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!

4 comments:

Sabrina said...

Sounds amazing! The stained glass windows are beautiful....

I'm going to Ireland in two weeks! Any suggestions on places to visit?

OR Melling said...

Well,to be honest, the whole place is gorgeous, but I favour the West - Counties Galway, Sligo, Mayo, and Clare. And Galway City is fabulous for trad music and night life. May I also recommend my child's father's eco-lodge in Co. Sligo for great budget accommodation - lots of Canadians have visited - adjacent to the beautiful Lough Key Forest Park, Strandhill with seaweed baths and beach, and the West coast in general: www.gyreum.com. The weather is good so far, fingers crossed it will hold. Have a fabulous time and let me know how it goes! I'm on my way to New York and Toronto next week.

Sabrina said...

thanks! We're looking forward to it and we do spend a whole week on the west coast.

paddy said...

St Patrick's Purgatory sounds like something even a grumpy old atheist like me would like to try. Will have to go discover my own country properly some time!