Back to Porridge

Friday January 10th 2014

As the final glass of Shloer is poured and the last cracker is pulled, the hustle and bustle of Christmas is finally beginning to settle, and life resumes to some kind of normality. As Daddy would say, “it’s back to porridge.”  Looking back,  I treasured this Christmas in particular, more than others,  as moving to Belfast during the week resulted in less and less time at home to spend with my family and loved ones, so being here for three weeks in their company was something I had really looked forward to. This said however, that doesn’t mean it was all smiles and happy faces from start to end. As the stress levels were high we did have the occasional disagreement but I suppose that’s all part of the joy of Christmas.

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Christmas Eve Mass is a great tradition in our house. Everyone usually gets something new so that we are looking well for ‘Midnight’ Mass. However this year’s Mass was particularly special, as we were graced by the presence of a Church of Ireland Minister from a neighbouring parish. With him he brought a coloured jar, with the word ‘Peace’ inscribed on it, and as he explained his reasoning for such a gift, the parishioners listened with open hearts. He then wished us every blessing for Christmas and the New Year, talking about his own family preparations currently going on at home, as his wife prepared the turkey for dinner the following day. From this I realised that whilst we may be different in some of our beliefs and traditions, the Birth of Jesus still unites us all in celebration at this time of year. To conclude this special Mass, the young children from our choir then proceeded up the aisle from the gallery to the very front of the Chapel beside the Crib, and as the lights were dimmed, they gave the congregation a moving rendition of Silent Night. Much like the beautifully simple Crib in our Chapel with only Mary, Joseph, the Infant Jesus and a few cattle in a wooden shed, the young choir was simple but highly effective on such a special night.

St Mary’s marked the end of a wonderful first term by our Christmas dinner organised in each subject department, followed by a ‘Christmas blow-out’ which both proved to be two excellent nights out before our break for Christmas. In hindsight, to think about me being a quiet, terrified fresher sitting in a hall of 200 new faces in contrast to the ease at which I can now get on with these people is brilliant. In just a few months of constant contact I have formed friendships that I hope will last our time at university and beyond, and thankfully I can be sure that going to St Mary’s was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

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As the New Year fast approaches, it is remarkable to reflect on the changes that I have encountered during the last twelve months.  In September 2012, embarking on what I could only imagine would be the most difficult educational year of my life, the challenge of A Levels that lay ahead seemed insurmountable. The end was nowhere near in sight, and this was not helped by the pressures of balancing a part time job, UCAS applications and personal statements. My future vocation depended on this year, and despite the constant support of my teachers, friends and family, I still couldn’t fathom how I was going to tackle the exams I had heard so much about.

On reflection, I most definitely wouldn’t have made it through this year without God and prayer and of course my family. I’m sure God’s head was turned as I constantly begged for inspiration be it pacing the hall early in the morning trying to cram in as much as I possibly could into the final few hours before the exam, spending the last 30 seconds before opening my exam papers with closed eyes and a pounding heart begging for some sort of miracle, or just a small prayer to keep me calm and focused on the task ahead. Without doubt, God helped me through those final few months of study and revision and thankfully He didn’t let me down.

Enough reminiscing however, I have packing to do before I return to the Big Smoke for a few weeks before Teaching Practice. Ahhhhh!

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Wishing you all a Happy and Peaceful year ahead.

Eiméar