An NCT Prayer

After a quick search online for a poem or prayer for my upcoming NCT (National Car Testing Service) I decided to write my own.

An NCT Prayer

Oh God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit;
Three in one.
The boot is empty and the seats are clean.
I’ve removed the child-seat;
Not a hubcap can be seen.
There’s adequate oil and water’s up to the measure.
The seatbelts are visible;
Tyres are pumped to the correct pressure.
I know in my soul my car is fit to be tested.
I’ve my passport, my licence, registration certificate
(all the things they’ve requested.)
My number plates comply with current regulations,
I’ve route-planned my way to the NCT station.
I’ve removed all valuables, had headlight alignment.
I’ve fitted new brakes and taken all their advisements.
I’ve said my prayers and the Rosary;
Blessed the car with holy water from Medjugorje.
There’s nothing left oh Holy Trinity!
So, please…
Help my car pass its NCT.

Dublin, Frankfurt, Tel-Aviv. A Young Pilgrim’s Journey

Today’s post is a guest post and the guest is my 12 year-old son, Daniel.  After our recent trip to the Holy Land during March of this year, Daniel put together his own words on what he thought of it all.  The only edits I have made to this post is some spellings and some punctuation but the content is all his.  I hope you enjoy it.

I recently travelled to the Holy Land with my Mam and fifty other pilgrims from St Patrick’s College, Maynooth.  Our Lufthansa flight left Dublin Airport on Thursday, 15th March and we all made our way to Frankfurt, Germany.  Frankfurt airport was huge.   It had a monorail system and some of the staff even had bicycles for getting around.  Our plane to Tel-Aviv was also Lufthansa but much bigger.  It had built in TVs, headphones, pillows and blankets, and I got a free football magazine in German.  We arrived in Tel-Aviv at 3am on 16th March and got the bus to our hotel in Tiberias.  We slept for three hours and were back on the bus with Abraham our guide to visit Ein Gev, a Kibbutz (Jewish community).  Then, we took a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee and I got a chance to steer the boat.  As we sang a hymn which included “rolling thunder” a storm actually happened with thunder and heavy rain, which was amazing.  To finish this day we had Mass back in Tiberias.

Saturday, 17th March was my birthday.  I was twelve.  We took the bus to Mount Tabor and I had a choice to climb it or take the taxi so I climbed it with my Confirmation sponsor.  When we reached the top, the view was stunning.  We had Mass in the Church of the Transfiguration and we met with an old friend, Yousef, a Maronite priest who celebrated Mass with Fr Michael.  After Mass we took the bus to Nazareth where we got to eat what would have been a meal at the time of Jesus.  We toured a replica village of Nazareth where we saw a 400 year-old olive tree, Joseph’s workshop and a tomb like Jesus’.   I was first to go into it.  We visited the site where Mary heard the message from Gabriel and the home of Joseph.  We returned to the hotel in time for dinner, dessert and my birthday cake.  I shared my birthday with another woman on the pilgrimage.  Then we watched the rugby match: Ireland v England, which we lost with a shocking result of 30-9.

On Sunday we got on the bus and headed for the Mount of Beatitudes.  At the top there was a garden and a Church.  Inside the Church a security guard walked by me and spotted my Ireland jersey.  He told me he was from Mayo.  After that we went to the Primacy of Peter site at Tabgha for Mass.  A few yards away from the site was the Sea of Galilee and I had a small paddle in it.  When I dried off I collected some shells as there were millions of them.  Next we visited Capernaum where Jesus performed most of his miracles.  Over the ruins of Peter’s mother-in-law’s house was a spaceship-like Church with a glass bottom to see the debris of the old Church underneath.  We also visited the Jesus Boat, which was 2,000 years old.  The river Jordan was the last site of the day and when we arrived, people were being baptised.  We saw ducks, big catfish about a metre long, an animal like an otter and some seagulls.  While my Mam was occupied I went to Fr Michael and asked him to bless her birthday medal I bought for her.  It was going to be her birthday in three more days.  That night we went to a spectacular water fountain and light show in the town.

On Monday we left the hotel.  We got on the bus and the first place we visited was Qumran where we watched an audio video and then went outside to see the ruins.  Of course, this was the desert so the sun was beaming and it was a scorching morning.  We had lunch beside the Dead Sea and then went swimming.  There was muck everywhere and walking in it was impossible.  When lying in the sea you couldn’t get up.  Our next stop was Jerusalem.  We went into a tunnel and the driver started a CD with the song Jerusalem on it and when we came out the other side we saw the Dome of the Rock, the Western Wall and the Garden of Gethsemane, meaning oil press.  We had Mass at Dominus Flevit and paid a quick visit to the Garden of Gethsemane.  Last but not least we went to the Western Wall where men were separated from women to different parts.

We got up early on Tuesday to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  It was packed but we got to see the tomb of Jesus.  I knelt down and said a prayer while touching the stone Jesus was laid upon.  We visited the Zion Gate, which was huge and the Upper Room where the Last Supper and Pentecost happened.  We also visited the Dormition Abbey, King David’s tomb and Oskar Schindler’s grave.  Abraham asked us to guess which grave was Schindler’s so I guessed it was the one with loads of stones on it left by other visitors and I was right.  Then we walked the Via Dolorosa meaning the Way of the Cross.  I was one of the Cross carriers.  Along the way we did Stations one to ten and then arrived back at the Holy Sepulchre for stations eleven to fourteen.  After dinner back in the hotel we went back to Gethsemane for holy hour, which was very special.

