August 11, Part 2: Meeting Gerry Adams
The irrepressible Brian McKee had arranged 40 tickets for the Americans and Germans to attend a rare Friday night concert at historic Clonard Cathedral, its interior decorated almost wholly in stained glass and mosaics colored purple or lavender. We entered at sunset into an eerie, otherwordly church. Strange reflections radiated from the impact of the rays of the setting sun upon the cathedral's purple interior. We felt much nearer to the presence of Jesus than I usually feel in Catholic cathedrals.
While I was silently meditating, a buzz passed through the crowd, and Brian (not Brian McKee, but Brian, the young priest who traveled with us and said some of our Masses) said that Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein and rumored onetime IRA member, had arrived. He asked me, mindful of my political interests, "Would you like to meet Gerry Adams?"
I was nonplussed, and mindful of being one of many, so I gave (I thought) a safe answer, "No, I'm sure he's a busy man who doesn't want to be interrupted at a concert." So the matter should have ended - until, five minutes later, Father Brian tapped me on the shoulder and says, "Let's go." I looked up, and standing with Father Brian was a balding man in a brown suit. I've been around politicians often enough to instantly realize that he was Gerry Adams's body man. "Whoo boy," I thought to myself, "this is the real deal."
The two men ushered me out a side entrance to Clonard Cathedral and through a long wood-paneled hall to the doorway of a VIP room. Father Brian whispered into my ear, "Bishop Donal will introduce you."
We entered the room. Father Brian tapped Bishop Donal on the shoulder. The bishop broke off his conversation with another person, turned, said a few words of introduction, and I was face to face with Gerry Adams. We exchanged greetings and pleasantries; then, to my delight, he consented to have Father Brian take a snapshot of the two of us. I have a huge, goofy grin on my face, but I didn't care - I, raised in the Catholic church, had met the leader of the struggle for a Catholic and united Ireland.
Amazingly, I nearly forgot my encounter in the wondrous music we enjoyed that evening. Colin Reid, an exquisite, melodic classical guitarist, opened for the twelve-person acapella choir, Anuna. Their genres ranged all over the map, from Latin chant to traditional Gaelic to contemporary folk songs. I can't do justice in words to their voices. Ethereal, wispy, haunting music wafted through the candlelight as the choir members glided to different positions in the dimmed cathedral. It was unlike, and better than, any choir I had ever heard. It was the final blessing in a day full of blessings.