Calling to see them, all of them in their late 80’s or 90’s, they have great inner strength and great faith. They are not theologians in the formal sense, but they have a relationship with God that has stood the test of time. This is the faith that they first heard of at the fire-side and in the cradle. And they themselves often tell me of their mothers and grandmothers who taught them how to say their prayers.I appreciate how they easily merge their relationship with God with their own lived lives. It’s as if their relationship with Jesus Christ, Our Blessed Lady, and the saints, seamlessly cross over into their day-to-day lives with their children who are now often grandparents themselves. And when the kids call to see nanny or granddad, often they are the great-grandchildren. The Ireland of the kitchen table has been portrayed in times gone by with the picture of the Sacred Heart, Pope John XXIII, and President John F. Kennedy on the walls. This may be a quaint image that can raise all sorts of lively opinions about where we want to be as a nation into the future. Sophisticated society may say that this is not the real Ireland anymore. When I call to see these people who have given the best years of their lives to the growth of our nation, one of the main ingredients of their endeavours was the old faith. And one still sees a picture of the Sacred Heart or a statue of their favourite saint over the fire-place
On the first Friday of each month, they are waiting for me to call. RTE’s Sean O’Rourke or News talk’s Pat Kenny might be on the radio or Jeremy Kyle might be on the television. We take a moment and turn the sound down. One woman holds her late husband’s rosary beads in her hand, her link to the relationship they had which spanned almost 60 years. Another elderly man prays with me as we look across at happy family photographs on the mantelpiece that tell many stories of times gone by. One couple in their eighties I call to see have some children’s toys around the living room waiting for the next high-energy visit to nana and granddad.
The reality of age and ill health is never far away and despite some of these people being dependent on medication, and while oftentimes a care-giver is present when I call, there is still a smile of their faces. “Father, there’s worse off than me.” They would say. Whenever I hear of another bad news story locally, or further afield, I think of the many people who are painfully able to look beyond their own troubles and think of another’s. This is true Christianity and true humanity and I will never fail to be evangelised by these people of simple, yet sterling faith.