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Reclaim Croagh Patrick as place of prayer and pilgrimage Archbishop urges

By Sarah Mac Donald - 29 July, 2013

Archbishop Michael Neary with the papal nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown, climbing the Reek.

Archbishop Michael Neary with the papal nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown, climbing the Reek.

Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam has said it is important that those who climb Croagh Patrick recognise that the ground on which they walk is holy and that they respect that.

Speaking ahead of his pilgrimage to the summit of Ireland’s holiest mountain on Reek Sunday, Archbishop Neary warned that Croagh Patrick could “easily become a place of sight-seeing and training for other events”.

Welcoming the launch of a new a pocket-sized, weather-proof payer card for pilgrims climbing the Reek, he said it was very timely and would help to “reclaim Croagh Patrick as a place of prayer and pilgrimage” while people could still enjoy its “majestic scenery.”

Referring to photographer Liam Lyons’ comment that to look at Croagh Patrick is to pray, Dr Neary added, “We are so immersed in this tradition of prayer and pilgrimage particularly here in the Westport area and in the West of Ireland.

He said people across the country and beyond Irish shores recognised the “richness in this place of pilgrimage.”

The prayer card was officially launched in Carrowbeg House in Westport on Saturday evening by the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown.

In his address, Dr Brown welcomed the prayer card as a “beautiful meditation” and a “way of entering into the mystery of Croagh Patrick” which combines modern reflections with ancient scripture.

He said one of the interesting aspects of undertaking a pilgrimage such as climbing Croagh Patrick was the way it affected pilgrims spiritually.

“We live in an age, since the industrial revolution, where things are very rational – an age of mechanisation and computerisation. We put something in, we get something out. But pilgrimage is something different from that – there is a kind of logic to the pilgrimage that is not a modern logic but an ancient logic.”

Underlining how the Catholic faith is rational not irrational, the papal nuncio said that by using our reason, our minds are enlightened by God.

However, he added that the experience of God goes beyond reason; and that the experience of pilgrimage helps us to enter into that mystery which has a different logic – the logic of the heart and love.

Pilgrimage, he said, is something that we have to do it in order that the ‘God of surprises’ could speak to our hearts.

Archbishop Neary, the papal nuncio and Bishop Brendan Kelly of Achonry began their ascent of Croagh Patrick together on Sunday morning at 7am.

Speaking to CatholicIreland.net, Bishop Kelly said he was undertaking the pilgrimage as part of the Year of Faith.

“I felt that for this Year of Faith, I wanted to water my roots. Faith begins with repentance. Our Lord said ‘repent and believe the Good News’. Repentance is linked to coming home to our origins – it is coming home to God at the end of the day.”

“I really wanted to do this as a profession of my own faith and in a sense of repentance because I am very conscious of my own failures as a priest, my failures as a bishop and because what the Lord asks of us is genuine acts of sorrow.”

“I think the Irish have a tremendous sense of repentance as part of their faith journey and I think that is something that we really need today. The world in which we live is one of consumerism and it needs to embrace the virtue of restraint. We need to acknowledge that – especially in western countries – we are over-consuming to the detriment of others. I believe there is something deeply sinful about that.”

The Croagh Patrick pilgrimage, Bishop Kelly said, could lead to “an incredible experience of transformation.”

He said pilgrims could get “a whole new perspective” from it. “You kind of get a perspective of the world without sin almost. There is a kind of cleansing about it at every level and a physicality about it that affirms us as human beings – there is something about that that I love,” he said.

By Sarah Mac Donald

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