Chapter 2 – A Way of the Pilgrim in Glendalough
2 THE PILGRIM CROSS
I am carrying a Cross
“Stand at the crossroads and look. Ask for the ancient paths and where the best road is. Then walk in it and you will live in Peace.” (Jeremiah 6:16)
Chapter 1 THE WICKLOW GAP A CROSSING PLACE
In the Wicklow Mountains, the main road from east to west passes through a dip between two hills called the Wicklow Gap. Beside the road and a car park there is a remnant of an old road known as St. Kevin’s Road. It was created by people long ago who placed large granite stones together on the ground, making a rough pavement over a soft boggy area. It is an ideal place for a modern day pilgrim to begin a pilgrimage to Glendalough. Here the pilgrim can stand and look back at the journey already travelled and look forward to the road that lies ahead. The footprints and spirits of a pilgrim people are here making their way to and from the ancient holy ground of Glendalough.
A Way for the Pilgrim in Glendalough – Introduction
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
New Book by Michael Rodgers
Recently I had a new booklet published. It is called “A Way for the Pilgrim in Glendalough”. It contains fourteen Station reflections. These can be applied to every person’s experience along the road of life. It is a sequel to two other guide books that I produced about Glendalough in 1996 and 2003. It contains some wisdom and insights that came in the experience of the passing years.
Summertime officially begins this weekend as the darkness continues to give way to the light side of the year. A week ago we had equal day and night and that threshold moment when the two came together in one day reminded us of the gift of holding a balance between opposites. When we allow the dark and light moments and events of our lives to meet and be reconciled, we open a way for the grace of forgiveness, healing and peace to flow through us. Now is the time to let go the memories of dark, cold and disappointing days and turn our faces towards the light while opening our hearts with gratitude and expectation of new beginnings.
A NEW BEGINNING
Our musings have been lying dormant for a long time. Now that spring has come it is a good time to begin again. Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent in Christian churches and communities throughout the world. This is a time for reflection and preparation for the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ at Easter. The vocation of all Christians is to become fully alive in the risen spirit of Jesus Christ.
May the grace of new beginnings enliven your soul with possibility and promise.
May the valley sing to welcome you and the grace of home be yours.
May a river of delight rush through your body and soul refreshing parched terrain baptizing your spirit anew.
May the towering of black oak mind your spirit and guard your heart.
Lough Derg on the river Shannon is one of Ireland’s great lakes. There are many islands in the lake but one in particular is well known. It is called Inis Cealtra which means church island, now called Holy Island. A large monastic settlement founded in the fifth century was established here. The most famous of these is St. Caimin 600 – 654 A.D.
On Saturday, June 23rd more than sixty people gathered on the mainland opposite the island to begin a day of reflection. They came from different parishes in Clare and Tipperary in the Diocese of Killaloe.
Today, the church’s liturgical calendar goes back into ordinary time. There is a feeling of getting back down to earth after celebrating some of the great feasts of the Christian faith. In succeeding weeks we had Pentecost which highlights the handing over of Christ’s Spirit to the community; the Holy Trinity which celebrates the unity and diversity at the heart of life and the Body and Blood of Christ which emphasises that believers become brothers and sisters in a family united together in one bond of love and respect.
A LOCAL SAINT
Today the 3rd of June marks the fourteen hundreth anniversary of the death of Kevin who died in Glendalough in 618. He was a hermit who lived all his life on the shore of the upper lake deep within the valley. His search in solitude there for purpose and meaning in his life became the foundation of a great monastery which flourished in the lower valley for over a thousand years.
As the month of May comes to an end, the whole countryside is adorned with the white blossoms of the hawthorn tree. It is the time of year when the words of the poet Elizabeth Browning captures the scene so well. “Earth is crammed with heaven and every common bush afire with God.”
The road from Laragh to Rathdrum in Wicklow is one of the most beautiful in Ireland. It is particularly lovely in early summer when the fresh green leaves explode into life on the trees and again in autumn when they turn yellow and brown and grey and gold before they fall back to the earth as winter approaches.
Yesterday the Christian church celebrated the wonderful feast of Pentecost. It remembers the time when Jesus passed on His Spirit to the small community that he left behind him when he departed from this earth. They were offered the opportunity to understand and the responsibility to put into practice His message of communion, love and peace.
THE VINE AND THE BRANCHES
Last Sunday, John’s Gospel used the metaphor of shepherd and sheep for Jesus’ teaching that God cares for all people. A walk in a field today came upon two dead lambs. All shepherds are not great at taking care of their sheep.
The teaching of Jesus in today’s Sunday Gospel (John 15: 1-8) uses the metaphor of the tree and the branches. While few people nowadays know much about sheep, people both in cities and the countryside are never far away from a tree.
THE CALL OF THE EARTH
Today, Good Shepherd Sunday is also Earth Day 2018. The two are closely related. The theme for Earth Day this year is: “End Plastic Pollution.” The call to all is to rise up, sign up and join up and take action because plastic pollution is poisoning our oceans and land, injuring marine life and affecting human health.
