Wrestling with God, an angel or life itself. (Gen 32:22; Hos12: 4)
David Murray, Fair Street Drogheda made the news. He lamented the absence of his clients/customers from his hair salon. He missed them. They missed him. They loved putting their heads in his hands. These women were more than clients. They were friends. It wasn’t only the work on the hair, that mattered; it was the chat. David spoke out of his worried (caring) guts, when he said, that these people shared with him their family stories and their serious issues of life. He was lonely without them and he was concerned. They spoke more to him, than they would to the priests! (That’s what he said). Now all that may be true, but the revelation of the hair, in its natural state, does grieve some women seriously. It isn’t just the gossip. It is the colour. What a great saving is being made! My visit to the barber only costs €6. The ladies do spend a little more. I am waiting to be surprised by the vision of many, in white and grey. (Wrestling with the big problems of life).
Gerry Ryan (1)
My ears caught the ad for the Gerry Ryan programme (last weekend). I was interested with a little grumble stirring in my mind. I know very little about Gerry. But I squirm at the adulation for him. RTE do a great funeral and memorial, for one of their own. I watched the Programme. He was larger than life. He was much admired and loved. He never even prepared for his programmes; as if that was a virtue. He let the moment take over. He got away with it. How many supposedly caught the zeitgeist of the era? Was it Gay? Was it Marion? Oh no it was Gerry!! (According to the Programme). Did he? Gerry died. I waited. Then the Inquest was mentioned. Cocaine. Joe cried. He caught the zeitgeist alright and lost his own way. Indeed.
Gerry Ryan (2): Trend-setters:
In modern Ireland, it was the yuppies who led the cultural revolution. They set the standard. They were the creators of a new culture. The past was jettisoned. Everything. The old was ridiculous. All the stupid customs of the old culture. were caricatured. This was a new era of freedom. They were successful. They were young. They had the money. The weekend was there to celebrate. ‘Get high. Get drunk. Get laid.’ (To slightly misquote Michael Mc Dowell.) This is what constituted a good weekend. It is ‘cool.’ ‘Being cool’ was the new religion. Money was no object. They were in control. But they become part of the chain of drugs, that destroys lives and families. Their drug-taking is not a victimless crime. They added to the contamination. I have buried too many. I have seen so many youngsters destroyed. I have been with too many shattered families. I have been involved with the murdered. Drugs are a killer in every sense. The Gerry Ryans of this world need to be called to account. The so called ‘leaders and icons’ of the new culture, are not to be admired or imitated but challenged. They have replaced the past with what? There are more of them out there. They still do it. It isn’t ‘cool.’ (Their language.) Gerry Ryan became a sad case. But the reality behind the sadness has to be noted. The hail-fellow- well- met is fine. But the trend setters and fashion- leaders can lose the run of themselves and even spread poison. There is more to life that ‘being cool.’ (Wrestling with the devil).
Education (1): Publish and be damned
I have spent six weeks in solitary. I used to write while driving. Now I write while walking. I have hugged the school. Some sixty times each day. I am blessed in my backyard. The school is my luxury and my escape. I hug the memories of that school. The history. The people. The care. The love. The commitment.
My mind rambles. Towards education and what it means. Daily I realise how little I know and yet how much time I have spent ‘being educated.’ I can hardly say the Lord’s Prayer in Irish. How was that possible to lose everything over the years? I think again of Bryan McMahon. The voice of Listowel. ‘The Master.’ His profile is my inspiration. And I wonder what do we need from our teachers. One lassie told me recently that she had ‘unique qualifications’ which would be needed now in every school. My reply was that qualifications never impress me. It is how they are applied and lived. How many PhDs do we know (original work) whose graduation is the pinnacle rather than the beginning of their thinking. Qualification is only a decoration. I stay with the words of another Master –“By their fruits, you will know them. “ The cliché – ‘use them or lose them’ is to the point. (Wrestle with life issues).
Education (2) Wake up
Too much of education is flat and prosaic. We were often packaged with details and lost in the dirt tracks of the unimportant. Education has to stir the depths of imagination. It has to wake up the soul. It has to dredge the innards for wonder. I linger back over the very long past and reminisce. How few tried to teach us how to think and not what to think. All of this is very true in the humanities as well as theology. Every teacher has to be an educator. To prepare people for living out the best of humanity. How little we ever know. The older we get, the less we know. Even though education is mostly wasted on the young; as we age, we have to keep on learning. I also know that many parents now envy the teachers, when they themselves have had to home-school. I could go on. I should. (Wrestle with life and forever learn).
The virtual Mass and the Sanctuary:
The anomaly of a virtual Mass still disturbs me. I deeply appreciate the efforts made by so many. I have become fickle. I wander. I alight on a time and check how it seems. Some music is magnetic and gnaws at the heart. The Voice helps. The effort to link the moment and the Word. If it feels alive; I can stay. Now I did have a problem last week with the gaudy picture of the Divine Mercy. I may have been too strong on that one. But it did immediately put me off. However there is more. I shouldn’t be so picky. The Virtual Mass is an Invitation into the life of a Community. It is hospitable. I should be gracious and respectful. But the Sanctuary (of those churches) speaks aggressively. I look around. The contradictions of many Sanctuaries attacks my senses. The Re-Ordering that happened some fifty years ago shouts and sometimes even screams. There was the compromise effort. It wasn’t a re-ordering; it was a disordering. The old was kept. The new was added. It doesn’t work. The overly decorative (old) altar retained, offset by the new minimalist new Table, doesn’t work. The parade of statues in the Sanctuary and even flying angels, takes from the Centre of Celebration. The utter clutter is confusing. Surely it is now time to get this right. We can’t half do things. I am unfair but as a Liturgical Design Expert (which I am not) many of these Sanctuaries hurt my sensitivities. I am a disgraceful guest to a Community. (Wrestle with my immediate reactions).
Life to the full (1):
Shepherds and sheep are not immediately applicable to the lives we lead presently. My friend Jimmy was a shepherd. Jimmy knew all his sheep. He was a gentleman. It is easy to hear Christ talk of sheep and shepherds as I think of this man. Jimmy died on Christmas day some years back. I felt it was so appropriate. He worked with the sheep in Curraghmore. I lived on that Estate. As a deep hearted republican, I loved the place and resented the history. But my playground was magnificent. My family still won’t eat lamb; I will! They must feel for the sheep of Jimmy’s time. The stray and final line of the weekend Gospel always triggers off many thoughts. ‘Came that we might have life. And live life to the full.’ The ‘reason’ for his coming. Life to the full. Education. Life to the full. (Wrestle with imagery).
Breadth. Expansiveness. Wholesomeness. Ministry. Life to the full. Fuller experience of humanity – of being human. Life to the full – would take us beyond the Church limits in regard to priesthood. (Men, Celibacy). We reach out and stretch towards God. The stretching sinews of the imagination. Adventurers. Garden of Eden. We look towards something more and different. We are dreamers and builders. Restlessness. Whet our curiosity. Any institution that fears questions is unfaithful. As is the Church. It is untrue to God. We are forever searching. Fearlessly. Pro -life means being committed to that search. Many of the Church Leaders limit Pro Life to the unborn and abortion. It is that but much more. The recent embarrassment of some American bishops supporting Trump is wrong. Our own politicians superficially dumped the Eight Amendment without fully exploring the arguments. But nonetheless – being pro-life is demanding from us an ability to think towards every aspect of life. The richness of life. The wonder of life. The unknown. The unsatisfied part of us. That is the journey into the future.
(Wrestling with God; wrestling with today; wrestling with ourselves).
Seamus Ahearne osa.