Saturday, November 30, 2013

When Home is Far Away

Folks belonging to the Notre Dame community are familiar with this aspect of the lived experience: having that tangible feeling of "home" even when you're far away. Most often it is embedded on Our Lady's campus (you know of what I speak: the feeling one gets with that turn onto Notre Dame Avenue, with the Golden Dome down at the end of the lane). Some places just have a way of tugging at our hearts strings, of making us feel secure and a bit more complete on this earthly pilgrimage.

It is that way with me when I make a journey to Wexford, the southeastern county of the Republic of Ireland. Riding southward on the bus, there comes a point when the highway turns toward the sea, and the route meets up with the River Slaney, one of the most beautiful tributaries in this fair land.

And then comes Enniscorthy, now the cathedral town of the Diocese of Ferns, where the river, the cathedral, and castles all cluster together. It says to me that I am only a few short kilometres from sea, from Wexford Town, from a turf fire (literally), from smiling friends and a welcoming parish.

There are, as we all know, those geographic places that we call "home." They are, and always will be, pole stars of our journey, places we launch from and places we return to. But, as our hearts know, there are other places that earn this distinction as we make our way through life. Most often, we bestow this honor because there are more than a pocketful of memories that have contributed to our own story.

For me, such is the case with Wexford. For almost fifteen years, this community has unconditionally welcomed our choir when we tour. And then they created a home for our graduates. And now they are walking with us as we plan even greater things in Ireland for the future of ministry.

Thanksgiving week soon comes to a close. And many of us will departing those significant places that we call "home." But let us keep our eyes wide open: there are many hearths, many open arms, many faces that can bestow this sacred title – the title of "home" – upon the journey of our life.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Ferns, County Wexford, Ireland

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Conspiracy

Almost three months ago, my wife and I began to create a small conspiracy. We took a look at the family Thanksgiving roster, and all of our kids were going to be in various parts of the country. It would be a quiet week at Notre Dame. So.... why not check in with our volunteer grads with the House of Brigid in Wexford?

But as with any conspiracy, the longer it simmers the more complicated it got. We had to share our plans – both with the pastoral staff down in Wexford itself, and then with the Keough/Naughton Centre administrators in Dublin. This was becoming more involved with every passing week! And between Facebook posts and email threads, I seriously doubted that we would be able to pull off this epic surprise for our four grads overseas.

So it was with great joy when, on Monday evening, my wife and I walked into the Whitford Hotel in Wexford, where Father Denis had cleverly designed a trap – taking the four out to dinner. There was no mention made of the two extra places at table, as the good priest usually has a joyful group surrounding him.

Then, we walked in.

Well. Mary Atwood (wielding the slotted spoon below), this year's House Director, burst into tears; Joy did her best to hold them back. and Ben and Cameron just stared at the whole crazy scene (for minutes on end), as we all pranced around the table, hugging and laughing and carrying on.

Worth it? Of course! Even considering a long trip across the Atlantic. And these four are doing absolutely amazing work in their parish assignment in the South of Ireland.

Twenty four hours later, the four of them put forward their own Thanksgiving feast – for the entire Clonard Parish staff, almost forty people. And then, in true Irish style, the tables and plates and cutlery were cleared away, and one by one, we all stood up, offering song, poetry, a joke or two. I looked around the room, to those wonderful, shining, loving faces of parishioners whom I have known for so many years, and realized just how very lucky I was to have the House of Brigid under their watchful eye.

There is, indeed, much to be thankful for.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Wexford, Ireland

Sunday, November 24, 2013

At the end of the day: A Thanksgiving Meditation

As is typical at Our Lady's University, this was hardly an ordinary week – we wrapped up our labors in the Basilica with a bang today. On Friday, a first-ever occasion: all the choirs of the Basilica joined forces, one hundred and fifty strong, to sing on the Feast of Saint Cecilia. Each choir sang a marvelous Mozart composition, and then, to ice the cake, we all combined for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Coronation Mass, complete with chamber orchestra. Then, the mandatory football game in November snow, and today, the Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, led by our marvelous Holy Cross priest Father Bill Lies.

So this morning, as we wrapped up rehearsal, I looked at all the choristers and instrumentalists and decided on a brief story. It's the oldest of stories, the story in the Book of Genesis when God created the universe. It was told that at the end of each day, our Creator would lean back on his shovel and look at what he did – and he would call it good.

We are not good at taking time to call things good. But it was precisely this message that I wanted to get across in the midst of a tremendous weekend of work and play: Slow down, look back, give thanks for what you have done. And bring down a benediction! Call it good!

My prayer for this phenomenal group of young men and women is that, as we head into Thanksgiving, they take the time to do what God did at the end of each day: stop, look back on what was created, lean back, and call it good. Whether it be an academic paper or a musical production, a song by Bernadette Farrell or Mozart. Call it good.

'Tis the week to do this sort of thing – the week to make Thanksgiving our constant stance.