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 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 communitymchurches 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 nam 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.