I had to travel over to Ireland last week for meetings, one of which was in Belfast and the other in Dublin. I travelled back on Thursday to be here in time for a wedding rehearsal. We have a few weddings in St. Mungo’s this summer but not too many. I also have to travel back to Ireland next month to celebrate a wedding in Mount Argus. It’s not something I’m going to be doing regularly, but this is a rather special couple and I’m looking forward to it.
The last time I travelled from Scotland to Ireland to celebrate a wedding was almost 20 years ago when I was parish priest in Prestonpans. I knew the groom’s family well and so I was happy to make the journey. The wedding wasn’t in Mount Argus but in the bride’s parish, a rather remote country church up in the hills of County Wexford. The family of the groom had told me that with winding paths, confusing crossroads, and rambling hills, I would never find the church by myself, and so it was arranged that, on the morning of the wedding, I would join them for breakfast in the Arklow Bay Hotel, where they were staying for a few nights, and then join in a convoy of cars going to the church.
As we left the hotel the rain was pelting down and visibility was very poor. I had been asked to bring the groom’s rather formidable auntie with me, and also his grandmother, a gentle, beautiful lady, who was without doubt a most important and distinguished wedding guest. I managed to keep contact with the cars in front until we got to the outskirts of Gorey, one of the main towns in Wexford. Unfortunately, it was market day in Gorey, and the traffic was absolutely chaotic, branching in from all directions. In the pouring rain, I lost touch with the convoy as we crawled through the town, and by the time I got out on the other side and picked up speed again there wasn’t another car in sight, except the tailback coming into the town for the market from the opposite direction.
I had a sinking feeling that I was lost and so I pulled into a garage and asked if they knew where this church was. My stomach sank even further when I heard I had to join the crawling traffic back into Gorey and take a turn at some monument in the middle of town, heading up into the hills, that obviously I hadn’t seen the others take. I was telling auntie and grannie that we were fine, but in truth I felt there was no way we were going to make this wedding in time, presuming that we ever found the church at all. Winding paths, confusing crossroads, and rambling hills, was absolutely right, and I couldn’t begin to tell you how unhelpful the signposts were.
The wedding should have begun by this time, except that there was a priest and two very important guests still missing. I was imagining the consternation. In the back of the car auntie was panicking, but grannie was calm and prayed the rosary throughout. As I sat at another crossroads, close to despair, and wondering which way to go, suddenly a wedding car drove past us with a glowing and flowing bride in the back. Confident that there couldn’t be more than one wedding out in these wilds, I followed behind it and arrived at the church with just enough time to get ready and be in place before they had finished the pre-ceremony photographs outside. Even the rain had stopped. Thank you once again Saint Anthony!
Here is a lovely reflection for couples by John O’Donohue, from his book Anam Cara: When love awakens in your life, in the night of your heart, it is like the dawn breaking within you. Where before there was anonymity, now there is intimacy; where before there was fear, now there is courage; where before in your life there was awkwardness, now there is a rhythm of grace and gracefulness; where before you used to be jagged, now you are elegant and in rhythm with yourself. When love awakens in your life, it is like a rebirth, a new beginning.