After a joyful (but exhausting) Christmas, some rest, and a lot of travelling, Brigid, Laura, Joy, and I have made it back to our cosy home in Wexford. All of us returned with plenty of stories to share about our travels. Brigid had returned to the States to spend the holidays with her friends and family, Laura travelled around Ireland with her family and visited parts of Scotland and England, Joy visited her former host family in France, and I had an incredible adventure with my brother who came over to travel with me through Rome, Munich, and Berlin. Our stories were made up of hugs from friends, struggles climbing muddy mountains, family jam sessions, and eating some of the best food the world has to offer. Amongst all the happiness and growth, however, there were also stories pertaining to the larger events that happened in the world; most recently, the Charlie Hebdo massacre in France.
Due to the lack of time, a television, and admittedly my own lack of determination, my knowledge of world news has been limited since I have arrived in Ireland. However, lately it would be pretty difficult not to have an ear and an eye to the media. In America, the issues related to the topic of race and law enforcement seem to be dominating headlines. In Europe, news addressing terrorism is circulating at a level that is reminiscent of 9/11 thirteen years ago. And as the professional media reports the many acts of violence and their aftermaths, the general public takes their opinions and arguments to the social media venues. The anti-religious blame religion, the religious blame the non-religious, the people blame the government, the government blames other governments, and so on until it becomes a bottomless pit of pointy fingers that seems to beg you to climb right in.
Fittingly, the topic Fr. Denis chose for his homily on our first Sunday back was ecumenism, and he brought up the opinions towards Muslims that are circulating due to the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. He explained, in a wise way that seems to come best from an old Irish priest, that as a Catholic and Christian community, we also know how it feels to be judged for the actions of the radical few. He brought up the example of London during The Troubles; when stating that you were Prostestant or Catholic meant to an outsider that you were “one of them” who was capable of murder or setting a car bomb despite the reality that most would never be capable of doing such an act. He made the point that, despite our differences in beliefs, most religions still promote a culture of love in our everyday lives and strive to worship and serve God in the ways they know how. Just because the evil acts of the radical few get the most attention, we must not allow them to become the face of the community.
So, though there are many problems that seem to be troubling the world at the moment, I thankfully report that, Wexford county, our beloved Clonard Parish, and our home here at Teach Bhride remains a place of relative peace and understanding. Our prayers go out to our peaceful religious brothers and sisters who are facing heavy criticism at this time, the communities who have been directly affected by recent acts of violence, and for the transformation of those responsible.