‘There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of, in your philosophy.’

I was in Dromantine with 60 Augustinians (over a week ago); A motley crew. The walking wounded. Sticks and aids. We were making serious attempts to plan a future. We were surrounded by the beauty of Dromantine which is a Garden of Eden. God was having fun with us in such a place. The artistry of God was everywhere. The Bible of nature was eloquent. God got some help from the history of the estate and the story of the SMAs. But we ourselves were also surrounded by the memories and experiences of our men with stories from Ecuador, Nigeria, Kenya, Italy, UK, Ireland. We averaged in age, 73. We still wanted, hoped and believed that we could staff and flourish in our various centres for the years to come. ‘Rud nach feidir’ came to mind or maybe ‘Impossible Dream.’ But as Religious then – we can leave places. Our Diocesan folk haven’t got that freedom. .
Old men dream dreams:
We were full of faith if not full of life. We were much inspired too by the lay folk who apparently love us and appreciate us and believe in us and want our spirit to continue shaping the faith- world around them. They arrived (at Dromantine) and passionately showered us with conviction and better still – their confidence. They showed us that this ‘new world’ of God in Ireland is exciting and can thrive without us and in them. Our Liturgies together were quite delightful. There is no reason that such a model of Liturgy could not be continued in all Churches where we are; despite age or disability. It is the least we can ensure would happen. The mechanical version of Liturgy cannot be our ‘presentation of gifts.’ And yet how often – Liturgy is a mirror of a dying church. If worship isn’t an explosion of gratitude, godliness, awesomeness – then we aren’t ministering.
Never forget who you is:
I glanced around and was utterly inspired by some of these men who attended everything and took part as best they could despite very weak bodies. What a wonderful display of hope. Us youngsters in our seventies could not but be moved at their encouragement & commitment. But I knew as I looked around that only 30 or so would be really able to take on the new assignments now needed in the coming weeks. I shouldn’t overdose anyone with reality but I know that hardly any of the 60 will read this blog so they won’t be shocked by what I say.   I came home and found an e-mail from Gabriel Daly. He had given a lecture on the Eucharist in the Catholic and Anglican traditions. He is touching 90. I was amazed and full of admiration. I could only thank God. The world of faith keeps going. Never mind that as a group, we were rather symbolic of the state of the Church presently. I noticed that Rome has got concerned about Gluten free hosts. Has our Liturgical master Sarah & colleagues lost their minds or has he or the others, any sense of the stupidity involved. He should read Gabriel’s lecture. Well yes, many of us should. Literalism has polluted our historical understanding.
The local incarnation:
I came back to a major outbreak of funerals. The more unknown to the Church the family is; the more attention is needed in preparation. Again it is all so privileged. I always think of those preparatory times as holy ground where the shoes have to be taken off and we are welcomed into the heart of a family’s life. But I did notice something else. Two recent funerals went to the Crematorium without the priest. One went with a coffin decorated beautifully with Gay pride colours. {Life (red), healing (orange), sunlight (yellow), nature (green), harmony/peace (blue), and spirit (purple/violet).} It was very understandable given how insensitive we (as church) had been with the gay community over the years. We were very crude. But not only with gays. Burke et alia, in their vociferous dismissal of Francis, show similar crudity. The fear is too that the World Meeting of Families could be populated by the correct and upmarket gathering of the elite and proper. Real families from here would be a total mixture of folk from every possible version of what family might be. Not many would be wondering if they were properly ready to receive Communion! (A non-question). Many are moving fast away from us. And that is good. I don’t think the Baptism barrier is of major concern here. The marriages are becoming fewer – thanks be to God. And those that do happen are skipping the Mass which is also very good.
I don’t want to see you again:
I rather enjoyed my shopping last Sunday morning early. I only wanted bread, milk and a paper. A young lady shouted at me across the street. ‘Seamus. I don’t want to see you again.’ She repeated the shout several times. She was Wilde by name and wild by nature. The truth is – I had buried too many of her family in recent times. And we all meet most people either at the shops or at funerals or in the homes or at the schools or in the hospitals but not much in the church.
An invasion from Skye:
I was stirred into nostalgia. It is dangerous to wallow in nostalgia as age withers the immediate and we can get captivated by the past. Pola and Tony called. From Skye. We were very close friends some forty years ago in Dundee. We loved the reconnection. We outtalked each other as we stumbled over our memories. The parish back those days was crowded out with young people. It was a hive of activity, of music and of youthful enthusiasm. (I had the same recalling days in Dromantine as I met with friends from back in Drogheda – again over forty years ago, when everywhere was alive with youthful noise). Life has changed indeed.
Tony has retired from his psychiatry and is now studying for Deaconate. They travel seventy miles to Mass! I emailed Tony, Gabriel’s article. Pola rather pointedly asked if she could read it too!   Some years back she was rather upset at the place of women in the church. And gently chided me as if I might be tainted by association with such an unholy institution. She would make a great deacon and why not. If that is the way to go forward. (That is despite my reservations on the dangers of clericalisation by diaconate.) Pola and Tony came to Mass one Wednesday morning. They were bowled over. That is their phrase. They want back not to see me but rather to be part of such a noisy, happy, sharing group. They couldn’t get over it.
Married priesthood:
And then Marie was on the phone from Manchester. She was angry which is most unusual. Her husband David is more likely to show strong emotions! What was her problem? The local priest was being moved. And he was being replaced by a former Anglican. (She wondered why he had left the Anglicans). This former Anglican has five children. He comes from Canada. She has no problem with this married priest but has severe problem that her husband – a former priest (Augustinian) cannot do the work. He would love to be back in ministry. He is highly intelligent and totally committed and loves such a ministry. He now runs the Baptism programme. He could do so much more. I agree completely.
Patronage and control:
And I see Diarmuid Martin is making noise in Germany re Divestment. It does sound as if all the rest of us are out of step; that we want to hold onto to control in the schools; that we want the Sacraments done conveniently in the schools and that we aren’t cooperating. It is about control he says. That will make him very popular. We have been involved in recent months in preparing for New Principals and retiring Principals. The work involved here had very little to do with control. It has to do with sheer commitment to the community. It takes up huge time. Our schools may not be centres of faith but they are magnificent oases in our community. The parish and schools are totally wrapped up in the camaraderie of support and banter and goodness. It has nothing to do with patronage or control. If control was the real element – we might be producing a full church of youngsters. Almost none come – parents or children. But it doesn’t matter. I think young Francis in Rome might understand the type of community we have and the real place of the Church is with the people in being there and helping out in any way possible. Friends together.
Another ordinary day or week:
I got a tax clearance certificate this morning. No. It wasn’t for me. It was for one of my traveller friends. (Francie was delighted that he has something Bertie didn’t get some years ago). The family post comes here. The crazy world of officialdom is looked after from here. The accounts are done here. The revenue is paid from here. The environment people are satisfied from here. Oh yes. Life is simple and wonderful. Justin Welby is right. He said that his life as a parish priest was the most stressful part of his life. I am glad he understands. However, I wouldn’t wish to swop his life for the life of the leadership. It is almost impossible now. How they do it – I don’t know. But the church is local. We get on with it. It never stops. However much we do; there is more left undone. The homes call. The schools call. The funerals call. The hospitals call. The maintenance. The paper work calls. The shouts go on and it is relentless. We are helpless so often but never hopeless. The balm of Mass is no longer sufficient. The ‘being there’ is the real pastoral ministry. As I said previously – God is still smiling. And we have to share that smile.
Clowning in Rome:
We are old. Our world of faith is falling apart. Our culture no longer has solidity. Somehow, in the time we have left – we need to enjoy this world of faith. We need to splash the beauty of faith around. It is poetry. Young Jacob was right. There is still a ladder going up to the heavens. Angels still ascend and descend. God is in this place. And sometimes we don’t sing and dance and laugh and enjoy it as if we knew. The dour Church is not an ambassador for Christ. The clown is a better image for most of us. Life presently needs fun and laughter. God has to be about that something which is more and different. Someone has to stir the music in our souls. I think that is our job.   Here is a prayer sent me (from the States) last week. We can add to it and rewrite it:

