The countdown has begun; in ten days, 56 members of the Notre Dame Folk Choir will be traveling across the Atlantic, visiting Ireland and Scotland. This year, we celebrate 25 years of international touring – hundreds of thousands of miles, countless parishes and a mosaic of supportive families and friends.
This year, we are bringing more music with us than ever before; we're singing in Catholic schools, hosting workshops in both Ireland and Scotland, singing masses for the Feasts of Pentecost (in County Wexford) and Trinity Sunday (in Edinburgh), bringing together the Presbyterian and Catholic communities of Edinburgh in a wonderful celebration of ecumenical witness.
In ways great and small, it is hard to describe the enormity of such a pilgrimage. Just about every night, our students will be staying with host families throughout the Irish and Scottish countryside. They'll see the face of the church in all these open homes. They'll gain an intimate picture of parish life in these two countries. They'll also see some of the tragedy of how the Catholic Church has been slowly dismantled by forces – both within and outside its confines – over the past several generations.
This is also the first time that we'll be traveling to these two countries since the establishment of the House of Brigid, Teach Bhríde, ably led this year by my dear colleague Jessica Mannen. The House has been preparing for our arrival in Clonard, County Wexford, for the past year; you can find out more about this amazing project by clicking here.
For all of you who wish to follow the choir day-to-day, our itinerary is up on the Folk Choir's website in full. You can reach it by clicking here.
I am so grateful to be traveling with these marvelous student ambassadors of the University of Notre Dame. Their joy, their sense of palpable faith, their camaraderie and mutual support – all of these qualities that I've seen growing over the past year will be greatly tested as we travel. Our first day, we arrive in Dublin at 8:30AM Irish Time (3:30AM EDT); during the course of that first day, we'll sing for a Catholic grade school, then move to the National Concert Hall in Dublin for a formal concert of sacred music.
For those of you who follow this blog, please pass along the link to others, that you might all pray for safe journeys for our ensemble! As I have said before, these excursions have a specific label: they are not tours, they are pilgrimages. And what we call them determines what we see. Call it a tour – and you will see the sights. Call it a pilgrimage – and, Deo volente, you will see the face of Christ.
Saint Columba, patron of pilgrims, pray for our band of sacred singers!