So we have, finally, a new Government. It’s often said that if you don’t like a Government you can vote them out in the next election. Well, living through the last few months, you’d be forgiven for wondering about that.
As described by presenter Justin McCarthy on last Monday’s Morning Ireland (RTÉ Radio 1), the events surrounding the creation of the Government last weekend were somewhat “surreal”. While I find it difficult to rustle up any enthusiasm for the new administration those media images of the TDs “spaced out” (as political correspondent Paul Cunningham put it) for social distancing in the huge Convention Centre were historic and iconic.
The sight on last Sunday’s news programmes of the new Cabinet standing in formation two metres apart looked downright weird, but I suspect these images will feature prominently in historical and political programmes for years to come. Also on that programme it was heralded by McCarthy as “the end of civil war hostilities”, but it may only be a truce.
Last Monday was historic also for the re-opening of churches for religious services, though the news coverage I saw concentrated almost entirely on the opening of businesses. But that was not the case on last Friday’s The Leap of Faith (RTÉ Radio 1), reaching the end of its happily extended run. Fittingly the final show of the season involved people of various religious faiths looking back over their pandemic experiences.
Fr Paddy Byrne from Laois found life challenging in lockdown. With all diary events cancelled, he had to slow down from fifth gear to second. He found his ministry “equivocated to misery” as he presided over so many sad funerals, some of them Covid related. He found communities creative at these times, e.g. forming distanced guards of honour along funeral routes. He was delighted that churches were re-opening as he was conscious of the collective nature of liturgy.
Midwife Aparna Shukla, a Hindu, found that her love of God and of the universe kept her going during lockdown and she finished her slot with a Hindu prayer. Rabbi Zalman Lent was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with synagogues re-opening and he finished with a ‘Wayfarer’s Prayer’.
Claire Dawson was a Baha’i and spoke of the virtual spaces created during lockdown for collective daily worship as well as the renewed persecution of Baha’I adherents, especially in Iran.
Imam Shaykh Dr Umar Al Qadri, was thankful that his family had survived Covid-19, but his thoughts and prayers were with those bereaved. While mosques will have less capacity due to distancing, they will have more services. He felt for would-be pilgrims disappointed that planned trips to Mecca won’t take place, but stressed the value of good intention.
Rev. Gillian Wharton of the Church of Ireland spoke movingly about her lockdown work with dying patients and their loved ones.
Sikh Dr Jasbir Singh Puri, a retired anaesthetist, had been involved in online Sunday prayer services and had re-registered with the Medical Council in case they needed his services in the fight against the virus. Fiona English, described as a “spiritualist”, was interested in “non-denominational faith”. She missed friends and family, but also valued the free time – she regarded time as sacred and something we give away easily. She didn’t want to rush back to normality and thought we should be kind to ourselves as we had gone through a type of collective trauma.
Buddhist Rev. Myozan Kodo Kilroy felt we had rediscovered simplicity, that lockdown was like a three-month retreat. He finished with a prayer for humanity.
Ideally we would have had a discussion amongst the participants but groups chatting in the studio will have to wait. I’d like also to have heard more about the lessons we can learn and how we can move on to a better normal in the coming months.
Such concerns also featured on last weekend’s Sunday Morning Live (BBC1) when the focus was on what environmental lessons we could learn. Pope Francis’ concerns for “our common home” was referenced prominently, while Bishop Richard Cheetham of the Church of England saw an opportunity for us to “re-set and re-think”our treatment of the planet.
One contributor, Fatima Ibrahim of Green New Deal UK, suggested that “normal” was a crisis situation for many people.
Maybe, we can make ‘the new normal’ something better – now there’s a job for the incoming Government.
Pick of the Week
Quest for Shakespeare
EWTN, Sunday, July 5, 9am and Friday, July 10, 5.30 pm
A look at the evidence for Shakespeare’s Catholicism and his Catholic upbringing.
EWTN, Sunday, July 5, 9 pm
New exploration of the life of Saint Maria Goretti, one of the youngest saints in the history of the Church.
The Kids Are Alright
RTÉ2, Monday, July 6, 7 pm
Peggy manipulates William into joining the church choir to keep him engaged in Catholicism. Sometimes warm and sometimes jaundiced.