Sunday, April 22, 2018

St. Patricks City of Dublin

I am about to start blogging after a break for about a year and have a few drafts of new blogs in the pipeline.
Understandably, this one jumped the queue.
Today I went to church. This would be something decidedly unusual for me to do in Canada, unless someone had died or was getting married (or baptized), but it is quite a regular thing for me when I am in Ireland. It gives me time to pause and reflect. Without favouring one over another, I attend churches that are Presbyterian, Catholic, Methodist or Church of Ireland. What they share in common is greater than what separates them. For me, they offer time and space to consider powers greater than myself, however I might choose to frame that.

Today, I attended Matins at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. In part, I chose this church because it is just across the street from where I am staying, but it was also because the service was going to feature boys’ and mens’ choirs singing together. It is rare to hear this in Canada. Plus - bonus – they were going to include a piece by Elgar.

The truck in front is labeled Utopia. .
Many times during the service, my friend Colleen and her nephew Sean – also a friend – popped into my head. Later today in Abbotsford, they will be putting Rhonda, Colleen’s sister and Sean’s mother, to rest. I barely knew Rhonda myself. Mostly as a painter, an amazing painter, and as Colleen’s older sister. The other part that I know about her concerned her life-long struggle with addiction, a struggle which had led to the abandonment of her children. I doubt that either – addiction or abandoning children - would have been her first choice, but addiction can be like that.

Today, when I recited the Absolution, for my (as they say) sins of omission and commission, I also thought about Rhonda. Maybe she would have laughed with utter abandon had she heard me. After I had finished reading the whole thing out loud, I noticed the instructions at the bottom telling us that the priest was supposed to be the only one to read it. I had wondered why others in the congregation were silent. Ah, yes: And we have done those things which we ought not to have done.

It is an odd thing, to sit in the kind of church where the sun glints off the rows of knights’ helmets arrayed above the choir beneath dozens of old flags and cloth standards. I wonder. When it comes to histories of churches, perhaps we should cut them the same slack that we ask ourselves to do for ourselves: And we have done those things which we ought not to have done

The glory of being in such a place on such a Sunday is that it is possible to be part of an assembly of people who - after all - are choosing to try to do their best. The architecture and the music complement one another in support of this devout hope. The chords of Amen sung by men and boys together make it impossible – even for me - to avoid the experience of transcendence. 

As I listened to the choirs sing their version of Elgar’s Anthem, it also occurred to me that they could have been singing it for Rhonda as well as for any of those of us present.

The Collect could also have been chosen for Rhonda: They went astray in the wilderness out of the way; and found no city to dwell in. Hungry and thirsty: their soul fainted in them. So they cried unto the Lord in their trouble: and he delivered them from their distress. Psalm 107 vv5-6.

In Rhonda’s last days, there were some genuine mercies. Times of grace. Some wounds were healed. Some solace was found. What more can one hope for at the end of such a life? Blessings. To Rhonda’s sisters and to her children and grandchildren. And also to Rhonda. Blessings.

PS to Sean. After the service, I walked up the hill to the Queen of Tarts to buy a piece of apple pie. It is excellent pie, but not as good as yours. Tante Gertraut would agree.

PS to Colleen. Because of the time difference, it will be evening here when your service begins. I will raise a glass of Bertha’s Revenge as my way of sending a blessing – Devout Pagan that I am.


  1. A wonderful blog post. I too love the solace and time to reflect and give thsnks. Glad you are blogging once again.

  2. Welcome back, Sharon. I missed your posts and enjoyed this one.