Archive for May 4th, 2009

Religion and The West

Monday, May 4th, 2009

Our first Sunday in Ireland dawned predicatively cloudy. The night had been a bit hard, having spent a tense and hectic half hour in the in the driving rain and gathering dark staking down our tarps to keep our belongings dry. It was with smiling, if tired faces, then, that we greeted the calls of “It’s dry!” that morning. It was about 9 in the morning and the sun was up, although low in the sky and a dry wind was blowing. We laid out the tent and tent fly that hadn’t quite dried from the night before.(leaving at 8 before the sun came out and the dew dried meant we hadn’t had time to air them out.). We also laid out the precious tarps which had so successfully kept the rain off of our bags the night before.

After a half hour or so, we left our little spot in the field for the second time and headed to Dublin.
In Dublin, we parked about a block from St Patrick’s Cathedral and walked to church, feeling a bit bedraggled without a shower, but in our best clothes.

The cathedral is magnificent. During the week the main chapel is home to a gift shop and costs several euro to enter (I always think of Jesus ejecting the moneychangers and others profiting from God’s temple when I see gift shops and admission fees at these cathedrals). On Sundays, however, mass is held at 8:30 and Eucharist sung at 11:15 and admission is free. We didn’t feel like waking up early and wet two days in a row (plus most of us aren’t big fans of waking up early in the morning) so we aimed for the 11:15 service.

A group called the City of London Chamber Choir were the guest choir and sang beautifully, although, as in most cathedrals, the words were lost in the nooks and crannies of the decorated ceilings and walls. The cathedral is Anglican now, although I’m not sure it has been always. St. Patrick is, of course, the patron saint of Ireland and his name and face are widespread throughout the country. Schools, streets, villages, restaurants, hotels, tour companies, breweries and almost every other possible variety of institution bear his name. There are a lot of people who get a lot of acclaim who don’t really deserve it, but Patrick is one who almost certainly does. There are a lot of legends about his life–many of them probably true, for example his origins in Roman Britain or his relationship with the church, which is fairly well documented. Other stories are less documented. For example, he is said to have banished all snakes from Ireland by praying on a mountain for 40 days and 40 nights. It is certainly possible that a man in tune with God’s will could ask for God to perform a miracle as spectacular as banishing snakes from an entire nation.

Back in the church, the service celebrated the 4th Sunday of Easter and was filled with some beautiful spring music and a sermon exhorting the members of the congregation to be shepherds of our brothers and sisters and not sit back and assume that the pastor (shepherd) of the congregation will pick up your slack. The congregation was made up of a number of people who seemed as though they might be Dublin-area regulars and probably about 30 or 40 people who looked like tourists. All in all, attendance was probably at about 150. Not bad for secular Europe, although Ireland is one of the most religious nation in Europe.
It was a sombre service, but seemed filled with a groundswell of celebration of Christ’s resurrection. One of the morning’s hymns, written by John Crum and sung to a traditional French melody, seemed to fit well.

Now the green blade riseth from the buried grain,
Wheat that in dark earth many days has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again,
Like wheat that springeth green.

I left in a good mood, feeling reminded of what a great, international God we serve.
That afternoon we headed to The West, straight across the country. It only took about 3 and ½ hours to cross the entire nation! Along the way, we were thrilled at the the sights of the Irish countryside, damp as they were. Matt also took his first turn driving once we were outside of Dublin, and did quite well. One of the phrases we’ve taken to using here is “Driving like a European” since it seems that in the two European nations we’ve visited on this trip so far, driving in a crazy manner seems rather mundane over here. Matt learned to drive like a European.
Eventually we made it safe and sound to Limerick in The West and headed up the coast. That evening we spent at the beautiful Cliffs of Moher, one of the 7 Wonders of the Natural World (As a sidebar, who comes up with these wonders? I mean… can I just declare myself one of the 7 Wonders of the Human World? Not that I want to. Just asking.)

Pictures will do a better job of describing the cliffs, but they rise several hundred feet from the frigid and tumultuous North Atlantic below. We were all awed by how dramatic a form Creation can take, more wonderful than the most spectacular of man’s buildings. In other words, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water is nothing compared with God’s Cliffs of Moher (just to clarify, I’m not dissing Wright, I really like his work!)
We left the cliffs a bit late–we had tried to see the sunset, but in typical Irish fashion, it was cloudy–and drove north through Doolin and Galway. Tomorrow we’re going to see the Giant’s Causeway built by the infamous giant, Finn MacCool himself. We’ll finish the day in Belfast where we’ll catch the 3:20 ferry to Stranrear, Scotland.

Daniel Z

And Then There Were Four

Monday, May 4th, 2009

I arrived in Dublin, Ireland ahead of schedule after a whirlwind of a week. That whirlwind involved four final projects, two finals, very little sleep, two showers, and a large portion of stress. I unwound slightly by watching Slumdog Millionaire on the Aer Lingus (the Irish airline) portion of the trip. The flight also included an execution-style last meal. Which I enjoyed thoroughly. Saturday morning I arrived in Dublin, painfully aware that I could not remember if I had told the guys when my flight would arrive and so the adventure begins. I watched random people in the airport for an hour before I spotted David. Before that a customs official had warily eyed me and my haggard expression and questioned how long I would be touring the European Union. “Three months.” Crazy Americans.

The guys had guessed my arrival time and pretty accurately at that. We left the airport in our gleaming black Passat station wagon while they filled me in on what my academic endeavors had caused me to miss we drove to Phibsboro Street to research hostels in Dublin and continued on foot into the city at the top of O’Connell Street I received my first taste of real Irish culture as a mob of young men dressed in red accosted another in blue, jeering lustily and generously dousing him in alcohol. I had seen an usually large number of those red jerseys at the airport that morning. I learned through a newspaper that the Munster rugby team, based in Limerick, were in Dublin for the semifinals in the European Rugby League. Dublin’s own Lienster team sported the same blue as the abused fan on O’Connell Street. We continued to explore the city, including Trinity College, dating back to the 16th century. At St. Stephen’s Green I became separated from the guys when preoccupied with photographing a line of horse-drawn carriages. Then we ate Fauxtella on crackers in the park laughing about Rosedale times of yore.

Around 5:30 and the beginning of the rugby match, we walked toward Croke Park through throngs of red and blue supporters, many of whom were well intoxicated in the Irish tradition. We enjoyed the stadium’s cheers and roars as we circled the game just under way. Along our route, we each received a banana from a man clad in a monkey suit. Naturally. Back in the city center on Temple Bar Street, we found a pub and tried to blend in with the throngs watching the match on several flat-screen tellys. To complete the experience of watching rugby in an Irish pub we shared half a pint of Guinness David, Shenk and I decided we weren’t quite ready for Irish citizenship, finding the brew slightly less than pleasurable. More pleasurable was the rugby match where the home team dominated in an upset, winning 25 to 6. Munster fans were much quieter as we left the pub finding our car in its parking garage we drove out to Swords to the game reserve where the guys had slept the night before.

With Ziegler’s burner we cooked delicious pea soup with ham, adding extra ham and carrots. Needing more space in the car as it began to rain, we stowed our suitcases and miscellaneous necessities on the roof and draped it with the two tarps. We fell asleep, Shenk and I in the back and David and Ziegler in the front, praying that the stakes would hold and that our few belongings would remain dry. To be continued…

Matt