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New beginnings on Inis Oírr

inis_oir_retreat.jpgEleven young adults were on Inis Oírr in Galway Bay for the Easter Triduum as part of a joint initiative between Slí Eile and the Galway Spirituality Centre. This pilot retreat on the theme of “new beginnings” involved a pilgrimage to different sites on the island, a dawn resurrection mass, and group reflections. A poem from John O’Donohue’s Benedictus was used to reflect the ‘beginnings’ theme: your courage kindled, and out you stepped onto new ground. To see photos of the retreat: Web Album. The next event for young adults aged 18-35, is a Film and Pizza Evening, April 15, 7.30pm, at the Jesuit Spirituality Centre, 6 Ely Place (Sea Road), Galway. Contact: [email protected], 00353 91 523707. One of the pilgrims, Kieran Hayes, has written a personal account of the pilgrimage experience, which you can read below.

Slí Eile Easter Pilgrimage – Facing the rising sun

by Kieran Hayes

Is there something about Christian community that draws us deeper into intimacy with Christ, and through and in Christ into deeper intimacy with ourselves and others? Certainly this was my experience on pilgrimage with a Slí Eile- the Irish Jesuit Young Adult Organisation www.sli-eile.com– group to Inis Oirr, the smallest of the Aran Islands, for Easter weekend. On the way to the boat at Rosaveal, we stopped at Barna church and did some ‘line dancing’ around the altar, just to get us in rhythm for the movement of the sea and spirit we would experience that weekend. Father John D Keane, the Parish priest and a native of Inis Oirr, blessed our journey with contradictory words that I think resonated with all of us – ‘May the hardness of the rock soften your hearts’.

And so about eleven disciples took to the waters heading together to a lonely place, with the benefit of ‘sea legs’, tablets to prevent seasickness given out by one of the girls. ‘Oh, ta she´ ana choppy’ was a constant refrain. When we got to the house the first communal act was breaking bread together, chatting, getting a feel for one another, the excitement, banter, nervousness of sitting down with people you have never met before. And humour is part of what allowed it all to happen. ‘A man was hanging onto a branch of a cliff edge. He shouted for help. God called out from a cloud ‘just let go’. The man was silent for a moment, then shouted ‘Is there anybody else up there?’

On Saturday we began with a poem by John O’Donoghue that really crystallised the time on the island. It was about new beginnings and the desire for life to the full. In called on us to find ease in risk and to unfurl ourselves into the grace of beginning that is at one with our life’s desire. What desires had stirred us to come here, to be and to share together, to celebrate the life, death and transfigured life of Jesus Christ? After the poem we performed three stations, one to a graveyard with a medieval church nestled into the sand dunes, then to a fort on a hillside, and finally to the beach where we sang ‘Come to the water.’ At each station we had a reading and a chance to share, and we emerged from the church-tomb and the fort-tomb and walked to the soft sea, the place of original birth, to be washed by the Spirit of infinity. That night we planned our dawn celebration. One would read, one would sing, one would dance.

At five thirty the next morning a sunflower yellow moon hung above us as we wandered our way sleepily down to the church in the dunes. In the faint light I saw a few of us standing among the tombstones, almost indistinguishable from them. Death is in us. We went down into the church and broke the word and the bread together. And we hugged each other at the sign of peace, thanking each other for our presence here and acknowledging the unique beauty of each other. Then we climbed up again into the new light of day, and now the figures were walking among the tombstones, as if the dead had just awoken and were ambling casually forward to face the rising sun.

For more information on Slí Eile events in Galway contact Conal Ó Cuinn Sj (087 2817850) or Debbie Moore at (01 8880606).