in one section of his article.
Tuesday,4.45am SERVICE STOP
We get a chance to stretch our legs just off the M6 between London and Birmingham. It’s the kind of place where you can get a bed and a burger for less than €50. I get talking to a Frenchman who is sipping black coffee. His name is Gabriel Pigache, and he is from Lille. He was the passenger fretting about whether he would make a 9am connection. He is returning from a year in Dublin.
Once he gets to Victoria Coach Station, in London, he has another 15-hour journey, again by bus and ferry, before he is home. Pigache is a Jesuit priest; he has spent the past year in Dublin completing his study for the priesthood. “After 15 years of training, this was the end of the process,” he says. “I wanted to take the bus so that I could reflect on the past year in Ireland.”
What was it like being in Ireland when the country is experiencing a crisis of faith and he was there to strengthen his beliefs? “I visited Glendalough, which as we know was a Christian community from early times in Ireland. I was thinking about the current crisis while I was there and that we need to come back to the Gospel. What is collapsing is the very conventional way of practising Christianity.”
Pigache, who turns 40 this year, talks about the birds at North Bull Island, the colours of the Irish landscape and how he spent much of the year in silent contemplation.
Two coffees later, at 5.30am, we get back on the bus for the final leg of the journey. “I could have been a good father and a good husband,” Pigache says. “But I can go anywhere in the world to serve, and I need to be available to go to the frontiers, and I couldn’t do that if I had children. It can be a lonely life. You have friends and companions in your communities, and prayer and reflection keep you alive in a way you wouldn’t expect.”
Pigache’s time in Dublin also led to a connection with Irish music. He has been listening to The Dubliners on the bus, and I have visions of him arriving back in Lille and introducing his fellow Jesuits to the spiritual lyricism of Seven Drunken Nights or Take Her Up to Monto.