22Jun Midsummer Night’s Dream

Rogers and Hammerstein:

“Oh what a beautiful morning. Oh what a beautiful day. I’ve got a beautiful feeling…..”  The summer solstice is a special time. If it behaves as it should. It has and does today. I know little of the mythology attached to the solstice but I do like Billy Shakespeare’s effort. His play/comedy hasn’t featured much in my recollections from the past but I enjoy the ideas suggested. Comedy. Love. Complexity. Dance. Madness. Delightfulness.  Celebration. Fantasy. Dreams. I was wondering how it would seem as a backdrop for ‘the life of faith.’   It is certainly possible that ‘The comedy of errors’ might be even more appropriate. I had another fanciful thought – Merriman’s ‘Midnight Court’ should also get a look in, as part of the scenery, for ‘the world of faith.’ There are presently so many deprived women who can’t handle the wastage of good men which the Church has stolen from them.  It is only a very stray thought. We had thought of putting a version of this on, in Dundee many years ago, as an incentive to faithful living!

Pope Francis and the Algarve:

I got back from the Algarve two weeks ago. I miss the beach. I miss the chatting waves. I miss the silence and the noise. I miss the space and time and wandering. It feels like years since I returned. People are very inconsiderate – they get sick; they want to be married; they want babies baptised; they even die; the school community is fraught with so much going on, in the final days of the year. And then Francis gives us his programme. I still maintain it is quite wrong that this good man should be dragged to Ireland. To the Aras. To Dublin Castle. To the Pro-Cathedral. To Knock. To Croke Park. To Kevin’s place. To the Phoenix Park.  Why wouldn’t people leave him alone to get on with his business in Rome? We need him so badly and yet we waste his energy and time. And then why bother with Knock??   A visit to Kevin’s place is good but can it be, other than contrived? If he came and stayed with me, I could have secretly smuggled him into Bow Street/Church Street (The Capuchin day centre). We could have arrived un-announced.   Anyway.

The Refugee from the Aras:

And then I hear Mary McAleese stridently screaming at Kevin Doran.  He did manage to put his foot in his mouth. I admire him too for saying what he has to say, even if I disagree totally with him.  Mary seems like someone out on parole (after the constrictions and confinement of the Aras and the limitations of Roman Canon law in Rome.)  “Yes with a heart and half.”   Really?  Her No- to-Confession is fair enough but I would rather prefer her to say with ‘half a heart’ in regard to the Referendum.   Anyway. She can say what she wishes. In the Play Sketch that I see the Church to be – we can’t get too uptight about anything.  People can say what they want to say. God is bigger than any of us.  And poor God doesn’t have to lose sleep because someone gets so pumped up about anything.

 I am sorry.  We are sorry:

I  get rather rattled with the seriousness of our politicians.  Even if immediately afterwards, I want to laugh at them. They have to have a Debate. They want to say Sorry. Will they ever get sense and grow up?  Leo is so pleased that we are now leaving the ‘dark ages.’  The ‘glangeen’  Simon Harris is glowing with delight that he has discovered for the first time ever in Ireland the word COMPASSION. Is our Cabinet too young to be sensible? They begin to sound like teenagers where everything done by the elders in the past, is foolish. They want to negate that past. They have found the elixir of life (Nirvana).   I even think that they may suffer from political naïvete or is it just immaturity?  When people look backwards and dump the blame for everything on the past – they simply are avoiding the responsibility of what is facing them at the moment.  I feel like saying:   Grow up. Get on with it. Unless we look at today with humility and grasp the fact that we might miss the obvious at present – we are doing a disservice to the humanity in ourselves. I wish we would all stop this grovelling and apologising and get on with living.  There is something very stupid when life get peppered with such drivel. (‘Blame it on the Stones – the Rolling Stones – and the rising cost of tranquillisers.’ Etc. etc.  )   It is so much easier to be apologetic about the past than it is to look at today.  The Church is also good at this.  We have become too defensive and so cowered by life that we want to hide and beat our breasts. To be seen and not heard. We want to shut up anyone who draws attention to us.  We look like a sad band of very old and very sick people who belong in a Nursing home. The nursing home of the church.  I say – come out. Shout. Laugh. Smile at the world.

