Speaking at his Grandad’s funeral my dear friend Father Jaimie speaks about the greatness of the child in the eyes of Jesus; how we have to forget ourselves in order to remember and in remembering to become a true child. A little child who is content with the little daisies of life, content to be a daisy rather than a big impressive flower. It reminds me of a woman spoken of by John Moriarty in his autobiography, ‘Nostos’ – he asked his father why this woman was so happy and his father replied that she is happy because she is not seeking to be a tree where only a bush can grow. Something like that. Meaning that she is content to be who she is.
On Mission Sunday I’ve been struck again about the place of the child in my life, the Mission of the child that constantly lifts up my heart, draws me closer to God and to my true self, simply by being the child they are.
Last Sunday after Mass a ten-year-old girl commented on my mask. It’s pale blue with white daisies. Probably not what I would have chosen but it was given me by a friend and so I wear it in fidelity to our friendship. The girl said, “I love your mask!” and immediately her three-year-old cousin said, “well I love your face!” He is of African origin and it was said with the emphasis and enthusiasm that only an African possesses. So, I was immediately lifted up in the joy of this innocence. And for some reason I go around singing David Bowie’s ‘Rebel, Rebel’ – your face is a mess! The emphasis is oddly the same, like there’s a particular joy in the mess.
In the early 1960’s things were hard economically and my mother never tired of reminding us that “money doesn’t grow on trees” and that it was hard to “make ends meet.” So she was understandably furious when my older sister Maura, who was about 8 years old, lost the thrupenny piece on the way to the shop to get something for the tea. I was with Maura when she decided to throw the money in the air to see if she could catch it. She didn’t and it got lost in the grass. It was a dark winter’s evening. The searching was intense. And it was in vain. The value of it in today’s buying power would be about €15 and it must have been near the end of the week and there was no more money. It was a very frustrating reality when you had children to feed.
My mother, like all of us, used to stress from time to time over the loss of hard earned material things and then came the day when she lost her daughter. Maura didn’t wake up one morning and all of our experience of loss reached an altogether different level.
“My soul at once becomes recollected and I enter the state of quiet. Everything is stilled and the soul is left in a state of great quiet and deep satisfaction.” (St. Teresa of Avila)
St. Teresa of Avila has been one of the most significant guides of my spiritual life since I was 17 years old. I began reading her very early in my life as a Pallottine and there are two moments – a dream and a time in prayer - that have connected me to her.
|Dolores O'Riordan painted by Ryan Gannon Foster in January 2018|
Morning. Bright and crisp. October 9th – my father’s Birthday, may he rest in peace. Born in 1911. It’s also the Feast of St. John Henry Newman, Britain’s newest Saint. From outside, the voices of children echo through the church door. The prayers I requested of them are on the small table beside my chair in the sanctuary so that, as promised, I can bring them to Jesus when I pray. The voices I hear are glad – parents and children on their way to school - light and happy. Most children seem to like going to school but some don’t and I can empathise with the latter because, from beginning to end, from the age of four to seventeen, I didn’t like school at all. So, I’m really happy that it’s so far behind me, to be where I’m at now.
This is a most special time of day. Morning – once the drama of waking and getting up is done. The silence of it. Silence without interruption. Except what saunters into my mind but even that is not an interruption but is rather material for prayer. Right now, it’s Dolores O’Riordan who enters in, the young Dolores playing the organ in a country church more than thirty years ago. Playing for the parish Mission that John Fitzpatrick and I were giving. A bleak place with a dedicated and excitable parish priest who took one look at me, then turned to John to ask in a voice filled with doubt, “can he preach, can he preach?” He had the tendency to say everything twice as I sometimes find myself doing now! I was then in my early thirties with a black beard, black hair and big glasses that made me look like Gerry Adams. So, it’s understandable that he would be sceptical about me!