On Sunday, September 21st, I had the pleasure of preaching at two Services in Taney Parish, Dundrum, Co. Dublin. St. Nahi’s Church is located there and the parish was celebrating a weekend festival to mark the life of St. Nahi (Nathy) and his contribution to its faith story. I was pleased to be part of the occasion and am grateful to Canon Desmond Sinnamon and Rev. Niall Sloane for their warm and gracious welcome. It was great to meet many of the parishioners after the Services and good too, to meet a few Sligo people there!
Taney Parish is the largest Church of Ireland Parish in Ireland and there is a second church in the parish called Christ Church. Built about fifty years ago, it is a fine building and a very well-attended church.
The Gospel Passage recalled the often misunderstood story of the landlord sendng workers to his vineyard and, at day’s end, paying them all the same irrespective of how much time they spent at work. Union Rules did not apply! This is what I said ….. Hopefully it made some bit of sense!
O, who will plough the fields now
and who will reap the corn
and who will tend the sheep now
and keep them neatly shorn?
The stack that’s in the haggard
un-thrashed it may remain
since Johnny, lovely Johnny’s
gone to fight the king of Spain
These lines from “The Bantry Girls’ Lament” tell a story of loss and paint a telling picture of work left undone because the labourer has been re-deployed and much of what was taken for granted is now a real and pressing issue.
It is a pleasure to be here with you today and I thank you very much for your kind invitation. Indeed I know, Bishop Brendan Kelly, would have been happy to be with you but, due to prior engagements was unable to attend. I don’t presume to replace him but am content to stand here as a representative of the Diocese of Achonry who, like yourselves, places itself in the care of the prayerful St. Nathy – Naithi – Nahi. I read somewhere that he was not known for his buildings, teaching or preaching but rather for his piety – his sanctity – his desire to please God. I’d like to think our gathering here today is also pleasing to God and a genuine attempt to journey in the direction of piety.
Nathy’s Journey, history tells us, took him from Sligo to Clonard and back home again to take charge of Finnian’s Monastery in Achonry. His journey brought him into contact with Attracta, the Patroness of Achonry Diocese whose Monastic settlement in Killaraght is within a stone’s throw of my family home and parish of birth. St. Nathy is a name that has rolled from my tongue from an early age – St. Nathy’s College, Cathedral of The Annunciation and St. Nathy – local football teams, Nathy Brennan, an old school friend – Nathy, a familiar name. You say “Nahi” and though the pronunciation and spelling differ, in the heart and in faith, we speak of and remember a man from Sligo who shaped a church, left a legacy and made a difference.
Journey is at the heart of all we do. Travelling here this weekend, I was mindful of the new motorway that hastens the journey and leads us along a “straight path”. Its Toll Booth, the only reason to stop so that a few coins can be dropped into a waiting basket. That pause too, set to disappear now as more and more people will opt for tags and barrier free travel. We are, all of us, in such a hurry to get to our destination. I thought of Clonard on the way and how the new road leaves it to one side, not of course that Clonard has moved, but in a way we have moved around it – away from it. Nathy set out to go to Clonard – no motorway or toll bridge would have changed that. I suppose what I am saying is “Where is Clonard for us today?” Where do we need to go for that inspiration that took Nathy by the hand and led him back to Achonry so that a journey could begin? Are we willing to leave the motorway? Are we willing to spend time at the Master’s feet? We’re here now so we must be!
A few years ago I was in New York and I went to use the subway. I had a Metro ticket but when I put it in the turnstile it didn’t open the gate. I did it again but the gate denied me entry. I went to the station and checked the ticket. There was $18.00 credit on the ticket so I went to the booth and asked the attendant if there was something wrong with my card. “Swipe it” he said through that muffled PA system they use. I did but nothing happened. People were waiting behind me and I felt embarrassed. “Swipe it again” he hollered. I did and nothing happened. I was about to give up in frustration and, as if he could see my imminent departure he bellowed “Swipe it again – with aTTTTitude!” I did, I swiped that card with energy, frustration and urgency – the card displayed an $18 dollar balance. “You’ve paid for two rides in the last five minutes”, he said with a well disguised smile “and you’ve gone nowhere”. He opened the gate and let me through and shouted after me, as if there were only the two of us in New York, “Remember, you got to do it with attitude”!
There’s something about attitude in today’s Gospel passage. It’s not the amount of time we spend in the vineyard that matters. I’m convinced it’s the attitude that makes the difference. Gathered here today, I believe we determine our attitude. What does God want from us? This is Clonard! We have left the motorway and the rush for a while. What does God want from you? Where is he asking you to go? What words does he need to hear? Can we give him the time? Will we give him the time? A full day or the last half hour …. It makes little difference. The man in the booth at Penn Station was right “Remember, you got to do it with attitude”. The right attitude. The attitude that builds churches and shapes lives …. Not just for the day but for centuries.
The Bantry girls had every right to lament. When Johnny was away – with the real possibility that he might never return – there was a fear that work would not be done. There was loneliness that what was taken for granted and loved would be no more. There was work to be done. Who, they wondered, would do it? Clonard, Taney, Ballaghaderreen, Achonry, Gurteen, Dundrum could lament too but no, there is hope! We are here. We have heard his invitation and his call to go to the vineyard, from Clonard to Achonry, even at a late hour! And go, we will, with attitude – the right attitude. Nathy’s attitude.