|Yesterday at Bonaventure Cemetery|
Yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day and it’s a big thing in Savannah. While I stayed away from the parade as there was other things to do, a morning downpour thanks to a thunderstorm turned the streets of my island into rivers of green (or yellow-green from pollen). In the afternoon, I was at an funeral service in Bonaventure Cemetery, which is beautiful this time of the year. Thinking about St. Patrick’s, I jotted down this memory last night about visiting the cathedral of his name in Dublin, Ireland.
|Inside St. Patrick's|
In the summer of 2011, after traveling overland from Singapore to Europe during a sabbatical, I returned to the United States on a Holland America ship that made a number of stops along the way. One of the stops was Dublin, Ireland. It was a Sunday morning and the ship docked during breakfast, allowing for a long layover (18 hours). Being Sunday, as is my usual custom, I wanted to find a place to worship. In Dublin, St. Patrick's Cathedral was the place. After all, Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver's Travels and A Modest Proposal (which has probably ruined the appetites of more high school and college students than any other tract) was Dean of the cathedral back in the early part of the 18th Century. Although I'm not one who worries much about the canonization of saints, if I was, I would support Swift as the patron saint of satirists and all smart-asses. And if you need a miracle to prove that he’s worthy to be "beautified," it could be him not being defrocked for inappropriate relationships with his friend Stella. Of course, no one has ever proved the two had such relationships. Some believed the two had been secretly married even though there was no proof of such a union. They certainly spent a lot of time together, travelling together, and are buried together, side-by-side near the front of the sanctuary.
St. Patrick's is a cathedral associated with the Church of Ireland which is within the Anglican Communion. It is odd that there are two such cathedrals within Dublin, both with long histories. St. Patrick's was built between 1220 and 1260, but on a site of an older church and supposedly the place where Patrick himself first baptized Irish converts around 450. Christ Church Cathedral was built a century earlier than the "new St. Patrick" (but this wasn't the first "St Patrick's on that site and it had former site was already declared the site of the cathedral). Ironically, both churches are a part of the Church of Ireland, which is the minority. Most of the population being Roman Catholic. I didn't know any of this when I visited except that St. Patrick's was an Anglican Church.
After breakfast on the ship, they ran shuttles into downtown Dublin, dropping us off at Trinity College. From there, tour buses were lined up for our fare. I took one that allowed me to get on and off, so I could see the city while stopping for church at St. Patrick’s. The church was beautiful from the outside, but was not yet open, so I found a place for coffee and caught up on my journal and read some as I waited for the doors to open. I was surprised to learn there was a fee for touring the church, but if you attended worship, you didn't have to buy a ticket and would then be allowed to look around afterwards. So I put my contribution in the plate instead of investing in a ticket.
Although the outside is beautiful, the inside of the church is magnificent. I took a seat (there were plenty around as only a hundred or so attended the service in a sanctuary that seated 100s). My eyes feasted on the tall stone columns, the artwork, the incredible stain glass windows. Looking around, I realized that probably half the congregation were tourist (and many were there to pay homage to Mr. Swift, as afterwards we all congregated around his tomb). The choir was incredible, their voices filling the cathedral and echoing off the tile floors, stone walls and rising up in the nave. The pastor, an English chap named Rev. I. P. Poulton, preached on "What will a man profit if he gains the world and loses his soul." He proceeded to tell us about his granddaddy's farm in Central England. It was a good sermon that challenged our commercialist culture, but I wonder how the Irish felt being dragged back across the channel into England...
When the service was over, I walked around the nave and looked at where Swift was buried before heading out to tour around Dublin. Lunch was in an Irish pub. I was in need of a haircut (I hadn’t had one since Bangkok). Afterwards, I toured some more, then headed back to the ship in time for dinner. The ship didn't sail until 2 AM, but I decided I was not up for a night of partying and even if I was, would have worried about having a little too much to drink and missing the ship. The next stop was the Faroe Islands, which would have been difficult and cost a small fortune to reach if I had to catch up with the ship.
I was sound asleep when the mooring lines were tossed and the ship sailed. I woke up the next morning and before going out to walk around the deck, checked our location. We were still in sight of land, as we passed through the North Channel between Ireland and the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland. The wind was blowing around 30 knots and from the northwest. The waters were gray capped with white foam, under clouds that hid the sun. I felt alive, but wished I had had more time to spend in Ireland.