While I had planned only three spiritual excursions I hadn’t realized that there was one in each of the countries we would be visiting: Dromore Cathedral in Northern Ireland on the first Thursday for the interment of my mother-in-law’s ashes, Elen’s Well in Wales (Dolwyddelan) on the second Tuesday, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Ireland (Dublin) on the second Thursday.
Of course, things did not go precisely as planned. Some were less; some were more. The expected had elements of surprise, and the unexpected those elements of surprise, but also of grace and gratitude to remind me who exactly is in charge.
They also weren’t entirely spiritual sites per se, but some were places were I found myself spiritually enthralled.
On our travels between each one there were so many things that caught my attention and led me to discover new things. Cemeteries with carved angels. Brightly colored flowers in gardens. Large Celtic crosses. More churches along the roadside than my camera could keep up with. So many times my husband asked if I wanted him to turn the car around to take a better picture or explore the inside. I almost always declined. There were just too many. I was happy with the plans I had.
As it turned out, at the end of the trip, I counted all of the places the Holy Spirit led me to, and there were a total of thirteen, not including our cousins’ religious books and iconic wall hangings around their house or the multiple shrines in one chapel. I was moved by simple things as the smell of grass or the rain bouncing off of rocks and being absorbed into the earth. Ireland was fabulous, but Wales, for me brought feelings of inner calm, peace, contentment just from stepping onto the land. It may sound as if I felt it because i expected it, but I really waasn’t sure what I would feel. There were moments of pure joy, but also of a subdued, almost constant meditation. I could see it in the pictures of me – just this level of home – hiraeth.
I also wasn’t sure about bringing my family. I didn’t think they’d understand, but they were remarkably cooperative, and loved Wales more than I expected. So many stories are bouncing around my head like those little rubber balls you get in the gumball machines that just don’t stop.
I’m sharing this post as a preview with links of the places I visited or photographed (some places had admission fees and I chose to enjoy the beauty of the outside) as well as a short list of go-to’s for next time.
If you know of any places that I may have overlooked, please add it into the comments so I can visit them when I eventually return.
St. Anne’s Cathedral, also known as Belfast Cathedral, Belfast
Cathedral Quarter, Belfast
Dromore Cathedral, Dromore
Ballintoy Harbor, Ballintoy (I prayed the rosary here.)
Belfast City Hall, Belfast (There was a street preacher.) (In the gardens, there are also memorials for the Titanic, the Northern Ireland War Memorial, and 9/11 among others.)
Bangor Cathedral, Bangor
Elen’s Well, Dolwyddelan
St. Gwyddelan’s Church, Dolwyddelan
St. David & St. Helen’s Catholic Church, Caernarfon
Whitefriar Street Church, Dublin
St. Albert of Sicily & St. Albert’s Well (blessed in honor of the saint)
Our Lady of Lourdes (depiction of the Grotto)
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin
The spot of St. Patrick’s holy well (if you believe the marker*), St. Patrick’s Park, Dublin (*There is another well on Nassau Street near Trinity College, almost as inaccessible as this one.
Possibilities for Next Time:
Down Cathedral (the start and end of St. Patrick’s ministry in Ireland. A slab of Mourne granite marks his grave there.) I can’t believe I was so close and didn’t read up on this town and cathedral. I went by the assumption that St. Patrick did all of his ministry in the south. Lesson learned – read the tour book, check the map first.
Bryn Celli Ddu, Angelsey
Eliseg’s Pillar, Llangollen