Mass and Music in Camp Village, Co. Kerry

Before mass, E and I walk around the corner from Brigid’s house to visit the famed Well of the Mad. It’s a tiny stream just off the road in a bed of green, beneath a handwritten sign. The branches hanging above the water are weighed down by offerings, holy objects and ribbon, books, photographs. We stoop in turn to drink from the well, just to experience what others have in the process of their healing. The water is clear when it filters through my fingers and sweet to taste.

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The church is bright with morning sun, and wood beams cross-hatch a low ceiling. The choir is sitting in the corner pews and sings a capella, melody only, so that for awhile, I am not sure this is an organized choir at all or if people just start to sing spontaneously. Throughout the service, many of the responses typically sung back home are spoken. The atmosphere the music creates is much like the feel of Camp Village overall– traditional and unassuming, quiet, refreshing.

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I think that every person of faith should try to experiences services in different parts of the world. You have the opportunity to experience how the community you identify with expands and changes form within another culture. The things that stay the same (songs, readings, responses) feel all the more special because you have something constant wherever you go. The things that are different give each service a unique stamp of place.

The Gospel and homily today are about Abraham’s wife, Sarah. The homily is centered around the following passage: “Sarah believed that He who had made the promise would be faithful to it”. When I close my eyes, I place myself into that position, and the priest is talking about me: “Sara believed…” The message feels personal because those of us who believe in God believe in the promise that God will be an anchor during the bad times, the uncertain times, and the center of all the good.

I need to be reminded of this promise during the uncertainty of my time in Ireland. I may not know exactly how to get from point A to point B. I may get hopelessly lost or make mistakes, I may have times of loneliness and homesickness, or times of complete elation. Through it all, I have the reminder of a promise that transcends the distance traveled.

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Tonight I’ve had the opportunity to play with some wonderful musicians in Lower Camp Village. The pub is railway-themed, recalling the railway that once connected Tralee and Dingle. E and I have our first Guinness together, and we’re situated in a corner of the pub where I can both engage in the music and in conversation. Midway through the session, a family comes and sits at a table behind us. They have two toddlers, a boy (dressed as Batman) and a girl, as well as a baby boy sitting on his mother’s lap. At one point, I take a break from playing, and the little girl and boy come up to me and start fingering the bridge and strings of my fiddle. I can hardly hear anything they say to me, but we exchange some smiles and I let them enjoy the touch of the instrument. I love the way in which children have a natural inclination to engage with instruments. They have no need for proficiency, just a desire to explore sound.

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