Monday, August 31, 2009

Praying, Packing, and Preparing

Kathy Spaar and I talked again this afternoon at length on the telephone. We are gathering our thoughts, thinking through each day of our pilgrimage, and facing the difficult task of deciding what resources from our Celtic libraries to pack. We will be leading daily morning and evening prayers, sometimes on the very holy site as seen here in Glendalough, as part of the rhythm of our travel. Tonight while working in the home study, I read again a portion of T.S. Eliot's 'Little Gidding'. These words are so appropriate for our pilgrimage to the holy places of Ireland as honor the holy saints--both past and present. Perhaps these words will be important to you as you continue to make preparation this week by praying and packing.

If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere.
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same; you would have to put off
Sense and motion. You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.
And what the dead had no speech for, when living,
They can tell you, being dead: the communication
Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Some Poetic Preparation from J.M. Synge

John M. Synge, playwright and poet (1871-1909), was very fond of Aran Islands. As you continue to think about our pilgrimage this week, you may want to ponder these words belonging to Synge:

Still south I went and west and south again,
Through Wicklow from the morning till the night,
And far from cities, and the sites of men,
Lived with the sunshine and the moon's delight.

I knew the stars, the flowers , and the birds,
The gray and wintry sides of many glens,
And did but half remember human words,
In converse with the mountains, moors, and fens.

We will see one another soon!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Just a few more days!

We are moving closer to our departure date. We will be seeing many of these crosses as we travel through Ireland. Notice the traditional cross pattern--the intersection of vertical and horizontal axis. And then pay attention to the interesting circle behind the place of intersection. No one has been able to describe fully the reason for this design. Some say that the circle represents the Sun; others say that the circle represents the feminine spirit. Whatever explanation, to me this cross (that Presbyterians have chosen as their denominational logo) represents the fusion of pre-Christian and Christian traditions.

Rest up this coming week because as soon as we find one another at the Dublin airport, have a strong cup of Irish tea, we will be making our way to Newgrange and to Tara (even with a little jet lag). We will be viewing places of ancient history and religion, two important Celtic landscapes time prior to the coming of Christianity on the island. By the evening of the first day we will arrive in Glendalough, a sixth-century Christian monastic settlement, where we will rest and prepare for the wonderful days ahead of us in Ireland.

Peace to you in these final days of preparation.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Pilgrimage as Spiritual Guidance

Edward Sellner writes that "pilgrimage is often a search for answers to serious questions in a person's life. It may be a quest for healing or spiritual guidance" (Pilgrimage: Exploring a Great Spiritual Practice (Notre Dame, In: Sorin Books, 2004, p.104).

I offer you this article describing my own story of my first pilgrimage to Ireland in the late 90s. The pilgrimage provided healing, spiritual guidance, and direction and transition to my life. Click or paste to read the article below.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pilgrimage Preparation

Preparations are underway for our trip. All pilgrims are connected via email, community roles have been taken, and we are reading, praying, packing as we make our way to Ireland in a few days. Hold one another in prayers. Continue to read from our reading list. Think about the meaning of this trip for your life.
Recently I read a most wonderful quote attributed to Sandra Day O'Connor, an important Irish lady in our own country, that is most fitting for our journey:

"We don't accomplish anything in this world alone . .. and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one's life and all of the weavings of individual threads from one to another that creates something."

So glad that we are on this journey together. See you soon.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Preparing for Ireland

It takes a community . . . . What a great host of witnesses who have agreed to help us understand the ancient landscape of Ireland. Paidrigin Clancy of Inis Mor, Irish folklorist, will spend time with our group explaining the Aran Islands, the ancient stories, the language, the way of life then and now. In addition, Dara Malloy, Celtic priest, who knows much about the holy sites and their ancient use and in addition, will lead us in Holy Eucharist in places where saints and scholars have lived and worshipped. Stay tuned for more information as plans continue to develop.