Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam has led the annual Reek Sunday Pilgrimage on Ireland’s holy mountain Croagh Patrick. At Mass in St Mary’s Church in Westport on the eve of the pilgrimage, the archbishop told the pre-pilgrimage congregation that “No matter what your troubles, no matter what mistakes you have made or sinful things you have done, you are His son or daughter. You are part of the family. You belong.”
On Reek Sunday itself Archbishop Neary made the ascent with pilgrims from across Ireland where he celebrated the 11.00am Mass on the summit.
Masses were celebrated on the summit from 8.00am – 2.00pm and the Sacrament of Reconciliation was also available to pilgrims.
In his homily, Archbishop Neary reflected on the meaning of pilgrimage in modern society. He said, “,pilgrimages always involve a journey and unusual effort. For unbelievers, it may seem meaningless – all the sweating, stumbling, inelegantly meandering towards its destiny.
The archbishop continued, “People don’t stop wanting God because they stop believing in Him. And that enduring hunger marks the modern western world. It questions, suspects, argues, is dismayed, disappointed, disbelieving and yet keeps searching. Anxiety about the future is pervasive and in many cases debilitating. There is deep anxiety about family life, about drug and alcohol abuse, about character and responsibility.
“At the heart of our Christian faith is the conviction that the human spirit is not satisfied with anything short of God. Faith is not primarily concerned with pinning down certitudes, but rather it ought to open us to a sense of wonder and awe which will cut through both our conservative certitudes and our liberal self-righteousness.
“As we endeavour to find points of interaction between faith and our culture we acknowledge that there are many others who, although they may not share our beliefs, our language, our concepts, yet may be quite close to us and are journeying in the same direction.”
Archbishop Neary said the presence of genuine faith, in its different forms is a source of encouragement and hope. The archbishop said that those who make their way to the summit of Croagh Patrick every year do so for reasons other than religious pilgrimage and while they may not share our belief in the Lord, but if they are searching for the peace which only He can give they are most certainly welcome on the journey.
But he cautioned, “This pilgrimage is no place for idle curiosity or mindless athleticism, but if someone is truly trying to make sense of life, trying to find answers to the same questions we all face, trying to find ease for suffering of body, mind or soul, we offer them the hospitality of our pilgrimage. We are proud to walk with them and pray they find their goal.”
Numbers of pilgrims were slightly up on previous years and while there were a small number of minor incidents and injuries, overall, the organisers are pleased with how this year’s pilgrimage went.
For more on this year’s pilgrimage see www.catholicbishops.ie.