The Graciousness of Life
George Floyd died tragically. He was 46. There was a before as well as an after. He came from The Third Ward in Houston. It was mainly black and riddled with crime. Beyonce came from the same area. He was a big man. Six feet, six inches. He was an athlete. He played basketball and football at a senior level. He ended up in jail for five years. He came out and got involved with a Christian Outreach group. He then worked with the Salvation Army on security; also had work as a driver and as a bouncer. He had moved to Minnesota in 2014. He was unemployed due to Covid 19.
The crime which brought about his death, was that, he had exchanged a counterfeit $20 bill for cigarettes. It is hard to see how/why his death could have happened. It would take technique and strength to subdue such a big man.
There is a before and after. We see the event. We see the after. We don’t know the full story. The protest, is understandable. The phrase “I can’t breathe” is a catalyst. It is like a boil being lanced. A volcano has erupted. The issue is not the issue but the relationship of State and citizen; the have and have-nots; the African Americans and others. Too much of what we hear from the States is beyond us. Donald Trump emerges with a Bible in his hand and is full of belligerence. That is not the solution.
Rivermount is alive and well:
It is a special anniversary for me. Twenty three years ago, I came to Ireland and to Rivermount from my work in England/Scotland. Those years here have been blessed. All of us have had a wonderful life, enriched by the great heart in the Community. We are totally at home together. I have found mighty faith. These days (of Covid) are times for reflection on the years. A bishop introduced me some years ago. He described me as working in the most difficult parish in the Diocese. I immediately contradicted him. (I have sometimes had a different view to many a bishop!) My honest view is rather that everyone should be jealous of us working here in this Parish.
I am also thinking these days, of the decision taken recently, that the Augustinians would be moving out of this Parish. I think Alfred Tennyson poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade, is apt. ‘Theirs not to make reply. Theirs not to reason why. Theirs but to do and die.’ I suppose we are considered too old to think; too old to understand; too old to grasp the bigger issues of Order, Diocese and Church, too old to be listened to. But I think we know our Community better than anyone else. We are not dead yet and we won’t die easily.
We were going into the Oratory on Saturday morning. We were preparing to broadcast Mass for Pentecost. Our producer/director was arriving. He records and then spends the night, splicing pieces together, to make our Mass sound as close to normal as possible. He does well. It goes out then on Facebook for the Sundays.
Across the road from me, there was another Ritual going on. A young man had died. We knew him well. There was a Pastor over at the house. There was great dignity and a gentle silence. Balloons were everywhere. High Vis jackets were scattered throughout the crowd: ‘Sammy R.I.P.’ Eventually the Cortege moved off. The hearse was a horse drawn carriage. 29 sulkies followed. It was a fine Liturgy. Our own Liturgies would find it difficult to blend their Liturgy into ours at this shut-down time. The different cultures have to be woven together. That is always the challenge to us. We cannot persist with artificiality and wooden formulaic mantras.
The ‘Word’ has to become ‘flesh.’ Young Derek (called Sammy) has peace now. Afterwards, there a long celebration of song and music. The social- distancing would be suspect. The purists would be rather upset. Those who are on the side of the angels and holier than thou, would be angry. But the crowd was outside. Despite all the messages on the danger of Covid 19; common sense does and did get lost. The motor bikes went up and down the road on the back wheel, as part of the guard of honour to young Derek.
‘A thing of beauty is a joy forever.’ (Keats).
My walks down to the Tolka River continue each morning. It is a form of Eucharist. I talk to the birds. I meet George and Bella. (Dogs). I see Oscar and I don’t like him. (A Rottweiler).
I sometimes see the Grey Heron and the Egret.
The Swans have moved away on me. The ducks shun me. I consider the wondrous gift of the park. It is beautiful. I almost cry when I see rubbish dumped anywhere. I meet the regulars. We chat for a moment. I look all around the park and think of how appreciative we should be. It is an amazing facility. After forty minutes I get back.
