Monday, January 23, 2017

Golden Rose

Praised be Jesus Christ!  And blessed be Our Lady of Knock, Queen of Ireland!  What a weekend.  After lunch on Friday we loaded up the cars and headed out to the west of Ireland, to a little town called Knock.  Traveling is tough.  It takes a lot out of you to be driving from one coast of an island to another.  But, we always keep it in our heads that this experience is a privilege and a grace.  And, as usual, the weekend was packed.  On Saturday we celebrated the Holy Mass at a church that is celebrating it's 800th birthday.  That's old!  It was actually near a well where St. Patrick is said to have baptized hundreds.  And speaking of St. Patrick, went also traveled to the famous Croagh Patrick.  This is a mountain that  attracts thousands of pilgrims a year, some of whom climb the mountain in their bare feet!  This picture is from about halfway up.  The hour-long climb was a good time to recognize our human limitations and to offer up our sufferings to Christ!  And, boy did it hurt.

The other pictures are of the Apparition Shrine at Knock and some of our group.  In 1879, Our Lady appeared to 15 people during a vision at Knock.  If you don't know the story, I would encourage you to look it up.  Knock was a really peaceful town and grace seems to permeate through the area.  Our beloved rector, Msgr. Callahan has graced us with his presence the last few days and spent quality time with us at Knock.  His love for Our Mother Mary is infectious.  And so, we opened our hearts up to Mary this weekend- begging her to bring us to Jesus.  May we all take this moment to rededicate ourselves to Mary.  Who better to lead us to Jesus than the sweet, little one that brought Him into the world?  Our Lady of Knock, pray for us!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Blessings of Landscape and Travel

Now that we have hit the half-way mark of our trip to Ireland, I find that some initial reflection on the many blessings that God has given us. One thing that has struck me deeply so far has been the beautiful setting that God given us to visit and study. Whether it is the rolling hills or beautiful manor houses, we are constantly surrounded by God's spectacular creation.

This is a look at St. Patrick's Seminary in Maynooth, where we live and have class. Simply walking through St. Joseph's courtyard every day is a treat.

The College Chapel, as seen here, is one of the hidden treasures of this campus. Even after having traveled around Europe in the past, this is probably the most beautiful Church building I have ever been in. Several of us often pray our holy hour or pray Evening Prayer in this majestic chapel.

In addition to these sites on campus, just a short walk on the main road through the town and down a tree-lined lane lies Carton House.

This old manor house sits lordly looking over vast acres of fields and hills.

Taking advantage of one of the few sunny days that we have had, some of us went out for a walk on the grounds of Carton House simply to take in the scenery. After going on a walk for several hours on the grounds, we all agreed that this is simply some of the most stunning landscape that we have ever seen. Blessed be God!

Another great blessing of our time in Ireland has been our trips to many different places around the island. Yesterday, we had the grace and the privilege to take a day trip to Dublin. While in Dublin we visited Trinity College, saw the Book of Kells, and went to the Chester Beatty Library, which had several ancient documents and artifacts from around the world, including several of the oldest fragments of some of St. Paul's letters! Sadly, we were not allowed to take pictures in most parts of the museums. However, here are some pictures of the Long Room Library at Trinity College with a few pictures of some faces that might be familiar.

After the museums, we all split up and roamed the city of Dublin. Some men went to the Irish Parliament.

Others went to the Catholic Pro-Cathedral of St. Mary's.

Still others went to the Guiness Storehouse and while some went to the Temple Bar. But no matter where we went, we all walked at some point along the Liffy!

All in all, it was a successful and glorious day in Dublin (despite the occasional drizzle.)
Oh! And let's not forget the blessings of friends! Now that we are half-way through our trip, I am excited to see what God has in store for us for the second half!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Glenstal Abbey

This weekend we all went to Glenstal Abbey, a Benedictine Abbey.  We all had a wonderful time as we joined the monks for prior as well as some study.  Fr. Macnamara, one of the monks, teaches at the seminary in Maynooth and he taught us a little about the parables and looking at them in ways that we may have not done before.  We also received a tour of the place from one of the monks.

