Thankful for more blessings than one man can stand

Today has been the strangest Tuesday of Holy week.
Usually at this time I feel overcome with projects and plans. Has everyone been asked to do their bit? When is the practice? Music, altar servers Stations of the Cross, washing of feet, Easter fire, Resurrection.
Instead, nothing!

Since the shut down began the solitude has been gradual, a novelty to begin with but now it has become a new reality. Everything is different and it looks like it is going to be this way for quite some time. If I am honest the hardest thing has been being away from family. My mother happily reached her 90thbirthday last November. She lives with my brother who tested negative for COVID-19 last week. Instead they discovered that he had pneumonia and thankfully will recover, if he escapes the virus.

I mentioned that the solitude is different and it has been, I don’t feel isolated because I feel connected with them and so many people. Just as Jesus felt solitary in the garden he was not isolated. Calls gratefully received and given.

I don’t set my alarm clock in the morning any more. Why should I, for what?

I still wake early and am walking in Glenbower Wood for 7.00 a.m., old habits die hard. God has blessed me with one of nature’s great gifts at my door-step. Six kilometres of bliss, great oak trees, flowing water and an abundance of nature.

All I meet are the hardy few regulars with whom I exchange a knowing nod.  It reminds me that God’s presence is everywhere and that the risen Christ is not limited by space, this is my place of prayer.

The ritual of daily Mass on my own feels strange, almost selfish. I have resisted all calls to embrace modern technology. It feels like daily mass has been turned to another episode on Netflix. Home is the first place of prayer and every table a sacred place. Now may be the opportunity for us to learn that we all are Church and that we must be Eucharist every day, of being thankful and believing that the risen Christ is with us.

Pastoral work has become very limited due to the regulations. A lot of the time is spent talking to people, reassuring them, explaining that First Holy Communion will take place, as will Confirmation and all the weddings that have been postponed. Today my biggest pastoral act was to bless a horse; Bressie (his original owner was from Mullingar…hence the name) fell and broke his spleen and the owners lovingly restored him back to health. Divine help is gladly accepted.

My new ‘farm’ is the vast Church grounds that are usually cared for by a FAS worker. Now that he can no longer fulfil that role it gladly falls to me. Cutting grass and trimming hedges. I’m planning a wild flower meadow instead of lawn!

In the evening the headstones of past parish priests, Fr. Power, Canon Carey and Tom Glavin got a bit of a cleaning. The first two men I heard stories of but Tom I knew well in my younger days as a priest. I think of my own fragile mortality and resting place. Not here but back where Spencer wrote of where “the gentle Mulla” (Awbeg) meets the Blackwater, in an old priory where my ancestors rest.

Since the new restrictions there have been three deaths in the parish. Thankfully none died from the virus. Three elderly men each with so much fitted into their lives and whose passing was not fully celebrated. It is good to be able to support families in these situations.

There is so much loss happening at this time that is not being dealt with because we cannot yet put a name to it. But deal with it we will have to, but not now, that is for the future. To be present for people is all we can do at the moment.

Chatting with a priest colleague lately he shared how he had hoped to retire when reaching seventy but he now says that if this is what retirement is like he has changed his mind. How many of our lives are defined by our role? Now may be a reminder that we do have a life of our own.

My daily news input is filtered as it can be overwhelming. It wasn’t at the beginning, but I found that it became like waiting for the football results. How many new cases, how many deaths?

Today word from Australia was of the release of Cardinal Pell. The case against him was tenuous so today’s outcome was not unexpected. An injustice had happened and even though I would not agree with his vision of Church and some of his methods of dealing with priests, justice was done. Maybe Church authorities might look now its procedures or lack of them and right the injustices done to people like Tony Flannery.

In the afternoon I received a call from a priest based in England. He read something I had written and he wanted to chat. He wanted nothing from me just to share his story, his agony in the garden, his Calvary. He was out of ministry and not receiving support from some in the Church. So I listened and offered reassurance as best I could on such a hard journey.

The day ended as it began full of mystery with the bright light of the full moon. God and nature spreading her glow over us. And then with the sad news of the death with the Corona virus of the great poet singer and song writer John Prine who shared his light over many of our lives.

The first verse of his song: “When I get to heaven” goes.

When I get to heaven, I’m gonna shake God’s hand
Thank him for more blessings than one man can stand
Then I’m gonna get a guitar and start a rock-n- roll band
Check into a swell hotel; ain’t the afterlife grand?

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  1. Padraig McCarthy says:

    W B Yeats wrote:

    I went out to the Hazel wood,
    Because a fire was in my head,
    And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
    And hooked a berry to a thread;
    And when white moths were on the wing,
    And moth-like stars were flickering out,
    I dropped the berry in a stream
    And caught a little silver trout…

    Donovan did a fine job of singing the song:

    In my cocoon, my back garden with two hazel trees offers the silver apples of the moon (Paschal Supermoon!) and golden apples of the sun.

  2. John Setright says:

    A very calm and reflective article with a touch of humour at the end.
    What a caterpillar thinks is the end of the world the rest of the world sees a butterfly

  3. Ted Lawton says:

    Lovely article father
    A feel good factor
    You are doing great work
    Wonder will Cardinal Pell be investigated under Canon law

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