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:

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