We started our tour right outside the gates of the Abbey

A Mass rock, that was used by the Irish during the Penal Laws
Part of the tour of the abbey included a Mass rock.  A Mass rock was a place that the Irish would going to celebrate Mass during the time of the Penal Laws.  That time period was especially difficult for Catholics as they were not allowed to celebrate the Mass, so they went deep into the woods and celebrated in secret.
We explored he Rock of Cashel

On Sunday, we left the Abbey after Mass and lunch and on our way home (to Maynooth) made a couple of stops.  One of those stops was to the Rock of Cashel.  The Rock of Cashel was a fortress of a Church situated on top of a hill.  We had a lot of fun walking about the ruins of the church that had been abandoned because of the cost to maintain.  There have since been efforts made to restore and maintain what remains.  It was a really nice day and we had a beautiful opportunity to look at the greenness of the Irish countryside.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Semiarians and Saints

Praised be Jesus Christ!  Ireland is a blessed place.  While there is no denying that the faithful of this country have been hit hard in the past few decades with problems and scandals, there is still so much good.  Even in the short time we've been here I've seen so much from the men of the seminary here in Maynooth and learned so much about the rich Catholic tradition in Ireland. 

The 40-or-so Irish seminarians have embraced us American visitors with open arms.  They have been nothing but helpful and hospitable to us in all our needs.  We bond with each other in the chapel and in the cafeteria and can even joke with each other to the point of the picture below! (P.S. Sorry for the pictures, I tried and tried, but just couldn't find a way to rotate them.) They are funny men!  But, what is so beautiful is how they are striving after the Priestly Heart of Christ amidst the trials and tribulations of the Church in Ireland.  It is inspiring to see their faith and courage, their love of God and of His People.  I am consoled to have these new friends, such brothers, to walk towards the priesthood with. 

Also in the relatively short time we've been here, a few of us have had the privilege to travel around the countryside a bit.  On one of our first free afternoons, a few men and I went to see a patron saint of one of the seminarians- St. Kevin.  We hopped in the car, drove on the left side of the street, drove through small and winding mountain roads (which got me a little woozy), and drove past sheep and farms until we reached a monastery build by St. Kevin of Glendalough in the 600s.  The story goes that Kevin, desiring to live a life solely for the Lord, lived in a small cave on the side of the mountain for 7 years before coming down and founding this monastery.  It was a strikingly beautiful place- the kind that just makes you thank God you're alive.  We found the cave of St. Kevin and also the monastery, praying at both sites.  The picture below fails to capture the true beauty of the area or the beauty of our prayer.  For, in prayer we speak with God Himself!  Know that we continue our prayers for you here on the Emerald Isle, and beg you to remember us as well.  Please pray for the Church in Ireland and for all us seminarians at Maynooth, that we might become holy priests for God's Children and one day saints like St. Kevin.

Our Lady of Knock, pray for us!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


Wow!  We all made it to the seminary in Maynooth yesterday after a whirlwind of travel and only a little bit of confusion.  After picking up the cars and learning how to drive again we all made our way to the seminary.  The combination of driving on the other side of the road and being in a foreign country proved to be a challenge for some of us on our way to the seminary but in the end we all made it to our destination safe and sound.  After some prayer and dinner most guys went to bed.
Today we started with our first class.  It was about the history of the Church in Ireland, starting right around the time of St. Patrick.  We learned a lot about the history of the Church here.  Later in the afternoon we recieved a tour of the campus and we got to see one of there chapels that they use on special occasions, it was truly beautiful.
We are so thankful for the warm welcome we have received and for the seminarians who have really made an effort to get to know us and hang out with us even thought they are in the midst of their exams.  Already I am filled with gratitude for this awesome opportunity to study here in Ireland!--AZ

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Hello Everyone! Welcome to Reflections of Ireland. Throughout our travels in Ireland this January, Andrew Zipp, Louis Floeder, and I will be posting about some of our adventures. We officially leave for Ireland this Sunday evening (1/8/17) and we will land in Ireland the next day. I am excited that we can take all of you with us on this trip across the pond!--JG