Glencolumbkille to Dublin

Today we travel back across Ireland from County Donegal to Dublin. On the way, we will stop at the Knowth passage tomb in the Boyne Valley.

We so grateful for the beauty and openness and hospitality of Donegal. We have two more nights before we start the journey home. 

Turas Cholmcille

Yesterday we took a very special pilgrimage to ancient stones in the Glencolumkille village in County Donegal. 

The traditional name of the pilgrimage, Turas Cholmcille, means Columcille’s Stations (in Gaelic). We were led by two women from the local community, Margaret and Maura, who are trying to revive the pilgrimage. What an honor to have this walk shared with us. 

It is thought that Columcille lived in this community and, finding standing stones from ancient times, had Christian symbols carved on them. Then developed the tradition of a pilgrimage to these sites in reverence and penitence. 

The whole pilgrimage would take six hours to complete (barefoot) as the pilgrims visited the fifteen stations. We visited eight stations in the three hours we journeyed. (I kept my hiking boots on.) 

I am still reflecting on the experience. But wanted to share this. 

Pick up three stones,
The leader said,
And we will carry them up
To the cairn at Columcille’s Well.

I picked up three small stones And began to walk up and up and up
Along the trail, beside the sheep.

We stopped to rest
And looked out
At the valley below us.

I imagined the cairn we were traveling to …
A small, rounded pile of stones by the holy well.

When we walked around the curve in the mountain,
We found not a small rounded cairn,
But a mountain of stones.

How many pilgrims,
Each with three rocks,
Have made this climb?

Thousands and thousands of
Pilgrims have carried their stones
And left them there.

Thousands and thousands of
Pilgrims have walked three times
Around this cairn,
Setting down a stone each circuit.

Thousands and thousands of
Pilgrims have prayed here,
Have touched the holy water.

God of healing,
We lay before you these burdens,
These hopes, these sorrows.

St. Columcille,
You walked these paths and
Carried these stones.
Pray for us
That we might follow
The one who heals,
Who loves,
Who walks with us.

In the West

We are in the west in Donegal, the birthplace of St. Columcille (Columba is what he is called in Scotland).

Land of sea and sky and ocean. Land of sheep and bogs. We greet you.

Today we take a pilgrimage to standing stones which were here before the saint and used in Christian ministry.

The pilgrimage is traditionally taken at midnight on the night before Columcille’s feast day. And walked barefoot.

Let me bless almighty God,
Whose power extends over
Sea and land,
Whose angels watch over all.

Let me study sacred books
To calm my soul;
I pray for peace,
Kneeling at heaven’s gates.

Let me do my daily work,
Gathering seaweed,
Catching fish,
Giving food to the poor.

Let me say my daily prayers,
Sometimes chanting,
Sometimes quiet,
Always thanking God.

Delightful it is
To live on a peaceful isle,
In a quiet cell,
Serving the King of kings.
– Columcille

On These Shores

On these shores
People prayed to the morning sun.

On these shores
People gathered food, repaired nets.

On these shores
People launched and landed coracles,
Placed their hope in the God of travelers.

On these shores
Patrick arrived in slavery,
Escaped with sailors,
Returned as missionary.

On these shores
Columba left his homeland
And entered his exile.

On these shores
People walked and worked,
Laughed and cried,
Sang and prayed.

On these shores, this day,
I walk. I pray.
I thank God for my ancestors,
Pilgrims, travelers,
Faithful ones who came before.

On these shores.

Patrick


Today we walked with St. Patrick. We visited the Patrick Centre in Downpatrick and prayed at his grave. We touched the cold water of St. Patrick’s Wells at Struell. We prayed at Saul Church, the site of the barn Patrick was given for shelter — the place he established his first church. 

St. Patrick, I thought I knew you, the saint of stained glass and mitres, of shamrocks and crosiers.

Today we celebrate your feast day with parades and green beer. But the color of your adopted country is blue. And the old ones took your feast day as times for abstinence and prayer.

Let me see past the 21st century Patrick to the Patrick of 432, the man called to return to his place of bondage and bring the word of love.

Let me reclaim your remembrance as a holy time, an opportunity for service to the poor, the hungry, the enslaved. For you once were poor, hungry, and enslaved. Let me reclaim your remembrance with gratitude and humility.

Pray for me. Pray for us, Patrick.

(I took this photograph near the grave of Patrick. The flower and I spent some reflective time together.)