Slán Go Fóill!

It’s Biz here with one last post from House of Brigid Dublin this year!

Emma and Geoff have both left the house and so it’s me going solo for the next few weeks in Harolds Cross. The past few weeks have been filled with teary goodbyes to them and to our lovely little home and community here in Dublin.

I wear my heart on my sleeve when it comes to goodbyes so I’ve shed quite a lot of tears watching each of us leave one by one. And the fact that I have to say goodbye myself in just a few weeks breaks my heart.

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My family here in Ireland

But what I’ve come to realize is that it’s not a “goodbye.” It’s a “see you later.” It’s a “goodbye for now,” which translates into one of my favorite Irish phrases I’ve learned this year, “Slán go fóill!” I love it because it reminds me that even though these goodbyes are painful and sad, it’s only a goodbye for the time being. I’ll always have the friendships and relationships from this year in Ireland. And I’ll always be able to call Harolds Cross my home. I know I’ll be back to visit soon enough and who knows, maybe I’ll be lucky enough to live in Ireland again!

I just wanted to take a moment to thank each one of you who has prayed for and supported us this year both in the States and in Ireland.  It’s been such a spectacular year full of laughs, adventures, prayer, and growth. I’m so grateful that I was given this amazing opportunity to make a home here in Ireland. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.  Know that you will be in my prayers always.

Slán agus beannacht,

Biz

jIsajAt
Words of wisdom from my favorite childhood bear

Hope in a Broken World

“Wherever you turn your eyes the world can shine like transfiguration. You don’t have to bring a thing to it except a little willingness to see.”

-Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

Yeah, the Easter Holiday was pretty magical (Assisi, Italy).
The Easter Holiday was pretty magical (Assisi, Italy).

Time has been flying by here in Wexford. In the last month we’ve returned from Easter holidays, coordinated 4 retreats for our Confirmation students, 2 First Confession services, 2 Confirmation liturgies, 3 First Communion liturgies, participated in a week-long parish pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, and sadly had to say goodbye to Megan as she returned to the US to begin her graduate studies in education. Around the corner is the celebration of Fr. Denis’ 50th Anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood as well as a live-to-TV nationally broadcast Mass with the Clonard Folk Choir on RTÉ.

Phew.

It’s often hard for these moments not to blur together in my mind. There’s so much going on, you move from one event to the other wondering where the time has gone, and then the opportunity to dwell and reflect upon these experiences passes. But then a group of 50 eight-year-olds in tiny suit jackets and dresses sing-shouts a song about the Last Supper as they receive the Body of Christ for the first time:

Before His death, Jesus surrendered Himself, pouring out His life for all, giving hope to a broken world.”

If this past month has shown me anything, it’s that God continues to provide the same hope to this broken world that He gave to it in the sacrifice of His Son. We live in both turbulent times –  matters of social injustice, terrorism, and unrest – and divisive times – differing views on politics, religion, and social standards. As Christians who live in the promise of Christ’s return and the glorious peace of the Kingdom, it can be hard to hold onto the hope of Jesus’ death and resurrection in light of the darkness our world experiences today.

How does Teach Bhride - Wexford escape the world for a little bit? By hiking in the Pyrenees, of course.
How does Teach Bhride – Wexford escape the world for a little bit? By hiking in the Pyrenees, of course.

But take those 50 students from Kennedy Park at their First Communion, for example. Their sing-shouting was but one example of the wide-eyed curiosity and joy that these children showed Madeline and I all year-long in the classroom and in the church. They were SO excited to receive Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time. That’s hope in a broken world.

Rewind a few weeks from there to 4 days worth of Confirmation retreats by the seashore at Ballyvaloo. Prior to these days, we had only been with these students in a classroom setting. For the first time, we got to witness them share in small group discussions, and meditate in prayerful silence. And these boys and girls are twelve years old. That’s hope in a broken world.

Then on their Confirmation day, I sat at the piano as out of the corner of my eye I saw the bishop seal each of them with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. All the while, a choir of 50 students who in January didn’t want to open their mouths were singing “Send Us Your Spirit” and “Lead Me, Lord” with such strength you’d think they wanted to be in a church choir every day. That’s hope in a broken world.

And then there’s Lourdes. My God, Lourdes… I don’t even know where to start. For those who have been there, you know what I mean. For those who haven’t, there is just something about the place. In this little French town nestled in the foothills of the towering Pyrenees is a peace and presence that puts your heart and mind at rest. Sitting by the grotto, maybe with a rosary in hand, as the river Gave de Pau calmly rushes by with a beautiful teal water from the mountains: that’s hope in a broken world.

