Nation a man down
A letter-writer to the Irish Times after the untimely death of Séamus Heaney put it succinctly: “The nation is a man down.”
Thus it is with the sad passing of Fr Alec Reid, midwife of the peace process and indefatigable servant of Christ. Ar dheis láimh Dé go raibh sé.
I had very few encounters with the Redemptorist father — his blessing of my infant daughter in a back stairwell of Conway Mill during the darkness of the mid-eighties remains the greatest gift I have ever received — but have always felt his presence and power guiding the journey to peace on which he set us. He will be remembered at his beloved Clonard Monastery and in Belfast City Hall this week.
Even as Fr Reid faced death, the work of peace he inspired was continuing at Fitzroy Church in the university area on Monday night when the congregation hosted a special showing of 14 Days, the riveting documentary of those two bloody weeks in March 1988 which brought us to the very depths.
I was humbled to be invited by the church — where the Rev Ken Newell, comrade in the trenches of peace with Fr Reid, still has a revered place — to read, in Irish, the Beatitudes with its stirring ‘Blessed are the Peacemakers” and the Prayer for Belfast. The Rev Newell led the congregation in reflection afterwards, reminding us that Fr Reid was guided by the question, “what would Christ do?”
But even as we mourn Fr Reid, we give thanks for the bounty of Belfast — an exuberance evidenced this week by two outstanding celebrations of the future city. One was the CS Lewis Festival to mark the 50th anniversary of the great writer’s death and his entry into the Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey. It was an uplifting fest and I was delighted to be invited to attend the closing night performance in Campbell College in east Belfast of Shadowlands, a play on his later life.
Afterwards, I travelled to Cathedral Quarter for the finale of the Outburst Queer Arts Festival with my friend Marie Quiery who has been my tireless ambassador to the burgeoning and beautiful LGBT community of Belfast.
The final event was a night of burlesque and comedy so suggestions that my fledgling moustache was part of my outreach to the gay community were taken in good humour! In fact, as regular ezine readers know, this ‘tache is my contribution to the Mo movement and will be shaven off this Friday 29 November when Belfast unites to raise funds for Philippine Disaster Relief. You can still contribute to making my moustache a thing of the past at my JustGiving page.