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!

workshop

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Waiting in Joyful Hope

One of the hardships of serving in a one-year program comes when you find yourself living with one foot out of the door. In November, I sat in Starbucks writing application essays and contacting old mentors for recommendation letters. Hardly aware of the names of streets around me or how to properly set our home’s heat timer, I was preparing to leave. In a state of life where the future is unknown, the speedy nature of time gives me little opportunity to pause and to hope.

 

To hope inspires a feeling of expectation, of desire, and a feeling of trust. Trust requires an opening of self and a sacrificing of certainty. Something Emma does not do well. I love list making, calendar reviewing, and triple checking. Control provides little opportunity to assign trust to another, to give trust to God and therefore hope for something through Him. In this ministry and in this transition of life outside of college, what do I hope for? Trying to balance a life of perspective and humility in my future, the task of hoping for something needs to turn towards God. We are called to hope in the Our Father each Mass, “In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.”

 

In Advent, I was allowed a chance to wait in this joyful hope. As we sang, “Wait for the Lord” each Sunday, the season reminded me of the beauty in expectation and the necessity to hand my trust over to God. My worries and anxiety needed to rest in God’s hands, in the outstretched arms of the baby in the crib. The world gives us many reasons to worry, to be anxious, to doubt. God gives us the Eucharist in order to be reminded of hope, and in order to see our lives anew with this hope.

 

If you are privileged to have many visitors, you perhaps, like me, may often find yourself waiting in the Arrivals terminal at an airport. In December, much like the opening scene of “Love Actually”, Terminal 2 of Dublin airport was full of people waiting in joyful hope. Reunions of moms with their sons, grandparents with their grandchildren, and friends with study abroaders left my eyes weepy. These reunions were such an authentic and truly raw demonstration of hope, of what it means to wait in this joyful hope.

 

One family in particular was holding a sign reading, “Welcome Home, Mom”. Two daughters, one son, and a husband grasped this sign and draped it over the barrier, waiting. As they saw their mother and wife, their faces beamed. They yelled and ran towards her, showering her with hugs. The children wiped tears away as the parents embraced. I wanted to know this family’s story. Perhaps the mom was gone for a week.  Perhaps the children, in her absence, didn’t always clean their room. I didn’t need to know the whole story to recognize the beauty of this scene. Whatever the case was, in this moment, love was present and hope was fulfilled.

 

We live as sinners, and yet are not denied the ability to receive God love and to live in hope for this love each moment. We, like this family and those waiting in Terminal 2, wait in joyful hope for our God. Each Mass, opportunity for Reconciliation, and moment of prayer, we have the opportunity to run into the arms of Christ and receive His embrace. 

Walking Slowly and Steadily

Hi readers!

Happy Last Minute-Post Office Lineup-Present Wrapping-ABC Family Movie Marathon-Christmas Extravaganza Week [otherwise known as the 4th week of Advent]! I know Christmas preparations have been in full swing for a while now. Here in Wexford, we’re preparing through reconciliation services, as well as Christmas Carol services for the local schools, extra choir rehearsals, and everything in between. It can seem nearly impossible to take time for stillness and prayer amidst the chaotic schedule, but I’ve luckily found a way around it in my own day-to-day-routine.

Each morning, I begin my day with a 20 minute walk to work and end my work day in a similar pattern. Although this could easily come across as an insignificant part of my day, it has turned out to be an important exercise. It forces me literally slow down my pace of life. Many steps allow for a few things: time, prayer, deep thinking, planning, preparing. These steps to/from work have created a new pattern in how I process my day. On the way to work, I prepare, on the way back, I reflect.

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This Advent, I’ve been using this time as a way to slow down my racing mind to a walking pace. Even though my calendar has been filled with travel, rehearsals, meetings, service preparation, and wonderful Christmas parties, the walk to work has become a good way to prepare the way for the day, as well as prepare the way for Christ to enter my day. I have found this has provided an abundance of grace, mostly because I have begun to acknowledge God’s presence amidst the chaos by slowing down my steps.

This pace of life has allowed me to gaze at the Wexford sunsets, to look back on my day and try to see little blessings that flowed through it, as well as the space to lift a prayer or two. God gives me His time, and in return, I’m trying to give it back to Him by preparing my path, making room for Him to enter the all too normal days of life.

