I was supposed to be in Smithville, Ontario, Canada, not far from Niagara Falls, today for the Golden Wedding of dear friends, Doug and Maeve Devlin, here pictured just after their wedding in Dublin on 5 July 1958.
I couldn't go to the celebration for the simple reason that my passport expired about two months ago, after ten years.
I met Doug and Maeve in September 1968 when I was beginning studies in music as a young priest at Manhattanville College, Purchase, NY. Doug was in charge of the maintenance of everything electric on campus. I also got to know their four young children, Jacqueline, Peter, Cathy and Glenn.
In 1969 they decided to return to Dublin and sold me their old Nash Rambler for the princely sum of One Dollar. I got great value from the Rambler, which my friends named The Irish Rover.
North America drew them once again, this time Canada, and they settled in Mississauga, just west of Toronto. Later they moved further west, to Burlington, ON, still within shouting distance of Toronto, a marvellously cosmopolitan city. Now they live in the small town of Smithville, which I must confess I had never heard of and have not yet visited.
During a sabbatical year in Toronto in 1981-82 the Devlins welcomed me as a member of the family and gave me the key to their house. I was able to visit them most weeks. Burlington became an extension of Dublin.
In the USA I've seldom bumped into Dubliners but in the Toronto area I met quite a few.
Doug and Maeve are a couple of great Catholic faith and their growth in the faith has been a great help to me. Their two sons, Peter and Glenn, have Usher's Syndrome, which affects both hearing and sight. Peter had a cochlear implant some years ago. Both went to Gallaudet University in Washington DC, all of whose students are Deaf, hard of hearing or are hearing people involved with the Deaf. Peter and Glenn were part of my discovery of the world of the Deaf, with whom I got involved in the Philippines starting in 1991. I remember going with Glenn, then about 12, to see ET. Being with him heightened my enjoyment of two different intelligent species trying to communicate.
I discovered only today that Doug and Maeve were married just one week before the centennial of the wedding of Louis and Zélie Martin, the parents of St Thérèse of Lisieux, whose forthcoming beatification as a couple will probably be announced in their diocese of France on 12 July, their wedding anniversary.
Doug and Maeve, thank you for your friendship, for your faith, for your witness as a Catholic couple, for your hospitality and for all the laughs we've had together down the years. God has some reason for my not being with you on this great day but we're united in his love. May the dinner in Hamilton tonight, after the celebration of the Holy Mass, be a truel foretaste of the Heavenly Banquet - though I hope that none of us will be taking our places there for a while yet.