This is a great country:
Nothing has hindered my morning meandering. I meet the usual girls (Vanessa & Jenny). Vanessa made a mask for me and gave it to me this morning! That must be love.
I say hello to the water. The river is very vocal. The Weeping Willows intrigue me. They keep on chatting. I want to move on, but they are proper gossips.
The herons are so graceful but are too focused. It is mindfulness in action. When they find a perch; they are very still. Sometimes I even think that these birds could be statues.
Saturday was very wet. I met only a few.
A man and his two dogs appeared. His coat was thrown open. His head was bare. I said something. His reply was this: “I love these days. Why would anyone want to go to the sun? We have such variety of weather here. Each version speaks. Every day is an orator. This is a great country. I just love it.”
My little heart smiled and wanted to dance to his music. What a positive outlook on a dull and wet morning?
A splattering of spaghetti Bolognese with Brent Pope!
I was cooking the lunch some hours later. Finally, I got around to wearing an apron. The tell- tale signs (of Bolognese) had begun to find a home on too many shirts. The Radio was on. It was Saturday. It was Brendan O Connor’s programme. He was interviewing Brent Pope. Brent spoke of his reflective- time during the lockdown.
He thought of his mother in New Zealand who had gone into a home. He thought of those 30 years in Ireland away from home and family. He realised what he had missed. He spoke of his father. He reminisced on his visits home. Holiday visits are less real – he missed the humdrum of ordinary family life. He spoke of his father’s funeral. He spoke of not having a wife and not giving his family, children. He recalled why he left New Zealand. He was a well- known rugby player and a successful coach. He was paralysed by self-doubt, shyness; lack of confidence; mental health problems. A high-achiever couldn’t admit to such problems in a macho-culture.
He found a niche for himself in Ireland as a rugby pundit on the media and as a businessman. He now spends his time talking to men and helping them to speak about their inner stories.
It was a very moving programme. If such a successful person could be so nervous and riddled with doubt – how many more of us, might admit to feeling much the same? Would that be why many of our intelligent and articulate folk are so reticent in venturing into print? How little we know.
People aren’t only wearing masks these Covid days; we all wear masks. My own view is that the work in a Parish and in the Church, is primarily to give people confidence; to help people believe in themselves; to nurture the gift of God in everyone. We are all John the Baptists. We call out the wonder of God in every person. Mental health seems to be a major concern at present. I dare to whisper at times; that it may grow sometimes when there is a lack of Godliness. However it is serious and real, but I am not convinced by much of the counselling industry…..
India, Vietnam, Australia, South Korea, West Papua, Japan, Indonesia, Philippines
I had several emails from Australia. I was asked to write an article on life after Covid or even the new mission we have, as we live with Covid. I was sent some Reflections from the Augustinian- world linked with Australia: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Nagasaki, Japan, Ketapang, Indonesia; Manokwari, Papua; Incheon, S Korea; Sydney, Australia; India; Philippines. All I could do was blush (despite my beard). I felt rather shy and embarrassed at the idea of being so brazen as to offer a smattering of my comments.
I had been to Japan and S Korea. In those places, I felt myself to be a total stranger; not just linguistically but also culturally. Everything felt so different. Here (those reflections) I was now given a glimpse of a broader sense of church and world. My written words felt very inadequate and very arrogant. The new missionary outlook that our Augustinians had to adapt to, in these lands, was to me an inspiration/challenge for us to rigorously change/adapt to our new situation of faith, church and liturgy. We have to learn to be missionaries. To find eyes and ears and heart to catch the speaking- God in a new way. As Michelangelo supposedly said: “I’m still learning.” Are we? Can we? We have to. Covid is a tsunami for us in our ministry.
I have a friend in Limerick called Michael. We met up in Novitiate some 56 years ago. Michael moved on. He is now dealing with Leukaemia. He is totally matter of fact about it and copes well with the lack of energy and the treatment. He thinks only of the good life he has had. He read a book recently called ‘The Outsider’ by Christopher Lamb.
He was surprised, disappointed and even disgusted at the manoeuvring/manipulating by those opposed to Pope Francis. He was offended that this man who has expressed faith, in a straightforward and simple fashion, should be so maligned. He felt it made nonsense of the Christ of the Gospel.
He then went on to how he felt let down too, by political leadership at large. Trump, Eton Trump (Boris – so called by Simon Jenkins), Bolsonaro, Erdogan, Modi, Assad, Putin, China (who knows…..) and so many more inadequates. He then looked at Ireland. He had further disdain at the childishness of some of our local politicians who had cried ‘foul,’ that it wasn’t fair when they didn’t get the sweeties of office, for their own constituency. He concluded – Francis is a leader who speaks directly and fearlessly. The rest (Church and political) could learn from him. He then suggested that anyone and everyone who believes in God has to exercise a very new type of leadership. They have to get away from much of the nonsensical preoccupations of former days. Are we learning? Parishes. Dioceses. Religious Orders?
The challenge of Guterres:
I felt that the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has been rather quiet in his Office. He seemed invisible to me. However he delivered the Annual Mandela Lecture 17th July. He noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted growing inequalities, and exposed the myth that everyone is in the same boat, because “while we are all floating on the same sea, it’s clear that some are in superyachts, while others are clinging to the drifting debris.”
He went on to say that the Global problems have been ignored for decades. Health systems, structural inequalities, environmental degradation, and the climate crisis. It is the vulnerable who suffer most. Everyone suffers the consequences, due to high levels of inequality which are associated with “economic instability, corruption, financial crises and mental health issues.” He then recalled the history of colonialism and its continuing presence in economic systems (so called aid). He castigated the big nations (US, China, Russia) for their failure to work together during Covid. His words were strong, direct and needed. Will anyone listen? It was at least good to hear that another combination of countries – the EU Summit reached a more sharing, caring solution to the common problems. The Frugal Four had a point but there was some flexibility and a conclusion was reached. It still appeared as very selfish to listen to the media reports in Ireland. What do we get out of it????
A message from a 16 week old:
Indi is a new comer to our Island. She has 16 weeks experience of life. She rings me up each evening. Her needs are basic. She exercises her lungs thoroughly when she feels the need. She dances well and waves her hands when she wants exercise. She is not sure about the adult world. She tells me that they fret about the unimportant. She likes simple things. Colours. Music. Smiles. Food, sleep, a bath and changing. She wonders if adults forget that they can learn from children. She wants to whet the appetites of the adults. They have to notice more. They have to be surprised. They have to be amazed. They have to realise how much they depend on others. They have to enjoy every day. They have to be able to see miracles. They have to play. They have to be satisfied with the beauty of the ordinary. They have to see the mystery of life and be grateful. When will they ever learn…… or so she says. And then she drops the phone. I am glad that she didn’t see all the young trees destroyed in this area or the children’s playground vandalised – she would have despaired of older young people.
Seamus Ahearne osa