By editor - 29 April, 2016
The Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown, will open a Door of Mercy at St Patrick’s Basilica in Lough Derg this Sunday to mark the beginning of the new pilgrimage season.
An estimated 500 pilgrims on a one-day retreat will be invited to cross the threshold with the Nuncio, who will also preach the homily at the opening Mass of the retreat.
Bishop Liam MacDaid of Clogher and Fr Owen McEneaney, the Prior of Lough Derg, will join the Nuncio and the pilgrims.
The opening of the Door of Mercy in Lough Derg is in response to Pope Francis’ invitation to all major shrines across the world to offer pilgrims an opportunity to cross the threshold of a Holy Door in this extraordinary Jubilee Year while on pilgrimage or retreat.
Commenting on this landmark occasion in the Island’s history, Bishop Liam MacDaid said, “It will be a great honour, and a recognition of its importance to our people, that the Papal Nuncio will open a Holy Door on Lough Derg.”
“Having a Door of Mercy in this extraordinary Jubilee Year will put Lough Derg on a par with major shrines and places of pilgrimage throughout the world. We are deeply grateful to His Holiness Pope Francis for his thoughtfulness and we warmly welcome his representative, the Papal Nuncio,” the Bishop said.
The Diocese of Clogher has been the sole custodian of Lough Derg since 1780.
As the new pilgrimage season gets underway, Prior Owen McEneaney extended an invitation of welcome to all.
“The Island shrine is a sacred space of mercy and everyone is invited to ‘Come and let God’s mercy find you on Lough Derg’. To come and walk in the footsteps of your forebears over the centuries and walk across the threshold stone, which reads ‘I am the Door. Enter and Be Safe’, into a new awareness is a commitment to both giving and receiving mercy.”
The Jubilee of Mercy Pilgrimage Season commences on Sunday 1 May and one-day retreats continue on certain days until Monday 30 May.
The three-day pilgrimage season commences on Wednesday 1 June and pilgrims can begin their pilgrimage on any day up to and including 13 August with the one-day retreats recommencing after this on Sunday 21 August.
Historical records date the practice of pilgrimage to Lough Derg to the 7th century. Legend also presents the cave on the Island as the place where St Patrick had his vision of Purgatory.
St Patrick is said to have left a disciple in the area and the foundation of one of the earliest monastic Christian settlements followed. The remnants of the monastic prayer cells remain central to the pilgrimage tradition.
Today the Lough Derg three-day pilgrimage follows a pattern prayer from the Celtic monastic time and shows remarkable continuity with the earliest systematic account of the pilgrimage which dates to the 1600s.
Before this, several accounts of pilgrimage to Lough Derg survive from medieval times.
A 1346 Purgatory fresco on the wall of a convent church in Todi depicts St Patrick, and witnesses the fame of Lough Derg in continental Europe at that period.
Following the Celtic monastic period, history points to the Canons Regular of St Augustine (12th – 15th Century) and the Franciscans (late 15th Century – mid 18th Century).
The Lough Derg pilgrimage continued through the religious persecution of post Reformation times. A detailed account survives in the 1714 Relatio of Bishop Hugh MacMahon.
Lough Derg lies about four miles north of the village of Pettigo in Co Donegal. Station Island, the location of the pilgrimage, is often referred to as Saint Patrick’s Purgatory or simply Lough Derg.
For further information www.loughderg.org