Friday, August 21, 2009

Early Christianity in Ireland

I always associated Patrick with the spread of Christianity in Ireland, but as I travelled with my son and daughter-in-law, Ian and Juliette, in Ireland in July, I learned that he was not the first to bring the gospel to that land. The first recorded missionary there was Palladius, sent by Pope Celestine to be the bishop to the “Irish who believe in Christ”. He visited Ireland in 431, established a mission in Leinster, and set up a number of churches. Patrick arrived later and his mission was largely around Ulster and Connacht.

The first Monastic settlement that I visited was at Glendalough, which had been established by Kevin, who was born in Leinster in 498. He studied under Penroc in Cornwall, and after his ordination lived as a hermit at Glendalough until persuaded by the disciples he attracted to give up his solitary life. The stone church built in the 6th Century still stands intact apart from the timbers. Ian and me outside St. Kevin's church Kevin died around 618, but the monastery he founded flourished and continued in spite of many raids and destruction at the hands of the Vikings, the Normans, and finally the English in 1398 which left it in ruins although it continued to be a place of pilgrimage.

Kevin was a companion and confessor to Ciaran (Kieran) who founded Clonmacnoise in about 544 on the then cross-roads of Ireland where the north/south artery of communication, Shannon River, crossed the east/west route along the gravel ridges of the glacial eskers. This pivotal location contributed to the development of Clonmacnoise as a major religious, educational, trade, craftmanship and political centre of influence. He died of the plague 8 months later. The tiny church, Temple Ciaran (with Ian in the foreground) is reputed to be his burial place. Clonmacnoise was subject to attack and raids from Irish kings, Vikings, the Anglo-Normans, the English garrison at Athlone in 1552 which devastated the monastery, and finally by Oliver Cromwell and his troops in 1649. Repairs and restoration have been carried out in varying degrees since 1689. It continues to be a place of pilgrimage.

Communities have come and gone at these monastic sites. The individuals who lived, studied, prayed, worked, and spread the gospel from there are now unknown and forgotten. What remains is a testimony to their faithfulness to Christ. At the Glendalough site two ladies were praying and meditating at each of the ruins – clearly on a pilgrimage of their own. Rather than mourn the loss of what was, I choose to give the past a future by carrying with me the peace that pervaded the sites, and allowing the rhythm of study, prayer and work, that was practiced there, to shape my life.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

At home in Cavan

Their Fiat in which Julz fetched from Dublin airport. Second-hand cars are very cheap there - this one cost 1500 Euros (~R15000). Note the easy to read number plate: last two digits of the year of manufacture (00) - the county in which first registered (D for Dublin) - number registered (60023rd).

The furnished house they are renting since moving from Monaghan to Cavan in July - a spacious 2-double and 1-single bedroomed home with 2 bathrooms upstairs, and guest loo, lounge, diningroom/kitchen downstairs.

Ian and Julz at the front door

and in the back yard

Cavan General Hospital where Ian is employed as an Anaesthetics Registrar. His good friend Bernd Lenhard is standing next to the pole, 'posing'.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Off to Ireland

I wonder if everyone gets anxious when they fly, or is it just me? Even though I enjoy flying, I still get anxious at the beginning of each leg of the journey. This time was no exception, expecially as we were delayed by 2 hours at Jo'burg airport and only left at 01h30 instead of 23h30 - which meant that I might have to make arrangements if I missed my connecting flight to Dublin. The weather radar was not working as it should, and neither was the air-conditioning - so we sat on the plane in the middle of the night waiting for the engineers to rectify everything - which they did fortunately. Then we were served 'dinner' at 03h00! The trip to Amsterdam was 'without hitch', and completed in 10&1/2 hours instead of 11, so on landing I had 1/2 hour to get to my next gate to immediately board the flight to Dublin - and I made it! One strange (to my mind) offer that we had during our first flight was that we were served a choice of water or ice-cream at about 08h00 - breakfast being served at 10h30!! A good introduction to the change in times that I would experience during my stay with Ian and Julz in Ireland!
Leaving Amsterdam

Arriving over Dublin

Different cultures and languages, different population densities, but from the air the habits of humanity not different - buildings to live and work in, fields to cultivate for crops and stock - the business of living is the same the world over.