The Artistry of Women and the Botanic Gardens

The artistry of women and the Botanic gardens

Women are impossible:

The tyranny of women:  One lady came into the kitchen here and immediately changed the Paintings on the wall. These were ‘oil on canvas’(The Holy Family scene and a Resurrection scene): She thought Jesus looked lonely in the Resurrection Painting.  She said that he had his ma and his da in the family painting. Another complained about the colour of the toilet tissue in the house, apparently it was typically male. One other woman, wasn’t happy with my milk-jug – a two litre container.  And the final one was stressed out – she was going for Spiritual Direction and didn’t know what to wear.  Am I stupid or blissfully unaware of what is important in life?  Why can’t a woman be more like a man?  (Rex Harrison will do and where is he when he is needed?)


Sculpture in context:

It was the last day of the Exhibition. I just made it. The ‘Sculpture in context’at the Botanic Gardens   (Glasnevin 6thSeptember – 19thOctober) was closing. I live up the road from it, and had still left it to the last day. I only had an hour. The morning was beautiful. I wandered about purposefully but too quickly. The beauty of the gardens and the delightful day, dwarfed all attempts by the artists, to claim the limelight. All the efforts were puny by comparison. Some Exhibits were beyond me; I felt they tried to be rather avant garde or so it seemed to my uneducated mind. The beauty of the day; the sun; the shadow; the fading colours of the trees; the flowers, was magnificent. It was indeed another book of Scripture. God was walking in that garden. Such a pity that I was in too much of a hurry, and couldn’t linger and loiter. I took away – ‘God’s work of art’, from the Botanic.  It was most prayerful. I did see some very admirable exhibits. I hope the artists were teeming with humility, as they scanned the garden and then looked at their own genius trying to explore life.  They should be blushing.


Moments to live by:

When we dawdle in the moments of a day; something happens. A visit to a hospice – Seigrid smiles and chats, despite knowing that she has only two weeks more. At Mass, a lady speaks of the quiet evenings as she watches her Gallery of photos and memories. She wonders if her Gallery, will die with her. Every home visit is yet another ‘Sculpture in context’ where people are ‘built into a home where God lives.’ Every day has its madness and its fun. The banter is outrageous. Most days display a Church that has nothing to do with the one in the media or even the one,  official church assumes. A pregnancy – as a mother speaks of hearing the heart-beat. A birth. And the miracle of life. The honesty and spontaneity in everyday life. The unvarnished sharing. Baptism. School – where the home problems are shared, and a great Christian care is everywhere. Death, where everything stops and everyone creates a Gallery, and the Communal Home of a life and of lives, is opened up.  Current affairs which swamp everyone with dullness and sadness – and yet even in tragedy, the power of the human spirit rises up. God smiles gently. We walk that Garden (of life) together. What a privileged life it is?



Mission month:  What is it? ‘Faraway places with strange sounding names’(with Bing et alia) do keep calling to me at these times. Nigeria, Brazil, Korea, Japan, Scotland, Hoxton. I remember them well. They stir up memories. I was there. I was moved. I was inspired by them. I saw what had happened (and the trigger people) and what was happening. I saw God dancing wildly in great rhythm and very lively music. Sometimes, Irish faith and practice, can seem very formal, dull and passive by comparison. What is the new missionary call?  It is no longer the arrogance of faith in how we might take the gift of our mature faith to others. We now listen and learn. Mission calls for humility. At times, poor old God, had very bad propagandists in us. But we should never forget that God also was always good and great among us. We have known wonderful people and real saints.  We have seen and see miracles. Some of us are surprised to have John Paul II sainted and a named one on Monday (22ndOct).  It was rather presumptuous. A few of us might have queried his qualification. We would have fewer problems with Oscar.  The Romans should go ahead with canonising Benedict and Francis. Get it over with.  It already verges on farcical. We know our saints. We know real saints. We don’t need this insider- dealing- version.  Our Mission then is to break out of the mould; to be adventurous; to face the reality of today and not to be fearful. The ‘Grand Design’ for our ‘Dream House’ in faith still challenges us.  Our old church has been knocked down. We are created something new.