Wednesday was my Mam’s birthday and we went to Bethlehem with a different guide because we were entering Palestine.  First we visited the Shepherd’s Field and the cave where the shepherds heard the message about Jesus.  Mass was in the cave and I was glad to get out of the scorching rays of sun.  Next we visited the Church of the Nativity where Jesus was born.  I was at the front with my sponsor going into the cave but before we went in there was an Angelus procession which we got to watch.  Then we saw where Jesus was born and the space where his manger was.  After that we went to the Milk Grotto where we saw a painting of Mary feeding Jesus.  Last was the Bethlehem University where we got a presentation about Palestine and a tour of the university.

The next day, Thursday, we went to the Israel Museum where we saw a model of Jerusalem over 2,000 years ago.  The model was gigantic and took fifteen years to complete and here was I thinking it would be small as if we were giants to it.  It was hot outside but we went inside another building to see the Dead Sea Scrolls.  Along the tunnel were archaeological discoveries like pots, coins, oil lamps, knives and parchment that were found with the Scrolls.  Our next visit was to the Yad Vashem memorial, the Holocaust Museum.   We entered a tunnel and inside you couldn’t see anything so you had to hold a railing and feel your way.  Children’s names were being called out.  They were the names of over one million children who had been killed during the Holocaust.  Only children over 14 were allowed into the main memorial so I waited with some others who didn’t want to go in.  In the afternoon we visited Ein Karem, the birth place of John the Baptist where we had Mass and the site of the Visitation.

Friday was a free day to do what we wanted but we all got on the tram to go to Mass at the École Biblique with Fr Brendan.  A few of us went back to the Holy Sepulchre and it was packed.  We walked through the Armenian Quarter to the Zion Gate and to the Dormition Abbey for lunch.  My Mam and I separated from the others for the afternoon and decided to walk the outskirts of the city, where we looked across the Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives and Gethsemane; we visited the pools of Bethesda and then returned to the hotel.  It was a great day with my Mam.  Saturday was our last day and we went to Jaffa, where we had Mass.  I had so much fun with all the other pilgrims and will never forget my trip to the Holy Land.

With Whom Can You Sleep?

I was introduced to this poem quite recently but from the moment I first heard it I knew it was something I was going to read again and again.

The poem is Felicity in Turin by Paul Durcan.

We met in the Valentino in Turin
And travelled through Italy by train,
Sleeping together.
I do not mean having sex.
I mean sleeping together.
Of which sexuality is,
And is not, a part.

It is this sleeping together
That is sacred to me.
This yawning together.
You can have sex with anyone
But with whom can you sleep?

I hate you
Because having slept with me
You left me.

I began to think of those I have slept with in my life and the number is relatively small. Of course, as the poet suggests, I do not mean having sex I mean sleep. “The unconscious state or condition regularly and naturally assumed by man and animals, during which the activity of the nervous system is almost or entirely suspended, and recuperation of its powers takes place; slumber, repose.” (OED) So, who have I slept with?

Well there were nights in my childhood that I woke from my sleep and, either from nightmares or from merely not wanting to go back to sleep alone, I climbed under the sheets of my parents’ bed and snuggled in safety between them. My siblings on occasion would, at times, feel exactly the same way as I did and inevitably there could be the whole family of six in the bed by the early hours of the next morning. When I’m troubled by something that I cannot “run away” from in my adult life, I long for those occasions to return. There was something comfortable about that bed and bedroom: the familiar family scents, the retro seventies wallpaper, the rhythmic breathing of everyone, even the voluble snores from my father.

I have slept with my best friend and I do not mean one of these “bff” best friends. I mean my confidant, my “sounding board,” the person who knows me better than I know myself. Those sleep-overs when we were younger have been relived in our adult lives when I’ve thrown a party and, inevitably, some of us have had to bunk together. I’m certain we become those much more innocent teenagers who tittered and laughed our way through the night over boyfriends, kisses and school. She has been there for me always and has waited sometimes patiently for me as I charged headlong through some of life’s mistakes and, returning to lick my wounds, she was just there.

I don’t even know where to begin when it’s time to talk about the sensory exchange that sleeping with my baby provided for me. The warmth, the tiniest of sounds, the “new-born baby” smells, the touch of his perfect skin, and all his tiny movements, were the most sensory phenomena imaginable and provided for a bond that most mothers know they would kill or die for. History then repeated itself as he had nights where he woke from his slumbers through nightmares or unrest and made his way sleepily under the covers for the same safety, comfort and familiarity that I had sought as a child in the night. He is much older now and wouldn’t even consider doing this but I do love the fact that he can “body slam” himself on to my bed on a morning or evening and talk about the things that are on his mind with me.

There is only one other person to mention that I have slept with. It was a very long time ago when he was Orpheus and I was Eurydice. No, I wasn’t literally dead like poor Eurydice but I certainly had not been living. Sleeping with Orpheus was sacred. I do not mean having sex. I mean sleeping with him. Of course, sexuality is, and is not, a part of sleeping with someone when you are attracted to them but it was my falling asleep with Orpheus so effortlessly and safely that caused me to realise that I was complete. We are most vulnerable when we are sleeping. We are at our weakest. Even the strongest among us has to sleep and it is then that even the weakest can just tiptoe into our lives and commit untold damage. In the Book of Judges, Jael killed Sisera, while he slept, driving a tent peg through his head until he was pegged to the ground, Macbeth killed Duncan as he slept as a guest in Macbeth’s home and, of course, there are the numerous victims of Wes Craven’s Freddy Krueger. Sleeping with Orpheus cast all those night time fears into some land of forgetfulness, no, not forgetfulness. It was a grace-filled letting go. It was absolution.

Durcan’s poem ends with “I hate you because having slept with me you left me.” Wow! What a line. I can never hate Orpheus.