Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Postcard from Downpatrick: "ISN'T IT FANTASTIC JESUS LOVES YOU"


Your correspondent blogger writes today from the Belfast-Stranraer ferry enroute to Edinburgh. My travels with a fellow priest began yesterday where our plane touched down in Dublin and we picked up our rental wheels. Our route to Ardglass where we had made arrangements to stay for the night took us through the patriarchal see city of Armagh due to diverted traffic because of roadwork. We did not stop, however, due to lack of sleep and time limits.

The day’s lessons in driving “on the wrong side of the road” were punctuated by a pilgrimage stop at Downpatrick to see the grave of Saint Patrick. The holy patron of Ireland is entombed upon a hilltop under a mammoth stone. He shares his resting place with co-patron Brigid and Columban, or Columcille, where we paused for prayers and photos of the surrounding slopes, studded with tombs and falling away on one side to the city below and on the other the now-Church of Ireland run Cathedral of the Holy Trinity against a background of hills and fields.

In an effort to call ahead to the B&B at Ardglass I attempted to feed Euro coins into a phone that, upon later inspection, was designed to eat only British pounds I found a note. On one side was written the message:

ISN'T IT FANTASTIC

JESUS LOVES YOU

Curious to know more about this proposition I turned the card over and found the somewhat ominous declaration:

NO PRIEST

NO MASS

Having heard often and over many years of the internecine provocations 'twixt Protestants and Catholics left me unprepared for such a personal experience of “negative evangelization”.

Our hostess at Ardglass was glad to hear that her house would serve as temporary chapel for two priests and Mass that evening, sharing the story of her own experience of once serving as secretary at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Belfast. She has incorporated some items from the church into her home that were unwanted when replacements were acquired such as the twentieth century baptismal font that now supports human life in a new way by bearing items for guests' morning repasts.

More soon. Thanks for visiting and God bless you.

((((..))))

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