Shattered by fear:

How do we escape the coat of armour, we now wear as missionaries?  We are cowed. By failure. By embarrassment. By baggage. By being cultural foreigners in our own country. By the lack of confidence. By the daily scoffing in the media. By the weight of history. By the weight of administrative backside-protection.  We are bigger than now. We are salespersons for wonder and poetry. We are professional artists of faith.  We are missionary troubadours.  We are the seanachies and we  do ‘have the power.’ We ‘go with God’ and God is with us.  If we are to get anywhere, we accept that we are bedevilled by moaning and the disease of ‘poor me’ is widespread. We can burst our way of this. We are weary and dreary with problems. We have to smash the sound barrier of sadness. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.  Is there a way forward?


Make way for the women:

I go back to the women.  If what was said about Maggie Thatcher (in cabinet) was true and it seemed to be (as the only woman there!) – we need her and many more assertive Maggies. How could anyone not admire the sheer brazen authoritative manner of Theresa May when she rattles off inanities on Brexit?  We could do with some Theresas among us. Our men folk are very limited. If the exhibition in faith, is to imitate the inspiration of the Botanic gardens – we need to let loose our women. They will add colour. They will add breadth. They will add wonder. They will add poetry. Women are artists of humanity. Men are stilted, wooden, leaden and limited!   We will kill off the church unless we break out of the constrictions, theologised into stupidity, over the centuries.  As an ordained ministry – we created a tidy structure of faith which somehow became detached from reality.  It froze. We need the women to give birth to a new mission for a new world.  There is at least a little thought for a new adventure.

Seamus Ahearne osa

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  1. Phil Greene says:

    Thank you Seamus, you light a little light in my soul and put a smile on my face!
    Let’s not rely solely on women for the rebirth though. We have found that women like Maggie Thatcher are brought in to do the dirty work, she was discarded when the men felt it safe to take the glory again.. Theresa May will probably have the same fate..let’s not stoop to mistreating us women in this way after all that we already have to deal with.. Courage must come from all, together.

    We need more bishops like Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta, hopefully this link will work. He would make a great pope after Francis I feel.

    I still think we have a long way to go before the clergy are treated the same as the rest of us (male and female), lay people must stop treating you guys as God’s gift to us all and excusing bad behaviour that is not tolerated elsewhere.. we are all God’s gifts 😉

  2. Eddie Finnegan1 says:

    Thanks Phil@1 for this new link to Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen. Indeed, for his next consistory of new cardinals, Francis should go again to the peripheries and first of all to Parramatta. Bishop Long van Nguyen is the whole integrated package, all anyone could look for in a Pope.

    I hope that this latest version of his address to priests at Christchurch will be read and responded to here. Yet his very similar Canberra address to the ‘Concerned Catholics of Canberra & Goulburn Forum’ two days earlier, 11th September, has been posted on this site since 3rd October without evoking a single word of response from any of 1,000+ members of this reform-based Association of Catholic Priests of Ireland:

    Of course, ordained members of the ACP have many other things on their minds and on their agenda. If we didn’t know that before, the Minutes of the recent AGM leave us in no doubt. There is the whole need for support of the association and of the care and self-care of priests – something that Bishop emeritus Liam McDaid always stressed in his attendance at Clogher ACP meetings over the early years. The recent AGM’s more pressing approach to the need for financial support and patronage is perhaps a wake-up call to some of us lay camp-followers who may not have been pulling our weight despite using the site. (Urgent note to self!)

    And yet, with all these other distractions including those of ageing, there seems to be a danger that an association for bold reform ends up providing ‘field hospitals’ – for the ordained. Not, I think, what Francis had in mind! +Vincent Long Van Nguyen’s motto is Jesus’ order to Peter, ‘Duc in altum’ – ‘Put out into the deep’ – given new life by Pope John Paul II in his social documents before the turn of the millennium. It’s a good motto for a bishop, a pope or even for an association feeling its age. A past student of mine adopted it as his motto when they made him Freetown’s Archbishop in 2008. I tell him that the Latin phrase might also mean ‘Lead to the Height’. An old teacher has the duty to encourage. Ten years later I look for the implementation.

  3. Sean O'Donnell says:

    Yes, thanks Phil for sharing the link to Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen’s address. Yes, Eddie, he should definitely be elevated to the College of Cardinals. I pray that somewhere in these islands we have potential bishopric candidates who like Bishop Vincent can articulate and lead the change so much needed in the Church. I can see no hope in the existing bishops in Ireland, Scotland and England & Wales. If they are unwilling to or cannot lead us to an era of a church of the baptised rather than that of the ordained, then perhaps they should all follow the footsteps of their fellow bishops in Chile and offer their resignations en masse!

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