Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
Today I’m writing from Dublin, it is Tuesday afternoon and we are on our parish trip to Ireland. We went this morning to the Neolithic archeological site of Newgrange / Knowth, where people lived 6,000 years ago and built massive burial mounds according to the path of the sun. The photo below shows our group assembled on the top of the largest mound in the Boyne valley north of Dublin, in the distance behind us is the hill of Slane, where Saint Patrick lit the Paschal Fire and shortly after converted and baptized the high king and people of Leinster. So far we have only spent time around Dublin, but tomorrow we will head for the center and south of the Republic of Ireland. More next week!
I do have to say one thing, though. There is something about this country that really affects me. I’ve mentioned the idea of so-called “thin places” before, those places where the spiritual, unseen reality of God and his presence is almost tangible, you just know something powerful is present to you. I always forget, until I’m back, that Ireland is this to me. Especially certain places. It has always been my experience, for example, when we visit Clonmacnoise, the 7th century monastery ruins of St. Cieran (where we go tomorrow and we will be able to celebrate Mass in the ruins of one of the chapels), and the ocean coast of Kerry. It has only been recently that I discovered in my genealogy work that my ancestors are from these places. I have the same kind of unexplainable emotional reaction when I hear Uilleann pipes—not the sound of bagpipes, that is too loud and brash in comparison to the haunting, beautiful subtlety of Irish pipes.
I always say this, but I truly mean it. I wish we could take everyone on these trips. There is a beauty to traveling with the spirit of pilgrims, a deep reverence and appreciation of how we come to grow and know people, and learn.
On the parish front, it is time to begin seriously making plans for the fall and I want to insist on the duty of all our parents to follow through with the good practice of ensuring the religious formation for your children. It is something to which parents and godparents make a solemn commitment at baptism, and I firmly believe that children have no strong chance today in following through with their faith if they don’t have a good foundation in religion. It is difficult enough to think that most adults are living lives and trying to make sense of God and faith with an education that ended with Confirmation in eighth grade. How can adults survive life with an eighth grader’s understanding of God? No wonder the spark goes out so quickly in high school and college.
Please renew your commitment and register your children with us. We put a lot of energy and time into always making our program better, as good as it can be, and we take our parish responsibility to support our parents in this primary duty seriously. To the 2,700+ children and youth in our parish who aren’t receiving formation: Please join us.
God bless you.