I’m just back from a family trip to Ireland. It was truly joyful, the marriage of this man’s only son to a young woman he completely approves of.
Some have asked whether I’m disappointed my son lives in Ireland and likely will indefinitely. No, to be disappointed would be selfish and would put my happiness at having him near above the happiness he finds with the woman he loves, her family that has accepted him with love and the happiness I see in the newly married couple.
This is a situation that makes a man (me) proud, grateful and happy.
I found another source of happiness that surprised me a bit: the enthusiastic expression of the Catholic faith.
Of course, there was a time when one would expect nothing less. Irish history is a history of Catholic fidelity and missionary zeal. But with the many scandals of the past few years, reduction in vocations and increasingly secular nature of Irish culture, it would seem the Catholic faith would be hard to find. If you believe the news media coverage of the past decade, you wouldn’t expect to find many Catholics.
My experience was different and I offer a few supporting points of evidence:
- The wedding was a Catholic Mass, presided over by a middle-age priest full of joy about his faith, obviously thrilled to be uniting two people in Christian marriage. He joined us for the reception dinner and I had a chance to talk with him at length; he was thrilled to be a priest and optimistic about the future.
- We visited the Marian Shrine at Knock, a moving and inspiriting place. We planned to attend Mass in the local parish, but a visiting priest entered the shrine while we were there and celebrated Mass for the pilgrims present. He was young, dynamic, enthusiastic and a terrific homilist – a native of Belfast, serving in England.
- We stayed at a Bed and Breakfast owned and operated by an older lady who was obviously and happily Catholic. In addition to the B&B, she cares for her disabled brother – and has for his entire adult life.
- The country oozes Catholicism, from the ruins of ancient monasteries to modern religious sculptures along the highways.
God is so surprising. I went for a wedding and found my faith renewed.