Friday, June 19, 2009
Laudete Sanctam Insulam!
I have done a lot of weird and wonderful things in my day, but St Patrick's Purgatory on the island of Lough Derg definitely ranks up there with the best of them. It was an utterly amazing experience. The fasting, the sleep deprivation, the bare feet and sore knees on ancient stones of penitential beds, the midges, the suffering, the rattle of Rosary beads, the constant circling and praying out loud (I can whizz through the Our Father, Hail Mary & Creed at a mighty rate now), that first cup of tea after a day fasting, that first bite of dried toast, that first spraying of the head with insecticide by a kind fellow pilgrim who knew the ropes, the Taizé chants by candlelight in the Basilica, the golden ciborium of Benediction, the first soft sleep after 38 hours awake - ahhhhhh. And did I mention the Harry Clarke windows? I had only just started to read a book about him last week and there they were before me, a gift from the gods! (See Book Blog.) I nearly fainted with ecstasy, worshipping at the jewelled feet of his exquisite figures. (I have many gods and one of them is Art.) Below, you can see the boat that took us to the island, the penitential beds (remains of mediaeval monastic beehive huts which we circled and knelt in, praying continuously) and the stone blocks down by the lakeshore where we prayed some more, while being eaten alive by midges. (Those lads have been feasting on pilgrims for over a thousand years!) We said decades of the Rosary all through the night, circling the Basilica inside and out. (All that circling is definitely pre-Christian.) And throughout the time there, we went barefoot over grass and pavement and stone. I am still feeling the good effects physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I'm definitely going back next year!