Brendan McManus SJ spoke to a group of over fifty people in Corpus Christi primary school in Moyross, Limerick, on the subject of suicide bereavement, on Saturday 7 February. His talk was based on his own story about how he dealt with his own brother’s death.
That tragedy and Brendan’s slow path to healing from it was the subject of his book Redemption Road: Grieving on the Camino. The book is the story of a pilgrim walking alone, but reliving memories of his brother. “The route around the Atlantic coast was breath-taking at times. But it was also gruelling physically and especially emotionally”, says Brendan. “Finding a way through the mountains, both inner and outer, became the key task for me and sometime I had to break Camino ‘rules’ to do that”.
He shared some of the insights in the book with the people present on the night, many of whom shared similar grief. He outlined how the spiritual dimension (symbol, ritual, pilgrimage and prayer) was key in his healing on the Camino. “I made it all the way to Santiago and to the cathedral I believed was the end of the road, but there was one last trip to make. To my great surprise I found myself at the Atlantic’s western edge in Finisterre, where I stumbled on another pilgrim ritual that prompted the final letting go. My grief was transformed, and I found an acceptance and peace around my brother Donal that has remained.”
Limerick is a black spot in Ireland for death by suicide. On the Friday morning before his talk Brendan was a guest on the Limerick Today programme on the popular local radio station Limerick Live 95. His interview drew a significant response from listeners, many of whom turned up on the night to hear his talk.
After the presentation of Saturday evening, Tony O’Riordan SJ, parish priest of Moyross and organiser of the event, chaired a question and answer session. People shared some of their own stories about how they were trying to cope with their own loss and bereavement. According to Brendan, “It was a very rich, if painful, exchange where sometimes the only appropriate response was silence”.
Pictured here (left to right) are Fr Tony O’Riordan SJ and Fr Brendan McManus.