LAST Friday, along with another 200 people, my wife, Ger, and I had the pleasure of attending the wedding of Marty Clarke and Marie Tunney. Ballintubber Abbey, looking resplendent in its eight hundredth anniversary gown, was the venue for their public declaration of love ‘in the presence of the priest and the Christian community.’
A deep sense of love permeated the Abbey, seeping from its walls and pouring through the ether of history. How much love has been celebrated here over 800 years? Love cannot be measured. Love is lived, not counted. Ballintubber Abbey bristles with the ‘aliveness’ of love.
Last Friday it was bubbling. A young couple, their children Christine and Oisín, families, relations and friends, joined together in a sea of love. It was palpable. Love was all that mattered, not style, glamour or beauty, although we were blessed with all of those.
There was ‘neither Jew or Greek, slave or free, woman or man’ (Gal. 3.38) as we all gathered together in the presence of Love. It seemed as if people from all walks, genders and traits left their broken selves at the door. There was no ill will, no judgement and no negativity. We were all as one, united in love.
The Mayos were there from many townlands, parishes and towns under the protective energy of Croagh Patrick. They came from neighbouring counties and the ‘Boys in Blue’ were there in force. The cousins across the Irish Sea came, as did the relations and friends from over the Atlantic. A disparate group yet united in love.
Those gone before us all were there too; united on the altar that binds earth and heaven, all witnesses to a deep and precious love between a beautiful young couple. Grief, regrets and sorrow dissolved in the unity of love. There was no divide between eternity and now. There was no past or future, just the present, and all were there in their fullness.
Savouring the moment was so easy. It was a tangible experience of ‘God is love’ in such a beautiful and sacred setting. Love is all that matters, nothing else. The hallowed history of the Abbey drawing you in – voices of salvation singing softly in the aisles; holy chants seeping from the rafters; muffled whispers of psalm after psalm in a divine office of adoration.
Fr Charlie McDonnell, jovial and inclusive, led the prayerful ceremony, assisted by readers, intercessors and the beautiful singing voice of Grace Kelly, ever graceful and delicate in its perfect tone. To see Fr Frank Fahey there added to the blessings. He is the Abbey’s ‘guardian angel.’
All too soon the ceremony was over. Some of us skipped into the sacristy to see the hacked Apostles altar and the burial place of Gráinne Mhaol’s son, Tiobóid na Long. Outside, having endured the cold all-night temperatures, the Child of Prague’s fruits were blazing from a sun-filled sky.
Talk returned alongside the banter. “Hard luck in Croker last week,” said Eric Clarke, a dazzling Dub. ‘Croker’ is our cathedral of passion. One day our prayer will be heard.
Sam Maguire will be 66 years absent from Mayo in 2017. By then he will have the free travel! Our prayer is that he will use the bus pass to ‘come home’ next year. We pray it for our defeated team heroes, selfless to a man. To be alive when that day comes will be such a blessing.
Imagine love-filled Croke Park with Mayo as All-Ireland champions. The road home would take months, with victors visiting supporting counties the length and breadth of Ireland! And then London, New York, Australia…
Back on terra ferma the talk is also of Aleppo, a cauldron of death. “What can I do?” is the refrain of so many. There is no love in the air – just dropping bombs from the masters of war - Russian, American and Syrian.
Is there love in Aleppo? Do young couples pledge their love in front of God and their community of believers? Is God there?
He is where love is, on the ground. My heartson, Marty Clarke, and his beautiful bride, Marie Tunney, are testament to that. Deo gratias.