Isaiah and I attended the local mass for the first time this morning. We figured we’d just look like the many people likely attending for their first of two visits a year. We cooked up a little Easter dinner and hummed “Lo in the grave,” (bursting out in song for the “Up from the grave” part), but it’s not the same as being with friends and family. So Happy Easter, everyone! You are missed!
The other week we packed our bags and headed temporarily away from the town we’ve started calling home, Fanore. We started our trip to the southwest region of Ireland by threading the needle between a small herd of big cows with our little red car. As Isaiah says in the video, it’s “a different type of cattle drive.” Literally.
We first stopped in Limerick where we walked through the ooooold St. Mary’s Cathedral. It was built in 1168 and amazingly still holds mass every single day. The 840+ years of prayers and worship – and sadly vandalism and horse housing of the Cromwellian soldiers – was nearly palpable in the vast space of the cathedral.
Through their detailed self-guided tour we learned about Bishop John Jebb who was a major peace-loving guy. From the altar he urged his people to ways of peace in times of great unrest in the area in the 1800s. As a result, his area of Abington remained remarkably peaceful in the midst of troubled neighboring parishes. Since that’s right down my Mennonite alley I couldn’t help but cuddle up next to him for a snapshot.
In contrast, there was a chapel in the cathedral where Murrough “Of the Burnings” O’Brien was once buried. But, as you may have guessed from his nickname, which came about from his penchant for burning down churches, he was a rather unpopular dude. So the morning after he was buried in the cathedral in 1674, the townspeople of Limerick stormed in, stole his body and threw it into the nearby Shannon River. It makes me wonder how a man with apparently little respect for the church gets a whole room named after him. Maybe to make up for the body dumping thing?
But my favorite story from the whole cathedral was about these wooden seats called misericords. Misericord comes from a Latin word meaning “act of mercy” and that’s just what this piece of furniture was. See, in the early church the clergy was expected to stand throughout the entire service. At one point sitting was strictly forbidden. You can imagine how long and tiring that could get. So these “mercy seats” were created to flip closed (like the auditorium seats we know today) to reveal a secret little ledge for the priest to perch upon so he still appeared to be standing. It makes me smile to imagine the silent sigh of relief when a tired priest leaned discreetly back on this tiny wooden ledge.
We then headed farther south to the Dingle Peninsula.
We spent two nights in the slightly touristy but nevertheless really interesting town of Dingle that must have more pubs and B&Bs than residents. We rented bikes, snapped on our helmets and rode a 25-mile loop around the peninsula one day.
Most of the time we had ocean to one side and small mountains to the other, which helped take my mind off those long, grueling, gradual hills that laid before us so often.
Our lucky gold stars somehow aligned to grant us the perfect day for a bike ride – sunny and warm with a light breeze – and we were later told just how rare days like that are this time of year! We took a break from pedaling along the narrow roads at a beach freckled with sunbathers, picnic eaters and surfers alike, all soaking up that glorious warm sun while it lasted.
The up hills tested my strength and gave Isaiah an opportunity to reach out and give me a boost by placing a firm hand on the small of my back (much like he did for nearly an entire 5K race we once ran in Indiana to the envy of some good-humored older men we passed who requested to get in on the assistance I had)! Biking the stretches of pure downhill joy was relief to tired legs. We coasted down those long hills with a speed that made me consider squeezing lightly on the brakes. But I quickly decided I couldn’t stand to reject any of what gravity was handing out for free, so down the hills I sped, silently praying to keep my balance and remain upright.
I felt alive and a part of the sights and smells around me without the coolness of our car’s windshield keeping me at distance from the world. And for the next few days our sore biker bums served as a reminder of the joy we had taking in the gorgeous peninsula from the vantage of a bicycle.