The Grotto underneath the Basilica of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception along the Gave de Pau.
The Grotto underneath the Basilica of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception along the Gave de Pau.

Waiting in line at the baths, the infirmed are brought by wheelchair and even by stretcher from great distances across the globe to be cleansed in the waters of the grotto spring. They come in hope of healing, but also with an understanding of what Our Lady said to St. Bernadette: “I cannot promise you happiness in this life; only in the next.” Yet they persevere. That’s hope in a broken world.

Then every night hundreds to thousands of people gather at the Sanctuary as the sun sets. Following a statue of a Mary, all carry lit candles and recite the rosary in procession around the grounds. Each “Our Father” and “Hail Mary” are said in a myriad of languages, representing the (small ‘c’) catholicity of the crowd that has assembled that night. Then in-between each decade, a hymn is sung. Often it is “Immaculate Mary” (known as “The Bells of the Angelus” in Ireland). Just like the rosary, the verses are sung in a diverse array of languages. But then comes the chorus. United in full heart and voice, a powerful “Ave! Ave! Ave Maria!” erupts throughout the Sanctuary as all elevate their candles into the sky. That’s hope in a broken world.

The nightly Marian Procession at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes.
The nightly Marian Procession at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Days can slip by so quickly just like this past month has shown me. It took the innocent childlike joy of a group of eight-year-olds to snap me out of a daze and pay attention to the world around me. Yes, our world can be dark and troubling. And yes, our lives and experiences can get tiring. But I’ve learned that if I don’t “stop to smell the roses,” I will never be able to recognize the hope in our broken world – the hope and promise of Easter joy, peace, and glory.

Peace,

Alex

How Can I Keep From Singing?

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How can I keep from singing?

Each Saturday around 7:40pm, I look down at Geoff Burdell’s hands.

As we sing the closing hymn, I dart my eyes from Fr. Gerry’s exit to Geoff’s hands. All while harmonizing, we communicate with a fist signaling the end is near or holding up the final verse number. This week, when I signaled a fist, Geoff held up a 3. We went for that final verse.

Have you ever stared a silent, closed-mouth person in the face whilst encouraging them to sing? It’s an awkward, uncomfortable experience for me. So, when Geoff held up that 3, my stomach twisted. Fr. Gerry had left, the congregation wanted to leave, but I was staring at them, encouraging them to pray with us in song for one more verse.

How can I keep from singing?

During college, when I sang the hymn, “How Can I Keep from Singing?”, the thought of not singing in Mass baffled me. Prayer through music brought me joy as it provided a proper expression of the gratitude I felt. It provided a melody to physically manifest the ebbs and flows of life. How could you keep from singing?! In the reality of living among a new community, within a new congregation, and in a new country, this question has been marinating in my mind all year.

We are kept from singing because it lengthens an already “chore” of an experience. We don’t like to sing. We don’t want to sing. We want to go home. We want to have brunch. We want to watch whatever sporting event has already started. We don’t know how to sing or the music is too difficult to follow. Whatever the reason, a once rhetorical question now has many answers.

“Through all the tumult and the strife, I hear the music ringing. It sounds and echoes in my soul. How can I keep from singing?”

During the Gospel this weekend, if you attend one, two, or four Masses like the Dublin House of Brigid members, you walked on the road to Emmaus. In one of my favorite passages, Catholics are called to ask themselves: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

Recognition of joy can start within. Who nurtures your heart? Where do you go to find peace and solace? What makes you laugh and cry with happiness? When does your heart burn within you?

Whether it comes through music or movies, it is a gift to feel joy. As a woman of faith, I am called to understand God as the source of this joy, this love, this burning heart. Much like the two on the road to Emmaus, however, I can alter my vision, and be kept from seeing God. I am kept from singing. In a world of violence, mercilessness, and impatience, it is easier to end the song early. In a world that gives us plenty of reason to doubt our voices, our faith challenges us to sing, to proclaim that death does not have the final word.
When faced with the option, always sing verse 3. How can we keep from singing?

Introducing the Community for Teach Bhride IX

Hey everyone! Bernadette here, updating you on next year’s House of Brigid members! Back in February, I was lucky enough to join Sr. Mary Rowesome, Fr. Barry Larkin and Fr. Bill Dailey back at Notre Dame for the interviews of Teach Bhride candidates. We had an outstanding group of applicants which made the process of discernment so difficult. After some finalizing, we can now announce our group for Teach Bhride IX!

