I write this from the dusk of our last Monday here in Clonard, at the beginning of our last week here as a community. Even as we’ve begun the process of saying goodbye to the place that we have known and felt as home for the past year, the embracing of us, both as individuals and as a community, by the larger community continues.
Part of the struggle that I have felt most acutely comes from our assimilation into an existing parish community, a community where lives take place, and not simply my year-long period of service and learning. It is also a community where two previous groups of Teach Bhride-ers have served; I have struggled with living my own persona, and not simply being a faceless American musician (or a Dan Masterton look-a-like). I have followed not only in the footsteps of Carolyn, Martha, Chris, Clarisa, and Patrick, but in the footsteps of many parishioners of Clonard Church, both living and deceased. I have journeyed not only with Jessica, Dan, and Molly, but with all who make a sacramental home in the Church of the Annunciation.
There are several ways to break this tension – the struggle that I have felt this year. One can do their best to assimilate, or one can be accepted. My deepest gratitude this year has been for the occurrences of both, which is what I have found myself reflecting upon this last week in Wexford.
Yesterday marked the Ordination Mass of Fr. James Cullen and Fr. Pat Duffy to the priesthood, and it was a beautiful ceremony, blessing their vocation and service while also marking our vocations and baptized priesthood as the lay faithful. The confluence of my journey with those of Fr. Cullen and Fr. Duffy is perhaps suited to an “only in Ireland” style of story (where everyone knows everyone, either directly or through one degree of separation), but I will try my best to tell it through the vein in which I have been thinking.
Teach Bhride Season 1 met Pat Duffy at the time of his parish placement in Clonard for seminary formation; in fact, he was one of the first people that they met. Despite having never met Pat, my journey is caught up with his through the footsteps I have followed. I felt a certain peace and security in praying for and celebrating with Fr. Pat yesterday (as well as today at his first celebration of Mass in Clonard), for it reminded me to be grateful for the way I have been welcomed to Clonard by virtue of the ground laid by Carolyn, Chris, Martha, Clarisa, and Patrick.
I met James Cullen through a World Youth Day reunion at Glendalough in September, courtesy of Jessica’s pilgrimage to WYD with a group from the Diocese of Ferns. During an evening of craic and an early morning prayer walk, I had a good chance to talk with James (including the both of us trying to remember all the words to Salve Regina at 3:00 am, among other things). I promised to keep him in my prayers, and to see him at his ordination in June. Only a week ago, I realized that I knew James’s sister-in-law through the Menapians, the athletics club that has been an incredible family for me during my time here. In praying for and celebrating with James yesterday, I felt grateful for the ways in which I have joined and have been welcomed to the southeast of Ireland by the goodness of the people here.
The theme of the recent Eucharistic Congress in Dublin which comes to mind now as I wrap this post up was “Communion with Christ and with one another.” I am grateful for and humbled by both my struggles with finding my place in the community here in Clonard, and for the ways in which community was found; in the ways that communion was encountered. My gratitude and humility would be misplaced, however, if I left this place exactly as it found me, or took the goodbyes and signs of parting at a face value. I must recognize that my common journey with the people I have met here will not end with a parting of ways in a week’s time, but will continue ever on in the Eucharist, in a communal thanksgiving of sacrifice and praise that we share through time and space, in journeying together toward Christ.
I pray that you have a beautiful day: may God hold you in the palm of His hand by the embraces of those around you.