For the rain that seeps into the pores of the earth and the crevices of our being, we give thanks to you,

For the sun that coaxes forth the potential of our beings, we give thanks to you,

For the stars that beckon us into the depths of your mystery, we give thanks to you,

For the song that whispers from the trees to caress our spirits, we give thanks to you,

For the laughter of children, the guffaws of old men, (the cackling of old women!) and all the ways you disrupt the creases forming across our brows, we give thanks to you,

For the tenderness of hands that hold broken hearts, and the arms that embrace us when sorrow seeps from our souls, we give thanks to you,

For the thoughtful counsel, the provocative point of view, the different opinion and the comment that stops us in our tracks, we give thanks to you,

For the glitter of joy, the sadness born of love, and all the ways you remind us of your presence, we give thanks to you.

We give thanks, we give thanks, we give thanks.  

Indeed we do. It was just an ordinary day. An ordinary week.


Seamus Ahearne osa


Similar Posts


  1. Mary Wood says:

    Thank you Seamus. Will you give us a link to Gabriel Daly’s article please?

  2. Seamus, Interesting article.
    I agree with you. The christian faith should be one of amazing joy, of immense feeling of confidence and grace, of fun, of knowing the love of God and a faith of warmth.
    I am afraid in my parish it is not. The parish is led by a single priest who is operates complete control and there is no situation that he can’t find the down side.( it feels like he loves funerals, masses for the dead, and talking about sin, and people in awful situations……should attend Mother day Mass…..not dry eye in the house)He will not accept any assistance from the laity, unless they are doing what he instructs, no room for new thinking…hence, the youth of he parish have been isolated and let to their own devices… could go on and on but I think you may bet the picture… I assume that this is being replicated in other parishes….I think that our bishop should give leadership and motivate the laity of become involved and I am sure that with a good leader, many will rise to become more activity involved…
    I cannot understand or never could why priests are required to be celibate…..if the number of men who left the priesthood could rejoin, I would imagine that many would….is celibacy more important that the celebration of the Eucharist…..seriously!!!!

  3. Sandra Mc Sheaffrey says:

    Thanks, Seamus. Balm, of some truth, for my sore feet, sore bones, after a gruelling week walking a hard but beautiful Camino (Leon to Oviedo). An ordinary week, indeed.

Join the Discussion

Keep the following in mind when writing a comment

  • Your comment must include your full name, and email. (email will not be published). You may be contacted by email, and it is possible you might be requested to supply your postal address to verify your identity.
  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger. Comments containing vulgarities, personalised insults, slanders or accusations shall be deleted.
  • Keep to the point. Deliberate digressions don't aid the discussion.
  • Including multiple links or coding in your comment will increase the chances of it being automati cally marked as spam.
  • Posts that are merely links to other sites or lengthy quotes may not be published.
  • Brevity. Like homilies keep you comments as short as possible; continued repetitions of a point over various threads will not be published.
  • The decision to publish or not publish a comment is made by the site editor. It will not be possible to reply individually to those whose comments are not published.