On this last Sunday in July, thousands of Irish people, of all ages, are making an annual pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick, a mountain shrine in western Ireland. On this July weekend, great streams of pilgrims will be climbing the steep path, strewn with loose rocks, to the top, some 2,500 feet above sea level. There will be no laughing or shouting, but rather a holy silence as the climbers pray for their special needs to the Lord through the intercession of St. Patrick. According to the story, Patrick spent some days in prayer on top of this mountain before he went on to convert the Irish people to Christianity around the year 400 A.D.
I remember many years ago trying to reach the summit of Croagh Patrick. Again and again I fell because of the loose stones and gravel on the pathway. The steepness of the path took my breath away, forcing me to rest and ease my pounding heart. Finally, I had to stop completely three quarters of the way up the mountain. Though disappointed, I felt I had spent a rewarding afternoon. In a true sense, I had reached out for God and had tried to bring This Divine Invisible Person into my life at the cost of much personal effort on the rocky slopes of Croagh Patrick.
Some impressions stayed with me from that afternoon on the hillsides of this holy mountain. As I ascended higher and higher, I came to have a better view of the countryside of County Mayo (my mother’s birthplace). I saw features of the landscape that I would never have seen if I stayed at ground level. The air grew fresher, more exhilarating and made my heart beat faster. My heart sang a song of joy because this effort to climb the holy mountain gave me an assurance that I was trying to reach out for the Lord.
Reach for the Lord! Be conscious of the hunger in our hearts for a closer union with Christ. Be a pilgrim, not necessarily by climbing a mountain, but rather in the ordinary travels of the day. Speak out our hopes and visions from our heart: “Lord, I wish to know You better and love You more!” When we speak like that, we are truly scaling the heights for a better view of God. Our vision of life changes as we see life and its happenings in a clearer way. Life takes on a new excitement! Suddenly we find ourselves singing!
On this last Sunday in July, at Croagh Patrick, among the 30,000 pilgrim climbers, many will change their lifestyles for the better. Be among them!
Fr. George Mc Kenna
Manuel Garcia was leaving the hospital after many chemotherapy treatments, with a resultant loss of his thick head of hair. Only 35 years old, he feared being different from the rest of his family and friends.
He dozed off for an hour and then suddenly waking up, he saw a sight at the foot of his bed he couldn’t believe. His wife and four friends stood there with all their hair shaved off. The result was much laughter and joking on the way home.
At the house, 50 people awaited him, adults and children. They too had their hair shaved off their heads. “Welcome home, Manuel.” What a joyous party followed with the sound of laughter and singing filling the house for hours.
The best medicine for a sick person, a gloomy family member, or a troubled relationship is lightheartedness, a spirit of joy, a willingness to make fun of ourselves to make others laugh.
Laughter pours healing chemicals into the bloodstream of a human being, whether physically sick or not. It heals wounds in family life. Only lighthearted conversation at the dinner table, with the sharing of jokes and funny stories: make this a strict rule!
Fr. George Mc Kenna