Wexford Community

Jim Corcoran

James Corcoran is a native of Philadelphia, PA. In May, he will be graduating from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in Theology. While at Notre Dame, he has been a member of the University of Notre Dame Folk Choir and currently serves as its president. He has been a blogger and copy editor for the Church Life Journal in the McGrath Institute for Church Life. He is also a composer, primarily of liturgical music. Next year, he will serve in Wexford! After his year in Ireland, he will attend Yale Divinity School to receive an MDiv. He is so excited to serve the people of Ireland, to learn about them and their spirituality and grow in his faith. He is also incredibly eager to try rissoles and chips—a Wexford delicacy—which seems like a bit of the heavenly banquet fallen to earth. 

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Maureen Daday

Maureen Daday will be graduating from Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, IN with a degree in music with a focus in violin. She is the youngest of six children from an Irish-Catholic family from outside Chicago. Throughout college, her main activity was being part of the marching band at Notre Dame, where she played the marching French horn. She studied abroad in Maynooth, Co. Kildare and is extremely excited at the chance to be back in Ireland!

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Sara Fecko

Sara Fecko grew up in the suburbs of Chicago in a faith-filled family where a love of music ran rampant. Both music and faith have been highly influential in Sara’s life since then, especially during her time at Loyola University Chicago. Sara is studying Music, Chemistry, and Catholic Studies, and will be graduating in May after performing in her senior vocal recital. Sara has been involved in a myriad of musical activities at Loyola including academic choirs, a praise and worship band, and cantoring in Madonna della Strada Chapel. She enjoys spending her free time singing with her quirky, food-loving, all-female a cappella group as well as working on her photography skills. In addition to being a music theory nerd, she loves traveling, spending time with her family, and meeting new people. While studying abroad in Rome, Sara recently learned how to make homemade pasta and can’t wait to share this new-found gift with others! Sara is thrilled to be able to immerse herself in a new culture and explore her faith in a new context by working with Teach Bhríde in Wexford.

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Bernadette Smith

Bernadette Smith will be returning to Wexford for a second year as House Director. In 2016, she graduated from Northern Arizona University located in Flagstaff, AZ with a BA in music and a minor in english. She grew up as the oldest and only girl in a very musical and loving family, which shaped her deep love for music and the Catholic faith. She was involved in a variety of musical experiences thus far in her career. She was a violinist in Northern Arizona University’s Symphony, as well as in The Verde Valley Sinfonietta. She served as the Director of Music for the NAU on-campus Newman Center for four years, where she developed her leadership and musical skills in the realm of ministry. She also played violin and vihuela in a Mariachi band! To this day, she loves playing music with friends and/or her younger brothers, whether for masses, weddings, or coffee shops! She is tremendously grateful for the chance to return to Irish life, knowing that God will do something beautiful as she continues to grow through liturgy and faith.

bernadette

 

Dublin

Caitlin DeLatte

Caitlin DeLatte will graduate from the University of Maryland, College Park in May 2017 with degrees in Music and Community Health and a specialization in Health Risk Behavior. She feels truly honored to have this opportunity to serve in Dublin, and looks forward to spiritually fulfilling work and community life with Teach Bhríde. Caitlin grew up in a musical household, with jazz influences from her parents’ New Orleans roots and a personal love of folk music. She has many fond memories of  singing improvised multi-part harmonies from the pews with her family during Mass and playing trumpet at home with her father and brothers. She is very grateful to her parents for instilling in her a love of travel and music, and for encouraging her musical adventures including tours to Austria, Germany, and Italy with the Peabody Children’s Chorus. During her time at the University of Maryland, Caitlin served on the Catholic Student Center Leadership Team with the Women’s Ministry and took part in interfaith committee, community service, and music ministry activities. She looks forward to bringing the lessons she learned from these experiences with her, and is thankful for the chance to grow in faith with the Teach Bhríde community.

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Kelly Koerwer

Kelly Koerwer will graduate the University of Notre Dame this May with a B.A. in the Program of Liberal Studies and Medieval Studies. She grew up in New Jersey on “The Shore” with her parents, her two brothers, and her sister. She was raised in a faith-filled and musical household where she was encouraged to use music to supplement her faith. Throughout her life she has sung in a variety of liturgical choirs, including the University of Notre Dame Folk Choir. At Notre Dame Kelly lived in Badin Hall and was highly involved as a member of the Liturgical Commission, planning the music for her dorm’s weekly masses. Kelly is absolutely thrilled to continue her Irish journey with House of Brigid. She first visited Ireland in the fall of 2015 when she studied at Trinity College Dublin for a semester and returned last spring for the Folk Choir’s Scotland and Ireland Tour. Kelly looks forward to spending the next two years serving the Catholic Church in a country she has quickly come to love.

