29Apr Stray thoughts from Finglas

A few asides from the weighty matters of Referenda or ‘what should be left in Limerick’; I traipse around the simple boreens of ordinary life in Finglas. No one may be interested in such routines and even I am somewhat lost back towards Christmas and haven‘t caught up. My mind keeps forgetting. My body keeps growling. And I still half- think I am young. The walks in the Tolka Valley park are no more. The sticks are almost gone. The walker is gone. The crutches are abandoned. But wounds groan and drag. And I am cautious with my ‘understanding.’ (Bad knee).

John Shea osa has written to Cardinal O Malley (he copied us on ACP). He has taken a stand on the flimsy nature of the theological argument re women priests. He would indeed be quite welcome in Limerick! Jeremy Clarkson (Top Gear) was major news and created a huge furore. His dinner wasn’t good enough. Oisin (the producer) felt the brunt of his upset. It was a crisis in the UK. Even the PM got involved. Jeremy is never PC. He always says the wrong thing. Like it or lump it – he amuses. We need the carelessness of a few Jeremys. What would he have to say around the bureaucratic filing system created by the safeguarding marvericks or their job-creation empire. I suspect he would suggest it has forgotten why it exists. In the PC world can anyone say anything? In the PC world, is it possible to say NO in a referendum; Where the vote is not about equality despite the posters. In a PC world is it possible to say that the static (literal) understanding of scripture/liturgy/theology (still part of official church) is not only wrong but is quite anti-incarnational. I really should return to my simple life.

At our Baptisms, I asked the Godparents to ‘stand up.’ Kaide (with the rest) stood up. (I mentioned this previously!) I quizzed them on what it meant and had fun. I said Kaide was the biggest troublemaker in our street and that we were delighted to be rid of him (had been evicted; 11 cars had their tyres slashed that night!). Kaide blushed- which was an achievement! And then I said: ‘When Carmel died, I was up in the houses around Carmel’s talking with the neighbours (framing the funeral). I asked about Kaide (who lived close by). All those older women said that Kaide was a gentleman who was the best neighbour anyone could have.’ So I turned to the crowd and said – This now is Kaide. And the changed man he has become, is what a god– parent should be!’ His blush turned to delight and he seemed to purr for the rest of the Ceremony. However, his embarrassment returned a few days ago; he came to ask me for a Reference for court. He had been caught with weed. But it was the new Kaide who realised how stupid he had been, who came. I was happy to write his letter.

Justin died. He was 46. What did we do? The ‘team’ visited about 7 or 8 times. We had to be soaked, immersed into the culture/language of this family. (Drink, drugs, murder and much love, had shaped this family) We were the learners. There is no other way. Church Rituals had to be minimised: These are totally foreign. The honesty, spontaneity, humanity in the family was extraordinary. We knew the history. We could have written a rather colourful book. The chaos too was overwhelming. But (as always) we were at home there and were part of the clan. We are privileged to be welcomed everywhere like this. The final song (at the funeral) was – ‘Always look on the bright side,’ (from Monty Python).

Confirmation was special. Ray Field had 8 lots of Confirmation that week. Yet somehow he retains his freshness and he is so personal. Every child is given time. We don’t have Mass. The Mass is a language beyond most around here and not just here. It is high Church material. Again we have concocted a Ceremony that somehow speaks a little better to those involved. We have to learn their language and let the God who is bigger than any of us – speak into the occasion. Cissie (parish team) met some of them a few days later and asked: “When will I see you again in Church?” The answer came quickly: “At our Wedding.” (By the way, wouldn’t it make more sense to have all Confirmation done on Pentecost Sunday? Then the bishops could visit the parishes and meet the world that actually exists and not a formally prepared scene).

Marriages are plentiful. I find them difficult. Church is highly irrelevant. Almost all should be celebrated without Mass. Many should be done Civilly. However these are their occasions where the young are present. We dip in. We enter their world. We have to be very creative. Our imaginations have to touch something of the ‘act of faith’ that they are making with each other and somehow capture the wonder and enormity of it all. It is exhausting but again that is the challenge of life here (and I suppose by now in most places). We have to explore and exploit every moment. We cannot escape into ‘holy’ books. It won’t do. It is very demanding. Is it worthwhile? I don’t know.

