Easter greetings from Wexford!
It’s been a while since our last posting because life for the Teach Bhríde crew has been a whirlwind since St. Patrick’s Day (which, for the record, was a delight–add to the list of your life goals “Spend One St. Paddy’s in Ireland” right now; you’ll thank me later). Chris, Martha, and I actually began St. Patrick’s Day on March 16: we attended the vigil Mass for the Solemnity of St. Patrick at Clonard Church, and the Mass was as Gaeilge (in Irish). I couldn’t understand a word, let alone follow the program since nothing is pronounced the way it’s spelled, but it was a great experience. On St. Patrick’s day itself, we attended the annual parade in downtown Wexford: bagpipers, local hurling clubs, dance teams, and other members of the community turned out en masse to celebrate their Irish heritage and honor St. Patrick. Seeing so many familiar faces in the parade really made us feel a part of the Wexford community.
On St. Patrick’s night, we boarded a bus with about 45 people from the Clonard Parish community and set off on pilgrimage for Lourdes. We traveled nearly 4000 km (almost 2500 miles) over a period of two weeks, and had an incredible experience visiting Lisieux, Cognac, Lourdes, Avignon, Freiburg, Rudisheim, Cochem, Bruges, and Wales. We made great friends with many of the parishioners on the trip, and had many memorable experiences of prayer and fellowship: Mass in the chapel of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Rosary processions at the Grotto of Lourdes, an outdoor Mass in the Pyrenees Mountains near the Pont d’Espagna, and even a beautiful Holy Thursday Mass on our bus when travels were delayed for the return to Ireland (complete with the singing of the Pange Lingua!). The entire experience was unforgettable, and we are so grateful to Fr. Denis and the people at Clonard for inviting us to be a part of the journey.
We arrived back in Wexford late Holy Thursday night, and the next day, we delved in to the celebration of the Triduum. Our choir provided the music for the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion at 3pm, and they had been ably prepared in our absence by the organist at Clonard, who even invited several more singers to join us. At key points during the reading of the Passion, children from the parish brought forward objects to create a beautiful display: a rope, a cloth that was torn in two before the congregation, a large crown of thorns, and a lighted candle that was extinguished at the moment in the narrative when Jesus dies on the cross. It was incredibly powerful. On Good Friday night, the parish community gathered again for the Candlelight Prayer Around the Cross, a beautiful service consisting of meditations on a few of the Stations of the Cross, supplemented with music and images projected via PowerPoint. It really brought us through the transition of being on the road to being back in the parish community, and helped us really enter more fully into the celebration of the Triduum.
On Holy Saturday, our choir was up again to provide the music for the Easter Vigil. I was a little bit nervous about this celebration, partly because we’d been gone for two weeks and partly because I’ve never attended an Easter Vigil in Ireland, but through the grace of God, the entire celebration came off without a hitch. We celebrated afterward with a well-deserved pint at a pub called The Wicked Swan (which is as awesome as it sounds), and celebrated Easter Sunday by singing with the Folk Group at the 11:15am Mass.
Afterward, a wonderful couple from the parish invited us to spend the day with them and their children, and we ate a delicious Easter dinner with a delightful family. It was really good for all of us to have the opportunity to spend time with a family for the holiday–it made being away from our own families easier.
Now it’s time to get back into the swing of things: over the next few weeks we’ll be helping with Confirmation retreats and rehearsals as well as First Communion preparations. In the meantime, I’d like to take the opportunity to thank our clergy at Clonard, our organist Éanna, our friend and Folk Group director Ruaíri, and everyone else who made our pilgrimage possible, and our Easter celebrations successful. I pray that the blessings of the risen Christ be with all of our friends, colleagues, and benefactors this Easter and always.