Organized by Regina Pilgrimages, and headed by chaplain Fr. Patrick Mackin, the 2018 edition of the Youth Pilgrimage will allow young adults to explore the Catholic treasures of Ireland before embarking on the Chartres to Paris walking pilgrimage.
Photos Courtesy Joseph Lanthier
Full of excitement and anticipation, we took our transatlantic flight to meet in Dublin, Ireland. As the plane approached, we could see why Ireland is called the Emerald Isle.
When we arrived in Dublin, the Irish luck was already shining down upon us as we were greeted by beautiful sunny weather. At the airport, we met Fr. David Gillilan, our motor-coach driver, and the group’s tour escort.
After locating our luggage and taking roll call, we boarded the motor-coach and headed off to Phoenix Park, where we got our first sight of Ireland's green fields and beautiful mountain views in the distance. We took a group photo from a site where the pope had offered Mass before a crowd of a million people back in 1978. We are 40 in the group and it was nice to get some fresh air and take a look at a herd of deer in the park.
Afterwards, we were off to visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral, another church taken by the Protestants during the Reformation. Down the street, we toured a museum called Dublinia, which covered the Viking invasion of Ireland by the men of the North, thus giving them the name of “Normans.” One can see that from the earliest centuries, Ireland's history will be marked with much suffering and tribulation.
At about 4:00pm we made our way to Dun Laoghaire (a suburb of Dublin), where Mass was served at St. John's Church, a lovely church from the 1800s owned by the priests of the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX). On the drive, we were amazed to see the number of signs and posters trying to win the vote of the Irish for the upcoming May 25th Referendum, where Ireland's anti-abortion law is up for debate. We took the opportunity at Holy Mass to remind ourselves of the true spirit of this pilgrimage, which will be offered up mainly for this intention, that somehow, by the grace of Almighty God and through the intercession of the glorious Irish saints and martyrs, Ireland may not deal itself this mortal blow and persevere in its country's current law which forbids abortion.
After Mass, we said a quick “hello” to the local priests, including Fr. Francis Gallagher, whom several of the pilgrims remembered from his many years in St. Mary's, KS.
At 7:00pm we arrived, exhausted and hungry, at our hotel in Dublin. We had a wonderful three-course meal and thus closed the first day of our pilgrimage with cheer and good laughter.
May God bless these young cheerful hearts as we pray for a fruitful and safe pilgrimage.
In Jesus and Mary,
Fr. Patrick Mackin
We began the second day of our trip by first visiting Trim Castle, which is set in a wide picturesque valley. It was here at the city's castle that several scenes from the movie “Braveheart” were filmed, depicting the Scottish storming a castle of the city of York.
During the visit, our Irish tour guide, Renée, explained to us how the enemy would undermine the castle by selecting the corners of the edifice, which proved to be the weakest spot. There they would stuff pig carcasses in small holes and light them on fire, thus causing the stone and mortar to be compromised and allowing the enemy to penetrate into the basement of the castle. As the tour guide was talking, Fr. Gillilan and I couldn't help but think in terms of the spiritual analogy which this example provides. So often does the devil try to undermine the castle of our soul, by finding the weakest position and overwhelming it with a particular temptation until finally his victim gives in and falls.
As we were leaving for the next stop, our guide Renée gave us some interesting cultural information about Dublin. Among the facts we learned, is that the Guinness beer factory, founded around 1750, produces some 4 million pints of beer a day. Someone in the group later on commented how they hoped that even half as many rosaries were offered in a week in all of Ireland. Were it to be true, perhaps Ireland (which is ostensibly about 87% Catholic today) would not be voting on the 25th of this month for the potential repeal of the 8th amendment of their constitution, forbidding the crime of abortion.
We soon arrived at the Hill of Slane where the glorious St. Patrick, Apostle of Ireland, in an act of defiance against the pagan rulers of his time, lit the first paschal fire on the Easter of 433 AD. We offered a humble prayer on this sacred spot, asking for the fortitude and courage to persevere in the Faith for the years ahead.
We also visited the Mellifont Abbey, where the Cistertians offered so many prayers and sacrifices for the souls of Ireland. What a good reminder for us Americans of the true value of the contemplative life, which firstly stresses the passive virtues founded on a profound spiritual life in union with God before the active virtues, which are too often out of order in the apostolates of the Church today.
Finally, on our last stop of the day, we arrived at St. Peter's Church in Drogheda, which houses the glorious head of St. Oliver Plunkett, the Archbishop of Ireland, who was drawn, hanged, and quartered in 1681 in London. We prayed and sang joyfully before this sacred relic, recalling to mind the fact that the seeds of the Church grew upon the blood of the martyrs. How true this is of Ireland, which is commonly referred to as the Isle of the Saints.
Tired and hungry once again, we returned to our hotel in Dublin where we greeted two more American pilgrims joining the group, bringing the total to 31 pilgrims and 6 total chaperones.
We ended our day with another fabulous three-course meal and with many stories of encounters during the day. As Holy Writ testifies, what a joy it is to walk with God. Everywhere we go, we stand out as Catholics and this is truly an honor for all of us!
Please keep these young men and ladies in your prayers as the seeds of Faith take deeper root in their souls.
In Christ the King,
Fr. Patrick Mackin