The God of laughter:

For me, Religion is only truthful and faithful if it is full of humour and laughter.  Faith gives a context and a perspective to everything and to everyone. We are artists working with broad strokes. We can stand back and let all this seriousness and pomposity of life (in many people) be smiled at.  The solemnity of the serious is almost a denial of God.   The God I know; The God I celebrate; The God I meet daily – Is a very big God. God is a God of laughter. God is a tease. God has a sense of fun. God is a comedian. The rigidity and formality of some Church people has to be a total contradiction to the Christ of the Gospel.   I want to paint a God from the Song of Songs. I want a profile of God from Hosea. I want to celebrate a musical God. I want to haul out the fun in Job 38. I want my friend in the Jonah story.  I want the teasing Christ of the Caananite woman story.  And then if only we could – (with John 1.35)  hear it said and follow it: “ What do you want? Where do you live? Come and see. “   I think ‘The Clown’ (Heinrich Boll) was used as a very apt image for the minister or priest.  It seems right.  It is a challenge.

‘The course of true love did never run smooth’:

Shakespeare’s Midsummer night’s dream could be our dream and our inspiration. Or Merryman’s Midnight Court. The very name suggests itself. Merry man. Merry woman!  If we were that Merry woman; that Merry man – then Faith would flourish.  Religion unties us. It sets us free.  We are the blessed ones. We are the lucky ones. We have the longest day. We have the sunshine. We have the perspective. We have the humour. We can laugh. We aren’t dying. We have a sense of life and a sense of death. We are bigger than Now. We have fun. The Christ that we meet is always eating. He gathers people. They stop. They talk. They eat. They argue. They are normal. They get hot-tempered. They get down. But they get up. They don’t care because they really do care. Lighten up.  Come to the Table. Enjoy the company. Fall in love. Fall out of love. Be lovers at least of life. Catch the wonder of every day. Taste the mystery.  Get a context. Get perspective. For the artist – perspective is everything!

The chaos of politics:

We see Trump in the US full of bombast. We see Italy in chaos. We see the UK talking utter nonsense over Brexit.  We see the former President of Brazil and of S Korea in Jail. We hear the solemnity and stupidity of our own politicians. Our world cries out for the humour of faith. We have something that is essential and that is life-giving for everyone. Never mind the mistakes. Never mind our own foolishness. Never mind the debris of religion. Celebrate the characters. Create a Drama for life which is full of laughter and complexity and dreams and failures and love and beauty and wonder and hope. We have the longest day and we are living it every single day of our lives. We live in a permanent Summer solstice. If only we could find a Shakespeare among us – who would sprinkle the cocktail of humanity around and if truly Mr Merryman (or something similar) could be exploited or exploded in each of us.   “Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day. I’ve got a beautiful feeling. Everything is going my way. ‘

Seamus Ahearne osa

22 Responses

  1. Mary OConnor

    It is such a treat to read you, Seamus. Thank you.

  2. Joe O'Leary

    So Mary McAleese is “stridently screaming” and the Government’s apology to gays is brooding on the past? Well, I would say it is we priests who should be apologizing, and deeply. I’ve often noticed a sort of hit-and-run attitude in clerical conversation. Snide dismissal of “strident” lay voices (especially if they are gay or if they are women), with no attempt at dialogue or rational argumentation. This was the cozy clerical stance for decades, and now it has come back to bite us in the rear.

  3. Joe O'Leary

    Totally agree with this: “I still maintain it is quite wrong that this good man should be dragged to Ireland. To the Aras. To Dublin Castle. To the Pro-Cathedral. To Knock. To Croke Park. To Kevin’s place. To the Phoenix Park. Why wouldn’t people leave him alone to get on with his business in Rome? We need him so badly and yet we waste his energy and time.”

