(The lines that follow are based on a few words shared at Masses here in Kilmovee Parish last weekend as we celebrated All Souls’ Day)
Many years ago I was coming out of Gurteen with my nephew. He was maybe four or five at the time. We passed by a house where a local man had a lot of machinery; diggers, low loaders, tractors etc. My nephew, Bill, looked at the machinery and then said to me: “Vinnie, which would you rather be – a priest or a machine driver?” I said “Ah, I think I’d rather be a priest Bill”. He continued to look back at the machinery and he said “Yeah, but if they had Hitachis when you were a young fellow, which would you have been?”
I’ve no doubt he’s forgotten that conversation but I haven’t! I often think about these moments of innocence and wonder. I think too of the fascination young lads, like Bill, have with diggers and heavy machinery. Quite often these are numbered among their first toys. Maybe it’s something to do with the size of them. They’re so much bigger than the car. Often they are brightly coloured – yellows, blues, oranges and the lettering on them is huge too. HITACHI in big bold lettering. Everything about them speaks of power and strength.
Maybe too it has something to do with the fact they can break open the ground. That’s what the digger does. Solid ground opens to its touch and work can begin. Always there’s a purpose to the breaking of the ground. Maybe it’s a ditch between two fields that’s knocked to make for a bigger field. It might be a hole for a well or the first opening of the ground to pave the way for the foundation of a new home. I remember Jim Fahy on the top of Barr na Cuige, asking Monsignor Horan what he was doing “I’m building an airport Jim, but don’t tell anyone”!! In the background a digger clawing its way into the earth so that the work could commence and be continued. Diggers, machinery – powerful and strong – open the ground and, always, with purpose.
In this month of November we recall the opening of the ground in many of our cemeteries to receive the reverenced bodies of people we’ve known and loved who have died. There’s a purpose in these openings as well. Machinery, more often than not, gives way to the local gravedigger or a family member, neighbour or friend who with shovel, spade and pick, open the ground with purpose. It’s a necessary opening that speaks of respect, reverence, grief and faith. We remember at this time, those for whom the ground has been opened and pray they know lasting peace. It’s a very raw memory for many who are still coming to terms with a recent loss. For others, it’s a call to remember an anniversary with a prayer or name on a November list. For all, it’s a reminder that we continue to be in relationship, in communion with those gone before us.
I recently read words from St Paul. (1 Corinthians 15:35-37) I don’t recall reading them before though I must have done. They came in the context of people asking Paul what form the resurrection of the body takes. What shape? What will we see again? Paul’s answer is very direct. He says it is a “stupid question”! He goes on to say that the seed planted in the ground bears no resemblance to the crop it produces. The glory of the crop far surpasses the planted seed. Think of a bunch of flowers. Look at their colour, take in their smell and then consider the seed from which they came. The seed, though essential, gives way to the glory and beauty of the grown crop or fruit.
I have to say I found these words very helpful to me. In recent years I have often wondered about my parents. I believe I will see them again but wondered what form they will take. What version of them will I see? Is it the parents I knew at the time of their deaths or younger versions? I didn’t know them in their absolute youth or prime so what will I see? Paul’s words have helped me realise I will know them for who and what they are. The people who gave everything for me but I’ll see them in a way far more spectacular than I could ever imagine. I’ll know them from the seed – from the planting, from all that bound and continues to bind us as one but in a way I could never imagine. The seed gives way to the flower.
We remember then all gone before us. We remember the necessary opening of the ground – an opening with purpose and pray God’s rest for all those we have known and loved. We pray increased faith for ourselves as we continue the journey of life.
I looked for the clip from Barr na Cuige and came across this. Ground well broken!