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Ben Swanson

Ben Swanson will graduate this coming May from the University of Notre Dame with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy with a theology minor. He studied music and vocal performance for most of his college career but was unable to finish the major. He grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska and is blessed to have been raised by a loving mother and father with his six siblings. Ben fell in love with music singing hymns at mass and has pursued music and singing ever since. He was a member of the St. Teresa’s boys choir from a very young age, sang in choir all four years of high school, and has been a member of the Notre Dame Glee Club each year at Notre Dame. Ben loves singing, writing music, his Catholic faith, his friends and family, and Dr. Pepper. Ben is beyond grateful for the chance to bring his love of music to Ireland to serve the people there and spread the joy of God’s gospel.

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What a fantastic group! It’s obvious that in this upcoming year, House of Brigid will be truly blessed with great talent and eager hearts of service. We are immensely thankful that these individuals have pledged themselves to this program and will be contributing their many gifts to the Irish communities. What a promising year we have ahead of us!

As our current year continues and draws to an end soon, we will keep you updated on our latest events and adventures! Be sure to pray for each of the members of Teach Bhride VIII as we near the end of this beautiful time in Ireland.

 

In Christ,

-Bernadette

Fullness Reached Through Praise

Hello there!

I promise there’s a good excuse as to why it has taken me so long to post. Life has been FULL and BUSY, both of which are good. This past month alone I was lucky enough to have visited six counties (other than Wexford) all the while balancing the full swing of first communion and confirmation classes and choir rehearsals at Kennedy Park. Life at Conard is keeping us busy with preparation for the Easter Triduum, which means a lot of choir rehearsals, organizing binders, and learning new tunes. All good things, all good things.

Lucky for me, I work with second class students who remind me of simple ideas that shape our faith. While teaching them about the point of confession, I explained how in order to be who God is calling us to be, we must make our hearts clean (to be ready to receive what God has in store). This teaching point reminded me of a quote by Ann Voskamp. In her book “One Thousand Gifts”, she shares the art of thanksgiving, living the fullest life by choosing to live in the eucharisteo. How do we live in the eucharisteo? “Eucharisteo means ‘to give thanks,’ and give is a verb, something that we do. God calls me to do thanks. to give the thanks away. That thanks-giving might literally become thanks-living. That our lives become the very blessings we have received.”

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Can you imagine if we gave thanks for each ordinary and extraordinary thing in our day? What would we be saying to God if we did this? I’d like to think that by giving thanks we encounter the decision to choose two perspectives: acceptance and dismissal. I either recognize and accept said happening, or I pay more attention to my inner thoughts and dispositions to my surroundings. What about my days are easily dismissed? Where is my attention being drawn? Do I recognize the good in my day to day life? These were the questions I asked myself before I started keeping track.

I guess you could say this developed into a semi-late lenten practice, but one that I desire to continue after Lent, too! It was difficult to make an honest assessment of my end of the day rituals, but it was eye opening nonetheless. I found my habits had developed into something  to the extent of  drinking tea and reading and/or browsing instagram before going to bed. This wasn’t necessarily a bad habit, but one that I wanted to tweak. I decided it was an appropriate time to spend the end of my days giving thanks rather than doing any other activity. This requires me to give thanks for everything, not just those things which are noteworthy (like strawberry rhubarb crumble…thanks Fr. Denis).

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Taking on this challenge of giving thanks has actually been really enjoyable, especially when I’ve learned to appreciate many simple things. It has been a continual exercise of transforming the ordinary into extraordinary. I have learned to name my days as good, no matter how rainy or tiresome they may be. It’s not as though I’ve literally transformed by taking on this exercise, but training my mind to see my day with a hint of rose colored lenses has in fact aided my trust in God.

By giving thanks for ordinary things, we receive what is given to us from God, saying “thank you”, no matter how plain jane it may seem. Eventually we might learn to give thanks for the trying times.  When we do this repeatedly, we are recognizing God more presently than before, giving Him a chance to wow us with his love and shower us with even more brilliant details than we might have noticed before.

