It’s a small, plain church with whitewashed walls, a table for an altar and a blue shag carpet, wall-to-wall. There are seven or eight rows of comfortable wooden chairs, and were it not for the crucifix hanging behind the altar, you might think you were in a Congregational chapel. Labor Day was the Catholic feast of Saint Giles, who was born in 7th-century Athens but spent most of his life deep in a Provencal forest, the patron saint of childhood fears, mental illness and cripples. Father Sean’s Irish lilt gave the gospel’s language an unexpected grittiness, and his message spoke of humanity and the uncertainty, the fragility of life. “I don’t know if I shall be back,” he said, citing Robert Frost. “None of us know.”
How do I square this with an Irish church convulsed in crisis, still coping with its long history of priests abusing boys, now facing new revelations of unspeakable treatment of young women and their children in Catholic homes for unwed mothers?
But when Father Sean sang, "I danced in the morning when the world begun, and I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun," I thought of St. Giles, a hermit whose only companion was a red deer, and I knew I stood in a different church, where it’s not about being godly, it’s about being human.
And when he said, “I urge you to take communion. I think it’s important. All are welcome here,” I walked forward.