That was the week that was

Those funerals (murder, mayhem, outrage) took place. The grandiosity of one almost took over from the obscenity of what had led to those funerals. Our attention was also brought to ‘the case in the canal.’ And an arrest was made. Our hearts hurt at what can happen in our country ‘of saints and scholars.’
David Cameron brought the historical accumulation of confidence, arrogance and self-righteousness of a colonial nation to bear on the Brussels meeting and emerged with a package for the Referendum even if it led to a split in the cabinet. Boris and Brexit then becomes the news.
The Election plods on and those with no chance of having to implement anything make the wildest promises. There is none of the excitement of the same sex marriage referendum. However everyone wants something to make up for the losses in those very recent bad old days. Have we learned anything? Have the politicians reflected at all on how our country collapsed? Local problems are focused on the loss by the Politicians of a Primary Care Unit. And many others are fighting the lack of planning around Modular housing and social housing.
Louis van Gaal is ridiculed in the media as Man United continue to falter. And the world of some falls into depression. At least Waterford beat Kilkenny and Cork.
And then it becomes the week of two Popes. Francis gets angry when he is pushed. It then emerges that Donal Trump might be a problem for him. (Even if the pope’s intervention did no harm to his election!) Francis defines a Christian (in a throw-away remark) as someone who builds bridges rather than walls. Isn’t that a dangerous and a very loose idea? Surely we couldn’t stretch the idea and ask about Charles J Brown? Build bridges rather than walls? Or the CDF – build bridges or walls? Any attempt to make Communion real, is very troublesome. All of us could be wandering in a minefield if we tried to live with that one. We have to be ambitious for the higher things and go beyond the temptation to hang onto one sentence from Francis. Even though he has a point!
And John Paul II made news. He even took over the cover page of The Tablet. He became the news because some of his letters were discovered and reached Panorama. Anne-Teresa Tymieniecka was apparently ‘more than a friend and less than a lover’ according to Edward Stourton. Some now were even concerned that these letters hadn’t been part of the process of investigation of his cause for canonisation. Now he should never have been canonised so rapidly but not because of his relationship with this or any other woman but for many other reasons. In fact, these letters add a humanity and a reality to the man. What have we done to the Incarnation that such letters even become a story? What have we done to the priesthood to make it so unreal? What are we still doing to ministry?
And we (in the parish) were involved in three other funerals. Dermot was a Downs syndrome man of 63. Jordan was a 16 year old with Cornelia de Lange. The love in both these families was extraordinary. We were taken yet again to a mountain top and experienced that awesome presence of God and the dullness and dreariness of daily news was overwhelmed by grace and goodness.
Another man died. He was a companion among us; a fellow Augustinian. Sean Dowling was 83. He was forever young. A Peter Pan type. He anticipated Francis and was always full of the richness and colour of the Gospel. The negativity of the Christian message (shown off in a very cold Church) was never part of his life. He worked in Nigeria at one time when he was the only Christian in the place for a few years. And he still he retained his enthusiasm. Sean was a man of dreams. Some of the rest of us were more practical and weren’t too enamoured with the ‘vision thing.’   Sean was unwell for the past seven months. But as death approached, he sat up in his hospital bed at James (last Monday. )
John (Provincial) stayed some nights with him in the hospital. He came in at one stage with a half-eaten sandwich. Sean told John – “I know I am dying. I am curious. I want to see what this heaven place is like.” He then asked John for his sandwich. John was reluctant to give him a half-eaten sandwich which had his hand all over it. Sean said, “it doesn’t matter, I’m dying anyway.” He took the sandwich and ate it. He then said, “if we had some wine now, we could call it the Last Supper.”   Sean’s Eucharist was always much bigger than the confines of the Altar and the Church. How many of us would like our life to end like Sean’s.
That was some of the week………………… Seamus Ahearne osa

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  1. Roy Donovan says:

    Seamus, that is just so refreshingly honest, real and passionate.
    Nobody can argue with that.
    It frees up something deep down and makes me feel more human.
    Your life experiences give a glimpse of the great Liberator – the wild Jesus of Nazareth – the most sane human being that ever walked this earth.
    Using the words of Daniel Berrigan (still alive) – “like the alcoholic calling out for more drink, give me more life” – Seamus keep on giving us more of this stuff!

  2. Roy Donovan says:

    I would like to refer further to Seamus’s refreshing honesty and realism. In many of his previous reflections he communicates the huge gap between where many of his parishioners are at and the dis-connect with the Sacraments/Liturgy. He puts huge energy into families around funerals so that the funeral liturgy speaks to their life experiences. For example, in the above reflection, he states about two funerals that “The love in both these families was extraordinary”.
    Joseph Martos’s article in the National Catholic Reporter, Feb. 20, 2016, “Twice removed: Why our sacraments often don’t connect with real life” expresses very well this huge dis-connect between Liturgy and everyday life of many people. Reading his article, one can understand further why so many people have and will continue to walk away from the Sacraments.
    Martos puts it very well – “As happened in the third century, there is a growing gap between theology and experience, only this time the theology is twice removed from life. Official teachings about the Mass and sacraments are not only disconnected from people’s everyday lives, but they are also often disconnected from people’s experience of worship. For many people, the liturgy is not the main source of their spiritual nourishment, nor the high point of their week……….
    Is there a way out of the current confusion? There is, but it is neither a dogmatic reassertion of the past nor a freefall into cultural relativism. We need to rediscover what is essential to the Christian way of life, reinvent ways to ritualize that, and reformulate what those rituals mean in terms that are faithful both to the teachings of Jesus and to the experience of living in accordance with them”.
    As one commentator puts the challenge – “can Catholicism or any faith survive such a restatement?”
    The experiences of Seamus show that seeking ways to bring the rituals that symbolise and proclaim our faith closer to the daily experience of people is not so easily done and requires a lot of hard emotional work accompanied by great openness and honesty.
    It will be interesting to see how the Synod in Limerick will respond to this growing gap! Is it able to continue with the hard work of listening and travelling with modern people and come up with creative ways of addressing why so many people are walking away from the Sacraments?
    Is it not interesting that so much energy in the Year of Mercy is focused on trying to get people to go back to Confession without acknowledging what Martos has described as the growing dis-connect between people’s experiences and Liturgy and the huge honesty, realism and hard work required to bridge this gap?

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