The author of a new book published this month hopes to open the mystery of Lough Derg for a whole new generation. Author, Rev Prof Eamonn Conway will launch Lough Derg, Island of Quiet Miracles on Saturday 4 June during the opening weekend of one of Ireland’s oldest living pilgrimage sites.
Rev Prof Eamonn Conway, said, “This is first and foremost a book about Christian spirituality. It is one account of how a relationship with God might be supported and nurtured. Pilgrimage can play a key part in opening ourselves up to the mystery of God, and as pilgrimages go, Lough Derg has to be one of the most unique, and, in my view, one of the best. Through the centuries it has been a privileged place of encounter with God, a place of healing, a place where people have battled with and defeated their demons, whatever these might be, anything that diminishes us as human beings.
“Lough Derg continues to be that place today, a sanctuary where people can go to experience in a direct and tangible way the mercy and healing of God. I hope this book will be a guide for pilgrims old and new, and perhaps also a help along the spiritual journey for those who cannot go to the holy island but journey towards God in their hearts.”
Saint Patrick’s Sanctuary – the pilgrimage site – is located on Station Island in Lough Derg which is four miles north of the village of Pettigo, Co Donegal. It is often referred to as Saint Patrick’s Purgatory or simply Lough Derg. The Diocese of Clogher has been the sole custodian of Lough Derg since 1780. Historical records date the practice of pilgrimage on Lough Derg to the 7th century. Legend also presents the cave on the island as the place where Saint Patrick had his vision of Purgatory. Saint Patrick is said to have left a disciple in the area and the foundation of one of the earliest monastic Christian settlements followed. The remnants of the monastic prayer cells remain central to the pilgrimage tradition. Today, the Lough Derg Three Day Pilgrimage follows a pattern prayer from the Celtic monastic time and shows remarkable continuity with the earliest systematic account of the pilgrimage, which dates to the 1600s.
The island pilgrimage is currently overseen by the Prior, Father Owen McEneaney, a priest of the Diocese of Clogher. Speaking ahead of the book launch, Father McEneaney, said, “This book is timely in that it opens the treasure-trove that is Lough Derg. It is a must read about a pilgrimage that has the potential to transform your life: whether seeking answers to life’s questions, searching for direction or simply reflecting on life-changing decisions or giving thanks to God: the book itself through its engaging invitation to experience the unique gift that is Lough Derg, captures the often talked about magnetism of the Island.”
Michael Kelly, Managing Editor of The Irish Catholic newspaper, publishers of the book, said, “Lough Derg is such a powerhouse of spirituality in Ireland. It’s an island that has been made holy by countless generations of Irish people who have come to Lough Derg in good times and bad. Every time I come to the island, it’s like stepping in to a different world where there is space to see life in perspective. I’m delighted to be involved in the publication of this wonderful new book, and Fr Conway deserves great credit for the fact that the book opens up Lough Derg to a whole new generation of pilgrims whilst at the same time rekindling the importance of the spiritual heritage of the place for people who have, perhaps, been dozens of times.
“The great strength of the book is that it is not an outsider’s perspective, or a preachy book telling pilgrims how they ‘should’ experience Lough Derg, but it is based on Father Conway’s own experiences on the island over more than 30 years and his journeying with and listening to the varied reasons that bring pilgrims to the island and keep them coming back.
“There’s something in Island of Quiet Miracles for everyone, and it explores Lough Derg as a place where great things happen, but often in small ways”.
The Three Day Pilgrimage begins on Lough Derg on Wednesday 1 June and continues until 15 August 2016. Pilgrims can begin their pilgrimage on any day up to and including 13 August. During the Three Day Pilgrimage, pilgrims make ‘Stations’: they walk barefoot, kneel on the hallowed beds, fast, pray and keep vigil. 14,000 pilgrims visit Lough Derg every season from May – September and since the late 1800’s the number is estimated to be over two million. In addition to the Three Day Pilgrimage there are opportunities to go to Lough Derg for a One Day Retreat, Themed Retreat Days and Quiet Days. Some 80% of pilgrims return to the island each year and a growing number of new younger people come to experience the sacred island.
For more information on Lough Derg see www.loughderg.org.