I travelled to Ireland last weekend to celebrate the Mass for the Golden Jubilee of Profession of a friend of mine which took place in the mother house of the Sisters of St. Claire at Ashgrove in Newry. It was a lovely, joyful and momentous occasion, and after a beautiful meal I was very impressed with the post-prandial entertainment prepared by the elderly nuns. It included singing, story-telling, recitation, poetry, jokes, a quiz, and ended up with some of the younger nuns leading a karaoke session of Abba songs. Sister Act had nothing on this. I have to confess that, in my experience, the nuns are much more adventurous on these occasions than male religious would be.
My friend actually lives in another convent which didn’t have the capacity to host the celebrations. Until recently this convent had belonged to the enclosed Carmelites and it sits in a quiet rural area a good bit out of Newry City. Being in a quite remote area they have had many problems getting decent telephone connection and also internet reception. Usually that wouldn’t bother me as I am a bit of a technophobe. I don’t do social media, this log excepted, and I have tended over the years to be late coming to the acceptance and acquirement of modern technological appliances. For many years after ordination I used to prepare sermons, lectures and retreat talks using longhand. I always felt there was a greater connection between my thoughts and my words when I did this but, ultimately, I gave way to word processing and then to computer. I had a similar resistance to getting a mobile phone and only succumbed when I inherited one from a member of our community in Dublin who died. I was also very reluctant to get a Kindle, being a voracious reader who loves the feel of a book in his hand. However, on my 60th birthday, I was given the gift of one, and I have to admit it has proved very useful, especially when travelling, although I still love the feel of a book.
I think this technophobia runs in the family. We came very late in the day to getting a television, preferring the radio and the Dansette record player and, even after we got one, my mother clung to black and white until it was no longer an option. She then clung to the conviction that four channels were more than enough to cope with, and anyone who has ever flicked through hundreds of channels to find nothing worth watching might tend to agree with her. It was only after she died in 2001, God rest her, that my younger brother decided to get satellite, but still to this day, he has stubbornly refused to get a flat screen and retains an old-fashioned television set that loses half the picture at the sides. Even my older brother, despite the fact that he is a journalist who must keep contact with people, has a mobile phone that his children and grandchildren call “the brick”, and he wouldn’t be interested in a smart phone.
Which brings us on to football – and my apologies to readers who have no interest in football whatsoever. I said that “normally” I wouldn’t be bothered with the lack of internet in the convent where I was staying. However, my days away coincided with the closing day of the transfer window in Scotland last Friday, and the Celtic v Rangers match last Sunday, and here was I out of contact with these important realities. On the Friday, even though it was a bit hit and miss, Brother Antony kept me going with regular text updates on the ins and outs at Celtic Park. On the Sunday, knowing that I don’t like to get updates during a match if I’m not able to watch it, Brother Antony texted me the final score when the game was over, which put the finishing touches to a very lovely and enjoyable weekend.
Of course, when God wanted to communicate He sent a Son. As it says in Hebrews 1 1-3:
Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word.