I smile at the difficulty some have with Evangelisation. It is life here for us. It is the life and world that exists here from the beginning of the parish (some 40 years ago). Evangelisation happens on the streets, in the shops, in the schools, at the door, in the community and especially in the homes. We are interpreting experiences. We are the learners. We are the outsiders. Evangelisation is about humility. When we realise how little we know and how fragile we are now in a culture that doesn’t know our God or our Church; we can relax and learn. The God we used to preach/celebrate really wasn’t always a loving, real and immediate God either. We were in control. Now we are at a loss. But that too is alright. We are old but aren’t dead yet; we can learn if we are prepared to.

Our two Churches are lovely. Our congregations are great. They participate in a wonderful way. They lift our spirits every day. Their honesty and directness and sense of fun and argument, stirs us into real prayer each day. Our Parish Team (meets every week) plans everything. Our written words splash something of a different type of Church around. We can never forget that our  main ‘church’ has to be outside. We are blessed by having a parish. It connects us with the life of the community. We work on their terms. They don’t just come to us. When they come, they have to feel at home in the language and in the rituals that we do. We are arrogant if we stick with the ‘book stuff’ or if we let them in, only on our terms. We go out. We meet them. They teach us. We learn from them. Our words are shaped by their stories. We have to make connections. We are blessed. It is a privileged existence. If only the days were longer; if only I had more energy. But it doesn’t matter really. It is a great place to be. They drag the best out of us. I still think that Jeremy should be our hero!

 

Seamus Ahearne osa  (Rivermount Parish).

5 Responses

  1. Lift my spirit

    Wonderful to hear about a living church, a people’s church. Jeremy should be your middle name!

  2. Mary Vallely

    “We are arrogant if we stick with the ‘book stuff’ or if we let them in, only on our terms. We go out. We meet them. They teach us. We learn from them. Our words are shaped by their stories. We have to make connections. We are blessed.”
    That’s heartening, Seamus. If only all our clergy felt like that. We parents/grandparents/teachers need to open our hearts and minds and learn from our children too. May you soon recover your strength and continue to be the excellent pastor you seem to be (sure I can only go by what I read here!) but I’m afraid I would not share your opinion of Jeremy and wouldn’t always find him amusing. May he soon find some peace of mind and a way of dealing with his own demons. A little sabbatical sharing some of your workload might pay dividends for both of you. 🙂

  3. sara

    I like the way you see things Seamus. “Where there is no love, put love in – and you will find love” (St John of the Cross). When people are badly behaved it can be because they have been used, abused and rejected. He came to save sinners.

  4. John Collins

    Seamus you are a gem .. Rare .. Thank you

  5. Sean O'Conaill

    “We need the carelessness of a few Jeremys. What would he have to say around the bureaucratic filing system created by the safeguarding mavericks or their job-creation empire.”

    To whom exactly is Seamus referring with the phrase ‘safeguarding mavericks’? Does he mean the childcare professionals who have developed the church’s guidelines re e.g. record keeping – the essential data needed by the NBSCCC to audit child safeguarding adherence by all church personnel who have contact with children?

    I have the greatest respect for Seamus, but this passage and the odd referencing of Jeremy Clarkson as a possible source of wisdom on child safeguarding, make me uneasy. Does this indicate a serious lack of rapport between Seamus (and possibly other clergy) and the personnel of the NBSCCC?

    Of course these personnel also need to be accountable, and to avoid unnecessary officiousness and bureaucracy. Also, as Ian Elliott insisted, the NBSCCC’s guidelines need to be under constant review – especially because of the many challenges to morale that our priests now suffer. However, both for the sake of child safety and the general well-being of the church it would be a very sad situation if these remarks above are indicative of a breakdown of trust and collaboration between priests and NBSCCC child-safeguarding personnel generally.

    Can Seamus give us any reassurance in this regard?


Scroll Up