Monday, March 17, 2014

Our Pilgrimage to Ireland

     My mom took my grandmother, sisters, and me on a pilgrimage to a house of prayer in Ireland to receive a special blessing the summer after my sophomore year of college.  For my sisters and I, this was a first.  We’d never been to Europe or gone on an official pilgrimage.  In more ways than one my experience in Ireland foreshadowed what my junior year studying abroad in Paris would be like.
     My mom and her good friend Colleen had taken a day off from the group tour they’d gone on together the previous fall in order to visit Our Lady Queen of Peace House of Prayer in Achill Sound, Achill, County Mayo, Republic of Ireland.  My mom had read Thomas W. Petrisko’s book titled The Sorrow, the Sacrifice, and the Triumph: The Apparitions, Visions,and Prophecies of Christina Gallagher and was inspired to make a pilgrimage to the house of prayer the woman about whom the book was written had been instructed to have built.  In the book it is said that Our Lady appeared many times to Christina Gallagher, a visionary, mystic, stigmatist, and victim soul.  “The Queen of Peace requested this house of prayer be especially used for the recitation of the Rosary, Eucharistic Adoration, and as a sanctuary for priests” (pg. 234).  
     My mom wanted to take all of us on the pilgrimage, but one of my sisters wasn’t sure if she wanted to go.  She had joined a nearby Presbyterian Church and wasn’t sure about coming with us on a pilgrimage to a Marian house of prayer.  Mom asked her to pray about it.  When she did, she was led to a Bible verse.  When she checked out the website for the house of prayer, she saw the exact same Bible verse on there, and that was sign enough for her that God wanted her to come with us. 
     I really wanted Kevin to make the trip as well, but he couldn’t afford it, nor did he understand why it was important to go to a specific place to pray and receive a special blessing.  He still didn’t understand why I enjoyed going on retreats, so traveling overseas on a pilgrimage was way beyond anything he was ready for at that time. 
     I brought a photo of Kevin and me together to put in the box of prayer intentions at the chapel in the house of prayer.  I prayed for us often during that visit, not just at the house of prayer, but also when we stayed at the Connemara Coast Hotel

     I had lots of time to pray, read the Bible, and write since I wasn’t able to adjust to the time change.  I shared a room with my youngest sister and didn’t want to keep her awake at night, so I sat in the bathroom where the light wouldn’t disturb her and prayed, wrote notes to Kevin, and filled up page after page of hotel stationery with possible Scripture readings for our wedding, along with hymns, and even a preliminary guest list. 
     During our stay on the Connemara Coast, I would usually sleep during the day while Mom, Grandma (my maternal grandmother), and my sisters went sightseeing.  I’d wake up in the afternoon and walk to the nearby church.  Mary Mother of the Sea Church had a labyrinth walk in the courtyard.  For the first few days I did the labyrinth walk, I unknowingly went about it wrong.  I started on the outside and went in, but then I left.  I finally got a pamphlet from the church explaining the labyrinth walk, and from then on I knew to contemplate my inward journey with God while going to the center of the circle, then meditate on outreach from self to others and the world while retracing my steps back out. 
     Though I thought about Kevin often and went so far as to write down ideas about our wedding, though we weren’t even engaged yet, it was one of the few times I didn’t get to talk with him once or twice a day on the phone.  For some reason, I still felt very close to him. Praying for us encouraged me about the prospects of our relationship and future together.
     It's truly miraculous what God has been doing in our lives since that summer of 2001.  Our marriage, our faith journeys, and our witness are all proof that nothing is impossible with God.  
     Lord, thank You for reminding us from time to time how far You have brought us, through the many twists and turns of life, in and out of joy and sorrow, with an ever sharper focus on You.  Amen.
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