Soline Humbert introduced the Reverend Dr Nóirín Ní Riain, newly ordained Interfaith Minister and the first doctor of Theology from Mary Immaculate. Her doctorate coined the word “Theosony” from Theos (God) and Sonus (Sound). On this day exactly 20 years Nóirín met John O’Donohue for the first time on the Feast of Guardian Angels.
Nóirín’s inspirational presentation was full of energy, faith and music. Her son Owen O’Súilleabháin joined her in a wonderful opening duet, their voices filling the lovely chapel of the Mercy International Centre. Soul makers find each other’s company. The gospel of Matthew, Hildegard von Bingen, Emily Dickinson, Martin Luther King all featured.
As a child in Caherconlish Nóirín said mass at 4pm every day in her parent’s bedroom when she was alone in the house. She was ahead of her time and stood on the fireplace ledge facing her congregation, a room full of characters. At communion she sang “Regina Caeli” and the hosts were Silvermints. Her sacristy was on the landing and one day as she was hanging up her stole she told her brother Noel “I’m going to be a priest when I grow up!” Noel replied: ”Don’t be ridiculous! You can’t even be an altar girl!” Nóirín was devastated. So she decided to convert the animals around her – the dog and the hens. Animals are undercover mystics.
The call to ministry never left her longing.
Her home was only 5 miles from the Benedictines Glenstal Abbey and it combined God and Song. Singing is genderless and they sang their hearts out. After the demise of her marriage Glenstal became her home for 16 years. It provided compassion and a safe harbour with the regular 6am to 9pm prayerful routine of every day. But she never felt fully at home there for obvious reasons. The time came when Nóirín "needed a pure gin, no tonic." She carried out a life review and decided she must abandon what she had outgrown. Her son returned from a service where he had been singing where the Minister was a woman: “You should be doing that!” he told Nóirín. Nóirín wondered if this was indeed the way forward for her. Mark Patrick Hederman told her to look for 3 signs. She got 43 signs, including the amazing disappearance of spots from her breast scans and the unexpected arrival of a big insurance cheque from an accident 2 and ½ years ago! She knew the Interfaith course in London was definitely for her!
She had lectured on “World Religions” and had been sent to India as Ireland’s representative knowing that the entire world is one family. There are 4,200 religions in the world based on 8 major religions. All 8 major religions all have the same Golden Rule: “Do onto others as you would have them do onto you.”
On a recent visit to the Greek island of Lipsi, Nóirín arrived in an orthodox church full of incense just as a service ended. She wanted to sing, but a sour looking lady sacristan made her hesitate. Nóirín burst into song and the sacristan froze. As Nóirín continued with the Kyrie the sacristan turned the wheel to open the Iconostasis! Nóirín sang for 20 minutes and saw this event as a great affirmation as to what we have to do!
Nóirín sees Ireland as the place where change will happen. Mark Patrick Hederman speaks of Ireland being at the plate boundaries between 19th century conservatism and a new church. And didn’t we vote for marriage equality?
Nóirín says she never left the Catholic church as reported wrongly in some media article. Sure it’s in her DNA! She is committed to the journey, maybe on parallel roads but heading in the same direction.
She recommended “In God’s Name” by Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso which has wonderful female images of God.
Owen O’Súilleabháin said he was very happy to be with this radical group doing radical things like meeting and talking to each other! Smartphones are a problem stopping people talking to each other. The previous night Nóirín had sung on stage with him in the Olympia.
Nóirín finished with this blessing:
For a New Beginning
In out of the way places of the heart
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
It watched you, playing with the seduction of safety
And the grey promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plentitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
3 October 2017
Margaret Lee thanking Nóirín Ní Riain
Nóirín Ní Riain and her son Owen O'Súilleabháin
Margaret Lee presenting the "Last Supper" (with women present) to Nóirín Ní Riain
9 Inter Faith Ministers including Nóirín Ní Riain