Letting go…moving on

I am sitting in my old bedroom in my childhood home for the very last time and feeling a queer mix of emotions. The room is almost bare, following the big clear out of yesterday. I’ve had my early morning walk, along roads in Coventry that are filled with fifty years’ worth of memories, and I shed a few tears as I realized it was the last time I’d be making such a walk.

We moved here when I was three and it was my mum’s home until earlier this year. She spent the last twenty years on her own in the house following the death of my dad. She’s in a care home now and seems to have accepted that it’s the best place to be at this time. The house now needs to be rented out (to make the care home fees go a little further!), so my wife and I were helping my sister and her husband with the fifty years’ worth of accumulated ‘stuff’. Mum kept a lot of things so there was a lot to sort through. Old school reports emerged in between thirty year old insurance documents. There was a copy of an Irish census record from 1911 with details of some of the Newry McStays (mum’s family). And an absolute gem turned up in one envelope containing copies of birth certificates and the like. It was a letter from the British Railway Board dated September 1957 offering mum a job in the Coventry railway station café and free rail passage from Belfast. This was especially poignant for me because it was in about September 1957 that the founding members of the Irish Chaplaincy were starting to reach out to the newly-arrived Irish in Britain. It was because of people like my mum, and my dad, coming to start a new life in a foreign land, that the Irish Chaplaincy began.

I give thanks now, for my mum and dad, for all of my family and ancestors, and for the life that has been lived in this house over these fifty years. And I take heart in a comment made to me some years ago by Therese Vanier, sister of Jean, the founder of L’Arche, when I was explaining to her the need to close Little Ewell, the big old house near Canterbury where L’Arche was begun in the UK (by Therese and others) in 1974. “It will be sad”, she said, “but that’s alright: sadness is part of life”.

Acknowledging sadness and loss; giving thanks; letting go…and moving on: it is indeed all part of the rich tapestry of our life.

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Irish Chaplaincy is Hiring – Outreach Support Worker

Irish Chaplaincy is hiring!

We are looking for a Pastoral Outreach Support Worker to help to expand and develop our befriending, support and advocacy service for elderly Irish across London. Salary £26,360. Deadline: April 12th 2pm (interviews May 1st). Please return completed application form (and Equal Opportunities Monitoring form) to paul.raymond@irishchaplaincy.org.uk   (Tel: 0207 7482 3274)

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The Beast from the East

The so-called ‘Beast from the East’ brought to the UK and Ireland sub-zero temperatures, travel chaos and…the wonderful gift of snow. When I looked out of my bedroom window one morning it was to behold a world transformed. Everything looked different. There is a purity, a beauty, and something truly magical about snow. There is a different sound as well: a sort of reverential hush. A snowfall also forces us to slow down (or to stop altogether), which may be no bad thing in a world where we seem to be in such a hurry such a lot of the time. Continue Reading

Lent- A Journey of Love

My intention was to not drink any alcohol during Lent (with my Catholic upbringing the concept of giving something up for Lent is deeply ingrained). But Ash Wednesday this year, by a happy coincidence, was also Valentine’s Day, so I opened a bottle of special Korean ‘100 Year’ wine to go with the meal I’d prepared for my wife (who is from Korea). Continue Reading

St Brigid

I attended two quite different events on February 1st to celebrate the feast day of St Brigid who as well as being (with Patrick and Columba) one of the three patron saints of Ireland is the patron saint of the Irish Chaplaincy.

The first event was a mass at Sacred Heart Church in Kilburn celebrated by our own Fr. Gerry McFlynn. Gerry spoke in his sermon about some of the core themes in Brigid’s life and work: care for the earth, peace and justice issues, gender equality, and being close to the poor. And he told of how in the 5th Century, Brigid founded in Kildare a double monastery, one for women the other for men, over which she ruled as abbess. Brigid was a strong but gentle woman, a good leader, and a wise spiritual guide; and she seems to have encapsulated in herself the qualities of the active and the contemplative. She spent long periods in silent contemplation from which she drew her confidence and courage; and she took her share in the manual work of the monastery: milking the cows, shepherding the sheep and brewing the ale. She practised hospitality (which for me will always be at the very heart of Irish culture), and had a special concern for the poor and marginalized. And she was attentive to the cycles of nature, with a reverence and respect for the wonder of creation.

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St Brigid’s prayer

Brigid

You were a woman of peace.

You brought harmony where there was conflict.

You brought light to the darkness. You brought hope to the downcast.

May the mantle of your peace cover those who are troubled and anxious,

and may peace be firmly rooted in our hearts and in our world.

Inspire us to act justly and to reverence all God has made.

Brigid you were a voice for the wounded and the weary.

Strengthen what is weak within us. Calm us into a quietness that heals and listens.

May we grow each day into greater wholeness in mind, body and spirit.

Amen.

(author unknown)

St. Brigid’s Feast Day is February 1st.

 

Unexpected Gifts

If, following the birth of my children, three strange people had turned up at the door with shining and sweet smelling but totally impractical presents, I’m not sure what I would have thought! Yet we come now to the feast of the Epiphany, when we mark the arrival in Bethlehem of the three kings with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Who are these mysterious characters who followed a star and lavished such expensive and elaborate gifts on a baby born in a dirty stable to unmarried parents? And what do these unusual events tell us about God and about our own place in the nativity story? Continue Reading