Friday, June 28, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 69)

1. It took me a few days to get used to the dark again. The longest day of the year is a lot shorter in Tennessee than in Orkney. By 9:00, it is actually dark outside, and the sun doesn’t come up until after 6. What madness. And the days are only getting shorter.

2. Last summer, I accidently went a whole week without talking to anyone. I admit, I’m a bit jealous of my former self. I’m grateful for the family and friends I’ve been hanging out with, but there is something so delightful in the thought of an entire week without any obligations.

3. The trip is over, but the work is not! I’m working on some essays and cleaning up journal entries for the study abroad so I can actually get a grade. Once I get them done, it’s back to traveling! I have three trips to visit friends and family planned for July.

4. I’m also on the prowl for an on-campus job and volunteer work. I’m also planning on finding on off-campus job too. I think the stress of searching is worse than actually working. I feel like a puppy in the pet shop window, with each passerby pleading, “Pick me! Pick me!”

5. I’ve set up a tentative schedule for myself that includes exercise, writing, and nap times. I know I’ll be more productive if I can get myself to actually follow it. I’m optimistic though.

6. I love the texture of books, but when I realized that all the nineteenth century novels I wanted to read are free on iTunes, I had to give up the physical book in exchange for free digital text. I still wish I were reading them on paper instead of on my phone, but free is free.

7. I have a couple of friends who are going through some tough times right now for different reasons. I don’t want to put any more than that out on the interwebs, but prayers for them would be appreciated, as well as prayers for me as I try to find the right ways to be there for them.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

St. Eunan

St. Eunan (in Gaelic, Adhamhnán) was born in Donegal around 624 and educated by Columban monks. In 650, he moved to the island of Iona as a novice. In 679, he became the abbot. He returned to Ireland multiple times, keeping an open line of communication between Ireland and Scotland. He adopted the Roman dating of Easter (which caused some controversy within the Iona community) and argued for it in Ireland.

In 697, he wrote the “Law of Adomnan,” a set of laws designed to guarantee the immunity of various non-combatants in warfare. It is also called the “Law of Innocents.” Eunan also worked with the king of Northumbria for the release of 60 men who had been captured in raids.

As a Columban monk, it was only natural that Eunan also wrote a biography of St. Columba, which is considered the most important surviving work in early medieval Scotland. It is still used as a source for medieval Gaelic religious life and that Picts. St. Eunan died on Iona in 704. He is the patron of the Raphoe diocese in Donegal. His feast day is September 23.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Corpus Christi in Ireland

Last summer I got to go to Iona, where I first learned of St. Columba. This summer I got to go to Derry, where Columba worked before going to Scotland. He always seems to be popping up on me. In fact, I went to Mass at a church built on the spot where Columba’s monastery was. We had a free day that Saturday, and I had been wondering around Derry, looking at churches. I had already seen the Church of Ireland cathedral, St. Columb’s, as well as St. Augustine’s, a small church founded by Columba which now sits within the walled city. But the Catholic churches can’t be in the walled city, so I left through the Bishop’s Gate and followed the map I had Googled earlier in search of St. Coumba's Long Tower Church where I could actually participate, not just tour.

I was immediately in a residential section and felt totally out of place. I followed the map, which took me down a street so narrow and obscure, I wasn’t sure if it was a real road or just an alley; I certainly wouldn’t have chosen this path on my own. Yea, though I walk through the valley of death, I briefly thought to myself. The tall walls next to the sidewalk had long metal spikes at the top, and gateposts had IRA tags. But once I turned another corner, I found a beautiful church tucked away in the corner of a not-so-beautiful neighborhood.

It was the Feast of Corpus Christi, and it also was the first day of the novena for St. Columba’s feast day next week. St. Columba is the town’s patron saint, and the church even has its roots in the monastery he ran in Derry, so his feast day was a big deal. His stone is set in a monument just outside the church; it’s the base of a life-size statue of Christ on the cross with the women and St. Columba. Inside, there were statues of St. Patrick and St. Columba and banners in Columba’s honor, including the alter cloth which read in green writing “holy patron of our town.”

I got there very early so that I could sit and look at the detailed alters and stained glass. There were a handful of older people there, which is typical for me, to bring the average age down a few decades. After I set in a pew, I realized the man in front of me was probably schizophrenic; he was having muttered conversations with people not there, including hand gestures and head turning. At one point, he began hitting his hand against the pew in front of him and repeating, “The Lord is my Shepard” over and over. There was pain in his voice, as if he were battling demons and that line was all he had to fight with. I admit, he unnerved me, and I considered moving. But I didn’t, partly because I had recited part of the same psalm moments ago and I found the coincidence compelling. And partly because I always feel safe in a church. And the man should feel safe and welcomed too; next to a hospital, this should be the best place for him.
Closer to Mass, more people showed up. There were multiple lines for Reconciliation, which I’m not used to seeing. Most families lit candles, which I don’t see a lot of either. The mass was, well, normal, because all Catholic churches use the same readings and responses. I was a bit disappointed in no incense; I was hoping the Irish use it more than Americans. The only confusing part was going up to receive the Eucharist. There was no line, nor order. Everyone just got up at once and clustered around the rail as spaces opened up. It was confusing, but it did serve a lot of people quickly. It was organized chaos (Know what’s better than organized chaos? Organized structure).

