How Great Thou Whole New World

Nineteen songs. Just nineteen songs for seventeen scenes. (Would you say we’re into music?) And 13 children, 15 adults, a choir on the side, instrumentalists, lighting, sound, costumes, set, and lots of very enthusiastic cast members. All of the said elements are part of the make-up of Clonard Church’s first Passion play, set to be performed on Palm Sunday evening. Many evenings in the church have now seen the likes of a variety of ages, personalities, theatrical backgrounds, and musical knowledge. But while many of us began miles apart in the humdrum of our daily lives, we have begun to come together toward our one goal of piecing together the Passion of Jesus Christ through acting, song, dancing and speech on our makeshift stage (aka the sanctuary of Clonard). All involved have graciously offered their time and great talent to bringing Christ’s life and passion to the people.

Other exciting happenings this week included an “over 60s” party in the community centre, for which a few of us were amateur bartenders. We did manage to sneak away from the bar every so often, in between customers to fly around the dance floor, tapping our toes to “Galway girl” and singing along at the top of our lungs. It was a very merry gathering and one that makes me eager to be over 60 so that I can attend the party every year from now on! Ah well, I suppose age 23 will have to do for now.

This week could likely rival the President’s schedule in terms of events and meetings and such. We have six or six hundred Confirmation retreats, we have an OLI workshop, visitors from the stateside, passion play rehearsals, Lenten reconciliation services, ACE mass in Dublin, a Centering prayer workshop, a YSBMW Confirmation session, Nick’s entered a tight-rope walking contest, Nicole will be making ottomans and other furniture for next year’s house members, Molly will be painting glass vases, and I’ll be hunting for five-leaf clovers (there must be one somewhere). Okay, so some of those are just wishes, but who knows. Life in Teach Bhride has proven to be quite unpredictable sometimes.

I had a very special moment when I was reminded that our presence is known and appreciated in Clonard. I was sitting in mass one day last week and a little face popped up next to me, very shyly and sat down at the furthest edge of the pew, her feet several feet from the ground. Every few minutes, she would sneak a peek at me, smile, and then if I noticed, she would snap her head quickly back to gazing forward. When I folded my hands, she folded hers just the same. When I stood or knelt down, she would copy the move to a tee. When we walked up for communion, I showed her how to cross her arms over her chest and receive a blessing. And when we sang songs during mass, she would open her mouth and sing something. It may have been a Disney princess song, but she was surely singing. Her mom came up to me after mass and asked if her daughter could sit with me whenever they came to mass. I said absolutely she could and asked if there were any reason she wanted to sit with me. Her mom said, well, at first she thought you were a female priest the way you’d get up in front of everyone and lead the singing. (The term she actually used was “Girl Holy God”, but her mom thought it meant priest.) Then, her mom thought, I think she likes your sparkle…and you know, you have to have a quality within yourself before you can recognize it in someone else.  So her daughter and I sit in mass together, not quite on opposite ends of the pew anymore and we share our sparkle and sing our respective songs, whether that be A Whole New World or How Great Thou Art. But really, wouldn’t those songs go well together? “Oh Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the unbelievable skies and indescribable feelings and new, fantastic points of view.” Sounds like a pretty good fit to me. And it’s those special little moments that warm my heart and make me remember that there are always little faces watching us and folding their hands when we do and opening their mouths when we sing and kneeling down when we kneel. And the little faces are not necessarily always young little faces. Sometimes they’re just faces that need someone to look to for guidance. Sometimes the faces are in church, or in the town centre, or in another country altogether. And it’s great to reflect on that aspect of our ministry…the ministry of presence every once in awhile.