Apart but in Communion | Boarding School Dublin | Clongowes Wood College

Posted: 30th October 2020

priest talking to students

There is always a great sense of achievement for all parties in a school – Students – Teachers – Administration – Parents/Guardians  – when the Hallow’een [Eve of All Saints’ Day] mid-term is reached – for it means that the academic year is well advanced and in full swing.

This has never been more truly felt than in these challenging times of covid-19 – and we have been greatly blessed in being able to reach this stage in good spirits in spite of the constrictions imposed by our uninvited guest. It is a great tribute to the work begun way last August to prepare the ground for reopening – including providing quarantine facilities for many of our overseas Students. Very much to the fore was our wonderful triune Infirmary Team of Mary, Liz and Martina – whose commitment in the front-line trenches has ensured a safe passage for all over the past 10 weeks.

The spirit of the troops has been excellent – with the restrictions accepted with amazing goodwill and sense of humour.  It was Napoleon who said that an army marches on its stomach – and we had our own Josephine in the person of Anne Cooke – whose Team successfully managed to keep the troops well-fed and happy. Adaptation was the rule of the day – and the inventiveness of the Sports Faculty has enabled everyone to enjoy a great variety of activities – even if the much looked-forward to inter-school rugby matches did not materialize. 

However, one of the highlights of the term has proved the truth of the Portuguese proverb: God can write straight with crooked lines [if I dare to mention it again!] 

Clongowes takes pride in being a Catholic School in the Jesuit tradition – and, as such, holds our Sunday School Mass to be the central moment of the week. However – covid-19 has made it impossible for the whole body to gather together for this weekly celebration of our identity – and our union with the People of God.

God’s writer on this occasion was our Liturgical Director, Maestro Cyril Murphy – whose inventive ingenuity enabled our Sunday Mass – celebrated in turn for a single socially-distanced year in the Sports Hall – to be beamed to the other five years in different centres on the campus. 

From there it was not a giant step for him to become the answer to prayer for the many covid-enforced absent Parents/Guardians/OCs who, for many years now – have swelled the Sunday Mass numbers in the Holiday Camp to somewhere around 500. With the help of his very professional Team of Technicians – Cyril was able to set up our Inaugural Online Mass to include them all ………… so, faraway or nearby – everyone was able to join us in sight-and-Spirit.

Apart but in Communion was the chosen theme for the venture – and it has been a great success. Whether  in the  late evening in Sydney or early afternoon in Africa – mid-afternoon in India or mid-day across Europe or early Sunday in San Francisco – in simultaneous following in our convalescent home in Dublin or somewhere in Ireland – perhaps even simply in a parental car waiting outside the Castle ………..  this central moment of our week is now shared by the greater wider diaspora of the CWC Family throughout  the world.

Worlds-apart perhaps – but closely linked by the reality of the Eucharistic Mystery –  our Sunday worship thus reaches the homes of so many who cherish the bonds of association with CWC – whose lives have been formed or touched by the unique God-given spirit that is ours.

While covid-19 is testing us all – nature moves serenely into autumn and prepares to take its rest. It is that time of year when farmers are safely reaping the reward of their and nature’s work in the annual harvesting of crops. Keats puts it as only a poet can: Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, close bosom-friend of the maturing sun; conspiring with him to load and bless with fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run ……think not of the [songs of Spring] – thou hast thy music too ……. 

On this coming Sunday we will celebrate the Feast of All Saints – when the Church celebrates in gratitude the spiritual harvest of those whose lives have borne fruit in the sowing of God’s love – and who now enjoy the reward of their good deeds in life. 

And, on the following day – All Souls’ – we enter a month of prayer for the fruits of a sowing which has not yet reached full maturity. 

Along with All Saints –  we also celebrate All Souls. As the evenings draw in and the year moves towards its end – Christians pray for a special harvesting – the gathering of our own before  God, who says to each one of them:  You are precious to Me –  I have called you by your name !

When we mourn the passing of a loved one – we may be consoled when someone tells us that how that person, though gone from our life – is now closer than ever before. How appropriate is our Apart but in Communion theme at this time of year –  as we celebrate in the Communion of Saints ……. those already “arrived home” – and pray for those who are still “waiting at the door”. 

On 15th November we will celebrate our Sunday Mass for all deceased OCs – and especially for those who have gone to God in the past twelve months. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology – their Families will be able to join us online to pray for a Grandparent, Granduncle, Father, Husband, Uncle, Brother, Son, Cousin – from wherever they are in the world – as they overcome time and space to give thanks for a shared love and pray for a future day of happy reunion.  The link to join the Mass can be found here.

So our celebration of the Eucharist will have a dual significance – transcendent and earthly – as the caduca realities join the aeterna in humble praise and gratitude to God for the gift of our companion OCs – as we entrust our own lives to Him until we are free from these covid chains.

 And isn’t this pandemic our sort of an ad hoc earthly Purgatory – as individuals and society – national and worldwide – awaiting deliverance and looking to the behind-the-scenes researchers for a successful cure ….. and aren’t they not unlike the Guardian Angels given to each one of us ?!

 So, as we pray for The Holy Souls – that their wait may come to an end – as they see the Light in the window of our “true home in heaven” [Phil.3:20] – let us pray for ourselves. As surely as nature will reawake again next Spring – so may we be able to rejoice with all of God’s creation – in nature’s rising in 2021 – when the winter [covid-19] is past – the rains [lockdowns] are over and gone – flowers [vaccines] appear on the earth; the season of singing [freedom] has come ! [Songs 2:11-12


Fr Michael Sheil SJ


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