The annual Reek Sunday pilgrimage takes place this Sunday 29 July on Ireland’s holy mountain Croagh Patrick in the Archdiocese of Tuam. Archbishop Michael Neary, Archbishop of Tuam, will lead the pilgrimage, joined by Bishop Fintan Monahan, Bishop of Killaloe, and thousands of pilgrims from across Ireland.
This year’s pilgrimage will be one of the last national Church events before the start of the World Meeting of Families 2018 which will take place in Dublin from 21 – 26 August and will be joined by Pope Francis. In this special year, pilgrims are invited to keep families and the upcoming World Meeting of Families in their prayers.
The Reek Sunday pilgrimage has been carried out for over 1500 years. Croagh Patrick has over 100,000 visitors annually with up to 20,000 making the pilgrimage on Reek Sunday weekend each year. Parishioners from all over Ireland are welcome to join on the day and the first pilgrim ascent led by Archbishop Neary will begin at 7.00am.
On Saturday 28 July, Archbishop Neary will celebrate Mass in Saint Mary’s Church, Westport, to mark the official beginning of this year’s pilgrimage. On the summit, Mass will be celebrated on every hour, beginning at 8.00am, with the final Mass commencing at 2.00pm. Bishop Fintan Monahan will celebrate Mass at 9.00am and Father Francis Mitchell will celebrate Mass as Gaeilge at 10.00am. Archbishop Neary will celebrate Mass at 11.00am. Pilgrims may also avail of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) at the summit which will be offered at any time from 7.30am to 2.00pm.
Croagh Patrick is a physically demanding pilgrimage. Intending pilgrims should make themselves aware in advance of health and safety information about the mountain and heed the instructions of stewards, the mountain rescue teams, Order of Malta, and Gardaí.
While it is a custom for some to make the climb barefoot, pilgrims should come prepared for changeable weather conditions, and are advised to bring suitable warm/waterproof clothing, good footwear, walking stick/staff and water, and to be mindful of the safety of themselves and others.
Croagh Patrick (2,510ft/765m), Ireland’s holy mountain, dominates the landscape of southwest Mayo both spiritually and physically. The pilgrimage is associated with Saint Patrick who, in 441, spent forty days and nights fasting on the summit, following the example of Christ and Moses.
The name ‘Reek Sunday’ comes from Patrick’s ability to Christianise many pagan customs including the festival of Lughnasa, which previously had heralded the start of the harvest festival honouring the ancient pagan god Lugh, whose name is encompassed in the Irish word for August: Lughnasa. This festival’s tradition became absorbed into the new Christian beliefs and locally become known as Domhnach na Cruaiche (Reek Sunday).
For those who can’t make the Reek Sunday pilgrimage, there is also a pilgrimage tomorrow, the last Friday in July – known Garland Friday. Mass is celebrated at 10.00am on the summit, with evening Mass celebrated at 7.30pm at the base.