I was at a Birthday Party for my sister-in-law yesterday and happy to meet my family and friends there. Always good. I left a bit (probably a lot) earlier than the others as I was due to go to a Priests’ Retreat with priests of Elphin Diocese. That too, thankfully, is going well. Decent men to be with and refreshing to share something of the road with them – from potholes to motorways!!
Yesterday was the 28th Anniversary of my ordination – by day and date and somehow that made it all very real. I went to Templeronan Cemetery after I left my brother’s house to say a prayer at my parents’ grave. I sat down for a while and the grave’s surround seemed inviting enough. I decided to take a selfie! Not something I do in a graveyard but thought I’d like to have a photo with (at least) my parents’ names in the background.
Mary and Bill remain forever at the heart of anything I try to be – to do. Visits to Templeronan, though irregular enough, bring something of a connection though also something of the divide. The connection wins out everytime. I miss them, for sure, but they continue to be central to every moment of my life. “They lived, they loved, they laughed, they left” was a quote on a sympathy card a friend sent me after my father died. There’s great truth in it.
I went from there to St Patrick’s Church, Gurteen to spend a bit of time there. The church is always familiar and welcoming. I spoke to two or three people in the church yard – they were at a distance and it was more of a wave and acknowledgement than a full blown conversation. I don’t think I knew any of them. That frightened me a bit. Chances are they’re neighbours that I should know. I’m not sure they knew me either. I don’t want a distance between me and home. When people ask me where I’m from – my immediate response is Co. Sligo – Gurteen and, if that rings a bell we bring it a step closer to Moygara and Cloonloo. It saddens me a little that I’ve lost contact with a lot around home now.
The church though is constant – as it’s intended to be. I walked around a little, looked at the bulletin – noticed prayers requested for John Rushe (R.I.P.) and remembered him in prayer. The church was empty and I was happy about that. I looked at the Altar and the aisle – now covered in carpet but tiled the day I was ordained. I decided to lie down as I had done the day I was ordained. “Prostrate” they call it (note the second “r” in that word!!) and I did – twenty eight years ago it was a sign of needing people’s prayer and of being willing to submit to that need. Though there was nobody there yesterday, the quick moment reminds me again that those prayers are still needed.
Another reason I wanted to go to Gurteen yesterday was to visit the grave of Fr John Casey. He was a priest in Gurteen back in the 30s and my mother always spoke of him – included him in every prayer we ever tried to say. She used give us stones from his grave and nearly always there’d be one in our pockets. I have tried to keep this tradition alive in my own life but the stocks go down!! I replenished the stock yesterday – partly because I wanted to speak to the priests of Elphin Diocese (attending the retreat) about him and his kindness remembered throughout my mother’s life and passed on to us. I’d like to think there might be something of that kindness left following our earthly ministry too.
So that was yesterday. Today’s a new day and we’ll make the most of it. I think that “most” includes bringing what’s good with us from yesterday too.