After a solid week of nonstop touring of Ireland, we were worn out. It happened to be a Sunday, and the Lord says we should rest, so we did.
Just a half-mile down the country road from the place we stayed in the southern Ireland countryside, about midway between the villages of Lismore and Tallow, we found St. Mary's Abbey, a community of 30 or so Cistercian Nuns. Checking their website (yes, they're online at www.glencairnabbey.org) we found the time of Mass, so our first order of business for the day was going to church at this beautiful country abbey. After Mass we hung around and chatted with a few of the nuns, including one from New York state. These women live an ascetic life devoted to prayer, and their cheerfulness and peacefulness was contagious.
|Mass at St. Mary's Abbey|
(Surreptitiously taken: sorry for the bad angle)
From there we went into the village of Lismore, tried for a pub lunch but had to pass because they were packed with an after-church family group, and found the wonderful Summer House Café just across the street. We were glad our first choice didn't work, because this little family-run place was terrific. Running the counter the day we visited were two sisters, with one of their brothers (a lively Irish character), pitching in to help for the day. After lunch we chatted (naturally) with the family and upon learning we were from South Mississippi originally, the brother said, "Oh, I've been there, I went to visit a priest friend who was there!" As it turns out, a good friend of his and County Waterford native was a priest who was briefly assigned to our home parish. Yet another example of just how small our world is.
After lunch we strolled around the corner to Lismore's Sunday afternoon market, a small, single row of tents of local people selling their wares from bread mixes to honey. The market was on the long, gravel entrance to the Lismore Castle, a private residence of an English lord (passed down through the generations from well before Irish independence), which made it convenient for seeing the castle. While you can't tour the inside of the castle (locals are quick to point out that "his lordship" will let you in for €15,000 for an event, like a wedding), you can walk about the grounds and gardens, which are well worth the price of admission. While in need of care in some places, the Lismore Castle is one of the best-preserved Irish castles we saw the whole time we were there.
Our "slow Sunday" reminded us that traveling isn't all go-go-go and see-see-see. Sometimes, all you have to do to have a great experience is slow down and savor what's right around you.