Three recent [end of September / early October ] cultural events in Wexford town, one at the Arts Centre, a second in Dún Mhuire, and the other at The Street in the Co. Council buildings, prompted this reflection on holiness.
The Arts Centre hosted a literary/musical event based on the words and songs of the late Leonard Cohen. The production is touring Ireland since 2017. Between your love and mine – a REQUIEM was compiled in collaboration with the writer John McKenna. It is a meditation on bereavement and loss. It extended hope and light in the face of darkness, even as it let the darkness be.
Billy Roche’s latest play, A LOVE LIKE THAT was premiered in Dún Mhuire. Among the characters was the returned lovable rogue, the librarian whose life was half-lived, some visitors to the library - which is closing - who tell their stories of how life scarred and ultimately healed them. The play expresses a simple yet profound compassion for the human condition, without judgment about the choices made, whether they added to or took from the fullness of life’s possibilities.
The Street hosted the launch by Olivia O’Leary of a collection of poems titled GONE FOR COFFEE by the late Denis Collins. The project was animated and coordinated by two friends of Dennis, Philip Cullen and Kevin Lewis. Kevin’s paintings of Wexford scenes form an integral part of this book, which sits in the hand as an artifact of great beauty.
Wexford is a better place because of these works of art. There is an affirmation of the human struggle to take hold on goodness: where there might be an absence of love and compassion, these artists put love and compassion, and so love and compassion abounded. This is holiness. Participants and promoters are the holy people who extend holiness to those open to receive it. Some expressions of spirituality can be ‘so near to heaven that they are of no earthly use’. But these experiences incarnated the spiritualities, grounded them in the human experience. People spoke of ‘how deeply they were moved’. Perhaps something of the Divine slipped in unnoticed. Such events - which happen in Parishes all round the country - have a liturgical shape: there is a gathering, a telling, and a sharing. They edify [ i.e. build up ] the community, by celebrating the best that is in us. Many people go to such gatherings instead of, or as well as going to Church. They are ‘religious’ events in that they re-align and reconnect participants to the possibilities for goodness which lie within every human heart.