Wise words about love - from a man who has never walked down the aisle
The priest stopped half way through the wedding Mass as if the irony of it all had hit him just then for the first time. "Isn't it strange", he said, "that a man who was never married is telling all of you how it should be done."
And he got a fit of laughing. So too did everyone else in the church - but there was hardly anyone there in St Mary's who agreed with him.
For all of us present were very much in agreement that the singleton Father Pat Moore had just delivered a masterclass on marriage.
We go back a while. Father Pat was in my class in St Michael's here in Listowel before he was spirited away to St Brendan's in Killarney, which at that time was a kind of a prep school for would-be priests. We have written here before about Moore, as we used to call him in school. Pat has been through a fierce battle against cancer. He had a good bit of his body cut away just a few months ago. He only barely survived.
His friend and protégé Ger Barret and his lovely bride Grainne O'Sullivan were getting married and Pat had to be there.
Ger, still in his twenties, is a renowned filmmaker. His low-budget movies 'Pilgrim Hill' and 'Glassland' are little masterpieces. Keep an eye out for him. This lad is the real deal.
We all met up the night before the wedding for a drink. Moore was still shaky on his feet, like a newborn calf, but he's on the mend and getting stronger by the day. He knows me better than most: "Make sure you're on time for the wedding," he said.
I was there for the throw-in.
You couldn't refuse Moore anything. I knew from the tone of his voice and the dancing in his eyes that this was going to be worthwhile.
Ger and Grainne come from Bedford and Carrueragh in north Kerry and they are soulmates. Grainne is a solicitor.
She is the practical one who keeps a close eye on Ger's projects. Ger is a dreamer who makes his dreams a reality.
I knew from the very beginning that Ger would make the grade. He has a wisdom beyond his years and everything he sees around him is stored, processed and then framed with so much compassion and great skill.
Here is some of Father Pat's sermon delivered just a week ago. But this is more than a sermon. It is a love template for the ages: "None of us comes to a relationship with empty hands. We are all formed in homes, whether in Bedford or Carrueragh. We carry in the blood or in the mind the images of those who have loved us and whom we have loved. We carry damage, too, wherever we are wounded.
"These images we have carried for years, they are set in the mind, they are the lenses through which we view things. So often we can't see through the net of these patterns. The magic of love is what Grainne and Ger have. It releases an energy.
"New thresholds have opened up. And the grace of new beginnings. Life quickens with new possibilities, fresh invitations, when a couple sense the complexity and delight of it all."
Father Pat stops for a while to give us a chance to take it all in.
The priest asks us to cross over through the centre aisle to shake hands with the guests. It's a part of him, that desire to connect everyone up. Then, when the greetings are done, my old school pal continues with his conversation.
"Love," says Father Pat, "is a great shelter within which vulnerability can be shown and gradually healed. Awakening and growth of love can be fascinating to watch. It arrives from nowhere. It calls two strangers from the crowd. They become a shelter to each other."
I'm thinking now of my friend as I pass on his words of love and I sense a sadness. Because of his calling, Moore missed out on the intimacy of a relationship. But in another way his sacrifice has brought him into all of our lives.
The priest's loneliness must be hard to bear at times, but this man who gives out all he has in his heart with such humour and tact will never be short of love.
We will go back to the sermon. Well, it's not really a sermon - more of a sharing, I would call it. Back to Moore, then.
"To love somebody is an art. It doesn't come simply or cheaply, it is a lifetime's work. It is a risk. There will be storms, but there will be times when the beauty of your lives together brings unexpected joy. Deeply buried hurts will resolve and release themselves.
"Healing light flows from unknown regions of the heart.
"Love does change everything. Where there is fear, courage begins to dawn, confusion gives way to clarity. In old walls unexpected doors open. Hearts awaken.
"Here is St Mary's Church, in this house of wise and intuitive shelter, God's house, you are surrounded by family, friends, people who wish you well."
This is me again. He's tired now. The cancer has taken its toll.
There's a silence while he catches his breath. But the priest carries on. He looks over to Ger and Grainne: "I have watched you both do the simple things well. Continue at that. Lifelong commitment is a threshold. A marriage is not a business risk.
"Every day our lives are braided with luminous moments. Sometimes the most fleeting moments reveal themselves to be the things of greatest substance. You both do sense that - continue to do so."
There it ended with a smile, and he married the happy couple.
Now I know why Moore told me to get to the church in time. His words were universal and true. There was a grace there in the old church.
Those moments illuminated the grey January day - and the man who never married lit up all of our lives with his harvest of lifelong wisdom.