Visiting the new Garden of Eden:
I came from Donie’s funeral in Swords. My mind was teeming with family history. My father and Donie, used to get lost in their chatter on country life. They talked as if they were inmates of Kavanagh’s (Paddy) world. Paddy’s language was rich in expression. The old curmudgeon of daily life didn’t corrode his writing with his lugubrious outlook. ‘The bits and pieces’ spoke to him and through him. The clay on Donie’s roots never got disturbed or distorted by city life. He remained a countryman. His values too were solid, earthy and not demolished by any modern superficiality.
Waiting for Godot
After wards, I made my way to town. It took 35 minutes for a bus to arrive. I was late for my appointment with Jerry. He waited at the entrance to Trinity College. We walked up Grafton Street. We didn’t go into Brown Thomas. Neither of us would have got past the security! We did find a seat at Bewley’s. I wondered would Victor recognise it now! It is very upgraded. I hadn’t been there for some forty years.
Augustine and Camus:
My visiting professor from the US was busy with family matters during his days in Dublin. He then suddenly launched into a discussion on Augustine and Camus. Yes. I would never have put those two together. When I think of it (and I usually don’t) they came from the same country (Algeria) (approximately!) Both were very caught up in The Fall! I don’t think Augustine played football! My medievalist gave me a Book (On the road with Augustine) by James K.A.Smith. James sees Augustine as a companion on the meanderings of life today. In passing, Jerry told me that he was waiting for the publication of his own Festschrift. I smiled and felt that he did well to leave the Augustinians almost fifty years ago or else he would hardly have such a moment to celebrate. We also talked on Wadsworth (ICEL) who has been rather strident on the heresy of the Amazon (Pachamama carry- on) recently. He is in charge of translation. Sarah is in charge of Liturgy. Somehow it doesn’t feel right. I wonder if either of them is fit for purpose presently. My professor was quite scathing on the American Church. It appears that this South American in the Vatican is not popular. Jerry appears to think that Bannon and Co are pursuing a Trump line which creates a new set of non-values, bordering on the unchristian!
Melvyn Bragg came back into focus recently. He was a feature on TV (Arts programme) some years ago. He came from Wigton near Carlisle, one of my homes in the past. His daughter Marie-Elsa Bragg had written a book called ‘Sleeping Letters.’ It was on Grief – a series of letters to her mother who died by suicide and to her father. It was also a reflection on faith. Her description of priesthood was especially beautiful. A summary line ‘everything goes into being a priest …. All of you is taken up to do a job that is not about you.’ The book erupted for her during a retreat. It wrote itself from pent up feelings of the past. It was deeply personal. But it could touch all of us. I liked her portrait of priesthood.
The Nursing vocation:
I went to a Graduation during the week. It is not a ceremony that I was eager to attend. But I did so for personal reasons. My grandnephew was graduating at the Mater. I was surprised that the Graduation consisted of Mass; that the hands of the graduating nurses were blessed (Tabhair dom do laimh). They were addressed later on the values in nursing. Compassion. Kindness. Care. They were reminded that they were privileged. That this privilege was unique (somewhat extravagant claim!) That they met with people at their most vulnerable. That they had to be always present in a sacred way with the patients and families. This was a very special moment. I was impressed at how the history of the Mater was presented to the nurses and the deep values in that history. Would Peter Boylan have felt uncomfortable if he was there? There was no sense of an entitlement (they were told) but rather the need to be ever so humble and very human. It was good. I find it strange but the emphasised attitudes and values are at the heart of Advent. Godly. Holy. Sacred. Precious.
I was laughed at on Saturday night. I was foolish enough to speak of Strictly Come Dancing. I only said that I was an expert dancer; a beautiful singer and a delightful performer. In the chat, I held to the view – that the dance of our lives stretches the very core of our humanity. God is ambitious for us. I was sent a photo of the setting sun during the week by one man who was present. He saw such an array of the colours in the sky. It reminded him of Advent. He is right. There is music, colour & dance, in all of us. Catch it. Advent is a quiet time and a preparation for Christmas. But it is more. It isn’t just the Coming or the Waiting. Advent asks us to stop. To think. To reflect. To reminisce. To take notice of the God, of our lives. To look around. To be humble. To see. Our local Maire, catches in her photos for PowerPoint each Sunday, the colour of the plants; the light & shadow of each day; the wonder in a face; the laughter in the Community; the drop of water on a plant. She notices. She helps us to become sensitive. And to wonder. To be grateful. She tells us with the story on the Screen – just to hold our breath for a moment and to listen. Only then can we pray into Mass. This too is Advent.
Advent week 2:
This weekend, the Readings are bright and breezy. We are given an idyllic setting. Peace in nature. Peace in people. Delight in living. Gratitude for company. We stop to appreciate. To taste each day. To savour every moment. To tell ourselves of the crowd who have peopled our lives. To see what God has given us and is giving us. It is enthusiastic and exuberant. It counters any of us when we only talk of how cold the day is; or when we moan about this pain or that; or the state of the world or the state of the church. The currency of everyday life is crudely expressed like this: Things are terrible. There is a dullness in negative thinking. If we wear dark glasses on our imaginations; everything darkens. If there is always negativity; we can languish in the quicksand of life. That isn’t Godly. As one unloved man (Cromwell) once said, “I beseech you in the bowels of Christ. Think it possible, you might be wrong.” Even Cromwell shouts halt. He must Stop to see and to appreciate. Advent is a time – to catch the light; to be the light. God can be seen, if we have a heart, to let our inner light see. To stress the values of the nursing team at the Mater. There is a privilege in being alive. Treasure it.
Take the Sacraments out of school:
The news has hit the Media that Dublin has begun the process of taking the Sacraments out of the schools. There were some gasps. The idea is good. It is true that mostly the Sacraments are delightful events but do not signify any commitment. The understanding of the inner Church people differs from the general understanding. However. I remain very cautious. All attempts to do this must first acknowledge and appreciate what has been done in schools over the years and is still being done. Any new initiative cannot become an alternative but rather a coalition of good work together. The new programme has to add to that work. Furthermore, putting an emphasis on the home and the parents is important. Beware. Be aware. We cannot set up an elitist version of faith where some belong and the rest don’t. Faith is messy. Advent is a search and an awareness of the presence of God in everyone and everywhere. We don’t want an alternative system where something akin to the Neo-catechumenate version, emerges. In some ways, the version of the Church presented by Wansworth, by Sarah, by Burke, by Muller cannot infiltrate what this new policy is setting out to do. Poor parishes. Rich parishes. May emerge with different presentations of faith. We might even professionalise our faith. But I think the way of Pathways (where life’s experience takes in the Word becoming Flesh) is a way forward. Go gentle. Go carefully. This is a call not just to celebrate Sacraments for young or old but to discover God in a new way. We have the best possible opportunity now as the clerical church fades. But it is daunting.
Seamus Ahearne osa