Catherine McAuley’s House of Mercy on Baggot Street in Dublin is now the Mercy International Centre.
I’m sitting in the airport–lucky to have been given TSA Pre-Check status, which swept me beyond the long security line. The gift in this is time to reflect on what is coming.
I’m on my way to Ireland for the McDarby Institute pilgrimage. I’m traveling ahead of the rest of the group to take care of some last minute details. Tomorrow I will sleep under Catherine McAuley’s roof. Though this is far from my first visit, the blessedness of this opportunity envelopes me.
My accompaniment of groups to the sacred Mercy spaces in Ireland always brings to mind a line from Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God: “You got to go there to know there.”
These trips to Catherine’s house underscore how true are Hurston’s words. To hear the story of how Catherine instilled qualities of leadership in her companions by sitting in a circle with them as they made decisions is engaging. To circle our chairs in that same room calls forth the experience of common purpose and common hopes. To hear of her generous, hospitable dying is inspiring. To walk on the creaking floorboards of her room and imagine the sisters tip-toeing in and out as they kept vigil with her is heart stirring. The examples could go on. The stories are wonderful but they don’t begin to match the experience of connecting to the heartbeat of Mercy that resonates in her house.
Sam Hazo’s reflection on his journey to Ireland is entitled “The Reason for Going is to Be There.” While we are in Ireland we will talk about how the richness of this experience can be brought home to our colleagues, how we will demonstrate the power and privilege of this journey. We will think of practical ways to make evident the effects of our pilgrimage. But flowing through these conversations will be the awareness that our reason for going is to be there because, in a very real sense, “you got to go there to know there.”