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.

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