The Gift of Snow

God wasn’t in the fire or the earthquake but in the gentle breeze (1Kings 19)

Winter in Spring:

The silence is speaking. The wind is singing without distractions. The bold white snow contrasts, dares us to be poets and artists for a few days. The Mammy/Daddy or Nanny State talks with great earnestness and solemnity. They almost tell us to wear our thermals. Everyone has disappeared. People, cars and buses have gone asleep. The door- bell doesn’t ring. The phone is rather quiet. Some caring ones (even journalists) check on this elderly one! There is time to do the undone. But the decluttering is not attractive. My fingers are twitching – they want to write. My head is not interested. The fingers are more assertive. The Bulletin is done quickly. The car enjoys its holiday. The stick is eager to walk. The beard doesn’t offer much protection to the wind. But now I settle in as the stick sulks.

Mark 9:2

The fingers remembers last weekend. Where is our mountain? Where is our God? What are our moments? Mick spoke on Sunday. He is usually very talkative before Mass and afterwards, but quiet during Mass. He was bursting to say: “I look into the eyes of my grand-daughter and I see God.” Many others spoke but Mick’s face lit up in his words. And that was the Transfiguration. May is housebound and overwhelmed with pain. She told Liz of all the rows she has with God in her praying and Liz emerged from that house transfigured. Our exiled Madeleine was taken to hospital bleeding heavily. She was going for a scan and said that she wasn’t sure if she wanted twins or not! She came away from the scan needing an urgent operation but was happy that no baby was discovered. She had been concerned at naming a possible father! She is 85 and as she cries at being away from us; she is full of mischief. That too is transfiguration.

The faithful:

Some of our old codgers fight the crazy weather and aren’t brave but foolish. They do not like missing the First Friday! In some of the nonsense that is the Morning Prayer before Mass; they discuss the explicitness of the Court case in Belfast (the charge of rape and sexual assault.) They are appalled at what they are supposedly learning. And are shocked at the lack of innocence in the Religious! The fun, the argument, the commitment and the spontaneity of these wild ones, takes us always to a mountain where the scenery of Godliness is seen. The young ones come for their First Confession as the weather worsens. They lift our hearts with their singing; with their sense of joy; with their gracefulness and with the easy way they relax into a Confession. Our hope is for the adults that they can be stirred by the little ones and find the child of faith in themselves. And poor Cardinal Sarah has a problem with Communion in the hand and even feels it is devilish. He is a man with a deep sense of God. He is outraged by the casualness of many in the presence of God. He has a point but a strange one.

Twisted logic:

My fingers are smiling and then wander into a rant. They try to be logical but don’t really care if they are or not. They are thinking of the sexual chaos of these present times. Now if the aid organisations (e.g. Oxfam et alia) have led to sexual exploitation; no one should give money to such organisations. If the Church has had people who abused; then no-one should have anything to do with the Church or even God. If sports people (football) had a problem with young boys being abused; everyone should give up football. Or if politics had some people who had to resign for inappropriate sexual behaviour; then no one should enter politics or support anything politicians do. If the entertainment business has led to the me-too response (and even black dresses); then no-one should enter the business or watch a film. If Jimmy Savile (and others) were allowed celebrity status on the BBC and do what they did for years; then no one should watch the BBC. If some men have done terrible things (which they have); it has to mean that all men are dangerous. If some gymnasts were abused; then no child should ever take up gymnastics. There is a jungle out there but we really have to get some perspective. We cannot create a sexual free-for-all and then lose faith in humanity when things go wrong. We may be now helped to come around to a healthier reverence for life; for the awesomeness of sexuality; for what it means to be human; what graciousness means; on who God is; on what values we have and share; on what kind of world we seriously want to create for the children.

Spring and crocuses:

I met a young girl among her classmates for Confirmation. It was Brigid’s Day. We chatted about Brigid among other things. The association of Spring with Brigid was mentioned. This young lassie said – “look at the crocuses down at Tolka Valley Park. Aren’t they beautiful? These tell us that Spring is here.“ She was right. The flowers were singing and our hearts danced in harmony. But she had noticed it. She has spoken of it. She saw Spring waking up, even when the weather of Spring wasn’t obvious. She was alive. Now there is a real echo of what Confirmation might be.

I think, therefore I am:

Spring and Lent come together: A refreshment of the spirit. A heart and mind that wakes up. I mentioned that the Snow has stopped us in our tracks. Anything and everything that wakes up our minds and helps us look again at life, is a gift. I am very unconvinced that the manufactured (and packaged) education system among us, is of much value. I meet so many overladen with degrees and even doctorates but with a severe absence of the ability to think or reflect. There is a superficiality abroad. Is our Church thinking? Are our politicians thinking? Do the people in the media think? Some of the blethering that now passes itself off as current wisdom is very deficient. I know that Church and Church people such as priests have done few favours to faith. We have rolled along doing what we have always done, living off the past and running on empty (too often). We become bored and boring. The incarnation has to continue every day. The Word has to become flesh. We have been very unfaithful to the God who calls us to life. Even official Church has been afraid of those who ask questions. How can any Question be too much for God? Where is the basic notion of theology?

