A pilgrimage is a time and a space set aside to journey in the path of faithful Christians who have gone before, mindfully walking in their footsteps; as we do this we are put in touch with our tradition, our roots, our God. It is about community, small (fellow pilgrims) and large (fellow Christians). It IS slow and purposeful. It IS fun!
We start preparing for our pilgrimages 2.5 years ahead of time, thoughtfully and prayerfully deciding where to go, meeting monthly to learn about our destination and grow together as a group.
During our pilgrimage, the goal is to contemplate the daily ebb and flow of our inward retreat and our outward pilgrimage; both as a group and individually. Each day, in keeping with this theme, we looked at the image of God, the eyes of Christ and the breath of the Spirit; within us, others and creation around us - now and through time.
This year we are going to Ireland. Follow along on the journey Facebook page.
St. Mark’s Worship Service. 10:30p. Mandatory.
After much anticipation, we will have landed in Dublin, the capital of the Emerald Isle. One purpose of pilgrimage is to encounter God in “thin” places. Thin places are where the heavenly and the earthly come together. As we travel southward today into the countryside, we will experience such a place - where the presence of God is almost tangible. The ancient monastic settlement of Glendalough (the Valley of the Two Lakes) was founded by St. Kevin in the early 7th Century, and eventually became one of the two most noted monastic cities in Ireland. This is the perfect backdrop to begin a weeklong focus on Celtic Christianity. In the late afternoon, the road leads south to County Wexford and the gorgeous Ferry Retreat Centre. Once the crossing point for the River Suir, Ferry Retreat was once a 400-year old farm now converted to a B&B is a taste of the real Ireland. A time of orientation and acclimation will help prepare our hearts and minds for the wonder this journey will bring. Get ready for a journey you will never forget.
Travelling back in time, we will visit the community of Graignamanagh. We will head out for a several mile walk along the Barrow River to St. Mullins. We will stop for dessert and tea before a visit to a few small acres containing 1600 years of Irish Christian history. We will learn the story of how Christianity came to Ireland through St. Patrick and will encounter a holy well. The evening will be a mixture of conversation and the first Stone Soup Supper.
The day’s journey leads to County Kildare. The county name comes from the Irish - Cill Dara - which means “church of the oak.” It is here that St. Brigid, one of the three patron saints of Ireland, founded a monastery. Known for her faith, love of learning, and friendship with St. Patrick, Brigid was one of the most notable women in both Irish and church history. We will immerse ourselves today in the life of Brigid with visits to the Kildare Cathedral, the Holy Well, and the local heritage center. We will return to the Ferry in the late afternoon with hearty appetites, ready for our second Stone Soup meal.
No visit to Ireland is complete without a visit to the Irish Sea. This day will be about coastal exploration - a visit to one of the oldest lighthouses in Europe, a shore side hike, and a boat ride to an island bird sanctuary are all adventures that are sure to delight. A day on the Irish sea would not be complete without a hearty pub meal before we spend another relaxing evening at our Irish home.
The beauty and wonder of nature will fill the day today. Our first stop will be the hidden glacial valley of Coumshingaun. It is a place known only by locals. The hike to the top is guaranteed to be one of the most memorable of our lives. Afterward, we will visit the 700-foot Mahon Falls. Do you dare to swim in an icy natural pool or climb the falls? The views from the top are outstanding. Tired and well worn, we’ll stop for a special meal then head back to our home base a time for conversation, prayer, and reflection.
Although in the last half century populations in Irish cities have burgeoned, about 66% of the land in Ireland is still used for agricultural purposes. Abundant rainfall encourages the growth of green grass, which produces some of the best meat and dairy products in the world. Ireland produces enough food annually to feed close to 36 million people. The day’s adventure will focus on farm life here in County Wexford, and the holiness inherent with being attuned to the land as God’s creation. This will be the perfect backdrop for the evening’s Stone Soup meal.
The final day in the region will take us to Waterford City and the Holy Eucharist at Christ Church Cathedral, an Anglican Cathedral whose building dates from 1050. The afternoon will allow time to explore the streets of Waterford, soaking up both Irish and Norse history of this historic city. A sumptuous meal at the Ferry will round out a busy day.
We visit the Hill of Slane where Patrick lit the first Irish Easter Fire and then Old Mellifont Abbey. The afternoon will bring us to the capital city of Dublin, where we will settle in before attending an Evensong service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Dublin is a city with an incredible history. Because of its geographical location, there has been human settlement in the area since prehistoric times. With Celtic, Norse, Norman, and British influences, Dublin is truly a historic and cultural gem. Our day of immersion in Dublin starts on the outskirts where we will visit the grounds of the ancient kingdom of Tara and the great megalithic tomb of Knowth. After some time of Dublin exploration in the afternoon, we will gather for a final time of celebration, reflection, and prayer as we transition our hearts for the journey home.
We will have had a fantastic week and will leave Ireland knowing Céad Míle Fáilte is not a myth. We leave with this traditional Gaelic blessing:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rains fall soft upon your fields until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of their hand.