A Way for the Pilgrim in Glendalough – Introduction

1st November 2019

I have been a pilgrim priest in Glendalough for the past twenty six years.
To be a pilgrim is to be a constant seeker, asking questions about the
deeper meaning of life here and hereafter. My parish is the open road
and my parishioners are all those who come to walk with me and share their
stories. Our sanctuary is the beautiful environment of the created world all
around us and the tabernacle is the heart of each person where the presence of
God seems very near when the door to each unique individual is open. I live in
rented apartments which I named Tearmann meaning sanctuary or safe place
where pilgrims are welcome to rest, reflect, pray and stay for a while as they
proceed along their journey of life.
The focus in Tearmann Spirituality Centre is on the spiritual journey believing
that every person is a spiritual being with an eternal destiny having a human
experience. Life itself in its many shapes, forms and circumstances is where the
sacred is encountered and holiness is lived. The road to our destination is located
in the here and now reality of time and space. Religious systems and institutions
are created to help people with wisdom teachings, prayers, sacred rituals and
writings to grow into the fullness of their potential as spiritual beings. These
same institutions can also alienate people and create divisions. I meet some of
those people on the open road who are seeking a new way to encounter God.
I believe like St. Patrick that our God is a God of all people and loves each one
equally. If we could feel that love and act out of it and give other people a chance
to experience it, our world would be completely transformed. Christians believe
that the Spirit of the risen eternal Christ lives in them. In that Spirit everything
is possible. Everything has an interior life, everything is different and everything
is one. That is a principle of universal life and spirituality. The human family is
one great branch in a magnificent tree of life. It is central to the ongoing spiritual
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evolution and growth of the whole of life. We are called to participate fully in the
design and plan of God to bring all things to completion.
I have spent fifty four years of my life as a Catholic priest. I went to Kenya
in 1965 with the vision of Vatican II glowing in my head and heart. I enjoyed
the excitement of implementing that vision in the new Christian community
churches that were springing up throughout Africa in the sixties and seventies.
Since those heady days, I have lived with the disappointment of seeing the vision
fade in the declining role of the church in Irish life over the past few decades.
I live in constant hope that radical renewal will eventually come around and
am encouraged and enthused in recent years by the teaching of Pope Francis
in his inspiring exhortations: Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) 2013;
Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love) 2016; Gaudete et Exultate (Rejoice and Be Glad)
2018; and Christus Vivit (Christ Is Alive) 2019. The greatest moment of hope for
the future came for me when the Pope issued his wonderful Encyclical letter
Laudato Si (Praise to you my Lord) on care for our common earth home in 2015.
My understanding of who I am and of the world around me is built on the
foundation of a traditional Irish Catholic faith and my love for the natural world.
I am painfully aware of the ecological crisis of our time. I have seen at first hand
the destruction of the environment and understand that many unique species
have become extinct within the relatively short span of my life. My whole being
is affected by the poverty suffered by millions of human beings on this earth
and the unacceptable unjust social and political systems that bring it about. The
poor suffers most but all of life is diminished by the destitution of so many.
My soul rejoices in a growing understanding of the vastness of the universe
in which our planet home is only one small star in a vast expanse of billions of
galaxies and stars. Science is now confirming what indigenous people knew intuitively from a long time ago that we are all connected, we are all one in our many
shapes and forms and that we all come from the one source. We are energetically
connected, genetically connected and we are spiritually connected. It is possible
that the best way forward for the future of humanity will be designed by people
who look to a God of love as the mysterious source of all being and live their lives
with a universal spiritual outlook.
I share my thoughts with people who come to stay in Tearmann and with
those who walk with me along the many paths and within the places of interest
that are all around Glendalough. When our pilgrim group walks are completed, I
Introduction 3
am often asked if I have any written words to offer people to take home for continuing reflection. They also look for a recording of the poems that I like to recite
by heart. I can refer them to two guide books about Glendalough for which I
wrote the original scripts. The first book produced in 1996 was completed with
input and assistance from Marcus Losack. It is called Glendalough: A Celtic Pilgrimage. The second little book, completed with the support and guidance of
Gill McCarthy, is called Glendalough: A Celtic Soul Journey. It was published in
2003.
During the past year, I decided to prepare another small book to mark my
eightieth birthday and the Silver Jubilee of Tearmann Spirituality Centre (1993
-2018) I have named it A Way for the Pilgrim in Glendalough. I present it as a
reflective prayerful journey through fourteen stations from the mountain top at
the Wicklow Gap, through the valley of Glendalough to a conclusion at the foot
of the Round Tower. At each station there is a thousand word reflection and a
photograph of the place where the station is located. The reflections only offer
a few thoughts as a foundation on which each person can express their own
thoughts and conclusions. The pictures speak for themselves more effectively
than any words.
This little booklet can be used to make a virtual pilgrimage in your own
home or it can be taken as a guide to accompany those who decide to walk all
or part of the actual journey. If it helps to ignite a new flame of faith and spirit
in someone it will be a blessing. My hope is that everyone who uses this booklet
and CD will be blessed in many ways. Let us walk in the presence of the mystery
of God who is always with us but not always recognized on the way. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, It would be wonderful if we could feel our hearts
burning a little more strongtly within us and feel closer to God as we come to
the end of this way of the pilgrim in Glendalough.
As I finished these reflections for A Way for the Pilgrim in Glendalough I was
filled with gratitude. To find words to express it I turned to the website gratefulness.org. The ‘Word for Today’ had a popular quotation from Pierre Teilhard
de Chardin which inspires me every time I read it: “Some day, after we have
mastered the wind, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall master for God the
energies of love. Then for the second time in the history of the world, we will
have discovered fire.”
“I will walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living” Ps.116.