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“Abundance follows in His steps!” (Morning Prayer) I was drying my right foot this first morning - November 23, 2021, feast of St. Columbanus - when time seemed to freeze and doubt arrived, clear as a bell. “What are you doing here?” it asked, “Why come all this way, when you already have everything you need at home?” It’s what happens early on in any pilgrimage. Questions arise, valid ones and those that come as temptations to discouragement. I dismissed the doubt as quickly as it came but there are questions about this place that remain unanswered and, perhaps they are unanswerable. In Medjugorje we are dealing with the transcendent. It is a place where the veil between heaven and earth is very thin. Heaven breaks into to earth here in a way that doesn’t happen too often in the world and it defies logic and reason.
“Jesus was left alone with the woman .” This is a very striking moment, the silent wordless moment when accusation, judgement and condemnation have dispersed. He, still in the bent down position, looks up at her, symbolic of what the Incarnation means. God has bent down to us who have gone astray, taking the position of a slave, looking up to us who look up to Him in prayer.
" Wake up in a hotel, s taring at the ceiling" The last two lines of Marianne Faithful's 'Times Square' echoing in my head, her deep, throaty, lived-in voice sings the beginning of this sunny Saturday morning in Greenock. April 23rd, second anniversary of the death of my friend Father Michael Clarke.
The islands rise on the horizon, emerging through the mist. A young boy rests his head on the ship's railing, as I did in childhood, gazing down upon the foaming sea, waving at dolphins in the distance. Memory of travelling to Aran in August. Memory of the past and the meaning that came to me through Aran and the sea. I'm looking for clarity now, waiting for mist to clear, not in an anxious way but as a child who knows how to wait and trust and ponder. "strange islands, the roaring torrents, whisper of the amorous gales, tranquil night, the approaches of the dawn and silent music" (St. John of the Cross)
When it comes as a surprise it’s extra special – coming face to face with the moon while it sits low and large on the horizon. You find yourself saying “Oh my God” out loud. A prayer of praise - for this deep yellow moon and the pink moon of a few nights ago. Moon upon the calm sea. No photograph will ever do it justice.
For some, this was the first experience of Zoom; others have had their fill of the platform and we wondered how it would all work. A virtual Provincial Assembly spread over six different time zones, six countries, four continents and twenty two men – ever conscious that we represent thousands of women, men and children whose lives we share in ministry.
When I was small we all looked forward to the first of May – long before the Bee Gees wrote their beautiful song - when the leaves were fresh on the trees and the sun seemed to shine most of the time, though sometimes it rained heavily as we made our daily pilgrimage to the Grotto in Castlegar, about two miles from home. We were right on the edge of Galway city and it was over the wall and through the fields that we made our way, taking time to play among the rocks and bushes of the old quarry, dreaming up great fantasies and dramas from snake valley to mansions and boats carved out of stone. It was a time when faith was woven fairly seamlessly into ordinary life as we were keenly aware of the Divine in our midst and we turned to the Mother of Christ for help in everything we had to undertake. For us children as we grew into secondary school, we needed her help with exams. We went to her in droves every day after school, though I didn’t fare too well in exams even after the