  4. Joe O'Leary

    McAleese and Varadkar are better leaders than any cleric. If you can’t beat them, why not join them?

  5. Joe O'Leary

    Prof. Ferriter is on the mark as well, though perhaps missing the silent majority who may not have had much “fun”: https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/diarmaid-ferriter-we-can-t-let-dark-past-define-irish-social-history-1.3540210

  6. Paddy Ferry

    “For me, Religion is only truthful and faithful if it is full of humour and laughter. Faith gives a context and a perspective to everything and to everyone”

    Seamus, I read this on Friday evening just after coming home from work. I always listen to PM on BBC Radio 4 on a Friday evening coming home –I cannot get RTE Radio 1 anymore –and this last 5 Fridays I have been listening to Beccy Milligan who has been over in Tuam reporting on the Mother and Babies Home scandal. It continues next week –usually just after 5.30PM and there is also a podcast available now of the all the previous pieces. The religion that the Bon Seccour nuns inflicted on the expectant mothers and then their babies was certainly not “full of humour and laughter” It was absolutely hell on earth. How can people who supposedly commit their lives to spreading and living the beautiful good news of Jesus Christ turn into such cruel, vindictive and brutal beings –with a complete lack of basic Christianity. Their faith gave them a very bizarre and weird context and perspective to their cruel lives. Beccy Milligan’s series is absolutely fascinating but also deeply,deeply sad and troubling.

  7. Joe O'Leary

    Interesting piece in the Irish Times this morning: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/how-a-motherly-woman-with-a-gay-son-changed-the-law-on-homosexuality-1.3542289

  8. Sean O'Conaill

    #3 Re Pope Francis: “Why wouldn’t people leave him alone to get on with his business in Rome?”

    Hands up all those who experienced joyful discussion of Evangelii Gaudium in their parishes when it arrived in 2013? Or Laudato Si in 2015? Or Amoris Laetitia in 2016? Or Gaudete et Exsultate in March this year?

    Do you never visit Ireland, Joe – to learn that rampant Allodoxaphobia (fear of contrary opinions) has totally paralysed our parish clergy? As even the fearful choreography of the WMOF has demonstrated, Irish diocesan clergy are still terrified of any gathering called specifically to hear the unscripted voices of their own people.

    To exorcise this particular infestation we need the visit of someone who is totally unafraid of the modern world, and ready to tackle head on the collapse of Christendom here – and to listen to and answer whatever secularism – or even fed up Irish Catholics – might want to say.

    We know already the gist of what Francis will want to say: ‘Your church in Ireland grew from a single seed: a kidnapped teenage boy on a hillside who could do nothing for himself other than pray to the Trinity. Wake Up you Irish! Europe is again calling you to mission. Just what is preventing you raising your voices to witness to your faith?’

    Answer: Irish clerical allodoxaphobia, accompanied by Irish Catholic lay fear that only clergy can lead the church. (I’ll bet that Francis will tackle the latter misconception too.)

  9. Pádraig McCarthy

    Paddy Ferry #6:
    Paddy – Becky Milligan’s accounts are billed on BBC website as “The Home Babies: ‘A very Irish scandal’.”
    Whatever we may say about the Mother and Baby Homes in Ireland, they were by no means a “very Irish scandal.” It is part of the picture of how various other jurisdictions, including UK, dealt with such situations.
    32 of the then 48 states of the USA had laws providing for the compulsory sterilisation of those considered unfit to bear children. Scandinavian countries had similar legislation. Nazi Germany pointed to those other countries as justification for their eugenic laws.
    One of the most notorious cases was where Judge Oliver Wendell Holmes in the US Supreme Court justified the sterilisation of Carrie Buck in 1927, saying “three generations of imbeciles are enough.” For more information do an internet search on that phrase.
    Winston Churchill in UK was in favour of such legislation; it did not get through. Fortunately the people of Ireland was spared such treatment.
    I had an article on the background in The Furrow in April 2017.
    A copy of my submission to the Mother and Baby Homes Commission is available at https://www.associationofcatholicpriests.ie/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/MOTHER-AND-BABY-HOMES-ENQUIRY.pdf

    Much coverage of the sad stories from Ireland seems totally unaware of the historical facts of what also happened elsewhere.