There is something else I’ve gained from these small, patterned steps: time has allowed me to fully process this season of Advent. Until this year, I rushed through every Advent as if I was sprinting to the finish line (as most of us do). I hardly made any room for prayer, and God forbid I would put off my shopping list for moments of silence. Granted, it’s nearly impossible to slow down as a college student at the end of term, but it’s also difficult when you’re mind is constantly preoccupied by our consumer-driven society. In walking, there isn’t room to rush, but there is an invitation to silence  my heart and mind.

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I like what Ann Voskamp says about rushing through time: 

“Being in a hurry. Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing in front of me. I cannot think of a single advantage I’ve ever gained from being in a hurry. But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, lie in the wake of all the rushing…. Through all that haste I thought I was making up time. It turns out I was throwing it away.” -Ann Voskamp: One Thousand Gifts

I’ve learned there is no point in rushing through my days if I  miss the small moments of peace within the stillness that my heart ultimately longs for. My daily steps to and from work remind me that I’m not wasting time, but gaining it.

Whether it’s taking time for silent reflection, waking up earlier, walking to work, or sitting in front of the Blessed Sacrament, let’s give our time to the God who gives time, shutting out the background noise, and inviting God’s gentle presence to enter our days leading up to His birth. Without rushing, let’s walk through this week in hope of what Christ will bring. Happy Christmas, my friends!

With love,
Madeline

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Lessons from the Loft

Hello and Advent Greetings from Dublin!

Cliche though it may sound, as I sit down to write this blogpost, I’m forced to say: where does the time go?! Already we are 3 weeks into Advent and looking Christmas in the eye (in a patient and reverent way, of course…). It feels as if we were singing masses for a group of Notre Dame friends at Kylemore Abbey just yesterday, and yet House of Brigid vol. 8 is already almost half way through its time in Ireland. Whoa…

I figured I would include a picture of two from my recent trip to Edinburgh, Scotland.
A view from Arthur’s Chair, Edinburgh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Between Advent liturgies, sacramental preparation masses and lessons with our schools, and upcoming Christmas festivities (including Christmas concerts at both of our schools and the annual Nativity pageant to be performed in the Church on Christmas Day), our calendars for the next couple of weeks are filling up rather quickly, and it is easy to lose track of where all this time is going.

If there are two things these girls love, they are Fr. Gerry’s dog, Missy, and knitting scarves for her to wear…

 

Matching roommates!

 

 

 

 

 

That said, for my part, I have nonetheless observed an Advent season rife with blessings and moments of grace. As of late, these moments have been nowhere more present to me than in the parish choir. Having been a part of this choir (which sings at the 12pm Sunday service) for almost a year and a half, it is easy to slip into complacency with them, taking for granted the kindness and warmth that they have extended to us Americans during our extended stay in Harold’s Cross.

The fact is, many of the ladies who belong to this choir have been a fixture in the parish for much of their respective lives, perduring through several parish priests and choir directors in the process (anybody who works for the Church can attest to the fact that the parishioners are the real anchor of any ecclesial community). The level of reverence and devotion that each of them brings to Harold’s Cross with their song is something truly remarkable, and yet I’d be willing to bet that this is one of the most underappreciated and thankless tasks there is in the parish, given how long it has been an automatic fixture every Sunday at mass. Clearly, these dedicated women devote their time and energy, not for the purpose of adulation, but for the simple fact that they are committed to the prayer and spirituality of our parish community, and want to contribute their voices to that prayer in a very tangible way.

A choir unlike any other! Pictured here singing at the 12pm mass at Harold’s Cross. The man on the right is our fearless director, John.

But what amazes me further about this choir community, and indeed what has manifested itself in several instances recently, is the sheer humanity and earnestness of its members. From where I sit at the back of the loft each Sunday, I have been witness to grace upon countless grace, flowing through the members of the choir in manifold forms, be it a thoughtful glance, a quiet grin of complimentary praise, or even a long embrace of consolation. Whether it was our wonderful director, John, giving a jubilent word of praise and an ear-to-ear smile to one of the ladies for her exemplary singing of that week’s psalm, or watching the entire choir beautifully and sorrowfully console one of its members who recently experienced a tragic family loss, it is clear to me that these people are God’s hands, eyes, ears, and voices on earth, in my midst. What a joy and an honor it is to witness such things!

