While World Youth Day itself happened in Poland, some of our group did an Ireland pre-trip for the week before the World Youth Day festivities. We saw a lot of castles, ruins, landmarks, and sheep… and I spent a lot of time in quiet reflection.
For some reason, making friends with other parish groups was particularly difficult at this stage in the trip. My insecurities from Day 1 only exacerbated the problem, and so I spent the majority of time with people I knew, and with one person I wanted to know better: Jesus.
I was awed by the beauty of Ireland. Having grown up in the Midwest, I was thrilled to see the farmlands that I knew… sort of. Ireland’s farmlands have a lot more rocks, stone walls, and 14th century castles adorning their green space. The weather was beautiful (read: not too hot), and we stopped often throughout our bus trip across Ireland to see various monuments and memorials.
Throughout the Ireland trip, I struggled with entering into a pilgrimage mindset. We stayed at 4-star hotels with three-course suppers and full breakfasts every day; we also rode from place to place each day in coaches. Nonetheless, there were moments of grace and humility that I experienced with our little parish community, as we prayed together and shared our experiences.
Here are four of my favorite places we visited (I may come back and list more as my memory permits):
- The Cliffs of Moher. These were a dangerous sort of beautiful: impossibly steep, difficult to fathom, and picturesque from top to bottom.
- St. Brigid’s Shrine. Small, but intricate. There was also a cavern literally COVERED in memorabilia of people’s prayers, family members who passed away, and a hundred other wishes.
- The Burren Region. The rock formations were awesome here! They covered the whole landscape and were surprisingly sharp and intricate. We stopped to play along the shoreline and it was delightful!
- Trad on the Prom. On my birthday, we went to a traditional Irish dance and music concert. World-class dancers and musicians performed, and even though I didn’t know the songs, I fell in love with the culture. There is one song I learned that night: “Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go.” I love ballads!
A fourth favorite place of mine (in fact, it goes #1 on my list of favorite Irish places) was Croagh Patrick, the “Pilgrimage Mountain” of Ireland. The tour guides worried and said that we might not make it to the top if it rained, but us Alaskans scoffed at the idea. “We know mountains,” we insisted. “We got this.”
Or did we?… Another story for another post, ladies and gents. Thanks for reading!