Where does time go? What was that movie where the main character had a huge remote control and could fast forward through life? If I could get my hands on one of those jumbo-size remotes, I would only use the pause button.
Where do I start? I’m going to take it back to February and Student Union elections at NUIM. I was pretty heavily involved in student government politics in college (I dare to guess that this is far from rare with Mitchell Scholars), so I was really excited when a friend of mine from class approached me before Christmas about helping with his campaign. I went home for Christmas, then caught some waves in Morocco, so it wasn’t until February that I really got caught up on the campaign action. Before I could help,I had to learn the ins and outs of Irish campus politics. First off, the Student Union is a national political machine. I find the concept pretty fascinating. Here is an actual Union, filled with proportional representation from college campuses across the island. Thinking about the possibilities of this in the US is mind-blowing (a bigger country definitely complicates this model).
Once I got through the basics of learning what my friend, Seamus Reynolds, was even running for and how to get him elected, it was pretty cool to watch his support on campus grow–and grow and grow. I’m happy to say that he won! (And by the biggest margin in Maynooth history). The coolest part about Seamus is that he ran on a very alternative ticket. He talked to students about real problems, such as high rates of male suicide and increasing student fees. While his opponent ran on a ticket that strictly talked about reviving RAG week (“Raise and Give” week is a tradition that is starting to be done away with at campuses across the island because of the level of drunkenness that takes place during the week). Seamus ran on a real ticket, addressing real problems, all while encouraging alternate and sometimes radical ways of thinking about things. Seamus’ election gives me a lot of hope for the future of Ireland. In these tough times for the island, here is a young leader who is talking about the difficult stuff.
Using my big remote, I’m going to fast forward a little bit to just a few weeks ago and a different event that left me with the same sort of warm, fuzzy feelings as Seamus’ election. A few Mitchells got the chance to travel to County Limerick and visit Glenstal Abbey. If I ever decide to become a Benedictine Monk, I want to hang out with these guys! In fairness to everyone at Glenstal, my expectations before arriving were unfair. Though I had never visited an abbey before, I expected something a little more … well, uptight. Glenstal sure did prove me wrong. Everyone we met was hilarious and charming. The entire grounds have a laid-back and comfortable feel. After a day of stimulating conversations on everything from Lady Gaga to Catholic relic history, all of us got back in the van to leave and there wasn’t a face without a big smile. It was the perfect day. It is no secret that the Catholic Church in Ireland has faced various struggles over the past decade and the role the church plays in individual lives in Ireland as well as Irish public policy is coming to a crossroads. Just like my friend’s election gives me hope for the future of Ireland, so too do the men at Glenstal Abbey.