I’m a day late getting to my Log this week (I still can’t convince people it’s a log and not a blog, or as one of our elderly members in the Passionist community referred to it – a blob). Still, I will persevere in my technophobia and insist that it’s a log, as in Captain Kirk’s Log from Star Trek. It’s been a really busy week, hence the day late, and the Gospel for today is about Jesus healing a man who is deaf.
I remember well sitting around the dinner table at Mount Argus in Dublin a few years back, where a very animated conversation was going on. One of the senior men seated beside me was obviously struggling to keep up with it and he turned to me and said, “it’s a curse to be deaf”, and, despite all the wonderful people who were deaf, and more than compensated for it by doing extraordinary things, for example Beethoven, arguably the greatest composer of all time, and Thomas Edison, inventor of, among many other things, the phonograph and the light bulb, it can be a real curse to be deaf, which I have experienced in a small way through a regular struggle with an excess of ear wax.
I was also reminded of an incident back in 1988. After a 3-year stint in St. Mungo’s after ordination, I was asked to go into Formation Ministry, working with aspiring Passionists in the early stages after they joined us. I spent 1986-87 doing a year’s training for this, and then I took up the position of Director of Postulants. In the autumn of 1987, I was involved in the setting up of a programme for postulants from many different religious orders, male and female. It was agreed that this course would take place in Mount Argus. In the inaugural year we were filled to capacity with 40 postulants plus their directors. They were a great bunch and the year went very well. Come the summer, when we were winding up, we decided to have a fun day out, followed by a buffet meal, to celebrate the end of the programme.
The fun part of the day brought us to a place called Clara Lara in County Wicklow, very near to the ancient monastic site at Glendalough. At one stage a number of us hired rowing boats to go out on the lake. I was in a boat with a couple of other religious priests and two religious sisters. One other boat was being rowed by religious as well, all directors on the course. All the other boats were full of postulants. Now, just because they were postulants with religious orders, doesn’t mean they were different from any other young students eyeing up an ideal opportunity to get one over on their teachers. All was going peacefully until the postulants in one of the boats decided that they were going to ram into our boat. As their boat came speeding towards us, one of the religious sisters, a very holy nun indeed, fully clad in her habit, panicked, screamed, and opted to jump for shore, which was only a few feet away. As she stood up and put her foot on the side of the boat, the boat toppled over, and we all ended up in the lake. Very quickly we were out of the lake, safe, but soaked to the skin.
The rest of the day was fine. We soon dried out and changed, laughed about it, and had a very enjoyable closing celebration. The next day, however, I couldn’t hear a thing. I let it go for a couple of days hoping it would clear up, but the experience was very isolating. On the third day (very biblical) I went to the doctor who reckoned I had picked up an ear infection from the lake water getting into my ears. He prescribed medication, but also sent me for some tests to the ENT department in the local hospital, just to be sure there was nothing more serious, which thankfully there wasn’t. It took a good couple of weeks to clear up completely, and I found being deaf a most unpleasant experience. So, ever since then, anyone with hearing difficulties has had my most sincere and profound sympathies.
They brought to him a deaf man… Jesus took him aside and put his fingers into his ears… Then, looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And immediately his ears were opened. (Adapted from Mark 7:31-37)