Sunday, September 13, 2009

Glendalough on the Weekend!

Jet lag has worn off, but the pilgrims are feeling several inches shorter after three days in Glendalough. We've walked off the ends of our legs.

Seriously, Glendalough is a beautiful setting in the Wicklow Mountains of Ireland. It was also the place St. Kevin came in the sixth century to find a spot where he could live an isolated life of prayer. In the days we've been here we have had time to visit the Monastic City ( Upper right) that grew up in the valley in the tenth century and today hiked to St. Kevin's cell, as well as up the other side of the upper lake to spots making his retreat place of solitude, a small cave in the face of a mountain, visible across the shimmering water of the lake. With Kevin came a few other monks who built a monastic settlement and church in a spot below Kevin's "bed" or cave retreat. Higher on the mountain side on a rock outcrop is a site called St Kevin's cell.

But a special part of our visit here has been visiting the Women's Church which actually lay outside the Monastic City. This church was a place of sanctuary and refuge for those not welcomed into the church in the Monastic City. I was particularly moved by the fact that the graves around this church were those of children who had not been baptized, perhaps babies stillborn or those who died close after birth and were considered unfit for burial in the cemetery, or "place of resurrection" of the church in the Monastic City. There may have been other people, for instance, the excommunicated, who were received, ministered to and buried at the Women's Church.

This morning being Sunday, we worshipped in the open air with bird songs for musical accompaniment within the walls of the Women's Church. It was a most meaning experience. Later we picnicked across the lake from Kevin's bed.

Of course, not all of our time has been spent in the ruins of these ancient sacred sites. After visiting the Monastic City on Friday we hiked along a trail through a lush forest to the Woolen Mill for a bit of "holy shopping" - supporting the Irish economy - with delicious scones and tea in the shop's tea shop. And on Saturday we traveled in a coach to Dublin to see the Book of Kells at Trinity College and to visit some of the exhibits in the National Museum. Of course, we worked in tea once or twice and some more holy shopping. Brian, our driver this day actually knew the way to Dublin on first try with just one side trip to give us a breathtaking view from the top of a mountainside in an area where movies have been shot. And when we first arrived in Dublin, we were joined by a most pleasant guide who narrated a tour of the city as Brian drove. Between the two we were well entertained while on the coach.

Tomorrow we will be able to go out and participate in individual activities but are doing so in silence to aid the contemplative aspect of the pilgrimage. We've seen much, eaten wonderfully, hiked until we ready to fall into bed, all the while with time in morning and evening for prayers and teaching from our leaders, Linda and Kathy. Then on Tuesday we leave this spot and make our way slowly across the island.

Had I time enough and space much more I could tell ... I'm sure we will in another day or two. But soon to rest and hopefully we will have quiet now that the wedding and weekend parties taking place here at the hotel are over. The Irish like to celebrate - loudly at times, as our light sleepers can attest. But all is well.

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