10 August 2014

A new take on Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice
to ‘do one thing every day that scares you’

The slipway on the beach at Bray, close to Bray Rowing Club at sunset this evening (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Patrick Comerford

There is a viral project on social media in which people nominate friends to name three positive experiences each day for five successive days.

All the lifestyle coaches and manuals tell you that doing one new positive thing each day can be as life-enhancing as, say, taking a brisk walk, eating a healthy meal or having a hearty laugh.

Many websites on lifestyle and healthy living recommend make it a point to learn at least one new thing each day: the name of a flower that grows in your garden, the capital of another country, or the name of a piece of classical music you hear while shopping. By the end of the day, if you cannot identify something new you have learned during the day, take out a dictionary and learn a new word.

It is a lot less daunting than taking up Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice: “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

But I have done three new things over these past three days, and each has been enriching.

The Basiani Ensemble from Georgia in Saint Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny on Friday evening (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Late on Friday afternoon [8 August 2014], two of us strolled through Kilkenny, including looking at the restored Shee mausoleums in Saint Mary’s Churchyard, before having dinner with two dear friends in the Café Sol Bistro in William Street.

Later, we strolled through Kilkenny to Saint Canice’s Cathedral, where we were guests in the “Dean’s Pew” for the opening concert of this year’s Kilkenny Arts Festival.

The concert by the Basiani Ensemble from Georgia was a mixed programme of folk songs from Georgia and sacred songs from the Georgian Orthodox liturgical tradition.

Georgian song is rooted in ancient traditions described by the Greek philosopher Xenophanes of Colophon. Church hymnody developed from the 4th century and reached its zenith in the 10th and 11th centuries, with Georgian drawing on Greek hymns but also developing hymns of their own.

The Basiani Ensemble is the folk ensemble of the Georgian Patriarchate, based in Holy Trinity Cathedral in Tbilisi and supported by the Patriarch or Catholicos of Georgia and the President of Georgia.

The moon was almost full as we left saint Canice’s Cathedral on Friday night (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

On our way to Kilkenny on Friday afternoon, through the countryside of the three counties of Kildare, Carlow and Kilkenny, the countryside, the fields were green and golden, with people working hard at the harvest. As we stepped out of Saint Canice’s on Friday night, the moon was almost full, shining through the arch of the south-west porch of the Cathedral.

Rothe House on a bright summer night in Kilkenny (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

As we strolled back through the Kilkenny, the night sky was bright and there was festive feeling on the streets.

Bikers on a Mission arrive in Christ Church Cathedral on Saturday morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

On Saturday morning, I went into Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, to meet the Bikers on a Mission – the Revd Andrew McCroskery and the Revd Nigel McCroskery – who were on one of the last legs of their ten-day round-Ireland tour of the 30 cathedrals of the Church of Ireland to raise awareness of and funds for the work in Swaziland supported from Ireland by the Anglican mission agency Us (the new name for USPG).

There was a good turnout for Andrew and Nigel before they continued on to Saint Brigid’s Cathedral, Kildare, and Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Trim, and about 20 of us took part in a simple prayer service with the two bikers in the choir stalls in Christ Church.

One of the prayers we used was adapted from a prayer written by Lancelot Andrewes before he died in 1626:

Blessed are you, creator of all, to you be praise and glory for ever. As your dawn renews the face of the earth, bringing light and life to all creation, may we rejoice in this day you have made; as we wake refreshed from the depths of sleep, open our eyes to behold your presence and strengthen our hands to do your will, that the world may rejoice and give you praise. Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Hanover Square … the smallest square in Dublin? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

I had arrived in the city centre earlier and decided to take a look inside the Church of Saint Nicholas of Myra in Francis Street.

Having found Dublin’s shortest street, Cross Kevin Street, in this area, I wondered whether Hanover Square beside the church is the smallest and narrowest square in Dublin. The square and some of the other side-streets around here were named after the House of Hanover who came to the throne in Britain 300 years ago in 1714. Among the creative Germans they brought with them was George Frideric Handel, whose Messiah was first performed on 13 April 1742 a few streets away in Fishamble Street, below Christ Church Cathedral.