My later walks are around the school. And again, I think of our school; our teachers; our students; the great history here; the great giving; the fun and commitment; the supportive friendship. We are blessed. The Eucharist continues.
I recall Larry Forristal and his early days here. The first Mass in that school was on the 18th December 1974. It was before the Churches were built. A Parish is a village with all the instincts and supports of a village. Grace abounds.
I smile to myself as I wander back over the years in my mind. I think of that cold dark evening when I was held up. A sawn-off shotgun appeared at the window of the car. I am a quiet, peaceful person and restrained but I exploded with anger. I would have gone for him. Someone would have got killed. He saw my face. I couldn’t see his. He walked away and almost ran. My anger continued. I watched for days; for months; for years to see could I recognise the walk – the quick step. I think I have done so. Those were the days.
The astonishing gift of a little life:
My little pal Indi rang me. She wanted to see me. She had to take the parents with her, to come over. She knew that she couldn’t drive. The gardai are too present on the roads! She is only 10 weeks old. We met for the first time. She rang me afterwards and told me how much she enjoyed the visit. She apologised for her parents – Nigel and Freda. She said that they wanted to know everything. She will tell them nothing. Our phone calls are confidential. Our little Indi was a much wanted and waited for baby and is now much loved. How can anyone ever look at such a child – without bursting with gratitude, delight, mystery at the miracle of her little life? Any life. Every life.
PS1 Mahrez was robbed (Algerian Man City player). Watches worth £300,000 were taken. Why would anyone need such watches? Any cheap one will tell the time.
PS2 I wonder is there any truth in the news on Social Media that Dominic Cummings’ child has a special problem? The news, if true, makes all the difference.
PS3 Viri Probati: It is the experience of life that matters. All the so called qualifications in the world won’t ensure that our ministers have something to say; keep on learning and can adjust to life. What about the rather more suitable ones – women?
PS4 A Quote re Streamed Masses: “You remember the famous quatrain in Gaelic that the Irish monk wrote at the edge of the illuminated manuscript back in the days when The Roman pilgrimage was De rigour like the Camino today. The monk wrote as follows.
‘To go to Rome, much labour, little profit.
The King you seek there,
unless you carry Him with you,
you will not find Him there.’
So with any devotion. Even TV Mass.
I don’t have an egret to wonder at here at home at the foot of the Dublin mountains, but I seem to have far more sparrows enjoying the back garden than before, and a flock of dozens of seagulls avail of the football pitch behind the house where I take a walk before breakfast.
Blackbirds seem rare here at present, but on this feast of St Kevin, you may like to listen to Seamus Heaney (put an A before the surname, add an R in the middle, and drop the y to get your name, Seamus!) reflecting on the legend of Kevin and the Blackbird, and the intimate unity of Kevin with his natural environment.
Seamus Heaney invites us to “Imagine being Kevin.”
We can’t visit Glendalough today unless we live within 5km, but there is a 9 minute cinematic tour with music at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SnLLR2NBwo.
Alone and mirrored clear in love’s deep river,
‘To labour and not to seek reward,’ he prays,
A prayer his body makes entirely
For he has forgotten self, forgotten bird
And on the riverbank forgotten the river’s name.
” To go to Rome, much labour, little profit”
Has me recalling that before going on leave from Minna, Nigeria in 1974,
telling our bishop, Mons.Ned, that I was taking my mother on
pilgrimage to Lourdes. His response reverberates to this day:
Father, when I want to visit the Saints, I go to our local
graveyard in Cork.
“So with any devotion, even TV Mass”. I wonder are we being forced by the current crisis to take a good look at our large churches and cold, impersonal liturgies and maybe we could be inspired to recreate the small christian communities of the early church where people gathered together to “break bread” in family homes. This certainly would be better than “TV Mass” and in many cases more meaningful than the sometimes over-ritualized attempts at some current liturgies. Would this be too much to hope for Seamus??