The Leap of Faith (RTE Radio 1) is nearing the end of its run and last Friday’s edition dealt with water, which has long been a central symbol in religious ritual. This episode marked National Holy Wells Day (June 13) with Fr Brian Grogan SJ and Sr Helen Grealy, who is involved in the Loving Sister Earth initiative to support the ecological concerns of Pope Francis. They spoke about the virtual event last weekend that drew attention to the role of water in social justice. Fr Brian Grogan was concerned about the commercialisation of water and he feared a pattern of drought, famine and death. The historical background was intriguing – there are around 3,000 holy wells in Ireland, many with pre-Christian origins. The early Christian saints, including St Patrick, recognised their importance and blessed them, resulting in many of them being named after these saints. There was a time when these devotions were discouraged by Rome because of a certain rowdiness surrounding them, but Sr Helen is involved in moves to revive the devotions, with some wells being reconstructed. We heard of wells in Kerry, including one in Ballyheigue, and another in Ardfert dedicated to St Brendan – a great saint altogether of course!
Last Sunday saw the beginning of a new series of Sunday Morning Live (BBC One). Sean Fletcher was joined by Rev Kate Bottley, but later in the series will be re-joined by regular co-presenter Sally Phillips – this week however she joined the show by video link from Australia. In the news review of the week two stories stood out – actor Riz Ahmed complaining about the ‘toxic portrayal’ of Muslims in film and also tiny churches doing well in the Shed of the Year awards, including that of Fr Len who was able to broadcast Mass from his mini-church during lockdown. There was also a beautiful item about two people of faith that had disabilities. Alex is an adult confined to a wheelchair and we saw him returning to Mass as an altar server for the first time since lockdown restrictions eased – very moving, while Chelev, a young Jewish man, was getting help from his carers and his faith community in the absence of being able to go to synagogue for now.
There was a story of suffering followed by great hope – that of a young Afghani refugee, Waheed, who had been sent away from the war zone to the UK when he was 15. Before this he was inspired by a doctor who treated him for TB – this prompted him to study medicine and now he is a doctor and has founded a medical charity which looks after the needy worldwide including his native Afghanistan. He still talks to his father every day on the phone – on the call we saw the father telling him how proud he was of his son.
Not going anywhere, as far as I know, is Sunday Sequence (BBC Radio Ulster). Last weekend’s episode was particularly good, with some unusual issues explored. It started with a review of the biblical tradition of lamenting and generally dealing with grief with Fr Martin McGill and Rev. Stephen Forde who are organising a cross community service of lament in Belfast for June 21. Then we learned from Dr Marie Coleman and Dr Éamon Phoenix about the experiences of Protestants in the south during revolutionary times in early 20th Century in Ireland. The main discussion, about education and religion in the North of Ireland, was a mature, nuanced and generous discussion of a topic than can get quite fractious. Tracey Harkin of the Iona Institute gave a spirited defence of Catholic schooling and of diversity and pluralism in school models and thought it insulting to accuse faith-based education of contributing to sectarianism. Prof. Jon Tonge, though positive about integrated education thought that was a lazy accusation and pointed out how there were more Catholic schools in Liverpool than in Belfast but sectarianism had ‘died out decades ago’. Róisín Marshall of the Council for Integrated Education believed such education helped to reduce sectarianism, but all seemed agreed on the importance of school choice, effectively parental choice.
Finally, our editor Michael Kelly provided a report from his sojourn in Rome, with its recently relaxed curfew and indoor dining. Like presenter Audrey Carville I was jealous!
Pick of the week
RTÉ One Sunday June 20, 11 am
Fr Pius Faruna celebrates Mass with members of St Patrick’s parish, Esker, Dodsboro and Adamstown in Lucan, Co. Dublin. Music is from the Aontas Choir, directed by Adam Hodgkinson.
Channel 4 Friday June 25, 7.30 pm
Unreported World meets the migrants being beaten back from the European Union by border guards on the notorious Balkan Route.
Leap of Faith
RTE Radio 1 Friday June 25, 10.05 pm
Last episode of the season, with live music.