A friend of mine just got back from Ireland, and it’s been making me think about my own trip there last year.
In particular, I’ve been thinking about the old Catholic priest I met when touring Saint Mary’s Church in Dingle.
I remember being miffed that my mother and I had to pay something like 5 Euros to amble around the old church museum, built in 1862. The cost was justified by the fact that a famous stained glass window artist, Harry Clarke, had installations there, and there was also a large painting of the Last Supper by American artist Eleanor Yates. But none of that was the highlight of our visit.
As we meandered down the hall of the presbytery, I noticed a withered old man serenely smiling at us. It turns out, he was the priest, or at least a retired priest, in his late 80s or early 90s. He spent his days chatting with the visitors who came from all over the world to this tiny seaside village (population under 2,000).
And oh, was he ready to chat us up. After all, we were two lovely young ladies (even my mother, who wouldn’t want me to post her age, but who has enjoyed a Senior Discount for several years). He regaled us for nearly an hour with tales of caravaning across the United States in the 1960s, and of all his travels around the world.
His Irish lilt, while sometimes difficult to follow when he conspiratorially lowered his voice for a particularly juicy tidbit, lulled me into relaxation. I didn’t want to leave. But eventually we continued on our tour, the stained glass and art paling in comparison to the real cultural treasure we’d met.