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To give you a few examples of what this has looked like, I thought I’d share with you a few ordinary and not so ordinary happenings of which I have given thanks:

  • Guests in the house, giving my community a chance to open our arms and our home
  • Kilkenny day trip to welcome the first day of spring
  • Greeting my sister, friend, and cousin in the airport upon their arrival to Ireland
  • Driving on the other side of the road for the first time
  • Looking up to find the dome of stars that aligned the sky so clearly while in Connemara
  • Explaining the Eucharist to my second class students
  • Receiving hand picked daffodils from our friend’s garden
  • Finding the sound system already set up upon my arrival to mass last night (thank you, Alex!)
  • Finding a counter of fresh tea leaves in Galway (make your way to the Secret Garden if you’re ever there)
  • Learning how to make Alfredo sauce for the first time (thanks, Megan!)
  • An unexpected phone call from a friend from home
  • An extended dinner with Bernadette and Peter while the others were away (thanks for the company (: !)
  • Receiving questions from the second class students, one of my favorites being “If God could have chosen to be anywhere in the world, why did He choose Wexford?”
  • Perfect, warm weather yesterday
  • The opportunity to serve our community throughout the upcoming Triduum this week

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Patience and practice are the hardest, most essential parts of transformation in thanksgiving. I have to be willing to make this transition to notice any change. I don’t expect myself to master this practice any time soon, but I’m looking forward to building my trust and thus my faith in God by honoring and giving Him a bit more credit than I have in the past.  Here’s to trying to live a full life by giving praise.

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“And when I give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, I make a place for God to grow within me.”  

Hoping each of you has a blessed and fruitful Holy week! Please pray for us!

In Christ, Madeline

The Gift of Exhaustion

“Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave, just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

-Matthew 20:26-28

During a routine daily mass sometime last week, Fr. Gerry committed a slight slip of the tongue that, as it would so happen, has been on my mind ever since. While preaching on Jesus’ exhortation to his disciples to be humble servants of one another, Fr. Gerry quipped, “those who humble themselves will be exhausted.” Exhausted? Quickly realizing his somewhat Freudian mistake, he immediately corrected himself: “exalted, I mean!” but the damage had been done; the word was spoken, and its truth unfurled in my mind for the rest of the mass, and indeed the rest of the week, as well.

Fr. Gerry and I exchanged a smirk with each other after mass, remarking wryly on the unintentional profundity that he had spoken. For although we in no way doubt the veracity of this great Christian paradox regarding humility and exaltation, is it not equally true that the one who continually humbles himself will find, more often than not, that he returns home each day utterly exhausted?

Initially, I had the vague notion that this inevitable tiredness was something to feel guilty for, as if the wariness incurred by my ministries somehow conveyed a lack of love, joy, or appreciation for the people that I had the privilege of working with and for in the parish.  Perhaps the romanticized notions I carried of “being filled” with the joy of my ministry led me to the inference that feeling drained somehow betrayed my ingratitude or insolence towards those that I attempted to serve.

Of course, experience in the parish has gradually taught me that this is not the case. Far from being  a mark of infidelity to Jesus’ exhortation to be humble, I am seeing more and more how the tiredness that comes from emptying ourselves is in fact an indication of our total oblation of self to the Lord and His people. That tiredness, too, is a gift if we allow God to transform it into one.

Truthfully, it is impossible to deny that I sometimes feel very tired after a long day of teaching, listening, singing, conversing, and nodding my head in sympathy, or condolence, or even just politeness. But in a funny and circular way, this very tiredness I feel is an added reminder for me to remain humble;  I am limited, and therefore not able to successfully “be all things for all people” as St. Paul so nobly describes (1 Cor. 9:22). Yet I am also reminded, in the same breath, that if “I do all of this for the sake of the Gospel, I may share in its blessings” (9:23).

During this season of Lent, as my housemates and I balance the constant stream of lessons and masses, sacramental preparations and house guests, festivities  and communal meals, and the maelstrom of everything else that comes our way, I remember in a poignant way Christ’s own fatigue arising from his temptation and fasting in the desert, and later, from his Passion and Cross.  That he came “to serve and not to be served” is my own fuel for the journey, for he reminds me through his own perfect example of love that those who humble themselves as he did will, in the end, be exalted (and exhausted, of course).

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Emma, Biz, and I were able to have a fantastic and festive St. Patrick’s Day celebration at our home last Friday, welcoming several of our friends over to share in the craic.

