First off, I’m speechless by the outpouring of support and generosity of the people of Ringsend and Irishtown. My heart was overwhelmed with joy and gratitude for the reception and most generious presentation you gave me at the evening mass for the Immaculate Conception. Also I’d like to apologise for not giving advance notice of my swift passing visit. My time is no longer my own and I wasn’t sure I’d even be able to make it – indeed I arrived 15 mins late to the mass.
I hope this letter finds you all in good health and enjoying the advent preparations. I find it difficult to capture my time here in words living with the Franciscan Friars, but will do my best here.
There are just two of us in the postulancy programme, myself and another lad from Dublin – Ken. Ken and the postulancy master – Fr Liam, have a great love of Horror films and so have been introducing me to some of the classics.
The pace of life has definitely slowed, living here at the Abbey in Galway. Saying so, each day is exhausting being ripe with activity. By design it tries to be unscheduled, a reminder to live in the present moment and places forecasting the next day’s events in the hands of the Lord (and postulant master). The goal of the year is to live a way of life reflectively; paying attention to the feelings and emotions, thereby the better to read yourself. Four months in and I’m scrambling to find if there’s a misplaced instructions manual to my head left somewhere.
The hours for communal prayers come and go twice daily – like the tide, the advancing flotsam of chores reaches its watermark, pauses and returns, erasing the day’s debris, leaving a clean canvas of sand to start anew. Mass is like the variable wind, which on occasion one needs to tack sharply to frantically re-calibrate the day’s course in order to meet one’s daily obligation. We have 20 minutes meditation as part of our community morning prayers and then are encouraged to make time at least for another hour of private prayer. Then there is daily spiritual journaling, biblical readings and various lessons on spirituality, Franciscan history, and scripture. It can be quiet overwhelming at times but we are assured that “Trying to pray is praying” and that’s a comforting thought.
Other activities include cooking for the community, gardening, as well as maintaining the guestrooms. In the run up to Christmas, we’ve been making wreaths to do up the church, as well as hosting candle-lit masses and late-night Eucharistic Adoration. I volunteer two days a week with Abilities West, a charity that supports people with intellectual and physical disabilities. I assist two wonderful lads; Eamon and Raymond, with their various activities; from going to the gym, for walks and doing a bit of art. It’s been a real joy getting to know them and to hear them regaling me with their adventurous stories.
I’ve been an avid member of our St. Patrick’s Rowing club, and after much debate, while I’m having to abstain from coast rowing, I haven’t managed to part with my rowing machine. I’ve called it my cross. It’s right beside the bed so in theory there should be no excuse to just roll out and do a morning row! Saying that, I find I prefer clearing the head with an evening run along the coast, sucking in the biting sea air.
Two of the brothers are known to go for early morning sea swims throughout the year. I joined them one crisp October morning and while I did bizarrely enjoy the swimming experience, afterward the relentless chattering of my teeth all through that morning’s meditation wasn’t quite hitting the right ambiance for quiet reflection, and I haven’t repeated the exercise.
Towards the end of November Covid caught me. Thankfully I was pretty much asymptomatic; slightly snotty and a bit tired, which was a great relief because obviously others have had it much worse. Another blessing was that no one else in the house came down with either. It was an unexpected two weeks quarantining but the break allowed me to catch up on reading, reflections and some non-horror films, which in a way was welcome.
Well, I think that’s the bulk of my news up-to-date. I hope to drop into the parish if ever I get the opportunity so I’m sure our paths will cross soon again. For now, know that you are all held in a special place in my prayers. I wish you a very Merry Christmas, all graces and good news in the coming year, and the best of health.