Inside the Church of Saint Nicholas of Myra, Francis Street, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

I had never been in Saint Nicholas Church before, and was interested in visiting it since I recently discovered by great-grandmother, Anne (Doyle) Comerford, was baptised there in 1834. However, each time I have arrived at the church in recent weeks I have found it closed and the gates locked.

Archbishop Patrick Russell (1683-1692) designated an earlier church on this site as the Metropolitan Church for the Roman Catholic Archbishops of Dublin.

The last archbishop to use the Francis Street Chapel as his Pro-Cathedral was John Thomas Troy (1787-1797), who was solemnly enthroned there on 15 February 1788 in a public ceremony attended by leading figures from state and society. But when Archbishop Troy moved from his residence from Francis Street to North King Street, the Pro-Cathedral status of the chapel in Francis Street came to an end.

The present church was designed by John Leeson, who was also the architect of Russborough House, near Blessington, Co Wicklow. Building work began in the late Georgian period in 1829 and the church was opened in 1834 and dedicated in 1835.

Saint Nicholas is depicted in a stained-glass window with three golden balls or bags and an anchor lie at his feet.

The church is so strikingly beautiful that it is worth a separate essay on this site later in the week.

Later in the evening, I spent a few hours finishing a feature article on the future of English identity following next month’s referendum in Scotland, and assembling and captioning photographs for this essay which is planned for next month’s editions of the Church Review and the Diocesan Magazine [September 2014].

Inside Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Ballsbridge, this morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

The highlight of this morning [Sunday 10 August 2014] was presiding at the Solemn Eucharist and preaching in Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Ballsbridge.

Later, after coffee, two of drove south to Blackrock in south Co Dublin, and parked on Idrone Terrace, close to the Dart Station and Blackrock Baths, and looking out to the sea towards Howth Head to the north.

I have been through Blackrock many times, but this was the first time in recent years to stroll through the Main Street, and my first time ever to visit the Blackrock Market, with its labyrinth of stalls.

A stall on the Blackrock Market (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Blackrock Market, which is open on Saturday and Sundays, was set up in 1996 and has a range of independent sellers, selling antiques, second-hand books, bean bags, hand-made candles, antiques, stamps and coins, crepes, home-made cakes and ethnic food.

We had a light lunch across the street in Insomnia, and while we sipping our double espressos outside on the street we noticed the cross at the south end of Main Street.

The cross on Main Street, Blackrock, Co Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Although the cross head is carved with a relief face of Christ, some local opinion suggests that the stone is much older than its Christian form suggests, and argues that the face represents an earlier pagan god. It was once used as a boundary marker for the City of Dublin, and while it stands today on an ugly modern concrete base it has become an important part of Blackrock’s heritage.

Beside the cross, Raven Books on 34 South Main Street was irresistible. It is a true delight to find a small independent bookshop like this, offering a mix of new and second hand books.

I ended up with The World’s Wife, a collection of poems by the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, who grew up in Stafford; The Mind of God by Paul Davies, looking at science and the search for ultimate meaning; and In the Spirit of Happiness: Wuisdom for Living, by the Monks of the New Skete. Theology, poetry, science and spirituality – a vivid combination to find on the shelves of any bookshop.

From Blackrock we returned home to a strong thunderstorm with heavy rains that made the street outside look like a small but fast-flowing river.

Later in the evening, four of us returned to the area south of Dublin, for dinner in El Greco, a Greek restaurant on the Main Street in Bray, Co Dublin.

Yesterday, was the birthday of the English poet Philip Larkin (1922-1985), who declined the position of Poet Laureate in 1984 following the death of John Betjeman. Although Larkin was born in Coventry [9 August 1922], I am planning at some stage to research a paper on his links with Lichfield. However, there was a family birthday this weekend, and El Greco was an appropriate Greek location for celebrating this.

Later, as the sun was setting, we strolled along the Promenade and the beach in Bray. It was a fitting end to the weekend, but I think that may have been doing at least three new things each day for three days rather than experiencing one new thing a day.

Sunset in Bray, Co Wicklow, this evening (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

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