I realize, in writing all of this, how indebted I am to these people. Not only have they opened their arms to myself and my colleagues to welcome us into a very real part of their livelihood, but they have, in the process, shown me concrete instances of humility, joy, selflessness, sorrow, compassion, tragedy, faith, friendship, prayer, and ultimately, the prevalence of God’s great grace in their lives. To me, these ladies, this director, this organist, are the unsung heroes of this tight-knit Harold’s Cross community. Without them, we lack not only the song that fills our liturgies, but the very spirit that enkindles our Church with life and joy. Their prayer echoes not only off of the walls of the sanctuary each Sunday, but within the hearts of those of us lucky enough to call ourselves parishioners of Our Lady of the Rosary.

This Christmas, as you reflect upon the great blessing of the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us, I hope that you will take a moment to give thanks to God for your parish choir that sings their praises in the loft each Sunday. Their work and their voices are assuredly a reminder of the incarnate love, joy, and grace that this season celebrates.

A very Merry Christmas from Teach Bhride Dublin!

Nollaig Shona Duit!

-Geoff

Feel Ready?

Feel Ready?

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Advent: A time to honor our infant God. A time to look forward to what is to come. A time to reflect on Christ’s humanity and humility. A time to enter the mystery of a new year, a new life in the church. A time to honor Mary the mother of God. A time when all your favorite Christmas hymns return (“O Come O Come Emmanuel? Yes!”). A time for purple and pink candles, nativity scenes, and chocolate-filled calendars. A time for decoration and cheer in our homes.  A time of rehearsing for pageants, carol services, and masses. Everyone’s Advent experience might look differently. Everyone’s energies might be spent differently during this year. For me, Bernadette, I find that my views on advent feel wholly different than in previous years. Maybe it’s partly because I’m in a new country with new people and new duties; but mostly, because I think God is trying to teach me something. I’m looking at this new liturgical year, this advent time, as not only a time of anticipation and preparation but of real and honest examination. In the past I have never really ‘made it’ to this spiritual posture of reverence and openness. It’s new and subtle, but I definitely notice a difference in myself.

I wouldn’t consider myself a very good planner or decision-maker. Perhaps my two biggest weaknesses. I tend to be a spacey sometimes. Looking ahead always seems like a daunting task, and my personal future plans always remain hazy and hypothetical. However, in the daily activity of Clonard Church, I find that I need to be ‘on the ball’ with everything going on in the community and that requires a certain amount of preparation.

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Liturgically, I know what is coming. I know for a fact that we will celebrate the birth of Christ at the end of December. So what does that mean for me? Well, as a teacher in the classroom, it means that I am trying to look ahead and find the best way to relay the ‘real meaning of Christmas’ in the most effective way. As a musician, it means knowing my part for all the many sacred and secular ceremonies, (Clonard Church really has a lovely ‘Santy World’ with the best group of kid carolers and volunteers). It means preparing half-hour reflections that will air on the radio and be heard by Wexford listeners. It means taking a little extra time in the chapel to savor the words by John the Baptist and all the prophets.. All of this intertwined begs the question toward me: Bernadette, do you feel prepared for the most important thing? Do feel ready for what’s entering your heart?

Mhm. Yea, of course… I am… I know, I know, my heart’s a manger and everything…. I mean I think I’m ready….hmmm….. well… I know I should be… I do really want to be.

Whether you work in or outside of the church,  it can be very easy to get mentally caught up in the busywork and scheduling of this season. I find that I actually need to improve my skills in that regard sometimes. However, I also know that the bigger purpose is always at play. The inner work that has to be done during this season is vital to our well-being, to our relationships and our communities and families. With the birth of Christ, I look for a new birth in my personhood – in my ministry, in my selflessness, in my capability to love and be open to love.

