In these strange and wearying times, I tend to welcome feel-good programmes, perhaps too uncritically, and if they manage deeper meaning as well, it’s a bonus.
Unsung Heroes (RTÉ1) on Wednesday night of last week was conductor David Brophy’s third outing with special focus choirs – previously there was the High Hopes Choir (for people touched by homelessness), the Choir of Ages (for older people) and now it was a choir for carers.
Appropriately these ‘un-sung heroes’ are now getting their chance to sing, and not only is the singing giving them a well-deserved boost, but now they are socialising with other groups away from the usual meetings to do with the needs of those loved ones they care for. As Brophy said at one stage, their stories are difficult but necessary to listen to.
Significantly most of the carers were women, and many of them were looking after their mothers. “We’re lucky to have her,” said one woman of her own mother who was in need of care.
Those parents looking after their children with disabilities had a particular challenging task – there were some parents who were caring for two and even three children who had challenging needs. This was filmed pre-Covid and I’d say things must have become tougher during lockdown.
At one stage Brophy threw in a dig at the HSE and also said he was “ashamed to be Irish” because of the way carers were treated. I may at times be ashamed of our Government, or of aspects of our culture, but never of being Irish, which is such a complex identity, and one with so much goodness.
I liked most of the music choices – Something Inside So Strong seemed particularly apt, and Aslan’s Crazy World, hit the mark as well (boosted by a surprise appearance by the band at one of the practices).
I was less enthused by John Lennon’s Imagine – “imagine there’s no heaven” – talk about taking away a source of hope! Uplifting, and enjoyable as these shows are, they are becoming a tad formulaic – I was reminded as well of the Dementia Choir programme on BBC. But I’ll be happy if they make more of them.
Other unsung heroes of mine are those scientists who are also people of religious faith, who despite prejudices and distortions keep the flag flying for a harmony or complementarity between science and religion. One of the foremost is Prof. David Wilkinson, astrophysicist and theologian.
He gave a fascinating interview to Audrey Carvile on last weekend’s Sunday Sequence (BBC Radio Ulster) on the occasion of the discovery of the forming of a new planet, where scientists could uniquely observe the process.
Prof. Wilkinson found this recent development “very exciting” and more generally saw “a reflection of God’s faithfulness in simple, elegant, beautiful laws of physics”. He spoke about the way God creates and saw the complexity and diversity of the universe as showing the “extravagance…of a creator God”.
As regards other life in the universe, he made a crucial distinction between life (which could be just bacteria and microbes) and intelligent life. He reminded us that the early Church fathers speculated about the existence of other worlds and found this a “theological stimulus” rather than a problem.
As regards intelligent life he thought we were alone in our galaxy, but with billions of other galaxies out there who knows? In fact he thought it might be the nature of the universe that we’ll never know.
He pointed out that a message from us to the nearest other galaxy would take a few million light years, and any reply would take as long – “not an interesting conversation”!
The conversation on last Friday’s Leap of Faith (RTÉ Radio 1) were certainly interesting. Michael Comyn spoke with Fr James Martin SJ and Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers of the US Episcopal Church about the current upheaval in the USA following the awful killing of George Floyd.
Both were very critical, as I would be, of President Trump’s ill-judged and awkward gesture with the Bible outside that Episcopal Church and provided useful insights into the polarisation in the USA, but for diversity I would have liked to hear from a contributor who had a different perspective, and someone who would question why, as black (and all other) lives matter, such risks were taken during the protests, there and at home considering the ongoing presence of the life-threatening virus.
Pick of the Week
New! Defending Life
EWTN Saturday (night), June 13, 12.30am and Monday, June 15, 10.30pm
Many who support the effort to protect children in the womb are atheists. See how the Faith community can work productively with them.
Forgotten Heritage: Europe and Her Saints
EWTN, Monday, June 15, 8.30am and 9.30pm
Exploring how St Thomas More defended the role of conscience and how the state should not violate it.
BBC2, Friday, June 19, 11.20pm
(2014) Film chronicling the three-month period in 1965 which saw Dr Martin Luther King Jr lead a march from Selma to Montgomery in a bid to secure equal voting rights.