Notebook

Unstunted

In a review of The Letters of John McGahern, Emer Nolan, Professor of English at Maynooth, touches on the novelist’s sometimes fraught relationship with Seamus Heaney. Of Heaney she writes, ‘there is little sense in his work of having been stunted or damaged by Catholicism’ – as if this were exceptional. The remark is not malicious, simply bemused. That it should be thus says a lot about Irish Catholicism, indeed Catholicism in general, anno 2022. Examples of dysfunction and destructiveness in the Church are legion, alas; still, to present or tacitly (with guilt-induced breast-beating) to accept them as a norm is irresponsible and false. Over the past few days I have encountered two people who, independently of one another, spoke to me of the ‘explosion of life’ they have found as members of the Church and of the ways in which this explosion bears fruit in joy. I could understand what they were saying. I have known something similar, for which I remain profoundly grateful. It is important to share such experience, to talk about it. ‘Encourage one another!’ (1 Thess 5:11): A fundamental aspect of charity. ‘He who believes in me’, says Christ, ‘out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’ (Jn 7:38). Let the rivers overflow. Share the water generously.