Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Some Thoughts on Goodness and Mercy

I was sitting on my bed with the guitar, trying to make “You Can Close Your Eyes” sound like James Taylor plays it on youtube. I was failing miserably. Such a simple little song with some quirky, aggravating licks. I glanced at the time on my phone and dropped everything immediately (except the borrowed guitar, of course, which I most carefully laid back in its borrowed case). I was due at the Garda (police) station in 15 minutes. No, I am not in trouble already. I had an appointment to get my passport stamped so I can stay in Ireland all summer.  I was so hoping there would be no red tape, no immigration controversy, no expelling me at once on the grounds I might be a closet banjo player on the verge of coming out.

I am happy to report that all went as smoothly as butter on a scone. I was walking home elated, a combination of relief, anticipation, and gratitude. I hadn’t actually taken the walk by the River Suir yet, so I decided this would be a good time to explore. It was a gorgeous, sunny warm day and I didn’t want to waste a minute more indoors, even if James Taylor was waiting impatiently back in my room.

It’s a gentle, peaceful path that snuggles up to the water just edging town. Only a few other people are there in the middle of the day. Progressing away from town, the traffic noises fade like that last chord James lands before the applause. So sweet!

“Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.” My theme for the summer and one of the most confusing, misunderstood, provocative concepts in scripture (to me anyway).  I wonder what God means when he talks about goodness and mercy. I would like to sing you his intentions with the flair and confidence of James on the computer screen, but I’m sensing dissonance and distortions from what I see and hear around me. I can say with certainty that God has been good and merciful to ME, but I see others hanging by a thread. Just turn on the news…..or have a long conversation with your neighbor.

Today I went with two friends to Kilkenny for the afternoon. We wanted to visit Black Abbey, a 13th century Dominican church with the most elaborate and colorful stained glass windows anywhere. It just so happened (but it seems to happen all the time with me in Ireland) that we arrived in the middle of something. It was The Novena To Our Lady Of Fatima, a devotional commemoration of the Virgin Mary’s appearance in Portugal 100 years ago.

As we walked in we found ourselves in a line of people in the aisle. I assumed they were looking for seats and we followed them forward. Before I knew it, I was face to face with a priest anointing my forehead and palms with oil for healing. I tried to look as Catholic as possible and wondered if he knew the ugly truth... or if it mattered.

The touch of his fingers immediately transformed me from casual tourist to humbled worshipper. We made our way to a nearby pew and knelt in prayer as the strains of a Celtic chamber orchestra and choir swirled like faerie dust around and through the rituals. I felt blessed, not only by the hand of the priest, but by the faces and voices of all those gathered to worship the Lord.

There are many elements of Catholic theology and practice that trouble me.   But I was surprised how easy it was to put the differences aside as we all rose to our feet to sing How Great Thou Art at the end of the service. I felt peace, comfort and encouragement… the signs of healing.

Yes, I have a definite sense of the goodness and mercy of God in my life, as he continues to guide me and teach me about himself.  There are many questions that still throb in my head, but today I can say that at least my heart got it. Maybe I need to pay more attention to James Taylor, by now snoozing on youtube, awaiting my return.  “So close your eyes……you can close your eyes, it’s alright.”


  1. Beautiful, Kim. Here on this side of the pond we are praying for goodness and mercy for our dear friend and banjo player Carroll Smith, who, as you may have heard, died sometime yesterday from complications from a perforated ulcer. He was so lost and unhappy after Cindy died. I hope he has now rejoined her in the world beyond us and our understanding. That would be mercy indeed. Ireland and the River Suir seem created for giving us some goodness and mercy in this troubled world. Thank you for your thoughts.

    1. I am so saddened to hear that Carroll has died. He will be missed by so many of us. Thank you for your reflections, Jill. God bless.