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Pilgrimage in the West

croagh_01.jpgSlí Eile, the Jesuit initiative which accompanies and empowers young adults in their search to find ‘God in all things’, organised a highly successful pilgrimage at Easter to Ballintubber and Croagh Patrick (pictured here). This was one of many activities which Slí Eile has run in an effort to engage young people around the core values of Ignatian spirituality, community and social justice. It does this through a creative range of programmes of self-discovery, retreats, spirituality courses, pilgrimages, gospel choir masses and justice and community initiatives at home and abroad. Read below for the essay of one Galway pilgrim, Roisin NicGhruagáin, who captures the flavour of the Croagh Patrick experience, stemming as much from personal need as from piety.

EASTER WITH A DIFFERENCE

Roisin NicGhruagáin

“I headed to Ballintubber for the Easter Pilgrimage for a number reasons. I was upset. I needed some time out. I needed some time away.  I didn’t want to spend Easter drinking just because I didn’t have to work the next day. I wanted some exercise that was going to be outdoors- hail rain or shine. I wanted to meet some people. I wanted to be honest. I wanted to calm down. You see, I’m something of a closed person. I’m afraid of people knowing me too well because frankly I’m a bit fragile. I don’t know that I trust people with that knowledge. The problem with that is sometimes you just get tired of pretending to everyone you’re fine and dandy when really you’re tired and teary for no reason you’re prepared to address. In Ballintubber, no one had any expectations or preconceptions of me. I wouldn’t be a big religious. I go to mass but I’ve very little clue about the different orders or the church hierarchy or Vatican *insert number here*. Truth be told, I’m not sure if I can remember the Angelus without prompting. I do however, have faith. Despite conversations about charism and hymns, I wasn’t made to feel ignorant or stupid or any more of a sinner than anyone else. We chatted about what inspires us and what gets our goat. We were in communion in our humanity, honesty and spirituality. No hierarchies, no power structures. Simple, honest companionship. And we walked too. Together, apart, in silence, in chatter, in slurry, in sunshine, in wind, in rain, in peace, in turmoil, in harmony. Each of us was walking away, with and towards our own stories and revelations. We were supported by each other to keep at it. A metaphor for life, perhaps but we needed it presented in this physical pilgrimmage to realise. Or at least I did. Whatever I do alone, I am not alone. And though I may be on my own, I am carried in the prayers of others. However closed I am, whatever struggling I do, I do it with Jesus and with every other Christian. He carries our crosses, and we as a community look on and pray and are loved and forgiven. 

In climbing Croagh Patrick, we each learned something about ourselves. Some of it good, some of it needing attention, all of it honest. We sat at the top and looked out over Clew Bay and ate KitKats. I found my calm. I was sorry we were at the end of the pilgrimage. I would like to be on it yet. But that is part of it too. We must take what we learn, our gifts from God and apply them. And sometimes we fall. And sometimes we falter. But still, we are supported and forgiven and loved and on the right path.