Reflection of the Pilgrimage 2019

So we have come to the close of our Pilgrimage Season for 2019. We have been greatly blessed with favorable weather for all the outdoor events and our invited speakers Ray Kelly, Brian Darcy, Francesca Browne and Rev. Ruth Patterson have been really well received and enjoyed their visits. The numbers are well up and nearly all the daily masses, both at 3 and 8pm have been very well attended, sometimes to overflowing. The ministry of blessing and healing after each afternoon mass gives everyone a sense of being met at the level of his or her individual need and the response to that has been most positive. It’s that personal touch that makes all the difference and is very healing. The success of the Coffee Shop has exceeded all expectations and it’s amazing that with such a new development there doesn’t seem to be one word of criticism in terms of design or anything else. All the feedback has been most positive and encouraging and the team of volunteers who have worked there so generously have been greatly appreciated. The opening of the Playground has been like turning on a light bulb in the village and introduced an entire new dimension. As a diocese here we have been through some difficult decades and I still reflect on Lorcan Brennan’s comment in relation to the Playground that, ‘After all we have been through is there anything more sacred than the sound of children’s laughter?’

The definition of a pilgrimage that I have been using most often this year is that, ‘It is a meaningful journey to a place of spiritual significance.’ With such a hunger and thirst out there for Spirit it is our privilege here to try and meet that need in every way we can in terms of providing spiritual food. For that reason I have chosen to give something meaningful at each daily mass in terms of a homily or teaching. People come here to be fed spiritually and are not here just to ‘get’ mass. Most of them have been getting mass for years and are still starving.

I would like to think that the place of spiritual significance they come to would not just be Our Lady’s Island, but also a deeper place of coming home to themselves, which is the ultimate place of spiritual significance. This is coming home to who we really are, to our true selves, that is also our God self. This is where our entire life is a pilgrimage and the 3 big questions that are the lot of every conscious human being since time began are: Where do we come from? Why are we here and where are we going? These are perennial questions that are not the preserve of any religion, however our Christian Faith does provide some challenging answers that make a lot of sense.

First we come from God who is Love. That means we are like an acorn of love that has come from the great Oak tree that is God. If we are the seed, then it is our responsibility to grow according to our nature, in other words, to grow in love. This growth in love is inevitably going go involve a lot of pain and struggle. The seed doesn’t die to itself all that easily and a lot more acorns simply rot and never come to anything than those that take root.

Hard Hearted Acorn

Inside this acorn is a little heart. It’s made of tiger stone and looks pretty, but it is still made of stone. Its hard so there’s no openness whatsoever in it. That’s how our hearts become when we become negative and act out of accordance with our true nature that is to love. Allowing our thinking to become negative, letting fear rule our lives, giving way to bitterness and resentment all have the effect of turning the human that has such potential for love into stone. This is where sin comes in; this SIN, Self-Inflicted Nonsense as the letters suggest, happens when are not acting in accordance with our true nature.

Love is the strongest perfume Here is the heart we are called to have. This is a piece called Love is the strongest perfume because its shaped like a fancy perfume bottle and the big thing about it is that its fully open. In fact it’s so open that if it wasn’t for the surrounding wood you wouldn’t see it at all. Someone who is truly loving is just like that, with a heart that is big and open and not caught up in themselves.

Measuring up!

Next we have a bell made of yew wood. It rings just a little and is based on John Dunne’s poem, For whom the bell tolls, and of course one day it will toll for all of us to invite us on the next stage of our pilgrimage journey. Then the big question will arise; how are we going to measure up? Concealed inside the bell is a measuring tape. Will the measuring tape be placed around a pokey little hard heart like the one inside this acorn or will it be around a nice big open heart like this. The little heart might have simply opted to have lived only for itself and so hasn’t become anything of what it is capable of becoming. And that would be the ultimate tragedy because in the end of the day we will all be judged on love. To what extent have we allowed the seed of love that we are to have developed into the oak tree of love. That’s why love is our origin and love is our constant call and love is our ultimate fulfillment. The call to discipleship is really a call to love and that always challenges us to reach out of ourselves and never remain locked in splendid but painful isolation.

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As the oldest Marian shrine in Ireland Our Lady’s Island welcomes pilgrims and tourists all year round and aims to present the life-changing truths of faith in a manner and language that is appropriate to all ages in this current age.

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