Sunday, October 30, 2016


For many years in our home on Woodhurst Road in Granger, Indiana, we had a plaque that was on the wall next to our living room fireplace.  It read, in Irish:

N'il aon tentéan mar
  do theintéan fein.

The translation is, "there is no fireside like your own fireside."

It is an old Irish saying, and this weekend both the poetry and the pertinence of this saying came back to visit us in a very real way.  

We had been working our way through a month of settling in here in Dublin, with all the calamity associated with such things – phones, bank accounts, repairs, more repairs, missed contractors, unfinished work... and then, out of the blue, our dear friend Fr. Denis Lennon rang in from Wexford. "I've two tickets to the Opera Thursday next," said he.  "Would ye like to be my guest?"

Of course we would.  We boarded a bus after the daily 1:05 mass and hightailed it down to the sunny south east.  Going to Wexford last weekend was like going home to family – the warm embrace of parishioners we'd known for years, the effervescent joy of a town as it hosted the annual autumn opera pilgrims, the warmth of the seaside and the hum of the parish we had come to love so well.  
Our home from the south, facing Iveagh Gardens

And then, 48 hours later, it was over, and we were headed – home. Walking through the Door of Humility (more on that later), we approached what has become our new home in Ireland.  The shoes of this label, "home," are beginning to fit: here was our kitchen, our pictures up on the walls, our dining room, our little hovels where the computers and reading materials are tucked away.  

And there, next to the fireplace, is the little plaque that used to sit next to our hearth in Indiana.  It is now perched next to another fireplace, now in the heart of Dublin.  

Home is different now.  We awake in the morning to seagulls (they gather in Iveagh Gardens in the dawn); when the winds are from the east, you can catch a tinge of salt air from the Irish sea.  You have to look a different way when you cross the street (not doing so is at your own peril). Church, and office, are only a dozen steps away from our front door.  But even with this proximity, there are miles and miles of work to be done.

"Home." In the midst of a move, it can become an even more powerful symbol than the four-letter snippet we throw around when everything is comfortable.  The hearth becomes an anchor.  The kitchen becomes a rock.

And all of these – hearth, home, roof, rootedness – are mere flickers of a flame, compared to the home we have in God.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Musician and Emmaus

Today marks four weeks since we landed at Dublin airport at 4:45AM, luggage galore, not knowing by a long shot what was awaiting us at Newman's University Church.

Long before we embarked, I had made many comments to my friends in the States, emphasising that it was necessary to "meet them where they were."  It was, and is, a statement to stand by.  And it also carries with it a whole host of challenges.

This is where the musician is likewise on the road to Emmaus, meeting them where they are.  Jesus had that storied encounter with the two people who'd decided they'd had enough of Jerusalem.  And he met them where they were – not demanding a discussion in his own language or a route on his own terms.  He walked with them, in their midst, entered their pain, explained things, broke bread with them.  No doubt it was an act of both patience and pedagogy –  the first real catechetical session, perhaps, after the Resurrection.

I've not had to think about retooling myself in a long, long time.  Essentially, "meeting them where they are" means just that – retooling.  At Notre Dame, I was free to experiment, always having the secure ground of the Folk Choir and a willing assembly.  But there's a new road – a new landscape.

For one thing, University Church is in Dublin's city centre.  Our "core assembly" consists of a lot of folks who are very faithful to daily mass – but they make this mass part of their lunch break.  So we have to be very careful to honour that period of their day – mass seldom goes beyond about 25 minutes.

This is the most important ground to walk, that of daily liturgies.  Many of the same Irish faces are there every day.  We get to know them, pray with them, walk with them through the seasons of the Church.

Even in that short amount of a lunch break, there have been touching moments.  The other day, as I was turning to exchange the Sign of Peace, a woman stretched out her hand and said "God bless you and all you're undertaking here."  It was a quiet but powerful moment.

And even given the time restrictions, there are a few musical moments.  Each day I play a quiet piece on the guitar while the assembly receives communion.  It adds no time to the liturgy.  But those who come are beginning to come forward and be grateful for the bit of music that's there.

From here, we build.  We meet them in their landscape and walk with them.  As Patrick once dreamt, we are here to walk among the people.

It's taken a few weeks to get settled, let the paint dry, connect up the wifi (still working on that), take over the choir (still working on that, too).  But life in Dublin is grand, and there's a host of things to write about.

More to come.