  10. Joe O'Leary

    Padraig, thanks for compiling this stunning sheaf of information. I shall share it with anyone who goes on about septic tanks.

    Sean, the clergy’s allodoxy-phobia is applied first of all to Irish voices (e.g. Mary McAleese, David Norris, Leo Varadkar, lots of theologians and creative pastoral figures). “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.”

    And who is to guarantee that Francis will have anything new to say? He can repeat John Paul II, urging memory of the great Irish Catholic past, or he can moan about secularism, and that will just bring groans from his hearers.

    Or if he does have some prophetic message, surely the allodoxy factor will kick in again, ensuring it is not heard?

    And note that he is not coming to Ireland on a full-scale pastoral mission like that of John Paul II but merely to attend the World Meeting of Families (which like the Eucharistic Congress is likely to be a non-event). The schedule of his Irish activities is drearily unimaginative.

  11. Sean O'Conaill

    #10 “Or if he [Francis] does have some prophetic message, surely the allodoxy factor will kick in again, ensuring it is not heard?”

    Clergy can’t prevent people listening via all secular media (and in person) for the specific message that Francis is forecast to be readying for Irish lay people, Joe.

    Vide e.g. the latest issue of Intercom – interview with Cardinal Kevin Farrell – summarised here:
    https://acireland.ie/drop-the-idea-of-living-in-christendom-cardinal-farrell/

  12. Joe O'Leary

    Sean, I have to say that I did not find Cardinal Farrell’s remarks at all enlightening. “We are promoting women, but to ordain them would be to isolate them” is just what we’ve been hearing for decades. The murky stuff about Poland sounds like a call to conservative Catholic resistance to an evil government, namely, the Irish Government right now! Francis seems primed to tread in the footsteps of John Paul II, stirring the embers of 1979. But Irish Catholics no longer accept the canonical status of that papal intervention and have been putting John Paul II’s conservative message in question ever since.

  13. Joe O'Leary

    Fr Gerard Maloney CSSR is very misleading in today’s Irish Times: “The big Yes vote in the recent Eighth Amendment referendum can only be interpreted as a monumental loss for the Catholic Church.”
    https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/beware-the-new-ireland-does-not-become-as-oppressive-as-the-old-1.3543292
    It was a vote about women and how we treat them. Some would see it as a victory for a Christian attitude, and thus for the real Church, the people of God.

    “The major cultural battles of the past 35 years have been won by the liberal side.” There is a liberal Catholicism in the spirit of Vatican II, and it respects freedom of conscience.

    “He will be visiting a modern, secular society free at last from the Roman yoke, one bearing little resemblance to that which welcomed his predecessor so fulsomely 40 years previously.” Yet all the attitudes expressed in the recent referenda were fully aired in intelligent and enlightened circles back in 1979.

    “While defeat is painful for the church to take, losing the war is a good thing for the church because Christianity functions best when it is not part of the establishment.”

    Again, no one asked the Catholics who voted Yes if they were at war with “the church.” This “church” that is painted as the opposite of the Irish people in a Manichean dualism is a wraith of clericalist rhetoric.

    “Now that the culture battles are done, the church can take up its proper role in opposition to the status quo.” This sounds like a diehard irredentist commitment to the very “culture battles” that have proved so futile.

    “What the culture wars of the last 35 years have also shown is that we Irish are an intolerant people.”

    Really? Have they not shown a deeper and more humane understanding and “tolerance” for the freedom of women and gays and the rights of children? Have the people not taught the clergy what humanity, honesty, and tolerance really mean? And should we not be learning that lesson at last?

