Here we are, the third day out of the experience already! So far we have spent the last two days relaxing and enjoying the local culture (and the Guinness!). However, today it was time to get down to work at last. After breakfast and morning prayer we were guided by the lovely Father Kevin to a house owned by a local charity called COPE which aims to aid the homeless population in Galway. The house is part of a very important project to reintroduce the homeless into domestic living. It was set up to give them a place to live where they have some independence but are still receiving supervision and support. We are helping by redecorating some of the residents’ rooms – a challenge for some of us who aren’t used to DIY! It was really good to do something so productive as a community.
Each day it feels we are drawing closer together and, if the laughter coming out of the rooms was anything to go by, working on a project like this only adds to that. We also had a talk from Ben, the man running the home who spoke to us about the work COPE do and the homeless situation in Galway. It was really touching both to hear about the difficulties facing the homeless community today and to see how committed Ben and all the other people working for COPE were to helping those who have nothing, even at the cost of their own comfort. Ben’s words left a clear impression as a number of people brought him up in the evening’s MAGIS circle. Seeing his passion for his work despite the obstacles he has faced in his own life seemed to many to be a living example of the thought for today: “leave yourself behind”.
In fact, the whole MAGIS experience of the past few days seemed to resonate with the reflections based on today’s reading from Matthew. Where Jesus talks about leaving our homes, family and land, he is perhaps talking about leaving the things which are known to us and which give us an easy way of defining ourselves. When we put ourselves in new situations for the sake of seeking God, situations which force us beyond our comfort zones, it is difficult and can make us feel vulnerable. For many, coming to MAGIS has been such an experience: leaving behind the familiarity of home to go to a new place where they know few people and can not speak their own language freely. However it is in these states of vulnerability that we can discover more of ourselves and more of how God wants to work through us – we see ourselves not as we define ourselves and our surroundings, but as defined by God. And taking that step is rewarded in many surprising ways. Here in Galway, there is such a growing sense of joy and learning from one another (even with a total of 7 different nationalities under one roof!) that it is hard not to feel some sense of reward. Maybe it’s Magis!