Thursday, March 17, 2011
the good man and his bell
"One of the treasured relics said to have belonged to Patrick-if one might admit the slightest whiff of myth-is the reliquary case in which his mass bell was once kept.We can imagine Patrick rousing his flock with a clanging cowbell and inviting them to come to morning Eucharist.The bell has long since disappeared but more precious by far is the sound of his own words ringing across fifteen centuries."John Skinner
In a small copse of trees I sit with my journal on my lap.The trees are gently swaying as is the grass.The bees aren't still but their hum is a welcome accompaniment to my thoughts.The clouds overhead are moving with the same wind that cools my cheek and
my solitude is rich and fruitful as I write.
The ground under me held my great-great grandparent's feet and their children's.They would go to America during the terrible famine of 1848 on a ship called the Wave.My great grandmother was 16 years old and never again would see the shore of Ireland.I have a photo of her stern,pinched face,brown hair pulled back tightly from her face.This was not an easy life they were going to.They were also escaping typhus which was sweeping their poor,damp and dark huts.Her mother would not escape and after crossing the ocean would die of typhus in New York City in 1857.
The bell of Patrick's faith called my ancestors to Mass for centuries.They could have stayed in Ireland and been fed by the English if they renounced the faith handed them by the Saint.They left.And I am here among the tombs and the silent grass.My ancestors spirits are here.I feel them.I yearn to know them.What singular courage to sail off to the unknown with nothing but family,faith.
There is a story of my grandmother performing a ritual that was handed down from her Irish women ancestors.If there was a fright about, you sprinkled everything with holy water.This night, a storm raged on Long Island so she grabbed her jar and watered down her children with bleach by mistake.Not a pretty sight, I would think.
Another bell rings and I get up to walk to the humble stone church, being called as those before me and as I move,I say this wonderful prayer of Patrick:
I arise today:
with God's strength to pilot my course.
with God's power to uphold me.
with God's wisdom to guide me.
with God's eye to give me seeing.
with God's ear for my hearing.
with God's word for me to speak.
with with God's hand to guard me.
with God's path to become my road.
with God's shield to to protect me.
with God's army to insure my salvation.