Thursday, November 7, 2019

Ireland Pilgrimage Review

I have been gone for a few weeks now - we left October 27th and returned November 4th from our scheduled 8 day Ireland Pilgrimage.  Yes - if you count the days - it comes to 9 days - one day delay in returning due to a missed flight out of Dublin.  Our group of fourteen pilgrims arrived safely in Dublin on Monday October 28th - met our tour director who traveled with us - hopped into our private bus - under the control of "Driver Dawn" - as she calls herself - and immediately began a tour around Dublin to acquaint ourselves with some of the local sights. Day one was departing the Chicago area and Day two marked our arrival in Dublin to pickup our private tour bus.

"Driver Dawn" Our Tour Guide 

Our first stop was Saint Patrick Cathedral erected in 1191- originally a Roman Catholic Cathedral - now an Anglican Church of Ireland. The change came about in 1537 when the King separated from the Roman Catholic Church and began the Church of England - the Anglican Church.

Saint Patrick Cathedral - Dublin 

From there we visited Trinity College where the famous Book of Kells - one of the earliest forms of the Book of Gospels is displayed.

Trinity College - Book of Kells

Having exhausted ourselves we needed a relaxing diversion and proceeded to a visit and self guided tour of the Guinness Storehouse to learn about the history of Guinness and sample a pint for ourselves.

Welcome To Guinness

Guinness - The Falling Of The Veil

Our third day began the official pilgrimage with the group heading to Armagh - the spiritual center of Ireland - to visit the Catholic St. Patrick's Cathedral and the Medieval-Byzantine Anglican St. Patrick's Cathedral.

St Patrick Catholic Cathedral - Armagh

From there we continued to Downpatrick and Down Cathedral where St. Patrick is buried along with St. Columbia and St. Brigid.  We returned in the early evening to explore the Temple Bar area which is filled with restaurants and pubs where we would enjoy the local cuisine.  

St Patrick Burial Site 

Our fourth day found us leaving Dublin and heading to the Galway area to visit the medieval city of Kilkenny to tour the area and Kilkenny Castle. 

Kilkenny Castle 

 Moving on we went to the Rock of Cashel to visit the Romanesque Comac Chapel and Round Tower.  Checking in to our hotel in Lough Rea we settled in for dinner and relaxation.

Comac Chapel at Rock of Cashel

The fifth day of our pilgrimage found us visiting the 13th century Ballintubber Abbey - an Augustinian Monastery built next to the site where St. Patrick baptized his earliest converts.  Traveling onwards we came to Croagh Patrick - the mountain where St. Patrick fasted for 40 days.  A few of the more energetic members of our group spent the next few hours climbing about half way up the mountain before rejoining the remainder of the group. 

Ballintubber Abbey

Day six we began by observing the Holy Day of All Saints at The Abbey in Loughrea - home of the Discalced Carmelites.  After holy Mass we headed to the coast viewing the Atlantic Ocean through a bit of fog and visiting the Cliffs of Moher and the coastal land line.  We ventured on to see the 12th century Cistercian Corcomroe Abbey and stopped in Galway before ending the day in Lough Rea and a local pub.

Cliffs of Moher

The final day of our pilgrimage - day seven - focused on our journey to Knock - the site of a Marian apparition when in 1879 Mary appeared to 15 adults and children.  Prior to our visit we stopped at a woolen mill where a sister single handedly restarted the mill processing wool into garments and employing at least one person out of every family living in the village and helping to rebuild their lives and the future of the village. 

Woolen Mill 

At the Knock Shrine we visited the five various churches located there and held our farewell luncheon as time would not allow a farewell dinner.

The Apparition Chapel at Knock Shrine

Day eight - our final scheduled day in Ireland found us visiting a few unscheduled sites on our way to  the airport for our late afternoon flight home. 

Lots of Celtic Crosses

All was going well until we had an unexpected issue with the bus - a blown tire - which had us sitting on the road side for about an hour while we waited another bus to pick us up and take us to the airport.  

Looking for 4 Leaf Clovers and a Bus 

Unfortunately - some would say fortunately - we arrived at the airport later than scheduled and were not allowed to board our flight.  The airline apologized for the inconvenience and rescheduled us for the next flight back to Chicago - the next morning.  Bottom line we spent an additional night in Dublin with our family of pilgrims and enjoyed one extra meal and evening with each other. 

Suffering Pilgrims Looking Sad 

 The morning arrived too soon and we were all onboard our return flight and back to our daily lives in Chicago by early evening.

All of the pilgrimages that we have led have all been special in their own way - each group has been special. Now with 11 pilgrimages completed in eight years - not counting years that we did not lead a pilgrimage - we are preparing for pilgrimage number 12 to Italy in November 2020.

2019 Ireland Pilgrims 

The one common thing that we have experienced in all these pilgrimages is sharing our faith among each other - no matter how we worship - when we worship - all would agree that being involved in a pilgrimage has been one of the best memories in their lives - one of the 
best times when each of us - in one way or another - touched the Divine.

Deacon Dale