Sundays in Lent – 4th Thursday

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With his feast day approaching in two days, I thought I’d share two photo collages of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland and the adjacent park named forr him where one of the wells attributed to him is commemorated with an engraved stone.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland. (c)2018

St. Patrick’s Cathedral and St. Patrick’s Park, Dublin, Ireland. (c)2018

Sundays in Lent – 2nd Sunday

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Readings: GN 22:1-2, 9A, 10-13, 15-18, PS 116:10, 15, 16-17, 18-19, 2 ROM 8:31B-34, MK 9:2-10

G-d calls and we answer. I honestly don’t know what my response would be if G-d asked me to sacrifice my first-born, or any of my children. I wonder if it would have been different had Sarah been asked.

A few things struck me from today’s readings and we begin the second week of Lent.

I hadn’t noticed before how the sacrifice of Isaac parallels G-d’s own sacrifice of His Son. It’s more than mere coincidence. As any parent knows, it takes many forms to show the same lesson and for children to absorb it. Abraham and Isaac were the first in a long line of sacrifice and covenant. Not blind faith, but trusting in G-d, waiting to see the path before us.

In the second reading, Paul asks, “If G-d is there for us, who can be against us?” is a parallel to the Angel’s conversation with Mary, “for nothing will be impossible for G-d.” [Luke 1:37]

And finally, G-d’s announcement, his acknowledgment that Jesus is his son before witnesses. His direction to listen to him [to Jesus]. The confirmation by having the two revered prophets, Moses and Elijah, both from Exodus as if to offer a new exodus fo the followers of Jesus.

Where will this week take you?

Are you escaping something monumental or mundane? Have you explored or at least introduced yourself to the three pillars of Lent – fast, pray, almsgiving?

Is there a way to include those three every week, or every day if youo’re able rather than a ticky box of accomplishments?

Can you make them part of your post-Lent life?

Maybe.

If nothing is impossible for G-d, then nothing is impossible with G-d.

This is the path I had to take to reach the holy well of St. Elen in Dolwyddelan in Wales. I had come to this place especially to visit the well. I guaranteed seeing the well by staying at the adjacent hotel, named for Elen, although it’s debatable with Welsh Elen it’s named for. This was my pilgrimage, my mission, and when I encountered this steep, muddy, slippery path, I paused. Three thousand miles, a rental car, a ferry across the Irish Sea, a FERRY for two hours through WATER, and this steep, obviously exhausting path was going to stop me. I hesitated for only a moment. It was an impossible task, but I would not let it stop me. For nothing is impossible with G-d. (c)2018

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Healing: Near and Far

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​One of the wonderful things about visiting a place steeped in saints is finding a new one; an unheard of one, at least unheard of by me. When I mentioned to our cousins about traveling to Wales to pilgrimage at my confirmation saint’s holy well, he immediately scoffed. “Ach, why ya goin’ there? We’ave one just up the road; that way, then left.”

When we returned from Wales, we indeed went right up the road and discovered a place of quiet beauty, spirituality pressing down from the clouds and whispering through the grass of the graveyard. Set between a field of sheep and a tremendous lake – Lough Neagh – and just below the ruins of an old church was the holy well of St. Olcan.

St. Olcan was a contemporary of St. Patrick. It is said that Patrick found Olcan as a baby with his deceased mother. He became a disciple of Patrick’s and founded the Armoy Monastery in Antrim, very near where his well stands today. After travels to Rome and Gaul, he was ordained by Patrick and became the first bishop in Ireland. Another story is that his mother was Patrick’sw sister, but of course, there’s no real way to verify that. Patrick did have a warm spot for Olcan, having taken him under his wing, becoming his mentor and in addition, gave to him some of the relics of Sts. Peter and Paul that had been in Armagh.

St. Olcan’s feast day is June 29, which corresponds with the pilgrimage to his shrine between May Eve and June 29 and the day that the water has risen so far that the amber pebbles overflow onto the land, making them easier to access. Pilgrims would come during that time for three consecutive days, walking the stations, bathing in the well, and praying for healing.

L-R: Holy water from St. Olcan’s well, two pebbles from the well and one stone from the Cranfield Church. (c)2017


Olcan blessed the well with healing properties.
The rising water brings the stones, and swallowing a pebble protects one from drowning, women in childbirth, and having them in homes protects them from fire and burglary.

I was told to bring a rag or some sort of cloth, dip it in the well, and wash the area on my body that needed healing. Then I was to tie the rag onto the tree (where there were dozens of other rags), and when it deteriorated, my affliction would be healed. While some holy wells are meant to drink, I’m not sure that this is one of those wells. Certainly, the directions do not include drinking or ingesting, and when I collected some for my ailment, it was brownish and had sediment floating in it. By contrast, the two other wells I visited were much cleaner and were meant to be drank.

He is also said to be buried at the church on the hill above the well. What’s left of the Cranfield Church is the ruins of a 13th century church, but that church was built and stands on the site of an earlier church.

Saint Olcan’s Well and Shrine on the shores of Lough Neagh adjacent to a sheep farm, just below the ruins of Cranfield Church. (c)2017


One of the things that amazed me about this church, and really many of the medieval buildings that I’ve visited is the sturdiness. Most are without roofs, and Cranfield was no exception, but the walls stood tall; sturdy. I am a toucher, and I ran my fingers along the cold stones, and leaned through window spaces and on walls to get just the right pictures at just the right angles, and I never felt unsafe.
Today, I was reminded of St. Olcan and his Holy Well when I attended my parish’s semi-annual  Anointing Mass. It was well attended. There is Scripture, music, a blessing and the anointing of the oil of the infirm and receving the Eucharist. There is also a community lunch. Today was turkey and mashed potatoes. I could eat turkey and mashed potatoes every day. I find the camaraderie and the fellowship of the meal as well as the coming together of our community just as healing as the prayers and the anointing.

Clockwise: From the anointing mass: Turkey luncheon, Music: I Know That My Redeemer Lives, Ornament table favor. (c)2017


Tomorrow, I will post pictures of St. Olcan’s well and the Cranfield Church. For now, take a few moments, and just be with your thoughts or no thoughts. Take a few breaths, and recharge. Don’t forget to exhale.