After spending some time yesterday orienting ourselves to Dublin – by which I mean we played tourist more than pilgrim – today we returned to the pilgrimage in the footsteps of Catherine McAuley.
After a free morning, we boarded our coach for a visit to the Mercy International Centre in Baggot Street, Dublin, the original House of Mercy established by Catherine, and from which the charism of the Sisters of Mercy has spread through the whole world. It was exceptionally poignant to walk into this place, to stand in the room where Catherine died, and to celebrate Sunday Mass in the Chapel that is so connected with Catherine and Mercy.
The Staff of the International Centre were both hospitable and informative, clearly caught up in their love and respect for their foundress and the impact that the Sisters of Mercy have had around the world. It was palpable, almost seeping from the walls, as the significance of the House and what began there was explained to us. It was also palpable in the ‘good cup of tea’ that was prepared and served to us as part of our visit.
The opportunity to celebrate Mass together in the Chapel was a moving moment. It was the first time that we had done so while on pilgrimage, and there was a spirit of true worship to be found in that chapel today. The presence of music, of prayer, of pilgrims, gathered around the altar in the Chapel of the place from which Mercy erupted into the world is something I will treasure. As it sometimes happens, the readings for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, were the perfect pieces of Scriptures to be proclaimed and heard to this particular group of pilgrims journeying in the footsteps of Catherine McAuley and in Mercy.
The backyard of the International Centre contains the tomb of Catherine McAuley, along with a number of other Sisters (though they are in unmarked graves). The little ‘house’ in which the mortal remains of Catherine are laid, is a thing of beauty set among lovingly maintained grass and gardens. To stand there, to witness that place, was exceptionally moving.
The Mercy International Centre has been restored and renovated since the time that Catherine McAuley purchased the site and built her house, but it retains something particularly poignant despite all of those. This is the place that Catherine McAuley both lived and worked in. This is the place where the charism of Mercy, so radical in its day, took root and flourished. This is the place from which Mercy has flowed around the world – and we are the better for it, whether we know it or not.
After leaving the Centre, we made our way to the Carmelite Church of St Therese in Clarendon Street, Dublin, the church in which the first thirteen Sisters who died are entombed – immediately below the altar as I discovered. There in that place, a place of quiet prayer, we prayed in memory of those thirteen Sisters, and those who have lived lives in a similar manner. It was a fitting conclusion to the day dedicated to the Dublin experience of Catherine McAuley.
There was an opportunity after we concluded at St Therese’s for a coffee (I highly recommend Bewley’s on Grafton Street), and a wander around to look here and there at the shops, while listening to the music of the buskers set up along the length of Grafton Street (including the young girl I previously spoke about).
Back aboard the coach, we returned to the hotel for a little quiet time before dinner. Another fine dinner – there can be no complaints about the food we’ve had served to us so far during the trip – and then off to bed, to reflect, to read, and to sleep.