Yours,

Geoff

 

Fully Known in Love

Greetings from wonderful Wexford! The past month has been full of many exciting events including our lovely Brigid Service, our continuation with Sacrament Prep for First Holy Communion and Confirmation at the schools, interviews back at Notre Dame campus for the future fellows of our Teach Bhride family, and the annual Diocesan Workshop! The weeks leading up to this latter event required tons of preparation! The four of us welcomed the most participants that Clonard has seen thus far!  The structure consisted of a day-long workshop dedicated to prayer, song, conversation and reflection on Easter liturgical repertoire. We were incredibly thankful for the help of Steve and Michele Warner who joined us from Dublin and provided thought-provoking discussion, beautiful prayer, and helped lead the music for our Vigil mass that evening. It was such a successful day, and we were so lucky to lead such a lovely meeting of Irish liturgical musicians!

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After helping conduct the interviews back in the good old US of A, I was able to travel home for a brief visit to Phoenix and see my family just in time for my parents’ birthdays and my brother, Ezekiel, in his final performance of Fiddler on the Roof. He displayed an excellent Perchik. After being away for 6 months, I drove on the familiar side of the road, ate Mexican food (non-existent in Wexford), played basketball, and was able to sing with my entire family at the Sunday evening mass. Needless to say, being home was food for the soul and well-worth the jet lag!

family at fiddler

As we are officially moving forward into the season of Lent, I might as well share some of my pondering on the subject. We started on Ash Wednesday with Mass, where the four of us sang in the main church  and then after, split up to our two schools to continue the distribution of ashes. I was surprised by the excitement on the faces of the kids who eagerly wanted the ashes on their forehead. I realized while marking their tiny little heads and saying, “Repent, and believe in the good news of the holy gospel,” (about 300 times) that, while the ashes are an annual novelty and therefore exciting, the mark of sin in the black cross is a reminder of many things. Christ’s death for our sins, our own eventual death, even the need to fast and more deeply reflect on God’s sacrifice. I keep coming back to the reminder of human frailty, that we are but ashes and that our reliance on God is not only vital, but the key to our own internal happiness. I have always loved the season of Lent, not because I am a peculiarly dark person, rather, because these forty days within the year serve as a gift of time where one can finally dispel any deep lies that often circulate in our heads. Lies that come from the fear of what others think of you, of the unknown and what your future holds, of the idea that you won’t accomplish your dreams and goals, or the lie that at your core, you are not enough. We are given an opportunity to reflect on our own identities as they really are, within the world and in our hearts. It is a time to reflect on the source of Truth, who calls our name, signaling who we utterly are and, in His own ways, shows us the love that will help us grow out of our weaknesses.
I look at my identity, knowing that I wear many hats – Friend, Colleague, Minister, Daughter, Girlfriend, Teacher, Violinist, Sister, Singer, Catholic, American, Sinner, Child of God, etc. Easily, I am met with a multitude of doubts about which hat is the most heavy, which role am I wearing the most or the least. We all carry a certain amount of uncertainty when it comes to juggling our roles and means of service. One thing I have learned amidst the juggling is the beauty of a supportive and wholesome community, who will listen, sympathize, discuss with and console you in the moments of fear or stress. I have seen my community members be vulnerable, be strong and true as they carry out their roles in ministry and in their own interior lives. I’ve also felt myself be exposed to their love in various ways, and I am very humbled to know them. I’d like to think that God sees each of our struggles as a means to communicate and console us in a similar fashion. When we are honest in our frailty or doubts with one another and with God, we are free to lean deeper into love that is fully aware and fully salvific. We are free to feel unabashed, once we have been known. Like Bernadette Farrell so beautifully composed – “O God, You search me and You know me. All my thoughts lie open to Your gaze,” – we all have an intrinsic need to be known fully, in all of our identities and with a full account of our successes and failures. I am very grateful to have housemates and a community that bolsters and cherishes one another. I pray for anyone who may feel unable to share in the love of a community like that. I also pray, and ask for others to pray, for our community in the remaining months when we are present in Wexford, Ireland- that our work may speak of God’s goodness and our may hearts rejoice in the gift of this ministry.

 

Become Like Children

Greetings from Harolds Cross! This past week has been filled with excitement and anticipation for the second classes’ First Penance this past Tuesday. After weeks of memorizing prayers and examining their consciences, the students all gathered in the church for the big moment.

The service went exceptionally well! The children and their parents were reverent and patient while each student went to Confession. Part of our role during the service was to facilitate the lines for Confession.

