August is a wicked month! Or is it ‘the silly season’ ?
Someone died in the parish Community. He went straight to the graveyard. That is new around here. Will it catch on? Or will some Ritual be created that somehow carries the trauma of dying and death? The Church still adds something even to those who are totally at sea in regard to God and Faith and Church.
I had a serious query on a Naming Ceremony. The copy of such a Ceremony was sent to me. I was asked could a priest say a blessing at this Ceremony (also). The grandparents were committed Catholics but the parents wanted the child ‘to make up his own mind’! In the same week I was sent another booklet by a lady who had attending a Naming Ceremony and was impressed. I was asked if I might/could include some of the sentiments in the Baptism Ceremony which I was due to Celebrate. (A son of said woman thought his mother had totally lost it!)
I was asked (as ACP) to take part in an interview re First Communion. The couple were lapsed Catholics and were in a dilemma over their child who was in Communion class. She was asked – did she want to receive? She chose to do so. The parents made a Documentary. I enjoyed the banter of the discussion but wasn’t totally happy with the outcome. I wondered whether the serious issues, which arose, were lost in the excitement of a Documentary. I felt that the ‘child was used’ and ‘her companions were used’ for the Documentary.
Defection from the Church:
I had an e-mail from a young journalist who wanted a comment from the ACP re his Defection from the Catholic Church. He had also written to the Chancellor (Dublin diocese). He wanted a Formal Ceremony to mark his Departure. I wrote back: ‘Dear John Paul’ (yes that was his name!) and suggested that his parents had a sense of humour to have named him thus and mused at his dilemma on his name. I then told him – to leave if he wanted to. No-one was going to arrest him. He was making himself all too precious. The ACP weren’t exercised about his defection. I may have been too flippant.
Pauline asked me, would I ‘do her Wedding.’ She said – “I don’t believe in God and I don’t want my wedding in Church but I want you to do my wedding.” She was lovely, honest and sincere. Again until something evolves to capture ‘the act of faith’ which a Wedding is, beyond the formality of the Registry Office; we will still be needed. But we have work to do on this. How often do we now get the call – ‘would you do a Blessing in the Hotel for my wedding?’…….
A former Priest and Faith:
I meet a former priest very often. He definitely is where he should be. His ministry in his family and in his work, is full of Gospel values. Christ would be impressed. Even Francis might be. But our one-time-priest – has no faith; has no interest whatsoever in God…… How could that have happened? What would the ‘death of God theologians’ have to say on this? How evident is it that our priests’ faith is alive and well as we all cope with the demands and challenges of today?
The Young ones and the accoutrements of office:
Diarmuid Martin spoke in Australia about Pope Francis. He noted the ‘drift back to the past in some.’ He spoke of a young priest to illustrate this. I was asked for a comment (as ACP). I did so something like this:
‘Diarmuid Martin’s words are apt. The Church in Dublin and in Ireland needs to hear more. The Bishops together need to show their excitement at the vision of Francis. It seems that some might wish Francis would go away – and some comfort themselves with the thought that he can’t last too long.
The concern DM shows in regard to the ‘young curate’ is a familiar one. The ‘young ones’ are very few and some embrace a very traditionalist view of Church. It is understandable too because there is great insecurity among the young. They need certainties. We don’t have them. Some see the ‘older ones’ as betraying the Church. The ‘young ones’ find comfort in the trappings (dressing up etc ) and wish to ‘protect’ (save) their ‘church’ which can’t be done in their way. What are they learning in Seminaries? I don’t know. But if their training is real – they will be faced with the reality of faith for today. (An apprentice model might be better). If they don’t ‘marry’ the messiness of today’s culture with a Scriptural sense of God; they will become a hindrance to the Church where they minister. Priesting is almost impossible unless there is humour, humanity, honesty. Life has to be flexible and adaptable. Liturgy has to be tailored-made to the experiences of people (it is never monastic). The rigidities are of no use and are destructive. Faith-life is very untidy as is every life and every family and every parish!
The ACP was formed with the simple aims of trying to live the vision of Church from Vatican 2. We now find that much of what we have said, is echoed by Francis. He has indeed ‘stolen our clothes.’ He is refreshing. He speaks in a language that is familiar. He tempts us out into the open. He draws us away from obsessions, with the minutiae & trivia of so called doctrine or the frozen certainties. He uses broad strokes. He calls us to look at Jesus Christ. He asks us to be evangelised ourselves and then we can evangelise others: We can discover ‘the joy of the Gospel.’ He tells us he is a sinner. He suggests we discuss things and work together in parishes, dioceses, and even in Rome. He calls on Ministers of the Gospel to immerse themselves in the ordinary and real life of people. He asks us to use their language. He calls us out of the dead formulae of the rule books. He reminds us that we don’t live in a museum.
The ACP are at home with his language and his challenge. We do worry about the young and know how ‘lonely’ the priesthood can be. Neither the young or old can, run back to the nostalgia of a past which no longer exists – a fantasy-land. The Word has to become Flesh in everyday life. Francis doesn’t disturb the ‘faithful’, he rather excites them. He doesn’t disturb the ‘faithful bishop or priest’ but calls them to be less fearful and to enjoy the excitement of their privileged calling. Diarmuid is right but all the Diarmuids (bishops) have to show in practice that they believe in Francis and his vision. They too must live it by doing it and not just by talking about it. The puppeteer model of management/leadership/ministry is redundant. Real communion has to happen. ‘
Edna O Brien said ‘August was a wicked month.’ (It is a time for flights of fancy). And in the Media it is often spoken of as the ‘silly season’ when any old trivial story will fly and fill the spaces. My stories above are ‘kites’ but they hint at a culture that is changing. We either embrace this new world or it runs away from us and we become irrelevant. The phrase ‘they just don’t get it’ has been hurled at us as a caste of priests (it is a misused generalised slur which offends all logic and all truth). However, we better ‘get it’ – the world as we knew it, is fading away. We need to wake up to that fact and quickly. Have Fun.
Seamus Ahearne osa