Rambling thoughts on the way to/from a Funeral.
On Friday, I went to Pat Moran’s funeral in Ballybacon. We were fellow students (OSA) and Pat was a member of ACP. A funeral evokes many stray thoughts and the journey itself stirs up raimeis in the files of the mind. A car trip is sometimes the only quiet time for Reflection when every day is so full. I seem to write well on a car journey or on my morning walk!
I was distracted on the trip by the Radio. Has Ireland totally lost its marbles with Garth Brooks? How could so many make such a mess of everything? It now needs Enda & Barack! I listened to ads for Mrs Brown’s boys (am I the only one who finds Brendan O Carroll’s comedy off putting with its stage-Irishness? I also admit Fr Ted never appealed to me either.) I heard about the World Cup moments which were amusing. I listened to Unionists & the Orange Order trying to justify their own nonsense with the Parades’ Commission and wondered ‘when will they ever learn.’ That idea set me thinking: The attitude in the South to Sinn Fein & IRA. I think we have such short memories of what actually happened to Catholics in Northern Ireland and what gave birth to the IRA/Sinn Fein.
A Country Funeral:
The funeral was a lovely community gathering. Pat always remembered that summary from Roots ‘never forget who you is.’ He travelled from wherever he was, to train the local teams. The Church (historically) was caught up in the GAA. He embodied this. There is something very rich in a Funeral. We regularly say on our own Parish Team that a Funeral is the only moment we have to touch the hearts of many. We find the silence, in the crowded church, when a young person especially has died – as quite awesome. Pat’s funeral shouted out too what Community is and where Eucharist is truly celebrated – the bits and pieces of life are shared.
Ancient and ageing colleagues:
Age and mortality struck me as I watched the cohort of Concelebrants. Many are my own colleagues. We are ancient. The present Church in Ireland is tired and old. How can so much responsibility be thrown on such older ministers? I wondered how long more can we keep going? As I went into the Church, a woman spoke to me. She asked did I know her; I didn’t. We had met in Tramore around the 15th August 1964. Ann joined the Mercy sisters. I joined the Augustinians. It is now fifty years ago.
I had to move away immediately after the Funeral. I listened to the Radio. It was ‘speculation about speculations’ (re the new Cabinet). Enda spoke at last. Then Pat Rabbitte came on air. He was very dignified and restrained. But what he had to say, was telling. It was ‘age and chemistry’ that did for him. He had 20 seconds with Joan and that was it. Would he remain in politics, he was asked. He had intended to do so. However now that ‘age’ had become clearly a problem – he might reconsider. Joan wanted to freshen up the team with the 2011 intake. I thought of our Leaders. How can they or we, freshen up our Team, when there is no intake? Neither can I imagine any of our Leaders giving someone just twenty seconds for a dismissal. If we had characters of the calibre of Pat – would we or could we, dump them so easily? (If we did; there would be a mighty outcry). What about chemistry? That needs sorting too between us. (Even between Bishops & ACP).
The letter from Bishop Boyce:
I then escaped the chatter and let Lyric soothe my soul. I thought of that Response-Letter from Bishop Boyce to the ACP. It was weak; cautious; defeatist; fatalistic and sad. It missed the point. The ACP responded robustly to the Response. But, this isn’t a battle. There aren’t two sides to this conflict. It isn’t a team of radical or even heretical priests (ACP) pace the Irish Catholic front page, but a serious discussion on a very serious situation. The Priests are the ‘workers’ out in the vineyard. They ‘smell of sheep.’ The Bishops are the coordinators & conductors. There have to make appointments and take the flak when there are no replacements; no suitable people to do the job out in the parishes: Very few now, are capable or fit to take on Leadership or fit for parish life. They (the bishops) cope with the ire of people who ‘want priests’ that they don’t have. They are the ones who handle the mess of daily post/e-mails and the ridicule of a superficial media. But then they too, often misunderstand their job. It is still too much ‘my diocese’ and ‘my church’ and the ‘Holy Spirit’ has ‘anointed me and I was appointed by the Holy Father.’ All of this smacks of unreality. In the response letter, I was shocked by the comment on Jesus appointing men. What kind of Scriptural maturity does that show? It is a dangerous fundamentalist approach. In regard to the censored priests – it was severely defective. In regard to the New Missal – it was laughable and so sad. .