One of the things that perhaps stirred me to think more deeply about Advent was when, a couple weeks ago, I attended a Centering Prayer workshop at Clonard. The purpose of this habitual method of prayer is to remove any obstacles that might distract from God’s presence and action within us. We simply sit with an open heart and, as one of the parishioners described, “speak in silence – God’s first language,” and always mindfully return to a certain word of consolation. In these moments, the in-dwelling Spirit of God can speak to us, comfort us, even just remind us of who He really is. This experience stayed with me. It helped me recognize the gentleness that God has to offer in His relationship. This prayer helped me feel His presence even in the shifts and changes of my life. It infused a kind of peace in me, which lasted throughout the day. It held my spiritual gaze.

So for this Advent, my spiritual attitude in Ireland is, for lack of a better word – gestational. Still in progress. I want to not only be aware of this source of peace, this Spirit of the living God that already resides in my heart, but to help it grow. I ask myself questions like: Am I Catholic in action or on paper?  Am I being as selfless as I possibly can be? Am I actually trusting Him, or do I hold on to my anxieties? Am I a child of the light or of the world? The examination could go on and on. But I do think it’s healthy to intentionally participate in how we are changing, because time inevitably changes us and a little self-evaluation is never a bad thing. Perhaps its not a question of how ready you are, but rather how willing you are. How willing are you to remove any obstacles to your connection with God?  How willing are you to look for pockets of prayer time? How willing are you to speak to others about what’s going on in your heart? Are you willing to look at the darker parts of yourself, and then turn to God in His embrace? As this liturgical year begins, I pray that our hearts may renew our baptismal promises to God and be open to the love that He so eagerly wants to give.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgdNrppahI4

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

It’s officially the Christmas season here in Dublin and boy, have we been busy! In the past month, House of Brigid Dublin has traveled to Amsterdam, run two or three more catechesis sessions for our First Communion and Confirmation programs, we all have gone on our own respective trips (Emma and her sister to London for a weekend, Geoff to America for a week, and I to London as well), and we celebrated Thanksgiving! It’s been a whirlwind and the holiday season is only beginning but we’re enjoying every minute of it.

I got to pretend I was in a Mary-Kate & Ashley movie while in London!
I pretended I was in a Mary-Kate & Ashley movie while in London!

The lesson I’ve been learning over and over again since I’ve joined House of Brigid is the importance of community and the busyness of November brought that importance to light! Now that we’re three months into this year, I feel like Geoff and Emma know me pretty well and that I’ve gotten to know them a bit better than I did that first day in South Bend. I think I can speak for the Dublin community that we do work very well together and we’re also pretty good friends. As I said on our retreat in Ballyvaloo in September, we are each other’s family over here and everyday that grows more and more true.

We’ve also talked about how the idea of community is so central to the mission of House of Brigid. We’ve reflected on how different it would be if we only worked together and didn’t spend any other time with one another. It’s so fruitful to be able to process all of these experiences together whether it’s laughing at something funny one of the children said during school or supporting one another after a hard day.

Our adventures in Amsterdam involved a picture with some pigeons as I failed to get the right angle with the selfie stick. Harder than it looks!
Our adventures in Amsterdam involved a picture with some pigeons as I failed to get the right angle with the selfie stick. Harder than it looks!

I especially noticed how essential being a team was when Geoff and Emma were both gone last week. Whether it was not knowing how to set up the piano at Saturday Mass because Emma normally does that or being a little stuck when asked to explain a deep, philosophical question by a sixth class student because Geoff is more knowledgable than me in that department, I was given plenty of opportunities to recognize how important it is to have a strong community.

While I managed fine without them, it was very nice to have them back especially because I missed having them around the house and spending time with them. We all came together and had a great show of teamwork this weekend when we hosted about 20 of our friends here in Ireland for a Friendsgiving dinner! The dinner party was a total success and I think that can be attributed to our strength as a community.

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Harold’s Cross parish team at the end of a fun Friendsgiving!

At the end of this Thanksgiving weekend, I’m glad to say that I’m very thankful for the community I have here in Dublin.  I often reflect on how difficult this transition to Ireland would be if I didn’t have Geoff and Emma here with me. We were reflecting tonight on how it’s more than just a coincidence that we all ended up together. It’s definitely an instance of divine intervention. And I’m thankful not only for them but the whole community here in Harold’s Cross and the Wexford crew and all those supporting us in Ireland and back home. I’m very grateful to be part of something so wonderful!

Slán,
Biz

Catholic young adults serving the Church in Ireland