  14. Mary Vallely

    I thought Fr Gerry’s words quite prophetic, Joe@13
    I think he is stating that the old model of Church is now dead and gone and that this is a positive step BUT but that there is a great danger of replacing one set of intolerances with another:-
    “Hurrah for revolution and more cannon-shot!
    A beggar upon horseback lashes a beggar on foot.
    Hurrah for revolution and cannon come again!
    The beggars have changed places, but the lash goes on.”
    It’s the history of mankind isn’t it. Mankind rather than humankind though who is to say women would have behaved any better. ( Of course I’d like to believe that we wouldn’t be in such a mess if women had been allowed to use their God given instincts to help in decision making.)

    However I disagree with Gerry’s belief that it is only the No voters who have been excoriated as the Yes voters have also been excoriated by certain mindsets on the No side. And don’t we all hate the way this has polarised the country – as if it was an easy decision to make. I imagine many struggled and endured sleepless nights over how to vote.
    Like Gerry Maloney, Joan Chittister also warns us that 
“The establishment is always loyal to the very institutionalism of the institution in question. The dissenter is always most loyal instead to what the institution itself claims to be about.”
    I think it is good that we are at last talking from a position of humility and not of arrogance. Maybe we are learning lessons at last. About time official Churchianity is stripped back to basics. The pomposity and arrogance of some clerics has been so destructive and embarrassing down the ages and maybe we need to learn at last how to reflect on our failings. Let the criticism come. Learn from it. None of us is perfect. That’s what I think the Master is trying to teach us. Take criticism on the chin. Don’t be on the defensive all the time!

  15. Sean O’Conaill

    #12 The ordination of some women will do as little for the dignity and status of most women in the church as the ordination of some men currently does for that of most men. It is also likely to buttress and prolong a clerical system that is well past its sell-by date and that trains people usually to a sense of their own superiority. To imply that women will be immune to clericalism is also in itself sexist and unrealistic, and what sensible woman would ever want to be schooled for ministry in a seminary anyway?

    You missed the cardinal’s repetition of the pope’s emphasis on the developing of lay conscience and mission in a post-Christendom world. To tackle that seriously demands finally an end to the aloofness and sterility of leadership that has afflicted the non-dialogical Irish church since 1968. It also demands an end to the absurd mystique of ordination, the root source of the appalling lack of prestige of Baptism, which needs an additional rite of affirmation in adulthood to restore its true importance.

    Every Catholic needs to be trained in the expectation of ministry, not for servility on the one hand or elevation on the other.

    Not that I expect everything to change when Francis comes, but what other hope is there of reality dawning here, and the ice breaking? The pressure and need for change has palpably increased since the referendum, and why should that not finally begin this year?

  16. Joe O'Leary

    Sean, I remember a meeting in a tent in Maynooth to follow up on John Paul II’s visit and galvanize lay involvement and youth involvement. Vatican II already massively promoted lay involvement. I don’t see why flying in cardinals and popes to repeat these ideals is the best way to actualize them. It’s even possibly counter-productive.

    As to women priests, they are coming whether we like it or not. The ban on (even discussing) them simply shows a male hierarchy in thrall to obsolete social models, such as that prevalent in Israel in Jesus’ time and many other countries until recently if not still, in which women simply could not function as witnesses or leaders. All the other Christian churches have shown us clearly that female clergy are normal and natural, and perfectly well represent Christ.

    “Now, Cardinal Farrell emphasises, the church has got to educate consciences, so that people can learn to live their faith in a western culture that has devalued sexuality and put family life under extraordinary pressure.”

    Is that even an expression of respect for the freedom and creativity of the lay conscience? When he says “the church” he seems to mean “the clergy” who will “inform” the consciences of erring laity and bring them back to adherence to Humanae Vitae and the like. “No longer able to depend upon the enveloping culture to sustain Catholic belief and practice we have got to learn how to be confident of our own calling to be different.” That is, our calling to share the prophetic stance of the magisterium in its teaching on contraception, abortion, etc. Nothing new here!

