Today marked the beginning of the pilgrimage proper! We gathered together, all 35 of us, in the House of Mercy – the house built by Catherine McAuley in 1824-ish to be a place where the poor children of Dublin could come to be educated and protected. It is built in the Georgian section of the city, in the same style as the surrounding houses – houses that were very grand (and still are). She set up her house of mercy and refuge among the wealthy of Dublin. This was, in anyone’s estimation, a brave move and a political statement. When you walk around the area you can just about hear the outcry from the neighbours!
We gained an excellent insight into what motivated Catherine to direct her sizeable inheritance to the benefit of the poor. We gained an insight also into the continuing work of the Sisters of Mercy around the world.
The purpose of this pilgrimage is to listen, learn, observe and absorb the Mercy tradition that we have inherited and which is today, in our hands, as people who continue the work of those first sisters.
One of the things that continues to interest me is that Catherine did not one day decide to be a nun.Rather, she decided she had to do something about the poor. That she was motivated by the example of her father, and her understanding of the Gospels is not in doubt. But she knew she needed to act. She did not become a nun until late in her life, and then was only a nun for 10 years before her death. But in that time, her commitment and vision had captured the imagination of a group of young women who carried on her work after her death.
Mercy today was described as ‘the sympathy of God’. I find that a really good description. It was a good day.