Roscrea is only a couple of hours drive west of Dublin. Our return to the city was quick and direct and the road was nice and wide! We booked our last two nights in Ireland back at All Hallows. They could only accommodate us with separate single rooms and a shared bathroom… but we didn’t care. It just felt good to be “home.”
The next morning, Sunday, the 28th of September, we walked around the campus taking pictures. That’s when we realized the rooms we were sleeping in were actually in the attic. No wonder I felt a little creeped out in the night and couldn’t wait for the sun to come up! It didn’t help me to know that my room over looked the old cemetery, the kind of cemetery so old you can hardly read the names on the headstones. I must add, the rooms were absolutely clean and very comfortable. (sigh) I said my prayers and all was good.
“Julie,” he said. “It seems as though we have no choir. They didn’t show up this morning.”
We had been asked to come back that week for the 11:30 Mass in order to hear the adult choir perform. Well, apparently they had sung somewhere the night before and had to sing the following day too… so they just didn’t show up that Sunday morning. In disbelief, I offered to help.
“I have no guitar with me, Father, but I’d be happy to help in any way I can.”
So there it went. Three minutes before Mass I was, “pressed to service,” as Father Paddy put it. I sang the parts of the Mass along with Entrance, Preparation of Gifts, Communion and Closing songs.
“Don’t worry.” Ann said just before Mass began. “They won’t sing with you and you won’t think they appreciate it, but they do.”
By the time Mass had ended the congregation was singing along beautifully. The whole experience was inspired and filled with joy. Just plain wonderful.
After Mass and goodbyes Roger and I left Dublin to hit one more castle. It was his dream to see Trim Castle, where the movie Braveheart was filmed. It’s the largest castle in Ireland and it was quite the site.
Having the opportunity to spend time in a parish in Ireland was a privilege. There is no doubt the Catholic Church there is suffering. Scandal and corruption wreak havoc no matter where they happen. Sadly, some have been hurt deeply. I pray there will be justice for all. Many, seemingly, use the bad news as an opportunity to separate themselves from the good of the Church. Others, the faithful, continue to keep their trust and hope in God; keeping their eyes on the cross and out of the headlines.
I have read Catholics make up approximately eighty percent of Ireland's population. We met many who told us flat out they have left the church because of the bad things that have happened. Made me sad for those who have been hurt and for those who only see the human side of the Church. Humans can’t help but mess things up. It is only God who remains unchanged and perfect - eternally holy and true.
One night while in Dublin, Roger and I went to a bar called The Church. I didn’t know, until we made our way inside, that it was actually once a church. The music was bumpin’ and the lights flashing like crazy. Maybe it was just too late in the evening but it hurt my heart to see that the old altar area still bore the sign which read, “Do this in remembrance of me.” It seemed so offensive to me to see those words hanging above cushy lounge furniture and drunk people. We left pretty quickly.
Between that experience, the low numbers of people at the Masses and All Hallows College going up for sale while we were there, it all felt pretty sad.
Roger and I found hope though, in our last cab ride in Dublin. The young driver, a man in his thirties, asked what we were doing in Ireland. We told him it had to do with my work, the Catholic Church and music. He told us he was Catholic and that he and his family love their Catholic faith. He told us that his daughter would be receiving her First Holy Communion this year and his son his Confirmation. Roger and I glanced at each other in relief. In one cab ride our hope for the future of the Catholic Church in Ireland had been restored.
The driver also shared with us that he was in recovery. When we arrived at All Hallows I gave him four blessed medals, one for each member of his family. He turned around and with a look of disbelief in his eyes said, “For me? Really? You know, my sponsor relapsed a while back and I couldn’t find him tonight. I needed to find him to encourage him and to tell him I needed him to encourage me. I needed to know I’m gonna be okay and you helped me to feel that way. Thank You,” he said. “God bless you both."
To think it all started with a generous sponsorship and a trip to the Hot Topic store in Salem before we left. I gave the Metalica shirt to Ann’s son, David. He put it on right away and it fit perfectly. He gave us copy of one of his CDs. It was Metal music. Roger and I listened to it as we drove through the Irish countryside. We truly enjoyed it. Come to find out David played all of the instruments himself and recorded the whole project in his house. When we left town, my pen pal Ann, gave Roger and me each a beautiful cross. Come to find out, her son, David, designed them himself. There are only four of them in all the world. His friend cast them in silver. Those crosses like every experience throughout this fabulous adventure will be cherished and all those we met remembered in our prayers forever.
Roger and I are so thankful for this opportunity. We did have fun and we watched God work everywhere we went. It is always a blessing to serve no matter whether we are at home or far away. May we always be pebbles in the pond sending out ripples of faith wherever we land.
21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
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