There is a beloved groundskeeper in Clonard Parish, who goes by the name of Joe. He's just under five feet tall on a windy day, and is a tireless supporter of the House of Brigid; he would also put any subway alum of Notre Dame to shame, given his enthusiasm for and knowledge of our football team.
I received instructions from one of our Teach Bhríde members to bring along a Notre Dame flag before we left, so Michele dutifully picked one up at the bookstore as we were heading off. Below, you can see what Joe has done with said flag:
Yesterday, Joe told me that the ND flag would fly throughout the time that we were being hosted by the parish. Now he wants an ND leprechaun flag as well — which I am concerned about, because he might just bump the stars and stripes!
We are now just about at the midpoint of our journey, in the middle of this pilgrim narrative. We're battling a few coughs and scratchy throats at the moment, something that demands proactive trips to the chemist (the Irish terms for a pharmacist). But our students continue to astound me by their witness.
There have been little moments along the way, like yesterday at Our Lady's Island, (Oileán Mhuire in Irish)when the parish priest, V. Rev. Brendan Nolan, spoke from the pulpit about how a choir evangelizes. He spoke eloquently, quoting Basil the Great, musing on the work of the Holy Spirit. And he brought the work and creative efforts of our ensemble into sharp focus... this, on the splendid feast of Pentecost.
Earlier in the day, we led a diocesan music workshop, hosted by Bunclody Parish at the northern end of the Diocese of Ferns. And this same parish priest was there, preparing for our visit by seeing what we do. At the tea break (there must be tea breaks), he took me aside and looked straight into me. "Do ye have any idea of just how much your choir's music has affected this corner of Ireland?" he asked me. "Your life, Steven," he said, "has not been in vain."
It was the turn of the phrase that caught me off guard. Yet in his gentility and earnest delivery, the effect was like someone throwing cold water on my face: I've never considered my life being anything but intentional, yet to hear someone put it right out there cut me to the quick. Ah, Ireland! You know how to fashion your phrases! And you know, equally well, how to humble a pilgrim.
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