I went to Maynooth on June 13th for the annual Maynooth Union Day. It celebrates the anniversaries of priests who have been ordained from the college down through the years. Ordination Classes from five years on are invited. In more recent years, I think from one year to ten and then in five year groupings after that. The Silver Jubilee Class and the Golden and Diamond Jubilee Classes are the main groupings. This year is the thirtieth anniversary of the ordinations of my classmates and myself.
I met a number of my classmates there and it was good to see them. As a class, we have been good at meeting through the years with a reunion each year. I don't think all classes do that but, for some reason and thankfully, we have done so.
There was Mass in the College Chapel at 12noon. The Silver Jubilee Class take responsibility for the Mass with one of its members being Principal Celebrant and another preaching the homily.
After Mass a few of my classmates and I went down town to a coffee shop we used visit when we were students. I hadn't thought of it in years but one of the lads suggested it and we went. We weren't even sure if it was still there and, to be totally honest, I couldn't even remember which side of the street it was on!! It's there and on the right hand side:) We had a good chat and caught up a little and laughed a bit too. That's always good ...
There was a lecture in the afternoon and I went to that. Struggled a bit, to be honest to keep focused but that was more to do with me than the presenter. After the lecture we had a little while to wander around and then we had the Union Dinner which was excellent.
So what did it all mean to me? What did I notice?
It meant something about sharing a journey with people. Maynooth has been in existence since 1795 and thousands of priests have been ordained there. A section of them, there yesterday. I noticed people happy to be together and sharing memories of other days. There was a fair span in age but a common bond too. I sat at table with some of my own class and two men that were celebrating sixty years of priesthood. They were so full of life and one told us that the other was his best friend since their days together in Maynooth. It was refreshing to hear. Two men, in different parts of Ireland, keeping a friendship alive for close on seventy years now. Something good about that - reassuring too and what struck me most was how happy they seemed. One of them forgot the charger for his phone and asked could be borrow mine to call his nephew - I was happy to share it with him and happy too that his nephew took the call, chatted with his uncle and told him he'd sort things out. Reminded me again how much we depend on our families ...
As an aside, when the man wanted to make the call he called out the number to me but got it wrong. He said he'd see if there was enough charge in his phone to find the right number. He turned it on and I could see the low battery light flashing but he found the number, called it to me and I dialed. When he finished the call, he handed me back the phone saying "He will sort it out for me. Wasn't it a good job there was enough charge left in the phone for me to find the number?" I thought the same about the man - wasn't it great that there's enough charge in him to live, enjoy life and keep in touch.
One of the things I enjoyed was spending a bit of time in the College Chapel. It's an amazing place. In more recent years the corridor leading to the chapel is locked and I'd not been able to go there. Walking into it yesterday brought back so many memories. Sometimes you hear talk about Maynooth being too big now for the number of students and that maybe other options need to be explored. I've no doubt there's merit in such thoughts but I couldn't help wonder what would become of the College Chapel. I didn't dwell on that but it seems unthinkable that it would have any other purpose other than be a place of worship and gathering.
The music at the Mass was very special and though there was only a handful of seminarians there, their sound filled the chapel. I took some comfort from that, the fact that even though numbers are small, the song goes on. Speaking of song, they sang a beautiful piece after Communion. They were a few words in when I decided to record it but I got enough to give a flavour of it
Later, in his closing words of thanks, the Principal Celebrant drew attention to this piece and acknowledged its composer, Fr Pat Ahern, who was present at Mass and celebrating his Diamond Jubilee
I faced for home after dinner, glad that I'd gone for the day. I had considered not going but glad I changed my mind. As I drove home, I felt thankful that I'd gone to Maynooth - not just yesterday - but back in September 1981. I thanked my parents, in prayer, and my family and friends for their support through the years. I regretted mistakes and some of the changes that have happened through the years but when all is said and done, I felt content that I've done the right thing with my life ...
Five years ago I spoke at the Maynooth Union Dinner. Yesterday's words were shared by Fr Seamus Quinn, Diocese of Clogher. As I listened I realised he was much MUCH more brief than I. I was reminded of a story I shared on Sunday last about a preacher who began his homily on Trinity Sunday with a question; "Where do I begin to speak about the Trinity?" He repeated the question, "Where do I begin to speak about the Trinity?" He paused and a man shouted up at him "as near to the end as possible"!!!
In any case, thought I might put a link to those words of five years ago. Just in case you have a time on hand!! (Maynooth Union 2012)