Sunday, 23 May 2010

Balmy evenings and cathedral joys

A balmy early summer evening in Portrane on Saturday (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

Patrick Comerford

It has been a busy weekend – an evening in Kilkenny for the installation of the new Dean of Saint Canice’s Cathedral, a funeral in Rathgar, a birthday party in Portrane, the Pentecost Eucharist in Christ Church Cathedral, Sunday lunch with friends in the city centre, and a visit to the Blessington Lakes in Co Wicklow.

But then, it’s been a busy week too.

After working through the residential weekend for NSM and part-time MTh students – including their graduation service in the chapel, with the presentation of certificates and diplomas – it was straight into a busy week, with the final meetings of the Courts of Examiners for the BTh course.

It was a tough week too, because I knew I needed another injection for my Vitamin B12 deficiency – without this the symptoms of my Sarcoidosis are compounded, and the injections, although they are only monthly at this stage, take about two days to kick in.

The Revd Elaine Murray (registrar) and Bishop Michael Burrows wait with the choir for the west doors of the the cathedral to open (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

By Friday afternoon, I was ready to head off to Kilkenny for the installation of Canon Katharine Poulton as the new Dean of Saint Canice’s Cathedral by Bishop Michael Burrows.

Katharine and I were installed as canons of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, on the same day almost three years ago. We joked that afternoon about being the “Baby Canons.”

After parking beneath and the towers and the pinnacles of the cathedral, four of us headed off to stroll through the streets of Ireland’s most beautiful and delightful city, before sitting down to an early dinner in Café Sol in William Street.

Saint Patrick’s flag flying above Saint Canice’s Cathedral on Friday evening (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

It was a warm, bright evening when we arrived back at the cathedral, and it was heart-warming to see the unusual sight of Saint Patrick’s Flag fluttering in the light breeze. It was even more heart-warming to see so many clergy from Katharine’s old diocese, Dublin and Glendalough, and her new diocese, Cashel and Ossory (in shorthand) robed for the procession, and to hear an Irish Primate, Bishop David Chillingworth of the Scottish Episcopal Church, preach the sermon.

Bishop Michael Burrows and Dean Katharine Poulton after her installation in Kilkenny (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

The “bun fight” afterwards was in Kilkenny College, so it was early Friday morning rather than late Thursday night when I got home … but then, you have to peel me out of Kilkenny every time I go there.

Saturday morning was a sad occasion. I was at the funeral of my priest colleague, the Revd Wilbert Gourley, the Rector of Zion Parish, Rathgar, who had died earlier this week. The orchestra of the High School played pieces by both Fauré and Bach, and there was an impressive turn-out of clerical colleagues and friends from the Diocese of Dublin and Glendalough and beyond.

I wondered whether there was going to be any space or time for a walk on the beach at the weekend?

But on Saturday evening I headed out to one of my favourite secluded corners of Ireland … Portrane in north Co Dublin.

Looking out over Tower Bay and across towards Lambay Island in Portrane on Saturday evening (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

My cousin was celebrating her 40th birthday with her family and friends, and it was an ideal evening for a party of this kind. Her house looks down onto a tiny beach below the Martello Tower and out east onto the Irish Sea, with views across to the north-east to Lambay Island and to the south-east to Donabate and Howth Head. A majestic half moon stood still in the blue sky, and as darkness fell softly it was a balmy evening that could have gone on … and on … and on.

This morning we celebrated the Feast of Pentecost in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, and I was the Gospeller during the liturgy. It seemed there was Pentecost red everywhere: the red cushions that have stayed on the seats since General Synod; the red vestments of the altar party; the red stole of the Revd David McDonnell, who preached one of his last sermons as a deacon before his ordination to the priesthood next week. And what a powerful and well-delivered sermon it was too.

Afterwards, four of us headed off to Bar Italia in Dublin’s Italian Quarter for lunch, sitting out in the warm summer sunshine. These have been the warmest and sunniest days we’ve had for so long in Ireland … I could have imagined I was sitting out in an Italian city.

The Blessington Lakes on a sunny summer afternoon ... like being on the shores of Lake Garda (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

Later this afternoon, I spent an hour two up in the Wicklow Mountains, around the Blessington Lakes. The temperatures were still in the mid to high 20s, and this was as good as spending a Sunday afternoon on the shores of Lake Garda.

The exam courts continue in the coming weeks, there’s a sermon to finish for Trinity Sunday and the Festal Eucharist in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, and there’s a few busy board meetings too. And I’m looking forward to it all. And I’m also looking forward to a Sunday that’s coming up when I’ve been invited to preach and celebrate the Eucharist in both Donabate and Swords, with the baptism of a baby in Donabate too. What a joy to be asked to do this. Despite the difficult symptoms of Sarcoidosis, despite the nagging problems created by the deficiency of B12, life is truly beautiful and I feel very blessed indeed.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Director of Spiritual Formation, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and a canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.