The Debacle of the New Missal:
The New Missal is a disaster. No deferential comments in a letter can make good, something that is bad. Most of us have adapted the text as best we can. It is bad English & bad theology. Why can’t the Bishops’ United, have the gumption and the honesty to say that? Or do they live in a bubble of the three monkeys where Rome has spoken and therefore it has to be true. This emperor had no clothes. Say it. In so many ways, if the Conference of Bishops had looked at the translation; they couldn’t in conscience have passed it. I presume they waved it by with a cursory glance. They were and are too busy. They do an impossible job but they don’t have to do it all themselves. The abuse has taken up time, energy and resources. They live with the fear of what the next post will bring in. It is not surprising however to hear of the Savile, Clifford, Hall, Harris cases; to the problems with the political establishment; to hacking. Those (media) who mocked at ‘cover up’ may now know a little better how the sexual culture (The Tablet) of recent times was a minefield waiting to blow up. The problem wasn’t just in the Church- it was widespread and it was missed by most who simply couldn’t grasp the depth of the issue or the insidious nature of the addiction. If only the hackers had hacked into some of that story??
The Communion of people, priests and Bishops:
Bishops and priests are not on opposing sides. We are deeply committed and responsible people who must work together. The priests (with their local teams) have the monopoly of experience and applied theology. The Bishops work differently. They must take off their hats; forget their titles; and listen. Neither should they tolerate the un- Christlike foolishness of Rome in its treatment of our censored priests. Rome is wrong. Rome has been wrong with the Missal. Rome’s model of Church is corrupt – which is what brought Francis to office. Some of my best friends are bishops! I often want to protect them. I want to scatter some nonsense into their orthodox lives. They have an impossible job to do. But the model of working has to change. We can’t have suggested or imposed on the local Church – a cluster model of parish management unless the bishop works at a shared model of team leadership. We cannot expect parish teams and priests to work together if bishops don’t work together and are unwilling to call a spade a spade… and not a shovel.
Isaiah 55 & the JBC:
I drove on. The image filled my mind of my fellow priests at the funeral and I began to think of what we impose on each other in the church. I thought of Pat Rabbitte and his dismissal on age and chemistry grounds in twenty seconds. I know that our Leadership Teams (Bishops +) can’t dismiss many of us because we have reached an advanced age of the ‘bus pass’; they don’t have replacements. That screams for new ways and for imaginations. Once more I conclude with a thought from the JBC on Isaiah 55. (Weekend Reading): ‘It (the Word of God) can be heard only when it is soaked up in human life and spoken with human accents.’ The Missal didn’t and doesn’t do that. Have a look at the Preface for Trinity Sunday and you will find utter drivel (linguistically and theologically). The facts of life today are we need to re-imagine the Church of today in our world. We cannot cling on to the dead past or a dead language or to ridiculous outmoded models. If we do; we will end up as very lonely people in a world full of ancients with nothing but stories of the past to complain about.
I smiled to myself as the car reached the M50 I had spent time in recent days with many people and in many homes – where I acted as referee; where I dealt with outrageous incidents. None of these people were too bothered with the New Missal. They don’t attend church. However our job – is to sprinkle ‘rumours of angels’ about in the banter and troubles of life. And it is the most privileged and wonderful ministry. I got back to sort out some six weddings. Our Parish Team is very definite – the Norm for Weddings should be a Service and almost never a Mass. People know very little about Church or Mass or reverence. …….
It was an interesting journey. I recalled too being with an older Augustinian many years ago after a Funeral. He mused out-loud ‘who would speak at his funeral and what might they say.’ He didn’t want me to do it! He wanted ‘someone who would say nice things’ about him. I don’t care myself who speaks at mine or where I am buried. In fact, I have often said – ‘bury me quietly with no formal funeral.’
Seamus Ahearne osa (Rivermount).