After one returns from pilgrimage,
the sense of living inside a movie recedes.
Then certain remembered single images stand out.
For me, Father Michael Rodgers,
Glendalough pilgrimage guide, quiet in demeanor,
kindly in manner, yet passionate in his love for his special place
How many times had he told the story of St. Kevin and the Blackbird?
Thousands, I’m sure.
And yet, after he had invited all of us to contemplate,
when our attention was redirected from him to the beauty all around us,
he laid down his walking stick
and eased his aged knees into the position of prayer,
cupping some water in his hands and bringing it to his face.
I saw his humble posture out of the corner of my eye.
He wanted to be visible only to God, but there I was with an iPhone.
Guiltily, I took a split second to freeze the moment in time.
He never saw my theft.
Father Michael had just declared that ALL of us,
not just an inspired few,
are “prophets, poets, and mystics.”
We have the power to choose through our intention and attention.
I came home and discovered, once more, that intricate webs of thought
connect me to other pilgrims and prophets. And poets.
Edward Hirsch must have met someone like Father Michael in order to write this poem:
Father Michael in Glendalough and American poet Hirsch, undoubtedly
strangers in “real life,” seeming to be in deep conversation with each other.
Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney, in one of his loveliest poems, explains what
the prophet, the poet, and the mystic have in common:
doing the right thing for the reward of doing the right thing.
Where every act is a labor of love.
Astonishment was my first response to Ireland.
Now lingering images and powerful words,
connections between the visible and invisible,
travel with me on my quest for the sacred in everyday life.
Fortunately, two recent books in my life have strongly reinforced these connections.
Click below to read my reviews of these two books (I gave them both five stars):
On the Brink of Everything: Gravity, Grace, and Getting Old by Parker Palmer
If you want a sneak preview into themes that both books share, start with Tracy Rittmueller’s detailed, researched, blog post on 23 spiritual practices taught by the Rule of St. Benedict.
Have you seen anything lately that arrested you like the image of Father Michael kneeling did to me?