Deep in the heartland of County Kilkenny, Ireland, in hurling country, lies one of the best conserved 17th century buildings in Ireland. It is the cottage where Blessed Edmund Rice was born in 1762 in the downland of Westcourt, Callan. It is from this place that the story of Blessed Edmund and of the two congregations he founded, the Presentation Brothers and the Christian Brothers, began.
The photograph above shows the cottage in late Autumn, a photograph taken on one of the last ‘good’ days in 2015 before the Irish winter set in. Walking around I was conscious that few, except for the local Brothers community, and some local people, get to enjoy Westcourt at this time of the year.
Experience Peace, Quiet and Beauty
Gone are the Summer visitors. A kind of peace and stillness descends on the place. The Autumn sun is still warm and generous. Its light casts a warm glow over everything, the flowers, the cottage, the trees, the chapel, and the falling leaves. A rich carpet of gold covers everything. In the distance, the sun sets beyond Slievnamon Mountain in County Tipperary, the neighbouring county.
Brother Paddy Gravin, at 92 years of age, shows some visitors around. For him, as for all the Brothers in the Westcourt community, it is a special privilege to savour the prayerful peace and beauty of this late Autumn afternoon. No sound is heard except the occasional passing of a car or the thud from the axe wielded by Brother Pat Hegarty, once a Latin teacher, now a woodsman as he clears some stubborn tree roots from copse behind the cottage.
A Little History
It is easy to think of Edmund, the schoolboy wandering around this place, perhaps, keeping an eye out for the Franciscan brother passing on the road who taught him first lessons. From his mother, Mary Rice, he learned to value his Catholic faith. On quiet days such as this, he must also, unconsciously, began to wonder at the intricate harmony of nature all around him. His was a time when most people, however poor, experienced an enriching and ennobling relationship with the natural world.
Westcourt, Callan, County Kilkenny is a wonderful place to visit, to spend some time, to pray, and, perhaps, to think about what gives meaning to your life. The Westcourt Brothers will be only too happy to welcome you.
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