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Pilgrims' Progress

Whenever we’re led out of normalcy into sacred, open space, it’s going to feel like suffering, because it’s letting go of what we’re used to. This is always painful, but part of us has to die if we are ever to grow larger (John 12:24). If we’re not willing to let go and die to our small self, we won’t enter into any new or sacred space. —Richard Rohr

When I was a young teenager, my mother announced that I would sit alone in her bedroom every night and read two books. The first one was Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan and the second one was Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Here I sit on the island of Inis Mor in the Aran Islands out in the North Atlantic and not surprisingly Pilgrim's Progress came to mind. Like the protagonist Christian in Pilgrim's Progress, we have been led out of normalcy in search of the Truth, in search of the Divine, in search of Sacred Spaces that reveal the presence of God.

In the last two days, we pilgrims have made great progress. We have traversed the island of Inis Mor, touching holy stones, praying in pre-Christian forts and the ruins of Christian churches. We have wandered and wondered, cried and laughed, encountered and sojourned ultimately finding our way yesterday to a large standing stone in a field where the pre-Christian Celts may have designated the land as the most sacred holy place on the island. Later the stone was inscribed with crosses and other symbols by the monks who set up their monasteries here and used it as a boundary. Celtic monasteries were sanctuaries for those being pursued, for whatever reason. They were places where people went to let go of what they were used to, to let go and to die to their small self, in order to enter into new and sacred space.

Yesterday on the 6th anniversary of her daughter's death, our beloved Katherine prayed at this stone as we all stood around her and then we prayed for her under a fushia tree known in Irish as Deora De which means Tears of God. that was recognized as marking a sacred spot to the early people of the Aran Islands. It is common practice to tie a ribbon on the tree in remembrance of one you love and lost.

And so we five, we happy five are coming to the end of our journey. We have all had times that felt like suffering, we have lost our way at times, and we have left parts of ourselves along the way. As we prepare for re-entry knowing we will never be the same for having been pilgrims together on this soil where seekers have walked for centuries, we look forward to a Celtic Eucharist this morning with our guide and mentor Dara Molloy who has led us into and through the holy of holies on this land.

Here we are on the top of the world!


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