Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Rise From Your Knees

Following the pilgrimage to Lough Derg last year with Andrew O ‘Connell, John Quinn, evangelisation officer extended the invitation again this year to the Presentation Family. I was apprehensive doing the journey again twelve months to the day since my previous visit to this sacred place. I remembered sleep deprivation and hunger, not to mention sore feet and sore knees! But I blocked all that from my mind as our Presentation Family of nineteen souls made the short journey from the mainland north of the town of Pettigo across to Station Island.

It was a privilege to be part of a lovely, supportive group of people; we became companions on a journey to one another, looking out for each other, ready to offer a word of encouragement and show a smile when needed. A great camaraderie developed between everyone in our group. I suppose we all realised we were in the same boat. While I found it very challenging at times, other pilgrims pulled me through. Everyone was so friendly and it was nice to hear their stories, where they came from and why they came.

Doing something with others brings us closer together and creates a bond of support. Pope Francis in a text said that the Christian Life is never falling down but always getting up again. Thanks to the hand of God which catches us again. Maybe this has been the experience of this group of pilgrims who over the three days bonded with each other supporting one another when the time of need arose...helping each other as we journeyed together.

We live in an age where ultimate challenges are becoming more a way of life for many, we see people accomplishing amazing, daring and physically challenging things. Pushing the boundaries of our physical and mental strength and rising to the challenge is part of an inner search to take ourselves to a deeper place

The three day challenge this group of passionate pilgrims set themselves was not too dissimilar and it was, as one pilgrim put it, “harder to put into words why I am doing it than it was to have done it!” Another said, “It was just something I wanted to do” and another again said, “I keep hearing the call to return.”

While I was one of a group, I was also one of 120 other pilgrims that came on to the island for the week end. There was a great variety of ages too from young adults to those in their eighties. As a participant on the pilgrimage, I found there is an equality about it–there are no three-star or five-star pilgrims; just barefoot people on a journey together.

I made a brief visit to the island’s small museum. There was a medieval map of Europe and it displayed Lough Derg as the only Irish site identified. It was a place of retreat for those from across the known world through the centuries. Writers such as Heaney, Kavanagh and Alice Taylor among others tried to capture the magic of the island.

On our return back to the mainland, tired and hungry, I forgot the hardships and enjoyed a sense of fulfilment and achievement on completing a challenging pilgrimage. There was one last rendition of Hail Glorious Saint Patrick led by Fr. Owen Mc Eneaney, Prior, before we left the island. We were reluctant to break up such was the friendship that brought us together during the three days. There was an opportunity for some last minute photos and say our ‘good-byes’. A question asked, would this be an annual event? The response was a unanimous ‘yes’ and...invite a friend.

It is an experience of real humility where the material world takes a back seat. It is an opportunity to reflect more deeply on life and come close to God.

World Youth Day comes to Cork

Are you aware this year Pope Francis has invited young people of the world to meet him in Krakow, Poland, in July for the 14th World Youth Day? However, we know that many young people are not able to attend this gathering so the Diocese of Cork & Ross together with Vocations Ireland is hosting a Vigil & Mass to coincide with the Vigil in Krakow for our young people at home. It will take place on Saturday 30th from 8pm to midnight.

The evening will include music, inspiring talks, prayer, food, confession, adoration, discussion groups and live links to Krakow throughout the evening. The event will conclude with concelebrated mass at 11.00pm which is open to all who would like to join us. This event will take place in Saint Columba’s Church and Parish Centre in Douglas.

We encourage you to invite young people whom you know are in your parish. A personal invitation is often the most effective way of encouraging one another to attend such a gathering.

It is open to young adults 18 – 40 and young people 16 – 18 accompanied by parish group leaders. A contribution of 10 euros per participant is asked and registration is essential – details and registration forms available from the Pastoral Development Office telephone 0214537601.

We are conscious that the event is coming in the middle of the summer holidays but we hope you will support it and encourage young people to attend.

Monday, June 13, 2016

A Pilgrimage with a Difference!

I enjoyed a few days with my confreres recently on a pilgrimage on the Wild Atlantic Way. We joined the West Cork part of the Wild Atlantic Way in the town of Clonakilty, the gateway to West Cork. As we took the journey South West from Clonakilty, a different landscape opened up before us where the ‘wild’ aspect of this route started to take shape and a more rugged and scenic coastline came into view. 

One of our first stops was in the picturesque coastal village of Timoleague. Br. Martin, our guide for the three days, outlined the story of the abbey founded by the Franciscan Monks in the thirteenth century. It was built upon the former site of a monastic settlement by St. Molaga in the sixth century. Timoleague was the home of Saint Molaga, (Tigh Molaga, House of Molaga) who is said to have introduced bees to Ireland. It was then onwards to the beautiful town of Rosscarbery with its beautiful view by the sea was to be our base.  

Br. John led us each morning with the active Chinese practice of Tai Chi followed with some personal   reflective time on Warren beach. After a light breakfast, we headed for the beautiful fishing village of Baltimore which opens up a gateway to Carbery’s Hundred Isles in Roaring Water Bay. On a glorious sunny morning we climbed Beacon Head and witnessed some stunning scenery. I recalled the words of Peter to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here…!” In the afternoon we took a boat trip around Roaring Water Bay to view whales, dolphins and seals; we weren’t disappointed. We saw magnificent Minke whales rising to the surface for air as they followed the fish; porpoises, seals, oyster catchers and diving gannets were among other species of wild life to be seen. On our return we took a detour to the friendly fishing village of Union Hall for a lovely evening meal. You guessed it, it was beautiful, tasty, fresh fish of the day all round.   

The following morning, our journey took us to the town of Skibbereen. We visited the very popular Heritage Centre with its interactive tribute to the thousands lost in this area to the Great Famine. I tried to connect in spirit the famine with the plight of the refugees today. A unique attraction, located outside Skibereen, is that of Lough Hyne – Europe’s first marine nature reserve and a place of great natural beauty. It is home to a diverse range of plants and marine life. Combined with the wooded walk to the summit of Knockomagh hill with its panoramic views over the lake, a trip to Lough Hyne is a must for visitors to the area. Before we departed this peaceful place, we visited one of three holy wells in the area, ‘Tobarin na Sul’, an early Christian holy well associated with healing of the eyes. We read the story of Bartimaeus, the blind man in the Gospel of Mark and I prayed, “Lord that I may see a new…!”  

On the afternoon, we headed off on a three-hour country walk in Castlefreke. We followed the path through mature woods, amazing biodiversity and viewed Ireland’s reputedly tallest memorial cross. On the way we took time to visit Rathbarry Castle, a Medieval Church and returned to Long Strand which was our starting point. This walk had everything on a beautiful afternoon. “Did not our hearts burn within us as he walked with us along the Way”? 

I remembered how Jesus too walked a lot in his life. The four Gospels are peppered with accounts of him walking into the countryside, walking by the Sea of Galilee, walking in the Temple, and even walking on water…walking gives you time to see things more clearly. Because he was moving slowly, things and places came into focus for him. Sometimes he had a destination, sometimes he did not. For many who followed him, he was the destination. So I need to take time to see, to listen and to reflect – go slow and that’s what I tried to do for these few days.  

Click to listen to Aoife Scott’s rendition of All Along the Wild Atlantic Way: