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2021 Grateful 4: The seven rejoices of Mary

In between reports, having finished one on a proposal to amend the UK’s social security system and before embarking on a rewrite of an employee handbook, I needed a break. A post from the Fifth Province popped up on my feed and set me on a lovely journey chasing down the seven rejoices of Mary.

At first, I wondered how in all my years as a practising, half-practising, non-practising, practising-again Catholic, I’d never come across the seven rejoices. But then I realised that they’re not part of the doctrine. Originally written and recorded by Loreena McKennitt, I prefer Sinéad O’Connor’s version as featured on a Sharon Shannon album.

The song chronicles seven times in Mary’s life when she rejoiced.

It has me thinking. Could I name seven times in my life when I truly rejoiced, when I was consumed by gratitude, when I was over the moon about something or someone or some event?

I looked up the word rejoice just to be sure. It means to feel or show great joy or delight. Great joy. Not just joy, but great joy. Seven times. Seven rejoices. Okay, I’m not dead yet and hopefully have a few years to go but I am struggling with the greatness of my joy. Great joy, undiluted by fear or trepidation.

Each of Mary’s seven rejoices revolved around her son. As I have lived a life without issue, I can’t go down that route.

I felt something bordering on great joy when I watched Ireland beat English in rugby in Croke Park. It was 2007. I was one of the few supporting Ireland in a pub in England but the bartender told me afterwards that mine was the only voice he heard.

Another joyous occasion was when Ireland made the quarter-finals in the 1990 World Cup. Did you know that we hold the record for getting furthest in the tournament without winning a match? Me, neither.

When Rachel Blackmore won the Grand National in 2021 warrants a spot on my list of joyous occasions.

Wow. I’ve never considered myself remotely sporty so maybe I just don’t do GREAT joy? Or maybe I just don’t show it?

I’ve certainly delighted in lots of stuff, lots of times. Discovering Welsh wine many moons ago. Seeing the big African sky for the first time. Tripping over Banksy in Bristol. Seeing the last sunset in Europe against a backdrop of thunderous waves on Achill Island. Hearing the wind cry Mary in Essaouira. Chasing Montalbano in Sicily. Any time I’ve ever eaten prime rib. Or an In’n’out burger. And when the light catches a cobweb just so. Yes, delight is definitely easier. It’s quieter.

Either way, I’m grateful I took the time to reflect as I quietly rejoice in my lot. Yes, I can quietly rejoice. I just don’t do the hallelujah version.


PS Photo credit goes to Harlan Cockburn




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