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House of Brigid Dubin visits Newgrange! It was amazing to see something so old!

While each child was somewhat nervous while waiting in line (some more than others), the best part was watching them leave the confessional. They all had huge smiles on their faces and walked with confidence back to their parents. The last student to go started skipping as he made his way off the altar. He gave his parents a big thumbs up as he ran to give them a hug. It was such a special moment to watch.

We’re very lucky and privileged to be able to witness a lot of these special moments of childlike faith. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells us to “accept the kingdom of God like a child.” Over the year, this has started to make more sense to me as I witness the beautiful faith that these children have. It’s pure and it’s simple.

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My mom and I had the best time traveling around Ireland over the holidays!

They way they understand God’s mercy and love is amazing. One of my favorite moments while preparing for Confession was when we were talking with the students about how we feel after we do a bad thing. One student raised his hand and said, “When you keep a bad thing in or a bad secret, then your tummy starts to hurt.” Another great moment was when we asked the students how they felt after they left Confession and one student responded by telling us that he felt more “responsible” afterwards. It’s moments like these that bring smiles to our faces and warm our hearts.

These children have so much to teach us about our faith. It’s important that we don’t write them off because they’re young, but instead listen to them because you never know what bit of wisdom is going to come out of their mouth next! Jesus really knew what He was talking about when He told us to have childlike faith.

Slán go fóill,

Biz

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Spending quality time in the sacristy with my two favorite Irish dogs: Missy & Boris!

Sing a Song of Brigid

I remember last February 1st very well. I woke up, groggily made my way to the microwave in McGlinn to make a cup of tea. Sitting on top of the microwave was a woven Brigid Cross. I remember being so shocked and amused at this little discovery, this little accidental symbol, that crossed my path. It shouldn’t be so surprising, after all it was the feast of St. Brigid and St. Brigid was the patron saint of my dorm and a huge portrait of her hung in our lobby. But, it was also the day that my House of Brigid application was due so this cross seemed to resonate with me in a deep way.

 

It’s funny, a year later, living my life in Ireland now, to look back at that Brigid Cross on the microwave and think about the way that St. Brigid would come to situate herself into my life. For the past few weeks, it seems that here in Wexford we’ve lived and breathed Brigid.

brigid service

Three weeks back, we traveled out to a farm where we were joined by a local family to cut rushes (a reed like plant). After cutting them, we spent a week trimming them and making them look a little less wild. Then began a blur of cross making. We made them at work while listening to musicals, at home in the evenings while watching Ryan Gosling movies, and finally all day at Father Dennis’s house with 30 others. All together we made 500 crosses. It sounds repetitive and tiresome, but there was something so meditative about weaving. The care and time it took to make each cross was productive in slowing down the body and mind. There was something so wholesome and fulfilling about cutting the reeds ourselves and seeing them become crosses. I began to feel as if in the process of making the Brigid crosses, I inherited a bit of Brigid’s tenderness and earthiness.

reeds

Beyond just making crosses, my affinity for Brigid grew through our preparations for the Brigid service. Bernadette and I went to the blessed well for St. Brigid at Terrerath. The small pilgrimage helped us explore the Irish tradition of blessed wells, as well as see the way that Brigid is such a prominent saint in the lives of the Irish. And well, there is something about drawing water from well that puts one in touch with the simplicity and life giving qualities of water.

well

 

During the week leading up the ceremony, we learned songs about Brigid and about creation. We decorated the alter with symbols of nature, the elements, and Ireland. We bottled blessed water and prepared “brat-bhríde” (Brigid’s cloth). We rehearsed a children’s play about St. Brigid and how she cured lepers. I spent time in reflection and prayer, reading various insights about Brigid. In addition, I worked to choreograph a dance to perform at the Brigid ceremony.

brigid alter

It was as I was standing on the stage, dressed as Brigid for the children’s play, that I was struck with a thought- Brigid is basically the coolest. She has these moments of profound peacefulness and this extensive connection to the earth. But she has moments where she is well… a total badass (I mean really, this girl plucks her own eye out to prove a point). Brigid is both a princess and a slave, an abbess and the kind of person who turns a water into beer. I look to Brigid with awe for her bravery, her confidence, but also her compassion and peace. I felt a swell of pride that I could stand in her shoes, just for the short two minutes of the children’s play, to embody a woman who is both so otherworldy, but so connected to creation.