I loved the odd architecture, the ornate alter, and general beauty of this church. I know many people claim that church is the community and not the building, but a beautiful building can do so much. I look at the poor neighborhood and think of the years of discrimination and suffering the members of this congregation have faced. They deserve a quiet refuge. They deserve a beautiful place. A beautiful church can be an oasis. We give our riches and talents into making a work of art to honor God and give to the community instead of keeping it for ourselves. When I go into an ornate church, I don’t see a rich church; I see our wealth. It belongs to the little old church lady. It belongs to the confused man. It belongs to the unruly child. It belongs to the nervous visitor. I’m part of the Church, so its wealth is mine. Its beauty is mine. 

After church, I went back up the path, which didn’t seem so scary now. It started to lightly rain, and I laughed at how stereotypically Irish it all felt: a post-Mass walk to a pub in the rain. It felt familiar and safe, a contrast from how I felt finding the church. But that's how one should leave church: more secure, more confident, happier.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

St. Columba

St. Columba going to Iona, at Long Tower Church in Derry

St. Columba is known in both Northern Ireland and Scotland, so in my travels, he kept popping up. In Gaelic, he is called Colm Cille (“church dove”). He was born in 521 into a well-off family, the descendant of an Irish king. Ireland was becoming increasingly Christian. Columba studied Latin and theology under St. Finian. He became a monk and later was ordained a priest. He founded a number of monasteries, including in Derry and Kells.

Around 560, Columba and Finnian of Movilla got into a fight over a book of psalms. Columba had copied it and wanted to keep it, while Finnian claimed it belonged to the scriptorium. Their disagreement led to an actual battle in 561. A number of men were killed in the Battle of Cul Dreimhne. Some blamed the deaths on Columba and called for his excommunication; he was allowed to go into exile instead. Columba went to Scotland as a missionary.

In 563, Columba and 12 others went to Scotland to convert the Picts. He was granted land on the island Iona where he founded a monastery. Iona served as a literary center for the region, and Columba served as a diplomat for the various Pictish kings. Iona served as a school for missionaries, and the men there transcribed more than 300 books. The “Book of Kells” was started here before moving to Ireland.

There are lots of little stories about miracles surrounding Columba, but my favorite entails the Loch Ness Monster. In 565, the monster had killed a Pict and tried to attack one of Columba’s followers, so Columba banished the monster to the depths of the River Ness.
St. Columba died on Iona in 597. He is the patron of the city of Derry. His feast day is June 9.

Monday, June 24, 2013

St. Finian

This is the first in a series of Irish and Scottish saints I encountered during my study abroad. I felt like I was always tripping over a saint's footsteps, and it was wonderful!

St. Finian was born in Ireland around 470 but trained in Wales. When he returned to Ireland, he started a number of monasteries and schools. Men from all over would gather at the Clonard school to study under Finian. It is stated that more than 3,000 men studied there.

Finian is best known as a teacher, specifically for his pupils who are known as the Twelve Apostles of Ireland. In the manuscript (in Gaelic Dá apstol décc na hÉrenn), the twelve men are gathered for a feast at Finian’s house when a magical flower appears before them. They decide that one of them must take a voyage to the flower’s homeland. St. Brendan goes, and his adventures are recorded in another text. However, all of the apostles went out to spread the Gospel. All became canonized saints. Most notable of the twelve is St. Columba of Iona.

Finian died during a plague in 549. His feast day is December 12.

Friday, June 7, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 68)

I'm in Glasgow at the moment after almost a week in Northern Ireland, and tomorrow, I'm heading to the Orkney islands. I'm having a wonderful and taking lots of notes, but clearing not getting a lot of posting done. I will have lots to write once I get back to the States though. In the meantime, some pictures of my church-touring, which next to free museums is my favorite thing to do when traveling.

1. St. Augustine's (Church of Ireland), Derry

2. St. Columb's Cathedral (Church of Ireland), Derry

3. St. Columb's again

4. Long Tower Church (Roman Catholic), Derry

5. St. Anne's Cathedral (Church of Ireland), Belfast

6. St. Patrick's Church (Roman Catholic), Belfast

7. St Mungo's Cathedral/ High Kirk of Glasgow (Church of Scotland), Glasgow