Those Smilin’ Irish Eyes – Marge Steinhage Fenelon

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Those Smilin’ Irish Eyes – Marge Steinhage Fenelon


Angler’s Rest Hotel, est. 1905 Image: AnglersRestHotel.com

In late September, I had the gift of speaking during a parish novena-mission to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Headford, Ireland. The blessed event ran for nine consecutive nights and was most beautiful. I presented on the first three nights and was able to participate in five of the remaining six nights. The titles of my talks are: “Mary as Mother,” “The Gift of Our Lady, Undoer of Knots in Marriage and Family Life,” and  “The Role of Suffering with Mary as Intercessor.” This is the first of a series of posts about my trip to Ireland.

St. Mary's Catholic Church, Headford, Ireland

St. Mary’s CAtholic Church Headford, Ireland built in 1865 although the parish’s roots go back much farther. Image: HeadfordChurch.com

What I remember most about my trip to Ireland are the people and those smilin’ Irish eyes. I’ve had the gift of traveling to a number of countries throughout the world and had many wonderful experiences with the people I encountered. Most were helpful and welcoming and I enjoyed being among them. But the Irish people are different.

St. Mary's Catholic Church Headford, Ireland

Stained glass window above the front altar, St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Headford, Ireland Image: Marge Steinhage Fenelon Copyright 2019

They’re not only helpful and welcoming, but also there joy-filled and exude a warmth that makes you feel you’ve been friends all your lives even though you just met. It’s beautiful and remarkable.

While we were there (my husband accompanied me on this trip – something we kept hidden publicly until after our return), we were treated with care, courtesy, and generosity. The folks who hosted us didn’t just welcome us, but they went beyond the extra mile. They saw to it that our lodging at Angler’s Rest Hotel was pleasant and comfortable treated us to amazing meals in some of Western Ireland’s most awesome restaurants and escorted us to historic and religious sites throughout the area. And all the while, you would have thought that we were doing them a favor

Our Lady Undoer of Knots

Painting of Our Lady, Undoer of Knots commissioned y St. Mary’s Catholic Church pastor, Fr. Ray Flahterty and blessed by Pope Francis. Image: Marge Steinhage Fenelon, Copyright 2019

rather than the other way around! In Ireland, exceptional hospitality isn’t as much a practiced virtue as it is a matter of course. Hospitality is part of what the Irish people are made of.

What makes this even more remarkable is the fact that the Irish people have suffered terribly throughout their history. During the Penal Times (1500s through 1829), Roman Catholicism was outlawed, a bounty was put on the heads of all Catholic priests, and there were additional restrictions against Irish industries and trade. It was a dark, dark time for the Irish people and yet through it all they maintained their joyful

Marge Fenelon Speaker, St. Mary's Catholic Church, Headford, Ireland

One of my presentations at St. Mary’s Catholic Church Headford, Ireland

composure and resilience. Still today, the Irish talk about the Penal Times In a simple, matter-of-fact way sprinkled with reverence for their history and the people who played part in it. During the Famine Years (1845-1849 and 1845-1852 by some accounts), the Irish suffered terrible starvation and hardship due in large part to a potato blight that wiped out the crops of their mainstay food supply. British laws of the time made it impossible for the Irish to access alternative food supplies (fodder for a future blogpost, perhaps). In any case, the Irish kept to their joyful composure and resilience and talk about the Famine Years in that same simple, matter-of-fact way sprinkled with reverence. And through it all, those lovely, albeit worn, Irish eyes kept smilin’ and they continue to smile until today. Undoubtedly they will continue into the future.

Choir loft, St. Mary's Catholic Church, Headford, Ireland

Choir loft of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Headford, Ireland. Image: Marge Steinhage Fenelon, Copyright 2019

 

 



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