Saturday, March 17, 2007
Happy St. Patrick's Day!
This time last year I was on a trip abroad with my Century Scholar Learning Community class visiting London. On March 17, Ashley and I took a day trip to Glastonbury Abbey in Somerset. The trip itself was quite an adventure. We got up early to catch the first train to Bath where we spent the better part of the morning. Towards noon, we finally purchased bus tickets for the rest of the journey to Glastonbury. The bus ride was close to three hours...we had anticipated spending about half of that time traveling. We arrived at Glastonbury Abbey about two hours before they were to close and stayed until close to 6:00 PM.
Glastonbury Abbey is noted as the site of the earliest above-ground Christian church in Europe. Legend holds that Joseph of Arimathea (who purportedly dealt in tin...a good reason to travel to Britain) established a daub and wattle structure on the spot thirty years after Christ's Ascension (and his staff, once planted, also bloomed into a unique thorn tree). The oldest ruins extant, the Lady Chapel, are about 1100 years newer, but are dwarfed by the ruins of the later church. The disrepair dates from Henry VIII's schism and subsequent persecution of English monastics. In the small museum on the grounds, I was sorely disappointed to find a brass etching plate of Henry VIII among other icon rubbing plates, given his hand in destroying the vibrant community there. I was similarly disappointed by the lack of recognition of the historic church in England that, no doubt, stems from inherited distrust of anything Catholic. How ironic that one of Prince Charles' favorite retreats hearkens to that rich heritage.
Glastonbury Abbey is rich in legend. In addition to Joseph of Arimathea, other storied visitors (and sometime residents) are St. Patrick, Arthur and Guinevere, and perhaps even Christ Himself! I was particularly pleased to say a prayer at the old stone altar in the chapel dedicated to St. Patrick on the Abbey grounds which was spared in the Reformation. There are competing legends about where St. Patrick is buried, but one claim holds that he was buried on the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey with the honor of being its first abbot. This is the closest I've come to a pilgrimage, and was incredibly humbling to honor St. Patrick on his feast day.
Through the prayers of Sts. Patrick, Dunstan, Benedict, David, and Bridget, and of all of the British and Celtic saints, may God Bless and keep you all!