It’s not often you hear the Beatitudes highlighted on mainstream radio, especially on a current affairs programme.
And so I was glad to hear ‘Blessed are the Peacemakers’ referenced on Morning Ireland (RTÉ Radio One, Friday), in the context of the sad passing of Pat Hume, wife of John. Her contribution to the peace process was widely acknowledged in the tributes. Former President Mary McAleese paid Mrs Hume a glowing and gracious tribute – she described Mrs Hume as a “formidable community activist in her own right”, and in relation to the couple admired “the courage of their partnership”. When pursuing the peace process they had met with much opposition or abuse from all sides, but persevered. She also spoke admiringly of the times when John became very unwell and when Pat became his loving carer. Local Derry people also paid tribute. One described her in terms that could hardly be bettered: “one of the nicest women I’ve ever me…she treated everybody with dignity and respect”. We will always need inspirational people – they die, but thankfully their influence lives on.
Not entirely unrelated Songs of Praise (BBC One, Sunday) focused on the power of forgiveness. Presenter Aled Jones suggested it was a way to move from tragedy to hope. We heard of an IRA bomb that destroyed a medieval church in London in 1993. It was revived as St Ethelburga’s Centre of Reconciliation and Peace. Chaplain Rev David Tomlinson explained how they sought to lift people’s burden of guilt and revenge. Particularly topical was Pam Rhodes’ interview with Rob Halligan, a Christian musician whose father was killed in the attacks of 9/11, 20 years ago this weekend. He spoke of how his faith had helped him through the tragedy. The “challenge of forgiveness’ moved him to pray not just for his father, but for the perpetrators, to help break ‘the cycle of hatred”. Most moving of all was the story of Nadim Ednan-Laperouse and his wife Tanya, whose teenage daughter Natasha had died because of a food allergy. Not particularly religious up to that point he described a vision of angels at the moment of her death on a plane, and the touching moment when he forgave to boss of the company that had inadequately labelled the ingredients of a baguette. I liked the way all the contributors joined in a prayer at the end.
Last Sunday also saw the return of Sunday Morning Live (BBC One), with Sean Fletcher and Nina Wadia exploring the religious, ethical and quirky stories of the week. The episode featured an interesting discussion on whether the Christian churches should accept, facilitate or bless same-sex unions, though the Catholic perspective wasn’t considered. It was mainly in the context of the Church in Wales considering the matter this week. At least it was a balanced discussion with two Church of England clergy (Rev. Andrew Foreshaw-Cain in favour, Rev. Ian Paul, against) Methodist minister (Rev. Delyth Liddell) who explained the position of her church and author David Bennet who is gay, celibate and opposed to same-sex marriage – a real diversity of opinion which we don’t often get. And, as a bonus, it was a respectful discussion – between people who disagree strongly on something fundamental. Now there’s a lesson.
I tuned in to Radio Maria Ireland on Sunday afternoon and heard a fascinating discussion on religious art. In the latest episode of the series Understanding Icons Aoife Smith explored that particular art form associated with the Orthodox churches. In fact, in the past there had been debates whether there should be any icon painting outside of these churches. In the 17th Century there had even been persecution of iconographers, with some of them put to death or getting their hands chopped off – some, referencing the strictures on ‘graven images’, were very disapproving, while others valued the art form, and so you got iconophiles and iconoclasts in a conflict that’s hard to get one’s head around today. Whatever about that it was clear that icons can be a great aid to, and inspiration for, prayer, with so much symbolism to reflect on and explore. Irish iconographer Dick Sinclair provided some intriguing background information and explanation of the complex symbolism.
You can catch the series and see the icons discussed via the Radio Maria podcast page at www.radiomaria.ie – easy access to some fine nourishment for the soul.
Pick of the week
52nd International Eucharistic Congress
EWTN Sunday September 12, 6.30 am
Official welcome for Pope Francis live from Budapest, International Airport. More coverage of the congress follows.
RTÉ One Sunday September 12, 11.00 am
Fr Martin Collum is celebrant for today’s Mass with a congregation from the Parish of Killygarvan and Tullyfern, along with students from Errigal College, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal.
The Meaning of Life
RTÉ One Sunday September 12, 10.30 pm
The Meaning of Life returns. In episode one, Joe Duffy meets screen legend Jane Seymour. She reflects on how her parents’ experiences of World War II affected their lives.