  17. Sean O'Conaill

    #16 “All the other Christian churches have shown us clearly that female clergy are normal and natural, and perfectly well represent Christ.”

    Do any of those other churches give to their clergy anything like the power given to Catholic clergy by Catholic canon law – for example the authority to summarily dismiss an existing parish pastoral council, defying the clear intention of Lumen Gentium 37 that parishes should have continuous representative structures for the baptised that could warrant the latter giving durable committed service to those?

    Is it part of the ACP’s reform agenda that priests should NOT have such power? Is it part of the ‘ordination for Catholic women’ cause that women should NOT have that power?

    If so, count me in, Joe. Otherwise a thoroughgoing overhaul of canon law will be my first priority.

    And if you know of any evidence that female ordination has in itself reversed the trend towards total disinterest among most young people in those other churches, male and female, let us have it also. If young Irish men are not queuing up for the seminaries, what evidence is there that young Irish women will be doing that?

    Those younger generations need first to be convinced that the role of Christian priesthood has vital meaning today. When our clergy have understood the priesthood that comes with Baptism, and honoured that in their attitude to co-responsibility, things could change. To put female ordination first of all would merely perpetuate canonical powers that need first to be abandoned by the clerical church if a turnaround is to come.

  18. Joe O'Leary

    Sean, you puncture the Vatican’s talk about promoting the laity by asking them to put their Canon Law where their mouth it. I imagine that resistance to change is just as entrenched there as in regard to female ordination. I don’t think rhetoric from Cardinal Farrell or the Pope will change that. His visit will indeed be but a Midsummer Night’s Dream: “Think you have but slumbered here, While these visions did appear.”

  19. Sean O'Conaill

    #18 OK, Joe – point taken.

    It all reminds me of Stan to Ollie: “Here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten us into!”

    That mess is already upon us here – and Francis has said don’t worry about making a mess. Maybe some of our bishops are listening – and will realise there’s no alternative to listening now, dialogically – and letting what happens happen.

    Here’s hoping that that will NOT be the arrival of a shipload of new shiny curates, of whatever gender. (At least not until we merely baptised folk have realised that we too so often are already fulfilling the priesthood of the baptised – the calling to be a bridge between heaven and earth through the generosity of our lives.)

  20. Joe O'Leary

    Congrats to the Columbans for making Mary McAleese welcome in a way that Pope Francis, Cardinal Farrell, and the organizers of the World Meeting of Families clearly are not: https://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/mary-mcaleese-pope-francis-a-disappointment-on-women-472508.html

  21. Joe O'Leary

    I could only find one occurrence of the dreaded acronym LGBT in the WMOF programme — a speech by Fr James Martin, SJ. A speech about “them” — not “us” — nor are “they” or their families asked to speak in their own voices. Given the huge amount of noise that has been made about this issue in the run-up to the event, the deafening silence and the enforced invisibility are embarrassing to the point of absurdity.

    However, the elite group of Princes of the Church is well represented — no less than fifteen of them among the prominent speakers! The organizers couldn’t afford the price of a bus ticket for Ireland’s gays or lesbians, who would have much to say, but they are lashing out huge sums of money on first class tickets for the Princes from far-flung countries of the globe, who have nothing to say.

  22. Paddy Ferry

    Joe, I agree with everything you say @21. Something else that is troubling me at the moment about the Pope’s visit is the silence about what is being planned to alert Francis to Tony Flannery’s position and his shameful treatment and that of other priests in a similar position. I suppose we really should be looking to the Redemptorists to take a lead on this but given their less than impressive performance so far, there probably is not much chance of them doing anything.
    A couple of months ago there was a lot of talk on this site about this. There was mention of a petition which many of us expressed a wish to sign.
    But recently there has been silence. Perhaps, there are things happening which we have not been informed about. I hope so. Could the government play a role in this? If Enda Kenny was still in power, he probably would have been up for it. I don’t know where Leo stands on the church. This is a great chance to right some serious wrongs done to good and decent men.

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