Weeklong festival marks Year of Faith at Croagh Patrick
By Sarah Mac Donald -
23 July, 2013
Thousands of people are expected to undertake the pilgrim climb to the summit of Croagh Patrick over the course of this week.
Each year, Reek Sunday and Garland Friday (two days earlier) attract large crowds to the sacred mountain, but this year, to coincide with the Year of Faith, a week-long festival has been organised which centres on the mountain itself.
Daily Mass will take place at the summit for ‘Reek Week’ and a series of lectures and guided tours of sites associated with St Patrick have also been arranged.
Yesterday, on the first day of the pilgrimage week, around sixty people climbed the Reek together and attended Mass there. The celebrant was Fr Shane O’Sullivan from the cathedral parish of Tuam. He told CatholicIreland.net it was a “fantastic experience”.
“I’m wrecked but in good form. It was a physical and spiritual workout,” the priest who as born in Chicago related. He said the pilgrims included people from Louth, Antrim, Mayo, Galway and Kerry as well as a number of foreigners, including “a couple of Yanks, I’m glad to say”.
According to Fr O’Sullivan, there is a “beautiful heritage” attached to Croagh Patrick. “Generations and generations of Irish people have been doing this, bringing their prayers and connecting with God. I think even today, the idea of pilgrimage captures people’s imaginations – the idea of doing something difficult like climbing a mountain, and experiencing something together.”
Tens of thousands of people are expected to undertake the mountain climb on Reek Sunday (28th July 2013). This tradition has been carried out uninterrupted on the last Sunday in July for over 1,500 years.
The pilgrimage recalls St Patrick who, in 441AD, spent 40 days and nights fasting on the summit, following the example of Christ and Moses.
At the time, pagans celebrated the festival of Lughnasa, which heralded the start of the harvest festival honouring the ancient pagan god Lugh, whose name is encompassed in the Irish word for August – Lughnasa. St Patrick succeeded in Christianising this tradition, and it became known as Domhnach na Cruaiche (Reek Sunday).
This year, the festival associated with the Reek climb extends for a whole week. Today, Wednesday and Thursday, Mass will take place on the summit at 12 noon, with priests available for confession beforehand.
On Garland Friday (26th July), Mass will take place on the summit at 10am and another Mass will take place in the car park at the base of the mountain at 7pm for those unable to climb the mountain. It takes on average about two hours to climb the mountain.
Tonight at Westport Hotel at 9pm, Fr Frank Fahey from Ballintubber Abbey will give a lecture on Pilgrimage, and tomorrow night, at the same time, Dr Kelley Fitzgerald from UCD will speak about “Patrick in life, legend and lore”.
Finally on Friday night, Michael Gibbons, field archaeologist, will give a lecture on the theme, “Prehistoric Pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick: Ancient Reality or Modern Myth.”
Meanwhile, on Wednesday afternoon at 2.30pm, a guided coach tour will bring pilgrims to famous sites associated with Ireland’s patron – Aughagower, the village visited by St Patrick on his journey to Croagh Patrick and Ballintubber Abbey, the church he founded in 441 after his return from his long fast on the summit of Croagh Patrick.
Reek Week is an initiative from Mayo County Council, Westport parish and Murrisk Community Development Association, which is running a community cafe for the week with traditional music, and an exhibition of Old Croagh Patrick photos.
For the first time this year Reek Week 2013 certificates will be awarded to people who complete the climb of the holy mountain.
According to Catherine MacNamara of Westport parish, tens of thousands of people climb Croagh Patrick each year, including many young people.
“In the last couple of years I’ve noticed a lot of schools bringing Transition Year and 6th year students to climb the Reek. I get the key for them, and they celebrate Mass at the summit. There are nearly always people on the mountain,” she told CatholicIreland.net
By Susan Gately