faithful path still worn
Exactly one hundred years ago the church on the summit of
Croagh Patrick was dedicated by the then Archbishop of Tuam,
Dr John Healy. The national pilgrimage, which evolved from
pagan times, goes back for some hundreds of years prior
to the construction of the church allowed climbers have
a focal point for their pilgrimage.
Right up as far as the seventies the national pilgrimage
was held during the night but that changed when it was moved
back to the day light hours. The numbers climbing the Reek
peaked back in the sixties and seventies when local people
estimate that upwards of 50,000 climbed during the night.
Nowadays, some people still do climb during the night but
the figure for Reek Sunday is closer to 20,000. However,
the big difference today is that climbing the Reek is a
year round practice, not confined anymore to one day in
July. Fr Dennis Carney, the Administrator od St Marys
in Westport, also has responsibility for the church on the
Reek and he estimates that upwards of 100,000 people climb
the Holy Mountain each year.
The number of groups that look for the key of the
church continues to grow each year. They come from all over
the world, all different ages and all different backgrounds.
Just last week a group from America called for the key to
the church. They had the climb down as part of their itinerary,
Not everyone who climbs Croagh Patrick does it for religious
reasons. Some people use if to keep fit, others use it as
a means of raising funds for charitable organisations and
just two weeks ago a group completed a number of climbs
in one day for charity. That doesnt bother Fr Carney
who feels that everyone the climbs the mountain gets something
from it, no matter what the aim.
There are various reasons why people climb the Reek.
Its amazing the intentions that people have when theyre
climbing and really you can meet people who are at their
strongest and weakest there. Some people climb to give thanks
for something and others will climb because theyre
looking for something. It really it that varied.
Tom Navin is a native of Westport and he has been climbing
the Reek for as many years now as he can remember Tom enjoys
climbing on Garland Friday, known as the local pilgrimage.
Why does he do it? Good question, I suppose because were
all looking for something really and its part of our
faith and thats what makes us do it. Its not
easy so if you wouldnt make the effort. I think everyone
looking for it you wouldnt make the effort. I think
everyone is looking for some type of fulfilment and I get
a lot from climbing the Reek.
Garland Friday is great because its something
weve been doing since we were kids. I remember we
used to get the bus out from the Mall every year. You meet
the same people each year and its real family day.
I think a point worth making too is that more and more young
people are doing it every year. And maybe theyre looking
for something too in their lives and just because they dont
go to Mass as regularly as we did when we were young it
doesnt mean they have empty lives, he said.
Fr Carney would go along with that. Every year it
seems more and more young people are climbing so it must
mean something to them. Youd be surprised too at the
number of people that get Confession on the Reek. For some
its the annual Confession and people have told me
how much at peace they felt afterwards. I met a man once
on the way down and he told me how he had been carrying
a sense of guilt all year but it had gone after he had been
to Confession and how he felt so at ease with himself for
the first time in a long time. Anything that can help people
feel more at ease with themselves and I suppose more at
ease with God has to be a good thing, he said.
Next Sunday there will be thirteen Masses celebrated in
the church, starting at 8am with one every half hour until
the last Mass at 2pm. Archbishop Michael Neary will say
the 10.30 Mass and afterwards a special plaque to mark the
centenary of the construction of the church will be unveiled.
Twenty five priests will be on duty on the mountain, some
from as far away as Poland and America to help con-celebrate
Climbing the Reek donent always have to be a solemn
affair and according to Fr Carney it can bring out the best
in people. You see people helping others out, giving
them support and encouragement on the way up. Theres
great craic too on the Reek and some of the stories that
are told of whats happened up there are lengardary.
Theres a sense of camaraderie thats hard to
explain to people who have never climbed the Reek. When
you have thousands of people all heading in the one direction
with just one goal then its bound to have some kind
of a bonding effect on them, he said.
Courtesy of The Mayo News
July 27th 2005