This post was written after my family, and I took a recent trip back to my father's place of birth in July 2019 (a place that holds many fond memories). We heard stories of St Patrick, his life, and were witness to many ancient spiritual sites and stories. I see the parallels from the past to the current uncertainty today. I hope you find comfort in the Irish today, St Patrick's words, the past journies that were weathered, and that we are learning to do today in this generation. Happy St Patricks Day.
There are seasons in life where we begin to feel "the heavy" settle in. Unsettling life circumstances such as grief or loss, overwhelm or rejection are a lot to bear; it comes time for a weary soul to rest, time to unburden ourselves of all we've accumulated mentally and physically. So we take time away and we, reset, recover, refresh, restore...whatever "re" that might be.
There are seasons in life where we begin to feel "the heavy" settle in
There is an old Celtic saying,
Heaven and earth are only three feet apart, but in thin places that distance is even shorter."
Ireland is home to numerous thin places that captivate, take hold, and command your full attention. When you set out to find one you're rewarded with a site of unimaginable beauty. It transcends and captures a journeying soul physically, mentally, and soulfully.
These "thin places" are a glimpse of what our soul longs for beyond the life we walk on this earth. It captures and holds us still, and in the stillness, we drink in the transcendent beauty or ancient spaces that our eyes are witness too. And time seems to stops for just a moment.
Its as if heaven and earth touch, and you sense a holy presence.
There is a depth of spirituality that's unique to this land. You cannot capture it quite the same in the modern world amongst the busy and the hustle. It's the mingling of ancient pasts in search of holy ground. There are holy grounds in every village, but some are so old that you can hardly conceive of it — one thousand years plus, kinda old.
My grandmother was born and raised on Irish soil. She was taken from life much too early.
Travelling home from my father's 21st birthday picnic, a drunk driver careened into the vehicle she was riding in and she died. It is a tragic story and her death was a great loss for those who loved her. My Grandmother's legacy left her five children with the ability to pick up, move forward and continue with their own journeys, but not without grief and loss.
I see her photo everywhere when I'm in Ireland visiting family. I learned of her faithful attendance to her local faith community each Sunday. I've heard stories of the hardships she endured, yet somehow she was not swallowed up by them. I must attribute this in part to her faith. Agnes' call to identify herself with a need for something greater than herself. To anchor her in the storms she experienced, to hold fast to an ancient truth. For her, it was the message of the gospel; she gave her life over to a saviour that would serve to walk and inform her, through ups and downs. She faithfully attended and served her church. It wasn't always easy in those days, which were much more strict than today.
I'm reminded as I listen to past stories that the church itself is made up of broken people.
Church attendants and clergy, not saviours themselves, but humans in desperate needs of one.
It reminds me that those in the church are on their own pilgrimage journey called life. All of us human, complicated, and capable of failures and disappointments; learning to live with our humanity and the imperfections we all carry. I imagine this is why we journey and— longing to escape the hardships, longing to unburden a weary soul, longing for holy, for home and rest, for the strength to carry on.
And so we seek out those "thin places" and restore a wandering soul's grief and weariness or find the energy/margin for the next leg of the journey, or a renewed perspective, that while we are dealt this one life, we hobble our way to the next on the shoulders of only one who is worthy to carry us. Within the tragedy. Within the grief and loss. Within the failures and the weariness of our one life, we've been given. We look on to the next and learn how to sit with the broken/backwards one we live out today. While we long for the next life, Christians continually renew in their Saviour to carry them through this one.
St Patrick's famous prayers offerings for the journey.
May you find courage for your journey today.