I live in Dublin, Ireland. Sometimes. Most times I live in my head, quite unaware of my surroundings – if you know what I mean… If you succeed in tracking Sean Walsh, please let me know, ok? I've been searching for him for years…
The Friary, Killarney. October 1950.
Yes, they are, too! Well, how would you like to walk ten miles in open sandals?! Eh-hh?.. To fill you in: last Thursday we set out from the Friary – twenty of us, walking two by two. With the open road in front – and the Novice Master behind – we walked to Muckross Abbey – mile after mile after –
Are you laughing at me, Michael? Don’t deny it – I can hear you from here!.. Well, it seemed like ten miles – maybe a bit more! I staggered the return journey – my habit kept getting in my way – and why did we have to bring umbrellas when everyone knew it wasn’t going to rain?..
‘Goes without saying, Michael, Killarney is truly beautiful – the greenery, the floral extravaganza, that first sighting of the ruins of the Abbey will long live in my memory… We stood in prayerful silence in memory of the friars who had lived and toiled there so many ages ago… A wonderful tradition… rich heritage.
Then the return… ‘made it… ‘back to base… I weaved my way up to the Novitiate, sank my feet in a foot-basin of cool, clear water and said to nobody in particular – “I’ll never stick it!”
The mood didn’t last. Once back in my room the quiet was an instant balm, tonic, sursum corda – lifting my spirits anew.
Oh, my room, Michael! I don’t know quite how to describe it – not that there is much to describe! A small table and chair… a wash-stand… a very unsophisticated bed… a crucifix in strong relief against bare walls… a bedside locker… floor boards that creak and complain to each other at odd moments…
But it is mine, Michael! This is my room!.. And I know in my heart, no matter how tough this year of trial may become, as long as I can come in here, betimes, close the door and let things be a while, I shall survive…
Just a few days ago – October 4 – we celebrated the feast of our Founder, Francis of Assisi. I found myself thinking about this man, betimes, the day that was in it… Who was he? What did he look like? How did his voice sound – as he talked to the birds, chided the wolf of Gubbio, preached to the people?..
“Here was a man who was more human than any of you, more passionate, more hungry for love – but his love was for God, he loved his crucified Master with a boundless, ruthless devotion…”
‘Night. The festivities had come to an end for another year – the sung Mass at the High Altar…the special sermon preached by one of the fathers… the extra course at table… the Solemn Benediction that evening…
Silence now as we moved quietly to our cells. One by one the lights went out. I lay in darkness, listening to the distant sounds of night… the October air cold on my face and hands… And I thanked Francis for his Way of Prayer and Penance… and God for having called me into the Franciscan family.
My body still pains and aches, Michael, from that first marathon. And as for my feet, I doubt if they will ever be quite the same again!
(First published in Assisi, the long since defunct Franciscan monthly, November 1962.)