Superstar Tim packs 'em in with talk of sex, spots and crises
T here were long snaking queues of determined-looking pensioners everywhere around the RDS yesterday in a scene somewhat reminiscent of the first day of the Clerys Christmas sale.
For on the fifth day of the Eucharistic Congress, the lectures and workshops were all doing a roaring trade with volunteers forced to turn away disappointed pilgrims.
And undoubtedly the biggest box-office draw of the day was Fr Timothy Radcliffe, who was giving a talk titled 'Spirituality for Today, Suffering and Healing'. Such was the demand for seats at his lecture that the organisers arranged for his speech to be shown on a giant screen.
Fr Radcliffe is a bit of a superstar among the Catholic faithful. He's the only Englishman ever to hold the post of world leader of the Dominican Order since its foundation in 1216 and he has written several bestsellers.
Given that many clerical speakers tend to be learned and low-key rather than accessible and charismatic, it was easy to see why Fr Radcliffe has a following.
He spoke in an easy, simple way, interspersing his observations with flashes of humour (appropriate, perhaps, considering he bears more than a passing resemblance to the late Spike Milligan).
Speaking about the current crisis in the church in the wake of the clerical abuse scandals, he said: "If you look at the history of the church it's one damn crisis after another."
He spoke of how people face crises from birth "leaving the great maternal jacuzzi and struggling out into the world".
"And then you go through the crisis of puberty with men with spots and squeaky voices, and you go through the crisis of leaving home, and the crisis of death. And every crisis makes you more adult, more grown-up and closer to God," he added.
"I think it'll give birth to a church that will be quite new, less clerical, humbler, more grown-up," he said. "I sometimes think what we're living through puberty in the life of the church -- there's a lot of squeaky voices, a lot of pimples, a lot of thinking about sex all the time."
He added that his American colleagues made him a T-shirt which read: 'Have a Good Crisis'.
"For some mysterious reason I can't get into it any more," he joked to laughter.
Politicians have been conspicuously absent -- normally a gathering of thousands of people under the one roof attracts the denizens of the Dail like thirsty students to a free bar.
Yesterday morning Micheal Martin was spotted in the Main Hall, and a couple of TDs dropped by.
But the only politician -- or former politician to be precise -- taking part fully in proceedings was former Taoiseach John Bruton who was giving a lecture on 'The Christian Tradition in European Democracy'.
Unfortunately for John, his speaking slot of 7pm clashed with the Ireland-Spain match.
Another speaker generating interest yesterday was Derryman Richard Moore.
The founder of Children in Crossfire spoke of how his life had changed since he was blinded by a rubber bullet at the age of 10, and how he befriended the British soldier who shot him.
And in among the speakers was a rarity -- a woman.
Dr Maeve Louise Heaney has been a missionary with the Verbum Dei community. She teaches about the role music plays in faith.
But women always find ways of enjoying themselves. On one bench, two nuns were tucking into a couple of snack boxes.
It looked a lot tastier than a few loaves and fishes.