St. Declan – July 24
Today marks the feast day of St. Declan, patron of Ardmore, Ireland. Declan does not receive the same attention as another Irish Saint, Patrick, but Declan too was instrumental in the development and growth of the church in Ireland. According to legend Declan had a miraculous black bell that allowed him to summon an empty vessel to take him from Rome where he had been consecrated, back to his beloved homeland. It is said that he placed the bell in a rock and with Declan’s prayers, the rock floated out to sea. Declan followed the floating rock and bell and it led him to shore at Ardmore, Co. Waterford. It was there that this man, who as a boy could not have his appetite for scripture abated, took on an industrious ministry that included building a church and indeed, creating legends.
The past two nights I have journeyed into a land of dreams. So much has happened in the 13 hours of my torpidity. I cannot remember most of it but it has been a fanciful journey into strange and far off lands with a mixture of people and characters, some of who are real and others who are imaginary. I have been in the company of Regis Phibin, and Jean Vanier. As strange as it sounds, I even played a role in the play Oklahoma which I know next to nothing about and which I have never seen. (It was fun being on the stage at Stratford however). The nights can be for me a time of unbelievable fancy and these past two have been for sure. I have in my under-consciousness, been with my family out east, I have been with Catherinanne, I have even been with friends that I have not seen in years. I have been bewitched by the very plot lines that have unfolded and as is usually the case with my dreams, I can recount not one of them. Morning comes, or for that matter mid-hibernation at 4 AM, and I wake knowing that I have been captivated by my dreams and yet recollections seems a lost cause. Strange indeed. When I read about Declan I am reminded of my night-time reveries. I am not sure why, but I am.
Perhaps it is the grand sense of lore and legend, myth and mystery of a saint like Declan. Perhaps it is the fabled floating rock and bell that awaken in me the ability in my unsleeping to be as imaginative as I am in my slumber. Perhaps Declan takes me back to my Shangri-La, because of the story of his life. In his youth he longed for knowledge, and in his adulthood he longed for his home and that mystical bell gave him magical powers to summon all that was needed to take him to his Shangri-La. I think that in my dreamscape that is important. I think that in sleep we allow our minds to magically bring us to places where we long to be. As I sleep I can act on stage, I can be held by my wife, I can kiss children whom I miss and long to see and hold, I can have tea with seaside neighbours, I can walk the well worn trails from gulley to gulley and from brook to brook, I can laugh with brothers and sisters and be a torment to parents, I can speak to the spiritual masters, play hockey with the greats, I can offer hope to the hopeless and I can be present to the dying, I can take away sorrows and relieve suffering and anguish, I can tell the perfect joke, and I can offend no one. I can be just about anything in this other world to which I journey on a semi-conscious basis. Simply, I can be what in consciousness I wish that I could be. Perhaps dreams are for us like Declan’s Mystical Bell. Perhaps dreams give us the freedom to step into a numinous vessel whose buoyancy is aspiration and whose destination is the consummation of love and hope, of presence and peace.
In any event, I am glad that I came across Declan today as he has reminded me of the magical kingdom to which I travel. Sometimes it is a frightening place but more often than not it is a playground for the mind and a balloon ride for the soul.