can do very well –
    oh, not in a packed hall or crowded church –
    but in the quiet of your own space –
    your house, home, room…

    Stay safe, find Jesus.

    And in so doing you may well encounter
    the Risen Christ – better, richer, more telling –
    than ever before…

    Why? Because – and this is the thing –
    the company of Jesus – His friendship –
    nourished by a deep, deepening
    awareness of his presence
    in the privacy of one’s own space –
    that is what was – is – and always will be –
    of the utmost importance.

    Words?.. A few… maybe… some times.
    But more to the point:
    an awareness of Presence….
    the warm realization that there is
    close by… beside you… at your side…
    sharing your space…

    And the meaning of the Risen Jesus
    will surely come home to you, anew…

    But it is only in quiet, in stillness,
    that the Spirit will stir in your soul…

    the Sacred Heart… speak to your heart.

    Stay in, stay safe… with Jesus.

    – Sean Walsh.

    (Came to me in Lockdown, June, 2020)

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