The Minister as artist and poet:

The artist in all of us deserves an outing. We can look again. We might even see anew. We are tired of dragging up the New Missal; but it illustrates the stupidity of non-thinking and non-praying people who had lost the way. If only the translators really threw themselves into the outrageous and brazen praying of the psalms; if only they knew anything of the Eucharist – we would have a living expression of worship in Liturgy. My final observation is (as always): Never mind what others have done or are doing – we are always are left with these questions: How true am I to the call of God as a minister of Jesus Christ and the Gospel. Would he take out that whip to me or to the community here? Am I letting the song of Spring, stir me (or this community) during  Lent. Am I letting the music of the weather-stoppage; call out the poet of faith in me?


My fingers want to stop. My head has enough. We have found an email sent by Sr Maire FMA yesterday with a piece written by Katie Curling which is both a challenge and an inspiration:

“I have been thinking about wonder. I think about waterfalls, new-born babies, seeds, snowflakes, and rainbows. Wonder defies description. It often leaves me speechless. I want to pay attention. I want to surround myself with people who know wonder deep in their bones. I want to go to wonderful places. When people are struck with wonder, they come together. There is a Communion. We agree that flowers are wonderful; that ducklings are wonderful; that coral reefs are wonderful. Butterflies? Sunsets? Wonder provides a moment when we go silent. We become speechless. A gentle hush that is beyond words takes over. Reflection paints wonderful moments with reverence. Wonder is calm in the chaos of the world. Gratitude, compassion, and understanding happens during wonderful moments. Our stories, our dreams, our histories connect us when we allow ourselves to feel wonder: to really see, to really touch, to really taste, and to really hear.”

Some of those words speak to this moment and to the life of faith for me.

Seamus Ahearne osa


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  1. Lloyd Allan MacPherson says:

    Seamus, thank you for that. You could almost convince a person to turn over a new leaf, if they could find that God particle deep down under all of today’s torment and complexity. Be weary of letting your inner artist out in these times – you have to leave the Church and go out into the communities. Start by observing then paint or create or pluck a string and hum a little – write something melodic. This is a gift that keeps giving just like the ones you point out.

    If the Church has had people who abused; does this indicate an anomaly or is it systemic (how has that been investigated)? The good news is kids between the ages of 13-17 have stepped up and seem to be sane enough to create the world they want to see. They are suing governments worldwide for fossil fuel fallout and pursuing stricter gun-control laws in the US.

    If you are wondering why Ireland is now suddenly the front runner to going fossil fuel free in the UK, you have only your friend Sean McDonagh to thank for that and Laudato si’ and the petition and now the lawsuit.

    A good thing I got those kids to Assisi, Italy when I did. It makes quite the story.

  2. Paddy Ferry says:

    Seamus, I am sitting here this Saturday morning  in snow covered Edinburgh, mentally preparing myself to go out and dig out the car, and I have just enjoyed reading The Gift of Snow. I managed to get the car home safely on Wednesday evening but could not get it into the garage. So, it has been sitting still and motionless ever since and now covered in many inches of snow. I did manage to get to work on Thursday and yesterday by a combination of walking and the airport bus on its way back into town –the only bus on the road.
    We in the caring professions must always make the supreme effort!! And, thank God for the wellies and I knew where to find them!

    Everything else has been different. My usually busy evenings have been spent watching telly with the family and that has been really lovely. At times of snow I always think of Robert Bridges’ London Snow and his onomatopoeia though this time the snow did not come “when men(and women) were all asleep”. Wasn’t it a great idea that we had to learn our poetry off by heart. I always genuinely thought so.

    Now those of us on the Lay Ministry Rota tomorrow are busy ringing each other wondering what to do. If we cannot drive do we risk walking on the slippery pavements?
    Snow brings such complicated decision making. Our wonderful parish has one deficiency –it is off the beaten tract as far as bus routes are concerned. The buses are now back on.

    At least we are now over the worst of it, I hope, and we are too far north to be affected by Emma. You are all suffering a combination of Emma and the Beast. I hope you are all safe and it will soon be over and we can all get back to enjoying Spring and the crocuses in Tolka Valley Park and Princes Street Gardens. This is the first week in March!  I do remember, however, driving through Northern Ireland on my way home for Easter many years ago in April and it was snowing.

    Seamus, thank you for such a lovely reflection. I completely agree with your paragraph on Twisted Logic and also this,

    “We are tired of dragging up the New Missal; but it illustrates the stupidity of non-thinking and non-praying people who had lost the way.”

    I think, that sums up so well the whole damned debacle of the New Missal.

    I have also been reading this morning Tony Flannery’s article on the thinking of T de Chardin “If only they listened to Chardin”.
    Absolutely spot on. Tony’s talks in Edinburgh this week and next have been cancelled but we are looking forward to seeing and hearing him in April.
    Thanks, Seamus.

  3. Paddy Ferry says:

    PS. Seamus, I don’t think I am capable of the same tolerance to Cardinal Sarah as you are.

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