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Tag Archives | St Vincent de Paul

A little encouragement goes a long way up the mountain

Our Advent art meditation for today is from Psalm 119: 105-106

Climb to Croagh Patrick © Jen Norton

Climb to Croagh Patrick

A lamp to my feet is your Word, a light to my path.
I resolve and swear to keep your just ordinances.

A few years ago we spent part of our summer in Ireland with some good friends. For one of our adventures, we climbed Croagh Patrick (aka “The Reek” to locals. Reek is Irish for “stack”). Croagh Patrick is a 2500 foot tall (764 metres) mountain jutting up from Clew Bay in County Mayo. Thanks to hours on the elliptical at the gym I did pretty well, but not being an avid mountain climber I got my workout! I was grateful to borrow some great hiking boots and a walking stick. I was amazed to find out that little old nuns and priests often climb The Reek barefoot as a spiritual pilgrimage.

The first two-thirds of the hike up is part pathway, part hopping up rocks, all surrounded by lush green hills, sheep and babbling brooks. There’s a nice little resting spot at a level place after that section where you can look back and see your progress and some of the most beautiful scenery in all of Ireland. Then there’s the last third of the climb…

The last section of the ascent is about a 40˚ scramble up loose, slippery chunks of shale. It makes a few turns, so the first time you climb up, you have no idea how far to the finish. Fortunately, you are not alone. Hundreds climb the mountain every day, no matter the weather, and as they descend they encourage you as they pass. In true Irish hospitality, they cheerfully declare, “You’re almost there lads!” or “Only about 10 more minutes to the top!” Sweet mother of God…how many times did I hear that in the last hour of the climb? But what did I know? They’d been there; I hadn’t. Their words were a lamp to my feet. I resolved, I swore, I kept climbing. And step by step, we made it to the top.

At the top is the legendary “Bed of St. Patrick” (complete with donation box), a little chapel and (surprise!) a bathroom with running water. I can’t even imagine being the guys who had to carry all that up! If it’s a clear day, you also get a stunning 360˚ view of County Mayo and Clew Bay.

Or so I hear. On the day we went, the top of the mountain was in fog. Guess I’ll have to make a second pilgrimage. Fortunately, like “a light to my path,” I also know there will be another Pint waiting for me back in a Westport pub when I finish!

This little 10 x 10 painting is designed from my memory of the scenery and is available here.

You may also be interested in this Facebook site by Irishman Matt Loughrey called Croagh Patrick 365. The site is now transitioning to other charitable ventures, but Matt climbed the mountain every day for 365 days as a fundraiser for St. Vincent de Paul Society. Now there’s someone who’s resolved to keep Just Ordinances!