NO PLACE LIKE HOME
Back in the mid west of Ireland last weekend, it was all about place and family. “Home is where the heart is” is a familiar saying. The mind travels all over the place but the heart is rooted in the everyday experience of the here and now. To be born in a place like Killanena with a beautiful natural environment is a wonderful gift. The beauty that surrounds us shapes the heart and soul of the growing child. Brian Merriman, the local poet of the late eighteenth century expressed it well in his great comic poem: “The Midnight Court” ‘Do ghealadh mo chroi nuair cidhinn Loch Greine, an talamh, an tir, is ioghar na speire” which has been translated by Louis Marcus as follows: “Lough Graney lifts my soul with joy – Such land! Such beauty! What a sky!”
THE RISEN CHRIST
The picture shows a silhouette of a group of people watching and waiting for the sun to rise on Easter Sunday morning at Ballyvaloo beach in Co. Wexford. They were one of many groups of Christians around the world having a similar Easter morning experience. Every single group saw something different but their common bond was their faith in the Risen Spirit of Jesus Christ.
Castleruddery in West Wicklow has an ancient stone circle erected in late Neolithic or early Bronze Age times. The picture above gives a glimpse of what the site looked like this morning. Imagine what it must have been like when it was first constructed over four thousand years ago. It was built by our ancestors for ritual purposes long before the advent of Christianity. The rituals were probably celebrated at particular times of the year marking the changing of the seasons or outstanding moments in the life and death experience. Our ancestors had the same questions that we ourselves ask: Why am I here? How did all of this come to be? Where is it going? What is my purpose and response to the fact that I am alive? We need rituals to explore and express the meaning of the great events of life in ways that words cannot express.
THE CROSSING POINT
The picture was taken yesterday at the Wicklow Gap, still blanketed in Sunday’s snow. It is always a good place to stop and look both ways, backwards and forwards. Sometimes as we look back along the road of life, we find that dark and difficult experiences from the past linger like clouds on the horizon and blur our vision of the future. It is hard to forgive and forget and let go of some of the painful experiences of our lives.
Our Lenten reflections this year come under the heading of unconditional love.
THE CALL TO LIBERTY
The daffodils in the picture are emerging from under a heavy weight of snow which has been lying on the ground for the past week. Some are still waiting to be released by the ongoing thaw. They are lying flat on the ground when they first appear from under the snow and look like they will never rise up again. As they are exposed again to the light however, they are rising up to where they were before the snow fell. Within a few more days, their beautiful yellow flowers will break open and give joy and hope to those who have time to stop and notice them.
Today is the fourth Sunday of the Lenten season.We are already more than half way through the time of penance and preparation for Easter and are recommended in the liturgy of today to ease off a little on the fasting and self denial. The purpose of this break is to give us an opportunity to enjoy the liberty and freedom we have already earned by taking this road of self control and reflection. We can also take time to look forward joyfully to knowing complete freedom as people of God in the Risen Christ at Easter.
IN GOD WE TRUST.
It has been a tumultuous week in Ireland and America. Ireland came out on top this time because we confronted and survived a battle with the beast from the east which was the weather. Here in the heart of the Wicklow mountains we were stopped in our tracks looking out the windows speechless at what was unfolding before our eyes. Nobody could do anything anymore except pray for deliverance. Good Catholics were quick to remind us that this was God’s way of punishing us for our sins and that we needed to do more penance this Lent in reparation. They are convinced that God is particularly angry with the government for giving the pubs permission to open on Good Friday this year.
THE CALL OF THE MOUNTAIN
The Scripture readings for the second Sunday of Lent highlight two words – sacrifice and transfiguration. The word sacrifice means to make holy which calls for a wholehearted response to life. In order to sacrifice oneself for others a transfiguration from who you think you are and what others think of you needs to change to an appreciation of who you are in relation to everyone and everything else in the bigger view of life.
OPENING UP TO LIFE
These Spring crocus flowers opened up completely to yesterday’s sunshine. The bulbs were planted on the eve of Samhain by a group of people gathered to celebrate the beginning of the Celtic new year, the first day of November. In the ancient Celtic understanding, the new day or the new season began with the darkness.
A Call to the Desert
The first Scripture reading of the first Sunday of Lent speaks of the covenant of love God made with the people of Israel and their descendants forever, promising them enduring love and fullness of life. A reminder of the covenant would be the rainbow in the sky appearing from time to time. Mortal human beings find it difficult to take in the implications of a covenant of love that is unconditional and everlasting because the human heart is distracted with what is available here and now.
It is snowdrop week at Altamont Gardens, Ballon, Co. Carlow. The garden is worth a visit at any time of the year but especially now when the snowdrops are in full bloom. At first sight the white flowers are everywhere and from a distance they all look the same. A closer look with the assistance of an expert guide reveals that there are nearly a hundred different varieties in bloom at the moment. Eye to eye contact with a single flower goes to the heart of its individual variety and beauty.
LENT A TIME TO RENEW THE SPIRIT
The Christian liturgical season of Lent begins today. It is a period of forty six days inspired by the example of Jesus in the desert preparing for the public announcement of his mission and the beginning of his ministry of service among the people. It is a time for purifying and renewing the spirit. The method recommended for achieving this purpose is practising the biblical disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. cf Matt. Chap.6:1-18. This could be called an older version of Operation Transformation.