The past week has in many respects felt like a “checkpoint” for Teach Bhríde. While it’s somewhat hard to believe, this week marks two months since we arrived in Wexford. Our first two months have flown by, and have been filled with countless blessed and wonderful experiences, moments of laughter and prayerful reflection, and the formation of many terrific new friendships. This past week has also been the week of the Wexford Opera Festival, and the town has been filled each day and night with incredible operas, concerts, “singing and swinging” pub events, art exhibitions, and other festivities. Schools have been off for the week, and most everyone else was off for this past Monday’s bank holiday. The holiday week has given Teach Bhríde, as well as much of Wexford, a chance to relax and catch our breath after a busy start to the autumn, and the week has also blessed us with an opportunity to enjoy some tremendous performances and community festivities. It has allowed us to rest, catch up with friends and family, clean up parts of our lives that may have been cluttered or neglected due to everyday hustle and bustle, and for Teach Bhríde, to reflect on our first two months here in Wexford.
Since arriving in Wexford, the four of us in Teach Bhríde have been tremendously blessed with blossoming friendships with each other as well as with the wonderful community members of Clonard. We have experienced the joys and difficulties of ministry and living in community, and possibly some pangs of homesickness as well. I think we all share the sentiment that we have experienced a deep enrichment of our faith lives through the experiences we have shared with each other and the Wexford community. As we look forward to the month ahead and then the following season of Advent, we are excited and energized by the new ministries and experiences that God will bring our way, perhaps a bit nervous for some of them as well, and also maybe looking with trepidation towards wetter and colder weather as winter settles in.
These extended periods of rest serve as important times for us to reflect on where we are in our vocational callings, our relationships with others, and most of all, in our relationship with God. Times of reflection allow us to remember all that God has led us through, and prepare ourselves to stay close to Him through our upcoming pursuits and challenges. I thought that a reading from this Thursday’s liturgy offered a great reminder of the protection and guidance that God provides us:
“After saying this, what can we add? If God is for us, who can be against us? Since he did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for the sake of all of us, then can we not expect that with him he will freely give us all his gifts? For I am certain of this: neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nothing already in existence and nothing still to come, nor any power, nor the heights nor the depths, nor any created thing whatever, will be able to come between us and the love of God, known to us in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:31-32,38-39)
In taking rest from our normal work schedules and activities, it is wonderful and refreshing to revisit how God’s love is always with us offering guidance and protection. As we remember our recent triumphs and difficulties and look forward to those to come, it is important to remember that God has been and always will be with us, and that by remaining focused on his love and care for us, no adversity is too great for us to endure or overcome.
This past Sunday, a special mass was held at Rowe Street Church in celebration of the Wexford Opera Festival. The celebrant of the mass was Archbishop Charles Brown, the Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland and also a graduate of Notre Dame. His homily offered a similar message to that of the aforementioned reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, and focused on our need for the saving grace of God’s mercy. The Archbishop discussed how the idea of mercy “is at the heart of the Christian message” and how our response to God’s mercy is a deep, emotional experience similar to what we experience when we hear a beautiful piece of music. The Archbishop stressed that confessing our sins and brokenness before God and asking for His mercy is an essential part of our Christian mission. God’s mercy gives us new life; it allows us to recover from our mistakes and rediscover living life in full pursuit of God’s love. In our periods of rest, we are called to revisit the beauty, wonder, and strength of God’s mercy and the foundation it lays for a Christian life.
As we head towards a new month, the turning of the seasons, and for Teach Bhríde, continued exploration and growth in our ministries, God’s mercy allows us to emerge from our rest refreshed and ready to serve as witnesses to our faith with love and charity. May we always look to God’s mercy as a bedrock of our lives and a source of empowerment and courage in all our endeavors.