November 3, 2007

A Priest and a Celt

I just returned from Ireland, the "Emerald Isle" where I had the great privilege to travel and soak up the many shades of green. While there, I got to thinking about how we rush from place to place in an attempt to get it all done, or do it all first, or what else I'm not quite sure. In Ireland there is extensive farmland where people live simpler, quieter, more peaceful lives. I experienced a kindness, graciousness, and consideration for others from the Irish people that I had grown accustomed to living without here in busy, get-ahead California.

But what I want to talk about is the flight home. I had the good fortune to have two empty seats next to me. I planned to stretch out and sleep as soon as the formalities of beverage service were complete. However, shortly after take-off, a large white-haired man decided to sit in one of "my" seats and use the one between us for his satchel, books, headset, and two bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon he had ordered from the flight attendant. His assigned seat didn't allow leg room, he explained to me as he settled in.

We ended up next to one another for the duration of the flight. Initially I kept my head in my book until his jovial self poured over into my space and I had to look over. It turned out the man was a retired Irish Catholic priest from Chicago who had been trekking around Ireland with several other priests also on the flight. I considered our flight was safe, with all the closeness to God on board. I quietly put my book away. We spoke for hours until our necks could not turn in each other's direction any longer. He had a twinkle in his eye and an unabashed joy of spirit that made me want to convert.

Never in my 42 years have I, who as a girl was raised in a Protestant environment, had the opportunity to talk with a priest. Not once. And I wondered how often it was that he found himself sitting with someone such as myself, an intuitive healer who had just been intently reading a book called A Bewitched Land: Ireland's Witches.

We talked about his life as a priest and how it was when he began as a young man. He told me about his former sabbaticals to Europe, and one to Ireland especially. He listened to my perspectives with an open mind and such understanding and agreement that it surprised me. Best of all, I got to see a human face behind the Father. Indeed the face I saw was one of love, devotion, and ceaseless service that made me glad to be alive.

As the doors opened for us and we were free to depart the airplane, I turned back to wave goodbye. The Irish Catholic priest from Chicago had just put on a newly purchased baseball cap with the word "Himself" embroidered on it. And that is exactly what he was.

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