house of brigid cross

I think often of the cross on the microwave just before this whole journey began. I think of how often I’d pass her portrait in the lobby of McGlinn. This same painting hangs in our house now. During daily mass, rehearsals, and any other time I find myself in the day chapel in Clonard, I find myself staring the Brigid tapestry on the wall- the lively colors and fabrics that tell her story. I think about how many times my life has crossed with St. Brigid so that she has now wound herself into my life. I like to think that she was guiding me here to Teach Bhríde. I like to think she’s been a companion on this journey with me.

well trinkets

Here’s to the Fools Who Dream

After a restful holiday of travels with family and friends and time on retreat with Fr. Pat Reidy, C.S.C. and Steve and Michele Warner, we House of Brigid fellows are back at it again in our respective parish communities of Harold’s Cross and Clonard. For the four of us here in Wexford, that doesn’t mean that we haven’t taken some extra time to relax and unwind in these days of settling back in, though. This week we headed to the local cinema to witness the craze surrounding the winner of a record 7 Golden Globes: La La Land. Minor spoilers to follow, but if you haven’t seen this movie yet, you should get on that ASAP.

Teach Bhride VIII on retreat with Fr. Pat, Steve, and Michele (nice work, Geoff)!
Teach Bhride VIII on retreat with Fr. Pat, Steve, and Michele (nice work, Geoff)!

La La Land is a modern story with all of the nostalgia of a movie musical from the golden age of Hollywood. It follows Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a struggling jazz pianist, as they seek to achieve their dreams of making it big in Hollywood. It is ultimately through their relationship with each other that they find the courage to persevere towards their respective dreams and renew a sense of each of their own identities. The film, in all of its refreshing fun and catchy music, conveys a number of profound truths about human life, including dreams/goals/ambition, identity, and relationships.

Towards the end of La La Land, Mia is in an audition where she shares the story of her aunt, who she recalls as a dreamer. In a number aptly titled “Audition,” she sings: Here’s to the fools who dream, crazy as they may seem. This, and much of the plot of the movie, got me thinking: where would we be without the foolishness to pursue a dream a little bit?

"La La Land," written and directed by Damien Chazelle and starring Ryan Gosling & Emma Stone.
“La La Land,” written and directed by Damien Chazelle and starring Ryan Gosling & Emma Stone.

I’m often a rigid, logical, straightforward decision maker. Practicality and efficiency typically govern my choices. Just about one year ago, with a seat awaiting me in medical school and my plans to become a doctor cruising along, I was a fool to think that I could delay these plans. But there was something in me dreaming of the opportunity to go back to Ireland, a place I could call home from my time in 2014, to serve the Church, an institution, people, and faith that has shaped who I am. Through much time in prayer, reflection, conversation with trusted friends and family, I couldn’t avoid this dream that had been planted in my heart. I applied for a one year deferral of my entrance into medical school – something which is rarely given – and it worked out.

For those college seniors and other young adults discerning future plans, and perhaps even applying for the House of Brigid, don’t be too concerned about your foolishness to dream. Some of the greatest moments that touch our lives and the life of the world come from those who not only dare to dream, but also dare to pursue a dream. Through much prayer and discernment, we may come to realize that some of our dreams are seeds planted in our hearts by God. People in our lives and our own relationship with God help to water the seed, and push us to follow where the dream leads. It is through leaps of faith and each other, that Mia and Sebastian find their dreams to come true. But none of this comes without the courageous foolishness to dream in the first place.

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as Sebastian and Mia.
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as Sebastian and Mia in “La La Land.”

Finally, where would the House of Brigid be without our fools (meant in the most lovingly of ways to the following individuals) and dreamers? Without Msgr. Denis Lennon? Without Steve Warner? Without Carolyn Pirtle? Without John and Ann Calcutt? And many others too, of course. The House of Brigid program exists because of those who had the courage to dream of a new opportunity to answer God’s call to love and serve.

To Fr. Denis, Steve, Carolyn, John and Ann, and many others: thank you for your trust in the Lord and the guidance of St. Brigid, and that crazy feeling that your dreams might just work. I wouldn’t be here in this place without any of it. To my mom and dad, siblings, other family and dearest friends: thank you for encouraging me to “foolishly” take the risk of delaying medical school to be here. To you who are applying to the House of Brigid and other programs and jobs following graduation: thank you for your courage to take a leap of faith, and trust that your dreams ultimately come from the quiet, loving whisper of the will of God. To all of you fools who dream: here’s to you.

Just us living in La La Land.
Just us living in La La Land.

Slán go fóill,

Alex

Catholic young adults serving the Church in Ireland